It had been another long day in a month that seemed eternal. So long in fact, that Annalise almost missed returning home to Sam.
At least she told herself it was only ‘almost’.
She recognised it as a weakness. Loneliness compounded with her current stress was causing this emotional response that she had no time for. Yet, despite her ‘awareness’, it had been happening more and more frequently of late.
She missed him. She missed having someone there for her, despite the fact she’d been happily cheating on him with Nate for months. It had been an almost unspoken arrangement between herself and her husband. They had both wandered into the beds of others after the death of their son. It had helped them cope and helped them stay together. It might not have been right or normal but it had worked for them. Annalise always broke the mould with her relationships with other people. Her husband had been important to her.
Sometimes Annalise would still creep upstairs in an attempt to not wake her husband from his slumber when she returned to their bed late. Every time she opened their bedroom door, she was confronted with an empty bed that brought reality crashing back into her. He was never coming back.
Every damn day was long and empty. She felt lost.
Never before had her house felt like a graveyard as it did now. Recently, Annalise found herself feeling restless at night. She wondered if Sam and Rebecca felt the same. Had they crossed over to the other side or were they as trapped within these walls too. Shaking her head, Annalise tried to banish the thoughts. Vodka would help banish her demons. Or at the very least it would help her to forget for a few hours. Perhaps she would drink until she passed out.
It was a routine she was truly sinking into. She would drink until she slept, wake up with a hangover and a splitting headache, attend class and the migraine would pass after she had a quick nip of vodka between lectures. She wasn’t an alcoholic she was just coping. Denial was a terrible curse.
Under normal circumstances Bonnie would have asked her if she was ok. She would have tried to pull her back to the moment but Bonnie was lost herself. The air conditioning was on inside the car but still Bonnie shivered, staring out the windscreen as if she didn’t recognise the Keating office she’d practically lived at for the past 20 years.
She’d been so quiet that Annalise had almost forgotten her associate was inside the car. Perhaps Annalise could indulge in another kind of distraction tonight. Their venomous relationship was intoxicating enough at times. Thought Bonnie looked as though she’d seen enough ghosts herself tonight. Annalise wondered if Sam and Rebecca haunted her too.
“Let’s go inside.” Annalise muttered, angry with the world and tired. So very tired of it all. Annalise told herself she wanted nothing more than to retreat to her bed and drink until sleep caught hold of her. That she would have done exactly that if her associate hadn’t picked tonight to carry her own ghosts with her.
Inviting her in was charity. Annalise could almost convince herself that she was a good mentor and friend. Deep down she recognised she was selfish. That she was using Bonnie and she would manipulate and twist her just because she could. That she gained some kind of sick satisfaction and became drunk with the power and control she had over Bonnie. It wasn’t right but she couldn’t stop herself for either of their sakes. There was something deeply twisted between them both. Annalise didn’t want to understand it.
An hour ago, Annalise had driven them back to her house. She had driven Bonnie’s car and had no intention of letting her travel back to her own home tonight. It was only along the journey that her altruism was long forgotten. It was only once they had reached her doorstep that she remembered she wasn’t alone in her pain tonight.
Solomon had been one of the worst cases they had taken on in years and it had taken a toll on all of them. Annalise noted it had been especially taxing on her young associate. She’d dealt with Michaela and now it was the blondes turn. They entered the great house in silence and headed for Annalise’s study. The usual location for their debriefs. Annalise was pouring them both a hearty measure of her favourite vodka before Bonnie realised, she’d had made herself at home and sat down.
She almost protested being handed the drink but something in Annalise’s expression changed her mind. Bonnie nodded in thanks and took a sip that turned into a gulp. The liquid burned her throat but it was welcomed. She felt real for a moment before she drifted off into her mind again.
Bonnie inhaled sharply. Her breath shuddering through her throat. Annalise watched her associate with a curious expression. For a second, she had been in the room and then she’d disappeared into the ether again. Annalise took a drink herself and mulled over her approach to the situation for a moment.
“Come here.” Annalise broke the silence that had descended over them both.
“What?” Bonnie’s eyebrow rose.
“Come back here.” Annalise repeated.
“I’m right next to you?” Bonnie whispered, her hand shaking around an empty glass.
“You’re not in this moment.” Of course, Annalise had wanted to say ‘with me’ but thought better of it. What was her relationship with Bonnie without a little cat and mouse? Bonnie hesitated so Annalise pushed forward.
“Your glass is empty.”
Annalise moved forward with what she hoped was a sympathetic expression. “I saw how you reacted when I slapped him.” She spoke softly and paused, offering her associate the chance to speak.
“Oh,” she replied simply. Her voice was soft and quiet. Bonnie shifted in her seat and pulled at the hem of her shirt. A habit she employed whenever she was so anxious it bit at her nerve endings and made her feel uneasy.
“It surprised me.” She admitted. “He deserved it.” She added.
“He did.” Annalise replied sternly. The consequences be damned. In the moment she had been untouchable. If she was honest, she still felt somewhat untouchable. That man had got off far more lightly than he deserved. The slap was a drop in the ocean. Her palm tingled with the memory. It had hurt her. She damn well knew it had hurt him. The thought made her smirk maliciously.
“Did it trigger you?” She asked, not skipping a beat as if she hadn’t just recounted the events in her mind. Bonnie was so distracted she didn’t even notice the mild lull in the conversations pace before Annalise jumped straight back into it.
“It reminded me of something.”
“Tell me about it?”
“I-Annalise,” her tone sounded lost and unsure. It was a tone Annalise had both come to resent and relish. Bonnie changed something between them both the moment she’d knelt in front of her. Annalise wondered if Bonnie had known exactly what she had submitted to when she did that.
Bleeding mascara and smudged lipstick flashed through Annalise’s mind. She felt a heat she hadn’t moments ago. Now wasn’t the time.
“You know you can talk to me about this.” Annalise shut her eyes in response to her own
steely tone. She didn’t want to see Bonnie’s reaction to that.
“About what a hypocrite I am?” Annalise regretted not blocking her ears too. She opened her eyes lazily before sharpening her gaze at Bonnie.
“About what’s going on with you.” Annalise’s response was blank as she didn’t go for the bait. Bonnie pursed her lips, “you think I’m a hypocrite.”
“You are but that’s not what I’m asking you. Stop deflecting.” Bonnie slumped in her chair. The fight seemingly knocked out of her. She sat with a defeated look on her face, pulling her expression down. She seemed paler somehow.
Bonnie tipped her glass in Annalise’s direction as if to ask her to pour her a measure. “Even when you want to help me you want me broken.” Annalise considered that for a moment and poured Bonnie a drink. The blonde woman was still shaking as she brought the crystal to her lips.
“I don’t like to see you like this Bonnie.”
“Sometimes I can see everything that’s happened to me, like it’s happening right now. Reality, you, this room seems to be behind that vision.” Annalise remained silent but listened intently. She winced as Bonnie hiccupped for air in a desperate attempt to prevent herself from crying.
Annalise understood exactly what she meant. They were bonded in a way few people understood. It was a connection Annalise had been unable to relinquish, no matter how much it damaged them both. “You’re not what happened to you.”
“I know.” Bonnie nodded and spoke with conviction. She did know. It just hurt to remember what came before. Annalise’s façade almost cracked at that revelation. She wanted to cry into Sam’s arms. She was certain Bonnie might want the same.
Annalise hated herself for souring her own feelings towards Bonnie, especially now in this moment. Why did she have to bring up Sam at every twist and turn of their relationship? Sam was the whip she beat Bonnie with incessantly. Bonnie glanced up at Annalise, feeling the temperature in the room drop.
“Are you alright?” She asked softly. The innocence in her tone broke Annalise’s heart. For some reason the question caught her off guard. She had been feeling vitriolic towards Bonnie mere moments ago with resentment burning out to her fingertips. Her expression must have contorted with an anger and disappointment that was specifically reserved for Bonnie. It was an expression Bonnie must have recognised for what it was and yet still she tried to find out if Annalise was ok.
Annalise replied honestly in a whisper. “No.”
“Then come here.” Bonnie tried weakly with a smile, repeating the very line that had brought them here. All that mattered right now was that they needed each other.
Annalise joined her on the sofa and the two held each other in silence. That night, as they had countless nights before everything had started to rot away and decay, they fell asleep together, unworried and unburdened.
When morning broke, Annalise woke up on the sofa alone and she felt as though the ghosts that haunted her house had been within her the whole time. Had she dreamed Bonnie had been there last night or had her associate fled as soon as she had awoken? Either way she felt betrayed and lost. A little more hollowed out and lonely than she had the morning before.
Annalise groaned and peeled herself off of the sofa. There was a blanket over her that was now crumpled on the ground. She didn't remember grabbing that herself. Bonnie must have before she left. Why had she gone? Where had she gone? Would she be back?
Annalise shook her head to banish the questions but she just prompted a sharp pain in her temple to reverberate across her skull. She felt sick and not because of the drink from last night.
The front door lock clicked and someone with a key opened the door. Annalise froze, alert and scared. Had Frank come for her? All the publicity related to this case would surely have him crawling out of whatever hole he had dug himself into.
But Frank did not come skuling into the room to kill her. Instead, stood Bonnie holding a brown paper bag carrying the campus patisserie logo. Bonnie hadn't left after all. She suddenly felt foolish for ever doubting Bonnie's loyalty. There was no one more devoted to Annalise than her.
Fear and loneliness did strange things to a woman it seemed. Annalise turned away from Bonnie quickly to conceal her expression. She didn't feel composed enough to be observed right now.
“I thought we could do with some breakfast,” Bonnie said softly to the woman's back. The relief Annalise felt shook her very being and she did not know if that was a realisation she welcomed. Irrespective, she could not deny that she did not feel so haunted.