“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Bridget Westfall was not a sap or a hopeless romantic, but when Franky showed up looking like diamonds and dollars, thrusting a bouquet of roses into her hand, she actually felt weak in the knees. It had been a long week even though it was only Wednesday, and Bridget honestly couldn’t say for certain when the last time they’d seen each other was.
Franky was still living at the sad, little bedsit, having moved out sometime ago. Her “living on her own two feet” experiment was just beginning and Bridget missed her with a ferocious need.
“God, you’re a sight, aren’t you?” Bridget sighed, smiling at Franky. She stared at her for a moment, sizing her and the situation up.
“I try,” Franky replied with a mischievous grin. Franky peered over Bridget’s shoulder. “You gonna invite me in?”
Bridget hesitated. “I’m afraid it’s a school night, kid. Bridget can’t come out to play.”
“C’mon, Gidge, I brought flowers.”
Bridget sighed. “Baby, I wish I could but--”
Franky took a step back. “That’s great.”
“You could have called…” She regretted it as soon as it came out of her mouth.
“And miss all this?”
She was halfway down the walkway when she stopped, still refusing to turn around. “What?”
“Have you eaten?”
“I’ll pass. Really not up for a pity fuck.”
“Franky…” Bridget said as the brunette shook her head and started walking toward her car again. “Franky, hey, come on…” She called after her.
Bridget heard the car door and engine rev as she drove off into the distance and quickly returned to the house to retrieve her car keys. In a blink, she was back settling in to the little grey Volkswagon’s driver’s seat and speeding off after Franky.
She drove into the city, figuring Franky would return to stew in her little slice of home at the bedsit but when she got there, Franky’s car was nowhere to be seen. Maybe she had read the situation wrong. After finding parking on the street, Bridget used her illegal key and breached Franky’s inner sanctum.
She had a key, despite not being on the contract, obviously, but she imagined it being more ‘in case of emergency’ than anything else. But a fight with her lover on supposedly the most romantic night of the year, was as good as any emergency in recent memory for Bridget to enter her oh-so humble abode.
No longer smelling of mold and bug bombs and that awful stench of old crimes and new paint, the small room thankfully smelled like Franky now--her musk and her perfume, leaving a light floral note on Bridget’s palate. She dropped her keys on the counter beside the door and walked slowly into the space. Franky’s black hoodie was draped over one of two mismatched chairs, the other having a stack of files on its seat. She must’ve dropped her work straight after quitting time, readied herself for a night out and gone to Bridget’s.
That sinking feeling in her gut was guilt and right then it felt like the Titanic. She sighed and poked at the newspaper on the tiny table that sat half on tile, half on carpet and advanced towards the small, but comfortable-looking lounge. She sunk into its quilt-covered cushions and sighed, checking the time.
Maybe Franky was eating dinner for two at a three-star restaurant by herself because she had been so obtuse. Bridget leaned back into the lounge and sighed again. As time went on, she found herself poking around the bathroom, picking up Franky’s laundry from the floor and tidying up, before staring at herself in Franky’s vanity mirror for what seemed like hours, but in reality it only amounted to ten minutes.
An hour passed and Bridget was curled on the couch, shoes abandoned by the coffee table, quilt thrown over her in spite of the February heat already trapped inside the bedsit. She’d had a shitty week, her work sat on her dining table back home, and Franky was gone to parts unknown so resting while she had the chance seemed as solid an idea as any other.
She awoke to Franky’s keys clattering on the counter next to hers. Bridget sat up, eyes meeting Franky’s momentarily before Franky turned away, setting a take away box onto the miniature dining table.
“Thought you had work to do,” she said callously.
“I didn’t want to leave things the way we left them,” Bridget said, her voice scratchy from sleep. “Franky, I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Franky held up her hands defensively. “I’m fine. I picked up something for dinner, so I’m set.”
Bridget rubbed her forehead. “It didn’t even register that it was Valentine’s day…”
“I’ll give ya more notice next time. I mean the month and a half the greeting card company gives is clearly not enough.”
“I’ve just been in my head.” Bridget stood. “A lot on my mind.”
She softened. “I just wanted to take you out.”
“You did manage to get me out. I’m here, aren’t I?” She tilted her head to the side and smiled before walking to meet Franky.
Franky scrunched her lips. “You hate it here.”
“That is not true.” Bridget came to stand in front of her.
“You said it smells.”
“Right. I retract my earlier statement, then. Smells good, but that food smells better...” She moved toward the container on the table.
“Not so fast.” Franky said with a smile, stepping between Bridget and the take away container. “You think I’m just going to share my dinner with you?”
Bridget laughed. “Yeah... “
“You should have called. I would have picked something up for you,” Franky said, stirring the proverbial pot further.
“Okay.” Bridget nodded. She wasn’t in the mood for one of Franky’s reactions, so she played along. “I’ll just get going then.”
Bridget was three feet from the door, extending her hand for the doorknob when Franky spoke again.
“You came all this way,” she said. “You might as well stay for a drink.”
She stopped, hand recoiling from the doorknob and to her side.
The shine on their love had gone a bit hazy. Happily ever after was a fairytale, but their love was more precious than any gem ever unearthed and Bridget worked hard at keeping them both happy. Lately, however, she’d been distracted with work and a particularly troubled client that had been on her mind. She’d seen her own psychotherapist to deal with the impact on herself, but something darker lingered. She was changed and Franky felt it, too. Bridget no longer had the energy to be the selfless partner Franky had been spoiled by before, and after tonight Bridget was worried that Franky would think it was something she had done.
She returned to sit at the small table, as Franky prepared their drinks. When she stood at the table in front of Bridget, they exchanged a look that said ‘now what?’ and Bridget looked at the glass of ruby liquid quizzically.
“It’s cordial. Can’t have alcohol on parole,” she said, as if she needed to remind the blonde.
“Right,” Bridget said with a smile. “Cheers.” She extended her arm to toast her host and then sipped the sweet liquid.
“What are we doing here, Gidge?” Franky said, tapping her fingernail on the small table across from Bridget.
“Having a glass of cordial.” She smiled, taking another sip from her glass.
Franky moved the stack of files from the seat of the opposing chair to the floor and sat down across from her. “You know what I mean.”
“I’ve been distant,” she sighed.
“Captain Obvious strikes again,” Franky said bitterly.
“I can’t talk about it, you know that.”
“You need to talk to someone, Gidge.”
“Talk some more, because I miss you.”
She thought she was holding it together--she thought wrong. Franky had seen through all the late night calls that had been their only contact in the past week. She recognized the distance and unease in Bridget’s voice, even now.
Bridget nodded and sipped her cordial thoughtfully. “Never thought you’d be the one counseling me.”
Franky smirked. “I’m just as surprised as you are, believe me.”
“I’m sorry, that didn’t come out right.”
“Hungry?” Franky asked, opening the take away container. There was an awkward pause between them before Bridget nodded. “Then you should eat.”
Franky retrieved a pair of forks from the kitchenette and returned to her seat, holding the implement out to Bridget. Taking the fork from her hand, Bridget smiled before diving into the pile of noodles with it. Franky speared a forkful of noodles and slurped them indelicately into her mouth.
“In Japan, the noisier the mouthful, the greater compliment to the chef,” Franky said wiping her mouth.
Bridget looked to Franky as she slurped her noodles reluctantly at first, growing louder and prouder, and finally giggling as she chewed the mouthful..
“Not bad,” Franky grinned, dimples creasing her cheeks.
Together, they emptied the take away container quickly, lightening the mood with laughter as they slurped up the rest of Franky’s dinner for one. As Franky cleaned up after dinner, Bridget looked at her expectantly.
“Can I stay tonight?” Bridget practically blurted.
“What about your work?” Franky was still burned from being rejected earlier and Bridget knew not to take the bait.
Bridget shook her head, placing her hand on Franky’s. “This is more important.”
Franky smiled. “Help me with the pull-out.”
“Darling, I think that’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.” Bridget chortled.
The metal creaked noisily as the bed unfurled from within the lounge. The mattress was lumpy and well worn but soon Franky was snapping fresh sheets in the air above the bed and making it swiftly with Bridget’s help. As Franky laid the quilt over the sheets, Bridget began to undress slowly, eyes fixed on her. When Franky looked up, Bridget was in her underwear.
“Jesus, Gidge. Give a girl a heart attack, why don’tcha?”
She smiled coyly. “I didn’t want to get wrinkled.”
“Defs not,” Franky agreed, walking to her. “I feel overdressed.”
“Have I told you how good you look tonight?”
“Nuh.” She tried to play it cool, but her lips curled into a wicked grin.
“You look smashing,” Bridget said, lips brushing Franky’s earlobe.
Franky’s head fell back, laughing at the flaking ceiling as her hands gripped Bridget’s waist. Sighing, Franky leveled her gaze on Bridget, fingers caressing her cheek. “I love ya,” she said, and Bridget knew that she meant it.
Before Bridget could make a declaration of love in return, Franky kissed her. It was like she knew Bridget needed to hear it then, more than Franky needed to be reassured herself. She was so intuitive and she had caught on so fast, Bridget didn’t feel like a Svengali, but part of her wondered where either one would be without the other.
“No,” she smiled against Franky’s shoulder..
Taking a step backwards, Franky slipped out of her clothes, one piece at a time as Bridget climbed into bed. Inhaling the sweet smell of Franky in her pillows, Bridget pulled the quilt up to her chin and watched Franky, in her underwear, walk to the light switch near the entry and click it off.
It was dark--shoebox-in-a-closet-dark--and Bridget’s eyes struggled to adjust fast enough to watch Franky return in all her barely-clothed glory. It was a strange sort of void as it wasn’t accompanied by the usual silence that one might expect. Instead, she could hear the street noise down below and the thudding of her own heart in her head.
The lumpy mattress sank beneath her weight as Franky crawled into bed beside her. She felt safe in Franky’s embrace, her lackings patched over by Franky and vice versa. Even now, when Bridget knew she was on the brink of a deep, dark depression, Franky was there to temper her with love.
Hands on either side of Franky’s face, Bridget kissed her. “You are one of a kind.”
“I know you’re not just realizing that now…” Franky kissed her back.
“No…” She sighed against Franky’s lips. “I knew the first time we met.”
Franky laughed. “Nuh. No way. You can’t fib on Valentine’s day.”
“I”m not,” she said defensively, running a finger along Franky’s bottom lip.
“Shut up. You are too.”
She could barely make out Franky grinning in the darkness. Their love was well-worn, but no longer hazy.
“You are very loveable, baby.”
“Show me.” Franky kissed her again
There were moments in time she’d always remember and their first, and most disastrous Valentine’s day was one of them. That night, on the lumpy mattress of a pull-out sofa, they made love. Their lust wasn’t new nor the fire between them, but Franky held her as no other had ever dared--carefully and considerately--and Bridget felt cherished in her arms. Perhaps it was because they had been virtual strangers for the week leading up to Valentine’s day, or that it was Valentine’s day itself, but the heat between the women remained undaunted. Franky loved her and Bridget felt it in every kiss and caress. As she cried out into the darkness, hugging Franky to her breast, Bridget felt the cloud begin to dissipate. Even in the darkest times they’d ever weathered together, Bridget knew there would be light again.