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Hearts on a String

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“Bravery doesn’t mean not bein’ scared. It means bein’ scared and takin’ care of business anyway.”

Franky’s Unapologetic Guide to Living Life

 

“It’s shit.

“I know, Booms.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So what do we do about it?” Boomer looked over at Franky, like a soldier awaiting their orders from up high.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Franky shrugged helplessly. She gripped the steering wheel tighter as they cruised down the road. Franky had picked Boomer up earlier, wanting to take her out shopping for the day and maybe see a movie; anything to get her mind off of Maxine. They’d been driving for twenty minutes and Boomer had spent the entire time working herself up over the situation.

“Nah, c’mon Franks,” Boomer said, grinning as she watched her friend, “ya must have a plan. You’ve always got a plan.”

Franky sighed. Her foot that wasn’t on the pedal moved restlessly, causing her leg to jump up and down, and she furrowed her brow as she exhaled.

“I haven’t got a plan,” she admitted with a sad smile. Boomer looked at her for a minute, still grinning and waiting for the punch line. When that minute passed, the grin dropped and confusion took over her features. Franky always had a plan.

“You’re… this is a fuckin’ joke eh?”

Franky shook her head. She didn’t say anything more as she shifted gears and carried on down the road. Boomer opened her mouth, closed it, feeling anger grip her. She clenched her fists.

Puppies in jelly.

“Franky, you have to help do somethin’ about this!”

“She’s made up her mind, Booms-“

“- Nuh! She’s outta her fuckin’ tree, Franks-“

“- listen to me-“

“- she’s scared, she’s just really fuckin’ scared and-“

Boomer!

Boomer looked over mid-sentence as Franky hit the steering wheel with the palm of her hand. She was breathing heavily, jaw clenched, and she looked tense.

“Do you think,” Franky started, controlling her voice and trying to sound kind, “that maybe it’s you that’s scared?”

Boomer just stared, confused. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

“It’s okay to be scared, Booms,” Franky continued, and she felt tears start to sting her eyes, “we’re all scared. But we’ve gotta face that fear and do what’s right, and that means supporting her. Be brave for Maxi, yeah?”

Boomer looked at Franky, her mouth agape. Franky always had her back, always. And here she was, throwing around hollow words of comfort, no plans of action, no fire in her eyes. Boomer needed Franky. She needed Franky, not this, this…

“You’re shit,” Boomer whispered, her eyes going wide as the words slipped past her lips.

Franky recoiled, looking shocked. Her head whipped round to Boomer, one errant tear slipping down her cheek.

“What?” she asked uncertainly. Boomer had never said that to her. She’d been angry before, of course she had, but the venom behind her words pierced Franky’s heart like a knife.

“I said…” Boomer exhaled, feeling her cheeks redden in anger, “you’re. Shit.”

“Booms-“

“Don’t Booms me! Nuh!” Boomer yelled, unleashed, “you don’t give a single fuck about Maxi! You’re a shit friend! You never cared, only when it fucking suits you! Well guess what, Franky! YOU’RE SHIT!”

Franky hit the brakes, bringing the car to an abrupt halt in the middle of the road as Boomer’s tirade grew louder. She could feel the tendrils of anger slowly wrap around her and took a deep breath.

Boomer is just upset, she told herself, she is reacting out of fear.

A car horn blared behind them, causing them both to jump and for Boomer’s shouting to die down. Boomer looked at Franky, a sinking feeling in her gut as she felt the weight of her angry words.

Fuck this.

“Fuck off,” Boomer muttered sullenly, and unbuckled her belt, throwing the passenger door open and getting out.

“No, Booms, c’mon-“ Franky begged, another tear falling down her cheek, unnoticed by them both.

“Nuh, I need to get out or I’ll… I’ll fuckin’ punch ya.”

Boomer slammed the door shut and stormed off back the way they came.

Fuck,” Franky cried out, resting her forehead against the wheel. 

 

****

 

Allie watched Marie sleep from the doorway. She looked almost innocent, angelic, her pale and drawn face bathed in the moonlight that shone in the through the windows.

“I know what you’re thinking, bubba,” Kaz appeared behind her, leaning against the doorframe and crossing her arms, “but this is still the Marie that broke your heart. She used you.”

“I know,” Allie sighed, “I just still look at her and see…”

Kaz watched her silently, offering no reassurances or comfort. She knew Allie had still yet to come to terms fully with the extent of Marie’s betrayal. It would take time, but now with Marie awake she could maybe find some closure at last.

“I see the woman who took me in when no-one else would,” Allie finished finally, not taking her eyes off of the sleeping Marie, “the woman who cleaned me up, gave me food, offered me a bed- and later her bed. The woman who gave me comfort… and pleasure and happiness.”

“The same woman who sold you to men,” Kaz rebuked, though without anger or venom, “who got you hooked on ice, who used you and abused you, who emotionally manipulated you. The woman who scared you-“

“I know,” Allie whispered brokenly, stopping Kaz. She was shaking, trying so hard to figure out why Marie would do it. Why she would profess to love her and treat her so gently, caressing her face as she simultaneously pulled her hair, whispering devotion even as she hissed orders. There were two Marie Winters and Allie couldn’t quite connect them.

Which Marie would wake up to greet her now? The Marie who would forgive what was done to her, cradle Allie and say “I understand”, or the Marie who would draw blood and forever ruin the life that Allie held dear?

She was scared to find out.

“You don’t have to do this,” Kaz broke through her thoughts and Allie turned to look at her. There stood the woman who took the broken Allie in and pieced her back together. Kaz had her faults, but she wasn’t Marie. Kaz was everything Marie wasn’t and had spent the last few years protecting her from the evils of the woman in the bed. Kaz was Allie’s true guardian angel.

“Yes I do,” Allie smiled. A small smile.

“You can still walk away,” Kaz urged.

“No, I can’t. Not anymore.”

“Bubba please, let me-“

No, Kaz,” Allie responded sharply. She pulled Kaz into a hug, feeling the other woman’s arms winding round her body and pulling her in tight. They stayed like that a few moments, Kaz rubbing up and down Allie’s back soothingly, like a mother would, just as she did all those years ago.

“I’m scared,” Allie whispered into Kaz’s shoulder.

“I know,” Kaz replied, her voice quiet, “I know you are.”

Allie pulled away slowly, not wanting to break the connection. She looked into Kaz’s eyes, seeing resolution and reassurance reflected back in them.

“Okay,” Allie nodded, feeling brave, “let’s wake her up and see what she remembers about that night.”

 

****

 

Franky walked back into The Tap, her mood awful but needing some form of release. Dancing, drinking, fucking, she didn’t care right now. She had set up the date a week ago, before everything had gone to shit with Maxine’s revelation, having bumped into a raven-haired beauty at the local supermarket. They’d both reached for the same packet of pasta (Franky didn’t even buy pasta, she always made her own, but fuck it she’d clocked the woman three aisles away and was determined), and had exchanged numbers.

Ashley, Franky reminded herself as she searched the bar, her name is Ashley. Remember.

She had been reluctant to return to The Tap after the last time, though she was happy to see that there wasn’t a shrink in sight and-

Fuck.

She’d spoken too soon.

Sitting at the end of the bar, in the exact same spot as last time (Franky wondered briefly if she was frequent enough a visitor to have her own reserved seat), was Bridget fuckin’ Westfall. Franky couldn’t deny that she looked hot, wearing a white leather jacket over a basic V-neck top, black jeans and ankle boots once again with killer heels.

Don’t even think about it, Franky’s mind screamed, letting the shrink in ya pants was embarrassing enough, you don’t let her do it twice.

Franky frowned, watching Bridget scan the menu nonchalantly. She was alone. She felt something, was it fear? Must be fear. What if Bridget was here hoping to see her? Fuck, Franky couldn’t have that. She was flattered, sure, but a woman hoping to catch a glimpse of her screamed clingy.

She had to let Bridget know where they stood.

Which was miles apart, naturally.

She sidled up to her, trying not to look too inviting as she rested her arm and leant against the bar.

“Fancy seein’ you here.”

Bridget startled from the menu, looking up, and Franky once again felt the searing heat of those sapphire eyes, now looking at her bemused.

“Franky,” Bridget acknowledged, surprised. Her tone was husky, dangerous, trying to capture Franky. Franky knew these tricks all too well.

“Look, we need to get somethin’ straight, okay?” Franky said bluntly. Bridget nodded, “this isn’t happening again, us.”

Bridget opened her mouth to reply but Franky cut her off:

“It’s not that you weren’t good okay, you were great, I am woman enough to admit that,” Franky continued and Bridget smiled at that, letting out a huff of laughter, “but I don’t do shrinks as a rule, so it was a mistake. You can’t sit at the bar and wait for me to show up-“

“Franky, I-“

“- it’s just weird and a waste of your time, okay? So let’s just go about our lives. We had fun, but that’s it.”

“They only had cabernet sauvignon, I hope that’s…” a woman’s voice appeared behind Franky, trailing off as she reached them.

Bridget cleared her throat, slowly taking her sparkling eyes off of Franky and looking at the woman holding two glasses of wine. Franky felt her stomach drop, a flush creeping up her cheeks as embarrassment washed over her. Oh.

“Who are you?” the woman asked Franky.

“I’m-“

“This is Franky,” Bridget intervened smoothly, smiling, “she’s a friend. She saw me at the bar and just wanted to catch up. It’s been too long.”

The woman turned to Franky, eyebrows raised.

“Hello Franky,” she smiled, before swooping down and kissing Bridget’s cheek. Pissing on her territory, Franky thought, “I’m Laura.”

Franky was angry and mortified and trying to get out of this awkward date-crashing. Bridget was watching her like a hawk, curiously noting her every reaction. Franky hated that. She felt words bubble up before she could stop them;

“Nice to meet ya, Laura,” Franky pushed away from the bar, “if you’re thinking of goin’ home with her, I really recommend it. Great in the sack, really knows how to crook her fingers if ya get me. Have a good night.”

Laura’s mouth opened in shock, but Franky instead turned her attention to Bridget. There was no surprise, no anger, and no horror in Bridget’s eyes. Instead, she continued to watch Franky like she would a strange specimen. Interested.

Analyse the fuck outta that.

Franky bit her lip and turned around quickly. She walked away, leaving the two women watching her retreating back.

“Franky, wait!”

Franky heard Bridget call out, but she didn’t look back as she made a beeline for the door.

 

****

 

The pounding at the door was relentless and Maxine knocked into the coffee table as she practically ran over. She looked through the peephole and sighed as she saw Boomer’s tear stained face.

She really didn’t need this tonight.

Since their brunch as Milligan’s a few days ago, Boomer hadn’t spoken to her. Maxine was hurt, but she understood what she was doing; licking her wounds and trying to come to terms with it.

She was too.

Maxine had spoken to Bea twice, both times at her house and resulting in a lot of hugs and some tears, and Franky once when she had been taken to the beach. Allie had called her several times but seemed preoccupied and reluctant to talk about her own problems despite Maxine’s concerns. She needed to talk to Bea about that another day.

For now, Maxine wandered her house, trying to find an answer or some purpose in her impending death. She supposed that’s what most people did, trying to find sense in the senseless. She had just sat down when the abrupt knocking at the door sounded.

“Maxi!” Boomer yelled out, “let me in!”

Maxine debated walking away, but knew that this was going to happen sooner or later. She just hoped their friendship could survive this disagreement.

Not that it will matter much in the long run.

Maxine pulled the door open and, without a word, walked into the living room and sat down primly on the edge of one of the sofas, tightening her gown around her as a comfort. She heard the door close and flinched, expecting Boomer’s anger to slam it shut. She was pleasantly surprised when it closed quietly.

Boomer shuffled into the living room, standing in front of Maxine and wringing her hands in front of her. She looked uncomfortable but determined, a combination that made Maxine sit up and pay attention.

“What is it, hon?” Maxine asked cautiously, gauging her mood.

Boomer hastily wiped at her cheeks with her arms and took a deep breath.

“I… err…” she fumbled, “I spoke to Franky earlier.”

Maxine remained silent.

“I was fumin’, yeah, because of this shit, and your wantin’ to die an’ everythin’ and I took it out on Franky. Got outta the car and walked away.”

Boomer shifted her weight from foot to foot and her eyes darted over Maxine’s face.

“I called her ‘shit’. Told her she was a ‘shit’ friend,” Boomer’s lips turned up, a smile, “realised on my walk here that I’m the shit friend, y’know?”

“No,” Maxine shook her head, “you’re not-“

“- yeah I am,” Boomer responded, shrugging, “I’ve been a shit friend to you lately. Franky said in the car that I was scared and… I-I guess I am.”

Maxine wanted to cry, looking at Boomer’s dejected face. She was opening up, making herself vulnerable in an attempt to explain her feelings. Usually Boomer punched shit, it’s just what she did. Standing and talking through her feelings was not something that came easily to her, and Maxine was touched.

“I’m scared for ya, Maxi,” Boomer wiped at her nose with her forearm, “but… I’m gonna be brave yeah? I promise. I’ll be brave for you.”

“Thank you,” was all Maxine could say, the words catching in her throat and coming out quiet, “thank you.

“Yeah,” Boomer nodded, and a smile crept onto her face, “yeah, we are gonna get through this.”

Maxine nodded, unable to offer anything more.

“But,” Boomer halted uncertainly, debating whether to ruin the moment. She decided to plough on regardless, “I know you’re scared too, Maxi.”

Maxine stiffened, unable to deny the statement. Of course she was scared, it wasn’t exactly a secret though she naturally tried to hide behind her optimism and determination. Boomer was watching her, taking her in.  

“Everyone thinks I’m stupid,” Boomer said.

“No-one thinks you are, hon.”

“Yeah,” Boomer’s smile turned sad, “you all do. I know I’m the brawn and not the brain, but I see stuff. You said you’re scared of losin’, like, who you are and shit and I get it, but… if we’re all bein’ brave, then you need to be brave too, okay?”

Maxine stood up slowly and opened her mouth to respond, but Boomer shook her head and she fell silent once more. Boomer took a step forward and hesitated slightly, before deciding something in her head and finally moving over to Maxine. She placed both her hands on the sides of Maxine’s face. It was an uncertain gesture, with Boomer never being one to initiate such tender actions, and Maxine felt a lump in her throat as Boomer looked at her seriously.

“You can be scared, Maxi, I’d be shittin’ meself. But y’know what? You can also be brave with us, for us too. Tits or no tits, yeah?”

Boomer finished, taking a deep breath, and watched her nervously. Maxine looked back at her, but it wasn’t just a customary look she gave when listening to her friends, it was a real look. A look that was assessing, questioning, deciding. Maxine was stunned by Boomer’s words, and that flooded her with guilt. Maybe I do on some level consider Boomer less intelligent, she thought.

“Right,” Boomer’s arms dropped back to her sides awkwardly and she looked over at the front door, not expecting Maxine to respond, “I’ll just… yeah.”

She walked slowly to the door, until she heard Maxine’s voice call out behind her:

“Booms?”

“Yeah?” Boomer turned around, her hand on the doorhandle, ready to go.

“I was going to order pizza,” Maxine smiled softly, “want to stay?”

Boomer grinned.