~ Hearts and Flowers Border ~
by fingersmith
© March 2005

Disclaimer: See Part 1

Chapter Eighteen

Two Years Later

College had been a blast from start to finish. The work was pretty standard and we got through it with no real problem. Exams were taken and all we had to do was wait for the results. I was eighteen, nineteen in just over a month's time. Emma was nineteen in two weeks, and I had something special planned.

Emma had dated on and off throughout the two years, leaving me in a state of purgatory. I wanted her so badly. She was my entire world and she didn't know it. How could I tell her that when she went out with those boys my heart was breaking? How could I tell her that I wanted her so badly I would cry myself to sleep at night? How could I tell her that I loved her more and more each day?

I couldn't.

I was frustrated beyond reason, and therefore had liaisons with many willing, nameless people over the two years, but nothing remotely serious. I only did it out of desperation, the feeling of connection with another human being. Every time I imagined them to be Emma, even though their scent was enough to alert me it wasn't her. I still hadn't given my virginity up to anyone … I was saving that for the right person. And we all know who I thought that was, right? Hope was still there in abundance.

We applied for the same universities and both got accepted at Manchester Uni with conditional offers. It was perfect. Both of us together for at least another three years - what more can a girl wish for? Now that is an open question.

Deciding it would be better, Emma and I rented a place a while before classes commenced. It would be easier than commuting, and I had the added advantage of seeing Emma all of the time. Heaven. We both had to get a job to pay for it. I started shelf stacking at Waterstone's bookshop, whilst Emma got a job at HMV.

Sarah and Elaine were supportive of my decision. Harry, on the other hand was another matter.

'Why do you have to go and live somewhere else, Laurie?' His green eyes filled with tears. 'I need you here with me. I'm starting at big school soon … what am I going to do without you here?'

'Come on squirt, 'I said tousling his hair. 'You've got to be the man of the house and take care of Aunty Sarah and Aunty Elaine. They need you to be strong. Do you understand?' He nodded, but I could tell he wasn't convinced. 'I have to move out. It'll be easier to go to the library and get to class if I'm closer. I'll only be twenty minutes away and you can visit me anytime you like, okay?' He hugged me hard, burying his face in my shirt.

'Will Emma be there?' A sly grin grew on his face. He had a crush on Emma - big time. Like his sister, eh?

'Yes. She'll be there. And yes … she won't mind you coming to visit, and even staying over, okay?'

'Okay.' Big smile (with teeth now).

Chapter Nineteen

We moved into our studio flat together, Sarah and Elaine helping me, and Emma's mother helping her. It was the first time I had actually seen the woman in the flesh - honestly. I had spoken to her on the phone on many occasions, but every time I went to Emma's her mum was either working or out. She was not what I expected to say the least.

She was stunning to look at, granted, but there was something missing … something I couldn't put my finger on at the time; and it was only years later that I realised it was a conscience. She had black hair, like Emma's, and her eyes were a darker blue - but cold. Her voice was refined to the point of annoying, and she ordered Emma around like she was a servant. Evidently, she did not like the fact that her daughter was working in a music store when she could more than afford to pay for anything she could ever possibly want. Emma looked embarrassed by this. As you can see, I didn't really like her much.

It was heaven in our new 'pad'. Every thing was ours - crappy furniture, crappy dinner service, crappy everything - but ours - Emma's and mine. Life was sweet.

Results were in, and we did better than we expected. I got three As and a B (bloody History), but Emma got straight As - that's my girl!

Clearly, we were overjoyed with our results. Our University place was in the bag, so we decided to celebrate big style and group together with all our friends, go into Manchester's Gay Village, then back to ours for a shindig.

Canal Street was packed; chairs and tables spilling out onto the pavement; music pumping through the windows; and the hot sweet smell of summer in the air.


Each club boasted the best beers, the best atmosphere, the best everything. One place even had 'Shag tags' where you were given a numbered badge and people could leave messages for you on a big notice board with their number. You would read the message and then hunt their number out. If you didn't like them, you didn't have to do anything else. It was fun.

We ended up in Via Fossa, a trendy pub where all the action took place downstairs. It was dark, and small, especially for our rowdy crowd. But we were drinking bottled beers by the caseload and nothing was going to dampen our mood.

Did I say nothing was going to dampen our mood? Well, I forgot to mention that we bumped into Justine Russell and her girlfriend. I think her partner was either drunk or stoned - no, not because she was with Justine. Her eyes were glazed and her pupils took over all of the colour. Actually, Justine had changed quite a lot from school. She had lost that psycho edge that had been so endearing. I chatted with her for quite a while when Emma was having a heated discussion with her latest conquest, Mike Collins. I even invited her (and her dopey girlfriend) to the party after the pubs chucked out. Emma wouldn't mind.

I was totally engaged in conversation with a group of girls at the bar (probably hoping for a quickie in the loos knowing me). Yes, I know it sounds vulgar, but what would you do? Sit at home waiting for the person you love to notice that you are alive? Didn't think so.

'Dance with me,' a husky voice breathed in my ear.


She looked deeply into my eyes. 'Come on … dance with me.' Thoughts of prom night filled my head. Could I go through that again? Yes … without a doubt.

She led me on to the dance floor, turning as she neared the centre. Grabbing both of my hands, she pulled me towards her, her eyes not breaking contact with mine. The dance floor was packed and we were snug in the core, away from prying eyes. 'Come closer … closer,' she murmured, as she slipped her arms around my waist and pulled me tightly against her. 'Oh Laura … hold me.'

My arms circled her neck and I looked into her face, which was leaning down towards me, her lips impossibly close. I could feel her breath on my cheek. Tina Turner was singing in the background and Emma was grinding her hips into mine, so fucking slowly, so sexy. She was still staring at me, a question in her eyes.

She began to sing again in that low velvety voice that made my stomach lurch forward just to listen:

I'm so confused I don't know what to do
but don't give up
don't give up
it just may take a little time.
Be tender with me baby

I'm so afraid you'll go away
be tender with me baby

She stroked the side of my face, fingers caressing my cheek, tracing the contours of my lips. I placed a kiss on the tips and she smiled, and drew my head to her breast.

Why does my heart keep on longing
Why do I feel like I do
I hope you see this is not really me
this is just a phase that I'm going through
Be tender with me baby
Be tender with me baby
I'm so afraid you'll go away

She lifted my face up to hers. 'Laura … please forgive me.'

And then she kissed me. So gently, her lips brushing over the surface. My hand pushed her head down so her face moved closer into mine to deepen the contact. The gentleness was replaced by something more carnal, more needy. My lips had picked up the tempo and I was holding my breath. Lips like velvet. They tasted like ambrosia, soft, wet, inviting. A tongue came out and licked my mouth begging entrance. I let it in readily, sucking it in, willing it to memory. Her hands began to move, sliding fully down my back. One grabbed my butt and pushed it into her groin. She moaned. I moaned. My own fingers trailed along her collarbone, daring each other to move lower.

Emma took the lead. Her left hand slipped in between us and cupped my breast tenderly, like it was breakable. 'Oh God, Laura!' she panted, coming up for air, but her hand was firmly on my butt whilst the other one was teasing my nipple through my top. I lunged in again for her lips, consuming her like a starving man would a dish he has coveted for years. My hand was wrapped in her hair; the other … the other was on its way to her breast.

Heaven. I'm in heaven. Her breast was firm yet soft at the same time. She gasped on contact and broke off the kiss, only to devour my throat in needy kisses, sucks and licks. I was feeling light-headed. After all this time of wanting her and believing she didn't feel that way, here I was, in her arms being finally awakened to love and desire.

She pulled back from my neck and gazed into my eyes. 'Your eyes are so green, Laura. Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?' I shook my head. 'Then I've been a fool.' She kissed me again, squeezing my breast so tightly like she was claiming it as hers. My hand tugged at her hair, sinking my fingers deeply into her raven locks. I was nearly frantic with longing.

She pulled away and looked at me. Her crooked smile played on her lips: her eyebrow raised in question. I nuzzled my face into her neck savouring the scent. Long slender fingers raised my head to align with hers. Another kiss; gentle this time. 'Until later.'

Later it is.

Two o'clock saw us all at our place. The music was pumping though our tinny speakers and the place was smoky and hot. People were draped over every piece of furniture, lounging on the floor, and propping up the walls. Corners of every room saw couples getting intimate, oblivious to where they were.

I was in the kitchen getting ice out of the freezer when I felt smooth slender hands encircle my waist and firm thighs push into me. I stopped and enjoyed the sensation.

'Come here you.'

I turned around to be caught in her arms. She nestled into my hair drawing a deep breath like she was capturing it to memory.

Lips met mine, not softly this time, but determined and experienced. I gladly followed her lead, crushing myself to her; heart banging in my chest; arousal claiming any rational thought.

She lifted me onto the cabinet and pushed my legs apart, not breaking the kiss for a moment. Her hips came between my legs and thrust themselves into me. I groaned - this was ecstasy. She started thrusting more intently now, her hands roaming my face, hair, breasts and my thighs, like she was feeling her way over new territory. One hand gripped my butt again and forced it into her. The rhythm was becoming intense, my need chafing the bump in my jeans. I could feel the orgasm building from within.

Her hand slipped inside my shirt, resolute in its quest, pushing past the barrier of my bra to cup an exposed breast. 'Oh God … Emma,' I breathed. I had died and gone to heaven.

This only spurred her on. Hips becoming frantic now, gasping breaths entered my mouth mingling with my own. 'I want you, Laura …so …so … much.' It was like a cry, a confession. My heart reeled; my stomach was too stunned to react. 'God … yes.' Her lips broke the contact and devoured my neck, biting the tender flesh, claiming my skin not knowing that she had claimed it eons ago. My nails were digging into her back spurring her on.

'Sorry to interrupt.' A cold voice announced from the door. Mike was standing there with an empty glass in his hand looking at us both with a mixture of hurt and hatred.

We sprung apart. Cold air separated us. 'Mike … I …'

'Forget it, Emma. I should have known.' With that he turned and stalked out of the room.

Emma turned to me. 'Laura… I just need …' She stopped, chewing her lip, the lip that had been trailing down my collarbone one minute before.

'Go and see him. Go on …' I gently pushed her away and smiled reassuringly. She went after him calling his name above the noise of the music.

I leaned back on the counter, the throbbing between my legs beginning to subside slightly. My mind was re enacting our last kiss. God. I honestly didn't think I could want her anymore than I did … but now? Sweet Jesus. She was everything I'd ever hoped for and more.

'Hi Laura.' Justine was in the doorway, looking almost sheepish.

'Hey.' I was in the mood to be pleasant. 'Enjoying yourself?'

'Well I am now. I sent Trish home. She was well out of order. I don't think I'll be calling her in the near future.' She laughed. 'So … how are you keeping? Still studying hard?'

We began to chat about school days, and she looked embarrassed about how she was with me then. 'Oh, I was truly fucked up. Especially all that with Bulldyke and the school magazine and all …' She smiled at the memory. 'She didn't even get a slap on the wrist for that you know. I got her out of it. Said it was just someone stirring up trouble.' I had always wondered why Bulldyke hadn't got the sack. 'Then she went off with the Geography teacher …' Didn't I know it, 'Mariel!' I thought and laughed to myself.

'So … you're living here with Emma now?' I smiled. 'Her bloke seems nice enough. I was chatting to him earlier and he said that he thinks she might be the one. Sweet, eh?' I didn't answer. I knew better. 'Yeah, he said that they were getting on really well if you know what I mean?' A flea of doubt jumped about in my head. But … nah … she wouldn't - would she?

'Excuse me Justine. I've just remembered something. Help yourself to a drink.' With that I left.

I looked all over for Emma. I eventually asked a couple leaning outside the bathroom if they'd seen her. 'Yeah. She went in there with a blonde haired bloke.' They pointed to her bedroom. I moved in slow motion, the door appearing gigantic in front of me. My hand reached out for the knob. Quite steady - good. I turned it and pushed the door. Locked. I didn't understand … why would her door be locked? Fear began creeping up my spine.

I knocked. 'Go away! We're busy!' Mike's voice. Mike and Emma in her room … locked room … busy. I leaned my head and listened against the wood.

I could hear Emma's voice, almost pleading. 'Come on Mike … we're both at college. These things happen.' His muffled response. 'I've wanted this for so long … I need this … please …' It went quiet. I could hear the squeak of bedsprings as someone got on the bed. I couldn't stand it anymore.

The pain in my chest was exploding. She had led me on: I was a fucking experiment. The words to Tina Turner's song came back to haunt me 'I hope you see this is not really me / this is just a phase that I'm going through'. She was trying to warn me, that's why she asked me to forgive her. I had been such a fool. I was a phase, a charity case that she had to help out before she moved on with that cunt in the bedroom.

Anger blinded me and I stumbled, grabbing my chest with one hand whilst the other clawed its way down the wall. I felt sick, my stomach deciding to revolt. I just made it into the bathroom in time before I lost everything I had consumed that day. Then I dry heaved, retching up the bile that I felt for Emma Jenkins … felt for myself.

Gentle fingers combed their way through my hair, calming me, leaving me numb to everything around me except her touch. 'Hey baby. Ssshhh … Don't worry, I've got you. I'm here. No one can hurt you now.' I turned to look into the compassionate eyes of Justine. True love was spilling over her lids and trickling down her face. She cupped my cheek and curled her fingers from her other hand around my own anaesthetized one, bringing them to her mouth to lay gentle kisses on the tips. I watched, transfixed, unfeeling, an emptiness coating me from the inside out.

I don't know how we got there but we ended up in my room. I don't know how I became naked but I was. Justine was above me, hands everywhere. I was flat on my back, my legs wrapped around her while she ground herself into me. I had my arm over my eyes trying to stop the tears cascading down my face. I wanted to die. I wanted this pain to go away.

Justine straddled my thigh and I could feel her slick need coating my leg. I could smell her desire; I could hear the loving words pouring from her mouth. Her hand gripped my breast fingering the nipple crudely, pinching and pulling. But I could not feel the elation I should feel. I was numb to her and the world around.

Her excitement was growing. Her strokes getting faster and faster, grunting and moaning, pinching and pulling. 'Ohhh god … Laura … god …yes … yes… oh baby … yes … this is so good … I love you so much. Oh Laura!' I pulled my arm away and looked at her face contorted with the up and coming orgasm. Her eyes were closed; her mouth open and panting, grunting … coming. 'Fuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccckkkkkkk yeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssss!' She was pounding unrestrained now, her hips circling her mound on my leg dragging out the little jolts left over.

She flopped on top of me, her breathing laboured. I lay there, unfeeling, staring at the ceiling. 'I've wanted this … wanted you … for so long.' Soft kisses on my neck moving downwards. Her tongue circled my breast, teasing the nipple, who, like a traitor, stood erect at her touch. Her other hand began to play with the other breast before venturing lower, stroking my stomach, taunting the hairline of my crotch with experienced fingers.

Her head moved lower, lapping at the skin on my abdomen like a hungry cat. Gently she pushed my legs apart and nestled her head between them. Tender kisses touched the inside of my thighs, the sensation of a tongue trailing down, and then back up. I closed my eyes when her mouth come to rest on my groin, her left hand parting the lips, and a featherlike touch swept across the opening bud. An involuntary moan escaped me, and this incited her. Her strokes became more insistent, more focused. I was drowning in my pain: I was allowing this to happen. Call it revenge; call it shortsightedness; call it what the fuck you want - I did not care. Emma had betrayed me. She was in her room now fucking someone else; fucking someone she had only known a month. I had waited for her for so long; wanted her for so long. Now I wanted to die.

I felt an unrelenting finger poking outside my opening. What the hell …? Let her have it. I don't need it anymore. 'Yes … go on Justine.' Her name burnt my lips. This should not be happening. Slowly one finger slipped inside until it reached a barrier.

'But Laura…?'

'Just do it.' Was that my voice? Cold? Hard? Uncaring?

She pulled her finger out again, only to replace it with a second finger. Half in: half out. Half in: half out. Justine kept this up for a few more strokes and then lowered her mouth to my centre once again, taking the hard nub in her mouth to suck and lick. I moaned and she thrust the two fingers deep inside me, holding them there until I could get used to the sensation of being filled. The pain of losing my innocence paled in comparison to what I had already lost.

I don't know how long Emma had been watching. All I know is that when I opened my eyes after Justine had penetrated me, she was there, rooted to the spot, a look of bewilderment typed onto her features. She still had one hand on the door handle, too shocked to move.

'How could you do this Laura? To me … to us … and with her of all people?' Her voice was breaking, her face crumpling, folding into a visage of misery. 'WHY?' She screamed at me. 'Why did you lead me on?'

'Lead you on … lead you on… I'm not the one in there screwing Mike, am I?' The anger spilled out, vitriolic in its despair, taking no prisoners - kill on sight.

'But I …' I didn't let her finish.

'Enough! Get out! And take that fucking cunt with you!' I pulled Justine roughly up by the hair, both hands clamping the sides of her head, and kissed her hard, my tongue thrusting in her mouth so deep I strained the underside.

I heard the door slam, and I broke off the kiss. 'No more Justine. I think you'd better leave.' She looked hurt. She knew I had used her. But hadn't she taken advantage of me? Yes - I know - excuses, excuses, excuses - 'There's no blame here' should be tattooed on my forehead.

I was disgusted with her: I was disgusted with myself. The night had started out so wonderfully, and now I was left with a broken heart, a broken dream and a broken future.

The next morning Emma was gone. I don't know where - just gone. And I haven't seen her for the last ten years.

Not until yesterday that is.


Part 2

Chapter Twenty


So now you know the events leading up to this moment. In retrospect it seems very naοve, very girlish, but at that age everything is a drama. No, I didn't see Emma again from the moment she slammed my bedroom door closed. She seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. I called her mother's just before the start of Uni to ask if she was still attending. I can't repeat everything she said, but the facts were she had moved in with her father. And no, she wouldn't give me his address. All I wanted to do was to look into her blue eyes again, throw myself at her feet and beg her forgiveness … and forgive her … for anything. I didn't care if she screwed half of the football team as long as she came home to me at night. 'So true a fool is love, that in your will / Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.'

That wasn't to be. She was gone.

Obviously I was a total mess. Everything I had ever known, or cared about, was … gone. I was left with a weeping wound where my heart used to be - a void, an abyss, call it what you want - it is still there.

Sarah and Elaine supported me through it all, as I had to move back with them for a while. I couldn't take care of myself - didn't want to. Thoughts of ending it all were constantly racing through my head. I think the only person who stopped me doing something foolish was Harry.

A whispered, 'I need you Laurie,' as he snuggled against me trying to stop me from crying. That seemed to break through the walls I had erected. An eleven-year-old boy had saved my life. I'll always be thankful to him.

But, he's no longer a boy. Twenty-one and making all the girls heads spin. He is grown up now, quite the looker, brains too. He is in his final year at Uni, training to be a journalist. English was his forte - wonder whom he got that from? To him, Sarah and Elaine were his parents. They had raised him for thirteen years, shielding him from the drunken visits of his mother, and fighting for custody when he was ten. They couldn't love him anymore if he was their own.

Anyway, after attaining a 2.1 with honours I did my teacher training. I loved it. Still do. What else did I have, except a string of one-night stands? Yes, teaching was the only thing that could absorb me enough to not feel the emptiness rebounding inside me.

I started at this school six years ago and have steadily made my way up to second in the English department, mainly because I threw myself into my work. I was 'out' at school - it wasn't a problem with the other members of staff, fortunately.

I think I'm going off the point. Or am I clarifying it?

There I go again.

As I said before, teaching was all I had and my students came first. I would stay late, get in early, organise study sessions for the Year 11 students who were coming up to their GSCEs. Nothing was too much trouble for good old Ms Stewart.

We always have a Parents' Evening for Year 11 about three months before they take their exams. Reason being, we can give the kids a good old fashioned bollocking in front of their mums and dads and frighten them into doing better. And it helps focus the kids on the importance of getting a good grade too.

There was one student, Jack, a really good lad, tall, dark hair, blue eyes … He was one of my favourite pupils. He had an eager mind and nothing was too much trouble for him. I think he had a little bit of a crush on me too, probably because I was the only female teacher the right side of thirty. I would do anything (within reason) for him.

Well, as I said, the Parents' Evening was a big deal.

'Miss?' Why do students always say Miss as a question?

'Yes Jack.' Why do teachers always answer as if they are bored shitless?

'My parents can't make it on Wednesday. They're away on a business trip.'

'Really.' Why do we always say it like we think they are lying? Probably because they usually are.

A crooked grin sported his face. 'Yes, really Miss.' I laughed and put down my pen.


'Can my sister come and see you instead?'

I looked at him, puzzled. 'And why would she want to do that?' Images of a twelve year old with bunches entered my mind.

'Well, she's looking after me while they're away. I'm staying with her for a while.'

'Okay, then. Don't forget to fill in the slip.'

'She can't make it on the night, but she said she could squeeze you in on Wednesday morning.' Cheeky cow - squeeze me in! I'll squeeze her …

'Is that okay then, Miss?' He looked at me with those big blue eyes and I was lost.

'Go on then Jack. I'm free period four. Tell her to sign in at reception and they'll send her to my room.' He flashed me a big smile and raced off to his next lesson.

How did I know that was going to change my life as I knew it? As I said - it's all retrospective. We live and learn.

Chapter Twenty-One

It was Wednesday morning and I had forgotten about the visit from the cheeky cow of a sister. It was one of those mornings - you know, the ones where you get up late, get stuck in traffic, have a blazing row with some dickhead who cuts you up, get caught in staff briefing applying lipstick at the back of the room - those mornings.

The first two lessons went okay. Kids were nuts on account of there being a drop, and I mean drop, of rain splattering helplessly on the window. They were fascinated with it. I was just glad it wasn't windy - they were worse then.

Period three saw me teaching Year 11 Of Mice and Men. God, that brought back memories. A heated discussion of the importance of Curley's wife and why did all the characters, apart from George and Lennie, use fake names, took up half the lesson. Stevie Daniels put her hand up.

'Miss?' The question in the voice again. 'Why does Steinbeck have George kill Lennie at the end?' A flashback of nearly thirteen years - the snigger - the argument. A small smile graced my lips.

'Good question Stevie. Anyone?' That kicked them off good and proper. I had to call it a day when two of the students bordered on a fistfight. God, I love my job. Never a dull moment.

'Right everyone. Don't forget your anthologies tomorrow. We are studying Pre 1914 poetry.' Groans all around. 'Get over yourselves. You should be privileged to read such works of wonder.' They all started to pack away, mumbling about me being a slave driver and other things that I can't mention. I started to quote Wordsworth at them - just to piss them off further:

But to go to school in a summer morn,
Oh it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay

I walked around the classroom quoting directly to individual students and checking the floor for the unlimited amount of crap they could leave behind.

I reached the front and ended with:

How can a bird that is born for joy
Sit in cage and sing?

'Dead right,' someone muttered.

'Well done, Anthony.' He looked at me gone out. 'At least you understood it.' The bell went ending the lesson and they all rushed out - must be me.

'You haven't forgotten have you Miss, about my sister coming?' Jack was behind me; I didn't even know he was there.

'Of course not,' I lied. And out he went, whistling.

I sat down at my desk. That was all I needed. Some stuck up piece of ass coming in here thinking she knows everything. Squeeze me in … the cheek of it.

Tap tap tap.

'Come in.' Here comes bossy boots now. That was the last lucid thought I had for a while.


Chapter Twenty-Two

She looked good; I'll give her that. Dressed in a classic black suit, the jacket slung over one shoulder; an open collared short-sleeved white shirt finished the look. Her raven locks were shorter and danced just below her shoulders. The blue eyes were the same. Older, wiser, but the same.

After I had come around from my dead faint, (I pleaded lack of breakfast and too much caffeine for my behaviour) I made my excuses, and scampered off to the staff room.

Inside the room I let out the breath I had been holding. Ten years. It had been ten years since I had looked into those eyes. Those blue, blue eyes. Feelings washed over me, feelings I thought were dead and buried a long time ago. I lifted my hand to push strands of my hair behind my ears. It was shaking. I was shaking. 'Pull your socks up Stewart. You can get through this.' Why hadn't I made the connection, Jack Jenkins - Emma Jenkins? Probably because I knew she didn't have a brother. But she did have a half brother …

I took a deep breath and went back to my room.

'Sorry about that, Ms Jenkins.'

'Sanders, Mrs Sanders actually, Ms Stewart.' She was married. My heart sank all over again. Wait a minute … why? Probably that Hope coming back to bite me in the ass again.

'Sorry about that, Mrs Sanders.' Lovely fake smile just about … there. 'So, you have concerns about Jack's exams then?' And off I went into teacher mode, totally professional, showing target grades and past marks. I passed the mark sheet over to her and she studied it intently. I took this opportunity to swallow everything about her. Her concentrated gaze, her pursed lips, lips that I had kissed, that had kissed me, the stray lock of hair that was hanging across her chiselled features. She was stunning. Her husband was a lucky man. I tore my eyes away.

'Looks good, Ms Stewart.' She met my gaze, and then sat back on her chair to look me over. 'The years have served you well if you don't mind me saying.' I shook my head and flashed her a smile. She looked down at her lap then back at me. 'I wondered if Jack's Ms Stewart was my Ms Stewart, my Laura. I just had to come in and have a look.' Steady gaze. I swallowed the lump in my throat. My Laura - my heart began to beat again.

'Yes it's me - in the flesh.' Was that a blush? Nah … must be hot in here.

'So, how have you been? It's been a long time.' Too long. 'Jack raves on about you all the time. Says how you inspire the kids, and you seem to be the only one that doesn't have a stick up their arse.' I laughed out loud. That was the Emma I knew, and loved.

'I'm okay. Busy most of the time with school, but okay. How are you? What are you up to now?'

She began to tell me about her job as a systems analyst - I didn't have a clue what she was talking about but I enjoyed listening to her voice again. 'And that's where I met David, my other half.' I understood that all right. I was beginning to forget that she was married. 'Well, I say other half, we're not together anymore.' Sweet love renew thy force. A sad smile traced around her mouth. 'We were only married for just over a year before I told him it wasn't working.'

'I'm sorry.' What else to say? Yippee would be a start. She looked at me, confused.

'But why should you be sorry? I was the one who made the mistake of marrying a man I didn't love.' This was getting better and better. 'Anyway, Laura, do you mind me calling you Laura?' My expression said it all. 'Thanks for your time, I know how busy being a teacher can be.' She stood up and extended her hand. 'Lovely to see you again. We should meet for a drink one night.'

'That'd be great.' Did I gush?


I took the offered hand for an innocent handshake. And there it was … the connection on contact. She must have felt it too because she looked startled and pulled her hand away like she been burned.

Then she was gone, and I was left wondering if I had dreamt it all.


Chapter Twenty-Three

Two weeks passed and I was working harder than ever. I got into work early and left as late as possible. I had rewritten three schemes of work in my spare time. It seemed as if I was running away from something, but what, I don't know.

Entering the staff room at lunch I was accosted, yes accosted, by the school secretary. God that woman was like an octopus. She was forever stroking my arm, patting my hip, or just generally getting on my tits.

'I've a message for you, Laura.' How can anyone say a name and make it sound so vulgar - beats me. 'A Mrs Sanders has called in. Something about Jack Jenkins.' Had the staff room always been this small? God, my hands looked huge holding the pink slip between my fingers. My eyes scanned down to the boxes at the bottom, and I held my breath to see which one had been ticked - Please call - and a mobile number.

I can't count how many times I picked up the phone to call, then put it down. I can't count the amount of times I began to dial the number. I was such a coward.

'Hello … Mrs Sanders? This is Laura Stewart calling on behalf of Jack.'

'Hi Laura. I was hoping you'd get back. Sorry to deceive you … I didn't want to talk about Jack.' Silence. 'What are you doing on Friday night? Do you fancy coming out for a drink, or maybe catch dinner …?' Did I want to go there again?

'Love to.' Hey! Wait a minute. I hadn't gone through the whole patter yet - Crabbe springs to mind - No more debating take the ready hand. God. More quotes - get a life Stewart.

'Great. I'll pick you up about seven thirty?' I agreed and gave her my address.

My hand was shaking as I lowered the receiver. I was meeting Emma Jenkins - oops - Sanders (a rose by any other name …) - in two days. Shit - two days! It would be a rush - but I'd manage.


Chapter Twenty-Four

Friday night saw me in a state of panic. I didn't know what to wear … no … that wasn't the problem. I didn't know what I was doing, you know, setting myself up to get hurt all over again. I think I may be putting the cart before the horse again.

My stomach was dancing around, performing cartwheels and back flips, and I was definitely nauseous. Every time I thought of Emma, her eyes, her smile, the butterflies would climb up my throat nearly choking me. I couldn't spend five minutes in her company never mind a whole evening. But I wanted to … so much. I could feel it inside me, behind my breast in the place where my heart used to be.

I went for the casual look: jeans, white shirt left open with a skimpy top underneath, a little mascara and lipstick. I didn't want to go all out, you know, evening dress and tiara.

The shrill ringing of the doorbell broke through my thoughts. She was here, and on time.

I stood behind the door trying to calm my breathing. I couldn't answer it panting like a knackered dog. She would make her excuses and leave. That was an idea …

'Hi Emma.' My voice sounded steady. Tick. My hands didn't shake. Another tick. I digested her outfit, her body, her smile, those eyes …all in one quick glance. Big cross.

She looked radiant. I could smell her scent, mmm Cool Waters, sexy … I subconsciously licked my lips. I wondered what it tasted like. Another big cross.

'Come in,' I gushed. 'I won't be a minute. Take a seat.'

In she strolled, confident, the sexy swagger still there and even more appetising. I pointed her into the lounge and then bolted to the bathroom.

'I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.' I stared at my reflection in the silvered glass. Not bad … quite sexy. I pouted my lips and tilted my head back. I looked like I had special needs. A laugh broke out relieving the tension. 'Come on Stewart. It's only one night.'

'But I want more,' a small voice said inside my head. I think it came from my heart, but I couldn't be too sure. It had been quiet for so long I didn't recognise its voice, didn't really know if I wanted to listen …

She was reclining on the sofa when I arrived back in the lounge, totally at peace with the situation. I took her in at that moment. Ten years had only made her more beautiful. She wasn't the girl I knew then … but she was too, do you understand that? Emma Jenkins in my home, sitting on my sofa, waiting for me to get my act together so we could go and eat. Shit - I'd better put a spark to it.

'Nice place,' she said nodding her head in recognition of her surroundings. 'Do you live alone?'

'Yeah. I bought this place three years ago when I was financially stable. I always wanted a dog to greet me at night, but being a teacher … well, it would be cruel to leave it all day. Maybe one day, eh?' She smiled and looked wistful for some reason or another.

'Ready?' As I'll ever be - Lead on McDuff.


Italian. Mmmmm. Have I ever told you how much I love Italian food? Well, I do. It's more filling for a start, and the deserts … oh god; I could get aroused just thinking about it. I was surprised that Emma had remembered this little detail, happy, but surprised all the same.

The restaurant was sultry: dimly lit tables that hosted solitary candles for the more intimate liaisons. Single roses posing in crystal vases, soft music filtered through hidden speakers promising undying love - totally couple orientated. I captured it all; filed it to memory. I looked at Emma who smiled at me and winked.

'You like?' I nodded like a prepubescent teenager. 'Good. I know you like Italian - bigger portions.' A soft laugh escaped that wonderful mouth. I wanted to capture it in my own … get a grip.

The meal was wonderful (yes … big portions) and the company was better. We chatted about our lives, our jobs, everything. I couldn't believe how quickly we seemed to get back into our roles again.

'So, I attended Cambridge University, Queens College, and got a first class with honours. That set me up really. I now work mainly from home, which is good because I can look after Jack when his parents are away.' She sipped at her water. I was the only one drinking, a lovely Shiraz, mmm. 'But I do have to go on business trips occasionally. Actually, I'm off to Rome on Monday for four days.' Another sip. She looked for the waiter.

I looked at her.

The candlelight was doing something to her face. She seemed vulnerable, beautiful, distant. I wanted to put my arms around her and tell her she was safe, I would take care of her. I could feel a surge of emotion clambering up my throat. I wanted to cry and I didn't know why.

'Excuse me,' I stumbled up from the table and headed to the rest room. I could feel her eyes on me but I couldn't turn around.

After splashing copious amounts of cold water on my cheeks and neck I felt a little calmer. 'What are you doing Stewart? She doesn't feel that way about you, or have you forgotten?' A sneer crossed my face. No. I could never forget that.

Before we knew it the night was drawing to a close and she offered me a lift home. Sitting in her car watching the streets of Manchester rush by I had a feeling of true contentment.

'Put some music on if you want - there's case of CDs in the glove box.' I sorted through them and picked one that said 'Faves'. I felt like my life had been transported back in time as the first track began to play 'It's been seven hours and fifteen days, since you took our love away.' A strong, slender hand shot out to the player and ejected the disc. 'Not that one. It jumps like crazy.' She gushed.

Was that a blush? Did the song or the situation embarrass her? I leaned back in my seat and looked out of the window too scared that I would expose my feelings if I looked at her right now. The car was silent: she was silent. I was kicking myself - I should say something, something to break the tension.

'Lovely meal. Thanks.' What a golden-tongued charmer I was. No wonder I was on my own. 'The lasagne was lovely, just lovely.' Think of another word apart from lovely you moron. 'The wine was nice too.' Nice? Nice? Could you not think of a weaker word? What about okay? The desert was okay - my inner voice was getting on my tits.

We pulled up outside my house. 'Fancy a nightcap? Coffee?' for a moment I thought she was going to refuse.

'Sure, that'd be great.' My heart began thumping again, and I hadn't realised I had been holding my breath.

We sat either end of my sofa, shoes off, coffee in hand. Perfect. I had put Dido on the CD player just to fill the air.

'I can't believe you're still single. I thought they'd be queuing up outside your door.' I blushed at her words.

'Well …I have just come out of a relationship.' Her blue eyes held my gaze for a while and then dropped.

'Oh really?' Did her voice seem strained. 'What happened?' You. You walked back in my life and I was lost.

'It wasn't working. Jenny was nice enough, but not for me.' I tried to sound wistful but it came out as lame instead.

'Were you together long?' Her voice sounded faint, controlled. She looked up at me again. 'You don't have to answer if it still hurts.' A smile, soft, gentle, reassuring.

'Nearly a whole week.' She laughed out loud at this confession.

'A week! God, she did well.'

'Yes. She's been the longest so far.' I grinned a full out grin. Her face became reflective, pondering what I had said for a minute. She tapped my leg and giggled almost girlishly. God. I love you Emma Jenkins ...

I felt a pain in my chest; I knew I was leading myself down a very dangerous path by allowing this woman back into my life. I shook my head trying to dispel the images dancing there, taunting me, reminding me of the heartbreak I nearly died from ten years ago.

But that was the past. We've both grown up since then. We're both different people ... different women, with different lives … different goals. I took a sip of my coffee, hiding my emotions in the dark, hot liquid swirling around in the mug.

Live for the moment, girl.

Our conversation led to her asking about Sarah and Elaine, not forgetting Harry. I became animated when I spoke about them. Understandable really, as they were the closest people in my life.

'How are your parents?' Loaded question. Her voice became bitter when she spoke about her mother. I hadn't known how much she hated her, couldn't believe that I had missed the revulsion she felt for her.

'So, you haven't seen her in three years? Long time Emma.' I sipped my coffee. 'I haven't spoken to her since …' I stopped, realising where this was going.

'Since when?' Another loaded question.

'Since just before I started Uni.' I had to go on. 'I called to see if you were … um … coming back and … erm… where I could reach you…'

She sat forward at this bit and stared right in my eyes, almost as if she was willing me to say something. 'What did she say?' Blue eyes looked dark, almost a little crazy.

'Said you had gone to your father's and wouldn't give me your address.'

'Fucking bitch!' I jumped. 'The lying fucking bitch!' She slammed her fist on the arm of the chair. 'I fucking well told her … of all the … fuck!' She leapt out of her seat and began to pace. 'I can't believe she'd do this. What a …' I just stared, dumbfounded.

'What do you mean, Emma?' I almost didn't want to hear the answer.

'I told her … fucking told her … if you called she must, and I repeat must, give you my number. No wonder you never contacted me.' She flopped down next to me and buried her head in her hands. 'No wonder I never heard from you again.' This last bit was more of a whisper.

I stared at the wall wishing for my insides to stop boiling. I told you it wasn't until years later that I realised what was missing from her mother - a conscience. I would now like to add - she was missing a heart too.


Emma left shortly after that. She snatched up her car keys and said she had to pay someone a visit. I knew who she meant, but didn't say anything to her. What could I say?

She hugged me at the front door and I inhaled her scent. Not just her perfume … her … all of her.

Two weeks flew by in the scurry of work. The end of school production was underway. It was called A Wilde Evening and had a mixture of Oscar Wilde's plays and poems. Jack was in the lead role as the great man himself. He was perfect for it too.

I heard from Emma a couple of times when she called to chat, and even grabbed a coffee with her the previous Saturday. But it seemed there was still a distance between us.

I asked Jack how she was on occasion and he said that she was really good, and seemed happy. He put this down to her having 'found someone' and thought it may be 'someone special'. Obviously I didn't ask him again. I knew it had been a mistake to let myself get involved again. I should have remembered that life with Emma Jenkins could only mean one thing - heartbreak.

I ignored her calls. Yes, I know, the coward's way out. I couldn't go through that again. I don't even think I have got over the last time yet.

Chapter Twenty-Five

I had to collaborate with the Art department for the backdrops for the play. It was usually the Head of Drama's job but he said Claire Hepworth had specifically asked for me. In other words - he couldn't be arsed.

Claire was nice enough. Quite attractive really. She was a little taller than me, brown shoulder length hair and fiery brown eyes. Nice tits too. And she was straight. School was ultra demanding - more so than usual, so we arranged to meet at the Elizabethan pub on Friday night to iron out the details.

We met there, both of us weighted down with notebooks and sketches - hers better than mine - obviously! It was nice, in a boring kind of way. Usually when I'm with a woman I've only got one thing on my mind - how quickly I can get her into bed and how long do I have to wait before I make my excuses and leave. Don't get me wrong, they always know it is a casual thing, I would never lead someone on. I know from past experiences how much that can hurt.

Half an hour went by and we were totally immersed in out work and conversation. Then I felt it. It seemed as if all the hairs on the back of my neck were standing to attention, like a charge of electricity had raced through them scaring them into action.

I turned. Emma was just coming through the entrance with a tall, distinguished looking man. Give her credit, he was handsome in a hetero kind of way. My heart sank. It felt like I had been punched, and punched and punched.

'Are you okay, Laura?' I nodded at Claire and desperately began to sort through the sketches again pretending that I gave a fuck.

My eyes were drawn to Emma. She was laughing and slapping him on the arm. I would have liked to slap him too. He was loving it. Kept on looking around to see who was watching him with the hot date. Bastard.

She was beautiful. She was sexy. She was … with him. I looked away, looked down, then looked up again to be caught in blue eyes. The room blacked out and only Emma was there. A soft smile graced her lips that steadily grew into a wide crooked grin. She waved. Then she shifted her gaze on to Claire and her facial expression seemed to cut off, close up. She looked back at me and gave me a sad smile and turned back to her date.

Ten minutes later saw me in the toilets banging my head against the wall. Why was I such a coward?

'New treatment for an annoying headache? I'll have to try it on David out there.' I stopped thumping my head, frozen by her voice. That man was her husband - 'Ex -husband' a little voice inside whispered.

I laughed, a truly fake laugh. 'No. Just having one of those days again.'

'Tell me about it.' She sighed and entered a cubicle.

I was just about to leave when she started to speak. 'So, a new conquest, eh Laura?' I could tell she was trying to make it seem light-hearted but there was something underlying it that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

'Just a work thing, actually. Thought we might as well take it to the pub instead of sitting in my classroom.' The toilet flushed and she came out, grinning.

'Speaking of love lives - how's yours?' My head nodded towards the door. 'Jack said he thought there was someone special in your life.' I was embarrassed that I had pumped information from a sixteen-year-old boy.

That laugh again. 'No. No one special.' She began to wash her hands, her back to me. 'And as for David … he's in town for a couple of days - probably thought he could get a quickie in while he is here.'

'And?' It was out before I could stop it. I held my breath waiting for the answer. Emma studied me through the reflection in the mirror.

'Been there. Done that. Anyway…' I released the breath that I had been holding. 'What are you doing tomorrow? Fancy going to the flicks?' A teasing smile.

How could I resist?


Saturday morning saw me at Sarah and Elaine's - early. After the usual jokes of 'Have you wet the bed?' they calmed down enough to let me unburden my thoughts.

I told them about Emma re-entering my life. They looked at each other with raised eyebrows and passed on knowing smiles. I ignored their childish behaviour and decided to wallow in my own misery. I contemplated sucking my thumb at one stage but thought better of it - not good for the reputation.

'You don't understand … she broke my heart. I can't go through it again,' I wailed as I stamped my foot.

'Has she led you to believe that there is a chance of taking up where you left off?' Trust Elaine to be analytical. Why couldn't she just agree to everything that I said and be done with it. 'Or are you jumping the gun here?'

I hadn't thought about that. All I had thought about was how I was feeling in reaction to seeing her again, not even thinking about what was being offered. 'Bloody women…' I sighed. 'I don't know. What do you expect me to do? Ask her?' They both nodded. 'Have you completely lost your marbles?' More nodding. 'Are you pulling my leg?' Vigorous nodding accompanied by huge grins.

'Look Laura. We both know that your relationship ten years ago with Emma nearly destroyed you. We also know that being without her nearly destroyed you too. You have to grab what you want in this life - nobody will give it to you on a silver platter. Tell her how you feel. Tell her how you felt. Be honest with yourself … and to her for that matter.'

I digested Sarah's words. How on earth could I tell her how I felt? She'd run a mile. But then she'd know. But she'd still run a mile.

I sighed.

'Laura. Always remember - whatever will be will be.' Sarah's wise words. I remember them from the first time around and look what good that did me.


Chapter Twenty-Six

Standing outside the pictures on a Saturday night in Manchester Piccadilly was no picnic. I had been propositioned twice and accosted by an old lady who swore I was her twin sister.

I was just in the middle of directing some pervert to 'Turn left at the end of my finger and continue going until he fucked off out of my sight' when I heard Emma's dulcet tones behind me.

'Well that's a sight for sore eyes.' I was leaning over, shoving my middle finger repeatedly in the air at the unfortunate bloke who had asked 'How much?' in a gravelly Secret Squirrel kind of way.

The pervert was forgotten. I'm sure I teach his son. Never mind.

Emma grabbed hold of me in a bear like hug. 'Come here you.' Flashback? Most definitely. 'Are you ready to have the be Jesus scared out of you?' I feigned fright in an overly dramatic kind of way, you know like in the 1920s silent movies. This made her laugh. 'Okay then big guy. You can buy me the biggest popcorn in the house.' She grabbed my hand and led me to the entrance. 'And if you're a good girl, I'll let you hang onto me at the scary bits.'

'In your dreams, Jenkins.' No reaction to me using her maiden name. 'If I remember rightly, you're the one who nearly wet themselves watching Silence of the Lambs.'

'With laughing - yes - I remember it well.' She play shoved me and ran inside. I was left mesmerised. You blow me away girl. Do you know that?

Gothika was okay I suppose. I was expecting something a little more frightening, but seeing Halle Berry certainly made up for it. I didn't say I didn't jump three feet in the air on numerous occasions though, did I? Especially when she was in that bloody cell, on her own, then she wasn't. Christ. That was one fucked up vision. Me being me leapt in the air at this point and grabbed hold of Emma's arm. She wasn't expecting it and screamed at the top of her lungs. I thought she had seen something I hadn't and I joined her. It was funny, believe me, you had to be there. Actually, the people who were there didn't find it very funny though. Whatever.

As the film was reaching its climax, Emma began to get closer and closer to me. 'This brings back memories,' I thought. Another jump and she was gripping my arm. Another - my hand. Please let there be one more. By the end of the film she was nearly on my lap - I was in heaven but I just looked smug. I couldn't resist. 'Nice to see you've toughened up, Jenkins.'

'I thought I did great,' she sighed as we left the cosy interior of the movie theatre and made our way outside. 'I usually get scared at things like that, but I had 'Stewart the Saviour' to protect me,' she crooned. I mock hit her and laughed.

The fresh air outside was like … um … a breath of fresh air? It was too early to go home yet and we decided to go for a stroll, see if I could tout for some business. The streets were packed with clubbers, mostly teenagers, students and twenty somethings. Manchester was alive with activity. Cars lined the streets pumping out music that could make your ears bleed. The night smelled of smoke, car fumes and beer - lovely to a true city girl.

We strolled along, side by side chatting inanely about what was on display in the shop windows. Before we knew it we were on Canal Street standing outside Via Fossa. I walked on ahead and waited for Emma to catch up with me. She had stopped and was staring at the outside of the club. A burly bouncer asked if she was 'Coming in or not?' in his charmless way. She looked startled, like she had just been awakened, and then searched out my own concerned gaze.

We continued to walk.

'Do you still see Justine?' Her voice was cold.

'No - well yes - but only at a distance.'

'So not up close and personal then?' A bitterness crept into her voice.

'Been there. Done that - never to be repeated.'

She was silent, lost in thought. 'We'd better get going; it's getting late.'

The drive home was uncomfortable. The silence was screaming around us making my ears hurt. 'Fancy a coffee?' No response. 'Okay. Thanks for a lovely night.' I attempted to get out of the car. A hand gripped my arm holding me fast.

'Are you free tomorrow?' I nodded. 'How do you fancy - me - you - a picnic, provided by me of course - a book of poetry, provided by you - and a day at Lyme Park?' A gentle smile graced her features, making the last twenty minutes fade away. 'Maybe that'll bring back happy memories, eh?'

'Love to.'

'It's a date then.' Huge grin.

If only …


Chapter Twenty-Seven

It was beautiful. I hadn't visited Lyme Park again since … well since … you know.

Trees surrounded us in all their late spring glory, budding leaves waved in the light breeze and the woods were becoming shaded once again. The deer were there with their young trailing after them. It was like watching a nature channel with the volume turned on low. So peaceful.

We walked through the woods to the far side of the park and set up our picnic, throwing a chequered blanket down on the grass. Boxes of goodies were brought out by my Emma's beautiful hands and I 'ooohed' and 'ahhhed' in all the right places. This made her laugh. 'You're always thinking of your stomach, Stewart.' Not always. I gave her a saucy smile. 'Well … your appetites then.' A crooked grin just for me.

Perfection. That's what it was. A beautiful day, with a beautiful woman, what more can a girl ask for? We were secluded in our patch, the only company being the flora and fauna, and we made the most of our time together.

I read some poetry, some funny, some sad, some crude - just to keep the balance. She listened intently, her eyes devouring every word, especially the ones about love and loss. Gently she took the book from my hands and scanned the index. Frantic fingers sifted through the book.

'This one.'

I looked down to the open page. To Celia. I stared at it, trying to calm my breathing. 'Sure.' Was that my voice? It sounded like a teenager -a teenager sat in Emma Jenkins's bedroom thirteen years ago.

I began to read, stumbling over the first few words, apologising, and starting again. My eyes flicked intermittently to Emma. She was sprawled out on the grass; her eyes fixed straight ahead, her face blank.

'You read aloud so well Laura.'

'It's my job.' I smiled at her as her eyes met mine. A sad smile came back to me. Why did she look so sad? I couldn't go into that now, she must have her reasons.

I lay back onto the blanket and absorbed the springtime sun, listening to the scamper and rustle of leaves around me. I could hear Emma's laboured breathing.

'About that night …' I heard her sit up so I cracked open an eye to look at her. 'With Justine …' My voice trailed off. I sat up and looked squarely at her.

'I don't want to know. It's in the past.' A cold, hard voice, so unlike her. I tried again to explain, but she cut me off. 'I said I don't want to know. Leave it.'

'But I need to explain …'

'What?' Her voice was forceful 'That you fucked that slag in our flat! While I was in the other room breaking up with Mike. You fucked her right in front of me, Laura! For Christ sakes - you even kissed her when you knew I was watching.' Her voice was venomous now, raising in volume, scaring the birds from their perches.

'Breaking up with Mike! Right. Didn't sound that way to me. Funny how loud bedsprings can sound through a locked fucking door!' I shot to my feet. 'I heard you, Emma, pleading with him to forgive you, to screw you, and I quote "Ooooh Mike …I've wanted this for so long … I need this … please …"' The last bit was spoken in a childish and ugly voice. She looked shocked - yeah, caught you out good and proper, Jenkins. 'I know you played me for a fool. And like a fucking fool I fell for it again.'

'But I didn't … I wasn't…'

'Fuck you, Emma Jenkins,' I grabbed my jacket, 'I'm going. See you around.' With that I stormed off, my little legs moving so quickly I thought I would topple over. 'Play me for a fool. Not again,' I muttered under my breath. Shakespeare's sonnet sprang to mind 'Being your slave …'

'Fuck you too, Shakey.' I wasn't in the mood. I was livid. How dare she? How dare she tell me she hadn't slept with Mike Collins? Did she think I was that fucking naive? Well, she can kiss my arse.

I could hear her behind me calling my name. I ploughed on. People were beginning to stare.

'What the fuck are you looking at, twat?' Some poor unsuspecting bloke happened to be the victim of my line of vision. He shook his head, bewildered, not wanting to get on the wrong side of a five foot four bundle of anger.

'Laura … wait!' I did wait, Emma. For three years I sat on the sidelines and watched you with all your boyfriends, patiently waiting for my turn. Yeah, and look where it got me.

Strong fingers grabbed my arm and forced me to stop, spin round and face her. 'Don't leave me, Laura. Not again!'

I stared at her hand. 'I didn't leave you in the first place - you left me, remember?' The words were almost spat from my mouth. I tried to move.

'Please?' Almost whispered. She pulled me into a hug, crushing the breath out of my body. 'Don't leave me, please?' The pleading note in her voice halted me. 'Do you know how many times I wanted to come back … speak with you … hold you. Do you know how hard it was not to get down on my knees and beg your forgiveness? I've watched you for the last ten years Laura.' I grunted. 'Yes. I have. I used to drive past your house, sometimes park up, and watch you. You seemed so happy - how could I …' She drifted off. 'We were both so young, Laura … wanted different things.'

I broke away and fixed a stony gaze into her tear-filled blue eyes. 'Still do.' I said, turned and left her there, holding my still beating heart.

'But I didn't sleep with him.' I heard I say. But I kept on walking.

Liar. Fucking liar!

She didn't follow me this time.

As I sat on the bus I could still see her standing there, looking lost, rejected. I pulled my jacket around my shoulders to ward off the chill the gaping hole in my chest was causing.

It was for the best.

Wasn't it?


I was fuming. Sat on the bus, on my own, fuming. I was mumbling to myself, arguing on my own, and people were beginning to move away from me. I didn't care.

How dare she? How dare she try and get out of sleeping with Mike Collins. I knew what I had heard that night. If she was so adamant that she hadn't slept with him, why did she say she wanted to beg my forgiveness? What was there to forgive? Yes. What was there to forgive? She lied to me! She led me on! She made me believe that I had a chance - a chance with her.

'Fuck her!' It shot out of my mouth before I had time to stop it, and I could hear people muttering behind me about the youth of today. 'And fuck you too!' Two old blokes were sat there, probably stating how they had fought in two world wars for the likes of me, expressions grim.

'There's no need for that young girl. Think about the children.' I looked about me. Not one child in sight.

I was just about to go off on one again, but felt all my energy seep out of me. I could still see the rejection on her face, hear the whispered 'But I didn't sleep with him.'

I rubbed my eyes to try and stem the flow of tears threatening to expose my pain. I had lost everything.


Chapter Twenty-Eight

I didn't hear from her for nearly a week. Saturday morning had arrived after a rather strained week at work. I had chewed the heads off students and colleagues alike for no reason. Someone had to suffer apart from me.

I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling at the pale constellations I had put there as soon as I moved in., tracing the star patterns with my finger. The whispered 'But I didn't sleep with him' danced about my head like a macabre dream. I didn't feel the all-consuming anger now … only grief.

An insistent knocking at the front door broke my reverie. 'Flowers for Stewart.' The deliveryman smiled at me, taking in my rumpled hair, puffy eyes and skimpy pyjamas. 'Someone loves you.' I smiled at him, but I really wanted to tell him to shove his comments up his … 'Have a good day.' And he was gone.

The bouquet was huge. A myriad of smells poured forth jousting for position with the vibrant colours of the arrangement. I shut the door, still a little shocked to think straight. It wasn't my birthday. Who on earth …?

A small card stuck out from the foliage and I took it out cautiously, like it was going to explode in my hand.

Sorry about Sunday - Please forgive me.
Can I see you again? Maybe tonight?
We need to talk.
Love, as always, Em xxx

I reread the words 'We need to talk.' About what? I didn't think I could stand another confrontation. An image of Emma's face floated in front of me. Blue eyes were filled with pain … pain I had put there with my cruel words. Whatever had happened in the past, happened in the past. I sighed.

We needed to talk - get this out in the open, resolve the events that have haunted my dreams for the last ten years.

I took in the card again and a smile crept onto my lips - Em eh? Then I noticed the hearts and flowers border. A laugh broke free from deep within me. That felt good - life's too short to be so damn angsty.

Obviously, being a woman, I let her stew for an hour before I called her. The phone rang and rang - maybe I had left it too late? Maybe she dec…

'Hello?' She was panting, like she had been running.

'Hello there, Em.'

'So you got them then? Well?'

'They're beautiful.'

'Not the flowers … tonight?' She sounded urgent, like her whole life depended on my answer.

'I don't fancy going out with you tonight,' I said.

'Okay.' I could hear the hurt in her voice.

'But I'd love to cook for you. Here? … Seven thirty?' A smile broke my lips as I heard her muffled 'Yes' on the other end of the line. I could picture her pumping her fist in the air.

'That'd be lovely, Laura. Do you want me to bring anything with me?' My heart please.

I reassured her that I was more than capable of going shopping for food and purchasing a bottle of wine on my own. I was a big girl after all. 'Don't I know it?' She purred. Did I just come in my pants? Oh Stewart, get your mind out of the gutter and get down to business.

'So. You think we need to talk?' Silence on the other end. ' So do I.' Still quiet. 'We need to get this out in the open so we can move on with our lives.'

'Okay.' It sounded almost distant, like she was going back into her shell once again.

'Seven thirty.'

'Okay.' A little stronger now, I could hear the resolution kicking in.

We said our goodbyes, and I started to plan. I had only eight hours to prepare. It would be a rush … and you know the rest.


Dinner was a success. Chicken breasts cooked with leeks and mushrooms, followed by warm chocolate fudge cake and cream. Emma made orgasmic noises throughout, tantalisingly licking her spoon with the flat of her tongue only to alternate with just the tip. My desert was cold by the time she had finished. I think I had my own little mini orgasms watching her eat. My god! If she could eat a cake like that what would she be like …? I said leave it Stewart.

We took our coffees into the lounge and sprawled onto the sofa.

'Do you mind if I unbutton my jeans - I'm stuffed.' Weakly, I nodded my head. You can take them off if you want, I wouldn't mind - no sirree - not at all.

The conversation was light, at first, neither of us wanting to spoil the evening. But we both knew it was coming.

I took a deep breath. 'So, you said we needed to talk?' She sat a little straighter in the chair. 'I'll start shall I?'

Her face was a mask. She looked down at her hands that were fidgeting with her pinkie ring like she had no control of her actions.

'I slept with Justine Russell.' Her head shot up, her body stiffened. 'Yes. I can't deny it. You saw me … us … not that I would deny it anyway.' I took a deep breath. 'That night … I came looking for you, and …' She tried to interrupt. 'No … Emma … please. Let me finish.' I took a deep breath. 'I got to your bedroom door and it was locked.' Her mouth opened to say something. I just looked at her, pleading with my eyes for her to keep quiet.'

'As I said … the door was locked, so I knocked.'

'That was you?' She seemed incredulous.

'Emma …please?' I nervously sifted my hands through my hair. God. This wasn't easy. 'Yes it was me. Mike told me to go away - said you were busy. I couldn't believe it - one minute with me, next with him. I could hear your voice in the room saying that you were both at college, these things happen, and about how much you needed this.' I stopped and picked up my wine to guzzle a large mouthful.

'Laura … it wasn't like that. It was you I was talking about, not Mike.' Her voice was no more than a whisper.

My eyes widened at the revelation, only to go back into slits again. 'I need to tell you the rest, Emma. I need you to know.' She nodded, her eyes full of … something I couldn't quite place.

'You may say that you didn't sleep with him … let me finish! But I went on the evidence. I left your door and headed for the bathroom, losing what little I had eaten that day. Justine found me there, comforted me. You must understand - I was devastated, Emma. Justine offered me a release from something. She said all the right things, told me that she loved me, pressed all the right buttons. Next thing I knew I was in bed with her. I can't even remember getting there, couldn't think straight.' I couldn't look at Emma. I knew she would look at me with the same disgust I felt for myself. What if she had slept with Mike, at least she had done so for the right reasons … broke my heart in the process, but for the right reasons nevertheless.

'It was the first time I had ever slept with anyone. I even lost that too.' I didn't say what else I lost, even though it seemed quite obvious. 'The next thing I know you were standing there. I felt so ashamed, Emma, so dirty. I wanted to hurt you as much as you had hurt me, as much as I'd hurt myself. When you left I told Justine to go. I used her to get back at you. I can't help but feel sorry for her. I was to her what you were to me - a pipedream. Both of us didn't seem worthy.'

I stopped. Picked up my drink and leaned back into the sofa, eyes staring straight ahead.

'It was never a pipedream, Laura. I wanted it then as much as you did.' Then … she said then. 'I just … well I couldn't just cheat on Mike. I had to sort things out first. I didn't know he had locked the door until I was leaving. He tried to make me stay, said all I needed was 'a good seeing to'. He got quite aggressive at one stage and I had to force him … force him away. I was still a virgin, Laura. I didn't lose my virginity until I got married to David.'

My eyes shot round and stared at her. A virgin! Emma … but she … I couldn't finish that sentence. Her eyes began to tear again. 'Straight away I came looking for you to tell you what had happened. I couldn't believe it when I saw …when you and … why can't I even say her name?' She wailed. 'Why has she still got a hold on our lives?' I moved over to her end of the settee and put my hand on her leg, rubbing up and down reassuringly. I could feel her trembling underneath my fingertips. A deep breath.

'I hate her so much, Laura. It had to be her didn't it? All the way through school she used to taunt me about you and her. How you two had a past … and I was no part of it and never would be.' Tears silently slipped down her cheeks. I wanted to catch them, brush them away. But I still had a niggling doubt.

'Sunday. At Lyme Park you said you wanted to beg for my forgiveness. Why?'

'It doesn't matter.'

'Yes it does, Emma. We need to get this all cleared up. We've lived with this hanging over our heads for too long.'

The air seemed thick with silence. It seemed to drag around, suffocating everything under a thick cloud of deceit, shame and misunderstanding. It wasn't until her voice splintered through, breaking the tense molecules into smithereens, that the cloud of the past was burst.

'Okay.' She cleared her throat, trying to eradicate the emotion building from within. 'Cards on the table.' She leaned forward and filled her glass with wine, delaying the moment, biding her time. She gulped half of the contents and wiped the excess on her lips away with her thumb. 'You really want to know why I asked for your forgiveness?' I nodded, transfixed. 'I wanted you to forgive me for not fighting for what I wanted. For running away and not dragging that bitch off you. I wanted you to forgive me for being a coward, taking the easy way out. I wanted you to forgive me for leaving you. I knew that you would regret it and hurt really badly. But I just couldn't stay.' I dipped my head in understanding, tears trailing down my cheeks too.

'It didn't stop me though.' I looked at her questioningly. 'Two days later, I waited for Justine Russell to come back from the pub and I confronted her.' A blonde eyebrow shot into the air. 'I threatened her - told her to stay away from you or she'd be sorry.' Both my eyebrows were hiding in my hairline now. A sardonic grin crept on her face. 'You know what she did?' I shook my head. 'Laughed. Said that you'd been the best fuck of her life and you loved it. I don't know what got into me, Laura. But I pasted the shit out of her. I couldn't stop hitting her and screaming at her to stay the fuck away from you.' My face must have said it all.

'That's not the best of it.' She swallowed nervously, her eyes misting over. 'She pressed charges. That's why I had to move away to my father's - I was bound over to keep the peace.' Her hands were agitatedly plucking at an unseen thread on her top. Blue eyes hesitantly glanced up into my own expecting some form of rebuke. I sat silent, waiting for her to continue.

Another swallow. 'If I was seen anywhere near her I would have been up in court. That would have been the end of my career.' She looked down, back to her lap again. 'That's why I didn't come back. I couldn't.

'So - you didn't sleep with Mike, and you beat the shit out of Justine Russell?' She nodded.

I felt like such a shit. I hadn't trusted her enough then to not let me down. I hadn't trusted myself enough to think I deserved her.

What more could be said? She looked so miserable sat there. She had exposed her inner most thoughts, relived memories that should have stayed buried. And for what? For someone who wasn't fit enough to clean her shoes.

She looked directly in my eyes, eyes so blue, so vulnerable.

Then a whispered 'Can I have a hug?' So childlike, so innocent. Who was I to resist?


We had drunk wine with our meal, and quite a few glasses whilst we had been talking, so I coaxed her into having a Scotch to round off the night.

'I've got plenty of room. Stay over. You can stay in the guestroom, or the sofa, wherever.'

My bed. Please choose my bed. I won't hurt you. I just need to feel you next to me again. Smell you. Watch you when you sleep. Push stray locks away from your face. Know you are there …with me. No strings.

'Thanks. That'd be great.' She took the offered glass, raised it in the air. 'To friendship - and all who sail in her.' We both laughed, totally at peace on the outside, but my insides were in turmoil.

It was past midnight when we decided to call it a night. I offered her some large sweats and a t-shirt to sleep in. 'I usually sleep in the buff, but I'd better make an exception. Don't want to frighten you in the middle of the night when I nip to the loo now do I?' Please. But I think I'd frighten you with my reaction.

A big hug, I breathed her in. 'Night, Laura. See you in the morning.' I left her outside the guest room and went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Shit. I hadn't told her about the spare toothbrush.

I made my way down the hall, feet not making a sound. Her door was ajar and I could see her stripping off. I felt like a voyeur, but I couldn't take my eyes away. Her skin was smooth; legs strong and firm; thighs toned. She bent over to put her folded clothes on the chair and I saw her butt. Two rounded spheres of muscle, how I wanted to trail my fingers over them.

She turned to face the door and I was captivated by her breasts. Full, curved into a swell revealing dark nipples that were half erect. I held my breath as my eyes went lower. Dark, coarse hairs guarded her beauty, neatly trimmed, begging to be ruffled. I was riveted. My heart was drumming inside my chest entreating me to release it. I licked my lips in invitation.

'Laura?' A question softly spoken. I looked up into dark blue eyes that were fixed on my face, the expression unreadable . 'Are you okay?' Why did she just stand there naked? Why didn't she cover herself up, put on the t-shirt, cover the object of my desire? Why did she have to be so beautiful? So unobtainable?

'Toothbrush,' I squeaked out. I cleared my throat and tore my eyes away. 'Toothbrush. For you. To use. Night.' And off I went at the speed of light, embarrassed at my near Tarzan impression and my inability to stop staring. I thought I heard a giggle as I shut my bedroom door. Shit - I wanted to kick myself - especially up the backside.

But that was impossible, see. My legs are too short.


The next morning I awoke to the sound of the radio floating up the stairs accompanied by the delicious scent of bacon. My stomach ordered me to get out of bed and investigate.

I stumbled downstairs rubbing the sleep from my eyes. I hadn't slept much the night before. There were too many emotions running around in my head, and my body for that matter.

I had lain awake for hours thinking of everything that had been said, of everything that had been admitted.

Guilt kept me awake.

Guilt at the thought of Emma beating the shit out of Justine Russell, being charged with GBH.

Guilt at Emma having to move away from all her friends because of my weakness - it made my heart ache.

Guilt, because of the knowledge that Emma hadn't slept with Mike … had still been a virgin, and I slept with Justine.

If I hadn't been so quick to think the worst our first time could have been together.

In a way that hurt more.

Emma was in the kitchen still dressed in the sweats, cooking breakfast and singing along with the radio. It was like a living memory - ten years hidden. Emma, in our flat, cooking breakfast.

I stood in the doorway and watched her, the wiggle of her hips, the nodding of her head as she stirred scrambled eggs around the pan. She held the spoon up to her mouth and belted out:

yeh you're all I need
yeh you are all that I need
I'm so in love with you
I'm so in love with you
I'm so in love now yeh
I'm so in love with you again
I'm so in love
with you
oh yeh
you gotta tell me
you know you gotta tell me
whether it is right or it's wrong
I gotta know
I gotta know
you gotta tell me

Yes. I'm so in love with you too, Emma Jenkins. And no, I can't tell you.

'Really? Nice eggs,' I nodded at the pan and flashed her a big smile.

'Oh, you're finally out of the pit then lazy bones. I've never known anyone who could sleep like you.' Was that an embarrassed smile? Hope so. 'Nice hair.' I tried to flatten it but it wasn't haven't any of it - I think it was aroused.

Breakfast was relaxed. It seemed as if last night had been a cleansing of souls, something we had needed to do for so long, but were too scared of the outcome.

We shared the Observer: her having all the boring financial bits while I looked at the newly released books and the comic strips. Good combination. It was, in a word … bliss. I had never felt such contentment. Well I had, but not for ten years.

'So what are your plans for today? I'm away again tomorrow and thought you might want to do something before I go?' Did I say bliss? Should I change that to euphoria? Nah - bliss would do. I nodded, a piece of toast seeming awfully dry in my mouth at that moment. 'I'll have to go and get changed - we could go on the way if you wouldn't mind stopping at mine?' I shook my head. I'd follow you anywhere, anytime.

I was in big trouble. I was captured by her once again. This couldn't be good but I couldn't help myself. I was caught, hook, line and sinker.


Chapter Twenty-Nine

Her house was classic modern and it summed her up perfectly. Although it had the ambience of the present, it exuded a feeling of timelessness, something familiar in the air.

She hastily went upstairs to shower and change and told me to have a poke about. So I did.

Books lined the shelves from modern mathematics (yawn) to computer manuals. I wasn't even tempted enough to take one down and have a peek. Then I saw it. Tattered, dirty and stuffed in the top corner of the bookcase. It was her poetry anthology from school. I slipped it from its haven and looked it over. Youthful handwriting adorned the cover in both Emma's hand and mine. Things like 'Justine Russell is a twat' (my handwriting) - 'A big twat at that' (Emma's). Pop groups' names were scrawled on there exposing our bad tastes. I laughed and began flicking through it.

It fell open on its own to reveal a crumpled piece of paper. The hearts and flowers caught my eye:

Laura Stewart
Emma Jenkins

With a shaking hand I moved it aside to reveal Jonson's To Celia. I almost expected it. The annotations were smudged, the writing nearly invisible, and there seemed to be something spilled in here - drops of something.

She had underlined:

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honoring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not wither'd be;
But thou thereon didst only
And sent'st it back to me

Why had she underlined that part? I shook my head and carefully put it back. I'll think about it later. I couldn't deal with the memories … too painful.

I entered the front room. It was bright, decorated in cream walls with two large brown leather sofas in the centre. The floors were stripped pine and varnished. A large white rug sat pride of place in front of the open fire. It was exquisite. Very tasteful - like her.

My eyes drifted to the mantelpiece at a framed photograph. No. It couldn't … I stepped close. It was. A framed photograph of Emma and I at college, arms wrapped around each other and laughing at the camera. My hand was shaking as I picked it up. We looked so happy, so contented. It seemed as if the world had stopped spinning at that moment. I remembered it well. It was taken after we had received our A levels results. But that means … that means she would have developed this after the Justine Russell incident. I didn't understand. Why would she want to be reminded of that?

'Those were the days, eh?' Her voice startled me and I thrust the photograph back onto the shelf, mumbling an apology. She came and stood next to me, I could smell her freshly washed body but I could still smell her. Her hair was towel dried and strands of it still clung to her face. She gently lifted the photograph, her eyes sparkling. 'Who would have thought that in the matter of hours everything we knew would be turned upside down. Life eh?'

What could I say? There was nothing that could excuse what had happened, especially now that I knew she was an innocent in the events. I had followed my own vulnerability, believing that no one could possibly love me, especially Emma. She was too good for me. Still was.

'Has Jack seen this?' A small smile began to creep on her face. A slight nod. 'So he knew who I was?' Another nod. 'So you knew it was me before you came to school?' Bigger smile - looking almost sheepish. 'You little buggar.' An all out laugh. 'You two set me up!' I feigned shock. 'Why you …' and I tickled her - right in the ribs, the place where I knew I could get her. She wriggled like crazy, spluttering, laughing, and trying to catch my hands. We staggered backwards until I felt her legs meet the sofa. Shove. Down she went, me on top of her.

'Give up!' I tickled more frantically. She was laughing unreservedly now. 'Come on say it! Say "Laura Stewart is the Champ". Go on say it!' Demon fingers dug into her.

'Okay! Okay! Laura Stewart is the Chump!'

'Why you little …' My fingers dug in again.

'Okay! I give in - Laura Stewart is the Champ!' My hands stilled but stayed on her sides. We were both panting hard. Blue eyes met green and locked. The air was thick with expectation. Our breathing was beginning to calm from the exertions, but still had a hitch. Her face took on an unreadable expression. She was so beautiful, and it felt so natural to have her underneath me.

'Bout time. And don't forget it.' I grinned, and she returned it with one of her own crooked ones.

'Are you going to let me get up, or are we staying like this for the rest of the day?'

Now there's a thought.


Style Woods was any naturist's dream . No naturist - not naturalist - perv. We stopped at the Ship Inn for Sunday lunch and a shandy before we headed into the woods. God, the food was good. Yorkshire puddings the size of tennis balls, and so light and fluffy … there I go again - thinking about food. At least it gave me a respite from thinking about her, the announcement tucked away; the underlined passage.

The woods themselves were coming to life, just like I was. Musty smells seeped up from the undergrowth after the initial rain of spring, and birds warbled their songs from up above us. The river was calm, almost reaching the stillness of a lake in its own tranquillity. Ducks charged over in the hope we had some offering to them, like they were pagan gods.

We stood, silent, the need for words redundant. How can anything top this perfection?


Emma took my hand into hers. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it. Her fingers curled around mine in possession, holding me fast. I swallowed my heart back down.

'Come on. Let's go.'

With that she led me back along the path back to the car, still holding my hand … my heart.


She dropped me off and escorted me to my door.

'So … I'll see you soon okay?' Her face was so beautiful, the dying sun casting shadows over her features.


'Not sure. I'll try and make it back for the production, okay?'

With that, she put her arms about me, slowly, and drew me to her. I melted at the contact. 'You take care okay?' Please take care, for me.

I could smell her spicy scent … no, not perfume … her scent, her smell. Her hand came up to my hair and stroked back the stray locks. I looked up into her eyes and drowned. She looked so serious, like this was the most important minute of her life. A kiss, soft and gentle on my forehead, featherlike. A sigh escaped me. Another one on my cheek. I gripped her waist in possession. On the lips. So light, so tender, a gentle brushing of lips, but with that kiss I was truly lost.

A connection in my breast so strong it took my breath away. It felt like my soul had reached out of my body and pulled hers in. I felt whole again.

Then she was gone and I was left wondering, again, if I had dreamt it all.


Chapter Thirty

I felt empty without her. I couldn't concentrate, couldn't sleep, even my appetite had died off. Honestly.

I hadn't heard from her for two weeks. Not a postcard, phone call, text message - nothing.

It was the production's opening night and everyone was in a state of panic. Rehearsals had been a nightmare. The kids had buggared up nearly every line in the whole thing. Oscar Wilde would be spinning in his grave at this rate.

I was the only one who seemed unruffled. Probably because I had other things on my mind - more important things.

I sorted out make-up, lights, props, you name it I was there. What else did I have? I had to keep busy some way or another. Jack looked fantastic in his costume: smoking jacket and cravat, just a touch of makeup for the people at the back. I never asked him about Emma, it wasn't fair to put him in the middle, and I didn't want to know if she was with someone else.

She didn't turn up. Nor the next night. Jack didn't seem bothered about her absence.

It was on the final night that I saw her again.

I was bollocking some Year 9s who had been pissing about with the props the night before. I was in mid rant - real teacher angry - you know - give the impression that you are boiling mad, but in reality it is all an act. It was also a good way of relieving the tension that was building up inside me.

'It's not you that I'm disappointed with, just your behaviour.' Yeah right. 'Now go away and think about what I have said.' Off they scampered, probably going for a ciggie before the play started, the wise words I had bestowed on them completely forgotten - or probably not even heard in the first place.

'Hello stranger.' That voice. My heart cheered.

'Oh hi.' I tried to sound aloof. Remember - not a word - for two weeks!

'Come here you.' She grabbed me and encased me in a full body hug. I began to melt then thought better of it and drew back. She smiled at me, a full crooked one - the ones I love best, and grabbed me again, crushing me to her breast. That did it. The feel of those weapons bobbing underneath her shirt was my downfall.

A gentle kiss on my hair. 'I really missed you.' A soft kiss on my ear. 'Sorry I couldn't get in contact, you know how things can get.' No. Actually, no, I don't.

'Hi Emma.' Jack. 'Glad you could make it tonight. Just got in?'

'Yeah about thirty minutes ago. I haven't even been home yet - had to get here and see my best people.' She turned and smiled at me. I blushed. 'Is Dad here?' Jack nodded and pointed into the audience to a handsome man in the third row, sitting with a pretty blonde woman. 'Better get this over with. Are you free later Laura?'

'Well, I have to clear up a bit … keep the caretakers happy … and then I'm all yours.' Her face lit up.

'Until later.'

'Later it is.'


After we had cleared up (Emma getting stuck in, making the kids laugh with her antics), we went to a local wine bar not far from school. I had been there before, as it was gay friendly, and the atmosphere was light yet sultry.

A piano took centre stage, and a middle aged crooner was singing songs from all times, taking requests for a nice tip.

It was soothing.

Emma ordered a bottle of wine and settled in her chair. Blue eyes flicked over the candle that was stuck right in my line of vision. I didn't want anything to spoil my view of her, so I shoved it, unceremoniously, to the side. She laughed.

'I'm sorry I didn't get in contact with you, Laura, I … I had a few things I had to sort out in my head, you know … I … well. I'm sorry anyway.'

'Did you practice that? Cos you should have.' I grinned. I didn't care that she hadn't called, etc. She was here now and that's what mattered. That smile again - wow.

We chatted for about half an hour until she excused herself, begging needing the bathroom. I sat there twiddling the drinks mat, then reading the bottle of wine. Mmm … good year… as if I had a clue.

'Excuse me, madam.' I looked up, startled from my wandering thoughts, and met brown eyes. 'This is for you.' The waiter stood next to me holding out a single red rose. I looked at him dumbfounded. 'And there is a message I have to tell you.' He cleared his throat 'I sent thee late a rosy wreath, / Not so much honoring thee /As giving it a hope that there / It could not wither'd be.'

My eyes filled with tears. 'And this one's for Laura.' I looked up and saw Emma on the stage, microphone in hand. The music began, the pianist was accompanied by a faceless man with a guitar, and I was once again transfixed. Her voice was deep, soulful, full of emotion:

When you find the one
There's no questioning the silence
All is said and done
When you find the one
And when you make the choice
To believe in your existence
With hello you will know
When you find the one

A sob tore from my throat. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Emma, on a stage, in front of a room full of people, singing to me … to me.

She stepped off the stage, her eyes fixed on mine, repeating the last stanza, but walking towards me, her hand outstretched, inviting me to join her. And I did. I don't remember consciously getting up and walking towards her, but I was suddenly in front of her and she was singing.

I believed it could be true
I believe I always knew

She stopped singing and lowered the microphone. Her eyes looked deeply into mine, aflame with emotion. She whispered, 'And I knew it was always you.'

And then I kissed her, fully on the mouth; my lips open, inviting her tongue inside to connect with its soul mate. She didn't hesitate and devoured all that I offered, all that I promised. She dropped the microphone on the floor and crushed me to her, our kiss becoming frantic, my hands roaming all over her back, up and down her arms, wanting to possess her, wanting her to possess me.

A loud cheer erupted in the room, and applause. We reluctantly drew apart and gazed into each other's eyes. How could I have missed the love that I saw there? A slow, sexy smile graced her lips. 'I love you, Laura Stewart, always have, always will.'

I kissed her again, hard, and then pulled away. 'Laura Stewart loves Emma Jenkins. I have done since the first moment I saw her thirteen years ago.' She kissed me so softly I thought my heart was going to combust.

'Let's blow this joint.' She grabbed my hand and led me to the table to get our things. The whole bar cheered as we made our way to the door. But not as loudly as my soul did. Emma Jenkins loved me … loved me … do you understand that … Emma Jenkins loved me.

And God, did I love her.


We were back at my place before we knew it. Inside the door, coats thrown on the floor, arms and legs wrapping around each other, tongues dancing in each other's mouths. Next thing we're on the sofa, her hands inside my top grasping at my breast, muttering words of love and longing. She was grinding herself into me and I was pushing back with the same enthusiasm, panting out staccato phrases that rang with my need. 'God Emma… oh God … Emma … yes … that's it …just there.' This spurred her on. She shoved my top up and plunged her head between my breasts. 'Fuck yes!' Her hot mouth closed over my nipple whilst her hand began to clutch at the other one like it was a life raft.

One of my hands slipped down the back of her jeans, pushing her into me. The other one around the front trying to get her buttons open. 'Laura … god Laura … I want you so badly … so much …god I love you … love you.' She was thrusting harder into me. I nipped and sucked her neck. 'Fuck me … yeeeesssss,' she hissed.

My hand reached inside her jeans and slipped effortlessly into her pants, the downy hairs tickling my hand. She gasped and thrust herself forward trying to capture my fingers. I could feel the heat coming from her arousal. I held my breath waiting for the ultimate contact, waiting to touch the slick folds.

She sprang off me like she had been burned. 'We can't do this. Not now!' What the fuck? 'No. It has to be right - has to be special. Not some quickie on the sofa. You mean more to me than that, Laura.' She sat back on her haunches, balancing precariously on her heels. Her face was twisted in a mixture of desire and dismay. I stroked her face trying to ease her dilemma. I could tell that she was worried about my reaction. A small laugh escaped my lips to be greeted by a startled look.

'Sshhh honey,' I soothed, as I brushed my fingers through her hair. 'I wouldn't have it any other way.' I gently stroked the side of her face. 'I've waited too long for you to mess this up now.' My fingers settled underneath her chin and I gently eased her face to mine to place a tender kiss on those swollen lips. 'When we are ready, when the time is right, and only then.'

She leaned forward to fall into my arms. I wrapped myself around her, protecting her from the world like a warm piece of bubble wrap. Her head nestled underneath my chin and I stroked circular patterns on her back and listened to her heart beat get back to normal.

When I told her I would wait, I meant it. I know you think all I want is sex, but I didn't want sex with Emma. Oh no. I wanted to make love with her - and that's a big difference.


Chapter Thirty-One

We didn't go any further that night. We sat on the sofa, arms around each other and talked for hours. Obviously there was more kissing. Long, sensual kisses that blew me away and made me both happy and sad at the same time. Happy because we had finally overcome our fear of each other: sad because we had wasted thirteen years.

'I know what you are thinking, Laura.' I turned to look into her eyes, a smile creeping onto my lips. 'You're thinking that we have wasted thirteen years, aren't you?' I must have looked startled because she laughed. 'I know what you mean. But we have to live for the now. I doubt that we would have survived if we had got together at eighteen.' Weakly, I nodded. Deep down I knew she was right.

'When Jack first spotted the picture of you and told me you were his Ms Stewart, I was nearly beside myself. I wanted to rush to the school, sweep you up like in that movie, and carry you away. I couldn't think straight: work was a nightmare. All I wanted to do was see you again and tell you how I felt.'

'But I thought you said you had watched me over the years?'

'I did, when you lived at Sarah's, but when you moved out it was like you dropped off the face of the earth.'

'Well. In a way I did. I moved into Uni lodgings for my last two years. And you know that is unlike anything the normal world has ever see.' We laughed and snuggled up to each other again. I could hear her heart beating strongly inside her chest. I could smell her essence. My fingers traced the contours of her collarbone etching to memory every nuance.

'So why didn't you come and sweep me off my feet? Make an honest woman out of me?' I kissed her collarbone, the temptation too much.

A soft sigh. 'Because I didn't know if it would be the same. It had been ten years since I had spoken to you let alone anything else. What if we were completely different people? I had this image of you in my head. What if you had changed? Or told me to sling my hook? At least at this rate I still had the dream of you. For all I knew you may be straight.' I glared up at her. 'You never know.'

'How long did you wait before making the appointment?'

'Five months.'

'Five months? Five friggin months?' I couldn't believe it, as you can tell by my reaction. Emma had known where I was for five months and didn't come to see me. I sat up brusquely, wrenching my self out of her arms. 'Why on earth did you wait so long? Why didn't you come and speak to me?'

'I couldn't. I didn't know what to say. Poor Jack … I pumped him for information about you, you know, what you liked, where you lived, were you seeing anyone?' She slipped her hand up my back rubbing up and down in soothing strokes. A stray hand made its way to my hair. 'Look honey, I was scared … I didn't know what you would say. The last time we had spoken … well … just say it was a little tense.' I exhaled the breath I had been holding. 'I wanted to speak to you so badly. You looked the same and …'

'Wait a minute.' I turned to face her. Her face was crimson. 'I looked the same … but … that means …' I noticed her face becoming more incandescent and could feel the heat simmering off her. 'You watched me.' I said a matter-of-factly.

Her eyes looked everywhere but into mine. 'Emma … Look at me. Emma …' a shy smile played at the corners of her mouth.

'I'm so sorry. I just … I just … well you were there and … well … it didn't hurt just to look …' her voice drifted off.

'How many times?' No answer, just a lot of wriggling. 'Emma … how … many … times?' I enunciated each word.

'Can't remember.' Almost childlike. I glared at her. 'Okay, okay.' She held her hands up in supplication. 'I don't know how many exactly. A couple of times a week - maybe more.' I sat open mouthed. 'Sometimes every day …'

She had watched me everyday for five months and I didn't even know. How could I walk around oblivious to everything about me? It's a wonder I didn't get run over.

'Why did you decide to come and see me - what changed your mind?'

'I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to speak with you. God … I was so nervous. And then when you passed out - twice…' My turn to look embarrassed. 'I thought I'd done the wrong thing and should have kept away.'

'But look at us now.' We were back in position; me sprawled all over her, my arms around her waist, my head on her breast. 'You would have missed this.'

'Oh, but I have missed this.' She leaned down and kissed me on the mouth. 'So much.'


The guestroom stood empty that night, although Emma said it would be wiser to sleep separately for the moment, as she didn't know if she could keep her hands off me. I wouldn't hear of it and told her, in no uncertain terms, that didn't she think I had waited long enough for her to be next to me - snuggling.

I slept like a log. I don't think I even had a dream. Not surprising really as I had all I had ever dreamed of snuggled up next to me. I was in heaven. I was in bed burrowed into Emma Jenkins and she loved me. Loved me! I wanted to shout it out to the world but thought I'd better not as it would scare the shit out of her. My life was taking on a whole new meaning. It seemed like I had been given back everything that I had lost and then given a little bit more for good measure. Fuck. I felt good. She felt good. I even thought my dickhead Year 10s were perfection personified. Nothing could dampen my mood.

I promised myself that I would be a better person from now on. No more swearing, no more getting pissed senseless, no more ripping heads of kids who had not done their homework. I was going to be a role model for all future generations. People would think of me and nod their heads approvingly and say 'Laura Stewart was all that was good and perfect.' God, I felt smug … I felt supreme. So this is what it's like to be totally and utterly in love.

Thinking back to how I felt when I was a teenager I now realise that my feelings for Emma were not a patch on what I was feeling now. I thought back to what she had said earlier. Would we have made it? That's a question that could never be answered.

The biggie was 'Can we?'


Morning crept her way into my bedroom throwing herself over the bed like an old friend. She trailed her fingers down Emma's face, caressing every gradation of her chiselled features. For a moment I felt jealous, wanting to be the only one to touch her.

Lost in my musings, I was unaware that blue eyes were taking me in, waiting for my eyes to reach hers.

'Morning.' You've got to love her voice. It rippled in places that I didn't know existed and acted like a match to my dormant libido.

'Hiya sexy.' I leaned in for a gentle kiss that all too soon became hot and demanding. I didn't care that I had kitten breath. I just wanted to suck her right inside me. Eager hands began to trace hems of tops; knees began to part luscious thighs; a rhythm began in hips that had been waiting all their life to be in this situation.

I could feel the dampness seeping through my pyjama bottoms as I increased the tempo, my breathing becoming ragged, expectant. Her hands drifted to my hair, gripping and tugging, pushing and pulling.

Then she began to slow it down, lazily stroking down my spine, her hips receding, her kisses becoming more chaste. I needed more but I knew that we needed time to rediscover each other. I didn't want to just jump into bed with her and have wild, unadulterated, fantastic, ravenous … god … shit … calm down … Let's start that sentence again. I didn't want things to get out of hand before we had time to adjust to our relationship.

Our relationship … oh how I've wanted to use those two words about me and Emma for so long … too long. I wasn't going to let my overzealous libido ruin this. We had to do it right.

She was looking at me again with the same apprehension I'd seen there the night before. I had to make her know that I was okay about it.

'Hey.' Kiss. 'We've got all the time in the world for that, Emma. It has to be right …' Another kiss. ' I want it to be as special as you do.' Her face relaxed and she pulled me to her engulfing me in her strong arms so I was nestled into her breast.

I was in heaven.

Two hours later saw us showered, dressed and eating breakfast. We hadn't showered together, although that would have been a good idea - save water and all that.


We had a fantastic weekend. Lazy, in a loved up kind of way. I felt euphoric and I think she was pretty chuffed too. It was funny to watch her expression change from stoic to puppy dog as quick as a flash. All it would take was a touch on the hand, a kiss on the cheek, a soft word murmured into her ear and she was a ball of mush. And I loved it.

Monday saw me skipping down the corridors at work, students staring at me wondering if I had finally lost my marbles. I had lost something … but definitely not my marbles. I was the picture of restraint and grace. Excuses about missing homework was responded with 'Ah well … life's too short to worry about that. Soon as you can … ok?' I think this unnerved them more than if I had ripped off their heads and spat down their necks like I would usually have done.

Jack watched me intently all through his lesson period five. I could tell that he wanted to ask me something but didn't know how to broach it.

After the lesson was over, and the kids had all piled out muttering about 'bloody love poems' I could sense that Jack was behind me.

'Miss?' That question in the voice again.

'Yes?' Bored shitless response.

'Can I ask you a question?'

'You just have.' I stared at him. He didn't know what to do. I let a smile slide onto my face. I got an all out grin in response. God. How did I not see it? He was the absolute spitting image of his sister - especially when he smiled.

Although I had tried to break the ice I could tell that he was nervous. 'I … just … er … wonderedhowyouwere,' the last bit coming out a rush. He looked everywhere but at me. I waited patiently. Let him finish.

'I … er … just wanted to say …' another pause 'that I am really glad that you and Emma are friends again.' Did he know? 'It's been the happiest I think I've ever seen her. I know that something happened between you years ago … but … erm … I'm pleased that you have sorted it out.' I smiled at him.

'Sorry that I didn't tell you … that I deceived you for so long … but she asked and … well you know …' He was shuffling his feet by this stage and gripping and ungripping the handle to his bag. 'I was so worried about her Miss.' I looked at him intently, green eyes begging him to continue. 'She was wasting her life. First she married that dickhead - excuse me. Then she would just sleep with women left, right and centre.'

'Excuse me? What was that?' My voice sounded a little shrill. Jack looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up. 'She slept with whom?'

'But I thought …'

'She slept with women?' Poor lad. His face was the colour of plaster cast and I could see a line of sweat forming on his top lip.

'Well … yeah.' Deep gulp. I stared at him intently. 'Emma's … you know … well…she's …' he drifted off.

'Gay?' I said it for him - as I think it would have choked him to say that in front of me. He nodded, eyes fixed on mine waiting for a reaction. I laughed. He stared harder. I laughed again.


'Yes … yes … course she is. Don't worry about it Jack. It just came as a surprise that's all.' Bloody hell. Even though I had kissed, slept in the same bad as, kissed again, fumbled and nearly had sizzling sex with Emma I hadn't even considered the fact that she might be gay. Stupid, I know, but I had arrogantly assumed I was her first. 'You were saying?'

He studied me, almost expecting me to laugh again. Shaking his head to clear it, he continued. 'Well, as I said, I was worried about her, she seemed so unhappy like she couldn't be bothered with anything. And then I spotted that picture of you and her on the mantelpiece. When I said you were my teacher I couldn't believe her response. She seemed almost possessed, grabbed my shoulders and said was I sure, not just the once, but three times. Then she wanted to meet you, and then she didn't. She kept on saying she was going to see you and then she chickened out at the last minute.'

Reminds me of someone else I know.

'Then when I made the appointment, she was so happy. Then she kept on changing her mind every time I spoke to her - one minute she was coming - the next - she couldn't face it. But I'm glad that she did. She's a different person, Miss. I just wanted to tell you that and thank you.'

I know I shouldn't have done it, rules and all that, but I grabbed that wonderful young man and nearly squeezed the life out of him.

'No Jack. Thank you.' And thanks to your wonderful sister too.


Chapter Thirty-Two

Tuesday and Wednesday swept past in a wonderful haze. I was so at peace. I had seen Emma both evenings and we were getting closer and closer - I didn't think it was possible, but we were.

I asked Emma about her past relationships - yes I know - leave it where it belongs - in the past. But … what can I say? I'm a woman. And being a woman meant I had to know the details.

She didn't bat an eyelid when I told her what Jack had said. Actually, she chuckled rather endearingly, and told me that she had always had her suspicions about her sexuality - especially when she got to know me at school. The only reason she had married David in the first place was a stab at what society deemed to be standard, wanting to fit into the tight mould of what qualified as normalcy.

Obviously, it was a big mistake.

I was intrigued about the school bit but she was having none of it and decided to play 'Tug Wrestle', a game that she thought she'd invented that included a lot of wrestling, especially on the sofa and the floor, and tugging at clothes. Every time I broached the subject she would avoid it. I'll get you in the end Emma Jenkins.


When Emma turned up on Thursday evening she seemed almost shy as I opened the door. She looked beautiful. Her hair was still slightly damp and I could smell Cool Waters drifting off her in sensual waves. I waited for her to come in but she kept hovering on the doorstep.

'What's the matter with you? Are you coming in or what?' She kept standing there looking bashful (and beautiful), one hand hidden behind her back. 'Come on. Dinner is almost ready.' Still standing there. 'What've you got behind your back?'

'It's about time,' she pouted. 'I thought you teachers didn't miss a trick.' From behind her back came a dozen vibrant red roses on long stalks and a mass of greenery. 'A rose for my rose.' That smile, crooked, enticing. I pushed the offering aside while I pulled her in for a deep kiss. I felt the connection of two souls click … and then I pulled away to examine my gift.

'They're beautiful … just like you.' I kissed her again, then plucked a vivid bloom from the centre. I caught her gaze and riveted her to the spot. I held out the bloom to her and softly quoted 'My lurve is like a red red rose that sweetly sprung in June. My lurve is like a melody …' I didn't get to finish. She scooped me into her arms and laid one on me. I didn't care about the neighbours … let them get their own warrior woman.

Warrior woman? Where did that come from?

Well. She was like a knight in shining armour, so chivalrous and strong and good and sexy and hot and … and I better stop that train of thought.

Dinner was perfect. She was perfect. The evening was perfect. All in all everything was … yes you guessed it …flawless.

'How would you like to go somewhere special for the weekend? My treat?' Blue eyes waited patiently for me to answer. I was still deliberating over the word special … did she mean special as in go somewhere and do different things for a treat or special as in 'It has to be right - has to be special' special. My heart begged for the latter but I was content for the first option.

'I'd love to.' Her face lit up.

'Leave the arrangements to me. I'll pick you up at six thirty tomorrow. Can you stay until Monday? I know it's a Bank holiday, but you might have made arrangements.' Eager eyes pleaded with mine.

'I'm all yours.' And I was too.


Chapter Thirty-Three

Funny how time drags when you are waiting for something. If I was going into one of those situations where I was bricking myself - like the dentists or waiting for my phone bill to arrive, then time would race ahead sticking two fingers up shouting 'Kiss my arse' and then stop as I was just entering the testing time. Stop, and then … hold … leaving me dangling there until the will to live had been sapped out of me.

But if you were looking forward to something time became Super Bitch and changed all of the rules. Each second seemed like someone scraping their nails down a blackboard, each minute was a bloke fart in a lift stuck between floors. And every hour … god … every hour was like listening to Michael Jackson singing. Do you get the drift?

The students were a bloody nightmare. Kids have a knack of recognising a weakness and pressing against it with all their might. Do you remember when I said that future generations would think of me and think I epitomised 'all that was good and perfect'? Well, it didn't last. I would now be remembered as the Evil One. The kids didn't stand a chance. I had more experience being a pain in the arse than they had. Believe me … I was a nightmare.

Their graceful and peaceful Ms Stewart became Ms Obstinate, Ms Angry, and Ms If You Piss Me Off Again You're Going to Regret it. The day was filled with the childish muttering of how unfair it was … should just grow up … what's the point … and that was just me. The kids weren't as forgiving, and I'm certain I heard the words 'tight', 'arsed' and 'cow' floating my way. Bless. You've got to love them.

I was showered, packed and pacing from five fifteen, and eventually six thirty crawled around to stop languidly at my door. I was jittery, expectant and sweating profusely - why, I don't know. I had been for a wee four times in fifteen minutes - that's how wired I was.

When she rang the bell my heart stopped… listened … took note … and then … started again. I was like a bloody teenager.

'Hi Emma.' Completely in control, the simile as cool as a cucumber being written in reference to me. 'Don't tell me it's six thirty already?' I tried to sound incredulous but it came out as simpleton. She didn't notice, and the reason she didn't notice is because she was as nervous as I was.

I could see her swallowing rapidly, like her throat was attached to her eyes, which were blinking rapidly. 'You set.' Woman of few words, that's my girl. By her body language, her actions and the lack of dialogue I was beginning to believe that maybe it was 'the special' that I wanted. But I wasn't going to set my heart on it.

I had done that before and I wasn't ready to feel that way again. As long as we were together - that suited me down to the ground. We had all the time in the world and I wasn't going to risk that for anything.


After we packed the car, and we had both visited the toilet again, it was nearly seven before we set off. Emma put some classical music on the CD player and turned to look into my eyes. 'If I was you I'd get some sleep. We should be on the road for about three and a half hours.'

'Are you going to tell me where?' I wasn't too concerned of the location; my brain was still trying to digest why she wanted me to get some rest.

'It's a surprise.' She turned away - discussion over.

I pushed my seat back and lowered it. Well, I should do what the lady wants - don't want to be tired.


We stopped after a couple of hours to grab something to eat. It was a lovely little pub in the middle of nowhere. A roaring fire greeted us, and though it was May it was still nippy in the evenings. Flames from the blaze lured us to set up home - so we did while we ate homemade country vegetable soup and fresh, warm rolls. Emma sat with her back against the wall facing the door. I sat directly opposite her engraving to memory every detail of her and our surroundings. I was totally at peace.

The bitter was refreshing and easily slipped down our throats. 'Another?' I asked her hoping that she said no. She did.

'We'd better make tracks. I'd like to get there as soon as possible.' That crooked smile again. 'We don't want to be sleeping under the stars now do we?'

I wouldn't mind as long, as I'm with you.


The rest of the journey was uneventful. I tried to guess where we were going but by the time the lights of the car lit up the signs they were gone.

Our destination arrived just after eleven and I woke up to the low tones of Emma's voice blending perfectly with Gabriel Faure's Requiem: In Paradisum. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was the closest to heaven that I think I had ever been. Her eyes glowed in the darkness of the car like chips of sapphires.

'Laura … Laura … Are you okay? Honey?' A concerned voice.

'Never been better.' I leaned forward and captured those lips, savouring this moment, deliciously feeding from her. I pulled back and looked her in the eyes. 'I love you … so … so much.' An all out grin burst onto her face.

'Good job too, or else I would have to punish you severely.' She mock growled and lunged at my ribs to tickle me mercilessly.

After a spontaneous tickle come snogging session, we exited the car, which was parked in a near black car park. Emma grabbed both of our bags and led the way around to the front of the hotel.

I froze when I saw the sign outside. The Whitby Lodge. We were in Whitby … but I didn't understand.

'Tada!' She looked pensive like she was waiting for a response, any response other than an impression of a statue. I just stared at the guesthouse. It was the same one from thirteen years ago, the outside sported a different colour, but all in all the same place.

'But …' I stopped, tried to scramble inside my head for something to say.

'We don't have to Laura. We can stay somewhere else. I just thought …' Her face was falling; she looked crushed.

'No … no … it's perfect. Just a shock. I didn't think you would remember that's all.'

'How could I forget.' Not a question - a statement. She stared into my eyes, her own becoming misty with the memory. 'This has been engraved into my mind for thirteen years. I just wanted us to see it again.' A long arm stretched out to me with a slender hand open in invitation. 'Come on baby. Let's check out those memories and see if we can add a few.' Her fingers curled around my own and she pulled me towards her, placing the softest of kisses on my forehead.


After checking in, climbing eight flights of stairs - yes, the ones designed for hump-backed dwarfs with extremely small feet - and nerves of steel, we arrived outside our old room.

My heart fell into my shoes when she opened the door to reveal two single beds. She didn't seem phased by this at all. Actually she seemed pretty happy. I felt like a twat - for want of a better word. I know I said whatever will be will be but I was hoping that this would be that special time. Oh well.

She closed the door behind us and then turned on the lamp beside her old bed. Her attention came back to me. I just stood there, rooted, trying to look nonchalant. Emma watched me, her face intent, trying to understand what I was thinking … and something else … I don't know … just something.

'Well … this is a surprise. Those stairs nearly killed me when I was sixteen - I think you'll have to get the Fire Service out to get me downstairs again.' An attempt a humour but the tightening of my throat gave me away.

Emma turned from me and went to the sink to get herself a glass of water. I stood there. Just stood there.

What was the matter with me? Snap out of it girl. You're here, with Emma Jenkins, and she loves you. Loves you! In my mental meanderings I had failed to see her standing directly in front of me, her leg touching the bed that had been mine. She was waiting for me to focus, water in hand.

'Laura.' So quiet. 'Laura … I … I need to tell you something.' I snapped out of my thoughts and noted how close she was to me. 'Do you remember the last time we were here?' Her face was earnest. How could I forget? - The pleasure and pain theory - having the woman of my dreams here with me, but knowing that she would never be mine? I nodded, still unable to speak.

'Well … I have a confession to make.' Nervous fingers played with her hair. 'Remember how we blamed Justine Russell for absolutely everything?' I nodded not wanting to hear Justine's name at this moment. 'Well …'

'Well what?' My interest was piqued now.

She lifted the glass of water, and with a quick movement, poured the contents all over what used to be my bed.

'I don't understand.' And I didn't.

'It was me.' I looked at her. 'I poured water over your bed that night, not Justine.' My mouth fell open - I was speechless - a very unusual condition for me, believe me.

'You! You poured the water …' I trailed off and gawked at her. She nodded. 'But why on earth …?'

'I wanted you to share my bed. I wanted to see what it would be like to share my bed with someone that I … loved.'

'Loved?' I was astonished. 'But you didn't even know me.'

'You're wrong there. I first noticed you at the end of Year ten. The image of you is still so strong in my mind. You stopped my heart that day.'

'What happened?' I swallowed nervously.

'Well …' A gulp. 'I was walking down the corridor on my way to Maths, completely oblivious to school and listening to the near conquests of Maria and her cronies …' She swallowed hard. Maria was one of the Bitches. 'Then suddenly, like a gift from the Gods, you were there, standing to the side with an ethereal look on your face. I thought you were a vision, something out of my imagination.'

My eyes were filling with tears. She was describing the exact same moment that I had seen her.

'When I saw you I felt something click, like I had known you all my life and longer. I didn't know what to do; I had never felt this way about anyone, never mind another girl. I felt scared and elated all at the same time.'

My heart soared and I rushed into her arms knocking the glass from her hand. We held each other so tight almost like we were balancing on a precipice, each other our salvation. I tilted my head back and looked deeply into her eyes. The room seemed to shrink away leaving only us. I could feel her heartbeat next to my chest beating out an incessant thumping, which matched my own. 'Do you know how long I have waited for you? Do you know how much I want you … need you … love you?' I angled my face so it was aligning with her down turned one, watching her graze her tongue over her lips in invite, begging to be tasted.

Slowly, I raised towards them, the distance between us an agony. Soft lips caressed mine, gentle circles so light it seemed as if it was a dream. More insistent, the surge of latent emotions rising to the surface like from slumber - becoming alive, refreshed and hungry. Lips parted to allow tongues to enter and leisurely stroke the insides of each other's mouths, the sensation becoming delectably unbearable. Hands began to roam of their own volition, needing no guide to help them on their way, the journey etched to memory from eons of travels.

My fingers were unfastening the buttons to her shirt, and I was trying to control the uncontrollable feeling of desire, wanting to tear it from her torso like a mad woman, exposing her body to the night and my starving eyes. She stroked my back in supplication, palms begging entry to hidden secrets lay dormant for her, and her only.

Slipping her shirt from her I bared toned shoulders. Her bra was delicate, barely covering her breasts, and my mouth was watering just for a taste of her. I slipped the straps down one by one; enjoying the unwrapping of this precious gift ... she nuzzled my hair. I could hear and feel her breathing me in, and I relished the moment.

Her hands had worked their way to the front of my blouse and were ardently loosening the garment's hold over my body. She was dextrous and gentle, my own hands redundant in my disrobing. The cool air caressed my exposed skin, shortly followed by her lips. A sigh fought its way loose from my mouth only to be captured by luscious lips and an unforgiving tongue, her kisses becoming urgent, begging for more admission.

My fingers crept around her waist to draw her pelvis to mine, pulling hard, imprisoning her against my body. Searching lips sought out the pulse point on my neck to gently suck and lick until my heart was literally in her mouth. The rhythm of our hips began its ancient dance, swaying seductively against each other begging for the ultimate contact of our bodies, hearts and souls.

The button of my jeans was prised open, releasing the near torture of the suffocation that clothes had placed on me. Hungry hands dipped inside slowly pushing the cloth downwards. I toyed with her button, flicking and stroking the cool metal tormenting my fingers until the temptation of her flesh cried out to me, imploring me to release it to my caress. I relented, knowing that I was lost to her whim, her love, her desire … my own desire.

We stood in front of each other, naked for the first time. My breath caught in my throat almost choking me with my need for her. Fascinated eyes roamed over her curves and swells that emphasized her beauty, her femininity, her raw carnal appeal. Random thoughts skipped and cavorted around my vacuous mind landing on the phrase that epitomised her, a phrase that I was sure I had used like a canto 'By the Gods you are beautiful'. It sang to me, it promised me life; it swore undying love and devotion, the ultimate salvation for a sinner like me.

The embrace of the naked. Perfection. The reuniting of souls. A blessing granted to me from a life of praying for this moment. We merged together, the softness greeting me like a memory, like a jigsaw puzzle of two pieces. I moved downwards, tracing my tongue and lips over taut flesh. Her breathing was erratic, soft moans eliciting from her throat in a timeless murmur. My hands caressed her skin, skin like silk yet with the firmness of muscle dancing underneath. I wanted to ravish her, throw her down and show her how much I desired her, needed her, yearned for her touch. I wanted to love her, make love to her, show her how much I loved …

But I couldn't do that even though my need was all consuming, eating me little by little from the inside out. I craved to hear her voice crying my name in the throes of her ecstasy; hungered for her hands in my hair, pulling me away only to push me back. My left hand reached up to gently cup her breast whilst my mouth made a friend out of her left one, my tongue teasing, rippling itself over the pebbled flesh that guarded her nipple. Tender touches in my hair, fingers pursuing their path around my jaw to sit contentedly on my cheek.

I guided her backwards until I could feel the resistance of the bed against her legs. Then I lowered her down, so carefully, like she could break and melt away taking my soul with her. All I could hear was our breathing; all I could smell was our scent. The touch of her was like an addiction, the craving taking over all rational thought.

She was on her back and I slipped above her appearing like a shadow. I kissed her mouth once again wanting to crawl inside her, become part of her. It seemed like I couldn't get close enough, I couldn't satisfy this longing that was beating from my chest … my gut.

Full body contact. The sensation like a balm to me, coating me with her love, my love, our love. Her hands trickled down my spine taunting the hairs on my body to stand up and acknowledge this wonder. Strong fingers dug into my behind pushing my need into hers. This felt so right … so true. How can anyone say that love can be wrong - whomever it is with?

The rhythm began again. Hips beginning to rotate, pressure pads of desire activated and on red alert. There was no going back from this; we were too far-gone for retribution. Too needy.

Arousal oozed from every pore. Longing seeped from every touch. Love soaked our bodies far more than our sweat. Need percolated inside me, bringing to the boil all the years of want. My hands went lower, my lips on their trail. I could feel her fingers tightening in my hair, harder, more insistent. I was impelled to sink lower, licking and stroking her abdomen, the taste of her unbearable in its small portions. My tongue delved into her naval, lapping at the dip only to plunge inside once again. It felt like a connection. Digits hungrily grasped and caressed her skin - gasoline on my already out of control flame.

I loved her so much. I have loved her so much for thirteen years. I am in love with her.

I reached the apex of her core wanting to sample the fruits that would sweeten my tongue and ruin me for anybody else. I could smell her and it was a like a drug begging me to have one more fix. Who was I to refuse - I am but here to serve.

Soft hairs tickled my chin as I ventured between her legs, allowing me entry to her secret place. A gentle breath escaped my lips to flit and dance through her hair. A moan. I moved lower to kiss her parted thighs, thighs that housed her wonder. She was insistent on her needs, thrusting herself into me, wanting more, trying to rush me. No. I had waited too long for this. I needed take my time with her, taste every part of her, touch every hiding place. Palms stroked her thighs and her calves, noting the contours of the living flesh beneath my hands.

I could feel my own excitement growing, entreating me to quench its thirst. But no. I can wait - wait forever for her if needs be.

My tongue became a traitor. It slipped from my mouth to stroke the outside of her core, asking permission to enter. Granted. It eased along the slick folds, lightly, like it didn't want to be a burden. My hand came up and separated the flesh that covered her innocence, making me privy to her femininity, her essence.

Tongue in action again. Slight licks to taste. It was like dipping into a honey pot made just for me. I nearly came then; she tasted like how I imagine heaven to taste, but sweeter. Her hips were becoming more forceful, more frantic. Her hands were like automaton, liberally roaming where the need was greatest.

Strong, sure flicks and licks and strokes. Her body was throbbing: so was my need. I increased the speed wanting her to feel the sensation, but not reach that height yet. I didn't know how long I could keep her waiting but I was enjoying myself too much, the maelstrom of emotions pulsating through me like a rush of adrenaline. She was gripping the back of my head now, grinding her centre into my face. I was loving it, loving her.

I could feel my own orgasm forming in my gut and somewhere decidedly lower. I needed to purchase my need on her thigh, her hip, her hand, anywhere ... I didn't care. As long as she was there with me when I came I didn't care how.

My index finger found its way to her opening, toying with the idea of entering her. I stopped my ministrations and looked into her hooded violet eyes, eyes that were pleading for me to fill her. Slowly, and gently, I entered her, my tongue still working on her nub. I pulled it out and filled her again with two fingers, gently pumping my arm in the same rhythm of her hips. I reached deep inside her, curling my fingers against the spot and stroked in and out. She was beside herself, I was beside myself - we both needed release.

I pulled my fingers from her to hear her gasp at the lack of contact. My mouth became the soul provider to her needs as it sucked in each lip in turn, twirling and nipping, my mouth brushing against her clit. I went lower and eased my tongue deep inside her, my head picking up the rhythm. She was grinding at an almost frantic pace now. I could feel her insides tensing around my tongue, the need in me rising tenfold. It was exquisite torture.

I wrapped my arm around her hip to rest on her stomach to hold her in place for her climax, never missing a stroke. The beat pulsing from our bodies a metronome of want.

Tighter. Tighter. Her walls were imprisoning my tongue in their depths, sucking me in, making me want to crawl up inside her and stay there.

The vibrations rattling around her incensed me, my passion almost tipping over. My hips were crushing themselves into the sheet struggling for release. And then … like a fantasy … over she went, pushing herself into me, pushing herself into my face, crying out my name over and over again, which, in its turn, sent me crashing with her.

Searing white light blinded me yet made me see clearer than I had for years. Our hips were bouncing, my arm trying to control her lack of control whilst releasing me from my prison.

Hips began to slow down, grinding into gradual cessation. Little jolts of pleasure still stayed around for the duration, pockets of pleasure for Emma and me alone.

I still hadn't had my fill of her. She dragged me up her body and pounded her hips into mine, beginning the sensation all over again, like we hadn't just made love.

Effortlessly, she flipped me onto my back and straddled me, her lips possessing mine, a frenzied look taking over her features. She looked as if she was in a trance, but my name spilling from her lips told me she knew whom she was with.

She pushed herself between my legs and began thrusting hard. I could feel and hear the slap of her stomach hitting mine. She was wild and passionate. Her teeth grazed each nipple in turn, undecided about which she should have sole possession of. My longing for her was back with a vengeance, ignoring the exquisite orgasm of minutes before, wanting a second, a third … wanting it all.

'FFFFFFuuucccccccckkkkkkkkk … EEmmmmaaaaa!' I crashed over the edge, Emma there to save me as I fell. She held me, comforted me, and owned me from this moment on. Tears raced down my face, blinding me. A solitary sob broke free, eventually escaping from the cage inside me. Gentle fingers brushed them away, capturing some of their essence to taste. Comforting words spewed forth, concerned eyes took in my state. I stroked her cheek. 'I just love you so much.'

She pulled me up into a sitting position, kissing me wetly, tongues sliding over swollen lips, hands frantic, trying to claw their way through flesh to reach the soul beneath. We both adjusted our positions and wrapped a leg around the other's waist. The rocking became automatic, the pace set by a higher being, we were too lost in each other. Our tender centres rubbed against a thigh, easing the ache that was unbelievably still there.

Almost at the same time, we slipped a hand between clutched thighs and began our ministrations, nurturing the bud to flower and reach out for the satisfaction that we both craved. Rhythm became erratic, breathing laboured, arms aching, thighs crushing. 'Lllllaaauuuraaaa … Lllllaaaurrra … God … God … I love … you … love you.' We came together, slowing down with gentle caresses and kisses, whispering words of love and devotion with swollen tongues into tired ears.

We lay down, exhausted, satiated - for now. I couldn't get enough of her. It seemed as if the dam had burst and I was forever lost.


Although exhausted, we woke up throughout the night to begin our lovemaking all over again, each time seeming like the first. One time Emma woke me when she was between my legs, lapping at the juices that had overflowed. The sight of her raven locks buried there nearly tossed me over the edge. Blue eyes glanced up from their task to capture my gaze. The swirling of her tongue incessant, fine hair tickling my thighs and stomach, her eyes never once leaving mine.

I could feel the orgasm building and my eyes began to close. 'I want to see you. I want to watch your eyes as you come.' She stared intently at me and I nodded.

It was building, building so high and so fast. My hips were crushing themselves against her face, she was moaning and whimpering, lapping and sucking. Sweat trickled down from my breasts and she rubbed it into my flesh with her free hand in steady circles. Her head was frenzied, her tongue demented as it thrust into me and then pulled out to circle and suck my open wounds. Teeth clipped my clit in agonising precision, gently yet torturously definite. My eyes were fluttering, begging to close but needing to witness this miracle, wanting to appease the demon that was welling up inside.

Intense feelings flooded to my core throwing open the gates to free the emotions from within. A scream left my lungs - I couldn't stop it, nor could I stop the pulsating vibrations that travelled the whole length of me and then back. Uncontrollable tremors that shrieked of release wracked my body. Her hands were steadying my hips, holding me down, keeping me safe. My chest was heaving, every breath calming me, the emotion within me playing with my sanity.

Gentle fingers stroked my stomach. A conductor for the sensations, the only way my body could ease.

I leaned forward and cupped her face, my lips bestowing a kiss on each eyelid, each cheek, her nose, and eventually, her lips. 'I love you, Emma Jenkins.'

That crooked smile again. 'I love you, too.' She climbed up my body and slipped beside me. I nestled in the crook of her arm, my head on her breast, my arm around her waist. 'Sleep now. We have all the time in the world.'

I don't think I have ever felt that contented, that relaxed, so loved. She made my life complete and I was deliriously happy.


Continued in Chapter 34

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