Bonnie had arrived with dessert just as the pasta came to a boil. She always arrived on time. It warmed Annalise to think that no matter how much had changed, some things would always remain the same. She opened the door and the two greeted each other like strangers meeting for the first time. It was uncomfortable. They just didn’t know where they fit with each other anymore. At least the fact they both agreed to this dinner offered them both a little hope for their future.
Bonnie moved into the kitchen awkwardly and held her arm as if injured by her side. Annalise recognised the behaviour as an expression of her anxiety. It was a shame that they had come so far only to fall back down again.
It didn’t quite set the mood she was hoping for. Maybe she should have bought the lavender candles she had seen on sale when she went shopping for the food for tonight. Then again, that might have set an entirely different mood. One neither of them where anywhere near to confronting just yet.
The pasta boiled over and Bonnie rushed forward to fix it; satisfying her nerves with busy hands. Annalise thought, she looked as comfortable here as she had in the old Keating office kitchen. A smile danced across her lips despite the fact she stood uselessly in her own kitchen. She watched Bonnie scurry around, fixing her mess. It was a little unusual to say the least. Yet there was something distinctly reassuring about the whole affair.
As Bonnie drained the pasta, Annalise finished the sauce and they served the meal together. Annalise invited her guest to take a seat while she brought the plates over. Bonnie hesitantly agreed and scuttled away.
When they sat down, Annalise took a moment to look at the woman opposite her and take in her appearance. It was still strange for her to have gone from seeing Bonnie every day to rarely. Seeing her for dinner brought back so much more than Annalise had anticipated. She noticed that Bonnie’s hair was still short and it did not look as though she had any intention of growing it out any time soon. They had used to talk about mundane things like hair and fashion. Sam had actually been the one to suggest Bonnie crop it all off. Something about cutting away the past and moving forward into a new chapter of her life and self – blah blah blah. Annalise did not have time for her mind version of Sam to lecture her on his psycho-analysis babble.
Annalise did, however remember the moment Bonnie had come to her for advice about the matter. Bonnie had been so concerned it might not suit her. She’d been scared of the change but excited at the prospect. It had all worked out beautifully in the end. Annalise wasn’t sure she’d ever told Bonnie that.
Annalise also noticed that Bonnie was dressed rather plainly. Plainer than Annalise was used to seeing her. Annalise found herself missing the pantsuits. Instead, the shorter woman wore a grey cashmere sweater with a modest, ‘v’ shaped neck. She looked healthy and there was a light in her eyes that Annalise could not remember seeing in a long time. It was peculiar to sit across from someone so familiar and have them feel like a stranger.
Annalise picked at her pasta, prodding it lacklustre. It was not an unpleasant meal but she could not bring herself to eat it. Her appetite had been more sporadic lately but she really ought to be hungry by now. She hadn’t eaten all day because her stomach had twisted itself into knots with anticipation for this evening. Clearly this was her own way of exhibiting nerves.
Bonnie smiled. It was warm and genuine. It was happy. It was like old times. Annalise had to
remark on it. She couldn’t let the moment pass like so many others had before.
“Is it stupid for me to think that this can work?” The message was clear but she almost stumbled over her delivery. Bonnie almost noticed that more than she heard what Annalise was asking. There was more to read between the lines here. With Annalise there always was. Bonnie managed to shake her head slightly when Annalise drew her attention away from her plate and directed it towards her. It wasn’t clear whether Bonnie was answering the question or unwilling to confront the truth that she simply wasn’t so dependent on Annalise anymore. Or at least that she wished to believe that.
Bonnie dropped her fork and watched her companion stab at her tagliatelle. She wondered how long they would have before they would talk. Annalise continued to speak and the pasta fell off the prongs. “Because you know I’ve sensed that things have changed with us and…” They met eyes for a moment.
Bonnie was certain Annalise was going to confess something, to tell her what was on her mind but instead she deflected. “Talk to me.” The old power dynamics were dangerously close to slipping back into place. Bonnie swallowed, eyes wide like a deer in headlights. The statement sounded like an accusation but she was not sure what Annalise was searching for- what she wanted.
Months ago, she’d have been able to tell you exactly what Annalise was thinking. Now she felt distant, disconnected. It both saddened and empowered her. Bonnie didn’t know what she wanted either. Her bottom lip moved as if she was going to speak but she bit it back, taking another moment to think about what she might say first.
Annalise’s brown eyes bored into her. There was that intensity she longed for so desperately. A fire she’d yet to come across in another’s eyes. Bonnie looked at her plate. Her stomach panged with hunger but the moment for eating seemed to have passed. She knew she should have eaten that banana after work.
Bonnie slid her arms further on the table, shoulders more resolute in her defence as she chewed over her confession. “It’s Miller.” She stated, no hesitation. Her body language betrayed her tone. She gave off the vibe of a rebellious teenage not wanting to hear their parents disapproval.
Annalise watched her. Bonnie had been in the lion’s den for a while now and Annalise had to take some responsibility for that. With Denver dead, the immediate danger that had trailed them should have dissipated. But of course Bonnie was going to continue investigating. She still felt like she owed Annalise. “I was trying to find out if Denver had told him anything.”
Bonnie glanced up, meeting her previous employees gaze. She frowned and Annalise saw the truth before the words even left her associates lips.
“But things changed.” Bonnies voice trembled, “and…” The truth hung heavy in their air between them. Annalise realised with a cold clarity that Bonnie was seeing this man.
Annalise shook her head in disbelief. “No,” she whispered. She sounded more a scorned lover than a concerned friend.
Bonnie could not maintain their eye contact now. Her right hand found her ear which she played with as she pursed her lips. Her ear felt hot, she felt embarrassed.
“You don’t need me to tell you how stupid this is.” Annalise employed her trademark tone that reduced a person into nothing. It wasn’t just the words she used or how she said them, but her entire being that painted you out to be the idiot she believed you were. She had a way of reducing you into a naughty child at the principal’s office.
Bonnie was not interested in hearing more. “You said it yourself, we need to start living.” The emotion bled from her voice as she spoke, leaving no room for further discussion. She sounded as grey and unfeeling as her jumper. Bonnie rolled her shoulders defensively.
She would not be kneeling at Annalise’s feet tonight.
“Don’t you get tired of being alone? Yes, you have a new place and a new job but.” Bonnie took the opportunity to look around the room they were in. It was modern and chic. Mauve walls and stylish lighting fixtures. The dining table was a rich mahogany and the entire room smelled of money. It was lovely. It was very Annalise. The place suited her far more than that lousy apartment she had lived in previously. The place that Bonnie had harassed her in. Had Annalise ever felt safe in that apartment knowing Bonnie might turn up when she pleased? Shame tickled at her cheeks but she pushed it away just as quickly as it had struck her.
“The fact that I’m not in jail or dead is a miracle.” Annalise did not believe in miracles but she had a gruesome scar on her abdomen that suggested they might just exist.
“That can’t be all you want out of your life. We all deserve something good.” Bonnie looked directly at Annalise in an accusatory fashion. “You taught me that.”
“It’s okay to want things... men” Annalise started. She paused awkwardly before she said ‘men’ almost as if the word was foreign to her in some way. A vision of Bonnie in a low-lit corridor flashed across her mind’s eye.
It’s not that I’m like you. It’s that I love you.
Annalise faltered, she wanted to add ‘women’ as well but in the moment, she found she couldn’t. Annalise shook her head to detract attention from her wide eyes and her fumbled speech. “You just can’t be all messy about it.”
Annalise certainly felt more like a preacher than a doer there. The entire putrid situation was messy. She wondered for a moment if Bonnie realised, she remembered kissing her. Now was not the time for those thoughts. Annalise banished the drunken memory of soft lips against her own and pressed her feet into her wooden floor to ground herself.
Bonnie seemed to not notice and instead had been steeling herself over for her own response. “Life is messy.” She spoke sharp and wooden. “You know that better than anyone.” They’d both been through so much, both together and apart. Bonnie didn’t think the messes would ever stop. There was only one way to navigate them and that was to barrel on through.
Annalise was aghast. Sure, it might not be the wisest partner of choice for Bonnie but Annalise hadn’t been too concerned about her ex-associate dancing in front of Denver as bait a few months ago. It was only when Denver died that a weight lifted from Annalise’s shoulders one, she later attributed to relief at Bonnie’s personal safety. However, right now, the same concern was not at the forefront of her mind. Her anger and objection stemmed from another place entirely, one she stubbornly refused to confront. “There’s the mess life gives you and the mess you make.”
Bonnie inhaled a ragged breath; she did not want to hear any of this. Annalise pushed forward regardless. “Denver was his mentor!”
“He doesn’t know anything.” Bonnie replied gravely, the details of what could have been in her file at the forefront of her mind.
“How do you know that?” Annalise started and it was like being back in court again. She shook her head, emphasising how stupid Bonnie would have to be to believe any of the reasons she spewed out. “Because he’s nice to you? Calls you pretty?”
Annalise’s barbed tongue struck a nerve and Bonnie exhaled the air in her lungs sharply. At least her appetite was gone now. Pretty. Sam had called her pretty once and Annalise had never let her forget. Bonnie looked at the table, her eyes low. “I didn’t need to tell you any of this.” She wanted to stay collected and in control but she felt anger building in her chest. Usually she would be closer to tears here but she felt a deep-set rage ready to erupt.
“You know what this reminds me of-?” Annalise added, ready to launch into another argument in her favour. The woman did not know when or why to quit when she had a bone to pick. If only she had pursued her confusion over Bonnie with the same vigour this dinner could have been entirely different. “-this reaction is why no one is every honest with you.” It was Bonnies turn to be accusatory now. The two women almost were speaking over one another. At least until Annalise dropped the card she consistently played.
Bonnie did look up at that. So long for trying to stay calm.
“You always want men you can’t have.”
“He’s nothing like Sam!” The two women spoke over each other. Their words and points colliding across the table. The pasta was becoming cold.
Irrespective of their initial reason for meeting, Annalise had triggered an emotional outburst from Bonnie. She kept pushing just as she always did. Bonnie wasn’t sure if she was hurt at a loss of control and power over her or whether she was jealous. How was this happening again? “How do you know he’s not playing you?” Unfortunately, Bonnie was beyond rationalising this. Annalise had won and managed to provoke her. Bonnie knew she would leave the building wondering why.
Bonnie yelled in response; her voice wavered. “Because I spent the last three months getting to know him!”
Annalise shot back with another quick retort. “Falling for him!” Bonnie refused to listen. She was going to defend Ronald. He wasn’t Sam. He was a good man.
“He! Is falling for me. That is why I trust him because if he saw what was in my file, he’d want nothing to do with me.” Despite herself, Annalise had to admit Bonnie made a good point. Though the thought turned her stomach. When had she become this person that classed another’s worth by their past?
Bonnie struggled to keep her face composed. Her lips curled down and water stung her eyes. She swallowed painfully her breaths a little more ragged than they had been before. Annalise sighed and accepted defeat. This was not an argument she would win tonight.
Annalise sighed, biting back anymore words and rested her face on one hand. She stretched the other across the table. A peace offering for Bonnie.
Bonnie wiped away the tears collecting at the bottom of her eyes away and reached back. The two held hands for a moment and it was enough to still the storm. Annalise hated how much comfort it gave her.
A few minutes of comfortable silence passed and then they released one another. “I don’t know what you think but my pasta sucks.”
“It’s a little over done.” Bonnie conceded softly.
Annalise could not help but smile at her admission, “we could order something in?” She saw an opportunity to make amends. Maybe this could end on a brighter note. Maybe they could let it all feel like old times for an evening.
Bonnie slyly checked the wall clock. She had to be up early for work in the morning and she knew Ronald was expecting to hear back from her later. She dared not get her phone out in Annalise’s presence. She wouldn’t be accused of being a mole after their little spat. “Or we could just eat the dessert I brought over?”
“Sure.” Annalise smiled warmly this time. “What did you bring?”
“Peach cobbler and ice-cream.” It was Annalise’s favourite. A dangerous choice for anyone else to have chosen for Annalise loved none other than her mothers’ recipe. Bonnie was one of the rare few that knew exactly how she liked it.
“Did you make this?”
Bonnie nodded, suddenly bashful. Annalise smirked. Her associate had always had a keen eye for detail. Annalise had recognised that the moment she had met her, despite the circumstances. Annalise felt pride swell within her for a moment and she believed they might just be ok.
“Shall I put a film on..? Like the old days?” Bonnie nodded.
The two ate in silence, both staring intently at the motion picture on in front of them. It was a film they’d watched countless times before but one they somehow always felt like watching. The two drifted closer together as they watched, naturally drawn to one another.
When the film ended, the two women found themselves feeling disappointed and struck with an odd sense of loss.
“We’ll do this again sometime.” I miss you.
“That’d be nice.” I miss you too.
The two parted once more without saying what they wanted to.