The discovery of the money gave Lucy another problem, Andrea. She'd promised that she'd live with her until the Cowes week event. Now, she had enough money to do as she pleased with her life without her parents trying to tell her what to do ever again.
It was then that she realised that was exactly the reason why Andrea was crying. Andrea must have realised that Lucy didn't need her anymore. The visible change in Lucy over the past weeks thanks to Andrea had been there for everyone to see apart from Lucy herself.
Slowly it began to dawn upon her that Andrea had made her take stock of her life. She didn't know what she wanted to do with it but it, whatever it was, was on her mind now instead of being pushed back into the darkest recesses and filed under 'tomorrow'.
Had Andrea and her no-nonsense approach to life had made her grow up at least a little bit?
That and a thousand other questions raced through her mind. It was only when Andrea touched her arm lightly and said,
"Earth to planet Lucy, come in please?"
That she stopped starring into space.
"Sorry, I was miles away."
"In another galaxy if you ask me."
They both laughed.
It was Andrea who spoke first.
"I guess that this means that you don't need me anymore? I'll finish decorating the rooms and then start looking for somewhere else to live."
Lucy looked at Andrea. The spark that had been in her for the past few weeks had been completely snuffed out. Not only was the adventure over for her but she was thinking that she was about to be made homeless as well.
Lucy had to do something. Without Andrea, the money would have never been found. She owed her something. At that moment in time, she has absolutely no idea what she could do to sort out the problem.
"You will do no such thing. I owe you big time for finding the money."
Then for some reason her mouth became disengaged from her brain and she added,
"Besides, we had a deal."
"But… but with all that money you can give two fingers to your parents."
"I could but for starters, we have no idea if that money is real or not. What if it is fake? Then we'd be back to square one in a flash."
"But who'd stash that amount of fake money? Isn't the whole idea of forged money, to get it into circulation ASAP?"
"Then there is part of me saying that we should take it to the Police. That amount of money will put both of us under the spotlight which neither of us want at the moment. You with your parents and me for obvious reasons."
Lucy smiled back at Andrea. That girl had a sharp mind. She should be the one studying for her masters not her.
"Why don't we carry on as if it didn't exist while we find out if it is real and… well how we can use it without attracting attention to ourselves. I'll get the deeds to this place from the solicitors and see if I can shed any light on the people who owned it before me. Dad got someone to buy it for him at an Auction. It was bit of a 'doss' house before that. Dad had to spend a few grand, making it habitable again. I'm surprised that the builders who did that work didn't find the money and leg it there and then."
There as a silence between the two that lasted for some time. Eventually, Lucy stood up saying,
"I'll bag up this lot and keep it safe until I go to the bank tomorrow."
"What? You can't just turn up and try to pay that lot in. All sorts of alarm bells will begin ringing from here to London and beyond."
"I know that. That's why I'm going to see if they have any safe deposit boxes. Isn't that where lots of potentially dodgy things are stored? Or if they are not dodgy, the owners want to keep them away from prying eyes."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to scarper with it. If I went walkabout my Dad would have almost every P.I. in the country looking for me. He keeps tabs on me even here you know."
"Eh?" asked Andrea.
"Every few months I am followed by a guy. It turns out that he is a P.I. I don't need a degree to realise that he is being paid by my Father."
"But what if he is being paid by the people who left that money here?" retorted Andrea.
Lucy shook her head.
"Nah! The last time I was at home and he was out playing golf or something, I went rummaging through his papers. It didn't take long for me to find a series of payments to a P.I. company in Bradford. Now that I think about it, with the bombshell I dropped on Mum about having a woman as a partner, you staying here is actually the best thing all round."
Andrea sat there open mouthed for several seconds.
"But we will still have to go through all the being a couple stuff. Are you sure that you can go through with it?"
Lucy looked at her companion.
"You know what, I think it will be fun. I kinda like you and I'd like to get to know you a lot better. You really have your head screwed on and well… I'm the opposite."
Andrea's tears started to flow again.
"You are just saying that. You don't mean it."
Once again, Andrea's mind took a hike as she came around the table and sat on Andrea's lap. Then she took hold of her face in both hands and kissed Andrea very long, very hard and very, very passionately.
When they came up for air, both were rather breathless.
"Do you think I mean it now?" breathed Lucy.
"That was nice," replied Andrea.
"Good. Then let's keep going. Isn't there some painting that needs doing?"
Andrea shook her head.
"You do the cooking and I'll do the painting."
"But I'm hopeless at cooking,"
"And even worse at painting."
"I think I'm going to enjoy being your housewife."
Lucy just stared at Andrea open mouthed. Andrea just grinned back.
"Now I know you are joking," came her eventual reply.
"Really?" teased Andrea.
Lucy found a bank the next day that had a safe deposit section and rented a box large enough to hold most of the money. They'd agreed to keep around four thousand back to use for the project.
Then Lucy deposited a thousand of it into her bank. To her immense surprise the cashier didn't bat an eyelid as she accepted the notes. The other half, she gave to Andrea.
"What's this for?" asked Andrea in astonishment when she was handed the money.
"Expenses. I've put the same amount into my bank."
Then Lucy grinned.
"With the rest, we should open a joint account. This place needs furnishing and I need a complete new wardrobe as do you for the week in Cowes. It won't last long but it will do for a start."
A week later and Andrea had both good news and bad waiting for Lucy when she got home from University.
"I was fired today. They said my mind wasn't on the job. More like that I was coming to the end of my trial period and they'd have to put me on a higher wage once it had expired. Some employers do this all the time just to keep costs down."
"You don't seem that disappointed?"
"The place was a shit hole. Still it will give me more time to finish fixing this place up won't it?"
"Then what's the good news?"
"I booked you into a decent salon so that you can get your hair done. A week on Wednesday at two."
"You…." Replied Lucy angrily. Then she realised that Andrea was playing her part as a couple and she'd agreed to do it.
"I'll go but I have total control over the style and colour ok?"
"Tommy will have some suggestions," replied Andrea grinning.
"You know the hairdresser on the main road by the traffic lights? He does my hair when I can afford it."
Lucy looked at Andrea's style. Today she was wearing it up in a style very reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. They'd watched it together the previous weekend.
"I don't know how to look after a style like yours."
"I know and made that clear to Tommy when I made the appointment."
"No surprises. I don't think I could handle pink hair."
"How about Platinum Blonde?"
"You haven't? Have you?"
"No, I haven't but I want to get you thinking about your own style and appearance. You can't just copy me. Your mother if she is as savvy as you have described her would see through it in an instant."
"I think I get it."
Then she sighed.
"You are right. Another part of having to think about life beyond that of a student."
"Good for you."
Now that Andrea was not working, she set about re-decorating the whole house. Nearly every day Lucy could see the changes and gradually, she got used to the new look. Out went lots of tatty and mostly threadbare furniture, carpets and curtains. In came a clean look that would have looked well in an expensive penthouse.
"How much is this costing?" she remarked one evening.
"Not much. Just a couple of hundred so far. The next bit will be more expensive though."
"Oh, and what's that?"
"New floors. I can't do that myself so we will have to get someone in to lay them. When they are down, I can finish painting in all the rooms."
"Eh? They look pretty complete to me."
"Not quite," replied Andrea with a smug grin on her face.
"The skirting boards are only primed. The floorer will need to undercut them to make the new wood floor fit nicely. When they are done, I can touch them up and paint them with gloss paint."
Lucy sat back and looked at Andrea.
"You are enjoying yourself, doing all this; aren't you?" asked Lucy as she pointed at the new décor.
"What's not to enjoy. This is the first time I've been able to do a proper job'."
"Why don't you do this full time? You seem to know Interior design and decoration? You seem pretty good at it if you don't mind me saying so."
This seemed to shock Andrea.
"I never thought about doing this stuff full time. I do enjoy it though."
"Well, why don't you give it some thought? I'm sure that you could make a decent career out of it."
Andrea thought for a moment before replying.
"Well, you are a great customer. Not all are like that. How about doing it together?"
"Well, you have no clue about what you want to do when you get your masters. Well, what about this?"
"I'm hopeless. You have seen how bad I am for yourself."
"You can learn. I did. Sure, I made mistakes but I had a great teacher who was very patient with me."
"I don't know."
"Well, think about it. At least there is an answer to one inevitable question that you will get asked in the summer."
"Eh? What's that?"
"Oh silly, the 'what are you going to do next' question. It seems to me that if you say 'I don't know' then that leaves you open to manipulation by your parents. If you say, 'I'm an interior designer and decorator', you have made a definitive statement. That blocks them from trying to make you into a clone of your Mother."
Lucy sat silently for almost a minute. Then she replied grinning,
"Are you sure that you shouldn't be doing the Masters and not me?"
"Pah! I have the experience of life. I would not be sitting here if I had said 'I don't know'. I knew what I had to do with my life from about 6 years old. I only regret that my parents would not hear of me going to see a specialist about getting gender treatment. I had to leave home and do things for myself. That meant that I had to grow up pretty quickly. It was either that or go under."
Lucy reached over and took Andrea's hand. She squeezed it gently.
"You are just too nice to me."
"Bollocks," retorted Andrea.
The pair of them collapsed laughing.
The day of Lucy's 'hair transformation' arrived all too soon. She'd debated putting it off but knew in her heart that it had to be done sooner or later. Her problem was that she was not a 'girly' girl at heart whereas Andrea was more 'girly' that she'd ever be and she wasn't…
The fact that Andrea wasn't a real girl hardly crossed Lucy's mind anymore. She'd just accepted that Andrea was a woman and becoming very dear to her.
With some trepidation, Lucy entered the Hairdressing Salon. She needn't have been worried because Andrea was there waiting for her.
"W… What are you doing here?" asked a very surprised Lucy.
"Oh, just to give you a bit of moral support, and to get my roots done."
As far as Lucy was concerned, Andrea's roots didn't need doing but what did she know as she'd never had her hair coloured before.
"Well hello my darling. I've heard so much about you. I'm Tommy and I'll be doing your hair today."
Lucy took a step back as she saw the owner of the voice. Tommy was at least 6ft 6in tall, as black as the ace of spades with a Mohican mane dyed a vivid blue for a hairstyle.
"Welcome to my emporium and my capable hands," said Tommy in a smooth seductive voice.
"He… Hello, I'm Lucy."
"Well, Lucy my dear, April will take care of you and wash your hair. Have you given any thought to a style and colour for the new you?"
"I… I don't know. Andrea suggested Platinum Blonde and a Marilyn Wave but I know that she was joking mind you, I think it would suit you.
What do you think April?"
The assistant April was ginger, very ginger.
"I think fire engine Red," she replied grinning.
"Now April don't be silly. Not everyone can be a red-top."
All the time, Tommy was feeling Lucy's hair.
"You have lovely hair my dear. So, what if you haven't had it properly cut for a long time, you do take pretty good care of your hair. That fact alone will save me a lot of work. So, my dear how about I just lighten this mane up a bit and then style it? Nothing too drastic first time out.
What do you say?"
Lucy looked at Andrea who was tittering in the background.
Then she said defiantly,
"No. I want a Blonde Bob with a blue streak down each side and another band down the back. How does that sound?"
"Your wish is my command. April, to the wash basin if you please."
April took Lucy away while Tommy tutted at Andrea.
"Less of the mischief young lady. Roots time I see?"
"Yes, please Tommy," replied Andrea grinning.
"Let's get busy then."
Two hours later a beaming Lucy emerged from the dryer.
"How do I look?" she asked with a beaming smile of her face.
The blue streaks framed her brilliant green eyes very well.
"Wonderful," exclaimed Andrea.
"A masterpiece if I don't mind saying so myself," said Tommy modestly.
There was a definite spring in her step as Lucy walked home and in hand with Andrea. Andrea just smiled at her partner.
That night Andrea said,
"You know that's just the start of what we have to do to prepare for you know what."
"I know but it is a big step, isn't it?"
"That remains to be seen. A step yes. Now for your next one."
Lucy let out a groan.
"What's next Mrs Slave-driver?"
"Well… As you have started at the top let's work downwards. Guess what is next?"
"Makeup? Please no."
"Yes, and properly looking after your skin. Let's make tomorrow the last day that you don't look after your skin and not wear any makeup. I don't mean that it is plastered all over your face like so many women. Just enough to enhance your already very pretty face."
"No rest for the wicked then?"
Andrea just smiled back.
Lucy hated the routine that wearing makeup on a daily basis demanded but she gradually warmed to the look that she was able to achieve with Andrea's help. The biggest difference was that Andrea made sure that she looked after her skin. The never-ending round of spots and blemishes that she'd lived with for years, seemed to disappear almost overnight. That in turn meant that she could follow Andrea's 'Less is More' mantra more easily.
With the decorating almost done Andrea turned her attention to furnishing their home. Her eclectic style was not to everyone's preference but it seemed to work. Despite having money in the bank, Andrea still bought a lot of the furniture from second-hand shops and did a lot of repair and repainting down in the cellar. She also turned one of the bedrooms into a workroom where she made curtains and other soft furnishings. Lucy could only look on in bewilderment as her partner transformed and created their home in front of her eyes. Andrea to her credit discussed everything with Lucy before actually doing anything.
By the time Easter came around, Lucy was competent with her makeup apart from her eye-liner which still gave her trouble if she wasn't concentrating.
The pair had settled down into some form of domestic bliss. Lucy was well ahead with her work for University so they planned a day trip to the countryside for Easter Sunday but one phone call was about to ruin the whole thing.
"Hello Mother," said Lucy as she took one of the fairly infrequent calls from home.
"What can I do for you?"
"I've been busy with my University work. I do have deadlines to meet you know. I'm only half way through my dissertation," she replied lying through her teeth.
Her whole demeanour changed.
"Oh. We were going to the Dales for the day."
"Yes we. Andrea and me. We live together. If you remember, I did tell you that I was in a relationship with a woman."
"Where will you be staying?"
"I see. When will you be arriving here?"
"Yes, you are welcome at our home. How about my Father? Is he coming too?"
"Oh, I see."
"Well, let me know when you get to your Hotel. I know how bad the traffic can be on a Friday."
"Yes, Mother I will. Bye".
Lucy sat motionless for several minutes wondering how she could tell Andrea about the impending visit of her Mother over the Easter Weekend.
In the end, she realised that there was nothing for it but to tell her directly.
Andrea was down in the Cellar putting some varnish on piece of furniture when Lucy wandered down to see her.
"I'll be done in a moment," said Andrea from the floor.
"What are you doing down there?"
"I'm Putting varnish on the legs. Easier to lie on the floor than to struggle on my knees."
"Sorry I asked," replied Lucy none the wiser.
A couple of minutes later, Andrea stood up with a smile on her face.
"There all done. Let me put this bush in the cleaner and I'm all yours," said Andrea with a smile on her face.
With that done, she turned her attention to Lucy.
"Now what brings you down here right now?"
Lucy swallowed hard.
"I just had a phone call from my Mother."
"And she's coming to visit?"
"What? How did you know?"
"Your face gave the game away. Mention of your Mother along with a face like death can only mean one thing."
"You know me too well."
"Easter Friday to Monday."
"Oh well. Bang goes our visit to Malham Tarn then."
"I suppose so."
"She'll want to come here and meet me then?"
Lucy just nodded.
"And she'll go snooping?"
"Yes. How did you know?"
"I would if I was her."
"What do we do then?"
"Well, the first thing would be for me to move into your room. And, I mean properly move in."
Lucy just nodded.
Andrea wiped her hands on a fairly clean rag and took Lucy's hands in hers.
"Don't worry, we'll get through you this."
"But we will have to pretend that we are a couple."
"Really? I thought we were apart from sleeping together."
Then Andrea kissed Lucy properly for the first time. Lucy didn't object once she'd got over the smell of varnish that was on Andrea.
[to be continued in part 5]
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