Chapter 1: Food & Freedom
Bridget Westfall had officially lost her mind. She was sitting in the police station, not saying much as the officers took turns grilling her about Franky. When she made the choice to protect her lover, she knew she could end up here. She couldn’t betray her after everything, and instead told good cop and bad cop that they’d have to charge her. When they disappeared, she assumed they were doing the paperwork to do just that and steeled herself against what was to come.
However, when they returned, the officer simply looked at her said: “You’re free to go.”
Bridget swallowed. She wasn’t expecting that, but as she hobbled to her car, she saw the men sitting in their unmarked cars and understood. They were using her as bait. But Franky was a step ahead and Bridget had to do her part--the passive part--which was to go home and wait for the phone call. She hoped the call would be from Franky, telling her it was all over, but there was also a possibility that the call would be from Vera, telling her Franky had been apprehended, or worse, killed.
Driving away, she was completely aware of the sedan that tailed her safely from a two-car distance. As helpless as she felt right then, she was glad that she’d taken the attention off of Franky long enough for her to hopefully get to the garage and find the evidence she needed to prove her innocence.
Bridget pulled into her laneway and cut the engine off. Sitting in her car for a long moment, she sighed before heading into the large bungalow. She dropped her bag on the floor by the chair and flopped onto the lounge, landing heavily. Sighing, she folded a pillow and stuffed it behind her head.
Her stomach churned with uneasiness and after a long while she clambered to her feet and hobbled to the kitchen to turn on the kettle. Yesterday’s newspaper was still on the counter, Franky’s face emblazoned on the front page like a celebrity in the worst reality show ever. Her fingers traced the photo’s edges as the kettle began to boil. She bathed the tea bag in hot water, lost in thought as she waited for it to steep.
Franky was running out of time and all Bridget could do was sit around and wait. Cup of tea in hand, she returned to her seat. An hour passed, and Bridget was curled up on the lounge. Three hours passed, and she was transcribing her session notes to pass the time. It was pointless, though. She couldn’t concentrate and everything she did seemed to take twice as long because of her distraction. She turned on the evening news, that sour feeling returning to her stomach as the top story was about Franky still being “at large” and Bridget was grateful for that.
She was reflecting on the past week when her phone rang and she instantly felt sicker. “Hello?” Her voice was cheerier than she felt.
“They picked Doyle up this arvo,” Vera’s voice was stern, but her actions betrayed her tone.
“Where is she? Is she okay?” Bridget didn’t try to hide her concern from Vera.
“At Hospital. She’s going in for surgery--”
Bridget sat forward. “You have to get me in to see her, Vera.”
There was a long silence and, for a moment, Bridget thought Vera had hung up on her. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Vera, thank you.” She closed her eyes, tipping her face to the ceiling, and exhaled.
“Yep,” she said curtly.
It was a short conversation, but it was one full of meaning. Former colleagues, they were still friends. Even now that they no longer worked together, Vera continued to seek Bridget’s counsel after she resigned a second time. She’d probably screwed herself and their friendship over by betraying Vera that afternoon, but Franky’s situation was triaged higher than Vera’s fragile grip on order in Wentworth.
Bridget was up on her one good foot and out the door as fast as she could muster with the air cast on her other leg.. Vera said she’d work on getting her in to see Franky, and Bridget wasn’t willing to sit around and wait any longer. She drove with purpose, though not dangerously because she wasn’t up for two run-ins with the police in one day. Arriving at the hospital a short while later, Bridget was not prepared for what awaited her there.
As she approached the entrance, it became apparent that Bridget wasn’t the only person Vera had called. The capture of the notorious Franky Doyle was headline news and camped at the front door was a veritable blockade of Press, every network and newspaper represented. She parked her car and sized up the commotion from the parking lot. Approaching as quickly as she could manage, she thought if she just charged in, they wouldn’t be able to stop her--she was wrong. As soon as she entered the melee, she was swallowed up by the crowd of reporters.
Surrounded, Bridget squinted into their cameras that flashed and filmed as they shouted questions.
“Ms. Westfall!” A fresh-faced junior reporter shouted. “Is is true you had an affair with Franky Doyle while at Wentworth?”
“Did you aid and abet a felon, Ms. Westfall?” Another shouted.
“Are you here to see Franky Doyle?” Their flashes were blinding.
“That’s enough,” Bridget heard a familiar voice say. The reporters parted and a hand reached out and grabbed her arm. “Come on,” Vera said.
“Governor!” They shouted in unison, changing their focus instantly.
“I’ll be making a statement in the morning.”
The reporters clamored for more as Vera pulled her through the crowd and past the police officers stationed at the door. They were sparing no expense to keep Franky under wraps. She’d kept the authorities guessing for a week, and she made them look incompetent and foolish in the process. She was sure there would be hell to pay for that. The strange thing was, she didn’t spend any of her time worrying about what was going to happen to herself. Bridget Westfall had committed a felony--probably several of them helping Franky--and the police knew it. They had evidence, and now they had Franky, too.
Stopping in front of the elevators, Vera pressing the UP button quickly.
“Vera, thank you for--”
“Please don’t.” Vera bit her bottom lip. “I’ve seen what you have, I’ve seen her with you, and who am I to keep you apart?”
Bridget smiled. “Vera...”
“Let’s just call it even.” She looked at the floor.
Bridget nodded awkwardly. “Ta.”
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. Vera gestured for her to enter the car ahead of her and inside Vera pushed a button and they began to ascend. She felt butterflies in her belly as her excitement grew more insistent. When the doors opened again, they were on the fifth floor and this time, Vera led the way. They walked through a maze of hallways to the ward with a pair of police officers posted outside it.
Bridget inhaled sharply. Stopping in front of the officer, Vera spoke in hushed tones and she couldn’t make out what was said, only that he nodded and they passed into the ward without incident.
“She’s stable, still waiting for surgery. Highly medicated. She probably won’t remember you were here.”
“They haven’t operated yet?” Bridget’s outrage bubbled just below the surface.
When they passed the final curtain in the room, she heard Franky’s weak voice. “Come to gloat, Vera?”
“I brought you a visitor,” Vera said blandly.
Bridget poked her head around the curtain and smiled at Franky. “Far out,” Franky looked past Vera, grinning haggardly at Bridget.
“I’ll leave you to it.” Vera turned to leave, smiling slightly in Bridget’s direction as she walked past.
“Oh baby, look at you.” Franky was pale and weak, but mostly just sad and disappointed. “They’re going to get you fixed up.” Bridget settled in the chair beside her bed.
“Oh, this?” Franky looked at the gauze on her shoulder lazily. “It’s no bother. Me and that bullet, we’re like this.” She held up her hand, index and middle fingers crossed.
Bridget smirked and reached for her hand. “You’re not feeling any pain now, are you?”
“Nuh.” Franky grinned sluggishly as Bridget juggled Franky’s hand in hers. “It’s good.”
She pressed her cheek deeper into the pillow. Franky was well-medicated, Vera wasn’t exaggerating about that, and her green eyes sparkled with sleep when they opened to look at Bridget.
“Gidge, I was just thinking about you…” A lazy smile creased her cheeks.
“Good things, I hope.”
“All good things, yeah.”
“I was just thinking about you, too.”
Looking down over Franky’s battered body, Bridget felt protective of the younger woman. “Mmhm.” Bridget brushed the hair from Franky’s forehead. “I never stopped.”
High on morphine, Franky’s eyes closed again. “Gidge?”
“Will you come visit me?”
Bridget swallowed. She wasn’t sure if Franky meant visiting her in hospital or in prison. Either way, the answer was the same. “Yeah. Of course, I will.” She heard footsteps approaching and steeled herself for what was to come once again.
“Okay, Ms. Doyle. Are you ready to say goodbye to that bullet?” The cheery orderly rounded the curtain, flanked by the officers from earlier.
Franky opened her eyes groggily. “I was just getting used to it.”
One of the cops scoffed, the other smirked and, hands on his hips, the orderly spoke again. “Well, I imagine you won’t like its friends sepsis and gangrene, much.” He unlocked the wheels on the bed and pushed it away from the wall.
“Gidge?” Franky held onto Bridget’s hand as the orderly whisked her bed away, pulling Bridget along with them.
The orderly looked back at her. “Ms. Westfall, you can wait in the quiet room down the hall.”
“I’ll be here when you wake up. Promise.” Their eyes met for a long moment and Franky released her hand with a nod.
She watched them wheel Franky away and her worrying began anew. Vera’s heels click-clacked toward her and she felt herself being led down the hall to the quiet room. Bridget felt like she was floating. She didn’t even have the chance to tell Franky she loved her before her surgery. Actually, she didn’t have enough guts to say it in front of the orderly or the officers or even Vera for that matter. And now, sitting across from Vera in the quiet room, she could feel the questions Vera was itching to ask.
“I love her…” Bridget answered all the silent questions with the only answer that mattered.
Vera nodded. “I know.”
“She’s innocent, Vera.” Bridget’s palms clapped against her thighs as she dropped her hands unceremoniously.
“Let the system sort it out.” It was sound advice if you weren’t in love with the prisoner in question.
“The system is broken, don’t pretend this ends well for anyone. Pennisi and Farah are dead, Ferguson’s on the loose and Franky’s on the hook for it all.”
Vera sighed. “Bridget, this could mean the end of your career. Are you sure you want to…?”
“She’s worth it,” Bridget said sharply. She would not entertain or discuss Franky’s worthiness as a partner with her former jailer. They were friends but Bridget knew the underlying animosity between the two did tend to interfere with a lot of advice Vera had to offer.
Vera nodded. “It’s just--” She considered her words carefully. “I’d hate to see you get hurt.” They’d been at this juncture before. When Franky was arrested and Vera told Bridget to stay away from her, she made a beeline for Franky. Now, she sat waiting for Franky to come out of surgery and her concern rubbed Bridget the wrong way.
“Vera,” Bridget said sternly. She wasn’t leaving. Vera could try to dissuade her from seeing Franky, she could even bring up her sordid past, but Bridget knew everything she mentioned and more.
Vera nodded and silence prevailed once again. She poured over a women’s magazine, not caring about the fashion report or heterosexual sex advice, and even the recipes were big let downs, too.
“Can I ask how it happened?” Vera’s voice cut through the buzz of the fluorescent lights. “Were you together when Ferguson blackmailed you into resigning?”
Bridget sighed. “No.” She shook her head. “No, we started seeing each other when Franky was released..”
Immediately after she was released. In fact, the ink wasn’t even dry on her release forms when Franky was climbing into Bridget’s rental car. Bridget was tempted to clarify, but she let it be.
She sat with a cup of tea, in the tiny quiet room with it’s walls a shade lighter than the prison’s and Bridget wondered if the State got a bulk deal on paint. Vera came and went several times during the few hours Bridget waited. When she entered the room one final time, standing in the doorway, she waited for Bridget to look up from the magazine she was paging through disinterestedly.
“She’s on her way up,” the Governor broke the silence.
Bridget stood anxiously. “Can I see her?”
“Yes, but Bridget, the police have already questioned me about your relationship.”
“I don’t care.” Bridget was once again irritated by her faux-concern.
“Very well.” Vera pulled her suit jacket down and straightened it. “Come with me.”
Once again, Vera got her past the officers posted at her door and she walked quickly to the last curtain and, as she stepped past the barrier, her eyes fell upon Franky. Bandaged and drifting in and out of consciousness, Franky looked like a young woman with her life ahead of her. She didn’t look like a felon. Nor did she look like someone who was charged with the murder of two people in as many months. She looked ethereal and lovely, her dark hair casting shadows across her cheeks.
“Oh, baby.” Bridget sighed and stepped toward Franky. She petted the hair away from her face and sat back in the chair beside her.
The following hour went more slowly than those during her surgery, and when the police suggested she wait outside, she replied: “She’s not going to wake up to a pair of detectives after major surgery. I won’t allow it.”
“With all due respect, Ms. Westfall, you’re not a lawyer,” he said. “You’re not even her next of kin. Legally you don’t have a leg to stand on.” He smiled at her.
“Ease up,” Franky’s gruff voice broke the standoff. “She stays.” Franky’s eyes opened and she looked up at Bridget. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Bridget smiled at her.
“Gidge. The garage, I found it. I found the shrine.”
“I know. Shhhh. You did good kid.” Franky lifted her arm, only to find her wrist still tethered to the bed with handcuffs. “You did good.”
“Any idea as to the whereabouts of Joan Ferguson?” The detective asked.
“You two escaped together, didn’t you?” He pressed.
“No, the first I heard about it was in the papers. But I found a photo. There was a fingerprint on it. It was blood.” Franky was still fighting for her life, but the real question was, was the detective listening?
“We’ve already established the print belonged to Iman Farah. The blood was a match for Mike Pennisi.”
“So it proves she was the killer.” Bridget said, hopefully.
“No. No, it’s circumstantial. But we did find something else. We found a mobile phone. On it were photos Farah had taken, all of Mike Pennisi, dead. It’s obvious she took them shortly after shooting him. Also, I spoke to Tina Mercado. She came clean. Admitted giving Ferguson a false alibi over the death of Farah. Given all of that, I’m recommending the dropping of all charges.”
When the cuffs loosened and relief washed over Franky, Bridget felt it too. “It’s over, baby. It’s over.”
After the detective had gone, Vera’s heels approached again. “So you did it, Doyle...”
“I told ya I was innocent,” Franky said belligerently.
“Nuh. She shoulda believed me.”
Vera smirked. “It’s not my place to pass judgement.”
Franky scoffed. “Coulda fooled me.”
“Okay, that’s enough.” Bridget held up a hand to signal the end of combat.
“Feel better,” Vera said quietly, turning to go.”
:Vera,” Bridget called after her. When she stopped to turn around, she was by the door. “Thank you.”
She nodded and disappeared out of the ward.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes.” Franky gave one of her famous dimpled grins and Bridget forgot about everything else.
“You’re not so bad, yourself,” Bridget said, with a smile.
Franky’s eyes were alive with wonder. Her excitement was palpable. “I’m free, Gidge.”
It was hard not to smile again. “Yeah. Yeah, you are,” Bridget said, threading their fingers together. “Get some rest, now.”
Franky tried to protest but the waves of somnolence washed over her and soon she was curled on her side, looking impossibly small amidst the hospital bed sheets. She felt protective and motherly watching over her as she slept. Eventually, her eyes felt heavy too, and she laid her head on a corner of Franky’s pillow. Each time the nurses appeared to record Franky’s obs, Bridget would wake, but she wasn’t bothered enough to go home to her bed alone.
Sometime in the night, Bridget became accustomed to the hourly checks and slept through them straight to the morning. She awoke to the smell of scrambled eggs and Franky eating her breakfast. Bridget inhaled and sat up, straightening her clothes.
“G’morning,” Franky said, spearing a piece of fruit with her fork.
Bridget was bashful. “Hi.”
“You shoulda went home, Gidge.” Franky smacked her lips as she bit into a piece of honeydew melon.
She shook her head. “Nuh, I’m fine.”
“You look like hell,” Franky poked at her eggs and sighed. “Can you smuggle me in some bacon?”
Bridget chuckled. “If that’s you buttering me up, you need to work on your approach.”
Franky grinned, dimples creasing her cheeks. Her smile had always melted Bridget and this time was no different. “I’d settle for some breakfast ham. Seriously, they gave us bacon in prison.”
“You’re in hospital,” Bridget said seriously. “Give it a chance.”
“I’m confused. Is this an ‘it-gets-better’ speech, Gidge?”
She smiled. It was good to see Franky with her fire back. It was difficult to watch her fading in that train car but, in true Franky fashion, she never surrendered to it. She was a fighter and that was one of the things Bridget admired the most about Franky. And against all odds, here they were sitting beside one another.
“How are you feeling today?” Bridget adjusted Franky’s pillow, ignoring Franky’s question by asking another.
“Sore.” Franky set her fork down and picked up a small plastic cup, sipping the apple juice held within. Pushing the tray away from her, Franky patted her belly. “Well, that wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten.”
“That’s a relief.” Bridget smirked and sat back in her seat.
“Not how I was imagining my first breakkie as a legitimately free woman.” Franky reached for her hand.
“Mmhm…” Bridget hummed, as their fingers threaded together..
“I really thought I was done for,” Franky sighed. “I just wanted to see ya again.”
She smiled. These moments of vulnerability were one of the things Bridget loved most about Franky. “I’m glad you found your way back.”
“Hey, don’t you have appointments today?”
“This arvo,” Bridget nodded. “Until then, you’re just going to have to put up with my company.”
Franky laughed. “I didn’t mean…”
She nodded and smiled. “I know.”
Footsteps echoed from out in the hallway, growing louder as they approached the ward. It was an ominous sound, one that Bridget knew all too well. It was the sound of best laid plans falling through and it came in the form of Vera Bennett stepping around the privacy curtain. She smiled and stood properly at the foot of Franky’s hospital bed.
“Let me guess, you’ve come to take me into custody for parole violations?” Franky said bitterly.
Vera bowed her head and closed her eyes momentarily before smiling derisively. “No.” She shook her head. “I am here to do a press conference and I thought you might want to take part.”
Bridget looked from Franky to Vera and back again. “I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea.”
“I’m just wondering why you want me to do this press conference. Is it to verify you caught me? Or maybe to make the cops look more competent? What I can’t work out is what I get out of it.” Franky said smugly.
Vera sighed. “A platform to proclaim your innocence, for one.”
“Not interested.” Franky crossed her arms across her chest.
“Very well.” She turned to leave.
“Oi, Vera,” Franky called after her. Annoyed, Vera turned to face them once more and waited. “I’m never going back.”
Bridget left Franky after lunch. Coming home to shower and change before her afternoon sessions, she rescheduled other clients and cleared her schedule for the week. She was exhausted by the time her last appointment ended, but looking forward to spending time with Franky. Returning to the hospital it was a much different picture than the night before. The media circus was gone but the hustle and bustle of afternoon visitors and shift change kept the appearance of busyness on the hospital grounds.
Growing more excited with each pained step she took toward Franky’s ward, Bridget couldn’t stop the smile that spread across her cheeks as she limped through the corridors and onto the ward. When she pulled back the curtain, she found Franky reading a trashy magazine.
“Hey,” she looked up from the magazine and smiled. “I was hoping that was you.”
“How are you going?” She asked, taking a seat in the chair by Franky’s hospital bed.
“Piece of piss,” Franky’s cocky grin remained untouched by the experiences of the past week.
Bridget smiled. “I’m glad.” She nodded. “Have you eaten?”
They chuckled simultaneously.
“I thought you might be hungry for some real food.” Bridget reached into the paper sack she was holding to retrieve a take out box. Setting it on the tray table in front of her, Franky inhaled the aroma and smiled.
“Chook and chips. Bloody brilliant.” Franky was beyond pleased about her meal of well-seasoned rotisserie chicken and french fries and Bridget enjoyed watching her savor her food. Bridget knew Franky loved the simple pleasures and chook and chips was her ultimate comfort food. “I’ve been dreaming of this for so long.”
Bridget knew she was talking about the chicken, but couldn’t help adding: “Me too.”
“Cheeky.” Franky wagged a salty finger in her direction before biting into another fry.
“So how long are they going to keep you in hospital?” Bridget adjusted Franky’s pillows.
“A few more days, I reckon,” Franky said. Bridget nodded. “What else d’ya have in that bag?” She peered over the side of the bed and onto the floor where the paper bag sat.
Bridget smirked and picked up the bag, reaching inside to appease the other woman. “My toothbrush.”
“Oh, right.” Franky looked a little disappointed that it wasn’t another gift for her.
“And a cold lemonade.” She pulled a can of Sprite out of the bag and set it on the table in front of Franky, whose eyes grew a few sizes just looking at it. Bridget knew it was her favorite drink and it was unlikely Franky had one in her months away at Wentworth. ‘ Away, ’ she had to laugh about that. It sounded like a tropical vacation, not the state sanctioned confinement and stripping of civil liberties that it was.
“You’re bloody perfect.” Franky grinned, popping the can’s top and taking a long drink. Her eyes closed and a look of pure pleasure washed over Franky. Bridget knew it was not only people the women missed while in Wentworth, but the small comforts of home as well.
“I don’t know about that,” Bridget laughed self-consciously.
Franky stabbed a piece of chicken with her fork and ate with enthusiasm. “You’re really going to crash here again tonight, Gidge?” She said, still chewing.
“Where else would I be?”
“I dunno. At home. In your bed.”
“ Our bed ,” Bridget corrected.
“You should really be resting that leg.”
Bridget looked down at the cast. “I’m fine.”
Franky smiled. “That’s my line.”
“Look, Franky, you’ve just been through some really intense stuff and it’s okay if you’re still processing…”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Franky protested. “You’re not making this about me.”
“Franky, you’ve just been hunted for a week.”
“No need to remind me, Gidge.”
She wasn’t used to someone caring about her needs. Bridget was so used to counselling others that she sometimes let herself get frayed around the edges. Usually, she’d go out with the girls and share a few bottles of wine, but they’d never talk about Bridget. Occupational hazard . She shook her head to clear it. “Okay,” she relented. “I’ll get a chair and put my leg up.”
“Allow me.” Franky buzzed for the nurse, popping another fry into her mouth and smiling. When the nurse came, Franky asked for another chair and as Bridget was getting situated, Franky fell silent, poking at the chicken in front of her enthusiastically. “I really wish I had skipped the mystery meat pie that they served me for dinner,” Franky said, pushing take out container out of arm’s reach and patting her belly.
Bridget chuckled. She was surprised when Franky didn’t finish because Franky loved her food. It was one of those things Bridget adored about her. Not only was Franky a fantastic cook, but she loved to eat. When Franky was released, they spent the week following making love and ordering take away from every imaginable restaurant. Franky delighted in a good meal after exhausting herself in the bedroom. There was something so hedonistic about in laying half-naked in bed and eating chicken satays with their fingers, muscles burning and bodies buzzing from the hours before.
“Hey.” Franky’s voice brought Bridget back from her memories. She smiled. “Where’d ya go?”
“Just thinking about the last time you were released.”
“Which part?” Franky cocked her head to the side playfully.
Bridget bit her lip, considering for a moment. “The satays.”
“Mmm,” she hummed. “That was a good day.” She grinned.
Bridget smiled and sighed. “Yeah, it was.”
Franky’s hand poked through the safety rails on the bed and scooped Bridget’s hand up. “Gidge?” She grew serious. “You were really going to go to jail for me, weren’t you?”
Bridget nodded. “Yeah.”
“Ya silly bitch,” she laughed and squeezed her hand. “No one has ever put themselves out there for me like that.”
“I know.” Bridget felt sad acknowledging Franky’s misfortune but also proud that she could be the one to break the cycle. “So what are your plans when you get out of here?” Franky flashed a wicked grin. “Don’t say more food,” Bridget laughed.
“Food is the last thing on my mind.” She pursed her lips.
In the days that followed, Bridget would have more than her fair share of cafeteria coffee, long looks from Franky, and short showers on the run between home and hospital. With her calendar clear, Bridget was free to fret over Franky and prepare for her homecoming.
She cleaned everything. Twice. And when her home was as squeaky clean as a hospital--probably cleaner, in fact--she laundered the bedding. Everything was in order when the day finally came. Bridget was at her bedside, as she was each morning, when the doctor made his final appearance to check her wound site and sign Franky’s release forms. Franky fidgeted as the nurse redressed her shoulder, anxious to get dressed and make her getaway.
When the nurse pulled the curtain closed behind her as she left, Franky swung her legs over the side of the bed. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
Bridget handed Franky a stack of clothes. “First things first, get dressed.” She watched as Franky hopped into her jeans, wincing at the motion. “Easy,” she warned.
Franky looked at the tank top in her hands and grumbled. “I hate this.”
“Let me help you.” Bridget pulled the hospital gown off her shoulders and, taking the tank top from Franky, she guided it over Franky’s bad shoulder before pulling it over her head. She sat back down in the chair beside the bed and lifted Franky’s foot to place it in her boot, lacing it up. She repeated the action with her other foot before standing again. Franky grunted as she helped her into her jacket. Each movement was done with the utmost care, and though Franky wanted nothing more than to rush home, Bridget did not hurry.
As they exited the ward together, the women shared a look of disbelief that the day had finally come. Franky reached for her hand in the elevator, and smiled softly when their palms connected. “Gidge?”
“What’s for dinner?”
Bridget laughed as the elevator dinged and the doors opened. Immediately, the silence of the lift was overshadowed by a cacophony of reporter’s camera shutters and questions. Franky squinted at the melee in front of her, shell-shocked.
“How does it feel to be a free woman?” Shouted one reporter.
“Will you be seeking damages for wrongful imprisonment?” Another shouted.
“Is it true your relationship with Ms. Westfall is less than professional?”
“Give us a comment, Ms. Doyle.”
“Fuck off and leave us alone.” Franky stepped out of the elevator with Bridget in tow. She led her through the crowd who moved like a pile of insects behind them, some scattering to their vehicles while others followed the pair through the car park.
In the quiet of the car, Franky sighed. “You’re a celebrity,” Bridget said with a straight face as she turned the key in the ignition.
“That’s kind of fucked up.” Bridget remained silent, turning out of the car park and heading toward the traffic light. “Right?”
“You’re an interesting person.” She smiled, knowing that’s not what Franky wanted to hear.
“It’s not my winning personality those blokes were after. They just wanted a scoop”
“So make it work in your favor. Get every paper in the country proclaiming your innocence.”
“You control the narrative, baby.”
“Yeah.” Franky smiled.
Seemingly satisfied with her answer, Franky remained quietly glued to the passing landscape. Freedom was setting in and it was a beautiful thing to behold. Time after time, Bridget had told herself Franky was worth every bit of bad luck they’d faced together and now as they were once again teetering on the precipice domestic bliss, Bridget wondered when her face was going to start cramping from smiling. Didn’t matter. It would be worth it.
Chapter 2: Under Pressure
Home at last, Bridget pulled the VW into the laneway. As she cut the engine off, the quiet of the neighborhood covered them over like a warm blanket. Birds sang, a different kind of cacophony than the mass of reporters they’d left in their wake at the hospital.
As Bridget limped around the car to the other side, Franky popped out of the passenger door and together, they made their way inside. They were literally the walking wounded, but they were together. And they were home.
Franky slumped onto the lounge and sighed happily. “I never thought I’d make it back here.”
Bridget smiled from the kitchen as she turned the kettle on. “I don’t believe you.”
“Nah, I really thought I was done for this time.” Franky paused. “But you… you didn’t, did you?”
Bridget leaned on the island looking out toward the lounge where Franky still lay. “I believed you when you said you wouldn’t give up.”
Franky smiled at the ceiling and inhaled deeply. “I really don’t deserve you.”
Smiling, Bridget rounded the island, hand trailing behind her along the counter. “I disagree.” She crossed the space between them and sat on the edge of the coffee table across from Franky. “If anyone deserves me, it’s you.”
“Hmm?” Bridget smoothed a hand over Franky’s thigh.
Franky sat forward and looked Bridget right in the eyes. “I’m scared.”
“Oh, baby. It’s over.”
“Yeah, I thought that last time…”
“Franky, you’ve just been through some really traumatic stuff. Maybe you should give yourself a little time to adjust?” Bridget said softly.
Franky reflected for a long moment before speaking again. “Do you think they’ll give me my job back?”
Bridget laughed. “You just pulled the system’s pants down and exposed its bias. I’d say they’ll be begging for your return.”
“Ya think?” Franky’s eyes sparkled hopefully.
“Yeah, I do.” Bridget’s smile reassured the other woman. “Can I get you a cuppa? Some lunch?”
“Are you really going to be my nurse?” She asked, disbelief obvious in her voice.
“That’s the plan.” She patted Franky’s leg.
“I don’t want lunch,” Franky said seriously.
Bridget smirked. “Tea, then?”
And then the realization hit. “Franky…” She warned. “You’re still healing.”
“I’ve been healing for a week.”
“And you’ll be healing for weeks to come.” Bridget covered Franky’s hands with her own.
Franky leaned into her space. “I’m not going to last weeks, Gidge,” she whispered against Bridget’s lips.
Bridget chuckled quietly against Franky’s mouth. “Shameful...”
Franky captured her lip. “Mmhm…”
As much as she tried to resist Franky, Bridget couldn’t come up with a reason that was solid enough to hold onto. Franky kissed her so softly, so tenderly, drawing her in, that her willpower was all but crushed between their lips.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Bridget whispered when they parted.
“Then don’t.” She smiled and leaned her forehead against Bridget’s as she exhaled a shaky breath. “C’mon.” Standing, Franky pulled Bridget along behind her.
In the bedroom, Bridget helped Franky undress, gingerly slipping her jacket and shirt away before helping her out of the tank top. She was glorious, tanned and tattooed, her muscles more defined after the past months inside. A cocky grin let Bridget know, Franky had noticed her noticing her body, too.
Franky kissed her again, this time wanting for more. Bridget wasted no time undressing in front of Franky, who shimmied out of her jeans and sat back onto the edge of the bed eagerly waiting. Standing in front of her, Bridget lifted Franky’s chin with her index finger and their eyes met again. “I was so worried about you,” she said, the back of her hand grazing across the younger woman’s cheek.
Franky’s eyes closed as she leaned into Bridget’s hand. “I’m sorry.”
Leaning down to capture her lips, Bridget crawled over her. As she lowered herself on top of Franky, their bodies met with a spark of electricity and the jolt that traveled her body as a shiver, pulsed to her center. Franky grunted at the pressure of her body and Bridget adjusted awkwardly above her.
She smiled down at Franky whose eyes, in return, adored her. Bridget kissed her neck to the top of her shoulder. She paused at the tattoo on her breast kissing the scar there gently before dipping her head to capture Franky’s nipple. She arched her back and pressed her head back into the plush pillows.
“Fuck,” Franky hissed with pleasure. Bridget slipped out of her panties as she inched down Franky’s body. “W-wait.” Franky’s hands gripped her forearms and held her still. Leaning into her, Bridget pressed against Franky’s core and they groaned in unison.
Slowly, Bridget worked her hips against her, Franky’s long arm wrapping around her neck and pulling her into another demanding kiss. They moved together, a dance telegraphed by plenty of prior practice. She was overcome by the way Franky clung to her, kissing her deeply, as her legs pulled Bridget tighter against her. It was oblivion and as much as they both wanted it to last forever, the swivel of her hips soon had their collective desire spiraling out of control.
She felt Franky shiver beneath her as the smooth slide of their bodies intensified and it wasn’t long before the goosebumps raised on her own skin and her breathing grew ragged. Franky’s desire dangled by a thread as Bridget’s hips jerked forward unevenly and stroked her roughly. Moaning as the sticky sweet orgasm overcame her, Bridget’s hips thrust of their own accord. Franky arched off the bed, howling--half in pain, half in pleasure--and when her body slowed, Bridget flopped onto her back beside Franky.
“Jesus,” Franky exhaled.
Bridget leaned up on her elbows. “Shit, are you okay?” She was a model of concern.
“Fucking fantastic,” Franky said with a grin. “Best nurse I ever had.”
Bridget threw her head back and laughed at the ceiling. The sun that had spread across the duvet while they were making love, now warmed her belly. Surreal was the best word she could find to describe the feeling of being together again. Franky tucked an arm behind her head and smiled at her. She was aglow with satisfaction and Bridget felt it too.
“Franky Doyle, I love you.”
“You better,” she laughed and tossed a cocky grin at the ceiling.
Bridget rolled onto her side, hand outstretched to stroke the hair away from Franky’s face. “What do you want to do today?”
“More of that would be outstanding.”
She chuckled. “Mmm, we’ll see.” Bridget sat up, stretching toward the robe that lay on the chair beside the bed, Franky’s eyes following her the entire way. “Hungry?” Franky grinned, her tongue wetting her lips as she sat up gingerly. “For lunch,” Bridget clarified. When Franky didn’t respond, she slipped into her robe, and stood at the side of the bed. “Get some rest, then.”
Franky scoffed. “You’ve got to be joking.”
Bridget paused in the doorway to the bedroom. “Franky…”
“Nuh. Fuck that. I’m free, Gidge. I’m not going to lie in bed all day unless you’re in here with me.”
“All right. Let’s make a deal. What do you need to stay in bed?”
After an intense debate, they settled on a good book, a cuppa and lunch. Clutching the newspaper, Bridget rejoined her in bed--the most important part of the deal, according to Franky, who picked at her lunch as she flipped the pages of a legal thriller. Bridget opened the newspaper noisily and they sat, like an old married couple, reading side by side in bed.
Bridget scoffed. “Notorious Wentworth reality star apprehended,” she read the byline. “I guess they went to print before the press conference.”
“Fuckin’ great. So much for controlling the narrative.”
“It’s early.” Bridget smiled and returned to reading the paper. She didn’t tell Franky the article’s bias against crims was apparent nor the fact that her innocence was never even considered.
Franky must’ve seen the look on her face as she continued to read because she clamped a hand on the paper. “Is it that bad?”
“Nothing a little PR work can’t fix.”
Franky grumped and tossed her book onto the nightstand. “I just want my life back.”
“And you’re getting there. Be patient.” Wincing, Franky sat forward and swung her legs off the bed. “Franky… where are you going?”
Collecting her clothes from the floor gingerly, Franky sat on the edge of the bed. “I need some air.”
“You should be resting.”
“Not gonna happen,” she said, pulling on her jeans.
“Okay.” Bridget put the paper to the side and watched her struggle with her tank top. “At least let me help you.”
Franky grumbled. “Yeah, yeah.”
Bridget scooted down the mattress to sit beside Franky. “Here, let me.” She took the tank top from Franky’s lap and guided it over her arm and head before she slipped her other arm into it. Franky sighed. “Can I come with?” Bridget said quietly, moving Franky’s hair from her shoulders.
Franky nodded and Bridget stood in front of her, tipping her chin up to face her. Bridget knew that Franky was frustrated, she knew it wasn’t personal so she did her best to connect with the younger woman. Their eyes met and Franky softened. “Get dressed already.”
Bridget knew it was Franky’s attempt to stay in control of the situation and walked to her closet, redressing in jeans and a jumper. Helping Franky with her jacket, she held the lapels of her coat. “Everything will be back to normal in no time.”
Opening the front door, Bridget was assaulted by light and sound.
“Ms. Westfall,” camera shutter clicked as their flashes blinded the pair. “When did your relationship with Franky Doyle began?” A reporter called through a crowd.
“Franky!” Reporters voices overlapping as they shouted at them.
“How does it feel--?” Someone shouted.
“Where is Joan Ferguson?” Another voice interrupted.
“What? I don’t know,” Franky reacted, face scrunched with disdain.
Bridget tugged on Franky’s arm and pulled her back over the threshold, closing the door on the mass of reporters. “Shit,” she breathed.
“So much for keeping this under wraps.”
“Maybe you should make a statement.” From the other room, Bridget could hear her phone ringing. She waved her hand as if to pause the conversation and walked hurriedly to the lounge to answer it. “Hello?”
“Ms. Westfall,” the voice on the other end of the line said. “My name is Pippa Wells, I’m a reporter for channel seven news and I’d like to interview you for the Sunday edition.”
“How did you get this number?”
“We’d like it to be a joint interview with Franky Doyle. You would, of course, be compensated for your time.”
“I’m not interested.” She hung up the phone abruptly.
“What was that about?” Franky scrunched her forehead.
Bridget walked to the window and closed the blinds. “A joint interview.”
“And you said no to that because…?”
The phone began to ring again and when Bridget moved to answer it once more, Franky held out a hand to stop her. Calmly, she made her way to the phone, leaving Bridget in the hallway.
“Hello?” She heard Franky say from the other room. “Yeah.” Her tone was pleased. “Okay, yeah. See you then." When Franky poked her head around the corner again, she was smiling.
“I give. Who was that?”
“Radio station. Doing an interview tomorrow.” Frank leaned against the wall.
“Ah…” She tried to hide her annoyance.
“Are we going to stand in the entry all night?”
Bridget crossed her arms across her chest. “I think we should talk about this.”
“You just said I should make a statement.” Franky’s eyebrows scrunched together, belying her confusion.
“And you should. People need to know that you are innocent.”
She scoffed. “But not that we’re fucking.”
“Franky…” She said. “You know that’s none of their business.”
“Seems kinda pointless to deny it.”
Bridget sighed. “You’re right.”
“If this is about your job--”
“Nuh.” She shook her head. “I made peace with that the first time I resigned from Wentworth.”
“This is about me, then?”
Bridget couldn’t hide her disdain. “Franky, you can’t be serious.”
“Because if this is about your image…”
“Franky, stop. Please.” She held up a hand--the international symbol for ‘I give’--and limped away.
“Then what’s the problem?” Franky followed her, arms outstretched, questioning.
“There are fifteen people in my front yard, Franky.”
Franky huffed. “Let me deal with them.”
She moved past Bridget, returning to the entry and yanking the door open again.
“Franky!” They shouted. “Give us a statement!”.
“Listen up, dickheads!” Cameras snapped in her face, the sound of endless shutters drowning out the birdsong. “I am innocent. The charges against me have all been dropped. Now get the fuck off my friend’s grass. Go on!” She shooed them away.
Still inside, Bridget stood behind the door, leaning back against the wall as a proud smile crept across her face. When Franky stepped back inside and shut the door, most of the crowd was starting to disperse.
“What are you grinning at?” Franky licked her lips and stepped up to Bridget.
She smoothed her hands across Franky’s chest. “I like it when you take charge.”
“Oh yeah?” Franky said seductively.
“Mm.” Bridget chuckled.
“Come on, then.” Franky tugged on her hands.
“Franky, there are people still standing in my garden.”
“You want me to get rid of them, too?” Franky raised her eyebrows. “You’re all over the shop, Gidge. One minute you’re all over me, the next you’re cold as ice. Be real with me.”
Bridget sighed. “I don’t want this.”
“This?” Franky backed away. “Us?” She asked incredulously.
“No.” Bridget shook her head. “This media circus. The prying eyes. The questions. The sudden celebrity. It’s too much.”
“Hey.” She held Bridget’s waist tightly. “If this is about the radio show, I’ll cancel, no wuckers.”
“Franky, It’s the people staking out my house, and printing gossip about us. What are you gonna do about them?”
She sighed and backed away again. “So, what?” She huffed. “We’re done?”
“No. No, no…” Bridget shook her head and reached for her. “I just need a break.”
“Like, what? A vacation?” Franky scrunched her face. “You know I can’t leave the state.”
“ I need a break, ” she repeated.
Realization struck her hard as Bridget watched Franky’s face fall. “Without me.”
She looked at the younger woman with empathy. “Yeah.” She nodded.
“Yeah, sure.” Franky’s voice was thick with emotion as she looked away.
“It’s good.” She said quietly, shaking her head. “I’m good.”
It didn’t take a psychologist to recognize that Franky was not okay. “Look at me, please.”
When her smokey lids lifted and their eyes met, Bridget spoke again. “I love you. I just need a time-out from this craziness. It’s been non-stop since your escape, and the months before that were really tough.”
Franky scoffed. “So this is about you now? About how hard things are for you? I was in prison for something I didn’t do! I watched Ferguson kill someone. I broke out of fucking prison to be with you. Tell me again how hard this has been for ya.”
Bridget sighed as Franky stormed down the hallway and slammed the bedroom door. “Franky,” she hollered down the hall. “Shit.”
Chapter 3: Full Disclosure
Bridget Westfall was a modicum of tact on any given day, except apparently on the day she chose to blurt out what was on her mind. A hurtful truth, but a whole truth, nonetheless. They’d been there before. Franky, with her radio interview, and Bridget with her hesitance. She couldn’t deny her unwillingness to acknowledge the pride she felt regarding their relationship. Problem was, she was terrified that the minute she was boastful disaster would strike.
She cringed at the last time she had such thoughts--when Franky’s coping strategies failed them both and her untapped rage bruised her skin and her heart. She had tried to forget it, tried to reason it away and for the most part she had done both. The problem was there was still a part of her that wondered if Franky could ever go there again.
Bridget didn’t buy into the ticking time bomb analogy Ferguson was so fond of when describing Franky Doyle, but the seed had been planted and Bridget was still coming to terms with the possibility. Much like Franky, now that she’d said what was on her mind, she couldn’t take it back. Franky had said she was scared and Bridget was realizing that she was too. She was disappointed with herself for not sussing out the right way to approach the subject with Franky--for not even thinking before she spoke, would be more like it--and now regret made her stomach churn.
Bridget looked at the ceiling and sighed. The smartest thing she could do was to give Franky some time to calm down. She found herself on the lounge five minutes later staring into space. She would be patient and accepting of Franky’s experiences but she could no longer allow Franky to prioritize her experience over her own. If this was going to work, Bridget knew it was time to apply some of her training.
She loosened her air cast and sighed as she removed it, releasing the pressure of the day. Grabbing her cane, she limped down the hallway to the bedroom door. Knocking twice, she opened the door slowly.
“Franky?” She said quietly as her eyes settled on the other woman. She was lying on the bed, a hand behind her head, the other across her stomach, a pensive look scrawled across her face.
Her eyes traveled to Bridget who was standing in the doorway. “Need to get your suitcase, do ya?”
Bridget sat on the edge of the bed. “Franky.... We need to talk about this.”
“What’s there to say? We’ve just spent months apart and you’re already ready to head for the hills. Seems pretty clear to me.”
“It’s not like that and you know it.”
“Explain it to me, then.” Franky crossed her arms across her chest.
“We need to talk about what’s gone on in the past few months.”
Franky made a frustrated noise. “If this is about Allie--”
“This is about you and me.” She spoke quietly but sternly. “I need you to hear what I am saying right now.”
She would never forget the look on Franky’s face when it registered with her. And then came the attack. “You think I’m proud of what I did?”
“No. I don’t think that at all.”
“Then why are you bringing it up?”
“Because we need to talk about it. I need to talk about it.”
“It will never happen again. End of.”
“Okay.” She smirked. “That’s not letting me talk, now is it?”
Franky sat up. “How did we get from you wanting a vacay from me to that one thing I done that I can’t undo?”
“Believe it or not, they are connected.”
Franky looked unimpressed. “Spare me the psychobabble, Gidge.”
“You don’t have a monopoly on hurt feelings, Franky.”
“There it is. I knew you had it in you.” Franky was pushing buttons now.
Franky’s rough edges were showing and Bridget had given up on civility. “You think this is a joke?”
“Just say it. You freaked out.”
“Which time?” She said it with force. And the silence that collapsed over them afterwards was powerful. She sighed. “What happened between us in Wentworth scared the hell out of me.”
Franky inhaled sharply and shifted on the bed. “Gidge, I’m sorry. Of all the bad shit I done in Wentworth, and that’s a lot of shit, hurting you was the worst.”
Bridget knew from a diagnostic aspect that Franky had just made a breakthrough, but honestly, she was waiting for a breakthrough of her own. She knew Franky was sorry and she knew she didn’t deserve to be punished endlessly for it, but on the other had Franky had shown her a part of herself that was deeply concerning.
“How do I fix this?” Franky’s voice was soft and gently shook Bridget from her thoughts.
“I don’t know.” She sighed.
Franky scrunched her face. “You’re a shrink…”
“It’s not like being a mechanic, Franky. There isn’t a way to fix every problem.”
“So, we’re broken.” It was a statement, not a question and Franky suddenly looked sad.
Bridget smiled a sad smile. “Yeah. A little, I guess.” She patted Franky’s thigh.
“Are we done for good this time?”
“What?” Bridget said, shocked. “No, baby. We just have to do the work.” She laid down beside Franky and rest her head on her breast. “The crack will always be there, but the glue--or our understanding of what happened--will hold us together.”
Franky pulled her arm from behind her head and draped it over her waist. “Ferguson said I couldn’t help self destructing. Maybe she was right.”
“Maybe that was true in the past, but I think you’ve grown since then.”
“But you don’t trust me.”
Bridget considered her answer carefully. “Yeah, I do. I’m just a little gun-shy.”
“It’s never gonna happen again.”
Bridget nodded. “Okay.”
Quiet once again covered them over and Bridget’s legs tangled with Franky’s.
“Don’t leave me.”
Bridget lifted her head, her eyes meeting Franky’s. Bridget had been so focused on her own aversion to the attention that she hadn’t taken Franky’s own fear of abandonment into consideration. Her reaction made a lot more sense to Bridget. “I won’t,” she said quietly, laying her head back down to rest.
Chapter 4: A Moment In Time
They rested together into the evening, lazy day leading into a leisurely evening. As the sun set on the day, hunger roiled in their bellies. Bridget went out briefly to pick up dinner and when she returned she found Franky freshly showered, sitting on the lounge in her terry cloth robe watching t.v.
Franky always showered at night. It was an odd idiosyncrasy that she retained from prison and Bridget smiled when she saw her on the lounge, wet hair ruffled by a towel.
“Picked up some takeaway,” she said cheerily, walking to the kitchen with a large paper sack in one hand, cane in the other.
“I’m starved,” Franky said, stretching and clicking the television off.
“I’m just going to get changed,” she said before disappearing down the hall.
She could hear Franky getting into the bag of food as she changed her clothes, swapping jeans and a sweater for yoga pants and an old university sweatshirt.
When she returned to the kitchen, Franky was chewing happily. “Fresh rolls and peanut sauce. I fuckin’ love ya.”
Bridget laughed. She imagined how hard it must have been for someone who loves food as much as Franky to have her diet limited by prison. Running the kitchen must’ve been some consolation but there was still so little freedom afforded to her there either. In their sessions, Franky would talk about sex and food when she was bored of the harder hitting subjects. She had tried hard to tune out the innuendo from the start, but as she recounted her exploits, Bridget found it harder and harder to redirect her.
When Franky talked about fingering Kim Chang in the showers or sitting on Jodie Spiteri’s face she watched her with glee as Bridget shifted uncomfortably in her seat but remained silent rather than stumble over her words as Franky stretched her stories out. Bridget felt something besides professional interest or general arousal--she felt jealousy. But she could table that feeling because it was before they connected.
And then there was Allie. Allie, who came along post-relationship, and Bridget still felt incredibly insecure about what may or may not have happened while Franky was incarcerated. There was a lot to be jealous of--she was young and beautiful, she probably had more in common with Franky, but most of all, Allie had access.
“Oi,” Franky called to her. “You look rooted.”
Bridget smirked. “Yeah. I guess I’m a little tired.”
“Come eat with me and we’ll call it a night.”
“Did you save me some?”
“Ha ha,” Franky chewed noisily. “Don’t steal my sunshine,” she said seriously.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Bridget said with good humor, pulling out a chair to sit beside Franky.
She watched as Franky lovingly squeezed a lime wedge over the container of pad Thai and sprinkled the noodles with peanuts from an accompanying plastic cup. Bringing a finger to her mouth, Franky licked the lime juice from her fingers. Bridget often found herself cataloging the little things she sometimes tolerated in Franky, and at other times loved about her. Once again, she watched Franky thoroughly enjoy her meal, which somehow heightened her own enjoyment of it as well. There was something so pure about the pleasure she expressed whether eating a meat pie or lobster Thermidor that Bridget was reminded to savor her food that much more. She would often tell her clients that being present was the most important thing a person could do to enjoy their life. But Bridget was, all too often, in her own head--whether analyzing her own reactions or that of others to take her own advice.
Tonight, however, she set aside her questions and fear of the answers that she had waited so long for, and enjoyed being in the moment with Franky. They ate quietly, though not awkwardly, and Bridget delighted at the flavors and aromas of the food as they shared intimate glances across take out containers. Food was foreplay, and tonight had been a tough one. They both needed to forgive and forget and as they inched closer to finishing dinner, the sexual tension between them peaked as Franky’s fingers traced the veins in her arm with a cool index finger.
“D’ya wanna head to bed? I can clean up.” She spoke quietly, but her eyes twinkled with amplified intent.
“Yeah,” Bridget agreed, standing stiffly and limping off to the bathroom to brush her teeth. When she entered the bedroom a few minutes later, Franky was waiting for her.
Sitting at the foot of the bed, she looked up at Bridget as she crossed the room to stand in front of her. She slid her knee between Franky’s legs and stepped forward into the gap between them. Reaching out, Bridget set aside the hair on Franky’s shoulder and leaned down to kiss her neck.
She smelled of shampoo fruit and vanilla body scrub and Franky’s skin was sweet beneath her lips. Franky sighed at the contact. As she withdrew, Franky laid her head against Bridget’s breasts, her one good arm wrapping around Bridget’s waist and holding her against her. Hands in Franky’s damp, dark hair, Bridget smiled at the ceiling.
It was a perfect moment, tender and true. One that she was completely present for and the power of the moment went straight to her core. As Franky lifted her chin to face Bridget, her hands slipped beneath the hem of her sweatshirt and squeezed her waist. They swayed together for an endless moment and she leaned down to kiss Franky gently.
Bridget was memorizing everything about her perfect moment, cataloging it all. She didn’t analyze (she’d save that for later) and she didn’t overthink, but she did make a mental inventory of everything beautiful about that moment: Franky’s sweet scent, her soft sigh, the gentle but firm way she held Bridget, the soft haven of Franky’s mouth against her own--it was all so sublime and of such consequence that Bridget truly took a moment to appreciate it.
They undressed and made love slowly, their bodies moving together in an ancient dance, their need growing gradually with each revolution of their hips. Her breasts swung in front of Franky’s face, and she swept her nipple into her mouth. Bridget groaned. Franky could do things with her tongue that confounded Bridget. She was a confident lover--Bridget expected exactly that from all her bluster in their sessions--but she wasn’t selfish or stingy with sharing the pleasure. And though Bridget was constantly multitasking mentally, she was always present when they made love. From hard and fast to soft and slow and every way in between, their love burned brightly in the darkness of the bedroom as they made love again and again.
When fatigue set in they laid together, bodies tangled and sweaty. Franky kicked the sheets away. “Jesus,” Franky sighed happily. “I am really good at that.”
Bridget leaned up on her elbow and smiled at Franky. “Mm,” she hummed.
“You’re pretty good too, I guess.” Franky’s eyes twinkled and her cheeks dimpled.
“Ta,” Bridget laughed in her ear and kissed Franky’s cheek.
She was a treasure. A bonafide diamond in the rough when they met, now as she honed and faceted herself, the polish was really starting to show. Bridget felt the preciousness of their union acutely in their afterglow and her perfect moment spanned for hours.
“When’s your radio thing?” Bridget asked quietly, arm hugging Franky tighter.
“Early,” she said sleepily.
“Right,” she said, realizing her moment was over. She inhaled deeply, reaching for the pile of blankets balled up at the foot of the bed and sleep came quickly once she covered them over with the sheet and duvet.
Chapter 5: Page Six
She woke to the smell of coffee and rustling in the kitchen. Bridget Westfall, rolled onto her side and squinted at the clock on her bedside table. It was not yet light out and Franky was already up and about. She stretched in the dawn hues and reached for her clothing, still piled on the floor from the night before.
When she reached the kitchen, she found Franky at the sink, water running. Bridget stepped behind and wrapped her arms around the other woman.
Franky tensed at first touch and then melted into the embrace. “Heya,” she said.
“G’morning, baby. What are you up to?”
Cutting the water off, Franky turned in her arms. “Franky’s famous frittata,” she replied, dimples cutting into her cheeks.
“You’re supposed to be letting me nurse you.”
“You did a pretty good job of that last night.”
“Yes, well, that was probably against doctor’s orders, too.”
“I won’t tell if you won’t.” Franky kissed her and Bridget chuckled against her mouth.
When they parted, Franky resumed preparing breakfast, drying the leeks that she had been rinsing in the sink, and Bridget went to pour herself a cup of coffee. Sitting at the island, she watched Franky move fluidly from sink to cutting board to cabinet to refrigerator and back again as she prepared their breakfast. When she finally moved to the stovetop, Bridget’s stomach had started to complain.
Bridget sipped her coffee. “Do you need a lift to the station?”
Looking up from the cutting board, Franky paused. “I can take a taxi.”
“It’s no bother. I have to go into the city for an appointment. I can drop you on the way.”
“Righto.” Franky nodded and returned to the potatoes on her cutting board.
“You okay?” Bridget cocked her head.
“Yeah, yeah. Just a little nervous, I guess.” Franky added the potatoes from her board to a pot filled with water and, turning away, placed them on the stovetop.
“You’ll be great. Just remember that you control the narrative.” Bridget smiled at her back..
When Franky turned to face her, Bridget recognized the pensive look on her face. “And what’s our story?”
Her face fell. “Franky…”
“Nuh. If you don’t want the world to know, you’ve got to at least help come up with a story.”
Bridget sighed. “Just tell them the truth. I’ll deal with the fallout.”
“You’ll lose your license.” Franky frowned.
“Maybe. But we can’t hide forever.”
Surprised, Franky smiled and walked around the island to stand in front of Bridget. She leaned on the counter beside Bridget. “You’re betting on forever with me?”
“Mm. You’re not?” She said quietly, leaning into Franky.
“Yeah,” she said, feigning shock. “I just didn’t think--”
“After last night? Are you kidding?” She chuckled.
Moving closer, Franky laughed. “You know what I mean.”
“I really don’t.”
“You’re just so…” Franky sighed.
Bridget furrowed her brow, tilting her head. “What?”
“Unreal.” She smiled, reaching out to caress Bridget’s cheek with the back of her hand. “I’m just so bloody grateful.”
Bridget’s eyes closed, enjoying their closeness. “I know.”
“But…” She whispered. “I feel like I’m ruining your life.”
Of everything she could have said, Bridget was not expecting that. Her eyes opened. “No, baby. You’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Fuck yes, I have. I involved you in my escape. After doing everything I could to protect your job, I went and threw you to the wolves.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” she said quietly.
It was important for Bridget to ease Franky’s guilt but also let her feel it and acknowledge her actions. However, Bridget was still sore about the attention from the media and Franky agreeing to do a radio show wasn’t helping that. She tried to temper her own annoyance with understanding for Franky’s epiphany.
“Ya sure you’re okay with this interview?” Franky held Bridget’s face in her hands.
“Yeah,” she lied. “People should know you’re innocent.”
Franky nodded and smiled before kissing her softly and returning to the stovetop where she drained her potatoes and cracked eggs into a bowl. Whisking the eggs, Franky started a pan with butter and leeks and sprinkled them with boiled potatoes as well. She poured the eggs over everything in the pan with flourish and chucked the bowl into the sink. Bridget had to smile. What Franky lacked in grace, she made up for it with her ostentatious cooking displays.
The tell-tale thump told Bridget the newspaper had been delivered. She winced internally at what might be, and stood shakily to see what really was, making her way to the front door. She bent to retrieve the paper from the doormat and sighed at the photo of her and Franky in the corner of the front page with the bullet “Celeb Crim & Sapphic Psych Celebrate Release.”
“Fucking hell,” she said, turning back inside.
“That good?” Franky appeared in front of her. Bridget opened the paper to the section with their picture and scanned the article. “Gidge?”
“How can they turn this into a fluff story?” She asked, annoyed.
“What’s it say?”
“That I brought you home to recuperate so I could nurse you.”
Franky scrunched her forehead and waved a hand. “So, the truth?”
“The angle is all wrong.” Bridget shook the paper and closed it noisily.
“You are really not handling this well,” Franky said, bemused.
Bridget didn’t see the humor. “I am handling it fine.”
“Then why are you so rangy?”
“It doesn’t even say that you’re innocent, Franky,” Bridget snapped.
Franky nodded. “But it says you’re a dyke.”
She nodded her head angrily. “There is that.”
“Well, it’s not like it was a secret.”
Bridget shook her head and pushed past her. “I’m not doing this, Franky.”
“Gidge, c’mon…” She called after her.
“I have to get ready for my appointment.”
Bridget Westfall was a lesbian. As a girl, she had always known deep down that she was different despite not having a term to describe what she was feeling. She didn’t hide it, but she wasn’t a pride flag waving lumberbutch, either. She always felt proud of who she was, but that it was overwhelmingly unnecessary to tell every person she met that she was a lesbian.
Because of her low-key lesbianism, she was single more often than not in her twenties all the while fighting off the advances of overzealous men, until one of them changed her life forever. It was hard not to hate them all after her rape, but psychology had saved her life as she learned to deal with the betrayal of a friend and her subsequent assault.
In her thirties, Bridget settled into a string of short but intense affairs. The most exceptional of which was with a married woman and--spoiler alert--the husband won out. Bridget was used to coming in second and consequently, in her forties, she settled into a holding pattern--a few one night stands, but her life was horribly boring--until Franky, of course.
Franky sat quietly in the passenger seat of the silver Volkswagon as she drove. The city was still asleep when she stopped in front of the radio station.
“Good luck,” Bridget said, still fighting her own emotions to be supportive.
Franky kicked the door open and put one foot outside before Bridget reached for her arm. “I love you.”
Turning to face her, Franky smiled. “I love ya.”
As Bridget drove away, she thought about where she was now--with Franky. Professionally, she was in jeopardy of losing everything. Twenty-plus years in a career she was excellent at, and she lived in fear that it would be taken away because she fell in love with a prisoner. But oh, what a prisoner. She was like a teenager with her first love, and Franky was unlike any woman she’d ever been with--rough around the edges--and yet completely alluring in a fantastic and unconventional way.
Franky, with her tattoos and loud music, her death-to-disco eyeliner and perfectly shadowed lid, and her almost child-like ability to love her back even after life’s cruelties had imprinted on her. Just as there was no choice between giving Franky up to the police or going to prison, Bridget knew she was in it for the long haul, media and all. But there were things in life that were unavoidable and Bridget knew her day of reckoning would come soon whether she was ready for it or not.
Chapter 6: In Dreams
Rolling into the laneway, Bridget sighed. It was just before noon but it had been a long day already. Bridget stood next to her car, adjusting to having the boot removed from her leg for good at her doctor’s appointment that morning. She took her first few wobbly steps toward her front door. There was still some inflammation but she was glad to be done with that part of her recovery.
She unlocked the front door and pushed inside fully expecting to hear Franky’s music or smell her cooking. When she was greeted with silence, Bridget was surprised how disappointed she felt. Not because she was tired of Franky, but because of how quickly she had readjusted to having Franky in her space again.
Dropping onto the lounge, Bridget exhaled. The morning paper sat on the coffee table, headline still irking her. Laying back onto the lounge, she turned her back to the offending sentence and it wasn’t long before she faded into sleep.
She dreamt about Franky--the visceral idea of her--and a desert island, which was far too impractical to be real (even in her dreams she was an overthinker), as was the idea that she’d be anxiety-free in a castaway-type situation. But there was Franky walking along the beach, skipping pebbles off the surf and smiling. Tattooed, tanned, and terrific she was all smiles. Bridget felt her chest swell with emotion.
Bridget wore a sarong and bikini top in her dream, and she watched with crystal blue fascination as the ocean pooled at her feet. When she looked up again the skies were darkening and Franky was further away. Bridget called out her name and she tossed a smile over her shoulder as she walked out into the surf.
Something had changed and she was filled with great unease, running up the beach toward her lover who floated further out into the ocean. “Franky!” She called, over and over again but she was just a dot, bobbing in the middle of the Pacific.
She was frantic, running into the waves as they began to smash violently against the shore. She was a few meters out when a large wave crashed against her. The undertow sucked her beneath the surface and salt invaded her mouth and stung her nose as she sputtered. Round and round, running out of oxygen, her body bashed against the sand bar, coral slicing her hand open. She fought the tides, swimming against them, but the force was too much and her panic was now for herself.
Separated by the ocean, caught in a perennial undertow, Bridget Westfall’s tropical dream had transformed into a nightmare and she awoke gasping for air, clutching at her pillow.
Pretty fuckin’ textbook, Bridget.
Her eyes searched the lounge--she was alone. Checking the time on her watch, she frowned. It was past one and Franky had yet to make her way back home. Reaching for her phone, she checked her text messages to find nothing and dialed Franky’s mobile.
Two rings and Franky answered. “Heya.”
“Franky, is everything okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. After my radio interview, a reporter from the paper asked me for one.”
“And you said ‘yes.’” Her disappointment was palpable.
“That I did. Is there a problem?”
“Nuh.” She sighed.
“Gidge, what’s going on?” Her concern was evident and Bridget calmed slightly.
“Nothing.” She shook her head, still trying to clear the fog from her brain. “Come home soon,” she said.
“On my way.”
She hung up the phone and ran her hands through her hair. It wasn’t the fact that she was losing control of her relationship so much as it was that she was losing control of the narrative of her life. Franky was a cyclone and Bridget loved the wind and rain that she brought with her, but it could be scary, too. Especially when she was the one dictating how the world would view their relationship while her career essentially hung in the balance.
She had told Franky more than once that she ‘controlled the narrative’ and Bridget realized the folly in that sentence only now. She gave up the right to whinge about how Franky was handling it when she lied and said she was okay repeatedly. She was disappointed that she put herself in that situation so early on in her relationship with Franky, but now she had to find a way to backtrack out of the very bad spot she was in.
For a shrink, Bridget Westfall was pretty fucking hopeless at relationships.
Her leg was throbbing. Sighing, she hobbled to the freezer and grabbed an ice pack. Back on the lounge again, she pressed the cold compress against her ankle. It wasn’t long before she heard Franky’s keys in the door and she was creeping into the bungalow.
“Heya,” Franky smiled as she rounded the corner to the lounge. “Leg bothering ya?”
She nodded. “Got the okay to stop wearing the cast.”
“Well that’s good, then.”
“Yeah.” She nodded. A heavy silence hung between the pair.
“Gidge, what’s the matter? You’re acting really fuckin’ weird.”
“I took a nap,” she rubbed her face. “Still waking up.” Franky sat beside Bridget and she exhaled. “How did the interview go?”
“Nuh. Not changing the subject this time.”
Franky pulled a face. “Yeah?”
“I’m not cut out for celebrity. I don’t want to be the punchline around the water cooler at Wentworth or anywhere else for that matter.”
“Bloody oath, but Gidge, what’s the gossip really gonna amount to?”
“How about losing my bloody license?” She snapped. “Or never being allowed to work in a prison again?”
“Well, that’s just stupid. It’s not like you’d pick anyone else up when you’re seeing me.”
“This is not funny, Franky.” Her tone was deadly serious.
“Alright.” Franky threw her hands up in mock-surrender. “I give. Tell me what I’m supposed to say. I’m at a loss here.”
“Say you’re done with the interviews.”
“Okay, after tomorrow I’m done with the interviews.”
“What’s tomorrow?” Bridget cringed internally.
“The local morning show…” She looked at Bridget’s unimpressed expression. “What? You told me to tell the country I’m innocent.”
“What about your job, Franky? Are you going to call Legal Relief?”
“Yeah,” she said defensively, standing up. “This isn’t about me, is it?”
Bridget frowned. Franky had done her homework, she was becoming an empathetic soul, self-aware and meanwhile, Bridget was shrinking away and the student was becoming the master.
“Well?” She said, hands on her hips, open flannel shirt bunching up at her waist. “If you didn’t want me to do the interviews, why did you bloody drive me there and give me all that ‘you control the narrative’ bullshit? Did you mean any of that?”
“Of course!” Bridget sat up, setting the ice pack aside. “But now I just feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“And what’s that look like?”
“Getting fired,” she said. “Losing you. Losing me,” she exhaled.
“Not gonna happen.”
“You don’t know that, Franky.”
“Shouldn’t we deal with something when and if it happens? Isn’t that what you used to tell me inside? Look Gidge, if you want me to cancel the interview, I will.”
Bridget never realized how frustrating it was to have her own words thrown back at her until that moment. Because she’d never broken the sacred rule of psychotherapy before Franky, it had never happened and now that it had, she was speechless. It was either contradict a clear lesson Franky had learned or contradict herself--she wasn’t crazy about either option but, as always, Bridget chose the latter.
“No, of course not.” She shook her head. “But, Franky? Leave me out of it.”
She was floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean, Franky sat cross-legged across from her on the rudimentary raft with a fishing pole, softly reeling it in as the sun chapped her lips and reddened her skin. She squinted at the sun’s reflection off the water and watched Franky tug on the line, testing it, teasing the fish she was trolling for.
She laid her head in Franky’s lap and accepted her hand into her hair. The moment was short, her hand returning to the fishing pole as it jerked suddenly. Franky pulled up on the pole as she began to reel in the line. Bridget watched her reel the line endlessly and when the massive fish breached the surface she wrapped her arms around Franky so it didn’t pull her in, too.
The corner of the raft dipped into the water as the weight of the fish caught them off-balance. Franky’s arms flexed with effort, the fishing pole’s arc growing more extreme. She clung to Franky, anchoring her to the raft. She jerked the fishing pole once more and the line snapped, sending the pair tumbling backwards into the endless depths of the ocean.
Bridget woke with a start. Another nonsensical dream, so vivid that she could still taste the saltwater. She didn’t bother looking at the clock. They went to bed early, the tension of the day having taken its toll, and Bridget was unsurprisingly not tired enough to go back to sleep. She sat up in the darkness and looked back at Franky.
Bared and beautiful, Franky laid with her face pressed into the pillow, sheet pulled up to her chin. Bridget was struck by her preciousness, despite the tattoos and black nail polish betraying that notion. She pulled back the duvet and climbed out of bed, her ankle still complaining when she put her full weight on it.
She made her way to the kitchen where she reunited with her favorite ice pack as she turned the kettle on. Bridget was a creature of habit, even if her life schedule had been upset, so she settled into the lounge with a cuppa and much-neglected novel. Truth be told it was the first time in a long time that Bridget had read anything besides the vapid brain candy of gossip magazines in the hospital, patient notes, or professional papers that she became rapt by the lush story and visuals written by a skilled author.
When fatigue began to set in and her mind started to wander, she set the book aside and closed her eyes again. She thought about Franky--when was she not preoccupied with Franky Doyle?--and her recent dreams, and the idea of paradise gone wrong was front and center in both which scared Bridget. She didn’t buy into the idea of premonitions and if she were one of her clients, she’d tell them it was merely representative of their fears, not the future. It was so easy to apply to others, but putting the advice into practice was another story. She heard Franky in the washroom and then padding down the hallway to the lounge. She squinted at the lamplight. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Bridget smiled. “Can’t sleep.”
Franky walked to the lounge and sat beside Bridget, knees to her chest. “Wanna talk about it?”
Bridget laughed. “I’ve been having these weird dreams.”
“Oh, yeah?” She asked. “Like what?”
“Best described as tropical romance novel meets disaster movie,” She smirked.
Franky exhaled. “That sounds… terrible?”
“More confusing than anything…”
“Am I a part of your dreams?” Franky said, grinning.
“Of course.” She smiled.
“So you think we’re gonna end badly…”
“Maybe. I don’t know what to think anymore.”
“I don’t buy that for a second.”
“I love you Franky, but I know much can change after a traumatic event.”
“Don’t shrink me, Gidge. This is about your bad dreams, not mine.”
Bridget nodded. Franky was right. She was all over the shop, unable to settle on any one emotion. She was so worried about losing her career that she was seriously rethinking all of her choices, including having pursued a relationship with Franky. She couldn’t take it back and even if she could she doubted she would have changed anything. Bridget could rest easy knowing she did not betray her principles or the principles of her practice. But would other people see if that way, or would they see a psychologist who lives with a former patient and assume impropriety?
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Gidge, whatever you’re worrying about, I love ya.” Bridget nodded. “C’mon, let’s go back to bed.” Franky stood in front of her and held out her hands to Bridget. “If you have another Castaway dream you can wake me up.”
In bed, with Franky’s long arms wrapped around her, things felt less threatening. She could always go into consulting or retire on the small nest egg she’d set aside in her years of work. Neither of those options were completely viable but they were enough to ease her mind for the moment. Sleep would come swiftly with Franky lightly snoring in her ear and tomorrow she would try again.
Chapter 7: Past Present
Stretching in bed, Bridget awoke gradually, warmed by the sun and the weight of Franky’s arm across her waist. It was the morning of her last day off and Bridget Westfall was feeling less like a basketcase and more like herself again. It was amazing was a little sleep and a new dawn could do for one’s mood, but Bridget felt hopeful and more relaxed than she had in days.
“Hey.” Franky smiled into her pillow.
“Hey.” She scooted closer.
“How’d ya sleep?” Franky’s eyes were still smiling.
“Can I make you breakkie?” She asked.
Bridget chuckled and kissed Franky’s cheek. “I’m supposed to be taking care of you.”
“I’m good as gold, Gidge.”
“That, you are.” Bridget hummed into her ear.
“What do you reckon, omelets and salad?”
Bridget leaned away and closed her eyes in mock-bliss. “Sounds divine.”
Franky sat up, stretching the sleep from her muscles, and hopped out of bed. “You got it.”
Bridget watched her walk away, following her long legs to the shorts and the tanktop that hugged her curves. She was happy--Franky did that--and since her release, Bridget was starting to enjoy life with her again.
The time apart had been hell, the worst of it right before her escape. She should have put two-and-two together, but Franky was a good liar, something that was a bone of contention at Wentworth, and now that they shared a life it was hard not to have doubts about her truth-telling skills. Had she been fleeced about who Franky really was? And then there she was standing in the street shouting I-love-you’s across the way and Bridget knew Franky was a lot more complicated and Bridget’s doubts were much less substantial.
Bridget Westfall was shit at love as her past testified, but what she couldn’t get from a prep school romance nor a middle-aged one, Franky had given her. A prisoner had unchained her heart and Bridget was not so foolish to underestimate her loyalty. She believed Franky most when she said ‘I love you,’ with her eyes sparkling, because she knew unequivocally it was the truth. She wished she had the same confidence about other subjects. Franky had lied to her more times than she knew, she was certain of that, but still she trusted her. It made little sense, but when it came to love, Bridget was at best unsuccessful. Most times she swallowed her own feelings for the sake of others, it was part and parcel of her job but in her personal life, it had been ineffectual. The result was always coming second, no matter the situation. Now, she’d put her whole career on the line to be with Franky--if that wasn’t putting herself second, she didn’t know what was.
As she readied herself for the day, she thought about that first time she laid eyes on Franky Doyle--busting into her group and asking to speak to Boomer--and she was reminded that she loved Franky’s gutsyness, her way of commanding any situation with a confidence that, while false occasionally, was more often honest and true. She really was a juxtaposition of competing ideas and as a psychologist, Bridget was hooked.
At breakfast, she watched the clumsy way Franky held her fork and smiled. Others might have considered her table manners crude at best, but Bridget didn’t see it that way. Table manners were part of class structure and it was obvious that Franky had missed that lesson growing up. Of course, table manners were the least of her worries during her formative years.
“When do you need to be to the studio?” Bridget asked, slicing a tomato with her knife.
“Ten,” she said, shoveling a forkful of omelet into her mouth.
“You want a lift?”
Franky stopped chewing and swallowed her mouthful. “Haven’t we been here before?”
“Yeah.” Bridget smirked.
“So let’s skip to the part where we make up, because I’m tired of fighting, Gidge.”
“Me too.” Bridget reached across the table and covered Franky’s hand with hers.
Franky looked at her like a lost puppy. “So you’ll drive me?”
Bridget laughed. “Yeah.”
The lights were low in the little bar in the heart of downtown. It was only lunchtime, but inside the bar it could have been supper time. There were businessmen and women having liquid lunches at the bar but most of the tables were unoccupied. Sitting in a booth alone, Bridget sipped a glass of white wine and checked her watch. Her face lit up when the door opened and there, surrounded by a halo of light, a familiar face entered the establishment.
The woman was tall and blonde, she walked with an affluent swagger and wore a designer suit. She was a figment of Bridget’s past and Bridget stood to greet her.
“Miranda, thanks for seeing me.” She smiled broadly at the blonde who held her waist and greeted her familiarly. She kissed her on the cheeks before returning to her seat in leather booth.
“To be honest, I was surprised to hear from you,” she said as she slid into the booth opposite to Bridget.
“Yeah. I surprised myself, too.” She sighed and smiled at the blonde. “I just needed a friend.”
“You looked pretty deep into your phonebook to find me. I thought the last time I saw you was the last time.”
“You gonna tell me what this is about, Bridge? Or do you want to come back to my place and talk without our clothes on?”
“I’m in a relationship.”
“Never stopped me,” she grinned.
“Maybe this was a mistake.”
“You used to have such a good sense of humor, what happened? Did that job of yours rob you of that, too?”
Bridget reached into her pocketbook and pulled out a few bills, laying them on the table. “Buy yourself a drink. It was nice seeing you again, Miranda.”
“Bridget, wait.” She stalled and relaxed back into her seat. “I saw you on the news.”
Bridget nodded. “So you know why I asked you here.”
“Not really,” she laughed. “Why don’t you tell me about it.”
“Franky and me, we’re in a relationship. I was her counselor when she was in Wentworth and when she got released we got together.” It was far more complicated than that but the abridged version would do for now.
“Sounds cozy. How’s the sex? Pretty crazy, I reckon, with a prison girl.” She grinned.
“Jealousy never suited you.”
“Jealous?” She laughed. “I don’t even know her.”
“You don’t need to. I wanted to ask you about us.”
Miranda cocked her head. “Us? I thought you just said you were spoken for?”
“Us in the past-tense.”
“Okay,” she said with unease.
“Why did you choose to stay in a loveless marriage, when you could have had me?”
“Because it was easier to fuck around on Bill than come clean with my entire community about my sexuality. Is that what you want to hear?”
“I want the truth.”
“I loved you, yeah, I did. Maybe I still do, but Bridget you just lost yourself in us. Listen. You probably know everything about this woman because you were her shrink. Do you think she has a clue who you are in comparison?”
Bridget scoffed. “Yeah.”
“So she knows about the assault?” Bridget froze. “Darling…”
“There’s just some history between us… I don’t want to hurt her.”
“Obviously. Bridget, listen to yourself. You spend all this time thinking about her needs and her background and her feelings but what about yours?”
“Bridget, honey, trust me when I say this--you don’t look fine. How’s your sleep?”
“Best not to talk about that.” Bridget evaded.
“Okay…” Miranda waved a hand to signal the waitress. When the waitress arrived at their table with her pad and pencil she rattled off her order. “Scotch neat and another wine for my friend.” She winked at Bridget.
“So you’re not sleeping well, you haven’t shared this huge part of your past with her, and you’re having drinks with an ex-lover. Not a lot on your side right now, Bridge.”
The pair paused when the waitress returned with their drinks. “I know. I just thought I might glean some insight into my issues talking with you.”
“You realize this opens up a whole can of worms, don’t you?”
Miranda’s hand reached across the table and covered hers.
“I thought you were still with Bill,” Bridget’s false bravado had ensnared the other woman once again.
“No, sadly, he was not okay with our arrangement either.”
“I wish I could say I was sorry to hear that.” The hurt in Bridget’s voice was evident. “You never gave me a straight answer.”
“Oh, but I did.” She waggled her eyebrows playfully and when Bridget didn’t look amused, she continued. “Okay, Bridget, you’re great. You’re thoughtful and loving, and great in bed. But it’s just too much sometimes.”
“You’re saying I was too good to you?”
“It always felt like you were trying to win some imaginary competition for my affection.” She lowered her voice. “You had it all along, you know. I just couldn’t handle it.” And then her voice but a whisper: “I’m better now.”
Pulling her hand away from Miranda, Bridget shook her head. “I can’t.”
“C’mon, Bridge. Things can’t be going too well with the crim if you’re here.”
“Don’t call her that.”
She held up her hands in mock-surrender. “She’s cute, though. Bet she was hard to resist.”
“I love her.”
“I suspect you’ve fallen in love with the idea of this woman needing mothering. She needs stability, yes, but she needs a loving partner as well. If you want my advice, you should put away your little black book and go be with her.”
“You’re right.” She smiled at Miranda. “I’m sorry if I disappointed you.”
She scoffed. “Please,” she said good-naturedly. “Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve given an ex-lover relationship advice.”
“Really?” Bridget asked.
The pair laughed together and then an awkward silence settled between them. “It was good seeing you.” Leaving her second glass of wine untouched, Bridget stood. She paused in front of the table and looked at her past in her present. “Thanks for your honesty.”
“Call me if it goes to hell.”
Bridget turned away before Miranda could see the smirk on her face and exited the establishment hastily, returning to the bright noonday light of the streets outside. She mulled over the insight gained from her visit with the ghost of relationships past and smiled. It was always good to get a little perspective and perhaps calling an ex-lover wasn’t the right move, but Bridget felt confident she could maneuver their relationship into a healthier space with the information Miranda had given her.
Chapter 8: The Other Shoe
Life was funny sometimes. Bridget had come face to face with her past and she looked fantastic, but that’s how things always look in the rearview--better than they were. She returned to the television studio after the lunch hour, and parked across the street, waiting for Franky to emerge. When Franky pushed through the glass doors she honked the car’s horn twice. She smiled when she saw Bridget’s silver Volkswagon and waited for traffic to clear before jogging across the street to meet her.
Yanking open the car door, Franky slid into the passenger seat. “Heya.” She leaned across the console to kiss Bridget briefly. When she pulled back she frowned. “You’ve been drinking.”
“I had a glass of wine with a friend while you were doing your interview.”
“Ah,” she said. “Anyone I know?”
“Nuh, she’s an old friend.” Bridget turned the key to start the car, hoping that would be enough for Franky.
“Mysterious,” Franky teased.
“Mmhm,” she said casually, signaling to pull out into traffic and checked her mirrors.
“Anything I should be worried about?”
“No, of course not.”
“Ah, okay.” Franky settled back into her seat and watched the traffic, but Bridget could tell it was bothering her. She spoke abruptly, interrupting the silence. “Is there some reason you’re not telling me who you went out with?”
“Well? Is there?” Franky pressed.
Bridget switched her blinker off and turned the key, stalling the car. She turned in her seat to face Franky. “I’m gonna need you to stay calm.”
“Gidge, what’s goin’ on?”
She was so vulnerable and Bridget didn’t want to hurt her. “Nothin’, baby,” she said softly. She reached across the space between them and caressed her cheek. “I just saw someone today who helped me figure out a few things.”
Franky set her jaw and leaned away from her touch. “Who was it?”
“A woman who dumped me for her selfish dickhead of a husband about ten years ago.”
“Wow. Didn’t think you had it in ya, Gidge.”
“So you needed to see if she was available before you settled on me?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I wanted to know how I could be better. For you.”
“So you hooked up with an old girlfriend?”
“I didn’t ‘hook up’ with anyone, Franky.”
“Don’t you see how fucked up that is?”
“Nothing happened. It was one glass of wine.”
Franky nodded. “Yeah. Okay.” She crossed her arms and turned away. Bridget stared at her profile, silent, unsure of what to say, not wanting to make things worse. “Ya gonna drive, or what?” She snapped.
The drive home had been wrought with silent tension and Bridget knew better than to try to discuss something that required her full attention while driving. It wouldn’t have been fair either one of them, so she tabled it. In retrospect, she should have just pulled over and hashed it out before Franky could do a runner on her.
It had been an hour since they returned home and Bridget had given her space by retreating to her office to go over client notes for tomorrow’s appointments. When she emerged, she found Franky laying on the lounge, reading.
“You gonna talk to me?”
“What’s there to say?”
“I don’t know, Franky. How about: I did nothing wrong and I’m not going to apologize for having friends.”
“Ex-girlfriends don’t count as friends, Bridget.” Franky was more angry than she had let on--using Bridget’s full first name was a dead giveaway.
“I understand why you are upset, but there is nothing to be worried about. Miranda and I, we were done years ago.”
“Did she call you?”
“Why’d you phone her, then?”
“Things have been strained between us, Franky. I just wanted to find a way to fix things.”
“So you called your ex. If you wanted a threesome all you had to do was ask.”
“All good.” Franky waved a hand and returned to her book.
“She walked away ten years ago, baby.”
“What’s she do for a living? Probably some high falutin executive, huh?”
She nodded. “Pharmaceuticals.”
“Right. And she dumped ya. I bet you used to pine away for her, didn’t ya?”
“That was a long time ago… Franky, there are things I need to tell you. It’s just never been the right time.”
Raising her eyebrows, Franky looked over her book at Bridget. “Maybe you should tell me now.”
“Shove over.” Bridget waited for Franky to reluctantly sit up and sat beside her.
“I know everything last little detail of your past but you know nothing of mine so I thought if I went back to get some perspective, it would help us. I want you to know that we did not discuss you. It was about mine and Miranda’s past relationship, which was something of a shit show.”
“Something about it made it work for awhile, I bet.” Franky’s jealousy was in full flare now.
“Yeah,” she said nodding. “The sex was good--”
“Jesus, ya gonna tell me about that, too?”
“But that was ten years ago, Franky. ”
“You said you wanted to talk about your past…”
“Franky, I was raped," she blurted.
Franky stared at her, mouth agape, forehead furrowed, fingernails digging into her own knees. “What? When?” She was shocked, as anyone would be after a bombshell like that. Bridget went for quick, but doubted it would be a painless revelation.
“Years ago, but it messed me up pretty badly for a long time.”
“Oh, fuck.” Franky’s head dropped to her hands. “Gidge, no.” It was apparent to Bridget that Franky was remembering the time she’d roughed her up in her cell. “I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, baby… I didn’t tell you to make you feel badly.”
“Your ex knew, didn’t she?”
“Yeah, she did. She helped me work through some of it, years after the fact.”
“You could have told me.”
“I know. I didn’t want to spoil our time together.”
“Gidge, all I’ve ever wanted is to know more about you. No spoiling, here.”
“I guess the easiest way to do this is to let you ask the questions.”
Bridget sat back and waited for the uncomfortable questions, the hard memories, and the painful recollections to come but Franky just sighed, took her hands in her own and said: “Tell me about your family.”
Bridget’s eyes filled with tears, and smiling, she nodded. Answering each and every one of Franky’s questions fearlessly, Bridget reached a new level of honesty with her as she spent the next two hours on the lounge, tangled in Franky’s arms and legs, held so securely, her heart felt safe.
Later that afternoon, Bridget was sitting at the dining room table, rifling through a pile of envelopes in her hand. It was a mix of the usual mail, utility, mobile phone, and credit card bills were accompanied by a crisp white envelope with the initials A.P.S. in the corner and Bridget’s heart jumped into her throat.
And there it was: The other shoe.
She hastily tore into the envelope and pulled the letter from it. She held her breath.
Pursuant to Australian Psychology Society (APS) Code 4.3(b.) we have been notified of an infringement and are reviewing your membership at this time. There will be a formal investigation and ask that you do not take clients during this time. At the conclusion of the investigation we will review our findings to make a recommendation to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA) and National Boards about further action, if needed.
C.4.3. Psychologists: (a) do not engage in sexual activity with a client or anybody who is closely related to one of their clients; (b) do not engage in sexual activity with a former client, or anybody who is closely related to one of their former clients, within two years after terminating the professional relationship with the former client; (c) who wish to engage in sexual activity with former clients after a period of two years from the termination of the service, first explore with a senior psychologist the possibility that the former client may be vulnerable and at risk of exploitation, and encourage the former client to seek independent counselling on the matter; and (d) do not accept as a client a person with whom they have engaged in sexual activity.
Bridget let the letter fall to the table.She closed her eyes, shaking her head. “Fuck.”
“Good news?” Franky stood in the kitchen.
“Not now, Franky.”
Franky pulled a face. “Wha--?”
“The psych board is investigating me.”
“Fuck.” Bridget nodded. “Gidge, I’m so sorry.”
“Franky, it was never your fault. It was my decision. I didn’t think we’d get caught.”
Franky wrung her hands. “So what happens now?”
“No fuckin’ clue.
“D’ya want me to move out?”
“Franky--just give me a minute, okay?”
Bridget stood tentatively, looking down at the letter. Twenty-three years of her blood, sweat, and tears now teetered on the edge of oblivion. And then there was Franky in the kitchen with her sad eyes, silently begging Bridget not to end it. She was torn between two worlds that she’d never let intersect. Until now.
Chapter 9: Tonight, Tonight
It had been three hours since she opened the letter that told her to prepare for the worst professionally. Bridget Westfall had shut herself in her home office to call her clients to cancel their appointments and Life Solutions to cancel her group sessions. Truth be told, that took all of fifteen minutes. It was the other two hours and forty-five minutes that were a blur.
It was starting to get dark and she could hear Franky moving about. Bridget was going to have to come up with a plan of action. She jumped when a sharp knock sounded on the office door.
“Gidge?” Her voice was quiet and sad, and Bridget had never heard it quite like that before. “Are ya gonna come out of there to eat?”
She had made dinner. Bridget hung her head, and rubbed a hand over her face. “Yeah,” she said, “Be right out.”
Bridget sighed, standing carefully--her leg throbbing--as she crossed to the door. She unlocked it and turned the knob slowly. It was far more suspenseful than it should have been. She opened the door and poked her head out to peer down the hall. The water was running in the kitchen and the food smells were enticing her to go closer.
Rounding the corner, she made her way down the hallway to the kitchen. There, Franky was at the stovetop sauteing something, a pot burbling beside her, as well. Catching sight of Bridget, she turned and smiled.
“Hey,” Franky said. “Get everything sorted?”
Franky dried her hands on a cloth. “Gidge, if you want me to move out--”
Bridget smiled reassuringly. “Let’s save it for dinner.”
“Yeah, okay.” She waited a beat and then spoke again. “But why ruin a delicious meal with doom and gloom?”
“Why do you assume it will be doom and gloom?” Bridget joked half-heartedly.
Franky puffed out her cheeks. “I dunno… it can’t be good, can it?”
“Moving out now isn’t going to change anything.”
Bridget took a step forward into Franky’s space. “I don’t want you to leave,” she said tenderly.
“Darling, who else am I going to get to make me such sumptuous meals?” Bridget said, Snaking her arms around Franky’s neck.
Franky’s hands went straight for her rear, squeezing her closer. “You’re the takeaway queen, you don’t need me.”
“There are other benefits to having you around.” Bridget kissed her cheek.
“Oh, ho, ho…” Franky chuckled. “You’re feeling better.”
“Mm,” she hummed. “What’s for dinner?” Bridget looked over Franky’s shoulder at the stovetop.
“Chicken piccata and fettuccine.” Franky smiled.
Her stomach grumbled. “Pulling out all the stops.”
“I thought a special meal might help.”
Bridget smiled. “Thank you.”
Franky nodded at the table, which was already set and adorned with lit candles. “Go have a seat and I’ll plate up.”
Parting reluctantly, Bridget walked to the table. She sat at the end of the table and poured herself a glass of perfectly chilled sauvignon blanc, sighing heavily. She watched Franky twirl tongs full of pasta onto the plates with ease before laying the chicken scallopini beside it and finally spooning a glossy capered sauce over top. She picked up the plates and walked toward the table with that patented Franky swagger.
Sliding the plate in front of Bridget, Franky slipped into the chair beside her with the other plate. They shared a look--one that said ‘I can’t wait’ for a few reasons--and lifted their forks. Inhaling the citrus and caper aroma as she twisted the noodles on to her fork, she brought them to her mouth. The noodles were perfectly al dente, bathed in an alfredo sauce and Bridget closed her eyes to enjoy the pungent parmesan cream.
“So what are ya gonna do?” Franky asked the inevitable question, sawing into her chicken breast.
She took a moment to finish chewing and dabbed her mouth with her napkin. “No clue.”
The looked at each other blankly and then erupted in laughter. “You were in there for three fuckin’ hours, Gidge. I thought you were tunneling to Fiji or something.”
Bridget smirked and took a bite of chicken, the salt of the capers, and sourness of the lemon puckering her cheeks. So good. “Mm, this is amazing.”
“Gidge. Please, focus.”
She set her fork down silently and dabbed her mouth with her napkin again. “Franky, it’s out of my hands now. I can only wait for the decision.”
“Bullshit!” Franky said. “You have to fight this.”
“Why? I did it. I broke ethical code.”
“Because you need to be able to help people. It was bad enough when they took you away from the women at Wentworth because of me, but losing your license, Gidge? No fucking way.”
Bridget nodded, still enjoying her meal more than the topic of conversation. “It might not get that far.”
“What if it does?” Franky was genuinely concerned and Bridget wondered if the two hours and forty-five minutes that she sat in her darkened office had calmed her to the point of acceptance.
She would be gutted if she lost her license but of all the ways to disgrace one’s self in, she chose love. They could turn it into some tawdry affair with their investigation and reporting, but Bridget and Franky knew the truth--which would be of little consolation if it came down to it.
“Franky, I’ve just spent the last three hours trying to figure a way out of this and I’m tired . Can we table this for tonight?”
Bridget could tell Franky was frustrated, her disgruntlement was obvious to the trained eye and there was no such greater expert on her subject than Bridget. She picked up her fork and began to eat again. The richness of the sauces were a delight for her taste buds and her stomach was empty, save the wine that warmed it.
Halfway through their meal, Franky’s hand found her thigh under the table and Bridget covered it with her own. It was a connection they’d been missing the past few days, with all that had gone on.
Bridget looked over the remnants of her dinner at Franky and sipped her wine as Franky finished her meal, her stomach full, but her eyes remained hungry. When Franky met her gaze fireworks erupted in her belly. Franky dropped her fork noisily and squeezed her hand in Bridget’s lap.
Silently, Franky extinguished the candles, wiped her mouth and tossed her napkin onto the table as she stood, pulling Bridget along with her and kissed Bridget possessively.
“Something’s been bothering me…” Franky said in a low voice when she pulled away.
“And what’s that?” She asked.
“Your ex… she’s hot, yeah?” She squeezed Bridget’s waist.
Bridget looked away. “Franky…”
Franky kissed from Bridget’s cheek to her ear. “Did she ever make you come as hard as I do?” She whispered into her ear.
A thrill ran through Bridget’s body. She looked to the ceiling. “Honestly, I don’t remember.”
Franky kissed her neck. “I don’t believe you.”
“You should.” Bridget sighed happily.
Franky unbuttoned her top slowly, slipping her hands around the blonde’s waist and pushing it off Bridget’s shoulders. Her mouth continued to move down her throat and across her collarbone as her fingers worked at the zipper of her pants. Bridget’s hands found Franky’s hair as she nipped at her breast through her bra. She whimpered at the contact.
Sliding her hands into her pants, Franky pushed them off Bridget’s hips, as Bridget struggled with the layers of Franky’s clothing. Backing the blonde up against the table, Franky lifted her onto it, stripping her pants the rest of the way off her legs. She sat on the edge of the green table, kissing the lanky brunette as they peeled away her mess of tops. Franky’s style, while unusual and personal, was also seriously inconvenient when it came down to getting naked.
Soon enough, Franky stood between her legs grinding against her core. Each movement was exquisitely timed, and Bridget felt her need growing more intense. The cutlery rattled against the plates as Franky thrust against her. Bridget’s arms reached above her head and swept a candlestick off the table which neither one of them cared about enough to even pause their movements.
When Bridget’s body was begging for release, Franky’s hips stilled and she dropped to her knees. Her body was flooded with warmth as Franky covered her with her mouth and began to stroke her insistently with her tongue. Heels digging into the brunette’s back, Bridget’s need peaking. Franky’s efforts intensified until she arched off the table, trembling with her release in Franky’s arms. Sitting up, the sweat from her body sticky against Franky’s as they embraced, Bridget pulled her into a deep kiss and hugged her tightly. Arms around Franky’s neck, she held on as Franky scooped her up and carried her down the hallway, abandoning their dinner dishes on the table.
She laughed as Franky dropped her on the bed playfully, climbing onto the mattress beside her eagerly. Bridget scooted closer, kissing Franky tenderly as her hand dipped between the brunette’s thighs, eliciting a gasp and a wicked laugh from Franky. She quieted quickly as Bridget’s hand continued to tease her.
Bridget watched Franky’s expression change as her fingers explored her depths. Perhaps more intimate than anything was the fact that she did so gazing into her half-lidded eyes. Maintaining their connection, Franky’s hips moved with her hand, her tongue darting out to wet her lips in anticipation of what came next. Bridget’s thumb swept over her sweetest spot and Franky’s hips jumped.
“Fuck,” she groaned, squeezing her eyes shut.
Back and forth, Bridget’s thumb traced a lazy trail across her clit, still deep inside. Franky chewed her lip as her hips undulated beneath Bridget’s hand. Gradually, she increased the rhythm and before long Franky was clutching at her back, and biting her shoulder to keep from crying out.
When Franky came down from her high, she made love to Bridget again and again. And hours later, as they lay exhausted in each other’s arms, Bridget was the one to break the silence.
“No one has ever loved me the way you do, Franky.”
Even in the darkness, Bridget could see Franky’s dimples. “Same, Gidge.” Bridget inhaled, the musk of sweat and sex hanging heavy in the room. Franky rolled onto her side facing Bridget and traced her jaw with a finger lightly. “We’re gonna beat this shit, I promise.”
She closed her eyes against Franky’s palm. She knew she was just trying to help but Bridget knew better than anyone that making promises you can’t keep hurts everyone involved. But instead of refuting what Franky had said and justifying her thoughts with statistics or even acknowledging them out loud, she remained silent. Tonight was their night, so perfect that Bridget began to well up. Just as there was no question between jail and betraying Franky, there was none between her career and Franky either.
Chapter 10: Lazy Day
She woke to Franky’s music blaring from the bathroom. It was ‘Franky’s music’ because Bridget had no clue who sang what old or new. It was something she’d failed to keep up with as she aged. Franky wandered into the bedroom, towel around her waist and one in her hair and nothing in between.
Bridget rolled onto her side and admired the younger woman, her tattoos in vivid color post-shower. “Where are you off to?”
“Legal Aid. I have an appointment this morning.” Bridget’s smile faded slightly. “What’s wrong?”
Franky sat on the edge of the bed. “C’mon…” She prodded.
“I was looking forward to a lazy day with you.”
“We can be lazy and maybe a little crazy when I get back.” She grinned.
“Hey.” She leaned over Bridget and kissed her. “I won’t be gone long.”
Bridget smiled and laid back on the bed as Franky put together her outfit and dressed in front of her. She knew Franky liked the attention which made it that much more satisfying to watch her move around the bedroom. She left the room briefly and returned with the newspaper, dropping it onto the bed beside her.
“You gonna stay in bed all day?”
Bridget stretched languidly, and reached for the paper. “Maybe.”
Franky leaned down and kissed her. “I will be back as soon as humanly possible.”
And with a whoosh, she was gone. She heard her scoop her keys up in the hallway, the door shutting quietly, and her car starting in the street. Picking up the paper, Bridget opened it noisily. She was relieved that there were no pictures or headlines about herself or Franky on the front page so she flipped the page and read on.
When she reached the Lifestyle section she paused. “Oh, Franky.” A picture of Franky with the headline ‘Free At Last: Ex-Reality Star Chef (and Wentworth Escapee) Comes Clean’ centered on the top third of the page. Not exactly the clear message Bridget had hoped the interviewers would get from Franky’s story but not a terrible headline, so she read on. The writer had gotten the facts right which was half the battle, but he’d also left out key pieces of information which left Franky’s innocence as background information. There was no mention of Bridget in the article and she was selfishly grateful for that.
She tossed the paper to the side. There was nothing the held her interest past Franky’s article so she decided to wash the sex from her body and dress for a day indoors. Padding to the lounge in her yoga pants and tee, Bridget snatched up her book from the side table. She sat on the lounge, covered herself over with a blanket, and began to read. Try as she might, she just could not concentrate and soon gave up on the book, too.
She sighed and checked the clock--Franky had only been gone an hour. Bridget reached for the phone and dialed a familiar number.
“Hi, Vera, it’s Bridget. Do you have a minute?”
Sometimes people become friends at the strangest times in their lives, such was the case for Bridget and Vera. Vera had been one of her biggest detractors at the start of her work with the women at Wentworth. Ferguson had manipulated her just as she manipulated everyone she came into contact with and it cost Bridget her job.
Or should she say sacrificed her job? And she did it for Franky then too, when Ferguson was threatening to keep her back another year, and now that the Board was investigating her she was ready to do it again. Bridget knew how rare a connection like theirs was. She’d tried to force one with Miranda all those years ago after heaps of one-night-stands in the years that followed her assault.
All this time Bridget had told herself that she was shit at love, but now she realized she was simply missing the other piece--the right person to love her back.
As if on cue, Franky’s keys jangled in the door, creaking as she opened it.
“Gidge?” She called.
“In here,” Bridget said, sitting up on the lounge with her closed book in hand.
Franky appeared from around the corner. “Get some reading in?”
Bridget looked at the book. “Yeah,” she lied. “Actually, no.”
“What ya been doin’?
“Talked to Vera,” Bridget started.
“Oh, yeah? How is old Vinegar Tits these days?”
“What?” Franky asked innocently, plopping down beside Bridget.
Bridget hugged Franky’s arm. “I’ve arranged for a special visitation for you.” She kissed her cheek.
Franky put her arm around Bridget. “Between?”
“Boomer and Liz.” She smiled, feeling proud of herself.
Except instead of saying thanks, or acknowledging the nice thing Bridget had done, Franky frowned and asked: “What about Allie?”
“Allie?” She said blankly.
“Yeah. Allie Novak. Pouty blonde? Ring a bell?”
“I remember,” Bridget said, pulling away.
“C’mon Gidge, are you seriously worried after the night we had?”
“Tell me you didn’t mess around with her.”
“Okay, I didn’t mess around with her.” Franky couldn’t look her in the eyes.
Ping . Lie. Bridget’s Franky bullshit detector was mighty and she didn’t even try to disguise her lie this time.
“This isn’t gonna work if you think you can get away with lying to me, Franky.”
“Jesus, Gidge. You’re bloody miserable about this, you know that?”
“I think you owe me this much.”
“Okay, fine . Yeah. We kissed, even fooled around a little when I thought you’d dumped me but she wasn’t into me and stopped it before it went anywhere.”
Bridget sighed. “Why couldn’t you just tell me that in the first place?”
“I dunno. I didn’t want to hurt ya.”
“I’ll tell Vera to add Novak to the visitation.”
Franky nodded. “That’s it? You don’t want to know what happened?”
“I trust you, Franky.”
“But you’re jealous.”
Bridget sat back. “I can still be jealous.”
“We’re just friends, Gidge. Promise.” Her puppy dog eyes always worked their magic on Bridget.
“Good enough.” She nodded. “So how’d the meeting go? Get your job back?”
“You know it. Back at it next Monday morning.”
“Oh, Franky, that’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you.” She hugged Franky.
“I thought we could celebrate. Go out on the town, forget our troubles. What do you think?”
She nodded. “Sure,” she said, smiling.
“Great,” Franky said as she stood. “I’ll pick you up at six.”
“Where are you going?”
“Shopping,” she said with a grin. “Gotta look the part.”
“Stand up citizen, of course.”
“Franky, you don’t have to--”
“Nah. Don’t wanna hear it. See you at six.”
And like that, she was gone again. Bridget felt empty and full at the same time. Having a few hours before Franky would return, she ambled to the bedroom to pick out her own outfit and pamper herself with a mud mask and mani-pedi. It would be a night to remember--not that there was a shortage of those lately.
Chapter 11: Everything Is Perfect
Six o’clock came more quickly than she thought possible, but Bridget was almost ready, save for her earrings and shoes when there was a knock at the door. She frowned, unsure if she should be uneasy or excited. She put her earrings in as she walked to the door and when she opened it a huge bouquet of flowers greeted her. She peered through the giant lilies and roses to the face on the other side--a smirking Franky Doyle. She lowered the flowers and looked Bridget over.
Bridget wore a black cashmere sweater and a black skirt. Simple, yet elegant, a classic. Franky looked her up and down, and Bridget felt her eyes in places they couldn’t see.
“Wow,” Franky said. “You look like a dream.”
“Let me get a look at you.” Bridget smiled as Franky held the flowers away from her body and spun around for her. Franky’s jeans were impossibly tight, her white button-up shirt untucked, a Kinks t-shirt beneath it, and a remarkably tidy blazer made for quite the picture.
“What d’ya think?”
“I’m a fan.” She dusted an imaginary fluff from Franky’s shoulder.
Bridget looked down at her bare feet. “Not quite.” She wiggled her toes on the tile.
Franky laughed. “Get ‘em on, we’ve got a reso at seven.”
“And who said romance is dead?” Bridget kissed her cheek before slipping into a pair of black pumps. She tucked her clutch under her arm and scooped her keys off the table by the door.
“Your chariot awaits,” Franky opened the door and they disappeared into the night together.
It was that awkward time of year--when fall faded into winter and the nights got cooler unexpectedly. Bridget wished she had worn a jacket. Dressed to the nines, out on the town, walking hand in hand with Franky through bustling downtown streets, Bridget felt almost normal.
“You gonna tell me where we’re headed yet?”
“Nuh,” Franky said wrapping an arm around Bridget’s waist and pulling her closer.
Bridget put her head on Franky’s shoulder as they walked and when she slowed up, Bridget straightened and looked up at the white print on the blue awning--sushiio--she recognized the name as an up and coming Japanese restaurant. Franky held the door for her and she passed through it in front of her.
It was a small restaurant, dimly lit, with small tables in the center of the room and rice papered walls enclosing the smaller tatami rooms along the outer edges of the establishment. Inside, the hushed din of an oddly quiet kitchen and even the patrons spoke in muted tones, it smelled sweet and savory, and it was strange and intimate, all at once.
A woman in traditional Japanese dress greeted them and led the pair to the far corner of the restaurant. She slid the rice paper door open and gestured for them to enter. Bridget removed her pumps as instructed and climbed onto the bench delicately maneuvering her legs underneath the table. Scooting down to make room for Franky, she watched the taller woman kick off her boots and contort to fit beside her. The hostess smiled and closed the screen quietly.
“Wow,” Bridget said, looking around. “This is very... “ She searched for the right word. “It’s very Franky Doyle.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I love it.” Bridget smiled. “It’s just delightfully different.”
“Ah, well, wait till you try their yakisoba. Authentic as they come.”
Bridget leaned into Franky’s side. “Also like you.”
The screen door slid open and the waitress appeared with a small tea kettle and cups, and placed them in front of the women, followed by menus. She smiled and disappeared again, closing the screen behind her.
“I thought this was a nice compromise between going out and staying in.”
She nodded. “It’s perfect.”
Franky smiled, nearly beaming with pride at her arrangements for their evening so far. “What ya in the mood for?”
“I don’t know… Sushi? Noodles?” She picked up the menu and looked it over. “Hm.” She pondered the menu a while longer, her eyes meeting Franky’s when she had decided. “What?”
“You’re so fuckin’ beautiful.”
Bridget felt the warmth of embarrassment on her cheeks. “Charmer.”
She looked at Bridget intensely. “I mean it.”
Looking down at her menu, she set it aside. She nodded.
“This is where you’re supposed to tell me how hot I am.”
They laughed together and Bridget briefly felt guilty for disturbing the peace and quiet of the restaurant. It passed when she met Franky’s gaze again and she was overcome with desire.
“That is a given, but if you want me to remind you, I could probably manage that,” she cooed into Franky’s ear. She could feel her shiver and smiled against her neck.
A customary knock on the screen and Bridget straightened in her seat as the door slid open again and the waitress was there to take their order. When the waitress had gone again, Franky’s hand found her thigh and those dimples that Bridget loved so much creased her cheeks.
“I’m waiting,” Franky said, grinning at the ceiling.
Bridget smirked, and ran a finger along her jawline, mouth moving to the whorls of her ear again. “Franky Doyle, you are hot,” she said, her breath hot against Franky’s ear..
“I was attracted to you the first time I laid eyes on you.”
“Yeah? You never told me that.”
“Oh, yeah. The neon panties and bras, the tank top and trackies caught my eye but your confidence… that was really something else.”
“You knew I was a good root.” Franky laughed.
“I had an inkling.” She grinned.
“It really isn’t fair, this psychology stuff.”
Bridget chuckled. “It does have more practical applications than say, welding.”
“Defs. And you wear heels while doing it.”
She heard the sizzle approaching and then the smell: beef, vegetables, noodles and soy sauce wafted into their tiny room as the server opened the screen and placed the sizzling cast iron pan in front of Franky. She reappeared a moment later with a small tray of sushi and tempura and set it in front of Bridget before retreating and sliding the screen shut again.
“Oh, wow. This looks fantastic,” Bridget said, impressed.
Franky looked at her pile of noodles, topped with slices of soy sauce steak like a long lost lover. “It’s been awhile,” she said snapping her chopsticks apart. She began to rub the sticks against each other, polishing off the splinters and burrs. Bridget was again drawn to Franky’s love of food as she watched her dig into the noodles with her chopsticks. Her reward was the look of bliss on Franky’s face when she ate the mouthful.
Franky opened her eyes and caught her staring, noticing that Bridget hadn’t started eating yet. “Something wrong?”
“Nuh.” Bridget smiled and shook her head, snapping her chopsticks apart. She buffed out the splinters before mixing wasabi and soy sauce in a small side dish. Lifting a spicy tuna roll off her plate, she dunked it in the dish and then guided it to her mouth. The salt and spice of the soy and wasabi hit her first and then the sweet and sour of the rice and the freshness of the fish. The chili oil numbed her tongue and the mayonnaise cooled it. It was a perfectly balanced morsel. She sighed. “Why have you never taken me here before?”
Franky smirked. “Got busy.”
“That’s right.” Bridget lifted another roll off her plate and laughed, leaning into Franky’s side. “This is just what I needed. Thank you.”
Finishing their meal, they made their way back out into the streets which were much quieter now. She enjoyed the coolness of the evening, Franky’s hand in hers, whispers in her ear as they walked back to Franky’s car. When Brigdet shivered, Franky stalled on the sidewalk..
“Are ya cold, Gidge?”
“Nah. I shouldn’t have rushed ya.” She took off her jacket and wrapped it around Bridget’s shoulders.
“What about you?”
“I’ve got love to keep me warm.” She shivered. “And we can walk faster.”
Bridget laughed at the sky, running hand in hand with Franky to her car, her jacket enveloping her in a warm hug. Another night to remember, she looked across the console at Franky who turned the key and the engine sputtered. She tried again.
“Nuh. No fuckin’ way,” Franky said. Bridget had to laugh. She knew Franky was not amused at all, but Bridget thought it was the funniest thing that could have happened. “Come on. It’s not fuckin’ funny, Gidge.”
“Sure it is. It’s a parable.” She laughed harder. “Everything is perfect until it’s not.”
Franky sighed and stared at her as she continued to laugh. “Gidge, will ya get a grip on yourself?” Sighing, she tried again, engine chugging and sputtering, on the verge of flooding out, it finally started. “Oh, thank fuck.”
Bridget's guffaw calmed to a giggle. “I stand corrected. Everything is perfect.”
Franky put the car in gear and pulled out onto the street, speeding away into the night.
Forgotten on the entry table, Bridget put her bouquet in water when they returned from dinner. Franky milled around the kitchen island, watching her move in the black skirt that she seemed to be such a fan of, impatient as ever. Bridget turned, vase in hand, catching Franky staring, and she smiled. She never tired of Franky’s hungry stare, the feral look of lust that shrouded her features when she wanted Bridget.
When their eyes met, Bridget knew she too had her own lustful gaze to temper. But tonight, there was no tempering what they felt. Setting the vase on the dining table, Bridget felt Franky behind her.
Bridget turned around, placing her hands on Franky’s shoulders with a smile. “Wine?”
“I’m not very thirsty,” Franky replied, and Bridget caught her meaning.
Bridget slipped away and sashayed to the refrigerator, Franky’s eyes on her the entire way. Pulling out a half-empty bottle of white wine, she poured it heavily into a single glass. As she lifted the glass to her lips, her eyes wandered to the other woman. Franky Doyle, looking like a million bucks, watching her with the expectancy of Labrador Retriever waiting for its T-bone steak dinner. It was, in a word, tantalizing.
She leaned against the counter and took another sip from her wine glass. “Dinner was fantastic.”
Franky pushed off the table and walked towards her. “It was.” She nodded, stopping beside Bridget once again. Gently taking the glass from Bridget’s hand, she set it on the counter. “The night’s not over yet.”
Fingers lightly toying with the buttons of Franky’s shirt, Bridget looked into her bottomless green eyes. “Definitely not.”
They shared a smile before Franky took Bridget’s hands in hers and kissed her softly. It was such a tender kiss that Bridget melted into her, sighing against Franky’s mouth as she stepped into her space. Franky kissed her again, intensity building as her hands released Bridget’s and slid down to grip her hips.
Feeling the tension between them intensify, Bridget moved her arms around Franky’s neck and leaned into her as Franky kissed her throat. Holding her waist, Franky began to lead her in a dance, slow and sexy. Her feet moved across the floor following Franky’s socked feet closely, swaying together to imaginary music.
Bridget sighed against Franky’s lips as she raised her head and covered her mouth again. There was something different in her kiss. It wasn’t simply a matter of lust, though there was that element, there was also need and devotion. The latter did not come as a surprise to Bridget, but the depths of which she hadn’t felt until that moment. Love as pure as it comes and desire that burned brightly in Franky’s eyes was the most potent aphrodisiac Bridget had ever encountered.
Continuing to lead her down the hallway, Franky’s hands roamed her cashmere sweater, slipping beneath its hem and across Bridget’s belly. Gentle fingers traced circles on the skin at her waist and she couldn’t suppress the smile they invoked as they kissed. Stumbling backwards, Bridget held on to Franky, who steadied her against the wall. Pressing her into the picture that hung there, Franky’s hands went to her rear, inching the skirt up before enticing her the back of her thigh with her fingertips. Bridget’s knee slid up Franky’s leg and soon she had hooked it around Franky’s hip.
Swiftly, Franky moved her hand between Bridget’s legs and they moaned together as her fingers dipped beneath Bridget’s panties, finding her more than ready for her touch. Bracing herself against the wall with her other hand, Franky kissed her deeply.
Bridget felt alive, pressed up against the wall, heart pounding in her chest, leg hiked up Franky’s side, she came undone as Franky slipped inside. Bridget clung to her shoulders, hanging on as Franky moved into her. Breaking away from her kiss, Bridget gasped in pleasure. Once again, Franky kissed her throat as Bridget tipped her face toward the ceiling.
“Fuck,” she groaned.
Franky bit her bottom lip and grinned at the other woman, continuing her movements and enjoying every bit of the reaction she was getting. Bridget reveled in her touch, stretching up the wall as Franky quickened. When her thumb brushed against her center, Bridget gasped again and held her tightly to her chest.
They had always been hungry for one another, and many times had not made it to the bedroom, having made love all throughout her home, but tonight--pressed up against the wall in the hallway that led to the bedroom, Bridget was vital. Her heart beat hard in her breast and she was certain Franky could feel it in her chest as well. Burying her face in Franky’s neck, Bridget held on, trying to keep her legs from giving out beneath her as Franky brought about an epic release in her.
Bridget quivered, hips jerking against Franky’s hand as she came. The deluge of emotions was something she wasn’t ready for. Her heart felt like it was going to burst forth from her chest and her eyes filled with tears.
Franky’s satisfied stare turned to concern. “Hey…”
An embarrassed smile. Bridget shook her head. “I’m fine,” she said, hands on either side of Franky’s face. “Fantastic, even.”
Franky grinned, slowly pulling out of Bridget’s underwear, she guided her leg back down to the floor. Bridget scooted her skirt down again and took Franky’s hands in hers, tugging her towards the bedroom.
There were no words now, just looks of love and longing. Franky let Bridget undress for her, watching as her skirt pool on the floor as she pulled her sweater over her head, dropping it beside her. She felt glorious as she stepped closer to Franky and began to undress her too. Moments later, she was pushing Franky back onto the bed and peeling her jeans off, as she crawled up her body and covered her.
There, flesh to flesh, Bridget felt the scorch of Franky’s body on her thigh as she pushed between her legs. Franky’s hips jumped off the bed and she began grinding against her. She was eager and ready and it was all so intoxicating for Bridget, who was beginning to feel inspired again, as well.
As much as Bridget had thought she’d made love to Franky in the past, tonight she felt decidedly different. There were no wandering thoughts about what she needed to accomplish in the morning, nor were there doubts that Franky was doing the same. Instead, her attention was focused on the only person that mattered--Franky--and as enticing as it was to give Franky what she wanted so desperately, Bridget knew Franky would enjoy it more if she slowed it down, even if she didn’t appreciate it.
Bridget took her time kissing her softly, nipping at her lips, she held Franky’s jaw between her hands and her knee between her legs. Her breathing was shallow, and her patience lacking, but Bridget withdrew her thigh as she kissed her way down Franky’s throat. She tore at the sheets as Bridget moved her mouth across her breast. Tender and true, her kisses made Franky melt more deeply into the mattress. When Bridget lifted her head to look down upon her, resplendent and bewitching, Franky’s half-lidded gaze was almost too much to bear.
Settling between Franky’s legs, inching closer to her center, Bridget pressed her core against Franky’s. She was awash in pleasure and the warmth of their joining elicited moans from them both. Slowly, Bridget began to move, Franky’s hands gripped her hips, pulling them tighter together. She held herself up with hands on either side of Franky’s head, her hips dancing another silent performance. Franky bit her lip and moved counterpoint to the blonde’s gyrations. Hands moving to Bridget’s ass, Franky’s grinding became more insistent.
Her center pressed into Franky’s as her nails dug into Bridget’s rear. She was lost and found--grounded by Franky’s grip on her, but blissed by the warmth of Franky’s body against hers. Gradually, the raven-haired woman moved to sit up and Bridget welcomed her into her embrace. They rocked in sync, clinging to one another, joined together, making love in the moonlight of their bedroom.
Nothing else mattered in that moment. The world could have ended and Bridget would have lived the life she wanted. There were no regrets, there was nothing and nobody that compared to Franky Doyle. It was a patented fact.
Franky’s kisses were hot, her body hungry for release and Bridget was feeling it too Their pace quickened, Franky hugging her tightly signaling her surrender. Bridget moved roughly against her, striving for her own emancipation. She cried out, continuing to bask in the rapture of their union as their hips slowed.
“Jesus,” Franky breathed in her ear.
A low chuckle was all she could muster. No words would do. She didn’t dare move, still pressed against Franky’s core, and instead began to stroke her hair. Bridget wanted to coo words of love to Franky, but they were still lost amidst the euphoria.
She roused early, the sun barely lighting the sky before she started the kettle. Franky had slept through the kiss she pressed against her cheek before slipping into her robe and heading for the kitchen. As much as she wanted to continue with her worry-free attitude the night before had afforded them, Bridget knew she needed to circle the wagons and call in a few favors in the hopes that it might be enough to save her career. What she didn’t want was to circumvent the system--if she couldn’t do it honestly, she didn’t want any part of it. There was no use saving her career if she couldn’t look herself in the eye anymore.
She was on her third cup of tea and two chapters into some light reading when Franky walked into the kitchen, dragging her feet. “Hey.” She smiled sleepily. “Been up long?”
“Nuh,” she lied. “Did you sleep good?”
Franky walked to the lounge and sat on the arm beside Bridget. “Never better.” She grinned. “You?”
She hummed and smiled up at Franky as she set the book aside. “I told Vera we’d be at the prison after lunch.”
Franky moved the hair away from Bridget’s forehead. “You can’t return me, yeah.”
Chuckling, Bridget nudged Franky off the arm of the lounge. “I wouldn’t dream of it. But your visitation is today.”
“Bloody awesome,” she said exuberantly.
The door opened and towering Susan Jenkins was the first to see Franky. Her face lit up as Franky stood to meet the women as they filed out of the door. Pure joy on their faces, Bridget watched their exchange. As they moved to be seated at the table, Bridget walked to join Vera at the guard station.
Allie was touching Franky and Bridget tried not to be distracted by it. Their closeness still niggled at her but she would enjoy Franky enjoying her friends because that was the whole point of their visit.
Acknowledging that, Bridget still was eager to discuss her problem with Vera in the hopes that she could vouch for her professionalism in the matter.
“Vera, can I ask you something?”
“Absolutely, you know that.”
Bridget nodded. “Good, yeah.” She exhaled shakily. “I’m in deep shit, Vera.”
Vera pursed her lips and nodded. She knew. “I sat before the board yesterday.”
Bridget held her smile, looking over at Franky who hugged her friends joyfully--except, inside Bridget felt panic and despair at what Vera might have mistakenly revealed to the board. After all, Vera still had doubts about when Franky and Bridget’s affair started as recently as a week ago.
“Oh,” Bridget nodded again. “Can I ask what you said?”
“I told them there were rumors during your time at Wentworth, but chalked it up to Ferguson’s tactics to discredit you and that only after her most recent release did I see the two of you together.”
It was as if the metaphorical stone that had been sitting on her chest rolled off and she could breathe again. “Oh Vera, that is--”
She smiled and nodded. “You don’t need to thank me.”
“I do. I really do.”
Vera bowed her head and looked at Franky. “Keep her out of trouble.”
“I’ll do my best,” she laughed.
Her eyes panned to the quartet of women sitting at the table holding hands and reflected on what an experience like prison can mean to someone like Franky. She found a mum in Liz, a best friend in Boomer, a confidante in Allie, and a lover in Bridget when she was in Wentworth and all things considered, Franky would have had no occasion to meet any of them otherwise.
Bridget thought about life choices and where they lead, sometimes so unexpected, and as she watched Allie hang on to Franky, she thought about where they didn’t. Bridget still remembered the fire in her belly as Joan fucking Ferguson told her about Franky and Allie and how broken she was by it. The psychopath laughed at her pain and she was falling apart in plain sight.
Ultimately, Bridget ran away. She resigned because she couldn’t watch Franky and Allie grow closer by the day, knowing where that would lead, where it probably already had led. But Franky being Franky--ever unpredictable--had shown up at her other job and made her realize no matter how far she ran from Franky, she couldn’t run from herself and what she felt for her.
As they exited the prison that day, in the cool afternoon air, Bridget knew she still had to face the board herself, but hoped that Vera’s version of the truth had struck a chord with them and she wouldn’t have to do too much to convince them that she wasn’t lying, even if she was bending the truth so much that it almost wasn’t recognizable anymore.
It's been awhile. I took a much needed break over the holidays to recenter and collect myself. As most of you probably know, I have recently come under siege for not putting a TW on this story. Agree or disagree, I continue to defend my right as a writer not to put a rape warning on this story. There is no depiction of rape, just the word once and I did not break archive rules. Putting a rape warning on a story that has graphic rape or recollections of rape--absolutely. This story has neither. Therefore, I did not want to deter people from reading based on a warning that really has no application here.
I have been called names, accused of promoting rape culture, “shamed”, put on shitlists, et cetera all because someone who did not understand the archive’s policies posted a link to another forum so others could pile on. This behavior is beyond immature and this outrage is totally misplaced.
Furthermore, I acknowledge that survivors of trauma have a lot on their plate as I, myself, am one, too. But we must take responsibility for our pain and understand that unless we tell others what they did to upset us, they cannot fix it. Using hashtags to make a point is not communicating effectively. And piling on when you haven’t read the author’s work is also insincere.
So many people take for granted what fan fiction authors do. Personally, I write it to work out my stuff, understand human nature, and enjoy the characters I love further. I do so completely for free in the hopes that others can enjoy my stories, too. Most times people read without replying, commenting or saying a nice word and I accept that. But coming under attack for something people haven’t paid for in any form (time, money, etc) is pretty rough. As such, updates will likely slow down, as will new stories. I have decided to focus on my non-fanfiction writing in the new year.
To those that do support me and leave comments, I am sorry that it had to come to this. Ultimately, I write for you and I will continue to do so as the mood moves me. Thank you for the ongoing support, I really appreciate my readers and hope that you understand where I'm coming from on this.
Chapter 13: Monday Bloody Monday
Thank you all for your kind words on my last update. I managed to get another part done in between a number of appointments this week. I know it's short, but I hope you enjoy, nonetheless.
Monday morning came in like a cruise ship crashing into the docks--slowly, ominously, and probably having the potential to be a disaster. After their visit at Wentworth they’d picked up Franky’s favorite chook and chips and ate al fresco on a park bench. A quiet evening in, followed by a lazy Sunday, making love all morning and relaxing into the night. And then the alarm was blaring and Franky was reaching over her to slap the offensive device’s SNOOZE button. Franky flopped onto her back and groaned. Bridget smiled into her pillow; Franky was not a morning person.
“Cheer up, baby. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Bridget turned to face her, wiping the sleep from her eyes.
“Cheeky,” Franky shoved her playfully.
Bridget laughed, sitting up. “Come on, I’ll get the coffee started while you shower.” Exhaling heavily as Bridget pulled her from the bed, Franky sighed. “What is it?”
Franky shook her head, closing her eyes briefly. “Nothin’.”
Bridget smiled at her. “Try again.”
“I’m just…” She sighed. “I’m gonna miss you, okay?”
Bridget couldn’t stop the delight she felt from translating into a good-hearted chuckle and she paused to brush the hair from Franky’s cheek and kissed her lightly. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“That’s good, ‘cause you still owe me.”
She laughed, good humor touching her heart. “Whatever for?”
“For bringing adventure into your life.”
Franky’s grin was magnetic and Bridget was momentarily frozen in awe. Laughing again, she buried her face in Franky’s shoulder and hugged her tenderly. There were no words, just the gentle acknowledgment that she hadn’t regretted a moment of it. From watching Franky trash the law library in a tantrum or driving her home from Wentworth in that rented car, to the musty train car--every bit of the adventure had been worth it.
She lifted her head and released her grip. “Go on and get ready. You don’t want to be late on your first day back.”
Franky leaned down to kiss her softly before disappearing down the hall and Bridget heard the radio switch on and then the shower moments later as she wrapped herself in a robe.
Making her way to the kitchen, Bridget switched on the kettle. Leaning against the counter, she crossed her arms and sighed. On the day of Franky’s new beginning, Bridget was full of dread, not for Franky, but for herself. She felt impossibly selfish and genuinely torn. On the one hand, she was so happy Franky was getting her life back, and that she was a part of it. On the other, she felt like her life was falling apart and had she done things differently, she would have the peace of mind of a career in good standing but her heart would be empty. What a shitty compromise.
She could hear Franky singing in the shower and couldn’t suppress the chuckle that arose in her throat at Franky’s exuberance. Franky had brought such color to Bridget’s life. Gone were the days of talk radio in the morning or classical music in the shower, now it was grunge and something called post-punk and it was brash and raucous--like Franky, herself. Bridget still had to turn it down every time she flipped on the radio, but she didn’t mind.
In fact, Bridget was probably too understanding, but she knew where Franky had come from, and where she’d been for the past few years and that certainly that played at her empathetic tendencies. She was conscientious as a lover and a housemate, despite her penchant for leaving her socks on the lounge floor and her wet towels on the bed, the radio that was set at MAX volume whenever she turned it on, and often making Bridget to do the lion’s share of the laundry. But she cooked and she brightened up any room she was in and oh, how she tried . She tried to be the biggest, baddest Top Dog, she tried to be the reformed prisoner, she tried to be the parolee with a purpose, and she tried to love Bridget like no one had ever loved her before. For the most part, Franky succeeded in her endeavors because of her tenacity.
Bridget thought their age difference would be a bigger issue than it turned out to be. Apart from Franky’s love of punk rock and her otherwise loud tendencies, Bridget found their union to be beneficial for them both. That was not to say she didn’t annoy Franky with her wine consumption or her music, but they were symbiotic for the most part--each filling the other’s lacks with a boon of gifts.
She heard the shower cut off and realized she hadn’t started the coffee. Shaking it off, she heated the kettle again and busied herself with the accoutrements of caffeine. When Franky emerged, ruffling her hair with a towel, another towel wrapped around her waist, leaving her breasts uncovered, she couldn’t help but to stop and notice. Franky had left any modesty she had back in prison which continued to thrill Bridget at every turn.
“Are ya making a special ten minute brew?”
“What?” Bridget felt the blush of embarrassment warm her cheeks.
“The coffee. You’ve been at it for awhile, don’tcha think?”
“Oh, yeah,” she laughed. “Not awake yet.”
Franky looked her over. “What?” She asked, standing in the center of the lounge.
Bridget shook her head. “Nothing.”
Grinning, Franky wagged a finger at her. “Just making sure you were paying attention, Gidge.”
“When have I ever been able to ignore you, baby?”
“I dunno. I hope never.” Slinging the towel over her shoulder Franky grinned, turning on a heel, she disappeared back down the hall.
She read the morning edition as Franky readied herself noisily. The music, her singing, the hair dryer, and other signs of life that Bridget’s home had been bereft of before Franky Doyle. Now, as Franky readied herself for the day ahead of her, Bridget sat at the table, bare feet in the morning sunlight, at her most unprepared for a weekday.
When Franky emerged, she looked amazing. Radiant, as ever, smokey eyeshadow and liner, with her own spin on business casual. She smiled at Bridget and twirled for show. “What d’ya think?”
Bridget set the newspaper aside. “Fantastic,” she said breathlessly.
A satisfied smile was her reward as Franky strutted the rest of the way to the coffee pot. She poured herself a cup and, taking a croissant off the plate on the counter, Franky moved to the table to sit beside her.
“I’ve got good feelings about today, Gidge.” She tore a piece of the croissant off and popped it into her mouth.
“You’ll do great, baby.” Bridget smiled, but her tone was sad.
“Yeah, that’s a given.” She took another bite, and chewed it thoroughly before swallowing. “I mean the shit with the board.”
“Oh.” Bridget nodded. “I hope you’re right.”
“Trust me, Gidge. The universe feels just today.”
“Yeah, okay.” She nodded again and smiled.
Franky sat still just long enough to finish her coffee and croissant, and then she was moving about again. Bridget feigned interest in the paper to keep from staring at her, but also because she just wasn’t used to being the one that waited for her lover to come home. She felt distracted by her impending fate and the lack of control of her future was unsettling.
“C’mon,” Franky called from the entryway. “Give us a kiss.”
And with those simple words, Bridget was centered again. She padded to the door in her bare feet, still wrapped in a terry cloth robe and leaned into Franky’s side.
“Have a good day, baby,” she said, kissing Franky’s cheek.
Franky held her tightly with the grip of a boa constrictor. It was as if to say, “this will hold ya over till I get back” and Bridget smiled into her shoulder. Above all, she was proud. Proud of what Franky had accomplished in the short time she’d known her, proud to have been a part of her transformation, and proud to call Franky her girlfriend.
As she watched Franky drive away from her cozy corner in the neighborhood, Bridget continued to fret about how her day would unfold. She returned to her office inside the small bungalow she had called home for the past eight years. Sitting in the armchair alongside her desk, she let out a long sigh.
She’d spent years working with women who had lived difficult lives and whenever she faced hardship, she referred back to their stories to ground herself in a reality that was more life or death than the sink or swim of the rat race she often found herself in.
It was five minutes past nine when the ombudsman rang. It might not have been life or death, but Bridget Westfall was feeling the panic that came with both.
She stared into her bathroom mirror but it might as well have been oblivion because she didn’t see herself. Sure, she saw the lids and lashes she painted and the skin she primed with moisturizer and foundation, but the woman she was simply eluded her. Who was the supposedly venerable Bridget Westfall? Was she the woman who courted a prisoner at Wentworth or was she the woman who fell for a prisoner and tried her damnedest to avoid impropriety? Was she the one that would tell the truth, no matter what the cost or was she more likely to bend and fold the truth into an origami-like bird? She liked to believe she was still the honest and detached therapist she had skillfully been for the past twenty plus years, but part of her knew the truth. She’d changed.
And Franky had changed her. She’d shown her the thrill of bending the rules, throwing caution to the wind and simply enjoying life. In the pursuit of that, she’d forgotten that the golden rule of her profession still applied to her. She could justify it a million ways from Sunday but none of them solved the ethical quagmire she found herself in. She’d broken a very clear rule, and today she would receiver her punishment.
She wore her grey pantsuit with her favorite (and most comfortable) heels, she knew it didn’t matter which suit she wore, the ombudsman would take her statement, not read the labels on her designer clothing. And, as she stepped into the ombudsman’s office, she steeled herself against the nerves that roiled in her belly. She wasn’t the nervous sort, but she was up against a terrible potential outcome--the loss of her livelihood--and it seemed warranted.
“Ms. Westfall, thank you for coming in today.” He motioned to a chair in front of his desk and she sat on the edge of her seat.
“Absolutely, I want to get this cleared up.”
“Well, as you know it has been brought to the board’s attention that you have been having an affair with one of your former clients. My job has been to investigate the legitimacy of the claims and I’ve spoken to a number of your colleagues, including those involved with this issue when it originally was handled at Wentworth.”
Bridget listened to his words, but the preamble to her fate was uninteresting and she began to think about what her response would be when he told her that her career was over.
“To be honest, all of your colleagues spoke highly of you and the work that you do. However, I did have an obligation to look deeper. Now, Francesca Doyle was a client of yours at Wentworth, is that correct?
“Yes, she was.”
“Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship?”
“It was a working relationship. CBT, goal setting, and planning for her parole.”
“You referred her to another psychologist, is that correct?”
“Yes, I wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety so as not to disrupt her parole bid.”
“But there were rumors.”
“Yes, completely unfounded rumors.”
“But you resigned.” He pushed papers around on his desk and looked up at her, waiting for her response.
“Governor Ferguson threatened to withdraw Doyle’s parole application if I didn’t resign.”
“That’s a big sacrifice for a prisoner.”
“I’d spent weeks getting her to trust me in our sessions, I couldn’t in good conscience let her get caught in the bureaucratic crossfire.”
“You returned to your work at Wentworth after her parole, though.”
“Yes, Governor Bennett saw fit to rehire me.”
“I spoke to Governor Bennett. She verified your version of the events with Ferguson, she also claims she only saw you together after Doyle’s latest charges were dropped.”
Bridget remained silent, refusing to incriminate herself. His line of questioning was leading somewhere and she had to stay alert.
“I’ll admit I’m no good at math, but as near as I can figure it’s been about eighteen months since you were her therapist. You’re aware the regulation is twenty-four months?”
“Yes.” Bridget bowed her head and considered her next words carefully. Franky may have taught her to color outside the lines, but Bridget still struggled with monochromatic ideals. “I did not mean for any of this to happen, but it did and I accept whatever decision you hand down.”
“Ms. Westfall, from all accounts you are a capable therapist without a history that would lead me to believe this situation is a regular occurence. Because of that, I’m recommending you be suspended six months.”
Bridget blinked. “Six months?”
“The regulation clearly states no relations for two years. I cannot in good conscience hand down a punishment that exceeds that.” He smiled, scribbling something onto a scrap of paper. “I assume that’s okay?”
“Yes, absolutely.” Bridget smiled a little wider than she intended. She had a piss poor poker face.
He looked up from his writings. “Have a nice day, Ms. Westfall.”
She took the hint, though not a subtle one, and stood quickly thanking him for his time before leaving his office. She passed his secretary like a whirlwind, not looking back to exchange more meaningless pleasantries and walked briskly to her car.
She felt like she was fleeing the scene of a crime. God forbid, he flag her down and tell her he’d changed his mind, he’d take her license instead. As she sped away, she was overcome with a sense of her own freedom. Six months and no clients--it didn’t matter what it was called, it may as well have been the sabbatical she always wanted to take. Of course, it’d be much less exotic because Franky couldn’t leave the state. Fiji was out of the question, but every day felt like a vacation with Franky and, who was she kidding, one bed was very much like the next.
She wanted to phone Franky, to tell her the good news, but it was nearing rush hour and she couldn’t take her attention off the roads long enough to dial her mobile. So she navigated the gridlock with her heart in her chest, her love in her throat, and her lover on her mind.
Pulling into the laneway, she wasn’t surprised to see the lights on and Franky’s car on the street--she’d beat her home--but she was unprepared for the cacophony when she opened her home’s front door.
Franky was in the kitchen, pots bubbling away, sizzling pans in front of her, music blaring from the stereo in the lounge. She was dancing, moving fluidly between the refrigerator and stovetop, tossing ingredients into the pan and dancing back to her cutting board. The music was so loud that Franky didn’t hear her open the front door, nor drop her keys on the entry table, and she was in full “dance like nobody's watching” mode by the time Bridget was standing in the lounge, watching her performance.
She surmised that Franky must’ve had a good day by her flair. She was grinning like the cat that got the canary when Franky turned around to discover her watching the show.
“Shit, woman!” Franky exclaimed, turning the music down.
Bridget laughed--a good belly laugh--and set her purse on the chair beside her. “Did you have a good day, baby?”
“Mm,” Franky grunted. “Where’d you go?”
Bridget walked to the bottle of white wine sitting on the counter and poured herself a glass. She considered the honey-colored liquid in her fine stemware for a moment. “The ombudsman called.”
“Shit,” she said again. “What, did they want to interview or somethin’?”
“Yeah.” She nodded.
Franky scrunched her forehead. “Well what the fuck happened? Did you lose your license?”
“Nuh.” Another sip of the fine wine. “Suspended.”
“Oh, Gidge. I’m sorry.”
Franky looked at her with wide eyes. “What?”
“These past few months have been really tough and maybe a break--a real, honest to goodness vacation--from my practice might be best.”
“How long?” Bridget could hear the panic in her voice.
Franky’s grimace turned to a grin. “You’re fuckin’ kidding.”
Bridget shook her head. “Nuh.”
“Gidge, that’s fuckin’ unreal!” She walked to Bridget.
“I know. I think I owe my career to Vera. She could have sunk the whole thing.”
Her hands found Bridget’s waist. “Vinegar Tits? That is unreal.”
“Franky…” She resisted the urge to tell Franky to be nicer to Vera. She knew it must be horribly awkward for the pair outside the roles they played in prison.
“You’re happy, aren’t ya?” Franky looked at her with concern.
“Compared to losing my license? Of course, I am. But being sanctioned isn’t a fantastic career highlight.” She sipped her wine pensively.
“I survived prison, I think you’ll do fine during your six month stretch of house arrest.”
“I’m not under arrest.”
“Exactly.” Franky touched her nose with an index finger. “You’re free as a bird, Gidge.” Franky smiled at her and spun around, turning the music back up.
Bridget laughed at her effusive demeanor. She was back at the stove, tossing pans and stirring pots and singing along to a song Bridget had never heard before. This was her life and it was glorious. Franky tossed an effulgent smile over her shoulder and Bridget met it with a smile of her own.
“Go on and get washed up. Dinner’s almost ready.”
As Bridget walked down the hallway to her bedroom she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. Six months. She’d have time. Time to read, time to relax, time to love. She loved her job but she’d not had a vacation in years, squirreling away money for the “someday” that never came. She’d planned and planned but when the time came, she’d always opted for a “staycation” to catch up on work and care for her home. Now, she had nothing but time--check that--she had Franky and all the time in the world. And that was all she needed.
Thank you for reading! It's been a wild ride. I've been writing fanfiction for 20+ years and I had never written a WIP before this so I'm actually shocked that I plotted a whole story! I hope you all have enjoyed reading. Until we meet again, fair friends.