while tide and seasons stream
by not jenny

I. My chest shakes like a window.

The bed is rumpled, the sheets slightly stale. Light creeps in under the bathroom door, and rain drips on her hand through the open window. Cursing, she slams it shut and moves into the empty space in the bed.

She watches as Amy slips out, cigarette in hand.

'I'm awake you know.'

The soft click of the door is her only answer.

'Yeah. Well, fuck you. And tell Josh I say fuck him, too.'

It's early, not yet light, but Mandy lights a cigarette and fumbles for the bottle of vodka she knows fell somewhere near the bed last night. Stubs her toe on the bedframe. The vodka is warm, but it goes down smooth enough.

The title of this story is 'Two Bitches and an Asshole (named Josh).'


II. You do the songs, you've got the breath.

It was LA in summer and a world away.

Mandy was drunk and gesticulating wildly as she tried to buy another drink. The bartender was pointedly ignoring her, and the bald guy down the bar was giving her the eye. Amy slid her a pack of Marlboros and half a gin and tonic.

It was a beginning, of sorts.

And waking up the next morning to a mouth latched firmly on her breast, Mandy experienced a brief moment of disorientation before pushing it away and running for the bathroom to empty her stomach. By the time she exited the shower, no longer smelling of sex and vomit, Amy was gone. A note lay under an almost empty pack of cigarettes, calmly informing her that check out time was promptly at noon.

That night, she flew back to DC. Back to Josh and his thinly veiled contempt.

Then there was Rosslyn, and she went back to LA. It was easier, and, besides, the Senior Staff never really liked her much anyway. And a Hollywood paycheck more than made up for any qualms she may have had.


III. The last cars leave the shabby beach motel.

When she finally stumbles out of bed, the sun is blinding, and dust motes flicker around her head. Her head is pounding, and her bladder feels about ready to explode. When she sits down on the toilet, she spots Amy leaning against the sink, her eyes red and swollen. Laughing, Mandy starts to pee. This would be funny, she thinks, if it wasn't so fucking pathetic.

'So? What'd he do now?'

'Huh?' Amy looks up, dazed. 'What did you say?'

'Fuck it.' She stands up, pushes Amy out of the way, so she can wash her hands. 'It's just, shit, you only come here when he's done something stupid, so what was it this time? Screwing a woman's right to choose or just plain screwing Sam?'

'Nothing. Just, nothing.'

And as soon as she says it, voice harsh and strained, she falls to the floor. Mandy follows her down, crouching on the blue tile, knees cracking. Wipes the mascara tracks from Amy's face. Worries that this time, just maybe, Josh has gone too far. Or maybe she has, who knows?

It's hard to tell who's in the wrong, when everyone's cheating on everyone else.


IV. Baby knows nothing and Demon knows all.

So they met up again, this time at a convention where Amy was on the panel, two years later. Mandy didn't feign respect where there wasn't any, didn't pretend to be impressed; she simply smirked and lit Amy's cigarette off her own. They fucked in the handicapped stall of the public restroom, clothes pushed aside instead of removed and mouths furious and demanding.

Mandy made sure to leave a mark just below Amy's left ear before pulling up her stockings and straightening her skirt. Would Josh say something when he noticed the bitemarks on Amy's skin? Would he dare? Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that conversation.

She whistled as she passed Josh in the hall.


V. Ghost after ghost obscures your sleeping face.

So they hold each other, knees aching on the cold hard floor, and Mandy forces her eyes to remain dry. Because it's not real, this thing they have, so she has no right to cry.

It's not real, it's not real, it's not real. Besides, Mandy doesn't cry.

And Amy's face is purple and splotchy, which Mandy decides just may be the ugliest thing she's ever seen. But she doesn't say it, this one time holds her tongue, and instead grabs a washcloth off the edge of the sink and begins to clean Amy's sticky face. When her skin returns to a semblance of its normal color, and her cheeks begin to flush, Mandy leans in and kisses Amy's chin.

Amy rubs her eyes, and then their mouths are connecting, drawing blood. Mandy nips at Amy's collarbone, her breasts, her stomach. Licks the damaged skin and skims her hands along Amy's thighs. Her knees scrape against the bath mat as she pushes Amy's back into the tub.

'Ow,' Amy's voice is deeper than normal and her eyes are gleaming, 'Fucking bitch.' Suddenly Mandy's sprawled on the floor and Amy's devouring her; the bath mat is tangled around Mandy's right leg and the washcloth is clenched in her left hand.

When she comes, she screams Amy's name.

And maybe one day, she'll believe it, too, maybe one day this will be real. But until then, Amy tastes like cigarettes and whiskey under her clothes. Until then, they kiss and lick and bite, and it's enough. It may not be anything, but it's more than enough.


VI. And drink your juices dry, my dear, and grind your bones to sand.

Tomorrow, Amy will crawl out of bed before dawn, and Mandy will curse at her retreating figure. Mandy will drink alone, and Amy will dance in Josh's arms.

Weeks will pass before they see each other again, but one night, Amy will walk in on Sam and Josh half-naked in Josh's bed. One night, Amy will show up on Mandy's doorstep, suitcase in hand and tears in her eyes.

And they'll stare at one another through the open doorway, and Mandy will try to refrain from saying 'I told you so.' When their clothes are tangled in a pile near the door and they're lying sweaty and sated on the living room carpet, Mandy will turn to Amy and smile. They'll laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, at last, and they'll stumble towards the bedroom.

When they kiss, it will be frantic; when they touch, it will burn. It will never be more than it is.


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