Jessica let herself fall against the wall. She was exhausted. Slowly she assessed her ribs; they were hurting like hell, she probably had broken one or two in the fight.
“Come on, Jess, let’s get out of here.”
Trish appeared in her sight, holding her phone in her hand. Two policemen were near the bar, looking distrustfully at both women.
“I don’t think they’ll let me go,” she said, pointing at the men.
Trish looked over at them, and nodded.
“I took care of them. Being famous does have some perks sometimes. They’re letting us go.”
“Come on, I’ve called my driver, he’s waiting for us outside. Let’s go.”
Jessica’s head was pounding. She wanted to resist and make a point to stand her ground, but she hadn’t slept in days and she was very drunk. She let Trish guide her to the door, throwing a last dark look to the barman and the men scattered on the ground, slowly coming to.
Trish was holding the car door open for her. “Get in, Jess.”
She eyed the blonde woman suspiciously. “No hospital.”
“No hospital, Trish. Or I’m not going.”
Trish looked at her for a few seconds, before shaking her head. “Fine. You want to worsen your injuries, and maybe pierce a lung, be my guest. But we’re going to my place.”
Reluctantly, Jessica got in the black car. She stifled a hiss when she bumped her ribs against the seat and watched Trish get in by the other door. She looked intently at Jessica, but didn’t say anything.
It was almost worse than if she’d been yelling.
After a while, Jessica broke the silence. “Thank you.”
Trish waved her hand in acknowledgement. “It’s fine, Jess. I’m not mad. But what happened this time?”
Jessica snorted in disgust. “These guys were hitting on me.”
The blonde woman raised an eyebrow. “So… You decided to hit them?”
Trish sighed. “Well, I cannot say I disapprove, but I wish I didn’t have to come and pick you up injured and bloodied every time we see each other.”
“Not every time,” huffed Jessica.
Trish gave her the look.
“Fine,” admitted the dark-haired woman. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I just wished you’d be more careful.”
They stayed silent until the car pulled into the private underground parking under Trish’s apartment complex.
As soon as the car had stopped, Jessica got out and headed for the elevator. The door opened in a cheery ping.
“Are you hungry?” asked Trish, while pressing on the floor button.
Jessica let her shoulder rest against the cold metal wall of the cabin. “I could eat.”
She was glad to see a smile form on Trish’s lips as they left the elevator and made their way towards the door.
The night was still enveloping the never-sleeping city of New York like an old battered coat, clinging to its bones under the insipid rain drenching the streets. The air was sticky, like only a rainy summer night can be. In the distance, sirens were mixing with too loud music and the cries of thousands and thousands of unknown bodies, a hard beat to follow or understand unless you trained yourself to listen. The air smelled of garbage, of smoke, of gasoline and sweat; like a petrichor made of concrete, disillusion and decay; like the aftermath scent of an internal battle that would never end.
Jessica and Trish were sitting on her balcony, sipping tea, or rather, in Jessica’s case, pretending to. She had patched herself up a bit and taken a long shower. She was feeling way too sober for her taste, but she tried to see it as a good thing. The lull of the rain falling against the railings was helping her calm down. Furtively she looked at Trish, who was obviously lost in thought.
It was nice. To have a mug of warm tea in her hand, freshly washed clothes, in a clean apartment; to just sit there, watching the city writhe and move while staying still; to be silent with someone – and content. Jessica hadn’t felt like that in forever. It had been almost worth it – the drinks, the pain, and the fights – to end up here, on Trish’s balcony, with a cup of tea she wouldn’t drink.
After a while, she broke the companionable silence. “Hey Trish…”
The blonde woman shook herself from her stupor and looked back at Jessica. “What?”
“Do you ever think about what would’ve happened if we were not sisters?”
She blinked. “What do you mean?”
Jessica put her cup on the table next to her, and crossed her arms against her chest. “Well. I mean. If your mom had not adopted me. I’d probably be long dead right now, for a start.”
“Don’t be silly.”
Jessica tried smiling, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Don’t deny it; I know you thought it too.”
Trish carefully looked at the dark-haired woman. “Well, fine. But it goes for me too.”
At that, Jessica could only snort. “Nah. You would have been fine without me.”
Hesitating, Trish put her hand on her shoulder. “Don’t be so sure. My mom – well, I’m not sure how long I’d have survived her abuse, to be quite honest.”
Now, Jessica bitterly regretted having brought the subject up. Of course, it hadn’t been easy for Trish too.
“Trish,” she started, but the other woman was quicker.
“It’s true, Jessie. I know you were aware of some of it. But I was stubborn. I wouldn’t have gone for help.”
Jessica frowned. “You mean, if she had gotten quite violent?”
Trish let go of Jessica’s shoulder and got up. She put her hands on the railings and looked down, letting the rain wet her silky blond hair.
She took a deep breath. “No. That’s not exactly what I meant.”
Trish was looking fiercely at the tall buildings surrounding the apartment complex. Jessica felt a bit lost. Just when she was about to reply something, it suddenly dawned on her.
Oh, god. She was so thick sometimes.
“Oh god, Trish.”
She got up, wincing a little at the sharp pain in her left side, and stood next to her friend, delicately putting her hand over hers.
“You never said anything. I never knew.”
Trish had a joyless smile, still avoiding Jessica’s eyes. “Well. You couldn’t have. It’s not like I brag about it. But the fact is – in many ways, you did save me.”
Jessica softly nudged her shoulder with her own. “Even if it was against your will at first?”
Trish glanced at the other woman, a more genuine smile on her lips. “Well. I was an only child. I never had a sibling to confide into, or to talk to, or even to play with. And I was famous. I had a very lonely childhood, until you came to our family.”
Funny how time had a way of distorting reality and memories. Though she loved Trish dearly now, she remembered she had thought that she was just another spoiled brat, complaining for nothing – and she had hated her for that. That is, until she had discovered the truth.
She looked at the blonde woman with a sad smile. “Well, you saved me too, Trish. More times that I can count.”
Trish took Jessica’s hand in her own and squeezed hard. “I did nothing but be there for you and support you, as sisters should. You did the rest, Jess. Not me.”
“So did you. But I’m afraid I really was not as good with the support thing, though.”
Trish slowly cradled Jessica into her soft arms, mindful of her injuries.
“You’re here now,” she whispered. “You’re alive. It’s the only thing that matters.”
Jessica let her head rest on her shoulder, tightening the hug a little.
They remained embraced for a few minutes, oblivious of the city noises and smells.
Pushing back carefully, Trish looked at Jessica.
“There is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about, Jess,” she said, biting her lip.
Frowning with concern, Jessica searched her eyes. “What is it?”
Trish let go of Jessica and started pacing near the railings. She looked agitated, which only exacerbated the other woman’s concerns. “Trish. What is it? You know you can tell me anything.”
Putting her head in her hands, the blonde sighed. “I have to admit that – well, sometimes, I have a hard time dealing with the fact that we are, in many ways, sisters. And by that,” she continued, as she sensed more than saw Jessica react. “I really don’t mean that you are not the closest thing to family that I’ve ever had or anything. It’s not that. You are the only person I trust and probably ever will.”
“I’m not sure I get it, Trish,” Jessica replied, slowly. “We might not be biological sisters, and I mean, I will always miss my family, but it’s true for me too. You are my only friend. Whom I happened to have been brought up with. Whom I love as I would a sister.”
Trish shook her head with a sad smile. “But you see, Jess… That’s my problem, right there. Of course, I love you as I would a sister too. But. I’m not sure that’s all there is, though.”
Guardedly, Jessica stepped closer to her friend. “What are you trying to say, Trish?”
Trish was toying with the hem of her shirt in a nervous tick Jessica had not witnessed since the end of junior high.
Taking a deep breath, Trish put her back to the balcony’s side wall before replying.
“What I’m trying to say is that I love you as way more than a sister. Like. In a way that makes me angry that we are sisters.”
Her hands clenched in fist, Trish closed her eyes. “And I know you don’t love me that way or anything, and really, it’s fine. But it’s getting harder and harder to see you and just pretend that I don’t have these feelings. Because I do have them.”
Putting her arms around herself, her voice caught in her throat.
“I don’t want to drive you away and scare you. I don’t think I could bear losing you, even just as a friend. Or as a sister. And it’s driving me crazy because I feel that I shouldn’t be feeling this kind of love for you; it feels incestuous and wrong. And yet when I see you, my heart goes faster; and I just want to hold you, and protect you, and kiss you. And it drives me crazy, because I’m scared, I’m so scared you’re going to leave, or feel weird about it. And though I’ve been in love with you for quite some time, I’ve always kept quiet because the alternative – losing you – is too frightening to bear.”
She wiped her tears angrily, not looking at Jessica.
The latter was stunned. This was not what she expected her sister – her friend – to say. She thought she would talk about how it drove her crazy how Jessica always put her life at risk. She thought Trish would say she couldn’t handle it anymore.
She really didn’t expect a confession of undying love.
As fast as her injuries allowed, she walked the few steps that separated them. Brushing her hand against her arm, she tried catching Trish’s eyes.
“You can try driving me away all you want, Trish. I’ve stuck around this far, and it’s certainly not to run away right now. And I’m not freaked out.”
The blonde raised her eyebrows in surprise. “You’re not?”
With a little smile, Jessica shook her head. “I’m not.”
“But you don’t feel the same,” she half-stated and half-asked.
Rubbing her forehead, Jessica let a quiet sigh escape her. “I wouldn’t put it like that exactly.”
“How would you put it, then?” Trish asked, with a small voice.
Jessica felt her heart swell at the sight of her sister, her best friend, looking so uncertain, and flustered, and vulnerable because she was scared of being rejected. She was so brave, so courageous. It took strength to put yourself out there, to take some risks, even if you knew it could change things forever. Once again, Trish was proving that you didn’t need superpowers to be a hero. Jessica really did not deserve someone like Trish in her life.
Part of her just wanted to put her out of her misery at once and say she reciprocated her feelings; but it was so much more complicated than that. For all her ability to pierce through Jessica’s shell, Trish – bless her heart – didn’t know a lot of things about her.
And how could she? Jessica had enough trouble admitting anything to herself, let alone admit it to Trish.
But if Trish had found enough courage to out herself and go through with her declaration, Jessica would too.
“The thing is, Trish, I’m a mess. I’m truly messed up. Since Kilgrave – well, it’s been almost impossible to let anybody close. I don’t ever want to feel this powerless, this helpless, this ashamed again. Ever.
“And I know I’m not the one to blame. I know Kilgrave did this to me, that I didn’t ask for it, that there was no consent. But it really doesn’t make it better, does it? Even if it was not my fault, I still wake up frightened and crying and yelling because I think he is in the room, because his shadow still fucking follows me around, even since he died.”
She was glad that Trish didn’t interrupt her. She didn’t think she could handle stopping, now that she’d started.
“And all that shit with Luke… I didn’t love Luke. And I wouldn’t have let myself fall for him. Sure, he’s a good man, and, I mean, very good looking. But he had been also damaged by Kilgrave. By me, under Kilgrave’s power. It didn’t really help me build some trust with him, when all I could feel was shame, and regret, and dread to be found out. Kilgrave killed Reba, but I was holding the gun. And it fucked me up, it fucked us up, it was just too fucked up to ever work. Just like with anybody else.”
Shakily, she took a deep breath. Trish was looking at her raptly, listening intently to her every word.
“I know myself, and I know that I’m not able to let anybody in unless I trust them completely. You’re the only one I trust, Trish, like I told you earlier. I was not lying. I know I’m safe with you. I feel safe with you, and I’m scared when you are in trouble, or when you get out there even if I know you can handle this world better than I can, super strength be damned.
“I am who I am, and my experiences are part of me. They don’t define me, but they still affect me. They still affect how I react, how I handle situations, how angry I become. I trust you, I trust you so much, Trish. And I do love you. But Love with a big L and all that shit… All I can think of when I think of Love is Kilgrave. Because the fucking bastard loved me, called what he felt for me love, and in his twisted, manipulative, abusive and violent way he did. He did love me. And it still makes me feel dirty and gross and terrible.”
God, Jessica wished she had some cheap bourbon right now. She turned away and went back towards the railings, where the city was her only mirror. She sensed Trish following her.
“And I’m scared,” she whispered, “that I’m the one who’s cursed and that all the people I love end up dead or psychopaths. I know it’s silly. But I haven’t had an easy relationship with love, and it’s fucking me up so much. So, Trish, it’s not that I don’t reciprocate your feelings. I think I could, in due time. In fact, I think I do reciprocate them. But it’s not that easy – not for me. I don’t know how to act like a normal person, Trish. I’m not diminishing the abuse you suffered – it’s just not the same situation. Since my parents and my brother have died, I have shut myself down to this world, and I’ve vowed to never let anybody else in. And since Kilgrave happened to me, it’s even worse.”
Jessica turned and took Trish’s hands in her own. “You are the only exception, Trish. And I’m afraid it’s the only thing I can answer back to you.”
Trish remained silent for a few seconds. Then, slowly, she brought her hand to the other woman’s face, and brushed her fingers to her cheek. Jessica leaned into the touch, biting her lips – hoping. But hoping for what, she didn’t know.
Trish wrapped her arms around Jessica’s waist and pulled her close. Jessica held her like a drowning man to a moving buoy.
“Thank you,” the blonde murmured in her hair. “Thank you for sharing this –all of this– with me. You are incredible, Jess. I’ll always be there for you. I genuinely love you – so much. However you need.”
Jessica felt the unshed tears she had held back for so long slowly roll from her eyes.
She was broken. She was fucked up. Things would never be easy, or fluffy, or always happy. Trish might leave, at some point. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to handle it. Maybe she would get tired of Jessica’s anger, of her weird and hurt feelings, of her PTSD. Maybe she would be ashamed of her reactions, and yell, and hurt her.
A little voice was saying, at the back of her head, that maybe not. Maybe this time, it would be okay.
It did feel wrong; Trish was her sister, and her best friend. That too was fucked up in its own.
But right now, right this moment, she didn’t care.
“I love you too, Trish. However you need.”