Disclaimers. This is going to be a somewhat light-hearted effort. But I dare say I can squeeze some angst in somewhere. Probably some sex too.
My thanks as always to my beta reader, Barbara Davies. Her work can be found on her page, Barbara Davies.
Day Four. Monday
Dani turned at the sound of the bedroom door opening. She had woken an hour before, looking in on her two friends, and deciding to leave them to sleep for as long as they needed.
But now Melanie was framed in the doorway, wearing the top she’d worn the night before and the tiniest pair of knickers Dani had ever seen.
“Good morning,” Dani said, watching as Melanie felt her way towards her, wincing as the morning sunlight hit her face.
“Ssshhh,” said the fragile woman. She sat carefully on the sofa, prying open her eyes. “Can you close the curtains?” she rasped, her voice ragged.
Dani chuckled as she moved around the caravan, closing all the curtains and leaving the interior in a muted light. “Better?” she asked.
Melanie nodded, regretting the motion quickly.
“You want a drink?” Dani asked.
“Coffee,” the suffering woman croaked.
Melanie waited quietly while Dani prepared her drink and placed the mug on the table in front of her.
Both women were quiet as Melanie drank her life-saving elixir. She peered at her friend over the rim of the mug.
“Did something happen last night?” Melanie asked.
“What kind of something?”
Melanie thought harder. “Did you tell Steph you were a lesbian?”
“Was it a joke?”
“No,” said Dani quietly. “Well, I didn’t exactly tell her that. I told her I’d spent the weekend with Chris. And that I’d fallen for her.”
“No, Melanie. For Chris.” She sighed.
Melanie stared into her mug. Not looking at her friend, she took a deep breath. “I want you to know that we’re still friends.”
Dani smiled affectionately at the dishevelled blonde. “Thanks, Melanie.”
“I mean, some people could feel uncomfortable.” Melanie looked up. “Um, you don’t, like, fancy me do you?”
“No, Melanie, I don’t.”
“Good, that’s good.” Melanie blew out a relived breath. “Because that might be a problem.”
“Yes, it would.”
“What about Steph?”
“I don’t fancy Steph.”
Melanie stared at Dani. “You don’t look any different.”
“That’s because I’m not. I’m still the same person. The only difference is that I’ve found someone I really like.”
“A woman,” Melanie clarified.
Melanie watched her friend. She looked the same, maybe a little drawn. “Are you going to see her again?”
Dani shook her head. “No, she doesn’t want us to be together.”
“So she fucked you and dumped you?!” Melanie was always blunt.
Dani winced at the outburst. It sounded harsh to her ears, but as she thought about it, it seemed to make some sort of warped sense. “In a manner of speaking, I suppose she did.” She looked up to see Melanie’s anger, and felt a brief rush of affection for her friend. “She warned me, Melanie. She told me it wouldn’t go beyond this weekend.” Dani raked her fingers through her hair. “But it wasn’t that easy for me. I shouldn’t have let it go as far as it did.”
Melanie was quiet for a moment. Dani had always been the steadying force in their friendship. She was the one who made sure they all got home in one piece. It was Dani that she and Steph would run to when romances turned sour. Now, seeing her like this, apparently at a loss, was unsettling. Dani was the sensible one, never one to throw herself into something that she wasn’t 100% sure of.
“Do you want to go and see her?” asked Melanie.
“No,” Dani said quickly. “No, she made it perfectly clear. She doesn’t want to see me again.” She smiled at her friend. “Thanks for understanding.”
They both looked up when the bedroom door opened and Steph launched herself into the room. “Where’s the fridge?” she groaned.
They watched her stagger across the room and locate the small white fridge, then pull out a carton of orange juice and drink straight from it.
“Heathen,” said Melanie, who then eased herself to her feet. “I’m going to get dressed.”
Steph drained the carton and put it in the sink. “I feel like crap,” she moaned.
Steph focussed on Dani. “Thanks.”
“What time did we decide we were leaving?” she asked, as the brunette sank onto the sofa opposite her.
“When we’re ready.” Steph lifted the curtain slightly, grimacing when the morning sunlight hit her face. “It’s a nice day again.”
“Yep, the weather’s been great.”
“Sorry the weekend didn’t turn out great for you.”
Dani shrugged. “My first holiday romance. Never thought I’d do it.”
“And with a woman.” Steph’s voice betrayed her confusion.
“With a woman.” Dani thought long and hard for a moment. “But I don’t regret it, Steph. She made me feel so good. That can’t be wrong, can it?”
“I don’t think it’s wrong,” Steph said quickly. “I just don’t really understand it.”
Dani chuckled. “That’s okay. I know.” She sighed. “I’ve learned a few lessons this weekend.”
“I think you should go see her.”
Dani shook her head. “No, she made it clear, Steph. She’s not interested in a relationship. Not with me or anyone else. I’ve just been through this with Melanie. I’m going to put it down to experience, and get on with my life.”
“Are you going to be a lesbian when we get home?”
Dani regarded her friend for a long moment before answering. “I don’t really think it’s something you just switch on and off, Steph. I met someone this weekend who made me feel more complete than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ll never forget her. Whether I ever find anyone like that again, man or woman, is something I just don’t know.”
Steph stood shakily. “I’m sorry I can’t help you somehow.”
“You both have, more than you realise.” Dani stood as well, took a couple of steps and wrapped her friend in a heartfelt hug. She was relieved when the hug was returned, not knowing quite how her friend would react. “You’re both good friends,” Dani said into her friend’s ear.
They separated when they heard Melanie come back into the room.
“Is this a private party, or can anyone join in?” Melanie asked, and put her arms around her two friends pulling them together.
Dani didn’t know why she started to cry, but the tears came. From all three of them.
The taxi dropped them at the entrance to the train station, and they clubbed together to pay the driver.
Melanie hauled her huge case onto the pavement. It had been easier when they had Steph’s car, but that was now on its way to a breaker’s yard. She’d only used a quarter of the clothes she’d taken, but she always liked to be prepared for any eventuality.
She trailed behind her two friends, who managed to navigate the crushing crowds with their smaller luggage.
Dani turned to look for the blonde, but her sight was drawn to a taller, darker figure approaching from behind Melanie.
Melanie watched her friend with something approaching fascination, as Dani seemed to be rooted to the spot. She turned to find out what Dani was staring at, and found herself face to face with the woman who had apparently changed her friend’s life. “Oh,” she said, looking up and up and finally fixing on Chris’ face. “I hope you’re pleased with yourself,” she squeaked.
Chris managed to tear her eyes from Dani, whose face betrayed her shock at seeing her. She looked down at the slightly dishevelled blonde directly in front of her and raised one perfectly formed eyebrow at the woman’s outburst.
Melanie took a step back and bumped into Dani, who had been drawn towards the tall dark vision. She managed to get a grip on her huge suitcase and dragged it back to where Steph was standing.
Dani glanced back to her two friends, who stood watching, apparently holding their breaths. She took a moment before turning back to Chris. “I can’t imagine there’s anything you have to say that I haven’t heard already,” she said, trying hard to keep her voice from wavering.
Chris closed her eyes briefly, hearing the pain in the blonde’s words. “Forgive me?” she asked. She opened her eyes again, waiting to see what reaction her words would get.
Dani drew in a breath, though it caught in her tightening throat. “Except that,” she whispered. She put her hands to her face, purposefully staying out of reach of Chris.
The tall woman’s hands twitched. She wanted nothing more than to take a couple of steps and wrap the smaller woman in her arms. The blonde was shaking as if in physical pain, her arms held tightly to her own chest. “Dani,” Chris pleaded. “Please, let me talk to you.”
Dani nodded. “I have a few minutes.” She looked back to her friends. “You two go on,” she called to them above the hubbub. “I’ll be there soon.”
Chris took in Dani’s words, and her heart dropped. But she knew she deserved nothing more.
She followed Dani as she walked along the outer wall of the station. There were some benches there, and the smaller woman stood next to one, lifting her case and setting it beside her.
Chris looked at the case and lowered herself onto the bench beside it.
Dani gazed down at her. “You look tired.”
“Yeah, didn’t sleep much.” Chris rubbed her red-rimmed eyes.
Dani blew out a nervous breath. “Nor me.”
“I’m sorry,” said Chris simply.
“Me too.” Dani sat beside the woman, but kept a distance between them. “I should have listened to you. You made it clear that there would be nothing beyond this weekend, and I made a fool of myself.”
Chris shook her head. “Don’t say that. I think I was operating on autopilot. I didn’t look beyond what I always do. It wasn’t until you’d gone that I realised what an idiot I was.”
Dani raised an eyebrow at that statement, but made no comment.
Chris didn’t miss it, however. “Yeah, I know,” she said. Chris tried again. “I’m not very good at admitting that.”
“So you think now that I’ll just say ‘no worries’ and come with you back to your little love nest?” Dani folded her arms across her chest, she was beginning to get angry.
Chris began to doubt her decision to find Dani. She remembered the tears the blonde had shed as she dropped her off at the caravan site. She remembered the way she’d looked back as she walked away. Chris had driven away, annoyed to find her vision blurred by tears she wanted to deny. She knew she’d hurt the blonde, and she remembered how Dani had pleaded to be allowed to stay. So, as she’d driven to the train station, hoping she hadn’t left it too late, she’d imagined the look of relief that would cross the girl’s face when she found her.
Relief was not the look she saw on the girl before her. Instead Dani looked angry. Her initial tears had dried, and she was almost unrecognisable from the sweet girl that Chris had first met in the pub.
The tall woman stood abruptly. “Don’t let me keep you,” she said, suddenly finding the continuous stream of humanity into the station fascinating. She turned back to Dani, whose face was still set in an unemotional mask. “I’m sorry,” she said briefly, before quickly turning and walking back towards her car.
Dani watched her for a long moment, until she saw the jeep drive quickly out of the train station car park. “So am I,” she said, as she picked up her case and hurried to find her friends.
“Hey, Boss,” said Paul as he cleared the glasses from the tables on the pavement outside the pub.
Chris was sitting nursing a strong drink and people-watching. It was a little after 8pm, and each half-hour she had imagined how much further away Dani was.
“How was business tonight, Paul?” she asked as her employee set his collection of glasses down on her table and eased himself into the chair beside her.
“Not as busy,” he said. “Looks like most folks have gone home after the weekend.”
Chris nodded and took another cigarette from the packet she’d bought on the drive back from the train station. “I’m sorry I haven’t been around much,” she said after lighting up.
“We managed,” Paul said.
Chris regarded him for a long moment. “You want the job permanently?”
He looked confused. “I hadn’t realised the job was temporary.”
“Not bar tender. You want the manager’s job?”
Chris chuckled. “Yeah, my job. Then you can delegate and do nothing.”
They laughed for a moment together, then Chris drained her glass. “Thanks for the last few days. I know I kind of dumped the pub in your lap. You did really well.”
Paul shrugged. “It was no problem.” He leaned back and called into the pub. “Wendy, come get these glasses will ya.”
They heard an “OK,” from within the pub, and a tall dark-haired girl appeared and gathered up Paul’s collection of glasses. She gave Paul a smile and disappeared with the glasses.
“So, you OK, Boss?” asked Paul when they were alone again.
“Sure,” she replied, raising an eyebrow at his question. “Why do you ask?”
“You just seem a little down, that’s all.” He reached over and took one of the cigarettes from Chris’ packet. “After looking like the cat that got the cream all weekend, it’s a bit of a change.”
“I did not look like that.” Chris tried to laugh, but she squirmed in her seat and snatched the unlit cigarette from Paul’s hand, lighting it for herself.
Paul shook his head and took another cigarette from the packet, watching as Chris placed the newly lit one down in the ashtray next to one already smouldering there.
She watched his face as he lit the cigarette, seeing the smile still there. “Did I?” she asked.
“You did,” he blew out a long stream of smoke. “She’s gone home now?”
Chris nodded. “Yeah, she’s gone.” She took a long drag on the cigarette. “I’m getting too old for this holiday romance thing.” She watched a small group of people pass by. “I think I’m going to take off in the morning. Maybe go see what Dad is up to.”
“You want to talk about her?”
Chris looked at Paul as if he’d just sprouted another head. “Talk about who?”
“The girl who just messed your head up.”
Chris stubbed the cigarette out viciously. “Is it that bloody obvious?” She turned her head, and drew in a breath before calling to the barmaid. “Wendy, get me another would you?”
“Be right there,” was the call from within the pub.
Chris turned her attention back to Paul. “I don’t get involved. You know that, right?”
Paul nodded, then turned his head as Wendy brought them both a drink. Paul gave her a grateful look.
She shrugged and went back to the bar.
“You were saying?” said Paul, managing to down a third of his pint of beer in one go.
“Was I?” Chris teased. Realising she was not going to get out of this, she continued. “For me, getting into a long term relationship was never an option. I’m never anywhere for more than a couple of years. Dad likes me to set up a new business, get it running well, then move onto the next one.”
“You’ve been here a while now.”
“Yep, I’ve been happy here.”
“So what is it that’s got you feeling like you need a change?” Paul downed another third of his beer.
“A cute little blonde with green eyes,” she said wistfully. “Thought I was past getting hooked, seems I was wrong.”
“You fell for her?” Paul leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table.
“I did, hard.” She sighed. “Unfortunately I didn’t realise until I’d done the ‘I’m a loner, there’s no place in my life for someone permanent’ speech.” Chris shook her head at her own stupidity.
Paul leaned back again, taking in the miserable woman opposite him. “You could go find her.”
“Oh, I did.” She laughed bitterly at the memory. “Caught up with her at the train station. She told me, to put it simply, to bugger off.”
“Ah,” said Paul, wincing as he imagined his boss's face at that moment of refusal. He knew how that kind of rejection would affect the tall woman sitting opposite him. He’d never seen her like this before, never seen her at such a loss. “I’m sorry,” he said finally, unable to come up with anything more eloquent.
“Don’t be,” Chris said. “I deserved it. Another lesson learned, though I thought I had nothing new to learn.” She rocked back on the chair. “Wrong again,” she said quietly.
Paul looked back into the pub; he saw Wendy trying to serve a growing crowd. “I’d better get back inside.”
Chris began to rise. “I’ll come and help.”
“No, Boss. You stay here, have an evening off.” He stood and finished his beer.
“Yeah,” Chris laughed. “You’ve managed well enough the past few evenings.” She pulled out another cigarette from the packet. “Dammit, every time I manage to give up, something happens.” She lit the cigarette, the flame from the match wavering in the slight breeze. Chris blinked as the smoke blew back into her eyes, causing them to sting and water. She rubbed them viciously, throwing the cigarette onto the metal table. Once her eyes had recovered, she reached for the loose cigarette, to put it into the ashtray, but another hand reached for it and stubbed it out.
“Smoking’s bad for you.”
Chris looked up through watering eyes at the small blonde, who settled into the seat that Paul had just vacated.
“I thought you went home,” said Chris, her demeanour not betraying the pounding of her heart.
Dani leaned back in the chair. “I did. Halfway at least.” She looked at Chris, falling once again into the blue of those incredible eyes. “We had to change trains…” she tried to remember the name of the station, “…somewhere.” Dani managed to look away from Chris. “They were announcing the train to Bournemouth was about to arrive on the opposite platform. I don’t remember saying goodbye to Melanie and Steph. I’m sure I did though.” She stared down at her hands, folded in her lap.
Chris stood, the metal chair scraping noisily on the stone pavement. She reached down and took Dani’s hand in her own. “Come on, let’s go somewhere we can talk.”
Dani stared at the large tanned hand, and watched her own reach for it, fold around it. Her breath hitched as she was pulled to her feet. She heard Chris tell Paul to collect her case, and then she was being pulled along behind the tall woman, up a narrow flight of stairs and into a cool airy room, net curtains billowing gently in the cool summer evening.
They were in a small lounge in the flat that Chris sometimes used above the pub. There was only a large terracotta-coloured sofa, a coffee table, and a large screen TV in the room.
Dani heard the door close behind her and turned to face her one-time lover.
Chris stood with her back against the door. “Can I get you anything?” she asked tentatively, feeling an irrational fear that Dani could bolt and run at any time.
“I am a little thirsty,” she admitted. Dani watched Chris turn and open the door. “A coke would be good.”
Chris turned back to her, the smile on her face an affectionate one. “Be right back,” she said.
Dani took a slow walk to the window. From there she could see down into the street. She heard the music playing in the pub below and closed her eyes, swaying a little to the song. She heard the door open behind her and turned to see Chris return with a tray laden with soft drinks and a few bottles of something a little stronger. She watched the tall woman place the tray on the low table and fill a tall glass before handing it to her.
“Coke, wasn’t it?” asked Chris.
Dani nodded, taking the glass.
Chris picked up a small bucket. “Ice?”
“Just a little,” said Dani, holding her glass out.
Once she had her guest sorted, she turned back and poured herself a stiff rum and coke. She looked up at the blonde, who had resumed staring out of the window.
“So,” Chris said, to break the silence.
“I’ve never been so out of control before,” the smaller woman said, in a voice so quiet Chris wondered whether the words were meant for her. Dani turned to face her. “This is … irresponsible.” She walked towards the brunette. “Of the three of us, I was always the sensible one.” She was now an arm’s length from Chris. She looked into perplexed blue eyes. “Why couldn’t I just go home?”
Chris opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, but no answer was forthcoming.
“I have bills to pay, a job to go to,” the blonde continued. “What am I doing here, hoping to commit myself to someone I barely know?”
“You’re taking a chance,” explained Chris. “You’re doing something because it just feels right.”
“It does,” agreed Dani, and closed her eyes. “Every mile that I travelled away from here, from you, felt wrong. I began to weigh what I had with what I wanted. I decided I wanted you.” She opened her eyes again, pleased to see the huge smile on the face of the woman standing before her. “But I need to know, Chris, are you going to send me away again?”
Chris put her glass down and then gently took Dani’s untouched drink from her, placing it on the coffee table beside hers. Then she opened her arms in invitation and the smaller woman walked into the embrace. “Please believe me when I tell you that as soon as you’d gone I knew exactly what I’d lost.” She squeezed the blonde gently, kissing the top of Dani’s head. “Please forgive me. I was an idiot.”
Dani chuckled. “I forgave you this afternoon at the train station. My brain just didn’t realise it.” She buried her face in the soft material of Chris’ shirt. “I think I wanted to hurt you as much as I was hurting.”
“I deserved it,” said Chris, resting her chin on top of the shorter woman’s head. She eased Dani away from her so that she could look into her face. “So can we start again?”
Dani smiled, almost shyly. “Of course.”
Chris ducked her head, claiming soft lips. In response Dani reached up and circled the taller woman’s neck with her arms, pulling her down into the kiss.
They stumbled back onto the sofa, never breaking the kiss.
“Oh yeah,” thought Dani. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”