Chapter Twenty Eight
Joan was happy to take the time off, she didn’t want to know how Kate had managed it or what had happened, all she knew was that it came as a welcome relief to repair her own self for a change and rest her weary head for some time. She could be home, with Kate, and they enjoyed one another’s company. She made a conscious decision to simply enjoy what had been offered and not ask questions. She realised it was a first for her and she wondered if this could be the first step of her new life.
During their afternoon discussions of what had happened Joan realised that she had hallucinated the entire event with her father, he hadn’t been there for her at all it was always Kate. Over the past months she had heard his voice many times in her head, telling her how to remain in control and how to keep a tight hold of the reigns of life. She had even seen him standing beside her, but he wasn’t really there. Her mind had created the images and her brain had filled in the voice to give her the guidance that continued to keep her shackled to her emotional void. It was only her closeness with Kate that gave her the freedom to actually feel the wider range of emotions and empathy she actually was capable of.
Kate knew exactly where her loyalties lied; there was no question in her mind anymore after what she had just experienced of Joan. She knew Joan had emotional issues, she was even aware that Joan may be psychopathic, but despite all the warnings in the book and from the psychologist, she followed her heart.
Thinking about her history Kate reminisced about all the loves she could have had, but never eventuated; either because she was too busy with work, or moving around too often, or they just weren’t the right person, or for other reasons that she didn’t want to think about, but in actuality she was never truly interested in a relationship before. But now she had Joan, she found that Joan was everything to her, everything she had ever wanted, albeit with a bit of hard work involved but she was happy and willing to put that work in, and she wasn’t about to let any of that go.
Joan watched Kate potter around her garden, trimming branches and pulling weeds. She kept her nose in her book as she sat in the rocking chair out the front or on the back veranda step depending on where Kate was working. Kate had insisted that she rest, but her eyes kept wondering to the shorts that would ride up when Kate bent over, or the small amount of lower back and stomach that would poke out when she reached up. The sweat beading on Kate’s skin would sparkle in the sunshine and the mixture of sweat, dirt and sun gave Kate an even darker tinge to her bronze skin.
As Joan looked on she would feel the tingle in her stomach as her lover enticed a lust in her that she had never felt before, it was a lust that was surrounded by trust and safety. It was a love of being completely accepted, and Joan embraced the feeling. It was a contentedness she had never had the joy of experiencing before.
Kate watched Joan play the violin along to the classical music she loved so much. She would sit for hours watching patiently as Joan would go about her fastidious routines throughout the house making sure everything was neat and tidy and just as it should be, especially after her reign of chaos a few night previously. Kate wasn’t allowed to clean, Joan had her ways of doing things and after being made to rest herself she knew it was her turn to make sure her lover rested also. It was a repayment of how Kate had cared for her over the last few days, and the last many months. Joan was painfully aware that her own mental needs far exceeded what emotion she could put into their relationship, and she wanted Kate to know how much she appreciated her love and care.
Occasionally Kate would tilt a picture or move something just slightly out of place when Joan was busy with something else, just to mess around. Joan found them most of the time and righted them. But not always. Kate smirked as Joan returned to the same picture three times in the space of an hour to straighten it again.
With a kiss goodbye and promises of seeing each other after work both women went their own ways once more on Monday morning.
It was later that morning Joan finally put two and two together. The smell of perfume on Kate more than a week ago, combined with her comments and certain questions she had asked. She knew exactly who Kate had seen. And she wasn’t going to take the treason lying down; the forensic psychologist would be fired, soon. And Kate, well Kate would be taught a lesson just the same.
Kate flew into her arms as soon as Joan walked through the door that Kate had left unlocked.
Joan wrapped herself around her lover. She had come to the conclusion throughout her day that it wasn’t actually Kate’s fault; she really didn’t blame Kate at all for what she had done. As much as it stung like a hot knife through the heart when she had first come to the realisation, as much as she could have made Kate hurt in a million different ways in that moment, Joan had taken time to think about her reactions and realised there was only one person to blame, and it wasn’t Kate. She took a deep breath and inhaled the sweet scent that she had come to know deeply.
“How was your day?” Kate asked gently, still holding Joan tight.
“Troublesome.” It was a simple reply, Joan merely wanted to feel Kate against her for a moment longer so she held tight and didn’t let go. She didn’t really want to talk about her day, she didn’t want to continue reliving her own work life when she returned home, and she wasn’t especially keen to open herself to the turmoil of her own emotions again just yet. She needed to rest. “How was yours?”
“Routine.” Kate was the one to release their embrace and she took Joan’s hand and led her to the overstuffed couch with its many cushions and throw rugs.
The side table that Ludo would occupy was empty, Joan felt a slight stab of guilt as she remembered the fish – the replacement Ludo – lying on her kitchen floor amid a mess of fluids and shattered glass. She wanted to replace the fish for Kate, and she had greatly enjoyed watching the small creature swim around in his crystal clear round bowl too.
The last rays of the evening sun were starting to fade through the lace curtains in the window, the lamps beside the curtains were already switched on and music was playing in the background. Kate already had a second wine glass on the coffee table for Joan and an antipasto platter ready to go.
Joan leaned in for a kiss. It was long and slow, just what she needed. She savoured the taste of Kate, the touch of her skin, the feeling of her lovers hand on her leg. Never before had she been loved like Kate loved her. She felt herself letting go of her walls, allowing herself to slip back into the comfort of her relationship and the acceptance between the two of them. It had been hard leaving that morning and it had taken her a long time to switch back to the Governor that she had to be while at the prison. Now she felt like the Governor was finally switching off again and she was able to slip back into the person that she was with Kate.
Kate didn’t pull back this time; she could feel Joan’s need for physical contact and security. She let Joan take as long as she needed. Seconds passed by into minutes. It was a kiss of contentment, not passion or lust, but simple happiness to be together.
With her hands on Kate’s cheeks Joan took a moment to look into her lovers bright green eyes. They held no ill will, nothing dark or dangerous. Only devotion and acceptance. Joan’s heart soared; she knew she finally had everything she had always wanted. Unconditional love. It strengthened the decision to not blame Kate at all for her meeting with the forensic psychologist, it had caused no harm, Joan’s claws were buried deep enough in Kate and she knew the woman was hers. She did wonder why they had met, where, and what they had discussed, but she knew that for the time being she had to let that go. This moment was more important.
“Tell me about your day love.” Kate poured wine into the empty glass for Joan and stayed close to her on the couch. She had worried all day about how Joan would cope after her breakdown only a few nights beforehand. It was a big push for her to have returned to work in full capacity so quickly, but she knew Joan wouldn’t have had it any other way, any further time off and the staff would have questions that she wouldn’t have been prepared to answer. It would have shown weakness and made her look like a human rather than a monster, a monster that ruled through chaos and fear. She counted herself as lucky that she was able to get Joan to take the few days off that she did.
“Where do I start?” Joan took a deep breath and a long sip of shiraz. It instantly helped to release some of the tension in her shoulders. Slipping back into herself made it easier for her to talk about her day, it seemed like who she was with Kate and who she was at work were two different people now. It wasn’t unusual for Joan to present overall as a split personality individual, she was quite adept at becoming who people needed her to be to get what she wanted from them. But with Kate it was different, with Kate she was able to simply be herself. “The inmate with the baby returned from hospital today. The prisoner in psych who lied about the allegations against me tried to gouge her own eye out with a pencil. The forensic psychologist had displayed clear criminal negligence. And my deputy seems to be away with the fairies half the time.”
Kate took a moment to absorb everything she had just heard. “Wow. Just a normal day at the office then.”
“Quite,” Joan replied with the corner of her lip turned up in a half smile, amused at the situation. It was just another day at the office; it always seemed to be more and more dramatic. She had expected more of a reaction from Kate after her comment about the forensic psychologist. She knew it was that woman’s perfume she had smelled on Kate over a week ago. It was just before the woman had inadvertently accused her of having a deficit of empathy and being a psychopath. The question of why Kate had met with her was still ticking around in her head, but she wasn’t going to ask point blank so she consoled herself that the truth would come out eventually.
“How is the baby?” Kate asked, she assumed of all the things it would be the baby that would play most on Joan’s mind given her history.
“I believe he is fine, I haven’t heard otherwise yet.” Joan was completely indifferent to the situation. There was a mother, and there was a baby. All that mattered to her was that they both stayed safe and out of trouble. It wasn’t worth her job if anything happened to either of them.
Kate didn’t get the answer or reaction she was expecting. In fact it was as though Joan was completely emotionless about the situation which she thought was odd given that it was the crux of Joan’s breakdown. “Okay. That’s good. Tell me about the inmate who gouged her eye out then. That sounds brutal, and messy, is she okay?”
“No, she’s not.” Joan sipped her wine and thought about the situation with the injured woman. It was a shame what had happened to her, she had been so pretty before, Joan thought to herself, even for a junkie. But she deserved what she got, she deserved every ounce of pain that she inflicted upon herself whether it was through her own self harm or the hidden agenda of others delivered through psychological manipulation. “The forensic psychologist had flagged her as fit to return to general so I paid her a visit to see how she is travelling and she seemed quite uncomfortable with herself. She was scratching her arm, fidgeting, talking about how concerned she was with her appearance. I found it odd that she had been labelled as fit to return which I noted later. And then I heard a code black called later on in the day and she was found covered in blood with extensive damage to her eye. I have no idea how she got a hold of a pencil but she is a known self harmer and sometimes they will do anything for attention.” Joan knew there was no evidence left behind to link the incident to her this time, she had made sure of it.
It didn’t sound like a cry for attention to Kate, it sounded like conditioning. And still Joan showed no emotion whatsoever. Maybe it was her way of coping with the daily drama of the prison again after her emotional catastrophe, to be completely emotionally detached to anything that happens, Kate thought to herself. But still something irked her just slightly; it was like a string was being pulled way back in the deepest recesses of her brain causing a bell to tinkle in the quietest way.
“The doctor at the hospital reported that she had permanent damage to her right eye and she may lose it yet, it is just a waiting game to see what does or doesn’t heal now. I firmly believe the psychologist was negligent reporting her as ready for general when she clearly was not. That could have been what pushed her to self harm again.” Joan recited her incident report practically word for word.
‘Or a visit from you,’ Kate thought to herself. Whether it actually happened or it was just a hallucination of an overactive imagination, Kate understood that the inmate in question would have been terrified of Joan after what she believed her to have done. It could have been simple nightmares every night, combined with the come down of psychotropic drugs and it’s possible that Joan did nothing at all to the woman when she was in isolation. But either way, it still would have been traumatic for a fragile mind to be confined in a small room with the person who you believe tortured you, whether they actually did or not.
“And your deputy, what’s going on with her?” Kate’s wine was almost empty and she refilled both of their glasses before returning to the kitchen with the empty bottle and grabbing a full one.
“I think she is distracted with her recent diagnosis. She hasn’t reported it yet, I think she’s still coming to terms with it and working out what duties she can and cannot perform now. It could change her entire career path.” Joan purposely neglected to mention that she herself had told her deputy not to report her condition, for fear of being overlooked for promotion in the future because of it, but in reality she gave the advice for her own purposes of control.
Joan waited for Kate to ask about the forensic psychologist, she waited for confirmation that Kate knew who the woman was or some small slip of a detail that would prove what Joan had already determined. But Kate was tight lipped on the subject and didn’t mention her at all.
The next day Joan finally gained information valuable enough to fire the forensic psychologist, but instead she typed up a resignation for the woman and handed her an ultimatum. Resign; or be thrown to the wolves and torn apart by the board for what you’ve done. Your job will be gone, your career will be decimated, and you will never practice psychology again in this State. She was pleased with the actions and the outcome after what the woman had done.
And she also set a plan in motion to get even with the inmate who had played her like a fool, the one who whispered with the top dog and laughed at her after she had opened up and trusted her, after she had helped her through the traumatic birth of her son. They had laughed about her past and called her a freak. Joan didn’t take such breaches of trust lightly. People would pay for what they did to her.
She didn’t tell Kate anything; she simply picked her another long stemmed black rose, this time it was an apology for what the monster inside her was going to do. It was an apology for who she really was.