One of the joys of writing Shocking Violet is getting to spend time in the quiet daily moments of access intimacy between disabled characters. To sit in the struggle of our need for taking care of ourselves, our need for care from others, and our need to care for others, the ways those things are intertwined and fraught and beautiful. To show how love and care and connection can look between people who are building interdependence with each other. This is the kind of love I treasure in my own life, the kind of love that makes me feel seen and supported in the wholeness of myself.
Here is an excerpt from the current draft, showing the moment you first meet Liliana, Violet’s girl, as Violet comes home from her first date with Jax. You also meet Violet’s cat Sweet Pea (pictured above) for the first time in this excerpt. As a heads up, it has elements of power exchange threaded through it. If you want to read earlier excerpts, they are collected here.
Liliana was waiting for Violet to come home. Waiting for a long time, that’s how it felt. She needed her Ma’am tonight, needed the connection of their ritual, needed to ground. She’d smoothed out some, but tonight that felt harder to do on her own. She didn’t like that, didn’t want to need Violet, didn’t want to need anyone. Ok.
She could do it on her own, you know. She could get herself in a place where sleep was possible. She didn’t need Violet, not really.
Her hands were itching to move, to do something. She put the kettle on, arranged the tea on a plate. Then she gave in to what she really needed, sat down at the table, and let herself rock. Ok. Rocking helped, it always did. Her eyes caught the bright red bowl on the table, sank into the rich darkness of the color, let herself float on it as she rocked.
It was good to be home alone, to be able to just let herself be where she was, do what needed doing, without thinking about who was watching or how they might try to help. Alone was good. The color was perfect, radiating in layers, exactly what she needed to ground. It had been a miracle when she’d spotted it that day at Goodwill, cupped it in her hands for the first time, held that glorious color in her hands and let it reach into her heart. Worth so much more than the few bucks she’d scrounged from the bottom of her bag to take it home with her.
Violet had wanted to buy it for her. But she’d needed to get it for herself, hadn’t wanted anyone else to have a piece of it. It was hers and hers alone, and that was the way it should be. Ok. She’d smoothed out on her own, just as she’d known she could. It was better not to need Violet, or their ritual, for that. To bring herself fresh to it without all that scraping desperation inside her. To tend to herself first.
Ok, there was the sound of the elevator, and then, unmistakably, Violet’s particular gait, her boots on the hallway tile as she approached. Liliana scanned her face as she entered. There was something in her eyes, a vulnerability…but she was measured in her movements, and relatively calm in her breathing. Something had knocked her off kilter, but it didn’t seem like it was the walk home.
Violet shrugged off her coat, peeling off her sweater, and Liliana took in a sharp breath at the sight of her legs in the short skirt, the line of her cleavage in that slip she often wore as a shirt. She smiled up at her, then rose and poured hot water into a mug (Mae West this time), setting it on Violet’s favorite tray (the one made from a Funny Girl album cover), adding the plate of tea, the bowl of sugar, the pitcher of cream. She put the tin of rescue remedy there in case Violet needed it.
Liliana put the tray on the cart. She loved this cart. Liliana had tried a bunch of different systems for moving things from one room to the next in this apartment while she was using her cane. The cart had been a present from Violet, and was her favorite method, painted black, covered with her favorite stickers. She ran her hands over them, soothing herself, lingering on Patti Smith and then Candy Darling.
She loved the way the cart sounded on the hardwood floors as she slowly wheeled it to the couch, loved the incongruence of such an elegant thing decorated in her personal style, loved the way it made it easier for her to do the ritual.
Violet made her way over, slipping out of her skirt before she sat down, so all she had on were her boots, her slip, and her checkerboard tights. Her hair was down. Liliana breathed in the sight of Violet for a moment, before she sat on a stool to unlace her top’s boots, removing them carefully. Ma’am was smiling down at her in that way she had, her face full of exhausted pleasure, with just a hint of something else in her eyes. Liliana’s hands weren’t what hurt right now, so she pulled Violet’s feet onto her own lap, and began to rub them. She loved this part of the ritual, the silent part, where she helped Violet arrive, set aside some of the armor she needed to move through the world, and settle into the cocoon they created together.
Her back was starting to ache, so she gently placed Violet’s feet on the ground and made her way onto the couch next to her, laying her head on Violet’s thigh as Ma’am stroked her hair. The scent of rescue remedy was calming. In this position, they both could look at Sweet Pea, who, despite the dinner he’d had not more than 45 minutes ago, was insisting he was starving, and making his regular evening complaints. Violet was crooning at him, and when she patted the couch on the other side of her, he approached. His pupils were huge as he contemplated the height, demanded that she move the pillow out of his way, and after a couple of failed attempts, leaped gracefully, and settled in next to her, laying down with all four paws pressed into the side of her thigh as she pet him. Violet scritched his favorite spot on the back of his neck, and Sweet Pea soon began the familiar wheeze-purr, content with her attention and the security of all of his paws touching her. Liliana knew exactly how he felt.
“I’m glad she’s home too, buddy,” Liliana told him gruffly, then let herself drift on the sound of his purr, the feel of Violet’s hand in her hair.