The office is quiet, the open space having cleared out hours ago at the end of the workday. A small skeleton crew of custodial staff move through the office space. There’s a low echo of the vacuum cleaner moving across the carpeted floors, weaving in between desks and chairs. Hidden away at the end of office are the usual suspects, having stayed after hours; Sutton using the opportunity of a quiet office and absent Oliver to get ahead, Jane and Kat having stayed to keep her company. The former, waiting for her roommate, the latter finding an excuse to delay the necessary.
The quiet on the floor is betrayed by raucous laughter.
“I think I’d be into the whole doctor thing” Sutton quips before turning back to ordering pieces on the rack. “You know the whole sexy exam thing.” She then adds in a faux sultry voice.
“Yes, ma’am slide to the end of the table, you may feel some slight discomfort” Jane mocks from her position, draped on the chaise lounge. Her attention turns to Kat at her feet, sprawled out on her back, her jacket bunched under her head as a pillow, limbs everywhere as she scrolls on her phone held above her face. Jane angles slightly to poke Kat with her toe. “Kat?”
“My gyno is friends with my mom” Kat supplies, nonchalantly. “They went to college together; they’re like best friends, but I doubt she’s like hey Susie, I’ve had my hand up your daughter's vag… this wine is lovely” Kat does her best imitation of Dr Grossman's Midwestern twang.
“Is she hot?” Sutton queries, not reading the bewildered expression on Jane’s face.
Rounds of laughter follow.
“I kind of miss Ben, he was sweet and thoughtful. Ryan is just… I don’t know, I don’t know what I was expecting.” Tiny Jane muses, rolling over dramatically to look at the ceiling.
“Well maybe, you need something new.” Sutton turns from the clothing rail to her friends in the middle of the room. She finds a place sat down, leaning against the cushioned arm of the chair, Kat’s legs resting in her lap. “Oohh what about a lady lover.” A smirk creeps onto her face, looking a bit menacing if anything.
A nudge from Sutton against her leg has Kat turning away from scrolling momentarily. She takes in her friends’ expectant expressions; waiting for her to weigh in, somehow, she had assumed the role of the sage expert on women.
‘Love is a terrible ugly business played by fools. It’ll trample your heart and leave you bleeding on the floor. And what does it get you in the end? Nothing but a few incredible memories that you can’t really shake.’ A baby Josh Hutcherson echoes in her head. Kat won’t admit paying seven dollars on google play and watching the romantic comedy at 4.a.m. on a Thursday and crying into a family size tub of the off-brand version of Nutella Adena had preferred; insistent on referring to it as Hazelnut spread in protest.
“Eh,” She manages instead in a non-committal manner. “The grass definitely isn’t greener.” No, it definitely wasn't. "You need to water the grass, and cut the grass and get rid of the weeds and buy it artisanal soap because normal soap gives her dermatitis and listen to her perspective on vinegar-based hot sauce as a superior option and sometimes you spend a whole week eating wheat gluten because she's a vegetarian and all you want is a cheeseburger. The grass is grass, Jane."
“So drinks? Jane needs to do…well, something. Ooh, we can go to that place, yes I know the vibe is kind of whatever” Her rambling is cut off by Jane, still in need of persuasion.
“The one on S 4thStreet?” Sutton nods. “I mean I guess, they do have tacos, and that bartender who spent most of the night talking to you Kat” Kat doesn’t respond, her brow furrowed at her phone screen, lip worrying between her teeth.
“Yes, right for Kat. And the free drinks.” Jane shifts over looking at Sutton incredulously. “Look, you’re single, Jane is… whatever she is and I want to go out with my girls.” Sutton adds, softening slightly.
“I uh have plans” Jane and Sutton remain quiet, waiting for Kat to elaborate.
“I am meeting with… Adena” She sighs, shooting off a text; the obnoxious whoosh sound making that apparent. Kat slides over to her bag, clicking the phone off as she locks it places it in a side pocket.
“So what’s happening with that?” Jane prods gently, the topic evidently still being a sensitive one from the way Kat bristles when she asks. “Have there been… any more slip-ups?”
“Yeah like when she slipped and fell into her vagina?” Sutton mutters under her breath. “I’m sorry, low hanging fruit.” Sutton manages to collect herself.
The first time had been a mistake, something Kat had acknowledged to her friends in a quiet moment. The second, third and fourth times not so much. The fifth time, also the last time, she had been resolute in that fact had been simply to get it out of her system and Kat had put it down to a number of coincidences that lined up to create a perfect storm of bad decisions
- Her phone had died. The little battery icon flashing red as the phone had powered off.
- Adena’s new apartment was only 3 blocks away from where they had gone out.
- She was inebriated enough to think showing up unannounced at 2.a.m was a good idea.
That and it was cold.
What she hadn’t expected was to get there and realise that maybe she was drunker than she had first assumed, because Adena had brushed off her advances, favouring sitting her down on the couch and pouring her a glass of water instead which had subsequently gone ignored when Kat had broken down into tears. Adena hadn’t pushed her for conversation but just sat there with her while she sobbed incoherently, later her helping her to the bathroom when she complained about the room spinning. Kat had woken up alone in Adena’s bed, shrouded in her scent. Next to her phone on the side table was a tall glass of water and two painkillers that had been left out for her. She had shrugged back into the pillow with the starting’s of a headache at her temples.
A quick check of her phone let her know that she had slept in but further investigation, past the view of the room divider just beyond the edge of the bed indicated Aden’s absence. Getting dressed, Kat noticed the folded-up blanket on the edge of the couch – Adena had let her take the bed.
Kat can’t help but smile at Sutton. “I kind of want to get it all out there, but I don’t know.”
Kat makes a move to get up, taking a moment to shrug on her coat over her blazer and slip her feet into her shoes.
“Bye babe” “Yeah good luck” is said in unison.
“Love you.” Kat manages over her shoulder as she swings the door open.
She makes her way through the front half of the office, taking a moment to greet the custodial staff, sharing in friendly small-talk before bidding them a good night.
Kat shows up at the apartment promptly – no use in delaying the inevitable. She bounces on the balls of her feet as she calls up to Adena’s apartment; the buzzing noise alters her of the lock mechanism disengaging from the door as she shoves it open.
The ride over had been spent entertaining the driver’s conversation about his infant sons, all in an attempt to distract herself; not that it had worked, Kat having a vague disinterest in children as a whole. No, Kat couldn’t focus on much else other than the churning in her gut as the street outside her work building faded further into the rear-view. Half an hour spent in stop-start traffic hadn’t helped either although it was something she had anticipated when she had left an hour earlier than she normally would have for that specific reason.
Her process hadn’t been linear, but she caught herself sometimes, a small reminder in the back of her head that pretending not to care, is not at all the same as truly being over it. If she was honest with herself… She wasn’t.
She could hear her parents now as she trudges up the flight of steps.“Well, Kat, you have linked Adena to this pivotal moment in your life. Your sexual discovery and new identity are tied to this woman so intrinsically and so you have formed an attachment there; your avoidance of discussing the negative emotions you are experiencing are a defence mechanism you have mounted in response to feeling vulnerable at the reality of the disappointment that can come when interpersonal relationships breakdown”
Two quick raps against the solid door come before taking a deep breath to maintain her resolve. A short shuffling behind the door abates once the door swings open. Adena stands courteously out of the way as Kat makes her way in.
Kat makes slow work of removing her coat and shoes by the door, a particular in Adena’s home. She finds a spot for her bag close by on the metal coatrack.
Kat follows Adena into the main living space, watching the way her long gown flows behind her. Kat can’t help but think about her previous visits; the ones she can remember in full at least. Flashes of pushing Adena up against the wall and touching her all over; the bed sheets being a different colour, the high thread count cotton against her skin -the warm paisley replaced with dark ash grey.
“Would you like something to drink, or eat?” Adena asks as she busies herself in the kitchen.
“Water is good, thank you.”
Adena pulls the Britta out of the fridge and reaches on her tiptoes to grab a glass for kat – something Kat muses she would have sidled up behind her and helped with (in another life).
Kat can’t help but notice the little sliver of exposed skin at Adena’s abdomen as her top rides up slightly.
Adena walks back over and places the glass down in front of her, on top of a city of San Francisco novelty coaster Kat smiles at. Kat settles on the edge of the couch.
“How was work?” Adena was many things but she wasn’t awkward. She sat opposite wringing her hands until she notices Kat watching and folds them in her lap.
Work was good, same as always.” Quiet hangs in the air between them “How long are you here for?” – how long before you leave again, it's there in the air.
“Uh, I am not sure. I am sort of adrift at the moment” Adena says, her smile unsure.
Kat takes a long sip of the water. The dryness in her throat somehow remaining.
“I was uh surprised when you called, after last time… well, I wasn’t sure where..” Adena starts. “Last time when you came over..” Adena doesn’t get to finish her utterance before Kat interjects.
“Look I um” Kat takes a pause, her tongue clicking as she sighs
“You said that you wanted to talk, so I’m here. I am ready to talk.”
“I don’t know, I've been thinking a lot and... I don't know if I can.”
And just like that the wall slowly came back up. This very scene, every possible variation had played in loops, in every possible timeline until she couldn’t think about it anymore; but Adena was sitting across from her, looking altogether very small in the much too large armchair across from her – her body folding inwards – no trace of the confidence she had first noticed in the artist in their early days of courting (more a flirtationship if you will)
“I don’t know why I’m here honestly.” Kat shrugs in a very blasé way that pisses Adena off.
“What do you want me to say, Adena?” She rolls the stress out of her shoulders, sinking further into the couch. She could feel her annoyance already at the situation getting the best of her.
“Say something” Pleading at this point. “I do not think I can keep doing this. You come here, get what you feel like you need from me and then you leave.” Her voice sounds hollow as the words come out. Hurt.
“That’s not why I’m here. I'm not here for that. There’s just all of this shit, like everything I’ve wanted to say to you and ask you… and now I’m here and…”
Adena gives her room to continue, shifting only slightly in her chair, waiting for a response.
“Where did you go?” It comes out like an accusation, cutting through the tension in the room.
“What ?” Adena is evidently caught off guard, but Kats line of question.
“Where did you go, that night? You told me you weren’t coming to the party, fine. And that you didn’t know what it meant, that you needed time. But where did you go, because we went to Paris together… but after that, I didn’t see you for two days.” It all comes out in quick succession, not at least with enough time for Adena to process.
“Kat… I.” Avoidance. All of the signals are there; she fails to meet Kat’s eyes, looking down at her hands.
“No, tell me because… you didn’t call, you didn’t text. I didn’t know where you were or if something had happened to you. You could have been gone or dead for all I knew. I see it more and more now, I literally don’t know anything about you.” Her voice rises slightly.
Adena sighs exasperated, shaking her head.
“Oh come on. This is always a thing with you, I ask you just basic things about you and you do absolutely everything to not answer; how am I supposed to trust that.” Kat was gesticulating with her hands as her frustration rose.
“You went behind my back and talked to my ex instead of talking to me, what trust do we have?” Adena matches her in tone. An argument hadn’t been her intention, but here they were.
“You’re not easy to talk to Adena, you’re just not.” Kat huffs, “You weren’t going to tell me that you weren’t producing, that you felt stifled. You weren’t going to tell me that you needed to be away from me. I can’t talk to you”
“It is not my job to hold your hand through everything Kat.”
“You were with Coco.” Kat whispers, the pieces coming together. Adena’s reluctance to answer, falling off the grid when Kat called asking where she was.
A moment passes where Adena doesn’t respond.
Kat pushes on. “I didn’t realise that you felt like you needed to get away; from me, from us. You said you were choosing me, that you wanted to be all in, we were going to be all in, and you turn around and go back to her!”
“That is what you are concerned about?” Her tone betrays disbelief.
“No, but you told me it was over with her, that things ended between you. Like what the hell Adena!” She feels herself on the verge of tears, holding back ever so slightly so not as to appear ‘weak’ in her own mind.
“Grow up Kat! Do you have any idea what it is like to be in a relationship for years, to be completely committed? What it is like to try and make it work but end up hurting someone so much.” Adena is crying freely at this point. “You have no idea.”
“Well I'm sorry if you think I'm childish, but I still feel like you’ve screwed me over.”
“And what when you decided to kiss another woman?”
The room goes cold in the silence that follows.
“You kissed another woman and I forgave you. I saw that you were struggling, and I gave you a solid out, but you asked me to stay and I did. And still, with everything else, I stayed with you.” Adena sniffs.
“That wasn’t about you, Adena,” Kat responds, swiping angrily at the tears running down her cheeks.
“It's never about me Kat. Everything is about you. I turned my whole life upside down for you. You expected that when you were done doing whatever you were doing, I’d be right there waiting for you. I have been waiting, since we started this, waiting for you to choose me. And I wanted to wait for you. “
The uncomfortable shuffling as neither of them dares say a word.
The pain settles in.
“Fuck.” Kat manages, wiping away the tears that had collected in the corner of her eyes.
“I uh think maybe this is just too much right now for both of us. Maybe right now we can’t be what the other person needs.”
“I took a risk, coming back here. I want to fix this”
“Adena, I.” Kat sniffs “ I don’t think there is anything left here to fix. And I don’t think I want to try and fix it.”
‘it's too hard’ She doesn’t say it, but she thinks it. ‘This is too hard and I don’t want to try again. We have hurt each other too much. It feels different, I'm different Adena.
Instead “I think we’re two different people and we’re in completely different places right now. I think I need to figure myself out and we both need to get to a point where we can be okay. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you doing this?” Adena once again pleads.
“Because this is too much, and honestly I don’t know if we can even get back to being anything. I want you to be happy and I want to be happy, but…I don't know if it's enough.”
Kat will say it again at the door on her way out. ‘I want you to be happy.’ She will lean down, thumb brushing away Adena’s tears before pulling her in for a slow kiss. It's gentle and soft, but there’s some finality in it. Even with the saltiness, she can taste in her tears, it feels like a goodbye.
“You don’t have to go.”
“I know, but I can’t stay.”
“Maybe not everything is supposed to last forever, certain things are like sky-writing. A really beautiful thing that lasts a couple moments – Little Manhattan.”