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Robyn is on her way to see Penny for her sex education class on Thursday and she is drawn to the older woman but Helen hasn’t made her move yet and over the course of the next few days Robyn will find herself drawn deeper into the gay community. She is now faced with the difficult task of breaking up with a guy she actually likes, tempered with the possibility that she might be just lashing out at her mother’s religious bigotry.
Author’s note: Some Australian terms to take note of with this part.
Arvo is a shortened version of afternoon, barbie is a shortened version of barbecue. A ute is a standard sedan that has been cut down with the back and trunk replaced by a tray, it somewhat resembles a small pickup. A panel van is much the same but the rear has been completely enclosed to form a compartment for tools and the like. It was popular amongst teenagers because it was big enough to sleep in. A chippie is a carpenter and a sparky is an electrician. VB is Victoria Bitter, a brand of beer. Beer is often sold in half bottles called stubbies (stubby) or cans, which can be sold in a shrink-wrapped twenty four can cardboard tray called a slab. Root is slang for sex, as in ‘who are you rooting now? I had a root last night. Do you fancy a root?’
Robyn considered herself more than capable of handling most things in life. She had been out of home since she was eighteen, working and paying bills, as well as building up a network of friends in the suburbs. Now on the cusp of turning twenty one, she was looking forward to getting her full licence and Yvonne was pressing her to go for a Certificate IV in Property Services Management. It wasn’t a requirement in her case because she was a full time employee but Yvonne was encouraging her to add the string to her bow. She could’ve gone for it earlier but now the company was prepared to give her paid time off for the course after the mandatory two years continual service.
Another possible string was a job as a counsellor and to this effect, she was doing a counselling course at her church but that was a long term goal because she needed to complete an accredited course at Tafe level, which meant finding a part time job and leaving her current one. She did go to her Monday class, but wasn’t able to absorb Maslow’s pyramid even though it was interesting. Rather, she had been thinking about her relationship with Jeff and the upcoming sex education class with Penny and because she was attracted to her, it led her to skip the Tuesday night bible study and go to Cindy’s instead.
It felt almost forbidden, as if she was going to sleep with one of them instead, a laughable concept even at the best of times. Cindy was making a blouse for Penny, it was similar to the one Robyn had worn the first time she’d met Penny, a cream double-breasted blouse in silk. It was the first time that she’d helped her out, initially it was just cutting the sleeves but then she cut the cuffs and the collar. It felt comforting in the older woman’s presence although there was a distinct sense of déjà vu when she arrived there on Tuesday night, which became stronger when she followed her into the sewing room. Because of that fact, she’d been even more intrigued by the way panels were sewn together, she hadn’t left until just before eleven, by which time the blouse was almost done.
“It’s just the buttons to go and then the first fitting,” she glanced at her, “you’re going up there on Thursday, aren’t you?”
“You know about that?”
“She has mentioned it, yes,” she folded her arms as she led her out of the sewing room, “I was just thinking you could take it up to her on Thursday and leave it with her.”
“Sure,” she nodded, “it’s just a basic question and answer session,” she glanced at Mary who was on the couch, “sex for dummies I guess.”
“Well, she’s the one to answer the questions,” she replied, “are you looking forward to it?”
“Kind of, I was on Saturday when we arranged it but now it’s getting closer to the day I’m a little bit nervous.”
“What do you mean?”
Robyn looked away, trying to find the right words and failing completely.
“You like her, don’t you?”
She nodded and Cindy smiled crookedly.
“Good,” she led her to the front door, “it means everything is working.”
“What do you mean?”
“It means you’re experiencing desire. It’s perfectly normal to desire someone else apart from your boyfriend, or girlfriend. It’s called sexual tension, most people on the planet experience it to some degree and it’s only a problem when you try to take it further and wind up having an affair. The fact that you have sexual feelings towards another person doesn’t mean you have to go out and have sex with them, unless you’re a dog,” she nodded at their West Highland terrier on the couch.
“Dogs will hump your leg if the urge takes them, you’re going up there to ask questions about sex and Penny will answer them honestly. Penny is an honourable woman, she won’t be coming onto you or putting you in an awkward pendik escort bayan position. There are women out there who don’t care if you’re with someone or not but Penny isn’t one of them.”
She hadn’t mentioned Helen by name but that following night when she turned up at her place that conversation had popped into her head as she stood in the doorway after work. Robyn had just changed out of her skirt when Erin came through to tell her that there was someone at the door for her and so she’d pulled on a pair of jeans and hurried through to find Helen standing on the front porch while Scamp barked at her.
“Scamp,” she reached down to pat him and he stopped barking, “what’re you doing here?”
Helen didn’t say anything for a few moments.
“I was cleaning out my mum’s spare room the other day, most of the stuff is going on the nature strip for hard garbage but there were a few things I decided to take to the op shop… one of them is a sewing machine and a folder of patterns. It must’ve been there for years, I don’t think even she knew they were there,” she shifted on her feet.
“And I overheard you in the office last week talking about doing some dressmaking and I thought that you might like it.”
“Oh,” her eyes shifted as she slipped a hand beneath the front of her grey silk blouse, “okay… um, I guess so but I’d need to look at it first.”
“Sure, I get it,” she ran a hand through her hair, “it’s free to a good home.”
Robyn stared at her as she contemplated this new piece of information. Helen looked as if she’d come straight from work although her Landcruiser hadn’t been parked in the carpark at the Kilsyth Shopping centre this morning. It had been there the previous two days when she and Erin drove past on their way to work, the distinctive black four wheel drive was always parked in Collins Place in the afternoon when they drove past the street.
“Thank you,” she smiled and ran a hand through her hair, “but I really couldn’t, I’d need to offer you some money at least.”
“Hey, it’s no problem to me at all, it’s going to an op shop,” Helen spread her palms wide.
“Maybe so,” her smile remained fixed, “but these shops rely on donations of second hand stuff and if I’m handing over money I’d probably want to make sure it works first,” she looked down.
“Sure, yeah, of course. Would you like to look at it now?”
“Um, not tonight, I’ve just come home. I was halfway through getting changed and then I’ve got to have dinner and get ready to go and see Jeff,” she looked past her, “how does Friday sound? I could come out with Cindy maybe.”
“What about your boyfriend?” Helen’s eyes narrowed.
“He’s a motor mechanic and I’d have to ask him first.”
“I know but he’s obviously mechanically minded. Bring your boyfriend with you and check out the sewing machine, I’ll even make you both a coffee.”
Robyn hesitated before finally replying.
“Okay, Friday it is then.”
“I’ll be home all night, I’ll be working from home on Friday and Thursday.”
“Thursday’s no good at all,” she replied, “so, you work from home as well?”
“Yeah, it’s an arrangement with Penny, two and a half or three days at home.”
“I wish I could have a boss like her,” she leaned down to pat Scamp.
“She is a good boss, the best I’ve ever had, I was a counsellor for quite a few years with the local council and they were bastards to work for.”
“You were a counsellor?” Robyn raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, did a uni course in social work and psychology.”
“Interesting,” she mused, “I’ve been thinking of doing something like that but I’d need to quit my job and get a part time one instead so it’s a bit of a pipe dream.”
Helen glanced over her shoulder at her Landcruiser and then looked back at her. She had a strange smile on her face as she dug her hands into her trouser pockets.
“Well, it’s different to what it was back when I was doing it, I did the full Monty but there are a heap of part time courses and a lot more options, especially doing it at Tafe. I could sit down with you at home and take you through them, you’d only need to quit work if you wanted to go the same route I did and I wouldn’t recommend that unless you’ve got heaps of money.”
“I’ll think about it, thanks,” she glanced down at Scamp.
They’d stood there for a few more minutes talking about other things. She learned that Helen was in a relationship with Roxy but it sounded as if it was a shaky arrangement at best. She even hinted that she’d almost pulled the plug the previous week, but before the conversation could move onto more personal subject matter Robyn dropped the hint that she had to get dinner.
“Sure, no worries, I’m just venting,” she chuckled.
The laugh had sounded almost forced, as if she was either nervous or putting on a performance for her benefit Robyn mused as she unlocked the car door that Thursday night. People didn’t volunteer that kind of information about their personal maltepe escort lives if they weren’t fishing.
That was different, she mused as she slid behind the wheel, that was group therapy.
Tonight is also therapy she slid the key into the ignition, until it’s not, she turned the key and the engine started. Last night Jeff had tuned her engine while she watched. She usually helped him with her car but last night she was just content to stand and watch him adjust the timing. Jeff was not like other guys and despite her admission that he was more of a friend than a boyfriend she did love him in her own way. It made her feel guilty because the gay women she’d met in the last few nights had made their own approaches. Even Kathy, as much as she was with Melissa, had dropped the hint she might be amenable to changing lanes and that made her feel both uncomfortable and aroused at the same time.
She could see how it could happen, she mused some time later as she drove past the Kalorama post office. Kathy was quite similar in outlook to Jeff, she could be quite laid back in her approach to life in general and they were in related trades. He was a motor mechanic and she was a spray painter, it was almost surreal now she thought about it and it was on her mind as she drove further up the road until finally she was turning into Penny’s street. It was another case of déjà vu but this time there were no cars parked on the road overlooking the house.
She paused at the driveway entrance, noticing the camber of the road against the reverse camber of the driveway itself. It almost looked as if the car would roll over if she started her descent. She did swing the wheel a moment later and for a split second her heart skipped a beat. It seemed as if her car was going to go off the edge of the mountain and then she was coasting down to the house and pulling up behind Penny’s Holden Commodore.
She chanced a look at herself in the driver’s side window a minute or so later. She’d virtually come straight from work, deciding not to change out of the pale blue blouse and brown trousers, she had however discarded the jacket for a thick, longish cardigan and flat shoes. She’d also touched up her face and brushed her hair. She grabbed her handbag and a smaller plastic bag with crackers and the dips that she’d picked up on her lunch break that day and got out of the car. Just as she closed the door Penny stepped out onto the verandah.
She looked as if she’d elected for the same after work option judging by the white blouse under a thick, patterned jumper, a pair of jeans and Ugg boots completed her outfit but she was also tying a woollen belt on a long cardigan. She ambled along the verandah whilst Robyn opened the back door and took down the blouse she’d collected from Cindy’s place on the way here. The garment had been finished but Cindy wanted Penny to try it out first and as she closed the door Penny reached her and nodded.
“Yeah, I had to stop off at Cindy’s,” she held the blouse up, “it’s finished.”
“I can’t wait,” Penny replied.
Robyn didn’t reply to that as they made their way to the front door.
“I hope you like it,” Robyn stepped aside for her.
“I do,” she stopped and ushered her inside, “she always does good work.”
“It might not be as good this time, I helped with the cutting out,” Robyn stepped inside.
“Which parts did you cut out?”
“The sleeves, cuffs and collar but she marked it all out for me but Cindy wanted you to try it on first just to make sure.”
“I know, she rang me at work this afternoon,” she shut the door, “how was your day?”
“It was the usual, same shit, different day.”
“Yeah, it was pretty much the same for me,” she led her into the living room, “although I finished early today,” she stopped in front of the fire and laid the blouse over the arm of a couch.
“I had to meet my chippie today,” she pulled the jumper off, “I’m thinking of turning my junk room into a sewing room.”
“A sewing room?”
“Yeah, she held the blouse up for a closer look, “I’ve thought about it since before last Friday night but when Cindy was complaining about the lack of space I had an inspiration,” she put it down and pulled the blouse out of her jeans.
“How can I kill two birds with one stone,” she glanced at her, “Cindy needs a larger sewing room and I need to put that room to good use. I’ve cleaned it out more than once but within a month or two it’s full of shit again but if it’s full of someone else’s shit then I can’t use the room.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Robyn frowned, “which room is it?”
“That one up there,” she turned and pointed, “next door to my office. Cindy was actually speechless when I offered it to her on Friday night after the meeting and that’s a rarity for her,” she tugged at a button on her blouse.
“Excuse me while I try this on in front of the fire,” she started unbuttoning it, “this room is the warmest one at this time of kartal escort the day,” she turned to face the fire, “the heat does rise to the first floor by the time I get to bed but I still have to use an electric blanket in the winter.”
“No worries,” Robyn undid the single button holding the other blouse closed.
“Don’t you have central heating?” Robyn glanced at her briefly.
“Nope,” she shrugged the blouse off her shoulders, “I’ve been talking about it ever since I moved in here but so far it’s been all talk,” she undid a cuff button.
“Until now of course,” she undid the other button and then started on the other cuff.
“Why now?” Robyn perched on the couch and stared at the kitchen doorway.
“My auntie May died five months ago but there was a dispute over the will,” she undid the second button and let the blouse slide downwards. Robyn glanced briefly at her. She had a slim waist and her breasts were not overly large beneath the red balconette bra.
“But the lawyers finally agreed on the settlement, the money came through a few weeks ago,” she picked up the new blouse, “so now I have enough money to think about getting a climate control system installed along with the sewing room.”
“Oh, okay,” Robyn glanced at the fire not sure whether to ask about the reasons for the dispute or just move onto another subject.
“Are you all right with me changing in front of you?” Penny asked her.
“Um, yeah, sure. I was just distracted by something else,” she glanced up, “what was the dispute about or is that too personal?”
Penny chuckled as she slipped her hands into the sleeves.
“Nice way of putting it, you can’t get more personal than taking off your blouse in full view of someone else,” she pulled the blouse over her shoulders.
“It’s not a personal question. It had to do with the company she owned jointly with her ex husband,” she started buttoning the blouse.
“The will specified that her share be sold off to a silent partner and the money put into a trust fund as part of the will but her ex husband was trying to argue that seeing as she’d died it was all his as he was her next of kin. It all went to court,” she glanced at her.
“He lost the case but appealed to a higher court, but that turned out to be his biggest mistake, the judge upheld the ruling and he wound up having to pay higher court costs and his legal fees were actually eye watering.”
She looked down as she kept buttoning the blouse, “this fucker is going to take twice as long to put on in the morning but I have to admit, we had a bit of a laugh about it.”
“So, what was the business?”
“Three car dealerships, two of them were in the east and the third is in Box Hill, he’s going to have to sell at least one of them to recoup his costs. Greed is not good, trust me.”
Robyn merely nodded as she looked down at the biscuits and dips.
“I um… I brought up some dips.”
“What kind of dips?”
“Onion and chilli, turkey, and chicken.”
“Cool,” she undid her jeans and tucked the blouse into them, “I’ll show you where the cheese is,” she glanced at her, “while I check myself in the bathroom mirror.”
“It looks nice,” Robyn ventured.
“Thanks,” she smiled and looked down at herself, “it feels like it has a bit of give in it but I like the buttoned up look, I’m always conscious of leaning over men when I’m wearing a blouse.”
“You and me both,” she stood up and grabbed the plastic bag.
Penny led her through to the kitchen and indicated the double refrigerator next to a chest freezer, she had noticed that the other day but it was only in passing. The right hand side had fresh food in it but the left hand side was a freezer.
“I tend to cook enough for between two and four,” Penny explained, “not because I’m expecting any visitors but simply because it’s easier than trying to recalculate quantities, the leftovers are put into tubs in the left hand freezer and the chest freezer is my actual freezer.”
“That’s the bane of my life,” Robyn smirked, “the person who puts out a book of recipes for one will have a best seller on their hands.”
“The cheese is all up on the top shelf,” Penny pointed at it, “and the cheese knives are in that drawer over there,” she pointed to some drawers under the island bench.
“I’ll have what you’re having,” she shrugged and walked to the doorway.
Robyn smiled at that as she selected goat’s cheese, simply because she’d never had it before and yet as she started cutting the cheese she couldn’t help but go over her reactions to watching Penny get changed in front of her. The other woman had been so casual about it and yet she’d known that she was looking at her. Was she judging her response or was she reading too much into it?
That was a question for another day she suspected as Penny came back into the kitchen some three minutes later. She was talking to Cindy on the phone.
“No worries, well if there’s nothing left to do I’ll just keep it here and give her some money for it, and we’ll talk about the other thing in some other sixty seconds.”
She put the phone down a few seconds later and put her palms on the bench, their eyes met and a sly smile nudged Penny’s lips.
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