You Could Be Her

Title: You Could Be Her
Author: Jen Tidwell

Summary: Lonely member of the corporate rat-race Bridgette Fleischman finds herself pining for the new girl.

Rating: “TV-14” for language and LGBT content

Copyright: © 2017 Jen Tidwell. All Rights Reserved.

Notes: Thoughts in italics

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Bridgette Fleischman hated office parties. The petite redhead stood alone by the table of food in the Engineering Dynamics cafeteria as tinny, eighties, pop music drifted over the intercom system and tugged at her wrinkled beige suit jacket. CAD “monkey” that she was, she typically didn’t bother with the “business professional” dress code mandated to the executive and administrative staff. Her job was to sit in a dark room, with four large computer screens, and draw complex electrical schematics for power systems. She didn’t need to “dress for success” in order to do that. Still, she daily managed to slide herself into slacks and a button-down shirt to appease her boring department manager Rob. The only reason she was even wearing a suit jacket, wrinkled though it was, to this office shindig was because Rob demanded it. And the reason why it was wrinkled was because it was the jacket she kept shoved into the back of her filing cabinet for just such “clothing compliance” emergencies.

She ran her hands firmly over the rumpled material in a pointless attempt at ironing it smooth.

Suddenly she froze. The new girl was heading her way. What was her name again? Kyra? Kerri? Krista? Whatever it was, her appearance caused Bridgette’s heart to leap into her throat. The redhead had found herself harboring an immediate crush on the beautiful stranger. Though she’d never admit it, she kept a mental checklist outlining her carefully detailed parameters for her “perfect woman” and the new girl checked all the boxes (some twice). Blonde (albeit dark-blonde), blue-eyed, aquiline features, fit, close in height, buxom (but not too buxom), soft-spoken, intelligent, kind.

Bridgette admitted to herself that she’d only been able to “pencil-check” the last two items. But she assumed that the girl must be intelligent as she was working in the Technical Writing department. As for “kind”, well, the blonde just looked kind and Bridgette hoped that (in this case) looks were not deceiving.

“Hi,” said the girl on the approach.

“Hi,” Bridgette replied.

“Is the punch any good?”

“Oh… it’s wet,” answered Bridgette.

The blonde laughed. “Um, ok? I’ll take that to mean it’s not good, then.” She paused a moment as though waiting for Bridgette to say something more. The redhead merely stared blankly. “Well… thanks for the warning,” she said, grabbing a bottle of water from the table instead and walking away, back into the crowd.

“Wet’s about as close as it gets to being punch,” Bridgette blurted suddenly to no one. It was almost as if she’d been unpaused from a freeze frame. She looked around self-consciously, hoping her spastic outburst had gone unnoticed. Luckily, it appeared it had.

Looking up and surveying the crowded room she noted glumly that everyone else was having fun, or else pretending to. She sighed and ate another crudité.

“Oh, it’s wet?!”, she thought to herself. What the actual heck? Who says that?! Ugh… I should just quit trying to… talk. Words and me… bad combo.

“Hey, Bridgette,” said a portly, balding, man in too-small a suit and clip-on tie.

“Rob,” muttered the redhead.

Her manager grabbed a fistful of baby carrots and popped half of them into his mouth. Chewing, mouth agape, he addressed her again, spittle and flecks of carrot spewing her direction. “When you have a moment, can you swing by my office?”

Bridgette took a half-step back to avoid the oral projectiles. “Sure.”

“Great,” he said, looking off into the room, no longer paying her mind. “Before you leave today, ok?” He drifted away.

“Sure.” She said again.

Her eyes scanned the room again, and settled once more on the new girl. She was smiling and carrying on a lively conversation with a few of the other tech writing staff. Someone must have made a joke, because the blonde threw her head back and laughed.

Bridgette’s hearted melted even more. Aw… she has a goofiest laugh…. Could she be any more perfect?

She glanced at her watch and decided she’d had enough “fun”. Picking up a small paper plate, she loaded it with some celery sticks, a few pieces of cauliflower and a handful of potato chips, before heading out of the cafeteria and back to her basement office.

A couple of hours later, Bridgette shut down her workstation and rode the elevator up two floors to seek out Rob as requested. She found his office dark and locked. He’d forgotten about her. Nothing new there. She grabbed a post-it notepad from a nearby uninhabited cubicle and jotted down, “Came by. Missed you. See you in A.M. – Bridgette”. Peeling the sheet free, she stuck it to the outside of the office door and left.

On her way, out of the building she caught the sounds of “Jessie’s Girl” echoing down the hall. Is that stupid party still going on? Curious, she started in the direction of the music. Stopping at the cafeteria, she peered in. It was empty, and quiet. Cocking her head, she listened again. This time she was able to decipher the direction of the sound as coming from the open office area to the east. She heard something in addition to the recorded track. Singing. Someone was definitely singing along…loudly.

Walking the last few yards toward the mostly deserted cubicle farm she was able to identify the source. It was the new girl. She was working at one of the desks, her back to Bridgette, proof-reading a document and singing her heart out.

“Where can I find a woman like that? Like Jessie’s girl!” she sang, “I wish that I had Jessie’s–”

“Working late,” asked Bridgette.

“Gir-AH!,” yelped the blonde, spinning in her seat, her hand over her heart, eyeglasses falling askew. “Oh, my god! You scared me!”

“Sorry,” said the redhead, noting, “You wear glasses.”

“What,” the new girl replied, still catching her breath. “Yeah… I know. For reading.” She shut off the music and looked the redhead over for a moment. “I saw you at the party earlier.”

“Yes,” Bridgette confirmed. “Wet punch. Sorry.”

“It was funny,” said the girl. “And, accurate, according to what Diane told me.”

“Diane?”

“Co-worker.”

Bridgette nodded.

“I’m Kara,” said the blonde, extending her hand.

“Bridgette,” she replied, shaking hands. There was a static-electric shock, both girls jumped slightly. “New carpets,” Bridgette shrugged, uncertainly. They let go.

“So,” said Kara, “what are you doing here, Bridgette?”

“CAD Monkey.”

“A what now?”

“Electrical Systems Drafting.”

“Oh, that sounds… involved.”

“I draw lines.”

“Well,” said Kara, “I’m sure you’re downplaying the complexity. But… I meant, what are you doing… here?” She looked around the open office, and gestured slightly with her hands to indicate the space they were occupying.

“I heard music.”

“Oh god,” groaned Kara, putting her head in her hands. “And me singing. I hope you won’t judge me too harshly.”

“Je suis Rick Springfield,” Bridgette replied with a slight smile.

Kara let out loud laugh. “I, uh… I doubt that.” Off of the redhead’s confused look she explained. “You said ‘I am Rick Springfield’.”

“Merde,” blushed Bridgette. “Ninth grade French. Not good.” She watched Kara chuckle. “Do you?”

The blonde’s eyebrow quirked. “Do I what?”

“Wish that you had Jessie’s girl?”

The blonde laughed again. “No,” she answered. “At least, I don’t think so. Truth is, we’ve never met.”

Bridgette nodded and chuckled a little. She glanced at her watch. “I have to go.”

“Oh,” said Kara, “Um… okay.”

“Bus,” she said by way of explanation.

“Okay,” said Kara. “It was nice to meet you, Bridgette.”

“Yes.”

Silence. The women regarded each other.

Kara looked around, unsure why the redhead wasn’t moving. “So… good night,” she prompted.

Bridgette nodded again, and gave a little, awkward, wave and turned to go. I. Suck. So. Much.

“I’ll see you around?” The blonde called after her.

Bridgette looked back. “I work in the basement.”

Kara had no response to the declaration. Bridgette trudged off. Once she was out of the open office, she slapped her forehead with her hand. “I work in the basement?!?” “Twat.”

She spent the entire bus ride home replaying the awkward, stilted, conversation through her mind.

****************

The next day found Bridgette sitting in Rob’s office. Rob was an idiot. Promoted to his level of incompetence. He knew nothing about what Bridgette did, yet he had the authority to continually reset and adjust the standards her work had to meet.

She looked across the desk at him, as he licked his thumb and rubbed a dark stain on his tie. After a moment, he stopped futzing with his clothing and turned his attention to her.

“Bridgette,” he began, “You’re probably wondering why I called you in here.”

“Not really.”

Rob paused, not having expected an answer, especially not that one. “Well…,” he gathered his thoughts again. “You’re a very diligent worker, Bridgette. The trouble is your output. Your drawings are merely functional. They lack elegance. What do you think?”

I think that maybe you ought to try rendering an entire goddamn DEM switchboard that shows all attributed loads in a single schematic and see how ‘elegant’ you can make it. “I’ll work on that.”

“Great,” said Rob, out of his depth to add any further instruction. “See that you do.”

“Is that all?”

Rob shuffled a few papers on his desk as though looking for something. Coming up empty handed he said, “Yes, thank you, Bridgette. You can get back to work.”

Bridgette stood and left his office. Stepping out into the hall, she waited until the door shut behind her and shook her head muttering, “dick.”

She decided to stop by the cafeteria to grab a few snacks so that she’d be able to work through lunch and maybe leave a little early. Walking over to the honor bar, she grabbed a couple of bags of Fritos from the chip basket and a Mountain Dew from the mini-fridge. She turned around, ready to leave, when she saw Kara sitting at a table on the other side of the room, a cellphone to her ear.

Screwing up her courage, Bridgette decided to approach.

As she grew closer, she noted the blonde was wearing a pretty forest green sweater with flecks of gold thread shimmering here and there, catching the light. It was incredibly flattering to the girl’s figure, and Bridgette felt her mouth dry a little at the sight.

“Nice sweater,” she said, arriving at Kara’s side.

Kara looked up, surprised to see the lithe redhead standing so near. “Just a second,” she said into the phone. “Bridgette, hi.”

Not sure what else to say, and seeing that the girl didn’t have anything on her table, she asked, “Are you thirsty?”

“What?” said Kara.

“I could get you a Coke, and a cup with ice.”

“Oh, uh, no, that’s ok, thanks. Soda goes right to my hips. Anyway, I’m, uh… I’m sort of on the phone here, Bridge.” Kara gave her an apologetic look.

She called me “Bridge”. “Ok.”

Seeing that, once again, the redheaded woman didn’t seem likely to move, Kara decided to engage a little further, just for a moment. She looked at the bags of chips and soda in Bridgette’s arms. “Is that your breakfast?”

“Lunch.”

“It’s 9am.”

“For later.”

“Doesn’t seem like a very healthy lunch,” Kara chided.

Bridgette shrugged. “I like Fritos.”

Kara chuckled lightly. “I’m not questioning your affection for them; merely the nutritional value.” The sound of annoyed chatter came through her cellphone. “Yeah, hang on,” she spoke into the mouthpiece. She looked back to Bridgette. “I’m sorry, I really have to…”

Bridgette bobbed her head and started on the long walk back to her desk. “I like Fritos.” She sighed. She’s going to think you’re autistic or something. Not that being autistic is bad. Just that…. Ugh… Bridgette, don’t get started with yourself – you’ll never stop.

****************

Two weeks later and Bridgette found herself at yet another office party. It was somebody’s birthday. She didn’t know whose. She grabbed a plate and placed a couple of cupcakes on it, then looked for a place to sit. Scanning the room, she spied the only available seat, right next to Kara. She approached the chair and nodded her head toward it in question. Kara gave a little nod and a subtle, genial, smile. Bridgette’s heart sank just a little. That was an awfully tiny smile; the kind that doesn’t come with teeth. Maybe she doesn’t remember me…. She sat down and started toying with the paper wrapping the cupcake’s base.

“Don’t tell me that’s your lunch,” said Kara.

“Dinner,” said Bridgette. She remembers!

The blonde rolled her eyes. “You need someone to look after you,” she said.

You could be her… “Still listening to Rick Springfield?”

Kara smirked. “No, I’ve expanded my repertoire. I was listening to Nena this morning.”

“Nena?”

“99 Luftballons,” she explained.

“80’s music.”

Kara blushed. “I’m sort of… extremely fond of 80’s pop,” she said.

“Tears for Fears.”

“Yes,” confirmed the blonde, “that is an 80’s pop band. One of my faves.” She leaned in to Bridgette’s side, resting her hand on the girl’s arm. “Between you and me, I have this secret desire to travel back in time to see a Wham! concert in person.”

Bridgette snickered and felt herself flush with the nearness of the girl. She’s touching me. “I’m your man,” she said.

“That is a Wham! song,” said Kara, leaning back and relinquishing her grip, “not my favorite, though.”

“Wake me up before you go-go?”

“Too obvious,” she replied, taking a sip of her water and watching Bridgette out of the corner of her eye.

Bridgette’s brow furrowed as her mind flipped through the limited catalog of the pop duo’s songs she knew the titles of. What’s the right answer to get her to touch me again? After a moment, she hesitantly guessed, “Club Tropicana?”

“No,” Kara answered, grinning. Something caught her attention from across the room. Diane was waving her over and pointing at her watch. Kara nodded to her. Looking back to the redhead she said, “Listen, I have to go. But I’ll give you a clue: ‘It’s been a pleasure, see you around’.” She stood and gave Bridgette a little wink, then turned and left.

Wait, thought Bridgette, what was the clue? Did she even give me a clue? Was the wink the clue? She didn’t know of any Wham! songs that had winking in them. Then again, she was hardly an expert on the British band. Time to Google.

She stood, still holding her plate with uneaten cupcakes, and started back for the elevator. Back in her basement hideaway, she pulled up the internet and started searching.

****************

Several hours later, long after everyone else had clocked out and left for home, Bridgette was back in the second-floor open office where she’d discovered Kara two weeks before. Once again, she found the blonde still at her workstation, head bent, scribbling notes over a printed document. Another popular hit of the 1980’s played through the computer speakers.

“Hi,” said Bridgette.

Kara jumped and spun in her seat, her hand on her chest as she caught her breath. “Bridgette,” she said, recognizing her visitor. “You’re really good at that.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s ok,” replied the girl, “just maybe… wear louder shoes or something?”

The redhead examined her face thoughtfully, then said, “Nothing looks the same in the light.”

“No,” said Kara, pointing a thumb in the direction of the speakers, “this is Raspberry Beret.” Bridgette said nothing. The blonde exhaled a chuckle. “Oh, you mean… you figured it out. My favorite Wham! song.” She watched the slender woman smile slightly and fidget with her hands. “Very good. How long did it take you?” Bridgette merely shook her head and gazed at her enigmatically. Kara regarded her with increasing interest. “You’re a very mysterious person, aren’t you, Bridgette?”

Bridgette shook her head again. “Simple. Just bad with words.”

“Or at least economical,” Kara countered playfully.

“Have to be careful,” she said. Off the blonde’s perplexed look, she explained, “Too many words, things get babble-y.”

“I bet you’re cute when you babble,” said Kara. “I wouldn’t mind seeing that sometime.” She flashed a sparkling grin.

She grinned for me. She thinks I could be cute. Maybe I should…take a chance? Bridgette blushed and smiled poking her tongue out a little between her teeth. She lifted her hand and pointed in the direction of the exit. “Beer?” She watched the blonde blink. “There’s a place nearby. Small. Quiet.” Kara looked down at the floor. “When you’re done,” Bridgette finished, hopefully.

Kara sighed, looking back up to her. “That’s really sweet. But… the girl I replaced… she left a ton of work. I’m not going to be finished for a while. I wouldn’t want to hold you up. I’m sorry.”

Bridgette nodded and looked down at her hands. Seeing her watch, she lifted her wrist and showed it to the girl. “Bus,” she said.

“Sure,” said Kara, feeling bad for having dashed the girl’s hopes. As Bridgette turned to go, she said, “Bridge?” The redhead looked back. “Some of the girls in my department are going out after work tomorrow. End of the week gripe session. You want to come?”

She called me “Bridge” again. “Ok.”

“Great,” said Kara.

Bridgette dipped her head once, and then headed out.

****************

Lying in bed that night she went back over everything again. I think she likes me. She called me “Bridge”…twice. She touched my arm. She invited me to drinks tomorrow. She felt her brow crinkle. But… she could just be nice. She turned me down for a drink tonight. She shook her head. Because she was busy, you doofus. She frowned again. And tomorrow night, there’ll be other people. A safety net… from me. She closed her eyes and let out a cleansing breath. Ok, no big deal. I’ll just play it nice and cool. Keep the pressure off.

****************

The next morning, Bridgette ran into Kara at the self-serve coffee stand just inside the cafeteria doors. She didn’t say anything, merely sidled up next to the blonde and took a mug down from one of the hooks, setting it on the small countertop. Kara was in the middle of pouring her own cup, and glanced to Bridgette out of the corner of her eye; she finished filling her mug and grabbed Bridgette’s doing the same for her.

Say something! Bridgette’s mind screamed. An opening line. Anything!

Kara finished pouring the redhead’s cup and placed the glass carafe back on the brew-station burner. Picking up her own mug, she smiled pleasantly at Bridgette and then walked off in the direction of her cubicle.

Dammit.

She added milk and two Sweet-‘N-Low to her coffee and then slogged back down to her basement.

Idiot. Idiot. Idiot. Tongue-tied doofus. She powered up her workstation and pulled up the latest model she’d been working on; sighing when she realized she had much farther to go on it than she’d thought. God, I have every reason to get out of this place. The work is dumb and boring. My boss is an idiot. She groaned. I’d much rather wake up, eat a slice of coffeecake, take a bath… take a nap. “But, Bridgette,” she said aloud to herself in a bad impression of Rob, “don’t you find this job fulfilling creatively?” She rolled her eyes. “Fuh.” Why stay? Bridgette exhaled. Of course, she knew the reason.

Her. Soft. Pretty. Kara.

Maybe eventually I’ll have it all… maybe even her. Could be I’m just waiting for now. Maybe someday….

I wonder what it would be like to hold her hand.

What if the best that I can be just isn’t good enough?

She sighed again, then cracked her knuckles, and went back to work.

****************

That evening, Bridgette looked up at the sound of a soft knock on the doorframe of her office. She smiled at the sight of Kara, backlit by the hallway light, leaning against the jam.

“So,” said Kara, surveying the dark, little, space. “This is the basement?” Bridgette nodded. “It’s dark.” She nodded again. “No windows? How do you know what time it is?”

“Clock.”

“Of course,” she replied, her mouth falling into a lopsided grin. “Well, I think it’s beer-thirty, don’t you?”

Bridgette smiled and signed out of her computer, standing up as she shut it down. “Cold outside?” she asked, noting the coat slung over Kara’s arm.

“A little. Plus, I heard it’s supposed to rain later,” Kara explained.

The redhead bobbed her chin and grabbed her fitted, orange-brown, Kerwin leather jacket from the back of her chair, shrugging into it.

“Nice coat,” said the blonde, impressed.

Bridgette glanced down at it on her body. “Gift.” She shrugged. “Dad.”

Kara grinned. “Ready to go?”

The redhead took a step, then paused. “Almost,” she said. She brought her hands up to her button-down shirt and started quickly undoing the fastenings.

“Um…,” said Kara, alarmed, turning her back.

Bridgette looked up at her, eyebrow raised. “T-shirt,” she said. “Underneath.”

Kara turned back around and – seeing the black, cotton, tee – exhaled a sigh of relief. “Oh.”

“More relaxed. Casual,” she explained, finishing with the last button and stepping over to join the blonde by the door.

“Right,” agreed Kara. “Looks good.”

The two women made their way upstairs to the main entrance lobby where three other ladies met them.

“Bridgette,” said Kara, “this is Diane, Cheryl and Colette.”

“Hi.”

The woman Bridgette recognized as Diane peered at her. “Oh, yeah,” she said. “I’ve seen you around. What department do you work in?”

“Drafting.”

“I don’t recall seeing you with the other CAD monkeys in the cube farm over by Rob’s office,” noted Diane.

“I work in the basement.”

“Jeez,” said another of the women. “Who’d you piss off?”

“Cheryl…,” Kara chided.

“My choice,” said Bridgette. “Quieter.”

“So where are we going, ladies?” asked the last woman, who Bridgette surmised by process of elimination could only be Colette.

“I was thinking O’Shaugnessy’s,” said Diane.

“No,” said Bridgette in a soft, but firm, voice. When she noticed the rest of the group staring at her oddly, she added, “Rob.”

“Oh, she’s right,” said Colette, “Rob does drink there after work. God, I hate that guy.” She shook her head and let out a small “yech”.

“Bridgette mentioned she knew a place,” said Kara.

“When,” asked Cheryl.

“Last night,” the blonde explained. “She stopped by my desk on her way out.”

Cheryl scrunched up her face. “Quite a circuitous route just to say good night.”

Bridgette felt her chest caving in slightly.

“Cheryl,” Kara warned again.

“Alright, alright, sorry.” She looked at Bridgette. “I tease. I kid. Nothing personal.” Bridgette nodded warily.

“So, what is this place, Bridge,” asked Diane.

You don’t get to call me that. “Leary’s, on 8th.”

“Oh yeah,” said Colette, “I know that one. It’s small.” Thinking another moment, she added, “good wine selection, though.”

“Leary’s it is,” Diane declared. “Let’s go.”

Bridgette was quiet for the entire walk to the bar while the other women chattered on about the annoyances of the week. She stayed close to Kara, though. Occasionally, their hands or arms would brush up against each other. With each accidental touch, Bridgette felt her heart jump and her skin tingle. She wondered if Kara felt the same. And then… she could have sworn… she caught Kara bumping her arm… on purpose. She smiled to herself, feeling the skin of her throat and cheeks flush red.

The group arrived inside the small, dark, pub and grabbed a large booth at the back. Diane and Colette slid into one side of the u-shaped bench-seat, Kara and Bridgette the other.

“What do you gals want,” asked Cheryl, already heading for the bar. “My shout.”

“Chardonnay,” said Diane.

“Same,” said Colette.

“Blue Moon,” said Kara.

“Me too,” added Bridgette.

“Got it,” replied Cheryl, walking away.

“So, Bridgette,” said Diane, “how long have you been at ED?”

“Seven years.”

“What?” said Colette, disbelieving. “That’s longer than me. Have you been hiding in the basement this whole time?”

“Mostly.”

“I don’t blame you,” said Diane. “That Rob is a piece of work. How he got to his position… who knows?”

Bridgette knew, but chose not to say. Rob was the owner’s son’s best friend’s brother-in-law.

Cheryl returned to the table with a class of wine in either hand and a barman in tow, carrying a pitcher of beer and three glasses. Drinks delivered, she squeezed up into the booth next to Colette and began pouring herself a beer.

“What did I miss,” she asked, sipping off some of the foamy head.

“Turns out Bridgette here is ED’s own version of the Phantom of the Opera,” joked Colette.

“You guys, be nice,” said Kara.

“It’s ok,” said Bridgette, pouring herself and Kara each glasses of beer. “They don’t get to see my sewer boat.”

Cheryl stared at her. “Was… was that a joke?” She looked around. “I think that was a joke. What do you know, she’s got a sense of humor!”

Bridgette looked at Kara and smiled bashfully. Kara clinked her glass against Bridgette’s and took a small drink.

Diana started a fresh thread of conversation having to do with the latest hardware they were writing up white papers for. Bridgette recognized the device names; she’d drawn the schematics for more than half of them, but chose not to engage in the chat. Instead, she leaned back into the booth, almost against Kara’s side, and watched the blonde from the corner of her eye, as she sipped her beer.

A while later, after they had each taken a turn buying rounds, Diane and Colette went to avail themselves of the pool table and Cheryl excused herself to the bar where she’d “spotted someone worthy of her attention”.

“You’ve been awfully quiet,” said Kara, nudging her slightly.

“It’s nice,” said Bridgette, “just being here.” With you.

“Don’t get out much?”

Bridgette shook her head.

Kara smiled and raised her hand, as though to brush a stray hair from the redhead’s face; then, she seemed to catch herself, and she pointed down to Bridgette’s shirt instead. “What does it say?” she asked. “It’s faded,” she explained, “and I didn’t want you to think I was staring at your chest when I was trying to read it.”

Bridgette giggled a little. “It says ‘Pluto, 1936-2006, Revolve in Peace’.”

“Oh, that’s right,” said Kara, leaning on her hand, elbow on the table. “Pluto isn’t a planet anymore, is it?”

“Planetoid, now.”

“I remember thinking it was so sad when they demoted it,” said Kara, nonchalantly tapping Bridgette’s knee with her free hand as she gestured. Clearly, the beer was having an effect. “I even thought about burning the little Pluto from my 4th grade papier-mâché model solar system in tiny effigy.” Bridgette laughed. “I’m serious,” Kara protested in jest, pressing her hand firmly against Bridgette’s knee. “I grew up with nine planets and now? Eight planets and a… what did you call it?”

“Planetoid.” She’s holding my knee. I can die happy. Almost.

“Eight planets and a planetoid,” Kara repeated. “Childhood ruined.”

“Bit extreme,” commented Bridgette.

“And just thinking about that poor little planetoid,” Kara went on, only half-joking, “all alone out there at the edge of our solar system. Spinning around in the dark. It’s sad, don’t you think?”

“Pluto’s not alone.”

“It’s not?”

“It has Charon,” said Bridgette. Kara’s expression told her that she needed to explain further, “Pluto’s moon.”

“Wait, Pluto has a moon and it’s still not considered a planet?” scoffed Kara. “Unfair.”

Bridgette grinned. She found Kara’s drunken indignation adorable. Plus, the frequent touching, definitely on-board with that.

“Do you think Pluto’s feelings were hurt,” asked the blonde.

The redhead beamed at her. “Did you know that Charon is only half the size of Pluto?” Kara shook her head. “Because they’re so close in size, Charon doesn’t revolve around Pluto. Instead, they both rotate around a point in space midway between them. It’s called a ‘barycenter’; and, they’re tidally face-locked.”

“I don’t know what that is,” said Kara.

Bridgette sat up a little. “Give me your hands,” she said, reaching out, her heart pounding. Kara obliged, placing her hands in the other girl’s. So soft. I knew they’d be soft. And warm. “Being face-locked means that they’re stuck facing each other forever. And that they orbit the barycenter means it’s like they’re holding hands, spinning around like dance partners.” Kara smiled and giggled. Bridgette grew slightly serious. “I think that if Pluto was sad about not being a planet anymore, Charon would look her partner in the eye and say something like, ‘I don’t care what they say, here’s something they can’t change: I’m yours and you’re mine. All the way out here it’s those dumb guys that look too small. They can crunch all the numbers they want. We’re the ones who are out here, past the edge of everything. Let them think what they like, we’re fine. It doesn’t matter if they don’t understand. I will always be right here, next to you.” Bridgette stopped, embarrassed at the outpouring. She self-consciously let go of Kara’s hands. “See? Babble-y.” She looked down at her lap.

“It wasn’t ‘babble-y’,” said Kara gently, resting her hand against Bridgette’s cheek. “It was beautiful.”

Bridgette looked up, leaning slightly into the blonde’s warm touch. “Kara….” The girls began to gravitate toward one another.

Suddenly, Diane jostled the table as she climbed back into the booth. The girls flew backward, apart from each other.

“Colette’s a pool shark,” the woman accused, slapping the tabletop. “Don’t play her. I just lost twenty bucks.” She picked up her empty wine glass and grumbled. “And no wine. Insult to injury,” she said, setting the glass back down in frustration. “I should head out anyway. How about you girls?” For the first time since sitting back down she actually looked at her table companions. They were oddly far from each other compared to when she had left for the pool table, and they looked… guilty… of something. “Everything ok?”

“We were just talking about Pluto,” said Kara, rubbing the back of her neck nervously.

“The dog,” asked Diane, confused.

“Planet,” said Bridgette, casting timid glances the blonde’s direction. “Um, planetoid.”

“Sounds fascinating,” said Diane, not interested. “Ok, well, I’ll leave you to your astrology talk.”

“Astronomy,” Bridgette corrected softly.

“Whatever,” answered Diane. “Kara, I’ll see you on Monday?”

“Sure – I mean, yes,” said Kara. “See you Monday.”

Diane grabbed her coat and purse from the booth and scooted back out. “Bridgette, it was nice meeting you. Maybe one day we’ll have a conversation that consists of more than ten words.”

“Diane,” Kara whined with reproach.

“We have,” Bridgette replied. “You just said more than ten words.”

“It’s always the quiet ones,” Diane laughed. “Bye girls.”

“Bye,” said Kara. Bridgette remained silent. “So, I guess Diane is a mean drunk. Sorry.”

“It’s ok,” said Bridgette, fiddling with a napkin. She glanced around the pub. Cheryl was entertaining another suitor at the bar. Colette appeared to be cleaning out her next victim on the pool table. She looked back to Kara and smiled cautiously. “Food?”

“Probably a good idea,” said Kara. “But… greasy bar food? Doesn’t sound great. I’ve got stuff at home.”

Gathering that the blonde was about to attempt an exit, Bridgette tried to deflect, placing her hand on the girl’s arm: “Shouldn’t drive.”

Kara smiled sweetly at the girl’s concern. “I don’t. My apartment building is only about ten blocks away. I usually walk to work, unless the weather is really bad.”

“Walk you home?” Bridgette’s expression was open and hopeful.

“Could be raining.”

“Share a cab?”

“What about your bus?”

“Long gone.”

Kara’s brow furrowed, her forehead crinkling. “I’m sorry I made you miss it,” she apologized.

“I’m not,” said Bridgette, sincerely.

Kara gazed at her for a long moment. She seemed to be considering something. Finally, she reached behind herself and grabbed her coat and purse. “Ok,” she said, “let’s go. If it’s raining, we’ll grab a cab. If not, we’ll walk.”

“Ok,” smiled Bridgette, scooting out of the booth with the blonde following close behind.

They didn’t bother saying goodnight to the other girls. When they got outside, it was indeed raining. Bridgette hailed a cab and they both clambered in.

“Avalara Apartments on 20th Street,” Kara instructed. The cabbie grunted and pulled away from the curb.

They spent the first few minutes of the ride in silence, sneaking looks at each other from opposite sides of the back seat. The air between them was undeniably charged. Bridgette noticed Kara was breathing a little heavily; she was doing the same. The blonde’s hand rested on the seat between them. Bridgette placed hers next to it, pinkies touching. Kara swallowed.

“So,” said the blonde, “why are you so afraid of babbling?”

Bridgette blushed, looking down at the base of the seat in front of her. “Got made fun of. Couldn’t get to the point. Said stupid stuff.” She shrugged.

“I doubt you said ‘stupid stuff’,” Kara countered.

“I said stupid stuff,” Bridgette reiterated with emphasis.

“Like what?” Kara challenged.

Bridgette thought for a moment, then answered, “The first time I tried coming out to my mom, I got her so confused she thought I was dropping out of college to join a commune.”

Kara burst out laughing. “Ok,” she said, “so ‘first time’ implies there were subsequent attempts?”

“Second time was easier. Just said, ‘I’m gay.’ Left it at that.” Bridgette looked at her meaningfully, her heart in her throat. “How about you?”

Kara looked back. “You mean… coming out?” The redhead nodded. “I… I didn’t need to.”

She’s not gay. “Oh.”

“I just mean,” the blonde continued on, “my mom had me figured out – so I didn’t need to say anything ‘officially’. My dad… out of the picture.”

She is gay! “Oh.” Bridgette tried desperately to calm the rushing of blood inside her ears. “Okay.” Carefully, she slipped her hand on top of Kara’s, gazing up into blue eyes. She watched the girl’s cheeks turn rosy and felt her own chest start to vibrate.

The cab shuddered to a stop. “$10.50,” said the cabbie.

Bridgette pulled $15 out of her wallet and handed it to him saying, “Wait.” Looking back to Kara she offered, “Walk you to your door?”

“Sure.”

They both slid out of the backseat, and dashed through the rain to the awning of the building’s entrance.

They stood awkwardly apart from each other, uncertain what to do next. Bridgette felt the same sensation of gravity, as she had back at the bar, pulling her inexorably toward the other girl. She wondered if Kara did, too.

The blonde lifted her purse and reached inside, blindly looking for something. After a few seconds, she pulled out her keys, displaying them as if to say, ‘oh, here they are.’ Bridgette nodded.

“So,” said Kara, “I guess this is good night?”

“Good night,” echoed Bridgette, trying to hide her disappointment.

Kara held her arms open for a hug. Bridgette stepped into them. They held each other, their hearts slamming against the inside of their chests. Slowly, they began to part; as their faces slid past each other, they stopped; mouths hovering within centimeters. Bridgette swallowed. Kara unconsciously licked her lips. They looked into each other’s eyes. Bridgette could feel Kara trembling in her arms, and she pulled her in more closely, moulding their bodies together. The blonde exhaled a shuddering breath and raised a quavering hand to Bridgette’s face, running her finger across her freckled forehead, brushing a lock of fiery hair behind her ear; and then, subtly, almost imperceptibly, Kara nodded. Bridgette’s heart leapt as she recognized the tiny gesture of consent. Unable to resist the magnetic force of attraction any longer, their lips finally met in a gentle, firm and – ultimately – deep and searching kiss. Bridgette felt Kara’s lips open against hers, and she dipped her tongue inside, tasting her reverently. Kara whimpered softly into her mouth. After several long, sweet, moments the kiss came to a natural end and they rested their foreheads against each other, sharing breath.

“Sober?” asked Bridgette.

“Suddenly, very.” Kara replied, still a little giddy.

“This ok?”

“Oh yes.”

Bridgette raised her arm and waved the cab off. It pulled away into the rainy night as Kara opened the apartment building door and Bridgette followed her inside.

End.

Advertisements