the girls i fell in love with and how they broke my heart

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic


It's here, the full second chapter! Hope you all enjoy. Feedback, comments and critiques are welcome. Enjoy!



EDIT (05/07/19): Made some changes to grammar, punctuation and font. Also added further content in order to flesh the story out a bit more.

Chapter 3 (v.1) - chapter two

Submitted: July 01, 2019

Reads: 200

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 01, 2019

A A A

A A A

 

 

CHAPTER two

 

Minerva Grange slips out of her silk duvet and into a world of jewels, penthouses and magazine shoots – her morning routine a daydream most people would find themselves engrossed in. She should feel lucky; surrounded by her beautiful possessions and a loving husband – and yet she feels as though her four-leaf clover eyes have run short of luck.

It’s not even 8:00am and Parker is already mithering her with a displeased, “What time will you be back, Minerva? Will you actually be joining us for dinner tonight?”

He’s stood at the kitchen’s island, tanned knuckles curled loosely against black marble – eyes glued to the rain-soaked glass of the window beyond him. His dark hair is a bundled mess of tawny brown; nothing but a loose-fitting white shirt and grey boxers adoring his frame. Minerva wishes she could be so homely – so relaxed; but high heels and red lipstick are mandatory in her day’s work.

Minerva slides her tan trench coat off of their coatrack and onto her shoulders, rolling heavy eyes as she tucks a clump of curled hair out of the jacket’s collar. “You know what? If you wanna go out and earn our income, be my guest. Nothing’s stopping you, Parker.”

He scoffs, turning on his heels to face her; arms crossed across his chest as he says, “You are. You’re what’s stopping me.”

God, he’s a fucking nightmare, Minerva summarises in her head – grabs her car keys and iPhone off of the coffee table. She entertains the idea of simply not replying – trudging out into the downfall beyond their apartment walls – but instead, stops; challenges him with her expression.

“How did you work that one out?” She inquires, voice raising, “Please explain that to me, Parker, cause’ I’d really fucking love to know.”

He sighs, massaging his temples slowly, “Do you want to wake Heidi up? Is that what you’re trying to do?”

“Answer the question.”

Parker parts his lips, pauses for a moment as if he’s carefully selecting his next words. “I get looked at—”

Another pregnant pause as he shifts, leans against the brunt of the island counter with both hands as if he’s steadying himself. He continues, “I get looked at by my old colleagues and friends like I’m insane. They ask why? Why am I staying at home looking after our daughter whilst my wife brings home the bread? Do you know how embarrassing that is for me, Minerva?”

They’ve had conversations about this; multiple times in fact – but talking about this issue is entirely fruitless. These conversations always entail the same formula: Parker expresses his frustrations of being a “house-husband”, Minerva rolls her eyes or offers a condescending smirk; and a vicious argument then takes place. Fittingly, Minerva elects to roll her eyes as far back as they will allow; and feels that this conversation is not going to be any different.

“Well, I’m awfully sorry that your fragile masculinity is damaged, Parker,” She replies sarcastically, notes how he replies with a scowl and a grunt. Minerva loops the latch of her belt through the coat and fastens it; fiddling with her buttons as she eagerly waits for a reply.

But it never comes.

Usually, during these arguments – Parker will throw up his hands in relinquished defeat; shouting something like, “This is exactly what I mean,” or an infuriating, “You just don’t understand, Minerva.” Instead, though, he simply hangs his head in a bout of maddening silence, waits for the coffee machine to finish pouring his morning cup, and then heads towards his study with a dose of black coffee and spousal tension ripe in his hands.

Minerva’s sharp voice stops him dead in his tracks as she says, “Don’t wait up for me.”

Parker pauses, doesn’t even bother to turn to make eye contact as he offers an exasperated, “Late night again?” And yet that question doesn’t even sound sincere.

Minerva could lie; say that yes, it’s another late night and that yes, Heidi probably hasn’t seen her mother properly for three nights running; but she makes the decision not to. Don’t get her wrong, Minerva does not begrudge this life path that she has chosen to take – but sometimes simply wonders if something is missing from it – akin to that of a tedious missing jigsaw piece.

For the past few weeks – since she received that e-mail; that fucking e-mail – Minerva has wondered absentmindedly if this meeting will allow her to find this missing piece – and apply it to her life in a way that makes her want to get up in the mornings; without that constant doubt resting in the pit of her mind. On the other hand, Minerva questions why she received that e-mail at all – why Honey had chosen now of all times to stir the pot and shake up Minerva’s picture-perfect existence – ripping open both old and fresh wounds without a care in the world.

It must be so easy for her; Minerva thinks to herself.

Minerva inhales sharply, tosses some auburn hair behind her shoulder, stands with purpose and authority. “No, actually, I’m meeting an old friend for coffee after work.”

Parker seems to take this in; stands entirely still for a good few seconds or so – and Minerva is tempted to ask if his coffee has turned stone cold yet. He puts his other hand on the door handle of his study, still refuses to turn to face his own wife as he replies with a tone that is dripping with venom, “An old friend? Wow, she really has got you wrapped around her little finger, hasn’t she?”

And with that, the door has been swung open and slammed shut harshly within a matter of moments. Minerva listens, hears Parker shuffling around the room and mumbling to himself. She instinctively glances at her wedding ring; notices how it glitters falsely against the chandelier’s light above her.

She would never tell anybody, but in that stolen, still moment – she slides the ring off of her finger, examines the pale mark twisting around the digit – remarks internally at how free and comfortable the sensation feels.

In fact, Minerva keeps her ring finger entirely bare as she hurries out of the apartment and heads to work. It’s only when she slides into the cool leather of the driver’s seat that she hurriedly puts it back on.

And maybe Parker’s right, Minerva theorises as she turns her key in the ignition – the whirring of the car’s engine a pleasant sound in a sea of silence and incessant thoughts. After all, why had Honey chosen to wait nearly four whole years before contacting her – before trying to right all of her wrongs? And why had Minerva bended so easily to her tune?

Slowly, Minerva slides her slender fingers up to the mirror in her sun visor – pushes the sliding window backwards; and pulls out a crumpled photograph wedged between the glass. The photograph has seen better days; but Minerva relaxes her shoulders – allows the memories to wash over her, allows a past of love and heartbreak to consume her in that moment. She stares at the photograph fondly, and the teenage eyes of an embracing Minerva and Honey stare back.

She turns it over, traces the soft, blue ink tattooed on the back. She smiles.

The best summer of our lives!

Love forever, Honey.

04’

 

_______

 

 

“So, Minerva,” Dr. Cohn begins pointedly, chin resting lowly in the crook of his hands. He tilts himself forward for better access as he questions, “How have you been? I feel like we haven’t seen each other for a while.”

Instinctively, Minerva glances around the office with a curious yet simultaneously awkward expression – noting how her stomach curls and rumbles as soon as the room falls silent. Numerous diplomas, awards and family pictures are strung up hastily along the length of each office wall. The consistently irritating ticking courtesy of Dr. Cohn’s metronome is an unwelcome sound effect – and so Minerva shuffles awkwardly in her seat almost in sync with its cursed beat. Thumbs twiddling; heart-racing inflating by the second, Minerva draws in a shallow breathe, then releases it as she replies.

“I’m okay,” she says coldly, posture stiff and on-edge. Prying emotions from the depths of Minerva’s brain is like that of drawing blood from a stone; and Dr. Cohn recognises this. He sets his glasses down beside the metronome; long eyelashes peeping over prying, intrusive eyes.

Three syllables. Two words. Painfully simple; and yet that one sentence leaves her breathless and nauseous – as though the walls surrounding her are the exterior of a fishbowl, as though algae is cramming her lungs full to the fleshy brim. In that instant, Minerva Grange is a shrinking violet – petals wilting and scattering across the coffee-stained carpet before her; taunting, scorning, reprimanding her.

That sensation of drowning; the twisted notion of desperately sinking – has derived from Minerva’s illicit encounter just the night before; her stolen kiss traded for bruised lungs and a lifetime of agonising culpability. The aftermath of Honey’s kiss leaves broken skin; decorated with fingernail-shaped indents and purple patches. These makeshift souvenirs remain festering at surface level; but also playing on repeat in the unwanted cinema of Minerva’s keepsake memories.

She inhales sharply at the recall of Honey’s pillow-soft lips; icy shivers clambering along the hilt of her spine. The sin of kissing another woman feels nothing short of Heaven to Minerva – it always has.

Dr. Cohn clears his throat obnoxiously, directs a pitiful expression in Minerva’s direction. In an accusatory tone, he asks, “And have you been taking your meds?”

No.

“Yeah,” Minerva replies, perhaps a little too quickly – voice sharp and high-pitched in ways that only an experienced liar could convincingly deliver. Dishonesty immediately slaps her across the wrist, like that of a childhood cane or shoe.

Dr. Cohn cambers forward in the luxurious leather incline of his seat – refusing to break eye contact for even a single second. Minerva despises these sessions; how he can pluck every thought from her mind and then force her to face it unwillingly. Is therapy always so cruel? Minerva had often thought.

After what feels like a lifetime, he simply slopes backwards, seemingly satisfied with that answer – offers a weak and plastered grin. As he picks up his pen and begins scribbling in his maroon notebook, Minerva turns away slowly; faces the chipped, wooden window of the office; debates swinging it open and diving head-first onto concrete. She hates coming here, she hates therapy, she hates talking about herself and she hates that fucking metronome.

Even two layers of full-coverage concealer are struggling to disguise Minerva’s heavy eye-bags, let alone the events of the previous night. The sensation of Honey’s lips moving against her own with purpose; hungry and desperate after four years of starvation – that alone is enough to make her weak to the knees, make her want to toss her wedding ring onto the oncoming traffic beyond these office walls.

And yet, the unfiltered, orthodox truth of it all is frustratingly simple: she can’t. The prospect of having such an undeniably atomic and picture-perfect family is too good of an opportunity to pass up. What would be the alternative, anyway? Slinking back to the familiar state of flipping burgers from 9-5? Being the chubby, ginger kid who’d always have fellow classmates unapologetically spray paint “DYKE” on her school locker?

No, those options simply don’t appeal to Minerva – and so she forces herself to return to reality, adjust her posture and pretend as though she gives the slightest damn about therapy. When Dr. Cohn requites his eye contact, he unknowingly forces Minerva to construct a painful, plastic grin.

And this is better? The voice in the back of her head taunts recklessly. Denying who you are? Staying in a loveless marriage? Going to fucking therapy sessions because the lies are ruining you inside out?

And so she takes a leap of faith.

“I met Honey last night.” Minerva says simply; and marvels at the relief that swells in her chest. It’s surprising, almost terrifying – how the ground doesn’t swallow her up for admitting such a thing, how the world doesn’t immediately implode. Admitting to such a thing should be agonising – wounding, but the world barely shifts.

Dr. Cohn stills involuntarily, stops sharply in his tracks – pen tumbling sporadically across the page. He inhales deeply, as though all the oxygen in the room has dissipated. Carefully, he sets down his notebook, as though the pages are made of glass.

“I thought we established that her presence in your life is harmful,” Dr. Cohn says quietly, as though disappointed. His expression is serious, and his words exist within a sombre sigh.

You established that,” Minerva responds, “In all of your psychiatric wisdom, you concluded that Honey is bad for my mental health. There was no ‘we’ involved, Cohn.”

He’s taken aback – but manages to conceal his surprise as he replies, “Dr. Cohn, Minerva. Formality is crucial – you know this.”

Minerva nearly hisses in response, “Bite me.”

She springs from her seat, slipping the leather handle of her handbag over the crook of her wrist. She pops some bubble-gum onto her tongue and makes a beeline for the door.

“This was a fucking waste of time,” she snarls slowly, “you always act like this when I bring her up.”

Dr. Cohn massages the wrinkles of his forehead, moves a finger forward to halt the metronome’s ticking in its tracks. He waits for a moment, watches as Minerva half-heartedly grips the door handle, knuckles curling inward and searching for purchase.

“Why do you think that is, Minerva?” He questions, almost sarcastically, “Do you think I enjoy these sessions? When you can’t even bring yourself to face the past? And now that we’ve finally made some progress—”

Chuckling devilishly, Minerva spins swiftly on the scarlet stiletto of her Louboutin’s; tongue literally in cheek as she offers a clearly displeased, “That’s what you call this? Progress? In what fucking world?”

For a moment, the tension in the office seems stifled; smothered, even. Minerva feels her chest rise and fall unnaturally fast – spine alight with electricity and hunger. Maybe this is what she needs, a confrontation – the fight or flight response within her genes electing for an aggressive response. She needs to get Honey out of her system – claw the memories out of the pit of her stomach, even if doing so leaves fingernail marks across the walls.

Minerva glances at the ground, knuckles still curled inward awkwardly as she looms over Dr. Cohn’s desk. He reaches for his notebook and to Minerva’s surprise, closes the leather cover and slowly gets to his feet.

“I want to help, Minerva,” he tells her; nose-to-mouth – the height difference has evolved from comedic to intimidating on the side of Minerva.

“But you don’t need these negative influences on your life; you really don’t. You can start again, without the shadow of the past constantly weighing you down. It is possible – you can start again.”

Slowly, Minerva tilts her head backwards – white ceiling spinning as though she’s inches away from fainting. This office has always felt medical, sterile and unnervingly formal. She lets her mauve eyelids fall closed; takes a sharp breath.

“I don’t think she’s the bad influence on me.” She says quietly, the words barely audibly.

Dr. Cohn looks at her sympathetically; wonders to himself if he should reach out and offer a tender touch, but eventually decides against it for the sake of professionalism. He holds a soft spot for Minerva Grange; she’s never had it easy – which one may not conclude from her five-bedroom apartment and shelf of designer bags. No, Dr. Cohn acknowledges the bitter, sour truth: she’s desperately unhappy.

He watches as Minerva struggles to stand upright; how her wrists look ready to snap; and reaches for his notebook impulsively.

“Why don’t you ask Sofia to go for brunch? Take a few hours to chill, you know, sort yourself out. Talking to someone you get along well with might put you in a better mood.”

She nearly scoffs, produces her flashy car keys from the depths of her trench-coat, a classic sign of ‘I’m gonna go now, thanks’ – and offers a half-assed shake of the head.

“I hate talking to my fucking sister,” she chuckles, finally lifting her face to lock eyes with Dr. Cohn, “And I fucking hate—”

Minerva never finishes that sentence, but she needn’t – anybody and everybody could finish it for her.

Food.

Dr. Cohn clicks the tip of his pen, presses it against crisp, white paper. His low voice stops Minerva in her tracks as she swings the office door open.

“Before you go, Minerva,” he begins, clearing his throat, “Do you maybe wanna tell me who you think the bad influence is? I think that’s what we can focus next week’s session on.”

She offers a weak smile, and Dr. Cohn absentmindedly wonders if Minerva always looks this sad.

“Sure,” she says simply, “I live with him.”

And like the silhouette of a melancholic wraith, Minerva Grange slinks away. Dr. Cohn observes through the looking glass of his office; watches steadily as she slumps to her BMW and slides down the street towards the sunrise. Then, and only then, does he resume the unwavering ticking of the metronome.

 

_______

 

 

Sofia eyes Minerva cautiously over her breakfast burrito, eyes drawn in and suspicious. After what seems like a lifetime, she leans forward against the dinner table and finally speaks.

“Don’t get me wrong, sis,” she begins, and Minerva nearly rolls her eyes at the ‘sis’, “I’m delighted to see you finally enjoying food, but – isn’t your boss gonna go mental? Thought you were on a strict fifteen-hundred calorie diet now?”

Chewing obscenely on a cheeseburger, Minerva shakes her head and dismisses the thought of tomorrow’s photo shoot. “Fuck it. I like food.”

And despite what most people think when they look at her, Minerva is not naturally skinny at all. In fact, she often thinks about the time her manager told her that she ‘didn’t have the necessary bone structure to achieve a thigh gap’ and consequently, how she starved herself for a week straight following. Up until her late teenage years, Minerva had always been known as the fat, ugly friend – with the added aspect of being a red-head covered in freckles.

She wasn’t happy back then – and she is nowhere near happy now, even after dropping six dress sizes. Her muscles still ache, her head still swims with self-doubt, and she still walks past mirrors as quickly as she can manage. If she could, she’d have the phrase ‘SKINNY IS NEVER MAGIC’ tattooed on the inside of her eyelids.

Sofia offers a weak grin, blonde hair falling over one eye, “And Honey? How did that meeting go? Did she grovel?”

Chewing quickly, Minerva shakes her head; bounces one thigh up and down against the underside of the table. She sucks a droplet of ketchup from the edge of her thumb.

“Yeah,” she lies, picking up a nearby napkin, “Just as you we said, she couldn’t even bring herself to apologise sincerely.”

Chuckling, Sofia says, “Did you expect anything else from Honey?”

Stopping, Minerva sets down her knife and fork – eyes wide like saucers. She hates telling lies – despises it more than anything in the world; but at the same time, her life has become a pantomime of untruths and loopholes for the past decade. She blinks once, then twice; and then grabs her raincoat.

Sliding it on, she forces a grin, “Course not. People never change.”

Sofia watches as her sister buttons up her raincoat and slides her scarf around her neck. She’d always thought Minerva looked better with her hair up – and she was delighted that she’d seemingly taken her advice today. Spikes of ginger poke out from Minerva’s bun; her sharp jawline is exposed, and her neck is long and slim. Sofia had always compared it to that of a ballerina.

“Late night at the office again?” she asks.

Minerva slaps a twenty-pound note onto the table and takes a long drag of her milkshake, before wiping her mouth and turning to leave the café.

“The grind never stops,” she says casually, hands in pocket. “Catch you later, Sofia.”

The bell above the café door dings loudly and Minerva steps out into the chilly, Autumn atmosphere of rural England. The ice-cold breeze is unforgiving against her exposed wrists and ankles, but she pushes forward and heads towards the car park with an unplaceable expression.

Watching, Sofia never tears her eyes away until Minerva is long out-of-sight.

She observes her sister’s discarded side of the booth, ignores the waiter as he collects the money and piles a handful of dishes along his forearm. Sofia gazes intently at the empty glass sitting opposite her.

Strange, she muses, grabbing her purse and keys, Minerva never used to like strawberry milkshakes.

 

_______

 

 

The downtown nightlife is brazened and ferociously illuminated – a shining beacon within a sea of greys, browns and beiges. Ultraviolet lights and hues exist tenfold within the veins of the city, rushing and pumping in electric shades of purple. Something about the colours, the smells, the crisp; fresh air – it draws Minerva in closer; like that of a sickeningly sweet film trailer – offering only the very tip of the enormous iceberg that is 21st century nightclub life.

These luxuries are scattered – and difficult to afford for most. Bittersweet, ice-cold air feels undeniably refreshing on Minerva’s skin – and she allows the aroma of the city to consume her as she makes her way down the sidewalk. Her tailored suit allows her to stride with confidence; exists to remind her that this night, this outfit; this look: this is the highest level of freedom she shall ever achieve.

This entire performance is entirely selfish and incredibly immoral – but once Minerva gets onto the dance floor and feels the heartbeat of the music beneath her toes, lets the whiskey slide through her veins – it all becomes worth it. Even more so when slender, accosting hands link with hers perfectly; and for a moment, the atomic family can be paused, it can be forgotten.

Minerva’s morals have always been a bit shaky, anyways. So, it’s no surprise that synthetic wigs and an entirely new bone structure (thanks to contouring) – ironically enough – offer a sense of authenticity when worn outside of the office.

Eleven o’clock on the dot, as usual – she slides past the queue, flashing her platinum access card whilst ignoring the jeers and insults that fly in her direction. The bouncer steps aside almost instantly.

“Audrey,” he says, voice knowing and slightly smug, “Back again so soon?”

Will I ever be used to being called a different name? She wonders, offering an ingenuine smirk as a response. It’s not like you’ve got many other options, the voice reminds her. Plus, you’ve been pretending to be somebody else your entire life. Why stop now?

And so, with a casual flick of cherry-red hair; Minerva prowls towards the nightclub’s entrance; leans casually against the beaten door frame. She says, “Can’t keep the girls waiting.”

The bouncer seems to snicker at this; expression light and amused. “Very true, Miss Halkias. And don’t worry, your usual table is booked for midnight.”

“You’re a diamond, thank you.” She gleams.

With that, she slips down the stairwell and into the endless tunnel below. The carmen-pink neon lights on the exterior of the club have burned into Minerva’s head – the interlocking Venus symbols a pattern she’d come to know well and love even more. The hallways are narrow yet inviting, dotted with twirling lights and adorned with plush, pink wallpaper. Minerva traces the material coyly as she makes her way down the corridor.

As expected, the club is alive with fresh faces; flowing with drinks and bursting at the seams with upbeat music and energy. Minerva notes how all of the hairs along the length of her neck stand to attention when she enters the room – countless new people snapping to face her as. She holds a sense of confidence and elegance that commands the attention of every single person within a room the moment she is present.

For a few savoured moments, Minerva takes the time to examine the room – the rainbow string lights strung above the room like raindrops, the countless moving figures swimming around the dancefloor. No matter how many times Minerva steps foot into this club, she still manages to marvel at it; the decoration, the people, the indestructible freedom.

The sharp reflection she catches of herself against a pillar is almost otherworldly – and for the first time in forever, Minerva sees exactly what she would like to. Her cherry-red lips are sweet and pout with genuine happiness; the cut of her suit entirely flawless and allowing her to exude confidence naturally.

As she stops in her tracks, staring fondly at her reaction – Minerva watches as a cool glass of whiskey on the rocks slides perfectly into her hands. Taken aback, her head diverts upwards to meet a fresh but familiar pair of baby blues gazing right back at her.

Her lips part quickly, “Dahlia—”

“Audrey,” the woman answers, dragging the name out purposefully, her eyes wide and catlike, “Is that what you’re going by, now? Not the most creative name, ever.”

Her gaze trickles downwards, giving Minerva a purposeful once-over. She hums, presumably in approval.

“Why the outfit change?”

Minerva lets the cold rim of the whiskey glass glide across her lips, “I don’t know. Felt like being someone else tonight.”

The other woman’s presence crawls all over her like a rash, and Minerva resists the urge to shuffle in discomfort. Instead, she pulls her eyes away from the dancefloor – looks towards her; inhales sharply at the sight.

It should go without saying that Dahlia is not the woman’s birth-name – but within these four walls, it might as well be. By all accounts, she serves the drinks, performs and genuinely keeps the club happy and alive. Although for Minerva, Dahlia has managed to crawl under her skin – make a nest inside of her chest and unknowingly open up a previously discarded can of worms.

Every single time Minerva has decided to spend her night at this club – which has been quite a few times over the last few weeks – Dahlia has been present. It’s been a kind of ‘cat-and-mouse’ situation between the two of them: electric eyes locking over the bar counter; subtle brushing of the hands when moving past one another; casual touches during conversations.

Dahlia is a classic femme fatale; a young woman on the brink of blossoming into adulthood. Her skin is fire topaz, her coiled hair intense and bewitching against the beam of neon, fluorescent lights. Minerva could stare at her all day, drown in the unforgiving ocean of those deep, bottomless, baby blue eyes. And the exhilarating aspect is this: she’s not sure if Dahlia would let her drown or not.

“And what makes you feel as though you can’t be yourself?” Dahlia asks suddenly, plucking the whiskey glass from Minerva’s fingertips and taking a bold swig, watching and waiting for the answer. The ice cubes have melted into a sad puddle, and Minerva notices how clammy her palms have become.

“I mean, don’t get wrong. I’m not complaining, you look great,” she says appreciatively, almost in a matter-of-fact fashion, “But you should know that this is the one place where you can actually be yourself.”

Minerva pauses, looks ahead towards the dancefloor. Bodies dancing, writhing together; drunk yet content expressions across the board. Rainbow string lights flash above them unapologetically like strange mistletoe – and Minerva notes how heavy her heart feels, how the heartbreak of a delayed youth has beaten her black and blue.

“The world,” she croaks, accepts readily as Dahlia offers her the remainder of whiskey. She needs it. “The world around me tells me that anything is better than being myself. That I’m—”

She stops, as though the words are painful. “That I’m disgusting. That’s how it’s always been, since I was a kid.”

The other woman steps closer, the clack of a stiletto heel bouncing against the marble flooring like an omen to come. Delicate, velvet fingertips reach out slowly; tucks a strand of carmine hair behind Minerva’s ear. She shivers noticeably at the touch but does not protest or draw away – simply revels in the sensation. The notion that Dahlia works at the nightclub should be a little strange and unnerving, but Minerva adores the slight power imbalance between the two of them. It’s thrilling, electrifying – all of the aspects of a romantic connection she’d been aching for all these years.

Dahlia lets her fingers graze over the shell of Minerva’s ear, her voice tall and intoxicating, “And how do you feel right now?”

“Like I’m at home.” Minerva replies quickly.

It’s almost comical – how drastically Minerva’s life has changed within the past decade. It seems like only yesterday that she was wiping vulgar graffiti off of her home’s driveway, desperately scrubbing before her parent’s returned home from work. Other children were ruthless, as were their punches and blows – and even at age twenty-five, Minerva sometimes catches glimpses of their malicious grins and curled fists within her slumber. Sometimes, she swears she can still feel the deep burn and ache of purple bruises, almost tattooed into the deepest parts of her skin.

Only certain remedies would soothe those aches: the embrace and whispered sweet nothings of another girl. Not just any girl – and that’s why the reunion a mere few nights prior has her feeling so scattered. Honey was almost an addiction back then and continues to be even after years of separation. Minerva feels as though she’d been teetering on the edge of relapse before she’d received Honey’s emails.

The feeling of Honey’s lips moving gently against her own would temporarily stop the minefield of self-hatred brewing at the back of Minerva’s mind. And yet, the aftermath would always be the same: a teenage Minerva, kneeling at the toilet bowl, spewing and coughing; desperately telling herself: I’m not gay. I can’t be. I won’t be.

And so, the agonising bombshell that was her father’s death, and every single event and aspect leading up to it – was ultimately the breaking point. No more stolen kisses at midnight, no more lingering touches across the classroom table, no more unspoken words of devotion. What would transcend after that had to be a normal, orthodox friendship formed between two childhood companions, which never strayed from normality or coloured outside of the lines.

It had to be.

Yet, the question occurs in Minerva’s mind: why was she here? The thought cycles through her head like a carousel as she settles at her usual VIP table with Dahlia – champagne on ice and strawberries ripe to the touch. The lines she had been instructed to colour inside of were no longer even symmetrical, and whether it be the whiskey or a sudden rush of adrenaline: Minerva cannot bring herself to care.

“So,” Dahlia begins, popping a fresh strawberry between her teeth and screwing the stem off, “Audrey, you’ve been here more and more recently. I thought you said this place wasn’t for you?”

Minerva reaches for the champagne, feeling awkward at the reality of the situation, “I’m just here on business.”

Dahlia quirks an eyebrow, stops Minerva’s hands in their tracks and begins to open up the champagne herself, “Business of curiosity, is it?”

Annoyed, Minerva pushes her hands forward again towards the bubbly, “Fuck you.”

And almost on perfect timing, Dahlia pulls the champagne away and out of Minerva’s reach – beginning to absentmindedly unscrew the lid with expert fingertips.

“Maybe you should consider being nicer to the employees here,” she says slowly, an expression of pride spreading across her face as the cork pops; foam following shortly after.

“Besides, it’s just a simple question. Last time you were here you didn’t seem too keen on the idea of stepping out on your husband.”

Minerva tenses visibly at this, fingers clutching desperately at the cool glass of the table, “Please don’t talk about him.”

The other woman seems to withdraw when Minerva says this, expression sinking into a soft expression of pity and concern. She turns slightly, peers over her shoulder and scoffs at the sight of the dance floor.

“So glad I don’t have to clean that up tonight,” She chuckles slightly, taking a long sip of champagne, “They’re gonna have to steam that goddamn floor.”

“What time did you get off?” Minerva questions quietly, swirling the neck of her glass between forefinger and thumb.

Sneaking a glance at her phone, Dahlia stops, sets down her drink and offers a gleeful smirk as she says, “Five minutes ago.”

Time seems to slow down and the pounding music of the club intensifies as Dahlia slides forward in her seat, thigh resting candidly against Minerva’s hip. Lifting her glass, she flutters her long eyelashes and throws a mysterious glance in Minerva’s direction.

“Which means that we can get out of here,” She clarifies slowly, as though Minerva doesn’t understand the concept of hookup culture. With a tender touch, Dahlia tucks her fingertips underneath Minerva’s chin – leans in closer as if she’s trying to consume every inch of her.

“Two streets away. My place. Not a single soul in my apartment.”

Minerva quirks an eyebrow, “Are you flirting with me?”

Almost in defeat, Dahlia slumps against the soft leather of her seat – nearly disappearing into the material itself. She reaches for her drink, downs the last of it and within seconds, is clambering out of the booth and making a beeline for the dancefloor.

“You’re not special, Audrey,” she calls, hips swaying as she saunters away, “Make up your mind before somebody else does it for you.”

Those words, like a light switch – ignite a flame in Minerva’s heart with has been put out for a long time. A persistent, nagging voice in her brain protests , reminds her of all the steps that have led to the perfect family and career she now possesses; and how easily this façade can crumble. On the other hand, the dull throb growing in her chest as she watches Dahlia drift away is anything but mild, and Minerva cannot ignore the gnawing in the pit of her stomach.

Hunger. But what for?

Almost on cue, the distant vibration of her mobile phone disrupts Minerva’s train of thought – and when she pulls the phone from her blazer pocket, she fails to conceal her irritation. She sighs deeply at the screen.

 

INCOMING CALL

Sofia

 

Instinctively, her fingers find the ‘power off’ button; her legs begin to drive her forward with purpose – and she pushes Sofia’s call to the back of her mind. Instead, she shuffles across the dancefloor, long limbs providing an advantage as she damn near tumbles out of the other side. Her hands spring out towards the brunette head of Dahlia, pulling her backwards fiercely and spinning her on her heels.

The surprised expression of Dahlia is the final thing Minerva sees before she leans forward, wrapping her limbs her waist and closing the gap between their lips. And the truth is: fireworks explode at the touch.

On the dancefloor of the club, illuminated by rainbow lights and electric neon signs, Minerva kisses a girl. She’s kissed girls many times – in the privacy of her bedroom with a chair against the door, in alleyways as the clock strikes midnight; and regrettably, in dingy diner bathrooms. However, the significant aspect of this kiss is simple: there is no shame involved. Minerva feels no desire to hide this kiss.

She couldn’t even if she wanted to. Instead, she revels in the smell, taste and touch of Dahlia – presses forward as freckled arms wrap messily around her head; moves her lips, teeth and tongue as though Dahlia is fragile and soft to the touch. An eager hand grabs a handful of Minerva’s faux hair, and she smiles deeply into the kiss.

The dancefloor feels lighter when the two women pull away – and the kiss raises no eyebrows, as though this is the most natural thing in the world. And maybe, just maybe – even for one night, Minerva can feel as though that is true.

Dahlia lets out a heavy breath, visibly delighted and relieved.

“My place, then?”

Planting a delicate peck against Dahlia’s forehead, Minerva grins wildly.

“Thought you’d never ask.”

 

_______

 

A small sliver of daylight peeks through the curtain and lands onto the pillow next to Minerva’s face; the sunlight petting her eyelids until she wrenches them open. At first, her eyes widen, clearly alarmed and she bolts upright – the new surroundings igniting a fight or flight response within her. Thankfully though, she relaxes once she spots the resting head of Dahlia next to her, fast asleep and lightly snoring.

She allows a small grin to creep across her face. Cute.

Exploring somebody else’s home is a cultural no-no, even if the home belongs to somebody you just slept with. However, in Minerva’s world – this leaves an opportunity for her to snoop and explore the place in which the other person lives. It can unlock some pretty interesting (or horrifying, depending on who the person is) secrets and revelations. Dahlia, however, seems to be nothing short of an open book.

Minerva searches the floor with her eyes; landing on a ribbed, white vest and scooping it up from the carpet. On a whim, she sniffs it, and after deeming it acceptable – slides the vest on  over her head. She dismisses the idea of putting on a bra, and nearly skips into the living room in just a vest top and pair of patterned boy-shorts.

Deep down, Minerva had always questioned why she’d never considered joining the police force or becoming a detective – and in these situations, this thought is amplified. Within minutes, Minerva is able to discern from Dahlia’s  university degree (subtly strung up on her living room wall) that her real name is actually quite mundane: Lauren White. Minerva stands there idly, repeating the name in her mind and letting it roll off the tongue.

Last night was strange yet liberating and effortlessly natural. Kissing Dahlia felt as typical as passing the salt or folding laundry. It had been so long since Minerva had so desperately wanted to kiss someone, since she hadn’t deemed the mere thought just another chore. Never before had anyone made her feel so special, so wanted and desired. Not since

She quickly shakes the thought from her mind and goes to finds the fruit bowl in the kitchen, electing to take an apple and crunching into it loudly. Tucked away behind the microwave, she finds Dahlia’s purse, filled with fresh pound notes and a particularly unflattering driver’s license. Minerva makes a mental note to remind the other woman to find a better hiding spot for her purse, as if she was an immoral person, Dahlia’s bank account would be drained by now.

Stopping again, Minerva wonders if she has the right to call Dahlia by her real name, or if that would be taking nothing short of a liberty to assume. She can see Dahlia’s sleeping silhouette through a crack in the kitchen door; notes how her freckled face radiates sunlight and softness even when asleep. Minerva grips the apple tighter in her hand; tears her eyes away.

It’s only when Minerva enters the living room once more that she spots her mobile phone, sitting untouched on the coffee table in the centre of the room. Upon seeing this, she stops; a generous chunk of apple melting in her mouth and turning to mush. When she finally unlocks her phone, a stream of notifications begins to unfold across her screen – and Minerva feels dizzy at the mere sight.

This kind of thing is to be expected when she doesn’t reply for a couple of hours – but the constant stream of missed calls and notifications is excessive. Of course, she’d expected a few worried messages from her friends and maybe an accusatory text courtesy of Parker, but her phone simply won’t stop buzzing. Eventually, there’s a break between the notifications, and the most recent notification is a text from Sofia, the message resting at the top of her screen. It reads simply:

Turn on ur tv now!!!!

Now concerned, Minerva obliges, reaching for Dahlia’s TV remote and perching herself on the end of the coffee table. Her heartbeat is loud and unrelenting in her ears, and she begins to absentmindedly gnaw on a hangnail as the screen loads up slowly. The flood of messages and alerts has barely slowed down, and Minerva begins to feel a familiar knot curling within her stomach. The list of possible reasons for this sort of reaction is endless; and deep-down Minerva knows that this must be serious.

Shit, shit, shit. Her mind races with a thousand and one thoughts. What if something bad has happened? An attack? A disaster? A murder?

It’s only when the screen finally loads up that Minerva realises that she’s not even close with her guesses. Instead of a vicious terror attack or a video of an incoming flood, Minerva stares at the screen in horror – only to see her own eyes staring back.

The image on the news channel is of her, adorned in the very outfit that she wore last night: tailored suit and synthetic wig proving to be a poor disguise. She recognises the outfits in different photos as clothes that she has worn over the past few weeks – still hanging at home in her walk-in closet. And then, like a steel punch to the gut, it hits her – the recurring theme of all these outfits.

She wore every single one to that nightclub. Every. Single. One.

Finally, the last image to be displayed on the screen is clearly a paparazzi shot, a cheap black-and-white photograph of Minerva. Only, she isn’t alone – she’s photographed with another person. Kissing another person. Kissing Dahlia.

The monotonous voice of the news anchor fades as Minerva begins to feel the room spinning. She clutches onto the coffee table to steady herself, legs turning to jelly.

This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening.

With a final, desperate glance at the TV screen, Minerva lets out an audible gasp as she reads the news headline, letters splayed across the screen within a bright, red, ‘BREAKING NEWS’ banner.

‘MODEL/ACTRESS MINERVA GRANGE PAPPED AT LESBIAN NIGHT CLUB’

‘FORMER COVERGIRL OUTED AS GAY AFTER ONE-NIGHT ROMP’

‘FORMER ‘MIXED UP’ STAR EXPOSED FOR STEPPING OUT ON HUSBAND WITH ANOTHER WOMAN’

The loud vibrating of her phone is nowhere near enough to pull Minerva’s attention away from the TV, but a deep inkling in the pit of her stomach pushes her to take a look. She wobbles as she pulls herself to her feet and grabs the phone. Minerva cannot stop herself from taking in a sharp breath as she reads the notification in disbelief.

 

INCOMING CALL

Parker


© Copyright 2020 beccamidmoores. All rights reserved.

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