On the Monday two weeks after she had entered the hospital, Cassie woke up in the hosts’ room to a feeling of sadness.
She knew her mistress would leave her soon.
Goodbye, Cassie. Your tasks here are complete. It is my time to leave you.
Go to visit Lucille. She will set you aright. You will be fine without me.
The worm slid around her neck, like a warm, moist, stole, and held Cassie close, as if in a comforting embrace.
Then it stiffened, and Cassie felt its flesh ripple, and a rushing sensation in her neck.
There was a sticky sensation of detachment, and the worm was no longer part of her.
Maryanne lifted the worm away from Cassie, and it squirmed. She placed it between her legs, and smiled as it penetrated her, and with waves of peristalsis it moved inside to rejoin its fellows.
Cassie was no longer infected.
She rubbed her neck. Her skin felt quite numb.
“Cassie, I am sorry that you will have to leave us.” Maryanne said. “Your mistress has returned to me. You cannot remain here. Farewell, Cassie.”
The constant feeling of euphoria supplied by her worm still remained, at least for now, but Cassie could feel the edges of her old emotions begin to return.
Cassie hadn’t spoken to Julie in two weeks, and began to feel a sense of loss that had long been denied her.
She really didn’t want to rejoin the real world.
The last two weeks had been an adventure, and she must have worked hundreds of hours with the worms. She held a mirror up to their hosts, helping the worms understand the essential discomfort of an existence in which every member of society is isolated by barriers of miscommunication and prejudice, helping the women understand how to rejoin such a society, of returning to petty concerns, and the necessity of giving the appearance of quiet desperation so common in this modern world.
It was nothing like the society of worms.
Cassie had slept better here than she had in her life ever before, and did not feel tired.
She had a shower, and feeling was returning to the skin on her neck. It took several soapings to remove all trace of her beloved mistress from her skin, and made Cassie felt quite traitorous.
She dried herself, and dressed, and suppressed the urge to weep. She was not feeling sad, not really, but the return of all of her old, mundane, emotions was a shock to her.
She still had her pass-card. She kissed the women goodbye, and left the secure area with regret.
It was only a short walk to Doctor Kelly’s office on the same floor, where she was greeted with kindness.
“Cassie, you’ve been working very hard recently. I know that Eve doesn’t want you to talk about your work with anyone, but have you been making progress?”
Cassie nodded her head.
“Yes, Doctor, I’ve been getting some wonderful results. I really do think I’ve been able to help your patients, and helped the worms understand their situation better.
“I hope I haven’t been any trouble to you, being here all the time, but the clinic is a good working environment for me right now.”
Doctor Kelly patted Cassie’s hand.
“Oh, no, dear.” Doctor Kelly said. “You’re no trouble. I’m so glad that you’ve made yourself at home here. It’s nice that we can help out Eve with her work, and you’ve been very helpful in keeping the hosts happy. I hope you realise how much they like you.
“Cassie, I know that you have a very special friend, Julie Smith. I know that she is working with Eve as well, but I’ve never met her. Do you have a picture of her with you?”
Cassie pulled a passport-sized photo of Julie from her purse. It was a few years old now, and it showed her with her brand new Nana-Mouskouri-esque glasses. It was the Julie that she’d come to love, in a previous life.
“Thanks, Cassie. She looks like a card. I hope to meet her soon.
“I don’t want to pry too much into your private life, but you and Julie seem to have had some kind of falling out. You haven’t contacted each other since you came here, have you?”
Cassie shook her head.
“Please,” Doctor Kelly continued, “Please tell me what is going on between you. I don’t want you to see this intrusion as anything else but a friendly enquiry. I know that you’re both professional enough that this won’t impact on your work, but you both seemed so happy together.”
Doctor Kelly said this with such kindness that Cassie didn’t quite interpret it as a veiled warning.
Cassie felt that she could open herself up to Doctor Kelly, that the Doctor really did want to help her, and started talking.
“Doctor Kelly, this is difficult for me to say.
“You must know that I am a Lesbian, and that I like Julie, very much. The whole uni must know how I feel about her, we’ve been together for such a long time.
“But I don’t think I’m the right person for Julie, not long-term, anyway. I think that right now she needs some time alone, to find out what she really wants, and I fear that what she wants is not me.
“Maybe I’ve been a bit too clingy. Maybe Julie’s not comfortable with her sexuality. Anyway, I think it’s over now. I don’t think I should keep living with her, but I think we’ll be okay as colleagues.
“Eve’s been weird. She’s been really mean to us both, I know that, but I think she likes to see us as a couple. She’s always playing favourites, and I don’t think that’s healthy.”
Doctor Kelly frowned in thought.
“Cassie, I don’t think that Eve and I are so very different. She knows what she is doing, and I think I know what she is doing, too. She has been trying to make your relationship with Julie stronger, to make the two of you unite in a bloc against her, to want to fight her, not just to please her.
“From what I understand, your work with Eve is by its very nature quite confrontational. Eve wants to set you to apart, she wants you to defy her. She wants you to unite against her.
“Your relationship with Julie has been very difficult, and, up until now, I think very unfair. But I am absolutely sure when I tell you that you must not let Julie get away. She’s a great catch, and she’ll come around, I know she will.”
“You’re very kind,” she said, “but I don’t think so. I really don’t.”
Doctor Kelly stood up, and walked around her desk.
She stood next to Cassie, and put Julie’s photograph right in front of her.
“I’m not just mouthing platitudes. Please, Cassie, stand up, you need to be held.”
Cassie stood, and let Doctor Kelly wrap Cassie up in her arms from behind, and hold her softly.
The doctor began to talk close, and quiet, into Cassie’s ear.
“Julie is at a difficult point in her life, but she will come around. I can state that as a fact. She will come around, Cassie, and you shall have her.
“Look at her, Cassie, look at her.”
Cassie gazed at the photograph of the woman she had known for years, still the object of her affection.
“If you can be strong, and do everything that your heart will tell you to do, then Julie will be yours.
“I don’t know how to state it any more plainly than that, Cassie.
“You go home now, and do your best to get your life back together again. Both of your lives.”
Doctor Kelly was an imposing woman, but Cassie didn’t understand how she could be so certain about Cassie’s personal life.
But the way the Doctor stroked her face did feel nice, and she began to feel a little sleepy.
“Be kind, Cassie. I know that of the two of you, it will be hardest for you, but Julie needs a friend, and she needs to be shown what is important. You are the only one that can do that for her. Please, Cassie, go home now, and repair your relationship with Julie.
“She knows that you’ve been working hard at the hospital. I’ll ring Julie now, and tell her that you’ll be coming home today. I’ll tell her to look after you, as I know you still feel a little emotionally delicate, and I won’t mention our little conversation.”
Still looking at the photograph of Julie, Cassie felt a new wave of love and arousal flow over her.
Cassie felt like she was a little girl, having all her problems swept away for her by her mum.
Doctor Kelly’s arms held her tighter, and she held her body close, and pressed her cheek against Cassie’s.
They both stayed like that for some minutes, and Cassie’s mood began to lift.
Cassie thought that she should be feeling irritation about her instincts being over-ridden so comprehensively, but could only feel grateful, and the beginnings of a new hope.
The doctor released her, and held Cassie’s arm.
“Have an early-mark, Cassie. Take a few days off. Eve won’t mind.”
After Doctor Kelly’s phone call, Julie made an special effort to make dinner. Two weeks apart had reduced the hurt, and she was actually looking forward to seeing Cassie again.
Cassie arrived home early in the afternoon, and Julie kissed her on the cheek. It was a bit awkward, but they were both pleased to see each other again.
After a few glasses of wine, a good meal, and giving the neglected kitchen a proper tidy, they decided to go out to the new Uni bar, to have the outing that they had planned for themselves two weeks ago.
The new bar was on the fifth floor, above the student apartments. It was busy, and full of undergraduates, but there was a lot of energy, and it was fun.
They hadn’t seen a band together for such a long time.
It didn’t take long for them to get quite drunk, and silly, and they were soon making fools of themselves.
They jumped up and down, and shouted into the loudness without being heard, and swung each other around, and hugged. The apple cider was beginning to get to Julie, and she held on to Cassie for dear life, holding her close, knowing that she had stopped drinking not a moment too soon.
It felt nice.
Cassie thought that if she could just stay this close to Julie, that would be close enough.
Cassie was in the ladies’ when she was accosted by Joan, one of her old friends from the Food Co-op days, and she looked as bleary-eyed as Cassie.
“Cassie, Cassie, Cassie. How are you? Long time no see.”
“Brilliant, Joan, never been better,” Cassie slurred.
“I’ve got a little something for you, girl,” Joan said, “something good. Come with me.”
Joan took Cassie by the hand, and they both staggered out of the bathroom and headed up the stairs behind the stage.
There was a small landing at the top, and the Landers twins were minding the door. They seemed to know Joan well, and waved them both through as they opened the door. One of them goosed Cassie good-naturedly as she walked past, and Cassie swatted at her hand, laughing at her.
They entered the room from the rear.
The door was closed behind them.
The room was long, and narrow, and dark.
It seemed like like some kind of chill-out room.
There was a row of armchairs in front of them, all set up to look through the polymer glass window that ran the length of the room. They were on the sixth floor here, with a view out at the campus and Sullivan’s creek, and towards Cassie’s apartment building, and, further out, Lennox Hospital.
The lights above the polymer glass had been set to enhance the view of the night.
Joan stared out the window, and appeared to zone out.
Cassie could see why. The view was strange, and beautiful.
The bushland and creek between the bar and the apartment building looked as if it were lit up by a floodlight, full of colour, yet there were no obvious shadows. It was strange to see it so bright, but also so quiet, with nobody around.
Cassie’s apartment building stood like a black monolith, the reflection of the Uni bar visible on the optically smooth surface of the glass, but no light emanated from within.
Cassie imagined Eve on the top floor, walking around in her penthouse, admiring the empire she had created inside the university, mistress of all she surveyed.
The moon was very bright, and what little light there was in that dark room came from its ethereal blueness.
The rest of the sky was beautiful.
Parts were as black as pitch, and the many stars shone like bright pinpricks. A swathe of the Milky Way cut across the sky, and there was a hint of colour, and Cassie thought she might be able to see the colourful cloud of some nebulae.
Joan took Cassie’s arm, and walked her towards the front of the room.
Some of the armchairs were occupied.
There were people in the room, staring out of the window at the beauty of the campus, slumped down, legs spread, with contented, dumb smiles on their faces.
At the end of the room, in the last chair, in the shadowy darkness, Cassie realised was a couple.
One member was sitting forward in an armchair, and the other was kneeling in front of them.
The one in the chair was a woman. Cassie couldn’t see much of the one between her legs, but as they had long, dark hair, Cassie assumed that she was female.
The kneeling one’s head was buried between the legs of her seated companion, whose hands held her head as kneeler gently bobbed and suckled.
The seated one was being eaten out.
She had the same expression on her face of slack-jawed, dumb, contentment as all of the others as she looked out at the view of the campus.
There was no progression of excitement, there were no moans of ecstasy, the suckling and bobbing just continued, almost mechanically, as if the couple had been seated there for quite some time.
Unless Cassie had looked directly at them, she would not have noticed. The act was raw and very much present, with a woman being licked and sucked in plain veiw, but quiet, and private, all at the same time.
Joan pulled herself away from the view, and took something out of her pocket.
It was a tiny little jar.
Cassie recognised the inky black contents immediately.
Joan began her sales pitch, quietly, so as not to disturb the occupants.
“Hey, Cassie, here’s something for Julie. This’ll get that frigid bitch into bed with you. This will make her feel so, so, good, Cassie, and she’ll jump your bones. It’s worked for me, I can tell you, I’ve made some real good friends with this.”
Cassie suddenly felt very sober, and made Joan look at her.
“Where’d you get that, Joan? I’ve tried it, it’s good, but I don’t know how to get more.”
“I’ll sell it to you, Cassie,” Joan said. “Ten bucks a pop, and it’s worth every cent. I can get more, a lot more. Forget ecstasy and dope, Cassie, if you want a night in with your girlfriend, this is so much better.
“All the people here are on it, Cassie, and one of them is sharing their night with someone special, as you can see.
“It gets better, every time you use it, I can promise you that.”
Joan enfolded Cassie in her arms, and held her close.
Cassie could feel Joan’s arousal, and desire began to rise within herself..
Joan whispered in her ear, drunk, but warm, and soft, and tempting.
“We’ve all tried it, Cassie, it’s good stuff, real good stuff. Try it here if you like, I’ll hold you. I’ll hold you, and I’ll kiss you, and I’ll lick you. It’s sweet, Cassie, it’s real sweet. I’ll keep you on the edge for ages, it’ll blow your mind. It’ll be nice, Cassie, having a play together, just like old times.
Cassie felt the strangest sensation. She remembered that day in the office, with Eve, the day that everything had really started, the day that she wanted to kiss Eve, and she realised that Eve could wrap Cassie around her little finger. It was a sense of deja vu, as if Joan’s drunken sales pitch mirrored Eve’s warning.
Cassie had goosebumps. The very thing that Eve had predicted in that office, at the beginning, had come to pass. She had given herself to the worms, and now Joan was offering her more.
“No … no Joan. I don’t think so, no ...”
Cassie might well have been tempted a few weeks ago, but things were a bit different now.
Joan tried a new tack.
“Or go down and get Julie. This stuff will get Julie ready to go.. She’ll be yours, guaranteed. Have her right here, Cassie, make her yours.”
Cassie disentangled herself.
“I can’t, Joan. Julie and I are only just getting back together again. Maybe another time.”
At that moment, Cassie felt someone grab her from behind, and give her a kiss on the back of the neck.
It was Julie.
“Hi, Julie,” said Joan, looking startled, “How’d you get in here? I didn’t think they’d let you in here ...”
Julie ignored her.
She’d decided she didn’t like Joan very much.
Joan shook her head, knowing that she had lost the sale.
“Well, see you, Cassie, see you, Julie.”
Joan headed over to an empty armchair to join the other occupants of the room. She slumped down, staring at the view, and Julie and Cassie looked on as her head leant backwards, her eyes lidded in contentment, and her mouth opened in a dumb smile.
When Julie had seen seen Cassie go off with Joan, she had felt a stab of jealousy, black, darkest, deepest jealousy, for the first time in her life.
She and Cassie had been with each other almost every day for years, and Julie had grown quite accustomed to her.
But it was only two weeks now since Julie had seen the intensity of Cassie’s love, and it had scared her.
She had thought then that she couldn’t live up to those kind of expectations.
But it had been two weeks without Cassie.
She was starting to think that maybe she couldn’t live without Cassie after all.
Perhaps she really did need her.
Maybe she really was in love.
She really did want to stay with her.
After the way Julie had treated Cassie two weeks ago, maybe she’d lost her.
When Cassie had first moved in with Julie, Cassie had given up on all of her old girlfriends. But now, maybe she was enjoying her freedom, hooking up with old friends.
Julie couldn’t bear the thought. Losing Cassie now, after all this time, would be devastating.
She found a tear leaking down her cheek.
She roamed around the bar area, but couldn’t work out where Cassie had gone. She poked around behind the stage, and found the darkened stairs, and gave them a try.
At the top of the stairs, she found the Landers twins, turning away a pair of giggling first-years.
She remembered Cassie telling her about the twins. They helped run the bar now, and lived in an apartment upstairs, on the top floor, and had a little club up there too.
Julie didn’t think she’d have any hope getting past the twins, as she was probably close to the un-coolest person in existence, but she had to find Cassie.
“Sophie, Jessica, can you let me in? I’m trying to find Cassie. Have you seen her?”
To Julie’s surprise, Sophie leant forward, and kissed her on the cheek.
“Go in and find your girlfriend, Julie,” she said, whispering in her ear, “You’ll find her inside.”
Jessica wrapped her arms around them both.
“Hey, Julie. You and Cassie make a great couple. Make sure you invite us to the wedding!”
They had remembered her name? It had been years.
The twins opened the door to her, and let her in, closing it behind her.
When she saw Cassie, she felt a burst of relief.
That evil bitch Joan was there with her arms around her, but it was clear that Cassie was attempting to extricate herself.
Julie felt a surge of relief, and pleasure, and gave Cassie a hug from behind, and kissed her on the neck.
Joan mumbled something, shifted away, and slumped down on a vacant chair.
Julie and Cassie held each other then, and Julie marvelled at the bright, night, view of the campus for the first time.
“Cassie, it’s beautiful.”
Cassie put her arm around Julie’s waist and stood beside her to admire the view.
“Let’s stay here for a while,” Cassie said.
They each took a seat in one of the armchairs, and stared into the night.
Cassie looked at the apartments, at the top floor, and she knew that Eve was inside, standing before her window, looking out at them.
Julie began to feel the oddest sensation.
It was as if Eve was standing somewhere in the room, in silence, gazing at her, evaluating her.
Julie looked around, several times, yet could not see her.
She saw the couple at the end.
That just wasn’t right.
As Cassie stared, she knew that Eve was in her apartment.
She was surprised to see a beam of light emerge from Eve’s window, and the interior of her apartment was revealed, becoming visible, every detail of the room revealed to the night.
Eve was across the landscape, but in the room with Cassie. Or was Cassie in the room with her.
Her vision was playing up.
Eve was standing, in front of the window, with her arms out-stretched towards Cassie.
She was wearing a black, flowing, dress. She had pale make-up on her face, and the reddest lipstick, and her hair was different, she had a severe bob.
She was immaculate.
She looked like a druidic priestess.
Cassie realised then that her depth perception was all wrong, that her perspective was shifting, as Eve’s window began to fill her vision, and the night sky and campus were pushed out of view.
Eve was standing only feet in front of her, and her gaze was focused all on Cassie.
Eve looked pleased to see her, but also, Cassie thought, she looked hungry.
She was looking at Cassie with open hunger.
Eve did not speak, but Cassie hear her voice within her mind.
Cassie. Welcome. Stay with me awhile.
Stay with me, and I will show you the way.
Stay with me, and I will show how you can join me.
Give yourself freely, and I shall gift you my soul.
Let me stay with you
Let me become with you.
But first, let me show you.
Eve seemed to wait then, for a sign, and Cassie nodded.
Eve reached up her hands, and touched Cassie’s temples.
Her fingers were warm.
A feeling of euphoria began to creep into Cassie from that touch, to settle upon her mind, and invigorate her limbs with joy, and happiness, and pleasure.
Cassie realised that this sensation was Eve’s own state of mind.
Eve was joyful, and was sharing herself with Cassie.
Cassie felt herself begin to enter Eve’s mind, and to share Eve’s thoughts.
Eve loved her, and wanted her, and was so very proud of her.
Cassie felt an expansion of vision, a lifting of all of life’s burdens, as if a curtain was opening in her mind, to reveal a huge expanse of space, to reveal the universe open before her.
Along with the expansion of her consciousness, she felt the beginning of a strange new pleasure creeping over her body. It wasn’t sexual. It was better. It was spiritual. It was Eve, caressing her very soul, drawing it out, wanting to share it with Cassie.
Give yourself to me, Cassie,give yourself, and my pleasure will be your pleasure. I will live inside you, Cassie. We shall be of one mind. We shall be of one flesh. The universe will be ours …
Eve leant down towards Cassie, and her lips were soft, and red, and luscious.
Oh, Cassie wanted to kiss those lips.
She wanted to lose herself in Eve’s eyes.
Eve kissed Cassie then, on her neck, and she shifted her head, slowly, kissing Cassie’s neck in a line of pleasure, each kiss drawing Cassie’s passion closer to the surface.
But Cassie pulled back.
Julie! She couldn’t leave Julie like this!
Eve looked disappointed.
Cassie’s vision of Eve began to shimmer, and she felt her body being jerked around, as if she were a doll, held by a playful puppy.
“Cassie! Cassie! Wake up!”
The jerking became a shaking, and a wave of vertigo overcame her, and she felt that she wanted to be sick.
The vision of Eve had receded, but the tingling in her flesh where those kisses had alighted took longer, and Cassie realised that she was trapped in a bubble of total silence.
She took several minutes to pull herself together, and, gradually, realised that she had returned to the room above the bar.
Julie was in front of her, shaking her,
“Cassie, I don’t want to stay here. It creeps me out. Come on, Cassie, let’s get out of here.”
Julie looked confused, and teary, and was obviously still very drunk.
“I want to go home now, Cassie. Please, Can you take me home?”
Cassie shook her head to clear her thoughts. That strange pleasure was almost gone from her mind.
She put her arms around Julie, and held her, as if for dear life, until the feeling of nausea passed.
She felt stone-cold sober now, but her head ached.
Julie wouldn’t make it back home without her help.
They somehow managed to stand up together, and carefully picked their way downstairs and out of the bar.
They had to brave the campus possums as they walked across the uni, holding hands, in silence.
The campus looked very dark after having seen it, as if lit up, from that strange room.
Julie liked having Cassie’s warmth next to her, and held her close. She didn’t know what had been happening in the twin’s room, but it had scared her.
As they walked into the door of their apartment, Julie put her arms around Cassie from behind.
“Cassie, I’ve missed you. I’m sorry I’ve been such a bitch. I really missed you.”
Cassie liked having Julie so close, and let herself be held for the longest time.
“Julie, it’s all right pet. I’m glad you’ve had time to think.”
Cassie turned around.
“I’m sorry I came onto you so strong two weeks ago,” Cassie said, “it was crazy, I was crazy, but I won’t do it again. I’m okay with being friends, just like before.”
Julie shook her head.
“No, Cassie. Please, it was great. It was the most amazing experience of my life.
“I didn’t realise how you really felt about me. It was a shock, that’s all, but I’m fine with it. I like it. I’m glad you finally showed me how you felt, how it could be between us.
“Kiss me, Cassie. Kiss me. We can start all over again.”
Julie held on tight, but Cassie demurred.
“Shhhhh. No, Julie, no, you’re drunk. Let’s not spoil the evening.”
Julie nodded, but drew Cassie in, and they hugged again.
Julie felt a spark of pleasure in her centre, of desire, and leaned into it.
She felt like she wanted to hold onto Cassie for the rest of her life.
Again, Cassie moved away from her.
“Come on, Jules, we should get some sleep. Maybe we can do that shopping in the morning, get rid of all of the crap furniture we’ve accumulated. It’ll be fun.
“’Night, Cassie,” said Julie, a little reluctantly.
They went into their separate rooms.
Julie slunk into Cassie’s bathroom as Cassie was cleaning her teeth. Cassie was in a blue striped nightshirt, and Julie was in her pink nightie. She’d never been into Cassie’s bathroom before, but tonight she just couldn’t keep herself away.
“Cassie, please.” Julie said. “I really missed you while you were away. I just want to hold you now. Let’s just hold each other and go to sleep. It’ll be like a sleepover. Nothing stupid that anyone will regret in the morning.
Cassie rinsed out her mouth and gargled, but she had a growing feeling of excitement.
“Just let me hold you,” said Julie, “that’s all.”
Cassie relented, and Julie took Cassie’s hand again as they walked over to Cassie’s bed.
“In you go,” Julie said.
Cassie pulled up the doona, and slipped into the icy bedclothes.
Julie came in beside her.
“Turn around, Cassie. Just let me hold you.”
Cassie turned onto her side, facing away from Julie.
Julie slipped her hands under Cassie’s nightshirt, and lay her body along Cassie’s back.
Julie felt comfortable, but also a growing swirl of emotion. For the first time in her life, she was falling in love, and she was in her new favouritest place in the whole world.
“I think I love, you Cassie,” Julie whispered, and kissed Cassie on the neck.
Cassie replied, talking softly,
“I love you too, Julie. I’ve always loved you. I’ve loved you ever since I met you, and I will always love you. I’ve been waiting so long for you to come around. I’m so glad I picked you, Julie, so glad. I’ll love you forever, I promise.”
“Come on, Cassie, turn around,” Julie said.
Cassie rolled over, and Julie kissed her.
It was soft, and squishy, just like the first time they’d tried it.
But soft, and squishy, and, this time, imbued with love.
It was magical. Julie was mystified that she was finally able to do this, and able to enjoy it so much, and to give Cassie so much obvious pleasure. It was as if they had been doing this for years, it was the most natural thing in the world.
It was beautiful.
Julie wanted more, but Cassie whispered,
“That’s enough now, Julie. We’ve had a big night. We’ve still got the rest of our lives to try the rest.”
Cassie leaned out of the bed to switch off her light, and Julie again enfolded her in her arms as Cassie leaned back.
Julie shifted once, and put her bare legs in between Cassie’s.
That was it, they were as close to each other as they could possibly get.
Julie felt as if they were joined, as if they were one flesh, and couldn’t be happier, although the pulsing at her centre reminded her that there was more to explore.
Cassie had won the true love of her life, and Julie had found her one and only true love.
It had been a good night.
It would be a good life, too.
They both drifted off to sleep.