By the time Clara was dry and changed, the smell of brewed coffee filled the air. Elizabeth was at the counter, wearing something less distracting, which managed to relieve and disappoint Clara.
She approached the counter casually, wearing a jean skirt that went down to her knees and a thick white denim shirt. Clara was beginning to learn the joys of a sports bra. While a bit snug, it did much to support the girls without a lot of complexity.
These clothes were decidedly not Elizabeth’s style. Even now, her friend looked ready for the office. There was an air of professionalism that surrounded her, and this outfit was anything but.
Elizabeth tossed her two long, grey wool stockings. Clara would not have been caught dead in these during her time, but they suited the overall theme.
“Here,” Elizabeth said. “You’ll need these.”
Clara knew they would be itchy for a while, but at least they would keep her warm, even when soaking wet. She sat down and slipped them on sensibly, to avoid making this a sensual experience. In the background, her eyes discerned that Elizabeth was deep in thought.
“Thank you,” Clara said with a smile. “That smells great.”
“Anything is better than that diner’s coffee,” Elizabeth said flatly. “Although, not by much.”
There was a pause as a moment of uncomfortable silence filled the space between them. Something was on their minds, but neither knew how to broach the subject.
Fortunately, the coffee maker began to make loud noises as the last of the water cycled through the system. Elizabeth turned her attention to that while Clara finished slipping on the stockings. Unlike the rest of her outfit, these were a bit big as though they had been intended for someone much taller.
On a hunch, Clara looked over towards Elizabeth and noticed that her gold band was gone. A white void was left in its place, a hint that this was not a simple case of guilt or infatuation.
A cup of coffee, milk, and a five pound bag of sugar was placed on the counter. Elizabeth smirked, choosing to take hers black while Clara sweetened it mildly before taking a sip. They both sighed contentedly, wrapping their hands around the hot ceramic, and let the heat radiate into their hands.
“That was one hell of a weekend,” Elizabeth said.
Clara had not been aware of the date, time, or even the season. While the latter was easy enough to guess, weather could nonetheless deceive an outsider.
“So today is Monday?” Clara asked.
Elizabeth nodded, looked into the swirling pool of black elixir, and sighed.
“This was probably the single-most fucked up weekend I’ve ever had,” Elizabeth said. “I can’t tell a soul can I?”
“No.” Clara said. “How would you treat a patient who described what you went through?”
“Point taken,” Elizabeth said. She took a sip as a distraction and said, “Saturday morning, I was happily married, looking to help a lost friend. Like most, I assumed that vampires—and angels—were works of fiction.”
“And—,” Clara tried to say.
Elizabeth raised her hand, fingers together and palm facing Clara. This was her way of telling the other to stop interrupting, so she could get this off her chest.
“Today I know that my friend is dead, that these things do in fact exist, and that includes you…” Elizabeth trailed off. Another sip of her coffee imbued her with strength, even if only imagined, before she added, “I also learned that I was never married.”
“What?” Clara asked, realising why Elizabeth had been pacing before her arrival.
“She’s on tour,” Elizabeth said. “Those are her things in our—my bedroom. So imagine my surprise when I saw the announcement that she had recently tied the knot with her long-time friend and confidant.”
“I’m sorry—” Clara tried to say.
“Are you?” Elizabeth hissed. “I’ve seen how you’ve been eyeing me.”
“I’m—” Clara said.
“Sorry?” Elizabeth confirmed. “So that’s what you planned to tell me when you got in here?”
Clara simply nodded. It was clear that Elizabeth had managed to tie up all of her emotions and thoughts into a coherent bundle. That clarity enabled her to channel it constructively, and spared Clara from having to do the same.
Elizabeth finished off her coffee and poured herself another. She took a quick glance at Clara’s cup and topped it up for good measure. Clara smiled appreciatively and would not say another world until needed.
“I thought about going with you, wherever you are headed,” Elizabeth said. “In the end, I realised that you didn’t need me slowing you down. Nor did you need me to muddy the waters with all of this tension.”
Clara nodded once more and felt her heart grow lighter with every word. Elizabeth was pushing forward the exact same statements that Clara envisioned herself saying. Since these words were meant to soften the blow for Clara, it effectively made this a victory.
“Either way,” Elizabeth said. “I still have a job to do, kids that need me. At least I can make a difference in their lives.”
Elizabeth finished off her second cup of coffee, paused, and smiled before she went around the counter. She showed no signs of hesitation and placed her hands firmly on Clara’s shoulders before closing the distance between their lips.
Clara just went with it, enjoying the fact that someone else knew how to take charge. When their lips touched, all of that tension and anxiety washed away, replaced by a passion that enveloped them.
Clara parted her lips and found that Elizabeth was a step ahead. Their tongues touched, hesitating momentarily before diving into the dance. When Elizabeth pulled back, both of them were short of breath.
“I needed that,” Elizabeth said. “In a couple of days, once this fucking shitstorm sinks in, I may realise that all of this was a result of you saving my life. Just like you may come to learn that what you needed was intimacy, and I just happened to be there.”
She then tossed a phone on the counter, along with a charger and cable. It was the phone she lifted from that dive bar, and it seemed to be working fine.
“You got some messages when I plugged it in,” Elizabeth said as she slid a pad towards her. “I wrote them down here for you and added my number to the phone.”
Elizabeth walked over to the door and picked up her coat, purse, and keys. She was bundling up for the cold but, despite the journey ahead, she wore a smile.
“You can grab a coat that fits from… her… closet,” Elizabeth said. “Now if you need a place to crash…”
“That’s too—,” Clara said.
Elizabeth cut her off and said, “My couch will always be available to you. Just make sure to use the window, so this door stays locked.”
With nothing more to say, she left Clara alone in the apartment. Clara let the silence sink in, marking the first time in days that there was not something going wrong or her being driven towards an objective. She gulped a few mouthfuls of coffee. The bitterness reminded her that this was precisely where she needed to be. Heaven was too isolated, sterile, and constricting for her. Clara required the flavour and spice of life in order to be content.
After her second cup, she sighed softly, grabbed the pad, and admired the woman’s beautiful handwriting. The message was good news but, given who she was dealing with, that situation could turn on her real fast.
Clara looked at her phone and noted the time. With the better part of the day to herself and with nothing better to do, she began to experiment with the mobile phone. The messages were in there somewhere, and she was determined to find them.
Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!