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For Eternity

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It was darker here. Bernie tugged her coat closer, shivered as the wind blew harder, the drops of rain sharp as they started to fall. She shouldn’t have come. She never should have left Holby. She should have ignored the signs, the warnings, the messages. The whispers in her ears at night while she tried to sleep, the husky voice calling in her dreams, telling her where to go. She should have stayed away. 

She couldn’t stay away. She had to know. 

Bernie tucked her green scarf closer, wished her coat had a hood to protect her face from the icy rain as it fell harder, blurring her vision. The street was dark, the only light she could see was from a small house at the end, the lights forming starbursts in the rain. Bernie rushed toward it; this had to be the place. The place in her dreams. The place that held the answers. 

A small bell jingled as Bernie shoved the door open, practically fell into the cozy warmth of the entrance way. Incense hit her nose first, heady and strong, laced with scents unfamiliar to Bernie, patchouli, evergreen, amber, lingering in the small room. Her eyes adjusted slowly to the dimly lit room, candles burning merrily, unscented and bright. Dark stained furniture, a desk to receive people, a few worn velvet cushioned chairs, lamps with stained glass shades filled the tiny space. A rustle of fabric stole Bernie’s attention as a door opened, a lovely woman stepped out. Her skin was golden, almost glowing, in the candles. She had a tumble of red-gold curls pinned haphazardly on her head and bright eyes that changed color in the light - first green, then blue, and nearly golden. Bernie inhaled sharply. It was impossible to resist the call of her. She was stunningly beautiful, with lush curves outlined by her simple vest, flowing skirt, her bare arms and calves on display despite the chill outside. Her face spilt into a lovely smile when she spotted Bernie. 

“Welcome, Berenice. Or should I call you Bernie?” The woman asked, her voice lilting, teasing, testing. Bernie frowned. 

“How did you...”

“I’ve been expecting you. You’re here about Serena.” The woman lifted a shoulder, her vest strap slipping slightly to reveal more golden skin. The woman scowled, pushed the strap up, annoyed for a moment. Bernie nodded, pushed her wet hair from her face, scrubbed at the mascara she was sure was pooling beneath her eyes. 

“Yes. How did you know that?”

“Intuition,” The woman smirked, her lips curling appealingly in the dancing candlelight. “I’m Alexandra. Alex. Not the only Alex you know.”

“Okay now it’s just creepy,” Bernie snapped, crossing her arms when Alex merely laughed. 

“I’ll stop. Take your coat off. Come on through. She’s waiting for you.”

“Who is?” Bernie asked, as she hung her coat up before she followed Alex through the door, taken aback when Alex turned, winked. 

“Serena. Isn’t she what you want?”

 

Whatever Bernie was expecting, this was not it. The room was bright white, with pops of jeweled tones here and there. Candles burned here as well, the scent of melted wax hanging in the air. A scatter of pillows on the floor, a table with a crystal ball (Bernie scoffed at it), a large, overflowing bookshelf with ancient books and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up sitting happily in the middle, the large room was full but not overwhelmingly so. Bernie followed Alex to the soft looking sofa, sat next to her. 

“You can’t sit on the floor,” Alex said, matter of fact, handing Bernie a pillow for behind her back. “Being blown up twice hasn’t been good for you.”

“Is it good for anyone?” Bernie asked, her eye twitching slightly as Alex continued to make comments on her life unprompted. “How do you know...”

“I told you. Intuition.” Alex cleared her throat, closed her eyes. “You wondered about the book. Marie Kondo. Sometimes magic is a simple as tidying your life, your belongings. Your mind. Mindfulness and self care are words bandied about lately but they are forms of magic themselves. Who can truly explain the joy we get from deep breathing, from a long bath, from a glass of Shiraz.” 

“You can’t have possibly...”

“Shhh. I’m thinking,” Alex replied, her hands resting on her thighs, palms up in supplication. Bernie smirked as Alex began to breathe deeply, slowly. What a joke. I should have never come here. This is insanity. “Silence.” Alex snapped at her, without opening her eyes. Bernie pursed her lips. Maybe not a joke. 

Bernie glanced around, cataloging the room as she went. Alex hummed a bit, deep in her throat, then chuckled. 

“What’s so funny?” Bernie asked, leaning back slightly. 

“You. You think I’m attractive. You’re pretty cute too. Also, I’m not that young. Oh, your Serena is lovely. I see what you see in her...Oh.” Alex purred, giving a delighted little shimmy, her lips curling smugly. 

“What?” Bernie asked, leaning forward. “What is it?”

“I probably shouldn’t have seen that. My my, Ms. Wolfe. You are a little kinky. You enjoyed tying her up while you shagged, the sounds she makes. Goodness.”

“Oh my god.” Bernie felt her face flush, cheeks burning. Alex laughed, rich and full, her eyes never opening. “Stop it!”

“I turned away, I swear. But my goodness. Your Serena is a lucky woman.”

“She’s not my Serena anymore.”

“She’s always yours.” Alex frowned, annoyance flickering across her brows. “She lied to you. About so many things at the end. About bins and slippers and a future together. About swing sets and a child named Guinevere. About domestic life. And about some little thing - Lacey? Lisa? Leah!” Annoyance smoothed away. “Said she cheated on you with her. She didn’t. Well, not in the way you think.”

“How many ways are there to cheat on your partner?”

“You’d know. Perhaps you should ask Alex Dawson.” Alex opened her eyes, stared firmly at Bernie, who squirmed under the intensity of her stare. “You never told Serena that Alex kissed you before you came to Jason’s wedding.”

“Are you some kind of mind reader?”

“Yes.” The word was solid, heavy between them. “You told her you wouldn’t be alone, one way or another. You knew what was waiting for you in Somalia. You had already been asked to go, but decided to give up Nairobi for Serena. You felt guilty because Alex Dawson kissed you in Nairobi when she came to ask you to come to Somalia. She’s the reason you stopped answering Serena. You felt guilty for letting another woman kiss you even though you didn’t want it, you pushed her away. It’s why you were able to forgive Serena so easily. Because she kissed another woman too.”

“She slept with Leah.” 

“No.” Alex shook her head, a few curls tumbling from their pins. “She said that she cheated on you, which is true. But you took it to mean sex and she let you because she felt she deserved to be punished for her actions. She kissed Leah, let Leah kiss her in return, but they did not have sex.”

“I forgave Serena because I understand,” Bernie replied, linking her hands together to stop them from shaking. Alex merely stared at her, waited. Bernie twisted her linked fingers until they turned white. The room was warm, but Bernie felt the ice in Alex’s stare. She shivered. 

“Why are you here?” Alex asked, finally, tugging a blanket from the sofa and handing it to Bernie. She wrapped it around herself, inhaled the scent of laundry detergent. 

“For Serena.”

“You don’t believe.”

“I’m a doctor. I believe in science. In what I can see.”

“So does she.” Alex smiled, reached for Bernie’s hand. Bernie swallowed hard at the warmth of Alex’s hand curling around her freezing one. “You should have said you were cold.”

“I thought you’d figure it out.”

“Your mind is busy, flitting from one thing to another. Being cold didn’t registered until just now.” Alex squeezed her hand, looked into her dark eyes. Bernie watched, mesmerized as Alex’s eyes flickered from green to blue to golden, then back again before filling with sympathy, compassion. “It’s not your fault.”

“I...” The words stuck in Bernie’s throat, tears filled her eyes. “I shouldn’t have left.”

“She shouldn’t have asked you to go.”

“I should have been there. She wouldn’t have...if I had just...” Bernie closed her eyes, felt the burn of tears as they leaked out, slipped silently down her cheeks. Alex held her hand, waited. Bernie took a deep breath, spoke softly. “I came back as soon as I could, as soon as I was healthy enough to travel, but it was too late. She’d been gone almost a month by then. Cameron couldn’t bear to tell me.”

“Car accident.” Alex stated, closing her eyes. “She didn’t feel anything. Just slipped away.”

“Was she...”

“No. She wasn’t drinking. The road was icy, her car slid off the road. She was the only one.” Alex’s lips curved into a smile. “She’s haunting you.”

“Told me to come here. Told me to see you.”

“She didn’t believe either. She wanted you to know that she’s happy now. She understands. And there’s something else.” Alex’s brow furrowed. 

“I love her,” Bernie whispered, her voice breaking on the words. “I love her so much.”

“She knows. She loves you too.” Alex opened her eyes, dark now. The same color as Serena’s. “She loves you so much, Bernie. Serena said to tell you she’ll wait. For eternity.”