Tabitha had changed.
When we first got together she’d been funny, light of heart, devil may care. She’d enjoyed adventure, taking chances. Sometimes it had been hard to keep up with her.
But she’d changed.
I was sitting in our bed. It was 3 in the morning and she was sleeping peacefully, occasional light snores drifting from her pretty mouth; or do snores come from the nose? Her dark, short hair was visible against the white of the pillow and her lovely shoulder with a tiny shoulder strap of silk across it looked a rather deathly white against its deep blue. The problem was that she had become resolutely dull. Where, before, if someone had said, let’s have a party, she’d not only have said yes but would have gone out and bought a new frock and six bottles of wine for the occasion, now she’d have said we were intending to watch a tv programme. If I had suggested an impromptu weekend in, oh, I don’t know, Russia, she’d have had the tickets in her pocket before she bought a fur hat and a troika. Now it would be, ‘Not now, Imogen.’ Her mouth had turned down too where hitherto it had been firmly uplifted.
Earlier that evening, or the day before as I guess it was, I had followed her into the bathroom. She was in the tub, almost asleep and, to be brutally honest, a bit drunk. That was another change. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, we both had a capacity for the wine but nowadays she was drinking too often, too much. I was naked and set to climb in to join her when her eyes had opened and she’d said, ‘Not now, Imogen.’ I had protested that I wanted to share her bath as we usually did, maybe goose her up a bit as I always did but, no, not now Imogen. I’d said ok and gone to the bedroom where I had cried my eyes out, silently, like a prisoner. And why was I now Imogen and not Imo as usual?
It was then that I’d realised it was over. I’d known for ages but you know how you can know something without believing it? She knew too, I was sure, but maybe she didn’t believe it yet.
I got out of bed stealthily. It was fortunate that I kept all my clothes in the spare room where they’d been deposited when I first moved in with her. Her wardrobe was far too small to hold my stuff as well as her’s and so I had a sort of dressing room. The spare room was chilly but I stripped off my pyjamas and dressed as quietly as I could, packed a bag with essentials and went into the kitchen where I wrote the note: I’m sorry, Tab. I expect it is my fault. I don’t know why I have made you unhappy but I know I have. If you can find it in you to forgive me I hope you will. I’m leaving because I love you, not because I don’t. I’m not saying goodbye forever but I am not coming back except to get my stuff which I’ll do whenever you want. If we can do friends or at least not enemies I’d like that. We both know it’s not working anymore. I am so sorry. Imo
Needless to say my fucking car wouldn’t start and it made that noise when it finally decided to cooperate that can wake the street. I looked anxiously at our, no, her bedroom window but was relieved to see the light remained off.
I’d had the misfortune to lose the tenant in my own place only two weeks before. Was that what had made me, or allowed me to do this? Stop agonising, Imo, it’s done. The flat was cold, dark and miserable and the cow who’d rented it had knicked the lightbulb in the hall and, I discovered later, the one in the bathroom too. She had also taken MY bed linen which had been stored in a locked cupboard with ‘Property of Landlord’ written clearly upon it. Fuck her!
I didn’t get to bed, couldn’t shower (because I had failed to get the boiler going in the bathroom’s darkness) but did change and arrived early at work and armed with a lunchtime shopping list. My ‘phone rang several times but it was Tab and I wasn’t ready for her yet. She had sent at least three texts but gave up when it was obvious I was not going to respond. Three months later
I’d arranged to meet some friends in a wine bar in town. The bar was busy and my friends were all gathered when, typically, I arrived late. I was made welcome, kissed by a couple, patted by others and moved to stand with my best friend, Judy and her husband, Mike but naturally known as Punch, who had never discovered that Judy had once indecently assaulted me in her kitchen. I still smile when I recall that after a long, passionate kiss, a hand up my kilt (yes, I really was wearing a kilt, God forgive me) and a finger where no straight friend should put it she’d disengaged and said, ‘Now I see why you’re a dyke. I could get a taste for it.’ We’d giggled and gone back to the party arm in arm.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned not a little surprised to see Tabitha.
‘Hi, Imo.’ I must have looked stunned. ‘I do still drink occasionally,’ she said, with a smile.
I took her into my arms and hugged her. It could have been awful but it hadn’t been. After a short cold war we’d agreed I was right and she had remained a slightly distant friend. Not distant enough to forget but not close enough to know what was happening in her personal life. She introduced me to her friend, Joanne which was one of the things I hadn’t known about. Bloody typical, I thought, I ditch her and she finds a replacement in the blink of an eye.
I thought Joanne was plain but I could see why Tab found her attractive, at least I did until Joanne opened her mouth and in a sort of whining voice with an upper class drawl and a total lack of any interest said, ‘Come on Tabby,’ Tabby? I ask you. ‘We need to be elsewhere.’
Bugger you, I thought. Tab gave me a sort of ‘what can I do’ shrug and kissed me goodbye.
‘Wasn’t that your ex?’
Veronica is old money and double barrelled. In England that means not much money but a lot of breeding, class. Her family has a small castle somewhere in my county and she was educated in a private school in Sussex and ‘finished’ in Switzerland. She works for a firm of stockbrokers, earns big, new money and dresses at a cost of about a hundred times my budget.
‘Who was the horse she was with?’
‘Joanne, apparently. She had the charisma of a brick but maybe meeting Tab’s ex wasn’t quite her plan for tonight.’
Veronica, or Vee as we call her, put her hand on my shoulder and looked at me seriously. ‘You ok?’
‘Absolutely fine, thanks. Meeting Tab is not going to floor me. It’s been three months for God’s sake.’
She rubbed my back, ‘Good for you.’
I should, at this point, tell you a little about Vee. Definitely not my type, she’s what my mum would have called ‘county.’ She looks posh and is. She can, when drink is taken, be earthy and hilarious but sober she’s a bit too serious. That said, when a girl with a seriously upper class voice swears like a trooper it can be captivatingly funny for some reason I cannot quite explain.
It was about 10.30 when Vee came to stand beside me again and she was clearly as pissed as a piglet. She sort of leaned against me, needing the support I think.
‘I know this probably isn’t the time, one being a tad under the influence and so on, but there is something I’d like to say.’
Even as drunk as she was, Vee can be ever so funny.
‘Are you quite sure, Vee?’
‘I am. I have given this sober thought and a little drunken consideration too. I have fancied the knickers off you since Roman times.’
She raised a hand to silence an objection that was not going to be made.
‘You thought, I know, that because I was a bit of an item with Rupert that I was not of the Sapphic persuasion but, Sweetling, if one wishes to make one’s way in the world of finance one does not wear dykery like a badge. That said, I am, and have been since Miss Trubshaw rogered me in the hockey pavilion at school, devoutly gay. Miss Trubshaw was our PE teacher and occasionally liked to sample the stock. Nobody gave a flying, it meant she let us off country runs, small price to pay really and I found I rather liked it. Then I found I really liked it and got together with the Swiss girl who taught us deportment while I was being finished, although I was really being started.’
Her voice was getting louder. ‘You’d have liked her: tits like bloody footballs and absolutely no morals, lovely.’
She paused here and I knew she was back in the Alps with her Heidi or whatever she was called, an edelweiss strewn field and her knickers round her ankles.
‘Rupe is as queer as a coot himself so it was what you might call a relationship of inconvenience. Right, made enough of a cunt of myself for one evening but best said, don’t you think?’
‘You’ll regret saying that tomorrow, Vee.’
‘Fuck I will. My secret’s safe with you, so I’ll tell you another.’
She put her arm around my neck.
‘Rupe had a sister, well, has a sister and when Rupe and I were apparently living together he slept in the fourth bedroom, sometimes alone but sometimes with that grubby little vicar from St Jude’s and Fenella and I, well, we shared the master bedroom. Except we called it the Mistress bedroom of course.’ Here she barked a sort of laugh. ‘Fenella was absolutely fab in the sack, brains of a fucking rocking horse of course, like Rupe, but oh she knew her way around a puss.’
‘Still with her?’ I was bored by this time; who, I thought, could give a monkey’s about this stuff?’
‘Well, Sweets, that is precisely what I was getting around to. You see three months ago the dozy cow decided she wanted kids. I mean, I ask you! So I said, don’t be fucking stupid we don’t want kids.’
I have to admit, this was less boring but nevertheless I was anxious that Vee would regret telling me all this when the alcohol had stopped working. Also she was talking far too loudly for anyone who wanted to hear to be unable to. I pushed her into a booth.
‘Are you going to have your wicked way with me?’ Another barked laugh. ‘Feel free!’
‘Vee, shut up. If you have a secret, keep it. Some of your poisonous friends would just love to whack all that stuff on the internet. Now tell me, quietly, what happened to Fenella.’
‘Well,’ her head lolled onto my shoulder, ‘she and Rupe buggered off home to Mummy’s estate. Well, they call it an estate but it’s more like a gulag with a few ponies and their ghastly mother presiding like a vulture.’ She turned her head so her mouth was by my ear. ‘Fenella and Rupe couldn’t be “out” you see because daaaaarling Mumsy said that if anyone ever found out that she had a nancy for a son and dyke for a daughter she’d disinherit them, cast them off the mansion battlements and give it all to the cats’ home. Poisonous cow. So, imagine, Fen and I have some snotty kid and all of a sudden I’m landed with a moron, a kid and no prospect of the family fortune.’ She took a huge swig of whatever was in her glass. ‘Fuck that. Take me home?’
‘I don’t know where you live.’
‘Not my home, you blister, yours. You can shag me senseless if you like.’
I didn’t, of course. I extracted her address from her eventually, called a cab, got her to her place, slid her onto the sofa, left her snoring, mouth open, and went home and thought no more about her.
Sunday morning. I’d spent the evening before at a friend’s house for dinner and, a bit like Vee on the Friday, I’d had a drop too much and was not feeling great when I woke up. My cat, Balou, (Cat Balou was Dad’s favourite film) bit my shoulder; he often did this when I was late up. I told him to piss off but then the phone started to ring so I answered it, not, I have to say, in the most graceful manner.
‘Just wanted to thank you for getting me home.’ It was Vee.
‘You don’t seem awfully pleased to hear me?’
‘Vee, I have a hangover, my cat just bit me and do you know what time it is?’
‘It’s 11, sweetie.’
‘My God, is it?’
‘Yes. Look, I’m going out into the country to buy myself a wonderfully indulgent Sunday lunch and I thought I might persuade the lovely Imo to come too? Don’t say no, or I’ll go back to Fenella and have 30 children and live on benefits.’
Clearly she hadn’t forgotten what she’d told me. I accepted the invitation.
‘I’ll pick you up in an hour. Look good, it’s dead posh this place.’
Look good? I felt like death warmed up and showered, fed the cat, dried my hair and drank two very strong cups of tea and began to feel almost human again. I pulled on a knee length dress, did something to my hair and waited
‘Eat your way out of a hangover,’ Vee said brightly,
She looked remarkably good. Her light blonde hair was cut tight to her scalp, highlighting good bones. Her blue eyes were far brighter than they deserved to be after Friday night’s excesses. She was wearing a long, full skirt of many colours and a white silk blouse that tended to open and allow a brief, pleasant glimpse of a full, firm breast. She ate with gusto. We’d both ordered a roast beef lunch and the restaurant was far beyond my normal budget.
‘Absolutely my treat, darling.’ Vee had said. ‘If you’d been a man people would call you a true gent. I was all there for the shagging and you behaved perfectly. Not that I’d have minded if you hadn’t but one does learn to respect good behaviour.’
‘Vee, what is really going on?’
She looked at me steadily, the humour still in her eyes but something new as well.
‘Well, the way I see it is this. I may have been as drunk as my Uncle Eustace on Friday (he was notorious for having kept the Glenlivet Distillery profitable single handedly) but everything I told you is true; Rupe, Fenella and how I feel about you; have felt for ages I ought to say.’
She did that override an interruption thing with her hand.
‘Remain silent, a member of the aristocracy is babbling.’ Her smile made me smile. ‘I decided that a woman of my age should not conceal herself any more. For two reasons, I mean. For one, why should I hide the fact I am a dyke? I’m nearly forty for God’s sake and if the firm don’t like it they can stick their job, I’m loaded now anyway. Secondly, we have been chums for decades and I’ve always thought, well, if I never tell you, you might never know.’
I hadn’t even noticed her hand on mine. I sensed that despite her apparent self-confidence, Vee was anxious, anxious perhaps not to have upset me but perhaps also that I would reject her.
I laughed and immediately regretted it for her face fell but it was not derision but a nervous reaction. I sometimes do that at inappropriate moments, like when I’ m told someone has died. It’s absolutely juvenile but uncontrollable and I told her so. She looked less crestfallen.
‘Christ, Vee, I don’t know what to say. I mean, I know my gaydar is crap but I simply had no idea. I mean, with Tab it was easy. But you? You’re the team nympho. Rupert always looked knackered.’
She grinned. ‘That was the ghastly vicar, darling – absolutely insatiable according to Rupe who said he was steam-powered.’ We laughed.
‘So, Imo – do I stand a chance? I hoped we might spend some time together and you could see if you could ever find anything to like about me.’
It was my turn to squeeze her hand. I had ‘come out’ (ghastly expression) at University and most of my adult life had been spent not agonising about my sexuality. Vee had spent her adult life concealing it. How did I feel about helping her through the transition, was I the right one? Did I have feelings for her? I mean until Friday she’d been straight. I somehow expressed this, clumsily no doubt and she nodded.
‘I’m not asking for help to “come out.” God, I hate that term.’ I smiled as it reflected my thought of moments earlier. ‘In fact, I’m not asking for help at all. What I am doing is asking you out on a date. Time for Vee to start being Vee and she’d rather like to start with you, Imo. I mean look at you. You’re forty-ish but look about thirty, you have no maternal instincts thank Christ, no baggage and great tits. I mean, what more could a girl want?’
I looked down at my small tits and thought, well, at least they still point upwards.
‘So what is your plan, Vee? Back to your place and start the transformation?’
She grinned. ‘Actually, I thought I’d take you home to your place and we could take step one, yes. If, that is, the idea isn’t entirely repugnant?’
‘You know what, Vee, I don’t think so.’
Now she really did look crestfallen so I continued, ‘This is a lot for me to get my head round. I’m not saying no but the best way to get to know someone is to spend a bit of time with clothes on. I’m not being a prude, Christ knows I’ve had a few one nighters but this is different.’
I held her hand and couldn’t think of anything else to say so I didn’t.
‘I absolutely fucking hate it when someone is right.’ We laughed together. ‘Right, Vee’s campaign begins. I shall pursue you relentlessly – a date on Wednesday to start with?’
I held out for three dates. I was, by then, growing to enjoy her a lot. An awful lot. I had completely revised my opinion of her. During the fourth date I decided it was time to tip the velvet, assuming she still wanted to.
I said, after we’d eaten a half decent meal in a little brasserie near my home, ‘Let’s have coffee at mine?’
I don’t know which of us was the more nervous when we got to my flat. I made coffee but we didn’t drink it. Vee decided that she should take command. In my small sitting room and on my long sofa she kissed me. It started like little brushes of lips on skin; nose, eyes, forehead but slowly, so slowly developed into one of those kisses that make it hard to draw breath. We came up for air and then she started again and this time her tongue invaded me and my mouth accepted her, tasting wine. Her hands had been on my face but moved, first to behind my head, then to my shoulders, then again to my back, now to my breasts. My dress had risen up and I had a curious regret that I hadn’t worn something more welcoming under it than schoolgirl cotton. Not much point in a bra for me but I could have made an effort down below. Too late now, I thought.
Vee wasn’t wearing a bra either. Her far larger breasts were firm, though, but moved deliciously under my hands as I explored them and her nipples were hard as iron when I liberated them and suckled, gently at first but with increasing enthusiasm.
‘Come on, you tart.’ Vee broke away. ‘Take me to your boudoir. I think horizontal is called for, no?’
Her eyes were full of mischief and lust, her lips looked swollen, her eyelids part-drooped. I could only nod. I struggled out of the deep sofa and offered her my hand, pulling her up. Standing she kissed me again, her blouse open. She is taller than I by half a head and I had to bend my neck back a little before she pulled away and, still holding my hand, led me to my bedroom. Once there she fumbled with the side zip of my dress, worked it out eventually and pulled it over my head. She tapped my plain cotton knickers.
‘Very Roedean,’ she smiled and I thought how that was the second time she had echoed my thoughts. You will recall she hated ‘coming out’.
‘Well, I wasn’t to know, was I?’ She grinned.
‘Not to worry, darling.’ She pulled her blouse off and dropped her skirt. She, clearly, had been hoping for this and her knickers were silk, transparent and gorgeous, not that they stayed in place for long. Deftly she stepped out of them without any apparent self-consciousness now and her trimmed fluff was in sight. She came close to me to kiss me again and pushed my knickers down, dropping with them to kiss my breasts and my belly. She stood again, pushed me firmly toward the bed and somehow we rolled onto it and under the duvet (‘It always feels naughtier in rather than on a bed, don’t’ you think, Imo?’) I couldn’t say. I didn’t feel naughty, just totally aroused and wanted more of her. I buried my face between her breasts and licked her. I sucked, squeezed and nibbled her nipples. Her hands were in my hair and she urged me on and down until I was between her thighs.
I lavished attention on her, curling my tongue through her down and my fingers into her. She lifted her knees, then her hips and as I continued to play her she made little guttural noises of pleasure. Then she manoeuvred herself so that she was between my thighs and it was me gasping as her tongue worked mysteries. Then we were face to face, she on top, me beneath, mouths locked as her thigh pressed between mine. It went on and on.
Relentlessly we enjoyed and gave enjoyment. Our first climaxes did not coincide. By now she was kneeling over me, my face pressing up to maintain contact, hers bending down between my legs for the same reason but it must have been harder for her because I was bucking, not to get her off but to try to hold my orgasm back. It was not to be. I screamed into her as it tore through me. It came, followed by a second, or was it the first had not finished? It made me squirm and writhe under her. As it passed we rolled and I pushed myself to keep going until, after a short while, I was rewarded for not succumbing to post-climax lethargy when she started wailing and seemed almost to levitate off the bed as her fingers gripped my hair and she flooded beautifully, her back arched. There was a period of silence and then a great gasp escaped her and all the tension went from her body.
‘Bloody hell, Imo. Are you always like that?’
‘No. Usually, I’m quite good.’
Vee grinned deliciously. ‘Well, thank God for that. If that sort of amateurish sex is the best you can do, I’m off. We blue bloods cant be having second best, you know.’
I kicked her under the duvet and she grabbed me, pinning me back on the bed and another onslaught began which left us both drained and wrapped in the arms of the other, my mouth resting on her shoulder, her hands stroking my back. We slept, I think.
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