Hen night – Artemis Callaghan
Disclaimer: This is a work of original fiction; please don’t use without asking me. I’m nice, I won’t bite! I’m British so any spelling, word usage or punctuation that seems a bit strange is probably English English.
Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.
Email me at Ceri.Lloyd@bodleian.ox.ac.uk
Synopsis: The hen night: last bastion of the straight girl, so what on earth is a lesbian doing there? This is the question Kit asks herself as she waits for the bride to be and her sister.
Hen night. Nothing says female heterosexuality more than those two words. Nothing conjures up the image of marauding, scantily clad young woman out terrorising unsuspecting straight men quite like it. Saturday night city centres, stretch limos, bars and nightclubs. So what the hell was a lesbian doing on a hen night?
Believe me, it’s not as if I hadn’t asked myself that question, wasn’t asking it as I sat at the counter of a ridiculously overpriced and pleased with itself bar, all zinc and blonde wood in what was a converted church. Zinc, blonde wood and men smelling of CKone who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Ordinarily, I love the scent of CKone, especially when it’s blended with warm skin. Nothing speaks good times and certain sex than that smell, but only on a woman. On a man it’s like I’ve been duped. So I sat at the bar of this converted church sipping over priced vodka that tasted of Parma violets, resenting every man within a 10 foot radius of me just for being a man and smelling of CKone. Even the very cool female DJ, working the cross fader of her mixer, turning the records back to find the click of the first beat over the music and chatter, failed to improve my increasingly bad mood. Why the hell was I here?
“Kit-e-kat!” Loud enough for the entire bar to hear. Isabel flounced straight up to me, flinging her arms around my neck before kissing me very firmly on the mouth.
“Jesus, Wiz, how much have you had already?”
“Nowhere near enough”
She kissed me again, this time slipping her tongue between my lips.
Izzie pouted at me.
“I don’t want to be easy”
“Bit late for that, sweetheart”
Over Izzie’s shoulder, I could see her sister Rachel giving me the look she always does. It’s a hard look to describe, even harder to interpret. I put it down to her disapproval of me.
And this was why I was on a hen night. Izzie’s hen night. I’ve known Isabel and Rachel McFarland since Iz and I were 13 and Rachel 15. I have never known Rachel be anything other than monosyllabic. I’ve wondered if it’s because she disapproves of me fancying girls, but she was like it before I ever came out. Maybe Rachel knew something about me that I hadn’t know about myself, even at that age. Maybe she just didn’t like me. The feeling was mostly mutual.
Izzie, on the other hand, I had the softest spot for. Even when she was snogging me in a straight bar in a converted church where the CKone boys were now staring open mouthed, I couldn’t stay cross with her for long. And that night she looked gorgeous: her blonde hair swept up to show a long smooth neck, she was wearing a classic little black dress that clung to her in all the right places. She was also drunk, staggeringly drunk. But if she’s anything, Isabel McFarland is a cute drunk. Her arms still draped around my neck, I found I was holding onto her hips, she was leaning her forehead on mine and kept dipping her mouth to kiss me. I would never admit it to her, but the press of her lips on mine wasn’t exactly leaving me cold, and that wasn’t right. Not on her hen night. I dropped my hands and tried to step a little way off. I caught sight of Rachel and tried to step even further but Iz simply pulled me back to her. With something that was a hybrid of a snort and snarl, Rachel turned her back on us and tried to catch the bar man’s attention.
“Your sister hates me”
“Rachie? Don’t be daft, Kitty. She likes you, honest, she made sure to ask if you were going to be here”
“Probably so she can be sure to kick my head in later”
I was cut off mid sentence by Isabel’s tongue as it once again found the inside of my mouth and met with hardly any resistance. Something cold and hard brought me to my senses. A freezing cold glass had been pressed into my hand. Rachel was staring at me. I’d never noticed before, but her eyes were exactly like Izzie’s: a very clear emerald green. Izzie had the most beautiful eyes I’d ever known; now it seemed she wasn’t the only one. Izzie also had a glass, and dropped one of her arms so that she could concentrate on the drink in front of her. She downed it in one, grinned at Rachel and then at me. Arms back round my neck, her kiss was fiery.
“Izzie, I think that’s probably enough now, eh?”
“Don’t you like me?”
“Wiz, you’re my best friend and I love you to bits. But this is your hen night, remember?”
“Do I really want to get married, Kit?”
She dropped her head until it rested on my shoulder, her breath hot against my neck. Really, I was starting to need all my strength to resist the overwhelming urge to run a hand up her back. This is my best friend, I kept telling myself, my heterosexual best friend who at the end of the month is marrying the nicest man in the world.
“Mark is the nicest man in the world, Wiz”
“He is, isn’t he?”
“Yes he is, and he’s crazy about you”
She looked up at me, the emerald of her eyes bright and shiny.
“Of course he is, any moron can see that, even me”
Izzie sighed and let her head drop to my shoulder. Christ alive, I should get a medal for the restraint I was exercising. Mark Fisher had better be bloody grateful that was for sure.
“Izzie, darling!” The rest of Iz’s hen party arrived in a flurry of handbags, lip gloss and pink plastic cowboy hats, and the bride to be leapt out of my arms to hug and kiss them all. My disappointment at being so swiftly abandoned was only slightly mollified by the fact that all the kissing was on the cheek and sometimes just the air. No one else was kissed on the mouth.
When I looked away from Izzie, I saw that Rachel was staring at me again.
Rachel simply shook her head. I leapt to a conclusion and scowled at her.
“She started it”
She emptied her glass.
“You carried it on”
Suddenly I couldn’t help myself but burst out laughing and almost as if she couldn’t help herself, Rachel did something she’d never done in front of me before. She smiled. And suddenly I could see Izzie in her and the laughter stopped in my throat but my face was reluctant to stop smiling.
“Let me get you another drink, Rach”
“Go on then”
We stood on the balcony looking down at where Izzie and her hens were dancing, oblivious of the CKone boys who had started to circle like the pack animals they were. The place was noisy and Rachel and I had moved closer so we could hear each other speak. My shoulder brushed hers but she didn’t move away. We both watched Izzie as she shimmied up against one of her bridesmaids. A quick wave of disappointment, envy and relief washed over me.
“She’s going to hate herself in the morning”
Rachel took a pull on her drink, was quiet for a moment and then turned to face me.
“You two have always been close, haven’t you?”
“Yes, I love her”
Rachel looked away again. Panic fluttered in my stomach.
“No, not like that – I mean – well, she’s my best friend, that’s all, honest – it’s just – ”
I fizzled out mid sentence. Rachel said nothing.
When Rachel next spoke, it was too soft for me to hear and as I leaned in towards her to catch what she said, she turned her head and our faces were inches apart, my mouth so close to hers I could feel her breath. I expected her to move but she didn’t and neither did I. When she spoke, her voice was still quiet.
“To be honest, I’ve always been jealous”
“Jealous? There’s no need to be. You’re her sister, that’s an unshakeable bond”
“I’m not jealous of you, Kit”
Rachel moved her head and fell silent for a few moments before turning killer McFarland eyes on me.
“I’m jealous of Iz”
An involuntary gasp escaped from my mouth.
“But I – I always thought you hated my guts. You’ve always given that impression”
Rachel smiled; a small smile.
“I’ve never hated you, Kit. I didn’t think you liked me. I thought – what?”
I was laughing. I couldn’t help myself.
“It’s just funny, it’s so ridiculous. For the last 12 years I thought you couldn’t even stand to be in the same room as me”
When I looked at Rachel’s face, the laughter stopped as abruptly as it had when she first smiled. This close to, I could see there was something about Rachel, something quieter, more profound, that went beyond a resemblance to Isabel. I’d never realised it before but Rachel was truly beautiful. I wasn’t aware that I’d moved closer to her until I felt the brush of her lips over mine.
“Both McFarland sisters in one night?”
“I know. I’m such a tart”
Down below, Iz shaded her eyes and looked up for us, when she caught sight she gave us a mad grin and waved. We waved back.
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