Copyright © 2009 A.Matheson. All Rights Reserved.
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Part eleven: found in translation
When the going gets tough
Megan woke from a dream of her mother, a dream in which she engaged with the world the way she had in times gone by. Following custom the other people in the dream were people she could identify, though their image was blurry. Her mother however was exactly as she would have her, as was Kirstin.
It was a dream of childhood, combined with adulthood: A dream that took both women back to where they had shared their innocence and discovered culpability. It was a place where Megan could hold Kirstin's hand while talking to her mother as if it were the most normal thing to do.
The eyes that fluttered open clamped shut upon realising the dream and the sensations it had caused. The aching head was angered by an insistent pecking.
No, not pecking , the same head thought, knocking, that's knocking… on the door… oh for f…
Meg dragged herself from the bed and grumpily pulled on the door handle.
“Huh?” Meg squinted.
“Get dressed. Get your coat and bring some shades.” A breath, “You look like shit.”
Meg rubbed at an eye, “Thanks, that's a really nice way to…”
“Get dressed,” Kirstin repeated with force.
The drummer's brow hiked, “Why?!”
“I'm taking you out for breakfast.”
Megan blinked, “You are?”
“I am,” she confirmed, “So hurry up before I change my mind.”
Meg stood gawping at her, having only managed a few hours sleep.
“My time may be short.”
Meg nodded briskly, and shut the door in Kirstin's face.
Then quickly re-opened the door.
“I'm sorry, um, do you wanna…” she began to gesture into the room.
Kirstin cut in, understanding why Meg had thought to shut the door initially, “No, it's fine, I'll wait here.”
Meg nodded again, this time leaving the door slightly ajar and disappearing to find some clothes and brush her teeth.
Anyone but Kirstin would not have seen that door reopen, but Megan was indeed still susceptible. For how better to be woken from a soothing dreamscape than by the very person who had played the part of the comforter?
Kirstin waited patiently, her pulse faintly rising. Within a few minutes Meg was back at the door, almost presentable, throwing a small satchel like bag over her head and shoulders, her face still scrunched as her eyes adjusted to the light.
Kirstin looked at the jacket in her hands.
“That won't cut it,” she remarked plainly.
“Do you have anything heavier?”
“It's sunny.” This much Megan had gathered, having not managed to close the curtains when she had finally made it back to her room.
“It's England . It's sunny now, but anything can, and probably will , happen. Best arrangement: T-shirt and a big jacket just in case.”
Meg disappeared again, only to reappear with a hooded blue duffle coat.
“Better?” she held it up for observation.
“Perfect,” Kirstin smiled. “What's in the bag,” she asked out of curiosity, having never seen Meg carry a bag before. It suited her, she thought.
Now who's preppy?
“Oh you know, wallet, camera, phone… um, a book, maybe some other stuff.”
“Yes Kay, a book .” Her head was beginning to register what was happening. “Does it surprise you to know I read?” she asked, closing the door carefully behind her as they began to make their way towards to lift.
“What kind of book is it?” she responded sceptically.
Meg stopped causing Kirstin to turn. She pulled from her bag the said battered-looking book with a yawn.
“Origin of Species? That's what you're reading?”
“Ah ha.” Meg felt just a little smug. “ Real enough?”
“Yes. But trust me, you're not going to be needing that,” Kirstin set off once again, with Meg in tow having deposited the book back where it belonged.
“Have you read it?”
Kirstin gave her a sideways glance, “ Some of it.”
Meg smirked, “It's insightful. I mean, how small every day adaptations can bring about radical changes in individuals, and eventually entire species.”
“I know what it's about, Meg. I'm saying you won't need it today. I don't intend letting you be that bored.”
The second smirk of the day, Meg allowed purely for herself.
Indeed, the themes of her book would prove a little more current than even Megan might foretell. She had a sense of foreboding though, and it was good.
“I can't believe you brought me to a diner for breakfast. My first real breakfast in London this tour, and I'm eating pancakes, bacon and syrup.”
Fifties music blurted out from crackling speakers, and the foreign staff popped gum in time to it whilst entertaining each other and various regulars sitting at the bar. Kirstin and Meg had a booth to themselves.
“Sometimes it's good to stick to some things you know. Especially when venturing into unknown territory. Anyway, I'm showing you a little of what used to be my life, Meg. And to me, eating here made me feel like I was, home, I guess.”
Meg stirred her drink with a straw. “I know we grew up together, but I've always thought of you as English.”
“Because of the accent?”
“Yeh. Though I'll admit, next to some of the accents I've heard here, you sound… well, I can understand you, so maybe you're a little more American than I thought.”
Kirstin smiled. “Well, I don't know. It took a while for America to make its mark. Even now when I'm in New York , I feel more like I'm English. The second I open my mouth I get treated like a foreigner. And when I'm here I feel very… Americanised .”
“You sometimes spell in American,” Meg had observed from various call sheets.
“No,” the filmmaker corrected, “my word processor spells in American .”
“What's the count in years?”
“How long overall have you lived in either country?”
“Oh, well, I'm nearly twenty nine, so lets see: I lived here ‘til I was seven before we went to Buffalo, moved back here to go to Uni, and after that went to L.A. By my reckoning, that's around eleven years here, seventeen in the U.S? I'm a hybrid!
“With an English accent.”
“Yeh. As a kid I was brought up in Surrey . Even so, sometimes I have a hard time understanding people here. And obviously my parents both had strong English accents, and my brothers, they were both older then me when we moved.” Kirstin lingered thoughtfully.
“I like your accent,” Meg grinned suggestively before she had time to check herself. She quickly changed the subject, and her face, “Where did you study?”
Kirstin allowed herself to be flattered, unable to hide the gentle blush that rose, but accepting the change in conversation.
“ London Film School . Not a degree, I was working at the same time, more of a series of diplomas.”
“I remember this story. There's a part you won't tell me about.” Meg waggled an eyebrow.
Kirstin stilled, and swallowed. “Are you asking again?” she asked gently, carefully.
Meg thought about it. Everyone had things they didn't want to talk about. Sometimes people had things they didn't want to talk about more specifically with certain people. She was as guilty as anyone. She chewed slowly on pancake, swallowed and took a sip of Kirstin's cola float.
Maybe she wants to tell me? Or she's testing me to see if I dare push it again? Maybe I don't want to know.
“Why don't you help me out and tell me what the right answer to that question is? Do you want to tell me? And is it something I'd want to know?”
Kirstin locked eyes with her, barely blinking. It made Meg shiver, at once unsettled but thrilled.
“You can be really intense, you know that?” Meg breathed, unable to tear her eyes away.
Kirstin's face burst suddenly into a smile, “I'm sorry,” she said shaking her head gently and biting her lip, “I'm just trying to work out how to answer you. You really do know the right questions to ask sometimes.”
There was a silence as Kirstin genuinely pondered the outcome of telling Megan about Grace, and how much she had been affected by that relationship. She really wasn't sure whether telling her would reveal enough for Meg to understand her caution, or too much, giving Meg every possible hang up she could have regarding anything she might want to instigate between them.
And then Megan did something that even she hadn't expected to want to do. “My Mother,” she started suddenly, gaining Kirstin's instant and concentrated attention, “she… uh… she has episodes of lucidity. They're rare, mostly she's just crazy, but sometimes she wakes up, and… she's her . And they don't know how long it will last, sometimes days, sometimes hours. They call me. They haven't called in a while.”
“They called yesterday?” came the quick, but gentle, supposition.
Kirstin wanted to reach out, just to make contact, for Meg to feel some physical reassurance. For her to thank Meg for telling her, for wanting to tell her even. For what that meant, to Kirstin.
Stretching over she placed her hand on top of Meg's. Meg looked at it, feeling the warm connection extend up her arm and suddenly her dream came flooding back to her. Kirstin's hand entwined with hers, her body close, her presence settling. The feeling of being held, kept safe.
“I'm okay,” Meg said softly, with gratitude.
“No!” she laughed, looking back up. “No,” she repeated soberly.
Their jazzy apron-wearing waitress scooted by to collect the plates, but Kirstin did not relinquish her handhold on Meg.
“You ladies want the bill?”
Meg looked confused.
“The check,” the blonde told her before turning to the waitress, “Yes please.”
She turned back to her friend, who was taking a deep breath. “We pay the check with bills and here they pay the bill with cheques .”
“Okay, you're American. You pass. Isn't that in a movie?”
“Probably.” They smiled at each other. “Meg…”
“Here you go,” the bill was dropped off with surprising speed.
Kirstin lifted her hand away gently, to seek out her purse. Both women felt the loss immediately.
“What?” Meg asked.
“Oh, I…” Kirstin looked her in the eye showing deep regret, “I'm sorry.”
They walked through the bustling weekend foot traffic of Carnaby Street , stopping occasionally to look in store windows. The sun was out, and both women had shades on, but one woman needed their help a little more.
“So you had a late night?” Kirstin asked, noting Meg was squinting even with the aid of sunglasses.
“Yeh, you might say that.”
“You have fun?”
“Um… I don't know.”
“You don't know?”
“No. I barely remember how I got back, except that Susan was very good to me.”
“Suze?” That wasn't something she had expected to hear.
“Yeh, we talked a lot last night.”
Kirstin stopped at a camera shop, and peered at the products on display. Though she was looking at the stock, that clearly wasn't was she was thinking about. Meg pulled her shades down a little to get a better look at the filmmaker's expression.
“No, I'm not!”
“Yes, you are, Kirstin.”
She was met with silence.
“Look,” she pulled around, so they were face to face, placing herself between Kirstin and the window. “I was really drunk last night, okay? And I…” her candour was evident, as she carefully selected her words, “ I didn't exactly want you seeing me like that.”
Kirstin's demeanor relaxed, begrudgingly. She pulled off her shades. A wave of guilt kicked in.
She knew Megan liked her, though perhaps not how much, and she knew it was because of that, and how she had been treating her, that Meg hadn't wanted her around the night before. It was why she was here now. She wanted to change that, she just wasn't sure how.
“Your friend was asking me a lot of questions,” Meg continued in a serious tone, also removing her sunglasses.
Kirstin's gut rolled over, she frowned with concern.
“About us,” Meg made clear.
“What did you tell her?”
Meg coughed out a laugh, “Nothing.”
Because you think that's what I want. Because I told you it was a problem.
Kirstin studied the sad, beautiful face of the not-so-dumb American, who was clearly struggling with an array of emotions. She wanted to take away the desolation that seemed to be brewing behind the startling blue eyes. She took hold of the drummer's hand and looked at it, watching their fingers automatically intertwine, brushing her thumb against Meg's.
Meg too looked down, her throat rapidly drying. She felt her breath quicken and catch. Though she felt Kirstin's gaze move to her face, she was incapable of meeting it, instead fixating on their point of contact, confused by the intimacy it foretold. A sudden wave of need washed over Kirstin and she pulled Meg roughly into a hug, holding onto her tightly. She felt Meg stiffen in reflex, rigid, and unable to allow the embrace.
“Meg?” Kirstin whispered into her ear, “Let me hug you? Please?”
Meg took a deep breath. And then another. By the third breath she began to relax, she began to allow herself to feel the other woman holding on to her. She brought her hands up and held her back, softening into the new contact, feeling every pressure point. Resting her head against Kirstin's she allowed herself to close her eyes, savouring the sensation.
Kirstin gripped all the more as she felt Meg respond, “I'm sorry,” she uttered. “I'm sorry about your mom.” Their breathing fell in line and Meg's breath began to hitch again. “And I'm sorry about us.”
It was all Kirstin could communicate in so few words. Though she knew it was not nearly adequate, she also knew there would be a better time than in a noisy street, surrounded by shoppers.
“See,” Meg gasped quietly, “this is exactly why I didn't want you to come out last night!” Meg sniffed and swallowed, determined not to shed any tears, though with the relief of feeling Kirstin so close her eyes threatened perilously. She felt the filmmaker shuffle, readjusting her head nearer the nook between Meg's neck and shoulder, her cheek nestling gently next to her own.
It was all Kirstin could do to keep from drawing back slightly, to bring her mouth closer to Meg's. In-a-fucking-propriate Kay! She frowned at herself. One step at a time. One step at a time, one…
Somehow the required composure was found to avoid an awkward withdrawal from a hug that had clearly gone on too long. She relinquished her grip and stepped backward, betraying her need with practiced control. Megan followed suit, a little relieved the onus of their extraction had been taken away.
“I'm sorry if Suze was asking inappropriate questions.”
“I don't think they were inappropriate. She's your friend, she's concerned. She thinks I'm a bad influence!”
“She does not.”
“She does. I told her to get in line,” Meg laughed.
Kirstin frowned at the thought that her friends made Megan feel that way. Then another word jogged her brain. “What do you mean she's concerned?”
Meg lowered her voice conspiratorially, “She thinks you have a crush on me.” Her eyes sparkled with a hint of humour.
“I do,” Kirstin responded seriously.
Megan flushed with joy at the small admittance, despite the obviousness of the statement. Hearing it out loud from the object of her desire was very different, and somehow more real. She laughed lightly, “You do?” she teased, unable to help wanting to hear confirmation again.
“I do.” Kirstin nodded, her eyes widening slightly, mocking herself.
“I have to admit I almost choked on my T and T when she imparted with that little nugget,” Meg rolled her eyes.
I could do with a T and T… Kirstin looked at her watch, “I think you should ring Al.” Meg was both confused and dismayed by the change in conversation, she frowned. “People need to know what your plans are Meg.”
Megan crossed her arms, a clear indication she was not happy. “What do you mean, my plans ?”
Kirstin remained unperturbed, she was hopeful Megan would be responsive, “Well, people need to know if you're cancelling tonight.”
“I'm not going anywhere, why would I cancel the show?”
“I'm not saying you should , I'm just saying you should call them and let them know your availability.” Meg just frowned at her. “Wipe that look off your face please?” She told her dismissively, “What I'm telling you is that my call time is for twelve thirty, because Grapple has an interview scheduled at one p.m. Now we can hang out some more if you like, but if you don't tell anyone you're not going to be there, or they feel they want to do the interview without you, then I have to go.” She glanced at her wrist, “In the next fifteen minutes in fact. So you'll be hanging out with someone else.”
“I don't wanna hang out with someone else,” Meg pouted, suddenly grasping what Kirstin was trying to communicate.
“ Then call Al .”
Meg huffed, “Why couldn't you have just said that?”
“I thought I just did.”
“No, you made it sound like you were gonna to launch into a lecture about me going to see my mother.”
“Oh… well, no, I'd never do that. For a start there'd not be much point, like Jess said,” she imitated “ ‘you don't do anything you don't wannah do '…”
Meg was pulling out her phone, “That's not strictly true,” she rumbled, one perfectly arched brow rising as she searched for Al's number while carefully noting the attention Kirstin had obviously been paying to the film rushes.
“Obviously not, I'm pretending to be friends with you, when that's clearly not what I want. Hi, Al. Yeh, I'm fine, thanks. I just… er…well, I was wondering if maybe… yes… no… well, not today at least…”
Kirstin clamped her mouth shut from the half-hanging slumber it had just fallen into. She looked back into the store window, pretending once again not to watch Megan's reflection as she talked with her manager.
Megan hung up, and looked to Kirstin.
“You are my friend Megan,” Kirstin said sternly into the window.
Meg chewed on her lip briefly, “I know. I just screwed up, I know. That's not what I meant. I didn't mean I don't want to be your friend. But you know that.”
Kirstin sighed heavily, turning to her. “What's the verdict?”
“Looks like I'm free all day,” she answered tentatively, “which means you're free all day, if you'll still have me?”
“Megan you can be fucking incorrigible sometimes. Okay, you know what?” She made the decision to try to say something at least. “Here's the thing: I'm - trying to…” she breathed, “I…” she pulled a face.
“Does gurning help you think?” The comment earned Meg a frustrated slap on the arm. “Ouch!”
“Do you even know what gurning is?”
“Sure, it's when someone goes like this,” she imitated Kirstin's face pulling.
“When we get back to camp zero, I'm going to google it for you, and you're going to apologise profusely. But for now you're going to shut the fuck up, and let me speak.” Megan opened her mouth, “Ah, no Meg, shut up .”
“I was just going…” Kirstin glared, “…to say you swear a whole lot more when…”
“I've something important to say? Yes. SHUT UP! Please?” she begged.
“I'm sorry, I just get this feeling you're about to tell me something I don't want to hear,” Meg rushed.
Kirstin groaned, giving up on her initial impulse and rationalising that what she wanted to say should be exactly that, what she wanted to say, and no more, or less. And it needed somewhere she could sit and talk openly, somewhere either of them could escape from if need be. Ultimately, it needed not to have the omnipresence of Meg's current headache. It was, as she had told herself before, inappropriate.
“I can understand why you don't want to go.” Meg looked at her instinctively aware it wasn't what Kirstin had planned to say. “Trust me, I'm a coward too. It's a lot easier not to be there sometimes. And sometimes you have to forgive yourself for your self-preservation. Bravery is over-rated.”
“Are we talking about my Mom here, or?”
Kirstin gave her a smile that indicated her acceptance of the irony of her words.
“I don't want to waste today Meg, I'm really glad you want to spend it with me, because there's a lot of things I'd like to share with you.”
Meg beamed at her, “Okay. Well that's a start.”
Yes, I suppose it is.
time is definitely wasting us
Kirstin's first little secret she wished to share was The House Of Clocks. It had to be so, since there was only one appropriate time to visit this house: Midday. At twelve every clock would strike, and in a house of antiques, in which most rooms, if not all had a least one clock that chimed, that was the most impressive hour to visit. It was of course not actually named The House Of Clocks, it was a family collection of art and furniture, preserved at the request of the collectors now long gone. It was also a museum of sorts. But it was the clocks Kirstin visited, those, and of course The Laughing Cavalier, who quite aptly hung in The Great Gallery.
Having rushed Megan through the streets towards Hertford House, she was pleased that they managed to stand in front of the man himself as the magic began. For the clocks we no ordinary clocks, many of them were musical, and they all kept almost perfect time.
Megan had glanced slowly at Kirstin in wonderment, and was met with the grin of a child she couldn't help but match.
The wonderful thing about being guided through a city by someone who knew it so well was that you saw hidden mysteries, and they could often be explained. The strange names like Marylebone, became a church, St. Mary's, on the stream, or Bourne. A statue of John Smith, The hero of Virginia, and founding father, stood high and proud outside that very church. Megan found herself suddenly wishing she'd paid more attention in class.
London was a wonder in itself, simply for being so full of history. Megan had visited the Big Smoke as she had heard it called before, but never like this. It did of course help to have a tour guide whose every word she hung upon.
Roads followed old paths, often old river-ways, now relegated deep beneath the city. Unlike New York , this city was hard to navigate. Roads that started parallel rarely stayed that way, cobbles were far more common than she had at first realised, and the street names had very little directional logic.
“Why have you brought me here?” Megan felt it a little maudlin to be wandering through a cemetery, even if it was very beautiful. “I don't consider looking at graves a pastime Kay, what are we looking for?”
Kirstin smiled, here's one for a start,” she pointed at the large headstone that looked like some sort of celtic cross.
Upon closer inspection she read the name “Emmeline Pankhurst” .
Megan was silent for a moment, she looked back up at the cross, then at Kirstin. “Really?”
Kirstin nodded, “Really.”
“Shit.” She smiled suddenly. “Wow. I feel like we should have brought Jess, she wrote one of our…”
Kirstin interrupted gently, “I know, the song. That's why I thought you'd appreciate it.”
“I'd better take a picture, can I take a picture, is that weird?”
“In comparison to what?”
Meg pursed her lips in thought before digging into her bag to retrieve her camera.
When Meg was satisfied she had a good picture her eyes sought the filmmaker who had wandered off, winding through the stones clearly in search of something. She had stopped in front of another grave, and Meg pulled up next to her, eyes looking for meaning on the stonework.
It was marked ‘Mr McGregor'. Megan couldn't make the connection, she looked to Kirstin who simply smiled and strode off again, eyes raking across the stones. Again Megan followed her, silently, and Kirstin pulled up in front of another.
‘Mr Nutkin' it read. Still Megan frowned, and Kirstin smiled. “You don't recognise those names?”
“Vaguely, but I don't know why.”
Kirstin nodded for Megan to follow her, “See anything here that might join the other two?”
After a few moments of searching, Meg read out aloud “Jeramiah Fisher” a little in wonder.
“Aha, and here's the clincher,” Kirstin said, speeding up, with Meg in tow. She stood next to a grave that read ‘Peter Rabbett'.
Meg giggled in gentle joy. “Are they real?” Megan's mother had been slightly obsessive over the books she had collected in her time, and the ones these names pertained to were her most prized.
“Yes. Totally. They say Beatrix Potter used to walk through here quite often, clearly it inspired her.”
“My mom would love this.”
Meg stared at the grave, a small wave of emotion catching in her throat. “A strange sort of infamy after death,” she breathed, pulling her camera out once more. “She'd like to see these.” Turning to Kirstin, she smiled.
“Yeah,” Kirstin agreed.
Hey you, I hear you were out til late? X
Yes I was, head hurts so having a drink. Where the hell were you?! And why weren't you at breakfast? xSx
Kirstin skirted over both questions neatly.
Had some stuff to do. Has there been any mail? X
No. All very quiet here. josh took me to lunch J xSx
Did he indeed. You must tell all later. Let me know if you need me for owt. X
Will do. And u've something u'd like to tell me 2 I think? call sheet says 7pm, that ok? xSx
That's fine, see you then. Tell josh he can spill if he wants. X
Kirstin smiled at her own evil as she sent the last message.
“So what exactly is a Chelsea pensioner?” Meg had seen various signs and shops that related to the two words as they had wandered around heading for the station after their walk in the cemetery.
“The Army is based here in Chelsea , they have an old founded hospital that war veterans can retire to. There's a special uniform and everything. It's famous, if a little archaic.”
“Long red coats and three-pointed hats? I'll say…”
“What time do you want to get back for?” Though Megan had taken the day off from interviews, she hadn't forgone the evening's performance, she really couldn't justify that, even though she wanted nothing more than for this day not to end.
“I guess eight at the latest, just to check in.”
“Okay, well I'll probably need to be there for a little before then anyway.” Megan sighed. “I have somewhere else we can fit in if you like?” the agreeable nodding made Kirstin smile, “Okay, c'mon then, we'd better get a wriggle on.”
The drummer laughed at her choice of words. “Does it involve food?”
“ Joshua? ” His name was drawn out to its full potential.
“ Yeeees? ” He tried to mirror, realising he was in trouble, he just didn't know why.
“Have you been withholding?”
“What?” now he was genuinely baffled.
“Kirstin sent me a message saying to tell you that you could ‘spill' if you wanted?”
Josh blushed, momentarily misinterpreting which secret he'd been caught out with.
“I know something's going on, and I don't like being the last to know.” Suze looked very serious.
He panicked, “Er, er…”
“She's out with Megan today isn't she?”
The penny dropped, his eyes widened, “Oh, yeh… er, yes. I mean, I don't know, she didn't tell me exactly, but I expect she is.”
“I knew it! Are they… you know? Screwing?”
Again Josh wasn't sure how to answer. “Um.” He gulped. “I don't think so, not any more.”
“Not any more ? What did I miss, what gossip didn't you tell me?!”
“Kirstin asked me not to tell anyone.”
“Kirstin's a fool to think I wasn't already on to her.” Suze remarked in disbelief.
She blew out an unsatisfied breath. “Humph. So they've been…?”
“Um, well, from what I gather it was on and then it was off. I'm a little unclear about the details. Remember the argument at the party?”
Suze frowned. “Which one ?”
“Which argument, or which party?”
Suze laughed, “Both!”
Josh smiled, “At Kay's place,” he clarified.
“Aha,” she nodded for him to go on.
“Well, they definitely made up, if you know what I mean?”
Suze looked shocked. “But they were still not speaking at the airport?”
“Yeh, I don't know what happened.” His brows were knitted together, she found it endearing.
“You have ask questions Josh,” she sighed, “you'll learn. Meg was really broody last night. I knew she was down, but I thought there was more to it than whatever that phone call was about. I tried to push a few buttons.”
“I think I misjudged her.” He remarked suddenly. Suze cocked her head in question. “Well, after I realised they had a thing going on, whatever is was, I tried to make her aware that, well, she should watch her step.”
“You warned her off?”
“ Josh! ” she batted him lighted with the back of her hand.
“I know ,” he protested, “but, look at them, the whole band. I mean they're nice dudes, but you don't want them marrying your family!”
Suze looked at him startled for a moment, before smiling brightly and laughing “Family?” she asked, “Is that how you see her?”
“Yeh,” he shrugged, “just like I hated it when you were with – that man whose name I don't wish to mention.” That earned him another affectionate smile. “Though there might have been something different behind my hate for him,” he admitted by way of mumble.
Josh lifted his wine glass and took a gulp of deep ruby red. They were in a quaint little underground cavern of a bar just off Leister Square , the Cork and Bottle. Isla had recommended it as a romantic post-meal venue. Not that Suze had been party to that bit of the conversation. It only served wine, and cheese, and so it served only the very best wine, and the very best cheese. As he savoured the rich tastes moving across his tongue she watched him try to hide his jealousy.
“You can stop hating him.” Her usually harsh New York accent was softened through her smile.
He blinked. “I'll never stop hating him, he hurt you. He's an ass,” he said simply.
She laughed, touched by his unashamed loyalty. “Yes, he is,” she agreed. Then corrected herself. “ Was. ” For he was quite certainly not going to be a continued part of her life, not now that she could truly see the man before her, and what potential there might be.
“I'm not going to marry him, you know that, right?”
He looked at her, a small lump burgeoning in his throat, “Good,” was all he could manage, before quickly swallowing another mouth full in an attempt to push the lump back down. “I'm sorry I didn't tell you about Kirstin, Suze.” He finally muttered.
“You said that already. I'm not mad. I'm frustrated . I did the same stupid thing.”
Josh frowned again, “What?”
“Warned Megan away.” He laughed. “I said I thought Kirstin liked her, and that although I was sure Meg was flattered, she should not encourage her.”
“Ah, I shouldn't worry too much about that, from what I can see she does pretty much as she pleases. She's a rebel,” he said, and it struck a chord, “ She never, never does what she should ” he sang, smiling, making her snort. “I kinda think she's cool,” he confessed. “Not that I want to.” Suze continued to giggle at him. “What?”
“Lets face it, we all think they're all pretty cool. We wanna say how sad it is that they take loads of drugs and play meaningless music to crowds of sheep. But truly, deep down, they're actually all really intelligent, funny, kind people, who drink a bit too often, but laugh a lot.”
“And shag a lot.”
Suze laughed again, “Yes! Yes they do. Without boundaries. And who are we to judge?”
“That's the thing though,” he picked up some bread and started spreading some cheese on to it. “They can live without boundaries all they want,” he waved the knife, “so long as they don't impose them on one of us,” and carefully took a bite.
“Oh…” Suze breathed, as if it were a revelation. “Yeah. Do you think that's how it is?”
“I did” he chewed, gesturing with the bread instead, “but now I think Kirstin's being the ass.”
“ Really? ”
“Mmm,” he hummed, with a mouthful of bread before swallowing, “I mean, I don't know… I think Meg actually might really like her.”
Now Suze was interested in the cheese, she started to pick at it, “I thought she was brooding because her flirt for the night hadn't showed! That's why I went, to keep an eye out.”
“ No , no, Megan asked Kirstin not to go out.”
“ Really? If she likes her then why would she do that?”
“Same reason I've never been to your flat.” He shoved a strand of wavy blonde behind an ear. Suze screwed up her face at the sudden comparison. The sentence hung for a while as she tried to make sense of it. “It might sound stupid, Susan,” he went on, “but the more I knew about you, the more attached I felt I became. Seeing where you ate and bathed, and slept …” he shook his head.
“God I've been a fool!” she smiled happily at the bemused Australian. She didn't give him chance to query, “So,” she said sharply, trying to divert the conversation slightly, not trusting herself with so much wine in her belly, “we think Kirstin's head might be up her ass, is that right? That where we're at?”
“No, no, not possibly , almost definitely. And I bet I can guess why.”
Brick Lane was, even at five in the afternoon, rammed as usual. Spittelfield's market on a sunny day, even though it was indoors, attracted massive numbers of tourists, both native and foreign, and Brick Lane was where they came to eat and drink between purchases. Having squeezed through the bustle of the market, picking up a few small select items, and staring at strange art and furniture and food and people, they finally made it to a more spacious area.
Kirstin took off the trilby style hat she had purchased to shield her eyes and fanned herself, “Jeez.”
“Guess I didn't need my duffle,” Meg winked.
“Guess not,” Kirstin was a little apologetic.
“I think my stomach started eating itself,” Meg commented wryly.
“Me too, I just hope there isn't a queue!”
They crossed the square and headed towards a red double-decker bus. As they neared, Meg's confusion turned to understanding as the wonderful aromas reached her nose.
“Kay?” the woman clutching the pole at the rear end of the bus at the head of the queue, for indeed there was one, came bundling out towards them. “Kirstin?”
Kirstin looked surprised, “Jill?”
“Oh my God , how are you?!” the pretty young brunette beamed, lunging forward to hug the filmmaker fiercely.
“I'm good, really good.” Kirstin responded, “I can't believe you still work here?”
“Yeh, well, I do a little more than just work here, but essentially yes, I help out. You look great,” Jill was still beaming, her fondness evident. Then after a moment she glanced towards Meg, “Hi.”
“Oh, I'm sorry, Meg, this is Jill Hope, she and I used to share a flat together when I was studying here. Jill, this is Meg, she…” Kirstin stumbled over how to introduce her, which was the most important connection they had, “…er, she's my friend from New York ,” Kirstin took a breath to continue but was cut short, Jill was staring at her.
“I know who she is Kirstin,” she smiled, “I was at the show last night.” She extended her hand, “A pleasure to meet you, great set.”
“Oh, um, thanks. Small world I guess.”
“ Our world is, yes,” she commented. “Wow. Er… forgive me. You here to eat?”
“Yeh.” Kirstin answered, Meg nodding in avid agreement.
“Then let's get you upstairs,” she clapped her hands together exuberantly “we can catch up there.”
With that they were ushered upstairs to the table at what would be the front of the bus, clearly the most comfortable, and Jill was shouting down to the kitchen located on the bottom deck, “get Bea to take over for a bit will ya?” she grabbed a bottle of wine on her way and some glasses. Sliding in virtually on top of Kirstin and opposite Meg on the colourful velour covered bench seats, she popped the cork out with clear skill and poured them all some wine.
“So, I know why Meg's here,” she smiled congenially at her, before turning her attention to Kirstin, “why are you? Are you…?” she looked back at Meg suggestively.
“Oh, I… it's a long story but Meg's band is having a tour documentary shot, and I'm on the crew.”
Meg noted Kirstin's modesty, knowing full well that even her head role on the tour belied how important she actually really was.
“Oh, I thought you went off news casting?”
Kirstin rolled her eyes, “That didn't last long, I make commercials now, and low budget features.”
“Really? Well good for you.”
During the course of the conversation, which involved Jill explaining all the best bits of the menu, as well as securing Meg's signature, Meg learned a little more about Kirstin. The way she interacted with Jill she could almost see the pair of them as college buddies, smoking and sneaking around. Maybe even more she pondered, noting their easy physicality with each other.
“I have an exhibition on town, you should come down one night, how long are you here for?”
“Really? Where?” asked Kirstin, accepting the wine that was being poured liberally.
“The Tate?! Oh my God that's great!”
They laughed at each other. It had indeed been a long time.
“You might even recognise a few,” Jill smiled.
“I should take your number before we go.”
“Yes, you should .” Jill smiled. “You should give me hers too,” she nodded at Meg, with a wink, before leaning over and patting her on the arm, “I'm joking.”
Meg shrugged feeling boorish, “You can have my number.”
“Ohhh, you should keep an eye on this one, Kay. Be sure to bring her everywhere won't you? Right, I have to go do what I should be doing. It was lovely to meet you Megan, and,” she turned to Kirstin and hugged her tightly, “it was wonderful to see you,” the affection in her voice evident. “Leave your number downstairs okay?”
“I will,” Kirstin promised.
Jill certainly had a fair few tales to tell, Meg was almost a little sad when she left them to their meal, but she was happy to have Kirstin to herself again.
“I have to ask,” Meg muttered, “but did you and Jill… used to… you know.”
Kirstin actually blushed, “No,” she shook her head adamantly.
“Yes, I think I'd remember.”
“Not even once?”
“No! We were close, that's all.”
“She had a crush on you.”
“What? Shut up.”
“She did, I can tell. I should know I'm a fucking expert.”
Kirstin locked her jaw and pursed her lips, biting back any retort, before smiling good-naturedly. “Well you'll have her number soon, so you can find out for yourself,” she commented, teasingly, trying to hide her jealously.
“I don't want her number.” Meg stated flippantly, rolling her eyes as though it should be obvious.
As they finished their meal, both women realised they were a little more tipsy than they had intended to be.
Megan gazed at Kirstin and groaned.
It was mildly perturbing, and, Kirstin found, a little arousing. “What?”
“No tell me, what?”
“I'm having a great day, a really great day.”
“Good. You make it sound like that's a bad thing?”
Megan sighed again and bit her lip. Kirstin threw her a concerned expression, causing Megan to blurt. “You look really beautiful right now,” she stopped herself, knowing she ought not to continue. But suddenly she found it impossible, she had been thinking it all day, and the thought rushed of her lips before she could catch it. “I really wish I could kiss you.” She sensed Kirstin's discomfort, but mistook the cause. “I know, I'm sorry,” she leaned back, throwing her napkin from her lap to the table, “I shouldn't say that,” she was shaking her head, chastising herself internally for mucking up, again, “I shouldn't… you're being nice, you're being a friend… I…”
Kirstin butted in, “Oh God, this is pathetic ,” she muttered looking away briefly. Glancing back she saw that Megan had clearly taken offence, was insulted even. “No, noooo …” she leaned forward, her hand reaching across the table in an effort to get a little closer, “I don't mean you, I mean me ! I'm pathetic.” She sighed heavily, “I can't even go a week without…” she looked more pointedly at Meg, and sighed again. “Look, I really think I've been giving you the wrong impression…”
“Kirstin, don't. Let's - not do this again…”
Kirstin hated that Meg thought she wasn't wanted, wasn't craved. She hated that she couldn't properly explain her actions since the night they had been together. She hated that she didn't entirely understand them herself. But mostly she was scared that if she didn't say something, she might never be able to. And even if what she was about to say might be perceived as manipulative, or unfair, it was the simple truth, and Megan deserved as much of that as Kirstin could give.
“I really want to kiss you too, Meg.”
Meg took a moment to let the sentence penetrate. She smiled, a beautiful, emotional smile that gradually radiated across her skin. “Really?” she asked softly.
Kistin thought about making a smart comment, but held herself in check, “Really,” she nodded, with certainty.
“Well that's something,” Meg breathed. “Stop the press!” she held up both hands, “There's a new front page!” her delight was dazzling.
“It's more than something,” Kirstin answered, feeling a slight thrill, her hands betraying the nervousness she felt as she picked at non-existent fluff on her jeans. She stared down at her knee, not daring to look up, “I know I've said a lot of things, but there are other reasons, other things that I haven't told you, that make it hard for me to…” lifting her gaze to meet Meg's she found a little more courage, a little more confidence, and a lot of encouragement. “I like you, a lot . And I clearly had a crush on you in high school,” she realised, “something I haven't thought about in years. And I'm sitting here, and I want to kiss you, and,” she swallowed, “what makes it worse is that I know how good it feels to kiss you.” She drew breath.
Meg was collected, absorbing the words before guessing without judgement the ‘but' that was imminent, “But you can't.”
I won't, Kirstin corrected mentally. “God, I really wish sometimes you'd just grab hold of me and…” she couldn't verbalise her need, it was tantamount to torture.
Meg's brow rose as her mind finished the sentence Kirstin couldn't. She waited for Kirstin's exasperation to fade.
“I want to Kay, but I can't do that. You told me ‘no', I have to respect that.”
“Unfortunately for me.”
A moment of silence passed between them, each pondering similar notions as a dictionary of vocabulary was being dusted down, and flicked through. They had both reached for it, but neither seemed to be too sure of how to use it. Holding it, waiting for the other to use one of the words so they could look it up, find a true meaning. And of course there were still many, many pages missing. Strewn across a rough and arid landscape. But al least they had both jumped out of the window after it. At least they both knew where it had gone, and how to follow it.
“I can't believe you actually had a crush on me at school.” Meg was first to speak. “That's the first time you've said that. I was mostly horrible to you.”
“Because I liked you.”
Again, unlike the previous moments they had shared, that invariably left Megan so annoyed she managed to screw things up all over again, she was strangely calm, elated, but calm. “Why are you telling me all of this? I know all of this.”
“Because I'm frustrated by it, by myself. Because, if we weren't… It's stupid, I feel like a kid.” Kirstin thought hard about saying the next part. “You know, in a few months time, I can do what I want.”
Megan didn't know exactly what to say to that, but thought it sounded positive. “Okay.”
“Do you understand what I'm saying?”
“I think you're asking me to wait?” the drummer ventured.
Kirstin nodded slowly, “Is that something you would do?”
“Yes.” The answer was certain, and instant.
Kirstin barely heard her, “I mean, I know it's a long time, and we're going to see each other… all the time , and we can't make promises…” She said ‘yes', Kirstin thought, realising she hadn't even hesitated as she expected she might.
“You trying to say maybe in a few months you might have changed your mind?” Meg allowed herself to smirk.
“No, I'm thinking maybe you will. God, the way I feel right now I'm not sure I can wait three hours, never mind three months!”
Meg smiled her brilliant smile again and Kirstin felt the pang right through her.
“Will you ever tell me about the ‘other' stuff?” she asked her carefully.
Kirstin thought about it, taking a considered and even breath before answering. “I'm hoping I won't have to.”
“That's hugely frustrating, you know that?”
“Yeh, I know, I'm not… I realise it makes me sound… like… I'm not some fucked up little girl with issues . I mean clearly I have issues, who doesn't, but not… it's just complicated, and yes, in answer to your original question, I will tell you, at some point, I'll try to explain it, but I'm hoping that it will explain itself, in time.”
Not helping, Kirstin berated herself.
“O-kay,” Meg blinked. “Can I just ask one question? And you don't have to answer. And I'm probably going to regret asking.”
“Is there someone else? Only it has taken my ego this long to realise that there might be someone else, in the picture, I mean?”
Kirstin was blindsided. The picture? Her mouth hung open a fraction longer than she would have liked, “No,” she finally shook her head. “No, not… it's not like that.” There's a picture.
Kirstin watched Meg's face flicker back to a happy state, and for the first time consciously realised the reason for her continual stalling: She very much cared what Meg thought. And there was indeed ‘a picture'.
The notion of progression was clearly one she had visited mentally, but had simultaneously reeled from because it foretold a depth of feeling she was not ready to claim. Yet here it was, beginning to claim her. That was why she wanted to wait, why she needed there to be no external factors that might sway them, and it was also the reason she had to keep herself in check, because it would be so easy to ruin. So very easy.
Meg ducked her head slightly, unaware of the internal monologue running through the filmmaker's head, “Can I at least flirt with you now?”
Kirstin smiled suddenly, “Yes please,” she almost whispered.
“Then I'll wait,” she decided. “But you have to promise me something?” Kirstin sensed a little danger, but nodded all the same. “That if you change your mind, you tell me, you don't keep me hanging?”
Kirstin snorted, “I promise, but I don't think you have any need to worry. And if you decide you don't want to wait, you need to tell me.”
“I don't want to wait,” Meg beamed.
Kirstin winced at the need she felt. “You know what I mean.”
“I promise. See, we can make promises.”
“Making them and keeping them are very different things.”
“Don't I know that to be true!” she struggled with the want to slide round the table and sidle closer to Kirstin, “So I can't kiss you right now?”
“I don't think that would be a good idea.”
“Right. Just know that I want to.”
surprising little drop shot
“You're sneaky, Little Miss Sneak of Sneaksville, Sneaksilvania!”
Kirstin pulled off her now sodden coat, and hung it on the door to drip. As predicted, the heavens had opened as she and Meg had made their way back to the theatre both, trying hard not to touch one another. In a way the rain had been a Godsend. She was by now bedraggled to say the least.
“A week. Just one measly week Miss… Scoop of the Century, Gossip City , Scandal Land .
Suze was making notes on a clip board, “Just cos you deflected the questions towards poor Joshua, doesn't mean you escape the Inquisitor,” she looked up, “you know that, right?”
Kirstin sighed, pulling up her throne in front of the monitors and flicking a few switches. “Yes, I'm fully aware, but thanks for the clarification.” She sat.
“You're late as well.”
“Don't get smart. I'm still the boss, I'm never late. Even when I might be, I'm on time, got it?” she glared in jest at Suze who merely pursed her lips and stalked over throwing down a message pad in front of her.
“Why'd she call here and not my phone?” asked Kirstin looking at the note.
“To talk to me, I suppose, that's the only way she gets to know anything about you, that's what she says.”
“And you never tire of indulging her do you?”
“Nope! There's a couple of tapes for you to review if you want,” she gestured to the box by her desk.
“Some students wanted to interview Jess, the questions were pretty good, so we taped it too. I said we'd give them a credit if we should use any of it.”
“Oh, that was nice of you.”
“Did they sign…” but Suze was already holding up the disclaimer forms, with scrawled names all over it. “Good stuff.”
“So what did you and Megan get up to today?” she asked nonchalantly as though it were a banal, everyday question.
Kirstin's eyes flicked to her, sideways. “Can you at least pretend to leave it a while?”
“No. If something had happened between me and Josh, would you be hurt that I didn't tell you?”
“There you go.”
“Did something happen?” her eyes flashed and she leaned forward with excitement.
Suze snorted, “If it had, why would I tell you ?”
“Oh come on…”
“No, I'm not telling you.”
“It's not the same,” Kirstin shook her head. “How old are you?”
“Well I wouldn't have a clue whether it's the same or not, since I know nothing about it!”
Kirstin sighed. “Suze, I'm sorry if my not telling you hurt your feelings okay? But you have the biggest mouth, and there's bugger all else to talk about.”
“I can keep a secret.”
“Yes. When it's important, yes, I can.”
Kirstin looked down, knowing exactly what she was referring to. “Yes, you can. I'm sorry. I just… I didn't think it was serious, and I thought maybe the fewer people that knew the better.”
“ Josh knew ,” she said, sounding hurt.
“Only because he practically fell into us. Seriously, it wasn't even funny. No-one would have known if I could have helped it.”
“Okay. Well, we'll come back to how mad I am at you later.”
“Will we indeed?”
“Yes, we will, indeed .” Suze paused mid grabbing her chair to shoot her a stern look. Then she shuffled up next to Kirstin by the monitors and swivelled to meet her head on.
“God, what am I on now, the fifth degree?”
“No, we'll start with the third,” her assistant beamed, “So?”
“What the fuck?!” her assistant blurted.
Kirstin winced and bit her lip a bit. “I… guess I have a stupid crush on Megan.”
“A crush?! ” Suze mocked, “That's what it is?”
“Well, yeh.” She wasn't sure how else to explain it, she had been trying not to have to think about it too deeply, and talking it about it too deeply wasn't going to help either.
“Kirstin, I have a frikking crush on Megan,” Kirstin's brow hiked, “she's hot. Don't give me that. Of course you fancy her, you'd have to be blind not to!” Kirstin just shrugged like a sullen teenager in denial. “So you slept with her already?”
“Boy was I tuned out. I got that much from Josh.”
“Speaking of Josh…” her boss began.
“Oh, no, no you don't, you're not deflecting yet. I'll tell you everything when I'm finished with you.”
Kirstin blew out her cheeks, looking even more petulant, and silently thanked whomsoever had chosen that precise moment to call. She stared at her phone, blowing the air from her cheeks, then looked to Suze for permission.
“Oh fine,” she waved, “take it. But we're not done,” she told her pointedly.
Kirstin gave a sly smile of pleasure and picked up the call, “Kirstin Hart.”
“She finished grilling you?” It was Josh.
“Er, no, she's barely begun!” She craned her neck to catch Suze's eye, and mouthed “It's your boyfriend!”
“What did you say?” he asked.
“Oh, nothing, Suze is on the other phone,” she lied. “What's up?”
“Actually, it's not what's up, it's what's down.”
“I don't fucking believe this. I thought only Soho suffered mysterious blackouts?”
She and Suze hadn't noticed the distinct lack of electricity at the venue, because they were in the new and much improved live truck, which had its own generator. The feeds weren't up at that point, so as far as they knew nothing was wrong.
“Some digger somewhere cut through a mainline cable they're telling us. I have no idea if we'll get power back, but it's looking unlikely,” they overheard the venue manager telling Pete who looked very concerned and a little stressed.
Kirstin was just wondering whose insurance would be covering the losses of a sold out gig being rescheduled when her phone rang again.
“Hey Al, how are you?”
“Ah, can't complain, though I gather you can!”
“Shouldn't you be speaking to Pete?”
“Yes Missy, ah should. I just wanted to tell you lot not to worry about staying around though, think ahm gonna tell them to cancel. I've a venue that can slot another gig into your schedule sometime next week.”
“Oh, okay. Well, we took some footage of the meltdown here, it's been fun, fun, fun!”
“Ah bet it has. Is Pete there? He's not answering.”
“Oh, sure, gimme a sec.”
She walked over to Pete and apologised for interrupting, handing him her phone.
“We're off the hook tonight,” she said to Josh and Suze on her return. He's cancelling.”
“Cool!” Josh said.
“Thank God,” Suze breathed, “I think I'm still a little drunk.”
“Me too…” Kirstin admitted. “Bar?”
The other two smiled broadly.
“Did you ring your mother?” Suze asked.
“Tomorrow, I'll ring tomorrow.”
In the end, everyone had the night off, and with such late notice most people had little to do. In fact most people had eaten pre-performance as usual, so a local bar seemed a good option, one preferably with lights. As it happened, not too far across and down the road another grid kicked in, and it was a distinctly busier area tonight. Most of the stage crew had joined the film crew, and since Kirstin was there, so was Meg, with Illy tagging along like some sort of chaperone.
Kirstin was about to head to the bar when she caught sight of a very familiar face, just yards away.
“Grace? Hey…” Kirstin smiled, instinctively moving to the reporter, pausing only briefly to judge Grace's reaction, before enveloping her into a big hug.
Grace's body clearly reacted to the contact, visibly relaxing in relief.
“Hey yourself,” she muttered into Kirstin's hair, taking in her memory laden aroma. “They said at the theatre a rabble of folks came this way, I figured you'd be in it.” The filmmaker pulled back, looking at Grace in query. “It's the WIM conference this week, I'm shooting some promo's here tomorrow.”
“ Right , yes, of course.” Kirstin's recent whirlwind of activity had undoubtedly put her out of touch with the media circuit. “Why didn't you call me?”
“Because, I wasn't sure…” she took a breath as she gazed at Kirstin, and changing tack, “…if our schedules would collide,” she lied. “They only confirmed this morning.”
Kirstin took a step back, suddenly aware of their proximity in such a public space. It was residual physical memory of self-correction.
A small wave of regret washed over Grace's face.
“Can you stay?” Kirstin asked under her breath as she turned slightly, about to lead Grace toward the rest of the group.
“Gracie!” Josh jumped up to greet her.
“Hey Josh!” Grace lit up as he ambled over genially to give her a hug.
“You look really well, how are you?”
“Oh, you know, busy. Hey Suzie,” Grace nodded conspiratorially, a look that wasn't missed by Meg, who had been silently watching the proceedings.
“Grace,” Suze nodded.
Grace's eyes moved across the rest of the group.
“Oh, um, let me introduce you to the rest of the gang,” Kirstin said quickly.
There followed a brief introduction of the rest of the team, as well as the band members, including, of course, Megan. Megan couldn't be sure, but she got the distinct impression that Grace had paid special attention when her name was mentioned. She just nodded and coolly continued chomping on her carrot sticks.
“Are you busy tonight?” Grace asked Kirstin as everyone returned to their respective activities.
“Um, actually not especially, no. Why?”
“Well, I just came from the Wimbledon press conference, and I happen to have a bunch of tickets to the Pre-Party.”
“You're shitting me?”
Grace laughed, “No. I'm not. I only have five, but I can get more if people want to come?”
“Um, well…” she quickly did some arithmetic. Suze and Josh were the obvious choice, as they were Grace's friends too, with her and Grace that left one space, one lingering, ominous space. “How many more can you get?”
“How many do we need?”
Kirstin turned back to the group, “Guys? Who wants in? The PWP?”
“The PW what??”
“The Pre Wimbledon Party Joshua.”
“Serious,” replied Grace.
Suze and Josh were very eager, Ben and Jess had other plans. Sally, Amie, Laura and Sam all wanted in. Kirstin turned to Meg and raised her brow in silent question.
“Oh, I have plans. Thank you though, for the offer.”
“So eight tickets in total? Kirstin?”
Kirstin was a little dazed, “Ugh, yeh,” she turned back to Grace, “Yeah, I guess eight. Thank you.”
PWP, or not PWP, is that a question?
“So Megan, I don't mean to mean, but I know I'm not first choice tonight, and,” she held up a hand to dissuade Meg from counter argument, “I don't mind, I just don't get why you didn't want to go?” Meg sighed. “I thought you knew some of the players?”
“What happened?” Illy asked her friend plainly. “Why are you punishing her?”
“I'm not! I'm… not …” she was less than convincing.
Illy raised her brow and pursed her lips waiting for further denial.
Meg sighed again.
“What happened?” Illy pressed gently.
“Nothing. I don't know. She talks in riddles, you know? There's ‘stuff' she hasn't told me about, and… getting involved on the tour is clearly not the only problem. And then her ex rocks up, and… well, you said it, there's always an ex. And she's… Grace Novello!”
“Yeh, she's pretty hot.” Illy admitted.
Meg shot her a frown.
“Sorry. Look, I know I said there's always an ex, but it doesn't mean Grace is it.”
Meg frowned, “You mean there's more?”
“No, I mean, sometimes it's not the person that creates the problem, sometimes it's, I dunno, the whole experience, the residue. When did they split up?”
“Um…” Meg shook her head at a loss.
“See, you're worrying about something when you have none of the facts.”
“She asked me to wait.”
Illy pushed back in the leather chair, and slowly lifted a bottle to her lips, in deep concentration, letting the cool liquid slide down her throat.
When she had finished she placed the bottle back, exactly where it had stood.
“But she didn't say why?” she questioned further.
Meg's head shook again. “She said she'd be free to do what she wanted to in a few months.”
“After the tour?”
“She said that? Those words?”
“Well, no, she said ‘in a few months'.”
“How long were they going out? Do you know that?”
“Um, well at guess a good few years.”
“Like three, or like eight?”
“I don't know Illy!” Meg was exasperated.
“Okay, fine, what do you know?”
Meg thought about it, “She wants to kiss me.”
“She say that?”
“ Yes! ”
Illy held her hands up, “Okay, okay! You're just not very good at this, clarification helps. I'm not entirely confident of your interpretation.”
“But I don't want to ask a load of questions Illy, I don't want to scare her off. Until yesterday I was under the impression she had drawn a line under a one night stand.”
“She wanted you to go to that party Meg. You must've seen the equal measure of expectancy and disappointment all over her face?”
“Yeh, I know.”
“So, she's going to spend most of tonight thinking about you, and there's a part of you that likes that.”
Meg realised she was right. “I'm such a child.”
“Yes, you are. But you're blatant, not manipulative.”
“Being in a room with Grace and her, and not knowing anything about anything, I just… I don't trust myself, you know? I'm impulsive and protective, and bolshy and I was bound to have made a fool out of myself if I'd gone.”
Illy frowned sympathetically. “She was pretty imposing.”
“She's a political correspondent and I'm a dumb assed drummer in a band!” Meg took a gulp of beer and looked down from their balcony to the dance floor which was filling up.
“Well I guess that makes me a dumb singer in a band…”
Meg looked at her, “You write, Illy, people hear what you have to say.”
“I don't have much to say Meg.”
“Shut up,” Meg joked, “It's the not same.”
“It is the same, it's exactly the same. You write music, great music. Maybe you don't always feel it, but I know you pour your heart out each night on stage.”
“I'm banging fake animal skins with bits of wood.”
“And you wrote some of those songs.”
“A long time ago.”
“Who cares when you wrote them?! If someone like Tori Amos stopped writing, would it make her any less of a genius?”
Meg's eyes widened, “I know you're not comparing me to her!”
“Why the hell not? Just because you haven't written anything in a while, doesn't mean what you have written is any less profound! You know what, I changed my mind, you are a dumb idiot!” Illy remarked playfully.
A moment of silence lingered between them, during which the two of them surveyed the scene below, allowing the quaint music to infiltrate their consciousness.
Her gaze fixed on the crowd Illy spoke softly, “Don't tell Jess I said this but your songs are my favourite. And you could give Grace Novello a run for her money any day. You're different, Meg. And maybe that's what Kirstin is looking for.”
“Maybe,” Meg sighed. “And thanks.”
“You're welcome.” Then she sat up, having spotted something, “ There she is!”
“Black suit down by the bar.”
Meg peered over the edge seeing a very striking woman with blond hair pulled back into a ponytail waving up at them.
“She's hot.” Meg stated.
Illy smiled the broadest smile Meg had seen her smile, as she waved back, “Yes, I know . And guess what? She hasn't a clue!”
Meg smiled, “Sure she does!” The blond was miming her question of drinks to Illy, who was nodding and doing some sort of hand gesture. “What are you, twins?! What did you just order?”
“I ordered us Majito's!”
“How in the hell?”
Illy slouched back into her chair, keeping a sly eye on her woman at the bar. “She's an interpreter, remember?” Though Megan had never had the pleasure of meeting Illy's girlfriend, she certainly had heard a lot about her.
“Sign language? That was sign language? You know sign language?”
“I know enough to order anything I want at the bar!” she smiled. “And enough to generally get what I want.”
“I'd say you got what you want.”
“Yes I did.”
“So where does she work?”
“All over, embassies mostly, I've haven't seen her in two weeks.”
“I'm guessing that feels like a long time?”
“Yeeahhh, it certainly does.”
“But you get to see her a lot usually?”
Illy frowned as she looked at her. “Well, we try to schedule our travels at the same time, but… it's not easy. It'd be easier if one of us wasn't on a career path, but ambitious people are drawn together I guess. I'd love to be able to take her on tour, but she'd get bored.”
“She could sign your shows!” Meg spluttered.
“Oh, yeh, she already has. That's how I picked her up.”
“At a festival.”
“You never told me that!”
“Wait, I'm confused, I thought you met her at some press party?”
“Oh, yeh, I did, but…” Illy took a breath, “Have I really not told you this story?”
“No. Hot – check, Norwegian – check, day job – check, family history – check… festival signing? No. Definitely not.”
Illy stood up, “Hey beautiful,” she sang taking two cocktails from her and passing one to Meg, who also felt obliged to half stand.
“Hey yourself,” the woman, who now she could see her better Meg thought would fall under the very blonde of hair catagories, leaned in and kissed Illy full on the lips, before turning her attention to their guest.
“Aud, this is Meg, a good friend I met in New York what feels like a hundred years ago. She likes Wolfblass wine and comic books, and is currently making a mess of a romantic liaison. Meg this is Aud, my girlfriend of three years and six months. She likes science fiction, lives in a castle, and I saw her for the first time one sunny day at a festival in Norway .”
Aud, who the whole time had been smirking indulgently and waiting for her moment to speak, now looked at Illy in question.
“I know,” Illy responded, “Apparently I didn't tell her that bit.”
“Wow, that's a first!” Aud rolled her eyes and extended her hand to Meg who took it, “A pleasure to finally meet you Meg.”
“Likewise,” she smiled and relinquished the firm handshake to sit back down.
Meg was familiar with Illy's manner of introduction, it was the first thing she had done when they met, she asked that everyone be introduced by name and at least one interesting fact. She said it always prevented an introduction from being forgotten, and never failed to start up decent conversation instantly.
She was right of course. Meg wanted to ask her about the castle now, as well as their meeting, and Aud wanted to know about Meg's lack of romance.
“You have to tell me now,” Meg said quickly, trying to initiate conversation away form herself.
Illy looked at Aud, “Go on,” the interpreter said, “Why stop now?” she smiled easily taking a sip of what Meg thought must be a Manhatten.
“Maybe you should tell it?”
An eyebrow cocked, “Okay, but it'll be a lot shorter.” Megan noted that Aud's accent wasn't what she had expected, she sounded almost English, with a slight American slant. She supposed it was to do with how she'd learned the language, and where she used it most. It reminded her of Kirstin. “I met Illy,” Aud began, “like she said, at a festival. I was volunteering, signing for the acts. Control Zed were obviously playing, and their lyrics are, well,” she imitated an upper class English accent, “can make one blush…” she smiled, gaining a nudge from her girlfriend. “It seems Isla here paid a lot of attention to the rude bits I was interpreting. Something I only became aware of when she started signing them back to me at Frank's party a few weeks later.”
Megan looked both perplexed and amused.
Illy piped up, “Well, okay, it lacks a certain finesse, and definitely lacks romance, but that's about the gist of the story.”
“What…?” Meg began.
“Did I sign?”
“Yeh,” she finished.
Illy actually blushed, prompting Aud to step in. “'I wanna fuck you all over this town.' That's what she signed to me. In a room full of people.”
Meg spat what drink she hadn't been able to swallow all over the table in front of them. Looking apologetic and frantically wiping both her face and the table, ignoring the burst of laughter from the other two she remarked, “Was that the first thing you, er, communicated? You hadn't spoken to her before then?”
“No, well, unless you count my attempt to seduce her with my eyes,” Illy answered.
Aud continued to laugh.
“Was that all you signed?”
“That was all I could remember.”
“Thank God, that song gets pretty rude,” Aud added.
Meg started to laugh now, “Yeah. Good job no-one could… I mean, no-one else understood you, right?”
“She was lucky, my colleague had just stepped out.”
“ And? ” Aud's face said ‘what?', “You're not telling me that was enough for you guys to fall into bed and be done with it?”
Aud laughed gently, “No. No, my colleague came back just as Illy decided to repeat the phrase, so I had to dash over and stop her.”
“I didn't know,” Illy breezed. “I was just gonna repeat the first bit until she did something about it.”
“You are so bad,” Meg chided with humour.
“It was true ,” Ily implored, “She might not have noticed me at the festival, but I couldn't take my eyes off her. I watched most of the other acts just so I could get a better look.”
“ God , you must've been hooked, you never watch the other bands!” Meg joked.
“Told you,” she gave Aud a poke.
“I noticed you,” Aud responded.
“ Really? ” Illy clearly didn't believe her.
“Yeh. I just didn't think you were gay.”
“You always say that, but I stare at beautiful people whether I think they're gay or not.”
“And come on to them.”
“Yeh. It's rude to assume anything about someone's sexuality, so that shouldn't be a reason for not approaching them. However it's also rude to assume someone is available. I took care of that bit.”
“Yes you did,” Aud sighed.
Meg was looking a little lost. “I asked Frank who the top ten most eligible women at his party were,” Illy filled her in.
“Top ten,” Aud repeated, “Not, ‘Hey is that cute interpreter single?' Top ten run down for Miss Valente if you please.”
Illy was grinning at her, “Well, what if you had turned me down?”
“Like that was going to happen.”
“And did you?” Meg asked.
“Fuck her all over town?”
The two women grinned.
The Pre-Wimbledon party was on the surface a rather polite press opportunity to picture players wearing something other than whites. But if you dug a little deeper, it was just a party, like any other, full of people trying not to drink more than they ought, because most had an early energetic morning ahead. A party on a school night for most, but not all, and even some of those that were up early wanted to have some fun.
Grace and Kirstin knew each other well, and merely by the drinks they ordered, they knew they were both destined to be a little worse for wear come the morning.
Grace rather impressively knew a few key players, and the rest of their gang had mingled quite well with the tennis crowd. Some people clearly cared who you were, but there were a fair few non-players and minor celebrities for people to find amusement. Kirstin had been enjoying the evening overall, she had sulked for about an hour because Meg had not joined them, but she tried not to think too heavily on the reasons why. And it was easy to have fun with Grace, to sit and gossip, and catch up, and drink. Yet there was an underlying agenda that Kirstin sensed. She didn't want to, but she couldn't shake it. And when Kirstin couldn't shake something, she had to stir it instead.
“Grace, don't take this the wrong way, but, well, why are you here?”
Grace frowned, “For the conference. And the tennis,” she answered simply.
“That's not what I mean, and you know it. Don't play games.”
“It's the truth. I'm not really sure what you expect me to say?”
Kirstin sighed, “Okay.”
“You think I came here for you?” Grace wasn't stupid, and she knew how it looked, and how Kirstin's mind worked.
“You think I came all this way and attended a conference, because I knew you were here?”
“It's a little coincidental,” she admitted.
“It's an international conference, Kirstin, about women in the media. Something I know you'd be attending if you weren't cavorting across half the world being rock and roll,” Grace fended off the roll of Kirstin's eyes and her impending objection by qualifying her comment, “and something I had no say in the location of.”
“Maggie told me you were in town, and I thought it would be nice to see a friendly face.”
“You called my Mother ?”
“No,” Grace corrected, “she called me.”
“She calls you? My mother calls you?”
Kirstin sighed, realising that was probably the reason for the call her mother had made to her, which remained as of yet unreturned. “I'm sorry.”
“I'm not stalking you Kirstin.”
“I meant I'm sorry you have to fend off phone calls from my mother. And of course I don't think you're stalking me.”
“I actually like your Mom.”
“Is she trying to get us back together?”
“What did she say?”
“She told me I was stupid, and selfish and that she liked me as a daughter-in-law and that I should do something about it.”
“And what did you say?” Kirstin was wary.
“That I agreed completely, but that I can't give you the one thing you want, so I was fresh out of ideas. And that you were moving on, and for once I should let you try.”
Kirstin looked at Grace. Impeccable Grace, a woman whose poker face was almost impossible to see through. From her demeanour she could have been talking about golf, or tennis Kirstin supposed was more fitting. Nothing gave her away, not in public. So well practised was the art of her complete nonchalance. It was instead, her voice that wavered. And not even so much as her tone, which remained even and calculated, but rather her choice of words, the rush of her sentences.
“You gave me a lot of things I wanted. And you never tried to stop me moving on.” Kirstin heard herself and realised that she could be misinterpreted. “I don't mean that you should, I just mean that you never had to before.”
They hadn't talked much of Meg. Grace thought her absence was noted, and it was probably not a good idea to highlight it by asking questions.
Kirstin thought about that genuinely, she shook her head gently, “No, before now .”
Grace accepted the subtle difference that was being offered, even if she didn't understand it. “If my calling on you was inappropriate, I'm sorry, Kay. If you'd rather we have less contact, or no contact, I understand. Just know it's not what I want.”
“Can you stop being so damned giving?” Kirstin snapped. “Stop being so nice about it, Grace. It's not nice, this is horrid. I hate this. I hate that I feel like I'm being unfaithful just being here, just talking like this.”
“I didn't start…”
Kirstin cut Grace's defense down.
“I know . I know you didn't, I did.”
Unfaithful? Kirstin had confused herself. Sometimes when she was with Meg she felt a little like this. As though she were doing something she shouldn't. She had attributed it to her job, and all the reasons surrounding that would prevent them being involved. She recently realized her previous relationship with Grace was also a factor, but she had figured it was past tense. Now she was confused.
“You really like her,” Grace uttered gently.
Kirstin answered by scrunching up her face and sighing.
“Maybe I'm not the one you should be talking to…”
“No, you're really not.”
Grace ignored the comment, “… But what's stopping you?”
Kirstin looked at her sharply, unbelieving. “W…?” she began, “ You . Obviously. You. Don't ask stupid questions. If you're going to ask stupid questions, then…”
“Okay, sure, I get there are probably lots of reasons concerning me, that might make you reticent, but truly, I'm not holding back, I'm not actually stopping you.”
“Oh, well, no, I mean, you're still technically , publicly, straight, so there's no competition there,” the filmmaker remarked with derision, immediately realising how much she must have drunk for that comment to even have crossed her mind. Grace smiled sardonically. “And either you're actively encouraging me, or you're looking for a little ego boost, I'm not sure. But it's weird.” Kirstin pouted, “I don't wanna have this conversation, Grace. Especially not with you.”
“ Ego boost ?” Grace couldn't not respond, it was insulting. “You think this is pleasurable for me Kirstin? You think I want to have this conversation with you? Where you tell me that you like someone, really actually like them?” Grace blew out a long breath full of pain. “I want you to be happy, Kay. When I see you, I want you to be happy . And guess what? That's gonna hurt like hell if it's with someone else, but at least you'll be happy . Yet here you are telling me it's my fault you're not pursuing Megan. And you're clearly not happy.”
Kirstin also blew out a long breath and looked out into the room full of important people. Everyone networking, seeking opportunities. But not her, and not Grace, they had never done that, never played that game, no matter how career driven they both were. “I really miss you sometimes.”
It came out of nowhere, and Kirstin shocked herself with the admission, wishing fervently she had kept that to herself, for no other reason than she also knew she was hoping it would spur Grace to say something similar.
“Well,” the anchor began, “that's the difference between you and I.” Kirstin braced herself in confusion. “I miss you all the time,” she told her. The blonde's brow knit. “You're not holding back because of me Kirstin, you're holding back because of you .” Kirstin considered that carefully, as Grace prepared to ask a very telling question. “Are you still waiting for me to come out?” The filmmaker was stumped. “You just referred to me as still being straight…”
“I know what I said.” Grace waited. “I don't know, G, I honestly don't know. I've waited for that for so long, it's - hard to relinquish.”
“One day I will, Kirstin.”
Kirstin nodded. Somehow she knew that Grace was telling her this not to entice her, or give her hope, but rather to prepare her for the idea that one day she would do what Kirstin had always wanted her to do. And she would not be doing it for Kirstin, but because it was time. And Kirstin would be the only person it wouldn't benefit.
It wasn't something that had occurred to her before, and now that it had it weighed heavily. She took another slug of the well made but potent drink in front of her.
“So you live in a castle?”
“And you have a romantic interest?”
The two women regarded one another.
“I know what's more interesting,” Aud smiled.
“To you . To me a castle sounds like the perfect diversion.”
“I like you. You're, blunt. I like that.”
“Blunt. That's a semi-nice way of putting it.”
Illy had popped out to go meet some friends that had flown over and had no idea how to get to the club they were in, mostly because it was hidden away, like so many places Meg seemed to be ushered into. Illy thought they were getting along quite well enough for them to be unattended. And indeed she was quite correct. Despite a hundred differences, the pair had a hundred similarities, a penchant for brief but honest discourse being but one.
“I do what I do because I enjoy taking what people have said and eeking out the kernel of meaning, learning their intention, and trying to phrase it succinctly. You'd be amazed how flowery some people's language can be, at important times as well. I hate things that are laid open to, well, interpretation .” She laughed at herself.
“I suppose it helps if you know the people you work with well?”
Aud raised her brow, and then lowered it as she seemed to agree and then strongly disagree with the statement within the question.
“Actually, the better I know them, the more I'm likely to read into what they've said, and there's a tendency to want to get involved and make corrections, rather than to simplify the interaction. So no, I think having a good knowledge of the subject is useful, but knowing underlying agendas can be destructive.”
“Do you know a lot about women, Aud? Their complex too-ing and fro-ing, their fears? That's where I need help.”
“ Sure ,” she laughed, “why do you think I'm with Illy?”
“Because she knows what she wants.”
“And she's not afraid to sign it out loud,” Aud joked. “C'mon, tell me what's going on, maybe I can shed a little unfettered light on the situation. I doubt it, but I can try.”
Meg deflected, “How old are you?”
“Does it matter?”
“No, I just… you're hard to age, in a good way.”
“I'm thirty five.”
“And you love her?”
“You can't tell?” Aud mock-acted her surprise.
Meg nodded with a smile, “Yeh, I can.”
And it was true. She had seen it from the moment they made eye contact over the balcony, a kind of connection, that they were both aware and affected by one another's gaze. That even when they weren't conversing, or watching one another, they were fully aware of the each other's movements. They only had to talk in half finished sentences, and they could pre-empt the direction of entire conversations. And it didn't happen in a way that made Megan think it must be boring to know someone that well, but rather in a way that meant they could forego the rudimentary conversations of life and skip straight to the good stuff.
Yes, she could see it. And it was wonderful, inspiring. She was jealous.
“I love her more than my job. And my job is my life.”
“She's lucky. You're lucky, both of you.”
“I think the trick is not to expect, and to take each day as it arrives. And never let them become your best friend.”
Megan pulled a face, “Oh… well, maybe I'm screwed then.”
Meg spent the next half hour filling Aud in on what had been a whirlwind of activity and confusion since she and Kirstin had crossed paths again. It was good to talk to someone who didn't really know either of them, and could listen to the stories and comment without wanting to affect her decisions. The people who had talked to her about Kirstin had all been Kirstin's friends, over-protective and agenda bound, Illy had been the first of her friends she had opened up to, and Aud was equally good at pointing out the logical conclusions.
And it was these conclusions she needed to hear, to know that she should sit it out and wait and allow Kirstin to come to her. That she should give her time, but that she should insist that at some point Kirstin open up, when she was ready. Aud told her that leaving questions unanswered indefinitely only led to mistrust, and resentment, and insecurity.
“If she says she'll tell you, and she never does, then you'll continually worry about it. Nothing can be that bad that it should indefinitely go without being spoken about. If it's that bad, maybe you don't want to get involved.”
“What do you think it could be?”
“I think what Illy told you is right, I think you should look to the last relationship she was in, that's usually the cause for holding back, whatever way it manifests. And don't blame her. It sounds to me like she wants some sort of slate to be clean. And that, my friend, can only be a good thing. Maybe she has a very good reason for not telling you what's written on that slate.” Megan sighed. “You must have a slate too? Everyone has a slate, or two.”
“Oh, sure. But I've been scrubbing at mine for years. Trouble is people insist on rewriting the same damn slogan on it!”
“What does it say?”
“Ouch. You mean, people cheating on you?”
“Yeah.” Megan didn't mind the fact that Aud had to clarify. She wasn't insulted. A lot of people thought of her as a philanderer, but Megan in a relationship was a whole other ballgame.
Relationship? Shit, that's what I'm actually… considering. That's what I want.
“Yeh, I just, I… I was practically in love with this woman when I was school, you know? As in love as a fifteen year old can be anyways. It's kinda scary. I never dreamed I'd ever even meet her again, much less that we'd get along, that she'd see why I tormented her for years, understand even. Or forgive me.”
“You said yourself, she told you she had a crush on you even back then.”
“That's all love is Meg, a continual crush. We dress it up and make it sound terribly important, and life threatening from time to time, but being in love, is merely a pleasant infatuation. Until it is not. It's conditional, just like everything else. The less weight you give it, the more you can enjoy it.”
“Do you do seminars?”
This is a stupid thing to do, it's stupid, I shouldn't do this. “If I were sober, I probably, in all likelihood, wouldn't be doing this.”
Kirstin had left the party, with everyone she had arrived with, at a reasonable hour, as far as parties go. She had been photographed with people whose names she could barely remember, for reasons completely unknown, except to say that Grace clearly had pulling power even this side of the Atlantic . She had hugged Grace, and smiled and told her she would call when she was back in New York , and she had meant it. But during the Taxi ride home Kirstin had been quiet, deep in thought. Suze and Josh had chatted amiably, allowing Kirstin her thoughts. What they didn't know was that it was one thought, singular. In fact it was a need, bouncing around inside of her, wanting just to break out.
She'd said goodnight to them in the lift, grateful they were on another floor, and began climbing the stairs back down a few floors. Now she was here she had a sense of déjà vu.
“Oh, hey!” Kirstin almost laughed. “I'm sorry, I didn't actually think you'd be in.”
“Well, I am?”
“Yes, you are. Um…” Kirstin suddenly lost her mirth. “I just… I… I was hoping you might want to…”
Kirstin stopped, hearing laughter coming from inside Meg's room, and saw a blond ponytail bobbing up and down in mirth.
“You have company…” Kirstin winced, “Of course you have company - you had plans, and now you have company.” She raised her brow feeling stupid, and foolish.
“Kay, it's not…” Meg started, “It isn't…”
“Any of my business.” Kirstin finished for her, “That's what it's not. I'm sorry, Meg, I shouldn't have…” she shook her head, frowning. “I'll see you tomorrow, okay? Have a good night.”
Meg stood in the doorway frustrated. She didn't know what Kirstin had called in for, what she expected, or wanted from her, but after spending the day and most of the evening with her ex, she had come and knocked on her door. And that meant something didn't it? It had to.
She glanced back into the party filled room, then down the hallway to where Kirstin was waiting for the elevator with some embarrassment.
Kirstin heard Meg's door click shut.
“ Fuck, ” she breathed, scrunching up her face. There was a bing and she stepped into the lift, muttering, “Stupid, stupid, stupid, Kay! You're drunk, and you're stupid ! You told yourself it was a stupid thing to do, and well, now you can't complain for proving yourself right.” She punched the button marked five. “Ow!” Then kicked the wall of the lift in anger, not learning her lesson. This time she bit back the painful yelp, and took a deep breath.
She felt a sting behind her eyes, but fought it, and told herself, that being drunk, embarrassed, and now in pain, a tear was forgivable.
She slammed her room door shut, flung her coat on a nearby chair, and then put her head in her hands, cross with herself for acting like a teenager.
The knock on the door was so hesitant Kirstin barely heard it. She turned and stared, until a further knock confirmed it was indeed coming from her door.
Her heart sank at the thought that it might be Megan, and she'd have to not only explain her behaviour, but also deal with how she was feeling right now. Then it sank a little further at the prospect that it might not be her.
She moved to the door, peeking first through the spy-hole, confirming both her hope and fear in one.
“Meg,” Kirstin stated upon opening the door.
Meg stood there, now realising that she hadn't really thought about what she would say once she'd arrived. Clearing her throat she began, “I did have company, and now… I don't , ” she said simply, as if it explained everything.
Kirstin hadn't expected that, a myriad of sentiments seemed to pass over her face.
Megan was tired of clutching at straws, and not knowing what the right thing was to say.
“Look, I don't know why you were knocking on my door at one in the morning, but whatever it was, I'm here now.”
Kirstin watched Meg's earnestness with intent, unable somehow to vocalise now what she had so wanted only moments ago as she had pulled up in front of Meg's door. Now, somehow, it couldn't be purely visceral.
“Do you need to talk?” Meg asked.
Especially not now. Not now Meg had put thought and kindness before the act. After she had probably spurned someone else for her. After she had made Kirstin her priority. After she had done these things purely on the basis that Kirstin possibly needed to merely talk.
“Not talk , no.” Kirstin uttered.
“Then? Look, Kay, you're going to have to say it, because I don't want to presume…”
Presume what? That I want to use you for sex? Kirstin felt a little upset by the notion. But the more she thought about it, the more she understood she wouldn't get what she wanted if she tried to understand exactly what it was that she wanted.
If it was just sex, she should tell Meg to leave. If it wasn't just sex, she should definitely tell Meg to leave. All thoughts seemed to involve telling Meg to leave, and that was the only thing Kirstin was sure she didn't want.
“I don't want to talk ,” she repeated, a little ambiguously, afraid to state any more.
“O-kay.” Meg waited for any further instruction, but Kirstin just gazed at her, apparently stuck. “Should I go?”
Kirstin shook her head and reached for Megan's hand, pulling her into the room, and closing the door gently behind her. They stood opposite one another, Kirstin having regrettably released Meg's hand, was leaning on the door. She took a breath.
“What did I interrupt?” she asked her, she needed to know.
“Nothing, Kirstin. I went out with Illy tonight, to meet her girlfriend. I was gonna invite you, but you got a better offer.”
The tension slumped from Kirstin's shoulders. “I'm sorry, I… I wanted you to come to the party.”
“Then you should have asked me.” Meg pointed out. Kirstin nodded, feeling foolish. “And I would have told you why I couldn't go.”
“It would have been weird if I'd gone, Kirstin.”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I know.” She pushed hair from her face. “I'm sorry.” She winced, her stomach turning.
“You okay?” Meg frowned.
A brow raised, “I'm drunk.”
Meg smiled, “Need some water?”
“That's a good idea,” Kirstin said, pushing off the door, putting a hand to her head. Feeling queasy hadn't been on her agenda. She wasn't entirely sure what was, but it wasn't this.
“I'll get it,” Meg said moving off to grab a glass and head to the bathroom.
Kirstin headed into the main room, and plonked herself unceremoniously on the sofa, closing a single eye, wondering why she still thought it was okay to mix drinks.
“Here,” Meg was back in seconds and handing her the fresh glass. She wasn't sure if she should sit, still not sure whether she should stay, or what indeed was happening. Her indecision was easily read.
“You want to sit?”
Meg looked at the inviting seat next to Kirstin, wondering where it might lead. Thinking perching on the bed opposite might be safer, she plumped for that.
Kirstin laughed at what she took for a chivalrous gesture.
“I won't bite you know?”
“I'm kinda hoping you will,” the drummer smiled with a glint in her eye.
Kirstin cocked her jaw before taking a long gulp of water. “That's new information,” she teased placing the glass down on the heavy expensive looking wooden table to her side, not even looking for a coaster.
“Why'd you come to see me, Kirstin?” she asked, no wanting to get serious, but not sure where else they could go.
“I wanted to see you,” she responded simply, and smiled, a little embarrassed. “I think I had some notion of pushing you against a wall and kissing you senseless.”
“You must be drunk!”
Meg got up and moved forward to Kirstin. She dropped to her knees in front of the blonde, who was startled, and hesitant. Meg pushed her legs apart gently and moved closer, settling herself between them, reaching for Kirstin's cheek with one cupped hand, pushing more of the dirty blonde hair back with the other.
Kirstin was stilled, watching her, unable to fully respond, not knowing what her response should be anymore.
“When you're not drunk,” Meg said gently, “and you get that impulse, don't hesitate. Okay?”
Kirstin gulped. She could feel the tingle of Megan's breath on her face. She slowly closed her eyes, and bit he lip again, nodding.
“Okay,” she answered, opening her eyes, understanding Meg's message and knowing she was right. She had been the one to put on the constraints, only she could remove them, and she couldn't use diminished responsibility as an excuse. “You're right.” She would wake up tomorrow, and then go and knock on Megan's door. Yes, her drunken mind sang, yes, that's what I'll do.
Meg tore herself away, standing, giving Kirstin's thigh a squeeze as she did so. “Sleep it off, I'll still be here tomorrow.” Yes, you will. “You need anything? Will you be okay?”
“I'll be fine, thank you Meg. I'm sorry.”
“It's okay. You're really testing me though,” her eyes widened with the truth of it as she spoke.
“I'll break you yet,” Kirstin joked with a squint.
“I have no doubt. G'night.”
Continued in Part 12
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Thanks to Jen for beta duties. Ax