Disclaimers: Nothing to disclaim really, other than of course that if you want them to be two certain well known characters from a dearly missed TV show, who am I to stomp on your fantasies. However, this is my own work and comes from the murky depths that is my mind.
Sex: Yes there is. Nothing too graphic. But if you are under the legal age, please do not read on. I don't want to offend anyone or break any laws of your country.
My thanks go to my beta readers Lynne and Kim. My two tireless munchkins who were working away till the small wee hours, to get this ready in time. I honestly can't thank you both enough. Cookies will be in the mail. <G>
Now on with the show!
I watched as the amber light of the cigarette trails like a comet as I toss it over the bridge, seeing it catch in the night wind, its glow dancing for a moment, before spiralling downward into the dark abyss of water below. I didn't really smoke, but for some reason tonight I wanted one. I didn't think that would be happening again any time soon, I could still feel the burn on the back of my throat and my lungs itching to cough.
Tilting my head, I pull the collar up on my leathers as I feel the beginning fresh chill of spring replacing the frozen winter biting winds, the tendrils of breeze touching my skin, making me shiver.
I didn't know what had made me leave my warm bed at two in the morning, suddenly feeling the need to ride my bike into the night. Maybe it was because lately I was restless, trapped even in my own home. Or maybe it was because it had been Valentine's day yesterday and it hadn't mattered to me at the time that David had forgotten it yet again. But as the deepest dark of night came unable to sleep, I found I was left unsettled and once again awake and questioning my life. I'd laid there staring at the ceiling, going over it all, and had suddenly realised I'd felt totally alien at the Valentine's party my co-workers had talked me into going to. I'd stood there looking around at the red balloons, roses and cards being given out and wondered what the big deal was about. It was just another excuse for a party wasn't it? Just another profit maker for Hallmark? But even as I thought those thoughts, my eyes had kept going to the kissing couples around and I started to wonder if I really was missing something, or if indeed there was more to love. It was the absurdity of that question that made me get up.
But that wasn't why I was here. Something else had done that. What it was I still didn't have a clue. I inhale, welcoming the cold into my lungs, helping to clear my head. I look back up as the moon escapes the night grey storm clouds for a moment. I sigh, it would take more than a dose of clear air to halt my thoughts. It was all I seem to do lately, was think.
Hitting the big four O, for some reason had recently made me stop and look at myself. Going through my life, I found out I was boring, had no life adventures to speak of, no hopes and no dreams whatsoever. All those things I promised I'd do as a teenager simply lay lost in my past. It made me sad inside to know I had changed that much. It made me sadder to know I had given those things away for no reason at all, other than just living life and forgetting without even noticing.
Nothing drastic had happened, I hadn't given them up or lost them through love. I hadn't been betrayed or for that matter had what could be classed as a bad life, it just wasn't that exciting. If fact all that had happened was time passed and all I had to show for it was a good job, money in the bank and a house to call my own. It wasn't that I hadn't loved; I had, but even those who had caressed my heart seemed nothing more than just ghosts now in the years behind me. If I'm honest with myself, I don't think I have ever been truly in love, or maybe I expected too much from what love was supposed to be. What I had with David didn't fall into any simple category either.
My eyes go to the silver orb above again, letting my thoughts expire with a long drawn out sigh, the exhaled mist of it fading out and disappearing into the black, along with the now covered clouded moon.
Zipping the leather fully to my neck I turn, walking back to the bike, smiling as I take her, in standing there bathed in the last rays of silver moonlight giving the chrome an almost bewitching aura.
Maybe that's what I was; bewitched? Friends thought I had been taken over by aliens anyway. But the ones who really knew me just put it down to my so called... “ Midlife crisis.”
I can't help but grin as I get closer. How could I not? She is a monster; A red Victory Hammer monster to be precise. Well, I never did do subtle well. I let my finger trace over the black tribal flame on the gas tank. Even now as I look at her I get that kiddie in candy store feeling like the first time I went to pick it up. I'd like to say the reason I chose it was because of the four stroke, fifty V-twin engine, or the various other wonderful things to make my head and any other bike buddies' heads spin. But I can't say that. To be truthful, all that went out of the window when I sat on her, and as she purred awake like a panther from sleep beneath me and I felt a rumble go through me, not just from the vibrations, but from somewhere deeper.
Victory gave me a sense of something I didn't understand at the time. But over the months of owning her and riding late at night like now, I came to understand it as freedom. Which was kinda ironic really considering that's what the company's advertisement slogan is. - A break from the routine. An escape from the ordinary. A moment of freedom. - That and; - IF YOU WANT SUBTLE, BUY A MINIVANN
Well, subtle she isn't!
Pulling my helmet free from the lock, I swing my leg over to sit astride my pride and joy, hearing the creak of leather above the wind, leaving the stand down for now just letting her weight balance me. Looking up, I watch the moon break free again. Why was I here tonight?
Looking around I take in the dark and silver mooned lighted trees. Tendrils of my long hair whipping into my vision, tucking it back behind an ear I catch the sound of the water running under the bridge as it hits the rocks below. I don't see or hear anything unusual. But for some reason I was drawn here. Even when I left the house I knew this was where I was aiming for.
Normally my late night rides would just take me far enough to feel the freedom, then I'd turn around for home. But no, not tonight. Tonight this is where I wanted to be. Even as I look around I knew by heart what I'd see. Nothing, there was nothing here at this time of night. Even now, passing vehicles were non existent at this time. It was one of the reasons I came here, no street lights, no sounds other than nature. Silence of both movement and sound... Nothing.
But still the feeling gnawed at me, telling me to wait.
I pulled back the leather enough at my wrist to expose my watch, seeing the luminous blue hands tell me it was approaching four am. Now the feeling was beginning to irritate, turning into an annoying fly that wakes you when you're trying to sleep, shooing it away only to have it come back and annoy again.
Nuts, it was simple, I was finally going nuts. Driving out to a place over an hour from civilisation over a feeling. Shaking my head, I chuckled.
Tilting my head, I let the wind pull the hair from my face as I raised my helmet, pushing it gently into place, lifting the visor to smooth my bangs out of my eyes. Pulling on my leather gloves, I clenched each fist until I felt them fit snugly enough for the black skin to flush taut over my knuckles.
I gave the area one last look. Kicking the stand up I took the full weight of the bike, pressing ignition I started her. She rumbled to life as always. Grinning, I put her into gear, slipping my visor down.
About to pull away, something caught my eye. It was far off to the right, a glint of white going in and out which told me a car was coming down the tree lined road. I was about to shrug it off when the light pattern didn't seem to make sense, it was swaying and snaking. I lifted the visor again, my eyes following the lights, knowing the road well enough to know that any moment the car was going to break free of the turn and come into view on the straight part that led up to the bridge.
It did.... And it was way too fast for the corner.
It was like watching a movie. I know that seems odd to say and to be honest I never really understood what people meant when they said they witnessed things in slow motion in real life. But right then, right this second, I got it.
I watched as the car came around the corner, swaying across to the centre line then snake back in to the lane again. I watched as the driver yanked the wheel further across as the corner cleared and the road now wasn't where they thought it should be. I was blinded as its two headlights hit me full beam, hard enough for me to curse and snap my arm up to cover my bruised retinas. Blinking and staring back through aura dotted white vision, I heard the squeal of brakes and the car skidding. Blinking madly to try and clear my eyes enough, my vision readjusted to the dark again. The car veered, hitting the edge of the road surface, the front wheel jumping. I watched as the driver tried to regain control, only to send the vehicle into a juddering sidespin, which sent it up on two left side wheels before slamming down to the ground again in a mass of sparks as the underside found contact with the road. I felt my stomach lurch.
I saw a flash of terrified eyes as my own headlight now came into its range. I watched again in muted horror as the car hit the side rail of the bridge and totally flipped over, the momentum throwing it upwards into a somersault like a toy. The sound, a mass of metal twisting, pierced the air enough for me to wince. It stopped its downward arch with a smash of glass and steel landing onto the safety railing of the bridge, and there it hung like a seesaw, dipping and swaying in the wind, like some macabre puppet.
For a moment I thought I'd imagined the whole thing, that any minute now my alarm would go off. Through my own shock I heard the worst sound I think I have ever heard or will ever hear in my life. The high pitched squeal of metal being torn and twisted again, but this time mixed into it a pierced shrill agonising scream of absolute terror and pain as the car finally tipped and disappeared over the side into the blackness below.
I sat there blinking, my mouth open, then the reality of what had just happened slapped me out of shock. I slammed the stand into place,
already kicking the bike into neutral as I swung my leg over, pulling my helmet free as I ran to the railing, staring down, my cell already in my hand, pressing 911 as I looked over the bridge's edge. I could just make out the white foam of the river where the car had entered and the disappearing glow of submerging headlights.
The 911 answered. “Please state the nature of the emergency?”
“There's been an accident.... I'm out on the old Wetland Bridge over Carson peak. A car has just gone off the bridge. Did you get that? Wetland Bridge over Carson peak... listen, damn it... a car has just gone off into the river... yes, someone's inside... hurry.”
I snapped my cell shut. I looked around, trying to find a quick way down. Suddenly God was on my side and the clouds cleared the moon totally this time, giving me a full lit view of the embankments. I realised whoever was in the car didn't have the time for me to run down and across the side of the bridge to get to them. Could I jump down there? Was the river deep enough? Was whoever it was worth my life?
Even as my brain asked me all these things I was unzipping my leather jacket and shrugging out of it. I lifted one hand, holding the railing to pull me up, getting down as far I could on the other side. Checking around, I saw the white foam of rocks appear so I moved up the edging slightly. I wasn't going to make a hero's dive, I'd seen too many stupid kids bust their neck. I simply stepped off and brought my arms across my chest and waited for the water to hit.
And God did it. The iciness of it almost made me inhale underwater. I kicked for the surface, dragging in a mouthful of air before looking around and getting my bearings. I dived again, searching the complete blackness for any signs. I twisted in the water, looked around, already feeling the coldness begin to slow my muscles. I broke surface again, coughing out a little water, gritting my teeth as I drew in a lungful of air. Swimming against the current to the point the car should have been, ducking under, I swam down. Holding in position, I jerked around, feeling my lungs begin to burn, then I saw it; a light coming from my left... I broke surface again, coughing and feeling my body shiver. I kept the position in my head then drawing in the biggest lungful I could, I ducked down and swam for the bottom. I grabbed the edge of the car as it came into reach, pulling myself along its crippled frame till I reached the door, bringing my body closer, seeing the passenger window was smashed gave me a sinking feeling. I looked inside, nothing. Pushing away, I looked around, trying to use the dying lights of the car to see where the driver was.... Now my lungs were beyond burning. Every movement raked at my body and muscles, the cold now was deeper in my body, I couldn't feel my skin now. If I didn't get out soon I was in trouble and I knew it. I swam towards the surface, my hand hit something on the way up and for a second it seemed warm to my skin, I grabbed on, feeling the weight. I searched now until I felt it, a body, a person.
With what was left of the oxygen in my lungs I headed up, twisting until both my arms wrapped around their chest, kicking for the surface with all that I had. When I broke through the skin of the water I breathed too soon, feeling water enter my lungs till the point I coughed till I saw stars, then shifting onto my back I made a quick bearing check and headed for the bank.
My head hit it first, I moved to my side keeping the body close, which caused me to stumble and almost comically climb on all fours until I could drag myself enough out of the water... for a few moments I did nothing but cough up a lung of water. Then wiping my mouth clear, I pulled the body up next to me, quickly checking a pulse. It was the first time I recognised it as a woman as my eyes briefly went to the face. When I felt no pulse I ducked my ear down to her mouth, nothing. I tilted her head back, holding her nose, and quickly started CPR. I checked her breathing again, again nothing, I continued CPR.
As I was pumping her heart I suddenly got pissed off at her. I was cold, bone cold, I'd jumped off a bridge for fuck sake the least she could do is breathe.
“COME ON, DAMN IT!” I punched her chest hard.
I started the breathing. Just as I began, she coughed. I drew my mouth away just in time as ugly dirty water erupted from her mouth. I quickly turned her into the recovery position, letting out a sob of relief.
“That's it, just breathe.”
Another cough and more water was my answer. Soon the coughs tapered off when her lungs were clear and she was breathing, albeit raggedly.
I quickly looked her over, she a was mess. Now out of the water, blood which had been washed away before now bled freely from various cuts. The one on the side of her head made me wince at the gash, but it was the angle of her arm that made me swallow bile, the flash of white shining bone through torn red skin almost made me lose my late dinner on the spot. Swallowing again, I looked away. Then I felt the biggest shiver go through her body to the point it made my own joints ache.
I got as close to her as I could, adding what was left of my body heat to hers. Soon both of us were going to be in worse trouble. But right now all I could do was wait, there was no way I had the energy left to climb back up for my leather coat and by the looks of things, moving her even if I could would cause more danger. But even as I looked at her I knew leaving her wasn't an option. I pressed my body closer to her, well aware now that my own shivers and chattering teeth were matching hers.
I felt helpless, I knew I should be doing something more instead of just sitting here. How long I sat I don't know. I felt tired and could feel my eyes getting heavy, my body slipping away from me. I put my arm back around her, making sure she was close, trying to fight the need to sleep.
I heard first nothing but the wind and river, then into to it a sound of bells, far away at first, until finally my groggy brain recognised it for what it was. Hope burst in my chest, giving me enough energy to raise my head and look to the bridge and road, and into my teary vision I saw the red lights followed by blue, the lights were quickly followed by shouts. I tried to call out but my voice came out as a squawk. I tried again, clearing my throat but still it was too low. Then a searchlight finally hit the river, coming up and above my head before sweeping past and then darting back to lock on to us.
“HEY... THEY'RE HERE”
I breathed a sigh of relief as I watched more figures and lights appear along the length of bridge above. Turning my eyes down, I felt a sudden rush of emotion. With shaking fingers I brushed a blood soaked streak of blonde hair from her face, pulling her to me till the point my face was buried in her neck. Feeling tears sting my already abused eyes, I felt her haggard breath on my cheek.
“Hang in there. Help's here, ok... Just hang in there... Please.”
I drew back enough to let my eyes find the figures making their way down each embankment towards us. I felt tired, so tired. Suddenly an unexplained need to rock her took over, so I did. It was my last coherent thought as blackness took me.
Being frustrated is something I'm used to, in my work and dealing with people who don't listen. But even my patience was being tested to the limit as yet another nurse came in and performed her duties and ignored every single one of my questions.
Since coming around from my oblivion three hours before, I had learned nothing. Other than the fact I was now in St Luke's hospital. I didn't know how the woman was, if she was alive or dead, I didn't even know if my bike was still sitting out there by the bridge.
Taking a breath, I put on my best smile and glanced sideways at the new nurse checking my STATS, hoping now I could get somewhere.
“The woman, is she ok? The one I was brought in with?”
She flashed me a returning patient smile of her own. “I don't know,
honey. I'm sure she is... Why don't you wait for the doctor to come back and see you.”
I fixed my smile and slowly counted to ten. I stayed silent.
“How are you feeling? Any headaches? Nausea?”
Her hands moved to the Bp monitor as she attached it to my arm.
“I'm ok, I just got wet and cold... no, none of those.”
Her eyes came up to me briefly from the reading, then returned to noting down my Bp count. “You were very lucky. What you did was a very brave thing.” Her smile twitched.
My eyes resisted the urge to roll, instead I shrugged. “I guess.”
She pulled the Velcro free, removing the cuff, replacing it in the machine and then rolled it back against the wall.
“The doctor should be here in about ten. So you just relax and enjoy your quiet time, you deserve it from what I've heard.”
Flashing me another smile, she turned and headed for the door.
Frustration is such a pain in the arse.
Ten minutes turned into an hour until finally the door opened and three white coats came in, each of them looking at me with the fake doctor's smile, one taking the chart from the end of the bed, the other two coming to stand at either side of my bed like sentry guards. I shifted nervously under their gaze. The doctor at the end of the bed looked up and smiled.
“Well, for someone who jumped off a bridge into near freezing cold water, you're very lucky.”
“I've heard that a lot recently.” I shifted again, my eyes going briefly to each of them.
“I'm Dr Queen and this is Dr Collins and Dr Stacy.” His head flicked first to the left then the right.
I nodded my head to each. I scratched at the IV on the back of my hand, suddenly feeling like a kid in front of the head teachers.
“Miss Harris, I'm pleased to tell you that bar the fact of slight hypothermia and a few scratches and bruises you have a clear bill of health, we should be releasing you as soon as I get the paperwork done.”
I frowned, looking to each of them, wondering why the hell he needed backup to tell me that.
Seeing my look, his smile widened. “Miss Harris, it's not often we have a genuine hero in our hospital, forgive the fact of our curiosity.”
All three chuckled, then nodding to him the other two left, but not before giving me a pat on the shoulder as they went.
“I'm not a hero, anyone would have done what I did.” I felt my face flush with embarrassment and my gaze suddenly found the clean sheet the most interesting thing on the planet.
His face softened. “Maybe.” He sat on the edge of the bed. “You've been asking about the woman that you saved.”
My eyes jumped to him, I sat up. “Yes, yes I have.”
“Well I think you deserve to know, I can't go into too much detail, patient confidentiality you know.”
I nodded. “Is... is she alive?” I swallowed.
He slowly nodded. “Yes, she's alive.”
I exhaled. “Thank god.”
“In fact I think the luck of the Irish was looking out for both of you tonight. From what I've seen of the news footage and what was left of her car, she was very lucky indeed.”
I nodded again, sitting back and just letting the feeling of her being alive seep into me.
“I can't go into the extent of her injuries of course, but I will say if you hadn't pulled her from the water when you did, she would be dead Miss Harris....” He rose. “... So when people say you're a hero, don't shrug it off so much. You are.”
I just nodded again then looked up to him replacing my notes at the foot of the bed. “Will she be ok?”
“Yes, I think so. With time she should fully recover from her injuries.”
I exhaled again, getting a flash image of her arm and head. “Thank you.”
“Now then, I have two police officers waiting for a full statement for you if you're up to it?”
“Yes... yes of course.” I sat straighter.
“Before that though, I think I'd better let your friends in, and I think your sister is here as well. Before they tear down my waiting room.” He smiled.
My eyes darted to the door in surprise. “Oh, okay.”
“Good, now just take it easy. If you feel tired just buzz the nurse and she will come and save you.” His tone was teasing.
I grinned, then as an after thought I called out. “Doctor, where is she now?”
He paused halfway, out the door looking back. “She's in intensive care.”
My eyes widened.
“It's more a precaution on our part, she should be moved to her room within the hour. We just need to make sure of some things first.”
I relaxed again but not before noticing his eyes weren't quite as open as he made the last comment. As I was about to ask he nodded and was gone.
There it was, she was safe and I had saved her. Did that make me a hero? Wouldn't anyone have done the same? How could a boring normal person like me make a difference to someone's life or even save it? The implications of what I'd done out of instinct finally began to sink in and along with it came panic.
“Vicky.... Oh my god, Vicky.”
My thoughts snapped back to where I was as my sister descended around me.
“Hey Sis.” I smiled weakly.
She drew back, her hand going to my cheek, her eyes checking me up and down.
“I saw the news... Did you really dive off that bridge?”
I laughed at the look of pure astonishment in her eyes. Scratching the back of my head and getting embarrassed again I nodded. “Yes, I think I did.”
“Shit.” She sat down fast.
I laughed again. I wasn't surprised by the amazement on her face. The most dangerous thing I'd ever done in my life was eating an out of date jar of peanut butter and after that buying the bike, now this.
She sat blinking at me, her mouth opening to say something then closing. Taking her hand I smiled at her, suddenly needing the contact.
She returned the squeeze I gave. “All I can say big sis is wow, fucking wow.”
This time she laughed with me, gripping my hand into a vice.
“You're ok though, right?” Her eyes went over me again, this time in a sense of panic.
“Yes Mandy, I'm fine, just tired that's all, few scratches but ok.”
Her body relaxed. “Thank god... mum and dad are going nuts, David is shitting a brick... I've been on the phone to them for hours, they want to fly down.”
I winced, the last thing I needed was my mother going into care mode.
“No, it's ok. Really... they're letting me out of here today, they don't need to do that, ok? I'll talk to them soon. I'll call David too.”
She eyed me wearily.
“Honest sis, no sass, I'm fine.”
“Well they're not going to believe that till they hear from you, and even then I'm not sure they will.”
We shared a knowing smile.
“Look, I'll call them from here, then when I get home I'll video link with them.”
She nodded, falling silent. When she looked up tears were glistening in the blue eyes that mirrored my own colour exactly, the years vanishing from her appearance, showing me her true age of twenty-one. Something I often forgot with all her bravado.
“Shit, Victoria, don't do that again, ok?” She sniffed.
I pulled her to me and gave her a long hug. “I'll try to avoid it, ok.”
She nodded against my shoulder.
“Yea.” She drew, back dabbing a tissue at her mascara.”
“Where's my bike? Is it ok?”
She looked at me sharply, disbelief on her face, until she saw my grin. Bursting into laughter she took a swipe at my shoulder.
“You dive off a bridge, save a woman from drowning and all I get is where is your damn bike. Jesus.”
My grin widened.
Voices from the door broke our stare. “Hey... hey... hey.”
We both turned our eyes to the four coming in. I recognised them instantly, smiling warmly as my co-workers came forward. Then I was lost in the feelings of friends, concern and amazement. As questions came from all sides, my mind kept wondering what the woman's name was.
The two cops that intruded ten minutes later stood somewhat nervously as my sister and co-workers closed around me like they were bodyguards.
“Miss Harris, I'm Lieutenant Baxter and this is my partner Lieutenant Urmin. If you're up to it I'd like to ask you a few questions?”
Her eyes went around the circle of bodies between her and me. Her eyes becoming slightly amused as my friends closed ranks. “We'd like to get this over and done with as quick as possible so we can leave you in peace.” A smile quirked at the corner of her mouth as my sister stepped right in front of her. “There isn't a problem if your friends want to stay.”
I gave a small acknowledgement smile. “I'd like that.”
Urmin flicked open his notebook while Baxter found a way through the bodyguards and took a seat on a free chair next to my right, taking no notice of them at all.
“We know pretty much what happened, but there are a few details we'd like to clear up, so in your own words tell us what happened?”
I took a long breath. “I was out riding, I stopped at the bridge for a cigarette. I was just leaving, it was just before four.”
“You're sure of the time how?”
I turned my eyes to her. “I'd checked on my watch.”
My sister snorted.
The detective ignored it, just nodding for me to continue.
“I was just about to leave when I saw the car lights through the trees. Then... well, then hell broke loose I guess. She came round the corner too fast, she tried to correct it and for a minute I thought she had...” I swallowed, feeling my throat go dry.
“Take your time.” Baxter voice was full of calm and patience.
“Well... the front wheel must have hit the edge between the road and side, she swerved enough for the car to go up on two wheels. That's when she lost it totally, it hit the bridge side and flipped over, landing on the railing.”
Everyone around me inhaled. I smiled at Mandy as she came and sat right next to me, her arm going around my shoulders, gently rubbing my back.
My attention went back to Baxter.
“It fell over... I mean into the river.”
The cop nodded.
“I didn't think, you know, I just acted, I called 911 and just left my bike and went to see... I couldn't see anything really, there's no lights up there... I jumped in... found her under water, she must have been thrown from the car or got out, I don't know.” I shook my head, trying to clear those images away, calming my breathing.
“Shhh, sis, it's ok, you got her. She's alive.”
I nodded, swiping away a tear that came from nowhere. “Yea.”
I squared my shoulders, looking at the cop again. “I found her as I was giving up and heading up for air... I just grabbed her, got to the bank and gave her CPR.... She came to. I don't know how long we were alone there, but then I heard the sirens and saw the lights. They found us shortly after that.”
Baxter nodded. “Yes, we have all those details... How would you say the car was driving when you first saw it?”
“Kinda weird, I think that's what pulled my attention to it.”
“I can't be sure but I think it was already swerving a lot before it came around the corner.”
She tilted her head. “What makes you think that?”
I shrugged. “I know the road. Before the corner it's pretty straight as it comes along those trees. When I noticed the lights they didn't seem as if they were going in a straight line.”
She gave a small nod. “How fast would you say she was going when she cleared the corner?”
I couldn't help it, I snorted. “Too fast... way too fast.”
“Thank you, and yes we have figured that part out from the skid marks where she tried to break hard... just one more question?”
“Is there anything at all you noticed about the driver that you may not have noticed at the time, it doesn't matter if it sounds silly or not important?”
I thought long and hard, running over in my head everything I'd seen and heard. Something was niggling at me. I went over it again, step by step, aware that everyone was looking at me and waiting. Then I had it. My head snapped up looking at Baxter.
“Alcohol, I could taste it when I gave her CPR.” Suddenly I wished I'd kept my mouth shut when I saw a twinkle come into Baxter's eyes, feeling now like I was betraying the woman.
“She was drunk! My sister risked her life for a damn stupid drunk driver.” Mandy's angry voice so close by made me jump.
“I'm sorry I can't comment on that.” Baxter rose, ignoring my sister's glare. “Thank you, Miss Harris. I don't think we will need to speak to you again. What you did was a very brave thing. When you're ready all we need is a full signed statement from you. Either call me and I will arrange to come and get one at your home, or call into the precinct.”
With a smile she held my gaze then handed over her card. I nodded. Giving a smile to those around both her and her partner, she left.
I cringed as Mandy stood, knowing what was coming, I smiled sympathetically at a few of my co-workers who shifted nervously.
“A fucking drunk driver. Jesus, Vicky, you could have died over a lush.”
“Mandy, we don't know she was drunk, so calm down.”
“How can you be so calm about it!” she slightly shoved a chair aside.
Out of the corner of my eyes I watched as my co-workers made their retreat. I couldn't blame them, they knew what Mandy was like too.
“Mandy.” I kept my voice low. “I'm ok, it doesn't matter if she was drunk, she didn't deserve to die in that river.” I gritted my teeth, feeling angry now that everyone was judging this woman. “She can't defend herself right now sis... Don't judge her. I'm not and I was the one who saved her.”
My sister just stared at me, her own blue eyes sparking. Then she exhaled, her temper gone just as quickly as it had arrived. “You're right... I'm sorry.” Then she looked around surprised. “Hey, where everyone go?”
I just chuckled and shook my head.
By the afternoon I had been released from the hospital. Mandy had left me finally alone on the understanding she was coming back to drive me home. First I called my parents, which consisted of me telling them a hundred times I was fine and persuading them they didn't have to fly down from Florida. After promising I would video cam them as soon as I was home, they believed me enough to postpone their flight until they were sure it wasn't needed. Next was David, part of me was upset that he hadn't taken the time to come and see me. The phone conversation didn't go any better either, I got his secretary and left a message that I was fine and going home. David and I never classed ourselves as serious in a relationship, we saw each other when our work allowed. Which usually turned into two weekends a month of him staying over and various dinners dates. But still it hurt that I wasn't important enough to him to find out for himself that I was ok.
After I had changed into the jeans and top that Mandy had brought me, I found myself walking the hallways of the hospital with the feeling that I didn't belong here anymore, I wasn't one of the sick or injured now.
Before I knew it, I was following the signs to intensive care. The nurse at the station looked up as I pushed open the door.
“Can I help you?”
“Um... well... I'm not sure?” I felt like an idiot.
Her eyes just studied me. “Well maybe if you tell me who you're looking for?”
“That's just it, I don't know her name.”
Still she waited, then her eyes looked at me instead of through me. “ Wait a minute, aren't you that woman who dived off a bridge?”
I blushed. “Yea...”
“Harris isn't it? Your name I mean.”
I nodded. “Yes, I'm looking for the woman I saved, I just wanted to see for myself if she's ok?”
The openness in her face disappeared, but a slight regret lingered in her eyes. “I can't give out any information other than to family.” She smiled in apology as she watched my face fall. “I'm sorry.”
I nodded, tucking my hands into my jean pockets. “I know, I just thought...” But that was the problem, I hadn't thought. I made myself smile at her. “... I should learn, huh? I've heard that every time I've asked.”
Her face softened slightly. “I am sorry.”
I shrugged and turned heading back for the door.
I turned to her call.
“She isn't here. “She looked around, then fixed her gaze back onto mine.
“So if I were you I wouldn't go anywhere near level three, room 234... Wouldn't want you to get disappointed again.”
This time the smile I gave her was genuine. “Thank you for the warning.”
She gave me a nod, then turned her attention back to the computer in front of her.
I pulled the door open, leaving. My eyes going up to the hospital map, finding where I wanted I headed for level Three. With not one clue why I was doing it.
I felt guilty as I dodged the reception desk as I stepped from the elevator, using the nurse's distraction with an irate man to slip past. My eyes went to each numbered door as I walked the hallway. I stopped, 234 now right next to me. Now I'd found her, for some reason I didn't want to. Taking a breath, I pushed it open.
The room was darker than the hallway, I could hear the beeping of the heart monitor.
“Hello?” her voice was low, weary.
I froze, hearing the shuffle of sheets followed by a moan. I stepped in. “You ok? Do you need a nurse?”
“You mean you aren't one?” this time her voice was suspicious.
Now that my eyes had adjusted to the dim of her room I finally got to see her. She was pale, dark rings rimmed each of her eyes. Bruises, ugly purple yellow ones. Against them, the white contrast of the bandage that encompassed her head seemed to stand out even more. My eyes moved over her. From the shoulder to the wrist, a heavy looking cast engulfed her arm.
“If you take a picture it would last longer.”
I blinked, realising I had been staring, I dropped my gaze. “Sorry.”
“So, isn't this the part where I say, you look to small to be a Stormtrooper?''
I stared at her blankly.
She shook her head tiredly. “Never mind, bad joke. You a reporter?”
“Ahuh.” She shifted again, studying me. “So, what are you?”
For some reason I felt disappointed that she didn't know who I was. But I erased that thought as soon as it surfaced. How could she know me? She was unconscious.
“I ... well, I guess I'm the woman who pulled you out of the river.”
I heard her stop all movement, inhaling sharply. There was nothing but the beeping of the monitor echoing in the room for a while. Finally, curiosity overcame my nervousness and I raised my eyes to her. I inhaled sharply at the look on her face, it was sadness, deep agonising sadness. Then she blinked and it was gone.
“I suppose I should say thank you.” She lay her head back against the pillow, her eyes now fixed on the ceiling.
“I ... I didn't come here for that.”
“Then why did you come...” her voice sounded so tired.
“I ... I just needed to see if you were ok, I guess.”
She snorted a bitter laugh. “Well, I've been better.”
For a while again the beeping of the monitor was the only sound.
“I don't remember you.” Her voice was a half whisper.
I shrugged. “Why should you...” My voice trailed off.
“Were... were you hurt?” her voice stuttered.
She inhaled. “I'm glad.”
I believed her, for the first time I'd heard genuine emotion come into voice. Then the silence became strained, I'd done what I'd set out to do, I'd seen her, she was safe, she was ok. I should leave. But I still found myself standing there.
“What's your name?”
I looked over, surprised, for a moment wondering if she had read my own thoughts.
“Victoria... Harris... yours?”
She chuckled again, though there was no humour in it. “You're kidding me, right?”
This time she looked over at me, her eyes cold. It was the first time I'd noticed their colour, green. But there seemed to be no life in them, they were dull of light.
“Don't you watch the news?”
Her voice made me realise I was staring again, I looked away. “No, well I do but I haven't in here... my sister filled me in on the stories surrounding me.” I flushed red.
She stared at me till the point I lowered my gaze again.
“Well, I guess that explains why I haven't had reporters descending on me yet.” She looked away.
I knew I was frowning. “Should I know you?”
Her face turned back to me. “I don't know, should you?”
There it was again, the sadness. I stayed silent for a moment, then curiosity took over. “So, can I have your name?”
She gave a small shrug then inhaled sharply. “Damn it, that hurt.”
I stepped forward. “Can I get you anything? I mean a nurse or something?”
She shook her head, her face grimacing as she inhaled. “No.”
After a few minutes her face calmed. “Elizabeth, my name is Elizabeth. The rest you'll probably hear on the news, so I'll leave that surprise till later. “
I frowned again. “Have I done something to piss you off?”
Green eyes jumped up. “No...” Her voice stopped. Then taking a long deep breath she lay back again, her eyes going to the ceiling. “... Life did that, you're just getting the flack... I think I need to sleep.”
I knew a fob off when I heard it. Well, what was I really expecting? Praise? Thanks? Gratitude? What I wasn't expecting was this.
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you, I'm glad you're ok.” I waited. When she didn't say anything, I turned and left. Standing outside her door I felt miserable and I had no clue why.
When I left the hospital I went back easily into my normal life. I contacted my parents and they were satisfied they didn't need to come down. David sent a huge bunch of flowers with a simple note saying he was glad I wasn't hurt and I should have known better. For some reason that comment really pissed me off.
For the first few days I found myself in the local news spotlight, I found it totally embarrassing to be seen as some sort of hero. Then it turned into annoyance as I found reporters waiting at my workplace when I returned there on the Tuesday. But after the third day it died down and I just became another small headline and old news.
On the Thursday I went to the precinct to give my statement and to pick up my bike, it had been taken in for evidence. I had no clue why, I wasn't involved in the accident. But Baxter had informed me it was procedure. I'd never really had dealings with the police department before, but when I got back I felt like I should have confessed to something.
Total normality returned by the fifth day home. Calls from friends and family had tapered away and I found my mind going back to Elizabeth.
Mandy had informed me who she was: Elizabeth Lee Garrison. I first I didn't have a clue why I knew the name. Mandy had cleared that up. She was an actress, albeit a small part actress but one that had been in various films. And according to Mandy an up and coming one who was about to make it big.
It didn't surprise me as soon as her name was fully released that the reporters suddenly appeared at my door again. I found myself being photographed in everything I did; going to the store, putting the trash out. But I kept silent. In the end I got David to write a statement for me and release it to the press.
The rest of the week went in a whirlwind.
Now I find myself at the weekend again, wondering if that night really did happen and why I can't get her out of my head.
I was sat on the couch watching TV, flicking through the channels, I sat up as something familiar caught my eye, I clicked back.
It was her. A clip of Elizabeth in one of her films. It was amazing, the woman on the screen was totally different to the one I saw in the hospital, her eyes shone with light. She was good too, she had that aura about her that the old screen idols did. Your eyes just couldn't leave her on the screen. Then the scene changed to the car park and a male reporter. I pushed the volume up.
“Elizabeth Garrison is still undergoing treatment at St Luke's hospital and as of yet no statement has been released to the allegations that she was drunk while the accident happen.”
The voice changed to the female news reporter at the desk.
“Has she received any visitors Terry?”
“No, Paula. As you know Miss Garrison has no living relatives and her agent Kerry Matthews is out of the state at the moment.”
It went back to the newsroom. “I know you have been interviewing the local police force down there, any more information as to the rumour of drugs being involved?”
My eyebrows went up. Drugs?
“No Paula, the police released a statement early today as you know, saying that the car accident was just that an accident and no charges were to be made.”
“And no new information at all as to why Miss Garrison was in the area?”
The reporter outside the hospital shook his head. “We have attempted a few times to enter the hospital and see Miss Garrison, but to no avail. We also tried to contact her agent but were told that as far as they knew Miss Garrison was in the area on personal matters.”
Paula nodded. “Do we have any idea when she will be released?”
Again Terry shook his head. “There was no comment on that one. But a source has told me that her injuries mean she can't travel. And I'm guessing here, I think she will be in there for a while yet.” he grinned.
Paula gave a small laugh. “Okay Terry, thank you.”
I was gritting my teeth. I didn't like him, more to the point I didn't like the fact I knew as well as Paula did what his last comment meant. He was going to stay there till Elizabeth left, because he knew she had nowhere else to go.
I clicked off the TV, throwing the remote to the cushion. She was alone, totally alone. I wondered what that felt like. The thing was, I couldn't. I'd always had friends and family around me. Even when I was alone by my own choice, I knew they were a phone call away. But she was. That didn't seem very fair to me.
I looked over to the clock, 4.45pm. Visiting hours started at five. Grabbing my car keys I headed for the door, lifting my leather jacket on the way.
I parked around the corner, knowing full well the press were sitting in the car park. I moved easily into the hospital not being noticed. I headed for the room I knew she used to be , hoping that hadn't changed. As I stepped from the elevator I hadn't one single clue what I was going to say or do.
The nurse smiled up at me. “Good afternoon.”
“Hi, I was wondering if I could visit Miss Garrison.”
The nurse's smile vanished. “I'm sorry, she isn't receiving visitors.” She immediately turned.
“Could... could you ask her? I mean, if she knew it was me I'm sure she'd allow it.” I was lying, I wasn't sure of it at all.
The nurse paused, looking at me. “You're the woman who saved her?”
She looked me up and down, thinking. “Give me a minute.” Lifting the phone she pressed a button. “Miss Garrison, sorry to disturb you but a....” She looked at me in question.
“A Miss Vicky Harris would like to see you... yes, she's here right now... yes, she's alone.” She replaced the handset. “Room 234, it's down the hall to the left.”
I blinked, but didn't move.
“Miss Harris, you can go right down.”
I nodded, turning to head the way the nurse was pointing. I was still in shock that Elizabeth had agreed. I stopped outside the door like I had done before. I knocked.
Swallowing, I opened the door. This time the room wasn't dark at all. But it still looked just as clinical. My eyes searched the room, coming to land at the figure sitting at the window. She turned her head, eyeing me in curiosity.
“Hi.” I moved further in, letting the door close. “How are you?”
“I've still been better.” Her eyes did a slow travel over me then she rose, moving to the edge of the bed. “So what brings you back?”
“I saw the news.”
She stiffened. “Oh... so now you know who I am?”
“Well, it wasn't actually the news that told me, my sister did, it turns out she's a bit of fan. I ... well, I didn't know you.”
The laugh caught me totally by surprise, her head was back and she was laughing.
“Did I say something funny?” Perplexed, I looked at her.
“No... you didn't. Just my ego took a hit.” She sat back now, more relaxed. “So I ask again, why are you here?”
I sighed. “I don't know, to be honest, I was watching the news and it said you hadn't had any visitors since you came in here and that didn't seem right to me... I mean, not having someone to talk to.”
I felt her eyes slowly study me again.
“I'm used to it.” she finally shrugged and moved back to the chair.
“Does that mean you want me to go?”
Turning her head, her eyes met mine. “You're a do-gooder, aren't you?”
“You know, one of those people who have to help.”
“I don't think I am, well not until now at least.” I felt like she just insulted me.
“Some people aren't worth saving, Victoria.” her voice was suddenly low again, lost.
“Well I haven't come to save you, just offer an ear to bend if you want it... but I guess you don't... look I'm sorry if I upset you in some way, I didn't mean to.” I turned, heading for the door.
I turned back.
“You don't have to be sorry ok, if anything I should say it to you, you saved my life and I've done nothing but bite your head off for it and be a total bitch.”
I stayed silent just looking at her.
“But I'm not someone you can help or save, so please just get on with your life and forget about it. I'm not your responsibility just because you saved me.”
I glared at her. “You're kidding, right? Is that what you think this is? That I now think I have to take care of you?” the anger kick started inside me.
“Well, isn't it?” her head tilted.
“Then what.. Money?”
That one did it. I walked across, getting closer to her than I had ever done before.
“I'm not sure of what sort of people you've dealt with before, Miss Garrison, but I wish you would stop comparing me to them. I have no hidden agenda to try and offer some sort of friendship with you other than that's what I do to people who I think need one. I didn't want to be caught up in the press or spotlight, hell I didn't even need to spend a night freezing my arse off on a riverbank. I saved you because you needed help, not because you are some shit hot up and coming actress.”
Her eyebrows shot up.
“Or the fact me coming here means I now have some deluded code to follow that means I'm now responsible for you for saving your life... I'm not here either for information to sell to the press. I came here because I felt it was wrong for someone to do this alone... I'm sorry if I've spoiled your self pity martyr stage by being a caring human being.”
Her eyebrows shot even higher along with a spark of anger in her eyes. “Now wait a god damn minute.”
“No, you wait. Don't worry about it, I won't bother you again, I think I've learnt my lesson. I hope you recover soon and get your life back on track.”
I turned and ignoring her shout for me to stop, I marched right out of the room, down the hallway, past the nurses station and out of the hospital. I was still walking when I realised I'd left my car back the other way and so had to change direction to go and get it. When my anger had settled enough I stopped dead. What the hell had I done and why the hell had I said those things?. I'd never lost my temper that way before in my whole life. But one thing I was sure of, I was not going to apologise.
The anger left me reeling, I was never the sort of person to give way to it, for one I thought it showed weakness to fall to that level, when someone was deliberately trying to get a rise out of me. But this anger was different, it came from a sense of disbelief, that someone who didn't know me formed an opinion based on things that had happened in their life, one that meant I was exactly like those who had obviously mistreated her in the past.
I drove away and returned home, only to find myself putting on my leathers, taking my bike and going to the bridge. I sat there for hours, just staring at the point in the river where she had laid helpless in my arms. What had happened to her to make her mistrust the way she did? And how lonely she must be because of it. Sitting there I got annoyed with myself, she didn't want my help so why the hell was I even thinking about her?
I left the bridge and returned home, but sleep didn't come until the dawn poked its head through my windows. When I rose the next morning I was tired and grumpy which didn't bode well for the coming day, but I went to work and became the person they all wanted, but even that wasn't enough to stop me thinking about her when I had a moment to myself.
When I got home I made sure to take work with me and for hours I immersed myself in the ledgers. The phone ringing actually made me jump. I eased back in the chair and lifted the receiver.
Silence was on the other end. I wasn't in the mood for games and I inhaled, throwing my reading glasses down on the desk, rubbing the bridge of my nose, trying to ease the tension.
“Hello? Look I'm not in the mood for crank calls.”
My thumb and finger paused on the crease of my nose as I recognised her voice. “Elizabeth?”
“How did you get my number?” I didn't mean it to be but my voice was curt.
“It's in the book.”
“Oh.” I felt like an idiot, of course it was. “How can I help you?”
She gave a long exhale on the phone. “I wanted to apologise.”
I picked up my glasses, replacing them, turning my eyes back to the ledger. “Ok.”
Silence came on the phone for a moment, then long inhales filled the line.
“You were right in what you said... I ... well, I did judge you and I had no reason to... you saved my life at a risk to your own.” She took another long breath. “Look I didn't mean to disturb you, I just wanted to say I'm sorry. You didn't deserve it.”
“No, I didn't.”
Her voice caught for a second and I realised she had just stopped herself from saying something.
“Well, I guess that's that then.”
I rubbed my temple, feeling a headache starting.
“Elizabeth I didn't want anything from you... and believe it or not, I still don't... I just wanted to make sure you were ok, and yes I guess it was because I saved you, not because I had to follow a code, ok?... it genuinely mattered to me that you were ok. As for the apology, thank you.”
The phone was silence again, but I could hear her breathing.
Her voice was unsure. “If you're near the hospital? I mean if you have to come in, I'd like it if you could ... only if you're not doing anything, I'd kinda like to talk to you again.”
I was surprised, but more than that I was pleased. “How about tomorrow?”
Surprise jumped into her voice. “Tomorrow? You have to come by tomorrow?”
I smiled, “No, I don't have to come by tomorrow, what I'm asking is would you like it if I came by tomorrow, about six after work?”
She paused and I knew she was smiling.
“I'd like that.”
“Cool... so do you want me to bring anything? “
“No, that's ok....”
Her voice trailed off, letting me know she did want something but didn't want to ask.
“If you don't tell me what, Elizabeth, I'll turn up with tacky flowers.”
Her laugh echoed in my ear, I smiled.
Now her voice was more relaxed. “Ok, then I'd love some diet coke and some sort of junk food. I don't care what it is as long as it has calories and tastes of something other than hospital food.”
“Ok then, junk food it is.”
Silence crackled on the phone again.
“Thank you... bye.”
Before I could answer, the phone clicked her exit.
I replaced the receiver and sat back, and for the life of me I hadn't one single clue why I was grinning.
I left work just after five the next day. Not sure of what sort of junk she was talking about, I opted for Chinese, getting an array of different dishes. I again parked away from the hospital and walked unnoticed again, mentally noting that another news van had joined the original two. When I cleared the elevator, the nurse looked up at me, smiling.
“Go right on down, Miss Harris, she's expecting you.”
My answer was a grin. When I stopped outside her door, I was nervous.
“Are you going to stand outside all day?”
As I heard her voice, the nervousness vanished. I pushed it open, my eyes searching for her. She was sat at the window again, turning her head briefly to flash me a nervous smile, which faltered, as she looked me up and down.
I gave a small laugh at the confused look on her face. “They're needed when I ride my baby.”
Both her eyes brows shot up and her mouth moved to say something then they closed tight. “You're talking about a motorbike, right?”
Before I could answer, her eyes dropped to the brown bag. “Oh my god, is that Chinese?”
I chuckled at the look of utter hunger in her eyes. Feeling more relaxed I moved to her bed table, depositing the bag on to it, beginning to pull the cartons out.
“I wasn't sure what you liked, so I kinda did overkill.”
She was already standing next to me, lifting lids and grinning. “God, you have no idea.”
As her attention went to food, my attention went to her. She looked less pale, the bruise on her face had turned to a deep shade of purple, but the swelling had gone down enough to now leave the shape of her face normal again. The bandage at her head had been removed now, only a square dressing remained. Now I could see the colour of her hair, a mixed blend of wheat and sun yellow. For a moment my memory flashed back, to when all I could see was the red of blood, her blood. I shivered.
My attention returned, realising she was speaking. “Sorry, what?”
She sucked some sauce off her finger. “I said, you didn't have to do this and thank you.”
I smiled. “Well I haven't eaten yet so it wasn't really a bother.”
She held up the pair of chopsticks to me. “Then eat, before there's none left.”
And we did.
Not a lot was said, just small talk. But I watched in amazement as carton after carton was cleared, wondering at one point if she had a dog under the bed. As minutes passed and we fell into ease around each other, small talk continued. If I went near any personal questions she would switch it around to me again. But I didn't mind, I began to relax more and just enjoy her company.
Finally we sat back, our stomachs full.
“Can I ask a question?” She was picking at the banana fritter as she spoke.
I looked over the bed to her, sipping my soda. “Sure?”
I frowned at her. “Why?”
She shifted slightly, her eyes flicking to me briefly before returning her green gaze to the dish. “Why did you save me?”
I swallowed the liquid in my throat with a cough. “Ex... cuse me?”
She placed her chopstick down carefully, then sat back in the chair, her eyes now coming up to meet mine. I had to swallow again at the intense questioning look she now gave me.
“You could have been killed, you know. You didn't know if I was alive in the car, you didn't even know if you could get me out... yet... you still dived off the bridge and tried... so why?”
“I don't think it was about why, Elizabeth... it.” I paused. “Well, it was the right thing to do...”
She studied me. “Weren't you afraid?”
I gave a short laugh. “I don't know... it happened so fast I don't think I had time to be.”
Again she studied me; I shifted under her gaze.
“Is that what it was? You didn't think and just acted?”
I took a drink of soda, thinking. Then nodded. “Yea, I guess it was. In fact if you talk to my family and friends they will tell you that was a first, I over think everything lately.” I laughed.
She gave a slow nod, smiling slightly and some of the question left her eyes. “I guess we all do things without thinking at some point in life.”
My eyes came up to her as I heard something I couldn't put my finger on come into her voice. Regret?
She smiled. “Thank you for the food.” She exhaled noisily. “God, I'm going stir crazy in here.” Her eyes swept the room.
“Have the doctors given you a release date?”
She rose, moving a little awkwardly with the weight of the cast, towards the window. “Oh, I can leave in a few days.”
I stayed silent, somehow knowing asking wouldn't get me an answer.
She continued. “Did you notice the news trucks as you came in?”
“Yes, another one joined them today.”
She sighed nodding.
She was quiet again. Then I made a decision.
“Elizabeth... I know it's none of my business, and I'm probably stepping over a line....”
She looked back over her shoulder at me.
“Do you have somewhere to go, I mean to heal and just... well, away from the press?”
Her eyes flared, and I swallowed preparing myself for the retort. Then the fire vanished and her gaze returned out the window, but not before I saw the look of sadness spread into her eyes.
“No, not really... if I were back in New York, yes I would, but here...” She sighed again. “They've told me I can't fly for a least another week, as for driving...” she turned around lifting her cast with a smile. “And, well there isn't anything in New York anyway. So I might as well stay in here till I'm healed and then run the gauntlet.” She turned away.
A pure wave of protectiveness washed over me. “I have an idea.”
“Really?” she didn't look at me and I found no real interest in her voice.
“You could stay with me.”
This time her head came around fast, surprise evident in her eyes. “ With you?”
I nodded. Then frowned as she burst into laughter.
“I wasn't joking, Elizabeth.” It really was beginning to bug me the way she laughed at me.
She waved her hand at me, still laughing as she sat back on the bed, swinging her legs up to lie down. “No, I know you weren't, but I don't think you really thought about what you just offered. You're not exactly a safe place, Vicky. The press know who you are, where you live... Me staying with you would just turn your life into a frenzy... and believe me you don't want that.”
“I wasn't talking about my house.”
Her laugh trailed off, but her eyes still twinkled in amusement. “Ok, I'll bite, where then?”
“I have a cabin, it's up in Bears Creek... Well, it's not my cabin but I have access to it when I need it.”
The amusement began to be replaced with curiosity and a little suspicion. “A cabin?”
I nodded. “Yes, you could go there. Get yourself well enough to travel. No one need know where you've gone to. I'm sure I could get you out of the hospital unseen. “My mind was already trying to sort out escape routes.
“Got it all sorted haven't you.”
The tone in her voice halted my thoughts. It was cold. All her defences were right back up again.
I took a breath, keeping my voice even. “No, I ... well, no. I'm kinda thinking on my feet, Elizabeth it's just an idea... I'm not after anything, I haven't pre-planned this whole thing. You hate it here, I have an option available. If you say no, that's ok.”
Her eyes softened and she relaxed, looking up somewhat sheepishly. “ Sorry.”
“Don't be. I'd be the same if a woman I met less than a week ago offered me a cabin in the woods.” I grinned.
She snorted. “I've been offered a lot worse, believe me, by women I knew less than a day. “
I wasn't sure what she meant by the comment and just looked at her.
She blushed and cleared her throat. “As for the cabin, can I think about it?”
“Sure... it doesn't have a time limit. If you say yes I'll need a day to sort it with my uncle.”
“Yes he owns it.”
I was sad, the ease we had found with each other had gone again, and back was the nervousness. Looking at my watch, surprised to find it was after nine, I rose.
“I need to go. I'm sorry I have a report to work through.”
She nodded. “Thank you for the food. How much do I owe you?”
I stopped her reaching over for the drawer. “No, my treat. You get the next one.”
“So I haven't scared you off again?”
I smiled. “No.”
I nodded, heading for the door, then paused. “I have a meeting tomorrow after work, but if you like... I could come by about nine. I'll bring food and you choose?”
Her brow creased for a moment then she flashed me a smile. “I'd like that, and Mexican if that's ok?'
“Fine. Taco bell it is. Bye Elizabeth.” Even as I opened the door, I felt myself pause, the simple fact was I didn't want to leave.
“Night Victoria.” she studied me again. “I'll be fine, go on, go home, get some sleep and I'll see you tomorrow.” She gave me a genuine smile this time.
I returned it, relieved that she understood that I was worried about her. “You sleep too.”
Turning I left, walking the hallway with yet another grin on my face and once again no clue as to why.
When I returned home I couldn't concentrate on the report. In the end I put it aside and went and got a beer. It was after eleven, I wasn't sleepy yet, but tiredness racked my whole body. I slumped in the chair and flicked on the tv, going through the channels. I frowned as I found the news channel and once again saw Phil the reporter give his report.
“A source inside the police department has confirmed that alcohol was indeed present at the time of the accident. But due to an oversight at the emergency room a blood test was missed... “
“So Phil, are the police just letting this one go? And what of the unconfirmed reports of drugs being involved?”
I sat further forward in my chair.
“Well Tracy, I'm sorry to say that as of this moment no drugs have been confirmed...”
I swore under my breath, knowing he was deliberately keeping that rumour going by using those words.
“... however we have found out that the medical staff here have informed Miss Garrison that she is free to leave the day after tomorrow.”
The camera switched back to a nodding Tracy. “Any idea where she will go, Phil?”
“I think she will return to her apartment in New York. She has no family to speak of and her injury is restricting her method of travel. I believe you have information Tracy of her agent returning early from her holiday?”
Tracy nodded again. “That's correct... Kerry Mathews was seen boarding a flight and heading for America from her holiday villa in Greece. Her husband and children have remained there. The close friendship between Mathews and Garrison leads to us believing Mrs Mathews is returning to take care of her. Wouldn't you agree, Phil?”
Phil gave a dirty little chuckle. “I would agree, Tracy. As you know, Kerry Mathews.....”
The phone ringing made me jump. I turned down the sound and answered it.
“Vicky, it's Elizabeth. Is the offer of the cabin still open?”
I blinked in surprise, not in the fact that she had agreed, but more in the fact that all I could hear in her voice was panic, pure panic.
“Yes, it is.”
“Good...” she exhaled. “I'd like to, how soon?”
“I'll contact my uncle in the morning, I could pick you up Thursday about five, is that ok?”
“Yes, that will tie in with my release... Can you get me out of the hospital without the press seeing me?”
“I'm sure I can, yes.” I frowned, I was wondering why the big turnaround. The panic in her voice was fading to be replaced with relief.
“Elizabeth, are you ok?”
“What? Yes, sorry, I mean after you left I started thinking and I'm going nuts here... Why should I turn down an offer to help.”
For some reason I didn't believe her, my eyes went to the news report that now flashed up pictures of Elizabeth and a woman laughing together.
My attention went back to her. “Yes, sorry, was thinking.”
“You sure you want to do this? Get involved, I mean. The press find out, your life is going to be hell.” True worry came into her voice.
“They have to catch us first.”
She gave a small laugh. “You're nuts, you do know that, right?”
I grinned. “I've been hearing that a lot lately...” I cleared my throat. “Look, the trip is about two hours, I'll need to sort things out, food and stuff, so I don't think I can come by tomorrow night. Is that ok?”
“Yes... so I'll see you Thursday at five?”
“No later than six I promise.”
The line went silent for a while.
“I'm trusting you, Victoria, please don't be like the rest.”
Before I could reply the line clicked.
After her call I couldn't stop my mind from asking question as to why the quick turn around. By the time I'd shut it up I fell into bed and gave over to the need for sleep.
When I woke the next morning I called my uncle, he was surprised at first that I wanted the cabin. It was so unlike me to call out of the blue without planning in advance. But the cabin was free for at least two months and he gave his consent. As I put the receiver down I smiled; he was right, I never did anything on the spur of the moment and here I was taking a total stranger to the family cabin. I was doing a lot of the spur of the moment things, and I decided I liked it.
By ten I had arranged a week's cover at work, telling them the accident had left me needing time to think and sort my head out. Like my uncle, they were surprised, I never asked for a vacation which didn't tie in with the family holidays, but because of that they gave me the leave without questions or arguments.
For the following hours I worked on my computer, making sure all the updates and files were available for my relief, faxing everything I worked on over to the office. By the afternoon I had everything covered and set about making a list of provisions we would need at the cabin. I knew my uncle kept linen and most of basic stuff we would use. After four I left the house and headed out to the market. As an afterthought I went and brought some clothes for Elizabeth to wear, I was pretty sure she had none of her own. By six I had my UV packed with everything and anything I could think of.
Next on the list was her escape. I drove past the hospital just after six, taking note of the news vans. Driving around to the side street, I parked. I watched the two main entrances into the hospital, catching the fact the second entrance was mostly obscured by the trees lining the pathway upwards. With the idea of how I was going to get her out mapped in my head, I headed for the gas station and got the mechanic to check the UV out.
By ten I returned home totally shattered but somehow the happiest I'd been in a long time. I went to bed smiling I think I still was when sleep claimed me.
Thursday morning came with a bang. Literally. I sat up in bed as the heavens opened and a thunderstorm battered my windows in the frame. I had slept late and my head pounded. I grumbled awake over coffee. The doorbell sounding made me wince as both thunder and jingling screamed in my head.
Opening the door, I blinked, my mouth falling open.
He kissed me on the cheek and walked by towards the kitchen. I closed the door, glaring at his retreating back.
“David, what on earth are you doing here? You weren't coming down till next weekend.”
He flashed me a smile as he turned his head from inside the fridge. “I called your office, they said you took a week off. You ok?”
He didn't wait for a reply, just ducked his head back into my cooler, coming out a second later with his hands full of food, moving to make himself French toast.
“I'm fine, I just needed some time away is all. That didn't answer my question, what are you doing here?”
“Well, as it happens I have a client in Baltimore, thought I'd pop over to see you on the way. Take a few days off with you.”
My mouth fell open. “You should have checked with me first. I'm busy.”
His head snapped around to me. “Busy?”
I placed my coffee cup down, jumping slightly as another rumble of thunder clashed over head. “Yes, busy.”
“Oh.” He frowned. “Doing what?” he turned back as the French toast popped.
I thought quickly. “I'm going to just go riding on my bike for a few days. Chill out and de-stress. “I knew he wouldn't want to come.
He turned back, moving to the table, pulling the chair out and sitting looking up at me as he ate his toast. “In this weather?” his eyes flicked to the window then back to me.
I rubbed the bridge of my nose, suddenly getting annoyed that he was asking so many questions. “It wasn't like this when I planned it and it should clear by this afternoon.”
He shrugged. “No problem, I'll just stay here while you're gone, keep an eye on the house.”
I clenched my jaw shut. “I didn't ask you to do that.”
He looked up this time, genuine confusion on his face. “I know you didn't. Vicky, you sure you're ok?”
I took a long breath, knowing full well I was getting annoyed at him because of the throbbing in my head and the fact the thunder seemed to pulse in time with it. I sat down opposite him.
“I have a headache from hell David, I wish you'd called.”
His face softened. “Aw shit Hun, I'm sorry.” He rose, immediately going to the sink, wetting a cloth, coming next to me he laid it at my temple while his other hand rubbed my shoulder. “Is it as bad as the migraines?”
I nodded, leaning into the coolness of the cloth. “Think it's turning into one. Sorry I was snappy.” I felt my stomach roll as the headache deepened. I closed my eyes, giving over to the comfort feeling of his hand making lazy circles on my back.
“Look, you go back to bed. You can go on your bike tomorrow. To be honest, I'm surprised you haven't had one of these sooner... I mean with the bridge and everything that happened.”
My eyes snapped open. Bridge. Shit, Elizabeth. My eyes shifted to the kitchen clock, it was after eleven. I knew if I didn't get rid of this headache there was no way I could pick her up at six and drive to the cabin.
I rose, making sure I kept my face as calm as possible. Turning to him I gave him a hug. “Think that's what I'll do. Can you show yourself out?”
He stepped back. “Out? You want me to leave?”
I heard the hurt in his voice and inwardly cringed. “Sorry, I didn't mean it like that. If you want to stay you know you're welcome to. But I have to go out at five so I'm not going to see a lot of you, you know.”
He ran his hand back through his sandy hair. “Damn Vicky, this doesn't make sense, I thought you'd be pleased to see me. I was worried about what happened and made time to come and see you.”
I bit back a wave of nausea as my headache now turned to a migraine and I left unsaid the voice inside which spoke up at the fact if he'd been that worried why had it taken him nearly a week to do so.
“I am David, but I would have liked a little warning. I've planned things for this week. If you want to stay here then of course that's fine. All I'm saying is I won't be here.”
He exhaled. “I should have called first... look go get some sleep. I'll finish my food and leave, can I come down for the weekend? Is that still ok?” his jaw flinched slightly.
I knew he was holding back his temper.
“David that's more than fine and by then hopefully I will have sorted my head out and we can spend the whole weekend together.” I gave him a sincere smile.
His jaw muscle relaxed and the anger left his brown gaze. “My timing sucks, right?” He gave a chuckle
Relieved, I moved forward, hugging him. “Only on this occasion. I am sorry.”
He returned the hug, then shrugged, stepping away to re-sit and finish his toast. “No need to be sorry. But you will let me know when you get back from the bike ride... I worry when you're on that thing.”
I leant down, ignoring the dizziness I felt and gave him a brief kiss on the lips. “I'll call when I get back, ok? Don't worry. I really have to go sleep this off, David.”
He kissed the back of my hand then smiled up at me. “I'll tidy before I go. Go rest, ok? I wont look in on you in case I wake you.”
I smiled, then headed back upstairs, setting the alarm clock for four before I pulled the curtains and shut out the light, then getting under the duvet I curled into a ball, briefly hearing as sleep took me the front door slamming shut. Yep, he was pissed.
I'd overslept, I couldn't believe it. By the time my lazy brain had woken enough to focus it was ten after six. Panicking, I threw on clothes, locking the house and setting the alarms. In a rush, I drove to the hospital. By the time I reached it, it was after eight. Everything seemed to go too slow; the elevators, the moving crowd of visitors. I watched the levels on the elevator blink each floor, getting more impatient as it stopped on floor after floor. When it reached hers I pushed past the woman in front of me, muttering an apology as I made my way past the nurses' station. Not even knocking, I burst into her room. It was empty, the bed made. I stood there, my chest heaving in air from the mad dash. I'd failed her, I'd broke my promise.
“Hi. You're late?”
I whirled around, relief flooding over me. “I'd tho... thought you'd gone.”
She looked me up and down, the serious expression I first saw beginning to fade. “I thought you'd changed your mind.”
She moved past me to the bed, sitting slightly on its edge. Now that I wasn't panicked, I saw the small bag at the bottom of the bed.
“So did you?”
My gaze came back up to her. “No. Believe it or not I overslept.” I hated the fact I saw suspicion in her eyes again.
Her good hand picked at the bedspread, her eyes coming up finally to meet mine. “Overslept?”
I took a long inhale, feeling my heart rate return to normal. “I had a migraine this morning, I don't get them often but when I do I have to sleep it off. I ... Well, I slept through the alarm. I'm sorry.”
She studied me, her green eyes flickering with different emotions. I knew she was gauging to see if I was telling the truth or not. I stayed silent, just keeping eye contact.
“Are you ok now?”
Relief once again hit me. “Yes.”
She nodded giving a small smile.
My eyes went to the bag on the bed. “What's that?”
She pushed it over. “I talked to the doctors today, It's mostly painkillers. They have signed the release, I'm free to go.” Her eyes went nervously to me.
I stepped over, putting the bag I held on the bed. “Good, go get changed, I've parked around the corner. I've worked out that if we leave by the north exit the news vans can't see us. But there is two reporters sitting just off from the doors.''
She blinked then looked at the bag.
I unzipped it for her. “ It's clothes.”
She looked in. “Wow, you have been busy.”
I grinned. “Come on, get ready...” I looked at her cast. “Do you need help, I mean getting dressed?”
Shaking her head, she rose, lifting the bag and moving to the bathroom. “No, I'm fine, thank you... won't be long.”
I watched the door close and finally gave over to the need to sit down. Reaching over, I poured myself a glass of water and downed it in one. Looking around, I noticed a few of her things. Rising, I packed them in the bag, tucking in her pills. When I was sure I had gotten everything I returned to sit on the bed, my eyes going occasionally to the door. Then I took to pacing.
When I heard the click, I turned.
She looked up, a little embarrassed. “I can't get the damn buttons to do up.” she exhaled in frustration.
I stepped quickly over, looking at her for permission. When I got it I set about doing up all the buttons, feeling embarrassed as I had to bend down to zip up her fly and close the button there.
“Thanks, that would be all I needed, making my escape and right in front of the cameras my butt flying in the wind.”
I snorted a laugh, grateful for the change in subject. I took the moment to look her up and down. I was pleased with my choice. I'd picked blue jeans and a checked shirt, going for the bigger size to allow it to go over the cast. What I was surprised at was how young she looked dressed like this. I knew from the news reports she was thirty-three, but right now she looked no more than nineteen. The bruises now were no more then a shadow on her face, I could tell she had added a hint of foundation to mask the remaining blemishes. I reached into the bag and deposited a baseball cap onto her head.
She grinned, adjusting it slightly. “I feel like a kid.”
“You look like one.” I resisted the laugh until the point she scowled at me. “Well, you do. It's what I was kinda aiming for to get us past the reporters.”
Her eyes went around the room as she gave me an understanding smile.
“You packed my things?”
“Yea, hope that was ok?”
She nodded. “Wasn't like it was much anyway. “Her eyes fell on me again. “You sure about doing this, Victoria? Last chance to back out”
My answer was to go and pick up the bag and move to the door opening it. “Let's go. “I moved into the hallway.
She grinned then took a long breath. “I still think you're nuts.” Shaking her head she followed.
Our escape from the hospital was easier then I thought. The two reporters I had spotted on the way in were gone. After that is was just a matter of walking away. I was more paranoid then her. Glancing over my shoulder at every opportunity. More then once I saw the amusement in her eyes when I turned back. When we reached my UV I knew we had done it.
I felt like laughing, my whole insides were filled with something I couldn't understand. As I turned the UV onto the open road I was grinning. Adventure that's what it was... Adventure.
“Dare I ask what you're grinning at?”
I glanced over to her. Quickly looking back to the road. “Well... I guess I'm pleased we got away.”
“Ahuh.” She grinned. I slight smirk lined her lips as she watched me.
I kept my eyes ahead, a blush rising. Getting the feeling she knew exactly what I was feeling and thinking.
“I got it wrong before. You're not a do gooder. You're a trouble maker.” She laughed as I sharply looked at her. “Don't worry about it Victoria, you're in good company. “
She broke her gaze and turned it to the passing countryside outside her window.
I'd like to say that the two hour drive was laced with cars tailing us and the both of us having to lay low. The truth was Elizabeth slept and I listened to the radio. When I pulled off the main road and started the last miles towards the cabin the sky was already dark enough for me to turn the headlights on. I had wanted to get here in the daytime, so that Elizabeth's first view of the cabin could be seen in all its glory.
I knew my uncle would have called ahead and arranged for the park caretaker to go and get the cabin ready for use. But that still meant when we got there it would be in darkness.
The UV jumped as it hit a rut in the road and Elizabeth spluttered awake.
“Shit... where?” she looked around panicked until her brain caught up. She looked over sheepishly, running her hand back through her rustled hair. “ Sorry forgot where I was.”
“No problem. We're nearly there. Enjoy your nap?”
She half yawned, shifting to relax her muscles. “Yes thank you.” Her eyes went to the road ahead, then out of the side window, coming to rest on mind. “Um, where the hall are we? Kansas?”
I chuckled. “About five minutes away from the cabin, did I forget to mention it's in park land.”
She nodded. “Ahuh. Anything else I should know?”
I kept my eyes on the road. “Well there's about three other cabins, but each one is far enough away from each other to give a feeling of being the only people out here.” I smiled at the memories from my childhood.
“Oh it is, believe me, the lake is about five minutes walk and beyond that there are various trails to walk. I came up here last summer, I don't think I came across another human being the whole week I was here.”
“You come here a lot then?”
I briefly gave her a smile. “More when I was a kid, not so much now. Usually just on the family's get together, Christmas and thanksgiving. It's a kind of halfway point for the whole tribe.”
“You must come from money.”
My gaze flickered to her as I caught the bitterness. “Not really, my uncle owns it, it comes from his side of the family on my mother's side. The rest of us are just plain working class.”
I was about to ask why she hated the fact I might have money, then the cabin came into view.
“There it is.”
I steered the UV off the lane road and past through the gates, the headlights on now, turning the mass shadow of the building into view.
She sat forward. “Wow.”
I grinned at her as I parked the UV in front of the porch. “Ahuh, wow.”
“When you said cabin, I thought ... well I thought...”
“Davie Crockett. Small, creaking wood?”
She gave a small, sheepish laugh. “Yes.” Opening the door, she jumped out.
I left the UV's lights on, letting the twin beams illuminate the area around. Opening the door, I got out, stretching my back as I stood straight, watching her looking at the cabin then around to the wall of trees surrounding us before finally settling on the cabin again.
“It's... well, it's big.”
I shook my head, chuckling, moving to the back to open the trunk. “Not when you have eleven people in it, it isn't... but for the two of us, I think it will do.” I pulled out the main two holdalls, leaving the door open to come back for the food. “Come on, I'll give you a quick tour.”
She was already ahead of me, walking up the five wooden steps to the porch, her head turning to look around. As I reached her, she stood by the door, unsure.
“The key's in the lock up, just press in 6409.”
Surprised, she turned to the box attached to the wall marked mail. Seeing the keypad, she pressed the digits and the small door opened. Lifting the keys out, she opened the doors. Pushing it open, she smiled back at me.
“Now Davie Crockett never had that.” she closed the post box door.
I laughed, reaching past her to switch on the light. “Or that.”
Slightly nervous, she walked in. I placed the bags down by the hall table.
“I'll get the food boxes. I want the frozen stuff put away before it spoils. The bathroom is just off the kitchen, through there.” I pointed to the area just off to the right. “If you can hold on for a bit, I'll give you the full tour when I've finished with the stores, ok?”
She glanced back, nodding, her attention immediately going back to the cabin's interior. I watched for a moment, smiling as I saw her eyes light up in approval, then turning, I headed out to get the rest in.
It didn't take me long to unload the rest of the UV. When the last was done, I returned to the car and set the alarm. It wasn't like I needed to out here, but old habits die hard.
I stopped for a moment on the walk back to the cabin, turning my eyes to trees and skyline, taking a long breath of air. My eyes slid closed as the woody smell sent memories from my childhood running free. I always liked it here, it wasn't really because of the fact of family, it was the place itself, I felt more at home here than anywhere else I had been. The crunch of gravel behind me stopped the moment.
I turned, opening my eyes. “Yes, sorry, I guess I missed this place more than I thought.”
She looked around, a half smile coming to her face. “It must have been nice coming here as a child.”
I nodded, then caught the slight shiver her body gave. “Come on, I'll show you something else Davie Crockett didn't have.”
Her eyebrow rose. “Really?”
I laughed. “Yes, really.”
An hour later we were both sat in the main room, the fireplace blazing heat into the room, the meal I had quickly thrown together consumed. Now each of us had our drink of choice. The tour of the cabin hadn't taken long and she was duly impressed by it. It was hard not to be, my uncle made sure it matched any penthouse in the city. But at the same time the cabin didn't lose its warmth and Old World feel. Mostly it was the two huge bay windows that ran the length of the main wall that kept it, the doors framing the perfect picture. No artist's can replace natures canvas.
I studied her as she watched the flames. She still looked nineteen again, a totally innocent nineteen year old. But I knew better on that score, the news reports about her all stated that she wasn't some kid. But even as I watched her I couldn't put that person they talked about to match the woman who sat in front of me.
“Are you staring at me for a reason?”
I jumped, my eyes going to her green ones. “Sorry, no... I mean, well...”
“You don't match what they keep saying you are.” I flushed and shifted in the chair.
She looked at me again in that way that made me feel like a complete idiot.
“I presume you're talking about the media.” She leant forward, lifting her drink off the table, sitting back and sipping it.
“So what are they saying about me now?” A note of boredom came into her voice.
I noticed her lip curl slightly, I remembered her doing that before. My eyes studied her for a moment before her stare made me drop my gaze again. For some reason she always made me feel like the younger one between us.
She laughed, intercepting my words. “... Sex and rock and roll, is that pretty much it?”
“Pretty much, yes, except I don't think I remember them mentioning the sex part.” I gave a weak smile in hope to ease the tension I now saw creeping across her.
She scoffed, placing her glass down with a clank. “Well that's a first.” She cursed under her breath before falling silent.
I shifted again. My mouth opened before I could rethink it, and out came the question I should have known better than to ask, “So, well, were you?”
Her eyes jumped up to me. “Was I what?”
Her face flushed. Then with one swift movement she rose. “None of your damn business.”
She stormed off in the direction of the bedroom I had shown her earlier.
I exhaled and slumped back, running my hand up through my hair. “Well, that went well.” I punched the pillow next to me.
I was up with the dawn, I always was here. I made the decision not to try and apologise to her again. I had made a lame attempt when I had gone to bed, talking to her bedroom door for five minutes with no answer coming from it or her.
Now I was outside, running, running the trail I knew lapped the cabin. My muscles were already starting to feel the burn of the pace I had set, yet inside I felt the growing pulse of joy as my body recognised the sense of freedom. It came to me as I ran why I liked the bike so much, it was the same feelings while I rode it.
I slowed as I came down the narrow dirt path I knew led up to the back of the cabin, giving my body the time to come down from its high adrenaline. A light rain started to fall, a cool relief to my skin. I slowed further when I noticed she was stood on the back porch staring at me. I came to a stop just under her. She looked down at me. I looked up half expecting her to still be angry but instead I found her eyes looking me up and down. The look was intense, so intense. To the point I could feel her eyes travelling over my exposed skin. My breath caught as her eyes locked on mine. She inhaled sharply. looking away. I blinked, clearing my eyes from the drops of rain that had gathered on my eyelashes. I gulped in air. realising I had been holding my breath.
“I made coffee.” And with those short words she turned and went back into the cabin.
As I stepped up onto the three steps to follow, I wondered what the hell had just happened. I felt my heart thumping and somehow deep down I knew damn well it wasn't from the run.
I didn't look at her as I moved into the cabin. Instead I walk right past and headed for the shower.
When I came out she was sat on the old rocker by the bay windows, the rain now had turned into a downpour, and splats echoed against the glass doors like a steady drum beat. Her back was to me as I moved into the kitchen and poured myself a coffee. I wasn't sure whether to join her or not, so instead I leant back against the counter of the kitchen and cupped the mug, letting its warmth take away the chill I was feeling.
“I was drunk.”
Her voice made me jump slightly. My eyes left the mug, shifting to her, she still hadn't turned around. I stayed silent.
“If it hadn't been for some fuck up, the press wouldn't be just speculating it, by now it would have been front page news.”
She sat forward in the rocker causing it to creak.
“Just another headline about how I fucked up my life. Front page news in the entertainment section again.”
I still was silent, listening to her voice change to one of pure bitterness.
“Everything has a price, Victoria. Becoming part of the dream-Hollywood-world has its. No privacy. All secrets found. My life an open door to anyone with a telephoto lens long enough to focus.” She gave a short laugh.
I swallowed, I wanted to go to her and hug her, and her voice was so full of hurt and pain. I hadn't heard anything close to it in my entire life.
“Ya know, Vicky, I fought to get where I am, believe it or not, to get to this place I'm in. I wanted it so much I didn't care who or what I had to do to get to what I dreamt about as a kid.”
She turned her head, looking at me over her shoulder. “It really was all I ever wanted.”
I didn't know what to say.
Her face turned away from me. “Anyway, you deserved to know the truth about that night, I was drunk as a skunk.”
“Does it matter?” Her voice sounded tired again.
“I suppose not.” Even as I said those words I knew I was lying.
For a while, all that could be heard between us was the rain hitting the glass and the occasional creak of the chair as she rocked.
“I am sorry you got dragged into this and nearly got yourself killed saving me.”
I was about to ask dragged into what, but I liked the fact the tone of her voice was back to one where she somewhat trusted me again, I didn't want to lose it. I shrugged as I placed my mug down on the counter, pushing myself away from it and heading towards the fire to stoke it.
“No big deal. I didn't have anything else to do that night.”
Her face shot around to me. I flashed her a grin, which was rewarded with a laugh. “You are so nuts.”
I grinned again. “So I keep hearing.”
Shaking her head, she rose, moving to sit back on the sofa, adjusting her dressing gown as she tucked her legs under. “Are you always so forgiving of people, Vicky?”
I paused in my stoking of the fire. “I suppose I am.”
“Doesn't anything make you angry?”
I looked over to her. “Is that what you've been trying to do? Get me pissed off at you?”
She blinked. “God, I think that's the first time I've heard you swear.”
Frowning, I put the poker back, rubbing my hands down my jeans before I went and sat down.
“I swear and sometimes I even spit, too.”
She laughed again. “Oh I bet.”
“Now you are taking the piss.”
This time she grinned. “You're very easy to do that to.”
I rolled my eyes which just sent her into another laugh.
“Ok, I'll stop for now.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “For now?”
She nodded. “Take it while you can.”
This time I laughed. I rose, going back to get my coffee. Returning, just as I sat, she spoke again.
“So why the bike?”
Confused, I looked at her. “Huh?” I took a sip of liquid.
“The bike? You know, your baby? Why the bike? You don't look like the type that goes dyke.”
The sip I just took decided to change direction and come down my nose with a snort. I coughed, trying to clear my lungs, only to look up and find her killing herself with laughter. A huge cough caught me spilling what was left of my coffee onto my jeans.
She laughed harder. I rose, going to the kitchen, throwing her the best evil look I could find. Which just sent her into more laughter.
Finally she got herself under enough control to rise and come to my aid.
“Here, give me that.” She took the cloth out of my hand, rubbing the coffee from my jeans. “I'm sorry.”
I looked at her, still trying to re-catch my breath. “Ahuh.”
She managed to catch the laugh before it came out by biting her lip. “ I am.”
“I think you did it on purpose, I've decided your aim in life is to try and shock me.” I took the towel from her with a pull.
“Well, that seems to be an easy thing to do, too. Are you catholic or something?”
My mouth fell open, staring at her in disbelief again. “Jesus.”
She grinned. “Oh, so you are.”
She said it with such a straight face, that alone made me laugh. “Ok... ok, I give up.”
My breath caught for a different reason, her eyes had locked onto me, a small smirk coming to her lips. But it was her eyes that froze me, the green of them had turned to an almost see through jade. They pinned me to the spot, I unconsciously stepped backwards, only stopping when the counter side hit me in the small of the back. She blinked, slight confusion coming into her eyes, standing, quickly turning and moving back to the sofa.
I swallowed. She confused me; one minute she was so open, the next so closed not even air could get through without a passport.
“Think I'm going to take a wash and see if I can change.”
I simply nodded, watching her until the door closed. The one thought in my mind was the fact that for a moment I could have sworn she was flirting.
It seemed for the rest of the day she didn't want my company. Whenever I came into a room she made some excuse to be elsewhere. Finally when the rain had let up enough, her last excuse was she needed a walk.
I wasn't sure what I had done wrong this time so I left her to it. Instead I made some calls to make sure there were no problems at work, calling David to let him know I was fine and would call again before the end of the weekend. I'd brought my laptop with me and within ten minutes of setting it up I was looking through accounts and didn't notice the time go by. When I closed the lid, and sat back, stretching out my back I noticed how dark it had gotten. I knew she wasn't back yet, I wasn't that engrossed in my work not to notice her return. I told myself she was old enough to take care of herself. I was still telling myself that when I lifted a flashlight and got my raincoat to go outside.
It didn't take me long to find her, she was standing at the edge of the lake just staring out at the sunset. Her whole body was caught in the aura of the dying sun. I stepped back into the trees, suddenly feeling like I was intruding. She was crying, yet not one sound or movement came from her. The reason I could tell was long drips of tears streamed down her face, dripping freely off her chin. She didn't wipe them away, or even attempt to stop them. She just stood there framed in gold, weeping.
As the sun disappeared and the orange and greys of the sky took its place, I was surrounded in shadows. I drew further back as she turned, heading back up the pathway that led to the cabin. I knew the shortest way and took off in a run. By the time she reached the cabin I was back in my chair, laptop on my lap. I looked up.
I realised as I looked at her how good an actress she was. There was no sign of her tears, not one clue to the fact that before I had seen her pain.
“I was walking.” She tilted her neck rubbing the back of it, moving towards the fire to warm herself.
I nodded. “Did you enjoy it?”
“Yes, it's very beautiful here, I guess I forgot the time.”
I nodded again. “It's easy to do.” I returned my eyes to the screen, clicking the shutdown command.
“Work?” Her eyes dipped to the laptop in question.
“I had a few accounts to clean up.” I closed it, putting it on the table.
“What is it you do?”
Surprised, I looked at her, it was the first time she had asked anything about me. “I manage finances for corporate companies.”
“Meaning?” She shifted to get comfortable, putting one of the larger pillows under her cast.
“Number crunching, really. Loans, leases.”
“Do you like it?”
Her question made me stop. No one had ever asked me that before. “Yes, I do.”
“Was it what you always wanted to do as a child?”
I gave a short laugh. “No, not really, I wanted to be an astronaut or a vet.”
Her smile broadened. “What changed?”
“I throw up on roller coasters and passed out when my dog Ruffs got an injection when I was seven. So I had to rethink.”
She laughed again. “I bet. So why numbers?”
I shrugged. “I'm good at them. My dad had friends who were in finances so he arranged for me to go there after school. I enjoyed it so when I left college I started at the firm I'm in now.”
“Wow, how long?”
I thought for a moment, surprised at the answer. “Twenty-one years.” Had it really been that long?
“At the same firm?” Her surprise sounded.
“And you've lived at the same place for that long too?” Now something else came into her voice; wonder.
“Not the house, no, I only bought that about ten years ago. But the town, yes. Why does that astonish you so much?”
“The longest I've stayed in one place is now. Where I live, it's...” she paused, thinking. “... It's four years now.”
“And before that?”
“Texas for a couple of years, I travelled for a while up until I started to get regular work. When the offers started to pick up, I bought the apartment in New York, but I'm not usually there long, location pretty much takes me away for a year or so.”
“Well, last year I was in Tunisia for six months. Before that, Canada.”
She grinned. “It wasn't all sight seeing and vacation, you know. I was working. Canada was a bitch of a shoot, I spent twelve weeks in a cave freezing my ass off in an underground river.”
“Six weeks of sand in places sand shouldn't be.”
I laughed. “Are those movies out now?”
“One is, Sahara Winds. The other is due out around December. “Wraith.”
“Were you good in them?”
Her face turned to me, a smile tweaking at the corner of her mouth. “Most people would ask was the film any good.”
I shrugged. “Well if you're good in it, it would be.”
Her smile spread. “You're getting very good for my ego you know.”
“Even though I didn't know who you were?”
“Even though, yes. And yes I was good in them. Wraith, I was better, I did most of my own stunt work so it helped add to the character.”
“What's it about?” I tucked my legs up, getting comfortable.
“A woman who just lost her son needs to get away from her life his memories, the husband. She just gets in her car and leaves. But she gets caught in a flash flood, ends up upside down in her car in the middle of nowhere. It's her story of how she got out of wilderness, so to speak, and found herself again.”
“Is it true?”
She laughed “No, just made up from the minds of writers on too much caffeine.”
“Oh that, that's a good old fashioned treasure hunting adventure story. Lots of gunfire and kick ass fighting.”
I grinned. “Those I like.”
“I think I knew that.”
The phone's shrill ring made us both jump. I got up to answer it.
“Why the hell are you at the cabin and why didn't I know you were going there in the first place?”
I cringed. “Hi Mandy.”
“Ooh don't you hi Mandy me... What the hell is going on?”
I smiled over to the curious look Elizabeth was giving me and mouthed the word. “Sister.”
“Ah” she rose, moving to give me privacy. I heard the gas go on and the water running as she made herself a drink.
“Victoria, stop ignoring me and answer the damn question.”
“I wasn't ignoring you, Mandy, I was waiting for you to calm down.”
The phone went silent.
“I am calm I'm just worried.”
I took a breath. “Mandy, I'm old enough to take care of myself, and as to your question I just wanted some quiet time.”
“At the cabin? David seems to think you're out riding that monster of yours?”
I tensed. “Why did you call David?”
She paused hearing the anger come into my voice. “I told you I was worried. I went by the house to find it locked up, I tried your work and they told me you had taken a week's leave. Come on, Vicky, don't get mad at me, I was worried, ok?”
“You're not our mother, Amanda. I can go out without permission.”
“Shit... ok, maybe calling David was a bit much, but Jesus you don't do things like this.”
I bit back the anger I was feeling. I was seriously getting annoyed at hearing that. Instead I took a long inhale, calming myself. “I'm fine, Mandy, ok? I'm at the cabin safe and sound. I'm just gonna spend a few days here then come back, get the bike and go off for a few days.”
“So why the hell couldn't you call and tell me that was what you were going to do?”
“Because I forgot, ok, before I left. I called David today, I've called my work, I tried your number first and got no answer... I was... going to call again tomorrow.”
“So how's the cabin?”
“It's as great as always, weather sucks though, had rain most of today.”
“Yea, we got that here too. You sure you're ok?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes sis, I'm really fine, I just need to chill, ok?”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Elizabeth place a coffee down for me. I nodded for her to stay. She looked at me, unsure. I put my hand over the mouthpiece.
“It's not private, you can stay.”
She nodded, returning to her seat.
“So you'll be back when?”
My attention went back to my sister's question. “Probably next Wednesday. I'll call Monday to let you know where I'm going for the ride or if I decide to stay here. I'm not sure yet, the weather looks like it's gonna be lousy for a while.”
“Ok that's cool....” Her voice paused. “...Vicky, you would tell me if something was up, right? I mean with you and David?”
“David?” I frowned.
“Yea, I mean if you guys were having problems. You can talk to me, you know, I know he can be an asshole sometimes. But if you're having ... well, having... well, you know, personal problems, maybe it would help to talk.”
I blushed, turning slightly away from Elizabeth, lowering my voice. “ Did David say something?”
“God no. Getting information out of him is like trying to get a date with a nun.”
My blush increased. “Mandy!”
“Oh loosen up, sis... It's just he didn't know anything about where you were. I kinda just figured you two fought or something.”
“David and I are fine Mandy ok?” I knew I was still blushing at the fact my baby sister was offering me relationship advice.
“Ok, cool, sorry I brought it up.”
“Look, I know you worry about me sis, but I'm ok.”
“Ok, I believe you.... Oh hey, did you see the news? That woman you saved disappeared from the hospital.”
I looked over to Elizabeth reading a magazine. “No, I haven't seen the news.”
“The press are going nuts, offering a fee for any information on where she went.”
“I bet. Any updates on her?”
“Nah, she's long gone. I bet she got a lover or something to come rescue her, although her agent turned up at the hospital this morning looking really pissed off.” She laughed.
“Well yea, duh, didn't you read that web site I gave you about Elizabeth? The rumours about her and her agent?”
I blinked. “Rumours?”
“Oh come on, sis, I know you don't read gossip but even you know what a lesbian is.”
My eyes jumped to Elizabeth. “Really?” I swallowed to clear my throat.
“Oh Vicky, sometimes you crack me up, yes really. You should have read that web site. Oh la la. Miss Garrison sure got around on that level. She's gay, Vicky. As gay as they come, if you know what I mean.” She sniggered at her own joke.
I looked away from Elizabeth. “Don't be vulgar, Mandy.”
She roared with laughter. “Oh sis, come on, have a sense of humour. Anyway the gay princess has disappeared. Did you see her at all after your hospital visit?”
“What? No, of course not. I told you she didn't want me around her.”
Elizabeth looked up at me. I gave a small smile.
“Pity. The press sure are offering a lot to know where she went. Anyway, I've got to go, Jesse is coming over later. I just wanted to make sure you were ok.”
“Ok, well call me Monday. Don't forget, ok? Otherwise I'm coming up there.”
“I know. Bye Mandy, love ya.”
“Love you too, bye.”
I placed the phone on the cradle and just stood there looking at Elizabeth.
“I'm guessing that was your sister.”
I nodded, still frozen in place. She was gay, a lesbian. She didn't look like one. Which just raised the question of what is one supposed to look like. Apparently like her. Her voice broke my brain from its thoughts.
“The press are looking for you.”
She stilled for a moment then turned the page of the magazine. “Oh I bet they are. Did your sister tell them?”
I frowned. “Why would she? Apart from the fact she doesn't know.”
She shrugged. “Money.”
“She doesn't know, and if she did and I asked her not to, she wouldn't. Money wouldn't be an option.” It irritated me that she thought everyone could be bought.
She chose to ignore my tone, just shrugging, “So who's David? Boyfriend?”
“I guess he could be classed as that.” I lifted my coffee, sitting as I did so.
She watched me for a moment, I half expected her to ask what that meant but she didn't.
“What else have the so called gentlemen of the press done?” She threw the magazine down.
“Apparently your disappearance has drove them nuts.”
She flashed me a grin, her eyes twinkling. “Too bad.”
I laughed. “Oh, and your agent seemed to be pissed.”
I hadn't seen her reaction to my words, I was heading across to put my coffee cup on the table, but I felt it, the whole room seemed to still. The laugh died in my throat as I sat back to look at her. She had paled, her whole appearance seemed to shrink inwardly. Her left hand gripped the arm of the leather coach, each nail digging an indent into its black skin.
“Where was she?”
I didn't know the voice that came from her, it was emotionless, totally without feelings.
“She was at the hospital this morning.”
She swallowed, then the side of her I'd come to realise was her walls came into place, the actress taking over. But I could still see the real her screaming beneath the green of her now ice eyes. She relaxed her grip on the arm, sitting forward. Rising, she gave me a smile.
“I'll call her later, let her know I'm ok.”
I just nodded, watching as she moved towards the bedroom. My curiosity was growing. I wasn't stupid. Even without my sister's information, I could have seen that something was going on between Elizabeth and her agent. Whether it was an affair was a different matter. In the distance I heard the music centre being turned on in the bedroom. Soft tones of Ella Fitzgerald filtered through the walls. I found my eyes going to my laptop. I could get some answers that way, I still had the web address my sister had given me.
Like a kid doing something they knew was wrong, I grabbed my laptop up, and five minutes later I was connected and pulling up the web page. If I thought I was ready for it I wasn't. Every single picture on it was of Elizabeth either half clothed or caught in compromising positions, including the main picture of her just above the title of the page, that one left little to the imagination. I was beginning to blush already and every minute my eyes would leave the screen and check to see if the bedroom door was still closed.
It was a fan-based site, a lesbian fan based site to be more precise. After reading through the intro I realised that all the pictures of Elizabeth were in fact taken from her films. Knowing that seemed to ease my blush a little knowing, that it was her acting. I went to the full bio area, finding out more from the page than I ever did from the actress herself. The fans liked her, that was obvious. My gaze went briefly to the bedroom door again before I clicked the next link, “media stories.”
The first two I skimmed through, they concerned her growing popularity in the box office and up-coming films. I skip-read down the list of stories, pulling up any that were interesting. Her list of appearances ranged from TV soap operas to made for TV films, up until the point three years ago she stared in “The Truck Box” which got her an award. After that, things changed, no more small time parts. Three box office smash films followed. None of which I sadly realised I had seen. I read through their synopses, mentally noting each of them to remember to rent them out at some point in the future. I skipped from page to page but I still couldn't find any connection to what Mandy had told me. I was beginning to think I was on a wild goose chase. I sat back, rubbing the bridge of my nose, knowing I should be wearing my glasses. As I did, I saw another link just off to the left... “X” Curious again I clicked it. Immediately a warning came up, informing me I was now entering a part of the site that required my age to be 21. I clicked agree.
The picture that came up this time made my mouth fall open. Elizabeth naked reclining on a bed, her hands tied to the metal frame above, another woman astride her.
“Holy shit.” I slammed the laptop closed.
I placed the laptop back on the tabletop, suddenly feeling like I was holding a hot coal. I paced, my eyes now completely panicked, going to the bedroom door. Nothing had changed, Ella was still singing her heart and soul out.
I paced, looking across at the laptop as I did so. What the hell was that? Had she done porn films? Was she that sort of an actress at some point? I paced again. Taking a long breath, I moved back, lifting the laptop back to my knees as I sat. Taking another long inhale, I opened it again, staring now at the image. She was a beautiful woman, her body was athletic, toned, but it hadn't lost the feminine part by being so. I swallowed, feeling myself blush yet again as I focused on her arched form. I shifted in the chair, but as I looked more, I realised that this Elizabeth had none of the light in her eyes that I'd seen in all her other pictures. In fact she wasn't even looking at the woman above her, they were focused on the ceiling above. She was younger too, a lot younger, and as I looked closer I noticed how grainy the picture was. I felt suddenly dirty looking at it. I quickly clicked the next picture button, semi-preparing myself for what on earth could be next. Thankfully, this one she was clothed in. The screen filled again with another image, I guessed taken from the same film, it was another shot of her, this time dressed in leather leaning forward over a pool table, the zipper of the leather pulled down enough to show the fact she wasn't wearing a bra. I swallowed again, my eyes darting to the bedroom door before returning to the screen again. The pose was obviously meant to be sexual, but it looked so unnatural. I mean, who leans over a pool table like that? They'd end up with back trouble within a week. I chuckled, knowing full well that was the point, it wasn't supposed to be natural, it was supposed to be sexual. My attention went to her eyes again. There was no light there, no joy, just plain orbs that looked into the camera, a forced sexy grin on her face. I couldn't deny she was a very sexy woman, how could I not? But something felt wrong about the scene and I couldn't put my finger on it. I looked across to the menu down the side, pressing “love interest.”
Various smaller pictures began to open, each of them of Elizabeth with different women through the years; out of focus ones, clear ones showing her hugging and kissing, holiday shots of her on beaches. These I could see were not her films, this time this was her private life that made me feel uncomfortable. This was what she was talking about before, the price of her stardom. I couldn't even come close to knowing how that felt, to have someone always watching my every move. The thought made me shiver.
I skip-read over the names and dates, not knowing any of them, that was until I saw the name Kerry. I clicked the image to enlarge. The page cleared, and bit by bit the image started to download. I blinked. Elizabeth was locked in her arms in a huge hug, a genuine laugh caught on camera, her eyes just shone life and light. I sat back, looking at the picture again. It was a hug? There wasn't any kissing? No naked embraces? I clicked the next picture. This time Kerry and Elizabeth were sitting at a coffee bar, the same joy was on Elizabeth's face. This was what they were basing an affair on? I clicked the five remaining pictures, all of which were the same things. I frowned, the whole bases of an affair between Elizabeth and her agent was nothing but rumours and press statements. There wasn't anything in the pictures to say they were lovers. That was fair! Just because she'd dated woman in the past, they assumed she was having an affair with her agent, just because she was another woman. I clicked the main link back to the page, looking for any reference to Kerry and Elizabeth. All that came up was so called here-say.
“Did you find what you wanted?”
Her voice right next to my ear made me yell and jump up, only just managing to grab the laptop in time before it crashed to the floor. She stood there staring ice at me.
“Jesus, don't do that.” I slammed the laptop closed and placed it on the coffee table, ignoring my shaking hands.
“Well did you?”
Oh, this was bad. For the first time I saw anger blazing in green orbs.
“It's not what you think”
Her mouth twitched. “Oh, isn't it? What is it I'm thinking?”
I blanched. “Well... I'm not sure. Mandy gave me the web address... I was, well, I was curious.”
She moved around the chair to the laptop, her eyes locking onto me. With one finger she opened the lid, only breaking her gaze from mine to glance down at the screen. I looked down, flushing red, realising the page had returned to the one of her naked and tied to the bed.
She lifted her eyes, her eyebrows rising. her eyes, darkening. “I guess you were curious, weren't you.?” She slammed the lid closed, moving to turn away.
“Wait, please, it really isn't what you think.”
She looked down at my hand which had laid on her arm. “Don't touch me, Victoria.”
I snapped my hand away. “Please listen, Mandy told me of a page, ok, I was curious, I didn't know... I mean I didn't know there were pictures of you like that on there...”
She still stood stock still just looking at me, not saying a word.
“I was just trying to find out about you.” I exhaled.
“Oh, and I bet you did. Pages like that know everything about me.” Sarcasm dripped from each word she spoke.
“I didn't know what sort of page it was.”
Her head snapped up to me locking me in her gaze. “But you still continued reading it, right? Just to make sure it was that sort of page.”
I blushed guiltily. She smirked.
“Don't worry about it Victoria, I'm sure if you google me there are lots more like it out there and if you video search I'm sure they'll have the whole film.”
I blushed again. “Elizabeth, please.”
She laughed. “The amount of times I've heard that.”
I flushed a deeper shade of red but at the same time I was getting angry. “I didn't know it had those sort of images, ok? I was trying to find out something.”
She moved away from me. “Find out what?”
“About you.” I sat down suddenly feeling very tired. “Just about you.”
“On a page like that?” She stared at me from across the room.
I sighed in frustration. “I didn't know what sort of page it was. I've explained that.”
She eyed me suspiciously. “So you said.”
I stood up, throwing my arms up. “Oh for gods sake, what's the big deal,? Its available over the whole damn internet, anyone could look at it. Why are you so pissed I did?”
Her mouth opened to speak then she snapped it shut. I waited. She moved to the drinks shelf and tried to open one of the whiskey bottles. Her cast hampered the way her grip held the bottle. I walked over, taking it from her, ignoring the glare she gave me. I poured out two glasses handing her one.
“Should you be drinking on those pills?”
Her answer was to give me another glare before she turned and stomped to the rocking chair. Sitting, she knocked back half the glass.
I took a sip of mine, moving to the chair by the fireplace, closing down the laptop before I sat. I let my head fall back until it was leant on the headrest and just stared at the beams of the roof, only raising it to drink.
“I'm not pissed at you for looking at it... I'm pissed at the fact pages like that exist and I have no control over them. I've had too many to count closed down over invasion of privacy but ones like those are harder... they use already released media of me. I ... well, I guess coming in here and finding you looking at it... just... well...” she frowned.
I turned my head to the side to look at her. “... Pissed you off.”
She sighed heavily, sitting right back in the rocker, drinking again. “ No, well, yes... but... you see, I don't go on them, I don't want to know about them. Seeing you looking at it just made it up close and personal in my face again.”
“I really didn't mean anything by it, Elizabeth.”
She finished the last in her glass. “Do me a favour, don't call me that ok, Beth is fine even Lee.”
I was beginning to feel like I couldn't do anything right around her. “ Ok, fine, Beth.”
She nodded, still not looking at me, her gaze was fixed on the trees through the window.
“So what did you want to know?”
I paused on sipping my drink, “Um well ... you, I guess. When you were talking about your films, I wanted to know what else you had been in.” I lied hoping to god she didn't look at me. I always was a bad liar.
She gave a short exhale. I realised then she thought I was looking up her and Kerry, and that's when I knew there was something between them.
“I bet that page was a font of information on that score.” She snorted then turned her head to look across at me. “Not the sort of films you were expecting, right?”
I sat forward, placing the glass down on the floor. “Um no not really.”
She scoffed. “I bet.” Her eyes studied me. “You didn't know I was gay either, did you?”
I just managed to control the blush. “No, I didn't.”
“When did you find out?”
“About an hour ago on the phone to my sister.”
She laughed. “Oh brother. That explains a lot.”
I looked over to her curiously. “It does?”
She pulled the chair around so now she didn't have to turn her body to see me. “It explains the page at least.”
I still looked at her, not at all sure what she was going on about.
“You were curious as to what a gay actress gets up to.” She shrugged.
“Well, no, I mean, yes.” This time I couldn't stop the blush, it was becoming annoying. I hadn't blushed this much in my entire life. I told myself to get a grip, I wasn't a prude or an innocent.
She shook her head, trying to not to laugh again. “I bet you did get more than you expected.”
“You could say that.” I laughed.
Rising, she came over, writing down on the pad next to the laptop. “If you're really interested in my films, that's the official website I set up.”
I looked down at the paper in her hand then up to her. Taking it, I gave her a smile. “Thank you.”
“I'm sorry I snapped at you.”
“I'm sorry I didn't ask you for a web address.”
“No worries. Look, I'm beat, I only came in here for a glass of water.”
“Ok, do you... I mean, do you maybe want to go out tomorrow in the UV? I know of great a place that can blow cobwebs away.”
“Maybe, can I give you an answer tomorrow?”
With a nod, she gave me a weak smile before heading to get the water then return to the bedroom. When the door closed I slumped back in the chair.
I didn't know if I could take a week with her and her mood changes. More to the point, I didn't know if I wanted to right now. Lifting the glass by my feet, I drank back the last of the whiskey, swallowing hard on the burn as it went down. One thing I knew for sure was Kerry and her had at some point been lovers and I wasn't at all sure how I felt about that.
It was way past dawn when I woke. I just lay there in bed staring at the ceiling, just like I had done the night before. No matter how I tried I couldn't sleep. Images of the page had decided to re-loop every five minutes in my brain. I'd tried counting sheep; when that failed, I went on to counting numbers. It didn't work, that just confused me more. I tried reasoning with myself, all that got me was frustrated as to why on earth her naked image kept returning. The night had been hot, one of those storm-coming, sticky-close-heats that sticks to your skin and inhale. That hadn't helped either because my skin was hot enough already. Groaning, I had in the end gotten up and pulled up all the files on the financial year to work on.
Three hours before dawn I finally exhausted myself enough to fall asleep. So here I was lying in bed with the day passing away wondering what the hell was going on. After thinking of it for another hour, I convinced myself it was the shock. Rising I pulled my dressing gown down, freeing my hair and ruffling it free of tangles, yawning as I moved into the main room.
I jumped. Another annoying habit I seemed to have around Miss Garrison.
“Morning.” I smiled over to her at the table eating her breakfast, moving past to get juice.
“Yes. I... well I had trouble sleeping last night.”
She looked guiltily down into her cereal. “My fault, I think.”
Sipping my O.J., I popped two slices of bread into the toaster. “Not really, I get that way sometimes. Besides, I was hot... I mean, the weather was hot. “I mentally slapped myself and reminded myself to get a grip.
“You're being forgiving again, Vicky.” A small smile formed.
I returned it, noticing how uncomfortable she was. “Well I guess that's just me.”
“I can't figure you out.”
I started to butter the now cooked toast. “Me? God I'm easy to figure out.”
She shook her head. “I don't think so, I think you keep yourself to yourself and hope the world goes by without noticing you.”
My hand stilled on the buttering, then continued. “I'm nothing special, Beth. Why would the world notice me?”
“Who told you that?” Her tone was sharp.
I placed the plate down, sitting in the chair opposite. “No one, it's just me I guess. Some class me as boring.”
She coughed in her coffee, looking at me. “Boring? Jesus, you dived into a river dragged a half drowned woman out, then arranged a getaway under the noses of the press. I hate to think what you class as exciting.”
“But I don't go around doing that day to day like some superhero. I guess, as I said, I was at the right time and the right place.” I bit into the toast, giving her a grin.
She scoffed. “You're not going to give me destiny bullshit are you.?”
“No, not really, I actually don't believe in destiny, but I guess I believe in everything happens for a reason.”
“So the reason for saving me?”
“I didn't say I had all the answers.”
She laughed. I smiled, I liked her laugh, a genuine one where she half tilted her head and her eyes twinkled. It gave her that innocent look again, totally at ease. That's what was missing in the pool table shot of her, that's what was wrong, it wasn't the Beth I saw in front of me, which was a shame because right now she looked more sexy than any of the pictures on the website. The morning sun coming in from the bay windows highlighted her hair, changing the darker blonde of it into sunray streaks. I froze. Sexy? I thought she was sexy! I immediately looked down, which wasn't such a good idea because now my eyeline fell onto the gap of her dressing gown, which exposed the Y of her chest, which immediately triggered the image from the website. I swallowed, refocusing my eyes onto the toast.
I nodded shoving another piece of toast into my mouth.
“You sure, you just went white as a sheet.” She lent forward, about to place her palm on my forehead, at which point her dressing gown gapped more.
I rose ,pulling the chair back with a squeak of wood on tiles. “I ... um, well... I think I got up too quickly... excuse me.”
She frowned. “Sure.”
I walked straight back into the bedroom, shutting the door, leaning back against it. Oh my god, I found her attractive, not just attractive but sexually attractive.
I had no idea what she got up to during the day because I was sat on my bed trying to figure out what was going on with me. Her attempts at finding out if I was ok were met with simple replies of “yes” and “headache.“ In the end she gave up, and now the day had gone and night was taking over.
I told myself it was normal to find someone attractive, whether male or female, that there was nothing wrong in thinking Beth was a sexy woman. I put it down to the excitement of everything that had happened to me in the last two weeks. Another argument was that my hormones were changing and going nuts at reaching forty. I'd heard stories of women doing strange things at that age. At one point, I put it down to the fact I ate a cheese sandwich before I went to bed. Anything and everything popped into my head. It didn't make me gay to find another woman sexy, there were the usual actresses that I found attractive, the kick-ass ones, the strong characters. Just because I found her sexy didn't mean I wanted to jump into bed with her, or any of the rest.
Those thoughts rambled and raged until I accepted I was overreacting and to just get a grip, that it indeed was the shock of seeing those pictures of her and then being faced with the real thing across a breakfast table. Everything lately that had happened was so out of the so-called normal for me, it was no wonder I was having identity issues. I would simply face it and take it for what it was, nothing more than adrenaline and an overactive imagination. I was off-balance with her, not thinking straight at all. I snorted at my choice of words. Now I was finding humour, I started to relax. I decided to be totally adult about the whole thing and face her head on.
In the end I waited until I heard her bedroom door click closed just after ten, and only then did I venture out, my stomach protesting the fact I had only two bites of toast in it. I went and immediately remedied that with a balanced diet.
Ten minutes later I sat staring at the moonlight, eating the third hotdog, using beer to wash it down. The sound around me was the clock in the hall keeping time, a steady tick tock against the silence.
“Are you feeling better?”
I coughed, the beer in my mouth swinging round, wondering how I hadn't heard her door opening or her footfalls. She stood, leaning against the wooden pillar at the eave of the room, her eyes studying me, unsure.
“Yes, sorry.” I resisted the urge to look down to see if the Y was there again, telling myself to cut it out.
She pushed herself away from the wood, moving towards me. “Nothing to be sorry about. Was it a migraine like before?”
“Kinda, didn't really come to anything.”
She looked at me again. “Look, I've been thinking.”
Her tone made me look around to her. “About?”
She sat on the edge of the coffee table. “If you need me to leave here, I can arrange to.”
I blinked at her. “Leave?”
She scratched the back of her neck, her eyes darting around. “Well, you got me out of the hospital and now you're stuck babysitting me. So if...” she paused. “Well, I know I'm not the easiest person to be around right now... so if you need to leave, I can take care of myself from here.”
I blinked at her again. “Is that what you think I was doing?”
She sighed. “Look Vicki, you have your life you really don't need my shit right now, ok? You obviously wanted to get away from me today and I can... well, I can understand that. All I'm saying is, I understand ok.”
I swallowed. “It wasn't you. I just needed a time out. You don't have to leave... I mean if you don't want to.”
She finally looked at me. “A time out from me, right?”
I rose. “A time out from all of it, not just you. Look, Beth, I know you've got problems and I know life sucks for you right now, but I'm finding it hard being your punching bag sometimes...” I looked at her, seeing her drop her eyes. “I don't seem to do anything right around you and today I just needed a time out from that.”
She rubbed her shoulder just at the junction of where the cast met her neck. “So I'll leave.” She started to rise.
I stepped forward. “Wait, that isn't what I said.” I exhaled. “I'm not the enemy, Beth. I just wish you'd trust me enough with that to know I'm not conspiring to tell the press where you are, and neither is any of my family or friends. I haven't told anyone I've helped you because I knew you wouldn't want it, not because I didn't trust them. I am here only to help... but...”
She tilted her head slightly, studying me again. “But?”
“But you don't make that a very easy thing to do.”
“It isn't an easy thing for me to trust Vicky, I've learn in the past not to.”
I kept my anger in check. “I'm not your past.”
She looked up sharply. “So what are you?”
I gave a soft smile. “A friend I hope.”
“Just like that?” She rubbed her neck again.
She sat silent just staring at me. I could see she was trying to figure something out. When she smiled, I mentally let out the breath I was holding.
“So I guess we start again.” she rose, holding out her hand. “Hi I'm Elizabeth, you can call me Beth.”
Grinning I took her hand. “Hi Elizabeth, I'm Victoria, you can call me Vicky.”
We shook hands, slightly laughing. I was relieved on so many levels, first on the fact I no longer saw suspicion in her eyes. Second that I didn't want her to leave. Even though I said I didn't, I did feel a sense of responsibility for her now. Last but not least, I really didn't want her to go, I liked her, but more to the point I wanted to get to know the real her, not the one she showed the press or the world, but the person I had seen standing at the edge of the lake weeping. Slightly embarrassed, I realised I was still holding her hand. As I drew mine away she tightened the hold on mine. I looked at her.
“Thank you Vicky, I know I said it before. But...well.... Just thank you for what you did.”
I smiled, seeing in her eyes she did mean it this time. “Anytime.”
She gave a short laugh, dropping her hand from mine. “As I said, nuts!”
She walked away, back towards the bedroom, turning as she reached the door. “I'd like to go on that walk or drive you mentioned. Ss tomorrow ok? I'm not sure how far I can go though.” She motioned to her cast.
I was grinning again and nodding like one of those tacky dog ornaments in the back of cars. “Yes... and no problem, I know a great place we can take a picnic if the weather is clear.”
She nodded. “Ok fair enough, picnic sounds fun. Haven't been on one of those for a while. Night, Vicky.”
I gave a small wave in answer to hers. “Night, Beth.”
With a final smile she moved into the room. I stepped back, sitting on the rocker again. Lifting the beer I turned around again, gently rocking as I drank, my eyes fixed on the moon, praying for a clear day.
Whatever god had been listening the night before was now getting my undying thanks. The morning was beautiful, not one dark cloud filled the sky. Blue, perfect blue filled the dome above, the classic skyline of white fluffy clouds and sun. The sun itself was already doing what it does best, the yellow globe was already starting to warm up the world around us, taking the edge off the autumn breeze that, left on its own, chilled our skin. At ten we had left the cabin, the picnic was packed in the back and now both of us were sat in the UV as I guided it up the forest fire track.
“Do you know where you're going?”
I gave her a brief smile before turning my attention back to the track, going around a large fallen tree that had come down in the winds.
“For the third time, yes I do. Why don't you just start the, are we there yet? are we there yet?“
I heard her snort. “Yes, Mom.”
I laughed, I liked this side of her. She'd woken up like it, and even through the embarrassment of dressing her in my uncle's clothes and her getting uncomfortable over the fact I had to do up all the buttons and zips, she'd stayed that way.
“So why is this place so special? Why couldn't we just picnic by the lake?”
I slowed the UV down as we entered a large water filled dip, the UV tilting for a moment as its tyres gripped to get us out. I looked sideways at her to see if she was ok with the water, but her eyes were looking around outside like a kid, taking in all the trees and area.
“I come here every time I'm up here, it's, well, it's just special to me I guess.” I shrugged.
“What do other people think?”
I chewed my lip for a moment. “Well I don't know.”
Her head came around to me. “You don't?”
“No, not really I haven't brought anyone up here before.”
“Not even what's his name... David?” Surprise sounded in her voice.
I snorted. “No, the closest thing David comes to nature is reading National Geographic in waiting rooms. Although he did do a mountain trip last year, but I think even then he ended up in a hotel looking at the mountain.”
She chuckled. “Oh, that type.”
I glanced at her. “What type?”
Giving me a mischievous smile, she looked away. I just shook my head. Yep I definitely liked this side of her.
After I had parked up, we set off on the small trail, I had the rucksack on my back. I went slowly for her, knowing that my longer legs could easily outstride her, that and the fact she had just come out of hospital. But she surprised me, it was I who had to stop for a breather twenty minutes into the walk. She had laughed at me, informing me she had a trainer for her last film.
It was nearly noon when we reached the summit of the pass and I kept my eyes on her as we cleared the grey of the trees' shadows and moved into the clearing. I could feel my smile growing as I watched her face show awe and surprise.
“Oh my god, it's beautiful.”
I shrugged the straps of the rucksack off my shoulders, laying it down by a rock. “Yes.”
Her eyes went back to the view around. My eyes followed hers to the beauty and it still took my breath away. It felt like I stood on the edge of the world at the beginning of time, the rocky outcrop overlooking the whole of the park area in all its glory, showing streams and curves of hills, all blanketed in trees. The noon sun was now adding thousands of different shades and colours to the world below. It never looked the same to me, no matter how many times I had come here. I tilted my head, catching the breeze coming off the earth below. Tugging a loose bit of hair back behind my ear and closing my eyes, I listened to the distant sounds of streams, hearing the humming of the wind as it gathered strength over the pass. Yet at the same time it was silent, no sounds of cars or people, just nature taking a breath. I truly loved it here.
Opening my eyes, I glanced at her, seeing her doing the same thing; standing there, her eyes closed tight, the wind moving her hair into a dance. Her face for the first time had a total sense of peace. Her eyes opened, locking onto mine, and part of me screamed for me to look away while the other part just fell into the green that looked at me. A small smile played on her lips, becoming infectious as I felt the same smile pull on my mouth. Sounds disappeared, and everything became out of focus. The panic started in me again as I realised I was staring at her, not because it was a shared moment, but for another reason, that began to scare me.
I cleared my throat, breaking the spell. “Hungry?”
She blinked, her eyes seeming to refocus. “Sorry? What?”
“I asked if you were hungry?”
She nodded. “Ravenous.”
I swallowed hard, moving back to the rucksack. As I reached down for it, I noticed my hand was shaking. I clenched it into a fist and cursed in my head the fact I needed to get a grip. Now was not the time to have issues.
Five minutes later I had the pack open and both of us were already tucking into the food. I sat on one of the smaller boulders, while she chose a log opposite me. As she ate, her gaze wandered over the view around.
“How did you find this place?”
“I got lost.”
She looked around. “Lost?”
I nodded, semi-chewing on the drumstick. “I was twelve. We came camping in the woods back where the trail was, I wandered off. I thought I was heading back to the campsite.”
“God, you must have been terrified.”
I shrugged. “I was till I came out of those trees and stepped on this plateau. After I saw all this, I forgot. Forgot I was scared, forgot who I was, it... well, it seemed magical to me.”
Her eyes went back to the view. “It is magical. It's hard to think that other people exist right now.”
“I know what you mean.” I pulled the tab on the Dr Pepper, holding it out for her.
She took it. “Who found you?”
I took a sip of my coke. “My dad, and boy, was he mad.”
She grinned. “I bet.”
“I didn't get to come back here, until I was seventeen. Ever since then every time I come up to the cabin I disappear here. Makes my sister and family nuts, they have no clue where I go.” I laughed.
She relaxed onto her side. “Why haven't you shown them?”
“Don't know really, I think it's because I like the fact no one can find me here.” I shielded my eyes as I looked up, grinning when I saw an eagle gliding. She followed my gaze, watching it too. I inhaled deeply. “Maybe I'm like him, I come here to soar.”
I felt her eyes studying me again. As I lowered my gaze from the eagle, I half expected her to be laughing. But she wasn't, her face held a strange look, then right away she turned, going back to the view and sipping her soda.
“Maybe you come here to get away from the rat race.”
I saddened a little, the bitterness had come back into her voice again.
She gave me a weak smile, before reaching across and lifting another sandwich nibbling it as she spoke. “So what do you get away from, Vicky?”
Her head tilted in question. “Any special one?”
“Yes, humming. Electric, it drives me nuts, there is never any real silence in the town, the city is worse. Computers where I work, fans, air conditioning. At home ‚Äì AC, microwaves, coolers. There's always something, but out here...” I looked around. “Nothing but the wind, but that's different, that's normal.”
“What about what's his name?”
“David? Noisy?” I frowned.
She laughed. “No, you goof. Do you come here to get away from him? I mean you said he doesn't do nature, so this would be the perfect place to go.”
“Oh, well no, not really, we don't live together and I only see him a couple of times a month.”
I frowned again, seeing her eyebrows rise. “What?”
“Nothing. I mean that's kinda casual, isn't it?”
“I suppose, it suits us that way.”
She stared at me till the point I looked away and concentrated on the view.
“Suits you or suits him?”
I snapped my head to her, she just smiled and bit fully into her sandwich.
“It suits the both of us.”
“So how long you two been together?”
She choked on her sandwich. “What?”
I reached over, patting her on the back. “Ok, what's wrong with that?”
She flapped her hand at me to get away. “Nothing wrong with that but, god eight years with something that casual usually means something else.” She swallowed a mouthful of soda.
I sat back. “Oh wise one, what does it mean.?”
She stuck her tongue out at me. My eyebrows nearly hit the eagle souring above.
She shrugged, “It's none of my business anyway.” She gave me a small smirk and continued on her lunch.
I wagged a finger at her. “Oh no, you just can't say that then clam up. Ok, give, what's the big deal ?It suits both of us, it ties in with our work and our free time.”
She grinned, and I could see the merriment dancing in her eyes, she was teasing me and enjoying doing it, and if truth were told, so did I.
“It's really no big deal, Beth. But as you have raised the question, why do you think it's something else?. I'm interested.”
She sighed. “Well, in my experience a relationship that casual doesn't mean love is involved.”
I blinked at her. “That's ridiculous, I love him, I mean I'm in love with him.”
“If you say so.” She sipped her soda, watching me over the rim.
She nodded. “Ok, answer me this. Can you see yourself spending the rest of your life with him?”
I gulped down the soda in my mouth. “Um... well, I don't know we haven't discussed that.”
She roared a laugh. “Oh god, now you sound like a lawyer. It isn't about discussions Vicky, it's about knowing.”
I scowled. “We're busy people, Beth.”
“Ahuh.” Her eyes were laughing at me.
“Well, we are.” I sat back, folding my arms.
“So busy that you come here for silence.”
My eyes darted to her, she held a smug look on her face for making a point. I was almost tempted to ask if she ever had been in love, but something warned me not to.
“David is a nice guy.”
She chuckled. “Oh god, save the world from nice guys.”
This time I laughed. “That is bad isn't it.?”
She nodded. “Hell yea, I bet he would hate it if you said it to him. Nice is what your brother is or your dad. So what does this nice guy do?”
I groaned, realising I'd given her ammunition to tease me with. “Real estate broker.”
“Oooooooooh nice guy and a nice job.”
“Oh stop it.” I had to turn away so she couldn't see my smile.
She laughed again. “Ok, I'll stop.”
“So is it the same with nice girls?”
She coughed into her soda. “Excuse me?????”
“Nice girls? Are they different to others?” I looked at her, puzzled at her reaction, then my brain got a clue and I looked away to cover my blush.
“Well, um, I can't say nice girls are the same, no.” She bit her lip.
“God, I must seem a total innocent to you.” I gave a nervous laugh.
She grinned again. “No, not at all, you're very...” she paused for a moment searching for a word. “Refreshing.”
I snorted. “Thanks I think.”
“You, well, you haven't more experience in the way of sex have you?”
I felt my face colour again. “Um, no not really.”
“Is David the only one?”
I shifted on the rock, taking a gulp of soda. “There was one other that on a long winter's night I lost my virginity to, if that's what you were fishing for.”
She chuckled. “Kinda.”
She relaxed back even further onto the rock, studying me. “You don't talk about sex either, do you, or like talking about it?”
I looked down at my toes, suddenly finding the stitching on my walking boots the most interesting thing on the planet. “Not really, my parents didn't think it was a topic of conversation, and well I guess that stayed with me.”
She nodded. “Is your sister like that?”
“Hell, no.” I blushed again.
She gave a laugh, which touched her eyes. “Bet she loves to tease you with it.”
I gave her a shy look. “Ahuh, just like you do.”
She placed her hand on her chest, slightly bowing her head. “Guilty as charged.”
I shook my head, chuckling. “And you call me nuts.”
A smile flashed at me before she turned her head away, enjoying the sun on her face.
“Has...” I swallowed. “Has it always been that easy for you, I mean, to talk about sex?”
Slowly she turned to me. “I guess it has, yes. My parents died when I was thirteen, and I went to live with a so-called aunt, she had a lot of men friends. I kinda grew up around it and talking about it. I don't see anything wrong with having a conversation with someone or doing it for that matter.”
The smile she gave me this time made my heart pick up a beat.
“I guess I just get embarrassed by it.”
“I know... but you shouldn't, having sex is a wonderful experience even if you are straight.” She smirked.
“Don't you talk to David about sex?”
I inhaled the sip of soda slightly. “Good lord, no.”
She roared with laughter again. “Not even if he isn't doing it right?”
A deep scarlet filled my face. “No, not really.”
“Ok, this is making you uncomfortable, no more laughing and no more questions.”
I exhaled. “Thank god.”
She laughed again. “But it works both ways, you know, I'm not giving out information unless I trade it.” Smirking, she took a long sip of soda.
“And that's supposed to mean what?”
“Well, I'm gay, that usually raises a few question to the straight crowd.”
I laughed. “You make it sound like we're freaks of nature.”
I grinned. “So you're saying we're a dying breed?”
I shook my head. “Ok, I'll bite. Why are we the soon to be dinosaurs of the world?”
She shifted around to me, resting her chin on her hand. “Because men get on with men and women get on with women. When you mix ‚Äòum up, bedlam.”
I did a double take, looking at her more closely. I didn't have one clue if she was serious or not. “ And what about sexuality? Are you saying that doesn't come into it?”
With a serious look on her face she answered. “Oh, sex comes into it big time.”
“Not sex, sexuality. How can you say that men and women don't belong together?” I paused unsure. “That is what you're saying, right?”
She nodded. “Oh yes. Nothing but trouble. He doesn't know her needs, she doesn't understand he has any. He has no clue what PMS is, she has no clue why tools are so important and must be called baby... the list is long. Total communication break down.”
I still wasn't sure if she was serious. “Ok then, my parents have been married for over forty years. What's that?”
She gave a small smile. “An exception over the rule. They probably lead separate lives and meet up when one of them is antsy. Hence you and your sister's arrival.”
My mouth fell open. “Bloody hell! I don't want to go there, they're my parents for gods sake.”
That's when she lost it and erupted into full laughter. “Vicki, you're so easy.”
I let out a long exhale. “Apparently not.”
Her eyes shot up to me in surprise, this time I smirked. “Gotcha.”
The grin that filled her face made me forget the view, the sky and time itself. I cleared my throat. “I like this.” I looked around.
She followed my gaze to the view. “So do I.”
I looked at her as she turned back. The wind lifted my quietly spoken words and carried them to her. “I like you.”
She froze for a second then a soft smile came to her face. “I like you too.”
Silence followed, for how long I didn't know, we both just sat back and enjoyed the autumn sun and the valley below.
“Is that what you were doing that night, looking for silence?”
Her voice was spoken so softly, I wasn't sure she had spoke, but as I turned my face to look at her she held my gaze.
“Yes, it was. When I need it and I can't get away to here, I go out on the bike.”
She nodded. “Wasn't much of a quiet night was it?” A soft smile creased her lips.
“No, not really, but I'm glad I was there.”
Our gaze held for a while until she reached across to lift the last of the chips. “I was mad at you, you know.”
She shrugged, popping a chip into her mouth. “I don't know. Just was.”
I frowned. “For saving you?”
Her chewing stopped for a mere second but I saw it. Then it continued. “Maybe.”
I sat back a little, trying to work out what she meant. “Didn't you want to be saved, Beth?”
She brushed the chips from the front of her shirt. “No, I don't think I did.”
I waited, wanting her to say more and explain. I didn't wait long.
“When I hit the water and I felt the cold, I wanted life more than anything, it was too soon, I wanted to do things, win an Oscar, learn to fly. But...” Her jaw clenched. “.... But when I started to drift and everything seemed... well, seemed so at peace, I wanted it, it seemed so right.”
“That was hypothermia.” I felt uncomfortable.
She smiled. “Maybe. Anyway I was mad at you for taking that away from me, I guess. I'm sorry for that.”
I looked down, peeking up at her through eyelashes. “You still mad?”
She shook her head. “No I'm not. Not at you anyway. Not after you showed me this, it reminded me that not everything is ugly in life.” Her eyes moved in a caress over the horizon.
“Has everything been ugly for you?” I waited for her walls to shoot back up.
“Pretty much lately, yea, it has.”
Her eyes travelled from the view to me. “You mean that, don't you?”
“Of course I do. No one deserves an ugly life, let alone someone like you.”
A sad smile formed around her words. “Wish everyone thought like that.”
Silence followed again, but my curiosity was up. “Who were you getting away from, Beth?”
She stiffened. I waited hoping I hadn't blown the ease she felt around me.
She sighed. “Someone I thought I could trust with everything.”
I wanted to ask who but I let it go. I rose instead, packing the picnic away, shifting the pack onto my back.
“We'd better go, if the sun gets too low it's hard to get back down the trail.”
She offered out her hand for help up. I took it, holding firm as she rose. Brushing herself down she looked once again over the view. The sun now was dipping below the higher hills in the distance, turning the sky into a tapestry of orange and greys.
“Thank you for bringing me here and sharing.”
“You're welcome, but if you tell anyone I'll have to kill you.”
She snorted, moving past me, her eyes fixed on the rocky path. “Yea, right.”
I watched her for a while until I was sure she knew the way back, then I looked back over the valley, imprinting the view in my mind like I always did. Turning, I followed her back to the UV, thinking what a perfect day it had been.
The next day she was back to being guarded again but in a way that just told me not to get too close and not to ask questions. It seemed that she felt vulnerable, and somehow I had learnt too much. I kept busy and gave her the space she needed. But this time I didn't feel as if I had done something wrong.
The two days that followed, we got into a routine. She discovered she could cook if she had me do all the two handed jobs and her doing the main preparation. We fell into an ease with each other, both seeming to know when the other needed time alone. To pass time, we played games and cards and I discovered what a card shark she really was. Slowly she started to mention her life and how she grew up. I found out she didn't get on with her “so-called aunt” and had moved out as soon as she was able to. Her life seemed so hard compared to mine, but I realised that had been what had given her the fire in her eyes and the aura of confidence that surrounded her.
She'd found acting by chance at the college she'd worked part time to attend, and from there, in her words, the sky was the limit. It was her dream and I'd smiled when she told me, seeing the fire for the first time as she spoke of how she wanted it so badly.
It didn't last long, her explanations or the story of her life. Whenever she felt she had given away too much, she simply would change the subject or leave for bed.
She intrigued me, and no matter how many questions I asked and she answered, I never really got a sense of who she really was. I wanted to know more, but curiosity was always my problem. That was really how I had gotten lost that day when I wandered from the campsite. I wanted adventure. In a way, I envied her life. Her focus had always been her quest to acting. I'd never really wanted anything badly enough to fight for it.
The week had gone fast now, which seemed strange in the fact at the beginning of it, it seemed every minute with her dragged into hours, all I was wishing then was it to be over. Now it was Sunday and I was sad. One more day and I'd have to return to work, and my life and she would go their separate ways.
I was sitting on the leather coach by the fire, my chin propped on the edge, my long frame sprawled out like a cat, my eyes dancing with firelight. It simply came down to... I didn't want to not see her again. I sighed.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
I smiled, rolling over, watching her come from the bathroom, rubbing her hair with the towel. She looked so damn cute when she did that.
She flopped down onto the chair. “God, I miss showers.”
“Well, won't be long now, how long till they said the cast could come off?”
She tossed the towel away, backcombing her hair with her fingers. “Another three weeks at least, I'm gonna go nuts.”
“Do you have to go back to our hospital or can you get it done in L.A?”
“Either, I suppose. But don't think it will be press safe to go back to St Luke's.”
“No.” I shifted back over to my front, staring at the flames again.
“So what's gotten you so deep in thought?”
I kept my eyes on the flames. “Future, I suppose.”
“Anyone's in particular, or you forming world domination?”
I smiled. “No, I'm not the sort to take over the world.”
She chuckled. “Ah, but it's always the quiet ones you have to watch.”
I didn't feel much like laughing tonight but somehow she always got through that. I laid my face on my hands shifting it so I could see her. “If you really want to know, I was wondering if I'm gonna talk or see you again after tomorrow.”
“You haven't told me what you're going to do after I leave. You know you're more than welcome to stay here, my uncle won't mind at all.”
“That's very generous of you.”
I shrugged. “But you'll be here alone, I have to get back to work.”
“I know.” Her eyes went to the fire.
“If you do decide to stay, I'll have to go and get more stores for you. And, I ... well I could come up at the weekend.”
“You don't need to do that. I ... well, I was thinking of calling someone to come get me.”
I looked away. “Oh.”
“The press have properly moved on from the hospital and airports, so it should be safe for me to sneak out.”
I gave a slow nod. “Yes.”
“You can get back to your life.”
“Yea...” I didn't like the sound of that at all.
“You could...” her voice faltered, unsure. “you could come visit me for a holiday. It's the least I can do in return for the hospitality you showed me.”
For some reason that hurt, that she thought it was nothing more than kindness that had to be paid back.
“I'll think, about it if that's ok.”
“Sure, it's an open offer, no timeline.” As I looked at her she gave me a sincere smile.
“Do you want me to call your agent to come get you?”
Her eyes shot up to me. “No!”
I stiffened, her no was almost yelled at me. “Sorry, I just thought that's who you meant.”
I swallowed. “She's your agent, isn't she? Isn't that the sort of thing she does?”
Her glare softened. “No, not really. I'll handle the call.”
The fire cracked and I looked back at it.
“Sorry Vicki, you only wanted to help. But Kerry isn't someone I want to see right now.”
I turned onto my back, shifting a cushion under it, crossing my legs at the ankles as I relaxed. “Why?”
She stiffened slightly, but she didn't look like she would bolt this time.
“I think you've figured that, out my friend.” Her mouth twitched.
I sheepishly looked down. “Kinda.”
“I'm surprised you haven't asked me before, you know.”
“I have very good restraint when it comes to my curiosity. And I knew it was none of my business.” I smiled.
She inhaled. “We were lovers.”
“Isn't she married?”
Her eyes shot to me in a glare. “You think I didn't know that?”
“Sorry, stupid thing to say.”
“Yea, it was, and to answer your question, yes she is, and it wasn't like I had a choice.”
I frowned. “Choice?”
“I didn't pick falling in love with a married woman, it happens.”
“Oh, I didn't mean it like that, I thought if she's married she wouldn't be gay.”
For a moment she just blinked at me then burst into laughter. “Fucking hell.”
She continued to laugh while I just stared at her, wondering what was so funny yet again.
“You really don't have any clue about being gay, do you?”
I shook my head. “No, not really, but I'm getting to know how funny you find it.” I started to rise.
“Wait, don't go. I'm sorry.” Her hand was on my leg. “I can't help it, I know you don't mean to be funny like that, but god, Vicki sometimes I think you've lived in a castle somewhere with the world passing you by.”
“Ok, rather than laughing at me, explain to me why what I say is so funny.” I crossed my arms, making a point of not sitting.
She removed her hand, sitting back. “Because I don't know anyone like you, you see things so cut and dried sometimes. I've ...” She scratched the back of her neck. “... Well I've never been around someone as innocent as you in life.”
“You say that like it's a curse.” I moved to leave again, getting embarrassed.
“No.... God, wait.” She rose. “Vicki, please, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings I didn't mean to. You're honest, straightforward.... No pun intended.”
I glared at her, in no mood for her jokes.
She took a breath, the smile leaving her face. “I'm not used to people being that honest and just saying what's on their minds is all. You catch me out every damn time. I'm sorry, I laughed at you ok?”
“Yea well, you make me feel stupid.”
She blinked clearly shocked. “I don't mean to do that.”
I still stood there, looking at the bedroom then back at her. “Then why laugh? I'm not that funny.”
“But you are. I told you you were refreshing and you are, you make me laugh because of it.”
I frowned at her again. “I don't get it.”
She sighed. “I know, but please know I'm not laughing at you. I'd never do that or hurt your feelings. At least trust me on that one.”
And that was the problem. I did trust her, more than I knew I should do, because deep down I knew at some point she was going to hurt me.
I gave a short nod. “Ok, I trust that.”
She exhaled. “Good. “She sat down again. “Now please sit and go back to your flame watching.”
I sat down again but didn't go back to the comfortable sprawl. I relaxed back though, putting my feet up on the coffee table. “Explain to me how someone that is married can be gay?” I shot her a look. “And if you laugh again, so help me god, I'm going to my room and not coming out till tomorrow.”
She bit her lip. Then made a zipping motion across her lips. “Not one laugh shall pass.” She threw a pretend key away.
I looked away as I felt my lips betray me and curl into a smile.
She snorted. “And you're only finding this out now.”
I gave up and let the laugh out. “Very annoying.”
Her answer was to flash me a shit-eating grin. God, I was going to miss her. I felt sad again, I turned my eyes to the flames.
“I'll give you the short version based on what I know. Kerry is bi.” She swallowed.
My eyes moved to her again, and for once I saw the sadness in her eyes.
“She hurt you.” It wasn't a question I asked but a statement.
Her eyes came up to me. “I hurt her. Works both ways.”
“Can I ask what happened? You don't have to answer.”
Now was the test, now was the moment I learnt if the trust she said she had in me was true.
“Girl meets girl. Girl is married, has children. Girl loses girl. Not your typical Hollywood movie.”
I looked away, mainly because I didn't want her to see the hurt in my eyes that now I knew she didn't trust me at all. “No, I guess not.”
Whether she heard the hurt in my voice I don't know, but she rose and came and sat next to me, but the whole time she spoke, her eyes were locked on the fire.
“I met her four years ago at a premiere of a movie I was in. She came right up to me and gave me her card. I remember looking at her, wondering who she was, I'd noticed her coming into the theatre and thinking how beautiful she was. She told me if I wanted a career that was going somewhere to call her.”
I could see in the firelight a smile form on her lips as she remembered.
“She pissed me off.” She laughed. “But I checked her out and found out she really was a good agent. I started with her about a month later and after that I started getting work away from B movies.”
I stayed silent, even though I wanted to bombard her with questions.
“We were friends, I don't have many female friends.” She turned giving me a small smile. “Women I knew, I slept with mostly, there wasn't a lot of conversation if you know what I mean.”
I nodded, knowing full well I was blushing.
She gave me a knowing smile then returned her gaze to the fire. “I'd like to say I knew when it changed between us but I can't put a time or date to it, we simply looked at each other one day and knew. I know that sounds romantic, but it really wasn't. If anything, it was terrifying.”
“You were scared?”
She laughed. “Hell yea. I knew it wasn't just lust. I knew it was much more, and here I was falling for a married woman. “She tilted her head to me. “That's a big no no in the lesbian handbook.”
I smiled at her, then wondered if they really did have a handbook. I shook my thoughts clear. “Because she was married?”
She shook her head. “Not really, because I felt something more.”
“Love, Vicki, I felt love, all-consuming, heart-wrenching, stomach-churning love. That's what scared the crap out of me. The fact she was married made it worse.”
“Yes, oh.... What made it impossible I suppose was that I saw it in her, the same feelings. Maybe if it had been one sided I would have stayed away, changed agents. Nothing sorrier then a lesbian in love with a straight woman. It's pitiful. But it's not easy to walk away when you know the woman isn't as straight as you thought and both of you are being drawn in.” She exhaled. “It sucked to say the least.”
“I can imagine.”
She looked at me again. “Can you?”
“Yes, I think I can, wanting something you can't have because of rules or other commitments.”
“You make everything so clinical sometimes.”
I looked down. “Sorry.”
“Don't be, because that's what I should have done, I should have walked away before things really started.” She rose moving away.
I sighed, waiting for the sound of the bedroom door. When she nudged my shoulder, I looked up in surprise to find a beer being offered. I took it. She sat back in the chair this time, sipping.
“We had been working together for two years before we realised what was happening, by then it was too late to go back. We started the affair. I can't say I liked it, keeping things secret or going behind her husband's back, but when I was with her it didn't seem to matter.” She took a long sip of beer.
Her mouth paused on taking a drink. “She did.”
“Oh.” I looked down at the bottle, picking at the label.
“I wasn't enough for her anymore, she wanted more.”
“More?” I took a small sip, wondering if she thought I was turning into a parrot with my replies.
She shrugged. “Family, a life, who knows, but I wasn't enough anymore.”
“I'm sorry.” I felt like crying.
“So am I.”
“Did you think she would leave her husband?”
She gave a short laugh. “No... but at the same time, yes. It's weird, now that I'm away from her and everything else, I've been thinking about how we ended, and I can see how she started to draw away from me long before there was any sign of trouble. But I guess I was too caught up in us to see outside of it.” Her voice trailed off. “She was right that night.”
My eyes shot up to her. “What night?”
She stopped realising she'd just given something away. “Doesn't matter.”
I opened my mouth to tell it did, but I closed it. “Ok.”
Another crack of the fire broke into the silence that had been building.
“The night before the crash.”
I didn't look at her, not wanting her to stop.
“She told me I was a ...” she swallowed. “... fun while it lasted.”
I gripped the bottle till the point I was sure it was gonna break, thinking bitch in my head.
“I kinda didn't handle that well.” She gave a strained chuckle.
This time I did look at her. “That's why you were drunk, wasn't it?”
She nodded, taking a sip of beer. “Yep. Kinda a double hitter when it's on Valentine's night too.” She forced a smile.
She looked sideways at me. “You say that a lot.”
“Only because I mean it, you shouldn't have had that, any of it, you didn't deserve it.”
She snorted. “Oh, but I did Vicki, it was payback for all the times I'd used a woman and said those exact words... I got exactly what I deserved.”
I didn't understand what she meant, yet at the same time I did. “No it wasn't, not if she loved you. Anything that happened to others with you wasn't love, you wouldn't have let them get that close.”
She just stared at me. “You don't know who I was or who I am.”
I shrugged. “Maybe not but I know the person I've gotten to know over the last week.”
“You think you can see who I am in a week?” she scoffed.
“No, but I see what you let me see.”
Her voice dropped. “I'm not a nice person.”
“I think you are, and I think that's the problem.”
She shifted in her chair, about to either bolt or yell at me, then with a long sigh, she flopped back. “Nice gets you nowhere, Vicki.”
“Maybe.” I took a sip of beer, grimacing as the now warm liquid entered my mouth, I placed it down. “Personally, I like nice.”
Her eyes shifted to me. “Like David.”
“But you don't love him, do you?”
I was about to answer yes I did, but I thought fair was fair, she had just bared her soul to me. “No, I don't. I think it could grow into love, but it's never going to be the heart shattering love you spoke of.”
“Doesn't that make you sad?”
“I've never really thought of it like that, but yes, I guess it does.”
“Don't settle for something that's easy to get and fall into Vicki, life is worth more than that.”
“Even if I get my heart broken.”
She didn't answer for a while.
“Yea even if it does.”
“Somehow I don't think I like that idea.”
“There's no guarantees in life, but it's sad to think you wouldn't try love just because you'll get hurt.”
She gave me a soft smile, but I could see the hurt shining out of her eyes like beacons.
“Was she worth it, Beth?”
She closed her eyes suddenly and looked away. “Every moment.”
“Do you still love her?” I swallowed hard, not really wanting to know.
“It doesn't just stop.” She rose, then laying her hand on my shoulder, give it a squeeze. “I'm tired, can we talk tomorrow before you leave? I think I might want to stay here for a while longer, if that's ok.”
I nodded and rose. “Can I give you a hug?”
She blinked in surprise then nodded, moving into my arms before I could say anything else. She felt good, warm. Her cast knocked against my elbow but I didn't mind. We stayed that way for a while then she drew back, giving me a smile.
“Kinda needed that.” She wiped at her eyes.
“Glad to help as always.” I shifted, slightly nervous.
“Thank you. Night Vicki, “
“Night.” I pushed my hands into my jeans pockets, suddenly needing to do something with them, they felt so lost without her close.
Morning rose and my eyes drifted open. I lay there staring at the ceiling knowing today I had to leave. I still didn't want to, I was worried about her. More and more, I knew she needed a friend right now. As I lay there, my nose twitched. I sat up, I could smell bacon. Rising, I pulled on my robe, moving towards the kitchen.
She stood there, balancing a plate on her cast. Turning her head, she flashed me a smile that stopped my breath.
“Hey, good timing. I'm making breakfast.”
I grinned back. “So I see.” I shot forward as the plate started to wobble on her cast, catching it before it could fall.
“Thanks, I was doing so well too. I hate this thing.” She slapped the plaster with the egg lifter then proceeded to go under the edge of it to have a scratch, the look of relief in her eyes making me laugh.
“Oh it's easy for you, you can scratch where you want. Don't mock the afflicted.” She waved the lifter at me.
I laughed again, glad that last night's talk hadn't made her run from me.
“Don't just stand there, Stretch, get the plate ready.”
My eyes widened. “Stretch?”
She shooed me. “Plate, now.”
I held the plate while she scooped two eggs onto it along with the bacon.
Carrying both, I moved towards the table. She brought the coffee-pot.
Sitting, I grinned over at her. “Thank you.”
“Ok, I was thinking last night, couldn't sleep.”
She waited until I cut her bacon and egg up, something I had started doing from our first day. I moved back to sit.
“What you thinking about?”
She popped a fork of food into her mouth, then pointed it at me. “ You.”
My eyebrows jumped. “Me?”
“Should I be worried?”
She grinned. “Probably.”
I swallowed hard. “Ok, what about me?”
“Is something wrong with it?”
“Well, to use your words, it's boring.”
I suddenly needed juice so I drank half the glass in front of me. “ And?”
“It shouldn't be, and I don't think you should be settling for David.”
“I'm not settling.” I felt my temper start to rise.
“Ok, ok, don't get antsy. You already said you don't love him,” She placed her fork down, sitting back. “Vicki, you've spent eight years with this man, doesn't it strike you as strange?”
“No, we're good together.”
She gave me a guarded look. “Really? So good that you get away to silence?”
I rubbed my forehead, hearing my brain ask me what the hell was going on. Ten minutes ago I was asleep, and here I was having relationship discussions. I took a drink of coffee, hoping the caffeine would give me a clue as to what it was I missing here.
“So you were thinking about my life with David?”
“A little yes, but mostly you. “
I took another drink of coffee. “Do I want to know what?”
She grinned again. “I've decided I'm going to show you the world.”
Both my eyebrows shot up. “Oh god. It's too early for this.”
She chuckled. “It isn't that bad. Trust me, I just think you deserve a little more out of life, I don't think you should settle for less when I know damn well you could get something so much more.”
I scowled at her. “I told you I'm not settling.”
“I do not pout.”
“Yes you do and it's kinda cute.”
I blushed. “Cut it out, I haven't had all my coffee yet.”
She grinned again. “I know you're not a morning person, kinda saw that over the last week.”
I glared at her over the coffee cup already at my mouth again.
“Ok.. ok, I'll be gentle with you till the caffeine kicks in.”
I coughed into the cup, looking up to find her giving me a totally innocent smile, but I could see her eyes and those were so not innocent.
“You're in a good mood.” I dabbed the napkin on the spilt coffee on my lap.
“Would you prefer it if I went back to grouchy?
She laughed at my out burst. “Good, because I am, in a good mood I mean, and once again I have you to thank.”
I looked up to her in surprise. “What I do?”
“You were you Vicki.”
I frowned. “Um, ok.”
“Last night I realised something after we talked. The world didn't end.”
My frown deepened. “Was it supposed to?”
She chewed her breakfast. “Yes, it was.”
I think the caffeine must have kicked in because a brain cell started to function and I realised she was talking about Kerry and her. “I'm glad it helped to talk.”
“It wasn't just the talk. You see, I got lost, jaded, I thought everyone was lying, after something. No one spoke the truth anymore. More to the point, I thought the world and life just plain sucked.”
I nodded. “And it doesn't now?”
She smiled over her cup at me. “Oh yes, it does. That hasn't changed, but you made me see that it didn't have to. “She placed her cup down, her voice turning serious. “Vicki, I wasn't lying when I told you that I haven't met anyone like you before, I haven't. I don't know if it's the circles I move in, or the life I've led, but you don't think of yourself. You don't ask questions about helping someone and look for payment. You live your life the way you want it.....” she paused, smiling. “well, nearly live it your way. Answer me something?”
“If you love it here so much, why do you go back?”
I scoffed. “Money, work, house. The list is long. Oh, and the fact I don't own this cabin.”
“Ok, fair enough, but you do freelance, yes?”
I sipped my coffee, wondering where she was going with this. “A little, yes.”
“Could you do more? I mean, you spent all day Thursday doing paper work on the laptop, could you do your financial thing from the laptop, not go to the office?”
I shrugged. “I suppose, but I have clients to see. I have to go to the office for that.”
“Ah , but what if they were your clients, not the firm you work for?”
I gave her a puzzled look.
She shifted forward. “What if you started your own business?”
I stared at her. “What?”
“Just bear with me, ok? You're good at your job, right? You've brought clients into your firm, yes?”
“What if you left the firm and set up on your own?”
“Why would I?”
She sighed. “Because as much as you love your work, you hate that place.”
I stared at her, how the hell did she know that? “I never said that.”
“You don't have to. I watched you up on that ridge yesterday, remember. I've never seen you more alive, Victoria ,and I think you know this deep down. The person who jumped off that bridge to save me isn't the same one who goes to work nine till six every day.”
“So you think I should give up David, change my job and move up here and live like a hermit in my own special world?”
She sat back slightly stunned as my voice dropped. “Are you happy?”
“I don't think you are.”
I stood up suddenly angry and I didn't know why. “What gives you the right to judge my life?”
“I .. wasn't.”
“You can't fix yours, so you want to fix mine, is that it?” I wished as soon as I'd said it I could take it back, but words spoke aren't like that.
All the ease I'd seen around her vanished. She rose, lifting her plate. “Sorry, you're right, not my business.” She slammed the dish into the dishwasher then walked out the front door.
I found her after I had gone and changed and my temper had cooled. She was sat on the front porch, throwing gravel at the UV's wheels, the ‚Äòding' of a hit echoing around the clearing.
I sat down next to her. “I didn't mean what I said.”
Another stone flew from her hand.
“It just made me mad that you think my life is so wrong.”
I took a breath. “Beth, I'm sorry for what I said, ok?”
Exhaling, I stood up, about to move away.
“I wasn't saying your life was wrong.”
I stopped, turning my head to look down at her. “It's what it felt like.”
She nodded, dropping the gravel in her hand, rubbing the grit free on her jeans. “I know... but all I was trying to do was, well, help you.”
I sat down again. “Why are you so sure I need it?”
Her head turned to me. “Because I see how happy you are here, and then I see that go when I ask about your life.”
I looked around. “I suppose I do.”
“All I wanted to do was give you something back...”
My mouth opened but her hand came up.
“.... Now wait, before you go off on the whole I don't owe you anything, that isn't why I wanted to help. Vicki, you've done more than save me from a watery death, you know. You shared this with me. I want to help because I can, not because I think I owe you payment.”
My mouth closed. “Ok.”
She sighed. “But you won't let me help, will you?”
“I don't need your help, I like my job, I like my house, I like the way things are.” I swallowed, knowing full well I didn't. That was the whole problem at reaching forty and looking back, the same reason I was on the bridge, the same reason I escaped to the cabin as much as I could. I wanted more. But more of what I didn't know.
“Ok... well it was an idea.”
I simply nodded.
“What time do you have to leave?”
“About three, I don't like driving out of here in the dark.” I looked at her again. “You sure you're going to be ok up here on your own?”
“Sure. It's not going to be a problem with the groceries is it?”
I shook my head. “No. I'll buy them at the store on the way out, they'll deliver tomorrow. They'll leave it in the lock up box, if you don't want to be seen. I'll tell them you're an artist that can't stop painting for the doorbell.” I smiled.
Her smile was an easy one again. “Ok. And staying for another week at least isn't a problem for your uncle?”
“No again” I smiled at her chuckle. “ I'll call him and tell him a friend is staying, he trusts my judgement.” I wanted to say even if she didn't, but I bit it back.
“Ok fair enough, but I am giving you the cash for the food, and no getting shitty about it.”
I grinned. “No ma'am.”
I was sad that although we were talking, I could feel the tension under the surface in both of us. I rose.
“I'd better pack and clear up a little.”
She gave a small nod. As I walked back into the cabin I heard the ‚ÄòDing ding ding‘ of gravel as a handful was thrown.
I watched her in the rear view mirror until the point the bend in the road took her from my sight. Steering the UV straight, I sighed. I didn't like leaving her there on her own. I also didn't like that when we said our goodbyes, I still felt the tension around us. I stopped at Coopers Store on the way out of the reserve, ordering enough food for two weeks. Now I concentrated on the drive back, knowing full well David would have questions, as would my sister. Now I was trying to figure out what to tell them without giving away Beth's trust.
As I left the freedom behind, I felt myself tense inside, felt myself slipping back into Victoria Harris mode. Was she right? Did I hate my life? Being unhappy with things was normal wasn't it? Everyone can't have the perfect job. As long as you had something of what you wanted in life in amongst the unhappy parts, didn't that make the smaller things better?
Questions ran through my mind as the mileage climbed on the clock as I travelled. In the end, I scoffed, I was happy in my way with the things I had, and the bike was one of those things I had gotten to feel better about my life. As soon as I had that thought, I realised what Beth had meant. I pulled the UV over, I turned the engine off, m y hands gripping the wheel. I wasn't happy. She was right, I hated where I worked. I hated the fact I had done nothing that I wanted to. Now all I had to figure out was how on earth a woman who had only known me for a few weeks could see it and not even my family could?
When I finally reached home it was way after dark and I parked and decided to unpack the car tomorrow. Walking through my hallway, I saw the red neon of the answer phone flashing. Clicking it to ‚Äòplay', I pulled off my shoes and went to make a coffee.
“Hi, ok, where the hell are you? Your sister says you're at the cabin? I tried calling there and got no answer. So when you get back and have the time and give a shit about me worrying about you, give me a call.”
I winced as I heard the unmistakable sound of David slamming the phone down. It clicked onto the next message as I filled the mug with instant coffee.
“Hi sis, hope you're back ok, give me a call tomorrow and I'll see you for lunch or something. Hope you chilled out... oh, and by the way, I think David is on the warpath. Byeeeeeeee, love ya.”
“Yea, no shit.” I poured the hot water into the cup as the machine clicked to the next.
“Hi, Miss Harris. You don't know me, my name is Kerry Matthews, I am agent to Ms Garrison...”
I dropped the teaspoon, spinning around to the voice.
“.... I was wondering if you could contact me on 555-8760. As I'm sure you know by the news, our Ms Garrison seems to have disappeared and I would be willing to pay for any information leading to her whereabouts.”
My eyes narrowed.
“... Call me even if you don't know. I'm worried about her, and information would be extremely helpful. Bye.”
Jesus, did everyone believe things could be bought? The phone beeped end of messages.
I scribbled the number down before lifting my coffee and moving to the living room. Lifting the phone, I dialled the number at the cabin giving three rings before hanging off then another two. On the third ring it was picked up.
“I feel like James Bond.”
“Hi Vicki. You ok?” She laughed.
“Yes, just tired.” I sipped my coffee feeling myself warm inside, not only as the liquid went down but at hearing her voice again.
“It was your idea on the secret code for the ringing.”
“ I watch too many movies, you should know better.”
She laughed again. “Why should I, I'm in ‚Äòum.”
I grinned, relaxing back, realising as I did I missed seeing her laugh. “How you doing? I ordered at the store, they'll deliver first thing in the morning.”
“Oh great thanks. I'm ok, been reading, your uncle has quite the collection.”
“Nooooo, my family does, I don't think I've ever seen Uncle Rich reading anything that isn't on his laptop. Be careful of Mandy's books, I have no clue what she reads.”
She chuckled. “Oh, I've already found that stash, she's into bodice rippers.”
I coughed into my coffee. The laugh increased on the phone. “Oh, har har.”
I wiped down my front. “No, you're not.”
I could hear her grin.
“So everything ok back home?”
“Yea , David's pissed at me for not letting him know where I was, though.”
“Don't be, I'll handle him.”
“Oh I bet you will.”
She laughed again. “You're even more fun to tease on the phone, cos I know exactly what you're doing.”
“Oh yea, right about now, you're fidgeting with the hair at your ear.”
I dropped my hand. “Shit.”
I laughed. “Ok, so you know my quirks.”
“I'm not going there on that one.”
I blushed. “Beth!”
She giggled, “Ok, ok, sorry, I just missed you is all.”
I paused on sipping my coffee, moving the cup away to talk. “You did?” I grinned.
“Well yes, I mean someone as tall as you takes up room, it took me a while to get used to using all the sofa, I'm not used to having it all to myself.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Now you're rolling your eyes.” She chuckled.
I wondered if I should look around for hidden cameras.
“So no problems then?” Amusement still sounded in her voice.
My thoughts went to the phone call. I decided she didn't need to know yet. “No, just David, but I'll talk to him tomorrow.” A yawn came out. “ Sorry.”
“Don't be silly. Look, go sleep, ok? I'll give you a call tomorrow night. Are you working?”
“No, I don't go back till Thursday, but I'll be out till about four, call me in the morning ok.”
“Ok, Night, Vicki.”
“Call me if you just want to talk, Beth, or if anything comes up, ok? Day or night.”
She laughed. “Yes ma'am. Now go sleep, you sound beat.”
I sighed, I didn't want to hang up. “Ok you too try, and sleep.”
“Oh, don't worry. Since I've been up here, as soon as my head hits the pillow I'm out like a light... now shoo.... Night, Stretch.”
I grinned. “Fair's fair. I can't help being tall as you can't help being vertically challenged.”
“Yep, you're nuts... Go sleep.... Bye.”
Even as she hung up, I heard her chuckle. I finally put the handset back in the rest. Finishing my coffee, I sat there grinning like an idiot until a frown replaced it as my thoughts went to the reason why Kerry Matthews wanted to talk to me. Right now, I was too tired to wonder anymore so I made my way to bed.
The next day started in a blur. My sister arrived at my door just before eleven. Getting no answer from my phone, she decided to come and check I was still alive. As my choice of coffee never impressed her, I was pulled from my house and marched to the Starbucks on the corner. Frankly I didn't like it, it always tasted of milk and foam.
“So why the cloak and dagger?”
I grimaced as I looked across, watching her sip the concoction that was the latest craze.
“Cloak and dagger?”
“Ahuh, you tell David you're off on the bike, and me that you're at the cabin.”
I shrugged, making myself swallow the contents of the cup. “No biggy, the weather didn't look good enough for the bike journey, so I just went up to Uncle Rich's cabin.”
She sat back, shaking her head. “Nope, I'm not buying it... you got a new man, haven't you?”
I stuttered. “W...what? God, no.”
She leant forward, her chin going to her hand as she leant on the table. “Welllll, there's something you're not telling me. You sure you and David are ok?”
I shifted in the chair. “I don't think we are. I just needed time to think.”
“Oh shit, that's never good.” She sipped the dark liquid.
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“Vicki, my dear sister, the last time you had a meaningful think, you ended up buying the bike.”
“What's wrong with that?” I pushed the cup away having enough of it on my stomach which was already doing flips over the fact my sis knew me too well sometimes.
“It means change, big change... so you finally saw that David isn't the man for you then?”
“You make it sound like you knew this was going to happen, and I haven't made up my mind yet.”
She swirled the straw in the cup before licking the end. “David is boring, Vicki, but worse than that, he think's he is gods gift to women... you never thought of him as marriage material, did you?”
“Jesus, Mandy, you make him sound like a lech.”
She shrugged. “He's a handsome man, that's about it. I've tried over the years to get to know him Vicki you know that. But I just don't like him.”
I nodded. She had in fact gone beyond trying. “I know.”
“None of your friends do either, and don't look so surprised. He always tries to outdo them. Remember Marcus?”
I sighed, knowing what was coming next. “Yes, I do.”
“Well then, you remember that dinner party. Jesus, Vic, he made Marcus look about four foot tall. It took him months to come to any of the dinners again.”
I knew she was right. I remember the outburst from David, he had thought Marcus was flirting with me and he used information he had heard about Marcus' brother and his double dealing in the city.
“It wasn't right, Vic, and that's not the only time he did it either. He uses people to get what he wants.”
“Ok, enough... I know David's shortfalls ok.”
She looked up, dropping the straw back into the cup with a plop. “Do you? Because I don't think you do at all.”
“If you're talking about the secretary Mandy, I know.”
The surprise in her eyes nearly made me laugh. “Shit, when?”
“And it doesn't bother you, his doing her?”
I blanched. “Do you have to use those words? And yes, it bothered me at the time I found out, but then I thought about it and we never said we were to be exclusive. But I talked to him about it and he stopped.”
She sat back, shocked. “Good lord.”
I had to laugh. “Mandy, you forget I'm older than you, things aren't cut and dried in life... I liked my arrangement with David.”
“Liked it? So you don't now.”
“No, I don't think I do.”
“This was what you were thinking about at the cabin? You needed to get away to do it?”
I swirled my finger in some spilt sugar. “Some of it, yes.”
She inhaled. “This has to do with saving that woman, doesn't it? I mean the rethink of your life.”
I avoided looking at her, I hated lying. “Yes in a way it does.”
She sipped her drink again through the straw, making the sound that meant she was near the end. “Anything else that's gonna change ? You know like cutting your hair, dying it purple, tattoo?”
I grinned. “No, not yet anyway.”
“Have you talked to Mom and Dad about this?”
“Do I need their permission to get a tattoo?” I grinned.
She rolled her eyes. “I didn't mean that and you know it.” Her face fell. “Did you know Dad has investments with him?”
My eyes jumped up. “What? With David?”
She shifted back. “Guess you didn't.”
“No I didn't. How much? When?”
Her face flushed. “Well, I think you need to ask Dad or David about it.”
“Mandy, you mentioned it so tell me”
Inhaling she blew out the air. “Last Christmas at the cabin, David showed Dad a portfolio. I walked in on it, Dad told me it was between them. Vic, it worried me, I heard them before I entered, they were talking about Dad's retirement pension.”
I swallowed. “All of it?”
She nodded. “I think so, yes.”
“What the hell is David playing at?”
“Is... Dad's money in trouble?” Her voice fell to that tone that showed how young she was.
My thoughts came back to her. “No, of course not, David is a good dealer.”
“Talk to Dad, ok? I think he needs too know you too are gonna break up.”
I nodded. “I didn't say I was definitely doing that, but I will call him. I want to know about this investment.”
She glanced at her watch. “Ok, I got to go, will you call me later?”
I rose, giving her a hug. “Yes.”
“Ok, for what it's worth, sis, I'm sorry David is an asshole.”
I handed her her bag. “Mandy!” I wagged a finger at.
She grabbed, it kissing the tip. “Well he is. So ner... ner.” Waving she left.
I shook my head. One down, two to go, I pulled out my mobile, dialling David's office as I walked back towards the house. It didn't surprise me he wasn't in the office, his work took him out to show clients' properties. I left a message to say call me before the weekend.
Next on the list was Kerry Matthews. The number she gave me was an answering service, I left my number.
As soon as I was back at the house, I decided to clean it, one of my many quirks as it were when I needed to think. Two hours later, my mind was filled with more questions than answers, but at least the house now sparkled from top to bottom. When I had nothing to do, I sat and flicked on the TV. I was fighting the urge to go into work. I didn't do well with boredom.
I lifted the phone as it rang, catching it on the first ring.
“Were you sitting on it?”
My face broke into a grin as I recognised Beth's voice. “No. I'm sitting on the chair next to it.”
“What happened to our secret code?”
“It was instant reaction, sorry. It rang, I lifted.”
“So, how are you today? Did you sleep?”
I laughed. “I overslept, my sister came and pulled me out of bed.”
“Oh I bet that was a sight, all dishevelled in your jammies.”
I laughed louder. “God...” I knew she was grinning. “What about you? Did you sleep?”
“Yea, actually I did, woke about nine, its not a bad day here, I've been down by the lake, the groceries came while I was out, so I didn't have to hide under the bed.”
I chuckled. “God knows what you would have found there, you're in Mandy's room.”
She scoffed. “Nothing I haven't seen before, I assure you.”
Even my roots blushed. “Well, um, ok.”
She laughed. “It's ok I'm kidding, although there is a box in the closet.”
“Spare me the details, please.”
“Spoilsport... “She chuckled. “So did you and your sister's talk go ok?”
I heard the slight insecurity in her voice. “Don't worry, I told her I just needed to get away to think.”
The line was silent for a while.
“You can tell her if you want to. I mean about me... I trust that you trust her. I don't like it that you have to lie. That isn't right.”
I stared at the phone, surprised at her turnaround. “I didn't lie exactly, I did think at the cabin, I just left out the details... but thank you.”
“It's up to you. So what did you think about?”
I had expected some teasing comment but her voice was serious. “David, and what you said.”
“You're right on the David thing at least. I don't see myself marrying him in the future, and well, when I looked at that, it just raised the question what was I doing in a relationship with him. My sister doesn't like him.
“Her words - he is an asshole.”
She laughed. “I think I like your sister.”
“Ahuh, I bet, she has your sense of humour, she teases the shit out of me too.”
“I bet... So is he? You didn't really talk a lot about him.”
“No he isn't, but he is... well, he is set in his ways, he likes things to run his way and smoothly. “
“Ah, I think I know the type... met a lot of them in my job.”
“It doesn't make him a bad person.” I inhaled, it seemed lately all I ever did was defend him.
“Hey, I didn't mean it like that. There must be something good about him, you're in a relationship with him.”
I rubbed my temple. “That's debatable.”
“You're not?” Surprise sounded in her voice.
“I don't know.”
Silence on the phone again.
“I really screwed up your life haven't I ?”
“What? No of course not. Beth, you can't take what's happening to me or any of my choices on your shoulders, I was already rethinking things long before that night.”
“Yes... but I avoided thinking about David.” I sighed. “Because I knew where I'd end up, it's just something I found out today has thrown me.”
I sat back and started to tell her about what I had found out about my father's investment.
“Shit, I can see why you're thrown.”
“I can't understand why David didn't mention it at Christmas, or later for that matter.”
“Maybe your dad wanted it kept purely business. David doesn't tell you about other investors, does he?”
I paused. “No, not really.” I hadn't thought of that.
“So there you are, David didn't mention it because he never did before.”
“Maybe.” I chewed my lip.
“Ok, that maybe sounds like you think David's doing something illegal. Ss he?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then what's worrying you so much?”
“Because if I break up with David, he could recommend my dad takes his money out. That could mean he takes a loss. He can't afford to do that, he worked at the navy yard his whole life, that money is their future.”
I heard her inhale for a moment, then her steady breathing, knowing she was thinking.
“Ok, you said David is good at what he does. Is he?”
“And knowing David from what little I've heard from you, he likes profit. Yes?”
“So won't he lose money too if he asks your father to withdraw from whatever he's invested in?”
“Yes, I suppose.” I started to see what she was getting at.
“Does that sound like something David would do?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“Then stop worrying. Look, if you're that worried, give me the name of David's firm and I'll ask a friend of mine to look into what's happening in their finances.”
I blinked. “You can do that?”
She gave a half laugh. “Vicki, I earn money. I know that being an actress at this level isn't going to last forever, I have investments. It's no secret to find out how a firm is doing on the market, stocks and shares. Also there's the rumour mill. So yes, it's legal and yes, I can ask.”
“Ok. But I'm sure it's nothing bad.”
I gave her the name, hearing her scribbling it down on a pad. “ok got it, I'll call tomorrow, then let you know what Jasmine finds out.”
I resisted the urge to ask who Jasmine was. “Thank you. “
“Anything else worrying you?”
My mouth opened to tell her about Kerry, but instead... “No, that's it” came out.
“Ok then, I'm glad to help with this.”
“Thank you again.”
“Are...” Her voice paused. “... are you coming up this weekend?”
“David is coming over.” I wanted to say yes.
“Oh ok, well maybe we can talk on the phone.” Her voice sounded lonely suddenly.
“I can try for Sunday.”
“Really?” It brightened. “Could you buy me a laptop, doesn't have to be anything fancy, and before you say anything I'm paying for it. But I can do mails and stuff, find out what the hell is happening back home, maybe look to see if I have any scripts they still want me to do.”
“Are you bored.”
She scoffed. “How can you tell?”
I chuckled. “Cabin fever?”
“No not yet, but when I start seeing Davie Crockett sitting on my bed I'll let you know.”
I wanted to say I missed her, but for some reason I didn't.
“Ok Vicki, I'm gonna go grab some dinner, I'll call tomorrow.”
“I'm in all day. Have a good night Beth, thank you for the help.”
“No biggy. You too, night.”
The phone clicked she was gone. Damn it, I did miss her.
I was in the middle of dinner when the phone went again.
“Miss Harris?” The female voice was formal.
“This is Kerry Matthews, I called and asked you to contact me.”
I swallowed. “Yes, I remember. I tried your answer service.”
“Yes, I know. I'm sorry about the late hour, but I was wondering if you could help me?”
I sipped the red wine. “Help you how?”
“Well, I got the impression you became friends with my client Miss Garrison at the hospital. One of the nurses informed me you visited on several occasions?”
“I wouldn't call it visiting, I just dropped in to see how she was doing.”
Her voice paused. “Really? I didn't seem to get that impression from the nurse, she said you brought Chinese food?”
I placed the wineglass down, wondering how much that had cost her. “No, I had Chinese food with me when I visited. I was on the way home from work at the time.”
“Oh, I see.”
I decided I didn't like her, she was too smug, expecting everyone to jump around her, I wondered what Beth had seen in her. “Look, I'm not sure how I can help you. I wasn't here when Miss Garrison disappeared.”
“Really? I thought you'd left roughly the same time.”
My hackles rose. “Are you checking up on me?”
She gave a false laugh. “Of course not. I'm just trying to find out if Elizabeth is ok. All that happened was your name came up when I made the enquires.”
“Well, all I can say is when I visited, I did so because I wanted to make sure she was ok.”
“Ah, you felt obligated.”
Yep, I didn't like her. I gritted my teeth preparing to let her hear what she wanted to, but wishing I could just tell her to go screw herself. “I suppose so, yes.”
The line went silent, then she spoke again.
“Well, I seemed to have wasted your time Miss Harris.”
“Not at all I hope you find your client soon.”
“Oh, I expect she will contact me at some point. You know... “She paused. “... It was very lucky that you left town when you did. I mean, I'm sure the press would have found a link to your visits as I did. Oh well luck was on your side.”
My hand tightened on the wineglass. “Nothing to do with luck, I'd been planning the trip for a while. After what happened, I decided to take it early.”
“Yes, I can imagine saving someone's life could put a lot of stress onto someone, and of course things to think about.”
“Well I'm sure people have approached you for the exclusive story?”
My teeth gritted again. “They did and I turned them down.”
Total surprise sounded. “Good lord why?”
I sighed, I was having a hard time not hanging up on her. “Look Ms Matthews, I don't want my private life spread across some tabloid, I don't think saving someone should mean I can get a fee for telling how I pulled her from the car.”
I knew I was wasting my time.
“Well, I suppose it's your right. So just to be sure and not to waste your time any longer, Elizabeth never mentioned she was going to leave? Or where she might go?”
“No, she never spoke to me about it.” I took a drink, needing it to keep my voice level. “The last time I talked to her we argued. In fact I'm surprised the nurse didn't mention it.”
“Well...” She gave the false laugh again. “It was mentioned. I was wondering what it was about?”
“She didn't like me coming to the hospital, she thought I was after her money or information.”
“Ah, I see, well yes, Elizabeth is paranoid about her privacy.”
“So there you have it, she didn't trust me.”
I waited, I could virtually hear her thinking.
“Well, I guess that's it then. You see I'm extremely worried about her, Miss Harris. You were kind of my last hope, and as you were the one to save her, she may have of confided in you.”
“I'm sorry, but she didn't.” Well, she was good, for a moment I actually believed she cared about Beth and not Elizabeth her client.
“That's a shame. Well I suppose I'll hear from her sooner or later. Again, thank you for talking to me.”
“No problem.” I moved to hang up.
“Oh just one thing.”
“If she contacts you...”
I butted in. “Why would she?”
“Oh, I don't know one of her whims, I know she has your number the hospital bill I paid had your number on it. Anyway, tell her to contact me, I'm worried. Bye.”
She hung up, my mouth fell open. “Of all the fucking nerve.” I slammed the phone into the cradle. How the hell could Beth be in love with a woman like that?
I didn't sleep well, I had wanted to call Beth and let her know about the telephone conversation, but I hadn't wanted to wake her. In the end, I'd tossed and turned in bed worrying about first Beth's reaction, and secondly as to what Kerry would do next. Even from the short conversation, I got the impression she wasn't a person to drop something just because she was told differently. When I rose I showered and dressed then had a light breakfast, turning to work to calm my thoughts.
The doorbell ringing found me in the same place in my study. Moving to the door, I paused as I recognised David's outline. Taking a deep breath, I continued and opened the door.
“Well the wanderer returns... may I come in?”
I stepped back. “You don't usually ask.”
As he passed me to hang up his coat, he gave me a wry look. “Well lately I'm not sure what the hell is going on.”
I pushed the door closed, moving to the kitchen. “Coffee?”
He followed me through, but instead of sitting, he waited at the doorway, unsure. “Why didn't you tell me you changed your plans?”
I placed the mug down on the table, pulling the chair out for him. “ Because it wasn't important. You knew I was away for the week, and usually you don't contact me, you make other plans.”
He sat turning the mug around absentmindedly as he looked at me. “You usually tell me when you change plans is all I'm saying. I was worried.”
“Worried about what, David? What's the big deal here? You sounded downright pissed at me on the message.” I sat.
“Well, yea, that, sorry. I'd had a few drinks and it pissed me that your sister knew you were at the cabin and I didn't.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “She didn't know till she called there. I didn't tell her my plans ahead of time either if that makes you feel any better.”
He looked up. “I called there, only I didn't get an answer.”
“I was out ok? What's really the big deal here.” I took my glasses off rubbing the bridge of my nose, hoping the tension I felt wasn't another migraine.
“Because, you've... well you've been so weird lately.”
I threw my glasses down. “I bought a bike David, you seem to think I now need therapy.”
“It probably wouldn't hurt.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. He sat back, running his hand through his hair. “Ok, bad comment. But god, Victoria, it's like I don't know you anymore. You dove off a bridge for fuck sake. This time last year, I couldn't even get you to go mountain climbing with me. Now all of a sudden you're into danger. It's not just about buying the bike, although that's just one many things.”
My mouth fell open. “I didn't dive off the bridge for an adrenaline hit. Jesus, the woman needed my help, you would have done it, anyone would.”
“I would have called 911 and kept my ass safe.” He grabbed the mug drinking the coffee down.
I looked at him, really looked at him. “are you saying you'd have left her to die?”
“You didn't know she would. The paramedics would have gotten to her in time, you just put yourself in danger for no reason.”
I sat back. “You can't know that.”
He shrugged. “Well neither could you. You didn't think of anyone but a total stranger. What if you had been seriously hurt? Or worse, dead? What then?”
“What then, what?”
“Us, Victoria, me, your family. You would have died and left us with the pain of losing you.” He stood up, the movement spilling his coffee. “You didn't think of any of us. Everything lately is about you.” He let out a frustrated breath. “Didn't it even occur to you how much losing you would hurt us?”
I chewed my lip, suddenly feeling guilty. He was right, I hadn't. All that was important was saving the woman in the car. “You're right, I'm sorry, I didn't. In fact I didn't think at all. If I had I would have stopped and called 911 and waited.”
“That's what I mean, you wouldn't have done this last year.”
I slammed my hand down. “Don't tell me what I would and wouldn't have done, David. I'm sick of it. This is me, it was me that jumped off the bridge, it was me that saved the woman, and most of all, this is me.” I slapped my hand against my chest. “Stop telling me this isn't.”
“Ok... ok, Jesus, I didn't come here to fight.”
I moved away from him as he came over. “Didn't you?”
“No..” He stopped trying to get near me. “No I didn't, I came here because I was worried and I missed you.”
I wrapped my arms around myself. “Really? Because from what I've heard so far, you came here to tell me off like a school girl.”
“Then, I'm sorry, ok.” He sat back down grabbing the mug again. “I also came here because you wanted to talk to me remember.” He looked up.
I took a deep breath. “Why didn't you tell me you had an investment with Dad?”
If I didn't know him so well, I would have missed the slight pause as he swallowed, or the way a white line appeared at the bow of his nose.
Smiling he looked up. “Simple your dad wanted it kept business.”
I also wouldn't have recognised his business smile for what it was, he was lying.
“How much has he invested? And in what?”
He waved a finger at me. “now Victoria, you know clients' business is confidential.”
I resisted the urge to grab his finger. “I'm family, David, don't bullshit me, because I'm ringing Dad tonight and I'll find out anyway.”
Again, my years of knowing him paid off, I saw the flinch of muscle at his jaw line.
Shrugging he sat back. “Fine! He's invested for $80,000, in the Mayfair project, full return of capital in five years with thirty percent equity profit.”
I needed to sit down. “Eighty..... eighty thousand. That's his pension.”
He shrugged again. “I told him it was a risk, he read the portfolio and wanted to come in with that much.” He took a sip of coffee. “But to be honest, it's low risk,. Mayfair are building four hundred condos in the next three years, they have already gotten the land, now it's a matter of building permission which is already on the table.”
“Could he lose it? And be honest.” I slowly sank into the wooden kitchen chair.
“Everything is a risk, ,Victoria, you know that. But if there is going to be a problem it will be with the building committees. His investment is for two percent. He could pull out now and only lose twenty percent of his investment or stay in for another year and get back what he put in. I have others interested in investing. If he or you are that worried I can sell on his shares.”
“David, he can't afford to lose any of the investment.”
His eyes shifted to me. “Your father isn't a child, he knew the risks, I went over them with him. “
“And it didn't bother you that he's my father?”
He blinked, his face blank. “No, why should it?”
He really didn't have a clue.
“You approached him with this, didn't you?” My hands tightened on the seat of the chair.
“I mentioned it to him, yes. I happened to have the portfolio with me. Victoria, this is high return profit scheme, I don't understand why you're so worried.”
I bit back the yell. “Because he is my father!”
He studied me. “Do you think I'm doing something illegal here?” His grey eyes darkened.
I watched his hands clench along with his teeth. “No. For one, I'd lose my license and for two, as you said, he is your father. I thought you knew me better than that.”
This time I saw the hurt enter his eyes, which calmed my anger. I sighed. “You're right, I do know you better than that and no, I don't think it's illegal.”
“But?” He folded his arms.
“But you shouldn't have approached my father without telling me, David. To you this is about profit, to them it means the difference between having a retirement where they can do what they want without having to worry. Losing the investment means he worked for forty years for nothing.”
He exhaled. “What's the big deal? Damn it, if you're that worried, about it I will sell his damn shares at the price he paid, I'll take the fucking losses.”
I knew he meant it, but right now his anger was talking. “You don't have to do that. I'll talk to my dad.”
He threw his arms up. “Fine, do that.”
I shifted in the chair, knowing now there was no doubt I didn't want to be in a relationship with him anymore. It wasn't just the fact he had taken advantage of my father, or the whole thing of him not even seeing how wrong that was, it came down to I didn't know the man sitting opposite me. It wasn't that he had changed. But like all things in my life, I never really noticed him. I went on with my life with brief interruption of him into it. I kept him outside of me, just like all the rest.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” He shifted, a little uncomfortable. He spoke again when I didn't answer. “Well?”
I swallowed, clearing my throat. “I don't think we should see other anymore, David.”
His face went white. “Wh... what?”
“I think you heard me.” Even though I knew I didn't love him, I still felt the punch to my stomach as pain filled his eyes.
“Be... because of what happened with your dad? I can fix that.” He was up and coming around to kneel in front of me. “Come on baby, it's stupid, I made a mistake ok? I .... Well I shouldn't have asked him.” He grabbed my hands.
“David it isn't just about Dad, I... surely you can see we haven't been happy for a while.”
“No, come on now, it's just silly. I've been an asshole here, about the bike, about the way you've changed.” He gripped my hands harder, panic now coming into his eyes. “Victoria, you know I love you right? I've been going at your pace because that's the way you've wanted it. But you must know that I see a future for us. We're good together, right?”
I looked away. “We were yes, but...” I looked right at him. “Don't you want something more, David?”
He blinked, frowning. “more? More like what. You mean marriage? Sure Hun, I want that, kids too. But we agreed we wanted our careers able to support that.”
I shook my head. “No, not that. more ... more from us.”
His eyes shone confusion. “I ... I don't know what you mean, more time, right?”
I pulled my hands free, rising. “No, not more time.” Then turning, looking back at him. “ Don't you want more out of love?”
He just stared at me. “More how? Sex?”
I blushed. “No. God why does love mean sex to you?”
He rose, his face flushing. “Now wait one minute, you drop this on me and expect me to have answers, and if I give the wrong one you get mad at me. I'm trying here ok. I don't know what you mean, I thought we were doing ok.”
“Doing ok? David does that sound like love to you? Does ‚Äòdoing ok' mean you start an affair with your secretary?” I bit back my venom on the last part. As much as I told my sister it was no big deal, I still remember the feeling of finding her number and then realising what he was doing. I remembered the pain of it. But at the same time I remembered the nothingness of it.
He turned from me as I watched his anger start to rise. I followed him into the living room, watching as he poured himself a scotch, knowing he was calming himself down. “David didn't it happening show you we weren't ok?”
He drank down the glass, refilling it. “Is this what this is about? I thought we talked about this.”
I sighed. “No this isn't what this is about, but it happening just showed me exactly what we have.”
“Meaning what? She was nothing to me Victoria, I told you that. It was just about sex.”
I clenched my jaw. “So you said.”
He drank another gulp. “For fuck sake if it's not that, then what?”
“Us David and don't shout at me or you can leave.” I stiffened as he came towards me. Suddenly he realised I meant it. He stopped, sitting in the chair as if suddenly all the wind had left him.
“I'm sorry, you're right. I ... just don't understand any of this. Victoria, you can't expect to drop this on me and expect me to be calm. I'm losing you here.”
I closed my eyes hearing the hurt come out. “You lost me a long time ago. I'm not in love with you.”
He looked up, tears brimming at the edges. “Have you ever been?”
I walked over to the chair opposite. “I ... don't know.”
He nodded, taking a drink of scotch again. “Well, at least you're honest, one of the things that first attracted me to you. Seems ironic, it's the part that's biting me in the ass right now.” He took another drink.
My eyes darted to him. “I'm sorry.”
He shrugged, then his head came around to me. “There's no one else right?”
I shook my head. “No, I swear there isn't. It's...”
“I don't think it's fair to you or me to go on like this.”
He gave a bitter laugh. “That's one opinion.” He looked at me seriously. “You don't believe I'm in love with you, do you?”
I bit my lip. “No, I don't.”
He nodded, again wiping his hand across his eyes. “Well I am, believe it or not. Not surprised you don't believe it, I know it took me by surprise when I realised.”
I lowered my eyes. “I'm sorry.” It hurt that I hurt him.
He just nodded, staring into the glass. His voice was low when he finally spoke. “Are you sure.... I mean about us breaking up?”
I sat back, suddenly exhausted. “David, right now I'm not sure of one damn thing in my life.”
He placed the glass down, coming over to me quickly. “Then why make a decision now.”
I opened my mouth to speak but he held up a hand. “Please Victoria, don't just toss me out like garbage along with the rest of the stuff you're changing right now. Give me a chance to make up for whatever isn't right. I know you care for me, right?”
“Then we can work with that. I love you I do. I don't want to lose you.” The tears were back in his eyes. “If you need space to think, then I'll respect that. Just don't totally shut me out, give me a chance baby.”
His hand caressed my face.
“David.” I moved to get up.
He backed away. “Please just think some more ok, I'll go. Victoria, we have a lot of years together, a lot of fun and good times. Just give it another think, and well, if you feel the same way, I'll know.”
“I don't think I'll change my mind David.” But even as I said, it I was doubting my words. Seeing him like this was making me feel wrong about the whole thing. Maybe I was wrong.
He winced. “Please just rethink ok? It's all I ask.”
He went to the hall lifting his coat. The look he gave me sent guilt and pain rippling through me.
“I love you.” He gave a strained smile.
With those words he turned and left. When I heard the click of the door, my face fell into my hands and I started crying.
I hurt, he hurt, what was the point of it all? Was I wrong? Why did my life changes have to be like this? Wiping my eyes free I rose, I didn't want to be here. I wanted to be sixteen again and run away to hide. No responsibilities. Turning, my eyes caught the picture above the fire of me and David locked in an embrace. I was smiling, he was smiling. I walked over, lifting it, staring at it. Brushing tears away so I could focus, I looked, I stared. I wanted to see something, anything that could show me the answer, but it wasn't there. I was smiling, yes, but I saw myself. I wasn't in love with him. I had become accustomed to him. I threw it across the room.
I walked fast into the kitchen, grabbing my keys from the top, opening the adjoining door between the kitchen and garage. I didn't pause in putting on my leathers, I didn't think when I pulled on my helmet and clicked the garage doors open. I didn't even blink as I kicked my bike into life and screamed tyres out into the raining day.
At first I didn't care where I was going, I just wanted the freedom, I wanted away from the fact I was hurting him. I wanted away from everything that my life had become. I didn't know when I had taken the direction of the cabin, but when I finally came back enough to my senses and concentrated beyond the ache in my chest, I knew that's where I wanted to be.
The storm increased as I took the turning off the highway. It battered me as I took the small road into the park. By the time I was in view of the trees that told me held the cabin, night now was upon me. The dark sky flashed with lightning and thunder. I should have slowed down but I didn't, the tyres bit into the turf, throwing it up, the headlight illuminating the streaks of rain as it poured.
Turning into the gate, I felt the back wheel skid. I braked slowly, giving the bike the time it needed to recover, wincing as I felt the suspension bounce as I hit each offroad rut. It skidded again but I managed to control it. Then I felt the tyres bite as they caught the more stable gravel, the wheels screaming as they dug in. I pulled her to a stop, turning her off. Flicking the visor up, I gulped in air. The rain pelting my face, I sat there.
Suddenly a torch shone in my eyes.
“Vicki? Holy shit, is that you?”
The light lowered and I heard the crunch of gravel as she approached. Then she was by my side, her hand holding the torch at my face again, I pushed it down.
“Yea it's me.”
She stood there, her mouth slightly open her eyes, looking me up and down. “What are you doing here?”
I didn't answer, but I felt my eyes well up again.
Her voice softened. “Hey, you ok?”
I shook my head. “No... not really.” I sniffled.
She looked at me now in concern. “Come on let's get inside.”
I nodded, kicking the step down. She stepped back, allowing me the room to swing my leg free. I grabbed the keys as I followed.
She pulled the raincoat free, giving it a shake before she placed it on the hook. The whole time her eyes never left me.
I stood there in the doorway, not really knowing what to do. The water ran off the black leather, forming pools around my boots.
“You need to get out of those ,Vicki...” When I didn't move she came forward, taking my hand. “Come on.”
I just nodded and followed. Ten minutes later I was sitting in front of the fire, a blanket draped across my shoulders, yet I still felt the chill. Beth was hanging my leather up. I still hadn't spoken.
I looked up to find her holding out a glass of wine.
“Think you need this.”
I took it. “Thanks.”
She smiled, but her eyes still shone with concern. “Not that I'm complaining about this late visit, but I'm guessing something happened to warrant it?” She sat.
I took a long gulp of wine. “I just needed to get away.”
“Ok.” She smiled at me again.
I started crying again. First I tried to hold it back, but it grew inside, an overall sadness that seemed to consume me. I felt her take the glass from my hand and the warmth of hers replace it.
“Hey Vicki, come on, it's ok, shhh.”
Her hand went into my hair, pushing it from my face. I sniffled, trying to clear my throat enough to talk. But all that got me was an audible sob coming out.
“Oh Vicki, what is it?” She sat closer, her good arm going around my shoulders. “Come on, your scaring me here.”
“I... I talked to David.”
“He didn't hurt you did he?”
I looked right at her, seeing her eyes spark. “No, god, no... I hurt him, Beth, I hurt him so much.” I cried harder.
“Shhh, it's ok. You talked to him about your dad?” She looked at me confused.
I took the tissue from the box she had pulled over. “Yes... but... I told him we... shouldn't see each other again.” I blew my nose.
I felt her hand rubbing my back, it felt good, it felt safe. Being this close to her, I could smell her perfume, it was a mix of her and the wild rose she wore. I realised she was talking to me.
“I'm guessing he didn't handle it well.”
My eyes snapped to her. “Of course he didn't.”
Her hand stopped moving. “Hey, I wasn't sure. I mean, from what you've told me, this was a casual thing.”
“I was wrong, he's in love with me.”
She sat back. “Well, that complicates just leaving.”
I stared at her. “Jesus, Beth, he has feelings and tonight I saw them ripped to shreds.”
She rose. “I'm sorry. Is that why you came here. To run away?”
I looked in the wine glass. “I don't know, I ... just ended up here.” I bit back the part of I wanted to see her, to be with her. I didn't tell her because I didn't understand it.
She sighed. “Oh Vicki, running away isn't the answer, I should know that.”
“It's what you're doing, isn't it?”
She nodded sitting beside me again. “Yea that's how I know its not a good idea and never the answer to solve a problem.”
I looked sideways at her. “So you're going back?” Somehow that hurt more than the guilt I felt over David.
“I made up my mind today, I've been trying to call you all night to tell you. Guess I know why you didn't answer now.”
She nudged me with her shoulder, giving me a smile.
I gave a small one back. “Yes.”
“So what are you going to do about David?”
I flinched. “He wants me to think about it.”
“Will that change things?”
I shook, my head lowering it to let my hair hide my face. “No. But right now I can't....” I swallowed as I felt my throat constrict. “I can't do that again.”
Her hand came into my hair, again, pulling it back. I lifted my head looking at her. She brushed it once again off my face, smiling softly. The touch made butterflies on my skin.
“Then don't, not right now. Take the time you need, Vicki. It's your timeline, don't make decisions because you feel guilty.”
I sniffed. “I wasn't “
She raised an eyebrow at me. Which only made me cough a half laugh.
“Ok I was.” Somehow she made me feel better, a tiny piece of me stopped hurting.
“So take your time. Deep down you know what's right.”
She gave my arm a squeeze. “One of the other reasons I was calling is Jasmine checked out his company. It's good news, there's no rumours. It's a stable company, for this day and age that's saying something. In fact the finances are on the up. Their main investment at the moment is something called Mayfair.”
I nodded. “Yes that's the one my dad's involved with.”
“Hold on.” She rose, going to the phone, coming back with the notepad and reading from it. “Well, Mayfair are builders, mainly condos and such. They have a good reputation. No big losses.” Her smile strengthen. “So I think David was really trying to help your dad.”
I groaned. “Now I feel worse, I virtually accused him of doing something illegal.” I flopped back. “Great, just great.”
She tutted. “Come on Vicki, you and I both know you didn't think he was involved like that. What pissed you off was the fact he took advantage of your relationship to rope in your dad.” She flopped back next to me.
I sighed. She stayed silent.
“How can you work that out so quickly and not even know me, and David didn't have a clue about it?” I crossed my hands on my stomach, staring at the beams of the cabin.
I felt her shift onto her side. “I guess because I took the time to look and get to know you.”
I turned my head to her, her face was right next to mine. Her eyes moved from the fire to look into mine. I felt it again, the intentness that scared me. My body suddenly warmed, I lost the chill of feeling lost. Still I stared. I saw the tiny colours of her eye, each and every subtle tone of green. Seeing the firelight dance there, I took a breath needing it. Finally she blinked, shifting away, moving back to sit up.
“So... um.” She swallowed. “Are you going to stay?”
I just stared at her. What was happening? Why was it happening? She turned her head to me waiting for an answer.
“Yes I'm staying.”
“What about work? Weren't you supposed to be back tomorrow.”
“I'll call them. I don't like letting them down, but I ... I can't go back yet.”
She stood. “Well, I was thinking of leaving on Saturday if you don't mind the company till then?” She looked suddenly nervous.
“No that's fine, Beth, I'd like the company, honestly.”
She gave me a half smile. But something wasn't right, she looked spooked.
“Well, I guess I'll get some sleep if you're going to be ok?”
I nodded, not at all sure what I'd missed to make her so uncomfortable. “Ok.”
She lifted the blanket she had placed on my shoulders to warm me and moved away. “So goodnight then.”
“Night Beth, and thank you.”
She paused, her eyes looking right at me again. Almost stopping my breath, then the look was gone and so was she. I watched her close the bedroom door, then I slummed in to the sofa. Letting the soft leather engulf me. Trying to understand why I felt this way around her and why suddenly it wasn't as scary as before.
For someone with a guilt ridden mind I slept well, but when I woke I just couldn't face getting out of bed. Instead I called my work and told them that I needed more time off, at first they were annoyed it was such late notice but as I talked something must have worried them, by the end of the conversation I was on indefinite leave. With that done I rolled over and pulled the blanket over my head and shut out the world.
I woke briefly through the day, mostly to use the bathroom and get a drink, there was no sign of Beth. I didn't let it worry me, I already knew she had taken to long walks. Besides I didn't care all I wanted to do was sleep. The day came and went, and still I slept. Sleeping beyond the needs of my body.
The next day started and I simply rolled over burying myself back into the darkness under the blanket. I don't know how long I slept but suddenly daylight flooded both my eyes and the room.
“Ok, time to get up.”
I scowled at her as she sat on the edge of the bed. “Why?”
I tried pulling the blanket back up but she held it tight.
“Because it doesn't solve anything.”
I pulled it free with a tug, which ended me back on my front. “go away.”
“No, come on I let it pass yesterday but I'm not letting you wallow here alone today.”
I thumped the pillow before returning my head to it. “I'm not wallowing... go away.”
The blanket was ripped free and I felt a hard slap to my butt. My head shot up, My eyes springing open.
“Now then, now that I have your full attention. Unless you want another of those... to that very cute butt of yours you will be up and showered and dressed by the time I have lunch set.”
I blushed red, remembering only now I slept nude. I pulled the pillow over the top of my head hiding my embarrassment. “Jesus Beth.” My other hand searching for the blanket to pull back over myself.
She gave what sounded like a giggle. “Are you going to get up?”
“Not with you in the room.” The pillow muffled my voice.
She laughed. “Have you got something I haven't seen before?”
I didn't think it was possible but my blush deepened. “Go.. ok, go.” I grabbed the paperback on the bedstand, throwing it in her direction. “Out... out... Yes, I'll get up.”
She laughed again. “Don't make me come back in here. I may be one-armed but I can still do damage. “
Her laughter faded as she left, I only removed the pillow when I heard the door close. Raising my head, I took a peek over my shoulder, sighing in relief. I was alone. I rolled over. A smile started, quickly turning into a full-blown embarrassed laugh as I realised she had just got a shot of me in all my glory. “God.”
I entered the kitchen, showered and dressed, feeling a little more alive but still slightly embarrassed. She looked up from her lunch.
“Oh my god, it lives.”
I ruffled my wet hair. “Har, har.”
She rose, going to get the plate she had made up for me, placing it on the table. “I did something light, just a cheese omelette. That ok?”
I nodded as I sat. “Thank you.” I still didn't make eye contact.
She returned to her seat, tucking into her food.
I poured myself a coffee. I chanced a glance at her, quickly lowering it when I noticed she was staring at me. I sipped my coffee before starting on the food. I was waiting for some teasing comment about the fact she saw my butt. But it didn't come.
“Well at least your appetite isn't affected.”
I looked down, the plate was clean. I hadn't realised I had eaten. “I guess.”
She rose, taking the plates to the dishwasher. “I can make you something else if you like?”
“No, think I'll go slow.”
She smiled. “Ok, well I took out some steaks for later.”
I nodded. “Sounds good.”
I played with my napkin.
“Ok, what's wrong? You're sitting there like you're waiting for something to fall on you.”
I shifted in the chair. “Well, nothing.”
I took a long breath. “ Ok, let's get it over with.”
She frowned. “What over with?”
I threw the napkin down. “The teasing. The waiting is killing me.”
She frowned again, which changed into a grin as she realised what I meant. “Oh Vicki, is that it?” She laughed. “Don't worry, I'm not going to tease you.”
I scowled at her.
“I'm not... honestly. I was worried about you, ok? I didn't know what else to do except come and get you out of the rut.” She clicked on the dishwasher. “I'm gonna change the beds, I've worked out a system one-handed, got pretty good at it. Is there anything you need washing?”
I shook my head, trying to hide my surprise that she'd let it go so easily. I watched as she moved towards the bedroom, she disappeared. When I heard a knock on wood, I glanced up, her head was peeking around the doorframe.
“It was a cute ass though. Very toned.” She fanned her face, grinning as she ducked back in.
My mouth fell open. I should have known!
She had the good grace to leave me to my blushing. When she did emerge with sheets and blankets in hand, she didn't mention it again. We fell into the same ease around each other. The weather kept us inside. As the evening began to creep in and take the light from the sky, we ate dinner. Afterwards, we moved back to the living room. I sat sprawled on the couch, my hand resting on my stomach, resisting the urge to pat it gently and purr like a cat. I was fed, watered and totally content. Turning my head slightly, I looked over to her, she had the same look on her face. I sipped my vodka tonic, feeling the warmth of the second glass seeping into my brain, making me relax if possible even more. I turned to the fire, letting out a long sigh. Neither of us spoke, both of us happy enough with silence. My mind went over the last two weeks. It even surprised me how strange it sounded as I thought. If you'd asked me a month ago if I was going to be sitting in cabin with an actress I had saved from drowning and my life topsy turvey, I would have laughed out loud at the absurdity of it.
Her face came around to me. “What's so funny?”
I sat up, stopping when the world spun a little. “Life. Me. This.”
“Ah.” She grinned sipping her own drink. “Well, life can be funny.”
I nodded. “Hilarious.”
She smiled till the point that twin creases edged her eyes. “I think you're slightly drunk, Miss Harris.”
I grinned. “I believe I am. Kinda like it.” I sipped my drink again.
“Oh god, don't tell me, you've never been fully drunk.” She laughed, relaxing back, tucking her legs under.
“I'm not that innocent...” Her mouth opened to speak but I got there first, Shooting her a look. “... and no comments from you.”
She bit her lip as she closed it. “Nope.”
I ignored her smirk. “I did go to college and I did drink. But, well, lately
I don't. Never seemed to be a reason to.” I sipped my vodka again, licking my lips as I felt the tang of lemon in it.
She sighed. “I drank too much. Seemed sometimes to be the only thing to relax me after a rough shoot, that and s...” she stopped, her eyes shifting over.
“Never mind.” She snorted.
For a moment I didn't have a clue what she was talking, about then a light bulb went on. “Oh, you mean sex, right?”
“Ahuh.” Her head slowly bobbed a yes, licking her lips as she looked at me.
Whether it was the vodka I didn't know, but for some reason I didn't feel myself blush. Her eyes studied me as if waiting for my usual response. I shifted to the end of the couch, which was nearer to her chair.
“Were there a lot?”
Her eyes widened, She coughing into her drink. “Ex...cuse me?”
This time I was the one grinning. “Women?”
“Um... well, I suppose yes, compared to some.”
I watched her closely, feeling my grin widening as I noticed the slight blush on her cheeks. I decided I liked paybacks. “So what's your type?”
Her eyes widened again. “Jesus.”
I laughed. “Oh come on, Beth, don't play coy.”
Her eyes dipped to the glass I drank from again. “Well, drink certainly frees your mind.” She took a long drink.
I shrugged. “Maybe, don't change the subject, I'm interested. So what's your type?”
She studied me. I knew she was thinking about whether she wanted to answer or not. In the end, she decided she did.
“I don't have a type.”
My eyebrows rose. “None at all?”
She shrugged. “Nope. I like the person not the look, I suppose. But I am partial to long hair and tall, I suppose.”
I swallowed. “Really?” I thought for a while. “So I suppose it's not like men then.”
She looked at me in question. “Huh?”
I rolled my eyes. “You know, they look for big chests or thin, they have types.” I sipped my drink again. Finding it empty, I reached over filling it again. “David has a type.”
“Yep me.” I giggled. “The secretary was the same type. Tall, leggy, brunette.”
I leant back. “His little play-toy last year.”
“He cheated on you?” She blinked.
“Yep. Guess that was the first time I actually looked at David, and I kinda knew then. I was hurt but not as hurt as I should be...” I looked over to her. “But you know what I mean.”
Her eyes drifted to the fire. “Yea, I do.”
A small edge of guilt crept through me. I hadn't told her about Kerry's call yet.
“Anyway... he has a type.”
“What about you? What's your type?” She sipped her drink again, watching me.
I laughed. “I don't.”
“What attracted you to David?”
I thought. “Well, his laugh I think. It was a dinner party for some clients. I was talking to someone then this laugh echoed around the room. When I looked, there was David. I was curious to know what was so funny.”
“That's it? His laugh?” She scoffed. “Come on now you, spill it, has he got a great body?”
“Well, it's not bad.” I looked down. “But, well, it's not his body so much. He's, well, he's very gentle.” My blush this time broke through the vodka.
“That's good to have in a lover.” She just smiled at me.
I exhaled. “I suppose.”
Her eyes asked a question but she didn't speak it, instead she reached over, refilling her glass. “Nothing wrong with a gentle lover, Vicki, some out there don't care enough for that.”
I suddenly wanted to know if she were gentle. I pushed the thought away with a cough, taking a long drink. Then something else replaced the thought. “ Not that I'm judging you or anything, but is it easy to just have sex with someone you don't know?”
Her eyes shot to me. “Fucking hell, I think that's the nicest way of insulting me I've ever heard.” She burst into laughter.
“Oh shit, no I ... I didn't mean that.”
She laughed again. “Oh, yes you did.”
“No Beth, I didn't. Just forget I said it, ok?” I began to rise, she caught my arm.
“Oh sit down. You're right, I did. I slept with women I barely knew other then their name and the fact they wanted me.”
I sat. “I still shouldn't have asked.” I put the vodka down, realising drinking it wasn't such a good idea, it was making my mind jumbled.
“Well, I asked about David, didn't I? Just chill, ok? It's not like I haven't been asked the question before. At least you didn't use the word slut.”
My mouth fell open. “You're not a slut.” Suddenly it angered me that people thought that of her.
“Well, to some I am. You saw the webpage, remember? You so sure I'm not.” Her voice fell serious.
“It's your business who you... well, who you see.”
She snorted. “Nice choice of words. The usual word is whom I fuck.”
I blanched, suddenly needing the vodka again, I took a gulp.
“Sorry, I forgot how shocked you get.”
“I'm not a child.” I scowled at her.
“No, you're not, but you have standards. I however, do not.”
I didn't know what to say so I stayed silent.
“If it's any consolation, I didn't do a porn movie.”
I looked at her. “I don't understand.”
“The webpage, the images on there of me in a somewhat compromising position on a bed.”
I swallowed. “Oh that.”
“Yes. Oh that! I was seeing a woman when I was twenty, it was before I made the big time. She was a photographer, we were together for a while, and at the time I trusted her enough to do...” she shifted for a moment. “To do some home video, if you get my meaning.”
I quickly looked down. “Um, yea.” I think it made it worse in the fact I now knew those images were real. I shivered and took another drink.
She chuckled. “Anyway we made just one.” She took a long drink, her voice becoming hard. “When I released my first hit, she sold the videotape to a magazine. Later, the images appeared on the internet.”
She threw the lemon from her drink into the fire. I watched it sizzle and finally catch then my eyes went to her again.
“In a way, she did me a favour, I came out to the world. It hurt my career at first, I didn't get many offers except those where I was gay.” She rolled her eyes. “But after a while, when I didn't just tuck my tail between my legs and disappear, they started coming in again. I didn't have to hide my sexuality anymore.”
“It hurt you.”
Slowly her eyes came around to mine. “Yes, it did. But I learnt to get a thicker skin. She wasn't the first to come out with images or stories about my exploits. I learnt it was my past so now I had to pay for it.”
I sighed. “Do all the people you know think money is everything.?”
Her eyes darted to me, suspicious. “What's that supposed to mean?”
I stiffened. “Um... Kerry called me.”
She sat straight up. “What? When?”
“The first time was when I got back, then last night she called and I spoke to her.”
Her jaw clenched. “And you were going to tell me this when?”
“I was kinda of busy, remember?” I tried to keep my temper intact. “ I'm telling you now.”
She took a breath, calming herself. “Ok fine, so what did she want?”
“If I knew where you went.”
“Did you tell her?”
I looked at her. “I'm going to forget you said that.”
“Sorry.” She looked down. “So what did you tell her?”
“That I left before you disappeared, we'd argued and you didn't trust me or want me around.”
“And she bought that?”
“No, I don't think she did. But I didn't hear from her again.”
She chewed the inside of her mouth.
“She asked me to tell you to call her. She's worried about you.”
Her eyes moistened. “Yea?”
I wanted to tell her I didn't like the woman. It seemed to me all she wanted was to make sure Beth wasn't going to be a problem to her. I forced a smile.
“Yea. It doesn't matter how you two ended, Beth, the time together meant something to her, even you know that, so why are you surprised she's worried? Didn't she leave her family in Greece and come back here to see if you were ok?”
She took a long swallow. “Yes, she did.”
“Well, that should show you she's worried.”
She finally looked at me. I kept the smile on my face, even though it hurt to watch hope come into her eyes.
“Maybe I will call her.”
She sat back, stretching her arm out, wincing slightly as she rubbed the part where her cast met the arch of her neck. “I hate this thing.”
I knew she didn't want to talk about Kerry anymore and that was fine by me.
“I broke my leg when I was a kid, I hated the fact I couldn't reach the scratch, it drove me crazy.”
“God tell me about it. I was like a bear yesterday, rubbing my shoulder up and down on the damn tree.”
I laughed at the mental image. “I bet.”
She smiled at me and I could see in a way she was thanking me for dropping the subject.
“So what are you going to do here? You said you didn't handle boredom well.”
Sitting back, I stared at the flames. “Right now, boredom sounds good.”
We went back to silence, my mind working overtime again.
“How did you know you were gay?”
I realised as I looked at her eyes springing open that she had been falling asleep.
“Um, well, I just did.”
I scoffed. “It can't be that simple. Did you always know?”
She laughed. “Why is it everyone thinks someone has to wake up one morning and suddenly go ‚Äòoh my god I'm gay.” She shook her head. “It's simple, I always knew, and I was one of the lucky ones that didn't have parents or peers to worry about. It probably made it easier for me.”
“So you believe gays are born gay?”
She raised her glass to me. “Well, straights are born straight. So why does there have to be a difference?”
I grinned at her, raising my own glass to her. “Touch?©.” I thought for a while. “So someone who is bi?”
She let out a long scoff. “Can't make up their bloody mind.”
I laughed. “Ok, you're gonna have to explain that one.”
“Look, I'm not the end-all of knowledge on this subject. I am gay, that's who I am. To me bi's seem to want to have both. That's just my opinion. I'm not bi so I really don't know. They like sex with both, for me the idea of sex with a man is a turn off big time. I'm not anti-men.” She shrugged. “ Doesn't mean I'm right, it just means I'm a lesbian.”
I chuckled at the expression on her face. “Ok, I think I get it.”
“Ok, let me ask you, does the idea of sex with a woman disgust you?”
Something in her tone made me rethink my glib answer. “No, I don't think it disgusts me.” My voice was low.
“Ok then, what about sex with a man?”
I looked straight at her. “Beth, I had sex with David!”
She shook her head as she spoke. “Not what I asked.”
I blushed. “It's not like I have a good track record to look at, Beth.” I took a slug of drink.
“Oh, come on, we're having a girl talk here. Spill it.” She grinned mischievously.
As I looked at her, I noticed I wasn't the only one who was feeling the effects of alcohol.
“It was... well, nice.”
She snorted. “I don't want the sordid details, but I want more info than it was nice.”
I took another gulp of drink. “I liked it.”
She rolled her eyes. “You like ice cream. You like wallpaper patterns, ‚Äòlike' isn't a word that describes sex.”
“Well, what words did you want me to use?”
Her grin widened to one that I could only call a feral one.
“As you aren't going to say it, I will. Did you have an orgasm with him?”
I just managed to catch the glass as it slipped form my hand. “Beth!” I giggled.
“Don't get flustered, it's only me here. Well, did ya?”
I glowed red. “Um yes.”
She shifted forward. “‚ÄòUm yes.'? What sort of answer is that? You either did or you didn't, you were having sex, right?”
I gave up. Rolling my eyes, I flopped back. “Yes, we were having sex and yes I had orgasms, satisfied?”
She giggled, wiggling an eyebrow. “The question should be, were you?”
Once again my mouth fell open and I just stared at her as she totally lost it on the chair. I couldn't help it, I started giggling, knowing full well there was no question now, we were both definitely drunk.
I controlled my giggling enough to shift closer. “So have you ever slept with a man?”
She made a face. “No.”
I hiccuped. “What? Ever?”
“Nope. I never wanted to, even back at college. It was woman-only zone.” She licked her lips.
“How young were you?” I hiccuped again. Getting annoyed I held my breath, releasing it after the count of ten, then hiccuped.
I looked at her astonished. “Fifteen?”
“Yea, so what about you?”
I shifted. “Twenty three.”
She spat vodka back into her glass. “Holy shit. Let me guess, this was the winter's night one?”
“Something like that, yes, and why are you surprised I was twenty three? I'm not the only one who holds out, you know.”
She snorted. “You and nuns.”
I threw a cushion at her. “Oh shut up. Hiccup“.
She moved the cushion from her face. “Ok, I guess some do hold out.”
“Were you waiting for marriage first.” She lent forward.
I stopped staring at my finger, looking over to her. “Huh?”
She giggled again. “You are so wasted.”
I put the glass down, sitting back, taking in gulps of air, smelling the booze on my breath as I exhaled. The hiccups were now increasing to the point I thought each one was funny. “Ya know... Hic.... I think I am. Hic.”
“You're a cute drunk, though.”
“It goes with my cute ass.” I turned wiggling my butt in her direction.
Her eyes shot up. “Oh brother. Ok, I think it's time for bed, Miss Harris.” I watched her rise and wobble just a bit before she retook her balance.
“Are you preppie...?” I frowned. Trying again, I focused. “Are you pur... pur... porting me?” I exhaled.
She fanned the air, laughing. “Am I what?”
I stood, albeit on unsteady legs. “Are you propositioning me?” I dragged my hair from my face. My fingers decided to tangle it.
She bit her lip to keep from laughing again as I wobbled in front of her. “Um, no. I'm not.”
I scowled. “Why not?”
Her hand grabbed me under the elbow. “Well, because Miss Happy, you're drunk and straight.”
I pulled my arm away, wobbling further, but the couch-back helped me stand up. I thought that was very nice of it.
“Oh.” I hiccuped. I looked around wondering why someone was moving the cabin. Then I wondered how they were moving it. Her clicking fingers brought my attention back.
“You're so gonna pay for this tomorrow, Vicki. Come on, nightie night time.”
I exhaled. “But I'm not sleepy.”
She grinned at me. “Oh, you will be.”
“I'm hungry, I got the munchies.” I moved away from her so fast, she slightly lost her own balance. I made my way to the kitchen, knocking into the table. I glared at it daring it to attack me again.
“Vicki.” I could hear her laughing behind me. “You really should go to bed.”
“I'm hungry.” I got down on all fours, crawling to the cupboard, and opening it, I stuck my head in. “ Cheerios... ohhhhhhh nooooooo.” Then I saw it . Grinning, I pulled the box of tortillas free. Sitting back, leaning against the side I ripped it open and dug in.
I looked up. “Hello Beth, want some chips.”
She grinned. “God, you're so adorable.”
I crunched the tortillas, my mouth full. “Yourff bootiful.” I swallowed.
Her face froze. Then she smiled again. “Thank you, now to bed ok?”
I offered out my hand and she helped pull me up. I just managed to reach down and grab the box before she led me to the bedroom. She marched me to the bed and pulled back the blanket. I started to get undressed.
“WAIT. God, just get in like you are.”
I tilted my head to her. “Why? I got my clothes on?”
Her face flushed as I undid another button. She grabbed my hands turning me to sit on the bed.
“Believe me, you'll thank me in the morning. Sleep clothed, ok?”
I shrugged. “Okay.” I felt her take my shoes off, giggling as she touched my foot.
I lay back, watching as she pulled the blanket up to my chin. “Now sleep.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
She smiled, “What for?”
“Being you.” I reached up grabbed her neck and pulled her down close enough to lay a brief kiss on her lips.
She drew back fast. “ You're trying to kill me aren't you?”
All of me suddenly got sleepy. “Nooooooo, I save you remember....?” A yawn took over. “Not kill. Saveeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
Through my half-shut eyes, I watched her fingers caress her lips before giving me a long look. “Night Vicki, sleep well and yes, you do save me.”
I grinned turning over, hugging the tortillas to my chest. “Night Bethy, sleep well.”
I didn't hear the door click I didn't hear anything other than silence as sleep cradled me away.
Someone had a jackhammer. It was outside my window thud thud thudding against the bark of tree. Whoever had the jackhammer had backup. Their companion was in my body running around on rollerskates. Using my intestines as a ramp. I swallowed and just lay there, working out the best way to kill it. I tentatively rolled over, groaning as the jackhammer increased and so did his partner in crime. I frowned, something was sticking in my side. My hand moved down, coming up with broken chips.
“Good morning Happy.”
I grabbed my head. “Don't... please god don't shout.”
She came in looking me up and down. “That bad, huh?”
She chuckled. “Here.”
I opened one eye looking at what she was offering. A glass was held out. “If you tell me that's hair of the dog I may throw up on you.”
She shook her head. “Nope, old remedy. Sip it.”
I moved to sit up, groaning again as the skateboard avenger decided to change direction and move up to my throat. I swallowed hard.
Her expression changed. She took a step back. “Ut oh.”
I clamped my mouth shut, waiting for the world to stop playing around. I swallowed again. The world began to steady. I shifted back, resting on the headboard.
She sat on the edge. “Trust me, just sip it, ok.”
I gave her a suspicious look.
Her eyes smiled. “Trust me.”
I looked down at the glass then up at her. Finally taking the glass, I gave it a sniff, and not smelling anything, I took a sip. It was sweet. I grimaced, pushing it towards her.
She pushed it back. “Sip.”
I sighed, sipping again. After the fourth one, the sweetness didn't seem to bother me as much. My throat thanked me for the liquid.
I gave a slight nod. “Well, I haven't thrown up yet.”
She grinned. “I'll take that as a good thing.”
Finishing the liquid, she took the glass, from me placing it on the bedside table.
I looked her up and down, she didn't look like worse for wear. “Why aren't you dying?”
“Because I'm used to drinking.”
I tilted my head back, closing my eyes as I felt the skateboarder inside settling. I thought of something, I opened my eyes to look at her.
“Shit, Beth your pills... You drank?”
She smiled. “I stopped taking them Tuesday, I didn't need them anymore, so don't worry I didn't mix.”
“Ok.” I swallowed, noticing my throat wasn't burning as much anymore. “What was that?” my eyes went briefly to the glass.
“Honey, water and aspirin.”
“That's it? Wow.”
“Glad it could help.”
“My head is still wanting me dead but my stomach doesn't feel too bad. If I don't breathe or move. I think I'll live.”
I shifted, feeling the chips crunch under me. “Um, Beth, why do I have chips in the bed?”
She chuckled. “You don't remember?”
I swallowed. “Um, no.”
“Welllllllll, they were buying you drinks all night.”
I glowered at her. “Beth!”
“So I'm guessing if you don't remember that, you don't remember the topless dancing on the coffee table.”
My eyes shot around to her so fast I thought they'd roll down my cheeks any minute. I sat up. “I... I didn't, I wouldn't?” Would I?
She smirked. “Who said I was talking about you?”
I groaned, finally seeing the teasing in her eyes. “Beth, I can't take this now. Keep it up and I'm gonna hurl.... I mean it.”
She chuckled again. “Ok, I'll stop. Besides, the table dancing wasn't the highlight of the evening.”
I glared at her, thinking for the first time, how easy it would be to dislike her. “It wasn't?”
“Nope.” She rose, lifting the glass as she did. “For me the highlight was the sex talk.”
Smirking, she turned heading for the door, my eyes widened, then they widened more as I started to remember. “Oh god.”
She laughed. “Go back to sleep. I'll wake you later.”
I didn't need telling twice. I rolled over, ignoring the chips in the bed, closed my eyes and wished to god the world would end before I woke up, because I knew damn well she wasn't going to let it go that easily. As sleep began to take me, a nagging feeling took over, telling me I was forgetting something more important, but the skateboarder had calmed and the jackhammer was fading, followed by the rest of the conscious world.
When I woke later I felt groggy. My bladder decided to make itself known more than anything else. A shower returned me to being somewhat human again. After I dressed I went in search of her.
What I wasn't expecting was a view of her laid out on the redwood floor with her legs in the air and her eyes closed. It wasn't the fact of the position that stopped both my feet from moving or my lungs from releasing the air I had just drawn in. it was the plain and simple fact that she wore next to nothing. This was the first time I had seen her in anything but my uncle's clothes or the jeans and shirt I had brought for her. She lay there motionless, only the rise and fall of her stomach muscles and chest telling me she was alive. Where she had gotten the tank top from which rode up to just under her breasts, or the Daisy Duke shorts, I had no clue, but they looked like they had been made for her. Even the overbearing white of the cast didn't take away the fact she was absolutely breathtaking. I'd no real clue what she was doing but as I stood and watched, I marvelled at the way each muscle under her skin seemed to be contracting in some unseen exercise. She shifted, lowering her legs, and I drew back into the doorway, unable to tear myself away. She sat up, exhaling gently. I could see the fine film of sweat.
This was the Elizabeth that was missing in those images. Those had sex appeal, yes, but the real thing was so much more. My eyes shifted from her body, and realising she was about to stand up and see me, I stepped quickly backwards, returning to the bedroom.
I was beginning to think I was losing my mind. I'd never reacted to another woman this way. Even if I thought back, I hadn't. My excuses for overreacting were wearing very thin. I decided to forget it, move on, stop looking at my reaction so much. I was causing the confusion. Yes, that was it. I was causing it by rethinking every damn thing. So what if I found her a beautiful woman, what was the big deal? I knew suddenly what it was, the fact she was a lesbian was causing the confusion. She was gay and I found her attractive, that didn't make me gay, that just showed I had good taste. I was taking a small thing and blowing it out of proportion. I gave a long exhale, relief at finding an answer flowing through me.
One thing that was certain was unless I cut out all this thinking, I was going to jeopardise my friendship with Beth. That thought pulled me up short. I didn't want to do that, she needed me, and in a way I needed her. I liked her. I calmed down my panic, I calmed down enough for my heart to return to normal, for my body to stop humming. When I walked back into the living room, I was a better actress than Beth.
She looked up, smiling, a towel wiping the back of her neck. “Hey, how you feeling?”
“Better, thank you. You?” I could do this I will do this.
“Good, I'm glad, because this morning you really did look green. You weren't kidding when you said you didn't drink, were you?”
I gave her a sheepish look. “No, I wasn't kidding.”
She just shook her head pulling herself up in one fluid motion, tilting her neck to rub the towel under the cast. “Well, I must admit even I felt it this morning.” She dipped slightly forward to catch the sweat at the base of her neck.
I realised I was staring. Feeling nervous again, I moved around her to go get a drink. “Nice outfit by the way.”
She looked herself up and down. “Hope your sister doesn't mind, I found it at the bottom of the closet. I needed to get back to yoga.”
“Nah, she'll be cool. So that was yoga?” I sipped the orange juice I now held.
She looked sideways at me in question. I scratched the back of my neck. “I, um, came in while you were doing it, didn't want to disturb you.”
“Ah, ok. Yes, it helps work out the kinks, and lately I've had a load of ‚Äòum. The cast makes it difficult to do the full workout. But I've missed the meditation.” She moved again, stopping and letting out a groan.
I moved forward. “You ok?”
“Fucking cast is killing me.”
I watched her try and rub the area around her neck again.
“Hold on.” Moving to the kitchen, I found what I wanted in the drawer, and coming back, “Here, sit down.”
She gave me a suspicious look.
“Oh, stop being a baby. It's just some Radion B, it will relax the muscles of your neck.”
She sat. “I felt the muscles pull as I stretched, damn it.”
“Here, tilt your head.”
She eyed me suspiciously again. I gave a short laugh, showing her the heat gel in my hand. “It isn't poison, it'll help the muscle strain.”
With one more unsure look to me, she shifted around so that her back was to me, tilting her head and moving back her hair. I swallowed. My eyes fell to the neck, the skin looked soft, a few moles dotted across her shoulder.
“I... I have to move your top down a little.”
Taking a breath, I pushed down the fabric, feeling my mouth go dry as my fingertips brushed over her skin. I let my fingers gently move along the muscle. My breath hitched.
“Don't you need the gel?” I heard amusement in her voice.
“What? Yes. Sorry. “I snatched back my hand, blushing as I heard her chuckle.
Calming myself, I opened the seal. As I put gel on my fingertips and started working it into her muscle, I kept telling myself all those reasons that this was nothing more than overreactions. When she groaned and leant into my touch, every single one of those reasons went right out the window. I felt my heart-rate skip, and warmth flood my body. Her head dipped forward as I made circles against her skin. She moaned again, a low deep sound of enjoyment. I swallowed, then realised I had nothing to swallow, my mouth was completely dry. When she let out a long sigh of air, I discovered why my mouth was so dry and where the moisture had gone. I snatched my hand back again, rising so quickly I tripped over the chair.
Her head snapped around. “Vicky?” She pulled her top back up, flicking her hair free. It seemed to happen in slow motion. She moved around. “Vicky?”
“I... I...” I kept backing away. I had to get away, this was wrong, this couldn't be happening. It was wrong, just plain wrong.
“What?” Her eyes questioned me in alarm.
“I got gel in my eye, be right back.” I bolted yet again, running into the bedroom and slamming the door this time. “Oh god, oh god, oh god.”
I tensed as I heard her approach.
“Victoria, are you ok?” Concern flooded her words.
I stepped away from the door ,walking backwards my eyes never leaving it, only stopping when my legs hit the bed. I sat.
“Do you need any help?”
I gazed up to the heavens wishing I could get help. Therapy right now sounded good, because right now I was nuts.
“Ok, answer me or I'm coming in.” The door rattled
My eyes snapped to the door handle turning. “NO!”
The handle stopped. “You're scaring me, here. How much did you get in your eyes?”
Confused, I blinked. Eyes? The ointment! I relaxed slightly. “Not a lot but I'm changing... I... I think I got some on my shirt... I'll be out in a minute, ok.” I started pacing, willing my body to stop buzzing.
I calmed my voice, .y brain finally returning enough to think. Going to the bathroom, I turned on the tap, calling from there. . “Yes I'm ok. Just give me a minute.”
I heard her shuffle outside the door for a moment. “Ok.”
I gave a sigh of relief. “I won't be long.” I turned the tap off, relaxing even more as I heard her move away.
I sat on the bed burying my face in my hands, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. I was covered in sweat, I felt sick to my stomach and I ached, I burned, my face burned. The heat on my face increasing, snapping my head back, I glared down at my hands, realising what I'd just done.
“Oh shit.” Running to the bathroom, I quickly doused my face in water, rubbing away the gel that I had really put on this time. Slowly, the stinging ebbed to a bearable throb. I drew my face away and looked in the mirror. I was a mess and I didn't just mean my appearance.
I was shaking, I didn't have answers anymore, I didn't have excuses anymore, my body wasn't lying, and no matter how many talks I had with myself I couldn't ignore now what had just happened. I was aroused. I looked at myself, just stared. I didn't recognise the person looking back at me with bloodshot eyes and finger marks on her cheek. I didn't want to know who this woman was staring back at me. I took a breath and ducked my head into the basin full of water. Maybe I could drown her.
I was in trouble, it was that simple. Somehow, somewhere, Victoria Harris had disappeared and all that was left was a babbling mess. I didn't know who I was anymore. After leaving the bathroom I started making excuses again, anything and everything once again came into my insane mind to make it sane again. But the trouble now was, I was not only battling my mind, but my body and that was harder to convince. Touching Beth had aroused me, not just aroused me but sent my so-called straightness right out the window with all the excuses. But where did that leave me? Bloody confused is where it left me. Why Beth? What was different about her? Why hadn't I had other reactions to women if I were gay? God, it drove me mad. No matter how many times I tried to figure it out, it only left me with more questions, and I couldn't stay in the bedroom forever. I could leave, go back home, but wouldn't that just be running away from it instead of facing it and finding out why?
“Vicki?” Her concerned voice filtered through the door. “You ok in there?”
I took a full lungful of air before I spoke. “I'm ok.”
It was silent for a while. “You don't sound ok, can I come in?”
I swallowed. “I'll be out in a minute.”
I heard her feet scuff. “Ok, I'll be the one worrying on the couch.”
My mouth twitched a smile, hearing her move away. I suddenly felt sad, this wasn't her fault. I could control this, this wasn't love, it was lust. I closed my eyes. Yes, that's what it was, just lust. But even as I rose, the finality of it hit me, it wasn't just lust, I was falling in love with her.
As I turned the knob on the door and pulling it open, a piece of puzzle fell into place inside me, completing the tapestry that was me, a piece I didn't even know had been missing until now, one I'd never looked at before. I stepped into the living room with a feeling of being totally calm and at the same time totally lost. When she looked up, giving me an unsure smile, I knew I was never going to be the same again.
“Oh god, your face looks bad. How much did you get in your eyes.”
She rose, quickly coming to fuss over me. I just stared at her as her fingers traced over my cheek.
“Did you wash it all out? Can you see ok? Do you need a doctor or something?”
I still stared.
“Ok, look up.”
She tilted my head back, but still I kept my gaze on her.
“How many fingers?”
She held two up, then realised I hadn't spoken, she dropped her hand.
“What's wrong? Your staring at me funny.”
I looked down. “Sorry. You had two.”
“Fingers.” I smiled.
“Oh, well, that's good.” She looked sideways, at me uncertainty in her eyes. “You sure you're ok?”
I nodded. “Just stung like a son of a bitch.”
Not taking her eyes off me, she backed up and sat. “My shoulder feels better, by the way. Wish it hadn't come at so high a cost.”
I shifted, feeling nervous all over again. “It was my fault I rubbed my eye.”
I shifted my eyes away but as I did, I caught her unguarded look of fear. Fear? Why fear? As I turned back, the look was gone. I moved to the sofa. I didn't know what to say, my insides were twisted in knots. I needed to either run or face it. I didn't know which was worse.
“Vicki, please tell me what's wrong, I know something is. Look, if it's about the kiss last night, don't worry about it, ok? You were drunk, it was just a friendly kiss.”
I shot up. “Kiss? What kiss? You........ you kissed me?”
Her face turned red. “I so did not, you kissed me.”
“I... I...” I sat as the memory came back. “...Oh my god.”
She shifted forward. “Now Vicki, stay calm. It was just a goodnight kiss, there's nothing to worry about here.”
I stared at her, my brain sending signals, but my mouth opened and closed like a fish.
“Hey, it's ok, honestly.” Her hand rubbed my leg.
I jumped up again. “No, god, don't you see? It's not ok.”
“Ok, you're overreacting to this.”
I paced, looking over to her. “Oh, believe me, I am so not.”
She frowned. “Ok, you're gonna have to help me here, what sort of kiss are you remembering?”
I stopped, looking at her. “Did I or did I not grab you and force you to kiss me?”
She bit her lip. “Um, well, you did, I have to admit that, yes.”
“And I was drunk?”
She sighed. “Yes, you were most definitely drunk.” The laugh on her lips died when I narrowed my eyes. She coughed. “It's no biggy, ok? I'm fine you're fine.”
I laughed. “Oh god, I am so not fine.”
This time she looked at me seriously. “Vicki, if this is freaking you out, I'm sorry. I didn't really have time to react, ok? I'm sorry if kissing a lesbian has thrown your world upside down but it didn't mean anything.” She stiffened.
I slowed in my pacing, looking over to her. “Do straight drunken women often kiss you?”
She stilled. “No.”
I ignored the fact she was getting angry. “Why not?”
Now her eyes filled with confusion. “Jesus Vicki, it was a kiss.”
I persisted. “Why haven't they?”
She exhaled, her voice rising. “Mainly because I'm not found in straight women's bedrooms putting them to bed.” Her mouth trailed off as she realised what she'd said, looking at me now as realisation dawned. “Ohhhhhhh.”
Her face dropped. “Do... do you think I tried something?”
I shook my head. “No, of course not.”
“Because that's what this is sounding like.” Her whole manner changed. But I caught the look of hurt in her eyes just before she covered it.
“No Beth, I trust you, I don't think you tried anything with me.”
Her shoulders relaxed slightly. “Good, because I may have a bad track record when it comes to women, but none of them will ever show up and say I took advantage of them when they were drunk.”
“I... I'm sorry you thought that.”
She gave a curt nod, then finally brought her eyes back to me. “So besides the fact that if you're family found out, why are you freaked out so much at this?”
I paled at the mention of my family.
“I kissed you.”
Total confusion showed in her eyes. “So?”
I stepped around the couch so I was in front of her. “IIIII... kissed... you.”
She still stared at me with the same look. “You were drunk.” She shook her head, not understanding.
I inhaled in frustration. “That's it, I was drunk, that's enough of an explanation for you?”
Her eyebrows formed an arch as she frowned. “Well, yes.”
“You were drunk, why didn't you kiss me?”
Her mouth fell open. “What?”
“Your explanation of me kissing you was I was drunk. Well, so were you, so why didn't you kiss me?”
Her mouth fell open. As it did something she said when I kissed her filtered back - “are you trying to kill me?” I quickly looked at her again, seeing she was trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and at the same time find an answer to what I had just asked.
Suddenly I needed to know something. I needed to know what she had meant with those words after the kiss. “Do you find me attractive?”
Her eyes nearly shot out of their sockets. “What?”
I sat, my eyes never leaving her. “I asked if you found me attractive.” I had to bite back a smile as I saw her face colour.
“I'd have to be dead not to, Vicki.” She scoffed.
This time I blushed. “Um, thank you.”
“You're welcome. Now, mind telling me what this is really about?”
I inhaled. “I find you attractive.” I looked down, my heart beating ten thousand times a minute.
“Why, thank you.”
I glanced up, seeing her cheeky smile. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, seeing she had no clue what I was trying to say. How in the hell did she get so many women?
“I mean, I find you attractive.” I kept eye contact this time.
She grinned. “And I said why, thank y....” her face froze, her eyes studying me hard, her mouth formed on the last word. Her eyes widened as she sat back. “No fucking way.”
I swallowed as I slowly nodded. “Way.” I twitched a nervous grin.
“B...but you're straight!” Her voice had gone up an octave.
“Apparently not.” For some reason, seeing her panicked and unsure gave me a sense of calm, except for a tiny part of me that wanted to giggle, like a small child let out for the first time who sees something new.
Her mouth opened. Then she shut it. She just stared.
The urge to giggle was becoming overwhelming. “I'm attracted to you ,Beth.” That felt the most normal thing to say to her.
Her mouth snapped shut. Her eyes studied me really, studied me, staring till the point I got lost in them. Then she looked away, rising as she did so.
“You can't be.”
I felt like she hit me. I swivelled around on the couch. “What do you mean, I can't be?”
“I don't know what I mean. But, you just can't be. Kissing me when you're pissed out of your head isn't a sign that you're attracted to me. If that were the case, half the women I've worked with would be in serious trouble.”
I blanched, not really caring right now how many drunken women had kissed her. “It wasn't the kiss.” I snapped my mouth shut as soon as I said it and watched her stop from leaving, turning slowly back.
Now there was no turning back. “No. I've....” I took a breath, lifting my eyes, pleading with her to understand. “I've been attracted to you for a while. If I'm truthful with myself, from the first day I came to visit you in the hospital.”
Her eyes didn't blink. “The... the first day?”
I nodded. “I didn't know, it's...” I wanted to cry I knew this sounded stupid. “I've been talking myself out of it for weeks, Beth. I've been so scared, and so confused over it all.”
The guards on her eyes slightly lowered. “Oh.”
I rose. “I'm sorry, this is stupid, I shouldn't have said anything... I'll go home”.
As I moved past, her she caught my arm, “wait, ok? Just wait. You can't just tell me this and expect me to catch up to what's going on.”
I pulled my arm away. “What's going on is I'm nuts, plain and simple nuts.”
I moved again but she caught me. “Will you wait, god damn it, I need to think.” She pulled me back over to the couch. “Sit.”
I sat, beginning to cry. She shoved the tissue box in my hand. Now she was the one pacing. She stopped pacing, looking down at me.
“So you're attracted to me?”
She paced again, her hand going in and out of her hair. Stopping, she looked at me again.
“Sexually attracted to me?”
I blushed bright scarlet, giving a nod as I did so, watching her eyes widen for a moment before she continued pacing. She came back in a rush.
“How the hell can you be? You're straight, right?”
“I thought I was.”
She blinked, looking at me as if I had grown a second head. “No sign of you being gay before? A gym teacher you had a crush on? Some high school friend you got drunk and fooled around with?”
My scarlet blush deepened. “No, not that I can remember.”
The furrow in her eyebrows made two grooves either side of her eyes. “ No actress you dreamed about? Jesus, Vicki, give me anything here?”
I shook my head sniffling.
She threw her arm up. “Then how the hell can you say you're gay?”
“I didn't, you said that.”
She glared at me. “But you're sexually attracted to me.”
I blushed again. “Do you have to keep asking me that? I already said I was.”
Her hand went into her hair, scratching her scalp all over. She returned to her pacing. “For the love of god. You make no sense.” She finally came back. Taking a calming breath, she looked at me. “How can you be attracted to me? How do you know?”
I coughed as I inhaled. “I do know what it feels like, Beth. I'm not a virgin.”
“But I don't understand this, don't you see?” Her eyes searched mine. “This makes no sense, Vicki.”
“Don't you think I know that? Don't you think I've tried to reason with all of this, telling myself it wasn't what it is, going over every single thing my mind told me and making excuses? I'm not some teenager with a first crush, Beth. Do you think I ever would have mentioned it to you if I weren't completely sure? This scares the fucking shit out of me.”
She returned to her chair. “Jesus ,I need a drink.”
I rose, filling two glasses of wine. Coming back, I handed her one before sitting again and sipping mine. I watched her gulp hers down. She looked at me.
“You're sure of this?”
Well, none of it was the response I expected. “Yes, I suppose it is a wow.”
She glanced over to me,. I inhaled sharply, seeing that her eyes were totally open, to me no walls. I waited.
“Why am I different?” Her voice was low.
I knew what she was asking, she wanted to know why I was attracted to her as a woman, and I'd never been before.
I took a gulp of wine. “Because you are.”
She frowned again.
I smiled. “You're just you, Beth.”
“And you've never felt this before for a woman? Any woman?”
“I don't think so.!
She shifted forward. “How can that be? I mean, even bi-curious women have felt something for another woman, even if I'ts just fantasy.”
I refused to blush. “I don't know about them, all I can say is what I feel.”
Her eyes softened. “And you feel it for me now?”
I nodded, keeping eye contact with her. “Yes, I do.”
Her eyes filled with a sense of wonder. “How can you be so sure of this, any of this, if you haven't felt it before for a woman?”
I sighed in frustration. “Because I am. How were you sure you were gay?”
“That's not the same thing and you know it.” She exhaled again. “But how, Vicki? I'm not doubting you feel something, but how can you be so sure of what it is? Maybe because I'm gay, you're curious.” Her eyes had hardened slightly.
My eyes snapped around to her. “Is this what you think this is, that I'm a straight woman who's curious? What's next from your mouth, I'm in the experimental stage? Or it's my mid-life crisis?”
She looked down. “Well, you have done a lot of things lately even you said you couldn't explain.”
I winced as she said the word done. I slammed my glass down. “Look, I've told you because I needed to tell you, not because I thought we could now go jump into bed and I could tick one more mid-life crisis thing off my things to do list. Thank you so much for just talking to me like David and my sister have been doing for months.” I rose, looking down at her. “I know who, I am Elizabeth. I may be confused about certain things in my life right now, but one thing I am certain in, is my body's response to you.”
I started to walk away but her voice stopped me.
I stopped, refusing to turn around. “What?”
“You're not the only one confused.”
I swallowed, her voice now was the one I had come to know as the real her; no walls, no actress. I still hadn't turned around.
She let out a long sigh. “No, you're not.”
I finally turned around. Her head was bowed, she was sat forward, her good hand holding her head. I walked back, sitting again.
“You confuse me.” She looked up and nailed me with a look that made my throat tighten. She looked as lost as I felt. I resisted the urge to reach forward.
She nodded. “Oh yea, you do.
“Oh.” I swallowed.
The look I had on my face made her smile that smile that told me I was being ‚Äòrefreshing again.'‘
”You really have no clue how beautiful you are, do you?” Her voice was serious.
This time I blushed for a different reason. “Um I find that hard to hear.”
She gave a soft knowing smile. “I know.”
“Why are you confused, I mean, bar the fact of what I just told you.”
Her smile faltered a little. I waited, my heart beating fast again, my stomach rolling.
“Because I find you sexual attractive too.”
My stomach decided to jump up and join my tongue. “Oh.”
She smiled again. “Ahuh, oh.”
The intentness in her eyes scared me, but at the same time it suddenly made me realise what all those looks I had seen had been, all those ones where she had looked at me the way she was looking now.
“Scared?'” Her head tilted in question.
My eyes focused again1 I grabbed my wine, drinking, it. “Terrified.”
Her face broke out into a genuine grin. “Don't be. I don't bite.”
I snorted into the wineglass, glaring at her as she chuckled. But the laugh broke the tension and I relaxed. ‚Äò' Thank you.''
“I'd say for what, but I know.” I returned her smile.
She took a sip of wine. “Vicky, I'm scared too, because I don't know what this means. I...” Her face sobered as she looked at me. “I'm not ready for a ... well, for a relationship. Hell, I don't even know if I'll ever be again. I don't know what you want from me.”
Relationship! My mind went off into panic. Was that what I wanted? If tt was, I just got my answer that she wasn't interested. That hurt. In fact it, hurt more than anything I'd ever felt.
“I don't know what it means, Beth any of it.”
She sighed again. Sitting back, she stretched out her legs. “This is so screwed up.”
“I suppose.” I was still hurting over the fact she had just made me realise the reality of everything. I had no chance with her at all.
“You don't think this is strange at all, do you?”
I pushed the lump down in my throat, making myself look at her. “At first it was more than strange knowing I have feelings for you. But now... now I've faced them, no, it doesn't feel strange at all. If anything, it feels the most right thing I've felt in my life.” I swallowed again as the lump moved over my heart. I rose, giving her a sad look.
“I'm gonna go home, Beth, please don't stop me this time. I think I've said too much. Don't feel bad or anything. I didn't expect anything. I just needed to tell you.”
She moved to get up but I raised a hand. “Don't...” I looked right at her, seeing her flinch. I knew she could see the hurt in my eyes, I wasn't that good an actress. “Just don't, ok?”
“Vicki, I ...”
I placed my fingers on her lips giving her the best smile I had left. “Please don't.”
She didn't move but I saw the pain in her eyes.
I walked away, not looking at her, got my leathers, dressed as quickly as I could, then without checking where she was or what she was doing, I fled the cabin, got on my bike and left.
I didn't know how I had gotten home, maybe my bike now knew the way and had just taken over and saw me to safety. I felt stupid, so stupid. I had made a complete ass of myself. No wonder she had looked at me like I was mad. How else was she supposed to have responded? What did I expect from her? That was just it, I hadn't thought that far ahead.
I felt like curling up and fading away. I didn't remember getting out of my leathers, or how I got into bed. I didn't sleep, I'm not sure what I did. But when dawn filtered through my windows, I was still staring lost at the walls.
I could hear the phone ringing again. On and off through the night it had rung, like some calling siren. I ignored it, rolling over and grabbing the pillow to me. I couldn't cry, which seemed the strangest thing, because all I wanted to do was sob. There were pains inside building with each inhale, expanding throughout my very core. I hurt, god I hurt. But I knew no medicine or surgeon's scalpel could cut out this malignant mass. I clenched the pillow to me harder, burying my face into it. The phone rang again, this time sounding so distant.
My brain was still trying to make sense of things, throwing up answers as protection against what I felt. I couldn't be in love. Ruling out the fact she was a woman, it was too fast. Three weeks! How was that even possible?
I thought I had been in love with David. So I was wrong this time too.
Over and over, each and every protective answer was slowly dulled to whispers as the pain grew.
Misery is a poor companion, it robs you of appetite, it steals common sense, takes away wants and needs, leaving a bitter aftertaste. Yet it's a demanding chaperon, a selfish jealous friend, wanting you all to itself.
Any thought of leaving it to venture away will cause misery to remind you why you can't, until the point you give in and slowly disappear.
My eyes opened, unsure of where I was for a moment as my brain woke up. I looked around, blinking, groaning as my neck let me know sleeping in that position wasn't right. I flopped back. Nothing had changed I felt the same. Except now the pain was agony as I remembered.
I sat up, realising what had woken me. Someone was ringing my doorbell continuously, followed by a repeated banging. I rolled back over, prepared to ignore it.
“Victoria! Are you there?”
I closed my eyes to my sister's voice.
I slid from the bed, knowing she wasn't going to go away, made my way downstairs and unlocked the door, pulling it open, and before she could ask any questions, I turned around and made my way back upstairs.
“Vicky?” The door slammed shut.
I didn't answer as I climbed the stairs, wondering why my legs felt like lead. Quickly I was back under the covers, hearing her enter my room.
“Are you ill?”
Her footsteps stilled, then she continued to move closer. “Vicky? What's wrong? You look like shit.”
I rolled away from her as she sat on the bed. “I'm fine, go away.”
‚Äò”No, now what's going on? I've been trying to call you for two days.”
I blinked. Two days? Had it been that long? Had I lost that much time?
“Come on, sis, what's going on? Your work told me you took extended leave. I've tried reaching David, and his office tells me he's taken leave. I thought maybe you two had run off together or something.”
I scoffed. “No.”
I felt her hand tap my shoulder. “Sis? What's going on?”
“Mandy, just go away.”
“Well, I'm not going to do that.” Her bag hit the chair in the corner with a bang. “So you'd better tell me what's going on.”
My eyes closed. Opening them, I knew now I was crying. “Please, just leave me alone.... Please.”
She came into view around the other side of the bed, looking at me, her eyes widening as she saw the tears. “Oh shit, Vicki, what is it?” She immediately crawled forward.
That seemed to make it worse. “Don't...”
She stilled on her move to hug me, sitting back, her hands going to her lap. “Then tell me?”
I sniffed, sitting up. “I can't.”
“You can't? Oh my god, you're not dying, are you?”
I shot her a look. “I might as well be.”
She stared at me. “For fuck sake, what is that supposed to mean? I'm getting paranoid. Is it Mom or Dad?”
I shook my head. “No, no, they're fine.”
I sobbed. “Some of it.”
For a moment she looked like she was about to hug me again, then caught herself enough to only shift closer. “Then what? Come on, you know you can tell me anything sis, I love you.”
That only increased my tears. “I can't.” My voice broke.
“Sis, please.” Her face was a mass of worry, her chin creasing.
I swallowed. “I'm... I'm in love.”
Her facial expression changed so suddenly, if I wasn't so sad I would have found it comical. Knowing this was the last thing she expected.
“And that's bad why? Do I know him?”
It was hard to breathe now without shuddering a breath. The vice on my throat was actually hurting more than my insides. “No.”
She frowned. “How? I mean who? Does David know? Is that why he's left work?”
“No, he doesn't know. But I broke up with him.”
Her eyes widened. ‚Äò' All of this happened since I had coffee with you three days ago?''
Now I did laugh, a small one, at the absurdity of it all. “Yes.”
She sat back, leaning on the headboard, her eyes studying me to see an answer. “I ... wow.”
I sniffed. She rose, going to her bag, coming back with a packet of tissues. I took them, breaking it open to use. “Thanks.”
She sat back down again. “And you're in love?”
I stilled. “It doesn't matter.”
“Well, it matters to you, look at the state of you.”
“I know, I'm a mess.” I sobbed again.
“Oh sis, you're breaking my heart here, please let me help. Tell me what's so wrong?”
I moved into her arms, crying more as I felt her hug me back. “I'm so screwed up, Mandy, so fucking screwed up.”
“Shhh, it's ok.”
So I cried, letting out the pain. Finally I had enough of it. I pushed away from her, disgusted with myself. “I'm pathetic.”
“Hey, stop that, you're not.”
I looked quickly at her. “You have no idea what I am anymore, Mandy. You've said it often enough over the last months.”
She was about to argue then sighed. “Ok, I admit lately I haven't had a clue about you, but you're still my sister, so tell me. What was it? An affair gone wrong? What?”
“No, not an affair, it didn't get that far.” I still wasn't even sure if that was what I wanted.
She frowned again. “Then what? I can keep guessing, you know, non-stop pestering.”
I smiled at her, knowing she wasn't bluffing.
“It would be simpler to tell me now. I'll eventually wear you down.” She gave a wry smile.
I took a breath. “It's not a he, it's a she.” My eyes darted to her.
Her eyebrows rose. “She? As in female? As in.... as in gay?”
I slowly nodded, Waiting for the rejection, the disgust.
She jumped from the bed. “Ohhhhhhhhh myyyyy goddddddddd, it's Elizabeth.”
I did a double-take, wondering how the hell she had guessed. “Yes.”
Her mouth fell open, then she started laughing.
I scowled. “It isn't funny.”
“Oh, yes it is. Oh, my god.”
I threw the pillow at her. “Mandy, this isn't funny.”
She caught the pillow, her laughter disappearing. “I'm sorry, it, well Vicki you're the straightest person I know. I wasn't even sure if you knew what sex was.”
I blushed. “For god's sake.”
She came back. “I'm sorry, I'm not making fun.”
“Yes, you are." I shot her a look.
“You're right, but I'm sorry.”
I nodded, glad of the fact I wasn't crying anymore, also glad of the fact my sister hadn't run screaming from the house. “You're, you're not disgusted?”
Her mind was elsewhere, she looked back as I spoke. “Huh? With what?”
“That I ... I want a woman like that.”
She blinked at me. “Jesus, Vicki, no. I'm more worried about who she is.”
I looked at her. “Meaning what?”
She exhaled. “Well, come on, even you must know her track-record with women.”
I started to disagree, then realised I really couldn't deny it. “I know.”
Slowly, anger came into her grey eyes. “I'm gonna kill her.”
My eyebrows peeked. “What?”
She rose off the bed. “I'm going to fucking kill her.”
I shifted forward. “No you're not, and sit down.”
She looked at me. “Yes I am, that fucking bitch. How dare she take advantage of you like this?”
I looked to the heavens for a moment. “Amanda, sit down, she didn't.”
Her full name stopped her enough to look at me. “He didn't?”
“So you two haven't had sex?”
My mouth fell open. “Amanda!”
“Don't Amanda me, you're the one who just said you're in love with her and confused as hell. What the hell else am I supposed to think.''
I cleared my throat enough to talk again. “We haven't had sex. In fact we only kissed once and I was drunk.”
“Drunk? Kiss?” Her voice squeaked. “She... sh...she took advantage of you when you were drunk.” Her eyes narrowed. “I'm not only going to kill her, I'm going to kick the shit out of her.”
“I KISSED HER, NOW WILL YOU SIT DOWN!”
She stilled, looking at me with her mouth open. Slowly, she came and sat on the edge of the bed. “You kissed her!”
“Why is that so hard to believe?” I threw the used tissue into the bin by the bed, really getting annoyed at the fact people thought I was some sort of goddess, void of wants and needs.
“But... but you're... well, you're you.”
I glared at her enough for her to drop her gaze. I took a breath to calm myself. “Yes, I am, and I kissed her. I do do that, well not to a woman before, but I do know how to make the first move.”
I ignored her smirk.
“She didn't do anything at all. It was me. I was drunk, and to be honest I didn't remember doing it until she mentioned it, But this isn't about the damn kiss. I saw it before, Mandy, it's been driving me nuts. I'm ... I'm attracted to her. Not just her body, her.” I exhaled. “I'm the one who told her how I felt, I'm the one who did this, not her. She didn't know anything about my feelings, Mandy, this was as much a shock to her as it is to you.”
“And she doesn't feel the same way, does she?” Her voice softened.
The pain came back in full force. “No.”
I grabbed a tissue as the tears tracked down my face again. “Yes, I'm a screw up.”
“Stop saying that. You're not.”
I looked sideways at her.
“You're not.” Her voice was firm and so was the expression on her face. She put her arm around me, pulling herself closer, so now we half-sat side by side on the bed.
“How did she handle it?”
“She freaked.” I laughed, remembering. “I don't think she knew what the hell to do. She kept wanting to know if I ... well if I'd wanted another woman like that.”
“And have you?”
I shrugged. “I don't know, if I have I don't remember it.”
“She had the same frown and was probably thinking the same thing you are right now.”
She smiled. “I bet. So you don't think your gay? Bi?”
“Do I have to put a label on who I am, Mandy? I'm me,” I sat up. “Why does it make a difference that I haven't wanted a woman before?”
She chewed the inside of her mouth, thinking. “I suppose when you put it like that, you don't have to.” She sat up so she was face to face with me. “But surely you see why she needed to know so badly?”
I shook my head. “No, what difference does it make?”
She scoffed. “It means the difference between a curious straight woman wanting to try something she hasn't before and someone who seriously has issues with their sexuality.”
I blinked. “Really?”
She laughed, flopping back. “Yes, really. Jesus, Vicki, not everyone can work through things like you do.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“You have always been the same, from as long as I remember. You use logic to sort things out until you have an answer. When you finally come to one, you don't deviate from it. In fact, it's just plain annoying when you do, because you don't change your mind.” Her hand rested on my arm. “She doesn't know that about you, of course this has thrown her. To her, one minute you're straight as they come, the next, you're telling her you want to bounce her bones.”
I blanched. “I did not say that, and do you always have to use words like those?”
She laughed. “Yes, get used to it. In fact, start using it, it might loosen you up a bit.”
I gaped at her. “Doesn't what I just told you show I've loosened up enough.”
She grinned. “Well, it's a start.”
I rolled my eyes. She drew back a little, looking me up and down. “No offence, sis, but I think you could use a shower.”
I glared at her. She ignored it, moving to the door, turning. “Go shower, go get dressed, I'll cook something, because I know damn well you haven't eaten, and after that we'll talk. Until then, I'm not saying another word on the subject.”
Before I could say no, she was already on her way downstairs. Misery wanted me back in bed and my sister gone. But another part of me needed her here. I didn't like the way I was, I didn't like the weakness of it. It wasn't getting me anywhere. I threw the tissues in the bin, and waved misery good bye, for now.
I sat back, my stomach now full. My sister had kept her word, being quiet the whole time I ate. It made me nervous, wondering what the hell her mind was up to. Finally, after she cleared the table, she placed two teas down and sat opposite, waiting.
I took a breath. “Ok, so what do you want to know?”
“You ended it with David, was that because of Beth?”
I paused on blowing on my hot tea, then sipped. “Yes, but not in the way you think. I've known before that David and I weren't serious. Well, on my part at least.”
She cocked her head in question.
“He told me he is in love with me.”
“Bullshit.” Her cup hit the table slightly harder as she laid it down.
I gave her a look.
“Sorry, go on.”
“It wasn't bullshit, ok? He meant it. But I'm not with him.” I sighed. This was harder to explain than I thought. “I was with him because it was easier than having no one, do you understand that?” I felt a pang of guilt at realising I was really keeping him around because I didn't want to be alone. That made me feel like a real shit.
She gave a sad smile. “Yea, sis, I do.”
“So you told him when?”
“God, it was only three days ago. It seems so much longer than that. I told him the same day as I had coffee with you.”
I looked down to the floor where he had kneeled. “I hurt that I hurt him so badly. I went to the cabin.”
She shifted forward. “Ok, I'm either thick or I'm totally missing something here. When did you see Elizabeth again? I mean, did she contact you after she left the hospital?”
I looked up sheepishly. Her eyes widened. “Oh my god, you helped, her didn't you?” She smacked her forehead, sitting back. “She's at the cabin, that's why you went there.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Sorry for not telling me, or sorry for lying to me?”
“I didn't lie.” I held her stare for a while then sat back. “You're right, I didn't tell you the truth.”
“So you and Elizabeth have been together for over a week? Well, that explains a lot more.”
“Vicki, I was basing this all on the three days you visited her in the hospital, trying to work out how the hell you could be in love with a woman you barely knew or spoke to. I was beginning to think it was some sort of Stockholm syndrome.”
I laughed a deep belly laugh that seemed to ease the pain throughout me. “Oh my god, Mandy.” I laughed harder.
She frowned. “Glad I can amuse ya.”
I got it under control enough to speak again. “I wasn't kidnapped.”
“Weren't you? Because in a way you were. From the moment you saved her, you've been held by, her haven't you?” A smirk twitched on her lips as she sipped her tea.
“Tell me saving her hasn't changed you?”
“I can't, it has.”
“I rest my case.” She popped a biscuit into her mouth.
“But this isn't that. I don't... I mean, I'm not attracted to her because of what happened.”
“I'm not saying it is, but even you must see what's happening is joined hand and hand with doing it.”
I stared at her, trying to work out what she was trying to say. “Meaning?”
“Danger is a wonderful aphrodisiac. It gets the juices flowing.”
My mouth fell open. “Mandy!”
She giggled. “Well, it does.”
I was about to ask why she was so sure, but the twinkle in her eye made me rethink asking. I really didn't want to know what my little sister got up to sexually. I coughed, sipping my tea.
“Did you get this embarrassed telling Beth she turned you on?”
I coughed into my tea. “Oh, lord.”
She shifted forward. “Oh my god, you didn't tell her she did, did you?”
“Yes, I did,” I wiped the tea from my chin. “I just... well, I just didn't use those words.”
“What the hell did you say?”
“I told her I found her attractive.” Even I knew that sounded lame.
“Attractive! That's it?”
“Sexually attractive.” I swallowed, waiting for the laugh. Looking up, I caught her holding it in. I rolled my eyes. “Oh, let it out before you burst something.”
So she did. I sat back, waiting for her to finish.
“Sis, you are priceless.” She still chuckled.
“So I've been told.” I sighed.
“Ok, sorry, it's just... you said that... you said... Elizabeth, I'm sexually attracted to you?”
She chuckled again. “God, I feel sorry for her.”
I shot a look at her, crossing my arms. “Mind explaining what you mean exactly?”
She swallowed at the look in my eyes. “No wonder she freaked, even barring the fact of the whole ‚Äòshe thought you were straight' issue, it wasn't exactly romantic, was it? Not my idea either of seduction.”
Even as she said, it my mind was thinking again. “I wasn't trying to seduce her. I ... well, I just wanted her to know how I felt.”
She sighed. “And I bet it didn't even come into your logical conclusion how she might feel about it all.”
“I ...” I shut up, knowing she was right. “No, I didn't.”
“How far ahead did you think?”
I looked down. “I didn't.”
She nodded. “Thought so.” She sat forward again. “So, let me guess, you dropped this bombshell and then took off?”
“It wasn't like I had options, Mandy. I felt a fool saying what I did, seeing how she was. I didn't want to lose her friendship, but I have.” I fought back the tears, telling myself it wasn't helping. “I couldn't stay there seeing that look in her eyes. I ... I couldn't stay there.”
She patted my hand, giving a knowing smile. “I know. But do you think that was fair to her? Or have you been so screwed up she hasn't been in your thoughts?”
I pulled my hand away. “Of course she's in my damn thoughts, she's never left them, but I'm not a total idiot. She made it clear she's not ready for a relationship.”
She didn't say anything, just waited until I'd calmed down. “Because of the agent, right?”
I nodded. “Yea.”
“But if she wasn't involved with her, and was ready, would you be?”
“I don't know.” I sat back. “I honestly don't know. I've... I've never wanted a woman like I want her. Yet I don't know how I want her.”
She frowned. ‚Äò' Huh?''
“There's too many things to think of. What about Mom and Dad? What about my workplace? God, what if David finds out?” I started to hyperventilate as each thought came out of my mouth. Mandy was up immediately, kneeling next to me.
“Hey, hey, ok, you just got to breathe, ok?”
I nodded, calming each inhale and exhale.
“Ok, I know there's other factors here. Well, Mom and Dad are easy, I'm sure they'll be as surprised as I was, but you know, them Vicki, can you honestly say they are going to disown you because you're in love with a woman? Come on now, that's not them and you know it.”
I nodded, still just breathing in and out. Each explanation was calming the panic.
“And as for work, if some of them have a problem, that's their problem, not yours. You have true friends, sis, and those are going to be happy for you. David is harder, I know his male ego will take a hit.”
I gave her a glare as I drew in a breath.
“And if he is an asshole, then Vicki, again, that's his problem.”
I calmed enough to speak. “And you?”
Her eyebrows rose. “Me?”
I nodded. “What do you think of me now?”
She threw her arms around me. “Oh sis, I haven't changed my opinion of you, you'll always be my big sis and I love you no matter how gay you are.”
I laughed, crying inbetween gripping her closer. She moved away, wiping her own face, returning to her chair, but she still held my hand across the table.
“I'm just so scared, Mandy.”
She squeezed my hand, giving me a reassuring smile. “Scared of what?”
I returned the grip. “This feeling, this knowing I want her. All of it.”
“Do you want her?”
I looked over, surprised. “Haven't I made that clear?”
She scratched her head. “Well, no, not really. All you've told me is you were sexually attracted to her, that's not the same thing.”
I frowned. “Isn't it?”
She was about to laugh when she saw I was serious. “You're kidding me?”
“If you laugh...” I started to draw my hand away, but she held it firm.
“I'm not, but you don't know?” She took a breath. “When you saw David, did you want to tear his clothes off? And please don't go all embarrassed on me, this isn't the time.”
My blush refused to listen but she ignored it.
“Vicki, have you ever wanted someone so badly that you ached for them?”
I swallowed. “I ... no.”
“But you have found someone sexually attractive before Beth?”
I swallowed, staying silent.
“Ok, I'll make it simple, did David turn you on?”
I inwardly cringed at her choice of words again, but it got me thinking. “I got aroused by the things he did.”
“That's not what I'm talking about.... Ok this isn't working, let's try another way.”
I blanched, wondering where she was going now.
“You said Elizabeth hasn't touched you, or kissed you. Right?”
“So how do you know you're sexually attracted to her?”
“Mandy, you're my sister, do you really think we should be talking about my... well, my.... my responses?”
This time, she bit her lip so hard I saw her wince.
“Vicki, if you keep saying things like that, I'm going to laugh at you and I don't want to right now because I know that's gonna piss you off. And because I'm your sister it should be easier. It's not my fault we haven't had talks like this in the past. In fact, most sisters do, believe it or not. But I know the age difference kinda hampered that part of our lives, you were out on dates and I was in diapers.” She grinned.
I snorted. “I see what you mean.”
“So now we start, and there's nothing for you to be embarrassed about.”
I gave her a not-so-sure look. “You're starting to sound like the older sister again, you know.”
“Well, if it fits.” She grinned again before her voice turned serious. “Look, in this matter, I am in a way the older of us. Oh, I don't mean in age, but let's just say in sexual exploits.”
I paled, holding up my hands, needing if necessary to put my fingers in my ears and hum. “I don't want to know, ok? I really don't.”
She laughed, ending in a chuckle. “Fair enough, but we are going to have to use words that make you blush.”
I swallowed a mouthful of tea. “Ok.”
“What's so different about Elizabeth?”
“I....” I frowned, I couldn't put into words what was different about her. “She just is...” I sighed, looking up for help.
“Ok, try it another way. What makes you think your sexually attracted to her?”
I blushed, remembering my body's response to looking and touching her. I felt the blush change as my body warmed.
“Oooooooooooh kayyyyyyyyyyyy. I guess that answers that.”
I looked up, seeing my sister fan her face. “What?”
“Well, whatever it was you were thinking just now lit you up like a Christmas tree.”
I looked down, mortified, then looked over giving a secret smile.
She laughed. Well, I guess that answers that question of are you sure of what you're feeling.” She shook her head, sitting back. “She didn't even see that, did she?”
I sighed. “No, I kinda ran away.”
“Why am I not surprised?” She leant forward again. “Look, I don't doubt that your body is turned on by her.”
“But?” I knew there was one.
She smiled. ‚Äò”But I don't know if that extends to having sex with her.”
I took a long breath, feeling my panic rise up again.
“Do you want to?”
“Yes.” The answer even surprised me. My eyes jumped up to the surprised look mirrored.
“Wow, I didn't expect you to say that.”
“Neither did I.”
We both laughed.
“So, you want her.”
I closed my eyes to the panic and gave over to the warmer part of me that spread when I thought of her. I opened my eyes, looking straight into my sister's. “Yes I do.”
Then reality reared its head. “But I can't.”
“She's not interested.”
“Did she say that?”
My mouth clamped shut on the yes. “Well no, no she didn't, but she made it clear she wasn't ready for a relationship.”
“So why not just take the sex? She was attracted to you, right?”
I swallowed. “You think I could sleep with her, knowing there's no future? Jesus, Mandy.”
“Oh shut up, you're not a saint, Vicki. And you didn't answer my question, is she attracted to you sexually?”
“She said she was.”
“You believe her?”
“Yes.” I smiled again, remembering all those looks that I caught her giving me. “Yes, I believe her.”
“So work with that.”
“With what? Mandy, I'm not going to sleep with her, knowing full well that all I'm ever going to be is a fuck.”
My sister blinked in shock so fast it was almost comical.
“Well, you're the one who said I should lighten up on words. So deal with it.” I was beginning to like this part of me more and more. I sipped my tea.
She rubbed her head. “Yea, I did, didn't I? Well, I can see your point about, um, sleeping with her and knowing it means nothing more.”
“But that's not what I meant exactly.”
I exhaled. ‚Äò' Then what did you mean? Because I'm seriously getting confused here.''
“How long was it before you slept with David?” Her hand came up silencing my outrage. ‚Äò' You don't have to answer, I know, it was six months after you met.''
I wondered how the hell she knew that.
“Well.” She raised an eyebrow.
“So why are you expecting sex to be an issue so soon with Elizabeth?”
“I wasn't, you were.”
“Well maybe, but what I'm talking about here is dating... seeing each other, getting to know each more.”
“Haven't you heard one word I've said? She isn't interested in another relationship.”
“Ok, ok, calm down, and yes, I have been listening, but I've also heard you tell me she's attracted to you. That must count for something.”
I thought, and as I thought I remembered something else. “She told me she was confused.”
Her interest peeked. “About?”
“Well, I thought it was about me and what I said.” I thought harder, remembering the conversation. “But, well, now I don't think she meant it that way.”
“What way do you think she meant? Did you ask her?”
I looked away. “No, I wish I had now.” I looked at her. “I think she was talking about the way she felt about me.” I suddenly really did wish I'd asked.
“Hmmm.” She rose, refilling her cup, returning to sit. “Well, that's a question you need answered, because if that's how she feels, I mean the confusion about her feelings, you have a chance.”
I scoffed. “What chance, She's still in love with Kerry.”
She looked over to me sharply. “She's what?”
“She's still in love with her agent.”
“Sis, you're giving me the biggest headache.” She rubbed her temple. “Is there anything else you've failed to mention?”
I fingered the handle on the cup. “No, that's it.”
“Indulge me here. So let me get this right; you were straight, but now you're not, you're falling in love with an actress who you saved from a car wreck, who is in love with her agent. But Elizabeth has some sort of feeling for you that confuses her. At the same time, you've dumped David, knowing he isn't the one for you. Is that about it?”
She made it sound so simple. “Um, yes, that's it.”
“And Dad calls you the quiet one of the family.” She shook her head in wonder.
I laughed. “Is he in for a surprise.”
She grinned at me. “I'm glad you're laughing again.”
“It stops me breaking down and crying.”
“Awwww, sis.” She took my hand again.
“So what do you want to do? And staying in bed and being miserable isn't an open option.”
“I don't know.”
Her hand slamming the wood of the table made me jump.
“Well, I do. You need to talk to Elizabeth. Come on.” She grabbed my car keys from the hook.
“What?” I got up, backing away from her. “No way.”
“Yes way. Sitting here going over and over everything isn't getting you anywhere.” She moved towards me. I ducked around the table.
“No, Jesus no.”
She moved left, I moved right, she stopped. “This is absurd. Will you look at us, for Christ sake.” She nailed me with a totally serious stare. “Are you going to run away from her forever? Where is that getting you?”
“Mandy, I know you're trying to help, but that isn't the answer.”
“So what is?” She kicked the chair in frustration. “Tell me what is.”
I swallowed. “I have to forget her, I ... I have to get on with my life. You're right, lying in bed and wallowing isn't helping, but I needed it. Don't you understand? “I wiped my eyes. “I... I can't do this, I can't have her. I need to just get over it.” It even hurt to say the words.
“Just like that, your world is turned upside down and now you turn it right side up again.”
“No, damn it, not just like that. Do you think I'm ever gonna be the same again after all this? But what's the point of trying to get something, and falling deeper in love with her and getting nowhere at the end? I hurt so much right now, I don't know how I could handle it if I'm with her more and then losing her. Can't you understand, sis? Please try to understand.”
She let out a long drawn out sigh. Turning slowly and calmly, she walked back and put my car keys back on hook. Returning, she came around the table to me. “Yea ,sis I can understand it, but I don't have to think it's fair.”
I half sobbed. “I don't think it's very fair either.”
“It fucking sucks. “With those words she pulled me into a hug again, which I returned. Her face was buried in my neck, I felt her head turn till her mouth was near my ear.
“If it were me sis, I couldn't be like you. I'd have to take the chance, even if it did break my heart in the end. Maybe you're right, it's better this way.”
Her words hit me like a lightning bolt. Hearing Beth virtually say the same words the night we talked, I just stared at my sister as she drew away, walking now towards the living room.
”I need something stronger than tea right now.”
I mutely nodded. All I could hear was Beth's words. Was she right? Should I fight for something I wanted, even if it meant at the end I'd be hurt worse than before.
“Hey sis, your answer phone's flashing. Want me to get it?”
When I didn't answer, she must have clicked it on.
“Vicki? Are you home?”
I looked up, recognising Beth's voice. I walked further into the living room.
“Look, can you just ring me and tell me you got home. Ok, bye.”
Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. The next message clicked on.
“It's Beth again. Look I know you probably don't want to talk to me right now and, well, I can't say I blame you. But can you at least just call me to let me know you're home. Bye.”
Mandy looked over to me, sipping her drink. Her eyes turned back as another message clicked on.
Beeeeeeeeeeeppppppppppppp. This time Beth's voice wasn't as calm as before.
“Victoria, will you just call and hang up or something. Just ring the damn phone here once. I'm going nuts here, thinking you're lying dead under that fucking bike. Call me.”
My sister's eyebrows rose, giving me a look. I dropped my gaze guiltily. We both looked over when the answer phone clicked again.
“Vicki, please. Just let me know you're ok, please. I need to talk to you, I can't get out of here....”
The message fell silent for a moment. I thought she left, then I heard a sniffle. I swallowed. Mandy gave me a sad look.
“I ... really need to talk to you. What you said just, well, I didn't handle it well. I ...” She must have drawn the phone away from her mouth, but we both heard her distant, “Fuck.” Then her voice came back full force. “... Just call me, damn it!”
I felt guilty, I should have phoned her to let her know I was safe. Hearing her fear and her anger reminded me she had feelings too. I didn't need to look at my sister to know she was giving me a disapproving look.
Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep sounded again.
I stepped closer, she sounded terrible.
“Can you at least tell me you're ok... I know I probably don't deserve it and I know I hurt you. I wish I hadn't, I never wanted to. I'm not leaving here till I know, ok? Are you there?”
The line went silent but I could hear her breathing, knowing she hadn't hung up. Then without another word from her, I heard the click that she had gone.
“Hi, I don't know if you're home and listening to this. So I'll talk as if you are. I'm sorry, ok? I'm sorry. I don't know if you want to speak to me again. I won't bother you. But I really need to know that nothing has happened to you. So, can you at least get your sister to call here and tell me you're ok...”
Her voice paused.
“... Vicki, I need to talk to you, I really do. I don't know what's going on right now. You said you were confused. Well, join the club. I...”
Her voice stopped. She took a long inhale.
“... Look, if I don't hear from you by six tonight, I'm calling a damn cab to come and find out for myself. This isn't fair, Victoria.”
The call ended.
The automated voice took over. “End of messages.”
I walked over, checking the time and date on the last message, it was this morning.
“Vicki, you've got to call her, she sounds awful. You should have called her before.”
I flashed her a glare. “Don't you think I know that? I wasn't exactly capable of doing anything when I got back.”
She dropped her gaze. “Sorry.”
I took a breath, I felt like a bitch. “It's ok, sorry I snapped.”
“Do you want me to call her?”
Oh, I was so tempted to let her, it would make it so easy to just leave it at that with Beth. “No, I'll do it.”
Nodding, my sister rose. Placing the drink down, she came over, giving me a kiss on the cheek. “Ok, I'll leave you to it. Do you want me to come by later?”
“Can I call you and let you know? I don't know if I can go another round with you, sis.”
She smiled, wagging a finger at me. “I understand. But if I don't hear from you by tomorrow, I'm coming back and pulling you from the bed again.”
I grinned, giving her a hug. She moved away, her eyes going to the phone then back to me. “I can stay if you like?”
I shook my head. “No, I need to handle this.”
“You really are just gonna walk away from her, aren't you?”
I inhaled. “Yes.” It was for the best
She nodded, pulling her handbag strap up onto her shoulder. “Maybe you need to listen to those messages again before you really do it, because that isn't a woman who is just your friend, Vicki. She feels much more than that, whether she knows it or not.”
I looked to the message machine, then to my sister. “I heard it too.” I swallowed.
“Then I guess it's up to you whether you fight for it or not, isn't it?” She smiled again then turned and left.
I sat down. Could I fight? Did I want to? Was I that sure of my feelings for her? But I heard her, she felt something for me, I couldn't mistake that in her voice. Even Mandy had heard it. Was that enough? Knowing she had some sort of feeling for me? Was that enough to risk getting my heart broke in two?
The phone ringing started my palms sweating. I turned my gaze to the answer phone, hearing it pick up on the third ring.
“Hi, this is Vicki, I'm not able to take your call right now, just leave your message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks.”
I heard a long sigh.
“Hi, it's Beth again. I've run out of things to say. I mean, I've left so many on this damn machine. I...” Her voice faltered.
I moved quickly, lifting the receiver, clicking the machine off. “Beth. I'm here.”
“Oh, thank god.” Her voice trailed off before returning full of anger. “Why the fucking hell didn't you ring me? You knew I was fucking worried about you. Damn it.”
I swallowed. “I ... I only listened to your messages about five minutes ago.”
“Where have you been? Are you ok?”
I didn't know what to say, suddenly everything I wanted to say left me.
“Vicki, you still there?”
“Yes, I'm here.”
“Where were you?”
“Here.” I sat on the arm of the chair. “I... I just went to bed.”
“For two days?” Her voice sounded shocked.
“Yes.” I shifted uncomfortably, I hated giving away what this was really doing to me. Her voice fell silent, all I could hear was her breathing again.
“I'm... I'm sorry I hurt you.”
“I didn't mean to, Vicki, you have to believe that.”
“I'm glad you're home. I mean, I was starting to think you were lying somewhere in a ditch.”
“I'm sorry.” This was awkward, I wanted to tell her so much, but that would risk making a fool of myself again, and right now I couldn't handle that. “You're not the one who has to be sorry, I'm the one who handled everything wrong.”
She exhaled. “I should have stopped you leaving.”
“I asked you not to, remember?”
“Yea, but I still should have stopped you getting on the bike. It's just, you floored me, I mean, really floored me. I had no idea you felt that way, Vicki.”
She blew out a jet of air. “Will you stop saying ‚ÄòI know'.”
“Jesus, and that too.”
I bit back the sorry that was coming out. “I don't know what to say to you, Beth. I should have called you and let you know I was ok, but...” I trailed off.
Her voice was low. “You're not ok, are you?”
I caught the sob, but not before it broke into my answer of, “no, not really.”
“Shit, look, I'm sorry, I'll go, I just needed to know you were.....” I knew she was about to say ok. “... were safe. I'm sorry I screwed up your life so much, Vicki. I wish I hadn't. Bye, Vicki.”
“Wait... don't hang up, please.
The line was silent.
“Beth, please.” I wiped the tears away, shifting forward. “I... don't want you to.”
The line was still silent but I could hear her hitched breathing.
“I shouldn't have left like that. I ran away, just like I've done from everything lately.”
“You had reason to, I hurt you.” Her voice was low.
“No you didn't. I dropped a bombshell on you and all you did was be honest with me.”
“Are you saying that honesty didn't hurt?”
I sharply inhaled.
“Yea, I thought as much. Look, go back to your life, ok? As I said, I just needed to know you were home safe.”
I was losing her, I could hear it in her voice, the walls were coming back up. Now I knew, I wanted to fight. I gripped the phone harder. “I'm falling in love with you, Beth.”
One sharp inhale was the only thing that told me she heard, the rest was total silence. I waited. When still there was no answer, I let go of all those fears and reasons to walk away.
“I don't know how, I don't even know when and the whole time it was happening I fought like a son of bitch to reason I was wrong. I can't help that I don't fit into labels and boxes of being bi or gay. I just know what I feel and I know I'm not making this up, or going through a mid-life crisis. As much as this scares the shit out of me, I know it's right.”
“I know that must be hard to understand... I should... I can hardly understand it myself right now. It's not just about being attracted to you. or to your body.”
I swallowed, remembering my sister's words.
I felt myself blush, I had twenty-five years of being me not talking like this to fight through. I took a long breath.
“I want you.”
Another sharp inhale sounded in my ear, followed by a swallow.
I continued. “I couldn't argue with my body's reaction to you, from looking at you and seeing how beautiful you are. When I touched you I felt so much Beth, so much.”
Now the tears rolling down my cheeks were frustration at not being able to say the words I needed to say.
“How, how did you feel?” Her voice cracked a little.
I exhaled a breath of relief that she hadn't hung up. “I wanted you. Want you.”
“How can you be so sure of this?” I heard the disbelief in her voice mixing with the guardedness.
“How can I not be? My body's been telling me for a lot longer than my brain has.”
“I... don't know what to say to any of this.”
“I'm not expecting an answer from you, Beth.” I sighed.
“No, I'm not. All I want to know is....” It was now or never. “Do you feel anything for me at all?”
Her breathing stopped. I waited, feeling like I was on an the edge of a cliff, ready to be reeled back in or pushed off. The more the phone cracked silence, the more I started towards the edge.
“I ... “she swallowed. “This isn't fair, Vicki, I give you another wrong answer and you hang up on me. This is too much pressure. I can't do this with you.”
I backtracked, knowing she was right. “Ok, ok, I'm sorry, I... didn't want to pressure you, but I'm trying to make up my mind whether it's worth fighting. I'm not stupid, ok? I know this isn't the right time for you. I know Kerry is still an issue. All I want to know is do I have a chance, Beth? Maybe that's not fair to you... I don't know....'' I exhaled. ‚Äò' I know you're confused about all of this, with me, with how I feel. I know that. All I'm asking is for an honest answer, even if it is one that is gonna hurt me. Don't you understand? I don't want to walk away from this, from you, and then spend the rest of my life wondering if I made a mistake, walk away without even knowing if it's real or not.”
The phone went deadly silent.
“Is it too much to ask and get an answer? I won't hang up, ok? I won't run from you again. Now you have to make up your mind whether you'll run or not.”
Her voice snapped back. “I'm not running.”
“Then answer me. Do you feel the same about me?”
“I ... I don't know.”
Well, it wasn't what I wanted. But it was enough for me to step away from the cliff's edge.
“Thank you for being honest.”
“But it hurt to hear it, right?”
“Not as much as you hanging up would have. I'm sorry I left the cabin like I did.”
She grunted an ok. “Vicki, how can you be so damn calm about all of this?”
”God, Beth, I'm anything but calm right now. But I guess it's just the way I am. I'm hanging on by my fingernails here, believe me.” I knew my voice was shaking.
The line was silent again.
“Can I come back to the cabin?”
Her breathing hitched again.
“I understand if you say no. But I'd rather talk about this sitting next to you than staring at a phone. I'm kinda laying my life out here.”
She swallowed. “And if I say no?”
I hid the hurt. “Then we talk on the phone. It wasn't an ultimatum.”
She sighed. “What are you expecting from me, Vicki?”
“What you can give. I told you I was your friend. I thought I'd screwed that up, that hurt most of all that I'd lost that. I don't want to lose the chance of getting the friendship back. If that's all you can give Beth, I'll take it.”
“You really mean that, don't you? Even after everything you've told me about how you feel, you really would just put that away?”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. “I'd try, yes.”
She was silent.
“Come back to the cabin.”
I blinked, already standing up. “You're sure?”
“Hell, no! But if you're willing to risk getting hurt and still want me as a friend, then who am I to try and talk you out of it?” She scoffed. “Who am I kidding? I need to see you. Ok? It's not just you, Vicki, I feel something. I don't know what, but I feel it. I've been going nuts thinking you were lying dead somewhere. Look, just come to the cabin and don't ride that damn bike, bring the UV.”
“You mean now?”
“Yes, now. Get up here.”
I was grinning, grinning so wildly that I felt that childish giggle wanting to come out again.
“I'm not promising anything Vicki, ok? But I'll talk and maybe somehow we can make sense of this.”
“Ok, no promises.”
My breath hitched, her voice was purely hers again, no walls. “Yes?”
“I do know that I want you.”
I sat down, I didn't send the signal for my body to sit, it was just I reallyyyyyyy needed to. I had never heard her voice take on that tone before. It was raw, needful. Seductive. I had no clue until now what a voice could do to me. I swallowed.
“You still there?”
“Yes.” My voice squeaked.
As she spoke, I knew she was grinning. “Now you know how I felt when you said it.”
I blinked. I did that to her? I made her feel like that? I stared in wonder at the receiver.
“We really need to talk. Drive safe.”
I nodded, then realised she couldn't see me. “I will, bye for now.”
“Bye for now.”
The phone clicked.
I made her feel like I did. The grin expanded back onto my face. I was up, grabbing the keys, my phone and a coat, heading for the door within a minute.
As soon as I was on the highway and safe to call, I dialled my sister's number, not making the same mistake twice of not letting her know.
“Hi, it's me. I'm on the way back to the cabin.”
“You're what? Hold on a sec.”
I heard the noise in the background fade.
“Ok, say that again?”
“I'm going to the cabin, to see Beth.”
“Ok, I left you alone for half an hour. What happened this time?” I heard her chuckle.
“She called, I spoke to her. She, well, she feels something, Mandy.” I was grinning like an idiot again.
“So you decided to fight for her?” I knew she was grinning.
“Yes. I don't know what the hell it means, but yes, I am.”
“Good, it's about time. So you're going to the cabin for what?”
She scoffed. “Yea, right.”
I didn't blush, which surprised me cos I knew exactly what she meant. “Mandy, I'm not going to just fall into bed with her, ok? We're just going to talk, we're going to try and sort this out. She has no idea how she feels, ok? This isn't about sex.”
“Ok, you keep telling yourself that sis, but right now I know you're more wired then you ever were. And to be frank, a roll in the hay ain't gonna hurt you.”
That one I blushed on.
“Will you get your mind out of the gutter. I'm serious here, I'd rather have her as a friend than do something she really can't offer more on.”
Her voice fell serious. “Ok, I understand that, I... it's just I want you happy and she makes you that way. I can see the difference already in you. I just don't want to see you hurt like you were this morning.”
I changed gear, moving the UV into the centre lane. “Exactly. Which is way we're going to go slow.”
“Well, at least tell me she told you you rock her world or something.”
I laughed. ‚Äò' Um, well, she said .... She wants me.''
“No fucking way.”
I pulled the phone away from my ear, wincing. Then put it back. “I know you didn't mean that the way it sounded. I'd like to think I'm attractive enough to turn her on.”
I heard her mouth fall open. I giggled. ‚Äò”I'm beginning to like this payback thing.”
“Well, it's about time, and you know damn well I didn't mean it that way. Us Harrises have perfect sexual attraction DNA.” She snorted.
I laughed. “Ok, look, I'll call when I can. I promise I won't go off and hide somewhere if this doesn't work.”
“Jesus, always the optimist. Let me know either way. Of course, that's if you're not busy.” She snorted again.
“Goodbye little sister, I'm hanging up nowwwwwwwww.”
I heard her laugh as I clicked the phone off.
The journey was taking too long. Even the miles seemed to now be twice as long, but finally I was driving in the area that told me I was close. With each rotation of the wheels, my heart sped up. By the time I turned the UV into the last of the tracks to the cabin, my stomach was in knots and my mind was already giving me a dozen reasons to turn around and head home. But I couldn't. Not one of the excuses matched against what the rest of me felt. I was wired, alive, so alive it scared me. I was beyond nervous. I had no clue what I was going to say or do when I got there. But it still seemed right. I wanted her, which now was obvious. The idea of a relationship scared the shit out of me. I wasn't even sure what that meant. Was it the same as with a man? That thought I chuckled at. Of course it was. Women dated, women went for meals.
I recognised the last turn approaching, knowing that just over the rise I would see the cabin. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, going up and down, screaming as I rode the loop, then sparking inside with the anticipation of what was coming next. I realised my foot subconsciously had been coming off the gas, slowing the UV now into a crawl. I took a long breath and sped her up again. Finally I saw the gatepost. Looking right, I saw the lights of the cabin flicker in and out as I passed the trees.
By the time I was parking, my adrenaline level was making my head buzz. I got out, not bothering with the keys, taking the steps to the door two at a time even though my legs felt like jelly. As my hand reached to open the door, it swung open. I looked up, grinning, about to speak.... Everything froze.
“Why hello, I presume you are Miss Harris?”
My insides flipped so fast I thought I was going to throw up. I made my body stand tall, gritting my teeth. “Hello, Ms Matthews.”
Her face brightened. “Well, I'm honoured you recognise me. After all, you did only hear my voice.”
I twitched a smile in answer to hers. My eyes darted to the figure over her shoulder. Beth stood, her eyes red from crying, her face ashen. She finally moved, giving me an unsure smile.
“Hi, Vicki.” Her eyes searched mine, pleading with me, trying to tell me something I couldn't understand.
I was aware of Kerry's eyes on me, so I just smiled “Hello, Elizabeth.”
Beth's eyes dropped.
“Well, let's not all stand outside. I hope you don't mind, Miss Harris, I finally tracked her down and had to just come and visit.”
She moved backwards, stopping when she was next to Beth, sliding her arm around Beth's waist, pulling her closer.
I swallowed, finally breaking my gaze from Beth's eyes. “Why should I mind?” I walked into the cabin, taking off my coat and placing it on the hook, taking the time to compose myself. How I remained so calm I don't know. I closed the door.
“Well, it is your family's cabin.” Her voice was smug.
When I turned around, my face didn't show the pain I felt at getting this unexpected gut punch. “Elizabeth is my guest, she can have anyone she likes to visit.”
I saw Beth stiffen as I used her full name for the second time. She moved away from Kerry. “I didn't invite her.”
Kerry threw her a sharp look before returning her smiling face to me. “Well no, that's true she didn't.”
For the first time ever in my life, I felt like an intruder at the cabin. I wanted to turn around and go running for the woods, anywhere but here.
“I made some coffee, do you want some, Vicki?” Beth's voice pulled me back.
I looked over to her, seeing that she knew what I was thinking. I stood there. Kerry was looking back and forth between us. She stepped into my view. I looked, almost stepping back as I saw the venom aimed at me in brown eyes. But still her face held the sickly smile as she spoke over her shoulder to Beth. “I'd like a cup, Elizabeth.”
I blinked, I wasn't that naive to not recognise jealousy when it was thrown at me. I didn't know what to do. Did I stay? What was this? Did I come all this way only for Beth to tell me she was back with Kerry again? No, no, that didn't make sense. Beth wasn't cruel. I realised Kerry was talking to me.
“Are you staying for coffee?” She smiled.
Now that pissed me off. This was my fucking cabin. I avoided looking anywhere in Beth's direction as I moved past Kerry. “Actually I'm staying for a while.”
“Oh. You are?”
I poured myself a coffee, looking across to her as I took a sip, concentrating on not throwing it up. I watching as Kerry turned her eyes to Beth, who was back sitting on the sofa, her head down.
“Well, isn't that interesting?” She flashed me a questioning look before going to sit.
I stood in the kitchen, getting myself under control. I wasn't used to scenes like this, I didn't know what to do. I knew one thing, my opinion of Kerry hadn't been wrong. Although I had seen pictures of her on the website, none of them had done her justice. She was a very beautiful woman. Her whole persona oozed confidence. She wasn't cheaply dressed either, her nails were perfect, actually everything about her looked perfect. Except for her eyes, they were cold, there wasn't one ounce of warmth in them right now. How could Beth be interested in me when she was in love with someone like this?
My eyes turned slowly to Beth. She still hadn't looked at me again. She was sat almost stone-like on the couch, her eyes fixed firmly on the fire now. My eyes dropped, noticing her hand on her lap, it was opening and closing, her nails raking her jeans. I watched her as she finally turned her head and looked at Kerry, the pain in her eyes made me swallow. Kerry moved to move forward, but Beth rose, coming towards me in the kitchen. I took a long breath.
“She turned up about an hour ago.” She didn't meet my eyes, just walked past to the cooler and pulled out a beer. Twisting the top, she threw it into the sink with a clatter. Without another word or look she went back to the couch, drinking from the bottle.
”I... I didn't see a car.” I looked over to Kerry who was giving Beth a disapproving look again.
Kerry turned her gaze to me, crossing her legs. “No, I took a cab here.”
I blinked. “That must have been expensive.”
She shrugged, her eyes going to Beth, reaching across to pull Beth's hair from her face. “Oh she's worth the expense.”
Beth flinched. My eyes narrowed, not at the fact she was touching her, which I didn't like at all. But on the comment.
Kerry sat back, turning her attention to me again. “I hope it isn't a problem that I stay the night? I mean, it's not like I can get a ride back at this hour.”
I looked at Beth, she didn't even react. She just kept slowly sipping her beer. I waited, but still Beth didn't answer.
“I don't have a problem with it, Ms Matthews, if Beth doesn't? There are enough rooms here.”
Her attention returned to Beth's. “Do you have a problem with me staying over, Hun?”
My grip on the mug nearly shattered it. Hun? What the hell had I missed before I got here?
“No, I don't mind, Kerry.”
My stomach dipped. The grin that appeared on the agent's face made me want to go and throw up. It was like the cat that had gotten the cream. What made it worse was it was fully directed at me.
Then Beth's voice continued. “I'm sure you'll have no problem sleeping in one of the guest's rooms.”
I had to resist the urge to laugh out loud as the grin disappeared so suddenly on Kerry's face and her head whipped around to look at Beth.
Then she got herself under control again. “Well, that's settled.” Her false smile was back.
I realised I couldn't stay standing in the kitchen all night, so I made myself walk into the living room, choosing the chair on the far side of the fire, leaving both of them in view in front of me. I sat.
“So you actually lied to me on the phone, Ms Harris?”
Before I could answer, Beth interrupted. “I asked her to.”
“Oh, even to me?”
Beth sat back, throwing Kerry a look. “Especially to you.”
I watched both of them. Briefly I saw a flash of pain cross the agent's face, and then it was gone, replaced by a laugh. Her eyes locked onto me. I inwardly cringed.
“This must make you feel very uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable?” I tried to keep my face void of the turmoil I was feeling.
“Yes, I mean walking in on us like this? Wondering what on earth is going on?”
My eyes snapped to Beth, her voice was a warning one.
“Oh hush, I'm not going to embarrass you in front of your friend here.”
Inside, something was happening, the pain and confusion was slowly being replaced with a deep burning. I hadn't felt it before. Not this intense, I tried to push it away.
Beth took a sip of beer. “Kerry, she already knows we had an affair so stop trying to find out if she does.”
Kerry's eyes sparked. “Well, it seems now I'm at a disadvantage. You know more about me Ms Harris than I do about you.”
There was the burning again. This time I knew what it was, it was anger, boiling rage-filled anger. How dare this woman come into my cabin and act like she knows nothing? How dare she sit there, after ripping Beth's life to shreds, and act like it was the most normal thing in the world to carry on as if nothing had happened? Well, two can play at that game. Now I had a focus point, something outside of the things I didn't understand or know.
My eyes came up as I shifted in my seat. “No, not really.”
“Excuse me?” Kerry's eyes didn't leave mine, but this time I didn't shift my gaze.
“I said no, not really, considering you tracked down my cabin, and know that it belongs to my uncle. That and the fact you knew to contact me after Beth was in hospital tells me you know more about me than you will admit.”
Beth's head snapped up, looking at me briefly in shock, then turning to Kerry. “Jesus Christ, Kerry, you had her followed?”
She sat forward. “Well, how else was I supposed to find you? She was the only connection I had.” The anger in her voice quickly faded. “I was worried about you, I didn't know where the hell you were, if you were badly hurt or what? Give me a break, here.” She sat back.
I didn't buy that for one minute, but when I looked at Beth's expression, it saddened me to see she did.
“I... well, I'm sorry. I should have let you know.” Beth looked guiltily at the floor.
Kerry crossed her arms. “Yes, you should have.” Then she shot me a look that Medusa would have been proud of.
“It was very kind of you to help her, Ms Harris, and then let her recuperate at a place that was safe.”
Beth finally looked up at me, her eyes softening. “It's the sort of thing she does.” She gave me a smile.
I returned it. “I was at the right place at the right time.”
Her mouth creased in a deeper smile. I knew it was because she was remembering the last time I said that.
“Do you normally dive off bridges to save helpless women?” Kerry's voice was sharp.
My eyes still hadn't left Beth's. “Yes I do, I have three booked next week, in fact.”
Beth's eyes widened before lowering her gaze. I turned my eyes to Kerry's, knowing full well she was doing her best impression of Medusa again, trying to turn me to stone. I wasn't wrong.
“You have a very strange sense of humour, Ms Harris.”
I sipped my coffee, looking briefly to Beth, seeing her bite her lip, trying not to laugh. “I've been told it's refreshing.”
Beth's eyes came up to me again, I smiled. I didn't know where this bravado was coming from. I wasn't even sure it was me talking. But the look in Beth's eyes right now told me I was doing something right. There was a tiny spark of life in them again.
“Perhaps, Ms Harris, it is refreshing to some.”
Her tone made me break my gaze and look at her. She was looking backwards and forwards at both of us. I could see she was trying to work something out. Her mouth twitched briefly.
“Well, you won't have to be her knight in shining armour for much longer. I was just asking her to come back with me tomorrow.”
The anger vanished inside, pushed back by the overwhelming sense of doom. I looked over to Beth. “You... you were?”
Kerry continued. “Yes, I think she needs time away from Hollywood, I was thinking she could come back with me to Greece for a while. Don't you think that's a good idea, Ms Harris? Elizabeth agreed with me.”
Beth's eyes now didn't come anywhere near looking at me.
“I...” I wanted to scream NOOOOOOOOOO. I still looked at Beth for any sign that she didn't want to. But still she avoided my gaze. “I... don't know.” I swallowed.
“Well, just before you arrived, we were... “Her voice trailed off. My eyes jumped around to her. She held a smirk on her face. “Well, let's just say if you were five minutes earlier, you may have been a little shocked.” Her smirk increased.
“Kerry, please.” Beth's voice was breaking.
“Oh, don't be silly.” She rose, coming to sit next to Beth, taking her hand. “I know you asked me not to say anything, but really, Ms Harris can obviously be trusted knowing about us.”
My heart stopped. Us? Us? Us? My eyes darted from Kerry's face to Beth's. trying to read an answer, trying to see if this was true?
“Beth?” I didn't recognise my own voice as I spoke. When she finally looked up, I saw it was true and inside me something snapped.
I rose, not giving Kerry the smug satisfaction of seeing me just crumple into a million pieces. It took every bit of strength I had left to keep my voice from showing how much this hurt.
“Well, I'm sure you two have plans to make... if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go to bed.”
If I thought I could trust myself to drive right now, I would have left the cabin and never looked back again. I looked over to Kerry, wishing I could just slap the smug look she held off her face.
“The guestroom is at the back of the house. Beth knows where the blankets are kept.”
She smiled. “Thank you, and I'm sure Beth will take care of me.”
Beth shot her a look.
I forced a smile, even though I felt like I'd throw up doing it. I went cold inside, so cold. I didn't really know where my next words came from, or the venom that laced it. “Oh, I'm sure she will.”
This time, Beth's eyes shot to mine. She blanched.
I walked, my legs moved. They moved without thought. I moved into the bedroom resisting the urge to slam the door. I sat. I stared. It was simple, I'd lost.
I felt strange, I'd sat on the bed for over an hour, I'd heard the raised voices coming from the living room. But I didn't hear what was said. I didn't want to. Somehow I was sitting next to myself, looking at a husk. It's the only way to explain it. Nothing mattered. It was like the shock I'd felt after saving her, feeling apart from the rest of me. I didn't feel the pain I knew was there. In a way, it was bizarre, Totally and utterly bizarre. I felt nothing. I didn't know who I was. It didn't make sense. All I knew was Beth wanted Kerry. But that didn't seem to matter. I was lost, so fucking lost. Was I supposed to keep fighting now?
Even as I thought these things, the world around me seemed to get further and further away. I just sat and stared, stared at nothing, thought of nothing. I was nothing.
I looked up as I heard one of the doors slam shut. I had no curiosity to know what had happened. I heard a door open again somewhere in the cabin, heard footsteps going towards Beth's room. I closed my eyes, knowing who it was. I heard Beth's door open then close, then silence.
I looked around my room, the shadows on the walls from the sidelight seemed to mock me, strange distorted faces of laughing clowns. My breathing increased. It was too hot in here, I suddenly needed air. I rose, throwing open the sliding door, the freezing air hitting me like a slap. I leant against the frame, my head resting on it, just breathing, feeling the cold start to seep into my lungs enough to make my eyes water. For some reason I needed a cigarette. I knew I kept a pack here so I went and got it, moving back onto the bedroom porch, lighting the cigarette as I sat in the wooden chair. The only light was the one that came out in a shaft of yellow from the bedroom, which faded away into the distant trees.
I inhaled, not feeling the cold on my skin, not feeling the light sheen of mist as it settled on me. The nicotine made my head buzz. I felt so damn weird. I knew I should have been crying or something. But it just wasn't there. I inhaled deeply, feeling the smoke burn at the back of my throat.
Closing my eyes to the night, listening to the wind in the trees, it was so calm, I was so calm. Somewhere in the distance I heard a moan. I opened my eyes, feeling the tears track down my face. But they were empty tears, because I didn't feel one damn thing. I took another inhale of the cigarette before tossing it way. I watched the amber of it spark like a comet as the night wind caught it, its glow dancing for a moment before spiralling downward into the dark stream below.
I sat forward. I remembered that happening before. Then in a rush, it all came back, stealing my breath. Every single feeling, and every single razor detail. I clenched my body, hugging myself. It was agony. I'd lost. I felt like wailing like a mad woman, howling like a wolf lost in the night. I stayed silent, inwardly mourning the fact I didn't even get a chance. The second, longer, drawn out moan turned my blood to ice. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be away from all of this but all I did was sit there, frozen. Slowly, the cold of the night crept into the cold of my soul.
I didn't know how long I sat, but the voice spoken softly behind me made me jump out of my skin.
I stood up, swirling around, blinking as the light hit me. I could see the shadow, my eyes finally focusing enough to make out Beth standing in the doorway of the patio. I shuddered, reeling in my emotions. I couldn't keep doing this. I didn't have anything left.
She stepped into view, her eyes were red raw. “Can I talk to you?”
I wanted to yell at her, tell her she was a bitch, and tell her how much this was killing me, tell her to go fuck herself and to go back to that witch. But I just stared at her, using everything I had to hold myself together.
“Please, I want... I need to talk to you.”
I sat back down, pulling another cigarette free in shaking hands, lighting it and taking in as much smoke as I could without choking. I still hadn't answered her.
“I didn't know she was coming. She showed about an hour before you.”
“So you already said.” My voice was ice.
She exhaled. “I couldn't call you to tell you I didn't have your cell number. I would have.”
I inhaled smoke again. I saw her out of the corner of my eye take the chair in the other corner.
“I wouldn't have let you walk in like that, I hope you know that.”
I looked over to her. “Would it have mattered?”
She blinked at me. “Of course, you don't think I did it on purpose?”
I looked back to the trees. “No.” That was the trouble, I knew she didn't. Thinking she was a bitch would have made it easier.
“I... didn't know what to do. She ... told me she made a mistake.”
I exhaled smoke into the night. “About breaking up with you?”
I nodded. “Not a lot else you could do then, is there? I already knew you were still in love with her.”
She was staring at me, I could feel it.
“Not what you expected me to say, right?” I turned to look at her.
“No, not really.”
I shrugged. “What's the point of me saying anything else, Beth? You've already made up your mind.”
She drew in a sharp breath. ‚Äò' I... I'm sorry.''
I was crying, silent tears spilled from me. “So am I.”
I didn't know what to say, or what to do. So I just smoked. Finally I had enough of the silence. I rose, stumping the cigarette out this time with my boot.
“I'll leave first thing in the morning as soon as it's light. When you leave, just put the keys back in the lock up.” I moved back towards the bedroom.
I stopped. “Why?”
I heard the creak of the chair as she rose. “I don't know.”
I exhaled. I could feel that burning starting again. “Look Beth, I don't want to talk right now, ok? Let's just say goodbye and you go off and be happy, and let me cut my losses.”
I started walking again.
I stopped again, this time I couldn't keep the anger out of my voice. I whirled around to her. “Why, damn it?”
She was crying, just looking at me and crying. “I don't know.”
I clenched my jaw, closing my eyes. ‚Äò”You've gotten what you wanted, Beth. I...” I opened my eyes looking at her. “... I can't be just your friend. I wish I could.... But I just can't.”
“I know... I wish it were different.” She wiped her face.
I glared at her. “No you don't.”
Her eyes snapped up to mine, anguish shining out of her eyes. “Yes, I do.”
I was finding it really hard to reel in the anger I was feeling. “Look, just go back to her. I know she's waiting for you in your room.”
Her eyes fell.
I looked away, hating the fact I was right. “God... don't you think I have any fucking feelings, Elizabeth?”
I turned and moved into the bedroom. I didn't care now, I wanted out. I opened the bedroom door, going to my coat, searching for my keys.
I heard her run to catch up. “Vicki, you can't leave, you can't drive like this.”
I looked over to her, checking the table, getting angrier as I searched, finally moving to the chair I'd sat in. “Watch me.”
“Vicki, please.” She moved forward.
I backed up, avoiding her outstretched hand like it held the plague. “Don't touch me.”
She swallowed hard, lowering her hand.
I turned back to the chair. “I'm leaving. This isn't what you want, I'm not what you want. Stop worrying about me, I was fine before I met you and I'm gonna be fine long after you have gone back to your plastic world.”
I pulled the cushion, off searching again.
“Vicki, I don't care how much you hate me right now, I'm not letting you drive like this.”
I stopped. Did I hate her? The anger ebbed a little. “I ... I don't hate you.”
“Well, you should.”
My eyes snapped. “Would it make you feel less guilty if I did?”
She let out a long sigh. “I don't want you to hate me... I...”
Her bedroom door opened, stopping Beth from saying any more. Kerry stepped out, dressed in Beth's dressing gown. I looked away. Damn it, that hurt.
“Sorry, I heard raised voices. You ok, baby?”
Her voice was doing that sickly smooth thing that made me want to throw up. I closed my eyes, wondering if this could get any worse.
“Kerry, go back in.” Beth's voice was sharp.
“I was just worried.”
I still wouldn't look at them.
“Ok... ok, Jesus, I was just worried about you, Hun. I'll go.”
I suddenly remembered where my keys were. “Don't bother, I'm leaving.” I moved fast to the door, pulling it open and jumping down the steps heading to the UV.
I ignored her, getting in. I turned the ignition before I'd even slammed the door, throwing the UV into reverse, gravel spraying as the back wheels spun. I had to slow it down to put it into first and head for the gate. The side door opened and before I could do anything, Beth had jumped in.
“No. Jesus, Vicki, you're not driving like this.” She reached over for the keys. I slapped her hand away.
“Will you get the hell out!”
She tried again for the keys. This time I caught her hand, holding it. I reached across her with my other hand and pushed open her door. “Elizabeth, I'm leaving, now get the fuck out of my car.”
She struggled against my grip. “And watch you wrap yourself around a tree? NO. Vicki, please, just come back into the cabin and calm down. Please.”
I looked at her then up to the doorway, seeing Kerry step out and make her way towards us. I turned to Beth.
“Either get out or I'm leaving with you.”
She blinked, her gaze going to Kerry, then returning to me. “I'm not leaving you to go and kill yourself.”
I glared at her. “I'm not you.”
“Elizabeth, get out of the damn car and let her go. She's not your responsibility.”
I put both hands on the wheel, staring ahead. Suddenly I didn't have any fight left. “Get out, Beth, I can't stay here... please just get out.”
Kerry drew level to Beth's side. “Elizabeth, leave the damn woman to it, she obviously needs help of some kind. You don't owe her anything. I'm cold, let's go back inside.”
I gripped the wheel tighter. I so wanted to slap that woman. I closed my eyes. The tears wanted out so badly now. I heard the passenger door slam. I took a breath, half choking a sob.
My eyes sprung open, I looked over, surprised to see her still sitting there. “What are....”
She looked at me. “I said drive.” She clicked her seatbelt into place.
Kerry tried the door it was locked, she banged the window. “Elizabeth, what are you doing?”
I wanted to know that one myself. I just stared at Beth. “I don't know what this means?”
She avoided looking out her side window, her eyes were locked on mine. “I don't either. But you're not coming inside and I'm not letting you leave alone. So drive.”
A slap to the window made both of us jump, Beth's eyes darted to Kerry.
“God damn it, Elizabeth, you're not seriously thinking of leaving with this woman after what we just did!”
I felt my stomach roll. It was one thing to think I knew what was happening in her bedroom, it was another to have it thrown in my face.
I tentatively looked over to Beth, seeing her throw a dagger look at Kerry, a look that actually made the agent step back, knowing as well as I did, that was said deliberately to hurt me. Something had changed in her eyes as she stared at Kerry.
Kerry stepped closer again. “Hun, I'm sorry, I'm just so damn tired of all of this. Look, I know you feel like you owe something to Victoria and I'm sure we can sort out some sort of compensation for her. But really, isn't it about time she left you alone?”
Green eyes came to me. “Please drive.”
Kerry's eyes widened. “You have got to be kidding me. I left my husband and came here for this? For fuck sake open this door.” The door rattled. “I love you.”
“Please, Vicki. Now!” She was now fighting her own tears.
I didn't need telling twice, I threw the UV into gear and headed for the gateway. I could see Kerry through the rearview standing stock still in the yard. I turned my eyes back to the road.
“This is a fucking mess.” With those words, Beth turned her eyes to the passing night.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Unlike the movies, cars don't have everlasting fuel. For the third time, my eyes looked down to the flashing red light telling me I was low on gas. Neither of us had said another word since leaving the cabin. I didn't know what to say, I didn't have a clue as to what having Beth sitting next to me meant. Was it just because she was scared I was going to drive off a cliff? I looked down again, seeing the neon flash faster.
I briefly looked over to her before looking at the gas gauge again. “We're nearly out of gas.''
She sat up, leaning over to see. “You're fucking kidding me?”
I shook my head. “I wish I was.”
“Didn't you fill it up before you came back to the cabin?”
I shot her a look, snapping. “I didn't exactly have gas on my mind when I left the damn house.”
She flinched, then looked around outside, checking the signs we were passing. “Do you know of gas station around here?”
“No, it's at least another forty miles.”
“Can we make it that far?”
I looked down at the needle. “I don't think so.”
“Great, just great. Ok, give me your phone, I'll call the auto club. Where are we?”
“Um,” I swallowed.
Her eyes came over to me quickly. “Um?” Her eyes widened. “Oh, don't tell me you haven't got your cell.”
“It's at the cabin, and before you ask, I wasn't thinking about my cell phone before I left either.”
She exhaled, “Jesus, ok.” Her eyes dipped to the gas gauge. “Then we'd better pray for forty miles. I don't particularly want to spend the night out here in the middle of nowhere in a car with no gas and be found frozen to death.”
I continued to drive, my eyes always checking as the miles passed.
She sat forward, “Turn here.”
I turned without thinking then looked at her. “Why?”
“There's a guesthouse, I saw the sign.”
“Beth, it's three o'clock in the morning. It's not going to be open.”
“Have you any better ideas?” She sat back, returning her gaze outside her window.
Ten minutes later, I pulled the UV into the driveway, almost knowing we were running on fumes. The guesthouse was totally darkened, the lights from the car the only source of light around. That was until a flashlight was thrown in my face through my side window.
“Shit.” I clicked on the overhead light, clicking the window down an inch.
A male voice asked. “Can I ask what you're doing here so late?”
Beth leant across me. “Sorry, didn't mean to scare you, we were running out of gas and we saw the sign. We were wondering if we could spend the night here and call the auto club in the morning.”
The figure bent down to see in, looking first at us then into the backseats, then he moved away. I turned my head, stretching to see what he was doing. He was looking round the back of the car, his flashlight shining into the trunk. I watched in the sideview as he bent and looked underneath, then rose again. I looked to Beth in question, she just shrugged.
He came back. “Sorry about that, we've had poachers every night this week, they're after the fish.”
My eyebrows rose, suddenly my life was becoming very surreal,. I was beginning to wonder if I was really here and not still sat in the cabin staring at the walls.
“Did you say fish?”
“Yep, salmon. They come in and raid the lakes. Lost about two hundred this month.”
Beth gave me a look of disbelief.
“So what was it you two ladies wanted again?”
I let Beth answer. “Just to stay tonight and then call for the auto club.”
He nodded. “Ok, come on in, you got enough gas to move your car over there.” He pointed.
I looked, then nodded.
“Ok, once you've parked .come on over to the main door, the reception is just inside.”
I started the UV, hearing it splutter for a moment before catching. I headed to the area he directed us to. I looked over to Beth as I heard her chuckle. She met my eyes, her face turning serious again. Before I could say anything she looked away.
We parked and got out, heading up to the door, the overhang light was on this time. In the distance I heard an owl hoot.
“If I hear just one banjo playing, I swear to god I'm gonna break the land-speed record getting out of here.” Her eyes were darting around.
I wanted to laugh, but somehow my insides were just to raw.
The brightness inside hurt my eyes. It wasn't just the light that did it, the d?©cor did too. It was totally out of some Victorian era photo. Plush velvet stripped white and burgundy wallpaper lined the walls. Golden trimmed light fittings were placed every three feet down each wall. Even the reception desk was a burly oak barrelled shaped thing.
“Holy shit.” I heard Beth's expletive as she stepped in behind me.
“Not what you were expecting.” The man stepped into view, now I could see him better. He was older than his voice led me to believe, and for a moment a spark of uneasiness hit me. But it soon passed as he smiled, he moved behind the desk.
“All I need is are your names and addresses.” He smiled again, looking to both of us, turning the ledger towards us and holding up a pen. I took it filling in my details.
“How old is this place?”
I turned to Beth's voice, seeing her head tilted back, looking around the ceiling patterns.
“It was built in 1863.”
I looked at him. “I didn't think anything that old was around here?”
He laughed. “Oh, there is a few of the original places left. They were built for hunting parties mostly. This was built by a Scot, Henry Macintosh, hence why the d?©cor. I believe he made his money in trade goods. The family sold it in the late nineteenth century, it's been a guest house for about fifty years now.”
“Do you own it?”
He ran a hand through his grey hair. “Oh, I wish. No I run the place.” He offered out his hand. ‚Äò' Geoff Ramsey.''
I took it giving it a shake. “Victoria Harris.”
He looked over to Beth's. “I see you've been in the wars.” He nodded to her cast.
She gave me a nervous look. “You could say that, yes.”
“I'll sign her name ,if that's ok.”
He nodded. “No problem.”
I wrote down my sister's name and address.
He turned the book around, looking it over. “Oh you're related.”
Beth's eyes shot to mine her, eyebrows rising. I smiled at Geoff. “Yes sisters.”
He nodded. “Well, that makes it easier. This is a busy season, I only have a double left.” He turned away to pull the key from the box. “All I need now is credit card details.”
I pulled out my wallet handing it over, he wrote it down. He handed it back along with the key. I glanced down at the white pamphlet that was attached, seeing Gregmore House in gold lettering, I vaguely remembered the name.
“Those are our rates, but as it's only for one night and an emergency, don't worry about it too much. I'll work out a deal, ok?”
I nodded, I was still numb on the fact I was going to share a room.
I swallowed, refusing to look over to Beth. I guess I had an answer now to the question I posed in the cabin. Could it get any worse? Yep, yes it could.
“Do you have any luggage you want brought in?”
I shook my head.
“Okay then, just take the hall to the left and the stairs are right there, your room is at the far end, number seventeen. Breakfast is at seven thirty, although as it's so late now, I'm sure if you call down when you're ready, we can send something up. There's coffee and tea set up in the room.”
I nodded. “Thanks.”
“You're welcome. Have a good night.”
Beth hadn't said one word, and I had no idea what she was thinking, my eyes were firmly fixed in front of me. The only reason I knew she was following was the sound of her boots on the wooden boards behind me.
I climbed the stairs, following his directions, seeing the door numbered seventeen at the end of the hall. I stopped outside, putting the key in the lock. Pausing. I took a breath.
“I can sleep in the car.”
I looked over my shoulder at her. “You'll freeze to death.” With that, I opened it.
I was expecting more of the d?©cor from before, but this time it was subtler. The walls were free of drab wall covering. I clicked on the light as I entered. The bed was in the centre of the room facing the windows. Over to the right, a couch ran along the wall facing the TV.
Beth came in behind me, running past. “Bathroom.”
I nodded, seeing her head off to a room at the far right. I exhaled. I was tired, but I was so wired. I still didn't understand what any of this meant. I avoided looking at the bed as I moved to the couch, sitting. Hearing the toilet flush, I waited. She came back in, flopping onto the bed with a groan.
This was awkward on so many different levels. I started to feel the nervousness spread throughout me. It felt like I was waiting for a dentist appointment. One where I knew I was going to get a root canal.
Movements from the corner of my eye made me look up. She had rolled over, her face leaning on her hand, her arm bent at the elbow supporting her. She just stared. I wanted to look away but I couldn't. Her eyes were a mass of so many emotions. I watched as twin crystals sparkled in the corner of each eye. I swallowed, knowing I was starting to cry too. She rolled onto her back again.
“Fuck.” Her arm went across her eyes.
I looked down. My hands were wringing together. “Why did you get in the car?”
She sniffed, but no words came.
One long sniff, then an inhale, and her arm moved away from her face. “Because the state you were in, you would have hit something.”
I knew then it was nothing more than fear for my life, a responsibility to someone who had saved hers.
“You'd better call Kerry and let her know where you are.” I stood, moving quickly to the bathroom, slamming the door.
What exactly was I expecting her to say? Was I still holding onto some romantic notion that her getting in the car meant she'd changed her mind and chosen me after all? Yes. I had.
A thump at the door made me jump.
Her voice was angry. “Why is it when you ask me a question and I get the damn answer wrong, you're always leaving.”
I stared at the white wood. “I didn't.”
I felt the anger again. What the hell did she want from me? I rose, pulling the door open. “God damn it, Beth. What the hell do you want me to say or do here?”
She turned. “Talk?”
I pushed past her. “About what? It wasn't my choice for you to get in the car. I was leaving, remember?”
I ignored her voice pacing like a caged animal. “I was leaving, don't you understand that, I wasn't going to interfere, cause a scene. Leaaaaaving.”
I flapped my hand at her too caught up in the anger.
“Why are you making this so difficult for me? You've gotten what you wanted, I don't understand this, I'm not good at this. I thought I was doing the right thing. At least leave me with some fucking dignity left. Fuck... Fuck... Fuck.”
I spun at her. “WHAT!”
She moved forward so quickly I didn't have time to react, her hand was on my neck, pulling my face down, and before I could even blink, her lips were on mine. My eyes widened so far it stung. Her eyes never left mine as she continued the kiss. Her lips were hard, but at the same time so soft. I felt them ripple, sending tingles raging. I wanted more, god I wanted more. Then I remembered everything. I pushed her away so hard that she lost her balance. Losing my own, I fell back onto the bed in a sprawled sit, just gaping at her.
“What the hell do you... think you're doing?” I was spluttering.
She stared at me, shock evident on her face. “I... I don't know. I ... just...”
“What do you mean, you don't know...? You ... you kissed me?” I could still feel it on my lips, her touch.
She glared at me. “I know that! I just don't know why I did it, but it shut you up, didn't it?” As soon as she said it, I could see she was sorry. Her anger vanished. “I... I shouldn't have.”
I still sat there. If I thought I was confused, before I was wrong.
“Beth... I don't understand any of this.”
She turned around to me. “And you think I do? Jesus. I just left the woman I'm supposed to be in love with and gone off in a car with you, and here we are now in a hotel room where I kissed you and I haven't got one fucking idea why I did. Don't expect me to understand it either?”
My eyes snapped up. Supposed to be in love? Wasn't she?
“Goddam it, it isn't supposed to be like this.” She picked up an ashtray, throwing it at the wall. I ducked watching it hit, my eyes coming back around to her in shock.
Her face was a mixture of pain and anger. “Stop looking at me as if I have to have answers, Vicki, I don't.” She sighed heavily before sitting down on the couch. “I really don't.”
I lay back on the bed. “I don't expect you to have answers, Beth, but I really don't know what to do anymore.”
I heard her breathing, not really knowing what she thinking.
“You kissed me, I ... just don't understand it. I mean, you made your choice right?” I exhaled, sitting back up, rubbing my face with both hands. “You're right this is so fucked up.”
“I know.” Her voice sounded as tired as I did.
“I don't think talking is helping us either. It just raises more questions than answers.” I gave a long sigh. “I feel like...” I bit off my words, knowing it would release the emotions that were being held back by a thread.
“What?” She sat forward.
I closed my eyes to her. “It doesn't matter.”
“Of course it matters, Vicki.”
I looked sharply at her. “No, it doesn't, and I don't think you actually want to see me start crying and making a scene now, do you?”
She looked away sadly. “You don't deserve this. Any of it.”
“You're right, I don't. But it wasn't like I didn't walk into it all with my eyes open. I thought about it enough, worked out every little detail with my logical mind.” I scoffed. My sister was right, that is what I do, but what I didn't work into the equation was the chance of this happening.
“I'm not like you, Beth, I ... I haven't done this before. I don't know if I'm going mad or the feelings I'm having are supposed to hurt like this.” I swallowed hard.
“You think I get used to it? You think this is something I do every fucking day...?” Her voice snapped.
Every word I was saying she was taking as an attack, which only put me on the defensive, but underneath it all, I was getting seriously pissed off with her.
“Jesus, I didn't say that. But you've had feelings for women your whole life, you've dealt with rejection, you've dealt with winning. I haven't, is all I'm saying.”
“It's not different from having it from a man.” She sat back, pulling a cushion onto her lap.
I sighed. “That's my point.”
Her eyes shifted to me. “What's that supposed to mean?”
“I... I've never felt this way about... anyone. Not this strongly.”
She stared at me without blinking. “You haven't?”
I swallowed. “No.”
I finally looked over to her. She was trying not to cry I could see it.
“Jesus, Vicki, what am I supposed to say to that?”
“I didn't ask you to say anything. I'm falling apart here. I don't know who the hell I am right now. I tried to leave you, wouldn't let me.” I coughed in a sob, trying to hold it together. “That's why I said I didn't understand... it's not that I think you have the answers, it's ... I don't know.” I felt like an idiot again. Damn it, this was frustrating as hell.
She leaned back against the couch's back, tilting her head back, looking away from me. “What makes you so damn sure, Vicki, what you feel for me is so real?” She wiped her hand quickly across her face before looking at me.
I didn't need to think. “If you'd asked me before tonight how I know, I'd have rambled and got frustrated that I couldn't put it into words to make you understand why I know.”
I gave her a bittersweet smile. “Now I know for sure because it hurts so much right now I'm barely breathing.”
She looked like I'd just slapped her. “Oh, god.”
I rose, needing to move again. I turned to her. “You should have let me leave in the damn car.”
She just stared. “I ... I couldn't.”
“Why Beth? Why? For gods sake, why?”
She rose, coming right up to my face, yelling back at me. “Because I fucking don't know, ok? I don't.”
I whirled away, wanting to kick something in frustration, spinning back to her. “Bullshit.”
She blinked. “What did you say?”
I stepped closer, tilting my head down so I was in her face. “I said bullshit.”
Her eyes flared. “Oh, so it's ok for you to not know why, but it's bullshit when I don't.”
We were toe to toe yelling at each other. Any minute now I expected the manager to come running in.
“Why did you kiss me Beth?”
“Aren't you listening to me? I DON'T KNOW!”
“Why did you leave Kerry standing like a fucking idiot and get in the car with me?”
“I DON'T KNOW! DAMN IT!” She shoved her face closer to mine till the point I could feel each breath on my face.
I stared at her, then just turned away. “I think you do, you're just too scared to admit it.”
She grabbed my arm, spinning me back. “Fuck you.”
I calmly pulled her hand off my arm. “No thanks. You're saving that for Kerry, remember?”
I saw it coming but I didn't move. The slap echoed in the room. Maybe I deserved it, maybe I didn't. But it still hurt me more inside than it did my cheek. I looked sadly at her. “Feel better now?”
She dropped her hand. “I...” The words died on her lips, her eyes flicking to mine briefly before she turned. “No, not really.”
I went into the bathroom, grabbing a towel, running the tap over it until it was damp. I hated this, I hated the fact we were arguing. I missed her, I missed the friendship. I wanted time back. I took a long breath, dabbing the blood from my lip, then pressing the cool towel to my cheek.
I came back in. She was stood by the window staring out into the blackness.
“I'm sorry. I wish I hadn't hit you. You didn't deserve it, Vicki, you don't deserve any of this.”
I stayed silent, there really weren't any words left in me. I sat on the bed.
“She just turned up, I know I told you that, but... “
My eyes went to her.
“I was expecting you. I was so nervous, I didn't know what you wanted from me, but I heard you on the phone.” She bowed her head, shaking her head slightly before looking over her shoulder at me. “When you said you wanted me, I felt it, I really felt it.”
I swallowed, tasting the copper of blood on my lips.
She looked back outside again. “I had no clue what I was feeling when I got off the phone from you. All I knew was you were coming there. When I heard the car, I ran out...” She swallowed. “Kerry stepped out of that damn cab and everything just stopped. Except one thing ran through my head; how the hell could I tell you she was there?”
She walked back to the couch, sitting, looking me right in the eye.
“I knew it would hurt you to turn up and find her there. But I couldn't warn you.”
She paused, looking down at the floor.
“She told me she'd left her husband, that everything she'd said had been a lie about leaving me. She had gotten scared, because she realised how much I meant to her.”
My jaw clenched, sending shooting pains over the tender flesh on my cheek.
She sniffed. “I didn't want to believe her, I was angry as hell. I'm not stupid or na?Øve not to know a line when I hear one. But she kept telling me how worried she'd been when she'd heard about the accident. That she had to come to make sure I was ok, even if it meant it caused problems with her husband. When he started arguing with her that she couldn't go, she told him about us.”
I wanted to yell ‚Äòbitch' but I kept silent, just listening.
She shook her head, rising again. “I didn't know what to believe then. If she made a mistake with us, what was to stop her doing the same thing again to me?” Her voice trailed off.
“She started talking about Greece and how I'd love it there, that we could go to the places we talked about. All those plans that were always cancelled in the past. That we'd never have to lie again. Put simply, she was ready to come out as bi, and the world could go hang itself. She told me she was in love with me.”
I shuddered an inhale. “Beth, please.”
She came over, sitting back in the chair, leaning forward. “I know this is hard but please listen. You said you didn't understand. I'm trying to explain why I don't either. Please?”
I nodded. I couldn't talk, my throat was too tight, almost like a noose was there, tightening with each word she spoke.
“Thank you... I got caught up in her again. Every angry excuse was slowly being knocked away as she talked. You see, she never really told me she was in love with me before. I love you, yes, but never those words.”
I swallowed. I'd thought once, not so long ago, those words meant the same things. But know I knew there was a difference.
“I told her yes.”
I looked down.
“Then...‚Äò' she inhaled. ‚Äò'...Then you turned up and I suddenly felt so confused. Here Kerry was giving me exactly what I wanted, and all I could think of was how much this was hurting you. I could see it.”
“That's just because you're my friend, Beth.” I moved to stand. She gently caught my arm, stopping me.
“No, it's more than that. Please let me finish. I'm trying to understand something, and I think talking like this is helping me too.”
She took her hand away. “At first that's what I thought it was - you were my friend and I knew your feelings for me.”
She avoided my gaze.
“I saw how Kerry was around you, I've seen her jealous before. But what I couldn't understand was why was she so jealous. She didn't know you. I thought about it and realised, it meant she'd seen something in you that was a threat.”
“When did you think all this?”
Her mouth twitched a slight smile. “While I was drinking my beer, afterwards in my bedroom. Later more in the car drive here.”
“So I figured out Kerry had seen something I hadn't. Then I realised I hadn't missed it, Vicki, I'd ignored it. I'd seen the way you'd looked at me before. I saw the reaction you had when you touched me.”
I blushed, looking down.
Her voice softened. “I'd seen it, and most of all I'd seen the same reactions in me.”
My eyes came up fast.
“Oh yes, I'd felt it, and unlike you, I knew exactly what it was. I wasn't lying on the phone when I told you I wanted you.”
She sighed sadly. “But there's a difference to wanting someone like that and love, Vicki. Besides, I thought you were straight, but that just raises a whole different issue right now I'm not even going near.”
From somewhere, I found a smile at the expression on her face. She weakly smiled back.
“You've got to understand, Vicki, I was in love with Kerry, and here she was offering me everything I ever wanted with her.”
She sighed heavily. “Now we get to the confusing stuff.” She ran her hand back through her hair, letting out a vent breath that stirred her bangs.
“After she told you I was going back to Greece with her, I felt like the biggest bitch on the planet. I was so mad at her for telling you like that, I bet you heard the argument through the walls.”
I shifted. “Not really, I think I was going insane right about then.”
Her eyes jumped to mine, not sure if I was being funny or not. She realised I wasn't. “I'm sorry.”
I looked away. “Go on.”
“The whole time we argued, I was getting more and more confused. Why should it matter so much that she told you? Bar the fact she threw it your face. But Kerry has never been subtle and I knew she did it on purpose to see my reaction. I knew you were going to be hurt, because I knew your feelings. To be honest I didn't know what to do right then. But...” She paused. “Kerry did.”
She swallowed, getting up as she did so.
I knew what she was talking about, I remembered the moans that were lost in the wind while I sat outside. “I'd rather not... not hear the details, Beth.” My voice cracked.
“Jesus, give me some credit.”
I shut up.
“I did what I always, do I gave in. I'm not proud of it, mostly because I should have had more control with her, not for my sake, but for yours.”
I looked over to her. “Mine?”
“You were in the same cabin for gods sake. I knew you'd either hear or know. Believe it or not Vicki, I never wanted to see you so hurt. I knew... I knew doing that with her would hurt you.”
“But you still did it.” I snapped, my own jealousy coming out now.
She looked away. “I know.”
We both fell silent. Then she spoke, her voice low again, full of emotion.
“I lay there afterwards. It felt so damn wrong, all of it, you, her, me. I hurt and I didn't know why. I started thinking about how much I've hurt you and screwed up your life, that tomorrow you were going to walk out of my life and I'd never see you again. Suddenly that hurt most of all.”
Her head fell.
“I ... still wanted you in my life but I knew I couldn't have that. But I couldn't just let you walk away hurting like you were. I don't know what I thought I could do or say to make you see I wasn't right for you.” Her head came up again. “All I knew was I had to see you. That's when I came to find you.”
“You should have let me leave.” I threw the towel away.
‚Äò”I know, but I couldn't. Then I saw how much I'd hurt you. I saw how much you were feeling. I got scared, scared at the fact, what if I was wrong? What if you really did feel those things you told me? What if you weren't straight? But you got so mad and I couldn't get you to listen. All you wanted to do was leave. I couldn't let you drive away like that, I'd never forgive myself if something had happened to you.”
She walked back over to me. “But it wasn't just that, I ... I couldn't let you leave, I didn't want you to. When you got in the car, I knew I had to make you stay.”
“I wouldn't have killed myself, Beth, I hate to burst your ego bubble.”
She stiffened. “Ok, I deserved that, but that wasn't why I tried to stop you. Can't you see, Vicki? Haven't you listened to any of this? I couldn't let you leave alone because...”
Her voice changed to one of anger. “... Because when Kerry deliberately threw in your face the fact we'd slept together, I realised something about her. She doesn't care what she says or does to get what she wants. It made me look at you, really look at you. Not once in all of this have you been vindictive. Or hurtful. Every single thing, you've done you've done to either protect me or leave me with someone that made me happy. Not once, Vicki, not once have you thought of yourself in all of this. That's why I told you to drive. That's why I left Kerry standing there like an idiot. Because right then, I didn't want to be anywhere near her. I wanted to be with you.”
I just stared at her. What the hell did that mean? She must have seen how confused I was.
“I'm trying to make sense of it too, Vicki. You're not the only one this has happened so fast to.”
Her eyes searched mine for understanding, and in a way I did. I could see what she meant by it all from her side of things. But I still didn't know where it left me, or for that matter, us.
She stayed silent, seeing I was thinking, and just sat, waiting. When I still hadn't said anything she sighed, breaking eye contact.
“What are you thinking, Vicki?”
“I... don't know what it means. I don't know if you left with me because I was the one that could get you away from Kerry.”
She exhaled. “No, I left because it was you.”
I frowned. “So you're saying you want to be with me?”
Her eyes dipped. “I ... don't know.” Her head came back up almost shyly. “Part of me does, yes.”
I took a breath. “You ... you want me?”
Her breath hitched. “Yes.”
I could hear my blood rushing in my head, feel my skin pimple as a shiver ran through me. “And ... the kiss?”
Her tongue moistened her lips. “I... wasn't thinking, I just acted. Maybe that's the problem, there's too much thinking going on.” She gave me a nervous smile.
I needed to breathe, I did, giving her a smile back. “Maybe. So what do we do now?”
Her smile faltered. “I have to sort out my fucked up life, for one.”
I wanted to ask her, was I included in it? But I didn't think I could take it if I wasn't. Sometimes it's better not to know.
She looked fast at me, then ran her hand back through her hair. “I'm not going to Greece, that's all I know for now.”
Her head tilted as she studied me to the point I got nervous.
I asked. “What?”
“Do you ever think of yourself, Vicki?”
“What's that supposed to mean?” I prickled.
“I've never met anyone like you. I know I've said that before, but I haven't.”
Her hand came up, cupping my face, the side she'd hit. My breath caught. Her eyes dipped to her fingers as she ran them over the skin.
“I can't take it back, any of it. I ... I wish I could.”
I could hear her words, but at the same time I couldn't. All my senses were now locking on the way her fingertips touched. I'd felt caresses before, I'd felt skin on skin. But I had never felt such sweetness in a touch. I knew I was breathing because my heart was still pumping.
Her eyes shifted to mine and she stilled, her fingers just making contact with my face. Slowly, I brought my hand up covering hers, watching her breathing increase. I held my hand there, pushing her hand gently into my face, just holding it there. Neither of us blinked the stare was so intense.
“I feel you, Beth.”
Her eyes darkened.
“Even when I'm not near you, I feel you. Even when we hadn't touched, before I felt you.”
I don't know where the words were coming from, but this time I didn't overthink it or stop it. For once, I thought of myself. Kerry couldn't have her, I wanted her. No one could have her but me. I didn't want her happy with anyone else. I wanted to take care of her, love her. The feeling inside me expanded, pushing away doubts, pushing away fears. This was the fight, this was the battle.
“I tried fighting it. I've tried telling myself how can this be happening, when I've only known you for such a short time. But I do...”
A tear fell from my eye, running over the back of my hand, trickling onto hers beneath. She swallowed, her eyes watching it, I felt her palm press more into my face.
“I know you don't understand. I don't know what words to explain how I feel. I can't say something that makes sense when I have none. I know you're scared.”
Her eyes came back to mine.
I took her hand from my face, moving it down to my chest. Her eyes moved, following its journey. I stopped. She inhaled sharply as she placed it over my heart. Her eyes came back up to mine, questioning.
“I feel you here, Beth.” I pushed her hand harder until I knew she could feel my racing heartbeat against her skin. “I feel you here.”
Her breath shuddered, eyes filling with tears. She tried to pull her hand back but I held it firm.
“I want you, I'm in love with you.” My own tears now falling. “You keep saying you haven't met anyone like me before. I'm just me, and all I know right now is this....”
I took every bit of courage I had and leant forward, keeping her hand trapped against my heart. My lips touched hers gently. When she didn't move away, I kissed her, putting everything I felt into it, breathing out my pain and love into her mouth. Her eyes closed, but I wouldn't give over to the need to do so. I didn't want to miss one second in case I never got to kiss her again.
It was sweet, so sweet. I felt her breath, tasted her taste. I felt her hand clench my shirt, pulling me closer. I went with it. Opening my mouth slightly, I moaned as her tongue tentatively touched my lips. My eyes finally closed as my tongue reached out to find hers. They danced, first shyly and slowly, tracing a curve before withdrawing away, swaying together, tangling and rippling against each other, playing, teasing.
My breathing was so calm, but my heart was beating so fast I could feel it throughout my body. My eyes opened as I felt her draw her mouth away slowly, her eyes opening and blinking them back into focus. I swallowed, also drawing back. Her hand hadn't left its place under mine.
Nothing moved, not us, not time. We just looked into each other's eyes. I memorised her eyes, every detail, and every colour change, taking in as much as possible while time stood still. At least then if I lost her, I would have something to hold close and never forget.
She took a slow inhale. Her hand pulled to be set free. I took a long breath, releasing it. I already felt cold without it there. I waited, waited for her to get up and tell me she was sorry. I closed my eyes, looking away, unable to hide it from my eyes.
“Vicki, look at me.”
I didn't want to.
I forced my eyes open and over to her.
“Come to New York.”
I half coughed a sob and laugh at once. She reached, over taking my hand.
“I can't promise anything ... I wish I could. I have to sort things with Kerry, sort out what this is... but I know I don't want to leave you here and never see you again.”
I nodded, not knowing what to say.
She smiled, I felt her thumb trace the back of my hand. Then it left my hand, pushing back the hair from my face. Then she drew closer and kissed me, a kiss of wanting, of needing. Deep, long, breath taking. I answered it with everything I had, taking my breath away. She drew away, leaving a smaller fleeting kiss before she sat back, her hand pushing my hair back again, her face alight and smiling.
“I want you too, is that enough for you for now?”
It was the ‚Äònow' that gave me hope. It was the look in her eyes that gave me strength. “Yes.”
She was crying full force. “I need a full time nursemaid, you sure you're up for it?”
I moved so fast into her, her cast cracked against my jaw but I didn't care. I just hugged her. “Yes, yes, I'm up for it.”
Her good arm came around me, pulling me as close as possible. “You're nuts, you know that, right?”
Her grip increased, telling me she was beyond scared. I held her closer, showing her I was too, burying my face in her hair. I didn't know if I was laughing or crying but I didn't care. I held onto her and she to me as if we were the last people on earth. Then we kissed again, and for now the outside world disappeared. But for the first time in my life, I felt true freedom.
To be continued...Maybe.
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Thank you to the Academy for the invitation. I am always honoured.