Rated: A very light R, for some sexual content and cursing. No violence but *WARNING UP* for a very graphic description of the aftermath of violence/implied sexual violence (but not of the violence itself).
Any resemblance between much beloved characters with copyrights and those of my own are intentional, but friendly. This has no beta so all mistakes are mine.
Description/Teaser: A woman questioning her sexuality hires a woman to help answer these questions-with unexpected results for both of them.
Elle got into her rented Lexus, drove past the corner she'd worked the night before and had only traveled for another five minutes when she heard the irritating buzzing of her business cell phone. Who could be calling her now?
She grabbed it and answered, gruffly, in the half French/half English she used with her coworkers. "Elle Laurence. A bit trop tot
to call me samedi
? This had better be important."
The answering voice was soft, hesitant, "Elle?"
"Vickie?" Elle was startled for a second, incredulous that she'd evidently accidentally, given Vickie her business cell-her real
cell number. But after that second, she couldn't keep amusement out of her voice, "D'accord
. You've changed your mind about dinner or we've kissed and made up and you miss me already-which is it, my darling?"
"Fuck you, Elle."
Elle could hear the smile in Vickie's voice.
The blonde smiled, too, "That
particular mission you accomplished last night. And quite breathtakingly, for a beginner. Hell, even for a professional, for that matter." She couldn't believe it even as she heard the next words coming out of her mouth, "So what is it? No dinner or you miss me and can't live without me already?"
The line was quiet for a few seconds.
"I miss you already, alright, you jackass? And living without you isn't an option at this point because I wanted to ask if I could call you after I meet Chris-I have a feeling it's going to go very badly."
Elle's eyes narrowed, her body tensed and her voice was suddenly flinty, "Do you mean he might hit you? Or hurt you, because I swear to God, I will-"
"Oh no, I'm sorry-nothing like that-I just-I don't know. Forget it. I'll call you later about dinner."
Elle sighed with relief and refused to think about why she cared about this situation at all. "You can call me-and de rien
. As long as you're not checking up on what I'm doing."
Vickie sounded shocked, "No! Of course not. I was just-"
Elle interrupted her. "Look at it from my perspective, Vic. I guess what I'm wondering is-doesn't a beautiful, successful and friendly woman like you have a retinue of friends she might call about her boyfriend problems before she'd call a hooker she'd met just the night before?"
"Yes, but not one of those friends has ever told me, point-blank, that Chris is the shit-bird he so obviously is."
"Fuck me! You're kidding! Then you need a new boyfriend and
"New friends, maybe. But I think we've established that I don't need another boyfriend. I need my first girlfriend."
"You can work on that."
"I already am-or hadn't you noticed?"
Elle stared, hard, at the road ahead of her, "You're really pushing it, Vic."
Elle heard Vickie chuckle. "Gimme a fucking break! And be honest-with me and with yourself. I am not
flirting with you any more than you're flirting with me. I like you a lot and I know that you like me, too. That's just true, so get over it and over yourself. I won't ever ask you not to trick again. You gave me the line and I'm not crossing it."
The blonde woman stopped at a red light and closed her eyes, tightly. "You already crossed it by calling me a jackass, you jackass. You can call me when you finish with brunch but don't read anything special into that, you hear me?"
"I won't. How could I? I can barely read. All those books in my library are just for show."
"Oh, right. My ass."
"Wow! That is so
weird. You read my mind. I was just thinking about your ass."
Elle grinned, despite herself. "Bon chance
, beautiful girl. Goodbye." She punched her cell phone off and banged her forehead on her steering wheel twice before the light turned green, asking her empty car "What the fuck am I doing?"
As Chris Duchamp crossed the restaurant toward their table, Vickie thought, for the thousandth time, that they were such polar opposites that they could have been meant for each other. He had sandy blond hair, brown eyes and was four inches shorter than she was. She didn't mind that and, to give him his due as a man-he didn't, either. He was short, knew it, but had a great body and knew that, too. He smiled his 1000 watt smile as he kissed her cheek, then took his seat across from her. He looked exactly what he was-an attractive and highly successful professional.
"Hi, baby-what's the occasion?"
"Just had a few things on my mind, Chris-thought we could get some food and talk them over."
Chris perused the menu for only a few seconds before he was ready, as the waiter appeared. "I'll have water with lemon, espresso, the eggs Hollandaise with a double side of bacon and my girl here will have…"
Vickie wasn't ready-but she was used to this, "Two eggs over easy, wheat toast and coffee."
As the waiter left, Vickie took a deep breath and dove in. "Chris, I think it's time we stop all of this."
He tilted his head to one side, like a puppy, something she had once found attractive, "All of this what?"
"This," she sighed deeply, "bogus relationship of ours."
There. She'd said it. And she felt as if her words sat like a hand grenade between them.
His voice was stern, "What do you mean, bogus?"
"I mean bogus in the sense that we don't really love each other and that you cheat on me constantly."
"I said I was sorry about that."
"Sorry? SORRY?" Vickie thought for two seconds, then lowered her voice. "You can say you're sorry for cheating on me once. Somewhere on Mars, you can apologize for cheating on me twice. But six-SIX times, Chris-and those are only the ones I know about-means you're a serial philanderer and I'm tired of it. I don't want you in my life anymore."
She watched his lips go pale, his nostrils flare, "I know what this is about, Victoria, and it's not my cheating."
Her pale blue eyes were ice. "Oh, it's not? What's it about, then?"
"The partnership. You can't stand to think I might make partner before you."
Vickie sat for a second, equally parts stunned and amused. The amusement won and she began to laugh. And laughed until the entire restaurant was looking at them. When she saw his face fill with the tension of the possibility of making a scene, she relented and wiped her eyes. "If that's what you think this is about, I shouldn't have even shown you the respect of doing this in person."
She took her napkin from her lap and threw it on the table, "Or the respect of dining with you, for that matter. Don't worry-I won't tell Daddy you did a half-dozen girls on the side while you were dating his daughter. I won't jeopardize your job. I'll admit that you're a good lawyer-but you're a lousy man. Goodbye, Chris. From now on, you'll be my not-very-esteemed colleague."
Chris hadn't even had to hear from Vickie that she wouldn't tell on him to her father. She was loyal and in his opinion, almost too loyal to everyone she knew, in every possible way. He watched her as she left, admired her admirable ass and did what he always did when they hit a slight bump in the road. And he had to admit to himself, this was a major collision-he called her father.
Vickie heard the irritating buzz of her cell phone and, thankfully, because she was at a red light was able to look at it; she saw the caller ID and sighed. Great. Fucking great. She scrambled for her purse and grabbed her insanely blinking Bluetooth earpiece and placed it in her ear. She answered, as if she didn't know what was coming, "Victoria Xanthis."
"Victoria," her father said, "I've just heard very disturbing news from Christopher."
Johann Xanthis had a very deep voice that always sounded judgmental, a fact that served him well professionally but had sometimes given his wife and children anxiety attacks, even hives, over the years.
"Yes, Daddy. I'm sure you have. Let me preface all of this with a reminder that Christopher and I are adults and my adult ex-boyfriend called my father and our mutual boss not ten minutes after our break-up."
She heard the sound her father's throat always made when he was chewing through information. "Well, Victoria, I suppose-now that you've brought it to my attention-Christopher isn't exactly withholding concerning information about your relationship."
"I know that, Daddy. Would you have called your boss, if he had been Mom's dad, about your relationship when you were both 35?"
She could hear her father thinking, then he said, quietly, "I'm going to kill that son of a bitch. What did he do to you?"
"Hold that thought, Dad. I have many reasons for breaking up with Chris but he hasn't done any lasting damage to my psyche. I promise. I don't want him killed, I don't want him fired-I just don't want him as a boyfriend." She took a deep breath, "And no, I don't care if you give the partnership to him."
Her father's voice rattled her eardrum. "Partnership?! Partnership?! For that kiss-ass rat bastard?!"
"Daddy! Remember your blood pressure!"
Johann Xanthis exhaled, loudly, and made his pronouncement. "My final ruling? He lives, he works but that is all."
"I suppose, if you promote me instead of him, he might think he has cause to-"
"Sue me?" As Vickie had known, this immediately caused her father to relax and laugh, "Oh my God, oh sweet and most miraculous Mother of God, how I wish he'd try. I wish he'd try. And the partnership is yours, of course. It always was."
"I thought you were giving it to Chris so we could get married."
"What?! If he wouldn't propose if you were a partner and he wasn't, he clearly wouldn't have the set he needed to give me any grandchildren!"
Her father cleared his throat. "Ah, yes. I apologize, Victoria. That was crude."
Vickie laughed, "That's okay-a friend of mine gave me that exact advice last night. She used the word cajones
, but the sentiment was the same."
"Well, bring her to dinner tomorrow-and we'll celebrate your partnership and your emancipation from Mr. No-Testicle."
Despite the fact Vickie's mother had died five years previously, the family still met for Sunday dinner, one of her mother's favorite traditions.
"Oh, and Victoria…?"
"We are speaking metaphorically, of course. There's no need for you to tell me that you have any empirical knowledge of Christopher's actually having testicles."
"In my very worst nightmare, I still wouldn't talk about anyone's testicles with my father."
"See what I mean? That's partnership material right there! I'll announce it on Monday."
"Thank you, Daddy."
"No thanks necessary. You've earned it. You're a great lawyer. Not as good as I am, yet, but you don't have my experience. In another few years, you'll hurt the opposing counsel's feelings just walking into the room."
"If you'd let me wear shorter skirts, I could do that right now."
"This conversation is clearly over, daughter. I'm serious-bring that friend for dinner. If you haven't noticed, most of your friends are invertebrates. Let me meet one with a spine."
"I'll ask her."
"I love you, Victoria."
"And I love you."
"See you tomorrow."
Vickie pulled over to the side of the road and shook her head. In surprise. Astonishment. She sat for two minutes, then grabbed her cell.
"Elle Laurence, better be important." Elle's voice sounded husky, sleepy.
"Sorry, Elle, it's Vickie-sounds like-I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"You're not-not really-I'm in a hotel bed just-"
Just call me when you're finished."
Elle hesitated, then said, "You're such a sucker. I'm in my hotel room, by myself, convalescing from getting fucked senseless by the hottest woman I've ever met. Satisfied?"
"Not until we're inside each other again."
Elle smiled at the ceiling, "We don't actually have to go to dinner, you know. And by the way, I didn't expect you to call so soon. Did you even have time to break up with your fuckwit or did you give him one last chance?"
"We're having dinner, woman. It's a date. The relationship is over and everything's good. I'll tell you all about it tonight. And I entirely misread my father. He's surprisingly and entirely on my side. I get the partnership and-"
Vickie jerked her cell away from her ear because of the robust "WHOO-HOOO" on the other side.
Vickie then heard a more gentle voice, intoning "Go Daddy, go Daddy."
"Like I said, I'll tell you more over dinner. Get some rest-you sound sleepy."
"Trying to manage me again?"
"Nope. Just warning you-you're going to need all the energy you've got after dinner. I'm going to wear you out."
"I'll hold you to that. Alright-call me later, partner."
Vickie laughed. "Partner-I like the sound of that."
"I do, too. I've never had
a partner in bed before. Not that I know of, anyway. Never wanted one."
"Well, there are partners and then there are partners
"Never wanted either."
"Don't knock it 'til you try it, short-stop. You're getting a partner tonight and I'm getting Lucky."
Elle rolled her eyes and sighed, "Yeah, yeah. So funny. Have a good day, beautiful girl."
"My day won't really exist until I see you again."
Elle paused before she replied. "Mine won't either, ma chere
The blonde stared, unblinking, at the ceiling and said to the empty room. "Mine won't either
? I actually just said that. Said that to her." She sat up in bed and continued to speak aloud, a habit of hers. "Every time I talk to her, it's like I've been huffing glue. I lose an entire hemisphere of my brain.
She began rocking back and forth, another habit, one that meant she was frightened. She could feel her heart begin to race. She whispered, "What'sgoingonwhat'sgoingonwhat'sgoingon?"
She gripped her thighs tightly with her hands and forced herself to stop rocking.
She remembered her very last therapy appointment, could heard her therapist's voice in her head, "You can like people, Elle. You can love people, Elle. Not every person-in fact, the vast majority of people will never physically hurt you."
She knew that. She knew that.
Suddenly, she was there, reliving that hour.
Her therapist continued. "What do you feel when you have sex with strangers?"
"I don't have sex with strangers-I have sex with strangers for money. That would make me a whore, doctor."
"I agree. When did you last have sex with someone you cared for?"
"Never in my life."
"Then, what do you feel when you prostitute yourself, Elle?"
"Numb-absolutely numb-just the way I like it."
"And if you used drugs or alcohol to achieve that goal, would you call that a healthy way to move past your trauma?"
"Well, I suppose, as the poem says, 'Liquor's quicker."
"I only hook three or four weekends per year. I have safe sex every time and I never have sex outside of those weekends. So it probably is a little better than a daily addiction to drugs."
"It's just as unsafe-and it isn't helping."
"So, let me get this straight, doc. To summarize, turning tricks is a dysfunctional and unhealthy way to get over the fact that I was kidnapped, held against my will, raped and tortured for 317 days by a highly attractive man and woman in a lovely home in Paris. Do you happen to have a healthy way to deal with that all lined up for me?"
"Talking about it is one healthy way."
"Doesn't work quickly enough."
"Nothing will be ever be quick enough, Elle. Not for this."
"Fucking strangers works just fine-do it a couple of days, and I'm emotionally empty for months."
"Do you want to remain emotionally empty forever?"
"Works for me."
"That's true, in a sense. You'll miss the pain and rage and the humiliation. But you'll also miss love and joy and contentment."
"They don't exist for me. Not anymore."
"That is your belief. That is not the truth."
Elle stood up and began unbuttoning her blouse, much to the doctor's alarm.
"Elle, what are you doing?"
"You haven't seen my back, doctor. You know I have emotional damage and you know I suffered some physical damage-but you haven't seen it."
"I don't need to see-"
"YES YOU FUCKING DO!"
Elle whipped off her blouse and turned her back to the doctor. "Take a good look at what I'm supposed to get over by talking to a shrink a few times a week!"
When she turned to face the doctor, the other woman's face was pale. Elle pulled her blouse back on and methodically buttoned it, "You see, doctor, I am permanently damaged. Permanently
. It will never be any better than this."
The doctor's eyes had filled with very unprofessional tears, "Physically, I grant you, no. But emotionally? Yes, my dear, it can get better."
Elle had hated herself for beginning to cry. "Who would want me? Now you've seen me. I'm disgusting. Who would want me?"
The kindness in the doctor's eyes made her cry harder, "If you leave yourself open to the possibility, Elle, you will, I promise you-you will
meet someone who won't even care about your scars. She will only see you."
Elle shook her head-the memory was over and she was rocking again in her hotel bed. She looked at her watch. If she played her cards right, she could catch a couple dates before dinner and then she'd-
The blonde collapsed into a fetal position and continued to rock. This must be what it feels like when you're withdrawing, she thought.
She rocked and rocked and rocked and told the room again and again, as she began to sob, "I won't, I won't, I won't, I won't, I won't…."
Not five minutes later, her phone rang. She sniffed, snorted and wiped tears from her cheeks as she reached for the bedside table, grabbed it, and answered, ferociously, "Laurence. What do you need and why are you calling?"
"Xanthis. What do you need? That's why I'm calling."
Elle shook her head, "Vickie?"
"Yeah. What's wrong, Elle?"
Elle sniffed again, then again.
"I know something's wrong. Can I do anything for you?"
Vickie could hear Elle clearing her throat and sniffling before she answered, "How the hell did you know that?"
"I have no idea. I could just feel it. Can I help? If you don't need me, just call me later. I didn't even want to call because I thought you might think I was a freak and a nut calling you all these times so quickly but I couldn't help myself. I just felt like something might be wrong and-"
"Would you take a nap with me?'
"Would you take a nap with me?"
"Are you kidding me? I'm the nap princess. Name the place and I'm there."
After Elle gave the name of her hotel and her room number, Vickie whistled, "Hmmm. Wow
. You travel in style, girlfriend."
"I'm very valuable to my business. They treat me very well."
"Be there in fifteen-and I'll treat you better."
When Vickie arrived at the hotel suite, Elle opened the door wearing a Harvard t-shirt with white boxers. Her face was red and swollen from weeping but still managed to be entirely adorable. Vickie closed the door and pulled the smaller woman into her arms and, as she felt the blonde nestle her head somewhere just above her breast line, she felt and heard fresh sobbing.
"Oh, sweetheart, sweetheart. No need to cry. I'm-what we're-doing this with me is really pushing you, isn't it?"
Elle nodded into her chest.
"Is it too much? Because I can back off."
Enormous tears rolled down Elle's cheeks. "It is too much-but it's good too much. And I'm sorry I was such an asshole earlier and-"
"You weren't an asshole, at all. You were perfectly right to put me in my place. Only a stalker would try to get possessive after 18 hours of knowing someone. I don't know what came over me. I promise you-I'm not usually like that."
Elle's words tumbled out quickly, for once not wanting to think before she spoke, "I'm not either because I didn't really mind your doing that even though I knew I should and acted like I did and it scared me and sometimes when I get scared, I think too much about the other stuff and then-"
Vickie nodded. "Shhh. Okay. Then, no more thinking. Let's get in that bed."
The blonde pulled away and looked up into gentle blue eyes, "Wow. One track mind, Vic?"
"Yep. Nap-time. We're taking off our clothes and we're getting into bed. We're not having sex and we're not making love. You need warm skin next to yours and I have six feet of it."
Elle couldn't help herself, and looked the other woman over with a glance that could peel paint off of a wall. "You certainly do."
Vickie smiled and cupped the blonde's cheek, "Stop that right now. Or you'll miss the therapeutic effect of nap-time with Vickie."
Vickie casually began to remove her clothes, much to Elle's amusement, "Is that therapeutic effect supposed to be relaxing? Because I can sort of feel my blood pressure rising at this point."
"Take off your clothes, turn off the lights and get into bed."
When they were both naked and in the bed, in total darkness, Vickie said, "Turn over on your tummy, sweetheart."
Elle's pulse jumped, "Why?"
Elle turned over on her stomach and placed her arms under the pillow supporting her head. "Now what?"
She flinched as she felt Vickie's tender touch on her back.
"Shhh. No talking. I'm going to tell you a story-a hypothetical story and I'm going to pet you while I do it. Any arguments, short-stop?"
Vickie's touch was soft and gentle on a part of Elle's body that she had divorced herself from so long ago that it was nearly hypnotizing.
"No arguments. What's the story?"
"I was thinking about you today-and thinking about your scars."
Vickie felt Elle stiffen, but immediately murmured, "Shhh, baby, shhhh. Here's the story. Ready?"
Elle sighed. Vickie's touch was so soothing-so, so soothing. "Ready."
"Let's say, hypothetically, that I'd known you for years. That I was your lover. That I was your wife. Can you imagine that? Hypothetically?"
Elle felt tears rise, again, in her eyes. "Yes. Hypothetically."
"Good. And let's say you had a really dangerous job. Maybe you were in the army or a cop or a firefighter. And let's say that one horrible day I got the call every wife dreads. A call telling me you'd been terribly injured-violently injured and that you might not live. I'd be so frightened and so worried for you. And for me, too. Because I couldn't live without you, couldn't dream of losing you. Can you imagine feeling that way about your beloved wife?"
Elle was beginning to sniffle again but answered, softly, "Yes."
"And let's just say that-thank God-you survived but that you had terrible scars because of your injuries. After all that anguish, all that fear, once I finally had you home with me again, I'd think I would kiss those scars every single day of our lives together, because they would mean that you'd survived and that you were here with me and that we had more days to spend together."
"I would always be terribly sad that you had those scars because they'd be reminders that you'd been so badly hurt. But I'd also be so grateful-so very grateful, to have the privilege of seeing them because they would mean that you'd survived."
Vickie moved and then Elle felt the gentlest, warmest kisses she's ever known, over every inch of her back. "I'm so glad you're here with me, Elle. I'm so glad you survived."
Vickie felt Elle suddenly, utterly, relax, as if she'd dissolved into the bed. She whispered, "Victoria?"
"Is this a dream? It feels like a dream."
Vickie rubbed her cheeks over Elle's back, "No, baby-this is very, very real."
Elle sighed deeply. "Thank you, Vickie. That was honestly the nicest, most perfect thing, anyone has ever said to me. As a friend, as a friend
, I love you for having said it."
"I love you, too. As a friend."
"Good, I'm glad we have that settled. You sleepy, yet?"
"Yes. Both air-bags deployed. I'm totaled."
Vickie felt head Elle's jerk upward, "What's that about air-bags?"
Vickie rolled her eyes in the darkness. "Well, if you crash your car and you have two or more air-bags deploy, they generally total your car 'cause it costs too much to repack them."
"Even if the car's pretty much okay?"
Elle raised herself up on her elbows, "You know what Vic? That's yet another example of designed obsolescence. Why can't they design an air-bag that can easily be repacked, for God's sake? We put men on the moon, we-"
Elle snorted, "Talking too much?"
"I wasn't kidding. I'm totaled,"
"I guess maybe you're right. I just saw your air-bags and they did look perfectly deployed. And, to tell the truth, it would be a shame to repack them, so I can see why-"
"Gabby!" Vickie gently smacked Elle's ass, then moved upward, wrapping the smaller woman in her arms. Elle experienced a rushing sense of anxiety as she felt Vickie's warm body behind her. But then…it disappeared. Leaving nothing but…she blinked in the darkness…nothing. No fear, no tension. Just Vickie's warm skin against her warm skin. "Oh my God," she whispered.
"What?" Victoria's voice was a breath in her ear.
The blonde grabbed Vickie's arms. "This is bliss."
Vickie smiled, "Yes, it is, but more bliss later. Ready for the game plan?"
"Yep, give me my marching orders."
"No more talking until we take a nice long nap. Then we'll meet for dinner, go back to my house and make love until we pass out."
Elle took Vickie's hand in hers and kissed it. "Sounds perfect."
"And…if you're up to it, as my hypothetical wife, you can meet your hypothetical father-in-law and brothers-in-law for Sunday dinner tomorrow."
Elle flinched, "What?!"
"Dad invited you to dinner."
"Your father doesn't know me."
"My father wants to meet the friend who talked me out of Chris."
"Will he like me?"
"Probably a bit too much. He likes blondes."
"Is your mother blonde?"
"She was. She died five years ago."
"How the hell did you get that hair, then?"
"When you meet my father, you'll know. His genes are just as dominant as the rest of him."
Elle chuckled. "Let me guess-that Chris ex-boyfriend bastard's a blonde?"
"Come to think of it, he is."
"I told you your dad was sleeping with him."
"You know that aching feeling you get when you eat ice cream too fast?"
"Yeah, like brain freeze?"
"That's what I'm experiencing thinking about Chris and my father. Thanks for that."
"You're welcome. But you feel really warm to me."
"I am warm. And you're safe."
"I didn't trick today."
"I didn't ask you. I never will."
"I know-but I wanted you to know."
"Shhhh. Go to sleep."