Lena stopped midbutton, fingers trembling as the words came from behind and lanced through her as sure as any sniper’s bullet. They cleaved through meat and sinew, scrapped against her spine to dig cruelly into her heart.
She closed her eyes. Forced herself to turn, shirt still mostly undone. “W…What’d you say, love?”
Amélie seemed to curl up beneath her startled gaze, pulling cooling sheets against her chest. Her brown skin was still flushed and damp, wild curls spilling across the ivory silk pillow covers.
“I…” Her voice cracked, though Amélie made a valiant effort to continue speaking. “I said…please, don’t leave. Not tonight, Lena…”
“You–” Lena swallowed against the lump in her throat, struggling to bring up her defenses against Amélie’s soft, golden eyes. “You know I can’t. That’s not…”
“He isn’t coming home.” Amélie sat up, still holding the sheets around her body, as if they hadn’t been casting them aside moments earlier, replacing cloth and cotton with heated touch, with kisses. “Not for three more days, at least.”
“I…can’t,” Lena muttered, turning her back and returning to her shirt, finishing the damn buttons. It’d be an issue to find her trousers next, and she’d just have to dump her panties in a dumpster–they were too ruined to wear again, anyway.
Bad enough I’m sleeping with his wife, Lena thought to herself, bitterly. Last thing I wanna do is nap in Gérard’s fucking bed…
God, she was the worst kind of person. She hadn’t been seduced, she hadn’t been coerced, and she knew she hadn’t done the same to Amélie. They’d gravitated together through loneliness, through coffee and music. There were worse ways to start an affair, Lena knew, but that didn’t change anything. She was still a liar.
“It wouldn’t be right–”
“Lena.” Amélie’s soft call of her name made her flinch, made her turn around to face her again. She had let the sheet drop, but instead of beautiful, Amélie looked so…small. Fragile, almost. “Please, don’t leave.”
Lena quivered. “I…”
“I feel–as if,” Amélie’s voice hitched, “something terrible is going to happen, and I–I’m…I’m scared. I don’t know why…I just am.”
Bitterness curled in her gut. Before Lena could stop herself, she whispered, “I’m just your romp in the sack, Amé. You’ve got a husband to chase away the monsters, don’t you?”
“Is that…” Amélie’s voice quivered. “Is that how you think I see you? J-just a…a warm body?” She heard Amélie inhale sharply, and the hurt cadance of her words smoothly transitioned to steely anger. “Is that how little you think of me?”
“N-no, I–!” Lena bounced to her feet, began to pace. “No! I–it’s not that–it’s not like that. I didn’t mean it like I said–”
“But you meant it.” Amélie dropped the sheet, folding her arms over her chest. Her jaw was clenched tight, and her eyes–bollocks, Lena thought as they caught stares, she’s crying!
“You–” Lena took in a deep breath, “–won’t leave him. But you’ll sleep with me. And sometimes I just feel like…I’m not…worth as much. An’ it stings, so much, cause you…mean the world to me. So…sorry if I’m trying to keep things as distant as I can. Cause at the end of the day I really am just a warm body and I just don’t want to get hurt when you’re the one who tells me that, I guess.”
Bollocks, Lena thought again, now I’m crying.
“Oh, Lena–” Amélie rose from the bed, naked and too damn pretty and too damn out of her league, “–Ma petite, come here, come here…”
Lena should have backed away, then, should have grabbed her trousers and her shoes and fucked off back to her tiny little apartment with its shitty heating and all. She should have, but her feet were rooted to the spot, and Amélie wrapped her arms around her and held her close. Lovingly, Lena wanted to think it, and squashed the idea under her heel like a spider.
“How long?” Amélie’s quiet rasp tortured her. “How long have you–held this? How long have I been making you feel like this?”
“…While,” Lena mumbled.
Amélie’s arms squeezed her tighter in response. She heard a sniffle stifled against her shoulder, and she gave up her meager resistance, dropped her arms to wrap them around Amélie’s hips.
I’m sorry, Amélie whispered again and again. Against her better judgement, but to her own heart’s delight, Lena stayed the night.
And when Talon came just hours later to kidnap Amélie, Lena fought them off with every last scrap of fight in her, chasing the bastards out of the house with a lamp in one hand and the fire poker in the other.
Amélie never quite said I told you so with her words, but the divorce papers she filed a month later were a better statement anyway.