Maggie drew a bath and began to help peel the wet clothes from Florence. “I meant to ask… Where are your shoes?”
Florence exhaled. “The bottom of Amy’s pool.”
“I’m sorry, I know you liked those, too.” Maggie put a robe around her friend and tied it close. “I’ll check the water.”
Florence sat on the bed and stared at the loose, empty sleeves of her robe. She hadn’t truly realized the sort of demands she had placed on Maggie. No thanks were ever asked, and obviously none had ever been given. Yet, day after day, Florence was cared for. How could someone actually do that without an ulterior motive?
Maggie returned. “All set, Flo.” In the bathroom, the robe was removed and Maggie pulled Flo’s hair up in a loose bun, then held back of Florence’s neck and her tummy for stability as she sat.
Florence leaned forward as Maggie wrung a sponge of hot water over he back. The day’s stresses seemed to erode. A thick lather was applied, and Maggie spread it over her shoulders. “Thank you, Maggie.”
Her friend stopped. “You’re very welcome.” Maggie reached around, spreading the lather over the top of Florence’s bust. Their faces were inches apart.
Florence kissed her cheek quickly, “I mean it.” The sponge fell in the water. “Thank you.”
Maggie was frozen. Years of inertia moved her face closer at what felt like a glacial pace. The moment was eternal, and yet was over in that instant.
Florence turned her head away. “Sorry I… Not yet, Maggie. I just want you to know that I… appreciate you.” There was silence, and she slowly faced her friend again.
Maggie’s hands were in her lap and she looked conflicted. A slow smile appeared. “That’s good then. I appreciate you too. Not weird?”
Florence smiled. “Not weird.” She leaned back in the tub, and her breasts gently waved in the currents of the tub. Maggie’s glasses were misted over, and did her best to guide the sponge across the front of the armless torso.
Maggie continued down to the legs, then used her fingers to get between her toes and massage her feet. Florence made a contented sound, and Maggie realized she was holding her breath. She worked the other foot, and back up the leg. “OK, inner thighs?”
“Ready.” Florence spread her legs slightly.
This part made Maggie tense even on the best of days. In this moment, she was a bundle of nerves. The spot on her cheek continued to send her pressure sensations, as if to hold that moment for her. She worked quickly and gently, mostly to just get this over with and not make things uncomfortable for either of them.
She pulled the plug. “OK rinse.” Florence managed to rotate onto her front in the buoyancy of the water and get to her knees. Maggie helped her the rest of the way up, pulled her hair out of the bun and closed the shower curtain. She turned the water back on and flipped the flow to the shower.
“I’ll be done in a bit! Thanks Mags!”
Maggie left to rub herself in the hall. Her knees were weak and her heart was racing. It didn’t take long, but it provided at least SOME physical release to the tension gripping her. She breathed heavily and wiped tears from her eyes.
Florence called from the bathroom. “Ready!” Her friend returned and shut off the water, then proceeded to dry Florence off. “Could I just have PJs? I’m not going out again today.”
“Sure. Nightshirt and undies?”
“Yes please.” Florence followed her and stood as the robe was removed and panties were pulled up her legs again. Maggie was once more, inches from her breasts. A small moment of hesitation, and Maggie grabbed the huge t-shirt, pulling it over Florence’s head.
Maggie pulled her hair through the neck hole and spent a moment brushing it. “Feeling better?”
Florence looked at her with a smile. “Yeah… Thanks again. For everything.” Maggie hugged her. Florence rested her cheek on her friend’s shoulder and they gently swayed. “Movie and pizza?”
The week that followed had been peaceful. The two friends seem to fall into a pleasant rhythm, and Florence even began to offer help here and there. She’d fold towels with her feet, or help Maggie pull the bedding taught each morning. They were little things, but for her friend, they were like getting to know Florence all over again.
Their conversations gradually became more personal. Florence didn’t quite have a word for how she was feeling, but that word was Empathy. She was perched on the counter, stirring some vegetable stock while Maggie diced a parsnip, and asked, “Maggie? When did you know?” Her friend stopped chopping. “That you were gay.”
“Haha, I know what you meant. Just sort of out of the blue.” Maggie set down the knife and leaned on the counter in thought. “It’s hard to explain. I had this conversation with mom, and it’s still hard.”
She was silent for a moment. Florence interjected, “We don’t need to talk about it.”
“No! No. I want to explain it, but the words are hard because they’re just feelings, or… reactions to things. I can’t give you like… proof, you know?”
Florence nodded and kept stirring with her foot.
“So like… when all of us were gushing on boy bands and stuff, I would kind of just go along with it. I just assumed, that it was something we did as friends. But then posters were going up, and all of you had your favorites, and I just kinda picked one at random so no one would bug me about it. Then boyfriends came along. That was hard, I was pretty lonely.” She went back to dicing. “Everyone was so, I don’t know, EXCITED to find a boy, or have a celebrity crush. All the posters and magazines and gossip… None of those things made sense to me.”
Florence realized she had stopped stirring with her foot. “Wow, I had no idea. We used to OBSESS over that stuff. I wish I’d known sooner, Mags.”
“That’s the problem. What would I tell my girlfriends? Tell my best friend? It gets WEIRD.” Maggie laughed. “Right? So… In high school, do you remember Taylor? OK, she was the girl who wore that denim jacket with like, a million patches on it?”
“Ohhhh the dyke!” Florence saw Maggie wince. “Oh no! Sorry. I need to watch that.”
“It’s OK, Flo. You’re getting used to it.” Maggie put a hand on Florence’s foot. “Anyway, she came out at school, and people were talking about it. That was the kind of the first time I had heard that women could like… be attracted to each other.” Her glasses were starting to fog up. She was obviously nervous. “So I told her that I might be the same way, and she was like, ‘How could you NOT know?,’ which was dumb. I just hadn’t really explored it before… but if I can be honest, the way everyone talked about Blake? Flo, that’s how I felt about you.”
Florence blushed. “Mags, I-“
“Don’t take that the wrong way. I’ve felt this way since we were kids. It was more like I felt safe and secure around you. You stuck up to my bullies, and comforted me when I was feeling anxious. Flo, you were my knight in shining armor! When, you know… The Accident… I wanted to be that person for YOU. The complicated part is obviously that I’m attracted to you, but above all of that, I want to be your knight. Oh God, that sounds so cheesy.”
Florence hopped off the counter and leaned against Maggie, who embraced her. “I want you to be my knight, Mags.” She kissed Maggie on the cheek.
Maggie started to cry. “I-Flo…” She was sobbing now.
“Maggie. You are the best person I’ve ever known.” Florence pulled away a bit to look her friend in the face, but it was a struggle to break free of the hug. “Look at me, haha.”
Maggie loosened her hug. Florence leaned back and smiled, “You HAVE been my knight in shining armor this whole time. I’ve just been so… absorbed in seeming normal. It made me a total jerk.”
“Haha!” Maggie wiped a tear and laughed. “Flo-Bo, you’ve ALWAYS been a jerk.”
Florence mocked offense. “Mags! Anyway… I’ve been thinking about it. We should have a date.”
Maggie stopped laughing. “Wait-What?”
“Just, you know… as friends. I guess I want you to have that experience, OK?”
Maggie hugged her again.
“Mags, this is unfair! You got to see what I’m wearing already!” Florence was stomping her foot outside of Maggie’s bedroom door.
“I’m almost done,” came a muffle reply through the door. Florence bumped it with her knee. “Geez! I’m ALMOST done, Flo!”
Maggie emerged. Her face was made up and her hair was pulled back a series of braids, a lock swirled past her face. She wore a floral sundress that went down to her ankles, which were wrapped in the leather straps of her sandals. She wasn’t wearing glasses.
“Oh my GOD, Mags… You’re GORGEOUS.” Florence had never seen her friend like this before.
“Haha, come on,” Maggie said with a demure look. “You’re beautiful, Flo.”
“I know-er.. I mean, thank you.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m working on that.”
“Flo, you’ve been great this past week.” Maggie hugged Florence. “Are you ready to go?”
Florence kissed her friend on the cheek. “Ready.”
They left their apartment. Maggie insisted on walking. Without her glasses, she could see, but didn’t feel comfortable driving. The restaurant wasn’t more than a ten minute walk, so it wasn’t too bad.
“My knight, would you put your arm around me?” Florence grinned at Maggie.
“Milady… Of course.” She put her arm around her armless friend, and finally understood. Florence’s life was now one of being defenseless and exposed. Having no arms meant relying on wits and personality. It must be exhausting, she thought. “Flo, just so you know… I’ll be your arms as long as you need them.” Florence was silent, but she put her head on Maggie’s shoulder as they continued to their destination.
A truck drove past. “QUEERS!!” A bottle flew past them.
Florence screamed back. “HICK!!”
The truck screeched to a stop. A huge man staggered out. It was Glen. “THERE you are, you fucking slut.” He looked drunk. Maggie was obviously panicked.
Florence gritted her teeth. “Get the fuck out of here, asshole.” Glen continued to stagger toward them. “I said get BACK, you piece of shit!”
“YER the piece of shit, babe.” He was getting close. “You owe me a fucking PHONE, bitch!”
Florence charged once he was a few feet away. She acted like she was about to sideswipe him, then switched her stance as he tried to grab her. She shoved her knee in his crotch. He gasped and fell over clutching himself. “Maggie! Call the police!” Florence ran to his truck and struggled to get into the driver’s seat.
Operating on pure adrenaline now, she kicked her shoe off and used her toes to twist and pop the keys from the ignition. She hopped out and tossed the keys into a nearby bush, then grabbed her shoe with her mouth and ran back to Maggie.
She was in mid conversation. “-Laurel Avenue, in front of umm… 586! He’s drunk! Please send someone! He’s laying down now… Please, just HURRY! OK, thank you… Please hurry.” Maggie put her phone in her purse.
Florence dropped her shoe and wedged her foot back in. Glen was beginning to roll onto his hands and knees. She kicked him in his abdomen with her heel. He grunted and rolled on his back. Maggie ran up and put an arm around Florence’s shoulder and dragged her away.
“Come on Flo, let’s get some distance!” They ran to the end of the block together as a squad car turned the corner. Maggie waved and pointed at Glen, who was finally starting to roll over.
The squad car stopped between Glen and the girls, and the officer stepped out. Florence shouted, “He’s driving drunk! He tried to hurt us!”
“Miss,” he raised his hand. “Just wait there. I’ll be back.” The officer knelt down next to Glen. The girls couldn’t hear was was being said, just the occasional gesture toward them. Eventually the officer grabbed Glen’s shoulders, lifting him to a seated position and cuffed his hands.
As they walked back to the squad car, Florence made eye contact for a moment. His expression was unreadable. After being locked in the back seat, the officer approached them. “Hello ladies, I’m Officer Mendoza. Could you tell me what happened here?”
They recounted everything. The thrown bottle, the homophobic slur and Glen’s threatening demeanor. Florence added that she had stuck a knee in his groin when he got too close. Mendoza raised his eyebrows and looked at her empty shoulders for a brief moment. Behind her was Maggie, shaking and holding a defiant Florence around the waist for security.
Mendoza collected their contract information and nodded. “All right, you two are free to go. Have a safe evening, ladies.” He waited behind for a tow truck, and the girls turned to leave.
“F-Flo… I can’t believe what you did back there. You took him down in one hit!” Maggie held her even tighter.
Florence felt a flush of pride. “I’m shocked too. It’s a good thing he was drunk, I don’t think it would have worked out if he could walk straight.”
“Well I guess you were my knight again.” Maggie kissed her on the cheek this time. Florence didn’t mind a bit; they’d just been through an ordeal. They leaned their heads together as they continued to the restaurant.
It was a small sushi place, but they had been there often enough that the chefs greeted them noisily, and they were seated directly at the bar. They ordered a couple of rolls, tea and some sake. Maggie fed Florence with chopsticks after a brief quibble over whether or not her shaking hands were steady enough not to drop anything on Florence’s dress.
They went back over their crazy day, and how they had come so close to disaster. Florence remarked at how glad she was at ditching Glen when she had, and thanked Maggie once more, for being a trustworthy friend.
“Well,” said Maggie, refilling her sake. “It’s safe to say that we make a good team, you and me.” She filled Florence’s glass.
“I’ll drink to that!” Florence laughed as Maggie lifted both glasses and clinked them together bringing one to Florence’s lips so she could suck from a straw, and Maggie drank in time with her.
All said, a harrowing day had turned into a fun evening. The girls joked and teased, having paid the bill, they decided to continue the fun. They stopped at a bar that was on the way home. The place was busy, and Maggie put her arm around Florence to navigate the crowd together.
Maggie had to shout over the din. “Two cosmos please!” Florence huddled in behind her friend. Being surrounded by the changing currents of people pressed around her armless body was making her feel a little vulnerable. Things felt different… more real.
Maggie could distinctly feel Florence’s breasts pushing against her back. The drinks were up and they carefully made their way to the edge of the barroom.
“Oh Mags! A booth, get it!” Florence slid in first and bounced along the seat cushion to make room for Maggie, who was about to sit on the other side. “No, sit here. I don’t want to have to yell at you the whole time!”
Maggie sat and lifted their drinks, clinking them once more. Maggie leaned over and used the straw, mirroring Florence, who noticed and laughed.
On their second drink, Florence was near the end of a funny story about Blake getting in trouble when they were teens. Maggie was laughing uncontrollably, both of them took a moment to breathe and Florence leaned on her, “This has been a lot of fun.”
“It has.” Maggie absentmindedly put her hand on Florence’s thigh, which had been her way to ‘hold hands’ in the hospital. Florence looked down and Maggie recoiled. “Sorry!”
“No please… I like it.” Florence readjusted her head on her friend’s shoulder, who reciprocated by rubbing her cheek back and forth across Florence’s hair. The hand on her leg began to lightly massage her thigh. Florence felt it throughout her body. She let out a content moan.
This continued for a moment, and the intensity of the massaging increased subtly. Florence turned her head, and now Maggie could feel her friend’s hot breath against it. “Flo, I-” There was a kiss on her neck. Lightning shot though her. Maggie pulled Florence away to look at her.
Eyes half closed, lips slightly parted, Florence was inches from her. Maggie leaned in and kissed her on the lips. Florence immediately pushed back. Maggie held her cheek and they gasped between kisses.
All pain, uncertainty, confusion and longing drained from Maggie in that moment. All that was left in her mind was joy. They broke the kiss for a moment. “Flo, what just happened.”
“It just feels right. I was thinking about how much of yourself you’ve given to me. That’s true love for someone else, like, I think I’ve started to understand it. And it’s not straight or gay… it’s YOU, Maggie. I think I love you back.”
Maggie kissed her again and hugged her tightly. Florence loved feeling enveloped like that. Maggie left her arm around her shoulder, Florence leaned back in and put a leg over Maggie’s. It was a transcendental.
“Look at YOU two ladies!”
“AMY!” Florence and Maggie screamed in unison. They clumsily untangled themselves.
“Wait, wait. It’s OK.” Amy sat uninvited. “What did I tell ya Flo?” She smiled smugly?”
“Tell you WHAT?” Maggie at them suspiciously.
“I called it.” Her smile turned into a grin. “I’m glad to see you two happy. Anyway!” She stood. “I’ve got a guy waiting! Call me! Like seriously, call me!”
Walking home in a haze of alcohol and fresh adoration, they stole kisses when they thought no one was looking. They stumbled as Maggie tried to hold on to Florence in spite of their clumsy gait.
Maggie started singing the wrong lyrics of song and Florence joined in, missing the beat. This was a moment where happiness contracts so narrowly on the soul, that all sense is stripped away. Everything was through a focused lens of giddiness. A cat across the street. The NAME of the street. Everything was funny to them. “Who buys a fucking.. YELLOW carrrrr,” laughed Florence. “A fuckin’ pee pee car!” Maggie snorted and cackled.
At one point Maggie grabbed Florence and gave her another passionate kiss. She couldn’t let these moments slip away, they were precious. A horn honked at them. They were making out in the middle of the cross walk. They hooted and ran to the sidewalk.
Maggie was having trouble with the keys as Florence continued to playfully bump into her. “Where’ss your keys?! Issat it?!” Whack! “Issat the onnne?!” Maggie finally managed it, and shouldered the door open. Florence shoved her from behind and Maggie tumbled onto the couch.
Florence dumped herself on top of Maggie and tried to kiss her, but drunk and without arms she was helpless. Maggie scooched Florence to her face and they attacked each others lips. Her hands were all over the place, they wandered without destination.
“Bed.” Florence stared into Maggie’s eyes. She nodded in response. They staggered to their feet; Maggie unzipped the back of Florence’s dress it slid off with the bounce of each excited step. Florence wiggled her rear and laughed. In Florence’s room, Maggie grabbed the skirt of her dress and flung it up and off of herself. They were now in their undies. Florence kicked her shoes off, scampered onto the bed and sat on her knees. Maggie undid her sandals and removed her bra, then jumped next to her new lover and pulled her bra off as well.
She pulled Florence down and they pressed themselves against each other. Maggie had never felt the intense pleasure of having an other’s bare skin against hers. The feeling of their nipples touching each other’s breasts was the most erotic thing she had ever imagined.
Until now. “I want you in me,” breathed Florence.
They slowly awoke the next morning in Maggie’s arms. Having one person missing theirs made cuddling a comfortable activity. She watched Florence sleeping. Her face was even more captivating in the warm morning light.
Florence blinked a couple of times and looked around. “Hey Mags.”
“Good morning, Flo.” Maggie was about to kiss her. “Weird?”