Well, I'm just gonna give this one out to the triumverate again. You girls are sick (and I mean that in a yoof slang way ;-) )

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3. Leeds

As I stood there with my mouth gaping open it felt like someone had turned the temperature in the room up to a hundred degrees. I must have looked a right state, all flushed and sweaty and drooling with my eyes out on stalks, but to be fair I had a reasonable excuse. You would have to be dead not to find that erotic. Two of my ex lovers were kissing as if their kiss could save the world from a terrible disaster. Not only that, they were doing it upside down in mid air whilst being hosed with fluorescent paint. Seriously, if things got any hotter I was going to self-combust. The shock of seeing a photo of them having sex was nothing to the shock of seeing them perform together like that.

When the lights had snapped off, I had shrieked in surprise much like everybody else, but when the light came on the trapeze and music started to swirl around the room it became clear that there was going to be a performance of some kind. But I wasn't expecting a performance like that. I don't think anybody was. Emily and Naomi together on the ground would be spectacular enough, but put them together in the air and they ceased to be a couple and became a phenomenon. It was brutal, yet gorgeous. Visceral and yet incredibly sensual, and most of all it was sexy as fuck. I knew both those bodies. I had touched them outside and in. I had seen their faces as they released themselves into sexual abandon. I had lain satisfied, sweaty and exhausted in their arms.

I watched the aggressive dynamic between them, as the lovers battled their way through their performance, and I recognised the fiery passion that burned in both their eyes. In the heat of the moment I had found that with them too. But in the end when they were too weary to fight anymore, they translated their physical language into love. And that was something I was still yet to find. Is that what happens, I wondered. Do we submit to love when we are finally too tired to bother with our game faces anymore? I fucking hoped so, cause I was fucking exhausted. Emily and Naomi made their descent from the trapeze and took their bows to rapturous applause. When they kissed again, the noise nearly took the roof off, and I screamed along like a schoolgirl too. Even though I was burning, I couldn't resent them for it. It was just too fucking beautiful. What scorched me to the core was the fact that I hadn't found the girl who could make my hungry body learn to speak and understand that language too.

But she had promised me, hadn't she? And I had believed her. I still fucking did. However stupid it seems, I really believed she spoke the truth the night I fell in love.

Jesus Mini, I told myself, stop getting all fucking sentimental. You're going to deal. You're going to say hello to your exes. You're going to tell them that their act was great, and you are very happy for them. Yep, I was going to do all of that, but first I needed a fucking drink. I made my way to the catering table, not waiting politely to be served, but reaching thirstily for the nearest bottle of fizz. Just as my hand was about to reach it, it was whisked away from my grasp.

"Age before beauty, darlin'," laughed a striking older woman, who poured herself a glass, downed half of it and gave herself a refill before chucking the bottle at me. It almost slipped between my fingers. Jesus Christ on a bike. Anthea Fucking Stonem.

I didn't bother with the niceties, downing a huge swig straight from the bottle. How much more of my past was going to regurgitate itself in front of me here tonight?

"Like your style, kiddo," laughed Anthea. "Say, you don't have a note on you do you, sweetheart? Spent all my buggering cash on fags."

"Um, yeah," I mumbled nervously, even though it was clear she didn't have a clue who I was. But then again why would she? It wasn't like I meant anything to her.

"Well come on then," she said. "I'll give you a line for the lend of the note."

She took us off to an office at the back of the gallery and I followed on meekly behind. I had learnt the hard way that you don't argue with Anthea Stonem. My heart was already fucking racing as she started to rack out a couple of lines. This cocaine was going to fucking kill me. But I needed it. If Anthea was here did that mean that Effy was here too? I didn't think I could handle that. Anthea hoovered up her line and handed me back my rolled up tenner with a satisfied grin.

"You look familiar," she said. "Do I know you from somewhere?"

I was definitely having a nose up before I answered that. I felt the drug hit my bloodstream almost immediately and I was grateful for the rush, sniffing to make sure I took advantage of every little bit. I was going to need every ounce of bravado in a moment.

"Yeah, you do know me," I said. "You threw me out of your daughter's hotel room once."

.

.

.

I had gone north to visit Grace. Ever since all that hoohah with her dad over her not wedding she had become fierily independent (apart from being practically welded to Rich, of course). She had finished her exams like a good girl, but instead of going on to uni or drama school, she had auditioned straight away for a physical theatre company and gotten the job. They were apparently pretty well regarded and she got seen by a few of the right people, and has been working fairly steadily ever since. This time she was involved in a site-specific project in some big old abandoned warehouse up in Leeds. I remember she was very excited about going to do it, cause it was being directed by some radical woman who everybody was raving on about as the next big thing in British Theatre. I had to admit I had all my youthful know-it-all cynicism blown away when I saw their first night. It was a piece about civil disorder and asked all sorts of questions about the difference between strong government and totalitarianism, rioting and protest, terrorism and justifiable insurgency. And it was fucking fantastic, visually powerful and genuinely exciting. It certainly didn't pull any punches, and Grace was doing all kinds of extreme shit I'd never have expected to see my prim little college pal doing. It was the kind of thing I would have summararily dismissed in my HBIC days as freakish weird and way too alternative. Now my first thought was how much I loved it. And my second was how much Franky would have loved it.

Yes, I allowed myself to think about her now. Now that I knew what all that stupid 'girlcrush' bullshit had really been about. Sometimes, I even used to imagine she was with me as I went on my adventures, and we could laugh together about how different my life had become from the one I had been expecting.

After the show there was a first night party in the warehouse, and whilst I was waiting for Grace to get changed I had the dubious pleasure of listening to Anthea Stonem pontificating to a bunch of her admirers. If there's one thing you could say about Anthea, it's that she knows her own mind, and she's not shy about letting you know about it either. She had an opinion on everything, and it was either scathing of celebratory. Indecision and the middle of the road didn't seem to exist for her, and I admired her for it, even if she was more than a little bit scary. Other members of the cast and crew started drifting in after cleaning up, and things started warming up a bit, but I still couldn't take my eyes off Anthea. That woman knew how to own a room.

But then I felt it. A tingling sensation in the hairs on the back of my neck. That inexplicable warning sign that lets us know when we're being watched. Something left over from our ancestry when life was a much more hazardous place to be, I guess. The sensation was so strong, I turned around convinced I was going to see Grace standing right behind me. There was no-one there, but the sensation was just as intense. And then I saw her. A girl sitting alone on a sofa, totally isolated from the room, the event and the people in it. She was staring at me. It wasn't an eyefuck or any other kind of come on. She was just staring at me. She didn't even look away when she saw that I had clocked her. Any other time I would have been straight over there to ask what the bitch's problem was, or to try to get in her pants if she was fit. But this girl had me paralysed. It wasn't like she wasn't fit. She was stunning. Long gorgeously messy brown hair, hypnotic blue eyes and a raggedly effective sense of style. But she unnerved me. There was something in her eyes that set her apart from the rest of us. Like she didn't belong here. I didn't know what else to do other than stare right back at her. I'd never had such long eye contact with someone without, you know, actually making contact. Her eyes were some kind of singularity, like if you got too close you'd get sucked in and never be able to make it out again.

I honestly don't know what would have happened if Grace hadn't burst into the room and rushed up to give me an enthusiastic hug. She pulled me back into the thick of things, asking me what I thought of the show, and introducing me to all her new friends. I had a few drinks and forgot about the mysterious stranger for a while. But my brain kept drawing me back to check up on her. She didn't move from that sofa all night, and every time I looked at her she was watching someone. She didn't engage, she didn't emote, she just fucking stared. And if anyone was actually brave enough to try to chat her up, she just looked at them pityingly until they went away. The only time I even caught any movement in her face was when she turned to look right at me when I was staring at her, and she knew that I knew I had been made. She smirked at me, and I felt like I was stark bollock naked in the middle of the room.

"Who is that girl?" I asked myself under my breath, but the boy standing next to me still heard.

"The freaky one?" he laughed. "That's Effy, Anthea's daughter. I think she's a bit, you know, loolah."

He made a circle with his finger around his temple, indicating that Effy was not quite right in the head. I frowned at him, and when I turned back round to face the sofa, she was gone.

Of course she had seen it. All she fucking does is see things. I was seized by the sudden urge to run after her and apologise and I gave in to the impulse. I always used to be such a bitch to outsiders, but that was because I was terrified that deep down I knew I was one myself. Now I recognised them as kin. I ran out of the bar, but where to start? This fucking warehouse was five storeys high, and majorly fucking creepy in the semi darkness, I can tell you. I searched all the places I remembered going during the performance, jumping out of my skin at every little noise, but there was no sign of her. I stood hesitating on the stairwell that would have led me back to the bar where the party was happening. Up or down? Maybe I should go down. She's probably just nipped out for a fag or something. No, Mini, stupid. It was a private party now, which meant she could do what the fuck she liked, and she had been chain smoking on that sofa for hours. I shut my eyes and trusted to instinct. Up. Something told me to go up. Start on the top floor and work my way down, and if I didn't find her, I'd give up and go back to the party. I climbed the stairwell all the way to the top, where I noticed a door banging in the wind. It led outside. I didn't even think twice. I went through it.

She was standing on the wall that ran round the edge of the roof, looking out over the city beyond. The wind was blowing her long hair around her, and she looked so suddenly fragile. Almost like a child. I froze, not wanting to startle her and make her slip.

"Right choice," she said without looking round at me.

Jesus fuck, was she a bloody mindreader or something?

"That guy was a tosser," I blurted out.

"Maybe," she shrugged. "But he was right."

She looked down over the edge. Oh God, she looked like she was going to jump.

"It would be so easy," she said, taking one foot off the wall. "Just a simple step and it would be done. But it would hurt her so much, and I don't want to do that."

"Hurt who?" I asked her, desperate to keep her talking

"Anthea,' she replied. "She loves me so much. You'd think she'd just want me to be at peace, but I guess it doesn't work like that."

"I guess it doesn't," I agreed.

That's right, Mini. Say the first inane thing that comes into your head. That's really going to help.

"Do you want to fuck me?" she said.

"What!" I spluttered in disbelief, but she just stared at me, demanding an answer.

I considered lying, but what good would it do me? She would only know the real answer anyway. And the truth was that even though my current energies were entirely consumed by trying to stop her jumping off a building, I did want her. Of course I did, she was beautiful. A fucking mess, but a beautiful mess. But what was the right answer? The one that would make her stay? Of all the questions I had ever been asked in the whole of my life, this was the most important one.

"Yes," I said quietly, lowering my eyes for a moment.

When I raised them again, she was smiling at me. It was the first time Id seen her smiling all night. It was the most wonderful smile in the world.

"Good," she said casually, jumping back off the wall onto the roof. "My hotel's only a couple of streets away. Let's go."

We didn't talk or touch all the way back to the hotel, but as soon as she clicked the door to the room shut behind her, she grabbed my hand and pulled me back towards her. Her first kiss was scorching, needy, ravenous, her hands already grabbing at my hair. I pushed her back against the door and came back for more, reaching my tongue into her mouth and tasting her heat. Effy was certainly a willing sinner, little moans escaping her throat at the forcefulness of my attentions, her body arching towards mine repeatedly. But as my knickers began to flood at the thought of fucking her, unwelcome thoughts began to flood into my brain. Thoughts that I was a bad person, taking advantage of a sick woman to satisfy my own selfish lusts. The thought grew in my brain till it was strangling me, and I pulled away in dismay.

"It's ok, it's ok," said Effy, reading my mind again. "You're not doing anything wrong. I need this."

Still I hesitated, breathing heavily, my head doing battle with my body. Suddenly Effy's body language changed, and the cold blue dullness in her eyes ignited with dark and dangerous fire. In an instant the pale and vulnerable girl I had encountered of the roof had transformed herself into some kind of sexual she-wolf. She was so fucking ludicrously hot my conscience was being incinerated where I stood.

"Don't tell me you're not going to make good on your promise, Mini," she growled.

What?

"How the fuck do you know my name?" I gasped.

"I make it my business to know," she purred, running her finger down the valley between my breasts. One more look was all it took for me seize her mouth with mine again. A look that dared me to defy her, something I realised I simply couldn't do. Another useful thing that Emily taught me. Never break a promise to a lady.

This new dark vision of desire before me turned the key. The key that scared little virgin Mini had kept so well hidden for so long. The key that Emily Fitch had found and unleashed the consequences on an unsuspecting world. The key that released the beast that lurked within the beauty. I knew that Effy's beauty hid a similar beast. I had just seen it come to life. On some subconscious level I had recognised her, and knew what she needed from me. Time to give the lady what she wants.

I forced her back against the door, pinning her arms above her head and kissing her hard, barely leaving her room to breathe.

"Oh God yes,' she whispered as I attacked her neck, her body's rhythmic thrusts against mine already asking me to be inside her, to fuck her. I slid my arms down to meet her bra-less breasts, squeezing them through the thin fabric of her dress. It's a sensation I'll never grow tired of, the feel of a woman's tits in my hands, and the way I can make her moan and gasp with my touch. I watched Effy's face, her eyes half closed and her lips parted as she arched those beautiful tits further into my grasp. She was turning me on so much, and though it was hard to tear myself away from her boobs, I knew I wanted to fuck her, and fuck her hard, and I was going to do it right here up against this door. We hadn't even made it to the light switch, but I could see her smile just fine in the orange glow of the streetlights as I went down on my knees to remove her boots.

"Right here, baby?" she asked me, reaching down to grab a handful of my hair.

"Right here," I assured her, pulling down her knickers and her tights in one go.

I threw them behind my head once she stepped out of them, and kissed and licked my way back up her legs, her stomach, her breasts and her neck, not stopping until I was looking straight into her eyes, knowing I wanted to see her when I penetrated her. I wanted to fuck her in her dress. There's nothing quite so fine in all the world as putting your hand up a woman's dress and finding a welcoming wet pussy waiting there for you. I slid my fingers down across her clit and hovered just outside her entrance, wanting to see just how crazy I could make her for me.

Her hips gave me my answer as they strained and bucked against me, begging to feel the sensation of me inside her.

"Jesus Mini, fuck me, just fuck me," she said throatily, but still I held off. My eyes were on fire, and I was drunk on the power of having such a beautiful woman needing me so much. I stared at her exquisite face, wanting to capture this moment and this feeling forever, teasing her as I kept her on the brink. But Effy was not just a passive participant in this process. Her hands had worked their way under my top and were stroking the flesh of my back. Her blue eyes flared with such black magic I was almost on the phone to CERN to tell them I'd discovered dark matter.

"I thought you were going to fuck me," she said, digging her nails into my skin, and tearing them all way down my back.

"Fuck," I cried out as the pain cut into my adrenalin soaked awareness and forced me even higher. My body bucked and I thrust my fingers hard inside her.

"Yesss," she hissed, her hands sliding down to my butt, knowing that once she had me inside her, I was never getting out until I had satisfied her.

"Fuck me, you're so beautiful. You're so fucking beautiful," I cried out as I fucked her frantically. And in that moment she really was the most beautiful thing I had ever known. The feel of her wetness surrounding me and demanding my hand was so glorious, I would have done anything for her. Fortunately, what she needed me to do for her, was fuck her without mercy until she came, and I was really, really good at that. I slammed her back into the door again and again, each time trying to get just that little bit deeper into her, and she clung to me trying to achieve the same end. I could feel the energy building in her and it drove me even more insane. I lifted her up until she had her legs wrapped round me, and rammed myself into her as hard as I could.

"Oh fuck," she cried, clinging onto me so tight I thought my bones were going to crack, and I felt her walls tighten around me and her puusy grip onto me for dear life.

"Effy," I whispered in her ear as me rode out her orgasm. "Effy, Effy, Effy."

Saying her name over and over again was all that I could do. For everything in the world was Effy right now. Even though I was the one doing the fucking, I was the one who had been consumed.

Neither of us said a thing as I slowly pulled out of her and lowered her back down to the ground. We just stood there, our bodies still pressed impossibly close, struggling to catch our breath. I couldn't speak. I couldn't bear to break the moment. In truth I was scared to, for even in the furious depths of that riotous bloody shag I had felt something I had never felt before. I had felt touched, I had felt needed, I had felt… loved.

In the end it was Effy that broke the silence, and what she said completely destroyed me. She said thank you. My heart fully shattered at her words.

"Um, you're welcome," I offered feebly, causing Effy to burst out laughing. She had such a lovely laugh.

"You're funny, Mini McGuiness," she said.

"Look, how the fuck do you know my name?" I said.

She looked at me with that fucking mysterious smirk thing, but then she relented.

"Grace hasn't shut up about you all week,' she laughed again. "She was so excited that you were coming to see her show. Bigging you up no end, she was. It intrigued me. I wanted to see if you lived up to your press."

"And do I?" I asked, daring to look at her again. I had been right about those eyes. There was no risk of escape.

"I'd call it a resounding yes," smiled Effy. "Now why don't I take you to bed and give you a proper thank you?"

And that, ladies and gentlemen is the absolute epitome of an offer you cannot refuse.

If I thought it was going to be as wild and aggressively filthy as our recent encounter, I couldn't have been further wrong. Effy made love to me as if there were tiny words etched into my skin and it was of vital importance that she read and understand every one. She rolled me onto my stomach and worked her way down my spine with her teeth and her tongue as if each one of my vertebrae was a delicious gourmet dish that needed to be tasted and savoured with absolute relish. She licked the blood from the wounds she had inflicted on me, and kissed them softly better.

"Isn't that a little dangerous?" I asked her. "You don't know me. I could have anything.'

"Aren't you forgetting that I have a deathwish?" she replied.

"Don't joke about that," I frowned.

In the silence that followed, I realised she wasn't joking at all. But she seemed so different now. Ever since we'd had sex she seemed like a different woman – focussed, attentive, intelligent and caring. My heart smiled at the thought that I might really have been able to give her something that she needed. And when she rolled me over and started to pay her delicate attentions to my breasts, I never wanted her to stop. Like ever. Like as in beyond the end of time. I was a hopeless mess, and she hadn't even got anywhere near my cunt.

"Effy," I gasped as she raked her nails across my stomach, much more gently this time.

"You're kind of sparkly," she said.

"Say what?" I said, releasing the sharp intake of breath her actions had forced me to inhale.

"I've trying to get a handle on your colour, but I can't manage it," she said, kissing me on the belly where her fingers had just been. "It's like you're refractive. There's a whole rainbow in here."

She pulled herself back up my body and kissed me just above my heart.

"It's rather fucking beautiful," she added. "I haven't felt this free in a long time."

I didn't have a clue what she was on about, but my body didn't exactly seem to care, undulating wildly beneath her and covering her leg with an embarrassingly large amount of my juices. She smiled at the liquid contact and at what it implied.

"I think I need to taste you now," she said softly.

My legs were already spreading themselves open for her quicker than a whore on overtime before she kissed her way down to my thighs. She spread my lips with her hands and looked adoringly at my clit, before arching a cheeky eyebrow back up at me.

"I'm gonna enjoy this," she said, causing relay teams of shivers coursing through my muscle fibres. She leaned in but stopped just shy of her destination. Close enough that I could feel her breath flowing over my already sensitive nerves. It felt fucking amazing. Christ, if this was what she could do to me with just her breath, what the fuck was she going to be able to do to me with her tongue?

"Oh. My. Fucking. God," I said hoarsely, my hands already balling the sheets up in my fists at the very first tender touches of her tongue. Only seconds later I was already completely helpless, as she elegantly tortured me with a series of light flicks against my clit. Boiling hot flashes started searing through my blood as she spread her tongue flatter against me, increasing the pressure and range of her strokes. I understood why she had loved the way that I'd fucked her so much, as I found myself wanting to give myself completely over to her control. I broke out into a heavy sweat, and my body turned into a perpetual motion machine of rolling waves beneath her as she picked up her pace, deftly flicking her tongue from side to side. I threaded my hands through her hair to push her even closer to me, but I had to relinquish my hold almost immediately, to dig my elbows into the mattress to steady myself when she changed direction again and my body nearly flew right off the fucking bed. Effy was so skilful. Each twist and turn of her tongue producing new and almost unbearably divine sensations not only between my legs, but also in the wildly beating organ in the centre of my ribcage. I thought I was going to actually explode from too much passion when she slipped her fingers inside of me as well. She held me down with her free hand as she fucked me and licked me like it was the only thing that mattered to her in the world. It was certainly the only thing that mattered to me when the blinding white light of my orgasm burned my brain behind my tightly shut eyes. I came so hard I feared for the safety of the building, and before the last of my screams had stopped ringing in my ears, my heart had absorbed one clear absolute truth. I was in love with Effy Stonem.

I must have zoned right out, because I was barely conscious when I felt her lips on mine and the taste of my own juices on her tongue.

"Fucking hell, Effy," I murmured. "That's one hell of a way to say thank you."

"You're welcome," she said, teasingly echoing my earlier lame reply.

"You do realise I'm going to have to say thank you for that thank you," I said.

"This could go on all night," she smirked.

"I don't have a problem with that,' I grinned.

She slid off me to lay down beside me as I clearly wasn't up to any vigourous thank yous just yet. I rolled on my side to face her. I traced my fingers absent-mindedly up and down her arm as I stared adoringly at her face. She really was the most breathtaking thing I had ever seen, but I watched as her blue eyes slid from self satisfaction into sadness. She tucked a strand of hair behind my ear with infinite tenderness.

"I suppose it's too late to ask you not to fall in love with me," she said.

From anyone else it would have been extreme arrogance, but from Effy I already knew it just weary past experience.

"Does everybody fall in love with you?" I asked.

"You must know how it feels," she said. "Everybody wants to fuck you cause you're so 'beautiful'."

She said the word 'beautiful' with such contempt, it felt like being stabbed.

"But nobody really sees you at all," she continued.

I knew the kind of attention someone like Effy must get, and how it must drive her mad, in her case possibly literally. But I couldn't be a cynic, not tonight. Not after the things she had made me feel.

"You see me," I said.

"I do," she said, cupping my face with one hand and letting her thumb run across my cheek. "But I can't help you. I'm too sick to give you what you need."

"I don't mind if you're sick," I said, reaching up to cover her hand with mine, but she pulled it away.

"Don't," she said sadly. "I'd destroy you. I destroy everyone that loves me, and I don't want to do that with you."

"So this," I said, gesturing between us. "This meant nothing to you."

"I didn't say that," she whispered. "I'm just not the one for you. But you will find her. I promise."

"But you made me feel," I protested.

"I know," she soothed. "You made me feel too. And you have no idea how special that is."

I shut my eyes in frustration, praying to several deities I didn't believe in that when I opened them again, that terrible sadness that I saw in her would be gone. But the truth remained the same.

"Whoever she is," said Effy. "She's a very, very lucky lady."

"Are you sure it can't be you?" I asked, wanting to eat up that sadness for her.

"I'm sure," she said. The certainty in her eyes was absolute.

"Can we pretend that it can?" I whispered. "Just for tonight?"

Effy's eyes searched mine for what seemed like an eternity, but whatever it was she found there seemed to satisfy her.

"Ok," she said, and kissed me.

The next time we fucked, we came together, wrapped almost indistinguishably around and inside each other, staring into each other's eyes as we made the connection. We fucked again several more times after that, each time just as intense as the time before. I didn't want it to end, didn't want to fall asleep because I knew that when I woke up, everything would be different. The first time I jerked awake after falling into an inevitable slumber, she was still there, clinging onto me so tightly in her sleep, I began to hope that she was wrong and we could find a way to come out of this night together.

The second time I woke I was alone in the bed. My eyes and limbs automatically started searching the sheets for her.

"Effy," I called out for her, trying to blink my eyes back into focus before scanning the rest of the room. She was sitting on the window ledge in her dress, her knees drawn up towards her body and her arms wrapped tightly round them. The window was wide open, and she was perched precariously on the edge, looking out. Of a hotel window. The ones that are fixed so you can't open them the whole way. With good reason. We were on the tenth fucking floor. My eyes shot to the carpet beneath the window to see the discarded locking mechanism that Effy had clearly dismantled.

"Effy," I called again, and she turned to face me. But this was not my sweet, gorgeous and infinitely wise Effy from the night before. It wasn't even the coolly emotionless mystery girl from the party. This Effy looked terrified.

"What's wrong?" I asked, making a move to get out of bed and go to her.

"STOP!" she shrieked at me, before adding a much gentler apology.

"What is it?" I said, frozen to the spot. "I want to help."

"They won't let you,' she said. "I'm not supposed to be for you. They're angry at me for letting myself go like that."

"Who's angry with you, Effy?" I asked her. "There's no one here.'

"The voices. And they're always here. They're always in here," she said, knocking her fist against her head as if trying to dislodge something. "Except you made them go away for a bit and now they're really pissed off with me. They say I don't deserve you, and I'm not supposed to have you, and if I let you come near me they're going to make me jump."

Fuck, she really wasn't messing around when she said that she was sick.

"Should I get a doctor?" I asked her.

"I don't want to go back to the hospital. I don't want to go back to the hospital," she chanted as if saying it enough times would make the hospital go away. I was worried that she'd get so upset she would fall.

"It's ok. It's ok," I tried to sooth her. "No doctors."

"How can such a bad thing feel so good?" she asked. "Did it feel like a bad thing to you?"

"No," I answered. "It was a beautiful thing."

"Then why are you trying to punish me?" she screamed.

I knew she was screaming at the things in her head and not at me, but it was still fucking scary, and I cast my eyes about the room searching for ideas on what to do next. I spotted Effy's phone on the bedside table. She had thrown it there the night before after texting her mum to let her know she was alright last night. At the time I had found it endearing that a grown woman in her twenties would feel the need to do that, but in the light of this morning's events everything became much clearer. Anthea wasn't just her mum, she was her guardian and her carer. I grabbed the phone and started flicking through the contacts under M, panicking when I came up empty. I stared at the machine helplessly, before smacking my head at my own stupidity. So not Effy's style. I scrolled back to A and found her almost immediately.

"Morning sweetheart," came Anthea's cigarette rough voice. "Good night? How'd it go with the hot blonde. She looked like she was a bit of a goer."

"Um," I stuttered in shock. "This is the, um…hot blonde. I'm in Effy's room and um…. Something's not right. I think you need to come here."

The line went dead before she even replied, and less than a minute later the door burst open. I'd barely had enough time to pull on my bra and pants, and I stood half naked in the room in front of a seething Anthea. It hardly mattered though. She only had eyes for Effy, as she flew towards the windowsill, pulled her to safety, and held her shaking daughter in her arms. It was only then that she turned her fearsome attention on me, and if looks could kill, I would have been obliterated.

"What did you do to her?" she fumed.

"Nothing,' I protested. "We just…"

I hesitated for a minute out of instinct, but Anthea was clearly fine with Effy's sexuality if she was making jokes about 'hot blondes' with her.

"I mean, we made love,' I continued. "And it was beautiful. But when I woke up she was like this.'

"Well that's a fucking lie," spat Anthea. "Effy doesn't make love, she has sex. She's on drugs that suppress her emotions. Did you hurt her? Cause if you did, I will rip your fucking face off with my bare hands."

"I'd never hurt her," I protested. "I love her."

"You met her last night, you fucking bimbo," said Anthea scathingly. "You don't even know her at all."

I wanted to explain to her, to beg her to understand what had happened between me and Effy. To beg her to let me stay and help. But Anthea was fuelled by the righteous rage of a protective mother.

"Get out,' she hissed menacingly, before turning to comfort her daughter, who was hiding from the wrath of her own fucked up head in the arms of the one person she knew she could rely on. Her warrior mother.

"Effy," I called plaintively, not wanting it to end like this.

"Get the fuck out,' warned Anthea. "Don't make me come over there."

I couldn't fight her, and Effy was in no state to plead my case, so I pulled on the rest of my clothes and headed to the door with tears streaming down my face.

"Mini," I heard Effy's weakened voice behind me as I walked out of the room. I turned back to see her powerful blue eyes had momentarily regained their clarity.

"You will find her," she said with utter conviction.

"You'll find her too," I said, hoping to God that one day Effy would be able to find her way out of this mess.

"Promise?" she asked me.

"I promise," I said, before Anthea slammed the door in my face.

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"I didn't do anything bad to her, you know," I said, suddenly realising I was in a confined space with a very fierce woman who hated me.

"I know," sighed Anthea. "I didn't realise she was as sick as she was. I thought she was getting better. Turns out she was just getting better at hiding it from me. And you might want to pay attention because this doesn't happen very often."

"What doesn't?" I frowned.

"I'm sorry," said Anthea. "I have done you a great disservice. I didn't know Effy was relapsing, and I thought it had to have been something you did that sent her of the edge whereas, as it turns out, you probably saved her life."

"You what?" I said, stunned.

"After I got her back to her doctor, got her a new drug regime, and she finally settled down, she told me the truth about you two. That if it wasn't for you she would have jumped. Both times."

"You're shitting me," I said without thinking.

"I shit you not. So come on. I think we need a refill, don't you?"

"So how's she doing?" I asked as we re-entered the crowded gallery.

"Well, clearly much better," replied Anthea, gesturing around the room.

I stared about me in confusion, wondering what was supposed to be so clear. Anthea picked up on it.

"Blondie, where do you think you are?" she asked me.

"Some art thing," I shrugged. "My mate dragged me along. He said there'd be free booze and fit girls.

Anthea laughed out loud.

"Well that's all most art openings are any good for,' she said.

"But this one's really good,' I said. "Really good. This woman is obviously very talented."

"This is Effy's work," said Anthea proudly. "She got well. She's working. She's making excellent art. She's coming off medication. She's getting more stable, and she's happy."

"Wow, what happened?" I said incredulously. "She seemed so lost."

"Someone found her," replied Anthea. "She met a girl. A woman, really. A champion amongst women. A titan. A dirty little street fighter with the biggest heart of gold you could imagine. She's tough, but she's also one of the kindest people I know. She took Effy in with absolutely no thought of getting in her pants. She just wanted to care for her. But then they fell in love. And she's strong enough to cut through Effy's bullshit. And so fucking loyal. The things she's been through for her. Stood by her through a load of fucking shit. And they love each other so much. She makes Effy so much stronger, and she made her believe in herself again."

"She sounds amazing.'

"She is," said Anthea almost reverently. "I want to kiss her every time I see her. She brought my baby back from the darkness."

So it seemed that my promise had been kept. Effy had found her girl. So where the fuck was mine?

"Does she have a sister?" I said wearily.

"Actually she does," laughed Anthea. "A drop dead gorgeous gay one too. Unfortunately, she's taken."

"Aren't they always," I sighed.

"Look, there's Effy's angel now," said Anthea pointing across the room. My eyes widened in shock as they landed on a very powerful looking woman. A woman in a burgundy dress.

"Katie Fitch?" I scoffed in disbelief. "Katie Fucking Fitch? No way. Katie Fitch? Seriously?"

"You know her?" said Anthea, intrigued.

"Well actually I'm more familiar with her drop dead gorgeous gay sister," I admitted.

"You've done Little Red?" laughed Anthea, punching me in the arm. "Get in Blondie, you minx."

"Ow," I said.

"Ow," I repeated, when the first one didn't gain any sympathy.

"So why the surprise?" said Anthea, rolling her eyes at my dramatics.

"When I knew Katie she wasn't anything like the woman you described. She was selfish, and bitchy and um…(I was going to say slutty, but I didn't want to offend the woman who clearly thought the sun shone out of Katie's arse) um, sexually active…"

"So she grew up," shrugged Anthea.

"Also, she was really, REALLY straight.'

"It's Effy," smiled Anthea. "She could make a brick wall fall in love with her."

"Yes she could," I agreed.

So Effy was the artist, and Katie Fitch was her aerialist. And Katie Fitch made her happy, which was all that really mattered at the end of the day. It wasn't long before Anthea was swamped with people wanting to talk to her as ever, and I was left alone with my contemplations. Three ex-lovers, each one of them happily partnered and magically transported beyond themselves. Emily, who gave me everything I wanted in a lover, but who wouldn't let it last. Naomi, who wouldn't allow herself to love me, even though she so desperately wanted to be loved. And Effy, who thought she wasn't good enough to love me. For Emily, love was all about the moment. For Naomi, it was just a social construct to placate the masses that she allegedly didn't believe in. And for Effy it was the harbinger of doom. Yet all of them had found someone who had proved them wrong. Even Katie Fitch, the emotional ugly ducking had transformed into an angel. I had always believed in love, wanted it, craved it even, yet here I was alone. What did I have? What the fuck did…

"Greetings fabulous Minerva," grinned the lanky ginger nutcase as he spring into my field of vision. "How goes the night with you?"

Well at least I had Alo, who never failed to make me smile.

"What's up, Mins?" he asked me. "You were looking like you'd seen a ghost there."

"Two or three," I said. "This room appears to be littered with my exes."

"Well that's what ya get for being so damn foxy, Mins," he laughed. "Wish I could get as many girls as you."

"Well maybe I could give you some lessons," I winked, putting my game face on and neglecting to tell him that I'd give up all the pussy in the world just to find a girl who could really love me.

"That's the spirit. Let's leave the past behind," he said, doing a ridiculous mime of throwing things over his shoulder. "What's on the menu for tonight? Spotted anyone tasty?"

"Well, one of the waitresses is quite cute," I admitted.

"Minerva, Minerva," Alo scolded. "Don't sell yourself short. Why go for 'quite cute' when you could go for 'fit as fuck' or 'rocks my world' or even 'love of my life'?"

"Oh so you've upped your criteria from 'anything with a pulse'? You're an idiot, Farmboy. I'm not going to find the love of my life tonight."

"Not so pessimistic, sweetcheeks. You never know. The night is but young. Just saying."

He was doing an excited little dance like he was expecting her to pop up in a puff of smoke any second now.

"Well if you see her, can you tell her to wear a name badge or something?" I said.

"If she's the love of your life, you're gonna know, Mins" he laughed.

"Whatever," I huffed.

Maybe I should just go and start working on the waitress. I was just starting to cast my eyes around the room to see if I could spot her, when the lights went out again. I looked round expectantly, searching for evidence of another performance. Maybe Katie was going to do something for her love? But then the spotlight came up on Cook, all dressed up like the devil. I had to laugh at his little speech. He certainly made a handsome looking Prince of Darkness.

"Welcome to Effyland," he announced, and the room was bathed in light. Projections erupted over all four walls of the gallery and all the people in it. Colours and images danced and swirled all around us, and I span round on my heels trying to take it all in. I laughed out loud when Angel Katie started to fly around our heads, though I had to admit she looked stunning. Other people's reactions were just as thrilled and childlike as my own as Effy's work drew them into another dimension and continued to surprise and delight them. As it went on I realised this was Effy showing us the world as she saw it. This was what she meant when she said I was refractive. It was obviously a much more beautiful place these days than when I had known her. But more than that, this was her love song to Katie, and I was simultaneously moved and torn apart by the terrible beauty of it. She wasn't for you, I told myself as jealousy threatened to eviscerate me. So who the bastard bloody fucking cocking hell was? You promised me, Effy. You promised me I'd find her.

But in the very next instant Effy was elevated from lying fucking bitch to actual worshipable deity in my mind, as my heart lurched exactly as it had the first time. Cause that's when I saw her, standing alone in the middle of the room with her arms spread out wide. She was completely absorbed in the installation, letting it wash over her and drinking it all in without reservation.

Franky. My Franky. The love of my fucking life. I was going to kill that fucking ginger bastard when I got my hands on him. After I'd kissed him to within an inch of his life, of course. He must have known she was going to be here. He had totally set me up.

I just watched her for a minute or two, totally fascinated by her reaction to Effyland. She had always loved art so much. It was the one thing that had saved her during the darkest times of her life. Much like Effy, I supposed. And I had grown from some kind of shallow bitch into the woman I am today because of Franks. Much like Katie. Maybe that's why I had been so drawn to Effy in the first place? She hadn't been my one, but she'd reminded me of her.

Franky had changed. She no longer needed to be invisible now she had entered an alternative world. She had the confidence to stand arms akimbo in the middle of a crowded room regardless of the attention it might earn her. The look she had been experimenting with at college was now perfected. She was wearing a bright red suit and a drawstring tie, and she looked sharp as fuck. She smiled so easily, and it reached her beautiful eyes. It looked like Franky had escaped the boring losers who were so terrified of outsiders they could hardly look us in the eye as they struggled to prove that they were better than us. She was finally comfortable with who she was.

And so was I. I wasn't the scared little bitch virgin any more. I was Mini the Minx, and I was gay as a fucking window. And I was going to get my girl.

Despite the butterflies in my stomach, I knew exactly what I was doing. I walked up to her from behind, and slipped one arm around her waist and slid the other along her outstretched arm. She didn't flinch. She was so high on the spirit of Effyland, she was willing to share it with a stranger without question. I stood behind her, lightly pressing her body against my own as Effy's colours danced around us and Angel Katie flew on by. I could have sworn at one point that her image actually gave me a wink, but then the sounds of a gospel choir swelled in my ears, and I felt like singing my own hallelujahs for this moment. I could have stayed like that forever, lost in this delicate embrace, but I knew that it was time to make my move.

"Hello gorgeous," I said softly in her ear, rolling my Scottish R to maximum benefit. "Guess who?"

"Mini?" she gasped, spinning round in my arms. It was instinctive for both of us when we threw ourselves into an each other's arms. I closed my eyes and breathed her in, my body set on fire by the contact. I swear I must have been grinning like an idiot, but I didn't care. This was the best fucking moment of my life. So far…

"I've missed you," said Franky, and my heart exploded, reassembled itself and exploded a second time.

"Me too, honey,' I said. "Me too.'

I stood there for a moment more, savouring every millimetre of contact, and remembering how good it felt to hold her tiny fragile body against my own. I suddenly understood the way that Naomi had looked at Emily in that picture like she wanted to protect her, comfort her and shag her all at the same time. But suddenly Franky squeezed me harder, and I knew I wasn't going to settle for BFF's this time. I pulled back and looked her in the eye, smiling warmly at her as I did so.

"I'd forgotten how small you were," I said, stroking her cheek with the backs of my fingers. "You're going to have to find a box to stand on."

"What?" frowned Franky. "When?'

I let my lips lightly graze her cheek where my hand had just been as I moved them across towards her ear.

"When I kiss you," I purred in my best seductive style.

I heard her draw in a sharp breath before she pulled away. Her hands still clung to mine, but she was staring frantically around the room. Oh fuck, did she have a partner? Oh fuck it, I decided I didn't actually care.

"What are you doing?" I asked her.

She stopped and looked up at me. A sly and saucy grin began creeping across her face, causing an immediate chain reaction in my knickers.

"Looking for a box," she grinned.

My smile has always been considered one of my best features, but I don't think I'd ever graced the universe with as big a smile as I did right then.

"Fuck the box," I said, and pulled her lips to mine.

She kissed me back. She kissed me back, and we slid from lips to tongues to passion in a matter of moments. I wanted to laugh at Alo's nickname for me, cause I certainly felt like a goddess as I kissed my beloved Franky in the delicious maelstrom of Effyland. Although maybe a fallen one, cause I was definitely no virgin.

"I want to make love to you, Franky," I said during a break for air.

"Good," she said, looking me over appreciatively before dragging me back into an even fiercer kiss. We didn't stop or even blink an eye when the lights came up and the crowd around us roared. If I had my way, we wouldn't stop kissing until beyond the end of time. In my head the crowd were cheering for me, cause I had finally found my love.

Thank you ladies, you've been wonderful. It's been an eventful journey, but finally I've come home.

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Thank you ladies and gents, it's been an eventful story, but now I'm off to party in Ibiza. Hasta lluego…

Hypes xx