Olivia Benson looked up at the knock to see Sgt. Odafin “Fin” Tutuola filling the frame of her doorway.
“Liv, have you heard from Rita today?” he asked, taking a step inside her office toward where she sat at her desk. He lowered his voice. “We were supposed to meet for lunch and she didn’t show and she’s not answering her phone.”
Only his lieutenant and Rafael Barba knew about his and the well dressed lady lawyer’s relationship.
“Actually I have and I was about to run over to her place,” she told him.
“She okay? Is she sick or somethin’?” His forehead wrinkled with concern.
“No, she’s not sick,” Olivia assured him. “She, ah, she needed me to bring her a few things.”
“I’ll take them,” he immediately volunteered, needing to see for himself why his girlfriend hadn’t met him at their favorite lunch spot and why she wasn’t taking his calls or answering his texts.
His boss hesitated.
“Liv, what is it? What aren’t you telling me?” Now he was starting to worry. “You said she wasn’t sick.”
She sighed and muttered, “Oh, for God’s sakes, we’re all adults.” Then she reached beside her chair and picked up a bag and held it out to her sergeant. “Here. But don’t blame me if she’s pissed it’s you at the door.”
He grabbed the handles from her and was gone. Olivia shook her head with a smile and put her glasses back on, returning to her paperwork. Rita heard the doorbell ring outside her brownstone, but the heating pad was just starting to do its job and she didn’t feel like getting up. She opened her eyes and picked up her phone, sending Olivia a text that said the door was unlocked. Leaving her door unlocked wasn’t something she did regularly, but it was mid afternoon and her neighborhood wasn’t exactly Harlem. The bell sounded again. Why wasn’t she coming in? And again.
Answer the door , she finally got in reply.
“Fuuuck,” she groaned, throwing back the afghan that had been over her legs and swinging them off the couch. She stood and stretched gently, the muscles of her lower back protesting being removed from the heating pad.
She padded to the door on bare, perfectly pedicured feet and stopped when she saw who was on the other side of the frosted glass panels. The last person she expected was her boyfriend of a few months. Rita was actually quite a modest person and it took a lot for her to let someone in and really get to know her. She and Fin had gotten quite close and were sleeping together, but there were some things she really hadn’t been ready to share with him yet. Like how once a month for about a day, she was completely incapacitated. By now, pushing 50, she had it down. She scheduled appointments and court dates around her cycle and was able to manage with her heating pad, pain killers and some chocolate; preferably in ice cream form.
But this month, it snuck up on her and caught her completely unprepared. Completely. She was even out of supplies, except for some huge pads at the back of the cabinet under her bathroom sink that she didn’t even know how she came to have. And when she went for her pain killers she found the bottle empty but for two. There was no way she could make it out for what she needed, or get through the day without more. So she shelved her modesty and called Olivia. The two women had become close after Liv starting seeing her Harvard classmate. Her friend promised she would make a run to the store and bring the items over as soon as she could. Rita had then taken a hot shower and retreated to her couch with her heating pad, napping on and off, while watching the weather channel’s morning show. The doorbell pealed again and now the man on the other side banged on the wooden frame with the palm of his hand.
“Rita!” he called in his best NYPD voice. “Open the door! I know you’re in there!”
Only to prevent any of her neighbors who might be home from coming outside to see what the ruckus was, did she take the additional steps needed to reach the door and turn the knob.
“It was unlocked, Odafin,” she said quietly. Then she turned, leaving him to enter and close the door, walked back to the living room and sank down on the couch, adjusting the heating pad and closing her eyes with a sigh of relief.
The detective stood there taking in her appearance which was unlike anything he’d seen in the time they’d been dating. Even first thing in the morning, Rita Calhoun always looked pulled together, in her satin nightgowns and matching robes. But now she wore baggy gray sweatpants and a faded Harvard T-shirt. Her hair was in a ponytail but had pieces falling out, and she sat with her legs drawn up under an afghan, her arms crossed tightly around her middle. Her mouth was tight with pain.
“Babe,” he said again, dropping to his knees at her side. “Why didn’t you answer my calls? When you didn’t show for lunch I thought something had happened to you.”
Her eyes widened. After the way her morning began, she’d forgotten all about their lunch date. She reached out a hand to touch his face.
“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry! I forgot all about it,” she said. “I’m not having the best day.”
“So I see,” Fin replied, reaching up and taking her small hand in his and kissing its palm. “Why didn’t you let me know? I’d have come over sooner.”
She shook her head. “I didn’t want you to see me like this.”
“Baby,” he said, his voice gentle and gravelly. “I was married. I know all about….women’s stuff.”
He stood, letting go of her hand and said, “I brought what Liv got you. Why don’t you go freshen up and meet me in your room?”
“This is hardly the time —“ Rita began, but he cut her off with a classic Tutuola snort.
“Give me a little more credit, Calhoun. Now you can either walk your perky little ass up there or I can carry you.”
Only the thought of taking more pain killers and changing out of the diaper sized pad had her standing up from the couch and taking the bag he held out to her. Summoning all her dignity, she headed for the stairs, calling over her shoulder, “Bring the heating pad with you.”
He watched her climb the stairs and disappear into her bedroom. Unplugging the heating pad, he followed once he heard the door to the en suite close. When she emerged, feeling marginally better, she found the room dimmed, several of the candles she normally used to create a romantic atmosphere lit, and Fin sitting on the bed waiting for her.
“Where’s my heating pad?”
“I have something better,” he said, standing and wiggling his fingers at her. “Lay down, babe.”
His ex wife had back pain almost the entire time she was pregnant with their son, Ken, and hours and hours of back labor before he was born, so Fin had become expert in the art of rubbing a woman’s back. He knew when he saw his girlfriend with the heating pad behind her that was exactly what she needed. Rita climbed onto the bed and lay down on her stomach, positioning her arms and head on pillows. She felt the bed dip down as Fin joined her, straddling her thighs. She turned her head and regarded him with amusement.
“Might have to try this position another time,” she said, making him chuckle and lean forward to press a kiss to her cheek.
“Might have to,” he murmured in her ear, then resumed his position and placed his large hands at the small of her back.
As he massaged and manipulated her muscles, she felt some of the pain fading. At one point she fell asleep. He moved to lay on the mattress, drawing her onto her side so he could spoon her from behind, using his body as a personal heating pad and pulling a cover over the two of them. When Rita awoke the first thing she noticed was most of her pain was gone. The second was how comfortable and safe she felt in Fin’s arms. Moving onto her back she found him awake, silently watching her. Smiling, she pulled his head down to kiss him lovingly, then said.
“I’m penciling you in for next month.”