Copyright © 2009 A.Matheson. All Rights Reserved.
Feedback: good/bad/ugly, all welcome if constructive. Though flattery is sought.
by Antonia Matheson
Part nine: Blighty
Words and fists
If you make your hand into a fist and push the non-thumb endowed side of it against a steamy window in a vertical fashion, it is possible to create the beginnings of a large fairy footprint. By taking the fingers from the same hand and in turn adding their individual prints in running order to the top of the formation, you can complete the effect by forging the toes.
Such a development had clearly taken place, moving neatly, and precisely, diagonally across the large curved window in front of Kirstin. She studied it with intent; foot by fingered foot. Such care, such attention, had been paid to every subtle nuance; such delight had clearly been taken in the process of the task.
A little person had walked all over this ever-changing transparent canvas, a little person with gravity defying skills. In truth, it was in fact a big person playing at being a little person. This appealed to Kirstin’s inner child all the more. She smiled broadly at the notion, almost fondly, and contemplated the myriad of people it might have been.
Pulling out a hand from the pocket where it had been recently stuffed she circled one of the footprints with her finger. Without really knowing why, she pulled a straight line from the circle and used it to label the footprint with the word “Lefticle”.
Looking back at her in what had manifested itself as a half obscured reflection in the glass, she caught the eye of an older, mischievous looking gentleman who simply smiled kindly and turned away.
Then a jumbo jet came into focus. And so too did the rest of the day ahead.
It had been three days since Kirstin had last spoken to Megan. She had, of course, seen her briefly the night before when the crew had followed the band into a late night radio interview at Rude Boy Radio in NYC, but the pair of them barely had time to exchange glances, never mind speak.
Kirstin wasn’t quite sure how things would be played out. After all, no matter how professional she wanted to be, the fact was that Meg had become her friend and today of all days Kirstin needed Meg to be just that; to be her friend, to sit with her on the plane, to talk shit and play games and tell her not to order another whisky because she knew she hated the stuff and that it didn’t make her feel better.
But how could she do that? How could she look at Meg, and accept those small acts of friendship, which she was sure would be offered, without picturing her naked? Would she blush? Would everyone see it?
No, don’t be fucking stupid Kaye… In any case you’re going to be far too preoccupied with the whole ‘flying in a plane’ thing to be concerned with the whole ‘I’ve seen you naked and you’re fucking beautiful’ thing.
The problem was that Megan had made flying less of an ordeal, and thus, Kirstin knew, she was clearly in some kind of trouble.
Oh the irony. Because I need you here, I don’t want you here, because if you’re here I’ll be okay, and that means I’ll be thinking about my reaction to you, and not the flying. But I don’t want you to not be here, because that’s worse than worrying about whether anyone will notice any change between us.
What to do, what to do? Kirstin frowned and balled her fist, pushing it rhythmically against in lips with each what to do and finally chewing on a knuckle.
“You okay?” it was Suze bearing drinks.
Kirstin twisted and looked up from her ringside view of the planes, relieving her hand from its toothy exchange.
“Oh, yeh… Yes, I’m just…” she waved a hand vaguely in her customary manner of deflection.
Josh pulled up behind Suze, sipping hot coffee and wearing shades, cocking his head obviously trying to work out what the window art was all about.
“Yes, thinking,” continued Kirstin turning fully round and leaning against the metal bar that was the only thing other than the actual window separating her from a fifty-foot drop into tarmac.
“About planes?” Suze hazarded a guess while handing Kirstin her hot beverage.
“Um…” Kirstin unfurled her fisted fingers to accept the beverage.
“Or about Meg?”
The said beverage was suddenly gripped extra-tight for fear of dropping it unexpectedly. Kaye’s eyes flicked to Josh in what she hoped was a well-hidden question. He caught her panic and pulled his shades down so as to convey his assurance that he hadn’t revealed anything to Suze, just as he had been told. He shook his head dumbfounded.
Kirstin looked back to Suze who seemed not to have noticed their communication.
“I’m sorry?” she asked Suze, in as mild a manner as possible.
“We all heard…”
“Heard what?” Kirstin’s heart started to race but she kept her voice in check.
“About your little, ‘incident’ at the weekend? At the party?”
Kirstin had learned over the years that when you were put in a position of not knowing how much your adversary knew, and you were caught unawares by some potential revelation, the very best thing to do was to stop speaking and encourage them to continue. Invariably they weren’t aware they had stumbled across any secrets, and panicking only served to arouse further suspicion.
Kirstin was often too clever for her own good.
Suze qualified herself.
“You and Meg, you had a little altercation, a little word? I left you to it, figured you could handle yourself and that she was probably apologising… Did you work it out?”
Joshed faked a coughing attack in order to cover his sniggering. Kirstin thought it was rather conspicuous and tried to talk over him in a measured manner.
“That is to say we still have some things that need working out.”
“But, you’re talking to one-another now?”
“Um, actually, I don’t really know… but I sort of need us to be talking today… did you see her yet?”
Kirstin was mostly aiming the question at Josh, who, being the only person fully aware of the situation, or as near as anyone could be, had become Kirstin’s only aide. She had told him to keep lookout, she wanted to speak to Meg as soon as she could, preferably in private.
But as all stoners know, you can’t always get what you want.
The holler was unmistakable, and despite being piercing, it was somehow distant. The small stampede that pre-empted its owner’s arrival however was evidently gaining momentum fast, and definitely heading in their direction.
Two speeding, noisy, and rather unsteady figures bowled their way through queues of people, scattering them in all directions.
Ben pulled up first, being ahead and recognising some familiar faces. Megan was still howling with laughter and had slowed slightly to view Jess trying to reach them through the carnage of their wake.
She had no idea that Ben had pulled up sharp, and thus she slammed right into the back of him.
Both stumbled and crashed to the ground.
“Fuck… Aw…” Meg turned over with a scrunched face to chastise Ben. “Dude I think I broke my ass!” she pushed him for good measure before leaning on her hands to push herself up.
Just as she did so she noted a small crowd with varied reactions from the slightly amused to the definitely shocked. Josh was clearly amused. He leant down to give Ben a hand up. Suze seemed more nonchalant. Kirstin was…
Megan looked right at her, failing miserably to find any appropriate words, the smile having quickly fallen from her face.
Shocked, she thought, she’s shocked, like deer-in-headlights kinda startled.
Megan was suddenly very irritated and tore her eyes away, brushing herself off and avoiding any further eye contact with any of them.
“Good morning y’all,” she drawled to the ether in as light a manner as she could muster.
Maintaining composure however when Jess was around was a rather hard thing to do. Especially when you had just succeeded in making her look like an idiot.
Megan found herself once again on the floor, this time winded and pinned down by a vengeful looking Jesse.
“You’re gonna pay for that…” Jess sneered in a low, angry, suggestive growl.
Megan regained her sense of humour in a matter of seconds.
“Why, what are ya gonna do?” she affected Texan back at the singer who was practically straddling her.
Jess smiled for a moment, a coy, slow, satisfied smile.
“You have no idea how far I’ll go do you? You still haven’t learned…”
Then Jess changed her voice completely, from sassy to dumb, from aggressor to victim.
“This is her!” she shouted to some unseen ethereal people. “This is the one I saw officer.”
In the small chaos that had followed their entrance no-one had quite registered that there were two uniforms heading in the same direction. They marched solidly towards the pair embroiled on the floor and while one leant Jess a kind hand up, the other dragged Megan up to her feet and began chanting her rights.
“What the fuck?!”
“Anything you do say…” continued the lawful diatribe.
Megan twisted around as she was heaved away.
“What the fuck did you tell them?” she glared at Jess in shock.
How to talk your way out of, and then back into, a paper bag
Kirstin was unsure how to start a conversation under the circumstances. Feeling bereft of eloquence and suddenly having her priorities changed, she opted quietly for the most banal greeting.
“Hey,” she breathed as she caught Meg’s eye having been ushered into the room.
The door was promptly closed behind her.
“Hey,” came an equally quiet and uncertain response.
Well, you got her on her own at least, thought the filmmaker. Though not ideal.
Kirstin took a breath, her eyes flickering momentarily around the clinical looking room.
“Did they search you?”
Fuck. Kirstin thought better than to linger much on that thought, not right now.
The next question was required, but tough.
“Did they find anything?”
“No!” Meg was clearly angry. “Do you think I’m stupid enough to bring…” She stopped short, remembering where she was, and lowering her voice significantly “…anything like that into an airport?”
Kirstin felt the need to defend herself.
“No. But I also didn’t really think Jess was stupid enough to get her drummer arrested forty minutes before our flight… so now I’m questioning my judgement.”
“No, you’re questioning me.”
The pair locked eyes defiantly for a moment.
Meg added, “Jesse isn’t stupid, she’s vindictive.”
Kirstin’s brow questioned the comment almost incredulously.
Meg clarified, “It was vindictive behaviour… brought on by severe embarrassment, secure in the knowledge that the show doesn’t go on without her…”
Kirstin coughed out a half-laugh, “Well then she is stupid because it’s not going to go on without you either…”
Megan’s defences dropped at the truth of it. “Fuck… does she know how much trouble she’s caused?”
Kirstin heard the tone in Meg’s voice ease and responded to it.
“Um, yeh.” She pursed her lips briefly before continuing. “And I don’t think she’s going to be speaking to me anytime soon…”
“I, er, well… I told her she could be a spoilt brat sometimes. Amongst other things.”
“I’ll bet that went down well.”
They stilled, silent for a moment, footsteps passing by the door but continuing to the next room.
“So,” Kirstin looked up sharply, clearly trying to change the tone, she took a breath, “I managed to get us onto a later flight… Under the presumption that this will all be very easily explained away, and that I can somehow avoid Jess being arrested for wasting police time and resources,” she added with a sarcastic eyebrow raise.
Meg looked at her, suddenly realising she had been wrong, “You’re right, she’s fucking stupid!” She spat, and shook her head solemnly. “Wait, but we checked all our luggage in?”
“Yeh, I know. That’s being pulled off now, we have to pay a nice hefty fee for that.”
“All of it?”
“Well, only the people involved in this particular fiasco needed another flight, I’ve sent the others on the original flight.”
“Right, that makes sense.” And it did make sense, but something occurred to Meg. “So who has to stay behind?” She asked inquisitively.
Here we go, thought Kirstin.
“You, me, and Jess.”
Cosy huh? Added Kirstin’s inner dialogue.
“How come you have to stay?” It came out a little more harshly than she intended, “I mean, who made you tour manager?” That sounded even worse.
Kirstin’s brow hiked. “Excuse me?”
“I didn’t mean it like that, I mean…” she tried to start again, “How come Pete isn’t taking all the shit here, how come you get lumbered with us?”
As lovely as Pete, their tour manager, was, it was obvious to Kirstin from the outset that he had a hard time keeping the band in line.
Kirstin crossed her arms peevishly, “You mean how come you guys seem to have a new baby sitter?”
Meg accepted her faux pas courteously, “Yeh,” she nodded humbly.
“Since Pete remembered he can’t talk his way out of a paper bag and realised that I had a reason to stay behind.”
Meg’s ears pricked. Reason? Her mouth started speaking before she could stop it.
“What reason do you have?” she asked a little suspiciously in an attempt to hide any hope she might be feeling.
Kirstin didn’t hesitate.
The shock on Meg’s face was evident, she physically retreated, only half an inch, but it was noticeable to the eye that was trained to detect it.
Kirstin qualified her answer, “I need you to hold my hand. Remember?”
Meg felt duped. All at once wanted and needed, but rejected.
“Right!” she half snorted, “Of course.”
Kirstin could sense there would be more where this had come from if she didn’t try to iron things out now.
What she didn’t know was the exact reason their interaction reference map was so seemingly crumpled.
“Meg, I wanted to talk to you before we got on the plane,” actually I’ve wanted to talk to you ever since you left…
Meg could feel herself becoming already irritated with where this conversation might be headed. She bit her cheek like a kid and threw her eyes in any direction but Kirstin’s.
Kirstin knew this wasn’t a good sign. She sighed heavily and looked away for inspiration. Her face contorted as she tried to work out appropriate wording.
“I don’t want us to be awkward. This feels awkward, and I don’t want it to be.”
Meg took a breath of frustration. She really didn’t want it to be awkward either, but her ego had been scuffed and she desperately wanted not to show it.
Kirstin continued. “I’ve been thinking about this part of the trip for a very long time,” she explained. “The thought of having to take this flight on my own… well, it’s made me realise how much I need you to be there - how important a role you seem have occupied in my life. And I don’t want to fuck our friendship up.”
Meg could hear the slight desperation that was creeping onto Kirstin’s voice. She looked up to see brown eyes less than dry, staring into hers.
“I know you can’t possibly understand the relevance of today, but as pathetic as it makes me sound, I need you.” The filmmaker’s voice hitched, “Today I really need you.”
Then Meg forgot all about herself, taking a good gulp of pride.
“Hey, hey…” she got up and reached for Kirstin with both arms.
Kirstin bowed her head in an attempt to recover some composure but found herself embroiled in the solid, calming form that was Megan.
“I’m sorry,” Meg muttered before pulling back to look at Kirstin. “Kaye, I’m not going to lie to you, it is going to be awkward. Something big changed between us, y’know?”
“I know…” Kirstin nodded, brushing away a tear she was confused about shedding.
“But I don’t want to you to think I’m not going to be around when you need me, okay? I mean, it’s going to take some time for me to forget what a fantastic body you have,” that got her a smile, “but I’ll get over it eventually, y’know?”
Do you have to?
Yes, I suppose you do. You will.
“Miss Hart I’m afraid there has been a mix up with the seating, the three seats on flight 126, in fact is only two.”
“What? But I told you distinctly I needed three seats on the same flight.”
“We know, we can only apologise, and offer you another flight.”
Kirstin who had been arguing all day, had no fight left in her, “Okay, what are the options?” she sighed.
There was only one other flight with three seats available, and that wasn’t until the next day.
“Just put Jess on the earlier flight,” Megan said dismissively.
“On her own? Are you kidding?”
“Yeh, she deserves a few hours of solitary. And trust me, with no-one she knows to antagonise or show off in front of, she’ll be an angel.”
Kirstin looked less than convinced.
“I’m standing right here you know?” Jess blurted.
Both Meg and Kirstin turned around from the booking desk.
Meg eyed her, “Unfortunately, yes you are. I’m not really your friend at the moment though, so shut the fuck up, okay?”
Kirstin shot Megan a respectful glance, impressed by the fact that Meg’s tone seemed to immediately reduce the mighty Jesse Graver to an apologetic heap.
“Ya, I know,” Jess shrugged impishly, “Okay, so fine,” her brow dropped a couple of centimetres, “put me on the flight,” and stared at her brightly-coloured, odd-shaped shoes, “I promise to behave myself, okay?” she looked back up to see if her submissive demeanour had been sufficient.
Meg turned to Kirstin, “See?”
“Okay, well, if you say so. I really can’t be bothered anymore.” And I could do with not having to worry about her on this flight anyway.
The plane they had been forced to take due to Jess's antics was much later, but luckily for them the only available seats had been first class.
As Kirstin began to ease into the flight she became acutely aware of six feet worth of drummer sitting just a seat away, leaning her head on the airplane window. The familiar figure seemed unusually jaded, even taking into consideration the day they had all shared.
Meg sensed her gaze, and though she had been deeply lost in thought, staring out at the low burning sun, she turned in question.
"You okay?" Meg asked her quietly, genuinely concerned.
The drummer had beaten her to it, and Kirstin wasn't really sure how to answer.
There was a definite ‘yes’, followed by an even more definite ‘no’. She answered the question's primary intention, saddened by the knowledge that she wouldn't be a little more forthcoming.
"I'm fine," she nodded slowly, "thanks."
Meg narrowed her eyes a little, certain she was being fobbed off but apparently appeased all the same.
Kirstin half-heartedly tried to make small talk, purely to divert Megan, who was beginning to look as if she were debating whether to push the matter.
"So did you have fun with the rest of your time off?"
It was Meg's turn to be flummoxed. She took a short breath while deciding what to reveal. The moment's deliberation stretched longer than Meg had intended, causing Kirstin to feel a little uncomfortable, she bit her lip and ducked her head in an effort to snap Meg back into conversation.
Now it was Meg’s turn to be flustered.
"Um… actually, no," she answered, surprised by her own candour. "Not much fun, no. The weekend was pretty much the highlight for me."
Her eyes lingered on Kirstin as she swallowed hard, wishing Kirstin not to ask her more, all the time knowing that Kirstin probably would, and that if she did Meg would undoubtedly tell her everything.
Meg reluctantly pulled her gaze away as in that moment she realised that being Kirstin’s friend was going to be very hard when she clearly wasn't capable of holding back even the most personal of details, details she rarely disclosed to anyone.
Yet maybe that was a good thing. Telling Kirstin all about the ugliness she had in her life would push her away in one sense but possibly bring them together in another, as friends. And that was what she wanted wasn't it? When she’d trodden down her ego and swallowed her prickly pride, no matter how much she wanted to ignore Kirstin in order to avoid thinking about the unexpected pain of that rejection, she simply couldn't.
Now that Kirstin was here again, she was here to stay. It was a notion that filled Meg equally with joy and dread.
She glanced back to meet Kirstin's eyes. You are going to fuck with my head. Not intentionally maybe, but it'll be fucked all the same.
Kirstin had been watching Meg carefully for some indication that she should continue to question, astounded at her own ability to turn an entire conversation on its head.
Then Meg's words slowly began to filter through.
The weekend was the highlight.
Once that thought registered, a small trickle of possibilities had begun to leak into Kirstin's conscious. But the flow of each thought was either stemmed by her self-depreciating ego, or else flooded by her over-riding sense of self-protection. She mused briefly that both sensibilities should result in the same reaction.
In the end it didn't matter what her head told her, she wanted to know because it upset her to think that Meg had had a shitty week to which she had been the prelude.
She gave up her deliberation, and gave in to her need to know, “What happened?” she asked hurriedly.
Meg forced a small, tight-lipped, but brave smile as her own predictions came true. It took a moment for her to realise she was actually going to tell Kirstin.
“Well, after you shunned me,” Kirstin visibly winced, and Meg smirked to indicate she was kidding, even though she wasn’t, “I decided to take a trip back to Buffalo.”
“You did?” Kirstin raised her brow, but was reminded by the lack of enthusiasm emanating from Meg that it clearly hadn't been a good few days. A thought occurred to her, “Do your folks still live there?”
Meg cocked her head, not expecting to have to divulge quite so soon.
“Well, technically, I suppose you could say that…”
Kirstin's brow wrinkled pushing Meg to explain, as she knew she would have to.
“My dad passed a few years back,” Kirstin’s sorrow at the news was undoubtedly genuine as Megan continued, “he's buried there,” but her expression wouldn’t remain, “and my mom is living courtesy of the state.”
“She's in jail?!”
Meg was almost amused, she raised an eyebrow and scoffed, “She's in the Psychiatric Center.”
There was the smallest pause followed by, “Holy Fuck.”
Her surprise was evident.
“I mean, shit Meg, I had no idea. What… I mean, for how long? Was it her you went to see?”
Kirstin's very real concern was quite obvious, all selfish notions suddenly gone, and Meg found this only served to heighten her own depth of feeling about the situation. But Meg had learned well how to keep herself in check, easily maintaining her composure.
“Yeh. She's been there for the last five years.”
Meg's voice was level and low and almost matter of fact, but Kirstin could hear the gentle sadness that lurked beneath.
“It doesn't get any easier to visit, y'know? Cos even when she's lucid she thinks I'm her sister, and she thinks aunt Rosie is her mom… and yada, yada ya ya…” Meg snorted gently. “Most people think their mothers are crazy - mine actually is.”
Meg widened her eyes mockingly.
“That's really harsh, I'm sorry.”
Meg looked away, not sure what else to say, very aware of sharing something so personal with the one person she was sure she ought to keep at arm’s length.
Kirstin could see the pain in Megan's eyes was an old pain, long embedded and suddenly refreshed, and she felt guilty all over again.
“I was always scared shitless of your mother.”
Megan turned in surprise. “Really? Why? She adored you!”
“She did?” Kirstin frowned, equally puzzled by this new information.
“Yes. You were everything I wasn't. Quiet, good, neat, clever… she never shut up about how she wished I was more like you.”
Kirstin chuckled openly.
“My mum hated you.”
Meg rolled her eyes, “Of this I am very aware, but thanks for the clarification.”
Meg sat and thought about the previous comment, and what might have prompted it. She spent a few minutes picking at the armrest before eventually airing her defence.
“It really isn’t new information you know? I'm fully aware I wasn't a very likable child.”
“You didn't want to be likable,” Kirstin pointed out. “There's a difference.”
“Oh really? Intrigued I'm sure.”
The sarcasm, though jovial, was indication that this was not a conversation she wanted to get into, even though she appeared to have started it.
Where are the ever-interrupting hostesses now for fuck’s sake?
Kirstin just shook her head and smiled at her.
“How is she anyway, your mom?” Meg diverted the conversation. “Exuberant as ever I imagine.”
“Maybe you'll get opportunity to find out for yourself…”
Meg looked worried, “Why?”
“She moved back to England, and I very much doubt I'm going to manage to avoid her while we're there. I'm sure she'd be very interested in seeing what became of you…” Kirstin taunted.
“Are you kidding? Not on your life, no way!”
More teasing, “C'mon…”
Meg lowered her voice, still in good humour “Kirstin, I'm not stupid, okay?” she batted her eyes a couple of times for effect. I don't get any help with my mother, and I'm sure not giving you any with yours… “You’re on your own there sweetheart! I'm not helping you out.”
“I don't need help!”
“I don't! I love spending time with my mother, if you don't want to come with me when I visit then you should just politely decline, not accuse me of using you as some kind of…”
“Scapegoat? Battering ram?”
Kirstin just pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes.
Meg continued, “Anyway, I don't remember anywhere in this conversation you actually inviting me to go see your mom with you while we're in England.” She allowed a moment for Kirstin to process the comment. “Was that your intention?”
Kirstin wasn't sure. But that's kind of what I said, right? She felt tricked, and yet she had been the conjurer. The recovery was quick.
“Well I was considering inviting you, but clearly you’re not into it…”
Meg's smile slowly slid from her face as she took time to consider her next words.
“Kirstin, I don't think it would appropriate, do you?”
“I don’t know, I just… Well, whether we ever talk about it or not, since the weekend I think we both have to concede that you and I,” she corrected herself, “…things between you and I, are not the same. You know? We’re no longer just these people who once knew each other as kids. That’s no longer the history between us. What happened at the weekend supersedes everything until… it doesn’t anymore. Does that make sense?”
Strangely, to Kirstin it made complete sense. She hated it, but Megan was right. There was a boundary that had been breached, and you couldn’t just pretend to the troops that the battle hadn’t occurred, that their wounds were non-existent, and that they hadn’t been momentarily victorious. You had to convince them that the territory, though won, wasn’t to be claimed. And even when the cavalry didn’t really care about the land, it was hard to convince them they didn’t want to stake their claim to it. Usually only the thrill of a new battle would see them fully relinquish a share.
Megan was still waiting for Kirstin to respond. “I don’t meet the mothers of women I’ve slept with.” Meg shook her head almost at a loss, she didn’t know how else to put it, blunt as it was.
Kirstin cocked her jaw. “Right.” She nodded blankly. “Okay.” Kirstin paused, turning away slightly, only to swing right back to Meg in realisation.
“You mean you’ve never met anyone’s mother? I mean, any girlfriend’s mother?” she clarified.
“Wow. Didn’t that ever become an issue?”
“On occasion, yeh. Usually surrounding the holidays.”
“You can tell me to shut up by the way, it’s really none of my business, I’m just intrigued. It just seems like it’s something that’s inevitable, eventually. No?”
“Um, well, no, not if you spend most of the year touring, and don’t have any folks of your own to visit for Thanksgiving. Then you get to legitimately call your friends your family, and not many of my girlfriends have ever considered wanting to invite the likes of Jess into their Mom’s home…”
Kirstin sniggered, “I’ll bet.”
“And I’ll bet you’re the kind of girlfriend that relishes meeting the Mom…”
Kirstin’s heckles raised.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I’ll bet every Mom loves you.”
“Actually, I only ever met one Mother, and she didn’t like me one bit. My existence was constant proof that her daughter was gay.”
Meg instantly regretted the slicing action of her tongue.
“I’m guessing that was the Newscaster?” Meg let slip.
“Grace, yeh.” Kirstin confirmed. “So, no, actually, my track record is pretty appalling.”
“Something you’re bad at… who’d’ve thunk it?”
Kirstin reached over and batted Meg with the back of her hand. Meg just smiled at her. Then a thought struck Kirstin hard in the head.
“Wait a minute,“ she uttered anxiously, turning to Meg fully, “how do you know about Grace?!”
Meg’s brow rose slightly, “There’s picture of her in your room Kirstin,” she pointed out, almost ruefully. “You and her look, well, very close.”
Despite her better judgement Meg had done a little digging having recognised the face in the picture. She had a lot of questions, but knew better than to poke.
“Shit.” Kirstin breathed, falling back into her seat and wondering who else might have seen that picture and drawn the same conclusion.
“G-race No-vello.” Megan over-punctuated the name.
Kirstin gave her a questioning sideways glance.
“I saw her on TV the other day. I can’t believe she’s gay.”
“Believe it, and keep your voice down!”
“Oh come on, you’re telling me there’s not a single rumour flying around?”
“Well you just said you weren’t entirely convinced, and trust me, her management company is very vigilant. They had me on round the clock surveillance at one point for fraternising with people that looked too gay.”
“Fuck. Sounds like her Mom was the least of your worries…”
“Yeh,” Kirstin snorted, “I guess she was.”
“Is that what happened in L.A?”
Kirstin was again reminded of Megan’s very real interest in her life, and somehow it didn’t feel like she was looking for gossip, as it often did when people asked her personal questions.
“Yes,” she answered gently.
She found herself wishing that she had told Megan this story the first time around over their cowgirl dinner. At that time it would have been just a story drunkenly recounted, part of her history. Now that they had shared a bed however, it was the clearly the backdrop for some very real and obvious reasons that Kirstin was reticent to pursue Meg further.
Meg saw Kirstin’s hesitancy, but her need to know a little more got the better of her.
“Do you still see her? Or are you too gay now?”
And ‘how long were you together?’ Meg thought. And ‘why aren’t you now?’ and ‘did you love her?’ and ‘do you still?’… and… and… why do I have to care so damned much? Ugh.
Kirstin chuckled, not noticing Meg’s inner conflict, before remembering the last visit she had paid Grace, and why she had gone. She didn’t want to share that with Meg either, it was far too revealing. And yet…
“Actually I saw her last week. Suze and I stopped by on the drive back to New York.”
Trying to make her jealous Kaye?
“Oh. Still friendly then.” Not a question, more of an accusation.
Kirstin swallowed. No, you stupid fucker, YOU pushed HER away, remember? You don’t get to want to make her jealous.
“Friends would be a loose term.”
Megan couldn’t help but feel that although the conversation had naturally headed in this direction, she was being baited. And she couldn’t help but bite.
“More than friends then?”
Fuck, fuck, fuckety fuck fuck. Turn this around. Now.
How? How do I turn this around without telling her what I don’t want her to know?
The silence to Meg was convicting.
Megan held her hands up, “You know what, it’s none of my damned business what you and your ex do or don’t do.”
Kirstin tilted her head skyward stretching her neck up in an effort to loosen herself. She scrunched her face and shook her head, “That sounds really bad, it’s not like that, I just… well, it’s… it has been complicated.”
“And it sounds like it still is. I’m sorry, I’m going to shut up now, can we talk about something else?”
“Ladies and gentleman, we have begun to make our descent into Heathrow, we shall be landing in approximately twenty minutes time…”
Kirstin stiffened almost imperceptibly, but the trained eye that Meg had acquired noticed immediately.
“It’s the landings isn’t it?” she asked quietly.
Kirstin focused her breathing. She nodded gently.
Yes, it was the landings. In fact it was this landing to be more specific.
“Okay, Kirstin - look at me!” It was not a request. The first two attempts failing to garner any response saw quickly to that.
Megan had unbuckled herself from the airplane seat and was kneeling at Kirstin’s feet, her hands reaching for the blond woman’s face in a desperate effort to be heard. Finally there was a flicker of recognition in the eyes that suddenly refocused and met hers.
“You’re okay, do you understand me? You’re okay. It’s Meg, I’m here okay? And we’re fine, do you understand?”
Three stewards looked on, concerned, scared and in one case simply irritated.
Meg brought herself up to Kirstin’s level and rested her forehead against the other woman’s.
“You’re okay. Kirstin?”
Kirstin nodded slowly as her world began to sharpen, her breath ragged and her head aching.
She realised her right hand was gripping something that felt a little alien. Her eyes flicked downward to find the crumpled paper source.
Meg followed the trail of thought as if it were her own.
She nodded. “You were hyperventilating, it helps reduce the oxygen intake… it helped calm you down.”
Meg looked up gratefully at the two concerned cabin crew, “Thanks, I think she’s okay now, I’m sorry…” and then glared angrily at the snotty crew member whose back she could see retreating down the aisle.
“If you need anything just press,” the kind women pointed at the button above Meg’s head.
“I need to ask you to strap back in now ma’am,” added her colleague.
“Oh, sure, okay,” Meg nodded, “Could you maybe get her some water?”
“Of course,” came the gentle smile.
Kirstin was still very confused, though was slowly piecing together a very embarrassing scenario. She glanced briefly at a few other passengers, most of whom seemed concerned, and a couple who looked a little alarmed. Her entire body felt clammy and the air conditioning made her shiver involuntarily.
Meg reached down and took the half ballooned sick bag from Kirstin’s hand, replacing it with her own firm grip before shifting around in order to shuffle into the seat next to Kirstin.
She frowned at her, “You okay?”
Kirstin looked very pale indeed.
“I - think so?” came a weakened response. “What…?”
“You had a panic attack. At least, I’m fairly sure you did.”
Kirstin’s lip trembled in spite of its owner’s bid to keep it still.
“It’s okay.” Meg smiled kindly. “And we landed, see?” The plane was taxiing toward the terminal.
Kirstin looked past Meg to see a dreary London night greet her.
Kirstin had held onto Megan for as long as she could appropriately get away with, but since she had relinquished the contact at the door of the plane, she had greatly missed it.
They stood watching what little remained of the luggage circling round like game show prizes waiting to be claimed.
“Aren’t you curious?” Kirstin asked, her eyes glued to the moving rubber surface in front of her.
“Don’t you want to know why?” She looked at Meg, who simply smiled.
“When, and more importantly, if you want to tell me, I can’t say I won’t be interested to hear.”
Kirstin smiled to herself gently, “You know what?”
“When something’s really important, you have this uncanny knack of managing to say exactly the right thing…”
“Well, I don’t know if I agree with that entirely, but it’s nice to know I get it right sometimes.”
You get it right a lot.
Kirstin shook her head, “I can't believe I freaked out like that… I mean, I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but that's never happened before.” She turned to Meg, “I'm really grateful you were there. And I'm sorry for stressing you out.”
“You don't have to apologise, Kaye.”
It was very late, especially taking into account the time difference, and the luggage hall was stark and desolate, large, marbled, and cold.
“Yes, I do.”
Meg considered her, “What exactly are you apologising for?”
So many things.
Kirstin shook her head, not knowing where to start.
“You're really not okay…”
“Really not, no.”
Meg saw Kirstin struggle to compose herself.
“There's no-one here,” Meg cast her eye over the immediate vicinity, “you don't have to hold it together for me…”
“Thanks, but I'm not.” She took a deep breath. I’m doing it for me.
“You're so fucking stubborn sometimes it's almost admirable,” Megan shook her head gently. She then noticed some familiar looking articles on the belt and began heading towards them.
Kirstin took a moment to realise where she was heading before following her.
“I object to that,” Kirstin muttered to Meg’s back as she hurried to catch up before joining her stride for stride.
“Look, all I'm saying is that you don't have to talk to me, but if you need a hug… or a kick up the ass, I'm totally up for that, okay?”
“Just pick up the bags, that's what you can do, okay?” Was the equally dry response.
Meg yanked up the two large cases from the conveyor and placed one in front of Kirstin, half grinning.
She was greeted by a gentle smile in return, which was suddenly interrupted by an urgent thought.
“You know what?” A brow raised in question. “I'm starving.”
“You always are. I assume you know where we're headed?”
“And what their restaurant is like.”
“Of course,” Meg repeated.
“Except it won't be open at this time, but room service comes from the same place and is twenty four hour.”
But then room service also meant either being alone, or being in a room with Meg and a bed. Kirstin wasn’t sure which was more destructive. She went with the option that was easy to give in to, despite herself.
“Fancy a late-night food party?” she asked before she could stop herself.
Meg was delighted and she grinned widely, “I think I could handle that.”
“Good. Then let’s find us the shuttle and get out of here. I don't want to stay here any longer than I have to.”
“The shuttle? We’re not heading to London?”
“You're kidding right? At this time? No way, we can meet the others tomorrow.
Tonight, as a reward for all my hard work, we're staying at the Hilton.”
“Ooh. That's good right?”
“It's okay. It’s better than the Ibis…” Kirstin managed to joke.
“You got a suite?!”
“Yes. And I charged it to your record label who were more than willing considering I avoided a few days worth of show cancellations…” Kirstin raised a brow.
“You're good,” breathed Meg in admiration as she surveyed the luxurious scene before her.
“Well, I know I deserve it, and after what you went through, so do you.”
Meg turned in surprise, “You booked me a suite too?”
“I booked us, a suite. This is your room in the suite.”
“And where's yours?”
“Is it as nice as this?”
It doesn't have you in it. The thought was bitten back.
“Sure. Except I don't have a TV that size, so mostly, I’m now wondering if you might be willing to share for a bit?”
That way I get to leave when I want and I don’t have to throw you out.
Megan pouted in mock thought.
“Okay. So long as you order food while I shower.”
Kirstin narrowed her eyes, “That's not a fair deal…”
Meg bit her tongue at the thought that entered her head at that very moment.
Nothing seemed very fair recently, so she allowed the thought to be vocalised.
“Okay, we can both order the food and then we can both…”
Kirstin cut her off immediately, “Don't go there.”
She looked at Meg sternly but her warning was a gentle plea. She had heard an edge of suggestion in Meg’s voice that had to be grinded to a halt, and quickly. Meg stopped mid sentence. “I'll order…” she continued, “but no moaning.”
Meg tried and failed to suppress a naughty grin, instead she turned to hide it.
“…take showers separately, and re-convene fully clothed to consume some food produce on the big bed in front of the even bigger TV…” she turned back round to meet Kirstin's sceptically raised brow. “What? That's what I was going to say…”
“Of course it was. Good. I'm pleased. No really, truly. We're adults.”
The notion lingered for just longer than a moment.
“Wanna watch a movie too?”
“Yes, absolutely, but I get to choose…”
Fighting in the mud
“You are never choosing the movie again, do you understand?”
Megan reached over and topped up Kirstin’s wine glass before replenishing her own.
“Call it punishment.”
“This is torture. You actually like this movie?”
“It makes me feel good about what I do…”
Meg diverted her gaze from the large TV screen to her companion with incredulity,
“That's like me going to watch a band I hate because I think they suck, but it reminds me that I think I'm better!”
A blond head bobbed up and down while its owner grabbed a handful of something sweet to chomp on.
Kirstin turned to her happily and grinned. “It took you this long to work that out?” She had sugar on her chin. She wiped it off unashamedly. “No, okay,” she decided to agree, “most of this movie is awful, but this actress is amazing! I mean, listen to the dialogue, how in the hell does she make it work?”
Meg observed her for a moment before wryly commenting. “You're doing research.”
“You're still working.”
“No I'm not.”
“Yes - you are. What would you think if I got out a drum now and started re-skinning it?”
Kirstin pulled a puzzled face.
“Um, I'd think you had a drum that needed a new skin?” She ventured, not entirely sure she knew what that meant.
“Kirstin, it's five thirty in the morning, not a time for work on a day off.”
“It's not a time for showering, or eating, or painting, or a number of many things I'm sure I could rattle off. Not a usual time, but really, c'mon Meg, what’s usual about anything that you and I do?”
The drummer marvelled. “God, are you ever wrong?”
“You know what, one day you will be.
“Wrong. One day you’ll be wrong, and you won’t know how to handle it.”
“Shut up.” Kirstin turned back to the screen.
“I’m serious. No-one’s that right. I mean you are, usually - in fact, okay, always… and it’s irritating, but it won’t last. It’s not normal.”
“So now I’m abnormal?”
“Yes.” She was emphatic.
“Because I can argue a point well enough for you to see and understand why I’m making it?”
“Oh, my god, you just did it again! How is that possible?”
“Meg, I’ll let you into a secret,” she waggled her finger inviting Megan closer conspiratorially, “it’s not that I’m always right. I’m just more convincing, and I’m able to develop an argument on the hoof that sounds like it’s probably been etched in stone somewhere because it sounds like it should be.”
“And one more time. You’re right. Your conviction, coupled with your use of logic outweighs any counter argument I have. Tell me, were you on the debate team?”
Kirstin smiled and shook her head as she took a gulp of wine.
“What a waste…” Meg breathed, enjoying the brown-eyed glint she was being rewarded with.
“You know, the way you say ‘you’re always right’, makes it sound like I’m not really - like you’re letting me be. And that’s not quite so much fun.”
“Well, I mean it more like you shouldn’t be, I guess. Like it’s good to be wrong sometimes, it’s humbling, it’s a way of learning.” Meg made her sarcasm obvious.
“Maybe I already learnt a lot of lessons, did you think of that? Maybe I already served my time of ‘being wrong’? And maybe, just maybe, I’m always right, not because I have a deep need or desire to be, but because I just am? I happen to have a great memory.”
“Yes.” Kirstin was adamant as she continued to lick sugar from her fingers.
The movie filtered momentarily back into their world. It was Meg that pushed it out again.
“Do you remember the last night of summer camp?”
At first Kirstin was confused, summer camp? What’s she…? Summer camp was a decade ago.
“In the barn?” Meg clarified.
A wash of memories suddenly began to seep into Kirstin’s conscious and very quickly the source of Meg’s comment was located, firmly embedded in her mind. It immediately brought a flush to her face.
Covered in mud Megan had switched teams at some point in the activity of the final day of camp. Where she had been attacking, she suddenly found herself defending Kirstin as a common enemy had rained down on the pair of them in the forest, causing both to run for their own safety.
It was by mere chance, rather than happy accident, that the pair ended up fleeing in the same direction from the same source of muddy ammunition.
Different paths from within the forest led them both to collide, out of breath, dirty and desperate. Neither paid much heed to the other beyond briefly acknowledging they were heading for the same safe haven down the same track.
Mud bombs were being hurled at them both with surprising speed and great force, landing all around, causing each to stutter and start in avoidance of the wet, brown splatterings.
As Megan took the lead toward the barn, Kirstin had slipped over, and ground to a very dirty halt in the grass, lying flat on her back.
Hearing her curse Megan had faltered, turning slightly to see the damage over her shoulder. She slowed up in brief contemplation before turning full loop to run back and scoop up a Kirstin who was by then full of protestation. Her hand was grabbed and she was pulled to her feet, before being dragged to the shelter of the small barn they had both been attempting to reach.
Slamming the door shut behind them both, Megan had turned and promptly tripped over the uneven floorboards disguised with hay. She quite literally pulled Kirstin on top of her. Kirstin had been about to verbally manifest her pain of falling when the hut took a round of mud balls, slamming into the sides and makeshift roof. Meg put a quick finger to her lips to ensure silence and Kirstin responded immediately, freezing as the sounds around them continued.
They looked at one another through the dying bursts of mud-fire. It was a look that lasted through a good portion of the ominous silence that had followed.
“Yes, I remember the hut.” Kirstin was still as the slight blush continued to grace her cheek.
“I was thinking about it the other day, in light of… well, you know…”
Kirstin nipped her bottom lip and nodded gently but stayed silent, in thought.
Meg was bold in her honesty, “I wonder what would’ve happened if I had tried to kiss you? I mean, what would you have done? Cos, well, I don’t think I consciously knew it at the time, but that’s what all that was about, right? I mean, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Kirstin took a breath, “I probably would’ve let you.” Meg looked surprised. “Then I would have run for as long as I could, as quickly as I could, as far as was physically possible!” Kirstin burst into a smile. “I was so not ready to have my first lesbetarian encounter at that age.”
Megan was charmed, “I thought it was lesbecian?”
“You’re thinking of Lebanese…”
“Oh, yeh, you’re right… So you didn’t… girls were not on your agenda at that time then?”
“Boys were barely on my agenda at that time, Meg. If I wanted you to kiss me, which I probably did, I didn’t know it. I seem to remember you’d already ventured into that territory? In fact, weren’t you dating someone that summer?”
“Natalie Frau… yeh. Dating? I guess.”
“Oh my God, yes. The cheerleader! She was hot, if I remember rightly. Whatever happened to her?”
“Oh, she went to Harvard, became a surgeon, cuts people up for a living, gets paid a shit load just give her opinion…”
Kirstin’s eyebrows hiked. “And you know this? Because? You stalk her?”
Meg laughed openly. “No, because the scene is so small.”
“‘The scene’. Right. Yet another reason to remember why I hate it so very much. The punity of it.”
“Punity? Is that a real word?”
“I’m sure it’s not. But it should be. And who decides what’s real anyway? I mean language evolves, constantly. If I got enough writers to put that into print it’d be classified a real word.”
“You know I heard that, is it true?”
Kirstin smirked sneaking another sip of wine, “I have no idea, but I must’ve read it somewhere,” she waived dismissively in the air with her free hand, “and everyone usually agrees with me if I mention it, so each time I do I’m more and more convinced.”
“Yeh, I’m pretty convinced,” Meg nodded with evident conviction causing the filmmaker to nod in mutual agreement.
“Let’s do it!” Kirstin whispered excitedly. “Let’s make it a goal to get that word printed as many times as possible! Put it to the test.”
“Okay…” Meg was quite intrigued. The offer of a mission, something to share with Kirstin, a game, with points to be scored, where both of them won. That had to be good.
“It’ll be easy. I mean, you get interviewed all of the time, you just have to find some sentences that you can slip it into. And I’m constantly being asked to write papers and all kinds of crap.” She took another gulp of wine.
“Yeh, but whereas people might just think I’m a dumbass who can’t speak English…” Meg jibed with an arched brow indicating she wasn’t that grateful for the casting, “surely anything official you write has to be proof read? I mean, how d’ya get round that?”
“First off, you speak American,” Kirstin paused, grinning playfully at the mock outrage on Megan’s face, “and second, I’m English, and as far as I can tell most Americans seem to consider it a very different language. This’ll just be another weird, quirky variation.”
Meg pursed her lips for a moment seemingly contemplating the challenge.
“Okay fine, I accept your terms. I’ll play the ugly dumb American. Although I’m sure I speak Canadian if that makes any difference.” She took a quick breath, “I’ll play the ugly dumb American” she repeated, “and you can play the attractive English intellectual… and together we’ll put… what was the word?”
Kirstin was momentarily flustered, she stuttered, “Er, um…” and blinked as she tried to recall, “P-punity!”
“Right, together we’ll put ‘P-punity’” she mocked, “in the dictionary. Or ‘a’ dictionary, somewhere, somehow.”
She smiled broadly as she grabbed a slice of pizza and stuffed it into her mouth.
“Can you stop flirting with me?”
It was an unexpected punch, Meg gulped her mouthful down.
“I’m sorry?” She was clearly taken aback. Her mouth worked a little, but no sound came out. Then she shook her head, knowing that she was flirting, but that she hadn’t been trying to, and that maybe it was inappropriate. “I mean, I’m sorry.” She muttered, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, “I didn’t realise, I…”
Kirstin interrupted, “No, it’s not a request, it’s a question. I mean are you able to stop flirting with me?”
Kirstin didn’t seem to look mad at her.
“Uh, well, I don’t know. I guess with a little concerted effort I could, but I’d have to actually try to know.” Now Kirstin was looking right at her, and she was afraid of the next question, but it seemed inevitable, “Do you want me to try?” she asked carefully.
The attractive English intellectual looked at the ugly dumb American who was far from being either ugly or dumb.
The gentle timbre of the softly spoken word belied its gravity.
Megan allowed the small stone of a word to sink into the puddle of their moment. She felt the ripplet slowly but surely reach her, lightly wash over her. Then she saw the swell of potential meaning hit Kirstin too.
Stay cool Megan. “Okay, well good, because…” Megan stopped herself. Stay cool. “…because complimenting you is easy.” She smiled tenderly, amazed at her own ability to avoid brushing the comment off which had been her first instinct.
Kirstin tried to force down the blush that was clearly rising. She flashed her a bashful smile and scrunched her face, feeling a little embarrassed.
Megan thought it was cute. She resisted the urge to lean forward and kiss her, strong as it was.
“Can you stop looking at me like that? Please?” Kirstin winced at her own desire.
“That is a request.”
Megan dropped her gaze instantly, “Um…” she looked slightly pained, “I’m afraid that… that’s kind of involuntary, I’m… sorry.” She blew out half a frustrated breath to try and extinguish her impulse. “This is harder than I thought, y’know? Trying not to think of…” the sentence hung briefly, “…when you’re just feet away from me, smiling at me, and laughing at my lame jokes…”
“Yeh, I know. I’m sorry, maybe this was a bad a idea.” Kirstin bit her lip. “The suite, the wine…” she began to move away, to clear away.
Megan got the feeling she ought to let her.
“Kirstin… You don’t have to… go… you… Here, look, let me do that.”
Meg got up to help tidy their food away. Kirstin however seemed to be doing a good job of making more mess. Meg reached out and held onto her arm in a bid to arrest the slight edge of panic Kirstin was displaying.
“Kaye? It’s okay.”
Kirstin stopped her task and looked at Meg, frozen.
“Can’t you just be flattered?”
The dejection in Meg’s voice forced Kirstin to take a breath before responding. She looked down at the wrist that was still being gripped. Meg let go and Kirstin placed down the plate she had been holding.
She gathered herself.
“I am. Deeply. That’s what seems to be the problem.”
Problem. Yes, thought Megan, it is indeed a problem if you enjoy me flirting with you.
“Then maybe I need to make myself someone whose attention doesn’t flatter you?” Megan tried to keep herself in check but there was clearly a trace of resentment in the question.
Kirstin shook her head wearily.
“Despite a lot of shitty things that happened today, I had a great evening – morning – whatever this was. And I’m really grateful for you being on that plane with me. I’m sorry you had to handle that, but thank you.”
Meg suddenly found herself diffused, disarmed.
“I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t tell people what happened today – yesterday.” Meg was already nodding, but Kirstin went on, “It’ll just lead to more worry and more questions, and I just want to avoid it.”
“Of course, sure, I understand. I mean, well… you know what I mean.”
Kaye smiled at her, Megan recognised it as a smile of appreciation, as it was intended.
“And I’m gonna make sure Jess shows you just how grateful she is for what you did for her too.”
“Ha! I won’t hold my breath.”
They stood for a moment. Eventually Kirstin broke the silence.
“Well, I’m going to leave this room now, and sleep in there,” she pointed through the double doors, “in the other room with the really big bed.”
“Okay. Well I guess I’ll be in here in this one, if you want me.” Bad choice of words Meg! Fool, stupid fool. “I mean, if you need anything… if… you know what? I’m going to shut up now.”
Kirstin locked her jaw. How easy it would be just to close the gap between them, just a few strides and she could be inches from the kind hands, the soft lips, the intense gaze that made her burn. Her breath quickened, not wanting to make the decision to leave the room as final as she knew it should be.
“Kirstin, what I was going to say earlier was that you don’t have to worry, about me, I mean, you already said what you had to say about you and me, and maybe this is a little too close for comfort, being here, together, but I respect you, and what you said, even if I don’t like it. I’m not a Neanderthal, you know? I’m not gonna jump your bones just cos you’re sitting next me.”
God that’s a shame. Then I could pretend I couldn’t help myself. I could let you make the decision, I could blame it all on you, dissolve myself of responsibility; Pretend I’m weak, give in to temptation. Then I’d HAVE to deal with this feeling.
“That’s not what I’m afraid of, Meg.”
Meg was suddenly reminded of a small lesson she had learnt on that fateful morning-after; Kirstin responded to the suggestive, she didn’t like pressure. To stop this woman running away from her she had to be available, but not needy. She had to flirt and make her feel wanted, but give her the power.
Yet wasn’t that just what she was doing? She hadn’t made a move. She had been and done everything Kirstin asked of her. She had kept her distance as best she could while still intimating she was interested, mostly because she couldn’t hide it. Perhaps she shouldn’t be showing any interest at all.
She had thought Kirstin had placed an all out ban on anything other than friendship, yet here she was confusing her. Telling her she wanted Meg to flirt with her, that she enjoyed it.
She’s not afraid of me jumping on her? What in the hell does that mean? That’s not what she’s afraid of? Is she afraid I won’t? What the fuck does that…?
“What does that mean?” Meg asked insistently, almost exasperated by her own
inconclusive thought process.
Kirstin wanted to tell her, she wanted to say ‘I’m scared I’ll enjoy it all too much; that I’ll like you too much, that I won’t mean as much to you as you will to me; that I’ll find myself falling for a woman who can have whomever she wants, that I won’t be the person you put out for’, that Meg wouldn’t have the fight in her, for her, that she required, that she desired. That all the evidence pointed to a holiday fling, and she would want more than that. That she could make a huge, and costly mistake pursuing Megan. Or possibly even worse than all of these things; that Meg would care enough, but that she’d be no better off with Megan than she was with Grace.
She was afraid that history would be repeated, and that this time Kirstin herself would be the initiator of all the unhealthy behaviour: hiding, lying, avoiding.
But her jaw was wired. It wouldn’t open because the mere admittance of these fears would make most of them come true. It was too much, too soon. It would seal any fate.
Megan stood there, waiting, willing. Her chest pounding. The question remained unanswered, and Megan figured this was because Kirstin couldn’t answer it.
“Just tell me what you want Kirstin. I care enough to give it to you. I don’t want you to think that I’m here right now just because I want to sleep with you. Okay? Not that I don’t want to, not that the urge isn’t there, I can’t and won’t deny it, but I don’t want you to think… that…” she took a breath to try kick-start some clarity, “I don’t want you to think that what happened between us recently has to flavour everything. If you want me to forget it, to try and stop… Oh fuck, I don’t know - just tell me what you want.”
Now here was a question she could answer, beyond doubt.
“I want to know what you want.”
And Megan was trapped. If she told her, that was pressure, Kirstin would run. How could she tell her the truth without giving Kirstin cause to push her away? And yet how could she down-play what she felt this very moment in this room?
Megan’s mouth went very dry. She impulsively licked her lips, the action slowed by the need to compose her thoughts quickly, concisely, favourably.
“I want to enjoy you,” Meg breathed. It was the truest, purest notion she had had in years.
She was somewhat relieved to find that what had left her lips was wholehearted candour, even though it was irritatingly open to interpretation. At least she hadn’t done what she expected she would do: Tell Kirstin everything she thought she wanted to hear. She couldn’t be sure what that even was. She pondered these thoughts while waiting for a reaction. In turn it spurred another equally sincere revelation from her lips.
“And I wish I’d kissed you in that hut.”
Kirstin let out all the air she had been holding in one sudden gust, followed by a pained, extended, guttural expletive.
She brought a hand to her face and rubbed her forehead and eyes with great pressure.
“I wish you’d kissed me in that hut too.”
She found Megan’s eyes and conveyed as much want and need and exasperation as she could allow herself. “I’m going to bed.”
Megan frowned deeply, “That’s it?!”
“Yeh.” The indignant expression all over Meg’s face prompted her to attempt clarification. “Yes, I don’t know what else to do,” she stated. Can’t you see? “This doesn’t change anything.” I need to stop thinking, so I can start acting.
Once again Megan found herself cast out; adrift, having been carefully reeled in by a cute fisherwoman, smiled at, stroked, admired and teased, but only to be thrown back to her freedom; Neither to be kept, nor consumed. And Megan discovered quickly that she didn’t want her freedom; freedom seemed like a penalty when all you wanted was to be captured and kept.
Captured. Kept. Someone willing to walk into the cage could hardly be declared ‘captured’. Yet here she was, pacing up and down in front of the bars, with the enclosure gate wide open. Pacing, back and forth, wanting Kirstin to slam the gate shut and claim her. It was an entirely new notion, and as such the rejection stung all the more.
Then Kirstin’s words filtered through.
This doesn’t change anything?!
If it was possible, Megan’s frown deepened.
As her forehead creased the true meaning of the statement hit home. As a result Megan thought better than to challenge it. Instead she took a deep breath and visibly relaxed, until her face was unreadable.
Her calmness was almost perturbing.
“Okay.” Kirstin repeated.
They stood looking at one another.
“Well - goodnight then,” Meg was curt.
Kirstin had been too busy trying to work out how she could ease the atmosphere of her own creation to realise that she was too late.
“Right. Yeh. Okay.”
Flustered she backed up to the adjoining door leading to her room, until she had to turn her back. Moments later she was mumbling “Goodnight” and closing it behind her.
Megan stood. She locked her jaw. She blinked a few times. Then she eased the
muscles in her neck back into action.
“This doesn’t change anything.”
It repeated in her ears, over and over.
She turned from the door, grunting in irritation.
As she began her own journey to bed, heading to the bathroom, finding her PJ’s, she continued to roll the notion over and over in her head.
This doesn’t change anything? It changes nothing? This? What? What happened? What was ‘this’? What the hell just happened?
“Jesus.” She uttered through the strokes of her toothbrush. She looked up at herself in the mirror, mouth full of minty foam, and grimaced before spitting the contents of her mouth out in pure annoyance.
Having cupped a handful of water to rinse her mouth with, she hung there for a moment looking at the plughole, watching the water swirl downward, watching water drip from her lips.
She told me she liked me, right? She wants me to flirt with her, she likes it. She likes it enough to tell me not to stop. But that’s as far as it goes. Meg turned off the tap. Because? Because what? She stood up, placing her toothbrush on the shelf beneath the mirror. She likes me but not enough? How much does she need to like me? How can this not change anything? This was her trying to say I really want to, right? She frowned at herself. Right? Wiping her face on the plush hotel towel she padded back into the main room before throwing it behind her in the vague direction from which she’d come.
What else was it? She kinda said ‘this was fun but I’d be risking too much’ before. Fun is fun. What she said just now was something like, I actually really like you, and that might be a problem. She hovered by the side of the bed in thought. Right? And that’s just stupid. “I like you TOO much” that’s what she might as well have said. And we all know what that means. She lifted the covers and settled into the large comfy bed.
Then she flipped the sidelight off.
She lay there in the half-darkness, noticing the light under the adjoining door extinguish moments later. But she likes me. She wants me. That’s what this means. And that, well, I’m afraid that changes everything. It just does.
Strangely Meg began to realise that although “this changes nothing” was obviously a fraudulent comment, it was also half-truth: On the one hand it was a lie because it did change everything, revealing something about them both that meant everything would change; and on the other it was truthful because nothing would seem to change, because no action would be taken in light of this small revelation. The point being that Kirstin wanted everything to remain the same, ‘this doesn’t change anything’ meant ‘maybe I am more interested than I let on, but I don’t intend doing anything about it, and I expect you not to either’. It meant ‘I’ve decided it changes nothing’ and it meant ‘you’re not getting a choice’.
The thought propelled Megan beyond her current frustration and into the altogether more worrying realm of anger.
Why did this all happen? Why say those things, why not just continue to lie? Why lead me on? Why make me hopeful?
It was akin to a dieter being told there was candy in the fridge. It still meant that the dieter would not be eating candy today, just as before the candy’s presence was announced, but now that the dieter knew it existed and where it was, everything would revolve around that knowledge. Everything would revolve around knowing it was there but that it was forbidden. Perhaps he or she would avoid the kitchen altogether. Perhaps they would try and give it away to anyone that would take it. Whatever the course of action the one thing the dieter could not do was pretend that he or she didn’t know it was there. It simultaneously changed everything and nothing.
What was the point in revealing a truth that, rather than change a situation for the better, merely made life harder?
It rendered truth an over-rated concept in Megan’s eyes, rather like honesty. Sometimes all it did was serve to make life more difficult when it was entirely unnecessary to do so.
And yet, so she thought, we usually prize it; often crying at the pain of it, but we are thankful. Why? Why don’t we question the people who tell us unnecessary painful truths? Why do we not readily question their motives? Because we prefer to think they are looking out for us? Or that the truth which they tell, painful as it may be, must mean something because we are still hopeful?
Why make me hopeful?
Why? What’s the point if it changes nothing?
But true hope changes everything; that is its duty. It is false hope we fear, false hope that is handed to us, usually meaning well, but ultimately simply delaying the inevitable.
The trick is being able to understand that both true and false hope are essentially the same thing until circumstances dictate otherwise; it is true until it is not and vice-versa.
Megan read this handed down hope as false because she saw it as conciliatory if it changed nothing.
But it did, and would, change everything, for a time.
Thanks to Jen for beta duties. Ax
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