It’s barely been an hour since Ruth took off without a word, that Caroline finds her driveway suddenly occupied by a red Land Rover, and opens the door to find Gillian standing there – clothes and ponytail more than a bit damp. Soaking, as if the other woman had walked here, from Ripponden.
“You’re all wet,” Caroline observes , stating the obvious. Despite wondering things like why? Seriously, why are you standing on my doorstep drenched in rainwater? – there’s also something about the sight of Gillian, wet that stirs something deep within her. Or something quite shallow, more like. Calling back fond memories of days at beaches, with the sea and salt tangling through the darkened light brown.
“Yeah, well... foxes.” Gillian shrugs off, evasively.
“Is that an explanation?”
“Yeah,” Gillian insists, a look of ‘don’t argue, it is’ about her – stepping inside and shrugging off her boots and jacket. “I just needed to get away from that bloody barn. Before I started taking shots at it.”
She makes a quick route to Caroline’s living room – where she notices the wine glasses and empty bottles Caroline hasn’t got around to clearing up, yet. “Shit – I’m not interrupting anything, am I? I didn’t see a car...”
If anything, Gillian being in her house right now is the opposite of an unwelcome interruption.
“No, Ruth left first thing this morning,” Caroline sinks down on one of the couches, and Gillian joins next to her. “Slept in the spare. It turns out, not only is she probably not interested in women, she appears to have a problem with the fact that I am. And now I have to see her at work, Monday...”
Idiot decision, trying to get involved with another teacher. Just because it had worked out alright with Kate... well, miracles didn’t land twice, did they?
“See, that’s why you should check out that disco. Meet women who work nowhere near you,” Gillian points out.
“Do you want to go there?”
It’s starting to sound like it, the more Gillian keeps bringing that event up.
“Maybe. Dunno,” Gillian considers. Her hand finds Caroline’s, thumb tracing absent patterns against her skin. “Look, she could just be one of those people who does like you, but doesn’t know how to handle it – repressed and lashing out and pretending she has no interest in knowing a lesbian.”
“Possibly.” That could all well be true. That Ruth does secretly, in some way, like other women – and maybe even feels some attraction to her. Still, does it make Caroline a complete hypocrite to find the idea of dating someone with that much complicated personal baggage a bit of a turn-off? She knows how hard it can be – she’s been there, done it. But that isn’t where she is in her life, right now. She wants something, well... easy. Normal. Two people who like each other, having lots of good sex and romance and all the other involved things.
Maybe she wants a fantasy.
No, that isn’t true. Confident, out-and-proud lesbians and bisexuals existed in Yorkshire, too. She’d seen them. While they were out shopping with their wives, usually – back when Gillian had that last grocery store job, and Caroline would sometimes make a point to stop by. (And to marvel, in a way, at how Gillian somehow managed to flatter clothing in shades that no human being should be forced to wear for minimum wage.)
Actually, that isn’t true, either – that all the women who’d already sorted out the dramatics to do with ‘oh no, I suppose I might be a lesbian’ were taken. She’d met a few single ones, too. Shortly before realizing that the reason they were single had a lot to do with the fact that they were intolerable to be around for more than five minutes.
“How hard is it to just meet a decent woman who likes me, who is completely fine and comfortable with that?”
“Not hard,” Gillian replies, rather quickly, her eyes meeting Caroline’s. Full of something so genuine, right there –and Caroline has to tell herself yet again to stop wishing that hypothetical partner would be Gillian. “You’re a catch. Any woman would be lucky.”
“Try telling her that,” Caroline gripes. Gillian is right, though. Ruth could do far worse than her.
“I will. Turn up and make a big scene, and everything.” Gillian lights at the prospect – defending Caroline’s honor, while having an easy, deserving target to unleash on.
Caroline admits, the idea is tempting, but..
“No – don’t actually do that.”
She’ll deal with it, herself. Somehow – and, right now, Caroline would happily will one of those glasses to magically refill itself, just to avoid having to think about how.
For Christ’s sake, it’s nine in the morning... she chides herself. That’s what Bailey’s in coffee is for.
(Except, she doesn’t think she has any. She does possibly have whiskey, somewhere...)
“You could always fire her?” Gillian suggests.
“For turning me down? Pretty sure that’s illegal.”
Gillian looks at her for a long moment, reclining sideways against the sofa that’s probably absorbing the water from Gillian’s jeans. “You can do better than her. You deserve...”
And then she breaks off, as if she isn’t sure to continue.
“What?” Caroline prompts, quietly – shifting so she’s staring into those blue eyes, when they finally glance back up at her.
What Caroline definitely doesn’t expect, is for the woman across from her to finish that sentence by means of leaning in and kissing her. Kissing her quite passionately, and for quite a long time. And Caroline savors every moment of the suddenness of Gillian’s lips. And their soft, determined need. A wordless expression of you deserve someone who wants you as much as I do.