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Her & Now: 24 hrs at the Westfall Address

Chapter Text

The doorbell rang. Franky glanced at her phone on the night table: 9 pm. Kinda late for visitors, she reckoned.

Franky was hazy from the drugs she was on. They were supposed to distract her from pain, but they seemed to distract her in other ways too. She felt the quality of the sheets under and over her. The feel of them was Gidget. Everything in the room was Gidget. She grinned.

She was probably tripping or something, to feel what she did for this room, this house. Her head fell back on the pillow, fingers of her left hand (her ‘good hand’ she was now calling it) scrunching silky but weighty fabric. There was a softness here unlike anything she’d experienced anywhere else in her life. The room radiated dignity and warmth. Maybe she was dreaming, or maybe she was even dead??

Her drugged reverie was interrupted by a distinctive footfall. That would be Bridget going to the door. The image unfolded clearly in Franky’s mind’s eye: Bridget, surprised at the bell, orienting herself to the door with a swing of her hips, her arms in motion, neck extended, eyebrows raised.

She’d looked absolutely ravishing earlier. She had changed into the ivory silk negligee that Franky loved. (She loved all of Bridget’s clothes, and all of Bridget without clothes even more). Her Gidge had tucked her in with a pill and a peck and a promise to join her in a jiff. A silly thought flitted through her head: sure hoped she’d covered up for whoever was at the door. (Jealous much?) And, she hoped that whoever was at the door would be the briefest of the brief, not just for her own sake, but because she knew Bridget was exhausted.

It would be awesome to fall asleep with Gidge beside her right now. She had nearly given up on this. It seemed impossible. She recalled Bridget’s hands on her face, looking into her eyes with love and loss: You’re dreaming.

She still couldn’t believe she was free. What were the odds that she'd made it back, to the outside, to this place?

Except she wondered, now, if she could never feel at home again? She had confirmation that her initial fears were true: it could be ripped away anytime. She felt vulnerable, even here. Maybe always would.

Her future, she figured, her day after today, would be riding on a frank and full discussion with Bridget about everything that had happened. And that meant everything, including the moment when Franky was at her very worse. Her other moments weren’t stellar either, but THIS one haunted Franky. The image was close every time she closed her eyes. How could Bridget forgive THAT?

***

Franky came back to the present at Bridget's voice. Franky wasn’t surprised at Bridget’s pleasant tone when she answered the door; this, despite the hour, and her own pain and exhaustion. Franky, still raw from life and death, would have probably a-said “What the fuck do you want?” not “Vera?! Oh, hi, come in!”

Vera Bennett, Governor of Wentworth Prison, at the Westfall address on a Saturday evening, two days after Franky’s charges were dropped and she was released from hospital? This couldn’t be good. If she were here to take something away - from this bed, this place, from Bridget - she would kill her. Or she’d kill herself. Like she told Gidge - and she meant it- she’d rather die than go back inside. Her heart pounded.

Or, Franky thought alternatively: Vera’s here for one of her free counselling sessions. Like that’s what Bridget needs right now. Either way – how the fuck did she think this was okay??

Whatever. Her thoughts were becoming more and more indistinguishable, except for the one which played an eternal loop in her chest, in rhythm with her heartbeat: It’s over, baby. It’s over.

Gidge… Darkness.

***

Bridget was aware of the latest of the hour. (Her mother considered it impolite to ring anyone or call on anyone - as she termed visiting someone’s house - at the end of the day. People deserved privacy and it was discourteous to disrespect that. Bridget’s impeccable manners were thus drilled into her by her upper-class British mother, and despite ‘walking to the sound of her own drum’ - as her relatives begrudgingly put it - some of these little tics remained, like this one, where good manners made good sense.)

Bridget stilled a flicker of annoyance. (She was so exhausted.) She welcomed Vera in, offered her a beverage: tea, coffee, juice, hot chocolate, water, cookies and milk? She was rambling, nervous. What the hell could this be about?

Besides being half-dressed – she found her robe and tightened it around her, but she still felt exposed - Bridget was extremely conscious of the fact that the last time she had seen Vera, she had been an absolute mess. She acted on pure impulse to save Franky, and in doing so, put her friendship with Vera on the line. Walked right over it, some might say.

She hadn’t been at her best: play-acting at social tea, stealing Vera’s access card, pilfering from the evidence room. Well, the time before that, she wasn’t at her best either (showing up at Vera’s house blotted) and the time before that (nipped a few at lunch), and probably the time before that, all the way back to Kim Chang’s accusation at the chain link fence and the set of clickety heels that pursued ‘Ms. Westfall’.

Their history was the equivalent of break ups and make ups: Vera facilitating her resignation. Vera seeking an ally. Vera promising the next bottle of wine. Vera hissing DO NOT TELL ME WHAT I FEEL. Vera seeking assurance that she was not like Ferguson. Vera, the Governor, directing her to stay away from re-incarcerated Franky. Far-fetched, impossible facts coming from Vera’s lips: ‘fingerprints’,‘DNA’. Vera taking up for her with the Ombudsman. Vera, pregnant to Jake. Vera… here, in the Westfall house, tonight.

Bridget’s telltale wave of the hand in the air demonstrated it was time to sideline her own busy thoughts. She opened her eyes wide, the visual exercise resetting of her mind. She asked Vera again if she could offer her a drink. (Had she already asked her? She had, hadn’t she?) Vera tightly declined a beverage (the second time?)

They seated themselves across from each other, equally aware of the strain between them. Bridget wanted this, whatever ‘this’ was, to be over. She took a quick assessment of Vera’s mood: chest heaving, face flushed, posture rigid. And, she had a very, very stern ‘governor’ look on her face.

“Vera, what’s wrong? What is it?” Bridget asked kindly.

***

Vera tried to keep her shit together, she honestly had, but she was just so pissed off. More than pissed off. She was wildly, fuckingly, shittingly angry, angrier than she’d even been at anyone (except Ferguson, her rational mind countered; and her mother; and the snake Jake; and Doyle.) When had she turned into such an angry person?
It had been building for days now. Today, without the duties of the workplace to distract her, she found herself rehashing the scene in the evidence room. Essentially, she was trying to wrap her head around the concept (the reality, she clarified to herself), that Bridget used her to save Doyle. Each ruminative cycle wound her further. Potential implications knocked around her head, making her nauseous. She drummed her fingers at the kitchen table for hours until that turned into an impulsive knock on Bridget’s door. She had to speak her truth. By the luck of the stars, or whatever, it all turned out okay this time, but next time?! (And by golly, with Doyle she could GUARANTEE there would be a next time.)

Doyle had already turned her friend and colleague into someone unrecognizable. Images fuelled her resolve: Bridget - lost - without dignity or decorum. Drunk. Weeping. Dazed. Frantic. Bridget telling Vera that she didn’t care that she was crossing the line, that she had already crossed it…. That she could never turn her back on Franky, no matter what the cost.

Vera shuddered again at the memory of how close Bridget Westfall, eminent forensic psychologist, was to throwing EVERYTHING away for an inmate.

And worse yet (this prompted Vera to action) – she didn’t seem to care who she took down with her. That was not the cool, calm, collected, ever-professional Bridget she knew. She needed that Bridget back and hopefully, some day soon, back to the women of Wentworth.

This, right here, right now, was Bridget’s chance to make a clean break. Vera’s mission was to elicit a promise, that Bridget would let Doyle go somewhere else when she was released from hospital on Monday. She could go to her father’s, to a halfway house: it didn’t really matter where. The important thing was that Bridget see the light now, or the day would come when she would find herself completely destroyed and beyond hope. Bridget NEEDED to listen to reason: she had to step away from Doyle and back into her sensible, mature, upstanding life where she was someone who could be counted on. Vera was here to assert herself in order to save Bridget.

***

It was only two hours after Franky fell asleep, but she needed the loo. She eased herself out of bed, grimacing at both the burning pain in her shoulder and the fact that Bridget was still not in bed.

***

Vera heard the toilet flush. Her face went white. She asked with sudden realization: “She’s here, isn’t she?”

“Vera, I love her,” Bridget said gently. “Where else would she be?”

Vera was visibly flustered. She had obviously been misinformed: she was told Doyle would be released on Monday! There were administrative matters still to go over. She wasn’t supposed to be here tonight!

Oh goodness, what kind of gaff had she just pulled? She had to get out, get some air. She jumped to her feet, but too quickly. Bridget’s arm shot out to steady her. Light-headedness overtook her and she crumpled back to the couch.