Bridget was sitting with Franky in Medical the next morning when Vera arrived.
“Good morning,” she greeted them both. “The, uh, Detectives are on their way now to talk to you,” she looked at Franky. “They called maybe thirty minutes ago. One of the officers is bringing them in from reception now.”
Bridget went to get up to leave, and Franky reached out for her hand, motioning for her to sit back down on the bed. “I want you to stay.”
The blonde wasn’t sure what the protocol was in this situation. Technically, as the prison psych, an inmate could request that she be present at any interview or meeting, but this was different. She was involved in the case on a personal level, and the detectives knew that, because they had interviewed her. The fact that Franky had been arrested in Bridget’s house meant their relationship was in the open from the start.
“I think it’s fine, unless they object to it.” Vera could see Bridget’s hesitation at Franky’s request. “They already know you work here, and that you two are in a relationship.” The blonde sat back down on the bed. The Governor had a bad feeling. Detective Anders had told her they would be coming to file charges either today or tomorrow, and they seemed to be right on schedule. If that’s why they were here, she was glad that Franky wouldn’t be alone when she heard the news.
The officer arrived with the Detectives and Vera signaled for them to come inside.
“Good morning, Governor, Ms. Westfall, Ms Doyle.” Detective Lewis greeted each of them. He looked at Franky, seemingly assessing her condition. “The Governor informed us of the incident the other night. I hope you’re on your way to a full recovery.”
“Yeah, I feel like a million bucks.” Franky’s sarcasm was still well intact, even if she wasn’t feeling the best physically. Bridget discreetly tapped her on the leg, reminding her that it was in her best interest to cooperate with these people.
“Yes, well, this won’t take long. We got a call from Ms. Chang late last night.” Detective Lewis began. Vera, who had been looking at a point on the floor, snapped her head up. This visit was about something new. The detective continued, “She wanted to revise her statement. Said she needed to ‘do the right thing’, to quote her exact words. She told us what really happened that night. It seems that when she ran into the alley, someone grabbed her and pulled her into one of the buildings. That’s why you couldn’t find her. She says the man beat her after she refused to give him what he wanted, then must have thrown her back outside, where she was found by the eyewitness. She says she never saw you after she left your car, and at that time she was very much unharmed.”
Vera, Bridget, and Franky all wore looks of shock. Bridget couldn’t believe her plan had worked. She thought for sure that she hadn’t gotten through to Kim last night.
Franky was the first who spoke, “So what does that mean?”
“As far as we’re concerned, you’re free to go.” Detective Anders spoke up. “As soon as Governor Bennett can get the paperwork processed, you’ll be able to go home.”
“Usually takes about twenty-four hours.” Vera said quietly, still in shock.
“Right, well, we’re all done here.” Detective Lewis stated. He handed Vera a file folder. “This should be everything you need from us to get her release processed.”
The two detectives exited the room, and the officer who had escorted them in, led them back out to the entrance. The three stayed in silence for a moment.
Vera rested her hand gently on Franky’s injured shoulder, “I’m really happy for you. For both of you.” She exchanged smiles with each of the women. “I’m going to go get started on this,” she said, holding up the folder the detective had given her. She stopped just past the end of Franky’s bed and turned back to Bridget. “And after you’re done here, go home. I don’t want to see you in here for at least a week.” She turned and continued on, pulling the curtain closed around Franky’s bed on her way out.
“Holy fuck, Gidge. I thought I was so fucked just then. I was just waiting for them to tell me they were charging me.” Bridget looked over and saw the tears streaming down her girlfriend’s face. She gently wiped them away with the backs of her fingers. “I want to come home.”
“Tomorrow, baby,” She leaned down, and gave Franky a soft, but long kiss. “I’m going to go out right after I leave here, and pick up some things to have ready when I bring you home.” The brunette gave her a questioning look. “Heat packs, ice packs, pain relievers, just stuff like that.”
Franky nodded and pulled her back in for another kiss. “Can we just do this all day tomorrow? I reckon it would keep my mind off the pain.”
Bridget gave a small laugh. “You need to rest, baby.” She gave her another kiss. “I’ll be back to take you home, okay?” Franky nodded, and Bridget left to do her errands.
Bridget had picked up everything she could think of that Franky could possibly need to be comfortable for the first few days. She planned to take her to her apartment at some point too to pick up more clothes that were easy for her to get on and off with one arm. Nothing with buttons or snaps. She also picked up a bunch of groceries to restock her fridge and cabinets. Her cooking had been minimal while the brunette had been away, and she knew Franky would want some real food when she got home. Even though she wasn’t much of a cook, she figured that Franky could at least walk her through some of the meal prep.
She decided to browse through some of the smaller shops. She wanted to get Franky something as a sort of ‘welcome back home’ gift. The blonde had no idea what it would be, but she felt like she’d know it when she saw it. She wandered into a shop that looked to specialize in handmade jewelry. She looked at everything laid out in the cases, and was about to give up when something caught her eye. It was a necklace with a small silver kite charm on it, with a piece of red string for the tails of the kite.
“That’s one of my favourites,” a voice came from the door behind the counter as an elderly lady emerged from the back room of the shop.
“Do you make all of these?” Bridget asked.
“Oh yes. It started out as a hobby and eventually grew into this. I’ve had this shop almost fifty years now.”
“Why is this one of your favourites?” Bridget had always loved knowing the stories behind the things that people created.
“I got the idea for it one day when I was sitting in the park. There were some kids flying kites, and I just thought they looked so happy and carefree. So I guess it kind of represents freedom to me.”
“Freedom…” Bridget thought for a moment. “I’ll take it.”
“Good choice, you won’t regret it.” The lady smiled at the blonde and placed the necklace into a box for her.
Bridget left the shop, excited to give Franky the gift tomorrow.
It was late in the evening and Franky was preparing to spend another night in the uncomfortable hospital bed. She was technically cleared to go back to her unit, but Vera felt that Medical was a safer spot for her. Since no other prisoners needed to be there that night, the governor had decided to leave her there until her release. Will had just come on shift, and was talking to Matt. It had been an uneventful day in the prison, so she figured they were probably just chatting about the latest football match or something. Will was her favorite guard to have with her. The others just sat in the chair outside the door and barely spoke to her. Will would bring a chair in, sit beside her bed, and talk with her until he noticed her getting tired, then he’d leave to let her rest. Today, he came in, but didn’t look like he intended to stay very long.
“Hey Franky, Vera wants to see you. Said to make sure you brought all your personal things with you from here.”
Franky tried to read his expression, but failed. “Is something wrong?”
“I don’t think so. She just asked me to bring you up to see her.” He grabbed a plastic bag from one of the supply shelves, and helped her place her few extra clothes inside. She reached out to take it from him, but he just shook his head. “I got it. Let’s go.”
When they arrived at Vera’s office, she was standing in front of her desk, leaning back against it. Franky could see a box, labelled with her name sitting on the desk beside her. When she had been brought in, they had made her put all of her personal items other than what she was wearing, into that box, and said she would get them back when she was released. Will swiped his card and held the door open so Franky could enter the room.
“How are you feeling tonight?” It was always the first question that Vera asked her now.
“Alright, I guess.” She looked at the box sitting on the desk. “A little curious as to what’s going on.”
A small smile came across Vera’s face. “You’re going home.”
Franky looked at her. “Yeah I know. In the morning. Bridget’s coming to get me.”
“No. You’re going home now. I pushed your paperwork through. I don’t want you here any longer than absolutely necessary. The only way I can one hundred percent guarantee your safety is if you’re not here.” She waited while the brunette processed what she’d just heard.
“But…” she looked to Will then to Vera. “Bridget isn’t coming until the morning. I haven’t packed my things from my cell.”
“I went to your cell and packed up your belongings. Including your phone.” She gave Franky a look, and the brunette grinned sheepishly. “And, I’ll drive you home. I just need you to look through the box and sign this form saying that everything was returned to you, and then we can leave.”
Franky didn’t even open the box. She really didn’t care if all of her clothes were in there or not. She picked up the pen and signed the form. “Let’s go.”
Will picked up the box and followed Franky and Vera out to Vera’s car. He sat it on the back seat for her.
“Thanks for everything Will.” She reached out with her good arm, and he gave her a gentle hug, careful not to bother any of her injuries. “Come by and visit us, okay?”
He nodded, “Yeah, okay.”
The drive to Bridget’s house was relatively quiet. Franky could tell that Vera wasn’t quite comfortable around her ever since the incident in Bridget’s office. The brunette wasn’t mad at her, she was just disappointed and hurt.
“Franky…” Vera began, and Franky turned to look at her. The governor just shook her head, indicating that she had changed her mind and didn’t want to say anything.
“Does Bridget know you’re bringing me there tonight?” Franky asked to break the silence.
“No, I wanted to surprise her.” Vera gave a small smile, and glanced at the brunette before turning her attention back to the road.
They pulled up in front of Bridget’s house, and Vera parked the car. As they walked up the path, Franky looked in through the window. The blonde was sitting on the couch, working on her laptop and something was playing on the TV. Franky looked to see if Emily was there, and was a bit disappointed not to see her inside. She reasoned though that it would be good to have a few more days to rest and heal before she saw her. Franky didn’t want her to be upset when she saw the bruises on her face, and until her shoulder healed a bit more, she wouldn’t be able to do much with her besides watch movies.
Vera stepped up and knocked on the front door while Franky stood to the side so that Bridget wouldn’t see her when she opened it.
“You go in first.” Franky whispered, and Vera gave a small nod.
“Hey, Vera. Is everything alright?” It wasn’t that it was uncommon for her friend to stop by, but with everything that had been going on lately, Bridget was worried that something bad had happened at the prison.
“Yeah, everything’s fine. I just thought I’d drop by on my way home.”
“Sure, come in,” Bridget smiled. “I just put the kettle on.”
Vera sat down on the couch, and Bridget set a second mug out on the counter. The kettle would take another couple of minutes to boil, so the blonde took a seat on the couch opposite her friend.
Franky glanced in the window and saw that they had sat down on the couch. She turned the handle, and slowly opened the door. She stepped in and closed it behind her, doing her best to be as silent as possible. She walked softly through the entryway, and came to a stop just past the end of the wall.
“You’d better put out a third mug.”
Bridget’s head snapped up, and she locked eyes with the brunette who was now standing in her living room. Vera looked from one to the other as a big grin broke out on Franky’s face, and the blonde was still trying to process what was going on.
“Franky…” Bridget stood, still just looking at her. “But how?...”
“The Gov decided to spring me out early.” Franky’s grin grew wider. She held open her uninjured arm. The other one had been put in a sling now that she was up and moving around more, in order to keep it stable.
The blonde stepped to her and carefully wrapped her arms around her, burying her head in her neck. Franky put her arm around her holding her close. The brunette looked over to Vera, who had a huge smile on her face.
“I think I’m going to take off now. Thanks for the offer of tea, but I really just came to bring Franky home, and you two need some time together.” Vera put her hand on each of their shoulders on the way out. “I’ll bring your things in from the car too.”
“Vera,” Franky turned a bit to face her, “Thank you for this. Really.” They exchanged small nods.
After Vera had brought in her things and left again, Franky broke the quiet. “Do you want me to make you that tea?” She felt the blonde shake her head. “Okay, you want to sit on the couch for a bit?”
The blonde picked her head up. “I just want to lay in bed with you.”
“Okay, babe.” Franky took her shoes off, leaving them by the door, and made sure it was locked before following Bridget to the bedroom.
The blonde had gathered some extra pillows from the spare beds and put them on Franky’s side, so that she would be able to sit more upright. The doctor had told her it would probably be about a week before she could comfortably lie down to sleep again. Bridget helped her change out of her clothes, and into her pyjamas, then got her settled under the blankets. She changed her own clothes and grabbed the small box off her dresser before settling in beside the brunette. Franky lifted her good arm, allowing Bridget to curl into her side.
“I went shopping today after I left the prison, and I got you something.” Bridget sat the small box on top of the covers in Franky’s lap. “Don’t worry, it’s not a ring,” she laughed, mimicking the words Franky had said when she gave the blonde her star necklace on her birthday.
Franky gave a small chuckle. “Open it for me?”
Bridget opened the box and held it up so Franky could see it. “The woman who owns the shop makes all the jewelry they sell there. She said this represented freedom, so I thought it would be perfect to give you when you got to come home.”
“I love it, Gidge.” Franky lowered her head and gave the blonde a kiss. “Thank you.”
“I think it suits you.” Bridget helped her sit forward a bit so she could fasten it around her neck for her.
Franky leaned back and settled in. She put her arm out again so that Bridget could lay against her, but the blonde didn’t move. It looked to Franky like she was trying to decide something. After a couple seconds, she moved up the bed more, so that she was in the same half-sitting position as the brunette. Bridget reached out and cupped Franky’s cheek, pulling her in for a kiss at the same time she carefully moved her body to rest ever so slightly on Franky’s ‘good’ side. Luckily, in this case anyway, the brunette’s injured rib and shoulder were both on her left side.
“Is this okay?” She asked quietly when they broke apart. Franky nodded. “I’m not hurting you?”
“No.” Franky shook her head as she connected their lips again.
They shared slow, lazy kisses, just enjoying being near each other again without worrying who might see them, or being on a time limit, until they were ready to fall asleep. Bridget moved back down a bit and melted into Franky’s side again. She fell asleep quickly for the first time in weeks.
The next morning Franky awoke early to a throbbing pain in her shoulder. At some point during the night she had moved so she wasn’t sitting completely upright anymore, and the new position had put a strain on her arm. She tried to carefully move herself away from Bridget so she could get out of bed, but one of her movements made her gasp and stiffen a bit, and the blonde was immediately awake.
“Baby, what’s wrong?” Bridget put her hand on Franky’s back, helping her to sit up.
“Ah! I think I just slept wrong.” She turned to sit on the edge of the bed.
Bridget went to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and grabbed a couple of pain relievers for the brunette. “Here, take these.” She handed the pills to Franky, with a glass of water. “How about a warm shower too while those kick in?”
“Yeah, I think that would help.” Franky slowly got up off the bed and into the bathroom.
She let Bridget help her get undressed, and help her again in the shower to get washed. The hot water felt good on her shoulder, and about halfway through, Franky could feel the pain relievers starting to work. The blonde could feel her girlfriend’s body start to relax, and she spent some extra time rubbing her back to work out the knots.
After their shower, Franky talked Bridget through how to make waffles for their breakfast. It worked out pretty well, but they could both see that when they tried the more complicated recipes, it was going to take some extra patience on both their parts.
They spent the morning with Bridget doing stuff around the house, and Franky relaxing on the couch, occasionally getting up to wander around when she needed to stretch and move. After lunch, the brunette decided that she was going to lay outside on the patio in one of the lounge chairs. It had turned into a warm afternoon, and she was tired of being inside.
Bridget was doing some work on her laptop when there was a knock at the door. She opened it to find Vera standing there.
“Hey, come in.” Bridget stepped back so her friend could enter the house. “You’re off early today.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a bunch of overtime saved up, so I figured I should use some. I popped home and had some lunch and got changed then I figured I’d stop by here.” Vera looked around the kitchen and living room, then glanced down the hall.
“Is everything alright?” Bridget asked, concerned that Vera was acting a bit off.
“Yeah, I just, uh, came to talk to Franky, actually. Is she here?”
“She’s out on the patio.” Bridget tilted her head towards the large sliding glass windows. “Come on.” Bridget started to walk towards the patio door.
“If she’s asleep, I can come back another time.” Vera took a couple quick steps to catch up with Bridget.
The blonde stepped out onto the patio, and Franky turned her head to look at her. “She’s awake,” she called back into the house. “Vera’s here to see you, baby.” Franky nodded, and Bridget moved a chair over beside the brunette for Vera to sit in. She sensed that this wasn’t strictly a social visit, so she went back inside, closed the door, and continued on with her work.
Vera took a seat in the chair. “How are you feeling?”
“A bit better actually. Being out of that place is enough on it’s own to help.” She glanced at the other woman. “No offense.”
“None taken.” Vera gave a small laugh. “The officers feel the same way too most days, trust me.” She paused and took a deep breath. “I didn’t just come here to check up on you. I owe you a huge thank you that I will probably never be able to repay, and an apology that I don’t even know where to start with. So first of all, thank you again for saving me that night. I don’t know how that would have ended if you hadn’t shown up. I had been horrible to you, and you didn’t even think twice about helping me and putting yourself at risk. Look where it got you.” She motioned to Franky’s injured shoulder and bruised face.
“You’re welcome, but you don’t have to keep thanking me for that. You already said it, and you gave us that room for the night, which you didn’t have to do, but it was a really nice gesture. If you need to hear me say it, then I’ll say it; we’re even, okay?” Franky waited until Vera looked her in the eye and acknowledged her statement with a nod.
Vera leaned forward and studied the pattern on one of the patio stones. “I still owe you an apology though. I don’t know how to start.”
“Just say whatever comes to mind. I’ll listen.” Franky gave her a small smile to reassure her. She knew what this was about, and she had some things she needed to say to Vera as well. It wouldn’t be easy for either of them, but she knew in the end it would be okay.
“I’m sorry that I read your file then made those assumptions about you. I should have known better. The reason I got into corrections was because I believed that everyone deserves a second chance, the benefit of the doubt, and I wanted to help them get those. I work every day to give those things to strangers, and then when it involves someone I know, I couldn’t do it. I’ve known you for months, and never questioned anything about you. Then I let some words on a piece of paper speak louder than all your actions. I know it’s going to take time for us to be in a good place again, if it’s even possible at all, and I know that’s my fault, but I’d very much like to get back to how things were someday.” Vera wiped away a tear that was running down her cheek.
“It’s possible.” Franky looked over towards Vera. “I’m not mad at you, I never was, really. I was hurt. Probably a bit disappointed too. I know what my file looks like, and it doesn’t look good. I would understand if some random cop or case worker looked at it and said the things about me that you did, but it really hurt when I heard you say them. When they came from someone who knows me, someone I care about. I’d been nothing but nice to you, and right then, it didn’t matter. What hurt even more though, was that you implied that you thought I would hurt Bridget, or Em. There’s absolutely nothing in my file that indicates I have ever laid a hand on anyone I was in any kind of relationship with. I would never do that. And I would never, ever hurt a child. I lived that kind of life as a kid, getting hit, burnt, screamed at. I would never make a kid go through that. Even if you didn’t trust me, you should have trusted Bridget’s judgement. She’s a strong woman, she would never let anyone hurt her or Em.” The brunette thought she saw a flicker of something in Vera’s eyes. “She would have gotten rid of me, of anyone, so fucking fast if they tried anything like that.” She paused and took a deep breath. “So yes, it might take awhile, but we can get back to how we were. You’re still a friend, Vera, and I don’t hold grudges. As far as I’m concerned, after today we’ve both said what we need to say, and we can move on from this.” She waited while Vera wiped her cheeks dry. “Okay?”
Vera nodded, and Franky stood up, holding open her good arm. The other woman stood as well, and Franky pulled her in for a hug. Vera wrapped her arms gently around the tall brunette, and they stood there for a few seconds, letting everything that was said sink in. Bridget glanced up from her laptop to see her girlfriend and best friend in a warm embrace. She knew Franky appreciated honesty, and the ability for someone to admit when they had fucked up. She was forgiving. As she continued to watch them, she knew they were on the way to making things right between them again.
Franky and Bridget laid in bed that night, the brunette propped up on the extra pillows again, and Bridget against her side. The blonde had suggested that maybe Franky could try sleeping on the couch, or they could bring one of the lounge chairs in off the patio, so that she wouldn’t move and be in an uncomfortable position by the morning. The brunette quickly put an end to the idea though, saying that she wanted to sleep in the bed with Bridget.
“Did you and Vera have a good talk?” Bridget asked. Franky had seemed a bit calmer since Vera had left and the blonde suspected that she had gotten some things off her chest during their conversation.
“Yeah, we did. I think we both got out what we needed to.” Franky took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“She came to the house the day after you helped her. She felt so bad, Franky. She knew that you were in trouble, and that she’d been horrible to you.” Bridget played with the kite charm on Franky’s necklace.
“I was never mad at her. I told her that today. I told her we’d be okay again. I’m going to make her dance with me again.” They both smiled, remembering the night at the bar.
“She really liked that you did that, and she told me what you said to her, it was very sweet.”
Franky just smiled down at Bridget, then her face turned serious again. “You know what bothered me most about what she said that day?” The blonde shook her head. “She thought that you weren’t safe with me. That I’d hurt you or Em. I want you to know, I would never do that. I’ve never hit anyone I was with or any kids. I told her not to worry ‘cause you’d never tolerate that shit anyway.”
Bridget was quiet for a moment before she spoke. “I never thought I would.”
“What?” Franky sat up a bit more so that she could see Bridget’s face better. “What do you mean?”
The blonde re-positioned herself so that she could lay her head on her girlfriend’s chest. “There was someone I used to be with. We were serious, together for almost 5 years. One day, we got in an argument and she hit me. Right across the face, just bam; I never saw it coming. We both just kind of looked at each other. She broke down and started to cry. She said she was under all this pressure at work and she’d had a meeting that day that had gone to shit, then when she came home we argued and she just lost it. She said it was like she could see herself doing it, but she wasn’t in control of her body. She promised it would never happen again, and I believed her. I forgave her. I knew all the things that people like that say, and what I tell the abuse victims that I counsel, and I still couldn’t take my own advice. Vera saw the bruise on my face. I tried to make up an excuse and cover it with make up, but she knew what had happened. Things seemed okay after that for the most part except for the fact that she hated Em. She was maybe two at the time, and she and her parents would come for a visit, and my ex wanted nothing to do with her. She just complained about how noisy and messy she was. She’d never come out anywhere with us. One day, about three years ago, we got in another pretty big argument. She drew her fist back again and I just stood and stared right at her. She stopped, she never hit me, but I knew she had come close. That was the end of it. We were done after that. Trust me, I’ve learned my lesson. It was a huge wake-up call for me. I wanted you to know that that’s what triggered that part of what Vera said about you. It doesn’t excuse it, because you are nothing like she was, but in her mind, she was being protective of me and Em.”
Franky wished she had the use of both arms right now. She didn’t know what to say, and she felt like she couldn’t hold Bridget close enough. The blonde could feel her girlfriend’s body shaking. She lifted her head and looked into the brunette’s eyes. The normally clear green colour had turned stormy. She knew Franky was probably feeling a mixture of emotions right now, mostly anger and sadness.
“Baby, I’m okay. I promise.” She leaned in and gave Franky one of her own ‘I love you’ kisses. “I’m so fucking glad I met you.” The blonde gave her another kiss. “Okay?”
“Okay.” Franky took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“You good, baby?” Bridget waited until Franky looked at her.
“I’m good.” The brunette nodded. “I love you, Gidge.”
“I love you too.” After a couple more kisses, Bridget laid back down beside Franky, and they fell asleep.