Kate finished work at her usual time, showered at work as per her daily routine with the industrial soap to wash the stench of death from her skin, and fought the late afternoon traffic out of the city to return home to the suburbs. She was tired. Exhausted after her midnight visitor the night before and the long day she had just finished. And she was looking forward to a nice relaxing glass of red, some soft tunes and a light meal, followed by an early night.
She loved Joan but she also found their relationship to be incredibly draining sometimes. Joan was different, she required more of a mental companion than a physical one and her emotional void was becoming more and more apparent as their relationship developed. She seemed to lack basic empathy and Kate wondered how deeply that extended, did she have any empathy at all? Or was she just extremely adept at pretending most of the time? And what did she mean when she had had said ‘I’m not what you think I am’? Was this what she meant?
Joan had tried to explain it to her before, or perhaps it was less of an explanation and more of a self admission when she had said ‘There’s something wrong with me,’ that night and told Kate about her lack of emotional understanding. Kate hadn’t completely understood what she was getting at, but now she was starting to see the impact it had on Joan and how she dealt with the situations she was handed and the people around her, and it was beginning to worry Kate now that she was beginning to see the whole picture. It made her wonder what on earth she had actually gotten herself into.
Kate had been unable to sleep one night and researched empathy through some of her medical databases she still had access to, or lack of empathy more to the point, and was intimidated by what she had found. She hoped she was wrong and through the long, tedious drive her brain mulled over the information it had collected.
Pulling into her street she saw that Joan was already home, her shiny black and chrome car parked neatly in the driveway.
Despite her concerns and the exhaustion from the day Kate smiled and her heart seemed to float in her chest. Joan still made her tingle. Joan still made her feel many things. For a moment she wondered what she made Joan feel, did she feel anything at all? Was it simply lust? Instinct? Was it control?
She turned left into her own driveway and saw Joan sitting on her front steps. Not on the rocking chair, not waiting at her own home for Kate to return, she was sitting where they had first gotten to know each other as they had watched the sun set. Where Kate had tucked a lock of that black hair behind her ear and watched as Joan’s neck had turned red and her skin reacted in a trail of goose bumps. Kate found it odd, Joan wasn’t one to sit somewhere that was possibly dirty, she detested anything that was less than spotless, why wasn’t she in the rocking chair?
Kate stepped from the car and grabbed her handbag; her brain was ticking around in overdrive wondering what was going on with her lover and what kind of drama would be discussed tonight. Walking around the garden beds and through the shrubs she approached Joan and they both smiled to each other.
“Welcome home,” Joan stated in her low, soft voice. She was wearing a dark blue blouse with dark gray slacks, her hair was down, flick curls carried her hair away from her face on either side and the gray strands looked like streaks of silver in the golden sunlight of the late afternoon. On her hands she wore black leather gloves and held a single dark red rose with a long stem.
All Kate could do was smile with weary exhaustion as she walked up to the steps where her lover sat. Joan rose to her feet on the pathway as Kate approached and planted a soft kiss on her lips.
“That’s beautiful,” Kate said, motioning to the rose in Joan’s hand.
“I wanted to apologise for last night. I shouldn’t have come by that late and dumped all my drama on you, it wasn’t fair.” She held the rose out to Kate who gently took it by the stem between the thorns. “I’ve been growing this variety in a planter box in my backyard since I moved in; its heritage stock from a rose bush I’ve been growing for more than 30 years. Every time I move I take the seedlings of the rose and cultivate new plants. Today this one bloomed while I was at work. I came home to it shining like a beacon of beauty and it reminded me of you.”
A flutter in Kate’s stomach almost caused an involuntary weakness of knees. Just after she had been thinking those things on the way home Joan did something like this and made her fall in love all over again. “Thank you,” Kate whispered, truly grateful and appreciative of the gesture and understanding what it meant. Joan wasn’t the average human with average emotions and average understandings, she was much different and Kate already knew that but it was more than that; she loved differently, she cared differently, and she apologised differently. Suddenly Kate realised with exceptional clarity that she would have to look at their relationship differently.
Kate scolded herself internally for allowing her own misconceptions and unfounded doubts to cloud her thought process when she knew that Joan was just different, and probably quite misunderstood to most people that she interacted with. She didn’t doubt that Joan had a lack of emotional balance and next to no empathy, but she didn’t think the woman she loved fit into the categories she had found earlier that week when she was researching the condition.
“Dinner is in the oven, if you want to join me.” It wasn’t a demand, simply an offer to allow Joan to care for her for a night. “No pressure, of course. But I did buy your favourite bottle of wine.” Joan was genuinely nervous as she put her heart out on the table. If there was anything in her emotional chaos that she was certain of, it was that she didn’t want to lose Kate, and that she was very in love with her.
Kate knew she was trying to make reparations not only for the previous night’s visit but for all the other times she had unloaded her stress on Kate. “Of course I’ll be there,” Kate said with a smile as she reached out and squeezed Joan’s covered hand within her own, she had never expected an apology. “Joan you don’t have to apologise, you needed me, and that’s okay. It will always be okay. I told you you’re always welcome here for whatever reason it may be, at any time of the day or night. Nonetheless I accept your apology and will gladly have dinner with you.”
Joan forced a smile that she hoped looked genuine. She had only apologised because she knew it was the socially appropriate thing to do, it was expected after such incidents, and she was good at making people think she was telling the truth. However she did feel the slightest pang of guilt, lying to Kate like that. The only thing she feared in life these days, other than losing her job; was losing Kate, so she knew she needed to show some form of emotional normalism, somehow, no matter how fake it was. She had to show that she could be normal, even if she wasn’t.
They ate dinner together while listening to an opera classic and Joan explained how well things went at the prison that day after she had formed a plan during her midnight visit with Kate. She was regaining control of the women once more.
Kate was happy to see Joan balancing out again and wondered how long it would last this time. Despite herself she wondered how deep did the emotional void actually run? Just how controlled was every situation she had been in with Joan? Was she capable of letting go of the reigns and simply letting life show her the way?
The wine was delicious and the casserole even more so, Kate abandoned her questions and her tumbling mind to simply just be in the moment with the woman she loved, to hell with the consequences, Joan knew her rules. As things currently stood she didn’t feel like she was being used or abused, so all was still well, and she put the nasty demons to bed to enjoy her night. Fuck what other people might have thought about Joan, the two of them together and their strange relationship, Kate knew who she loved, and who loved her in return.
Kate felt herself getting swept away in the music as the two women snuggled into each other on the couch, their lips gentle and loving in their exploration of one another. Joan’s fingertips traced the curves and angles of Kate’s body for hours, making her twitch and shiver between orgasms. A steady run of goose bumps would follow Joan’s fingertips wherever they went. Joan’s fingertips lingered over the scars that adorned Kate’s body like artwork of a terrible childhood, they stood out white against her bronze skin and Joan appreciated the woman even more knowing what scars like that were caused by
Joan even allowed Kate to touch her that night, finally breaking through her last barrier of being intimately touched by another human she allowed Kate to pleasure her. On previous nights she had been satisfied simply to give the pleasure and rub herself against Kate’s thigh to feel the building bliss of an approaching orgasm. She would pin Kate’s hands down when they strayed too close or she would suddenly change their positioning. Tonight was different; tonight she knew she needed to surrender herself for the benefit of their relationship. It was still about control in the end, but she understood that in this instance she needed to relinquish control in order to gain it.
She savoured the feel of Kate’s fingers as they massaged her delicately, and she held her lover close as she was tipped over the edge in a body shaking orgasm. Joan felt like maybe something had changed in her as Kate withdrew her fingers and held her close. She had enjoyed the encounter more than any time before that she could remember and was eager to feel it again. Her nervousness was gone, the anxiety evaporated, there was a growing lust and desire for more intimacy and it filled her body as they made love for hours, both women in turn enjoying the pleasure of the other.
By 10pm they were standing in each others’ arms in the shower, feeling the wash of hot water cleansing their exhausted bodies as they clung to each other.
By 10.30pm they were fast asleep, still wrapped in their lovers embrace.