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Wentworth Correction Facility

Chapter Text

In the months following Joan Ferguson’s release, Vera Bennett had been charged with collusion in the attempted murder on her life. Despite doubts regarding Joan’s account, the actual stabbing of Bea Smith had not been captured on camera due to a van that was conveniently parked by the exit of the prison compound. The only thing recorded was the screwdriver in Bea’s hand prior to the actual stabbing and Vera and Will Jackson frantically rushing out of the building following the incident.

The police and public prosecutor worked around the clock to prove Vera’s guilt. They had lost once in a case against a former Wentworth governor and they weren’t going to repeat the fiasco.

During Vera’s trial, testimony construed a picture of a governor with wanton disregard for the lives of the women at her facility. According to Joan's testimony, Bea shouted, “I gotta do this or the Governor’s gonna kill Allie.” Bea was referring to her girlfriend Allie Novak who had been hospitalized earlier that week from an overdose. One of many which occurred at Wentworth while Vera was there.

Despite Vera adamantly maintaining her innocence, she completely broke down when Jake Stewart took the stand to testify that Vera tried to entrap Joan in order to keep the chair of governor and that she had sexually harassed him, even giving him money to get him to prostitute himself shortly before the incident.

The prosecutor called Lucy Gambaro.
“You told police that you colluded with former governor Vera Bennett to harm Ms. Ferguson by sexually assaulting her?”
“Yeah, that's right,” stated Gambaro.
“Do you know if Ms. Ferguson was prevented from receiving treatment for the injuries suffered in this assault?”
“I dunno but she didn’t get help.”
“Why do you say she did not receive treatment?”
“Well, she was bleeding out in her cell and Procter was looking after her.”
“Why did you gang rape Ms. Ferguson under Vera Bennett’s orders?”
“Was afraid of her. Bennett pushed me down stairs and made me say the freak did it,” Lucy finally got her revenge.
“Objection!”

Chapter Text

“Governor,” Jake had made deputy governor after Will Jackson’s arrest in Joan's attempted murder.
“Has the van arrived?” Governor Ferguson twitched an eyebrow.
“It has just passed the gates, Governor.”
“Shall we meet the new prisoner, then.”

The van made a left turn into the prison where Vera had proudly served as an officer and later as governor. Joan had pulled some, many strings to make sure that she was not taken to a facility out of state. Vera had betrayed her. She was not going to let her forget it.

As the van pulled to a halt, Vera tried hard to stop shaking. She was scared, terrified. She was returning to Wentworth and to Joan Ferguson.

Vera jumped as the door opened.
“Come on, I don’t have all night,” the driver chided.

Vera shaking uncontrollably, stepped down onto the pavement.
She felt two eyes piercing her and she couldn’t stop from looking up.
“Hello, Vera,” said Joan menacingly, “I will take very good care of you.”

Chapter Text

Vera was placed in solitary. It was a fitting punishment, or correction as Joan would call it, for she had kept Joan in solitary and tormented her. Simple requests were ignored or turned down.
“You cannot be trusted with pencils,” Vera smirked.
It gave Vera immense pleasure to triumph over Joan and she was sure she would be found guilty and soon leave Wentworth for a correction facility in another state. Remand was only until the trial, Vera used this limited time to torment her Governor, the Governor who had wiped her hand to rid it of Vera’s “dirty C” germs during that fateful dinner.

When did things start to go sideways? Only now did Vera realize the dinner invitation was a peace offering. Joan had looked so happy and nervous seeing Vera on her doorstep that evening. Joan had made an effort to cook something exquisite for Vera. If Vera had been attracted to women, she would certainly have fallen for Joan. If she was attracted to women….. But she wasn’t. Her feelings for Joan were something else. She was her mentor. Vera respected and admired Joan as her mentor. It was nothing more.

Yet during these last few months, Vera had often thought about why she was so angry with Joan. Why did she feel betrayed by Joan when she was ordered to go buy ice cream for Doreen Anderson? Why did she feel jealous when she learned about Jianna? What made her feel warm between the legs and special when Joan seemed possessive towards her and told her not to visit Fletcher after the accident. Why did she feel she wanted to die because she had lost everything when Joan did not emerge from the flames that engulfed Wentworth. And why was she so saddened by seeing a confused Joan at the facility where she was taken following the fire and hurt when Joan did not recognize her. There were too many unanswered questions.

Sometimes Vera would drift off thinking about Joan’s hands which despite their gracefulness were strong and well-shaped. Vera wondered what it would be like to have them touch her, for them to touch her face, her body. Sometimes her daydreams seemed so real that she could feel the Governor’s hands exploring her body. At times like this, Vera would feel goose bumps and a dampness between her legs. She would reach down and touch herself, all the while thinking of Joan. It was so unnatural. She wasn’t attracted to women like Franky or Bridgett was. She had never had a relationship with a woman. In fact she had never had much of a relationship with anyone. She thought that Jake might be the one, but even he faded when she thought about Joan. And then, he turned on her. He betrayed her at the trial and now he was the deputy governor under Joan Ferguson.

Chapter Text

“Bennett!”
Vera did not recognize the voice that rudely awakened her from sleep. Her first night in protection was not a restful one. She only dozed off when the light of the fledgling day trickled into her cell from the small window that broke the monotony of the gray wall.
“Bennett, wake up,” the woman repeated, “breakfast.”
Despite sleep hanging heavily over her, Vera got up and took the tray from the slot in her door. The cold face of the corrections officer was one unknown to Vera.
“Could you tell the Governor that I would like to see her?”
“Yeah, but I don’t think she’ll come,” the woman said.
Vera saw her name tag, Miss Hood. She was new to Wentworth. Vera heard that Ferguson had hired replacements for her, Will Jackson, and a few others that had been implicated in the “conspiracy” against her for which she and Will had been sentenced for along with other crimes.

The morning past slowly. With no books, no one to talk to, and nothing to do, time was not kind. Vera’s thoughts traveled to her last days as Governor. Maybe she deserved punishment. She had taken a satisfaction in tormenting Joan. She had enjoyed what Joan had called, “little victories” over the former Governor, her mentor. Maybe she wasn’t as different from Joan as she thought. She did not suffer from having euthanized her own mother. She took some enjoyment in the fact that Joan was ganged by Juice and her “boys” even though this came back at her as a false accusation.

Vera remembered that there was never proof of the Governor’s role in connection with Jodie Spiteri's abuse and subsequent mental breakdown. Bridget Westfall's file on the Governor had turned Vera against her. She had made her believe that Joan was a psychopath. Was it all a mistake? Maybe Joan was working for the “better good” all along and Vera had misconstrued her actions. How could she be so wrong? Maybe she was the psychopath.

So engrossed in her thoughts, Vera did not realize she was being watched from the other side of the glass that framed the entrance of her cell. The Governor watched as Vera stared at the wall, sometimes tilting her head and straining as if to listen to a non-existent voice.
“Bennett,” Joan cleared her voice and called to the woman in the cell, “I hear you wished to see me.”
Startled, Vera turned to face her captor. “Umm, yes, Governor, I was hoping I might be allowed to shower.”
“Shower? You haven’t been here 24 hours and you are already making demands?”
“I’m sorry,” sputtered Vera, “I didn’t mean it that way. I haven’t showered for three days now. Since being in holding following the trial for processing.”
The Governor seemed to think over the request for a brief moment, “Miss Hood, arrange for Bennett to shower.”
“Yes, Governor. Immediately.”

The warm water trickled over her body and soothed her soul. Vera enjoyed this brief return to humanity which had been denied her these last few months during the police interrogations and her incarceration prior to the trial. She was not granted bail as she was judged a flight risk having few ties to the community except for her job, a job that she had lost when she was arrested.

“Enjoying your shower?” the Governor’s voice brought Vera back to the present. She had been watching her. Little did Vera know that Joan was very much aroused. Her eyes fixed on Vera’s slim body. She eagerly took in every little imperfection. She had stripped Vera so many times in her imagination when she was her Deputy but the supple body that was before her now was much more beautiful than she had envisioned.
“Enjoying yourself?” Vera did not notice the faltering in the Governor’s voice but she felt the Governor’s eyes on every corner of her body.
“I, I’ll be out in a moment. I’m sorry I took so long.” Vera was scared. She vividly remembered the strip search where she realized Joan had been viciously ganged in the showers. She had failed to protect her. Joan had been under her care and she failed her. She realized how defenseless she was.
“Miss Hood will take you back to your cell,” Joan averted her eyes and left the room.

Chapter Text

That night sleep evaded Vera. She could not keep herself from thinking about how Joan had looked at her in the shower, the want she saw in her eyes. But then, they would change into those cold eyes that looked at her repulsively when she tried to enter medical to help with Doreen’s baby. Vera remembers something noisily crashing down on her that night, something that turned her heart to stone and made her want to exact revenge on her former mentor.

Vera vividly remembered the pangs of jealous and deceit she felt as she looked in on the Governor and Doreen in the kitchen late at night. The Governor had used her as a messenger to fetch Doreen so that she could offer her choc chip ice cream to fend off the cravings of pregnancy. The Governor was like a happy little child, grinning at the sight of Doreen eating and enjoying the treat she gave.

Vera did not understand why this should affect her so. She was not lesbian. Or was she?
Despite being scared, it had felt so good having Joan’s lustful eyes on her. She wanted Joan to come and touch her. Touch her in the way she was touching herself now. She wanted Joan’s fingers to enter her, to pump in and out, while making squishing sounds from the wetness between her legs. She wanted Joan to finger her hardened little clit that would soon burst into ecstasy and cause her body to jerk uncontrollably. She wanted Joan’s touch on her breasts and for her to kiss them and suck them until they hardened. “Fuck, Joan, fuck me hard,” Vera said as the release gradually changed into a dreamless sleep.

Joan had not yet left for the night. She had been watching Vera by CCTV and had been fascinated by the sight of her masturbating. Little did Vera know that Joan had heard her muffled scream calling her name as she climaxed.

Chapter Text

Joan stared at the CCTV. She could not believe what she had just heard. Vera screamed her name in the throes of passion, pretending that her own administrations were that of Joan. She felt an uncomfortable warmness between her legs. “Fucking hell Vera,” Joan muttered in anger.

Joan gathered her belongs, shut off the lights, and lock the door to her office. She needed to talk to someone, someone who could help her with her confusion.

At home, Joan changed into a pair of slacks and a grayish sweater. She needed a glass of vodka, maybe two. After the fourth glass, Joan realized her father sitting by the dining table. “When did you come in?” Joan asked. Her father said nothing but got up to move closer to Joan.
“What is wrong, Joan? You are upset,” her father spoke slowing and precisely, pronouncing each word with care, “you must never show that you are upset.”
“I am losing control,” Joan knew her father would be disgusted by her weakness.
“You will make mistakes when your emotions grow strong,” her father said, “you must always be in control of your emotions.”

Joan washed down another shot. Tonight, just tonight she wanted to be embraced by oblivion.

Chapter Text

Fighting a headache from her indiscretion the night before, Joan arrived at Wentworth a little later than usual. Her deputy, Jake Stewart was at the counter checking inmate mail.
“Good morning, Governor” he chirped cheerfully.
“Mr. Stewart, come to my office later,” Joan said while kneading her temple with her first and middle fingers.
“Bad headache?”
“Bearable”

Just as Joan’s headache started to fade from the aspirins, there was a knock on her door.
“Come in”
“Governor, you wanted to see me?” Jake said as he stepped into her office.
“Sit down, Mr. Stewart. I wanted to ask you about your relationship with Vera Bennett.”
Jake frowned, “What is it you wish to know?”
“Was everything normal to you?” Joan did not really know what normal was between a man and a woman.
“You mean how she was when I fucked her?” Jake quickly added, “sorry, Governor.”
Joan motioned with her hand, urging Jake to continue.
“She seemed awfully inexperienced. And she wasn’t into it. Like she wasn’t really there,” Jake pulled no punches, “it wasn’t all that great.”
Laughing he added, “You did say she was vanilla. Maybe she prefers women.”

Joan seethed with anger. Anger at Vera for allowing a miscreant like Jake Stewart to fuck her. And anger at Jake Stewart fucking her, her Vera. Joan maliciously sneered at the thought that she put an end to any feelings Vera might have for Jake with his false testimony in court. Vera was all alone and she would keep her that way.

Joan finally had the courage to turn on the CCTV. After scanning the community units and the yard, Joan switched it to check in on Vera.

Vera wasn’t in her cell. Joan panned the camera and caught sight of Vera by a table in the center space of protection. She was staring at a blank piece of paper. It seems she was trying to write a letter but could not set words to paper. She dropped the pencil on the table and grasped her head in her hands. She shook her head. Was she crying?

Joan could not take her eyes off of the tormented Vera. To whom could she be writing? Joan was not one to make friends and she thought Vera was not dissimilar. Yet the CCTV showed a different Vera, a Vera who was trying to write a letter to someone very important to her. Joan was jealous. In her jealousy, she vowed that she would find out who it was and put an end to it.

Chapter Text

“My office, Miss Miles,” the Governor called to Linda Miles in the hallway.
“Yes, Governor?”
“Close the door,” the Governor said standing behind her desk, “sit down.”
Linda Miles was one of the few officers who has not intimidated by the Governor.
“I would like you to check in on Bennett and get a feel of what she is up to.”
“Excuse me?” Linda was not sure of what the Governor wanted to know about Vera.
After all, she knew Vera better than anyone at Wentworth. Vera had been her deputy and the two had been hand in glove up until about the fire in which troublemaker Jess Warner died.

“I think Bennett is trying to communicate with someone on the outside. I would not put it above her to try to manipulate Miss Hood to mail her letters without them going through the outgoing mail check.”
“You think she is trying something?”
“It is possible. We must be prepared for anything.” The Governor added, “I will not forget your help.”

Joan switched the CCTV to the protection unit. Today, Vera was again sitting at the table with her pencil and paper. It didn’t look like there was anything on it. “What the fuck, Vera. If you are going to write, get with it,” Joan’s thoughts were dark and deadly.

Chapter Text

Vera had been staring at the paper for over an hour. The last few days, she had been trying to write a letter, a very important letter, but she did not know how to start.
“Bennett,” Linda called out to Vera, “Who you writing to?”
Linda Miles was one of the last persons Vera would confide in.
“Just trying to clear up some business.”
“You want me to mail it for you?” Linda thought this would be the best way to intercept any outgoing missives.
“Thank you,” Vera said dismissively.

“Just what are you hiding, you little mouse.” While watching Vera and Linda on the CCTV, Joan realized that Vera had not asked to see her since the shower.

Joan had replayed Vera’s little secret over and over in her head. The way Vera fondled her small and well-shaped breasts. The way she grasped the side of her bunk with her left hand while using her right index finger to touch her clit. Then, the way she fucked herself with her index finger and middle finger. The rhythmical pumping of her fingers in and out as she went deeper and deeper into her wet abyss. And then the words she said when she climaxed. Those words…..

Vera began writing. Joan couldn’t see what she wrote and she was desperate to know.

 

“Dear Bridget”

Chapter Text

“What did Miss Miles want?” Tina Hood looked puzzled.
“I think she’s spying for the Governor,” Vera responded.
“What is it between you and the Governor?” Tina knew Vera was the former governor but did not know anything more than what was in the media.
Vera needed to get her on her team. She needed an ally among the correction officers and sensing that Tina was a wee bit gullible, she became the perfect candidate.

“It’s difficult,” there was nothing more that Vera could say.
“I wonder if I can trust you to help me,” Vera needed someone to get her letter to Bridget. She knew Joan would never let her send a letter to her. Vera was never a manipulator, but she could tell Tina was warming to her and despite misgivings decided to use it to her advantage.
“Vera, I mean Bennett,” Tina fumbled, “What is it you want me to do?”

 

Dear Bridget

Please visit me. I need to talk to you.

Vera

 

Vera had initially tried to put her thoughts in writing but despite her agonizing over what to write these past days, all she could write was these nine words.

She needed to get this letter to Bridget without Joan’s knowledge.

Vera’s heart was bursting. There were so many misunderstandings and hurtful words. There was so much left unsaid. She needed to talk to Bridget who was terminated when Joan returned.

Joan never liked Bridget Westfall. She didn’t believe in psycho-therapy and was uncomfortable with someone who tried to interpret her every move. Westfall had all so subtly implied that Joan lacked empathy and that a degenerate like Franky Doyle was a better person than she. Joan would never forgive this woman for her insubordination and her failure to acknowledge her authority.

Chapter Text

“Governor, Bennett’s put Westfall on her visitor docket,” Linda breathlessly reported.
Joan froze. “When?”
“Must’ve been this morning”
“When did she contact her?” Joan was furious, “you were supposed to intercept her mail!”
“I tried,” Linda’s excuses fell on deaf ears.
“It must have been Hood!” Joan barked, “tell Mr. Stewart to come to my office, immediately.”

.............................................
The officer promptly left after letting Bridget into the interview room.
It was a small room with a glass window separating the visitor from the inmate.
Seldom used, it was reserved for inmates known for drug dealing or violence.
Bridget was overcome by the musky smell and stuffiness.

“Bennett, you gotta visitor,” Linda said flatly.
Vera followed Linda to the interview room
“Here?” Vera expected to be allowed to speak with Bridget in the meeting area.
“Yeah, Governor’s orders.”
Bridget was already in the room looking expectantly to the door.
“Sit,” Linda ordered.
Vera sat in front of Bridget. She knew the Governor would be watching.
The room was watched by CCTV but there was no sound feed. Whatever was said would not leave the room.

Bridget waited for Vera to get settled, “how are you doing?”
“I’m in protection. Plenty of time to think.”
“And something bothered you?”
Vera shifted in her seat and put her hand near her mouth.
“She must be trying to avoid the CCTV,” thought Joan. Bridget nodded. Vera must have said something.
Bridget nodded again. Bridget opened her bag and took out a small memo pad and pen.
Unlike to meeting area, visitors could take their bag into the room as there was no possibility of passing anything.
She wrote something that Joan couldn’t see on the screen.
Vera said something again.
Bridget again wrote something on the pad.
Vera shook her head.
“What the fuck is going on,” Joan clenched her fists and gritted her teeth.

After visiting hours, making sure that all officers had gone off to other duties, Joan made her way to the interview room to retrieve her voice recorder. “Now I’ll know what’s going on between them,” she thought.
Switching it on, she heard sounds from Bridget entering the room and moving the chair to sit down.
Next, there was noise from Vera entering the room.
“Sit,” it was Linda’s voice.
“How are you doing?” it was Bridget.
Then came Vera’s voice, “I’m in protection. Plenty of time to think.”
“And something bothered you?”

Then there was silence.
The recorder caught shifting about and then what seemed to be Bridget getting the memo pad out of her bag.
But the recorder did not record any voices.
Joan couldn’t believe it. Vera had deliberately turned away from the CCTV and mouthed something to Bridget.
Bridget wrote out what she thought Vera said to confirm it. How could they communicate this way for over 15 minutes?
Vera must have realized that Joan would somehow be listening despite the CCTV not offering a sound feed.

Joan was furious. How could that little mouse outsmart her.
She grabbed the coffee mug on her desk and threw it at the wall.
It came crashing down in a thousand little pieces.
“Damn you, Vera,” it was an inhuman primal howl.

Bridget was deeply disturbed by Vera’s confession.
She had always considered her as a friend and tried to support her during her trial.
She had no inkling of Vera's feelings.
She knew Vera was confused and distressed but she could think of no way to help her after today’s confession.
Bridget wondered if it was true that Ferguson would tape conversations in the interview room.
That was against protocol. CCTV visual feeds were condoned but sound was against regulations.
But that didn’t really matter. What mattered was Vera’s problem. She definitely needed help.

How could anyone be in love with Joan Ferguson?

Chapter Text

Vera could not sleep. She had finally admitted that she loved Joan Ferguson.
For so long, she had denied it. She had denied it even to herself.
She had tried so hard to fall in love with a man. But it had always been unsuccessful.
Everyone, man or woman, paled when compared with Joan.
Vera no longer cared what people thought. What her mother would think.
She just wanted to revel in love, in her love for Joan. But things were not that easy.
She was not a free woman. And Joan had a vendetta against Vera.

All afternoon Joan had been distracted.
Despite her shift ending hours ago, she still sat in her office watching the protection unit on CCTV.
What did the two women talk about? It was something Vera wanted to keep from her.
What is Vera’s little plan? What secret did she share with Westfall.

“Vera?”
Vera feigned sleep. Joan knew, though, that her little mouse was awake.
“Vera,” Joan called a little louder.
“What? What time do you think it is?”
“Vera, can we talk?” Joan was irritated but held her feelings in check.
“What is it?”
“Why did you call Westfall in today?”
Vera hesitated. Should she confess her feelings for Joan? No, Joan would only see them as weakness.
She would use them against her, to torment her.
“What is it to you?” Vera tried to sound defiant.
Joan had opened the door and entered the room. She had on her black gloves.

Vera suddenly felt exposed and very afraid.

“You are pathetic,” Joan smirked, “if you think you can keep secrets from me.”
Vera was silent.
“Accidents happen,” Joan continued, “I think you would be saddened if your friend had an unfortunate accident.”
“No!” Vera shouted, “you wouldn’t dare.”

Joan slapped Vera and sent her reeling.
Tears start to trickle down her bruised cheek.
“Why?”
“I am asking the questions,” Joan sneered.
“I told her that I am in love.”
“Ha,” Joan tried to sound sarcastic but the revelation was too unexpected, “a lot of good that will do you. You will not leave here any time soon.”
“But the person I love is here too.”

Joan was seething. Vera must be talking about Jake Stewart, the bastard who used her and got away with it.
“You pathetic creature. He used you. He prostituted himself.”
Vera was astonished by Joan’s outburst. How could Joan, who was so perceptive, be so obtuse.
She slapped her and again.
Vera, in tears, shouted “It’s you. I’ve always loved you!”

Joan fell back against the wall as if pummeled by an unseen assailant.
“Joan!”

Chapter Text

How much time had passed?
“Joan!” it was Vera’s voice, “look at me.”
“What?”
“You fell backwards and hit your head on the wall.”
“Where am I?”
“You don’t remember?”
“I remember being angry,” Joan said.
“You should have medical check you out,” Vera was worried.
“Yes, maybe so. Thank you.” Joan turned and walked out of the cell.
Vera did not know what to make of it. Joan was not at all herself.

The next day, Vera asked Linda if everything seemed all right with the Governor.
“What do you mean? Why should anything be wrong with her?” Linda asked.
Vera bit her lower lip and just shook her head. She couldn’t tell anyone about last night.
The day passed slowly. Vera kept hoping that Joan would come by and let her know she was all right. But by dinnertime it became evident that the Governor was not going to visit her today.

“Morning, Bennett,” it was Linda.
Vera had not seen Miss Hood since she asked her to mail a letter to Bridget Westhall.
“How is the Governor?” Vera was becoming concerned.
“Funny you say,” Linda shrugged, “she’s kind. Really weird coming from her.”
“Did she go to Medical for her head injury?”
“Why d’ya know bout that?”
“I heard about it from someone,” Vera tried to sound nonchalant.
Linda knew it was a lie but decided it wasn’t worth her effort to pursue the matter.

Linda did not know that Medical had sent the Governor to a large hospital for tests where an aneurysm was found. It seemed to have been growing for some time.

Chapter Text

Over a week had passed since an angry Joan visited Vera late in the night. Vera was beside herself with worry. Her repeated pleading with the staff was always answered with, “the Governor’s on holiday.”

“Vera?” It was a warm and familiar voice.
Vera thought it was her imagination. Bridget Westfall, who had been terminated when Joan returned, could not possibly be at the protection unit.
“Are you all right?”
Vera looked up. Bridget was standing at the entrance.
“Wha - - ? How?”
Bridget laughed, “Sorry for the surprise. I’ve been called to help Linda Miles.”
“Linda? What? Why?”
“She is acting governor until Ferguson can return,” Bridget explained, “she was hospitalized last week for an aneurysm and from what I heard it’s kind of serious.”

Unknown to Vera, in the days following Joan’s hospitalization, Derek Channing had found a notebook on her desk with information implicating Jake Stewart for drug trafficking at his current and prior assignments. To avoid further scandal, the Board “convinced” him to quietly resign and never again seek employment within the corrections system. Linda Miles was promoted to deputy and appointed to temporarily fill the governor’s shoes. To support Linda, the Board reinstated Bridget Westfall.

“How is Joan?” Vera choked back tears.
“From what I’ve heard, it is touch and go. She might end up with disabilities. I think they’ll have to operate.”
“Could you go check on her?” Vera pleaded.

・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・
In response to Bridget’s question the nurse behind the desk answered,
“Room 253. If she’s asleep, don’t wake her.”

As she approached the room, Bridget was surprised to hear laughing. Cautiously peering in, she saw the Governor laughing with a young nurse who, with her back turned toward the entrance, was fidgeting with some flowers in a vase by the bedside.
“Hello, who are you?” Joan smiled.
Bridget cleared her throat, “Governor, it’s Bridget Westfall.”
Both Joan and the nurse looked quizzically at her.
“I used to work with you at Wentworth.”

“I’ll be back to check on you later,” the nurse said smiling to Joan.
Joan smiled back and waved as the nurse left the room.
“You said, Miss Westfall? I’m sorry, I’m having trouble with my memory,” Joan said pleasantly.
“It was a while ago,” Bridget said dismissively. “Vera is very worried about you.”
“Vera?” Joan tilted her head.
“Miss Westfall?” it was the nurse, “may I speak with you?”
After telling Joan that she would come again in a few days, Bridget followed the nurse out into the hallway.
“The aneurysm is giving her some trouble with her memory,” adding, “she tires easily.”
“Who is making decisions for her? I don’t recall her having family,” Bridget asked.
“We are talking with her lawyer. She has a power of attorney.”
“Who is it?”
“A Vera Bennett. They are trying to locate her now.”

Chapter Text

Vera was stunned to learn that Joan had named her to make decisions on her behalf if anything should happen to her. Despite their falling out, it was proof that Joan had continued to place trust in Vera.
“What are you going to do?” Bridget asked.
“I don’t know. It isn’t like I can go and see her,” Vera sighed.
“If she is no longer able to make decisions, you will have to make them on her behalf. Some of them may be difficult….” Bridget solemnly said.

Bridget told Vera about the nurse who cared for Joan and her saying, “she is the gentlest, most lovable soul,” to which they both laughed.
She didn’t tell Vera about what she heard from a colleague at the hospital, that nurse Ann Hall seemed to be a little in love with the Governor.
It seems that she spent most of her free time with Joan and she was the one responsible for keeping the room decorated with the flowers that Joan was enjoying.
Although Ann was genuinely worried and caring for her like a doting wife, Joan seemed oblivious. But this did not deter Ann in the least.

 

…………………………………..
Channing broke all protocol and regulations to arrange for Vera to be at the hospital when Joan underwent surgery.

“Vera?” Joan asked softly.
“Yes, Joan. I’m sorry I was so late in coming,” tears welled in Vera’s eyes.
Joan’s flowing locks had been shaven in preparation for surgery. Vera fondly remembered how beautiful her hair had been with the silver streaks and how she had imagined running her fingers through it.
“Vera, thank you for coming. I wanted to see you.”
She moved to Joan’s beside and held her hands. “Joan, I’m so sorry,” Vera wished she could have said those words long ago when things first started going south.
Their time had run out. Two orderlies came to take Joan to the operating room.

Chapter Text

Ann followed behind the gurney. Joan was in good spirits as they took her into the OR, and she held out her hands to both Vera and Ann and gave them a final squeeze before she was taken through the doors.
“Would you like to stay in her room?” Ann asked, “I’ll let you know when she goes to the ICU.”
“Thank you so much,” Vera was a bit uncomfortable with the intimacy this nurse seemed to share with Joan. She was grateful that Joan was cared for by this young and kind nurse but at the same time she couldn’t help feeling a pang of jealousy.

“You must be important to her,” Ann said, “she doesn’t recognize anyone who visits her. You are the first person she called by name.”
Vera buried her face in her hands. She could no longer hold back her tears.
She cried, pained by all that could have been. All that she had lost. She cried for Joan. Joan who had loved her and whom she had failed miserably. Ann placed her hand on Vera’s back and tried to comfort her.
“She’s strong. She’ll be all right.”
Vera lifted her face.
“Joan is such a beautiful person,” Ann whispered, “she’ll be all right.”

Vera had only seen Joan’s gentle side sporadically. Joan’s compassion had shone through from time to time but she was always quick to return to her cold and calculating façade. The night shortly before her relationship with Joan was irrevocably damaged flashed before Vera’s eyes. Joan had told her that she wanted to be more than a mentor. Vera had never seen her so hesitant.
Vera’s thoughts were interrupted as Ann said, “try to rest some,” while getting up to leave the room.
Vera was not there for Joan when she needed her most. Instead, Ann was by her side and cared for her in the most intimate ways. Vera had the chance to be everything to Joan and she had squandered it. Her pride had prevented her from seeing how much Joan had loved her. Her pride had prevented her from being honest with herself and with Joan. Was it too late now? Had she forever lost her? Ann was young, vibrant, and beautiful. Ann was there for Joan and it was clear that she cared deeply for her. Would Vera be able to compete with this young woman?

Chapter Text

Several hours had passed. Vera had been breathing shallowly since entering the hospital accompanied by one of the young corrections officers from Wentworth. She looked about her antiseptic surroundings. She reached out and touched the clock by the bedside. She then touched Joan’s reading glasses, her cup. Everything was so precious. Vera loved these things that Joan had used. She could feel Joan through these inanimate objects. Everything could have been so different. She could have been by her side caring for her. Loving her.

Tears fell from Vera’s eyes. Would Joan pull through? Would she remember Vera? What would she remember? Would she remember the good times when she was governor and Vera was her deputy or would she remember a vengeful Vera who tormented her when she was held pending trial? Would she have a chance to right the wrongs? Vera could see that Joan was fond of Ann. What if it was something more? Even on good behavior, her earliest chance at parole was in 8 months. Joan would be living a different life by then. Perhaps a different life with Ann.

Eight months. Vera never understood why Joan did not tell the police about her euthanizing her mother. Joan had turned evidence concerning her improper conduct as Wentworth’s governor during the lengthy police investigation but never did she hint at the possibility that Vera murdered Rita. If she was implicated in her mother’s murder, even considering mitigating circumstances, Vera would not be up for parole for at least another thirteen years. How old would she be by then? How old would Joan be? Maybe everything was just to “teach her a lesson”. To make sure she lost the job which was so important to her. But Joan didn’t realize that the job was only important because she was there with her. Vera no longer aspired to the little crowns on her shoulder after Joan came to Wentworth. She had been more than satisfied to serve as her deputy.
The hours continued to slip by slowly. It was pure hell for Vera. She sat waiting in Joan’s room tormented by how she had treated her and how she had betrayed her.

If only she could live it over. If only it were a bad dream.

Chapter Text

“Miss Bennett, she’s in the ICU now,” Ann said calmly, “she’s under, but I think she’ll want to see you when she wakes up.”
Ann’s love for Joan transcended petty rivalries and jealousy. She could sense that Vera was very special to her and wanted to make sure she was there when Joan regained consciousness. Ann knew that Joan might suffer memory loss or worse but if she did remember her previous life, she knew Vera was an important part of it.

Vera and Ann sat on both sides of Joan’s bed. The rhythmical beeping of the monitors invited drowsiness. Vera bent forward resting her head on Joan’s bed. Ann leaned back and was soon overcome by sleep.

When Joan opened her eyes the first thing she saw was two angels watching over her. At first, she didn’t understand. It took her several minutes to remember Ann and then, Vera her deputy. Her deputy to whom she had tried to confess her feelings unsuccessfully. Her deputy who fled her home in the middle of dinner. Why was she here?

“Vera?” Joan could not recognize her own voice. It was raspy and shriveled.
“Joan,” tears trickled down her cheeks, “Joan.”
Ann rubbed her eyes, “Joan? I’ll get the doctor.”
“Bennett, the Governor is awake. Time to go,” the accompanying officer had orders to return Vera to corrections as soon as Joan woke from surgery.
“Joan, I’m sorry I have to go,” Vera said tearfully while holding Joan’s hand as if her life depended on it. “I love you. I always have and always will.”

Joan couldn’t understand why Vera had to leave.
She couldn’t understand why a corrections officer was escorting her out of the room.
Everything was so confusing.

Chapter Text

In the months following her surgery, Joan decided to leave her position at Wentworth. Although she sometimes lost balance and would need to use a cane, things were looking good. Ann had continued to support her through her rehabilitation and transition to home life. Bridget would visit Joan every few weeks to keep tabs on her progress. During her last two visits, she noticed an absence of anything that shouted Ann.

“Is Ann out?”
“Umm, yes, running errands,” Joan said without elaborating.
Bridget wanted to ask more but something about Joan’s answer made her swallow her questions.

The visits, which started as a duty in response to her friendship with Vera, were becoming more and more enjoyable. Bridget was captivated by Joan’s intellect and vast knowledge. If there ever was a “renaissance woman”, Joan would certainly be the first runner-up. She was cultured and refined. Bridget felt herself attracted to Joan. She was beginning to understand Vera’s love and devotion to this woman before her, especially the “new” Joan who was soft-spoken and kind. Her days as the scary, plotting mastermind of Wentworth seemed so long ago.

Joan surprised Bridget with the adoption of an abandoned welsh corgi from a local animal rescue group.
“These little buggers shed 365 days a year,” Joan laughed at the notorious shedding of corgis.
Bridget could not wrap her head around the fact that an obsessive Joan could put up with a dog, let alone shedding, without having a breakdown.

She wanted to tell Vera but Joan had made her promise, “Don’t tell Vera.”

Chapter Text

“Mr. Channing advised against putting you in a halfway house and arranged for you to stay with a responsible person until you have proven you will honor the conditions of your early release,” Governor Miles explained.
“And I’ll take you there,” Bridget piped in.
To Vera’s questions, Bridget answered she knew nothing about the person that she would stay with but that it was “Mr. Channing’s friend.”

Vera enjoyed the scenery.
It was the first time in close to two years that she had seen the outside of gray walls or a courthouse.
She couldn’t stop thinking about Joan.
Bridget had not said much about Joan these last few weeks and it was driving Vera crazy.
Vera knew Joan recovered well from her surgery but Bridget kept her in the dark.
She assumed it meant Joan was with Ann and even though it broke her heart, she tried to be happy for her.

Beautiful and picturesque houses lined both sides of the street.
Most houses had two car garages and flowerbeds offering fragrant bouquets of seasonal flowers and colorful leaves.
The houses were well-kept with beautiful curtains peeking from large windows.
Vera remembered her own modest home, the home she had sold to pay for her lawyer fees.
A sadness overcame her. She was alone and hadn't much of anything left.

“Well, here it is,” Bridget said while turning into the driveway of a large, beautiful house with a spacious yard and stone walkway.
“I can’t believe a person living in a house like this would take in an ex-convict,” Vera laughed nervously.
“She just moved here recently,” Bridget said as she pressed the bell and reached for the doorknob, "she said she wanted to start anew."
As she opened the door, a dog came running to greet them.

“Ohhh, I love dogs,” Vera said while kneeling to hug it, “Mum would never let me have one.”

From the hall came a familiar voice, “She’s all yours. Welcome home, Vera.”