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Hearts on a String

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"Pining over someone you can’t have is like hugging a cactus. The more you do it, the more it hurts. STOP. HUGGING. THE. CACTUS.

Can’t believe I need to fucking spell that out for you."

- Franky's Unapologetic Guide to Living Life

 




The bar was packed.

Franky dodged several drunk customers as she pushed her way through to the bar. She raised a hand and the bartender nodded in recognition, pulling out a glass for Franky’s choice tipple. She threw a note down, waved off the change, and turned to survey the room. 

It was a bar she frequented often for a few drinks before home, but tonight she had decided to stick around a little longer, see where the evening took her. There were several bars now off-limits to her, on the rare chance that she would spot Bridget in the crowd.

She didn’t need Bridget anyway. Sure they’d had a great few nights together, but at the end of the day what they had was merely convenient, fun, and low risk. Franky didn’t do relationships, not after Erica Davidson, and so she could just as easily drop what she had, no messy break-up needed, and move on to her next casual fling.

Speak of the devil. A woman over the far side of the room caught her eye, throwing her a sultry wink as she slowly sipped her drink.

Score.

Franky pushed herself off the bar, but hesitated.

The woman in question was tall. Taller than Franky anticipated.

Maybe not.

She averted her gaze, scanning over by the tables. 

Another woman sat laughing at her friend’s antics and, upon catching Franky’s gaze, smiled beautifully. 

Brunette? Nuh.

Franky sighed, and her eyes rested on another woman. She was petite and blonde, her back turned to Franky. Franky’s heart leapt. No way , could it be-

She turned around and Franky’s caught her features, features she didn’t recognise.

Not interested, her mind supplied unhelpfully and Franky practically growled. She downed her drink, slammed the glass down on the bar behind her and stormed toward the door.

This was impossible.

As the warm evening air hit her, Franky pulled out her phone to look at the time.

9:13pm.

Fuck.

Franky looked around, debating her next move. She knew she wasn’t going home with anyone tonight, that was certain. She began typing:

 

Brunch at Milligans? 11am. Emergency situation. X

 

Franky took one last look around her, hoping against hope to see a certain blonde and, upon seeing no-one appear, hit send before she began a slow walk home. 



****

 

Bea’s phone buzzed in her pocket. 

She pulled it out reluctantly, trying not to let her eyes leave the house in front of her. It was a nondescript neighbourhood, and Bea would never have come this far out of the city on her own at leisure. The perfect place really, she thought, to hide a secret.

And if Kaz Proctor was right, it was quite the secret that Allie was hiding. A light came on suddenly, flooding the street, and Bea instinctively ducked, her seatbelt offering resistance as she slunk below the steering wheel. She heard a nearby hissing and sound of bins being overturned. 

A cat.

With a huff, she pulled herself back up the seat, just as the door of the house she had been watching opened. Bea spotted the familiar blonde, the one she had been waiting for, and again shifted herself out of view.

Allie hugged a woman at the door, someone Bea didn’t recognise, before she wandered down the front path and out onto the street. Allie looked distracted and thoughtful as she looked over to where Bea suspected she had parked. Bea watched her pull her phone out of her pocket and hit a button before bringing it up to her ear.

A few seconds later Bea's phone was buzzing.

Allie calling.

Bea watched her phone for a minute, debating her options. She sighed, hit reject, and threw the phone into her passenger seat, observing from a distance as Allie’s brow furrowed, the phone coming away from her ear. It was unlike Bea to ever reject one of Allie’s calls outright, no matter the time of day. 

Serves her right, Bea justified, she can’t expect me to constantly drop what I’m doing to talk to her, especially when she lies like this.

It had been a week since Bea’s conversation with Kaz, and she’d tailed Allie three times. Each time had been a rejected invitation from Bea and an outright lie by Allie.

I’m caught up at the shelter, there’s a bug going around.

I promised I’d have dinner with a friend who is just passing through.

I’ve got that damn bug, feeling rough and don’t want to pass it to you.

Bea hated that she was distrusting Allie’s stories, but Kaz’s words had really got to her, and she needed to know. She didn’t want to confront Allie outright, not when she could just as easily be laughed off by Allie with an incredulous look and another excuse. 

Plus, there was no real confrontation to be had. Allie secretly visiting an ex cut Bea like a knife, sure, but what even were they to each other? Did Bea have any right to feel this way? They’d been on one date, after all. The more Bea thought about it, the guiltier she felt that she was following Allie across the city, as if ready to catch her in some sordid act.

She justified it by telling herself that she cared for Allie, she didn’t want her to face any of it alone. She wanted what was best for Allie, and she was pretty certain that she was best for Allie, though that certainty faded each and every time she started the engine of her car and followed the other woman. 

Allie was still standing in the middle of the street, her thumbs flying across the screen as she typed a message out. After a minute, she tucked the phone back into her coat and walked toward her car. 

Bea massaged her temples. She picked up her own phone, noting the missed call as she opened the text message from Franky.

 

Brunch at Milligans? 11am. Emergency situation. X

 

Bea scoffed. She and Franky really did have different opinions on what constituted an emergency situation. She began typing.

 

Sure. See you then.

 

She registered the time, 9:32pm, and wondered why Franky would text that early. As Allie’s car slowly pulled away from the curb and moved down the road, however, Bea soon forgot about Franky. 



****



The voicemail was unexpected.

“Hey Maxi- err, Maxine. Hi. So, I know you haven’t heard from me in a while but things have been pretty hectic here and Gary wouldn’t really tell any of us your number. It took a lot of digging and with Rachel having a baby - did you know Rachel had a baby? I guess not. Anyway, I don’t even know if you still have this number but… I mean, I’d love to hear from you. See how you’re doing, y’know? I-If you want, of course, I did always say Gary was an idiot for what happened between you two, you were always too bloody good for that brother of mine and… anyway, I just wanted you to know that… well, I was always on your side. Okay? If you want, call me. 

I-it’s Martin, by the way.”

Maxine hit the button, keeping the voicemail saved but not deleted. She wasn’t sure why exactly. She looked over at Boomer’s dumbstruck face. 

“The fuck, Maxi!” Boomer opened her mouth and shut it several times, before shaking her head, “what are you gonna do? You gonna call him?”

Maxine didn’t even need to ponder it, the pain of her separation from Gary still being healed.

“No,” she said simply.

“'Atta girl!” Boomer gave her a wide toothy grin as she leaned forward and pulled a bag of crisps off of the table, “fuck ‘im, ay!”

Maxine laughed, and Boomer continued to smile as she pulled at the bag, trying to get them to open.

“Yeah,” Maxine moved to sit down beside Boomer on the sofa, “fuck him.”

“Gary was a fuckin’ pig,” Boomer continued, tugging furiously at the bag, “just like Daz, yeah? Fuck the lot of ‘em! We got each other, Maxi.”

The bag exploded suddenly, sending the crisps flying all over the room. Maxine looked at Boomer, silent, as Boomer appeared contrite.

“We… got each other,” Boomer said as she lamely scooped a few of the crisps from her lap back into the bag, “you just remember that.”

“Yeah we have.”

Maxine leaned forward and picked at all of the crisps she could find, handing them over to Boomer who partly put them in the bag and partly filled her mouth with them.

“So,” eventually the crisps in close proximity had been cleared and Maxine leaned back against the back of the couch, pulling one leg up over the other, “I wondered if you were busy tomorrow morning?”

“Car’s still in the garage,” Boomer grunted, “but I’m free. Why? Need me to come with ya somewhere?”

“I was wondering,” Maxine took a deep breath, “if you would come with me to the doctors?”

Boomer straightened in her seat, suddenly concerned.

“Of course,” she said, “but my calendar says you ain’t gotta go there ‘til next week. What’s up? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, Booms,” Maxine responded, touched by the fact that Boomer kept her hospital appointments date in mind, “in fact, I think I’ve realised something.”

“Yeah?”

“I am selfish,” Maxine said resolutely, glancing over at Boomer, “and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You see, most of my life the only person that’s cared about me has been me.”

“Nuh,” Boomer shook her head, “The girls care about ya. I care about ya. I-I even love ya, like a little- a little bit, y’know?”

“I know,” Maxine felt a tear escape and she gave a tremulous smile, “and that’s why I’ve changed my mind. I’m gonna have the operation.”

Boomer threw herself sideways at Maxine, moving to crush her but at the last minute changing her mind and squeezing her gently instead. She rested her head in the crook of Maxine’s neck and Maxine could feel her heaving gulps as Boomer struggled to control her breath through the joy and tears. 

“It’s gonna be tough…” Maxine felt her voice break as her hand wrapped around and stroked Boomer’s back reassuringly, “and we both- we both need to be brave. I’ll go on the hormones-”

“Yup,” Boomer uttered, tears thickening her voice, “yup, yup! And you can still get new titties if ya want, like- I mean, do you reckon they’ll let you have some of mine?”

Maxine laughed and she felt Boomer jostle against her body, indicating that she too was tickled by her own comment.

“‘Cuz I got heaps,” came her muffled continuation from Maxine’s neck. 

Maxine’s hand moved up and held the back of Boomer’s head lightly, drawing it up for a quick kiss to the forehead. Boomer sighed, and they remained that way for a moment, basking in the sheer pleasure of Maxine’s decision.

“I’m so proud of ya, Maxi,” Boomer uttered, “a-and I really do love ya. I meant it.”

“I love you too, Booms.”

Maxine’s phone vibrated, a quick burst on the coffee table, that moved it to the edge.

“If that’s Martin again…” Maxine sighed, just as Boomer’s phone chirped.

Maxine disentangled Boomer from her side, and picked up her phone, noticing one unread text message from Franky. She opened it.



  Brunch at Milligans? 11am. Emergency situation. X



Maxine read Franky’s text and then looked at the time. Unusual for her, but then Maxine reasoned that the whole day had been rather unusual. She showed it to Boomer who nodded eagerly. Maxine hit reply.

 

Booms and I will be there, hon. x