An Old Flame

----------=BigCloset Retro Classic!=----------

An Old Flame
by Kristina L S

Copyright  © 2009 Kristina L.S.
All Rights Reserved.

The idea grew until it became almost an obsession. A long lost relationship that had seemed perfect... and yet it had ended. Almost twenty years, was it possible?
This one is for Sheila, a friend. Something I don't always make easy.

This is adult fiction.
No resemblance to reality should be inferred or expected.
Copyright KLS 2009.

Admin Note: Originally published on BigCloset TopShelf on Tuesday 08-26-2009 at 8:00 am, this retro classic was pulled out of the closet, and re-presented for our newer readers. ~Sephrena

Lynne sat back in her chair chewing on her bottom lip. She spun and stared out the window for several minutes before turning back, picking up the phone and punching an internal extension.

"Hello Carole, it's Lynne... Yes, I've decided to take next week after all. Things are quiet, so no problems hopefully... Yep, just the week and of course I have my leash, I mean my mobile if I'm really needed."

She had a small smile on her face with that line, a slightly wry one with the double-edged truth of it. But hey my girl, you chose this didn't you. Wasn't really a question she acknowledged to herself.

Carole, half talking to herself on the other end, noted dates in and out and then as an actual response said to, ... "have a good time and... relax".

Lynne could hear the not quite order in that last word. Yeah well, she needed a break as she'd already admitted, hence the tentative plans that had now solidified.

"Relax eh, sure Carole, how do spell that again?"

She heard the laugh as Carole replied "h-o-l-i-d-a-y" and chuckled herself in response.

"Okay, I get the hint, see you Monday week."

A genuine, "have a good time", came back as they hung up and she pictured Carole smiling but shaking her head at her idiot boss. Her own smile spread at that image and she turned back to the window.

Friday afternoon and the day was done. Most would be heading home or to various trendy bars to start the wind down for the weekend. Or maybe ramp up for the weekend depending on relationships or lack thereof. A wave of sadness washed over her lightly as she thought about cancelled plans... and yes, a relationship.

"Damn you Gary" she muttered quietly. Eighteen months they'd been together. Matched in many ways and the differences worked well too. They were ostensibly rivals but that had never gotten in the way. It was assumed by most that knew both that marriage would follow in due course. That's sort of what the planned weekend about to come had been for she thought. More than just another dirty weekend out of town at any rate. He'd given hints and she'd hinted right back and allowed her imagination to work on the how and where he'd ask and then the sex afterwards. Whooo, that had her twitching in her seat in anticipation, just a little wet.

But then just like that he'd phoned and said, "Sorry can't make next weekend; and it's not really working for me so... "

She'd heard the rest of what he'd said, but couldn't remember a word of it. Which was very unusual for her. But then that wasn't a usual phone call.

She'd left in semi shock that afternoon and only vaguely could recall the weekend. Sunday night she'd just sat in front of the telly and flicked channels spooning chocolate pecan swirl ice cream. Hmmm, Sixty Minutes, total crap half the time but sometimes interesting. Tick, tick, tick, tick, let's see huh.

She sat and watched and one story had just grabbed her.

Looking up Lost Loves. That first real romance that was never forgotten and how many, disillusioned after marriage breakdowns or unsuccessful relationships had decided to try and reconnect. Meet up again with the high school sweetheart or whoever it was that still sat in that dusty corner of their heart. A faint sweet memory that still: ten, twenty, forty years later, resonated. They showed men and women looking up and finding that old flame.

True to form they did the 'balance' angle by talking to a psychologist about the possible pitfalls and associated risks of trying to relive a memory. But finishing on a high note they showed two couples reunited and both looking at a possible relationship again and buzzing with a sort of winning the lottery joy.

Her thoughts had immediately turned cynical as she'd scoffed aloud and mumbled."Yeah sure, but you're all still the same people you were way back when, just older."

But... her own memory tumbled backwards and went straight to one person. Her first love and the confusion and hurt of how it had, just... sort of... faded out.


Nineteen, a little naíve and opinionated and still a virgin she grinned to herself. Even more surprising so was he as she later discovered. Both of them here at Sydney Uni, studying hard and mostly keeping on the outer edge of the party scene. Different courses so they didn't cross paths too often, still she'd seen him around, but a boyfriend? No that was not on the radar, at all, so...

Steve seemed to be a bit of a loner keeping very much to himself, yet every time she got dragged out by the other girls to, "at least have a drink or two", he'd be there. She went to the campus bar and he was there playing guitar in a sort of country band made up of students. Then again in a nearby pub and then a week later doing a duo thing with a girl keyboard player in a restaurant. For some reason she found herself listening closely to the soppy standards they were playing and thinking he was good and…cute. She watched his 'partner' and there seemed to be no connection beyond a friendly work feeling. No obvious closeness.

That had made her smile and she noticed, in a carefully offhand way, a few girls come on to him. She watched him smile and brush them off, keeping to himself. She realised that she'd seen the same thing happen several times before. Guitar player… and some girls try to get close, but he always stayed alone, "a sort of little boy lost thing", at least that's what a girlfriend who was in one of his classes had said. Plenty tried but no one got anywhere so some thought he was gay.

She'd smiled at Lynne with a twinkle and said," So interested are you? You could talk about how to stay single without really trying, you both seem to have that down. Zen and the modern celibate, there's probably a course."

It had been said with a grin but still stung a little.

Then a week later she allowed herself to be talked into going to a party. She was ahead on her courses so shrugged and went along. A big old house with two couples and three single guys sharing and Steve was one of them. One girl with too much eye-makeup was very obviously after him and he apparently just wasn't interested. The girl kept hovering close by and brushing her hands on his arm or chest as he talked and he just looked uncomfortable... and drank.

He stood to refill whatever it was he was tossing back and the girl stood with him and pressed herself against his side... he just edged away a little.

"You can touch me you know." She'd not quite shouted and a bunch of people looked of course.

He just looked at her sadly and said, "No I can't."

"Shit are there any straight men left in this fuckin' city?!!" She stomped off in search of someone to touch her Lynne guessed.

He filled his glass with Scotch and slumped into a bean bag chair, picked up the guitar that was sitting against the lounge and used it as a shield of sorts, plucking and strumming quietly.

A few people half listened and drank while chatting. He was good and Lynne felt... what, protective? He seemed alone in a room full of people.

At a pause in his playing she squatted in front of him. "Are you okay? You don't seem to enjoy this much."

He looked straight at her and smiled crookedly. "I hate fucking parties and I'm seriously pissed. Most of a bottle of scotch will do that I guess. Sorry shouldn't swear... not polite."

"You seem... I don't know, sad and this is your place isn't it, your friends? You don't seem drunk."

"Oh trust me I'm drunk, no way am I lying down for a while. My little room is out the back and I only know about ten people here, so... friends, not really. Think I'll go for a walk. "

"Do you mind if I join you? I'm not much for parties either."

He seemed surprised at that, almost afraid and stopped mid push up from the bean bag.

"Sure if you'd like a walk... it's cool out... but I need the air." He'd smiled a little but the eyes stayed sad as though he expected her to change her mind. Wanted her to?

"Just let me grab my jacket, okay." She smiled and pressed her palm against his upper arm. Again he seemed a little surprised but nodded and stood still. As soon as he saw her coming back he headed for the door, she caught up as he headed across the front lawn.

"Hey slow down a little huh, grass and heels are not a good mix."

"Oh... sorry. Sure, you okay?"

"Yes I'm fine... um..." Her eyes looked for a path across the slightly boggy ground and she slipped slightly. He grasped her right hand with his left as she stabilised and tip-toed across to the footpath and they kept strolling. Hands still clasped and no words spoken, though she was seriously tempted several times. As they walked she stole little sideways glances at him and realised she had no idea what he was thinking, but wanted to.


The long handled coffee spoon wobbled in her mouth as she shook her head at her own nuttiness. Damn girl, eat your bloody ice cream and stop fantasising about old boyfriends. Then another rueful shake of the head as she coughed at swallowing a cold lump. Yeah well… one particular boyfriend, so what does that say hmmm?

Her memories wandered about and looked on at meeting up and chatting a few times and how shy he'd been, almost diffident, but she knew there was a connection. Then after waiting for him to make a move and finally deciding he wasn't going to, she asked him out. Something she'd never even considered doing before.

A few evenings at little local restaurants and a few in trendy wine bars where he was playing. Within a month they were living together in a small flat and the sex had been fantastic. They'd both lied about being virgins. She was but had claimed not to be and he also said no, but she was sure, despite him being way more attentive to her pleasure than she'd expected, that he was too. The next year had been wonderful and they'd shared everything and she had no doubts at all he was her best friend and it was just possible she might be in love. Tall, lean, athletic, thoughtful and gentle, oh yeah, nice-looking too, what's not to like. Then seemingly out of the blue, well he'd always been a little introspective, but… he'd sat her down and said he had to leave, apologised profusely and with tears in his eyes, handed her two month's rent, packed his stuff and… disappeared. He'd left the courses at Uni and vanished, no one knew where. Some said interstate, maybe Melbourne. But no one knew.

It took six months before she'd even considered going out with another guy and if they even looked like they might own a guitar she walked away, fast.

And here she was almost twenty years and a half dozen relationships of varying intensity later contemplating going back to the beginning. You must be bloody mad girl. He's probably married with kids by now. What the hell would he make of some long forgotten girlfriend turning up to say hi? She snorted at her perverse reverse logic or whatever it was and almost without thinking stuck the spoon in the bucket and wandered to her little home office to grab a pen and pad.

So what do you remember about him eh?

Name, Steven Edward Janssen, D.O.B. 12th Aug '71, six months younger than her Feb date. She smirked at that, she'd copped some flack for dating a younger man, good natured teasing really. Last known address, 4/21 Agnost Ave Glebe, yeah Nineteen ninety bloody one ya daft bitch. Sheee-it, talk about current. Parents lived in the mountains, Wentworth Falls, no sibs. Attended Sydney Uni, Feb '89 through July '91. He'd done his vanishing act just shy of his twentieth birthday.

She looked into space and pondered, was that all? Well no, there were lots of little memories, general and personal, but that was the basic facts.

She let her mind wander and picture him as he'd been; tall and slim, athletic but not muscle bound at all. Soft blue eyes, which sounded sort of contradictory, but wasn't. The way he smiled, widely and openly with that gentle interested expression that could switch to curious or teasing in a blink. Listening intently even when she was ranting. The tilt of the head letting his somewhat long brown hair fall to the side. How he'd walked around the whole weekend once with it plaited after she'd done it for him. Those lovely slender artist's hands, musician's hands and how gentle their touch.

She shivered in pleasant memory and laughed aloud. Christ girl, get a grip, this is the dumbest idea you've had in god knows how long.

Much to her amusement and slight exasperation the idea had not gone away; so after tossing it about for a day or so she'd contacted a PI she knew and asked him to find Steve. Three days later she had a report with a couple of pages of info that perversely she hadn't read. She laughed at her own cowardice in not wanting to know any details, just where he was. She had an address, surprisingly not too far away from where she sat. Annandale, just south of the city and not far at all from where they'd lived all those years ago.

She slipped on her jacket, tucked the A4 envelope in her shoulder bag, grabbed its straps and her handbag, glanced around to check and flicked off the lights. Smirking at herself she recited aloud Carole's gentle admonition, "H-o-l-i-d-a-y. eh Carole, yeah sure thing. I'll see how that works out I guess."

The six block walk across through Darling Harbour to her Pyrmont apartment was usually spent mulling over the work of the day gone or to come. This time it revolved on a row of town houses a few k's away and a face she hadn't seen in a long time.

The weekend was spent in a flurry of cleaning and minor redecorating. Alternating in long introspective silences... sometimes memory heavy and other times laughing ruefully at her own insanity.

Does Alzheimers hit at thirty-eight very often? Perhaps not, but looniness likely didn't rely on age all that much. Never too young to be a raving nutter eh. Good thing no one's around to hear you laughing girl.

Or watch as she slumped into a lounge chair with hiccups and tears as the insane humour of the whole thing struck her. Curiously she found that her tears turned to a more cathartic plain old cry. Well there you go girl you have officially lost it. But she actually felt pretty damn good. Tomorrow she would see: well 'if ' things went to plan. She wondered how he'd look and had a twinge of doubt. What if he doesn't even recognise you? Or worse looks at you pityingly and plays the gentleman. That brought another short burst of laughter. Nuts. No doubt at all. Shaking her head she headed for the shower.

"Now I know I'm nuts. Bloody certifiable." she muttered to herself as she squirmed in her seat. The deep blue Audi S4 sat on a slight bend 50 metres from the town house where one S.E. Janssen lived. Memo to self, never drink coffee within days of needing to sit for hours in your car. Finally with another squirm she gave up and walked a little over a block to the bar on the corner of Johnson St and shamelessly used the facilities. It was a little after six and she'd been sitting for over two hours. The bar was nice in a subdued sort of way. A blend of earnest student types in woven caps and lots of scarves and the yuppie conservatives in various styles of inner city chic. She smiled at that last. You fit right in girl. Used to in one and now do in the other.

As she headed for the door a woman in the corner facing half away caused a small tickle of recognition, but Lynne was pretty sure she didn't know her. With a mental shrug she pushed through the door and turned back toward her car.

After another hour it was quite dark so she gave up and turned the key to go home. Tuesday's another day, so... tomorrow then. As she rolled down the road the woman from the bar was walking toward her. Tall, with an athletic build, just Steve's sort, wonder if he knows her. She slowed and pulled into the kerb to watch in the rear view as tall and trim entered that gateway and headed to that door, pulled a key and went inside.

"Oh crap. Now what Lynnette? He's got a girlfriend. Shit." The quietly spoken comment struck home emotionally and she shook her head back and forth several times to stop the tears. Didn't quite work, but opening her eyes wide she brushed them with a forefinger and bit her cheek.

Okay, so be it. Get it together and... no, not now. Tomorrow, knock on the door and say hello and then let it go if you need to. Stupid bitch, what the hell were you expecting? She's probably his damn wife and there's kids at footy practice or something. Twenty fucking years girl. That's a lifetime, why should his have stood still just to suit you?

Another deep breath, blown out slowly as she gripped the steering wheel at ten to two and pressed hard to shift the tension. She stared blankly out the windscreen for a moment, took her foot off the brake and pulled slowly away.

Twenty minutes later she sat slumped in her fave lounge chair and slurped a nice Pinot weighing whether to actually read everything that A4 envelope contained. It wasn't that much really she knew having glanced at it and stopped at the address in the first par, but it would tell her enough to know just where she might stand. But dealing day in day out with truth and then shading it to fit she didn't really want to. She could have done that a week ago, but hadn't because she wanted the fantasy to play out, one way or the other. The odds had now gone against a happy ever after, as she quietly admitted was always likely.

But… there was still a chance. Most likely... or, seemingly obvious was not always, so... she'd play it out. With that decision made she sipped slowly and tried to run alternate scenarios in her head. Gave that up with a bark of laughter and a shake of her head, flicked the remote and began to surf, ah... Master Chef, maybe I'll learn something.

The next day she dithered and stuffed around finding things that needed doing until finally with an exasperated cry she banged her head three times against the fridge door, growled at herself, grabbed her keys and bag and headed to the car before she changed her mind.

It was after five when she parked a little further up the road than the day before. Pretty much dark except for the streetlights and passing traffic and as she turned off the motor she glimpsed lanky closing the door and walking up toward her. Boot jeans, flat slouch tan ankle boots, heavy tailored shirt and a long creamy pashmina style scarf... and... that jacket. That sandy suede hanging to mid thigh with the skinny lapels and the tie belt jacket.

She'd been there when Steve bought it, a little recycle shop in the Imperial Arcade. Had kidded him about it being very Indiana Jones but he needed the hat, oh and the whip, don't forget the whip.

At which he'd replied, "Ooh you kinky bitch."

She'd blushed and laughed.

As lanky walked past Lynne got a better look... yep the same jacket alright, though looks like the waist had been nipped in a little. It hung loose with the belt flipping as she walked, Steve used to wear it the same way almost never tied or buttoned it.

She slid out the door, beeped the locks and followed almost without thinking about it.

A slow ambling window-shopping stroll that would, Lynne guessed, wind up at the little bar on the corner. Feeling awfully self-conscious she hung back as long and lean did in fact head into the bar. She watched from the footpath as a wine was sitting on the bar. Must have been poured as she was seen coming through the door. Hellos were exchanged and a bit of small talk before lanky took a table near where she'd been sitting the other day.

Lynne stood for a minute trying to work up the nerve to go in and say something. Jesus girl, what's the matter with you, just go and say hello. With a snort of laughter at the butterflies in her stomach, she did. As she got closer there was that tickle of recognition again and she shook her head, stopped a pace short...

"Excuse me, but....."

Long and lean turned and faced her with slight surprise and curiosity at being addressed, that changed in a blink to... what? Fear, shock, pain, sadness? Lynne wasn't sure, but then she gasped herself and sat heavily opposite with a half-formed sentence stuck in her throat and just stared dumbly.

A minute maybe, silence, except there was noise, just nothing recognisable.

Those lips quirked a little into a crooked smile and with a slightly sad look on that face, gazed across the table. "Hello Lynne, it's been a long time. You're looking good." There was a slightly resigned look in those eyes as the wine was picked up and sipped, "Can I get you one? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Nodded slightly in answer to the question when Lynne made no sound, stood and went to the bar.

Lynne's body swivelled on the chair as she followed with her eyes trying to connect this reality with the fantastical dream she'd harboured. Oh shit Lynne, Sixty Minutes never looked at this angle. Fucking hell, now what?

The slight bump as the glass was set down near her elbow stopped her introspection and she shook herself took a big sip and looked across the table. "Um... thanks, ah...."

"Steph. Stephanie Elaine, simpler keeping the initials the same."

"Oh, yeah, I guess, okay. I...." She shook her head and tried to get some semblance of rational thought working.

Steph sat quietly opposite just watching Lynne with a sort of sad, bruised expression on her face. As though waiting for some undeserved punishment. Seemingly resigned to it but not flinching.

Gulping her drink Lynne raised a finger in a wait gesture went to the bar and got two more after waving at Steph's table the girl serving had nodded and poured from a bottle amidst a dozen or so in the glass-doored fridge, a Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon.

She returned to the table and sat, pushing one glass across as... Steph tossed the rest of her first down.

Just being polite, Lynne guessed. Her thoughts were a wild scramble, she had questions by the dozen, but where to start. So she sat for a minute or two, with her eyes never leaving the person sitting opposite, roving up and down trying to see similarities and differences.

The hair much the same yet cut with more obvious style. Brows slightly more arched, ears pierced with four centimetre hoops. Light makeup and the hands made more feminine with the shaped and painted nails. The evident bust shaping the heavy blouse, a faint hint of perfume. Posture, more correct. The carefully modulated voice sounding like a lady newsreader.

Lynne closed her eyes to bring the superimposed image in her head into focus with the reality seated in front of her. Stephanie, do I know you at all? Did I ever know you?

After several minutes there was a soft sigh from Steph. "So Lynne, just passing, saw the lights on?"

She blushed at that, "Ah, no... not exactly."

And she proceeded to get Steph up to date with her life, the relationship with Gary, then Sixty Minutes and the last couple of weeks.

"So you see it's a bit of a shock to the system and leaves me with so many questions I have no idea where to start. I mean I never had a clue and..." Her voice faded to silence and she shook her head slowly. "It bites a little that I didn't see something. I don't think I'm that clueless or narrow minded. Yet... I don't know, I guess I'm a little lost. I used to think you were my best friend along with lover, but you just left and never said a word, God that hurt. A little part of me wants to slap you one for that, yet I can see that there was a lot I didn't understand and maybe never will. If I'm honest though the thing that hurt the most was the kick to my pride. I don't really have a best friend anymore, haven't for a long time. Lot's of colleagues and acquaintances, but not many friends… and no one from years ago, I miss that. Maybe we could be friends again, or anew or something, I'd like that."

Steph looked steadily across the table apparently trying to get a feel of the situation. She sighed softly after a moment or two having it seemed reached some conclusion. "Alright I suppose I owe you a bit of a story at least; let's grab a couple of pizzas and some more wine and we can wander back to my place. Give you a chance to observe me in my natural habitat. Maybe we'll find out if we can be friends or not."

Lynne watched the emotions play across Steph's face as she spoke. Yes... 'she', strange as that is in a way, but yes. Damn, she seems almost afraid, but why? All the negatives she has probably faced at some point I suppose, What did it cost her to get to here? Okaaay, tread easy girl. "Okay that sounds cool. Pizza is fine, you do that as you know the places and I'll grab a couple of bottles. "

Steph smiled slightly and flipped her phone open, dialled and ordered a medium Supreme and a Marinara delivered, with a glance to Lynne who nodded.

A quick trip to the bottle shop and they strolled back down the road each lost in their own thoughts. It was only a few minutes walk. Steph led the way up the path and opened the door turning to face Lynne.

"Please, come in."

"Thank you." Lynne smiled widely, if a pinch stiffly and stepped past through the door.

She seems a little tense. More than just down to inviting someone into her home and hoping they aren't disappointed. I guess having a ghost from the past waft into your new life could put you on edge for a bit.

She was still having a little trouble getting her head around the whole Steph slash Steve thing. But working on it.

There were a couple of lamps on so Lynne could see pretty well. One standing in the corner angled up the wall showed a nice cozy lounge room with a mid size LCD telly in one corner and a couple of three seater lounges arranged on angles around a slim coffee table. The other was in the kitchen that she could see through an open servery bench where Steph placed her bag and scarf and hooked her coat on a rack in the corner.

An open wooden staircase angled up across the servery to the upstairs. Bedroom or rooms Lynne guessed. Everything was nice and neat if a little sparse. Not obviously girly or anything but she wasn't really sure what she'd expected. One feature did catch her eye and she stared at it for a minute. A lovely print beautifully framed of Gustav Klimt's 'Judith', it glowed as 'she' stared jauntily out at them.

"That is beautiful Steph; I love his stuff."

"Yes it is isn't it, I think it makes the room." She smiled that small half smile, " You turned me on to his stuff way back when, I've got a smaller, 'The Kiss' up in the bedroom."

"Really, hmmm." She realised she was miles away, galaxies maybe and started slightly as Steph's voice called her back.

"Here let me take those and open one; just drop your bag next to mine there."

She smiled and did as suggested watching as a couple of glasses were pulled from a cupboard, the second bottle laid down in the fridge and then as Steph worked the waiters friend like a pro.

"Cheers." Steph passed a glass right handed while holding the other in her left. "So, fancy the cooks tour then?"

"Sure, this is nice."

Steph waved her to follow down a short hallway to a nice little sunroom flicked a switch which lit up the rear courtyard and pulled the curtain on a wide pair of French doors to show a basically neat area with a round table with a collapsed shade brolly in the centre and a couple of chairs. The side showed an obvious in-progress gardening project, a long planter box, bags of soil and some potted ferns.

Nodding as the outside went back into darkness she sipped, glancing into what appeared to be a laundry come bathroom and followed Steph back to the kitchen and then…upstairs.

Another lamp was on... in the main bedroom Lynne guessed and sure enough. A nice slightly feminine room, more colours and light touches like cushions rather than frills or anything giving that feeling. The print on the wall to the side drew her eyes and again pulled her focus somewhere else for a moment.

"Second bedroom opposite, which is more a study come junk room and the main bathroom."

Again she nodded and looked around. Some junk room. It was neater than hers by far, only a cardboard box of books or something to give an out of place, unfinished touch. "No guitar anywhere?"

"Well I still have a couple in the cupboard there, but I don't play much anymore."

"That's a shame, you were good."

"Uh, yeah, thanks... so let's go sit shall we?"

They trooped back downstairs and Lynne was constantly trying to match the person here with her to the memories she had of Steve. She could see him and yet he wasn't there; it was mildly confusing. Her expressions and gestures were subtly different from the ghost image in Lynne's head, out of focus and blurry like a TV signal as a jet flew overhead. Yet there was a more natural easiness than the slight... what, tightness, tension that Steve had carried?

Steph gestured Lynne to sit while she grabbed a couple of tea towels for finger wiping and the open bottle from the kitchen. They both settled and sipped silently for several minutes, saved from their introspection by the doorbell.

Lynne watched as Steph grabbed the cash she'd pulled out ready and strolled to the door. Her movements were easy, loose and subtly female. There was a brief conversation and she returned with the two boxes. Set them on the coffee table and flipped the lids, "Tuck in then."

They each ate a piece and another, alternating, then more slowly a third, sipping through a couple of glasses partly spurred by the anchovies on the marinara, partly by mutual nervousness.

Steph emptied the remains of the first bottle into their glasses and went to get the next. A soft crinkle of foil and a light pop and she returned placing the bottle between the boxes and sat back with another piece of marinara.

"Okay Lynne, the story such as it is. I guess first why I left as and when I did."

Lynne nodded as Steph spoke, grabbed another piece herself and sat back to listen, promising not to interrupt.

"Well first, I did I think love you, maybe still do, I don't know. But... you remember that night a few weeks before I left when a bunch of us went to Newtown and had dinner then ended up in that Pub with the drag show on?" Lynne scrunched her eyes and frowned then nodded as she did remember.

"Well I guess we all got a little drunk and you and that really tall guy, basketball player I think, started slagging off at the girls in the show." Lynne frowned again but then blushed and nodded once more.

"Well the girls mostly ignored you but you two did get more than a couple of venomous looks. As you might now realise that struck me a little where it hurt and got me thinking about you and me. Didn't help that you kept bringing it up now and then over the next week or so, running 'them' down and making cheap not so funny cracks at the whole boys in dresses thing. I'm surprised you never caught the hints of pain that caused me."

Lynne winced.

"So... yeah, I started to doubt you and me could make a go or even be friends once you knew." She drained her glass and topped it up and Lynne's as she nodded and held it out.

Lynne sat back with a big sigh and looked at Steph who was trying to mentally juggle something emotional by the look of near tears on her face, "Go on hon, I'm not the same person in some ways I was then. Please..."

Steph took a breath and relaxed a little."Well the weekend before that Pub outing as you might recall I'd gone up to visit the folks. We'd done the dinner thing and were chatting about stuff when I told them about me. Sort of like walking into a bottle shop cold room on a hot Summers day, instant chill. Mum just sort of looked at me for a couple of minutes with these bruised eyes and then got up and walked out of the room. Dad sat not saying a word just looking at me and finally said, 'I think you'd best leave', so I packed my bag and walked to the train station and sat there for two hours waiting and trying not to cry. "

"Oh shit hon, I'm sorry. That..."

Steph waved her wait and continued, tears evident on her face as Lynne felt some of her own begin to well prompted by her own lack of insight as much as shared pain.

"Wednesday I got a call to meet them for lunch down in Glebe where we'd hooked up a few times in the past. Slightly strained and they pretty much threatened me with excommunication or the family equivalent if I didn't sort myself out and forget this stupidity. We got some pointed looks from the waiters as the conversation got a little heated here and there." Her lips twisted into a not quite smile at that memory.

With another sigh she straightened and continued. "I told them I couldn't just forget or stop and that I'd begun hormones and was seeing a shrink for the necessary eval, though that was untrue. A wish and a desire, but... They left with my mum crying and sending a 'how could you do this to me' look my way and my dad steaming at this idiot boy they had somehow raised." The tears were flowing now and Lynne wondered if they'd come around later on, looking at Steph it seemed they hadn't.

Shit that must have been tough.

"Anyway, you may have noted in passing on the news that night that the little bridge over the railway line there at Wentworth Falls... a fatal accident as a passenger car with two people in it and a small truck with just a driver had collided and gone down the bank onto the tracks blocking the line for twelve hours and killing all three. Traffic across the mountains disrupted through the night."

Lynne's eyes opened wide in shock as it registered what Steph had just said, "Oh Christ, you mean your parents...? " The gap as she looked at Steph across that coffee table was wider than Sydney Harbour and right then there was no fucking bridge.

"Yes. If you remember that week I was a bit distracted and distant and at one point almost suicidal, though I kept it all hidden for the most part… I blamed myself. Upshot I got a letter from the solicitor that handles... sorry, handled, Dad's stuff and I was left everything and needed to sort out a few things. Anyway I was a fucking mess so I bailed on everything here, and moved up to the house and just stayed there for two years as I gradually became Stephanie, Only took the train into the city to visit my Endo..."

There was a quizzical look on Lynne's face that prompted an expansion.

"Endocrinologist, a lovely old Doctor that prescribed the hormones and made sure my liver and so on was okay as things progressed. You wanna talk about personal exams, well… Psych as well, sort of mandatory, a much younger guy, initially every couple of weeks then every couple of months and after a while a time or two a year. Still see him if I get a bit messy, but not very often.

"Eventually I moved back down to the city and started to live again, this time as me. Sold the house and the few shares and invested that with enough aside to get myself sorted…Private Hospital in Concord in May '96 if you're interested, only one guy in Sydney does the op. And well that's the basics I guess. Fifteen years later almost, here we are." She sniffed and shrugged, drained her glass and waited, looking Lynne's way.

"Oh Steph I'm sorry. I had no idea about your parents; and I'm a little ashamed I never picked up on your... um, what... duality I guess. I was a bit narrow in some ways back then but I wish you'd told me. I might have surprised you. Still I can see why you doubted and all that... the rejection and then their sudden death and the guilt and pain... Shit hon I don't blame you, I really don't. I honestly don't know how I’d have coped if it had been me."

The conversation shifted then as Steph with some prompting told tales of electrolysis,
"Oh yes it's such a joy to get little needles stuck into your face and um… elsewhere with electric currents zapping the hairs. Just a wee bit er... uncomfortable, especially in certain places."

Various humiliations, small and large and black humour-tinged encounters and a few little anecdotes that were damn funny, if you looked at them the right way.

"There was this one women, little shop in Double Bay, she literally pushed me out the door and closed it against my back as I sat on the step a little dazed and then laughed. She stood there glaring at me through the glass which made me laugh all the more." Steph shook her head slightly at the memory and grinned at Lynne and wincing a little. "Hey it was better than crying and it got right up her nose."

Then the job she currently held and had for six years. Course co-ordinator and general dogsbody with a small private Sound Engineering college. An old Muso mate had literally bumped into her and after a few questioning looks as they dusted themselves off asked if he knew her. Initially stunned and then accepting as Steph told him. Actually his initial response was a bewildered, 'well fuck me', to which she'd wryly responded, 'Um, no thanks'. He'd almost fallen over again laughing at that. So some sunshine amidst the clouds it seemed.

"Geoff, that's the old Muso mate, was setting up after buying out the guy that had built the studio and he'd just got the accreditation with the Education Dept granted after jumping through assorted bureaucratic hoops but was struggling with the office side. He had the teachers organised and while I didn't have the current knowledge, in that area anyway, he knew I was good at details and methodical. So I could help here and there with the studio stuff and could sort the office and paperwork, records and the like, so... serendipity. Hey I like my job." She grinned.

Lynne couldn't help but smile. It's good to see you smile like that Steph. Maybe I can help with the clouds.

Steph told a few tales of school and the students, how earnest and... serious. Some bloody talented and focused and some absolutely useless with most in the middle sort of working on who they were as much as a career path.

Lynne looked across at Steph and realised they were both slightly drunk and their speech was getting that deliberate correctness that prefaced slurring if they kept going. She tried to process the whole tale and imagine some of the gaps and the fears and pain that must have been there now and then. Happiness too. She had a few small snippets but really wanted the whole story and that would most surely take time.

Lynne smirked and coughed a small laugh, "We're both pissed you know. So what else huh. I mean you look a little different." Laughed again at that most obvious of statements, well she did and she didn't and snorted as Steph looked at her with a crooked smile. "Hey come on I mean apart from the big one, what else did you have done?"

Steph just brushed her nose and throat.

"Ah nose. Yeah now you mention it, it is a little trimmer. Throat? What the voice? I mean you sound like you could do the news at seven on Channel 2 each night. Polished lady voice without being snooty. Hell you sound more 'lady' than I do and I had lessons."

"No, not the voice, I did that with a bit of work over a few months, some hints off a website and yes copying a few newsreaders for tone and inflexion. Just practice." She shrugged slightly.

"Well you sound great, husky and a little sexy, with polish. So, umm... oh right, Adam's apple huh."

Steph simply nodded.

Lynne grinned widely and did her best to put on an innocent yet curious expression, but there was a gently wicked glint in her eyes. "Hmm, nearly fourteen years with girl bits eh. So who was the first and how was it?"

Steph snorted and almost choked on a mouthful of wine.

After a moment or two Lynne was having trouble holding the innocent expression against laughter.

Stalling Steph reached for the bottle and it was empty. "Damn well I still have the cooking wine in the fridge." She stood slightly unsteadily and headed to the kitchen returning a moment later waving a cardboard box. "This isn't bad actually, Chateau cardboard, two litres of the finest Aussie Pinot Grigio, does the same job anyway." She squirted a couple of glasses from the little tap and sat the box on the table.

"Cask wine!" Lynne exclaimed in mock horror to lighten the moment. She grinned and slurped loudly, smacking her lips.

Steph shook her head and smiled that half smile again.

"Sex huh. You want to know if I was keen to try the new gear? Hmm, curious I guess once it was possible. But I never was one for a quick fuck, especially as I'd be the fuckee, well if I went guy… and I guess maybe also if it was girl, depending. I was bloody nervous about the whole idea though. Took me a few years to work up the nerve or find someone willing." She smirked a little and shrugged.

"Well actually I wasn't really looking and then I met this woman that was keen to try a fling with an ex-guy. She was nice enough and honestly I thought, well okay, so after we'd done the getting to know each other thing we did the sex thing and yes it was nice enough and we did it several different ways. Use your imagination… and after a couple of months she decided that she really preferred 'real' girls and kissed me goodbye. Year or two later there was a guy; nice, reasonably gentleman like, did that getting to know you thing again and then we fucked like bunnies for about twelve hours and I never saw him again. That's it, my girl sex life. Pretty wild huh?"

"Girls and guys eh. So you're bi? I think I'm not surprised and I don't know what I expected you to say, but um... how does it compare?"

"It's different." Steph paused and took a sip as Lynne did likewise. "See as a guy there's no way I could with a guy, just couldn't. Wasn't all that keen on women either, except maybe you." She shrugged and sipped and almost smiled as Lynne blushed. "As a girl I'm free'er to look at things and see who people are and it doesn't matter so much guy or girl it's the person and if they can accept me.... Better? Well to me it's better this way because it's more right for me. I'm a woman so it's better as a woman, that's all I've got. Crap I need to pee."

Lynne followed her with her eyes as she headed out past the kitchen and out of sight. Turning to look at 'Judith' she smiled a little crookedly and realised that somewhere over the last hour or two the TV signal had sharpened, that jet had landed. There was just Steph and though Steve was still there a little he was background. Her smile widened and she blushed. Damn girl what are you thinking.

A minute or two later a flush sounded and Steph reappeared. "Tell you one thing peeing as a guy is less hassle."

For some reason that caused Lynne to crack up and she slid off the lounge on to the floor with tears rolling down her face. She stumbled still laughing to the laundry bathroom and used the loo... coming back a minute later wiping her face and coughing small hiccups of laughter still. She walked not completely steadily across to where Steph sat, leant down and kissed her softly on the lips. "Been wanting to do that for hours."

A small, just slightly wicked smile crossed Lynne's face as she watched the surprise and the blush spread across Steph's features. Sliding into the seat to her left Lynne reached with her left hand to cup Steph's right cheek and gently turn her face to her own as she leant in. Bringing her right hand up she cupped the other side of Steph's face and brushed her thumbs across under the eyes to the cheekbones and holding there softly, leant in watching Steph's eyes closely for any hint of a no. Seeing none she closed the gap and kissed her, at first gently and softly then with more force and pent up passion.

Sliding her hands back into Steph's hair she pushed forward and down to the bared throat and heard a sound somewhere between a sigh and a whimper, felt it with her lips. As Lynne kissed down and across her neck and slid her hands down to cup Steph's breasts through the blouse she felt a tension beneath her as Steph tightened up and then with a slow exhale let it go.

Throwing her left leg over Lynne straddled the seated woman, kneeling on the couch and pressed her palms against the soft yet thick fabric and felt the nipples rise as she rubbed softly. Licking and kissing to the up tilted chin she reached Steph's lips and this time worked the kiss longer and harder and deeper and both of them were panting slightly a few minutes later as they broke. Steph's eyes opened with a slightly glazed look. Lynne smiled at that and knew her own baby blues were glittering with lust and she thought, imagined(?), a pinch of love.

Smiling a dark and not quite full smile Lynne muttered in a throaty voice, "Come on." She stood and took Steph's hands, tugging her ever so slightly as an inducement to stand and follow where she led.

Steph looked closely at Lynne for several seconds as her focus returned and then she stood and followed up the stairs. A two person daisy chain.

Lynne led the way into the room, grabbing the bedspread and whipping it down off the end to lie slightly crumpled at the foot as she pulled Steph close, kissed her again and began to unbutton the thick cotton blouse. Grinning and coughing a small laugh as she exposed the lovely pale lavender lace under-wire bra cupping small yet full and firm breasts. Sliding her hands inside the blouse and around Steph's back she hugged her close and kissed her again as their bodies pressed tight.

Lynne's hands slid back around the warm body she held and cupped the exposed lace as her thumb nails circled and pressed gently at the pointy tips. Ran them up and back to slide the blouse off the strong yet not too muscular shoulders and down to drop to the floor behind as she tugged past the wrists as the buttons caught.

Her nails dragged slowly up Steph's spine and felt the shivers as she dipped a little and kissed between the mounds. Flipped the hooks and slowly slid the bra down the slender arms, dropping it to the side as Steph stood still, panting slightly with a dreamy look on her face, half-closed eyes glittering.

Lynne pushed backwards as they stayed locked together and as Steph's knees hit the edge of the bed she slumped down onto it while Lynne held her hands and stayed standing.

"Get rid of those boots and jeans huh while I catch up."

Lynne slowly stripped down herself as she watched Steph pull her boots and then stand to wiggle the jeans off finishing in a nice lavender hipster panty that matched the bra. She kept her eyes focused on Steph's face as she sat again and watched as her own slow strip progressed. Standing naked Lynne was just out of reach. Smiling widely as Steph made no move and waited for her.

With a mildly predatory look she steeped forward and was again straddling Steph, kissed her hard while pushing back until she was flat with her legs trailing off the bed. She kissed slowly and softly over Stephs face and gradually slid down to nibble gently on alternate nubs for several minutes raising small gasps and quiet moans. Slowly slid down kissing and sucking as she went to catch the waistband of the lavender lace with her teeth then hooking her thumbs slid them down and off, noting in passing, Simone Perele, nice.

Grinning widely she gently pressed Steph's knees wider and softly scraped her fingernails up the inner thighs and ran them through the small tuft of hair, slightly damp and matted.

Steph shivered and groaned softly.

Now 'that' girl is a different view to last time you were here, not very wet either yet she seems excited enough.

Hesitating for just a second Lynne took a breath and leant in to slide her tongue up the slightly sweaty and tangy slit, pushing and wriggling to judge the response. Feeling a pair of hands slide into her hair and tangle themselves gently she smiled to herself and continued.

A couple of hours later, both thoroughly acquainted or re-acquainted with each other's bodies they slept after pulling up the bedspread to cover themselves, it was still cool.

Lynne raised herself on one elbow to look at Steph sleeping beside her, mouth slightly open and breathing softly, totally at peace it seemed. She smiled and slid off the bed to gingerly feel her way to the bathroom. On her return she stood for a moment in the doorway shivering and just took in the scene the vague light from the street gave.

Well damn girl, that was nice. Sure as hell not what you planned... or expected... but that view right there could keep you warm for days. Who knew huh?

Smiling widely she slipped back into bed and smirked as Steph mumbled in her sleep at the touch of cold feet as Lynne pressed in behind her to spoon the warm body.

She woke some hours later to find the bed empty, stretched happily and grabbed the robe that had been dropped across the foot of the bed, slipped it on and headed downstairs. Steph was sitting in the lounge, gazing into space and sipping coffee, which smelt wonderful.

"Morning Steph, you okay?"

"Hi Lynne," she responded softly, turning to face her.

She looks almost afraid again. Lynne stopped and waited.

"I'm okay, just wondering about last night and what it meant. It was nice but you were never into girls, so I guess I'm wondering what and why and all that stuff. You can laugh now, I..." Steph sighed and shrugged looking a little sad.

Ah, so that's the problem. She thinks it was a curiosity session rather than something more and deeper. "Steph, Steph, Steph. No, I never was into girls though I was into you. You are still you and maybe nicer and better than you were. Plus I'm a bit more grown up, so no way was that just curiosity or a one off unless you want nothing more. That would upset me." She paused and took a breath and gathered her thoughts. "Yeah okay I had a silly dream come fantasy worked out and I got the twisty version of it. But when I kissed you that first time last night I knew I still loved you and I felt maybe you still loved me. So lets see what happens huh. I really want to know you again, the real you this time eh?"

Smiling Steph stood and stepped across to Lynne and kissed her softly, "Coffee?"

With her own small smile growing on her face she nodded and gave a soft return peck.

Let's see eh. It's bloody weird but it could just be Lynnette ya mad bitch.

With her smile wide and open and light dancing in her eyes she looked into Steph's welling pools and laughed aloud.

"Coffee would be lovely thanks hon, it smells delicious." Who knew huh?

Back at work Monday was the usual scramble of catch up that results after time off. Lynne smiled her way through the calls and meetings, took a sandwich at her desk and sat looking out the window.

Well girl wasn't exactly a holiday, but it did ease all sorts. She chuckled softly and flashed on a bunch of little memories. It wasn't really possible to catch up on twenty years in a few days, but they'd given it a good shot. Her smile widened and she spun slowly in her chair and pulled her shoulder bag close to grab that envelope.

Bout time you actually read this, though it's likely all old news now.

One and two thirds spaced A4 pages with a very basic outline of a life. Her eyes flowed down through the typed words and grunted softly at the name change only a few months after the disappearance. A bare bones history, current address, currently employed, da da da…

She smiled again and laughed aloud at a hand written comment at the end.

~~ Well there it is Lynne. All in all a pretty average inner suburban Jane,
well if you ignore the former Joe bit.
Decent but ordinary
hope that's what you need
Paul ~~

She whispered with a smile in her eyes and voice. "Ordinary? Oh I don't know Paul, not all that ordinary from where I sit." Sure put a twist in my life. Ordinary? Yes and no, but aren't we all.

She swivelled again and gazed smiling out the window for a minute until the phone rang. Back to the coal mine. "Lynne Wilkins…" a smile evident in her voice.

~~~ A beginning ~~~

Thanks to Angela Rasch, for looking at what is there or might be and sometimes pointing out the obvious… not an easy task, but you do it well. Your generosity is much appreciated.

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