Franky’s never really had much interest in science fiction — beyond the fact that the genre often includes half naked chicks — probably due to her own life having enough morbid horrors in it, but she thinks she finally understands zombies. She feels numb. Like she’s floating through the world. Barely alive.
She survives her Down Under shift by drinking tequila shots and Red Bull under the bar, and passes out in Boomer’s car on the drive home. She keeps her phone switched off. She can’t bear facing any disappointed texts from Bridget.
Friday unfolds in much the same way. She goes to her last two classes of the semester, and throws herself into her books. She may have fucked up her burgeoning relationship, she’s not about to ruin her career. If her friends notice her sullen state, they don’t comment, though it’s more likely they’re all just preoccupied with freaking out about exams. Jodie has a panic attack in the Law Library, so Franky and Lindsay spend most of the afternoon trying to calm her down, only succeeding by taking her out for fried chicken. Franky then smashes out her final blog for the Justice Clinic while eating dinner, and downs a double shot espresso on her way to her shift at Glitter.
She pours drinks with all her usual skill but none of her usual charm. Her thoughts are about Bridget, and how Bridget usually sends her a cute bedtime text. It doesn’t help when a short, toothy brunette wearing little more than underwear, shoes, and boxing gloves — tonight’s theme is sports — leans over the bar. She says her name is Ruby and points to the Sharpie-scribbled number above her cleavage, and all that Franky can do is think about the switched-off phone in her bag.
She should text Bridget, it’s been more than twenty-four hours now, but she has no idea what to say. Your best friend’s right. I did all that. I’m a terrible person. It’s better if she lets go of the fantasy that she could ever be happy and normal with Gidge before she gets too swept up in it. Bridget deserves someone as equally amazing as her, someone who doesn’t trash her friends or hide things from her.
It’s three weeks to the day since their first date at Kings, and Franky feels tears well up in her eyes at the memory. Everything was perfect then, and Franky kicks herself for getting lost in the dream of a happy relationship. She’ll never forget the sight of Bridget’s tears in the wake of her ripping Vera apart, and she’ll never forgive herself for hurting Bridget that way. She’s naive for imagining their happiness could last any longer than it did. Her screw up was inevitable. It’s what she does.
The warehouse always turns stuffy and hot when filled with hundreds of sweaty bodies, and it’s getting particularly suffocating. There’s a heavy weight on Franky’s chest, like she’s wearing metal clothes. As she turns to get a UDL from the fridge for a twink dressed as a cheerleader, she stumbles into her manager, Imogen, and black spots cloud her vision.
Imogen grabs her shoulder and frowns at her, her face lit up like an angel by the LED strips lining the roof. “You right, Franky?”
“Yeah,” Franky says, her voice barely more than a breath.
“Shit— go get some air,” Imogen says, her face rapidly fading to black.
“Fuck,” Franky mutters, swaying on her feet. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be— Sky, take Franky outside—”
“Nah.” Franky shakes her head and pushes Sky and Imogen’s hands away. Sky is a particularly annoying coworker who’s only fun to smoke weed with, and Franky would prefer to pass out than be subjected to being sober and alone with Sky looking after her.
She stumbles down the staff corridor, past the cold storage room and the cloak room, and somehow successfully shoulders open the exit door to the back lane behind the warehouse. They’ve got empty crates piled up as seats for smoke breaks, and Franky collapses across three of them, the world spinning into darkness around her.
She inhales sharply and chilly air floods her lungs. Her vision is black, bar a few random specks of light from the street light she knows resides at the lane entrance not far to her left, but she’s still conscious.
The muffled doof, doof, doof of the club serves as a reminder she’s still alive.
Franky lies on the crates, drumming her fingers against the plastic in time to the music, trying not to think about how much of a terrible person she is. This dizziness must be punishment for her atrocities. The universe trying to correct itself by taking her out.
“Franky!” Imogen’s voice cuts through Franky’s thoughts, and a moment later she appears above Franky.
“I’m fine,” Franky replies despite the fact that Imogen is spinning as she peers down at her.
“You’re a fuckin’ idiot is what you are,” Imogen shakes her head. “I’m taking you home.”
“Nah— I’m good—”
“No protesting, get up,” Imogen says while tugging on Franky’s feet. “My car’s just back there, you’ll be home in two minutes.”
Imogen is somehow both the best and the worst boss at the same time. Going home to her bed does sound appealing right now, but Franky’s not exactly happy to lose half a shift, and she hates being seen like this. She begrudgingly sits herself upright, aware that Imogen won’t take no for an answer.
“Come on— this way!” A familiar voice calls out from the end of the lane, followed by a whined, “Babe let’s just go home—”
No fuckin’ way.
A drunk, intertwined Bea and Allie stumble into Franky’s line of sight. Imogen releases a long-suffering sigh and turns around to the drunk pair behind them, placing a hand on Franky’s shoulder. She longs to shrug it off, but doesn’t want to seem unthankful.
“Are you girls ok?” Imogen asks, gesturing at the ‘staff only’ sign above the side door to the warehouse. Glitter runs a relaxed ship when it comes to sex and drugs inside the property, but when it comes to public space visible from the street, they have strict rules. Franky knows— she once tried to fuck Erica out here on her break and almost got fired.
“Yep, yeah, we’re good,” Allie says with wide eyes. “Ripper party tonight, Imogen, really—”
“Franky!” Bea exclaims the moment she lifts her face from Allie’s neck.
“Hey guys,” Franky says, forcing a smile on her face. She forgot they were here tonight — she served them jägerbombs at midnight and hasn’t seen them since. Evidently Allie’s smuggled in some of Boomer’s home brew in her basketball costume.
“You ok?” Bea asks, swaying on her feet and eyeing the hand on Franky’s shoulder.
“She’s a bit unwell. I’m taking her home,” Imogen says.
“Oh shit! Franks!” Allie exclaims and stumbles forward towards Franky, crouching at her feet. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothin’,” Franky huffs, wrinkling up her nose and crossing her arms.
“Alright,” Bea announces, pausing and holding up a finger like she’s about to make some kind of decree, but she’s still swaying on her feet and never finishes her sentence.
The hand on Franky’s shoulder squeezes gently before Imogen speaks, “Alright. I’m gonna get Franky home… You two have fun, but—”
“Wait! You’re taking Franky home?” Allie blinks and cranes her neck back to look up at Imogen, falling back on her ass in the process. “Can you take us home too?”
Imogen makes a questioning noise, no doubt eyeing the now-giggling Allie with confusion.
“They’re my housemates,” Franky explains.
“Oh… sure,” Imogen replies belatedly.
Franky stifles a laugh and pushes herself to her feet — already feeling better at the expense of her manager.
“I love you, Franky’s boss!” Allie exclaims.
At 10:31am on a chilly Saturday morning, Franky runs ten kilometres and promptly vomits in front of the Carlton Football Club function centre. Though being a ‘pies fan, she counts ruining her rival team’s lawn as a win.
It’s not until mid-Saturday afternoon that Franky dares switch her phone on. She’s outside, wrapped up in trackies and a thick blanket, cigarette between her lips as she holds down the power button. It’s cold enough that her fingers have started going numb — of course winter has seemingly come early, and a gloomy drizzle has conquered the skies.
Her phone’s screen flickers twice before properly illuminating the familiar black and white logo, as though it feels as terrible as Franky. She’s got a pounding headache, and a churning stomach courtesy of her deliberating. She takes another puff of her cigarette, feeling the smoke warm her cold chest. She really shouldn’t be smoking — it’s a disgusting habit she’s trying to kick — but it’s the only thing keeping her steady.
She inhales again, drumming her fingers against her phone impatiently. It must be mocking her, punishment for avoiding the consequences of her actions.
Half a cigarette later her phone blinks to her lock screen, a photo of herself, Bea, and Boomer after completing this year’s city 2 pier. She’s been considering changing it to a selfie of herself and Bridget from one of their dates at Bridget’s house, and now she’s glad she didn’t. It had seemed too much at the time, and clearly she was just preempting her own fuck-up.
Sure enough, mid-inhale, the notifications start pouring in.
1 missed call: Thursday 6:49pm
Thursday, 6:54pm: Franky, please talk to me? Call me back? Xx
Thursday, 9:30pm: I know you’re at work but please call me back? Xx
Thursday, 11:07pm: Franky… please. Xx
1 missed call: Friday. 12:08am
Friday, 12:10am: I feel like a crazy person. Sorry. Please talk to me when you’re ready.
A lump forms in Franky’s throat as she scrolls through the messages. The last two make her eyes sting and her chest ache.
Friday, 11:30pm: Baby pls don’t cut me out
Saturday, 2:57am: I miss u
Franky inhales suddenly, assaulted with the idea of Bridget upset in the middle of the night. The late timestamp and lack of punctuation betrays her, and Franky’s self-loathing grows. She’s not good for Bridget, but even in trying to protect Bridget from herself she’s caused more damage.
“Fuck,” Franky hisses, taking a slow drag on her cigarette and brushing away the tears dripping from her eyes.
She wishes she could take back the last forty-eight hours. If only she hadn’t snapped at Vera and torn her to pieces, if only she hadn’t run off, if only she’d been born a good person. Bridget’s an idiot for wanting her; she deserves someone a million times better than Franky.
“Oi, Franks, can I bum a dart?” Boomer interrupts, sticking her head through the quarter-open back door.
“Oh, yeah…” Franky ducks her head, frantically rummaging in her pocket for her pack of cigarettes.
“I thought you weren’t smoking?” Boomer asks as she flops down in a chair opposite Franky.
Franky holds out a cigarette and wrinkles up her nose. “I needed it.”
“Exam stress, hey?” Boomer says sympathetically, taking the cigarette and lifting it to her lips to light it.
Franky finds herself nodding quickly and wiping her eyes. She doesn’t have the energy to explain how she’s ruined everything as usual, and Boomer’s mention of exams has her mind turning to the large stack of textbooks currently being neglected on her desk. She’s managed a few hours of half-arsed study today, and really needs to put her head down and smash out some case summaries and example problems.
“I better hit the books again,” she mutters, standing up from the table.
“Aw, okay,” Boomer gives her a sympathetic smile. “I’ll bring ya some Monte Carlos later.”
“You’re the best,” Franky replies, giving Boomer her best impression of a smile.
As much as Franky misses Bridget, and wants to cave in and text her back, she hides her phone under her mattress and attempts to focus on her studies. Unfortunately, such attempts aren’t going well. Her eyes are glazing over from her Trusts notes, and she’s pretty sure she’s re-read the same sentence at least five times.
Damn it, Gidget.
She put her phone on airplane mode and put it under her pillow, but she can’t stop glancing over at her desk. All she can think about is Bridget’s smile, her warm hugs, her gentle fingers. If it were possible to reverse the damage she caused, Franky would do it in a heartbeat, but she can’t possibly give in to Bridget’s pleading texts. Bridget doesn’t have the full picture, the truth. She doesn’t know Franky is made of bombs, each one set with a different date, ready to explode.
Franky stretches her arms above her head and blows a raspberry as her vision blurs. The queasy feeling in her gut isn’t going away any time soon, and Bridget at least deserves a response of some kind. Franky doesn’t have the words to make up for what she did wrong, but she can at least give Bridget the decency of a reply.
Sitting on her bed, she retrieves her phone to start typing a response. It would be so easy to say I miss you too, please forgive me, but she’s got a destructive orbit and she owes it to Bridget to force her away.
But she selfishly doesn’t want to break up with her either.
Franky groans and turns her phone off again, wishing she knew how to fix things.
“Go Booms!” Franky shouts, gesturing over the rail with her beer and sending froth sloshing onto the grass.
It’s barely ten in the morning on Sunday, but Bea and Liz forced everyone out of the house to come watch Boomer’s footy game. Apparently they’re all becoming antisocial and spending too much time in their bedrooms — something Franky thinks is justified considering it’s swotvac and her first exam is in eight days. ‘A bit of family bonding,’ Bea had called it while pulling Franky’s doona off her at a horrible chilly eight o’clock this morning.
“Family bonding my arse,” Franky mutters to herself as Bea shrieks beside her, Allie’s hands in a suspicious position under Bea’s warm puffer coat. In the face of her own singledom, their perfect happiness is no longer endearing.
“Allie, hands where I can see them!” Kaz groans from the other side of the couple.
Franky laughs, sharing a grimace with Kaz before tipping her head back and skulling the rest of her beer. She’s going to need a lot more alcohol to make it through the next hour, so she promptly returns to the refreshments table. It’s the third quarter and Boomer’s team is four goals up, so as much as Franky loves watching her best friend be an awesome ruckman, there’s no real competition left, and the lovestruck couple to her left are nauseatingly annoying.
“Maxxy, another!” Franky exclaims as she approaches the rickety trestle table bearing the blessed booze getting her through this morning. She dumps her old bottle in the recycling tub and holds out her rainbow stubbie holder for the next one. Franky doesn’t tend to buy too much rainbow shit, and refuses to adopt the new all-pink lesbian flag out of colour principle, but she’ll never say no to the freebies given out at Midsumma every year.
Behind the table, Maxine shakes her head and reaches for another local beer from the esky. Maxine is one of Boomer’s teammates and a regular at Franky, Bea and Bomer’s gym. She’d normally be on the field but a pre-season injury has relegated her to team snacks manager and Franky’s current favourite person.
“Don’t make yourself sick,” Maxine sing-songs as she slides over the cool stubbie.
“Yes mum,” Franky retorts, sticking her tongue out as she leans against the table and searches her pockets for coins.
“Is everything okay?” Maxine asks, and Franky stifles a groan. Maxxy is a fantastic listener and has been on the receiving end of many of Franky’s uni rants in the gym, but a heart-to-heart is the last thing Franky wants right now.
“Peachy,” she quips, finally finding the right coins and dropping them into the ice cream container on the front of the table. She swipes her beer and quickly turns back towards the oval, deliberately ignoring the concerned question on Maxxy’s lips.
“There you are,” Liz smiles as Franky slips back into their group, this time positioning herself between Liz and Kaz so there’s a buffer between herself and the now making-out couple. “Have you seen Dors?”
“Nuh,” Franky says as she twists the top off her beer and happily takes a swig.
“Isn’t Nash’s team playing next?” Kaz asks.
Franky tunes out the dull conversation around her and steadily sips on her stubbie, enjoying the growing buzz it’s giving her. She’s been drinking since they arrived at eight-thirty and it seems like the alcohol is finally starting to hit. She has no idea what’s going on in the game anymore but she doesn’t care, everything feels great for the first time in days.
When the air horn sounds for the end of the third quarter, the score shows Boomer’s team is another seven points ahead, and Franky lets out a proud whoop as Boomer jogs past them.
“Woo, Booms!” Franky giggles, hanging onto the rail as her sense of balance disappears.
“Is she drunk?” Kaz not-so-quietly whispers to Liz.
“I dunno… How many beers has she had?” Liz replies.
Franky narrows her eyes and spins around to face Liz, clinging to the rail as that suddenly makes everything wobble. “I’m not drunk. I’ve only had four… five beers.”
And, like a brooding film character, she had more rum than coffee in her morning French press, but she’s not about to mention that.
“In two hours?” Kaz exclaims rather loudly from behind Franky.
“Yes, Karen, in two hours,” Franky grumbles, ignoring Liz’s concerned eyes.
Before Liz can finish her sentence, Franky darts around her and strides off towards the grandstand behind them. She can’t stand being around her judgemental friends anymore, and it’s already more fun without their nagging. She’ll watch the rest of the game from a seat, with her beer to keep her company. A smile crosses her lips and she takes a swig of her beer as she walks as best she can towards the old, wooden grandstand with its peeling paint.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t make it to her destination.
Out of nowhere, one of Bea’s hands wraps around Franky’s forearm and the other pilfers the drink right out of Franky’s hand.
“Hey!” Franky grumbles as Bea tugs her off-course.
“Come on, we’re going to my car,” Bea says in a no-nonsense tone.
“Nuh. I wanna watch the game,” Franky pouts, digging her boots into the grass and trying to hold her ground. Bea, annoyingly, is stronger. Damn all the workouts Franky has skipped lately in favour of study or Bridget. Bridget, whose body against Franky’s was always a much more fun way of working up a sweat than the gym.
“Too bad,” Bea says through gritted teeth.
Franky huffs and stumbles along next to Bea as she leads them out of the sports ground and into the carpark. It’s all a blur and she has to focus all her energy on putting one foot after another with the speed Bea is walking them. Only once they’re at Bea’s old much-loved Subaru, does Bea relax and gently push Franky into the backseat. She flops back into the soft cushion, exhaling as the world slows down around her. She’s reaching for her seatbelt, resigned to being driven home, when the other back door opens and Bea gets into the car beside her.
“Why are you back here?” Franky frowns. “Who’s driving?”
“No one, Franks. I just wanna talk,” Bea says softly.
“Uhh, nuh,” Franky shakes her head and reaches for the door handle, but the familiar click of the lock sounds before she can open it. She groans and closes her eyes, wishing she could shut off her ears too. She doesn’t need Bea’s pity, and she certainly doesn’t need Bea finding out how awful she is. Her friends are great, and they know about her past, but they don’t know about the monster simmering below the surface.
“C’mon, Franky. You never drink like this… what’s wrong?” Bea says, gently placing a hand on Franky’s knee.
“Nothing…” Franky mutters, trying to block out the influx of thoughts of Bridget. Unfortunately closing her eyes doesn’t close her memories.
Bea hums and rubs circles over Franky’s jean-clad knee before speaking softly. “You know we’re all here to help you with whatever it is.”
Franky squeezes her eyes shut harder, but a tear leaks out anyway. She's drunk and drunk is shit at holding back. "I fucked things up with Bridget."
Franky hears the sound of Bea sliding over the car seat and a moment later she’s enveloped in gentle arms. She cracks her eyes open, briefly glimpsing red curls, then squeezes them shut again to pretend like there aren’t hot tears leaking down her cheeks.
“Yeah. Doing what I do best.”
“What happened?” Bea asks softly, rubbing circles along Franky’s upper back now.
Franky hates being needy because she’s the least-deserving person ever, but she never wants to leave this hug. Except, maybe, for Bridget’s arms. Though she’s unlikely to ever feel them around her again.
She startles, realising she didn’t reply. Why the fuck did she think drinking was a good idea? She can’t stop being a soppy bastard.
“Got in a fight,” Franky mumbles into Bea’s shoulder.
“With her housemate. And then…”
Franky trails off. Here and now is a drunk blur, but the memory of Bridget’s face as Franky pushed her away and ran isn’t.
Bea waits. Patient. Expectant.
“I fucked up,” Franky groans.
“Have you spoken to Bridget since then?”
“Nuh… Didn’t know what to say.” Her voice comes out as more of a squeak, followed by a hiccup from the beer foaming in her stomach.
“Gimme your phone,” Bea says, holding out a hand.
She scrolls through Franky’s messages for a few minutes and Franky holds her breath, waiting for the moment Bea kicks her out of the car for being such an asshole.
“Oh Franky, you idiot. Call her.”
Whether it’s nerves or a hangover from all the drinks hitting her, Franky’s not sure. All she knows is her stomach won’t stop churning. Bridget, in a display of her virtue, agreed to come over and talk. Franky’s still not convinced she deserves this chance, but Bea cleared everyone out of the house and essentially ordered Franky to apologise to Bridget.
She mindlessly plays a cooking game on her phone while listening for the door. Bridget is a prompt person, and sure enough, just before one there’s a gentle knock on the wood.
Franky rushes to the door, desire to see Bridget overriding her nerves. She pulls open the door and her breath is knocked away.
“Hey,” she says, barely more than a whisper as she gazes upon Bridget’s beautiful face.
Bridget’s not wearing any makeup and her hair is up in a messy bun. Coupled with an oversized grey jumper and jeans, and a hint of gloss on her lips, she looks incredibly cute. Her lips are pursed, but her eyes are soft, and Franky clings to her gaze.
“Hey,” Bridget says, her voice clipped.
“Uh… come in.” Franky moves aside, fighting the urge to hug Bridget. She doesn’t deserve it, and she doesn’t know how Bridget will react.
Bridget steps around her in the narrow hallway and the physical distance she keeps between them is like a punch to Franky’s gut. The worst part is Franky has no one to blame but herself.
“You want anything to drink?” Franky asks, shutting the door and trailing Bridget down the hall.
“No thanks,” Bridget replies, glancing around the remarkably quiet house as she enters the sprawling living room. “So this is your place.”
“Yeah.” Franky glances around the living room, an uncoordinated mess of everyone’s furniture plus the belongings of their two extra guests.
Franky watches her glance from three of Bea’s paintings hanging behind the much-loved couch to Kaz’s colourful quilt draped over her mattress, to the coffee table piled with textbooks, to Boomer’s football trophies proudly displayed next to the telly. A soft smile spreads over Bridget’s smile even in the face of the eclectic collection, and Franky doesn’t think Bridget is putting on any false pretences either.
“It’s a mishmash, I know. You’re just too fuckin’ polite,” Franky says, aiming for her usual teasing, but her voice comes out stilted.
Bridget turns to face Franky with eyes that pierce right through her. “So where are your things?”
Franky blinks, glancing around the room. “Umm..”
Come to think of it, she doesn’t keep any of her belongings outside her lockable room. It’s probably a hang-up from having her shit stolen repeatedly growing up.
“Can I see your room?” Bridget asks, expression still difficult to read.
Franky hesitates, wondering why on earth Bridget would give up her exits that easily. Doesn’t she want to stay in the open, poised to bolt at the opportune moment?
“Yeah,” she exhales, turning to lead them upstairs. Anything is better than awkwardly hovering in the overstuffed lounge room.
When Franky envisaged bringing Bridget home for the first time, she pictured them rushing up to her room in a giddy, desire-filled flurry. She didn’t imagine the silence, the uncertainty, the strained connection. And in all her daydreaming, she never quite figured out how she’d explain her past to Bridget. She pushes open her creaky bedroom door, glad that she thought to shove all her dirty clothes and other mess under her bed before Bridget arrived.
“Oh, your desk is lovely,” Bridget says, immediately walking past Franky towards the desk in the corner directly opposite Franky’s bedroom door.
A whiff of Bridget’s fruity, musky perfume hits Franky as she passes, and Franky aches to have Bridget in her arms again.
“Where did you get this?” Bridget asks, bending down to inspect the colourful Aboriginal dot art decorating the drawers. “Is it custom?”
“My friends made it for me,” Franky replies, smiling at the memory. “It’s Dor’s Dreamtime, but Bea painted it.”
“Wow,” Bridget says breathlessly.
Bridget admires the desk for a few more moments before turning to survey the rest of the room with a slow clockwise gaze. It isn’t as stylish or as cohesive as Bridget’s room, but it does the job. To the right of Franky’s desk, she’s lucky to have a large window overlooking their backyard. Various knickknacks are strewn along the sill, below which she’s got Kmart shelves chock full of uni notes and her beloved collection of secondhand novels. Beside that, in the far corner, her weights and other workout things are in a pile next to her small, wobbly round bedside table.
Her unmade double bed is tucked against the wall opposite the window, with an overflowing clothing rack at the end blocking the view from the door. It wasn’t intentional; it was simply the only way all her stuff would fit in the somewhat-cramped room, but it does add a nice bit of privacy when Franky brings girls back. At this rate, she won’t ever need its privacy with Bridget, and she swallows against the heavy lump in her throat. This moment could have been so different if only she was a functional, non-fuck up of a person.
“Nice paintings,” Bridget comments, breaking into Franky’s darkening thoughts. “Did Bea do those too?”
The two paintings are watercolours of the sunrise and sunset at Fairhaven Beach on one of their group’s many getaways to Kaz’s family beach house. Franky feels lucky to have such a creative friend, because there’s no way she’d ever be able to afford nice artwork otherwise.
“She’s very talented,” Bridget says, turning back to Franky. There’s a wistful smile on her face which drops as their eyes meet, and Franky feels uncertain again.
She’s no closer to figuring out how to explain everything to Bridget, but she needs to give it a shot. She gestures at her bed and Bridget gets the hint, sitting down silently, expectantly. Franky sighs and sits beside Bridget, knowing any apology will fall flat without context, but context will make Bridget run for the hills.
“Uh… how are you?” Franky starts, toying with the hem of her jumper. This would be easier if Bridget would just yell at her for being a bitch. Franky can take yelling. She deserves it.
“I’ve been better,” Bridget replies, folding her arms. She sits on the bed with her legs elegantly folded to the side, feet dangling over the edge and boots discarded on the floorboards beneath her. She’s at once relaxed and ready to flee. More than anything, Franky hates being the cause of Bridget’s sadness.
“I… I’m sorry, Bridget,” Franky murmurs, her chest aching with guilt. “I fucked up… I hurt you, and I hurt Vera… and I—”
“Franky…” Bridget holds her left hand out towards Franky while she runs her right hand along her forehead. “I… I don’t care about what you said to Vera. She was being a bitch.” Bridget drops her hands into her lap. “I do care that you took off on me like that.”
“I know,” Franky says, watching as Bridget glances everywhere but at her. She looks smaller than normal, traces of the hurt from Thursday night creeping across her guarded expression.
“You didn’t contact me for three days… I don’t… you can’t do that to me.”
“Do you?” Bridget asks sharply, her brows raising and her eyes darting back to meet Franky’s. They’re steely now. Challenging.
Franky swallows, bracing for the impact, the end.
Her vision goes cloudy and she clenches her jaw, willing herself not to cry when she only brought this upon herself. She has no right to be upset when she’s the bad guy here. She forces herself to continue meeting Bridget’s eyes and confront the pain she’s caused. Bridget regards her for a moment, the air between them thick and pulsing with hurt.
“I really like you,” Bridget continues, clearing her throat. “I just… Please.” her voice cracks and the sound of it slams right through Franky’s chest. “Baby, please talk to me. I can’t handle being… I want you to trust me.”
“I do trust you,” Franky mumbles reflexively, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. It’s not a lie. She trusts Bridget more than anyone, and that’s why she feels so terrible about treating her like this. Through the cloud of self-loathing, however, Franky realises Bridget isn’t ending their relationship. The glimmer of hope spurs her on, and she runs her hands along her soft winter doona bunched up around them, wishing she was touching Bridget instead.
She’s got a long way to go to fix this mess, but she wants to try. Despite multiple reasons to, Bridget’s not abandoning her and Franky owes it to Bridget to give her the same decency. She realises, now, that she’s been letting old excuses and insecurities rule her. She needs to push through her shit and tell Bridget the truth.
“I’m…” She exhales through shaky lips, bile rising in her throat as she sorts through her memories. “I’m not good at this.”
“This isn’t a test, Franky,” Bridget murmurs, wiping at her own watery eyes. “I know you’ve experienced things in your past — and I don’t want to pressure you to tell me. I just… I was worried sick.” Her voice rises with every word. “You were upset when you left and then it was like you dropped off the face of the planet.”
“I know… I’m sorry,” Franky says, her stomach churning so hard she wonders if Bridget can hear it.
Bridget runs her left hand through her hair, messing up her bun somewhat. She gives Franky a small smile but still seems tense. Franky doesn’t blame her; she realises now how awful Bridget must have felt.
“My dad left when I was ten,” Franky offers, shaking her head at the irony. “Probably got that from him.”
“Franky…” Bridget exhales, her hands twitching in her lap as she softens. “We don’t have to talk about it right now—”
“I want to.”
The words slip out of Franky’s mouth before she can think about them. Her eyes widen and she almost startles at the realisation that it’s true. She does want to tell Bridget.
Her friends have found out about her parents in bits and pieces over the years; mostly through late night D&Ms, drunk meltdowns, and overhearing government phone calls. Franky’s Centrelink applications are always a fucking shitshow requiring Liz and Bea’s help and many, many vodka shots. It might be cathartic to tell Bridget the raw truth in its entirety without an alcoholic facade.
Bridget smiles softly, her still-misty eyes crinkling at the corners.
Fuck, Franky’s missed that smile. Its reappearance makes her feel… safe. Which isn’t easy when her childhood is at the forefront of her mind. That’s not to say that her heart isn’t currently beating ridiculously fast, and that she doesn’t feel exposed, but Bridget’s presence beside her is a comforting feeling.
“Gidge?” Franky mumbles, digging her fingers into her thick dark blue doona, instinctively tugging it around her.
“I just… wanna hold ya,” Franky admits, needing the tactile connection to reassure her anxious heart. “If you want.”
“Oh. Yes.” Bridget nods instantly, and Franky’s chest flutters.
Franky hesitates, still feeling awful for everything she’s done, and she hasn’t yet explained herself to Bridget so she doesn’t exactly deserve comfort. Before she can fret any longer, Bridget’s arms are wrapping around her.
“Mmm…” Franky smiles, melting against Bridget, and turning her face into warm skin. “Missed you.”
“I missed you too,” Bridget sighs, her hands creeping up Franky’s back as they press together. “Wanna lie down?”
Instinct makes Franky want to shove Bridget away, denying herself comfort in order to avoid looking weak. But she’s already started showing her true self, and if she’s to truly bare herself, she needs to be honest.
“Yeah,” she says, her voice coming out squeaky.
They separate briefly in order to lie down, and it’s somewhat ridiculous how much she misses Bridget’s touch. They settle facing each other on the pillows, and thankfully Bridget is quick to sling her arm over Franky’s hip and slide her hand under Franky’s jumper. It’s like she’s a mind reader.
Franky exhales forcefully, trying to centre herself before telling Bridget the truth.
“Baby, take your time,” Bridget says.
Bridget follows her words by moving her thumb in circles and sending warmth up Franky's spine. It’s reassuring and refreshing to have someone be so patient and caring even after her recent fuck up. A small smile creeps over Franky’s face as she arches her back into Bridget’s touch, trying to relax.
Minutes pass. Franky tries to only think about the softness of Bridget’s fingertips and the depths of her smile.
“I used to hate bedtime,” Franky says eventually. “I spent years waiting at the window for my dad to come back.”
Anger surges through her veins with the admission, and she tries not to succumb its screaming temptation.
She used to idolise her dad — he was like a superhero with his plumbing tools and Ute. She remembers helping him fix the sink in the shitty rental they lived in when money got tight. He also used to take her into the bush on surprise camping trips instead of going to school. Later, she learnt it was because her mum was on a bender and her dad had been laid off from yet another job, but as a child he was the best father a girl could ask for.
“I haven’t heard from him since he left… but I… I don’t know if I want to anymore. I can’t trust myself around him.”
Franky’s heart pounds in her chest as she drags from it her darkest thoughts.
Bridget’s eyebrows crease, but she doesn’t say anything. Franky swallows, unsure if she’s already scaring Bridget away. The hand stroking her back allays those fears somewhat, but Franky can’t shake her insecurities.
“For ages I thought he’d come back and rescue me… When I realised he wasn’t coming back I started to plot revenge — I used to hope he’d return because I wanted to smash his face in,” Franky hisses, her vision blurring with angry, disgusted tears and she hastily wipes them away with an unsteady hand. “I don't want to be like that… that violent person anymore, but—”
“You’re not,” Bridget says, still staring with compassionate eyes.
“I wish I believed that,” Franky says hesitantly. “‘Cause when I think of dad I still want to hurt him.”
Around them, the air is cold and suffocating. There’s a constricting lump in Franky’s throat and she’s fighting against darkness to meet Bridget’s eyes.
“‘Cause he left me… he left me with mum.” Franky’s voice cracks as she chokes out the words. “And my mum… she was an addict… and she… she… she blamed me. Said it was my fault he left. She’d get pinned and she’d… she hit me and burned me with cigarettes.”
Bridget gasps and her gentle face quickly crumples, her hand freezing on Franky’s back. “Oh god…”
Franky clenches her jaw, desperately clinging to her waning control.
“I was with her for five years before social services took me.” Franky races to get the rest out as her chest feels tighter than ever. “Then I was bounced around shitty foster homes and public housing. I… I got into some shit. I’ve been in a lot of fights, I’ve been arrested, I used to deal drugs…” she pauses, watching as Bridget frowns again. Her stomach plummets. “I know I’m a bad person.”
“What?” Bridget blinks. “No you’re not.”
“I am,” Franky insists. “I’ve been trying to convince myself I’m not, but I am. Underneath it all, I’m an awful person. I hurt you, I hurt Vera, last year I had an affair with Erica—”
“Shh, stop,” Bridget says as she cups Franky’s cheek, her palm soft and soothing against Franky’s skin. Franky’s breath hitches under her touch and the world slows in its spinning. “Franky, listen to me. You’re a good person.”
With probing blue eyes, Bridget tucks Franky’s hair behind her ear, smoothing out the mess. Tears roll down both their cheeks and Franky wipes hers away, shaking her head. Bridget is delusional. Hasn’t she been listening to her confession?
Before Franky can form a protest, Bridget presses her thumb to Franky’s lips.
“You are good. You’re kind, and generous, and you work so hard…” Bridget strokes Franky’s cheek with her fingertips, curling them up and down with the gentlest of touches.
“You’re wrong,” Franky says as hot, guilty tears continue to drip down her cheeks. She wants so hard to agree, to relax against Bridget’s calming hand and ignore her past, but she can’t simply wash away a lifetime of bad behaviour.
“I’m not,” Bridget shakes her head, wiping quickly at her own tears and then dropping her hands to grab Franky’s own limp ones. “Remember that night at Down Under?”
“Yeah.” How could Franky ever forget? Her lips twitch upwards as she recalls Bridget’s cute, intoxicated self sprawled over the couch.
“I was off my face and you made sure I got home safe,” Bridget says, blue eyes shining brightly. “I didn’t even really know you then… but now I do. And I know you as the most wonderful, caring, amazing person. You’ve brought me lunch, made me breakfast, sent me cute texts every day… You’re so thoughtful.” As Bridget speaks she brushes her fingers over Franky’s hands, and the soothing touches help make Franky’s body feel like it belongs to her again. “I wish you could see yourself the way I do.”
Franky’s heart thuds in her chest and her eyes fill with tears again at the overwhelmingly kind words flowing from Bridget’s mouth.
“What your mum did to you… that’s… beyond awful,” Bridget’s face crumples up with sadness and a moment later she flings her arms around Franky, her voice wavering. “Oh, baby… You didn’t deserve any of that.”
It’s not the first time Franky’s heard those words, but for the first time in her life, she believes them.