“Why can’t I stay over?” Ella runs her hand over the tops of the books on Jeannes desk.
“Because, you know we can’t make them too suspicious.”
She sighs and wipes her hand on her skirt, “You need to clean more often.”
“Yeah, well, that’s what you’re here for.”
“Which is why I need to be here more often.”
Jeanne looks at her and shifts impatiently in her seat, “Come on El, we’re already pushing it.”
Ella goes over to her and sits on her armrest, “What are you reading?”
“Another suicide…it’s really sad, they found books from before the purge at his wifes home.”
“It’s terrible that she got caught with such things.”
Jeanne nods solemnly.
“Why do couples live separately? I never understood that.”
Jeanne shrugs, “Living together leads to problems?”
She scoffs.
“It’s getting late. You really need to go home.”
“I feel strange lying to everyone, Anne—”
“Don’t start. Do you want to end up like the people we see on the news? The ones that insist on throwing that color everywhere?”
“They have a whole organization you know. It’s called Magenta and they wear these little bracelets that marks them—”
“But do you want to end up like them? Throwing that shit in peoples faces and getting caught?”
“No, but it hurts.”
“Suck it up.”
Ella looks shocked.
“You need to head home before the neighbors start talking.”
“Fine.” She barely manages to hold back the tears as she leaves Jeannes’ home. They have so little time with each other, a few days a month is all Jeanne will allow in order to keep up the appearance that they are no more than friends.
But Ella wants to be able to sleep beside Jeanne, wake up in her bed and spend time with her like other couples do. Why can’t they be together? Is it because they can’t have children with one another? Why should that bother anyone else? It hurts her so badly to hear Jeanne dismiss her.
She gets in her car and drives off with tears in her eyes.
Jeanne gets out of the shower and grabs a towel. Her television is on in the living room and she can hear the news caster talking about the weather; they’re in for a tropical storm soon, a pretty bad one apparently.
She puts some clothes on and throws herself onto the couch. It’s a slow news day apparently, no new arrests in their area, very few crimes, only a handful of traffic accidents. Suddenly Ellas face is on the screen and the news caster is talking about a four car collision only a few miles away from her home.
Her heart seems to have stopped. She can’t move her body at all as she listens to the report; two children dead, a woman and man severely injured, and another woman in a coma.
She doesn’t think twice about grabbing her keys and rushing to the hospital where they are being treated.
When Ella opens her eyes the first thing she sees is Jeanne sleeping in the chair in the corner of the room. She watches as Jeanne slowly wakes up and stretches out.
“Hey…” her throat is dry and she’s so tired but Jeanne is here and she’s too happy to care.
“Hey,” Jeanne comes over to the side of her bed and lays her hand on Ellas’, “Glad you’re awake.”
“How’d you get in here?”
“I lied, told them I was family.”
“They didn’t check?”
“I made such a big scene when I got here they didn’t really think to.”
She’s smiling but Ella can see she’s just barely holding back the tears.
Jeanne breathes in and out deeply before speaking again, “I really…” her voice breaks, “I really thought you weren’t gonna make it. The way you looked when I saw you…dammit there was no color left in you.” She strokes Ellas’ hair, “I was so scared, El.”
Ella smiles, “Is it bad that I’m glad you were scared?”
She chuckles, “Glad you’re still in good spirits.”
“I can’t help it, as soon as I saw you I felt a million times better.”
“You sound hoarse. I’ll go get you some water.” She looks around the empty room, the shades drawn over all the windows and leans down to kiss Ella.
Jeanne leaves the room and walks down the hall to the waiting area. She grab a little paper cup and starts to fill it with water when a nurse approaches her.
“Excuse me, miss but the information you gave us before is a little off.” The look on her face is one of disgust.
“Was it?”
“Yes. You told one of our staff that you were a family member of miss Torrence, but we were unable to confirm that information.”
“Then maybe it’s a problem on your end?”
“I don’t think so, ma’am.”
“Alright, well I might as well be family—”
“‘Might as well’ is not family. I’m going to have to ask you to stay either stay in the waiting room until regular visiting hours or leave.”
“When are visiting hours?”
“Given the severity of her condition her doctor has restricted any non-family members to visiting from five PM to six.”
“An hour? You want me to leave her and come back in the afternoon…for an hour?”
The nurse looks angry, “Is there some reason why you have to be by her side?”
“We’re friends—”
“Then you can visit this afternoon.”
Jeanne wants to say something, anything that will get her in that room with Ella, but the only thing she can think of would only get them in more trouble, “Look, just let me give her this water and I’ll leave.”
The nurse sighs heavily, “Fine, but I’ll be out here to make sure you do just that.”
Jeanne goes back into Ellas’ room and hands her the little paper cup.
“What’s the matter?” she sits up with Jeannes’ help.
“They want me to leave until this afternoon. I can’t really say anything to make them let me stay.”
“It’s alright, Anne. I’ll just try and sleep until you get back.”
Her smile makes leaving even harder for Jeanne but there’s nothing she can do about it.
Jeanne spends every afternoon with Ella while she’s in the hospital, ignoring the dirty looks from the staff and trying to enjoy their time together. It takes a few months but Ella finally gets the okay to go home and Jeanne is right there to help her readjust to her life outside of the hospital.
They‘re sitting on Jeannes bed when she touches Ellas‘ hand,“You can stay with me until you’re ready to be on your own again.”
Ella is taken aback by Jeannes offer, “Wasn’t it you who thought that was a bad idea before?”
“Well, we have an excuse if anyone asks.”
“I see.”
“And besides,” she rests her hand on the back of Ellas’ neck and gently pulls her so that her head is resting on her chest, “I realized something when I saw you in that hospital; any kind of trouble we get into is worth it. I used to be so afraid that if someone saw us you’d be taken away from me…but you can be taken away from me at any moment so why not enjoy what time we can?”
Ella can feel the tears welling up in her eyes, “That’s all I wanted.”
“I know…” Jeanne strokes her hair and kisses the top of her head, “I know and I’m so sorry. I love you more than anything and I don’t want to lose you having not showed you how much you mean to me.”
Ella lifts her face to Jeannes and tentatively brings her lips to hers. To her surprise Jeanne responds more passionately than she ever has.
“Maybe there’s something to that organization.” Jeanne lays down and pulls Ella down next to her.
“What organization?”
“They say that color is supposed to mean love and unity. They represent those like us…”
“‘Those like us’. Maybe we should join them in their little rebellion.”
“Maybe we should.”
Jeanne pulls her close and hugs her tightly. She’s looking forward to more nights like this with Ella.


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