Mildred Ratched could say with relative certainty that she wasn’t a woman who was often caught off-guard. When she’d stepped through Gwendolyn’s front door, she’d planned for them to talk, for Gwendolyn to grant her an opportunity to explain herself. She’d spent weeks (years, if she were to be truly honest) grappling with an aspect of herself which, until now, she had been keen to suppress and suppress until it weakened and, ideally, dissipated completely. She had hoped it would fade away of its own accord, due to a determined lack of attention.
Gwendolyn had changed all of that, though. She had tended to the shriveled seeds of potential affection hidden away with Mildred, coaxing and nurturing them until they bloomed and wrapped vivacious vines around her heart. And now Mildred had no hope of freeing herself even if she’d wished to.
Before knocking on Gwendolyn’s front door, when she’d been sat in her car, gloved hands gripping the steering wheel as she watched the ersatz husband make his departure, she’d tried to plan their conversation in her head. She rehearsed what she planned to say, silently, as she steeled herself and got out of the car to make her tentative way up the front path. Potential words of apology and reconciliation darted around her head right up until she knocked on the front door, and as soon as Gwendolyn opened it and looked down at her in justifiable hostility, they fluttered straight of it like white butterflies.
But they had managed to talk, to air their feelings in the open. Mildred had felt her heart tighten when Gwendolyn had told her about the cancer, as if someone was clutching it in thorny hands. But alongside that, she’d felt a strong determination that they could fix it. She wouldn’t allow herself to even conceive of the alternative, not now.
Not now, when the nurse’s fingers were tangled in flaxen curls and Gwendolyn was peppering sweet, insistent kisses on her lips and around them, somehow both soft and firm simultaneously. Mildred could not deny she hadn’t wanted this; she had fantasized about it at the most inopportune moments, but still – Nurse Ratched had been caught off-guard.
She broke the kiss after a while, slowly, not missing the tiny whimper escaping from the back of Gwendolyn’s throat. They breathed heavily, foreheads resting together, hands shifting up and down the other’s upper arms.
‘Oh, Mildred,’ Gwendolyn murmured, voice hoarse from her tears moments before.
‘Gwendolyn,’ Mildred said on a sigh, reaching down to take both the older woman’s hands in her own and lace their fingers together.
‘What are we going to do? Gwendolyn asked, her voice tiny, like a child’s.
‘I’ve told you what we’re going to do,’ the nurse replied, her tone approaching its usual phlegmatic character.
The two women embraced then, tightly, tucking heads into the crooks in each other’s necks.
‘I’m afraid, Mildred,’ Gwendolyn admitted in a whisper, and Mildred could feel her trembling as she clung to her.
‘It’s going to be okay,’ the younger woman said, like it was the most undeniable truth in the world, gently patting Gwendolyn’s back for emphasis, ‘We’re going to find you the best doctor, and you’re going to be fine. I will not lose you.’
Mildred stood back to cup Gwendolyn’s cheek gently in her hand, thumb tracing gently over dried tears.
‘I will not lose you,’ she said again, looking into the blonde’s sea-blue eyes and feeling temptingly close to drowning in them.
‘So what now?’ Gwendolyn asked, reaching up to place her hand over Mildred’s where it rested along her jawline.
‘Let’s get a drink,’ Mildred decided, ‘Let’s just… go somewhere nice and forget about things for a while.’
‘Okay,’ Gwendolyn agreed, chuckling, ‘Where?’
Mildred flicked her eyes downward, feeling a warmth flood to her cheeks as she voiced her next proposition.
‘We could… go to that bar. The one you took me to before?’
Gwendolyn’s eyebrows twitched upwards as she took in the suggestion.
‘Really? Are you sure? You didn’t seem so keen -’
‘Yes, let’s go there,’ Mildred insisted, grasping Gwendolyn’s hands again.
‘Okay,’ the older woman agreed, seeming genuinely pleased, ‘Let’s go there.’
Mildred smiled, squeezing Gwendolyn’s hands. She then noticed her mouth, specifically the skin around it, and how it blushed with smears of her lipstick.
‘Oh,’ the nurse purred, ‘You wear that color so well.’
Gwendolyn blinked at her, before bringing a hand up to wipe the back of it along her lips. She inspected the pink smudges left behind, and her mouth dropped open.
‘Oh, dear,’ she mumbled, turning to inspect her reflection in the picture frame behind her and scrubbing fiercely at her mouth.
‘Here,’ Mildred said, giggling as she pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and handed it over.
Another thing which caught Mildred off-guard was how comfortable, even contented, she felt in the woman’s bar. She looked around her from the table at which the pair of them had tucked themselves away, at the canoodling couples, lady couples, dotted around the room and moving slowly to the songs crackling over the jukebox.
Mildred and Gwendolyn sat opposite each other, each nursing gin rickeys and sometimes engaging in conversation, but mostly gazing into each other’s eyes and feeling the buzz of the room around them fade away. Mildred did not miss the way Gwendolyn occasionally nudged her calf with her toe, too repetitively to be accidental, nor did she miss the way the blonde’s gaze sometimes strayed from her eyes to her lips, and yet lower to the top of her chest, still modestly covered by her blouse.
The couple sat quietly and sipped their drinks, before a new song came onto the jukebox and Gwendolyn’s eyes lit up.
‘Oh, I love this song,’ the woman breathed, closing her eyes in bliss.
Mildred smiled, tuning into the mellow female vocal and trying to make out the lyrics. The melody was lazy, lilting, gentle as a lullaby, and she let her eyes flicker closed to listen to it more closely.
‘You know it?’ Gwendolyn asked her.
Mildred opened her eyes to shake her head, blushing. If she thought about it, she’d never had the time nor the inclination to pay much attention to music of any sort.
‘It’s Sam Cooke, Far Away Places,’ Gwendolyn told her, eyes shining, ‘It’s one of my favorites.’
‘It’s lovely. Peaceful,’ Mildred said with a smile, sipping her drink.
‘Come on,’ the older woman said, finishing off her drink with relish and holding her hand out to the nurse, ‘Dance with me.’
‘Oh, I don’t know -’ Mildred faltered, clutching her gin glass in both hands and staring at Gwendolyn’s hand as if she was making some obscene gesture, ‘I can’t dance.’
‘Can’t or won’t?’ Gwendolyn challenged, smirking, ‘Come on. Everyone here is in their own little world. There’s no need to be embarrassed.’
Mildred sighed, looking at her companion’s earnest expression one last time before nodding and swallowing the rest of her drink in one gulp (she needed her courage). Then, she took Gwendolyn’s hand and allowed her to lead her to the floor, amongst the other dancing couples. She felt prickles up and down her arms as they moved to find an empty space, but then Gwendolyn turned to her with such warmth in her face that she felt immediately comforted. She allowed the blonde to take her in her arms, felt her rest her hands in the small of her back. The nurse waited for the feelings of discomfort to claw their way up her shoulders the way they usually did, whenever a man had had his hands in the same position, but they didn’t this time. She allowed herself to relax, bringing her hands up to rest on each of Gwendolyn’s shoulders and step a little closer to her.
‘See?’ Gwendolyn said, guiding Mildred as they swayed slowly in time to the music, ‘It’s not so bad.’
‘It’s not so bad,’ Mildred parroted, humming a laugh.
The pair of them moved together, lost in one another. Mildred stifled a laugh when Gwendolyn began to sing along to the music, her voice low and husky and not altogether tuneful. She moved yet closer to the woman, looping her arms around her neck and resting her chin over her shoulder, pressing right against her. In response, Gwendolyn wrapped her own arms more tightly around Mildred’s lower back, turning her head to press a chaste kiss to the side of her neck. Mildred felt pleasant flutters down in her belly and closed her eyes.
‘Come home with me?’ Gwendolyn whispered, her lips brushing over the shell of Mildred’s ear.
Mildred nodded with a smile, running a hand up the woman’s back.
They stayed together like that until the end of the song, and for the duration of the one following it, as if they were tied to one another with invisible threads. When the next song turned into a rather jarring jitterbug number, which was beyond both of their dancing abilities, they retired from the floor and retreated to their table to gather their belongings.
After the pair of them had asked the bartender to call them a cab, and Mildred had paid for their drinks, they waited together outside in the cool evening air. Feeling bolder now in their new beginning, they held hands.
‘Could we ask the driver to stop by the motel on the way?’ Mildred asked, ‘I’ll need to pack a bag.’
Gwendolyn nodded, shuffling closer to her to press their arms together as she squeezed her hand.
The door had barely closed behind the two women before Mildred found herself being pushed against it by Gwendolyn, who was kissing her, hard. In the cab on the way home, they had mostly kept their hands to themselves, so as not to arouse judgment of the driver. As a result, the pair of them had practically quivered with anticipation for the entire journey.
Mildred gasped as Gwendolyn’s lips traveled from her mouth and along her jawbone, then down her throat. She tangled her fingers in her hair, pulling it slightly from its pinned style but not caring one jot. The flutters she’d felt in her stomach returned to her, moving lower in her body now, and she clung to Gwendolyn’s shoulders as she drew her bottom lip between her teeth.
‘Let’s go upstairs?’ the older woman suggested breathily, resting her hands around the redhead’s waist.
The nurse looked over Gwendolyn’s shoulder. Upstairs. Uncharted territory, in more ways than one.
She nodded wordlessly, letting Gwendolyn lean away from her and immediately missing her comforting weight. The woman looked at her, her chest rising and falling steeply, before reaching to cup her face. Mildred turned her head to press a kiss to the pad of her thumb, bringing her hand up to rest on Gwendolyn’s wrist.
‘You are so beautiful, Mildred,’ the woman said, her voice croaky and soft.
Mildred stepped towards her and kissed her again, slowly, softly, before pulling mere fractions of inches away from her lips to whisper, ‘Take me to bed.’
The other woman nodded briskly, taking her hand and leading her up the stairs.
When they reached the door to the bedroom, Mildred paused, suddenly finding herself rooted to the cream-colored carpet below her feet. Gwendolyn turned to her, stroking the back of her hand with her thumb.
‘Okay?’ she whispered.
‘I’ve – I’ve never done this before,’ Mildred blurted, looking down at her determinedly stationary feet and sighing.
‘I’d assumed as much,’ Gwendolyn said gently, without a hint of judgment, stepping towards her and cupping her face again. Mildred was sure she would never tire of the pleasant shivers that rippled through her body when she felt Gwendolyn’s skin against her own.
She knew she wanted to do this. She knew that stepping beyond that doorway was past the point of no return. But she was scared. Scared to take this next step, scared to solidify the feelings she’d fought for so long. She guessed, if she looked deeper, she feared disappointing Gwendolyn. After all, she had little experience to draw upon in the act of making love, and none whatsoever of doing so with a woman.
‘Mildred,’ came a gentle voice, and the nurse was pulled from her thoughts. Mildred looked at the woman in front of her, who looked back at her with such patience, and openness, and love, that she felt tears prick the backs of her eyes.
‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ Gwendolyn asked, stepping closer to her and bringing both hands to rest on her hips.
Mildred nodded, her breath hitching.
‘Because it’s okay if you don’t,’ Gwendolyn pressed.
‘I want to,’ Mildred confirmed.
‘Okay,’ the older woman whispered, moving her thumbs back and forth over Mildred’s hips and smiling, ‘Come on.’
Mildred followed Gwendolyn as she led her into the bedroom. She stood in the center of the room, eyeing the bed in anticipation, hearing the click of the door as Gwendolyn closed it behind them. She turned to face her, reached for her as the older woman stepped towards her, and gathered her in her arms.
Their kisses deepened as they slowly edged towards the bed, faltering a little as they stopped to kick off shoes. Mildred tugged Gwendolyn’s shirt from the waistband of her trousers, pressing fluttering kisses to her neck as she began unbuttoning it, fumbling as her usual measured dexterity deserted her. Gwendolyn responded in kind, making short work of the silk buttons on her blouse and dragging the garment down her arms. Then, she undid the waistband of her skirt and allowed it to pool around her ankles, leaving her in a silk slip and pale stockings. Mildred expected to feel embarrassed, exposed, but she didn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact; she felt free.
Mildred felt the backs of her knees against the mattress, and she sat down, watching as Gwendolyn shrugged her shirt off and stood in her brassiere and trousers. Mildred allowed herself to take her in, everything from a flushed, heaving chest to a pair of blushing lips. Mouth dry, she leaned forward and slowly unbuttoned the front of her trousers, tugging them down her legs and holding her hands as she stepped out of them.
As Mildred Ratched lay down then, pulling Gwendolyn on top of her and gazing upwards at her face, it occurred to her that this was what had been missing. She looked right into the woman’s eyes, at the crinkles in the skin around them as she smiled at her, and had never felt so safe, or secure, or loved.
Gwendolyn leaned down to kiss her, unbearably softly, slowly traversing from her mouth to her cheek and then down to her neck, where her pulse thundered just below her skin. Mildred brought her hands to her favorite resting place, nestling them in Gwendolyn’s soft locks as she moved down her body, worshipping it. Mildred felt her heart hammering in the roof of her mouth as Gwendolyn kissed her stomach over the top of her silk slip, her head filling with warm images of her doing the same thing without the material in the way.
Her lover crawled back up so they were eye to eye, shifting her weight to one elbow so she could use her other hand to rest on Mildred’s hair.
‘I love you,’ Gwendolyn murmured, her thumb rubbing gently back and forth over Mildred’s forehead.
‘I love you,’ Mildred replied, bringing her hands up to cup Gwendolyn’s face.
The two women shifted, each accommodating the other’s body as they moved further onto the bed. When Mildred’s head finally sunk into the pillows, and any last scraps of inhibition simply melted away, she let her thighs fall open, and Gwendolyn slotted herself neatly between them.
They kissed again, hotly, and Mildred whimpered as she felt the slow, determined roll of Gwendolyn’s hips against her own. There was now a relentless, throbbing ache between her legs, and she dragged her hands down the woman’s back to press them over her behind as she gradually increased the pace.
When Gwendolyn began directing her kisses elsewhere, Mildred raked her fingers through her hair and gasped as the woman nibbled and sucked her way down the front of her throat. It felt indescribable, and that ache between her legs only intensified as Gwendolyn reached her hips and slipped her hands underneath her slip and felt her skin. Her hands were warm and comforting, and Mildred wanted them all over her body.
‘Take it off,’ she whispered to Gwendolyn, her eyes hooded.
The woman nodded, smiling, as she shifted to allow Mildred to sit up. Then, she pulled the slip up and over her head, tossing it to the floor alongside the rest of their discarded clothing. Mildred tingled pleasantly as Gwendolyn took her in, dragging her eyes over her freckled skin and plain silk underwear.
It was mere moments before they were kissing again, and Mildred allowed herself to be laid back down, her head sinking back into the pillows. She was surrendering completely, which struck her as odd when she was used to having, and needing to have, complete control in all other aspects of her life. But before she could dwell on this little conundrum too much, Gwendolyn’s hand was on her breast, gently caressing over the material of her brassiere. She nodded rapidly at the woman’s questioning look, kissing her deeply and whimpering. Arching her back, she allowed Gwendolyn to unfasten her bra and toss it to the ground, feeling goosebumps rise over skin which was not used to exposure.
Gwendolyn leaned down to trail kisses over her breasts and between them, gently cupping them with her hands before squeezing lightly.
‘You’re beautiful,’ she stated in a whisper, ‘So beautiful.’
Mildred kissed her, pulling her body flush against hers and whimpering as the material of Gwendolyn’s bra rubbed against her hardened nipples. When one of Gwendolyn’s hands began to wander, trailing slowly down the center of Mildred’s stomach and inching closer to the top of her drawers, Mildred felt as if she were on fire. Her touch was too much, and yet painfully not enough. She watched as Gwendolyn sat up and turned her attentions to Mildred’s legs, still encased by stockings. The woman gently lifted each of Mildred’s legs to pull the garments off and toss them away, pressing kisses to the silken skin on her inner thighs. Then, she crawled back over her, like a cat, and Mildred couldn’t bear it.
‘Please,’ she breathed against Gwendolyn’s lips, hands clutching the sides of her face as she hiked one of her legs over the woman’s hip.
Gwendolyn nodded, bringing one hand to the bottom of Mildred’s stomach to resume its journey, slowly moving it lower, fingertips teasing her, torturing her, before her palm was finally pressed right up against her center.
Mildred felt she might cry as Gwendolyn began moving that palm in tiny circles, pressing more with the heel of her hand as she felt her burning heat through her drawers. Panting, Mildred arched her spine, bucking her hips to increase the pressure, to feel some relief.
Eventually, Gwendolyn moved her hand upwards slightly, dragging two fingers up the damp silk before arriving at the waistband of Mildred’s drawers. She kept her eyes on her, making sure she was comfortable until the last, as she moved her fingers underneath the elastic and downwards, dragging them along slick, wet skin. And Mildred felt her eyes roll back in her skull as the pleasure flooded through her. She clung to Gwendolyn’s shoulders, for she was sure she would float away otherwise, and let desperate mantras of wails and whimpers escape from her lips.
Finally, Gwendolyn dragged her underwear down her legs, replacing her hand immediately and crawling up Mildred’s body to cup her face with the other. Mildred kissed her again, she was sure she wanted to do nothing else for the rest of her life, and she felt something start brewing in the very bottom of her belly.
She was about to ask, beg, for more, but Gwendolyn seemed to read her mind and slowly pushed two fingers inside of her. And Mildred moaned, finally, her head flopping back into the pillows as she fought for air. She clutched at the sheets beneath her, rocking her pelvis and clenching her leg muscles as Gwendolyn’s fingers curled and twisted, driving her further and further up so high she felt like she was amongst the stars. When she felt a thumb press against that elusive nub at the apex of her thighs, Mildred almost yelped, and the something that had been churning in her belly began to swell, rising like the crest of a wave, and then Gwendolyn turned her head to whisper in her ear:
‘Let go, Mildred. I’ve got you, you’re safe. Let go, my love.’
And Mildred did. With a cry, she came crashing down with Gwendolyn’s name on her lips, shuddering as her muscles rapidly contracted and relaxed and tears welled in the corners of her eyes. She clutched at the woman’s shoulders, feeling herself flutter around those fingers which had stilled inside of her. Gwendolyn cooed in her ear, gently withdrawing her fingers and dragging them up her stomach.
‘I love you,’ Mildred whispered, fighting to get her breath back.
‘I love you, too,’ Gwendolyn replied, cupping her chin and pressing a kiss to her lips.
Mildred brought her hands to the sides of Gwendolyn’s face as she deepened the kiss, not feeling satiated just yet. She hooked a leg over Gwendolyn’s back and rolled them over, pinning her to the mattress and moving her kisses down her body. She unhooked her bra and threw it away, peppering kisses to the revealed pair of breasts and gently squeezing. Mildred’s hands were clumsy, questioning, as they smoothed over Gwendolyn’s ribcage, feeling it expand and withdraw beneath her fingertips.
The nurse reached her plain cotton drawers, and ran her fingertips just around the waistband, looking up at her lover’s face as if asking for permission. When the woman nodded, Mildred gently tugged the underwear down her legs and tossed it to the floor. She gasped at the unfamiliar, devastating sight before her, wanting desperately to touch, to feel; but suddenly, she felt utterly paralyzed by self-doubt.
She looked back up to Gwendolyn, who seemed to understand, and reached for her with both arms. Mildred crawled back over her, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth.
‘I’m going to show you, okay?’ the older woman told her, her breathing steady.
‘Okay,’ Mildred said, swallowing nervously.
‘Give me your hand,’ Gwendolyn instructed.
Mildred offered her right hand to her, letting her take it and move it slowly down her body, smoothing over her stomach and inching lower. With wide eyes, Mildred watched her hand as Gwendolyn guided it down, till it finally came to its destination at her center. Both women moaned at the contact.
‘Okay,’ Gwendolyn murmured, flattening her hand over the back of Mildred’s and shifting position slightly, ‘Start with small circles.’
Mildred let her hand be manipulated by Gwendolyn’s, in small circles as she’d instructed, and watched the woman’s face. Those clear blue eyes were dark now, the pupils dilated, and her mouth was open in a small “o”.
‘Like this?’ Mildred asked, eyebrows quirking upwards, wanting so desperately to please her.
‘Mm. Mm-hmm,’ Gwendolyn hummed, closing her eyes and drawing her bottom lip between her teeth.
Mildred gained confidence, moving her hand of its own accord against slick heat. After a while, Gwendolyn pulled her hand upwards, and Mildred gasped as she felt the tiny bundle of nerves between her fingertips.
‘Use two fingers,’ came Gwendolyn’s whispered instruction, before adding with a huffed laugh, ‘It won’t take long.’
Mildred barely registered that added comment as Gwendolyn let go of her hand, clearly trusting her on her own now. Feeling a swell of pride in her chest at the effect she was having on her, Mildred focused her attention on circling her index and middle fingers around and over that little nub between her thighs.
‘That’s it,’ Gwendolyn whimpered, as Mildred began to rub faster, ‘That’s – oh, god – that’s it.’
Sure enough, mere minutes passed before Gwendolyn was crying out, jerking as she reached her peak and tumbled down it. She pulled Mildred towards her and kissed her, panting against her lips and wrapping both arms over her back.
‘Was that okay?’ Mildred asked afterward, lying next to Gwendolyn and curling into her side.
‘What do you think?’ Gwendolyn chuckled, running feather-light fingers up and down Mildred’s arm.
‘I love you, Gwendolyn,’ Mildred whispered, tilting her head upwards to kiss the underside of her companion’s jaw.
‘I love you too, Mildred.’
They pulled the rumpled bedsheets up over them, feeling colder now their skin had cooled with sweat. And they lay together, tangled up in one another, murmuring sweet choruses of “I love you”s. Mildred knew all too well that the world would come knocking the next morning, that the reality of Gwendolyn’s situation, as well as her brother’s, would claw their way back into the center of her mind. But for now, she was contented to lie alongside the woman who she had allowed herself to love, and be loved by in return.
They could deal with everything else tomorrow.