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Loose Lips Sink Ships

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                Jen doesn’t fully understand why she lets Judy kiss her. But if she’s being honest, it’s been hard to refuse her recently. Jen, a little bit too eager to hand out those favors even if it was as inconvenient as waking up at six in the morning on a weekend to help her scour for organic ingredients in the Sunday Market. It’s difficult to turn her down when Jen has seen her eyes swollen from crying and heard her daily phone calls to the police station. Besides, she’s tired of being on the receiving end of her dejected facial expression when she’s incapable of giving Judy the extra bit of tenderness that she needs.

 

                Jen pretends not to notice how Judy freezes when she can’t control the volume of her voice or how she flinches when her movements are too sudden— Jen feels apologetic but she doesn’t really know how to handle her body these days. As if it has been so long since she was a dancer, when control was elementary and letting go resulted in something beautiful and profound.

 

                But Jen can’t let go now, not ever again. Not when guilt unravels so easily in her face. (She’s seen it; she’s been spending a lot of time looking at the mirror, practicing the way her mouth moves to hide her lies.)

 

                So when Judy leans into her suddenly, on the night she entertained the idea of sharing wine in the hot tub, Jen lets her. Somehow, she had already felt the night lead up to this. Judy’s teasing has been accompanied with more purposeful touches, everything delivered with a thicker dose of innuendo.

 

                Judy slips when she tries to exit the hot tub to get snacks and lands on Jen’s lap. It’s too obvious to be a calculated move on her part but it must have been serendipitous enough to compel Judy to take her chance and kiss Jen. But she stops immediately, her mouth awkwardly frozen against Jen’s, as if she’s waiting to be pushed away.

 

                Jen isn’t straight enough to be oblivious to Judy’s wanting and Judy doesn’t really do a good job of hiding her desires or if she’s even trying in the first place. It’s been a month since Judy started looking at her like she’s ready to throw herself at her feet. Or jump her. Maybe that’s why Jen does it, why she takes the lead and presses her lips harder into Judy’s, why she moves her tongue first and raises her hands to cup Judy’s face.

 

                Or maybe it has more to do with the fact that if she were a little less preoccupied, Jen could have just let the truth crawl out of her chest and slip out of her mouth, her lips forming the shapes she let herself see in the mirror, once: I killed Steve Wood.

 

                Judy doesn’t know he’s dead yet— doesn’t know why he hasn’t shown his face to her, why Steve hasn’t made good with the threats he left on her voicemail. She doesn’t know why Jen suddenly, inexplicably welcomed her husband’s killer back into life. She doesn’t know why there’s a lock on the freezer.

 

-

 

                “Holy shit, Jen. You’re wet.”

 

                 Jen remembers that was the first thing that shook her out of her reverie the night that Judy had found her sitting slumped on the lounger by the pool, shivering slightly. She said it almost in her usual tone, in those genuine bursts of concern. Except it was quieter, full of trepidation, like the words I need you to come home were some kind of trap.

 

                They were, in a way. If Judy had seen the body in the pool then that would have sealed their fate together, forcing her to bare witness to Jen’s crime, maybe pushing her to be an accomplice. But when Jen put down the phone, she felt that she couldn’t stand the sight of the floating body for another second, feeling that any longer, there would be enough blood oozing out of his skull to turn to whole pool red.

 

                Particularly inspired, along with an ingenious use of a wheelbarrow, she managed to haul Steve’s body all the way to the garage and into the freezer.

 

                Adrenaline started to wane when she had thrown the last bit of frozen meat into the trash can, clearing a fog in her mind. Not enough for her to fully appreciate the weight of what she had done with her own two hands, but enough for her to be aware of the slight frost on them.

 

                Enough to realize that it was best that she had done this alone. She didn’t know where that surety had come from, that Judy would have helped her hide the body of the man she loved, that she would not turn her in as soon as she saw the blood on Jen’s hands. It had rang so true in her head earlier, that Judy would literally do anything for her— it came from the same place that urged her to say she would have stopped. Now, both ideas are plagued by an angry doubt.

 

                “I bought—” Judy tried again when Jen didn’t respond. She didn’t even know how she got back from the garage to the pool. She turned to see Judy lifting a bottle of wine in a gesture that she had done a hundred times before. Before, when Jen hadn’t been aware that their relationship was so complicated. Before this. Judy smiled as she asked but beyond it Jen could see her looking so scared and frazzled and she allowed herself a moment to wonder what Judy was doing when she had called her. If for her, this had also been the kind of night that never seemed to end. “I stopped by the store and got us this.”

 

                It was ridiculous, the idea of a peace offering when Jen had pointed a gun at her the last time they saw each other. Ridiculous that still, she couldn’t help but see the life of her husband in that seven-dollar bottle of wine. Hatred returned, crawling at the surface of her skin; towards whom, she isn’t too sure, but it burned on top of everything. Even when it felt there should be nothing left for kindling. It was different now that she knew how far her anger could go, what she was capable of. She questioned, for a second, if there was enough space for two in that freezer.

 

                But then she saw Judy’s gaze linger for too long on the pool and Jen imagined her staring enough to realize that something was amiss.

 

                “Judy, come here,” Jen said and it scratched at her throat how her voice tried to emulate the sound of sweet and coddling. In that continuous bout of insanity, she had the distinctive enough thought that she oddly sounded like Lorna.

 

                “Should I get a towel for you? You look like you’re freezing,” Judy said, walking over to her carefully. Jen shook her head furiously, the idea of Judy wandering about the house unattended was enough to send her on a spiral.

 

                “Come here, come here. Jude, please,” Jen said, letting a bit of desperation break through. She reached out her hand which Judy instinctively took, possibly alarmed at the gesture. In Jen’s grasp, the hand felt alien for a moment, it ran too hot against her skin. But soon enough, her brain recognized the familiarity of the sensation and the memories of comfort that came with it.

 

                “Jen,” Judy said, surer now in her tone. She sat on the chair beside Jen, mirroring their position the night that Judy confessed. She seemed to have realized this and Jen heard her take a deep breath before moving over to the other lounger, sitting next to Jen. “Hey, it’s okay.”

 

                It was very much like Judy to try to comfort her out of nowhere, without understanding anything. And she wanted to laugh smugly at the fact that this time, Judy has no idea. That she was the one who doesn’t know, that Jen wasn’t the one being played again. But it didn’t come out as a laugh— the sobs began to wrack through her chest with such a force that she didn’t even understand it. As if everything she couldn’t process just manifested physically, translating directly on her body.

 

                “I was— I just—” Jen blubbered and she didn’t know what she was trying to say, she felt that maybe she should explain why she had called Judy home. Not with the truth, obviously, but a plausible enough excuse to spit out so she can send Judy off on her merry way.

 

                But maybe she looked pathetic enough that Judy would look at her like that, that she was more pitiable than her, than a woman who would confess to a hit and run at the worst possible moment and destroy everything they had built up together. Jen hated it, hated that Judy pulled her into a hug, hated that she easily sank into her arms.

 

                Jen fought against the embrace weakly. For all Judy knew, Jen was well within her rights to lash out again. But still, she held on. Judy was good like that.

 

                Again, Jen thought, she would have stopped.

 

                “I’m sorry,” Judy whispered against her temple when she was beginning to calm down. It was the last thing Jen wanted her to say. Not when she swore she could hear the hum of the freezer in the cold air of the night. “I’m so sorry, Jen.”

 

                It’s not your fault, she wanted to tell her. It’s not that. I did something bad, Judy. I did something very bad and I need you to know and tell me everything is going to be alright.

 

                Instead, she said, “I want you to move back in.”

 

                Judy looked at her like she was some sort of saint. Her gaze burned a little.

 

 

                Jen feels Judy’s arms slide around her neck, readjusting her position so her knees land on either side of Jen’s thighs. Jen instinctively wraps her arms around Judy, steadying her. She lets the flat of her palm press against Judy’s warm skin, right at the dip of her back. She preoccupies herself with the sensation, distracting herself from her own thoughts brought on by the fact that it’s the first time she’s been in the pool since that night.

 

                It’s much easier to focus on the way Judy presses her body against hers, the way her tongue moves inside her mouth, the way her moans echo down Jen’s throat. Her body reacts accordingly, it can’t help but be turned on at Judy’s blatant wanting of her. Arousal starts to stir inside Jen— she can pretend that it’s the only thing she feels.

 

                She can pretend that she hasn’t been tense the whole night, that she hasn’t been hyperaware of every time the small ripples they make in the water hit the side of the pool, that it doesn’t make her feel that if she looks over her shoulder, she would be able to see Steve’s body floating idly in the water.

 

                Judy kisses down Jen’s jawline, trailing her lips along the vein until she settles at the base of her neck, paying extra attention on that patch of skin. Jen can feel her breath growing ragged, desire blooming. She leans into it, buries herself in it.

 

                “Jen,” Judy hums against her neck. She moves back up Jen’s face so she can kiss her just below the ear, so she can whisper, “I’ve been thinking about this for so long.”

 

                Jen should have expected this, that there would be a grand confession that Judy would be compelled to do. Like some sort of penance, she’s put all her cards out on the table for Jen to see.

 

                This should be easier, Jen thinks, she’s always thought that it’s in her nature to fake through the worst parts of her life, that she’s been doing it for so long. But maybe that’s only because she can always turn it into anger and she never cared how that looked like to other people.

 

                Now she has to learn how to thread lightly, anger already having brought her to this tightrope of a situation. She finds that it’s a lot more delicate than just lying or deflecting with rage. It’s different than just faking smiles for her job and pretending she gives a fuck that her client is on their second week of a juice cleanse.

 

                Judy pushes herself up slightly to look at Jen, her eyes large and trusting. Hoping. So obvious with her desires and how much of that is wanting Jen. Jen realizes that she’s waiting for a response. I’ve been thinking about this for so long, have you?

 

                “I... Judy—” Jen stammers and she sees Judy deflate slightly. “I’ve been thinking about you.”

 

                It’s not a lie, exactly, she’s been thinking about Judy a lot. She almost never stops— never stops wondering if she’s in the house, if she’s within the vicinity of the garage. If she ever runs out of ice and if she’s wondering if there’s extra in the freezer. If she finds the key that Jen hid inside the jewelry box inside her dresser. Oh god, she should’ve hidden it better.

 

                “Oh Jen,” Judy lurches forward to capture her lips again. Jen can almost feel her vibrating with happiness. It’s a frequency that resonates with her, still, Judy’s mood infectious as ever, and she returns the kiss with equal fervor. For a second, she believes that maybe this is enough, that maybe if she can keep Judy happy then a higher power can deem her forgiven. Or it’s enough good to balance out her karma, somehow.

 

                Maybe it would be easier if she believed in that woo-woo shit.

 

                The truth is she doesn’t understand what she’s feeling, only that she recognizes it as guilt. Something that’s always existed just beneath her skin, low and rumbling, behind every harsh word and hateful reflex. It’s been there since she was young and resentful, gaining layers as she grew older, morphing into a monster that sits inside her, now that she’s done horrible, horrible things. She can’t begin to fathom what’s right and wrong; the idea of being a good or bad person so faraway sometimes, like it’s as unbelievable as all those gods and spirits and invisible energies she can’t acknowledge. But still, she feels it so real in her body, feels it as it slowly tears her apart.

 

                So she clings to Judy.

 

                Judy hums happily into her lips, still buzzing, and Jen wants to drink it all in. She’s just so good and Jen wants to know how that feels like, wants to know what it’s like to hold it in her arms, to have it want for her. Jen wonders what it’s like to trust in it, to believe in something good for once.

 

                But when Judy reaches for the pool’s edge for leverage, she knocks over the bottle of wine. It rolls along the ledge of the pool, spilling its contents into the water.

 

                Judy ignores it, maybe too engrossed in her own euphoria, but Jen sees the carnage out of the corner of her eye. She watches the red swirl in the pool before fading completely in the water. For a moment, it doesn’t register what she’s seeing, what exactly it reminds her off. But soon, the scenes flood her brain—

 

                Steve, enraged, “poor little widow all alone.” And, “I’d want to put a fucking gun to my head, too, you miserable cunt!” And oddly enough, the way her index finger swelled for a few days because the tip got caught between Henry’s bird and the back of Steve’s skull.

 

                “...Jen. Jen!” Judy practically shouts at her face, shaking her out of her thoughts.

 

                “Huh?” Jen asks, her voice pitchy. She notices her own heaving breaths and her heart drumming wildly in her chest.

 

                “Jen, what’s wrong?’ Judy asks when they lock eyes.

 

                “I...” Jen manages to get out in between panicked breaths. “I can’t do this.”

 

                It hurts how Judy’s face, reflecting the light of the pool, looks like she expected it a little.

 

                “It’s okay,” Judy says, compassionate as she always is. Or maybe, she just never shook off the habit of that phrase. “I understand.”

 

                You don’t understand, Jen thinks, but then again, she doesn’t even know where to begin. She doesn’t know exactly when she’s lost grasp of her life, when things have turned so tragic and bizarre. She notices the tension on her fingers and realizes she’s been digging her nails into the skin of Judy’s back, just below her shoulder blades.

 

                When Jen relaxes her touch, Judy flinches a little but she doesn’t say anything about it even though Jen thinks that it could leave marks.

 

                Somehow, she knows that Judy may have wanted that.

 

                The monster inside her feeds.

 

 

                Jen dreams about him a lot. God knows he’s been showing up too frequently in her subconscious. In her half-awake states, in her peripheral vision. Jen sees him, sees him as he was when he was screaming at her face, desperate to regain the upper-hand. She sees him how he was when he was alive and showing off a smile he thinks is charming, belonging to someone used to getting what he wants. She sees him, the way he looked like from the view of her home security camera and she watches the scene unfold like she wasn’t there. Like she was a god doomed to watch humanity fuck up. And she observes how fragile people really are, how easily their bodies fall.

 

                She sees him as she imagines him to be in the freezer. She’s never opened it again, could barely enter the garage without having a panic attack. But she swears she can see him frozen, pale and blue and curled up in an odd position. Sometimes she imagines that he wasn’t actually dead when she put him inside, that they’d see claw marks on the underside of the lid of the freezer when they find him.

 

                Stop, Jen tells herself, life isn’t a fucking horror movie.

 

                But it might just be a soap opera seeing as he’s sitting in her living room right now, seemingly revived. Judy’s laughing with him, sharing a memory about Steve being an asshole that they’re treating too fondly.

 

                Jen stares for too long, like she always does, thinking that she’s never actually seen Steve and Judy together. This doesn’t look like how she imagined them to be.

 

                He introduced himself as Ben, when he showed up at their doorstep a few weeks ago. Jen fainted into Judy’s arms as soon as she saw him— maybe life is some sort of cosmic slapstick.

 

                As if on cue, they notice Jen at the same time. They look at her like they both want her. Their hearts so obscenely on their sleeves. It drives her insane, little by little, until one day it becomes too much.

 

                Judy follows her after she wordlessly storms up the stairs.

 

                “Can I come in?” Judy asks, knocking on Jen’s open bedroom door. She doesn’t wait for a response before sitting next to Jen on the bed. She never hesitates, not even after that failed night in the pool. Probably tired of all that time spent lying to Jen, Judy leaves herself so open and exposed. She didn’t hide nor pretended nothing changed, still eager to be close, to be there for Jen, while never concealing the fact that she still wanted so much more.

 

                Christ, how does a person live like that? How does she not do the things that Jen would have?

 

                “What’s up?” Jen asks lamely.

 

                “You kind of freaked out on us,” Judy says carefully, idly tending to one of Jen’s hands, unfolding her grip on the bed sheet one finger at a time.

 

                “I know you,” Judy says easily.

 

                Jen’s heart races at the idea, wondering how much Judy can pick up on the things she’s been trying to hide.

 

                “You left Ben alone downstairs?” Jen asks her, voice tense.

 

                “No, no,” Judy shakes her head. Picking up Jen’s hand, she puts it on top of her own, lacing their fingers together. “I told him to go home for now.”

 

                “Oh, okay.”

 

                “Jen,” Judy says in that tone and Jen already wants to run away. “Do you have a problem with Ben or...? I mean, he could be less obvious about his crush but he’s harmless.”

 

                “It’s not that,” Jen says and she wonders if that’s a lie. “I don’t care about that.”

                She catches Judy’s small smile but she shifts back to serious almost immediately.

 

                “Is it because we keep talking about Steve? And the investigation?” Judy asks and it’s a little closer to the truth. “We only talk about it when the boys aren’t around since it might remind them of Ted. But is it— is it bothering you?”

 

                “It’s not that,” she tells her again.

 

                “Jen it’s okay,” Judy says reassuringly, but still, Jen hears the anxiety in her voice. “I know you said you forgave me already but if it makes you think of Ted— or if you still have some anger towards me it’s okay—”

 

                “It’s not that!” Jen cuts her off, lashing out again. But this time, Judy doesn’t jump away, her hand still firmly grasping Jen’s. “He’s an asshole, Judy!”

 

                “What? Ben? No, he’s a little dorky sometimes but he’s sweet—”

 

                “Not him! Steve.”

 

                “Oh,” Judy says. “I mean, he is, yeah. But—”

 

                “Do you two even hear yourselves when you’re talking about him? It’s like being abusive is his quirk! Like he’s good ol’ Steve, he has permission to be a dick! You guys don’t need a search party, you need a fucking survivor’s group.”

 

                Like before, she recoils away from Jen.

 

                “You didn’t know him like I did!” Judy defends weakly.

 

                “Oh yeah? I’ve been listening to you and Ben trade your traumatic anecdotes for the past week.”

 

                “It’s not— Jen, that’s not—”

 

                Jen turns to her, having the distinct feeling that she has no right to say what she’s saying, but she gains momentum on this emboldened state anyway.

 

                “He wasn’t even supposed to be in your life anymore, Judy, when he disappeared. And neither was he in Ben’s!”

 

                “I know,” Judy says, voice softening.

 

                “You’re helping organize his fucking vigil, Judy! You weren’t even with him anymore— it’s not your fucking responsibility—”

 

                “I know,” Judy says, a little more gravely. Jen pauses, reining herself in. She can’t bring herself to take back the things she said but she wonders again if she, of all people, is allowed to speak on this. “It’s just— I turned him in, Jen. Now he’s missing because of me. It’s my fault.”

 

                “Judy,” Jen sighs, remembering why she shouldn’t have initiated this conversation, when she’s let Judy think the worst of herself because she’s unknowingly holding the burden of Jen’s secret. “It isn’t your fault. He was— he was doing some bad things.”

 

                “Ben said the same thing but what if they killed him, Jen?” Judy whispers, eyes beginning to water. “They could do that, right?”

 

                “Well, they are the fucking mafia,” Jen responds automatically. Judy bursts into tears. Jesus, Harding.

 

                “I just— I suddenly can’t imagine my life without him,” Judy sobs and Jen waits for that guilt to begin in her stomach again, for those small pangs to gain volume, to start crumpling in her guts.

 

                But then it doesn’t.

 

                Jen frowns at herself as Judy launches into long reminiscences of Steve’s “goodness” she’s half heard before. Something else starts to build in her stomach, something that’s been tamped down by those feelings of guilt and paranoia that has been taking hits at her body. By that insidious little whisper in her ear that keeps telling her you’re a bad person, you’re a bad person.

 

                “So what?” Jen says, thinking out loud. Something clicks in her brain.

 

                “Huh?” Judy asks, clearly caught off-guard. Jen realizes she hasn’t been listening and she tries to remember the last thing Judy said but Judy repeats it for her anyway. “Jen, I love him. He was the man I was going to marry!”

 

                The feeling in her stomach erupts, hot and familiar.

 

                “So what?” Jen repeats, deliberate this time, and Judy looks taken aback. Her eyebrows furrow but her mouth defaults into a shaky smile.

 

                “Jen?”

 

                “You love me,” Jen says, voice low. She reaches up to touch Judy’s face, her thumb settling at the apex of her cheekbone.

 

                “You know I do,” Judy says, softening into the touch. “But what does that—”

 

                “No, you’re in love with me,” Jen says as she slides her hand down Judy’s face, tracing her neck and eventually resting at her shoulder where she can give a stronger grip. “You’ve been thinking about me.”

 

                Judy looks at her, slightly alarmed and maybe with a touch of hurt.

 

                “You know I do, Jen,” she says a little darkly. “Why are you bringing that up now?”

 

                Jen takes a second to look deep into her eyes, as if she can find the confirmation there— and most of the time, she does.

 

                She lurches forward to kiss Judy, swallowing the surprised sound she makes against her lips. They both fall onto the bed and Jen doesn’t relent, using her tongue on Judy as soon as her lips part. She positions herself to have a leg between Judy’s and pushes her knee against Judy’s crotch, causing the front of her dress to hike up.

 

                Judy tries to say something but it gets lost in her throat before comprehension, Jen feeling the vibrations in her mouth. Judy makes a frustrated grunt but she soon returns the kiss, her hands that have found their hold on Jen’s biceps neither pushing nor pulling away.

 

                Jen reaches down to Judy’s thigh, sliding her hand up to bring the hem of the dress higher, until her fingers can touch the fabric of Judy’s underwear. Jen feels Judy’s leg twitch at the contact and she gets pushed away slightly. She allows herself to be, disengaging her lips from Judy’s, but she doesn’t hover too far from her face.

 

                “Think about me,” Jen tells her, meeting Judy’s confused eyes. “Only me.”

 

                “I—Jen, what’s happening?” Judy asks seriously but Jen can see her clouded eyes darting down to her lips, breath heavy. “I thought you weren’t— you couldn’t—”

 

                “He’s not a good guy.” Jen feels like she shouldn’t be saying these things, not while her hands are pulling down on Judy’s panties. But her tongue meets the skin right above Judy’s collarbone and the taste continues to ignite that feeling inside her— arousal and something she hasn’t fully figured out yet.

 

                “Huh?” Judy asks, breathlessly, as Jen begins tugging lightly on her skin.

 

                “Steve. He isn’t a good guy, Judy,” Jen tells her when she eventually pulls away, looking at the bruise starting to form on the skin. It’s a little juvenile, to want to leave marks like this, but Jen suddenly feels compelled to give into her impulses. Especially now that guilt broke open into something different, something that’s stopping her from taking back her harsh words.

 

                Clarity slowly returns to Judy and Jen feels her freeze underneath. Jen doesn’t stop looking at her, however, daring Judy to tell her off, to shove her away.

 

                “I—” Judy says, voice shaky as she squirms under Jen’s gaze. She suddenly squeezes her thighs together, as if she just realized that Jen’s already disposed of the garment between her legs. “You didn’t know him—”

 

                “Oh, but I do,” Jen says and she means it. Nobody else but her would know how he was on the night he died, the horrible things he said to her. She saw it all, the hurt he was so used to handing out when he didn’t get what he wanted, the targeted havoc he could wreck so easily. Nobody would know, but Judy would understand. “He’s not a good guy. He didn’t deserve you then, he doesn’t deserve you now.”

 

                Judy opens her mouth to protest but it dissolves into a moan when Jen’s fingers find her moist center. She traces her slit, letting herself explore Judy carefully. She now has all the nerve to push forward with this, but it’s still the first time she’s ever touched a woman. Her fingers drift upward, looking for that familiarity in anatomy. When she finds it, she presses on that bundle of nerves with two fingers. Jen’s fingers slip, burying themselves on either side of Judy’s clit.

 

                “Fuck, you’re so wet, Jude,” Jen whispers, in slight awe of how Judy feels on her fingers— warm, wet, and throbbing. Getting used to the angle, she puts one finger slightly above Judy’s clit, the pad of her finger pressing against the hood while the other stays at the side. It’s how Jen does it to herself, and by Judy’s reaction when she starts moving, it works for her, too.

 

                “Jen,” Judy moans and Jen moves her fingers faster, establishing a harsh rhythm. Judy has probably said her name a million times before, sometimes already so riddled with desire. But this sounds different. It does something to Jen, bringing forth a revelation.

 

                “Like that,” Jen breathes, watching the muscles move on Judy’s flushed neck and chest. “Say my name.”

 

                “Jen, fuck, Jen,” Judy obliges easily, forgetting her earlier reservations, her voice barely restrained as Jen slides a finger inside her tentatively. “More, please. I want more.”

 

                Jen adds another finger inside, gaining confidence at how hot and wet Judy feels, figuring out the rhythm and angle that’s causing Judy’s hips to thrust upward involuntarily.

 

                “You like this?” Jen whispers, listening as Judy’s whimpers get more and more desperate. Judy nods frantically, her eyes shutting tight. “Look at me, Judy. Are you thinking of me?”

 

                “Yes!” Judy gasps, her eyelids snapping open to meet Jen’s gaze. “I’m thinking about you. I’ve thought about you for a long time.”

 

                “Really?” Jen asks, keeping her voice steady, curling her fingers in quick succession. Judy writhes under her and she tries to press her thighs together. Something feels awakened in Jen, this need to tease Judy. It seems normal enough a desire, to want her like this, to embarrass someone who’s usually so self-assured about sex— but this feels different. It feels... unhealthy.

 

                It’s something that’s replacing the debilitating guilt that has been consuming her heart— a monster so harrowing suddenly defeated by a different beast. Jen feels fucked up inside.

 

                “You aren’t thinking about him?” Jen presses and Judy looks like she can’t process what Jen is asking her, too shocked or aghast at her bringing that up now. Jen thinks she wants to share it, the messed up thing inside her, with Judy, like she should have on the night she bashed Steve’s head in.

 

                “No, Jen what—” Judy cries out, looking confused at the shift in mood. But she can’t control her pleasure, her hips still moving in sync with Jen.

 

                “Can you forget about him?” Jen asks, not slowing her pace.

 

                “I—what? I don’t know—” Judy manages to get out between her panting. She sounds like she’s about to cry.

 

                “Why can’t you?”

 

                “Jen, he’s missing because of me—” she begins explaining again but she cuts herself off. Seeming to gather some of her bearings, her voice softens. “Why are you doing this?”

 

                The question catches Jen off-guard. She’s been too preoccupied with giving in to her impulses, resigning herself to the fact that this is who she is, that she didn’t expect to be confronted about them so soon.

 

                “I...” Jen starts and finds that the words to take back control of the situation aren’t within her brain’s grasp. She tries to keep her hand moving inside Judy but then Judy lifts hers to touch Jen’s face, her thumb running along Jen’s cheek to wipe that single tear that Jen didn’t even realize escaped her eye. Her mouth moves before she knew what she was going to say. “He was going to hurt you, Judy.”

 

                “We don’t,” Judy says, trying to be reassuring but she falters. “We don’t know that.”

 

                “Bullshit!” Jen says with enough force to make Judy flinch. The movement makes her aware of how her fingers have stilled inside Judy— but she doesn’t remove them, still wanting for that semblance of control even as more tears start streaming down her face. “He sent those fucked up voicemails!”

 

                “No it’s just something that he would say,” Judy tells her, sounding less and less convincing, desperate in a different way. “He wouldn’t...”

 

                “He never?” Jen asks spitefully, feeling like she already knows the answer. Judy tries to hold her gaze but she soon drops her hand from Jen’s face and looks away. “Judy.”

 

                “Sorry—”

 

                “Fuck that!” Jen says, rage at the forefront again. “He was going to hurt you. I knew he was, when he was walking away. I couldn’t— I couldn’t let him.”

 

                “Jen, what are you—“ Judy tries to ask but Jen starts her fingers again, quickly returning to the pace where they left off.

 

                “What if I got rid of him, Judy?” Jen says, feeling a little delirious, barely hearing herself at this point, letting that monster inside her fully take over.

 

                “Jen—” Judy gasps and Jen thinks she sees a sort of horror begin to emerge in her eyes.

 

                “Judy, what if I made sure that he won’t ever bother you again?”

 

                “You... Did you—” Judy attempts to string words together but it’s starting to seem impossible for her.

 

                “What if I got rid of him for you?” Jen says, her voice breaking. She hasn’t stopped crying.

 

                “Jen...”

 

                “What if—”

 

                “Jen!” Judy shouts at her face. Jen blinks a few times. She realizes that Judy has pulled her in closer, both hands on her cheeks, their noses almost touching. She looks straight at Judy’s wide, pleading eyes. “What did you do?

 

                Jen feels something inside her break. Her whole body begins to shake, overcome by loud sobs wracking through her.

 

                “I just wanted— I just wanted to— I just— I just wanted—” she stutters, feeling her own body moving far away from her.

 

                Suddenly, Judy wraps her arms around Jen, urging her to relax on top of her. Jen does, as Judy holds her together, through the worst of her shakes, trying to stroke circles into her back. Jen can feel her shivering, too.

 

                “Shh, it’s okay, honey. It’s okay. What did you want to do?” Judy asks, her voice trying its best to be even. After a pause she changes her question. “What do you— what do you want to do now?”

 

                Jen bites the inside of her cheeks, trying to bring herself back into her body, trying to follow Judy’s voice.

 

                “I want,” she starts slowly and she can taste the blood she drew from her mouth. “I want you to forget about him.”

 

                Jen feels Judy stop moving. The hands on her back still themselves and the breathing below her slow down to nothing. For a few moments, Jen can only focus on the sensation of Judy’s erratic pulse, her heart beating at a rate that echoes Jen’s own.

 

                “Okay,” Judy says with finality. “I’ll forget about him.

                “Okay,” Jen repeats, taken aback by the ease that Judy says it. But she knows that it means she can’t lose nerve now, no time to backtrack on her words.

 

                “What else?”

 

                “Judy—”

 

                “What else, Jen?” Judy stresses. Her voice is sharp but not cold. She sounds like she’s the one pleading when Jen’s sure that it’s herself that should be asking for some mercy. She doesn’t know what exactly it is that Judy wants from her— maybe for Jen to finally lay all her cards on the table.

 

                “I want,” Jen says, feeling like there’s nothing else to do but embrace her selfishness. “I want you to come.”

 

                Jen disentangles herself from Judy’s embrace, lifting herself up. It’s not until she meets Judy’s eyes again that she begins to understand Judy’s actions, a hint of her motivation, of the way she’s treating her now. Judy looks at her, her eyes the clearest they’ve been the whole night. Not in the way that makes Jen feel like she can see through her, but in the way that Judy wants to see her through. That there’s something she wants to have so bad, with Jen, that’s worth going through the worst for.

 

                Jen wonders if she’s ever fully understood, if she’s adequately prepared herself for the entirety of Judy’s love. If she’s ready to see how deep it truly runs.

 

                “Okay,” Judy breathes. She reaches down between her legs to meet Jen’s hand that’s laying limp by her entrance, only the tips of her fingers past the folds. Judy slides them back inside her, guiding Jen’s pace. “Do it slower first. I want to feel you properly— I want you to feel me properly.”

 

                “Fuck,” Jen says, following Judy’s instructions. She focuses on the sensation of Judy warm and wet around her. She feels the texture of Judy’s walls against the pads of her fingers and Jen can’t help but marvel at how tender she is. “You feel so good.”

 

                “Ah. Jen, a little shallower,” Judy says when Jen curls her fingers inside her.

 

                “Like this?” Jen asks after adjusting and Judy responds with frantic nods and small moans. “Does it feel good?”

 

                “It does,” she cries out. “Kiss me, please.”

 

                Jen obliges, keeping her rhythm steady as she dives down to kiss Judy hard on her lips. Arms cling tightly around the back of her neck, keeping her close even when she pulls away to look at the expression on Judy’s face as she brings her nearer to the edge.

 

                “I’ll move faster now,” Jen tells her, becoming more in tune with Judy’s body, in how her desires manifest.

 

                “It feels good, it feels so good,” Judy moans, her voice high and breaking slightly. Her breaths become shorter, revealed in high-pitched moans, and Jen can guess how near she is to climax.

 

                She doesn’t ask for permission anymore. Jen plunges a third finger inside her. Judy raises her hips at the addition, her arms tightening their hold on Jen.

 

                “Fuck, Jen,” Judy cries out. “I’m so close, I’m so close.”

 

                “I want you to come,” Jen tells her again. Judy does and Jen watches the orgasm begin to unravel in her body.

 

                “I’m coming, I’m coming—” Judy sobs. Jen feels her trembling around her fingers.

 

                “Say my name,” Jen says, her own greed relentless. “Who’s making you come?”

 

                “You, Jen,” Judy says, almost slurring her words. “Jen, fuck, Jen, Jen, Jen.”

 

                Watching Judy like this: skin flushed and hair matted as she rides out her orgasm, shaking slightly at the slowing movements of the fingers inside her, deliriously repeating Jen’s name— it makes her think of the worst. That she’d kill Steve again and again for this.

 

                When Judy finally seems completely wrung out, Jen slides her fingers out and lets herself fall on the space beside Judy. Judy buries her head into her chest and Jen kisses the top of her head. She wonders if she’s allowed to feel this calm— it’s the lightest she’s been in a long time, like that thing that’s been tearing up her insides has been vanquished.

 

                She feels Judy’s breathing even out, and figuring she’s asleep, Jen closes her eyes, letting herself begin to drift off.

 

                At the edge of consciousness, just out of reach of a dream, she feels Judy move in her arms. She almost misses it, her voice muffled against her chest, but the words ring clear enough for her comprehension: did you kill him?

 

                The monster inside her stirs, just enough to let Jen know that it’s still there. But this time, she knows exactly how to appease it.

 

                “No,” Jen says simply before falling into a deep sleep.

 

 

                One day, she wakes up to find the bedside dresser open.

 

                Jen doesn’t see Ben anymore. If he and Judy have decided to meet up somewhere else or Judy’s made true with her promise to forget about Steve, Jen doesn’t know exactly.

 

                Most of the time she wakes up with the inexplicable (although ultimately incorrect) sureness  that it would be the day that the FBI would come knocking at her door and she starts the morning with a deep dread descending upon her. This is undone easily enough, however, by the feeling of Judy’s skin when she reaches across the bed, when she sees her sleeping peacefully, bathing in the morning sun.

 

                She’s come to rely on it, on that same sight everyday: Judy curled up beside her, tucked into as much of the blanket she managed to steal while asleep. It calms her, settles down the remnants of paranoia, although she’s been hardly feeling any of that these days. No more waking nightmares, no more visions.

 

                But that morning, when she finds the drawer open, the lid of her jewelry box peeking out, there was no Judy to be found. Jen knows where she is, of course, she doesn’t even need to check what’s missing from the box.

 

                Jen watches her from the door of the garage. Judy is standing in the middle, a couple of feet away from the freezer. She’s holding herself tightly, Jen can tell, and she watches the keychain hanging from her closed fist swing idly back and forth.

 

                “Jen,” Judy says after a few minutes, tone indecipherable. Jen doesn’t know exactly when Judy noticed she was there but she takes that as a cue to step forward, walking the short distance to stand beside Judy who turns to her. “The freezer...”

 

                Jen notices the smell. She looks at her feet and sees that she’s just missed stepping on it, the small puddle where Judy’s emptied out the contents of her stomach. She holds the sleeve of her robe, using it to wipe the edges of Judy’s mouth.

 

                This is the moment that Jen has imagined a million times, running through different scenarios of outrage, fear, begging, and pleading. She’s never quite settled on how she wanted it to play out.

 

                Now, the words come easily to her.

 

                “I love you,” Jen says, smiling. No hint of anything sinister or cynical. This is just all of her cards, completely laid out for Judy to see. Jen feels the wet patch on her own sleeve of where she thinks her heart should be.

 

                “I...” Judy starts, her eyes darting back to the freezer once. She’s looking up at Jen, her face a whirlwind of desperate emotions. They’re searching and searching. “I put a pie in the oven.”

 

                “You made pie?” Jen asks, easily picking up on wherever Judy wants to be. “What kind?”

 

                Judy’s hand finds hers and Jen feels it trembling slightly. She imagines a hint of frost.

 

                “Cherry, of course, your favorite,” Judy says, her shaky voice just a little above a whisper.  Jen begins leading them out of the garage.

 

                “My favorite,” Jen repeats, closing the door behind them.