A Little Piece of Paradise
Parts 7 to 11
Tori returned alone to Summer Cottage. She'd thought the day before, and even that morning, that she would probably have Eden with her when she got back. But her one sided conversation with herself on the journey back had put paid to that.
She'd unloaded the Shogun, but didn't unpack. The boxes and bags were still on the lounge floor where she'd dumped them.
The cottage was warm, thanks to Eden who'd set up the timer on the heating system before they'd left the day before.
She turned the TV on and watched half heartedly for an hour or so before falling into an uncomfortable sleep.
It was after 10.30pm when she woke, feeling stiff and achy.
She replayed the day she'd just gone through. She'd enjoyed being with the blonde woman.
Tori stood and began to pace. Thoughts of Eden filled her mind. But the thoughts involved the young woman writhing beneath her, her skin glistening with sweat and her eyes filled with hunger. And that was the problem. Eden was so unlike any of the other women she'd known. The others had wanted Tori's particular brand of love, she loved how she lived, hard and fast. No guarantee of tomorrow. But Eden. Tori closed her eyes.
She did want Eden. She did. And she'd always taken whatever she'd wanted. But she'd have to give as well. And she wanted to. That was a first. She wanted to give this lovely young woman a part of her. But there was nothing good to give, her heart had died, so had her soul. And with nothing to give back she wouldn't take the girl's love. And she knew Eden would give that, unconditionally.
So she'd stay away. Definitely. Not go anywhere near her. Ever.
It was 11.15pm when Tori glanced at her watch. She was sitting in her Shogun outside the building that included Eden's shared apartment.
She took a deep breath and left the security of her vehicle and made her way up the short steps to the front door.
She realised there were three doorbells, peering in the insufficient street lighting she managed to make out the small writing that said Gallagher and Jones. Sounded like a folk band she thought.
She rang the bell and waited.
The door opened and a man peered around it. His shoulders covered in something pink. "Yeah?" He said.
"Sorry to disturb you. I'm looking for Eden." Tori shifted from foot to foot.
"Who is it?" A disembodied voice from inside asked.
"Someone looking for Eddie." He shouted over his shoulder.
Cathy's face appeared behind him. "Victoria." She said rather coolly. "What's up?"
"Is Eden here?" Tori asked, unable to meet the somewhat hostile glare of Eden's friend.
"No she isn't, come on in." Cathy said pulling Darren away from the door so that the tall woman could enter. He pulled the pink dressing gown more securely around his body and blushed at the raised eyebrow he got from Tori.
"Darren, go make some tea would you?" Cathy said as she and Tori entered the lounge.
Darren nodded and left the two women alone. Cathy was also dressed in a robe, this one a white towelling affair.
"Sit down." She instructed Tori who claimed the armchair. Cathy curled up in a corner of the sofa.
"What did she tell you?" Asked Tori, her eyes firmly on her own shoes.
"Not a thing. She came in, crashed around for a while then went out. Haven't seen her since." Cathy fiddled with the belt of her robe. "Eden's a very good friend Tori, I don't like to see her hurt."
"I..........." Tori tried.
"No, hear me out." She said, raising a hand. "She's very special to me, I love her very much." She waited a beat, "And she loves you very much."
"Cathy," Tori said, a lopsided grin on her face, "I've know her a couple of days, how could she possibly know me well enough to love me?"
"This is Eden we're talking about. It's all or nothing with her. She's fallen for you. Hard." Cathy's eyes never left the tall woman, she saw the battle going on behind those blue eyes, knew the tumult of emotions that were rumbling beneath the calm surface. "So what happened?"
"I decided that she'd be better off away from me. I'm no good for her." Tori shrugged, hoping she'd given enough information.
"I think you should have given Eden a chance to make that decision herself." Cathy took a deep breath. "What do you think of her?"
Tori smiled, again she was being asked questions that no one that knew her would dare ask. And she surprised herself by answering. "I haven't been able to think of anything else since the first time I saw her. It's very easy to like her, to love her."
Cathy nodded. "I know what you mean, she's one of those people who sees the best in people first. Not like me. I'm wary of folks when I first meet them. But not Eden. She sees good in everyone, and when she finds the right person to love, really love, that person will be very, very lucky." She watched Tori carefully. "I think that could be you Tori."
"I don't know if I'm that lucky Cathy. I don't think I deserve to be."
"I know my best friend, she sees something there that maybe I wouldn't. She's a pretty good judge, she's not often wrong." Cathy smiled, seeing in the tall woman what her friend must have seen. A sad soul.
She leaned forward and said quietly. "Go find her."
"Where would she be?" Tori was on her feet giving Darren, who was standing in the doorway juggling three mugs in his hands, an apologetic look, his tea in vain.
"The Tap probably, she usually goes there on a Saturday night."
"Sorry, The Bath Tap, it's Bath's only gay bar. No, that's not strictly true, but it's the newest and most popular." She looked at Darren who was giving her a quizzical look. "So I've been told anyway."
"Where is it?" She asked, making her way towards the door.
"Have you seen McDonalds yet?" Cathy reached past her and opened the door.
Tori shook her head. "No. I'm not into burgers."
"Ok, you're just gonna have to go into Bath and ask for Saint James Parade, that's the street the Tap's in." Cathy pulled her robe tighter against the cold night air.
"Won't it be shut by now?" Tori stood at the bottom of the steps looking at her watch.
"It stays open late on a Saturday, you'll have to pay a couple of quid to get in after closing time though."
Tori nodded and made her way 'round the Shogun to the driver's side. "Thanks Cathy," she called over the roof, and then was gone.
Bath isn't big, which was a good thing. It took a couple of circuits around the centre before she found St. James Parade and then The Bath Tap. She managed to park just a few yards from the entrance. The doors were closed and a gentle push didn't open them so she gave a couple of taps to the black surface. It opened to reveal a seated man with short peroxide blond hair a black net vest and black leather trousers.
"We're full up sweetheart." He said and started to shut the door. Tori put her hand out stopping it from closing.
"I'm looking for a friend, I really need to see her."
"She got a name?" He said, trying to ignore a similarly dressed man who was nibbling his neck.
"Eden, Eden Gallagher."
"Eddie? Ok, you'd better come in." He batted away his friend. "That'll be two pounds." He said.
She handed him a fiver and he fished in a tin for the change. "D'you know where she is?" Said Tori looking over his head at the sea of bodies, mostly male.
"No, but she's here somewhere, came in early and I'd know if she left."
"Thanks." She said to the man who turned his full attention back to his companion.
Tori eased through the throng. There were a couple of women sitting in a corner, she made her way through the crowd towards them. They both looked up as she arrived, surprised to see a new face.
"Hi," she shouted over the sound of the music. "I'm looking for Eden Gallagher, d'you know where she is?"
"Maybe downstairs." One said, "on the dancefloor."
Tori thanked them and made her way towards the arrow, which pointed down. She descended into a smokey even noisier basement. Once again the inhabitants were mostly male. the dance floor wasn't big and the bodies were crushed together in one heaving mass. There was a slightly raised area off to the side and Tori made for that.
There, right in the middle of the floor Tori spotted her.
Eden was leaning heavily against a tall woman with extremely short and very blond hair. The shorter woman's eyes were closed and she wasn't really moving to the music, just letting herself be manipulated by the taller woman.
The song stopped and the tall blonde ducked her head and was obviously trying to kiss Eden. Eden suddenly seemed to become aware of what was happening. She looked around groggily and bleary eyes fell on Tori. A strange sort of smile crossed her face and she turned back to her human leaning post. Closing her eyes she kissed the woman long and slow. Then, pulling away, she said something to her and they turned and walked towards the stairs.
Tori stood rooted to the spot for a while, then followed them up the stairs. She found them sitting in the corner with the two women she'd talked to earlier.
Eden was slumped in a chair, one elbow on the table beside her, the blond woman was nowhere to be seen.
"Well, what have we here?" Eden said, her voice slurred.
"Eden, I need to talk to you." Said Tori, pulling a chair up and sitting beside the swaying woman.
"Now you want to talk? Fuck off!" Edens face contorted with anger
Tori was stunned. But immediately realised she'd brought about the change in the young woman, and decided she probably deserved the abuse.
"Eden......." She began.
"No! Don't give me that, I've had enough of your love you, love you not crap. One minute your talking about me sharing your future, the next it's 'nice knowing you Eden, don't call me, I'll call you.'" Eden grabbed the table when she swayed precariously in her seat. "No, I've had it. Go back to your sad little life Tori, go back to your wierdo friends in London, they deserve you."
A tall figure appeared next to Tori and a glass was placed in front of Eden. The blonde mad a grab for it but it was taken out of her reach by Tori.
"Give me the drink Tori." Eden said, her eyes on the glass in Tori's hand.
"You've had enough." She stood and gave the glass to Eden's drinking partner. "Eden won't be needing this. " She said, pressing the drink into the slightly shorter woman's hand. Then she turned and reached down for Eden's hand. "Come on, I'm taking you home."
Eden snatched her hand away from Tori's. "Who the fuck d'you think you are? I'm not going anywhere with you."
Behind her the tall blonde put a hand on Tori's shoulder. The heiress tensed and the blonde must have felt it because she withdrew the hand quickly. "Look," said the woman. "She wants to stay here."
"With you Karen?" Said Tori enjoying the surprise on the woman's face.
"How do you know my name?" She asked moving herself between the tall woman and Eden.
"Oh, Eden's told me all about you. How you lied about your relationship with her, how she had to get rude to get rid of you."
"And now look who she's being rude to." Said Karen smiling.
Behind Karen, Eden was struggling to her feet. "Tori, get the fuck out of here." She said.
"Not until I've spoken to you." Tori held Eden's eyes, though the younger woman's eyes were having trouble focussing.
"Please." The tall woman pleaded
The fair head slumped, Eden's resistance failed her and she nodded.
"Ok." She lurched towards Tori, who caught her and guided her back towards the seat. The other two women moved to give them a little privacy, pulling Karen with them.
"Go on." Said Eden, struggling valiantly to keep her head up.
"How much have you had to drink?" Said Tori reaching over and taking a small hand in her own.
Eden stared at their joined hands. "Don't know."
"I'm sorry." Said Tori, ducking her head so that she could see into Eden's face.
"Why?" Said Eden, finally looking up, her eyes bright with the beginnings of tears. "Why did you come back?"
"I was worried about you. I don't want to hurt you." Tori took the small hand and brought it to her lips. "I couldn't stay away though." She closed her eyes. "Forgive me?"
"You pissed me off, I don't like being pissed off." Eden slurred causing Tori to smile.
"You laughing at me?" Eden's pout looked comical, causing Tori to cup a flushed cheek with one hand.
"No, I'm not laughing at you. I just don't like the thought of you angry, it doesn't suit you." Tori dropped her eyes from the tearful green ones, unable to look into the pain she'd caused. "Would you.......would you give me another chance. Let me try to make things right?"
Eden threw herself into the arms of the taller woman and Tori caught her and held on.
"I'll take that as a yes then." She said into the soft golden hair.
"Come on," Tori said, "let's get you home."
"With you?" Said Eden as she wobbled dangerously on rubber legs.
"Yeah, with me." Said Tori and wound a strong arm around her waist.
Karen moved to intercept them as they made their way to the door.
"What's going on Eden?" She asked, she'd spent a lot of money getting Eden into a state in which she could get the blonde where she wanted her.
"Karen." Eden swayed dangerously. "Sorry, I....." The sentence wasn't completed before Eden lost her balance and fell taking a table, and the glasses on it, to the floor with her. Tori's attention had been on Karen and the livid look on her face.
The doorman came over thinking it was trouble and helped Tori get Eden to her feet.
"You ok?" Said Tori holding Eden by her shoulders. Eden was looking at her left hand which was home to three thick shards of glass.
"Dammit!" Tori cursed and sat Eden on the nearest available seat. The doorman got a clean towel from behind the bar and handed it to Tori.
Eden was staring at her hand as Tori gently pulled the glass from the cuts, causing the blonde to suck in a breath through her teeth. Then she wrapped the hand in the towel and hauled Eden to her feet. She pushed her way through the crowd towards the bathroom where she placed the girl's hand under the cold tap.
After washing away the blood she saw that the cuts were deep. One in the fleshy part of the palm at the base of the thumb, another had sliced the webbing between thumb and forefinger. The third was smaller, just across the top of the first cut.
"These need stitches." She said wrapping the towel tightly around the now wet hand.
"Ok." Said Eden agreeably.
She helped Eden down the few steps and out of the bathroom. Karen had gone to sit in the corner with the two women and Tori was glad that there wouldn't be another confrontation.
Once outside the cool night air seemed to take all the life out of Eden. She slumped heavily against Tori and the taller woman just managed to get her into the Shogun before she passed out. She secured the seatbelt around the girl and propped her bleeding hand in her lap.
Slamming the door she turned to see two men walking towards her.
"Excuse me," she said. "Could you tell me where the nearest hospital with a casualty department is?"
"The R.U.H." Said one of them. "You're headed in the right direction." He pointed up the road. "Go to the end, turn right, then left and follow the road. You should come across signs pretty quick."
"Thanks." She said and jumped into the car. Giving the blonde a quick glance
she made her way in the direction she'd been shown.
It was well after 3am by the time they left the hospital. She'd managed to rouse Eden when they got there, but the casualty department was full with the usual Saturday night crowd. They'd seen her pretty quickly though, because of the amount of bleeding she'd been doing.
Tori sat with the drunks and fight victims while Eden was stitched up. She'd asked to go along, but had been told to wait by the overworked sister.
But after a while the sister came and got her and allowed her into the cubicle where Eden was resting on a bed.
"She's going with you?" The sister asked as she pulled back the curtain.
"Yes, I'll take her home."
"Do you know how much she's had to drink?" The sister pulled the curtains closed again.
"Not exactly, quite a lot I think." Tori took in the sight of a very pale and still Eden on the bed.
"Well, I don't want her to take any pain killers for a while. The local anaesthetic will wear off in time, by then she should be able to take these." The sister handed her a small bottle. " She needs to get it checked in ten days, her local GP should be able to remove the stitches. We got all the glass out, it shouldn't scar too much. Make sure she keeps the dressing dry and doesn't use the hand too much."
Tori nodded and put the bottle in her pocket.
"I'll find a porter." Said the sister and was gone.
Tori leaned over Eden and took a slim shoulder in her hand. "Hey there." She said quietly. She watched as the pale face scrunched up and the green eyes fluttered open.
"Hurts huh?" Said Eden sympathetically.
"Not my hand, can't feel that. It's my head."
"My fault, I'm sorry." Tori took Eden's good hand and squeezed it.
"No, me being stupid. I don't drink much, so it didn't take long to get like this."
They were interrupted by the porter arriving with a wheelchair. Eden looked at it with horrified eyes.
"I don't have to get in that, do I?"
"'Fraid so luv, hospital policy. Be a good girl and jump in." Said the annoyingly chipper porter.
Tori helped her down from the bed, holding her as she wobbled. She went an amazing shade of green once on her feet and Tori waited. "Ok?" She asked.
"Oh wow. I feel like shit." Said Eden as she slumped into the chair.
"I'm not surprised, you look like it." Before Eden could reply Tori had told the porter she was going to bring the car to the hospital entrance and had gone.
It was 4.26 according to the clock on the cd player in Tori's car when they arrived back at Summer Cottage. Eden was, once again, asleep.
Tori jumped out of the car and opened the door. Warm air wafted out, without realising it she'd left the heating on. She was glad of her forgetfulness.
She went back to the Shogun and tried to rouse Eden. This time there was no waking the blonde. She looked back at the door and the short distance, then considered her options.
Taking a deep breath she snaked an arm under Eden's knees and another behind her shoulder's. She was glad that the Shogun was higher off the ground than a normal saloon. Taking the weight of the girl in her arms she straightened, surprising herself how easy it was to lift her.
She bumped the car door closed with her hip and quickly made her way into the cottage, kicking the front door closed with her heel. She started to go into the lounge, but veered off and went up the stairs toward the bedroom.
She lay Eden carefully on the bed, and stood back. 'Now what?'
Again she tried to wake her. Nothing doing.
'Ok.' She said to heself, and bent to undo the laces of the black ankle boots Eden was wearing, discarding each one as she took it off. Then she sat her up and removed the black jacket. She had a silk burgundy shirt on under that, she'd leave that on for now. She undid the jeans and pulled them off carefully. She rolled Eden onto her side, pulled the covers back and then covered her with them, tucking them around the sleeping form.
She stood for a long moment, a feeling of guilt washing over her. This girl was offering her something she thought she'd never have. Why was she was resisting it?
And could she return it?
It was too late for that particular debate. She made her way downstairs and into the lounge. Tori slumped onto the sofa, wanting nothing more than to curl up in the bed upstairs next to a warm and soft body.
But she decided she didn't deserve that.
Eden felt sick. Her mouth was dry and her tongue felt bigger than the small space it inhabited would allow.
She reached over to her bedside cabinet where she always kept a glass of orange juice, but couldn't locate the cabinet. She opened a bloodshot orb and looked around.
The grey morning light revealed a vaguely familiar room, but not her own. She looked at her watch. It wasn't there. In its place a white bandage.
She stared at the bandage for long moments, fascinated by the sight of the tips of her fingers showing above it. Then she felt the pain, and then the nausea.
She lurched from the bed, and then back onto it. Gathering herself, she made her way to the bathroom. Somewhere in her foggy mind she realised she was in Tori's cottage.
Having never had to remove knickers using only one hand, Eden realised it should be an Olympic sport. She tried using her injured hand, but the pain it caused to the base of her thumb stopped her short. After inching the underwear down her thighs she sighed and sat for long moments, her head starting to throb in earnest.
Rather than battle with her underwear again she kicked them off, the shirt she wore coming to mid thigh.
Cradling her hand she went in search of Tori.
There was no sign of the woman in the other bedroom, so she made her way gingerly downstairs.
She found the tv in the lounge was on, some religious programme preaching in vain, the sound off. And she found Tori, asleep on the sofa. She was sitting, her head leaning against the backrest, the tv remote in her slack hand. The clock on the vcr told her it was just after 7. She knelt on the couch next to Tori and shook her shoulder gently.
"Hey there." She said quietly.
The blue eyes fluttered open. "Oh, hi." She sat up and scrubbed her face with her hands. "Must have fallen asleep." She regarded the unhappy looking woman. "How do you feel?"
"Lousy." Said Eden slumping down beside her. "How did this happen?" She said holding up her hand.
"You fell, got some glass in it."
"I fell? Oh God, I don't remember a thing." She grimaced as she moved the hand a little too quickly.
"Hold on." Said Tori standing. "I have some pain killers the sister gave you." She picked up her jacket from its place on the chair and gave Eden a couple of pills. "I'll get you some water."
"Thanks, but could I have orange? I hate drinking water. We got a carton when we shopped the other day." 'Only the other day.' Thought Eden. 'Seems like a lifetime ago.'
"Sure." Called Tori from the kitchen and returned with a glass which she handed to the girl.
Eden took both pills at once and finished the juice quickly, getting rid of the acid taste in her mouth somewhat.
"You gonna tell me what happened?" Asked Eden her eyes on the bottom of her glass.
"I...........spoke to Cathy."
"Cathy? Oh.......... What did she say?" Still Eden wouldn't look at the woman.
"She told me to go find you." Tori put a hand on the bare thigh, rubbing across the smooth skin with her thumb. "Stupid thing was, I'd already found you." She cleared her throat. "I'm sorry."
Eden placed her good hand on top of the large one resting on her thigh. "I'm sorry too."
"For what?" A gentle squeeze to the hand accompanied the question.
"For letting you do it, letting you go like that. And then getting drunk. " She looked up and met the steady blue gaze. "I should have fought harder." Eden blinked rapidly, her eyes suddenly heavy. "But at least I haven't thrown up." She said with a small amount of pride.
"Not this morning, anyway." Said Tori, a small smile on her face.
"Oh no." Said Eden covering her face. "Not in your car."
"No, I got you out in time." Said Tori."No, all the way across the hospital carpark." Tori smiled at the look of acute embarassment that swept across the still pale features.
Eden closed her eyes and rested her head against the back rest of the sofa.
"Tired?" Asked Tori, pushing golden hair back from a slightly warm forehead.
"Absolutely wiped." Said Eden and stood, keeping hold of the hand as she did so. "Come on, let's get a few hours sleep, it is Sunday, after all."
Tori nodded. "Ok, you take the main bedroom."
"No, I want you to stay with me." She felt a pull on her arm as the tall woman stopped. "What?"
"I don't think........."
"You've been doing too much thinking and decision making for the last two days. This is my decision. Now, come to bed, you look bloody awful."
Tori was taken aback by the determined little speech, but she allowed herself to be pulled up the stairs and into the bedroom.
"So how did I do this?" Said Eden as she got back into the rumpled bed.
"You fell." Tori disappeared into the bathroom.
"You were drunk." Came the voice from the bathroom.
"Very drunk?" Eden snuggled down into the bed.
"Very drunk." Tori emerged from the bathroom in a long teeshirt. She climbed into bed and lay still for a moment. Then she looked to her right, smiled and reached out her arm, taking the smaller woman and pulling her into her side.
Eden fitted herself comfortably against the long, warm body. Careful to keep her hand from being crushed between them, and resting her head on Tori's shoulder.
"What else did I do?" The sleepy voice asked.
Tori tightened her grip around the blonde. "Go to sleep, we have plenty of time to talk about it."
"Do we?" Eden raised her head slightly to see the dark profile. "Do we have plenty of time?"
Tori nodded. "Yeah, we do."
Eden settled down again and snaked her right arm around the woman's waist. "Ok, but you go to sleep too."
"I will." She said.
Outside the rain turned to sleet and then to snow. But inside two women slept
peacefully, safe at last in the knowlege that they'd found each other.
It was the sound of heavy rain against the window that woke Eden. That, and the throbbing pain coming from her hand. Her head was still nestled against the shoulder she was using as a pillow and she looked up at the sleeping face above her.
In her sleep Tori looked very different and Eden smiled at the peaceful look that graced the woman's countenance.
But the pain in her hand was becoming unbearable.
"Tori." She said, sitting up and leaning back against the headboard.
"Mmmm?" Tori blinked into the late morning light. "What, what is it?"
"It's not too early to take some more of those pain killers is it?"
Tori looked at her watch, it told her it was just after 10.30. "I think it should be ok. Does it hurt a lot? Maybe we should go back to the hospital, they might not have go all of the glass out."
"No, I don't want to go back yet. I'll just take some more pain killers and see what happens." She watched Tori roll out of bed and disappear. She returned moments later with the bottle of pills and more juice.
Eden swallowed the pills while Tori eased back into the bed again, sighing as she settled beneath the clean, crisp sheets.
"Where did the bedding come from?" Asked Eden as she reached down and put the glass on the floor.
"I brought it with me from London yesterday, I made the beds before I decided to go looking for you."
"What happened at the Tap?" Eden lay back down putting a forearm across her eyes.
"You were drunk. It was my fault, I was an idiot. Let's forget about it." Tori turned onto her side, facing the smaller woman.
"I think I can remember Karen."
Tori closed her eyes. "Yes, you have some explaining to do there."
"There's nothing................." Eden started, lowering her arm and finding Tori's eyes.
"Not to me, I knew what was going on, but you should talk to Karen."
Eden nodded. "You're right."
"You swore a lot." Tori smiled.
"Oh God." Eden groaned, "I'm so sorry."
"Hey it's over. Let's go on from here. No more apologies." Tori rolled over again and got out of the bed. "You go back to sleep. I have to go into town and get some things. I'll also pop 'round to your place and get some more clothes for you, your jeans are pretty bloodstained."
Tori went into the bathroom and slipped on a pair of jeans, then she went down to the lounge and found the box which held her teeshirts and slipped one on. She went back up to the bedroom and found Eden dozing.
She bent over and kissed the soft lips, then backed away and watched as the green eyes fluttered open.
"I won't be long, get some sleep and I'll see what I can find for dinner. Should I tell Cathy to call in sick for you tomorrow?"
Eden shook her head. "I already arranged to take next week off."
"You did? You kept that quiet."
"I didn't mean to, just forgot." Eden's eyes were closing again, and Tori
pulled the quilt up around the blondes chin. She kissed her on the forehead and then,
taking one last look, left and shut the door quietly.
After Tori did some shopping to stock the cottage, from food to soap and shampoo for the bathroom, she went to the Bath Spa and checked out. Then she went to see Cathy and explain where her best friend was.
"I guessed she was with you." Said Cathy as she lead Tori into the lounge.
"Yeah, I found her where you said she'd be." Tori stood, not wanting to stay too long.
"Well, I'm glad you got things sorted, Um, where is she?"
"She had a little too much to drink and had a fall, we ended up in casualty."
Cathy's eyes widened in alarm. "Is she ok?"
"Her pride is bruised a little I think, and she cut her hand quite badly on some glass. I need to pick up some stuff for her, her jeans are pretty blood stained."
Cathy nodded and lead her through to the kitchen. "She'd done a load of washing the other day so you might as well take that, I'll get some teeshirts and stuff from her room."
Tori gathered up the jeans and underwear that were in the linen basket awaiting ironing and went back to the lounge. "I'll get a bin bag." Said Cathy and went again, returning with a big black plastic bag. They stuffed the clothes into the bag and Tori picked it up, ready to leave.
Cathy reached out and took Tori by the arm. "I'm glad things worked out ok." She said.
"So am I." Said Tori and Cathy knew the tall woman meant it.
"She deserves something good to happen to her, she's been waiting for it long enough. She kept saying that she'd know when she found the right one. I think that's why she got so mad last night. Before she went out she was crashing around, I've never seen her like that. I think she thought she'd found it and lost it just as quickly."
Tori nodded. "She was so angry when I found her."
"Yeah, that's not like Eddie, she just doesn't get mad."
"I'm sorry it was me that got her that way. I'm going to make it up to her."
"Is she going to work tomorrow?" Cathy asked.
Tori shook her head. "She managed to get the week off." Tori regarded the floor. "Thanks for everything Cathy."
Cathy shrugged. "She's my best friend. I knew you had to find her last night, for both your sakes."
Tori put the bag down and took Eden's friend in her arms and gave her a heart felt hug. Then taking the bag she opened the door to the street.
"Tell Eddie to call me."
"I will." Said Tori and threw the bag into the back of the Shogun. Giving Cathy a wave she started the engine and drove off.
Cathy turned back into the flat to see Darren emerging from the bathroom.
"What's up?" He said seeing the sad look on his girlfriend's face.
"I think I may have lost my flatmate." She said and allowed herself to be taken into his arms for a consoling hug.
Eden woke again just after mid-day. She was still wearing the blouse she'd worn out the night before. Padding down the stairs to the lounge she found the boxes that Tori had failed to unpack.
She rifled through them and managed to find another of Tori's teeshirts and some underwear. The heating was still on, for which she was grateful. Outside the snow had turned back to rain, and although it was only noon, it was depressingly dark.
She went through the kitchen to a small room where she found a large pile of logs. Taking them one at a time, in her good hand, she piled a few in the fireplace, and the rest at the side of it. Then, using the firelighters she found in one of the kitchen drawers, she managed to light the fire. She watched it for a moment as it gathered pace and smiling, went upstairs to the bedroom.
She threw the shirt and underwear on the bed and went to the bathroom. Convinced she'd feel better after a hot bath she started it running.
It was a struggle getting out of her remaining clothes, but she managed, and as she sank into the hot water she was careful to keep the bandaged hand out of the way.
After her bath she took the quilt from the bed and went back to the lounge. Wearing just the teeshirt and the briefest pair of briefs, she snuggled down on the couch in front of the roaring fire.She turned on the tv and, with a sigh, settled back to wait for Tori.
A couple of hours later she heard the sound of the Shogun as it stopped out the front. She jumped up and looked out to see Tori struggling with lots of bags of shopping. She opened the front door just as Tori went to put her key in.
"Hi." Said Eden, holding the door open.
Tori seemed to find words hard to come by. She took in the vision in front of her. Eden, in one of her white teeshirts and little else.
"You're getting wet Tori." Eden said, a faintly amused look crossing her face.
"You're right." Said Tori, bending to pick up the parcels. She moved them just inside the front door and closed it against the storm. She stood for a moment, facing the door, then turned. Eden hadn't moved from her spot and two strides took Tori into the blonde woman's arms.
"Hi honey, I'm home." She said, smiling into the fair hair.
"That's corny." Said Eden, and claimed Tori's mouth before she could reply. The kiss was gentle, and welcoming, with the hint of a promise of things to come.
"Mmm, you smell good. Have you had a shower?" Said Tori, leaning back and pushing blond hair back from Eden's face.
"No, a bath. I found some bubble bath in the cabinet, but no soap. I just needed to feel clean." Eden took a step back as Tori released her and reached for her injured hand.
"You didn't get the bandage wet, did you?" She asked, gently inspecting the binding.
"No, I was careful." Eden turned her attention to the bags as Tori removed her wet jacket and hung it on a hook by the door. "What did you get?"
"I got us some dinner, the only thing I can cook." She picked up the bags and made her way to the kitchen, putting them on the table.
"What's that?" Said Eden following like a lost puppy.
"Spaghetti bolognese." Said Tori proudly.
"That's going to be tricky." Eden smiled, waggling her injured hand at the taller woman.
"Well, I'll just have to help you, won't I?" Tori stood a moment, enjoying the closeness. "Go on into the lounge, I'll start cooking."
"No, come with me first, I want to show you something."
Tori shrugged and allowed herself to be pulled into the lounge. The silliest grin crossed her face when she saw the roaring fire. "Wow, that makes a difference."
"Doesn't it just. Makes it cosy, don't you think?" She looked at the pile of boxes. "Shall we get these unpacked first? Then we'll eat."
Tori looked at the boxes, one of her pet hates being unpacking. "I've been putting it off, but you're right." She walked over and started sifting through the boxes. "These are all clothes, they can go upstairs. The computer stuff can go in there." She indicated the small room she's earmarked on her first visit as an office with a nod of her head. "I have a couple more cases in the car from the hotel."
"Did you check out then?"
"Thought I'd better, the bill was running up." Tori lifted the box and stood, she looked back just in time to see Eden attempting to lift the computer. "Hey! Don't even think about it. You'll pop those stitches."
Eden threw her hands in the air. "So what should I do then?" She said slumping down on the sofa.
"Make some tea." She said and disappeared with the box. "How's your stomach and your head?" Came the voice from the top of the stairs.
"Fine. Surprisingly. I thought I'd feel really bad, but I think that couple of hours sleep helped." She held her feet up to the fire and wiggled her toes.
"It also helped that you got rid of most of the booze in the hospital carpark." Said Tori who was leaning against the door jam watching the blonde, a cheeky smile on her face.
"I had some sandwiches when you were out, that helped too." She watched the tall woman as she crossed the floor and sat beside her.
"I brought some jeans from your flat if you want to put them on."
"You saw Cathy?" Asked Eden.
"Yeah, she was glad to hear you're ok." Tori placed her hand on a bare thigh. Again. "Are you ok?"
"I am. Thanks. My hand hurts a little, but apart from that I feel fine." She placed her hand over Tori's. "What about you?"
Tori nodded. "It was nice, coming home knowing you'd be here." Blue eyes found green, "I've never had that before."
"No-one waiting for you?"
Tori shook her head.
"What about you and Damien?"
"I told you I loved him didn't I." Tori watched the blonde head nod. "I don't think I did. I tried to convince myself I did when it looked like I was going to marry him. I never got round to living with him. We went back to his flat twice. After our second night together we agreed that it wasn't working, but we'd go ahead with the marriage." Tori shrugged and shook her head.
"Because it was what my father wanted. I felt I owed him, felt I should do what he expected of me." Tori snaked an arm around the blonde's shoulders and pulled the willing body closer. "Didn't really think it would matter. I've never loved, never been loved. What difference would a marriage without love make. I.............."
A shifting of the warm body beside her stopped her. "Tori." Eden said turning in her seat to face her. "You've never been loved?"
Tori smiled at the concerned look on her new friend's face. "Never." Was all she said.
"But your parents..........."
"............didn't love me. Up until Rory died I hadn't seen my father for over four years. I worked in another branch of the company. We talked on the phone, but only as an employer would to one of his employees." She cupped a flushed cheek. "Don't worry about me Eden, I'm used to it."
"No, no-one should be used to that. Everyone needs someone to love them."
"I don't. I wouldn't expect something I couldn't return."
There was silence for a long moment. Then Eden leaned forward and kissed the woman gently on the lips. "You have love in you, I can feel it." She said, her breath warm on Tori's face.
Tori stood so quickly that Eden almost toppled forward. "I'm gonna cook." She said and walked quickly from the lounge to the kitchen.
Eden sighed and followed. She found Tori emptying the minced beef into a frying pan. "You ok with bolognese?" Tori said without looking up.
Eden leaned against the worktop. "Fine, but no spaghetti for me, I get in enough of a mess with two hands."
Tori looked up. "It won't be spaghetti bolognese without the spaghetti."
"It'll be fine without." Eden assured her. "Did you get any wine?" Tori nodded towards one of the bags. "Great." Said Eden, "I'll lay the table in the dining room and we'll have a romantic dinner."
"Ok." Said Tori who turned back to her cooking, only to feel a soft touch on her back. She turned to find smiling green eyes regarding her thoughtfully.
"Relax." Said Eden and then she was gone.
Tori blew out a long breath and picked up the jar of bolognese sauce, reading the instructions a couple of times before putting it down again.
Eden managed to find a couple of candles and a table cloth in one of the drawers of the huge sideboard in the dining room. The table was laid and she was sitting on one of the chairs watching the gently falling snow when Tori emerged from the kitchen with two plates.
"Hope it's ok." She said as she placed the plates on the mats Eden had set on the table.
"I'm sure it'll be fine. There's certainly plenty of it." Eden sat opposite Tori and took a fork in her right hand.
"Is it too much? I'm never very good at judging how much to do."
"No it's great, I haven't had much in the last few days."
Tori reached over and pulled the cork from the wine which Eden had loosened earlier. She filled both glasses and raised her glass. "Cheers." She said.
Eden touched her glass to Tori's "Cheers, here's to.............." She looked into Tori's eyes hoping she'd finish the toast.
"Us?" Said Tori, and shook her head slightly, uncertainty causing her to drop her eyes from the blonde woman's.
"Yeah, us. Wanted you to say it though."
Tori smiled at her. "Eat your dinner."
Later that evening the two women sat on the couch in front of the blazing fire. The tv was on, but not being watched. The quilt that Eden had brought down earlier in the day was on the floor in front of the fire. Tori had her back against the arm of the couch and Eden was lying back against her chest.
"Comfy?" Said Tori her right arm circling the smaller woman's waist.
"Mmm, very." Said Eden, her own hand covering the larger one.
"Hope you're warm enough in just that teeshirt."
"I am, but I can put some jeans on if you want."
"I don't want." Said Tori and moved the blonde hair aside so that she could kiss the soft skin of Eden's neck.
Eden tilted her head sideways as Tori's soft lips made their way up to an earlobe and took it between even, white teeth.
"You ok?" Tori husked into the ear by her lips.
"I'm great." Said Eden who turned on her side and claimed the soft lips in a searing kiss. Tori opened her mouth when a hot tongue licked along her top lip, asking for permission to enter.
Eden lay completely on top of the woman now, her elbows on either side of the dark head. She felt Tori's hands find their way under the back of the teeshirt, smoothing the flesh there in long strokes. The blonde ducked her head and suckled an elegant neck. "I want you Tori." She moaned into the warm skin.
Tori's hands smoothed lower, under the waistband of the briefs that Eden wore, and cupped the firm globes she found there. She dug her fingers into the silky flesh and ground the woman into her own body.
Eden leaned back a little and pulled the teeshirt Tori was wearing out of the waistband of her jeans with her good hand Without further ado Tori pulled the shirt over her head and threw it behind the couch. The bra had a front fastening on it, so that disappeared quickly too.
Tori smirked and got hold of the bottom of the shirt that Eden wore, pulling it off in one movement.
Eden settled back down onto her human mattress, and both women sighed in unison. She took the face below her in her hands and kissed the woman deeply.
Suddenly Tori took hold of the blonde and rolled them both over and onto the floor. Tori ended up on top, she straightened out the quilt and pulled them both onto it. "Is your hand ok?" She whispered. Eden nodded.
Eden felt the warmth from the fire against one side, and the warmth from the body on top of her on her stomach.
Tori slid down, trailing tiny kisses across Eden's collar bone and up past the pulse point to her earlobe again. Then she made her way back down. Eden sucked in a breath when she felt the warm lips attach themselves, almost gently, to a nipple. Soft fingers found the other and soon both peaks were rampant and almost painful.
Eden entwined her hand in soft ebony hair, urging the warm mouth to continue its torture. The drawing became more intense and Tori's free hand came to rest on Eden's hip. She made tiny circles there, the flesh producing goose bumps in her wake. Then the hand moved up along her ribs to cup the side of the breast she was suckling.
Eden opened her mouth to gasp Tori's name but found her mouth claimed by the hot lips of the taller woman. The kiss was hard and passionate, and Tori shifted, placing a thigh between the blonde's legs. She cupped a breast in one hand, the other tangled itself in the golden hair, pulling the blonde head back she fastened onto Eden's neck.
Eden managed to get her hands between them and found an already hard nipple. She rolled it between her finger and thumb and smiled into the kiss when she felt Tori twitch above her.
Suddenly Tori knelt up, hooked her hands around the underwear Eden was wearing and drew it down and off her legs. She knelt still for a moment, taking in the sight of the naked woman beneath her, the skin glowing in the firelight.
She lay down beside the blonde, her head propped up on one hand. "You're beautiful" She said, her hand gently rubbing the soft abdomen.
"So are you." Said Eden, closing her eyes as the hand moved lower with each circle it made. Eden gave herself up to the feeling of the hand on her stomach. Then she felt the lips on her breast again just as the hand moved down and claimed her. Her hips jerked as Tori's fingers found her warmth and wetness. She placed a bandaged hand on the dark head, smoothing the hair gently. Then she felt the head raise up as Tori looked intently at her, wanting to watch the emotions flit across her face as she took her. Green eyes opened to find blue boring into her. The stroking became more insistent, then she was filled and pulled Tori's head down, gasping into her mouth as the pressure at her centre became unbearable.
Tori released her mouth and watched her lover's face as her body convulsed and Eden screamed Tori's name. She stilled her hand until Eden lay still and then gently withdrew from her.
Snaking an arm around her back she drew the woman into an embrace and pulled the quilt around them. Eden was limp in her arms, she brushed some golden locks back from the sweating face and ducked her head to look into the lovely face.
"Eden?" She said.
"I'm wonderful." Eden squirmed around so that she was, once again, on top of her lover. "You ok?"
Tori nodded and Eden reached up to the couch and pulled down two cushions, placing them under Tori's head. "There." Said the blonde, and nestled her head into a warm shoulder. Then she knelt up and awkwardly with one hand undid the buttons on the jeans. "Take them off." She asked, huskily.
Tori did so quickly and once she was as naked as Eden she welcomed the smaller woman back into her arms and settled back in front of the roaring fire.
Under the cover of the quilt a small hand made its way from the hip to a small patch of dark curly hair. "No." Said Tori, capturing the hand and moving it back to her own stomach.
"Let me." Said Eden, kissing the taller woman along the jaw line.
"No." Tori said again. "I can't."
Eden leaned back so that she could look at her lover's face. "What d'you mean, you can't?"
"Just can't." Tori closed her eyes, a tear escaping and meandering down to join the hair at her temple. "Let me just hold you." She opened her eyes and Eden saw pain in the blue orbs. "Please?" Tori asked.
"Ok." Said Eden and allowed herself to be pulled back down onto the warm body. 'For now.' She thought.
Eden must have dozed, because she was awakened by the pain in her hand. Tori had rolled over and was lying slightly on it.
"Hey there." She whispered into the dark hair. She could make out Tori's face in the firelight and knew she was asleep. There was no reaction from the taller woman so she eased her hand out from underneath her. She got up onto her elbow and looked down into her lover's face. She saw where the tears had dried on the high cheekbones and wondered what the source of the pain was that caused them.
Pushing the quilt back from the lean body she raked her eyes across the perfect breasts. 'I will claim this body.' She thought to herself.
Gently rubbing Tori's abdomen to accustom the sleeping woman to her touch she watched her own hand as it made lazy circles. Looking up into the sleeping face she watched the tiny twitches as her hand moved lower.
'Why don't you want to let me give you this?' She said as her finger found the bundle of nerves in the wetness.
Tori's thighs twitched spasmodically and Eden eased her touch, not wanting to wake the woman yet. Resting her hand on the dark mound she waited, then resumed the gentle stroking. She watched Tori's face and when her lips parted she bent and kissed her gently, slowly deepening the kiss as she felt the woman wake beneath her.
Tori grasped at the younger woman's head. Pulling her into the kiss that she woke to, then gasped as she climaxed, trapping Eden's hand at the juncture of her thigh's.
"There, that wasn't so hard was it?" Said Eden, her smile fading when she saw tears coursing down the woman's face again.
Eden eased her hand away and lay heavily on the solid body, wrapping the dark head in her arms and kissing away the tears that still fell from the blue pools.
"What is it?" She whispered into soft hair.
"I don't think........... I don't deserve this." But even as she said it, she knew, she wouldn't be able to do without it. Not now.
"Well, that doesn't really concern me." Said Eden. "You didn't have much of a say in the matter. I took you. You're mine now."
Tori couldn't help laughing and Eden laughed with her. "Am I now, and what d'you plan doing with me?"
"Anything I like, whenever I like."
"Ok." Said Tori and pulled the blonde down for a lover's kiss.
Extra boredom disclaimer. This section includes the tour of Bath. If you're not really
into history and stuff you might want to skip some parts of this section.
Tori's first sensation was a pain in her back. She shifted on the hard floor, trying to comprehend what was keeping her pinned in place.
Then she remembered.
Her right arm was curled round the warm body which lay half on her, warm breath fanning her breast. Her right cheek rested against soft golden hair and one arm and one leg of her companion, her lover, was keeping her rooted to the floor.
She cupped the back of the fair head with her left hand and gently eased her arm out from its place as the younger woman's pillow. Then she untangled her body and, wrapping the blonde again in the quilt, sat on the couch. She sat for a while, watching the woman sleep, before standing and going upstairs to her bedroom to find the case that held her towelling dressing gown.
After she'd put it on she went into the window. She stood for a moment, looking out into the night.
The moon was full, the sky clear and the snow that had fallen during the evening glowed with the moon's light. She pulled the robe tighter around her body. It wasn't too late, just after 11pm, and the heating still warmed the small cottage.
Tori turned and made her way down to the lounge again.
The tv was still on, the sound muted. The fire was burning low so she carefully stepped over the sleeping form on the floor and threw a few more logs on.
Then she crouched beside Eden and took hold of a slim arm. "Hey, sleepyhead."
"Mmm?" Came the muffled reply.
Bleary green eyes opened and regarded her sleepily. "What?"
"Come up here, you'll be more comfy." She said as she sat on the couch and patted the cushion beside her.
"Comfy here." And the green eyes closed again.
"Not for much longer." Said Tori and reached down pulling a complaining blonde up to sit on the couch beside her. The she wrapped her in the quilt again and pulled her into her arms. Eden snuggled into the embrace, pulling her feet up onto the couch. "There, that's better isn't it?"
No reply, Eden was already asleep again.
So Tori held the girl and wondered. Wondered how long it would be before Eden walked away. Like Jodie, like the others. But Eden would take something with her the others didn't have. A little part of her. Something she'd never allowed anyone else to see. She'd known her what, four days? And in those four days she'd seen the possibility of something she'd always denied herself. A shot at happiness. But who was she to expect something she'd never give anyone else?
She found herself crying, something she'd done more in the last couple of days than in the last thirty years. When was the last time she cried? Not at Rory's funeral. Not when she walked away from Jodie. Not when her parents didn't show up to collect a twelve year old for the school holidays. Not when her mother told her she would never be anything, had been a mistake and had almost caused her father to divorce her. They had the son they wanted, a daughter was surplus to requirements. She hadn't cried when they refused to take her on a vacation. She remembered Rory's smug face peering at her from the back window of the car as they left.
She'd dealt with that.
She couldn't handle this.
Did she really want the responsibility of another person? She'd always been alone. Always managed. Didn't need anyone.
Tori looked down. Eden's head had fallen back onto the taller woman's forearm. Her face was open and relaxed. Tori bent her head forward and pressed her lips to the soft skin.
"Could you love me?" She whispered in wonder and closed her eyes against the tears.
"Let me try." Came a small voice and she opened her eyes to see a gentle smile on the fair face below her.
"You don't realise Eden. This.................." She took a deep breath. "..................scares me."
Tori shook her head. "I want you." She whispered. "So badly. I've never wanted anything before, never needed to. Anything I wanted, I had. Anyone I wanted." She traced a soft cheek. "But you.....I..can't explain." Another deep breath. " I don't want you to go in the morning."
"I won't, I.................." Eden began, but was stopped by a gentle finger on her lips.
"Sshh. No more words. Words complicate things. Don't say anything you don't mean."
"Tori, I'm here because I want to be. There's nowhere else I'd rather be at this moment." Eden smiled at the confused look on the dark woman's face. "Why can't you understand that?"
Another deep sigh from Tori. "Because it's never happened before."
"Well, you'd better get used to it. I'm not going anywhere." She snuggled closer into Tori's gentle embrace and felt the long arms tighten around her.
From above Eden's head she heard the smokey voice. "Let's go to bed."
"Good idea." Said Eden and stood, pulling the quilt around her and making her
way towards the stairs.
It was late in the morning when Tori awakened next.
They'd made love again after going to bed and then talked long into the night. She'd told Eden a lot of her inner pain. The lonely childhood she'd pushed to the back of her memories, but which suddenly was re-emerging to haunt her.
She held the blonde fiercly. Pulling her back against her own body, feeling Eden's smooth back against her stomach and breasts. She nuzzled into the golden hair and revelled in the softness against her face.
Tori felt the smaller woman take a deep breath and squirm in her embrace.
"Good morning." She said, her voice muffled by the blonde hair.
"It is." Said Eden simply, turning in the long arms to face her lover.
Tori brushed the sleep tousled hair out of green eyes and tucked a few errant strands behind Eden's ear. "How's the hand?"
"A little painful, but not as bad as yesterday." She pulled her hand out from beneath the quilt and regarded the tips of her fingers showing above the bandage. "What do I have to do about this?"
"The nurse said to see your doctor. Make an appointment later and we'll find out how long before you have the stitches out."
"Don't!" Cried Eden. "Just thinking about it makes me queasy."
"Really?" A mischievous grin crossed Tori's face. "You mean you don't like the idea of tweezers, pulling the catgut through you skin. Slowly."
"No!" Eden swiped her with her good hand. "Anyway, do they still use catgut? And I'm not sure I even have to have them taken out. Don't they dissolve or something?"
Tpri pulled her in for a hug. "No Idea." She said. "But we'll make an appointment anyway, just to make sure it's all ok. What else d'you want to do today?"
"How about the tour?"
Eden sighed. "The tour of Bath I was going to take you on this saturday."
"Oh..... right. Yeah I'd like that. Isn't it a little cold though?"
"Nah. Well, it's too cold to do the bus tour. I have a friend who works for the bus company, I can get tickets for that. I have to go to Bog Island and see John the ticket seller."
"Bog Island?" Tori looked horrified.
"Oh yeah, sounds wierd right? Well, it's actually called Terrace Walk. It's a small area of pavement where the open top buses stop. There used to be underground public toilets there and it became known as bog island. Sometimes, in these parts, the loo is called the bog."
"Eden, you're a mine of information." Tori said, and kissed the cute nose.
"Anyway." She said after returning the kiss. "One of the Bath rugby players turned it into a nightclub."
"They turned underground toilets into a nightclub?"
"Yeah, I went there once when I was younger." She shook her head. "Could never get the thought that it was a loo out of my head though."
Tori rolled onto her back and Eden went with her, ending up with her chin resting on the taller woman's breast bone.
"So, d'you fancy that?" Said Eden, her breath warm on Tori's chin.
"Sure, we'll have lunch first. Anywhere you'd like to go?"
Tori thought for a while. "I saw that, where was it?"
"It's just down the road, but not as far as The George."
"That's right, come on, let's get dressed."
And they did get dressed, eventually.
They parked the car in the Park and Ride car park on Odd Down once they'd had their lunch and took a bumpy ride into Bath. As the car population grew a large number of towns and cities across the country adopted Park and Ride schemes. Large carparks were built on the outskirts of cities and passengers bussed in, cutting down on pollution and congestion.
Once in Bath they walked through the city centre until they came to Victoria Park.
A small amount of snow covered the ground as they walked along the narrow road that bisected the park.
Eden stopped and looked to her right.
"There's the Royal Crescent." She said, pointing to the long elegant semicircular Georgian Terrace. "Over there." She pointed to the left hand end of the crescent. "Is Marlborough Buildings, which was apparently built as a wind break for the Crescent."
Tori looked at the three storey buildings that made up Marlborough Buildings. "Some windbreak." She said.
As they walked along the cobbled road infront of the Royal Crescent Eden pointed out one of the houses. "The elderly lady who lived in this house objected to being ordered to paint her front door either white or black, so she painted it yellow. The whole of Bath is a National Heritage site. It's the only City that has that honour. There are a lot of buildings and areas that are site's, but no other city. And as it's protected none of the buildings can be altered in any way. The windows have to be kept the same and the doors have to be painted the right colour. So this old girl painted the door yellow. She wouldn't back down either. She was someone's grand-daughter, can't remember who."
Tori stopped in front of the door. "It's a very pale yellow."
"It is now. She died, but put in the deeds of the house that anyone who bought it must keep the doors yellow." Eden waved her hand at the door. "It's the palest yellow the current owners could find."
Eden took Tori's hand and pulled her towards another of the Crescent's houses. "This is The Royal Crescent Hotel. It's one of the most exclusive hotels in the world. There's not to be any sign of it being a hotel on the outside, apart from the doorman."
Tori realised her hand was still tightly held. "So how would anyone know it was here?"
"They know it's here." Said Eden. "They don't advertise, but they're fully booked for the next seven years."
They walked on to the end of the Crescent. "Number one is a museum, still as it was in Georgian times, we'll go in one day."
"Not today?" Asked Tori.
"No, we'll just have a slow wander round today." They turned round and looked back along the Crescent. "This was designed and built by John Wood the Younger."
"Oh yeah? What did the Elder build?"
"I'll show you."
They walked along a small street of now familiar high Goergian town houses called Brock Street until it opened out into the magnificent Circus. Three small crescents formed The Circus, so that which ever entrance you entered by you were faced by a solid wall of buildings. The three crescents formed a perfect circle.
"This is the work of John Wood the Elder. Engraved into the brickwork above the doors are symbols of industry, no house has the same symbols." She pointed to a circular area in the centre, which was covered in grass and had a number of large mature trees. "There used to be a well there, which was for the use of the occupants of the circus. When the houses were designed, they didn't have indoor plumbing. John Wood said indoor toilets would never catch on. During Victorian times they filled the well in and added plumbing to the houses. The trees were planted and have been there ever since."
They walked down from the Circus and along George Street. Then they turned left into Milsom Street. "D'you know you could walk from one end of Milsom Street to the other underground? Apparently all the cellars are linked."
Tori stopped, looking into the pub.
Eden reached and took her hand again. "Not yet, come on."
A horn blared behind them and Eden turned and waved. A double decker bus was stopped at a pedestrian crossing, thirty or forty screaming French students crossing as slowly as they could in front of it. The female bus driver waved back at the blonde and then put her fingers to her temple, imitating a gun to her head.
"Looks like Annie's having a good day." Said Eden who stood and watched the bus as it passed.
"A friend. Something of an agony aunt at the Tap. She's helped me a lot in the past." Eden turned and continued to walk down Milsom Street.
Tori jogged a short distance and caught up with her. "So what did she help you with?"
The blonde looked up at the taller woman. "You don't want to hear my problems."
"You heard mine. It helped me."
Eden nodded. "Ok. I asked her if I was searching for perfection too much. I couldn't seem to find what I was looking for. I asked her if I should make do."
"And what did she say?" Tori asked, but already knew the answer.
"She said I should wait for you."
"I think it must be you." Eden stopped and turned towards Tori. "I've never felt like this before, so I think I found it. I'm glad I listened to her."
Tori placed her hands on the shorter woman's shoulders. "Eden, I don't want you thinking I'm something I'm not."
Eden shrugged out of her grasp. "There you go again." She turned away from Tori and walked back the way they'd come.
"Where are you going?" Tori called after her.
"To have a drink." Eden threw over her shoulder and disappeared into the pub they'd passed moments before.
Tori sighed and followed her friend into the pub.
The pub was almost empty and Eden had already got two drinks and was making her way to a small table in the corner.
She put Tori's rum and coke down and took a long shot of her vodka. Tori waited, her hands folded around the cool glass that held her drink.
"Why are you still fighting me Tori?" Eden finally asked.
Tori shook her head. "I don't know." She took a drink. "Tell me what you told Annie."
Eden thought for a long moment. "Ok. Just over two years ago I finally stopped fighting the feelings I'd been having. I finally accepted I was gay." She watched as Tori's eyes closed, and the dark woman smiled softly. "Well, I thought that was the end of my problems. I took myself down to the Bath Tap and thought I'd find someone there and my life would be simpler." She shook her head. "It didn't work out like that. No-one I met struck that chord. I tried. God I tried." She remembered the dates, frowning when she recalled the morning after some of them. "I knew what I was looking for. But I decided it didn't exist. It couldn't. Life couldn't be that perfect. I knew Karen wanted me, so I was going to let her have me. Then I spoke to Annie."
"And Annie told you not to do what I did." Said Tori, finally bringing her glass to her lips.
"If you want me to condemn you Tori, I'm not going to do it. I did some dumb things. I slept with some women just for the hell of it. I told Annie that Karen wanted to start seeing me." Eden shrugged. "She'd have looked after me, she's an ok person, I liked her. But there was something missing. I hoped there was someone out there, hoped there was someone who would walk into my life one day and change it. And the day you walked into the office, I knew it was you."
Eden held up her hand as Tori started to protest. "No, don't say anything. You asked, I told you. I'm in love with you Tori and you're going to have to deal with it."
Tori stared, dumbfounded. Then she smiled and reached across the table, encircling the small hand in her own. "Thank you."
"For what?" Asked Eden staring at their hands then across at the bar tender who was busy stacking glasses.
"For waiting for me."
Eden smiled. "No more fighting then?"
"No more fighting." Tori emptied her glass. "Let's finish this tour."
They walked down Milsom Street after leaving the pub and made their way to the Roman Baths. As they reached the pillars that marked the entrance to the museum Tori felt a prickling on the back of her neck. She stopped abruptly, rubbing a hand on the back of her head.
"What is it?" Asked Eden walking back towards her.
"Not sure, just a funny feeling. Deja Vu. You know?"
"D'you know I had that feeling. But I felt sick as a dog. I was out for a sunday drive with my parents and I suddenly felt sick. And I felt like I'd been there before, but we never had. I was about ten."
"Where were you?" Asked Tori.
"Stonehenge. Couldn't understand it. Never went there again though. I had nightmares for weeks."
Tori frowned. "Wonder what caused that?"
Eden shook her head. "Don't know. Hey, do you want to do the tour of the Baths?"
"Not today, maybe later in the week."
"Ok, we'll walk around the Abbey then."
They walked along the side of the Baths and into the abbey courtyard. "The first King of England, King Edgar, was crowned here in nine hundred and something, I always forget the exact date."
"Really?" Said Tori. "I thought Arthur was the first King."
"Nah, Arthur was probably just a warlord. There's no real proof that he actually existed, but there is a stone at Glastonbury Cathedral that says 'Here lies Arthur, the once and future King.'"
Tori turned and viewed the tops of the statues that she could see that surrounded the baths. They could also see the people walking around inside the walled off museum. "So who discovered the hot springs?"
Eden lead them over to some benches that bordered the Abbey churchyard. "This is a bit of a legend." She began, and Tori lost herself in the melodic voice of the blonde woman. "It's said that there was a Celtic prince called Bladud. Unfortunately he contracted leprosy. He was banished from court and became a swineherd. One day his pigs roamed into the marshy area and he had to lay a trail of acorns to entice the pigs out of the bog. When they were out he saw how healthy and soft their skin was, for a pig that is. Well, he went into the marshland and found that there was a warm spring. He bathed in it and was cured. He returned to court and was accepted back into his rightful positioned. He returned later and erected a shrine to the water god Sulis. Years later the Romans discovered the hot springs and built complex and beautiful baths on the site. After the Romans left, the Baths sank, once again, into the bog, the people of Aquae Sulis being unable or unwilling to maintain the Baths. They were rediscovered in the seveteen hundreds, and the city of Bath once again became a popular resort. It did become a lttle decadent though. And the healing waters were used more to treat gout and other drink related illenesses than anything else." Eden stopped, looking up at the closed eyes of her companion. "Am I boring you?"
Tori shook her head. "Go on. I'm enjoying it."
"Ok. Well, they started to build. You've seen The Crescent and The Circus. Then they started to expand. Up towards Camden and up Bathwick. Ralph Allen built Prior Park and a number of huge mansions were built. One of the largest is Claverton Manor, which is now the American Museum. The Victorians built too, but smaller more individual houses. Queen Victoria hated Bath though. One of her uncles had a mistress here. A Mrs. Jordan. She bore him quite a few children and the surname Jordan is still quite common in Bath. Every time she travelled through Bath she would pull down the curtains of the carriage."
"This Victoria doesn't hate Bath, and is very taken by one of its inhabitants."
"You know," said Tori. "You must tell me stories more often, it's very relaxing."
Eden pouted. "It isn't a story, it's true. Well, mostly. Some of my dates might be wrong."
"Doesn't matter. I enjoyed listening." Tori reached around Eden's shoulders and pulled her close.
"Tori, there are people looking." Said Eden, though no-one seemed to be taking any notice.
"Don't care." Said Tori, and kissed her lover on the cheek. "Let's go home."
Eden snuggled into the woman's embrace. "Ok."
'She said she loves me.
No, she said she's in love with me.
And what did I say?
What could I say?
No-one's ever said that to me before.
Tori's fingers played absent-mindedly with the soft hair at Eden's temple.
The blonde had fallen asleep, again, while they were watching a movie. Of course, the four glasses of wine had helped her on her way.
"I can't drink wine." Eden had said. "It knocks me out."
And it had.
But that was ok. It gave Tori time. Time to think, and time to come to some conclusions.
She looked down at the girl who was using her thigh as a pillow.
Tori was content. And that had never happened before. She'd never been one for sitting. She'd always been one for doing. So why was that little prickle of fear still gnawing at her?
It was the fear of losing this. Something she'd known so briefly had become as important to her as breathing.
'Is this happiness?' She thought. 'If it is, shouldn't I feel guilty?'
Eden sighed deeply in her sleep and Tori lifted her hand allowing the girl to turn on her side facing away from her. Tori pulled the blonde hair that had fallen over Eden's face back so that she could watch the gentle profile. "My Eden," she whispered, "my very own little piece of paradise."
Suddenly Tori could wait no more. Moving her hand to a cotton covered shoulder she gently shook the sleeping woman. "Hey, Eden." She said, bending so that her mouth brushed the blonde's ear. "Wake up, I want to talk."
"Can't." Came the sleepy reply.
"Yes you can, come on, sit up."
Tori pulled Eden up so that she sat beside her, but the younger woman's eyes were still closed and her head fell back against the backrest.
"You amaze me." Said Tori, watching the blonde head fall forward in sleep. "Can you just stay awake for a couple of minutes?"
"M'awake." Said Eden, rubbing her face vigorously. "What time is it?" She peered around the room, which was darkened except for the light from the fire and the tv. She spotted the luminous numbers on the vcr. "12.30!"
"Yeah, my fault, shouldn't have made you drink that last glass."
Eden leaned against the tall woman, pulling her legs up and curling up again.
"Don't go to sleep yet Eden, I have something I need to say to you."
"You sound like Rod Stewart."
"Never mind. I'm awake now, what is it?"
After all that Tori's nerve deserted her.
"Well?" Said Eden.
"In the pub." Tori began. "You said....... Well, you told me................."
"I said I was in love with you."
"Yes, you did." Tori said quietly. "D'you mean that?"
Eden could have cried. The look of fear in the blue eyes that regarded her was painful to see. So she took Tori's face in her hands and leaned forward, claiming the soft lips and sealing her promise with a searing kiss.
"Of course I mean it." She said breathlessly as they parted. "So what did you want to tell me?"
"I love you." Said Tori quickly, and amazed herself with how easy it had been to say those words.
"You do?" Asked Eden, a soft smile on her face.
Tori nodded tightly, her mouth a hard line now, her jaw clenched painfully.
"Have you ever told anyone else that?" Asked Eden, though she already knew the answer.
A short shake of the head.
"Say it again." The blonde whispered, caressing a flushed cheek.
"I love you Eden."
"Not so hard now."
"I should have said it before."
"Now is fine."
"Remind me to say it more." Tori said and leaned forward into another kiss.
"Come on." Eden said standing. "Let's go to bed."
Eden went on ahead while Tori pushed the smouldering logs to the back of the fireplace. Tori watched the dying fire for a moment, the dull glow highlighting the gentle tears that marked her cheeks.
'I love you Eden.' She thought and stood, throwing the poker back onto the hearth. 'I love you.'
She found Eden watching the gently falling snow from the bedroom window.
The blonde felt long arms encircle her waist from behind and wrapped her own hands around the larger ones resting on her stomach.
"I love the snow." She said, her breath causing the window to mist.
Insistent hands on her shoulders turned her away from the snowy landscape and she fell into another. That of the woman she loved. Tori held her close and Eden leaned against the comforting strength and wound her hands beneath the ebony hair and around Tori's neck.
"Did I tell you I love you?" Said Tori, her mouth only a hair's breadth from Eden's.
"You did." Said Eden and latched onto the soft mouth that was demanding her full attention. The kiss was soft and built in strength so that both women were left panting.
Tori's hands found their way below the teeshirt that Eden wore, tracing their way up from her hips across the smooth expanse of her back. Then the shirt was pulled up and over the blonde head. The bra was unclipped with knowing hands and followed the teeshirt into the corner.
Eden was turned and guided back so that when the back of her legs hit the edge of the mattress, she sank onto it and was pushed onto her back.
Tori knelt on the floor between her legs, leaning over so that she could reach the smaller woman's mouth. She felt small hands undoing the buttons of her shirt and held her weight up so that Eden could complete the task.
Eden pushed the shirt back off of broad shoulders and Tori shrugged the garment to the floor. Then the taller woman turned her attention to the button on the fly of Eden's jeans. Unclasping it she slowly lowered the zip and pulled the jeans off the slim legs, depositing them in a growing pile of clothing.
Eden's underwear followed and Tori stood briefly to survey her prize and then remove the rest of her own clothes.
She crawled onto the bed and turned Eden so that her head was near the headboard. Taking Eden's right hand she brushed her lips with the small fingers and then guided them toward the brass head board. She folded the small hand around the cool metal. The bandaged left hand was placed gently on the pillow above the blonde head. "Don't let go." She breathed into Eden's mouth.
Eden closed her eyes and gave herself up to the sensations that the dark woman aroused in her. Knowing hands blazed a trail from her neck down across her stomach, ignoring the twin peaks that were almost painful in their anticipation.
"Tori!" Eden gasped as a hot mouth latched onto her left breast. Her right hand came down from its place wrapped around the headboard and pressed down on ebony hair. Tori's eyes locked with hers and Eden was sure she heard the older woman growl. She carefully returned her hand to its former position.
Tori returned to her work, and turned her attention to the neglected breast.
Then large hands replaced the mouth and Eden squirmed under the sensation of silk like hair trailing across her body as Tori's mouth made a downword journey across her flesh.
A hot tongue found her navel and dipped in on it's way.
Eden's bandaged hand joined the other in its grasping of the metal headboard as she felt her thigh's lifted and settled on broad shoulders.
Then her whole being was centred on one place, and on one person. The woman who was loving her, giving her something she'd given no-one else. She was filled, and the rhythm Tori found matched her own rocking hips. A hot mouth fastened on the small bundle of nerves and Eden screamed her lover's name again.
She gasped as Tori found that one special place that no-one else had, that one part of her that was pleading to be found.
Then she was there, arching her back, straining against the strong hands that were anchoring her to the bed.
Her hands fell limp from the headboard and she felt her legs settled back onto the bed. Tori crawled up the bed and beside her, but left her lying on her back, watching her as her chest heaved in its desire to recover.
Tori lay on her side, her head propped up on one hand, the other tracing lazy circles across her lover's sweat sheened body.
Green eyes opened and the blonde head turned in her direction. "Thankyou." Smiled Eden.
Tori leaned over and kissed the blonde. "No, thank you."
She reached down and pulled the quilt over them both, and snuggling in close to her lover she let Eden pull her so that her head was cradled on the shorter woman's shoulder.
"This is nice." Said Eden, as she circled the dark woman's shoulders with her right arm.
"Tori?" She whispered, giving the warm shoulders a squeeze.
But Tori was asleep. And Eden smiled into the darkness and rubbed her cheek against the ebony silk, breathing in the scent of her love.
"I do love you Tori. Please don't fight this." She whispered to the sleeping
woman and slowly followed her lover into the dream domain.
The next few days passed in a whirl of activity for both women. They made a trip to the doctor's who told them to return the early part of the following week. Then a trip to Eden's flat to get some more clothes. Shopping was done for food and some items for the cottage.
But mostly they talked. They learned a lot about each other in those few days and slowly Eden started to unravel the mystery that was Victoria Conrad.
Tori took each day as a blessing, still wondering when it would end, and not fully convinced that she deserved the budding happiness she was experiencing.
It was just after midnight on the thursday night. They'd been out for a drink in Bath to celebrate their first anniversary. They'd known each other a week, though they felt like they'd been together for a lifetime.
Eden woke and found herself alone. She reached out her hand, but no Tori.
She sat up and listened for a moment and was surprised to hear her lover's voice, low and insistant, somewhere in the house.
She got out of bed and padded to the landing, leaning over and straining her ears agaist the silence. She descended the stairs silently and sat near the bottom.
"I don't care!" She heard Tori's voice hiss. "It really has nothing to do with her................. I've made up my mind and I'm going soon............ She'll find out soon enough................Eden, her name's Eden........................No, she won't be coming with me......Ok, that's fine. NO!!"
Eden heard the phone slam down and scurried back to the bedroom. She lay back in bed and listened to Tori shutting the doors and then the soft footsteps as she climbed the stairs. The bathroom light clicked on, then off again. Eden felt the bed shift as Tori got back in.
"Eden? You awake?"
Eden lay on her side facing away from the dark woman, and remained silent.
She felt Tori mould herself against her back, winding a long arm around her stomach. Then she felt her lover relax, the weight of the arm become heavier as her muscles eased in sleep.
Eden lay for a long time, wondering what the clandestine call had been about. Why was her name mentioned and where was Tori going? Worse, why hadn't she talked with her about it?
Sleep, when it came for the blonde, was not untroubled.
It was the noise that woke Eden. A loud, slamming noise. She reached to her right, no Tori.
"Tori?" She called and waited, there was no answer, but she could hear someone moving around downstairs.
She got up and found Tori's towelling robe on the floor near the bed. Putting it on she made her way downstairs.
The sound of someone walking around came from the kitchen. Pushing the door open she stopped dead.
The woman who stared at her had her lover's eyes, and features. But the face was hard and angular, without a trace of the softness she'd seen in Tori's face.
The woman looked at her watch, an expensive piece on a boney wrist. "Good, um, morning, yes it is still morning, just. You must be Emma."
"I am Stephanie, Victoria's mother." She pulled a chair out from beneath the table and sat, crossing one silk convered leg across the other.
"Emma, I'm afraid Victoria has asked me to complete an unpleasant task." She sighed. "But then, that's what mother's are for is it not? To help their children when they need them."
Eden stood rooted to the spot. This wasn't happening. Was it?
"She has realised her mistake. She spoke to her father last night regarding the situation she has found herself in. And I'm here to clear things up with as little discomfort to those involved as possible."
Stephanie Conrad pulled her handbag from it's place on the floor at her feet. Pulling out a cheque book she opened it. "Now, how much do you require Emma?"
When there was no answer forthcoming she looked up. "Come now dear, I know silence has a price. From my past experience with Victoria's........... friends, I know that a little incentive is required."
"I don't want your money." Said Eden, the pain in her chest intensifying.
"Really?" Said Stephanie, writing an amount on a cheque anyway, and ripping it off. She stood, placing the cheque in the table.
"Where is Tori?" Asked Eden, reaching out to grab the edge of the table as the room began to tilt.
"Victoria............is going to spend a few days with her family. I just passed her actually as she left, she gave me the key."
"She wouldn't have just left, she would have told me."
"Ah, this is what the others thought too I'm afraid. My daughter has a weakness dear. But she's told her father this is the last time she will give into it. The wedding in June will go ahead, she's promised us." She caught the look of shock on the girl's face. "She did tell you about the wedding didn't she dear?"
Stephanie Conrad's smile was cruel. "Oh dear. It seems my daughter has been less than honest with you then." She walked to the door, opening it and allowing the cold winter wind to blow through the cottage.
"My daughter requests that you vacate the premises as soon as possible. Goodbye Emma."
"My name is Eden." She hissed.
"Whatever dear." Said Stephanie Conrad and was gone.
Eden listened to the sound of the large car drive away from the house. Then she sank onto the bottom stair and drew her knees up to her chest.
The tears came then, the thought of a broken dream weighing heavily on her.
She knew Tori wasn't perfect, she knew it. But she'd lied to her. She'd left without waking her, left without saying goodbye. Would that have been so hard?
Maybe Tori just didn't think she was worth an explanation. All she amounted to was a few days distraction. The tears, the affection, had all been an act. She said she'd used women before, so maybe it was just habit with her. Commitment was obviously something that Tori Conrad could not adhere to.
Eden couldn't remember packing her clothes into a black bin bag or calling a cab. But
suddenly there was a knock on the door and the taxi had arrived. She left her key on the
table just inside the hallway and pulled the door shut behind her. Without taking a
backward glance she got into the cab and gave the driver her destination.
It was just after eight when Tori arrived back at Summer Cottage. The first thing she noticed was that the house was in darkness.
Opening the front door she turned on the light.
"Eden?" She called, hanging her coat on one of the hooks in the hallway.
"Where are you?" She said, taking the stairs two at a time after giving the lounge a quick glance.
She went into the bedroom and stopped dead. The bed was unmade, and a number of drawers were partly opened. She looked into them and then into the wardrobe. All of Eden's clothes had gone.
She sat heavily on the bed.
'So, she's gone.' Tori thought. 'What the hell did you expect? Why should this one be any different? It's happened before, just get on with it.' She put a hand to her chest. 'Jesus! Why does it hurt so much?'
She lay back on the bed and regarded the ceiling above her.
'You're better off now anyway.' She thought, though whether the thought was directed at
herself or her absent friend, she didn't know.
Cathy sat in her lounge and listened for her friend. She'd got home from work surprised to find a black bin bag full of clothes in her lounge. She'd knocked on Eden's door but only received a short answer. Something about wanting to be left alone. She'd left her friend to it, until she heard her rummaging in the kitchen.
"What're you looking for?" She asked from the kitchen doorway.
"Something to drink." Said Eden, not looking at her.
"What's going on?"
"Nothing." Said Eden lightly. "What would be going on? I'd just like a drink. Is that ok with you?"
"Yeah, it's fine. It's just that if you drink when you're upset you don't know when to stop." She took a couple of steps towards her friend but stopped when Eden turned red rimmed eyes on her.
"It's Tori isn't it?" Said Cathy.
"Of course it's Tori!" She spat, and picked up two bottles of strong cider that she'd found.
"Where is she?"
"I don't know and I don't care. It's over, now if that's all you need to know, I'm going to my room. Is that ok?" She asked and brushed past her friend, slamming the door to her bedroom behind her.
"Oh boy." Said Cathy and returned to her place in front of the tv.
To be continued
Return to The Bard's Corner - Midgit