DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Bomb Girls movie (fucking travesty that it was)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To djshiva[at]gmail.com
If The Sun Were Only Mine
By DJ Shiva
Kate Andrews had never quite overcome stage fright.
Oh sure, after a few minutes of the band taking flight she could feel her voice stop shaking. Once she hit that point, her voice filled her head and that was when she finally stopped thinking and just started being.
But for those moments before, her stomach would flip and her legs would shake so badly she thought for sure she would come crashing to the boards, a flailing mess of red hair and shimmering fabric. It was as terrifying as it was strangely exhilarating.
She had never thought about it much before, when she was singing on the streets. Always her mind had been occupied with notions of angels, trying to make her voice reach as far as heaven, while the discordance of her father's vilification scraped against the notes.
And for a while, she didn't think about singing at all after she and Betty well, after her father was killed. When drink had been her solace and the music in her head was nothing more than a dull static roar.
But onstage, with the spotlight bearing down on her, the nervousness was overwhelming. Even now, weeks into her first tour, it was an effort of concentration to take those first steps up to the microphone without taking a spill.
It was not lost on Kate that the real reason she had managed to get through those first shows was by imagining Betty McRae smiling proudly in the back of the room.
Even now, her mind couldn't seem to stop conjuring Betty's spirit even when Kate knew she was probably right that moment sitting on the couch at the new house with her feet up on the table, a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other. She dropped her head a bit to hide the smile that sprung to her lips at the thought of Betty in her dream house, and just as quickly the thought turned bittersweet at the missing of her. And that was the moment when the butterflies in her stomach dropped and her skin began tingling with a warmth that didn't come from the stage lighting.
When Kate looked back up into the lights and moved into the chorus, every soul in the room felt the skip in their own hearts as she found her voice and let it soar.
She was sitting at a table between sets, staring at her glass with her brow furrowed in thought, when a deep voice snapped her out of her musings. He was good looking and courteous when he asked if he could buy her a drink so she found herself saying yes. She had been so contemplative lately, and just a little bit lonely, so the company of a gentleman sounded like just the thing to knock her out of her reverie of late.
Except it didn't. And when he smiled and asked if she would like to go for a walk and see some of the city, she found herself looking away, then responding before she could stop herself.
"I'm I'm sorry. Thank you so much for your wonderful company, but " She lifted her head and squared her shoulders. "I have someone. Back home." She looked him in the eye, with equal parts determination and apology.
"Well, Miss Andrews, that is one lucky someone." He tipped his cap with a sheepish smile and took his leave.
Kate sat there for a moment, a little bit shocked at herself. She had meant to tell a little white lie, something kind to turn him down gently. But she knew the moment she said it that it didn't feel like a lie. It felt like the truest thing she had ever said.
It went on like this for the rest of the tour. The nerves and then the thoughts of Betty in the crowd and the nerves disappearing as she opened up her heart and poured it into her singing. The crowds grew in proportion to her confidence.
And as her confidence grew on stage, so it grew in a social setting. Every night there were young fellows who wanted to talk with her. Quite a lot of them she found attractive, and many of them very nice and perfect gentlemen that she would chat with and even sometimes have a dance or two. She enjoyed the attention and mostly enjoyed the company, but none of them really made her stomach flutter or her heart beat faster.
She was beginning to enjoy being less of a wallflower and more of a social butterfly, but at the end of the night, inevitably one of the fellows would ask to see her again, and before she could stop herself, she was saying it.
"I have someone. Back home."
And every night, clutching a hotel pillow as she tried to sleep, her thoughts would drift to the same thing: home. And Betty.
It had not been long after they moved into Betty's house that Kate realized that Betty wasn't sleeping. She would smile and brush off Kate's questions, but the dark circles under her eyes and the occasional stumble were enough to give it away.
Walking down the hallway one night after getting home late from the studio, Kate had heard Betty's voice from behind her bedroom door. Knocking quietly at the door and receiving no response, she was about to turn back and head to her room when she heard a quiet plea, the fear evident in Betty's voice.
Kate weighed her fear of upsetting Betty with the possibility that something was really wrong, and decided to err on the side of making sure her friend was okay. She quietly opened the door to find Betty tossing and turning, mumbling incoherently in her sleep.
She walked over to the bed, whispering Betty's name in the hopes that she could calm her fears, and while she stopped thrashing about quite so much, the furrow in her brow remained and she was still quietly pleading with her nightmare.
Without thinking, Kate lifted the covers and slid in behind her friend, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her tight. She whispered soothing words as she slowly stroked Betty's hair with her other hand, smiling a little when she felt the body next to hers slowly relax. She remembered all of the times Betty had been there for her when the worst of the dreams overtook her, and was glad to do the same in return.
It felt so much like old times, when things were so much less complicated, and though she had not planned on staying long, Kate drifted to sleep with a smile on her face.
When Betty woke up to find Kate tangled around her, she started to panic and moved as if to rise. The arm around her waist tightened, and a sleepy voice told her "Go back to sleep, Betty. You had a nightmare and I stopped it." Betty thought she sounded kinda proud of herself, truth be told. She smiled to herself and laid her head back on the pillow. "Well, if you're gonna be all bossy about it "
They never talked about it, but the nightmares continued, and from that night until Kate left for her tour, she never spent another night in her own bed.
Looking out over the crowd at her homecoming show at The Jewel Box, Kate was happy to see so many familiar faces from VicMu. Of course, the conspicuous absence of Vera and Ivan still elicited a sharp pang in her chest that brought to mind so many memories, but as her eyes met Betty's she took a deep breath and held her chin a little higher.
As she felt her stage fright moving to the back of her mind, a different kind of nervousness overtook her. Betty's face was filled with pride and her eyes shone with joy and in that moment, all of the thoughts that had been roiling in Kate's head throughout these few months coalesced into one singular realization. It was then that Kate truly knew exactly why her pulse suddenly kicked in her chest and her skin was suffused with a tingling warmth.
She ducked her head to hide a blush, stifling a smile as she heard the band launch into a current favorite. When she looked back up, straightened her shoulders and began to sing, even her friends who had heard her so many times knew they had never heard her like this before.
"Here I go again;
I hear those trumpets blow again;
All aglow again - taking a chance on love.
Here I slide again;
About to take that ride again.;
Starry eyed again - taking a chance on love."
Kate felt like she was soaring. Here at her favorite haunt, with all of the people she truly cared about here supporting her, she was in her element. She had never felt quite so strong and quite so sure that everything she felt was right and true.
"I thought the cards were a frame-up
I never would try.
But now I'm taking the game up
And the ace of hearts is high."
And there it was. That moment where there was nothing else but the music and the feeling of her voice as it erupted from deep inside, and as everything in the periphery blurred into a fog, her eyes found Betty's, and saw everything she felt reflected back at her.
"Things are mending now;
I see a rainbow blending now;
We'll have our happy ending now
Taking a chance on love."
Of all the accolades and compliments she had received throughout the tour, none of them meant as much to Kate as the ones from the rest of the VicMu girls. You could see how much it meant to them that one of their bomb girls was a singer, with a record and everything. She spent a good 30 minutes hugging and talking to everyone, smiling so hard her face hurt from the effort.
Betty hung back of course, smiling and letting Kate talk to her fans. She was probably the proudest of all of them, but she was pretty sure that fact was already obvious, so she just enjoyed watching everyone else fawn all over the redhead.
That didn't stop the twinge in her heart when a handsome young man approached Kate, hat in his hands, asking if he could have a dance. Betty turned away to grab her glass and head to the bar for a refresher, missing Kate's eyes following her as she did.
Kate smiled kindly to the young man. "I'm pretty tired from the show, but I would sure appreciate a drink!"
Kate watched Betty chatting with the VicMu girls while she waited for the man to return with a drink. When he did, she made idle chatter, nodding and smiling when appropriate, almost as if she was a part of the conversation. But her mind was elsewhere, so many of the thoughts that had been roiling around in her head throughout the tour beginning to coalesce into a realization that she had seen coming, but had not really thought through until now.
"Miss Andrews, are you okay?" Kate snapped out of her reverie to see the young fellow looking at her with concern. "I'm sorry, but you seemed somewhere else."
She blushed, caught drifting off in her own thoughts.
"So sorry, I didn't mean to be so rude. It's been such a long tour and I'm a little tired, you see." She tried to give the handsome soldier her attention along with her apology, but her eyes scanned the room looking for Betty.
She caught the eye of Gladys, who smiled softly, and cocked her head toward the stage door. Kate turned to see Betty putting on her coat, looking like she was going to quietly disappear out the back door. Her heart fell.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" She had remembered that she was supposed to be listening intently to whatever this young man was saying, but as she looked him she realized he was standing up with an apologetic smile.
"I can tell I am taking your time away from...someone you would rather be spending it with, Miss Andrews." She started to apologize again, but he lifted a hand to stop her. "It's okay. I know when someone's heart is already taken." He tipped his hat with a glance in Betty's direction and a kind smile. "Thank you for your company and for such beautiful singing."
Kate's face reddened, a little embarrassed at her rudeness, but also a little exhilarated. There had been no judgment in his voice, only kindness. She knew full well not everyone was as kind, but was still happy to find it in unexpected places, and a part of her was even glad to have her feelings recognized by someone, even a stranger, and respected as her own. She jumped up out of her seat in time to catch Betty walking out the back door.
Kate's voice stopped the blonde as she was walking toward the end of the alley behind The Jewel Box. She inhaled deeply and let it out slowly as she turned around.
"Where are you going? Why are you leaving so early?" Walking up, she grabbed both of Betty's hands with a smile. "And don't tell me you have to work because I know you have probably your first day off in forever."
"And you know this how?" Betty drew back her head and lifted an eyebrow.
The smile she got in return was stunning. "I checked your schedule on the refrigerator when we dropped off my luggage, silly. So, you don't have to go, not yet." She tried hard to keep the pleading out of her voice, but only half succeeded.
Betty found in hard to breathe when the redhead really turned up her smile to full wattage. She started to speak, and then laughed nervously.
"I...I know. It's just "
"Are you all right?" Her blue eyes grew serious. "Have you been sleeping okay...without me?" They had never really talked about the nightmares, or the sleeping arrangements, and Betty was taken by surprise both by Kate's demeanor and her forthrightness. Something had definitely changed in her, and Betty felt her heart swell with its usual pride, but more than that, with admiration. Where normally she might have dissembled, she found herself responding with equal honesty.
"I'm okay. Still having some nightmares, but they're better. Honest, they are."
Kate squinted her eyes, looking at her as if she wasn't quite sure whether to believe her, but since Betty rarely wanted to admit to any weakness at all, took her admission as a good sign and decided to trust.
"Okay. Just checking. I thought about you a lot."
The blond dropped her head, hiding a blush. "Really? Didn't you have your hands full with all the fellas wanting your attention all the time."
Kate shrugged off the question. "There were always people around, I guess. But...I missed you." She smiled again, this time more shyly than before, as she gently squeezed Betty's hand.
Betty felt strangely nervous, caught between complete panic and the new emotion behind Kate's eyes that she couldn't quite discern. She knew something was different, but she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was.
She shook her hands out of Kate's grasp, nervously searching her pockets for her cigarettes. "You've got fans. Tons of people want to talk to you tonight. I don't wanna get in the way." She found no cigarettes, but kept her hands in her pockets and shuffled nervously. "Besides, you'll see me at home."
"I want to see you now."
Kate inhaled slowly before boldly stepping into Betty's space, as surprised brown eyes looked up directly into blue. She gently touched Betty's cheek, never breaking her gaze, exhaling sharply as Betty leaned into her touch. A completely new feeling raced under her skin, her eyes glancing down at Betty's full lips as she moved even closer.
Betty's eyes grew impossibly wide as she realized what was happening. The energy between them had changed to something wild and unexpected, and this time it was Betty who broke the spell.
She moved away from Kate in a panic. She had no idea why or what to do, she only knew she had to get out of there. "I'm sorry...I just...I can't "
Before Kate could stop her, Betty turned and ran from the alley. Kate couldn't help feeling like somehow, in the grand scheme of things, she had that reaction coming.
Kate had quickly said her goodbyes, excusing herself as too tired from the tour to last the evening. No one questioned her early departure, but Gladys gave her a wink and a smile as she left that made her think that everything could be okay. She just needed to be honest, with herself and with Betty, and hope they could make it through that, whatever the outcome.
When the taxi pulled up at the house, she could see that Betty's little bedside table lamp was still on. She paid the driver and rushed up the walk to the house. Putting her key in the door brought a pause, the realization that for now, she was where she needed to be, and she couldn't help but smile.
She was terrified, but she was safe.
She dropped her keys on the table near the door and wasted no time heading toward Betty's room. She gave a perfunctory knock before slowly opening the door. She didn't want to barge in, but she wasn't going to be put off by a closed door, either.
"Betty? Are you awake?"
"Yeah. I'm here."
She opened the door fully to see Betty sitting up against the headboard, still in her clothes from the night out. She put out her cigarette in the ashtray on the bedtable without looking up.
"Can I sit?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Betty scooted over on the bed to make room as Kate sat down.
"Why did you run away, Betty?"
Betty snorted out a short laugh. "Wow, when did you get so direct?" She finally looked up and met Kate's eyes. She was absolutely terrified, but something in the blue eyes held her gaze: a soft confidence that was new, but comforting all the same.
Kate smirked. "Well, you see, there's this girl I know, back home " She playfully poked Betty in the leg and they shared a laugh for a moment before the silence and the discomfort seeped back in.
"I got scared." Betty looked up, her jaw tensing as she struggled with the words. Kate reached over and took Betty's hand in hers, but said nothing, knowing how difficult it was for the woman to admit any weakness. "So much has happened, and I convinced myself that I was okay. With everything."
She pulled her hand away as it all came out in a rush. "I've had to fight my entire life, and then I met you, I didn't want you to have to fight, too. I convinced myself that I could be something more for you. And then I convinced myself that all I could do was fight for you. If that meant going to prison, so be it. And then I did, and now I am scared but I can't stop fighting, and suddenly you're here and you are looking at me like I...like I wanted you to look at me and I don't know why you would want someone that's broken."
Kate lifted the blonde's chin to bring them eye to eye. "You told me I wouldn't have made it, that prison would have destroyed me, but you forget, Betty. You forget that I survived. I know what it's like to feel broken, and I survived." Betty saw a fierce determination set in those blue eyes. She couldn't look away this time. "You survived, Betty. Not just prison. You survived knowing who you are while everyone told you that who you are is wrong. And you not only survived, you are the most amazing person I know. But you deserve to be happy."
She took Betty's face in both of her hands. She could see the woman fighting back tears.
"You've always told me I was safe. When have you ever felt safe, Betty?"
Betty turned her head into Kate's hand and kissed the palm."I feel safe now."
"When we're finally safe, it's okay to stop fighting."
Tears finally broke down Betty's face as she choked out a quick laugh, recognizing her own words. She looked up into blue eyes ringed with tears of their own, and suddenly she understood what she had seen there earlier. It was the look of someone who knew herself and what she wanted. It was the look of someone looking at the one she loved.
She was still processing that thought when soft hands pulled her closer. Her eyes fluttered shut, as Kate drew close enough to feel Betty's stunned question against her lips.
"What are you doing?"
The redhead breathed the answer into her kiss. "Coming home."
Note: The song from The Jewel Box is Taking a Chance on Love (Benny Goodman): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E65N6d_vBVw
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