If Brenda thought that her Monday had been vaguely uncomfortable, it had nothing on the Tuesday she was currently enduring. Surprising herself, and Sharon, she had agreed to let her fiancé deal with her ex-husband. She was through with him; totally and completely finished, and Sharon could have him fired, trussed up and shipped to a CIA black box in whothefuckcaresistan, and Brenda would pour her a glass of wine and give her celebratory oral sex.
So Brenda was prepped for her interview (this particular murdering scumbag had picked the wrong day to lawyer up - Brenda was going to have her confession, counsel or no counsel), and now she was waiting; waiting for her perp and waiting to hear how Sharon's 'talk' with Fritz went and waiting to see if he had had time to wreak any havoc in Brenda's life. Brenda wasn't any good at waiting, but she was getting better at realizations.
Last night, after changing the passwords to Brenda's personal email and Apple account and a couple of other things, she and Sharon had sat and looked at Brenda's collection of photos together, recounting the happy and fond memories they had already made. Sharon wanted to frame the picture from the backyard, of them next to the fire, and Brenda thought they should put the one of them dressed up for dinner on the fridge.
It had been so easy for Brenda to get lost in that quiet moment with Sharon, despite the terrible encounter they'd had with Fritz and despite her anxieties about the damage he could do. She realized then, that frankly, the rest of the world could go to hell; that unless she and Sharon lost their way as a couple and decided it wasn't working, that her parents, Will Pope, the mayor, and her ex-husband could piss and moan all they liked, Brenda was sticking with Sharon. Anything that could make her feel calm and content after the day she'd had, hell, after the shit she saw most every day, was worth fighting tooth and nail for.
Brenda had her resolution, she had her endgame, but she had no idea how things were going to play out and it was driving her absolutely batty. She gnawed on a fingernail agitatedly, casting about for a memory that would soothe her nerves. Last night, in a rare reversal of their routine, Brenda had curled up behind Sharon, thoroughly absorbed with (though in a less freaked out manner) the petite size of her lover; Sharon really wasn't much bigger than Brenda herself - a little taller, a little broader and more solidly muscular, but she was still a small woman. In Brenda's mind, Sharon sometimes took on somewhat Amazonian proportions; she was the tallest, the strongest, the most graceful, so the moments where Brenda realized Sharon's relative fragility came as a surprise, though not always a pleasant one, like their encounter with Fritz earlier that evening had demonstrated.
As Sharon drifted off to sleep in Brenda's arms, Brenda had had the startling thought that maybe Sharon felt as safe with her as Brenda felt with Sharon. For Brenda, as much as she loved sleeping in Sharon's embrace, there was nothing quite like holding beautiful, naked Sharon Raydor in her arms as she slept. Brenda had fought her own descent into dream land to fully enjoy the opportunity. She had been pressed against Sharon's bare back, her arm slung over Sharon's torso, hand splayed over the soft flesh of her stomach. Occasionally an auburn curl would tickle her nose, and Brenda would huff out a breath to push it away, then inhale through her nose to pull in Sharon's distinct scent.
Smiling at the pleasant sense memories, Brenda mentally reviewed her game plan for the interview one more time. This step, and then the next, and however many more it took to get her home to Sharon Raydor at the end of the day.
Humming a jaunty little tune under her breath, Brenda entered her office after her interview; Brenda Leigh, 1 - this particular murdering jerkwad, less than 0. Jail, for a long time, was his score. Smart enough to call a lawyer, but not smart enough to shut the hell up when his lawyer told him to. She activated the screen on her phone; one missed call and one voicemail from her parents' land line. A wave of nausea so intense rolled through Brenda that she nearly dropped to her knees next to her desk. She managed to get herself into her chair, staring at the piece of technology like it was a poisonous snake. With shaking and suddenly damp fingers, Brenda navigated to her voicemail and put the phone up to her ear. Her mother's voice began to play, tremulous and halting.
"Brenda Leigh, I've had a talk with Fritz today, and he had some very disturbin' things to say about what you've been up to. I don't…I know you're workin', but please call me back as soon as you can." A weary little sigh echoed over the line before Willie Rae hung up. Brenda thought she was going to vomit, she was so angry at Fritz and so scared that he'd forever prejudiced her mother against this relationship when Brenda was so happy. Brenda swallowed back her nausea, and breathed deeply through her nose. She had her end game, and this was one more step. She opened up her text window with Sharon.
Fritz talked to my mama today. I don't know exactly what he told her, but I'm about to call her back.
Brenda knew Sharon was in meetings all day and might not be able to respond, but she'd need to know if she was going to have a little discussion with Fritz at some point that afternoon. It was a pleasant surprise when Brenda's phone chimed with a reply.
I'm sorry, honey. I didn't think he'd go there first. Is there anything I can do?
You're doing it. I just have to suck it up and have what I'm sure is going to be a painfully awkward conversation. I love you, and be careful later. PS: You looked really, really beautiful this morning, Shari. Thought you should know that.
Glad you thought so, honey. I love you, too, and I'll see you at home.
Home. Yesterday, Fritz had violated their privacy and their home in a big way, and now he was continuing to violate Brenda's relationship with her parents. Enough was enough, she thought, stabbing the screen to call her mother back.
"Brenda Leigh," Willie Rae answered the phone without the customary greeting. "What is going on with you? Is it true, what Fritz said?"
"Mama, I don't know what Fritz said, so I can't tell you whether or not it's true."
"He told me you've taken up with that Raydor woman, and that you're living with her and wearing an engagement ring and you never even told him you were seein' someone else, let alone a woman you work with. And he said that you have pictures of the two of you carryin' on, and that when he came to talk to you, you were carryin' on with her, and that she threatened him!" Willie Rae sighed gustily, and carried on. "What kind of game are you playin' Brenda Leigh? This is no way to treat a good man who loves you!"
"I'm not playin' any game, mama. I'm movin' on with my life, and dealin' with an ex-husband who can't let go a'me, and parents who can't let go a'him. Did you even stop to think that maybe Fritz didn't tell you the whole truth; that maybe he hasn't been telling you the whole truth since this mess started?"
"So you're tellin' me you aren't involved with Sharon Raydor?"
"No, mama, that isn't what I'm sayin'. What I mean is that Fritz has you fallin' all over yourself believin' that I'm depressed and crazy and fallin' apart without him, and what he failed to mention is that he initiated divorce proceedings in an attempt to blackmail me into havin' children with him and changin' the way I do my job. Then, after I signed the papers, he spent the next month houndin' me every single day, tryin' to get me to change my mind. And now he's strong-arming my subordinates and our former landlord, tellin' tales to my own parents, berating me at my workplace, and using my email and photos to track me down when I don't want him to know where I am," Brenda finished in a rush.
"You know, the only reason he saw my pictures is because he was snooping in places he had no business. And every single one of those photos is rated PG. And last night he only saw me kissin' Sharon because he was standing on our porch peekin' in the windows!"
"What about that woman threatenin' him? You can't tell me that is acceptable behavior?"
"He was threatening us! Standing on our porch, making a scene! All she did was poke a taser in his ribs and tell him to leave us alone. Fritz was lucky that Sharon had that taser and not me, 'cuz I woulda zapped him but good, and probably not in the ribs!"
"I don't know what to say, Brenda Leigh," Willie Rae responded after a few moments of strained silence.
"You don't know what to say about what, mama?"
"About any of it. Why didn't you ever say anything about Fritz? You should have told us he wasn't acting right."
"I didn't dream he'd get this bad, and he's only been annoyin', really, until a few weeks ago. I figured he'd just give up on me and would still be able to have a good relationship with you. I didn't want to take that away from him." Brenda thought it rather fitting that trying to be generous and considerate to an ex-husband she hadn't hated had come back to bite her in the ass so spectacularly.
"Oh, Brenda Leigh. And I don't…Are you gay, honey?" Brenda (silently) clunked her head down onto the pile of case files that covered her blotter. Even that didn't accurately express the extreme awkwardness of discussing her sexual identity with her aging, conservative mother.
"Mama, it's immaterial. It wasn't a surprise to me, but regardless of how I identify, the end result is the same."
"And what is that? Are you going to marry her?"
"I don't know yet. We haven't had a chance to talk about it, what with the holiday and Sharon's promotion and the craziness with Fritz."
"Then what does the ring mean, if it isn't an engagement ring?" Willie Rae wanted to know.
"It means that Sharon loves me, mama."
"It just doesn't make much sense to me, Brenda Leigh. Do you even love this woman, or are you just afraid to be alone and latchin' on to someone available?"
"Of course I love her," Brenda protested vehemently. "Very much. I made the decision to try to change our relationship, not Sharon, and it doesn't have to make sense to you. Maybe we'll have some sort of marriage ceremony, maybe we won't, but I know that Sharon's ring and Sharon's promise is better than a legally binding contract signed in blood from anyone else."
"Can I see it?"
"See what, mama?"
"You wanna see my ring that doesn't make any sense to you," Brenda sassed, fiddling with the object in question; the solid weight of it was already a comfort.
"Brenda Leigh," her mother warned in that parental tone that is familiar to toddlers and teenagers everywhere.
"Fine, mama. I'll email you a picture of my ring, ok? But I have to go; I'm supposed to be workin'."
"But Brenda Leigh…"
Brenda cut her mother off. "You might be havin' a crisis about my new relationship, but I most certainly am not. What I am doin' is tryin' to solve a murder. If you have any more questions, why don't you think on them a while and we can talk this weekend."
"This weekend!" Willie Rae spluttered.
"Yes, mama, this weekend. It may be hard for you to imagine, but I have quite a bit goin' on right now; plans to finalize for Friday, Christmas shoppin', crazy ex-husband, and I still have a job to do. I'll send you that picture of my ring. Bye, mama. Bye, now."
Willie Rae hung up with a huffy: "Bye, then." Brenda groaned and let her head hit the desk, for real this time.