With the slow passing of time, weeks turned into months.
Due to their growing need to be together and spend more time in one another’s arms, dinners turned into sleepovers.
As they got to know each other and opened up to the emotions they were both feeling the desire and lust turned into love and trust.
They took things slow so they could both adjust to the new situation they found themselves in with every new step they took; it didn’t take long before they found that they were actually in a relationship and they both realised that in fact they had been for some time. It was something far more conventional than Joan was ever used to, and something far more involved than Kate had ever enjoyed before.
Kate was patient, she let Joan take all the time she needed with every next step they took. She knew it was a gamble to let Joan be the one she chose for a relationship, but she was content with her decision and every day Joan showed Kate all the different ways in which one person can love another, in her unconventional ways.
Joan truly opened up for the first time in a long time, she allowed herself to feel the small range of emotions that she did have and enjoyed learning new things about herself through her new found relationship with Kate. It was a challenge and a joy, and Joan was glad with every new step they took, albeit terrified of what may come, still she let it come.
Kate often thought about Joan while she was working in the morgue, wondering how her day was going, what was happening at the prison, and when she would finally feel comfortable being completely naked in front of her. They had known each other for more than seven months, and had been intimate together for the last four, but Joan was yet to be without her underwear while in bed with Kate. Kate had been allowed to touch her, all over her body even through her underwear Joan had been comfortable with Kate exploring her body during their lovemaking, but as yet she couldn’t bring herself to let Kate enter her or see her completely naked. It didn’t bother Kate, she knew it was more of a reflection of Joan than of herself and she wanted to give Joan all the time she needed to feel comfortable with her.
Joan was hesitant to admit it, but Kate was often her anchor during times of stress at work. She had been slammed by the Board, she had almost been thrown under the bus by the General Manager, whom she luckily had dirt on and so had instead managed to buy herself an ally, and she had been publically scrutinized for allowing an inmate to escape on her watch. It had been a tough few months and it wasn’t getting any easier, she knew if there was one more action of negligence she would be without a job.
During these times of stress she would think about how much she enjoyed returning home, even when Kate was tucked away inside her own home, even when she wasn’t planning on seeing her at all in the evening, she still loved knowing that Kate was right there, across the road. She enjoyed opening up to someone, on a level of trust and truth that she hadn’t experienced for a long time, if ever with some things she had confessed to. Joan thought about her past relationships and the lack of conventionality. Surely this wasn’t a conventional relationship either, but it felt good, and it seemed to be easy. She was becoming more and more comfortable with their relationship with every day that passed.
They shared their wildest dreams and their most hidden secrets.
They explored each other both physically and mentally.
Joan had offloaded her stress and frustration to Kate in tears and yelling. She was under pressure at work, everything was going pear shaped, and she couldn’t even win a fencing match lately. Her head was all over the place and it was driving her insane. She hadn’t meant to yell at Kate, she hadn’t meant to yell at all; she hated losing her cool. But in the safety and security of her lover’s presence everything just came tumbling out of her like an avalanche and Joan couldn’t stop. Kate had let her yell it out and then held her in the aftermath, barely talking, not even shushing her in a calming way, but just holding her tightly and anchoring her back to earth.
Kate had fallen apart after a particularly disturbing case at work, and Joan had held her close while she sobbed for hours. She had made a slap and dash dinner from things Kate had leftover in the fridge simply because Joan didn’t want to leave Kate alone for the few moments it would’ve taken for her to return to her own house quickly and collect some extra ingredients. Following dinner Joan then cleaned Kate up in a warm bath, washing her hair gently before moving on to her body in a way a mother would care for a child rather than in a seductive way. She stroked her hair as they lay in bed together and told Kate about all the things she felt for her, because she didn’t know what else to do.
It was late one night when Kate thought Joan was asleep that the big ‘L’ word first slipped. Joan was wearing a plain black tee shirt and her black cotton hi cut underwear. She cuddled Kate’s naked body close to her as they fell asleep in the bedroom that overlooked Kate’s house.
They were both exhausted from long days, long weeks, and the passion of the night, but Kate just couldn’t fall asleep. Perhaps it was the late afternoon coffee she’d had. Perhaps it was just that there was so much on her mind lately, work had been crazy busy and things with Joan were moving so well that she was both curious and cautious about what the next step for them might be, and when.
Joan took a deep breath, smelling the clean, floral scent of Kate’s hair that was in her face and she pulled her lover closer. She loved snuggling into the woman through the night, it made her feel a sense of security she had never before felt.
Kate mistook Joan’s movements as that of sleep and she whispered into the darkness to the woman behind her, “I love you.”
Joan’s eyes flew open but not a single muscle in her body twitched. She knew what she’d heard. She knew what it meant. And instantly she understood the implications behind those three simple words slipping from her lover’s mouth in the middle of the night.
It was simple; she could pretend she was asleep and had never heard the whispered words, or she could respond to the statement.
Before she had even made a conscious decision she heard the words, “I love you too,” slipping from her own mouth. She was just as surprised as Kate was to hear them, but she instantly knew they were true. And it only took a few moments before they were both in a deep sleep.
Joan rose early the next morning, it was going to be a big day and she wanted to get a jump on it. The prisoner who had escaped was being sentenced today and would be returned to the prison, she had a staff member returning from suspension, there was a staff briefing to be done, and there was a new ban to implement. She was expecting backlash – a lot of it, and she couldn’t afford for anything to go wrong. Her job was literally hanging on the line. She knew the staff wouldn’t be happy about a lot of what was going to happen today, and she knew she was walking a very fine line.
She quietly slid from the bed and looked over Kate still sleeping peacefully. The sun was still a long way off but the first rays of morning light were peeking over the horizon and through the corners of the blinds. It cast an eerie green glow over the bedroom and Kate looked almost angelic curled up in the white sheets, her mousey brown hair scattered over the pillow behind her with her highlights and tips of golden blonde catching the light in sparkles.
Sneaking into the bathroom Joan turned the shower on and brushed the knots from her long hair as she waited for the water to warm up. Her eyes lingered for a moment on the sticky note that was still plastered to her mirror. The corners of her mouth turned up in a smile as she looked at the loopy writing in blue pen on the yellow paper. It was an invitation for more than just dinner, it had been an invitation into Kate’s life and Joan suddenly realized how happy she was that she had taken the opportunity.
Joan looked at herself in the mirror again and noticed more gray strands shining through what was once a shock of pure black hair. She noticed the tiredness in her own face as she looked at her reflection, the puffiness of her eyes, and the slight sag of her skin that she knew she would never get back now; it was a factor of age more than exhaustion or lack of self care. But her eyes, her black eyes held a spark of happiness. A twinkle of joy. She leaned closer to the large mirror plastered above the bathroom basin and looked deep into her own eyes.
Then she recognised it. It was almost a shock to actually see it sitting there so plainly, it had been twenty years since she had last seen it.
It wasn’t just happiness. It wasn’t just contentment. It wasn’t just the simple joy of having a companion that she could share herself with.
It was the sparkle of love.