DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Up to the middle of series two, takes place after 2.6 and disregards 2.7.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To lucyvictoriabrown[at]gmail.com
They did this a lot: late-evening trysts with some booze sneaked in for good measure. Betty now almost lived her life for them, the next times, the moments when she could relinquish the image she cultivated so hard all day everyday and just be herself. Safe in the knowledge that Teresa wouldn't let her fall.
But tonight something was different. She felt it as soon as they walked into the room, saw it in Teresa's face as she took off her jacket. Sighing, Betty pushed the door to and kicked off her shoes.
'You shipping out again?' she asked, trying to keep her voice light.
Teresa shook her head. 'Not yet.'
'Well, then, what's the problem?' Collapsing on the bed, Betty kept a close eye on the soldier. 'Aren't you gonna sit down?'
'If I sit down I won't...' Taking a long breath, Teresa leaned back against the door and chuckled wryly to herself. For the first time Betty noticed that she looked far from perfect this evening. Perhaps habit had blinded her to the fact when they were in the bar but, no, there was definitely something wrong.
'Come on,' she pressed. 'Tell me what's wrong and we can fix it.'
'You can't,' Teresa muttered. 'You've tried and you just can't. You know, I never wanted it to get this bad, to the point where I look forward to coming back to you. So much, I look forward to it so much.'
Betty grinned. 'So do I. So what's the problem?'
Teresa trained her eyes on her properly for the first time. 'Why are you with me when all you want all you'll ever want is her?'
All of a sudden Betty felt as though she'd been hit by a truck. Reaching automatically for her cigarettes, she fumbled one out of the packet and lit it. 'Where the hell did that come from?'
'You see, you're not denying it.'
'Look,' she said with more conviction than she felt, 'Kate and I were never anything. I mean, yeah, I wanted it but I've come to terms with the fact that she loves Ivan.'
'She doesn't love him, she loves the idea of him, that's all.'
'You don't know her,' Betty answered, defensiveness sneaking into her tone. But was she being defensive of herself or of Kate? Did she know? Did it matter? 'I've barely mentioned her name since I met you. I don't know how you think you know anything about her.'
'Gladys talks,' Teresa said shortly.
Betty growled. 'Princess better find something else to talk about. What has she said?'
Perching tentatively on the edge of the bed, Teresa answered, 'Just that Kate wants to feel something with him. She's trying too hard and, the way Gladys tells it, there's only one reason for that.'
'There isn't,' Betty said quietly. 'You don't know what Kate's had to go through, you don't know what her life was before she came here. Before she came back here,' she added as an afterthought. 'There are plenty of reasons why she wants to feel close to Ivan and feel safe with him.' The words almost stuck in her throat but she forced them out and attempted a smile.
'But you're one of them, aren't you? I knew that the moment I saw you look at her.'
Taking a drag on her cigarette, Betty muttered, 'Kate's part of the past. I barely talk to her anymore, not outside of work anyway.'
Teresa smiled sadly. 'That's half the problem. You don't get away from something like this by hiding from it. You have to face it and move on.'
'I did,' Betty argued, suddenly feeling defensive again. She sat up a little straighter as she continued, 'I told Kate we couldn't be friends anymore, I stepped away because it...it hurt.'
'You didn't deal with the problem, you dealt with the symptom.'
'No, I took action. Isn't that what you're always going on about? You can talk all you want but it's putting your name down on a form or doing something that makes good the words?' Without waiting for a response, she rushed on, 'I just don't see why you and me should suffer. I like this; I like us.'
'I do too,' replied Teresa with an air of finality Betty couldn't stand.
There were two options. Fall apart or get tough and only one person in the world had seen her fall apart. It was going to stay that way. Smoking her cigarette quietly for a few moments, she stubbed it out into the ashtray and pushed her feet onto the floor. She wobbled a bit as she stood but kept her balance. Teresa also rose, her expression betraying her pain. It almost made Betty rethink almost.
'Okay,' she said, 'you wanna leave, you leave. But don't pretend this is anything to do with her. This is your get out of jail free card and, you know what, that's fine. This was only ever temporary. You didn't have to dress it up like this, you coulda just walked out and I wouldn't have stopped you.'
Teresa lifted her eyes to the ceiling and nodded. 'Betty, life's too short for this. Isn't the war teaching you anything? I would love to be with you but it has to be us, just us now. I can't have that spectre hanging over me. All I want is for you to get over her and need me instead.'
'I want you,' Betty tried, ignoring the other part of the sentence.
'But you need her,' Teresa concluded with a heavy sigh. 'I gotta go.'
Overtaken by sudden fear, Betty stepped in front of the door. 'You walk out and we're done. I mean it. This was supposed to be fun, not threats and '
'Anything bigger,' Teresa interrupted. 'Yeah, I know. See you around, huh?'
Then she nudged her aside and opened the door. Betty felt the waft of air as she passed but didn't see anything she was too preoccupied by fighting the tears in her eyes. Once the footsteps died away, she stumbled back to the bed and sat down. She didn't realise the door was still wide open until a tentative voice reached her ears.
'What happened?' Kate asked in her usual gentle way. It still felt like a knife to the heart.
'Go away, Kate,' she muttered.
'Not until I know you're okay. I I saw Teresa leaving. Did you two have a fight?'
Betty shivered or was it a shudder? 'I don't wanna talk about it.'
'Okay, but '
'Go away, Kate,' she repeated forcefully.
She heard her sigh and, involuntarily, her eyes drifted upwards to that face she'd all but memorised, the one she'd dreamed of night after night, the one she'd cried over. The one, if she was honest with herself, that she was crying over now. It wasn't Teresa; it never had been.
With that realisation came the old familiar aching that she couldn't do anything about it. It was the same ache that had forced her to put her relationship with Kate on a professional setting. She'd avoided her and hoped time would work its magic and...fix her of this love she desperately needed out of her life. But it hadn't.
Kate's eyes were kind, worried even. Betty felt her mask slip and a tear dribbled down her cheek. When Kate made to step forward, though, she held up a hand and shook her head.
'No,' she said firmly. 'I'll be fine. Just need to be alone, that's all.'
'If you're sure...'
'I am.' Watching her go, Betty murmured, 'Kate?'
Was it just her imagination or was there hope on that pretty face as she swung back around? 'Yeah?'
'Close the door.'
Kate's face fell but she did it without another word. Left alone, Betty listened to the giggles and talk coming from the rest of the boarding house and felt her insides seize up. She longed for the days she could be on the outside and not give a damn. Now there was only one place she wanted to be and it was the one place she couldn't ever go. Teresa had been spot on really. Not that knowing that helped her any right now.
Return to Miscellaneous Fiction
Return to Main Page