Chapter 10

I'm Right Here

Patty starts to say something, but Ellen pushes her backward. Patty staggers back into the counter and wedges her hands against the counter top for support. Ellen kisses her soundly and repeatedly. Yes, her kisses say. Yes to all of it. Yes to birthday parties. Yes to Catherine. Yes to Strawberry. Yes to dates, even if Patty organizes them. Yes to orange gladiolas. Yes to meeting for drinks after work. Yes to discussing thrilling cases together. And yes most especially to kissing.


"Yes, what?" Patty says.

Ellen hadn't realized she'd spoken out loud.

"Yes, I want this." Ellen says softly. She kisses Patty again, this time high up on her cheek, and she allows her mouth to linger there while she clarifies, "I want you, Patty."

"No kidding," Patty says sarcastically, and Ellen laughs into her hair.

Patty takes a hand off the counter and slips it inside of Ellen's suit jacket. She slides her hand up and down the side of Ellen's blouse. Ellen shivers.

"I want this, too," Patty says. But then she pulls back, shaking her blond head. "However."

Ellen frowns, silently protesting the loss of contact.

Patty cocks her head to the side and listens. "I don't think Catherine is in bed yet," she says. "I would feel very foolish if she caught us -"

"—Making out?"

"Yes. Like a couple of teenagers."

"Like a couple of lovers," Ellen corrects.

"Lovers…" Patty looks thoughtful.

"What do you suggest we do?" Ellen asks.

Patty pauses. Then she says, "I'll meet you at your apartment tomorrow evening." She smiles her most challenging smile. "And you can seduce me."

Patty reaches for Ellen and gives her one more kiss, soft and teasing at first, then deep and intense. Then she turns and leaves the room.

"Goodnight, Ellen," she calls over her shoulder, sounding smug.

As well she should. Ellen's feet are stuck to the floor. After several minutes, she gathers herself and heads for the door.

"Seduce me," Patty said. But Ellen doesn't need to seduce Patty. She already has. Ellen could do something impressive. And later, sometimes, she will. She will dress up for Patty and buy her fabulous gifts and bake her inimitable cupcakes. But this evening she wants things simple. She wants to just be.

She dresses in jeans and a dark green cotton shirt. She busies herself with folding laundry while she waits for Patty to arrive. When the doorbell rings, she finds she feels relaxed.

Patty is wearing her work clothes – a light pink silk blouse and a dark grey pencil skirt.

They kiss hello, but it's an awkward kiss this time – their teeth click together. Ellen almost apologizes, but doesn't.

"I thought I would stay the night," Patty says, gesturing at the overnight bag she has brought. "Is that alright?"

"What about Catherine?"

"She's sleeping over at a friend's house."

"On a Tuesday?"

Patty spreads her arms. "I'm on a business trip," she says.

"A business trip. Is that what Catherine thinks?"

"Catherine… if you figure her out, let me know."

Ellen laughs. Then she realizes she forgot to answer Patty's question.

"Yes, I'd love for you to spend the night."

"Good," Patty says.

They look at each other for a minute. Suddenly Ellen is at a loss. Now that they have time and it's really going to happen, she doesn't know how to begin.

"Something to drink?" she offers.

"No, thank you."

Maybe they should start with what's familiar, Ellen thinks.

"Come sit," she says. She leads the way into her living room. "Tell me about your day."

Patty waves a hand. "So much bullshit. I'd rather hear about your victory."

So they sit on the sofa and Ellen talks. She talks for almost a quarter of an hour. Patty is a very good audience. She hums sympathetically as Ellen describes setbacks and chuckles happily when she details her triumphs. Ellen wonders how she could have gone nine years without this easy camaraderie. It's dawning on her that she's been painfully lonely. She thinks about all the years coming home to an empty apartment, or worse, to a boyfriend or girlfriend who felt like an obligation rather than a companion. It's been grim. She didn't appreciate how grim until this moment.

Ellen has gone quiet. Patty sees a shadow cross the younger woman's expression. Instinctively she reaches out and tucks a strand of Ellen's soft brown hair behind her ear. Ellen's eyes lose their haunted look immediately and she smiles at Patty. She reaches out and puts a hand on Patty's cheek. Then she scoots closer and kisses her softly.

Oh. Patty loves this, kissing Ellen. It is not like kissing anyone else.

"Come on," Ellen says. "I'll show you where you're sleeping."

"With you, I thought."

"That's what I meant."

They don't quite make it to the bedroom, though, because Ellen resumes kissing Patty in the hallway.

Pressed up against the wall, Patty is conflicted. She doesn't want to stop kissing. But her back is starting to hurt, and she would really prefer to get Ellen in a bed. Not for the first time in her life, she wishes she were taller and could get some leverage. Well. There are ways of getting what she wants. She slides a hand up the inside of Ellen's pant leg to her crotch. As Ellen's knees weaken, Patty is able to catch hold of the girl's two hands and pull her toward the bedroom.

She kicks her shoes off and sits on the edge of the bed, still holding both of Ellen's hands at once.

Ellen lets go, steps back and regards Patty gleefully.

"Patty Hewes is in my bed," she says.

"Stop smirking and come here," Patty says, reclining against the pillows.

"I will," Ellen says.

In a series of quick, graceful movements, Ellen pulls off her jeans and shimmies out of her shirt. Patty watches transfixed. Ellen is long and lean and toned. She is astonishing.

Now wearing nothing but a black bra and panties, Ellen climbs into bed and hovers over Patty, kissing her methodically.

Then Ellen reaches for the buttons of Patty's silk blouse. "May I?"

"Please do."

The moment of truth, Patty thinks. Patty is proud of her figure, but she is over seventy. Ellen has probably never seen a woman her age undressed. She stares fiercely into Ellen's eyes, daring the younger woman not to like what she sees.

But Ellen's face lights up as she exposes Patty's midriff. She bends to kiss Patty's throat, then kisses her way down her collarbone and continues on a path toward her belly. Patty wants to tell Ellen to hurry up – no, slow down – no, she can't decide. It doesn't matter anyway because she is breathing too raggedly to speak. So she buries her hands in Ellen's long hair, runs her fingers over the young woman's smooth back and firm ass, and lets the feelings wash over her.

She doesn't complain when Ellen unhooks her bra and casts it aside. She wouldn't dream of complaining when Ellen takes Patty's right breast in her mouth and slides a hand inside Patty's underwear. As Ellen's fingers and then finally her tongue work their way toward Patty's center, Patty finds her voice at last. She cries out Ellen's name repeatedly.

Ellen crawls up next to Patty and kisses her shoulder while she recovers. As Patty's breathing slows, Ellen looks her in the eye and smiles.

The girl is looking awfully proud of herself, which riles Patty just a little. Moving swiftly, she flips Ellen onto her back and smiles wickedly back at her.

"My turn," she says.

Ellen wakes in the middle of the night to a low moaning sound.

"Patty?" she says.

There is no response. She clicks on a light. Patty is asleep, but she moans again. Then she starts to twitch.

It is terrible to watch, so Ellen begins to shake Patty's shoulder.

"Patty," she says firmly. "Patty, wake up. Wake up." It becomes a chant.

Patty's eyes blink open. They appear wild with terror.

"It's alright, Patty. It's alright. I'm here," Ellen says softly.

Patty tries to say something, but no words come out.

Ellen reaches out and brushes back Patty's blond forelock. "Shh," she says.

Patty shakes her head and tries again. Her voice comes out hoarse.

"I tried to kill you."

So that's it. In Ellen's mind's eye, she sees the attack play out. The barking dog, the knife, the shattered glass, the blood. Patty did that. But Ellen made her peace with that years ago.

She looks into Patty's tortured expression. She bends and kisses her temple. Then she reaches for the woman's hand and laces their fingers together.

"I'm here, Patty," she says again. "I'm right here."