DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the prompt: "Wait a minute. Are you jealous?"
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To scotangelina[at]yahoo.com
When our wings have trouble remembering how to fly
Her phone buzzes in her pocket as she finishes drying her hands after wiping down the surfaces. She pulls it out and smiles as Charity's face grins back at her. She accepts the call.
"Hiya sexy. Couldn't wait till tonight to talk to me, eh?"
"Yeah, I come over all faint if I go an hour without hearing your dulcet tones." She can almost hear the rolling of eyes. "Oh, and there's the fact that I just went through the front to check Rebecca wasn't...I dunno...building a fort out of the tables and chairs, and I discovered your Tracy propping up the bar. Hammered."
Vanessa closes her eyes. "How long's she been there? I thought she was at work."
"Rebecca says ages. More building inspections or summat, so Eric sent her home. Only looks like she didn't quite make it."
"Can't you persuade her to come home, then?"
"Yeah, I gave that a go but she was having none of it. Got a bit mouthy with me, actually, so I left her to it. She wants to drink herself into oblivion, that's her lookout." She coughs. "But I, uh, told Rebecca to start giving her water and tonic instead of gin."
Shaking her head, Vanessa covers the dopey smile on her face with her hand, even though she knows Charity can't see it. "You are a big softie, really, aren't you?"
"Only for you, kid, only for you."
Vanessa's never had this all-encompassing kind of love before. Where a few words can warm her whole body from her toes upwards, touching every part of her. "Well, I'm not complaining."
Charity makes that half-annoyed, half-pleased sound that lets Vanessa know she's ready to move on from a conversation that's verging on feelings. "Anyway, are you going to come and fetch your sister? Like I said, she's getting mouthy and not everyone is as easy-going as I am. I'd hate for someone to lamp her."
Pressing her lips together at Charity's description of herself, Vanessa nods. "I'll be right over." She glances at her watch. "I was just about to step into the shower but I should still be okay for time if I hurry."
"Oh, babe. You've just conjured up some very pleasant visuals for me…"
"Oi, lady, never mind 'visuals'." Vanessa grabs her coat and heads out the door. "You should be getting ready an'all. I hear you've got a hot date tonight."
"Have I? I thought we were going out tonight." Charity clicks her tongue. "Must've double booked myself."
"I really do wonder who told you you were funny." But she's smiling. And she knows Charity knows it.
"You, for one."
As she nears the pub, she can see Charity standing in the doorway, her shoulder leaning against the well worn stone. "Oh, you don't want to be listening to me. I've a terrible sense of humour."
Charity meets her eyes as she heads up the steps. She points at the phone and mouths 'Sorry.' She turns the phone into her shoulder, rolling her eyes. "My girlfriend." She opens and closes her hand, imitating a yapping mouth. "I'll get rid of her." She puts the phone back to her ear.
"Anyway, babe, I've got to go...I think that hot date you were talking about just turned up, so maybe we can do another night, yeah?"
Vanessa shakes her head, hanging up the call and walking until she's pressed against Charity's front, their noses and lips brushing. "Don't give up your day job just yet, will you?"
"Fine, the comedy circuit can wait." She drops a soft kiss on Vanessa's lips. Vanessa takes her arm and they continue into the pub. Her eyes land on Tracy, draped around Rishi at the far end of the bar and laughing raucously. Rishi looks mildly terrified. Charity murmurs next to her ear. "See what I mean?"
"Mmhmmm." She lets go of Charity's arm, ready to go and rescue poor Rishi. He catches her eye and relief floods his face.
"Oh, look! Your sister's here!" He lifts her arm from around his shoulders. "That's great timing because I have to go and...I just have to go. Now. Bye!"
He almost runs past them in his haste to get out.
"Surprise, surprise." Tracy rolls her eyes, her unsteady gaze landing on Charity. "Might've known you'd go and tell tales on me."
Charity crosses her arms. "Uh, think yourself lucky I didn't just drag you by the ear and dump you on the step for your lip, lady."
Tracy laughs. "I'd like to see you try."
"I wouldn't," Vanessa puts in, when she feels Charity begin to make a move. "Now, come on. I think it's best you come home with me, eh?" She puts a hand on Tracy's elbow, only to be shaken off.
"No! Why would I want to do that? I'm sat here, quite happy, having a nice drink and a nice chat with my friend Rebecca, aren't I?"
Rebecca, who has been watching the proceedings in silence, walks over and leans on the bar. She appraises Tracy for a moment. "Well, you were quite fun to begin with but you've become really boring the more you've drunk." She frowns. "And I don't think we're friends, are we?"
Charity snorts and Vanessa glares at her. She tries again to get her sister to come home. "Tracy-"
"Look, you're not my mum." She laughs, a short bitter sound. "She wouldn't be dragging me out of a pub for starters."
Vanessa glances around at the stares being thrown their way and she moves closer to Tracy, placing a hand at her back.
"Uh, enough of the gawping, thank you." Charity glares around the room and all eyes snap back at their drinks or companions.
"I know I'm not your mum," Vanessa says, her voice low. She rubs Tracy's back "I'm...I just care about you, okay? And I don't want you sitting here drinking yourself into a stupor."
"Your girlfriend might though. Since it's her business and that." Tracy looks over her shoulder and holds up her glass. "I'n't that right, Charity?"
Charity sighs, moving closer to the pair of them. "Look, either you go quietly with Ness, or I bar you. Either way you're leaving now."
Tracy's mouth falls open and she looks between them. "This is discrinim-...disnimicr-"
"Dis-crim-in-ation," Charity sounds out, tilting her head. "How's that then?"
"Because!" Tracy slams her glass down on the bar. "You're only chucking me out because she-" She jerks her head towards Vanessa. "-wants you to. You wouldn't chuck anyone else out for having a quiet drink."
"I would if they were causing a scene, annoying my staff and my punters." Charity leans in. "And she has a name. It's Vanessa. And she's only doing what's best for you, right. No need to get narky about it."
"Oh, look, whatever." Tracy slides of the stool. "Can't even have a drink in my local boozer without folk breathing down my neck." She points at Vanessa. "So, I'm leaving. But not because you said I had to, right? Because I don't want to stay."
"That's fine," Vanessa says, nodding. Whatever gets her moving.
Tracy nods once and starts marching unsteadily to the door, but pauses before she makes it halfway along the length of the bar. "Right, well, I'm desperate for a wee. But then I'm leaving." She about turns and heads to the loos.
Vanessa turns to Charity, fixing the lapel of her blazer and looking up at her with apologetic eyes. "I...don't think we're going to make our table."
"Yeah." Charity pushes a strand of Vanessa's hair behind her ear. "I'd worked that one out, babe. I'll call the restaurant and cancel the booking."
Sighing, Vanessa runs her hand up and down Charity's bicep. "I'm sorry, I just-"
Charity cuts her off. "I know. She's your sister. It's fine."
She dips her head, trying to catch Charity's eye. "Is it...fine?"
Charity meets her eyes and smiles. "Course it is. We can do our hot date another night." She leans in and kisses her, soft and reassuring. She pulls back and winks. "I'll just call my girlfriend back and see her instead."
"You do that," Vanessa says, stealing another kiss. "Say hi to her from me."
"For God's sake. D'you ever come up for air?" Tracy storms past them, lilting to one side a bit and using the bar to steady herself.
"I better go." Vanessa steps out of Charity's arms. "I'll call you later, okay?"
"Yeah, okay." Charity crosses her arms and looks mournful. "Try not to think of me sat here all on my tod on my night off, eh?"
"Charity!" Vanessa whines.
"I'm kidding. Go and tend to the drunkard." She winks. "Speak to you later, babe."
By the time Vanessa gets outside, Tracy's nearly at Tug Ghyll. For a worrying second, she thinks she's going to walk right past the gate, but thankfully she heads up the path. She's still fumbling in her handbag for her keys when Vanessa catches up to her, taking her own set out of her pocket.
"It's alright. I'll get it." She unlocks the door and lets Tracy in ahead of her. She kicks her shoes off, one of them bounces off the wall and Vanessa bites her tongue. There's no use getting into a shouting match about something trivial right now. She takes off her own shoes and jacket and follows Tracy into the living room, where she's standing with the remote control in her hand, swaying. Vanessa rolls her eyes.
"Right. Just sit down, will you? I'll make you a coffee." She flicks the switch on the kettle and watches Tracy throw the remote onto the couch and then collapse on top of it.
There's a dismissive snort and then murmured words she only just manages to hear. "Don't put yourself out on my account."
Vanessa purses her lips and marches to the couch, towering over Tracy's prone form. "I already have, actually. I was supposed to be going out tonight. Did you know that?" She doesn't' wait for an answer. "I was supposed to be heading into Hotten right now, to a nice restaurant enjoying a nice, child-free dinner with my girlfriend. But what am I doing instead?" She looks Tracy up and down. "Babysitting you. So don't start with that crap, right?"
"Jesus. D'you think you'll survive a whole night away from Charity?" Tracy places a hand over her heart in fake shock before shaking her head. "Like you don't spend every waking minute in her company. And most of your sleeping ones an'all. Not that you get much sleep, by the sounds of things from my room."
Vanessa's about to really lay into Tracy when she catches a glimpse of her face. There's nothing hateful or malicious there. She just looks...sad. Vanessa pauses, sucking a slow breath in through her nose. "Hang on a minute. Are you...jealous?"
Tracy's eyes flick to Vanessa's. "Of you and Charity? Give over." She scoffs, rolling her eyes. But they're glassy, and her lower lip starts to tremble. "Why would I be jealous of the fact that you're blissfully happy and loved up and that you've found someone who seems to just...get you?" She shrugs. "And I've got nobody and I'm kipping in your spare room and working in a made up job at the B&B just to...to earn…" She puts her face in her hands. "Oh, God, V. How did this happen to me?"
"Hey," Vanessa soothes, sitting down next to Tracy and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. She pulls her in, resting her forehead against Tracy's temple. "It's just...it's just a setback, that's all. You're brilliant and resourceful and charming and beautiful." She kisses Tracy's cheek. "You'll find someone else. And a job you love. This isn't forever."
"No?" Tracy asks, hiccupping. "Because I'm not sure I can face it all again just to end up back where I started. I just...I just want to be happy."
"It's still all really fresh, Tracy," Vanessa tells her, stroking her hair. "You've been through so much. It's understandable that you're a bit worried about putting yourself out there." She squeezes her. "But it'll happen. One day, you'll be ready and you'll go out there and get what you want. I promise."
Tracy shakes her head. "I thought David was it for me, V. And he cheated on me. With my friend. And then there was all that stuff with Phil." She sighs. "And the next man I...well, he turned out to be an abusive rapist." She covers her face. "I just...I can't do it anymore. I can't keep trusting bastard men." She laughs, wiping her arm across her runny nose. "What's it like with women? Any easier?"
Vanessa barks out a laugh. "You're aware I'm dating Charity Dingle, yeah? Easy is not the word I'd use." She shakes her head. "And I can't really make any sweeping judgements about women versus men since Charity's really the only woman I've been with." She uses her thumb to wipe away the tears pooling at the edges of Tracy's eyes. "Anyway, I don't think that's how it works. I don't think you just jump ship to women because you've had bad experiences with men."
"Well, not if you're you," Tracy says, sniffing. "If you're you, you just snog one in the pub cellar and find the love of your life."
Vanessa flushes a deep red. "That's...that's a bit-"
"Oh Vanessa, shut up. That's what she is and you know it." She pokes Vanessa in the chest. "Anyone who sees the pair of you together knows that."
"Well, I...I hope that-"
"And it's not that I don't want you to have this." Tracy takes her hand and looks at her, forehead wrinkled with worry. "When I said I were jealous before...not in a way where I grudge you a single second of happiness, I swear."
"I know, Tracy." Vanessa squeezes her hand. "I know. And I want it for you too. When you're ready."
They sit in silence for a few moments until Tracy lets out a yawn. Vanessa eases them both down so they're resting against the back of the couch. "I'll go and make that coffee, eh? You find something mindless on the telly for us to watch."
"I'm sorry I ruined your night," Tracy mumbles into her shoulder. "Could...is it too late now to get your table."
Vanessa waves away her concern. "It's fine. There'll be other nights. And like you said, it's not as if I never see her, is it?" She gives Tracy a final squeeze before standing and heading back over to the counter to fix the drinks.
"If you're sure," Tracy says, fiddling with her phone.
Vanessa nods. "I'm sure."
It's an hour or so later and there's a talent show of some description on the telly. Though, Vanessa thinks, that description is generous. The front door opens.
"Hey. Only me."
Vanessa's head spins around at the sound of Charity's voice. She's shrugging out of her jacket, shifting a bag from one hand to the other to get the sleeves off. Vanessa quickly looks back at Tracy, hoping this isn't going to cause a problem if she'd expected a night just for the two of them. But Tracy's beaming at Charity.
"What brings you here?" Vanessa asks, tipping her head back to accept the kiss Charity offers her on her way past.
"Oh, you know, the hot date I had lined up cancelled on me." She sets the bag she brought in on the counter. "So I thought I might as well come over here and see what you two were up to." She nods to the bag. "I brought Chinese, since I didn't get my fancy dinner."
Vanessa and Tracy both get up as Charity starts taking containers of food out and laying them on the counter.
Tracy shoves her hands in her pockets. "Look, I'll leave the two of you to-" Charity thrusts a container of food in her direction, lifting an eyebrow.
"It's Kung Po Chicken you like, yeah?"
Tracy looks genuinely touched that Charity remembered her order and Vanessa feels her own love for Charity ratchet up a couple of notches. Tracy smiles and nods. "Yeah. But listen, when I texted you I didn't mean-"
"You texted her?" Vanessa asks,
"Nice one, Trace," Charity says, with a roll of her eyes. "Really stealthy, there."
Sighing, Tracy turns to Vanessa. "I just...felt bad about being a right cow earlier." She glances at Charity. "Sorry about that, by the way." Charity nods and Tracy continues. "And I felt terrible about spoiling your night out...so I told Charity you hadn't eaten and it might be nice if she brought something over."
"And like I said, I had nothing better to do." She shakes the box she's holding out to Tracy. "Go on, kid. You'll need something in your stomach to soak up all that booze you were putting away earlier."
"Thanks, Charity." Tracy takes the food. "That was really nice of you."
Vanessa lets Tracy pass her as she takes her food to the table, where Vanessa's laid out plates and glasses and cutlery. Vanessa walks up behind Charity and wraps her arms around her waist, pressing her face into her back and squeezing her. "Thank you."
"It's just a takeaway, Ness." Charity's hand briefly covers her own.
"It's not just a takeaway," Vanessa tells her. "It's-"
Charity turns in the circle of her arms and kisses her cheek. "It's crispy shredded chicken. And it's getting cold." She slaps Vanessa's backside gently. "So get moving and get it eaten."
Vanessa goes up on her toes and brings their lips together.
"When you're finished snogging each others' faces off, can you chuck us the prawn crackers over?" Tracy asks, through a mouthful of food.
Vanessa feels Charity's lips turn up into a smile and her own follow suit.
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