Serena is away at a conference when it happens. When Alex is waiting for Bernie at her car after her shift has finished. Bernie catches a glimpse of her and turns straight back into the hospital, goes to the nearest bathroom and locks herself in. She’s not ready to confront Alex; they haven’t seen or talked to each other since Alex was working a shift at the hospital. Alex, however, has other plans, because then next thing Bernie knows she hears a knock on her cubicle and the familiar voice calling her name.
“I know you’re in there Bern, I just want to talk.” Alex is gently rapping on the door that Bernie has her back pressed up against. She turns around and flicks the lock, opening the door and looking out at the face of the woman she once loved.
“Alex please, I’m happy, I’m with someone, I'm in love,” she says, and doesn’t see the fall in Alex’s face that she expected. Instead, Alex smiles tightly, nodding her head gently.
“I know Bern, I'm not here to get you back.” A wave of relief washes over Bernie, relief that she won’t have to fight the woman off, that she won’t have to find reasons to dislike or even hate Alex. They go for a drink, at Albie’s, because Bernie doesn’t want it to be even the slightest bit intimate, and they talk, about the army, about Alex’s new girlfriend and about Serena. Bernie feels odd talking to an ex about her current partner, but Alex is one of two people that truly understands Bernie in this way, and the other is in America for a few weeks doing alumni lectures at Harvard.
Bernie gets home to two messages on the answering machine from Serena. The first is breathy and Serena sounds worried. Bernie notices it in the first few words.
‘Hi Bernie, it must be around eight there, I hope you’re having a good night. Fletch told me he saw you having a drink with Alex, is, is it, oh goodness. Call me please.’ Bernie’s heart clenches and she realises what it all looks like. After the initial awkwardness her and Alex had got along, were laughing and smiling and Bernie realises what Fletch must have thought. She’s about to go to the next message when she hears a short exhale and then: ‘I love you, Bernie.’ She closes her eyes and thumps her head against the wall, when the next message starts to play.
‘Me again. I hope you get this, I hope everything isn’t what it might look like. I never realised how terribly jealous I could be, I love you, call me, please.’ Bernie notices a different breathiness to the first message, and realises the time stamp is only a matter of minutes before she walked through the door.
She doesn’t give another thought to the breathiness of Serena’s voice until Serena is on the other end of the phone, breath harsh as Bernie stands in the hallway, somewhat shell-shocked. Because Serena is jealous, and after Bernie has reassured and promised her that Alex was irrelevant, and that she is entirely Serena’s, Serena tells her how turned on she is, how much knowing Bernie is hers makes her wet, and that Bernie has no other option than to help her take care of it. And in truth, Bernie does have no other option, because Serena is breathing harshly down the phone and telling Bernie all the things she wants to do to her, have done to her, and what she’s doing to herself now as she thinks of all these things.
“What we did the other night…” Bernie says quietly to Serena’s voicemail, “Well, what you did, and I just listened to.” She’s almost glad Serena didn’t answer. It gives her the non-judgemental silence to confess her desires to, not that Serena would be judgemental, given she started it last time. “Could we do it again? Maybe? With a bit more involvement on my part?”
When Serena calls her back it’s hours later, after Bernie had convinced herself the message hadn’t got through, or that Serena’s too busy at Harvard to listen to it.
“Hello, yup, hello,” she says righting herself and flushing a particularly deep shade of red.
“Now not a good time?” Serena asks, and Bernie can practically hear the smirk in her voice and knows she’s been caught out. Because this time it’s her that was breathy when she answered.
“Nope, fine, I was just –”
“Pre-occupied?” Serena cuts her off, the implication of her words making Bernie flush deeper. “Tell me? Your message was incredibly interesting.”
“I-I’m not, I haven’t really done any of this before,” Bernie confesses, tries to tell Serena indirectly that she’d like for her to start this, to get it going.
“Okay, well, you might like to know that I'm lying in bed, with a hand up my shirt, and not much other clothing on,” Serena says, her voice low and awfully inviting. “And I'm thinking about you, the night before I left, what you did to me, and about what I think you did to yourself after my little display on the phone the other night.” Serena’s brazen confidence is catching, and Bernie finds herself willing to do anything for this woman. “What about you, darling?”
“I'm, um, I'm in our bed, with nothing on, and when you called I was looking at that picture you sent me yesterday, and I was touching myself,” she says, her voice not as strong as she’d like it to be; the combination of arousal and her slight lack of confidence to blame. “God Serena, that picture.”
“I want you to do something for me, Bernie, I want you to touch yourself again.”
“I am, I am. Are you?” Bernie says, her hand returning to where thinking of Serena has made her sticky and swollen and hot and wet.
“Yes,” Serena breathes, and her tone just heightens Bernie’s arousal because it’s the same tone she uses when Bernie has her head buried between her thighs, or when Bernie is kissing her deeply as she rolls her clit. Bernie doesn’t know how to tell Serena she’s thinking of all these things, of how she tastes and feels, but for the first time that night, she feels brave.
“I'm thinking,” she has to pause for breath. She was so close when Serena rang that it hasn’t taken her long to get back there. “Oh god, I'm thinking about when we have sex, and I'm thinking about how good you feel, god Serena.”
“Me too Bernie, god, I'm close, are you? Please tell me you are,” Serena says, and Bernie breathes a harsh affirmative down the phone, and Serena proceeds to tell Bernie exactly what she wants to do to her, with her, when she gets back home, and then Bernie starts panting and groaning and Serena can see it in her mind and hear it down the phone and then she’s following, shaking and moaning until the waves of pleasure subside.
There’s silence for a while, then, because they’re not so young as they used to be and they need a little time to recover, to piece themselves back together.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Bernie, I love you,” Serena says. Because she is coming home tomorrow and they will both get to live up to the promises they made tonight.
“I love you too. I’ll see you at the airport.”