DISCLAIMER: This is a love story about two consenting female adults. Can't handle it, don't like it, don't read it. We're just borrowing Dick Wolf's characters for fun; we aren't making any money from it.
AUTHOR' NOTE: When two writing heads get together in a round robin...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
It's Gotta Be Love
By Katherine Quinn & Adrienne Lee
101. PEP TALK
I have your signature on the consent form. I should be happy. But I'm cautious in my optimism. Something just doesn't feel right. Like maybe you're not really competent to make a contract? You think, Cabot?
Then I begin reading the document for the first time. "MOM! The release part has nothing to do with Trevor's car! It's about holding you harmless."
"And you, my dear." My mom reminds me. "But don't worry, Trevor won't be pursuing a claim against Olivia. He can afford the little extra insurance much more than his father finding out what he's been up to. Meanwhile, we have a little extra insurance holding her to rehab."
I can't believe what I'm hearing. Insurance? I suppose Trevor could make her pay whatever his insurance company doesn't cover Then there's the other, "You know about his liaison?"
"A mother always knows." She smiles, and pats me on the knee. "Now, let me have the contract."
"But," I try to argue. "It's unconscionable."
"You're being too soft-hearted." She tells me, while removing the pages from my hand, "If you want to win this battle, the first thing you need to get rid of is scruples."
"But, Mom " I try and fail yet again to not sound like I'm ten. "It's just not right."
"How many people do you see in this room, Alexandra?"
"Three!" What does that have to do with anything?
"Now, are you going to testify in court against me for coercive tactics?"
"Well " I don't really have a death wish, but
"Don't even think about it, Alexandra," she scolds. Mom obviously knows me too well. "You have to con a con, to out hustle the hustler, so to speak."
"But Olivia's not a con."
"Oh, but yes, she will be one." She presses on, full of certainty. "You don't know what addiction does to a person. And not even realizing that she has a problem makes her the worst kind of addict."
I suppose I sigh.
"Listen, Honey, we're fighting for a person's life here. We need to win this however way we can."
"I just feel like I laid a trap for her."
"You didn't, I did." Always the voice of reason, my mom. "Besides, didn't you see the smile on her face when she saw your smile? She wants to do this for you. I know she does."
I open my eyes and I feel someone holding my hand. Is it you? Please be you, here, holding my hand. I let my eyes open and I'm more than a little disappointed to see Elliot sitting there, holding me.
I want it to be you.
"Hey," he says.
"Hey," I mumble. I feel a little more coherent. Enough to look around, at least. For the first time, I can see my leg, which is wrapped in bandages and sitting up on a pillow. I see the tubes running into my arm, which is taped up. I move my fingers and I feel the stiffness in my joints.
"They're giving you some good stuff," Elliot says, pointing to where my eyes are already looking.
"Yeah," even half asleep, I know that this is awkward.
"You were in an accident," he says.
"Yeah," I say again. I vaguely remember hearing that before.
"You were drunk out of your mind," he says. "Why the hell didn't you let me take you home?"
"I wasn't that "
"You could have died."
I think he expects me to say something. When I don't, he takes a deep breath and sigh.
"Liv. Listen. You have a problem. You have a serious problem. Look at yourself right now. The car you were driving is totaled. You're lucky you survived."
"El, it wasn't "
"Look. I know Cabot's mom made you sign some rehab form."
"I figured you wouldn't even remember."
"What are you talking about?"
"You signed yourself into rehab. And Liv, you better damn well go."
"Elliot, this isn't as bad as it looks" I say, with warning in my voice. Before I know what's happening I feel his fingers on my side. Pain shoots through my body.
"That's what your drinking got you Liv. Broken ribs and a nearly broken leg. Hell, you'd be better off if it was broken, it'd probably hurt a hell of a lot less. If you fuck this up, fuck up whatever it is you got with Cabot, by choosing booze. I'll be the one to fucking kill you."
I look up and see your pale face come in the room. You slide over to us, looking suspiciously at Elliot. He gets up and nearly storms out, almost knocking you over on the way out.
"Bad day," I mumble after him.
You sit back on the side of the bed, "How do you feel?"
I smile shyly; I've got to be brave. "I'm okay but can I ask you something?"
You take my hand and smile, "Of course," you say.
"What did I sign?"
103. QUIET ULTIMATUM
Elliot came in just when my mom was leaving. Reluctantly, I introduced them. Somehow I knew Mom would tell him about the contract and the rehab. She would want to know who's friend and who's foe before the real battle begins.
Lucky for me, lucky for him, Elliot is all for the contract. If he had even thought for a second it was a dirty trick, what we pulled on you, he hid it well. Judging by the visible veins in his neck every time he looked at you, I think he was ready to strangle you with his bare hands. He'd probably drag you to rehab himself if he had to.
Then he gave me this funny look. Accusation, jealousy, relief, scrutiny or a combination of all of the above? I couldn't tell.
Then the expression turned into a funny smile, an "I knew it" smile, like he had won a bet. Maybe he had, with the guys. I hope I wasn't blushing too much. Guess staying in the closet won't be an option. Maybe it's just as well.
After I saw my mom back to her car, I came back, ready for Elliot's interrogation. But you're awake, and you two look like you're about to kill each other. He must have confronted you with your drinking problem. He might even have told you about the rehab.
Did he storm out because he was fed up with you? Or was it because I came in?
"Can I ask you something?" You say.
"Of course," I tell you, smiling, acting like you were just going to ask about the weather or who brought you the pretty flowers or something. Of course those questions would have been too easy.
Instead of answering you right away, I try to soften the blow. At least I hope it would soften the blow. "I talked to Liz earlier, and she gave me some time off. So, if you want, we can be together while you recoup."
The smile on your face gives me hope. It also reminds me why I'm doing this in the first place, not that I needed any real reminder. I sigh.
"You signed a consent form." I answer your question.
"An out-patient alcohol rehabilitation program." I tell you; I can't even look you in the eye. But I must. And I smile like we're going on a vacation to Disneyland. "My mom's going to put together a team for you. And we, you and I, can both attend."
You're going to tell me you don't have an alcohol problem, I just know you are.
"Look, Liv, Trevor's promised not to pursue a claim against you if you go..."
"I'll just get him a new car." You don't let me finish. "It's not a big deal, I've got money saved up."
"Look at yourself. You almost died." I don't bother to hide my tears of frustration and worry, or self-pity. "I can't be involved with you, wondering if you're lying to me again when you tell me you have to work late, or what you're going to do the next time you get drunk. It's rehab and be alcohol-free, or me. It's the best I can offer you."
I look at your face, and see small tears welling up from behind your eyes. You're trying to hide your pain, the pain I've caused you from bubbling out onto the surface of your face. If you can't love me as I am, I guess I'll have to change.
Right now, I can't watch you cry. I can't handle knowing that you hurt because of me, and because of what I did. I'm not even sure of what I did, the details of the accident. The last thing I remember is not tripping over my feet while I walked away from Munch and Fin. I'm guilty as hell this time, though. I was caught red handed. I'll be lucky not to go to jail. Your brother's car is destroyed and I'm totally liable. Worst of all, your heart was ripped out. It's all because of me.
I don't want to go. Rehab sounds painful. Since I know that my alcohol consumption is not as big of a problem as the rest of you seem to believe, it seems like a slightly ridiculous proposition. I want to see you smile. I want to make you happy. And if me agreeing to go is going to make you stay here, keep you holding my hand, let you love me, then I'll do it.
I guess being here, in the hospital, locked to a bed is already starting to get to my head.
"I'll go," I say.
"It won't be that bad."
Yeah, right. "Yeah." Is all I allow myself to say to you.
You look shocked, like you were ready for a fight. I'm not going to give you one. I'm too tired, and I'll do what you say. If I want you in my life, and I do want you in my life, then I'd better learn to keep my big mouth closed.
You smile at me, a deep warm smile. "Let me look at you," you say, as you gently roll the covers back. You slide the gown up my body and flinch at the bruises you find there. I can see the deep black and blues shading my ribs, and the stitches on my side.
Gently, incredibly gently, you run your fingers over them, and then you gently kiss them. I can see tears running down your eyes.
"It's not as bad as it looks," I mumble. Wanting to save you from crying.
"They're going to have to fix your ankle," you say, gesturing. Your fingers are still gently hovering over my chest. You're not looking at my eyes, anymore. You're staring into my bruised flesh, finding patterns on it with your fingers. "You tore a ligament."
"What'd Elliot say?"
"That I better not fuck up."
"Sounds like him," you muse, with a smile.
I agree with you and we settle into a silence.
"It'll be worth it Liv."
I hope you're right, I hope it is.
I'm surprised, no, shocked, that you're agreeing to rehab so easily. I was prepared to fight or plead with you; I was even prepared to walk out on you.
Are you agreeing just to shut me up, because you're too tired for an argument? Or do you really want me to stay?
And how badly are you going to want me to stay when withdrawal starts? And what about when they put you in therapy and make you talk about your mom, your childhood, your job, and all the other things you probably wouldn't want to talk about? I can't help but wonder.
I can't help but wonder why I love you. Your potential? Your compassion towards the victims? Your fight for justice? Your beauty? Your smarts?
Why am I willing to stick this out with you, while I wasn't willing to forgive Abbie for a single infraction? Why?
I look at you, and I hurt.
The marks on you reminds me of us, of the love between us. All battered and bruised. I wish I could kiss them away, so you'll stop hurting.
I hope the other marks will fade just like the ones on your body will.
I hope I learn how to walk this fine line. Of having enough hope, to keep loving you. But not so much hope that my heart will break the first time you disappoint me.
You don't know how hard it is for me to live one day at a time. I'm so used to planning, so used to being prepared, to have everything under control. I guess now I have to learn.
I hope I can. I hope I do.
I try to wipe away my tears with my hand before they fall on you. I don't know why I'm crying now. You already said you'll go into rehab, and all your physical injuries will heal in time. I only know that in the span of less than four days, I cried more than I ever had in my entire adult life.
Why do you have this effect on me?
I tell you it'll be worth it.
What is this "it"? Your being clean and sober? Our love? The future we might have?
Is the statement as much to convince you as it is to convince me? That you're worth it?
I hope you believe me, that we both do.
I hope I'm right.
Honestly, I can't remember much about the next few days. Morphine mingles with my blood, and it's not until they unplug the drip that I'm finally sentient.
We sit together for hours. Smiling, you hold my hand, you lie next to me on the bed, gingerly careful to not touch me somewhere that's bruised and broken. We talk about nothing, you read to me from a book you say you love; pieces of the story mingle with the pieces of my waking existence. I feel my eyes opening, seeing you there, feeling you hold my hand, seeing you sit by me.
As I get stronger, you're there to cheer me along.
You're here with me when they made me sit up for the first time. I could feel the pain in my chest, barely breathing, begging to lie back and let the pain cease. You help support my back and let me lean on you as they try to teach me how to stay off my busted ankle. You make me play with the breathing toy they give me, making me keep the ball above the line for at least the ten seconds that the respiratory therapist recommends. You watch over me and make sure I eat all the jello they provide, which seems to be in endless supply here.
You push my hair around my head, you make sure I'm tucked in, you make sure my every whim is taken care of. You're proud of me like you're proud of a child. All the tiny accomplishments that come, you celebrate with me. Like a cheering section.
Like the most annoying cheering section at the worst game in the whole world.
Not to sound ungrateful, or anything, but you're driving me insane.
Every time I turn around, you're here, in my face, asking me if I need anything. I want you to just back of, just for a little while. I want silence for ten minutes.
You've been acting so strange. You seem almost guilty. And in your guilt, you're treating me more and more like a child that you have to care for than someone you love.
As I get more and more conscious, I get the pleasure of meeting your mother, again, and again, and again. She stops by to remind me that I'm an alcoholic, she comes by to remind me that I signed her contract, and that she owns me. She comes by to remind me that you deserve better than an irresponsible lush. I'm really getting to love your mom.
I've given you my life. I gave you my life while I was only semi-conscious.
I hate you for doing that to me. You couldn't wait? Wait till I was aware of what I was doing?
I've promised, promised you that I'll go. Promised you that I'll try, and I will. But for the love of God.
107. NOT WORKING
The first few days, when you were still subsisting on morphine, it was bearable. It was new. I can't remember the last time I took a vacation, and I enjoyed spending time with you, watching you sleep, reading to you, or just laying next to you on your hospital bed.
When your doctors and therapists decided that you're strong enough to sit up, to try to walk, to take bigger breaths so you don't catch pneumonia, I'm right there. With you. Cheering you on. All the way.
You've got to understand, I have no idea how to take care of a person. I can't even take care of myself when I'm sick. All right, I'll admit it, I'm spoiled. S-P-O-I-L-E-D. Have been for my entire life. This taking care of you 24/7 is beginning to drive me insane.
Especially since you don't seem to appreciate all the things I'm trying to do for you. To show you that I care. That I love you.
I promised you I'll be there for you, I promised myself the same thing. That's what I'm going to do, God willing. That's what I'm going to do, even if it kills me.
And it's killing me. I need court. I need to see other people. Grownups. Not an NYPD detective who's acting like a petulant child most of the time. God, there were times I wanted to slap you silly, like when you refused to take a break when you and I both knew you're tired, that you should rest. What's this? A competition? With whom? For what?
And your jello. I don't know how you eat that stuff. I don't know how people can make people eat that stuff. So there must be a reason why they're putting it on your plate, why can't you just eat it? Why do you have to play with it? Didn't your mom tell you not to play with your food?
Speaking of moms, I'm about to disown mine. What is she trying to do here? I thought she was supposed to be supportive, not act like a flaming Nazi. God, I almost wish we were still operating on the "don't ask don't tell" policy. At least she didn't pop in every two seconds. And people wonder why my brother and I are still tied to the apron string. What the hell is wrong with her?
What the hell is wrong with me? With you? With the whole fucking world?
"I'm sorry, Liv, this is not working," I finally tell you. "I need a break."
"A break." You look at me like I just told you the sky is purple.
"Yes, I need to go for a walk. I haven't jogged for days. Oh, hell, I think I need to do laundry." I throw up my hands at you. "I'm sorry. I feel so bad, and I feel so guilty, since I promised you I'd be here for you, but I think I need a break, even if it's just fifteen minutes where I can go stand outside the hospital and breathe in car exhaust."
"Thank god," you say.
What? Come again?
I don't think I asked the questions out loud, but you must have heard me.
"Your hovering was running me nuts, too." You tell me, then quickly explain yourself, "Don't get me wrong, I love having you here, being with you, seeing you smile "
I decide to spare you the hole you're beginning to dig for yourself, "So you don't mind if I leave for a little while?"
You smile and squeeze my hand reassuringly, "No, not at all."
"Good, thank you." I kiss you lightly to show my relief and gratitude. Then I hear a throat-clearing noise by the door. Great, it's Elliot. Excellent.
I ask him to stay with you, then I kiss you goodbye, and I'm gone like the wind.
108. Wise Words
Elliot looks at you suspiciously as you sprint out the door like you're on fire and he chuckles to himself. Sometimes I hate him. He can look at me, and my face, and know what I'm thinking. Know what's going on inside my head. It can drive me insane.
How's it going?" he asks, as he sits down in the chair next to the bed.
"Okay?" I ask.
"So where's your friend going?"
"I don't care." I say.
"Going that well?"
"We're driving each other nuts."
"What happens when a feisty ADA and a NYPD detective get locked together in a small room..." he says, laughing the whole time.
"Yeah, I guess." I say, not mirroring his enthusiasm.
We fall into uncomfortable silence.
"So how's work?" I ask.
"It's okay." You say, giving me a half conspiratorial smile. "I'm not supposed to talk about it with you or Cabot's mom might kill me."
"Oh Jesus. Just what I need."
"She's serious Liv, that woman's out there."
"You didn't sign your life over to her."
"She wants me to take a med, something that makes you sick if you drink."
"Is that a bad thing?" he asks.
"El, come on. Maybe I have a little problem with excess, but it's not like that."
"We have to have this fight again?" you ask.
"It's not a fight," I protest.
"Liv, I can't lie to you. I can't pretend I don't think it's a problem. It really is. I don't want to have to scrape you off the bottom of a subway platform some day."
"That would be a reference to my mother?"
"Liv," you say warning me.
"I'm not like her."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course". I know better than that. I'm not like her.
"Liv, do you know the cops on the scene estimated that you were hitting speeds of nearly fifty? You're lucky to be here now."
"Yeah, everyone keeps telling me how lucky I am. I'm not that lucky. Maybe it would have been better if you guys had left me there."
"You don't mean that."
"Yeah, I do."
"Liv, you have so much. No one wants you to give up. You still here, and you have someone here with you who cares about you."
"Yeah, you're the wind beneath my butt," I mutter.
"I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about Cabot. I don't get that, I mean, what you see in her, but who you fuck's your business."
"Thanks El." I say, feeling the offense creeping into my voice.
"Look, I'm not trying to piss you off, it's just that, while you lay in here, half conscious, she sat here and held your hand. She didn't leave for three days. I don't know what you did to her but she's got it bad"
109. JUST WHAT I NEED
As soon as I reach the hallway, I see my mom. Thank god, she's talking to the nurse. Don't know if she sees me or not; don't care. I turn my heels and quickly walk the other way.
The elevator couldn't come fast enough. Finally, ground floor.
Of course as soon as that thought leaves my head, I feel guilty. It hasn't even been a week yet, and I'm already considering time away from you "freedom". Just how am I supposed to do it for another six weeks?
Just how am I supposed to do it for the rest of my life... Wait, Cabot, one day at a time, remember? You don't know if she wants to spend the rest of her life with you yet. And how can you really be so sure you want to spend the rest of your life with her?
Ugh. Too many questions, I decide, and focus on the present.
Presently, I'm looking around me, and I wonder what I should do. So many possibilities... Instead of planning, and figuring out what to do, I just start walking.
A few blocks later, I see a fruit store. Non-hospital food! I happily pick through the selections and try not to buy out the place. Finally, I'm done, and I remember there's a park nearby, so I head over there.
I sit down on an empty bench and lean back, sucking in a deep breath. All right, maybe I was exaggerating about the car exhaust. Then I open the paper bag and pull out a pear. Oh crap! No fountain, no way to wash this thing. I stare at it for a long moment, then make up my mind. I wipe the fruit with my shirt. Guess your habits are rubbing off on me. Oh well. It's not so bad, is it?
I sink my teeth into the ripe fruit. Mmm... It's sweet, it's fresh, it's just what I need. I'm feeling better already.
Suddenly a string of laughter breezes by, and I turn to follow the sound. Kids. They're wonderful if you can play with them and then take them back to their parents at the end of the day. A dark headed little girl catches my eye though. She's sitting on the swing, watching the other children play. She looks almost wistful.
I wonder if she's you when you were a kid. Most alcoholics drink alone. Your drinking always starts with the squad. Is it really just to forget the horror of the cases, so you can sleep at night? Or do you drink because you crave the company? Do you pick up guys because you dread going home to a lonely apartment, a solitary existence? I wonder...
I watch the little girl for a while. Then I decide maybe it's time for me to head back to the hospital. I have been gone for almost two hours. By now, I probably need to rescue you from my mom.
My mom. She means well, I know she does, but I think I need to have a talk with her...
"Hey, Sweetie, did you miss me?" I walk into your room, with a new smile on my face. I hold out the paper bag. "Look what I got you, non-hospital food!"
Then I notice the strained _expression on your face, and I follow your eyes. My smile dies instantly.
"Alex," she gets up from her perch. "They told me I could find you here. Can we talk?"
Elliot leaves quietly and finally I'm alone with my thoughts.
I sigh. The quiet is deafening. This room. This small room, suddenly feels very empty without you in it.
The four white walls are interrupted only with flowers you've carefully arranged together to give the room a more cheery color. The window opens onto the stunning view of another wing of the hospital. Solid red bricks fill what little I can actually see. The only sounds are the blip of the monitors that announce my pulse and respiration rate to the room.
I don't know what to do with myself.
Without your busy smile, your warm touch, I feel entirely alone. You may have been driving me insane, but without you, I feel my sanity slipping even further into the void.
I start counting the small holes in the tile above my bed.
One two .three hundred seven . Damn, I lost count.
Guess I have to start again.
I hear heels clicking down the hallway and I'm flooded with hope. I pray it's you. I pray you've come back to me.
I smile as I hear the footsteps getting closer. When the door to my room slowly pushes open, but I'm shocked at who's actually standing there.
The dark hair and the dark eyes are striking, but they look quickly around the room before they answer me.
"Hi," she says, shyly. "I heard you were in an accident."
"You you came back because I was hurt?" I ask. That doesn't make any sense. I mean, sure, we worked together, but we weren't even that close. She looks at the floor, and then at me again.
"Not exactly," she says with a guilty smile. "Honestly? I'm looking for Alex Cabot."
"Oh." OHHHH...my mind makes the connection. Is she? Is Abbie the one you? Oh my god.
"Is she here?"
"No, she went for a walk."
"Mind if I wait?"
Do I have a choice, my mind screams at me. "Not at all," I say with a tight smile. "Not at all."
Briefly, so very briefly, I look at you, and I try to read what's in your eyes. How long has she been sitting here? Did you talk? What about? Did Abbie tell you anything she shouldn't have? Did you figure out? Do you care if I go?
"Please, Alex, I just need a few minutes of your time," Abbie speaks again, making it necessary for me to do something.
"I got you a couple of those pears you always eat." I smile at you, and drop the bag of fruit in your hands. "I'll be right back."
Outside your door, Abbie waits for me. "I wonder if we can get up to the roof." She says as soon as I reach her side.
"Why don't we just talk here."
"Let's go somewhere more private."
"Fine." I tell her and walk towards the elevator. Soon we're on the top floor, where there's a little garden. "Why are you here? And what do you want to talk about?" I fire at her.
"No how's DC?" She smiles lightly.
"So how's DC?"
"You called her Sweetie."
"That's what you used to call me."
"You gave up your right to be jealous over half a year ago." I tell her as calmly as possible.
She takes a step forward. "I want that right back."
"What about DC? Your job?" Wait, why am I asking these questions? "I'm sorry, Abbie, it's too late."
"Screw DC, I can find another job here." She shrugs. "Push comes to shove, any defense firm would hire me."
"What about your principles? Your ideals?" I couldn't stop myself from asking.
"You're worth anything I might have to give up."
"You can't possibly mean that." I have a healthy ego, but Abbie has always be about justice, and she's a damn good prosecutor.
"You have no idea what kind of hell I went through the last six months." She takes another step closer. "I need you in my life."
"I'm sorry, Abbie," I stare at our feet, counting the leaves of grass shooting up between the single crack that separates us. "I'm in love with Olivia now."
"Can you look me in the eye," she tilts my chin upwards, "And honestly tell me you don't have any feelings for me?"
Right now, I hate being stuck in this bed more than anything else in the world. I wish I could stand up and chase after you, after both of you. My throbbing ankle reminds me that it's not a possibility. Standing up with the crutches they gave me is an ordealI can barely hold myself up because of the pain in my chest from my ribs. I need help. Your help. And I am helpless as you walk out the door.
I watch as you bound into the room, the beautiful huge smile on your face as you come back from your walk, fruit in hand. You look refreshed, happy. Your eyes meet with mine before they see her, and your smile is huge. Beautiful. Radiant. Obviously being away from me has done you good. You seem so much lighter. More relaxed. And then you see her. It's obviously written all over your expression that you didn't expect Abbie to be standing there, anymore than I did when she snuck into the room. At least you're surprised. At least you didn't plan this to teach me a lesson.
She smiles at you, a huge and radiant grin that fills her whole face. I can see her love for you written all over her face. She takes a step towards you, reaching, but you intentionally slide by her. I guess it's just years of experience, but I notice that you don't look her in the eye. In fact, you don't look at her at all.
You drop the bag and tell me you brought me fruit. I smile at you, but I want to ask if you're insane. Denial is so not going to work. Abbie might as well be a huge pink elephant doing a tap dance on the table. You can't help but watch.
She slides up behind you, her hand on your shoulder. "Hi," she says shyly. Jesus, I think I'm going to be sick.
You still don't look at her eye, you look at the ground while she asks if she can see you in the hallway. Yeah, see you in the hallway straddling her face.
I watch as she escorts you out of the room and I wish I could hear better. I wish I could follow you. I wish.
It's times like this that booze was made for.
So Abbie's your infamous ex-girlfriend?
I guess you have a thing for people you work with.
I shouldn't be jealous. It shouldn't burn like this in my chest. It bubbles up and threatens to take hold of me, and every second the clock tics, I can feel my heart preparing to explode.
Right now, right now you could be in her arms. Kissing her, loving her, wanting her.
I wish I could chase you. I wish I hadn't been so damn stupid as to drink and drive. Why would you want someone like me when you can have someone like her. Hell, you won't even take me as I am, you make your mother come by to make me sign a contract to change.
I wonder what happens if you and Abbie get back together; I suppose your mother would lose interest in my cause. Lose interest in my ability to change, and that'd be okay with me.
I don't think I can take this pain. I don't think I can handle this rejection. I want out of here, I want out now.
"Can you, Alex?" she asks again, a breath away.
I'm very aware of the erratic sounds of my heart pounding in my ear. In fact, too aware. I wonder if Abbie can hear them, too.
"You cheated on me." I use my only weapon against her.
"And I'm sorry." She seems contrite and totally sincere. "You never let me explain why I did it. Not that it really matters now. Please, Alex "
Yes it matters. You did it because we had a fight. Granted, I was wrong, but two wrongs don't make a right. "I can't. I might still have feelings for you, but I'm not in love with you anymore."
"You can be again, if you let yourself." She sounds so hopeful when she says that. "Look at Olivia. Forgive me if I sounded totally self-possessed, but if you put her in a suit, and give her long hair, don't you think we look kind of alike?"
So you kind of do. It never really occurred to me before. "So?"
Abbie moves closer, backing me against the red brick wall. She touches me on my cheek. "So you're going to mold her and shape her, dry her out, and turn her into your ideal lover?"
I'm too guilty to answer that question.
"Why? When you have me?" The slow deep sound of her voice sends shivers through me just like it always had. "So, does she know what a naughty little girl you are?"
If I close my eyes maybe I can pretend this isn't happening. I close my eyes.
"Didn't think so." She laughs gently. "And does she know how to spoil you the way you deserved to be spoiled? Does she touch you the way I touch you, the way you love to be touched?"
Her voice. I have to shut it out. This cannot be happening. This is not happening. I would take another step backwards but I can't. So I try to sidestep and move away from her.
She catches me. Like a helpless fish in a net, she catches me. And I struggle for air just like a fish would when her lips move towards mine, when her fingers close around my body.
"Abbie," I block her progress with my hands. "I can't. I really can't. I'm not going to cheat on her." Not like you cheated on me. There.
"I'm sorry." She moves away, hurt written all over her face. "I guess I deserve that."
"I need to go back downstairs, back to Olivia," I tell her and head towards the door.
"You know how to find me if you change your mind." She calls after me. "When you change your mind. When she breaks your heart 'cause you know she will."
Damn her. Damn you. Damn both of you.
The elevator couldn't get here fast enough. Finally, I'm back on your floor. Outside your room, I take a deep breath and make sure my original smile is back in place.
"Hi," I sit down next to you, and reach for your hand. "So, you haven't answered my earlier question. Did you miss me while I was gone?"
You come back like nothing happened but I notice that she's not with you. I feel the tiniest surge of hope fill my heart. But maybe you sent her back to your apartment to wait for you. Back to your bed. Back to the very spot that I filled only a few days ago. But of course, not since I fucked up and ended up here.
I can tell that you're a little more flustered that you want to be. Your smile isn't so genuine this time, full of fraud.
If I could get up, I would run away from here.
Run out of here and get a drink.
Jesus, what's wrong with me? Why is that always my first thought? Maybe I do have a problem. Maybe this alcohol thing isn't just something I do in my spare time. I know that they've already started medications to make my inevitable withdraw from alcohol less painful. Every four hours, I swallow the anti-anxiety medications that keep my body from shaking. I swallow the pills that keep my body from turning against me.
I try to push away the phantom sensations of a cold beer sliding down my throat, while I attempt to concentrate on the stream of happy words that are bubbling out of your mouth. Everything in the world is flowing forth from you. Everything, of course, except mention of the fact that you just walked out of here with Abbie.
I watch as you pull out a ripe pear and take a bite. You smile at me and offer me one, but I'm not particularly hungry. I push myself up, wincing as I feel my breath escape from my chest. You reach for me, pushing a pillow behind me to support my back. How can you sit there and take care of me. Sit there and pretend.
I interrupt you with, "What'd she want?"
You look confused for a second; you're chattering about the beautiful fruit in the market stops quickly. I can see your face paling before my eyes as the blood rushes out of your cheeks. Not a good sign.
"She just wanted to talk."
"So she came all the way up here from DC just to talk to you for ten minutes?"
"Yeah, I guess."
So we're going to play this game huh? I'm too tired for it. Too tired to deal with lies and platitudes. "So, you, fucked her?" I feel at least a tiny bit justified when you almost spit the pair all over me. "You don't have to answer that," I say. I've already got my answer.
"We dated, a long time ago." You tell me looking at the floor.
"Yeah," you mumble.
"Well then, what'd she want?"
"She was just in town." You say, this time looking at me with a smile.
"Yeah, yeah, she probably wants you back." I say with a smile, trying to lighten your mood with a joke.
"Yeah," you say again.
You look like you're turning green.
Green isn't your color.
"And?" You ask me.
"And?" I ask you back.
"Why are you still here?"
"Because you're here?" I know I'm answering your questions with more questions, and I try to keep the uncertainty from my voice. But I simply can't help myself. I try again, smiling at you, and meeting your eyes this time. "Because you're here."
Now it's your turn to look away, "If you want to go, go, you know I can't stop you. I'm stuck here."
"But I don't want to."
"Why?" You're looking up at the ceiling, out the window, anywhere but at me. "She loves you. She's so in love with you it's obvious to a blind man."
I laugh, sinking my forehead into my hand.
You don't see the bitterness in my amusement. "What's so funny?"
"To ask me why I'm here, you must be blinder than a blind man," I say, teasingly, except it comes out sounding more like an accusation.
"You don't love me," you spit back. "If you do, you won't try so hard to get me to change. You wouldn't have sicced your mother on me while I was half conscious."
"Look." Audibly, I sigh. "I'm really sorry about my mom. I wanted her to wait until you're awake, and lucid, but she insisted, and she wouldn't leave until you signed. I'm sure you know by now there's no arguing with my mom."
For a moment, you seemed like you want to say something, to disagree with me perhaps. In the end though, you know I'm right.
"I don't want you to change, Liv," I tell you sincerely, "I really don't. I just want you to be whole. To be cured of a disease; to stop being so self-destructive."
"Oh, to be all that I can be?"
Why do you have to be so damn sarcastic? Self-protective mechanism perhaps? Guess one of us has to be defenseless; guess I'm it. "Yes, to be all you can be, for you."
"And you, I'm sure." You're back to staring at the ceiling. "I'm sure your mom doesn't want you dating a drunk; and I'm sure she isn't going to be too wild when she finds out everything else about me."
"No, she doesn't want me dating a drunk," I tell you the truth. "But if you were just my friend, even just my colleague, she would still try to help you."
"Right." You don't sound convinced, but you seemed willing to be. At least you're looking at me again. "What about Abbie?"
What about Abbie? I want to ask you back, like I've been asking myself since my flight from the roof. What about Abbie. "Can I be honest with you?" I ask you.
"By all means," you say, bracing yourself for the worst.
"I was happy with Abbie, when we were dating. She was everything I've ever wanted in a lover, everything." I think out loud, trying to resolve my feelings. I can't look at you, but I do; I need to see your reaction. I'm sorry if my revelation hurts you. "There was a time, I was so in love with her, in love with the idea that she loves me so much. But it was selfish, you know? It was all about me, what she did and could do for me. All right, it was also about what we can do together for the society, for justice, so it wasn't entirely selfish; at least that's what I'm telling myself. With you "
"I know your job will always be your first obsession. I'm only asking to be second on your list of priorities, above booze. I can't tell you why I'm here. I can't tell you why I never could see myself grow old with Abbie, or anyone else before her "
I try desperately to read your expressions. Do you know what I'm trying to say? What I'm trying to explain? Are you going to laugh in my face?
You don't know what you're doing. You want to be second? I don't think you've ever come in second for anyone.
You certainly could never come in second with me. My job is important, but my job doesn't sleep next to me at night and keep me warm. It doesn't welcome me home with a smile. My job is my life because there's nothing else there to fill the void, no one to go home to, and living a solitary life is easier when you have an obsession to fill the time. And when I don't have the job, I can find comfort in not living in my own head. Booze is an escape, from my life, from my problems, from being alone.
I wish I could believe that you loved me for me. Love me for me. Not for the person you imagine I could become. I've lived on my own for so long, so close to the edge of the cliff, and you want to pull me back and keep me safe. I'm not sure I can live without the constant feeling of falling. Of feeling alive.
You tell me you love her. I know, without you telling me. I can tell by the way she looked at me, the way you ignored her. I can tell because I imagine the same happiness shows in my eyes when you float into a room. As you talk about her, about what you had together, the ceiling becomes more and more interesting. I can hear you going on, now, about how happy you were with her, how you loved her, how she loved you. It's ridiculous for me to be jealous of things that happened before you had even noticed I existed, but I can't help feeling that I should get out of this bed, crutch on out of this room, and find the bitch so I can kill her.
Okay, maybe that's a little drastic. And killing her would be so anti-climatic. So final. She wouldn't really get the time to suffer like I want.
Maybe I'd just claw her eyes out.
Yeah, that's what I'd do.
You sit down next to me on the bed, and kiss my hand, gently, and I can't help but smile at you.
"I love you," you say, as you kiss me on the lips. "Not her. I want you."
Just a soft gentle kiss, which I more than happily return.
Before I know what's going on, the kisses are more urgent, faster, you're crawling up onto the bed, closer to me, closer to my lips, your body pressing against mine. I smile as I notice you carefully avoiding pressing into my damaged ribs.
Your smell is intoxicating. The softness of you pressing against me. We're making out like teenagers here in this hospital bed, when I hear a voice.
So you're not laughing at me. That's good.
Still, you look like you needed to be convinced that I choose you. Meanwhile, I feel like I've already bared my soul; I'm not sure what else I can say.
Wait, you believed me last time when I kissed you and told you I love you. Maybe you will again. So I kiss you, and tell you it's you I want.
That small kiss somehow seems so inadequate. So I try again, putting everything I can't put in words into a single kiss. Hoping to show you just how sincere I am, with this kiss.
Before I knew it, I'm climbing into your bed. I'm straddling your hips, trying to avoid all the tubes you're hooked up to, trying not to press too hard against you.
God. Kissing Abbie had never felt like this.
This is so wrong, a little voice tries to tell me. We're in a hospital, you're hurt. But this is so, so right. I don't care where we are, I just don't want this to stop.
I can feel your hands sliding around my waist, I can hear the rushed sounds of our heavy breathing, the fevered whimpers and moans from our chests.
I can hear my mother's voice calling me, "Alexandra!"
"Mom!" I raise up abruptly. You groan. I realize I'm sitting on your thighs. "Sorry." I smile apologetically and scramble off of you.
"What in the hell do you think you're doing in Olivia's bed?"
"But mom I thought you approved?" I want to further defend myself until I see her staring. I follow her gaze and look down. Oh my god! I throw you an accusatory glance before turning around and closing my shirt in a hurry. Just how did you do that?
My mom doesn't wait for me to put myself back together. She never does. "Do you think you can let her get up and around before you get her flat on her back again? Don't you see the machines hooked up to her? You can cause her more damage than whatever temporary pleasure you might give."
Right now, I really prefer the "don't ask don't tell" policy, even my mom's version of it. I just wish I could crawl under your cover. On second thought, under the bed.
"And you, Olivia," she turns her indignation towards you. "I thought you'd have more sense than that. What are you going to say to your doctor when he asks you how you broke another rib?"
She doesn't give you the chance to reply either. Poor you. We must look like a couple kids caught with our hands in the cookie jar. You certainly do.
"Nevermind, this is not what I'm angry about," Mom pulls up a chair and sits down. "Do you know who I ran into in the hallway before I came in here? Abbie, Abbie Carmichael."
Wait, I didn't realize she knows Abbie. How? Doesn't matter, Trevor's so going to die.
"The poor girl gave me her number and told me to call her day or night, and she'll come immediately to pick up the pieces should you get your heart broken." She rants as if you're not even in the room. "Just how many more do you have stashed away that I don't know about?"
"None, Mom." I manage to keep the whine from my voice. I just wish I could cover your ears. "Abbie's delusional. I told her earlier I'm not taking her back." God, why me? Poor me! Woe is me!
"What have I done wrong?" Like the annoying Energizing Bunny, she keeps going. "Your brother thinks he's in love with his twenty year-old stepmother, and you're a womanizer."
"Twenty-five mom, she's twenty-five." I tell her. "And I can count the number of people I've been with and still have fingers left over, I'm not a womanizer. Why are you doing this to me?"
Okay, I really think I'm going to die of embarrassment.
I don't care if it's never happened before. There's a first time for everything.
I can feel my face warm and I remind myself that I don't blush. Blushing is something that you would do. Not me. So why am I turning red? My face is burning now, well beyond the warming glow, hot from the mortifying idea of getting caught with you by your mom.
Could the woman please think any less of me? I'm already an alcoholic in need of her help. She practically owns me, and now, she's standing over us, with disapproval in her eyes.
Would it be possible for something more horrifying to be happening?
I hear her voice, piercing through the sounds of our heavy breathing. You jump off me so quickly that you forget that I'm supposed to be recovering here, and you manage to press into my rib which fills me with sudden pain. At least the pain's better than looking at your mother's face. It gives me a reason to shut my eyes.
I try to focus, to concentrate, but your mother's not mad at me. Finally. She is however, scolding you in an angry voice.
I concentrate on breathing, barely hearing her telling you that you're acting like a teenager in heat, when I remember that I had my hands in your shirt while you were kissing me. I unbuttoned that shirt. God damn it. I look over at you and I see that it's definitely open.
Then I see you notice your shirt is wide open, just about the same time as your mother realizes it.
You quickly recover, pulling it closed around you. I really wish I could get out of this bed. I want to hide, anywhere, and not be here. Even under the bed.
She tells you that I'll break your heart. Hell, she's probably right. She's told me that every day this week. Alcoholics are all the same, she says. Like I'm not in the room. Like I can't hear.
And then she tells you that Abbie left her number. In the last hour, I'm really starting to hate that name. And to think, once we got along. I guess that's not going to happen anymore.
Your mother only wants for best for you, or so she says. I wish it weren't so clear to her that I wasn't it. I don't want to cry, but I can feel tears welling up. I push my hand over my eyes.
I can't take this. You see the tears in my eyes, even though I don't want you to. I can see that you're torn, torn between defending me and loving your mother.
"Mom, hallway, now." I hear the anger in your voice. I turn my head, feeling another tear sliding down my cheek.
"What the hell is wrong with you, mom?" I realize I'm yelling at my mom and swearing at her. The whole damn hospital including you can probably hear me. At this point, I frankly don't care. She's been mean to you this whole damn time, and she's supposed to care. "Why are you doing this to me? To Olivia? You're supposed to be helping her. How is your disapproval going to help?"
"Do not confuse the issues, Alexandra, they're totally unrelated," she scolds me, with barely restrained anger. "You're a lawyer, you should know better."
"Don't tell me how to do my job, Mom!" I keep yelling. "You have no right to treat her like you've been treating her!"
"You're right, Honey." Suddenly, she smiles. She smiles like we weren't screaming at each other in a hospital just seconds ago, like nothing has happened.
Huh? What am I missing?
"I've been waiting for you to grow a backbone." She tells me. "If you're willing to stand up to me, now I know you have it in you to help her. And if you're willing to stand up to me for her, I know how you feel about her."
"What?" I can only say.
"If you do have other lovers or ex-lovers stashed away, would you please break up with them properly?" My mother continues, not smiling. "I really don't appreciate being accosted in the hallway, by one of your besotted ex-girlfriends, and treated like I'm your answering service."
I think I'm going to be sick. "I'm really sorry, Mom, about what Abbie did to you." I add, just to be clear which issue we're talking about. Just so she knows what I'm apologizing for.
"Now about Olivia." She drops her voice. "I don't know that she will break your heart, I hope she doesn't. But there is such a thing as reverse psychology. And maybe she'll just try this much harder to prove me wrong, and stay away from the alcohol."
She might have a point. "But I don't think this is going to work on her. I think all she hears is your disapproval, and she just feels so much sorrier for herself." I'm finally back to reason.
My mom has also returned to her normal patient-caring-Mom self. "Alcoholics. They all feel sorry for themselves about something. Well, everyone does, I suppose, but they especially do. From what you told me, I don't see any reason why Olivia should feel sorry about herself."
You had a rough time growing up with an alcoholic? I want to defend you, but then I remember my mom also did. That you're a product of rape? But I'm not sure you really feel sorry for yourself about that. Just why are you the way you are? Is it really the loneliness? Or is there something more?
"Look, Alex," she puts her hand on my arm, and raises her voice again. I guess just in case you're listening, she wants you to hear. "Whether or not you're going to break up with her after two months, or spend the rest of your life with her, it's really not up to me, aside from the fact that I want her sober. And I want her sober for her sake, as much as it is for yours."
"I know that, Mom, and I try to tell her that. But I don't think she believes me."
Mom sighs. "Then maybe I've been handling it wrong. Maybe I need to change my tactics." She's back to whispering. "This is just the beginning. It's only going to get harder, you know."
"You know I'm always on your side, right?"
Hasn't felt like it for the last few days, especially the last twenty minutes. Still. "I guess."
Then she puts on her disciplinarian-Mom face. "Now, if you want to act like a common whore, please do it in your bedroom, and not a hospital room," she says to me.
Before I can come up with my own defense, not that I have any, she's the kinder-gentler-Mom again. She smiles, almost teasingly, and step into your room.
"I'm sorry if we started off on the wrong foot, Olivia." I hear her say to you.
I'm alone again, sitting in this room, feeling sorry for myself. I'm really starting to hate these four white walls, the coldness of them. Even if they are interrupted with your attempts to make this room not quite as depressing, I'm still very aware of the white walls and sterile environment.
I want to go home. I want to go back to my apartment where I can feel sorry for myself without being under a microscope. Where I'm not victim to whoever happens by, and every moment with you can remain uninterrupted. I want to be somewhere that I can be unwatched. I don't want to feel like a delinquent child anymore. Someone who has to be taken care of, watched over, and prevented from making the "wrong" choice.
I can barely see you and your mother, through the corner of the door frame. You're obviously fighting with her. Fighting about me, my worthlessness, how I'll ruin your life.
I can barely hear your voice, coming to me from beyond the doorway. The words are not discernable, only the sounds of your voice, angry sounding. I wonder what you could be telling her. What you could be saying.
I see her walk back, towards the door and I try to pretend that I haven't been straining to watch. I slide back into staring at the wall as she approaches the door. "I think we got off to the wrong foot." She says. I see you slink back into the room, embarrassed, a step behind her.
What is it about mom's that can make even the most professional woman turn back into a little girl? Do you think I can't see the power she has over you? The power to make you feel like a child? Like my mother always could. Of course, my mother was more interested in pointing out all the ways I had ruined her life.
I smile at her, trying to be noble. "No, no." You can't help being an overbearing bitch.
"Olivia, you have to understand where I'm coming from. I grew up in an alcoholic family. My father, Alexandra's grandfather, was an alcoholic. I know the pain they can cause."
"Yeah," I mumble. I know the pain too lady. But it's not the same for me. Drinking is not something I do lightly, it's an escape. An escape from things that are too much to bear. It's an escape from reality, a chance to feel like everything might end up okay. Why does it never end like that?
"Yes, dear, I know all about your mother. This is a disease that runs in families. I want more for you, Olivia. Not just for my daughter. I know that if you can win her heart, you must be someone worthwhile. And right now, this is your big chance to change. I don't want you to waste it."
And all this time I thought it was my life to waste
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