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In this part Robyn is struggling to come to terms with her suppressed attraction to women, which is exacerbated when Erin’s boss, Alana reaches out for her. Is she being friendly and supportive or is there another reason for her sudden interest? She hasn’t completely finished with women though and Jeff still has a part to play. However, Helen is making her own moves however, working hard to draw Robyn into her orbit, using everything at her disposal.
Author’s note: Australian lingo. A billy is simply a kettle, Derryn Hinch was the Aussie version of Piers Morgan but for radio.
Monday morning dawned and in many ways it was the same as any other morning for Robyn. There was a queue for the bathroom, mumbled good mornings and the smell of deodorant and perfume as they got ready for work. But this morning was different for her. For the first time in her life she’d spent almost the entire weekend with lesbians and as she unlocked her car that morning she found herself looking at Erin in a way that both excited and disturbed her.
Erin wasn’t wearing anything particularly unusual, a blue and white striped blouse tucked into a blue skirt and matched with a blue tailored jacket. Normally she either buttoned it to the top or the second button but today she’d undone another button to create a deeper vee and show off the silver necklace she’d bought with her staff discount. Robyn’s eyes were drawn to the exposed skin, noting the slight difference in tone between her made up face and her front. The blouse was a little tighter on her and she could see the imprint of her bra against it and when she pulled the seatbelt over her body the front of the blouse parted slightly to give a hint of the beige bra underneath.
None of which was unusual, she’d seen her half naked in the past but after her weekend she felt as if she had the word gay hanging over her head. She wasn’t about to crack onto Erin and yet if Erin came onto her Robyn wasn’t sure if she’d have the strength to resist. What did it take to go over the line? Should she just give into the first woman to make a pass?
Raelene had certainly made an open pass and there had been at least three women at the barbecue who’d smiled at her. It was only the presence of Colleen at her side that had probably prevented them from making an approach. In that way the older lesbian had been something of a barrier for her, enabling her to observe other women with relative safety.
Flirting wasn’t the problem though, guys flirted with her even though they knew she was with Jeff but women were a more intriguing alternative because many straight women just smiled without wanting to take it further she mused as they drove past Collins Place that morning. Helen’s four wheel drive was parked there and this time Erin noticed it.
“That’s Helen’s car,” she commented.
“Yeah, she works there,” she replied, “she usually has breakfast out at the shopping centre.”
“So, would you?”
“With Helen?” Robyn smiled tightly, “I’m not sure she’s my type. She’s in her early thirties and I’m only twenty.”
“That’s only ten years. More or less.”
“More like fifteen,” Robyn changed down a gear, “are you suggesting I root Helen?”
“I’d have problems if you and her got into a serious relationship because she comes across as butch but just fucking her wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
“Thanks for your… input…” Robyn fiddled with the brooch at her throat, “miss Matchmaker.”
“Now Alana would be a good match for you.”
“Alana,” Robyn pictured Erin’s boss, “what makes you think she’d be interested in women?”
“Just a feeling, she’s been divorced for the last four years, she lives alone with just her dog, her best friend Karen is gay and I heard that even her sister is with a woman, even I might…”
“What? Root Alana?”
“Maybe,” she flicked at her hair, “not that it would ever happen because, you know… but you could sleep with her.”
“She is attractive,” Robyn admitted, “but somehow I doubt she’d be the kind of woman who would be curious, but there’s also Raelene from Yarra Glen.”
“That’s way up the bush though,” Erin countered, “Alana is only in Blackburn.”
“Are you trying to set me up with your boss?”
“No,” she frowned, “I just want you to be happy, isn’t that what’s important?”
Robyn couldn’t answer that one because it was true. She deserved to be happy, added to that was Erin’s off the cuff suggestion that perhaps Alana might be amenable to a lesbian encounter. She hadn’t consciously thought of Alana in that light before but she’d always been drawn to to her quiet demeanour. She was diplomacy personified, no matter how fussy or rude the customer might be, she never showed a hint of annoyance.
Men noticed Erin first because she had a bigger bust and was certainly more talkative but Alana had her own allure because she tried hard not to be noticed by those kinds of men. Robyn noticed that she treated married men differently to single men. The latter were not only checking out the items beneath güvenilir bahis the glass counters, they were also checking out the women behind the counter and Alana reserved her retail smile for them whereas Erin and her colleagues might be a little more out there. The married men however were a little safer and she engaged them in small talk. She lived alone in the house she’d gotten out of the divorce settlement and the only living creature she’d mentioned until recently was Mac, her West Highland terrier.
Robyn found her polite but a little reserved whenever she stepped into the shop, she always finished fifteen minutes earlier than Erin. The few conversations she’d had with her amounted to comments about the weather, the foot traffic on Main Street and when North Melbourne won the 1999 Grand Final, she gushed about the atmosphere in the crowd when she saw Robyn that Monday afternoon. It was the most animated conversation she’d ever had with Alana.
The first thing Robyn noticed about Alana this afternoon was her smile, which exposed her dimples and Robyn’s heart skipped a beat. Alana wore a white blouse buttoned to the top and adorned with a star-shaped brooch, it was tucked into a pair of black trousers. When she asked about her weekend, Robyn’s eyes shifted to Erin who was dealing with a customer return.
“It was… different for me,” she replied, “you might say it was dramatic.”
“As dramatic as the Roos winning the grand final?” Alana teased a lock of hair over ear to expose an earring.
“Probably more dramatic,” she turned back to her, “but perhaps it was inevitable,” Robyn looked down as Alana lifted a stand of watches out, “exciting and frightening.”
“My older sister said exactly the same thing years ago,” her eyes shifted to the customer who was complaining that the refund wasn’t as much as she’d hoped for, and she stepped back and stared at the customer.
“Excuse me, please.”
“Of course,” Robyn inclined her head.
She moved around to centre counter to deal with an irritated customer and Robyn caught the slightly pensive look on Erin’s face that confirmed her housemate had outed her to Alana. It was vaguely annoying but when Alana closed up the shop a few minutes later her irritation subsided as she began emptying the counters of the most expensive displays of jewellery.
“My sister was a Uniting church minister in Warnambool,” she took a tray of rings out.
“We’re actually half sisters, she’s fifteen years older than me. We share the same mother but while she had the support of mum and I when she came out as gay, she lost her marriage, the house that the church paid for, and her friends in town. She even lost her lover when the woman decided to go for gay counselling and renounced her. My sister moved back to the city, I was with Roger then and wasn’t much help. I’d have taken her in in a heartbeat but we were only renting a tiny unit before we got married, but I did bring around meals for her. They were just casseroles or leftovers but she was always grateful,” she took another tray of rings out.
“And how is she now?”
“She’s been with someone for the last few years, they just celebrated their anniversary. Usually they just have a quiet dinner in a restaurant but this time it was a party booking for their friends and I went along as well. Mum couldn’t make it because she’s still on the mend after a hip replacement but I was there,” she lifted out a tray of brooches.
“That’s why I was so rapt that Karen came out nearly twelve months ago, she’s been skirting around the edges for eighteen months and for a few months I was really worried because she was picking up guys every weekend just for sex. But then she got together with Giselle and just recently she admitted she’d been trying to fuck herself straight.”
“I see,” Robyn’s eyes shifted, it was the first time she’d ever heard Alana say anything more than shit or bloody, “there’s no chance I’d take the same path, I’m not experienced and I haven’t totally come out but I’m curious.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being curious,” Alana smiled crookedly, “my sister always says, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”
Robyn noticed the slight narrowing of her pupils and the instinctive arching of her back. She looked at her hands, she wore a gold ring on her right hand but there was no engagement ring. She smiled slyly and Robyn caught a hint of naughtiness.
“I’m with a guy now,” Robyn flicked at her hair, “but we’re more like friends though.”
“I had one of them when Roger and I broke up,” she lifted another tray of jewellery out, “it was a brief fling but when he talked about wanting to move in I dropped him like a hot brick. I’m still not ready and I know it’s just baggage from my marriage but it is what it is.”
“It takes time,” Robyn agreed, “but knowing my luck if it was raining lesbians I’ll be washed down the drain by a bunch of horny men,” she leaned over to inspect the brooches.
Alana’s eyes twinkled at the clever twist in an old joke.
“This türkçe bahis is a nice one,” she touched an oval brooch with a white opal in the middle surrounded by gold filigree.
“Would you like to try it on?” Alana slid it out of the cushion.
“No, it’s fine, you’re packing up.”
“It’s fine, I’m the manager,” she put it on the counter, “it’s being reduced on Friday from a hundred and eighty down to a hundred and eight.”
“Wow,” Robyn fastened the top two buttons of her cream blouse, “that is nice, but even at that price I’d have to cut down on something else next week.”
“Well, how about if you give the money to me by Thursday night? Erin gets thirty percent off but I get forty off because I’m the manager. I couldn’t process the sale until Friday of course but you’ll be in here then anyway, I’d put it through as one of my purchases.”
“Um… okay, as long as it’s not going to give you grief,” she noticed Erin shift suddenly. The only person who knew her current shift schedule this week was Erin.
“Not at all, may I?” Alana reached across to grab the front of her blouse.
“Of course,” she leaned closer but averted her eyes from Alana’s face as the older woman fastened the top two buttons of her blouse and drank in the scent of her perfume instead. Her touch was so gentle that Robyn almost complimented her on the perfume but changed her mind when Alana took the brooch from the counter and attached it.
“It’s an end of line product, we’ve sold a lot of them over the last twelve months but the supplier in China has modified the design and we’re trying to get rid of as much as possible. The new lines are out next month and what’s left over is sold off to a factory outlet at a fraction of the price.”
She reached back and picked up a hand mirror to show her the result.
“With my discount it comes down to sixty four dollars and eighty cents.”
“Sixty four?” Robyn’s eyes widened, “are you sure this isn’t getting you into trouble?”
“I’d only be in trouble if my regional manager found out,” she teased a lock of hair over her ear, “it’s a small thing to be honest, I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t do more for my sister and when someone like Karen for example comes out it brings out my maternal instincts.”
“Okay,” she inclined her head, “I’ll give you the money Thursday night.”
“She likes you,” Erin told her some five minutes later as they made their way up Main Street, “she’s never used her staff discount for someone else before, not even Karen.”
“What do you mean she likes me?” Robyn glanced at her, “like could mean anything.”
“I don’t know, do you want me to find out?”
“Erin,” she put an arm around her shoulders, “you know I love you like a friend, but please don’t go trying to match me up with anyone. If she’s that way inclined then I’m the one who has to make the first move but thank you anyway,” she dropped her hand.
“And you’re right she is cute, definitely fuckable.”
“Cool,” she smiled, “are we still dropping off at Helen’s joint?”
“Yeah, you don’t mind, do you?”
“I’ll be your chaperone,” she giggled.
Alana’s subtle flirting was in marked contrast to Helen’s overt approach forty five minutes later as Robyn inspected her house.
“It’s raining women,” she ran an eye over Erin, “come in, welcome to my parlour.”
“This is Erin,” she introduced her, “and this is Helen,” she cast her eyes around the room.
“We met briefly,” Helen shook her hand, “so, do you two ladies want a wine or a beer? I have some rum or whiskey if you want it?”
“No thanks,” Robyn shook her head, “I have to drive and if I’m pulled up for a random breath test I’ll lose my licence.”
“Even with just one drink?” Helen sounded doubtful.
“Especially one drink,” she replied, “probationary drivers have a zero percent limit until we get our full licence.”
“It’s all changed since I was on a probationary licence,” she replied, “but you?” Helen fixed her eyes on Erin, “are you driving?”
“I don’t even have my learners permit yet but I’m sweet.”
“I’ll bet you are,” Helen nodded at the couch, “take a seat, do you want a coffee instead?”
“I’m cool,” she replied, “how long will this take?”
“Not long,” Robyn handed Erin her handbag.
Nevertheless, it became obvious that Helen was going to push the envelope as far as possible as she took her on a guided tour of the house. There was a gym in the room next door to the living room and when Robyn complimented her on the exercise equipment in the room Helen promptly offered to let her use it whenever she wanted.
“Thanks, but I’m fit enough,” she looked around the room, “was this a bedroom once?”
“It was but I got rid of the bed.”
“It needs a fresh coat of paint, something neutral like white.”
“Nothing wrong with white, it’s very… virginal,” she smiled.
The rooms opposite were a bathroom, laundry and kitchen, she recommended fresh paint for all the rooms and suggested new bench tops for güvenilir bahis siteleri the kitchen.
“What about the oven?”
“I wouldn’t bother with that,” she replied, “just a basic clean up, get rid of splash stains, there looks like a bit of mould up there,” she pointed to the extractor fan.
The staircase was fairly bland and at one stage in the past the wooden bannister and uprights had been painted and she recommended stripping it right back and slapping on several coats of varnish to bring out the grain.
“You basically want to give potential buyers a blank canvas. They can always repaint but you want to give the impression that you’ve been looking after the place,” she informed her as they made their way upstairs.
There were three bedrooms upstairs, the first was directly to her left at the end of the passageway, it had a single bed inside and a wardrobe, the room next to it was a bit larger with a built in wardrobe and a double bed. The room next that one however was Helen’s bedroom and she stood stock still as she took in the bed.
“I’ve never seen a bed quite like that before,” she murmured.
The four-poster bed looked as if it had been made from recycled timber such as fence posts, railway sleepers and timber from old houses. The upper frame of the bed was made of wide wooden beams that slotted into the posts and were fastened at the other side with large wooden pegs. All the wood had been heavily lacquered to bring out the natural wood grain and chiffon curtains hung from the upper frame.
“My cousin made it for me,” Helen spoke up, “it’s a standard king size bed.”
“How much does he charge?” Robyn touched a post.
“He um died,” Helen replied.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she looked over at the built in wardrobe, “well this room looks in order.”
“You don’t think I should paint the walls?”
“You can if you want, it’s not essential you paint every wall in the house to be honest. Some agents will just ignore it all especially if they’ve got a property developer on their books, these guys will just bulldoze a house and build four or five units on the property instead to increase their profit margins.”
“Just like that?”
“Uh huh,” she inspected the ensuite bathroom, “I’ve got no great love for property developers to be honest, it’s a cut throat industry and these guys will cut your throat without blinking,” she stepped out again and looked around the room.
“There was one developer who developed a crush on me when I first started, he had bad breath and bad teeth,” she walked towards the door, “and when he talked to me he was looking at my tits, I felt like he was undressing me,” she shivered.
“Just thinking about him makes me feel ill, what’s in there?”
“The office,” she took out her keys and unlocked the door.
Two walls of the office were lined with bookshelves that were filled with folders, she noted a desk at the far end and moved towards it to look outside. The backyard was large, big enough to fit four units she leaned on the windowsill, aware that Helen was just behind her.
“Basically, I’d just give it a cleanup, paint the walls that need painting but stick to white paint, the only part of the house you’d need to fix would be the staircase and the kitchen benches, I can’t give you a price but that’s not the reason I’m here,” she turned and propped against the windowsill.
“Sorry,” she smiled, “I’m not qualified, I couldn’t even give you a ballpark figure.”
“That’s cool, I’m happy with what you’ve told me, although it’s all common sense.”
“So, where would you be thinking of moving to?”
“I’m not even sure I’d sell yet, it’s just a thought. I get lots of random thoughts, my ex girlfriend said I had a head like a playground.”
“Roxy,” she ran a hand through her hair and smiled crookedly, “it was never going to amount to anything anyway, it’s been a few days but I’m actually relieved that it’s all over.”
“You never said that before.”
“Well, it’s not like I broadcast my affairs, I’m discreet.”
“Oh,” she looked past her, Helen was propped against the desk and Robyn turned back to her, “I didn’t know that,” she looked down at her shoes, “you don’t sound like you’re missing her.”
“Yes and no, part of me misses her but the other part doesn’t miss her at all.”
Robyn’s hands tightened on the windowsill. She had now become aware that the atmosphere had subtly shifted.
“I should pay you,” Helen spoke quietly.
“Don’t,” she smiled crookedly, “it’s just a basic show and tell, you’d be wasting your money.”
“You’re thinking of doing a counselling course, aren’t you?”
“Yeah? I am doing one, it’s a Christian one though, why?”
“I could hunt through some of my old folders and textbooks, and maybe,” she bit her lip, “give you some advice about which way to go, I don’t even know if you’re interested,” she looked down.
Robyn’s heart skipped a beat and for a split second she almost pushed away from the window but then Helen glanced up and she relaxed. The older woman almost looked nervous or was she just putting on an act? It was hard to tell and she should just politely decline but, she looked past her at the folders on the bookshelves.
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