She found him in the living room where he was still sitting on the couch and playing his game. He turned around when he heard her and this time he put it down and looked at her with a concerned frown. “Is she okay?”
Assuming he meant Shane, she nodded and smiled a little. “Yeah, she seems like she’s feeling better. She’s asleep now though.” She was interrupted by a loud growl coming from her stomach and he gave her an amused look.
“I think there are some pancakes left in the fridge if you’re hungry,” he told her, and she thanked him, giggling to herself as she walked into the kitchen to check. She’d only put her fingers around the handle when she heard a thud behind her and the back door suddenly opened and Max peeked into the kitchen with Tom and Jodi behind him.
“Hey, how is she?” he asked her quietly before giving Shay a smile and a nod. This made Alice wonder if from now on, everyone she talked to was going to begin the conversation with a similar phrase. It wouldn’t surprise her, but it was understandable. Putting that thought aside, she greeted the other two.
“She’s fine, they’re both sleeping,” she repeated, “so I’m hanging out with Shay for a while. And he’s fine too, he’s playing games. What’s going on with you guys?”
“We’re going to pick up some stuff for Jodi in a bit,” Max explained and glanced around the kitchen as if he was looking for something. “And we thought we’d pick up their cars at WAX because they probably have other things on their minds right now, and sooner or later they’re gonna need them. Have you seen their car keys anywhere?”
Now she understood what he was looking for, and she was sure she’d just seen them somewhere.
“They’re on Jenny’s desk,” Shay called from the couch without even turning to look at them; the game had his full attention again.
Alice went over to the desk in the dining room to grab them, walked back to the door and handed them to Max, and after casting a glance in the direction of Bette’s house she turned to Jodi. “Is Bette—is Bette coming with you?” she asked softly, wondering whether or not this was really such a good topic to bring up right now.
“No, she’s not,” Jodi replied flatly and raised an eyebrow. If Max and Tom’s silence had been any indication, Alice should have known to just drop it, but letting things go when they weren’t any of her business had never been one of Alice’s strengths.
“You haven’t talked about what happened?” she went on, her voice a little shrill, though Jodi couldn’t hear it. If she saw the annoyed expression on the deaf woman’s face when she found out from her interpreter what Alice had just said, she didn’t care too much about it. “Look,” Alice continued, “I talked to Bette this morning and she’s really sorry about what she said. It didn’t come out the way she meant it to, she was just really stressed out and was trying to…”
Jodi held up her hand in front of her and began to sign as she replied. “Why are you telling me this?” she asked out loud and then let Tom take over, nodding slightly in Shay’s direction. She couldn’t tell how loud her voice was and she didn’t want the boy to hear her words.
“Jodi says,” he began quietly and watched as she signed her message for the blonde. “You should be saying that to Shane. She’s the one she attacked, and not me. And…”
“She doesn’t know,” Alice interrupted and they both stopped and waited for what she had to say. “I doubt Jenny told her. I’m just telling you what Bette said to me.”
“If Bette has anything she wants to tell me,” Tom said for Jodi, “she can say it to me. This is something between me and her and I would appreciate if you could respect that and stay out of it.”
An awkward silence followed until Max made a move towards the back door and explained to Alice that they should get going. “Thanks for looking after them,” he said with a small smile, “I’ll be back here as soon as I can though.”
“Okay,” she replied quietly and when Max had said goodbye to Shay and had taken off through the door, she went to the fridge and grabbed a pancake that she took with her to the living room. After that encounter with Jodi, she felt even hungrier than before; she’d never imagined that just mentioning what happened the other night would piss her off that bad and that led her to believe that the problems Jodi and Bette had were worse than just a slip of Bette’s tongue. She froze just as she finished the thought, maybe that’s what the problem was! Bette could be cheating again!
She was just about to sit down next to Shay when there was a knock on the door and she spun around on the spot and headed over there instead to open it, finding Tasha there. “Hi, I’m glad you came over!” she grinned but when the other woman just greeted her back and waved a little at Shay, but didn’t lean in to kiss her, she sighed dejectedly. Sometimes she wished Tasha didn’t have to be so old-fashioned and that she hadn’t insisted on taking things slow, but maybe it was for the best, at least now when Shay was watching them from across the room.
“How is she?” Tasha asked worriedly. “You didn’t really tell me that much last night,” she continued and Alice told her what was going on without going into too much detail; she could do that later. It was nice that she’d come over though, not that Shay wasn’t fun, but they didn’t really have that much in common and she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do with him. Just as she thought about that, she had an idea.
“Hey, Shay?” she said and paused until he looked up from the game. “Shane still has her Xbox, doesn’t she?”
He nodded. “Yeah, at least I think so.”
“Do you know where it is?”
“Probably in her room, that’s where it used to be when she didn’t use it.” He shrugged and returned to the game, but a plan had formed in Alice’s head. Maybe playing together for a while could make the kid let go a little and make him relax a bit, because now he just seemed to be building walls around himself, something she assumed he learned from his sister – or maybe it was genetic. And maybe it could have that effect on Tasha too, as long as they didn’t play a war game.
“Come,” she said, taking Tasha’s hand and suddenly she felt like a schoolgirl as she dragged her with her in the direction of Shane’s bedroom. Tasha laughed at her but when they stopped outside her room and Alice put her hand on the doorknob, she took a step back and shook her head.
“Alice, I’m not going into her room,” she said, determined. “Especially not when they’re sleeping. I don’t know them that well.”
It started to bug Alice a little bit that Tasha still hadn’t reacted on the fact that they were both sleeping in the same room – even in the same bed – but she didn’t mention it. “Yeah, well, I have to go in there to check on them either way,” she said instead and pulled the door open to slip into the room. Her friends lay there the way she’d left them, still close together with their arms around each other, and she looked around the room trying to figure out where Shane might have put the game. When she didn’t see it lying around anywhere, she cleared her throat, not too subtly.
“Shane,” she said in a loud whisper. “Shane!”
At first Shane didn’t react, but she kept repeating her name until she opened one eye and glared sleepily at her from behind Jenny’s shoulder.
“Alice, what?” she moaned quietly, propping herself up on her elbow as carefully as possible so she wouldn’t wake Jenny. Her expression suddenly changed into a worried frown and her voice was softer when she continued. “Is Shay okay?”
“No, he’s not okay,” Alice said and paused for a few seconds just to let her friend panic for a little bit, “because he wants to play on your Xbox and I don’t know where it is.” She regretted the bad joke in an instant when she saw the terrified look on her friend’s face.
“Fuck you,” Shane muttered and let out a deep sigh when she sank back down onto her bed. “It’s in the closet somewhere, I don’t know. Take it and get out of here. And don’t ever joke about things like that again.” Her voice became muffled when she buried her face in Jenny’s pillow again. “It’s not funny.”
“I’m sorry,” she mumbled and slapped herself internally. ‘Start using your fucking brain, Pieszecki,’ she berated herself and turned around to begin searching through Shane’s things. Since she’d helped Shane move into that room three years ago Shane had always kept it neat and organized, but now for some reason her closet was a mess. She didn’t even know her friend owned that much clothing but that mystery soon got its explanation when Alice began to dig through the pile of clothes at the bottom. Unless Shane had suddenly started wearing dresses, skirts, blouses and high heels – she cringed at the thought – which was a perfectly reasonable thing to keep to herself, she now had all the proof she needed. Jenny hadn’t just moved into her room the other day, a mess like this one would have had to take longer than that to create.
Underneath it all she finally found the console as well as the games and was just about to take them with her and leave the room when she spotted an open bag with some strangely colorful content. Leaning forward just a little, she nearly swallowed her tongue when she realized one of the things was nothing other than a pink dildo. Shane would never buy a pink dildo, of that she was sure. Afraid she might get caught snooping around, she resisted the urge to check out the rest of what was in the bag and instead she took the Xbox and left the room, grinning like an idiot because of the discoveries she’d made. The whole thing made her feel like Nancy Drew and she’d lie if she said she wasn’t enjoying it.
Tasha wasn’t waiting for her in the hallway but she found her in the living room, talking and laughing with Shay.
“Great, you found it!” Shay grinned and for the first time since Alice came over he actually turned off the DS.
“What took you so long?” Tasha asked her and put her arm around her shoulder, a gesture that made Alice all warm and fuzzy inside. “You had to dig it out of the backyard or something?”
“Almost,” Alice sighed, resisting the urge to tell her about what she’d found out and instead she held up one of the games. “Now, who wants to race me?”
“Are you awake?” Jenny asked, her voice soft and quiet as she tried to look into Shane’s half open eyes.
“Yeah,” she grunted, rolling over on her back and lifting her left uninjured hand to rub her nose. “Thanks to Alice. Did you hear when she came in?” She slipped her right arm under Jenny’s back, carefully so she didn’t hurt her hand, and rested her head on her shoulder, taking a deep breath.
“Yeah, I heard.” In fact, Jenny had both heard and seen what Alice had said and done, but none of that mattered. She was too comfortable in Shane’s arms to care about anything else, and with the night that they’d had, they both deserved to just relax together for a while. Pleased with that decision, she snuggled closer to her girlfriend. “Did you sleep okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, but you know what?” Shane said softly and tilted her head to the side so she could kiss her. “I always sleep really, really well when I have you with me.”
“I know,” Jenny giggled, “I’ve noticed. It’s practically impossible to wake you up in the morning.” She paused, raised her hand to touch Shane’s cheek and let her fingers trace slowly along her jaw line. “And you always had me.”
“Not like this,” she smiled, brushing some of Jenny’s hair away from her face and looking into her eyes. “I love you,” she whispered, placing a kiss on her temple before burying her face in her hair. “You know that, right?”
“Yeah, I do,” she said softly. “I love you too. And I’m glad you can sleep better now, I used to worry about you.”
“Oh really, Jenny?” Shane grinned and chuckled quietly. “You’re the one who keeps me up all night all the time, you’re not one to talk.”
“Well, yeah, but it’s for a good cause.” They had both nearly closed their eyes but their lips had no problems finding each other and Jenny mumbled into the kiss. “And I’ve never heard you complaining.”
“You’re even worse at this than you were when you drove us home last night,” Shay informed Alice and managed to distract her badly enough to make her pull a left turn when the road itself turned right. “Thank god you’re not driving a real car!”
“Fu…” Alice exclaimed but managed to stop herself in time before she uttered all the words on her tongue. At least Shane wasn’t there to hear her; she was finding it quite difficult to keep from cursing when Shay kept kicking her ass every single game. “I’ll have you know I’m perfectly capable as a driver,” she told him and she barely finished her sentence before he sped by her again.
“Are you sure?” he chuckled and put his controller down. It took a while before Alice realized that he did that because he’d just finished the race three laps ahead of her.
“I want a rematch,” she muttered and turned to Tasha who sat next to her, grinning. “Can you go and check on Shane so I can teach him how to drive?” she begged and then lowered her voice, muttering menacingly. “My pride is at stake here.”
“Sure,” Tasha said and got up, albeit reluctantly. She wasn’t too fond of the idea of walking into someone’s bedroom unannounced. It made her uncomfortable, especially since she barely knew them, hadn’t seen them for weeks, and they had no idea she was in their house to begin with. “You just want me to…”
Alice waved nonchalantly with her left hand, already focusing on the settings for the next race. “Just make sure she’s alive.”
Even if Alice herself didn’t, Tasha noticed how Shay suddenly reacted to her words and his expression changed from excited to worried in an instant. “I’m sure she’s fine,” she smiled at him and it seemed to calm him down at least a little. Alice and her big mouth, couldn’t she at least for once just stop to think before saying something? Especially in front of a kid who almost lost his sister the night before. She loved Alice, but sometimes she could be a bit much.
Ever since the night a few days ago when the two of them had decided to try to give their relationship another chance and let things get a fresh start, Alice’s behaviour had gotten stranger and stranger for each passing day, and while the fire and everything that had happened the previous night probably had a lot to do with it, Tasha still wasn’t sure. Was anything going to change between them this time? Or was she just deluding herself into believing that it could?
She was well aware that in order to make it work they’d both have to make sacrifices – she’d already made one of the biggest she ever could. The question was whether or not Alice would be able to, or even want to do the same.
She soon reached Shane’s door and this time she thought she could hear quiet voices talking on the other side and something that sounded like a moan, but after hesitating for a moment she still pushed the door open slowly, just to make sure it wasn’t just one of them talking in their sleep. At first she didn’t see anything, she just heard Jenny’s voice.
“Shane, I don’t think I wanna fuck you when you’re like this. I mean, I’m scared I’ll hurt you.”
“You’re not gonna hurt me,” Shane said quietly begging her. “It’s not like I’m a porcelain doll or anything.”
Tasha froze when she heard their words and saw them both between the sheets, Jenny straddling Shane with their lips not even an inch apart. Whatever she’d expected to see when she opened the door, it was not this. When Alice had told her about her suspicions about her two friends, she’d disregarded it as another of Alice’s little ideas, but she had to admit that she’d actually been right for once.
She carefully backed away and closed the door to the sound of their kissing and made a silent agreement with herself to not tell Alice about any of it. She hardly needed any more fuel for that fire, and she definitely wasn’t gonna give it to her. If they wanted to keep their relationship to themselves, they should have the right to. As she leaned her back against the doorframe and let out a deep sigh, guilt came washing over her for having seen them like that, but it wasn’t like she’d meant to. And hey, at least Shane seemed to be feeling a bit better.
She just found it strange that they hadn’t seen or even heard her, but she supposed they only had eyes for each other or something like that. Shaking her head slowly and letting out a quiet chuckle, Tasha headed back to the living room where Shay was once again beating Alice in the racing game. She was surprised the blonde hadn’t given up yet, but she knew how stubborn she could be once she set her mind on something. It didn’t even occur to her that Alice might be faking it to let him win. Considering her real life driving skills it made more sense to assume the opposite.
“Hey,” Alice greeted her once she realized she was back in the room. “How was she?”
Tasha coughed a little and tried not to let her smile get too wide when she replied. “From what I saw, she seemed to be feeling pretty… good.”
“I know that,” Jenny said dejectedly and sat back, still with one leg on each side of both of Shane’s while her head painted her a picture of her girlfriend as a porcelain doll with a frilly dress and long curly hair. That was an image she could have done without, but it seemed to do the trick. “But you’re not breathing normally, and it worries me. So you have to get well soon, because it’s going to be torture for me not being able to touch you.”
Shane took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as she struggled a bit to push herself up into a sitting position. Ignoring the pain in her hand to prove her point, she slipped her arms around Jenny’s waist again. “Jen, you can still touch me,” she said softly.
“Not where I want to,” she pouted, trying hard to keep her hands on Shane’s hips and not let them wander to the places she had in mind. She looked up and realized Shane was looking at her like a little puppy.
“Look, we can be careful,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be…” She grabbed Jenny and rocked her gently back and forth for a few seconds to demonstrate and Jenny would have laughed out loud if she hadn’t found it all so serious. Shane’s injuries weren’t a joke to her and she didn’t understand why she herself didn’t take them more seriously. The fact that Shane liked sex wasn’t exactly a secret, but her health had to be more important, right?
Reaching behind her back, Jenny took Shane’s hands and pulled them back in front of her and placed them in her lap. “Come on, Shane,” she said with a small smile while lacing their fingers together. “That might work in theory, but you know what we’re like when we’re actually doing that. Things usually tend to get a little…”
“But that’s what I’m saying, it doesn’t have to be like that.” Shane let out a deep sigh and looked down at their hands for a moment. “I know what this is about,” she said quietly. “You don’t like being with me anymore.”
Jenny’s heart sank for a moment as she heard her words, until Shane looked back up at her and she saw the cheeky grin on her face. “You’re so full of shit,” she mumbled.
“I don’t—I don’t really get this though,” Shane said and her tone was more serious now. “You mean you’re saying you’re not gonna have sex with me at all until I’m better?” ‘Because that might take a while,’ she added in her thoughts, not too fond of the idea.
“I don’t think you should be fucking anyone,” Jenny clarified.
“You’re the only one I wanna fuck,” Shane sighed, moving her hand to Jenny’s elbow and gently caressing the skin on her upper arm with her thumb. “And it seems like you wanna fuck me too, so I’m not really getting why you’re making this into such a big deal.”
“Because I’m worried about you, I thought I made that clear already.” Starting to get frustrated, Jenny began to shift around on Shane’s lap until she finally decided to get off of her and sit down next to her instead. “It’s like you’ve already made up your mind that you’re fine and you haven’t even tried to listen to what your body says.”
‘Oh, I hear what it says,’ Shane thought uneasily and swallowed. ‘Kinda hard not to when it won’t stop screaming.’ No matter what she said to her, she didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. It was frustrating as hell, all she wanted to do was to touch her and show her how much she loved her and she wasn’t allowed to, just because Jenny had some idea that she was too fragile. “Well, I’m listening right now,” she stated matter-of-factly with a shrug, “and it’s telling me it wants to put your body down on the bed and have sex with it for the rest of the day until we both fall asleep, tired and happy. How’s that?”
“That’s…” Jenny started, but she had no idea what to say to that. Shane on the other hand was just getting started.
“And even if this one is a bit out of it right now,” she started, holding up her right hand that still had the bandage on, “my left one works just fine. And you know what else? When you fuck someone your body releases endorphins and they make you happy, and they make you feel better.” She tilted her head back a little, peering at her, and tapped her index finger repeatedly against her lips. “Sex is not the enemy.”
Jenny silently began to wonder if it were statements like that one that had earned Shane her Yoda nickname, but decided it wasn’t the right time to bring that up. “Sure, they might make you feel better,” she said instead. “But they won’t magically make your injuries disappear. Shane, listen to me. Your doctors even told you last night that you need to rest. So please, please just do that and get better.”
“Fine,” she sighed and leaned back down against Jenny’s pillow; now that she no longer had her on top of her, she figured she might as well. As she did so, something occurred to her and she shot Jenny a cunning smile. “If we can’t have sex,” she said and sounded quite pleased with herself, “then I need something else to make up for it.”
“What?” Jenny asked simply, lying down next to her. “Name it.” From the surprised look on Shane’s face she could tell she hadn’t even considered that she might agree to it, but she felt bad for her and trusted her enough to know that whatever Shane came up with, it couldn’t be that bad.
“You agree, just like that?” Shane shot her an amused glance, catching a wisp of Jenny’s hair with her fingers and playing with it while her expression turned more and more thoughtful. “I don’t have anything specific in mind though.”
“Well, then just tell me when you come up with something,” she said softly, pulled the sheets back over them and moved closer to Shane, careful not to hurt her hand, and they both just lay there with their eyes closed until Shane spoke up.
“Alice knows about us,” she sighed.
“She does not. If she did, she wouldn’t have been able to keep her mouth shut.”
“No, see,” Shane said, her brows furrowed, and propped herself up on her elbow. “That’s the thing. She doesn’t. She can’t stop talking about it, it’s like… She even made up my horoscope and said all Geminis are sleeping with their best friends.”
They both chuckled a little at this but Jenny found it a bit hard to take their gossip loving friend’s antics seriously. “She’s just making things up because she doesn’t have anything better to do. It’s nothing.”
“No, I’m telling you!” Shane said, her eyes widening, and she suddenly covered her eyes with her hand and groaned. “Oh fuck. I hope she doesn’t make a podcast about it or anything.” Jenny rolled her eyes and smiled at her, but the whole thing was making Shane more and more uneasy. “Jenny, look, I am so sick of trying to hide this. There’s nothing wrong about us being together, we shouldn’t have to lie.”
“But don’t you like having this? That it’s just us?” Jenny let out a weary sigh. Didn’t Shane have any idea how much she treasured what they had and the fact that they could keep it in their own little world where no one else could touch it? “This is ours, it has nothing to do with anyone else.”
“We can still have that.”
“No, we can’t,” she said quietly and Shane took a deep breath, slowly blowing the air out of her cheeks.
“Yes, Jen. They don’t get to define who we are and what we have.” Frowning, she reached out her hand and placed it on Jenny’s shoulder, slowly caressing her arm through the thin fabric of her t-shirt. “What is this? You need to keep our relationship a secret or it’s not exciting enough for you?” She couldn’t possibly imagine that that was it, but she couldn’t help that she was beginning to wonder. Ever since day one Jenny had wanted to keep everything from their friends and she hadn’t had any problems with it at first, but it was getting to the point where she felt like it was enough.
“It has nothing to do with that!” Jenny assured her, a little panicked by the mere thought that Shane would think that about her. “I just don’t think we owe them anything, we deserve some privacy. Whether we’re fucking or not is none of their business.”
Shane shrugged. “Well, we’re not doing that now, so we have that problem out of the way,” she said and Jenny just stared back at her. “Look,” she went on, “I’m sorry, it’s just that we’re not a couple of teenagers who haven’t dared to come out of the closet yet, it makes no sense for us to hide this from people. I do get what you’re saying, but the thing is…” Her voice faded and she took Jenny’s hand in her own, placing a soft kiss in her palm when Jenny tried to touch her cheek. “The thing is; I wanna be able to hold you and kiss you even if our friends happen to be watching. I hate it when we’re hanging out with them and I see Alice and Tasha, Jodi and Bette, or Max and Tom together and we’re not allowed to act the way they do. I don’t wanna have to hide that I’m in love with you and I don’t wanna be a liar.”
“How long have you felt this way?” Jenny’s voice was barely more than a whisper; the guilt made her feel like someone was holding her heart in their hand and squeezing it with all their might. If she’d known that Shane was that uncomfortable she would never have insisted that they lie about whether or not they were more than just friends. The thing was though, that she knew that Shane had always had problems telling people her opinions about things, especially if she thought she might hurt someone or risk losing something that was important to her in the process. It had gotten better the last two months even if the whole time Jenny had known her, she’d always tried to make her feel like she had the right to say what she wanted to say about whatever was on her mind. Maybe now she was really starting to get somewhere.
“I don’t know, for a while.” Shane appeared just as downhearted as Jenny had felt when she made that revelation and they both moved closer to each other without even realizing it. “I know I should have said something, I don’t know why I didn’t. I guess I was okay with it at first, but with everything that’s happened the last few days, I just don’t know anymore. It’s not just that I don’t wanna lie, but Shay’s here now and even if I haven’t exactly talked to him about it, I’m pretty sure he knows there’s something going on between us. And I’m not gonna make him lie to people just so we can keep doing this. It’s not what I wanna teach him. It’s not right. Can’t we just… I don’t know, not do it like this? Please?”
“How do you wanna do things then?”
“I just wanna stop lying!” she sighed, raking her left hand through her messy hair. “That’s what I hate so damn much about this. Because if we’d walk out into the kitchen right this second, and I’d wanna kiss you, I’d like to be able to do that even if Alice is looking right at us. I just want to be with you and not give a shit about all that other stuff. We don’t have to yell it out to the whole world, but just… not lie about it.”
Jenny nodded slowly and her voice was soft when she replied. “Okay.” She shifted closer to Shane and kissed her to seal her promise. This was the closest thing to a fight that they’d ever had since they went from being best friends to girlfriends – not that they’d ever had a habit of arguing – and she was glad that that was as bad as it got. As long as they listened to, respected, understood, and loved each other, she was sure they’d make it through whatever problem that came their way in the future as well.
“Yeah?” Shane asked and raised an eyebrow at Jenny who nodded again, and Shane let out another sigh, this time one of relief. “Can this be my thing?” she suggested suddenly. “Like we were talking about?”
It took a few seconds for Jenny to realize she meant the thing she’d promised she’d let her have instead of sex while she recovered from her injuries. “Yeah, if you want it to be,” she said and put her head down on the pillow, right in front of Shane’s. “But this is something important. It’s something we would have had to talk about sooner or later either way.” She paused for a moment to think, but when she went on she grinned cheekily. “Don’t waste your ‘Jenny in a bottle’ on something you already have.”
“’Jenny in a bottle’?” Shane said amused. “You and your puns. Does that mean I’ll have to rub something to get what I want? Because I could be into that.”
“Shane, you’re hopeless!” Jenny sighed and rolled her eyes at her, then leaned closer again to place a quick kiss by the corner of her mouth. “Is it not possible for you to think about anything but sex today?”
“Not when you’re with me in our bed and you won’t fuck me, no,” she said and felt a bit bad when Jenny gave her a look that begged for her forgiveness, because she really hadn’t meant it that way. “Seriously, Jenny, I can live without sex for a few days,” she went on but as she said the words a slightly panicky feeling swept over her and she shook her head to try to will it away. “Anyway…” Rubbing the bridge of her nose, she tried to remember what they’d been talking about before just so she’d be able to change the subject. “If it’s okay, then from now on if someone asks me about us, I won’t lie. I’ll just tell them it’s none of their business, because I agree with you that… it’s not.”
Jenny tilted her head up a little when Shane paused in the middle of her sentence, and looked at her with concern. She hadn’t realized it until now, but Shane’s voice had gotten more and more hoarse while they were talking and now she looked like she was in pain. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she mumbled, then swallowed and cleared her throat. “It’s just my throat. I think I might have been talking too much today.”
“Oh, fuck, I’m sorry!” Jenny exclaimed, sitting straight up and covering her mouth with her hands. “I didn’t think about that. Fuck.” She’d been so focused on trying to make sure Shane didn’t get hurt that she’d completely forgotten about all the smoke Shane had inhaled the night before and that talking probably wasn’t the best thing for her to do right now. “You know what though? I have a notepad right here somewhere, you can write instead of talking…” Before Shane had a chance to say anything, she’d climbed over her, out of the bed and was shuffling through the items on her bedside table and Shane couldn’t help but laugh at her.
“Jenny, it’s fine, calm down,” she said, and rolled over and grabbed her hand. “I just think I need to get something to drink, and I should probably eat something too.” Jenny nodded and seemed to calm down a little and they both smiled. “It’s at times like this that it’s a shame you don’t know sign language.”
Jenny sighed and sat down on the floor next to her, pulling her hair back. Shane had learned so much so fast simply by hanging out with Jodi, but she just wasn’t a fast learner when it came to things like that. “Yeah, I know. I only know one thing, besides the one for ‘fuck you’” she said and smiled brightly when Shane rolled her fingers on her left hand into a fist – since her right one was hurt – sticking out her thumb and pinky and touched her chest with her thumb. She then crossed her arms over her chest, holding her fists to her shoulders before pointing at Jenny while she smiled back at her.
“I love you too, Shane,” she grinned, giving her a quick kiss before getting back up again and sitting down next to her on the bed. “You’re so fucking cute. Like when you made a salad for dinner and opened the back door just because it was so damn hot, and still you’d lit candles all over the place.”
“Ah, fuck,” Shane sighed, the night of their two month anniversary still fresh in her memory. “Be nice to me, I couldn’t help it. I had other things on my mind that night.”
“If it’s any consolation, I did too.”
“You did?” she grinned.
“Oh yes,” Jenny giggled and changed the subject, wishing she too could think about something other than sex for a while. “Hey, you said you were thirsty and that you wanted something to eat. I can’t remember if I told you, but I made some pancakes before, and unless Alice ate them all there should still be a whole bunch of them in the fridge. If you want I can get you some and you can have lunch in bed.”
She thoughtfully tapped her fingers on her bottom lip – something that made Jenny wonder if she craved a cigarette – and she seemed to consider the offer. “I think you even offered to bring me some before too, but I might have dreamt that,” she chuckled after a moment and Jenny helped her sit when she saw her trying to get up. “That sounds nice, but I think I need to get out of this bed for a while. And I really wanna check on Shay, spending too much time with Al when she’s like this can’t be good,” she joked. “Thanks though.”
“It’s okay, we can just eat in the kitchen and you can keep an eye on him and make sure that Alice doesn’t teach him any bad words.” She said the last words smirking since she knew how obsessive Shane could be about making sure people watched their language around him and she began to change out of her pajamas.
“She better not,” she groaned and suddenly she was in a hurry to get up. Jenny tried to help her and she let her, even though the stubborn voice in her head tried to tell her she could do it on her own. Better to be safe than sorry since the pain was still there, she figured, and with Jenny’s arm protectively around her she left her room and headed toward the kitchen.
“Do you want pancakes?” Jenny asked. “Or something else? I can make…”
“It’s fine, Jen, anything is fine. I can just make a sandwich or something.”
“No, it’s not a problem,” she insisted, “you can hang out with Shay for a while and I’ll take care of it. It’s not a big deal.”
“Thank you.” Shane stopped in the hallway right before they reached the dining room and wrapped her other arm around her, and she felt Jenny relaxing into her embrace. “For everything you…” she started but forgot what she was about to say when she began to cough violently again and turned her face away. “It’s okay,” she said before Jenny had a chance to open her mouth when she felt her hand on her back. “Come on, I just wanna get this over with and get back to bed.”
Jenny mumbled something unintelligible in agreement, trying to swallow the lump in her throat. If only she could stop worrying, but how could she when Shane had gone from being eager to get out of bed one minute to wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep the next? She gently rubbed her hand over Shane’s back and hoped she really was just overreacting again. Once she’d decided she really was okay for now, she let go of her and went to prepare her meal.
Shane walked over to the living room where the others were still playing and said hi to Tasha, a bit surprised to see her there but at the same time a little relieved since she figured Alice was probably more likely to behave with her around.
When he heard her voice, Shay turned his head in her direction and he seemed as happy to see her as she was to see him and she stopped behind the couch and gently placed her hands on his shoulders. She didn’t have to look at the TV to try to figure out who was in the lead, it was obvious enough from Alice’s annoyed groans and sighs that it wasn’t her. “You’re great at this,” she told him and he looked up at her for just a second with a big grin on his face.
“Hey, Shane,” he said once he turned back to face the TV again. “Guess who’s the worst driver ever?”
“Yeah, I know.” Shane nudged Alice’s shoulder with her elbow. “She gave me a ride, I’ve been there.”
“At least I’m a whole lot better than you’ll ever be,” Alice retorted and turned around to glare at Shane but froze and nearly dropped her controller when she saw her arm. Her jaw dropped and she pointed at the bruise on Shane’s upper arm, her eyes wide as saucers. “Holy shit!” she exclaimed and Shane instantly let go of her brother’s shoulder, placing her hand over Alice’s mouth instead and she glared angrily at her while she nodded in Shay’s direction.
Alice rolled her eyes at her and pulled her head back so she could talk again. “That’s what the spray can did to you?”
“Spray can?” Shane frowned.
“Yeah, we thought some exploding spray paint can hit you or something, because you had red paint all over your left side when we found you.”
“Oh.” She couldn’t believe she hadn’t even noticed that, but then again, she’d had other things on her mind.
“I’m surprised it didn’t take your arm off,” Alice went on and Shane rolled her eyes while Tasha kicked her leg, and when she glared at her she mouthed ‘You’re scaring him!’ nodding at Shay. Now that she got it pointed out to her, even Alice could see how he looked nervously at Shane’s bruise until Shane casually crossed her arms, covering it with her right hand.
Taking a quick look at the TV, Shane chuckled and shook her head, grinning at her. “Al, he just beat you again.” At that, Alice turned her attention back to the game like she’d expected her to and she kissed the top of Shay’s head before joining Jenny in the kitchen. She took a water bottle from the fridge and nearly emptied it, realizing she must have been thirstier than she thought, then spotted her cell phone on the counter and grabbed it.
“Jenny,” she said quietly, “I’m gonna go outside for a bit and try calling him again.” She didn’t need to explain, Jenny knew she was talking about her father and she just nodded.
Shane braced herself for what was to come and went out on the back porch calling Gabriel McCutcheon’s home phone. She stood nervously fidgeting for a while, listening to the beeping on the other end until it became clear to her that he wasn’t going to pick up today either. Sighing, knowing she’d at least tried and that she couldn’t do more than that, she returned to the kitchen and instantly received a hug from Jenny.
“I’m really proud of you for doing that. I know how hard it is for you.”
“Yeah,” Shane mumbled absentmindedly, glancing over at Shay who was still playing and laughing with their friends, and she hoped with all her heart that it wouldn’t have to come to an end. If their father took him away again, it would break her, and she didn’t know if even Jenny would be able to put the pieces back together a second time.
Jenny kissed her cheek, a naughty smile forming on her lips when she cast a glance in the direction of the living room. “You should eat now though. You said you wanted to get it over with.”
After a minute or two, Shane was sitting down by the table in front of a plate so full of pancakes that she didn’t know what Jenny was thinking. She’d be lucky if she could get half of it down. Squeezing her eyes shut and pinching the bridge of her nose right between them, she soon felt Jenny’s hand stroking her arm and she offered her some painkillers that she gratefully accepted. Her headache hadn’t come out of nowhere, it had slowly come creeping up on her and she’d tried to ignore it until she just couldn’t anymore. Jenny was probably right after all, what she really needed right now was to just take it easy for once until she felt better, but it wasn’t that simple now that Shay was staying with them. She didn’t want him to feel abandoned by yet another member of his family.
Just as Shane had decided she was done with her pancakes, the doorbell rang and Alice jumped up and got out of the couch. “That’s probably Max, Tom and Jodi,” she explained to Shane and Jenny, “they went to get your cars back from WAX.”
“Oh,” Shane replied, frowning. “But Max wouldn’t ring the doorbell, Al, he lives here.”
Alice grimaced back at her friend while Jenny headed for the door and opened it, looking confused at the man and woman who waited out on their front porch.
“Hi, we’re sorry to bother you,” the man said, and introduced himself and his partner, and they showed Jenny their badges. ”I’m Officer Watkins and this is Officer Rodriguez and we’re with the LAPD. We’re looking for a…” He stopped for a moment and looked down at the notepad in his hand. “Shane McCutcheon. Is he…”
“I’m Shane,” she cut him off from across the room and when Jenny saw her coming over to join her by the door, Jenny began to worry that she wouldn’t make it all the way over there. So when she did, she slipped her arms around her waist and held her steady in case she’d lose her balance.
“What’s going on?” Shane asked even though she was sure she knew why they were there.
“We've got a few questions about the fire last night if that's all right,” he said, looking from Shane to Jenny.
Shane nodded slightly, still feeling like her head was about to explode. “Okay,” she said and Jenny invited them to come inside. “I don't know what I can tell you though,” she went on. “I thought you talked to Chase, I don't know more about what happened than he does.”
“We're just trying to get all the details,” the woman explained but Shane cut her off before she could say anything else.
“And I thought you already got the guy who did it?”
“Yeah, we've got him in custody, but if you could give us anything, anything that you saw or heard when...”
“Look,” Shane said and Jenny could tell she was starting to lose her temper, something that didn't happen often. “Sure, I went in there. I went to get my brother and if I saw anything or heard anything but him, I honestly didn't care and I don’t remember that now. I just wanted to find him and get him out of there, and I'm sorry but I don't have anything else to say.”
“What about your brother?” The man looked at his notes again. “Shay?”
“He didn't see anything,” she growled, “I've already talked to him about that and he said he doesn't know anything.”
“Shay?” She turned around and looked at him, her eyes and voice softer when she spoke. “Can you go to your room for a while?” That was all she had to say and he was up and out of the couch in an instant and on his way out of the living room. He pretty much always listened to her and she made a mental note to remind him of how thankful she was for that. “He was in a fire and he was fucking freaked out about that,” she continued when she heard the door to his room close, and for a second Jenny wondered if she'd asked him to leave just so she could stop holding back all the curse words she probably had ready on her tongue for the two cops.
Shane was well aware that they were only trying to help, and she too wanted Nick to remain locked away, but she didn’t want the cops around if it meant putting even more stress on her brother. “If he says he doesn't know, he doesn't. He's not a liar, and I'm not gonna have the two of you push him and freak him out even more, he's only ten fucking years old.”
Jenny began to worry because talking to a couple of police officers that way was probably not the best thing Shane could do, but she soon got other things to worry about when Shane trembled in her arms and her legs nearly gave way under her. She only now noticed the tiny beads of sweat on her forehead and she was just about to ask someone for help when Tasha showed up by her side, taking one of Shane's arms and pulling it over her shoulders.
“What happened?” she worriedly asked Jenny who just looked at her with panic in her eyes.
“I don't know,” she replied and tried to get a look at Shane's face. The way they stood holding her didn't make it easy for her. “Shane? What's wrong?”
Her voice was so quiet Jenny could barely hear her and there was no point just standing around there. “We should get her back to bed,” she told Tasha and glared at the cops who hadn't done anything when Shane nearly collapsed onto the floor. Some help they were. Alice must have seen how she almost said something to them about it, because when they were about to help Shane out of there, she started telling them both about how she'd been at WAX the other night and explained what she had or hadn't seen, and Jenny was grateful for the help.
When they got to the hallway, Tasha stopped and took over, lifting Shane up in both of her arms and that way they reached her room a lot faster than they would have otherwise. It scared Jenny that there were no protests from Shane, because she'd expected there to be at least some.
“Do you think we should call an ambulance?” Tasha asked after gently putting her down on her bed.
Jenny shook her head and shrugged. “I don't know. Shane?”
“My head is killing me,” she moaned quietly and opened one eye just slightly, looking back up at Jenny you immediately sat down next to her. “And you're not taking me to the hospital just because I have a migraine. Just... I don't know. Can you please turn off the light?”
“Yeah, of course,” Jenny said but it was Tasha who flicked the light switch. “Do you feel sick?”
Tasha nodded towards the door and when Jenny gave her a small grateful smile she left the room again. When the door closed, Shane cleared her throat and suddenly tried to push herself up, but Jenny gently put her hand on her shoulder and made sure she stayed down.
“I should...” Shane started, “I should check on Shay, he doesn't know what's going on...” Her voice trailed off and she took a few deep breaths, covering her eyes with her hand.
“I'll talk to him. It's fine, Shane.”
They sat in silence for a while until Shane let her hand down and Jenny sat the tears in her eyes. “Do you think they're gonna take him away?” Shane whispered.
“What? The cops? Why would they do that?”
“Because he doesn't live here,” she said quietly and Jenny took her hand. “I have no right to keep him here and I almost got him killed.”
“That's not true and we both know it. You can talk to him as much as you want later, but right now you just need to feel better. Are you sure you shouldn't go to...” She’d known by the time she started on that sentence that she wouldn’t get to finish it.
“I'm not going to the hospital,” Shane argued with a stubborn frown, or maybe, Jenny figured, it was just the pain that caused it. “At least not for this. But if it's still bad tomorrow, I promise I'll go. Okay?”
“Okay. I'll leave you alone so you can rest.” Jenny smiled a little when she felt Shane squeezing her hand and slowly got up, tucking her in and kissing her forehead before she left the room to look for the others. A few moments later she found Alice, Tasha and Shay in the living room and the police officers were nowhere to be seen.
“Yeah, they left,” Alice explained when she saw the questioning look on Jenny's face. “I told them everything I knew and they seemed happy with that.”
Jenny looked from Alice to Tasha and back again with a suspicious frown. “You didn't make things up just to get them to leave, did you?” she asked slightly worried.
“No, she actually told them the truth,” Tasha grinned, “but she has this way of making the most boring and insignificant things sound interesting,” and Alice beamed.
“Are they coming back?” Jenny asked.
“I don’t know, but I doubt it,” Alice said with a shrug. “It seemed like they got what they wanted, at least for now. I think if they’re going to, they’ll probably wait until she’s feeling better.”
Shay moved closer to Jenny, and she saw him shooting concerned glances in the direction of Shane's bedroom. “Is she okay?” he asked.
“She has a migraine,” she told him, placing her hand on his shoulder. “But she'll be fine. She's just gonna stay in bed until it gets better.”
The concern on his face changed to confusion. “What's a migraine?”
It hadn't occurred to her until then that maybe most ten-year-old boys hadn't ever had one and she played with a lock of her hair as she tried to figure out what to say. “Well...” she said after a while, “it's like a headache, but sometimes before you get it you see all these flashy colors before your eyes.” He looked questioningly at her gesturing as she tried to explain it to him. “And sometimes you get sick, but it's nothing dangerous. It'll go away after a while.”
“Okay,” he said. “Can I go back to bed?”
Jenny hadn’t realized until then how exhausted he looked and she nodded, feeling a pinch of guilt. She’d known he hadn’t been able to sleep much and she should have paid more attention. “Yeah, of course you can,” she said softly. “I’ll wake you up before dinner if you’re still asleep by then. Just let me know if there’s anything you need.”
He smiled a little and said he would, then walked off to his room and Jenny turned to the other two.
“Shane’s going to the hospital tomorrow,” she told them and added, when she saw Alice was about to say something: “I’m making her go.”
Tasha nodded in agreement. “I think that’s a good decision.”
“Hey,” Alice said after considering that bit of information for a while. “I can take her there. I mean, if you have anything you have to do or just want to sleep for a while. It wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Unless she refuses to get in the car with you after today,” Tasha chuckled and Alice pretended to slap her.
“Thank you,” Jenny said sincerely after she’d managed to stop giggling at her. They were just starting to get somewhere with the movie and she had a ton of work to do, so she appreciated any help she could get. Not that she didn’t care about Shane, but she had to be honest with herself; she was the only one with a job at the moment and they now had a kid in the house too. She couldn’t take any risks. “Yeah, that’d be great. I don’t think she should be driving so… She’s already a little better though, she’s not coughing as much as she did this morning and she doesn’t sound too bad when she’s breathing. But I just wanna be on the safe side, you know?”
“Yeah. I’ll call you later about that then,” Alice said and took a step towards the door but stopped to give Jenny a concerned look. “Are you gonna be okay? Do you need us to stay for a while longer or come back later or anything?”
“No, no, that’s fine. I’m sure Max is gonna come home soon anyway so if I need help I’ll just ask him. But I think they’ll be okay. Thanks for coming over, both of you.”
“Take care of yourself too,” Tasha said with a soft smile. “Don’t forget that.”
“I won’t,” Jenny promised and they left through the front door.
Tasha barely had time to close the door behind them before Alice opened her mouth to tell her about all the things she’d been keeping to herself for the last couple of hours.
“I was right!” she exclaimed and almost bounced off the front porch on the way to their cars. “They are sleeping together.”
“I know, you told me that,” Tasha replied and let out a deep sigh. She wasn’t getting into this again with her, she already knew a whole lot more than Alice did and she just didn’t want to discuss it or even think about it, it made her uncomfortable. There was a word called privacy and right now she just wished someone would explain the meaning of it to Alice.
“No, I don’t mean that,” Alice went on, “they don’t just sleep, there really is something going on between them.” She stopped in front of the other woman and held up her phone. “I have proof. I filmed them together.”
“You what?!” Tasha yelled, staring at her. She had to be kidding; there was no way she could have done something like that. She’d felt bad enough herself for just accidentally walking in on them, and Alice was telling her she’d filmed them?
“Jeez, stop yelling.” Alice raised her other hand to her ear and frowned. “Yeah, I filmed them when they were asleep, they were holding each other and I’m gonna show that clip to Shane tomorrow and make her explain what’s going on, because that wasn’t all. Her closet is packed with Jenny’s stuff so there’s definitely something fishy going on here.”
Tasha just stood there staring at her for a moment, not knowing what to believe. She knew Alice loved to find out every single detail about everyone she knew, but this was getting out of hand. “So what if they sleep in the same bed, Alice?” she said and lowered her voice so Jenny wouldn’t hear her from inside the house. “You know that Jenny gave up her room so that Shay would have someplace to stay, you’re the one who told me. And so what if they hold each other while they’re asleep? Can you even imagine what they went through last night? Jenny could have lost her best friend in that fire. Shane could have died. I think it’s perfectly understandable if they wanna hold each other, and if they do, it really is none of your business. I think you should delete that thing right now.”
“Fine, I’ll delete it!” Alice exclaimed, “but I thought it would be fun, and they’re my friends and I just wanted to mess…”
“Right, Alice, they’re your friends,” Tasha sighed, shaking her head in frustration. “And the last 24 hours they’ve gone through hell. There’s no need for you to make it worse and I know you think this is hilarious but I doubt they will. Just leave them alone.”
Alice looked down and stood there in silence for a while, and when she looked up at her again, Tasha saw tears in her eyes. “Do you think this is easy for me?” she asked quietly. “I almost lost my best friend for the second time last night, and I just don’t know how I’m supposed to deal with that. So excuse me if I’m just trying to find something to distract myself because I really don’t wanna think about that right now, and I doubt they do either.”
Tasha’s face fell at her words and she didn’t know what to say or do anymore. She knew about Dana and that her death had messed Alice up pretty bad, but even if she was upset about that, she couldn’t make that into a valid excuse for what she was doing now. The line had to be drawn somewhere. A big part of her wanted nothing more than to just put her arms around her and hold her, but the other part knew that if she wanted things to get done right, she had to take care of that first.
“Alice, delete that video,” she said sternly, but the look she gave her was soft and supportive. “Please. I get that you’re hurting and you’re worried, but don’t make them a part of that. Just delete the damn thing.”
“Fine,” Alice sighed, wiping the tears from her eyes as she walked up to her while opening the folder with the video files in it. “See?” she said and held up her phone in front of Tasha, clicking the delete button. “It’s gone now.”
Tasha put her arms around her and held her close, and a small smile of relief spread on Alice’s lips. She’d deleted the file all right, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. She’d made two clips after all.