Leap of Faith
Vanessa had breathed a sigh of relief when she had walked into the pub and found it surprisingly empty. It had been one of those rare days that she hated her job, and whilst she knew Paddy and Rhona would be sympathetic to how she was feeling what she really needed was to just forget.
Pulling up a stool at the bar, she found herself watching Charity pouring a pint and smiled despite how she was feeling. She knew that the other woman had seen her as nothing more than a plaything, but even after that harsh conversation just before Christmas Vanessa still found her heart beating a little bit faster when the two of them were in close proximity.
“Earth to Vanessa,” a familiar sarcastic voice shook her from her thoughts. “Did you want a drink, or did you just come in here to ogle the bar staff?”
“I, uh,” Vanessa stuttered, feeling the warmth of blush tinge her cheeks. She tried, but failed to think of a witty retort to being caught out staring. “Sorry, just enjoying the view. It’s a good distraction.”
“It’s fine, I’m flattered,” Charity shot back with a grin, propping herself up with her elbows on the bar. “Distraction from what? Bad day?” she asked, triggering a questioning look from Vanessa. “You just look like you’ve a lot on your mind.”
“Work mostly,” she replied sadly. “Difficult day up at one of the farms. A little girl’s horse was hit by a car, had to put it out of its misery,” she added taking a deep breath, trying not to remember the screams that came from the absolutely devastated small child.
She paused, unable to think of what to say next, before feeling fingers clasping her own and giving her hand a squeeze.
“That sounds like the worst,” Charity said with what sounded like sincere sympathy to Vanessa. “In my job, a bad day is when someone gets a bit drunk and rowdy. Can’t be much fun having lives in your hands.” There was a silence. “Go take a seat and I will grab you a drink.”
Vanessa found herself wanting to protest, to insist that she was far happier sitting at the bar but did not have the energy to do so. As much as watching Charity work sounded like more fun than drinking in a corner on her own, she was too tired and drained to do much about it. Instead she wandered over to a table and sat down, noticing as she did that there was now no one standing behind the bar.
After a minute Charity appeared, bottle of wine in hand and with Chas behind her. Vanessa spied them share a knowing look, before Charity grabbed two glasses and strode around the bar. She sank into the chair opposite her, placing the wine and glasses down on the table.
“Don’t you have to work?” Vanessa asked expectantly as the other woman started to pour the first glass.
“Swapped my shift,” Charity replied, sounding as if that was the most normal thing in the world. “Figured you could do with the company,” she added as she poured the second glass and took a swig of dark red liquid.
“So, we are going to have a drink?” Vanessa queried puzzled, knowing she was sounding particularly dense but wanting to be clear on what was happening. “Just the two of us?”
“Yes,” Charity responded slowly, as if talking to a small child. “I will even let you call it a date if you want,” she continued. Vanessa felt her heart actually jump in her chest, and the other woman smirked almost as if she had heard it. “Date or not date, do you fancy the company or not?”
Vanessa hesitated before speaking, knowing that what she said next needed to be the right balance of interested and flippant but completely unable to think of anything casual to say.
“Yes, yes, I would,” she finally answered with a small smile. “Company would be perfect.”
Vanessa took a gulp of wine from her glass and smiled as she listened to Charity chatter on about her family. She had always thought the Dingles seemed like an interesting bunch, but some of these stories were enough to make her laugh out loud and had managed to make her mostly forget about the trauma of the day. She briefly glanced around the pub, spying as she did that her and her drinking partner were definitely a topic of conversation on more than one table.
Her dad, Megan, Tracy and David were having a drink over in one booth and they had been looking over in her direction pointedly on more than one occasion. Rhona, Paddy and Marlon were at another table nearby and she could sense that the vets desperately wanted to talk to her, but whether that was out of concern over the events of the day at work or over who she was sharing her evening with she was not sure. The recently reunited Moira and Cain were over the other side of the pub, and Vanessa pondered momentarily how she felt about that couple before she refocused her thoughts on the woman in front of her. She smiled at how animated her drinking partner was, her eyes dancing with glee as she explained about something that had occurred many years before.
“What time do you need to get back?” Charity interjected, jolting Vanessa back to reality. “Or are you going to spend all night just staring at me with a soppy expression on your face?” she added teasingly.
“Don’t be mean,” Vanessa retorted with an embarrassed smile. “Soon though,” she continued as she noticed the time on her watch. “Can’t leave Johnny with the babysitter much longer.”
“Shame,” Charity replied with an exaggerated sad voice. “Our date not date has come to an end.”
“About that,” Vanessa started before Charity cut her off by placing her hand across Vanessa’s.
“It’s fine, we’re not a couple, blah blah blah. I get it,” she quickly stated, looking away. “I am just messing around, you know what I’m like. I just thought you’d like some company, that’s all.”
“No, wait,” Vanessa chipped in, trying not to think about the fact that she was sitting in full view of everyone with Charity’s hand wrapping itself around her own. “I did enjoy the company, I mean I do enjoy it. I like this, us, whatever this actually is,” she added, kicking herself mentally for not making much sense. “I like spending time with you. Like this I mean. Not just the other things.”
“Sex, you mean?” Charity said in a loud whisper and Vanessa cursed her for making her blush for the millionth time that evening. “You mean you don’t enjoy that? Because I know that’s a lie,” she added with a knowing wink. “But it’s nice to know you liked this. Listen to us,” she continued, wrinkling her nose. “How polite are we? I like this, this is nice,” she said, putting on a phony posh accent. “How about we just call it a night and then say, if tomorrow or any other day you feel like a chat over a drink or even something more, well you know where I am eh?”
Vanessa nodded, feeling her mouth dry as she realised that whilst she wanted to go home to her little boy, right now all she could think about was what Charity’s lips tasted like when she’d been drinking. The other woman stood, and reached out a hand to pull her up, which Vanessa took and found herself standing so close to Charity she could feel her breath against her face. She wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol or the intoxicating presence of the other woman, but it felt like the world had stopped and there was no one else in the room.
Squashing away her fears Vanessa reached forward, her hand finding a seemingly familiar spot in Charity’s hair and pulled the other woman towards her. Their lips crashed together passionately and for what felt like forever they stood in the middle of The Woolpack, locked together in an embrace. Vanessa heard a gasp from the other side of the pub and she pulled backwards slightly, releasing them both. She found herself staring into the eyes of a very bemused Charity, who had obviously not been expecting that turn of events.
“Are you sure you have to get back?” Charity asked, breathlessly and as Vanessa nodded silently, she found herself slightly pleased at the impact the kiss had had on the other woman. “Well then, give me a minute,” Charity continued, freeing herself from their entanglement. “I will be back,” she added before walking away, a happy smirk scrawled across her face.
It was at that moment that it dawned on Vanessa that the majority of people she considered family and friends, plus half the village and vet clients, were staring at her open-mouthed. She caught her dad and Tracy’s horrified expressions, the concerned looks from Moira and Rhona and the shock emanating from everyone else. As no one moved, she slowly put on her jacket and picked up the two empty glasses from the table, before returning them to the bar. She smiled as Charity appeared in the doorway behind where Chas was standing, and whispered something in her ear causing Chas to roll her eyes but also nod. Charity sauntered round the bar, plonking herself back to stand in front of Vanessa.
“I could come with you,” she started, a hopeful tone in her voice. “If you can’t stay here, I can come to yours? Chas will keep an eye on Noah and Moses is with Ross, so I’ve the night to myself it seems, and I thought I could spend it with you,” she said, the words tumbling out in a rush. “Only if you want to mind you,” she added, almost as an afterthought, as if she thought she might be about to be turned down.
It was in that moment that Vanessa realised that whilst she had just put herself out there by initiating the kiss in public, that had been done in an intense hazy moment without much consideration. Charity on the other hand had opened herself up to the possibility of public rejection willingly, which Vanessa doubted she would have done if she didn’t actually want this too.
“Can’t think of any better way to spend an evening,” Vanessa whispered back, not really wanting to have a conversation about their night time plans in front of her dad and sister if at all possible.
She turned to walk out the door, head held high but not meeting anyone’s gaze, and as she went to leave she felt warm arms wrap themselves around her stomach as Charity connected them once again. Vanessa smiled, knowing that as she did so that soppy expression the other woman had earlier called her out for was creeping back across her features. Tonight, they would be sharing a bed once again, but this time it was her bed and Vanessa couldn’t wait to wake up beside Charity the next morning.