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Hearts on a String

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“Ya can lie to everybody but yourself. That shit is hazardous to your health.”

Franky’s Unapologetic Guide to Living Life

 

 

“Red!” Franky shouted out, wandering into her house without a single consideration for Bea’s privacy. She knew she was always welcome at Bea’s; it’s not like she had a life. Franky knew that Bea hadn’t brought a single man home since she started back on the dating scene.

“Franky?” Bea came out of the kitchen quickly, “it’s 7 in the morning what are you… oh God, you just came from a hook-up didn’t you?”

Franky grinned and nodded to the kitchen.

“Not gonna offer me a coffee? I need it, was up all night if ya get what I mean.”

Bea rolled her eyes and moved back into the kitchen as Franky walked into the living room, dropping herself on the sofa with a contented sigh. She put her feet up on the coffee table and waited until Bea came in with a mug in each hand, pushing her boots off the table with a nudge of her legs.

“Fuck sake,” Bea said, handing a mug over, “how do you find so many lesbians in one area?”

“We’re everywhere,” Franky laughed, “but this wasn’t a one-night stand. It was a second, if ya can believe it.”

“What, you just forgot you slept with her already?”

“Ouch, I’m not that bad,” Franky took a large gulp of coffee, “nuh, I was waitin’ for my date to show and came across your glorious shrink again. We got talkin’, I thought why the fuck not and we spent all night occupied. I’m starting to think they’re right about shrinks bein’ able to help. Just what I needed.”

Bea groaned and slammed her cup down on the table in front of them.

Fuck, Franky!”

Franky startled. She expected Bea to roll her eyes and gently scold her about sleeping with the same woman twice, maybe even make a half-hearted comment about Bridget being her therapist but this… Bea was angry.

“You’re turnin’ the colour of your hair, Red, what’s the problem?” Franky asked warily.

“You fucked my therapist. Again.

“Right?”

“Franky, this is the person that I am expected to share all my personal problems and worries and… and…” Bea threw her hands up in the air in defeat, “concerns with, and you’re there with your fucking tongue jammed in God knows where and… how am I supposed to trust her if you’re sleeping with her?”

“Whoa,” Franky defended herself, sitting upright, “first of all, you need to give Gidget more credit-“

Gidget? You gave her a nickname?”

“Oh fuck off, it was flirting,” Franky shook her head, “and second of all, who says I’m gonna see her again anyway? It’s not like we’re fucking dating, it was just a casual hook-up, I swear.”

“And she knows that?” Bea asked, eyebrows raised.

“Fuck, Red, she plays the game better than I do. She knows that this means nothing.”

“Okay,” Bea exhaled, grabbing her coffee again, “you need to call it off, Franky. I don’t care how casual it is, she’s my therapist and I need to be able to trust her. Please.”

“No sweat,” Franky smiled reassuringly, “it wasn’t serious, it’ll be no problem calling it off, okay? You know I’d do anythin’ for ya, Red. You always come first.”

Bea nodded, feeling slightly guilty but also justified in her request.

“Thanks, Franky.”

“So what’s this really about?”

Bea almost lost the grip of her mug as she felt her stomach leap. What does she-

“W-what?”

“You overreacted big time about me and Gidget having some fun,” Franky shrugged, finishing her drink and placed it haphazardly down on the table, “there’s gotta be more to it than just the trust thing. What’s up?”

“Nothing is up,” Bea laughed it off, but even she could hear how forced it was. Franky grinned and her eyes lit up.

“Holy shit, you wanna tell her something big and you don’t want me gettin’ wind of it. Is that it?”

Bea held her breath. She certainly had a topic in mind for her appointment with Bridget today, but what if Franky figured out her-

“Are ya finally thinkin’ about bangin’ a guy again?”

She released her breath at Franky’s question, and this time her laughter was genuine. Relieved. She wasn’t quite ready to divulge her inner thoughts, especially to Franky. She was a great friend, but not exactly discreet.

“No,” Bea shook her head, “definitely not.”

“I mean I’m glad because,” Franky imitated sticking her fingers down her throat, “but maybe Westfall can help you there, y’know?”

“Franky, I don’t-“

“-I know, I know,” Franky sighed, “you don’t want to talk about it. I get it. Just… I hope she can help ya with whatever is going on.”

“I hope so too,” Bea smiled for the first time since Franky walked through her door, “and speaking of… I have an appointment with her this afternoon. Are you free to drop me off?”

Franky thought quickly over her schedule.

“No problem, Red,” she grinned, “I’ll swing by later. Can’t pick you up though, got a meeting.”

“That’s okay,” Bea responded quickly, “I can catch a bus.”

“Nuh,” Franky shook her head, an idea formulating in her mind. Kill two birds with one stone, “I’ll sort it, just be ready to go at three, okay?”

“Thanks Franky.”

 

****

 

Franky got in her car an hour later, letting out a sigh as she did up her seatbelt. Their conversation had been light following Bea warning her off, but still she knew that something was bothering Bea.

She hoped that her plan would help. Maybe Bea would figure out what she really wanted then, especially if she was going to talk to Bridget.

Speaking of…

Franky pulled out her mobile phone, ready to call Bridget and let her know they couldn’t screw around again. Not that Franky had any intention of it, twice was quite enough. She was over it now, over whatever Bridget represented to her.

Gidget would know exactly what, her mind told her smugly.

She opened her phone, before cursing as she realised she hadn’t bothered with her number. She never did. A quick google and she was calling Life Solutions, praying that this would be easy.

Life Solutions, Melissa speaking,” a chirpy voice greeted her, “how can I help you today?”

“Uh- hi,” Franky started, “is Ms Westfall in yet?”

She came in about ten minutes ago. Did you have an appointment?”

“No. I just need to speak to her quickly over the phone if that’s possible?”

"Who should I say is calling?”

Franky sighed noisily.

“Tell her… tell her it’s Franky Doyle calling. She’ll know who I am.”

“One moment please.”

Franky went to hold music, some disgustingly upbeat jazz tune, for just long enough that her ego took a hit. C’mon Gidget. Eventually, the music stopped.

“Bridget Westfall speaking,” came the familiar husky voice, and Franky closed her eyes involuntarily. Get a grip, Doyle.

“Hi Gidget.”

Franky? Melissa said it was you but I didn’t…” the voice sounded surprised, “what can I do for you?”

A lot of things.

“Look, I’m just calling to let you know that we can’t hook up anymore, yeah? Red- uh, Bea is flipping out over it and she’s my best friend, and I can’t do that to her so we can’t screw around again.”

There was silence on the other end of the line and Franky bit her lip in anticipation. She didn’t know why, but she was actually nervous to hear Bridget’s reaction. She didn’t have to wait long.

“Okay,” Bridget responded and Franky detected amusement in her tone, “and just to be clear; you called me up to tell me that we won’t be having sex a third time?”  

Franky took a deep breath and contemplated her next move. She’d just shown a card that she had really wanted to keep back, but… fuck it.

“Yeah I didn’t want to ghost ya, okay?” Franky snapped, “you deserve better than that, Gidge. Yeah, okay, bye then.”

“Franky, wait-“

Franky hit ‘end call’ and threw the phone down in the passenger seat. She rested her head against the headrest and brought her hands up to grip the steering wheel as she thought over what she had just done.

She had called a woman out of a desire not to hurt her feelings.

Stupid, stupid, stupid-

“Fuck!” She shouted, hitting her steering wheel with the palm of her hand. Franky took deep breath.

What had Bridget done to her?

“And this is why we have the rules.”

 

****

 

The silence in the room was deafening.

Bridget sat comfortably, one leg crossed over the other, tapping out a rhythm, a song only she could hear, against the arm of the lime green chair. She watched curiously, waited patiently, for Bea to say something.

Anything.

It had been nearly twenty minutes.

Every question Bridget had initiated had been met with sullen resistance at best, and silence at worst. Though she always tried her best to let her clients talk in their own time, Bridget was starting to get a little impatient.

“What are we doing here, Bea?”

Bea, sitting ramrod straight with her arms crossed, startled at the question and her warm brown eyes glanced up at Bridget quickly before averting to her lap. She shrugged and Bridget sighed.

“You asked for these sessions,” Bridget attempted again, trying to duck her own head to meet Bea’s eyes, “how am I supposed to help you if you spend the entire time in silence?”

Bea huffed, frustrated. It was difficult enough for her not to have cancelled the appointment, for her to sit in the chair and face whatever was going on in her mind. She didn’t go through all of that just to be chastised by Franky’s latest conquest.

“Oh you want to help me do you?” Bea shot out.

“Of course I do. Why else would we be here if I didn’t?”

“I don’t know, figured you just wanted to ask after my other friends, see how many more you can sleep with.”

“You’re upset,” Bridget stated, with no bite to her words though a firm tone told Bea that she had just crossed a line with the psychologist, “let’s talk about that.”

Bea scoffed and looked at the wall, immediately feeling childish about her comment. She contemplated her options. Bea really didn’t want to talk about it, it would make her look petty and jealous and likely clingy. However, if anyone could help…

“What are you feeling right now, Bea?”

Bea looked over at Bridget, before sighing. She dropped her hands in her lap, fiddling nervously. There was something about Bridget, her quiet calm, her endless patience, which encouraged Bea. She had promised herself she would at least try to figure this out.

“I feel…” Bea started, trying to figure out the best word to sum up her feelings, “lonely.”

Bridget nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I feel lonely and like, in my head, I am lost o-or out at sea and no-one is there to save me, you know? It’s stupid but it’s like I could drown at any moment in my own thoughts and nobody would care.”

“Last session you talked to me about your emotional support network,” Bridget said gently, “you said that your friends help you a lot; has something changed to make you feel this way?”

“Well,” Bea said uneasily, “I guess my best friend has been a bit distant lately.”

“And that’s… Allie?”

“Yeah. Like I said, it’s stupid. She’s just been distant, I don’t know, and I just… I’m scared that she’s bored of me… or that I’m being too clingy and it’s going to annoy her, and she wants to get away.”

“First of all, it’s not stupid, Bea. I want you to stop saying that.”

Bridget plucked at the chair arm as she contemplated her next sentence. She wanted to help Bea unpack these thoughts, help her re-examine them and reframe them. However, she was also very curious as to the process of these thoughts and where they came from. Allie was important, clearly.

“Secondly,” Bridget ventured, “why do you think you might be ‘clingy’? Why do you feel anxious because she has become distant?”

Bea remained silent. That’s the question, Bea thought, why does it bother me so much?

“You and I talked a lot about Allie last session,” Bridget prompted, leaning forward in her chair now, “and I know how essential she’s been in helping you get comfortable with people again, and how important that friendship is to you. I can imagine a sudden reversal of that would feel… drastic.”

Bea nodded, relieved that Bridget seemed to grasp what she wanted to say but couldn’t.

“It makes sense that you would feel this way, Bea, and whether you consider yourself too clingy or not isn’t the point here, though we’ll circle back to that; you’re saying that you miss Allie. I encourage you to think about why that might be.”

A minute went by in silence. Bridget watched Bea curiously, waiting, and Bea stared off at the wall. After her thoughts last night, Bea wanted to divulge to Bridget and she wanted to ask what it all meant. She was confused, and she hoped that this session might help her. Bea bit her lip. She searched Bridget’s eyes, not exactly sure what she was looking for. She had trust issues; she knew that. Still…

“Talk to me, Bea.”

“I want to,” Bea admitted, “but… you’re not going to tell Franky any of this, are you?”

“I would never divulge what we discuss, Bea, with anyone,” Bridget reassured, clasping her hands together, “and I won’t be seeing Franky again, you know that. We’ve only had one session so far, but I think we work well together, yeah? I would like the opportunity to gain your trust.”

“Okay,” Bea said, her voice coming out as an uncertain whisper, “So… you… you like women, right? You date them and everything?”

If Bridget was startled by the direction their conversation had taken, she didn’t show it. She smiled, a small knowing smile, like she knew the end destination and was just enjoying the ride.

“I think you know that I do.”

“And you’re not interested in men at all?”

“I dated men when I was younger,” Bridget shrugged, “as do a lot of women who later identify as lesbian.”

“So you’re definitely lesbian and not… bisexual?”

“We haven’t really had a chance yet to discuss your views on love and relationships, have we?” Bridget leaned back in her chair, comfortable, “You know, I’ve known women who have identified as straight their whole lives, women who have been married- some multiple times- and who have become attracted to or fallen in love with a woman.”

“O-Oh yeah?” Bea tried to sound disinterested but stopped herself. Bridget was trying to help her after all, “and what advice would you give these women?”

“I tell them to forget the terminology, the terminology isn’t important,” Bridget responded softly, her eyes glittering with reassurance, “I tell them to just see how they feel in the moment, that is what is important… because if you’ve fallen for someone then…”

Bridget paused and Bea was hanging on to her every word, hungry for some miracle answer.

“Well, fuck the labels.”

It came instantly, a soothing balm delivered to quiet Bea’s fears. She grinned at Bridget as she felt relief coursing through her.

Fuck the labels.

 

****

 

“We had a great session today, Bea,” Bridget said warmly as she opened the door for Bea and followed her into the waiting room, “I feel like you’re really starting to trust. Big step.”

“Thanks for today,” Bea responded, “and for everything. I know I asked personal questions of you but-“

Bridget waved her off.

“Don’t think about it,” she reassured her, “if at any point I didn’t want to answer, I wouldn’t have.”

They walked towards the reception.

“Have you got a ride home?” Bridget asked, craning her neck and looking around curiously, hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of dark hair, maybe a tattoo, a cheeky grin…

“Franky said she’d arrange for someone to pick me up,” Bea said, noting the brief look of disappointment on Bridget’s face before she could cover it, “they should be here any…”

Bea’s voice trailed off as she saw Allie hurry into the building, looking rushed. She looked around briefly and caught sight of Bea, her tired eyes lighting up, and Bea felt her breath catch in her throat.

Of course Franky would do that.

“Bea!” Allie called out, “I thought I’d missed you, traffic was a bitch.”

Bridget looked between Bea and Allie, her expression thoughtful, then amused, before back to passive.

“I will leave you with your friend,” she said with a smile, “I’ll see you next week same time?”

Bea nodded, her eyes not leaving Allie who tripped slightly on the carpet as she moved toward her. Bridget walked over to the reception, still smiling.

“Allie,” Bea said, confused, “how did Franky manage to rope you in? I thought you’d be busy?”

Allie looked crestfallen at Bea’s comment, but she perked right back up.

“She called me, so I dropped what I was doing of course.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Bea said though she smiled, “but thank you.”

“No problem-o,” Allie grinned, “so let’s get a wiggle on, I’ve left the car running.”

They both walked to the car in a comfortable silence before getting in. Allie looped her arm around Bea’s seat and looked out the back as she reversed. Before her last session, Bea would have felt mildly uncomfortable at Allie’s proximity but shrugged it off as her own physical boundaries making her breath catch in her throat. Now, however, she felt some newfound liberation, an inner peace coming from within that only she (and likely Bridget) knew about, and instead of feeling uncomfortable, she smiled. 

As Allie edged the car forward out of the car park and on to the main road, she noted the unusually relaxed Bea.

“So…” Allie said casually, with a smile of her own, “you seem lighter.”

“I am,” Bea nodded, “I feel really good actually.”

“That’s great,” Allie enthused, keeping her eyes on the road though she kept glancing at her travel companion, “I can really see it- not that you don’t always look good but…”

“I get you,” Bea chuckled, “but yeah I feel comfortable you know? For the first time in a while I feel comfortable in my own… self.”

“Wow,” Allie said as they picked up speed on a busier road, “that was some session then.”

“Yeah, it really was.”

Allie nodded, humming away as they carried on their journey. Bea looked over at Allie once, twice, debating whether she should say anything.

Fuck it.

“I think I want to try dating women.”

Allie hit the brakes hard.