There’s a draft coming in from the window, allowing the unseasonably chilly spring air to seep into the room. The cold does not deter Sharon from sitting on the window seat, hugging her knees to her chest in a gesture that serves more to comfort her than to keep her warm. She drops her head, allowing it to rest against her knees while the thick curtain of wavy, unstyled brown hair blankets her bare legs. She should get up and change; there’s a pair of NYU sweats in her drawer that are calling her name, but she can’t be bothered to move, not when it’s still light enough to watch the rain make dizzy patterns on her window against the backdrop of a gray sky. It’s a perfectly ordinary Sunday afternoon but the rain-bloated clouds and gray mist have stirred her melancholia, and damned if she’s not turning into a maudlin old spinster. All she needs is her cat to curl up at her feet, but the fat feline is presently stretched along the back of her sofa and can’t be bothered to offer the little bit of comfort that she needs.
Sometimes she wishes she were a dog person, if only for their uncanny sense of empathy.
There are a dozen things she should be doing—paying bills, cleaning the upstairs bathroom, sorting the week’s mail—but there’s something about sitting here that calms her, steadies her in a way that everyday distractions no longer seem to. The world won’t crumble if she writes a check for her car insurance tomorrow instead, but she feels a lingering sense of guilt for neglecting her routine. It’s those simple, everyday gestures that keep her sane, that bring order to her life amidst the chaos swirling in her head.
There could be a measure of peace found here in the window alcove that had been her daughter’s favorite reading spot when she lived at home and preferred Virginia Woolf to sororities. If she could only just close her eyes for a moment and listen to the steady patter of rain, she might be able to cling to that ephemeral illusion of peace.
Peace will have to wait, especially now that an all too familiar Crown Vic is pulling up in front of her house. Her heart quickens in her chest, beating a steady tattoo that does nothing to calm the nervous frisson of energy that’s pooling in her abdomen. She watches the car for several long minutes until finally the door opens and the slender blonde steps out.
Brenda Leigh’s gait is measured, cautious even--if the deputy chief could ever be accused of such a thing--as she makes her way up the walk. Though the sky is darkening, Sharon knows that Brenda can see her in the window. She looks resplendent in her woeful floral skirt and damp white t-shirt, her hand resting against her forehead to shield her eyes from the rain so that she can make out Sharon’s presence. They watch each other like this, as best as they can with the downpour obstructing their view, before they simultaneously move. Sharon unfolds herself from her sanctuary and reaches the door just as Brenda raises a hand to knock.
“Brenda,” Sharon says breathlessly. She would be exasperated, but she knew it would always come to this, that they’d always end up right back here where they started.
“I…” Brenda closes her mouth and bites her lip, shifting on the doorstep in the rain. She’s soaked. “I know I was supposed to be givin’ you space but I…can I hug you? I just…I really need to hug you.”
Sharon releases the door against which she had been leaning and steps out into the rain, pulling Brenda into an embrace that feels a hell of a lot more certain than the rationale in her head. It doesn’t matter that she’ll be just as sodden as the other woman or that her resolve to stay away from her has completely gone away. She didn’t realize how much she needed this until this very moment, when Brenda’s cold nose nuzzles her cheek while her arms wind around her neck.
“I missed you,” Brenda hisses, her voice panicked and shrill. There’s a faint trace of emotion there and Sharon wonders if the other woman’s been crying. That she could possible mean enough to Brenda Leigh to make her cry tugs at Sharon’s heart so strongly that she sways a little against her.
“Come inside.” Sharon hesitantly steps back, her arms already mourning the loss of Brenda’s weight. That’s the problem though, in the end: she misses Brenda too much, and that will be her downfall. She guides the deputy chief into her house, leaving her standing forlorn in the living room while she retrieves a towel from the half-bath in the hall. She doesn’t look at her reflection in the mirror.
When she returns, Brenda’s got her arms wrapped around her chest. She’s shivering and her hair is dripping onto the carpet, and Sharon wonders just how long Brenda was in the rain and what she was doing there. She’s also painfully aware of the outline of her bra (white with pink spots—flowers?) as it is molded to the damp cotton of her tee. Sharon swallows and hands her the towel.
Brenda smiles in thanks, pressing the towel to her neck. She dries off her arms and squeezes a little of the moisture from her unruly blonde curls. In that moment, they lose themselves in her ritual, and Sharon is mildly horrified to find that she’s jealous of a hand towel.
“Would you believe there’ve been no major crimes in the last forty-three hours?” Brenda folds the towel in her hands, not looking at the woman standing only a few feet away. “In all of Los Angeles, there’s not one person gettin’ themselves caught.” She laughs, brown eyes darting up in search of green. “I’ve been goin’ through cold cases all day.”
“On a Sunday?”
Brenda nods and smiles a sad, heartbreaking smile. “I couldn’t be at home. I wanted to be. I tried to be but I just…I found myself at work, hopin’ for some sort of distraction. Does that make me a horrible person, Sharon? Wishin’ a body might turn up so I won’t have to think about my own life?”
“Horrible? No. But I won’t say that’s not problematic, Brenda Leigh.” What she doesn’t say is that she’s been hoping for a call herself. She can manage just fine when she’s being Captain Raydor. Her job is the better part of herself, the part through which she can focus entirely on what needs to be done. It’s when she’s stuck alone with herself in an empty house that she finds herself in trouble.
“I know.” Brenda bites her lip. “Bein’ away from you, Sharon…it’s like I’m screamin’ and no one can hear me but you. I don’t know how to do this.”
Sharon lets out a sigh and crosses the room, sitting back in the window alcove. “Do what, exactly?”
“Live the life I’m livin’ and feel the way I do about you.” She takes a tentative step forward and then another until she’s sitting gingerly beside Sharon. “I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with you, but I did, and I can’t make that go away. I don’t know if I want to.”
Despite the loud voice of reason in her head, Sharon reaches over and takes Brenda’s hand in her own. She squeezes the cold fingers as their palms touch, and it scares her to realize how good it feels to simply hold Brenda’s hand. They’ve done nothing else, nothing more than this, and her heart is already racing. “I don’t know if this is something I can do, Brenda Leigh. I don’t think I can be the other woman.”
Sharon wants more than stolen nights and clandestine meetings. She wants more than the fraction of Brenda that is being offered. She doesn’t want to be the other woman; she wants to be the woman.
“I know. Lord…I never thought I’d be in this position, never, not ever. You were a total surprise to me.” She shifts in the seat so that she’s facing Sharon directly. Their knees are touching. “I’m not expectin’ an answer right now. I’m not expectin’ you to have all this figured out. I just…needed to see you. I was goin’ crazy.”
“I’m right here, Brenda. Right here.” Her voice is so quiet, so strained, that Sharon fears it may break. When did she become so fragile? When did love turn her into someone so…breakable?
She leans in without thinking, locking Brenda’s fingers in a nervous, vise-like grip as she brushes their mouths together. It’s not quite a kiss. It’s a promise that she’s real, that she’s in this with Brenda Leigh, and that she’s going just as crazy. “I need time to figure this out,” Sharon whispers, their mouths still touching. “But I’m not going anywhere.”