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Hearts on a String

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“Thanks again for comin’, Franky.”

“No sweat, Booms.”

Franky drummed her fingers against the steering wheel and Boomer scratched her nose as they both waited patiently, watching the end of the street.

“Nuh, you’re a-“ Boomer stumbled over her words, “-a good friend, ya know? You, like, care and shit.”

Franky grinned and looked over at her friend.

“Got the hots for me, have ya?” She leaned closer, over the console between them, “go on, gimme a big fuckin’ pash you lezza.”

“Oi!” Boomer pushed her away as Franky roared with laughter, “fuck off! I ‘aint a lezza and I didn’t mean it like that!”

“I know you didn’t,” Franky continued to chuckle as Boomer pouted and looked annoyed, “oh c’mon Booms, it was a joke ya big sook!”

Boomer sniffed and looked out the window, ignoring Franky who kept calling her name.

Booms,” Franky started to sing, “I know I stand in line until you think you have the time to spend an evening with me…

Boomer smiled as Franky picked the familiar song. She and Franky always sang it together when pissed.

“And if we go someplace to dance,” Franky continued, relentless, “I know that there’s a chance you won’t be leaving with me…”

“Alright!” Boomer finally said, smiling, “ya know, me mum used to sing tha’ to me sometimes when I was a kiddo… well, the times she was off her face, eh.”

“I know,” Franky responded with a sad smile of her own. Boomer had divulged that small secret one of their first nights out drunk. Franky had started singing the song for no reason, just that it was the first one in her head, and Boomer had drunkenly told her. In a bid to give it fresh memories, not laced with the pain of an absent or uncaring mother, Franky continued to sing it every time they were out, though she didn’t tell Boomer that.

“Oi! There!” Boomer suddenly pointed out the window as a beat-up red Citroen came roaring round corner, “that’s the fucker!”

“Shit, get down Booms!”

Both Franky and Boomer slouched in their seats, trying to hide below the line of the dashboard, though it was difficult for Boomer in such a small car as Franky’s.

The red Citroen crawled to a stop a few meters away, hitting the curb as it pulled up. They watched as Trina got out of the car, leopard print handbag in hand, and almost jogged toward the house at the end of the street.

Daz’s house.

Fuckin’ slut.

“Has she gone?” Franky whispered, and Boomer craned her neck to see.

“Yeah, she’s gone into Daz’s. Fuckin’ cheating prick.”

“Well if he’s as skilled in the sack as ya said,” Franky grinned, “that gives us about six minutes before she leaves, eh?”

Boomer laughed, though it was laced with her upset at Trina for fucking her over. Her own sister. She swiped at her face, trying her best not to cry.

“Hey, hey,” Franky reassured her, “let’s do it now. You’ll feel better, trust me.

Boomer nodded, and both dived out of the vehicle quickly. Franky grabbed a carrier bag from the backseat and they walked across to Trina’s car.

“Booms,” Franky called out, rummaging in the bag, “ya want the treacle or the tuna?”

“Errr, the tuna!”

Franky laughed wickedly and threw her a bag of tuna. Boomer caught it and leaned in the open car window, wedging the pieces of fish into the crevices of the seats she could reach, as well as pushing it into the seatbelt locks and CD player.

Franky, meanwhile, giddily pushed treacle into the car door locks.

Good fuckin’ luck, Trina, Franky thought, no-one hurts my Booms.

She heard Boomer chuckle and grinned. Revenge in pairs had a definite chapter in Franky’s Unapologetic Guide to Living Life.

 Just then, they heard a door slam in the distance, and Boomer pulled her top half out of the car quickly.

Fuck, what was that!?” She whispered.

“Dunno,” Franky laughed, “but ya remember the exit plan right?”

Boomer had to think for a minute, but Franky was always patient. She then grinned and nodded.

“Well, then,” Franky casually threw her pot of treacle back in the bag and looked over, “… fuckin’ RUN, Booms!”

Both let out whoops of laughter as they ran down the street away from the now ruined car, carrier bag trailing behind them.

Trina will be fuckin’ pissed.

 

****

 

Allie paced, phone in hand.

She sat down, staring at it.

She stood up.

The phone remained inactive, silent.

Not that Allie expected it to ring again. She was still trying to process her call from earlier that morning.

She’s awake.

She knew this day would come around eventually, she just chose to ignore it and put it to the back of her mind, preoccupied instead with her life going forward. There had been a string of girlfriends in the meantime, right up until Abigail and not to mention her ever-present thoughts of Bea. In her attempts to ignore and forge a life, she’d quite frankly started to forget.

Until now. She hadn’t spoken to Kaz since that night, both agreeing that the next time she’d ring was when the inevitable happened.

And it had happened. It had fucking happened.

Allie was torn between relief and fear at the call, with a healthy dose of self-hate closing in around her. A feeling that had been alien to her for years.

She hugged her own body, her arms tightening around her sides, and stared at the phone again. She still had Kaz’ address on there. She picked up her car keys and her phone, feeling like she was kicking into autopilot, and moved toward the door.

It was time to stop ignoring the problem, and instead confront it head-on. Allie hoped this time she was strong enough to walk away.

 

****

 

“Bea Smith?”

Bea looked up from her seat in the familiar waiting room, and the receptionist nodded her head toward the room on the opposite wall.

“Ms Westfall will see you now.”

Bea nodded her acknowledgement, muttering a “thank you” as she walked past the half-empty chairs and tentatively knocked on the door.

‘Bridget Westfall’ the sign read on the door, ‘Forensic Psychologist’.

“G’day,” a voice called out from the other side of the door, and Bea entered the room.

The first thing she noted was that the room contained very vibrant colours. Unlike Justin’s room, which consisted of every shade of grey imaginable, Bridget’s room contained lime green chairs mismatched with a bright red table between them. The pictures hanging on the walls contained splashes of orange, pink, and yellow, and Bridget’s desk was all glass and steel. Instead of off-putting though, as Bea expected, she felt instead something oddly freeing about the arrangement. The psychologist in question sat behind her desk, elbows on it and leaning forward, watching Bea’s assessment of the room with what looked like amusement.

“A bit different to Justin’s, yeah?” Bridget said suddenly, and Bea startled, glancing at her, “I never understood his fascination with such dull colours. Too clinical.”

Bridget Westfall stood up and stepped out from behind the desk. Bea noted her short dark blonde hair, blue eyes, and slight stature, though she was given height not only by her fashionable heels, but also by her gravitas as she moved toward the lime green chairs with a confidence that Bea envied. There was nothing hidden with Bridget Westfall.

“Wanna take a seat?” Bridget pointed at the other chair, and Bea immediately sat down, hands clasped tightly as she waited for the inevitable questions that she had already pushed through with Justin.

However, much to her surprise, Bridget didn’t go on the attack. Instead, she opted to take her time relaxing into the chair, crossing her legs and rubbing her hands gently on the green material of the arms. She watched Bea without judgement or expectation, instead with a hint of warmth and invitation, and her eyes didn’t even track over her, but instead met Bea’s own gaze steadily. There was no clipboard, folder, Dictaphone, notes, or pen, in sight.

Just two women, connecting.

“So, Bea,” Bridget finally broke the silence between them with an encouraging smile, “why did you agree to see me today?”

Bea shrugged and fiddled with the sleeve of her top, plucking at it uselessly.

“Justin left,” she replied, “I didn’t want to go back on the waiting list.”

“Why not?” Bridget asked curiously, “surely going back on the waiting list means you get to avoid these awkward questions with people you’ve just met?”

Bea laughed and Bridget smiled wryly. Caught.

“I, err, I want to get better,” Bea admitted, “going back on the waiting list means that I wouldn’t be get the help I need for months.”

“So you’re here today because you want to get better?”

“Yeah.”

“Good,” Bridget nodded her head, satisfied, “feels good to say it aloud, yeah?”

“I-I guess so.”

“That want, that desire, to get better, Bea, it’s really important,” Bridget explained, “did saying it out loud make you feel more determined to do it?”

“Well,” Bea pondered the question, “yeah actually. It’s like I’ve got to try harder because I’ve told someone and I don’t want to let them down.”

“Interesting,” Bridget tapped her fingers lightly against the arm of the chair as she considered Bea, “so you fear failing someone?”

Every day, Bea thought sadly, what if I can’t get better for Debbie? Will she leave me for good? What if my friends get tired of my paranoia and just fade out? What if I can’t ever be good enough for anyone?

“Yeah,” Bea said.

“Who do you fear you’re going to fail?”

“My daughter,” Bea replied immediately, and Bridget nodded in understanding, “a-and my friends mainly.”

“I noticed that you didn’t include yourself on that list,” Bridget cut in and she was looking at Bea curiously now, “you don’t fear failing yourself?”

Bea shook her head, with a small sad smile. That one was easy enough to answer.

“I failed myself the minute I met Harry Smith.”

 

****

 

“We’ve had a good session today, Bea,” Bridget smiled and stood up from her chair, just as relaxed as when she had sat in it.

It had been an hour and Bea felt like she’d been emotionally torn apart and pieced back together, whilst Bridget remained unruffled, her relaxed and friendly attitude untouched. Bea was quite honestly amazed by Bridget Westfall. Where Justin was methodical, Bridget was chaotic, and where Justin was precise and rigid, Bridget was relaxed and let the session flow naturally, her questions seemingly random but always somehow connected to achieving a greater goal.

The goal to help Bea help herself.

“Thank you, Ms Westfall,” Bea said, standing up quickly and grabbing her bag tight against her.

“Please, call me Bridget,” Bridget responded with a wave of her hand. She moved toward the door and opened it for Bea, “I don’t stand on formalities.”

“Okay, thank you Bridget,” Bea replied. She moved toward the open door and grabbed her phone out of her bag as she did so. No missed calls or messages, Allie must be on her way already.

Bea sat back down in the waiting room, ready.

 

****

 

Allie drove slowly through the suburbs, careful to keep to the speed limits as she saw children playing outside excitedly.

She stared at them wistfully as she drove past. Allie had once been one of those kids. The radio droned on at her about the storm that was heading their way tonight, but she tuned it out. Kaz’s place was still another twenty minutes away; when Allie had moved away she made sure that she was far enough away that she wasn’t faced with her mistakes every day, but close enough that should she receive a call she’d be able to drive there with relative ease.

“This is the 3 o’clock news, today the-“

Allie shut off the car radio and kept driving.

 

****

 

“Hi you’ve reached Allie Novak, I can’t come to the phone right now so please leave a message-“

Bea sighed and ended the call once more. She looked up at the clock: 4pm.

She’d tried ringing Allie several times and had left three voice messages. Bea briefly wondered if Allie was in trouble. What if she’d been in a car accident?  Then another smaller part of her mind, the one she tried to stamp out on a regular basis, cut in: what if she decided that your shit wasn’t worth dealing with? You’re a mess, and she knows it. Why should she clean up after you?

“Bea?”

Bea looked up and noticed Bridget staring down at her kindly, her hand hovering just over Bea’s shoulder, cautious to touch her.

“You okay?” Bridget asked, concerned.

“Y-yeah,” Bea responded, “just… err my friend can’t pick me up after all so I’m waiting on someone else.”

Bea scrolled through her phone and hit ‘dial’.

 

****

 

Maxine saw her phone screen flashing out of the corner of her eye as it peeked out of the bag on the chair next to her.

Bea calling.

Her hand came out of her lap on autopilot, ready to pick it up and ask what was wrong, to drop everything and run to her friend’s side as she always tried to do. Bea was one of the best people she knew, and Maxine always tried to make sure she was as good a friend as Bea had been to her.

When she’d broken up with Gary and appeared on Bea’s doorstep, crying, she had taken Maxine in without a word and had let her stay for months on end. Bea had listened to her, commiserated with her, and pushed her, helping her in every way she could. Maxine would never forget what Bea had done for her.

Maxine’s hand dropped back to her lap as a voice sounded out behind her.

”Ms Conway,” the doctor was old and gruff, and moved past her to sit down in his chair with an audible sigh. He picked up the folder in front of him and his expression was solemn, “I’m afraid the tests were positive…”

Maxine didn’t think about her phone after that.

 

****

 

Fuck,” Bea groaned as she ended the call, hitting her head with her fist. She looked up and saw Bridget talking to the receptionist, every so often glancing up at her.

Bea ducked her head again and scrolled through her phone. Boomer’s car was still in the garage being fixed after she had an unfortunate incident with another driver, and that left just one person.

Her last choice.

Fuck it.

She hit ‘dial’.

 

****

 

Franky pulled up alongside a sleek black convertible, eyeing it up with appreciation.

Whoever owns that must be fucking loaded, she thought as she stepped out of her beat-up green Volkswagen. She slammed the door shut and moved to look over the convertible slowly, whistling as she did so.

“S’fucking hot,” she grinned as her hand caressed the door.

Franky headed inside the door of Life Solutions, twirling her keys on her finger as she spotted Bea sitting ramrod straight at the far end of the room. It was a depressing little place really, she thought as she looked around, cramped and clinical.

Eugh.

The receptionist looked up at her, glaring, and Franky smiled back, tongue between her teeth.

“Oops, did I slam this place out loud?” She asked.

Franky,” Bea sighed, her face turning an interesting shade that matched her hair completely.

“Hey, Red!”

“Now you know why you’re always my last choice,” Bea got up and moved toward Franky, grabbing her arm as if to hurry them both out the door. She looked embarrassed.

“You wound me!” Franky shrugged out of her grip, and turned back to the receptionist, “so I have a bet on and I need you to help: just how old is this Bridget Westmore or whatever her name is?”

Franky heard footsteps coming from a room at the far end of the clinic and Bea tugged on her arm harder.

“Can we fucking go, please?” she hissed.

“Chill, Red, we’re going,” Franky knew when to push and when Bea was getting to her limit. She grabbed Bea around the waist and winked.

“Franky, can you-“ Bea started, but was cut off as a familiar voice cut through the now empty waiting room.

“Franky?”

That voice. The perfect blend of smooth seduction and authority.

“Why are you here tonight?”

“Fuck baby, I need you to come for me again, yeah?”

 “This was an unexpected pleasure.”

Franky felt the tendrils of fear mix with the heady desire as memories formed like a movie in her mind. She turned around warily and was met with familiar blonde hair and sapphire eyes. Fuck, she hated running into one-night stands and to know that one of them was possibly seeing the same therapist as her best mate? The blonde from last night just watched her silently, waiting, with an amused expression.

“Bridget,” the receptionist called out, “I need you to sign this form.”

The blonde turned around slowly, her eyes seemingly reluctant to leave Franky’s face. Franky took a deep breath as her one-night stand turned her attention away, feeling able to breathe again. Those eyes were fucking intense. Gorgeous, but intense.

Franky watched as the blonde moved over to the reception to collect the form and that’s when the reality hit her. No. No, no, no, no no.

“Shit,” Franky uttered, dazed.

She’d fucked a shrink.

No. Worse.

She’d let a shrink fuck her.