By Shufflebum Munky
Did she have 'something to stay for?' How could she answer that? The very thing that Karen had been asking herself for weeks now; was she in love with Kelly? 'Yes', she had to admit to herself, 'it certainly feels like love. But...' She had to leave it there. Kelly and herself could never be anything more - she wouldn't allow them to be anything more.
Karen turned to Kelly. "Yes, you have something to stay for. But," she added when Kelly looked as if to say something, "that something would be my friendship, and nothing beyond that." The thought of allowing herself to love the other woman in anything other than the capacity of friendship completely scared Karen. She had never been with another woman before, let alone felt anything more than friendship for one.
'Coward' her mind sang to her, beginning yet another internal debate.
Kelly's expression turned cold, hard. "I'll leave as soon as I can, then." She replied, turning to serve a customer.
Two months. God, it'd seemed like a lifetime. Two months since she'd seen or heard anything from the blonde who seemed to occupy her thoughts both during consciousness and slumber. Of course, she'd enquired as to how Kelly was getting on through Sadie, but the older woman simply gave her an unreadable look and told her to call Kelly herself.
"But I don't know her telephone number..." The brunette had used as an excuse. That hadn't worked either - Sadie had given her the number. It rested on her notice board now, right next to the telephone - as if challenging Karen to call the number. She wouldn't though, tried to tell herself that she didn't really care, that she was just being sentimental, that Kelly had only ever been a friend.
"Are you just going to sit here all day - looking at that bloody piece of paper?"
"Jim..." Karen said, drawing his name out like a sigh. "What d'you expect me to do? Ring her?" Karen laughed, as if the notion of calling Kelly was insane.
"No, carry on like you've been doing for the last eight weeks, because you've been great fun!"
"It's not that simple... There're things we never sorted out - it'd be," she faltered, searching for the right word, "uncomfortable."
"Of course it's that simple, and that's why you should call her - to sort everything out."
Karen sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. She knew Jim was right, but she'd never been particularly good with discussing anything to do with her blonde friend, especially how she felt about her. So how was she supposed to talk about her feelings for her friend, to her friend?
The brunette woman stood up and checked her watch, swearing internally when she saw what the time was - Matt would be around any second to pick up the rest of his belongings.
"You can't fool me, Sadie - I saw the way they looked at each other."
"Geri, my darling, I'm not trying to fool you. I just don't think we should be discussing this..."
"Of course we should! Kelly's gone and Karen is terrible to work with. And here I thought His Lordship had a temper..." Geri said, shuddering slightly for effect. If Karen didn't sort herself out soon, she'd have to say something... and that was a particular conversation she'd rather not have.
"Geri..." Sadie said, exasperated. It wasn't that she disagreed with the young redhead; in fact, she too had been wondering whether she should call Kelly. But it wasn't that simple, and if they interfered before Karen was ready then they might well end up causing more trouble than good.
"Oh!" Geri said, excitedly - causing Sadie to jump slightly. "I've got a brilliant idea..." Sadie groaned, Geri wasn't known for her bright ideas. "Honestly, I think this'll work!"
"Darling, don't tell me - you want to play the match maker, don't you?"
"Sadie, I might as well be cupid. You watch, I'll have those two together within three months..."
Sadie shook her head slightly and smiled to herself. Whatever Geri had in mind, she was certain that the two women wouldn't stand a chance.
Kelly groaned, and closed her eyes again. Waking up with Ellen was always the worst part. Every night since she'd moved up to be with the other woman, she'd dreamt about Karen. Every time she woke and saw the mass of brown hair on the pillow next to her, her heart sped up and she thought, for a moment, that the hair might belong to the woman she was in love with. But it never did, and each occasion she woke up with false expectations, the more her relationship with Ellen became strained.
She wanted Karen. Not just as her partner, but merely to talk to. Kelly needed someone to talk to about her feelings with, but the only person she could think of was who the feelings concerned. Karen.
Of course, she'd phoned Sadie, and enquired as to how Karen was. Each time, Sadie remained silent until she would eventually suggest that Kelly ring the brunette. Each time Kelly would laugh. This had been the pattern for the last two months.
Worst of all, Ellen was starting to notice. Kelly had never hidden the fact that she had been in love with Karen... she'd just failed to tell Ellen that the feelings had never gone away.
Hearing the phone ring, Kelly unhappily rolled out of bed, pausing to slip on her dressing gown.
"Hello?" The blonde said, evidence of sleep still in her voice.
"Oh! Sorry to wake you..." Kelly recognised the voice of the hyperactive young barmaid immediately. "It's just that, well, I thought you should know... Sadie's been admitted to hospital..." Geri didn't get to continue, as she was suddenly overwhelmed with questions from the young Australian.
"What?! Why? What happened? Is she okay?" The worry was evident in the blonde's voice.
"Calm down, I'll explain everything." 'So far, so good.' The redhead added to herself with a small smile.
"She was complaining of back ache yesterday at the pub, so I told her to go home. When I came back after my shift I found her sprawled out on the settee, and the pain wasn't any better."
Kelly sighed; it didn't seem too serious.
"I took her to A & E and they told her to take it easy for at least two weeks. She seems fine now, but she's missing you incredibly. I know she didn't want to ask you herself, which would be why I'm phoning." The redhead paused, this would determine whether her plan would work or not. "Could you come home? Just for a fortnight? I know it'd mean so much to her, and you can catch up with everyone!"
Kelly sighed, realising with alarm that she seemed to be sighing a lot recently.
"Of course I'll come back, I don't know why Aunt Sadie felt she couldn't ask me herself..." If Kelly were to be honest with herself, her reasons for wanting to come back were more selfish than she cared to admit.
"Oh! That's brilliant! When should I tell Sadie you'll be here for?" Geri smiled again and congratulated herself slightly - if everything went to plan, Karen and Kelly would be together before the year was up.
"Oh... Hello, Sadie."
"Hello Karen, my darling, may I come in?" Karen stepped aside to let the older woman through.
Leading them into the kitchen, Karen motioned to the kettle. "Can I get you anything?"
"Tea would be lovely, darling." Sadie thought for a moment; should she tell Karen about Kelly's impending visit? Or let things run their course? The older woman waited until her drink was set before her, and then began.
"Karen, what do you feel for my niece?"
The question utterly surprised Karen, and for a moment, all the brunette could do was sit there, processing her thoughts. She needed to talk to someone other than her brother - someone close to Kelly.
"I'm in love with her."
Sadie smiled; it seemed her, and Geri's, task would be considerably easier than they'd first thought. Karen had finally acknowledged her feelings.
"I thought you should know; Kelly's coming down here for two weeks." Sadie waited for the inevitable question. She was not disappointed.
"She believes I'm ill." Sadie hated the deception, but she realised both women were too stubborn to do anything about the situation themselves.
"And why would she think that?" Karen's puzzled tone drifted to Sadie's ears.
Sadie sighed; Karen was not going to like the deceit. "You two need some sort of closure - even if you don't end up together, at least you'll have finalised everything. Although, if I may say so, I would be awfully disappointed if you and my niece remained only friends."
Karen smiled. "Me too Sadie, me too..."
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