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Bookworm

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“Fuck!” Franky groaned as she flipped page after page searching for the perfect words to use to apologize to Bridget. Only trouble was there wasn’t really anything that said ‘I’m sorry for calling you out for being a virgin’ by any of the literary greats. She chucked the book in frustration only to be met with a frightened yelp.

“Franky? Are you still back here?” Came the soft bell-like voice of Liz Birdsworth, the school’s resident librarian. She mostly stayed to herself at her desk, preferring to leave students to study in peace. She was the occasional guest lecturer for a smattering of different literature classes, but more often than not she could be found knitting happily waiting for students to check out books.

"Oh shit... Shoot, I mean...Sorry, Ms. Birdsworth, I didn't see you there,” Franky scrambled to pick up the fallen book and place it back into its proper place. It was then she remembered that she had forgotten to restack the last two shelves before Bridget had arrived for their tutoring session. It was strange how all of time and space seemed to fly out the window whenever Bridget was near. “Sorry, I haven't finished shelving the last 2 sections," Franky admitted with a wince on her face. She hadn’t even made it a full semester before starting to fuck up her new life. The last thing she needed now was another mark on her record for failure to complete assigned work study detail.

"It's okay Franky, I don't mind waiting a little bit. Might your tardiness have anything to do with Ms. Westfall storming out of here in a huff just a moment ago?" The librarian’s eyebrows turned up in question. Damn...Franky was hoping she hadn’t noticed.

"Yeah that would be my fault... Are you going to report me, Ms. Birdsworth?" Franky asked, looking forlorn.

"Why don't you tell me what's going on and I'll forgive the indiscretion just this once. We can restack together." Ms. Birdsworth winked at Franky. “And Franky please...Call me Liz,” the small woman gently corrected. Something about her kindness had allowed Franky to speak openly, not hiding any details like she normally would. Franky was a master at bending the truth and disguising the dirtier details from past social workers and teachers. It was easier and safer for them if they didn’t know the full picture. If they didn’t see how truly fucked Franky really was. Besides, Franky couldn’t stand to see the look of pity or disappointment in their eyes. Sooner or later they all gave up, it was just a matter of time. But something, something about Liz seemed different. Liz was everything that Franky’s mother was not. She was warm, welcoming, and kind. The librarian had started making an extra cup of tea for Franky, taking care to set it on Franky’s preferred table each night like clockwork. She even remembered to add three sugars.

As the pair shelved the last book, Franky completed her rendition of the night’s events that led to Bridget angrily storming off. Franky felt like a weight had been lifted from her chest as he spoke the words out loud.

“Hm, sounds like you’ve gotten yourself into quite a pickle, Franky love,” Liz clicked her tongue.

“Yeah, I know. I royally fu-” Franky paused with her mouth open before she could swear in front of the sweet woman once more.

“Go ahead, let it out.” Liz permitted.

“I fucked up,” Franky spoke freely.

“I reckon you did, but you know what? A smart girl like you can figure this out. You don’t need a book or a quote to make things right, now do you?” Liz winked.

Franky nodded silently, the wheels turning in her mind.

“Thank you, Liz. I’m not used to people actually listening to me,” Franky confessed.

“You can always talk to me. Good or bad.” And for once Franky believed her, despite the others who had come before.

“Thank you,” Franky whispered before grabbing her bag from the chair.

“Goodnight, dear. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Liz waved her off out the door before she began to shut off the lights and leave herself.

After her conversation with Liz, Franky realized that she didn’t need to search for the perfect apology in a book. Instead she had to do it for herself. She rehearsed the words in her head the entire walk back to the dormitories. Before she knew it, her feet had landed directly in front of Bridget’s door. She swallowed around the lump in her throat and knocked softly.

“Who is it?” Bridget’s voice sounded scratchy, as if she had been crying. Franky’s heart sunk in her chest.

“It’s me…” Franky’s words tapered off.

“Don’t you think you’ve done enough damage for one day?” Bridget snapped, refusing to open the door and look directly into Franky’s eyes.

“Please, Gidge, open the door and give me a chance. I’ll never speak to you again after this if that’s what you want, I swear,” Franky pleaded. After several long seconds, the door clicked open, and Franky saw Bridget’s tear stained cheeks come into view.

“Bridget I am... so sorry. I was out of line. I should have never said that. Honestly I think I was more surprised than anything, it’s just… You’re gorgeous. Like a total bombshell. I-i just didn’t expect that is all. It will never happen again, I promise you,” Franky’s eyes began to well with her own tears as she fought to blink them away. Bridget turned her head away and Franky watched as she swallowed, trying to maintain her own composure. After a few breaths, her blue eyes were back boring into Franky’s. Unexpectedly she moved and invited Franky inside her bedroom. It was as organized as Franky had imagined it to be inside her head. Her bookshelf was overflowing with her own collection. Her bed was complete with her own personal funky floral patterned quilt. Franky smiled softly. Franky noticed that she had already changed from her uniform into a pair of gray yoga pants and a loose fitting sweatshirt. If Franky looked closely enough she could see that from the gentle show of her curves, Bridget wasn’t wearing a bra underneath. Franky quickly averted her eyes. Fucking focus, Doyle. Bridget patted the spot beside her inviting Franky to sit down.

“It’s just...it’s not that I don’t want to do it, you know?” Bridget’s voice was uncharacteristically manic, signaling Franky that the coming conversation wasn’t going to be a comfortable one for the petite blonde.

“Do it?” Franky’s brow creased at the question. What exactly was the blonde on about?

“Have sex,” Bridget barely whispered. Franky held back her initial response and simply nodded. “I-I’ve known Jake since primary school and we’ve been together for years. I’m still just...terrified. What if I’m bad at it?” Franky pushed down her feelings about Jake and instead focused on being there for Bridget.

“A little secret, Gidge? Everyone is shit the first time,” Franky chuckled softly and wrinkled her nose. She watched the redness creep over Bridget’s cheeks.

“Even you?” Bridget asked. Franky hesitated and bit her lip, debating if she should give Bridget the honest truth.

“I had sex with guys for ages because I thought it’s what I had to do… It was alright, but there was something missing.” Bridget’s eyes darted from Franky’s green eyes to her lips as she spoke, devouring her confession as if it was her last meal.

“And then I fucked a woman...I’d been getting it wrong for years. That’s why I never commit to anything without exploring every possibility.”

“So you’re gay?” Bridget asked quizzically.

“I’m whatever I want to be. You want my advice, Gidge? Fuck the labels. Just do what feels right,” Franky shrugged. Fearing that she had been too candid, she cast her eyes down towards the carpet refusing to look at Bridget’s face. Surely she’d crossed a line somewhere. Franky felt Bridget’s hand come to rest carefully on her knee. Taking a chance, Franky looked up to see nothing like anger on Bridget’s face. All she saw was trust reflected back at her from those crystal blue eyes.

“Thank you,” Bridget breathed out. It felt good to speak so openly with Franky. Truthfully she didn’t feel like she could speak to her friends of many years the way she could with the new student. It was like she had known Franky far longer than a few months. Suddenly, Bridget felt herself being pulled closer towards her as if she was in a trance.

If Franky didn’t know any better, she could have sworn that Bridget was leaning forward to close the distance between them. Is she...Franky’s eyes went wide and she quickly cleared her throat causing Bridget to snap back to reality.

“I better go before they do bed checks,” Franky stated awkwardly.

“Right, yeah,” Bridget nodded and escorted Franky out into the hallway.

“Hey, Gidge?”

“Yes?”

“He’s a lucky guy,” was all Franky could say before she sauntered back down the hallway towards her room.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. 7pm sharp,” Bridget said sternly, a smile still on her face.

“You got it,” Franky winked over her shoulder.

Bridget caught herself watching the brunette as she walked away with her hands tucked into the pockets of her blazer. She smiled softly, feeling a small, unfamiliar flicker in her stomach. Laughing at herself, Bridget shook her head and closed the door before collapsing into her bed face first.