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Babes

Avril O’Connor was like a sister to me. I was an only child and, when I met her at boarding school for the first time, I absolutely loathed her. We were both 14, she, tall and skinny, I, short and dumpy. She had long, slightly wavy and very glossy blonde hair, mine was reddish, and unmanageable. She was also clever, routinely coming first in any tests we were subjected to. You probably think that the cause of my loathing was simple jealousy, but the truth was that I had worked out, despite being a gauche 14 year old, that I was gay and resented the fact that someone so beautiful as Avril was unlikely to reciprocate any feelings I might have. In a youthful show of stupidity, I turned disappointment into hatred, albeit unexpressed.

It all changed during a geography field trip when we were 15. Our teacher, Miss Parminter, was almost a caricature. She had teeth like a horse, a grey bun and wore horn-rimmed spectacles, a khaki bush hat, canvas trousers with pockets everywhere, and sported a haversack. Yes, haversack. No rucksack for her. This was made of canvas too and also had more pockets and leather straps than looked good for it. Her boots were elderly, her socks hairy and pulled up over her trousers. She marched, rather than walked and she took long, ungainly strides. I was going through that sullen phase. Everything was boring. I hated school that year and would gladly have been anywhere but in that dank woodland trying to recognise land features that were so incomprehensibly recorded on the Ordnance Survey map we’d all been given.

The crocodile of ‘young ladies’ got a bit stretched out in the wake of Miss Parminter’s energetic march and I decided that I’d take a breather. I slipped into a cool clearing only to find Avril, lying on her back with a bottle of cider at her side and a cigarette in her mouth.

“Hi, Ginge,” Ginger or Ginge being the name assigned to me although I am in fact Theresa. “Pull up a toadstool and have a drink.” I looked around to check we were unobserved. “Don’t worry, Pony wont discover we’re missing for ages yet.” Pony Parminter was the teacher’s nickname due, largely, to her teeth. “Have a drink.” She passed me the bottle and I took a grateful swig. “Fancy a fag?” I didn’t smoke but, somehow eager to cement a friendship since she was being so sharing, I took one and, after an initial paroxysm of coughing, discovered I actually liked it and felt very sophisticated.

“First one?” I nodded. “Well, you did rather well.” She smiled “I nearly threw up my first time.” I took another sip of cider. “Finish it, if you want. I’ve got a couple more. It doesn’t pay to come on a field trip without some means of numbing oneself.”

“What happens when she finds we’re missing?”

“Oh, that’s easy. We’ll make our way back to the hostel and tell her we got lost but managed to find our way back by map reading. She’ll be delighted.”

“Can you read the map?”

“Don’t be ludicrous. I left a trail of peanuts on the path.” She waved a packet of nuts at me that she had taken from her jeans pocket. “Got to plan these things. My sister is in the sixth form and she gave me tuition in Pony management.”

I laughed, my nervousness reduced by the alcohol. “How long do you reckon we have?”

“My sister, June, reckons about half an hour. Then we amble back making it look as though we were a bit scared.”

“And what if we bump into the rest of them.”

“Oh, simplicity itself. We ask them if they got lost.”

I discovered Avril was a great companion. She made me laugh, was bold but not reckless and she had a delightful sense of mischief. The fact she was lovely to look at somehow made it all seem even more wonderful. The crush I had on her was squeezed a little further than ever.

We started walking back, following the trail of peanuts through the woodland. “Got a boyfriend?” I said I had not. “Nor me. I had one before I came to school. He’s 16 and said he wasn’t going to wait for me because boys need to get a lot of sex in early on so they’re ready for when the time comes. Not that we ever had actual sex. I dont think he knew how. Prick.”

“What time?” She looked at her watch, but I said, “no, for when what time comes?”

“Oh. I couldn’t be bothered to ask. I didn’t want him to wait anyway. I want someone a bit more experienced than a spotty 16 year old. Have you seen the new Chemistry teacher, Mr Sandell?” I nodded. “Now that’s the sort of thing I want. Except his beard is ginger. Oh, nothing against ginger hair, so don’t sulk, but a ginger beard makes it look like he’s tried to eat the cat. Lovely bum though, don’t you think?”

I agreed of course. In those days, girls like me learned to hide themselves behind a disguise of being normal.

“When we get back from this nauseatingly boring trip, I shall try to seduce him. It won’t work, of course, but it’ll be good practice.”

Finally we arrived back at the hostel. Pony Parminter was strutting about anxiously and almost leapt into the air when we emerged through a hedge. “Avril O’Connor, Theresa Lewis, where have you two been?” I couldn’t decide if she was scared or angry.

Avril canlı bahis şirketleri looked her straight in the eye. “We got a bit lost Miss, but we managed to find our way back using the map.” She’d been holding the map, and showed it to Pony, revealing a few well-judged pencil marks for the sake of authenticity. “Ginger here is great with a compass.”

Pony looked at me, gimlet-eyed. “You have a compass, Theresa?”

Avril was ready for that. “She borrowed mine, Miss. She didn’t think to bring one of her own.”

Pony turned and addressed the rest of the group in laudatory tones. “See, girls,” pronounced Gells, of course, “how a map and a compass can save lives in difficult circumstances. Avril and Theresa have been very resourceful and employed the skills I have tried so hard to teach you.” She turned back to us. “Well done you two. Supper will be by the barbecue at 7. Go and get showered and changed.”

From that day on we were inseparable. My rather naive lust turned to genuine friendship and, although I realised she was never going to be my lover, she was always going to be my friend.

All through school she was there for me; wiser, craftier and loyal. When a 15 year old Prudence Hawkins, known as Sticks, bullied me and threatened to beat me up, Avril was there, beside me. Hawkins was captain of the under 16s hockey team, hence the soubriquet Sticks, and built like a bulldozer. She was taller, heavier and stronger than either of us but Avril got between us. “You’re far too fat to go threatening people, Sticks. For one you’re not quick enough to catch us and if you fall over, you’ll never get up again.”

Sticks took an almighty swing with her fist which Avril evaded only to kick her very hard in the stomach. Sticks went down like a ton of bricks, unable to draw breath for a few seconds. When she could, she uttered dire threats. “Fuck off,” said Avril.

I told her later how brave she was. “Bollocks. Sticks is all wind and piss and I managed to kick a bit of wind out of her.”

Avril’s sister, June became head girl, and, as if by regal succession, so too, later, did Avril. She was much more subversive than her sister and continued, despite apparent maturity and respectability much admired by the teaching staff, to play fast and loose with school rules and to lead me along in her glorious escapades.

We had a last hurrah when we travelled the world together for our gap year. It was glorious. We were free of school, parents and looking to explore the world that was opening up before us.

By this time she was well aware I was gay. “Sorry to disappoint, Ginge. I’m definitely the boring, straight sort but, hell, fuck who you want, I say,” was all she’d said when she had forced me into confessing my sexuality. “My uncle’s as queer as a three-eyed antelope and a bloody marvellous bloke.”

Separated by different Universities, she at Cambridge, I at Bristol, we kept in touch loosely for the following few years until we both returned to our home city with our academic qualifications secured. We’d seen each other during that time of course, holidays and so on, but on our return to our families’ homes, we’d had a reunion party for two during which we drank copious amounts of white wine, smoked and bragged of our successes, failures and conquests during our University careers.

“Weren’t you dating an Austrian medic at one point?” she asked.

“Margarethe. She’s in her final year of her doctorate back in Vienna now.”

“What was she like?”

“Bloody vigorous.”

Avril hooted with laughter. “What a great compliment. I had the great insult of having a brief and meaningful with a music student, called Kevin, who dumped me for a boy in the orchestra. Apparently he played trombone so he probably gave a better blow job even than me.”

“Surely not.”

“I know it’s hard to believe.”

I was a bridesmaid at her wedding. The hen party was a riot and we barely made the church the following morning. As I adjusted her dress when she got out of the wedding car she said, “Christ, I think I am going to vomit.”

“Must have been something you ate,” I said. Laughter, the best cure for nausea and nerves. We managed to get through the ceremony and reception.

She called me a few days after returning from her honeymoon. It was a call mainly to thank me but as she was about to hang up, she said, “You’ll find someone too, you know.” She knew I’d been in a bit of a sexual desert since the collapse of a relationship a year before her wedding.

Little did she know, but I had. At least, I was in the early stages of dating a rather lovely solicitor called Annabelle but known as Belle. I’d met her when I had gone to their practice to discuss an advertising feature. I have omitted to tell you I’d studied journalism at Bristol and was now the youngest and most inexperienced reporter on a local paper. That meant I spent many hours in the lower criminal courts, reporting on the mischief perpetrated by the criminals of the district, visit bereaved families to get a glimpse into the life of the paragon (nothing enhances your reputation canlı kaçak iddaa like dying) that was the late Grandfather or whatever, and reported on such major events as church fetes and school sports days.

Annabelle Day met me in the reception area and suggested that, rather than talk in her office, we should go to a local cafe and she would brief me there. She was smart, in a black trouser suit with a cap of ash blonde hair that contrasted with surprisingly blue eyes. Lust alert. We sat at a table with a cafetière of coffee and a couple of cups and I took copious notes as she told me what they wanted. She gave me a couple of brochures that outlined their services, a few photographs of the partners but, sadly, not one of her. I was being total professional outwardly, and rather the opposite in my knickers under my tidy, black and grey dress.

“Oh,” she said, “and please call me Belle, I hate Annabelle. I am Belle Day – Belle de Jour, get it?”

I got it.

I went back to the office and got stuck into the piece. I asked my boss to read it before I went back to her and he said, “It’ll do,” which was high praise even if he did correct three spelling errors. I called Belle and we set up a meeting to review the piece. She pronounced it perfect and asked me out for a drink after work one evening. I agreed, probably all too eagerly.

We had a great time and it extended into having a curry together after a few glasses of wine. She had a wonderful sense of humour, and laughed, like a drain, over my recounting of the geography field trip. I felt comfortable with her. Comfortable enough that when she asked me if I had a boyfriend, I replied that men weren’t quite my thing, but not to worry, I wasn’t the aggressive sort. She nodded and smiled and that was that.

She called me when I was in the office, Friday, a few days after the feature had been published. “My boss was absolutely delighted with your piece for us. He says there will be more. The response has been brilliant. Fancy a drink after work?” I did. “Oh, and Theresa, men aren’t my thing either.” She rang off before I could say anything. I sat at my desk in a sort of trance, still holding the phone.

“Lewis!” my boss’s voice shattered my trance, “where’s that fucking court report?”

I got to the bar a few minutes late. Belle was sitting at a table in the courtyard behind the bar, smoking a cigarette which she waved at me as I sat. “A vice, but who gives a shit?”

“Not me. Can I have one? I smoke about 10 a year but smelling yours has made me want one.”

“Bumming fags on a second date?”

Was it a date? Goodness me. “Not a phrase you could use comfortably in America.”

She laughed as she seemed to always; with genuine gusto. We drank wine, smoked a few cigarettes and then a sort of serious look came over her. “This is a second date, isn’t it?”

“I’d say not.”

“No?” She looked almost crestfallen.

“No, the first time we met for a drink was you saying thank you. This is a first date.”

She beamed. “Pedant.”

“And,” I said, compounding my mistake, “I felt butterflies in my stomach earlier this evening. That’s a sure sign of a first date.”

She leaned forward and her hand covered mine. “Well, that’s a bit of a shame.”?

“Why?”

“Because,” she whispered, “I never take a woman to bed on a first date.”

Now, that was a bit of a surprise. Two things about it in fact. One was ‘take a woman to bed’ which is so, so different from ‘go to bed with a woman,’ and made me shiver, and the fact that she was bold enough to mention going to bed at all.

I looked into her eyes. Her hand closed over mine. “Am I allowed to answer your question again?” She nodded. “This is, definitely and incontrovertibly, a second date.”

“Good answer.”

Her flat was nearer, and bigger, than mine. It was on the ground floor, like mine. We got through the street door, then the door to her apartment and that was when she kissed me for the first time. There was no hurry. We stood, and after a few false starts when she’d get really close to my mouth then ease back a fraction, our lips met, mine parted and we started a little tongue wrestling and touching each other; arms, shoulders, backs, hips, until her fingers found the zip at the back of my dress and she, very slowly, pulled it down. Once she’d opened it, her hand started to stroke my spine and i lifted my arms around her neck and revelled in her touch. Her free hand found my breast and palmed it through the soft cotton of my dress. Well, I thought, two can play that game, so I slipped my hand inside the leather jacket she was wearing and discovered that, like me, she wasn’t wearing a bra. Her nipple was hard and I rolled it gently between my fingertips and that was when it all started to get a bit more urgent.

Belle stepped back and forced my dress down off my shoulders until it fell to the floor and I as left in just my rather unexciting cotton knickers and canvas shoes. She devoured my breasts and her hand went between my legs. Having pushed her jacket off her shoulders, she helped by shrugging it off then canlı kaçak bahis re-engaging with my nipple as I unbuttoned her shirt and pulled it out of her trousers. I always find undoing trousers a pain in the arse but, with a little help it was accomplished and I worked my hand inside her panties as hers was inside mine. She almost tripped over her trousers as she hastened to get me into her bedroom and she laughed that full-body laugh of hers. I held her up as she, comically, hopped out of her pants and then we were on the bed.

What followed is a blur. Finally naked, she almost ripped my knickers off but didn’t bother with my shoes. She went down between my thighs, licked me, fingered me, then back up to my tits, her mound pressed to mine. Then I was on my front and she was lying on top of me, kissing my neck. Now on my back, she straddled my face and leaned down so we were both kissing cunt, licking, tasting. That was how she came. It was a howl, an ecstatic, primal bellow that was the catalyst for my own more muted orgasm.

Spent, we lay like that, face to cunt. Finally, she rolled off me, moved to lie beside me.

“You know what?”?

“What.”?

“I could mistake you for being queer.”?

“How dare you?”

She kissed me again and that, inevitably led to a second round.

I was, as they say, walking on air that weekend. I stayed the night with her, then, after a breakfast fuck and a bit of toast for breakfast, we walked the couple of miles to my flat in warm sunshine; the weather seeming to reflect my mood. We had showered together at hers, so I changed and then we went out to find somewhere for lunch. She stayed at mine that night, but had had the forethought to bring clean knickers so we were able to go for a walk in the country without having to return to her place.

I slept alone that Sunday night and felt her absence like an ache.

Before I went to bed, I called Avril. “Hi, Avril, it seems ages since we’ve spoken and I just wanted to see how you’re doing.”

“You got laid, didn’t you?”

“What?”?

“Come off it, Ginge. How long have I know you? Your voice is completely different when you’ve had sex.”

We laughed our way through a twenty minute conversation, largely about me describing Belle and telling Avril I’d told Belle about the field trip and her reaction.

“She sounds lovely. Don’t fuck it up.”

Monday morning and I was in the Magistrates Court. That is the lowest of the criminal courts and where all the shit goes on, drink driving, brawls, petty theft, along with a few more serious cases that were being referred up to the Crown Court, where the more serious offences are dealt with. When the court adjourned for lunch I went outside and ate a sandwich, sitting on a bench. A woman I vaguely recognised sat down next to me. She was about fifty her hair tied back in a severe bun, a rather elderly looking grey trouser suit and sensible brogue shoes.

“I’m DS Roberts, Frances. You’re the cub reporter on the ‘Voice,’ right?”

“Yes, Theresa Lewis.”

“See that guy standing by the fountain, talking to the older man?” I did. “He’s probably the most corrupt lawyer in this city.”

I turned back to look at her. “Why are you telling me?”

“Because someone needs to do something about him and I have been warned off.”?

“Warned off by whom?”?

“My bosses. That makes me even more sure I’m right and I have no idea where it might end up. Don’t look now, but I have slipped an envelope into your bag. Read it when you get back to your office. My private number’s in there too.”

Then she was gone.

Fortunately, the court finished early that afternoon and I went back to the office, eager to see what she’d given me. It was an A4 envelope stuffed with papers.

The first thing was a typewritten note., an old-fashioned, mechanical typewriter.

“Never reveal how you got this. James Palmer is a solicitor. He has his own firm and mostly deals with criminal cases. He works alone but with a group of private investigators. They are mostly ex-coppers and thugs. Two of his clients are big players in vice. One is Gerry Kola, an Albanian. He’s loaded and owns a few bars and a nightclub. But that’s all cover. He runs women, some as young as 14, into the UK from Eastern Europe. The other is his sidekick, a local boy called Henry Palmer. They are both protected and I think it’s by a couple of Detectives in our vice squad. See what you can do, but be careful.”

I phoned her. “Why me?”

“Because nobody would ever think someone as insignificant as you would be given the steer. Take care. They’re bad men, especially Kola.”

The dossier was surprisingly detailed. So now, I had to decide what to do. I could go it alone to start with, build on the dossier. Or, I could go straight to my boss and tell him what I’d been given. He’d laugh me out of his office. But then, there was Larry Snape. Larry was a drunk, a relic from the unreconstructed past of journalism, a once great investigative journalist brought low by a libel case and whisky. He now, out of our editor’s rarely exposed sympathy for him, or for anyone else, come to that, did a column in our Saturday edition on farming, about which he knew as much as my bicycle does. I absolutely adored him. On his day he was funny and amazingly good company. He called me his Tess of the D’urbervilles.

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