It was a sultry July day as I stepped out of the taxi; Ali would have loved it. As I walked into the synagogue, however, I reflected how much she would have hated that. Ali despised all religion – I wanted to give her a humanist funeral, but whereas her family had totally rejected her in life, in death they had reclaimed her, doing their best to freeze me out entirely.
I’d had to ask our solicitor to tell me where the ceremony was taking place. I glanced across the temple and saw them – her tall patrician father, her small dumpy mother, and her portly elder brother, all pretending I didn’t exist.
I’m Suki, by the way. Well, my parents christened me Susan, but I always hated having such a dull, conventional name, and the moment I left home I changed it. Home is a small town in New Mexico which nobody from more than 20 miles away has ever heard of. I live in London, England (God, that is such an American expression), and for the last six years of her life Ali has been my significant other. To be honest, our relationship had hit a bit of a rocky patch at the time of her death; but the end came with shocking suddenness. One evening we were lying in bed together when Ali got up with a terrible headache. Within minutes she was sobbing with pain and fear. I called an ambulance and held her; by the time help arrived she was unconscious, and she never woke up. I wasn’t really listening when, two days after it all started, the doctor told me the medical term for what had killed her: basically a blood vessel in her brain had burst, and even if she’d survived she would almost certainly been in what they call a vegetative state – that is such a horrible term.
So now here I was, being completely shunned by the seemingly dozens of her black-clad relatives who crowded the building, like so many carrion crows. Turning my back on them I gazed nto space, waiting for the whole grizzly business to start. I felt a hand settle lightly on my shoulder – and my blood froze in my veins as I turned and stared into the face of my dead girlfriend!
The next thing I knew, I was lying on a chaise longue with a dull ache at the back of my skull and a pink oval hovering over me. It swam into focus and I saw it was a concerned face, which belonged to, I remembered, an old friend of Ali’s who had stayed friendly when her family spurned their evil lesbian Jezebel. He was some kind of doctor at one of the big London hospitals. As I tried to sit up my head protested like it had been kicked and Paul, that was the guy’s name I recalled, gently pressed me back down. “Take it easy, you cracked your head on the way down. You had us worried for a few minutes – we thought you might have damaged a valuable antique table.”
The feeble joke passed me by, and I felt physically sick and bewildered. I asked, “What happened, did I faint or something? How long for?”
Paul stroked a strand of hair out of my eyes and said, “Only a few minutes, but you need time to recover. Just lie back and think of Uncle Sam.” From my reclining position I could see I was in some kind of office – there was a crowded noticeboard to my left. The room was also pretty crowded. There was Ali’s mom, looking worried; and beside her, Ali’s dad, seemingly furious that I was apparently trying to steal the show at his daughter’s funeral; the rabbi was there, glancing at his watch, concerned I was going to foul up his schedule; and one other figure. Hanging back by the door, pale and looking as if she’d been crying, was the Ali look-alike. Paul must have noticed me staring at her. Without taking his eyes off me he whispered, “Alison’s sister, Andrea.”
Jesus, what a shock that was! I knew Ali had a sister, but she’d never bothered to mention the small fact that they were identical twins. Feeling embarrassed by the whole situation, I heard myself mumbling, “Look, I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened, I guess it’s so hot today, and I’m not used to wearing pantyhose, I guess I just…” I knew I was babbling. Thankfully Paul silenced me before I made an even bigger ass of myself. After a glass of water and a few minutes sitting upright holding my head in my hands, and stuffing my damn pantyhose in my handbag, I felt okay, refusing Paul’s suggestion that I go for an X-ray, and I made it through the ceremony. I felt a little faint but whether that was due to the heat – which should have been like a cool spring morning to a gal from New Mexico – or the fact that I was bidding my lover farewell, I couldn’t say.
As I made my way out of the temple I started to wonder if Paul would give me a lift to the burial ground, since everybody else there hated me. Then I saw Andrea tentatively approaching me. Now I looked at her properly I could see clear differences between her and Ali. Andrea’s black hair was styled into gentle waves ending at the nape of her neck, unlike Ali’s long straight locks. Her pale face was the tiniest bit fuller, her eye brows thinner and sculpted, her body that bit more rounded and fleshy than those of her dead sister. Nevertheless, there was enough of a resemblance to make my heart skip several beats. (For the record, I’m physically quite different to the sisters – at five-nine in my bare feet I’m a good five inches taller, and leggier, with sandy brown hair, inherited from my dad, which I wear to shoulder length, and skin that always looks healthily tanned, courtesy of my Mexican mom. I’m also quite slim, apart from a respectable pair of boobs. I’ve been compared, flatteringly, to the young Lauren Bacall. Ali was less kind, teasing me that I looked like a boy wearing a pair of joke shop fake tits.)
Andrea smiled nervously and, reaching out, lightly touched my shoulder again, as if I was a scared rabbit or something. She said, “Suki, I’m so sorry about what happened earlier. It was completely thoughtless of me. How are you feeling now?” I shrugged her hand from my shoulder and told her coolly that I was fine. She then offered me a lift to the cemetery with her and her husband Martin, which was a help. As we walked slowly to her car, she said sadly, “I didn’t want to lose touch with Ali, but I felt so pressured by Mum and Dad. We used to be very close and I’ve really missed her. Now I’ll never be able to tell her.” With that she burst into tears. Suddenly I found myself, at the funeral of my girlfriend, trying to comfort the sister who hadn’t spoken to her for six years, hadn’t even invited Ali to her wedding.
On the way to the graveyard Martin, who was driving, pretty much ignored me, but Andrea, her emotional squall over, asked me by way of conversation if I was going to keep on the flat I’d shared with her sister. I explained I couldn’t. Islington Borough Council had said that because my name wasn’t on the lease they couldn’t transfer it to me. I wasn’t sure they had the law on their side, but in any case it would have been difficult for me to stay there – I’d been sleeping on the couch since Ali’s death. Besides, they’d already provisionally offered the place to a couple of Somali refugees. When Andrea asked what I was going to do I shrugged. “I’ve got three weeks to find another place. I guess I’d better make a start on it tomorrow.”
After Ali had been interred, my only wish was to get the hell out of there as quick as possible, link up with a few friends and get very drunk. Before I could escape, though, Andrea cornered me. “We’re asking people back to Mum and Dad’s for tea and nibbles. You will come, won’t you? Please?” My first thought was to plead an aching head; but Andrea was trying so hard to be nice to me, and that would just have made her feel guilty about freaking me out earlier. Then I thought, fuck Ali’s parents, she was my girlfriend, and they hadn’t even seen her for six years. Why should I allow them to take over her memory, and pretend I never existed? So, knowing I’d be about as welcome as Bin Laden at the White House, I told Andrea, sure, of course I’d come.
Once there I hid away in the corner of her parents’ huge lounge like a bad smell. Andrea attempted to keep me company, but every time she joined me some uncle or aunt gently steered her away to talk to cousin Reuben or whoever. At one point Ali’s mom came and sat next to me. She said, “Thank you for coming Suki, I’m sorry we don’t know you better.” Then, taking my hand in hers, she asked, with what seemed genuine concern, “Are you feeling any better? Would you like me to get you some paracetamol?” I was both amazed and touched. I thanked her and told her I was okay. As she drifted away I had a quiet chuckle to myself, imagining what Ali would have said about it: that her mother was just trying to head off a possible law suit.
Jut as I was thinking of quietly slipping away Andrea joined me again, with her husband in tow. Sitting beside me, she said, “Suki, Martin and I have been talking about this, and we’d like to suggest that you come and stay with us. Just for a few weeks, while you get back on your feet. We’ve got a big spare room, and you’d be most welcome, really, wouldn’t she Marty?” I stared from one to the other, stunned. Martin’s face looked as if they’d just invited me to set up a lesbian bordello in their back yard, but he nodded grimly in agreement. I asked Andrea if it wouldn’t upset her parents if she put me up. Pouting slightly, she replied, “If it does, that’s their problem. I’m 27, not 12, and it’s our home. Please think about it. I’d really like to get to know you, and I believe that Ali would have wanted me to ask you. Oh, and by the way, my friends call me Andi.”
I had gotten sufficiently used to Andi that my breath had stopped catching in my throat every time I saw her, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about lodging with someone who would constantly remind me of Alison. On the other hand, I had to find somewhere, and property rental in London is horribly expensive. I work in an art gallery in trendy Covent Garden. I enjoy the work and I have a great relationship with Joel, the hip gay French Canadian who owns the place, but it isn’t the best paid job in the world. I could probably afford to rent a room in a house, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to throw my lot in with total strangers. So I told Andi that if they were serious, that would be so kind. Within a couple of days I’d sold the contents of the flat to a local house clearer, loaded my meagre belongings into two suitcases, and a friend had driven me over in his minivan to Andi and Martin’s terrace cottage in the northern suburbs of London.
I had a nice big bedroom with a couch and a desk, and my own shelf in the refrigerator. Andi and I negotiated my rent – she trying to talk me down, I insisting that she wasn’t charging me enough. She struck me as quite prissy, and far more house proud than her sister or I had ever been. Every drink had to stand on a coaster, every plate and cup had to be washed up as soon as they had been used, and so on. At first it irritated the hell out of me, but I gradually began to settle in.
From the first day it seemed to me Andi and Martin had a slightly odd relationship, in which they hardly ever actually saw each other. She worked in central London and was up and out of the house before he was awake. Then Martin went training two nights a week with the amateur soccer team he played for. Most other evenings he was either in his den, surfing the Internet or watching live soccer games on satellite TV, or in his lock-up garage half a mile away tinkering with his car. Most Saturdays he travelled all over the country watching his beloved Tottenham Hotspur, and on Sunday mornings he played himself, which usually culminated in a long boozy session in a pub with his team mates, unless Spurs were playing a Sunday match at home, in which case the boozing followed that. Andi hated soccer, but I was mildly interested, and talking about it was pretty much my main connection with Martin. Other than that, he more or less left me to my own devices.
So, Andi and I started spending quite a lot of time together. We travelled to work together, me getting off the tube at her stop, near the City bank where she worked then walking the mile or so to my own workplace. I had a small TV in my bedroom, but most evenings I sat in the lounge with Andi, watching their 36-inch multi-channel set with her: initially out of sympathy at Martin’s lack of presence, but increasingly because I began to enjoy her company. The only times I made myself scarce were the rare evenings when Martin stayed home, in order to give them a little privacy.
I liked to make myself an early dinner when I got in from work, then take a shower. That meant drying off and getting dressed again to go and sit with Andi. One evening I couldn’t be arsed (as my English friends would say) with dragging fresh clothes on, so I just wrapped myself in my big towelling bathrobe, swathed my hair in a towel turban, and padded barefoot downstairs. Andi did a double-take that first time, but she didn’t say anything, and from then on that became my regular routine. We’d sit at opposite ends of the couch, my long brown legs tucked under me, sipping white wine as we let that and the TV anaesthetise us. I found our taste in programmes was quite similar – current affairs, documentaries on wildlife or aspects of history, police dramas and one particular soap opera. For all Ali’s undoubted intellect, her preference had been for what she freely admitted was “trash TV” – the likes of Big Brother, X Factor, and shows about perfectly attractive women desperate to submit themselves to cosmetic surgery.
In fact, as I got to know Andi better, I increasingly realised how very different she was to her sister, beneath the superficiality of looks. Ali was a great laugh, but she had a kind of “fuck you” attitude to the world, and a hard, cynical edge that I always found unattractive. Andi was softer, with a kinder, more considerate outlook. She also had a more subtle brand of humour than Alison. Andi would often make pithy little throw-away comments that would have me snickering in a most undignified fashion. Where Ali, so passionate about the left-wing causes she believed in, would have blasted the pomposity of a politician on TV with a shotgun, Andi would slide a metaphorical stiletto between the guy’s ribs, to far more telling effect in my view. I began to discover she had distinctly liberal political views which I – and I suspect her husband – would never have guessed at.
Andi also had a romantic streak that was a million miles removed from Ali. One Saturday afternoon one of my favourite Hollywood weepies, Now Voyager, was on TV. Ali would have sat through the whole thing making sarcastic comments, and making fun of me for watching it; but as big sloppy tears rolled down my cheeks I glanced across at Andi and saw her dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. Without even thinking what I was doing I reached out and took her hand in mine. We watched the rest of the movie like that, our fingers intertwined, sobbing our hearts out as Bette Davis and Paul Henreid played out their melodrama before us. At one particularly emotional moment Andi even squeezed my hand, and I reciprocated.
That evening I’d been invited by friends to a pasta party across town and, off the cuff, I asked Andi if she’d like to come. No I didn’t, I actually asked her if she would come with me. She gave me a smile in response, and within five minutes she’d changed into a simple white slip-on cotton blouse, tight stonewash blue jeans and open-toed sandals, the plum nail varnish on her toes contrasting with the her ghostly pale feet. She stood framed in the doorway to the lounge, and I felt my mouth go dry and my gut lurch as I took in her curvy figure. At the party I thought I’d never seen Andi more relaxed. The prissy middle-class attitudes I’d originally seen in her seemed a distant memory as she sat on the floor, her back braced against a chair, her shoes kicked off, sipping a can of beer between laughing at anecdotes from my friends’ chaotic and, occasionally, bizarre lives. We kept exchanging amused glances and, her eyes sparkling with the heady mix of enjoyment and alcohol, I also thought she’d never looked more lovely.
At one point Julia, a friend by marriage, cornered me in the kitchen. She grinned conspiratorially, and chuckled, “It’s nice that you’ve found someone else, you two just look so right together. Bit spooky, but still…”
I smiled at the misunderstanding. “You’ve got it wrong, Andi’s just a friend, and my landlady. She’s also unavailable, and extremely hetero.”
Julie frowned. “Oh come on Sukes, I can feel the sparkle between you, we all can. I mean, the way you look at each other, it’s so sweet.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “Really Julia, there’s nothing there. We really are just good pals.”
Turning on her heel, apparently piqued at the thought I was bullshitting her, she flounced towards the kitchen door. “Okay Suki, whatever.” She paused in the doorway, and glanced back over her shoulder at me mischievously. “Anyway, I’m still pleased for you.” The rest of the evening I watched my friends closely. Most of them had known me for years, and it appeared that Julia was not alone in her misconception. I began to detect warm smiles as people glanced from Andi to me, and the occasional eyebrow cocked suggestively, just little hints here and there that the guys thought we made a great couple.
On the 20-odd stop tube journey back home Andi was still happy and relaxed. Resting her bare feet on the seat – something I would never have imagined she’d do – she asked me if my friends liked her. I assured her they’d loved her – they really had. Dreamily, she said, “Your friends are so nice, so laid back. I haven’t really got any friends outside work – except you of course. When we do get together with people we know, or with my brother and cousins, the talk’s always about who’s got the newest car or the flashiest stereo system, whose husband’s got the swishest job, how wonderfully the kids are doing at school, it’s all so dull. Your friends are really interesting.” In a friendly gesture I reached across and lifted Andi’s small feet into my lap, and began gently massaging them. She almost purred like a cat! I wondered aloud if she and Martin didn’t want kids. She snuggled back in the seat and closed her eyes. “Oh, Mum and Dad are desperate for us to give them more grandkids to spoil, but Marty and I agree we’re going to put it off as long as we can. Most of the time I feel like a kid myself, why would I want the responsibility of having one of my own?”
That night I lay in bed staring at the ceiling and reflecting tipsily on what a great evening it had been, and how funny it was that all my friends seemed to assume I was having an affair with Andi. I had really enjoyed seeing her have such a good time with them. She was such a sweet person…so easy to…oh shit! I sat up in bed with a start. I wasn’t really falling in love with my dead girlfriend’s twin sister, I couldn’t be – could I? Now that I was really thinking about it, I knew the truth beyond any doubt. If I was honest with myself, I’d barely thought about Alison for weeks: all my thoughts these days were about Andi. Something deep inside told me I had to get out of there, now, before I allowed myself to get badly hurt. But after a restless night, I began to rationalise the situation. I was happy living there, I enjoyed Andi’s company, irrespective of any deeper feelings I might have for her. I was good for her too, she was blooming under my influence. She was off-limits, it was as simple as that. I was a mature adult, and I could handle it.
The day after the party, as we were sitting digesting lunch and wading through the Sunday papers, completely out of the blue Andi asked me how I had met Ali. The question totally threw me, and I was silent for at least 30 seconds; then I pretty much told her my life story.
“From as early as I can remember, I never really felt very American. Pledging allegiance to the flag every morning made me cringe. I hated all the ritual posing at Huntersville High School: the macho dick-swinging contests among the boys; the preening the girls did to snare the hottest jocks to take them to the prom; the vicious urban warfare masquerading as the annual cheerleader try-outs. So I just opted out of it all and became one of the nerds. By the time I graduated I had the best set of grades in the history of the school, and all the cool kids thought I was a total dweeb. My folks assumed I’d go to college and become a doctor or a lawyer – I had a firm offer from Berkeley. But at 18 I’d had enough of studying, and I wanted to see the world; to get as far away from my hick town as humanly possible. The place was just stifling. New York was an impossible dream for kids like me, a kind of Shangri-la, so that’s where I went.
“I stayed there six months, but the people were either uptight or weird, and the city just terrified me. I used to lay awake at night and listen to the police sirens, and jump every time I heard a bang, wondering if someone had just been shot. So I came over to Europe. I liked the idea of Paris, but I hated not speaking the language, and the snotty attitude of most of the people I met. Without French I was going to struggle to get a job, so I thought I’d try London instead. Straight away I made some good friends – you met a couple of them last night – and I felt so much more at home here than anywhere else I’d ever been. Londoners are a whole lot more laid back than New Yorkers, and they don’t take themselves too seriously.
“After a few months I thought maybe I should do some kind of studying after all, to keep my mind in shape, so I enrolled for an evening class in social anthropology of all things. And that’s where I met Ali. She’d just graduated from university, and she was helping out her old lecturer, who was presenting the class. I’d had a couple of relationships with men in the past: I lost my virginity to a married man in Huntersville just before my graduation, and I’d even lived with a guy for two months in New York. But each time I’d found myself thinking, ‘Is that really it? That’s what everyone gets so excited about?’ I knew there had to be something else, something better. It had just never occurred to me until I met Alison that it was girls.
“The very first night, Ali and I had coffee together in the refectory after class. After the third session I went back to her flat with her, knowing that if I did we were going to go to bed. I moved my stuff in the next day, and that’s how it was for the next six years.”
We were both silent for a little while after that. Then Andi asked me if I didn’t miss my family back in the States. “Oh, I went home for a couple of weeks about three years ago. I asked Ali to come with me, but she wouldn’t. It was great to see Mom and Dad again, of course, but the town just left me so depressed. And I saw kids I knew from high school, waiting table in the diner, working at the slaughterhouse, dull eyed and with no more ambition that to get their pay check at the end of the week. I couldn’t wait to get back to cold, wet, beautiful London. My family never knew about me and Ali, about me living with her; and now they never will.”
After a few moments of silence, Andi said quietly, “My parents blamed you, you know – for Ali being gay. They thought you were this awful gold-digging American bull dyke who’d come over here to seduce their sweet innocent daughter. I tried to tell them what rubbish that was, but they just didn’t want to listen. They told her she’d have to choose between you and them; they never forgave her for choosing you. They told me – a grown woman – that we were cutting her out of our lives. I should have just told them to fuck themselves” – Andi never swore – “but no, I was the good, loyal daughter, who didn’t have anything to do with sexual deviants, even if they were the closest person to me in the world.
“Ali and I were incredibly close when we were young, virtually inseparable. Then, when she was 14, she met a new friend, Denise, and suddenly we weren’t so close anymore. They used to do their homework together. One afternoon I walked into our room, mine and Ali’s, not knowing they were there. Denise was lying on Ali’s bed with her skirt up around her waist and Ali’s head…well, anyway, that’s how I found out my sister was a lesbian. When Mum and Dad found out about you they just wouldn’t believe me.” After a pause, she asked, “So Ali was your only female lover, yeah? Do you think you were always that way inclined, or did you just happen to fall in love with someone who was the same sex as you?”
I shook my head. “I honestly don’t know. Back home, in high school, there was one girl who was a very special friend. Maybe if I’d had the imagination to think about it I’d have pushed things with her, although I just know she would have been totally freaked out. But we simply didn’t have lesbians in Huntersville – not living ones, anyway. Ali and I used to talk occasionally about the nature versus nurture thing. I was never really sure what the answer was, but she was convinced it was in her genes, that she was born to be a dyke. She had loads of lovers before me at uni – she used to tell me about them, to try and make me jealous. So how about you: she was your sister, do you think it’s genetic, have you ever had deep dealings for another woman?”
I hadn’t meant to go down that road, and it honestly wasn’t intended as a come-on; but it was Andi who had opened this Pandora’s box. She looked momentarily startled, as if the question had never even occurred to her before. She replied quickly – a little too quickly, and too forcefully, “No, of course not, Marty and I have been together since we were 16 and I’ve never thought about anybody else, certainly not a woman.”
There was something shifty about her eyes, and a nervous swallow, that made me doubt her words. Intrigued now, I inched a little closer to her on the couch. I asked quietly, “Come on, can you honestly say you’ve never had some really special female friend, so close it felt like you communicated telepathically, who you thought about every hour of the day, even when you didn’t see her? Maybe someone you found yourself thinking, ‘She’s so great, if only she had a dick’. No-one?”
She was silent for maybe a minute, staring into space and lightly stroking her throat with her thumb and forefinger. The action startled me – I’d watched Ali do exactly the same thing numerous times when she was thinking deeply about something. Eventually, she started, “I…” another silence of maybe ten seconds, then she shook her head emphatically and stood up, distractedly plumping up the cushions on the couch as she said, “No, absolutely not, there’s never been anyone like that. Only Marty. I’m just not like you and Alison, I’m not interested in other women.” I didn’t believe her for a moment, but she was so clearly uncomfortable that I decided not to push it any further.
The following weekend we decided to go shopping for clothes in the West End. We had a great time, and Andi persuaded me to buy a couple of quite pretty dresses that I would never even have looked at in the past. We decided on the spur of the moment to catch a show, and saw a witty romantic comedy musical. Then I took Andi to my favourite restaurant, Café Pacifico in Covent Garden. It’s a big old warehouse with lazily circling ceiling fans, huge windows that they remove on warm days, and some of the best Mexican food this side of the Rio Grande. We washed it down with strawberry margheritas and a couple of bottles of sweet dark Negro Modelo beer, then made our way home. Martin had travelled a couple of hundred miles away to see Spurs play, so we knew he wouldn’t be back till late, and we sprawled on the couch giggling like naughty schoolgirls, guzzling sparkling white wine to top up the Mexican booze.
Four Weddings And A Funeral was on the TV, one of Andi’s favourite movies, and not only because of the presence in it of her near-namesake Ms McDowell. I’d never seen it before, and I thought it was sweet and funny. Towards the end, after my hectic day, I was beginning to feel sleepy and, lolling sideways, I rested my head on Andi’s shoulder. Engrossed in the movie, she shifted position slightly to make me more comfortable. A few minutes later, as the closing credits rolled, Andi smiled down at me. Our lips were inches apart…
I couldn’t honestly say for sure who started the kiss, although I’m convinced deep down it was her. All I know is that suddenly we were snogging – a beautiful English word for the kind of kissing you might see teenagers doing in a bus shelter late at night, one long, deep kiss which somehow, at the same time, encompasses lots of little kisses. Andi eased herself back into the corner of the couch, partly pulling me on top of her, and her left arm slipped around my neck. Entirely on auto-pilot, my hand gently tugged her T-shirt out of the waistband of her jeans, and slipped beneath it, resting on her warm, soft midriff. With a mixture of delight and amazement I felt her right hand cup itself around my left boob, outside my own T-shirt. I slipped my hands around her body under the shirt, pressing my palms to her back. My fingers were actually resting on the strap of her bra, about to uncouple it, when she kind of gasped, and instead of cupping my breast her hand was pressing against my chest, pushing me off of her.
We both sat up, me hot and bewildered, Andi red in the face and gasping for air. She shook her head wildly and, between sobbing breaths, she cried, “I’m sorry, I just can’t do this. I’m not, I mean, I’m not like you and Ali, I don’t like girls.” It was on the tip of my tongue to observe that she seemed to have liked reaming out my mouth with her own tongue seconds earlier, but she continued, “I know you want me to be Alison for you, but I can’t, I’m not her, I’m me.” Holding her head in her hands, she moaned. “I love my husband. I do.”
I felt as if I’d been kicked in the gut. It was a warm evening, but suddenly it was as if the temperature in that room had dropped five hundred degrees. I put a hand on Andi’s arm but she shrugged me off, refused to look at me. Slowly I stood and made my way to the door, towards the stairs to my bed. I felt I had to say something though. At the door I turned, and gazed at her. “You may look a lot like Ali,” I said, “but you and she are totally different people; nobody knows that better than me. If you want to know the truth, I’m not sure how much longer Ali and I would have lasted if she’d lived. But one thing I am sure of: when we were making out just now, you and me, I knew exactly who I was with, and it was Andi I wanted to make love to, not Alison.” I felt my throat close and my eyes sting, and I headed out of the door and up the stairs. Never in my life had I gone from feeling so great to feeling so low.
I spent a restless night, and the following morning I got out of bed aching, tired and with red eyes from crying. I heard Andi in the kitchen and, after showering, I went downstairs pretty much expecting to be told to clear my things out before the day was over. In fact Andi, dressed for work as normal, greeted me with her usual cheerful smile and trilled, “Morning. Are you about ready to go? I’ve made your toast and coffee.” I was stunned. I wasn’t sure whether, with the help of the booze, she’d somehow banished any memory of the previous evening’s events from her mind, or whether simply pretending they hadn’t happened at all was her way of coping with the situation: I suspected the latter. All through the journey into work I expected her to make some reference to what had gone on, but she never did; not then, not that evening when, once again, we were alone together in front of the TV, and not in the days that followed. If she noticed that I was unusually quiet and brooding that week she showed no sign of it, which was amazing – even Martin asked me one evening if I was coming down with a cold or something.
The truth was, I felt frustrated, confused, and more than a little hurt. I was distracted at work, too. Joel felt the need to take me aside to ask if there was something on my mind. I blurted the whole thing out to him and ended up in floods of tears. Sweetie that he is, he made me a cup of coffee, closed up the gallery and whisked me off to lunch. As I sipped an expensive post-meal brandy, Joel cupped his hand over mine and told me, “You know what you need, Suki honey? To get out of that place, make a complete break with the past and forget those girls. Then you need to go to a club, find some nice young dyke, and get yourself good and laid.” Deep down I knew he was right. One problem was, I didn’t really like clubbing. Ali and I had been home-birds at heart, and the idea of screaming small-talk over a pumping techno beat to some complete stranger, wondering if I’d be screwing her an hour later, just didn’t appeal. The main problem though was, when I really got down to it, I couldn’t bear the thought that I might never see Andi again, might never get to talk to her again.
So I tried to play her game, just accept her as a friend and forget that Sunday evening had ever happened. I did my best to be as normal with her as I had previously, but it wasn’t easy. On numerous occasions, after hours of closeness to Andi, I returned to my bedroom feeling hot, sweaty and close to tears, and several times I frigged myself to relieve the tension I was constantly feeling. After two weeks I just couldn’t take it anymore. On Saturday morning, faced with another full day in Andi’s company, I went for a long solo walk on Hampstead Heath. I must have been there for maybe six hours, and by the time I returned home – to Andi’s home, not mine, not really – I had firmed up my resolve to move out. I told Andi that evening, saying I’d imposed on her and Martin for long enough. She looked as if I’d slapped her and just said, “Oh”, then she was quiet for the rest of the day. We spent an uneasy evening watching TV, and she barely acknowledged me when I wished her goodnight and went to my room. I quickly packed my bags, then slipped into bed and cried myself to sleep.
Strangely, having finally made the decision I knew I had to, I had my best night’s sleep in quite a while. I showered early, then sat on my bed listening until I heard Martin leave for his regular soccer game. Then I grabbed my bags and walked downstairs, leaving them in the hallway. I entered the lounge and saw Andi sitting on the couch, wearing a nightdress, dressing gown and carpet slippers. She swivelled to look at me as I entered the room, and it looked to me as if she’d been crying. I shrugged and said, “I’m off now. ‘Bye.”
She made a move as if to stand, then sat back again. After a moment she asked me if I had anywhere to go. “Sure,” I lied, “I’ve got a place sorted out”. The ‘place’ was actually a budget Australian backpackers’ hostel in Earls Court which I hoped would have vacancies.
Andi turned away from me and sipped a cup of tea. I was about to leave when she said, so quietly I almost didn’t hear her, “Please don’t go.” I paused, and asked her why not. Turning to face me again, fighting back tears, she squeaked, “I’d miss you. As a friend.”
I felt myself sigh. “Andi, I’m sorry, it’s just not enough.” I almost went and sat beside her on the couch, but I felt that would be a mistake, weakening my resolve even further than she already had. I tried to explain. “Andi, I’ve fallen in love with you. Not you the woman who looks like Alison; you, the sweet, gentle, funny lady whose house I share, whose got so many qualities I never saw in Ali. I didn’t mean it to happen, and I’m sorry it did, but I can’t help that now. Going away from you is gonna tear me apart; but honestly, staying here is killing me.”
She turned away again, and her shoulders heaved. It looked as if she was going to start sobbing, and I didn’t think I could take that. But as I turned to leave again, she stood up and walked quickly over to me. I expected maybe a handshake, just conceivably a slapped face. I didn’t expect what actually happened: she gripped my face tightly between her hands and kissed me hard on the lips, sliding her tongue deep into my mouth! I stood like a dork, my hands hanging by my side, as Andi hugged me and laid her head on my chest. “Oh God, I love you too Suki. So much it terrifies me. I couldn’t stand it if you leave, please don’t.” When she kissed me again I was ready. Our arms tightly around each other, our tongues intertwining, she pressed her soft, warm body against mine as I leaned back against the doorframe.
I had a slight nagging fear that Andi might lose her nerve and pull back again, but at that moment I felt more horny than I could remember in an age, and I was going to take things as far as I could as fast as I could. Pushing her dressing gown quite roughly off her shoulders, I attached my lips to her left boob through the flimsy nylon nightdress and flicked her nipple with my tongue. She gasped, “Oh God,” and pressed her hands to the back of my head. Then she murmured, “Not here – let’s go to bed.”
The ten seconds it took us to get from the lounge to the bedroom – not mine, but the one Andi shared with her husband every night – were the longest of my life. All the way up there, as I dragged her by the hand, I worried that she might change her mind. I needn’t have bothered. The moment we were in the room she ditched the nightdress and slipped under the duvet, pulling it up around her neck in a curiously shy move given what we were about to do. Seconds later a pair of cotton panties followed the nightdress onto the floor. She watched me with huge eyes as I tore my clothes off and climbed in beside her.
As I settled into the bed Andi hugged me tightly and, as I wrapped my arms around her, I felt her trembling, like an abandoned fawn. For maybe twenty minutes I just held her in my arms, shushing softly into her ear and sharing tender kisses with her as I let her get used to the feel of a naked woman lying beside her for the first time. I remembered how that felt: breasts to breasts, nipples rubbing against nipples, belly to belly, smooth legs mingling together. That first time it’s quite an experience. We didn’t speak, just kissed, then Andi cupped a hand tentatively around my naked breast, and I felt her other hand stroking my butt. I took that as my cue to move on, and started kissing my way down her body. I kissed each eyelid, then nibbled her earlobes and ran my tongue around the contours of her ears – she really liked that. I kissed the tip of her nose, took her lower lip between my teeth and gently massaged it, kissed the point of her chin. Then I ran my lips around her throat. Already her hips were beginning to lift off the bed in arousal, but I wanted to take my time, to enjoy this as much as I wanted Andi, my lover, to enjoy it.
I traced my tongue down her chest, between her breasts, then licked a figure of eight around them, causing her to gasp sharply. I kissed her on the cheek and stroked her hair for a minute or two then went back to her chest, sucking a tit into my mouth and teasing her small, hard nipple with my teeth. Her breast felt bigger in my mouth than Ali’s had, her skin much softer and more pampered. As I kissed and licked her breasts turn and turn about, swapping my mouth and one hand over, Andi, her eyes fixed on my face, started panting with short deep breaths, and her fingers tangled in my hair. She shuddered as I stroked my fingers across her belly, then slipped them down into her pubes. I’m shaved clean down there, but Andi’s coarse black hair was neatly trimmed, and felt like a soft Brillo pad against my palm. Still sucking on her boobs, I eased a finger into her, pressing softly against her clit. She squeaked and bucked hard, and I momentarily lost my position, my finger slipping deep inside her pussy. I kept it there, added another one and flicked her clit with my thumb. Now Andi’s eyes rolled back in her head and, her hips moving in rhythm with my hand, she began whispering her own private litany: “oh fuck, oh shit, oh Christ, ooohGodohGodohGod, oh Jeeesus.”
I’d only been caressing her pussy for maybe a minute when her thighs clamped on my hand, her hips started bucking wildly, and she gave a loud moan which rose in pitch and volume until it was a howl of release. I fought to keep my hand inside her, finger fucking her fast and pushing at her clit, and after about ten seconds she subsided with an enormous release of breath, her chest rising and falling rapidly with each breath. I barely gave her a chance to recover. I love eating pussy, and I couldn’t wait any longer to feast on Andi’s. She had a neat little slit with labia that hardly showed, unlike mine which stand out maybe two inches. I rubbed my nose up her length, savouring the aroma of female cum for the first time in months. She whimpered, and I grasped her thighs in my hands and dove into her, thrusting my tongue deep insider her, my nose rubbing against her clit. Pushing most of the fingers of one hand into her I fucked her deeply and rimmed her pussy with my tongue, then licked down her perineum to the small puckered opening of her ass, and back again. I licked the whole area, soaking her inner thighs, her butt hole and the bottom of her cheeks, repeatedly breaking off to taste her pussy again, and savour her sweet sexual fragrance. I was able to keep it up for several minutes, listening to her keening like a wounded animal, before she came again, like a damn bursting, and I tasted the full force of her nectar on my tongue.
As Andi sank back into the bed again, her breathing slowing, I was ready to go pearl diving again, but she tugged gently at my hair and whispered tearfully, “Come and kiss me – please.” I slid back up Andi’s body and pressed my wet mouth to hers, slipping my tongue between her lips to let her experience the taste of herself. We kissed for a while then, slightly stunned by the sheer intensity of the last few minutes, I lay back beside her to regain my breath. Andi lay beside me, resting her weight on her forearm, her right breast resting softly against my shoulder. Tears in her eyes, she gave me a lovely smile and murmured, “Thank you Suki – I love you. I really, really needed that.” She lowered her lips to mine and we kissed tenderly. Then she snuggled into my armpit as I put my arm around her shoulders.
After a couple of minutes Andi smiled up at me and said, “You know the other week, when you asked me if there had ever been any woman I was attracted to? Well, that time when I was 15, when I saw Ali with her head between Denise’s legs, for days afterwards I fantasised about Ali doing that to me. I even masturbated imagining how it might feel. I would have been terrified to do anything myself, but for a while I actually started finding excuses to be naked in our bedroom when Ali was around, hoping she might do something to me, but she never did. Nobody’s ever kissed me between my legs – until you, just now. I wouldn’t have believed just how incredible it feels, I’ve never known anything like it.”
She was silent for a moment, then she asked me whether she was anything like Ali in bed. I pushed her onto her back, kissed her deeply, my hand cupping her breast, and told her I didn’t want to think about Ali: all I wanted to think about was her, the lady I so desperately wanted to make happy. I nuzzled and licked her ear again and she groaned with pleasure. Then, pushing me back again, she moved her head down to my chest. She gazed at my breasts for fully fifteen seconds – mine are slightly larger than hers, my nipples bigger and pink as against her small brown sultanas – then, slowly, with great tenderness, she kissed my nipple and closed her lips over my breast. I felt a river of warmth flow from my boob to my pussy, making my stomach churn and my snatch even wetter than it already was. Removing her mouth for a moment – to my disappointment – she rested her head on my chest, and said quietly, “Suki, darling, I really want to do for you what you did for me. But, well, it’s so different to anything I’ve done before, and I’m a bit scared.” I laughed softly and kissed the top of her head, telling her I loved her and whatever she did was fine by me; I didn’t want her to do anything she didn’t feel comfortable with. I recalled that it had been a full week before I had been able to bring myself to go down on Ali for the first time.
Seemingly comforted, Andi started kissing my breasts again, and her hand rested on my bare pubic bone. Around a mouthful of tit she murmured, “Wow, you’re so warm.” Then her hand glided down to my slit and a couple of fingers slipped into me. I started to ask her if she was sure she was ready for that, but the feeling was so amazing I couldn’t find my voice, and I just lay back and exalted in the twin fires in my chest and my pussy, which were meeting as an inferno in my belly. It took Andi a while to find my clitty, but when she did she started nipping it between her thumb and forefinger, and white hot flares started shooting through my crotch. She managed to get her other three fingers into me as well, and wiggled them around. As I began to pant she asked me, “Is this all right?” Almost too breathless for speech, I told her it was so, so fucking right; well, something like that anyway, who really remembers what you say at that moment? It wasn’t long before I felt my pussy flood, and I squeezed Andi in a bear hug as I came.
We did a lot more kissing, cuddling and general canoodling, and I ate Andi out again before we decided we’d better change the bedclothes before Martin got home. After that, we could barely keep our hands off each other. We spent part of every evening when Martin wasn’t around in bed together, and it didn’t take Andi a week to taste my pussy for the first time. She did it on our third time together and, Jesus, she was a quick study. By the time we celebrated our first week as lovers she was enjoying the taste as much as I did, and she was turning me inside out with her long, busy tongue. The first time we sixty-nined was really special. That’s my favourite position, and it was so lovely to hear Andi wailing with pleasure as she pleasured me in return, and to feel her coming on my face over and over even as I gushed my own juices onto her tongue.
Being with Andi was having a remarkable effect on me. My lovemaking with Alison had always been intense, full of passion and constant activity. With Andi there was far more affection in bed and less aggression, a lot more just holding each other and, yes, snogging, with lots of tender words shared between us. I loved Ali when we were together, of course I did. But I was overwhelmed by the sheer depth of love I felt for Andi, so deep it hurt, and the way I wanted to be with her every moment of every day. The way she looked at me, and the way she kissed me, and the way she held me in her arms, I didn’t have the slightest doubt that she felt exactly the same way about me.
On our ‘two-week anniversary’ we agreed we had to tell Martin. It would have been so much easier to keep our affair quiet – exposing it would mean we’d have to move out of Andi’s lovely home, she’d be ostracised by her parents and they would no doubt want to disembowel me, not only having seduced both their daughters but also ending the rock-solid marriage of one of them. But we really did want to be together and express our love openly, and it wasn’t fair to creep around behind Martin’s back, not the way we felt about each other. It was Andi who raised the subject, and she made it quite clear she had thought through the consequences and was as prepared for them as she could possibly be.I wanted to be with her when she told Martin, but she insisted it would be better if I wasn’t. So the following evening I went for a drink in Covent Garden with a few friends, although my mind was back home, wondering what terrible emotional scene might be being played out.
When I returned to the house I found Andi sitting alone in the lounge, looking slightly stunned. As I sat beside her, taking her hands in mine, she turned her face to me and said, “A rather extraordinary thing has happened. I told Martin we needed to talk about something, and he agreed. Then he proceeded to tell me all about the man he’s been having an affair with for the last three years. He assumed I’d already worked it out – I never even got to tell him about us.” She looked as if she wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I hugged her to me, as much as anything to stop her seeing the huge grin I couldn’t keep from spreading across my face. We did tell Martin, together, the following evening. He didn’t seem particularly surprised. He had already arranged to move in with his boyfriend – his wife had walked out on him – so it was agreed that Andi and I could stay in the house until it was sold.
That was six months ago. Andi and I now share a bright, freshly decorated, purpose-built flat in South London, miles from the old house. It’s a sweet place but it’s a lot smaller, of course, and I’m surprised how well Andi’s settled in. Being in love helps, I guess. Her mother’s accepted us too (though her father is still refusing to speak to Andi, let alone me). Mom blames her husband for losing her one daughter, and she’s not going to lose Andi the same way. She’s even polite and friendly to me, to my face. I don’t suppose she loves me like another daughter, but it turns out she never really liked Martin in the first place. As for me, right now I feel more contented, emotionally and sexually, than I ever have before, and I really believe it’s going to last. I love Andi more every day, and I would like nothing better than to spend the rest of my life with her.