'That night when she slept at your flat.' That night when she slept at yours. That night Janet slept...
Rachel groaned, sprawled deeper into the sofa. The words kept churning round and round in her head. And her own ones, the ones she kept shoving out of thought. 'Well I'm sh...'. Not happening. The two thoughts were not happening together in the same head space. Janet... her flat... shagging. Shut up knobhead. Rachel banged her head back on the arm of the sofa. Shut up. She was never in your flat, she told herself, not like that, not even to sleep. That night, wherever she was, she was somewhere else. Not with Rachel.
'Well duh, obviously', Rachel said it out loud to emphasise the point, kick her stupid side back into its box. But the idea that Janet had been sleeping with someone, cheating on Adrian in actual fact, was giving Rachel's stupid side all the encouragement it needed to wriggle out of its usual confines. That Janet could... that Janet could possibly... lie, cheat, shag about, get drunk and pull somebody, go home with them and... Rachel banged her head again, harder. Kick the images back. Do not go there. And what she had said to Adrian, it was only a joke, but where the hell had that come out of? Oh God, she, Rachel, was sleeping in Janet's house. And she hadn't let that mean anything, she hadn't let her imagination run away with her once since she moved into that tiny back bedroom. Even with Jan's smell lurking everywhere about the boxes of police files and her and Ade's bedroom close enough that Rachel could hear the rumble of their conversations when the house was dark and everyone pretending to be asleep.
Because Janet Scott played it straight. She toed the line. She stuck to the rules. She was the one who could always be trusted, always relied upon, steady and sure, calm and solid. Most of the time you couldn't imagine her getting in a passion about anything. Well, Rachel could. Rachel had seen enough already to know that strong feelings did rage at times under a strict self-control that Rach herself could only marvel at. But she tried to put that out of her head. Yeah, partly because she wanted Janet to be the one who she leaned on. Well, needed her to be was more like it. But also because the thought of passionate Janet was far too unsettling. It caused Rachel's blood to rush and yet another head bang against the sofa.
'Ow!' A bit too hard that time. Rachel did hear the key in the door, but didn't think to stop herself thinking out loud again. 'Well done knobhead, it's not worth giving yourself concussion over.'
'What's not?' Janet appeared in the living room doorway.
'Ohhhh nothing.' Rachel played for time, deliberately not reacting. She didn't sit up, trying not to look guilty and also avoiding Janet's eyes for a moment.
'OK.' Janet wasn't fooled. 'You got a bottle open?' Rachel waved at the coffee table and hauled herself upright. She was clearly busted.
'You get your coat off, I'll get you a glass.' Rachel passed Janet in the doorway with a small smile and held her breath as she felt her friend's eyes on her all the way down the hall to the kitchen.
Once they were settled on the sofa with a glass of red wine each, Rachel could feel the questions coming. Janet's famous interview skills - she was no match.
'So I told Adrian I was shagging you tonight.' If in doubt, Rachel Bailey, open your mouth. Nice one. Janet went very still beside her. Rachel kept on the offensive.
'But it wasn't me he was worried about, cos he thought maybe you had been cheating on him with someone else,' she continued, 'some bloke.' Someone who is actually a threat, she thought, more bitter than she had realised. Janet was looking at her now. Those huge blue eyes boring into her own and the only thing Rachel could do was stare back, challenging, and keep pushing.
'See it was that night you slept at my flat.' Janet flickered. The bad part of Rachel twisted. It was true. 'Only...' Rachel left the thought hanging in the air. She dropped her voice to a breath, 'Who was it?'
The question hushed over Janet's skin, lifting stray hairs from her cheek. She watched Rachel waiting for an answer, her brain so obviously whirring harder than an out of date fridge. Distraction techniques, blocking out thought waves, fidgetting herself to keep in her seat. Didn't she realise how easily Janet could read her?
'Why did you tell Ade you were shagging me?'
Rachel stopped. Everything shut down. Trust Janet. Spot the strange detail and go straight for the jugular. Rachel had got away with it with Adrian. People don't just go around saying they're shagging their best mate, expecially not to their best mate's husband. It was a weird joke, not funny, but Adrian was too wrapped up in his own line of thought to even notice what she had said. Trust Janet though.
'Rachel?' And she was going to demand an answer.
'I dunno', Rachel dropped her head. 'I dunno, just a stupid thing to say, thought he'd laugh.'
Janet half smiled. Rach was always shit at lying to her. She was a slump of disappointment and confusion and neediness in the corner of the sofa.
'It was a one time thing. A mistake.' Janet made the words very deliberate. A confession. A sharing. Rachel's head snapped up. They held a look, carefully , Janet willing understanding across to her friend. I am trusting you, I am sharing with you, I am letting you in.
'It was Andy.'
Rachel drew a heavy breath. Janet's face suddenly so vulnerable.
'Just when you thought you knew someone,' somehow the thought actually came out of her mouth.
'Yeah,' Janet's eyes were piercing again, 'I could say the same thing.' She softened slightly as Rachel automatically assumed a shade of kicked puppy. 'What's going on Rach?'
And Rachel couldn't think. She looked at her friend, curled in on the other side of the sofa, her fine blonde hair caught back and wisping round her face, those eyes all concern and care, the soft lines of skin on her face, that smell that was such a marker in Rachel's world, such an indicator of safety and happiness, their knees almost touching. Rachel didn't think. She opened her mouth.
'Janet I'm sorry. I dunno. You don't have to... I don't know what's going on in my head. I'm just...'
She didn't think. She opened her mouth. She leaned forward. And she kissed her. Warm and soft and hungry, of course. Making about as much sense as the words she had failed with. Pulling Janet closer and finding herself wrapped in all that softness and fierceness and passion she didn't allow herself to think about, Janet's arms around her and lips pushing insistently against lips. Rachel was breathless when they pulled apart and she still couldn't think.
'Sorry... shit Jan... I'm...'
'Hey', Janet's voice was very very soft, her hand touched Rachel's arm. 'It's ok.'
'Is it?' Desperation hardened Rachel's voice.
'Yeah.' That calm. That confidence. Rachel shook her head. She could never get over Janet Scott.
Janet's face was deadpan. 'After all, you are shagging me.'
They held the moment between them.
And then it cracked. They crumpled into cackles of laughter. Loud enough to almost wake Taisie. Loud enough to make Adrian turn over in bed with a hump of jealousy.
The laughter left them in a backwash of tiredness. Janet looked older and Rachel went pale. They shared a quieter look now, mutually agreed to leave all this to another day. Rachel stood up first.
'I should have gone to bed hours ago.'
At the top of the stairs, Rachel heard her voice called softly from behind. Janet leaned against the wall at the bottom of the staircase. Her voice was very low, and though she was obviously trying to make every word as serious and weighty as if she were in an interview Rachel could hear the unsteadiness behind it. 'I don't normally... do... any of this.'
Rachel nodded. They were best friends. They could generally read each others' minds or at least each others' feelings, moods, intentions. Even when what they said was completely different. She nodded.
'Nor do I.'