(see header in part one)
Handcuffs, by Scott J. Welles
Randi still lay beneath Maggie, her breathing slowing. Maggie's jaw had dropped. Did she hear right? Did Randi just say 'I love you, Maggie'? They never addressed each other by name in these encounters, let alone in a context like that one. She tried to speak, but couldn't think of what to say. "Uh, I - um..."
Something seemed to stiffen between them, as though a line had just been crossed, or a shameful secret revealed. Randi looked away, stricken. "I just ruined it, didn't I?"
"No!" Maggie assured her, hastily. "No, I just...I mean..."
"You don't have to explain," Randi said, her face sinking into despair. She tried to roll onto her side, but was still restrained by the handcuffs. "Could you take these things off me, please?" she said, almost too low to be heard.
"Uh, yeah, of course," Maggie stammered. She got up quickly and retrieved the key from the top of the dresser, unlocking Randi hurriedly. Randi rolled away from her, as though deeply embarrassed.
Maggie lay on the bed behind her and put her arms around the clerk. "Hey, I'm sorry," she said. "You just took me by surprise, that's all. I didn't mean to--"
"Jesus, I knew I shouldn't have listened to that bitch..." Randi's voice held in a sob.
"What bitch? Listened to who?"
"Pomerantz, up in Psych," Randi replied without looking at her. "She's been encouraging me to tell you how I feel. I should have known it would spoil the mood between us."
"Randi..." It felt strange calling her by name. Two years of intense weekly sex, and Maggie realized they'd never had a single real conversation. She knew every inch of Randi's body, and yet she didn't know Randi herself. How did this happen?
She tried again. "Randi, I'm glad you told me. I mean, I'd rather know than not know."
"Does that mean you're in love with me, too?" Randi shot back.
Maggie didn't know how to answer that.
"Uh-huh," Randi grunted. "You see?" Despite the awkward angle, Maggie was certain she could see a tear on Randi's cheek.
"I don't know," she said helplessly. "I mean, we've never talked about... Hell, we've never talked, period." Two years with this woman, fucking each other's brains out, and she knew nothing more about her than the day they'd met. What the hell is wrong with you, Doyle? she demanded of herself. "I mean... well, for example, I didn't know you were seeing Nina Pomerantz. Seeing her professionally, I mean; I'm not jealous," she added, trying to lighten things up a notch.
It didn't work. "Yeah. Hospital employee benefits. Might as well use it as long as I got it, right?"
"Sure," Maggie replied. She was curious to know what the perpetually devil-may-care Randi Fronczak might need to see a psychiatrist about, but she didn't want to risk hurting her lover any further.
"You want to know why I'm seeing a shrink, right?" Randi's voice came harshly over her shoulder.
Maggie winced. The clerk had read her mind. "I don't want to pry," she said carefully, "but if it's something you want to talk about, I'm happy to listen."
Randi was quiet and stiff in her arms, and Maggie half-feared Randi would never want to see her again. Then... "I told Pomerantz I'd been seeing someone I really cared about," she said at last. "I never told her who it was, but she suggested I should tell you about what happened. I thought, yeah right, that'll happen. I'm gonna go see my secret girlfriend, tell her the worst thing in my life, and then expect her to screw me."
"Maybe you should."
"What?" Randi snapped.
"Hey, don't get mad," Maggie said. "I mean, maybe you should tell someone about it, whatever it is, if it's hurting you that much." She held the other woman a little closer. "Look, this is new to both of us, okay? I don't know what's gonna happen between us if you tell me, but I'm here now. I'll be honest, Randi, I don't know you well enough to love you, but I'd like to try to find out, if you'll let me."
Randi was silent and still.
"Come on, you owe it to yourself. Please?"
"You know a lot of cops, right?" Randi said at last.
Maggie was mildly surprised by the change of topic. "I meet a lot, yeah. It comes with the family."
"I wouldn't know," came the flat reply. "You ever hear of Dillon Cooper?"
"Uh...yeah, I've heard my dad mention him." It was several years ago, but Maggie recalled her father mentioning Cooper's name at the dinner table. Although, as a rule, Sgt. Doyle would never speak ill of another police officer, Maggie could always tell if her dad thought the officer in question was a good cop or not. She was certain that Cooper was not. When she read about him in the papers months later, she knew she was right. "Did you know him?"
"Not socially. He busted me for pot possession when I was sixteen."
Maggie could tell from Randi's voice that a deeply painful memory was being unearthed, though she wasn't sure what shape it would take. "Uh-huh?"
"Except then he gives me a choice. He books me for possession, or I give him a blowjob and I can walk."
Oh, Christ. Maggie felt a flash of impotent rage toward Dillon Cooper. As much as she respected, admired, and supported police officers in general, there were few things she hated as much as those cops who abused their authority. The cruel manipulation by those in power over those who were not was deeply repellent to her. "You didn't, did you?" she demanded.
It was the wrong thing to say, she realized, feeling Randi pull away inside. "I was young and stupid, and I didn't want to get busted..."
Maggie leaned her forehead against Randi's shoulder blade. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get judgmental."
Randi went on, "A couple of days later, he cornered me on the street and told me he still had the paperwork from the first time, so he could still file it if I didn't blow him again." She sniffled. "He got away with that twice more, and I let him. You believe that?"
"He was lying about that paperwork, you know. He'd get in serious shit if the department found out."
"Yeah, I know that now," Randi shot back. "In fact I looked it up. He tried it again just after my seventeenth birthday, and I told him to go fuck himself."
"Good for you." Maggie smiled.
Randi seemed to grow even smaller. "Yeah, good for me..."
Something in her voice made Maggie feel cold, in spite of the warmth of Randi's body pressed against hers. "What happened then?" she asked carefully.
A long moment passed.
"He cuffed me, dragged me into his squad car, and raped me in the back seat."
Maggie was overwhelmed by the sense of helplessness and horror that always struck her when treating rape victims. She was aware of the appalling statistics - one in every four women you see walking around has been harassed, assaulted, or beaten by men - but it had never occurred to her that Randi, the wisecracking desk clerk who took no shit from anyone, and who had shared Maggie's bed and her body for years, was one of them. "Randi...I'm so sorry," she whispered, aware as always how pointless the words were.
Randi shuddered once, in her arms, then was still. Maggie just held her, unable to do anything else.
Then a horrible thought struck her as her eye fell on the cuffs, lying on the bedside table. What must it have felt like when she first suggested their use, given what had happened to Randi? What memories did it evoke when she locked them around Randi's wrists and used her body however she felt like? "Randi..." she ventured, riding the wave of guilt, "have we been re-enacting that with the handcuffs?"
"No!" Randi answered her, too quickly. She clutched Maggie's arm across her chest like a blanket. "No, Maggie, don't ever think that. It's okay when you cuff me. Really. I trust you."
"How is that possible? How could you have sex with me that way after that bastard..." Maggie was unable to complete the sentence.
"Pomerantz says it's therapeutic, doing it that way with someone I know won't ever hurt me. Something about reclaiming that part of myself, or some shrink bullshit like that." She held tighter to Maggie's arm. "You're nothing like Cooper to me. I never think about him when I'm with you."
Maggie was unconvinced by her assurances, to say the least. She had some respect for Nina Pomerantz' opinions, and was willing to accept her judgment on that point. Especially since it seemed like she was really helping Randi. But she made a silent vow she'd never use the goddamned things on Randi again.
"An old man called an ambulance for me," Randi continued, at last, "and later he testified that he saw Cooper pull me into the car, then dump me out and drive away. That was really brave of him."
"Thank God for him, then."
"Yeah. Last I heard, Cooper didn't get convicted, but he was thrown off the police force."
Maggie hesitated, then said, "My dad told me Cooper ended up eating his gun." Police slang for suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Randi considered that, then simply replied, "Good."
The thought of any cop killing himself was anathema to Maggie, but she decided she couldn't blame Randi for feeling the way she did.
After a little while, Randi said, "The people who took care of me at the hospital...they were so good to me." Her voice was thickening as she cried softly. "I mean, they were impersonal and professional, you know, but they treated me like I really mattered, no matter who I was. First time anybody did that, and it took a rape to make it happen."
Maggie stroked her hair.
"I decided that's the kind of place I wanted to work someday. After I did my time, years later, I asked my parole officer if I could work in a hospital. I said I'll get coffee, or sweep the floors, or whatever it took."
"And he got you the clerk job at County, huh?"
"I'll let you in on a secret, Maggie. I love where I work. I love the people I work with. No matter how much I bitch." She rolled over enough to look Maggie in the eyes. "I love you. You're everything I want to be. You're tough and smart and successful. You don't take shit from anyone, but at the same time, you're not afraid to be nice to people."
The doctor gazed, fascinated, into the eyes of her bedmate, seeing her for possibly the first time. "I never knew you felt that way," she sighed. "I never even suspected..."
"Why would you?" Randi asked, rhetorically. "You're so great, and I'm just some dumb slut off the street..."
"Hey, don't talk that way about yourself," Maggie snapped. "You're not dumb, and everyone knows it."
"Fine. I'm not dumb. I'm just some slut off the str-"
"Stop it!" Maggie lifted Randi's chin sharply. "I don't let anyone talk that way about the people I love. So knock it off or I'll kick your ass."
"I thought you said you didn't love me."
"I said I didn't know you well enough to love you," Maggie corrected her. "I love sleeping with you. I never intended to simply use you for sex; I always thought you didn't want there to be anything more between us, or I'd have tried to get to know you better, long ago."
Randi's eyes were strikingly vulnerable. "Does that mean you still want me?" she said, her voice very small.
Maggie turned her by the shoulders until they were fully facing each other. "It means I want you even more," she said.
She didn't know which of them made the first move, but a moment later, they were embracing again, their kiss deep and loving. Randi's fingers dug into her back and scalp as her tongue pressed into her mouth. Everywhere her skin met Randi's, Maggie's nervous system received one consistent message: I love you so much.
Randi rolled Maggie onto her back, her own weight pressing deliciously upon the resident. Her mouth tore itself away from Maggie's, only to glide warmly and wetly across her cheek and down the side of her neck. Maggie felt her carotid artery pulsing against Randi's lips, and the eager desire within her grew rapidly.
Her back arched involuntarily as Randi's mouth captured the aereola of her right breast. Teeth raked against the sharp peak of her nipple, bringing her passion into equally sharp focus. "Ohhh, Jesus, Randi..."
This was so different from any other lovemaking they'd shared before. The lack of physical restraint was a change, with nothing preventing them from touching each other, but there was more to it than that. I'm in the arms of a woman who loves me, Maggie thought with delirious joy. I'm not just a good fuck to her. She loves me...
Randi's lips, teeth and tongue marked a trail across the plains of her stomach, then down between her legs, and into her deepest reserve of bliss. "God, yes!" Maggie cried out, "Oh, God, there, yes...Oh my God, you know just how to...ahh..." She clutched at Randi's head, trying to pull her deeper inside herself.
Then, after what seemed like a year, her rapture reached critical mass, and the shattering power of her orgasm washed over her like a flash flood. She bucked and threw her head back and screamed. When it had passed, Maggie's throat felt like a wind tunnel. She had no strength - or desire - to move, or do anything more than lay back and let her sweat cool.
Randi crawled back up to her chest, and lay against her, head pillowed on Maggie's breasts. One arm and leg draped across the doctor's body, and she seemed content to just remain there forever.
As her senses returned in the aftermath, Maggie put her arms around Randi's shoulders and regarded her intently. She knew the clerk would almost certainly be back to her cynical, disaffected self when they saw each other at County the next day, but at this moment she was as beautiful as anyone Maggie had ever seen.
What a disservice she'd done this woman, Maggie reflected. All this time, she'd been content to treat her as some sort of sexual automaton, rather than a human being. Granted, Randi had never given any indication that she wanted anything more than casual sex, but the fact that Maggie had accepted such an arrangement without question bothered her.
Maggie ruefully reflected that she had never taken Randi out to the movies, or to ball games, or concerts, or museums, or whatever she it was she liked to do. They'd never gone jogging together, or swimming, or dancing, never eaten at restaurants, or enjoyed conversation over a meal they'd cooked together, or ordered in pizza and laughed at really cheesy movies on TV together. They'd never even strolled along the lake, or sat together and watched the sun go down. All this time, Randi Fronczak had been in love with her, and she'd never known. It was horrible to think of all the time they'd wasted, all the lost opportunities.
Well, dammit, no more. It was time to change. If Randi had the courage to share a part of her life with Maggie, then it was the least she could do to share part of hers.
"Mmm...?" came the sleepy reply.
"Would you come to dinner at my parents' house with me this Sunday?"
The clerk's head came up. "What?"
"I want my family to meet you."
Randi hesitated. "Oh, Maggie, I don't know... Do you think they'd accept me?"
That was a good question. Part of Maggie cringed at the thought of explaining to her third-generation police family that she was involved with a former convicted criminal. "They'll learn to love you," she replied with a cocky grin. Even if she had to wrestle them all down and pound it into them one by one, she decided.
Randi smiled in return. "Can I think about it?" she asked. "Maybe ask me again in the morning?"
"Sure," Maggie told her. Then, doing a double-take, "You'll still be here in the morning?"
"Yeah, I will."
Maggie felt her smile deepening. "You promise?"
For a reply, Randi reached over to the bedside table, picked up the handcuffs, then snapped one end on her own wrist and the other on Maggie's. "I promise," she said.