“For fucks sake!”
Mary swore under her breath as she closed down yet another pop up on the laptop screen, this one promising her an enlargement of an appendage that she absolutely did not have. She was careful to keep the volume of her voice low so that her fellow Sister Warriors in the next room wouldn’t hear and scold her for the bad language. But thumping her fist against the kitchen counter previously had done nothing but remind her how badly her ribs hurt. Well, her ribs, her left shoulder, her skull, her right leg, just her everything really. All she wanted was to order resistance bands so she could begin some form of physical therapy for her leg but after every other keystroke a window would appear offering her everything from erectile dysfunction pills to singles in her area.
It had been several weeks since their battle with Adriel at the Vatican where Mary had decided to take on a hoard of Wraith possessed minions and come off the worse for it. Her injuries were healing slowly and as they did more of her memories from that fateful night surfaced. She didn’t think she would ever know exactly what had happened but she had enough pieces to know that without her sisters she wouldn’t have survived.
Lilith and Beatrice had been in the fight as soon as Mary was overpowered by the crowd, pulling the possessed from the pack and allowing Camila to drag her to safety. From the sidelines they’d seen Lilith disappear and reappear seemingly at random; but wherever she did appear another possessed would fall. Beatrice had been caught up in her own fierce battle with two of the Swiss Guard, but when one of them knocked her to the ground and the other was moving in for the killing blow a blinding light had exploded from the Halo in Ava’s back. The possessed had been thrown aside, leaving them motionless on the stone floor of the courtyard.
The next few moments seemed to play out before Mary’s eyes in silent slow motion. Ava staggered maybe two steps in the direction of Beatrice, no doubt all of her energy had been spent to create that halo blast, before she faltered and her legs began to give way. Beatrice struggled to her feet in an attempt to get to Ava but was hampered by her left arm which hung limply having been dislocated at some point during the fight. But Beatrice could not close the distance between herself and the Halo Bearer before Ava began to fall. Then a displacement in the air, a swirl of black dust and gold light, Lilith appeared by the young girl’s side and swept an unconscious Ava up in her arms before she could hit the ground. And perhaps in sympathy, but more likely from the pain she herself was in, Mary joined Ava in blissful oblivion.
It was light when Mary had woken, her wounds cleaned and dressed, in a bed that was definitely not her own at the Cat’s Cradle. For a start the bed was far too comfortable and the blankets far too soft, everything inviting the occupant to stay exactly where they were and not force themselves up for early prayers. The room was bright and airy, the walls painted in a pale shade of cream and the floor covered with a dark burgundy carpet. And their were things, lots and lots of things; things that would never be found in the convent dormitories. There was a thick rug in the centre of the floor that looked to be Persian in origin, artwork on the walls that showed rural landscapes instead of the usual religious iconography, and the novels lining the bookcase across the room did not look like holy texts, more like well-thumbed bodice rippers.
Beatrice was sat in a nearby chair, her face littered with bruises and lacerations and her left arm in a sling that was strapped securely to her torso. Noticing that Mary was awake Beatrice carefully poured her a glass of water and as Mary soothed her parched throat Beatrice caught her up on what had happened while she had been unconscious.
Apparently, Camila and Lilith had taken turns driving through the night, following directions given to them by Mother Superion to an OCS safe house located near to the Italian/French border. The cottage they were staying in was nestled in the grounds of a much larger compound that was secured and maintained by retired Sister Warriors. Here, on Mother Superion’s orders, they were to rest and recuperate, train Ava to use and understand the powers that the Halo had bestowed upon her, allow Lilith to come to terms with and explore what had happened to her, and above all else to stay out of trouble.
That first week had been largely uneventful while they settled into the quaint little cottage and their new routines.
Mary had stayed in the room she had woken up in on that initial morning. It was a single room which meant that she had it to herself, something she was extremely grateful for. The days leading up to the battle at the Vatican had been non-stop intensity and Mary had yet to really take the time to mourn for Shannon, to grieve for the loss of the love of her life. In the privacy of her room she had allowed herself to cry tears of pain, scream her agony into her pillow and curse the name of the one who had dared to take Shannon from her too soon. She hadn’t wanted the others to console her, she hadn’t wanted their sympathies or platitudes, she just wanted to be angry at the world for a little while.
Besides her own there were two other bedrooms in the cottage, both with twin beds, so the other four Sister Warriors were forced to pair up. It was the choice of pairings that had surprised Mary.
The first of the bedrooms had been taken by Ava and Lilith. The two of them would be returning to training immediately and doing so at the crack of dawn, it had therefore been decided that they share and wouldn’t disturb the others with their early morning preparations. Preparations which included Lilith scolding Ava for taking too long in the shower, followed by Lilith scolding Ava for choosing inappropriate training clothes and finally Lilith scolding Ava for eating an unhealthy breakfast. Stern words that would fade as the two began a light jog down the garden path and disappeared off into the surrounding woods.
That left the second bedroom to Beatrice and Camila; who despite healing from their own injuries had thrown themselves into more academic pursuits. Beatrice had gathered up all the texts from the various book collections around the compound, looking to the past in the hopes of unearthing some previously unknown knowledge that would help them defeat Adriel. Meanwhile, Camila used social media and her impressive array of computer skills to track Adriel in the present. They often worked late into the night and then slept late into the morning.
Mary was happy to let them get on with what they were doing and she got on with what she was doing.
The arrangement seemed to work for everyone.
Well, it did, until the eighth day of their convalescence.
Mary, Beatrice and Camila had been enjoying a late breakfast when the back door slammed open and a mud splattered Lilith stormed into the kitchen followed by a very sheepish looking Ava. The taller woman stopped in front of the breakfast nook where the other three were sat, she uncurled one of her arms and pointed an accusing finger in Ava’s direction. In a few well chosen words she threatened to end the Halo Bearer if they did not rethink the room assignments. No one dared to ask what had happened to provoke such a threat, and the lengthening claw on the finger currently pointed at Ava suggested that no one should. And absolutely no one was going to mention the mud.
In short order it was decided that a change was indeed necessary; Beatrice would move in with Ava and Lilith would take up residence with Camila. Forgetting all about her half eaten meal Beatrice slipped from the breakfast booth to return to her bedroom and pack her belongings for the room swap. Seconds later Camila disappeared too, insisting that she should straighten things up a bit for Lilith’s arrival.
But something about the whole situation seemed off to Mary. Ava had not uttered a single word in her defense, nor had she taken the opportunity to rile Lilith up further for her own entertainment. And Lilith’s wrath felt muted, not the rage that made one fear for their continued existence. Mary suspected some sort of collusion between the two former rivals, and her suspicion was confirmed when just moments after Beatrice and Camila left the room Lilith’s anger and Ava’s silence vanished as though it had never been there.
“Up top!” Ava held her hand up for Lilith to high five. Lilith looked at the hand, a little confused before she awkwardly performed the gesture.
Mary would have been concerned that Ava and Lilith had employed such underhand tactics to manoeuvre each of themselves into the same room as the girl they were respectively crushing on, if she hadn’t been certain that Beatrice and Camila returned those feelings. None of them were as discreet as they thought they were; in the last seven days she had seen enough longing glances and dopey expressions from all of them to fill an entire shelf of the romance novels up in her room. After Ava and Lilith had retired for the evening Camila had confessed to Mary, quite giddily, that when she and Beatrice had left the kitchen to return to the room that they would no longer be sharing they had indulged in a little victory dance.
Over the following days Mary witnessed those longing glances become intimate gazes, and hesitant touches turn into eager caresses. Mary watched as each of them had met their own personal challenges; whether it was their conflict between their devotion to their God or their girl, or overcoming a lifetime of being told that what you feel is a sin, or learning to accept that you could be loved for who you were and not who you were expected to be. And Mary had seen them come through the other side stronger and happier than she had ever seen them before.
She’d started to play a little game with herself called ‘Guess The Sexuality’, it passed the time.
Beatrice was a lesbian; Mary had never been in any doubt of that from the day she had first met the other girl. Beatrice openly displayed her admiration for the powerful women she was surrounded by at the OCS, but Mary noticed that she took care to never allow herself to look for too long, lest her dark secret be discovered. It drove Mary crazy when Beatrice would allude to her sexuality and that her mortal soul required saving from it. As it turned out, all that was required was a cute girl who could save Beatrice from her own denial.
Ava was bi-sexual; Mary knew that Ava had been attracted to both the male and the female of the species since her miraculous resurrection. Though Mary wondered if the males would ever get another look in now that Ava and Beatrice were together. Despite Ava’s rather impulsive actions and tendency to run from responsibility when she had first appeared on the scene, once she pledged herself to the cause she was all in. Mary saw that same level of commitment from Ava every single time she looked at Beatrice; Ava was all in when it came to Beatrice.
For Camila Mary had coined the term ‘Lilith-sexual’. Camila had been so young and innocent when she had joined the convent (she was still so young and innocent), that Mary wondered if the girl had even had the chance to conceive of romantic interests one way or the other before she devoted herself to God and Church. From day one at the OCS Camila had been enamoured of Lilith. She’d idolised Shannon, looked up to Beatrice; but it was a compliment on her marksmanship, or encouragement on her fighting technique, or even a chewing out for a sloppy take down from Lilith that would make Camila’s eyes sparkle and her cheeks flush.
Lilith’s sexuality, however, remained a complete mystery to Mary. In all the years she had known the other girl Mary could not recall a single time when Lilith had shown romantic or sexual interest (they were nuns, not dead) in another person. But whether that was because of her singular focus on becoming the Halo Bearer or because she just didn’t have those feelings Mary wasn’t sure. Maybe it was the acceptance that she would never be the Warrior Nun that had opened Lilith up to the possibility of love, or maybe, just maybe Camila was simply her person.
A ping from the laptop brought Mary back to the here and now. She looked down at the infernal device and was greeted by a close up image of the male genitalia.
‘Nope!’ She closed the laptop on the latest pop up.
She wondered if clearing the browser history would help rectify the problem. She opened the laptop once more and brought up the appropriate page. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when she saw the topics that her fellow Sister Warrior’s had been searching for, but she did wince when she saw the one that was most likely to blame for the dubious pop ups.
She also wondered if perhaps some of the blame could be laid at her own feet. In the days that followed the room share re-arrangement each of the other four had approached Mary with what they thought was a subtle or vague asking of advice on being a girl who liked another girl. Except they really weren’t subtle or vague and Mary had blown them off for their own good (they really should find out all the joys and awkwardness for themselves) and for her own sanity. But it appeared that her avoidance of being ‘Elder Lesbian in Charge’ had led them all to seek the assistance of Google.
And now she would face her punishment.
Taking up the crutches that were leaning against the kitchen counter next to her, Mary made her way over to the short corridor that connected the kitchen to the lounge. At the threshold of the lounge she paused, an excuse to take a break and the opportunity to take in the scene she found.
Ava and Beatrice had been working on a 1000 piece puzzle for the last few days; it was a subtle way for Beatrice to get Ava to work on her fine motor skills without her feeling like it was yet more training. The puzzle lay on the low coffee table, the image of a sunset upon some unknown tropical beach complete but for one missing piece right in the middle of the pink tinged sky. Ava was currently crawling under the table searching for the lost piece and Beatrice seemed to be hypnotised by Ava’s wiggling butt.
Camila was seated on one of the couches with Lilith sat on the floor in front her; Camila was arranging Lilith’s grey streaked black hair into an elaborate French braid. The younger woman seemed to be operating on autopilot, her mind not so much on the silky locks of hair she’d gathered into her work as she was on the length of exposed neck each collection of hair revealed. Lilith resembled a content house cat, so much so that she might actually have been purring as she absently twiddled the missing puzzle piece in her fingertips, completely unaware of Ava’s desperate search.
There were times when Mary watched them and her heart ached with the loss of Shannon; it wouldn’t be anything significant, just a returned smile or a shared joke, little things that she would never again experience with the other woman. Those were the bad days. Then there were the days when she outright resented the happiness that the other women had found; the opportunity they had to show their affection so openly and honestly, when she and Shannon had had to love in secret, stealing moments together in the shadows of God and vows.
And the sting of it all? If Shannon were still alive then the sight before Mary would not exist. Ava would be dead, never to have experienced life and love. Beatrice would still be closed off, unable to accept who she was, because of who she loved. Lilith waiting her turn with the Halo, not knowing what she could be without it. And Camila would not yet have had the chance to step up and prove herself worthy of the team. And none of them would have found each other and the joy it had brought them.
Thankfully, Mary had more days when she could share in her sisters’ joy. When she could enjoy seeing them like this, happy and in love.
Camila, having finished the Lilith’s braid, gave into temptation and stroked one of her fingertips along the sensitive shell of Lilith’s ear. Lilith growled, her claws extending and she fumbled the puzzle piece, it fell from her fingers to the carpet right in front of Ava’s face.
Ava seized the piece from the floor and in her triumph banged her head on the underside of the coffee table, her pitiful yelp of pain breaking Beatrice from her trance. Beatrice grabbed hold of Ava by the hips and dragged her out from under the table, she pushed the baseball cap from Ava’s head and seemed on the verge of kissing Ava’s boo-boo better.
Mary decided it was time to interrupt.
“Ladies, I need to see you all in the kitchen.”
Four pairs of eyes turned in her direction, then to each other no doubt wondering what the summons might be about and which one of them was most likely to blame for it.
“Now!” Mary snapped when they didn’t immediately move.
Mary began her trip back to the kitchen, certain that they would follow and sure enough she heard them hustling to catch up with her. She was only just setting her crutches against the counter where she’d left the laptop when the four of them filed into the kitchen and she managed to get a good look at what each of them were wearing today.
Camila’s mostly cream sweater was banded across the torso and arms with the colours of the rainbow and the cuffs of her sweat pants were rolled up to reveal that her Adidas sneakers had the same colours spattered up the sides. Mary wasn’t sure if Camila had intended to be a walking, talking Pride flag or if she had just wanted a change from the everyday and tactical habits she usually wore.
Lilith had opted for a flannel shirt in red and black check, the sleeves were pushed up to show her delicately muscled forearms and the undone buttons at her throat were just shy of decent. She’d paired this with artfully ripped skinny black jeans and red converse. And somehow on Lilith the whole ensemble was elegant.
Beatrice had her hands shoved into the pockets of her black military fatigues, the legs of which were tucked neatly into army boots. The outfit was completed with a black tank top designed to show off her toned biceps (Mary suspected that the showing off was probably more for someone else's benefit than her own). That particular someone arrived in the kitchen last, stumbling over the undone laces of her sneakers.
Ava looked, (Mary hated the word but it was the only one that fit) fucking adorable in her dungarees and backwards facing baseball cap; just the most adorable little fledgling lesbian, or bi-sexual, or whatever she decided she wanted to be.
They were, Mary decided, four perfect entries on the lesbian spectrum.
Mary busied herself with collecting the laptop and limping over to the breakfast table where the others were settling themselves into the semi-circular bench. Lilith slid across the vinyl seat to the back of the booth where she collided with Ava who was sliding in from the other side. The two indulged in a shoulder shoving match until Camila sat down beside Lilith and placed her hand of the other woman’s thigh, and Beatrice settled down next to Ava and reached for the Halo Bearer’s hand. The shoving ceased immediately.
After placing the laptop down on the table so only she would be able to see the screen, then dragging a chair over and spinning it around so that she could sit on it backwards (she wasn’t trying to be cool, she just wanted to take the pressure off her ribs), Mary made sure she had their undivided attention before she began her questioning.
“So, which one of you has been using the laptop to search for things they shouldn’t have?”
In perfect synchronization the four pairs of eyes watching her from the opposite side of the table grew wide before immediately finding something more interesting to look at. She already knew that all four of them had used the laptop, she could identify each of them by their search entry, it was all in the wording.
Mary turned her attention to the youngest member of their group, Ava looked back at her with an unconcerned smile on her face. “I’m guessing you’re the one who searched for ‘girls who do girls’.”
“Yep, that was totally me.” Ava held her free hand up, palm forward in the universal symbol of surrender. “I have some serious catching up to do. It’s amazing how much the nuns at St. Michael’s did not prepare me for my lifestyle choices,” Ava explained and then rested her head on Beatrice’s shoulder, just in case anybody was still unclear on what her choice had been.
“And you didn’t use the word ‘lesbian’ because…” Though it was a question Mary allowed her words trail off, encouraging Ava to continue.
“I didn’t know how to spell the word ‘lesbian’,” Ava told them. There was a snort of laughter from Lilith, stifled when Ava landed a back-handed slap to her arm. “Once again I cannot emphasise enough how much those nuns did not prepare me.”
“That’s okay Ava,” Camila offered, “I was too nervous to even type the word into the search engine.”
Mary consulted the laptop screen in front of her, scrolled through the search entries until she found what she was looking for, “So that makes your search ‘fun things to do with your girlfriend when she sleeps over.” Mary raised her head but instead of focusing on Camila she looked across the table to Lilith. “Nice braid Baby Girl.”
With the hand that wasn’t resting atop Camila’s on her thigh, Lilith reached up to the intricate braid that now ran down the centre of her head, the end of it tucked under and secured so that it wouldn’t whip around during a fight. It was perfect for her, just like the girl who had created it for her.
“Well it was either that or a pillow fight. And I figured if I hit you with a pillow you might consider it a declaration of war.” Camila confessed, and to her left Mary could see the nodding heads of Beatrice and Ava agreeing with the assessment.
Lilith’s response surprised them all, “Actually, a pillow fight sounds like it might be fun.” She leaned down and kissed Camila on the top of her curly head, “And, I don’t think God will smite you down for typing the word lesbian.”
Now if that wasn’t the perfect opening then Mary didn’t know what else would be, “And where exactly did bullying the search box with ‘show me lesbian stuff’ get you?”
Lilith glared at her, clearly not impressed at being identified so easily. After several tense moments she released a long, loud exhale of breath, executed an exaggerated roll of her eyes and finally gave in, “A definitive list of lesbian movies to watch before you die.”
“And we’re going to circle back to that.” Mary could tell that she wasn’t the only person at the table who was interested in that list. For now she turned to the final member of their little group, “And by process of elimination…”
“Please don’t.” Beatrice begged.
But Mary would not be dissuaded, “Comprehensive written instructions for performing cunnilingus on your partner.”
“Oh hell yeah!” Ava cheered, probably already thinking about exactly when and how Beatrice could put those words into practice.
“Wow!” Lilith mouthed the word, she stared at Beatrice, seeming to not know whether to be shocked or impressed.
“Cunnilingus…” Camila repeated the word softly to herself and then to everybody, “is that Latin?”
Mary leaned towards Camila (it hurt like hell to do so, but it would be absolutely worth it), and in a mock whisper began “It means ‘one who eats pu…’”
“Stop!” Beatrice’s voice pleaded with her.
Mary wasn’t sure she had ever seen the usually stoic Beatrice so flustered or flushed. She looked ready for fight or flight; Mary hoped for the latter, seeing as she was in no shape to fight back, and to be honest wasn’t sure she could beat Beatrice even if she was at full strength.
Thankfully Ava chose that moment to look up at Beatrice from where she still had her head resting on her girlfriend’s shoulder, “Hey Bea.” She waited for Beatrice to look at her and gave her that impish grin she was so good at, “Did you get any good tips?” She then stuck her tongue out and waggled it suggestively.
It worked immediately and Beatrice relaxed back into the booth.
“That was me just messing with y’all. You can search whatever your woman loving woman hearts desire, that’s cool.” Mary honestly hadn’t wanted to scare or discourage any of them from doing what they needed to do to get comfortable with themselves and their relationships. “But which one of you was watching lesbian porn?”
And the wide eyes were back; Mary was looking for guilt, but found nothing. Although Lilith was looking at Ava with accusation clear in her expression.
“Why are you looking at me?” Ava exclaimed, her indignation at being accused was hilarious.
“It’s totally something you would do. Besides we,” Lilith gestured to herself, Camila and Beatrice, “were all nuns until a few weeks ago.”
Mary didn’t think Lilith realised her statement wasn’t quite the defense she thought it was, that it might actually be a more damning view of three young women released from vows of chastity and seeking the forbidden fruit.
“Oh it’s totally something I would do, and I would totally own up to it if it was me.” With a sly smile Ava did her best to effect a nonchalant air, as she continued “Besides I wasn’t the one watching ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’. In the middle of the night. With the sound down low.”
So Lilith hadn’t wasted any time getting started on that list of films, Mary was impressed.
“I didn’t know it was going to be that explicit.” The blush that coloured Lilith’s cheeks truly did suggest to Mary that Lilith had not been prepared for at least one particular scene, probably more than one.
“Or maybe it wasn’t explicit enough.” Ava countered and Lilith didn’t have a response to that.
Mary allowed them to engage in a brief staring contest, and she saw the instant when they reached the same conclusion she had moments ago: that Beatrice and Camila were far too quiet. Neither one had offered a word of defense for either themselves or their significant others, neither one had offered a single word at all. Lilith turned to Camila, Ava turned to Beatrice, and Mary switched her gaze between the two like she was watching a tennis match with great interest and didn’t want to miss a shot.
It was just a matter of time, just a matter of letting the tension mount to an unbearable level and…
“Beatrice made me do it!” Camila exclaimed, immediately slapping a hand over her mouth, but it was too late, the words were already out there.
Everybody turned their attention in Beatrice’s direction, who was doing a spectacular impression of a fish, her mouth opening and closing as she searched for something, anything, to say.
“Camila said it would be okay!” Beatrice finally managed to get out. It appeared that if Beatrice was going down for this, she was not going to go down alone. (And yes, Mary very much intended that pun!)
“Beatrice,” Ava spoke softly, drawing the girls attention to her, “why were you watching porn?”
Beatrice was having trouble holding Ava’s gaze, her eyes kept skittering away when she was unable to answer. But Ava’s hand on her cheek seemed to give her courage, “The written instructions weren’t as informative as I had hoped.”
“Oh Bea,” Ava drew Beatrice closer to her, guiding her head down to snuggle into her neck. “You don’t need instructions. This isn’t something you can study for.”
“But I want to get it right,” Beatrice insisted.
“And it will be right, because it’s us and we’ll learn together.” Ava lifted their joined hands and placed a gentle kiss on the back of Beatrice’s knuckles.
“Hey Beatrice, I’m sorry.” Mary reached across the surface of the table to lay her hand over the one Beatrice still had on the table. She gave a gentle squeeze of her fingers, conveying her genuine apology, “I didn’t mean to make you feel ashamed or embarrassed, I honestly thought it was going to be Ava.” Out the corner of her vision Mary could make out Ava mouthing an indignant, ‘HEY!’
“It’s good that you’re finally exploring and stuff,” Mary continued as she leaned back, returning her attention to the computer and the issue at hand, “but whatever site you two went on really fucked up this laptop.”
“LANGUAGE!” Lilith scolded her.
Mary slid the laptop towards Camila. “Just fix the damn thing.”
While Camila immediately got to work Mary stood up and stretched her aching body. Though she would have loved to head upstairs and take a nap, she really did need to get some physical therapy started. And as it appeared she would not be getting a resistance band anytime soon the best thing she could do was take a walk.
She limped towards the back door and collected her jacket from the hook. As she slipped her arms into the sleeves she turned back to her sisters. “When I get back I’ll bookmark some sites that are both safe and informative.” With that she opened the back door and stepped outside.
The last thing she heard before the door was fully closed was Camila’s voice: “Is it really Latin for ‘one who eats pussy’?”
Mary looked towards the blue sky above, pure white fluffy clouds passed slowly overhead, and she offered up a prayer.
“Oh Shannon, who art in heaven, please deliver me from baby dykes!”
~finis~ (that’s Latin for ‘The End’)