“This year I just want to find someone who will actually put me first, you know?” Jennifer O’Connell moped and moaned as she cleaned another spillage on the café floor. Thankfully, it was only coffee, nothing that would make her stomach churn. She scrubbed harder as her dreams swam to the surface, up from her heart, to her throat, and finally out of her lips. “Someone who wants me all to themselves, someone who will never let anyone else have me. I’m done with flings. I want the real deal.”
“What fairy-tale high are you on right now?” Jackson snorted as he stood by the table and let his best friend do all of the work. “Long term stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You’re still young, Jen. Plenty of time to play the field.”
With a huff, the dazzling brunette tossed the damp rag at the brawny, lazy, male. “I’m twenty-six, Jack-ass-son, and I don’t want to ‘play’ the field.” Her frustrations worsened as she lifted the capsized mug from the floor and watched another few drops splodge to the surface she had just polished. “Instead of finding love, I’m stuck here cleaning up some ill-bred asshole’s ‘spill and run’ until my fingers are pruning – AND for a wage that just scrapes over the edge of slavery. I mean, what sort of idiot just leaves their table in a state like–”
“I’m so sorry.”
Suddenly, Jennifer shut up, she reared upright and turned her head to the door as a woman’s voice addressed her from behind. Walking straight for her was, by far, one of the most beautiful specimens she had ever seen – a blonde with long wavy hair and eyes that looked like they had been stolen from the bluest ocean. The brunette’s almond-coloured hues couldn’t and wouldn’t shift as her complaints sunk all the way back down to her chest and stayed there. Why couldn’t she find words? Why couldn’t she blink?
“I forgot to top up the metre and when I saw a cop passing, I freaked.” The female offered an apologetic smile and knelt in front of Jennifer. “Here,” she insisted and lifted the spoon from the floor, “I’ll clean this up.”
Jackson smirked knowingly when he saw that his friend failed to pick her jaw up from the floor. He nudged her with his foot. “You alright, Jen?” Even then, he had to stifle his laughter.
“I’ve got this!” Jennifer blurted out, unable to stop the train of words once they had left from the platform. “It’s my job, it’s what I’m here for, who hasn’t cleaned a few spillages here and there?” Nervous chuckling escaped her as she remained beneath the weight of the woman’s mystifying eyes. “Do you want another coffee?” She cleared her throat and pointed behind her to the counter. “To replace this one?” The brunette kept going. “It’s on me!” She paused, rapidly correcting herself. “On the house, I mean. On us.”
“Why don’t we start with: Hi, I’m Taylor.” Amusement twinkled in the blonde’s features as she held a hand out to the waitress.
“Jennifer.” The bedazzled female could swear she felt an electric spark when she took the woman’s hand within her own. The connection of their flesh was, in the most stupendous way, magnetic. She could think of no other way to describe it.
“I know,” Taylor’s nose scrunched to compliment her coy grin, “I saw it on your badge.”
Jennifer’s cheeks created a new shade of red on the colour chart as she continued to shake Taylor’s hand, even though she really should have stopped three seconds ago. “Do you spill coffee often?”
Taylor smirked and rolled her eyes, “only when I’m being an ill-bred asshole.”
“Oh.” Jennifer’s eyes widened, the realisation hitting her. “OH! You heard that? I’m sorry – I didn’t mean you. I was…” She blushed harder at the sound of Jackson sniggering like an immature teen.
“You were venting, which you had every right to.”
“Well, if I knew you were coming back, I would’ve saved that one-liner for another time.” The brunette answered sheepishly and chewed on her bottom lip.
“It was funny, why don’t you tell me what other one-liners you had cooking up over a coffee sometime?”
Three months later…
If someone had told Jennifer that she would have a girlfriend because of a stupid coffee spillage three months ago, she would have paid them to correct themselves. But no. Taylor Hart had officially won her heart, no pun intended. The blonde was older by five years and much more confident in all aspects of their relationship, particularly the physicality. Taylor knew what she wanted, when she wanted it, and how much she wanted it, while Jennifer was often shy and reserved. Opposites really did attract. They were inseparable and their relationship had progressed faster than she had ever anticipated. Her girlfriend kept dropping at hints for her to move in with her, but she was too anxious to take that step. Sometimes she couldn’t gauge Taylor. Sure, her family adored her, and her friends had really hit it off with her too, but there was a part of her that had always seemed a complete mystery to her. She couldn’t put her finger on it. Then again, the woman was a licenced psychiatrist, so she knew all of the tricks to hide whichever piece of herself she desired to.
“Guess who just helped her patient make a breakthrough today?” Taylor announced as she brought two glasses of champagne with her into the living room.
“Really?” The brunette set her laptop aside and curled her legs up onto the sofa, eyes lighting at her other half’s achievement. “Babe, that’s awesome.”
The blonde landed on the space beside her girlfriend and leaned in to receive a kiss from her puckering lips, then she offered one of the glasses of bubbly nectar to her. “Mm-hmm.”
Jennifer ended up draping her legs over Taylor’s lap to stretch out. “I don’t have anything that can compete with that, I received a ten dollar tip today and I didn’t burn myself on the coffee pot?”
“And you still have time for us little people?”
“Well, with a face like yours…how can I ever refuse?”
“Speaking of refusing,” the blonde hummed innocently and buried her face against the crook of the brunette’s neck, “when are you going to move in with me?”
“Not one for a build-up, are you?” Jennifer laughed at first before she dissolved into groans. “I still think it is too soon, Tay. Don’t you?”
“We shower together every morning, Jen, I know when your period is gonna hit you before you do.”
“Yeah, that’s kinda creepy so let’s not go bragging around town about that.”
“Are you afraid of committing yourself to me, Miss O’Connell?” Taylor nibbled beneath Jennifer’s ear.
The brunette felt defenceless against the sensations and pushed her fingers through her girlfriend’s silky-smooth hair. “That’s not fair, you aren’t allowed to go into shrink mode with me, Dr. Hart.”
“What’s the harm in asking the girl I love to move in with me? Unless you aren’t in love with me?”
Jennifer paused, becoming a tad guilty. “Hey…” Her voice softened, losing its playful edge, as she tipped Taylor’s chin up towards her. “I never said that. I love you; you know I do.”
“Then live with me.”
Two months later…
“Oh my god, you didn’t.” Jennifer covered her mouth with her hand as she eyed the tattoo of bold letters above her girlfriend’s posterior. “You got my name inked on your ass?”
“It’s wicked, right?” Taylor beamed with pride as she attempted to twist to the mirror to get a better view of it in the reflection. “It’s another tat to add to my collection.”
“But MY name? That’s kind of a big deal, don’t you think?” The brunette took a hold of the blonde’s shirt and held it up as she inspected the recent work of art. “It’s going to be there forever.”
“That’s the point, genius.” A thought crossed Taylor’s mind and pulled a mischievous grin along her lips. “You should get one too.”
“Oh, sweetie, no.” Laughter flew from Jen. “I do not need someone scribbling into my skin with an ink gun for over an hour to show you how much I love you.”
Evidently, that same night, Taylor got Jennifer ridiculously drunk until she woke up the following morning with more than a hangover.
One month later…
Jennifer O’Connell was beginning to experience anxiety in her relationship to the stage where she had sleepless nights and sleepy days. Taylor breathed so softly beside her, without a worry in the world. Taylor, who called her every hour. Taylor, who visited her at work every day. Taylor, who enjoyed getting her drunk while staying sober to film their sex acts on her phone. Taylor, who was everywhere. She didn’t know when it had happened, or when it had become too much – maybe it always had been – but having heart palpitations at the thought of her girlfriend wasn’t natural. Rippling with apprehension when they were in the same room wasn’t natural. And feeling caged definitely wasn’t natural.
The sweatiness of her palms challenged her to keep a hold of her phone, she sat rigidly in the front seat of her car outside of the café. Her breaths were short and shallow as she typed in the buttons one by one. She could’ve just clicked on Taylor’s contact photo, but she was drawing out time for as long as she could until the number was fully dialled. A lump was in her throat, perspiration shone on her forehead, her kneecaps wobbled and shook at the prolonged god-awful ringing. Her heart dropped like an anchor to her stomach when she received the voice on the other end. “Taylor, hey.” Jennifer steeled herself and closed her eyes hard. “Listen, I know you’re busy at work right now, but I think tonight we really need to talk.”
“We can’t talk now?” The woman sounded confused on the other end.
“No, it’s better if we do it at home.”
“What’s the matter? Are you alright, babe? Did something happen?”
“I’m fine,” Jennifer assured her, “I just…I’m not so sure that we’re…that I’m…” She didn’t know what she was trying to say.
“Jen, what’s going on?” Taylor’s tone became deadpan.
“I don’t think we are working anymore.”
There, she said it.
In one fast breath.
But there was no answer – that was the unsettling part.
Jennifer’s heart was thundering so hard that she had to curl an arm to her chest. “Taylor? Tay, are you still there?” She felt a stab of pain when all she could hear was her girlfriend’s agitated breathing on the other end. “Look, I’ll stop by your place after work tonight, we can talk then.”
One week later…
The news broadcasts were everywhere, the headlines were printed on all the press. It was the city’s newest mystery: The Disappearance of Jennifer O’Connell. Search teams scattered through the town centre, into the suburbs, her parents had put out a reward for finding her, there were cameras and questions in every direction. Questions, but no answers. Investigations, but no leads.
“Check it out, they are even showing your prom queen picture in the articles now.” Taylor shook her head at the predictability of the media as she tossed today’s latest paper onto the floor. “I hope you don’t mind, I cut out the boy standing next to you.”
Jennifer got to her knees and shuffled closer towards the blonde, although the shackles around her wrists stopped her from getting within arm’s reach. “Taylor…Taylor please…” She sobbed the same words, in the same broken voice, with the same desperation. “You don’t have to do this, you can let me go…please…just let me go…I want to go home.”
“YOU ARE HOME!” The woman snapped suddenly, almost violently. Though, she calmed herself after seeing how fast the brunette flinched. She needn’t worry about anyone overhearing them, not when they were in a farmhouse far from the reach of the city. “You are home, baby.” Taylor softened considerably and leaned forward to caress Jennifer’s tear-wet cheeks with her hands. “Why can’t you see that? This is what you wanted.”
“No, it’s not…” The brunette shook her head weakly and cried sorer. “It’s not.”
“Isn’t it?” Taylor pouted in a mock sympathy and ran her thumb along the female’s trembling bottom lip. “What did you say you wanted that day? Someone who will never let anyone else have you? Someone that wants you all to themselves?”
Those words made Jennifer’s heart stop; she froze implicitly.
“Oh Jennifer, hasn’t anyone ever told you? Be careful what you wish for.”