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Hearts on a String

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“Never make the same mistake twice. I mean it. If that fancy cocktail fucked you up the first time, don’t order it again.”

Franky’s Unapologetic Guide to Living Life

 

 

Franky sat at the bar, watching her glass as she swirled the whisky listlessly. The Monk’s Retreat was emptier than usual tonight, no doubt everyone had already moved on to the clubs or out onto the streets. It had been an hour since she had stormed out on Bridget and her date.

Laura, Franky scoffed, ‘Oh hi I’m Laura, I buy cabernet sauvignon like a fuckin’ moneybag’.

She didn’t know why it bothered her so much; maybe it was that she didn’t like being embarrassed in the situation, or maybe it was that she had never been checkmated at her own game. Bridget was clearly a player too, one who seemingly was five steps ahead of her. Franky felt bad for her parting jibe, it was childish and surely ruined their evening, but she also felt a small amount of satisfaction in it.

Laura, pfft.

“Did you say something?” the bartender asked, turning around from her place stacking glasses. Franky realised she had spoken out loud.

“Nothin’,” Franky said despondently, “another whisky please.”

The bartender offered a warm smile and moved to find the bottle. Franky contemplated her briefly, considering. Her ego had taken a hit, maybe if she-

Nah, she decided, surprising herself with the vehemence of her decision.

“Franky?”

Franky sighed, recognising that voice. That smooth, soft cadence.

“How did ya find me?”

Bridget took Franky’s question as permission and sat herself down on the bar stool next to her, crossing her legs and drumming her fingers on the bar top. She smiled.

“My brilliant skills of deduction of course,” she leaned slightly closer, as if revealing a great secret, “I looked in every bar down the street. This was the last.”

Franky’s lips quirked before she caught herself and frowned.

“Where’s Laura?”

Why the fuck do you care? Franky scolded herself.

“I don’t know, she left pretty quickly,” Bridget admitted. She actually sounded slightly amused by it all.

“She’s probably already hitting on Ashley,” Franky joked in return.

“Ashley?”

“My date for the night.”

“Well,” Bridget smiled cheekily, “I hope she likes cabernet sauvignon.”

“I’m sorry,” Franky said suddenly.

An honest apology. Franky felt a fraction guilty for fucking up all of their evenings so phenomenally, though she was also glad it had turned out this way. Not that she was jealous of Bridget’s attention, of course.

“Thank you,” Bridget signalled to the bartender and ordered herself a glass of shiraz. When it arrived she sipped at it and closed her eyes, like she was drinking sweet nectar, “mmm, at least this bar has shiraz.”

Franky snorted, and took a swig of her whisky.

“So was that a second date or…?” Franky asked, letting the rest of the question hang in the air.

“Third,” Bridget replied.

“Third?” Franky clarified, thinking quickly, “so you had already been on a date with her when we…”

“I honestly didn’t expect her to call me after the first-“

“Nuh,” Franky cut her off with a grin, “you’re a player, Gidget. I knew it.”

“It’s Bridget,” Bridget responded dryly, taking another sip of wine, “and I’m not a ‘player’. That night when I took you home, I’d had a bad day at work and I just needed… it’s not something I usually do.”

“I prefer Gidget.”

Bridget looked at her, eyes sparkling once more and she smiled and gave a small nod of acceptance.

“So, Franky,” Bridget looked at her curiously, “why did you feel the need to mark your territory?”

“That’s not what I did,” Franky shook her head stubbornly. Nuh, no fuckin’ way, “and don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“Ask nosey fuckin’ questions and try to get in my head. Don’t need you there.”

Bridget laughed, and took another drink from her glass.

“What’s so funny?”

“You’re so sure I want to get in your head,” Bridget replied smoothly with a coy grin, “what if, after all this, I really did just want to get in your pants?”

Franky snorted. This Bridget had a sense of humour, she’d give her that. She needed to put a stop to this now though, before she got any big ideas. No way was she making the same mistake twice. Those were the rules.

“This isn’t going to happen again,” she said resolutely.

Bridget looked unsurprised and merely raised her eyebrows. Franky elaborated.

We are not going to happen again. It was a mistake.”

Bridget sighed.

“I’m just here to enjoy my drink,” she said, holding up her nearly empty glass of wine.

“Right,” Franky nodded, “right. Yeah.”

 

****

 

“Oh fuck! Yes!”

Franky cried out as she felt the waves of her orgasm crash over her. Bridget bit her earlobe gently, sighing as her fingers continued to move against Franky to prolong the beautiful moment. Franky’s hips continued to roll against Bridget’s hand and she pushed her head back against the pillow, arching her neck and letting out a strangled moan.

“Fuck,” she panted finally after a moment, feeling the loss acutely as Bridget slowed her fingers and pulled them out of Franky’s jeans.

Bridget hummed in response, and her hand laid on Franky’s stomach, Franky’s top a barrier between them still. Franky hadn’t mentioned it this time round, but Bridget seemingly remembered that the clothes were to be kept on, and she had accepted it as her hands had travelled.

Franky lay in the bed, still trying to catch her breath, and Bridget laid beside her, head resting on her hand with her elbow supporting her weight. Franky looked at her, meeting her gaze levelly, before returning her eyes to the ceiling.

Never repeat the same mistake twice.

Fuck,” Franky sighed.

This was a mess.

She rolled her body over and landed herself on top of Bridget, pinning her hands above her head on the pillow. Bridget laughed, the challenge in her eyes. Franky grinned.

When in Rome, I guess.

 

****

 

Bea looked down at her phone for the tenth time that evening. She had a text written out on her screen, ready to send, all she had to do was press the screen.

So simple.

She had re-written the text several times, yo-yoing from sarcastic to pleading to uncaring to apologetic. She wondered if Allie even cared about how her text would come across.

Probably not, she thought sadly.

Bea had thought that since their tentative truce at Milligan’s they might have fallen back into their familiar warmth. However, as soon as they left the restaurant it was as if once again Allie had disappeared off of the face of the earth, and Bea had little energy now to keep sending texts in the hopes of an answer. And so here she was, her next appointment with Bridget Westfall tomorrow and again contemplating whether Allie would be there to give her a ride.

Apparently Allie had better things to do.

Bea’s thumb hovered over the ‘send’ icon, hesitating. Should she risk it?

It was something so simple and yet to Bea it was the world. She wasn’t used to being without Allie’s communication, not for years now. She was a constant in her life, even more-so than Franky, Maxine, and Boomer. Allie was her best friend.

And in the space of just over a week it felt like she was losing her, with Allie slowly withdrawing. It was stupid really, Bea told herself, feeling so terrible over just a week of silence.

She wondered briefly when Allie had become that important in her life. Why didn’t she care when Franky didn’t text her for a week? Why was Allie so special? Why did she-

“I’m not gay,” Bea said aloud, startling herself. She chuckled incredulously as she heard the words and shook her head. Where the fuck did that come from?

Allie was her friend. Her best friend.

That was it. She was missing her best friend.

Bea hit ‘delete’, holding her thumb down as the letters disappeared in front of her eyes. Probably for the best that she didn’t talk to Allie right now, she likely wouldn’t be able to hide her hurt or her worry. At this rate anyway, Allie would be a no-show again.

Not making that mistake twice, Bea decided resolutely, I’ll just drive myself.

God help whoever was on the road with her.

 

****

 

It was raining outside, Allie noted absently. What had started as the odd droplet and then light spray had now turned to sheets of water plummeting down, thundering against the grass outside the murky window. She never liked that sound.

 

“You get back here NOW, Allie! You have no fucking idea what I can do to you, you- FUCK!”

The rolling thunder, the heavy beats of rain against the ground, the screeching of tires as-

 

“Allie?”

Allie jolted, looking wide-eyed down at the bed in front of her. Marie lay there, her hand outstretched and upturned in a gesture for Allie to hold it. She had a lot more colour now she had woken up, and Kaz had finally tried feeding her something beyond soup. It had only been a week since Marie had woken up, but to Allie it had already felt like a lifetime. A week with a hangman’s noose around her neck and the floor ready to drop any second.

Marie moved her fingers, a “come on” signal to beckon Allie and command. In response, Allie sat up straight in her wooden chair and her hand moved as if on instinct, answering Marie’s call just like old time. She caught it in time, curling her fingers into a fist and dropping them back to her lap.

Marie didn’t own her. Not anymore.

 

“Don’t you dare talk to me about what you deserve!” Marie was pulling at Allie’s arm roughly now, her eyes wild and angry. The drugs always did that to her, particularly now after-

“Marie, I’m going! Nothing you say will- You don’t fucking own me!” Allie wrenched her arm away, clutching at her box of meagre belongings with her other arm. She was soaked to the skin as she stormed down the road, Marie hot on her heels.

“I owned you the minute I fucking took you in! Do you hear me!?” Marie screamed, “You have everything because of me! I fucking own you!”

Marie lunged forward and grabbed at Allie’s free hand-

 

Marie did still own her, Allie realised. Even now. With just one memory, Marie had complete control over her life. Allie put her hand out, resigned, and clasped Marie’s own. Marie looked surprised, her eyebrows rising, but smiled in response before she looked around her room.

“I admit I’m surprised,” Marie said, “that the Karen Proctor would take me in and care for me, but I suppose she would do anything for you.”

Allie stared at her.

 

Call Kaz.

Allie’s hands shook as she pulled her mobile phone out of her pocket, shielding it from the rain as she impatiently hit ‘dial’. One ring, two ring, three ring-

“Kaz.”

“Bubba? What’s-?”

“- I-I think she’s dead.”

Allie stayed on the phone, listen to Kaz’ soothing voice as she felt the comedown from her last hit of ice mixed with the cold rain pummelling down, making her feel for the first time in hours. Feel everything.

 

“Kaz kept you alive-“ Allie started, only to be cut off with an eyeroll and a snort.

“Yes, so she tells me every day,” Marie responded, “healed me from death’s door.”

“She has called in every favour, every favour, to make sure you’re here now, awake. Stop making it difficult for her.”

“Me? Difficult?” Marie asked innocently, “come now, Allie, you know I’m a pussy cat.”

“Marie.”

The seriousness of Allie’s tone caused Marie to pause, realising that she should show her gratitude. Things would go a lot more smoothly right now if she acknowledged it. Marie gave a small nod. It was enough, and Allie sighed. If anything, she might be able to save Kaz from this fucked up situation, just like Kaz had saved her.

 

“Is she dead?” Allie cried out, wiping her nose, “I-is she dead?”

“Listen to me,” Kaz gripped her forearms gently, shaking her head as rain tracked down her face, “it’s okay, Allie. It’ll be okay. I need you to get out of here. Go into the garage and get out of the rain. I’ll be five minutes.”

“We should call the police,” Allie said suddenly, feeding off of the adrenaline running through her, “fuck, Kaz! We need to call an ambulance-“

“-no,” Kaz barked and Allie flinched, so she softened her tone and attempted a smile, “bubba, I need you to listen to me. She can’t hurt you anymore. I’ll handle this, okay? Just get out of the rain and wait for me.”

Allie let out a sob and nodded. Kaz hushed her tenderly, moving her hands up to cradle Allie’s face.

“I’ve got you, okay?” she smiled reassuringly, though Allie could see the fear in her eyes even as she tried to hide it, “I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

 

“Karen said that you wanted to talk to me?” Marie asked, and Allie refocused.

“Yes. I need to know what you remember about that night,” Allie leaned forward in the chair, one hand still clutching Marie’s as her other arm rested on her knees.

This was it. The moment of truth.

“I…” Marie looked away, furrowing her brow, “I remember… that Danny…”

 

“Marie! Let me fucking go!” Allie walked down the stairs, juggling her box as Marie tried pulling at her shirt from behind. They passed several photographs on the wall, charting a young boy through his childhood and into his teenage years. Marie looked at them as they passed and tried harder. 

“No! You will not leave me!” Marie ordered, “You can’t leave me! You’re all I’ve got, Allie!”

“I’m going Marie and you can’t stop me!” Allie continued, her mind hazy as the ice still made its way through her. She had noted the photographs too, “get off of me! I know you miss Danny-“

“- Don’t you fucking say his name!” Marie slammed her hand into Allie’s shoulder even as she continued to beg and pull, “you’ve got no right!”

“He’s gone! Okay?” Allie finally turned around at the front door, screaming, “He’s dead! Holding on to me won’t change that!”

 

“Danny’s dead,” Marie blinked back tears and took a shaky breath, “the first thing I wondered when I woke up was where my Danny was and I remembered that he… he’s gone.”

Allie squeezed Marie’s hand tighter in comfort. Marie looked down at their entwined hands and her lips quirked in the ghost of a smile. She squeezed back.

“I’m sorry,” Allie whispered gently, “I’m sorry you had to remember that.”

“I also think… I remember a car,” Marie carried on, her eyes flickering around the room as she tried to pull details. She looked out the window, “it… it was raining. Like now.”

Allie shuddered.

Fuck.

 

Allie slammed the car door closed, soaked to the skin and shivering as both the drugs pumping through her system and the rain outside combined. She pushed the keys in, ignoring the heavy beating of the hand on her window.

“Allie! Open the fucking door right now! Do you hear me!? You will get out of that fucking car!”

The engine roared to life as Allie turned the keys and she smiled, dazed.

The beating on the window quieted, and the voice grew distant.

She was free.

 

She’d never be free.

Allie remained silent, watching Marie with a blank expression. She couldn’t think properly, her heart was racing, and her palms grew sweaty.

“It’s hazy,” Marie sighed, closing her eyes, “I remember pain. A lot of pain. It was like I couldn’t breathe. Like I had been hit by a b-“ she stopped, her eyes blinking open. They shot to Allie, who felt like the floor was dropping from beneath her.

“Allie,” Marie gripped her hand, the realisation sparking an energy in her, “I think I was hit by a car.”

Allie released Marie’s hand quickly. This was it, the moment of truth.

“Do you know who hit you, Marie?”

She wished she was numb as she felt the dread build.

 

Allie reversed the car hurriedly, stealing the opportunity now Marie had disappeared from the window. She was numb all through and yet still felt a dull excitement build.

I’m coming, Kaz. I’m coming.

She pushed forward, the rain beating down on all side of the car and hitting the windshield heavily.

“Window wipers, window wipers,” Allie looked at all of the controls on the dashboard as she hit the accelerate to get away. She could hear Marie again, her voice growing closer.

“You get back here NOW, Allie! You have no fucking idea what I can do to you, you- FUCK!”

 

Allie watched her closely.

Marie stared at Allie, her eyes piercing her, and Allie felt fear grip her heart vice-like. She knew, she knew, she knew…

Marie remained silent, staring at Allie unblinking.

“Marie,” Allie urged, her heart pounding, “I need to know; do you know who hit you?”

 

Allie heard the scream, felt her foot hit the brake on instinct, and heard the tires screech in protest. She felt the impact as she was thrown forward in her seat, her head hitting the steering wheel. As the car came to an abrupt halt, Allie was then flung back, hitting the seat. There was a pulsing in her head, the rain now thundering both outside and in her brain, rhythmic and in time with her racing heart.

What have you done?

Marie.

Allie opened her car door in a daze, unthinking of her own injuries. She slid out of her seat slowly and stumbled around the car, to the front. She leaned against the bonnet. Marie lay in a heap on the ground, illuminated by the one working headlight.

Allie pushed herself away from the car and vomited, any numbness exiting with her lunch. Everything suddenly crashed into her.

Marie was dead. She’d killed Marie.

She couldn’t even cry.

 

Allie felt a tear slip down her cheek. She wiped it away, but Marie didn’t acknowledge it. She was still silent, watching her.

It was all over, Allie knew it. She could feel it. Marie would shop her in, shop in Kaz for helping. There would be no mercy, Marie would come after them with everything she had and-

“No.”

Allie startled. She rocked back in her chair.

“What?” Allie breathed, uncertain.

“No,” Marie shook her head, smiling sadly, disappointed, “I don’t remember.”

Allie was reeling, shocked. It couldn’t be… after all these years, all of the worrying, the fear, the guilt. She opened her mouth, trying to figure out what to say.

“Y-you’re sure?” she finally settled on, needing absolute certainty.

“I just remember the car, the rain, and a lot of pain. I don’t remember any more, I’m sorry.”

Marie reached out with her hand again and Allie clasped it once more, this time in relief. She was saved, Kaz was saved, they were saved. 

“What I do know though,” Marie stroked her thumb across Allie’s knuckles, “is that you saved me. You brought me to Karen and now here I am. I’m alive. We’re alive.”

There was that look in Marie’s eyes, that old familiar look that drew Allie in. She knew that Marie was doing it and knew what it meant. She wanted to fight it, that warmth and safety and what she always thought was love that came from Marie’s open gaze.

Don’t do this, her mind warned her rationally, don’t make this mistake again.

“Allie.”

Marie’s honeyed tone, the gentle tug at Allie’s hand.

“Sweetheart,” she crooned as Allie obliged and rearranged herself, sitting on the edge of the bed, “we’re going to be okay.”

Allie thought of vibrant red hair, a raspy voice, and warm brown eyes, even as she felt herself being pulled under, into something familiar once more.