They never spoke of what they were doing. They didn't talk much at all anymore. Not like they used to at the beginning when Ellen was a starry eyed young associate and Patty was her employer. Patty would dole out reprimands, advice, and carefully selected tales of her past. Ellen would hang on to every word and spend her evenings reviewing their conversations, trying to decipher them. Even during the worst of times, when Patty lost her mind and Ellen almost lost her life, they had more to say to each other than they do now. Angry accusations were levied and denied. Promises were made and broken. Words had been their weapons and armour, now they barely speak for fear of derailing what they have. Now they have spectacular, silent sex before Ellen slides out of bed sated, sore and full of feelings she has no outlet for. Patty feigns sleep and indifference and wonders where it will all end.
Ellen Parsons is the stick she beats herself with. The mistake she keeps on making. The habit she can never kick. She wonders what Ellen gets out of this aside from expertly delivered orgasms that often draw tears. Patty kisses them away, her lips gentle with regret, her throat thick with shame and words that will not come and would serve no purpose anyway. What was done could not be undone.
Ellen keeps on turning up and Patty cannot summon the defences to send her away. They stare at each other with something approaching sadness before Ellen leans in and kisses her. A kiss that fuels a flame of passion that continues to surprise them. It's not wearing off, it's not fading with familiarity. It frightens them both.
It started with a drunken visit, wilting flowers and a tearful confession that no matter how hard she tried not to, Ellen missed Patty’s presence in her life. The Tobin case had brought them closer than ever but Tom’s death had sent Ellen running away again. She took a job with Hollis Nye, she rented an upscale apartment in the city and began a relationship with an eminently suitable colleague. She appeared to be every inch a successful young woman with everything she wanted. She felt like a complete fraud. She was miserable, dissatisfied and confused as to the reason why. Then on a night out with her boyfriend of almost a year she caught a flash of immaculate blond hair atop of a power suit and her stomach lurched. For a moment, everything lifted. She felt a smile forming as she squeezed her way through the bodies of the packed bar. The woman turned as Ellen approached and the smile died on her lips. It wasn't Patty. It wasn't even close. This woman was years younger, prettier, taller. She smiled at Ellen distractedly and she felt the sting of disappointment like a punch to the gut.
An hour later Ellen was drunk, newly single and clutching a tired bunch of flowers purchased from an all night store. Half an hour after that, the flowers were in the trash and Ellen was trying to explain herself to Patty who was wearing pyjamas and an incredulous expression. They argued, Ellen threw up in the bathroom and woke up hours later on the couch. Patty’s expression was still thunderous and that quickly mutated to enraged when Ellen attempted to leave at five in the morning.
“Sit down and shut up.” Patty hissed as Ellen stumbled to her feet looking for her shoes and muttering apologies.
“You turn up here, stinking drunk after a year of nothing, to tell me that you miss me and expect me to welcome you with open arms. To be grateful? Guess again Ellen. I don't need you in my life and more to the point I don't want you in it. Now get a shower and go home. You smell like a fucking drain.”
Ellen cringed, winced and held her throbbing head in her hands. Wisps of memories from the previous night flowed through her mind like smoke. Arguing with the doorman, the uncomfortable familiarity of the building. The anticipation of seeing Patty so thick on her tongue she could taste it. Then the sharp slap of reality when the woman opened the door. Angry words, shouting, tears. Her stomach rebelling, the bathroom spinning, then nothing. Nothing till she woke up with an almighty hangover and a still fuming Patty for company. She rubbed at her face and got to her feet. A shower, a shower sounded good then she could go home and put this fiasco behind her. Patty had retreated to the kitchen, Ellen struggled to her feet and headed for the stairs. The warm water poured over her body like a balm washing away the stench of her excesses. She shampooed her hair and stood underneath the spray for a long time watching the suds drain away. Ellen stepped out and looked despairingly at the pile of crumpled clothes on the bathroom floor. The walk of extreme shame beckoned. She wrapped a towel around herself, brushed her teeth and dried off her hair before scooping up the garments. The master bedroom door was open, Ellen wandered in to get dressed. Patty was wearing a lacy black bra and was stepping into her underwear at that exact moment. They both froze in place. Droplets of water made a small pool at Ellen's feet, Patty’s face flamed as she straightened up and they stared at each other in shocked silence.
“Get out” the blond spoke just loud enough for it to carry but her eyes were riveted to Ellen's and something passed between them.
“You don't want me to go.” Ellen replied, her voice equally low but light with dawning realisation.
“You could have tossed me out last night. You could have let me go before. You sat there all night watching over me didn't you? You want me to stay.”
“Don't flatter yourself.”
Patty reached for a robe on the bed but Ellen stepped forward and grasped her arm gently.
“Don't cover yourself up, you look amazing. You are so fucking beautiful.”
Ellen moved closer. Close enough for Patty to feel the dampness of the towel barrier between them. Close enough for her to smell the scent of her own body wash, her eyes closed and she snapped them back open.
“This is a terrible idea, it's a mistake. Go home Ellen.”
But Ellen was lost in the feel of Patty’s skin which was warm and soft under her fingers. She ran her hand up the blond's arm and across her shoulder pulling her body even closer, the towel loosened and fell to the floor. Patty gave up the fight, their lips met, their bodies melded together and they kissed. Years of pent up emotions poured into their kisses. Needy, desperate, angry kisses. Ellen's hands roamed of their own will. Her nails raking lightly down pale skin. Patty’s bra didn't last long, it was tossed aside before they landed in a heap on the bed. The tumble shook Ellen out of her haze. She looked down into the pale blue eyes of the woman beneath her. Eyes that looked cloudy with want and too many other emotions to decipher. Ellen willed herself to slow everything down.
“It’s alright. I'm not going to hurt you.” She murmured softly in Patty’s ear.
Patty fought an inappropriate urge to laugh. That was as big a lie as either of them had ever told. Throughout her life Patty had seldom let desire overtake her, it had led to disaster every time. This time it could finish her. The lingering guilt and regrets that had eaten away at Patty’s soul for years were screaming through her now and she tried to shift away.
“Don't ask me to stop” Ellen whispered between soft kisses she scattered down Patty’s neck.
“Last night I came here drunk but I'm sober now. I know what I want and I want this.”
She ran her hand down between Patty’s legs and drew her fingers through the wet heat, stroking gently and drawing a shudder and low groan in response.
“You want this too, so let's not think about yesterday or tomorrow.”
Ellen's fingers continued their insistent stroking, her lips continued to press light kisses down Patty’s throat. The blond's body was betraying her, her hips lifted into the stroke, her back arched. Her hand reached out and grasped Ellen's free one. She locked their fingers together, their gazes met and Patty nodded her assent.
Afterwards, as Ellen slept nestled against her as peaceful and as lightweight as a child, it was one of the few occasions in Patty’s life when she wanted time to stand still. To preserve the moment. Like when she passed the bar. When she brought her son home from the hospital. When she won her first case. That feeling of completeness, of satisfaction, of weary elation. It was not possible of course, time and life moved on, but the memory of those moments were hers to treasure. They were eternal.