A Little Piece of Paradise
Victoria Conrad kept one hand on the steering wheel and one eye on the road. The other hand was shuffling through a small pile of cd’s on the passenger seat of her Shogun. The four wheel drive vehicle ground to a halt a milimeter from the bumper of the car in front and the driver of the car glared at her in his wing mirror.
She gave him a sweet smile and took the opportunity to devote all her attention to finding the required cd.
Pulling the finished cd from the player she put that back in the wrong box and loaded the one that she’d found. Flicking through the tracks she found the one she wanted. The sax introduced the song and she sang along with George Michael.
She’d only been in Bath a couple of days but had learned, in that short time, that traffic jams were a normal occurance every day. The city had been developed in the 1700’s, it’s streets not designed for modern day traffic. So she sat, watching the face of the man in the car in front as he watched her in his rear view mirror.
Victoria was used to this behaviour. A striking woman, she stood a hairs width below six foot. Her dark hair and tanned skin accentuated her most dynamic feature, her eyes, which were the colour of the sky on a summer’s day.
But it wasn’t a summers day. It was a dismal, damp Thursday in February. It had been raining all morning, and now the rain was turning to sleet.
The traffic started to move again and Victoria shifted the car into gear and started to crawl forward again.
Thirty minutes later she was driving down Milsom Street. A short street, with some of the more high class shops to be found in Bath. A car pulled out of a parking space just as she was thinking about parking on the yellow line on the opposite side of the road. She shot into the space, ignoring the glares from the woman who was about to reverse into it. Without locking the car she ran across the road and purchased a couple of parking cards. That would allow her an hour before she’d have to worry about being towed away. After buying the cards she scratched away the appropriate time and date and displayed them on top of the dash. She slammed the door and used the remote control to lock it.
Pulling the collar of her long, black Kashmir coat up she walked down Milsom Street before turning right into Quiet Street.
She found what she was looking for almost immediately. Luckily there was a small awning outside the estate agents, and she stood for a while, looking at the photos of the available properties.
The pictures and short descriptions were affixed to hanging boards in the window, and these suddenly swayed precariously as someone inside the offices peered around to look at one of the photos.
It was a girl. She was leaning sideways looking at the picture. She obviously suddenly realised she was blocking the view of a prospective customer and turned towards the woman on the pavement.
She smiled and put a hand to her mouth in a gesture of apology. Then she was gone.
Victoria peered between the hanging boards and watched as the girl went to a filing cabinet and pulled out some details, which she handed to a couple to inspect.
The tall woman went back to examining the photos. She walked to another of the windows, this was where the properties to let were advertised. Some had photos, but most were just a description of the property and the cost of the monthly rent. She made a move to step to her right and walked straight into another body.
She looked down into smiling green eyes.
“Sorry about that.” The girl said. “See anything you were interested in?”
Victoria smiled back. “No problem. There are a couple, yes.”
“Well, come on in out of the rain, I’ll fish out some details for you.”
She was lead into the offices and directed to sit in a chair infront of what she assumed was the girl’s desk. The name plate said ‘Miss E. Gallagher’.
Miss E. Gallagher sat opposite and folded her hands infront of her on the desk.
“What sort of prices are we talking about?”
“Actually I was looking at your properties to let.”
“Any particular location?”
“Not too far from the city centre. I’m going to be working here, but I don’t think I want to live in the centre. Somewhere on the outskirts I think.”
“Large, small? How many bedrooms?”
“Not too big. It’s just for me.”
The girl nodded and stood to go to the filing cabinet. “Oh yes,” Victoria added. “I want somewhere that I can move into immediately.”
The girl stood for a moment thinking. “Okaaaay.” She took a few files from the cabinet and returned to her desk.
“We have a number of suitable properties that have just become available.” She put a few of the folders aside.”Those are all in the centre. This is about two miles outside.” She handed the details to the woman sitting across from her. “Do you know Bath?”
“No, I’ve only been here a couple of days.”
Victoria took the details from her and studied them. “Exposed beams, restored cottage.” She looked back up to the girl. “When can I look at it?”
“We have the keys, I could take you up there now.”
The girl stood and turned to one of her colleagues. “Mark I’m going out for a bit, shouldn’t be more than an hour.”
The man she’d spoken to looked up from the ‘phone call he was taking and nodded.
Retrieving the keys from the filing cabinet she grabbed her coat and held the door open for Victoria to exit the offices.
“D’you mind if we take my car? I’ll get a parking ticket if I leave it there much longer.” Victoria said as they stepped out into the heavy rainstorm.
“No, not at all, where are you parked?”
“Just round the corner.” The two women turned the corner into the gale that had blown up in the last ten minutes.
Victoria stepped into the road and unlocked the Shogun. “It’s open.” She called across the roof to the smaller woman who didn’t realise the central locking had unlocked the passenger side already.
They both shook the rain out of their hair as they sat in the plush leather interior of the large car.
“Goodness!” Said the blond.
“Goodness indeed.” Victoria echoed.
“Gosh, I just realised. I didn’t take your details.”
Victoria turned in her seat towards the smaller woman and held out her hand. “Victoria Conrad.”
The blond girl took her hand. “Eden Gallagher.” She said smiling.
“Eden.” Said Victoria. “Nice name.”
“Thankyou.” Said the girl sincerely.
Twenty minutes later Eden directed Victoria to take a right turn on a slight hill. They had climbed south out of Bath and now were heading down the other side into Midford.
“It’s just down here on the right hand side, don’t go too fast or you’ll miss it.” Eden was leaning forward, looking for the small turning to the private road that led to a handful of properties. “There!” She said and Victoria turned into the single track road. “Summer Cottage is at the end.”
True enough, at the end of the lane Victoria recognised the cottage she had seen in the details back at the office.
Eden jumped out of the Shogun and unlocked the door so that her client wouldn’t have to wait in the rain.
As soon as Victoria stepped into the small cottage she knew she had found her home.
Eden watched the woman as she walked into the hallway.
The cottage as furnished tastefully. Modern appliances in the kitchen blending nicely with the antique looking stove.
The lounge was uncluttered and sported a stone fireplace. A small room just off of that would do nicely for her office. The dining room had large patio doors which opened into a glass and hard wood extension which doubled the size of the room. Upstairs were two double bedrooms, both with king size beds. The bathroom held a large bath and shower unit.
Eden had been chattering away about the property, though Victoria had been lost in thought as she looked around the cottage.
“I’ll take it.” She said quietly.
Victoria turned back to the smaller woman. “I’m sorry, I said I’ll take it.”
A half hour later the two women were back in Bath. This time Victoria didn’t attempt to park. She turned right into Quiet Street and dropped the young estate agent off outside her office.
“I’m staying at the Bath Spa hotel.” She said. “I’ll be in tomorrow to sort things out.”
“Ok, it’s been good doing business with you.” Eden shouted over the sound of rain hitting the roof of the car. She slammed the door closed and ran into the office. By the time she’d turned round the Shogun had disappeared round the corner.
She shook her coat off as she got inside.
“Well?” Said her colleague.
“I just let Summer cottage.” She said, a self satisfied smile on her face.
It was just after 6 o’clock when Eden got home. She shared a small flat with an old school friend. When her parents had sold their Bath home in order to retire to the south coast Eden had decided to stay in Bath. Her friend, Cathy, had asked her to move in with her when she first obtained the small flat in Larkhall. It suited them both perfectly.
Cathy was curled up on the sofa watching tv when a damp Eden plopped herself down in the chair.
“Bloody buses! Two went past full up before I could get on one.” Cathy seemed not to have heard her, so she looked to see what she was watching. It was the local news.
“It’s four weeks now, they still haven’t found her. She must be dead.” Cathy said absently.
She was talking about a local girl who had gone missing after a night out in Bath. Nothing had been heard from her despite appeals from the police and her family.
“I think you’re right, surely she wouldn’t do that to her family.”
Cathy turned to her friend. “I’ll make some tea.” She stood and went to the small kitchen. “Good day? ” She shouted.
“Great day, I’m in love.”
“That’s good.” There was a crash from the kitchen, and Cathy framed the doorway to the lounge. “You’re what?”
“I’m in love.” Repeated Eden, a comical dreamy look on her face.
“And I’m guessing it’s not with a guy.”
Eden smiled at her friend. A long conversation in the wee hours of the morning some months previously had brought about her friend’s comment.
“You know, you always imagine that one day someone amazing will just walk into your life and change it forever.”
“Did that happen today?”
“No, not really. But this really gorgeous woman came into the office looking to rent.”
“Gorgeous like what?” Cathy’s curiosity peeked. She sat on the sofa again, the tea forgotten.
“Well, she was tall, close to six foot. Almost powerful looking. She had long black hair, she wore it loose. A tan. And the most amazing blue eyes I’ve ever seen. And when she smiled….” Eden feighned swooning.
Cathy swatted her on the knee. “Eddie!”
Eden laughed with her friend. It was nice to be able to talk to someone about it. Coming to terms with her attraction toward other women had been hard for her. She hadn’t been able to talk to her family about it, and most of her friends wouldn’t understand. But she lived with Cathy, and she decided her friend deserved to know. So she’d told her one night after a particularly bawdy party when both of them felt relaxed from the effects of alcohol.
Cathy’s first reaction had been one of disbelief. “But you don’t look like a………….”
“Lesbian, dyke? So what am I supposed to look like?” Eden smiled at her friend’s puzzlement.
“I don’t know, but not how you look.”
“Sorry. Are you ok with this? I can find somewhere else if you like.”
Cathy’s answer was to sit next to her friend on the sofa and snake an arm around her shoulders. “You’re still my best friend Ed. You can stay here as long as you like.”
Eden remembered the relief she’d felt and the gratitude for her friend’s understanding.
“So what are you going to do about tall, dark and beautiful?”
Eden thought about it for a long moment. “Nothing.” She finally said.
Cathy was quiet for a while and Eden knew she was working her way up to a question.
“What?” Said Eden, trying not to laugh.
“Well,” Cathy exhaled. “How do you, you know, how do you find out if………..” She flapped her arms in the air, suddenly at a loss.
“How do I find out if she’s gay, and then how do I find out if she’s interested in me?”
“Yeah.” Cathy leaned forward on her knees.
“It’s in the eyes. If someone looks you dead in the eyes it means they’re in love with you.” As she was saying this she leaned forward with her elbows on her knees and looked deeply into the eyes of her best friend.
“Eddie! I was being serious.” Said Cathy leaning back on the sofa and crossing her arms over her chest.
“So was I, sort of.”
Eden got up and went to the kitchen, realising the cup of tea was not going to materialise on its own.
“So what you going to do about it?” Cathy called into the kitchen.
“Do about what?”
“The beautiful stranger.”
“Like I said before, nothing.”
“But you’re in love.”
Eden came back into the lounge. “She’ll probably be in tomorrow to sign for the cottage, I’ll see her then. But I’m hardly going to ask her out, am I?”
“Where is she staying now?”
“The Bath Spa.”
“Oooh, money too. Is she from round here?”
“She said she doesn’t know Bath.”
“So she’s all alone, in a city she doesn’t know, no friends.” Cathy snivelled unconvicingly.
Eden looked suspiciously at her friend. “What do you think I should do?”
“Well, if it was me………..”
Eden laughed and went back into the kitchen as the kettle started to whistle. “If it was you, you wouldn’t be thinking about ways to find out if a woman was remotely interested in you.”
“No, I mean, if it was me and it was a fella I was interested in, I’d get in his face. Find out where he went at night and make sure I was there.”
Eden returned to the lounge with two cups of tea.
“So you think I should just turn up…………where? The Bath Spa Hotel? As if that’s a regular drinking hole of mine. I doubt I’d get through the door.”
“So call her.”
Eden’s mouthful of tea reappeared quickly.
“Too hot?” Said Cathy in all innocence.
“Call her?” Eden reached for a box of kleenex and dabbed at the tea on her chin and down the front of her blouse.
“Go on, go for it. Just say you wondered if she’d like a drink as she’s new in town. She can only say ‘no’.”
The two girls sat for long moments looking at each other. Then Eden made a decision, and reached for the ‘phone directory.
“There it is, the Bath Spa Hotel.” Picking up the ‘phone Eden dialed the number as Cathy squirmed in anticipation, clutching a cushion to her chest.
“Hello, I wonder if I could speak to one of your guests…… Victoria Conrad……..thank you.” Eden looked up at her friend. “Oh my God.” She mouthed at her. “Pardon? Oh, yes Eden Gallagher.”
Eden waited while her call was put through.
“Oh hi, it’s Eden Gallagher……yes, that’s right.”
Cathy sniggered as Eden coloured up and the blond refused to meet her gaze.
“No, no problems, I’ll have the paperwork for you to sign tomorrow. No, I was wondering if you’d like to, um. I was wondering what you were doing tonight.” She closed her eyes and screwed her face up. “I mean, as you don’t know anyone in Bath, well, I assume you don’t know anyone in Bath. Well, um, I thought you might like to go out with me, um, not out with me, just…….pardon?” Eden’s jaw dropped. “Ok, by the fountain. Fine, fine, ok.”
Eden placed the handset in the cradle and stared at it.
“What’d she say?” Said Cathy, peering over the top of the cushion.
“She said ‘great’, and she’d meet me by Laura Fountain because that was the only landmark in Bath she knew.”
“Bloody hell. What time?”
“Eight. Shit! It’s seven now! What am I going to wear?”
“Casual.” Said Cathy. “Wear that white v-neck teeshirt, with your blue jeans, you always look good in that.”
“Ok, but it needs pressing, will you do that while I shower?”
Cathy stood and went to the kitchen to retrieve the ironing board while Eden made for the bathroom, shedding clothes as she went.
“And can I have a squirt of your musk?”
“Since when did you start asking me?”
“Oh Cath, ” Eden reappeared wearing nothing but a towel. “Can I borrow your burgundy cardigan?”
“My best cardi?” She said looking up from battling to get the ironing board erected. But seeing the pleading look on the face of her best friend, she relented. “Ok, I’ll put it on your bed along with the teeshirt.”
By seven forty five she was showered, hair washed and dressed ready for the evening. Cathy insisted on driving her into town, which meant that by eight o’clock she was standing at the top of Pultney Street next to Laura Fountain.
Cathy did a u-turn around the fountain and stopped allowing Eden to get out of the small car.
“You’ve got your ‘phone?” She said, leaning across the passenger seat.
Eden put a hand on the waistband of her jeans, feeling the weight of the small mobile ‘phone there. “Yep.”
“OK, call me when you want picking up.” A smile crossed her face. “Or call me if you’re not coming home.”
“Cathy, I’ll be home. But don’t wait up, I’ll get a taxi.” She reached into the back seat and retrieved her black quilted jacket.
“OK, but call me anyway, when you’re in the loo or something, just so I know you’re ok.”
“OK.” Eden said and pushed the car door closed.
She watched the small hatchback disappear down the street and made her way to the seat nearby. Unfortunately it was by the bus stop that was for the university bus. About twenty students were waiting, and there was nowhere for her to sit. So she went to the fountain and waited on the low wall that marked its edge.
Victoria had gone back to the Bath Spa after her meeting with Eden.
She was pleased that she’d found somewhere to spend the next few months. Her comment to Eden that she was going to be working in Bath had annoyed her. It wasn’t a lie as such, but it wasn’t the whole truth either. For some reason she felt a great shame because of a small white lie.
After leaving the centre of Bath she’d driven for a while looking for a suitable pub to have lunch in. She found herself on the same road she’d taken only an hour or so previously. Going past the the turning for Summer Cottage she continued down the hill toward Midford and Hinton Charterhouse. There were two pubs in Hinton Charterhouse, but she carried on until she came to Norton St. Phillip.
The streets were ancient, the houses facing directly onto a road that, in an earlier age would have been fine for the occasional horse and cart, but was now too narrow for the amount of traffic that traversed the road.
At the crossroads the spied an inn called The George. Parking behind the pub she went through the thick oak door. Above it was a plaque which announced, ‘You are entering the oldest pub in England.’
Victoria sat on a high stool by the bar and ordered a cider, then asked for the menu. After ordering her food she engaged the bar tender in a discussion about the history of the pub.
“This place is old then?” She asked. It was quiet in the bar. Most of the lunch crowd that used the pub for their midday breaks had returned to their offices in the city.
“It is,” he said, examining closely the glass he was polishing. “The earliest date we have is 1230. It was a guest house then, run by monks. They were from Hinton priory, which is about two miles from here.”
“I wonder what the monks would think now?”
“They probably wouldn’t notice too much difference to the exterior, but they might get a shock when they saw the juke box.” He placed the glass on the shelf and retrieved another from the glass washing machine.
“When did it become an inn?”
“About 500 years ago. In those days the cellar was the village jail. During the civil war, around 1685, eight men were held for almost a year in the cellar. There was a big battle fought nearby. When they were eventually found guilty the eight were taken an orchard and burned at the stake. But nine men were executed that day.” This was obviously not the first time the barkeep had told the story.
“Who was the other one?”
“Some poor fellow who was holding the gate of the inn open when they were brought out. He just got caught up in the crush and they executed him too.”
“That was bad luck.”
“It was,” said the man, another glass finding its way onto the shelf. “There are people living in the village that are direct descendants of the guilty men. In the church records there is mention of the parish paying 12 shillings for faggots for ‘ye execution’.” He finished with a flourish.
From a side door the landlord’s wife appeared with Victoria’s meal. She’d decided on chicken kiev and a side salad.
“Shall I put you here dear?” She said, indicating a seat near the window with a nod of her head.
“That’s fine, thank you.” Victoria slid from her stool at the bar and followed the woman, who put her meal and cutlery on the table.
“Is there anything else I can get you? Sauces, another drink?”
“I’ll have another half pint of cider please, thanks.” Victoria handed her the empty glass and started her meal.
An hour and a half later she exited the warm friendly establishment into the darkening afternoon. She got back into the Shogun and sat for a while, wondering what to do.
Starting the car, she left the carpark but turned right, away from Bath. “Might as well see some of the countryside I guess.” She said to herself.
It was five thirty when she parked outside the Bath Spa hotel. She walked to the desk and asked for her key.
“Miss Conrad, you have a message.” Said the hotel manager, who was manning the front desk.
Thank you.” She said, taking the slip of paper from him.
It was a message from her father, asking her to ring him as soon as she got in.
She went to her room, sat on the bed and picked up the phone. Ringing the number, she waited for it to be answered.
“Victoria. Where have you been?”
“Looking for somewhere to live.” ‘Hi to you too Dad.’ she said to herself.
“Have you found somewhere suitable?”
“I think so.” ‘But you’d turn your nose up at it.’
“Well, have you or haven’t you?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Good. Have the details sent to me and I’ll sort everything out.”
She picked up the folder she’d been given by Eden Gallagher.
“I have the name and address of the owners here if you want it.”
“Right, let me get a pen.” A pause. ” Go ahead.”
Victoria gave her father the details.
“Is there a fax number?”
She gave him that too.
“I’ll forward six months rent, but I trust you can sort yourself out before then.”
“Give me some time Dad. I just need some time on my own.”
“And I need some answers from you girl. You can’t just run away from your responibilities. Call me on sunday.”
Victoria held onto the phone even though she’s heard the click as her father terminated the conversation. she sat and listened to the steady hum of the dialling tone.
Putting the phone down she lay down on the bed and closed her eyes.
She must have fallen asleep, because she was woken with a start when the phone rang. She looked at her watch. It was ten to seven.
She picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Miss Conrad, we have an Eden Gallagher wishing to speak to you.”
“Ok, put her on.”
Victoria found herself smiling as she listened to the girls voice. “Is there a problem with the cottage?” She enquired.
She was assured there wasn’t. Lying back down she listened to the girl trying to overcome her nervousness and ask her out for a drink. ‘Why are you here Tori? Isn’t it to be alone, to sort yourself out?’ She asked herself.
“Great.” She heard herself say. “There’s a fountain at the bottom of, um, Pultney Street, I think it’s called. I’ll meet you there. Eight o’clock be ok? Good. See you then.”
Victoria put the phone back on the cradle.
“Why not?” She said to herself. “Why the hell not?”
Just under an hour later she was walking down the long drive way of the Bath Spa hotel. She decided to leave the Shogun behind. She’d already had a pint of cider earlier in the day, so anymore alcohol would put her over the drink/drive limit. Pultney Street was a long wide street. At one end the Holbourne Museum, at the other Laura Place, with Laura Fountain in the middle. As she walked along the elegant Georgian street she could see the outline of Eden Gallagher sitting on the low wall of the illuminated fountain.
She pulled her coat snugly around her and walked towards the light.
Laura Fountain consisted of a large round raised basin. In the middle, a large stone pillar with what could only be described as a ball on top issued forth water which splashed down into the pool.
Someone, probably a student waiting for a bus at the nearby bus stop, had thrown in a bottle of bubble bath and now the suds were just starting to emerge over the side of the stone rim.
Eden was watching the bubbles as they made their way toward her. She reached out and snagged a handful of them and let the breeze carry them away.
The voice, so close to her, made her jump.
She turned toward the sound and was met by the smiling face and amused eyes of Victoria Conrad.
“Oh, hi.” She said, standing and wiping her wet hand on the leg of her jeans. “Sorry, I didn’t see you coming.”
“That’s ok. Where did you want to go?” Said Victoria looking past her and on towards Pultney Bridge.
“There’s a pub just down here, The Boater. It’s got a nice cellar bar.”
“Ok, lead on.” victoria said.
Eden lead the way into the pub, veering off just inside the entrance and descending the stairs into the cellar.
The cold weather had kept most people in their homes, and besides the two women there were only a handful of people in the dimly lit bar.
“What’ll you have?” Said Eden pulling her wallet out of the back pocket of her jeans.
“A rum and coke I think.” Said Victoria and made her way to an empty table set against the wall.
Eden arrived at the table with a rum and coke, which she placed in front of Victoria, and a vodka and lime for herself.
“So Victoria, what brings you to Bath?” Eden said as she took her jacket off and placed it on the seat beside her.
“Firstly, call me Tori.” She said with a smile. “And as for why I’m in Bath, well.” She picked her drink up, studying it carefully. “Let’s just say, I’m on an extended vacation, which might be a working vacation if the opportunity arises.”
Eden was sitting opposite the taller woman and rested her chin in her hand, her elbow on the table. “Have you seen much of Bath yet?”
“I went out past the lane with Summer Cottage in after I left you and found an ancient pub.” Her brow wrinkled. Eden noticed this, in fact she was taking in every movement the expressive face made. “What’s it called?”
“The George?” Eden offered.
“That’s it, The George. The bar tender told me an horrific story.”
“About the ghosts?” Asked Eden.
“No.” Tori looked alarmed. “Not about ghosts.”
“Oh, maybe they don’t tell that one on your first visit. ” She said smiling. “I’ve been there a few times. They like to tell those down in the cellar bar.”
“That’s where those men were held.”
Tori waited. “So you’re not going to tell me?”
“You need to be in The George to hear that, maybe another day.” Eden said.
Tori seemed to consider this. “Ok.”
The tall woman leaned back in her seat, obviously relaxing in the company of the blond. “Have you always lived in Bath?”
“Yep, always. My parents moved down to the coast a few years ago. I didn’t want to go with them, so I stayed. My friend, Cathy, bought a flat, with the help of her folks. I moved in with her. It worked out ok.”
“It’s a beautiful city.”
“It is, but a lot of Bath people don’t appreciate it. I think visitors see more than we do.”
There were a few moments of silence before Eden thought of another topic of conversation. “The cottage shouldn’t take too long to sort out.” She said.
“Mmm?” Tori had been staring through the large glass doors along the back wall of the cellar. Even though they had descended into the bar their was an exit which led to the riverbank.
“I should have the forms for the cottage tomorrow. I’ll just need to get some references for the landlord.”
“Oh, I put that in the hands of my father. He’s going to forward six months rent directly to the landlord. I should imagine that would be reference enough.”
“I expect so. You don’t hang about, do you?”
“I was getting fed up with the hotel room.”
“The Bath Spa, you were getting fed up with that?” Eden looked surprised.
“One hotel room is very like another.”
“I’ll take your word for it. The only hotels I’ve been in are the one’s in Spain, I can’t imagine they’re a lot like yours.”
“So where are you from?” Eden drained her glass.
“London, Chelsea to be exact?”
“And you decided to spend some time here.” It was a statement more than a question.
Tori was silent for a long moment, and Eden didn’t think she was going to answer. “I don’t know why I chose Bath. Some things went…….” She was searching for a word, “ugly, back home.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…….”
Tori shook her head. “No, it’s ok. I’m here to get my head together.” She looked up into the green eyes opposite her.” That’s why the cottage was so perfect. It’s secluded and peaceful. If you’re going to be on your own, sorting your life out, you might as well be in pleasant surroundings.”
Eden suddenly felt uncomfortable that this woman had divulged so much of herself so easily. She didn’t think Tori would normally be so forthcoming and wondered why the openness now.
“You, um, don’t have to be alone.” Eden felt the colour flooding past her neck into her face. It was only made worse when smokey blue eyes captured hers. She remembered a conversation with her flatmate only an hour or so before. “I mean, I could show you the sights, show you all the best pubs and stuff.”
Tori stood suddenly, and Eden thought for a moment that she’d offended her. But the dark woman held her hand out to her. Eden felt her own hand move into the womans long, warm fingers.
“Actually, I wanted your glass, it’s empty.”
Eden could have fainted on the spot. “Sorry, sorry, um, yes please. Vodka and lime.”
Tori took the glass and made her way to the bar. If Eden had looked in the mirror which was behind the bar she’d have seen the grin that split the woman’s feature’s.
A few people were ahead of her being served, so Tori put the glasses on the bar and waited for the bartender to finish with the other customers. ‘What’s going on here?’ she asked herself. She’d been out with enough prospective husbands to know when someone was attracted to her. But this was new. She been with the woman less than an hour, but was totally at ease with her.
When was the last time that happened? No, it hadn’t happend before. There was something different here, something comfortable. She smiled to herself. ‘So, what now Tori?’ She asked herself. She thought back to a time long ago. How long? ‘Jesus, ten years.’ She remembered though. Remembered the feelings, remembered the nights, remembered the sex. Oh yeah, the sex. That was all there was though. Love was never an option, she knew that, so did Jodie. They satisfied each other. Satisfied being the optimum word. No words of commitment, they both knew it was temporary. They’d have their fun and move on. Probably to a family life. House, nice car, two point four children.
But here she was ten years later. In the mire, no house, no kids. Nice car though. Two out of three ain’t bad.
“I said what can I get you?” The bar tender brought her out of her musings.
“Sorry, rum and coke and vodka and lime.”
She watched his back as he got their drinks. ‘Do you really need anymore complications in your life?’ She asked herself. ‘Exactly,’ came the answer. ‘Of course you don’t.’
She turned to look at her companion for the evening. The blond woman smiled at her. She turned back to the bar. ‘So much for your iron will Tori. This is not how it was meant to be. What was the plan? Go to Bath. Get your calm head on. Go home…………Then what?’
The bar tender brought her drinks and she paid for them. As she went back to the table Eden stood.
“I need the loo, won’t be long.”
Tori watched her go and sat down again.
‘What a time to start debating the meaning of life.’ She told herself. ‘In a cellar bar, in the company of a lovely young woman you think has the hots for you.’ She chuckled to herself.
‘Jesus you’re arrogant Tori. You think that everyone’s gonna fall for you, even women. On the other hand, the way she looks at me, those eyes.’ She rubbed the bridge of her nose and screwed her face up. ‘So what you gonna do about it?’ She sat back in the chair. ‘Right then, do you like her? Yes. Are you attracted to her. Yes. Are you ready to go through all that again? No, don’t think so. But there again………… Oh dammit! Why can’t life be simple?’
She drained her glass in one go and returned to the bar to get a refill before her drinking partner returned.
Eden stood in the ladies with her back against the wash basin, took out her mobile and dialled her home number. “Cathy?”
“Eddie! How’s it going?”
“Ok, I think. We’re getting on ok.”
“Have you found out if….you know.”
“I think the answer is no. No, I’m pretty sure it’s no. Still we’re having a good time, I think I may have made a new friend.”
“Oh well, you have a good time. I’ll probably be in bed by the time you get home.”
“Oh yeah? Is Darren there?” Eden smiled into the phone.
“No he’s not! An early night doesn’t mean Darren’s here.”
“Ok, I believe you. See you in the morning then.”
“Yeah right, nighty night.”
Eden sighed and made her way back to the bar.
Tori was back in her seat by the time Eden rejoined her. Although they didn’t know it both women had come to a conclusion.
Eden eased into her seat and picked up her glass. “Cheers.” She said, raising her glass to the tall woman.
“Cheers to you too.” Said Tori, who leaned forward and stared intently at the smaller woman. “So tell me, any good gay bars in Bath?”
She managed to avoid the fountain of vodka and lime that shot in her direction and made her way round the side of the table towards the girl who was in danger of choking. A couple of hard smacks on her back and Eden managed to get her breathing under control.
“You ok?” Asked Tori rubbing the blond’s back.
“Think so.” Eden was still clearing her throat. She looked to her left and into the blue eyes. “The answer is yes.”
“Yes to what?” Tori said.
“Yes I know where a good gay bar is, but are you sure you want to go there?”
Tori understood the double meaning to the question. “Yes, I want to go there.”
Cathy could hear someone calling her name. She lay still and listened. She looked at the alarm clock on her bedside cabinet. The glowing red numbers told her it was 11.47. Deciding it was her imagination she turned over to go back to sleep. Then she heard the low sound of the tv in the lounge.
She got up and padded across the bedroom and down the short hall to where a soft light was creeping from beneath the lounge door.
Eden was curled up on the sofa. She’d changed out of her clothes and was wearing one of the extra, extra large teeshirts she’d bought for sleeping in.
“Hey.” Cathy said sitting next to her friend. Eden hadn’t turned a light on and Cathy peered at her intently, sensing something was amiss. “Did you call me?”
Eden nodded. “Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you.”
“No, that’s alright.” She put a hand on her friend’s arm. “You ok?”
Eden shook her head no and Cathy pulled her roommate into her arms.
“Didn’t it go well?” She said into the blond’s hair.
“No, it went great. I don’t know why I’m getting like this.” Eden sniffed.
Cathy was at a loss. She decided talking would help. “So where did you go?”
“The Boater. We didn’t go anywhere else, it was too cold to walk around.”
“Ok, so tell me about her.”
“Oh Cathy.” Eden smiled, her eyes shining in the light from the tv.” She’s like….. I don’t know.” Eden tried again.” She’s like someone you dream about. You know, what your perfect partner would be. She’s gorgeous, funny, very gallant. She held doors for me. We talked and talked.”
“So where’s she from?” Cathy was pleased that she’d seemed to have lightened the blond’s mood.
“And? Is he moving here for good?” She pulled her friend closer. When there was no answer she gave her a nudge. “Eden?”
“I’ve just realised, she didn’t tell me anything about herself. ” Eden shook her head in sudden wonderment. “We talked all night, but she didn’t tell me anything about her, her family. Just that she’s here to get her head together.”
“What did you talk about?”
“Me, my job. My parents. You.” Eden smiled at her friend.
“What did you tell her about me?” Said Cathy suspiciously.
“Only good things. How good a friend you’ve been to me these last few years, how understanding you’ve been.” Eden leaned more heavily into her. “Thanks.”
“Just for being my friend.”
Cathy gave her a squeeze. “Always, you know that. So…..what’s up?”
Eden shook her head. “It’s hard to explain. You know, when I was little, maybe four or five, I got lost on the beach at Bournemouth. I was wandering about, not paying attention to where I was going. Suddenly I realised I’d lost sight of Mum and Dad. I ran and ran, looking for them, but all I could see was a sea of bodies, beach towels and wind breaks. Then I saw Dad. He was frantic, kind of angry with me, but relieved to find me. I cried and cried. I hadn’t up to then, I was too scared to cry, but once he found me it just all came out. The relief, the fear, everything.”
“Is that how you feel now?” Cathy asked quietly. “Relieved?”
“Yeah. Does that make sense?”
Cathy smiled at her friend. “If this is what you’ve been waiting for, be sure it’s what you think it is. I don’t want to see you hurt.”
“I’m a big girl Cath.”
“Yes you are, best friend in all the world. But you still engage the heart before the head sometimes. I love you Eddie, you know that don’t you?”
Eden put her arms around her friend’s shoulders and gave her a hug. “Yeah I know. Come on let’s go to bed.”
“You propositioning me Eden Gallagher?”
“As if.” Eden said smiling. Then she looked down at her hands. “I just don’t want to be alone tonight.” She glanced up at her friend. “Is that ok?”
“Of course it is.” Cathy said and stood, holding a hand out for her friend.
The realm of Morpheus was not going to open it’s doors for Victoria Conrad however, but this was a common occurance.
She’d walked her new friend to a taxi rank in the shadow of the Abbey. They hadn’t made it to the gay bar Eden told her about, but, nevertheless, they’d enjoyed their evening in The Boater. Neither woman had felt the need to move from their comfortable little table, and when closing time was announced they’d left by the back door so that Eden could show Tori the view of Pultney Bridge.
The bridge overlooked the weir. Three curved steps constructed to stop the yearly flooding, but which was, at that time, almost obscured beneath the fast flowing water.
The bridge itself was a marvel of Georgian architecture. The only bridge in England with shops on both sides. Infact there is only one other similar bridge in the world, which is in Florence. Eden passed on her sketchy knowlege to the taller woman, who was leaning on the railing taking in the sight of the cleverly floodlit bridge.
“So you’ll give me the tour?” Tori asked.
“Of course, when?”
“Um, how about Saturday?”
“Saturday’s fine, but I’m working a couple of hours in the morning.” Eden damned Mark for asking her to work.
“Saturday afternoon then.” Said Tori, turning so that her back was to the railing.
Eden looked to her left and found herself locked in the gaze of cerulean eyes. She returned the gaze and found herself leaning towards the woman, her eyes slid from the blue orbs toward the lips that parted slightly.
A group stumbled out of The Boater noisily, breaking the spell and Eden took a step back. When she looked back at Tori she found the taller woman smiling.
“Come on.” Tori said. “Let’s find you a taxi.”
So Tori had ended up in her hotel room again. She turned the tv on and flicked through the channels, not really seeing what she was watching.
“Eden Gallagher.” She said the name out loud. ‘Who are you?’ she thought to herself. ‘Ten years ago you’d have been here with me now, and in the morning you would have been gone, because that would have been the rules I’d laid down.’
Tori was laying on top of the bed covers, one arm across her eyes, the tv unwatched.
‘I don’t know if I’m ready for you Eden. I’m here to heal. I don’t know if I can give you what you’re looking for.’
She sighed a long sigh. ‘Maybe you can heal me.’
Eden couldn’t concentrate. It was 11.30am and she hadn’t done anything meaningful at work since she’d arrived in the office at 9am.
Mark watched her as she aimlessly paced around the office. A number of customers had come in and must have thought that all the good property in Bath had been sold, for this young woman had been unable to find them anything suitable. For the twentieth or thirtieth time that day she went to the window and peered out.
“What’s going on Eddie?” Asked Mark leaning back in his chair.
“Going on? Nothing’s going on.” Said Eden returning to her chair and pulling out some details that needed to be posted to prospective customers. “What did the Johansens want, anything up to 400 grand?”
“No, up to 200. Put your estate agent head on Eden, the one you have on right now doesn’t work.”
Eden dropped the papers on the desk and let out a long sigh.
She gave him an embarassed look. “Sorry Mark. Hey, you know I said I’d work tomorrow?”
“Yeah?” He said suspiciously.
“Well, can I back out?”
“Depends. Why?” He knew he held the upper hand.
“I’m showing a friend round Bath. I’d like the whole day.”
“Just a minute.” He turned to one of the other two people who worked in the office. ” Jason, can you do a few hours tomorrow morning?”
Jason looked up from his work. “I s’pose so. As long as I’m finished before the rugby starts.”
Mark turned back to Eden but her attention was taken. He followed her gaze and saw the woman who had come in the day before walking towards the door.
Eden stood as she entered and held out her hand. Tori took it holding it a little longer than was necessary. Shaking her hand gently she said. “Good morning.”
“It is.” Agreed Eden. “Please sit down.”
Tori let her eyes roam over the young woman. She was dressed in a grey trouser suit with a white silk teeshirt, and to Tori’s eyes was very, very attractive. She’d thought about that a lot the previous night. She’d debated til after 3am whether or not to continue with what she’d begun in The Boater.
But the sight of the girl with laughing green eyes and golden hair kept burning itself into her thoughts. And she found herself wishing the new day was starting so that she would once again find herself in the company of this gentle soul.
But she overslept. It was after 11am when she woke and nearly noon by the time she got to the office.
“We’ve been faxed the forms for you to fill out for the property, and we’ve been authorised to hand the keys over to you.” Said Eden as she opened her desk drawer and pulled out a small bunch of keys. “They’re all labeled. Front door, back door. This one is for the garage and there’s an extra security lock on all the doors which this thing fits.” She showed Tori a peculiar looking key.
Tori took the keys from her, rubbing her thumb across the back of Eden’s hand as she did so. “Thankyou.” She smiled, and stood. “When’s your lunch break?”
“Whenever you want.” Said Eden gazing up at her.
“Let’s go then.” Said Tori, unable to hide the self satisfied grin on her face.
Eden looked across at Mark who just shrugged. “So now your lunch break’s from 12 and not 1. Ok Eddie, don’t get lost.” He smirked.
They were outside the office and Eden was pulling on her coat. “Eddie?” Said Tori.
“Some of my friends call me that.” Eden said, indicating with a nod of her head that they should walk past the office towards Milsom Street.
“But Eden’s such a beautiful name, it seems a shame to change it.”
Eden blushed again and wondered briefly if there was any world record for the amount of blushes in any twenty four hours.
As they walked up the gentle slope of Milsom Street Eden decided to try her luck. “I was wondering why you came to Bath.”
She immediately regretted it when she felt the tall woman tense and slow her stride.
Eden stopped and looked back at Tori, who had found something incredibly interesting to look at in a gentlemens outfitters. The smaller woman walked back and regarded the austere suits with her.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to pry.” She said.
Tori sighed. “That’s ok.” She looked down at her companion. “Why do I want to tell you my sad story? Because I do.” Tori sounded surprised, and chuckled to herself. “Come on, we were going to do lunch.”
The pub used to be a bank and the outside bore witness to it’s origins, but inside it was plush and comfortable. Eden got the drinks while Tori found a seat.
When Eden got to the table with the drinks Tori handed her a card.
“What’s this?” Said Eden taking the card.
“It’s my phone number. Well, the mobile one anyway, disregard the London number, that’s my old business number.”
Eden fished into her bag and retrieved her mobile. “I’m gonna put it in my memory, tell me what the number is.”
Eden repeated the number. “Oh hang on, missed the 8. Ok go ahead.”
“734.” She waited. “251.”
“Got it.” Said Eden, saving the number and then assigning it a letter. “I’m gonna put you under X.”
“Why?” Said Tori.
“No X.” Said Eden, as she finished programming the phone.
“No, why X?” Tori sniggered.
“Oh.” Another blush. “Well, I have Val under V and Terri under T, so I’ve put you under X. I shouldn’t think anyone I meet will have a name beginning with X. Would they?”
“Stranger things have happened.”
They sat and held each other’s gaze for a moment.
“What were we talking about?” Said Tori.
“You I think.” Said Eden smiling.
“Oh right. So how long is your lunch break?”
“As long as necessary.”
“Ok.” Tori closed her eyes for a moment, amazing herself that she was even contemplating letting this woman into the sad mess that was her life.
“My father is Gordon Conrad, he owns Conrad and Kemp.”
Eden’s eyes bugged. “You’re not serious! They’re one of the largest real estate companies in the country!”
Tori nodded. “My father has pretty strict ideas. He’s adament that the business should stay in the family.”
“That’s not unusual, it’s an old business.”
“That’s right, and my father is stuck in the dark ages. He won’t have a woman running the business. When old Harold Kemp died father was left in sole control because Kemp didn’t have an heir. Now he wants the business to stay in the Conrad family. Kemp gave over control to him on the understanding that the Kemp name would survive.”
Eden put her glass down. “So who’s going to take over after your father?”
“It would have been Rory.”
“My brother. He was two years older than me. Father never really took any notice of me when I was younger. I was packed off to boarding school as soon as I was old enough, and from there went to university. I had a job waiting for me in the business when I graduated, and everything was fine. Eventually Rory would take over and the business would stay in the family.”
“So what went wrong?” Asked Eden.
“Rory was killed in a skiing accident in Aspen.” She said regarding her glass.
“Oh God I’m sorry.”
Tori shrugged. “We weren’t close.” But the pain showed.
“Anyway,” Tori continued.” Father suddenly needed someone who would be able to carry on the business after he retired. He wanted to keep it in the family so it meant he had to expand his family.”
“He wanted to marry you off?” Eden was horrified.
Tori nodded. “Damien……….”
Eden reached across and grabbed Tori’s hand “Damien? Like the Omen’s Damien.”
Tori was pleased at the lightening of the moment. “Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. Well, Damien and I became engaged. He was ok, very charming. I grew very fond of him. Father thought the sun shone out of his behind. He had a brilliant business mind, so Dad immediately offered him a job.”
Tori sighed. “The wedding was set for last September.” She saw the alarm in Eden’s face and shook her head. “It didn’t happen.”
“Oh wow, you didn’t stand him up at the alter did you?” Eden was engrossed.
Tori shook her head. “No, nothing as dramatic as that. I called it off about a month before. Dad went apeshit, so did Damien. It was gonna be a huge do. Dad was really pulling out all the stops.”
Tori fiddled with her glass. “I um, I had a minor breakdown. I haven’t worked since then. I’ve been living in my flat in Chelsea, but just had to get away for a while. I told Dad I’d take some time away and give him an answer in the next few months.”
Eden felt her chest constrict. “What are you gonna do?”
Tori shook her head. “I’m not sure. I feel like I’m letting everyone down.” Tori suddenly exhaled loudly, making Eden jump. “I can’t believe I just told you all that, even my shrink didn’t get that much out of me.”
“So, why did you tell me?” Eden asked.
Tori regarded her for a long time. “Because I think maybe you’re going to figure in my future, and I want you to know what you’re getting into.”
This time there was no blush. Eden knew exactly what this woman was giving her, an insight into her soul. “Thankyou for trusting me.”
Tori took in the features of the woman sitting opposite her, the gentle lines of her face, the small lines at the corner of her mouth. And, above all, the eyes. “I’ve found you, and I didn’t even realise I was looking.” She said more to herself than to her companion.
“Well, I’ve waited long enough.” Said Eden leaning forward on the table.
“We really need to talk.” Tori stood, and drained her glass. “There’s a cute little cottage somewhere. I need to be shown how to turn the electric and gas on.”
Eden reached for her phone and dialled the office.
Tori opened the door to the cottage and stepped back so that Eden could enter. They had made a stop on the way to get some groceries and Eden had her arms full of shopping bags.
“It’s cold.” Said Tori as she entered the cottage.
“You’re right.” Said Eden and opened a small door under the stairs. Inside were the master switches for the electric and gas. She threw the switch for the electic and pulled on a long red handle which had ‘gas’ written on it. “Try the light switch.” She said to Tori.
Tori did so and was rewarded by the bulb flickering to life.
“Looks good.” Said Eden who then made her way to the kitchen. “The boiler is in here. I’ll have to light the pilot light.”
Tori watched her go and went into the lounge to stand by the window.
Eden put some of the groceries in the fridge which had juddered to life, and then rooted in a cupboard and found a kettle which she filled, put on the cooker and lit the burner below it.
Tori had been very quiet on the trip up to the cottage and Eden was wondering if the tall woman was regretting her sudden and detailed story. It was the first time that things had been strained between them and Eden found it uncomfortable. Things were moving very quickly between them, and though Eden had never had trouble making friends, she guessed this was not the case for Tori. Perhaps she was regretting everything. The ‘date’, the admissions of her attraction towards her, and now bringing her here, to the place that was going to be her sanctuary.
Eden walked the small distance to the lounge. “You ok?” she asked.
Tori turned from the view and faced the shorter woman. “Sit down.” Was all she said.
“Just a minute.” Said Eden and returned to the kitchen to turn down the burner under the kettle, all the time a twist of fear tightening unbearably in her stomach.
Eden returned to the lounge and took a seat on the couch, Tori remained standing.
It was still chilly and both women had kept their coats on. “On the drive up here I suddenly realised what I could offer you.” Tori began.
“I don’t want anything from you. Well, nothing material anyway.” Eden smiled trying to lighten the tall womans obviously dark mood. It didn’t work.
“I’m a mess Eden. My life is a mess. I’ve been sent away by my father to sort it out. I’ve made a mess of every relationship I’ve ever had. I never cared who I hurt, or the consequences of my actions. I’m rich, and that means I can have what and who I like. Until Rory died my father turned a blind eye to it. He didn’t need me then. But when I became the heir to the business he decided that I should toe the family line. I had to become, in his words, respectable. I met Damien at a cocktail party. To father he was perfect. Yes, I grew to like him. Maybe even love him.”
“Were you in love with him?” Eden asked.
“No, I’ve never been in love with anyone, don’t know if I can.” Tori sighed. “There’s the problem Eden. I don’t want you to expect something I can’t deliver. I use people like you. I devour them and then spit them out.” She turned her back on the girl, unable to face her any longer.
“What are you doing Tori?” Eden watched the tense back, confused.
“I’m trying to show you what I am.” Tori said, refusing to turn around.
“Why don’t you just let me find out for myself?” Eden stood and walked up behind her.
Tori turned and found herself pinned by green eyes. “You won’t like what you find.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.” Said Eden, but Tori couldn’t meet the trusting gaze. “Look.” She said, a little desperation showing in her voice. “Why don’t we have another evening in the grand metropolis?”
Tori smiled at the description of Bath.
“Hey, that’s better.” Said Eden, relieved that she could produce that smile. “We could do some different pubs.”
“Actually I can’t.” Tori saw the instant disappointment in the green eyes. “I’d like to, but I want to go home and pick some stuff up. I was going up tonight and coming back tomorrow morning.”
“Oh well, never mind.” Said Eden. “You’ll still be back for your tour though?”
“Yeah, I’ll be back.” Said Tori. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
“I don’t know, sorry for going all morose on you.” She reached a hand out and cupped the blond woman’s cheek. “I like you Eden. I like you a lot. Someone like you deserves something I don’t think I can give you. Do you understand that? I want you to be happy.”
“Don’t you deserve a little happiness too?”
Tori removed her hand from Eden’s face. “I wonder sometimes. It’s like I’m on the outside when it comes to happiness. I know it’s there, but it’s always happening to someone else. I don’t go looking for it anymore.”
“When are you leaving?” Said Eden her eyes never leaving the taller woman’s.
“Oh, I thought about 7, then I’d miss all the rush hour. I’d be there by 10.” She gave Eden a puzzled look. “Why?”
“D’you fancy some company?” Eden smiled at her.
“Well, I hadn’t thought of that. It’s just a flying visit really, I want to pick up my computer and some clothes.” Tori shrugged her shoulders. “Hey, why not?”
“That’s great!” Said Eden a wide grin on her face. I haven’t been out of Bath for months. “Then an idea occured to her. “Why don’t we go now?”
“I thought you had to go back to work.” Tori said.
“I can fix that, Mark owes me some favours.”
Tori nodded. “Ok, I’ll drive you home so you can change. Then we’ll shoot off. But first,” she said making for the kitchen, “let’s have that cup of tea.”
Eden nodded and reached into her pocket for her mobile. She sat on the couch again and rang her office number. “Jason?” She said when it was answered, “put me through to Mark.”
“Eden, how did I know you’d call me?” Mark said, but there was an amused tone to his voice.
“Ok Mark. Listen I’m not going to be back today.”
“I guessed that.” Said Mark and Eden heard the sound of computer keys rattling in the background.
“Um Mark, I need another favour.” The rattling stopped. “You know you owe me those five days holiday. Remember, you called me in off my holiday when Rich went sick?”
“Yeah?” Her boss was suspicious.
“Well, I know it’s short notice, but can I take them next week? No-one else is off and the market’s pretty slow at the moment.” She waited, hoping Tori wouldn’t come back in for a moment.
“Eden, you sure like to spring surprises. Ok, but on one condition.”
“What?” Eden never liked Mark’s conditions, in the past one was going on a date with his brother. She smiled remembering the disaster that had been.
“You introduce me to your new friend.”
Eden clapped a hand over her mouth,she took eight seconds to compose herself, then said. “Of course, I’ll think of something. Thanks Mark.”
“Ok Eddie, have a good week then.”
“I will, bye.”
“Oh Eden?” Mark said before she could disconnect them.
“Be good, and if you can’t be good, be careful.”
“I’m always good Mark, bye.” She disconnected before he could reply.
Tori returned to the lounge with a tray with a tea pot, milk, sugar and biscuits on it.
“The kitchen’s well equipped. I had to wash some stuff out before I could use it though. I guess this place has been empty a while.” She poured two cups of tea and offered one to Eden.
“Yeah, the rent is a little high for a two bedroomed place. That’s more the rent you’d pay for a larger family home.” She added milk and sugar to her tea. “I have the rest of the afternoon off, so we can go whenever you like.”
“Ok, we’ll finish our tea then I’ll take you home to get changed.”
Eden directed Tori to the flat in Larkhall. She insisted the woman accompany her into the old Georgian building.
“Wait in there while I change.” She said pointing towards the lounge.
Tori walked into the lounge, finding it in comfortable disarray. It wasn’t untidy as such, just lived in.
“Turn the telly on if you like.” Called Eden from her bedroom.
Tori did so and sat back in the couch to await her friend.
She looked up when she heard someone coming and was surprised to see someone she didn’t know.
“Oh, um, hi. ” Said Cathy, totally stunned. “Are you Victoria?”
“I am.” Tori stood, holding out her hand. “But call me Tori.”
Cathy took the offered hand, shaking it briefly. “Tori it is then, Eddie told me about you.”
“She did?” Said Tori, growing interested. “What did she tell you?”
“Nothing that would interest you.” Said Eden entering the lounge carrying a small bag. She looked at Cathy. “You’re home early.”
“I’m out tonight with Darren, I wanted to have some extra time to myself. Anyway, what are you doing here?”
“I’m going to London with Tori, we’re going to collect some of her stuff. I’ll be back tomorrow.” She handed her bag to Tori who left to put it in the car.
Eden went to the music centre and selected some cd’s to take, having seen the cd player in Tori’s car.
“Things are moving fast aren’t they?” Said Cathy.
“A little. I just want to be with her. Does that make sense?” Eden looked out of the window at the tall woman who was waiting by the car.
“Yeah it makes sense. You’re falling hard Eddie, don’t get hurt. OK?” Said Cathy, who then added. “You’re right, she’s gorgeous.”
“She is isn’t she? And I won’t.” Eden gave her friend a hug and left. “Have a good time tonight.” She called back before shutting the front door.
“All set then?” Said Tori as she buckled up her seat belt.
“Yep.” Said Eden. “I brought some cd’s, is that alright?”
“Absolutely, what do you have?” Tori put the car in gear and wound her way around the narrow street of Larkhall before joining the main road that lead towards the M4, which was the motorway which linked London to the west.
“Um.” Eden looked at her selection. “Tears for Fears, Adiemus and M People. Is there anything you have that you’d rather listen to?”
“No, put Tears for Fears on, I haven’t got any of their stuff.” Tori handed Eden the case for the George Michael cd which was still in the player.
“I originally bought this cd out of loyalty, but I really like their stuff now. I saw them live once, they’re class.” Eden pushed the cd in and returned George Michael to the glove compartment.
“Loyalty?” Tori gave her a puzzled look.
“They’re from Bath originally. I once passed Roland in Milsom Street.”
“Ah, I didn’t know that.” Tori pulled on the handbreak and waited for a red light to change. “I’m glad you’re coming with me.” The dark woman said.
“I’m glad you’re letting me come.”
The first song on the cd started to play. It was called Woman in Chains.
It was 5.30 when Tori found herself in a traffic jam on the London Embankment. Beside her the blond woman slept. She regarded her companion with affection, gently taking the small hand which had fallen between the seats and placing it on the girl’s lap.
The movement woke her.
“Oh.” She said rubbing her face and peering through the rain soaked windscreen at the traffic banked up in front of her. “How long have I been asleep?”
“Really? Tori I’m sorry. Some company I’ve been huh?” She shifted in her seat, trying to get rid of the ache in her back.
“That’s ok, I’m used to driving alone.” Said Tori, as she moved the car forwards another few yards. “Tired?” She asked.
“A little, I didn’t get much sleep last night.” Eden gave Tori a knowing smile.
“Nor me. Overactive brain.”
“Same here.” Eden sighed. “But I had Cathy, she’s a good friend.”
“At last!” Said Tori, startling Eden as the traffic began to move.
By 6.15 they were pulling into the carpark of Tori’s apartment block. She manouvered the Shogun into the bay marked 72.
Eden pulled her bag from the back seat and followed Tori into a small lift. She pushed the button with four on it.
The doors opened to a hallway carpeted in plush burgundy. Tori opened the door with 407 on it by keying numbers into a key pad.
After entering the apartment Eden lost the gift of speech.
“What’s up?” Asked Tori.
Regaining her voice she said, “I’ve never seen anything like this, it’s beautiful.” She walked around the lounge, noting the tasteful furnishings. She turned back to Tori. “What drove you away from this?”
“Life mostly. It was closing in on me, I needed some space.” Tori took Eden’s bag from her and threw it on the sofa. “Listen, you up to a night out? There’s a club I know, if you’re not too tired that is.”
“Yeah, why not? I’ve never been to a London club.” Her face suddenly dropped.” I only brought jeans though.”
“That’s ok, there’s no dress code in this club, you’ll see.” She pointed down the short hall. “You can change in my bedroom if you like, there’s a bathroom off of it.”
Eden picked up her bag and made her way to Tori’s room.
Tori watched her go and sat on the sofa, reaching for the remote, she turned on the tv. This was the first time she’d brought someone to her apartment. She’s always thought of it as her own personal hideaway, the fact that she didn’t give a second thought to allowing Eden into her space, told her volumes.
‘This is the start.’ She said to herself. ‘Don’t blow it.’
Tori had called a cab for 9pm. She herself had changed, earning an appreciative whistle from her companion. She’d decided on white jeans and a black vest. She spent an hour downloading and replying to e-mail and checking a few sites in the internet.
“I’m addicted to this stuff.” She told the smaller woman who sat on the spare bed in the room which doubled as a computer room. “All my e-mail chums will think I’ve abandoned them.”
She shut down the computer and held her hand out to the blond woman. “Ready?” Remembering the first time she’d done that, Eden hesitated before taking the hand and allowing herself to be pulled up.
“You smell nice.” Said Tori, bending and sniffing around Eden’s shoulder.
“White musk.” Said Eden, “I pinched it from Cathy, she has about four bottles of it.”
The phone rang. “Yes?” Said Tori after picking it up. “Right, thanks Jeff.” She turned to Eden. “The taxi’s here, that was the doorman.”
It was a longer journey than Eden thought it would be. Travelling from one end of Bath to the other probably only took ten minutes, London was a whole different ball game. After 45 minutes they were getting out of the taxi outside a club called Firefly’s.
“Is this a regular haunt of yours?” Said Eden as Tori paid the entrance fee for both of them.
“I’ve been here once or twice.” Said Tori. As she walked into the club she reached back and took Eden’s hand.
Eden followed behind, looking down at their linked hands, noticing how hers disappeared in the larger one.
The club was very crowded, and it didn’t take long for Eden to realise it was occupied by women and only women. In Bath there were a couple of gay pubs and a club, but both were mixed, she’d never been into an all women bar.
Every seat was occupied, the occupants obviously reluctant to leave incase their seat was taken in their absence. Tori wound her way through the heaving throng until she found a space near a wall.
“Stay here, I’ll get some drinks.” She shouted over the pulsating music. Without asking Eden what she wanted, she disappeared into the crowd.
Eden stood and watched. One or two women were eyeing her appreciatively, others were more occupied with each other. She smiled at one woman who smiled back and started to make her way towards her. ‘Ooops.’
“Haven’t seen you here before.” The woman said, placing one hand on the wall beside Eden’s head. The woman had very short hair and a hard face, a stud pierced one eyebrow.
“Haven’t been here before,” Shouted Eden, “I’m not from ’round here.”
“Not many are.” She looked down and saw the Eden didn’t have a drink. “Can I get you a drink?”
Eden didn’t like the fact that the loud music meant she had to lean forward to make the woman hear her. “No thanks, my friend is getting me one.”
“Oh yeah, and who’s that?”
“Her.” Said Eden, gesturing with a nod of her head over the woman’s shoulder. The woman turned and found her vision filled with the black leather of Tori’s jacket.
“Oh…….right.” She said, and was gone.
Eden chuckled as Tori handed her the vodka and lime. “Thanks.” She said as she took the drink.
“That’s ok. Was she hitting on you?” Said Tori, lurching forward as she was bumped from behind.
Eden steadied her own drink. “Yep, thanks for rescuing me.”
“Let’s see if we can find somewhere less crowded.” Tori shouted, and once again took the smaller woman’s hand, easing them both through the crowd.
They found a quiet corner with a small shelf where they could put their drinks. “So, what d’you think?” Tori shouted to Eden.
“It’s great, we have nothing like this at home.” Eden took her drink from the small shelf and took a sip.
They both stood in silence for a while, then spoke at the same time.
“You go ahead.” Said Eden.
“Well, I was just wondering where you went with girlfriends in Bath.”
“I haven’t had a girlfriend. Well, not a long term one.” Eden cursed the blush that coloured her face again.
“But I thought…………”
“No, I’ve met some wonderful women in the past few years. But never found ‘the one’.” Eden said.
“I wouldn’t have thought you’d have trouble finding ‘the one’. “Tori said. “You’re getting plenty of attention in here.” Tori looked around at the glances being shot their way.
“I just never found someone who makes me feel…………….. like I belong with them. I had one friend, Karen. She was very possessive. She never wanted me to go anywhere without her. I was never actually going out with her, but she told everyone I was.” Eden frowned at the memory. “In the end I had to be a little rude. Had to tell her where to get off.”
Tori realised Eden was waiting for her to come up with a tale from her past. “I don’t get serious.” She immediately regretted her words when she saw the hurt look in the green eyes. “I mean, I’ve never got serious. Not yet. I suppose I haven’t found ‘the one’.”
Tori’s head shot up as she heard the strains to a very loved song. She reached down and took Eden’s hand. “Put your drink down.” She said and after Eden had done so she lead her towards the dance floor.
“I’m not very good at this.” Said Eden as they stood facing each other in the middle of the crowded floor.
Tori took the girl’s hands and placed them around her own waist, underneath the leather jacket that she still wore. Then she wound her long arms around Eden’s shoulders and pulled the girl close.
Never, never had Eden felt such a feeling of belonging. This was it, she decided. Here in the middle of a crowded dancefloor, she had found her place in the universe. As far as she was concerned, there was no-one else for miles. Just her and Tori. Just her and the love of her life. ‘Wow, that was profound!’ she said to herself. ‘Where did that come from?’
She was brought out of her musings by a finger beneath her chin, lifting her face.
“What?” She said breathlessly.
Tori’s answer was to dip her head and nip at Eden’s bottom lip. “Do you want this?” She asked her breath warm against Eden’s face.
“More than anything.” Was Eden’s reply.
Eden had never seen anything like the smile that split the tall woman’s face, then her mouth was possessed by Tori’s, the lips hot and tasting faintly of the rum she’d drunk earlier. She opened her mouth at the insistance of the questing tongue and allowed herself to sink into the sensation of being totally overwhelmed. Her hands bunched up the material of Tori’s vest as she felt a weakness in her knees and she felt the hold around her tightening as the kiss continued.
She gasped as Tori broke away from her and rested her cheek on the warm skin of Tori’s chest.
They stayed like that, swaying gently to the music, and beyond. Even when the tempo picked up and women gyrated wildly around them, they stayed, locked together, savouring the beginnings of something they both knew was growing.
‘I can do this.’ Thought Tori, squeezing the woman in her arms. ‘Please help me.’ She didn’t know to whom she was pleading for help, but she hoped her plea would be answered.
“Hey there,” she called down to the smaller woman who seemed to be dozing. “Are you falling asleep on me?”
“No.” Came the muffled response, “I’m just comfy.”
“D’you want to go?”
Eden gazed up into the blue eyes, which looked violet in the dim light of the nightclub. “Not really, do you?”
Tori shook her head. “I’m fine if you are.” She took a step back and took Eden’s hand in hers.”Let’s go find our drinks.”
When they got back to their corner they discovered their drinks had gone. So Tori battled her way through the dense crowd to the bar.
As soon as she had left another woman sidled up to Eden. This was becoming tedious, hadn’t the woman seen her with Tori?
“Hope you like it rough.” The woman said, an unfathomable smile on her face.
“Pardon?” said Eden. She felt uncomfortable and looked past the women, there was no sign of Tori.
“All you’ll get is heartache. She plays rough, she likes pain. Get out now while you can.” The woman wasn’t unattractive. Probably in her late twenties. Her eyes were almost as blue as Tori’s but her hair was lighter, and cut short around her neck.
“Look I don’t know who you are, but I’m just fine. Ok?” Eden fidgeted on the spot.
“I’m someone who knows her. Someone who loved her. I was like you once, but she used me. Took what she wanted and left. Don’t let her do it to you.”
“Debbie.” Both women looked towards the low voice.
“Tori.” Said the woman. “Long time.”
Tori handed Eden her glass. “Didn’t know you came here.” She said to her old acquaintance.
“Well, The Gym isn’t half as much fun since you stopped going there. This your new hunting ground?” She looked at Eden. “Your tastes seem to have changed a little, didn’t know you went after kids.”
“I’ll have you know…………….” Eden’s tirade was halted by a large raised hand. She looked up to Tori who shook her head at her.
“Debbie, I’m only in London tonight. I’m just showing Eden around. Now, if you’ll excuse us?” She put a hand on Eden’s back and started to usher her away.
“Yeah sure. Don’t forget what I said sweetie.” She shouted after them.
They managed to find a couple of seats not taken and sank onto them.
“Who was that?” Asked Eden, though she already knew the answer.
Tori rubbed her forehead and then took a long swig of her drink. “Old girlfriend.”
“I thought you said you didn’t have girlfriends.” Eden said, the woman had shaken her.
“I didn’t, she’s a girl and an old friend. Satisfied?” Tori really didn’t need this.
“Ok, I’m sorry.” Eden reached over and put her arm around tense shoulders. “She shook me up a little.”
Tori stared at the floor, resting her elbows on her knees. “What did she say?” She asked in a whisper.
“She said you like to hurt people, she said you liked pain.”
Tori turned to Eden and smiled. “She was right.”
Drinking her drink in one mouthful she suddenly stood. “Drink up, we’re leaving.” Tori said abruptly.
Eden did her best to finish her drink quickly then she stood, swaying a little as she did so. Tori caught her elbow and steadied her. “You ok?” The tall woman asked.
“The vodka’s gone straight to me knees.” Said Eden, “I should have had something to eat.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not looking after you very well am I?”
Eden saw the elegant face tensing.
“I can look after myself.” Said the smaller woman.
“Maybe.” Said Tori, “come on, let’s go.”
Eden followed Tori out of the club but had trouble keeping up with her. The woman’s long legs took her through the doors and out onto the street, while the shorter woman got caught in a small crowd entering the club.
“Tori!” She called to the retreating back.
Tori didn’t seem to hear and carried on walking at a brisk pace.
“Tori, will you stop!”
The angry voice pulled her up short. She didn’t turn but waited for Eden to catch up with her.
“Thankyou.” Said a breathless Eden as she came level with her. She looked up into the emotionless face. “Where are we going?”
Tori laughed sarcastically. “You tell me.” She looked around her and spotted a taxi. Whistling, she gestured toward the driver who pulled in.
The two women climbed into the back and Tori gave her address. The journey was made in silence.
They arrived back at Tori’s apartment in quicker time than they’d taken to get to the club, the reason being the lighter traffic flow.
Tori immediately went to her kitchen and rifled through her freezer. “I have a couple of pizzas.” She called from the kitchen.
“That’s fine.” Said Eden who settled onto the sofa.
By the time Tori had retrieved the pizza’s from the freezer, read and reread the instructions and put them in the oven, Eden had fallen asleep on the sofa.
Tori found her curled up in one corner, one arm under her head the other curled round a large cushion.
Tori sat in the chair opposite and watched her sleep. ‘She really doesn’t know what she’s getting into. What were you thinking of taking her to that place? Best end it here. Save us both some heartache.’
She crept over and sat on the edge of the sofa, brushing some golden hair back from Eden’s shoulder.
The green eyes fluttered open and a soft smile lit the small woman’s face. “Hi.” Eden whispered, and started to get up.
“No, stay there, it’s been a long day. I’ve put the pizzas in, but if you’re too tired don’t worry.” Tori gently pushed her back down onto the soft couch.
Eden lay back and then reached her arms out to the older woman. “Come here.”
Tori stood abruptly. “No……….. I can’t , I have to………….”
“What? What is it?” Eden’s brows knitted in consternation.
“The pizzas, they’ll burn.”
“Go and turn them off.”
Tori stood for a moment, seemingly uncertain, then left for a moment. She returned and resumed her place, standing in front of the reclining form of Eden.
“Now.” Said Eden in a softly seductive voice. “Come here.” Again she opened her arms.
This time Tori allowed herself to be pulled down into a soft embrace. Eden wrapped her arms around her, pulling the dark head down onto her shoulder.
“You going to tell me what’s wrong?” The blonde asked.
There was silence for a while, then a long drawn out sigh from Tori.
“What Debbie said was true.” Tori’s breath was warm on Eden’s chest, her voice muffled by the smaller woman’s denim shirt.
“I hurt people, I’m no good for you.” Tori started to pull away from Eden, but the blonde strengthened her grip.
“Oh no you don’t.” Said Eden. “I’m the only one who decides what’s good for me.” She gave Tori a gentle shake. “Why won’t you give us a chance?”
“I want to, believe me. But………..”
“But what? Let’s just see what happens.” Eden spoke into the soft ebony hair. “No rushing, no great expectations. Just take each day as it comes.” She pushed Tori away so that she could look into her eyes. “What d’you say?”
Tori doubted she’d be able to deny this woman anything. She nodded. “Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” This was said with a smile but Eden knew there was a serious warning behind it.
“Let’s go to bed.” Said Eden.
Tori raised an eyebrow. “Bed?”
“Yes, bed, I’m worn out. Like I said before, last night I had a date with the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and after she left me I couldn’t think of anything else. I didn’t get too much sleep.” Eden smiled as Tori nodded.
“You’re right, let’s go.” She stood, waiting for Eden to join her.”Um, where should I…………?” Eden waited.
“With me.” Was all that Tori said as she took her hand and lead her to the bedroom.
By the time Tori had finished in the bathroom Eden was in bed and fast asleep. She had donned one of her oversize teeshirts and was flat on her back, dead to the world.
Tori eased into bed beside her and lay on her side facing the blonde. A small chuckle found its way from the dark woman’s lips. ‘You’ve got a beautiful woman in bed with you Tori, and you’re not going to touch her. That’s a first!’ She turned onto her back and regarded the darkened ceiling. ‘It’s also a first having someone in this bed.’
She looked across at the glowing numbers on the alarm clock. 02.37. She’d get a few hours sleep and then start thinking about what she wanted to take to Bath with her.
Eden chose that moment to turn in her sleep and Tori found a warm soft body snuggling up against her right side.
Eden settled down again and Tori closed her eyes, though she doubted sleep would find her in the near future.
Eden took a moment to take in her surroundings. Then she realised where she was. She looked to her right at the alarm, the glowing numbers told her it was 10.12am. The thick curtains were pulled but she could see the grey London light filtering through the cracks. She’d known as soon as she awoke that she was alone. She heard noises coming from another part of the apartment and eased out of bed to investigate.
Eden found Tori sitting on the floor in the spare bedroom dismantling her computer.
“Hi.” The blonde said.
Tori turned, a smile of genuine affection graced her features. “Good morning, sleep well?”
Eden nodded and made her way over to the seated woman and bent, putting one hand behind the dark head. “Very well.” She said and dipped down giving Tori the softest of kisses.
Eden straightened back up and smiled at her friend who hadn’t moved or opened her eyes since the kiss.
“You shouldn’t have let me sleep so long.” Said Eden who sat on the bed.
Tori went back to her dismantling. “You needed the sleep.” She looked up to her with a mischievous grin. “And you looked so cute, didn’t have the heart.”
Eden laughed and stood. “I’m going to get dressed then I’ll give you a hand.” With that she left the small room.
An hour later they had the back seat of the Shogun folded down and were starting to load Tori’s computer into it. She also had a few bags with some of the clothes she’d left behind, though she’d brought three cases with her when she’d checked in to the Bath Spa.
“Let’s get some lunch, then we’ll make a move. Ok?” Said Tori.
“Sounds good to me.” They’d had some toast and cereal, but were both still hungry. The half cooked pizzas had found their way into the bin.
After a pub lunch Tori went back to her apartment and made sure it was secure. She saw the doorman and told him she wouldn’t be back for a few months. She remembered to empty the bins, not wanting the smell of mouldy pizzas to welcome her back when she returned. ‘If I return,’ flashed through her mind.
They did surprisingly well considering it was a Saturday and by 6.30 they were heading into Bath.
Eden had chattered constantly on the journey, becoming increasing frustrated that Tori seemed, once again, to be retreating into that unaccessable place that Eden had no way into.
In the end Eden gave up. The last hour or so of the journey was completed in silence.
“D’you want me to help you unload this stuff?” Eden asked as the Shogun sped down the new dual carriageway that bypassed the small village of Swainswick, much to the villagers relief.
“No it’s not much, I can manage.” Tori said, not looking at the woman beside her.
Eden nodded. “Ok.” She was running out of time. They turned right, towards Larkhall. “What about the tour?”
“I’ll call you.”
Tori negotiated the narrow streets and found Eden’s building without any prompting from the girl.
“Here you are.” Said Tori.
“What’s going on?” Asked Eden, regarding the dark profile with concern.
“Nothing, just brought you home.” The smile on Tori’s face was strained.
“Ok.” Said Eden pulling open the door and jumping out. She leaned in and snagged her bag from the back. “If that’s how you wanna play it, carry on.” She slammed the door shut and walked up the steps to the front door, determined not to look back. It took a moment for her to find her keys in her bag, all the time aware that the Shogun was still there, its engine running. She finally got the door open and dove inside, slamming yet another door behind her.
Eden stood with her back to the door, her heart hammering in her chest, and listened to the sound of the car pulling away.
Tori had sat and watched Eden’s tense back from the safety of the Shogun and winced when the heavy door slammed. Her fingers were digging into the steering wheel, and her head dropped when Eden disappeared from sight.
She pushed the gear stick forward and sped forward.
The idea had started some time after they’d left London. Eden was chattering away, but Tori hadn’t heard much of it. She was lost in her own insecurities. She hadn’t had a long term relationship with a woman since Jodie. She hadn’t been in a long term relationship period. Damien had known why they were engaged. Sure, they slept together once or twice, but both realised that it was a relationship more to do with convenience than anything else.
She thought she’d be able to live with that. Damien didn’t seem to object to her ‘evening’s out’, and the question of them living together was never raised. They played the ‘couple’ for her parents. But she became increasing uncomfortable with the arrangement, culminating with her calling the wedding off. She’d recieved a few irate calls from him, a couple downright threatening. Her father got in on the act too, using emotional blackmail and another, even more terrifiying weapon, her mother.
So she’d decided on the journey back to her new home that she couldn’t bring the young woman into such an already complicated life. She wouldn’t be able to commit anything to her, and she guessed Eden was the sort that would eventually want some sort of commitment. She could have used her for a while, she’d done that before. The thought was banished quickly though. She liked Eden, and that was the problem. She wanted her more than anything she could remember. Sharing her bed with her the previous night had been devine. She’d woken to find her face buried in soft, fragrant red-gold hair. She’d pushed the hair back from the sleeping face and watched her for long moments. Her hand crept beneath the white teeshirt and smoothed across a soft hip and down a taut thigh.
It was then that the doubts started to surface. Would she be able to walk away from this woman when the time came? She thought not.
So as she made her way back to Summer Cottage she decided she’d done what was best.
Best for Eden.
Tori returned alone to Summer Cottage. She’d thought the day before, and even that morning, that she would probably have Eden with her when she got back. But her one sided conversation with herself on the journey back had put paid to that.
She’d unloaded the Shogun, but didn’t unpack. The boxes and bags were still on the lounge floor where she’d dumped them.
The cottage was warm, thanks to Eden who’d set up the timer on the heating system before they’d left the day before.
She turned the tv on and watched half heartedly for an hour or so before falling into an uncomfortable sleep.
It was after 10.30pm when she woke, feeling stiff and achey.
She replayed the day she’d just gone through. She’d enjoyed being with the blonde woman.
Tori stood and began to pace. Thoughts of Eden filled her mind. But the thoughts involved the young woman writhing beneath her, her skin glistening with sweat and her eyes filled with hunger. And that was the problem. Eden was so unlike any of the other women she’d known. The others had wanted Tori’s particular brand of love, she loved how she lived, hard and fast. No guarantee of tomorrow. But Eden. Tori closed her eyes.
She did want Eden. She did. And she’d always taken whatever she’d wanted. But she’d have to give as well. And she wanted to. That was a first. She wanted to give this lovely young woman a part of her. But there was nothing good to give, her heart had died, so had her soul. And with nothing to give back she wouldn’t take the girl’s love. And she knew Eden would give that, unconditionally.
So she’d stay away. Definitely. Not go anywhere near her. Ever.
It was 11.15pm when Tori glanced at her watch. She was sitting in her Shogun outside the building that included Eden’s shared apartment.
She took a deep breath and left the security of her vehicle and made her way up the short steps to the front door.
She realised there were three doorbells, peering in the insufficient street lighting she managed to make out the small writing that said Gallagher and Jones. Sounded like a folk band she thought.
She rang the bell and waited.
The door opened and a man peered around it. His shoulders covered in something pink. “Yeah?” He said.
“Sorry to disturb you. I’m looking for Eden.” Tori shifted from foot to foot.
“Who is it?” A disembodied voice from inside asked.
“Someone looking for Eddie.” He shouted over his shoulder.
Cathy’s face appeared behind him. “Victoria.” She said rather cooly. “What’s up?”
“Is Eden here?” Tori asked, unable to meet the somewhat hostile glare of Eden’s friend.
“No she isn’t, come on in.” Cathy said pulling Darren away from the door so that the tall woman could enter. He pulled the pink dressing gown more securely around his body and blushed at the raised eyebrow he got from Tori.
“Darren, go make some tea would you?” Cathy said as she and Tori entered the lounge.
Darren nodded and left the two women alone. Cathy was also dressed in a robe, this one a white towelling affair.
“Sit down.” She instructed Tori who claimed the armchair. Cathy curled up in a corner of the sofa.
“What did she tell you?” Asked Tori, her eyes firmly on her own shoes.
“Not a thing. She came in, crashed around for a while then went out. Haven’t seen her since.” Cathy fiddled with the belt of her robe. “Eden’s a very good friend Tori, I don’t like to see her hurt.”
“I………..” Tori tried.
“No, hear me out.” She said, raising a hand. “She’s very special to me, I love her very much.” She waited a beat, “And she loves you very much.”
“Cathy,” Tori said, a lopsided grin on her face, “I’ve know her a couple of days, how could she possibly know me well enough to love me?”
“This is Eden we’re talking about. It’s all or nothing with her. She’s fallen for you. Hard.” Cathy’s eyes never left the tall woman, she saw the battle going on behind those blue eyes, knew the tumult of emotions that were rumbling beneath the calm surface. “So what happened?”
“I decided that she’d be better off away from me. I’m no good for her.” Tori shrugged, hoping she’d given enough information.
“I think you should have given Eden a chance to make that decision herself.” Cathy took a deep breath. “What do you think of her?”
Tori smiled, again she was being asked questions that no-one that knew her would dare ask. And she surprised herself by answering. “I haven’t been able to think of anything else since the first time I saw her. It’s very easy to like her, to love her.”
Cathy nodded. “I know what you mean, she’s one of those people who sees the best in people first. Not like me. I’m wary of folks when I first meet them. But not Eden. She sees good in everyone, and when she finds the right person to love, really love, that person will be very, very lucky.” She watched Tori carefully. “I think that could be you Tori.”
“I don’t know if I’m that lucky Cathy. I don’t think I deserve to be.”
“I know my best friend, she sees something there that maybe I wouldn’t. She’s a pretty good judge, she’s not often wrong.” Cathy smiled, seeing in the tall woman what her friend must have seen. A sad soul.
She leaned forward and said quietly. “Go find her.”
“Where would she be?” Tori was on her feet giving Darren, who was standing in the doorway juggling three mugs in his hands, an apologetic look, his tea in vain.
“The Tap probably, she usually goes there on a Saturday night.”
“Sorry, The Bath Tap, it’s Bath’s only gay bar. No, that’s not strictly true, but it’s the newest and most popular.” She looked at Darren who was giving her a quizzical look. “So I’ve been told anyway.”
“Where is it?” She asked, making her way towards the door.
“Have you seen McDonald’s yet?” Cathy reached past her and opened the door.
Tori shook her head. “No. I’m not into burgers.”
“Ok, you’re just gonna have to go into Bath and ask for Saint James Parade, that’s the street the Tap’s in.” Cathy pulled her robe tighter against the cold night air.
“Won’t it be shut by now?” Tori stood at the bottom of the steps looking at her watch.
“It stays open late on a Saturday, you’ll have to pay a couple of quid to get in after closing time though.”
Tori nodded and made her way ’round the Shogun to the driver’s side. “Thanks Cathy,” she called over the roof, and then was gone.
Bath isn’t big, which was a good thing. It took a couple of circuits around the centre before she found St. James Parade and then The Bath Tap. She managed to park just a few yards from the entrance. The doors were closed and a gentle push didn’t open them so she gave a couple of taps to the black surface. It opened to reveal a seated man with short peroxide blond hair a black net vest and black leather trousers.
“We’re full up sweetheart.” He said and started to shut the door. Tori put her hand out stopping it from closing.
“I’m looking for a friend, I really need to see her.”
“She got a name?” He said, trying to ignore a similarly dressed man who was nibbling his neck.
“Eden, Eden Gallagher.”
“Eddie? Ok, you’d better come in.” He batted away his friend. “That’ll be two pounds.” He said.
She handed him a fiver and he fished in a tin for the change. “D’you know where she is?” Said Tori looking over his head at the sea of bodies, mostly male.
“No, but she’s here somewhere, came in early and I’d know if she left.”
“Thanks.” She said to the man who turned his full attention back to his companion.
Tori eased through the throng. There were a couple of women sitting in a corner, she made her way through the crowd towards them. They both looked up as she arrived, surprised to see a new face.
“Hi,” she shouted over the sound of the music. “I’m looking for Eden Gallagher, d’you know where she is?”
“Maybe downstairs.” One said, “on the dancefloor.”
Tori thanked them and made her way rowards the arrow which pointed down. She descended into a smokey even noisier basement. Once again the inhabitants were mostly male. the dance floor wasn’t big and the bodies were crushed together in one heaving mass. There was a slightly raised area off to the side and Tori made for that.
There, right in the middle of the floor Tori spotted her.
Eden was leaning heavily against a tall woman with extremely short and very blond hair. The shorter woman’s eyes were closed and she wasn’t really moving to the music, just letting herself be manipulated by the taller woman.
The song stopped and the tall blonde ducked her head and was obviously trying to kiss Eden. Eden suddenly seemed to become aware of what was happening. She looked around groggily and bleary eyes fell on Tori. A strange sort of smile crossed her face and she turned back to her human leaning post. Closing her eyes she kissed the woman long and slow. Then, pulling away, she said something to her and they turned and walked towards the stairs.
Tori stood rooted to the spot for a while, then followed them up the stairs. She found them sitting in the corner with the two women she’d talked to earlier.
Eden was slumped in a chair, one elbow on the table beside her, the blond woman was nowhere to be seen.
“Well, what have we here?” Eden said, her voice slurred.
“Eden, I need to talk to you.” Said Tori, pulling a chair up and sitting beside the swaying woman.
“Now you want to talk? Fuck off!” Edens face contorted with anger
Tori was stunned. But immediately realised she’d brought about the change in the young woman, and decided she probably deserved the abuse.
“Eden…….” She began.
“No! Don’t give me that, I’ve had enough of your love you, love you not crap. One minute your talking about me sharing your future, the next it’s ‘nice knowing you Eden, don’t call me, I’ll call you.'” Eden grabbed the table when she swayed precariously in her seat. “No, I’ve had it. Go back to your sad little life Tori, go back to your wierdo friends in London, they deserve you.”
A tall figure appeared next to Tori and a glass was placed in front of Eden. The blonde mad a grab for it but it was taken out of her reach by Tori.
“Give me the drink Tori.” Eden said, her eyes on the glass in Tori’s hand.
“You’ve had enough.” She stood and gave the glass to Eden’s drinking partner. “Eden won’t be needing this. ” She said, pressing the drink into the slightly shorter woman’s hand. Then she turned and reached down for Eden’s hand. “Come on, I’m taking you home.”
Eden snatched her hand away from Tori’s. “Who the fuck d’you think you are? I’m not going anywhere with you.”
Behind her the tall blonde put a hand on Tori’s shoulder. The heiress tensed and the blonde must have felt it because she withdrew the hand quickly. “Look,” said the woman. “She wants to stay here.”
“With you Karen?” Said Tori enjoying the surprise on the woman’s face.
“How do you know my name?” She asked moving herself between the tall woman and Eden.
“Oh, Eden’s told me all about you. How you lied about your relationship with her, how she had to get rude to get rid of you.”
“And now look who she’s being rude to.” Said Karen smiling.
Behind Karen, Eden was struggling to her feet. “Tori, get the fuck out of here.” She said.
“Not until I’ve spoken to you.” Tori held Eden’s eyes, though the younger woman’s eyes were having trouble focussing.
“Please.” The tall woman pleaded
The fair head slumped, Eden’s resistance failed her and she nodded.
“Ok.” She lurched towards Tori, who caught her and guided her back towards the seat. The other two women moved to give them a little privacy, pulling Karen with them.
“Go on.” Said Eden, struggling valiantly to keep her head up.
“How much have you had to drink?” Said Tori reaching over and taking a small hand in her own.
Eden stared at their joined hands. “Don’t know.”
“I’m sorry.” Said Tori, ducking her head so that she could see into Eden’s face.
“Why?” Said Eden, finally looking up, her eyes bright with the beginnings of tears. “Why did you come back?”
“I was worried about you. I don’t want to hurt you.” Tori took the small hand and brought it to her lips. “I couldn’t stay away though.” She closed her eyes. “Forgive me?”
“You pissed me off, I don’t like being pissed off.” Eden slurred causing Tori to smile.
“You laughing at me?” Eden’s pout looked comical, causing Tori to cup a flushed cheek with one hand.
“No, I’m not laughing at you. I just don’t like the thought of you angry, it doesn’t suit you.” Tori dropped her eyes from the tearful green ones, unable to look into the pain she’d caused. “Would you…….would you give me another chance. Let me try to make things right?”
Eden threw herself into the arms of the taller woman and Tori caught her and held on.
“I’ll take that as a yes then.” She said into the soft golden hair.
“Come on,” Tori said, “let’s get you home.”
“With you?” Said Eden as she wobbled dangerously on rubber legs.
“Yeah, with me.” Said Tori and wound a strong arm around her waist.
Karen moved to intercept them as they made their way to the door.
“What’s going on Eden?” She asked, she’d spent a lot of money getting Eden into a state in which she could get the blonde where she wanted her.
“Karen.” Eden swayed dangerously. “Sorry, I…..” The sentence wasn’t completed before Eden lost her balance and fell taking a table, and the glasses on it, to the floor with her. Tori’s attention had been on Karen and the livid look on her face.
The doorman came over thinking it was trouble and helped Tori get Eden to her feet.
“You ok?” Said Tori holding Eden by her shoulders. Eden was looking at her left hand which was home to three thick shards of glass.
“Dammit!” Tori cursed and sat Eden on the nearest available seat. The doorman got a clean towel from behind the bar and handed it to Tori.
Eden was staring at her hand as Tori gently pulled the glass from the cuts, causing the blonde to suck in a breath through her teeth. Then she wrapped the hand in the towel and hauled Eden to her feet. She pushed her way through the crowd towards the bathroom where she placed the girl’s hand under the cold tap.
After washing away the blood she saw that the cuts were deep. One in the fleshy part of the palm at the base of the thumb, another had sliced the webbing between thumb and forefinger. The third was smaller, just across the top of the first cut.
“These need stitches.” She said wrapping the towel tightly around the now wet hand.
“Ok.” Said Eden agreeably.
She helped Eden down the few steps and out of the bathroom. Karen had gone to sit in the corner with the two women and Tori was glad that there wouldn’t be another confrontation.
Once outside the cool night air seemed to take all the life out of Eden. She slumped heavily against Tori and the taller woman just managed to get her into the Shogun before she passed out. She secured the seatbelt around the girl and propped her bleeding hand in her lap.
Slamming the door she turned to see two men walking towards her.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Could you tell me where the nearest hospital with a casualty department is?”
“The R.U.H.” Said one of them. “You’re headed in the right direction.” He pointed up the road. “Go to the end, turn right, then left and follow the road. You should come across signs pretty quick.”
“Thanks.” She said and jumped into the car. Giving the blonde a quick glance she made her way in the direction she’d been shown.
It was well after 3am by the time they left the hopital. She’d managed to rouse Eden when they got there, but the casualty department was full with the usual Saturday night crowd. They’d seen her pretty quickly though, because of the amount of bleeding she’d been doing.
Tori sat with the drunks and fight victims while Eden was stitched up. She’d asked to go along, but had been told to wait by the overworked sister.
But after a while the sister came and got her and allowed her into the cubicle where Eden was resting on a bed.
“She’s going with you?” The sister asked as she pulled back the curtain.
“Yes, I’ll take her home.”
“Do you know how much she’s had to drink?” The sister pulled the curtains closed again.
“Not exactly, quite a lot I think.” Tori took in the sight of a very pale and still Eden on the bed.
“Well, I don’t want her to take any pain killers for a while. The local anaesthetic will wear off in time, by then she should be able to take these.” The sister handed her a small bottle. ” She needs to get it checked in ten days, her local GP should be able to remove the stitches. We got all the glass out, it shouldn’t scar too much. Make sure she keeps the dressing dry and doesn’t use the hand too much.”
Tori nodded and put the bottle in her pocket.
“I’ll find a porter.” Said the sister and was gone.
Tori leaned over Eden and took a slim shoulder in her hand. “Hey there.” She said quietly. She watched as the pale face scrunched up and the green eyes fluttered open.
“Hurts huh?” Said Eden sympathetically.
“Not my hand, can’t feel that. It’s my head.”
“My fault, I’m sorry.” Tori took Eden’s good hand and squeezed it.
“No, me being stupid. I don’t drink much, so it didn’t take long to get like this.”
They were interrupted by the porter arriving with a wheelchair. Eden looked at it with horrified eyes.
“I don’t have to get in that, do I?”
“‘Fraid so luv, hospital policy. Be a good girl and jump in.” Said the annoyingly chipper porter.
Tori helped her down from the bed, holding her as she wobbled. She went an amazing shade of green once on her feet and Tori waited. “Ok?” She asked.
“Oh wow. I feel like shit.” Said Eden as she slumped into the chair.
“I’m not surprised, you look like it.” Before Eden could reply Tori had told the porter she was going to bring the car to the hospital entrance and had gone.
It was 4.26 according to the clock on the cd player in Tori’s car when they arrived back at Summer Cottage. Eden was, once again, asleep.
Tori jumped out of the car and opened the door. Warm air wafted out, without realising it she’d left the heating on. She was glad of her forgetfulness.
She went back to the Shogun and tried to rouse Eden. This time there was no waking the blonde. She looked back at the door and the short distance, then considered her options.
Taking a deep breath she snaked an arm under Eden’s knees and another behind her shoulder’s. She was glad that the Shogun was higher off the ground than a normal saloon. Taking the weight of the girl in her arms she straightened, surprising herself how easy it was to lift her.
She bumped the car door closed with her hip and quickly made her way into the cottage, kicking the front door closed with her heel. She started to go into the lounge, but veered off and went up the stairs toward the bedroom.
She lay Eden carefully on the bed, and stood back. ‘Now what?’
Again she tried to wake her. Nothing doing.
‘Ok.’ She said to heself, and bent to undo the laces of the black ankle boots Eden was wearing, discarding each one as she took it off. Then she sat her up and removed the black jacket. She had a silk burgundy shirt on under that, she’d leave that on for now. She undid the jeans and pulled them off carefully. She rolled Eden onto her side, pulled the covers back and then covered her with them, tucking them around the sleeping form.
She stood for a long moment, a feeling of guilt washing over her. This girl was offering her something she thought she’d never have. Why was she was resisting it?
And could she return it?
It was too late for that particular debate. She made her way downstairs and into the lounge. Tori slumped onto the sofa, wanting nothing more than to curl up in the bed upstairs next to a warm and soft body.
But she decided she didn’t deserve that.
Eden felt sick. Her mouth was dry and her tongue felt bigger than the small space it inhabited would allow.
She reached over to her bedside cabinet where she always kept a glass of orange juice, but couldn’t locate the cabinet. She opened a bloodshot orb and looked around.
The grey morning light revealed a vaguely familiar room, but not her own. She looked at her watch. It wasn’t there. In its place a white bandage.
She stared at the bandage for long moments, fascinated by the sight of the tips of her fingers showing above it. Then she felt the pain, and then the nausea.
She lurched from the bed, and then back onto it. Gathering herself, she made her way to the bathroom. Somewhere in her foggy mind she realised she was in Tori’s cottage.
Having never had to remove knickers using only one hand, Eden realised it should be an Olympic sport. She tried using her injured hand, but the pain it caused to the base of her thumb stopped her short. After inching the underwear down her thighs she sighed and sat for long moments, her head starting to throb in earnest.
Rather than battle with her underwear again she kicked them off, the shirt she wore coming to mid thigh.
Cradling her hand she went in search of Tori.
There was no sign of the woman in the other bedroom, so she made her way gingerly downstairs.
She found the tv in the lounge was on, some religious programme preaching in vain, the sound off. And she found Tori, asleep on the sofa. She was sitting, her head leaning against the backrest, the tv remote in her slack hand. The clock on the vcr told her it was just after 7. She knelt on the couch next to Tori and shook her shoulder gently.
“Hey there.” She said quietly.
The blue eyes fluttered open. “Oh, hi.” She sat up and scrubbed her face with her hands. “Must have fallen asleep.” She regarded the unhappy looking woman. “How do you feel?”
“Lousy.” Said Eden slumping down beside her. “How did this happen?” She said holding up her hand.
“You fell, got some glass in it.”
“I fell? Oh God, I don’t remember a thing.” She grimaced as she moved the hand a little too quickly.
“Hold on.” Said Tori standing. “I have some pain killers the sister gave you.” She picked up her jacket from its place on the chair and gave Eden a couple of pills. “I’ll get you some water.”
“Thanks, but could I have orange? I hate drinking water. We got a carton when we shopped the other day.” ‘Only the other day.’ Thought Eden. ‘Seems like a lifetime ago.’
“Sure.” Called Tori from the kitchen and returned with a glass which she handed to the girl.
Eden took both pills at once and finished the juice quickly, getting rid of the acid taste in her mouth somewhat.
“You gonna tell me what happened?” Asked Eden her eyes on the bottom of her glass.
“I………..spoke to Cathy.”
“Cathy? Oh………. What did she say?” Still Eden wouldn’t look at the woman.
“She told me to go find you.” Tori put a hand on the bare thigh, rubbing across the smooth skin with her thumb. “Stupid thing was, I’d already found you.” She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry.”
Eden placed her good hand on top of the large one resting on her thigh. “I’m sorry too.”
“For what?” A gentle squeeze to the hand accompanied the question.
“For letting you do it, letting you go like that. And then getting drunk. ” She looked up and met the steady blue gaze. “I should have fought harder.” Eden blinked rapidly, her eyes suddenly heavy. “But at least I haven’t thrown up.” She said with a small amount of pride.
“Not this morning, anyway.” Said Tori, a small smile on her face.
“Oh no.” Said Eden covering her face. “Not in your car.”
“No, I got you out in time.” Said Tori.”No, all the way across the hospital carpark.” Tori smiled at the look of acute embarassment that swept across the still pale features.
Eden closed her eyes and rested her head against the back rest of the sofa.
“Tired?” Asked Tori, pushing golden hair back from a slightly warm forehead.
“Absolutely wiped.” Said Eden and stood, keeping hold of the hand as she did so. “Come on, let’s get a few hours sleep, it is Sunday, after all.”
Tori nodded. “Ok, you take the main bedroom.”
“No, I want you to stay with me.” She felt a pull on her arm as the tall woman stopped. “What?”
“I don’t think………”
“You’ve been doing too much thinking and decision making for the last two days. This is my decision. Now, come to bed, you look bloody awful.”
Tori was taken aback by the determined little speech, but she allowed herself to be pulled up the stairs and into the bedroom.
“So how did I do this?” Said Eden as she got back into the rumpled bed.
“You fell.” Tori disappeared into the bathroom.
“You were drunk.” Came the voice from the bathroom.
“Very drunk?” Eden snuggled down into the bed.
“Very drunk.” Tori emerged from the bathroom in a long teeshirt. She climbed into bed and lay still for a moment. Then she looked to her right, smiled and reached out her arm, taking the smaller woman and pulling her into her side.
Eden fitted herself comfortably against the long, warm body. Careful to keep her hand from being crushed between them, and resting her head on Tori’s shoulder.
“What else did I do?” The sleepy voice asked.
Tori tightened her grip around the blonde. “Go to sleep, we have plenty of time to talk about it.”
“Do we?” Eden raised her head slightly to see the dark profile. “Do we have plenty of time?”
Tori nodded. “Yeah, we do.”
Eden settled down again and snaked her right arm around the woman’s waist. “Ok, but you go to sleep too.”
“I will.” She said.
Outside the rain turned to sleet and then to snow. But inside two women slept peacefully, safe at last in the knowlege that they’d found each other.
It was the sound of heavy rain against the window that woke Eden. That, and the throbbing pain coming from her hand. Her head was still nestled against the shoulder she was using as a pillow and she looked up at the sleeping face above her.
In her sleep Tori looked very different and Eden smiled at the peaceful look that graced the woman’s countenance.
But the pain in her hand was becoming unbearable.
“Tori.” She said, sitting up and leaning back against the headboard.
“Mmmm?” Tori blinked into the late morning light. “What, what is it?”
“It’s not too early to take some more of those pain killers is it?”
Tori looked at her watch, it told her it was just after 10.30. “I think it should be ok. Does it hurt a lot? Maybe we should go back to the hospital, they might not have go all of the glass out.”
“No, I don’t want to go back yet. I’ll just take some more pain killers and see what happens.” She watched Tori roll out of bed and disappear. She returned moments later with the bottle of pills and more juice.
Eden swallowed the pills while Tori eased back into the bed again, sighing as she settled beneath the clean, crisp sheets.
“Where did the bedding come from?” Asked Eden as she reached down and put the glass on the floor.
“I brought it with me from London yesterday, I made the beds before I decided to go looking for you.”
“What happened at the Tap?” Eden lay back down putting a forearm across her eyes.
“You were drunk. It was my fault, I was an idiot. Let’s forget about it.” Tori turned onto her side, facing the smaller woman.
“I think I can remember Karen.”
Tori closed her eyes. “Yes, you have some explaining to do there.”
“There’s nothing……………..” Eden started, lowering her arm and finding Tori’s eyes.
“Not to me, I knew what was going on, but you should talk to Karen.”
Eden nodded. “You’re right.”
“You swore a lot.” Tori smiled.
“Oh God.” Eden groaned, “I’m so sorry.”
“Hey it’s over. Let’s go on from here. No more apologies.” Tori rolled over again and got out of the bed. “You go back to sleep. I have to go into town and get some things. I’ll also pop ’round to your place and get some more clothes for you, your jeans are pretty bloodstained.”
Tori went into the bathroom and slipped on a pair of jeans, then she went down to the lounge and found the box which held her teeshirts and slipped one on. She went back up to the bedroom and found Eden dozing.
She bent over and kissed the soft lips, then backed away and watched as the green eyes fluttered open.
“I won’t be long, get some sleep and I’ll see what I can find for dinner. Should I tell Cathy to call in sick for you tomorrow?”
Eden shook her head. “I already arranged to take next week off.”
“You did? You kept that quiet.”
“I didn’t mean to, just forgot.” Eden’s eyes were closing again, and Tori pulled the quilt up around the blondes chin. She kissed her on the forehead and then, taking one last look, left and shut the door quietly.
After Tori did some shopping to stock the cottage, from food to soap and shampoo for the bathroom, she went to the Bath Spa and checked out. Then she went to see Cathy and explain where her best friend was.
“I guessed she was with you.” Said Cathy as she lead Tori into the lounge.
“Yeah, I found her where you said she’d be.” Tori stood, not wanting to stay too long.
“Well, I’m glad you got things sorted, Um, where is she?”
“She had a little too much to drink and had a fall, we ended up in casualty.”
Cathy’s eyes widened in alarm. “Is she ok?”
“Her pride is bruised a little I think, and she cut her hand quite badly on some glass. I need to pick up some stuff for her, her jeans are pretty blood stained.”
Cathy nodded and lead her through to the kitchen. “She’d done a load of washing the other day so you might as well take that, I’ll get some teeshirts and stuff from her room.”
Tori gathered up the jeans and underwear that were in the linen basket awaiting ironing and went back to the lounge. “I’ll get a bin bag.” Said Cathy and went again, returning with a big black plastic bag. They stuffed the clothes into the bag and Tori picked it up, ready to leave.
Cathy reached out and took Tori by the arm. “I’m glad things worked out ok.” She said.
“So am I.” Said Tori and Cathy knew the tall woman meant it.
“She deserves something good to happen to her, she’s been waiting for it long enough. She kept saying that she’d know when she found the right one. I think that’s why she got so mad last night. Before she went out she was crashing around, I’ve never seen her like that. I think she thought she’d found it and lost it just as quickly.”
Tori nodded. “She was so angry when I found her.”
“Yeah, that’s not like Eddie, she just doesn’t get mad.”
“I’m sorry it was me that got her that way. I’m going to make it up to her.”
“Is she going to work tomorrow?” Cathy asked.
Tori shook her head. “She managed to get the week off.” Tori regarded the floor. “Thanks for everything Cathy.”
Cathy shrugged. “She’s my best friend. I knew you had to find her last night, for both your sakes.”
Tori put the bag down and took Eden’s friend in her arms and gave her a heart felt hug. Then taking the bag she opened the door to the street.
“Tell Eddie to call me.”
“I will.” Said Tori and threw the bag into the back of the Shogun. Giving Cathy a wave she started the engine and drove off.
Cathy turned back into the flat to see Darren emerging from the bathroom.
“What’s up?” He said seeing the sad look on his girlfriend’s face.
“I think I may have lost my flatmate.” She said and allowed herself to be taken into his arms for a consoling hug.
Eden woke again just after mid-day. She was still wearing the blouse she’d worn out the night before. Padding down the stairs to the lounge she found the boxes that Tori had failed to unpack.
She rifled through them and managed to find another of Tori’s teeshirts and some underwear. The heating was still on, for which she was grateful. Outside the snow had turned back to rain, and although it was only noon, it was depressingly dark.
She went through the kitchen to a small room where she found a large pile of logs. Taking them one at a time, in her good hand, she piled a few in the fireplace, and the rest at the side of it. Then, using the firelighters she found in one of the kitchen drawers, she managed to light the fire. She watched it for a moment as it gathered pace and smiling, went upstairs to the bedroom.
She threw the shirt and underwear on the bed and went to the bathroom. Convinced she’d feel better after a hot bath she started it running.
It was a struggle getting out of her remaining clothes, but she managed, and as she sank into the hot water she was careful to keep the bandaged hand out of the way.
After her bath she took the quilt from the bed and went back to the lounge. Wearing just the teeshirt and the briefest pair of briefs, she snuggled down on the couch in front of the roaring fire.She turned on the tv and, with a sigh, settled back to wait for Tori.
A couple of hours later she heard the sound of the Shogun as it stopped out the front. She jumped up and looked out to see Tori struggling with lots of bags of shopping. She opened the front door just as Tori went to put her key in.
“Hi.” Said Eden, holding the door open.
Tori seemed to find words hard to come by. She took in the vision in front of her. Eden, in one of her white teeshirts and little else.
“You’re getting wet Tori.” Eden said, a faintly amused look crossing her face.
“You’re right.” Said Tori, bending to pick up the parcels. She moved them just inside the front door and closed it against the storm. She stood for a moment, facing the door, then turned. Eden hadn’t moved from her spot and two strides took Tori into the blonde woman’s arms.
“Hi honey, I’m home.” She said, smiling into the fair hair.
“That’s corny.” Said Eden, and claimed Tori’s mouth before she could reply. The kiss was gentle, and welcoming, with the hint of a promise of things to come.
“Mmm, you smell good. Have you had a shower?” Said Tori, leaning back and pushing blond hair back from Eden’s face.
“No, a bath. I found some bubble bath in the cabinet, but no soap. I just needed to feel clean.” Eden took a step back as Tori released her and reached for her injured hand.
“You didn’t get the bandage wet, did you?” She asked, gently inspecting the binding.
“No, I was careful.” Eden turned her attention to the bags as Tori removed her wet jacket and hung it on a hook by the door. “What did you get?”
“I got us some dinner, the only thing I can cook.” She picked up the bags and made her way to the kitchen, putting them on the table.
“What’s that?” Said Eden following like a lost puppy.
“Spaghetti bolognese.” Said Tori proudly.
“That’s going to be tricky.” Eden smiled, waggling her injured hand at the taller woman.
“Well, I’ll just have to help you, won’t I?” Tori stood a moment, enjoying the closeness. “Go on into the lounge, I’ll start cooking.”
“No, come with me first, I want to show you something.”
Tori shrugged and allowed herself to be pulled into the lounge. The silliest grin crossed her face when she saw the roaring fire. “Wow, that makes a difference.”
“Doesn’t it just. Makes it cosy, don’t you think?” She looked at the pile of boxes. “Shall we get these unpacked first? Then we’ll eat.”
Tori looked at the boxes, one of her pet hates being unpacking. “I’ve been putting it off, but you’re right.” She walked over and started sifting through the boxes. “These are all clothes, they can go upstairs. The computer stuff can go in there.” She indicated the small room she’s earmarked on her first visit as an office with a nod of her head. “I have a couple more cases in the car from the hotel.”
“Did you check out then?”
“Thought I’d better, the bill was running up.” Tori lifted the box and stood, she looked back just in time to see Eden attempting to lift the computer. “Hey! Don’t even think about it. You’ll pop those stitches.”
Eden threw her hands in the air. “So what should I do then?” She said slumping down on the sofa.
“Make some tea.” She said and disappeared with the box. “How’s your stomach and your head?” Came the voice from the top of the stairs.
“Fine. Surprisingly. I thought I’d feel really bad, but I think that couple of hours sleep helped.” She held her feet up to the fire and wiggled her toes.
“It also helped that you got rid of most of the booze in the hospital carpark.” Said Tori who was leaning against the door jam watching the blonde, a cheeky smile on her face.
“I had some sandwiches when you were out, that helped too.” She watched the tall woman as she crossed the floor and sat beside her.
“I brought some jeans from your flat if you want to put them on.”
“You saw Cathy?” Asked Eden.
“Yeah, she was glad to hear you’re ok.” Tori placed her hand on a bare thigh. Again. “Are you ok?”
“I am. Thanks. My hand hurts a little, but apart from that I feel fine.” She placed her hand over Tori’s. “What about you?”
Tori nodded. “It was nice, coming home knowing you’d be here.” Blue eyes found green, “I’ve never had that before.”
“No-one waiting for you?”
Tori shook her head.
“What about you and Damien?”
“I told you I loved him didn’t I.” Tori watched the blonde head nod. “I don’t think I did. I tried to convince myself I did when it looked like I was going to marry him. I never got round to living with him. We went back to his flat twice. After our second night together we agreed that it wasn’t working, but we’d go ahead with the marriage.” Tori shrugged and shook her head.
“Because it was what my father wanted. I felt I owed him, felt I should do what he expected of me.” Tori snaked an arm around the blonde’s shoulders and pulled the willing body closer. “Didn’t really think it would matter. I’ve never loved, never been loved. What difference would a marriage without love make. I…………..”
A shifting of the warm body beside her stopped her. “Tori.” Eden said turning in her seat to face her. “You’ve never been loved?”
Tori smiled at the concerned look on her new friend’s face. “Never.” Was all she said.
“But your parents………..”
“…………didn’t love me. Up until Rory died I hadn’t seen my father for over four years. I worked in another branch of the company. We talked on the phone, but only as an employer would to one of his employees.” She cupped a flushed cheek. “Don’t worry about me Eden, I’m used to it.”
“No, no-one should be used to that. Everyone needs someone to love them.”
“I don’t. I wouldn’t expect something I couldn’t return.”
There was silence for a long moment. Then Eden leaned forward and kissed the woman gently on the lips. “You have love in you, I can feel it.” She said, her breath warm on Tori’s face.
Tori stood so quickly that Eden almost toppled forward. “I’m gonna cook.” She said and walked quickly from the lounge to the kitchen.
Eden sighed and followed. She found Tori emptying the minced beef into a frying pan. “You ok with bolognese?” Tori said without looking up.
Eden leaned against the worktop. “Fine, but no spaghetti for me, I get in enough of a mess with two hands.”
Tori looked up. “It won’t be spaghetti bolognese without the spaghetti.”
“It’ll be fine without.” Eden assured her. “Did you get any wine?” Tori nodded towards one of the bags. “Great.” Said Eden, “I’ll lay the table in the dining room and we’ll have a romantic dinner.”
“Ok.” Said Tori who turned back to her cooking, only to feel a soft touch on her back. She turned to find smiling green eyes regarding her thoughtfully.
“Relax.” Said Eden and then she was gone.
Tori blew out a long breath and picked up the jar of bolognese sauce, reading the instructions a couple of times before putting it down again.
Eden managed to find a couple of candles and a table cloth in one of the drawers of the huge sideboard in the dining room. The table was laid and she was sitting on one of the chairs watching the gently falling snow when Tori emerged from the kitchen with two plates.
“Hope it’s ok.” She said as she placed the plates on the mats Eden had set on the table.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. There’s certainly plenty of it.” Eden sat opposite Tori and took a fork in her right hand.
“Is it too much? I’m never very good at judging how much to do.”
“No it’s great, I haven’t had much in the last few days.”
Tori reached over and pulled the cork from the wine which Eden had loosened earlier. She filled both glasses and raised her glass. “Cheers.” She said.
Eden touched her glass to Tori’s “Cheers, here’s to…………..” She looked into Tori’s eyes hoping she’d finish the toast.
“Us?” Said Tori, and shook her head slightly, uncertainty causing her to drop her eyes from the blonde woman’s.
“Yeah, us. Wanted you to say it though.”
Tori smiled at her. “Eat your dinner.”
Later that evening the two women sat on the couch in front of the blazing fire. The tv was on, but not being watched. The quilt that Eden had brought down earlier in the day was on the floor in front of the fire. Tori had her back against the arm of the couch and Eden was lying back against her chest.
“Comfy?” Said Tori her right arm circling the smaller woman’s waist.
“Mmm, very.” Said Eden, her own hand covering the larger one.
“Hope you’re warm enough in just that teeshirt.”
“I am, but I can put some jeans on if you want.”
“I don’t want.” Said Tori and moved the blonde hair aside so that she could kiss the soft skin of Eden’s neck.
Eden tilted her head sideways as Tori’s soft lips made their way up to an earlobe and took it between even, white teeth.
“You ok?” Tori husked into the ear by her lips.
“I’m great.” Said Eden who turned on her side and claimed the soft lips in a searing kiss. Tori opened her mouth when a hot tongue licked along her top lip, asking for permission to enter.
Eden lay comlpetely on top of the woman now, her elbows on either side of the dark head. She felt Tori’s hands find their way under the back of the teeshirt, smoothing the flesh there in long strokes. The blonde ducked her head and suckled an elegant neck. “I want you Tori.” She moaned into the warm skin.
Tori’s hands smoothed lower, under the waistband of the briefs that Eden wore, and cupped the firm globes she found there. She dug her fingers into the silky flesh and ground the woman into her own body.
Eden leaned back a little and pulled the teeshirt Tori was wearing out of the waistband of her jeans with her good hand Without further ado Tori pulled the shirt over her head and threw it behind the couch. The bra had a front fastening on it, so that disappeared quickly too.
Tori smirked and got hold of the bottom of the shirt that Eden wore, pulling it off in one movement.
Eden settled back down onto her human matress, and both women sighed in unison. She took the face below her in her hands and kissed the woman deeply.
Suddenly Tori took hold of the blonde and rolled them both over and onto the floor. Tori ended up on top, she straightened out the quilt and pulled them both onto it. “Is your hand ok?” She whispered. Eden nodded.
Eden felt the warmth from the fire against one side, and the warmth from the body on top of her on her stomach.
Tori slid down, trailing tiny kisses across Eden’s collar bone and up past the pulse point to her earlobe again. Then she made her way back down. Eden sucked in a breath when she felt the warm lips attach themselves, almost gently, to a nipple. Soft fingers found the other and soon both peaks were rampant and almost painful.
Eden entwined her hand in soft ebony hair, urging the warm mouth to continue its torture. The drawing became more intense and Tori’s free hand came to rest on Eden’s hip. She made tiny circles there, the flesh producing goose bumps in her wake. Then the hand moved up along her ribs to cup the side of the breast she was suckling.
Eden opened her mouth to gasp Tori’s name but found her mouth claimed by the hot lips of the taller woman. The kiss was hard and passionate, and Tori shifted, placing a thigh between the blonde’s legs. She cupped a breast in one hand, the other tangled itself in the golden hair, pulling the blonde head back she fastened onto Eden’s neck.
Eden managed to get her hands between them and found an already hard nipple. She rolled it between her finger and thumb and smiled into the kiss when she felt Tori twitch above her.
Suddenly Tori knelt up, hooked her hands around the underwear Eden was wearing and drew it down and off her legs. She knelt still for a moment, taking in the sight of the naked woman beneath her, the skin glowing in the firelight.
She lay down beside the blonde, her head propped up on one hand. “You’re beautiful” She said, her hand gently rubbing the soft abdomen.
“So are you.” Said Eden, closing her eyes as the hand moved lower with each circle it made. Eden gave herself up to the feeling of the hand on her stomach. Then she felt the lips on her breast again just as the hand moved down and claimed her. Her hips jerked as Tori’s fingers found her warmth and wetness. She placed a bandaged hand on the dark head, smoothing the hair gently. Then she felt the head raise up as Tori looked intently at her, wanting to watch the emotions flit across her face as she took her. Green eyes opened to find blue boring into her. The stroking became more insistant, then she was filled and pulled Tori’s head down, gasping into her mouth as the pressure at her centre became unbearable.
Tori released her mouth and watched her lover’s face as her body convulsed and Eden screamed Tori’s name. She stilled her hand until Eden lay still and then gently withdrew from her.
Snaking an arm around her back she drew the woman into an embrace and pulled the quilt around them. Eden was limp in her arms, she brushed some golden locks back from the sweating face and ducked her head to look into the lovely face.
“Eden?” She said.
“I’m wonderful.” Eden squirmed around so that she was, once again, on top of her lover. “You ok?”
Tori nodded and Eden reached up to the couch and pulled down two cushions, placing them under Tori’s head. “There.” Said the blonde, and nestled her head into a warm shoulder. Then she knelt up and awkwardly with one hand undid the buttons on the jeans. “Take them off.” She asked, huskily.
Tori did so quickly and once she was as naked as Eden she welcomed the smaller woman back into her arms and settled back in front of the roaring fire.
Under the cover of the quilt a small hand made its way from the hip to a small patch of dark curly hair. “No.” Said Tori, capturing the hand and moving it back to her own stomach.
“Let me.” Said Eden, kissing the taller woman along the jaw line.
“No.” Tori said again. “I can’t.”
Eden leaned back so that she could look at her lover’s face. “What d’you mean, you can’t?”
“Just can’t.” Tori closed her eyes, a tear escaping and meandering down to join the hair at her temple. “Let me just hold you.” She opened her eyes and Eden saw pain in the blue orbs. “Please?” Tori asked.
“Ok.” Said Eden and allowed herself to be pulled back down onto the warm body. ‘For now.’ She thought.
Eden must have dozed, because she was awakened by the pain in her hand. Tori had rolled over and was lying slightly on it.
“Hey there.” She whispered into the dark hair. She could make out Tori’s face in the firelight and knew she was asleep. There was no reaction from the taller woman so she eased her hand out from underneath her. She got up onto her elbow and looked down into her lover’s face. She saw where the tears had dried on the high cheekbones and wondered what the source of the pain was that caused them.
Pushing the quilt back from the lean body she raked her eyes across the perfect breasts. ‘I will claim this body.’ She thought to herself.
Gently rubbing Tori’s abdomen to accustom the sleeping woman to her touch she watched her own hand as it made lazy circles. Looking up into the sleeping face she watched the tiny twitches as her hand moved lower.
‘Why don’t you want to let me give you this?’ She said as her finger found the bundle of nerves in the wetness.
Tori’s thighs twitched spasmodically and Eden eased her touch, not wanting to wake the woman yet. Resting her hand on the dark mound she waited, then resumed the gentle stroking. She watched Tori’s face and when her lips parted she bent and kissed her gently, slowly deepening the kiss as she felt the woman wake beneath her.
Tori grasped at the younger woman’s head. Pulling her into the kiss that she woke to, then gasped as she climaxed, trapping Eden’s hand at the juncture of her thigh’s.
“There, that wasn’t so hard was it?” Said Eden, her smile fading when she saw tears coursing down the woman’s face again.
Eden eased her hand away and lay heavily on the solid body, wrapping the dark head in her arms and kissing away the tears that still fell from the blue pools.
“What is it?” She whispered into soft hair.
“I don’t think……….. I don’t deserve this.” But even as she said it, she knew, she wouldn’t be able to do without it. Not now.
“Well, that doesn’t really concern me.” Said Eden. “You didn’t have much of a say in the matter. I took you. You’re mine now.”
Tori couldn’t help laughing and Eden laughed with her. “Am I now, and what d’you plan doing with me?”
“Anything I like, whenever I like.”
“Ok.” Said Tori and pulled the blonde down for a lover’s kiss.
Extra boredom disclaimer. This section includes the tour of Bath. If you’re not really into history and stuff you might want to skip some parts of this section.
Tori’s first sensation was a pain in her back. She shifted on the hard floor, trying to comprehend what was keeping her pinned in place.
Then she remembered.
Her right arm was curled round the warm body which lay half on her, warm breath fanning her breast. Her right cheek rested against soft golden hair and one arm and one leg of her companion, her lover, was keeping her rooted to the floor.
She cupped the back of the fair head with her left hand and gently eased her arm out from its place as the younger woman’s pillow. Then she untangled her body and, wrapping the blonde again in the quilt, sat on the couch. She sat for a while, watching the woman sleep, before standing and going upstairs to her bedroom to find the case that held her towelling dressing gown.
After she’d put it on she went into the window. She stood for a moment, looking out into the night.
The moon was full, the sky clear and the snow that had fallen during the evening glowed with the moon’s light. She pulled the robe tighter around her body. It wasn’t too late, just after 11pm, and the heating still warmed the small cottage.
Tori turned and made her way down to the lounge again.
The tv was still on, the sound muted. The fire was burning low so she carefully stepped over the sleeping form on the floor and threw a few more logs on.
Then she crouched beside Eden and took hold of a slim arm. “Hey, sleepyhead.”
“Mmm?” Came the muffled reply.
Bleary green eyes opened and regarded her sleepily. “What?”
“Come up here, you’ll be more comfy.” She said as she sat on the couch and patted the cushion beside her.
“Comfy here.” And the green eyes closed again.
“Not for much longer.” Said Tori and reached down pulling a complaining blonde up to sit on the couch beside her. The she wrapped her in the quilt again and pulled her into her arms. Eden snuggled into the embrace, pulling her feet up onto the couch. “There, that’s better isn’t it?”
No reply, Eden was already asleep again.
So Tori held the girl and wondered. Wondered how long it would be before Eden walked away. Like Jodie, like the others. But Eden would take something with her the others didn’t have. A little part of her. Something she’d never allowed anyone else to see. She’d known her what, four days? And in those four days she’d seen the possibility of something she’d always denied herself. A shot at happiness. But who was she to expect something she’d never give anyone else?
She found herself crying, something she’d done more in the last couple of days than in the last thirty years. When was the last time she cried? Not at Rory’s funeral. Not when she walked away from Jodie. Not when her parents didn’t show up to collect a twelve year old for the school holidays. Not when her mother told her she would never be anything, had been a mistake and had almost caused her father to divorce her. They had the son they wanted, a daughter was surplus to requirements. She hadn’t cried when they refused to take her on a vacation. She remembered Rory’s smug face peering at her from the back window of the car as they left.
She’d dealt with that.
She couldn’t handle this.
Did she really want the responsibility of another person? She’d always been alone. Always managed. Didn’t need anyone.
Tori looked down. Eden’s head had fallen back onto the taller woman’s forearm. Her face was open and relaxed. Tori bent her head forward and pressed her lips to the soft skin.
“Could you love me?” She whispered in wonder and closed her eyes against the tears.
“Let me try.” Came a small voice and she opened her eyes to see a gentle smile on the fair face below her.
“You don’t realise Eden. This………………” She took a deep breath. “………………scares me.”
Tori shook her head. “I want you.” She whispered. “So badly. I’ve never wanted anything before, never needed to. Anything I wanted, I had. Anyone I wanted.” She traced a soft cheek. “But you…..I..can’t explain.” Another deep breath. ” I don’t want you to go in the morning.”
“I won’t, I………………” Eden began, but was stopped by a gentle finger on her lips.
“Sshh. No more words. Words complicate things. Don’t say anything you don’t mean.”
“Tori, I’m here because I want to be. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be at this moment.” Eden smiled at the confused look on the dark woman’s face. “Why can’t you understand that?”
Another deep sigh from Tori. “Because it’s never happened before.”
“Well, you’d better get used to it. I’m not going anywhere.” She snuggled closer into Tori’s gentle embrace and felt the long arms tighten around her.
From above Eden’s head she heard the smokey voice. “Let’s go to bed.”
“Good idea.” Said Eden and stood, pulling the quilt around her and making her way towards the stairs.
It was late in the morning when Tori awakened next.
They’d made love again after going to bed and then talked long into the night. She’d told Eden a lot of her inner pain. The lonely childhood she’d pushed to the back of her memories, but which suddenly was re-emerging to haunt her.
She held the blonde fiercly. Pulling her back against her own body, feeling Eden’s smooth back against her stomach and breasts. She nuzzled into the golden hair and revelled in the softness against her face.
Tori felt the smaller woman take a deep breath and squirm in her embrace.
“Good morning.” She said, her voice muffled by the blonde hair.
“It is.” Said Eden simply, turning in the long arms to face her lover.
Tori brushed the sleep tousled hair out of green eyes and tucked a few errant strands behind Eden’s ear. “How’s the hand?”
“A little painful, but not as bad as yesterday.” She pulled her hand out from beneath the quilt and regarded the tips of her fingers showing above the bandage. “What do I have to do about this?”
“The nurse said to see your doctor. Make an appointment later and we’ll find out how long before you have the stitches out.”
“Don’t!” Cried Eden. “Just thinking about it makes me queasy.”
“Really?” A mischievous grin crossed Tori’s face. “You mean you don’t like the idea of tweezers, pulling the catgut through you skin. Slowly.”
“No!” Eden swiped her with her good hand. “Anyway, do they still use catgut? And I’m not sure I even have to have them taken out. Don’t they dissolve or something?”
Tpri pulled her in for a hug. “No Idea.” She said. “But we’ll make an appointment anyway, just to make sure it’s all ok. What else d’you want to do today?”
“How about the tour?”
Eden sighed. “The tour of Bath I was going to take you on on saturday.”
“Oh….. right. Yeah I’d like that. Isn’t it a little cold though?”
“Nah. Well, it’s too cold to do the bus tour. I have a friend who works for the bus company, I can get tickets for that. I have to go to Bog Island and see John the ticket seller.”
“Bog Island?” Tori looked horrified.
“Oh yeah, sounds wierd right? Well, it’s actually called Terrace Walk. It’s a small area of pavement where the open top buses stop. There used to be underground public toilets there and it became known as bog island. Sometimes, in these parts, the loo is called the bog.”
“Eden, you’re a mine of information.” Tori said, and kissed the cute nose.
“Anyway.” She said after returning the kiss. “One of the Bath rugby players turned it into a nightclub.”
“They turned underground toilets into a nightclub?”
“Yeah, I went there once when I was younger.” She shook her head. “Could never get the thought that it was a loo out of my head though.”
Tori rolled onto her back and Eden went with her, ending up with her chin resting on the taller womans breast bone.
“So, d’you fancy that?” Said Eden, her breath warm on Tori’s chin.
“Sure, we’ll have lunch first. Anywhere you’d like to go?”
Tori thought for a while. “I saw that, where was it?”
“It’s just down the road, but not as far as The George.”
“That’s right, come on, let’s get dressed.”
And they did get dressed, eventually.
They parked the car in the Park and Ride car park on Odd Down once they’d had their lunch and took a bumpy ride into Bath. As the car population grew a large number of towns and cities across the country adopted Park and Ride schemes. Large carparks were built on the outskirts of cities and passengers bussed in, cutting down on pollution and congestion.
Once in Bath they walked through the city centre until they came to Victoria Park.
A small amount of snow covered the ground as they walked along the narrow road that bisected the park.
Eden stopped and looked to her right.
“There’s the Royal Crescent.” She said, pointing to the long elegant semicircular Georgian Terrace.”Over there.” She pointed to the left hand end of the crescent. “Is Marlborough Buildings, which was apparently built as a wind break for the Crescent.”
Tori looked at the three storey buildings that made up Marlborough Buildings. “Some windbreak.” She said.
As they walked along the cobbled road infront of the Royal Crescent Eden pointed out one of the houses. “The elderly lady who lived in this house objected to being ordered to paint her front door either white or black, so she painted it yellow. The whole of Bath is a National Heritage site. It’s the only City that has that honour. There are a lot of buildings and areas that are site’s, but no other city. And as it’s protected none of the buildings can be altered in any way. The windows have to be kept the same and the doors have to be painted the right colour. So this old girl painted the door yellow. She wouldn’t back down either. She was someone’s grand-daughter, can’t remember who.”
Tori stopped in front of the door. “It’s a very pale yellow.”
“It is now. She died, but put in the deeds of the house that anyone who bought it must keep the doors yellow.” Eden waved her hand at the door. “It’s the palest yellow the current owners could find.”
Eden took Tori’s hand and pulled her towards another of the Crescent’s houses. “This is The Royal Crescent Hotel. It’s one of the most exclusive hotels in the world. There’s not to be any sign of it being a hotel on the outside, apart from the doorman.”
Tori realised her hand was still tightly held. “So how would anyone know it was here?”
“They know it’s here.” Said Eden. “They don’t advertise, but they’re fully booked for the next seven years.”
They walked on to the end of the Crescent. “Number one is a museum, still as it was in Georgian times, we’ll go in one day.”
“Not today?” Asked Tori.
“No, we’ll just have a slow wander round today.” They turned round and looked back along the Crescent. “This was designed and built by John Wood the Younger.”
“Oh yeah? What did the Elder build?”
“I’ll show you.”
They walked along a small street of now familiar high Goergian town houses called Brock Street until it opened out into the magnificent Circus. Three small crescents formed The Circus, so that which ever entrance you entered by you were faced by a solid wall of buildings. The three crescents formed a perfect circle.
“This is the work of John Wood the Elder. Engraved into the brickwork above the doors are symbols of industry, no house has the same symbols.” She pointed to a circular area in the centre, which was covered in grass and had a number of large mature trees. “There used to be a well there, which was for the use of the occupants of the circus. When the houses were designed, they didn’t have indoor plumbing. John Wood said indoor toilets would never catch on. During Victorian times they filled the well in and added plumbing to the houses. The trees were planted and have been there ever since.”
They walked down from the Circus and along George Street. Then they turned left into Milsom Street. “D’you know you could walk from one end of Milsom Street to the other underground? Apparently all the cellars are linked.”
Tori stopped, looking into the pub.
Eden reached and took her hand again. “Not yet, come on.”
A horn blared behind them and Eden turned and waved. A double decker bus was stopped at a pedestrian crossing, thirty or forty screaming French students crossing as slowly as they could in front of it. The female bus driver waved back at the blonde and then put her fingers to her temple, imitating a gun to her head.
“Looks like Annie’s having a good day.” Said Eden who stood and watched the bus as it passed.
“A friend. Something of an agony aunt at the Tap. She’s helped me a lot in the past.” Eden turned and continued to walk down Milsom Street.
Tori jogged a short distance and caught up with her. “So what did she help you with?”
The blonde looked up at the taller woman. “You don’t want to hear my problems.”
“You heard mine. It helped me.”
Eden nodded. “Ok. I asked her if I was searching for perfection too much. I couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for. I asked her if I should make do.”
“And what did she say?” Tori asked, but already knew the answer.
“She said I should wait for you.”
“I think it must be you.” Eden stopped and turned towards Tori. “I’ve never felt like this before, so I think I found it. I’m glad I listened to her.”
Tori placed her hands on the shorter woman’s shoulders. “Eden, I don’t want you thinking I’m something I’m not.”
Eden shrugged out of her grasp. “There you go again.” She turned away from Tori and walked back the way they’d come.
“Where are you going?” Tori called after her.
“To have a drink.” Eden threw over her shoulder and disappeared into the pub they’d passed moments before.
Tori sighed and followed her friend into the pub.
The pub was almost empty and Eden had already got two drinks and was making her way to a small table in the corner.
She put Tori’s rum and coke down and took a long shot of her vodka. Tori waited, her hands folded around the cool glass that held her drink.
“Why are you still fighting me Tori?” Eden finally asked.
Tori shook her head. “I don’t know.” She took a drink. “Tell me what you told Annie.”
Eden thought for a long moment. “Ok. Just over two years ago I finally stopped fighting the feelings I’d been having. I finally accepted I was gay.” She watched as Tori’s eyes closed, and the dark woman smiled softly. “Well, I thought that was the end of my problems. I took myself down to the Bath Tap and thought I’d find someone there and my life would be simpler.” She shook her head. “It didn’t work out like that. No-one I met struck that chord. I tried. God I tried.” She remembered the dates, frowning when she recalled the morning after some of them. “I knew what I was looking for. But I decided it didn’t exist. It couldn’t. Life couldn’t be that perfect. I knew Karen wanted me, so I was going to let her have me. Then I spoke to Annie.”
“And Annie told you not to do what I did.” Said Tori, finally bringing her glass to her lips.
“If you want me to condemn you Tori, I’m not going to do it. I did some dumb things. I slept with some women just for the hell of it. I told Annie that Karen wanted to start seeing me.” Eden shrugged. “She’d have looked after me, she’s an ok person, I liked her. But there was something missing. I hoped there was someone out there, hoped there was someone who would walk into my life one day and change it. And the day you walked into the office, I knew it was you.”
Eden held up her hand as Tori started to protest. “No, don’t say anything. You asked, I told you. I’m in love with you Tori and you’re going to have to deal with it.”
Tori stared, dumbfounded. Then she smiled and reached across the table, encircling the small hand in her own. “Thank you.”
“For what?” Asked Eden staring at their hands then across at the bar tender who was busy stacking glasses.
“For waiting for me.”
Eden smiled. “No more fighting then?”
“No more fighting.” Tori emptied her glass. “Let’s finish this tour.”
They walked down Milsom Street after leaving the pub and made their way to the Roman Baths. As they reached the pillars that marked the entrance to the museum Tori felt a prickling on the back of her neck. She stopped abruptly, rubbing a hand on the back of her head.
“What is it?” Asked Eden walking back towards her.
“Not sure, just a funny feeling. Deja Vu. You know?”
“D’you know I had that feeling. But I felt sick as a dog. I was out for a sunday drive with my parents and I suddenly felt sick. And I felt like I’d been there before, but we never had. I was about ten.”
“Where were you?” Asked Tori.
“Stonehenge. Couldn’t understand it. Never went there again though. I had nightmares for weeks.”
Tori frowned. “Wonder what caused that?”
Eden shook her head. “Don’t know. Hey, do you want to do the tour of the Baths?”
“Not today, maybe later in the week.”
“Ok, we’ll walk around the Abbey then.”
They walked along the side of the Baths and into the abbey courtyard. “The first King of England, King Edgar, was crowned here in nine hundred and something, I always forget the exact date.”
“Really?” Said Tori. “I thought Arthur was the first King.”
“Nah, Arthur was probably just a warlord. There’s no real proof that he actually existed, but there is a stone at Glastonbury Cathedral that says ‘Here lies Arthur, the once and future King.'”
Tori turned and viewed the tops of the statues that she could see that surrounded the baths. They could also see the people walking around inside the walled off museum. “So who discovered the hot springs?”
Eden lead them over to some benches that bordered the Abbey churchyard. “This is a bit of a legend.” She began, and Tori lost herself in the melodic voice of the blonde woman. “It’s said that there was a Celtic prince called Bladud. Unfortunately he contracted leprosy. He was banished from court and became a swineherd. One day his pigs roamed into the marshy area and he had to lay a trail of acorns to entice the pigs out of the bog. When they were out he saw how healthy and soft their skin was, for a pig that is. Well, he went into the marshland and found that there was a warm spring. He bathed in it and was cured.
He returned to court and was accepted back into his rightful positioned. He returned later and erected a shrine to the water god Sulis. Years later the Romans discovered the hot springs and built complex and beautiful baths on the site. After the Romans left, the Baths sank, once again, into the bog, the people of Aquae Sulis being unable or unwilling to maintain the Baths. They were rediscovered in the seveteen hundreds, and the city of Bath once again became a popular resort. It did become a lttle decadent though. And the healing waters were used more to treat gout and other drink related illenesses than anything else.” Eden stopped, looking up at the closed eyes of her companion. “Am I boring you?”
Tori shook her head. “Go on. I’m enjoying it.”
“Ok. Well, they started to build. You’ve seen The Crescent and The Circus. Then they started to expand. Up towards Camden and up Bathwick. Ralph Allen built Prior Park and a number of huge mansions were built. One of the largest is Claverton Manor, which is now the American Museum. The Victorians built too, but smaller more individual houses.Queen Victoria hated Bath though. One of her uncles had a mistress here. A Mrs. Jordan. She bore him quite a few children and the surname Jordan is still quite comman in Bath. Everytime she travelled through Bath she would pull down the curtains of the carriage.”
“This Victoria doesn’t hate Bath, and is very taken by one of its inhabitants.”
“You know,” said Tori. “You must tell me stories more often, it’s very relaxing.”
Eden pouted. “It isn’t a story, it’s true. Well, mostly. Some of my dates might be wrong.”
“Doesn’t matter. I enjoyed listening.” Tori reached around Eden’s shoulders and pulled her close.
“Tori, there are people looking.” Said Eden, though no-one seemed to be taking any notice.
“Don’t care.” Said Tori, and kissed her lover on the cheek. “Let’s go home.”
Eden snuggled into the woman’s embrace. “Ok.”
‘She said she loves me.
No, she said she’s in love with me.
And what did I say?
What could I say?
No-one’s ever said that to me before.
Tori’s fingers played absent mindedly with the soft hair at Eden’s temple.
The blonde had fallen asleep, again, while they were watching a movie. Of course, the four glasses of wine had helped her on her way.
“I can’t drink wine.” Eden had said. “It knocks me out.”
And it had.
But that was ok. It gave Tori time. Time to think, and time to come to some conclusions.
She looked down at the girl who was using her thigh as a pillow.
Tori was content. And that had never happened before. She’d never been one for sitting. She’d always been one for doing. So why was that little prickle of fear still gnawing at her?
It was the fear of losing this. Something she’d known so briefly had become as important to her as breathing.
‘Is this happiness?’ She thought. ‘If it is, shouldn’t I feel guilty?’
Eden sighed deeply in her sleep and Tori lifted her hand allowing the girl to turn on her side facing away from her. Tori pulled the blonde hair that had fallen over Eden’s face back so that she could watch the gentle profile. “My Eden,” she whispered, “my very own little piece of paradise.”
Suddenly Tori could wait no more. Moving her hand to a cotton covered shoulder she gently shook the sleeping woman. “Hey, Eden.” She said, bending so that her mouth brushed the blonde’s ear.”Wake up, I want to talk.”
“Can’t.” Came the sleepy reply.
“Yes you can, come on, sit up.”
Tori pulled Eden up so that she sat beside her, but the younger woman’s eyes were still closed and her head fell back against the backrest.
“You amaze me.” Said Tori, watching the blonde head fall forward in sleep. “Can you just stay awake for a couple of minutes?”
“M’awake.” Said Eden, rubbing her face vigorously. “What time is it?” She peered around the room, which was darkened except for the light from the fire and the tv. She spotted the luminous numbers on the vcr. “12.30!”
“Yeah, my fault, shouldn’t have made you drink that last glass.”
Eden leaned against the tall woman, pulling her legs up and curling up again.
“Don’t go to sleep yet Eden, I have something I need to say to you.”
“You sound like Rod Stewart.”
“Never mind. I’m awake now, what is it?”
After all that Tori’s nerve deserted her.
“Well?” Said Eden.
“In the pub.” Tori began. “You said……. Well, you told me……………..”
“I said I was in love with you.”
“Yes, you did.” Tori said quietly. “D’you mean that?”
Eden could have cried. The look of fear in the blue eyes that regarded her was painful to see. So she took Tori’s face in her hands and leaned forward, claiming the soft lips and sealing her promise with a searing kiss.
“Of course I mean it.” She said breathlessly as they parted. “So what did you want to tell me?”
“I love you.” Said Tori quickly, and amazed herself with how easy it had been to say those words.
“You do?” Asked Eden, a soft smile on her face.
Tori nodded tightly, her mouth a hard line now, her jaw clenched painfully.
“Have you ever told anyone else that?” Asked Eden, though she already knew the answer.
A short shake of the head.
“Say it again.” The blonde whispered, caressing a flushed cheek.
“I love you Eden.”
“Not so hard now.”
“I should have said it before.”
“Now is fine.”
“Remind me to say it more.” Tori said and leaned forward into another kiss.
“Come on.” Eden said standing. “Let’s go to bed.”
Eden went on ahead while Tori pushed the smouldering logs to the back of the fireplace. Tori watched the dying fire for a moment, the dull glow highlighting the gentle tears that marked her cheeks.
‘I love you Eden.’ She thought and stood, throwing the poker back onto the hearth. ‘I love you.’
She found Eden watching the gently falling snow from the bedroom window.
The blonde felt long arms encircle her waist from behind and wrapped her own hands around the larger ones resting on her stomach.
“I love the snow.” She said, her breath causing the window to mist.
Insistant hands on her shoulders turned her away from the snowy landscape and she fell into another. That of the woman she loved. Tori held her close and Eden leaned against the comforting strength and wound her hands beneath the ebony hair and around Tori’s neck.
“Did I tell you I love you?” Said Tori, her mouth only a hair’s breadth from Eden’s.
“You did.” Said Eden and latched onto the soft mouth that was demanding her full attention. The kiss was soft and built in strength so that both women were left panting.
Tori’s hands found their way below the teeshirt that Eden wore, tracing their way up from her hips across the smooth expanse of her back. Then the shirt was pulled up and over the blonde head. The bra was unclipped with knowing hands and followed the teeshirt into the corner.
Eden was turned and guided back so that when the back of her legs hit the edge of the matress, she sank onto it and was pushed onto her back.
Tori knelt on the floor between her legs, leaning over so that she could reach the smaller woman’s mouth. She felt small hands undoing the buttons of her shirt and held her weight up so that Eden could complete the task.
Eden pushed the shirt back off of broad shoulders and Tori shrugged the garment to the floor. Then the taller woman turned her attention to the button on the fly of Eden’s jeans. Unclasping it she slowly lowered the zip and pulled the jeans off the slim legs, depositing them in a growing pile of clothing.
Eden’s underwear followed and Tori stood briefly to survey her prize and then remove the rest of her own clothes.
She crawled onto the bed and turned Eden so that her head was near the headboard. Taking Eden’s right hand she brushed her lips with the small fingers and then guided them toward the brass head board. She folded the small hand around the cool metal. The bandaged left hand was placed gently on the pillow above the blonde head. “Don’t let go.” She breathed into Eden’s mouth.
Eden closed her eyes and gave herself up to the sensations that the dark woman aroused in her. Knowing hands blazed a trail from her neck down across her stomach, ignoring the twin peaks that were almost painful in their anticipation.
“Tori!” Eden gasped as a hot mouth latched onto her left breast. Her right hand came down from its place wrapped around the headboard and pressed down on ebony hair. Tori’s eyes locked with hers and Eden was sure she heard the older woman growl. She carefully returned her hand to its former position.
Tori returned to her work, and turned her attention to the neglected breast.
Then large hands replaced the mouth and Eden squirmed under the sensation of silk like hair trailing across her body as Tori’s mouth made a downword journey across her flesh.
A hot tongue found her navel and dipped in on it’s way.
Eden’s bandaged hand joined the other in its grasping of the metal headboard as she felt her thigh’s lifted and settled on broad shoulders.
Then her whole being was centred on one place, and on one person. The woman who was loving her, giving her something she’d given no-one else. She was filled, and the rhythm Tori found matched her own rocking hips. A hot mouth fastened on the small bundle of nerves and Eden screamed her lover’s name again.
She gasped as Tori found that one special place that no-one else had, that one part of her that was pleading to be found.
Then she was there, arching her back, straining against the strong hands that were anchoring her to the bed.
Her hands fell limp from the headboard and she felt her legs settled back onto the bed. Tori crawled up the bed and beside her, but left her lying on her back, watching her as her chest heaved in its desire to recover.
Tori lay on her side, her head propped up on one hand, the other tracing lazy circles across her lover’s sweat sheened body.
Green eyes opened and the blonde head turned in her direction. “Thankyou.” Smiled Eden.
Tori leaned over and kissed the blonde. “No, thank you.”
She reached down and pulled the quilt over them both, and snuggling in close to her lover she let Eden pull her so that her head was cradled on the shorter woman’s shoulder.
“This is nice.” Said Eden, as she circled the dark woman’s shoulders with her right arm.
“Tori?” She whispered, giving the warm shoulders a squeeze.
But Tori was asleep. And Eden smiled into the darkness and rubbed her cheek against the ebony silk, breathing in the scent of her love.
“I do love you Tori. Please don’t fight this.” She whispered to the sleeping woman and slowly followed her lover into the dream domain.
The next few days passed in a whirl of activity for both women. They made a trip to the doctor’s who told them to return the early part of the following week. Then a trip to Eden’s flat to get some more clothes. Shopping was done for food and some items for the cottage.
But mostly they talked. They learned a lot about each other in those few days and slowly Eden started to unravel the mystery that was Victoria Conrad.
Tori took each day as a blessing, still wondering when it would end, and not fully convinced that she deserved the budding happiness she was experiencing.
It was just after midnight on the thursday night. They’d been out for a drink in Bath to celebrate their first anniversary. They’d known each other a week, though they felt like they’d been together for a lifetime.
Eden woke and found herself alone. She reached out her hand, but no Tori.
She sat up and listened for a moment and was surprised to hear her lover’s voice, low and insistant, somewhere in the house.
She got out of bed and padded to the landing, leaning over and straining her ears agaist the silence. She descended the stairs silently and sat near the bottom.
“I don’t care!” She heard Tori’s voice hiss. “It really has nothing to do with her…………….. I’ve made up my mind and I’m going soon………… She’ll find out soon enough…………….Eden, her name’s Eden……………………No, she won’t be coming with me……Ok, that’s fine. NO!!”
Eden heard the phone slam down and scurried back to the bedroom. She lay back in bed and listened to Tori shutting the doors and then the soft footsteps as she climbed the stairs. The bathroom light clicked on, then off again. Eden felt the bed shift as Tori got back in.
“Eden? You awake?”
Eden lay on her side facing away from the dark woman, and remained silent.
She felt Tori mould herself against her back, winding a long arm around her stomach. Then she felt her lover relax, the weight of the arm become heavier as her muscles eased in sleep.
Eden lay for a long time, wondering what the clandestine call had been about. Why was her name mentioned and where was Tori going? Worse, why hadn’t she talked with her about it?
Sleep, when it came for the blonde, was not untroubled.
It was the noise that woke Eden. A loud, slamming noise. She reached to her right, no Tori.
“Tori?” She called and waited, there was no answer, but she could hear someone moving around downstairs.
She got up and found Tori’s towelling robe on the floor near the bed. Putting it on she made her way downstairs.
The sound of someone walking around came from the kitchen. Pushing the door open she stopped dead.
The woman who stared at her had her lover’s eyes, and features. But the face was hard and angular, without a trace of the softness she’d seen in Tori’s face.
The woman looked at her watch, an expensive piece on a boney wrist. “Good, um, morning, yes it is still morning, just. You must be Emma.”
“I am Stephanie, Victoria’s mother.” She pulled a chair out from beneath the table and sat, crossing one silk convered leg across the other.
“Emma, I’m afraid Victoria has asked me to complete an unpleasant task.” She sighed. “But then, that’s what mother’s are for is it not? To help their children when they need them.”
Eden stood rooted to the spot. This wasn’t happening. Was it?
“She has realised her mistake. She spoke to her father last night regarding the situation she has found herself in. And I’m here to clear things up with as little discomfort to those involved as possible.”
Stephanie Conrad pulled her handbag from it’s place on the floor at her feet. Pulling out a cheque book she opened it. “Now, how much do you require Emma?”
When there was no answer forthcoming she looked up. “Come now dear, I know silence has a price. From my past experience with Victoria’s……….. friends, I know that a little incentive is required.”
“I don’t want your money.” Said Eden, the pain in her chest intensifying.
“Really?” Said Stephanie, writing an amount on a cheque anyway, and ripping it off. She stood, placing the cheque in the table.
“Where is Tori?” Asked Eden, reaching out to grab the edge of the table as the room began to tilt.
“Victoria…………is going to spend a few days with her family. I just passed her actually as she left, she gave me the key.”
“She wouldn’t have just left, she would have told me.”
“Ah, this is what the others thought too I’m afraid. My daughter has a weakness dear. But she’s told her father this is the last time she will give into it. The wedding in June will go ahead, she’s promised us.” She caught the look of shock on the girl’s face. “She did tell you about the wedding didn’t she dear?”
Stephanie Conrad’s smile was cruel. “Oh dear. It seems my daughter has been less than honest with you then.” She walked to the door, opening it and allowing the cold winter wind to blow through the cottage.
“My daughter requests that you vacate the premises as soon as possible. Goodbye Emma.”
“My name is Eden.” She hissed.
“Whatever dear.” Said Stephanie Conrad and was gone.
Eden listened to the sound of the large car drive away from the house. Then she sank onto the bottom stair and drew her knees up to her chest.
The tears came then, the thought of a broken dream weighing heavily on her.
She knew Tori wasn’t perfect, she knew it. But she’d lied to her. She’d left without waking her, left without saying goodbye. Would that have been so hard?
Maybe Tori just didn’t think she was worth an explanation. All she amounted to was a few days distraction. The tears, the affection, had all been an act. She said she’d used women before, so maybe it was just habit with her. Commitment was obviously something that Tori Conrad could not adhere to.
Eden couldn’t remember packing her clothes into a black bin bag or calling a cab. But suddenly there was a knock on the door and the taxi had arrived. She left her key on the table just inside the hallway and pulled the door shut behind her. Without taking a backward glance she got into the cab and gave the driver her destination.
It was just after eight when Tori arrived back at Summer Cottage. The first thing she noticed was that the house was in darkness.
Opening the front door she turned on the light.
“Eden?” She called, hanging her coat on one of the hooks in the hallway.
“Where are you?” She said, taking the stairs two at a time after giving the lounge a quick glance.
She went into the bedroom and stopped dead. The bed was unmade, and a number of drawers were partly opened. She looked into them and then into the wardrobe. All of Eden’s clothes had gone.
She sat heavily on the bed.
‘So, she’s gone.’ Tori thought. ‘What the hell did you expect? Why should this one be any different? It’s happened before, just get on with it.’ She put a hand to her chest. ‘Jesus! Why does it hurt so much?’
She lay back on the bed and regarded the ceiling above her.
‘You’re better off now anyway.’ She thought, though whether the thought was directed at herself or her absent friend, she didn’t know.
Cathy sat in her lounge and listened for her friend. She’d got home from work surprised to find a black bin bag full of clothes in her lounge. She’d knocked on Eden’s door but only received a short answer. Something about wanting to be left alone. She’d left her friend to it, until she heard her rummaging in the kitchen.
“What’re you looking for?” She asked from the kitchen doorway.
“Something to drink.” Said Eden, not looking at her.
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing.” Said Eden lightly. “What would be going on? I’d just like a drink. Is that ok with you?”
“Yeah, it’s fine. It’s just that if you drink when you’re upset you don’t know when to stop.” She took a couple of steps towards her friend but stopped when Eden turned red rimmed eyes on her.
“It’s Tori isn’t it?” Said Cathy.
“Of course it’s Tori!” She spat, and picked up two bottles of strong cider that she’d found.
“Where is she?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care. It’s over, now if that’s all you need to know, I’m going to my room. Is that ok?” She asked and brushed past her friend, slamming the door to her bedroom behind her.
“Oh boy.” Said Cathy and returned to her place in front of the tv.
Tori awoke with a pounding headache. The light in the bedroom was still on and she saw by her watch it was just after 10pm.
‘Come on, pull yourself together. It’s not as if it hasn’t happened before, what’s the big deal?’ She thought, sitting up. ‘The big deal is you loved her.’ She realised.
‘Don’t be a stupid bitch.’ Tori’s best conversations were always with herself. ‘You don’t have it in you. Get yourself back to London, that’s where you belong. With the people that understand you, the kind that know you.’
Tori stood and walked to the mirror, looking at herself long and hard. “You really thought you’d found it this time didn’t you?” She said out loud.
“Love……………… Don’t make me fucking laugh.”
She went downstairs and into the kitchen, looking through the cupboards to find a bottle of wine she’d bought only the day before.
It caught her eye. A small piece of crumpled paper. She reached under the table and picked it up. It was part of a cheque. One half, screwed up and thrown there.
She saw the signature and the amount it was made out for. The space for a payee had been left blank.
“You bitch.” She said. “You fucking BITCH!”
Knocking a chair over on her way she made for the door, ignoring her coat and slamming the front door on her way out.
Cathy was still sitting in the lounge when the knock came. She’d listened to Eden’s music playing, and had seen her once or twice when she emerged from her room to find more alcohol. Eden had managed to find three small bottles of strong ‘designer’ cider, and a bottle of wine she’d bought some time before.
She knew before she opened the door who she’d find standing on her doorstep.
“Is she here?” Said Tori, peering beyond her into the flat.
“Yes, she’s here.” Said Cathy pushing the tall woman back slightly and pulling the door together behind her. “She’s been drinking……………… What happened?”
“Hasn’t she told you?” Asked Tori.
Cathy shook her head. “Nope. She’s in a pig of a mood. Just said it was over and has spent the last few hours in her room.”
Tori sighed. “I think my mother paid her a visit. I went to London to sort some things out. When I got back she was gone.”
Cathy looked at the tall woman who was shivering on her doorstep. “Come on in.” She said and held the door open for Tori to enter.
Tori stopped in the hallway and looked back at Cathy. “In there.” Cathy pointed to the lounge. “Sit down.”
Tori sat on the chair and rested her head in her hands. When she looked back up the tears that had been threatening fell. “This is the last thing I wanted.” She said, suddenly feeling a need to explain herself.
“I’ve know Eden for nine years, and this week she’s been the happiest I’ve ever seen her and the saddest.”
Tori shook her head. “I need to talk to her. I need to tell her……………………” Tori’s throat closed.
“Tell her what?”
“How much I love her.” Again Tori was surprised at her own words.
“And if she won’t talk to you?”
“I’ll go.” Said Tori quickly, “she’ll never hear from me again. But I just want one chance, just a few minutes.”
Cathy stood suddenly. “I’ll go talk to her………….. but if she says no?”
“Just tell her I said I love her.”
“Ok. Wait here.” Cathy watched the taller woman stand. “No, wait here.”
Tori sat again, and waited.
Cathy stood outside Eden’s door and listened. She couldn’t hear the music that her friend had been playing earlier in the evening, and she couldn’t hear Eden moving around. She tapped on the door. “Eden?” There was no answer.
She turned the knob and pushed the door open.
The only light came from a lamp which had been placed on the floor. The display glowed red on the cd player, the last cd long finished.
Eden lay face down on the bed, the empty cider bottles on the floor, but the wine bottle unopened.
Cathy sat on the edge of the bed and put a hand on the gently moving back.
“Hey there. ” She whispered.
“Cathy?” Two bloodshot green eyes turned her way.
“Yeah, how d’you feel?” Asked Cathy feeling the heat beneath her hand.
“Bloody awful.” Eden sat up and leaned back against the headboard. “I didn’t drink the wine.”
“I saw, good idea.”
“What’s the point huh? It won’t change anything. Just makes me forget for a while.” She turned red rimmed eyes on her friend.
Cathy saw the beginnings of tears and held her arms open for her friend.
Eden didn’t refuse the comfort and fell into her flatmate’s arms. “I feel so stupid.” She said between sobs.
“I really thought she meant it. I thought she loved me, she said she did.” She paused as her throat constricted. “But I was just another number, another notch.”
“You gonna tell me what happened?”
“She sent her mother to see me off.”
“Did her mother tell you this?”
Eden nodded into her friend’s shoulder.
“And you believed her mother?” Cathy asked.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
Cathy shrugged. “Have you spoken to Tori?”
Eden shook her head. “She ran off, let her mother do her dirty work.”
“I think you should let Tori explain herself.”
Eden shrugged herself out of Cathy’s embrace. “Why?”
“Because she deserves the chance.”
“What aren’t you telling me?” Eden pushed the damp hair off of her forehead, cider always made her sweat.
“She’s here, she wants to talk to you.” Cathy watched her friend stand, wobble a little then steady herself.
Cathy stood too. “She says to tell you she loves you.”
Eden crumpled as her hands flew to her face and the tears started again, she ended up on her knees beside the bed.
Cathy knelt beside her and put an arm around shaking shoulders. “Just give her a chance.” She pushed golden hair back from the flushed face. “Let her explain.”
“I don’t know if I can trust her again. I don’t want to hurt like this anymore.”
“She’s here Eden, would she be if she didn’t care. Hmm? Come on.” She stood offering her hand to her friend.
Eden nodded and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. “Let me wash my face.” She said as she tried to pull herself together.
Tori looked up as Cathy returned to the lounge, she stood but stopped as Cathy held up her hand. “She’s a little drunk, though not as bad as I thought. She’s very upset, but she’s going to talk to you.” She walked up to the tall woman and put a hand on her arm. “Don’t blow it Tori.”
“I won’t, thank you Cathy.”
Behind Cathy the door opened. She turned and left the room placing a hand on Eden’s shoulder as she left.
Tori started to make her way towards her. “No, sit down Tori.” Said Eden, who shut the door and leaned against it, staring at the carpet.
Tori did as she was asked. She watched the blonde, the pain in her chest intensifying.
Tori waited, giving Eden some time.
“You just left.” Said the blonde.
Eden looked up, green eyes finding blue. “You just left me.”
Tori looked away, unable to meet the accusing glare.
“Did you send her?”
Tori shook her head. “No. I told father I was going to London. He must have sent her.”
“She said you were getting married.” Eden still leaned against the door, her hands behind her, taking her weight.
“I’m not, I told father today.”
There was a long silence. Eden regarded her lover for the longest time, looking for the lie in her eyes, and seeing none.
Eden’s chin dropped onto her chest. “My head hurts.”
Tori stood and slowly closed the distance between them. She stood in front of the blonde, her feet appearing in Eden’s line of sight.
“I love you Eden.”
Eden brought her hands from behind her and crossed her arms across her chest as if in pain. Tori could see that the hands were shaking.
“You’re trembling.” She said reaching for the small hands.
Eden snatched her hands away, Tori retreated a little. “Eden, I’m sorry. I didn’t send her, I didn’t know she was coming.”
“You could have left a note.”
Tori ducked so that she could look into the flushed face. “I did. I left it on the kitchen table.”
Eden’s breathing seemed to become difficult. “She must have taken it.” She said, then she looked at Tori. “She offered me money.”
Tori sighed. “That’s the only language they know. If there’s something they want, they buy it. They wanted you out of my life.”
“Why did you go? Why didn’t you wake me?”
“Because it was going to be a surprise.” Tori ran a shaking hand through her hair. “I put the Chelsea flat on the market.” She smiled. It was a smile that had haunted Eden all day. “I’m burning my bridges Eden, I’m not going back.”
The sob that erupted from Eden’s chest startled Tori almost as much as the small body that flung itself into her arms.
She held on, burying her face in the golden hair. “Ssshh, don’t cry over me.” She said, trying to calm the sobbing woman.
Tori eased them both back so that they could sit on the sofa. She pulled Eden close and held the fair head against her chest.
“You’re hot.” She said to her lover.
“It’s the cider.” Said Eden. “You’re heart’s pounding.” She noticed, her ear picking up the thumping sound.
“You scared the shit out of me, that’s why.”
Eden pulled away and looked at the tense face above her. “I did?”
Tori nodded. “When I got home and you weren’t there, I thought you’d taken the chance to run.”
“Run? Do these last few days say nothing to you?” Eden shook her head in disbelief.
“You have to understand, I’ve never had this happen before. I’m expecting you to leave at any moment.” Tori rubbed her forehead. “I’m not handling this love stuff very well am I?”
Eden snuggled into the tall woman’s arms again. “Don’t do that again.”
“Leave without waking me.”
“Oh, ok.” Tori was quiet for a moment, but there was a question on the tip of her tongue. “I was thinking.” She held on a little tighter. “The week’s nearly over. Well, I was wondering if you’d like to stay on a little longer.”
Eden’s head came up from its place on Tori’s chest. “At the cottage?”
“I have to go back to work on monday.”
“That’s fine, I’ll take you.” Said Tori, pulling the blonde head back to its resting place. “I’d just like you around for a little longer. I’ve kinda gotten used to you being around.”
Eden sighed deeply. “What are you going to do about your parents?” She heard the heartbeat increase.
“I’ll call them tomorrow. Make it perfectly clear that I’m not going back. I didn’t get to see Damien today, I ran out of time.”
“What did you do then?”
Another sigh. “Well, I saw a friend. He’s going to put the Chelsea flat on the market. He’s also arranging for it to be cleared and all my stuff put into storage.” At the quizzical look she got from her lover she added. “I worked with him at the family business in London. He works for another agency now though.”
“Your mother said she’d done it before. Paid off your girfriends.”
“Eden, my mother has never taken a blind bit of notice of what I do with my life. The only difference now is that it’s affecting what she considers to be the running of things. Father is probably going crazy right now. All she’s worried about it having a peaceful life.”
“Isn’t that what we all want?”
“Sure, but at what cost? She was willing to lie to get you away from me.”
“She had a key too. That was another reason I thought you’d sent her.”
Tori thought for a moment. “They probably asked the landlord for a key when father sent the rent advance. When I buy it I’ll get……………..”
“What!” Eden sat bolt upright. “What did you say?”
Tori smiled. “That was another surprise. I called the landlord and asked him if he’d be willing to sell. I like it here. I’d like to make it my home.”
“Wow. What did he say?”
She looked like a kid on Christmas morning, how could a half hour change someone so much Tori wondered.
“He said he’d think about it. It was his mother’s house, most of the furniture used to be hers, he said he’d want that.”
“That’s ok isn’t it?”
“Yeah, fine. I’ll have all the furniture from London. I’ll need some stuff, but you can help me choose that.”
Eden hugged her again. “I can’t believe you’re staying. I was dreading the day you were going back.”
“I think the possibility of that flew out of the window last sunday night. I knew then you were stuck with me.”
There was a knock on the door and a dark head poked around it. “You two ok?”
“Cathy, come in. It is your flat after all.” Eden said staightening up on the sofa.
Cathy sat opposite them in the chair. “So, you’ve sorted it out?”
“We have, it was a misunderstanding.” Eden grabbed Tori’s hand and wrapped both of hers around it.
“I’m glad. Can’t take too much of tipsy Gallagher here.” She said, smiling at her friend.
Eden blushed. “I’m sorry, I know it’s stupid. I’m surprised I haven’t been sick yet.”
“Well, you didn’t get round to the wine, that’s why.” Cathy stood. “As you two are obviously ok, I’m going to bed. ” She looked from one to the other. “See you in the morning?”
Tori looked at Eden and shrugged.
“Sure.” Said the blonde.
Tori stood in Eden’s room and eyes the bed suspiciously. “You really think we’ll both fit in there?”
The bed was a single, and not quite as long as the king sized bed in the cottage.
“It’ll be cosy.” Said Eden. “Come on, I need a shower and with this damn bandage, I’ll need some help.”
“I think it could probably come off now anyway.”
Eden held her hand protectively to her chest. “No, I don’t want to take it off yet. I’m not ready to see it for a bit.”
Tori pulled her into her arms. “Ok, lets find something to cover it though.”
They went into the kitchen and managed to find a palstic bag. They put that over the hand a kpt it in place with a thick elastic band.
“There.” Said Tori, “but I’m still gonna wash your back.”
The shower took far longer than it should, and eventually Eden was snuggled up in bed and fighting to keep her eyes open.
“Hey, budge up.” Said Tori as she pulled the covers back and attempted to squeeze into the bed.
Eden shifted over slightly and latched onto the warm body of her lover.
Tori pulled the quilt up and over them, and then wound her arms and legs around the smaller body beside her.
“Told you.” Came the tired voice.
“Told me what?” Asked Tori.
“Yeah, it is that, but if I end up on the floor, you’re coming with me.” She said and held on tighter to the incredibly soft and warm body of the blonde.
The green eyes found hers. “You’re not going anywhere without me. Ever.”
“Ok.” Said Tori. “That’s a deal.”
Eden was cold, and yet she was hot. Her mouth felt like a carpet, and her head like a rock.
But she felt happier than she had in her entire life.
She cracked open one eye and her vision was filled by smooth tanned skin, which rose and fell gently with the movement of breathing.
She was half on top of Tori, but the quilt had slipped off of her and was half on the taller woman and half on the floor.
One long arm was wound around her back holding her in place and her right arm was draped across Tori’s stomach.
She lifted her head, regretting it immediately when the pounding at her temples increased, but lessened slightly when she took in the relaxed countenance of her lover.
With a sigh she disentangled herself from the woman, standing beside the bed and pulling the quilt back across the sleeping form. She was vaguely surprised that she hadn’t woken Tori, before remembering the previous day and the early hour her companion had left the house.
Picking up her robe she left the bedroom and made her way to the bathroom.
Ten minutes later she was in the kitchen, filling the kettle.
“Good morning.” She turned at the sound of her friend’s voice and took two steps and threw herself in Cathy’s arms.
“Thank you.” She said, burying her face in her friend’s shouler.
“For what?” Asked Cathy, a little shocked at Eden’s reaction.
Eden released her and leaned back against the counter. “I’d given up, had enough. If you hadn’t persuaded me to talk to her I would never have seen her again.”
“You didn’t see her face when she got here. She was desperate.”
Eden chuckled. “Cathy, Tori is many things but I wouldn’t call her desperate. She would have gone on.”
Cathy shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. She acts tough, but under all that she’s pretty fragile. She needs you.”
“Cathy, I…………..” Eden began.
“No, Eddie, believe me. She needs you.”
Eden was still for a long moment, unable to accept what her friend was telling her until the shrill whistle of the kettle brought her round.
She reached over and turned down the gas under the kettle then turned back to her friend. “I thought I was the needy one.”
“I saw pain in her eyes last night.” Said Cathy. “She thought she’d lost you, she was virtually begging me to ask you to talk to her.”
“What d’you think would have happened if I hadn’t?”
“Don’t think like that. Don’t think about ‘what ifs’.” Cathy took two steps towards her friend and cupped her cheek. “You’re happy aren’t you?”
Eden nodded. “I am. It’s been a struggle, she thinks she doesn’t deserve happiness.”
“Really?” Said Cathy who retrieved three mugs from a shelf and put a tea bag in each. “Why?”
“I’m not sure, I haven’t really gotten to the bottom of it yet.” She smiled at her friend. “But I will.”
Eden turned the gas up again, bringing the kettle to the boil again, before pouring the steaming water into the three mugs.
She turned back to Cathy who was retrieving the milk from the fridge. “I think she may be a little afraid of commitment.”
“I guess we all have a problem with that. It’s knowing who to commit to I suppose, putting all your hopes and fears into one basket and offering it to somone to hold.” Cathy screwed her face up, trying to understand her own statement.
Eden paused before answering. “Yeah well, I don’t think there’s a basket big enough for all my hopes, and certainly not one big enough for Tori’s fears. But maybe, between us, we can get through.”
“So what now?” Asked Cathy, taking a sip of her tea.
“She’s asked me to stay on at the cottage a little longer.” Eden looked up from her cup. “That’s ok with you isn’t it?”
“I’m your flatmate Eden, not your mother. You can do what you like.”
“I’ll still pay you the rent.”
“Actually, you may not need to.” Said Cathy.
“Don’t tell me! Darren’s moving in.” Said Eden, a huge smile creasing her face.
“Yeah, he, um, asked me to marry him.”
The squeal that erupted from Eden, was cut short when she remembered her sleeping lover in the other room. “Oh wow, when was this?” She whispered loudly.
“And you didn’t tell me?”
“Well, you weren’t exactly in a listening mood last night, were you?”
Eden put her mug down and embraced her friend. “I’m so happy for you.” She said.
“Thanks, I knew you would be.” Cathy picked up her mug again. “There’s plenty of time though, I don’t want you to feel forced out.”
“I know.” Eden picked up the two steaming mugs. “I’m going back to bed for a while, see you later.”
Eden stood just inside the door of her bedroom and regarded the sleeping figure with affection. Tori had turned onto her stomach and was still deeply asleep. Both feet stuck out from the bottom of the quilt and one hand brushed the floor.
“Look who’s sleeping in my bed.” Eden whispered as she put the mugs down on the bedside cabinet.
She knelt beside the bed, lifting the hand of her lover from the floor and cradling it in both of hers. She brought the fingers to her lips and kissed them gently, watching a slight smile form on the sleeping face.
She brushed back some dark hair from the relaxed face. “Hey there.” She said quietly and watched as the blue eyes fluttered open.
“‘Morning.” Said Tori as her eyes found and then focused on the form of her lover. “Been up long?”
“No. I brought you a cup of tea.”
Tori shifted over so that Eden could get back into the small bed, and, with it being such a small bed, she held onto the blonde fiercely.
“You must have been tired.” Said Eden. “I don’t think I’ve ever woken up before you.”
Tori smiled down at the blonde. “What d’you mean ever? We’ve only had a week.”
“You’re right, but it seems like forever. Don’t you think?”
Tori nodded. “You know, I’ve never been with anyone longer than a few days. Well, except for Jodie.”
“Tell me about her?” Asked Eden.
“Not much to tell. We were room-mates at Uni. We slept together, that was about it.”
“Did you love her?”
“I told you Eden, I’ve never loved anyone before.” Tori reached over and carefully picked up her mug of tea. “Oooh, that hit the spot.” She said after taking a mouthful.
“So it was just a sex thing?” Eden persisted.
“Yeah, I suppose so.”
“Was she your first?”
Tori put her mug back down. “Is this an interview?”
Eden shook her head. “No, I’d just like to know some more things about you.”
“No she wasn’t my first.”
“Was your first a woman?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Said Eden, sitting up and reaching across Tori for her mug, giving her lover a look when she sniggered at the Snoopy mug.
“Would you call a sixteen year old girl a woman?”
“You lost your virginity to a sixteen year old?”
Tori nodded. “I was sixteen too, we were at the boarding school. We were just fooling around really. What about you?” Tori wanted to steer the conversation away from her.
There was silence for a long moment. “I was seventeen.” Eden began. “There was this boy at college, he asked me out.” She curled her hands around the mug and Tori noticed that they were shaking slightly.
“Hey, don’t tell me if you don’t want to.” She said as she took the mug out of the smaller woman’s hands.
“No, it’s about time.”
“For getting rid of this.” Eden took a deep breath. “Anyway, I went out with him. I was playing along with what my parents wanted, but even then I’d decided that something wasn’t right. I wasn’t really interested in going out with him, but all my friend’s had boyfriends so I thought I should ‘fit in.’ He used to be able to borrow his father’s car. We went to some pubs. I don’t know how he managed to get me drinks. At seventeen I looked about fifteen, but somehow he managed. He got me pretty drunk, drove me out to a country lane and parked up.”
Eden paused, her eyes were far away, back there in that country lane. The steamed up windows, the grasping hands.
“He raped you, didn’t he?” Tori asked, her heart hammering in her chest.
Eden nodded and Tori pulled her over and into her arms.
“Did you report it?”
“No, I was young, I couldn’t face the police. But most of all I was ashamed.”
Eden shrugged. “Don’t know. Thought it was my fault I guess. He told me I’d lead him on, said I didn’t object when he drove me out there. I started to believe it.”
Tori tightened her embrace. “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“Yeah, me too. Taught me some lessons though, I was a little less trusting after that.”
“Did it, um.” Tori sought for the right words. “Did it put you off men completely?”
“If you’re asking if that’s when I decided I was gay, the answer’s no. I went out with other men, slept with them. But on my terms. I’ve also had sex with a few women.” She turned towards Tori, shifting over so that she was laying on top of the taller woman. “But I’ve only made love to you.”
Tori was quiet for a long moment. “Eden, the things you say. You know, no-one’s ever said anything like that to me before.”
“I’ve never had cause to say that to anyone before.” Said Eden, leaning forward and nipping her lover’s bottom lip. “But it’s true.” She waited a moment, then asked. “Tell me what you did in London. Tell me why you think you don’t deserve this.”
Tori closed her eyes. How much should she tell this woman? How much could she know before running screaming into the night?
‘Ok, let’s get this over with.’ Tori took a deep breath.
“After I left Uni and Jodie I went home and started working for my father. I inherited the Chelsea flat from my maternal grandmother. For a while the business took up most of my time. Then I began going to The Gym. It’s a gay club in Chelsea. Well, a lesbian club. ”
Eden gave her a squeeze and encouraged to continue.
“I built myself a reputation there. It wasn’t good.”
“Go on.” Said Eden.
“You don’t want to hear this.” Said Tori, suddenly uncomfortable
“Yes, I do.”
Tori looked at her, and in that moment knew she could trust her. “It became a game.” She began. “I’d time myself and see how long it took before I was invited home.”
“By someone at the club?”
“They all wanted a piece of me. I was the rich bitch, they all knew my name. They all thought I was a ticket to the good life, so I used that. I used them.”
“So what’s different here?”
Tori sighed. “You.” She said simply. “This is why I fought. I didn’t think I’d be able to get out of the habit of using. I didn’t want to use you.”
Eden smiled. “Hey.” She said huskily. “Use me.”
“Don’t joke about it.” Said Tori, pouting.
“That’s new, I’ve never seen that face before.” Eden kissed away the pout.
“Don’t let me hurt you.” Tori said seriously.
“The only way you can do that is by leaving. Twice you left me……. ” Tori started to interrupt, but Eden silenced her with a shake of the head. “No, I know you didn’t leave me yesterday, but it felt like you did. I just want to be with you Tori.”
The dark woman wrapped her arms tighter around her lover. “And I want to be with you. But there’s one condition.”
Eden’s head snapped up. “What?” She didn’t like conditions.
“We never, ever, sleep in a bed as small as this again.” Said Tori wiggling her chilly toes.
Eden butted Tori’s chest with her forehead and smiled into the soft skin. “It’s a deal.” She said. “Should we get up?”
“Not for a bit.” Said Tori who closed her eyes and enjoyed the closeness of her love.
Eden must have dozed because she woke up some time later, alone.
Getting up she picked up her bathrobe from the floor and went in search of her lover. She found Cathy in the kitchen talking to Darren.
“Hey.” She said rushing to the man and giving him a hug.
At his questioning look Cathy said.”I told her.”
“Oh. You ok with that?” he asked the blonde who relelased him slowly.
“Of course you silly man! It’s about time.” She said and then looked round. “Where’s Tori?”
“She’s gone.” Said Cathy, but seeing the fearful look on her friend’s face she added. “But she says she’ll only be an hour.”
Eden smiled at her. “Stupid huh?”
Cathy put her arm around the blonde and lead her out of the kitchen and into the lounge, smiling at Darren’s understanding look as she went.
“Are you going to be like this every time you wake up and she’s not there?” Asked Cathy.
“Probably not, it’s all still a little raw right now.” Eden sat on the sofa. “I asked her not to leave without waking me.”
“I’ve tried to wake you in the past, it’s not the easiest thing to do.”
“I was only dozing.”
“If you were only dozing you would have woken when she went.”
Eden pulled the robe tighter around her. “Did she say where she was going?”
“No, only that she wouldn’t be long.”
“Oh, well that’s ok then.” Eden stood. “I’m going to have a bath then pack some stuff.”
“Are you……… you’re going aren’t you?” Said Cathy.
“She’s asked me to stay longer, and I’m going to. Cathy, this is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m not going to let this go.”
Cathy sat beside her friend and gave her a hug. “I’m happy for you Eddie. I just hope you know what you’re doing. It’s all moving awfully fast.”
“We’ve been through just about everything in the past week. Now we just want to be together and enjoy it.”
“I wish you luck.” She said and held her friend until she heard the doorbell and heard Darren open the door to admit Eden’s lover.
A dark eyebrow rose at the sight of the two friend’s on the sofa. “Did I miss something?” Asked Tori.
“Come here you.” Said Eden, rising and rushing into Tori’s arms.
“What’s this for?” She asked, and looked at Cathy over the blonde’s shoulder as she made her exit from the lounge.
“Just for being you.” She pushed away from the taller woman. “But on the other hand, I’m angry with you.” Eden tried, but couldn’t look angry.
“You are?” Said Tori, looking innocent, no easy feat.
“I told you to wake me before you went anywhere.”
“Ah, well. I had some things to do. And if I hadn’t left you then, I would never have gotten away.”
“Really, why?” Asked Eden.
“Um, well, because………… you know.” Tori took a couple of steps back from the advancing blonde.
“No I don’t, explain.” Said Eden, a small smile creasing her face.
Tori stopped and let Eden step closer so that their bodies just touched. She reached out and took Eden’s shoulders in her hands, pulling the smaller woman into her own body. “I wanted you, I wanted my hands on you. I do now.”
“So why did you go?” Eden said into the warm flesh of the woman’s neck.
“I had things to do.” Said Tori, letting her head fall back to expose more skin to the soft mouth.
“Must have been important things.” Said Eden, taking a step back and pulling Tori with her towards the lounge door and then through the hallway into her bedroom.
Cathy and Darren saw them pass. “It’s one o’clock in the afternoon.” Said Darren, drinking his tea.
“So?” Asked Cathy.
“Well.” Said Darren as means of explanation.
“You are such and old fogie.” Said Cathy, “let’s get rid of some of your inhibitions.” She took him by the hand and lead him to her bedroom, leaving the rest of the flat in silence.
It was after five in the evening by the time Tori and Eden had changed, packed most of Eden’s clothes and travelled to the cottage in Summer Lane.
“What would you like to do this evening?” Asked Tori.
“You know, I’d really like a night out on the town. Finishing up at the Tap.” Said Eden, emptying the large plastic bag filled with her clothes onto the bed.
“Yeah, call me egotistical, but I want to show you off.” She said, sorting underwear from socks and putting them in drawers.
“Um, last time I was there I didn’t make much of an impression.” Said Tori, sitting on the bed and reaching for a silky pair of briefs.
Eden snatched them out of her hand. “Well, I don’t remember much about it. And anyway, I need to talk to Karen.” She looked at her lover. “Don’t you think?”
“Yes, I think. You gave her some pretty strong signals last time.”
“I did didn’t I.” She said staring at the underwear in her hands. “I still can’t believe I did that.”
“You were drunk. And mad.” Tori stood and walked over to the window.
“That’s no excuse, you don’t use people like that.” She looked up to see Tori’s tense back. “Tori, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…..”
Tori turned when she felt a gentle hand on her back. “I know.” She said, dipping her head and capturing the soft lips of her lover.
After the kiss the taller woman held her love close. “C’mon, let’s get ready and go out.”
Eden nodded and untangled herself from her lover’s arms. “Ok, are we going smart or casual?”
“Casual, I think.” Said Tori and pulled out a pair of jeans and a sweater.
“Well, I only got dressed an hour or so ago, so I’m going as I am.” Said Eden as she tucked the last of her clothes away into a drawer. She moved towards the door and turned to watch Tori removing the clothes she’d worn that day, the one’s she’d left in when she’d gone to London.
“Oh, and Tori?” Came the voice from the landing.
“What?” Asked Tori, naked.
“Wear something I won’t have any trouble removing later.”
Tori went out onto the landing, but Eden had disappeared downstairs. “Where are you?” Tori called down.
“I’m watching telly.” Eden appeared at the bottom of the stairs. “Why?”
“Nothing. Just wondered. Won’t be long.” Tori said, and disappeared into the bathroom.
The night was windy, cold and wet. They didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space a short distance from the entrance to the Bath Tap. As it was shortly after nine in the evening, they didn’t have to pay the entrance fee and Eden took Tori’s hand she she preceeded her lover into the pub.
As usual the female population was outnumbered by the male, and the small amount of women were seated around a table in the corner.
“Hi.” Said Eden as she seated herself in a vacant chair. She looked over at the bar where Tori was ordering them drinks. “Is Karen here?” She asked Annie who was sitting, seperated slightly from the other two women at the table.
“Upstairs I think. I heard about last week.”
Eden cringed. “Really?”
Annie nodded, then beckoned Eden closer. “Is this it?” She asked and immediately knew the answer when she saw the smile that lit her friend’s face.
“Yes it is.” Said Eden quietly. “Thanks.”
“For telling me to wait. Thanks for the adivice.”
Annie shrugged. “I think you would have worked it out for yourself anyway.” She looked towards the bar. “She’s lovely.”
Eden turned and regarded the woman who was now moving towards them with drinks in both hands.
Tori looked at the admiring looks she was getting from two sets of eyes.
“What?” The tall woman said as she set the glasses on the table.
“Tori, this is Annie.” Eden said changing the subject.
Tori reached out her hand. “Pleased to meet you. You’re the bus driver aren’t you?”
“I am, though I wish I wasn’t.” Said Annie with a sigh.
“No, I don’t think I’d have the patience. All that stopping and starting.” Tori managed to ease into the vacant seat beside Eden.
But as soon as she’d settled Eden sprang to her feet. “I have to go upstairs.” She said seeing Tori’s puzzled look.
“You do?” Said her lover.
Eden nodded .”Karen.” She said, explaining everything, and bent and kissed Tori on the cheek before making her way towards the stairs.
Tori watched her until she disappeared, smiling as one or two of the men stopped her as she squeezed past them, some of them planting a kiss on her cheek.
“Everyone loves Eden.” Annie said, regaining Tori’s attention.
“It’s understandable.” Said Tori, regarding the liquid in her glass.
“I’m happy for you both, though a few hearts will be broken in here.” Annie chuckled. “I remember the first night she came in here. We thought she’d walked into the wrong place.”
“She told me she’d spoken to you. About her feelings. I’m glad she had someone to talk to.”
Annie nodded. “She was pretty messed up for a while. She thought that once she’d accepted what she was feeling, she’d be able to go out find herself a good woman and settle down to a life of bliss. But it didn’t happen.” Annie sighed. “She looks happy.”
“She does, doesn’t she.”
Annie sensed something going on within the dark woman. “What are you afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid.” Said Tori, sitting straighter in her chair.
“I’m sorry.” Said Annie. “I’m prying.”
Tori rubbed her eyes, and looked at the two women who were sitting nearby. Neither seemed interested in the conversation taking place.
“No, Eden is your friend, she’s come to you with her problems. You’re not prying.” Tori took a deep breath. “You would hate to see her hurt, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes, I would hate it, very much.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. She’s giving herself, so wholeheartedly. I’m afraid of not living up to what she wants.”
“Eden wants someone to love. That much is obvious. Do you want someone to love you?”
Tori thought for a while. “Of course I do. Doesn’t everyone?” For now, that was enough, Tori didn’t want to go into everything, all her problems.
“Then let her love you. Let her give something she’s desperate to give. Is that so hard?”
“What if I can’t give back in equal measure?” Tori asked.
“I don’t think Eden is the kind who gives to recieve. Just give her what you can. She’s obviously happy with what she has now, so you must be doing something right.” Annie reached over and squeezed Tori’s hand. “I’m happy for you.”
“You love her too, don’t you?” Said Tori, an almost apologetic look on her face.
Annie smiled. “Like I said, everyone loves Eden.”
Suddenly the subject of their conversation was back, she sat beside Tori and put a hand on her arm. “Whatcha talking about?” She asked, reaching across her lover to place her drink on the table.
Annie stood. “I need to get a refill.” She said, and headed for the bar.
“So?” Said Eden, giving Tori a quizzical look.
“Ok, we were talking about you.” Tori took the smaller hand in her own.
Tori nodded. “She wants you to be happy. That’s what I want too.”
“I am.” She lifted the long fingers to her lips and kissed them gently.
“So how did it go with Karen?” Tori said.
“Ok I think. She’s not happy, but I don’t think she’ll bother me anymore. I apologised, and told her to come over here and join us, but she refused.”
Tori chuckled. “I don’t think I’d be too happy if I lost you either. I know how she feels.” But the smile faded when Tori’s eyes found Eden’s. “I mean that.”
Eden squeezed the hand she was holding. “Dance with me?” She said, standing.
“Lead on.” Said Tori, and followed her to the stairs that led to the basement.
They enjoyed the remainder of the evening, and were about to leave just after 1.30 in the morning.
Tori had put her jacket on and was waiting for Eden who was talking to her friends. She managed to catch the blonde’s eye. Pointing at the door she indicated that she was going on without her.
Annie held her arms wide and Eden walked into them, returning the hug. “I’m so pleased for you.” She said, holding her friend at arms length. “What are you doing tomorrow? Are you coming here? I think they’re having a special evening.”
“Why? What’s so special about tomorrow?” Said Eden, pulling on her jacket.
“Eddie! It’s St. Valentine’s Day!” Said Annie, her hands on her hips.
“Oh my God, I forgot. So did Tori. Completely slipped my mind.”
“There are reminders all over town. Don’t tell me, you didn’t see anything.” She smiled at the blush that crept up her friend’s face.
“I’ve been a little preoccupied the last week.” Eden nodded. “We may well come down then. We have nothing else planned.
Annie smiled and led Eden to the notice board which held the plans for the St. Valentine’s Day activities.
Tori decided she’d go on ahead and get the engine started so that the car would be a little warm by the time her lover got there.
She pulled her collar up against the cold night and cupped her hands, breathing on them to ward off the chill.
The voice broke the silence just as she got to the Shogun.
She stopped dead, her hands still clasped infront of her face. Then she turned, taking in the sight infront of her.
Three men, probably in their mid twenties, walked slowly towards her. Two of them held small beer bottles, the third pulled a thin knife from a pocket.
‘Do something!’ Her mind screamed.
So she turned, and ran. Away from the Shogun. Away from the pub. Away from Eden, wanting to put as much distance between her lover and the threat as possible.
But they were too fast. They caught her after about twenty yards, pushing her over a low wall and on to a small grassed area. One of them managed to get an arm around her throat, while another knelt on her shins, immobilising her. They ended up with one man sitting, his back against the wall of the end building, Tori between his legs, his arm across her throat. They were out of sight now, behind a low bush.
While his companion increased the pressure on Tori’s throat, the man who’d originally spoken held the knife in the tall woman’s face.
“I hate queers.” He said, following the line of her jaw with the cold blade. “I’ve cut up a few fags. But I’ve never had me a dyke. Always wondered what it’d be like.” The blade was now following the high cheek bone across to an ear. “Ooops.” He said, as the blade produced a scarlet line.
The third man was sitting on the wall, looking down the road, drinking from the half filled bottle.
Tori was sitting on the cold grass, her hands on the forearm that was cutting off her breathing. “Please.” She croaked, the sound barely audible.
“Please what dyke? You want me to show you what you’re missing?” He said, lifting her chin with the blade.
“We got company.” Said the man, who hopped down off the wall and hid behind the bush.
Tori started to struggle, knowing exactly who it was that made the quick footsteps that they could all hear.
The man behind her pulled tighter, and she felt her throat close and the edges of her vision grow dark.
Eden couldn’t see Tori in the car and found it to be still locked when she tried the door. She’d taken a moment to say goodbye to her friend’s, but hadn’t thought she’d been that long.
She heard a noise. “Tori?” She called gently, and started walking towards the end of the street.
As she reached the end of St. James Parade she heard the low voice of a man, which made her stop dead. She looked round the corner, just as an arm reached out and a strong hand clamped over her mouth.
She was dragged over the low wall, the stone hitting her shins hard. She struggled against the hands that held her, until she was spun round and faced the sight that caused her heart to leap from her chest.
Her lover was held fast in the hands of a man who sitting with his back against the last building in the street.
Tori’s eyes held fear and panic, her hands clawed at the arm across her throat.
“Let her go.” Said the man with the knife.
Eden gazed at Tori with wide eyes, but didn’t move once the man released her.
The knife man knelt next to the seated woman. “This your girlfriend?” He asked the blonde.
Eden nodded, her eyes never leaving Tori’s face. Watching as her lover tried to focus on her surroundings.
Suddenly the third man pushed Eden further into the bushes and held his hand over her mouth again as a few pub goers made their way home.
Once they’d passed the conversation resumed.
“So what can she do for you that I can’t?” The knife wielder said, advancing on Eden.
The blonde took a step back, but found her way blocked by the large form of the third man.
The knife found its between the fastenings of Eden’s jacket and she felt the sharp point on her skin.
The knifeman looked over Eden’s shoulder at his companion and nodded. The man stepped away.
“I’ll make you a deal.” He said. “Let me show you what you’re missing, and I’ll let you girlfriend here go.” He moved the knife up, cutting through Eden’s clothes, then removing it. Then his hand replaced the knife, finding warm, soft flesh.
Eden flinched when his cold hand made contact with her skin, but stood her ground.
On the floor, Tori knew what was going on and started to struggle again. The knifeman took a step towards her and kicked her in the hip.
Eden made a move towards him, but was held by the third man.
The other man tightened his grip around Tori’s neck and Eden watched in alarm as the tall woman’s hands fell limply from his arm.
“You’re killing her!” She said, certain she could see Tori’s lips turning blue in the limited moonlight.
The knifeman advanced on Eden, enjoying her struggles against the solid grip of his friend. He reached a hand out and caressed her face. “Such a waste.” He said. “So what d’you say. Do we have a deal?”
Eden closed her eyes and nodded.
The man smiled and put his hands on either side of the rip in her clothes and tearing them open. Eden’s knees buckled slightly when the cold winter air hit her skin, but she was held fast.
She didn’t move as he inserted the blade between her breasts and cut the lace of her brassiere, releasing her breasts into the cold air.
“Such a waste.” He said again, tracing a line with his blade from her bellybutton, to the nipple of her left breast.
For a moment Eden didn’t realise it was Tori’s voice, so restricted was her throat.
All eyes turned to the fallen woman.
The knifeman smiled as his hand cupped a firm breast. “She’s not going to.” He lifted his eyes from dark haired woman, to the eyes of the smaller woman standing infront of him. “Are you dyke?”
Eden felt the vice-like hands of the third man tighten around her upper arms and shook her head at the man’s question.
“See dyke?” He said to Tori. “She’s doing this for you.” His eyes caught the attention of the man holding Tori, he wanted her concious for this. The arm about her throat relaxed slightly, and the man pulled her head up using a handful of dark hair.
Eden was pulled back against the third man, they turned sideways so that Tori could see what was happening.
The knifeman reached down for the fastening of Eden’s jeans, looking into her face as he undid the buttons, one by one.
But Eden’s eyes were on her lover’s. Trying to convey to the stricken woman that she could handle this, that it meant nothing, but failing.
And suddenly she was falling, reaching her hands out to break her fall, but still feeling the cold damp grass on her skin.
The sound of running footsteps brought her back to her situation and she looked around for her lover, finding her lying on her side, her back against the wall.
“Tori?” She said, feeling the damp seep through her jeans as she crawled towards the woman.
She reached her and pulled the taller woman into her arms, feeling Tori’s hands clutching at her clothing as she did so.
“Did they……..?” Tori croaked, weakly trying to lift her head and see her lover.
“No, nothing…………… No. I don’t know………………”
Eden turned her head to see a police woman appear between the bushes.
“Are you both alright?” She said shining the torch on them and crouching to assess their injuries.
“My friend’s hurt.” Said Eden, forgetting her own state of undress.
The police woman stood and went back to the van that Eden could see between the branches of the bush, only now seeing the blue flashing light reflecting off the nearby windows.
She returned with a couple of large blankets which she handed to Eden. “There’s an ambulance coming, and my colleagues are trying to catch the men.”
Eden’s attention was on Tori as she wrapped the stunned woman in the blanket, then wrapping the other around her own shoulders before sitting on the ground next to her lover and holding her.
Two more police officers came to join their colleague, one of them kneeling next to Eden. “Will you be able to answer some questions?” One of them asked.
“Not right now, maybe later.” He said putting his hand on her shoulder.
Then the ambulance was there, the paramedics fussing over the two women and leading them back to the ambulance.
Once inside Eden watched as her lovers cut face was cleaned and assessed. It seems the small cut wouldn’t need stitches.
In all this time Tori hadn’t said a word, and Eden was wondering if her friend was in shock.
Suddenly Tori pushed the hands away from her. “I’m fine.” She growled and jumped down from the back of the ambulance.
She strode over to the police van. “Did you get them?” She asked, her voice barely a whisper, but still venomous.
“Not yet.” Said the officer looking up from his notes.
“You won’t.” She husked. “They’re just queer bashers. They’re long gone.”
Eden came up behind her lover, placing a gentle hand on her back. “Tori?” She asked.
“D’you need us?” Said Tori.
“Yes, we’d like a description and your details.”
Tori gave a brief description of the three men and her address and Eden’s home address. She gave her phone number, putting a hand to her throat as she finished.
“I really want to go home now, is that ok with you?” She said to the officer.
He nodded. “You’re sure you don’t want to get checked out at the hospital?”
“No, I just want to go home.”
The police officer shrugged. “Someone may be round to see you tomorrow……. If we apprehend…………….”
But Tori had gone, the blanket covered form of her lover following the limping taller woman.
Eden eased into the passenger seat and regarded the tense profile of her partner. “You ok?” She whispered.
Tori gripped the steering wheel, and turned to face the blonde. “Why the fuck didn’t you run?” She growled, her abused larynx making her sound even more frightening.
“I thought………….. I wanted them to let you go.” Eden pulled the blanket she’d kept tighter around her shoulders.
“And you think after he’d raped you he would have just let you go? Let us both go?”
Eden’s face creased as tears filled her eyes. “I didn’t know what else to do! I thought they were going to kill you!” She covered her face with shaking hands.
But Tori couldn’t comfort her. Her anger was all consuming and threatened to overtake her. Never before has someone put their own soul on the line for her, and she was failing miserably in dealing with it. She started the engine and sped away, wanting to put as much distance between her and that damn street as she could.
Eden was still crying when they reached the cottage.
Tori got out of the Shogun in silence, slamming the door as she went, and entering the cottage.
Eden walked on shaky legs to the cottage and closed the door quietly. She stood in the hall, her back against the door, still clutching the blanket.
Tori had mixed herself a drink, and was standing at the window, watching the clouds racing across the moon. The liquid burned her abused throat, but felt good. With a sigh she turned and went to look for her lover.
Eden was still standing with her back against the door.
“Come in here.” Said Tori, “it’s warmer.”
Eden didn’t move, and Tori saw the white knuckles on the small hands that clasped the blanket around shaking shoulders.
“Eden?” She said, advancing on the girl.
She tried to pull her lover’s hands from their place, holding the blanket tight against her chest. “Eden, come on, come into the lounge.” Her voice was still husky.
Then Eden started shaking. “I.I’m sssorry.” She said. “I was scared.”
“I know.” Said Tori. “Come here.”
She pulled the shaking woman into her arms and led her into the lounge, just making it to the couch as the blonde collapsed.
Tori managed to pry the rigid fingers open and remove the blanket but the sight she revealed only brought back her anger.
She took a step back, her eyes fastened on the shredded clothing that Eden wore.
“No.” Groaned Eden and fell sideways on the couch, sobbing uncontrollably.
Tori knelt by her lovers side and took her shoulders in her hands, easing her back to a sitting position. “I’m sorry.” She pushed the golden hair back from the face she loved and pulled Eden into her arms.
“Sshhh. It’s over.” She said, knowing her own temper had added to Eden’s fear. “Come with me.” She said pulling the blonde to her feet.
“So tired.” Said Eden, leaning heavily against the taller woman.
“Yeah, me too.”
Tori led her up the stairs and sat her on the bed, while she went into the bathroom and turned on the shower above the bath. Then going back into the bedroom, she started to pull the ruined clothes off of Eden.
Once she’d completed that, she removed the mud stained bandage from Eden’s hand. Quickly removing her own clothes she led the blonde to the bathroom, helping her to step over the edge of the bath and into the warm spray of the shower.
Eden rested her head on Tori’s chest and let the water wash away the feel of the man’s hands on her. She felt her lovers hands begin to soap away the dirt and self loathing that had returned after so long. She looked up into the eyes that held her heart. “Tori?” she said.
“Mmm?” Said the taller woman, her hands soaping a smooth back.
“I couldn’t have let them hurt you.”
“Eden, I want you to promise me something.” Tori began.
“No, whatever it is, no. I know what you’re going to say.”
The hands stilled. “It’s hard. Knowing what could have happened.”
“I know.” Said Eden. “But it’s alright now. We’re home.”
“Yes we are.” Said Tori, and wrapped her arms tighter around her lover. “Let’s go to bed.”
Eden stood beside the bed, allowing Tori to dry her and examine her hand. “I don’t think it needs to be rebandaged for now. I’ll do it in the morning.”
Eden slipped into bed watching her lover walk around turning off lights, noticing the black and blue bruise on her hip. “Tori! Is that painful?”
“Only a little.” Said Tori, turning off the last light.
She got in next to the blonde and gathered her in her arms.
“Thankyou.” Said Tori, burying her face in the damp hair.
“I love you.” Said Eden.
There was no reply from Tori and Eden knew that any further conversation would have to wait ’til the morning.
The force of Tori’s scream grated against her throat, but still the blonde woman stood, unmoving, oblivious to Tori’s panic.
Tori couldn’t move an iron band across her throat made her breathing difficult, her limbs heavy.
Eden was lowered to the ground by the two men holding her. One held her shoulders, the other stood over her, looking first at the blonde on the ground and then across at Tori. He smiled at the two women’s helplessness.
Tori looked back at her lover. Eden’s arm was outstretched, reaching toward the taller woman, but there was no fear in her eyes.
“I love you Tori.” She said, gentle green eyes smiling.
“No!” Tori sat bolt upright, her hands flying to her own throat to loosen the grip of the man behind her, but found only the soft flesh of her own neck.
She struggled for long moments to conquer her ragged breathing, dragging in lungful’s of air until the grasping pain in her chest subsided.
Finally she was calm and looked to her right, and found the peaceful, deeply asleep form of Eden, oblivious to the drama being played out in the bed she shared with her lover.
Tori sank back down, turning towards the smaller woman as she did so. Reaching out a hand she pushed some golden hair away from the relaxed face, watching as the girl’s forehead crinkled at the touch.
“Sssh.” She said to the sleeping woman, “it’s only me.”
Eden moved towards the sound of the low husky voice and wrapped herself around the warm body she found.
Tori accepted the gift and held on tight, there would be no more sleep for her that night.
Many hours later, Eden woke alone. Slowly the events of the previous night came back to her, and with it pain in her left breast and in her injured hand. She looked at her palm, pleased to see that the stitches had done their job and the cuts were healing nicely.
She had known immediately that her lover was not in the bed, but she was not surprised. Tori’s reaction to the attempted rape had been unexpected. Eden had needed her to be supportive, but she had been anything but. In fact she’d made things worse. She had taken out her anger and frustration on the younger woman, seemingly unable to come to terms with the helplessness she’d felt. But things did get better Eden accepted. Tori had realised that she was hurting her lover and had turned back into the woman that Eden had come to love. The woman that Eden was rapidly falling in love with.
Eden rolled onto her back and regarded the ceiling. She listened carefully, but couldn’t hear Tori moving around anywhere in the cottage. The numbers on the clock on the bedside cabinet told her it was 09.48. The curtains were drawn, and the small amount of daylight that slipped between them was dull.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs brought Eden’s attention to the door. It opened very slowly and a dark head poked around the door.
“Hi.” Said Eden.
“‘Morning.” Said Tori, but didn’t enter the room. “I thought you were still asleep.”
Eden shook her head. “Nope.”
Tori still didn’t move, just her head showing, and one white teeshirt covered shoulder.
“Whatcha doing?” Asked Eden.
“Close your eyes.” Said Tori, and disappeared.
Eden sat up, holding the quilt close to her body against the cold. “Why?” No answer. “Tori?”
“Eden, would you just close your eyes.” A voice tinted with annoyance.
A sigh. “Ok.”
Tori peeked around the door again and saw that Eden was sitting up in bed, the quilt clutched in her arms, her eyes tight shut.
For a moment Tori didn’t move, she just stood, taking in the sight before her.
“Ok, don’t open your eyes ’til I tell you.”
The strange noses that surrounded her tested Edens will power to the limit, but eventually Tori said. “Alright, you can open them now.”
Eden opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by red.
There were balloons everywhere, must have been about thirty. Thirty red balloons claiming, ‘I love you Eden Gallagher.’
Eden grabbed one as it floated towards her. “Tori, this is so cute!” She said, enjoying the blush that coloured her lover’s face. “Did you blow these all up yourself?”
Tori laughed. “No, the guy I bought them from gave me something to inflate them.”
Eden noticed she had an arm behind her back. “What do you have there?”
Tori brought her hand out from behind her and presented Eden with the rose. A single red rose, perfect in size and shape. As she handed it to the blonde she leaned down, capturing her lips in a delicate kiss. “Be my valentine?” She asked.
Eden took the rose, sniffing it, then turned sheepish eyes in her lover’s direction.
“What?” Asked Tori.
“I forgot it was today, I’m sorry,”
Tori edged onto the bed next to her lover. “Don’t be sorry. You’re here, that’s all I need.”
Eden remained silent for a moment, then shifted to look at the dark woman beside her. “Tori, we need to talk.”
Tori felt her stomach muscles cramp, but nodded slightly. “About last night?”
Eden let out a long shuddering breath.
“I thought maybe I could make you forget with these.” Said Tori, indicating the gently bobbing balloons with a tilt of her head.
Eden leaned heavily against a firm shoulder. “You were angry with me.” It was a statement, not a question.
“You were stupid.”
“Absolutely.” Said Tori, sitting up straighter so that she was no longer in contact with Eden. “You had the chance to run, you should have taken it.”
“So if it was me there, you would have run?” Said Eden, tapping her chin lightly with the bloom.
“Didn’t think so.” Said the blonde quietly.
Tori pulled her knees up to her chest and clamped two long arms around them. “No-one’s ever cared enough to do anything like that for me. I guess I’m just not used to it.” She ran a shaking hand through tangled ebony locks. Then found that hand captured by a smaller one. The touch broke the tenuous hold Tori had on her emotions, and she pulled her hand from her lover’s and buried her face in her palms.
Eden carefully put the rose on the beside cabinet and turned, pulling the now shaking woman into her arms.
“Ssshhh.” She whispered into the dark hair, rocking the trembling woman against her own chest.
“I couldn’t help you.” Came the muffled voice. “I couldn’t get to you. If the police hadn’t arrived……….”
“But they did. Don’t start with ‘what ifs’.” Eden reasoned. “We’re ok. I’m ok.” She pushed Tori away so that she could see her face. Making eye contact she said. “And I’d do the same again.”
“No you won’t!” Said Tori, sitting up. “You will never be hurt because of me. Never!”
Tori tried to get out of the bed, but Eden held on, and in the end she gave up, allowing herself to be pulled down into the warmth of the bed with her lover.
“It’s only been just over a week.” Said Tori.
“And?” Said Eden, shuggling closer.
“And how many times have you been hurt in the last few days?”
“I’ve felt happy more than I’ve felt bad.”
Tori sniffed. “Really?”
“Really.” She snaked a hand under the teeshirt Tori was wearing, finding smooth warm skin and feeling an intake of breath from her tall lover. “I want to stay with you.” The hand made its way higher, cupping a firm breast. “For a long time.” A dark nipple hardened at the touch. “Is that ok with you.”
When no answer was forthcoming she looked up at the angular face above her.
“Tori?” She asked, giving the nipple she was worrying a tweak.
Tori’s face was a picture of calm. She turned towards the blonde and opened her eyes, making Eden’s heart skip a beat when she saw the honesty in them.
“Whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want. Take me now.”
Eden stared at her for a long moment. Tori had never asked her that, had never given herself without the tiniest struggle.
So Eden knelt on the bed and pulled the shirt over Tori’s head, depositing it beside the bed.
“So this is mine?” She asked, running her hands from broad shoulders to firm thighs, watching as the muscles beneath the skin reacted to her touch.
“Everything I have.”
Eden smiled and found the blue eyes again. “Is that a proposal?”
Tori seemed to think for a moment, her brow furrowing briefly. “Dammit, I think it was.”
“Say it then.” Eden stilled her hands, one on a shoulder, the other firmly situated over Tori’s heart. She felt the heartbeat increase, the silence in the room pulsating in her own ears.
“I want…. you. ”
“Is that it?” Eden teased.
“I want you forever.” Tori said in a rush. “We could go abroad, they do it there. Hawaii or somewhere.”
“Tori, say it for goodness sake.” Eden pressed her palm harder against the wildly beating heart. Needing to hear the words.
Tori closed her eyes. “Will you marry me?” She said, her voice surprisingly calm.
When no answer came she opened her eyes to find tearful green eyes looking down at her. “Yes.” One word, but the one word Tori needed to hear above all others.
Tori reached up and pulled the smaller woman down onto her body. “No-one’s ever given me so much.” Said Tori, breathing in the scent of the golden hair.
Eden pushed herself back up, and surveyed the body beneath her. “Now, where were we?” She said, lowering her mouth to her lover’s breast.
They were out of bed, but still in dressing gowns when the police woman who had spoken to them the previous night knocked the door. After a quick discussion they both shrugged and let her in. If she was shocked she was professional enough not to show it. She took statements from both, descriptions of their assailants, and left them some leaflets about counselling. After just under an hour she was gone.
“D’you think they’ll catch them?” Asked Eden as she closed the front door.
“Probably not until they get caught in the act. They looked pretty ordinary, nothing unusual about them.”
“I’d remember them again.” Eden said, walking towards Tori.
“Yeah, so would I.” Tori opened her arms and allowed the younger woman to walk into them, and they stood there, for a long time, just thinking.
Much later the two women were showered and changed and heading into the centre of Bath again, this time Tori parked in the grounds of the Bath Spa hotel. She’d remembered Eden’s admission that she’d never been in it, so had booked a table for two for their first Valentine meal together.
It was a relaxed evening, and Tori felt it was one of the most wonderful she’d ever spent. As she waited for Eden to return from the ladies she wondered for the hundreth time why the blonde woman was sticking with her. But in that moment decided give up questioning it. She was finding something she’d never sought and certainly didn’t expect. But now she had this feeling, it was beginning to fit around her like a comfortable old sweater.
Eden was giving herself. Completely. No conditions. That had never happened before. And that afternoon Tori had given herself to her lover.
It had taken will power. Once or twice she had to resist the urge to take the smaller woman and throw her onto her back, taking her as she’d taken other women in the past. But she’d allowed Eden to make her own pace. Letting her take her time, letting her take Tori to heights she thought were unattainable.
And after, as she lay sated and exhausted, she allowed Eden to pull her into her arms. And she slept, wrapped in the love and sanctuary of another. Feeling safe, protected, and at peace.
A touch on her shoulder, and she turned her head, finding her lips claimed by softness. A quick kiss and Eden was sitting opposite her again, looking with pleasure at one or two surprised faces at other tables.
“What were you thinking about? I was standing behind you for a while.” Asked the blonde.
Eden smiled, playing with the cutlery on the table. “Were they good thoughts?”
Tori sat back in her chair. “Wonderful thoughts.” She said and leaned forward, just as the waiter arrived with their main course.
“Fillet?” he asked.
Tori nodded at his enquiry and he put her plate in front of her. Then walked around Eden so he could serve her from the correct side.
“Can I get you a bottle of wine?” He asked.
Tori nodded. “Whichever the manager recommends.” She said, then looking towards Eden. “Gotta get my own back for earlier.”
“No you don’t, you won’t get me drunk anyway.” Said Eden, cutting into her steak.
“Not on your nelly. I have to work tomorrow.”
“We’ll see.” Blue eyes twinkled.
“I won’t.” Green flashed.
A slight tap on her right thigh brought Eden back to the land of the living.
“We’re here.” Said her lover, “how d’you feel?”
Eden pushed herself up in the car seat and peered out of the windscreen. “I’m fine, why?”
“You were making strange noises all the way back.” Said Tori, who stepped out of the Shogun and walked around to the passenger side. She opened the door and waited while Eden struggled with the seat belt.
“Here.” Said the tall woman, leaning across the blonde and unfastening the seatbelt clasp, taking the opportunity to have a long, leisurely taste of the soft lips of her lover.
Then she was gone. Striding across the wet driveway to the front door of the cottage, and opening it before Eden had managed to get out of her seat.
‘Why does she always park so far away?’ The blonde thought as she left the warm interior of the car and made her unsteady way towards the door.
Once in the cottage she went directly to the lounge and slumped down on the sofa.
“Coffee?” Came the call from the kitchen.
“Sounds good.” Called Eden, pulling her feet beneath her and snuggling into a corner of the large, soft couch.
It was only five minutes later that Tori brought two mugs into the lounge and set them on the low table, but by then the blonde was fast asleep. She pulled the table within reach and lifted Eden gently, pulling her into her lap as she settled beside the sleeping woman.
Eden stirred, and Tori smoothed her hair and kissed the top of her head. “No wine huh?”
“S’your fault.” The blonde mumbled.
“I didn’t force you to drink it.” Tori said defensively.
“Y’kept filling the glass.” Eden struggled to raise her head and look at her lover. “Thanks.”
“For what?” Tori asked.
“For the evening. It was wonderful. And for letting me stay here with you.” She let her head drop onto the broad shoulder again.
“I don’t want to be alone anymore.” Tori whispered.
“You’re not.” Said Eden, and pulled the dark head down for a long lingering kiss. “Let’s go to bed.” Said Eden breathlessly as they parted.
“Can you make it all the way up there?” Said Tori as she stood and picked up the two mugs of coffee.
“I’m bloody sure I can.” Said Eden who launched herself across the lounge floor towards the door, rebounding off the door frame on her way out.
Tori winced, and followed her love closely as she climbed the stairs on wobbly legs.
Eden was sure she’d only been asleep a few minutes when the alarm went off at 07.30.
After she’d managed to climb the stairs and fall into bed the previous evening she and Tori had made love until the small hours. She knew she should be trying to sleep, but everytime she settled down her hand would find the soft warm flesh of her lover and start another exploration. When finally exhaustion caught up with both women it was nearly three.
And now the alarm was complaining because neither woman had the energy to turn the damn thing off. Finally a long arm reached across a small unmoving body and swatted the thing, sending it, still complaining, to the floor.
Eden leaned out of the bed and reached down, fumbling around, before silencing it. She turned back and returned to her place, winding her arm across Tori’s stomach.
“Bugger.” Came the voice, muffled by a smooth neck.
“Get up.” Said Tori, nudging her.
“Can you afford to keep me?” Asked Eden, refusing to move.
“Probably.” Said Tori, after very little thought. “Would you like me to?”
Eden shook her head, causing her hair to make the tall woman squirm. “Hey, that tickles.” Tori complained.
“I just want to stay here forever.” Said Eden, unwilling to venture out of the warm bed.
“Me too.” Admitted Tori, who sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. “Come on. You go shower and I’ll make you some breakfast.” She grabbed a robe and stood in the doorway. For a moment she stood watching, and realised that Eden was drifting back off to sleep. So she crept back to the bed and leaned over her lover, capturing Eden’s lips with her own. “Get up.” She whispered.
“Am up.” Said Eden, who sat up scrubbing her face with her hands, and hurting the injured one in the process. She peered at the stitches. “Will you make me an appointment to see the doctor one day this week? These can probably come out now.”
Tori turned the small hand over in her own, examining the stitches. “Sure I will, is the number still by the phone?”
Eden nodded and started to get out of bed, when she was captured in strong arms and pulled into a tight hug. “I’m going to miss you today.” Tori pouted.
“I’ll miss you too.” Said Eden, who managed to stand, still held tightly by the taller woman. “Go make me some toast.” She said, giving Tori a quick peck on the cheek.
“Toast? Is that all?”
“That’ll do. The baguette man calls about eleven, I always have one of his egg and bacon ones.”
Tori shrugged and made her way down to the kitchen while Eden started the shower running.
It was a little before nine when Tori dropped Eden off on the corner of Queen Square. Eden leaned across and gave her a quick kiss before jumping out of the Shogun. She looked back and gave her lover a quick wave before disappearing around the corner.
Once Tori had lost sight of the blonde she made her way back to the cottage. She had some e-mails to write and some phone calls to make. Half way up Wellsway her mobile phone chirped.
“Yeah?” She said.
“Miss you already.” Came the familiar voice. “Where are you?”
“Just turning off Wellsway.”
“Call me when you get home?”
“Ok, why?” She said smiling.
“No reason, just want to hear from you every hour or so.”
Tori chuckled. “Ok, every hour then.”
“Thanks. Love you.”
“Love you too.” Tori turned off the phone and threw it on the passenger seat.
Five minutes later she was turning off Summer Lane into the driveway of the cottage she now shared with her lover.
She saw the large car immediately and pulled the Shogun to a halt beside it. As she opened the car door, so the door on the other car opened and a distinguished looking gentleman got out, slamming the door behind him.
“Victoria.” He said.
“Good morning Father.” Said Tori.
Tori walked past her father, opening the door to the cottage and standing back so that he could enter.
The tall man, at least four inches taller than his daughter, preceeded her into the hallway, then turned left into the lounge as if he’d lived there all his life. He was a handsome man, his face looking younger than his fifty six years, his hair showing a small amount of grey at the temples.
Tori went in the opposite direction, into the kitchen. She stood for a moment, hands gripping the side of the worktop. Then she filled the coffee maker with water and found a filter in the cupboard, measuring the correct amount of coffee and turning the appliance on. It took longer than making instant, but it was time she needed.
She walked across the hallway and into the lounge. Standing before her father she waited, he would have to be the first to speak.
“What do you think you are doing Victoria?” He asked, looking calm and executive in his suit. He cocked his head in question as he walked across the room and sat on the sofa.
Tori opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing,
Her father tapped his fingers on the arm of the sofa as she reached across and picked up the instrument.
“Hey.” Said the voice she loved.
Despite the tension she felt, Tori smiled. “Hi. I thought I was going to ring you.”
“Can’t get into the swing of things.” She said. Then, aware of the tension, asked, “is everything ok?”
“Everything’s fine. Can I call you later?”
There was silence from Eden for a moment. “Tori, is something wrong?”
“I’ll call you later.” Tori said. “I have to go.”
“Ok. I love you.” Said Eden, her voice revealing the concern she felt.
“You too.” Said Tori, and put the handpiece back in the cradle.
She turned back to her father, who regarded her with something approaching contempt.
“That was your little whore was it?” He asked, an eyebrow rising in question.
Tori ignored the question. “What do you want Father?” She asked.
“I want to know when you’re going to accept your responsibilties as a member of your family. I also want to know when you intend to return to London.”
“Father, I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going back to London. I’m not going to marry Damien. I told you that the other day.” She stood casually, the look hiding the hammering of her heart.
“Is that your final statement?”
“Very well.” He said and reached into the inside pocket of his suit.
Tori took a step back, her eyes widening at her father’s swift actions. Then feeling ludicrous when he pulled out a folded piece of paper.
“I want you to sign this.” He said holding the paper for her to take.
“What is it?” Asked Tori, taking the paper and studying it.
“It’s your agreement not to make any claim on the business, or use the Conrad name in any future business venture you may undertake.”
Tori stared at her father blankly. “I don’t understand.” She whispered.
“You are no longer my daughter.” He said matter of factly. “From this moment on I don’t know you.”
“You’ve never known me.” She said.
He nodded. “That’s probably true.” He stood and walked towards her. “If your brother had lived we could have gone through life without this little trial. But as it happens, we’ve discovered that you obviously have no sense of duty or loyalty.”
Tori couldn’t help laughing. “I can’t believe you just said that. For twenty eight years I was kept in the background while you prepared Rory for taking over the business. Then all of a sudden I’m needed.” She threw the paper on the low coffee table and walked towards the window. “I was prepared to marry that idiot.” She turned to face him. “All because you don’t believe a woman could run the business.”
For a moment he said nothing. “It was your mother’s idea. I married her in the understanding that she would provide me an heir. In the end, she did not. I told her that you were not stable enough………..”Tori opened her mouth to object and he raised a hand to quieten his daughter. “Not stable enough to run the business. She then found Damien and arranged for me to meet him. I was impressed with the young man and decided, with time, he would be a good addition to the family.”
Tori shook her head slowly. “So even Damien was a set up?”
“It doesn’t matter now. ” He said. “There are other arrangements I can make.”
“So what about the business, are you going to sell it?” She asked.
“No, my son will inherit it.”
‘He’s gone crazy.’ Tori thought.
Seeing his daughter’s look of bewilderment he smiled. “After you were born my dear, it seems your mother could no longer bear children.” He took in his daughter’s look of surprise. “Did you not wonder why she hated you so?”
Tori shook her head.
” I took out a little insurance policy. I have a son, at a private school in Switzerland.” He walked to the coffee table and picked up the document. “He’s fifteen, in about ten years he should be ready to enter into the business in some capacity, another five or so and he’ll be ready to take over, with my guidance of course.”
“This doesn’t sound exactly moral.” Tori said.
“I shall marry his mother. By the time he leaves school and university everyone that matters will have forgotten this fiasco.”
“She knew the consequences.” He said.
“So that was what inspired her little visit. She knew she’d lose her privileged lifestyle.”
Gerald Conrad nodded. “I’ll make sure she’s comfortable. She may have to cut down in some areas. And speaking of comfortable, I’ll transfer a small amount to your account. You do use the same one?”
Tori strode to within an arm’s length of her father. “You don’t need to pay me off.” Blue eyes flashed with anger. “I don’t need your money.”
“You’ll take it Victoria, I won’t have some tabloid newspaper accusing me of deserting my daughter. I’ll transfer enough for you to start a business if you wish. I just insist you don’t use the Conrad name.”
“Give me a pen.” She said, holding out her hand and taking the fountain pen that her father took from his inside pocket.
She signed the papers and handed them back to him.
He took the papers, then reached a hand out and traced the cut on her temple. “Keeping some dubious company aren’t we?”
Tori jerked her face away from his touch.
He smirked and folded the document, sliding it into his jacket pocket. He turned and made his way to the door. As he opened it, letting in a cold draught he stopped and turned back to face his daughter.
“I hope she’s worth it.” He said and walked out of his daughter’s life, slamming the door behind him.
“Oh, she is. I know she is.” Said Tori as she sat on the bottom stair and buried her head in her hands.
Eden’s eyes found the clock again. Then her hand found its way to the phone, again. She lifted the handset from the cradle and then replaced it again. ‘She’s a big girl Eden, she can look after herself.”
Eden had no idea what it was that had made her lover so tense that morning. What if the Police had paid a visit? Something to do with the attack? Had her mother shown up again? Eden shivered at the memory of her encounter with Stephanie Conrad.
“Are you intending to do any work today Eddie?” Asked Mark, tapping a pen against his teeth.
“Sorry, I have this splitting headache.” She said leaning her head on her hands and rubbing her temples.
“Really?” He was up out of his chair and across the office in a flash. He knelt beside her chair so he could see her face. “You do look a little pale.” He said, putting a hand to her forehead.
“Do I?” Said Eden, not feeling ill in the least.
“Do you want to go home?” He asked.
“No Mark, I couldn’t. I’ve just had a week’s holiday. I’m just a little under the weather that’s all.” She gave him a weak smile. “It’s nearly one o’clock. I’ll have something hot for lunch, then I’ll feel a lot better, I’m sure.”
Mark stood and regarded her for a moment. “Go on. I want you to go home. There’s not much to do here. Go home and go to bed.”
Eden stood slowly. “Are you sure Mark?” She said, even as she retrieved her coat from the back room.
“Yeah, go on.” He said, pulling the coat tighter around her. “Besides, you might be coming down with something, and I don’t want it.”
Eden walked slowly out of the office, giving Mark a wave through the window as she put her umbrella up and made her way along Quiet Street towards Milsom Street and the taxi rank.
Tori sat for a long time on that bottom stair, before making her way to the lounge. She sank onto it, raising her feet onto one end and her head on the other. A feeling of unaccountable exhaustion overwhelmed her, and as her eyes closed she whipered her lover’s name and saw, in her mind’s eye the beauty of her lover’s smile.
It was the rain pounding against the window that awoke her some hours later.
‘I’m free.’ She thought. ‘Dammit, I’m free.’
It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from her, and she lay there for the longest time just working out what she would do now.
She reached a hand across to the coffee table and picked up the phone. Dialling the number from memory she was surprised when Mark answered Eden’s extension number.
“Oh Mark, hello. Victoria Conrad. Can I speak to Eden? She’s not? She did? When was this? Ok, I’ll call her there. Thanks.”
Obviously Eden hadn’t informed Mark where she was living, however temporary it may be.
She put the phone down and stared at it for a long time, before being snapped out of her reverie by the sound of a key in the door.
She was out of the lounge and across the hall before the blonde woman had time to undo her dripping coat.
Eden found herself pinned against the door in a crushing embrace. Frantic lips found hers and she yielded to the onslaught, allowing her obviously highly strung lover to take control of her.
Shaking hands undid her coat while her mouth was still occupied, and then her blouse. The fact that she was pinned to the door meant that her arms were trapped in the clothing that had been loosened, and as hard as she tried she couldn’t free her hands.
Tori lost patience when she came to the white bra and pushed it up, fastening her mouth on the breast it revealed.
“Tori!” Eden gasped as her mouth was freed. “What’s……………” She was silenced once again by her lover’s mouth, the urgency of the kiss slamming her head back into the solid bulk of the door.
This was….. different. It was exciting, and scary.
Eden knew something had happened, and knew it couldn’t be all bad. But what?
She winced slightly when a firm thigh was pressed against her sex. Warm hands kneaded her breasts and her lips were beginning to bruise.
Then she was falling, and yet felt safe.
She landed on the floor of the hallway, her arms still trapped in the sleeves of the coat which was bunched around her waist.
It should have brought unpleasant memories flooding back of brutal hands holding her, but instead she felt aroused beyond her wildest imaginations.
Tori looked down at her. “I love you.” The older woman said. “I need you now, like this.”
“I want to touch you.” Said Eden, her breathing ragged.
“You will, but not yet, let me have this.” Tori’s eyes were glistening with unshed tears and Eden nodded gently. “Thankyou.” Said Tori and lowered her head, kissing her lover with the softest lips Eden had ever felt.
Eden no longered struggled against the confining sleeves of her coat. She lay back and surrendered her body to the ministrations of her lover. She sensed the need in the tall woman. There would be time to talk later, but now she wanted to give herself.
And Tori took her. Sliding down her body and leaving a trail of sensations as her hot mouth forged a trail across the perfect flesh. First latching onto a nipple, erect and sensative, before descending to dip into a navel which flinched under the dark woman’s tongue.
Eden felt her underwear removed, feeling it brush her face as it was thrown onto the floor above her head.
A large hand parted her thigh’s and ice blue eyes locked onto hers. Her own green eyes didn’t waver as the long finger’s entered her.
Eden arched her back into the sensation, wanting more, wanting to hold this woman who had claimed her soul and her body.
“Tori.” She begged, once again struggling to free her arms.
But Tori ignored her, instead bending to add her mouth to the sweet torture.
Once again Eden’s head impacted with hard wood, this time the floor. If there was pain it didn’t register in the tortured mind of the young woman overloading on sensation.
Then Tori was pulling her into her arms, gathering her up as she gasped out her climax.
“You’re everything.” Tori was saying. “Everything I need.”
Eden lay wrapped in the long arms until her breathing returned to normal. She listened to the heartbeat of her lover slow and calm. She sighed and snuggled closer, revelling in the feelings of intimacy and security.
After a long moment Eden spoke. “Hi.” She said.
Tori looked down into the almost unfocused green eyes. “Oh yeah, hi.”
“We sort of missed that out when I arrived.”
“We did. Sorry.” Said Tori, and rubbed her cheek against the golden hair.
“No don’t apoligise. It was the best welcome I ever had.” Eden managed to pull one hand free and caught a larger one, wrapping her hand around her lover’s and pulling it to her lips. “Something’s happened, hasn’t it.” It wasn’t a question.
“Something bad?” Eden asked.
“No, not bad. Some might think so, but I don’t.” She gave her lover a squeeze. “Shall we get comfy?”
“Might be a good idea.” Said Eden, looking down at herself and the disarray of her clothes.
Tori stood, reaching down and pulling the blonde to her feet. She turned to walk into the lounge, but quickly realised that Eden wasn’t following her. Turning back she saw her half way up the stairs.
Eden turned back. “I’m half undressed, might as well get comfy up here.”
Tori was not going to argue and followed her lover up to the bedroom.
Once they were both comfortably naked and snuggling under the covers Eden asked the first question.
“Someone was here when I called you, right?”
“My father.” Tori said simply and felt her lover tense beside her. She ran her hand in soothing movements against the smooth back and tilted Eden’s chin up so she could look into her face.
“Don’t leave me.” Whispered Eden, suddenly afraid that Tori’s almost desperate lovemaking earlier had been some sort of final fling.
“Never. I promise.” She cupped a flushed cheek, kissing away the tears that had begun to roll down a glowing cheek. “Hey, hey. It’s ok. He’s disowned me. I’m free.”
Tori hadn’t expected the reaction she got from the smaller woman. She thought she’d be happy. At least she hoped she’d be happy. But what she got was a weeping lover whose whole body shook with the force of her sobs.
“What…….. Eden, what is it?”
Eden felt the long arms surround her and felt ridiculous. But however hard she tried she couldn’t control the emotions that were swamping her. She tried three times to explain to the worried woman who held her what she was feeling, but failed miserably each time.
She closed her eyes and willed her breathing to calm. “You’ve lost your family.” She finally managed to gasp out.
“I can’t lose what I never had Eden. And besides, I found you. I have something to thank them for. I would never have come here if it hadn’t been for them.”
“I suppose not.” Said a sniffling Eden.
“Eden.” Said Tori, the tone of the word cautious.
Eden said nothing but raised her eyes to look into her lover’s.
“It’s only been just over a week.” Tori continued. “Are we….. Are you happy with how quickly we’ve progressed?”
The sentence came out in a rush, and hung in the air between them.
For a long moment Eden was silent.
“It’s happend quickly hasn’t it?” Eden’s voice was husky after the sobbing.
“It’s an old cliche.” Said Eden. “Love at first sight. I never believed it. ‘Til I saw you standing on the pavement, in the rain. You looked up at me, and I fell, right there and then. The most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. I love you Tori. You’re the first person I’ve ever been in love with, and I hope the last.” Eden reached up and tangled her hand in ebony locks. “Has it been too quick? No, it’s been too bloody slow. I’ve waited all my life for you, and now I’ve got you, I’m never letting go, and I’m never slowing down.”
“My God, I love you Eden Gallagher.” Said Tori, and lowered her head, tasting the lips of her lover, her tears mingling with those of the blonde woman.
Such a small word, but large enough to describe exactly what Victoria Conrad was feeling.
The weight of her lover’s head on her chest, the silkiness of her hair against her chin. The warm breath that fanned her breast. And the small hand that was wrapped around her own forearm, the strength of the grip almost possessive.
‘So this is what it feels like to be loved.’ Tori thought. ‘It’s………… overwhelming.’
Tori pulled the small body a little closer, if that was possible, and Eden sighed in response. ‘But I think I can cope. Oh yeah, I can cope.’
There was nothing, Tori decided, that could ruin the moment.
Then the phone rang.
“Dammit!” Said the tall woman under her breath, regretting it when she felt the blonde woman in her arms flinch.
Who could possibly be calling them at this time of night?
“Oh.” Said Tori gently, seeing that the illuminated numbers on the bedside clock indicated it was only a few minutes after nine in the evening.
“Wha……?” Began Eden, raising sleepy eyes to her lover’s face.
“Phone.” Said Tori, easing herself from under her lover’s body, and made her way downstairs, grabbing her robe as she went.
Eden heard the phone stop ringing and wondered if Tori had made it before it rang off when she couldn’t hear anything more. Then she heard a low voice. Moving across to her lover’s side of the bed she snuggled back into the sheets and closed her eyes again.
It was about a quarter of an hour later when Tori returned to the bedroom.
Eden had managed to take up most of the double bed and was sprawled haphazardly under the quilt.
Tori sat on the bed and gently pushed back some golden locks from the sleeping face. “So trusting.” She whispered, and ran the backs of her fingers across the relaxed skin.
In her sleep Eden moved towards the touch, looking for all the world like a contented cat.
Reluctantly Tori’s hand moved to the bare shoulder and shook it gently. “Hey there.” She said, and bent her head, kissing a smooth temple.
“Mmm?” Eden turned onto her back and sleepy green eyes regarded the tall woman. “Come back to bed, it’s the middle of the night.”
Tori smiled down at her. “Actually it’s the middle of the evening.” She said.
“Really?” Said Eden, and craned her head to look at the clock. “We’ve been in bed all day?” She asked,
“Who was on the phone?”
“A man called James Crozier.”
“Who’s that?” Said Eden sitting up, and for the first time seeing the tenseness in her lover’s features.
“My father’s lawyer.”
“Oh. Is it trouble?”
Tori shook her head. “No, not trouble. He just called to tell me my mother died this afternoon.”
Eden could see the muscles working in the tall woman’s jaw and reached over to take the larger hand in her own.
This was difficult. She didn’t know how Tori would react to the news. Anyone else would be devastated by the death of their mother, whatever the circumstances.
She looked into the blue eyes for a clue, and found nothing.
“I’m sorry.” The blonde said finally. “What happened?”
“She got drunk and fell through some French windows, sliced an artery.”
“No. Don’t be sorry, not for her.” Tori pulled her hand from the gentle grasp and ran it though her disorderly hair.
“I’m sorry for you Tori. You’ve lost so much.” She said, pulling the quilt tighter around herself.
Tori was now sitting on the edge of the bed, her head bowed, her hands folded in her lap. Eden crept out of her warm nest and knelt behind the taller woman, tentatively she wound her arms around her lover from behind.
Resting her chin on Tori’s shoulder she whispered into an ear. “You know, it would be ok to cry.”
“Cry for her?”
Eden nodded against the now trembling shoulder. “It’s not such a bad thing. I’ll hold you if you like.” She pulled Tori back against her and then started manouvering her back into bed.
Keeping hold of the larger woman with one hand she managed to get her out of her robe and under the quilt with the other. Then she wrapped both arms around Tori and buried the dark head against her own shoulder.
“She never loved me.” Tori finally said.
“You don’t know that. She…….”
“I know, Father told me. He said she hated me because she couldn’t have anymore children after me.”
“I’m sorry.” Eden was silent for a long time, aware that though Tori was holding onto her in almost desperation, she still hadn’t cried.
“Yeah?” The voice was husky, and almost sleepy.
“I can love you enough to make up for all those years.”
For a moment she wondered if Tori had heard her for there was no reply. Then she felt the larger body in her arms start to shake and knew that her lover was, at last, crying. Not so much for her mother, but for a lost childhood, and years of going without love. And for those lonely moments when she knew she’d never experience the joy of receiving unconditional love.
There was also joy in her tears. She knew she’d found something so precious, and she wept at the thought of losing it. Knowing that she couldn’t take anything for granted, especially the love of the remarkable woman that held her.
She looked up, her blue eyes bloodshot and filled with tears.
“Everyone leaves me, eventually.” She said between sobs.
“I won’t.” Said Eden, her own tears threatening. She pulled Tori’s head back down onto her shoulder. “I promise. Believe me?”
She felt the dark head nod against her chest. “Good, now go to sleep. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.”
“Ok.” Said the husky voice.
Then Tori took a deep breath. “I don’t want to be like them.” She said.
“You’re not.” Said Eden. “I don’t think you could be. I wouldn’t be here if you were.”
Eden began humming a child’s lullaby her mother used to sing to her when she was a child, gently rocking the taller woman in her arms.
She smoothed the ebony locks until she felt the larger body relax and her lover’s breath even out in sleep.
And then she cried, for her lover, and for a woman she’d hated for a while.
The sound of the wind woke Eden. Tori still slept.
That in itself was unusual. Eden rarely woke before her lover, and she took the opportunity to study the other woman’s relaxed face.
Eden decided she was truly in love as she reached out a gentle hand and traced a dark eyebrow. Then the trembling fingers made an imaginary line down across the high cheekbone, watching the muscles in Tori’s cheek react to her her touch. Down across her jaw, across a pulse point, then resting above an evenly beating heart.
She leaned forward and brushed her lips across those of her lover’s, then gently slipped out of the bed and padded across the hall to the bathroom.
Tori woke some time later, reaching across and surprised to find the bed empty apart from her.
She rolled onto her back and listened. Hearing the shower running she relaxed and closed her eyes again.
The next thing she knew she was being awakened by soft lips on her own. “Hey there.” Eden whispered. “I have to go to work.”
“Will you be ok today?” Eden asked, brushing sleep mussed hair out of blue eyes. “I don’t really want to leave you.”
“I’ll be fine. Give me a minute and I’ll get up and take you in.” She started to rise but was pushed back down by a small hand on her shoulder.
“Ssh. Go back to sleep. I’ve called a taxi.”
Tori allowed herself to be pushed back down beneath the covers. Then she felt Eden’s head rest against her shoulder.
“I have ten minutes before the taxi arrives. Let’s just lie here quietly.”
Tori’s response was to snake her arm around the blonde’s shoulders and hold her close.
The gentle moment was interrupted by the sound of a car horn outside.
Eden eased away from her and kissed her slowly. “I’ll call you later. Try to get some sleep.”
“Ok, love you.”
Eden smiled. “I love you too Tori.” She pulled the quilt snugly around her lover, and leaned down giving her another peck on the lips. “Now, go back to sleep. I’ll be back before you know it.”
And Tori did sleep. Right through the morning and into the afternoon. It was after 2 when Eden rang.
“Hi, how are you?” She asked.
Tori lay back in the bed, the cordless phone propped between the pillow and her ear. “Tired, though I shouldn’t be, I’ve slept away most of the day.”
“It’ll probably do you good. Have you eaten anything?”
“No nothing, what about you?”
“I managed to get some lunch, I just got back. I have a viewing this afternoon, then I’ll come home. We’ll order a Chinese or something, aye?” She waited for an answer and after receiving none asked “Tori?”
“Just thinking. Sorry.” She sat up, scooting backwards until the headboard was against her back. “Give me a call when you want me to pick you up.”
“Will do, see you later.”
And hour or so later found Tori pacing. She wondered when she had come to need the smaller woman, for it was becoming painfully obvious that she was needy at that moment.
News of her mother’s death had knocked her off kilter.
She wished she could feel something. But she knew that, where her family was concerned, her heart was dead. It beat only for one reason now, a strawberry blonde bundle of affection called Eden Gallagher.
“I’m in love.” She said out loud. Needing to hear the statment, though knowing already its truth.
Another circuit of the lounge, another glance at the clock. Another hour before she picked up Eden. Eden had rung her a little earlier giving her a time to pick her up, and now Tori watched the clock like a teenager waiting for their first date to arrive.
“I need you Eden, need you, need you.” She said as she walked around the sofa again. “Eat something you stupid woman.” She said to herself.
She went into the kitchen and prepared a sandwich. Returning to the lounge she sat and ate it, not really tasting it, but knowing she’d be able to tell Eden she’d eaten without having to lie.
At 5.30 she was outside the estate agents in Queen Square waiting for her lover. The rain was steady, and she peered through the gloom trying to see the familiar form.
She sat back in the leather interior of the Shogun and let the gentle sound of the rain lull her into a state of ease.
Then the passenger door was being opened and a blast of cold air intruded on her sense of calm.
“Sorry.” Said a panting Eden as she pushed rain slicked hair back from her face.
Tori’s answer was to lean sideways and gather the smaller woman into her arms. “I’ve missed you.” She husked into damp blonde hair.
“I’ve missed you too.” Said Eden, pulling slightly out of the taller woman’s embrace to get a better look at her lover. “How do you feel?”
“I’m fine. Really. I’ve slept well, I’ve thought a lot. I love you.”
For a long moment green and blue eyes regarded each other. A conclusion was reached.
“We’re going to be ok, aren’t we.” Said Eden, it was not a question.
Tori opened her mouth to speak but the only sound Eden heard was the loud honking of a horn and the Shogun was filled with the lights of a vehicle parked directly behind them. To their left the faces of about twenty people regarded them with annoyance.
Tori looked in the wing mirror of the car and saw that a double decker bus was parked within a hair’s breadth of her rear bumper. Ducking lower, she managed to see the face of the driver.
She pushed the button and lowered her window, poking her head out into the rain.
The driver was leaning out of the window of the bus. “Get off the bloody bus stop, can’t you see all these poor people are getting wet waiting for you to move?” Though the driver’s words were harsh, she had a huge grin on her face, unlike the queue of passengers who were scowling at her.
“Thanks Annie.” Said Tori flatly and put the car in gear, pulling into the stream of rush hour traffic with ease.
“Oops.” Said Eden.
“She’s got quite a sense of humour.” Said Tori, now waiting for traffic lights to change.
“She likes doing that. She usually shouts something obscene at me if she sees me with a buyer.” chuckled, and moved along with the traffic, surprised to get out of Bath with little difficulty.
Back at the cottage Eden immediately found a take away menu and ordered a meal.
“Chinese, I think.” The blonde said, and proceeded to order enough to feed a small country.
After the phone call she made her way quickly to the bathroom. Stripping hurridly she showered and washed her hair. With her hair still wet and wearing only a towelling bathrobe she joined her very quiet lover on the sofa.
Tori handed her a glass of wine then snaked a long arm around the smaller woman, pulling her close.
“How was work?” Asked Tori.
Eden shrugged. “Nothing special. We’re expecting an interest rate drop, things might pick up then.” She looked up at the tense profile. “What about you?”
A long sigh was her answer. “Should I go to the funeral?”
“D’you want to?”
Tori shook her head.
“Then don’t go.”
“Ok.” Tori agreed readily. She paused for a moment. “I’ve been thinking.”
Eden nodded to herself, Tori’s silence since they’d arrived home had given her an idea that the tall woman had something heavy on her mind.
“I’m considering going into business by myself, and I’d like you to join me.”
If Eden was surprised she didn’t show it. “I have nothing to put into a business.”
Tori’s thumb made circles on a robed shoulder. “You have you. I’m sure you could talk anyone into buying anything.”
“So you’re going into the real estate business?”
“It’s what we both know.”
“Where?” Asked Eden.
“Wherever you like. Wherever you want to be, that’s where I want to be.”
Eden turned on the sofa to face her lover. “Are you sure about this Tori? Life here isn’t anywhere near as exciting as London. I want to stay in Bath, it’s my home.”
“And now it’s mine too. I’ve never had a home before.” She reached out a gentle hand and stroked Eden’s face with the back of her fingers. “You’ve changed my life, you know that don’t you?”
Eden reached up and captured the larger hand in her own. “And you’ve made mine complete.”
She leaned forward and captured the soft lips with her own. Feeling Tori’s arms surround her she allowed herself to be pulled onto the warm body of her lover. Tori reached under the robe, flattening her palms against the smooth skin she found there.
“I love you so much.” Tori gasped as Eden rested her head against the taller woman’s heaving chest.
“I love you too.” Said Eden. “Of course I’ll work with you. I want to be with you every minute of every day. We’ll knock their sock off.” She said, lifting her head and smiling at the contented look of her lover.
“Good. But first we’ll have some time off together, how does that sound?”
“A holiday? Gosh I haven’t had a proper one of those for a few years.”
“How much notice d’you have to give at work?” Asked Tori, pulling Eden’s head back down to its resting place.
“They’ll take a week.” Her hand came up and cupped a breast. “You sure you want to do this?”
“Absolutely positive.” Said Tori. “Type a letter of resignation on my computer later and take it in tomorrow. If they kick up a fuss, just leave. I want you here.”
Eden’s head came up again. “Really?” She asked, a huge smile lighting up her face.
“No, I don’t want you here.” Said Tori, bending her head to nibble Eden’s lower lip. “I need you here.”
Victoria Conrad leaned against the worktop in the kitchen and watched the steam billowing from the kettle with something approaching fascination. The appliance automatically clicked off, but the woman didn’t move.
Two weeks, that was all it took. Two weeks to turn her into something approaching a normal human being living a normal existance.
Her lips quirked into a small smile. “Normal? Me?” She shook her head and collected a couple of mugs from the drainer.
Tori reached for the coffee in the cupboard, before remembering that Eden preferred tea first thing in the morning.
“I’m turning into a housewife.” She told herself as she poured the steaming water into the two mugs which now held the teabags.
True, she’d spent the previous week puttering around the house, shopping for food and waiting impatiently for the evenings when she would pick Eden up from the corner of Queen Square. She’d learned her lesson however and carefully avoided the bus stop after her encounter with Annie.
Mark had insisted that Eden work her notice, so she had another week to serve. Then they could begin to plan ahead, something Tori had never done before. She’d lived from day to day, never expecting anything from the future. That way she couldn’t be disappointed.
Now she had a chance.
There was still a small voice in a corner of her mind insisting that she was fooling herself. Insisting that people like her just didn’t have futures, didn’t have relationships with people like Eden.
She released a long shaky breath and leaned against the counter for a moment.
She lifted her face to the ceiling and whispered softly. “Please.”
She stayed like that for a while, letting the feeling of contentment wash over her.
Then, pulling herself together she picked the two mugs up and made her way upstairs.
Eden was laying on her stomach. Her pillow was pushed up against the headboard, unused. She often slept like that, her cheek resting on the mattress.
Just as Tori entered the bedroom the radio alarm on the cabinet beside the bed went off. She hurried to Eden’s side of the bed and put both mugs down before turning the annoying thing off.
A tousled blonde head rose, bleary green eyes looking around the room.
Tori sat on the bed beside her, gently pushing her naked lover back down.
“Gotta gedup.” Said the sleep slurred voice.
“It’s Saturday.” Said Tori. “You forgot to turn the alarm off.” She smoothed the golden hair down, leaning down and placing warm lips on the blonde’s temple.
“‘Snice.” Said Eden, a sleepy smile across her face. “Come back t’bed.”
Tori didn’t need another prompt and discarded her robe as she made her way around the bottom of the bed.
Eden jumped a little as the taller woman slid beneath the sheets. “You’re cold.” Then gave a squeal when Tori attached herself to the small warm body.
“Give up your body heat.” Tori growled, completely enveloping the warm body with her own.
Just about fully awake now, Eden turned in her lover’s arms so that she was facing her.
“What are you doing up so early anyway?” Said the blonde, though she didn’t wait for an answer before capturing soft lips with her own.
The kiss deepened, and Eden’s breathing was further inhibited by a cool hand finding its way between her thighs.
“My hands are cold.” Said Tori, her own breath catching when she encountered the liquid heat.
Tori gently pushed the blonde onto her back.
“What…..?” Said Eden, trying to roll back again and into Tori’s arms.
“No.” A gentle hand on her shoulder. “I want to watch you.”
Eden settled back as Tori propped her head up on her left hand, her right gently coaxing, stroking Eden’s passion.
“Is that ok?” Asked Tori, bending her head and taking a tense nipple into her mouth.
Eden didn’t answer, but arched her back trying to push more of her flesh into the furnace like mouth.
The cold of the room hit her breast as Tori released her prize and settled back into her former position. A small frown creased Tori’s forehead as she watched the closed eyes of her lover. “Eden.” She said and smiled as the green eyes, slightly glazed, opened and fastened on her. At that moment she entered her, watching in fascination as the emerald eyes widened.
She bent her head and felt the small hands pull her down into a searing kiss. Eden’s hips were matching her rhythm, then she felt a tightness around her fingers and her lover’s hands reached up and twisted in her hair.
But she pulled back against the grip and watched Eden’s face as it tensed, her mouth forming a silent scream.
Then she fell back onto the bed, pulling Tori with her.
Tori buried her face in the smaller woman’s chest, easing her fingers carefully from their warm place, feeling the tiny aftershocks as she did so.
“Love you.” Whispered Tori into the damp flesh.
“I’m glad you do.” Said Eden, stroking the dark head.
“You are?” Tori raised her head and looked at her lover.
Eden nodded. “I’m glad it’s not one sided. You see, I love you too. So much it hurts.
Tori smiled and lowered her head again.
Eden took her love’s hand which had previously been resting on her breast. “Tori?”
“I’m happier than I’ve ever been. You know that don’t you?”
There was no answer from the other woman.
“Sorry.” She said, nuzzling the warm flesh. “Sometimes I still can’t believe this. The things you say. I never thought anyone would say things like that to me.” She sighed deeply. “I’m getting used to it though. Slowly”
Eden bent her head and kissed the top of the dark head. “Good. Because you’re going to get a lot of it.”
“I made you tea.”
“What?” Eden’s befuddled brain struggled with the sudden change in subject, then realised that her lover could take only so much sensative chat in any one ten minute period.
“Tea.” Tori twisted and sat up, reaching across to the bedside cabinet she snagged the mug and handed it to the blonde.
“Tea and sex, what more could a girl wish for?” Said Eden sitting up against the headboard and taking the mug from her lover.
“Toast?” Suggested Tori.
Eden nearly lost the mouthful of tea she’d just taken. “Tori Conrad, you say the most ridiculous things sometimes.”
“You asked the question.” Said Tori pouting.
“Look at this.” Said Eden, changing the subject again. She was holding up her hand, the one that had had the stitches removed a couple of days previously.
“I’m looking at it.” Said Tori.
“Can’t you see?” She said, turning her palm and staring at it herself. “It’s a ‘T’.”
Tori took the small hand in her own and examined the scar carefully. “Looks more like a cross. Years ago you’d have been burned as a witch.”
Eden snatched her hand away, staring at it again. “It’s a ‘T’.” She said.
Tori took it in her own hand again and brought the palm to her lips, kissing it slowly on the angry looking scar. “I’m sorry.”
“For this.” She said looking at Eden’s hand. “You got drunk because I pissed you off.”
“Old news.” Said Eden, removing her hand from the other woman’s grasp. “All in the past.” She cocked her head. “Car coming up the drive.”
“Really?” Tori slid out of bed and cracked a gap in the curtains peering through.
The morning was grey, a very light snowfall dusted the grass and the gentle swirling flakes were caught in the headlights of a car.
“What’s the time?” Asked Eden, too uninterested to raise her head and look at the digital clock at her side.
“Just after eight. Oh shit!” Tori dragged a hand through her unruly hair.
“Who is it?” Said Eden sitting up again.
Tori sighed and turned away from the window. “Damien.”
Tori opened the door to the cottage and stood back so her ex-fiance could enter. She’d dressed quickly in sweat pants and teeshirt and told Eden to stay where she was. “This could get ugly.” She said before closing the bedroom door and leaving a hastily dressing blonde behind.
Tori shut the door and stood for a moment before turning to face Damien. He looked as immaculate as ever, even in faded jeans and leather jacket over a white teeshirt.
“You’re up early.” She said, facing him awkwardly.
“Vicky.” He said, oblivious to the emotionless gaze from the woman. He took two steps forward and planted a kiss on her cheek. “I’m so sorry.” He said.
“Stephanie.” Said Damien, shaking his head slowly. Then he took a deep breath. “I’ve come to take you back to London. The funeral is on tuesday.”
“I’m not going Damien.” She gestured towards the door. “You should have called first, you’ve wasted your time.”
His smile was almost condescending. “Vicky, your mother’s funeral is on tuesday. You’re coming back to London with me today. Then we’re going to talk to your father and tell him this whole silly mess is cleared up. Do I make myself clear?”
Tori sighed. “I’m not going anywhere with you Damien, and certainly not to Stephanie’s funeral.”
“She was your mother.” He said.
“She gave birth to me, she was never my mother.” Tori’s eyes were two blue chips of ice boring into him. He couldn’t meet her gaze.
“Look.” He said. “I really don’t care about your relationship….. or lack of it, with your mother. But believe me, you will come back with me today. And you will call your father and tell him the wedding’s back on.”
“It’s too late. He’s already made other arrangements. Apparently he has some bastard child at a finishing school somehwere. He doesn’t need you Damien.”
“Well, I’ll just have to convince him otherwise.” He took a couple of steps towards her. “Stephanie told me you’ve got some little whore down here.”
The blue eyes flashed with anger. “It’s time you left Damien.”
“Not without you.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I have too much riding on this.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tori backed away from him.
“It means there are other people interested in the outcome of our…………. bonding.”
“Damien, leave, now.” Tori was still backing away from him.
“These people can get ugly. Vicky, you wouldn’t want anything…….. bad to happen to me. Would you?” He smiled. A self satisfied, mocking smile.
“What have you done?”
“I’ve made a deal, it’ll make us both a lot of money.”
“I don’t need money.”
“We all need money Vicky.” He followed her as she backed away around the sofa. “And I need a whole pile of it right now.”
“You’ve been gambling again.” It wasn’t a question.
“I’ve had a little run of bad luck.” Now he was within arms reach of her. “But you’re my lucky star. Remember?”
Tori’s back was against the wall now. “I’m not going with you Damien.” She tried to keep the fear from her voice, but she herself heard the trembling words which came from her own mouth.
“Yes you are Vicky.” His forehead creased in thought. “Tell me something. What happened here in just a week that makes you want to give everything up?”
“None of your damn business.” Tori spat.
“She must be a good lay for you to consider staying here.” He did a slow turn. “It’s a little different to what you’re used to.”
Tori remained silent.
He was facing her again now. One eyebrow raised in question. “What’s going on Vicky? You usually just fuck ’em and leave ’em.”
“Ever heard of love Damien?” She asked, surprising herself even as she said it.
Damien startled her with his exclamation of disbelief. “Don’t give me that you stupid bitch. You and I both know you don’t have it in you.”
Tori shrugged. “Up until a couple of weeks ago I would have agreed with you.”
“And now after two weeks you’ve decided it’s love? What was it?” He asked, his tone mocking. “Love at first sight?”
A long sigh. “I don’t expect you to understand this Damien, but I think I was already in love with her before I met her.”
“I’ve heard enough of this crap.” Said Damien shaking his head.
She flinched as Damien reached out a hand, but the expected blow didn’t come. Instead he gently caressed her cheek. “Where’s your little dykey friend?”
“This has nothing to do with her.” Tori prayed that, just this once, Eden would do as she was told and stay away.
“Oh you’re wrong. This has everything to do with her.” His hand lowered and curled around her throat. “Doesn’t it?”
There was no pressure in his grip.
“I was never coming back.” Tori met his gaze.
Damien leaned into her, his hand tightening around her throat. His other hand was fumbling for something in his pocket, then he raised that hand up to her face. Something cold and hard pressed against her temple.
“Look what I’ve got.” Damien said, tapping her face the the barrel of a small silver gun.
“What the fuck are you doing with that?” Said Tori, trying to squirm out of his grip.
He hit her a little harder on her temple with the gun. “Thought I might need some help. Stay still.”
Tori ceased her struggling.
“That’s better. Now then, where’s your little whore? She and I are going to have a quiet little chat.”
“She’s not here.” Said Tori, looking directly into his eyes. And, so intent on meeting his gaze was she, she didn’t see the hand holding the gun retreat and then return to slam into the side of her head. He released her and she fell hard to the side, feeling something in her shoulder pop as she hit the ground.
There was a loud buzzing in her ears and then she was being forcibly lifted and pinned back against the wall again.
Something warm and wet was making its way down the side of her face, and she blinked a few times trying to get her ex-fiance’s face in focus.
“Don’t fuck with me Vicky.” He said, forcing her chin up with the barrel of the gun. “Either you come with me now, or I go have a long chat with your whore. Your decision.”
She closed her eyes for a long moment. Then nodded tightly. “I’ll go with you. Just stay away from her.”
Damien pressed his body up against her, grinding his pelvis against hers. “Knew you’d see it my way.” He said, leaning his head forward nuzzling her hair, taking a deep breath. “You won’t regret it.” He said, kissing his way down her neck to her shoulder.
Tori shut her eyes tightly and gathered herself. She raised her knee, but there was no power in her attempt to hurt him. He slammed her back against the wall again.
“Why do I get the feeling you’re not being honest with me?” He said. “Now, be good, or I’ll find your girlfriend. And believe me, she won’t be smiling when I’ve finished with her.”
“Who’s to say?” Came the voice from the doorway.
“No!” Cried Tori, but was stopped from her attempt to reach the blonde by Damien pulling her back against his chest. He snaked an arm around her throat from behind and pulled her close to his body. Again she felt the cold steel at her temple.
Tori’s hands scrabbled at the forearm across her throat, her eyes never leaving those of her lover’s.
My God, she thought, this can’t be happening again.
Eden stood as still as a statue, stunned by the events taking place in front of her.
“Is that it?” Said Damien, leaning forward and speaking quietly into Tori’s ear. “Is this what’s caused all the trouble?”
“Go.” Tori croaked. “Please.”
“Oh no. You aren’t going to do that, are you. ” Said Damien his eyes travelling over the small blonde framed in the doorway. “Pretty little thing.”
“I’ve called the police.” Said Eden. “You’d better leave.”
For a moment Damien seemed to hold his breath. “You’re bluffing.” He said.
“Am I?” Said Eden and started to slowly approach the man holding her lover, her soul. She walked up to them and stopped within arm’s reach. Her eyes first met Tori’s then slid up to the man holding her. “Let her go now and we’ll work out how to get ’round this.”
She was so close she could feel Tori’s breath gently moving her hair. She reached her hand up traced the cut on the tip of Tori’s left eyebrow, wincing at the lump she felt under the blood.
Then she took a step backwards. “Give me the gun.” She said holding out her hand to him.
She avoided looking into the pleading blue eyes but concentrated on the hate filled ones of the man holding her lover. “Nothing good will come of this situation. If you’ve given up the gun by the time the police arrive things will be much easier. For everyone.”
Eden watched the different emotions warring for dominance in the man’s eyes. Then he seemed to come to a decision.
His right hand, the one that held the gun, raised. Eden took a couple of steps back.
Three things happened at once. Tori pushed back against the man holding her, the gun went off, and Eden crumpled to the floor.
Damien stumbled backwards, his foot catching the leg of the low coffee table. He fell backwards, Tori still held in his grasp. The weight of both of them propelled him backwards, and Tori heard a sickening crunch as his head impacted with the stone hearth.
She felt the arm around her neck relax and scrambled away from his motionless body. Tori stood and looked down at the limp form. A small stream of blood was snaking its way from the back of his head.
She turned back towards the doorway and felt her knees buckle when she saw the small still form huddled on the floor.
Dropping to her knees beside the blonde she put a gentle hand on an unmoving shoulder.
Pain filled green eyes blinked open. “Oh Jesus!” Tori gasped seeing the spreading red stain on the white teeshirt Eden was wearing.
The wound was just above the waistline of her jeans, near her left hip.
She pulled her lover into her lap, clamping a hand down over the wound.
“Police.” Eden whispered.
“I’ll call.” Said Tori here eyes settling on the phone on the other side of the room.
“Called them.” Tori could barely make out the words. “Ambulance too.”
Tori watched the pain filled face below her until her vision blurred and a tear fell onto the face of her lover.
“Cold.” The green eyes found hers and Tori felt her stomach tense as the eyes grew more unfocused. She grasped a small hand and bent her head kissing the pale lips.
“Stay awake for me now.” She said straightening up. “They won’t be long.” But watched in alarm as Eden’s eyes closed. “No, Eden, you need to stay awake. Look at me baby. Please.”
The relief she felt when the green eyes opened was overwhelming. “Tired.”
“I know you are. Just a little while longer.”
“Love you.” No more than a whisper.
“I love you too. I need you. Stay with me Eden.” Tori pulled the small limp body to her own.
In the distance she heard the sirens, then they stopped as they approached the road leading to the cottage.
“They’re here sweetheart.” She said. But the green eyes were unfocused. The light had gone out of them.
“She’s gone.” She whispered. Her Eden had gone.
Tori Conrad closed her eyes, the strength required to keep them opened seemed to desert her. It was too hard, just too bloody hard.
She opened them and looked down at the still figure still held securely in her arms. She was ignoring the shouting coming from outside, her attention firmly secured on the pale face beneath her.
“I need you, you know. I know sometimes I had a funny way of showing it, but it’s true.” She pulled her lovers body closer. The wonderful feeling she got from doing that was still there.
She nuzzled the soft hair and took a deep lungful of its scent.
“I can’t believe you left. Just left. Couldn’t you wait? They’re here now, they would have made it alright again. I know they would.”
Tori’s head rose and she regarded the man standing in her doorway with something approaching confusion.
She was kneeling just outside of the lounge door, holding the limp body of her lover in her arms.
The policeman didn’t waver. He held the gun steady.
“She’s dead.” She said to him, as if that would explain everything.
He edged around her so that he could get a view of the lounge. At that moment she heard a window break in the lounge and a loud crash as someone leapt into the room.
Another officer appeared at her side. “Was this the only weapon?” He asked.
She stared at the small gun he was holding by the trigger guard.
“Is this the only firearm in the house?” He said again, shooting a look at the officer in the doorway.
Tori nodded then resumed her position, her face in Eden’s hair.
“Two casualties, get another unit here.” Tori listened to the communications absently. Then her vision was filled with a pair of legs covered by green fabric.
A hand appeared and felt Eden’s neck, Tori tightened her hold.
“I’m not going to hurt her.” The voice was gentle and Tori looked up into soft brown eyes. A woman.
“She’s dead.” Tori croaked.
“Let me see?”
Tori looked at her suspiciously, but seeing only compassion in the dark eyes, she nodded her assent.
Between the two of them they lowered the blonde to the floor. Then Tori moved back slightly as the other paramedic joined his partner and they kneeled beside the stricken woman.
“What have you been doing to yourself then?” Said the woman softly as she began to cut away Eden’s teeshirt.
She looked up at Tori again. “What’s her name?”
“Eden.” Tori smiled, that name always made her smile.
“Ok Eden, we’re going to take a look at you.”
Tori looked to her right where two police officers were kneeling over Damien. Then the two men stood and their attention shifted to her.
She looked back at the scene infront of her. One of the paramedics had inserted something into Eden’s throat.
‘Why are they doing that?’ Tori thought. “Why?” She said out loud.
The woman smiled at her. “Helps with her breathing.”
“She’s…….” Tori throat closed on the words.
“Alive?” The woman looked away from Tori to concentrate on inserting an IV line. Then she looked back up. “Yeah, she’s alive. Can’t have anyone dying on my shift today, it’s my birthday. We wouldn’t want to ruin my day, would we?”
Tori shook her head. “No” She whispered and crawled over to look at her lover. Eden’s hair was plastered to her face, which was grey and slack. Her lips were colourless, and the tall woman was mesmerised by them. Those lips, that had given and recieved pleasure. That had smiled at her and for her. That had told her of love and commitment she thought she’d never know.
She wanted her back, badly. She wanted to reach down and hold the woman, hold her and never let her go. Tell her it would be alright. It would be fine, if she would just hold on for a little while longer.
‘Do this for me Eden. Do it for us.’
She was nudged gently aside as a backboard was eased beneath the patient and Eden was lifted onto a stretcher.
Another pair of paramedics entered the cottage and were directed towards her rather than the still figure of Damien.
One knelt beside her and turned her head towards him, manouvering his body so that he was between her and her lover.
“No.” She said, suddenly realising they were taking Eden out to the ambulance.
“Let me just see to this.” He said, pushing her back down to the ground.
“I have to be with her.”
“Look, they’re taking her to the hospital. We’ll take you there in a moment.” His hands were heavy on her shoulders, his gaze never leaving hers.
“I don’t want her to be alone if she……………” Tori could no longer meet his gaze.
“There’s nothing you can do for her now. She’s in good hands.” Again he turned her head slightly to the side and began wiping the cut near to her eyebrow. “Can you tell me your name?”
Then he placed a dressing on it and put some tape on it to hold it in place. “Can you tell me what day it is?”
She stared blankly.
“It needs a couple of stitches. Are you hurt anywhere else?” He waited for an answer. “Hey there?” He looked into blue eyes that were rapidly becoming unfocused. “Victoria?”
Tori’s eyes rolled back in her head and the paramedic lowered her to the ground as the last of her reserves deserted her.
“Whoa.” He said, settling her on the ground in the recovery position. “Shock.” He placed a blanket over her and stood, walking to the ambulance to retrieve the trolley.
“What about him?” He called to his partner who was standing with a policeman gazing down at the still form of the gunman.
His partner shook his head, and looked back down at the sightless eyes that held no life. The corner of the metal grating of the fireplace embedded obscenely in the top of his head.
Dammit. Bugger off.
“Victoria.” More insistant this time.
The nurse looked down into glazed blue eyes.
“You’re in hospital. You had a bang on the head.”
Tori’s eyebrows knitted in confusion. Then she remembered.
“Eden?” She croaked. She felt a plastic cup against her lips and sipped the cool liquid it held. The nurse reached behind her and she felt the top of the bed rise until her head and shoulders were higher than the rest of her body.
“The doctor will be in to see you in a moment.” She said, and turned to find the aforementioned medic.
Tori leaned her throbbing head back against the pillow. The pain was awful and she closed her eyes trying to get a reign on her nausea.
When she opened them again the doctor was striding into the curtained off cubicle.
“Miss……………… Victoria, is all we have here.” He said after reading her file.
“My friend was brought in.” She said.
“Look straight ahead please.” He said, taking hold of her chin and shining a light into her eyes, causing the pain in her head to intensify.
“Good.” He said and ammended her file.
“Next.” He said to the nurse, who followed him out of the cubicle.
As quickly as they’d gone another form slipped into the curtained off area. It was a young male nurse, his blond hair defying gravity. He looked at her file and then replaced it on the hook at the bottom of the bed.
“Please.” Tori said. “My friend was brought in. She’d been shot.”
He moved to the side of the bed. “A blonde?”
“Are you family?”
“She’s my friend.” Said Tori, her eyes filling with tears.
“Wait here.” He said and turned to leave, then turned back. “I mean it, wait here.” He warned.
Tori slumped back on the hospital bed, her shaking fingers exploring the dressing on her forehead.
The male nurse reappeared. “She’s out of surgery. She’s in intensive care. Beyond that, I don’t know.”
Tori reached out and grabbed the man’s hand. “I need to see her.”
“Look, I don’t know………….. You see, it’s just family allowed in there. I don’t think I can…………..” He looked over his shoulder, then back at the woman on the bed. “I’ll try.”
Again he disappeared to reappear shortly with another person. A jolly looking black man with laughing eyes.
The porter pushed a wheelchair into the cubicle, and the nurse moved to Tori’s side, carefully helping the tall woman into the chair.
“Cas is going to take you up to the ICU. The nurse in charge today is Joan. Talk to her nicely, she may let you in, but I’m not promising.”
Again Tori took the nurses hand. “I don’t know your name.” She said.
“Jeff.” Was the short answer.
“Jeff, thank you so much.”
“Don’t thank me yet.” He said, standing aside to allow Cas to manouver the chair out of the cubicle. “You’ve still got to get past Joanie.”
Tori closed her eyes as she was wheeled into a large lift. The throbbing in her head was intensifying and she began to worry about getting the young nurse into trouble. But then she doubted that she’d be missed in the busy casualty department.
The lift doors opened and she was wheeled down a long corridor. At the end the porter turned left. He put the brake on the chair. “You wait here Miss Victoria. I’ll see Joanie.”
A nurse appeared from the double doors in front of Tori and she got a brief look beyond into the darkened ward. The nurse disappeared just as another followed Cas out of the office.
She stood before Victoria looking just like the archetypal matron.
“I’m afraid it’s not hospital policy to allow anyone other than family to visit the ICU. However, Cas here tells me that you were with Eden when she was injured so we may, on this occasion, waive some of the more archaic rules we’re expected to follow.”
Tori closed her eyes and nodded slightly. “Thank you.” She whispered.
The nurse placed a hand on her shoulder. “She’s going to be fine.” She said, crouching down so that she was at eye level with the dark haired woman. “Will you be able to give us some personal details for her?”
The nurse gave her shoulder a squeeze and stood up. “I can take it from here Cas.” She said, and moved behind the chair. She waited for him to open the door and then pushed the chair into the dim and quiet intensive care unit.
Tori looked at the other patients she passed as she was pushed along the ward. Most of them seemed to be requiring artificial respiration and she was overwhelmingly relieved when she arrived at Eden’s bed and her lover was free of any sort of breathing apparatus. Though there were tubes and wires attached to the blonde she appeared to be breathing steadily on her own.
Joan bent and whispered in Tori’s ear. “I’ll be back for you in a while. She’s going to be groggy, so don’t expect too much.” With a final pat on the shoulder, she was gone.
Tori sat for a long moment, just staring.
The hand closest to her had an IV line attached, and was still. There was still blood under her finger nails, and as her eyes followed the line of her arm she noticed that more blood was on her forearm.
Tori’s eyes found the face of her lover. She looked peaceful, almost serene.
She reached out a shaking hand and pushed a lock of blonde hair behind Eden’s ear.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered.
She watched in fascination as moss green eyes fluttered open and blinked fuzzily.
“Eden?” Tori leaned closer, taking the cold hand in her own. “Eden?” She said again.
Eden blinked a couple more times then followed the sound and found the blue gaze of her love. She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times.
“Eden, can you say my name?” Said Tori gently. It was something she needed. Just to hear her lover say her name. As soon as she heard it she knew everything would be ok. “Say my name sweetheart.” She said, leaning forward and pressing her lips against her lover’s cheek.
She leaned back, watching the green eyes tracking her.
“Tori.” Eden croaked, then closed her eyes again.
Tori’s head fell forward onto the pillow beside her lover’s and wept.
The nurse found Tori slumped against the pillow of the young woman. She stood for a moment, almost unwilling to disrupt the scene she saw before her.
She leaned close to the bowed head. “Miss Conrad.” She whispered. “The Police are here.”
Tori wearily looked up at her. “The Police?”
“Yes. They require a statement.”
Tori nodded. Looking back at the blonde woman pushed a lock of hair back off of Eden’s forehead. “She said my name.” Said Tori, never taking her eyes off the pale face.
“She’s going to be fine. She’s lost blood, and the surgery wasn’t straightforward. But with time and care she’ll be just like new in a few weeks.”
“Good……… that’s good.” It took a huge effort to release the limp hand, but Tori managed. She turned to the waiting nurse, who walked behind her and manoeuvred the wheel chair away from the bed.
“We’ve shown the officers to a small administration office on this floor. There are two of them in there. If you’d like a nurse to remain with you we can arrange that. If you don’t want to talk to them now, we can arrange that too.
Tori shook her head. “I’d like to get this over with.”
“That’s fine, but if you feel tired at all, let us know.”
The two men stood as Tori was wheeled into the small office.
“Miss Conrad.” Said the first, taking a step forward and extending his hand. “I’m Detective Inspector Clarke and this is Detective Sergeant Collins.”
She took the man’s hand, then gestured for them both to sit.
The obviously senior officer took out a writing pad and a pen. “First things first, can you give me Eden’s full name and address?”
“Eden Gallagher.” Said Tori. “But as for her address, I’m not sure. It’s in Larkhall, and she shares a flat with a girl called Cathy Jones..” Tori put a hand to her throbbing head.
“Miss Conrad, if you’d like to continue this at a later time?…………”
Tori shook her head. “No, I’d like to get on.” She looked towards a phone book on a high shelf. “Could you see if you could find Cathy Jones in the book? I’d really like her to know what’s happening. And maybe she could give you the address of Eden’s parents.”
The officer retrieved the book and looked up the number. “There’s a C. Jones in 24 Victoria Place, Larkhall.”
Tori smiled. “I’ve been there a few times. I didn’t realise it was called that.”
The detective dialled the number. After a few rings it was answered. “Miss Jones………this is Detective Inspector Clarke……….. No. I’m afraid………….”
“Excuse me.” Tori interrupted the man. “Could I do this?”
He handed the handset to Tori. “Cathy?”
“Tori? What’s going on?”
“Eden’s been hurt. We’re at the hospital, she’s out of surgery and is going to be fine. I’d really like to get hold of her parents. D’you have their address. Or a number I can reach them on?”
“Yeah, I’m sure I do.” There was a pause. “Tori, what happened?”
“Cathy, it’s hard right now. Can I talk to you about it later?” The pounding in her head was becoming intense.
“Ok, what do you want me to do?”
Tori heaved a sigh. “Can you go to the cottage, get the Shogun, pick up some clothes for me and um……….. I think that’s all.”
“Will I be able to get into the cottage?”
“Just a moment.” She turned to the two policemen. “Is my cottage still open?”
“There will be an officer there until you return.” Said the Inspector.
“Cathy, you should be able to get in. D’you know the address?”
“Yeah, Eden told me enough times where it was.” There was silence for a moment. “Are you ok Tori?”
“I’m a little roughed up. But I’ll be fine.”
“Ok, I’ll get Darren to take me up there. Will I be able to find the keys easily?”
“They should still be on the small table in the hallway. I’ll be sure to get a message to the officer at the house that you’re coming.”
Tori hung up. “Can you let them know she’ll be going to the cottage?”
The inspector nodded, picked up his radio and gave a brief message to his headquarters.
“Now then Miss Conrad, can you tell me everything? From the beginning?”
Cathy put her hand on Darren’s thigh. “Slow down, it’s here somewhere.” She said, looking for the small lane that Eden had told her about. “There!” She said, pointing at Summer Lane.
They found the cottage easily. A uniformed officer was standing at the door, and a plain white van was parked next to the Shogun. As she got out of Darren’s car two men carried an obviously full black body bag to the van and loaded it inside.
“My God.” She said, seeing the activity. “What the hell happened here?”
Darren ended up driving the Shogun, with Cathy following in his car. They arrived at the hospital just after 2 in the afternoon and went to the main desk to find out where their friend’s were.
Cathy found Tori in a small waiting room. She was laying across three soft chairs. Cathy took in the bruised face and the dressing above Tori’s eyebrow with a frown.
She placed a hand on the sleeping woman’s shoulder. Tori awoke with a start.
“Cathy.” She said, gingerly sitting up.
“Where’s Eden?” Cathy asked.
“She’s in intensive care.” Seeing Cathy’s look of alarm she added. “For now. They say she can go into another ward soon. I’m going to have her put in a private room.”
“Can I see her?”
Tori nodded. “I expect so, come with me.”
She led Cathy to the ICU, Darren trailed along behind, but ducked into another small waiting room when they arrived at the ward.
Tori found the nurse who’d let her visit Eden earlier. “Joan, this is Eden’s friend, can she go in?”
Joan nodded. “We’re going to move her soon, so you’d better be quick.”
The two women stood over the pale form on the bed. Cathy moved to the opposite side to Tori. “What happened to her?” She asked.
“She was shot.”
“Shot!?” Cathy exclaimed. Then quietly added. “Shot? Who the hell shot her?”
“My fiancée.” Said Tori, wrapping a small limp hand in her own.
“I think I missed something here.” Said Cathy, watching Tori smoothing the soft blonde hair cascading across the pillow.
“He couldn’t understand that I’d found the love of my life. Our engagement was a sham, I wasn’t willing to lose her because of it.” She looked down at her lover. “Was I?” A deep sigh. “And my determination to have what I wanted nearly killed her.”
“No Tori, he nearly killed her.”
“Because of me.”
“No Tori, don’t think like that.” Cathy was making her way around the bottom of the bed, towards Tori who was becoming increasingly agitated.
“Tori?” Both women became still and glanced down to the still form on the bed.
“Hey.” Said Tori, settling down on the chair.
“What’s happening?” Eden’s voice was little more than a whisper.
“Nothing’s happening, Cathy’s here.”
Cathy moved beside Tori and was glad when the green eyes finally focused on her. “Hi there Eddie, you’ve really done it this time.”
“Not my fault.” Said Eden, her eyes beginning to droop closed again.
Tori started to ease her hand out of the smaller one.
The dazed eyes snapped open again. “Where ya going?”
“I thought you’d like some time with Cathy.” Tori smiled down at her.
“And you.” Said Eden simply.
“Ok.” Said Tori and settled back onto the chair. “D’you want water?”
Eden nodded. Joan had told Tori that a small amount of water would be alright for the patient.
Holding the cup and the straw Tori watched as her lover took a couple of tentative sips.
“Enough?” Asked the tall woman.
Eden nodded and Tori placed the cup back on the cabinet.
“So.” Said Cathy. She waited for one of the women to start the conversation, but seeing that they were so wrapped up in each other she stood. “I’m going to go find Darren, he’s not too good in hospitals.
The silence between the two women dragged out for a few moments. It was broken when Eden tried to move.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Said Tori, gently pushing her back down.
“Trying to see you.”
“You don’t seem fine.”
“Eden.” Tori closed her eyes. “I’m so sorry.”
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.”
“Yes, I do.” She pulled her hand from Eden’s even though the weakened woman tried to hang on. “I do.” She said, standing. “I do.”
With that she fled from the room, crashing into a puzzled Cathy as she went.
“Tori?” Said Cathy, trying to get a hold on her arm.
“Everything I touch.” Said the distraught woman as she fled down the hall.
Cathy ran into the ward, but slowed when she saw the disapproving gaze of the nurse.
“What happened?” She asked Eden, who was feebly struggling to sit up.
She fell back down onto the bed. “It’s Tori on another guilt trip. She won’t listen. I put myself in there. In that room.. I wanted to put myself between her and him. It was my decision. She won’t see that.”
“She’ll be back.”
“You think so?”
“I know so.” Cathy smiled down at her friend. “She can’t live without you.”
“But she’d try if she thought it was best for me.”
“Maybe. But I know you, and I know you wouldn’t give up on her. Would you?”
Eden smiled, suddenly exhausted by the events of the last few moments.
“Go to sleep. I’ll go find Miss Stubborn and have a word.”
“Tell her I love her.” Said Eden even as she slipped into sleep.
“No need you silly woman.” Said Cathy as she leaned over and kissed her friend on the forehead.
Cathy looked around the corridors but couldn’t find Tori. She met Darren returning from the cafeteria.
“Have you seen Tori?” She asked him as he handed her a ham roll.
“She came and found me and took the keys to her car. Why?”
“Bugger!” Said Cathy and made a dash for the exit.
Tori rested her head against the steering wheel, the keys dangling from the fingers of her right hand. It was cold in the Shogun, the afternoon sky darkening and depressing.
She heard the passenger door open and didn’t need to look up to see who was easing herself into the seat beside her.
“I don’t think they like people with head injuries being alone for a while.” Said Cathy, pulling the door closed.
“I’m fine. Eden’s the one who needs company.” Tori leaned back against the seat back.
“Then what are you doing out here?”
“I’m leaving.” She inserted the key into the ignition and started the engine.
“You need to tell her why.” Said Cathy.
“I don’t have to do anything!” Said Tori, turning towards the stunned woman.
“So you’re running away again?”
“If that’s how you want to look at it, yes.”
“Tori, don’t do this to her, not now. Not with her lying in a hospital bed.” Cathy turned slightly towards her, trying to get some idea from the tall woman what she was thinking. But the impassive features gave her no clue.
“She’ll be fine.” Said Tori. “She’ll meet someone else. People like her always do.”
“But she wants you. Can’t you see that?”
“She wants someone who can look after her. She saw the money, the flash car, the nice house. She’ll find someone like that again.” Tori managed to keep her features emotionless. “She was a nice little distraction for a couple of weeks.”
“I can’t believe you think that.” Said Cathy incredulously. “You think Eden was after your money?”
Tori nodded. “Don’t worry, I’m used to it. Now then, I have to go.” She nodded towards the hospital. “You’d better get back in there. Tell her I’ll have her stuff packed up.. She does still have a room at you place doesn’t she?”
Cathy nodded, her mouth suddenly dry.
“Good. You can pick it up from the cottage. I’ll be this evening, then I’m heading back to London.”
Tori waited while Cathy stepped down from the car, then drove out of the hospital grounds, the pain in her chest matching the pain in her head.
Cathy stood and watched the car disappear. Then she turned and made her way back into the hospital. On the way she met the two police officers.
“Did you want Mr. and Mrs. Gallaghers address?” She asked.
“Yes, please.” Said the Inspector, ushering her into the small office.
“Miss Conrad has gone?” He asked, taking a small notepad out of his pocket.
“Yes.” Cathy slumped down on a chair, feeling suddenly drained.
“We’ll have to catch up with her a the cottage then.”
“You’ll have to be quick, she’s going back to London.”
“Really?” The Policeman looked genuinely surprised. “I thought they…………..” He waved his hand about, hoping the girl would understand.
“Me too.” Said Cathy, shaking her head.
“Shock sometimes does that. I’ve seen it before after something like this. She shouldn’t be alone.”
“You try telling her that. I’ve only known her a couple of weeks, but I think she’s the most stubborn person I’ve ever met.”
The policeman nodded. Then turned to his partner. “You go on up there and get a statement, and if she’s leaving, get an address, we’re going to have to get a hold of her later.”
The younger officer nodded, and was gone.
“Right then, that address.” Said Inspector Clarke.
Tori pulled up at the cottage. There was a light on in the lounge, and a young policewoman came into the hall as she entered the front door.
Tori nodded. “I’ve just come to collect some things. Then I’m leaving.”
“Um, I’m not sure if you should do that just yet, I……………”
Tori had turned and faced the girl. “I’m leaving.” She said, and then just as quickly turned her back on her and disappeared up the stairs.
The young policewoman stared after her until she heard a knock at the door.
“Oh boy, am I glad to see you.” She said admitting the sergeant.
“Where is she?”
“I’m here.” Said Tori, descending the stairs with a couple of suitcases. “Good, more help.”
“I need an address. We’re going to have to get in touch with you.”
“Well.” Said Tori putting the suitcase down. “That’s going to be a little difficult. My home in London is on the market, probably sold by now. Give me your number and I’ll get in touch when I find somewhere.”
The sergeant shuffled from foot to foot. “That’s not really…………..”
Tori faced him, her eyes darkening. “It’s the best I can do for now.” She said, slowly. “Here.” She handed him one of her old business cards. “The mobile number on that is right. But not the land line.” She started back up the stairs. “Make yourself useful.” She called over her shoulder. “Start dismantling the computer.”
Sergeant Collins looked at the policewoman and shrugged, then followed the girl into the lounge where the computer was situated.
Cathy was sitting in the chair beside a sleeping Eden.
Darren silently pulled up a chair and joined his girlfriend. “What are you going to tell her?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” She sighed. “Whatever I say is going to hurt.” She leaned into him when he put an arm around her shoulder. “I’m not sure what Tori’s thinking.”
“Do you think she used her?”
Cathy shook her head. “No, I really don’t. Tori was as in love as Eden was. I don’t……………..”
Cathy shut up as the blonde started to awaken. “Hey there.” She said, taking Eden’s hand in her own.
“No Eddie, it’s Cathy.” She said, squeezing the limp hand.
Eden looked around the bed, only meeting the worried gaze of Darren. “Where is she?” Then she remembered Tori rushing out of the ward. “She’s gone?”
Cathy nodded. “I’m sorry.”
Eden pulled her hand from Cathy’s grasp. “It’s ok.” She said, her face showing nothing.
“No it’s not! It’s bloody ludicrous!” Said Cathy, raising her voice slightly, then lowering it when she felt a gentle hand on her back. She smiled back at Darren and patted his thigh. “She’s buggered off, just when you need her most.”
“I’ll be fine.” Said Eden, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. “Hey listen, why don’t you go home? I’m really tired.”
“Eddie, I don’t want to leave you now.”
“No really, I’d rather be alone now.” Her hands we clasped together now, and Cathy could see they were trembling.
“Eddie.” Cathy pleaded.
“Please.” Said Eden, and turned pained green eyes on her friend.
Darren pulled gently on his girlfriend’s arm. “We’ll be back in the morning.” Said Cathy, her voice breaking.
Eden nodded, then turned her face away from the couple until she heard their footsteps disappear down the corridor.
In a pub in London a tall woman sat at a tall stool against the bar. Her weight rested on her elbows, her hands held an empty glass. As the bartender approached she held the glass out.
“You ok Tori?” Asked the barkeep.
“Getting better by the minute.” She said as the woman took her glass.
Tori nodded. “Make it a double.”
Tori felt someone settle onto the stool beside her. “You look like shit.” The new arrival said.
“Hi to you too.” Said Tori, taking a sip of her drink.
“So what does the other guy look like?”
Tori closed her eyes. “I didn’t know you came in here.” She said, ignoring the question.
“A little bird told me you were in here.”
“Figures.” Tori turned towards the blonde. “So, what’s up?”
“Nothing. Just wanted to see for myself. Where’s the little cutie? Or is she history?”
“History.” Said Tori and drained the glass.
Debby ran her hand along Tori’s thigh.
“Well, I’m leaving now.” She gave the woman’s thigh a squeeze and sauntered slowly out of the pub.
Tori hesitated for a moment, then followed her out into the night.
“Victoria…………Victoria. ‘Scuse me luv, we’re here.”
“Wha…..?” The blonde sat up quickly, regretting it instantly as her healing hip complained at the sudden movement.
“London, Victoria. We’re here.”
Eden stared out of the coach window and saw the sign announcing that they had, indeed, arrived at Victoria Coach Station in London.
“Sorry.” She mumbled to the driver, who was holding a sweeping brush.
“Mind the rubbish.” He said, indicating a small pile of paper and drink cans that he’d swept from beneath the seats. “I didn’t realise you were asleep back here. Did you have luggage?”
Eden shook her head. “No, I only had the one bag.” She patted the black carry-on on the seat beside her.
She thanked the driver and made her way out of the empty coach.
“Now where?” She said to herself and looked for someone to ask for directions to the tube station.
When Tori had left her she’d felt a kind of acceptance. But as her body healed the acceptance turned to curiosity. Cathy had refused to divulge what she and Tori had discussed in the car park of the hospital that day, and Eden suspected that Tori had told Cathy something that her friend felt unable to tell her about.
Her parents had arrived the day after Tori had left. It was all too much for Cathy. She’d had to leave Eden with her parents, unable to watch as her best friend told lie after lie to the elderly couple about how she’d ended up in a hospital bed with a gunshot wound. According to the blonde Tori was a friend who had a jealous boyfriend. He’d attacked them both, and Eden was shot. Tori had gone back to London. No mention of the fact that Eden was living at the cottage was made. And certainly no mention was made of the true nature of the women’s relationship.
When she was released from hospital her parents picked her up and took her home with them. She was fussed over for a month by her mother, before moving back to Bath and to the flat in Larkhall.
Cathy had telephoned Mark and told him of the situation. He said he’d hold Eden’s position at the Estate Agents office open until she decided what she wanted to do. He hadn’t processed her resignation anyway, and he told Cathy that he’d make sure she was paid sick pay.
She went back to work, but her mind wasn’t on the job, and, more importantly, her heart wasn’t in it.
The police had got in touch with her, and told her she would be required to give evidence at an inquest. Neither she nor Tori were to be charged with the death of Damien.
She’d asked Inspector Clarke for Tori’s address, but he refused each time to give it. She’d tried the woman’s mobile number, but the mechanical voice told her it was a discontinued number. She’d heard nothing from Tori in over two months.
One cold Sunday afternoon she ordered a taxi and went up to Summer Cottage.
She stood for a long time in the driveway, remembering the time she’d come home unexpectedly and had been taken in almost a desperate manner, right there in the hallway. Her eyes lifted to the bedroom window and a smile graced her features despite the tears that streaked her cheeks.
After walking around the cottage she returned to the taxi and made her way back to Larkhall.
Finally, she decided she had to do something. She would go to London and find the damn woman. One way or the other Tori would explain herself. She’d find out for herself what Cathy had refused to tell her, however painful that might be.
She needed a closure, and until she confronted the tall woman, she wouldn’t have that.
So there she was, waiting at Victoria Underground for a tube to take her to Chelsea. She knew Tori had put the apartment on the market, and with the way properties were moving in London she was pretty sure that it would have sold already.
But she’d remembered the address, and an hour later found herself standing on the pavement outside Tori’s one-time home.
She rang the bell and it was answered by a woman’s voice.
“Oh, hello.” Said Eden. “You don’t know me. I’m looking for the previous occupier of this apartment.”
There was no answer. But the door opened and the security guard that Eden had seen on her previous visit faced her.
“Hello.” Eden said with a smile. “Jeff, isn’t it?”
“Yes?” He said with a hint of suspicion.
“I was here a few months ago with Tori Conrad. I’m trying to track her down.”
“Yes?” He said again.
Eden sighed. “Do you have an address for her? For forwarding mail, that kind of thing.”
“I do, but I couldn’t give it to you. More than my jobs worth..”
Eden felt her heart lurch. This was her best chance at finding Tori. She’d failed before she’d even begun. “Oh. Well, ok, thanks.”
The disappointment must have shown, because as she turned to walk away the guard called her back. “Look Miss, I can’t give you her address, but I’ll tell you the name of the Estate Agents that sold the place. Just wait here.” The man disappeared inside.
Eden almost cried with relief, and waited on the pavement until he returned. “Here.” He said, thrusting a piece of paper into her hands. “Didn’t come from me though.”
Eden reached up on tiptoe and kissed the man’s cheek. “Thanks Jeff, you’re a star.”
She got a taxi to the estate agents office, not trusting her reading of the underground map. She tried to remember the name of the friend Tori had said was dealing with the sale. She was approached by a young woman not much taller than herself as she entered the office.
“Can I help?” Said the woman with a smile.
“I’m not sure, I’m looking for the agent who dealt with a sale for Victoria Conrad.”
A young man sitting at a nearby desk stood and approached the pair. He held his hand out to Eden. “Richard Eastman. You must be Eden.”
Eden was, for the moment speechless. “Yes, I am. I don’t……………”
He lead her to his desk and sat her down. “Would you like a coffee?”
“Please.” Said Eden, slipping her jacket off.
“Tori mentioned you. I feel I already know you.” He said after returning with a cup of coffee.
“Have you seen her?”
“Not for a week or so. Actually.” He said, his brow furrowed. “It’s been over a month.” He stirred the contents of his own cup, his thoughts elsewhere momentarily.
“Do you know where she is?” Said Eden, not realising she was holding her breath.
“Yes I do.” He said. “I found her the flat she’s living in now. She’s renting, though with the profit she made from the sale she could afford just about anything we have on our books at the moment.”
“I need to see her Richard.” Said Eden, her hands clasping the coffee cup tightly.
Richard nodded slightly. “I can’t leave right now, I have a client coming in in the next quarter of an hour, but I’ll call you a cab.” He seemed to think for a moment. “Eden, the woman who came in here a couple of months ago wasn’t the same Tori I know. She’s changed. She’s a good friend, I love her very much. She told me about Damien, and about you. I’m sorry.”
Eden was about to ask Richard what Tori had told him when the phone on his desk rang. She waited patiently while he took the call, drinking the coffee, which she found to be delicious.
When he’d finished he wrote an address down on a piece of paper and handed it to her.
“This is where she’s living.”
Eden took the paper and stood, holding out her hand. “Thank you Richard.”
“Anytime.” He said.
She wanted so badly to talk to him, but it was obvious he was pushed for time. Clasping the address tightly in her hand she waited outside on the pavement for the taxi to arrive.
As she sat in the back of the taxi she began to wonder what exactly it was she was doing.
Tori had run away from her. Hadn’t she? She’d left her, just when she needed her most. And Eden had……accepted it. Even though Tori had promised she’d never do that again.
Cathy had been furious. Furious with Tori, and almost as mad with Eden, who seemed oblivious to her friend’s anger.
“I wish you’d just get bloody angry!” She had shouted at her one evening. “I can’t believe you’re just going to let her ruin your life like this. You don’t go out, except to work. You don’t talk. Well, not to me anyway. What’s going on Eddie?”
“Nothing Cath. I’m fine.”
“Eddie, I know you’re not.” She took her friend by the shoulders and shook her. “Please Eddie, I’m your friend. Tell me what’s going on with you.”
In the end Cathy gave up. She left her friend to brood alone for hours in her room.
Then one morning Eden announced she was going to London.
“I’m going to find her. One way or another I’m going to finish this,”
“Finish this.” Said Eden to herself.
“Sorry luv?” Said the cabby.
Eden smiled at his reflection in the rear view mirror. “Just thinking out loud.” She said.
The cabby dropped her at a row of three storey buildings, not unlike those back in Bath. He’d dropped her at the end of the road, which happened to be the wrong end.
“One way street luv.” He’d said. “And it’s got ‘umps. Buggers up the suspension.”
Eden had smiled at him, even when he drove off with her tenner. Obviously he had no change.
Colston Avenue stretched out before her, and Eden started slowly down the street. As she did so she felt her heart rate pick up. Her doubts began. Would Tori talk to her? Would she even let her in? Hell, would she even be there?
It was in the middle of this internal conversation that Eden spotted a familiar face. Not the one that had haunted her dreams and her thoughts for the last few months, but a familiar one all the same.
Debby spotted her at the same moment.
She took two steps back and then turned, determined to put as much distance as she could between her and the woman who had obviously just come from her ex-lovers flat.
“Eden?” She heard the question in the woman’s voice as she walked quickly away.
Eden carried on walking. ‘No more.’ She said to herself. ‘No more.’
“Eden stop.” The voice was nearer now, and she felt a gentle hand on her arm.
Debby was breathless. “Please, just stop.” She asked.
The two women faced each other for a long moment.
“You’ve come to see her?” Asked Debby.
Eden shook her head, not trusting her voice. She felt trapped, and stupid. What was she thinking? As if Tori would just have spent the last couple of months brooding like her. ‘Dumb, dumb bloody dumb.’
“Bit of a coincidence then.” Said Debby, crossing her arms and taking a step back
“I wanted to…………… I wanted……..” Eden shook her head. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you’d be here. I’ll go. I’ll…………”
Debby sighed. Then she tossed her head slightly. “She’s up there.”
“I don’t think I can…………”
Debby didn’t answer, but took her by the arm and guided her away from the flat. Eden allowed herself to be pulled along, suddenly too tired to resist. “We need to talk.” Said Debby.
The cafe was small, and quiet. It was getting on for lunch time, but it was almost empty just the same.
Debby lead Eden to a table and then went to the counter, returning quickly with two mugs of tea.
“There, you hungry?” She said placing one of the mugs in front of Eden.
“No I’m not.” She looked up into the face of the woman opposite her. “Thank you.”
Debby shrugged. “You’re going to see her, aren’t you?”
Eden sighed and her head dropped. “I don’t know. I thought so. But now…………………”
There was a silence between the two women.
“Now?” Debby prompted.
A shrug from Eden. “Well, seeing you here. I don’t want to…………………”
“Oh hey, you’re jumping to conclusions here.” Debby squirmed in her seat. “Oh yeah, you saw me and…………..” Debby was nodding animatedly now.
Eden was confused, and it showed.
“Ok.” Said Debby. “I’ll start from the beginning. A friend told me that she’d seen Tori in the Bull. I thought, ‘hello’. She also said she looked like she’d been hit by a bus. Well, my curiosity got the better of me. So I thought I’d take a butchers.” Debby paused, regarding the contents of her mug thoughtfully. “I have to be honest here and tell you that I’ve always had the hots for Tori. It’s understandable. Right?”
Eden nodded. ‘Understandable.’ A voice in her head said.
“Anyway. So there she was. Sitting at the bar, drink in hand. I think she’d had a few. She looked like shit. There were bags under her eyes, a Band-Aid on her forehead.” Debby shook her head. “But she still looked like sex on legs to me.”
Debby’s eyes found the green ones opposite her. “I wanted her Eden, and I made sure she knew.”
“Go on.” Eden heard herself say, though she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear what occurred next.
“I don’t know who was more surprised when she followed me out of the pub, me or her. I asked her where she was staying and she told me she didn’t have anywhere to go. So we went back to my place. I drove her car. It was then I noticed all the gear in the back.”
“When was this?” Asked Eden.
“I think it was the same evening she drove from Bath.”
“My God, she must have been exhausted.”
“You’re telling me! We got back to my place and she just about collapsed. Of course I was going to take advantage of the situation.” Debby waggled her eyebrows at Eden, who almost, almost smiled.
Realising humour was not required at that moment, Debby continued. “So there am I. With the woman I’ve been lusting after for the past five years spread out on my sofa like some sort of offering and what do I do?”
She waited for Eden’s guess, which wasn’t forthcoming. So she continued.
“I sit and listen to her talking until the small hours of the morning about you.”
The tea didn’t quite reach Debby’s lap as the mug slipped out of Eden’s hands and spread across the small table.
“Whoah!” Said Debby leaping to her feet. “I’ll get a cloth.”
Eden watched her as she went to the counter and returned with a rag with which she mopped up the spillage.
Returning to Eden she placed a hand over the smaller woman’s trembling ones. “You ok?”
Eden nodded. “I’m sorry. I saw you and assumed……………….”
“Yeah, sure. What else were you to think?”
“So why were you there?”
Debby drew a deep breath. “Eden, Tori told me all about what she did. About her mother, her father………………… Damien. She told me about the hospital.”
“Did she tell you why?”
Debby was shocked at the pain she saw reflected back at her from those green eyes. She shook her head.
“You’re miserable, aren’t you?” She said to Eden.
Eden nodded. “It shows right?”
Debby gave a small laugh. “Well, I’ve become something of an expert in miserable people. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last month or so with one.”
“Tori.” Debby confirmed. “Look Eden. What she did to you was awful. But go up and see her. Listen to her. It seems daft for two people to be so miserable for the same reason.”
“She may not want to see me.”
“Maybe. But you both need to work some stuff out.”
Eden stood and walked around the table. She bent and kissed Debby on the cheek. “Why are you doing this? I remember you from the club.”
“That was jealousy. I’m sorry.” Another sigh from the seated woman. “I realise now I can’t compete with her feelings for you. I love her very much, but she’ll never be mine.”
Eden put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. “You’ve been looking after her, haven’t you.” Eden sat again.
“She’d live on peanut butter sandwiches given half the chance. I did some shopping for her and got a woman to come in a couple of times a week to clean and do some laundry for her.”
“Is she working?”
Again a shake of Debby’s head. “No, she doesn’t go out, doesn’t answer the phone. She’s just wasting away.”
Eden blinked back the tears as Debby took her hand and placed two keys on a simple key ring into it. “I’m no nursemaid.” Said Debby, swallowing the lump that was forming in her throat.
“I’d better go.” Said Eden as she stood. The two women’s eyes met. A small nod from both heads, and then Eden left.
Eden walked up the four steps to the large black door and looked at the six bells beside it. Flat number four bore the name Conrad.
Letting herself into the house with one of the keys, she guessed the other was for Tori’s flat.
The brass number 4 seemed huge on the white door, and Eden stood for a while just staring at it. She raised her hand to the bell, but didn’t ring it. Debby had said Tori didn’t answer the phone, she probably wouldn’t answer the door either.
No, there was no way Tori was getting out of this encounter.
She fitted the key into the lock and slipped into the flat.
The first thing she noticed was Tori’s computer. Still packed in boxes and piled haphazardly in the hallway. Her leather jacket was draped over the top of the boxes. Then she noticed how hot it was. It was May, and though not warm, wasn’t cold enough to require the amount of heating in the small apartment..
She found the lounge. Nothing of Tori’s seemed to be in the room. There was a tv and a VCR. The time on the clock of the machine told her it was a little after noon.
She turned and left the room. Across the small hallway was a partly opened door and Eden could just make out the soft breathing of someone inside the room.
She pushed the door slowly open and the light from the hallway illuminated the room. It revealed a large bed and the person who lay in it.
Tori was asleep on her stomach, her face turned away from the blonde. Her left arm hung down alongside the bed, her knuckles grazing the floor. Her right hand was on the pillow beside her face. She seemed to be wearing a white tee-shirt.
Eden silently walked around the bed so that she could see the woman’s face.
She stifled a gasp.
Tori appeared to be in pain. Her brow was furrowed as if in thought and shadows darkened her eyes.
Eden sat gently on the bed. The she slowly reached across and took Tori’s hand.
The movement woke the sleeping woman. She stared at the joined hands next to her face and then followed the arm until her eyes met those she’d dreamt about for two months.
Eden wasn’t sure what she expected Tori’s reaction to be. She thought maybe anger, maybe indifference. What she got was grief. Pure, raw grief.
Tori’s face creased up and she pulled her hand from Eden’s grasp, curling her body into a protective ball.
It was a natural reaction, Eden decided, as her instincts took over. She crawled across the bed and pulled Tori into her arms. The tall woman resisted for a brief moment, before allowing herself to be pulled into Eden’s embrace.
The blonde held her while she cried, stroking her hair and making nonsensical shushing noises.
When the sobs finally stopped Tori once again pulled herself from Eden’s grasp.
Both women sat with their backs against the headboard. Eden straightening her clothes and Tori wiping her face with the front of the tee-shirt.
“Hi.” Said Eden, huskily.
Tori wouldn’t trust her voice and shook her head slightly, keeping her gaze her own shaking hands.
Tori took a deep breath. “Why…….” She began, but the word came out as a croak. She tried again. “Why did you come here?”
“I needed some questions answered.”
“My turn to ask why.” Said Eden softly.
Tori rested her head back against the headboard, then turned to look at the blonde. She felt that tightness in her stomach. She knew what it was. “I’m sorry.” Said the dark woman.
“I don’t want sorry.” Said Eden. “I want to know why.” She turned slightly so she could face Tori. “I want to know what made you run again. You promised me you wouldn’t ever do that again.”
Tori moved suddenly, and was standing beside the bed putting on a pair of jeans before Eden could move. “Let’s go into the lounge.” She said, and was gone.
Eden found her curled up on the sofa, and made herself comfortable on one of the plump armchairs.
“I thought you died.” Said Tori after a long silence.
There was a hint of sarcasm in Eden’s voice when she replied. “And when you found I wasn’t you were so thrilled you ran as fast as your legs would carry you.” She shook her head in confusion. “Tori, I really don’t understand you.”
“It wasn’t like that.” Said Tori her eyes unable to meet the green ones opposite her.
“Then tell me Tori, what ‘was’ it like?”
Tori covered her face with her hands. “I couldn’t bear to see you hurt.” Came the pain filled, muffled voice. “And that was all I could see happening. From the cut hand to the attempted rape. Nothing but pain.” She dropped her hands, but still couldn’t meet Eden’s gaze. “I thought you’d be better off without me.”
“So you went.”
Tori nodded. “I can’t remember driving to London, but I can remember the pain. Here.” She put a hand over her heart and looked up at the blonde. “I’ve missed you Eden.”
Eden was quiet for a long moment. There was no hint of emotion as she regarded the distraught woman. “Tori, what you did to me was………………………….. unforgivable.”
Tori nodded and bowed her head. “I know.”
“But that was the idea, wasn’t it?” Eden watched as her lover’s head slowly rose. “Do something so awful I would hate you. Something I could never forgive you for.” She smiled when she saw the realisation in Tori’s eyes. “I tried to hate you Tori, but I couldn’t.” She gave a short laugh. “You have my heart.” She stood and walked to the sofa standing in front of it as Tori uncurled her long body and sat up.
Eden looked down at her lover and moved slowly forward, pulling the dark head against her stomach. She felt Tori’s arms encircle her and then felt the taller woman’s shoulders start to shake as she began to cry quietly.
“You can’t fool me Tori Conrad.” She said.
Eden eased away from Tori and sat beside her. She took the larger hand in her own and regarded the two hands. “Will you come home with me?”
A shake of the dark head. “I’m no good for you Eden.”
“And I’m no good without you.” She ducked forward trying to see into her lover’s face. “So I’ll stay here.”
“No, this is just a place to live, not a home.”
“Wherever you are will be my home. Wherever you want to be.”
Tori pulled her hand from Eden’s and stood. “Why are you doing this? I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Didn’t Cathy tell you what I said?” She was becoming exasperated now
Eden smiled up at Tori from her seat on the sofa. “No she wouldn’t. And I guessed you said something pretty horrible.” She sat back and crossed her arms. “So you see, she sees through you too.”
“You saw Debby?”
“I saw her coming out of here.”
“She comes here a lot.” Tori raised her chin, as if offering a challenge.
Eden accepted the challenge.
“We had a long chat. She gave me the keys.” Eden stood and moved within arms reach of Tori “She told me that nothing happened.” Another step and their bodies were almost touching. “She wants you. But she wants you to be happy.”
Tori concentrated on keeping her hands away from the smaller woman. “I’ll end up hurting you again.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Where does this faith come from?” Tori asked. “I’ve done nothing to deserve that kind of belief.”
“Did it hurt when you left me?”
“You know it did.”
“In a strange way Tori, I know you were trying to protect me. I know what your motives were.” She laughed a little. “However twisted.”
One dark eyebrow rose. “Twisted.”
Eden nodded smiling. After a pause she continued. “This isn’t how I planned this meeting would go.”
“Mmm. I thought I’d be screaming at you by now.”
“Why aren’t you?”
Eden shrugged. “I suppose because the moment I saw you, I knew I was still in love with you. Whatever happened, and whatever happens, I’ll always be in love with you.” She tipped her head up. “Tori?”
“What?” She asked, drowning in seas of green.
It was dark when Tori awoke and for a moment she wondered where she was and who was in her arms. Then she remembered.
Eden had asked her to kiss her. And Tori hadn’t given a second thought before ducking her head and claiming the soft lips of her lover.
“Thankyou.” Was all Eden could manage when they took a breath. Then the shorter woman found herself turned and lowered to the sofa.
That was a few hours before.
Her grip on the blonde tightened slightly when she felt the young woman begin to wake. “Ssshh. Go back to sleep.” She husked into the blonde hair.
And go back to sleep Eden did.
But it was hot. That was something Eden had commented on as Tori had pulled the blonde’s clothes off when they were still in the lounge. The heat of the room was soon forgotten, however, as the two women outdid the thermostat in the heat producing stakes.
Only now did Tori find it a little uncomfortable. Lying beneath the quilt, with the warm, soft, gorgeous body of her lover pressed tightly against her stomach.
She gently pulled her arm from its place providing a pillow for the blonde head, and slipped out of bed.
The controls for the heating were in the kitchen and she made her way quickly there, adjusting the thermostat to a more reasonable level. Then she made a quick trip to the bathroom.
As she came out of the bathroom she heard a noise. She stopped for a moment, listening. She heard it again, sobbing.
Tori rushed into the bedroom to find Eden, her hair in disarray, her eyes darting wildly around the room.
“You left me!” Eden cried between sobs.
Tori eased herself into the bed beside her, gathering the shaking woman into her arms. “Hey there.” She said, pulling the blonde close.
“I……, I thought……” Eden couldn’t complete the sentence. Instead she tried to burrow herself into the taller woman’s body.
“Were you dreaming?” Tori asked.
Eden nodded. “You were running……. I couldn’t reach you.”
Tori closed her eyes and pressed her lips to the soft blonde hair.
“Then I woke up, and you were………………”
“I was gone.” Tori finished for her.
Eden eased herself away so that she could look into the eyes of her lover. She closed her eyes as she felt Tori’s warm fingers gently wipe the tears from her cheeks.
“I’ll never be able to say sorry enough. I’ll never forgive myself.” Said Tori sitting back on her heals on the bed.
“Tori, I love you. I know you did what you thought was best for me.” She reached for her lover’s chin and tipped her head up so she could see the blue eyes that had haunted her for two months. “We have to go on from here. We have to heal, both of us.” Eden sniffed and bowed her head. “I don’t want to go on without you. Don’t send me away.”
Tori closed the gap between them and took the blonde into her arms again. “Never,” she said. “You came after me. I’m just managing to take it all in. I thought you’d be glad to see the back of me.”
Eden snuggled closer to Tori as the tall woman made herself comfortable with her back against the headboard.
“I wanted to die for a while.” Eden said and felt Tori’s grip tighten. “Then I started to think about it.” She looked up at her companion, taking in the gaunt look. “Everything you did in those few weeks was for me. Defying your father. Giving Damien the heave-ho.” Eden smiled. “Risking being beaten to a pulp by queer bashers.”
Tori shifted uncomfortably. “And just as we started to come out of the other side of all that, you decided that it was better if you were here. Starving yourself to death in a hothouse.”
“I………………” Tori began.
“No, you listen to me Tori Conrad.” Eden knelt up, positioning herself between Tori’s long legs and facing her. “No more, ok? No more sacrifices, no more making decisions on your own. I want you.” She reached out a hand, caressing Tori’s breast. “Very much. And I think maybe you want me too.” She smiled, cocking her head to one side. “Am I right?”
Tori had her eyes closed in concentration.
“Answer the question.”
“What question?” The blue eyes were still closed.
“Do you want me?”
“More than the air I breathe.” Then the eyes opened and Eden knew her lover was telling the truth.
They stayed like that for a while. Just looking. Taking in the sight of the other. Both coming to terms with the fact that maybe, just maybe they could make things right again.
“Do you really think we can survive this?” Eden asked eventually and resumed her place at Tori’s side.
“You’ve already survived so much.” Tori said quietly.
“I’d like to try. I want to know you. Help you when you’re sad, love you when you’re happy. And I do want you to be happy Tori.” Eden felt the tense body beside her take in a deep breath.
“I’ve made such a mess of this.”
“Yes you have.” Said Eden, and snuggled closer. “And some will think I’ve been a fool.”
“And you know what?”
“What?” Tori looked down at the blonde attached to her side like a limpit.
“I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what other people think.”
Tori chuckled and the two women enjoyed a comfortable silence for a while.
“Will you come home with me.” Eden held her breath.
“You mean Bath?”
“Yeah. Well, it’s my home. I want you there.”
“I……………………” Tori’s answer was cut short by the door bell. “Dammit!” Said the tall woman as she eased herself off the bed.
Taking a quick glance at the clock she made her way to the door, pulling a robe on as she went.
She opened the door slightly, then closed it again, releasing the security lock, before opening it completely.
Debby stepped into the hallway.
“You put the lock on.” Said the blonde.
“Yeah well…………..” Tori shrugged.
“Are you alone?”
Tori shook her head.
“Good, that’s good.” Said Debby.
Tori took a breath, obviously about to say something.
“No.” Said Debby. “It’s ok. I’m glad. Really. I knew I was up against some pretty hefty opposition..” She turned slightly. “Hi.”
Tori looked over her shoulder and saw Eden framed in the doorway, wearing one of the taller woman’s long teeshirts. She held out her arm and Eden fitted herself against her side.
“Debby.” Eden began. “Thank you for this.”
Debby shrugged and shifted from foot to foot. “So, what’s your plans?”
Tori pulled the blonde tightly against her. Knowing that, at last she’d found her Eden, her little piece of paradise.
“I’m going home,” she said.