Actions

Work Header

One Night in a Lifetime

Work Text:

Allie leanes her tired body against the outer wall of one of the many small shops along St. Kilda Road. She eyeballs the establishments across the street, appraising her chances to conduct her business successfully in this neighbourhood. It's almost eight o'clock in the evening and as the grocery stores, flower shops, beauty parlors and boutiques are closing for the night, the nightclubs on the other side of the wide street are turning their lights on, one by one, and preparing for another busy shift.

It's the first time Allie is hanging around here, lurking for customers. Yesterday she had to escape the part of town where she used to operate for years, where she had her own little spot in a back alley, to sleep amongst other homeless people she knew so long she almost called them friends. But if they were real friends, they would have protected her from being dragged away into the park, from being beaten and taken advantage of, now wouldn't they? She wasn't sorry to leave any of them after that, but the fear of walking into unknown one more time was overwhelming. She needed to pick out a new venue where she would offer her young body to strangers, and she needed to choose wisely: she never wanted to depend on a pimp so she had to find a place where independent street workers weren't badgered by ponces, and yet that was lucrative enough for her not only to survive on her income but have enough left to feed her drug habit. And she needed to find a new hideout to improvise her bunk and store the bag of clothes she possesses. She hates everything about this move across town, but she had no choice. The tight group of three brutes that had recently joined her old homeless community started to pester her pretty much after they first saw her: they often seized her earnings, her drugs, and after they bashed her and forced themselves on her last night, where no one around even thought to attempt and defend her, she knew she had to flee as far as she could.

It took her the whole day to find a bunk near this place she'd heard of as prosperous for self-reliant girls like she is. It's a half-burnt store two kilometres down the road with a big warning sign up front that the structure is unstable. There is also a panel to announce the place was to be torn down in five months and reconstructed from scratch. There is a depiction of the future shopping facility that will replace the current ruin, but Allie doesn't care either for the future glory or for the present-day danger of roof collapsing - all she cares to know is that for the next several months she can squat in here, and alone, a luxury she almost never has. She found an opening at the back of the solid wall-like structure built around the ruin and tidied one corner of a non-collapsed room where she could put her two blankets and her clothes. She sat down on her blanket and pulled a compact mirror out of her bag. Her long blonde hair was a mess from the roughing it endured last night and her face was full of dust after clearing out this corner of the ruin. She stripped out of her clothes and looked at them with disgust. They were full of mudd where she was pressed on her back against the wet grass. She used the few wet tissues she had left to clean her face and body and combed as much mudd as she could out of her hair. This was the best she could for now. Even though she was living on the streets for years, she’s always kept up personal hygiene: out of personal preference, but also because she was aware that in her line of business she has to look appealing if she wants to attract customers. She managed to shower most of the days: on public beaches during summer and against small entering fees in gyms and swimming pools throughout the rest of the year. On the old spot she had regular customers and steady income so when she actually managed without drugs for a day, she could afford to rent a cheap motel room, where she could shower as long as she like and sleep alone and undisturbed. But ninety nine per cent of her days she opted to buy ice instead of safe stay. She washed all of her clothes once a week in a public laundry room, and there was nothing she would rather do today but take the clothes she was raped in to the nearest available washing machine and rinse away her feelings of dirtiness and helplessness.

A lone figure leaning against the white wall, Allie is looked down or ignored by a group of prostitutes from across the street, them being regulars there and considering the place their territory. Allie remembers her afternoon in that ruin she will call home for the upcoming months, how she sat on her blanket and cried into her empty hands. She had dealt with customers preferring rough sex before, with customers not paying afterwards, she has dealt with beatings. But it was her first rape. It was the first time she didn’t consent. And after she returned to the alley, all battered and bruised, her face swollen from crying, everybody acted like it wasn’t a big deal. Because she was a hooker, she wasn’t deserving of a fair treatment, she wasn’t to expect any better. No one of her homeless mates even thought she was in need of a kind word or consolation - she was a hooker, she was used to being laid down and fucked, so what did it matter, one root more or less. But she knew the difference and she knew how it mattered. She doubled up with pain on her modest bunk and cried herself to sleep. When she woke up several hours later, she knew she couldn’t afford to be vulnerable any longer. The brutes took all of her money and drugs and she was shaking with what was a beginning of a withdrawal, while her stomach was rumbling loudly. She put her best outfit and makeup on, combed her hair again and put the strap of her shiny clutch bag full of condoms on her shoulder. If anything, she was grateful that her rapists had enough sense to use her condoms - on top of the pile of shit her life was, she didn’t want to have to deal with a disease or bring a child into this world she couldn’t afford to take care of. Together with her working attire, she put on a brave face too and, shielded by the darkness, snuck her way out of the construction hoarding. So here she is now, her sweater tied up around her waist, even though it’s getting colder and colder, so that she can show off her voluptuous cleavage, her long legs covered only by a thin pantyhose under the mini skirt that is supposed to attract potential customers. But she has no customers yet. The few johns that drove by were regulars of other girls so they picked them up and left, no one even looking at her direction. So she closes her eyes to escape the disparaging looks of the remaining girls.

Her whole bruised body aches and she doesn’t want to be out here. Her genitals are still tender from ramming they endured last night. But she has no choice. She has to feed her tummy, she has to feed her habit. So she stays there, enjoying a quiet moment and leaning on the wall to give her at least some support in the tragedy that is her life, before she returns to the other side of the street and starts offering herself to whomever may ask.

She keeps her eyes firmly shut and daydreams about the beach. Summer is her favourite part of the year. In the summer she gets to go to the beach during day, and before her gloomy night shift begins, she wears a costume like everyone else, swims and tans like everyone else, and no one can guess she is not like them, no one can see she’s a homeless prostitute, with no real friends and no prospects in life. She is beautiful, she’s very well aware of it, and when she gets hit on, she lies about her circumstances, she role-plays a history major from Bundoora, for she was really good in history until she was thrown out on the street by her father in her senior year. Her father caught her kissing her girlfriend and threw her out like she was a trash and not the only child he has ever had. She never had another girlfriend again - it wasn’t compliant with her life on the streets. But in the summer she likes to flirt with girls on the beach and even though she never asks for their numbers or arranges a date, for she knows she can’t afford to be in anything remotely resembling a relationship, she enjoys to stretch out on the sand and fantasise about having someone to love her and a safe home to return to every night.

She knows she should use the high earning she makes on the street while she is still young and beautiful to save up, find a place of her own and a job, to get away from this life, but the need to shove ice up her nose is suppressing all of her reasonable thoughts and she keeps spending her days out in the cold, while she keeps spending all of her income on drugs. She can feel the familiar turmoil in her blood, the familiar shake of her limbs, the unrest that packs her whole being so much that it erases the yearning for food, for summer, for beach, for a loving girlfriend, for a job and home. In this moment, as she fights so hard not to throw up from withdrawal and thus ruin her chances of scoring money tonight, she would trade all of it, all of her hopes and dreams, for a bag of ice.

Door slamming few metres along the wall breaks her reverie. She opens her heavy eyelids and darts them toward the offending sound. A red-haired woman is fiddling with her keys, closing down her hair salon for the night. Then she turns to leave, heading into Allie’s direction, presumably to a car park that is just around the corner Allie is standing at, but then she catches a glimpse of Allie’s figure and stops in her tracks. While she is used to a sight of prostitutes gathering around the clubs across the street every evening, none of them ever came to her side of the road before, let alone leaned next to her door. When their eyes lock, Allie sees that the woman is startled and expects panic and disgust to rise in her eyes any moment now. For this is what she gets from people, especially nice looking ladies like this one. But a moment passes, then another one, then another one, and their eyes are still locked, and there is no trace of contempt, no trace of repulsion in the dark gaze staring back at her, just a surprise growing into stupefaction and mixing with compassion.

Allie feels exposed and as if hit in the chest. She averts her eyes and turns around, hoping to escape the feeling of being captured like a butterfly into a net. She leans her left shoulder on the wall and fixes her eyes on the club across the street. There is a crowd forming at the entrance and she knows she is due returning if she wants to secure a client soon. Suddenly she hears light steps behind her back and before she manages to turn back around, she feels a hand on her shoulder and a deep voice rasping out,

‘Are you alright?’

She faces the woman behind her and all blood drains from her face. Those big brown eyes are only centimetres away and they look at her with genuine concern. Allie takes in her thick, wild curls, her beautiful features, her small frame. She looks scared and brave in the same time, she looks like she's known her share of pain in life and her share of love. She looks good enough to be an illusion, a hallucination of her drug-deprived brain, and yet her scent feels like the most real thing Allie has ever breathed in. Those eyes are expecting an answer, not flinching a millimetre away from her own, but as Allie tries to form a reply, she feels her mouth gone completely dry and her tongue tied into a knot.

At that moment the clock strikes eight and street lamps are being turned on, including the one above their heads, making Allie look even more vulnerable in the eyes of this strange woman. The woman notices the bruise on her cheek, badly covered with a layer of a cheap liquid powder, and her hand instinctively touches the tender spot.

‘What a mess did ya make out of yourself, aye?’ Allie hears her murmur, dumbstruck by electricity that is left where her fingertips have trailed across. For a few seconds she allows herself to lean into the woman’s gentle touch, but when she feels tears starting to form in her eyes for the second time that day, she knows she must pull herself together quickly if she wants to live to see another day on these streets. Turning on the survival mode, she steps a bit back and states in a sobered-up tone,

‘I’m fine.’

But her treacherous stomach chooses that moment to confute her, as the loud growling sound falls in between the two of them. Their eyes lock again, as both of their cheeks are blushing from sudden embarrassment.

‘Let me buy you dinner’, the woman softly offers.

Allie is used to harsh words and derogatory looks. She is resilient against being called names by passers-by and being roughed up in corners by customers. She is untouched when being ignored and looked down at like she was a lowly life form. But she has no defence strategy against kindness, for in all of her years on the streets she’s never encountered a soul who’s been kind to her. She can’t allow to melt here on the spot, not when she has to take care of herself, tonight more than ever.

She builds up her wall to protect her from the feelings this red-haired woman is evoking in her and she blurts out as brazenly as she can,

‘Will you buy me drugs?’

Her plan to repel the woman immediately comes into fruition when the confusion rises in those deep warm eyes, and soon gives way to light anger.

‘I will certainly not buy you drugs!’ the woman exclaims adamantly.

Here it is, Allie thinks, now you see who I am.

‘Then leave me alone’, she retorts and lingers just a few seconds more there on the spot, just to see the contempt that inevitably must emerge in this woman’s eyes, a contempt that will help Allie get over this encounter and forget about this woman faster, later when she lies down on her bunk at the crack of dawn. But no matter how many seconds pass, the awful look of abhorrence doesn’t appear; instead, the woman gives an impression like she’s about to say something kind again.

Allie knows she won’t be able to take it so, against all reason, she passes on the chance of a free meal and hurries away to cross the street. Before she reaches the curb, a car halts by and a man in a business suit checks out her skinny, trembling body, pinning her down for a fellow addict.

‘How much for your services?’ he shouts out to her.

Painfully aware that the redhead is still no more than five metres away and that she can hear their conversation, she all the same finds a courage to overcome her embarrassment and reply this time like she has a thousand times before,

‘Fifty for oral, hundred for a root.’

And she throws in her best smile, for that is how desperate she is tonight.

‘How ‘bout both and an hour for a bag of ice?’ the man negotiates, holding out a transparent bag filled with two grams of crystal meth.

That is well below Allie’s hourly rate, but by the amount of shaking of her limbs the man is very well aware of the things she must be willing to do to still her addiction.

Once the bag with white powder has been waved in front of her eyes, that is all Allie can see and think about. Grabbing the bag, she hops into the car and the last thing the redhead hears from her are her words,

‘You got yourself a deal’.

 

***

After she once again lets her half-drunk husband force himself onto her, Bea drifts off to block present sensations as much as she can. She has learnt over the course of years to shut herself down and not let his actions affect her mind or soul, when she couldn’t help them affecting her body. And here it goes again: He is completely incapable of getting turned on without violence so he slaps her face around first, not enough to leave marks neighbours could see but just enough to get a hard-on. He grunts loudly while he rams his penis with more force than needed in and out of her and she wishes she could pinch her nose shut so that she doesn’t inhale anymore his breath reeking of beer or his sweat mixed with dirt he didn’t shower off before bedtime. When he’s done, he rolls his tall, massive body onto his side of the bed, murmuring before he passes out,

‘Can you for once try to move a bit, you frigid bitch?’

When she hears him snore, that is when her liberty begins. Like every night, she gets up and goes to her daughter’s room, where she showers in her daughter’s ensuite and lies down in her single bed. She hugs her teddy bear she used to play with all the time when she was a little girl and silently cries into his plush body. She doesn’t cry for the repeated marital rape nor for the beatings she endures almost eighteen years long, she doesn’t cry for the bastard Harry has become soon after they married because he knocked her up at the age of seventeen, she doesn’t cry for her own wasted life - the only thing she cries about is her daughter.

It’s been two years since her little Deb has been laid into a grave at the age of sixteen. She got herself her first boyfriend few months before, and it was that relationship with three years older Brayden that drove her into her untimely death. He hooked her on heroin, he taught her how to shoot that shit up her veins, and she suspected he was the one giving her the overdose that ended her young life. But she couldn’t blame only him. Not as much as she blames herself anyway. She was the one who stayed with Harry all these years, she was the one who exposed her little girl to the horrors of domestic violence which ultimately pushed her into Brayden's arms. She was too afraid of Harry’s threats that if she leaves him, he will hunt them down and kill them both to find the courage and actually flee the house of dread. She took the beatings so that he doesn’t turn against Deb, she suffered through the punches without letting out a single cry so that her baby girl doesn’t hear a thing from her room, so that she keeps believing she lives in a happy home. She only spoke the best about her father and not once mentioned how much she loathed him and how much she feared him. She drove Debby to school with a smile on her face before she drove herself to work, she never even once reprimanded Harry for not helping around the house or staying out all night. She hosted her daughter’s parties and made her birthday cakes and not even squealed once when her tiny arms squeezed a bit too tightly around her battered torso. If Harry was good for anything, that was treating their daughter like a princess, or his daughter, like he used to call her. Deb was his flesh and blood and therefore she must be of the same supreme race he belonged to, unlike her no good of a mother. But as any child, Debbie was perceptive to things the adults tried to hide from her, and late did Bea realise that her elaborate masquerade hadn't fooled her daughter. Her father's constant belittling of her mother made her insecure about her own value, making it easy for a predator like Brayden to assert his influence upon her. She never even once believed her mother was so clumsy as she claimed and that she kept falling down the stairs or running into doors so even though she pretended to get along with her father, inwardly she feared him so much and for so long that she jumped at the chance of feeling protected in Brayden's arms.

If she had left Harry when Debbie was a toddler, Bea knows her daughter would have celebrated her eighteenth birthday a couple of days ago. She let Harry dictate her everyday schedule so much, let him restrict her whereabouts that when she got a wind of something going on with Debbie, she couldn't break her routine and follow her to see what was she up to. When she tried talking to Harry about her suspicions regarding Debbie being unwell, he only beat her up for doubting his perfect daughter. She raised her concerns about Brayden posing a danger, but Harry was blinded by the wealth and social status of his family. So Debbie was allowed to go with Brayden wherever she pleases and for as long as she pleases, while he forced Bea to stay home if she wasn't at work. That's when she started to work from eight to eight, even though her employees all worked until five. Now that Debbie never returned home before midnight she wanted to avoid being alone with Harry as much as possible. Debbie was out of control and no matter how nicely she spoke to her mother, Bea could never get her to open up about Brayden and how they spent their time together.

The evening when two officers came to inform them that Debbie was found dead was the worst evening of her life. Harry blamed her of course. He kept telling her she was worthless, she was so fucking useless she couldn't even keep that one child alive. And she knows she is to blame, for not leaving him when she should have and sparing Debbie such an influence, and she knows he is even more to blame for inflicting that suffering upon the two of them and preventing her from confronting and grounding Debbie when she realised something went wrong with her, for forbidding her to get professional help for Debbie.

But her daughter, her responsibility. She stays with Harry now to punish herself for failing her daughter. If she didn't have a strength to leave him when she should have and thus save them both, she is not deserving of enjoying her freedom now. She reacts differently to Harry's abuse now: she almost welcomes the insults and the punches because they are her atonement. But other than constant reprimands of killing his daughter, Harry's insults are not as harsh as they used to be, and his punches are rare and more of weak slaps nowadays. It is as Debbie's death has left them both empty and uninterested in earthly affairs. She has already lost everything that she used to fret about and didn't fear if she broke her curfew a bit or did something to displease him. If on any evening he happened to care about her doings, she would welcome his hands as a fair punishment for her crimes against Debbie.

She tosses and turns in Debbie's bed like she usually does half a night before she finally gets some rest, but this is the first night after Debbie died that she isn't thinking solely about her daughter. There was something about that young prostitute she encountered earlier that day that spoke to her right away and she, who never even notices people after her soul was buried two metres under ground, noticed everything about her right away. It was impossible not to acknowledge the piercing stare of the bluest eyes she's ever seen, to overlook the expression of pain on her beautiful features. She who has allowed Harry to estrange her from all of her friends so that after few years of isolation she started fearing and flinching any human touch but her daughter's, approached the blonde stranger without a second thought and, what's more, instinctively laid her hands on her. She knew a woman battered and bruised when she saw one and it surprised her how much she wanted to protect her. Her dirty hair, her aggressive makeup didn't repel her like they should've and she didn't leave, not even when the woman tossed the drug thing as a barrier between them. She could see right through her: she knew her sassy language was the only way for her to keep her shield up, her shield that started to lower as soon as Bea's hand cupped her cheek.

Bea snuggles into Debbie's teddy bear and almost starts talking to him like he was a human. Mr Bear, as Debbie called him, she chuckles. She failed to help her daughter to get out of the grip of her terrible drug addiction, and that makes her want to help the young stranger even more to break out of her deadly habit. Will she see her again at all? What if she never comes around Bea's shop anymore? At this thought something clasps firmly around Bea's chest and she can barely breathe. She realises the connection she's made with the blonde earlier is the only real connection she's had with another human being in years.

And she doesn't even know her name.

 

***

After fleeing from the redhead’s intense gaze, Allie finds herself in unrest all through the night. Even after she snorts ice she's earned from her first customer and her bodily crisis turns into an exhilarating rush, the unsettling feeling doesn't leave her and she is vigorously taking customer after customer in the attempt to kill the feeling off.

But at dawn, after she sneaks back into her temporary home and lies down on her bunk, the memory of the redhead is still vivid in front of her eyes. She touches her cheek where the woman's hand had lingered on and for a second there she almost feels worthy, she experiences comfort. She closes her eyes and surrenders her tired body and soul to the healing influence of a deep sleep, but even in such state, the woman is haunting her dreams.

She wakes up around eleven and stretches in bed. And again, her first thought: the kind but fiery stranger. She reminisces how beautiful she looked, how good she smelt. She sniffles in her own stale odour and eyeballs the bag with her dirty clothes. Next she counts the money she's earned: seven hundred dollars plus the drugs that will last her for several days. She usually snorted up once a day, just before she went to work, to take the edge off the things she had to force herself to do to earn her keep. She's fairly satisfied with the amount she'd gathered and she decides to treat herself with a motel stay. But first she buys herself an abundant breakfast in a decent diner and she even orders a glass of milk and a cup of coffee to go with it. She hasn't had a cup of coffee in a week and she drowns her senses in its smell and taste on her tongue.

In her search of a launderette she passes a mall and cannot resist the temptation to enter and buy herself some decent piece of clothing. She tells herself that her sudden desire to make herself look more appealing and cleaned up has nothing to do with the certain beautiful redhead, but deep down she knows she's lying. It has everything to do with wanting to look good for her. So she doesn't regret spending a fifty on new high top Chuck Taylor's and revels when she gets to throw away her old ragged pair into the trash can. She buys herself a new pair of blue jeans and a sweater she thinks would look refined even on the elegant redhead. She gets ahead of herself and spends another hundred fifty on Dr Martens mid-calf boots - they will serve her well in the upcoming winter.

After she'd washed and dried all of her belongings it is three o'clock and she checks in in the nearest motel for the next twenty four hours. Another sixty bucks, but she doesn't regret that either. She stays one hour in the shower, and hums under the warm water stream. Then she snacks on a box of Lamingtons she'd bought on her way here and she sets the alarm for six thirty before she crawls under covers.

Before she leaves at seven, she dresses herself in her new clothes, but puts on a provocative low-cut top underneath her sweater to allure clients with later. She knows makeup is due to be heavy if she wants to attract more johns, but she saw the way it perplexed the redhead last night and she can't bring herself to put on anything but small, decent amount.

She looks herself in the mirror and sighs. She doesn't have a clue where she's headed with dressing herself like this, she certainly doesn't intend anything with the redhead. She doesn't even plan to come near her. But she has this pull towards her which compels her to find herself in the proximity of her shop again and maybe watch her from afar when she closes in for the night.

At last, she snorts up a line of white powder and is ready to leave.

 

***

Bea leaves work at four, just like any other day, to take her very late lunch break. She leaves her busy salon in very capable hands of her four assistants and a receptionist and hurries home to warm up and dish up the meal she cooked last night for her husband. She quickly eats too, then places two beers on the table next to his meal and, as usual, makes herself a sandwich to eat later in the solitude of her shop before she closes for the night. Only that this arvo she makes two sandwiches and she makes them extra large, her heart skipping a bit when she packs them into the lunch box.

She flees the house minutes before her husband arrives and manages to see out her employees and welcome her five-fifteen client. Despite what she lets Harry believe, she never takes clients after six thirty, and she locks the shop, taking an hour and a half for herself only. This is the highlight of her each day. Just her, her sandwich and a coffee, and peace and quiet. Her moment in time.

Only that today she doesn't lock the shop, she doesn't lay herself down on the long, velvet ottoman in her back office and she doesn't nibble on her sandwich. She stands at the window and looks out for the fragile figure she can't seem to stop thinking about. Her eyes tirelessly search the whole perimeter then all over again. Until she finally sees her at quarter after seven, taking a seat at the bench ten metres across her store. She almost doesn't recognise her in the normal clothes she's wearing today and she has to admit she looks even more beautiful than she did yesterday. When she lifts her head and her eyes shoot in the direction of Bea's shop, Bea's heart skips several beats, because she realises the blonde is there to see her too.

She grabs the lunch box and locks the salon. She heads up in the direction of the young woman, who starts squirming in her seat like she's about to flee any second, she blushes and shifts before Bea reaches her, but stays.

Bea lets herself down on the other side of the bench, careful like she's running a danger to scare off a little bird. She takes in the beautiful face in front of her, almost unburdened with makeup, and she smiles. She smiles with relief that she showed up after all, and with delight that her ocean blue eyes ignite inside of her. They are even more accentuated today, matched against that jordy blue sweater, as well as dark blue shade of her jeans and high-tops. Bea thinks she could watch her like that forever and not get bored, but when the blonde shyly smiles back, she blushes and quickly looks away.

She puts the lunch box between them and tentatively opens it, dreading whether the blonde is going to refuse her offer again. When the blonde doesn't move, doesn't blink, she takes out her sandwich and starts eating, eyes fixed on the distance. After about two minutes the young stranger plucks the other sandwich out of the box.

They eat together in silence, their tongues tied in a knot from the sheer disbelief this is actually happening. After she swallows the last bite, Bea doesn't leave for another ten minutes, but she doesn't say anything either, she doesn't know what to say. She just steals glances at her wonderful companion and burns deep on the inside when the other woman returns them.

At last she stands up to leave. When she's good three metres away, she hears footsteps and finds herself pulled back by a sudden grip on her hand. The pull is not rough though, but it's firm enough to keep her toe to toe with the tall girl. She raises her eyes to meet her blue ones, but when she speaks, she just have to lower them on her protruding lips.

'Thank you…?’

She hears the question in the girl's voice and realises what is expected of her.

'Bea’, she finally blurts out.

'Bea’, the girl repeats, hitting her with a warm, pleasant breath and a twinkle in her eyes. 'I'm Allie.’

Bea smiles up to her insecurely, incapable of gathering her thoughts enough to speak again. She is mesmerised by the look in her eyes, by the touch of her hand, by her scent. She doesn't know what it is, but she knows she's never felt like this before.

Before she can stop herself, she raises her hand to run it through long, blonde locks and her fit of tenderness seems to put the blonde on the spot.

'I know it's not nice’, she utters in embarrassment, 'I haven't seen a hairdresser in over a year’.

Those words push Bea into a more familiar territory. She's the confident one again.

‘I could do it for ya, give ya a cut and colour. That's a hair salon I own over there. If you want, come by after six tomorrow.’

Allie blinks fast and in her thoughts counts the money in her pocket even faster. She's not sure if she's gunna score as much tonight, she's still overly tired and overly tender down there, but she's good in drugs department, and looking at those big hopeful eyes, she swears she's not gunna call it the night until she gathers as much as a fancy place like that charges.

'Then I'll drop by tomorrow’, she smiles and squeezes Bea's hand one more time before she leaves.

Bea returns to her shop to tidy up and turn off the lights. When she closes at eight and reaches her car, she sits for quite a few minutes in it, just watching her blonde acquaintance standing in front of the nightclub across the street. She watches her take off her sweater and tie it around her waist. She only discreetly rubs up and down her upper arms to warm them, not allowing potential customers to notice how really cold she is. And the first customer comes soon enough, the blonde getting into his car and taking off.

Bea finally starts her engine.

'Oh, Allie’, she lets out a small cry, her heart breaking for the blonde.

 

***

That night in Debbie's bed Bea doesn't cry though. It's the first time since her daughter died that she doesn't cry herself to sleep. Instead, she thinks of the ways she could help out Allie. In eighteen years of running her own business, she's accumulated quite a lot and it's not like she has anyone to inherit from her anymore. Since his daughter died, Harry lost interest in controlling Bea's savings account, for what would they need it for now that their heiress was dead. He would pay the bills off his account, and she’d buy all the food, and the rest of the other one's money wasn't their concern anymore. She could easily afford to rent a flat for Allie, to help her get on her feet, and Harry would never know about it. But it's too early, to soon, and she's afraid she might offend her or even spook her away, and that - Bea just couldn't take.

 

***

Allie arrives just after six. She’s been there half an hour earlier, but waited until the last customer had left the salon to enter. Bea just smiles and closes the shades and turns around the sign hanging on the door so that it says closed now.

Allie has only the softest hair and Bea’s fingers run through it in between cuts a lot longer than they should. She cuts the half of it, leaving only healthy collarbone length. The way Allie trustingly keeps her eyes closed during that process and supplely leans into her touch fascinates Bea and makes her feel all warm inside. She does full head foils and tint on her and they dine while the dye take. This arvo Bea has brought two thermo-mugs of soup besides sandwiches, and it is with a great pleasure that she watches how the hot liquid is putting some colour into Allie’s cheeks. She washes her hair again and this time she dares massaging her scalp in the process. Allie bites into her lip to stifle what awfully sounds like a beginning of a sensual moan and Bea feels heat shooting up her arms through to her torso then straight down to her core. She blow-dries and styles her locks until the clock almost strikes eight and when she holds out a smaller mirror in front of the big one for Allie to check out her new hairdo, she finds that she can’t peel her eyes off her.

The blonde winks in the mirror and her lips curve into a smile,

‘Stop staring, Bea, I get it, ya like me’.

Bea laughs for the first time in years and ruffles her hair. And then she just have to fix it again. Suddenly she remembers what Allie does for living and her face just slackens when she thinks how she made her this beautiful only for that to be ruined by a john not long after. She feels sick to her stomach and hides her face so that Allie can’t see it.

‘How much do I owe you?’ she hears a soft voice behind her back.

‘Nothing, it’s on the house’, Bea husks out quickly.

But Allie is offended, like her money isn’t good enough for Bea. Even though she doesn’t reproach her, Bea can see the hurt in her eyes. So when she keeps insisting, Bea blurts out the third of what she normally charges, and because Allie cannot know that her salon keeps amongst highest prices in Melbourne, Allie buys her bulshit and pays up.

They turn the lights off and lock up, and Allie walks her to her car.

And there it is again: that dread that Bea may never see her again. She cannot let her leave until she secures another evening with her.

‘Would you drop by tomorrow after six, have dinner with me?’ she chokes out in a weak voice.

‘I can feed myself’, Allie retorts in somewhat proud fashion. ‘That evening when we met, I just had a rough day, that’s all’.

‘I know, I know you can’, Allie sees those brown eyes dart up at her with fear and she melts when Bea continues in a pleading voice, ‘that’s not why I asked. You see I’m all alone in here in the afternoon, and what I was asking for, was really your company’.

Allie sees her slump her shoulders and look down. She raises her chin with her finger, ‘So I’ll be here’, she whispers softly, and then she adds in an up-beat voice, ‘But tomorrow I’m bringing dinner’.

Bea readily agrees, way too happy that she gets to see her again.

 

***

The next arvo Allie brings in pizza and two cups of hot chocolate. What Bea doesn’t know is that Allie’s just spent her last dime on a shower in a gym and their dinner. For the whole night she had only one handjob, and she had to buy ice before she retreated to her bunk. So she spent her last fifty dollars on two capricciosas and drinks. But she doesn’t regret it. She’s confident she’ll have better luck tonight. And if she doesn’t, it’s worth to suffer a little hunger to see this joy in Bea’s eyes.

She doesn’t want Bea to think she’s using her.

 

***

 

It is on the fifth night since they’ve met that they exchange their life stories. Allie talks about her mother taking off when she was a baby and about her father, how he threw her out as a teenager when he found out that she was gay. She confides in Bea about the direness of her life in the streets and ultimately she tells her about the rape that caused her to move into this neighbourhood. She starts to sob when she mentions how no one even thought that it was a big deal, for she was merely a hooker, and Bea holds her while she cries. She melts right then and there, in Allie’s arms, and she opens up about her marriage, about beatings, about rape, about Deb. Allie is stunned that this refined woman carries such a heavy burden, she wraps her arms around her and wants to protect her from anything and anyone.

They don’t even have to set up their next meet, for Bea knows Allie will be here on Monday afternoon.

Time flies fast that evening, while trading the wrecks of their shattered lives for a bit of kindness and understanding, and before Bea knows it, it’s ten o’clock and she arrives home two hours late.

She tries to argue that she messed up customer’s hair and had to stay longer to do a colour correction. She doesn’t even blink while she lies. She doesn’t owe him anything. But her story doesn’t mollify his anger. He calls her useless cunt and hits her. She takes the rage, she takes the beating, she takes the rape, and doesn’t let out a single cry. But for the first time since her daughter died she thinks she might not deserve this kind of treatment after all. She’s left lying in her torn clothes on the kitchen floor, and when he gives her his final kick and spits on her, all she feels is a relief, because she hears him heading into the basement and she knows he only goes there for one reason - to get out his fishing equipment. She hears him load his sticks into the booth of his car and tie his small boat on its roof.

‘The house better be tip-top when I return, bitch!’ he yells at her one more time before he leaves and she picks herself up, breathing in freely, knowing he won’t be home until late Sunday night. He did those fishing weekends more often than not, he did business trips on weekends, and other times he would just take off God knows where from Friday to Monday, for he couldn’t stand to spend time in that house since Debbie wasn’t there and ‘have to look at her ugly face’.

Instead of bringing her her usual peace in the absence of Harry, this Saturday awakes a pining in her she’s never experienced before. It is Allie who she misses and the time until Monday evening seems to her like a mountain between them. As the night begins to fall, she cannot retain her thoughts from escaping her house and wander off into the direction of that nightclub in front of her salon. There will be a lot of drunks on Saturday night, a lot of johns on drugs, possibly brutes. She knows Allie has been dealing with busy nights for years now, but she still cannot help but worry. Will she come out of this night alright, she asks herself, lightly banging her forehead against the window glass. At last, she cannot take the anguish anymore. She grabs her keys and drives to St. Kilda Road and parks in the shadows across the spot where she sees Allie stand in her sparkly, thin outfit.

The whole night she sits there, watching over her. She watches her take off with different kind of men, she sits in a cramp while she’s missing and it is not until her return that she lets herself respire again. She tortures herself like this until dawn and until Allie heads to her bunk with a heavy step. She follows her from afar until she sees her sneaking into that mini-mall that had burnt in a fire last year and then she steps on the gas and drives herself home.

On Sunday she cooks for the whole week ahead and puts it all neatly in the fridge. She cleans her house so thoroughly that not even Harry has anything to criticise for after he arrives around eleven that night. He doesn’t hit her, he seem shattered and pretty drunk and he passes out in the bedroom fifteen minutes after he entered the house.

She goes straight into Debbie’s room and, even if she didn’t get more than couple of hours of sleep last night, she takes her time to clean up, to wash and tame her hair.

She wants to look nice for Allie tomorrow.

 

***

It is during the third week after they’ve met that Bea feels confident enough to suggest Allie she should accept her help.

‘You could sleep back here in the office’, she pleads, ‘I could put in a pull-out bed instead of that ottoman. And you could work here, y’know? You can be my apprentice, I will teach you everything I know. You don’t have to risk your life anymore, offering yourself to strangers.’

Allie looks at her speechless, her blue eyes big from surprise. At first, Bea can see hope in them and sparkles of joy, but then despair creeps in and the blonde stares back at her with an expression of sheer defeat.

‘I can’t stay in here, Bea’, she shakes her head sadly. ‘I’m a drug addict. If I fall into crisis, I will steal and sell your stuff for dope, I will trash your place the first time I get tricked into buying a bad batch that will cause me hallucinations and trigger psychotic episodes’.

‘Then trash this place if you have to, sell what you must sell’, Bea shrugs her shoulders. ‘I will replace every bit for as many times as it takes.’

‘Can you replace me, Bea?’ Allie waves her head. ‘For when I break down, I will unknowingly cut myself on your scissors and shatters of your mirrors.’

Bea squats in front of her, taking her both hands and squeezing.

‘Then don’t sleep in here. This was a stupid idea anyway, and I only suggested it because I was afraid you were gunna turn me down if I offer to rent you a place of your own.’

When she saw Allie’s blue eyes fill with disbelief, she holds on her hand tighter, as if she’s afraid the blonde is going to take off any second now.

‘Let me rent you a flat, Allie. Something not far from here. You can still work in the salon and have a safe home to return to in the evening. And you don’t have to go out work on the street ever again. It won’t be like charity’, her voice almost begs when she sees no sparks in those pensive blue eyes, ‘it is just to help you out until you get on your feet. And it’s not like I can’t afford it. My money just sits in the bank, waiting to go to a cousin I have never met once I cark it. Let me put it up to some good.’

Allie breaks from her thoughts, her eyes lowering to meet Bea’s distraught gaze that desperately keeps searching her face for any sign of a positive reply. She squeezes Bea’s hands and caresses her palms with her thumbs.

‘I’m a drug addict, Bea’, she repeats herself, pressing her thumbs deep into Bea’s palms so that she snaps out of her illusion and finally understands. But when Bea once again fails to figure it out, Allie patiently elaborates, ‘On the streets I make more money, and I make money faster. The salary I could get in an establishment like this could never cover both my rent and bills and my drug habit.’

Bea grabs on her shoulders in a sudden outburst of hope, ‘Then let me check you into rehab of your choice. You can break out of it once and for all.’

Bea exhales with relief once that she’s said what she’s been really wanting to say ever since the evening she met Allie. She said to her what she failed to say to Debbie: Check yourself in, get help, and I will be with you every step of the way.

‘You won’t have to go through it alone. I’ll be there for you, I promise’, she assures the young blonde. ‘Hell, I’ll check myself in with ya, if that’s what it takes.’

‘What about Harry?’ Allie asks curiously.

‘Fuck Harry!’ Bea retorts before she lays a kiss into Allie’s open palm.

That is the first kiss they have ever shared, and as Bea’s cheeks colour themselves the shade of her hair, Allie’s hand trembles and her heart melts.

She pulls back her hands nevertheless and says determinately,

‘You really don’t get it. I don’t want to go to rehab. I don’t want to quit drugs. I do this willingly. Ice makes me strong.’

She stares into Bea’s eyes, sternly, until she finally realises the truth and accepts reality for what it is. A second after Allie sees it happen in Bea’s eyes, Bea lets out a single, desolate cry and shoves her head into Allie’s lap.

It breaks Allie to see Bea doubled-up like that, but there is no point in lying to her. This is who she is, this is who she’s been for years - a junkie street whore. That she will remain until the rest of her days.

 

***

For the next two days Bea’s eyes are lost between dimensions. She barely eats, she barely sleeps. Harry notices her distress and tries laying into her, but her gaze is so faraway, like in a madwoman, that he inwardly flinches and leaves her alone.

She feeds Allie when she comes in the evening and she sits with her, even though she herself doesn’t manage more than a bite or two. But she hardly ever looks at her and she doesn’t speak unless spoken to.

‘Do you prefer me not to come back tomorrow?’ Allie’s voice is nothing but a whisper as she fights the accumulated tears not to break through her thick eyelashes.

Her broken tone seems to finally sober Bea up. She turns her head towards the younger woman and states,

‘You are who you are. But me… I don’t care who you are. I only care about you.’

Allie almost chokes on her breath when the words pour out of her mouth,

‘I care about you too. A lot.’

 

***

The following morning Bea transfers her appointments to her employees and drives off to ‘Emporium’. If Allie is stubborn to continue with her life on the street, she’s gunna give her her best surviving chance. First she buys her a rolling suitcase then a thick doona and folds it neatly at the bottom of the suitcase. Then she buys her winter pants and skinny jeans, and a denim jacket, just trashy and blingy enough to appear attractive to johns, but coated with warm faux-fur lining and detachable fur-lined hood. She buys her a proper winter jacket too: a fitted but heavy insulated mid-calf parka, with zip pockets inside and out, hooded, wind- and waterproof, lightweight, and not least - so wonderfully midnight blue. She throws in leggings and undergarments, gloves and beanies, two scarfs and thermo-socks.

She watches the packed suitcase.

She has fallen for Allie Novak and she would buy her the world if she could. The only thing she wouldn’t ever buy her are drugs.

She would do anything to keep her safe.

Bea still has hope Allie will decide to turn her life around, but she cannot force that decision on her.

She accepts Allie for what she is: a junkie, a prostitute, the sweetest soul she has ever been encountered with.

She doesn’t return to work. Instead, she parks not far from the burnt mini-mall and sneaks her way in through the hoarding at the back, just like she’s seen Allie do it the other night.

 

***

At dawn Allie was out like a light, after all night’s work, and when Bea sneaks upon her, she doesn’t even flinch in her sleep. It’s one o’clock already and she usually doesn’t sleep that long, but today she’s really tired.

She doesn't know that Bea sits there on her blanket, her back leant against Allie's belly, certainly for half an hour and watches her sleep. She doesn't know Bea drinks in her features at the very same time she dreams about hers. She doesn't know Bea is thinking the same lustful things she herself doesn't dare to imagine for Bea is so out of her league.

But she feels the back of Bea's hand touch her cheek and she stirs from her sleep. Surprisingly, she doesn't jump to her feet and go into attack mode - the light caress on her face is so loving she immediately knows it cannot be anyone else but Bea. For no one has ever loved her until this fairy-like creature came into her life.

Her eyes still shut, she lays a kiss onto the hand that caresses her and smiles,

'Bea…’

'How can you know it's me?’ the other woman smiles back, amused, for Allie is still keeping her eyes closed.

'How could I not?’ Allie replies loyally and flutters her lids open, only to give Bea the most joyful look those blue eyes have ever given. She pushes herself into sitting position and wraps her arms around Bea.

Bea returns the hug and they sit like that for a long time and it is not until Bea moves away and motions to the other corner that Allie notices the dark blue suitcase.

When Bea shows her the things one by one, Allie doesn't tell her she'd be a walking target if she would walk into the homeless community in that five-hundred-bucks parka, dragging the sturdy suitcase behind her. She doesn't tell her she wouldn't ever dare wearing the parka when working in the streets. Instead, her brains go into overdrive and she tries to think of the ways she could hide this stuff from the other homeless people and thus get to keep them. It feels nice to think she could wrap her body into something that will remind her of Bea. She reckons, if she spends the upcoming winter keeping to herself, avoiding homeless communities, if she pays attention not to go to her place of work in that parka, if no one follows her here, she could keep Bea's presents safe. Those leggings and skinny jeans, and that denim jacket Bea got her is what she can really use when she goes out there.

She doesn't share any of her concerns with Bea though; instead she just hugs her and kisses her cheek and murmurs, 'Thank you’.

 

***

After that, Bea gets out of work every day around eleven to come and wake Allie and spend some time with her. She would bring her pastry and yoghurt for breakfast and cuddle with her sitting on her blanket.

Allie gets so used to being woken up by Bea's gentle touch that she can't imagine anymore there is another way to wake. As soon as she opens her beautiful blue eyes, the first thing she sees are Bea's delightful features and it is a perfect sight. The first thing she does is getting ahold of her supple body and even in her predicament, she has to admit - life has never been better.

Sometimes she's shaking though, if the drugs wore off sooner than usual, and she has to get another fix, and fast, if she doesn't want Bea to see her falling apart. But she knows Bea takes it hard when she has to watch Allie snort up a line of white powder, and she is embarrassed beyond description. She is aware that first time Bea saw her do it left a trauma in both of them, and even if Bea said or showed nothing, she knew by the fluttering of her eyelashes and her pressed together lips that she was only saving her tears for later. Allie has never hated herself like she hated herself in that moment, but crystal meth always wins the battle against her and she repeats the deed in front of Bea whenever she wakes up in a crisis.

This morning she shakes out of something other than addiction though. She's just energetically hugged around Bea's neck before she had pushed herself up into a sitting position, thus causing Bea to lose balance and fall on top of her. Lying on her back again, Allie breaths in Bea's scent, as Bea's forehead hesitantly leans down onto hers and lingers there for an eternity. Bea's long hair is like a wavy curtain around them, separating them from reality. Their breaths mix and they can feel their hearts beat fast against each other. For the first time Allie seriously considers Bea might be feeling the same strong sexual pull towards her that she feels every time she's around Bea. They stare into each other's eyes like nothing else in the world could ever hold their interest and Allie asks herself whether it could be possible that Bea is actually returning her feelings.

But she could be never be good enough for Bea. So she gently brings both of them upright and lets go of any romantic thought.

 

***

As usual, Allie is seeing Bea to her car after they'd closed up the salon, hugging her and walking to the zebra to cross the street. But Bea doesn't even get to put her keys into ignition when she sees a woman slowing down her car and halting next to Allie.

In the world where she thinks nothing can stun her anymore, she's dumbstruck when she sees Allie going into the luxury car and letting the attractive brunette drive her away. She breaks into sweat and grips with her fingers around the steering wheel. She knows Harry is awaiting her, but she cannot bring herself to start the engine.

Images flash in front of her eyes, images of the swanky woman taking off Allie's jacket and her lips attaching themselves to Allie's milky white neck. She sees her hands lifting Allie's miniskirt and she presses her palms into her eyes as if she wants to pop them inside her eye sockets.

Her phone rings several times on the passenger seat. She sees Harry's name flashing on the screen, but she doesn't pick up. Instead, she leans her head back onto her seat, closes her eyes and tries to fight back strokes of heat ripping through her body that she can only describe as jealousy.

This is the first time in her life that she's experiencing jealousy. And it's not good, it's not romantic - it's limb tearing and heartbreaking and soul stenching.

It's well over an hour since Allie had left with that woman. It's another ten minutes of agony until Bea sees the fancy car returning and Allie climbing out of it and heading for her usual spot.

Before she knows what she's doing, Bea lays on her horn and honks until she gets Allie's attention. Shocked to see her still parked there, Allie crosses the street quickly and gets in her car.

'What happened?’ she asks breathlessly.

Bea doesn't look at her. She just throws her head back on her seat again and hisses through her gritted teeth,

'Nothing happened . I just didn't know you were taking female customers as well.’

Allie is taken aback, but she is too well versed into human psyche not to understand the cause.

'Why wouldn't I take female customers?’ she argues softly. 'If anything, it's usually safer, and it feels more natural to me.’

Bea jerks her head down so that she can look at Allie.

'That is precisely why! This is supposed to be only work for ya!’ she yells.

'But it is, it is’, Allie soothes her rage. 'It's no different than any other john in sense that it makes me no pleasure. All I could see when I looked at her are the three hundred she payed me upfront. I won't lie: I prefer when women pull over, but only because it's less dangerous and less demanding. They are all pillow queens: they only care about getting off, they don't care about my pleasure. It makes my job so much easier: I don't have to put up with strangers shoving up their body parts into me nor do I have to pretend to come because they are such great lovers’, she rolls her eyes.

Bea thinks about her words for a few minutes. 'How do you protect yourself when you're with them?’ she asks eventually. 'I know you're keeping it safe, and it's no brainer how you put a condom on a man…’

'I put my fingers into condom before I enter them’, Allie explains patiently. 'And I never do oral on women unless they agree to wear condom panties.’

Bea nods, her anxiety diminished a little by this explanation. But her jealousy still rages.

'This w-woman…’, she stutters, 'she w-was very beautiful. I can't honestly believe you didn't e-enjoy yourself a little.’

Bea's jealousy, Bea's insecurity brings Allie to realisation what she's been failing to see these couple of months. She soothingly brushes her thumb along Bea's prominent cheekbone and reassures her, her voice dripping with nothing but the naked truth,

‘Bea, I haven't even noticed. She might have been pretty or not. She might have been blonde or brunette or purple. She might have had horns, I honestly don't know. The truth is’, she licks her lips hesitantly, but nevertheless finds the courage to proceed, 'ever since I met you, I am focused solely on you. I never ever register other people, professionally or otherwise’.

She lifts Bea's chin just in time to see tears starting to spill over the edges of those tormented brown eyes and she drinks them with her kisses.

She feels Bea's arms snake around her waist and she hears her soft murmur into her ear,

‘When I'm not with you, I only think when I get to see you next. When I'm with you, I never want to let you go.’

When she finally leaves Bea's car, Allie finds she has lost willpower to go on with her night. She slowly walks back to her hideout. Three hundred dollars is enough. She can buy some food and wash her clothes; if she buys only a gram of ice this time, she can get by.

 

***

When his wife doesn't answer his calls, Harry Smith punches the wall and gets in his car, out of his mind from rage. He drives to the salon, shocked to find it closed and all the lights out. Soon he discovers Bea's car parked in the car park and Bea sitting behind the wheel, staring at the same spot intensely. He finds it utterly strange and for a moment is completely perplexed. He parks his car down across the road and lurks to see what happens. A long time later he is startled when his wife lays on the horn like demons were chasing her and soon he sees a blonde bimbo running into her direction and getting into her car. He watches with astonishment Bea flipping off at her, watches her cry, witnesses when this low-life prostitute kisses her tears away.

He is gobsmacked.

And he is beyond angry.

His wife may be of no importance to him, she may not hold his respect and he certainly doesn't give a squat what she may think or feel - in fact, she's inferior and utterly insignificant so is her motivation to be here late at night too - but she carries his name and damn if he allows her to ruin his reputation by running around with hookers or tarnish his daughter's memory.

He pulls out before his wife does, drives home and parks his car into the garage. He lies in their bed and waits.

Bea arrives ten minutes later. He hears her sneaking in on her tiptoes. She pops her head into master bedroom, but he's pretending to be sleeping. He hears her closing the door and walking over into Debbie's room.

He lies there, thinking. His blood boils. There's nothing he would like better than to jump on his feet and drag her by her hair in here and rip her apart. But he needs to find out what she's been up to first. He plans the ways he will set up a trap for her. Then he will have his revenge.

 

***

The next morning Bea doesn't show up to wake up Allie. Instead, she takes off around eleven to Albert Park Lake and strolls around, thinking.

Last night has changed something in her. When she was sitting there in her car, for what has been the longest hour in her life, she comprehended what she has been missing all these years. Human connection, tenderness, passion. Her jealousy has finally brought her to the realisation just how much passion she holds for Allie. How much affection.

How much she needs to act on it.

She forms a decision and hopes Allie will understand.

 

***

That evening they've finished dinner shortly after six and now they're talking about their day sitting cuddled up on the ottoman in Bea's office.

Then they aren't talking anymore.

Allie is playing with Bea's fingers and smiling.

The silence that has fallen upon them is so familiar, so affectionate that it feels like a warm cover they've draped around their bodies. It feels like a shield, like a protective bubble, until Bea pops it with her out-of-blue question,

'How much do you charge for a whole night?’

Allie is taken aback, but by now she's somewhat used to Bea drifting off in her thoughts to the strangest of places in the most unlikely moments. So she doesn't question her back, she simply answers,

'Six hundred for a night of regular sex, no kinky stuff allowed. Five hundred, if they let me stay in the motel room after they leave, y'know to sleep in peace and have a shower.’

Nothing could have prepared Allie for what she hears next.

‘Can I book a night with you for the first weekend Harry goes out of town?’ Bea blurts out, her cheeks heavily blushing but her eyes determined not to look away.

Allie feels like Bea has just knocked all the air out of her lungs.

'Wh… Wait, what?!’ she utters beneath her breath.

But Bea doesn't flinch back.

‘Since you don't want to quit your current occupation and are taking female customers…’, she shrugs her shoulders.

Allie gets up and walks around the small room. She's trying to get a grasp of what is suddenly happening.

'Where is this coming from?’ she stands in front of Bea and darts her bewildered eyes at her.

Bea hugs her knees and leans her chin on them, her eyes still fixed on Allie.

'I'm attracted to you very much, Allie’, she explains calmly. 'I've never known good sex. I have wasted my life with Harry and missed out on everything regular couples enjoy.’ She pauses a bit and lowers her eyes. She strokes down her pantlegs and throws a quick side glance at the blonde before she continues, more nervously, 'For so many years I've been dead inside. I had no yearnings. Then I met you and everything changed, I've changed. You, Allie’, she flutters her eyelashes, suddenly feeling her heart beating wildly against her chest bone, 'you make me feel things, warm things inside. You make my blood pump faster. You make me feel desire I've never felt before.’

She watches Allie's face transforming in front of her eyes, she watches it slacken, almost melt. She sees her lips part as if gasping for air.

'You’re my one chance at this, Allie. I've never warmed up to someone like this, and I am pretty sure I never will again. You're my one shot in this life to know passion. I want you to show me good sex like you do with your other customers.’

Allie squats down in front of the redhead and takes her hands into hers.

'Bea, what I do for living - that's not sex, that's just fucking. Y'know, close your eyes, get it over with. Good sex, real sex, lies in here too’, she taps on Bea's temple and strokes down her cheek.

She looks at Bea suggestively, waiting for her to understand.

'I can't shut down with you, Bea, and fuck you like other customers.’

But all Bea hears is I can't and she pulls her hand out of Allie's in sudden horror. She expected Allie to be offended for her offering the money, she suspected Allie would offer her services for free out of sheer gratitude for what Bea has done for her, and she has prepared herself to argue that she simply cannot allow for Allie to waste a Saturday night's earnings on her. She knows Allie needs to earn money at night to survive the day. So she has prepared herself to fight her until Allie accepts the cash from her like from any other client.

But she wasn't prepared for Allie to reject her.

She fucks just about anyone, so it never occurred to Bea she wouldn't want to fuck her.

Harry's insults run through her head: you're ugly, you're useless, worthless. You be glad I have to fuck you, for who else would have wanted you? You frigid cow.

She struggles to jump at her feet, to leave this room, but Allie's hands laid heavily on her shoulders keep her down in place. She looks at her pretty face. She has never wanted anyone like she wants her. And she never will. But Allie doesn't want her back.

'Am I so repulsive’, she asks while she cannot withhold tears from streaming down her face, 'that you cannot even stand the thought to take me as a customer?’

Allie is confused. Her confusion holds her back for a few seconds, but then she unfreezes and sits down next to Bea, wrapping her arms around her.

'Bea, you understood me wrong. What I wanted to say was…’

'I know I'm ugly…’, Bea cuts her off.

'Bea! Bea, would you look at me?’ Allie lifts her chin, 'You're not ugly, you're the most beautiful woman I have ever seen’, she stares at Bea with nothing but honesty and admiration on her face, but Bea simply cannot believe her.

'I'm not much to look at, but…’ she starts, but is silenced with Allie's finger on her mouth. Allie takes her head into her palms and gazes at her like her eyes want to burn into Bea's.

'There is nothing’, she says slowly and coherently so that Bea gets it once and for all, 'and I mean nothing that I would rather look at than you. You are not only beautiful, inside and out, you're outright gorgeous. Forget everything that Harry has ever said, that's all not true. This bastard of a husband of yours is telling you those awful lies just to keep you under his thumb. Because he knows that you are too good for him, that you deserve so much better and that you will leave him if he doesn't put you down.’

Allie stops her outburst to inhale much needed air. Her pulse is racing. She cannot know whether Bea will take offence at her blatant honesty.

Bea wipes her eyes and looks at her shyly.

'If you think I'm that beautiful, then why don't you want…’ her voice breaks into pieces and she cannot continue.

Allie strokes with her both hands down her locks and pulls her nearer. She kisses her one eye, then the other.

'What I wanted to say’, Allie whispers, 'is that I cannot fuck you for money. This is once-in-a-lifetime chance for me too. I am insanely attracted to you, Bea. I don't want to take money and shut myself down. I want to be there, all of me. I want to feel you. I want to make love to you.’

Bea's eyes widen and for the first time she begins to understand Allie. She shudders.

'Next time Harry leaves town I will take you out on a date. And then I will make love to you all night, okay?’ Allie asks.

Her fingers grip on Bea's skull firmer until the redhead gives in and lets their foreheads touch.

'Okay’, she whispers in agreement.

She sees the blonde smile.

'I'm gunna treat you how you should have been treated all along.’

Allie's ample lips kiss her forehead and then she takes her into a hug and presses her head against her chest.

Bea feels happy, happy like she's never been. But she also feels guilt creeping in. Will Allie go hungry, will she get sick with withdrawal if she wastes her best night in week on her and doesn't earn anything?

'I can't let you go hungry to be with me though’, Bea states. ‘Please accept some money from me, not for sex, but just because it's from me.’

Allie kisses the top of her head, 'Don't you worry about that’.

'But I do worry’, Bea protests. 'How will you get by if you don't work?’

'Shush now’, Allie runs her fingers through her wild locks, 'even a hooker deserves a little vacation, don't you think?’

 

***

But it's not time for a vacation yet.

Allie is aware that Harry spends ninety per cent of his weekends away - bloody fool cannot stand the company of his wife, something Allie would kill for - and her stomach ties into a knot when she thinks that this Saturday will probably be it.

There is so much to be done before that.

She knows Bea has more money than a person needs and that she doesn't expect anything from Allie but her feelings, but she doesn't want to allow for Bea to pay for everything. She wants to make Bea feel special. Bea has already told her she had booked a hotel room for Saturday night, but Allie wants to pull her weight too.

She washes all of her clothes and works two nights in a row for twelve hours straight. The second night she has only slim profits and she stubbornly stays in a hope for more, no matter how much her legs hurt and how many times she dozes off on her feet. Around five in the morning, when she's already desolate, she accepts four hundred for an hour with too guys at the same time. It's dangerous, it's scary and she's never done it, but she can't back away when those four hundred are what she needs to arrange everything like she's planned for. When they tie her to a chair in a stinky motel, she thinks this is it, she's been an idiot and she won't live to see Bea again and even if she does, Bea will just kill her for being so reckless. But she gets lucky. The guys only want to fulfill some weird fantasy in which a kidnapping victim watches them have a go at each other and while they have a round between the sheets, Allie relaxes on the chair and thinks this is the easiest money that she's ever earned. They dismiss her an hour later and continue their antics long after Allie has gone.

Friday morning Allie sleeps like a baby until Bea drops by and informs her Harry has already flown to Brisbane to a business conference, due to return on Sunday evening. That's what Allie has been hoping for. Allie takes a deep breath and asks her out tonight, to a dinner and a movie. It'll be only casual, she says, but Bea is nevertheless excited. She hadn't been on a date since high school. The sparkling in Bea's eyes and her flushed state after she'd agreed to meet her downtown at six give Allie energy boost she needs to get up on her feet and set things in motion.

She takes her suitcase and packs her blankets into her bag and checks herself into a low-cost but decent motel. She cleans up and heads out. She goes shopping: new tight grey jeans and salmon shirt for tonight, oh God, she hasn't worn a button-up shirt for a decade now, a long button-down dress with floral pattern for tomorrow.

She eats at a burger house and returns to her motel to take a long shower. There's nothing else left to do for an hour before she ought to start dressing up but to lie sprawled on the bed and to try to still her too fast beating heart.

Bea leaves work at three, much to a dismay of her employees who have been wondering for some time now what has gotten into their boss in the last two months to just randomly skip working hours and swamp them with her appointments. At home, she enjoys her freedom, a Harry-free air. She tries hard and succeeds to forget he has ever existed. The space is hers now and so are these two upcoming days. She wants to think only of Allie. Everything she does at home that afternoon she does only for Allie. After she'd relaxed in a bath, she tames her wild curls with just a tiny amount of scented oil, making her locks smoother and springlike. Making her attractively vivacious. She opts for smokey eyes makeup, hoping to leave Allie breathless. She pulls out of her wardrobe a black suit she's never worn before - she bought it ten years ago because she fell in love with it when she saw it in a boutique window and she looked smoking hot in it, but Harry never allowed her to wear it so she was just occasionally washing it and ironing it, without any real hope that she will ever get to show it off in public. But now she is surely happy that she'd kept it as she watches herself in the mirror and imagines Allie will certainly appreciate the way it clings to her body. Underneath, she wears a light grey shirt to match the colour of her eyeshadow. She delicately sprays her perfume and puts on a long grey winter coat, matched with a silk grey shawl. She sighs contently when she takes one last look in the mirror. She thought of everything.

But, ultimately, it is Allie who knocks the air out of her lungs. She stands there in front of her with midnight blue eye pencil colour that complements her irises and matches the unzipped parka she bought her. Her hair is golden, scrunched in never-seen-before, exciting waves, and her smile is so bright that she looks like she's glowing. They grasp with their hands on each other's faces and laugh. They bathe in the joy they awake in each other. It's theirs and theirs alone and they have so many hours just to dote on each other.

Allie takes her arm to lead her to a small Italian restaurant she picked out for tonight, but after they make a few steps, Bea stretches down that very arm next to her body and takes Allie's hand into hers. She can hear Allie gasp as she intertwines their fingers and she cannot help but turn her head sideways and wink at the blonde. Allie is flabbergasted in the most delightful manner. She's never seen this playful side of Bea before and she can't help but wonder what would have become out of Bea, how much would she thriven if she never met Harry to put her down.

Bea is noticing the looks thrown at them as they walk those short couple of blocks in the busy business district of their hometown. Those are looks of admiration, jealousy, lust, recognition of the wonderful thing they have going on between them. She throws smiling side glances at the blonde walking loyally beside her and her chest wants to burst with the newly found pride. She hasn't felt proud of someone or herself since Debbie was still little enough to cling to her in public. This is a different kind of feeling though. It doesn't leave her only tender and loving, it makes her excited and burning up too.

They sit thigh to thigh, feeding each other slices of pizza, while trying not to choke on their laugh. Neither of them has ever experienced such a careless evening, but it's not strange, it's not frightening, it's warm, it's familiar, it's just right. Allie wipes the sauce from the corner of Bea's mouth with her thumb and then licks the thumb clean, making Bea shudder and their looks become serious. As she sinks into Bea's deep brown eyes, Allie asks herself does she really love ice better than Bea, how could it be possible to love anything more than this feeble, sensitive woman in front of her. She's playing with the idea of dropping her deadly habit and spending all of her evenings with the redhead, looking this healthy and happy, but then she remembers Harry - Bea would never spend her evenings with her anyway as long as she punishes herself by staying with Harry and Allie states sadly that she has nothing but meth to console her when Bea each night turns herself willingly into the hands of a monster.

Bea lifts the armrest between their seats in the movie theatre so that she can hold Allie in her embrace while they watch comedy of Allie's liking. She's not really interested in the plot, instead her eyes linger the whole time on the face of the young blonde in her arms. Who knows how long has it been since Allie has seen a movie and, her eyes glued on the big screen and her head comfortably leaned back on Bea's shoulder, she is beaming with joy that is so obviously overwhelming her. When the end credits roll, just before the lights go on, she turns into Bea's embrace and whispers, 'I've never been this happy’. Bea pulls her nearer and rasps out into her ear, 'This is the happiest day in my life ever since my daughter was born. You mean so much to me, Allie’.

In the darkness of the movie theatre Allie is radiant like the sun. She parts her beautiful lips to say more of all the gentle things on her mind, but the overhead lights go on and they have to pull out from their trance.

Once in the street, Bea's hand instinctively finds Allie's, making the blonde grin like The Cheshire Cat. Bea's fingers are cold so she tucks their joined hands into her pocket, bringing their sides flush to one another's.

Bea is everything but cold though and when Allie takes her into a dessert house to warm up, she actually gets to cool off a little, because she is no longer joined at the hip with Allie.

She protests to no avail when Allie's insisting she's buying and then she chooses the cheapest biscuit in the store. But Allie cancels her order and orders them two hot caramel slushies and lavish, raspberry-topped cheesecake that later just melts in their mouths.

'This tastes incredible’, Bea lets out a low moan as her tongue twirls around the spoon. Allie's gaze is mesmerised by the rosy tongue tip sticking out her full lips and she leans in and whispers with a sigh, 'I can't wait to taste you tomorrow’.

Allie's sigh is charged with suppressed desire and to Bea it betokens the magnitude of what is to follow the next night. She trembles, and blushes, and yet again she is bold enough to lean in herself and whisper back, 'I can't wait to get to feel you too’.

She revels in the way Allie's face turns to pink, the way she parts her lips and unleashes some of her piled up longing in long exhales that hit Bea's skin as hot waves.

The older couple next to them shift uncomfortably on their seats and after the man clears his throat, Bea reluctantly puts PG distance between Allie and herself again. She, however, takes hold of Allie's arm under the table and she strokes with her fingertips the delicate inner side between her elbow and her wrist.

'On that note’, Bea asks in an intimate but sobered-up tone of voice, ‘I’m going to a pharmacy tomorrow to buy us some protection. I'll take regular condoms, of course, but can you tell me once again how are these ladies’ condoms called? Should I ask for anything else too?’

She pulls her mobile out to write down Allie's instructions in a note app, but Allie gently takes her phone out of her hands and puts it on the table. Then she links their arms under the table again and circles with her thumb around Bea's knuckles.

'If you agree, I'd like us not to use any of it tomorrow. I need to feel you. All of you.’ Bea's eyes don't show any reaction, they don't give her thoughts away and that buys Allie time to explain herself, 'I know it sound like a preposterous thing to ask, especially coming from a prostitute, but if tomorrow is the one night I get with you, then I need to dare and ask for what I really desire. I'm always keeping it safe, you know that. Even though I don't care what happens to me - in fact, I'd prefer not to live to an old age in the streets - I have conscience, Bea. I couldn't forgive myself if I caught anything and then transmitted it to a client. So, once a month, I'm getting tested for STD at a sexual health clinic, it's low-cost, sometimes they even test me for free. I'm clean, Bea. Here’, Allie says grabbing her clutch bag and taking two papers out of it, 'here are my results I went to pick up yesterday. It's all negative’.

She slides the papers to Bea, but Bea doesn't even look at them. Instead, she cups Allie's face between her warm palms, not caring who might look at them.

'You are amazing, you know that?! To live the life you're living and endure what you endure, most people would just be hating everyone and wanting to take their revenge on the world. But not you’, she looks with a drunken look into Allie's eyes, 'not you. You are thoughtful and responsible even in the most dire of circumstances and you care about others even when you don't care about yourself. You, Allie Novak, are a wonder.’

'You see me as better than I am’, the blonde smiles bashfully, not knowing what to do with all the praises Bea throws at her.

Bea shakes her head and mouths, 'No way’. She corners Allie in their small booth, draping her left arm around her shoulders and stroking down her neck with her right. As Allie's breath visibly hitches, she continues with a lovesick expression, 'What I see is that you are precious. And I would do anything to keep you safe. When I said that I intend to buy protection, I wasn't aiming at protecting myself from you, but rather you from me.’

Allie quirks her eyebrow, not getting what Bea was trying to say.

‘Harry’, Bea murmurs with loathing, hating that she needs to bring him up in the night that's supposed to be only theirs, 'he refuses to use condoms with me. And I don't know anything about what he does when he goes on his roundabouts or his countless all-nighters’. She blinks away in embarrassment. ‘I find lipstick on his collars and long hairs on his car seats. He would kill me if I asked, and honestly, I don't care to ask. But ever since Deb died, I Iost my reason to live so I stopped going to doctors altogether. If that son of a bitch transmitted any disease to me, I have to protect you from it.’

Allie takes her embarrassed head by the chin and turns her towards herself again.

'Bea, there isn't a disease in the world you might catch that I wouldn't want to catch myself. God knows I didn't have much to live for anyway, but now I have you and if anything happened to you, I wouldn't want to go on.’

Allie blurts out her confession in a family dessert house, whose down-to-earth surroundings seemingly want to present it as blown out of proportion, but Bea doesn't think so. Bea thinks it's just right, for she feels the same.

They stare into each other's eyes, their hands joined again and restlessly caressing the other's palms and knuckles, until the waitress informs the remaining guests the place is closing down for the night.

'Wanna go home?’ Allie asks seeing it's one o'clock already, but when Bea shakes her head, she laughs in relief and drags her to the first nightclub they see. The place is called ‘Revolver Upstairs’ and it seems fairly popular, judging by the queue. Allie pays entrance fees and grabs them cocktails. They drink up and rush to the dance floor, impatient to wrap their arms around each other. The dance room is packed, it’s fuggy and smokey, there are graffiti on the walls and the DJ is spinning out of control. Everything is so loud and you can cut pheromones in the air with a knife. Bea takes off her suit jacket and throws it on a bar stool then returns to Allie. Their bodies jump to the music, crowd pressing them close together. They sing and they yell, their shirts already sweat-soaked on their backs. They hold each other when slam-dancing begins and don’t let the crowd separate them. They jump together, inadvertently slamming into others and never minding the occasional punches they receive. Soon they are stinky and sweaty and tired - and they love it. They forget about the ordeals of their unfair destinies: Bea realises thirty six is an age where one is still young in body and soul and has most of his life ahead, and Allie gets to finally be a carefree twenty-eight-year-old with no other worry but to have a good time.

Four a.m. and a taxi pulls over in front of Allie’s motel. Stubborn in her wish to be the one who takes Bea out on a date tonight, Allie pays the driver in advance to bring Bea home. Bea gets out of the car to say goodnight to Allie and follows her to the entrance. There’s nothing she would rather do but follow her inside and never let her go, but Allie doesn’t invite her in and she doesn’t want to seem desperate. Instead, she arranges to pick up Allie on that very spot at two o’clock and hugs her goodbye.

Allie hates to let Bea go, but she thinks, no matter the motel is more decent than she’s used to, it’s stil not good enough for a lady like Bea. Besides, they are both shattered and she wants their night to be perfect for Bea. So she frees her from her embrace. She sees something she cannot define in Bea’s eyes and imagines it’s second-guessing or hesitation.

‘Bea, we don’t have to do anything if you’ve changed your mind’, she hurries to put her mind to rest.

Bea fathoms Allie mistakenly took her second thoughts about following her inside right away for cold feet and embraces her again to reassure her. She looks straight into her eyes and promises, ‘I haven’t changed, I won’t change my mind’. She still sees a shred of doubt in those blue eyes so she leans in and puts her lips on the pulsating point on Allie’s throat, feeling the blonde going limp in her arms. She kisses up her neck until she reaches that sensitive spot hidden behind her little lobe and rasps into her ear,

‘Do you understand now?’

 

***

It’s ten to two and Bea leans on her car in front of Allie’s motel. Her impatient eyes are fixed on the front door and fortunately it’s not long until the blonde jumps out of it. In a blink of an eye they are glued to each other again and the terrible longing that has been tearing them for hours is swirled away in a whirlpool of happiness.

Bea drives them to the foreshore of Port Phillip Bay, where they take lunch in a cosy restaurant then walk hand-in-hand down the beach. They stroll around until they come across the Luna Park and Bea drags Allie through Mr Moon Gate, convincing her to join her on the Scenic Railway ride. Allie’s bowels tie to a knot just by looking at it, but she can’t disappoint Bea. She would hate to be the cause of that light going off in Bea’s eyes. So she stretches her hand out to clasp Bea’s and says, ‘If we die, we die together’. And she smiles.

But they don’t die. The ride is fairly slow and the sight of Melbourne from above is beautiful. She can almost touch the clouds and drown in the blueness of the sky. She can feel the wind blowing the painful memories of her life away and she can see ocean water washing away her sins. She’s been stupefied with beauty all around and she’s been cleansed. And now she’s safely down on earth and in the arms of the adored woman again.

They check into the hotel at half past five. It appears too luxurious for Allie not to feel self-conscious, but she braves it out, appreciating the sentiment Bea had when she booked this place. Somehow she gets a feeling Bea couldn’t go other but large anyway. It’s not in her nature, she’s just too generous.

She breathes easier when they find themselves behind the door of their room. Again, it’s the finest room Allie has ever been in and she doesn’t quite feel deserving of it, but she’s glad Bea gets to enjoy it. Bea doesn’t deserve anything less than to be treated like a queen.

They watch the city from the balcony for a good while, then they close the balcony door and take off their jackets. Bea thinks Allie looks like an angel with her golden locks and a radiant smile on her beautiful face. None of them is wearing any makeup today, like they just wanted to be who they are and not hide nor embellish anything. Without makeup Alle looks even younger, and practically naive, standing there like a college girl in her navy blue dress with white lilies print and Doc Martens.

They are an odd combination today, with Bea looking downright elegant in her dark red dress and pumps of the matching red colour, but as they step closer together, they both think they fit perfectly. They revel in watching each other’s faces until their looks get serious and everything between them suddenly becomes heavy and full of expectations.

‘You’re shaking’, Allie feels up Bea’s forearm, letting her fingertips skim over the goosebumps they’ve woken.

‘It’s cold’, Bea replies in an unconvincing voice, her chest fluttering from the closeness of Allie.

‘It’s not cold’, Allie retorts, her eyes fixed on Bea’s full lips, before she leans in and kisses them gently.

The touch of Allie's lips is soft, barely grazing hers, but Bea, who has been waiting on this for an eternity, is frozen for a few moments. It is as if the very first second of tasting Allie's lips on her own, has amplified Bea's feelings for this woman so much that she is now stunned by the sheer magnitude of everything going on inside her. She tries to return the kiss, but it's more of a shudder against Allie's ample lips than anything else.

She stumbles back until her legs hit the foot of the bed and then she sits down, trying to catch her breath and still that heart of hers, which threatens to jump out of her chest. From the first moment she laid her eyes on Allie, the blonde has had a hold over her, and that power has never seemed greater than in this moment.

Allie squats down in front of her and tentatively takes her hand. 'Are you alright?’ she asks, darting her concerned eyes at her.

Bea sinks so deep into those blue pools that she'd drown if they were really a part of an ocean. She takes in her open expression, the honesty of her laid out emotions, her bravery. She won't be afraid either, she decides. What is she afraid of anyway? If her heart must burst from all the emotions that want to rush outside of her, then let it burst. That's a stampede she'd happily let run over her.

She leans forward and places a short but determined kiss on Allie's lips. It's enough to make the young woman shudder and suddenly Bea feels empowered by the effect such a simple act of hers can have on another human being. She wiggles back on the bed until her head reaches the pillows and opens her arms. 'Come here’, she commands softly and Allie slowly crawls up the bed until she's laid on top of her. Bea drapes her arms around her and pulls her down until their lips meet again. This time she readily reciprocates, all of her senses on high alert. She opens her eyes to watch Allie. She wants to commit every wonderful second to her permanent memory before she completely loses her mind in this. When Allie opens her eyes too, Bea smiles against her lips and turns them over on the bed.

'Let me finish what I started yesterday’, she smiles again, before she launches herself on the milky skin of Allie's pulsating throat. She relentlessly places kiss after kiss and grazes her teeth in pretend-bites until she hears Allie moan. It is the most perfect sound that she has ever heard and it brings the happiest laugh out of her. She revels in the effect she has on Allie and the force suddenly coursing through her veins is unstoppable. She kisses Allie's lips with passion that surprises them both and Allie surrenders her mouth to Bea's ardent attack. She parts her lips to let Bea's pressing tongue in and for a second there Bea feels like she's captured a precious fortress until the winner becomes the slave to the feeling of warmth overrunning her body in a single marsch. She trembles against Allie and moans into her mouth, making the blonde open her eyes again and smile victoriously. She gently rolls Bea down until they lie side by side and then she begins the counterattack on Bea's neck. She lefts no millimetre unkissed, evoking low, guttural sounds in the redhead. Bea soon starts to return the kisses and they both relish in the amount of skin their choices of dress reveals. It's like they both agreed on a low neckline and now they congratulate each other on that decision. Bea kisses along the perfect U-shape between Allie's collarbones and the top edge of her garment until Allie feels like she would combust and pushes Bea back onto pillows. She sucks down Bea's V-shaped cleavage until she reaches the swell of her breasts. She impatiently pushes her tongue between her teeth and licks at her sensitive skin. Bea roars and her stomach muscles start to tremble against Allie's. She gives in to the flame that consumes her and entangles her fingers into Allie's strands to hold her head firmly against her breasts. Allie drinks the life of her out of chest and still hasn't had enough. She drinks the pain away that has been accumulating inside that chest for decades and she pours a new life in. Bea feels tears of gratitude rushing out through her pressed together eyelashes and she pulls the blonde up into a searing embrace. Their mouths find each other's again and this time their tongues dance in perfect harmony until they're left out of air. They lock eyes and laugh at each other's breathlessness until they're joined into one figure again. Allie's hands wander all over Bea's back, pulling her nearer on top of her, while Bea pushes her tongue deep down Allie's throat and cups her breasts. She's kneading the tender flesh under the thick cashmere with rising urgency while her lips move tirelessly against Allie's. She feels like she's falling into an endless pit and everything is dark in front of her eyes. Allie's continuous moans keep her grounded though, like an elastic rope above that pit that pulls her up every time she plummets down. Her hands still working into dough, she bends her neck to place a first kiss on the swell of her breasts, and as she does, they both let out a deep, prolonged cry of pleasure.

There's a knock on the door.

'Room service, ma'ams’, they hear from the other side and still their movements.

'Just a moment please!’ Bea shouts back then whispers, 'I forgot I'd ordered dinner in’.

She helps Allie up and then they straighten the covers and straighten their clothes before they open the door.

While one waiter sets up the table, the other one is placing thick candles all over the place and lighting them up. Allie looks up at Bea in wonder while she is being tucked in at the table and a bunch of roses are laid in her arms by the redhead. No matter the stuff, Allie pulls Bea into a gentle kiss then releases her to take her seat across of her.

They eat under the candlelight and the quiet sounds of music and it's a romance none of them ever imagined they'd experience. They watch each other with tenderness and silent understanding, and occasional twinkle of an eye reminds them of their recent mischief, making it hard to suppress the giggle in front of the waiters.

When the waiters pack everything back on the rolling food cart, Bea sees them out tipping them generously and locking the door. In the meantime Allie is refreshing in the bathroom and when she hears the lock click, she emerges out of it barefoot, having left her boots and pantyhose in there.

She finds Bea sitting on her chair again so she straddles her lap and runs her fingers into the wild red mane to pull her up into a short kiss.

'Thank you’, she said with a glazed look, 'no one has ever treated me this good’.

Bea's heart melts into a complete honesty, 'It's because you treat me like a queen’.

'But you are, you are’, Allie murmurs against her lips and plunges into them, surrendering every atom to her sovereign.

Bea readily reciprocates and the kiss soon turns heated. She's acutely aware of the naked skin straddling her lap and she runs her hands under Allie’s dress and up her thighs until she squeezes under her bottocks and elicits a moan out of her delicious throat. It seems to Bea it's been forever since she's heard that heavenly sound and she simultaneously massages her thighs and places hot kisses down her neck and cleavage trying to draw out as many of them as she can.

Allie is quivering in her embrace and she stands up wrapping Allie's legs around her waist to move her to a much sturdier surface. She places her on the bed and hovers above her, taking in all of her beauty, until Allie pulls her head into another life-saving kiss.

She feels Allie's fingers fumbling with the zipper on her back and she sits up and turns her back to Allie, allowing her to slide the mechanism down effortlessly. She feels Allie's hands gliding her dress down her shoulders while her lips trail down her neckline. She moans herself. When Allie's hands reach her waistline, she helps push her dress down her legs and throws it off the bed. Then she smiles against Allie's swollen lips as she starts to unbutton her soft cashmere dress. She gasps at the sight of her bra-clad breasts and flat stomach and lays what it feels like thousand hot kisses all over her exposed skin. Allie's body is jerking up towards her lips and when Bea sneaks her arms around her back to undo the lock of her bra, Allie arches instinctively to make it easier for her. Bea's sliding down the straps of Allie's bra like she's witnessing the emerge of the world's eighth wonder and when she throws it away across the room and take the first look at the hardened nipples, she inhales loudly and barely dares to touch them. Allie draps her arms around her torso and unclasps her bra with little more skill before she tosses it away. She lies still for several moments, mesmerised under full, dark-nippled breasts swinging above her head. They both remain lithified for couple of minutes, taking in the beauty laid bare in front of them, until they simultaneously explode and suddenly they are all hands and lips and hot moans against the burning skin. Panties are tossed in haste and now they are rolling their naked bodies on the bed, trying to assert their dominance. Allie is a bit taller than Bea, but Bea turns out to be more muscularly built so she wins over the gentle battle and lands on top of Allie. She pushes her thigh between Allie's legs and presses against her core as both of their pupils dilate. She's never got familiar with lesbian sex so she's doing things as she's seen them in her Allie-induced dreams. She takes Allie's nipple into her mouth as she grinds her thigh up and down Allie's wet centre. Her movements are rhythmic and fast and Allie can come just from what she is doing right now, but she doesn't want to. She guides Bea's hand between her legs until her fingers enter her warm cavity and she sees the redhead blush. Bea thrusts her hand simultaneously with her thigh and Allie rewards her with a long, excruciating cry.

'That's it, baby, keep doing it’, she ensures her and puts her hand on the back of her neck to join their lips in another passionate kiss.

Bea is on fire. She's in control for once in her life and revels in the feeling of evoking such an intense pleasure out of Allie. The more Allie enjoys herself beneath her, the more empowered and blessed she feels and she gives her last atom of energy to satisfy her fully.

When Allie feels her body trembling from head to toe and violet contractions ripping through her belly, she knows she won't last much longer so she wiggles her hand between their glued bodies and reaches for Bea's centre. She stops before she enters, her eyes asking for permission, and Bea nods, not completely ready but delighted she's been asked for her opinion for the first time in her life. But she soon discovers there's nothing to be afraid of. Allie is not like Harry. There's nothing forceful about her entry. Her fingers gather her abundant juices and coat themselves with them before they easily slide into her opening. She feels a filling there where it was emptiness and substance where there was only void. Her walls clench around Allie's fingers like they want to trap them in forever. She starts to move her own hand inside Allie again, with even more vigour, while she takes her lips in a long kiss and rides on her fingers. She feels like Allie is gathering her and taking her apart again until everything is a blur after explosion and their juices run down their thighs.

'You beautiful, beautiful girl’, she coos against Allie's lips when she regains consciousness and lets warm, happy tears stream down her face. Allie's never been so high in her life and she doesn't object when Bea claims her again, offering her another rush before her body's fully recovered from the first one.

Bea lifts Allie's left leg on her shoulder and presses their still wet cores together. She thrusts her swollen clit into Allie's entrance,  their eyes locked the whole time, holding so much love for each other in that perpetual gaze. It takes a while, but it's the most enjoyable pastime either of them has ever had, and they reach their destination together. They collapse into each other's arms, knowing they have truly become one. Neither of them has ever been loved before and the feeling is intoxicating.

They cling to each other's embrace for what it feels like forever and they only emerge out of that dream-like state to share more of the sweet kisses.

'I never knew closeness like this could exist’, Bea rasps out trustfully while running her thumb along Allie's lower, protruding lip.

'Me neither’, the blonde smiles and takes her thumb into her mouth.

Just like that, they go from gentle to heated again and Allie finally gets her wish come true when she gets to taste Bea. Her outer lips are trembling from Allie's hot breath against them and her little knob is sensitive to every lick of her pointy tongue tip. She feels self-conscious when that tongue plunges deep inside of her for the first time, but it's soon forgotten as its strokes against her sweet spot erase every thought in her head. All she knows, all she feels is Allie and she has no past, no sorrows, and all of her burden falls on the ground and shatters to pieces.

Bea Smith is being reborn as Just Bea - the love of Allie's life.

When candlelight remembered by her brain explodes into shooting stars under her closed eyelids, she feels Allie crawling up her body to join their souls into a searing kiss. She opens her eyes to meet the most adoring look on Allie's face. Allie's face is lit up and she's glowing from head to toe as she caresses Bea's cheek and tucks her locks behind her ear. She slowly parts her lips and lets out the most fulfilling sentence Bea has ever heard,

'I love you with all my heart’.

Bea's eyes water as she wraps her arms around Allie's neck and she replies sincerely,

'I've loved you first’.

'Impossible’, Allie laughs and shatters small kisses all over Bea's neck and collarbones.

She wants to adore her.

Their lovemaking continues long after dawn knocks on their windows. It's a night filled with passion, with tenderness, with everything they've deserved but have been lacking all of their lives long.

It's a night of desperately clinging to one another like they were a dream that might disappear into thin air.

Before they finally give in and succumb to sleep, Bea pulls Allie to herself and declares in a solemn voice,

'I will never allow anyone else to touch me again. I will leave Harry. I love you’.

Allie turns to lie on her belly, so that she can find Bea's gaze. Seeing nothing but honesty and determination in her dark eyes, she makes a statement of her own,

'I promise I will never touch another drug again. I love you more’.

'Impossible’, Bea murmurs as they lips lock once again then pulls the blonde down to rest against her chest.

As Allie peacefully sleeps on top of her, feeling secure at night for the first time in ages, Bea's mind is racing hundred kilometres an hour. She's making plans what to pack of her things and Debbie's memories so that she can leave house before he returns. The first thing she'll do in the morning is to go to the bank and cut him off access to her bank account. Then she'll see her lawyer and file for a divorce and a restraining order. She'll lay low for a couple of weeks, cuddled with Allie in a hotel, she won't go to work so that Harry cannot find her until he defuses his anger. She'll help Allie out and make it work for them. And then? Who knows, maybe rent a flat or buy a little house of their own. Whatever makes Allie happy will make her happy too.

She kisses the crown of the blonde head and carefully slips out of bed. She finds her tossed away bra and plucks out banknotes hidden in a secret compartment. She has a secret compartment in each of her dozen bras so that she can always carry cash on her body, in case Harry decides to lock her out in the cold again or she has to flee to a women's shelter in the middle of the night. She reckons the safest solution is to leave the cash with Allie now and as she puts five thousand dollars into the inner pocket of her parka, not for a second she doubts Allie would spend it on ice. Allie has made her a promise and she trusts her on that. She goes to the writing desk and writes sleeping beauty a little love note she tucks in together with money. Then she heads for the bathroom. She freshens up as quietly as she can and she doesn't even turn on the light. She watches her reflection in the mirror and even in the faint light of a newly beginning day she can see her face glowing and her lips swollen from their lovemaking.

She returns to the woman who has made her feel that illuminated, that purified, that loved. She slips under covers as carefully as it gets, but it's not enough not to wake the blonde and she soon finds herself pinned down into the pillows.

'I've missed you’, the blonde mumbles as she conducts her attack.

'I've only been to the bathroom’, Bea laughs when the blonde tickles her with her fingertips against her ribcage and her nose rubbing against her neck.

'I still missed you’, Allie opens her eyes and presses one of the most intense kisses on her puffed lips.

She makes love to Bea one more time, leaving no spot on her body untouched or unkissed. She holds her in her embrace and looks into her eyes as she enters her and she rejoices when she feels Bea parting her legs wider and resting her soles against the small of Allie's back. It's an act of total trust and surrender, an act of a sheer need. Bea opens herself fully, in every possible sense, and draws Allie so near like her body wants to gap wide and swallow Allie whole. Her fingers find Allie's opening too and they move in rhythmic synchronisation, their tongues gliding against each other's, their bodies mixing their sweats.

It's a feeling like no other.

It's urgency and calm, it's a journey and home. It's a reunion of halves which have never parted anyway. It's melting of their hearts together when their souls are already joined above between the stars.

It's a heavenly emotion and an earthly pleasure. It's rhythmic movements and chaotic screams and moans until that final shudder together and that final cry. It's tears in their eyes and laughter on their lips.

It's that last hug and last kiss before they fall asleep, a mass of tangled limbs.

 

***

Allie wakes up at eleven. She only got three short hours of sleep and her eyelids are heavy like led, but she knows she has to move. She feels the familiar tremble all over her body and it's nothing like that pleasant shake Bea has been making her feel all night long.

She's withdrawing.

She doesn't want Bea to see her like that and as much as she hates to leave her, she knows she must. She kisses Bea's bare shoulder and lets her rest on the pillows. She walks over to the desk and writes,

My dearest,

I have to reach my motel before my crisis reaches its peak. I know you'll be sad when we don't wake up together, but I can't allow myself to stay and repel you with my withdrawal. I will drop by the salon when the drugs leave my system, it's ten days, give or take, and I hope to find you there a free woman. I promise you to find a decent job to support us and to never give you any reason not to be proud of me.

I leave you with all my love until I return.

Yours,

Allie.’

She dresses and leaves the note on the pillow where her head had rested until not long ago. She places one final kiss on the sleeping beauty's lips, before she moves away. She halts at the foot of the bed, her eyes like nailed to Bea's face and it's the shaking in her limbs that finally brings her to avert her eyes, turn around and walk through the door.

 

***

Bea has regained her consciousness before she's opened her eyes. Her arm reaches to hug Allie's warm body closer, but instead it fells into an empty space. It feels cold and she quickly flutters her eyes open and searches across the room and ajar bathroom doors which reveal no movement, only deafening silence. She notices Allie's clothes is gone and a feeling of terror overwhelms her until she turns her head to the left and catches sight of the little love note. It lies next to the blue shawl she has bought Allie months ago and as she eyeballs her own winter coat she realises the perpetual mischief has taken her own in exchange. She laughs knowing everything between Allie and her is good even before she reads the love letter on her pillow, but when she does, oh my God when she does…

She feels like she could fly on the wings of love and hope and she stifles her laugh with Allie's shawl. It smells of her and she is aroused and happy at the same time.

She feels like a teenager.

She jumps on her feet, aware it's almost one of clock. The hell if Allie thinks she would indeed let her to go through her withdrawal alone. There's nothing the blonde could do that could ever repel her. She will just head over to the house to gather her belongings and before Allie knows, she will knock on her motel room door and take her into her arms. She will hold her head over the toilet when she pukes and clean her when she makes a mess of herself. She will see to it that Allie doesn't hurt herself in the process and won't mind the punches she might receive from the drug demon. She will guide her Allie though that dark tunnel and never let her walk alone.

She tucks Allie's note into the secret compartment of her bra, puts her clothes and coat on in a haste and drives her car to the house a little bit over the speed limit. There's no real urgency there but the urgency to hold Allie in her arms again soon, and that is the most important kind.

She pulls two suitcases out and unzips them wide open. She starts tossing her clothes in and don't stop until she's been grabbed from behind. She freezes.

'Harry’, she says in disbelief, 'you came home early’.

'I never even left, ya bitch’, she hears his sinister voice and shudders with sudden fear. ‘You are so gullible. You believed what you wanted to believe. A business trip, all of a sudden’, he laughs into her ear. 'No, ya dickhead, I stayed to see what you and your little whore are up to while you think I'm gone.’

'You know about her?’ Bea whispers, a chill overtaking her body.

'Of course I know about her! Or did you think you could outsmart me?’

Bea turns around and frees from his grip.

'Then you understand I'm leaving you now, Harry.’

She walks straight to the door. Damn the suitcases and everything. And all of the Debbie's things cannot bring her back so she's just gunna leave everything and save herself. She has Allie waiting for her, counting on her.

'You're not going anywhere, bitch’, he yells at her as he pulls her back. 'You belong to me!’

'You don't care about me anyway, Harry, so let me live my life.’

'Your life! You don't have a life unless I say so! I'd rather kill you than let you run around with hookers and tarnish my good name!’

At that, Bea realises she has to fight for a survival now so she jerks her hand out of his and runs down the stairs to the exit.

But he catches up with her before she can turn the knob on the door and drags her by her hair into the kitchen, which is the room nearest to the front door. He lays a punch after punch into her ribs and stomach and she curls up in a ball, trying to defuse the blows until she has a chance to escape again. He smashes her down onto the kitchen table and she sees a chef's knife lying down next to her. She could easily reach and grab it, but she doesn't want to cross that borderline into the dark side. Especially not after she's seen what being in Heaven might feel like.

He tears her dress from behind and she hears him unzips his jeans. Her heart races out of fear but she starts to fight back. She will never allow for anyone but Allie to touch her ever again.

She manages to turn around and push him off her, but he pushes her right back. Pinning her down with his one hand on her throat, he rips her panties off with his other and climbs on the table to hover with his aroused penis above her. He slaps her like he usually does to achieve a full erection and tries to humiliate and terrorise her further verbally.

'I followed you around’, he grunts, 'I saw you walking into that hotel with her. To be honest, it has turned me on. Did she at least teach you some new tricks?’

'If you must know, she taught me what you never could’, she spits in his face and fights to free herself.

He tries to ram his penis inside her, but Bea kicks him off her with her feet. They struggle for a good while until he manages to drop on top of Bea again. It's almost impossible to shake him off, Harry being two metres tall and weighing hundred twenty kilos.

'You're gunna show me everything she's taught you’, he snickers as he parts her legs. 'And after I'm done with you, I'm gunna find your little Allie-whore too. That's right, I know her name, I know where she operates’, he stats as he sees his wife's eyes widen in terror when mentioning Allie's name. 'I'm gunna pick her up and she won't even know it's me. Maybe I'll take her to my fishing cabin and play with her couple of days. When she doesn't have a good bone left in her body anymore, I'm gunna drop her in the sea. Nobody will miss a hooker. Nobody but you that is’, he still snickers vilely, 'you will rue the day you laid eyes on her until the rest of your miserable life’.

'Never!’ Bea yells, but it only makes him laugh harder.

He frees his one hand to grasp his penis and tuck it into her. What he said about Allie, how he's gunna find her and torture her until he kills her, has petrified Bea more than anything ever has in her lifetime. She will protect Allie even if that means she will burn eternally in hell. She uses the moment of his inattention when he looks down to insert his penis and reaches for the knife. She sticks a knife into his heart and yells,

'This is for Debbie!’

Then she slits his throat and hisses,

'And this is for Allie and me’.

His blood is pouring all over her naked body and she pushes his cadaver like garbage off her.

She dials triple zero before she passes out on the floor.

 

***

For ten days Allie is puking her guts out. For ten days she's having fever and cold flashes and no control over her bladder or bowels.

The most of her time she spends naked under the shower and runs either cold or warm water over her head, depending whether she needs to cool herself off or warm herself up in that particular moment.

She's happy she'd seen Bea's note with attached money before she turned to a complete mess, for she doesn't know how would she have left this room and suffered through a withdrawal in that burnt down hideout of hers. When she came from Bea, she discovered the money then returned to the reception and paid seventy hundred and fifty for another two weeks in this joint. She arranged with the guy to leave a pizza at her door once a day and then she climbed upstairs and flushed her remaining meth down the toilet.

And here she is now - half-dead, half-alive, the only coherent thought in her head being Bea. She's read her love note every time when she wanted to jump out into the street and find the nearest dealer, that means, like thousand times.

I believe in you, Allie. I know you will quit drugs.

No one has ever said to her that they believed in her.

You're strong, Allie.

Everyone always thought her weak and worthless. Everyone but Bea.

This money is for our future together.

They will have a future. Allie just needs to get her shit together and come out and find Bea.

You can do it, beautiful girl.

She will do it, she will. She won't give up even if it kills her.

I love you.

'I love you too’, she cries into the ends of Bea's grey shawl that is wrapped around her shoulders. Her insides are being torn apart, but her heart beats stronger than ever.

She can do it.

 

***

On the eleventh day Allie wakes up in the puddle of puke in the middle of her motel room. She stinks, she's worn out and every muscle in her body aches, but her head is finally clear.

She knows it's over.

She cleans her room first then takes a shower. She dries her hair and puts on clean clothes: skinny jeans Bea's bought her and her jordy blue sweater.

When she gets out on the street, she inhales deeply. The air tastes sweeter than she remembers and she imagines she can sample first hint of spring on her lips.

She crosses the street and has a decent meal first. She certainly doesn't want for her stomach to rumble in front of Bea again, she giggles under her breath.

Then she heads to Bea's salon. It's almost six o'clock and Bea will see out last customers soon. She almost skips down the street as she hurries to meet the love of her life again.

She's shocked to find the salon closed and a strange above door sign. It says Hardware Store and she rubs her eyes in disbelief. A man is locking the door and she asks him about the salon.

'Sorry, it's closed’, the man replies curtly.

'Did they move? Where did they move?’ Allie asks breathlessly.

The man shrugs his shoulders.

'All I know is that the owner ended their contract abruptly and then rented it out to me.’

As the man walks away, Allie doubles down and fights for breath. She holds her head between her hands while everything spins around. She feels like in the Twilight Zone and asks herself whether Bea was too good to have existed at all.

She wonders if all has been just a figment of her imagination, but then she pulls Bea's note with four thousand dollars out of her pocket and respires.

She could have never written such a tender note herself. She could have never imagined those words. She would have never saved four thousand - she'd squatted it all on drugs. She would have never cleaned up her act if Bea's love wasn't real.

She pulls herself together and goes to sit on the bench where she first sat with Bea.

So what if the property owner broke off Bea's leash early? She will still come here to find her. Or she will look for her at the motel.

Allie waits on the bench until clock strikes ten then drags herself into the motel. She asks at the reception - no notes for her; no red-haired woman has dropped by.

Allie really hates herself now for turning down Bea's offer to buy her a phone. The easiest thing would be to just send her a text and ask where she is.

But she knows Bea's number, it dawns on her, even if she never used it, she knows it by heart.

She runs into the hallway and knocks next door. She pays the woman to use her phone and dials Bea's number. It goes straight to voicemail.

The first thing she does in the morning is to buy a cheap phone and try again. Again to no avail.

She sends texts and leaves messages. She stares at her phone but it never chims.

She walks to the hardware store and leaves a message for the red-haired owner of the closed-down salon.

She sits on the bench the whole day long.

She waits.

She sits there the whole week but Bea is not showing up.

On the weekend she walks tirelessly through Bea's neighbourhood, hoping to catch a glimpse of her somewhere on the streets or through open curtains. She wonders which house is hers but her search is futile. She tries asking around about her red-haired hairdresser friend, but people dismiss her as weirdo and threaten they'd call the police.

She returns to her solitary motel room and cries herself to sleep.

What could have happened to Bea? Did she try to leave Harry and he hurt her? Did he drag her away after she'd packed her bags, somewhere across Australia?

Is she alive?

Allie's questions have no answers.

She doesn't have anything but comfort her loud sobs can provide and the little hope that still glimmers in her heart.

 

On the tenth day since she's discovered Bea's salon had closed down she realises she cannot keep spending Bea's money anymore. She leaves a note for Bea at the reception and nails a note on their bench that she would wait for her there every evening around eight.

She gathers her belongings and checks into a women's shelter. They never wanted to take her in while she was on drugs, we have children in here, they said, but now they welcome her with open arms. The owner, Kaz Proctor, is strict but fair. The shelter, Red Right Hand, has its own rules and Allie does her best to follow them. She does her chores around the shelter, takes part in group therapy and personal counseling and applies for jobs. She gets accepted on trial bases as a salesperson in a hypermarket.

She hopes Bea will find her soon and be proud of how well she's done.

She works from seven to five and is never shattered enough not to show up at eight at the bench, even if it means she's only gunna doze off there on the spot.

Another month passes and Bea’s phone number gets disconnected.

Allie cries so loud the whole shelter rushes into her room.

She craves ice, she craves ice all the time.

But even more she craves Bea.

She remembers her touches, her kisses and knows no amount of drug can ever make her forget.

Even if Bea is not alive anymore she has promised her never to touch that shit again. And she won't, no matter how strong the urge.

For the urge for Bea is stronger.

And her hope and love is more resilient than anything world can throw at her.

 

Two years have passed by. Still no news of Bea.

It's more than a year since Allie had moved out of the shelter, but she still volunteers there on regular basis. The owner of the shelter, Kaz, becomes her close friend. She befriends several other women, but refuses any advances of sexual or romantic nature.

There can be no other.

There's only one for her.

The one she waits for every evening on the same wretched bench.

She becomes store manager and rents a nicer apartment.

Still no sign of Bea.

Gradually, she becomes angry. Angry at the world, at her destiny, at men.

Especially at men.

For quite some time now she's been aware of the vigilante actions of Kaz Proctor and a group of her close friends against husbands, boyfriends and other men who have hurt women residing at the shelter. She turns the blind eye, but wants no part of it. That is until she runs into one of the men who raped her. He's begging her for money and doesn't even recognise her.

Rage is fuming out of her ears. He scared her for life and doesn't even have the decency to remember her.

She bursts into the shelter and confides in Kaz. That evening is the first time she doesn't go and wait for Bea. Instead, she's wearing a balaclava and lurks with a baseball bat in her hands.

They beat the shit out of her rapist.

She doesn't feel better though, she feels disgusted with herself and she doesn't try to run away when police cars show up and they seize them in the act.

 

***

Three hours after she'd killed her husband Bea finds herself behind bars of Wentworth Correctional Institution.

She confesses to everything and her trial is over in a day. If she had limited herself to that first stab, if she hadn't slit his throat, she would have gotten off with self-defence.

This way she gets convicted for manslaughter. She has hired a great lawyer - she is still young but knowledgeable and Bea can see a feisty streak in her. And she has to fight in the trial so she can return to Allie one day.

Franky Doyle, her legal representative, fights her corner without holding anything back. Bea is embarrassed when Franky lays out to the judge and jury the whole ordeal of her marriage of eighteen years, the whole story about the beatings, the rape, the photos taken by police when they discovered her naked body on the kitchen floor, the tragic fate of her daughter. She hears it all with bowed-down head and she wishes the ground could swallow her for being so stupid and staying with Harry after the first time he'd hit her. But it is her story and she lets the judge hear it, because she needs her compassion if she wants to return to Allie.

The judge is, indeed, lenient. She gets only five years for manslaughter, and a right to inherit from Harry, which is a precedent, but the judge says she's earned it.

Not that Harry has any relatives left.

Not that she cares.

She only cares how to reach Allie, to let her know what happened.

She wants to hire Franky Doyle to find her, but she gets sexually attacked in her prison cell the same evening of her trial, just two days after she was almost raped again by her scumbag of a husband.

Just two days after Allie had made her see the stars.

She can't allow it.

She fights her rapist, the infamous top dog of their prison who goes by the name Lucy Gambaro, until she breaks two bones in her legs and cuts off the tongue she wanted to forcefully put inside her.

It never even comes to trial. It's dismissed as a self-defence, as Lucy, nicknamed Juice, is a well-known sex offender and a lifer for repeated crimes of sexual nature.

But the governor of the prison, Miss Vera Bennett, puts her in a slot for two months, more for her protection than anything else.

She cannot reach Allie now.

She lies on her narrow bunk between the barren walls of her slot and weeps for Allie.

She doesn't know where Allie is and how she's been doing. She doesn't know whether she's managed to get herself off the gear and save herself from the streets.

She has witnessed Allie's strength on more than one occasion and she has faith Allie will come through.

But she would want to be there to support her when she does, to hold her if she's tempted to falter.

The worst thing for Allie, she knows, is that Bea has disappeared into thin air.

She hopes it won't break her resolution.

She hopes Allie won't break her promise.

She faces the wall and whispers sweet words of encouragement to Allie, who cannot hear her from this place. No one can hear her from here.

She remembers every second of their night together, remembers it thousand times, for there is nothing in here to do but to cry and reminisce.

Then they release her into general population.

Bea finds herself involuntary top dog of this wretched prison she didn't even get to know good by now, for eliminating Juice from the leadership position.

She has no choice but to take it.

She hires Franky Doyle again and urges her to find Allie.

But Allie has left the motel and the burnt ruin and she doesn't frequent any of the spots where prostitutes operate in Melbourne.

Bea hopes that means she has pulled through.

It's either that or she lies in a gutter somewhere.

She doesn't even want to think about that last option.

When she gets out of the slot, she also learns that her salon has been forcefully closed, for she has no partner to take over, and her employees are thrown out on the street by the property owner, who happens to be Harry's mate.

She can't worry about that now.

She has to harden and grow strong to survive this place and find Allie again.

She works hard to build up her muscles and make her body strong.

She learns how to box and she learns how to fight with a shiv.

She rules the prison with iron hand, but is just and accessible to everyone who might be in need of her protection.

She gets tough in every sense of the word.

She trusts no one except Maxine, her second in command, whose friendship she's gained while shielding her from harassment because being a trans-woman.

But she confides in no one, not even in Maxine - at least not about Allie. She jealously keeps all memories of her for herself to keep her strong during the day and make her soft again at night.

For nights are only time when prison queen Bea allows herself to grow tender - in her dreams about Allie.

In her dreams she kisses her lips a thousand times and promises everything is going to be alright. She looks in the eyes she adores and death has no meaning.

In her dreams Allie does not lie somewhere in a gutter.

Instead, she waits for her in her blue cashmere dress with innocent white lilies.

She waits for her release.

And, above all, Bea does nothing to jeopardise her release. She finds a way to rule the prison without breaking the laws herself and counts down the years.

Two years have passed by now. Three more to go.

 

***

At first, Allie Novak is stationed in the J-Block together with other members of the Red Right Hand. But the governor Vera Bennett sees something in her, sees repentance, her non-violent nature. She looks up her file. It was her first-time offence and the judge has been lenient. She got three years for assault on the man who allegedly had raped her, while the other members of the vigilante group all got twelve years each. They have done those attacks repeatedly, while it was Allie's first slip, and judging by her demeanor, there was a chance of her full resocialization if she could be held apart from the ruinous influence of the vigilante leader.

So Miss Bennett decides to give Allie her best shot. Less than a week after her arrival she moves Allie to H-Block, to be under the direct supervision and protection of the mighty top dog. Miss Bennett gets along with this top dog for once. Bea is not a criminal, she is a battered wife who has found her strength to fight back and Vera sympathises with her. And she is strong and smart and has a sharp sense of justice which makes other prisoners want to  follow her lead.

The prison has never been safer than under Bea Smith's rule.

For once, there are no drugs. Bea has made sure of it.

Vera sends out a message to Bea that she can expect an addition to her unit she wants a particular protection for and Bea is rolling her eyes at this new responsibility.

She leaves it to Maxine and her 'muscles’, a large brunette by the name Boomer, to acquaint the new arrival with her strict rules and frighten her a bit if they must.

She lies down on her bunk and catches on her sleep, as always dreaming about Allie.

Her dream must have been vivid even more than usual for she can swear she hears Allie's voice when she stirs from her sleep.

But she's still in prison and there is no Allie, no happiness, just Boomer's raised voice explaining to the newby how she is gunna punch her tits in if she doesn't obey to top dog's rules.

'What top dog says, goes, love’, she hears Maxine's soft but uncompromising voice and she imagines the poor woman is petrified enough by now.

'Bring her in’, she yells in her usual horse voice and gets up facing her window and stretching.

First she hears a gasp. Then sound of a body falling against the ground. She turns around just in time to see a familiar blonde head banging against the floor. She rushes to her side before Maxine or Boomer could get in, and when they do, they think Bea has roughed Allie to the ground.

'Get out!’ their top dog yells. 'And close the door!’

They follow orders even though they stare at each other in confusion. Bea has never closed her doors before.  

They hear the blonde cry so they rush Liz out of the unit and keep watch in the hallway so that no one gets into their unit and witnesses Bea ruining her chances of parole.

So they don't get to see how Bea carries the blonde over to her bed. They don't get to see Allie regaining consciousness and cry out in disbelief. They don't see their arms wrap themselves around each other or their lips sealing upon each other's like in there it's the only source of air.

They don't see The Iron Queen melting like she's made of butter nor Allie being there to pick her up like she always does.

They don't hear them exchange their stories. They don't witness their reunion.

But they do. They do exchange their stories and neverending kisses and they do finally make their peace with the world.

 

***

Love is weakness.

At least in prison.

No one is allowed to know.

Bea must protect Allie at all costs.

Only members of their unit are let into their secret. They're only cosy with each other after the countdown when the bars to their unit are locked and no one can catch them out.

The little group of friends then usually watches TV together in the common area. Liz makes everyone a cuppa and then sits in the armchair and knits while Boomer and Maxi tease each other on one couch and Bea stretches out on the other one, her head in Allie's lap, Allie's hand running through her wild locks.

Can a person be happy in prison?

For these two are happier than they've ever been.

They have found their peace. They have found each other.

They're making elaborate plans for their future and revel in the fact that they are to be released within couple of months from each other.

They kiss any chance they get and never sleep apart.

They are surrounded by loyal friends to guard over their sleep and their nights are more tranquil than either of them has ever known before.

 

***

It's seven years after they've found each other again.

Bea Novak leaves her salon in capable hands of her friends and employees Liz and Boomer and heads out to preschool to pick up her daughter.

They wait in front of mama's travelling agency, on mama to lock the doors, for it is already five o'clock and they ought to be going home.

Allie comes out of the premises, the biggest smile on her face, like always when she sees her two best girls.

She kisses Bea gently then squats down to hug the little munchkin. The girl's hair is dark blonde, but she has brown eyes like Bea.

They have named her Hope.

She was a planned child. Bea inseminated Allie back in prison, using smuggled sperm their now late friend Maxi donated from her deposit in the sperm bank. It was Maxi's way to make them happy and to leave a piece of her with them because the cancer is winning the battle by then.

Hope is a wanted child. She was wanted by all of her three parents and Maxi gets to hold her before she crosses to another realm. Every time Bea holds her now she can see a part of Maxi in her, and a huge portion of Allie, and a little bit of herself too.

Hope knows about Debbie. She's very smart for her age. The way she cherishes Debbie in her memory allows Bea to let go of her bitterness and remember her firstborn like the blessing she was.

The bond between her and Allie is indestructible. They have been through so much and they have survived it all together. They have been the strongest when the going was the toughest and they have fought out their chance at happiness.

When she lies down by her side at night and sees those big, ocean blue eyes filling themselves with love, she knows she's staring at the substance of life itself. She's overflowed with emotions and she lets the waters carry her wide out into the ocean of perpetual bliss.