Chapter 31:  Stalemate

Olivia lay in her bed late that night and thought about the events that had unfolded.  The whole day had been so chaotic that she could barely wrap her mind around it.  The only good things were arresting Tessa McKellen and Walter Inman for the murders of Vicky Riggs and Josie Post.  But even that only temporarily took the edge off because a few hours later she was arguing with Alex in her office.  As if that wasn’t stressful enough, when she finally thought she could get some rest, Serena was knocking on her door to tell her about Alex’s panic attack and then she was throwing herself back into the lion’s den to see if she was all right.  There just didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for the drama she constantly experienced.


She hadn’t planned on her finding out about Zoe that way; actually, she hadn’t planned on her finding out at all.  She still cringed when she remembered how desperately Alex had tried to hold her composure and felt remorse for digging the knife in deeper.  But even though she didn’t want to admit it, a tiny part of her was glad that Alex was finally going through the pain she’d had to suffer for months.  Luckily for her, Zoe didn’t ask if they had ever been more than friends.  Of course, she would’ve lied to protect Alex’s cover but she was afraid her facial expressions could give her away.  Elliot always knew when she was lying and she didn’t want to take the chance that Zoe might be able to tell, too.


She certainly appreciated the freedom and laidback nature of their arrangement.  There was no jealousy and lately, being with Zoe was the only way she could relax.  The only downside was that she didn’t think Alex would ever be ok with her, then again, she would never be ok with Robert either. 


Things had been fine between them during Thanksgiving and up until their fight on New Year’s Eve.  She fondly remembered what a wonderful time they’d had during the Christmas holidays.  Why couldn’t things always be so mellow?  Why did it always lead back to fights?


Neither of them was willing to give up what caused the other grief or to accept the other’s choices.  They’d just rather pretend to ignore the problems while hoping they would go away on their own.  They were essentially at a stalemate, and she didn’t see how their relationship would get any better—only worse. 


She didn’t want to abandon Alex, but she didn’t know how much more strain their “friendship” could take.  She knew in her heart that they needed time apart.  However, she wanted to be especially careful in breaking the news because she didn’t want to upset Alex so much that she ended up having another attack or anything more severe.  


She smiled when she thought of her time spent with Zoe.  She loved her company, the sex was great…but she didn’t know where things would go.  For now she was just having fun.  She didn’t currently have romantic feelings for her, but in all honesty, she hoped that she would.  She wanted to care for someone other than Alex.  She also wanted someone to care for her other than Alex. 


She wanted to feel more than excitement from lust; she wanted to feel that giddy feeling of butterflies in her stomach when she saw her.  Perhaps one day she would develop feelings for Zoe, but if she didn’t, she wasn’t going to try to force it.  She knew all too well the results of trying to force herself to have feelings for someone just because she wanted to have them.  She had spent several years trying to convince herself she had deeper feelings for men when it really was something else altogether—displacement.  She didn’t want to repeat that behavior with a woman just because she’d actually met someone within the scope of her sexuality. 


Turning over on her side, she closed her eyes.  She was tired of thinking and just wanted to forget about everything.  She decided she’d stop by Serena’s the next evening and get her opinion on what to do about Alex, but for now sleep would be her refuge.




“Well, now it’s you who pays me a visit,” Serena said, moving aside to let her in.  “Alex ok?”


“I haven’t talked to her since last night,” Olivia responded.  “I’m here because I need your advice.”


Serena motioned for her to take a seat.  “About what?”


“The state of things with Alex.”


Serena wrinkled her forehead.  “Did things get worse?”


“No…Alex was a little tense but I left on a good note.”


“You didn’t stay the night?”


“No.  I offered but Alex didn’t want me to.”


“So if things were good when you left, why are you worried?” Serena asked. 


“Because it feels like the calm before another storm.  Things are ok now, but we’d probably end up arguing again later in the week.  This whole thing just seems toxic at the moment,” Olivia told her.  “It’s like we’re walking on eggshells.”


“I see what you mean,” Serena replied, nodding.


“I don’t want to leave Alex out in the cold, but…”


“It’s ok.  I understand you need your distance.  Do you want me to tell her?”


Olivia shook her head.  “It would be best if I did it.  I just wanted to get your advice on how.”


Serena took a sip from her glass of water.  “Well…you could always use the ‘firm but gentle’ approach.  Ask her how she’s doing first and then tell her what’s on your mind.  Be careful of your words so she doesn’t think you’re blaming her.  You’re not going there to pick a fight.”


“As much as I hate the fact that she’s dating a guy, I just don’t want her to be alone in all this.  Thanksgiving night she told me she needed an ally. ”


Serena leaned forward to squeeze her knee in reassurance.  “She won’t be.”


Olivia smiled.  “She’s lucky to have you as a friend.”


“Well, I sympathize with the position you’re in.  It’s easier being just a friend as opposed to being in love with her.”


“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”


“So when are you going to do it?”


Olivia sighed.  “Probably tomorrow night after I get off.  Figure I’d give her another day to get herself together.”


“Makes sense,” Serena agreed.  She slapped her hand to her forehead and continued, “I’m sorry.  I’m being a terrible hostess.  May I offer you anything to eat or drink?”


Olivia shook her head and got up.  “That’s ok.  I have to meet Elliot for dinner in a bit anyway.”


Serena stood to see her out.  “Ok.  Good luck.  You know…we should hang out sometime.”


Olivia nodded.  “That’d be great.  Maybe we can talk about something other than Alex.”


She laughed.  “Yeah.”


At the door, Olivia turned around.  “Take care of her, will ya?” she said, touching Serena’s arm and walking out her apartment.




The following evening Olivia went to Alex’s apartment building.  She flashed her badge to the doorman and concierge and then called the elevator.  On the ride up, she tried to quell her nervousness.


The doorbell rang and Alex hurriedly wrapped a towel around herself.  “Geez, why is he here so early?” she muttered in annoyance.  She jogged down the stairs and looked through the peephole.  When she saw that it wasn’t Robert but Olivia, her heart started to race.  What could she want?  To see if I’m still ok? she thought.  She took a deep breath and unlocked the door.


Olivia smiled at her.  Looking her up and down, she joked, “Nice dress.”


Alex couldn’t help but grin.  She felt a flush of arousal at her appreciative gaze.  “Sorry about the attire.”


“Oh, don’t be.  A little skin never hurt anyone,” she replied, following Alex to the den.  She suppressed a slight shiver as she noticed the droplets of water falling from the ends of her hair onto her towel.  “Are you in a rush?  I could just come back later.”


“No, I have plenty of time,” Alex assured her with a wave of her hand. 


“How are you feeling?” Olivia inquired.


“I’m good.”  She sat down on the sofa.  “What’s up?”


Olivia moved a cushion and sat down next to her.  “I thought we should talk.”


Alex was a little nervous to hear her say that.  “Ok.  Talk away.”


Olivia paused for a few seconds before taking the plunge.  “Alex…I know we agreed to be friends and I’d still like that in the future at some point, but I think right now it would be good for both of us if we took a little break.”


Even though she had entertained thoughts of pulling away herself, it still came as a hurtful shock to her.  She looked down and clasped her hands in her lap so Olivia wouldn’t see the pain in her eyes.  “Um…how long have you been thinking of this?” she asked softly.


Olivia gently lifted her chin and turned her head to meet her eyes.  “Let’s not hide from each other, ok?”


Alex forced a smile and nodded.  “How long?” she asked again.  “It’s ok to tell me.  I’m fine.”


Olivia sighed.  “After I got home the other night.  Listen, I really do enjoy spending time with you and these past few months have been magical…at times.  But all our fights are the result of outside forces—whether it’s homophobia or Jim or Robert or Zoe.  And even though we’re perfectly fine without those forces, I know it’s not so easy to get rid of them.”


Alex realized that she was right.  This was exactly what she had feared when she’d first returned to New York.  She had initially contemplated not getting back in a relationship with her because she didn’t want external forces to split them again.  However, that’s all that had been happening on and off ever since July.  “I know this is my fault.  And to think that exactly a month ago it was Christmas and we were doing so well.”


Olivia rubbed her back.  “We’re both at fault.  There were harsh words we exchanged that only made things worse.  If things continue to escalate, I feel that we’re both going to irreparably damage our relationship.”


Alex nodded again.  “It does seem like we go through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  We’re ok for a short while then we’re screaming at each other.”


“And the cycle continues,” Olivia added. 


Alex forced down her tears.  “If only love really did conquer all.”


Olivia forced down hers, too and squeezed Alex’s hand.  “Maybe it does—just not until a certain point in time.  I’d like to think that this isn’t the end of us; our time for victory just has yet to come.”


Alex smiled and hoped with everything in her being that that was true.  “That’s a good way to look at it.”


Olivia looked at her watch.  “I guess I should go.”  She started to get up when Alex grabbed her wrist.


“Gonna leave without a hug?” she asked in a shaky voice.


Olivia looked into her eyes and saw the tears that had started to pool up.  No matter how hard she tried, her own tears started to surface as well.  “Wouldn’t think of it,” she said quietly, trying to put on a brave face.  She leaned in and as she wrapped her arms around Alex, she felt an identical pair of arms embrace her.  For the longest time they just held each other, resting their chins on the other’s shoulder as if they never wanted to let go.


They pulled back and looked into each other’s eyes for a moment.  Slowly and imperceptibly they leaned in and before they knew it, their eyes were closed and their lips were touching.  Soft and full, eager and warm, they overlapped again and again.  Their hands found their way to the other’s hair and through their parted lips, their tongues slipped inside to capture the taste of each other.  The sweetness of the kiss spread from their mouths to every molecule in their bodies, and for those short moments they felt like they were complete again.


When they separated, they just smiled.  Olivia noticed a sparkle in Alex’s eyes that hadn’t been there when she arrived.  After affectionately brushing a damp lock of hair back from her face, she stood up and exited the room.


Neither of them said “goodbye,” for they knew that wasn’t. 


Alex’s lips were still tingling after Olivia left.  She cautiously brought her fingers to them as if she was afraid that it had all been a dream and that if she moved too suddenly, she would wake up.  During their kiss, she had felt a unique warmth inside her that she was sure she wouldn’t feel for quite some time.  It was as if her tide had been turned back—if only for a bit.  Now she was floating in the sea like an iceberg, following a new tide without knowing where it would take her. 


When she stood up from the sofa to get ready for her evening with Robert, her legs were wobbly.  As she walked up the stairs, she remembered a quote she had heard: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.”  With that kiss, she’d experienced a lifetime, and she didn’t know when she’d live again.