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Cooking Classes

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It was Monday morning, and Bridget was on her way to work. She'd had a wonderful visit with her niece, and she was proud to see that she was becoming a warm and caring person. The first item on her list this morning was to talk to Vera. She needed to know why she wasn't being allowed to schedule any sessions with Franky. She felt like Vera had been avoiding her this past week. She thought maybe it was just due to the fact that the whole situation was a bit awkward, but she had a bad feeling there was more to it.

********

As Franky sat eating breakfast in the cafeteria, she thought that maybe she would ask Linda if she could schedule a visit with Bridget for her today. She had remembered Bridget saying once that Linda sometimes took bribes from the inmates in exchange for favors. Mostly, they only ever wanted some dirt on a fellow inmate or officer, or access to a more private area of the prison for a few minutes. The brunette figured she had more than enough cash on her to make something happen if simply asking didn't work. She saw Linda sitting in the monitor room, reading the paper, so she quickly finished her breakfast and went to talk to her.

She leaned on the door frame. "Hey, Linda." The officer looked up from her paper. "Do you think you could schedule me in for an appointment with Bridget today?"

She sighed, set down her paper, and turned to the computer. She clicked on Bridget’s schedule for the day. “She’s got a free slot in a half hour and one at two this afternoon.”

“I’ll take the one this morning.” Franky waited while Linda typed her name into the computer.

“It’s not working,” she said, trying again. “Nope, still nothing. You’re going to have to go talk to the Governor.”

“Can you just take me up to Bridget’s office?” Franky saw Linda hesitate. “I’ll make it worth your while.” The brunette pulled the money she had stashed in her pocket this morning out just far enough for the officer to see it.

“Yeah, alright. I’ll come get you in a few minutes.” She sat back and resumed reading her paper.

********

Bridget was just settling in for her day when there was a knock on the door. “Come in,” she called out. The door opened, and Vera stepped inside. “Ah, Vera, just the person I wanted to see.” The blonde smiled warmly.

“Did you just try to book a session with Franky?”

The question caught Bridget off guard. “No, actually I-“

“Someone tried to schedule her in just now!” Vera wasn’t normally someone who got upset, especially not with Bridget, so the blonde knew for sure now that something was going on.

Bridget tried to be calm. She stood up, and walked to the centre of the room to meet her friend. “Vera, I assure you, it wasn’t me. In fact, I was just on my way to talk to you about it. I tried to schedule her last week, and the system wouldn’t let me. Then she said that you told her on Friday that I had no free slots when I actually had two.”

“You went to see her? Where? In her unit?”

“Vera, I see inmates outside of the office all the time. Nothing looked wrong or out of place, I promise.” Bridget couldn’t believe that her friend would think that she would take the chance of exposing hers and Franky’s relationship.

“I’m not concerned about that. I’m concerned for your safety.” Vera ran a hand through her hair that was loosely tied back.

“I went to see Franky. Not a random inmate. Franky.”

“That’s exactly what concerns me!” Vera threw her arms to the side and let them fall.

Bridget took a moment to process what the governor had just said. “What?! You think Franky is dangerous?”

“Did you read her file?” She gestured towards Bridget’s filing cabinet where Franky’s file would be stored.

“No, actually, I didn’t. I felt it would be a breach of trust and would give me an unfair advantage over her in our relationship. I don’t want to know anything she’s not ready to tell me herself.” Bridget crossed her arms to signal that this was something in which she strongly believed.

Franky and Linda were approaching in the corridor, and Franky signalled the blonde officer to slow down a bit when she heard Vera and Bridget having what sounded like a heated discussion. The brunette had a feeling it had something to do with her, and she wanted to know what was going on.

“Well, you should, because I did. She’s got quite a long record, you know. It goes all the way back to when she was a teenager. Did she tell you that?” Vera looked at her friend, waiting for an answer.

“She’s…told me some things, yes.” Bridget knew her girlfriend had some run ins with the law in her past, but not to the extent it seemed like Vera was talking about.

“Some things? There’s a lot there, Bridget. Drug possession, drug trafficking, petty theft, assault. More than once for most of those. Did she tell you about the TV show?”

The blonde’s mind was racing, “Uh, yeah she did. She said the host was a jerk and it got cancelled.”

“Did she tell you she was the reason it got cancelled?” Vera took Bridget’s silence as a ‘no’. “The man criticized her food, so she beat him unconscious. Then, she somehow got away with a fine and community service. She’s lucky she wasn’t in prison years ago. So that’s why I was concerned, and yes, I cancelled the session you tried to schedule, and the one today. You need to seriously think about this. She’s not the kind of person you should be around, or that Emily should be around. You deserve better.”

Having heard Vera’s rant, Franky picked up her pace, and flung open the office door. She came to a stop a couple feet in front of Vera. Even though the governor was in heels, Franky still towered over her. “You think I’m not good enough? That I’m not a good person? You need to sit the fuck down, and listen to me.” She pointed to one of the green chairs on the right side of the office.

“Franky-“ Bridget reached out for her, but the brunette pulled her arm away.

“No, Gidge, she needs to hear this. She thinks all I am is what’s written in that file, well that doesn’t say shit about me, or how my life was. So now she’s going to hear it from me.”

Linda had appeared in the doorway, hand on her radio ready to call for backup. Vera looked to Franky, then Bridget. “We’ll be fine, Linda. Just close the door and go.”

Vera sat down in the chair Franky had pointed to, and when the brunette looked to Bridget, she knew she wanted her to take a seat in the other chair. Franky was ready to tell her story, and even though this wasn’t how Bridget would have hoped to hear it, she was happy to listen. She could tell the brunette was worked up and agitated, but she trusted that Franky had herself under control.

She began, “First of all, you need to know, that what that file doesn’t say, is that the reason I left home in the first place was because my mother was an abusive, alcoholic bitch. My Dad couldn’t handle it, and he left me with her when I was a young kid. She used to beat me and burn me with her cigarettes, and there was no one there to stop her. As soon as I was old enough, I ran away. They caught me and tried to put me in foster homes, but they were all shit. None of those people really cared about me, they just wanted the cheque that came with me. So, I ran away from those places, too. Living on the streets isn’t easy. The way I saw it, I had one of two options. I could either sell drugs, or sell myself. There was no fucking way I was letting anyone touch me, so yeah, I became a dealer. I was pretty fucking good at it too, that’s why none of those charges really stuck. I’m not proud of it, but I did what I had to do to survive. The theft charges were me trying to just get the basic things I needed. Mostly I stole food, sometimes clothes or some medicine from the pharmacy. I never took anything I didn’t need.” Franky had been pacing back and forth across the office the whole time she talked. “Some of the guys I’d sell to, they were pretty important, and had lots of money. They felt entitled to whatever they wanted, you know? A couple times, I’d meet one of those types of guys to make a sale, and they’d think that I was part of the deal. They were used to getting whatever they wanted, and they didn’t like some kid telling them they couldn’t have it. So yeah, those assault charges, I beat up a couple guys to save myself from being raped, and people walking by, they probably thought I was trying to rob him or something, and they called the cops on me. Who do you think they believed when they showed up, a homeless kid with drugs, or a well-dressed rich guy? One of the times I got arrested, I ended up getting community service. They made me work in the soup kitchen. That’s where I met Liz. She took me under her wing, saw that I had a talent for cooking, and she taught me everything she knew about it. She took me in. That was the first time I ever remember living in a house where I wasn’t afraid that someone was going to come to my room in the middle of the night and hurt me. I did pretty well for a couple years after that. I got a job at a diner, put myself through culinary school, got a place of my own, and then I got selected for the cooking show. That chef though, Mike, he was such a dick. He shat on me just like my mother used to, just like all those people who looked down on me when I was living on the street. I had anger issues, I always had, and one day, I just snapped. So yeah, that one, I admit is as bad as it looks. Liz convinced me to go to therapy after that. She was always there for me since that first day we met. I’m different now. I still get mad, but I can control it. I haven’t hit anyone since that day on set.” She looked at Vera now. “I heard what you said, that you think that Bridget and Em aren’t safe with me, you’re wrong. I would never hurt them. This whole mess started because I was protecting them. Did Gidge tell you that the reason I was mad at Kim that night was because she said she came to take Em from us as a way to punish me?” Vera glanced over at Bridget. Cleary her friend hadn’t told her that detail, and Franky picked up on that fact. “Yeah. So you still think I’m not good enough?”

“I-“ Vera opened her mouth and closed it again. While Franky had been talking, tears had gathered in her eyes, and now that she was put on the spot, they ran freely down her cheeks. “I-, I can’t. I’m sorry, I need to go.” She wiped the tears off her face one last time, and quickly headed out the door, and down the hall.

Bridget rose and closed the door, leaving just her and Franky in the office. “Franky.” The blonde wasn’t sure if her girlfriend would want to be comforted at this point, or if she needed some time to cool down, so she decided to proceed cautiously for now. “I didn’t know all of that.”

Franky looked up and met her eyes. “I should have told you sooner, Gidge. I’m sorry you had to find out this way. I just couldn’t stand her thinking that a list of charges told her everything about who I was and I didn’t want you to think that either.”

“I never read your file.”

“But you had it that day you came to my cell.” Franky had seen her file in the stack Bridget had brought with her and assumed she’d had to read it as part of her job.

“I never opened it. I wanted you to tell me whatever it said in there when you were ready. I know those files never tell someone’s whole story. To be honest, it wouldn’t have mattered what it said anyway, I know who you are, and who you were doesn’t change anything.”

Franky wiped her eyes. “I love you, Gidge. You’re the only person I’ve ever said that to.”

Bridget opened her arms and Franky stepped into them without hesitation. “I love you too, baby.”

She wasn’t sure how long she stood there holding the brunette tightly, with Franky’s face buried in the crook of her neck. She held her until she couldn’t feel her sobbing anymore, and until she felt her relax, leaning a bit more of her weight onto the blonde’s body. Bridget ran one hand up and down her back. She knew Franky loved this, and it often helped her fall asleep if she was having a restless night. She felt Franky sigh and the brunette lifted her head. She locked onto her green eyes and Franky leaned in for a slow, gentle kiss.

“You doing okay, baby?” Bridget asked when they split apart. Franky nodded. “You can stay for a little bit longer if you want, until my next appointment, then why don’t you take a nap in your cell? I have a free slot at two I’ll leave open. I’ll get Will to bring you up again then, okay?”

“Thanks, Gidge. Can we just sit though? I think I’ve done my talking for today.” She gave a weak laugh.

“Yeah, of course, baby.” Bridget turned to go back to the green chairs, but Franky stayed where she was and held on to the blonde’s hand, making her stop.

The brunette tilted her head toward the wall, indicating for Bridget to follow her. She put her back against the wall and slid down until she was sitting on the floor and the blonde joined her. “I know it’s not the most comfortable but I just want to be closer to you than those chairs allow.”

“It’s okay.” Bridget sat down beside the brunette, and pulled her close so that the younger woman could rest her head on her chest.

“You really should invest in a couch for here, Gidge.”

Bridget laughed. “That’s such a cliché, baby.”

They sat like that until it was time for Franky to go back to her cell. Bridget promised to send Will for her at two, and to see if she could find Vera in the meantime.

********

Lunch time came and Bridget headed for the lounge. She was hoping to catch Vera there but when she walked in, her friend was nowhere to be found. The blonde walked over to the fridge, opened the door, and took out her lunch bag. She saw that Vera’s was still sitting there, untouched. She thought that maybe after the events of the morning, the Governor had decided to keep a low profile, and stay in her office. Bridget grabbed both bags and headed off to find Vera.

As she approached the large office, she could see Vera, through the window, sitting at her desk with her head in her hands. She gave a light tap on the door and got no response so she quietly opened it and let herself inside.

“Vera.” Bridget approached her friend slowly and kept her voice calm. She wanted Vera to know that she was there to talk, not to have a confrontation. “I brought your lunch. I thought maybe we could eat together.” She sat both bags down on the desk.

“Why?” Vera didn’t look up.

“I think we should talk.” Bridget sat down and started to unpack her food.

“I mean why are you even still speaking to me?” She looked up and Bridget could tell she had been crying for quite some time. “I made such an ass of myself this morning.”

“You made a mistake, Vera. We’ll get through it.”

“Is she okay?” The governor reluctantly opened the container that Bridget had sat in front of her and pushed the food around with her fork.

“She was upset, but she settled down quickly. I think by the time she left, she was feeling more drained than anything.” Bridget debated whether or not to tell her friend the next part, but she figured there was no way she would argue with her at this point. “I told her to come back to see me at two this afternoon. I don’t want her to sit down there all day and think.”

Vera nodded her head then cleared her throat, “I, uh, won’t be keeping you two apart anymore. You can schedule her in as much as you like. Please do still be careful though.”

“I appreciate that, really.”

“She was always nice to me,” Vera smiled, remembering the talks she’d had with the brunette. “She saw me sitting alone outside at your party, and she came and sat with me. Then at the bar when she made me dance with her, I really didn’t want to, but she’s good at putting people at ease.”

“Mmm, I remember that night,” the blonde said, taking a bite of her sandwich. “I meant to ask one of you what happened out there. You looked like you’d been crying when you came back.”

“She just said some really nice things to me,” Vera was going to leave it at that but Bridget sat silently waiting for her to say more so she felt like she should continue. “She offered to ask you to set me up with a guy. Then she offered to set me up with Allie. I declined both offers. I said I didn’t feel like I fit with anyone, that I wasn’t anyone’s type. She listed off all these nice things about me and said to stop being so hard on myself. That’s all.”

“Yeah, sounds like Franky.” Bridget smiled at her friend.

“Should I go talk to her? I feel like I owe her a huge apology.”

“Maybe just give her a day or two. I think she might not be open to talking about it anymore today.” Even though she was planning on seeing Franky again that afternoon, she wasn’t going to bring up what had happened earlier. The session this afternoon was just for them to finally spend some time together where they didn’t have to have their guard up so much.

Vera nodded. “Do you think she’ll forgive me?”

“Yeah, just give her time.”

They finished their lunch and Bridget took their bags back to the lounge

********

Two o’clock had come, and Bridget was waiting for Will to arrive with Franky. It wasn’t long after when he knocked on the door. “Come in,” she called out.

Will opened the door for Franky. When she stepped in, Bridget noticed that she still looked rather tired. “Thanks, Will.” He nodded and left, closing the door behind him.

Franky was immediately in Bridget’s arms. “How are you doing, baby?” The blonde could feel her girlfriend tighten her arms around her at the question.

“I’m alright. I went to sleep not long after I left here this morning. Will had to wake me up just now.”

“You missed lunch?” Bridget felt Franky nod against her shoulder. “Okay, why don’t you sit down? I’ve got some food here.”

Franky let the blonde go and Bridget went to her desk and took out a protein bar and a biscuit. When she turned back around, the green chairs were both empty. She thought for a moment that maybe Franky had decided to leave, but she hadn’t heard the door open. She looked down and to the right, and saw her sitting on the floor where they had sat earlier that morning. She walked over and locked the door so no one would barge in and hit them with it, then sat down beside her, handing her the snacks.

“Thanks, Gidge,” Franky opened the bar and took a bite.

Bridget put her arm around her, and they sat in silence for a couple of minutes until the brunette spoke. “Is Vera okay?”

“Yeah, she will be.”

“I heard what she said when I was in the hallway about me not being good enough for you. It made me scared and angry at the same time. It reminded me how every time I got pulled into the station and had to talk to a cop or a social worker, how I always felt like they looked down on me. Like they just read the paper in front of them and never really saw me. Then I got scared because I thought maybe you would think you should stay away from me after you knew all that stuff. I love you, Gidge. I can’t lose you.” She wiped her cheek with the sleeve of her shirt.

“Hey,” Bridget turned her head and waited until Franky looked at her before she continued. “I meant what I said earlier. I don’t care who you were before. I know who you are now, and that’s all that matters to me. You’re not going to lose me.” She put her hand on Franky’s cheek and held it there while she kissed her long and slow.

The brunette sighed. “I miss you so much. I just want to come home.”

“I miss you too, baby. I’ve been sleeping in your shirt.” Bridget didn’t know why, but she was a little embarrassed to admit the second part.

“I assumed that was why you wanted it,” she smiled, sensing the blonde’s hesitance to admit it. “It’s okay, Gidge.” It was Franky’s turn to put her arm around her girlfriend, and let her lean into her. “Enough about me for today, I want to know how you’ve been doing.”

Bridget took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Honestly, I’ve had some not so great moments. I drank a whole bottle of wine the other night, and when I looked around the house, everything reminded me of you.” Franky pulled her a bit closer. “So I went to bed, and all I could think about was how if you were there, you would have made me feel better. I never told you before, but some of my favourite times with you were when we just laid in bed and talked, and you’d tell me about yourself.” The brunette reached over and took one of Bridget’s hands in her own, intertwining their fingers. “And that,” Bridget nodded towards their hands, trying not to cry, “You’re the only one who’s ever done that while we slept, and I miss it.”

Franky brought their hands to her lips and kissed the back of Bridget’s, “I’ll be there to do it again soon, babe.”

The blonde smiled, “Em came back on the weekend too. She stayed with me the night after my not so great night. She asked about you. I told her you were where I worked. I think she doesn’t really understand everything, but she knows that you might not be around for a little while.”

“Fuck, Gidge, I was hoping this would all be over before she came back. I don’t want her to see me in here.” Franky remembered the night that Kim showed up, one thought that went through her head immediately was how glad she was that Emily wasn’t there to see her get angry. She saw it too much herself when she was growing up and she knew how it could taint a child’s view of someone. She didn’t want Emily to have to deal with that.

“She didn’t ask, and if she does, I’ll say no. I know how hard it is when the women have their kids visit them. I won’t do that to you or her.” Franky nodded, relieved that she and Bridget were on the same page with that. “I do have something for you though, and if you don’t want to take it with you, I’ll understand.” Bridget pulled the burner phone from the pocket of her jacket. “It’s completely anonymous, and if you clear the call history after each time, then even if someone finds it, they won’t be able to trace it back to you or me.” Franky took the phone without hesitation, and put it in her pocket. “I can’t not talk to you at night anymore. I know it’s not as good as the real thing, but I need to know that you’re okay, and that you’re safe.”

Franky gave her a small kiss, “It’s perfect, Gidge.” The brunette guided Bridget’s head onto her shoulder and held her for the rest of their time that afternoon. When she had to leave, she promised she’d call her that night and the blonde told her that Vera had given the okay for daily sessions. It wasn’t much, but it would have to do for now.