The day had come when Bridget’s brother would be returning from his business trip, and Emily would be going back home. Both women knew that they were going to miss the girl immensely, but Bridget had promised her that she was welcome to come visit any time she wanted. Sydney was only a short plane ride away.
Franky and Bridget were helping Emily pack up her things before her Dad arrived. He had scheduled their flight so that he would be able to spend the day with his sister before they had to continue home to Sydney. All three of them were sad that the young girl’s visit was coming to an end, but they were all trying to put on brave faces.
Emily was the first one who broke the silence. “Can’t I stay here with you?” she asked her Aunt.
“Love, you know you’re welcome here anytime you want, and for as long as you want, but aren’t you ready to go back home with your Dad? You’ll get to see all of your friends again, and go back to your regular school.” Bridget wanted nothing more than to tell her niece that yes, she could stay, but she knew that wasn’t possible.
“It’s not the same anymore,” the young blonde said softly, placing items on the bed for Bridget or Franky to put into her suitcase.
“What’s not the same?” Bridget asked gently.
“Home.” A tear rolled down Emily’s cheek and Bridget knelt down in front of her and wiped it away.
“I know it’s not,” the blonde spoke softly, looking into Emily’s eyes, “but your Dad is still there, and he still loves you very much. You two have to be strong for each other now.”
“Dad is different now.” Emily reached out and played with the edge of the extra blanket that was folded on the bed.
“He probably misses your Mom just like you do.” Bridget knew that Emily’s mother had passed away just a few months before she had come to stay with her. While she’d been happy during her stay, Bridget knew this was probably due to the fact that there were no reminders of her mother in this house.
Out of the corner of her eye, the blonde saw Franky exit the bedroom, wiping her face.
“Just a minute, love. I’ll be right back, okay?” Bridget asked, and the small girl nodded.
Bridget walked out into the hallway and found Franky silently crying, tears running down her face. She pulled her into a tight embrace.
“I know you’re going to miss her, baby,” the blonde whispered beside Franky’s ear.
“It would just make it easier if she was actually happy to be going back.” Franky tried to keep as quiet as possible so that Emily wouldn’t hear her, and get more upset.
“I know, baby, I know. Come back in though, yeah? She’s got the rest of the day here, and she wants to spend it with both of us.” Franky nodded and wiped the tears off her face. Bridget decided to give her a moment alone to pull herself together, and stepped back into Emily’s room.
“Franky’s sad,” Emily stated, simply.
“Yeah, love, she is. She’s going to miss you.” Bridget never believed in lying to cover up feelings, even to children.
Franky entered the room, seemingly more composed than she was a few moments before, and sat on the bed beside Emily’s suitcase. She picked up the teddy bear she’d won for her at the park that day.
“I’m going to miss you too,” the young girl said, looking over at the brunette.
She smiled a half smile that didn’t fool any of them. “Do you want to put this in your suitcase now?” Franky asked, holding out the bear. Emily shook her head. “You don’t want to take him with you?” The brunette felt slightly hurt at the thought that Emily would want to leave behind a gift.
“Not in the suitcase. I want to hold him on the plane.”
Franky grinned and placed the toy into Emily’s backpack instead so that she’d have it with her for the trip home.
Bridget’s brother, Tim, arrived late that morning from the airport. When he got to the house, he greeted Bridget and Emily with big hugs.
“I’ve missed you, darling,” he said to Emily, taking her into his arms. He stood to hug Bridget. “Hey, Bridge. Thanks for taking care of my girl while I was away.”
“Oh anytime, it was wonderful,” Bridget said, returning his hug.
Franky had been working all morning, preparing the food for their lunch. She had decided on barbecuing and had made ribs, along with an assortment of salads. The brunette entered the house from the backyard just as Tim had finished saying hello to Bridget.
“You must be Franky,” Tim said, walking to meet her in the kitchen and extending his hand. “Emily talked about you non-stop every time I called her. Bridget might have mentioned you a time or two as well.” He laughed and nudged Bridget’s arm with his elbow.
“Hey, Tim. Nice to finally meet you.” Franky returned his firm handshake.
“I brought some gifts for everyone,” he said, placing a bag on the kitchen island. “For you Em.” He handed her a Daruma Otoshi game and some wasanbon candy. “For you Bridge.” He passed his sister a wooden box, which she opened to find five Japanese tea cups. “I wasn’t sure what to get you,” he said, turning last to Franky, “so I decided on this.” He handed her a bottle of sake.
Franky was touched that he had brought her something, considering that she hadn’t even been in Bridget’s life before he left. “Thank you, that’s really nice of you.”
“Franky, can you play with me?” Emily held out the game that her father had just given her.
The brunette thought that maybe Tim would like to be the first one to play it with the young girl, as a way to spend time with her after being away for so long, “Why don’t you play a couple of rounds with your Dad first? I have to watch the food on the barbecue right now.”
Emily shook her head, “I’ll wait until after lunch when you can play.”
Franky looked up to see Tim give her a weak smile, and then quickly look down at the floor.
The group ate their lunch, and Tim and Bridget volunteered to clean up the dishes while Franky and Emily sat outside at the patio table, playing Emily’s new game. Tim watched them as he was packing up the leftovers to go into the fridge.
“You look really happy, Bridge,” he said as he put food into various containers.
“I am.” Bridget smiled as she stopped what she was doing and watched Franky and Emily outside.
“So tell me about how you two met. I mean, you told me the basics about the lockdown and her looking after Emily, but how did she manage to win over my big sister? I know it’s not an easy task.” He gave a small laugh and winked at Bridget. He had seen many women try to win over the blonde through the years and very few of them even came close. There had been a couple who had turned into something more serious, but he could tell that none of them matched Franky.
Bridget sighed and began, “That first day, it was awful. I was already starting to think that maybe I was in over my head looking after Em, and then work was crazy. The lockdown at the end of the day just topped it all off. When I finally got there to pick her up, I saw this gorgeous woman with her, and they were having the best time. She made it look easy.” The blonde smiled, remembering that day. “They had made supper together, and she asked us to stay. The whole time Em was trying to tell me about her day, and I was just so distracted. When we sat down to eat, it was just like it was something we’d done a thousand times before. I was so drawn to her, and I can’t even give you a specific reason why. It wasn’t something I had to think about, I just knew.”
Her brother smiled, “Well, it seems like she certainly adores you, and Em as well.” He put everything into the fridge and turned back around. “The past few months, she’s been talking about her Mom a lot. While she’s been here though, she’s seemed a lot happier, and when I talked to her on the phone, she always had a happy story; something she’d done with one or both of you, or learned in Franky’s class. She mentioned her Mom a couple of times, but nothing like it was before.” He took a deep breath. “The company has offered to move my job here, to Melbourne. I think it would be best for Em to have you around. She needs a mother-figure in her life, now, and especially as she gets older. I think it’ll be good for both of us. Everything there reminds me of Sarah, and I’m having a hard time, Bridge.” He met Bridget’s gaze and she placed a comforting hand on his back.
Bridget was shocked. It wasn’t like her brother to make a quick decision about something this big, and it concerned her. She knew that he had a history of drinking problems. He had gotten into some trouble over it when he was younger, but he’d cleaned up his act and had been sober since before he and Sarah had gotten married. The blonde dealt with addiction often in her job, and she knew that no one was ever completely cured. There would always be times when they were tempted, and if they gave in, it could undo all the progress they had made in their recovery. Her brother had confided in her before that there had been times when he’d been close to having a drink, but he had always resisted in the end.
“Oh, Tim, I know it’s been hard for you lately, but are you sure you don’t need some time to think before you make a big decision like this?” She was glad that he was admitting that he needed some help, and she was proud that he was thinking of what would be best for Emily, but she wanted to be sure that he had thought this through.
“Yeah, Bridge, it’s already done. The company found a house here for me already.”
“So when’s the move?” Bridget asked.
“In a week, maybe two at the most. I just need to go back and pack our things and hire the moving company. I haven’t told Em yet, and I’m not planning to until we get home.” The way he stated this with such certainty told Bridget that his mind was made up.
“Well, you know I support you, and if there’s anything you need, just let me know.” She looked out to the patio, watching Emily and Franky. “I know two other people, who will be very excited later on.” They both laughed and finished up their work in the house.
It was late afternoon and Emily and Tim had just left for the airport. It was a teary goodbye for Franky and the young girl. Bridget felt bad for not telling the brunette that she’d be able to spend a lot more time with Emily soon, but she knew that Franky might have a hard time keeping it a secret, and she didn’t want her niece to find out.
Bridget was sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, watching Franky empty the dishwasher and stack the dishes noisily in the cupboards. The brunette had barely said anything since Emily had left. She picked up the step stool that Emily had used so she was able to work on the counter, and placed it back into the utility closet, with a louder than necessary thud. When she re-entered the kitchen, Bridget decided that she couldn’t watch Franky be upset any longer.
“Baby, come here.” The blonde patted the spot beside her on the couch.
Franky replied without even looking at her. “Nah, Gidge, I’m just going to finish up over here.”
“Franky, I-” the blonde was cut off.
“Gidge! Please, just…not right now.” Franky was trying her best to keep it together, and so far she was doing okay, but she knew if she sat down with Bridget, the tears would start.
Bridget sat her mug on the coffee table and walked over to the brunette, wrapping her arms around her. “Baby, I have to tell you something.”
“Okay, what?” Franky really wasn’t in the mood to talk right now, but she wasn’t about to push the blonde away if she needed her.
“Em is coming back.”
“Yeah, I know. You told her she could come visit.” Franky knew Bridget was trying to comfort her, but she didn’t see how the promise of a visit on an unknown date in the future would make things better right now.
“No, baby, Em and my brother are moving here. They’ll be back in a week or two.” The blonde watched Franky’s face, seeing at first, a few seconds on incomprehension, then the wide smile that spread across her face.
“Are you serious?” Franky was beyond excited, and Bridget nodded. “You’re fucking serious?” The blonde nodded again. “But how? Why?”
“Tim decided that it was best for the two of them to be here and have some family support, and he was able to get his company to transfer his job here. They were having a hard time after everything that’s happened, and he heard how happy Em was when he called while he was away. They just needed to go back to Sydney to tie up a few loose ends and pack up the house.”
“Gidge, that’s fucking awesome!” Franky grabbed Bridget’s face and kissed her hard.
When they separated, the blonde let out a loud laugh, “Now will you stop throwing the dishes around before you break something?” Franky nodded and went back to work.
That night, Bridget and Franky were laying in bed, talking about everything that had happened that day.
“I can’t believe you waited a whole hour after they left to tell me, Gidge.” Franky tickled the blonde’s side, and she squealed with laughter.
“Franky!” She caught her breath. “ Do you honestly think you could have acted normal, so that Em wouldn’t know, if I had told you before they left?” She pulled the brunette in for a slow kiss.
“Mmm, probably not.” Franky smiled against Bridget’s lips. “It was kind of mean though. Maybe there should be a consequence for that.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?” The blonde went in for another kiss and Franky pulled her head back.
“Like no more kisses tonight?” the brunette asked, laughing as Bridget moved to straddle her hips. The blonde took both of Franky’s hands in her own and pinned them above her head, laying her body flat onto the other woman.
“Is that so?” Bridget asked, with a smirk on her face.
“Mmhmm.” Franky was trying to be serious, but was failing.
The blonde dipped her head down and captured Franky’s lips once again, rolling her hips against the younger woman.
Franky was getting lost in the feeling of Bridget’s body on hers when she heard a noise outside. “Gidge, wait. Did you hear that?”
“Hmm? Hear what?” The older woman continued slowly down the side of the brunette’s neck.
There was another, more distinct sound. “Stop, Gidge…stop. Get off.” She motioned for Bridget to move off her. “Someone just came in the front door.” She jumped out of bed, and quickly pulled on a pair of jeans that had been discarded on the floor.
She quickly scanned the room, looking for something to use as a weapon, and found nothing. “Stay here,” she told the blonde.
She opened the bedroom door, and could see a shadow moving on the wall opposite the main door, in the hallway. Franky crept down the hallway until she got to the corner. She carefully peeked out around the corner and could see the intruder’s face in the light coming in from the street lamps outside. It was Kim.
Before Kim had a chance to notice her, she launched herself at the other woman, pinning her against the wall and twisting one of her arms behind her.
“What…the fuck…are you doing here?!” Franky emphasized her words by shoving Kim harder against the wall. The smaller woman was squirming in her grip and managed to slide her body out from in between Franky and the wall. The brunette still had a grip on her wrist, and pulled Kim back towards her, slamming her back into the wall so that they were now facing each other, and pinning her there with a forearm over her throat. “Answer the fucking question, Kim.” By this time, Bridget had come out of the bedroom and was standing at the end of the hallway.
“I see you still like it rough,” Kim sneered and looked over at Bridget. “Where’s your kid?”
“Not here,” Bridget said coolly.
“What was the plan, huh, Kim?” Franky spat out. Kim just smiled back at her. “Did you fucking come here for the kid?”
“I just wanted you to know what it felt like to lose someone you care about.”
Kim’s words echoed in Franky’s ears and she put more pressure on the other woman’s throat. “I will fucking kill you!”
“Franky! Enough! I’m calling the police.” Bridget held up her phone.
Kim started to cry and Franky eased her arm off her throat. “Please, don’t. I’ll just go.” Kim had stopped struggling and slumped to the floor.
“That’s what you said last time, and yet here we are.” Franky threw her arms out to the side then let them drop. “What’s going on? You been drinking tonight?” The brunette had thought she smelled alcohol when she had Kim pinned against the wall.
“I had a few, yeah. Just, please don’t call the police, I’ll go to jail this time. I’ll leave, I won’t come back. I swear!” Kim looked up at Franky. The brunette looked over to Bridget who still had her phone in her hand, and sighed.
“Here’s the deal Kim, you’re going to get the fuck up, and I’m going to drive you home. If you ever come near this house, or Bridget, or the kid again, I promise you, I will fucking kill you. Understood?” Franky stood over her, waiting for a response.
“Okay, yeah sure, whatever.”
Kim stood up and Franky gave her a shove towards the door. “Start walking.”
Bridget walked up behind Franky and put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Yeah, I’ll look after it, okay? I’ll be back.” Franky grabbed her keys out of the bowl on the table in the hallway, and followed Kim outside.
Franky and Kim were a few blocks away from Kim’s apartment when Franky finally spoke.
“So, seriously, why won’t you leave me alone? Look, I get I was an ass when I avoided you at first. I shouldn’t have done that.” The brunette glanced over at the woman in the passenger’s seat.
“I just thought you loved me.” Kim’s voice was small.
“Kim, we fucked once. We didn’t even make it to a first date.” Franky sighed.
“But you agreed to go on a date with me, so it must have meant something more to you too. Maybe if you just gave me a chance, you’d see that I’m the one you should be with.” She had turned in her seat and was facing Franky now.
“I’m not going on a date with you. I’m with someone else.” Franky knew she was being blunt, but she had to make it clear to Kim that whatever she thought they had was all in her head. The brunette stopped at a red light.
“But I love you!” Kim reached over and grabbed Franky’s arm, which she yanked out of Kim’s grip.
“Don’t fucking touch me! I don’t love you! I never loved you! Just leave me, and my girlfriend, the fuck alone or next time, I won’t be so nice about it!” Franky was yelling now.
“Fine! You want me gone? I’m gone!” Kim reached for the door handle and opened the door, taking off across the street.
Franky put the car in park and ran after her. This was a not so great part of town, and Kim was in no condition to be running around in the dark, alone. The brunette followed her down an alleyway. “Get the fuck back here!” she yelled out.
She ran to the end of the alley where it split to the left and right. She looked both ways but couldn’t see Kim anywhere. “Fuck,” she muttered. She started to the left, going a few feet and not seeing her anywhere then turned and jogged down the alley to the right a few feet and saw nothing there either. She had no idea where Kim could have gone. She knew the other woman was a fast runner, but she didn’t think she’d been that far behind her. She turned to go back to her car and accidentally ran into some pallets that were leaning against the building. She felt a burning sensation on her cheek and reached up. There was no blood yet but she felt a rough area of skin where the wood must have scraped her. Out of frustration, she punched the pallets, knocking them over with a crash in the quiet night. She walked back out to the street.
“Girlfriend troubles?” Franky heard a voice to her right and looked to see a homeless man sitting against the building.
“Something like that,” the brunette mumbled, and got back in her car to head to Bridget’s house.
Bridget was pacing back and forth through the kitchen when she heard the front door open. She rushed to the entryway to see Franky throwing her keys back into the bowl.
“Baby.” She grabbed her face and kissed her. “What took you so long? I was worried.” As she pulled back, she noticed the scrape on the brunette cheek. She ran her thumb over it and Franky winced. “What happened?” Bridget searched the younger woman’s face for an answer, unable to make her meet her gaze.
“Nothing, I don’t want to talk about it.” Franky pulled her head away from the blonde’s hands and stepped around her, continuing into the house.
“Franky, we need to talk about this,” Bridget said, catching up to the brunette and stepping in front of her again.
“Just drop it, Gidge. I took care of it.” Franky headed towards the bedroom.
Bridget reached out and grabbed her arm to stop her. “Fra-“
The brunette whipped around, pulling her arm out of Bridget’s grasp. “I said drop it! I’m going to bed.” She continued into the bedroom and closed the door.
Bridget had sat in the backyard for about an hour before she got cold, and moved inside to the couch. She wasn’t avoiding Franky, she wasn’t mad at her, she was just trying to process everything and give Franky some space so she could do the same.
When Franky awoke that morning, she reached out to the other side of the bed as she always did if she couldn’t feel Bridget pressed up against her. Her hand found the other side of the bed empty, and cold. Either the blonde had gotten up very early, or she hadn’t come back to bed at all.
Bridget was drinking her third cup of tea when she heard the bedroom door open and footsteps coming down the hall. When Franky reached the kitchen and saw the blonde sitting on the sofa, she stopped.
“Did you sleep out here?” the brunette asked.
“I didn’t sleep.” Bridget got up and went over to the kitchen. “You want a cuppa?” Franky nodded her head and the blonde took a mug down out of the cupboard.
Bridget cut her off, holding up a hand to stop her. “Let’s just make breakfast first, then we can talk, okay?”
Franky set to work, preparing some food for them both while Bridget made her tea and set the table.
They sat down to eat and the brunette began, “I’m sorry Gidge. This is such a fucking mess.”
“It was lucky that Em was gone.” She sipped her tea. “What happened after you left? To your face…..and hand?” For the first time she was noticing the scrapes on the brunette’s knuckles as well.
“It’s a long sto-” She was cut off by a loud knock on the door.
“Ms. Westfall, it’s the police,” came a loud voice from outside. Franky and Bridget looked at each other and the officer knocked again. “Ms. Westfall, it’s the police, please open the door.”
Bridget rose and walked to the front door. She had a feeling this was about what had happened the night before, so she opened it just to the width of her body, so they knew they weren’t welcome to just come inside. “Can I help you?” she asked.
There were two officers, a man and a woman, who both showed their badges. It was the man who spoke. “We’re looking for Francesca Doyle. Is she here?”
“What’s this about?” Bridget knew what it was about but she wasn’t going to give away any more information than she had to.
“She’s wanted for questioning about an incident that took place last night.” When Bridget didn’t answer, he continued, “We have a witness who placed her at the scene, with the victim, around the time in question. He was able to give the license plate number on the car. Officer on patrol this morning spotted it here. That is her car parked on the street, yes?” He motioned towards Franky’s small, green car parked in front of Bridget’s house. “So I’ll ask again, is she here?”
“I’m here.” Franky had walked up behind Bridget and the blonde stepped aside to let Franky talk to the officers.
“We need you to come with us. We’ll question you at the station.” He took out a pair of handcuffs and reached out to place them on the brunette’s wrists.
Bridget immediately stepped forward again. “Hey! I thought you just wanted to question her.” She’d never seen anyone put in handcuffs before if they weren’t being arrested.
“Yes, Ma’am. This is just a precaution. For our safety and hers.” The officer finished putting the handcuffs around her wrists.
“It’s okay, Gidge.” Franky made sure she held eye contact with the blonde in an effort to show her that she was okay. That everything would be alright.
A tear slid down Bridget’s cheek. “I want to come with her,” she said to the female officer.
“I’m sorry, that’s not how it works. She’ll be able to make contact with you later. In the meantime, here’s my card. It has the number for the station, in case you have any questions.” The officer handed Bridget her card, and they walked Franky to the police car, putting her into the back seat.
Bridget watched as the car pulled away, and drove down the street, out of sight. She turned and walked back into the house, and spent the next ten minutes pacing between the kitchen and living room. She knew there would be nothing to do, at least for a few hours, except wait, and she’d drive herself crazy with worry if she stayed alone, so she picked up her phone and called Vera.
“Hello?” Vera answered on the first ring.
“Vera, hey, I uh…are you busy?” Bridget didn’t want to impose on her friend if she had plans for the day.
“No, not at all. What’s going on? Everything okay?” Vera had known Bridget long enough to know that something was wrong.
“Yeah, I mean, no, not really. Do you think you could come by the house? I just really need someone to talk to.” The blonde took a deep breath, trying to calm herself.
“Yes, of course. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Thanks, Vera.” Bridget hung up and sat down on the end of the couch and waited for her friend to arrive.
Twenty minutes later, Vera walked into the house. “Bridget?” She called coming through the entryway into the kitchen. She spotted the blonde sitting on the couch. “There you are. What’s wro-“ Vera stopped mid-sentence when she saw the uneaten breakfast for two still sat out on the table. “Oh…Bridget…” She sat her bag down on the floor and took a seat beside the blonde, putting an arm around her shoulders.
“Something’s happened.” Bridget stared at a spot on the floor in front of her. “Franky...” She trailed off.
“Did she, uh…” Vera didn’t want to ask if Franky had broken up with her friend, “Did you guys have a fight?”
Bridget shook her head, “No, the police came and got her.”
“What!?” That was the last thing Vera had expected. “Why?!”
“They said there was an incident. I know she was having trouble with an ex.” Bridget decided to leave out the details for now, considering that she herself didn’t even know part of what happened last night. “They said they wanted to question her.”
“Okay, well, that can take a few hours, but then she should be home. They can’t hold people that are only brought in for questioning. I’ll stay with you until you hear something, okay?” Vera made herself more comfortable beside the blonde.
Bridget nodded. “They left a card so I could contact the station.”
“Yes, that’s the procedure. If we don’t hear anything in a few hours, we’ll give them a call. They might not tell you much, but I have some pull there, if needed.” Bridget nodded again, thankful that her friend was there with her.
They waited four hours then Bridget decided she needed to know what was going on. She called the station but all they would tell her was that Franky was still there and the questioning process was ongoing.
Vera offered to make Bridget something for supper, but she declined. Earlier that evening, Vera got a message on her phone from Will telling her to check her email and have a look at the new inmates scheduled to arrive in the morning. She had a bad feeling about his message because they both knew it usually didn’t matter who was arriving, unless it was a high-profile inmate, and she wasn’t aware of any of those at the moment.
“Can I use your laptop for a minute?” She motioned to the computer that was sitting on the coffee table and the blonde nodded.
Vera logged into her work email account and scrolled until she found the new arrivals email for the next day. She scanned through the list, with nothing catching her attention, until she saw “Francesca Doyle” among the names.
“Mm?” The blonde turned to her.
“I need to tell you something but I need you to be calm, okay?” Bridget nodded and Vera continued. “I just got the list of arrivals at Wentworth for tomorrow and Franky is on the list.”
“What?!” Bridget was up off the couch and pacing again. “You said they didn’t hold anyone just for questioning.” She was frantic.
“They don’t usually. Listen, I’ll find out what’s going on first thing in the morning, okay? In the meantime, I’ll stay here tonight. You shouldn’t be alone.” Bridget nodded, grateful that she had such a good friend.
Laying in bed that night, Bridget knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep. She also knew that she probably wouldn’t be fit for work in the morning, and should call in sick, but she wanted to be there when Franky arrived. She made up her mind that she’d get through tomorrow, no matter what, for Franky.