DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is totally speculative - no real spoilers beyond Season 4 - and takes place during the five year leap.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Liz Estrada
Near midnight on a Thursday, Bree Hodge sits at her kitchen counter and pipes delicate pearls of icing onto a heart-shaped cookie. By the time she's done, that crunchy little vanilla and lavender canvas will subtly mirror the intricate beading of Hannah Kistler's wedding dress (designed by Stella McCartney, as Hannah is wont to repeat). Bree twists the pastry bag, dots down the tiny #1 nib, and voila! The thing is done. Laid on cooling racks covering the room's every flat surface are two-hundred and twelve similar cookies, all gowned in glistening white. The icing will set overnight, then, in the morning, she will bed the cookies in tissue paper and box them with tuxedoed mates.
Several hours of hard focus have left Bree's vision blurry; she rubs tension from her brow and shakes the feeling back into her hands. She wants a glass of wine, and perhaps some company, but wine is out of the question and company is rather scarce at the moment. Most Wisteria Lane residents have already retired to bed, and no one honestly enjoys midnight phone calls from a tired, lonely friend. At times like this, she hates this immaculate, awful house, rendered empty and silent as a tomb since her family scattered on the wind.
Orson Hodge, per their separation agreement, has an apartment across town. Her son Andrew lives near the country club with his new beau, the golf pro. Daughter Danielle and her husband Peter live nearby as well, but are currently vacationing with little Benjamin, spending two weeks in sunny Bermuda. Magnet-pinned to Bree's steel Viking fridge are three freshly-printed pictures of her grandson splashing, running the beach, and building pink sand castles with his mother.
It stings Bree to remember tiny Ben clutching her finger, snuggled against her in sleep, though the maternal ache fades more quickly these days. Improbably, Danielle has become a good mother and a happy wife, and Bree hopes the marriage will last, mostly for Benjamin's sake. Danielle could always find another man, but Peter seems to love the boy, despite the occasional worrisome comment that he'd like children of his own someday. For in-laws, they get along well enough, partly because Peter is good-natured and oblivious; he cannot sense that Bree watches him like a raptor, ready to snatch out his eyes should he prove false. Somehow, during these thoughts, her fingers have clenched into fists. Bree slowly flexes her hands open and drags a thumb over Benjamin's photograph.
She surveys her day's work and finds it satisfactory, then wonders whether the lemon-ginger groom cookies are fully dressed. Wallace Hardee's wedding suit (designed by Tom Ford, as Wallace is wont to repeat) is not a terribly unusual tuxedo, with its knotted tie, pleated cummerbund, and onyx fasteners. The only standout feature, which could prove taxing to replicate with sugar, is the mauve rose boutonnière. Bree picks up her phone and dials her business partner for a progress report.
Katherine Mayfair answers on the first ring. "What took you so long?" she asks, by way of a greeting.
Bree stiffens, freezes, and melts cool again, all in a breath. As with those Ben-related pangs, her emotional processing of Katherine-related annoyance has been streamlined for efficiency. "May I take that to mean you've finished?"
"You may, indeed." Katherine pauses for a sip of Pinot Blanc. There's an audible clink as her tulip glass grazes the phone. "Two-hundred and twelve perfectly attired Wallace replicas, all tart and spicy and secretly homo, ready to join their saccharine brides."
Weary of hearing 'Wallace is gay' jokes from Andrew, Bree leans against her counter and heaves an impatient sigh. "You mustn't let Hannah hear you say such things."
Katherine's laugh burbles down the line, and it sounds oddly bitter. "Oh, please. I'm sure Hannah already knows, on some level."
"I'm more worried about her embarrassment when she realizes that everyone else knows," Bree explains. "Her father the publishing tycoon - is paying us a princely sum to cater this farce, and he's willing to hear our cookbook pitch. I think throwing in a little discretion, gratis, would be good for business. Don't you agree?"
She can almost hear Katherine rolling her eyes. "Fine. I assume Andrew is under a similar gag order."
"The outing moratorium extends to all staffers. Everyone will project joyful credulity until the last reception dish is cleared. If the Kistler-Hardee honeymoon collapses like a queered soufflé, that's not our concern," Bree says. "I'll have cashed the check by then."
"How very mercenary, Mrs. Hodge," Katherine purrs. "Eyes on the prize."
It takes a moment for Bree to remember that coming from Katherine, this is not an insult. "I take this business very seriously."
"I'll say. Calling me at midnight to nip at my heels, make shertain I've done my work... very serious."
Katherine barely slurred that single word, but it's enough to make Bree worry. "How much have you had to drink?"
"Not nearly enough. Come over and we'll polish off the bottle."
Bree wants oh dear God, how she wants to say yes. Instead, she suggests a sober final review of kitchen duties and supply lists.
"Christ. You Presbyterian twelve-steppers are no fun," groans Katherine. "I'm suddenly feeling very sleepy."
"Some coffee and a snack will perk you right up," Bree insists. "We can sample each other's cookies."
After a moment, Katherine snorts loudly into the receiver and begins to laugh. Bree, late to her own double entendre, merely flushes pink and shakes her head.
"Actually, that might perk us both up," Katherine says, with one last naughty sigh. "I'll leave the back door unlocked."
Katherine isn't drunk; it would take more than a quarter bottle of mild-mannered white to effectively blunt her senses. She's had just enough to chamfer the brutal edge off her mood, enough to make her maudlin instead of cruel. During the cookiethon, she texted Dylan twice to inquire about exams, and even thought of calling Adam in Chicago that's how much she's had. Katherine isn't drunk, but she's had enough to make her forget that Bree Hodge keeps a bronze four-year sobriety medallion in her handbag.
She still feels pretty stupid about that gaffe. Bree, typically, didn't dwell on it. She doesn't seem to enjoy embarrassing anyone, even Katherine, unless they're well and truly begging for it.
The coffee maker has just begun to drip when the back door hinge howls like a squeezed cat (Katherine won't oil it she considers it a reliable entry alert), and Bree clip-clops into the kitchen. She carries a legal pad, a gold Cross pen, and two bride cookie samples swaddled in tissue. It's past twelve on a weeknight, after a day of backbreaking tedium, and Bree is wearing pearls. Her trouser legs still bear a drill sergeant's crease, and her apple green twinset looks fresh from the cleaners. And the hair good lord, that doll-red hair diamond shining and metrically straight, seemingly parted with a laser level. The aggregate makes Katherine wonder at her own hubris; how did she ever dream of matching, let alone exceeding, this woman's lust for precision?
Katherine is ponytailed and barefoot, dressed in jeans and a Tech sweatshirt Dylan gave her. She wears neither make-up nor jewelry, save the Breitling chronograph she uses to limit time spent on each task. She's still organized and disciplined, but Katherine doesn't torture herself over inconsequential things, not since she killed Wayne Davis on the living room floor. She's found that a dash of chaos can leaven the soul.
"These look absolutely wonderful," Bree says, as she leans over the breakfast table to examine a finished tray of tuxes. She inhales deeply and smiles in aromatic rapture. "And they smell like heaven."
This is nothing Katherine doesn't already know. Still, it's a rare epicurean benediction from Fairview's own Pope Bree, so Katherine thanks her. She sips her wine and breaks out a cheeky grin. "Alright, lady. I've shown you mine. You show me yours."
Bree snaps one whip-like brow, and the corner of her mouth twitches. She unwraps one bride-side wedding favor and slides it across the kitchen island. Katherine reaches for it quickly and brushes her fingertips over Bree's knuckles, just to make her flinch (Katherine gets a perverse little thrill every time). Disappointingly, the redhead barely reacts at all. Maybe she's finally onto that game.
A careful evaluation of the cookie reveals that Bree has a peerless eye for detail; every pearl, every seam, every Cornelli-style lace eyelet evokes a feature of Hannah Kistler's prized gown. A closer inspection of this cookie might reveal hints of clinical insanity, but Katherine's diagnosis can be summed up in a single word. "Genius," she says.
On the island's opposite shore, Bree scribbles on her legal pad. Her smile flickers and vanishes like a late summer firefly.
Katherine sniffs the fragile perfume of lavender beneath vanilla, and takes a bite. Her teeth slice through delicate royal icing and sink into buttery flesh. A neat crumble tickles down her neck. The gentle mingling of flavor skates across her tongue and a burst of want leaps inside her mouth. She shuts her eyes and awaits the dissolve, the melting finish...
"I used too much lavender, didn't I?" Bree asks, and Katherine wants to slap her for interrupting the first moment of bliss she's known in ages.
"It's beautiful." Katherine swallows and washes the morsel down with the last of her wine. She fixes Bree with a thumbtack stare. "I know you know it's beautiful. Feign modesty with someone else."
The corner of her mouth creeps up and Bree sways a bit. It's the first time Katherine has seen anyone swagger while standing still, and it's kind of cute. She refills her wine glass and takes a sip.
Without waiting for an invitation, Bree snatches up a tuxedo cookie and takes a bite. Teeth grind and chip, mashing the flavors to easily processed pulp. Tongue presses the mass against the roof of her mouth and analysis begins. Eyelids flutter. Jaw clenches. Entire porcelain-skinned face tightens, momentarily lifting her hairline. Bree's tongue does a fast sweep along her bottom lip, as if fleeing a riot. "My goodness," she finally says. "That's a real kick in the pants."
Katherine cracks a grin. "Subtlety was not my goal. Wallace wanted something bright and sharp."
"Well, you've baked him two hundred samurai swords. He should be thrilled these are outstanding."
With a sly wink, Katherine raises her wine to mutual admiration and knocks it back. Bree shifts uncomfortably and clears her throat. "Is the coffee ready yet?"
They sit at opposite ends of the sofa and play worst case scenario what if Sheila doesn't deliver the cheese? - what if Raul's tomatoes turn out to be Juliets instead of Sun Golds? - until they run out of bad ideas. Considering their respective dark imaginations and lack of faith in wholesale suppliers, this takes quite some time.
Bree's had two cups of coffee and Katherine's wine bottle sits empty on the rug. She tips back the dregs of her glass and admits to herself that she's drunk. Then she admits it to Bree.
"I am thoroughly inebriated."
"Yes, I know." Bree drops her legal pad on the end table and stretches her back. Something pops between her shoulder blades, and she moans in sweet relief. "Are you ready for some coffee?"
"Hell, no." Katherine kicks lightly at her friend's knee. "Let's call Hannah and tell her Wallace has been arrested outside The Manhole!"
"Stop it! We'll do no such thing!" Bree yelps. But she's laughing. Just a little. "Besides, a young man like Wallace would go to Q Lounge - elegant atmosphere, adequate menu, and it's co-ed."
Katherine beams at her, looking almost proud. "Listen to you. One gay kid and you're ready to publish a Michelin guide to queer bars."
"You know... you could be onto something." Bree wags a finger and jots down a quick note for later reference. "I've been looking for a project to work on with Andrew."
"Pssshh. Forget Andrew if you're going to do some research, you should take me with you."
Bree chuckles nervously. "To what end?"
"Well, unlike Andrew, I won't get in trouble talking with pretty, nice-smelling boys. They'll spill the inside story on everything. Plus, I get crazy MILF attention from the lesbians," Katherine explains. She sinks back into the sofa cushions and lets fly a guttural, lascivious laugh. "So would you, in the right outfit. I'm thinking naughty librarian."
"Katherine! You're awful!" Bree cries, blushing, even as she puffs up from the flattery.
After basking in laughter for a few moments, Katherine randomly turns thoughtful. "I can't believe Andrew hasn't moved away yet. Fairview is hardly the most exciting city for a young man of his particular tastes."
"Hmm. It can feel a bit claustrophobic at times," Bree agrees, at first. "But it's home. When you've lived your entire life here, it's hard to imagine existing anywhere else. What about you?"
"Are you asking if I'm I bored in Fairview?"
"Well, you've spent a lot of time away. Don't you find yourself missing the metropolitan hubbub more these days, now that Dylan's away at school?"
Katherine's eyes flash toward the back door and beyond, toward the wooded spot where a stone cross scars the ground, where the child of her blood sleeps. "Dylan's here. She'll always be here," she says. "I won't leave her alone again."
By the time Bree reaches for her hand, Katherine is reaching for her wine bottle, which is empty. She sits up, shakes it, then rolls it off the rug and across the hardwood floor. It clunks to a stop against the fireplace hearth. "Bottles are too small. Maybe I'll get a box next time."
Bree settles alongside and drapes an arm across her shoulders. "You don't need more alcohol," she says, and squeezes in tight. Her hand drops lower and rubs warm circles into Katherine's back. "You need sleep."
Katherine's eyes slide shut as she absorbs these proximal pleasures: the stroking hand, the heat of a thigh, the soft and rising breast, the perfume of rose and cedar... it's lovely. It feels so good having someone close, letting someone touch her, that the words seem to tumble off her tongue. "What I really need is a lover."
The massaging hand stills at the nape of her neck. She waits for it to vanish, but there it remains, patiently waiting.
Her fingers light on Bree's leg, slide to the inside of her knee and take hold. Press and release in a tight, slow pulse.
There's a chill in the room as the clock strikes one, though it passes while the chime fades.
If asked, Bree would have said that Katherine kissed her first, even if it wasn't true. There are certain things in life she feels responsible for; others, not so much.
Juanita Solis' death? Not her fault. Covering up Andrew's part in it? Yes, indeed.
George Williams' suicide? Not her fault. Failing to prevent a murderer from ending his own life? Most certainly.
Initiating sex with an intimate friend and business partner? Not her fault. Rolling with it once it got started? Well... that's a fair cop.
On the sofa in Katherine's dimly lit living room, swaying on her knees with Katherine's wine-soaked tongue in her mouth, Bree feels drunk enough to turn in her AA chip and start all over again. Her hands move of their own accord, sliding under clothes with no genuine destination, wandering like aimless, mellow hippies across the landscape of American woman. Her dexterity, however, remains intact; she defeats a bra closure with only two fingers, and skillfully measures the weight of Katherine's hidden breast in her hand.
She likes the taste of Katherine's throat. Pliant and smooth, savory beneath her tongue, flavored of salt and sour. She likes the fitful strength of Katherine's hands kneading her bottom, mussing her hair...
She keeps waiting for the fear to kick in.
There's a tug at the waistband of her slacks, and nails scratch low on her belly. Bree shivers and opens her eyes. Katherine, dark-eyed and red-lipped, is watching her, evaluating this response.
This is the point of no return. The fear still isn't kicking in.
Bree leaves the sofa and heads for the stairs, up to Katherine's bedroom.
At four, Bree slips out of bed and gathers her clothes. At the bathroom vanity, she lifts a hand to smooth back her wild hair and smells Katherine on her fingers. Her pulse quickens, and she fights the urge to lay them on her tongue. She washes her hands, takes two freshening wipes and cleans under her arms, then gingerly attends between her legs. She dresses in the dark, and her clothes don't glide on easily. Her skin is very warm and slightly tacky to the touch.
Tacky, she thinks, leaning against the basin and silently laughing at herself. We're well past that, my girl.
She feels swollen, tender all over and alien inside. Her machinery is running at three-quarter speed, like someone drained out Bree's proprietary blend and overfilled her engine with a more viscous grade.
She scarcely recognizes her own mirrored silhouette. The reflected woman appears softer, somehow, melted around the edges.
For a moment, she imagines returning to the bedroom. A kiss before parting, as if this honeyed folly might someday recur.
In the next moment, she imagines Katherine's cold stare, a mocking laugh and dismissive words, and she trembles.
Bree doesn't want to risk falling any lower tonight; she has too few rises left in her.
At four-ten, Katherine wakes with the squealing back door hinge.
She rolls to the center of the bed and bends a pillow across her face. Molecules of sweat and Caleche parfum stowaway on an inhale. She breathes in again, more deeply, and holds her lungs full until they ache to empty.
She bites her lip and stumbles across a trace of organic tang. Folds her lip inside and strips it clean. She wants more, knows there may never be more, and it's horrible. Humiliating.
She thinks of screaming into the hypo-allergenic cushion, then chides herself for being dramatic. What she feels is merely shame and apprehension, not agony.
Though it wasn't her intent, Katherine knows she's created another secret for Mrs. Hodge and Mrs. Mayfair, another bond between them and another wedge because it's never just one or the other.
She lets out one ridiculous tear. If Bree can't face her, wants to end their friendship or exact some petty revenge, then so be it. Risk is often chased by consequence.
Still... it was almost worth it, Katherine thinks. But next time, no wine.
After a bitter laugh over this optimism, she rips the sheets from the bed and turns the mattress. Launders the linens while running a bath.
She decides to make a fresh pot of coffee and box up the groom favors before breakfast. Deliveries begin mid-day, and the wedding starts at eight tonight.
They'll talk when it's over, if they talk at all.
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