General Disclaimer & Warnings: The characters in this uber tale are entirely the creation of the author. The story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are underage or if this type of story is illegal where you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to find something else to read.
Acknowledgement: Thanks and kisses to 'S', beta-reader extraordinaire, for her cleverness, humour, meticulous corrections, hard work and continued teasing, patience and encouragement.
Feedback: the author would be grateful for feedback and can be reached at
|Part 1 |
The alarm clock rang at 6am. Although Mathilde Viscini was usually in a good mood when she woke, today her only impulse was to shut the thing off and stay in bed for the rest of the morning. The rest of the day. Hey, even spending the rest of her professional life in bed seemed a very attractive option right now. But she had no choice: she had too much responsibility, too many people depended on her. And she wasn't one to run away from that, although now she rather wished she was.
Protesting internally, she got out of bed and went to the bathroom to perform the first part of her morning ritual: the checking for new wrinkles. In spite of a restless night, her hair had retained its usual auburn color rather than the grey she expected to see. And there weren't any obvious new wrinkles either. She heaved a heavy sigh, still not wanting this day to really commence, and then went downstairs for the second and most important part of her morning ritual: coffee.
When she was seventeen, she had visited Rome. She had fallen in love with the city and had always planned to go back one day. Roma, citta eterna. So far, she never had, but there was one thing she had taken from Rome that was still with her: the taste for good coffee.
As always, she ground her own - it was a part of the ritual that was essential, to be in control of the entire process, from beginning to end. Just as it was essential to hear the pressure in the machine building up and then watching the coffee with a gurgling sound pouring in the cup.
Finally she was able to reflect on the morning she'd been dreading.
Seventeen years ago, what seemed like a lifetime, she was 26 and had just graduated in Clinical Psychology. Still very young and engaged and enthusiastic, she and a few colleagues had come up with a revolutionary idea for the treatment of mood disorders. Not one single therapeutic appointment a week, not just some occupational therapy, a little claying and painting, but an intensive combination of the two: twelve different kinds of therapy, 5 days a week, from 9 to 5. And twelve months long. There was more to it, but this was the basis of the plan: to provide extensive therapy while keeping the patients occupied, to give them the solid daily structure most depressive people lacked and help them reintegrate into society. It was novel, and quite unlike any other form of treatment at the time. And surprisingly, it was approved.
So, 17 years ago, the Day Clinic had opened. The results were amazing. The percentage of remissions was less than 5%. Since then many other similar clinics had come into being and the treatment had become very popular.
There was only one drawback: it was expensive. Very expensive. In earlier times the health service put up with it. But times had changed, and most people now believed that 'nature' was more important than 'nurture' and that psychopharmaca were more important than psychotherapy. The inevitable happened: in order to cut back on expenditures the Day Clinic was forced to merge with the Jensen Clinic, whose treatment was deemed similar.
It was a disaster for different reasons: The new merged clinic didn't need a double staff, so people would be fired... the Jensen Clinic had a somewhat different therapeutical approach, so several therapies would disappear... more patients to less therapists, a larger patient to therapist ratio and therefore less individual attention...the list went on and on. As hard as Mathilde tried, she wasn't able to see one positive point to this entire situation.
She fought to keep her clinic as much intact as possible. Probably not a single day went by without a mail, a phone call or a personal visit to Dr. Gerard, the head of the Psychiatric Department and the one in charge of the merger. For every battle she won, she lost one. Apparently the Director of the Jensen Clinic was fighting as hard as she was. Maybe because of her reputation and that of the clinic, maybe because of the Day Clinic's seniority, she managed to keep the losses restricted to three different kinds of therapy, and four of her colleagues. It was still a bitter pill to swallow.
When the official part of the merger was finally over, the patients of both clinics had been given a week off, during which time the joined staffs were to get acquainted, go over the details, work out a new schedule. The first day of that week was today.
After finishing her coffee she dressed quickly: a mauve suit with a knee-length skirt, a cream linen blouse and a pair of matching mauve pumps that added some height to her short stature. She might not feel good, but she was damned if she wouldn't at least try to look good.
She put on some make-up and checked herself in the mirror, feeling confident that her efforts weren't in vain, then jumped into her car and quickly drove to the Day Clinic. More than anything she wanted to be the first of the staff to arrive, in order to claim the territory as her own.
Meanwhile in another part of the city a thin, fragile girl saw the first sunlight come peeking through the heavy curtains. This meant only one thing for her: that it was time to go to bed. She wasn't very sleepy, feeling slightly high due to the fact that she hadn't eaten anything in more than 24 hours. She frowned, deciding what pills she would use today to help her sleep. Finally she settled on a combination of 30 mg of Valium and 40 mg of Mogadon, enough to ensure hours of unconsciousness. After taking the pills, she tried to reach for her crutches which were leaning to a nearby chair, but they were just out of her arms' length, and she decided that it wasn't really worth the trouble. She lowered herself on the floor and started crawling towards her bed. By the time she reached it and had heaved herself on top of the crumpled sheets, the drugs had started to work, and soon she was drifting away into unconsciousness.
Mathilde arrived at the Day Clinic at 7am, while the night-porter, Mr. Kerns, was still on duty. He had been there as long as she had and they greeted each other amicably.
"Good morning Mr. Kerns, any messages?" she asked.
"Good morning, ma'am. No new messages." He smiled encouragingly. "Tough day today, what with all the new staff, eh? Well, at least one of them seems friendly enough."
Mathilde froze and looked sharply at him.
"You mean one of them has already arrived here? How long ago?"
"Oh, that must have been...let me see, yes, about half an hour ago by now. Maybe more." he said apologetically.
"Fine. Thank you, Mr. Kerns" she said and walked briskly towards her office.
At least she still had her office. It was her sanctuary, a private place of peace and quiet, and one that she badly needed in the ever-chaotic world of the clinic. Patients weren't allowed in the staff corridor and her colleagues paged her whenever she was needed, instead of disturbing her private place. That was another thing these newcomers would have to learn, she contemplated, as she opened the door.
That was when she noticed her office was already occupied.
Sitting in her private office, behind her private desk, in her private chair, typing on a stylish and very modern laptop, was one of the most beautiful women she'd ever seen.
From an early age, Mathilde had a natural gift for recognising appeal even in the plainest of women. But this woman was even at first glance so overwhelmingly stunning, that she felt slightly dazed.
Everything about the stranger was beautiful: beautiful, long ash-blonde hair, that waved around her head as she turned to face the newcomer, a beautiful classic, oval face, a beautiful porcelain complexion, beautiful bone-structure, a beautiful mouth with full, beautiful lips, and her huge ice-blue eyes...no, they were not merely beautiful. They were amazing.
But beautiful as she might be, she was still an intruder in her holiest of sanctuaries.
The woman looked at her. "I am sorry, this is a private office," she said, not unkindly.
"I know that, since it's my private office." Mathilde was both mildly irritated and mildly amused at the absurdity of the situation.
"You must be Doctor Viscini then." concluded the woman, who had lost none of her composure. "I am Doctor Dembrowski, director of the Jensen Clinic. For a moment I was concerned that perhaps I had entered the wrong office. This is the clinic director's office, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," Mathilde was surprised to hear herself respond automatically to the question.
"Good. Then, as of today, this will be my office as well,."Dr. Dembrowski glanced quickly at the office interior. "There will have to be a few adjustments though, obviously."
"Is that a fact?" Mathilde asked sarcastically, not particularly because she wanted to be sarcastic, but because the arrogance of the other woman had rendered her momentarily at a loss for any sort of intelligent reply.
"Yes, there obviously has to be added a second desk...I quite like the colours though" she said, referring to the carefully chosen blue and grey tones of the furniture. Then she was obviously reminded of something as she suddenly turned to Mathilde and looked at her with the aloof stare that was all these cold blue eyes seemed to be capable of.
"I must apologise" She extended her hand. "We have not even shook hands and introduced ourselves properly.. Clelia Dembrowski."
"Mathilde Viscini." Mathilde accepted the offered hand unwillingly.
"So...." Clelia Dembrowski said, as she let go of Mathilde's hand and looked her up and down. Her voice took on an arrogant tone. "You are the one who cost me eight good colleagues."
"And thanks to your pleadings with Dr. Gerard I lost four colleagues." Mathilde was both incredibly irritated with this woman and at the same time felt secretly glad that she had obviously been the one with the greater influence.
"Only half as much as I...you must be good then." Dr. Dembrowski frowned and looked at her with sudden interest.
Mathilde was irritated to feel a tinge of gratification at this arrogant woman's assessment.
"I make it a point to be good at the things I care about, as you will find out, I think" Dr. Dembrowski's remark had somehow boosted Mathilde's self-confidence and she was determined not to let this intruder get the better of her. In fact, she was determined not to continue this non-constructive conversation at all. There were more important things to occupy herself with right now than with this pointless squabbling. Like, for instance, her privacy.
"Now, if you don't mind, I would like to discuss the division of this office." Mathilde began pacing up and down the room, as she usually did when she wanted to prove a point. "Since we now have 18 staff members instead of 12, and unfortunately no additional space, some offices will naturally have to be shared. And," she raised her hand " I am aware that this doesn't exclude my own office. And since we probably will be co-directors of the new clinic, it seems logical that I must share my office with you." She felt very mature and reasonable while saying this. "However, I do value some privacy around my workspace, and so do you I imagine...?"
Dr. Dembrowski nodded.
"Fine. Then I'm sure we will be able to work this situation out to our mutual satisfaction."
When Behavioural Therapist Henrietta Materson - or Harry, as her friends called her - entered the Day Clinic at 7:30, she headed straight for Mathilde Viscini's office. After all, she was sure, if she knew anything about her best friend, that Mathilde would already be there. Had already been there for hours, probably.
She knocked on the door of Mathilde's office a minute later and heard a muffled "Come in!". When opened the door she aws surprised at the mess that greeted her. Her friend had never been the tidiest of women, but the extent of disorganisation was uncharacteristic, even for her. Here were some chairs lying on the floor, alongside two desks that were stacked on top of each other - two desks? - there she saw Mathilde's computer, unplugged, in a corner, next to a very futuristic-looking laptop, and everywhere she looked where stacks of paper, scattered all over the floor.
Then she saw Mathilde.
Her hair was tousled, her clothes were crumpled, she was holding some kind of huge division screen, and for some unknown reason she had a screwdriver in her mouth.
"Er...Good morning," said Henrietta, a bit cautiously. She knew Mathilde hadn't taken the merger very lightly, but that she would go to the lengths of deconstructing her cherished office surprised Henrietta a little. Maybe it was time for some much-needed vacation for her friend?
"Mowning. I'm buthy," said Mathilde, speech somewhat hindered by the presence of the screwdriver, as she turned a little to be able to look at Henrietta. Unfortunately this caused her to shift her hands a little, and she lost her grip.
The screen fell down to the other side with a thundering noise, causing some plaster to come off the walls and several heaps of papers to fly across the room, and amidst the ruckus Henrietta heard an unknown female voice utter a range of whole-hearted expletives, some of which were so colourful that even she blushed. Then, after a while, the screen lifted a little to expose an attractive, though currently somewhat chalked and irritated-looking, blonde head.
Icy blue eyes glared angrily and suspiciously at Mathilde, who was wearing an expression that was both shocked and a little amused it seemed - although Henrietta couldn't be sure - and who promptly responded with "Sorry, I must have lost my grip."And when the eyes kept glaring at her she snarled, "If you assume I did it on purpose you're very much mistaken. Last time it fell on me, remember? And you didn't do that intentionally either."
The woman didn't seem to be entirely convinced but obviously decided to let it pass for now, and only then noticed Henrietta staring a little dumbfounded at the little scene before her.
"Oh, by the way..." Mathilde gestured irritatedly at her "Harry, meet The Honourable Doctor Dembrowski. She and I will be sharing this office from now on, if we can ever get this dividing screen up, that is. Doctor...meet Henrietta Materson, one of the resident therapists."
The blonde woman rose from the floor - she was very tall, Henrietta observed - and, with a last glare at Mathilde, extended her hand.
"Very nice to meet you." She smiled as they shook hands - a dazzling smile, Henrietta noticed - "Although the circumstances are unfortunately not very nice...But I'm sure it will be a pleasure to work with you."
Henrietta wasn't sure if the sound she heard behind her was a derisive snort or the last of the papers descending to the floor, but either way she chose to ignore it. Besides, the charming woman standing before her was amply monopolising all of her attention.
"I look forward to working with you as well," Henrietta said, admitting to herself that she had never spoken a truer word. "And please, we're not that formal here. If you're comfortable with it I'd very much like you to call me Henrietta."
"Henrietta...." Dr. Dembrowski enunciated it like she was savouring the sound of the name "Please...call me Clelia."
This time the sound was definitely a derisive snort.
"Ladies, if I may break up this most pleasant dialogue; we've still got a division screen to set up. Harry, if you could support it on the one side, and Doctor Dembrowski..." Mathilde said with emphasis "...if you would be so kind as to support it on the other side, I'll try to fasten it to the wall."
"Sure Em," said Henrietta, grinning at Mathilde's obvious irritation.
"As you wish, Doctor Viscini," said Clelia, with a satisfied smirk.
By the time the screen had been successfully put up, the rest of the furniture divided in two, and the two working-spaces readied, as separate and far away from each other as possible within the limited space of four walls, the rest of the staff members had started to arrive.
After the introductions, the first-ever staff meeting of what from then on would be known as the 'New Jensen Day Clinic' commenced, and at the end of the day, the only thing the entire staff had finally been able to agree upon was this new name that the Clinic would bear. The atmosphere was tense, resentful, uncooperative, uncongenial and unfriendly, if not downright hostile.
As was the custom after some particularly tough days, most of the staff went to the nearby Brown Café, to ruminate about the day's events and more importantly, ingest some much-needed alcohol.
Obviously the former Jensen staff had discovered the Café as well, and the separation between the two factions became even clearer when they formed at a little group, sitting at a table opposite the Original Day Clinic staff, on the other side of the cafe.
"I'm not going to look at them, I'm not even going to think about them" Mathilde confided to Henrietta, while she sipped her Bloody Mary. "Ah, this is good."
She closed her eyes. A Bloody Mary and Peter Sarstedt's 'Where do you go to my lovely' in the background. The Day Clinic, no, the 'New Jensen Day Clinic', seemed very far away for a moment.
She opened her eyes and looked at Henrietta.
"Why do I suddenly feel like a teenager playing my parents' records?" she asked.
"And emptying their liquor cabinet?" Henrietta laughed. "I remember those days. Things seemed so much simpler then."
"No, they didn't," Mathilde replied. "Things seemed extremely difficult back then. It's only in retrospect that they really seem simple."
Henrietta sipped her own Bloody Mary, listen to the music and remembered their teenage days.
When she was 16, there had been a new classmate. Mathilde Viscini. Henrietta was, even now, able to recall exactly how she had looked the first time she'd seen her.
She was standing a little bit away from the rest of the class, with a haughty air, smoking a cigarette and bearing an attitude like she didn't give a damn about anything.
She was so beautiful. Flaming red hair and piercing blue eyes. Beautiful, intelligent, erudite and self-assured.
The attraction was immediate. The crush was immediate. And it had been mutual.
Shortly after they'd become friends, Henrietta's parents had gone on a holiday, and she had invited Mathilde over. She had embezzled three bottles of wine from her father's private stock, and they had finished all three of them, while sitting in her parent's living room, talking and listening to Verdi's 'La Traviata'.
Finally, at about 4 in the morning, when they were too tired and too drunk to remain seated, they lay down on the carpet, next to each other, too tired and too drunk to resume their conversation as well.
They lay there for a long time, not talking, holding hands, moved at Maria Callas' performance and crying at 'Addio, del passato'. After Violetta had died and the opera had ended, Henrietta had gathered the sobbing Mathilde in her arms to console her. She had kissed her tears away, and finally, had kissed her on the lips. And Mathilde had kissed her back.
That single kiss was all that had happened, but even now, after a lifetime of experience, Henrietta still remembered it as the most romantic night she had ever known.
They had become lovers after that, slowly and tentatively exploring their developing sexuality with each other.
They had split up when they were 18, after a row about some issues that had seemed very important at the time, and very insignificant now, at 43.
They remained friends, and had even slept with each other again, a few times, in their early twenties. But as Henrietta was aware that for Mathilde it had been just an expression of their friendship, nothing more, she had never given away one of her greatest secrets - that a part of her remained in love with Mathilde, and would always remain in love with her. And while Mathilde had numerous affairs which were never able to develop into real relationships due to her preoccupation with her work, Henrietta had several involvements of her own. And even when Mathilde had at one point met Anna, 'the great love of her life', Henrietta hadn't been too concerned and she had been right: Mathilde had been too panic-stricken by the fierceness of her emotions to pursue a relationship. She had never seen Anna again.
They had both been part of the team that had created the first Day Clinic, and Henrietta had been extremely glad at the opportunity to work with Mathilde on a daily basis. The numerous affairs had ceased after Anna, and deep inside her soul Henrietta was convinced that just as Mathilde had been her first, she would also be her last.
There was no hurry anymore.
"So, Harry? What do you think?"
"I'm sorry?" Henrietta was startled out of her memories by Mathilde.
Henrietta nodded, smiling.
"Well, at least she seems to like you." said Mathilde noncommittally.
"Like me? Who?" Henrietta was confused.
"Doctor Dembrowski over there." Mathilde finished her drink in one big gulp. "She seems pretty smart. And I have to admit she behaved very reasonably during the staff-meeting."
"She seemed to be very nice as well. Not to mention very good-looking." Henrietta winked at Mathilde. "But somehow you don't seem to like The Blonde Wonder very much."
"Harry, as long as the well-being of the patients matter to he and she's good at her job, and I've got no reason to believe she isn't..." Mathilde got up and laid some change on the table "I'm happy to have her on the team. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get home while I can still drive!"
It was after midnight when the girl woke from her dreamless sleep. Still a bit drowsy, she got dressed. She hadn't eaten for too long to be able to feel hungry, but she knew she had to eat something nonetheless. She looked at the clock. The italian restaurant across the street would still be open.
When she got there, staggering on her crutches, she asked for a fettuccine to go. Carmina, the owner's wife, told her to sit down, gave her a big glass of milk and ordered her husband to make the portion extra large and add some bread as well.
"You drink this and you eat as well, you hear? Sei troppo magra, ragazzina! You're much too thin!" She shook her head worryingly, patted the girl on the hand and went back to the kitchen, mumbling under her breath.
The girl smiled. Carmina always gave her a glass of milk and always told her she was too thin and needed to eat more. Always the same. But it was a more than welcome addition to her chaotic life.
And besides, she had no other human contact apart from Carmina.
End of part 1