“Finally,” Serena said with relief as they drew up outside the small bed and breakfast that HR had booked them into for the duration of the conference.
Bernie checked her watch. “Time to check in and then go and find something to eat, I think?”
“Fish and chips?” Serena asked, then laughed when Bernie grinned. “What can I say, I’m used to Jason’s schedule now, and it’s fish and chips night.”
They grabbed their bags and headed in to the small, welcoming, house. “You must be Ms Campbell. I’m Mrs Jones,” the woman at the desk said. “You’re the last to check in today, and you’ve got our last room.” She drew a key out and pushed it over to Serena, then glanced at Bernie standing a little way behind her. “Oh! I didn’t know that you were – well. None of my business and of course it’s all fine these days, isn’t it?” she said brightly.
“What – what’s fine?” Bernie asked slowly.
“Everything,” the woman smiled. “It must be nice. Sometimes I think I’d have done better finding myself a wife. My husband always leaves his socks on the floor,” she continued in chagrined tones.
“Serena!” Bernie hissed, but Serena waved her off.
“I never have to worry about that with Bernie,” Serena said.
“Your room is top of the stairs to the right. Just let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks!” Serena said, and headed off up the stairs with Bernie trailing reluctantly behind her.
“Why didn’t you tell her the truth?” Bernie asked as Serena unlocked their room door.
“Oh I don’t know.” Serena’s eyes were bright as she smiled at Bernie. “Fun to pretend to be on the other team for a change. Although given the state of our office, I think socks on the floor might be the least of my worries.”
Bernie laughed and dropped her bag, eyed the room appreciatively. “It’s a step up from the usual travelodge isn’t it?” Her gaze lingered on the large double bed in the middle of the room. Sharing a bed with Serena had not factored in to her plans for this conference. But it was a very large bed, and she was used to sleeping on a tiny narrow bunk.
“Lovely views too.” Serena was leaning out of the window. “I can see the sea! And I can see at least three fish and chip shops.” As if on cue, her stomach rumbled.
Bernie smiled at her fondly. If there was anybody she didn’t mind inexplicably pretending to be dating, it was Serena. “Come on you, let’s go and get you some dinner.”
They left the B and B, a cheerfully waving Mrs Jones seeing them off, and wandered the short distance to the sea front.
“There’s certainly a lot of choice,” Bernie said. “Where shall we try?”
“The Codfather?” Serena pointed at the one nearest.
“Sounds good to me.”
They acquired their fish and chips without drama, laughed a little over the jar of pickled eggs. “Are you sure you don’t want to get one? It is a Jason tradition, after all,” Bernie teased Serena.
“I’ll leave those delights to him,” Serena shuddered. “I like my cod and chips unadulterated, thank you.”
Cartons in hand, they wandered down the front till they found some seats with a good view out to the bay.
“That’s more like it,” Bernie sighed as they sat down. “Isn’t it nice to have a break?”
“I’m not sure I’d call a trauma conference ‘a break’,” Serena said, stabbing a chip, “but I know what you mean.”
They ate in silence for a few minutes and Bernie enjoyed the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, and the faint tingling that always prickled her skin when Serena was close by.
“It’s good to get some time with you too,” she said. “I feel like we’ve been ships in the night for weeks now. It’s no way to run a ward.”
“No way to be friends, either,” Serena said, leaning in to her briefly.
Bernie let herself enjoy the momentary contact. “No,” she agreed. “I want to see you for more than a ten minute handover at the end of a shift.” She paused, nibbled her lip, before carrying on. “I’ve missed you.”
“Likewise,” Serena said. “We’ll have to sort the next rota out a bit better.”
As the sun set, they finished their meals, threw their empty cartons away in the bin, and strolled leisurely along the pier and then back through the town to the B and B.
“It’s a pity the conference building isn’t on the front, isn’t it,” Serena said. “It would be lovely to pop out between lectures and sit on the sand.”
“There’ll be time after it. And we could always skip a few lectures.”
“Berenice Wolfe! Skipping classes? This is not what I expected from you!”
Bernie held her hands up. “Sorry Miss!”
Serena laughed. “Maybe if there’s something very dull...”
It was late when they got back to their room and the bright light was dazzling after the dark streets. Bernie emptied her case rapidly and haphazardly into half of the chest of drawers, then straightened to see Serena frowning at her phone. “What’s wrong?”
“I wanted to check the schedule for tomorrow, but I can’t connect to the wifi.” She dived over to the stack of information that had been provided in the room and flicked through it. “I can’t seem to find anything… back in a moment.”
She’d disappeared before Bernie had a chance to mention she’d printed out the schedule already, two copies of it, in fact. Bernie shrugged to herself and commandeered one side of the bed. She’d put her book on the table and her phone on to charge when Serena arrived, looking highly disconcerted.
“There’s no wifi!”
“At all?” Bernie looked blank.
“Who runs a B and B with no wifi?” Serena sat down crossly.
“I did print out the schedules,” Bernie offered.
“But what about everything else?” Serena said. “Keeping in touch with work, and finding a good place for coffee, and mindlessly browsing the internet for entertainment?”
Bernie poked her. “Are you saying I’m not good entertainment? But, yes. It does seem odd. What about data?”
Serena wandered over to the window and held her phone up. “Nothing! What about you? You’re on a different network, aren’t you?”
Bernie picked her phone back up and lay wearily down on the bed. She flicked through the settings until she could find the mobile data button. “No, nothing,” she said, resignedly, and rolled over. A line appeared. “Wait! I’ve got a tiny bit, here.”
Serena prowled around the room, holding her phone in front of her. Bernie swallowed down her laughter; Serena was far too upset to be laughed at.
“Nothing anywhere,” Serena groaned.
“Do you mind if I take a shower?” Bernie climbed slowly off the bed.
“No, go for it.” Serena lay down herself. “I knew I should have brought a book.”
Bernie gathered a change of clothes together, aware from the prickling on the back of her neck that Serena was watching her. She’d closed the door of the en-suite when she heard a cry, and ran hastily back into the room.
“Serena! What’s wrong?!”
Serena was lying precisely where Bernie had been a minute ago, clutching her phone in triumph. “I’ve got signal!”
Bernie relaxed and leaned against the door frame, let herself laugh. “Good! Now, I’ll have that shower.”
Bernie never took long in the shower, stayed just long enough to get clean and to let some of the warmth relax her bones. She dried herself quickly and pulled on her pyjamas, grateful that she had been prepared at least to share a room with Serena, if not a bed. She’d bought a short sleeve tshirt and trousers specially for the occasion, not wanting to inflict her comfy, if tattered, old set on Serena’s more fastidious tastes.
Serena was flicking through something on her phone when Bernie slipped back into their bedroom. She looked up. “My turn? Won’t be too long, promise.”
Bernie nodded and slipped into bed. Her book was long and dry and she wanted to surprise Serena in the morning, so she turned on her phone data, shuffled over to the middle of the bed to find that one precious patch of signal, and googled local coffee places.
By the time Serena had finished in the shower, Bernie had found a likely bakery, replaced her phone on the bedside table and started to drift off to sleep. She registered Serena’s presence in the bed as it dipped and squeaked, and rolled over.
Serena was smiling at her fondly. “You know, I wouldn’t share a bed with just anybody,” she said, and Bernie blinked at her sleepily.
“Ric snores, and I have it on good authority that Dom turns into an octopus. Arms and legs everywhere.”
Bernie snorted. “I’m glad I’m the best of a bad bunch,” she said. She burrowed her head further into her pillow. “Night, Serena.”
Bernie slept well, woke slowly in the morning to the feeling of somebody pressed up right against her. It took her a moment to realise it must be Serena, and then her heart jumped. She was so warm, so comfortable. Bernie tried not to move too much, didn’t want to wake her, but then there was a tut beside her and she realised Serena was already awake too. She rolled over to find herself looking at Serena’s phone.
The phone lowered. “Oh, morning Bernie. Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“It’s okay,” Bernie mumbled, “I was waking anyway.” Serena looked unfairly beautiful; hair tousled and lips free of lipstick. “What are you doing?”
“Trying to find the g spot. It’s ever so small, you know.”
“The – the what?” Bernie’s brain stuttered.
Serena’s eyes lit up mischievously. “The g spot. To get 3g signal.”
“Right… Well, I suppose it’s time we got up. Breakfast and then up to the conference. And I’ve found a detour you’ll like.”
“It’s not a longer walk, is it?” Serena said suspiciously.
“Only a little longer,” Bernie said, “And I promise it’ll be worth it.”
“Good thing I trust you Wolfe.” Serena clambered out of bed and Bernie hastily averted her eyes from the vest that revealed a large expanse of Serena’s chest. “Let’s get dressed and get going then.”
Breakfast was a full English, which Bernie devoured and Serena pushed around her plate. “I’m just not much of a one for fried food first thing,” she said. “Never mind, I’ll find something later.”
“Morning ladies,” Mrs Jones said as they headed out. “Did you have a good night?”
“Oh yes,” Serena said happily. “Only problem is the g spot is a bit hard to find, but we managed.”
“The g spot?” Mrs Jones frowned. “I always thought the good thing about being one of you people was women found it much more easily than men. Oh well,” she shrugged. “I’m glad you got there in the end.”
Bernie, bright red and more embarrassed than she’d been in years, possibly ever, nodded briefly, caught Serena’s elbow and dragged her out of the house. “Did you have to?”
Serena laughed. “Your face, Bernie! You look mortified!”
“I am mortified,” Bernie groaned, “What possessed you?”
“What, do you not think I’d be a good catch?”
“I’d be perfectly good at finding your g spot if I was your girlfriend,” Bernie retorted, “I’ve had no complaints in that department.” Then she realised what she’d said and flushed even redder. “Right, well. Let’s – let’s just go.” She turned and stalked off in the direction of the bakery that she’d found, although she was rethinking whether Serena deserved a treat or not.
“Bernie, wait!” Serena hastened to catch up with her. “You’re not really cross with me are you?” Her voice was so tentative that Bernie melted.
“Of course I’m not. Just maybe next time don’t imply we’re bad in bed, alright?”
“That’s a promise,” Serena agreed. “Now, where are you taking me?”
“It’s not far, and I’m not saying till we’re there.” Bernie led Serena through the narrow streets of the town, until a tantalising aroma hinted at their destination. “There you go,” she pointed. “The best bakery in the town, according to trip advisor. And they do croissants. My treat.”
“Oh Bernie.” Serena sped into A handful of buns and Bernie followed, laughing to herself.
“Are you having one too?” Serena asked as she pored over the display.
“Might as well, seeing as I’m here,” Bernie said. Despite the large plate of breakfast she’d had, she was sure she could find room for baked goods that looked as good as these did.
“Two chocolate croissants please,” Serena said to the girl behind the counter, “And two cups of coffee.”
“Strong and hot?” Bernie murmured to Serena.
“Americano with milk, please,” Serena said to the girl, ignoring Bernie’s remark.
“I’m paying,” Bernie proffered her card, “Although you don’t really deserve it, after that remark to Mrs Jones.”
“Oh, you’ve forgiven me that,” Serena said easily. She took their coffee and pastries and passed Bernie hers, once Bernie had stowed her purse.
“Thanks. Forgiven, but not forgotten. Isn’t that the phrase?” Bernie took a sip of coffee. “Ah, that’s good. Right, off we go to the conference then.”
They left the shop and Serena stared wistfully in the direction of the sea front. “I wish we were here on holiday,” she said. “What about skipping the conference?”
“You’ve changed your tune, you were shocked at the idea yesterday.”
“I know what I’m missing now.”
“I think even you would struggle to spend an entire day eating pastries and drinking coffee.”
“I’m up for the challenge!” Serena said, then laughed. “Come on then, let’s go and learn all about trauma.”
“Maybe we’ll come back here another time for a holiday,” Bernie said, words leaving her mouth before she could think.
Serena looked at her and for a second Bernie’s brain was sheer panic. But then Serena smiled. “Maybe.”
The conference was in a university building at the top of the hill just outside the main town, and it had beautiful views of the bay. When they reached the top they stood for a second, side by side, staring out at the view.
“It’s lovely,” Bernie said quietly. Serena was standing right next to her, their elbows brushing they were so close. The warmth of it sent tingles through Bernie. She allowed herself a moment or two to luxuriate, then sighed. “Better go in.”
The conference was busy. They signed in and got their name badges and Serena made a dart for the coffee table.
“You’ll be swimming in it,” Bernie said, eyeing her as she poured herself a large cup.
“It’s what I function on. But never tell any of my F1s that, will you?”
“Your secret is safe with me, you know that.”
Before too long they were called into the main hall for the opening speech, and Bernie tried to forget about the tantalising closeness of Serena, and concentrate on what was being said.
After the first talk they’d signed up for different sessions.
“See you at lunch?” Bernie said as Serena stood to go to her next talk.
“Of course,” Serena said. Then she leant forward and brushed a bit of hair carefully out of Bernie’s face, tucked it behind her ear. “Um – enjoy your talk.” She hastened away, leaving Bernie staring after her and wondering what had just happened.
Bernie thoroughly enjoyed the morning talks. She’d learnt some things and added to the discussion. A few people had recognised her name and accorded her a deference that she never looked for but found mildly gratifying nonetheless. Too much coffee meant she had to nip to the ladies before she headed to lunch to find Serena, and she was a little late to meet her.
Serena was in conversation with a couple of other doctors when Bernie approached.
“Your partner is very talented,” one of the women said. “But is it very difficult working with your girlfriend?”
“Oh not at all,” Serena said, leaving Bernie dumbstruck and silent behind her. “Of course we have our differences, but we never let things carry over to our home life.”
“It must be wonderful,” the other woman sighed. “I’d love to have the sort of connection with somebody that you two have.”
At this point, Bernie forced herself to move. “Hello,” she said, forcing normality into her voice, “Here you are.”
“Oh, Bernie!” Serena turned and Bernie wondered whether she was reading too much into the happiness on her face, “I was just telling these ladies about how good it is working together.”
Bernie stuck her hands in her pockets and managed a smile. “I thought you hated how messy I am?”
“Well, that’s true. And you don’t do as much paperwork as you could. But that’s beside the point when we’re in theatre together.”
“We are a good team,” Bernie said, thinking back to the many difficult surgeries that had been made easier by having Serena across the table.
“I’m jealous,” the first woman said, “But we’ll leave you to each other. Maybe we’ll see you later?” She waved and then Bernie and Serena were left alone.
“Serena,” Bernie said carefully, “I heard – they thought we were together?”
“They assumed, and I didn’t disabuse them.” Serena stared at the ground and then back up at Bernie. “Do you mind?”
Bernie’s stomach flipped. “Not at all. I’d be lucky to have you,” she said, unable to conceal the honesty in her voice. “It will stop you getting asked out by all the eligible gentlemen though, if they hear we’re together.” She managed a small laugh.
“That had occurred to me,” Serena admitted, “But I hadn’t thought of the reverse. I’ll be keeping you from meeting someone.”
“I don’t want to meet anyone, Serena.” She paused a moment. “Well, shall we go and find lunch?” she offered Serena her arm and when Serena slipped her hand through, held on to her, Bernie thought she’d never felt anything so natural in her life. If Serena was making her her girlfriend for the weekend, she’d make the most of it.
When they met up at the end of the day, Serena was yawning. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said as she yawned almost in Bernie’s face. “It’s all this sitting and listening and no coffee on offer this afternoon.”
“How about a walk before we find dinner?” Bernie suggested. “We could walk down the sea front until we find somewhere that looks good?”
“Sounds good to me."
They were half way down the hill before Bernie noticed that Serena’s arm had slipped through hers. It felt so natural, like breathing. She pressed her hand against Serena’s briefly and smiled at the gentle response she got back.
The sea air was refreshing after a day of papers and seminars, and they strolled leisurely along the sea front, listening to the crash of the waves and the shrieks of children playing on the shingle. Their conversation was quiet and unhurried, a comfortableness born of months of working closely, of being best friends.
They found a little Italian at the far end of the bay with views out to the sea and ate and drank and watched the sunset. Bernie, watching Serena’s sparkling eyes and ready smiles, wondered how she could ever leave this conference behind her.
It was late when they finally returned reluctantly to their accommodation. Bernie took the first shower and was back out in no time. She tucked herself up in bed as Serena left for her own wash, dug out her phone and wriggled into the best spot to get signal. She hadn’t expected much and was slightly stunned to see an email from Cameron. She opened it, hoping it wasn’t bad news, and read through it slowly.
She was so engrossed that she didn’t even notice Serena’s return to the room, till she slipped in beside her.
“Is everything okay, Bernie?”
Bernie jumped and turned on to her side. “Oh – Serena. It’s Cameron.” Despite herself her voice quavered.
“Nothing wrong, I hope?” Serena propped herself up on her elbow.
“No, the opposite. He’s,” Bernie breathed out slowly and let herself smile. “He’s going back to med school.”
“Oh Bernie!” Serena dropped down with a thump and pulled Bernie close in a tight hug. “I’m so happy for both of you.”
“I’m so thankful he’s decided on his path finally,” Bernie said softly. Serena’s arm was around her waist and her thumb was drawing circles on her hip and Bernie could barely breathe with the thrill of it.
“He just needed his time to get there,” Serena murmured.
Her eyes met Bernie’s for a moment and Bernie’s heart turned over. Then Serena gave her a little squeeze and let go. “It’s late and we have to be up early again. We’d better go to sleep.”
“You’re right,” Bernie agreed. But when Serena turned onto her side, and for long after Serena’s breathing had become slow and gentle, Bernie lay awake, thinking of the feel of Serena’s arm in hers and the sparkle in her eyes and the way it felt so perfect, going to sleep next to her.
Bernie woke in the morning to Serena snuggled into her and for a few moments she lay still and indulged in the daydream that they were together. Then she rolled over and, to her surprise, made eye contact with Serena instead of her phone. “Morning,” she said quietly.
There was a slight flush to Serena’s cheeks that only made her look more beautiful. “Morning. I was – um – checking my phone and then I went back to sleep accidentally. Sorry.” Serena fished out her phone from the dip in the duvet between them.
“It’s fine,” Bernie said, wondering why she was apologising. She stretched and sighed. “It’s such a comfy bed. I’m going to miss it when I’m home.”
“You could buy yourself a better quality of mattress, you know,” Serena suggested.
“I should, I suppose.” Bernie stared up at the ceiling. “It just always seems such a hassle, just for me.”
“You deserve nice things too.” There was a soft touch on her hand and Bernie looked down to see Serena’s hand covering her own. Serena’s thumb stroked over hers and Bernie forced herself to stay very still. There were a few moments of silence. “I mean it, Bernie,” Serena said, and with a gentle squeeze she withdrew. “I suppose we’d better get up,” she added, in a matter of fact tone.
“Breakfast, and on to the conference.”
“By the bakery?” Serena wheedled.
Bernie sat up and grinned down at her. “By the bakery. I wouldn’t dream of depriving you of your baked goods.”
“How was your night?” Mrs Jones called to them as they left.
“Excellent,” Serena said. “Practice makes perfect.”
The door closed behind them and Bernie groaned. “You’re making us sound insatiable. What is she going to think of us?”
“She’s going to think we’re a lovely lesbian couple who have an active sex life,” Serena said. “Where’s the problem in that?”
Bernie watched her saunter down the garden path. “The problem is that it’s entirely fictional,” she muttered to herself, before hastening to catch her up.
They detoured past the bakery and walked slowly up the hill, eating their croissants as they went.
“I wonder what delights today has in store for us,” Serena pondered as the conference building came into view.
“Just try and stay awake for them,” Bernie suggested. “Hansen won’t be impressed if you sleep your way through this very expensive conference.”
“I only yawned a bit yesterday,” Serena protested, “And they were clearly saving money, booking one room for the two of us, and a double at that. Anyway, if you’re that worried you can sit next to me and pinch me if I look like I’m falling asleep.”
“I thought we were supposed to be mature professionals, not teenagers falling asleep at the back of the lecture theatre,” Bernie said with a laugh. “Lucky for you we’re in the same sessions today. No falling asleep for you, Campbell.”
“Come on then, let’s go and learn.”
“That was a good day,” Serena said, hours later, as they walked thankfully into the late afternoon sun.
“A good conference,” Bernie agreed. “Are we going to go for the closing drinks?” It wasn’t something that appealed to her particularly, but Serena was generally quite interested in anything involving alcohol. To her surprise, Serena shook her head.
“If you don’t mind, I’d rather have a quiet evening.”
Bernie’s heart skipped. “Of course I don’t mind. Walk, dinner and an early night?”
“That sounds perfect.” Serena stopped abruptly on the path and Bernie turned back to her. “It’s – I know we should be networking,” she said, and the flush that Bernie remembered from the morning returned to her cheeks, “But it’s so nice to spend some time, just us.”
Bernie smiled. “It is.” She offered Serena her arm and smiled when Serena slipped her hand through it. “Come on Campbell. A nice quiet evening awaits.”
There was a hail from the other side of the street and they recognised a couple of women from the conference. “Are you two coming out?” one called.
“Did that years ago!” Serena shouted in reply and Bernie tripped over her feet and nearly brought them both down.
“Serena!” she muttered.
“Careful there, Bernie.” Serena patted her arm as their friends laughed.
“We’re going to have a quiet evening together,” Bernie said, when she’d found her tongue again. “Hope you both have fun.”
“You too, have a nice date!” the other woman said, and then they disappeared down a side street.
Serena’s fingers tightened on Bernie’s arm and Bernie sighed to herself. If only, she thought. If only.
They paid a brief visit to the B and B to freshen up and change, and then strolled slowly down to the sea front. Serena was wearing one of Bernie’s favourite blouses and she could barely keep her eyes off her, had to force herself to pay attention to where she was walking. They ended up at the same Italian they’d eaten at the night before and the waiter, recognising them, ushered them to a secluded table with views of the bay, produced a candle for the table and lit it with a flourish.
“Shiraz?” Bernie suggested, after scanning the wine menu.
“You know me well,” Serena said, and their eyes held briefly.
“Anybody who’s known you thirty seconds knows that,” Bernie retorted after a minute, trying to settle the odd butterflies in her stomach.
“I’m a woman of simple tastes.”
They shared a bottle, drank it slowly while enjoying their pasta. Bernie watched Serena twirl the long ribbons of pasta elegantly around her fork and wondered how it was that even such a simple action could reduce her to hopeless pining.
“Another?” Bernie suggested when the first bottle was gone.
Serena shook her head. “I think that’s enough for me tonight.” She looked across at Bernie and for the life of her, Bernie couldn’t read the expression on her face. “Shall we go for a walk?”
Bernie was tired, but she couldn’t say no to Serena. “Along the beach?”
It was growing dark now and the lights of the town shimmered in the still, dark waters of the bay. They wandered slowly along the sand, every atom of Bernie itching to take Serena’s hand, but knowing she couldn’t.
Above them, the stars were beginning to come out. Serena stopped and gazed up. “You know, it’s not often I get the chance to have an evening like this,” she said wistfully.
“Let’s sit down for a bit,” Bernie suggested impulsively, “Do some stargazing. Look, there’s a bench up there. How about it?”
They made their way back up the beach. The bench was cold but Bernie barely noticed, not with Serena sitting right up against her, and the stars shining above them.
“I missed them,” she said, into the quiet. “When I was in Afghanistan. The stars are so bright there, it’s amazing. But they’re not our stars. Sometimes it made me feel even further from home.”
“Oh Bernie.” Serena leant into her.
“Only on the bad days. I did love it out there, you know. But the days when I was missing the kids...” she sighed and stared up. “It was harder.”
“You’re home now.”
Bernie smiled. “I am. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.” She glanced at Serena and warmth rushed through her at Serena’s smile. Then Serena shivered.
“Sorry,” she murmured, “Getting cold.”
“Here.” Bernie didn’t think, shrugged off her jacket and swung it round Serena’s shoulders. “I don’t need it,” she said, as Serena began to protest, “I run warm.”
“Well, thank you.” Serena pulled it around herself.
“You look good in it.” Bernie was thankful for the dark that hid her blush. “Do you know any of the constellations?” she asked, looking for safer ground.
Serena shook her head. “Not really. I can point out Orion and I know the dippers. You?”
“I know a few. Cam was into stargazing for a while and I tried to learn a bit so I could talk to him about it.”
“You’re a good mum,” Serena said, leaning into Bernie’s side again.
“I tried,” Bernie said, with a small laugh. “Anyway, I can tell you that that,” she pointed up, “is Sagittarius, and if you look over there,” she nudged Serena to look towards the west of the bay, “that is Coma Berenices. Cam made me learn that one because of the name. He says it’s my constellation.”
“Well, it is. What does it mean?”
Bernie snorted. “Berenice’s hair.”
Serena reached up and twisted one of Bernie’s curls in her fingers. “That’s nice. I like that she had such great hair that a constellation was named after it.”
The feeling of Serena’s fingers in her hair was making Bernie’s heart pound painfully. “She cut it off,” she managed, proud of the steadiness of her voice, “as an offering to the gods for the safe return of her husband from war.”
“She had a husband? That spoils it a bit.”
Serena’s fingers finally slipped from her hair and Bernie felt bereft. “It does a bit.” She squinted at her watch to make out the time. “Serena, it’s incredibly late. We ought to get back before Mrs Jones sends out a search party.”
Serena sighed. “I suppose we’d better. Come on then Berenice, let’s get back.”
“If you start calling me Berenice, I’ll have to pull out the Wendy,” Bernie joked as she helped Serena up.
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Try me.” Bernie grinned at the indignant sound Serena made. Even if her feelings were unrequited, she would always treasure their friendship.
The dark streets were quiet and it felt like they were the only two people awake as they made their way through the town and back to the bed and breakfast.
“At least she hasn’t locked up completely,” Bernie murmured as she opened the door and they slipped quietly through.
“Probably knows all about doctors and late nights at the end of conferences.”
The rest of the house was silent as they tiptoed up the stairs.
“Quick showers, I think,” Bernie said as she closed the bedroom door behind them, “Don’t want to disturb people.”
She was in and out of the bathroom in no time, listened to the shower buzz as Serena took her turn. She sighed to herself. It had been so lovely, the few days away from family and cares, and spending this precious time with the woman she liked. More than liked.
Serena wasn’t long and when she climbed into bed, Bernie rolled over to face her.
“Bernie,” Serena said, before Bernie could utter her goodnight. “I’m going to miss this.”
“Me too,” Bernie said. “It’s been a lovely break. The conference was excellent.”
“No.” Serena wriggled closer and Bernie held herself entirely still. “I mean -” Serena bit her lip and held Bernie’s gaze. “I’m going to miss this. Bernie – I – I might be going to make a fool of myself but...”
Bernie found herself barely able to breathe as Serena reached for her, found her hand under the covers and held it tightly. “Serena,” she managed, a breathy gasp. And then somehow Serena’s nose was brushing against hers and then soft lips were pressed against her own. It was fleeting, a brief caress, and then Serena pulled away.
“Bernie?” she said, “Say something?”
Bernie stared at her dumbly for a moment. Serena began to turn away and Bernie finally found herself able to move. “Serena.” She grabbed her and held her tightly. “Serena.” She couldn’t manage any other words, tried to put all of her feelings into the kiss that she bestowed on the woman that she loved. Serena’s lips were warm and there was a lingering taste of Shiraz and she was so, so soft in Bernie’s arms, melting into her as Bernie wound her arms around her and kissed her and kissed her.
Eventually she drew back.
“I haven’t made a fool of myself then?” Serena said softly and Bernie laughed.
“Serena Wendy Campbell, I adore you and I have done for months.”
The happy sigh that Serena gave made Bernie’s heart burst with joy. “ If we’re using full names then,” Serena linked her fingers through Bernie’s, “Berenice Griselda Wolfe, I do believe I’m in love with you.”
Bernie woke in the morning to the comforting weight of somebody cuddled up to her. She rolled over and planted a kiss on Serena’s nose. “Morning.”
“Morning.” Serena’s eyes were bright. “I’m glad I don’t have to pretend that I’m on my phone this morning.”
“That was a pretence, was it?” Bernie reached out for Serena, slipped her arms around her waist and pulled her close. “Well, I wasn’t complaining.” Serena was soft and lovely in her arms. “I’m so glad I finally get to do this.”
“Me too,” Serena murmured. She brushed a lock of hair back from Bernie’s face. “May I kiss you?”
Bernie grinned. “So polite,” she teased. She trailed her hand up from Serena’s waist to stroke her cheek. “You never have to ask. The answer will always be yes.”
Their kiss was long and soft and languid. No need to rush, no conference to get to. Only plenty of time for lazy enjoyments, for Bernie finding out that Serena loved having her lip nibbled, that fingers gently pulling the hair at the nape of her neck made her melt.
“If I could start every day like this,” Bernie said as they finally drew apart, “I’d be a very happy woman.”
“I’m sure there will be plenty of days like this.” Serena slipped her leg between Bernie’s and kissed the very edge of her mouth.
“Is that a promise, Campbell?” Bernie asked. She trailed her fingers up Serena’s back and smiled at the hum that Serena made. “No more rotas where we’re on opposite shifts?”
“One day a week off together.” Bernie nipped Serena’s lip, tugged it gently. “At least,” Serena added, with a gasp.
“Did you enjoy your stay?” Mrs Jones asked as they handed the room key over.
“Perfect, thank you.” Serena glanced over her shoulder at Bernie.
“And the – the g spot? Didn’t cause you too much trouble in the end, did it?” Mrs Jones was a deep shade of pink.
“No, it’s small but it’s there alright. And we’ll have a lot of fun looking for it when we get home too, won’t we Bernie?”
Bernie’s complexion rivalled Mrs Jones’. “If you make it home in one piece that is.” She grabbed Serena’s hand and tugged her away. “Goodbye Mrs Jones, it’s been a treat, really.”
The front door closed behind them and Bernie turned to face Serena. “Is it too much to hope,” she asked, putting her hands on Serena’s shoulders and looking at her sternly, “That you might stop the joke now?”
“When it’s this much fun making you blush? Never!”
“I feared as much,” Bernie sighed, “And therefore you should know that I have already texted Dom Copeland on the subject.”
She kissed Serena sweetly and sauntered off to the car, Serena’s indignant shout ringing in her ears and making her laugh.