It was a miserably hot day. Even with every window in the house open there was barely a breeze to stir the air. Lucy was lying on her bed in her undergarments, trying to move as little as possible. She glared out the window at the bright mid-morning sky like it had personally offended her, which it had. It was still far too early in the day for the heat to wreak such havoc on her hair.
She heard a knock on the door and sluggishly roused herself from bed, slipping into a light silk dressing robe. There was only one person she could imagine would come around on such an ungodly hot day, so as she emerged into the foyer she was not surprised to see Mina being shown in at the door. She was wearing a smile bright enough to rival the sun outside, and Lucy felt an echoing smile begin to grow on her own face.
"Lucy, dear!" Mina called, running over and taking Lucy's hands in hers. "Isn't it such a lovely day?"
"If you say so," Lucy replied, unconvinced. "Although I could do with a touch less heat."
Mina giggled and tapped her on the nose. "I know what would make you enjoy it. What would you say to a day at the shore?"
An entire day at the beach with Mina? Lucy could think of nothing better. "I would ask why we aren't already leaving."
Mina's smile grew impossibly more radiant, and she pushed Lucy back towards the stairs.
"Go and get dressed and grab your things then! There's no time to waste!" she said with a laugh.
Mina's excitement was infectious, and Lucy all but raced upstairs and threw a light dress on, not even caring that her hair wasn't absolutely perfect. In the meantime she had the servants pack a bag with her bathing suit and a blanket to sit on, as well as a hamper of finger foods for lunch.
Waving away a maid who was trying to tame a flyaway curl, Lucy dashed back down the stairs. However, when she saw another figure standing with Mina in the hall, she skidded to a halt.
"Jonathan? What are you doing here?"
The couple looked up at her voice, Mina still with her radiant smile, Jonathan looking a bit sulky.
"Oh didn't I tell you?" asked Mina. "This whole outing was Jonathan's idea in the first place. When he suggested it I knew you'd be lying in your bed being miserable, so I insisted we invite you."
She turned back to Jonathan, who forced a smile for her, but let it drop as soon as she turned away. He looked like someone had just eaten his share of dessert.
Lucy couldn't help but sympathize. Her golden day alone with Mina had been taken away, and she would now have to share it with that simpering idiot she called a fiancé.
Lucy gave him a condescending smile. If she had to share the day with him, she was going to make it hell for him as well.
"How good of him to allow me to join you." She patted her curls into place and made her way down the rest of the stairs at a stately pace, her chin held high.
When she reached the bottom she beckoned to the waiting manservant to follow them out with her things.
"I took the liberty of having a lunch hamper prepared. I wasn't sure if you would have thought that far ahead, dear," she said, linking arms with Mina.
"Jonathan did pack one himself," replied Mina, "although it doesn't look quite as well done as yours."
Lucy shot Jonathan a superior look over her shoulder, and saw his frown deepen.
If the carriage ride to Charing Cross station was hard, then the train ride out to Kent was miserable. Lucy stewed in silence, staring out the window while two lovebirds bent their heads together, whispering and giggling. Usually she would try to win Mina's attention and sneak in a few cutting remarks aimed at Jonathan, but the man's unexpected intrusion into their outing had felt like a punch to the gut; it had knocked the air out of her.
However, she couldn't help but watch Mina out of the corner of her eye, looking on as a curl fell over Mina's forehead and wishing it were her hand that pushed it back.
After the longest two hours Lucy had ever experienced, they finally heard the conductor yell, "Next stop, Rye and Camber Sands!" As soon as the train pulled into the station, the group scurried off and collected their bags. Lucy enjoyed watching Jonathan struggle with the multiple bags and baskets; he had been too stubborn to leave his own lunch hamper behind.
When he got all the bags arranged they made their way out onto the street and towards the shore. The little town of Rye was quaint, with cobbled streets lined with small shops of every kind. The walk to the beach was a short one, and the ladies left Jonathan to pick a spot to spread their blanket while they changed. They headed over to the bathing machines, small individual sheds used by women to change.
Lucy rustled out of her heavy dress and into her bathing suit. It was a lovely lavender color, and the wide sailor's collar and tie were covered with a swirling floral pattern, as were the cuffs and waistband of the skirt she buttoned around her waist. The bottoms of her knee-length bloomers just peeked out from under the hem. She slipped on her bathing slippers and stepped back out onto the sand.
She found Mina waiting for her, already in her own suit. It was a more modest navy blue, with white ribbon trimming the collar and a white tie. The puffed sleeves and matching ruffled hat made her look rather young, and her bare feet only added to the effect. Lucy thought she had never seen anything more adorable.
She was just about to say so when Jonathan bounded up behind Mina and put his hands over her eyes. He was dressed in an orange and blue striped monstrosity that covered him from elbows to knees, a straw boater hat on his head. Lucy winced, but Mina just turned and laughed and started to drag him towards the water by the hand.
"Come on, let's go in!" she exclaimed, tugging on his arm when he wouldn't go fast enough.
"Hold on, hold on!" he laughed, pulling them back towards where he had set up their belongings. They were in the shade of a large umbrella, which he must have rented from a nearby stand. "I need to put my hat away before it gets wet."
The sight of them so happy together turned Lucy's stomach. She sat down on the blanket spread beneath the umbrella, trying to hide her heartache.
Mina noticed right away. "Lucy, dear, aren't you coming in with us?"
"No, no, I'll stay here, under the shade," Lucy said, feigning her usual haughtiness. "If I stay out in the sun too long, I'll get positively tan."
Mina frowned, but went willingly enough when Jonathan grabbed her hand and led her towards the water.
It did not take long for Mina to regain her good mood, and soon she was frolicking in the waves as if she hadn't a care in the world. Lucy loved that she was able to regain her good spirits so easily, but on this occasion it felt like a heavy weight on her chest.
Mina darted in and out of the waves as they crashed on the shore, grinning and splashing at Jonathan as he chased her. Every time he came close she spun away again with another peal of laughter. Lucy watched her raptly, but stayed at her spot on the blanket, feeling as though she was already forgotten.
Finally, Jonathan managed to catch up to Mina. Grabbing her around her waist, he tossed her over his shoulder and began to march into the ocean. Mina shrieked and struggled playfully, demanding she be put down, but he merely laughed and held on tighter.
Jealousy roiled like a storm cloud in Lucy's chest. She would never be able to do something like that with Mina, never have the strength to effortlessly sling Mina over her shoulder just to make her laugh. It was times like these when Lucy hated her feminine body, and all the limitations it placed upon her, not all of them physical.
Her jealousy was quickly replaced with alarm, however, as Jonathan continued farther into the waves. The water was already above his knees, and he showed no signs of stopping.
Mina must have noticed this fact at nearly the same time, for her struggles became more violent and a note of fear entered her voice.
"Jonathan! Jonathan, please, turn around! Take me back to shore! Jonathan, stop, please! No!"
At the sound of her cries, Lucy scrambled off the blanket and ran after the man, who had not even bothered to slow at his fiancée's desperate pleas. She plowed into the waves, struggling to reach him before he got too much farther.
"Jonathan!" she cried, as she was knocked back yet again by a powerful wave.
The idiot finally stopped and turned, a grin on his face. "Ah, Lucy! Finally decided to join us, then?"
Finally gaining solid footing, Lucy waded up to him as sternly as possible. Mina had gone utterly still, but her face was hidden over Jonathan's shoulder. Lucy's fingers itched to slap him, but she was afraid he would drop Mina if she did.
"You complete and utter fool," she hissed at him. "What do you think you're doing? Don't you know she can't swim?!"
A look of horror came over Jonathan's face, and she realized he hadn't. He glanced at Mina's body slumped motionless over her shoulder with dismay, then turned and made for the shore.
As he reached their umbrella, he laid Mina carefully on the blanket. She was shaking, and Lucy could see the whites all around her eyes. She tried to assure Lucy and Jonathan that she was perfectly fine, but neither of them was fooled. Lucy kneeled down besides her, placing herself between Jonathan and Mina.
Glaring at him, she sneered, "Why don't you do something right for once and go get her some water."
It would have been satisfying to see the way he tripped over herself to follow her orders, if she hadn't already focused the whole of her attention back on Mina.
"You should lie back, dear, you're shaking all over," she said, and was relieved when Mina did so immediately. She gently smoothed back a few curls that had escaped from Mina's cap.
"You never told him you couldn't swim?" She tried to keep her voice gentle, but couldn't keep the edge from creeping in.
"No, I had planned to stay in the shallows and I –" Mina looked away, "I rather thought he'd think less of me if he knew."
"Think less of you?" Lucy asked incredulously. "For not being able to swim?"
The back of Mina's neck turned red; Lucy could tell she was blushing furiously. "Well it's such a simple thing, knowing how to swim. I was afraid he would think I was foolish for not learning."
Lucy cupped Mina's chin, turning her face back towards her. Smiling indulgently, she said, "You are foolish." When Mina began to splutter, she put her finger to her lips, then chucked her under the chin. "For thinking someone who loved you would think less of you for something as silly as not knowing how to swim."
A slow smile spread over Mina's face. At that moment Jonathan came running up, holding a pail that sloshed water as he skidded to a halt.
"I have the water," he announced.
"Yes, I see," Lucy replied sarcastically. She gestured to her hamper. "There are glasses in there you can use."
He dug one out and used the tiny ladle hanging from the pail to fill it. As he handed it to Mina, Lucy noticed her hands were hardly shaking any more, and felt a tiny prick of pride for helping to calm her friend.
Jonathan was still kneeling beside Mina, his hands hovering over her as if he was afraid to touch her. This made Lucy irrationally angry. It was as if he only worried about her after she was out of danger. Danger he had caused through his own carelessness.
Abruptly standing, she brushed sand off her skirt, then reached her hand down to Mina.
"I know what you need dear. A nice calming walk to collect seashells," she said briskly.
Mina's eyes lit up and she grasped Lucy's hand, allowing her to help her up. Jonathan's hands followed her, as if he meant to support her as she stood, but still didn't touch her.
Turning her back on the incompetent twit, she linked Mina's arm through her own and guided her down the beach. They walked at a stately pace, as Lucy didn't want to push her friend before she fully recovered. Every so often, one or the other would bend down to collect a shell, either throwing it back or placing it in Mina's cap, which she had removed, letting her hair spill down her shoulders.
As they made their way farther down the beach, all thoughts of seashells left Lucy's mind as she found herself entranced by Mina. She watched the way tendrils of hair blew around her temples, the way she smiled when she found a perfect shell. She was spellbound by how her arms moved she tried to skip a rock, and how she laughed when it hit the water and immediately sunk.
Suddenly it became too much for Lucy. She grabbed Mina's wrist and dragged her behind the shelter of a sand dune, out of sight of other beachgoers. She held Mina in front of her, rubbing her hands, feather light, up and down her arms.
Mina's brow crinkled in confusion. "Lucy, dear, is something wr-"
Grasping Mina's upper arms, Lucy pulled her friend toward her, crashing their lips together.
Mina made a tiny noise of surprise in the back of her throat. It pierced the haze Lucy had been floating in and she abruptly felt ashamed of her rash actions. She turned her face aside and began to take a step back, an apology rising to her lips.
To her astonishment, however, Mina's hands wrapped around her waist, preventing her escape. She quickly looked back into Mina's eyes, and almost gasped at the amount of love and desire she saw there.
This time it was Mina who brought their mouths together. Lucy tried to keep the kiss soft and sweet, but Mina's lips moved insistently on hers and she gave in immediately, drawing closer and increasing the pressure of her own lips.
She wrapped her hands in Mina's soft curls, luxuriating in their soft touch, as she gently walked them backward until her back hit the steep slope of the dune behind her. She leaned against it and drew Mina on top of her, settling her legs between Mina's. One of Mina's hands cupped Lucy's cheek, while the other stroked up and down her side.
Lucy brought her knee up between Mina's legs, spreading them further apart, and tugged Mina closer to her by the hips. Mina let out a breathy moan at the sensation, throwing her head back. Lucy shuddered, squeezing her eyes shut, heat pooling low in her belly.
A second later, Mina gasped and pulled away, wrenching her hips from Lucy's grasp. Dismayed at her sudden withdrawal, it took Lucy a minute to see what had Mina blushing furiously and smoothing down her skirt. Between the dunes an obviously scandalized couple was standing there staring at them, their mouths gaping open in astonishment. Lucy stepped forward, placing her body between Mina and the peeping couple, and shot them her frostiest glare, which promptly sent them scurrying away.
Lucy turned back to Mina, timidly touching her on the elbow. "Dearest Mina, I am so sorry," she whispered, her voice quivering. "I've shamed you, and in front of two perfect strangers no less…"
A jolt went through her when Mina laid her hand over Lucy's. She smiled softly.
"No, Lucy, I'm not ashamed," she reassured.
Then, to Lucy's amazement, she leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on Lucy's lips. Although it was chaste, Lucy could taste the heat that still remained from their moment before.
Leaning back, Mina's kiss grew mischievous. "I think I've had enough excitement for one day," she said. "Let's retrieve Jonathan and go home."
Lucy, speechless, could only nod. Mina took her hand and led her away, bending briefly to retrieve her cap where she had left it on the beach.
It seemed like no time at all before they were back at their umbrella and packing up. Lucy was loath to let go of Mina's hand to go back into the bathing machines and change, but she was surprised and pleased when Mina grabbed hers again as soon as she emerged in her clothes. Once again Jonathan carried all of their bags and hampers, and they let him walk ahead of them as they strolled down the streets, swinging their linked hands between them.
As they boarded the train, Mina chose the seat next to Lucy, instead of with Jonathan as she had on the way down. Hiding a yawn behind her hand, she leaned her head against Lucy's shoulder, letting her hand rest on Lucy's leg. Her eyes fluttered closed, and she was asleep almost before the train left the station.
Lucy was almost too happy to ruin the moment with gloating, but couldn't resist shooting a satisfied smirk at Jonathan over Mina's head. He looked distinctly disgruntled.
She couldn't keep her attention away from Mina for long, though. As Mina slumbered peacefully on her shoulder, Lucy played idly with her hair, thinking that even if her day with Mina hadn't been spent alone, it had certainly been golden.
A/N: Just as a disclaimer, I took a ton of liberty in this fic in regards to historical accuracy. If people actually did half of this in the 1890s, they'd probably be kicked off the beach for public indecency. For example, the beaches were usually segregated by gender, so Mina and Jonathan playing together probably would have been quite a scandal. Also, women being seen actually on the beach in their swimwear was unheard of. In reality, bathing machines are these little huts on wheels that ladies would get into to change, then a horse would drag them out into the ocean where they could get straight out and into the water, then they would get back in and the horse would drag them back on shore and they would emerge fully dressed. All so that they wouldn't be seen in their swimsuit. So Lucy and Mina strolling around in their swimsuits would have been absolute hearsay, especially with Mina barefoot.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed, and happy reading!