Joan had a new opportunity at work, an opportunity that she couldn’t say no to, an opportunity that would bring about a new level of control over the women, if she executed it correctly. But there would have to be some changes with her relationship with Kate for a while. She wasn’t looking forward to the conversation she would have to have to explain the circumstances to Kate, and she wasn’t looking forward to the time she would miss with her lover, but it had to be done. It was necessary, for the greater good.
She set the table for 2, crystal wine glasses and all.
Linen napkins folded precisely.
The shiraz was poured into a decanter and placed on the table.
Kate was due in thirty minutes. Joan played her favourite record loud as she prepared the antipasto plate. She knew that when Kate arrived she would see the envelope taped to the front door with her name on it, she would reach out and pluck it off with a smile on her face and open it. Inside she would find a key to Joan’s house, her key. Her heart would float as she realised the implications. Her mind would race as she reached inside and felt the cold metal against her fingertips. She would know that Joan meant everything she said, and that despite her need to be working late in the coming few weeks, she was true to their relationship. She wanted it.
Joan hoped it would soften the blow.
As predicted 30 minutes later Kate walked through the door with a smile on her face and the shiny new key in her hand.
Immediately Joan moved to the sink and washed her hands before meeting Kate halfway across the open plan lounge room floor and wrapping the younger woman in her arms, their lips instantly finding one another like long lost soul mates. They melted into each other as seconds stretched into minutes.
“What have you done Joan?” Kate whispered onto her lovers lips as their passion simmered.
“I don’t know what you could possibly mean.” Joan spoke with a wicked smile and a cheeky giggle as her raven eyes sparkled with delight.
Kate dropped her arm from around Joan’s neck and held her palm open between them. “What’s this?” The shiny key sparkled up at them as a beacon of the future, the possibilities, and the opportunity it represented.
“It’s yours,” Joan used her hands to close Kate’s hand around the key and gently kissed the back of her fingers. “I want you to feel like you can come and go as you please. My house is your house.”
A blush crept up Kate’s neck and she knew she was smiling like an idiot but she couldn’t help herself, she wasn’t expecting anything on this level for a long time. Joan was always holding herself back, taking things slow and seemingly scared of what would happen if she actually let herself open up. “Thank you,” was her simple response, but those two simple words meant so much more and Joan heard every word that wasn’t verbally exchanged between them.
Joan grabbed the freshly prepared antipasto plate and led Kate to the couch as they watched the sunlight fade through the large rear windows. Kate’s eyes fell on the solitary rose bush from which Joan had plucked a single rose for her only a week before. The flowers seemed to glow black in the evening light.
“Isn’t it stunning?” Joan asked, following Kate’s line of sight.
“You’ve done a wonderful job getting it so far in such a short space of time.”
“Black Baccara, it’s not terribly hard to grow, but does require attention.”Joan reached out and ran her fingers through Kate’s hair, her fingernails grazing gently against her lovers scalp before tucking the brown locks behind her ear and tracing a line down her neck. “I’ll always pick you a rose.”
“As penance?” Kate looked at Joan with a cheeky grin and one eyebrow cocked knowing that the rose she received was nothing more than an apology flower.
“Just because you’re beautiful.” Joan parried quickly with a wink as she reached for a chunk of cheese. She was intent on laying it on thick before dishing out the bad news after dinner.
They enjoyed each other’s company with entwined fingers and stolen kisses as they waited for dinner to finish cooking and snacked on antipasto. Kate felt like she was flying. Joan was simply biding her time.
Dinner was a wondrous feast of slow cooked meat and a medley of local vegetables.
The wine was perfectly aired and complimented the food divinely.
Conversation flowed as though they were two old friends catching up after a long time apart. Even when her brain raced with questions and concerns Kate always felt more than comfortable in Joan’s presence. She felt a level of safety and security that she had never before felt with another human being for such a stretch of time.
Joan stacked the dishwasher while Kate washed the large pots.
“You’ve been very quiet about work,” Kate mentioned as she pinned Joan against the kitchen cupboard. Her arms snaked around her lovers’ waist and she stepped close so their lips were an inch apart. “Is everything okay?”
“There has been a development,” Joan opened, still unsure how to proceed with the conversation. “An opportunity has arisen.” Her black eyes avoided Kate’s green ones as they combed the curve of Kate’s cheekbones down to her pink lips.
As much as it sounded promising, Kate knew better simply from the body language she was reading. Joan was tense, her hands resting on Kate’s shoulder blades instead of wrapping around her body, her lips held a forced smile that didn’t extend to her eyes which were avoiding her own. “What kind of opportunity?” Kate wondered if she was getting transferred already.
“An opportunity for information.”
Kate didn’t know where this was going. “Okay you’ll have to start from the beginning.” Stepping back she took Joan’s hand in her own, grabbed her glass of wine in the other, and took them to the couch where she slipped down onto the leather cushions with one leg tucked up underneath the other.
Joan sat beside her, wine glass placed on the coffee table, one ankle tucked behind the other and her hands in her lap. Her chin was down as though she was ashamed of what she was about to admit to, in actuality she was just thinking about how best to break the news.
“I received information this week on a drug shipment coming through. I wanted to catch it in the hands of a specific prisoner, the ringleader, so I called in the ramp squad and we waited patiently but the drugs had been deferred. I ordered a cell toss of the whole block and we found a small stash in her lover’s cell. She’s a junkie and a gate gay, just looking for anyone who can give her some gear or comfort, or both, and willing to pay any price necessary.”
Kate noticed certain movements; involuntary twitches and spasms in her hands and certain muscles in her face, it made her wonder what price Joan had paid for the information she had received. Or what price she was about to pay for the information she was looking for.
“The woman found with the drugs was placed in isolation, removed from all possible contact with other inmates and guards. Being who she is it lends me a unique opportunity to become a silent ally with this woman and get a solid ‘in’ on when and where the drugs are coming.”
“How are you planning to do that?” Kate was genuinely perplexed at how Joan thought a situation such as this would lend a unique opportunity of information; surely this would be something of a normal situation that happens regularly.
“I can’t go into specifics, but I will have to be at the prison every night for the next few weeks, for a few hours at least.”
“Wait,” Kate wasn’t liking the way things were adding up in her head. “A woman is in solitary and you plan on being there every night? What are you planning on doing?”
Joan’s black eyes finally found Kate’s green ones as she was asked the question she was dreading. She had to lie to the woman she loved, again. It was the last thing she wanted to do to Kate but she had to, Kate could never know the truth of what would be happening to the woman every night for the coming weeks, it would break her heart, it would shatter her trust, and it would end their relationship if she knew what Joan was capable of. “I’m going to befriend her,” Joan lied like a pro, never giving away a flicker of doubt. “I’ll be her protector in the dark, I’ll comfort her when she sobs, I’ll listen to her when she mouths off, and when she is released from isolation and she suddenly has no friends, she will remember who was there for her in the silent darkness.”
Kate’s head spun. It sounded insane and she wasn’t sure how much of what she was hearing was the truth. She wanted to believe Joan, but something deep in her gut told her it was more sinister than that. Not sexual, just sinister. “So that’s why you gave me a key.” Kate’s heart sank a little as she realised it was a consolatory gesture, not a devotion of love.
“No, no, no,” Joan reached out and took Kate’s hands in her own, finally holding solid eye contact and trying to show the emotion that she knew was there inside her, somewhere. She could feel it there, deep in her stomach like a small stone was weighing her down, but she couldn’t determine what the emotion was, just that she didn’t like it. “Kate, I gave you that key so you could come over whenever you want, I want you to be here, I want you to know I’m always coming back here and you’re always welcome to be here. I was not a gesture of ‘here this will make you feel better,’ it is a genuine gift of openness from me to you, because I love you.”
With a tear in her eye Kate took a deep breath and allowed Joan’s expression of emotion to wash over her. She understood what her lover was trying to say, she understood what she was trying to do, what she didn’t understand was what the hell Joan was actually going to be doing in an isolation cell with a prisoner every night for the next few weeks. But she knew better than to ask. “Okay,” was her simple response, she had no idea what else she could say in the situation she was in.
“Please, please tell me we’re okay,” Joan begged in a quiet whisper and Kate could see the genuine love that those black eyes held for her. She was feeling an authentic pain of guilt, possibly even empathy from what Kate could see and it alleviated some of her own pain in the moment.
It made her smile. She knew she was safe and Joan wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize their relationship. “Of course we are Joan, I love you.” Kate reached in for a kiss and felt herself melt once more. Joan had a way of making her feel things in a completely different capacity to anything she had ever felt before.
As their lips parted Joan pulled her into an embrace, Kate’s head tucked between Joan’s neck and shoulder. “I love you more than I will ever be able to put into words,” she whispered. It was the most genuine thing she had said all night.