Kudzu, a Novel
Book VII: As Yet Untitled
They spent the night in the back room of Calin’s Pub. Not the office, but the back room behind the semi-concealed door.
Sir Reginald remembered that Calin kept a card table and some chairs there for less-than-licit gaming on Friday nights. There were no cards there now, though, and no card table. Instead, there was a small, single bed with a lumpy mattress and a couple of dog beds, a refrigerator and small pantry of dry goods, and a locked gun cabinet.
One more place where his memories diverged from reality.
Calin let them in after closing up for the night. He left the key to the gun cabinet with Albert.
“Ah, now this brings back memories, eh, Reggie?” Albert said. He’d been saying that all night, growing more maudlin each time Calin refilled his glass. “I call the paisley bed.”
He took the larger of the two dog beds for himself. He circled it a few times and then settled in, curled in a ball. “Though it’s not the same without Mileva.” He draped his tail over his eyes.
Sir Reginald sighed, and laid his coat over the cold linoleum tiles. He rolled the other dog bed into a makeshift pillow, but it sprung open on him. He tried folding it instead, which worked slightly better.
“Should we give the old guy the bed?” Kevyn asked. She laughed and flopped back on the mattress.
“Get up,” Murphy said.
Other than a few whispered words exchanged with Calin, it was the first she’d spoken since changing out of the hideous orange prison uniform, and into a far more fetching combination of jeans and a black t-shirt. She’d gone into Calin’s office angry and confused, and come back out thoughtful and — if Sir Reginald wasn’t misreading her — upset. Distressed. She wouldn’t speak to anyone, just sat and drank. It was because of the note, he was sure. She hadn’t shown it to him, and he hadn’t pried, but if he was going to go back into the past at some point in the future to leave her a note, he’d need to find out what it said.
Unless he wasn’t the one who wrote it. Absurd. Who else could it have been?
“Get up,” Murphy repeated.
“What? You’re not serious, are you?”
“Yes.” Murphy grabbed Kevyn’s arm and pulled.
She was, Sir Reginald saw, quite strong for her size, and he was suddenly grateful that she hadn’t resisted the escape. Kevyn seemed just as surprised, as she found herself up on her feet and falling into Murphy’s arms.
Murphy shifted her to the side and caught up the blankets that draped the bed, tossing them at Sir Reginald.
“He needs them more,” Murphy said.
“Yeah, but this is all his fault,” Kevyn said. She clung unnecessarily to Murphy’s arm.
“Indubitably,” Sir Reginald said, as he clumsily folded the blankets into a makeshift mattress, or at least a layer of padding between himself and the floor. He was drunk enough that it was a challenge. “Ms. Vaughn has a point. It is all my fault.”
“Shut up and get settled,” Murphy said. “Lights out in one minute.”
Sir Reginald snorted a laugh as he lay down and pulled his coat over himself. “Ms. Murphy, should I ever find myself incarcerated, it would be a great pleasure to have you as my jailor.”
“I’ll see what I can arrange,” Murphy said. She killed the lights.
Sir Reginald cleared his throat. “Ms. Vaughn, you can stop giggling now.”
It was cold.
Kevyn shivered under the thin sheet, and momentarily cursed Sir Reginald for taking the blankets. But that wasn’t fair. Murphy was right: it would be colder, and far less comfortable, on the floor. And besides, unlike Sir Reginald, she had a beautiful woman to keep her warm.
She shifted, trying to bring more of her body into contact with the sleeping Murphy. For warmth.
Kevyn woke spooned up against Murphy’s back, her face nestled in the hollow of her neck, pillowed on soft hair.
She breathed the scent of Murphy’s hair and tried to get back to sleep. Murphy’s skin was soft and warm under her hand where… Her hand was under Murphy’s shirt; she could feel her ribs under her fingers, and the underside of Murphy’s left breast lay against the top of her thumb.
Kevyn’s left arm was squashed uncomfortably between them, half asleep. She shifted, raising her arm until it pillowed her head, bringing her body closer to Murphy’s, breasts pressed flat against shoulder blades, and her right hand… her right hand had shifted, of its own accord, to cup Murphy’s breast.
The crease of her palm was, quite suddenly, the most sensitive spot on her body. A newly discovered erogenous zone. Murphy’s nipple was electric against her skin. She moved her hand as slowly as she could, rolling the nipple gently under her hand.
No. This was wrong. Kevyn held her breath and slowly slid her hand off Murphy’s breast and down to her belly.
“What are you doing?” Murphy said, her voice a whisper.
Kevyn couldn’t breathe.
“I don’t know,” she said, when she could.
“You should figure it out,” Murphy said.
Murphy shifted slightly. Had she pressed her hips back against Kevyn’s? Was it an invitation? Or just a coincidence as Murphy tried to get more comfortable on the lumpy, old mattress?
Under her hand, she could feel the soft thumpthump of Murphy’s heart, and her breathing, belly tense but not quite quivering.
Waiting to see what Kevyn would do.
In the morning, Sir Reginald was gone. He’d left his coat behind, spread out over the folded blankets he’d been using as a mattress, as if he’d slipped out from under it without disturbing it.
The strange, old raccoon, Albert, was sitting at the bar, packing something that definitely didn’t smell like tobacco into a pipe, when Kevyn and Murphy found their way out of the back room.
“Your shirt’s on backward,” he said.
“It is?” Murphy glanced at the inside of her collar.
“No, no, the new girl. Kevyn.”
“Woman,” Kevyn said, but she blushed. As if someone with a raccoon’s nose couldn’t tell exactly what they’d done the night before, and again that morning, without needing to see their disheveled clothes or hair.
That is, if they hadn’t kept both Albert and Sir Reginald awake half the night. They’d tried to be as quiet as possible. Murphy didn’t remember making any noise, at least.
It was cute, Murphy decided. As a prison guard, she’d seen enough that it seemed just human nature: people in close spaces made do with the sort of privacy created by people looking the other way. She’d had the responsibility of having to judge consent before looking away, so she’d seen plenty.
Enough, apparently, that Kevyn hadn’t noticed her lack of experience. Or at least, hadn’t commented on it.
“Where’d Sir Reginald go?” Murphy asked.
Albert shrugged. “I stopped asking that question years ago.”
“Well, when will he be back, then?”
“That question, too.”
“The real question,” Kevyn said, “is what do we do now?”
Albert handed the pipe to her.
“My recommendation is that we get properly stoned.”
He passed her his lighter.
“Seriously?” she said. But she put the pipe to her lips and touched the flame to it. “Stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,” she said, in a cloud of smoke.
She held the pipe out to Murphy.
Murphy shook her head. “They do random drug testing at…” Work? There was no work. She had no job, and didn’t have to get drug tested, not unless they got caught. And then she’d be on the other side of the bars, and it wouldn’t really matter. “Shit. Give me that.”
Albert giggled. “Now that’s the Murph I know and love.”
They passed the pipe around a couple times, until Murphy felt the edges of her brain go fuzzy. Time to stop. Fuzzy on the edges was just the right brainspace to focus on the center. On what was important.
“No more for me,” she said. She slid off her barstool and headed for the back room. She couldn’t resist running her fingers through Kevyn’s hair as she passed, and trailing them down the back of her neck.
Kevyn’s breath caught, and she moved as if to follow, but Murphy shook her head.
“Bathroom break,” she said.
She needed a place to be alone, and think.