DISCLAIMER: The characters of Helen Gamble and Eleanor Frutt are the intellectual property and creation of David E. Kelley and others not myself. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am very thankful for the valuable beta assistance (and moral support) given me by Dru. Any errors grammatical and otherwise are entirely my own.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Moving Forward Through Necessary Interruptions
By Spectral Delivery
Prologue: Losers Keepers
As soon as Helen heard Eleanor lock the door behind her, she let the box of books she'd been holding slide to the floor. They'd been opening boxes, putting things on shelves, and tossing things in the trash ever since the movers finished bringing Eleanor's boxes and furniture into the apartment. There wasn't a muscle in her body that wasn't strained, and she didn't have a single nail that wasn't chipped, if not actually broken. God, she hated moving.
All in all, the front room didn't look too bad considering the differences between hers and her new housemate's taste. Still she wasn't sure she'd made the right decision. Decision, right. Letting Eleanor move in was more an act of desperation than anything resembling a choice. Thanks Lindsay, for leaving me the apartment of my dreams with a rent no one on a civil servant's salary could afford.
Helen let loose a long sigh and headed for the kitchen. If she remembered right there was a bottle of something red in the corner cabinet behind her grandmother's mixing bowls.
She found the wine, a 2001 bottle of Catena Malbec in the cabinet next to the refrigerator, close enough for a government worker. The bottle opener was found in its usual drawer, and she took a glass out of the dishwasher, which had been doubling as another kitchen cabinet. Why did she think Eleanor would object to that little house keeping habit? Could it be because each of Eleanor's boxes had included a neatly labeled inventory pasted to the top flap, and why hadn't Lindsay told her Eleanor was a neat freak?
Helen poured herself a generous glass of the Catena and held it up to the light before giving the glass a quick swirl and sniff. The wine was colored a near purple and it put off the plum characteristic of good Malbecs. Definitely promising. She brought the glass to her mouth and tasted tannins nicely balanced against fruit. Excellent.
She and Lindsay had picked up the bottle at a wine tasting a year or so ago. Did Eleanor like wine? Eleanor seemed more like a hard liquor kind of woman. Not that Helen objected to the hard stuff, but there was something nice about coming home to a glass of red.
And that was the problem or maybe the question, not the wine so much but the coming home. She'd grown used to coming home to a friend, someone far more than a rental necessity, which was why a part of her was pissed as hell at Lindsay, for the abandonment, for leaving her for Bobby, for leaving her for Bobby freaking Donnell, her ex-boyfriend. That was what people called insult to injury. But another part of her was happy for Lindsay. Bobby and Lindsay fit in ways she and Bobby never had. Leaving her happy and unhappy for Lindsay, which was yet another conundrum and Helen hated conundrums. She hated puzzles. She despised mysteries. She liked facts, evidence, and certainty. So it wasn't too surprising that having no idea what would come of this latest housing crisis irritated her plenty.
Helen looked at her glass and noticed it was already half empty. Maybe another splash? Eleanor would be back from the grocery with fresh vegetables and pasta thirty minutes tops, unless she had to stop for gas, so maybe forty. Getting a nice pre-dinner buzz seemed more than fair given she'd been helping with the move the entire afternoon, this after spending the previous Saturday helping Lindsay move out. Definitely, she deserved another splash of the Catena, and maybe a little music, too.
Helen went to the stereo, or rather her college boom box, the stereo had been Lindsay's, and put on a CD. What if Eleanor hated opera? Lindsay barely stood for it, and Eleanor might hate it. See, there it was: she agreed to Eleanor's moving in far too easily. They barely knew each other except as courthouse rivals. Plus, it wasn't as if Eleanor and Lindsay got along, and they were partners in the same law practice. Usually the two of them fought like cats and . . . not dogs really, but not cats either. Lindsay was a cat, but Eleanor was something else, something angrier, but more like a force of nature. Lindsay was wily, but Eleanor was . . . emotional. Eleanor fought with her heart on her sleeve; Lindsay was all strategies and planning. Helen generally hated emotion. Also, Helen generally hated defense attorneys; she was a prosecutor after all, Lindsay and Bobby were exceptions. What was exceptional about Eleanor?
The opening of Madame Butterfly suddenly filled the air, and Helen lost herself for several minutes in the music. Lost herself until she happened to turn at the waist and feel once again the day's activities. Maybe a bath before dinner, she debated.
The debate didn't last long; her glass still in hand, Helen headed for the bathroom, the one room in the house completely settled, hers and Eleanor's things claimed to the different sides of the vanity. Helen flipped on the hot water and waited for steam to fill the air before starting the cold. She loved steam; she loved the way it felt on her skin, in her lungs. She loved being warm.
The glass of wine left on the floor, Helen stripped out of her sweats and underwear and slipped into the water, letting her head drop below the surface and then coming back up, eyes closed, every muscle in her body slowly beginning to let go, even her always busy mind beginning to shut itself down, drifting closer and closer to sleep, until something came down over her mouth. A cloth, medicinal smell, over her mouth and nose.
Something else pushing down on her chest, her eyes shot open and she saw a woman standing over her. Not Eleanor, not Lindsay. Not a woman, a nun? Her fingers wrapped around forearms trying to push away, but her limbs weren't working right, her brain wasn't working right. Something else wrong, besides someone trying to kill her. Not a nun, a man in a nun's habit.
Darkness. Cold. From somewhere far away a woman yelling, screaming. She fought to stay inside the cloud confusing her thoughts. Waking up would take her further into the cold. Hands pulling at her limbs. Someone yelling, screaming, no longer screaming at her. Yelling at someone else. Eleanor yelling at someone, not her.
She drifted downward, her thoughts scattered, tripping through memories, fixing on a memory of she, Eleanor and Bobby standing outside the court house in a cold rain, she and Bobby arguing about a case, some drug case Bobby as usual claimed was based on corrupted evidence. Eleanor was standing quietly holding up an umbrella, and she'd moved to stand closer, edging further under the umbrella, letting Eleanor's body guard her from the wind that was tunneling down the street.
Another memory of she, Lindsay, and Eleanor at O'Malley's having a drink. Lindsay and Eleanor were buying because she'd lost, lost mostly because of a bad evidence collection by a rookie cop. There had been gloating, a lot of gloating, and then some ass accidentally dumped his drink down her back. Ice cold gin and tonic soaking into her blouse. The ass attempting to apologize, but also, amazingly, seeming to be trying to cop a feel. Eleanor stepping between her and the ass. Eleanor dropping her coat over her shivering shoulders.
Eleanor's hands on her shoulders, pulling her up out of the water, Eleanor saying her name, her eyes opened and she saw Eleanor's face hovering above, white as a sheet, and then someone else, someone coming at Eleanor. Time moving forward in fits and starts. Eleanor letting go, Eleanor and someone struggling. The sound of glass shattering. The quiet.
Helen reached for the sides of the tub and pulled herself out of the water. Shivering, she stepped out, stepping onto tiny shards of glass. She stumbled forward and caught herself on the doorframe. Far away she could hear Eleanor talking, pleading, crying. Talking, pleading, crying to someone. A man's voice, she knew the voice. Something wrong, something very wrong.
Moving through the door, stumbling down the hallway to her bedroom, going to her nightstand, then going back to the hallway. So cold, freezing cold. Her feet numb. Hands shaking under the weight.
Stumbling into the front room, she saw him holding a knife on Eleanor, and Eleanor pleading for her life. She would never remember pulling the trigger, or the sound of the gun discharging, or George Vogelman falling to the floor dead. She would never remember Eleanor pushing Vogelman off of her and coming off the floor, coming to her, and taking away the gun. She would only remember the shelter of arms coming around her, of being pulled close, of being made safe.
Time continued to move in fits and starts. Eleanor taking her to her bedroom, helping her to put on clothing, noticing the contrast between the pale of Eleanor's skin and the blue of her eyes, noticing the way the bedroom light glinted off the earrings that lined Eleanor's right ear. Time continued to move forward. People coming. The police arriving only minutes after Bobby and Lindsay. An evidence crew showing up with plastic sheeting. The Medical Examiner coming into her home, his face grim. It wasn't until late, until past midnight when the police finally allowed them to leave that time began to move again at its usual rate.
They were kept out of the apartment for three days, and when they returned it was as if nothing had happened, no broken mirror, no blood on the walls and floor, no overturned boxes. Helen hadn't realized Eleanor would pay people to clean the apartment, to set things right.
They were allowed back in at morning, but Helen couldn't stay. She barely had time to change into her black suit before heading downtown to fight Bobby Donnel on a search warrant. By afternoon she could have returned home, but she kept allowing things to get in the way, until finally it was early evening and there were no more excuses.
Coming down the hallway she heard music, and possibly because she was hungry, and possibly because she was tired, and possibly because she was afraid to enter a place someone had tried to kill her, to kill Eleanor, Helen didn't immediately recognize it was Puccini, Tosca, not Madame Butterfly. Coming through the door, she was surprised to smell food cooking, something with tomato, cheese, and meat. And then Eleanor came out of the kitchen holding two glasses of wine, red but not Malbec, the color lighter, possibly a Pinot Noir. Eleanor put a glass of wine in her hand and kissed her cheek. And Helen realized she was home.
Not only had Eleanor made lasagna, she'd also baked a small lemon cake with vanilla frosting, Helen's favorite. The table was set for two, and Eleanor invited Helen to sit down, where they ate dinner and talked about things, things unrelated to work. They told each other childhood memories and shared their favorite books and movies.
After dinner, they cleaned up together, putting the kitchen right, and Helen realized Eleanor was not entirely against the idea of using the dishwasher as a cabinet for coffee mugs and flatware. Watching a movie on DVD followed the clean up, and then it was late enough to go to bed.
It was past one when Helen got up, tied of turning back and forth in her bed, tired of listening to every passing car, every tree blowing in the wind, every footfall in the corridor outside the apartment. She didn't knock on Eleanor's door. She opened it, first pushing it open a narrow crack, then wider, then slipping inside. Eleanor was asleep, lying on her side.
As silently as she could, Helen padded toward Eleanor's bed. To do what? Wake her? Ask her if she was having trouble sleeping? So many questions running through her head she didn't notice Eleanor's eyes flicker and then open, she only heard Eleanor ask what was wrong. Helen wouldn't remember what she said, she would barely remember the question, what she would remember was Eleanor lifting the covers and inviting Helen to lie down next to her, what she would remember was curling inside strong arms and knowing she was safe.
The Story: Moving Forward Through Necessary Interruptions
Assistant District Attorney Helen Gamble cringed as Eleanor Frutt neatly took apart the Medical Examiner's testimony. As if it wasn't bad enough his office had contaminated the chain of evidence, the M.E. was adding insult to injury with his belligerent tone. An involuntary grin flashed on her face as she watched the M.E. unsuccessfully attempt to stare down the counsel for the defense. Never a fan of any of the partners of Donnel, Young, Dole, and Frutt, the M.E. hated Eleanor in particular and took every opportunity to goad her. Unfortunately for him, at this point in her career Eleanor was untouchable.
Since having the baby, Helen had watched Eleanor gain a new confidence, one still tempered by caring, but no longer vulnerable to those who sought to challenge her on anything from her size to her multiple earrings to her knowledge of the law. And even though Helen knew part of the reason she was losing at trial was because of this newfound confidence, Helen could not stop herself from admiring the new Eleanor.
Besides, she could also take comfort in the fact that the people's case was at best weak. The police had been able to turn up only limited circumstantial evidence. They'd not found the murder weapon, they'd not identified a single eyewitness, and their argument for motive was by no means clear. Few in the D.A.'s office were entirely convinced Eleanor's client was guilty, only supremely unlucky, and Helen's only explanation for why her boss insisted they prosecute was that it was an election year and therefore no murder could go untried. Sometimes she truly hated her job.
Eleanor tripped up the M.E. on another procedural mistake, and Helen wondered for a moment if he was going to leap out of the witness chair and attack. Gook luck, she would put her money on Eleanor any day. His face red, his hands clenched, Helen also wondered, and not for the first time, how the man kept his job. Clearly, he held some sort of power over the city's District Attorney, but for the life of her Helen could not imagine what it might be.
Titters broke out in the courtroom as Eleanor directed the M.E.'s attention to yet another mistake in his report, but Eleanor did not bother to acknowledge the laughter. There was a time, Helen remembered, when Eleanor would have been incapable of disguising her pleasure in the M.E.'s failures, now Eleanor merely nodded and moved on, the picture of cool professionalism in a dove grey suit. Unfortunately for the M.E., there was also no room for objection. Eleanor was in the zone. A quick smile flashed towards Helen was Eleanor's only acknowledgement of her triumph, and only Helen's sense of professional decorum kept her from smiling back, that and the knowledge they would be able to share many more smiles later in the evening.
Blessedly, as soon as Eleanor finished, Judge Hiller decided the jury was owed a real weekend and testimony could begin again on Monday. Barely glancing at the M.E. as he stalked out of the courtroom, Helen snapped shut her portfolio and slipped it into her briefcase. If she hurried, she might be able to nab a Chinese chicken salad from the courthouse snack bar before they sold out.
Her thoughts turning to what promised to be an unpleasant late afternoon meeting with her boss, Helen barely heard Eleanor call out to her as she stepped into the hallway. Turning around, she saw Eleanor expertly maneuvered around a group of courthouse spectators.
"What's up? I thought you had to meet with your client. Oh wait, I know, you just wanted to catch up and gloat."
"My client can stew until after lunch. I think he's innocent, but I also think he's a jerk. As for the gloating, I thought I'd save that for tonight when Zoë is there to appreciate it. I was going to ask if you wanted to grab some lunch."
Helen offered up a sly grin. "So we can argue some more about the drapes?"
They'd been going in circles for the past week over new color schemes for the front room. While Helen had been advocating for darker tones, Eleanor was pushing for something lighter. So far, the only thing they could agree upon was it was time to get rid of the glass coffee table. Although Zoë was still a month or two away from her first steps, both thought it was never too soon to be careful.
"After taking apart your M.E. I thought I might be on a roll and finally convince you of the merits of lilac."
"It's not that I dislike lilac," Helen said, taking the lead as they headed down the staircase to the building's ground floor. "Lilac is great. I'm just a little skeptical about what a lilac color scheme will look like in the evening."
"With the white panel drapes, it will look great in the evening. And think about how cheerful it will look in the morning. Everyday will be springtime. You love springtime."
It was true, she did love springtime, especially in opposition to winter, which Helen disliked entirely, her romance with snow ending at the approximate age of eight. If they did go with lilac she might be able to convince Eleanor to dump the lamp with the red shade they kept in the foyer, something Helen also disliked entirely.
Eleanor tossed out a couple of additional points in favor of springtime at casa Gamble and Frutt and Helen finally admitted, "I'm not going to win on this am I?"
Eleanor laughed. "You stand a better chance of convicting my client. But, tell you what, I'll let you pick where we're going for lunch."
They were now out on the street, swimming against the tide of court workers, cops, jurors, and sundry.
"Your generosity is underwhelming," Helen teased back. "You already know we're going to Sally's."
Sally's had recently become their favorite lunch spot, replacing the Citrus Grill, which had gone out of business, which itself had replaced Mélange, which had become far too pretentious for lunch.
"Okay, you got me on that. So, are you still jonesing for Chinese chicken salad?" Eleanor asked as she stopped for a moment to tame her long hair by arranging it over her right shoulder.
"I already have my fingers crossed for extra won ton strips."
A few strands of Eleanor's hair continued to waft in the light breeze, and Helen reached over to smooth them down, noticing not for the first time the silky weave of Eleanor's suit. Murmuring, "The material in this suit is really nice," Helen slipped her fingers down the lapel. "And it drapes perfectly over your shoulders."
Despite the warm air, Eleanor shivered. "I'm glad you like it."
For a moment the two gazed into each other's eyes, each looking at the other with expectation, but of what?
Above their heads, a noontime sun hung brightly over Boston, putting lie to predictions of continuing cloudiness. Not only had yesterday's rain clouds unexpectedly blown out in the early morning hours, leaving the sky a pristine blue, the expected high temperature had also climbed well past the predicted low-sixties.
But the two women were only marginally aware of the gorgeous weather or the tens of hundreds of office workers spilling out around them from the various downtown high rises and moving about them along the city sidewalks. Both had other things to think about. Something was happening between them. Both of them could feel it. The rhythm of tenderness that had marked so many of their interactions since before Zoë's birth was growing deeper, as was a barely concealed hunger and an almost discernible need. But neither of them was willing to speak of it. Not yet. To one it seemed unformed, too fragile, a feeling she wasn't sure she was ready to accept, a feeling she'd never expected to feel for the other. To the other the feeling seemed too risky, her heart not ready to chance being broken once again.
"We should probably get moving before Sally runs out of Chinese chicken," Eleanor whispered.
Another second or two passed before Helen nodded. "Right, I wouldn't want to miss out on my favorite salad."
They walked another half block before Helen asked, "So if I'm getting the Chinese Chicken salad, what are you in the mood for?"
"Probably my usual, a grilled chicken breast plus what ever cooked vegetable they have on hand. I can't tell you how much I am hoping for spinach." Eleanor gently guided Helen around a suspicious puddle on the sidewalk. "I got on the scale this morning and I'm now ten pounds under my original goal weight. Believe it or not, the last time I weighed what I weigh now, I was a junior in college. It's freaky to think I could actually fit into clothes I wore back then, not that I would. 1985 was a truly bad year for fashion."
Smiling at Eleanor's joke and grateful Eleanor felt comfortable discussing what she knew was a difficult topic, Helen still found the subject concerning. "That's great, but I want you to be healthy, so be careful you don't drop too much too soon, okay."
"Now don't tell me that you're getting worried I might start competing with you, because trust me that is never going to happen. I'll always be a big girl."
"That's not what's worrying me," Helen replied a little too quickly. "I just don't want you to change so fast I can't keep up."
"I'm not exactly sure I know what you mean, but I promise not to make any drastic changes."
Also unclear about what she meant, Helen nodded. "And I'm going to hold you too that."
"Even if you have no idea what you're talking about, Helen Gamble," Eleanor countered, as she started to laugh.
Helen playfully batted Eleanor on the arm. "Don't be so full of yourself. I'm probably just protein starved."
Still laughing, Eleanor picked up the pace. "Well in that case, hurry up so we make the next light."
She barely saw the car coming. One step behind Eleanor, her feet still on the sidewalk, Helen grabbed Eleanor by the arm and pulled back with all of her strength as a black sedan with tinted windows and a spoiler nearly came up the curb.
Both stumbled backwards, Eleanor recovering first and calling back at the car, "Watch it, you jerk," before turning to check on Helen. Ready to thank her for the timely rescue, instead Eleanor found herself asking, "Are you okay?"
Normally pale, Helen's complexion had gone completely white. Afraid Helen was about to faint, Eleanor brought her arm around Helen's shoulder and held her fingers to her cheek. "Sweetie, what's going on? You're as white as a sheet."
When she found her voice again, Helen stammered out reassurance she was fine even as her stomach continued to pitch in fear and her thoughts continued to tumble uselessly in her head.
Ignoring the stares of other pedestrians, Eleanor soothed, "Helen, try to look into my eyes."
Cold and afraid, sweat pooling down her back and sides, her heart pounding in her chest, she did as she was asked. Clear blue eyes locked on to her own, and her body warmed again. She stepped closer and breathed in Eleanor's perfume. If they'd been anywhere else she would have wrapped herself into Eleanor's arms, and she knew Eleanor would have held her. And with that knowledge the pounding of her heart slowed and the labor of her breath eased.
"He just scared me. I saw him coming, but I didn't think I could pull you back fast enough."
From the corner of her eye Eleanor noticed the signal light switch back to "don't walk."
"I'm surprised you could pull me back at all. You must be stronger than you look," Eleanor joked softly.
Helen snapped, "Don't tease me about this. What would happen to Zoë and me if something happened " and then she trailed off, too upset to finish her question.
Growing more surprised by Helen's upset by the second, Eleanor placed her hand at the back of Helen's neck, knowing the contact would help calm her down. "Sweetheart, why don't you let me buy you lunch? It's the least I can do, after you're bit of derring-do." Certain she was going to draw out Helen's smile, instead her own expression turned to one of amazement as she noticed tears forming in Helen's eyes. "Helen, what's wrong?"
Embarrassed, Helen used her free hand to wipe carelessly at her eyes, heedless of what she was doing to her eye make-up. "He almost hit you." After swallowing, she continued, "I don't know what's up with me."
"I guess you must just really like me, or maybe you're blood sugar is totally crashed," Eleanor kidded gently, and this time was rewarded with a smile.
When the signal light cycled back to "walk," Eleanor caught Helen's hand and gave it a tug.
"Come on. We're getting you some lunch."
Helen obediently fell into step, but kept her hand locked around Eleanor's, not letting go until they were seated in their usual booth near the back of the restaurant. She let Eleanor order for the two of them, barely saying a word until their drinks arrived.
From across the table Helen felt Eleanor's eyes focus on her as she took a long sip of her diet coke. Smiling, she bumped her knees against Eleanor's. "Okay, you can quit waiting for me to lose it. The diet coke is having its usual positive effect on me. Sorry for all the hysterics."
"Don't apologize. I'm sorry you had such a scare." Eleanor shifted forward in her seat. "It's been a long week, and you're probably overtired. What do you say I make dinner tonight while you sit on the couch and play with Zoë? We can have an at-home night, just the three of us."
"First lunch, now dinner? I need to break into tears more often."
"How about you can break into tears anytime, and I'll be more careful crossing the street?"
"How about I help with dinner tonight, and Zoë can watch us from her high chair?" Helen asked as reached across the table and brushed her fingers over Eleanor's.
Eleanor captured Helen's fingers in her own. "That sounds like the best offer I've had all week."
By the time their lunch arrived their conversation was comfortably steered to other topics, mostly having to do with planning an autumn holiday for themselves and Zoë, and whether or not they should repaint the kitchen in addition to redecorating the front room.
Walking back to the office after lunch, Eleanor noticed Helen keeping in close step, moving so their hips repeatedly brushed against one another. It was one of Helen's protective habits, one Eleanor first noticed during the last months of her pregnancy, and one she suddenly realized she'd been missing.
Two years earlier, when Eleanor had first proposed to Helen they become roommates, she'd never expected the two of them would become friends. At best, she'd seen the arrangement as a temporary one, a sound plan for living while she saved for a down payment on a condo or house. But now, despite having Zoë, she could not imagine leaving the high-strung assistant district attorney.
Eleanor's eyes picked up on a reflection of the two of them walking side by side. They could not be more physically different, and still somehow they complemented one another, even if they argued all the times. Eleanor smiled as she turned her glance from their reflection to Helen's finely chiseled profile.
"What?" Helen asked.
"What do you mean, what?"
They'd reached the district attorney's office building, saving Eleanor from having to respond further. She moved ahead, pulling open the door and leading the way to the elevator. When they reached Helen's office Eleanor stepped to the side, waiting quietly for Helen to open the door. Once inside, she put her brief case on the floor and leaned back against the closed door.
Standing in front of her desk, Helen observed, "You barely said a word as we walked back to my office? Do you have something big this afternoon?"
"Nothing big. After I meet with client Ricky, I need to work on a couple of briefs before handing them off to Bobby. What about you?"
"Since Hiller kicked us loose early, I have a pretty easy afternoon. That is until my four o'clock appointment with the boss, and the resulting headache I've penciled in for four-thirty."
Helen's tone was light, but Eleanor could hear the underlying tension. "Do you think he's going to blame you for the M.E.'s mistakes?"
"Probably. He doesn't want to have to take on the Medical Examiner, so instead he's ripping into his own people. I'm on his list, today. On Monday, it will be someone else. Still, I don't supposed I could interest you in kicking his ass for me?"
The idea of kicking Kenneth Walsh's ass was appealing to say the least, too bad Helen wasn't serious.
"Since I know you won't take me up on it, I won't bother to respond, but is there anything else I could say that would make you feel better?"
Helen pretended to think for a moment. "What are we having for dinner?"
"I was thinking about pasta with homemade primavera for dinner."
Eleanor presented the dinner menu as if she didn't know it was Helen's favorite. It was something she'd been doing more and more often, treating Helen to her favorite things. What's more, the favor was being returned equally. Eleanor could not remember the last time she'd had to buy her favorite breakfast and afternoon teas. Somehow the stash in the cupboard never needed replenishing. Likewise, the refrigerator was never out of skim milk, and the fresh fruit bowl was always full of her favorites
, whatever the season.
"Throw in a glass of wine and I'll do the dishes myself."
For a moment the two stared at each other, each waiting for the other to move. The goodbye kisses had started not long after Zoë was born, typically a simple peck on the cheek, sometimes on the lips, once in a great while a shade more demonstrative, and never done in public. Like so many things between them, they were left un-discussed.
Helen moved first, languidly coming forward. Amethyst painted nails moved into Eleanor's hair, warm fingers slipped behind Eleanor's head, a hand gently pulled Eleanor's head downward.
The kiss was affectionate, gentle and sweet, lips lightly brushing over one another. Always before it stopped there, but this time Helen began to press deeper, her lips gently capturing Eleanor's, her mouth seeming to say something. But what? When Helen pulled back, Eleanor smiled, carefully ignoring the racing of her heart as she reached backward, her hand searching for the doorknob.
"See you tonight then."
"Okay," Helen began, but then interrupted herself. "Wait a second, please. I think I need a goodbye hug as well."
Arms opened automatically as Helen comfortably folded herself into Eleanor's embrace. Resting her head near Eleanor's shoulder Helen began stroking the lapel of Eleanor's jacket.
Shivering, Eleanor wondered if Helen could feel the hardening of her nipple underneath her jacket, camisole and bra. Trying to disguise her response to Helen's touch, Eleanor asked. "How's your shoulder? I bet you wrenched it when you pulled me out of the way."
For a second, Eleanor wasn't sure Helen had heard her. Helen's eyes were closed and her lips had formed a sleepy smile.
"A little sore." She admitted before breathing in and then asking, "Are you wearing the perfume I gave you for Zoë's first month's birthday?'
More than familiar with the prosecutor's dodges, Eleanor responded, "Yes, and don't change the subject. Next time you see a car coming, try a simple yell first. I bet my reaction will be faster than you think."
"Didn't have time to yell; it happened too quickly," Helen argued, wondering if what she'd just felt on the top of her head was Eleanor's kiss.
"I still don't like the idea of you in pain. How about I make it up to you with a back rub. For saving my life, I mean."
"A back rub would be wonderful, but right now this is nice too."
Emboldened by Helen's quiet admission, Eleanor cuddled Helen deeper into her arms and whispered, "I wish I could take you home right now." But then what, she wondered as her thoughts drifted back to the first time she and Helen had kissed.
It was during the first trimester of her pregnancy, and the changes to her body were leaving her exhausted. And it was the Friday night following a terrible week. Both she and Helen had lost cases they thought they should have won, plus the fuel injection in her car had suddenly failed. Her back aching and her nerves raw, she welcomed Helen's motherly pampering with a gratitude bordering on embarrassing.
Eleanor was already in bed under the covers when Helen came into the room with the heating pad. She remembered Helen had looked as tired as she felt, and so when Helen turned to leave, Eleanor instead pulled her back to the bed and asked her to lie down with her. They had slept in the same bed before. In the days following the killing of one of Helen's friends and colleagues, Helen had slept in Eleanor's bed every night. Helen had also come to her the first few nights they'd lived together, still spooked by what had happened with George Vogelman. But their cuddling had never moved beyond anything that was not completely platonic.
The kiss came as they were both drifting off to sleep and was gentler, warmer, more loving, than any kiss Eleanor had received before. She had seen Helen's affectionate side on other occasions, but the kiss introduced her to a depth of tenderness in Helen that Eleanor guessed even Lindsay, Helen's best friend, had rarely seen, and since that night nothing had been the same.
Helen's phone rang, effectively ending the moment and the memory, and the two pulled apart, each prepared to ignore what had just transpired.
"I'll see you tonight then?" Eleanor asked as she picked up her briefcase.
Already on the phone, Helen held up her hand and then whispered over the receiver, "I'll be home after six."
A quick nod, and Eleanor was out the door.
Two hours later, she was still thinking about Helen's upset, the hug, and mostly the kiss.
The office was quiet. Jimmy and Eugene were in court, Bobby and Rebecca were out on a deposition, and Lindsay was meeting with a potential client, leaving Lucy busy fielding calls and leaving her to her briefs, an insufficient distraction.
Sighing, Eleanor sat back in her chair and looked at the pictures on her desk. After returning to work following Zoë's birth, Helen had given Eleanor a triptych picture frame, featuring a photograph of Zoë at center, a photograph of Eleanor and Zoë on the right and a photograph of the three of them on the left. None of her colleagues realized it was among Eleanor's most prized possessions.
She knew there was talk. Two adult women living together with a baby generated talk. Always sensitive to gossip, especially since her disastrous friendship and representation of George Vogelman, Eleanor knew there was plenty of speculation about the two of them, most of which she suspected cast her as the secretive love-struck suitor of the beautiful but clearly straight A.D.A. To Eleanor's thinking, such gossip made sense. Who wouldn't be attracted to Helen Gamble and who would be attracted to her?
But letting herself hear or imagine gossip was one thing, admitting to some of its charges was another. There was no possibility of regarding today's kiss as one between friends. Harder yet, there was no possibility of discounting her response to the kiss as anything less than desire. A shiver went down her spine as she let herself remember Helen's hands moving on her body and through her hair.
If she could no longer ignore it, she also could not reduce it simply to lust. And maybe that was the problem, a crush she could understand. But the feelings she had were more than a simple crush, more than an infatuation, more than temporary. Whatever she felt, and she still resisted putting a word on it, was deeper, richer, and more important. And whatever it was, it didn't begin with desire; desire was a consequence of it.
Across town, in another office, Helen sat down behind her desk. Her meeting with her boss had gone better than she expected, but she'd also been handed off another case. Helen sat back in her chair and began to massage her temples. Across from her, near the edge of her desk, sat a frame and pictures very much like the triptych that sat on Eleanor's desk. She'd made it for herself not long after Zoë was born, and it occurred to her she should probably switch in some newer pictures. Zoë had grown considerably.
Among the three photographs, the center was her favorite. She had taken the photograph the previous summer at a local park. Eleanor was wearing a pale blue dress that ended at mid-calf, was cut in at the waist, and displayed more than a little of her cleavage. Sparkling eyes were fixed on the small bundle in her arms. Above their heads treetops filtered the sunlight, diffusing it into ribbons of gold that fell about mother and daughter. The first time Lindsay had seen the photograph she'd teased Helen mercilessly, claiming the photograph was impossibly romantic and looked like something taken by a lover and not a housemate. At the time Helen had easily denied Lindsay's claim, but now she wasn't so sure.
Her thoughts turned back to the kiss she'd shared with Eleanor earlier. And then she wondered if shared was the right verb. She closed her eyes and let herself remember the sensations of Eleanor's lips against her own and of her fingers moving along the back of Eleanor's neck. She'd heard Eleanor sigh softly when she had opened her mouth and gently captured Eleanor's lower lip. Her memory of the kiss shifted into her memory of Eleanor's arms around her, of leaning into Eleanor's body, of running her fingers along the lapel of Eleanor's jacket. She could still catch a faint whiff of Eleanor's perfume on her fingertips.
They needed to talk. But there was so much to say, and she had no idea how to begin. She had no idea how to admit to what she was feeling, and so she did as she always did. She turned back to her work. It was easier that way, and safer too.
She knew it was a bad habit, one begun years ago, work offering her the perfect place to hide. In high school she'd used schoolwork to hide from her parents ambitions for her, which did not include going away to college, let alone law school. It was in law school where she learned to use her studies to hide from other things, no longer simply family, but her own feelings, especially the feelings she had for the woman she called the crush.
Helen first spotted the crush in the law library sitting at a table, her work spread in front of her. It wasn't lust at first sight, Helen wasn't even sure when the crush took hold of her, although she usually placed it around the midterm. At the time Helen was dating Bill, who was very handsome, very confident, and very much destined for a career in corporate. Bill was in an odd sort of way the perfect consolation prize for her parents, a compensation for her entering law school. In her mother's words, at least she'd get a decent man out of it. Bill was by most accounting a catch. He was not, however, the crush.
Both were tall (Helen had always had a thing for tall), but where he was body by Nautilus, she was the Medici Venus clothed in silk and tropical weight wool. Dark haired and blue eyed (Helen also had a thing for blue eyes), she eventually learned the crush was a year ahead of her in school and of uncertain sexual orientation. All of it, the longing, the curiosity, all of it came to nothing. At the end of the school year, the crush was finished with school and Helen had never even once said hello to her.
Helen's next Venus was much like the first, tall, blue-eyed, curvaceous, but entirely uninvolved with the law and thus less daunting to approach. She'd first noticed the art history graduate student in a coffee shop near her apartment and not far from campus. Helen knew the woman was a graduate student in art history because of some very stealthy eavesdropping on conversations the student had with another young woman, who Helen quickly tagged as colleague, friend, and non-romantic interest. Helen also quickly figured out the student usually stopped by the coffee shop around three to grade homework over cups of Americano drunk black. It was a month into what Helen realized could easily be defined as stalking that Helen finally spoke to the student, a simple good afternoon that turned them into "hello" acquaintances. Another month passed and they became exchangers of comments on the weather and other subjects regarded as innocuous, another two weeks passed before Helen asked Melanie if she wanted to see a movie. Three weeks after that they exchanged their first kiss, and another week after that Helen finally took Melanie to bed. The relationship lasted until Melanie left for a semester of study abroad, and since Melanie there had been other women (three to put an number on it), but none of them were the law student, Melanie, or in any way Eleanor.
Two hours later, Helen came through the door of the apartment, a bottle of wine in hand, and was greeted by the scent of mushrooms sautéing and the sounds of classical music. Immediately, all of the tensions of her workday drained away, and a different tension entered her body.
"Hey you, did you begin dinner without me?"
Eleanor leaned over the kitchen island so that she could see into the entryway. "Zoë and I thought we'd get started on the sauce, but don't worry, there's plenty left to do."
"Let me change into my comfy stuff, and then I'll pitch in," Helen said as she slipped off her coat and hung it in the hall closet.
She left the Pinot Noir on the entry table and headed for the bedroom where she quickly stripped out of her office clothes and put on a tee shirt and cotton drawstring pants.
A year ago, coming home usually meant coming home to more work, but towards the end of Eleanor's pregnancy both women started taking "nights off." Now, both tried to work at home no more than two nights a week, and only rarely did they work weekends. Instead, they spent time reading, seeing movies, making dinners and more importantly, playing with Zoë.
Barefoot, Helen padded back into the kitchen, which was pleasantly steamy from a pot of tomatoes slowly cooking down into sauce. Zoë was sitting in her high chair and playing with a set of large blocks, while Eleanor was busily tearing spinach and Romaine lettuce leaves.
Taking Eleanor's smile as permission Helen came up from behind, slipped her arms around Eleanor's waist, and leaned in to press her face between Eleanor's shoulder blades.
"Everything smells wonderful in here. Where do you want me to start?" Helen asked as her fingers moved gently against Eleanor's belly and her warm breath seeped into the back of Eleanor's sweatshirt.
Eleanor leaned back slightly, encouraging the press of Helen's body against hers. Her head tipped forward and her hands stilled, as she luxuriated in the warmth of the embrace. When she spoke, her voice came from deep within her body, a rich, warm, pleasurable tone that sent chills down Helen's spine.
"I'm glad you're home too." After a moment she added, "Maybe you could start slicing the mushrooms and zucchini?"
Helen's hands continued to move over Eleanor's sweatshirt, fingertips tracing small oval and circular shapes. Unable to stop herself, she pressed a kiss into Eleanor's back. "Okay, but not just yet. I've been missing you all afternoon."
Even as her body continued to respond to Helen's embrace, Eleanor's mind registered the quiet need in Helen's voice. She dried her hands before gently turning in Helen's arms and then sighed with pleasure as Helen immediately tucked her head under Eleanor's chin. After a minute or two, she asked, "How was the meeting?"
"Not as bad as I thought it would be, but then I had a new case dumped on me. Drug deal gone bad, pretty simple stuff, but just one more thing on my plate." Helen moved so that her face could rest over Eleanor's breast. "Did you just take your sweatshirt out of the laundry? It smells so fresh and clean."
"Took it out about half an hour ago." Eleanor dropped a kiss on top of Helen's head. "I put away the laundry, by the way."
"Thank you," Helen's fingers crept under the back of Eleanor's shirt and moved just above the waistband of Eleanor's sweatpants. "Your skin is always so warm and toasty. You must hate my cold fingers."
"Your hands aren't cold. You just think they are."
Helen let the disagreement go. Over the past two years Eleanor had been unsuccessfully trying to convince her that the chill she felt almost constantly was more perception than reality. "Do you remember last winter, when you came to get me after my car stalled on the parkway?"
Eleanor dropped a second kiss on Helen's head. "How could I forget? I didn't think I'd ever get you warmed up again. I still can't believe you didn't call me first."
Helen's car had stalled on one of the bitterest nights in years. After calling Detective Mike, followed by Bobby, and then Eugene in hopes of getting her car battery jumped, she finally called her housemate for a rescue. By the time Eleanor got there Helen was shivering uncontrollably and almost incoherent with cold. Only barely convinced she shouldn't take Helen to the hospital, as soon as they were back in the apartment Eleanor started a hot bath and helped Helen to undress, Helen's fingers too frozen too manage the buttons and clasps. Later, even after the hot bath, Helen continued to shiver, so much so that Eleanor ended up wrapping them together in a cocoon of their warmest blankets.
"I didn't want to call you because you were pregnant and you were busy with the Masterson trial and you really didn't need me to need a rescue."
"And I think we now agree that was incredibly dumb of you, yes?"
"Completely stupid. Kind of like walking into the path of a moving car."
"Ha ha," Eleanor teased back. "I guess all must be forgiven because I picked up some of your favorite sorbet for desert."
Helen tipped her head back so that she could look into Eleanor's eyes. "You spoil me so well. Now I'm even happier I picked up a bottle of your favorite red. Do you want me to open it now, or wait?"
For a moment Eleanor imagined leaning down and kissing Helen's lips. She blinked away the thought. "How about now? We can share a glass while we cook."
Dinner was another forty-five minutes away, but by the time they sat down, both women were more than relaxed from the wine. At the table, they sat next to one another and talked quietly about their plans for the weekend while lingering first over the pasta and salad, and later over after dinner coffee and desert. It was going past eight when they sat down on the couch, after putting Zoë down for the night.
They spoke little and instead continued listening to the radio, tuned as always to the classical station, and tonight playing Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. The opera was one of Eleanor's favorites; still, Eleanor was drifting close to sleep when she heard Helen's quiet wince as she moved against her side.
Eleanor opened her eyes and gave Helen a questioning look. "You said over dinner that your shoulder wasn't bothering you. Why am I thinking you were just trying to be brave?"
Yawning, Helen sleepily confessed, "Okay, it hurts a little more than I was letting on. It's probably just stress from having to deal with my boss."
"I wouldn't discount too quickly the effect of trying to drag backward someone over twice your size."
"You're exaggerating again."
Eleanor majestically raised one eyebrow. "Helen, I may not be twice your height, but I am more than twice your weight. You already lost one argument to me this morning in court, are you seriously going to try again?"
More awake and starting to laugh, Helen countered, "If you try using that tone on Zoë when she's a teenager, she is going to turn into a complete rebel."
"And you're trying to change the subject." Eleanor knew they were on dangerous ground, but she could not hold back her next suggestion, "Why don't you give in, admit I'm right, and collect on my earlier offer of a backrub."
For a moment Eleanor thought Helen was going to accept her offer, but then Helen seemed to change her mind.
Sighing softly, Helen let her head fall back Eleanor's shoulder, and then guided Eleanor's arm over her waist as she moved her legs on to the sofa. "Maybe later, but right now this is nice."
A few minutes later, the opera ended. Far too comfortable to get up from the couch, Eleanor picked up the remote from the floor. She switched off the radio and turned on the television. "Turner Movie Classics is playing Postman Always Rings Twice, tonight. Okay if we watch it for a while."
Helen opened her eyes momentarily and smiled. "Sure." Her eyes again closed as she pulled Eleanor's other arm over her shoulder so that it would lie down the center of her body.
"Do you want me to get the blanket?"
"Not if you have to move," Helen whispered.
"No, I can reach it from here."
Eleanor grabbed the red-checked flannel throw from the side chair and draped it over Helen's legs and lower body and then turned her attention back to the television screen and the black and white movie. It was her favorite adaptation of the James M. Cain story, and she soon lost herself in the narrative, barely noticing when Helen, now fully sprawled across her body, dozed off.
When Helen woke thirty minutes later, Eleanor's fingers were moving absent mindedly over her back. Smiling, she whispered, "That feels nice," and then pulled up the hem of her tee shirt so that Eleanor's fingers could move along her skin.
"Don't take this the wrong way, Helen, but I think you were part cat in your previous life."
Smiling more broadly, Helen sounded her best, "meow," before asking, "Is there any wine left?"
Eleanor reached down for the wine stem she'd left on the floor. It was half full. "This is all that's left unless you want me to open another bottle."
Helen accepted the glass. "This is fine," she said before taking a sip and then handing the glass back to Eleanor, who returned it to the floor. "Are we past the murder?"
For a moment Eleanor was confused, then she realized Helen was referring to the movie. "Yep, we're now deep into the cover up."
"One of these days, I'm going to have to watch this movie from beginning to end."
"It'll never happen, you always fall asleep during the movies made under the Hayes code. So what does it say about you that you can't watch movies where all the sexy bits are either suggested or turned into metaphors?"
"No, it's more like I can't stay awake for movies in black and white. I'm telling you, Eleanor, I need color."
"Yeah right," Eleanor deadpanned.
"This is all your brilliant legal mind can come with as a counter argument, 'yeah right'? Now, I'm positive all of you are overpaid," Helen teased craning her neck to look Eleanor in the eye and then loudly wincing as she pushed sore muscles past their limits.
The joke over, Eleanor asked, "Helen, why won't you just give in, admit that you're hurting, and accept my prior offer of a back rub?"
"You don't have to do that."
"You're right, I don't have too. I want too. So be a little gracious. Besides, how many back rubs did I score off of you the last month or so of my pregnancy?"
"I loved rubbing your back when you were pregnant with Zoë. You were so cuddly." Helen used the "offensive" word deliberately, loving the blush that inevitably appeared on Eleanor's face.
"Please don't ever describe me as cuddly. God, if any of my partners ever heard you, I'd never live it down." Guiding Helen into a sitting position and taking Helen's teasing as her consent, Eleanor added, "It's probably too cold in here. Why don't you go lie on your bed and I'll check on the baby."
A few minutes later Eleanor came into Helen's bedroom. Helen had turned off all the lamps but one and lit the two tall, fat candles that sat on the nightstand.
After placing the bottle of oil on the nightstand next to the candles, Eleanor perched on the side of the bed. "Zoë is sound asleep. Wouldn't it be great if she slept through the night?"
"Even if she did, you'd still wake up to check on her," Helen argued softly.
"Like you don't do the same." Eleanor argued back. She brushed her finger down the light tee shirt that covered Helen's upper body. "Okay if I pull this up?"
Helen responded by raising herself up as Eleanor grasped the hem of the tee shirt and drew it up Helen's body.
"Do you want it on or off?"
"Off please," Helen whispered as she raised herself higher and let Eleanor draw the shirt over her head before settling back on the bed, her eyes closed, her face turned in profile.
Almost mesmerized, Eleanor looked down at Helen's back, her eyes tracing the finely muscled flesh as she reached for the bottle of oil, poured out a small amount, and then warmed the portion between her hands.
Starting at mid-back she gently brushed the palms of her hands up Helen's back to her shoulders, and then nearly jerked away at the resulting gasp of pleasure that came from the Helen's throat.
Wanting to cover her surprise Eleanor whispered, "Feels nice, huh?"
Helen's voice sounded small and far away. "Is that the body oil Rebecca gave you for Hanukkah?"
"Yes, it has a nice citrus-y scent."
"Very nice," Helen murmured back.
Growing more confident, Eleanor began a slow massage of Helen's shoulder and neck muscles, gently drawing out the knots and tensions. In order to gain better leverage Eleanor rose up on her knees. It was then Helen quietly suggested she straddle her back.
"I'll crush you."
The words were out of Eleanor's mouth before she realized. Prepared for one of Helen's quiet demurrals, she was surprised again when Helen humorously growled back, "Don't be such a baby. You're not going to crush me. I'm flesh and blood not glass or Styrofoam, remember?"
More afraid than she could admit even to herself, Eleanor did as Helen asked and crouched over Helen's narrow hips before gingerly settling down along her upper thighs. When Helen only seemed to groan in pleasure, she continued the massage, slowly working her way down from her shoulders to her upper body.
"I cannot believe the tension in your neck, shoulders, and back. This isn't just muscle strain."
"I guess I've been a little tense lately."
Eleanor tried to make her question sound casual. "Anything in particular on your mind?"
Helen looked over her shoulder and smiled mysteriously. "Less talk, more attention, please."
"Well, I suppose that's one way to avoid a question," Eleanor teased as she began rubbing circular motions over the muscles stretching across Helen's middle back. "How does that feel?"
Released by the heat of Helen's skin the scent of the oil wafted about the room filling the air with the sweet fragrance of orange blossom. To Eleanor nothing had ever seemed so soft as Helen's skin. She leaned forward and began rubbing along the planes of Helen's back and sides with the webbing between her thumb and forefinger.
Soon both were rocking gently, moving in a simple rhythm, their breath synchronizing. The connection between them was effortless and was something neither could easily explain. In their working lives they were usually adversarial. In the courtroom, both held back nothing in the effort to win over the other. Publicly, they were one thing, but privately they were something else. The trick was learning to accept the difference.
Lost in the movement, in her stumbling thoughts, Eleanor's fingers unexpectedly curved into the sides of Helen's breasts. Embarrassed and alarmed, her hands jerked back. Ready to apologize, she stopped as Helen seemingly rose up so that Eleanor's fingers could reach lower.
Her voice low and thick Helen sighed, "God, Eleanor, the things you do to me."
It was a tone of Helen's voice Eleanor had never heard before, weak with need, rough with desire.
Her face now pressed down into the bed covers, Helen reached from behind for one of Eleanor's hands and brought it to cup around her left breast.
Wordlessly, Eleanor let her fingers curve into Helen's body. Against her palms, she felt Helen's nipple tighten and then peak. Helen's hips continued to rock underneath her body, pushing between her thighs.
Aware of the building excitement in Helen's body, in her own body, Eleanor increased the rocking motion, only then realizing the motion was causing the waist of Helen's pants to slip lower, revealing more and more of Helen's body.
Eleanor leaned forward, and pressed a kiss on the back of Helen's neck. The skin was heated and covered with beads of sweat. She heard Helen say her name, and she answered with a second kiss, this one on Helen's shoulder. She heard her name said again and Eleanor rose up, allowing Helen to roll onto her back. Helen's eyes were shut, her body flushed pink. Eleanor let her eyes drink in Helen's beauty, drifting down past perfectly formed shoulders to small, delicate breasts, from the narrowing of her waist to the minor flaring of her hips. Eleanor said Helen's name and Helen's eyes opened.
They stared into each other's faces with open astonishment, and then the phone rang.
"Oh god, whoever is calling has the worst timing in the universe."
"Ignore it," Eleanor suggested even as she was moving off of Helen's body.
Helen grabbed for the phone explaining to Eleanor, "I can't. I'm on call this weekend" and then growling into the receiver, "This better be important at nine o'clock on a Friday night."
For a moment she thought it was going to be a wrong number, but then Lindsay Dole's familiar voice came through the receiver. "Let's keep in mind that you already promised."
"To have drinks with Nick the next time he came through town. He's staying at the St. George, and he really wants to meet you."
Helen groaned as she curled up on her side, her back pressing against Eleanor's hipbone, her pants hanging around her thighs. "Linds, I'm already in for the night. The last thing on Earth I want to do is go have drinks with your high school friend Nick."
"Helen, he's perfect for you. And besides, you promised to see him the next time he flew through Boston. And he's here tonight."
"Linds, this isn't a good time. Trust me."
A smile formed on Helen's face as Eleanor covered her with a blanket. She turned to look at her and saw an expression she couldn't read. Her heart started to sink. "Really, Lindsay. Can't I do this another time?"
"Helen, you promised and now he's waiting to see you. Please don't make me into a liar."
Thirty-five minutes later, as she was getting ready to walk out the door, Helen was still wondering how Lindsay had managed to wheedle her into keeping her promise, and trying not to think about why Eleanor had pushed her into going out. She checked her hair one last time in the mirror and then went into the front room.
Eleanor sat on the couch, wrapped in a red plaid wool throw.
"So how do I look?"
"Beautiful, as always," Eleanor said with what appeared to be a forced smile.
"I can't believe Lindsay is holding me to a promise I made months ago, and only so that I could make her shut up about her friend Nick."
"He sounds like a hottie, Helen. Maybe you should be grateful."
"I'd feel grateful if I was still in my comfy clothes," Helen countered not sure about Eleanor's tone, and carefully not mentioning that she'd been wearing far less when the phone rang. "Do you think you'll be up much longer?"
"Depends on what's on HBO."
"Eleanor " Helen began.
"Helen, keep your promise. We can finish your back rub later."
"I'm going to hold you to that." Helen didn't sound certain.
Minutes later, still looking at the door Helen had just exited, Eleanor was already mentally kicking herself and trying to decide what had motivated her to drive Helen from the bed. Her logical mind tried to juggle all of the likely factors: what moving ahead might someday mean for Zoë, the reactions of their friends, and her own personal demons.
She got up from the couch and went to her bedroom. Often times she switched off the light before getting into her pajamas but tonight she left it on. For a woman who had borne a child she knew she was lucky not to see extensive stretch marks, but their absence did little to mitigate her disappointment at the weight of her breasts and thighs, the rise of her belly, and the outward sweep of her hips. She had lost all of the weight she'd gained during her pregnancy and more so, but there was no denying her fat. The best she could aim for was healthy; she would never have a figure like Helen, and most nights that was enough. Not tonight. Eleanor turned away from her bedroom mirror and put on her pajamas. They were made from cool, lightweight cotton, another gift from Helen. Too restless to go to sleep, needing distraction from everything that was happening in her head, she went back into the front room, curled up on the couch and began reading a mystery Rebecca had recommended to her.
It was little more than an hour later when Eleanor heard Helen's key in the lock. Startled out of a light doze, she grabbed at the throw blanket, ready to make a dash for it if Helen walked in with Nick, only to see Helen coming through the doorway alone.
Eleanor glanced at the clock on the mantle and frowned. "You're home early."
"I kept my promise. I met with Nick for a drink and now I'm home. Thank god." Helen dropped her coat over the back of the sofa and sat down next to Eleanor.
"How was he?"
The tension in Eleanor's voice was obvious, and she attempted to cover it with a smile. Helen looked away, her expression unreadable.
"Nice. As cute as Lindsay said, but not my type," Helen said carefully.
Eleanor tried to make herself sound enthusiastic. "Are you sure? I could hear Lindsay describe him on the phone: tall, dark and handsome, a regular prince charming, but without the crown or the annoying royal parents." She willed her voice not to break. "I'm surprised he was willing to let you go so early."
Ignoring her surprise at how much of the phone conversation Eleanor had overheard, Helen replied, "Like I said, he's a nice guy." She paused a beat. "And he's a good listener, too."
Both women fell quiet for a few moments before Eleanor quietly responded, "Oh?"
Helen kept her eyes focused on the coffee table. "Yeah, I told him all about how I've been crushing after this other person. Probably not what he wanted to hear about, but he was super supportive."
Mystified by the turn in the conversation, Eleanor cautiously asked, "How so?"
"I told him about this person who I really like and who I think likes me, but now I'm not so sure."
"Sure about what?"
"If what I thought was going on, was going on."
Again the two women fell quiet, and again, Eleanor broke the silence.
"What did you think was going on?"
"Well, I thought we were getting ready to move forward. Things have been happening between us. Kind of creeping up on us unaware. But now I'm aware, and I want more, but maybe I'm reading things the wrong way. Seeing things the way I want to see them and not the way things really are." Helen shook her head. She didn't want to complain; she wanted answers. "It's just that we seem so right for each other."
"How so?" Eleanor prompted.
From the corner of her eye Eleanor could see Helen blinking back tears; hesitantly, she reached over and closed her fingers over Helen's. Half-expecting Helen to pull away, Eleanor felt her own eyes flood with tears as Helen instead closed her fingers tight.
"It's pretty clear that we enjoy each other's company. We have a lot in common. Similar career interests, although my goals are probably not quite as lucrative."
"Money isn't everything. What else?"
"Family is important to both of us, as well as friendship."
"It is." Helen turned to face Eleanor. "Plus, she's beautiful, smart, funny, a terrific kisser and when she holds me, it's magic."
Eleanor brought her hand to Helen's face and was rewarded with a kiss on her palm. "Maybe it's not fair of me to ask, but why do you think there's a problem?"
"I think she's attracted to me, at least she kisses like she is, but I don't think she's ever been with a woman before." Helen moved her face against Eleanor's hand. "Plus, I'm worried she might think I'm pushing her into something for which she isn't prepared, mainly, because I think I am pushing her into something that is new for her and maybe a little scary."
Eleanor started to respond, but Helen cut her off. "And I'm worried about telling her that I've been with women before because it might make it seem like I've been orchestrating this huge "
Eleanor silenced Helen's lips with her fingers. "Okay, you just surprised me. But let's not worry about that." She waited for Helen to nod before continuing. "It seems to me that if she's been kissing you and holding you, maybe she's more prepared than you think. The hold-up might be for some other reason." Helen flinched and Eleanor quickly added, "A reason that has nothing to do with how much she wants you."
Helen's voice rose slightly in pitch. "You want me?"
The vulnerability in Helen's voice, in Helen's question rocked through Eleanor's being; only rarely did Helen's public façade of confidence slip so obviously.
"How couldn't I want you?" Eleanor looked into Helen's eye. "You're amazing, wonderfully amazing, in fact." At Helen's shy smile, Eleanor stopped.
"But " Helen prompted, giving Eleanor the permission to continue.
"But there are these things. Worries that stick to me like glue. I want to let go of them, but I can't seem to do it."
"Can we hold each other while you tell me about it?" Helen asked even as she was moving into Eleanor's arms.
When they were resettled on the sofa Eleanor hesitantly explained, "There are a bunch of reasons. Two of the biggest are Zoë and how our friends will react."
"Maybe it's selfish of me to say this, but we could face those things together."
Eleanor could not help but smile at the confidence in Helen's voice. Nothing ever seemed to scare Helen except the possibility of physical harm directed at the people she loved. "I know you love Zoë like she was your own, because in so many ways she is. And I know our friends would come around over time. I know all that, and, still, I'm scared. It's hard to let go those kinds of fears."
Relatively certain she knew what Eleanor was still too uncomfortable to admit, Helen again prompted, "There's something else."
Not sure how to put it into words, Eleanor considered several approaches before she simply said, "My size."
"Shouldn't matter," Helen replied softly.
"But you know it does. I want to say I can just forget about it, but every time I even think about " Eleanor trailed off.
"Think about what?"
"Think about making love to you. I get this picture in my head of me and..."
"You see that's the problem," Helen interrupted, as she pulled out of Eleanor's arms. "You're picturing the wrong thing." Even if you're thinking about the right thing. Helen rose to her feet so that she could stand in front of Eleanor. "Tonight, when you saw me walk out of my bedroom in this dress what did you think?"
"That Nick was a lucky man, and that I wanted him dead." Eleanor softened the admission with a smile.
"And there's where you're a complete idiot. I didn't wear it for Nick. Everything I'm wearing was to get your attention."
Surprised, Eleanor could not stop herself from asking, "To make me jealous?"
Helen grinned. "Jealousy is a more complicated emotion. What I was aiming for was more along the lines of simple, animal lust. I wanted you to want me."
"You didn't need to put on a special dress to get me to want you. I already did."
"Then take me," Helen whispered reaching out with her hand. "Please just take me to bed." Eleanor started to say something, but Helen was too tired from crying, from wanting, and she knew she couldn't stand another argument. "You trust me. I know you do. So trust me when I say I really can't take another rejection."
For a moment everything became clear and so Eleanor got off the couch and Helen took her hand. They went to Helen's bedroom, where Helen went around lighting candles, three on the dresser, two on the corner table, bathing the room with light, but also scenting it with something, not sandalwood, something lighter.
"You said I've been picturing the wrong things, what do you mean?"
Helen turned around to face Eleanor. "Instead of picturing yourself, I want you to picture me."
"Helen, it's not that simple for me."
"It should be."
Helen moved closer to Eleanor. When she was standing a foot away, she reached behind herself and began to lower the zipper of her dress. "Eleanor, we all have secrets under our clothes. Things that we try to keep hidden."
"It's not that simple," Eleanor repeated in a whisper, fighting to keep her eyes on Helen's face and off of her body.
Eleanor took a small step backward, but Helen followed, moving closer, so they were now only inches apart. The zipper fully open, Helen let her dress begin to fall forward, revealing a low cut black lace bra.
"It's really pretty ironic. We use clothes as personal expression and we use them to conceal the things we want no one else to see." She let the dress drop and pool around her high heels.
Eleanor's eyes took in the slender figure before her. Helen's panties matched her bra and garters. "Did you put all of this on for me?"
"Yes. Only for you," Helen whispered, as she again reached behind her back. "And I want to take it off for you, and only you."
Her fingers shaking, Helen undid the clasp of her bra. Slowly, she pulled the garment away from her body, releasing her breasts. Immediately, the nipples formed into hard peaks, a result of the temperature of the room and Eleanor's intense gaze. She dropped the bra to the floor and then put her hands on Eleanor's shoulders and pushed her backwards until Eleanor's legs brushed against the side of bed.
"I take that back. I want you to help take it off."
Eleanor sat down. Helen's hands still rested on her shoulders. She could not remember the last time she felt as unsure of herself, or as excited. She drew in a deep breath and detected the scent of roses. A smile opened up on her face.
"You're wearing the perfume I gave you for your last birthday. I didn't notice it before."
"Probably because I'm wearing it a little lower than usual."
A soft blush rose up Eleanor's neck and face as she caught on to Helen's meaning. Her eyes drifted down Helen's body to the waistband of her panties. "You planned this out to the last detail."
It was Helen's turn to blush. "Plan, fantasy, it's hard for me to say."
"Things I've wanted you to do to me. Things I've dreamed about." Helen took Eleanor's hands in her own and moved them up her body to her breasts. "Ways I've wanted you to touch me."
Eleanor's hands closed over breasts so unlike her own, smaller, almost fragile. She moved her thumbs over the nipples and listened to Helen's quiet gasp of pleasure.
"There have been so many nights when I would lie in my bed, wishing you would come to me, wishing that you "
"Wishing that I would accept what I feel for you?" Eleanor interrupted.
"I didn't want to push you, Eleanor."
"You didn't." Eleanor let her hands drop to Helen's waist. "You're not pushing me into anything I don't want."
"You have no idea how important it was for me to hear you say that," Helen whispered as two beautiful hands began to take down her panties.
Now naked but for her stockings and high heels, Helen's skin ached for Eleanor's. She pulled Eleanor to her feet and folded herself into Eleanor's arms.
As Eleanor's hands moved down her back, she found Eleanor's mouth. The kiss was soft, gentle, tender, lips moving against lips. Moments later, she drew Eleanor's tongue into her mouth, needing Eleanor to be inside her.
For several minutes Helen simply let the moment happen, let Eleanor's still hesitant hands and mouth explore her, learn her. But she could only remain still for so long before her hands moved to the buttons on Eleanor's pajama top, and almost immediately she felt Eleanor's resistance, a stiffening in the shoulders, a change in her breathing. Helen moved out of the kiss and whispered. "Please, don't push me away, not again." Moments later, a kiss brushed against the side of her neck and she accepted it as permission to continue.
When the last button was undone, Helen spread aside the thin material and rested her face against Eleanor's shoulder. She breathed in a light, musky scent that was Eleanor's and Eleanor's alone. Already lightheaded, Helen pressed her body into Eleanor's, and finally stopped the aching of her heart. Legs trembling, she placed a trail of kisses over Eleanor's shoulders letting her hungry mouth move over skin, flesh, and bone. With the tip of her tongue she traced the shape of Eleanor's collarbone, while her hands tentatively moved up Eleanor's body, fingertips gliding over the flesh of Eleanor's back and the flare of Eleanor's shoulder blades. Eleanor felt lush and solid, soft and strong, everything Helen needed, wanted. More and more sure of herself Helen moved her hands up Eleanor's back to grip atop the shoulders, because she loved the way they looked.
Eleanor's hands moved also, lowering down Helen's back, curling around Helen's hips and behind. Clothed, Helen's body seemed entirely composed of sharp angles and long lines, but now, robbed of them, Eleanor could experience Helen's softness. She let her hands roam a second time over and around Helen's hips before moving back to Helen's waist and sides.
When her fingers brushed over the delicate bones of Helen's rib cage, she noticed the telltale flinch of ticklish skin. A smile crossed her face as she reserved that knowledge for later. Her hands moved higher still, into Helen's hair, weaving into soft tresses the color of midnight and then she gently tilted Helen's head backward for another kiss.
Helen's mouth opened instantly under the pressure of Eleanor's tongue. With Eleanor inside her once again, Helen's hands grew bolder moving from Eleanor's back to her breasts. Full, heavy, they overflowed Helen's hands. She knew Eleanor disliked them, almost hated their pendulous weight, but for Helen they were a mark of Eleanor's womanliness. Her fingers moved over them searching out the sensitive nipples, drawing them into tightened peaks. She heard Eleanor's choked gasp and broke free of Eleanor's mouth in order to place a series of kisses from Eleanor's neck to the rise of her breasts. Sliding lower, she dipped her tongue into Eleanor's cleavage, before turning to capture one of Eleanor's nipples with her mouth, her tongue swirling over already tight skin. Tenderly, she drew the peak deeper into her mouth, and then raked over it once with her teeth before gently biting down. Eleanor's resulting groan of pleasure emboldened her further. Her mouth still exploring Eleanor's breasts, she dropped her hands to Eleanor's waist and quickly untied Eleanor's pajama bottoms.
The pajamas fell to the floor and Helen leaned into the warmth of Eleanor's body. She heard Eleanor mumble something, and then let Eleanor guide her down on to the bed. Lying side by side, their bodies seemed to mold into one another, skin, muscles, nerves establishing connections, interweaving, making them into a single whole. A sigh escaped Helen's throat, and she whispered, "I've been waiting for you for so long."
The longing in Helen's voice pierced Eleanor's heart, and the fierce protectiveness she'd long felt rose inside her. With her hands, she tried to gentle away Helen's fears, fingertips moving slowly over Helen's back in the way she already knew Helen liked best.
"Sweetheart, look at me."
When Helen's eyes opened, Eleanor brought their foreheads together. "I'm sorry I pushed you into going out with Lindsay's friend. What I did was really stupid."
Helen's eyes filled with sudden tears. "I thought I'd lost you. That I'd made you want to push me away. I cried all the way over in the cab. When Nick saw me, my eye makeup was a wreck, and he asked me what was wrong." She turned away. "I shouldn't have told you that."
Eleanor gently kissed Helen's temple. "Helen, I hurt your feelings, of course you should tell me." She thought she heard Helen whisper something, but she couldn't be sure. She started to ask, when Helen suddenly moved in her arms. Helen's kiss was filled with need, and Eleanor tried to return it with all of the reassurance she could give. When they pulled back from each other, Eleanor saw that Helen's tears had dried away.
Helen offered Eleanor a wry smile. "Next time I lose a case to you I'm expecting that same kiss."
"You liked it, huh?" Eleanor asked, shyly.
"Very much." Helen offered up a wry smile. "Poor Nick did not get anything close in terms of consolation prizes. I ran off after one drink."
"It sounds like he turned out to be a pretty good listener."
"He is. And Lindsay's right, he's a nice guy, but it turns out that I'm kind of taken by someone else right now. Bad timing, I guess."
"I'm pretty lucky you wanted to come back."
Helen shook her head. "I'm pretty lucky that you're not mad at me for getting carried away earlier." Seeing the quizzical expression on Eleanor's face, she reminded. "The massage, me mostly naked."
"I'm still not entirely sure how you happened to slide out of your pants. I swear. I had nothing to do with that."
"You didn't, but I did."
"That was planned?"
"Not so much planned as opportunistic." Helen blushed. "I was stupid to let myself get carried away. I scared you but good."
"Sweetheart, nothing you did scared me away, and besides I'm kind of liking you any kind of naked."
Helen lightly dragged one of her high heels down Eleanor's leg. "Does that mean you'll finish undressing me soon."
Eleanor sat up on one hip and let her eyes run the length of Helen's body. "I've never done this before, maybe you could coach me?"
"Your instincts seem to be excellent, but if you need some help . . ." Helen trailed off as she bent her leg up at the knee. "Why don't you take off my shoes first, and then release the garters?"
Accepting Helen's suggestion, Eleanor slipped off Helen's shoes, undid the garter on the leg closest to her and then slid the stocking from Helen's now extended leg, followed by the lace garter.
"One down, one to go." Eleanor murmured as Helen lowered her leg back to the bed. She reached across to undo the other clasp and felt the weight of her body shift. Taken out of the moment, her eyes drifted to the mirror that hung above Helen's dresser.
Helen watched Eleanor's eyes shift towards her reflection, and then watched the excitement seem to drain from her body.
"Don't do that."
"What?" Eleanor asked tonelessly.
"Don't look at yourself that way," Helen responded as she sat up.
"How else can I see myself?"
"Through my eyes."
"Helen, I can't deny the truth."
"And I can't either. God, Eleanor, you're beautiful." Helen reached for Eleanor's face and pointed it towards her own. "Tonight, coming home, all I could think about was how much I wanted you to see me, to see how my body responds to you. I wanted to be naked for you so that you'd know what you can do to me with a look, a simple touch."
"Helen, I'm not beautiful, not like you."
"Eleanor, you're like something out of a seventeenth century painting, all sweeps and curves, womanly in every way." Helen leaned in and brushed a kiss over Eleanor's lips. "Haven't you ever looked on my books shelves? You should check out the bookmarks. Lucky for me, I get to keep my porno out in public."
Eleanor's thoughts fixed for a moment on a memory of Helen enraptured by an episode of Sister Wendy. Smiling despite herself, Eleanor argued, "Helen, I can't see myself that way. I wish I could "
"You're always going to fight with me on this. I can just tell," Helen interrupted, her tone showing that she wanted to shift gears for a moment.
"Well, I have won most of the cases we've fought," Eleanor teased back.
"This is one case you're going to lose, counselor."
Before Eleanor could respond, Helen leaned forward and caught Eleanor's lips in a wet and lingering kiss. When she finally pulled back Eleanor's eyes were closed and her breath was labored. "You may have won more cases, but you've never really fought me. Not the real me." She waited for Eleanor's eyes to open before continuing, "I won't stop fighting for you."
"Since we're both naked is it okay if I skip over all the noble reasons that have to do with your integrity and intelligence."
A grin slowly formed on Eleanor's face. "Okay."
Helen let go of the breath she was holding and fell back on the bed. "Finish taking off my other stocking first."
Now entirely amused, Eleanor began undoing the garter. "You really are the definition of mercurial, you know." She pulled it and the stocking away and her eyes caught on a flash of metal. Was that what I think it was? Helen let her legs open and Eleanor quietly gasped. The decoration was silver and pierced Helen's labia.
"I got it about two years ago, not long after you moved in." After a beat, she added, "I don't always wear it and no one else has seen it."
Eleanor hooked her fingers around the other garter, pulled it down over Helen's leg, and tossed it on to the dresser. "Why?"
"Because I've never wanted anyone else to know me. To know the real me, I mean." Before Eleanor could respond she asked, "Could you take down your hair? I love it when it's loose down your back or over your shoulder.
It would have been impossible for Eleanor to refuse Helen's request. As she lifted her arms, she felt Helen's eyes track the sway of her breasts. No one before had looked at her that way, with such unshielded desire. She pulled away the hair clip and then pulled her hair forward.
"Are their any other body piercings I should know about?"
Helen smiled. "Maybe. But right now, I'm only wearing the one." She let the ambiguity of her answer sink in before continuing, "In a way, I got the idea from you." Off Eleanor's raised eyebrow, she added, "As a prosecutor, I really couldn't get away with having a row of studs in my ear."
Ignoring the question of other piercings, Eleanor teased, "So you went with the more demure choice of a clit ring."
"Labia ring," Helen corrected, "and think of it as our little secret." Helen reached for Eleanor. "Lie back for me."
Eleanor did as Helen asked, her eyes fluttering shut as Helen's hand moved back to her breast. She heard Helen whisper, "This is me wanting you." And then felt the tip of Helen's tongue gently trace over the piercings in her right ear as Helen's nails moved down her side.
They fell into another long, lingering kiss while their hands moved over each other's skin.
Craving more contact, Eleanor pressed her body against Helen's smaller frame, letting her leg slip between Helen's thighs, and whispered, "Please let me love you," taking pleasure in the asking, and then sighing as she felt Helen's body mold into her own.
Not sure of her movements, Eleanor let her hand drift along Helen's body, stopping at Helen's small delicate breasts before moving on to caress the sharp inward curve of her waist and then the much slighter outward curve of her hip. Against her leg, she began to feel the wet heat of Helen's sex spilling onto her thigh. She reached lower, her fingers tracing along Helen's outer thigh and then circling inward. As she slid her leg away, her fingers drifted upward, closer to Helen's center, but then hesitated.
Uncertain thoughts tumbled about in her head. She knew how she liked to be touched, but she was not at all confident she knew what would please Helen. About to whisper her confusion, she stopped as Helen's hand moved over hers and gently guided it to her body. Under Helen's hand, she lightly traced the shape of Helen's sex, learning the intricacies of Helen's flesh, before fully cupping them in her hand.
As Helen began to rock against her hand, she began moving her fingers again, exploring with her thumb the hard bundle of nerves at the apex while her other fingers traced deeper into Helen's labia, moving over the smooth metal of the ring, and then a soft cry, a simple request, and Eleanor slid inside Helen's center, her fingers wrapped in heat and wet. The intimacy was astonishing, breathtaking, alluring in ways she'd never imagined.
From the sounds of Helen's breathing and the rocking of Helen's hips, Eleanor learned the needs of Helen's body. Where she preferred a more forceful hand, Helen needed a lighter touch. In the wet, Eleanor's fingers swirled over swollen flesh, moving in gentle but certain circles, inside and out, learning Helen's body, learning her own need to give Helen pleasure.
Her eyes opened and she witnessed Helen's left hand gripping the sheets, knuckles white, nails pressing into the cotton. Eleanor moved her gaze over the flexing of the muscles in Helen's arm, to Helen's shoulder, pale white against the blue backdrop of the bottom sheet. Her eyes turned to Helen's face, eyes closed, lips parted, brows drawn together, in concentration, in pleasure. She spoke Helen's name.
Her body on fire, every nerve ending alive, Helen looked into Eleanor's eyes, as Eleanor moved forward. Her lips captured Eleanor's, teeth closing down on tender flesh. She whispered into Eleanor's mouth, "I need you inside me," and moved harder against Eleanor's hand. Fingers again slid into her opening, filling inside of her, as she glided her own hands over Eleanor's back moving lower until they could curl into the soft flesh of Eleanor's ass, cupping it first, but then, as her excitement became more intense, gripping the tender flesh, nails pressing into the delicate skin.
The minor pain of Helen's nails ignited inside Eleanor's soul. She could feel the heat radiating off Helen's skin, hear Helen's labored breaths, and smell Helen's arousal. Her hand continued to move in concert with Helen's body, moving along and inside Helen's sex. Nothing she'd ever experienced before was more intimate than this because she knew what Helen was feeling. Giving birth, nursing Zoë, these were experiences more wonderful than she'd imagined possible, but they were of a different kind, a different order.
One of Helen's hands closed over Eleanor's, pulling it back and then guiding three of the fingers deep inside her body. She clenched around them, as her mind filled with an incoherent stream of memories of them making dinner, fighting over cases, folding laundry, walking in the park, ordinary events soon fragmenting into Eleanor's arms around her, Eleanor's hand in her own, Eleanor's gentle kisses goodnight. Dimly, in the back of her mind she heard Eleanor talking to her, whispering all the words she'd longed to hear, all the things she'd needed to be said. The heat inside her became incandescent, and her body shuddered into Eleanor's.
A gentle voice called to her, hands caressed her skin, and kisses drew her back. Her eyes still closed, she brought her hands to Eleanor's face, needing to touch the shape of Eleanor's lips, of her cheekbones and of her brow, needing to learn again the face of the woman who owned her as no one else could. Utterly spent, she moved to lay her head on Eleanor's shoulder.
Minutes passed, Eleanor listening to the gradual slowing of Helen's heart, waiting for the shuddering of Helen's body to recede. As gently as she could, she turned Helen onto her side, and then spooned her body around Helen's, before drawing up the blanket.
Cocooned inside the shelter she needed most, Helen spiraled back into her senses. When she finally spoke, her voice felt raw in her throat.
"Are you sure you're just a beginner?"
Eleanor smiled. "I only go where you take me."
"I think you have natural talent."
"The best kind to have."
Her recovery complete, Helen turned over to face Eleanor. "You're planning on being pretty insufferable about this."
"That was my plan."
Helen offered up a wicked grin. "So, are you going to tell tales? Defense attorney leaves the prosecution undone."
"How about prosecutor conquers defense attorney's fears."
Helen captured Eleanor's lips in a brief kiss. "I'm still working on that."
"So you're not finished with me?" Eleanor asked, her voice sounding less confident that she liked.
"No, I'm not finished with you at all." Helen brought her hand to the outside of Eleanor's breast. "Your skin always seems so much warmer than mine." A memory from a year and a half ago flashed in her head. "Do you remember the time Judge Kittleson jailed us for contempt.
Eleanor groaned. "How could I forget, and, can I just add that was so your fault." And why are we talking about this now?
Put in holding for contempt following what Eleanor could only remember as a minor argument in Judge Kittleson's chambers, Eleanor soon found herself robbed of her suit jacket and with her arms wrapped around her shivering housemate, who, once she was fully comfortable, promptly fell asleep.
An hour later, when Kittleson stopped by to kick them loose she found them both sound asleep, Helen now with her legs pulled up onto Eleanor's and her head tucked against Eleanor's shoulder.
Helen kissed Eleanor's collarbone. "What, the contempt charge or Judge Kittleson finding the two of us curled up together?"
"Helen, you brought it up," Eleanor reminded, smiling over Helen's absentmindedness.
Helen frowned her confusion for a moment before remembering her point, "I was going to confess that was the first time I accidentally felt you up."
Eyebrow raised and more eager to learn the answer than she cared to admit, Eleanor quizzed, "Okay, counselor, setting aside your mention of 'first time,' how does anyone accidentally cop a feel?"
"Anything that begins while sleeping counts as an accident," Helen explained with a grin.
"This is a rule of law."
Her expression as serious as she could muster, Helen declared, "An unwritten rule."
Eleanor simply stared into Helen's eyes for a moment before responding, "You know, a week later, Kittleson called me out on that, not the feeling up, thank God and of which I have no memory, but the sleeping bit."
"Don't even try to act like you aren't turned on by my cuddlesome ways." Helen smirked. "So what did Kittleson say?"
"She asked me, and I think I'm quoting here: if our cat fights always ended up with us cuddled together like a couple of kittens."
Helen pulled in a deep breath and then burst out laughing. "Oh my God, now I know why she does this thing to me."
"Whenever I mention your name she meows."
For a moment Eleanor could do nothing but stare. Finally she said, wonderingly, "I can't believe Jimmy had sex with her."
"Rumor has it that Jimmy is one lucky guy. The guys are still talking about walking in on her in Jimmy's apartment."
"They're still talking about that."
"Better her than you and me."
"What do they say about you and me?" Eleanor made an uncomfortable face. "I've heard bits and pieces, but not that much."
"You don't hang out enough with the cops." Helen laughed, adding off Eleanor's increasingly distressed face, "Oh come on, guys are worse gossips than women, especially if it comes to two women together."
"You approve of this?"
"Not so much approve, but accept." Helen let her hand back drift to one of Eleanor's breasts. "Anyway, what they say is pretty much what you'd expect."
"Defense attorney lusts in vain after prosecutor," Eleanor whispered, unable to hide the shudder in her voice as Helen's thumb gently rubbed over sensitive skin.
"No," Helen said slowly. "More like prosecutor caught checking out defense attorney's cleavage."
"What?" Eleanor squeaked as Helen expertly flicked her nail over the now erect nipple.
"A few month's back, while you were still nursing Zoë, Detective Mike kind of noticed me noticing you in one of the interrogation rooms."
"Mike talks about you and me?"
"Not as much as he used to." Helen grimaced. "I asked him to knock it off."
"Let me repeat. Detective Mike talks about us?"
"We're women who live together with a baby in what universe wouldn't that create gossip, plus we . . ."
"Argue all the time in public," Eleanor supplied.
"Where there's smoke . . . Eleanor, people talk. It's what they do." Helen hadn't realized this was where the conversation was going until she was there. She owed it to Eleanor not to stop. "And I don't think the talk is going to stop anytime soon."
Eleanor said nothing for several long minutes, leaving Helen on tenterhooks until she asked, "Did you really check out my cleavage during an interrogation?"
"Just a little bit." Helen's face colored. "You were wearing your grey wool dress with the v-neck and your black silk bra, the one with the lace overlay."
"Helen, that is easily one of my most conservative outfits, and I was still nursing."
"Eleanor, I know that. That was a big part of the problem. I'd come home and your shirt would be half unbuttoned. And if you haven't figured it out already, I'm a total breast girl.
"I'm figuring that out." Eleanor smiled guiltily. "Would it be horrible of me to admit I kind of like knowing you were checking me out?"
"No, because I want you to know."
Helen heard the "why" Eleanor couldn't seem to say and decided to answer it, "Because I want you to know you're my girl."
Eleanor let Helen's statement sink in. It was hard for her to think of herself as anyone's "girl."
"Have the guys ever talked about me checking you out?"
Helen shook her head. "They see you as way too professional. They think Bobby's crap, Eugene, too. Lindsay gets a pass. Jimmy and you get props. You're especially considered one of the good guys, even if you're a defense attorney, and even if you work with Bobby."
"One of the good guys?"
"It's the way I see you, too, honest, strong." Helen thought for a moment. "Plus, you're warm."
Helen knew she was veering away from what the guys had to say and into something she needed to say.
"You know how to make me feel like I'm wrapped up in a blanket. I know it sounds silly, but it's the way I feel about you."
"Do you mean safe?"
"Safe, but more, I guess I mean cared for. Like tonight, when you made my favorite dinner for me, complete with lemon sorbet for desert. I don't unusually get that from people."
"Even highly self-sufficient prosecutor types need to be pampered once in a while."
"Highly self-sufficient, huh."
"Helen, you are great at taking care of everyone except yourself." At Helen's raised eyebrow, Eleanor continued. "The only time I can remember being on the same page with any of your colleagues was when you started wobbling on whether you should sit with a second chair after a defendant not only tired to strangle you, but succeeded at giving you a concussion. Nobody could believe you were having second thoughts. Nobody, not the cops, not even Kenneth Walsh, and certainly not me."
"He was Bobby's client."
"And he was a real piece of crap," Eleanor responded, more vehemently than she'd expected.
"You'll get no arguments from me." Helen shook her head. "I still can't believe I lost the case. I probably should have dropped out all together."
It was Eleanor's turn to shake her head. "Sweetheart, that's not my point. My point is you don't have it in you to cut yourself a break. You need other people to do that for you and then you make it nearly impossible for them to do so."
"How come you're so good at it?"
"I don't take no for an answer, and I fight dirty. You know defense attorneys."
Helen grinned. "The only time I get you to admit that you fight dirty there aren't any witnesses."
"First body piercings, now exhibitionism, you're showing a lot of unexpected cards tonight."
Helen gently pushed Eleanor from her side onto her back. "I wasn't talking about exhibitionism. Don't play loose with the statements in evidence." She sat up letting the blanket slide down her back and then moved to straddle Eleanor's hips. "Exhibitionism involves sharing, and I have no intention of sharing you. Say hello to my possessive side."
"Another revelation," Eleanor teased as she brought her hands around Helen's narrow hips. "Who would think after living together for over two years we still had things to learn about each other?"
"You've been learning a lot of my secrets tonight. Tell me one of yours."
The request came off of Helen's tongue before she realized. Worried she'd pushed too hard, she barely held back her sigh of relief when Eleanor smiled guiltily.
"You're not the only one who likes to look. I've checked you out when you were asleep," Eleanor confessed. Off Helen's puzzled look, she added, "You know that sleep shirt you like to wear with the four buttons down the front?"
"You mean the one that usually comes open."
"That would be the one." Eleanor smiled weakly. "A couple times when the front of it came undone, I . . . "
"But you've seen me naked a bunch of times." Mostly so that I could try to decide if you were interested, Helen didn't add.
"Yes, but I always made myself look away."
Helen nodded, getting Eleanor's point. It was her turn to smile guiltily. "Last month when I interrupted your bath to get the aspirin bottle, I had another bottle stashed in my bedroom."
"Wait a second, not only did you interrupt my bath, you made me open the bottle for you. Was all of that just to check me out?"
"Not all of it. I did have a headache, and I was having a hard time with the child-proof cap." Helen raised one of Eleanor's hands to her lips and kissed the fingertips. "And I'd been lonely for you all day, and I wanted to check you out because I love looking at your breasts."
"I really don't get it," Eleanor started, but off the expression on Helen's face she switched points, "I mean I get the lonely part. I must have picked up the phone a dozen times a day when we were in L.A. just to hear your voice."
"You only called three times."
Surprised that Helen remembered the actual number of times she'd called, Eleanor almost forgot her question. "Did you want to call me?"
"Everyday, maybe every hour. I kept making up all these reasons to call "
'Why didn't you?" Eleanor interrupted, her tone gentle and curious.
"I'm not sure what I was thinking at the time, but now I think it was because I wasn't ready to admit how much I missed you." Helen grinned. "So instead, I'd ask after you every time Lindsay called to complain about the judge."
"God, is that how Lindsay knew to remind me to take the iron tablets?" Off Helen's nod, Eleanor started to laugh. "I wondered about that because I didn't remember telling Lindsay I'd shown up anemic at my last blood donation."
The two fell into a companionable silence until Helen asked softly, "This has really been a long time coming, hasn't it?"
"It has." Eleanor agreed.
Again, they fell silent, each caught up in memories of the other, both trying to figure out the moment when feelings finally began to evolve. One of the candles sputtered as a part of the wax fell away, sending flickering shadows across the room and the bed. Hands moved gently over warm skin and bodies rocked slowly over and under one another, casting other shadows on the walls.
Helen rested her hands over Eleanor's breasts. She spoke quietly, trying to answer the first part of Eleanor's question, the part that they'd skipped, the part that she knew Eleanor needed answered, why her.
"You have the most beautiful skin tones: ivory with just hint of pink. Under candlelight, your skin picks up this other shade, a slightly richer tone. I don't know what to call it, but the color is beautiful. I love looking at your skin, and the shape of your eyes. I love the way your hair drapes down your back and the way your skin seems to mold to my touch." Helen moved her fingers over Eleanor's shoulder. "And I love the softness, too. When you hold me, it's like I'm surrounded by softness, but underneath the softness is all this strength, and the combination makes me feel like I'm " Helen trailed off, not sure of her words.
Eleanor brought her hand to Helen's cheek and rubbed it gently with her thumb. "Like you're what?"
"Like I'm cherished." Embarrassed, Helen looked away. "I feel the same way when you call me things like sweetheart or sweetie. Like you really mean it."
"I do, and you are. No one is more important to me than you and Zoë."
Afraid to say it, but even more afraid not to, Helen let the words come out, "Eleanor, you get that I'm in love with you, right? I mean I'm all in on this. I don't know how to hold anything back. I've waited too long."
Eleanor watched the fear cross Helen's face, fear of having revealed too much, of having spoken too soon. She guided her hand behind Helen's neck and pulled Helen forward, urging Helen to lie across her body
Holding Helen close, she whispered. "You're so much braver than me. You take all these risks, and you take them for me."
"You're worth any risk."
"Am I? I think I've been letting you take the lead far too often."
"You're taking one now. Letting me " Helen stopped unable to finish her sentence.
"It's not a question of letting. Holding you, making love to you, these are things I want." Eleanor turned so that she could look into Helen's eyes. "These are things I want because you're not the only one's who is in love."
Eleanor tipped her head forward to catch Helen's lips with her own. With the tongue she pressed between, seeking the now familiar velvet that was the inside of Helen's mouth. Inside her head her words echoed, words of love, but also what she'd said earlier about taking risks and leads. Yes, Helen took risks, took the lead, but there was also this other thing inside of her, a yielding that Eleanor was only now beginning to understand.
Tongues glided over one another and bodies began moving to their own rhythm. Helen felt Eleanor's words sink deep into her soul. Handed her hearts desire, she knew to do only one thing.
Helen rose up on her forearms and then leaned down to let her breasts brush over Eleanor's; she let go of Eleanor's mouth so that she could press a series of light kisses across Eleanor's brow, over her cheek bones, against her eyelids, wanting Eleanor to know the depths of her love before teaching her the depths of her desire.
She felt Eleanor's hands wrap over her back, warm fingers moving along her spine, urging her to lie forward. Helen did as Eleanor wanted. Some of her weight supported on her elbows, she let her legs fall between Eleanor's and immediately felt the wet heat of Eleanor's center against her own. She began rocking back and forth, as Eleanor had done to her earlier, and sighed as Eleanor immediately picked up the rhythm.
Her mouth found Eleanor's breasts, and she painted over them with her lips and tongue, before pulling one of the nipples into her mouth and raking over it with her teeth. When she bit down, Eleanor's body lifted into hers and she knew Eleanor was ready.
Slowly, she began inching her way down. Her mouth gliding over and past Eleanor's breasts, and belly. She paused at Eleanor's navel, and dipped inside with her tongue, while she reached underneath one of Eleanor's thighs, wrapping her fingers into the soft flesh and urging Eleanor's legs further apart. She inched lower still, so that she could press her breast into Eleanor's sex, as she used her other hand to massage Eleanor's nipples, trying to unite Eleanor's pleasure in her body, wanting to surround Eleanor inside her desire.
Not entirely sure how Eleanor would react, Helen traced the upper edge of Eleanor's pubic hair with her tongue and immediately felt Eleanor stiffen. She pulled her body closer to Eleanor's, pressed a kiss into Eleanor's pubic hair, and retreated.
Eleanor lay with her head tipped to the side, her eyes closed and her lips parted. Moving so that they could lie side-by-side, Helen tenderly brushed Eleanor's hair from her face before tracing the outer curve of Eleanor's ear with her tongue and then whispering, "This is me loving my beautiful Eleanor."
Her eyes still closed Eleanor whispered back, "I don't know why I'm so afraid."
Helen's thoughts spun around a dozen different responses before she said, "After all the fights we've had I can understand why you might not want my teeth down there."
For a moment she thought she'd guessed wrong, but then Eleanor's face opened up into a wide grin.
"I wasn't even thinking about your teeth or a certain fondness you have for biting."
Helen placed a kiss on Eleanor's shoulder. "How about if I promise to be gentle."
Eleanor turned to look into Helen's eyes, and her grin faded. "I've never let anyone " She trailed off in embarrassment.
"Go down on you?"
Her eyes locked on Eleanor's, Helen reached down to Eleanor's sex, and then watched Eleanor's eyes widen as she gently cupped it in her hand.
"You know how I'm always trying to steal away your body heat? This is the source."
Helen let her fingers sink deeper, and move between the wet lips of Eleanor's sex. Her fingertips brushed over Eleanor's opening, and then she took her hand away and brought it to her mouth. Conscious of Eleanor's eyes upon her, she slid her fingers into her mouth, as her own eyes fluttered shut. Rare flavors rolled over her tongue. She wanted to taste Eleanor directly on her tongue, but for now this would do. Her eyes opened.
She started to say something, but changed her mind and instead reached again for Eleanor's sex. This time she was bolder. She moved her fingers deeper and then pulled them away to hold over Eleanor's face, her wet fingers glittering under the candlelight.
"Have you ever tasted yourself?"
Helen wasn't surprised when Eleanor shook her head. She feigned holding her fingers to Eleanor's mouth, but then jerked them back as soon as Eleanor moved her head. Smiling, Helen brushed them over her own nipples. As the cooling moisture made her nipples draw tight she rose up, sliding over Eleanor's body until her breasts were suspended over Eleanor's mouth.
She'd never thought about it, never wondered, never questioned. As her lips closed over Helen's breast, Eleanor brushed her tongue over the nipple. Part sweet, part salty, Eleanor wasn't sure where her flavor ended and where Helen's began. Her hands closed around Helen's back, and she drew Helen closer, wanting to take more of Helen's breast into her mouth, loving the soft sounds of pleasure Helen could not hold back. When Helen pulled away, she let go, but not willingly.
"Do you understand why I want this, why I want to taste you, what it means to me?" Helen whispered as she once again straddled Eleanor's hips.
"More than that. I'm glad you've never let anyone else go down on you because I want that for myself."
Eleanor smiled. "Is this part of your possessive side."
"Being first?" Helen questioned.
"Probably more than it should be. But it's also about intimacy, about being close to you, being able to see things in you only I'm allowed to see." Helen looked into Eleanor's eyes and whispered, "Trust me. Please believe that everything in my heart is true."
Helen waited for permission; it came with a second nod, more tentative than she'd liked, but an invitation all the same. She descended slowly, her mouth moving along Eleanor's skin, discovering sensitive curves and secret regions. With her tongue she anointed the undersides of breasts and traced the outward sweep of hips. She kissed along the gentle rise of Eleanor's belly but returned again and again to nipples, offering attention soft and harsh, using tongue and teeth, Helen finding her way downward, waiting for Eleanor's legs to relax, waiting to be allowed to fall between, to feel the heat of Eleanor's body, Eleanor's sex, against her own, waiting for Eleanor's body to trust her until finally she could claim her prize.
Eleanor's sex fluttered beneath her, as Helen tickled the swollen lips, slowly working them apart, tasting the sweet bitter, the thick and viscous, like honey, but not. Helen's tongue moving, teasing, now moving deeper into a second set of lips, this flesh like rice paper, delicate, fragile, Helen's tongue dipping deep into Eleanor's body, before tracing upward, finding Eleanor's clitoris, her mouth claiming Eleanor her Venus made of flesh.
In the back of her thoughts, Eleanor heard the small sounds coming from Helen's throat, sounds of pleasure and delight. Her fingers wrapped into the luxurious thickness of Helen's hair, moving against Helen's scalp, and then she heard a request, softly spoken, without demand, but a request. "See me," Helen asked.
Eleanor opened her eyes and looked down at Helen's face pressed between her thighs. For the first time in her life, she allowed herself to see another desiring her. And then this rush of feeling, first tension, a pulling together, a hot, tight, fever on the skin between her thighs, along her lower back, extending until it stretched across her and then release, letting go, her body moving of its own accord, hips rising up, some sound coming loose from deep inside of her.
Her hands reflexively pulled Helen up her body, until their lips could meet in a kiss. For the second time she tasted herself on Helen's lips, but this time she understood the source of Helen's need, even as she reveled in her own pleasure.
Eyes met as the shuddering of Eleanor's body faded, but there were no more words that needed to be said. There were no more reassurances that needed to be made. The day's journey finally finished, Helen rested her head on Eleanor's shoulder, and both let themselves drift to sleep.
Epilogue: Winners Keepers
Helen left her car in the driveway and went up the front walk. The door was open, a circumstance Helen thought she would never entirely become used to no matter what crime statistics Eleanor offered. Nobody was going to be able to convince her West Los Angeles had anything in common with Mayberry.
Inside the house she could hear two people talking. No, not talking, arguing. Helen headed back to the kids' room and saw Thea take a doll from Zoë.
"Hey you two. Am I seeing sharing or fighting?"
"Mommy Helen," Zoë yelled, coming off the floor and hurling herself towards Helen, her sister only a step behind.
Helen crouched down to kiss both of her daughters. "Where's Mama?"
Thea said something that Helen found unintelligible, the three-year-old's speaking skills somewhat behind average, an issue Eleanor confidently asserted would soon enough improve given her environment and genetic heritage. Seven-year-old Zoë translated and Helen left the two of them with additional kisses and a firm promise to share their toys, like that would ever happen.
She headed back through the house, going out the kitchen door and found Eleanor kneeling on the patio, next to her a glass of what looked like the 2006 Catena Malbec they'd opened the night before, and moving what Helen was reasonably sure was a basil plant into a larger pot.
"You're home early," Eleanor said by way of greeting.
"Judge Rodriquez gave us the rest of the afternoon off so that he could catch up on his golf game."
"Put that into the court record, he did?"
"No, he mentioned something about a mistress and Viagra, but Kevin and I know that was just bullshit to make us think he's a stud."
Helen bent over and brushed a kiss on Eleanor's lips, and Eleanor said, "Lovely."
Not sure if she was being praised for the kiss or admonished for the joke about Rodriquez (Eleanor liked the judge because he nearly always ruled her way or was, as Helen believed, a sucker for the defense), Helen offered up another, this time adding a tiny bit of tongue and a quick bite on Eleanor's sensitive lower lip.
"I take it you remembered my mother is picking up the girls to take them to see Princess and the Frog," Eleanor said dryly.
"Better her than us. I hate cartoons."
"Even though they're pretty much always in color?"
"The cartoon lips never match the dialogue. Creeps me out. Any by the way, I also remembered you cancelled your depo with Denis Sherman." Helen grabbed Eleanor's wine glass and took a sip, definitely the Catena from last night.
"True that, but only because Sherman had to be deposed by his wife's divorce attorney."
"A situation he probably wouldn't be facing if he hadn't embezzled all those funds from Paramount."
"Allegedly embezzled. As for the divorce, I'm pretty sure Denis was about to get his walking papers regardless." Finished with the replanting, Eleanor stood up, brushed off her hands, and took back her wine glass.
"Lucky for him Stark, Frutt, Devlin, and Poe is a full service operation. God, Eleanor, where do you guys find these creeps?"
Eleanor raised an eyebrow. "Did you really come home early to fight with me over my client list?"
Oh, oh. Helen backtracked. "No, I came home early pretty much hoping to fuck your brains out. What are my chances?"
Still liking Helen's recent penchant for crude talk, Eleanor leaned close to whisper near Helen's ear, "I'd guess sixty-forty your favor. It all depends on what you're wearing under your Prada."
Helen understood the hint. She offered up one final kiss, this one making full use of her tongue and teeth and than headed upstairs to their bedroom, quickly stripping out of her suit and heading into the bathroom for a shower.
She was just finished washing her hair when she heard the girls outside and soon after the sound of a car pulling away. No more than a minute or so after that she heard footsteps coming into the bathroom and then the shower door opening.
Helen leaned back into her lover's arms. "What took you so long?"
"Being the responsible parent I had to ensure my mother understood no caffeinated sodas at the theatre."
"Being the sex bunny I left all that important stuff up to you," Helen said, turning around. She skipped another kiss because she knew she'd be able to catch more of them later. Now, she needed something besides Eleanor's mouth.
Her hands wrapped around Eleanor's hips, Helen tipped her head low to capture one of Eleanor's nipple and draw on it hard. As soon as she heard Eleanor's thick sigh of pleasure, Helen gripped harder with her hands, her fingers stretching to wrap around Eleanor's ass, nails pushing into the flesh.
This earned her a push into the wall of the shower stall, and then Eleanor's hands reaching down to capture around her waist and draw her up. Helen's legs wrapped around Eleanor's hips, and her mouth found Eleanor's for one of the kisses delayed.
They made love in the shower quickly and then stumbled out, Eleanor carrying Helen to the bed, and there they made love again, the second time languidly, without the fireworks.
Lying side by side, feeling wonderfully spent, Helen used her fingertip to trace Eleanor's eyebrows. "I heard from Lindsay. She and Bobby and the kids want to see us."
"See us or see California? Boston's pretty cold this time of year."
"Maybe a little of both. You don't miss it, do you?"
"Boston, no. The practice, sometimes. But it's not as if I could do anything about the practice. Once Bobby left it all became pretty pointless. And even though I know you don't always approve, I'm a pretty good fit at Stark."
Helen resisted saying anything about Stark. Sebastian annoyed her no end, but she liked Jessica a lot, and now that she had a few more years under her belt, Madeline was no longer driving her crazy. Instead she said, "All I need is for us to fit and keep on fitting."
Eleanor leaned close and kissed Helen's forehead. "We'll always fit."
"Why?" Helen asked.
"Why what? We've been together five years, seven if you count the before."
"The before" was what they called the time between first living together and becoming lovers (Helen refused to use the word partners and regretted deeply they couldn't say spouses, at least according to the laws of California). Not sure herself why she asked the question, Helen needed to think. Eleanor waited.
"What did you see in me? I mean why me and not someone else?"
Eleanor smiled as she remembered something Helen had said that long ago night, something about skipping over the noble reasons having to do with intelligence and integrity.
"You want to know if I chose you the way you chose me?"
"No, I want to know why you said yes. And I mean besides the fact that I kept throwing myself at you hoping at some point you'd catch me."
"Back then, at first, I didn't really think about choosing you, the choosing came later," Eleanor admitted, ignoring the tiny twinge of hurt the admission cost her and hoping the twinge of hurt she'd caused her lover would soon fade.
Those first weeks, months really, Eleanor had simply reveled in having a lover, in being desired, and as much as she loved Helen for her caring, her affection, and her character, she'd also loved Helen as a trophy, as proof of her own allure. This she admitted, too, knowing also it would hurt Helen to hear.
"So do you want to know when I got over it?" Eleanor finally asked.
"Am I being an idiot for wanting to know? Is this me being stupidly vain?"
"Sweetheart, this isn't about vanity, it's about lust, and maybe a little about being a Catholic girl still stuck on the deadly sins." Off Helen's raised eyebrow, Eleanor added, "Not that I'm entirely incapable of castigating myself over gluttony."
"Just so you remember I'm your favorite food group," Helen said before moving in for a kiss.
The kiss left Eleanor blushing, but she didn't misunderstand its purpose. Helen was afraid of what she might say next. "Baby, I'm not forgetting. And by the way, Lindsay sent a copy of that poll to me, too. The one about why relationships fail." The admission earned Eleanor another kiss, this one less searing, but entirely heartfelt.
"Baby, turn over," Eleanor whispered as she helped Helen move onto her side so that she could curl around her. Eleanor wrapped an arm over Helen's waist and she held her tightly as she continued her story.
"I got over it about a month or so after Zoë started walking. The three of us were in the park and you and I were trying to keep Zoë from wandering into the duck pond. The day wasn't important, so it doesn't matter if you don't remember."
"So what happened?"
"You turned around and I don't know, the sun hit your hair, your skirt pulled against your legs, all I remember was thinking you were gorgeous, and then later that day, after we'd gone home, you were getting out of the shower when I came into the bathroom and I took you into my arms, holding you from behind like I'm doing now."
"Right now," Helen murmured.
Eleanor moved her hand to cup gently around one of Helen's breasts. "You're not the only breast girl in this relationship. I love the way yours fit perfectly inside my hands."
"They're not too small?"
"Perfect, Helen. Absolutely perfect. And I like even more the way you react when I kiss them," Eleanor said as she guided Helen onto her back.
She kissed them both, tenderly, lovingly, before taking one of Helen's nipples between her teeth and biting down, just enough to get a reaction, no more. And then she brought her hand to cup between Helen's legs.
"The first time I ever made love to you, you asked me to be inside of you. I don't think I can even describe what it felt like to hear those words."
"Be inside of me now," Helen whispered.
They made love a third time; this time Eleanor understanding entirely what had brought Helen home early. After they settled, Helen held comfortably in her arms, Eleanor whispered, "Baby, you're not a trophy, and you're not compensation. You're my girl."
"Even though I can be a real bitch and sometimes I'm insecure."
"I'm no constant walk in the park either." Eleanor nuzzled and kissed the back of Helen's neck.
"I love you," Helen whispered.
"And I love you back."
Eleanor felt Helen's mood shift, felt Helen's insecurity fade away. She said, "I love you," a second time and Helen turned over, a smile stretching from ear to ear.
"Have I ever told you how much I love your shoulders?"
Eleanor laughed. "Why don't you tell me right now."
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