DISCLAIMERS: This is an Uber story. The main characters and story are the product of the authors imagination.
RATED NC17: For mild profanity and love between two members of the same sex.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Firstly to my good pal, Wolfie, what can
I say? Your support and input have been immense. You are a gem.
To Jan, who accidentally became my beta reader and what a wonderful quirk of fate that has proven to be.
To everyone who has offered feedback along the way, thank you for taking the time to do that. All comments have been very much appreciated.
FEEDBACK: If you enjoy the story please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elish wasn't due back in work until Monday morning but come Friday she just couldn't resist the lure of the place. With a renewed spring in her step, she headed in mid morning, hoping to surprise Naomi.
Dressed casually, El walked straight past the front door of the community centre and entered the drug rehab centre next door. Acknowledging a couple of the counsellors, she didn't stop to chat, instead opting to head straight for Naomi's office.
Pausing outside her friend's office door, she smiled fondly at the scene before her. Naomi was standing reading, totally engrossed in the content of whatever was in her hand, while the other idly rubbed her stomach.
El stealthily approached Naomi and wrapped her arms tenderly around her. "How's the pregnant lady?" El whispered in Naomi's ear; while her hand moved down to join the one caressing Naomi's abdomen. Naomi hummed in pleasure, tilting her head back towards Elish. "Welcome home stranger."
"Any change yet?" El enquired, Naomi easily picking up her meaning.
"Not really, just a thickening around the waist. If folks don't know I'm pregnant, they can't guess yet."
"Won't be long now before they do, then your tummy won't be your own anymore." El teased.
"What, you mean there are going to be more people like you sneaking up behind me to cop a feel?"
"Yeah." El chuckled as she fondly caressed Naomi's stomach once more, before taking a seat.
"How have you been? You sound better." Naomi turned to fully observe her friend. "My God, El. You look wonderful! Wherever you've been or whatever you've been doing, its worked wonders!"
El grinned, "Thanks."
Naomi frowned impatiently, clearly expecting El to say more. "So...where have you been? You took off without a word – all Brian could tell me was that you had taken time off at short notice." She looked fondly at her friend, "You had me worried, El."
"Sorry about that," El had the good grace to look a little sheepish.
"Well?" Naomi prompted, when Elish didn't continue.
"Edinburgh," she replied, while affecting an air of nonchalance as she made a show of looking around the office, and idly picking up a leaflet.
"Annnnd.....?" Naomi was rapidly losing all patience with her.
El gave Naomi her full attention, unable to keep the smile bursting forth onto her face, "Annnnd, I have so much to tell you!"
El's excitement was contagious. "I can't wait." Naomi rubbed her hands together and gave El her full attention.
El proceeded to tell Naomi all about her impromptu trip to Scotland to see Aisling, and how they got back together. By the end of the story, Naomi had a tear in her eye, "Elish, that is so romantic. I couldn't be more happy for you." She stood up and went over to where El was sitting and bestowed a sweet kiss on her cheek. "I am so impressed with you. You went and got your girl back, I never knew you had it in you."
El shrugged, "Neither did I...but I'm so happy that I took the chance and I feel like the luckiest woman alive since Aisling took me back."
Naomi sat back down, grinning at El. "So what now? Is she coming home?"
"I don't know, right now I'm just so happy to have her back in my life." El was content, for the moment, to take one day at a time. "I'm sure when the time is right we can work something out."
"I'm sure you will." Naomi looked at her friend, who seemed to be bouncing around in her seat. She knew Elish well enough to recognise that there was something else in the brunette bursting to get out. Smiling, knowing it was more good news, just by the look on El's face, she demanded to know. "Come on, out with it."
El's eyes lit up as she relished being the one to tell Naomi all about the latest turn of events regarding the centres. She had considered phoning her from Edinburgh, but decided instead, to wait and deliver the news in person.
"Oh, Naomi it's the best news!" Naomi nodded, encouraging El to get on with it. It was rare to see Elish so animated.
Taking a deep breath, all that was missing was a drum roll. "The deal that James Keenan pulled out of is back on." She sat back, waiting for Naomi's reaction.
The dark skinned woman was speechless. Staring at El in disbelief, she tried to absorb the information. "You mean...?"
El nodded vigorously. "Yes! He signed the contract, so the centres will be rebuilt as a condition of the sale of the land."
Naomi ran her hands through her long hair. "Wow."
El was shaking her head, still unable herself, to fully believe the dramatic turn of events. "That's not all, Naomi. James Keenan will no longer be our landlord."
Naomi frowned, pleased to hear that bit of news, but curious as to whom would be taking his place?
"He has signed ownership of the new centre and the new pub that will be built, over to Aisling."
"Oh, that's good news, I don't doubt that Aisling will be a lot easier to deal with than her father was."
"I'm sure she would be," El replied cryptically, "But we won't be dealing with her after the centre is rebuilt." Naomi frowned. "Naomi...she is signing the new building over to the community."
The other woman's mouth dropped open, the words she eventually found a whisper. 'Elish, this means..." she shook her head not wanting yet to fully believe all she was hearing.
"It means everything."
And Naomi knew El was right, it did mean everything.
El stayed for coffee and the two friends caught up on what had been happening and discussing further the building of the new combined centre, both agreeing to keep the news quiet until it was a done deal.
"You had a visitor while you were away." Naomi mentioned casually.
El rolled her eyes; Harriet Smyth was the area manager, therefore the immediate boss of both Elish and Naomi. Elish had nicknamed the woman Tin Tits after a boob job she had a couple of years ago left her breasts with very little natural movement.
"The vultures are circling. She would have known I was on holiday. No doubt saw an ideal opportunity to sniff around while I was away. I'll take great delight when we deliver the good news to her regarding our new permanent home. She won't be able to use us to balance her budget." They had both been aware that the longer they went without a resolution to their predicament of losing their lease, the greater the possibility of them losing their budget from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. They awarded a grant each year and paid the staff's wages. January was budget month and Harriet Smyth was responsible for who would get what. The timing of Aisling's generous gift was perfect. Hopefully El and Naomi would have the paperwork confirming their future before the end of December, thus securing next years funding from the Department responsible for the development of communities.
Naomi grinned, "Harriet was insufferable, walking around like she owned the place. Oh, Connor was brown nosing her at every opportunity. Even Molly had something to say about it." She paused, "sorry, I shouldn't be telling tales."
El waved off the apology as she pondered that for a moment. She had tried to be patient with Connor and help him see where he could learn and improve his skills. It seemed as though he were determined to progress by any means possible. Perhaps he just wasn't cut out for the grass roots of community work and would be more suited to the administrative side. Unfortunately, he appeared not to be able to comprehend that to work on the administrative side of the job, you had to understand what went on at the grass roots to assist you to make informed decisions.
El sighed, "I'm not surprised to hear that about Connor. He just isn't developing the way I hoped he would."
"Too much ambition, too much ego." El sighed, "Unfortunately Connor is more interested in furthering his own career, than assisting the community. He showed so much promise in his interview, saying all the right things." She shook her head, "I must have missed something, there must have been some sign that he wasn't what he appeared to be." El sounded disgusted with herself.
Naomi sympathised, she had been in the same boat as El. "Some people talk a really good game, El. We just have to know when to cut our losses."
El mulled over Naomi's words, was that the answer? She wasn't sure she wanted to give up on him yet.
After leaving Naomi's office, El toyed briefly with the idea of popping into her own. Hesitating for mere seconds at the entrance sealed her fate.
"Elish! Elish, I need to talk to you." Looking over the car park, she saw Molly practically running to intercept her. Waiting for Molly to regain her breath, El looked on bemusedly. Molly had one hand on El's arm while she was bent over a little, taking deep breaths.
"Are you okay there?"
Molly nodded her head, "Just give me a moment." She took a few more deep breaths, "I am so glad to have run into you, El. I need your help. I'm desperate."
"Go on." El replied cautiously.
"Tuesday is the annual holy trip for the pensioners, this year we are going to 'Our Lady's Island' in County Wexford." El nodded, she knew all this. "Well, we are one volunteer short, Elish. I have asked everyone. Please say you'll come?"
El frowned, "I can't, Molly. I have meetings backed up from this week that I already cancelled. I can't reschedule them a second time."
"What am I going to do? If I don't find another person to come along I will have to let down six of the old folks." Molly sounded frantic.
"What are your numbers?" El asked calmly.
"I have twenty-one old folks coming along this year and only three helpers. I can't let them down. I need to find a fourth staff member."
El did the numbers in her head, "How many of the folks have Alzheimer's?"
"Four this year."
El nodded, that explained why Molly required one more helper; otherwise they would be forced to cut the numbers back to fifteen. "And you've asked absolutely everyone?"
Molly nodded, "I had my numbers, El, but Connor pulled out, apparently he has arranged a visit with Harriet Smyth."
"Has he now?"
The look on El's face told Molly exactly how pissed off her boss was upon hearing that news. "Look, I don't mean to be telling tales. The visit means a lot to him, I'm sure that I can come up with someone else."
"You don't have the time, Molly, leave it with me." El stormed into the building in search of Connor.
"Hi, Brian, is Connor around?" El winced, his hair looked pink.
"Oh, Elish, welcome back." He reached for a notebook with lots of post-its sticking out of the pages. "I have so many messages for you, these are just today's."
El put up a hand to stop him. "They will have to wait, Brian. I'm not back at work until Monday, but right now I need to see Connor."
"Got you, he's upstairs."
El headed straight for the community workers office on the first floor. Opening the door she noticed Connor was the only person in the room, his feet on the desk, mobile phone in his hand, chatting to someone.
Elish rapped on the door to get his attention. Connor raised his head, and then held up his hand in acknowledgement.
"Sure thing, I'll see you tonight then. I can't wait Babe. Need to go, have some business to go over with my boss."
He ended his call and El was more pissed off than ever with him. She realised in that moment that Connor was a first class prick, one she wanted rid off, but until then, he had a job to do and Elish was going to make damn sure he did it.
Walking casually towards Connor, she stared at his feet until he removed them from the desk. El decided to get right in his face, putting her hands flat on his desk and leaning over him a little, thus pinning him in his seat, with no option but to look up at her.
El spoke calmly, "Pick up the telephone and call Harriet Smyth, tell her that you seem to have forgotten you had a prior commitment on Tuesday and reschedule your visit to her offices for a day when you are free."
Connor looked up shocked at his boss. He opened his mouth to protest, but El cut him off. "Do it."
Grabbing the phone petulantly, Connor made the call. After leaving a message for Harriet Smyth, he hung up the telephone and glared at Elish.
"Now. You will apologise to Molly and inform her that you will be assisting on Tuesday. Do not let her down." El looked hard at Connor, he still glared petulantly at her. "After the trip you will arrange a meeting with me, where we will discuss your thoughts and experiences of the day. We will also discuss your attitude and your commitment towards fulfilling your responsibilities. Have I made myself clear?"
"Perfectly," was the moody reply.
"Good." With that El left in search of Molly to deliver the news. She just prayed that Connor would do a decent job on the day.
Monday morning found Molly sitting in El's office, while her boss read her the riot act regarding tomorrow's trip. Reaching into her filing cabinet, she removed a folder.
"What's that?" Molly enquired.
"Notes on previous trips."
Molly winced; her boss could be so...thorough.
El put on her reading glasses, "Is Mr McGarrity going?"
"Yes – and before you say it, I'll remember to adjust his hearing aid, before we start the journey." Molly still recoiled in horror at the memory of the man vomiting all over the coach last year. She had no idea a hearing aid could cause someone to throw up when they travelled. If only his family had thought to mention that before the trip.
El nodded, "What about Mrs Gallagher?"
Molly grimaced, "Yes, she's going."
El removed her glasses, addressing Molly sternly, "If she turns up with a hip flask I want you to confiscate it."
"She won't stand for that, Elish." Molly recoiled in horror at the thought.
"She won't be standing very long if you don't." El responded. "Tell her there is no drinking alcohol on the bus – new rules...and for God's sake, monitor her closely. I don't want to be switching on my T.V to find out that your trip is headline news," El warned.
Grimacing, Molly recalled Mrs Gallagher's antics from last year's trip. The woman declared she had seen something. When you're standing in front of a holy shrine where an apparition has taken place, a claim like that tended to cause a fracas. That was until they had gotten a whiff of her breath.
"You know, El. She still claims she saw something."
El rolled her eyes, "I don't think pink elephants are quite what the church has in mind at a holy shrine. Keep an eye on her."
"She won't manage all day without a drink – the woman is an alcoholic."
El nodded, "I know; I'm not saying you should confiscate whatever she brings along all together – just moderate her intake. You know what will happen on the trip back if you don't," El warned.
Nodding meekly, Molly agreed, a seventy-two year old woman stripping on a bus full of pensioners was not a recommended leisure activity.
"One final thing, Molly." The older woman knew what was coming, if this happened they would be the laughing stock of Dublin. "Do not, under any circumstances, leave anyone behind."
"We won't, El. Barring an arrest or hospitalisation, we will bring everyone back."
"Don't even mention those things, Molly!"
Molly smiled, "I'm sure everything will be fine."
"Good to hear, now after all that, have a great trip."
After Molly left, El got back to work. She had so much work to get through after her last minute dash to Edinburgh the week before. She wasn't complaining though, the trip had been worth every message she had stacked up waiting for her attention, every rescheduled meeting she had to attend – every phone call. Elish had a very busy week ahead of her, but still seemed to find her attention frequently flitting to a certain blonde who was right now in London, visiting with friends from university. Her mind drifted back to the previous day when she had told her Mam the good news, how happy her mother was for her. The mood at the lunch table had been considerably upbeat for the first time in weeks, mostly due to the fact that El was no longer sitting there with a long face.
The week was rolling by in a blur of meetings, phone calls and paperwork. Come Friday morning she had the pleasure of Connor's company. Molly had said that Connor was sullen and uncommunicative throughout the trip on Tuesday. The brunette was at her wits end with the guy, wondering what she should do with him.
"Morning Connor." El greeted him cordially.
"Morning." He was still in a mood.
El noticed he didn't have notes with him, which immediately raised her ire.
"Well, how did you find the trip?'
Connor immediately went of on one. He was full of scorn, venting his frustration at being used to baby-sit a bunch of pensioners, some of whom had no business being on a trip in the first place. El tried to steer him back towards the purpose of the meeting.
"I gather you had a difficult time with the dementia sufferers?"
Connor fumed, "Why were they even on the trip in the first place? It's not like they can take any memories away from it."
El was aghast. "Have you considered that for them it's a case of living in the moment? Yes, they can't retain any memories from the day, but don't you think it's important that their day was filled with moments of joy and laughter?"
Connor shrugged and El became seriously pissed off.
"What would you do? Have them remain indoors with little stimulation in their life because taking them places means a little more effort from you?" God, he is truly vile! How could I have been so wrong? El berated herself, as she counted to ten, before continuing.
"Connor, why did you choose to apply to work here?" she asked calmly.
"I wanted to work for you?"
El was puzzled, "Why me?"
"You are the youngest boss ever of a project this size. I mean, you became the boss at twenty-four, that's unheard of. I'm twenty-two now, I wanted to find out how you did it."
El groaned inside, she never saw this coming. "I've been the boss for a little more than three years, I'm almost twenty–eight. I went to university when I was sixteen, Connor. I was the youngest in my class at school, because my birthday is in early January. My parents had the option to send me to school early, or keep me in nursery another year. They felt I was ready for school. That meant, by age sixteen I had the qualifications for university, I was accepted and went. I did four years and got my degree by age twenty. It's unusual but not unheard of. I came to work here and I loved it. I had no ambition to become a boss at such a young age, the truth is, I almost didn't take the job. The previous boss was leaving for a job in London and he begged me to take it, saying I was the ideal candidate for this place. Connor, it's not about the prestige of being in charge that had me taking the job. I took it because I wanted what was best for this community. Eugene, my former boss, believed in me and encouraged me because he wanted what was best for this community also."
El shook her head, "If it's promotion and prestige you are after, you chose the wrong place to work. We need you in a different capacity from the path you have chosen for yourself."
"How do I get onto that path then?" Connor clearly wasn't interested in changing - he wanted success.
Elish had a plan forming in her mind, one that would suit them both, Naomi was right, she really did have to cut her losses where Connor was concerned. ""I think you would be much better suited to an administrative post, one where you can learn the ropes."
Connor nodded, "Can you recommend me for anything?"
"Leave it with me, I have a couple of ideas."
Elish spent her weekend catching up with her household chores and doing some food shopping. Having made no plans, she soon found herself running out of things to do. She had already visited Mrs F, the woman was doing brilliantly well with her new hip. Deciding a little spring-cleaning was in order, El made a start on her hall cupboard. She was always throwing things inside out of the way. Thirty minutes later, El looked at her hall, it was full of boxes and a lot of shoes, especially trainers. She was forever buying new pairs for running; it was her one excess when it came to spending money. Always wanting to try out the new claims made of a certain shoe, in her quest for the ideal pair.
Reaching into the back of the cupboard El removed a box and immediately remembered how it got there. A smile crept across her features, she had meant to throw it out, but obviously something had stopped her. Putting the box aside, El intended to fully explore its contents at a later date.
El pulled her Mondeo into the car park to start yet another workweek. Life was good; the only thing that could make it better was seeing more of Aisling. Locking her car door, El slung her new briefcase over her shoulder; then stopped abruptly when something familiar caught her eye. There in the corner of the car park was a little silver sports car. El would know it anywhere. Spinning on her heel, she changed direction and headed straight for Aisling's office.
El stopped at the open office door, taking in the sight of her lover standing, bent over her desk deep in concentration. Putting her briefcase down just outside the door, Elish snuck up on the blonde.
"Hi gorgeous." El whispered as she slipped her arms around Aisling. The blonde immediately turned in El's light embrace to face her.
"Surprise!" Aisling exclaimed.
"It sure is." El replied, having had no idea that Aisling was in Dublin. She captured the blonde in a searing kiss that conveyed just how happy she was to see her lover.
"I flew in first thing this morning. I wanted to surprise you."
El continued to pepper the blonde's face with kisses. "You have."
The accountant attempted to put a little distance between them, only to have El pounce again; she was all over the blonde like a rash, with Aisling trying to squirm out of her grasp.
"We can't, El. This is my office," she joked, as she moved back to her desk.
"Uhuh, that never stopped you before."
"True, but unfortunately, I don't have the time."
"Come on, I've missed you, just ten minutes?" El pleaded.
Aisling laughed at her lover, "Ease up there, Stud, we have work to do."
El pouted, work wasn't exactly what she had in mind, but Aisling seemed adamant. Seeing the pout on her lovers beautiful face, the blonde attempted to appease her. "What are you doing tonight?"
"You?" El replied hopefully.
The blonde laughed, "You are incorrigible."
El threw Aisling a rakish grin, hoping for a positive answer. The blonde sighed, feigning protest; "I'll be at your place around seven tonight?"
El's eyes lit up, "Great! Now, what's this work we have to do?"
"I have a meeting, which I have to leave for in...." Aisling checked her watch, "Five minutes. After that, I should have something concrete for you."
"Okay, so when will you be back?" El had wondered why Aisling was dressed in her business clothes, not that she was complaining. The blonde looked fantastic.
"Can you and Naomi meet me here this afternoon? Any time will work for me."
"Let me ring her."
El pulled her mobile from her coat pocket.
"Naomi, it's El."
"Yeah, yeah. Listen, are you free to meet with myself and Aisling this afternoon?" El listened as Aisling waited.
"Uhuh, no, that time's no good for me."
"Alright," El nodded, "Four o'clock this afternoon in Aisling's office. See you then, Naomi, later."
El looked over at Aisling, she shrugged as she put her phone away. "That's the best we could do between us."
Aisling smiled, "That time is fine with me. I have to run, see you at four." A quick kiss to El's lips and she was ushering the brunette out the door. As she made her way to the silver Mercedes, El kept pace with the quickly moving blonde. One more quick kiss and Elish was closing the car door. She stood watching until the car left the car park, half dazed at this morning's turn of events. Life certainly was full of surprises.
At almost four o'clock, Elish and Naomi were walking across the car park towards Aisling's office, wondering what the accountant would have to tell them.
They found the blonde sitting in front of her computer; she smiled when she heard them at the door.
"Hi come in."
"Nice to see you again, Aisling." Naomi greeted the blonde with genuine warmth.
"You too, Naomi and I hear congratulations are in order."
"Oh, yes. " Naomi rubbed her abdomen, a gesture El was coming to recognise as a sign of Naomi's subconsciously feeling for her impending bump.
"How far are you along?"
"Almost four months."
Elish spoke for the first time. "I think she got pregnant the night of the barbeque, must have gotten turned on with all the perving she was doing."
Aisling laughed and Naomi glared, "Hush up, Elish, the dates are all wrong. No wonder you need to be with an accountant."
Aisling laughed harder, she had missed these two together. "Would you ladies like to take a seat?"
"Thank you, Aisling. Hopefully your good manners will rub off on this pig."
El frowned as the other two women shared a laugh at her expense. Mumbling to herself as she took a seat, about someone definitely rubbing off on something.
Aisling gently cleared her throat to draw attention to the reason for them all being in her office. "This morning I was at a meeting with representatives from the supermarket chain who have bought the land, and the builders they have hired to carry out the work. I have some plans for you both to look over. As I've already mentioned to Elish, I want you both to have some say in the layout of the new centre that will be built."
Naomi raised her eyes in surprise and nodded, "Wow."
Aisling smiled, "I figured no-one would know better than the two of you, what you needed in this new building. To that end, you will both be included in the next meeting with the builders and their architect, same time next week. The planning permission is already in place for the centre, your input will concern the layout of the interior." They both nodded, waiting on the blonde to continue.
"They want to start work on the centre as soon as possible, hopefully in January. With an estimated timescale of six months for completion of the work."
"That soon?" Elish asked.
Aisling nodded, "They really want to get going on building the new centre, that way it eats into less of the time it will take to build the supermarket."
"What exactly does that mean for us?" This came from Naomi who was frowning, trying to figure out how this could all be achieved.
"Okay, here's the plan. They start work at the top of the field, which will be the location of your new premises. You will remain in your current building until the end of the lease. That takes you to the end of March. If all goes according to plan, that means you will all be without somewhere to work from for around three to four months." Aisling paused. "Unfortunately that is a situation that's unavoidable and one that I can't help you with."
Elish and Naomi nodded their understanding. "I'll talk to the school headmistress about the possibility of using some of the classrooms. She was willing to go for that before, hopefully she will be able to offer us a temporary residence. I'm sure the school could do with the revenue it would bring in." She looked to Naomi, knowing her friend didn't have that option.
Naomi blew out a long breath. "This is all great news, Aisling, truly wonderful news. It seems wrong to be fretting about any problem it might throw up, none the less, it does leave me in a bit of a spot, but one I'm happy to be in."
They all fell silent for a moment, taking a little time to mull over what had been said, until Elish spoke.
"Wait a minute." Both Naomi and Aisling turned their eyes on El, wondering what she had spotted. It seemed good if they were to judge by the look on her face. "We aren't being evicted from the land anymore, therefore we may be able to use it." They both wondered where El was going with this train of thought. El grinned at Naomi then turned to Aisling, "What about portakabins?"
"Oh, Elish!" Naomi exclaimed, thinking the idea wonderful.
They both turned expectant eyes on the accountant, wondering what her thoughts on the matter were. "It certainly sounds feasible, but I will have to take the idea back to the builders. The portakabins will need space and there might be issues with safety, being close to a building site."
El and Naomi nodded, both impressed with Aisling's practical thinking. "I'll call them with the idea, see what they come back with. But now let me show you both the plans for the building and the overall layout of the entire project." Aisling rolled some blueprints out on her desk, pointing to a certain spot.
"See, this is where your new building will be, as you can see, when the supermarket is finished you will be separated by a large car park..."
Aisling had arrived while El was getting changed after showering. She had asked the blonde to make herself comfortable while she went upstairs to finish drying her hair. A few minutes later El returned downstairs, to find Aisling in the kitchen.
The brunette watched riveted from the kitchen door, staring at Aisling who was bent over the wooden table, browsing the evening newspaper. Her jean-clad backside was tantalising and teasing El with every subtle twitch. She was sure the blonde knew where her eyes were. A small sigh and another subtle shift of gluteus muscle caused a resulting twitch in El's groin. She screwed her eyes shut, attempting to tamp down her rapidly rising libido. Opening her eyes, El latched onto two mischievous green orbs. That did it for El. Turning on her heel she made for the stairs.
El returned to the kitchen doorway less than five minutes later to find Aisling exactly where she left her. The blonde didn't acknowledge her presence, but El knew Aisling was aware of her. Walking purposefully towards her target, El leaned over Aisling, resting one hand next to the blonde's, on the table not yet touching her.
"Took you long enough," Aisling taunted.
The only reply to Aisling's mild tease was a shakily drawn intake of breath from Elish, as she leaned her hips into the blonde's beautiful backside.
Gasping aloud, Aisling instantly recognised what Elish had in mind as the brunette continued to slowly rock her hips against her. Elish didn't speak; instead she traced the blonde's delicate ear with her tongue, all the while her breathing becoming more ragged as her arousal increased. By sheer strength of will, El continued to go slowly. Moving Aisling's blonde locks aside, she rained light kisses on the back of her neck, nuzzling the soft hair as she went. The desired effect was being achieved in spades, as Elish began to drive Aisling crazy with need, to the point where she was beginning to lose all patience with her tall lover.
Continuing her slow, sensual assault, El used one hand to grasp the blonde's hip, while the other snaked under the tight fitting T-shirt Aisling wore. Elish caressed the soft warm skin beneath her fingers, taking her time as she moved tantalising close to the blonde's lace clad breasts, only to retreat back to her lower abdomen, then tease Aisling again, by venturing in a whole new direction. On and on El continued her slow tactile assault until, sensing Aisling needed something more, she moved both her hands under the blonde's shirt to cup her breasts. Aisling let out a sigh, part pleasure and part relief, she wasn't sure she could have withstood much more of her lover's patient ministrations. El continued to gently push into the blonde's backside while kneading her breasts, pushing up the lacy bra to access the soft warm orbs below, the nipples standing out in stark relief from the soft mounds of tissue.
Pushing back into her lover, Aisling sought to encourage El to move things along. The blonde was so wet, and the ache El had placed within her needed to be sated. Becoming impatient, Aisling reached behind her to grab Elish, only to have her wandering hand returned to the table. Elish then continued the slow maddening thrusting of her hips, rubbing against Aisling's twitching backside. She was driving them both insane with want.
Aisling swallowed hard and screwed her eyes shut tight, her breath coming out in whimpers, she wasn't sure she could take much more of this slow torture, she didn't want her arousal to spill over into frustrated need.
Slowly, deliberately, El continued until the blonde could take no more of her seemingly endless control.
"For God's sake, Elish. Fuck me before you drive me insane." She managed to choke out.
The words served to push El beyond the limits of her control. Her hands flew to Aisling's waist to unbutton her jeans. El immediately pushed the jeans and thong down the blonde's legs, removing only one leg from the confines of the clothing, before standing back up to work on the buttons of her own jeans, the soft, worn denim easily giving up the metallic buttons, allowing the phallus El wore, to spring forward proudly from its confines.
With trembling fingers, El guided the silicone to Aisling's centre, then slid it all the way inside with a soft grunt of satisfaction, the resounding groan of pleasure from Aisling only served to increase El's arousal further. They both stood motionless, chest heaving as they savoured this moment of joining.
Slowly, deliberately, El began to thrust her hips into Aisling, causing the blonde to moan and squirm. The blonde had both arms locked, her palms flat on the wooden surface of the table, bracing herself. Her soft groans and whimpers filling the air as El continued her slow thrusting.
El was mesmerised by the sight before her, her rhythm never faltering as her hands clasped the waist in front of her. She watched the silicone phallus continually slide home as she worked her knees, hips and thighs. Her concentration only interrupted by the sight of Aisling moving onto her elbows, bending further over the table and offering even more of herself to her lover.
El stopped thrusting and instead rotated her hips, causing Aisling to twitch and moan, encouraging El to continue to slowly grind herself into Aisling. The blonde was again becoming frustrated with El's will power. Sensing her partner's need, El lifted one of Aisling's legs onto the table, her knee bent, to accommodate her new position, Elish then began to thrust once more using Aisling's grunts of pleasure to guide her.
Sweat began to drip from El's brow as she worked harder, thrusting continually, skin slapping as her hips snapped into Aisling's backside, their resounding grunts and moans of pleasure echoing in the tiled kitchen. Elish felt her own orgasm approaching. Moving one of her hands to Aisling's centre she began to stimulate her clitoris with her fingers, pushing the blonde along with her. As El came loudly, she continued to thrust frenziedly into her partner, as she slammed the phallus home one last time, unable to continue thrusting, she became aware that Aisling was screaming out her own climax. Pushing the phallus deeply into the blonde, El continued to stimulate Aisling's clitoris until the smaller woman collapsed onto the table, breathing harshly whilst twitching the last of her pleasure, unable to take anymore.
El stayed buried deep within her partner, who continued to whimper, as they both attempted to calm their rapid heartbeats and regain their senses. El didn't want to ever move from this spot, but considering they were both half dressed, bent over her kitchen table she supposed they couldn't remain there much longer. On wobbly legs, El gently eased the phallus from Aisling and stood up. The blonde bemoaned the loss, shuddering as El removed herself from deep inside her. Quickly re-buttoning her jeans, leaving a bulge that now felt a little alien after the fact, El soothingly rubbed Aisling T-shirt clad back.
"Come on sleepy head, let's get you somewhere more comfortable."
Aisling grunted, "I don't think I can move."
El felt quite good about that and allowed herself a little smirk and a mental pat on the back, before she slowly removed Aisling's leg from the table and set it onto the slate tile floor.
"Do you think you can make it upstairs?"
"Don't wanna move." Came the drowsy reply.
Smiling, El took matters into her own hands. Turning the prone blonde she sat her up on the table, and ignoring the squeal of protest, she lifted Aisling into her arms. Paying no attention to the jeans dangling from one of the blonde's legs, she walked through to the sitting room to lay her on the sofa.
"Oh God Yesssss!" El hissed her release through clenched teeth as Aisling continued to lap at her engorged clitoris. El was spent; she had no idea how long they had been making love. After a short interlude on her sofa, the couple made their way upstairs to the bedroom. Aisling feeling refreshed after a nap had decided to test El's stamina by pushing her to her limits. It seemed the blonde wasn't yet convinced that El was finished. Maybe she should beg for mercy?
Gently nudging the blonde head, Aisling looked up from her comfortable spot between El's long legs. Her lips glistened with the brunette's juices in the muted bedroom light. Grinning up at her lover, Aisling began to lick her lips. Despite thinking it impossible, El felt herself becoming aroused again.
"Come up here?' El rasped, her throat a little raw from her frequent cries of passion.
Aisling slowly made her way back up El's body and kissed her fully, as she began to once again rock her hips, sliding a thigh between El's legs. El groaned, truly doubting her body's ability to peak once more, having had the pleasure of Aisling spending an inordinate amount of time with her head buried between the brunette's legs. The blonde sensing her lovers plight took pity upon her, "Just raise your leg, Elish."
A short time later they lay totally spent in one another's arms, neither of them feeling ready for sleep despite the hour. El decided she was beyond the need for sleep and was content to lie in her lover's arms.
"Are you staying at your parents while you're back in Dublin?" El turned her head to lie face to face with Aisling. She had wondered where Aisling was staying and, more importantly, how long!
The blonde shook her head, "No. I don't ever see myself living there again, not even short term. I'm staying at The Clarion."
El recognised the name of one of Dublin's upmarket hotels. It was modern and trendy, she thought the choice suited Aisling. Hesitating only slightly, El asked the question that had been on her mind since she saw Aisling in her office that morning. "How long are you here for?"
They looked into each other's eyes and the moment seemed to extend and grow. The importance of Aisling's answer was not lost on either of them. El's face was full of hope, she didn't dare to think that Aisling would be back in Dublin on a permanent basis, but she knew that was what she wanted.
"I'm returning indefinitely." A small smile edged it way onto El's lips upon hearing this news. Aisling continued to explain her decision, "I need to be here to finalise the details of the contract negotiations."
This was a more sobering prospect for El. Of course Aisling would need to be here, she immediately chastised herself for having dared hope that Aisling's decision was made with her in mind. She was getting ahead of herself.
Reaching out a hand to stroke El's cheek, the blonde continued, "That's not the only reason I'm here." She smiled at El, "Aiden and I – both of us, need to sort out our lives, in terms of direction. We pretty much each accused the other of hiding out in Edinburgh and to a certain extent, that is true for us both. Aiden told me that in no uncertain terms – he doesn't mince his words, my brother is nothing if not direct."
El smiled, that was the lasting impression he had left her with. "He sure is."
"He told me to stop using him as an excuse to remain in Edinburgh, and to go where I wanted to be." Aisling shook her head, "I disagreed, but the guy was training to be a lawyer, he put forward a most convincing argument." Aisling chuckled, "he had me tied in knots by the end of it, I wasn't sure where to start countering his points. Anyway, he made me realise that I have, in part, been using him as an excuse. With the best of intentions, I really do want to spend time with him. The truth of the matter is - it's too much. He doesn't want to rely on me on a daily basis; he likes his solitude and his independence. When he feels the need for assistance, he has the clinic. He can spend his weekdays there and if the need arises, they can assess and admit him."
"Aiden wants to continue to see me one weekend a month and occasionally more, he enjoys those times. My father is visiting as well now; they seem to be doing okay. Things have started to progress, to the point where we may all be in Dublin for Christmas. Aiden is giving serious thought to coming over to spend Christmas with me. If all goes well, we might spend Christmas day together as a family. That would be a very big step for all of us, but especially Aiden and my Mother."
"That would be wonderful, Aisling."
Aisling nodded, "It would be a start, I don't want put too much stock into it. I'm cautious and hopeful all at the same time. A reserved dinner without incident would be wonderful. If that happened, I would be hopeful that things might progress in a positive direction."
El nodded, understanding Aisling's reasons for being cautious. Her family had a lot of hurdles to overcome. Perhaps this could be a start for them? "I hope Aiden decides to come over for Christmas."
"I do too. If he sits in the same room as my Mother, it will be a big step."
El found it hard to imagine how a family could become estranged, to the point where they actively didn't want to see each other. She thought of her own family and how close they all were, and then it struck El that the reason for that was her Mam. She took a moment to wonder if things would be different if her Mam wasn't so insistent that they all turn up for Sunday lunch. Perhaps her family weren't as close as El would like to think. Would she go to visit Tim? That gave her pause for thought.
"Is everything alright, El?" Aisling enquired, seeing the faraway look in her partner's eyes.
El smiled reassuringly at the blonde, "Yes, I was just thinking about families and what we take for granted."
"My family would be considered close," Aisling nodded her agreement, "But I wonder just how close we would be without the effort that my Mam puts into keeping us together?"
"You don't think you would see your brothers as much?"
El looked sad, "I'm certain of it. If there were no mandatory Sunday lunch we could go months without seeing each other, especially Tim and myself. Well – unless my car broke down, it would be at family functions only. I mean, I visit my nieces and nephews on their birthdays, but without kids, I wouldn't have a reason to visit Tim. We really don't get on."
"That's a shame, you two could pass for twins."
El pursed her lips as she mulled that over. "Suppose so." They were silent for a few minutes, happy to just hold one another.
Aisling let out a giggle and El wondered what she found funny, "What?"
"You have to be in work in less than two hours."
El glanced over her shoulder at the digital clock display behind her, noticing that it was almost seven am. She made a face, "And what about you Ms Keenan? What do you have planned for today?"
Aisling stretched like a cat, "I'm going flat hunting. I've made an appointment with a letting agency," She looked at El intently. "I'm going to rent somewhere. I need to be here for the foreseeable future because of the building work, but, El, I want to be here with you."
The words hung in the air between them; it was exactly what El wanted to hear.
"And I couldn't be happier." El leaned over to capture Aisling's lips, she could manage to work on no sleep, sure that her level of happiness would be enough to see her through the day.
Things seemed to be moving along at a very rapid pace, since Aisling's return. The blonde had moved into rented accommodation, which was only about a twenty-minute drive from El's cottage, the brunette was ecstatic over that. It was hard to believe the way her life had changed over the last three weeks. It was now mid December, had anyone told her, prior to her trip to Edinburgh, what would transpire, she would have believed it to be an unrealistic fantasy. The truth was she couldn't have even wished for half of what had transpired, and expect it to materialise.
Today was Wednesday, 21st December, which meant tonight her staff would be enjoying their Christmas night out, after which, the centre would wind down for the festive holidays. Many of the staff chose to take an extended break at this time of year to be with friends and family. El was really looking forward to this day and it had little to do with the festivities planned for that evening, despite her date being a beautiful blonde. Today, Elish and Naomi could finally break the good news to their staff, since the dates and contracts for the building work had been finalised the Friday before. El had been a bundle of nervous energy in the days since. Suppressing the urge to just blurt out the fantastic news had been difficult. Rubbing her hands together, she made her way to the hall where both sets of staff were to congregate. The place had been buzzing since Monday, awash with rumour and speculation since the notice of today's meeting had been posted.
Stepping into the room, her arms full of copies of the upcoming plans for the centre, El smiled trying to put the anxious faces before her at ease. Glancing up at the door, she watched Naomi enter, she was sure her own smile matched that of the one on her friend's face and she could feel the anticipation in the room build as the staff responded to the positive vibes radiating from their bosses.
El began at Naomi's nod, the dark skinned woman had found herself becoming increasingly more sensitive to emotional stimulus; today's news had been playing havoc with her equilibrium since Friday.
Speaking loudly, El immediately had the full attention of everyone. Each one of them was desperate to hear the news. The main speculation amongst the staff was that their bosses had secured new premises; they weren't about to be disappointed.
"I'm sure you're all desperate to find out why you have been called here today," El began. There were a few nods and affirmative murmurs. "I'll get straight to the point," El paused for mere seconds and she could see some people physically lean forward in their seat, desperate to get the news. "We have secured new premises." She waited while the news sank in, then for the expected reaction. The volume in the hall increased as people let out a long held breath and then chatted and smiled with those around them. El took a moment to glance over at Naomi; they shared a smile, both knowing their staff were going to be so much happier than they already were. A question brought El's attention back to the people gathered before her.
"Where is it, Elish?"
El nodded, "If you can give me just a few more minutes of your time, I'll lay out the main details, then you can collect one of these," she held up the notes of the meeting, "on your way out."
"Firstly, we won't be moving far. A deal has been negotiated with the supermarket chain. As part of the sale of the land, they agreed to build us a new joint centre." El stopped as the excitement once again began to build inside the hall. When the staff settled down she continued, "Our new building will be at the far end of the field, work starts in January and it will take around six months to complete it. Obviously we have to vacate these premises at the end of March, so Naomi and myself have sorted out temporary premises till the new building is finished. The community centre will be using part of the girl's school, while the drug rehab centre will be using Portakabins, near the building site. It will only be for around three months and I'm sure you all agree, it will be well worth the temporary inconvenience." El had to speak above the growing excitement, "Remember to pick up the information on your way out, and I'll see you all tonight."
She took a seat beside Naomi as they both looked at the happy faces of their staff. Some hugging, others back slapping and the odd tear was shed. Tonight was going to be a special celebration. There was nothing worse than a cloud hanging over your financial future; it was especially depressing at Christmas time. To see that cloud lift before your eyes was a memory for both Elish and Naomi to treasure. They would make sure in time that every person knew exactly who was responsible for securing not just their job, but also the long-term future of the resources they offered the community. Aisling Keenan was indeed a very special lady. Elish knew that more than anyone and she considered herself a very lucky woman, since Aisling would be on her arm this evening.
Elish navigated her way along the private tree lined road that led to Aisling's rented apartment. It was Christmas Eve and they would be spending it together. The pair had a hectic schedule coming up, which included spending a few days in Edinburgh with Aiden, celebrating the New Year. Tomorrow was a very big day for her blonde lover. She would be picking up Aiden from his hotel, then driving them both to an Irish castle for Christmas dinner with their parents. It would be the first time for over a year that the whole family would be together. Elish had noticed her girlfriend becoming more anxious as the day approached; she hoped that everything went off without incident. Having never met Mrs Keenan she couldn't be certain, but had a strong feeling that the woman's actions would dictate how the afternoon would go. Parking her car, El removed her overnight bag from the boot, then made her way to Aisling's apartment.
Depressing the button for the blonde's flat, El considered whether she could live here. She took in the modern building which contained around twelve apartments. All of which were nicely appointed, fitted out with the latest mod cons and decorations. Aisling had moved into the flat just three days after arriving back in Dublin, it came fully furnished and had been available for immediate let. The accountant had signed a six-month lease, and moved in straight away.
"Hi, it's me." El said into the intercom. There was a buzz and the door to the stairway opened. Entering the well lit, carpeted hallway, El made her way to the second floor where Aisling already stood in the open doorway, a smile on her face.
"Hi, you," the blonde uttered as she placed a kiss on El's cold lips, "Did you get all your wrapping done?"
El nodded, she had spent most of that day getting ready for Christmas dinner with her family the following day. That meant a lot of wrapping had to be done in one afternoon. The wrapped gifts were now sitting in a box waiting to be taken to her Mam's tomorrow. "All organised...I hope." El looked around the apartment, it wasn't her first visit, she had helped Aisling move some of her belongings in, but this would be her first time staying overnight. Aisling was feeling settled and had asked El if she would like to stay over. El loved her cottage, but if Aisling wanted her to stay here on occasion she was more than willing to oblige.
Removing her heavy jacket, then her shoes, El entered the carpeted living room and took a seat on the comfortable sofa. The centrally heated house was warm, so her jumper was quickly shed.
"I thought we could watch a Christmas film to get us in the mood, you want to choose one?" Aisling pointed to the coffee table where a small pile of DVD's stood. "I don't mind which one of them we watch, just choose what you like. I'm going to get some snacks."
El smiled, "Okay." Looking through the DVD's she selected one she hadn't seen before. Removing the disc from the case, El opened the DVD player and popped the disc into the tray, before sitting back on the sofa and grabbing the remote from the coffee table.
"Ah, that's what I like to see, a woman who takes charge," Aisling teased as she entered the living room, a tray full of assorted snacks in her hands. "I was thinking of opening a bottle of white wine, would you like some?"
"Sounds good to me."
"Good choice of film, by the way," the blonde threw over her shoulder as she left the room to get the wine.
El chuckled, knowing Aisling had already limited the choices, and she wouldn't have put out something she didn't like.
Two Christmas movies, a bottle of wine and a lot of snacks later, the two women were snuggled close together on the sofa, soft music playing in the background. Elish kept an eye on the digital clock display on the DVD player, as it slowly clicked off the minutes to midnight. Katie Melua's dulcet tones caressing her ears, as Aisling's hands caressed her abdomen. El truly believed this was as close to perfection as she could ever recall.
"Merry Christmas, Elish."
El smiled and looked at the woman in her arms, obviously the blonde had been clock watching too. "Merry Christmas, Aisling."
They shared a slow lingering kiss, before parting for air. "Shall we swap presents now? Or do you want to wait till tomorrow morning?"
El took around five seconds to consider that. She felt great; she would be spending the night in Aisling's arms... "Let's do it now!" the brunette declared, as she carefully removed herself from Aisling's embrace to go in search of her overnight bag. Finding it in the bedroom, she returned with the gift hidden behind her back.
"What you got there, Stud?" The blonde enquired playfully.
El grinned at her lover, "Show me yours and I'll show you mine." El raised an eyebrow saucily. She relished having the playfulness return to their relationship.
Aisling got up from the sofa, waving a cautious finger at El, "Alright, but promise me you will close your eyes."
"Sure," El replied easily, which instantly raised Aisling's suspicions. "I mean it, El."
El laughed, "Alright, I promise."
Aisling nodded and left the room, returning moments later. "I'm coming in, close your eyes." El readily complied and she heard a rustle of paper, before the blonde sat on the sofa next to her. "You can open them now."
Opening her eyes, El noticed there was no sign of her gift; Aisling had hidden it at her side of the sofa. "Who goes first?" she asked.
Aisling giggled, "We'll swap gifts on the count of three."
"Oh," El nodded, "Alright."
"1...2...3..." The gifts were swapped and Elish found herself with an armful of packages. Her eyes immediately growing wide.
Looking at the presents in her lap, El wondered which one to open first. Reaching for the smallest, Aisling stopped her. "Ah, could you open that one last?" the blonde requested.
El frowned, "Which one should I open first?"
"That one." Aisling pointed to the largest gift.
"Okay," El dragged out the word as she reached for the gift. Opening the wrapping paper, she quickly realised it was a jacket. Not just any kind, but a Gore-Tex outdoors jacket, similar to the one Aisling used for walking. It was in a dark green with navy lining, El loved the colours. "Oh, it's fantastic." She declared.
El nodded, "Yeah, really. Great colours."
Aisling was pleased. She watched on intently as El opened the next package and revealed a pair of lightweight, low-level walking boots in a combination of black and charcoal. Laughing with delight, Elish immediately put them on and, walking around the living room, tried them for size. "They fit really well! And they are so comfortable." She looked at the blonde, "is this your way of telling me I'm going to be doing a lot more walking?"
Aisling was biting her bottom lip. "I kind of hoped that you might like to come along with me now and then."
Elish walked over to her, and leaned down for a kiss, "I would love to."
Opening her final present, El found accessories for her new hobby; hat, gloves and socks, all in muted shades. Clearly Aisling had noticed her girlfriend's aversion to bright colours, especially the red hat she had provided her with in Edinburgh.
El noticed that Aisling had yet to open her gift, having been too caught up in watching El. The brunette suddenly felt nervous, what if Aisling didn't like her gift? Choosing gifts for Aisling had been so hard. Buying for everyone else had been a breeze in comparison.
Aisling opened the package and was delighted to find a book on famous New Zealand walks. She had once told El she would love to go there to walk through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. She had said, that where Irelands landscape was old, worn and full of history, New Zealand seemed to be the opposite, more youthful and rougher looking in comparison.
"Oh, I can't wait to read this, I've been considering going for quite a while." The blonde opened the front cover, looking for an inscription, when something fell out onto her lap. Picking up the envelope, Aisling looked inside and gasped, when she found two return tickets to New Zealand.
"Oh, Elish," she whispered, with tears in her eyes, so overcome by her lover's thoughtfulness.
El looked a little bashful, but inside she was doing cartwheels, she had gambled and it had paid off. "I was hoping we could take that trip together?" she stated quietly.
Aisling flew into her lap and kissed her soundly. "This is the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me. I would love for us to go together. Not having someone to go walking with, and share the experience, was one of the things holding me back." She shook her head, still not quite believing what Elish had done. If any reservations had remained about her decision to let the brunette back into her life, they were banished in that moment forever. Aisling knew without a doubt that she had found the woman she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, she just wasn't ready to tell Elish that yet.
Aisling arrived at El's cottage a little after 8pm on Christmas night. Both women were tired for very different reasons. Elish was physically tired after a very hectic day with the entire Maloney clan, and Aisling emotionally, after her family dinner.
"How did it go?" El had been concerned, hoping that her partner's day had been without incident.
Aisling smiled warmly, at her lover's concern. "It was a little strained, but polite. It's hard to tell in some ways, my Mother was..." the blonde searched for the best way to describe her mother, "Actually, the strangest thing happened. She asked to meet you."
El was surprised, she certainly didn't expect to be meeting Aisling's mother in the near future. El nodded, part of her was curious as to what Mrs Keenan was like in the flesh. El could never understand how the woman could allow her family to exit her life so easily. "When?"
"Tomorrow, she said to ask you if you could come to dinner."
"At your parents house?" El tried to keep the shock out of her voice.
Aisling nodded slowly, "I understand if you don't want to go, I'll tell her you already have plans."
"No, don't do that." El looked intently at Aisling, "If you want me there, I'll go without hesitation."
"I'm hoping since my Mother extended this invite, that it's an attempt to at least try to accept who I am. I don't need her approval in any way, but I would like to give her every opportunity."
El smiled, she would expect nothing less of Aisling, as the blonde was always thinking of others. "Then I'll go."
The following afternoon, Aisling returned to the cottage to pick up her lover to go meet her parents. "You look wonderful, Elish," Aisling reassured the brunette for the third time in the last twenty minutes. She had never seen her partner fussing over her appearance before, yet here El stood before the full-length mirror checking once again. When she began picking imaginary lint from the sleeve of her grey jacket, the blonde stepped up behind her. Putting both hands on the taller woman's shoulders, Aisling spoke in her ear as their eyes met in the mirror. "Elish, you look great. I'm flattered that you've made this effort for me, but I would have been happy to take you to meet my Mother wearing your most comfortable pair of jeans and a T-shirt." El had opted for a grey pantsuit, with a plum coloured fitted shirt. She looked conservative, not that Elish ever went for flamboyant colours, but Aisling knew her partner was opting for complete safety with her choices. She was fashionably elegant, yet understated, a look the tall woman pulled off with aplomb whenever she made the effort. The barest hint of make-up coated the brunette's near flawless skin and Aisling could smell the subtle scent of El's favourite perfume.
She took in her own Donna Karan suit, her Gucci shoes and Yansi Fugel vintage blouse, all worn for her mother. If Fenella Keenan saw her daughter in anything less she would be horrified. Aisling sighed thinking she and her Mother had a long way to go. No wonder Elish was fussing over her appearance. One look at Aisling had surely been enough to raise the brunette's concerns over her own appearance. Aisling rolled her eyes, partly disgusted with herself. "Elish, my Mother expects me to be wearing designer clothing. I don't want to be wearing it; I just don't want to rock the boat. I'm sorry for allowing those expectations to cause you concern over your own appearance. You look wonderful, if my mother doesn't like the way you look...well tough." Taking El by the hand, she led her from the bedroom. "Come on, let's do this."
Knowing someone is rich, and witnessing that wealth, El decided, were two very different animals. As Aisling easily manoeuvred her Mercedes along the private driveway that led to her family home, Elish took in her surroundings. They were on the Southside of Dublin, surrounded by large properties with spacious grounds. As Aisling's parents house came into view, El felt her eyes widen. The electronic gates were her first clue, but the white building that loomed large before her was very impressive. El wondered how someone could have grounds this big and still be within the city of Dublin.
Aisling brought her car to a stop in the gravel courtyard, which already had four cars parked there; she noticed the questioning glance from her partner. "They all belong to my parents they, ah...usually park them in the garages," she shrugged. It was the first time she had felt truly uncomfortable bringing a friend to her family home. She was concerned that Elish would think her a spoilt brat. "It will just be my parents at dinner."
It was on the tip of El's tongue to ask who would be serving dinner but she thought better of it. Aisling seemed apologetic regarding the money on show and El, not wishing to cause her partner further embarrassment, enquired about the history of the house instead. "When was it built?"
"Oh, around 1830, we moved here about seventeen years ago."
Aisling smiled, "Shall we?" the blonde enquired as she gestured her head towards the house.
Walking up the six steps to the large double door, Aisling depressed the doorbell, which seemed to clang inside the house. El shuffled her feet nervously as they waited for the door to be answered.
A few moments later James Keenan opened the door, a pleasant smile on his face.
"Good afternoon, Aisling, Ms Maloney," he greeted politely.
El nodded to the man, "Please call me, Elish."
"I'd be delighted to."
Good God, the man could be positively charming when he wanted to be! El thought to herself.
"Please, come in."
Elish followed Aisling into the house, the blonde pausing to offer her father a brief hug, he then held out a hand to Elish which she promptly shook.
"Your mother will be down in a few moments, she went upstairs to freshen up. Why don't we take a seat in the drawing room, she won't be long."
Elish found herself entering a very spacious room. It was lightly decorated in champagnes and natural woods, with chandeliers and Persian rugs. She had to admit; it was tastefully elegant, right down to the matching marble fireplaces. El couldn't help but take a good look around the room; the detail was stunning, beautiful even.
"Did you enjoy Christmas with your family, Elish?"
It felt odd to hear James Keenan call her by her first name, "I did, thank you." This was hard going, but she could do it. "And you, Mr Keenan? How was you day?"
"I thought the day went well, all things considered," he looked towards his daughter who nodded her agreement.
"I should go see where your Mother's gotten to, please excuse me." He left the room in search of the elusive Mrs Keenan; El hoped her delayed appearance wasn't a bad omen.
She blew out a breath and tried to relax a little, Aisling move closer to El and patted her thigh, "You're doing great, relax."
They shared a chuckle, "Is it that obvious?"
"Well you usually have this casual slouch going on, so I'm used to seeing you at least appear relaxed. Right now you look like someone sho..." The blonde never got to finish her sentence as the sound of her Mother's voice rang out into the room, drawing all eyes to the woman.
"Aisling, Darling, you're here."
"And you brought your friend, how wonderful." That comment seemed decidedly lacking in any true sentiment, but El decided to give the woman the benefit of the doubt.
"Mother, this is Elish Maloney. Elish, my Mother, Fenella Keenan."
"Pleased to meet you, dear."
"Likewise, Mrs Keenan."
Elish got her first good look at Fenella Keenan, she had little option since the woman was staring directly at her and didn't seem inclined to want to stop any time soon. She was a couple of inches taller than her daughter; she wore an expensive looking silk dress with a matching pearl necklace and earrings. Her hair was worn up, with not a single hair escaping it confines, it was blonde, like her daughter's, but that is where the similarities ended. Fenella Keenan had hazel coloured eyes and thin lips, which were currently displaying a tight smile.
The stand-of continued until James Keenan cleared his throat to draw attention to himself.
"Perhaps we should move to the dining room?"
"Off course, I'll inform Mary that we will be eating shortly."
Elish glanced at Aisling, who seemed to be finding the floor of enormous interest at that particular moment. As they walked towards the dining room, El took the opportunity to reassuringly squeeze the blonde's shoulder.
They entered a large, formal dining room. A huge oak dining table and chairs dominated the centre of the room. A regal looking period sofa lined up along the top wall and three large windows in the main wall offered an amazing view of the grounds. Mr Keenan made sure to seat Elish so she was able to fully enjoy the view in the late afternoon light. There was no sign of Mrs Keenan for the next few minutes and Elish wondered just how much of that was deliberate. They had arrived at the appointed time so the woman had to have been expecting them. El sighed inwardly, if Mrs Keenan truly wanted to make an effort towards accepting her daughter's sexuality and rebuilding her relationship with her children, she sure had a lot of work to do. Nevertheless, El proceeded the way she had been taught by her parents, she could hear her Mam's voice at that moment, Mind your manners, Elish!
"You have a lovely home, Mr Keenan."
"Thank you, Elish. Perhaps, after dinner, I can give you the grand tour?"
"I'm looking forward to it," El replied offering a polite smile. Regardless of how this afternoon turned out with Mrs Keenan, James Keenan was certainly passing with flying colours. El entertained the possibility that she may actually grow to like the man.
Mrs. Keenan breezed into the dining room. "Ah, I see you are all seated," she proclaimed. "Mary is almost ready to serve." Taking her seat at the table, her posture as perfect as the beautifully manicured hands she clasped in front of her, she went on, "Well isn't this nice."
A false, tight smile stretched over bright red lips, Mrs. Keenan repeatedly tapped one of those same perfectly manicured fingernails against the knuckle of her other hand. As she sat there, El casually wondered if she had had any cosmetic surgery done. Mrs. Keenan was probably in her early fifties but she had a completely wrinkle-free skin and could certainly pass for younger.
"Where is it you stay, dear?"
"I have a cottage on the North side of the city. Near Swords village."
Mrs Keenan raised an eyebrow, El wasn't sure if she disapproved of the location or her living in a cottage.
"Do you live alone?"
Several answers flew to the tip of El's tongue, some ribald and some rude, but El opted to play the woman at her own game. "No, I've never considered having a cat. I do however, know a lot of woman who do...have cats." El maintained direct eye contact with the contrary woman, she would give her no quarter.
"I see." was the curt reply. "Well, I think I better go and see how Mary is getting along with dinner." Then she was gone again.
El's eyes flew to James Keenan when she heard the man chuckle, "I'm delighted to know that my wife isn't going to get away with anything around you either, Elish."
"I wouldn't dream of it, Mr Keenan." She looked directly at Aisling and witnessed a look of pride in her lover's eyes. That was all that mattered to Elish.
Dinner was a fairly quiet affair. Oddly enough, far from El's reply provoking Mrs Keenan, it actually seemed to have the opposite effect. She suspected the woman was a bit of a bully, used to getting away with all her verbal jibes and snipes. El was prepared for anything the woman wanted to throw at her. She would not allow this woman to make her feel inferior, Elish was much too proud for that.
After a meal consisting of polite small talk and wonderful food served by Mary, who turned out to be a woman in her sixties, James Keenan offered Elish the tour he had mentioned earlier. El politely accepted, leaving the two Keenan women to talk.
Starting on the ground floor, El was shown an array of rooms including a library, which was her favourite. Mr Keenan pointed out original features and offered some of the history of the house along the way.
"May I be frank with you, Elish?"
"Of, course, I much prefer it actually."
He smiled, "That doesn't surprise me."
"I won't pretend to you that I'm suddenly comfortable with my daughters sexuality. Perhaps in time, I will be, who knows."
El was puzzled, why then was he pushing them together?
"I have, however, come to accept that Aisling is a lesbian and no amount of wishing it were otherwise is going to change that."
El nodded, that made sense.
"The last two years have been tough for this family, especially in light of Aiden's illness. I think we all, with the exception of Aisling, lost sight of what's important. She is a wonderful sister and daughter, who has put up with a lot to try and keep this family together."
El wondered where all this was coming from, but she was happy to hear these words from Aisling's father.
"You have a very special woman there, Elish. I hope you realise that."
"I most certainly do. Aisling is everything to me."
Mr Keenan nodded, "I hope you can become a part of this family, Elish. I admire you, I believe that you could be good for my daughter."
Wow, was all Elish could think of. He sounded absolutely genuine. "Thank you, I certainly have every intention of being with Aisling for a very long time."
He nodded, "I think we should get back to the ladies, before Aisling comes looking for us."
Shortly after that, Elish and Aisling said their goodbyes, while not exactly a roaring success, meeting Aisling's mother had been interesting to say the least. El just wished her girlfriend didn't have to endure so many of her mother's caustic comments. Though Aisling handled herself with patience and grace, El had found herself wishing on occasion that the blonde would just stick it to the older woman.
As they stood in the entry hall saying their goodbyes it appeared that Aisling's mother had one last biting comment to make.
"It was nice to meet you, Ms Maloney,"
El thought the woman must have struggled not to choke on the word 'nice', though the emphasis she put on it, held a wealth of meaning, it would be a long time before Fenella Keenan could, or would, accept this relationship, if ever.
"Though I must say, you're not exactly what I had in mind for my daughter."
Once again El found herself biting her tongue, struggling not to let fly verbally, she was pleased to feel a small warm hand slip into her own.
"No, Mother, Elish is so much more than that."
El smiled, everything she had endured from this woman had been worth it, just to hear her partner say that. It made El's day in more ways than one.
Next stop was El's Mam's, before flying to Edinburgh the following afternoon. This would be the blonde's second trip to the Maloney household since she and Elish got back together. She had been thoroughly overwhelmed by Marie Maloney's welcome upon seeing her again for the first time in months, she really did like the woman.
"Elish, Aisling, what a pleasant surprise!" Both women hugged Marie Maloney as they entered her home.
"Hi, Mam. I'm flying to Edinburgh tomorrow and I won't be back until after the New Year. I wanted to come see you before I went. We both did." She smiled fondly at her lover.
Marie Maloney took in the two well-dressed young women before her, they really did make a lovely looking couple, "Look at you two all dressed up, have you been somewhere nice?"
El nodded, "We had dinner with Aisling's parents."
"I trust my daughter managed to behave herself and mind her manners?" Marie winked at Aisling as she said this.
"Her manners were impeccable, she even managed to use her fork in her left hand." The blonde teased.
"She's come a long way in such a short time, I'm so proud."
The two women shared a laugh as Elish rolled her eyes. Deep down she couldn't be more pleased that her Mam and Aisling had hit it off so well.
As they drove back to her cottage that night, El was reasonably happy with the way their day had gone. She hadn't expected any kind of warm welcome from Fenella Keenan, therefore couldn't feel any disappointment at not receiving one. Knowing the best she could hope for between them was a polite tolerance. There was no doubt about it; Aisling's mother was hard work.
Elish decided Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations were magnificent and it wasn't even the main event yet. They had visited the winter gardens with Aiden. There they had gone ice skating, even Aiden, despite the limitations the anti psychotic drugs put on his co-ordination, had given it a go. Elish had seen a whole new side to him and she was relishing it. The trio had also gone on the carousel and the big wheel, meeting and chatting to people from all over the world who flocked to this city for the Hogmanay celebrations. On the Thursday evening they had joined the Torchlight procession, weaving their way through the historic streets along with thousands of other people, ending up on top of yet another hill, where they set fire to an enormous Catalan bull made out of wicker. The crowd were then treated to a spectacular firework display. El had loved the view on the way up the hill, when she glanced behind her, it looked like a river of fire as the procession spread out for miles, in the cold night air.
On Friday, they had gone to something called The Night Afore, which basically meant the night before the main Hogmanay event. This consisted of a street arts carnival, including lots of Catalan performers, apparently every year the celebrations included highlighting the culture from another part of the world in conjunction with the essence of all that's Scottish, hence the setting on fire of a large Catalan bull the previous evening. It was all beginning to make sense to the brunette as Aisling diligently explained as much as she could, with Aiden filling in the most pertinent information.
There were so many events to choose from that the trio had gone for what looked like the main ones. Tonight was the biggest one of all, the Hogmanay street party, where the city centre was turned over to a quarter million revellers who had purchased tickets. They would be treated to music from live bands. This year was a decidedly Scottish affair with headlining acts such as K.T Tunstall and Texas. There truly was something for everyone, including a distinctly healthy side to the excess of food and alcohol. On New Year's Day, El would be taking part in the One O'clock run, which left from the castle esplanade. She had invited Aiden and Aisling to join her but the siblings, after politely refusing, assured that they would cheer her on.
As the main event approached, the trio found themselves enjoying Tapas in a little Spanish bar tucked away down a side street in the old town. When El noticed the location she realised they were only about two minutes from The Bank Hotel, yet the streets Aiden had led them through were alien to her. This part of the city was like a rabbit warren, one wrong turn and it was like being in a maze of cobbles and tiny closes, which all led to more of the same.
They left the bar at close to 11pm, to make the short walk to one of the many entrances to the street party. Aiden hesitated a moment, which caused Aisling to pause.
"Listen, I'm going to head back to the house. You two go on and enjoy yourselves."
"Elish and I would both love to celebrate midnight with you, Aiden. Will you not change your mind?" Aisling asked.
El reinforced the blonde's statement, "Yes, Aiden, come along with us."
Aiden smiled at them both, "I know, and thank you, but I would like to have a quiet New Year when midnight comes."
Aisling nodded, "Alright, Aiden. I'll try and call you just after midnight to wish you a Happy New Year, assuming I can get a line." She pulled her brother to her for a hug. "Either way, I'll see you when we get back."
El waved and watched as Aiden walked down the street, "It's a shame he didn't want to come with us."
Aisling nodded, "To be honest, I expected him not to go to the street party. It's very crowded with lots of people having an amazing time and at midnight it goes wild. Since the onset of his illness, Aiden has tended to avoid celebrations. I think he finds them too difficult to deal with."
El nodded, she could understand that.
"Aiden has really enjoyed the last few days, El. He hasn't said anything, but he seems to really enjoy your company."
"I'm glad, I've enjoyed the chance to spend time getting to know him."
Aisling gave her lover a quick hug, "Come on, let's get going...you sure you're ready for this?" Having been to the party with Aiden in 2003, before his illness, she had experienced the event first hand.
El nodded and they walked arm in arm towards the main gate.
The street party was amazing, El thought, the place was buzzing and the atmosphere electric. Giant screens were situated throughout the streets, beaming the live acts onto the screens, so the partygoers could soak up the atmosphere without getting crushed. There were people dancing in the streets, though some were much the worse for alcohol and were clearly not going to be remembering much about tonight. The weather was good for winter. The skies were clear and the temperature around –1ºC, so it was pretty bearable wrapped inside their winter clothing. El shivered as she took in some of the attire being worn around her. Girls dressed in short skirts with light jackets, guys wearing only football tops. El thought they were crazy. She had once heard a joke about the Scots and cold weather, recalling part of it saying that when the weather reached 20 degrees below zero, Californians fly away to Mexico and people in Scotland throw on a light jacket. She was beginning to believe it!
They walked around, enjoying the music and holding hands, pointing out the more elaborately dressed people around them. The variety of headwear on display was Aisling favourite thing to point out. Hats representing every nationality were on show, along with some really funky creations. As midnight approached the streets really filled up, everyone getting ready for the main event, causing the air to fairly crackle with anticipation. Then the countdown started as the big screens displayed the seconds remaining till midnight. The crowd counted each second off from ten to one. As the fireworks exploded, lighting up the castle above them, the place went wild. Strangers were hugging each other and wishing everyone around them a Happy New Year. Elish took Aisling into her arms and kissed her fully on the lips, it didn't last long as they quickly became caught up in all that was happening around them. El even saw Aisling being hoisted into the air at one point, by a man in a kilt and a Scotland rugby shirt; he twirled her around before placing a soft peck on her cheek. This went on for several minutes and all they could do was laugh and join in the good wishes, the mood was truly buoyant.
Finally when things settled down a bit, they were back in each other's arms, El holding Aisling close to her kissing her cold lips once more. She could no longer hold back the feelings bubbling just below the surface and allowed them to finally spill forth.
"I love you," she declared with tears in her eyes.
The blonde looked up into her partner's face, too stunned to reply. El decided to repeat her declaration. "I love you!" Aisling leapt up into her arms, her short legs wrapped around the brunette's waist, as her arms flew around El's neck, and kissed her for all she was worth.
"I love you too, I love you too." She repeated close to El's ear as she hugged her tightly.
They kissed for a few moments more before Aisling broke them apart. "Let's go home, Elish, since I can't ravish you in front of thousands of people."
When they arrived back at Aiden's town house, all the lights were out indicating he was already asleep downstairs. Opening the front door, Aisling put her finger to her lips, gesturing that they should be quiet. Flicking on the hall light, they removed their outer layers, hanging them on the coat hooks. Next came their boots. Aisling then quietly opened the door to Aiden's downstairs bedroom. Elish watched on as the blonde entered his room and gently placed a kiss on her sleeping brother's forehead. El heard a whispered, Happy New Year, Aiden, before the blonde silently left the room, gently closing the door behind her.
Smiling at Elish, Aisling took her hand, and then quietly led her upstairs to the bedroom they were sharing.
A few hours later, a slightly dazed and naked Elish lay prone on the bed with a sleeping Aisling snuggled up against her side. The blonde had been intensely focussed during their lovemaking. El had met every thrust of the blonde's skilfully plunging digits, as Aisling had taken her repeatedly in the hours since they returned home. El had found herself manoeuvred into a variety of positions, while Aisling continued to pleasure her. El's last thought, as she gently drifted into unconsciousness, was that she had never got to return the favor. Aisling had loved her thoroughly, with a passion beyond anything Elish had experienced before. They had proclaimed their love for each other often throughout the intense encounter. That night they had moved their physical relationship to a whole new level, connecting in ways that Elish had never experienced with another human being. She felt literally, as though Aisling had been attempting to crawl inside her skin, and Elish welcomed her lover's attempts with a new openness, free of the fears, which, often in the past, had held the brunette back.
Four months later found El in her temporary office, pacing the floor like an expectant father to be. Declan had called that morning to say Naomi had gone into labour. He had promised to call back as soon as there was any news. Come dinnertime that evening, still having not heard a word from Declan, El was becoming frantic and had just told Aisling that she was "Going to the hospital to find out what was going on!"
The thought of her anxious lover storming into the labour ward had the blonde jumping to her feet to stop her. "Elish, relax, these things take time," she offered soothingly. "Declan is with Naomi, she's in good hands," the blonde continued to attempt to reassure her lover.
El blew out a breath, "How can it be taking so long?" she asked, clearly frustrated with the lack of news.
Aisling rubbed her nervous partners back. "The baby will arrive when he or she is ready. You have to be patient and wait on Declan's call."
That call came after midnight, with the ecstatic father declaring, "It's a boy...and they are both doing great!"
The following day, Elish and Aisling made their way to the new Mother's hospital room, El with her hands full of gifts. She knew she had gone over the top, but she was just so happy for the new parents.
The baby was beautiful; El held him in her arms and felt like weeping. He was lighter skinned than his Mam, a product of Declan's contribution, and a perfect combination of them both, El decided.
"What are you going to call him?" she enquired while Aisling took a turn holding the new baby.
Naomi smiled, "We are going to go with the current trend of naming the baby after where they were conceived."
Elish couldn't help herself, "Naomi, I don't think the name, El's back garden is going to get the boy very far in life."
Naomi glared, "I've told you before, the baby was not conceived at the time of your barbeque."
El smirked, "but you did do it in my back garden." She added cheekily.
Naomi looked over at Aisling, who refused to lift her head until the new Mother addressed her. "You told her?" She asked incredulously.
Aisling raised her eyes briefly and offered Naomi a sheepish look. The blonde had gone outside late that night to cool off, only to see Naomi and Declan walk back towards the cottage rearranging their clothing.
El gloated, "Seems we weren't the only love bird's that night."
Naomi rolled her eyes, "Not that it's any of your business, Elish Maloney, but Declan and I spent a romantic weekend in Aran at the end of July," Naomi smiled, "I really felt different, physically, after that weekend. I'm certain that's where the baby was conceived."
Aisling brought the child back over to his Mam, at Naomi's request, "I'd like you both to meet, Aran Connelly."
"Oh, I really like that, Naomi." El declared.
"That's so romantic," Aisling gushed.
A few minutes later, a rather tired looking Declan came back into the room. El thought he looked more like the one who had gone through labour.
"El, Declan and I have something to ask you."
Elish looked from one parent to the other, waiting for them to continue.
Naomi nodded for Declan to proceed. "Elish, we would very much like for you to be Aran's godparent."
The brunette could feel the lump form in her throat, she was stunned, but managed to find her voice as a wavering smile made its way to her lips. "I would be honoured," she replied hoarsely, and then moved to give Declan a hearty hug, before gently kissing Naomi and little Aran on the cheek. She glanced at Aisling as a tear escaped from the corner of her eye. The blonde moved to enfold her emotional partner in her loving embrace, enormously pleased for everyone in the room, including the newest arrival.
Later that evening, El found herself in a reflective mood. The scene at the hospital had really moved her. She had thought the sight of the new family together was beautiful and it left a part of El longing for one of her own. She was broken from her thoughts when the blonde offered to pay a penny for them.
El smiled, "I was thinking about today at the hospital, they were beautiful, weren't they?"
"Yes, they were." Aisling readily agreed.
They both fell silent, lost in their own thoughts once more. El's of her relationship with Aisling, and how far they had come since her first trip to Edinburgh. They spent almost every night together, either here at her cottage, or at the blonde's rented apartment. She knew that Aisling's lease was up in a few weeks and neither of them had spoken about what would happen next. Elish had been waiting for the blonde to say what she planned to do, either rent again, or look for a house to buy. Of course, the other option was that they live together. El knew what she wanted, and that was for Aisling to move in with her. However, she would be willing to move somewhere else, if that was what the blonde preferred. El had been wondering if Aisling's silence on the matter was a sign. A sign that she was actually waiting for El herself to suggest something. Deciding to be brave and take the plunge, El tentatively forged ahead.
"Have you given any thought as to what you want to do when your current lease runs out?"
El watched carefully as Aisling considered her question.
"Ah, no. I haven't really made a decision about that."
"I see." El wasn't sure how to proceed. She had hoped for a positive sign, but could read nothing from the blonde.
"I suppose I could renew the lease, or if not, find another apartment to rent." Aisling didn't sound overly enthusiastic at the prospect of that; perhaps it was the right time.
"I wonder...would you consider us, that is, you and I, living together." El hastened to offer the blonde a get out, "It doesn't have to be right away, I mean, if you want to wait, that would be fine by me." Damn it! Please don't let me have blown this.
Aisling smiled, "Where would you like for us to live, Elish?"
Immensely relieved and ecstatic, El answered, "Truthfully, I would like you to come live here, in the cottage, but, if you don't want to do that, I would consider living somewhere else." There she had said it and the ball was firmly in Aisling's court.
"I would love to live here with you."
The blonde nodded, "Very much so. When would you like me to move in?"
"How about, when your lease is up?"
"Sounds perfect to me."
El beamed at her partner, sweeping her up into her arms she declared, "God, I love you."
"I love you too, El, so very much."
Elish looked around her at the people gathered. She was standing in front of the newly built community centre, Naomi by her side. They had been open a week, to allow everyone time to settle in, but today was the official opening of the centre. It had taken a little longer than the scheduled six months and here she stood, almost a year to the day since she first showed a certain green-eyed blonde around the old premises. Little did she know just how big a part that woman would play in all aspects of her life. They had moved in together two weeks ago and El was having the time of her life. She locked eyes with her partner who was standing beside her Mam; no doubt discussing whatever it was those two discussed when she wasn't around. Declan stood next to them, his son in his arms. Little Aran was almost two months old and growing like a weed.
They had decided to officially open the centre on a Saturday, allowing people from the community to come along and join in the celebrations and take a look around the new premises. This was to be a celebration for the entire community and they had splashed out, putting on free food and soft drinks, as well as entertainment for the kids. As with these things, the big bosses had turned up to grab some of the glory. El knew they were a necessary evil and tried hard not to grind her teeth as Harriet Smyth and her new protégé, Connor, fawned all over the celebrity opening the centre. Funny thing about the celebrity, getting him had been quite a coup, but for Elish it was more of a miracle, since the guy had actually called her offering his services. When the young man, who had grown up in the community, but now played football for one of the top teams in the English premiership, stepped forward to cut the ribbon, there were lots of cheers. Then the celebrations were underway, as an array of coloured balloons were released into the blue sky above.
Two hours later things were starting to wind down and El wanted to have a word with her counterpart before she left. With no sign of Naomi anywhere, she headed to the one place the woman would have privacy. Knocking on the door of her friend's office, El heard a quiet. "Come in."
"How are you doing?" El found Naomi sitting in her new comfortable chair, little Aran lying sleeping in her arms.
"I'm good, just letting the little man get some sleep."
"Busy time for you, huh?"
"You have no idea." Naomi smiled fondly at her son.
"You're leaving aren't you?" El blurted, Naomi had said she was returning to work, but since she had the baby, she was a little less enthusiastic about her initial decision.
"I'll be honest, El, my original plan was to come back to work. This little guy has forever changed my life, and that includes my priorities. I won't be returning after my maternity leave is up. I'll be quitting. I might return to working, maybe two or three years down the line."
El nodded her understanding. Naomi wanted to spend time with her son. "You could come back then." El mentioned hopefully.
"You never know."
"You'll continue on the committee, though?"
"Oh, definitely, I want to remain a part of this community and that's the ideal way for me to have some influence, Aisling made a very shrewd move there."
"That she did. You know I can't believe how much everything has changed during the past year."
Naomi shook her head, "I know, it's quite incredible."
"I'm really going to miss you around the place."
"I'll miss you too, it's been an absolute pleasure working with you."
"You too, Naomi." They both fell silent for a moment.
"You know, El, you may not be here yourself much longer. You're quickly outgrowing this place. You have the knowledge and drive to really make a difference to many communities. Have you considered a job in higher management?"
El scoffed, "Become a pencil pusher like Harriet? No thanks. I would much rather stay right where I am."
"I was more thinking, being Harriet's boss."
"I doubt anyone is going to give me a job that far up the chain, I'm twenty eight years old, Naomi. Most folk my age are only just applying for the job I have."
"Age has nothing to do with it, El. If you're good enough, you should get the job."
"Let's be honest, even if I am good enough, there is no way, I'll get in there. They like the status quo, I'm not sure they are anywhere near ready for a shake up of the system."
Naomi shrugged, "Maybe they will come to you."
"I think you're hormonal." El shot back.
Naomi let it go, but she believed El was destined for greater things in the future. "Maybe. So, what's next for recently married, Elish Maloney?"
"Ha ha, funny girl. " El knew Naomi was referring to the fact that she and Aisling now lived together.
"I tell you, El. Had someone said to me this time last year, that you would have been living with the love of your life, I would have bet my house against it. But I am absolutely delighted for you."
"Thanks, Naomi, looks like we both got what we wanted." El replied, smiling at the little bundle in her friend's arms.
Aran chose that moment to waken up; he opened his little lungs and bawled for all he was worth. Naomi cooed at him while her fingers deftly found the buttons on her shirt. With practised ease she was soon feeding her son, the room quiet as he suckled at her breast.
"So what are your plans, El?" She looked up to find the other woman taking a great interest in a picture on the wall, a flush creeping up her neck.
"My main priority is continuing to build a life with the woman I love." El continued to look anywhere, but at Naomi.
"My God, El! You are such a prude at times." El still refused to make eye contact. "Look at me?"
"Elish, this is the most natural thing in the world, you shouldn't be feeling awkward with me breastfeeding."
"Fine," El replied, "I'll look."
Naomi watched as her son continued to suckle contentedly at her breast, she stroked his head softly, before bestowing a kiss there. Looking up, she found her friend mesmerised by the sight before her. She waved her hand in front of El's face to get her attention.
El glanced up at her offering a bashful grin, "Sorry, but you're right, it is beautiful." She chuckled, but said nothing more.
In a rare moment of self-consciousness, Naomi wondered what her friend found to be so funny. "What?"
"I was just wondering..."
"Has Declan ever tried that?" El nodded her head toward Aran.
Naomi frowned as she considered what El was asking. "My milk?" she clarified.
"Well yeah," El shrugged.
Naomi turned the tables on her inquisitive friend, "Would you?"
"I think I would be at least curious."
She fixed El with a sultry look, "You want to try now?"
Naomi pointed towards her breast, "You want to try?"
Elish looked at her like she had two heads. "You can't be serious." She sputtered.
"It's just breast milk, Elish." Naomi replied reasonably.
"From your breast!" El was incredulous.
"What's wrong with my breasts? Are you saying there is something wrong with them?" Naomi looked really hurt.
"No! No of course not. They're...beautiful." El gestured towards them helplessly. Then watched on as a sly smirk crossed Naomi's face. "You are evil. You hear that little man? Your Mam is evil. I have to go meet Aisling." El spun on her heel and left a chuckling Naomi behind.
"Your Mammy's still got it." she said to her oblivious son as he continued to feed.
El spied the blonde chatting to someone she didn't recognise, deciding not to interrupt, she looked around, spotting Molly walking towards her, she offered the older woman a welcoming smile.
"Hey, Molly, you enjoying yourself?"
The community worker gave her boss a tremulous smile; "It makes me sad to think that I'm retiring in three months, Elish. I'm really going to miss all this.
"Ah, but you don't have to fully retire, you can volunteer to your hearts content. You know we would love to have you stick around in any capacity you wanted."
"I suppose I could keep doing the tea dance."
El smiled, knowing Molly wanted to do this, but would never put her on the spot by asking. "I can't think of anyone more suitable to take over from you, Molly, than you."
"Hey, there you are. I've been looking for you."
El turned to find Aisling smiling at her. "I was chatting to Naomi, we were up in her office."
"How is she?"
Aisling nodded, El had mentioned that she suspected Naomi might not be coming back. "So, how are you?"
"I'm good...I could be better though."
"What would make you better?" Aisling asked sultrily and Molly took that as her cue to disappear.
"Come with me and I'll show you." El took Aisling by the hand and led her upstairs. "I was thinking, that I have this new office and it needs some memories, want to help me with that?"
"Can we start with the desk?"
"We can start anywhere you like..."
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