Frances and Erica paused outside the house, hearts pounding. They listened closely.
"I think we're good, Frankie."
"No you don't, you don't know her like I do okay? She's... she's smart, real smart and-"
"What are we gonna do if she did escape? Frankie, we're empty handed, we're better off just going to the cops as soon as we can."
"No. You don't understand... you don't understand."
Erica looked at her friend properly, and saw the raw fearality in her eyes. The panic that made her throat clench, the way her hands were curled into tight balls. The flakes of blood on her hands from banging at the doors, the bed frame. She knew, in that one fleeting moment, Frances had grown up in a way Erica would never really understand. And she never wanted to.
"Okay. Okay, we'll go back," she said, wrapping her arms around her friend and kissing the top of her head. "We'll go back."
The house is quiet, but Frances knows better than to assume things are going to be okay. Her paranoia over the months had turned out to be right all along- she wasn't about to let her guard down now. As she and Erica made the walk past the piano, still pushed forward, she felt bile rising in her stomach. She could feel, rather than remember, the months of screaming her throat raw, scraping at the door, banging the bedpost, in the hopes she'd be saved. She felt her skin prick up into goosebumps, every hair standing up. It was the most awful kind of quiet. It meant Greta wasn't trying. And if she wasn't trying...
She was out.
Erica saw her first, no longer methodical and slow, she was launching herself at the girls like she had at the restaurant. And in that one moment Greta wasn't thinking, Erica grabbed a base from behind her head, and this time, finally slammed it down on Greta's skull.
She dropped, and Frances nearly did too- it was over. Blood pooled underneath Greta's head, and Frances came apart in Erica's arms. Erica was shaking slightly, holding onto Frances tightly, tighter than ever before.
"We're getting out of here."
Without another word, Erica helped Frances up off her knees, and to the door. Her eyes stayed on Greta's body the entire time, still looking fearful. Erica wanted to scream at herself for not knowing, for believing Greta's tricks. But Frances was safe now, and Erica wasn't going to let her get hurt again.
Months passed, and eventually the police questioning and trials quietened down- but Frances' nightmares only escalated, her having to sleep in Erica's bed so she didn't end up scraping her skin off in her sleep. She'd wake up screaming, unable to be calmed down, until she finally got diagnosed with PTSD. The medication and therapy helped, little by little, but Erica knew Frances would never be the same again. That woman had done something to her, something undeniable and something deep. She'd gotten so deep under Frances' skin.
"Erica. Can I...?"
It's been a while since Frances has had nightmares bad enough to need to sleep with Erica, but tonight's a bad one. It's the anniversary of when she met Greta.
The girls lie awake, staring at the ceiling, and Erica squeezes Frances' hand.
"I love you."
Frances turns to look at her, and though she feels broken, something deep in her chest hums. She thinks it's love. It will be a long time until she can trust again, but this girl- her best friend- has done what
friends would never take the time to do. She looks deep into her eyes, squeezes her hand back, and smiles, planting a kiss on Erica's cheek.
"I love you too."