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The Last Time and the Time Before

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She’s not sure how she expected to feel, this is the moment she had been dreading, the ending of a dream, the public confirmation of her failure and yet she’s not completely devastated. In fact she’s not entirely convinced that she is unhappy that it is over. The thought that she might be ok comes close to being incomprehensible, this is all she ever wanted and it is alarming to think that the pressure of the competition may have eroded her core beliefs and have chipped away at the essence of what makes her her. To be fair, it wasn’t just the competition, it was the competitors – well at least one of them. It is not clear to her when her dreams stopped being her own but she is certain that they now mean less if they can’t be shared with Abi. In many ways it would have been worse is she had survived the sing-off tonight, this was something that they gone through together, Abi has been there from the first audition and to have gone on without her would have seemed wrong.

It is possible that she would have found things difficult without Abi regardless of whether they’d auditioned together; it seems that nowadays everything seems difficult without Abi. Losing Abi from the competition caused her to experience pain and not just emotional pain, an actual physical sensation as though the severing of their emotional bond was a form of amputation resulting in some equivalent of phantom limb pain. She can’t deny that she is relieved that things ended this way, that she only had hours of being in the competition without Abi and not days. Above and beyond that there is the pleasing fact that they will no longer be under the microscope, no longer have people trying to mould them into something that they are not and there will no longer be a need to compromise and obfuscate. She only hopes that the transition back to normality will be a smooth one, the process seems to have effected Abi in ways that she would never have anticipated and she worries that the changes may be lasting.

She had imagined that in the event of her elimination she would have spent the evening drowning her sorrows in style but it seems that she can face neither alcohol nor company tonight and instead she finds herself lying in bed trying desperately not to look like she has spent the last hour and a half watching the door. She has been periodically forcing herself to roll onto her side and place her back to the door but doesn’t have the resolve to remain in that position for any length of time and hence she finds herself staring intently at Abi as she enters the room. She would like to be able to say that only her eyes follow Abi across the room but in truth it is not just eyes, or even her head, but rather her whole body that alters position in response to Abi’s movement.

Abi doesn’t say a word as she heads to her bed and exchanges her dress for an oversized T-shirt. After she has changed she seems to hesitate, turning her head towards Aoife as though she wants to say something but then suddenly she is all purposeful movement as she lifts the covers and burries herself under them.

“Do you want to talk?”

“Why didn’t you ask me to come to bed with you?”

Aoife props herself up on her arm and attempts to survey Abi’s features but is hindered by both distance and darkness, “I thought I wasn’t allowed to do that here.”

“That’s over now.”

“I am not sure how I was meant to know that.”

“You knew that was only because of the competition and the cameras,” Abi sounds timid and insecure, a world away from anything she associates with Abi.

“You think that I shouldn’t need you to tell me that things are back to normal?”

“Exactly.”

“Then why would you think you needed me to invite you into my bed.”

“I…I don’t know.”

“Well do you want to be?”

“What?”

“In my bed.” Abi doesn’t give a verbal response but the speed with which she bounces out of bed and shimmies into Aoife’s arms doesn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation.

“My Aoife,” Abi sighs as she folds her body around her lover with an ease and familiarity that belies the fact that they have been sleeping apart.

“My baby,” she replies.

“You think I have been crazy don’t you?”

“No.”

“Liar,” the accusation is playful.

“Well, maybe a little.”

“You’re still lying.”

“I’m not”

“Oh your pants are so on fire.”

“Fine, you have been a big, giant ball of crazy.”

“Do you really mean that?”

“Hey, you do not get to demand that I tell you that I think you’ve been acting crazy and then turn around and get all defensive about it.”

“I happen to be a big, giant ball of crazy so you can hardly expect rational behaviour from me.”

Aoife chortles and tightens her hold around Abi, “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve been right here.”

“No, no you haven’t.”

“How I feel about you never changed.”

“I certainly hope not but I guess I have been worried, you haven’t really been yourself lately.”

“If you mean I haven’t been tying to rip your clothes off every five seconds then perhaps I haven’t.”

“It was more than that; you have been quiet and serious.”

“No I haven’t.”

“Yes you have.”

“I have been nothing but quick wit and personality. Ask the judges, ask anyone.”

“I don’t dispute that you can turn it on for the cameras.”

“Which is a good thing because apparently I don’t have any actual talent.”

“You know that’s not true.”

“I do. It just hurts that they don’t think I can sing.”

“You can sing.”

“You are probably not the best character reference for me to use.”

“I am rather fond of you and you should take that as confirmation of your talent.”

“You only like me because you think I can sing?”

“I can be a bit of a snob in that regard.”

“You don’t think I have any other things to offer you?” somehow Abi always manages to make pouting sexy but then Aoife pretty much finds everything Abi does sexy.

“I can think of a few things,” she responds as she moves her hand under Abi’s shirt and skims it over her hip.

“Good,” Abi rewards her with a quick kiss, “I’m sorry I have been difficult, I just really, really wanted this.”

“I know you did, I’m just not sure why you thought your militant little rules about us not expressing affection were going to help you win.”

“Why did yo go along with them?”

“Because it was important to you.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too crazy girl.”

“I guess I shouldn’t expect you to understand why I felt I had to do what I did.”

“You think it would have cost you votes if people knew about us?”

“They were already making assumptions about me; I didn’t need to confirm things.”

“What makes you think they assumed anything at all?”

“I was ‘Tomboy’ Maria.”

“That might have been a compliment.”

“I would normally take is as such but when they said ‘Tomboy’ they weren’t equating it to ‘she climbs a tree and scrapes her knee, her dress has got a tear’.”

“You think they were implying that you’re gay?”

“I think they were attempting to underline that I would have been more interested in the nuns than I was in the Captain and that they really didn’t want me to be Maria.”

“You’re crazy.”

“We’ve already established that.”

“Was the no sex thing about trying to protect me?”

“Hey we had sex. Awkward, uncomfortable but ultimately amazing sex.”

“It was amazing,” an involuntary smile graces her face, “even if my neck is still sore.”

“My poor love, do you want me to massage that for you?”

“You can if you like but I have other things in mind for your fingers.”

“Really?”

“Indeed but first we are going to discuss your misguided attempts to protect us.”

“To be honest it was selfish, it wasn’t really about protecting you.”

“I don’t know how I feel about that.”

“I thought you thought what I was doing was crazy.”

“I did but it seems I would have felt better if the craziness was out of some misguided attempt to protect our relationship.”

“See I was apparently under this mistaken belief that our relationship didn’t need protection.”

“And now I feel worse.”

“I didn’t think you needed protecting either at least not in the way I did.”

“I’ll have you know that I am very much into this relationship and into you.”

“I know that but it doesn’t matter when it comes to you.”

“So it would be a bad thing for you to openly be in a same sex relationship but not me?”

“Exactly.”

“How can you possibly believe that?”

“Because you are beautiful.”

“So are you.”

“No I’m not but it’s nice that you think so. What I am is quirky with heaps of personality, I am like the poor man’s Barbara Streisand. I am not beautiful like you, not in the way that would mean that people wouldn’t be concerned that my sexuality would impact on ticket sales.”

“You are so beautiful and you have no idea, I find that so special.”

“Even if I am a big, giant ball of crazy, tomboy?”

“You are my big, giant ball of crazy, tomboy and I plan on keeping you besides you really had nothing to worry about at least you managed to kiss a man on television, I tried to strangle him.”

“I know, I thought that was so cute.”

“I aim to please.”

“And you do my Aoife, you really do.”

“That’s good to know,” her words come out broken due to the hand that has slithered its way under her pants. “Are you sure you want to do this with other people and cameras around?”

“Absolutely, after all I am a performer.” The grin that Abi currently possesses is evil and infectious. “Besides being abstinent has nearly killed me, it’s possible that I don’t really have the required attributes to become the world’s first Jewish nun.”

“I am feeling pretty sinful myself,” she adds as her hand moves up to cup Abi’s breast.

“Then we should definitely take advantage of that.”

“Oh I intend to.” So it seems that this isn’t her big break and she is not Maria but it doesn’t matter to her because as Abi’s mouth encircles her nipple she knows in her heart that she is a winner.