She hadn't lied to Bernie. She had snogged a girl in Stepney a while ago. At a party in a disused fire station in the late 80's. She'd done a little more than that but there was no point in rehashing it. All Bernie needed to know that she'd done something lesbian and that should be enough to make assure her that Serena was not freaking out about their kiss. Not that she was. She was a mature woman with several decades of kissing behind her. She could handle it. They'd agree to keep their undeniable sexual chemistry to theatre. She could manage that, couldn't she?
She hadn't even remembered the girls name. Sian was the only person who knew about it and she doubted that even Sian's elephant memory would remember whoever it was that had shoved her hand down Serena's leopard print knickers that evening. She had swung around the pole, she remembered. She'd not done that in years and there were regretfully, no off-duty firemen there but it had seemed like a good idea at the time. She hadn't thought about it for years but meeting Bernie had shaken her up and all sorts of memories were emerging from some hidey hole, blinking in the light and swimming through her brain.
She absentmindedly tapped her fingers while people watching, glass of red in hand. Her thoughts meandered onto the more current issue of how she would fend off Edward's advances at Ellie's upcoming birthday. Each year he tried to cuddle up to her and she'd run the risk of ruining their daughter's birthday by stabbing his thigh with a fork or something like that. That's what happened the year before. She wondered what idiotic thing he would say or do this time.
Vaguely registering a fine pair of legs encased in black heels, she still didn't pay enough attention when the woman's stride had stopped and turned back. Serena stopped sipping when the shoes halted in front of her. She looked up. The other woman was grinning at her.
'Hello. Do I know you?' Asked Serena with a frown.
'Serena ballerina. It's been a while.'
Serena winced at the irritating nickname Sian had saddled her with all those years ago.
'How did you remember me? Hell, I don't even remember you. Sorry.'
The woman didn't seem offended, she sat down next to her with a martini.
'Your taste for leopard print has endured.'
Serena looked down at her shirt. Oh yes, the woman was right. Now where had she met her before?
'At a party with a fireman's pole.'
Serena sat up with a jolt. She hadn't asked but the woman had answered as if she had. She looked again. She did remember her. It was the hair that was throwing her off. A dark brown bob, very respectable. It was in russet curls last time she'd seen her. But those icy blue eyes. Still the same. The woman chuckled, seemingly knowing what she was thinking. Serena tried for diplomacy.
'I'm sorry I can't quite remember your name.'
'No need to be polite. You never got it.'
It should feel awkward. This woman was included in a bunch of one-night-stands that Serena had racked up before she married and she had no wish to meet any of those. But they'd talked about this and that and laughed over a handful of things they had in common, including the memory of Serena dancing round the pole and impressing a gaggle of first year med students. But she didn't snog any of them. She'd snogged this woman.
'How do you remember my name?'
'Your friend kept calling you Serena. Blonde, big tits.'
Serena confirmed that this was so.
'She's on a bigger pair now.'
'I can't say I'm surprised. Still stunning the lads?'
'Many younger than her, would you believe?' Serena raised an eyebrow.
'I absolutely would. Dyed-in-the-wool heterosexual, that one. Shame. I wouldn't minded a few rounds with her. If there had been a fireman there to match the pole, she'd be all over him.'
Serena felt another jolt to her spine. The woman had echoed Bernie's words in the office, presuming that Serena wouldn't be interested in sapphic relations. She wondered why she hadn't snapped out of her shock sufficiently to correct her.
'Not you, though. I saw the way you were eyeing up the DJ.'
Serena cast her mind back. The DJ in question was pretty and blonde. She'd spent a bit of time looking at her.
'Excuse me, I would have fallen over the fireman just as much as Sian' she said, feeling wrongfooted.
'I have no doubt. I also would have. But I would have tired of him pretty quickly. I only have a limited amount of patience with men before I get irritated and throw them over, usually for a woman. And I think, given the chance, you would have done the same if you'd found someone worth it.'
Serena thought the spark in her eyes was a challenge. She spoke frankly and for the first time, Serena wondered how old she was. She'd assumed that she was around the same age but the disco lights were hardly reliable. Perhaps she was wrong.
'I married a man' she insisted.
'That you're not now tells me something. He obviously wasn't worth the monogamy.'
'We've been divorced for years' Serena admitted. 'He was a serial cheater. Still is.'
'You must have cut your hair after that.'
Serena stared at her.
'How did you know?'
'I see women do it all the time.'
She was right. Serena had shoulder length hair back then. She'd dispensed with the faff when she divorced. Edward hated it, something she felt satisfaction over.
'Did you marry?'
'Why would I?'
'Didn't most people our age? We both look so suburban now, I just assumed.'
The other woman shrugged.
'I've gone through most of the hairstyles in an average guide. I've done my middle-aged duty of putting on weight when I least expected it.'
'Oh tell me about it' Serena groaned. 'Nature is a cruel beast.'
'Just wait until you get to the hot flushes' she warned her.
Serena squinted at her.
'Disco lighting is rather misleading' said the woman. Once again, Serena felt like she'd read her mind.
'I didn't notice at the time. I assumed we were around the same age.'
She cast her blue eyes heavenwards and swirled the wine in her glass thoughtfully, weighing up her answer.
'I've got about ten years on you.'
Serena felt like she'd deliberately fudged her age but who was she to judge if a fellow woman wanted to downplay it?
'You look good for it' she told her. She got a crafty smile in return.
'So, which woman is taking up your time at this current moment?'
'What do you mean?'
Serena knew she couldn't play dumb for long. This woman was one step ahead of her.
'Look, just because we kissed that time…'
The woman laughed, a smoky, gravelly sound.
'Let's not bother with the selective memory. We did more than that.'
'Ok but that doesn't make me a lesbian.'
The woman waved her protest aside.
'Labels, people want to label everything, box everything up into something they can control. Why waste your time? There's a woman on your mind so tell me about her.'
Serena tapped her nails against the stem of the glass.
'You'd better shorten those before you see her again.'
Serena's head snapped up with an indignant expression.
'Excuse me. That is none of your business.'
'Stop skirting around the issue of your confused 'lesbianism,' she quoted with her fingers 'and get on with it. I'd hate to have to get you drunk to confess.'
'Speaking of skirts, you can't put your hand up mine this time' Serena deflected smugly. The other woman didn't conceal her gaze as she looked her up and down. Serena only wore dresses for a special occasion these days.
'Shame. You've got great legs.'
So had the other woman. Serena tried not to remember that. She'd been wearing a mini dress more suited to a couple of decades earlier, decidedly old fashioned. Nowadays Elinor would snap it up, call it retro. Her skirt was longer this time but concealed very little of her assets.
'So you did notice?'
Serena tried to ignore that she wasn't reading her mind. How did she do that? She sipped again, playing for time.
'So goddamn bossy' Serena snapped. She refused to jump when she was told to.
Her drinking companion leaned forward, giving a good view of her well rounded cleavage and a blast of seriously delicious perfume that made Serena's eye water. She blinked several times in succession, hoping that she wouldn't end up cross eyed with this unfamiliar source of arousal that suddenly leapt up in her nether regions. She could see where this was going but stubbornly fought against the tide.
'Either you talk it over with me or I'll take you to the alleyway and fuck you senseless' the woman threatened in a slow purr. 'I'm easy for either. Or both. You decide.' Serena's breath snagged somewhere between her necklace and collar and lodged firmly there. Breathless she stayed until she dared to look up and see the other woman's triumphant grin. She wanted both. They both knew that. She was only being made to confess before they started.
'Start' the woman said. She slowly sat back and took up her glass. Watched Serena like a hawk. Serena exhaled and tried to scrape her thoughts together to present her case coherently. She already knew what was stopping her from pursuing Bernie. The image she and everyone else had of her.
'What's her name?'
Serena grasped onto the prompt and started telling her about Bernie. How they didn't get off to a good start, how Bernie had won her over eventually with her survival kit and ongoing coffee and pastry runs. That she'd felt drawn to her for no reason. That Bernie had kissed her after a particularly emotional day and she'd kissed her back. Then she'd panicked and made her excuses. How awkward it had been so Serena had clumsily defended herself by telling Bernie that she had kissed a girl in Stepney so obviously she wasn't flustered in the least by their kiss. How she'd set up wine in the office to tell Bernie that actually she did want to explore this thing between them, only to be shot down by Bernie's chivalry. So now she was stuck.
The woman clicked her tongue ruefully.
'That's the downside to gallantry. The unintentional disappointment it can bring.'
'I just wish she'd kiss me again' she mourned.
'Why don't you kiss her? Close the blinds, lock the door and back her up against the wall' the woman suggested. Serena looked horrified.
'I have a no romance in the workplace rule.'
'Break it' shrugged the woman.
'I can't! Not without being a hypocrite.'
An eye roll was her answer.
'Then rewrite the rule. Do you want her or not?'
'You really need to do away with this tiresome idea that you are some vicarious man eater. Leave that title to your big titted friend and start living the sapphic life you should have embarked on when you got divorced.'
Serena thought back to the wet squib that was Angus, that pointless potato faced Robbie, good for only one thing (and it wasn't sex) and a couple of other forgettable men from the past. She'd got nowhere with them.
'You can't miss this chance. She's firing a signal flare and if you don't take her over the desk, some other woman will.'
Serena blinked at her. Great, now she had images of pushing Bernie onto their desk and…oh no, she couldn't go there. Her mystery devil leaned over again to whisper into her ear about all the possibilities that could happen in a locked office and Serena thought she was going to need to take a cold shower to banish that revealing warm wet reaction inbetween her legs. Of all the times to appear, this was most inconvenient. She had to give up the pretence that she wasn't supremely interested in doing all of that with Bernie.
'Give it up.' The woman looked smug. 'Just do as I say and you'll get her.'
'How are you so sure?'
'I'll give you a demonstration.'
'No. I am not going anywhere with you' she spluttered. 'How can you proposition me when I've just told you about Bernie?'
'Because you need a reminder of how much you enjoyed it.'
She grinned wickedly. Serena bristled.
'Don't think that you know me so well' she hissed.
The devil woman wasn't bothered by Serena's last-ditch attempt at belligerence. She drained her glass, took Serena's and drank the last drops. That shut her up.
'Get your stuff, let's go.'
'What? Where are we going?'
Serena couldn't believe she was following her to…round the back. Like a fool. She tried to reason with her.
'I don't think so. We had a sofa last time. Unless you can magic one up...'
The other woman turned to her with an unreadable expression. It was as if she was thinking to do just that. Which was impossible, Serena thought warily, yet it seemed like she might. There was that feeling again, that there was something odd about her.
'So you do remember it. I could find a sofa to jog your memory but it would a hassle to find at this point.'
She grabbed Serena, pushed her up against the wall and loosened her coat. Ran her hands up from her thighs up to her breasts. Serena gasped as the woman slid her fingers inside her blouse to grace the waiting nipples. Trapped in a firm hold, Serena closed her eyes and groaned at the expert touch and relaxed, putting her trust in her conqueror. Lulled into a false sense of security, her eyes snapped open as a stockinged leg pushed inbetween hers and started stirring her up into a frenzy. She cried out in surprise and then in arousal. She hadn't felt like this in a long while. She missed this. Somehow the other woman knew what she needed. The memory of that night came back in a flash. The purple lighting, the drone of tainted love and the smell of her perfume, something sharp and floral, so different to what everyone else was wearing. Actually, nobody knew where she'd come from or who had invited her. She had just appeared out of nowhere.
Serena had been tipsily twirling round the pole to Sian's encouraging shouts and caught the eye of someone prowling around, watching her and her purple ra-ra miniskirt. A pleasant shiver ran through her and she nearly let go. She decided to stop before she fell over. She found herself next to the girl wielding the wine bottle. She held out her glass and watched the glorious burgundy rush to the rim. They clinked glasses and drank. Serena's gaze lingered over the stranger's legs.
'Why don't you take a turn around the pole? I bet the lads would love it.'
The girl grinned.
'I'm not here for the lads.'
They attempted small talk but Serena couldn't stop staring, feeling a flutter of anticipation hammering in her stomach. There was something magnetic about her. She stood out starkly among the overdone, primping crowd in her simple dress and her eyes gleamed in a feline manner, almost predatory. It unsettled Serena but she liked the challenge.
It ended in a rather satisfactory way on the sofa in the quiet room off to the side. Serena had grabbed her and locked lips in a tipsy embrace. She was startled by the sensual intensity that the girl had responded with, slowing the potential train wreck down and making Serena feel lightheaded and hot all over. She gave as good as she got, tugging the straps down off that black minidress and running her hands over the semi exposed breasts. She was easy prey from that point on, draped over the sofa while her knickers were eased off as the girl had slipped a leg inbetween hers in order to induce the most glorious sensation she'd ever experienced. The unfamiliar flesh felt marvellous under her fingers and she hazily wondered if she was making the wrong decision in casually dating Edward. She hadn't realised that it was her making those noises until she heard a lull in the music. Sian had walked in on them as they had finished and had never let Serena live it down since.
The girl had given her one last kiss and then Serena hadn't remembered seeing her leave.
'Shame. I rather liked your leopard print knickers.'
Serena opened her eyes and tried to focus. How did the woman know that she was wearing black ones today? She checked her trousers. Buttons were undisturbed.
'They went out of fashion a couple of years later. Where have you been all this time?' She felt almost drunk after that experience. Much like that last time. 'I think you're lying. I think you're older than you say you are.'
It was a rather rude statement, but the woman chuckled, completely unoffended.
'Perhaps you're right, Serena.'
She let go gently, rearranging the blouse and stepped back.
'I think my work here is done. Good luck with your big macho army medic.'
The woman started to walk away. Serena remembered something.
'Wait! You didn't tell me your name.'
Again, her expression was unreadable.
That was an old-fashioned name. Serena furrowed her brow. Surely it had gone out of fashion in the Edwardian times or something?
She winked and walked away. Serena tracked her by sight until she vanished into the mist. In those heels, she should have been easy to follow but her footsteps faded away in an instant. When Serena followed her, Agatha had disappeared.
Serena felt like the whole thing was a dream. Except that she knew it wasn't because her knickers were pleasantly soaked. Her libido had come roaring back and she suddenly felt energised. It must be the cold air or something. She knew what she needed to do. She needed to corner that tall messy haired frustrating woman in the office tomorrow and…break her work rule. On the desk. Yes. That is what she would do. Bernie wasn't going to know what had hit her.
Serena grinned. Thank you, Agatha she thought. The woman had done her a favour and she was going to take the opportunity presented to her. Bernie would regret her gallantry once Serena got her hands on her. She made a note to trim her nails.
Bernie had no idea what had caused Serena to strut into their office the next day but by golly, she wasn't going to forget that next kiss anytime soon.