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A Slow Seduction

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It’s a horrible feeling to be betrayed by someone you thought you could completely trust. When I caught my husband…but I’m running ahead of myself.

I’m Tina Birch, formerly Mrs Tina Donnelly. Tim and I met when we were both 23, and on the rebound from other relationships. We married at 25, and spent 13 years together, as far as I knew happy and in love. Of course we irritated each other at times, what couple doesn’t, and we had rows, but I assumed we were, well, at least comfortable with our marriage. His teaching career prospered, my Civil Service career rather stalled; shortly after I met Tim I had an opportunity to join a fast-track scheme that night have seen me shoot up the ladder, but I turned it down because I thought it was more important to be supportive to my then fiancé. We never had children — we were both a bit diffident about the idea, and although we made a few token efforts it never really took. Perhaps if we had, things would have turned out differently. Probably not. Well, anyway.

I started to suspect something at a party we went to, thrown by friends. One of the women at the party was a decorator who’d done some work at our house a few months earlier. I’d got on well with her at the time. Naturally we chatted with her, and she and Tim seemed to have a sort of sparky humour between them. There were also tiny glances between them that I picked up, the sort of momentary look you give someone when you want to share a secret with them, but you can’t because someone else is there. Later, I went to look for Tim because I was ready to leave, and I saw them standing in a little summerhouse, holding each other’s hands, their heads very close as they talked quietly. They didn’t see me. Tim broke away — reluctantly it seemed to me — and I scuttled away to let him find me.

When we got home, he could tell there was something wrong, and asked me what it was. I shrugged, and asked, “How long has it been going on?” You and Gillian?” He dredged up a bewildered look, and pretended he had no idea what I meant. That angered me. “Oh come on Tim, I’m not a complete fool. I saw the looks between you. And I saw you in the summerhouse. Please at least show me enough respect to be honest with me.”

The look on his face at that comment made me wonder what I might have seen if I’d got to that summerhouse a few minutes earlier. But he sank into a chair, gave me an earnest look, and said, “Tina, I’m sorry. I’ll end it, I promise. I know it’s a terrible cliché, but it doesn’t mean anything to me, I don’t know why I let her start it. I love you sweetheart, you know that.” I spent a couple of nights in the spare room, thinking about the position. Then he told me he’d finished it with Gillian, and, well, we ended up making love that night, for the first time in weeks. I lay awake for hours afterwards though, wondering if I could ever really trust him again.

A few nights later I found out. On Mondays Tim went to a regular pub quiz with a number of work colleagues. He’d originally asked me to be a member of the team but I’m not into quizzes — as far as I’m concerned I get asked quite enough stupid questions at work. Normally he took a taxi home, so he could drink, but that night I decided to go and pick him up. God knows why I chose that night, maybe I felt guilty about not having faith in him, or perhaps it was my subconscious talking to me. Whatever; anyway, I turned up at the pub, and there were the team, sitting laughing and boozing, except that one chair was empty. When they saw me they immediately went quiet and a bit shifty, and I knew something was up. I asked where Tim was, and one of the guys, probably a bit too pissed to be sensible, said, “He’s just gone out the back for a moment.” Then he winced as another one kicked him under the table. He called to my retreating back, “Tina, hang on, I meant he’s out the back at the loo”

I stalked down the small corridor to the rear entrance of the pub — past the gents’ toilet — with my heart racing. That door was hardly ever used, and led into a grubby little alley strewn with empty bottles, newspapers and used condoms. As I opened the door, in the half-light from the toilet window I saw about five yards away a figure leaning back against the wall. He was groaning, and there was another figure crouched in front of him, her head pressed to his groin. As I watched in open-mouthed horror, I heard my husband’s voice mutter, “Oh fuck Gill, that’s sweet.” Tim didn’t see me standing there, but I’m pretty sure the fucking bitch-slut did.

I had trouble driving home. At one point I shot a red light and had to pull over to calm down, swiping angry tears from my face, before I finished the journey slowly and carefully. Tim arrived home about 20 minutes later, and his friends had clearly told him I’d rushed back through the pub and screamed that they were bastards. He stood across the room to me, shrugged, and said simply, “Tina, I’m sorry.”

I clenched my hands, determined not to cry. I replied, “For what? For lying to me and not really breaking Anadolu Yakası Escort it off? Or about me finding out?”

He stepped closer to me and reached a hand out to me. Then he spoke to me as if I was a petulant child — I always used to hate it when he patronised me like that. “Look, we’re both a bit overwrought tonight. Let’s just go to bed, and we can talk about this tomorrow, when we’re less tired.”

I stared at him in total disbelief. Then I hurled myself at him, fists flailing, and screaming, “You fucking, fucking bastard, how dare you!” I think the suddenness of my attack caught him off-guard, and he staggered back. I saw a trickle of blood from his lower lip, and realised I’d really connected. He looked furious for a moment, then turned on his heel and strode out of the room.

The next morning he tried to speak to me, but I’d locked the door to the spare room. I waited until he’d left for school, then threw as many clothes as I could into our biggest suitcase, phoned in sick to work and wheeled the case down to the nearest tube station. The house belonged to Tim, inherited from his grandparents, so there was no question of him moving out. It was as I was standing on the crowded train, wondering which stop I was getting off at, that I realised I didn’t have the slightest idea where I was going to sleep that night. I went to an internet café and found a cheap hotel in Kings Cross. I thought it would do for a night or two until I sorted myself out. After I’d checked in I stood and stared at myself in the full length mirror on the wall in my room. So this was me — 38, pale, shoulder-length blonde hair a bit bedraggled from the drizzle which had been falling outside, at least half a stone overweight, separated — permanently — from my cheating shit of a husband — and homeless. I’m five-feet-four, with boobs that strain a B-cup and wide hips, and any amount of extra weight looks terrible on me. I hadn’t been to a gym for about three years, but I decided that was one of the first things that was going to change.

The next few days were some of the worst of my life. With no cooking facilities I was eating at Burger King for my supper, and the hotel room was tiny and a bit smelly, with nothing to sit on but the bed. The other girls in my office – there are five of us – could tell something was up with me, but I wasn’t ready to tell them my marriage had collapsed. I had to set up my own bank account, transfer a fair share of our joint account into it, let all sorts of other people know not to contact me at home…it was all too much for me. On the Thursday, after two nights in my dingy hotel room, I snapped at one of the other girls over something really trivial, she snapped back, and next thing I knew I was in floods of tears, with the poor kid standing there bewildered, wondering what the hell she’d done. Of course, it all came out then. The girls were great about it, cuddling me until I calmed down, making me cups of coffee, cracking jokes to try to cheer me up…that evening all four of them took me to a pasta place for dinner, then to our local pub.

I drank rather too much, and my best mate in the office, Carmen, helped me home on the tube. She was shocked when she saw where I was staying. “No way! Look, I live on my own – the place is tiny, but tomorrow you’re going to pack up all your belongings, check out of here and come and crash on my bed-settee till we find you something better. Tine, are you listening?” I nodded drunkenly. The next morning she phoned me to make sure I really had heard her, which was just as well otherwise I’d probably have slept all day. By the time I’d dragged my huge suitcase onto the tube, getting dagger stares from hundreds of commuters, then up to my office on the fifth floor of our building, I was knackered. As I flopped into my chair Carmen brought me a lovely cup of tea and grinned triumphantly. “I’ve got a better solution for you. You know Alice, downstairs in Contracts? Well, she’s looking for a new housemate at the moment, and she said she’d be happy to let you share with her.”

I certainly knew Alice. I also knew I wasn’t at all sure I’d be comfortable sharing with her. She was a cheery girl of about 23, solid without being fat, with short red hair and freckles. I went and talked to her about it, and all the arrangements sounded fine. There was one issue bothering me, but I hesitated to mention it. Finally, nervously, I said, “Erm, there’s just one thing — aren’t you gay?”

I was sure she was going to be offended, but she grinned. “Oh yeah, totally. Don’t worry though Tina, I’m just offering you a place of your own, not trying to pull you. No offence, but you’re not my type.” I laughed and thanked her, feeling a complete fool. That evening Alice helped me with my case back to her place in Kensal Rise. It was a terrace house, with a shared lounge and kitchen downstairs, shared bathroom upstairs and two bedrooms. Mine was a decent size, and besides the single bed and the other usual fittings there Anadolu Yakası Escort Bayan was a writing desk, a comfy armchair, a good quality TV that the previous occupant had left, and a Yale lock on the door. I immediately felt I’d be very comfortable there. Alice and I shared a glass of wine in the lounge to mark my arrival, then she left me to settle in. I sat on the bed and reflected with amazement that on Monday morning I’d been a married woman, by Friday night I was the separated flatmate of a young lesbian.

I didn’t see much of Alice at the weekend, but on the Monday we travelled to and from work together. That evening I was just settling down in my room to watch TV over a bowl of soup when she tapped on my door and asked if I’d like to join her downstairs. Being the new girl I had felt a bit nervous about just barging in, but I was happy to accept her invitation. Alice and I quickly became good mates. It turned out we had quite similar tastes in TV, especially soaps and comedy, and we regularly spent the evening together watching, or listening to music as we talked about everything and nothing. I usually made myself scarce when she had a girlfriend round — rarely the same one twice — unless I was invited in to join them (in the lounge I hasten to add, not Alice’s bedroom!). We both took a half-day off work one day and sneaked back to my old home — Tim’s home — to pack my remaining belongings into the mini van we’d hired for the purpose. They made my room back at my new home a bit cluttered, but it was worth it.

The Sunday after that, Alice tapped on my door just before noon. “Hi Tine, I normally go and meet up with a few friends down at the pub on a Sunday for lunch. D’you fancy coming along?”

“Thanks Alice,” I said, “but you young things don’t want an old bag like me there.”

She grinned at that. “You’re as old as you feel. Honestly, you’ll like the girls, and they’ll like you. Some of them are ancient — as old as 27, even! Seriously, they’re a friendly bunch – come on Tine, it’s a laugh.”

A thought occurred to me. “Er, Alice, are the girls…”

She smiled and shook her head, in half-amusement and half-irritation. “Yes Tina, we’re all gay. And what we do is, we have this big lesbian orgy right there in the middle of the pub floor every week, gives the lads something to watch over their pints till the football comes on the telly.”

I laughed at my own stupidity, to try and cover my embarrassment. “Sorry I’m such an arsehole. Yeah, I’d love to come, thank you.”

I did have a really good time. I accompanied Alice regularly after that – there were usually somewhere between five and eight of us there, and we talked, laughed, lunched on typical pub grub, and listened to the regular live set of classic ’70s blues and soul from a local duo. Within a couple of weeks I was just accepted as one of the gang — nobody could have cared less that I was straight, and I enjoyed the catty gossip among the girls about their friends, enemies, romances, and the evils of men in general, as much as they did. The other regulars all knew the noisy birds in the corner were a bunch of dykes, but weren’t in the least bit bothered, greeting us with jovial cordiality.

There was one girl who seemed to particularly take a shine to me. Her name was Laurel and she was 25, tall and slim with long, chestnut coloured hair, and a pretty face with big brown eyes, high cheekbones and lips which seemed to form a natural pout. She had a soft voice with the slightest trace of a Scots accent — she was from Stirling — and made a point of bringing me into conversations if I seemed to have drifted out of them. At first she always arrived with another woman called Jenny, a few years older than her, but after a few weeks Jenny stopped appearing. Alice told me they’d split up, and left it at that.

After Jenny faded away, Laurel and I usually found ourselves sitting next to each other, and increasingly we seemed to be talking more just with each other than as part of the main group. One day I realise that they’d gone quiet, and looked up to see the other five all staring at Laurel and me; then as one they burst out laughing. I felt unaccountably embarrassed, and said, “What?!”, while Laurel smiled into her beer glass.

Laurel worked in the sports department of the local council. I told her that I had resolved to start going back to the gym, but hadn’t found the enthusiasm yet. She said, “You should come with me. I go at least one night a week, and on Saturdays. In the summer I play tennis too. I used to be quite good as a kid, and it’s a much more interesting way to keep fit than pounding a treadmill. Do you play?”

I told her, “I used to, years ago, but I wasn’t very good even then. I think it’d kill me now.”

She chuckled at that. “We should have a game sometime. Not a real game, just a gentle knock-up. Honestly, it is good fun, and I’m not exactly Amelie Mauresmo.”

I agreed to meet Laurel at the gym one evening. It was only a Escort Anadolu Yakası few minutes walk from the house, so I changed into my sports togs there and made my way over. I have to admit, my breath was taken away by Laurel when I first saw her in the fitness room. She was wearing a bright yellow spandex leotard which hugged her figure, and black footless tights, and looked like a glamour model advertising sportswear. The leotard emphasised a bust larger than I’d realised before. She seemed delighted with my reaction to her. I knew all the equipment in the gym, but Laurel helped me get used to it again, then did her own regular routine. I didn’t even try to keep pace with her, the girl was super-fit. Afterwards I dragged myself back to the house for a shower and an early night to bed. After that, the gym on Tuesdays and Saturdays with Laurel became another regular thing in my life. After one session I lay happily in bed reflecting on how well I seemed to be re-inventing myself. I had a new circle of friends, two particularly good friends in Alice and Laurel, I was starting to get fit, and I felt happier and less uptight than I had in ages.

A couple of weeks after Laurel and I started our gym sessions, she called me in the office one morning. “Hi, I’ve got the day off work and I’m in town doing a bit of shopping. I wondered if you’d fancy meeting up for lunch?” I thought that sounded lovely, so I agreed a long lunch break with my colleagues and we arranged to meet at the Pizza Hut close to my office. I virtuously ordered a salad, then Laurel showed me the purchases she’d already made. She seemed unusually giggly and a bit nervous. I placed a hand on hers to try and calm her down, and asked her if anything was wrong.

She sat staring intently at the half-slice of pizza she was pushing around her plate with her fork. “Well, no, not wrong really, but…” She raised her eyes to me and bit her lip before going on. “The thing is, I…well, I wondered if you’d like to have dinner with me one night?”

I sat back, momentarily stunned. I didn’t want to misunderstand what was happening here, and said, “Hang on — are you asking me for a date?” Looking uncomfortable, she shrugged shyly. I placed my hand on hers again. “Laurel, I’m really flattered, and you know how much I like you, but I thought you knew — I’m not a lesbian.”

She raised her head to look at me properly. “Neither am I.” She saw bewilderment in my face, and continued quickly. “No, seriously, I’m not. I’ve had boyfriends and girlfriends. Okay, I admit my last few relationships have all been with women, but it’s the person I’m attracted to, not the gender. If I like someone it’s simply irrelevant to me what sex they happen to be. And I really like you, Tina. You’re funny, intelligent, lovely looking — anyone would like you.” She seemed to be becoming more embarrassed with every word, her normally pink cheeks turning crimson.

I felt totally confused. I really liked Laurel too. I just didn’t think I liked her in that way, but I really didn’t want to hurt her feelings. She turned her hand over on the table, her fingers interlacing with mine, and spoke again. “Okay, look, let’s not call it a date; let’s call it two people who are good friends and maybe a wee bit lonely, going out for an evening in each other’s company. After all, we’re eating a meal together now, that’s all I’m really suggesting, and we’re having a good time. Aren’t we?”

I tried to re-assure her with a smile, and said, “Yeah, ‘course we are. And yes, I’d really like to have dinner with you.” We talked about the arrangements for a few minutes, then I returned to work and Laurel went off to spend more money. That afternoon I e-mailed Alice and asked if she’d meet me in the tea room. When she arrived, I said simply, “Laurel’s asked me out.”

Whatever I expected Alice to say, it certainly wasn’t “Good, about time.”

I stared at her open-mouthed. “What do you mean ‘about time’? Alice, I…” I glanced around us nervously and lowered my voice. “You know I’m not…into girls.”

She looked me in the eye, and said, rather loudly for my comfort, “How do you know? No, don’t give me that look, I mean it, have you ever been with a girl?”

I hissed back, “Of course I haven’t. And I know because, well, I like sex with men.”

Alice wasn’t to be discouraged though. “The only thing a man’s got that a woman hasn’t is a cock; and we can buy them, bigger, longer and harder than…Tine, you’re giving me that look again! Seriously, a woman can do anything a man can do, plus we’re softer, we’re more sensitive, we understand other women better, we smell better…and we’re made the same way as each other, so we know better what feels good.”

I hadn’t felt as uncomfortable with a conversation since that first night I found out Tim was having his affair, and I profoundly wished I hadn’t started it. Alice just kept right on though. “Think about this Tina: and really think about it, don’t just answer now, off the cuff. Knowing everything you do about Laurel, be totally honest, if she was exactly the same but a bloke, instead of happening to be the same sex as you, would you even hesitate about going out with her, now you’re single again? You’re both my friends, and I’d like to see you both happy. I think her asking you out could be the best thing that’s happened to you in a long time.”

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