The first time Trish and Jess drunkenly kiss, there’s a roomful of other people, mostly boys, cheering them on. They are 17, and Jess made sure there were no phones or cameras before agreeing to this, ensuring there wouldn’t be any pictures or video. Patsy Walker doesn’t need another scandal. It’s just Spin the Bottle. It’s a normal, teenage game, and Trish kind of loves Jess for playing it. For hanging out with people who suggest it. For somehow having a normal teenage life even with a dead family and a wretched foster mother and superpowers.
That’s not what Trish is thinking about when they kiss, though. When they kiss, Trish is giggly and embarrassed before they even get close to each other. Jess puts a hand on her elbow, steady, warm, and Trish leans into her.
Jess doesn’t like lip gloss, never wears it. Her lips are soft, though, taste like her strawberry chapstick. Her tongue tastes like tequila and lime; they did shots earlier.
People are yelling, cheering them on or shouting, that’s so hot, or whatever, but Trish is pretty much just focused on kissing Jessica. It is nice, she thinks, and she’s not sure if that’s because she’s drunk or because it’s Jess.
The next time they drunkenly kiss, they are 18, and no one else is there. Trish gets brave enough to start it, and Jess doesn’t stop her.
“Are you—Is this—” Trish wants, she wants and she wants and she wants, but what she wants most is to make sure this is okay, make sure Jess is okay. Jess is her best friend, and she wants to kiss her, yeah, but only if Jess wants to kiss her back. “Is this okay?”
Jess gets Trish’s face in her hands. She looks her square in the eye. “This is okay. All of it, anything you want, it’s okay.”
It’s better than last time. Jess is warm and Trish feels liquid. They kiss hard. They kiss until Trish can’t tell what Jess tastes like anymore, until they just taste like each other.
Jess lets her, after that. Lets her reach for her, slip an arm around her waist. She cradles Trish’s face and they kiss.
Jess is usually drunk, too, but never as drunk as Trish. If they’re with other people, Jessica always pulls her out of view, around a corner, into a bathroom, and Trish really doesn’t care at the time, but is always thankful the next morning.
She doesn’t mind her mother so much when she drinks. She drinks until she throws up, and Jess convinces Dorothy she’s purging. Dorothy is proud, and Trish throws up again.
They are 19 the first time they sleep together.
They are in their new apartment, their own apartment. Dorothy is still Trish’s manager but Dorothy is not here, will never be here. Jess has ensured that. Jess refused to tell her where the apartment was, and said if Dorothy ever tries to find it, if Dorothy ever shows up anywhere near it—well, Jess didn’t even have to say what would happen. Jess doesn’t have to say a lot, but Dorothy knows, Trish knows.
Jess doesn’t have to say it’s okay, when Trish reaches for her, but she does anyway. She says yes and she kisses back and she never makes Trish feel unwanted. She never says Trish is enough, not with words, but she is gentle and she is giving and Trish feels like enough.
Trish pulls at the hem of Jess’s shirt. Jess says her name, quiet like she doesn’t want to spook her. Trish says please.
Jess says yes, and tugs her shirt over her head. Trish stares for a minute. They’ve grown up together, basically, and seen each other in all states of undress—bikinis and sports bras and just a towel after showering—but Trish has never looked before. Jess is beautiful.
Trish kisses her, unable to stop the momentum of it, reaches for Jess’s pants. Jess stops her, smiling. She pulls Trish by the hand to her room, and that’s a good thing, Trish thinks, because she would have just gone down on Jess right there in the living room, and a bed is much more comfortable.
Jess lays Trish out on her bed, but Trish is too impatient; she wants to touch. She flips their positions. It makes her feel powerful, even though she knows, she knows that Jess lets her, of course Jess lets her, no one moves Jess without her approval. It makes Trish feel strong anyway. Maybe that’s why it makes Trish feel strong—that Jess trusts her, that Jess will let her have what she wants, that what she wants is Jess, and that’s okay.
Jess lets her take charge, and Trish finally feels in control of something in her life.
Trish hasn’t had a hangover in a while. She thought she had somehow become immune to them. But she wakes up one morning with a pounding headache and a wave of nausea in her stomach.
Jess comes out of her room while she’s in the kitchen, trying to drink a glass of water. Trish gags on it, almost throws up in the sink.
“Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much,” Jessica says, not looking at her.
Trish spills water on herself. She doesn’t think it’s fair Jess says this to her while she is obviously nursing a hangover.
Last night they slept together, because Trish wants and Jessica lets her have, and so most every night when they’re drunk and alone, there are wandering hands and mouths. There is Trish saying please and Jess saying Trish and Trish tries not to be loud when she comes, but she can’t help it.
Last night they slept together and this morning Jessica tells her maybe she shouldn’t drink so much.
But Jess doesn’t understand the stress she’s under. She’s getting too old, now; the show is going to end soon. Dorothy is trying to work a movie deal and Trish is trying to cooperate. Jess doesn’t understand how much she needs relief. Most of the world still calls her Patsy, still makes jokes about not being a natural redhead. Trish has to have some way to cope. Plus, Jess never kisses her when she’s sober.
Trish thinks she’ll go on drinking.
Maybe kissing Jessica when she’s drunk without thought of the consequences is a bad decision, but when Jess isn’t around, Trish makes worse ones.
She wakes up in an unfamiliar hotel room. She wakes up naked and alone. She wakes up with new bruises, around her neck and inside her thighs, which are sticky with come.
She is 20 years old and she isn’t on birth control because “it will make you Fatsy, is that what you want?”
She calls Jess.
Jess shows up at the hotel with new clothes and a shower bag. When she sees Trish’s bruises, she freezes.
“Your mom didn’t give you those.”
Trish looks at the floor.
“Were you—was it—”
“No,” Trish says before Jess can actually say the word. “I don’t think so?”
She doesn’t know. She woke up naked and alone with bruises and she does not know. She does not remember where she was last night, what she did, who she was with. She would remember, right? If someone had—had done that to her, had forced her, she would remember. It’s not the first time she’s woken up alone and unsure, or even the first time with bruises. It was probably just rough sex.
She tells herself it doesn’t matter either way. If she doesn’t remember, it doesn’t matter. Her hands shake as she wraps the sheets tighter around herself, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that it was unprotected is what she’s worried about.
Jess is staring at her. Jess has seen her naked, has seen her bruised. Jess has kissed her bruises. Jess has stopped people from bruising her. But Trish feels horrible, here. She feels ashamed.
“I brought your shower stuff,” Jessica says finally. “If you want to. If you’re sure you want to shower.”
Trish knows what she means. They’ve watched Law & Order: SVU. She knows showers will wash away evidence, but she doesn’t even know if there’s evidence to wash off. She can’t go to the hospital or the cops anyway. She’s Patsy Walker. This is not something that can get out.
She tries to take a shower. She takes the bag from Jess and goes into the bathroom. It takes her five minutes to figure out how to turn on the shower instead of the bath. By then she’s crying, but trying not to, hiccuping breaths.
There’s a knock on the door before she can get the temperature of the water right.
Trish swallows back a sob. It doesn’t matter, she reminds herself, but she can’t get off the floor.
“I’m coming in, okay?”
Trish is in a heap beside the bathtub.
“Let me draw you a bath.”
Jess adjusts the water temperature and puts in the stopper. She lets Trish stay on the floor as the tub fills.
“I’m gonna wash your face, okay?”
Trish swallows, manages to nod once.
Jessica wets a washcloth in the sink and returns to Trish’s side. She pets Trish’s hair away from her face and swipes the washcloth across her eyes. It is warm. Jess keeps her hand in Trish’s hair, and Trish leans into the contact.
“You’re okay,” Jess says.
Trish thinks she’s lying.
Jess washes the makeup off of Trish’s face, moving away from her only to rinse the washcloth clean. She dips her hand in the mostly-filled tub.
“Ready to get in?”
Jess helps her to her feet. Trish eases herself into the water and feels better with each inch of skin enveloped by the calming heat. She isn’t crying anymore, but her heart still feels like it’s in her throat, like it took a shot of adrenaline and is ready to run, like it looked at fight or flight and picked both.
“Do you want me to stay or do you want to be alone?” Jess asks.
Trish looks at her. The multiple choice seems impossible. The idea of actually giving voice to what she wants, actually asking for Jess to stay. She opens her mouth. Closes it.
Jess rephrases. “Can I stay?”
Trish nods, quick and sharp and forever grateful.
“Can I help wash you?”
Trish nods again. She feels dirty, filthy, but the shower bag Jess brought her is still on the floor where Trish dropped it. Jess gets it, gets the body wash and purple loofah out of it. She dips the loofah in the water and then squirts soap on it.
“Do you want to talk?”
Trish shakes her head, violently enough to move her body, too, splash the water around in the tub.
“Okay, Trish, that’s okay,” Jess says, and Trish recognizes her tone of voice, suddenly—it’s the way she talked to her when Trish first undressed her, the way she tried to convince a stray cat to come out from behind a dumpster. It is her careful, quiet voice. Jess never has to say much, and this voice is how she says you’re going to be okay and I’m going to take care of you.
Jess doesn’t make Trish talk. She talks instead. She tells Trish the story of losing her first job, before she learned how to control her strength, when the nice Cuban woman had to let her go because she couldn’t stop breaking the sunglasses she was supposed to be selling. She tells Trish her favorite memories: her game-winning penalty kick that won a soccer tournament when she was 10, her whole family cheering on the sidelines; a day at Coney Island for Trish’s birthday, just the two of them.
As she gently washes Trish’s body, Jess talks more than Trish thinks she’s ever heard her talk before. Trish knows what she’s doing, knows she’s trying to distract her. Somehow, it works anyway. Trish is lulled, almost to sleep, by Jess’s voice. Jess bathes her and talks to her and Trish doesn’t feel awful.
When Trish climbs out of the tub, Jess wraps the hotel bathrobe around her and rubs up and down her arms.
“You’re okay,” she says.
Trish thinks she might be telling the truth.
Jess researches everything. She calls Planned Parenthood and asks about STD testing and pregnancy testing and how long do you have to wait after unprotected sex to know.
She buys Trish a black wig and puts her in one of Jess’s leather jackets and takes her to an appointment.
“Jessica Walker,” she says to reception.
The receptionist nods, like Jess has said something special, and they are told to sit down and fill out some paperwork. They are not asked for ID or insurance.
The doctor is nice. She knows, somehow, that she is seeing Trish, not Jess. Trish wonders how Jess put this all together.
Then the doctor separates her from Jess, which she doesn’t like.
“It’s a precaution,” the doctor explains. “Jessica has explained the situation but we want to hear it from you. We need to make sure you are okay.”
Trish doesn’t know what Jess told them, and she doesn’t want to say anything, but the doctor insists.
“It seems like someone may have hurt you,” she says quietly. “And we need to be sure Jessica isn’t hurting you.”
“Jess would never hurt me,” Trish says, sudden and sure and now that she found her voice, she can tell the story.
The doctor is kind and attentive and gentle with her, and when Trish is done talking, they let Jess back inside.
The appointment is terrible, but it is better with Jess holding her hand.
It is better still, when Jess gets the call saying Trish is all clear. Safe. Clean. She curls into Jess on their couch and they watch The Goonies and Trish does not think about what could have happened.
The next time she kisses Jess, Jess is soft, but less pliant than usual. Trish reaches for her shirt and Jess catches her hands. Trish knows how strong Jess is, so she knows Jess is being as gentle as she can, but Trish still can’t move her arms.
“I—” Jess starts, stops.
Trish holds herself very, very still, so she can pretend Jess isn’t the one holding her still.
“Want to watch a movie?” Jess says.
Trish nods. When they get settled to watch, she sits in the armchair instead of next to Jess on the couch.
Trish drinks during the day because if she starts early enough, she can skip the hangover.
Trish drinks during the day because she doesn’t know how to deal with Dorothy sober anymore.
Trish drinks during the day because Jess pushed her away for the first time and she can’t breathe when she thinks about it.
She’s been drinking—well, she doesn’t remember when she started really, maybe this morning, maybe three weeks ago—when Jess comes home one night. Or maybe she called Jess to come home. She thinks she did. Because Dorothy threatened her with things like power of attorney and Trish doesn’t even know, really, but it feels like Dorothy’s claws are dug into her so deep she’ll never get away.
And Jess makes her forget that, usually. Even when alcohol can’t, like tonight, Jess can.
And so she called Jess, at some point. She doesn’t remember where Jess had been, but she called her, and she came home, and she’s here now, and Trish smiles up at her from where she’s sitting on the kitchen floor.
Jess is not smiling back.
“Just stop,” Jess says, and rips the bottle right out of her hands.
Trish stares at her.
“You don’t need Dorothy,” Jess snarls. “You don’t need—” she chokes herself off and Trish tilts her head. “You need to stop. You are killing yourself.”
Trish is not killing herself. Trish does not want to die. She could stop, if she wanted. She doesn’t need anything: Dorothy or the show or alcohol. She needs Jess, she thinks, maybe, probably, definitely.
Jess pulls her to her feet and kisses her, fiercely. Bites her bottom lip hard enough it will probably bruise, and the only thing Trish thinks is Jess is sober.
But when Trish reaches for her, Jess pushes her back, pushes her away, out of reach. Trish wants, but Jessica just looks at her, eyes glistening but as determined as always.
“You are everything,” she says. “Take care of yourself. Please.”
In the morning, Trish doesn’t remember much, but she remembers the look on Jess’s face when she said you are everything, and she opens her laptop and googles rehab centers.