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I Don't Need Anymore Friends
By Misty Flores
Cindy Thomas, looking weak and frightened and just so very young, stared up at her with impossibly insecure eyes and asked her if they were still friends.
Jill had always thought of Cindy as a kid: impetuous and at times annoying, with youthful enthusiasm and energy.
At this moment, in a hospital bed, taking shallow breaths and afraid of being left alone, Jill simply sees her as young.
The tenderness that warms within her doesn't surprise as much as it hurts, because they're by themselves now. Lindsay has gone to meet Mr. Perfect Muffin Man, and Claire has gone home to her family. Cindy has a stuffed animal and some get well cards, a mother and step father flying in, and she has Jill.
For someone like Cindy Thomas, it doesn't seem to be very much at all.
It does; however, seem to be exactly what Cindy needs. Cindy needs her here. Without Jill she'd be alone, and Jill knows what that's like.
When Cindy asks her to stay, Jill doesn't mention that she had absolutely no inclination to leave. She doesn't say that she's actually grateful to be asked, because it means Cindy wants her here, and it seems incredibly important to feel wanted by this girl.
Jill doesn't take a chair, but instead sinks down onto the bed, hip nudging against Cindy's covered feet and takes hold of a soft, chilly hand, restricted by an IV line.
For once, Cindy doesn't speak. She only stares at her from underneath those luxuriously long lashes, and looks so grateful her eyes sting with tears.
She didn't tell Cindy that they're still friends, when Cindy asked. She kept quiet, because at this point, she knows Cindy is not a friend.
Her fingers trace gently along the curve of Cindy's wrist, and she sits with Cindy because Cindy asked, and it doesn't feel like friendship.
What it is beginning to feel like, Jill's not quite ready for.
Cindy's mother is the type of woman who dresses impeccably, wears designer handbags and Manolo Blahnik pumps, and aside from her dark auburn hair, looks nothing like her daughter. She clicks her way into the hospital room with her second husband, a sweetly plain man with glasses and a slight paunch, trailing behind her.
By this time, the medication has overtaken Cindy, and she's fallen asleep, still clutching onto Jill's hand and never letting it go.
This is how Jill Bernhardt meets Maureen and Clarence Mitchell; on the bed, with their daughter's hand tangled intimately in hers, in the middle of brushing a red bang away from Cindy's dry forehead.
It's not surprising when Maureen immediately infers she is a good friend. It is a little startling when Jill realizes, as the quiet questions begin to probe, that she is being interviewed as if she is the latest of Cindy Thomas' love interests.
She's a lawyer, and a good one, and therefore makes a good impression, doesn't give away in any shape or form that Maureen has just accidentally outed her daughter. She remains polite and careful and obviously concerned, and the result is Maureen liking her quite a bit, spilling all sorts of worries and secrets about Cindy like Jill should already know them. Cindy works too hard. Cindy accelerated two grades in school and had trouble making friends and used to read so much because books were her replacements. The death of Cindy's father shook her very hard and she hadn't been in a serious relationship since. She had a cockatiel named Toby as a child, and when it died, she cried for two days and refused to get another pet. He used to whistle Spice Girls songs.
It's past midnight, and visiting hours have long since been over, when Jill finally departs. Claire leaves the light on for her and a plate of Velveeta mac 'n cheese in the microwave, covered in plastic wrap.
When Jill visits with Claire and Lindsay the next day, Cindy is somewhat more coherent, fussing with Jell-o and picking at peas. She's tired, but she makes an effort, joking good-naturedly about Lindsay's lovestruck haze and scribbling a quick thank you note for the travel Monopoly game and Get-Well card that Nate and Derek have sent with Claire.
Still, she looks almost grateful when Claire and Lindsay are called away to a crime scene and her parents head down to the cafeteria. She looks at Jill with an impish smile and then says in an amused but weak voice, "Mom really likes you. She says you're a keeper."
It's actually the first time that Jill remembers making such a favorable impression on a mother, and finds herself oddly pleased.
"I'm a keeper, huh?"
"You're hot and successful and sane." Cindy arches a droll brow. "That's a keeper."
"Don't tell her the truth," she finds herself saying. "We wouldn't want to disappoint her."
"You'll be sorry you said that," Cindy says, in between a medicated yawn. "My mother is crazy."
She drifts asleep, and when Maureen returns, Jill is once again on the bed, holding her daughter's hand.
As she leaves, she kisses Cindy's forehead. For Maureen's benefit.
Maureen gets a hold of her cell phone number from Cindy's blackberry and asks her to lunch. They eat at the Swan Oyster Depot, after waiting a half hour for a little spot on the crowded counter to open up, and Maureen asks about her work and then asks about Cindy. She expresses worry about Cindy when she is discharged and more or less directs Jill to move in with Cindy to take care of her.
"I'm aware I'm meddling," she said, over a salad of crab meat and prawns over iceberg lettuce. "But she wouldn't ask you herself and Cindy is just so stubborn. I know you haven't been dating very long. I'm not familiar with all the slang, but from what I understand the term is something of a 'u-haul'. But she was shot in the chest! It's not 'just fine', no matter what the idiotic doctor tells me. I need someone I trust to watch over her."
"And you trust me," Jill says, both awed and oddly disturbed by the leap of faith.
"Cindy does," she says firmly. "And there's no one else."
Later that night, she informs Claire that she'll be moving in with Cindy.
"You sure you two can live together?" Claire asks, but looks instantly relieved, though her friend is too kind to ever admit that.
Jill isn't sure. "I already told her mother I would," she said, neglecting to tell Claire why her mother would think it even appropriate to ask. "I guess it's too late to say no."
"Good luck," Claire tells her, and Jill thinks they'll need it.
When Jill and Lindsay pick Cindy up from the hospital, Maureen gives Jill a million instructions and Lindsay, having heard the whole 'Three's Company-esque' story, listens with a big, cheesy grin on her face.
For her part, Cindy apologizes profusely and bemoans her embarrassment at her meddling mom and a joke gone too far. Jill simply grabs onto her hand and holds it, shutting her up with a smile and a squeeze, saying she's been looking to move out of Claire's anyway.
Lindsay catches her eye in the rearview mirror when she notices the tangled hands, but Jill only stares back, and gives her friend absolutely nothing.
After a few seconds, Lindsay looks away.
Cindy has small, perfect breasts. She doesn't wear a bra around the apartment because she's so perky and small she doesn't need them. Jill realizes this on the first weekend at home, and comes quite close to them when Cindy, red-faced, and looking miserable, asks for her help with a bandage that she can't quite manage to change herself.
"That's what I'm here for," Jill reminds her, and then helps Cindy pull off her t-shirt, whispers reassuring words, and keeps her eye on Cindy's stitched wound, smoothing the medicated salve over the healing area and then carefully stretching the clean bandage over Cindy's towel-rubbed dry skin.
Cindy's nipples are erect, and she's breathing very shallow. Fingers stretch over impossibly soft skin and accidentally drift against the curve of one bauble, and equally breathless, Jill just apologizes.
"That's not what I'm here for," she jokes awkwardly, and then finds herself staring at Cindy's mouth, and lingering.
The phone ringing breaks the moment, and she leaves Cindy to put her shirt back on.
"My mother's birthday is coming up," Cindy says, as they sit side by side and eat Chinese take-out. "She asked if you were coming with me."
She sneaks a look at Jill, looking frightened and almost hopeful, and when Jill snorts and nearly chokes, Cindy flushes red.
"This is ridiculous," she says. "We should just tell her. I should have just told her when she told me what she thought."
"It's not a big deal," Jill answers, after sucking in a gulp of water. "Do you know how rare it is for a mother-in-law to like me?"
"Exactly. She likes you. She keeps liking you more. When I finally have to tell her that a) our relationship is fake or b) we fake break up, it's going to kill her."
"You don't have to tell her," Jill says, and it's a stupid reassurance, because clearly, she does. Cindy's expression shows her own befuddlement.
"Jill, if she thinks we're still together, then when I go home, she's going to start talking about civil partnerships and 2.5 kids."
It's so utterly domestic and frightening, and then Jill has no other reaction but to laugh. Her sudden chortle results in Cindy's eyes widening, and after a shocked silence, Cindy starts laughing too.
She stops when her lungs expand for air and her stitches stretch in complaint. The laughter turns into a pained gasp.
Immediately Jill takes the fast food out of her lap, and presses her palm gently over Cindy's, between Cindy's breasts.
"Are you okay?"
Before she can answer, Jill kisses her.
She's gentle and firm, and utterly relieved and astounded when, as she moves to pull away, Cindy follows her with her lips, and kisses her back.
Jill is used to fast fucks and senseless sex: in the months after her break up with Luke, that is what she does.
Cindy is still recovering, and she is frail and weaker than usual, and there is no place for fast or senseless.
Jill makes love to her gently, rubbing fingertips over her nipples, over a flat stomach and between her legs and pressing kisses against her lips and her throat, blanketing Cindy with her naked body and moving slow, so slow.
Cindy touches her back - her hands are everywhere, and she searches with her fingers like she probes everything else: thorough and relentless. Even when Jill enters her, Cindy's hands are smoothing up and down Jill's back, her tongue is licking underneath Jill's earlobe, her breasts are rubbing against Jill's chest.
Jill grabs hold of a hand and tangles her fingers into it, holding on tight when Cindy finally comes.
Later that night, Jill curls on her side, spooned into a smaller girl. Cindy Thomas, looking weak and frightened and just so very young, stares up at her with impossibly insecure eyes and asks her if they are still friends.
"No," she answers, and doesn't wait for the flash of fear to pass through Cindy's eyes before she draws her lips to her face with fingers on her chin, and says firmly, "We're more than friends."
"You're never getting rid of my Mom," Cindy answers breathlessly, when they part lips.
"It's okay," she assures her.
Jill decides that she's ready for that.
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