Jenny was good at disappearing in both the mental and physical sense of the word. She could become instantly absent in a conversation, a dismissive light appearing in blue grey eyes and you knew in that moment she wasn't listening to you. That perhaps she had never been listening to you. Just as easily she could slip away in a crowd, wander aimlessly from a small gathering, seconds turning into minutes then hours before someone finally questioned where she had gone.
These were things that Shane knew about Jenny but never paid much attention to because they never applied to her. Jenny never did it to her, why would she? They were friends, close friends, best friends, a strange reformation of Dana and Alice but with far more emotional baggage and perhaps an added dash of the crazy. Jenny never wanted to disappear when Shane was present. Instead she would reappear for the hairdresser, coming exactly when the other woman needed her with a mischievous smile on her lips.
Forty five days.
That was how much time passed before Jenny reappeared before Shane. It was exactly in the manner she left. Quiet and powerful and leaving Shane staring after the writer helplessly. Only this time she was watching Jenny walk towards her instead of away.
A rusted Volkswagen van, the kind that hippies used to drive, complete with a paintjob that consisted of daisies and rainbow swirls, that was what Jenny emerged from in the dying light of that Sunday afternoon. Shane had been sitting on the porch of their house, a cigarette hanging from her lips, one that threatened to fall as Jenny hopped from the back of the van, flanked on each side by a pair of lesbians that looked anything but granola in their leather pants and steel toed boots.
She approached in more of a skip than a walk, looking strangely content and pleased with herself, clutching a magazine in hand. Sounder trailing after her, his tiny nails clip clopping against the sidewalk, a wide smile on his furry features. The skip walk came to an abrupt halt as she stopped directly in front of Shane, thrusting the magazine towards the hairdresser by way of a greeting. It was one that Shane automatically accepted, taking the slightly wrinkled item in hand.
"I wrote a story about us," Jenny informed, tilting her head to one side. "It's in there. You can read it if you want."
Looking down to see the magazine was the latest edition of The New Yorker and wondering exactly what Jenny had written about them, Shane struggled for what to say to this. For so long she had the words practiced and rehearsed. The things she would say to make Jenny forgive her, the things that would explain to Jenny why she had made such a mistake, the things that would help Jenny understand… know that Shane loved her, loved her more than anyone else, despite how her recent actions said otherwise.
But those words, they simply wouldn't come, and Shane was left to stare dumbly at Jenny and the leather pants wearing lesbians who now stood behind her, each holding a hefty piece of luggage in hand. "I'll read it," Shane said instead.
"Good," Jenny smiled brightly, "you really should since you're the antagonist."
That said, she skipped past Shane and into the house, the leather pants lesbians and Sounder dutifully following after and leaving Shane exactly where she had been but feeling as if she was in an entirely different place altogether.
Her name was Sam in this story. It was short for Samantha and Shane decided it was an improvement from Shaun. Although she wasn't sure that Jane was better than Jesse. She liked Jesse. Maybe because it was slightly closer to Jenny's real name in sound.
It was a short read.
Blunt and painfully to the point, a cautionary and familiar tale to countless lesbians. The chaos caused from falling in love with one of your closest friends and the destruction left in the wake of having friendship mixed with romantic love and jealousy. Though it was only a few thousand words, ten thousand or less perhaps, it kept Shane on the porch for several hours. Staring at the printed pages, eyes drifting back then forth and back again, taking the sentences in and trying to decipher this feeling she got from the story.
Melancholy and wistful and a bit self deprecating. When Jenny handed her the magazine, told her of the story and her status as its antagonist, Shane expected brimstone and fury, and part of her wanted it to be that because she felt she deserved it. But that wasn't what she got, not in the slightest. There was this sense she had, when reading the story, that it was actually about Jenny scolding herself for falling in love with Shane, for letting herself believe, for just a second, they could have the fairy tale ending.
Once again, Shane's eyes fell to the bottom of the page, reading another section over again. Knowing full well this was Jenny speaking directly to her with her words. Explaining how she felt, what she had worked out in their forty five days apart.
The emotional spectrum of Sam's world was divided into two clear colors. Black and white. Friend and fuck. She couldn't be a friend if she wanted to get fucked. Even if getting fucked wasn't all that Jane wanted from her friend.
It was Jane's fault for wanting too much.
Sam couldn't change because she didn't want to change. Each time she tried to people shoved her back into that box where she kept herself for so long. The one labeled lesbian lothario. The one that said she couldn't ever be loyal. The one that told Sam she had to cheat on her girlfriend of the moment. Sam let them push her though. She let them push her because she was comfortable there. It was a safe place. Familiar. Jane knew that. It was okay that Sam was that way. It made Jane sad but it was okay. This was Sam's choice and Jane respected it.
Though she wished Sam hadn't fucked her ex-girlfriend.
Jane took the blame for thinking she was special. That friendship made her different. That being friends first would help her break Sam's rules. Shatter the insecurity. Smash the judgments. Stake the fear.
It was Jane's fault for falling in love and not even realizing until it was too late.
There was not a hint of anger. The story was filled to the brim with sadness and regret and even what Shane considered a strange sort of apology from Jenny. As if she was telling Shane she was sorry that she fell in love with the hairdresser, telling her because she believed it was something completely and utterly unwelcome on Shane's behalf.
Which couldn't be further from the truth.
Crumpling the magazine tightly in hand, Shane finally left the porch, wandering into the house where she was greeted by the silent stares of the leather pants lesbians and Sounder's excited yip. A faint smile on her lips, Shane knelt down to pet the dog whose little tail wagged excitedly at the attention. Peering up at her houseguests, Shane asked them a silent question which they contemplated for a long moment then the taller one with curly red hair jerked her thumb backwards and said, "She's in her bedroom."
Dipping her head in thanks, Shane stood up, leaving Sounder trailing around her until one of the leather pants lesbians called his name and he scurried off in their direction. She was halfway down the hall when she heard the redhead speak again.
"You really fucked her up."
Not pausing in her walk, her eyes fixed on her target, imagining Jenny behind that bedroom door, trying to figure out what she would say to her to explain, what the hell she could do to make it better, Shane replied, "I know."
Shane stopped at Jenny's door, half expecting to hear the writer telling her to come in. Jenny always did things like that. She had a sixth sense about things. Seemed to know and understand when no one else could or would. It was part of the reason that Shane did love her so very much. But Jenny didn't call out to her and Shane raised her hand, making a fist, lightly knocking on the door.
"Come in!" Jenny sounded happy but it was off, there was lurking evidence of it being forced, and Shane wondered if maybe when Jenny had been away from her for those forty five days with the leather pants lesbians she had just been happy.
Opening the door, walking inside, she saw Jenny standing in front of her bed, staring at a huge pile of clothing. All these things were familiar and they put Shane just a tiny bit at ease. Then she remembered the magazine she held in hand.
"Shane," Jenny said her name in greeting and the hairdresser had to keep herself from flinching at the warmth in her voice. The affection that was there, the fondness, she didn't deserve it. Not in the least. But that didn't keep her from being happy to hear it. So happy and so very relieved because maybe it meant they could fix this. She could fix this. "Did you like the story?"
"I like anything you write," said Shane quietly, moving into the room hesitantly, closing the door behind her.
Holding up a purple blouse that looked less like a shirt and more like an experiment in sewing together random strips of fabric, Jenny laughed. The sound was light, tinkling, and melodic. Like the ringing of clear bells and Shane's heart contracted on hearing it. "I don't believe that's true," scolded Jenny, throwing the blouse onto the large pile of clothes on the bed. Looking to Shane, she lifted an eyebrow then said, "I'm cleaning out my fucking closet. Would you like to help?"
"Why?" asked Shane and an instinctive sliver of fear went through her.
"I'm giving away the ones I won't need," said Jenny in airy tones, a carelessness to her announcement as she tossed a pair of tailored brown pants onto the bed. Shane vaguely recalled they were a gift from Niki. "Susan tells me it's colder in Portland."
"Susan?" Shane echoed, the sliver turning into a shard, her breath stilling in her chest.
"The redhead," Jenny explained as she pulled out a stylish blue coat. She considered it with a tilt of her head before tossing it inside the large and half empty suitcase that sat next to the closet. "Carla is her girlfriend. The shitty van belongs to their friend, Ursula, I'll be staying with her on her retreat." Jenny paused to consider this, a frown playing on her features. "Or is it a commune? I'm not sure."
"You don't have to go," said Shane urgently, taking a step forward, wanting to reach out to Jenny and stop her from removing the slinky black dress that the writer was considering with a serious expression. "I don't want you to go."
Shifting her gaze to Shane, an amused glint in her blue grey eyes, Jenny questioned, "Do you think a homeless person would wear this? It would be fucking funny, wouldn't it? To see one walking around Santa Barbara in this dress, pushing a shopping cart."
"Jenny," Shane said her name with a type of desperation that clearly affected the writer, her eyes becoming wider at the sound.
Giving the dress a careful study before she tossed it onto the large pile on the bed, Jenny murmured, "I can't stay here, Shane. Just because I understand why things are the way they are doesn't mean I can be near it. Not right now." She slowly turned, facing the hairdresser for the first time since she came in the room, her gaze kind but sad and so painfully sympathetic. "I understand why you did what you did with Niki. It doesn't even hurt anymore but I think after reading my story you know that was the least of it."
The words wouldn't come. They were stuck in Shane's throat. Suffocated and drowning in her guilt. Her tongue was heavy in her mouth, thick with regret, and Shane could only stare at Jenny. Expression plaintive and pleading.
"Oh Shane," Jenny sighed her name than more than said it, a whispering breath released between her lips. Delicate hands, pale but deceptively strong, rose up, cupping Shane's face in a gentle hold. The pads of Jenny's fingers stroking the contours of the other woman's face, as if to memorize it with both sight and touch. "Don't be sad. It isn't your fault. Not really."
"But it is," disputed Shane, her eyes closing at the feel of Jenny's hands on her skin, cool and tender and absolutely perfect, as if that was precisely where they were always meant to be. Her head fell forward, resting against Jenny's shoulder, and it was so much softer than Shane could have ever imagined. Jenny often looked like she was made of sharp angles that perfectly fit her sharp wit but that wasn't the truth of the matter. Underneath she was all curves, sweet and sensual and lush. Shane breathed in the faint scent of the ocean that clung to the writer, her body trembling as Jenny's fingers threaded through her wild hair, perhaps in an attempt to smooth it. "I hurt you. I ruined things. I fucked up like I always do and now you're leaving."
No response. Only silence and the sound of breathing. Shane knew she was right because if she wasn't Jenny would have said something by now. Jenny never hesitated except when she was trying to say something nicely and Shane was one of the few people the writer ever bothered to do that for. Maybe because she seemed to be the only one who understood that Shane needed it.
"That's my fault," Jenny said finally. Her breath was warm against Shane's skin, blowing against her ear, and the hairdresser felt herself tugged closer, delicate hands falling to wrap around her waist until they were in an embrace. A circular pattern was being rubbed on her back and Shane shuddered at the sensation, squeezing her eyes tight to hold back the tears. "You made a mistake with Niki, just like you did with Carmen, but I made one too, Shane. It's my fucking mistake that has me leaving, not yours."
On hearing this, Shane instinctively gripped Jenny tighter, pulling her closer, harder and fiercer in her hold. As if to use it to keep Jenny from leaving and the writer allowed this desperation of movement. She tilted her head to one side, studying Shane's lowered head, buried in the curve of her neck. Sighing quiet and sad, she pressed a kiss onto Shane's cheek, smiling when hazel eyes lifted, meeting her own. Moving a hand from Shane's hip, she pushed a lock of hair from those eyes.
"I'll come back," Jenny promised, playing with the hair between her fingers, enjoying its fine texture before smoothing it back onto Shane's head. "I just need more time to put everything back where it belongs. You understand, don't you, Shane?" A smile quirked on her features and she said rather playfully, "Maybe I'll write another story."
Back where it belongs.
That was what the disappearance was about. Jenny was trying to make everything like it was before that night. Before Shane knew the truth of the writer's feelings. Before she knew that Jenny was in love with her. She was leaving to do that because that's what she thought Shane wanted. What Shane needed. And because Jenny knew she couldn't do that and be around Shane at the same time she was leaving.
There were those words, the practiced, the rehearsed ones, screaming out in her head. Yelling at her to say them, a constant chorus, an echoing fury of noise and sound, but Shane kept them quiet and sealed away. Ever since she was a small child she chose her words carefully and said them only when she felt they were absolutely necessary. This time, they simply weren't.
Hundreds of kisses, thousands perhaps, Shane experienced throughout her years and each of them were a little different because of the person giving them. Everyone had their own way of kissing and being kissed. Shane knew that. Some kisses were better than others. The people Shane really cared for were always better. The kisses with Cherie, Carmen, Paige, and Molly. They were among the best but even those kisses couldn't compare to the one she had decided to give Jenny. Shane wondered why that was.
Was it because Jenny knew her better than all of them combined? Was it because Jenny had seen the very best and worst of her and still wanted to be around? Was it because Jenny was so much like her? Damaged in many of the same ways? Or was it because Shane knew without a shadow of a doubt that the writer really was in love with her, that it wasn't some crush or infatuation. It was real and true and it existed despite all the things Shane had done wrong and would continue to exist, no matter how Jenny tried to hide it.
Maybe it was because of all those things and just one more. Maybe it was because Shane was in love with Jenny too and she had done what the writer was attempting to now. Hidden it away, buried it deep, kept it in a place where it was safe and couldn't put their friendship at harm. Falling in love was a risk and every time Shane risked it something always went wrong. Horribly, terribly, wrong and Shane couldn't let that wrong infect her and Jenny. She needed the writer too much for that.
But now she was losing her despite keeping that love hidden, losing her because she kept it buried away, and because of that Shane couldn't stand it anymore. She had to let it loose so Jenny could finally know of its existence. And so she kissed Jenny, she kissed her harder and stronger and more fiercely than she had anyone else, trying to make Jenny see the truth of the matter. To see everything she had kept hidden from the writer, everything that she now wanted her to see.
When they parted, Shane searched Jenny's features almost frantically, hazel eyes looking for any sign, the smallest thing to hint Jenny understood what she had been trying to say. Instead she received a wry tug of the writer's lips, a gloomy little smile as Jenny rested her hand against Shane's cheek, stroking the soft skin in a reverent manner. "That was a nice goodbye," she breathed.
"It wasn't goodbye," Shane said this firmly, her gaze dark and heavy and solemn.
"It wasn't?" Jenny echoed and the hint was there. A glimmer of hope, a touch of understanding, and on seeing it Shane immediately pressed her advantage, moving forward, resting her forehead against Jenny's, looking deep into her eyes, hiding nothing away.
"It was hello," Shane whispered, dropping her head down further, leaving faint trembling kisses on the writer's features, her hands rising up to hold Jenny's face, treating her very much like the precious thing she was. "It was a new start." Then nerves suddenly seized her. Just because Jenny understood didn't mean she could forgive, and it certainly didn't mean Jenny would want to be with Shane this way anymore. Maybe it was too late. Her heart sinking at this and unable to look at the writer as she heard what she believed had to be a negative response, Shane fixed her gaze from away Jenny and on some far off point in the room. "If you want."
A delicate hand cradled her chin, the touch deceptively strong as always, directing Shane to look back at Jenny and Shane followed because it was the least she could do. The sadness had left blue grey eyes, replaced with a soft glow of happiness that seemed to come from deep within and it took Shane's breath away. Her touch light and loving, Jenny replied, "I want."
"Really?" Shane asked, unable to stop herself from making sure.
"Really," Jenny affirmed and she dipped her head in a nod, a playful smile emerging on her lips, laughter bursting forth, boisterous and delighted and loud, causing Shane to laugh along as she swept Jenny up in her arms, spinning her around in a circle. "Shane!" she exclaimed, the delight still in her voice as she half heartedly hit at the hairdresser. "You're making me dizzy."
Immediately the spinning stopped and Shane carefully put Jenny down, her hands traced a tender path upwards, cupping the writer's face in her hands, automatically returning her happy smile. Pushing aside a stray lock of hair, Shane dipped her head, murmuring into Jenny's ear as she held her close, "I love you."
"I know," Jenny said in a whisper, lifting Shane's head up, her gaze gentle and understanding and so very happy. A mischievous glint emerged in her eyes as she continued, "I've always known."
Chuckling at this, Shane lowered her head for another kiss, this one a slow and sensual study, allowing her to learn everything she ever wanted or needed about Jenny with every sigh, moan, lick, suck, and tug of her lips and tongue. When they parted there was the sound of ragged breathing, nothing more, and she said, "I wish you had told me."
"You had to find out yourself," Jenny said a bit sadly. She studied Shane for a long moment, then her eyes drifted to the large suitcase by her closet. An impish grin forming, she looked back to the other woman and said, "Have you ever wanted to visit a lesbian commune in Portland? I hear it's a good fucking time."
Falling into Jenny's embrace, tucking her face in the curve of her neck, the laughter rumbled through Shane with the relief and the happiness this actually was hers to have and this time she had a real chance of it staying because Jenny wasn't the sort to leave just because things became difficult. Shane rested in Jenny's arms, kissing the line of her neck as she murmured, "I'll go with you."
"We'll come back," Jenny reassured, her voice moving her skin against Shane's lips, tickling slightly. She smiled down at Shane who looked up meeting her gaze. Pushing away a particularly haphazard lock of hair from the hairdresser's eyes, she murmured, "We've finally got somewhere to come back to, after all. The both of us."
In that moment, Shane realized it was the truth. So many years had passed and she only had her friends. They were her family, the people closest to her, who cared for her the most, but they didn't understand her and it wasn't the same as this. It could never be the same as the absolute acceptance she had just received from Jenny, the total insight, the unreserved love. And looking into blue grey eyes that glowed with affection and gentle understanding, Shane realized something impossibly important.
She was home.