“I can't keep you there, you’re everywhere, forever glowing, It’s a trick of the eye, it passes me by, Keeps on going, I want it all, but I can't have it.”
– Woo, Beach House
She sits opposite you at the dinner table, her glass of red wine in one hand, her head thrown back in delirious laughter at something your mother is saying but you miss what it is that’s so funny because the world has slowed down. You’re aware, on some level, that it’s a Sunday evening like any other and your whole family are here, gathered around the table for a typical Rizzoli dinner. You can see them out of the corner of your eye, reminding you of this fact, but they’re blurred slightly, as though they’re fading into the background because she’s laughing, and her hair is impossibly golden under the bright lights of her dining room, and all of a sudden she’s making eye contact with you over the table. Her laughter falters just slightly, the remnants of her smile still tugging at the corners of her lips, but her eyes soften as she looks at you, and something unspoken is communicated between you, something you feel you should understand but you don’t. It’s not her “are you okay?” look, you would know that one anywhere. Is it something your mother said? No, it’s not a knowing smirk, not an inside joke you share. She holds your gaze too long for that, as though she can’t look away, as though she’s caught you in the middle of something. And perhaps she has. You know your eyes are almost glassy, as if something has happened at this dinner table that justifies such a visceral reaction, as though something is screaming at you but you still can’t hear what it’s saying.
It isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way.
It’s no revelation that Maura is beautiful, that she almost demands all eyes of the room to turn in her direction. You’ve told her many times, just as she has complimented you. You’ve watched her at crime scenes, gracefully striding in her impossibly high heels, possessing a kind of confidence and poise that has consistently taken your breath away. You’ve seen her tired and drained, curled into her couch at night when no eyes but yours are allowed to watch her, and she is just as beautiful then as ever, her makeupless face still glowing, still ethereal. More recently, you’ve seen her stand on a balcony, the Parisian streets at sunset a seemingly perfect backdrop to her impossible beauty. In fact, you often find yourself staring at her when she isn’t looking, as though you can’t believe she’s real, as though after all these years you still can’t believe she’s your best friend. You catch her looking too, more than once, and she always blushes slightly, turns her head away, and you wonder in those moments what’s going through her mind. It has almost become customary in your friendship, to steal these looks every now and then, to simply observe each other, enjoy one another’s company. That’s not strange, is it?
But something about tonight feels different.
She’s on her third glass of wine; you can tell because her cheeks are tinged slightly red, the creases of her eyes slightly more defined, and there’s a slight twinkle in them as she’s looking at you. You can feel the beer in your bloodstream too, pleasantly warm. You aren’t drunk, not even really tipsy, so you can’t blame this feeling on alcohol, but there’s something about that warmth, something about the way your stomach feels like it might flip upside down that reminds you of being drunk, and you almost question if it’s really only your second bottle. When she looks away, turns back to Frankie and Nina who are discussing something about work that you can’t even bring yourself to focus in on, you feel the loss of her eye contact like a physical weight. You can hear something on the periphery of your senses, one word repeated, but you can’t get at it at first, until all of a sudden it’s like you’re sucked backwards out of this daze you’ve lost yourself in and Tommy’s voice is quiet but concerned beside you saying, “Jane? Janie are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m fine. Bit much to drink, I think. Be right back,” you say and you hope he doesn’t notice there’s only one empty bottle behind you. You make your exit swiftly but as casually as you can, locking the bathroom door behind you and taking a deep breath out. Maura would always say that if you’re feeling off you should bring your awareness to the sensations in your body, as it never lies to you, so you try it. Your hands are trembling, just slightly, the way they would if you just witnessed a car crash, or if you’d been on an especially scary rollercoaster. Adrenaline. You know that one. You can feel your heartbeat in your ears, a sort of high-pitched ringing, and your stomach is flipping now, over and over, as though you might be sick. Is this what a panic attack feels like? But the strangest part, you notice, is that underneath the emotion you have identified as panic, is a pleasant kind of tingling in your limbs, like the butterflies you get in your stomach when you’re on a first date.
“I’m losing it, I’m officially losing it,” you whisper to yourself, taking a short look at yourself in the mirror. Your cheeks are flushed too, so you splash your face with cold water before willing yourself to calm down. Taking a few deep inhales, you open the door and join the rest of your family who have moved the party to the living room, the sports channel put on mute while a song you don’t recognise plays in the background. Your heart warms at the sight of Frankie and Nina laughing and dancing together, and you remind yourself that moving back to Boston from Virginia was the best decision you could have possibly made. This thought almost screams at you, even louder, when you enter the kitchen and Maura turns to you, this time a concerned look on her face.
“Are you okay?” she asks, and she reaches for your arm. The touch burns your skin, and you almost flinch. That feeling in your stomach returns, flipping and flipping.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, don’t worry,” you say like it’s nothing, but you can tell she notices the slight shakiness of your voice because her eyebrow raises just slightly, as if to say, I don’t believe you. You smile anyway, trying to reassure her with your eyes, and there it is again, a look passed between you, one that makes your heart beat faster and if you weren’t so damn cowardly, you’d ask her what it means. Is she as confused as you are? But you don't say anything because she’s passing you another beer and Frankie is calling your name to come and join them, and if you’re being truly honest, because you’re scared of the answer.
The rest of the night passes by slowly because, really, right now you don’t want to talk to your family. As much as you love them, as much as you’re relieved to be back among the chaos, Maura keeps looking at you over the top of her wine glass and the sleeves of her navy sweater are rolled up, revealing her forearms, and you can’t stop staring at the skin exposed there. You can’t concentrate on what Tommy has to say, and you can’t fully commit to laughing at Frankie’s jokes because even when she’s behind you, you can feel Maura’s presence in the room burning a hole into your back. You want to be alone with her. As much as your heart races, as much as you feel as though the world might end tonight when there’s nothing and nobody to buffer whatever is happening between you two this evening, you keep willing for the door to close, for the party to end. The best part of these nights is often when everyone has left, when the music is turned down a notch, and she sits opposite you on the couch and you finish a bottle of wine together, alone, with your legs touching just so.
When the door finally does close, Maura is the one to shut it, and you are almost trembling again with a sort of anticipation you can’t quite put your finger on. She joins you on the couch with a bright smile that’s utterly contagious, and you realise this is exactly what you came home for. You would miss your family in Virginia, sure, but you’d live, and you’d miss BPD but you’d get over it eventually; you think you could even really learn to love the teaching as an FBI instructor. But Maura. What would you do without her? And so you came back, you packed your bags for the second time, you shoved your pride aside and admitted you made the wrong decision, let the people around you ask a million questions because when you told her the news, she cried. And it was in that moment that you realised how much you had hurt her, how much she missed you too, and you never wanted to hurt her like that ever again, so you promised yourself, every single day you would wake up and endeavour to make her smile.
And here she is, smiling at you. This is home, you think. Home is in her smile, it’s in her wine glass and the creases of her eyes, it’s in the curls of her blonde hair and the warmth that’s spreading yet again like fire through your belly.
“I’ve missed you,” you say, and she looks at you like you’re her whole world.
“I’ve missed you too,” she says, and you think you can see tears begin to well in her eyes and your heart lurches to the floor.
“Don’t cry,” you say, and you can’t help but reach out, tucking a stray blonde curl behind her ear.
“What was wrong earlier?” she asks with such sincerity and concern that you can’t help but smile. She knows you like nobody else, of course she recognised something was up, of course she didn’t believe you. But how can you explain how you feel when you don’t even know yourself what it is you’re feeling? So you tell the truth.
“I don’t know.” You’re looking at your hands, nervously flattening the scarred skin there.
“Are your hands bothering you?”
“No, no they’re fine.”
There’s a small stretch of silence as you both figure out how to approach the strange tension that seems to fill the air around you. Your heart is racing again, and you want to tell it to stop because you don’t know what it’s trying to say, but you know it’s trying to say something, and you think that’s worse than not knowing at all.
“Jane…” she trails off, but you look up at her as she puts her wine glass down on the coffee table in front of you. Her jaw is tight, as though she is anxious, as though she wants to say something but is afraid what you might think.
“Tell me, Maura,” you almost plead.
“Tell you what?” she replies, and you’re not sure if she’s genuinely confused or if she’s waiting for you to say it, needs to hear it from you first.
“What’s happening,” you start, feeling your mouth go dry, “between us.” The last two words are almost a whisper and you’re not sure she even hears. But you hear how it sounds and you almost cringe. She doesn’t answer and you risk looking up at her again, finding her eyes softer than before; she’s looking at you almost tenderly. But there’s something else too, and you feel it pool in your lower abdomen, a sense of want, a sense of desire. For what?
You see it coming at the last second as she leans in. At first you think you must have something on your face, or perhaps she’s going to whisper something in your ear, but why would she when you’re the only two in the room? All you know is your heart is throbbing and your hands are sweating and you want to cry but you don’t know why and then her lips are on yours. Her lips are on yours. She’s kissing you. They’re soft, impossibly soft, and you think they match her so well; they feel so incredibly Maura. It takes a second or two before your instinct kicks in and you kiss her back, your eyes shut tight and your hand on her thigh. And this is it, isn’t it? How could you have been so stupid? The butterflies, the shaky hands, the warmth that seemed to spread throughout your limbs and down your spine, the way you kept looking at her as though if you looked away she would vanish and prove she was only a figment of your imagination. It was all leading to this moment here, with her lips on yours, melding together as though it was the most natural thing in the world.
She is the one to pull back first, catching her breath and it reminds you to take a breath too, returning to your body which at once feels nonexistent and entirely too present. You sit there, looking at each other, breathing heavily, before you lean back in, this time with a passion you didn’t think you possessed, and you feel her reverberate with the shock of it. And here you are, sitting on the couch, kissing your best friend. Kissing the woman you haven’t stopped thinking about for almost 10 years. And you feel so full, and you feel like suddenly everything makes sense: the songs make sense, and the ache you have felt your entire life makes sense, and yet, shouldn’t this be odd? Shouldn’t it feel wrong? But it doesn’t. It feels like love. It feels like home. And it feels like finally finding the last piece to the puzzle. You love her. You love her and you want to keep kissing her, and you want to make love to her, whatever it is that means, and now, as she looks at you with swollen lips and dilated pupils, you think to yourself, how could you not see it? How could you go so long living in the shade?