The Rating Game
DISCLAIMER: This is an original work of fiction. All characters are the property of the author and cannot be used without permission
THANKS: To my beta, Heather, for her thoughtful comments. I've now built a library out of sand to house my first book.
FEEDBACK: I'm always open to comments, preferably nice ones, so let me know what you think at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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© February 2010
“Welcome back to ‘The Rating Game'. We continue the show with a look back at last week's couple…”
Kath Bellis stood in the semi-darkness as the voice-over continued.
“Action superstar, Angel Higgins, and her “Rating Game” date, secretary Kath Bellis.”
Kath took a deep breath and stepped onto the sound stage and into the almost blinding lights of the studio. She didn't really want to be here, but here she was. The supposed ‘date' that took place the weekend before was a shambles. Kath had never met such a narcissistic, self-absorbed woman in all her life.
Angel lumbered up next to her and wound a muscled arm around her waist, lowering Kath backwards over her arm toward the floor to plant a wet, passionate kiss on her.
“Ewww,” Kath whispered, “breath mints!”
Angel pulled away and stared down at her, one nearly invisible eyebrow rising in threat.
“You wouldn't dare! Not on national television!” But Kath wasn't so sure. The woman would drop her out of spite. Angel lifted her back up onto her feet with very little effort, and Kath knew she'd lose a fight, that is if she ever got up the nerve to start one.
“Well, ladies! Whew!” The host of the show, Megan Samuels, exclaimed, her hand swiping her brow in an exaggerated fashion. “That was some kiss!”
“Ahh, nothing but the best!” Angel announced, as she preened for the camera.
“Come! Come and sit down you two and tell me all about your night out.” Megan pointed to the waiting sofa with her hand.
Angel didn't steer Kath toward the couch, instead taking the lead and making herself comfortable and leaving Kath to find whatever space was left to sit down.
“So,” Megan said as she sat down in her chair, “where did you go?”
Kath opened her mouth but Angel cut across the conversation. “I chose Vixens,” she announced cheerfully.
“That's a pretty hot club,” Megan said matter-of-factly.
“The best in town! Man, it was packed!”
Kath sat there and let Angel speak. It left her to sit on the couch quietly without having to lie about the night.
“Kath,” Megan directed the conversation to her. “How did the night go? What did you do?”
“The night was fine–” Kath was cut off.
“It was noisy and we were surrounded by women. It was great!” Angel was effusive in her description of the night.
Yeah , Kath thought, and you were busy signing autographs and getting phone numbers.
“Kath?” Megan asked, “Have you got something to say?”
“I–” Kath stammered.
“She had a great time, Megan. After all she was out with me!”
“That's great, Angel, but why don't we let Kath tell her story?” Megan looked at Kath, giving her a sympathetic smile. “Come on, Kath. How was the night?”
“It… went…,” Kath looked nervously at Angel, who glared at her, “…fine.”
“Fine? That's not what I heard.” Megan watched Angel as she spoke. “In fact, something happened that got you both ejected from the club.”
“Where did you hear that?” Angel demanded. “It's all a lie.”
“No,” Megan said thoughtfully, “it's not a lie. In fact I think we have a photo or two of the incident. Mack? Can you put the photos up on the screen?”
Kath looked at the small screen sitting off screen and grimaced. Her best silk shirt was askew and the buttons were lost somewhere on the dance floor. This left her bra, and her privacy, on public view, and it was all due to Angel.
“It was all a set up to make me look bad!” Angel stood and flexed her muscles in frustration.
“Angel, will you sit down!” Megan ordered.
“No, I will not sit down! Not until I get an apology!” Angel looked around and pointed her finger at Kath. “I want an apology from you!”
“For what?” Kath put aside her fear of the woman and stood up. “What do I need to apologize for?”
“Ladies, please!” Megan interceded.
“You've just ruined my career. I just knew I should have picked contestant number two.” Angel ranted.
“That's it!” Megan looked out into the darkness and ran her hand across her throat to signal to cut the transmission. When she had been given the signal back, she stepped in between Angel and Kath. “That's enough!” Megan put her hand on Angel's chest and held her back. “Kath, thank you for your time, you can go.” Megan then turned her attention on the action hero. “Angel, you need to get control of yourself.”
“I'm gonna sue her ass off!” Angel ignored Megan and waved her finger at the departing Kath. “You hear me? I'm gonna take everything you have!”
“Angel!” Megan yelled, stepping into Angel's line of fire. “If you don't stop threatening her I may just have to do something you won't like.”
Angel turned her gaze to the smaller woman standing in her way. “You?” She laughed. “You think you can touch me?”
“Touch, Angel?” Megan smiled. “Maybe not touch, but I can hurt you.”
“You're gonna fight me for… for… her?” Angel laughed even louder.
“I sure am. I'm fighting for her, and all the other women you've used and abused over the years.” Megan's expression hardened. “You… need… to… be…,” Megan prodded Angel in the chest with each word, “…taught… a… lesson.”
“Miss Samuels, you don't have to do this–” Kath appealed to her.
“Oh, yes I do, Miss Bellis,” Megan replied.
The moment she took to look over her shoulder at Kath was all the time Angel needed to strike. Megan had barely turned back to Angel when a fist hit her jaw, sending her sprawling to the floor.
“I should have expected that from you,” Megan mumbled as she rubbed her aching jaw. She stood up and removed her coat, but was caught by Angel when her arms were caught in the sleeves.
“I can see you've never watched any of my movies, have you?” Angel growled in Megan's ear.
“And yet you still won. Amazing!” Giving little thought to the repercussions of what she was about to do, Megan head-butted Angel. The pain shot through her skull like lightning. “Owww!”
Angel reeled back and held her head. “Are you crazy?”
“Like a fox, sunshine.” Megan tried to re-focus on her attacker, but she could feel something wet sliding down from her forehead.
“I'm gonna sue you all for this!” Angel yelled as she backed away.
“Heh! Just as I thought. You're a coward, Angel Higgins! Those muscles are just for show, aren't they?” Megan taunted.
“It's my word against yours, Samuels. And I have the best lawyers money can buy that will make sure that you never work in this business again!” Angel walked off in the direction of her dressing room, pulling what dignity she had left around her like a cloak.
Megan looked over her shoulder and spoke, “Did you get that?”
A disembodied voice from the dark answered her. “Every explosive piece of it, Megan. Can I send it to E News ??”
Megan chuckled. “Let me think about it.” As much as she wanted the world to see what a fake Angel Higgins was, she wanted to see the woman's face in court as the footage ran. Then maybe the footage would show up on E News courtesy of some anonymous donor.
* * * * * * *
Kath had watched the whole scene with horror. She was tempted to intervene and stop the fight. Things had gotten out of hand and someone was going to get hurt. She took a step in the direction of the fight but a hand held her back.
“Leave them be,” the cameraman muttered.
“Are you joking?” Kath looked at him and then at the two women facing off against one another.
“The last time I interrupted her she kicked me in the nuts.” The cameraman's voice rose on the word ‘nuts'.
“Last time? Just how often does a fight break out?” Kath studied the smaller woman and decided to stay clear of her. Obviously Megan Samuels had a temper and it surfaced often.
“Not often. A couple of contestants got into a fight once and Megan stepped into the middle of it and broke it up.” The cameraman spoke softly and low. “She sort of likes to defend the underdog.”
“I see.” But all Kath saw was Megan head-butting Angel. She turned and walked away, determined to forget about the whole ghastly mess.
* * * * * *
A week had passed and Kath was a nervous wreck, waiting for a stranger with a summons to turn up on her doorstep. Had Angel woken up the next morning and thought better of it? Kath's thoughts drifted back to that horrible night at Vixens.
It had all started so promisingly. Angel behaved herself for the first round of drinks, but soon grew bored of trying to be anonymous. After the woman left Kath sitting at their table alone, the night steadily deteriorated. But it wasn't until later in the night and she was nursing her drink that things got truly horrendous.
Kath had started with a fifty-fifty mixed drink when they first arrived, but now she had foregone the fizzy mixer and was swallowing it straight up. Angel had been basking in the glory of her own celebrity status on the dance floor and Kath had been abandoned for much livelier prey.
Kath sat at the table and watched Angel, actually glad she wasn't the center of the bigger woman's attention. She was loud, brash and obnoxious, and was lapping up the attention being thrown at her. Angel's meaty hands were fondling some buxom blonde when a woman approached Kath at her table.
“Hi there. Sitting alone I see. Can I buy you a drink?”
Kath looked at Angel on the dance floor and saw that she was being ignored. “Sure.” Kath smiled up at the beautiful brunette standing there waiting for her answer.
“Great.” The woman sat down opposite her and lifted a finger to get the attention of a waitress. After the orders had been placed, the woman continued. “Hi, my name is Marcia. Come here often?”
“Kath.” Kath internally sighed. Come here often. Why didn't someone come up with something more original? “Nope. First time.”
The music was loud and made conversation difficult.
“Did you come here alone?” Marcia asked hopefully.
“No. My date is out on the floor,” Kath replied mechanically.
“It's her loss.” Marcia smiled at her. “Would you like to dance?”
Kath thought for a moment and figured she should at least get a dance or two out of the evening. “Sure.”
Marcia waited for the waitress to return with the drinks. After she had paid and slid smoothly out of her seat she extended her hand to help Kath up.
“Walk away… now!” Angel stood behind her adversary. Her angry words could barely be heard over the top of the thumping beat of the music.
Marcia's hand instinctively grasped Kath's as she tried to stand.
“Let her go. She's with me!” Angel persisted.
“Really? She's here and you're not. In my book that means she's single.”
“You really don't want to mess with me.” Angel planted her hand on Marcia's shoulder and pulled hard to turn her around. Unfortunately, Marcia's hand had a hold on Kath's blouse and the force of Angel's tug sent all the buttons on the front of her shirt flying off in all directions.
Angel's fist struck the woman firmly on the chin, quickly followed by another in the stomach that doubled Angel's opponent over. Angel moved in, kicking and punching until the bouncers moved in and subdued her.
Not surprisingly, the manager of the club stood in front of Kath. “I'm sorry miss, but you have to leave.” Kath glanced over at the dance floor and saw Angel being dragged toward the door. She picked up her glass and finished her drink, wincing as the alcohol slid down her throat.
Kath grabbed her purse, pulled her ruined blouse together and nodded at the woman waiting for her. “Sorry,” Kath said. What more could she say? She couldn't make things right.
“Come on.” The manager grabbed her arm and gave it a pat with her other hand. “If I were you I'd get another girlfriend.”
“She's not my girlfriend,” Kath replied as she tried to pull what was left of her dignity around her like an invisible cloak. From the moment the buttons disappeared her bra was on public display.
“Then there's some hope for you yet.” Kath was escorted out and left to stand on the sidewalk by herself. Angel had gone.
Kath wiped away a tear. The next time she saw her friend Jackie she was going to kick her in the ass for even suggesting going on the damned show. Maybe even in a few decades' time the whole thing would be funny.
The only problem now was that she had to go to work… five days a week. The women she worked with had a good laugh at her expense, thinking that she had gone on a man-woman dating show, and every time it was mentioned another round of off-color jokes started, lasting as long as the day or until everyone had run out of laughter. The only one not laughing was Kath herself.
Kath had braced herself for the next disaster as the day of the taped show was looming, and she was tempted to put in for annual leave.
“Hi there.” A barely familiar voice floated softly over the partition to her piece of floor that was her work bench.
Kath looked up at the speaker and cringed. “What are you doing here?” Kath was so tired of the whole fiasco, but there seemed to be no end in sight.
“These are for you.” A bouquet of flowers came over the partition top and sat in a calm hand until Kath took them.
“A bit late for that now,” Kath grumbled.
“I agree. We should have looked into Angel's background a little more closely.”
“What do you want, Miss Samuels?”
“I just wanted to apologize on behalf of the show. The whole thing was…”
“A catastrophe?” Kath offered.
“That's one word for it,” Megan suggested. “I just wanted to let you know that the piece on you and Angel has been axed from the program.”
“Just as well.” Kath looked at the flowers absently. “You've done your job, now please leave.”
“How…,” Megan hesitated, “How about joining me for lunch?”
“Why would I want to do that?” Kath retorted. “Ever since I met you I've had nothing but grief.”
“I'll behave,” Megan promised, “Cross my heart.”
“Cross it with a blow torch and I might reconsider.” Kath threatened.
“I'm flame retardant,” Megan replied. “Come on, what have you got to lose?”
“Besides my underwear, you mean?” Kath felt herself buckling under the gentle persistence of Megan.
“Really? I wasn't planning on going that far, but if that's what you want.” Megan grinned.
“What? I… wha… I … didn't…. mean,” Kath stammered.
“I get it.” Megan held up her hands in surrender. “It's just for lunch.”
“And who's paying for this?” Kath asked.
“Not the station?” Kath didn't believe her.
“No. Just me.” Megan stared into Kath's eyes.
“Why?” Kath was looking for an ulterior motive. “Guilt?”
“In a way, yes.”
Kath hadn't expected the truth from Megan. “That's it?”
“No, not all of it, but it's a start. If it gets you to go to lunch with me then yes, I feel guilty for baiting Angel as I did.”
Kath couldn't stop herself from looking at the clock on the wall. It was nearly lunchtime and she was hungry. What was done was done, so she might was well get a free meal out of it. “What the hell!” She reached for her computer and closed the document she was working on. “Let me put these in water.” Kath carried the flowers toward the kitchenette to find a vase. As she filled it and arranged the flowers, Kath's gaze kept moving toward the woman leaning casually against her partition. “I hope I'm not making the biggest mistake of my life.”
“What mistake?” Jackie wandered into the tiny alcove with mug in hand, looking for the coffee pot.
“You are so dead!” Kath growled.
“No, ‘hi, how are you,' or ‘how was your holiday'?” Jackie asked innocently.
“Later.” Kath was in no mood for niceties. “I'm going to kick your ass so hard for talking me into going on that show.”
“Kath, my dear,” Jackie put down her mug and grabbed Kath's shoulders, “you needed a nudge. Everybody needs somebody.”
“And I ended up with Queen Kong! Thanks for nothing!” Kath's volume started to rise.
“I'm Queen Kong?” a third voice answered. Neither of them had noticed that Megan had joined the conversation.
“Yes!” Kath was confused. “No! Oh no, no, no, no, no. But I ended up with Angel.”
“Wait a minute,” Jackie interrupted, “You went out with Angel Higgins? THE Angel Higgins? Oh wow!”
“If you're so happy about it then YOU go out with Angel Higgins! The woman is certifiable!” Kath cried.
“I already said I'm sorry…” Megan offered.
“Hang on,” Jackie grabbed Megan's arm and turned her so she could see her face. “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” Jackie squealed like a giddy schoolgirl. “It's Megan Samuels!” She turned to Kath. “You know Megan Samuels. Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!”
“We heard you the first time, Jackie.” Kath sighed deeply.
“She is gorgeous , Kath. And she wants to take you out.” Jackie's body was twitching. She looked closely at Megan. “Right?”
“Right,” Megan agreed.
“She agreed to take me to lunch to butter me up so I won't sue the producers.”
“That's not…” Megan grabbed Kath's arm and tugged.
“Look me in the eye and tell me that's not the truth!” Kath was getting angry now.
Megan took a step forward and stared right at Kath. “That… is… not… the… truth,” she enunciated slowly. “I may have a bit of guilt about Angel's behavior but that's it. Maybe, just maybe, I want to get to know you better.”
“Yeah… right.” Kath said skeptically.
“What has got up your butt today?” Jackie poked Kath in the back. “The woman is asking you out for lunch.”
“And I said yes, so what's the problem?” Kath retaliated.
“The problem, my dear Kath, is that you think everyone has an ulterior motive.” Jackie pointed out rationally.
“Well Angel sure proved that point!” Kath tried to push past Megan, who stood in her way.
“Angel was… is an asshole,” Megan answered. “She gives ‘lesbianism' a bad name.”
“Yeah. Us lesbians have got to stick together,” Jackie said excitedly.
“You're not a lesbian,” Kath pointed out.
“I'm not?” “She's not?” Jackie and Megan said together.
“Your husband would have something to say about that.” Kath rolled her eyes and spoke to Megan. “She thinks she was a lesbian in another life and she lives vicariously through me to fulfill her secret fantasies.”
“She's right, you know,” Jackie agreed. “And I'm getting the urge to get laid.” She giggled.
“Jackie!!” Kath was mortified. “What are you saying?”
“You need a good woman, my girl!” Jackie said slyly, “And I think you've just found her!”
“I… errr…. I…” Kath could feel the blush rising up from her chest in a heartbeat. “When is your next therapist's appointment?”
“Next week, but stop changing the subject!” Jackie continued, “I want some action!”
“I am so going to whoop your ass!” Kath growled.
“Oooo…,” Jackie teased, “…some bondage. I haven't tried that before.”
Kath could see Megan laughing out of the corner of her eye. Jackie was in full-blown ‘lesbian mode', as she called it, and anything she said Jackie would find a way to make it point toward sex. Kath wondered if she could move her friend's therapy appointment up a week.
“Let's go,” Kath pleaded. Without another word, and the vase of flowers in one arm, Kath grabbed Megan's arm and dragged her toward her desk. The flowers sloshed precariously in the vase as it was set down forcefully on the desk top. Kath opened the bottom drawer of her desk and pulled out her handbag. “She can be such a pain when she's in this mood.”
“I thought Jackie was rather a hoot,” Megan said with a straight face.
“A hoot?!!?!” Kath laughed hysterically. “Jackie's sense of humor is so warped you can tie it in a bow.” She saw Jackie heading in their direction. “Oh no, go press the elevator button… NOW!” Kath raised her hand and pointed at Jackie. “Stay away from me you kook!”
“Awww, I was angling for an invite,” Jackie whined. “Please, please, pleeaazzeee!!”
Kath looked at Megan and silently pleaded with her to help her escape.
“Kath,” Jackie stated, “you are such an easy target.” She turned away and laughed, heading back to the kitchenette for her coffee.
Kath heart rate was sky high after Jackie's little prank, and standing next to Megan in the elevator she was sure the woman could sense her unease.
Just as the elevator doors opened at the ground floor Megan commented, “She's right, you know.”
* * * * * *
Kath and Megan wandered along the sidewalk filling in the time with small talk. Megan had deferred to Kath's knowledge of the area and allowed her to pick the restaurant. Just as Kath was about to steer Megan into a busy sidewalk café, Megan grabbed her arm and guided her another hundred feet up the road to a quiet, elegant-looking restaurant that looked like it was closed.
“I thought this was my choice,” Kath stated.
“I know what you're doing,” Jackie replied.
“You do? I thought I was finding somewhere for us to eat.” Which was true… sort of.
“True, but it's also the busiest and noisiest one around.”
“So? Maybe the food is good.” Kath defended herself.
“It's also jam-packed with people so you don't have to be alone with me.” Jackie smiled as Kath ducked her head. “You can't fool me.”
Kath had now been backed into a corner. She had no choice but to go to lunch with one of the most beautiful women in the city.
Megan led the way, asking the waitress for a quiet booth at the back. Kath followed them and tried not to look at the other patrons as she passed them.
As Kath sat down, Megan leaned across the table and whispered, “Will you relax?”
“Why didn't we just go to the place I picked out?”
“Conversation would be difficult for one.” Megan leaned back in her chair. “Now, isn't this much nicer?”
Kath finally looked around at the décor and silently agreed. “Yes, but I have exactly…,” Kath looked at her watch, “… forty-five minutes before I'm due back at work. At least at the other place we'd probably have our food by now.”
As if the waitress had heard her, the woman arrived. “May I take your order?”
“Yes…,” Megan began. She looked across at Kath, who just shrugged. “Two club sandwiches, one chicken and one beef on whole wheat, and two coffees, please. I'm sorry, but we're in a bit of a hurry.”
The waitress smiled. “I'll put a rush on the order.”
As she walked away, Megan said ‘thank you'. Five minutes later their coffees arrived and as Megan tore open a packet of sugar she spoke, “How have you been since I last saw you?”
“Fine.” Kath refused to elaborate.
“That's it? Fine? Come on, now. There must be more.”
“You mean about living in fear of Angel suing my ass off??” Kath ground out. Her hand shook as she added cream to her coffee.
“Stop worrying about it,” Megan offered.
“It's fine for you! You have the studio to back you up! I can't afford to be taken to court!” Kath's voice rose.
“Have you received a summons yet?”
Megan's calm demeanor infuriated Kath and she wanted to smack the smug smile right off the woman's face. “No.”
“Then stop worrying.”
“You just don't get it…”
“The studio got a subpoena from Angel's lawyer a couple of days ago and we go to court in a couple of weeks.”
“See??!” Kath was panicking. “First you, then it's my turn!”
“After our day in court I don't think Angel will be bothering you again,” Megan said confidently.
“You're not organizing a ‘hit' on her or something, are you?”
“As tempting as that sounds, no. But we do have an ace up our sleeves.” Megan took a sip of her coffee.
“What is it?” Kath's interest was piqued.
“I don't want to spoil the surprise, but you're most welcome to come to court to watch.”
Kat thought for a moment. “I don't know if I can get time off.”
“Sure you can,” Megan replied confidently. “It'll be worth your while.”
“Why is it so important that I be there?” Kath asked.
The conversation stopped as their sandwiches arrived. The silence continued as they tucked into the food. Kath glanced at Megan from time to time as she ate and found herself being scrutinized. She stopped in mid chew when a particularly revealing look caught her eye.
“What?” Kath managed to say around a mouthful of bread and salad.
Megan said nothing but continued to look at her. When she finished what was in her mouth, it looked to Kath like she was about to speak. “I want you to be there.” Megan took another mouthful of her food and began to chew once more.
Megan put down her food and waited patiently while she finished eating. “Do I have to spell it out?”
“Indulge me,” Kath replied.
“I just thought…. that… that maybe you and I… could,” Megan fumbled, “you know, celebrate.”
“And what if you lose?” Kath pointed out.
“We won't lose.”
Kath.” Megan's hand came across the table and grabbed Kath's wrist. “Let's stop all this dancing around. I like you. I like you a lot, and if you give me a chance I'd like to get to know you better.”
“Better?” Kath's eyes widened. “Better. As in–”
“I'll let you keep your underwear,” Megan whispered and then smiled gently.
Kath swallowed hard. If she was honest and she had to choose between Megan and Angel, Angel could have her contestant number two. “Why me?”
“Why not?” Megan said lightly, but Kath knew there was more to it than that. All Megan Samuels had to do was to snap her fingers and a dozen women would be at her beck and call. Could this mean more to Megan than she was letting on? Unlike Angel, Megan was seeking the quieter places for her dates.
Kath lapsed into pensive silence, absently taking small bites of her lunch as she thought about the conversation.
Megan glanced at her watch. “Oops, we're running late.” She laughed as Kath pushed what was left of her sandwich into her mouth, her cheeks bulging with food. “You look like Woody the Woodchuck!”
Kath's mouth formed an ‘O', giving Megan a glimpse of the food inside. Megan's hand grasped Kath's chin and pushed up to close her mouth. Megan raised a finger and signaled to the waitress. “Check please!”
Kath left Megan inside the restaurant while she stood outside on the sidewalk. She tried to finish what was in her mouth but had difficulty because of the amount of food she had shoved in. Precious seconds passed without much success and she was left with a full mouth when Megan emerged from the restaurant.
“Come on.” Megan was about to grab her hand when Kath pulled away. “What?” A crease formed in Megan's forehead. “Ahh. I get it. Then I'm sorry to take up your time.”
Kath could hear the disappointment and hurt in Megan's voice. She shook her head and waved her hands in refusal, and she wished she had some way to get rid of the food.
As if Megan could read her mind, she reached into her pocket and took out a tissue. After she handed it to Kath, Megan found something interesting to look at across the street, allowing her to spit out the lump in her mouth.
“I…,” Kath swallowed, “I didn't mean that. Honest.”
Megan's dark eyes focused on her and she could feel the pull. Kath took the moment to look at the woman who wanted to be part of her life. Slightly taller than herself, Megan was well toned and tanned. Her dark fringe hung low over her brow and it was then that Kath noticed a hint of white underneath. “What happened?” Kath asked as her hand rose to sweep away the fringe.
“What? Oh, that. That was when I head-butted Angel. Stupid move,” Megan answered.
“Was it worth it?” Kath couldn't help but ask.
“Oh yeah.” Megan replied softly.
Kath felt Megan lean into her hand, which was still resting on the woman's forehead. “We shouldn't do this.”
“Why not? Afraid someone at work will see us together?”
“More like maybe Angel might see us together and think that it was all a setup.”
Megan hesitated. “True, but I think she believes that now.”
“Still,” Kath said, “it might be an idea to cool it until after the court case.”
“So that's a ‘yes' to the celebration?” Megan questioned hopefully.
“It looks that way.”
They walked briskly back to the office in silence, neither one touching the other. Kath wondered whether she had just made a big mistake, but somehow she just couldn't work up the indignation to berate herself. Jackie was right. She needed to find a good woman.
As they rode the elevator up to the sixth floor Kath glanced sideways at Megan, who didn't seem to be paying attention to anything in particular. The doors slid open and there stood Jackie, her foot tapping impatiently on the carpeted floor.
“You're late!” Jackie hissed. “Greg is looking for you.”
“Oh crap!” Kath stepped out of the lift and looked at her desk where four new files sitting on top of it. “I forgot about that damned meeting this afternoon.”
“That's your answer for everything, isn't it?” Kathy snapped.
“Ah, there you are,” Greg joined the trio outside the elevator.
“I'm sorry” Kath started.
“It's my fault… Greg, is it? I'm Megan, Kath's cousin from out of town,” Megan began smoothly. “I was passing through and it was the only opportunity I had to catch up with her. I'm sorry, Greg, we didn't mean to be late.” Megan smiled at Greg, who instinctively smiled in return.
“No problem, Megan.” He turned his attention to Kath. “There's just a couple of small things we need to bring up to date, Kath, when you're ready.” Greg started to turn. “It was nice to meet you, Megan, and have a safe trip.” He extended his hand and Megan shook it.
After Greg had left, Jackie watched both of them with the biggest grin on her face. “Lunch must have been good.”
“So good in fact that I won't be seeing Miss Samuels again,” Kath responded before walking over to her desk.
“That's it?” Jackie had a look of surprise on her face.
“My office will call you about the court case,” Megan called. Without another word she pushed the button and waited for the elevator to arrive.
“Court case? You're suing her? For what?” Jackie asked.
“I think you better ask Miss Bellis about that,” Megan said as she stepped in and the elevator doors closed behind her.
Kath had seen, and heard, the exchange and couldn't help but smile. They had tricked Jackie… and good.
* * * * * *
For Kath, it had been the longest two weeks of her life, not that she would admit it to either Megan or Jackie. It was that old adage ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder' that stuck in Kath's mind… or was it ‘abstinence'? It didn't really matter because either way she wasn't getting any.
Jackie had pushed and prodded her for more information but Kath refused to budge, instead letting the woman think she was being summonsed to court. Still, it took all Kath's powers of persuasion to stop Jackie accompanying her for moral support.
She had negotiated the crowd of reporters waiting outside the court and walked to court room seven, pushing the door gently to enter. The case had already started, but only just. All heads turned as the door squeaked closed and she took refuge in a spare seat near the door.
Kath had told herself not to, but she stole a glance at Angel. She was afraid to see Angel's reaction, and she was not disappointed. The woman glowered at her and she shrunk down in her seat to avoid the intense stare. It was then that she realized that being in the courtroom was a really bad idea. Not only had Angel seen her and decided whose side Kath had taken, but had she potentially threatened Megan's chances of winning the case?
Kath was about the leave when she realized that it was probably too late to undo the damage done. As she debated in her head whether to leave or not, she gaze had sought out the defendant and found that she was being observed. Megan's flashing smile made everything alright. It was a warm smile, a friendly smile and a smile that promised that nothing would happen to her.
“Your Honor,” the prosecuting attorney began, “this case is about my client's reputation, for without her reputation she has no livelihood. Ms. Higgins is a movie star, and her bankability as a star is based on her reputation. She appeared on a women's dating program called “The Rating Game” in good faith and they have done nothing but ridicule her and devise ways to embarrass her in public.”
“Now wait just one minute…” Megan stood up and angrily denied the claims.
“Order in the court! Ms Samuels please sit down! You will get your chance.” The gavel banged loudly to subdue the murmurs in the courtroom.
“As you can see, your Honor, Ms. Samuels is quick to jump to conclusions and act rashly.” The attorney looked at Megan and she glared back at him.
Kath watched with restrained anger as the lawyer tried to bait Megan. She wanted to get up and smack the man in the head. Kath sat back for a moment and realized what she was thinking. She wanted to protect Megan which, logically, led to the assumption that she felt something for the woman. Was it possible? She barely knew Megan and yet there was just something between them that clicked.
The prosecuting attorney went on for another fifteen minutes, delivering a boring soliloquy why his client was a misunderstood loner. At no point did Kath see any evidence to back up his outrageous claims.
Finally, the defense attorney had his chance to refute the claims. “Your Honor, my learned colleague's speech is quite a work of fiction…”
“Objection!” The opposing attorney called, his hand holding back Angel from jumping the table.
“Overruled!” the judge replied.
“And that's all it is,” the defense lawyer continued. “No evidence has been presented to back up his claims, nor any witnesses called to support his client.” He paused for effect. “And you know why? Because there isn't any. He was unable to get anyone to stand up for Angel Higgins.”
“Objection!” Angel's attorney called louder.
“Your Honor?” Megan's lawyer replied.
“I hope this point is going somewhere,” the judge demanded.
“It is, your Honor. The whole crux of this case is based on Angel Higgins' reputation. One doesn't have to go any further than the newsstand to find out what Ms. Higgins' reputation is.” Jenkins moved from around the desk and took a few steps toward the judge. “To put it plainly, your Honor, Ms. Higgins has serious ego and anger management problems.”
“Objection! Ms. Higgins' reputation cannot be judged on the hearsay of a few sleazy tabloids. They lie all the time!” the prosecuting attorney interjected.
“Unless you have something more, Mr. Jenkins, I will have to agree with Mr. Bellows.” The judge looked expectantly at Jenkins.
“We do, your Honor. I would like to submit for ‘Exhibit A' this piece of footage from “The Rating Game”, taken on the set two weeks ago, when the alleged confrontation took place.” Jenkins signaled for a TV monitor to be rolled in.
“Hey! You've got no right!” Angel rose and pointed her finger at the lawyer.
“Ms. Higgins, sit down!” The gavel banged loudly.
“Your Honor, this is the incident on which Ms. Higgins is basing her defamation case. You will see by the footage that she instigated the fight.”
“I didn't insinuate anything!” Angel yelled.
“Instigate, Ms. Higgins,” Jenkins explained patiently. “You started the fight.”
“I did no such thing. She started it! I just finished it.” Angel growled.
Megan touched Jenkins' sleeve. “Let her speak. She's only digging a deeper hole.”
“I know,” he said smiling.
Kath watched the videotape with interest. As it played, she remembered only too well the incident that started with the conversation on the sofa, escalated to the accusations and pushing, and finally ending with Angel's punch, Megan's head butt and Angel storming off threatening legal action.
“As you can see, you Honor, Ms. Samuels was just protecting Ms. Bellis from Ms. Higgins' threatening gestures. Ms. Higgins threw the first punch while Ms. Samuels' wasn't looking, leaving Ms. Samuels with no choice but to defend herself.”
“It's all a lie!” Angel screamed. “They did this to me! The film has been tampered with. These days they can make you say and do anything with the technology.”
“Ms. Higgins!” the judged yelled back, “If you don't sit down I'll hold you in contempt of court.” He banged his gavel again, this time the wooden base shifted with the force of the hit.
“This is very damning evidence. Are you able to substantiate this?” the judge continued.
Kath stood up and answered, “I can, your Honor.”
“Don't you dare…,” Angel stood and glared threateningly at Kath.
“Ms. Higgins, don't you even think of trying to intimidate a witness. Now SIT DOWN!” The judge nodded to a bailiff, who moved closer to Angel to enforce the judge's ruling.
“Your Honor, I was at that filming and it happened exactly as it did on the film.”
“You are Ms. Bellis, is that correct?” he asked.
“Yes, I am, your Honor.” As Kath spoke she walked up to the attorneys' desks and stood there.
“From what I see there seemed to be some disagreement before the fight began,” he stated.
“Yes, your Honor.” Kath cringed. Now it would all come out. “The supposed date with Ms. Higgins was not all it was cracked up to be,” she admitted. Kath didn't want to continue and looked at Megan for support. Megan smiled back and she took courage from that to continue. “I was left at the table while Angel danced on the dance floor with anyone who would dance with her.”
“I did no such thing!” This time Angel grumbled from her seat.
“I saw her collecting pieces of paper which, I assumed, were phone numbers. Anyway, someone came up to me at the table and bought me a drink. Angel came up behind her and attacked her, saying that I was hers and that she should walk away.”
“Then what?” the judge urged.
Kath finally had the nerve to stare Angel right in the eye. “She got us both evicted from the club and she left me to find my own way home.” When Kath had finished there was a single clap of applause. She suspected who it was but Kath had to look anyway.
Megan looked at her and said quietly, “Bravo.”
“I think Ms. Bellis has satisfied my curiosity about the circumstances of this case. I am ready to make my decision.”
Jenkins tapped Megan on the shoulder and signaled her to stand, while Angel's lawyer did the same thing.
“In the case of Angel Higgins versus Megan Samuels and Breeze Productions, I find for the defendant, Megan Samuels.” There was cheering from Megan's work colleagues as they celebrated their win. “The court is adjourned.” The sound of the gavel was lost in the noise of celebration.
Kath stood up and left the courtroom quickly. Now was not the time for a public meeting, and to avoid that she exited the building and headed back to work. If Megan wanted to pursue this she would have to contact her.
* * * * * *
“So, how did it go?” Jackie was genuinely concerned when Kath returned to the office.
“Fine.” Kath giggled at Jackie's expression. “Nothing happened, Jackie. The court case was between Angel and Megan.”
“Oh? Oh.” She sounded almost disappointed. “So when is Megan seeing you again?” she asked hopefully.
“I didn't stop to ask. If she wants to ask me out then she has to do the chasing,” Kath said firmly.
“That's being a bit childish, isn't it?”
“I don't know,” Kath pondered, “but it's just the way I feel right now.”
“Something's wrong.” Jackie moved into protective friend and therapist mode. “Come and tell me what's wrong.” Jackie grabbed her hand and dragged her to the bathroom.
“Nothing's wrong,” Kath said brightly. “Why should there be anything wrong?”
Jackie leaned against the wash basin and Kath used the toilet. “Because I know you. Are you afraid that now the case is over she doesn't need you any more? Is that it?”
“No! Of course not!” Kath's voice bounced off the pristine tiles on the walls. “Where do you get such ideas?”
“Geez, girl. Will you pull yourself together? She'll call.”
“Good.” But to Kath it wasn't good. She wasn't convinced that Megan was truly interested. Kath finished her business and moved to the basin to wash her hands. Jackie said nothing, but just stared at her. “What?”
Jackie shook her head. “You can be such an idiot sometimes.”
“I'm an idiot?” Kath wiped her hands and faced her friend. “And I though you were my friend.”
“And as a friend, I'm telling you that you are a complete idiot.” Jackie stepped closer and grabbed Kath's shoulders. “Don't do this to yourself. You know she's interested so why play this game?”
“There is no game,” Kath explained. “Megan will go back to her show and I'll drag myself through another day here. As it should be.”
“Hmmm. As it should be. Okay Cinderella, have it your own way.” Jackie dropped her hands and opened the door, one hand sweeping toward the corridor in invitation. “Your pumpkin awaits...”
“Hrrmpf,” Kath snorted as she passed Jackie in the doorway.
When they reached the elevator, they parted ways. Jackie made one final comment. “I'm handing back my ‘be a lesbian for a day' badge. You're no fun at all.”
* * * * * * *
Kath tried to put the case behind her as she worked industriously through the afternoon to catch up on the work she had missed attending court. The phone rang and she picked it up instinctively. “Bellis.”
“I looked for you when the case was over, but you were gone.”
Megan voice was even more seductive over the phone. “There was no point in sticking around.”
“I thought we were going to celebrate.” Disappointment tinged Megan's words.
“And you have your work colleagues to do that with you,” Kath explained.
“What's the matter? I thought we had already sorted this out.”
“I suppose we had.” Kath hesitated. “I just don't want to get hurt.”
“Hurt? I told you I'd protect you from Angel.”
“Not Angel,” Kath interceded. “You.”
“Me,” Megan's voice rose, “What did I do?”
“Do we have to discuss this?” Kath said tiredly.
“We certainly do. I don't understand what the problem is.”
“There's no problem, Megan. I just think it's probably just better to forget it and go our separate ways.”
“No! I won't accept that!” Megan argued.
“Goodbye, Megan.” As Kath hung up the phone she could hear Megan's voice pleading to her. “Goodbye.”
Forty minutes later Kath was visited by one angry TV presenter. “You hung up on me!” Megan growled. “That was very rude.”
“I suppose it was…,” Kath agreed, “…but I didn't want the argument.”
“Well, I do! You seemed to have made the decision for both of us, Kath, and that's unacceptable. You say you don't want to get hurt, but what about me, huh? You saying ‘no' is hurting me right now!” Megan's voice held a lot of emotion.
Greg appeared at his door. “Is everything alright, Kath?” He suddenly saw who she was talking to. “Oh…,” he thought for a moment, “…Megan, are you still here? I thought you had left.”
“My flight got cancelled, Greg. I'm stuck here until tomorrow.” Megan offered smoothly.
“That's too bad.” He glanced at the clock on the wall. “Kath, why don't you take your cousin out to dinner? It's almost time to go home anyway.”
Kath looked at the clock and knew that even in the broadest sense of the word ‘almost', she still had an hour of work to go. She raised an eyebrow at him and he just nodded, before walking back into his office and closing the door.
“I'm not leaving without you,” Megan stated behind her. “We are going to sort this out once and for all.”
Kath turned around and looked over Megan's shoulder to see that a small crowd had gathered and were watching the exchange with interest.
“Okay girls,” Jackie ushered off the rest of the women, “There's nothing to see here.”
“Oh Lord,” Kath muttered.
Megan reached for her cell and pressed speed dial. “Vic? Hi, it's Megan. Where are you?”
Kath had no idea what was going on. Had Megan already moved on to Vic?
“Cool. Can you pick us up at the corner of Cleveland and Hall? Great. Twenty minutes? Excellent.” She folded the cell and slipped it into her back pocket. “Let's go.” She grabbed Kath's hand and tugged.
“No! Just who the hell do you think you are?” Kath was starting to question what she liked about Megan.
“I'm the one who wants you!” Megan ground out. “Geez, Kath. How much more do I have to say to get you to go out with me?”
Kath suddenly became aware of the silence around her. The clacking on computer keyboards and the click click of printers had stopped while the conversation took place. Out of the corner of her eye she could see a number of heads popping up above the partitions to see what was going on.
“Fine,” Kath said tightly. She closed down her terminal and grabbed her handbag, walking briskly past Megan toward the elevator. She remained silent while waiting for the lift and walked inside before she spoke. Megan hadn't moved. “Are you coming?”
Megan lurched forward and ran the last couple of steps as the lift doors began to close.
“Well, thank you very much! Now everyone knows!” Kath growled in Megan's face.
Megan pushed a button and the elevator stopped. “Just what the hell is going on here? What have I done that's so wrong?” she begged.
“Not everyone knew I was gay up there,” Kath explained.
“But… but you and Jackie–” Megan looked stunned.
“Jackie is just a little bit nuts. Didn't you listen when I talked about her therapist?” Kath threw her hands up in the air.
“I thought you were joking.”
“It's a little game we play. I pretend she's gay and she pretends she's sane.”
“Strange game,” Megan muttered.
“It keeps her in her job. It's not that bad.”
“I don't know if I could work with someone who's crazy.” Megan shook her head.
“She's not crazy as such. She's more an acquired taste.”
Megan laughed. “Acquired taste… right.” She sobered. “But that doesn't answer my question.” Megan stepped closer, crowding Kath against the elevator wall. “Why are you trying so hard to discourage me? Are you…,” Megan dipped her head to within a hair's breath of Kath's lips, “…afraid?” she whispered.
“Me???!?,” Kath squeaked, “I am NOT–”
Megan closed the distance and took Kath's lips with her own. It was a slow introduction, one filled with promises and demands. Megan pulled away and looked deep into Kath's eyes. “Be afraid,” Megan whispered, “be very afraid.” She extended her hand and pushed the button to the ground floor, then stepped away from Kath.
Subconsciously, Kath lifted her hand to her mouth, touching the spot where Megan's lips had met hers. “Why did you do that?”
“Because I wanted to, Kath. I've been wanting to do that from the moment I saw you biting your fingernails.” Megan chuckled at Kath's stunned look.
“I was about to go on television, Megan. I was nervous.” Kath's gaze shifted to her fingernails. She quickly hid the offending digits from sight.
Megan leaned against the far wall, giving Kath all the space she needed. “Yep, you certainly were nervous.”
The ding of the elevator stopped the conversation. After the doors slid quietly open, Megan signaled to Kath to go ahead of her. Kath stood in the foyer, nervously looking around for any fellow co-workers.
“Don't worry,” Megan offered, “I won't take your hand.”
Kath stared at her. She was annoyed. Really annoyed. Megan now seemed to be able to read her thoughts.
“It wasn't that hard to figure out,” Megan added.
“Come on, let's go find Vic.” Megan led the way, turning left when they exited the building.
“And who is Vic, huh?”
“Jealous?” Megan looked over her shoulder and gave Kath a smile.
“No! Don't be ridiculous!” Kath tried to present herself as full of righteous indignation.
“I think you are!” Megan turned around so she was facing Kath, walking backwards along the sidewalk. “Come on, admit it. You are jealous!” She giggled as Kath bristled.
Kath stopped dead. “That's it! I'm going home!” She turned around and walked back toward her office.
Megan stepped around her and placed a hand on Kath's chest. “Okay, okay. I'll stop with the teasing.”
“What do you want from me?”
“I want to get to know you better, Kath.”
“Simple as that?” But Kath suspected that it wouldn't be that simple.
“Simple as that,” Megan confirmed.
“Then who's Vic?” Kath directed the conversation back to her first question.
“She's my PA. She's still in the city and can give us a lift.”
“To where?” Kath thought she knew but she wanted to make sure that there were no misunderstandings.
“My place,” Megan said. “And get that thought right out of your head.”
“What thought?” Kath looked Megan in the eye.
“You think I'm taking you home to get you into bed.” Megan smiled as Kath blushed. “Not that I wouldn't be ecstatic about that, if I was being honest. No, it's just to talk, and maybe have some dinner.”
“Uh huh,” Kath said with some suspicion.
“Come on,” Megan stepped closer and whispered, “what have you got to lose?”
“My underwear?” Kath asked.
“I said you could keep those. At worst you get a home-cooked meal and at best–”
“At best?” Kath just knew what was coming next.
“At best… let's just say you will make Jackie a very happy woman.” Megan stepped back and turned to continue the walk to the corner of Cleveland and Hall.
Kath watched her walk away, but only took a moment to make her decision. She trotted up to Megan and they walked side-by-side along the sidewalk to meet up with Vic.
* * * * * *
Megan opened the door and let Kath precede her into her apartment. She threw her keys into the glass bowl by the door and shrugged off her coat. “Make yourself comfortable,” she said as she walked through the living room and into the kitchen.
Kath was surprised. Megan's apartment was just like hers. Comfortable and lived in. She had thought that Megan's profession would allow her a more flamboyant lifestyle.
Megan emerged from the kitchen with two glasses of wine. “Drink?” She extended her hand and gave a glass to Kath.
“You're assuming that I drink wine.” Kath didn't like to be pre-judged.
“You looked like a wine drinker, so I took the gamble.” Megan sat on the sofa and patted the empty spot next to her. “Sit. I won't bite.”
But the look in Megan's eye made Kath think otherwise. Megan was an animal on the prowl, at least in her mind. Kath perched herself on the far end of the sofa, sipping the wine nervously.
“So what do you think?” Megan asked.
“Not bad. A little bit fruity for my tastes but–”
“Not the wine… the apartment.” Megan sighed deeply and shook her head. “Not what you expected, huh?”
“How do you know what I was expecting?”
“Oh come on,” Megan retorted. “You were expecting some kind of Manhattan apartment with Monets on the wall, weren't you?”
Kath look at her uncertainly. “Maybe…”
“No maybe about it.” Megan took a sip of her wine. “Is that why you're trying to get rid of me? Big rich TV celebrity and working girl secretary would never work?” Megan inched her way up the sofa.
“Well, it wouldn't…”
“Let me tell you something here and now.” Megan put down her glass on the coffee table. “I'm a nobody on a low-rating game show on a nothing cable network.” She held up her hand to stop Kath talking. “I have a mortgage on this apartment. The loan company owns my furniture and I have precisely nine hundred and sixty-eight dollars and fifteen cents in my savings account.”
“Oh.” What could Kath say? Based on those figures, she was doing better than Megan… by about two hundred and fifty dollars.
“Damn right, oh!” Megan's voice hardened. “So don't go judging me, Ms. Bellis!” She reached for her wine and took a healthy swallow. “I'm not a celebrity or a TV personality, and I'm certainly nothing like Angel Higgins!” Megan returned the glass to the table before running her hand through her short auburn hair. “I'm sorry. That was rude of me.” She hung her head for a moment before throwing it back and looking at the ceiling. “I'm making a right mess of this, aren't I? It's just that… that…”
Kath put her own glass down on the table and moved closer. “That… what?”
Megan's steel-blue eyes looked at her intensely. “I want this to work, Kath, and you're throwing up walls between us.” She stopped for a moment, as if she had an epiphany. “I suppose I should ask at this point whether you're interested in me or not. I haven't given you much of a chance to say one way or the other.”
“No, you haven't,” Kath said matter-of-factly. She went silent and waited, watching Megan fidget while she made up her mind.
“Well???” Megan asked impatiently.
“I'm here, aren't I?” Kath smiled at her.
“I suppose you are,” Megan said guardedly. “How about some dinner?” Megan stood and walked into the kitchen, glass in hand.
Kath sat there stunned. She thought she had control of the conversation until Megan took a sudden left turn in the situation. It took her a moment or two to mentally re-group then she laughed. Despite all her reservations, she couldn't help but like the woman.
Kath stood and followed Megan into the kitchen, observing her from the doorway as she moved around with some level of efficiency. She could see that Megan's kitchen wasn't for show, but that she had cooked in it often. Maybe there was some truth to Megan's words.
“What's on the menu?” Kath tried to sound casual as she leaned against the door jamb, sipping her wine.
“Pasta,” Megan replied casually as she stood by the cook top waiting for the water to boil. “Unless you're a carnivore, then we can have steak or chicken. Your choice.”
Suddenly Kath was hungry. “How about chicken and pasta salad?” she offered.
“Sure!” Megan answered brightly. “You seem awfully happy.”
“I suppose I am.” Kath commented. “I think I've come to a decision.”
“Yeah,” Megan kidded, “You decided on chicken and pasta.”
“Funny lady. Funny, funny, funny.”
Megan began chopping. “So what's this monumental decision of yours?”
“I've decided that you're right.”
Megan looked up. “I'm right? Really?” She grinned at Kath. “What about?”
“I've decided that you're not Angel Higgins.”
“God! I hope I'm not!” Megan pointed the knife in her hand at Kath. “And don't you forget it!”
“Speaking of Angel… She's not finished with us yet, is she?”
“Kath,” Megan put the knife down and moved closer to Kath. “She's not going to bother us again. I promise.”
“That's a pretty big promise.” Kath said. “And Angel didn't strike me as the sort of woman who would let bygones be bygones.”
“Let's just say, she and I have an understanding,” Megan assured Kath.
“You're blackmailing her?” Kath was shocked.
“Blackmail is such a harsh word, Kath. She leaves us alone and a certain piece of film won't find its way to E News .”
“Sounds like blackmail to me.” But somehow Kath couldn't work up any sympathy for her tormentor.
“You say pot-ay-to, I say pot-aah-to.” Megan turned around and went back to her chopping.
“Can I help?” Kath moved to the bench and stood waiting for instructions.
* * * * *
Dinner was an amiable affair, enjoyed in comfort and with easy conversation. Much to Kath's surprise Megan didn't push things, instead taking her home and planting a gentle kiss on her lips at her front door. When she asked why, Megan expressed her sincerity in having a relationship. If it meant taking things slow, then she would do it for the long-term benefits.
True to Megan's word, there was silence from Angel, but that didn't stop Kath's anxiety about the matter. As far as she was concerned, Angel was a fuse that was lit and Kath didn't know how long it would fizzle and burn before it went off.
Over the ensuing weeks, the wooing continued. Megan met Kath for dinner, or a movie, or even just a walk, twice a week, using the time to get to know one another. Kath knew Megan was aware of her personal space when they were in public, and avoided her workplace at all costs. Kath, in the meantime, had a cranky Jackie who wanted to know everything but was told nothing. A number of times Jackie threatened to turn herself in to Lesbians Anonymous, but Kath refused to buckle.
But time was fast approaching where Kath knew she would buckle, both with Jackie and, more importantly, with Megan. A kiss was no longer enough, and her body was telling her in no uncertain terms that she needed more intimate contact.
* * * * * *
“You're a hard girl to find.”
Kath looked up from her keyboard to see the one person she had hoped never to see again. “Angel.”
Angel leaned on top of the partition, her muscled forearms acting as a massive pillow for her chin. “You didn't call,” she sounded almost disappointed.
“Why should I? You stood me up remember?” Kath tried to sound indignant, but she felt anything but. “Besides, I don't have your number.”
“I can easily solve that…” Angel moved around the wall to stand next to Kath's desk.
“Save your time, Angel. I'm not interested.”
“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” Jackie's squeal could be heard across the entire floor.
“Oh no…” Kath covered her eyes with her hand and shook her head. If she was honest, she was glad that Jackie showed up. At least she would divert Angel's attention away from her.
“Angel! Angel Higgins! I am such a fan!” Jackie grabbed Angel's hand and shook it vigorously. “Kath! It's Angel Higgins!”
“I know, Jack–” Kath started to say.
“I just loved you in Revenge Is Sweet .” Jackie reached over and grabbed Kath's notepad. “Can I have your autograph?” Jackie shoved the pen and into Angel's hands and lifted her shirt. “Sign it right here.” She pointed to one bra cup.
“Err, sure.” It took Angel a moment. She scribbled her name across the material then added some numbers, before handing the pen back to Kath.
“Oh, thank you!” Jackie looked down at the signature. “What's this?”
“My phone number,” Angel said seductively, giving Jackie a wink.
“Do you see this, Kath! She gave me her phone number.” Jackie was effusive in her praise.
“Feel free to share it around,” Angel suggested.
Suddenly Kath felt very dirty and wanted to take a shower immediately. The woman had no scruples, or inhibitions, as far as her sex life was concerned.
“So, what's happening?” Jackie pulled down her shirt and stood her ground between Kath and Angel, her head swiveling from one woman to the other.
“Ah, yes,” Angel began, “the reason for my visit. If you'll excuse us...” She glared at Jackie, who walked away sulking.
“Geez, you don't have to sign and run,” she mumbled as she walked down the short corridor and around the corner to her section of the floor.
“Now, if you'll excuse me.” Kath tried the same line in the hope that Angel took the hint. She turned her attention back to the blank monitor and began typing.
“Oh, no.” Angel moved closer and placed her hand on top of Kath's to stop her typing. “Come with me.”
“I don't have to go with you anywhere, Miss Higgins.” Kath stated.
But Angel pressed on. “You really don't want to make a scene here, do you? I'm sure all these nice people, and especially your boss, would like to know what you really are.”
“Are you threatening me?” Kath could feel her heart pounding.
Angel stood there for a moment, as if she was considering her answer. “I suppose I am. We have to talk.”
Reluctantly, Kath stood and accompanied Angel, who had a firm grip on her upper arm.
“Is everything all right, Kath?”
Kath hadn't realized that Greg had emerged from his office and was now standing behind them.
“Everything is fine. I just need a moment of her time.” Angel answered for her.
Greg looked at Kath with concern, only leaving them when Kath nodded in agreement.
“Smart move,” Angel muttered as she pushed the button for the elevator. The ding sounded loud and intrusive to Kath's ears, making her feel uncomfortable, and the feeling intensified when she was pushed into the lift by Angel.
“What do you want?” Kath tried to sound calm but it took all she had to stop herself from shaking.
Angel leaned over from her place against the wall and pushed the emergency stop. “Your little bedmate made a fool of me,” she growled, taking a menacing step toward Kath.
“You did that all on your own,” Kath retorted. She felt anything but brave at that moment, but Angel was really starting to piss her off. “You need help.”
“That's why I'm here, honey buns.” Angel smiled and Kath grimaced. “You're going to get that tape for me.”
“The tape that bitch showed in the courtroom, you idiot!” Angel grabbed Kath's shoulders and shook her. “What else did you think I was talking about?”
Kath was tempted to say Angel's last two movies, but she knew that would probably earn her a smack or two. “That's over now. The tape's worth nothing.”
“She can still release it to the media.” Angel's face was contorted in anger.
“But that's not the problem, is it?” Kath said calmly as she backed away.
“Of course it is. You know I think that bitch has given you too much credit for being smart.” Angel glanced at the row of buttons on the wall, watching the floors slowly light up.
“No, she took you down in court and now you want to get her back by stealing the evidence from under her nose.”
Angel leaned back against the wall and studied Kath. “Huh. Maybe I was wrong. You and me could have had something good.” Angel pushed the emergency stop button again and pushed the ground floor.
Kath kept her mouth shut for the rest of the trip, even though she had a smart retort to Angel's last comment. They would have had something good to share all right… Chlamydia.
The ‘ding' announced the elevator's arrival. “Remember what I said. I'll be in touch in a couple of days. Get it… or else.” The last two words were a promise, as well as a threat.
* * * * * *
“What are these?”
Kath knew what Megan was talking about. The bruises on her upper arms from when Angel grabbed her had now surfaced. She had tried to hide them during dinner because she knew Megan would explode, but now the secret was out.
“They're nothing. Don't worry about it.” She tried to pass it off, taking another sip of the wine in her hand.
Megan lifted Kath's shirt sleeve and studied the five fingertip-sized black marks on her left arm. She stood up and moved around to Kath's right side and sat down, finding five corresponding marks on her other upper arm. Megan scowled at Kath. “These are bruises. Who grabbed you hard enough to leave those?”
“Calm down, Megs. Nothing happened.” Kath hadn't realized that she had let the shortened name escape her lips.
“Megs, huh?” Megan smiled for a moment, before returning to the conversation. “Don't go changing the subject. It was Angel, wasn't it?”
“What makes you think that?” Kath hedged.
“Yes or no, Kath. Was it Angel?”
Kath couldn't look her in the eye. “Yes,” she said quietly. “She visited me at my work.”
“What did she want?”
The air was electric. Megan's barely suppressed anger was nearly a palpable thing, sparking and sizzling across molecules of air in the room.
“Kath?” Megan asked again. “What did she want?”
“She wanted the tape.”
“I thought she would have had better things to do than bully you for a tape. I hope you told her that you didn't have it.”
“She didn't believe me. She wants that tape, Megan, at any cost.” Kath pleaded.
“At any cost?” Megan grabbed Kath and looked her in the eye. “What cost?” Kath looked away. “Kath? At what cost?”
“She was going to tell everyone at my work that I was gay.” But Kath knew Megan wanted to know everything. “She… pushed me around a little.”
“She did what??!?!? I'll kill her!” Megan was enraged.
“Just give her what she wants and maybe she'll leave us alone,” Kath pleaded.
“Are you crazy? If we do that, what's to stop her terrorizing us for the rest of our lives?”
“Maybe I better find another job. Just disappear altogether.” Even to her own ears, Kath sounded defeated.
“No! She is not going to intimidate you or me.” Megan stood and started to prowl around the room. “When is she coming back?”
“In a couple of days.” Kath expected Megan to lash out, but surprisingly she remained calm.
“That should be enough time,” Megan mumbled absently.
“Enough time for what?”
“Don't worry about it,” Megan answered. “You will have your tape in two days.”
“So now what do we do?”
“Maybe I should take you home,” Megan suggested. “You've had a big day and you could use the sleep.”
But Kath didn't want to go. She had nowhere else to turn and she needed another to hold her and tell her everything would be all right. She needed Megan. “Angel thought we were sleeping together,” Kath blurted out.
“I'm not surprised.”
“You're not? Why do you say that?” Maybe Kath was the only one who saw their relationship as something other than sexual.
“Well, we've been seeing each other for a few weeks now. Angel would probably have had you in bed on the first night.”
“Ewwww.” Kath let the sound escape her lips, then she shivered.
“Yeah,” Megan agreed. “She'd probably break your hips.”
Kath laughed for a moment. “Can I stay?” she whispered. She saw Megan's eyes widen for a second, the want in her eyes clearly written there. “I don't want to be alone.”
“Come here,” Megan encouraged, her arms pulling Kath into a loving embrace. Her hand pushed Kath's head down onto her shoulder, then proceeded to run through Kath's shoulder-length hair. “Everything will be fine. I promise.”
“But it's a promise you can't keep.” Kath could hear the ‘little girl lost' sound in her own voice.
“Oh, yes I can. And it's a promise that I will keep.”
* * * * * *
Kath could barely keep her mind on her work. Every time the elevator made a noise she jumped, expecting Angel to emerge and confront her.
“What's got you all jumpy?”
Jackie's voice sent Kath's heart rate up into the stratosphere. “Jesus, Jackie! Don't do that!”
“Expecting someone?” she asked casually.
“Haven't you got work to do?” Kath snapped back. Jackie went silent. “Oh, geez Jack, I'm sorry. I'm just a bit nervous.”
“Is Megan going to propose or something?” she asked hopefully.
“Shhhh, not so loud.” But Kath suspected Jackie's cutting voice would have been heard across the other side of the floor. “No, nothing like that. It's just a meeting with someone I don't want to meet with.”
The elevator's arrival was announced and the ‘ding' was excruciatingly loud. While Kath couldn't see who it was from where she was seated, she just knew who was there. Angel.
“Hi there, doll.” Angel greeted Kath warmly.
It grated on Kath's nerves to see Angel smugly smiling at her and expecting Kath to have the tape she had asked for. No, Angel didn't ask. She demanded. And if that didn't work, she intimidated and threatened.
“Let's talk,” she stated.
“Here.” Kath threw the videotape onto her desk. “Take it. Now get out of here and leave me alone.”
“That's not very friendly,” Angel cooed.
“What's going on?” Jackie interjected.
“Nothing. Angel was just leaving.” Kath said as she stared at the brute of a woman.
“Not before you walk with me. Excuse us.” Angel stepped around Jackie, grabbing both the tape and Kath's arm.
Kath winced as Angel's fingers bit into her skin in the exact same spot where the bruises were. But Angel was unapologetic, chuckling at Kath's discomfort. When they were out of sight from the offices, Angel pressed herself against Kath. “I hope this will be a lesson for you two. No one messes with Angel Higgins.”
Kath could feel the larger woman's breath on her neck, and smelled garlic on her tongue. She tried to pull away, but Angel had her in a firm grip around her waist.
“Do you enjoy blackmailing people?” Kath inquired.
“When they're as easy a target as you are, yeah sure, but I like the intimidation thing better.” Angel squeezed Kath a little harder, drawing a grunt from her.
“Leave me alone!” Kath knew it was a lost cause but she pleaded anyway.
“How about a goodbye kiss?” Angel grinned at Kath and puckered her lips.
There was a Xena-like yell in the air a moment before Jackie launched herself onto Angel's back, holding on around Angel's neck with one arm while pounding the woman's shoulder with her other fist. “The lady asked you to let go.” Jackie yelled into Angel's ear. “Now… let… her… go.” Jackie accentuated each word with a hit on Angel's back.
“What the…??!?” Angel looked over her shoulder at the she-cat dangling from her neck. “Go away!” She reached up and pulled away the arm around her neck, letting Jackie fall to the floor and land on her ass.
But Jackie wasn't that easily discouraged. She was back on her feet and swinging her fists. She was stopped dead in her tracks by a massive hand around her throat, holding her away at arm's length.
The elevator door opened moments after the sound of a ‘ding' in the small foyer. The three women stopped in mid-fight and looked at who had arrived. While Angel was angry, Kath was forever grateful for the new visitor to the floor.
“That's it! I've tried to be nice about this, but you have officially worn out your welcome!” Megan stepped out of the elevator as the doors began to close and stood there with her hands on her hips. “Are you going to leave them alone any time soon?”
“Ahhh, Samuels. Your lover here is small fry. I've been waiting to get my hands on you.”
Kath felt the pressure lessen and she quickly moved out of harm's way. As much as she hated any sort of confrontation she was cheering for this one. “Kick her ass, Megs.” She grabbed Jackie and pulled her back. “Give them some room.”
The commotion had drawn a crowd and Kath knew there was little she could do about it. This was a matter that needed to be settled once and for all.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Angel announced as she and Megan moved around one another, “I have an announcement to make. Kath Bellis is a lesbian!” Angel laughed loudly and then took a step toward Megan, who jumped out of the way and allowed Angel's fist to hit thin air.
“You promised!” Kath cried. Her worst fears had now come true. She couldn't look at her fellow workers because she didn't want to see the disgust there.
“Hey, I was blackmailing you! What on earth made you think that I was trustworthy?”
Angel had a point. It was her own naivety that caused her downfall and, by the looks of it, Megan's future visit to hospital.
Megan danced into Angel's personal space and let fly with a punch to the jaw. “Owww.” She shook her hand as she moved out of range. Angel rubbed her jaw and then smiled, showing very little effect from the punch.
“No time for Queensbury Rules!” Jackie called.
“I'm trying here!” Megan hollered back.
“Kick her in the balls!” Jackie suggested.
“Balls?” Megan stole a glance at Kath and shook her head.
The glance was enough time for Angel's fist to find Megan's cheek. Just as Angel moved in to finish Megan off, Jackie attacked Angel again, jumping on her back and pummeling her mercilessly. Megan's foot lashed out and struck Angel in the crotch, leaving her doubled over in pain. Jackie climbed off before she somersaulted over Angel's back.
Both women stood there leaning heavily on their knees while catching their breaths. Suddenly Megan found an empty metal waste basket in her hand and before she had time to think she swung it at Angel's head, sending the woman crashing back against the elevator doors.
Angel stood and swayed precariously on her two tree-like legs. The elevator doors opened and stayed that way. Megan shoved the waste basket over Angel's head and pushed her backwards with one foot. “Here's your tape.” She threw the tape at the fallen Angel. “Now get out of here before I call the cops!”
“Yeah!” Jackie appeared beside Megan and looked directly at Angel's slumped body against the far wall of the elevator. She reached under her shirt and wriggled around, a second later pulling out her bra and throwing it at Angel. “And you have this back! I don't want it anymore!” As the doors were closing Jackie added one final comment. “And what I said about Revenge Is Sweet ? I LIED!!”
Kath faced Megan and ran into her arms. “Are you all right?” Her hand rose to the swelling cheek and darkening skin. “We need to get some ice on that.”
“Sure. And thanks for the waste basket.” Megan's gaze swept past Kath to the people standing behind her.
Kath looked over her shoulder and saw everyone, from Jackie's smiling face, to the other women in her section and her floor, and finally Greg. “I… I…” What could she say? Angel had said it all, and here she was confirming it by standing wrapped in Megan's arms.
“I'm sorry.” It seemed a woeful excuse for everything.
“What for?” someone asked.
“Now you know my secret,” Kath said quietly.
“Secret?” the woman from the next cubicle said, “Kath honey, we've known from the beginning.”
“All of you?” Kath asked.
“All of us,” the crowd replied in unison.
“Well, that's explains Mrs. MacGillicuddy's cold shoulder,” Kath mumbled.
“Honey, that woman hates my cactus,” another woman offered, “How can you hate a cactus?”
“And you don't mind?” Kath's voice was filled with wonder.
“Kath.” Greg stepped forward and pushed his way through the group. “You do your work very well. You keep your private life private. Well, except for Jackie, but that's a whole other matter. We don't care who, or what, you are.”
“Here here!” There was a general mumble of acceptance.
“You go girl!” Jackie piped in.
Kath left Megan's arms and stepped closer to her friend. “Jackie, thank you. You earned your badge today.”
“Cool! Brian will be so proud of me!” Jackie's smile was enormous.
“Yes, he will. Now you need to get back to work. The excitement's over.” Kath placed her hands on Jackie's shoulders and stroked gently.
“You're right. Jackie B has had her fun for today and need to get back into her box.” Jackie's demeanor sobered as she turned away to walk down the corridor.
“Now everyone, back to work!” Greg suggested.
“Can I have a moment?” Kath asked.
“Sure, take several moments.” He winked at her. “Nice to see you again, Megan.”
“Good to see you too, Greg.” Megan watched him leave. “He's a nice guy.”
“Yeah, he surprised me,” Kath agreed. “What's that in your hand?”
“It's just a little insurance policy.” Megan looked down at the micro camera in her hand. “Vic put it in the planter earlier today,” she nodded at the pot plant against the wall. “Video footage of blackmail is much more damning than just a plain old fist fight.” Megan grinned wickedly.
“So what did I give Angel?” Megan had told her that she had the original tape.
“You gave her the original tape, but that's not to say I didn't make a copy.”
“All I can say is that I'm damned thankful that you turned up when you did.” Kath let out a sigh of relief.
“It wasn't all good timing, I'm afraid. Vic saw what was happening and she gave me the signal to ride in on my white charger and save the day.” Megan grinned and the bruised skin crinkled with the effort.
“You are a devious woman,” Kath stated.
“So I've been told.” Megan pulled Kath closer.
“Ahem.” Sarah Quincy stepped up to Kath. “I, for one, don't want to see you leave. You're the only one who can control Jackie.”
“Can I ask you a question? Why does she still work here?” Kath knew that Jackie had her moments of clarity and moments of lunacy.
“Can you think of anywhere else she could work?” Sarah posed in reply. “Besides, she makes me laugh.” Sarah turned away and walked down the corridor to her office.
“Who was that?” Megan asked casually.
“The head of Jackie's department,” Kath replied.
* * * * * *
That night dinner at Megan's progressed as normal, despite the ice pack to Megan's black eye. Light wine, good food and casual conversation were, as usual, welcomed and appreciated. It wasn't until Megan stood at Kath's front door that Kath took matters into her own hands.
“Would you like some coffee?” After she spoke, Kath smiled at Megan's wide eyes. “No, I'm not joking. Do you want to come in for coffee?” She had left Megan speechless. There was a slight nod and Kath opened the door with her keys. She reached out for Megan's hand and drew her past the front door. “So, now you're past the drawbridge.”
“Indeed.” Megan said guardedly. “But what's lurking inside?”
“Well, the princess is in the highest tower awaiting her Prince Charming,” Kath hinted.
“And where's the dragon?” Megan looked around as if some animal was going to ambush her.
“There isn't one. It died of old age.” Kath pulled Megan deeper into the apartment. “Sit down. Make yourself comfortable.” She gently pushed Megan until she collapsed onto the sofa. “I'll be back.” Kath left Megan seated while she walked into her kitchen. She was aware of the intense stare directed at her and she couldn't stop a small smile from crossing her lips.
As she moved around to make the coffee, Kath felt a presence behind her.
“What's going on?” Megan voice tickled Kath's ear.
“I thought I was making you a cup of coffee.” Kath added the cream and sugar and handed the mug to Megan standing close behind her.
“Uh huh,” Megan looked at the steaming cup. She took it and put it down on the counter. “Kath, what are you doing? And don't say making the coffee, all right?”
“Well…,” Kath rubbed her palms down her pants, “…I was thinking it was time to make Jackie a happy woman.”
Megan's eyes widened and she instinctively closed the distance between them. “Oh God,” she whispered.
“Nope. No God here.”
“Thank you Jackie,” Megan mouthed the words silently before she moved in for a kiss.
The kiss was so light that Kath barely felt it, leaving her with only the memory of its passing. But the memory was only fleeting as Megan made firmer contact. It has been a kiss like any other kiss Megan had given her in the last few weeks, but there was something more, something so intangible that unless she was attuned to it its meaning would have gone unnoticed.
Kath felt herself enveloped in Megan's strong arms and she allowed herself to collapse against Megan's breasts. She felt the strong, even heartbeat coming through Megan's chest. It was strangely calming to be standing there… smelling Megan's scent… hearing Megan's breath… feeling Megan's warmth… and sensing Megan's love.
“Come on.” Kath grabbed Megan's hand and led her to the bedroom. All fear of being hurt dissipated at the doorway, and Kath knew everything would be all right. She took a step toward the bed and her hand was held firm. “Second thoughts?” she asked.
“Are you sure?” Megan asked.
Kath replied by kissing her. It was a long, lingering, intimate kiss and left Megan in no doubt of her intentions. “Does that answer your question?”
Megan tugged on her hand and drew her into another embrace, this time the kiss was hungry and demanding. Kath let herself go, immersing herself in the dazzling array of raw sensations flooding through her. Megan was good… very good.
Kath hadn't realized that she had been woman-handled to the bed until she was on the brink of collapsing on the mattress. Her brain was mush and her body wasn't far behind it, leaving her to wonder why she took so long to take that final emotional step. “Huh,” she slurred as Megan's lips slid to her throat, gently nipping the soft, pulsating skin there.
But there were no smart quips from Megan. She was strangely silent as she continued to give her full attention to each new piece of skin revealed as she slowly removed Kath's clothes. “Oh, Jackie,” Kath murmured, drawing the expected response from Megan.
Megan's lips brushed Kath's neck erratically as she tried not to laugh. For Kath's impudence, she nipped a little harder. Her hand slid inside the open blouse and encircled Kath's bare waist.
Kath felt every inch of Megan's movement across her skin. It was torture to the point of pain but oh what torture it was. She tore at her blouse in an effort to be rid of it, and allow Megan freer access to her body. Kath had caught a glimpse of heaven and now she wanted to revel in it.
Kath's mind wandered as Megan continued to remove her clothes, and she was only aware of what was going on when she was completely naked. When did that happen? But she was unable to summon up any objection to the outcome. She had wanted to be a participant in her disrobing but every touch, every kiss, every nip and every lick of Megan's tongue took one more ounce of energy out of her and left her lying on the mattress spent.
She looked up at Megan's face hovering over her and she smiled. Her hand rose and cupped Megan's cheek. “Hi,” she whispered.
“Hi,” Megan replied, giving her a full smile that extended all the way to her eyes. “Are you okay?”
Kath nodded gently and continued to stroke Megan's cheek. She inhaled sharply as Megan's wandering hand touched her breast. It had been so long since she had felt like this. Too long. When the hand on her breast started to move, Kath giggled.
“Ticklish?” Megan asked.
“A little.” Kath responded by shifting her body and allowing Megan to explore. Her lips were met by Megan's and the kiss was intense and thorough. Then she felt it. As Megan caressed her the kiss became more. It was a pleasure that Kath had never known, lovingly nurtured by a woman she barely knew, and yet seemed to have known forever.
Megan' lips slipped away from Kath's lips and took up residence at her ear, her heated breath sending shivers through Kath's body. But Kath didn't care. She was way beyond caring. Megan had found the center of her and her whole being resided there.
Kath wasn't exactly sure what had happened next, because she simply lay there and allowed it to happen. Sensations touched every part of her, leaving her in a stupor. It wasn't until she heard Megan moaning above her that she realized that she had also moved a muscle or two, and that Megan was also in the throes of her passion. She watched her shudder and smile, and it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
“When? What?” Kath felt like she had been hit by a truck.
“Sshhhh,” Megan brought her finger up to Kath's lips “Don't say a thing.”
But Kath didn't need to. She parted her lips and let Megan's finger slip inside her mouth, awaiting the taste that she knew she would find there. Megan's eyes flared and Kath felt an answering pull within her.
“You did that on purpose,” Megan accused her.
“Maybe,” Kath answered. “You struck me dumb the first time. This time I'll pay attention.”
* * * * * *
Kath's senses slowly returned when she was being nudged in the side. She wasn't even aware that she had fallen asleep. Her hearing picked up the sound of a television. “Wha…?” she mumbled into the pillow.
“You've got to see this!” Megan said excitedly.
“Later…” Kath wanted to go back to sleep but Megan wasn't going to allow her to.
“No! You've got to see this… now!” Megan prodded her again.
“What is so important…” Kath's words disappeared as a film clip of Angel was on the screen. “What's going on?” She sat up and stared intently at the television, wiping the sleep from her eyes a number of times as she tried to focus on the images.
“It seems Angel can't keep herself out of trouble,” Megan said absently as she pushed the volume on the remote. The voice-over explained the footage.
“Action screen star, Angel Higgins, is once again in hot water. On location in Bulgaria as part of a three picture deal, Ms. Higgins was arrested for starting a brawl at a public restaurant. The details are a little sketchy, but it is believed that the dispute was over a woman. We will follow up on this story as the details come to hand.”
The screen went blank and there was silence. “What goes around, comes around, I always say,” Megan muttered. She put the remote back on the bedside table and turned her attention to Kath. “Feel better now?”
“A little. What about when she gets back?”
“Will you stop worrying, Kath? I pulled a few strings and she'll be over there working for about eighteen months. At the rate she is going, I have a feeling that Angel is going to be busy for the next few years learning first-hand about the Bulgarian penal system. By the time she gets back she won't even remember your name.”
“But I will. Now and forever.”
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