Sharon softly closed the door to her condo. The sound of the door falling in its lock was haunting. It felt final, like it confronted her harshly with what had happened and why they were here. Slowly she looked at Brenda. The blonde stood forlorn in the hallway, her shoulders dropped and her curls obscuring her face. She hadn't stepped into the living room but seemed frozen on the spot.
Sharon swallowed. It had been a long time since Brenda had been here. It had been a long time since they'd been alone like this. Things were different now. Brenda had gone away and they'd gone their different ways. And now Fritz was dead and Brenda was grieving the loss of a man she had once loved, had called her husband, and Sharon - for the first time in her life- didn't know what to say or do to help Brenda in her pain.
What could she say? What words would even begin to describe the pain felt by a woman who had just lost the man she had loved, even if perhaps she no longer loved him now? Sharon hadn't experienced a loss like this. She and Jack were divorced but he was alive, not dead. Fritz was dead. A part of Brenda's life, the life that she had known up until this day, would be forever changed.
"Brenda?" Sharon whispered softly. She hesitated before tenderly placing a hand on Brenda's arm. It felt strange yet familiar. "Bren?"
She hadn't called her that in a very long time, she realised. It didn't feel wrong.
Brenda slowly met her gaze. Her eyes had lost their shine. They were hollow and dull and the emptiness terrified Sharon. Brenda's features were soft but her skin was almost like grey. The lines around her eyes seemed deeper somehow, like she had aged ten years in just an hour. The marks on her cheeks left behind by the tears were still red.
"I... I don't know what to do now. I... I should arrange... His funeral... I mean, where do I..." Words failed her.
"Brenda, please don't worry about that. The LAPD will arrange most of that. You don't have to do anything," Sharon reassured her.
"His sister, Claire... Does she know yet?"
Sharon made a mental note to call Andy and ask him to inform Claire. But she nodded anyway, taking away yet another one of Brenda's worries. She stepped closer to the blonde and softly ushered her towards the living room. Brenda shook her head and didn't move.
"I... I'd really like a shower. If that's ok?" she asked meekly. Soft yet empty brown eyes found Sharon's green.
"Of course," Sharon answered. "This way."
She didn't know why she said that. Brenda knew the way. But Sharon led her down the hall anyway.
She pushed open the door to her bedroom. Brenda followed her in and sank down on the bed, staring blankly at the carpet underneath her feet. Sharon opened the bottom drawer of her closet and took out a pair of black leggings and an oversized sweatshirt she'd bought once as a tacky souvenir in San Francisco. It had faded after one too many rounds in the washing machine, it's turquoise colour now so pale it probably had to be thrown away, but it was comfortable and warm and always made her feel safe. She lay the items on the bed and then walked into the en-suite and found Brenda a fluffy white towel and a fresh clean toothbrush.
"If you need anything, just shout," Sharon said after she had finished laying out all the items. She turned around in the doorway. "I'll be just down the hall."
She had to call Andy. She had to get things sorted just so that Brenda didn't have to. She had to somehow be the friend Brenda needed her to be right now, even if she didn't quite know how, even if until a mere few hours ago, they hadn't spoken in months. She couldn't let Brenda deal with this on her own.
"Thank you," Brenda whispered. Her bottom lip trembled. She seemed so lost, so utterly broken. She wasn't looking at anything in particular and seemed to lack the strength to get up, to take a few steps into the bathroom and take a shower. "Thank you, Sharon."
She was tired. So tired. Brown eyes welled up and the tears came without warning.
Sharon rushed to Brenda's side and sat down beside her on the comforter. She slipped her arm around Brenda's shoulders and the younger woman leaned into her. Sharon's fingers threaded themselves through soft, thick curls and she wrapped Brenda up in her arms.
"Don't cry," she whispered softly before tenderly pressing her lips against Brenda's temple. "We'll work it out, I promise. It's going to be ok. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but it will. And I'm going to be right here with you."
They sat in silence for a while. Neither of them moved. Sharon listened to Brenda's soft, ragged breaths, felt how her lithe body rested against her own. She knew better than to relish in that feeling but it made her feel warm nonetheless and when Brenda finally stirred and slipped out of her embrace, Sharon missed her almost instantly.
"I'm gonna go shower now," Brenda announced when she stood up.
"Ok," Sharon softly answered. "You know where I am if you need anything." She stood up too and headed for the door. She turned before leaving. There was something else she needed to say. Something she needed the blonde to know. "Brenda?"
The younger woman looked up. Her eyes were wide and still full of tears. She reminded Sharon of a deer caught in headlights.
"You can stay here as long as you like and for as long as you need to." She swallowed. Her heart thundered in her chest and she felt sick. All of this was getting to her.
"If you want to, that is."
"Thank you, Sharon," Brenda whispered. She smiled. It didn't erase the sadness on her face but it brought a like back to her eyes. "I'd like that."
Sharon watched as Brenda disappeared into the bathroom and then closed the bedroom door behind her as she left. Her eyes fell shut and she leaned with her back against the door.
Everything had changed.