Chapter 15 –Questions and Answers-
As the make-up artist’s assistant gave her a wet towel to get rid of the excess of paint on her face, Alicia caught sight of her own eyes in the mirror. For a moment she felt a strange reluctance to remove the thick layer of makeup, feeling as if the mask protected her from something she couldn`t name. She liked the Alicia of the interview. Calm, in control, friendly but on guard. She didn’t want to step back into the place where she always felt like she was juggling with 50 balls in the air and always felt like she was missing –or missing out on- something. She didn’t want to get back to being the person who felt guilty for everything, from fighting for her job and beating Cary, until not being there when her kids got home from school. Hadn`t Kalinda once said something to her about that? The thought of the investigator – maybe, more specifically the investigator and *that* woman- caused a sharp sting of pain in her chest. The eyes that were looking at her from her mirror image seemed someone else`s, they were dark and a turmoil was clearly visible behind them.
And something she was scared to place.
The pain behind her sternum became dull as she swallowed away the constrictive feeling in her throat. She had felt something close to this when she had seen Kalinda kiss Burton, she remembered. But somehow this… This was worse.
Was that because the bartender had been a woman? Did she feel offended because Kalinda didn’t tell her she dated women as well as men? But then why had she had the immense urge to jerk Lilian’s lingering hand away from her friend and take Kalinda home to… The reflection in the mirror blushed immensely, despite the thick foundation, and Alicia immediately interrupted her own thoughts and steered them in a different direction. Although maybe not a more favorable one.
A question the interviewer had asked kept coming back to her.
“The rumor is he slept with more than just this prostitute. A coworker from his office. Do you have a comment?”
She had said that she thought these last minute accusations usually were brought late in the campaign, because there would be no way to make them go away before the voting. She knew it had been a good answer. She knew all her answers had been good. She had known when she had seen the slight disappointment, but respect in the interviewer’s eyes. She had especially known it when she had seen the glimmer in Eli’s.
When had she become so good at knowing what to say? She hadn’t allowed herself to feel anything while the woman was questioning her, but it felt like all the things she had suppressed washed over her now. Did she really believe what she had said? Was the rumor just a trick of the opposition? Or had all her answers been a lie? And when had she become so good at lying?
She did believe that Peter, despite his mistakes, was a good man. She believed he would be better than Childs in the State`s attorney`s office. Did she believe he would be better than Wendy Scott-Carr? That she wasn`t sure of. But ideals, like the woman seemed to have, ideals that she wanted to believe she stood for herself, did not carry you very far in life. She knew that now. She had found out that in her race with Cary to stay at Lockhart-Gardner. It was a choice between being walked over and winning, more than a choice of right and wrong.
Although she still believed that last part mattered immensely, she saw now there were several shades of grey. Wendy Scott-Carr would, if she would be elected as the next State`s attorney, have to adjust her ideals. It was not just a matter of right or wrong there either, it was also a matter of who was easier to be pushed over. And that, Alicia was sure, would NOT be her husband. The lawyer momentarily closed her eyes, unable to face her own reflection.
Yes, it had been true. She found Peter a good man, she had forgiven him, she did love him. Then why did she feel as if she had just given the performance of a life-time? Why did she feel as she had felt when she had told all those lies covering up for her brother in their childhood? But now it felt like she was covering up for herself, although she couldn`t figure out why.
Yes, she had kissed Will, once. Years ago she would have been crushed with remorse over her action, but not she simply couldn`t find herself to feel anything about it. She had willed herself to feel something for him, to feel passion, to be in love, to justify her action. She had wanted to feel it, but she didn`t. At least not for him. The image that appeared on her retina, like the remainder of light that one would see after looking into the sun for too long, was that of Kalinda. Kalinda and the bartender… Kalinda and… She hastily pushed it away.
When the door opened, she had expected to find Eli, -or maybe Peter?- and she composed herself quickly. But the surprise was on her.
He smiled, but the expression did not extend to his eyes. He looked cold and calculating as he pulled up a chair close to her. Closer in fact, than she cared to have him. She smirked when she saw him winch as he sat down, realizing the injuries the baseball bat -or rather, the fury of the woman handling the weapon- must have caused the involuntary movement.
`What are you doing here?`
He gave her the once over, making the dressing-room of the TV studio suddenly feel even smaller. Where were the people that she, just moments before, had heard walk around?
`Just trying to figure something out.`
Although she had understood his mumble perfectly clear, she found herself winning time by asking him to repeat himself.
He shook his head, dismissively, but his gaze on her remained sharp, as if he was indeed trying to link something together.
`Will asked me to brief you on any ongoing cases. I`m sorry to interrupt your…`
He gestured around, implying he couldn’t find word`s for the media circus she had just participated in, and for once Alicia had to agree with him. As he moved, she saw him flinch again and make a gesture as if to cover his chest, before changing his mind and simply choosing a different position. Alicia`s sharp eyes caught sight of a scratch in his neck and the bruise of his cheek that was hidden by his five-o-clock shadow. She couldn`t help but smirk again.
`But as you might have heard, I`m leaving town, so…`
His eyes narrowed as he watched her, asking -finally- the question he was getting at.
`How do you do it?`
Although she had an inkling of what he was getting at, she decided to keep playing dumb. Her hand, in the mean time, slid into her pocket, and she hoped her virtual memory was correct as she found her way to the recording part of her cell-phone.
`How do I do what?`
`I watched you, Alicia, you are perfect. The perfect woman, the perfect mother, the perfect lawyer, the perfect wife. How do you forgive a man like that, for doing those things to you?`
Having heard no more than she’d expected, Alicia smiled and shook her head, turning back to the mirror, now more dedicatedly removing the makeup from her face, not even dignifying him with an answer.
`Saint Alicia, they call you, did you know that?`
His voice had gotten a sharp edge as he threw the folder, that had a distinct red color, on the dresser next to them. She willed herself not to respond to the nickname even her brother had already used when they`d been little.
`And you would have to be. A saint that is, to continue to work with her`
Confused at the hearing of the last word, Alicia almost turned around, but at the last moment decided against it. She had heard it in his voice. This was the punchline he had been waiting to deliver. Was there something in that folder that explained it? Or was that simply information about the cases they had had him working on?
She faked a yawn and looked at him through the reflection of the mirror.
`Is that all, Blake? I am tired.`
Although her words were a perfect description of her physical state, the tome in them suggested what she intended, she was tired of him.
He grimaced once more and turned around, the smile this time more pleased, and thereby, strangely, more scary.
`I bet you just won your husband the election, Mrs Florrick. I wonder if you realize the effect you have on people. Give my best to Leela, oh, Kalinda. I bet she will be pleased with Peter`s election. From what I`ve heard, she has always `supported` him.`
`And then he just… left.`
Kalinda`s eyes were darker than usual, as was the skin underneath them. Alicia guessed the few hours of sleep the investigator had caught on her couch had not been enough. She seemed slow, distracted and… off her game. There was something strangely vulnerable about her, and, even more strange, that touched Alicia to the core. They had just played, for the second time, the disturbing conversation she had had with Blake.
The folder had been filled with information about current and previous cases, but nothing that brought them any closer to his mysterious words. Logically the `her` he was trying to refer to was Kalinda, seeing his history with her, but what problem would Alicia have working with her?
`Did he threaten you?`
Kalinda`s voice had an edge the lawyer hadn’t heard before. A tone that strangely pleased her.
`No, and you got him good, by the way.`
Showing a humorless smile, the investigator stood, the restlessness in her body uncontrollable. Why had Blake done this? Why had he looked up Alicia? It just didn`t make any sense. Unless…
Pushing the play button again, Kalinda closed her eyes, trying to focus on the words. Concentration was hard these days, but she needed it now.
“And you would have to be. A saint that is, to continue to work with her”
“She has always supported him”
Her eyes shot open as she pushed herself back from the table. He knew. Could he know?
Turning her attention to her friend, she met those questioning eyes. They were so close, so open, so full of questions and –also- so full of trust. Kalinda looked away, unable to bear the undeserved praise laying there.
`I think her is just messing with your head, Alicia, seriously. Or he is using you to get to me. I don`t know. I`m sorry.`
The last words sounded more serious than just a simple apology for the lack of knowledge Kalinda had to share. Alicia saw her swift uncomfortably and was surprised –although maybe she should not have been- by her change of subject.
`So, I hear your interview went well.`
`Yes, Eli was pleased`
Alicia rolled her eyes in the motion that always made Kalinda smile.
`He should be, I bet you were perfect.`
Kalinda had tried to sound casual while speaking the words, but heard herself fail miserably.
`You didn’t see it?`
The investigator, who hadn’t been able to put herself through an hour of watching Alicia talk about Peter, flinched at the slight sound of hurt, no matter how playful, in her friend’s voice.
`No, I… I was…`
The eyebrow movement that accompanied Alicia`s last words did not entirely dismiss the edge of resentment in her voice.
Although Kalinda had the urge to reassure the woman in front of her, her prior engagement had had nothing to do with Lilian, she caught herself. Why would Alicia want to know anything about that? She couldn`t help but try to clarify a little, though.
`I was out investigating.`
`Oh, is that what you gals call it these days?`
Now successfully sounding teasing, Alicia felt the numb pain in her chest sharpen. And she knew her smile must have been a little off by the look Kalinda gave her. Frustrating by Kalinda`s lack of response, Alicia threw her jacket over the chair in a harsher way then intended, causing the garment to slip and drop. As both women crouched and reached for the item of clothing, their eyes and hands met for a short moment.
Kalinda swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry as Alicia seemed to look into her soul. The look said more than a thousand words, and seemed to ask a question, but the language was one Kalinda did not understand. She blushed, the intimacy of the moment deeper than many she had ever experienced, and she wanted to drown in Alicia`s eyes. Her heart pounded and the urge to reach out and cup the other woman`s cheek, to pull her close, to kiss the soft lips and lose herself in her, had never been more strong.
But Alicia broke their contact and moved away quickly. The lawyer had told herself she had come back to the office to make up for the time she had lost, doing the interview in the afternoon. Also she had wanted to pick Kalinda`s brain about Blake. But now she knew she had been disguising her real reason. She wanted to be with Kalinda. It was the only place in the world that made sense. And then, at the same time, it didn’t.
Alicia had had friends before, both female and male, but never one as close as this. It just wasn’t logical. Kalinda didn`t offer her anything about herself. She didn’t even know the other woman`s age, for crying out loud!
It was usually she who talked and Kalinda who listened, Kalinda who offered insight, Kalinda who was there for her. Was that why she had found the other night so special? The night when Kalinda had come to her? But still, the trinkets of information she received seemed nothing compared to the way she had opened up to the investigator. And she never had done so to anyone before.
Her parents, well, they were a whole different story, but she had spend most her childhood taking on the responsibilities they were dropping. Her brother, honestly, she had never seen as a peer until recently. And still now she saw his immaturity and the way he handled life and problems as an obstacle for her sharing her thoughts with him. Then there had been Peter. Alicia tried to look back to the beginning of their relationship. Their witty banter, their neverending discussions about everything under the sun. He had kept her sharp, and she had loved it. But had they really discussed the essentials? And had they recently?
Kalinda always seemed to find that one question that put the finger on the right spot, and she was not afraid to ask it.
Alicia remembered her asking if she loved Peter, if she wanted him home, if they shared a bed. Questions that gave her insight in her situation, without having to hear a lecture. But also questions, she knew, no one else would dare to ask her, and that included the interviewer on the TV-show. As she saw the investigator look through the red folder Blake had left behind, Alicia considered what was so special about the woman.
`What is it about you?`
Shocked the lawyer realized she had spoken the inquiry out loud.
`I… It`s just… You fascinate people. Look at Blake, look at that girl at the bar. And wherever you go, you can convince someone to give you exactly what you want. So what is it about you?`
Amused by the question, Kalinda moved her chair closer to Alicia, pondering.
`I think it`s the mystery. I`m a private person. People think there is more.`
Alicia narrowed her eyes at the answer, thinking it had some truth in it. Yet another trinket.
`And, is there?`
The twinkle in Kalinda`s eye, accompanied by a flirtatious smile, made Alicia`s heart jump up.
`I don`t know. Would you like there to be?`
Misinterpretating Alicia`s breathlessness, Kalinda turned serious, and smiled.
`I don`t try to be mysterious, if that’s what you mean. I just... I don`t talk. I don`t like to talk. And I`m not good at it.`
Alicia, catching her breath, felt her heart melt at this new side of Kalinda. She kept discovering more of them, it felt like she was looking into a kaleidoscope. A Kalinda-kaleidoscope.
`Does that mean you don`t like people close to you?`
It pleased Alicia that Kalinda seemed to think about her question before giving the answer.
`I am assuming you`re talking about emotional closeness.`
The lawyer merely nodded to confirm. Her mouth dry at the sight of the twinkle of light in Kalinda`s eyes. At the possibility of another closeness. The closeness she had almost allowed herself to experience that day, in the elevator when Kalinda had been close… So close.
`I don`t think it is a question of ‘like’… I just never felt the urge before.`
Kalinda could bite of her tongue as she heard herself utter that last word and she knew Alicia would catch on.
`Before? So you do now?`
The surge of heated rage, of the jealousy she couldn`t even try to deny, shot through Alicia as she saw again, in her mindeye, the interaction Kalinda had had with the beautiful bartender.
Kalinda, in the mean while, was trying very hard not to think about the person who was asking her all these questions. Instead, her mind drifted to a woman of her past. Donna, who had come close to her, well, at least, closer than the others. Donna, who had tried to calm her that night, after the nightmare. Donna, who had picked up her phone, simply because she could. Donna, who had scared the crap out of her.
`My point is, Alicia, I just… I`m not build that way. I don`t have anything to offer. When someone would actually get close to me in the way you mean, they would probably figure out quite quickly, the thing they had expected to find behind the mystery simply isn’t there.`
The lawyer closed her eyes shortly, she was not sure of many things today. Confused questions kept running through her with the speed of light, but this, this she knew. She looked up and searched the side of Kalinda`s face before she replied.
`I wouldn’t be so sure about that.`
To Be Continued