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Second Chances

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It was after 6pm and Erica was still at work.  The work she had to finish was done and now she was fiddling with tasks that had no urgency.  She was procrastinating.  It was the dream she’d had which made her delay.  It had made her question her motives.  

It was dark.  She was naked.  There were soft silky hands sliding over her stomach and up to her breasts.  Her nipples felt so sensitive.  The pleasure blurred with the pain and she gasped.  The hands were followed by a mouth which kissed and a tongue which teased.  Her body tingled with each touch as though the contact was creating its own electricity.  She arched her back in response, wanting more, wanting that mouth lower where a heat had started to build.  She wanted to demand it but she couldn’t speak because soft lips were kissing her mouth, distracting her, and instead she responded to the kiss.  The intensity of her desire made her desperate.  She moved her hands only to find they were bound above her head and she was at the mercy of those lips and hands.  Even as she struggled against her restraints she knew she didn’t want to be released.  She knew it from the sudden excitement she felt knowing she was powerless.  Then a voice whispered in her ear.  “You’re mine.”

Erica woke up suddenly.  Her was heart racing.  It was just a dream but a dream in which Franky featured again.  She hadn’t dreamt about Franky for over two years.  The prisoner had invaded her dreams while she had been Governor and even after she had left the prison Franky had haunted her for a short time. 

Erica rolled over. She could see the solid lump that was Mark asleep beside her.  She closed her eyes and as she drifted towards sleep a thought slithered unwelcome into her consciousness.  She wondered where Franky was sleeping and who was beside her.

Then there was that kiss, whether she liked it or not, binding them.  That was real.  She couldn’t claim Franky had forced her into it even though she had because while Franky had been the aggressor Erica was pretty sure she had wanted that kiss all along.  It had happened so quickly.  The struggle then the capitulation but even so Erica knew how it had played out.  She wondered if Franky knew too. 

 She had resisted her inner urges twice before.  Once, years ago at the Velvet Curtain; a second time when she had been attracted to the prisoner Franky; she wasn’t sure she was strong enough to resist a third time.

The bar Franky had chosen was usually full of conservative professionals.  She hoped its atmosphere would protect her from Franky’s charms.  It was just a drink, she reminded herself firmly, and a conversation.

She arrived closer to seven than six.  It was Friday night and the place was packed with young lawyers winding down after a busy week.  It was a bar where they networked, hooked up, or just got plastered.  She saw Franky chatting to an attractive woman near the bar.  When she saw Erica she wound up the conversation but not before the woman slipped her business card into Franky’s palm.

She smiled on approach.  A warm, welcoming, appreciative smile which made Erica feel they were the only two people in the room.  “I’ll get us some drinks, see if you can find a table,” she suggested.  “What are you drinking?”

“Scotch,” Erica said immediately.  She needed it, she decided, to calm the sudden nervousness she felt.  She watched Franky work her way to the bar.  She was dressed for work in dark fitted pants and a slim tailored jacket.  She looked like she fitted in.  Erica wondered what these private school lawyers would think if they knew Franky had done time with murderers, drug dealers and child abusers.   

She went to find a table.  It wasn’t easy, every last one seemed taken, but as she was giving up hope, a couple vacated a secluded booth.  Franky appeared about five minutes later.  She placed a glass in front of Erica.  She was pretty sure it was a double.  Franky was drinking beer.  She slid into the booth across from Erica and raised her glass.

“What should we drink to?” Erica asked.  “How about you getting your law degree,” she suggested with a smile.  She raised her glass.

Franky just shook her head.  “To freedom,” she said.  It was the toast she always made since leaving Wentworth.  Their glasses touched.

Erica studied Franky over her glass.  “Okay,” she said at last, “I’m dying to know.”

“What are you dying to know?” Franky asked with a slow smile.

“How the hell you ended up working with Stephanie Wilkinson?  Do you have any idea how awesome that woman is?”

“Oh that,” Franky shrugged dismissively.  “Yeah, I do actually.”  She put down her beer and unbuttoned her jacket.  Erica watched as she slid it off her shoulders and put it on the seat next to her.  She was wearing a sleeveless top which revealed tattoos, toned arms and cleavage.  It was the Franky Erica remembered.

Franky told Erica how she had fallen into her job after she'd finished her degree.

"It was that stupid reality TV show," Franky said with a grin.  "I never thought I’d actually be thankful for it but there you go.  Steph interviewed me and it turned out she had seen the show and was a bit of a fan.  So despite my complete inexperience and record she hired me on the spot.”  Then she added more seriously.  “She has been a really good mentor to me.  I was lucky."  Erica didn't think it was luck.  Franky could be so engaging and charming when she put her mind to it.

"I really like the work I'm doing," Franky admitted.  "I help women like myself who have made mistakes and are at the mercy of the system.  We get some funding from the government but Steph also takes other cases, which help to pay the bills.  She's a pretty good lawyer."  Erica could hear the admiration in Franky's voice.

“I’m impressed,” Erica said sincerely.  “I always knew you could do it,” she added.

“I wouldn’t have without your encouragement,” Franky acknowledged.  She put her hand on Erica’s and held it.  “I wonder if you realise just how important that was to me.” 

Her signal was clear.  Franky’s green eyes mesmerised Erica.  She may have toned down the eyeliner but those eyes were just as compelling as ever. 

“Franky,” Erica licked her bottom lip nervously and withdrew her hand.  Franky didn’t stop her.  This Franky, at her most sincere, was always the one that got under Erica’s guard.  “I didn’t do anything really.”

Franky leant forward.  “You believed in me,” she said softly.  She studied Erica intently, capturing and holding her gaze as though to burn the meaning of those words onto Erica’s soul.

Erica took an impressive swig of scotch and felt it burn her throat.  She looked towards the bar briefly but the crowd seemed so distant when compared with the one woman across from her.  When she looked back Franky had sat back and was watching her with a small smile on her face.  Her hand held her beer lightly.  She had hardly touched it, Erica noticed. 

“Why’d you leave?” Franky asked suddenly. 

Erica knew she was referring to her sudden departure from Wentworth close on the heels of their kiss.  She could have told Franky it was because of her, because of that kiss, because the lines between professional and personal had blurred too much, because if she hadn’t left she would have lost everything she had worked for. 

Instead she gave her stock standard answer.  The one she had given to Mark, at job interviews, to her parents.  “I realised my true passion was for the law and I was treading water in my role at Wentworth.  I wanted to become partner in a law firm.”

Franky just looked at her.  “Bullshit, Erica,” she said at last.  “Why’d you really leave?”  Erica was silent.  “It was because of me, wasn’t it?” she pushed, “because of what you felt for me.  You couldn’t handle it.”  Franky said knowingly.  “Why won’t you admit it?”

Erica took another mouthful of scotch.  It was a dangerous drink for her.  It gave her a terrible hangover if she drank too much of it but the effect it had on her was unlike any other alcohol.  It could calm her, intoxicate her, and she couldn’t resist coming back for more.  The parallels between it and her relationship with Franky were not lost on her. 

“Franky,” she pleaded.  She should have known Franky would not buy it, would see straight through it and would call her on it.

“What Erica?” Franky leant forward with her elbows on the table.  “Why are we here, if not to talk about this?”

“Because–” Erica struggled with words.  She looked at Franky, feeling stupid that she couldn’t articulate her reasons.  Wishing Franky didn’t look so tempting in her tight fitting pants and top with the plunging neckline that drew Erica’s eyes to her breasts.  “I–” still the words didn’t come.  

“Just breathe, Erica,” Franky smiled at her reassuringly.  “It’s okay.”

Erica took a slow deep breath.  “I wanted to see you,” she said at last.  As soon as she said it she realised it had come out wrong.  Watching her companion’s slow smile told her as much.  Franky had read volumes into that statement.

Franky’s eyes were drawn to Erica’s parted lips.  She wondered if Erica had any idea how gorgeous she looked with that confused little frown creasing her brow.  Franky wanted to kiss her, to distract her from those thoughts which made Erica hesitate and resist the chemistry between them. 

When they’d met yesterday she had felt that same electricity she had always felt when she was with Erica.  She had wondered whether maybe it was just the dying fizzle, the last flicker before the lights went out.  Maybe it was just a remembered sensation.  Now though, she knew it wasn’t and more importantly, she knew Erica felt it too.

“Let’s get out of here,” Franky said suddenly.

Erica blinked as though drawn out of a spell.  “And go where?”

“Anywhere,” Franky replied as she stood up and grabbed her jacket.  “This place is restrictive.”

“Why did you pick it?” Erica asked as she also stood up.

“Well, I thought you’d feel comfortable here.” Franky said with a grin.  “I didn’t want you to pike on me.”  She led the way through the crowd towards the door. 

On the street it was cool enough for Franky to put on her jacket again. 

“Do you think Stephanie will help us on the Roxton case?” Erica asked as they walked.

“Still trying to pump me for information, Erica?  Don’t you remember you never had much success with that,” Franky said.  The tone was light but the message was clear.  Franky was reminding her that their relationship was one of equals now and the days when she held all the power were gone. 

“A girl can try, can’t she?” Erica replied, her tone also light.  It was something Franky would have said in the same circumstances.

Franky stopped walking and faced Erica.  “Sure she can,” Franky raised her eyebrows and gave a quick smile.  “Quid pro quo though,” she added.

Erica frowned. “What do you want?” she asked suddenly uncertain where the conversation would lead.

Franky stepped closer.  “You know what I want,” she murmured.  Her voice was full of suggestion. 

Erica was staring at Franky’s lips which were parted slightly as she waited.  She might have answered or just leant in inviting Franky to kiss her right there on the street but before she could do either Franky’s mobile rang. 

The younger woman glanced at the screen and frowned. “I’ve got to get this,” she muttered.  “What’s up?” she asked into the phone.

Erica watched her.  Franky’s side of the conversation consisted of some expletives and finished with an ‘okay’.  She rang off.

“Is everything all right?” Erica asked.

Franky gave her an apologetic look.  “I’ve gotta go,” she stepped closer.  “I’m sorry,” she frowned, “but this is important.”

Erica shook her head.  “It’s okay.” 

“No it’s not,” Franky said quickly.  She leant in.  “We were just getting started,” she said softly.  

Erica watched her walk away.  It had just been a drink and a conversation after all. 

When Franky arrived at the police station it was 8.30pm.  She went up to the counter.  "Franky Doyle, here for Sue Jenkins," she said to the young PC on the front desk. 

He tapped the computer.  "Jenkins," he muttered to himself.  Franky waited impatiently.  "Wait a minute," he said after a moment.  "Hey, Wilson, know anything about a Sue Jenkins?"

A young female constable came up to the counter. "Hiya Franky," she smiled.  Franky remembered flirting with her on a previous visit.  "Yeah, Jenkins, in for assault, you her lawyer?"  Franky nodded.  "All right, come on through, you can see her."

Boomer was brought into one of the interview rooms.  She smiled when she saw Franky.  "Hey Franks, just like old times huh." She laughed as she sat down.

"You fucking owe me, Booms," Franky said bluntly.  "Your timing stinks."

"What's got up your nose?" Boomer asked with surprise.  "It's not like I planned it."

"Well, you're stuck in here until the bail hearing on Monday," Franky told her without much sympathy. 

"Can’t go home anyway, mum chucked me out ay," Boomer told her in a resigned voice. 

"What happened?" Franky asked.

"It's mum's new squeeze, he's a fucking arsehole, anyway I laid into him and mum called the fucking cops," Boomer said in disbelief.  "Not before I broke his fucking arm though."  She said with satisfaction. 

"Did he provoke you?" Franky rubbed her brow.

"Yeah," Boomer said immediately. 

"What did he do?  Hit you?"  Franky asked hopefully but she couldn't see any obvious injuries. 

"Nah," and Franky mentally crossed self-defence of her list of possible defences.  "He's just on at me all the fucking time.  Get a job you fat slag, stop sponging off your mother, start paying your way, like I haven't been trying since I got out.  Arsehole," she muttered again.  She looked at Franky.  "I'm screwed, aren't I?"

“Let’s just say it’s lucky you’ve got such a shit hot lawyer,” Franky said with a grin. 

 “Yeah?” Boomer looked at her expectantly.  “Who’s that then?”

It was almost midnight when Erica’s mobile vibrated on the bedside table.  She looked at the number and thought she recognised it.  She looked over at Mark.  He was sound asleep.  She took her phone with her and went into the kitchen.

She picked up the call.  “Franky?” She said quietly.  There was silence.  “What is it?”

“Did you think about me at all after you left Wentworth?” Franky asked at last.

“Franky,” Erica sighed. 

“Did you?” Franky’s voice was low.  Erica stared into the shadows.  Again she was talking to Franky in the dark and it seemed to draw the truth from her.

“Yes,” she confessed softly.

She heard Franky sigh.  Erica had a sudden vision of Franky lying in her bed, alone in the dark, making the call.  Not caring that it was late or Mark was there because she needed to know the answer to her question.

“It will depend on Ruby,” Franky said into the silence.

It took Erica a moment to catch up.  “Depend on Ruby how?” she asked.

Franky laughed softly.  “Good night, Erica, sweet dreams.”