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Hearts on a String

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Hearts on a String

2: Franky's 'Who to Do' List

 

“… and then the girl and her dog dropped me off at my apartment, so I gave her the donut, the traffic cone, and my number!” Franky crowed, slamming her fork down to emphasise her story.

Boomer was howling with laughter at Franky’s escapades, and even Allie let out a few chuckles from time to time. Bea, in turn, merely smiled and shook her head, knowing that at least 80% of the story was pure bullshit, and the other 20% was exaggerated.

The group were sat in a corner table at Milligans, their empty plates a testament to the wonderful food served. The place was busy, but Franky always managed to get them a table (“the owner totally wants me,” she could be heard bragging to anyone who would listen) and it became their usual haunt for catching up.

“Anyone heard from Maxine?” Bea asked, concerned. They had waited thirty minutes before giving in and ordering some food and drinks, though they still scanned the incoming diners to catch sight of their friend. Franky checked her phone once more.

“Nuh,” she replied, smiling, “haven’t heard from her since she agreed to be here. Maybe she’s got a new fella and he’s keepin’ her busy if you know what I mean-“

“-the whole world knows what you mean,” Allie retorted with a laugh, though she shared Bea’s concern. It wasn’t like Maxine to be late to anything without letting them know. She offered Bea a reassuring smile, and the redhead returned it gratefully.

“Well sucks for her,” Boomer said as she finished her drink, “she’ll have ta order when she gets in and no fuckin’ way am I waitin’ for her before I get dessert.”

“Never change, Booms,” Franky laughed, “plus she’s missing out on all the juicy gossip. Speaking of…  Blondie,” she turned her attention to Allie as she slouched back in her chair, relaxed, “what have ya got for us?”

Allie drew in a deep breath, fiddling with the napkin next to her plate. She hadn’t spoken to Abigail since she left an hour ago, bags packed, and had received no communication in return.

“Uhhh” Allie looked up at everyone at the table, “Abigail and I broke up.”

For a few seconds, she was greeted with silence and she felt a sense of relief that it bewildered them as much as it did her, but it wasn’t long before she was besieged with responses.

“Ahhh that fuckin’ sucks, eh?” Boomer grimaced. Daz and Trina popped into her head briefly and she thought about mentioning it, but just as quickly pushed it aside. It was Allie’s turn to bitch and vent.

“Finally dumped the bitch, glad to hear it!” Franky cheered, “always told you she was battin’ out of her league.”

Franky…” Bea warned, watching Allie’s expression carefully. The blonde looked sad, defeated.

“Nnnooo,” Franky leant forward, incredulous, “shut the fuck up! Tell me you dumped her!”

Allie shook her head, feeling tears start to form in her eyes as she took another steadying breath.

“S-she, uh, she woke me up this morning and told me that it wasn’t working. She left about… an hour ago.”

“That bitch!” Franky shouted, drawing the attention and ire of nearby customers and serving staff. She ignored them, however, her eyes sharp and focused on Allie, “I knew never to trust a graphic designer, didn’t I say that?”

“In all fairness,” Bea responded dryly, “you say that about every occupation you sleep with…”

“Bullshit, Red.”

“Your rules on bartenders?”

“They’re there to serve, not service.”

“Accountants?”

“You put in but don’t let them put out.”

“Therapists?”

“They’re there to fuck with your head, not fuck in your bed.”

“Hairdressers?”

“Know their way round scissors but remember to only fuck the redheads.”

Bea rolled her eyes at the last cheeky answer, delivered by Franky with a wolfish smile.

Allie let out a huff of laughter as she listened to their banter, feeling marginally better at both Franky’s anger and Bea’s attempts to lighten the situation through prodding the tattooed brunette.

“So anyway, Blondie,” Franky turned her attention back, “you’re better than that cow. In fact, you were always better than that cow. I said it from day one.”

“Thanks, Franky.”

“She’s right,” Bea reassured Allie, placing a comforting hand on the blonde’s arm. Bea didn’t often offer up physical displays of affection, but she was getting better at it. Perhaps Allie just brought out a protective side of her that overruled her natural instincts towards shying away.

“Thanks Bea,” Allie responded softly, placing her own hand cautiously over the top. Franky’s eyes darted between them and she nudged Boomer sharply.

Ow!” Boomer yelled out, dropping the menu she was perusing and holding her arm, “the fuck did ya do that for?”

Franky pointed her chin at Bea and Allie in an attempt to redirect the other woman’s attention to them. Boomer cottoned on quickly and sniggered.

“Think you should get back on the bike, Allie,” Franky called out with a grin, bursting their little bubble with glee, “maybe find yourself a new hot thing… maybe a redhead this time, eh?”

Bea’s hand immediately drew back and her face flushed from embarrassment. Allie rolled her eyes, annoyed at Franky for disturbing them.

“Fuck off, Franky,” Allie shot back, “besides, what are you gonna do now that you’ve blacklisted another bar? Don’t think you’ve got many left!”

Franky laughed in response but didn’t comment. At that moment, Bea’s phone started to vibrate and she felt around in her pocket for it urgently. Maybe it was Maxine.

“Hello?” She answered quickly as she brought it to her ear.

Is this Bea Smith?” A familiar male voice sounded out.

 “Speaking.”

This is Justin Warner from Life Solutions.”

“Ah, hi Justin. Just one moment,” Bea scooted out of her chair and moved away from the table, lowering her voice, “what’s up?”

“Bea,” she heard Justin sigh, “I know we’ve been making good progress so far, but I need to inform you that I’m moving clinics.”

Bea sighed and massaged her forehead. She’d been on the waiting list for months for Life Solutions, at the recommendation of her doctor who wanted her to try alternate methods to improve her mental health beyond the tablets she prescribed. Bea had been seeing Justin for months now and she felt like she was really starting to open up even just a little.

“Uh, okay, well what’s your new clinic’s address? I’ll google it and put it in-“

-I’m actually moving across the country, Bea, I’m really sorry,” Justin really did sound contrite so Bea bit back her annoyance.

“So… what happens next? Do I go back on the waiting list or…?”

“Well actually, no. My colleague has just had an opening and I’ve asked her to take you on if that’s okay with you? I feel going back to a waiting list will only set you back in the long run and she seems eager to work with you.”

“You want me to see someone else?”

“My colleague is very qualified and very experienced, we managed to poach her from Wentworth correctional.”

“You want me to see a prison psych?” Bea asked incredulously.

“She’s a forensic psychologist, Bea, and as I said she is very experienced, and I think she can really help you.”

Bea paused for a moment. She could either give this woman a go or drive right back to square one, do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect $200. At least this time it was a woman, so that would be a small relief.

“Fine,” Bea conceded, “I’ll see your colleague. What’s her name?”

“That’s fantastic Bea,” Justin responded, relieved, “Her name is Bridget Westfall and I’ll book you in for next Wednesday at 2pm.”

“Okay Justin, I’ll see her then and thanks for your help so far…” Bea paused, unable to think of what to say to end their communication, “I’ll uhh see you… good luck.”

She hung up quickly.

When Bea returned to the table, Maxine had filled the empty seat and was just finishing her order of a drink.

“Hey Maxine!” Bea called out, relieved, as she sat back down, “good to see you, we were getting really concerned.”

“Thanks, hon,” Maxine said quietly, her usual calm demeanour soothing Bea after her call, “I’m sorry I’m late everyone, I had an appointment that overran.”

“S’okay,” Boomer rubbed her nose with the back of her hand, “but ya missed brekkie so you’ll have ta catch up, yeah?”

Maxine laughed. She could always count on Boomer to lift her spirits.

“I’m not actually that hungry, Booms, but I’ll definitely be having a drink since the text said that Franky is paying. I assume it wasn’t a typo?”

“Cheeky fucker,” Franky blew a raspberry, “so was it a good appointment?”

Maxine stilled and Allie noticed her brow furrow before the telling tic disappeared behind a pleasantly neutral expression. She glanced over at Bea and saw that the redhead too was looking at Maxine with concern.

“It was, yeah,” Maxine replied with a smile, “so what have I missed?”

“Well, Allie got dumped by that bitch Abigail,” Boomer stated plainly as she looked over at the waiting staff for her dessert, “Franky hooked up an’ ran, then Bea and Allie looked like they were gonna go at it on the table.”

Maxine burst out laughing as Bea spluttered, her face once again turning beet-red. Allie shook her head with a smile as Franky grinned at everyone round the table.

This is the life, she thought.

“So, Red,” Franky drew Bea’s attention, “what was your phone call ‘bout?”

“Just my therapist,” Bea replied, “wants to move me over to his colleague, Bridget Westfall.”

Bridget Westfall?” Franky laughed, “what is she, a fucking pensioner? What the fuck kinda name is that?”

“She’s meant to be really good actually-“

“-bets on her being an old lady, Booms?”

“Uhhh” Boomer looked up as the server put her dessert down in front of her, “no fuckin’ way am I takin’ that bet.”

Franky tsked and folded her arms as she looked back at Bea.

“Well just remember, Red, therapists are head fuckers, not bed fuckers, yeah?”

“Gross, Franky,” Bea winced, as everyone round the table laughed once more, “now you’ve ruined therapy for me.”

“Now you’re trapped with grandma Bridget, think that’ll ruin it for ya.”

“I think it’ll be good for her,” Allie interrupted suddenly and Bea looked at her gratefully, “a female therapist can really help in your situation so I for one am glad for this Bridget Westfall, whether she’s 25 or 70.”

“That,” Boomer jabbed her fork at Bea and Allie as she grinned over at Maxine, “is what I meant.”

Maxine just smiled and Boomer took it as her cue.

“Now let me tell ya ‘bout Trina and Daz, the dirty fuckers…”

 

****

 

As they all made their way out of Milligans, Bea lightly touched Maxine’s arm.

“A quick word?” she muttered, eyes darting to the laughing group in front of them. Maxine nodded and they held back a few steps, trying to get out of earshot.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Maxine?” Bea asked gently, “we were worried about you and you didn’t seem yourself just now.”

Maxine looked over Allie, Franky, and Boomer, all chatting merrily on the pavement. She lived for these moments, where she could just relax and enjoy a few hours out with her friends. She would live for these moments, she had to.

With a reassuring smile, though her eyes were glassy as she thought back over her appointment, Maxine looked at Bea.

Thank you,” she uttered emphatically, “I’m okay, hon. I’m okay.”

She had to be.