DISCLAIMER: These main characters do not belong to me. They belong to Dick Wolf/NBC/Universal and Barbara Hall/CBS/Twentieth Century Fox.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Another challenge from The Raven. All parameters were set by her. A lot of buzzwords to include, too many to name here. So, as others have done before me, all the buzzwords and phrases required will be in bold letters. Thanks, Rave, for constantly making me think outside the box. Once again, all fun aside, you make me a better writer.
TIMEFRAME: Set when Nora was still the Interim ADA, after Adam Schiff and before Arthur Branch.
FANDOM/PAIRING: Law and Order/Judging Amy Nora Lewin/Maxine Gray.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Way We Were
Maxine Gray was finally relaxing. Finally. She didn't think that was genuinely possible, nor did her family. She wasn't wired that way. She was a mother. A grandmother. A nurturing worrier by nature. Of course it didn't help that Maxine had given birth to a needy brood who, regardless of their ages, always seemed to be in the middle of some crisis. At nine years old, her granddaughter, Lauren, sometimes thought, spoke and acted more maturely than her own children, all three of whom were in their thirties. She loved them all dearly but to finally be away made her feel like she had been paroled.
Paroled. Huh. That thought made her chuckle, as she sat out on the tiny stone patio, her feet resting on another deck chair. She sipped leisurely on a glass of merlot and enjoyed the warm but breezy early fall afternoon. How lucky could she get? Just in the nick of time, just when she thought she was going to actually succumb to a nervous breakdown, a set of circumstances resulted in her being able to come to New York and spend a week in this lovely little Village apartment. For free. Who gets opportunities like that? Certainly not Maxine Gray, she thought to herself.
Okay, so it wasn't exactly free. It was a reward for selling her soul to the devil every day at her job with DCF, a reward for driving herself to the brink of a stroke by trying to fulfill her mission of saving families and working out ways of trying to keep them together. Or having to remove children from an abusive or neglectful environment, the eyes of broken innocence burning into her with hate and confusion for taking them away from a situation they knew no other life from. She was saving them but all they knew, at first, was that she separated them from their mother, father, grandparent or siblings. As a defense mechanism, they had already become protective of their way of life and Maxine came along and turned everything upside down. Sometimes it was for the better, sometimes it was not. Either way, these children knew their lives would never be the same again.
Fortunately, one of her most recent cases turned out much better than she (or anyone else, for that matter) originally anticipated and the family was so pleased with her effort and dedication to the case that they offered her the use of their place in the Village for a week. She had reunited an abandoned child with her grandparents who had been searching for her for years. Maxine had stumbled onto the case accidentally and the circumstances had so touched her that she didn't stop until she single-handedly brought it to a conclusion. It didn't hurt that the grandfather was a corporate attorney who handled business accounts in Hartford as well as Manhattan. Thus, the second story walk-up on Houston. Close to Chinatown, close to Little Italy, close to life so diversified from her routine in Connecticut. And she was damn sure going to take advantage of it.
She had arrived that morning, got settled in, checked out the neighborhood, stopped at a corner cafe and had a real cup of coffee and a cinnamon raisin bagel slathered with strawberry cream cheese, to hell with her diet. She was on vacation and she was going to enjoy it even if it killed her. No DCF, no Sean Potter, no other Grays, no whining, no nagging, just her in a not-so-strange city with seven days of total freedom. The idea of it was almost overwhelming. Maxine couldn't remember the last time she took time off for herself. That thought stopped her - she literally could not recall her last vacation. How pathetic was that?
Deciding to take herself out for a bite to eat, Maxine dressed casually but appropriately and strolled down to Mulberry Street to treat herself to an authentic Italian meal. She sat outside at a tiny table with a red-checkered tablecloth, ate an orgasmically delicious tortellini alla panna and drank chianti until she was as giddy as a school girl. She allowed herself to be flirted with by a handsome, young, blond haired, blue-eyed Sicilian waiter who greeted her with 'Buono Sera, Signora,' spoke in a very charming accent (he was so damn cute, she didn't care if it was real or if he was an out-of-work actor pretending to be from Corsica) and through his undivided attention, made her feel twenty years old again. She left him a huge tip, which is probably what he had been after all along, but she didn't care. She was on vacation.
The walk back to the apartment began blissfully uneventful as Maxine took in the sights, sounds and smells indigenous to the city. She was so preoccupied that she didn't see the taxi speeding her way like a bullet shot from a gun, as she crossed Lafayette. It was only after the driver laid on his horn that she jumped out of her daydream and back to reality. He had stopped in plenty of time to avoid a collision with her but impatiently continued to beep at her while she stepped into the taxi's path. Annoyed beyond belief, Maxine halted directly in front of his vehicle and glared at him through the windshield. He leaned out his window and yelled at her in Farsi, a language she did not understand but the tone was clearly decipherable.
"I'm crossing with the light, here!!!" Maxine responded, matching his voice level and gesturing to the illuminated 'walk' sign on the corner.
He again screamed something unintelligible at her and waved her out of the way. When she stubbornly stood there with her hands on her hips, he pushed non-stop on his horn once again.
Not knowing where it came from and not wanting to explore the source of this sudden appearance of her dark side, she reached downward, crotch-level, mimicked cradling an imaginary penis in her hand and bellowed, "Honk this, you insidious turd!"
The driver was so stunned by this action that he stuck his head back inside his cab, rolled up the window, backed up and then drove around her. He was used to this behavior from younger, more disobedient women but obviously not from someone Maxine's age. So much dishonor, disrespect. Thankfully his wife knew her place, he thought, as he burned rubber up the street.
Unfortunately, this soured Maxine's previously good mood. She grumbled to herself, cursing him for the next block. As she turned the corner to Houston Street, she stepped into a situation that would profoundly change her life.
"Tell me what happened, Mrs. Gray," Detective Ed Greene questioned her, gently, the shocked look on her face a precursor to a possible anxiety attack. Or worse.
Maxine was sitting on the steps of the brownstone four doors down from the apartment where she had been staying. "It happened so fast...I was coming back from eating dinner in Little Italy...I had just begun walking up this street here," she indicated Houston, "and I heard the squeal of tires. That got my attention and I saw a white car stop beside that man," she pointed to a body on the sidewalk, now covered by a blue tarp, "the back window rolled down and I heard a noise that sounded like asthmatic coughing. Four times. Then that man," she pointed again to the blue tarp, "jerked spasmodically and fell to the ground, bleeding. He didn't move after he hit the ground. I...I think he may have already been dead." The area was buzzing with too many law enforcement personnel to count, the activity not even coming close to stirring a dazed and dismayed Maxine Gray.
His pen and pad poised, Detective Greene instinctively reached over and touched her arm, reassuringly. "Just a few more questions, Mrs. Gray. I need to get as many details as I can while the incident is still fresh in your mind."
"I know," Maxine responded, distantly. "I work closely with the police and my daughter's a judge. In Connecticut."
Ed nodded. That information alone should make her a more than credible witness. "What do you remember about the car?"
"It was...a...uh...a Cadillac...four door, blacked out windows. It was that new, pearl-white color. New Jersey plates."
"You wouldn't have seen a number on that plate, would you?" Detective Greene asked, hopefully, not really expecting a positive reply. He was so surprised when Maxine rattled off the vehicle's license number that he almost forgot to write it down. "That's great, Mrs. Gray, that will help a lot. Did you happen to see anyone in the car?"
"No. No, I'm sorry. The window went back up before the car passed me."
"Do you think whoever was in the car saw you?"
"I don't see how they could have helped it." The severity and reality of that statement suddenly washed over her and the expected anxiety attack emerged full force. Detective Green called for an idle EMS technician to tend to Maxine.
"You've been very helpful, Mrs. Gray," he told her, as she nodded at him through an oxygen mask. "I'm just going to go call this information in. I'll be right back."
Law and Nora
Nora Lewin removed her glasses and quietly set them down on her desk. She pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes, trying to will away the oncoming headache. It was only nine-thirty in the morning, for heaven's sake, how could the tension have built up so fast?
Well, she knew why. She had read the morning paper and that name jumped right out at her out of nowhere. Why the hell the Ledger would print the name of an eyewitness to a murder whose perpetrator had not been caught yet was outrageously beyond her.
She pushed her chair away from her desk, stood up and paced back and forth in front of her office window. Stopping by her purse, she removed a bottle of aspirin, shook two capsules out of the container and swallowed them, forcing the pills down her throat with just the saliva in her mouth. Of course, it never worked as smoothly as it did in the movies and one coated caplet lodged temporarily, causing her to cough unmercifully, prompting her to rush to the small bathroom in her office and spit the stubborn little pill up. That little action just did wonders for her now throbbing head. Well, thankfully, no one saw that happen...
"Nora?" the husky, four-pack-a-day voice of Abbie Carmichael came out of nowhere.
Great, the interim District Attorney thought to herself. Of all people to witness that display of inelegance, it had to be Abbie, the most palatable entity to hit that office in a very long time. Not that she would ever have a ghost of a chance with the luscious Ms. Carmichael, even if she had a clue as to where the dark haired beauty's sexual proclivities ran. But the fantasy had always been a healthy one. Well...this certainly shot that in the ass. "Yes, Abbie, what is it?"
Handing her boss a paper cup filled with water, Abbie said, "Are you okay? I heard you start to choke..."
Accepting the water, graciously, Nora attempted a smile before she drank. When she finished, she handed the empty cup back to the ADA. "Thank you. I'm fine. Aspirin went down the wrong pipe." She passed by Abbie and returned to her desk. After reseating herself, she looked up into Abbie's concerned, expressive brown eyes. "I'm fine, really." But won't be if you keep looking at me like that - I may be an old dog but I am still more than willing to learn new tricks, her brain shouted. God, now her headache was seeping into migraine territory. "I'm sorry, Abbie, was there something you needed?"
"I just wanted to tell you that Jack pled out the Morasca case first thing this morning."
"Oh. Oh, good. I'm glad. Julianna Morasca did not deserve to go to prison for finally defending herself from that abusive bastard." Nora leaned back in her chair, immediately fixating on an inanimate object, behavior very out of character for her.
That and cursing, Abbie thought. Despite her professionalism and resilience, the no-nonsense traits that got her appointed to this position, it was rare that Nora Lewin was not in an amiable mood. And Abbie didn't really want to stick around long enough find out what her boss' bad moods consisted of. "Well, I've got files to read. I just wanted to let you know."
"Thanks, Abbie, I appreciate it."
Nodding, Abbie backed out of the office, giving Nora a skeptical once-over. Very unusual behavior, indeed.
Some vacation. What was that adage? If something sounds too good to be true it usually is? Well, the last thing she was going to do was call her family and tell them what happened. They would insist she return to Hartford or, worse yet, send one of the whiners to stay with her and, with her luck, it would most likely be Jillian. Perish the thought.
If nothing else, Maxine was a determined woman with many years of practiced obstinacy under her belt and she was not going to allow last night's incident to spoil the rest of her week. She was going to walk down to the corner again, get that wonderful cup of coffee and that oh so fattening bagel with cream cheese, grab a Ledger and just push the whole unfortunate event aside until she was forced to deal with it again and -
There was a knock on the door.
- and not be afraid or concerned for -
There was another knock on the door.
- her safety. Who the hell could be knocking at ten fifteen in the morning? Maxine stood staring at the door for a few seconds. It must be the police back to ask more questions or verify more facts regarding the murder. Still better to be safe than -
Knock, knock, knock.
- sorry. "All right, just a minute!" she called out, approaching the door. "Who is it?"
"Manhattan District Attorney," the disembodied female voice filtered through the door.
The D.A.? Not the D.A.'s office...the actual District Attorney? What the hell -? Wait a minute...she recognized that voice...She looked through the peephole. If yesterday hadn't given her a heart attack, the next few seconds were sure to. Quickly throwing back the five locks on the door, Maxine swung it open, staring speechlessly at Nora Lewin.
"Maxine," Nora glared at her, waiting with forced politeness to be asked inside. With Maxine just standing there agape, the D.A. realized an invitation wasn't going to be forthcoming anytime soon. She breezed by the Hartford woman with a purpose. "Close your mouth, Maxine, the city already has enough hot air."
Slamming the door shut, whirling to face this apparition from her past, Maxine finally spoke. "Good to see you, too, Nora. What are you doing here?"
"Obviously you haven't seen this morning's paper," the district attorney stated, extending her copy to the last person she ever expected to see again.
Snatching the object from Nora's hand, Maxine walked over to the kitchen counter and put her glasses on. There on the front page was a photograph of the body covered with the tarp from the night before. She looked up at Nora. "So? A murder on the front page isn't so strange, is it?"
"Look at page four, third paragraph." Folding her arms, Nora waited for the explosion. She watched as her lover of forty years earlier reacted to what she read.
"Hell's bells!! How did this happen?" Maxine threw the paper down on the floor in anger and disgust, pages separating and flying everywhere.
"Maxine, pick that up! I've already got the crossword puzzle half done, I don't want to have to go out and buy another paper and start all over again."
"My life is in grave danger and you're worried about a damn crossword puzzle?" She automatically leaned over and gathered up the paper, straightening it out on the counter. "How could this happen, Nora? How did my name get released to the press?"
"I don't know but I have my sources working on it as we speak. Obviously your temper hasn't changed."
Handing the newspaper back to Nora as she stomped around her, Maxine said, "That used to be one of the things you liked about me, Nora. That fire in my belly."
"It was, indeed, one of your many endearing qualities."
Turning back to look at the woman who occupied her bed most of her senior year in college, Maxine asked, "What are you doing here, Nora? I thought we agreed never to see each other again, regardless of the circumstances. It was just too difficult."
"It's business, Maxine. The D.A.'s office wants to offer you protection."
"So the D.A. comes here personally? I'm not buying it."
"Maxine, please. Did you think, under the circumstances, I wouldn't be here personally?" Nora's tone of voice had lost its edge.
"I didn't know you had become the Manhattan District Attorney. You've done well." The attitudes were beginning to soften. As much of a surprise as it had been, Maxine couldn't deny that seeing this woman again caused a tingle she hadn't felt in ages. Nora really hadn't changed much over the years. She still possessed that 'steel fist in a velvet glove' demeanor, the characteristic that caused the initial infatuation, turned curiosity, turned lust. Maxine blushed involuntarily just thinking about all that she and Nora Lewin had explored together. Way back when.
Nora observed, intrigued, as Maxine did everything within her power to avoid looking in Nora's direction. She smirked, almost arrogantly at the sudden realization that she still had that power over a woman she hadn't seen in twenty years, hadn't touched in twice that long. "Well, it's not a permanent position for me. I was appointed by Mayor Guiliani to hold down the fort until a new D.A. is elected."
"Still, Nora, that's quite an honor."
"Yes. Yes, it is." Nora crossed her arms. "You look good, Maxine."
"And you are so full of shit it's no wonder your eyes are brown."
"And still poetic, I see." Both women stared each other down. "Maxine, I want you to come and stay with me. At my house. You'll be safe there."
"No. No, I'm safe here," she protested, her feathers suddenly ruffled again.
"No, you're not!" Nora argued, crossing her arms.
"I don't care!! I came here to have a Goddamn vacation and I am going to enjoy my Goddamn vacation, Nora!! I am staying here, in this apartment, until Sunday afternoon!!!" Maxine's voice rose with every word.
"Oh, Christ on a crutch, Maxine, you haven't changed in forty years," Nora rolled her eyes, frustrated. "Do you understand the danger you're in?"
"Do not talk to me like I am a child or an idiot, Nora!" Maxine fired back.
Flustered, she responded, "I didn't! I just don't think it's safe for you to stay here." Looking around, Nora then asked, "By the way - whose place is this?" She walked to the mantle over the fireplace and examined the photograph. She looked more closely at it and then back at Maxine. "Is that Ronald Cosgrove Vaughn?"
Approaching the fireplace and focusing on the picture Nora was studying, Maxine leaned in then looked over at Nora. "Well, yes, I believe it is." She strolled back over to the kitchen counter.
Following her with her eyes, Nora hesitated and then said, "Maxine? What are you doing here in R.C. Vaughn's apartment? Are...are you...you and he...?"
"What? You mean...? No!! No, I don't really even know him."
"Then why are you insisting on staying here?"
"Because I want to enjoy my Goddamn vacation. Alone!!" Her voice was on the verge of hysteria, almost a plea. Then the floodgates opened and Maxine began sobbing uncontrollably. The culmination of all that had happened in the previous eighteen hours added with the realization that her vacation was over hit her in a tidal wave of emotion.
Nearly dissolving into tears herself, Nora stepped toward Maxine and drew her into a fierce yet comforting hug. At first Maxine made a feeble attempt to resist the contact but then melted into it. A few years and a few pounds difference made the embrace awkward but something else - a long-gone intimacy - made it familiar. They held each other for what felt like an eternity before they broke apart. Nora backed away slowly. "Maxine...please," the D.A. said, gently, "Pack your things and come with me. At least until they make some arrests."
Silently, the semi-retired social worker from Hartford, Connecticut, nodded and began gathering her belongings.
The Way It Was
After settling Maxine into the guest bedroom of her east side brownstone, Nora Lewin returned to the D.A.'s office to continue her day. She noticed the odd looks she was receiving from Jack McCoy but avoided him when and where she could. She knew her behavior was out of character for her but she failed to see where that was anybody's business except her own. Well...she might open up a little to Abbie, if the comely ADA gave her that 'look' again but she had not seen Ms. Carmichael since earlier that day as Abbie was arraigning cases all morning.
Maybe it wasn't wise to bring an eyewitness to a murder into her home. But it's not like Maxine was a total stranger. Despite the fact that just about two decades had passed since they had accidentally run into each other when Maxine and her husband, Edward, had brought their three kids to the City to tour the United Nations, the Hayden Planetarium, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center and to see a Broadway show. It was at that Wednesday matinee of 'Cats' that Nora met Maxine coming out of the ladies room. They almost passed right by each other, almost didn't speak. Both were afraid that one might not remember the other one or, worse, that they didn't want to recognize each other. But they had been through too much, discovered so much together while in college. They were both so deeply ingrained in each other's memories, it would have been nearly impossible for Nora to have ever forgotten Maxine and vice versa.
They had finally acknowledged each other, somewhat self-consciously, and spent a good portion of the second half of the musical away from their highly overpriced seats by catching up in the lounge. It was then that Nora met Maxine's daughter, Amy, a gawky but expressively pretty twelve year old who had entered the restroom on a mission to find out what was taking her mother so long to return to her seat. Caught between enthusiasm and embarrassment, Maxine introduced the preteen to her smart, prestigious friend who was quickly becoming a name in the New York law circles. Young Amy Gray could sense her mother's pride regarding this woman but would never understand the true depth of it. And, as close as she and Amy had become as adults, Maxine would never share it with her.
Twenty years ago, the sparks had still been there. They both felt it and they both silently elected not to act upon it. Maxine had made her choices. She had left Nora for Edward. She had given in to the pressure of tradition, had chosen the convenience of convention and broke Nora's heart in the process. It was the 60's. The hippie movement and free love were all the rage, experimentation and rebellion were expected. The exploration of sapphic love took Maxine by surprise at first. But Nora Lewin, a political firecracker, card-carrying member of the SDS, war protestor, bra burner and defiantly mutinous Jewish American Princess knew exactly what she was doing when she took the impressionable Maxine to Coney Island, plied her with a flask filled with a concoction of sloe gin, whiskey and orange juice and seduced the tipsy twenty year old right there under the boardwalk, onlookers be damned.
As shocked as Maxine had been that she was suddenly French kissing and heavy petting with another girl, especially being so blatantly public about it, she did not think twice regarding her quickly fading puritanical morals when she and Nora got back to their dorm room that night. They hit Maxine's bed and never left it most of the weekend.
Why, they'd gone at it like they had discovered something new. Nora awakened Maxine in a way she never dreamed possible, had insatiably overloaded Maxine's carnal circuits in a way neither had experienced before or since. And, not only were they more than sexually suited, they were intellectually compatible as well. This was it for Nora, this was love. Not so for Maxine - at least not that she would ever define it as such. Truth was, Maxine was just as head over heels for Nora, she just didn't have the tenacity or courage to see it through. When the handsome, dashing Edward Gray came along and took an interest, Maxine bailed. Nora had never forgiven her for it. When they met twenty years later at the Wintergarden, Nora was civil but walked away from the encounter shaken, still grieving for what might have been. It had been difficult for Maxine, also, something they both confessed to, as cryptically as possible in the presence of a precocious twelve year old, which prompted a mutual agreement to steer clear of each other at all costs in the future. It did not stop them from thinking about each other, however.
"Excuse me, Nora?" Jack McCoy startled her out of her reminiscing.
"Yes, Jack, what is it?"
"Abbie just called me from the courthouse where she ran into Briscoe and Green. One of our witnesses is in the wind."
"The homicide on Houston last night, the eyewitness has disappeared. They went to verify some facts and a neighbor told them he saw her leave this morning, bags packed, with another woman." Jack shrugged. "Not that I blame her. Her second day on vacation from Connecticut...we'll probably never see her again. We do have her home address and phone number but -"
"Don't call her home." Picking up the phone, Nora dialed her own number. She listened as her answering machine kicked in and waited for the beep. "Maxine? If you're there, pick up. Hi. Listen, call the detectives you spoke with last night, they're looking for you and they think you left town. Okay. Thanks." Hanging up, she looked up into Jack McCoy's stunned and questioning eyes. "She relocated to a safer place."
"Where? And how did you know?"
"She is at my house. Why are you looking at me like that? She was my college roommate. I recognized her name from the paper this morning so I went to see her and we both agreed she's be safer with me."
"Do you think that's a good idea?"
She wanted to smack him for using that condescending tone on her. He sounded like her father about to send her to her room for making a decision he didn't like. "Doesn't matter. It's done. Discussion over. Any leads on who leaked her name to the press?"
"Not yet. We have our suspicions, though." He lingered, as if Nora was going to tell him something else, divulge her innermost, closeted secrets. When hell froze over, maybe. Jack waited, patiently, then impatiently, for his boss to disclose more information regarding the sheltering of her former college dorm mate and when he realized that conversation with Nora really was over, he nodded at her. "Well...I'll be in my office if you need me. Or anything." Well. Wasn't that special? A woman Jack McCoy couldn't get to with that rumpled, 'little boy lost' look. Abbie wasn't impressed, either. Nor was Jamie Ross. Come to think of it, the last co-worker it had worked on was Claire Kincaid. And that was only during pillow talk. Maybe he was going to have to come up with a different charm tactic. Or change genders. Aha! Maybe that was it. That would certainly explain the disastrous lack of interest from Jamie, Abbie and Nora. He pondered this development all the way back to his office.
She watched him leave. He was cute - in an annoyingly male sort of way. She donned her glasses and went back to work.
Maxine wandered around Nora's two story brownstone house for what felt like hours, admiring the modest decor, the reserved color scheme, the humble paintings, photos and collectables that adorned the walls and shelves. Nora had changed. Subtlety seemed to be her path now. Forty years ago, there was nothing ethereal about Nora Lewin, she was as 'in your face' as a Jehovah's Witness on the porch of a bordello. Had Nora sold out, the once fiercely radical anti-establishment activist now working for 'The Man?' Or had she just mellowed with age?
Returning to the guest bedroom, Maxine decided to relieve her tension by drawing herself a bath in the Jacuzzi tub. She had pilfered a liter bottle from the wine cooler next to the refrigerator in the kitchen, removed the seal and the cork, grabbed a large wine glass and brought it upstairs with her. She found a radio station that played Broadway music, shed her clothes, lowered herself into a full tub of hot water and jet sprays, poured herself a glass of white zinfandel and yielded to the rare sensation of relaxation.
A little over an hour later, Nora was home from work. She was about to call out to Maxine when she heard music and very vociferous, off-key singing emanating from the upstairs guest bathroom. Reaching the landing, she followed the...noise...and immediately clamped her hand over her mouth to stifle a chuckle when she stood at the open bathroom door. There was her lover of yore, submerged to her shoulders, bare-assed naked, head thrown back, shrieking along to "Don't Rain On My Parade," empty wine bottle and glass next to the tub.
"Oh, Maxine," Nora was almost giggling uncontrollably, loud enough to get the attention of her guest.
"Hi!" the now effervescent Mrs. Gray grinned, raising her hand and waving at Nora in an exaggerated half-circle. "I'm pruney."
"And drunk, I see..." Nora continued to lean against the doorframe in an effort not to invade Maxine's privacy any more than she already had.
"And pruney," Maxine reiterated, looking at the palms of her hands.
"Why didn't you get out of the tub, then?"
"Are you asking me or telling me?" Nora was still quite amused by Maxine's obvious inebriation. She reached over and switched off the jets, then adjusted the volume of the piped in music so that she could hear the conversation better.
"Well, see, I think it's like this. I think because the water was so hot, all my pours opened up and really sucked in the alcohol...which is why I find myself in the pre...pre..." she was trying very hard to concentrate, "...predic...dica...situation I'm in now."
"Do you need help getting out of the tub?"
"Well, yes, I think I do...but you shouldn't help me," Maxine shook her head, her determination somewhat spoiled by her liquored-up state. "I don't feel com...com-for-tah-bull," she enunciated as clearly as she could, "with you seeing me naked."
"Maxine, please. It's not like I haven't seen it all before."
"Well - I didn't have quite as much to see when you saw me when you were seeing me."
Even Nora shook her head at that one. "You can't stay in the tub until you sober up."
"Can to," she argued, mildly, like a stubborn child.
"No you can't. Because I have to go out to a dinner meeting and I can't leave you like this."
"You have a date?"
"No, Maxine, I have a meeting."
"Do you need a date?"
Nora couldn't help herself and burst out laughing. "No but thanks for the offer." Re-evaluating the scene before her, Nora walked to her room and returned with a large terrycloth bathrobe. "Drain the tub, Maxine, and I'll help you up into this robe so you won't be exposed, okay?"
It sounded like a plan to Maxine. The water disappeared quickly and she stood up slowly, trying to maintain her balance while doing a very poor job of covering herself, cautiously stepped out of the tub and into the waiting housecoat. Nora belted the garment around Maxine's waist and assisted her into the guest room.
"Did you call the detectives on the case like I asked you?"
"Yes, Mom," Maxine responded, laughing uproariously at her own reply.
"Fine. I need to go get changed for my meeting."
"What time are you coming home?"
Walking out of the room, Nora turned and smiled. "I'll be late, Dad, don't wait up."
"I think not. 11 PM sharp, or you'll be sorry, my dear D.A."
"Oh, my God, Maxine, you just sounded like Mrs. Quigley, remember Mrs. Quigley, the house mother at the dorm?" Nora asked, stopping at the doorway.
"Mrs. Quigley! Of course, I remember Mrs. Quigley. You and that old wench were like oil and water. She took a particular dislike to you. But then, every other word out of your mouth back then was 'fuck.' You used it as a verb, an adjective, a noun...you used to even split the noun to use it, remember?" Maxine didn't wait for Nora to reply as she launched into an imitation of a twenty year old Nora Lewin. "Just because I have a blackfuckinglight in my room and just because I burn infuckingcence doesn't mean I'm in there smoking marifuckingjuana!"
Maxine's dead-on mimicking of Nora got the D.A. laughing again. "And then Mrs. Quigley would charge toward me, shoving her index finger at me like she was about to impale me with it and say, 'You watch your mouth, young woman, or I'll wash it out with the whole soap store!'."
"So...why did you do that, anyway? Just to bait her?"
"I was horrible back then. I was really hoping the old bitch would blow a gasket and they'd carrying her off on a stretcher, babbling incoherently. I really hated her. I almost sprained my middle finger from the amount of times I'd flip her off."
"Aww, poor snookums..." Maxine smirked. She laid back comfortably on the bed, resting her hands behind her head. "Those were good times, Nora," she said, her voice suddenly sounding sober and melancholy.
"If they were good times, then why so sad?" She slowly moved back into the room.
Maxine moved over and tapped the empty space beside her. Nora took the invitation and sat down. "Because I...I often wonder if I made the right decision..." she looked at Nora.
"About what? About me?"
Nodding slowly, almost humbly, Maxine continued, "don't get me wrong, I did love Edward and I love the three children he gave me and that part of my life I wouldn't want to change. But...I'm not sure I ever loved anyone the way I loved you."
"My God, Maxine," Nora sighed, "then why did you leave me?"
It took a few moments for her to articulate a response. This had nothing to do with her state of intoxication. "I wasn't strong enough for you. I wasn't strong enough for us."
"You can't go back, Maxine. You made a choice, one that affected both our lives. It was a long time ago."
"You're still mad at me."
Nora reached over and took Maxine's hand in hers. "I got over you a long time ago. I don't mean that to sound harsh. But I loved you too much to hang onto the hurt it created when you left. It is good to see you, Maxine...but I moved on soon after you married Edward. I had to. So, no, I'm not still mad at you."
"Are you seeing anybody?"
"No...not really. Not seriously. I'm too busy to devote any time to a relationship. I have...friends...I think you know what I mean by that. What about you?"
"No, I don't have...friends...like that," Maxine told her, almost feeling deprived.
"No, I meant are you seeing anyone?"
"Oh...! Oh, no. No. Who'd be interested in an old broad like me?" She laughed, nervously, almost hoping Nora would say, 'I would,' and then wondering why.
Patting Maxine's hand, Nora stood up. "Don't sell yourself short, Maxine. You're still a very pretty woman and -"
"And blah, blah, blah..." Maxine finished for her, releasing the D.A.'s hand. "Go get ready for your dinner meeting. I don't want to keep you."
Nora looked at her, perplexed, and her arms fell to her sides, frustrated. "What? What is it you want, Maxine? Am I supposed to fall into this trap and get involved with you again only to have you run back to your family when this case is over just like you ran away from me for Edward? It's not going to happen, Maxine. I would like to think that I learn from my mistakes."
"So now I'm a mistake?"
Nora was about to explode. She slammed her hand on the bureau by the bed. Which stung. A lot. She mouthed the word 'Ow' but tried to ignore the sensation for Maxine's benefit.
"What? Did you break a nail?" she asked, sarcastically.
Displaying the backs of her hands to Maxine, she said, "I don't have nails, Maxine. Not conducive to my love life, remember?" She ran her hand through her hair, took a deep breath and sat back down on the bed. "What do you want, Maxine?" she asked, patiently.
Her anger dissipated when she looked up and back into Nora's warm eyes. Her voice was soft. "I want...I want to feel like I did forty years ago. Like I felt when I was with you."
"Well, that's not going to happen, Maxine. It can't. And it won't."
"Why did you ask me to come stay with you?"
"Because I thought you'd be safe here. Safer than staying on the street where you witnessed a murder. Why did you agree to come?"
"Because I thought you might want to seduce me again," she answered, honestly. Which, by the astonished look on Nora's face, obviously wasn't on her agenda.
"Don't - don't take this the wrong way, Maxine, please, but...I hadn't planned on it."
"Been there, done that - as my granddaughter says?" Her expression was one of resignation, rejection,
If Nora was a different kind of person, she would have said, 'Now you know how it feels.' But she couldn't do that, say that to her first, real love. She exhaled, "Just out of curiosity, what would you do if I, say, did come on to you? Leaned over right now..." Nora leaned in close to Maxine, their faces inches away from each other, "...and gave you a kiss that made your toes curl?"
"Oh - you think you can still kiss like that, huh?" Maxine challenged.
"Never had any complaints - especially not from you."
"That was a looooong time ago, Ms. Lewin. I'm sure you've gotten rusty."
"Or so much better," Nora played along, their faces still impossibly close.
Should she? Or should she pass up an opportunity to make out - or more - with the first woman to ever capture her heart? If she started to kiss her, would she have the strength to stop it from going any further? Would she want to stop? Could she make love to Maxine again and take it for what it was? Or would she find herself caught up in the memory of what they had, what they once were?
These thoughts ran across Nora's mind in a matter of a half-second. Before she could answer her own questions, her mouth met Maxine's. Gentle movement, lips on lips, tentative at first. More pressure, touch intensifying, faces grinding together in delicious friction. Tongues sneaking into each other's mouths to invade once familiar territory, continuing aggressively, frantically trying to conquer the demons of the past. Nora brought her hands up to Maxine's face, softly caressing the side of her head with one hand and the back of her neck with the other. As their tongues continued to passionately embrace each other, respirations quickened, pulses raced and...Maxine's toes curled. Breaking the kiss before she passed out, Maxine rested her cheek against Nora's. "Unfuckingbelievable," Maxine breathed.
Laughing, Nora released Maxine and stood up, smoothing out her blouse.
"Wait - where are you going?"
"To get ready for my dinner meeting."
"Ohhhh noooo! You can't do that! You can't get me all hot and bothered and then leave!"
"Sure I can. All you asked me to do is prove I could still kiss you like I used to where it would have the same effect," the D.A. countered.
"I do believe I mentioned something about a seduction earlier."
Turning around, Nora studied Maxine intently. "Be careful what you wish for, Maxine." She proceeded to move toward the door.
"What if I said I wish for you. Again. Even if it's only once. For old time's sake." Her eyes were almost pleading.
Nora stopped at the door. She looked at her watch, then back at Maxine. "I've waited forty years. You can wait at least four hours."
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