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Aisling stood at the back of the hall watching her tall dark haired partner up at the front, standing talking to the many-seated guests who had gathered this late morning. Most of the guests were from local businesses, but some were from bigger business chains and multinational corporations. The object of getting them here was so they could listen to Elish give an oral presentation on what the centre did for the local community. The hope being that they would leave suitably impressed, enough to make a donation of some sort. Usually a cheque, but sometimes a business contributed something related to their line of work.
Elish walked confidently back and forth at the front of the room, her voice carrying easily throughout the hall. Wearing a well-fitted black pantsuit with a crisp white shirt open at the neck, she looked stunning. Her overall look and presentation style projected an aura of belief in the centre's contribution and good to the community, while underscoring her confidence in herself and her staff to deliver the services required, making it abundantly clear that their immediate priority was in securing funds so they could make it all possible. Pointing out how the centre's successful role in the community would enhance the prospects of the businesses, Elish was in her element. Aisling was utterly mesmerised and unduly impressed with El's fervour and commitment, her dynamic approach and natural enthusiasm meant she had these people in the palm of her hand, leaving the blonde believing that this fundraiser was going to be an unprecedented success. Aisling couldn't shake the feeling of dread she was experiencing or stop the churning of her stomach. With a heavy heart she slipped quietly from the hall and made her way back to her office.
After finishing her presentation, Elish thanked everyone for attending and invited them to remain for the finger buffet, wine and soft drinks. Afterwards members of staff mingled with the guests answering specific questions and being helpful and charming as per El's instructions. Elish was chatting with the manager of a large insurance company, unfortunately it seemed as though he were more interested in Elish than the community centre. When he invited her out for dinner to further discuss any donation his company may make, El knew she had to be firm but tactful. Accepting a date went well beyond her job description, but she still hoped to secure some funds from him, a business lunch would be acceptable.
After the insurance manager departed, admittedly with less enthusiasm then when he greeted El, she glanced around the room, hoping to catch sight of her lover. At one point during her presentation Elish had been aware of the blonde at the back of the room. That had been over an hour ago. Most of the guests had left, or were leaving and Elish said her goodbyes to the last few remaining. She had been smiling so much her jaw was starting to ache; all she wanted now was a bit of peace and quiet and some lunch.
Aisling was pouring over figures when she heard a knock at her office door, she waved the visitor in without lifting her head, afraid she would lose the place she was at.
Aisling looked up in surprise. "Elish! You were wonderful!" All thoughts of figures gone, she walked over to embrace her lover.
"You think so?"
"God yes…very impressive. You had the full attention of everyone in the room."
"Not everyone." Elish said gently, Aisling knew she was referring to her early departure.
"I didn't think you would notice," she teased. "I'm sorry, but I had some urgent work to take care off."
"Hmmm, I noticed." El's emphatic reply left the blond in no doubt, that she had been well aware of her presence in the room, despite her attention being on her presentation.
"So I see." Aisling paused to study El intently. "You know, that urgent stuff is all taken care of now.'
"Yeah, and I have to tell you Elish, watching you earlier was a big turn on."
"It was huh?" El was pretty pleased to hear this.
"Yes, very much so. You look really good too," she stepped into her lover's personal space. "And you smell wonderful." Aisling began to nibble on El's neck, eliciting a moan from the tall brunette. "I really want you right now." She husked into El's ear.
"You do?" El closed her eyes and attempted to regain her composure, which was rapidly disappearing.
"Oh, yeah, I do." To prove how much, she cupped El through her black trousers.
Elish gently grasped the blonde's wrist and attempted to pry her hand from its precarious position. "I, ah…" She was finding it difficult to form a sentence as the blonde continued her sensual assault, her hands now moving up to El's shoulders and easing her jacket down her arms. "You know my rules about fraternisation during work hours? I think this activity goes well beyond the limits." El was impressed she had managed to get that sentence out – albeit, sounding a little strained.
"I've been giving that a lot of thought after the last time you ran out of my office."
"Yes…I think you pulled a fast one on me."
"How?" El asked as her jacket hit the carpeted floor.
Green eyes darkened with arousal held El's blue, "This is my office Elish. I make the rules."
El swallowed just before Aisling's soft lips met her own, she knew she had lost this round to the little blonde. The tall woman found herself quickly and efficiently backed up against Aisling's desk. Aisling's hands were everywhere, in her hair, then trailing down to open more buttons on El's shirt, exposing more skin and her white cotton bra. The blonde's lips followed her hand, as she kissed her way down El's neck, lingering over her pulse point as her hands cupped and kneaded her breasts.
Elish moaned as her fingers searching for purchase, gripped the edge of the wooden desk, as Aisling continued her assault. The blonde's leg found its way between El's two longer ones and they began to thrust slowly against one another. The brunette was incredibly aroused; she could feel the dampness as it coated her cotton underwear. Elish was aware of Aisling undoing the button on her trousers then pulling the zip down. She was beyond rational thought and eagerly lifted her hips from the desk to allow the blonde to lower her trousers and white cotton briefs.
El's eyes opened at the loss of the warm body that had been so intimately pressed to her own. She looked down at a kneeling Aisling, whose eyes twinkled up at her.
"I see you still like your staples."
"Oh, yes," El husked as the blonde buried her tongue between her legs, Aisling doubted it was a reply to her cheeky remark.
The Irish Times hit the floor as Elish leaned back across the desk, scattering whatever papers were in her way. She gripped the opposite side of the desk as she opened herself offering Aisling more access to her intimate region. The blonde taking full opportunity buried her tongue inside Elish, her nose bumping her clitoris, causing El's hips to jerk forward as she released a gasp.
Elish knew she was close and one of her hands came forward to hold the blonde in place as her hips began to thrust with more urgency. When Aisling sucked harder on her swollen clitoris she came hard, collapsing back onto the desk breathing heavily as the last tremors of orgasm rippled through her.
Aisling got to her feet and leaned over Elish, moving the dark hair back from her face and gently stroking her cheek.
Catching her breath El lifted her head to look into amused green eyes. "You are so good at that," she declared, a lazy smile plastered to her face.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it." Aisling replied then asked cheekily. "So, my office is no longer off limits?"
"I'll say it is!" Came the thunderous reply from the doorway.
Aisling's head swung round as El's shot up, both sets of eyes landing on Mr James Keenan.
"Father," The shocked blonde gasped.
"Jesus Christ," Elish muttered, as she slid of the opposite side of the desk. Turning her back to the rooms two other occupants, she began to pull up her trouser and re button her shirt.
Mr Keenan stormed towards his daughter, his face red with anger. "Is this what I pay you to do?" He demanded. "It's bad enough that we know what you're preferences are. Now I have them flaunted in my face!"
"Father, I…I didn't know you would be here today."
"Well that much is clear." He said through clenched teeth.
James Keenan looked over at Elish for the first time. His face full of disgust. "Get out." he demanded. Elish refused to move, not wanting to leave Aisling alone with her irate father. "I said, Get Out!"
El and Aisling both flinched at the volume of his voice, but Elish was not afraid of this man and had no intention of leaving just yet.
"No." Was her firmly spoken reply.
James Keenan looked at her with contempt, he was not used to being denied. "Young lady, you are on my property. If you don't leave now, I will have you forcibly removed."
Elish realised her options were limited. She glanced over at Aisling, who still looked shocked by the arrival of her father. "I'll leave if you can guarantee that you won't harm Aisling."
"I have never laid one finger on my daughter. I have no intention of starting now." He snarled.
El turned back to Aisling, "You know where I am if you need me?" At the blonde's nod she continued, "Call me as soon as you can?"
"I will." came the quiet reply.
Elish picked up her jacket from the floor; she gave Aisling's shoulder a squeeze of support, before making eye contact with her father. They both glared at each other, neither giving an inch. As El made to pass the man standing in the doorway, he left her with some parting words full of contempt.
"Goodbye, Ms Maloney." His emphasis was clear. Elish was left in doubt that this man was homophobic and she would not be welcome anywhere near his daughter, despite him already knowing Aisling was a lesbian.
Elish put on her jacket as she made her way down the stairs; reaching the bottom step she hesitated. She wanted to return to Aisling's office, her instincts kicking in. The urge to protect her lover from her father was strong. She listened intently, trying to pick up any sign that Aisling might need her. There were no raised voices, the silence felt unnatural to El, especially after the way Mr Keenan had reacted. The brunette hovered at the bottom of the stairs a few moments longer, then reluctantly made her way back over to the community centre.
She breezed through the doors intent on heading straight to her office. As she passed reception Bren looked up to get her attention, a bundle of messages in her hand.
"Boss…" she trailed of seeing Elish' raised hand stopping her.
"Later." was the short reply thrown Bren's way, as she watched her tense looking boss pull open the office door and firmly close it behind her.
El removed her jacket and hung it up. She cursed internally while moving her hands through her hair in a show of frustration. She hated feeling helpless over the situation that had arisen with Aisling's father. Urging herself to be patient she would wait for the blonde's phone call, for Elish it just couldn't come quickly enough.
A firm rap on the office door interrupted her internal dialogue. She chose to ignore whoever it was, they would take the hint and go away if they had any sense. Another knock was quickly followed by the turning of the door handle and in stepped Connor Colquhoun. Elish glared at the intrusion, but he seemed not to notice.
"I want a word with you."
El's eyes narrowed at the demand thrown her way. "It will have to wait." Was her terse reply.
"I want to know why I wasn't allowed to be present at the fundraiser?" Connor continued, seemingly oblivious to El's body language.
The brunette knew that she should insist that he reschedule another time for this chat, but her anger won out over any rational suggestion. El looked at the young man before her, he was a good-looking twenty two year old, who was utterly full of himself. El had refrained from the temptation to bring him down a peg or two, hoping he would settle as time passed. Clearly, he hadn't made any progress thus far.
"When you start submitting realistic proposals to me, then I will consider allowing your input in other areas. While you're here, I might as well inform you that you will be working with another community worker in your groups, and you will be attending some of the groups run by other members of staff until further notice. I suggest you put this time to good use and learn from them."
Connor looked aghast at this new information. "You can't do that. I'm the most ambitious worker in the centre!"
Elish sighed. The guy could win an award for arrogance. "There is nothing wrong with being ambitious Connor, but the simple fact is your project proposals thus far have been unachievable. We are a small community centre, running on a limited budget. I need you to show me that you are capable of adapting to suit the needs of the people of this community, while working within the budget."
"I wanted to impress you. To show you what I'm capable of." Connor was now floundering, his earlier bravado and arrogance waning by the second.
"Connor, the best way for you to impress me is to do your best for this community. Not show me ideas that I can't even begin to put into action. Think more realistically and less idealistically. Then I believe you can be a great addition to the staff. I hired you because I saw in you an enthusiasm and dynamism that I believe could serve this centre well. You just need to set your goals lower for the time being. When you start to achieve success, then we will talk again."
Connor nodded and tried valiantly to hide his disappointment, but it wasn't too difficult for Elish to spot. "You need to be able to trust me to do the job."
Elish knew where Connor's biggest failing was at that moment. He was ambitious and unfortunately he was self-centred with it. He needed to realise that his job wasn't about impressing people around him, but using his skills to the betterment of the community he was working within. The one good thing Connor had going for him was his youthful rawness, it meant El had time to teach him what he needed to know. University had given him the theory with which to work, now he needed to grasp the concept of continuing his learning with the help and experience of those around him.
"That's only a small part of it Connor. The trust comes from doing a good job for the community. That's what both of us have to concentrate on. I have a responsibility for your continued education, what I need you to do is realise that the people around you have a lot of experience that you can learn and draw from. You need to take advantage of that."
Connor seemed to be genuinely thinking about what she was saying. El considered that perhaps the timing hadn't been so bad after all. If nothing else came out of it, she at least knew where Connor's problems lay, and he had managed to take her mind of Aisling for a while.
After Connor's departure El fought the urge to pick up the phone and call her lover. She picked up the phone.
"Are you free for coffee?"
"Ah, sure. You want to come here or am I coming to you?'
"Could you come here?"
"Okay, give me five minutes."
Naomi found Elish sitting in her office, coffee waiting for her. She could tell her friend was upset. The clenched jaw and tension around her eyes were giving her away. "Want to tell me what's up?" Naomi asked taking a seat opposite El.
"It's not work related."
"Okay…" Naomi remained silent, patiently waiting for El to say more.
"If I hadn't broken my own damn rules." El stated cryptically.
Naomi frowned, "Is this to do with Aisling?" At El's nod she continued, "Have you had a disagreement?"
"No nothing like that, I…Look maybe this wasn't such a good idea." El suddenly balked at the thought of explaining what she and Aisling were doing before her father arrived.
"Alright. You obviously have something on your mind, but I won't push you. If you need to talk, you know where I am." Naomi stood to leave the office.
"Wait." The confused woman sat back down.
"I allowed Aisling to seduce me in her office."
Normally Naomi would have made some comment about that, but she knew something important had occurred. She only raised her eyebrows.
"Her father came in."
Naomi's eyes widened. "While you were…? She gestured the remainder of her question.
"Pretty much, I was sprawled over the desk with my shirt open and my trousers down."
"Jesus! What did he say?"
" He was angry. He hasn't come to terms with Aisling's sexuality. He demanded I leave, I refused, and then he threatened to have me removed. It is his property."
"What do you think he will do?"
"I don't know. I'm concerned about Aisling, I hate that I had to leave her there with him. I asked her to call me as soon as she could."
"God, no wonder you're in a bit of a state El." They were both silent for a moment, before Naomi spoke again. "Do you think he will harm her?"
"He better not!" El flared instinctually at the thought then quickly brought herself back under control. "But, I don't think he will. I wouldn't leave until he guaranteed that he wouldn't lay a finger on her. Said he had never hit her."
"Well at least that's something." Naomi paused for a moment, "You know I totally forgot Aisling was the landlord's daughter."
"You and me both. For the most part I didn't think about it."
The phone interrupted their conversation as Elish almost knocked the handset over in her haste to answer. Naomi listened to El's part of the conversation.
"Has he gone?"
"I'll be right over."
El hung up the phone then stood up to leave.
"Is she alright? Naomi asked.
"She seems to be, but I'm going over right now to find out for myself." With those words Elish hastily left her office.
Practically running up the stairs to the blonde's office, El immediately swept her up in a hug. "Are you sure you're alright?" El could feel the blonde head nod against her shoulder, then a muffled 'Yes."
Elish was frantically looking her over as she took both her arms in her hands.
"I'm fine El really. It was nothing I haven't been through before."
"He didn't lay a finger on you, did he?"
Aisling shook her head, "No and he never has."
"I'm really sorry El, this is all my fault. I had no idea he would be here today. He normally lets me know."
"You have nothing to apologise for. We took a risk and got caught. I'm more concerned about you. What did he say?"
"Just the usual, how he thinks I should be over this phase by now. He was less than impressed about the new use I've found for my office. Oh, and he wanted to know if you had seduced me. I told him it was quite the opposite."
"How can you be so calm about it?" El marvelled at the way her lover was able to absorb and handle the situation.
"It's not anything that I haven't heard before El, I just get on with it. He rants and raves then it's over with till the next time."
"You'll come home with me tonight?" El pulled back to look at her lover, confused by the look she received.
"I can't Elish, he requested my presence at home this evening. If I don't go he will just keep at me till I do. I would rather just get it over and done with."
The brunette didn't like the idea, but she understood Aisling's reasoning. "I would feel much better if you were with me tonight, but I understand."
"Thanks, El. Tomorrow though, I promise."
Three days later El was working late at the office, things seemed to have settled back down after the incident with Aisling's father, but it nagged at El simply because she didn't trust the man.
Elish glared at the telephone. She had been trying to leave her office for the last twenty minutes. The rest of her staff were already in the pub celebrating big Rosie's birthday. El had promised to make an appearance.
"Elish you are supposed to be here."
"I know, I know, Molly." Elish replied attempting to placate the irate woman. "I'll be there as soon as I can, I promise." She went on beseechingly.
"Okay El, whatever you say, but I just thought you should know that Big Rosie has challenged everyone to a drinking contest…" The woman on the other end paused awaiting El's reply.
"So?" was the slightly nonplussed response she received. Elish surmised that Rosie was always issuing challenges, and problems only arose when some gullible individual accepted.
"Nothing really…just thought you might be interested to hear that Aisling accepted." Molly chuckled when she was met with sound of a dead line.
Elish entered the smoky pub less than two minutes later. It wasn't hard to spot the group from the centre. Normally O'Malley's would be quiet at this time, but the twenty or more folk from the centre were occupying half the bar. Elish glanced at the two figures standing in front of a table containing pints of Guinness. Big Rosie with her unmistakable build and flaming red hair dwarfed the petite blonde next to her. Both were standing hands poised over a pint glass, every eye in the bar on the pair.
El watched on wide eyed as her girlfriend grabbed one of the pints and attempted to drink it faster than Rosie. She was shocked when the little blonde finished less than a second behind the big woman, neither of them having spilled a drop of beer. As their empty glasses slammed down onto the tabletop the place erupted with cheers for the Birthday girl mixed in with genuine respect for Aisling's challenge. Big Rosie gave Aisling's back a hearty thump, congratulating the blonde for running her close. Aisling then said something to the big woman before heading to the bar, which is where El intercepted her.
Sneaking up behind the blonde she whispered in her ear, "Are you leading my staff astray?"
"Elish!" She gave El a hug and quick kiss on the cheek. "No-one would take up Rosie's challenge, since it's her Birthday I thought someone should." She shrugged.
El smiled, "What was the forfeit?"
"A whiskey, I've talked Rosie into having one with me, I didn't think she would mind joining me in my forfeit." The blonde smiled lovingly at the woman before her. "Can I get you a drink?"
"Just water for me, thanks."
"Sure I can't tempt you into something stronger?"
Elish took a good look at the woman in front of her; there was no way Aisling would be fit to drive home after the whiskey, so she decided to stay sober. "I'm sure, water will be fine."
The blonde gave a little pout before turning to place her order with the barman.
Returning from the bar water in hand, Elish found a seat next to Naomi, not surprised to find the birthday invitation had been extended to the rehab centre staff as well as her own.
"I see you're slumming it again Ms Campbell."
"It's good to mix with the riff raff now and then."
"It's so gracious of you to lower your standards once in a while."
"I see I'm not the only one who doesn't mind lowering her standards. Seems your posh girlfriend likes to rough it with the best of them." Naomi nodded to the next table over, where Aisling and Rosie appeared to be setting up for round two. Naomi watched her friend closely, looking for any reaction from her. She wasn't surprised to see El's gaze turn wistful as she took in the antics of her lover. "She's quite something isn't she?" Naomi's words whispered, intended only for El's ears.
"That she is, Naomi." Elish smiled and her face lit up.
They watched as once more Big Rosie beat Aisling by almost a second, and then the bigger woman hugged the blonde tightly to her. El was sure she could see Aisling's eyes popping out of her head with the force behind the hug.
"I think Rosie has a crush on your girlfriend."
"In more ways than one it seems." They shared a laugh at the pun. "I can't say I blame her though."
Naomi smiled, knowing El was a goner. She was delighted that someone had finally snagged her friend. She knew El was in love, but there was no way she would be the one to point it out to her. She would work it out for herself…eventually.
Since everyone had finally arrived Rosie got to open her cards and gifts, El hadn't been surprised to see the vibrator amongst the presents, but she had been a little shocked when her inebriated girlfriend had run the item up her leg and asked her, "Can you handle that?"
Elish, quickly gathering her wits had assured the blonde that she could, but the incident had left her wondering if she could really handle the woman handling the toy!
The longer the party wore on the more drunk most of the people around El became. The alcohol had been flowing fast and none of the revellers had eaten anything since lunchtime. When Aisling chose a song from the selection on the jukebox then offered Elish a lap dance, the brunette decided that was her cue to leave. She offered to drive her lover home, but the blonde declined and returned a rather ribald offer of her own. Elish bundled a capricious Aisling into her Mondeo and started the drive towards her cottage.
"El, can we get pizza?" Aisling asked, her voice a little slurred.
"Sure. Is there any place you like specifically?"
The blonde waved a floppy wrist in El's direction. Elish assumed that meant Aisling had no preference at this point in time.
"Oh, maybe I could have Chinese instead?" El was about to reply, but Aisling continued, "Ahh, but I really have a craving for pepperoni."
"We could get both." El suggested. She was feeling really hungry herself.
"You would do that? You would get both for me?" Aisling sounded like a child full of wonder. It was amazing what alcohol could do to a person El mused inwardly.
She smiled at the blonde, "Off course, I know just the place to go. There's a Chinese take away and an Italian restaurant next door to each other."
"You're the best El, you know that. I've got the best girlfriend." Aisling released a sigh of contentment and flopped back in her seat, a silly grin plastered to her face.
Pizza and Chinese balancing precariously on Aisling's lap, since the blonde had insisted on putting them there Elish drove to the cottage, the smells wafting around the car making her stomach growl loudly and Aisling giggle along with them.
Over an hour later, food almost finished, Elish watched on in amazement as Aisling grabbed the last slice of pizza. She glanced at the coffee table, a small amount of rice was left in one of the containers and El knew she would struggle to find room for any of it. The chicken and black bean was all gone, along with the prawn crackers. Aisling had eaten the biggest portion of everything.
"Mmm, that was great." Ailing declared as she flopped back onto the sofa, patting her full stomach.
"Are you sure you've had enough to eat? I could do some cheese on toast," El teased, but her smirk was quickly replaced with a frown upon realising Aisling was giving her offer serious consideration.
"Gotcha!" The blonde declared, much to El's relief.
The brunette pounced on her insolent partner, tickling her mercilessly.
"Stop! God, El, stop! I'm going to pee my pants!" She screeched.
El let up, but only because she didn't want the blonde peeing on her sofa. Aisling lay sprawled across her lap gasping for breath. "Oh, no."
"What? What's wrong?"
"I feel sick now."
El groaned. This could be a long night.
The following morning Elish left her office heading towards the conference room. She had dropped Aisling off a couple of hours ago in the car park and then decided to start work early.
"I see we have all been summoned." Came the voice from behind her.
Elish turned to greet Naomi, "Looks like another rent increase." El was referring to a call she had received this morning from James Keenan, the landlord, informing El that he required the use of the conference room at 10am, and her presence was required. Elish had hastily rescheduled a meeting, knowing there would be no point in trying to reason with the man.
"Probably." Naomi mumbled. "So how did the rest of your night go?"
El chuckled, recalling some of the antics of her blonde lover. "It was good." At her friends raised eyebrow El continued. "She was drunk Naomi, it wasn't that good." El recalled fondly how she had held Aisling in her arms the entire night and was more than content to do so. Despite the bold proclamations the blonde had made, she was not in a fit state to make good on them, at least that night, but this morning…her thoughts drifted as she recalled the early morning wake up she had received. It seemed Aisling had suffered no ill effects after her night of excess.
Naomi cleared her throat, "If that's what not that good looks like, I'll take it."
El waggled her eyebrows. "I was recalling this morning, I have a new alarm clock."
The two women entered the conference room, which was already occupied by Aisling who was seated next to her father. The man was wearing his trademark smug look, which always rubbed El the wrong way. She normally could think of him as nothing more than a smug bastard, but seeing him sitting next to his daughter, her lover added a new permutation to El feelings toward him. She decided that she would try and hide her contempt for the man, instead of letting it emanate from every pore. Glancing at her lover, who offered a tight smile in return. El was surprised at how uncomfortable the normally confident woman appeared to be. Her posture was rigid and the strain was visible around her eyes. El shrugged it off, putting it down to being in the company of her miserable bas…oops, father. El mentally berated herself, trying to think differently of this man was going to take a lot of practice.
Chancing another look at her lover, El noted the designer suit and silk blouse, probably at the insistence of her father. She knew that Aisling preferred to keep her appearance casual, with just a light dusting of make-up, but today her make-up was much more noticeable. El glanced back up into the face she had come to know so well, her eyes trapped in an intense stare, neither of them able or willing to look away. The door opened to admit two more people, breaking the intensity of the moment. Elish glanced away from Aisling to look at the man at the head of the table, his green eyes boring into hers, but where Aisling's normally conveyed warmth and a keen intellect, her fathers eyes held nothing but contempt.
The man left El's stare to look around the table. "Now that everyone is here we can finally begin this meeting." He stopped to nod at his daughter who got up from her chair to deposit some papers in front of everyone in attendance. When the blonde returned to her seat Mr Keenan continued, "If you will all turn to the first page of the document you now have before you."
Elish glanced to the official looking papers.
"I have accepted an offer from a supermarket chain to sell off the land I own here, including everything on it." The man paused to allow that information to sink in. "You are hereby served six months notice, at the end of which your lease will be over and you should vacate the premises."
There were gasps of disbelief and outrage around the table.
"Any questions?" Everyone tried to talk at once, which prompted James Keenan to raise his hand to stop them. "I'll take questions one at a time, starting on my left. He looked towards Mr Flannigan who owned the Butchers and nodded.
"Will we be able to get out of the contract before the six months are up? I'll need to look for new premises, I don't want to have to pass up an ideal offer if they won't wait." El was impressed that Mr Flannigan had the ability to think so quickly. He had asked a very astute question.
The landlord seemed to genuinely consider the question before answering. "You can buy out the remainder of your lease any time you wish."
Again the room erupted the air turning blue with the language being hurled at James Keenan. Once again order was brought to the proceedings and the questions continued.
"How long have you known about this?" This is our livelihood you bastard!"
James Keenan turned to Mr Kelly, the owner of the newsagents, "How long I have known about this is of no concern to you. You will find that I am acting within the terms of your lease agreement. Six months notice, that was the contract you signed and that's what I'm giving you."
As the questions continued around her, El's eyes had remained on the blonde the entire time. Aisling would not meet her gaze; her head had remained bowed since her father had delivered his bombshell. El eventually moved her eyes from Aisling when her name was mentioned.
"Ms Maloney, do you have any questions?"
Elish looked at the smug bastard, she wanted nothing more than to leap across the table and wipe the smug look of his face with her fist, but she knew better than that. Drawing on her immense strength of will, she remained composed and dignified; she would not show this man anything less. She stood up to better make her point. "The people gathered around this table offer a very valuable service to the community. Be it the newsagent, the pub or the Butchers. Myself and staff at the centre work tirelessly to meet the needs of this community, while Mrs Connelly and her staff at the rehab centre work hard to help those in the community who have faltered and need a helping hand to deal with their addiction. You sir, have in one morning ripped out its heart and decimated all that we have worked hard to achieve over the years." El remained standing as the people around her murmured their agreement with her speech, however it seemed to have little or no effect on the man she had spoken directly to.
"So, no questions then?" was his flippant reply.
Elish could feel her body tensing as he held her gaze and she fought valiantly to remain relaxed. Raising her head she added, "No, no questions, but know this. We will not disappear. I will work twice as hard to ensure the needs of this community are met, because they sure won't get what we offer in a weekly shopping basket."
Mr Keenan gave her a condescending smile. "We all do what we have to Ms Maloney. I'm sure you will manage just fine."
Elish took her seat and was offered a comforting pat from her friend. Naomi felt the exact same way that Elish did. She also knew that any attempt to change his mind would be futile.
"I have no questions at this time, however once I've had time to look at all the legal documents I may get back to you."
"As you wish Mrs Connelly, though I'm certain you will find that everything is in order."
As the proceedings continued, Joseph, who ran the pub had to be restrained when informed that a new pub was being built as part of the plans for the site, but he would have no option on the lease, even though it would remain in James Keenan's ownership. A stipulation he had made upon sale of the land and buildings.
When the meeting finished, the conference room quickly emptied but the disbelief and protestations continued outside the room, soon the only two left were Aisling and Elish. The brunette studied the woman opposite her, the fact that Aisling could not meet her eyes gave her answers, but she had to hear them for herself, she just couldn't believe it.
"Please tell me you knew nothing about that?" There was almost a hint of pleading in El's voice. She was so desperate to be wrong, her words coming out low and raspy.
Aisling lifted her head to make eye contact with Elish for the first time since the meeting had started. "Elish, I…" She trailed off, uncertain of what she could say to her lover in that moment.
"Tell me you didn't know." El demanded.
"I can't." She whispered, her eyes filling with tears.
"How could you? All that time, you knew this was going to happen." El shook her head in disbelief. "Why did you not say something sooner?"
"I couldn't say anything El. Despite everything he's my employer. I couldn't release that information to you."
The logical part of El's mind knew what Aisling was saying was true, but emotionally Elish couldn't accept that reasoning. She felt betrayed and let down by her lover. Then a thought hit her. "That's why you've been working here isn't it? Getting the accounts in order for the sale."
"Yes, that's why my father had me work here."
"So you knew from the very beginning," Elish said almost to herself.
"Please El. You have to believe me. I…"
"What? That you never meant to harm anyone? That it's just business?" Elish glared at the blonde. "Did you honestly believe when the time came, that I could just look past this and nothing between us would change?"
Aisling put her head in her hands. "It's not how this was supposed to turn out." She moaned helplessly.
"How did you see it turning out? I would just say, sure that's business and we would live happily ever after?" El was building up a head of steam, her anger beginning to take hold.
"I had hoped for a different outcome, but it seems it wasn't to be." Aisling looked devastated but Elish was beyond noticing her lover's plight.
"I think you should go." El stated firmly.
The blonde looked beseechingly at her lover, but there would be no changing El's mind.
"Please just go."
Aisling walked to the door and glanced back forlornly at El before exiting. Left alone in the conference room El finally allowed her emotions full reign. "Fuck!" she declared loudly as her fists thumped down onto the conference table.
"Fuck!" A chair flew against the far wall, the impact leaving a dent in the plaster.
"FUUUCK!!!!" El pushed the conference table hard, chairs trapping underneath, as it was propelled towards the wall, their legs screeching and squealing in protest. It stopped with a thud as the chairs scattered and fell, giving up their screams. Elish rested her palms on the table top, breathing heavily.
"Fuck," was her final painful word before exiting and leaving the room in disarray.
Naomi eased her way into El's office. The door had been closed, but she needed to see her friend and knew that knocking would just raise her hackles. She suspected none of El's staff had dared enter after hearing what happened that morning.
"It's just me," she replied quietly to El's scowl of disapproval. She watched as her friends face softened into one of hurt. "How are you doing, Elish?" Naomi enquired softly.
El released a deep sigh while shaking her head. "I just can't take it all in, you know?"
Naomi nodded agreement as she took a seat opposite her friend. While their landlord's decision affected all of them, she was well aware of the personal impact it held for Elish. It hadn't been difficult to read between the lines as the meeting unfolded. Elish had been blindsided just like the rest of those in attendance, she knew nothing, which meant that Aisling had not mentioned anything to her lover, regarding her father's plans. She found it hard to believe that the little blonde had dated El, knowing this was coming.
"I can imagine El." They both knew that somehow they would relocate and rebuild somewhere else. It would be difficult, but they would manage and go on. However, Naomi suspected that it would not be the same for El's heart. She had to ask, "Did she know?"
The look of devastation on her friends face told her everything. "Yes." El choked out, sounding bitter and angry.
"I'm sorry Elish." Christ, Naomi thought to herself, had the girl no sense at all? Surely she knew El wouldn't respond well to being kept in the dark about this?
"I know," El took a deep breath and glanced out the window, staring at nothing in particular. Naomi watched almost fascinated, as her friend's chin seemed to rise in defiance. El turned to her, a look of grim determination now replacing the earlier devastation. "We go on from this. It's a setback, but we will regroup, find new premises and keep doing what we do."
"I know we will El." Naomi replied leaving the rest of her thoughts unvoiced. At what cost would all this be to Elish. She had seen her friend fall in love over the last few weeks. A situation alien to Elish, Naomi still wondered if El was even aware, or had given voice to the feeling. Now she had been betrayed by the person she loved, and Naomi wondered at what cost. That would remain the great unknown in all of this. Knowing the proud woman before her, she would not accept Aisling back into her life because she loved her. It would take so much more than that. Naomi wondered if there was even the remotest possibility of it happening. At this moment in time, she doubted it.
Elish opened her front door, relieved to finally be in the sanctuary of her own home. Propping her briefcase next to the table in the hall, she bent down to pick up her mail. Shuffling through the envelopes and leaflets, she came across a delivery card informing her the parcel was inside the wooden structure that housed her bin. El decided to fetch it and then settle for the rest of the night.
Coming back inside she began to remove the parcel tape from the plain cardboard box. Foregoing the delivery note El stuck her hand inside, pushing through the hundreds of little Styrofoam shapes used to pack the goods. Her hand met something and pulled out the harness she had ordered from an online lesbian erotic store. Elish immediately stuffed the harness back into the box, cursing as she threw it down the hall, lots of the little Styrofoam creatures escaping as the box bounced along the wooden floor. Her purchases had been made specifically for her new relationship. Elish, having decided not to use toys she had shared with other women, with Aisling. It just hadn't felt right and Elish had gone online to rectify that situation. She would put them back in the bin.
El sank onto the stairs, finally feeling the full effect of all that had transpired this day. Elbows on her knees and hands dangling between her legs, she stared aimlessly ahead. It was only when she lost all feeling in her backside, she finally moved from the step.
The following morning Elish threw herself into a familiar routine, one she had followed before Aisling entered her life. After her early morning run, followed by a shower and breakfast, Elish set about gardening and household chores, the routine things in life that she had fallen behind in of late. When the grass was cut and the flowerbeds weeded, she had taken to mending her wooden fence. In between her gardening she had frequently loaded up the washing machine and hung out the loads to dry. After dinner she ironed her clothes and cleaned the cottage from top to bottom. All throughout these activities, thoughts of Aisling crept into her head, despite her best endeavours to prevent them. It had been a vain, albeit productive attempt to stop thinking of the blonde who had captured her heart.
Sunday El had gone to early morning Mass, then lunch at her Mam's. It had been a very subdued atmosphere, as always news travelled fast, El wasn't surprised that her Mam knew what had happened. She attempted to get El to talk about it, but Elish wasn't ready to discuss a situation she was having a great deal of trouble comprehending herself. No amount of talking would explain Aisling's decision. That would only come from the blonde herself, if and when El was ready to hear it.
The following week at work had been trying for everyone. The relaxed atmosphere of the centre had been shattered. Everyone was trying to come to terms with the shock of hearing that in six months the centre would no longer exist. At the back of everyone's mind was the fear that their jobs could go the same way, but Elish had told them in no uncertain terms that she would do everything to prevent that from happening.
Meanwhile Elish was going through her own private hell. The first morning she saw the little silver Mercedes sitting in the parking lot, it immediately cause a flutter in her stomach, which was quickly replaced with anger as she thought of Aisling's betrayal. She had also on occasion caught a glimpse of the blonde walking to her car, or one of the other buildings, El would bury her feelings and walk on, not daring to linger. She was not ready to talk to Aisling.
It was Friday morning and Elish couldn't wait for the weekend to arrive, everyone at the centre needed to get away for a couple of days. El heard raised voices outside, but it was the screaming that alerted her into action. She was off out the door without even thinking about what danger lay ahead, she just knew there was some sort of problem.
"Oh my God! He has a knife!" One of the clients from the drug rehab centre was screaming outside the front door. Elish saw no one with a knife therefore assuming the trouble was inside the drug centre she burst through the doors.
"What's going on?"
One of the drug counsellors pointed towards an interview room, "A guy in there has Theresa at knife point, and he's demanding methadone."
Elish pushed her way through the crowd of bodies watching the drama unfold and looked into the open door of the interview room. She saw a man holding a terrified looking female in a neck lock, he had a knife pointed to her throat. A few feet away Naomi was trying to talk the man out of the situation. Something in Elish snapped, she stormed back to the drug counsellor she had just spoken with.
"Give me the methadone!"
"What? Elish I Can't, rules and procedu…"
"Fuck them! Give me the methadone!"
"It's locked in the fridge."
El held her hand out. "Keys! Now!"
The drug counsellor complied immediately. Elish thrust the key into the fridge lock and easily located the bottle of methadone. Once again pushing her way through the curious spectators Elish walked right up to the knife wielding drug addict. Holding up the bottle of methadone she spoke to him calmly.
"Here is your methadone – drop the knife."
"No way!" The man was breathing harshly, his forehead beaded with sweat.
The brunette pushed the bottle towards his hand, the one that was holding Theresa tightly to him. He looked between the bottle and the tall woman offering it to him, finally his craving won out and he relinquished his grip to take the bottle from Elish. As he reached towards her for the bottle, El punched him hard in the face with her other fist, he fell backwards onto the carpet and Elish pounced on him like a cat. She was sitting on his chest, her knees pinning his arms to the floor. El was no longer thinking about her surroundings, she unscrewed the cap on the bottle of methadone and began to attempt to pour the entire contents down the throat of the addict.
"You want methadone do you? Open up! Here's your fucking methadone!" He was moving his head from side to side, trying to stop the green fluid from getting into his mouth. Elish was determined to get it in there and grabbed just above his chin, squeezing hard to open his mouth enough to get the methadone in. Theresa's attacker was spluttering and choking and Elish put her hand over his mouth to make him swallow the contents.
"Choke on it you bastard! Fucking choke on it!" El growled, watching as his eyes looked like they would pop out of his head, she was taking a perverse pleasure from the fear he was displaying now that the tables had been turned. Next thing Elish felt was a weight hitting her hard enough to knock her off the terrified stranger; she began to attempt to get to her feet when she heard Naomi screaming at her.
"Jesus Christ Elish!"
El looked up to see Naomi standing over her as two members of staff were apprehending the drug addict, it wasn't difficult after the shock El had given him.
"What the hell is wrong with you?"
"He had a knife at her throat Naomi!"
"Just because you have a hard on for danger does not mean you can run in here like John Wayne and do whatever the hell you want, Elish!"
"He had a knife!"
"And I had it under control, which is more than I can say for you. What the hell were you thinking Elish? You were trying to choke him to death!" Naomi was beyond furious.
"I can't deal with you right now, we'll talk about this later." With that the dark skinned woman stormed off to talk with the Garda who had finally arrived on the scene. Elish knew she would have to give a statement since she jumped right into the middle of the incident. Now that the adrenaline rush was wearing off she was beginning see things a little from Naomi's perspective, she knew, had the situation been reversed, she would not be pleased with Naomi breaking proper procedures to sort out a highly volatile situation.
El turned to see Aisling standing behind her with an unreadable look upon on her face.
"Are you alright?" Elish bit back a sharp reply and shook her head negatively. She didn't want to have any sort of discussion at the moment. Her emotions were running high; a conversation with Aisling at this time would unravel her. She started walking towards her office in an attempt to get away from the situation she found herself in, but Aisling followed her progress all the way back to the centre. Closing the office door behind them, the blonde approached the quiet woman.
"Please Elish, don't shut me out." The brunette raised her head and looked into the eyes of the woman before her. Aisling moved forward to take the tall woman in her arms, but Elish took a step backwards to prevent any contact.
Elish looked so hurt as she said this to Aisling that the blonde felt her heart squeeze. She had been shocked only a few minutes earlier as she watched the woman she had come to care for a great deal take on a man holding a knife and then attempt to half throttle and half choke the living daylights out of him. She had briefly wondered if Elish would have been able to stop herself if Naomi hadn't wrestled her of him.
"If there is anything I can do Elish, anything at all let me know. Okay?"
El had finally had enough; she could no longer hold her tongue. "You want to know what you can do Aisling? Well I'll tell you. You can leave my office and don't think about coming back. I don't need you!"
Aisling stood seemingly frozen in place. She wanted Elish to say something anything, but the brunette remained silent. A knock at the door brought the blonde back to herself, she walked to the door and with one last glance back at Elish, opened it and left.
El sighed heavily; can't anyone take a hint around here? Bloody door is shut for a reason! The police officer had left over an hour ago; Elish had been sat in her office icing her knuckles to keep the swelling down and generally licking her wounds. "Come in." She watched cautiously as Naomi entered her office, El flinched internally as she closed the door behind her.
"First of all, you ever pull a stunt like that again Stud and I'm going to knock you right on your arse."
"You already did," El mumbled.
Naomi sighed; this was such a difficult conversation to have. "Elish you can't go off half cocked in my building anytime you see a threatening situation. I just can't have that happening. Have you any idea the kind of procedural nightmare you have caused me? There will be a full enquiry into what happened, your involvement in part can be explained away as a spur of the moment reaction to the danger. I'm not sure what is going to happen about your attempt to choke the man with the methadone he was demanding." El attempted to speak, but Naomi put up a hand to stall her. "It seems that the only person claiming you tried to choke the guy to death is the man himself, everyone else seems to have developed temporary amnesia over that part of the incident and if they don't, it seems the Garda are having a hard time writing down the details of your attempts. You're a hero Elish. A big bloody stupid hero! You're also my friend and I love you…you big half brained idiot!" Naomi burst into tears, the events of the day catching up with her, this is where they relied on each other desperately, behind closed doors, away from their staff, they could be totally human with each other when the need called.
Elish pulled Naomi close to her, "God, I'm so sorry. I just snapped and I lost control."
Naomi nodded; she had witnessed enough to know that. "You scared the hell out of me, El. I really thought you were going to kill him."
The brunette squeezed her eyes shut tight at her friend's words, the reality of them scaring her because deep down she wondered if she had been trying to kill him. The reasons for which, she did not want to contemplate.
"He didn't kill your Da' Elish." Naomi whispered in her ear soothingly.
El felt her own tears fall, joining those of her friends. "I know Naomi, I know."
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