It turned into a good solid evening, enough beer passing my lips to relax my tensions but not so much that all carefulness went back to the bar with the empty glasses. Vicky was far more entertaining than I had expected her to be after the revelations in the toilets, but Siá¢n still seemed to be on guard, paying careful attention to everything Kev came out with. The man himself seemed to think that he was the centre of the world, as why else would three women be so rapt?
“Where you from, Siá¢n?”
“Little place called Pont Cyfyng, just outside Capel Curig, originally. Not been back for a while. You two local, aye?”
I looked emphatically at my empty glass. “Aye, but he better move away a few feet soon. Kev, you are two pints ahead, and one of them was mine, aye? Hint hint”
He sniffed. “Like being bloody married, Lainey!”
Vicky laughed again. “So I hear! Who's driving, cousin dear?”
A theatrical sigh. “Duw, mine's a diet coke then. Question's still there, Elaine”
“Oh aye. We're both from Abergwaun, no great distance”
“What's your family?”
I took a while to think on that one. “Mam and Dad still there, sister up at Aberystwyth. Got her finals now, aye? Then into the real world for her. Before you ask, cause I can see it in your face, the answer is yes. My parents know about me”
Kev was back with the drinks, and gave a little snort as he heard the exchange. “Lainey can be a bit in-your-face on that subject. Don't get on her bad side, girls. And especially not her Dad's. Not a man to upset, Twm Powell, innit?”
He took a sip, and waited for me to do the same, which was when he asked “Still keeping Casualty busy?”
He didn't get the result he was after. My beer stayed unsprayed, and my eyebrows gave him a warning. “Think he's run out of idiots, aye? And I told him: they want to say something, they can say it direct to PC Powell, aye? I'll give them their answer”
He was rolling, though. “Aye, but it's Sarah as well”
I gave him a quick head shake, but Vicky was alert.
Kev nodded. “Aye. Her, er, sister”
Don't do this to me, mate. “Aye, the one I mentioned, up at Aber doing drugs and stuff. Wants to be a pharmacist”
Vicky was still digging. “What about her that gets your Dad into fights?”
Thank you, Kevin. I looked for a way to steer around the crash, but there was none.
“Your mouth is far too big, PC Watkins. This is turning into some sort of true confessions shit. Look, Vicky, Sarah, aye? She changed her name last year”
“She used to be called Samuel”
Siá¢n sniffed. “Tranny, is it?”
Not doing as well as I thought, were we? “No. We don't use words like that. She's my sister, full stop. Just needs a little adjustment. Kev, oh big mouthed one, describe my SISTER, please”
A hint of a blush. “Tallish, nice legs, nice bum, strawberry blonde, pretty, aye?”
I gave him the usual flat stare. “I like your priorities in describing her, butt”
I turned back to Siá¢n. “He fancies her as well, you see”
The redhead looked slightly adrift. “Aye, but I've read about them, and it's all learned, isn't it? You bring a boy up the wrong way, and it thinks it's a girl. Been proved, over in the States”
“Kevin, think carefully about this. Given what's been said, describe my sister”
He took a little time of his own just then, and when he spoke it was so softly I had to strain to listen.
“Ladies, I've known Lainey for a long time, and there is no way her family brings boys up as anything other than boys. Her Dad, her uncle, aye? Men's men they are, no truck with pansies or fairies. Sarah confuses me. I look at her and I see Elaine in her, just younger, and I have to be careful now, but she does have nicer legs. All I see is girl, and I know what she was registered as, and I know how she was brought up, but she's a girl, full stop. Don't know what you've read, girl, but it sounds like bollocks to me. Lainey, what's your Dad call Sarah?”
I straightened up and fixed the redhead with a very direct stare. “His other pretty daughter”
Kev nodded. “Says it all. Sorry, Lainey, your business. I should learn a bit of gob control. Siá¢n, Vicky, she gets very protective of Sar. You'll have to meet her, then you'll see what I mean”
Vicky looked hard at him. “So you are after another meet up?”
He grinned, almost back to himself. “Aye, but perhaps without the audience. I know a good Italian place”
I had to laugh out loud at that. “Not a curry, butt?”
Another grin. “Got to try and be sophisticated, innit? Girl from the big city, wants a bit of class. Wine in a basket, that sort of thing”
Siá¢n was all innocence at that. “Doesn't it leak out?”
Kev was obviously puzzled. “Eh?”
“The wine. Out of the basket”
“Oh god. Lainey, this one's worse than you. Girl, just one thing: let me be serious just for a second, aye? I can see you have some ideas, some preconceptions, innit? Let Sarah speak for herself. Give her a chance. Took me a little while to get my head around it, but it's what she is, what she was born for”
I coughed. “Lot of assumptions there, butt. When would Siá¢n be meeting my sis?”
“Diawl, mate, don't tell me you aren't thinking about asking her out? You've had your eyes below her face half the evening”
I don't blush that easily, but he had caught me. She did have rather a pleasant, em, aspect to her, and a sharp mind. If I could just get her away from talking such crap about Sarah, or perhaps even thinking it, I would most definitely be stuck for reasons to say no. The most important thing was Vicky's openness about her cousin. Aberystwyth had been such a special place, for the nights down at the Ship were specifically for girls like me. No dancing around except on the dance floor itself. No is she, isn't she; even the straight girls that came down out of curiosity and voyeurism understood whose space they were in, whose territory they were visiting, and taking offence at being chatted up wasn't an option. Abergwaun, though, even Caerfyrddin, they were different. Girls like me were in the minority, and, to be brutally honest, the ones who were open about it tended not to be my type. I mean, what I am is a woman, simple as that, but a woman who likes other women. I don't fancy blokes, and I don't fancy women trying to be blokes.
I used to hear the conversations at work, usually about male homosexuals, and it was always the same: which one's the butch, which the bitch? Straight people, men in particular, seemed to want everyone boxed off into the same place they inhabited, each couple as heterosexually constrained as possible, even if they were gay. I just fancied women, not pretend men, and that thought threw Sar up again, and she was pretending absolutely nothing at all. Pure girl, my sister.
“Uh? Sorry, Kev; miles away”
“Girls are asking if you want to eat, before the kitchen closes, aye?”
“You not have tea before you came out?”
There was a flicker in his eyes, and I realised he was actually doing his best to prolong the evening, rather than let it expire as drink limits were reached.
“They do a good mixed grill here. Just had a bit of rarebit before I came out, innit”
I laughed. “Ladies, his idea of cheese on toast is more like a bloody pizza than Tesco's ever sold. You fancy a bite?”
Vicky put on a frown. “But you said he didn't, Elaine...”
The meal was ordered, along with more wine, and Vicky was laughing again. It wasn't just the wine, either, for all the prickly jousting seemed to have released something that had been bound inside her. I spent a while watching, sitting silent, until I felt a nudge from Siá¢n.
She led the way, to a comment from Vicky about doing things she wouldn't do, and I realised the other woman was after all feeling her drink. Siá¢n checked the cubicles were clear, and then turned to me, arms folded across her chest.
“Thank you for tonight. You saw her at her lowest, which wasn't the plan, aye? And I am sorry if I was out of line over your... sister. Just, doesn't sit well with me, aye? Women are women, they don't get made”
“That wasn't what you said, was it? That crap from the States, that was all about making boys into girls, girls into boys, aye? Talk to me. Not just Vicky with shit in the cupboard, is it?”
She sighed. “Not just now, aye? Your sister: could I meet her? See what you see, what your mate sees? And he's one of the good ones, isn't he? Won't hurt my Vicky?”
Ah. “You and Kev are the same, aren't you?”
“What do you mean?”
“He has always had a thing for me, he says, and Sar confuses the hell out of him. You and Vicky, aye?”
She sagged. “Aye. How could any girl not love her? I mean, apart from the straight ones, of course”
“Oh Duw, aye. Why else do you think she ran to me after, you know, arsehole with the sports car? We just found a way to work round it”
“You and Kev, wir. So where do we go from here?”
A long sigh. “Well, we make sure those two are safe, aye? Then perhaps, you might share a curry with me? But the wine comes in glasses, not a basket”
“Beer with a curry, girl”
“Oh you smooth-tongued sophisticate!”
She stepped forward and kissed my cheek, and for a moment those bits I had indeed, PC Watkins, been appreciating pressed against mine.
“Thanks for being his mate, Lainey”
When I eventually went home, I took her phone number with me, as well as an appointment at a local Indian restaurant for the next weekend. Kev was still smiling three days later.
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