Ellen sometimes treats herself to a touch of extravagance and visits The Carlyle Hotel on the upper east side. Despite a substantial hike in net-worth, with a large apartment in an impressive high rise, she rarely feels as though she belongs in New York City high society; Feels in this instance, like a sheep in wolf’s clothing. But she holds her head high, dresses from head to toe in Chanel and strides with purpose through the lobby of the hotel, past the white gloved elevator attendants and through to Bemelmans where she tucks herself away at the bar and watches people. She always wonders if she'll see her here, but she never has.
She kissed her once— Patty Hewes. The thought might seem abrupt, a non-sequitur, but it’s not really, because Ellen Parsons kissed Patty Hewes in this very bar.
She thinks of it often, though they’ve never spoken of it. She doesn’t see Patty very often anymore because she works at a different firm. It’s not as prestigious as Hewes and Associates but she doesn’t need it to be. It’s challenging, it pays well and she feels like she’s making a difference. She doesn’t have any desire to be the best. Ellen knows what Patty’s reputation of being the best has done to her; She doesn’t want that for herself.
Patty Hewes. Ellen smiles to think of her, even though they’ve yet to resolve the darker issues of the past. These sinister memories are fuzzier now, threads stretching back a long six years, unraveling and losing their significance.
It was late one Friday evening, after hours when she still worked for Patty. They’d met to discuss a client while enjoying a drink; Ellen a house cocktail, Patty— top shelf bourbon. The conversation had slowly meandered from case details to Armani's latest collection to the morality of US presence in the Middle East. They managed to talk easily reminding Ellen of the nights they'd spoken on the sofa of Patty's penthouse apartment, discussing world events and high stakes cases.
Later, when Ellen had gone to the bathroom to tidy up her lip color, she’d returned to find Patty talking to an older gentleman - or rather being talked at by an older gentleman. The man had looked as though he was made of money, in a tuxedo for Christ’s sake, and with a look on his face that set Ellen’s teeth on edge. Patty appeared disinterested as she often did, and when Ellen neared she could see the man slip his hand across Patty’s stockinged thigh.
Patty looked up at the man, eyes narrowing and lips parting to begin what would likely result in the complete emasculation of the would-be suitor, but just as she did, Ellen sidled up next to Patty, “is everything okay here?”
The man removed his hand and looked to Ellen, flashing too-white teeth, "I was just getting to know this beautiful woman here," he looked back to Patty whose jaw had visibly clenched, "is this your daughter?"
Ellen could feel the oxygen evaporating from the room at an alarming rate. Despite the sudden calm of Patty's demeanor, she could see the older woman's fingers clenching the edge of the bar, white-knuckled. Ellen knew that if this man had been foolish enough to give Patty his name, after this night he'd be ruined. Ellen could sense that Patty's long, lingering stare was building in ferocity, but the man seemed completely oblivious to any potential misstep.
Possibly because of her own rising blood pressure, her indigent rage on Patty's behalf, or something much deeper, Ellen was propelled to do something that in hindsight may have been a trifle rash.
"Yes, she's my mother," Ellen had smiled, though it didn't reach her eyes, before turning to Patty whose own had gone wide with shock. But before Patty could misinterpret her plan, she slid both of her hands at either side of Patty's jaw and dipped down to capture the woman's mouth with her own. Even as she was doing it, it felt like an out of body experience. She wasn't actually kissing Patty Hewes was she? Time suddenly slowed and Ellen's focus drifted from the feel of surprisingly soft lips against hers to the proximity of Patty's feminine yet muscular body to the stronger fragrance of Patty's perfume — every minute detail, was incredibly enhanced.
She didn't know how long she'd been kissing Patty but the law titan had done nothing to stop her and that fact alone had given Ellen enough bravado to glide her tongue along Patty's lower lip, coaxing it open and swiping the tip of her tongue along Patty's inner cheek. She felt a vibration from the other woman— could that have been a moan? —and their tongues met briefly, forcing a surge of arousal in Ellen who had almost forgotten the whole reason she'd started the kiss in the first place.
Regretfully withdrawing her mouth from Patty's, she pulled back and watched as the woman's eyelids slowly lifted to reveal darkened blue irises and an expression Ellen had never seen before on Patty's striking features. Before she could question it, she turned back to the man who had gone pale watching them, and offered a lethal smile.
"And you can only imagine how good my mother is bed," Ellen winked, casting a sideways glance at Patty who was still staring at her, breath narrowing and escaping through flared nostrils, lip still wet from Ellen's mouth.
The man looked as though he were going to say something but all he could manage was a meager, "good evening" before he turned and fled shamefully for the exit, realizing, Ellen noted with delight, the error of his ways.
When he had gone, Ellen laughed and looked back at Patty, who had lifted the glass of bourbon to her lips and was rapidly draining the contents.
"I'm sorry Patty," Ellen shook her head, "that idiot had it coming."
Patty set the glass down on the bar top with a clang that sounded much too loud, then made eye contact with the bartender, tapping the bar top between her and Ellen's glasses which gave the signal, Ellen surmised, to add the drinks to Patty's usual ongoing tab. As she rose to her feet and unhooked her designer handbag from the back of her chair, Ellen finally realized the true weight of the silence and the way Patty was avoiding looking at her.
"Oh Patty, I didn't mean to put you in a, it's just—"
"It's fine Ellen," Patty leaned over to sign the receipt that had appeared on the bar top.
"Well if it's fine, why are you leaving?"
"We have the deposition in the morning, if you remember, and I have work to do. I'll see you tomorrow," Patty walked past her, heading toward the door on four inch heels that struck the floor soundly with each step. Ellen had felt a sinking feeling as she went, knowing that her impulse could have cost her any further interactions with Patty, beyond their professional working relationship. But then, as the older woman had reached the glass door of the bar, Ellen saw her pause just briefly and support herself on the wall before shaking her blond hair and disappearing outside.
Ellen felt the smile returning to her lips at the development. She'd finally gotten to Patty Hewes and it thrilled her.
The next day Patty had been her usual self, seemingly unaffected by anything that had transpired the night before. Her focus on the case had been as sharp as ever and the deposition had gone better than anyone could have expected. Later when Ellen had brought it up again, to gauge Patty's reaction, the older woman had regarded her with an amused expression and almost sympathetic eyes as she'd said, "it was just a kiss Ellen."
Ellen looked into her glass and pondered the memory again. She could have handled the whole thing differently. She could have reserved a room at the hotel and asked Patty to join her. Would she have said yes? Would she have laughed at her in that way that made people feel just like the imbeciles they were? Ellen could never be sure. She'd always regretted not finding out.
Even now she remembers that Patty tasted of expensive bourbon. She remembers the way her perfume smelled, which after smelling practically every bottle of perfume at Saks Fifth Avenue she discovered was Hermes Eau des Merveilles. She remembers the way Patty had moaned, ever so softly into her mouth, a tantalizing sound that still haunted her dreams regularly.
She remembers Patty Hewes in all of her glory fondly, and how it felt to be the perpetual mouse to her cat. But she knows that, if only for one evening, she'd tasted what it felt like to be the one with the upper hand and that feeling was more addictive than heroine. Ellen smiles and drains the alcohol from her glass, letting it burn a path down her throat. She thinks she'll have a second chance with Patty Hewes and that next time she'll get to see what Patty's blond hair looks like splayed across a pillow at The Carlyle Hotel.