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All the Light I Cannot See

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March 1942, Hollywood, United States

Dark eyes fluttered open, scrunching up against the early morning light, they closed again. Serena took stock of her body. She felt lighter, the persistent ache that had taken up residence in her chest for the past two years had vanished. A smile tugged at her lips, she felt weightless, a floating feeling as her dark eyes finally cracked open. Through the open balcony doors the sun had started to rise in the sky in all its morning glory. Serena blinked against the light and pushed herself up on her elbows. She could make out her trousers tossed over one of the chairs in the large master bedroom in the early dawn. The Hollywood Hills were losing their silhouette and beginning to be drenched in warm sunlight.

It was a sight for wearisome eyes, how she had missed this view. She fought the urge to get up and pad naked to the balcony. The bed felt luxurious, the sheets soft against her naked skin, the cool breeze kissing her skin and the woman next to her was enough to keep her where she was. She felt her heart clench at the thought of the person next to her, her mind flashed back to last night. The wine, the laughing, the passion, and the desperation. The pain of loss and the elation of reunion still rushing through her mind. She closed her eyes against the sting of tears. She was finally home. Her eyes left the stunning view out of the window, her window, their window. Turning instead to the sleep tousled blonde next to her. She noticed a bruise forming on her collarbone, another slightly lower on the swell of a breast that the sheet was slipping just low enough to reveal. Settling back down in the bed she turned to her wife, her eyes flickering down looking at the ring on her hand. Closing her eyes she let herself remember.

It had all started six months ago back in Blighty.

 

October 1941, Chatto, Roxburghshire, Scottish Borders

 

“No, no, Roger, no!” Court shoes clicked as she paced in front of her mahogany desk, as far as the phone cord would let her.

“Rena… Come on, this is big! It’s bigger than big! It’s huge!”

Serena rolled her eyes, “Spoken like a true snake oil salesman! Roger, I said no! You know I’d never go back to America, especially to Hollywood.”

“Rena, I know, I know what happened I understand, but this...”

“Like hell you understand!” Sarcasm dripped off every syllable, her voice like steel. No one knew exactly what had happened, no one except her. Except them. Roger was fishing, hurt and upset as he was kept out of the loop, but she had signed a nondisclosure contract, they both had. Serena’s mysterious disappearance from Hollywood had been grist for the rumour mill for many months until the next bombshell had rocked tinseltown. Thankfully the scandal had died down as of late, but this was bound to bring things back.

The voice on the other line softened, “Listen, it’s been two years, I just… Well, I think you should read the script, think of the money…”

She let out a humourless bark, “Oh please! Roger, I have more than enough money.” She looked around her richly decorated study of her country home. She had moved out of her London home once the Blitz started, her father deciding to stay in London to be close to the hospital. Now she rattled around the manse alone, wishing she wasn’t, wishing she was with her. She loved the Manse, but it was so isolated from the rest of the world. She looked at the picture hanging over the fireplace; a beautiful watercolour of a sunset of a moment in time so long ago. There was a time when she craved this isolation, but now it just made her feel lonely, the creak of the old mansion magnified the emptiness. Her hand went to the pendant around her neck, a small heart held just above her breasts, no matter the pain she refused to remove it.

“Okay, then think of the work, the art of it all. You miss it! You know you do, the challenge of it, bringing a character to life under those hot lights. The twisting and molding the words until that person becomes your own.”

Serena groaned and rubbed her face, crossing over to the large floor to ceiling windows, she looked out across the expanse of a February lawn, dulled with snow and windblown leaves that only a Scottish winter could do, trees skeletal in the distance.

The base of the phone skittered as it was pulled across the desk. Oh, how she missed the heat of the California, the air, the beach, the touch of skin… “You said yourself the role isn’t that big. A piano player in Morocco. Of all the god forsaken places to pick to set a story.” She muttered.

He knew he had her then, “It’s not a big role no, but it’s a good role, a good way to ease back in.”

“Roger, I’m retired. I have no attention of easing back in anywhere. After everything that happened I don’t understand how the studio suddenly wants me back.”

“I got a call from Jack Warner himself. The guy that they had scheduled to play the piano man got drafted and he mentioned you. Something about making amends, re-bottling that million dollar magic.”

Serena’s heart stopped.

“I’ll send the script, read it over and let me know.” The line went dead.

“Arse.” She muttered slamming the horn down on the cradle just a bit too hard. Blinking back tears she reached for a silver cigarette case and her lighter. With shaking hands she lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply. She didn’t come into this room often. It held too many memories, too many reminders of a life she had walked away from, was forced to walk away from, not a day went by where her heart did not ache. She inhaled deeply, something was up, to be summoned back after all this time. Perhaps the studio was in trouble? Perhaps it was a trap, meant to lure her back only to blow up in her face.

She moved from the desk to a smaller upright piano in the corner, her fingers ran over the dust covered varnish. It paled in comparison to the baby grand that took up residence in the drawing room but this one held more memories. Her fingers playing over the dust. Call it instinct, call it happier times, call it sadness as she silently played Clair de Lune.
An accomplished classical pianist, Serena found herself thrust into the talkies completely by accident. She had a solid career in England, she loved what she did and she was very good at it. Playing major halls around the country as a young woman, she had gained notoriety for accompanying opera singers in recitals. A woman in a tuxedo playing the piano better than most men had caused an uproar, but also a curiosity. People flocked to her concerts.

On a whim she had accepted an invitation to America in early 1933 to help out a friend on the fading Vaudeville circuit. They had both gone to a conservatoire together before their paths had diverged. She and Raf had kept in contact ever since he left for the States and he found himself in desperate need of a pianist. She had always wanted to see America, it seemed a simple decision to make at the time.

Although not passionate about the burlesque shows, it had been nice to let her hair down as she toured American concert halls and gin joints (even though gin was no longer legally served). She was almost unheard of and the anonymity was a welcome change. Soon her style and looks gained her attention, her short cropped hair and affinity for wearing trousers made her memorable as did her voice. “Chocolate Dipped Sex” the Chicago Tribune had called it, the headline had made waves. She stayed on the circuit for another 18 months, six months longer than she had initially planned. Then she had received a phone call.

Hollywood was bustling in the early thirties, prohibition had made her beloved wine hard to get in the middle of the country but she found no such issue in California. Once the ban was lifted in late 1933, the wine flowed freely, even though it was weak. To a dry tongue it tasted like heaven.

She was fortunate, a lucky break in Hollywood, everyone told her, but she was never after fame. She came from an upper middle class family, her father was a doctor at a hospital in London, her mother a talented seamstress and dressmaker making vestments for the Church of England back in Lambeth. For Serena, money was never an issue, living off her wages from home and an inheritance from her grandparents she went where she pleased. When she was signed by RKO she was gobsmacked at the pay, $200 a week, unheard of money for anyone even of her standing. Her first purchase was a small bungalow in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the valley, she never tired of the stunning views.
For her first picture the studio wanted her to grow her hair and trade her trousers in for a skirt. She flatly refused, clearly stating that her looks were the very reason they wanted her in the first place. Her first picture was a flop, but her second, which featured her opposite Ric Griffin, Hollywood’s hottest leading man was a smash hit. She played a con woman who disguised herself as a man to evade police. Only to meet Ric’s character and fall in love with him, spending the entire time dressed as a boy. The film was wildly successful and led to her signing a full contract.

Hollywood glittered; everything was gold, from the sunshine to the ocean. She was pleased with her first Academy Award nomination for her work and suddenly she was a household name. She let her hair grow a little after the movie, just brushing below her chin but kept her trousers. Over the next year she made half a dozen pictures. She was happy, single, in demand, and financially comfortable, living in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Then she happened, of all the studios in all of Hollywood, she got signed to hers.

 

--

 

The Stage was an intricate film about four women trying to make it in Hollywood and living in the same boarding house. Her co-star was to be the up and coming Berenice Wolfe. Five years her junior, Serena was curious about girl. This was the first time in a year Serena didn’t have single billing, she would share a double bill with the other woman, Serena felt her hackles rise. By appearance she was a mousy thing, quiet and awkward, stumbling over her words. Long arms, long legs, rail thin, and hair that looked like a bird had made a home out of it, she made an odd, yet intriguing picture.

On the first day of the read through Serena made herself at home, she was the life of the party at the table reads. Her voluptuous personality, quick wit, and cheeky sense of humour made people flock to her. She had the room eating out of her hand from first look. All except for the illusive Miss Wolfe. In the two times Serena had met her the blonde she had said four faltering words to her. Instead preferring to quietly sit with the script in a corner until it was her scene.

“George, I don’t know how to work with her when she won’t talk!”

A pipe dangled out of the director’s mouth as he went over the storyboard in his office. The sun streamed in the large windows behind him looking out over the sprawling lot, “Now, now Rena, just wait until you actually work with her, we haven’t had a full read through yet. You’ll click I promise.” He pushed his glasses up his nose, “Why don’t you invite her out for drinks one of these nights, hmm? You know the spots to go get to know each other.”

“George…”

“Look Rena.” He finally glanced up from the papers prone across his messy desk, “She’s good, I went with Louis to London and watched her on stage. She is an excellent actress,
just a bit quiet. Get to know her, you might see why, one of those reserved British types.” Serena raised her eyebrow. “Ask her for a drink, talk to her about home.”

“Just because we are both from the same bloody country, does not mean…”

“Rena, I don’t care what you have to do but you two need to get on, we have a lot riding on this picture. Your contract renewal is riding on it.”

Serena pursed her lips, aware she made the studio a lot of money in the past few years but they both knew she was thirty four, and well past her prime in the pictures. She was
grateful for the fact that no matriarch roles had yet to be offered.

“Now go on, we read through the entire script in twenty!”

Sighing, a frustrated Serena stomped off down the stairs and pushed the door open out into the studio lot. It was bustling and busy, too much noise to turn her brain off. She headed towards the back of the lot and pushed open an old rusty gate that connected with the cemetery. She lit a cigarette and made her way over to Valentino’s mausoleum. She liked leaning against the cool marble and watching the swans swim around the reflecting pool. It was a slice of peace in the middle of the bustling city. As she rounded the corner she was surprised to see her co-star already in her place.

“Hello.”

The blonde jumped and the script in her hand fell to the ground and she looked up with startled eyes scrambling to get up.

“You don’t have to leave.” Serena flopped down next to her pulling her case out of her pocket she offered a cigarette. She watched as slightly shaky hands reached up dabbing at her face. Dark eyes looked at her co-star watching as she wiped away tears. “Okay?”

“Yes-yes sorry.” She sniffed eyes blinking rapidly. “No thank you.” She waved off the case.

They sat in silence, the sun warming them on the cool grass watching the ducks and swans swim in the warm sunlight. “Do you come here often?”

Serena turned in surprise at the voice. She shrugged, “Sometimes, it’s nice to get away.”

Berenice nodded, “It reminds me of home in a way. Other than the warmth, blue sky, and palm trees.”

Serena let out a laugh only to quell it when she saw the redness flush over her costars face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” She trailed off, “Missing home?” She saw the almost invisible nod, “Where are you from?”

“Oh, um Bath, well near Bath.” She let the words hang between them, the sound of the wind in the trees the only sound. “You?”

Serena smiled, “Me, oh London, my father was a doctor there, well still is. My Mother was from the Scottish Borders, similar to Bath in some respects”

She nodded, “I liked London, hated the fog though. It seemed thicker there than other parts of England.”

Serena hummed her response low in her throat. They continued to watch the ducks till as Serena’s cigarette burnt out. “We should head back, George wants to do a full read through this afternoon.” She stood easily before reaching down to help Berenice up, her skirt catching on her heels and Serena held on tighter to steady her.

“Thank you.” Their hands held for a bit longer, Serena felt the warmth of her palm against her own her gaze found herself staring into dark brown eyes a few inches above her own.

She smiled. “You’re very welcome. I don’t think we have ever officially been introduced. Serena McKinnie, well Serena Campbell in Hollywood.”

The blonde blushed and looked down, “Berenice Wolfe, Bernie. I know who you are, I’ve seen all your pictures. I actually saw your recital at the Royal Opera House years back, standing room only. You were phenomenal. When you played Clair de Lune, it was a vision! I had never heard anything like it before… I…” Her mouth snapped shut her cheeks turning even redder.

Serena felt her own cheeks warm, surprised at the sudden chatter box of a woman she chuckled, “Ah, a fan, huh? I'm honoured.” She bowed slightly at the waist before holding out her elbow. “May I accompany you back to the lot?”

Her heart quickened at the shy smile that pulled at Bernie’s lips as her slender hand slipped into the crook, “Lead the way.”

Halfway across the park Bernie slowed, “Serena?”

“Hmm?” She turned and looked up at her, watching her worry her lip.

“I um… I don’t know anyone here and well…tonight, would you like to go to dinner? I hear Musso and Franck’s is good.”

Serena smirked, “George tell you to get out a bit?” She watched as she blushed again.

“Umm, perhaps, but I hear they have imported Shiraz if you know who to ask.”

Serena’s face lit up as they walked through the gate, her fingers patted the blonde’s in the crook of her elbow, “Bernie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Chapter Text

1941 somewhere over the North Atlantic Ocean

 

Serena hated flying, it was bumpy, cold and nauseating. How she would love to take a ship but with the shipping restrictions, the attacks by Nazi U-boats, planes were the safest way to travel. The small passenger plane hit another spot of turbulence, she closed her eyes willing herself to sleep. Her hand went to the small heart around her neck, her fingers played with the charm. She could not believe she was doing this; flying back to a place she vowed she would never return to. Roger had been correct, the script was good, bloody fantastic. In fact, it was one of the best she had read in years, she had to wipe her eyes as she read it. She had signed before she could talk herself out of it, she’d give her right arm to be anyway involved with a piece like this. After all, she was being invited back. She considered wiring ahead, but perhaps this was a test to see if she would abide by the agreement. Going back to Hollywood, going back to her past, her heart leapt at the thought.

She let her mind drift back two years, back to a time when it was still so simple. If she closed her eyes tight enough she could still feel the warmth of the sun on her face, the breeze in her hair, the smell of the sea air.

1937 Hollywood, California

 

Any reservations Serena had working with Bernie disappeared with the first full table reading. Their characters had a love/hate relationship, bickering and competing against each other for roles but in the end becoming best friends and breaking into the business together. As shy and quiet as Bernie was off screen, she simply radiated charm, wit, and undoubted sex appeal as Berenice Wolfe the actress. Serena was completely taken with her.

Rehearsals progressed to shooting as their on and off screen friendship blossomed into something quite meaningful. Serena had whittled away at Bernie’s exterior, she found after two glasses of weak wine, or one of homemade whiskey her filter came off and she revealed more and more of herself.

They sat on Serena’s balcony staring out over the electric lights of Los Angeles in the distance as they sipped wine late into the night. Serena learned Bernie grew up in a poor family, her mother used what little spare change they had to send the blonde to school and in the late afternoons and early evenings Bernie would help her mother do laundry and darn clothing to help keep them away from the workhouses.

At school a teacher had introduced her to Shakespeare and she had fallen in love with the rhythmic nature of the words. The older she grew the more she ventured out into playhouses; with her striking looks - a lithe frame, thin face, and almost black eyes, all culminated into an alluring picture. Before long she was turning down invitations of courting and marriage much to her mother’s disdain and frustration. Nearing the age of old maid she received her big break last year; a director from Hollywood had discovered her playing Ophelia at a The Old Vic. He’d persuaded her to make the move to New York, where she ratted around for a few months, before arriving in Hollywood three months prior.

“You’ve never dated a man?” Serena asked wide eyed over her glass of wine.

Bernie blushed prettily and shook her head. “My Mother made me go on a few chaperoned dates when I was younger but I refused all proposals. I knew if I said yes my days on stage would be over and…” She ran a long finger over the rim of the glass. “For me that would be like not be able to breathe. If Hollywood is what I have to do so I can support myself on the stage so be it.” Lonely eyes stared out over the hills.

“Do you miss home?”

Bernie smiled sadly, “Don’t you?”

Serena shrugged, “I miss my father, but I love the weather here, the feel, although the alcohol is somewhat lacking.” She lifted her glass, “I mean look at this view.” She indicated to the almost purple hills in front of them, the sun slowly slipping down past the city lights. “I get paid exuberant amounts of money to do what I love surrounded by pretty people to do it with.” She winked.

Bernie’s eyes flickered over to Serena, her fingers brushing against hers, “It’s got better for me, since I met you.” Her lips pulled up into a half smile.

Serena felt her heart leap. “Me too.” She whispered, reaching out for Bernie’s hand and gently squeezing her fingers. She knew she was entering dangerous territory. They hadn’t been apart in two weeks, Bernie had taken up residence on Serena’s couch; her little bungalow in the hills with a stunning view beat Bernie’s cramped room downtown. When

Serena had dropped Bernie off after filming one night, she had been appalled by the pathetic excuse of a boarding house the studio had put her up in. She had packed her up and took a protesting Bernie to her home. She had offered the bed but Bernie insisted on the couch. If Serena was honest with herself it was the happiest two weeks of her life.

Her friend Sian was getting suspicious, every Saturday night they met with other likeminded women and men for a soiree of sorts. Serena had been absent the past two weeks preferring to spend her time sat at the kitchen table playing cards with Bernie with the lilting sound of her voice washing over her or playing the piano for her.

“It looks like rain.”

Serena nodded seeing the dark clouds rolling in from the north, “As much as I love the sun it will be nice to see the rain, it’s been so long.” She took a deep breath, “You can almost smell it.”

Bernie smiled and stood plucking Serena’s empty glass from her hand. “Another?”

Serena’s head rolled back on her chair her eyes warm and open as she looked up at Bernie, “No thank you, but I will challenge you to a game of gin.”

Bernie let out her bark of laughter, “Want to get beat again Campbell?”

Rolling her eyes she stood, “You got lucky last night, Wolfe.” She followed her in and grabbed the deck of cards where they had been left. She began dealing as Bernie put the glasses in the sink, her hand trailing over her shoulders as she slid into the chair across from Serena. Watching Bernie move around her kitchen made a warm feeling spread through her entire body. It felt like a home with her in it.

“Alright, deal.”

 

--

 

A few hours and a frustrated Serena later, both were tucked into their separate beds. A crack of thunder woke Serena. She sat up and slightly staggered to her window half asleep, shutting it slightly to keep the rain from pouring in, yet still letting air circulate into the warm room. She jumped when she turned back to the bed to see Bernie standing in the doorway. Her thin cotton nightdress was ruched up and hanging off one shoulder. “Serena?”

“Bernie?” She asked startled, her hand coming to her chest, “Are you alright?”

“I-I’m sorry.” She ran her hand though her long hair, jumping as a crack of thunder rumbled and lightning illuminating the sky.

Serena’s heart melted, she reached out and grabbed her hand pulling her deeper into the room. “Come on, get in.”

“I-I…” She paused at the edge of the bed.

“Come on.” Serena slid under the covers patting the small space next to her. “I won’t bite.” She winked. Bernie blushed as a crack of thunder made her jump, she got in next to
Serena. Laying on her back ramrod stiff. “It’s okay.” Serena turned and side her arm around Bernie’s waist, “It’s only a storm.”

Bernie turned into Serena burying her nose into Serena’s neck, arm fitting into the dip of her waist. “When I was a child, water would come in under the door and across the stone floors during heavy rainstorms. It used to scare me so, waking up with the water halfway across the bedroom floors.”

The brunette’s fingers slid through Bernie’s long blonde hair, “It okay, you’re safe here with me.”

“Mmm,” Bernie murmured, “You make me feel safe, like I can do anything when I’m with you.” Her eyes fluttered shut. “Love you S’rena.”

Serena felt her heart leap into her throat. “Love you too.” She whispered, her lips ghosting over blonde locks. Her eyes stared up at the ceiling, she doubted she would get much sleep the rest of the night.

 

--

 

The weeks blurred into months, days were separated into light and dark. They were getting on like a house on fire on set. Their chemistry was becoming the stuff of legends around the sound stages, people were constantly swinging by the set to watch them work.

“Hey, Rena!”

Serena looked behind her, she was perched on her chair watching Bernie work. She had a scene with the casting agent, trying out for a spot in a chorus line on a movie musical.

The scene required a simple swing step, she watched as the choreographer rubbed his face and walked her through the five simple steps again. As great as an actress Bernie was proving herself to be, she couldn’t dance to save her life. Serena felt for her friend but watching her repeat the steps (wrongly) over and over with her dress hiked up to her knees was proving extremely distracting. The pale skin of her calves looked even more appealing in her heels than they did barefoot at home.

A grin pulled at her lips. “Sian, darling. Hello.” She accepted a kiss from the makeup artist’s lips, completely missing Bernie’s watchful gaze, causing her to trip and almost land on her rear.

“We’ve been missing you on Saturday’s.”

Serena shifted, she knew where this was going. Sian was one of her first friends in Hollywood and could read her like a book. A brassy woman from Dallas she was a force to be reckoned with. She had charm and sex appeal to rival Serena’s. “I’ve been busy, I have a new house guest and I’ve been showing her around.”

“Around huh?” The blonde winked, “I bet.” Her eyes landed on Bernie, “She’s pretty, a bit gangly, no sense of rhythm… at least on the dance floor.” She smiled saucily.
Serena’s face flushed red, “Sian!” She whispered loudly, nervously glancing around.

“Oh please Rena, you’re sitting here practically drooling.”

“I am not! I’m…” Serena looked down at her hands folded in her lap, shame burned inside of her, what was the use of denying what she was feeling.

“Oh honey, you really have it bad don’t you?”

Serena nodded, “She doesn’t know.”

“Oh Rena…” She squeezed her shoulder, “Be careful will you? Someone like her, they can only hurt women like us.” Someone called from the other side of the set, with a quick peck on Serena’s cheek she was gone in a puff of expensive perfume.

 

--

 

A week before the filming wrapped on The Stage they found themselves sitting in the executive office looking down at matching scripts. “You want me to play a spinster?”

“No, no, no Rena, just think of it as an older sister role! Both of you after the same man, unknowingly working against each other until you realize he’s not worth it. Swear off men, better off to stay living with the younger sister.” His meaty hand pointed at Bernie.

Serena arched and eyebrow, completely missing Bernie’s smirk, her sexual preferences weren’t unknown in certain circles but they certainly weren’t discussed. “Do you think we can get this past Hays?” Serena referenced the newly enforced code which was currently stripping most films of any form of sexuality and innuendo.

“Read the script, it’s based on a Greek comedy, I think you’ll both like it. If you two can bottle that million dollar magic we’ll all be sitting pretty.”
Serena looked over at Bernie and found her beaming back at her.

 

--

 

That night as they were lying in bed (Bernie had never returned to the couch from all those weeks ago after the thunderstorm). Serena had played the piano that night, as she had almost every night before bed. Bernie rattling off songs she wanted to hear as she went over her script.

Serena was blessed with the innate ability to memorize almost anything from one read. Bernie not so much, her nerves getting the better of her, most nights spent pacing the small living room with a script in hand. Tonight ended with Bernie’s favorite version of Clair de Lune.

“What do you think?” Serena asked into the darkness of the room, her arm tightening around the blonde’s shoulders. The moon was full tonight and casting a silvery light around the room.

“It’s a good script, some funny bits and…” She trailed off, her face hidden in Serena’s shoulder.

“And?” She prompted.

“We can still work together.”

Serena smiled, “That’s the part I like the best.” She felt Bernie smile against her shoulder. She sighed, “I just… I just want you to know Bernie, that if this script, if it makes it past the coders, it might… it might start rumours about… rumours about us.”

The blonde stilled by Serena’s elbow, “How do you mean?”

“I… er… rumours, two women choosing each other over a man. Even if they are supposedly related is probably going to raise some eyebrows… especially with… er… me. And being in two films back to back. If it gets out you live here it’s going to raise some questions.”

“I don’t…”

“I-I um.” Serena cut her off and felt her face heat. Tears prickled her eyes knowing her next words could very well push Bernie away from her, away from her bed, her life, her career, her everything. In such a short time she had come to mean so much. “I prefer to kiss women, Bernie.”

Silence, then...

“Oh.”

“Oh?” Serena pulled back, dared to look at her in the darkness of the room.

“That… that woman I saw the other week, the blonde, the pretty one.” Bernie kept her eyes down, her fingers fidgeting with a ribbon on her nightdress.

“Sian?”

Bernie nodded into her shoulder, “Are you two…”

Serena thought back a few years when she first met her. The spark between them was evident, her hand up Sian’s shirt her lips on her neck before they had both burst into laughter. “No, she was… at one point, we were something but, no not now. Never again.” She is sure she will faint from this conversation.

“Would you…” She could hear Bernie swallow in the quiet, “Would you…would you kiss… would…”

The bed shifted as quivering fingers found Serena’s face and turned her towards her, she could feel Bernie’s breath against her cheek, she watched as her eyes slid closed unable to believe what was happening before warm lips slid against her own. It was fleeting and Serena found herself chasing Bernie’s lips. “Oh.”

Long fingers traced her jaw. “I… I’ve felt something since I first saw you all those years ago in London. I thought it was a fleeting crush, an envy but then half a world away I met you and you were as stunning in person as you were that night. Even more so, with such a warm personality. And your laugh, God your laugh Serena… and then you were talking
to me, wanted to talk to me…” The words broke off in her mouth her eyes looking everywhere but Serena. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry that was foolish- and I-“

The rest of the words died on her lips as Serena’s pressed against Bernie’s. She kept the pressure light, letting her have every opportunity to pull away. Instead she felt her lips part and her tongue swipe gently against her bottom lip. Moaning, Serena opened her mouth, her hand sliding up Bernie’s back against the soft cotton of her nightdress. After a few moments of gentle exploration they broke apart both breathing hard.

“That was….”

“Exquisite,” Serena finished, she could make out Bernie’s glittering eyes in the moonlight. Her fingers gently traced Bernie’s cheekbone, “You’re stunning.” Her lips replaced her fingers. “So beautiful, so funny, charming, and warm.” Her lips moved to her closed eyelids, “My sweet, sweet girl.” Her fingers played with the hair at the nape of her neck as her

lips ghosted over her forehead. “How I’ve wanted to kiss you.”

She felt Bernie shift away, sitting up. She watched as she pulled her night dress up and off of her in one motion. Staring in wonder eyes wide as saucers while the fabric rustled, the flop of the night dress as it hit the floor. “I-I’ve never done this before…not with anyone.” She chewed on her lip, “Would-would you show me?”

Serena felt her heart pound in her ears, sitting up next to her, “Bernie…” Her voice trembled, it sounded odd to her own ears. Her fingers quaked as they pushed her hair out of her eyes. “You’re…first time it shouldn’t be…”

“What? Shouldn’t be with the woman I love?”

Serena felt her blood fizz. “You…you love?”

“Some days I can’t take my eyes off of you Serena. Your eyes, your lips, your smiled, that…” She blushed, “Your body.” She shifted self-consciously siting naked in front of her.

“You’ve been so kind to me opening your home, your life, everything. These past few weeks I realised I can’t see my life without you, and when that woman kissed you. Suddenly I understood what I was feeling.”

Serena swallowed thickly, amazed at this woman. “Are you, are you sure?”

Bernie’s unsteady hand caught Serena’s and held it to her naked breast. “Please Serena, I’ve wanted this for so long.”

Serena leaned forward and kissed Bernie, her fingers stroking the warm flesh under her palm. Lips moved against hers exploring before gently lowering the blonde to the bed.
Leaving her mouth she trailed kisses down to her collarbone before lavishing attention on her breasts. The entire time she waited to wake from the most wonderful fantasy. She leaned back on her knees pulling her own nightdress off and lowering we weight onto Bernie’s. “Alright?” Her hands pushed her hair back, her eyes searching her friends.

“Yes.” She whispered. “You’re gorgeous.”

It wasn’t perfect, the was bed cramped, the room hot, the warm air from the day trapped in the small bedroom, even the open windows couldn’t expel it all. Bernie was extremely ticklish and as Serena placed open mouth kisses across her stomach she hit an unexpectedly sensitive spot which had earned her a knee in the side. After profuse apologies and some giggles from both of them she carried on. She found Bernie was also particularly self-conscious, it took talking, and firm caresses but when Bernie cried out, her short nails raking into Serena’s shoulders as her thighs quaked around the shorter woman’s hand and mouth, it was sublime. Serena kissed her way up her body, being careful to avoid her ticklish sides her lips capturing hers in a sweet kiss. Feeling the wetness against her cheek she gathered her into her arms. “Bernie, love are you okay?” She pulled back her hands stroking her face, her hair, anything she could touch.

“Perfect, so perfect.” She smiled through her tears. Her fingers coming to tangle in Serena’s short hair, “I love you, Serena.”

“I love you too, darling.” Her hands stroked up and down her lover’s sweat stained back, pulling her impossibly closer. The grin spreading across her face threatened to split her in
two as Bernie pushed her back onto the mattress, “Teach me?” She whispered before her lips found Serena’s, her hand moving between them.

 

--

 

The next three months were spent in blissful happiness. They filmed in the morning, publicity spots in the afternoon with other script readings pulling them apart. Back in the early evening for more filming before heading home together. Weekends were spent with Sian and her friends in a smoke filled living room discussing politics, art, books, and local gossip drinking watery wine. The first time Serena had taken her Bernie had clung desperately to her hand. The brunette reassured her that public displays were more than okay among the group. It took a few weeks but Bernie began opening up more and more to the others. Sunday’s were spent walking arm in arm down the beach looking for shells, watching artists paint the sunsets and enjoying each other. Serena joked that if Bernie brought home any more shells they would have to buy a bigger home to accommodate them. They both stood in the dying light of the sun smiling at the thought.

One early weekday morning Serena awoke to an empty bed, she rolled over looking for Bernie but found the room empty. It was rare for her to be up before the brunette, getting up she started the coffee as her eyes stared out into the dim morning light, she had just poured herself a cup when Bernie breezed through the door. She was done up fancy, her white suit skirt pressed, her hat pinned tightly to her head to ward off the breeze. Serena couldn’t help catching her breath at the sight.

“Hello you, you’re up early.”

Bernie ducked her head and unpinned her hat fussing with her purse.

“Bernie?” She held out a cup of coffee but she waved her off.

“I’ve, I’ve somewhere to be, something to pick up.” She paused shifting from foot to foot. “I wouldn’t have had to be up so early if someone had just told me today was your birthday.”

Serena blanched, her birthday wasn’t something she celebrated anymore. It was just another reminder of the ticking clock.

Bernie pulled out a small box from her purse, “I… I.” Her fingers twisted the white box in her hands. “If…” Her gaze flickered up to the ceiling, “If…” She started again, “Oh hell.” For a woman who could bring such exquisite life to words written for her on the page words from her heart stuck in her throat.

Serena watched her fidget, her heart rate accelerated as she saw the tears well up in her eyes, “Bernie? Darling, you’re worrying me.” She set her cup down and took a step forward. “What is it?”

“It's…” Dark eyes fluttered around the small living room. She saw the couch she first slept on, the table where they sat to play cards, the radio that they read the paper by while it played softly in the background as the sun streamed in the open French doors to the patio. She looked around their home then her eyes found Serena’s. Her darling Serena, short hair sticking up all over the place, her old night gown, well-loved and almost see through in the morning light. She softened, this was just Serena, her Serena. She took a deep breath, “If I were a man I’d marry you.” She blurted, her thumb nail fiddled with the little blue bow on the box. “But I’m not a man and I can’t do that for you, for us.” She blinked back tears, “I can’t buy you a ring, but I can buy you this and ask… ask if Serena, you’ll be with me for the rest of our days.” With shaking hands she held out the box.
“What…” With trembling fingers of her own she took the box, cautiously opening the lid, she stared down into the blue velvet, nestled inside was a small solid gold heart no bigger than a fingernail, in the middle was a diamond, strung on a delicate gold chain.

“I love you Serena…I hope…I hope you…” The words died in her throat as Serena’s arms grasped her pulling her to her tightly, her lips finding Bernie’s.

“Yes! Yes, yes yes.” Pulling back she offered the box to Bernie. “Will you put it on me please?” She turned her back.

It took a few tries but Bernie finally got the delicate clasp hooked and her hands resting on Serena’s shoulders, her lips finding her neck. Serena’s fingers went to the pendent almost reverently touching it. She turned in her arms, her lips finding Bernie’s, hands sliding under her white blazer, pushing it down her arms. She pulled her down onto the couch, coffee long forgotten, “I’ll never take it off.”

--

 

February 1941, Los Angeles

 

As the plane began its descent, Serena forced her eyes open, squinting out into the bright Californian sun reflecting off the Pacific Ocean, her fingers automatically reaching for her treasured pendant, ready or not she was about to step back into a life she swore she had walked away from.

Chapter Text

February 1939, Hollywood California

Serena collapsed on the couch exhausted, it was a brutal day of filming. She had signed onto a film where her character was a piano player and she had spent eight of the last ten hours playing the same twenty bars over and over again. Her fingers ached, her back burned, and her shoulders were stiff. Last year she and Bernie had purchased a larger house in a more secluded section of the hills. The house was in Serena’s name but with their combined salaries they decided something with a bit more room for entertainment was in order along with a pool. Many mornings now involved a naked Bernie swimming laps while Serena sipped coffee half paying attention to the newspaper. The couch though was Bernie’s idea. A newfangled art deco themed thing that looked pretty but was hell to lay on or sit on. Kicking off her heels she went in search of her wife. She thought of her as that now. A smile pulled at her lips as she pushed open the door that led out onto the wrap around porch that overlooked the hills and the swimming pool.

Bernie sat with her back to her holding a glass of wine in one hand and a letter in another. Serena frowned, Bernie never drank alone.

“Hello darling.” She leaned down and kissed her cheek before settling into her lap. She took the glass of wine from her hand and finished the last swallow setting it on the small table next to the chair. She took in the tight features of her face. “Darling?”

Bernie took a ragged breath and turned her tear stained face up to Serena’s. “Mum’s sick.” She whispered handing the letter to Serena.

The brunette slid her arm around Bernie’s shoulders as she read the letter sent by Bernie’s maiden aunt. It told of a horrible cough her mother had, the diagnosis had been cancer of the throat. The doctors not giving her much of a chance in England had suggested she might perhaps do better with the warm air in California.

“She’ll come here.” Serena stated matter of factually.

“Serena…”

“Bernie she’s sick, she is your Mother, we have the extra space, she will come live with us.”

“You don’t understand how she is… how she will view this?” as Bernie hand gestured between them both.

“What do you mean?” She played with Bernie’s newly shorten and bleached hair, the role she was currently playing required her to cut her mid back length hair to a shoulder bob.

“I haven’t spoken to her since I left years ago. She is a hardened woman Serena. I wire her money every month and that is it. She doesn’t approve of my life style, of the sin of Hollywood but has to take the money so she isn’t on the street. I’m not sure she will come.”

Her fingers continued to fiddle with her hair, it was so rare Bernie spoke of her family. “Wire her back and tell her she is welcome.” She kissed her forehead. “It will be alright darling.”

“I don’t want to lose us.” Bernie whispered, her lips going to Serena’s neck.

“You won’t darling. Nothing will ever force me from you. Even if we are apart I pledge myself to thee, till death do us part.” Her words as familiar to them as breathing. Her lips found Bernie’s, her hand sliding up and under her flowing shirt.

 

--

 

1941 Warner Brothers lot

Serena shook herself out of her memories, how wrong she was. Would she be able to resist temptation and not see Bernie while she was in the States? She swore as she stepped on the plane in London she wouldn’t. Now that she was here, her entire being vibrated with longing, she doubted she could resist. It was the only thing on her mind, damn the movie. She craved her, could tasted her, feel her skin under her hands, hear her laugh echoing in her head. Damn careers, damn jail, damn it all she wanted her. It has been so long, too long, exhausting years without a word from her. Would she have kept her promise? In a city like Hollywood promises were not an easy thing to keep. She dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief as the car pulled up into the familiar lot. From the outside it didn’t look like much had changed. She closed her eyes and remembered the last time she walked off the lot.

 

--

March 1939 Hollywood, California

 

Bernie was correct, things were not smooth with her mother. The woman was angry, cranky, and in Serena’s opinion, which she kept to herself, outright wicked. She was upset about Bernie’s living arrangements, living with another woman, both unmarried. They were forced to give up their shared bedroom, Serena moving into a spare room across the hall. She hated the weather, the food, the loud culture, the sun, and the trees. Even with everything she appeared to rally in the warmer air, she took to walking around the neighbourhood leaning heavily on her cane. This was the only time alone they could find, some days just mere minutes both desperate for each other.

Serena held Bernie as she cried into her neck one morning before the nursemaid that came to stay with her mother whilst they were filming started her shift. “I hate her so much Serena.”

“Shhhh darling, she’s just old and poorly. She doesn’t mean it.”

“I don’t know how you can say that! After what she says to you! How she mocks you! I hate her.” She pulled back, tears streaming down her face. “I detest how she speaks to you, I don't know how you let it go so easily.” Her hand threaded into her hair. “You are the most selfless person I have ever met and for her to say those things to you…”

Serena shrugged and pulled Bernie tighter, “We will all be old one day.” Gently kissing her before pulling back as the front door opened. Her fingers rubbed over the emerald ring that adorned Bernie’s right ring finger, a Christmas present from Serena. Inside the ring it was engraved, ‘love always’.

The nursemaid walked in eyeing them both up and down before going into the kitchen to put her lunch in the ice box. Serena’s eyes narrowed, the girl was new, and she didn’t care for her much. With the threat of war, having already broken out in Europe, nurses were getting harder and harder to find.

“See you tonight?” She whispered into Bernie’s ear. She felt her shudder against her.

“I love you.”

“Love you too.”

 

--

 

The next week Serena was walking to her car after stopping at the store when Jimmy, a friend of hers from Sian’s ubiquitous soirees stopped her. He was a newspaper man, a bit on the smarmy side.

“Hey Rena!”

She shut the trunk of her car and turned to look at him. “Ernie.”

He pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to her. “This is going to get printed in Sunday’s extra.” He shifted nervously, his beady black eyes darted around the grocery parking lot. “I just…I can’t stop it you see, but I can give you a heads up.”

Serena’s eyes widened at the headline. “Leading ladies in more ways than one!” Below it was a grainy picture of her and Bernie, she squinted, it was their own porch. Serena’s arm was around Bernie’s waist, the blonde’s head resting on her shoulder, their arms around each other looking almost as if they were to kiss. She remembered that moment right before their lips were to meet she heard something crack in the house. They sprang apart but saw nothing. Her face heated as she read the article. It brought up their house, their films, bringing up an old headline from when ‘Sisters’ had come out.

“Buggeration.”

“I just…I don’t want you to be blindsided, and I don’t want either of you to be hurt.” Ernie said.

Serena nodded numbly. “Th-Thanks, Ernie, I owe you. Can I keep this?”

He nodded, “I’d get out of town for a while if you guys can. I’m sorry Serena.” And like that he was gone.

Serena walked back to the store, digging in her pocket she pulled out a dime and called the house. She knew Bernie had an early shoot today, she hoped she had went straight home. She answered on the third ring.

“Darling.”

“Serena?”

“Bernie…I-I need you to…has Maggie gone home yet?”

“No she was just getting ready to leave.”

“Have her stay for another hour, I need to talk to you. Please. Meet me down at the beach, the one where we first walked.”

“Serena, what’s wrong darling?” Bernie’s voice made Serena’s heart clench.

“Please, please meet me.” She hung up.

 

--

 

Serena paced up and down on the sand, searching the parking lot for Bernie’s car to arrive. Taking off her shoes as they filled with sand, not caring in the slightest. She had to leave. She had to protect Bernie, and acting was her passion, never hers. This would kill her career, it would kill both of them. Any chance of a career was over. She had to take the fall, but how?

Bernie’s Auburn skidded to a halt, with gravel skittering everywhere. She jumped out of the car, her hands went to Serena’s arms. “Are you okay?” Her eyes frantically looking her up and down.

“I’m… I’m okay.” She reached into her trouser pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper, quivering hands handed it to Bernie. She watched as the colour drained from her face.

“That’s our house!”

“I know.”

“I.. Who? The bitch! I’ll kill her.”

“What? Bernie!” Serena grasped her hand, “Kill who?”

“My darling Mother, I’d bet money that she is behind this.”

“Bernie she’s an old woman…surely-“

“If she didn’t take it herself she got one of the nurse to do it! How else would they get in the house? It is taken from the hallway!”

Serena slumped against the car and sighed. “It doesn’t matter who is responsible. What matters is that we can’t get this stopped. It’s going to be published. Ernie said that it’s already printed.”

Bernie leaned next to Serena. “What are we going to do?”

Serena shrugged, “I don’t know.” She rubbed the back of her neck, the waves crashed against the shore in front of them. “I think I should go back to London, maybe my Mother’s family home in the Scottish Borders.”

“What?! No, we don’t leave each other.”

“Bernie, they could make an example out of us.” She gripped her hand. “I’m not just talking about both of our careers being over, I’m talking about jail time. This is going to blow hot. I’ll take the blame, I forced you into my home, into my life… my bed. I took advantage…”

“Stop, Serena, just…stop.” Bernie whispered, tears streaming down her face. “Please, don’t degrade us, degrade this.”

“Oh darling.” Serena pulled her close, her nose nuzzling into Bernie’s shoulder. “You have your mother to think about, you’re just hitting the top of your movie career, all you ever wanted is right here.”

Bernie pushed her away, “You are all I ever wanted! All I will ever want. Serena… please.”

“I don’t know what else to do darling.”

“I could talk to George or one of the executives at the studios they could pull some strings. Serena…They own this town! They can stop this. ” Bernie’s face was ashen. “How could you even think of walking away from us?”

“Darling, my beautiful girl.” Serena pushed Bernie’s fringe out of her eyes. “I would never walk away from us. It would just be for a bit, for this to blow over. For your mother to… heal. I… I don’t know what to do.”

“I don’t want to be without you Serena.”

Serena lifted Bernie’s right hand to her lips, kissing the ring. “I pledge myself to thee, till death do us part.”

The tears spilled down Bernie’s cheeks, “We should go talk to George.”

Serena nodded, pulling Bernie into her arms holding her tightly.

She followed Bernie to a small cottage style house in west LA. They had become good friends over the years George had directed them both in numerous films and had guessed at their relationship. Over the past year he had become a great ally, being higher up in the studio machine it gave them some protection from the whispers and stares. Serena nervously rapped on the door, her hand firmly held in Bernie’s. The door swung open both surprised to see he was in a suit. The look on his face told them he already knew. Ushering them in they both stopped in their tracks when they saw the executive board of Warner’s looking back at them, the article lay center stage on the table.

“Ladies, sit down.”

 

--

 

Serena sat numbly in the car as Bernie drove them both back home. The groceries sat forgotten in Serena’s car parked outside of George’s house to be claimed later.
“I don’t want you to go.”

“I don’t want to go.”

Bernie turned the car off and they both sat in front of their house in silence.

Suddenly Serena started laughing, a loud deep belly laugh. She looked over at Bernie to see her staring in shock, her dark brown eyes large and glistening with unshed tears.
Serena’s laugh quickly dissolved into heaving sobs. Bernie slid over pulling Serena into her arms. “I can’t lose you Bernie.”

“I’ll wait for you.” Bernie whispered. “When this all blows over and you will come back, I’ll be here waiting.”

“I don’t want you to put your life on hold because of me, we don't know if this will ever blow over.” Serena gasped through her tears.

Bernie shook her head. “It’s not my life anymore Serena, it's ours. It became ours once I put the necklace on you.”

Serena nodded looking down at the plane ticket clutched in her hand. “I never thought I’d get thrown out of Los Angeles County at my age.”

“Don’t make a joke Serena. Please not now.”

“I don’t know how to leave you.”

Bernie pulled back and kissed her, tasted their tears, “It's not the end. It’s just a pause.”

“Kiss me as if it was the last time.”

Bernie shook her head, “No, because it isn’t.” She whispered before her lips found Serena’s.

 

--

1941 Hollywood, California

 

Serena didn’t make the rounds, didn’t pop in offices to say hello to those that were still there, didn’t visit the makeup trailer to say “Hi” to old friends, she sat around the table in the read through room. Talking to the director about the script and a potential shooting schedule avoiding any questions about her departure two years earlier. More of the cast began filtering in and she found herself drawn to an upright piano sat in one corner. Sitting down she gently plucked out old songs. Her mind drifted back to the last thing she played in this country; Bernie’s favourite.

Without thinking her fingers drifted to Debussy, the light chatter of the writing crew and director drifted over her as she automatically tuned them out. Half way through the song she heard a gasp and the smash of breaking glass. Her fingers stilled on the keys and she turned on the bench. The hair on the back of her neck standing, as if she knew what she would see.

The room collapsed in on itself, people disappeared into the wall, the young woman kneeling on the floor picking up the broken glass faded into oblivion. The suits and the cigarette smoke blurred. Everything centered in on the tall blonde who stood in the doorway, her hair shorter than Serena had ever seen it. Cut above her shoulders and curled, framing her beautiful face. She had dark circles under her eyes hidden by pancake makeup, her lips were coloured red but they were thinner than she remembered. Stress lines in the contours of her face, absent just a few years prior now shown prominently. Serena wondered what she thought of her. Her curves had disappeared, meat was scarce in England at the moment. Her hair was shorter than it was when she left California now shot through with gray, the thought of dying it no longer held any appeal to her. Although she knew it would not go over well with the studio.

Her fingers twitched with the want to touch, the want to hold, and unsteadily she stood, “B-Bernie.” She whispered. Suddenly the bustle room rushed back in, the noise of the din, the glare of the light, someone was talking but she couldn’t tell who. She glanced down at her right hand, it still held her ring. She felt her heart jump, maybe, just maybe.
Bernie inclined her head towards the hallway she reached out and grabbed the director’s arm. Her lips turned into a sweet smile, Serena never met anyone who could resist that smile. He nodded eyes flicking to Serena as she slipped out the door. The brunette was helpless to follow her.

Serena followed the swing of Bernie’s hips down the hall. The tailored trousers doing wonders for her as her long legs covered ground. Ducking into a side room Serena followed her, closing the door to an unused rehearsal room.

The door clicked shut behind them and they stood in the soft light staring at each other. Serena felt her chest heave, watching Bernie’s hand grasp the edge of the desk to steady herself. She licked her lips, suddenly her throat felt too dry, her shirt felt too tight, the was room too hot. “Bernie.” She said again.

“I-I just sent the telegram this morning… how?”

Serena frowned. “Telegram?”

“Mum… Mum died last night. I had to let you know, I know it violates the…” Her words trailed off.

Serena nodded once, tears welling up in her eyes at the thought of Bernie being all alone having to take on everything. She took a step forward, cautiously approaching, fear that if she moved too quickly Bernie would vanish from her sight. Suddenly, Bernie launched herself at her, arms wrapped around Serena’s waist her nose buried into her neck, heaving sobs were ripped from her throat. “Oh Serena!”

Serena took a step back leaning against the wall taking on Bernie’s full weight. “I’ve missed you Bernie, oh god, have I missed you.” Her smell surrounded her, fingers sunk into her soft hair, her lips kissed the shell of her ear as she let her own tears come. “Oh my darling, I’ve missed you.”

They stood like that for a long time, just feeling each other, holding on to reassure themselves that it wasn’t just a dream. Something that had happened more often than not, waking only to realise they are still alone. Bernie slowly pulled back removing a handkerchief from her pocket she wiped her face and nose. “What…how?”

Serena shook her head, her fingers threading through Bernie’s hair and pulled her down to kiss her mouth. It was as if no time had passed, she moaned into her lips, tasted her lips stick and a taste that was just Bernie. She felt the blonde’s long fingers run through her hair, gently scraping at her scalp. They pulled back breathless, Serena resting her forehead against Bernie’s. “I love you.” She gently pecked her lips.

“I love you too.” A shaky hand reached out and held the pendent around her neck. “You still wear it.”

Serena kissed her softly, “I never take it off.”

Bernie held up her hand, “Me either.” They smiled at each other, eyes beaming. “Where are you staying?”

“Err…”

“How about staying at our house tonight?”

“Are you sure?”

Bernie pulled her to her, her tongue pushing past her lips, pressing Serena against the cool brick wall, “I’ve never been surer of anything, I just want you home.” Her lips trailed down her jaw before she stopped abruptly. “Wait, why are you here?”

Serena smiled, her fingers sliding up Bernie’s arms, her fingers tracing her clavicle. “I’m playing Sam in Casablanca.”

Bernie’s stunned face broke out in a grin, before frowning. “What? The board, they banned you from ever setting foot in a studio again, they said if we so much as tried to send letter they would report us to the police… sue for breach of contract...I don’t…”

Serena shrugged, “I have no idea, and perhaps it’s a trap. If it is it’s one, I’ve willingly walked into and one I won’t regret.” She kissed her again. “I got a call out of the blue from Roger about this script. He was insistent that Warner wanted me since the guy originally scheduled to play him got drafted. I was so worried about signing because I didn’t know how I could come back and not see you.” Her fingers traced Bernie’s cheekbones. “There was no way I could stay away, and then I turned around and there you were.” They rested their forehead together, Serena trying to take in every aspect of Bernie for her hungry eyes. “When I read the script I pictured you as Ilsa, I couldn’t help it. The role just screams you.”

Bernie blushed and looked down. “When I read it I saw us, you as Rick, I could hear the music, I could feel you under my fingers, see you in Paris, see us in the deserts of Morocco…”

Serena closed her eyes, “I would love to play Rick, what a beautiful film that would be.” She opened her eyes tears glistening in them, “No-no I take that back. I wouldn’t want to be Rick, I couldn’t stand to see you get on a plane. To let you go again.”

Bernie intertwined their fingers together. “I’m never letting you go again Serena Campbell. Jail, lawsuit, or no movie, no stage, or no parents, I’m never letting you leave.”

Serena felt a smile light up her face, “I love you.”

“I love you too, but we better get back. They will send a search party.” They wiped smudged lipstick from their faces. “You’re so beautiful Serena.”

She smiled shyly, Bernie seemed more confident since she had left. They walked down the hall arm in arm. “You know, perhaps when this war is over we should visit Morocco.”

Bernie frowned, “Why?”

Serena shrugged, “It’s the place in this beautiful script that brought me back to you. Maybe it’s trying to tell us something.”

“We would have found each other again eventually.”

“True, I’m just glad we didn’t have to wait longer for it to happen.”

They stopped at the door to the read room, both straightened their clothes and took a deep breath. Sharing a small secret smile they pushed open the door they walked in. “Ladies first.” Serena whispered, catching herself right before her palm playfully connected with Bernie’s back side. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing, her hand going to the back of her hair instead. They were ready to face whatever the industry and life through at them, together.

 

--

 

March 1942, Hollywood, United States

 

Dark eyes fluttered open, winching against the early morning light they closed again. Serena took stock of her body. She felt lighter, the persistent ache that had taken up residence in her chest for the past two years had vanished. A smile tugged at her lips, she felt weightless, a floating feeling as her dark eyes cracked open. Through the open balcony doors the sun had started to rise in the sky in all its morning glory. Serena blinked against the light and pushed herself up on her elbows. She could make out her trousers tossed over one of the chairs in the large master bedroom in the early dawn. The Hollywood Hills were losing their silhouette and beginning to be drenched in warm sunlight.

It was a sight for wearisome eyes, how she had missed this view. She fought the urge to get up and pad naked to the balcony. The bed felt luxurious, the sheets soft against her naked skin, the cool breeze kissing her skin and the woman next to her was enough to keep her where she was. She felt her heart clench at the thought of the person next to her, her mind flashed back to last night. The wine, the laughing, the passion, and the desperation. The pain of loss and the elation of reunion still rushing through her mind. She closed her eyes against the sting of tears. She was finally home. Her eyes left the stunning view of the window, her window, their window. Turning instead to the sleep tussled blonde next to her. She noticed a bruise formed on her collar bone, one lower, on the swell of a breast that the sheet was slipping just low enough to reveal. Settling back down in the bed she turned to her wife, her eyes flickering down looking at the ring on her hand.

“I thought I dreamed you last night.” The statement had been a common recurrence over the past few months.

Serena’s eyes flickered up to Bernie’s face, a wide smile bloomed over her face. “Hello you.” She gently pressed her lips to her.

“Morning” She nuzzled Serena’s nose with hers, their bodies intertwined together.

“I can’t wait to see you in your dress tomorrow night.” Next evening was the premiere of Casablanca in New York, the brass thought having a New York debut would draw more press, they weren’t wrong. Bernie’s gown was gray with a plunging back, sequins covered the front with a white fur stole wrapping around her shoulders, showing off her slim waist. Serena was wearing a tux with tails, and killer heels putting her above Bernie’s height. They would be staying in New York for a few months, Bernie had signed on to read for a play, her love of the stage still held true. Serena had contracted with Carnegie hall to do a few masterclasses with piano students with a tentative teaching position on the table. They were both looking forward to getting away from the studio life for a bit. Warm lips found the blondes, how she wished they could go to the premier as a couple.

“And what, pray tell, should we do until our flight leaves tonight Ms. Wolfe?”

“I have a few ideas.”

“Oh really.” Serena’s fingers slipped below the sheet finding the spot that earned her a kick in the side all those years ago.

Bernie squealed as she rolled away from the touch before pulling Serena’s lips back to hers. “I think we can figure it out.” The long white curtains ruffled in the wind blowing up the valley off of the ocean. They would figure it out together.