Silver Lining, Chapter 1

  • Posted on June 21, 2017 at 12:37 pm

By Cassie

{ This story was originally posted at the now-defunct Sisters in Love }

Justine Holloway sat at her computer terminal and stared, willing herself to smother the helpless anger she felt. It wasn’t working.

“Bastard!” she shouted, the word bursting from her mouth before she’d even had time to think about it. “You bloody bastard!”

Accompanying the shouted swear word, Justine smashed a closed fist against the desktop on which her expensive keyboard and monitor sat. She felt like smashing the screen in front of her, deliberately hitting and destroying the image staring back at her. This time, she restrained herself. But she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the monitor.

The woman in the screen stared back at her and smiled serenely. Justine wanted to talk to her; reach out to the woman. Speak to her, shout at her, hit her. But all the woman could do was gaze into Justine’s eyes and smile at her. Bitch. Utter, utter fucking bitch.

Justine closed her eyes, reached out with her hand and, by feel alone, pressed the button at the bottom of the monitor to blank out the image. The beautiful blonde woman who was on the screen still stared back at her; the afterimage imprinted inside Justine’s eyelids.

In her mind’s eye, Justine didn’t even see David in the picture, even though he was standing right next to the woman; one arm snaked around her slim waist while the other held aloft a large margarita. Cheers! said the image, with David’s smiling face beaming toward the camera. Cheers! Isn’t my bit on the side beautiful?

Justine had known, for some months, that her relationship with David was less than perfect. She knew her own shortcomings were as much to blame as David’s frequent “long evenings at the office,” or his excuses to spend less time with her at the weekends. But she’d assumed that neither of them wanted to give up on three years’ worth of being together. Three years’ worth of moving back and forward between one flat and another. Three years’ of planning weekends away, of dealing with each other’s friends and family. And yes: three years of occasional romance and wanton sex. But now, looking back at those three years with every effort to wipe the gloss away, Justine knew that she was more upset by the lies than she was about losing David.

Truth be told, her feelings and emotions had been in complete turmoil since the day, almost a year ago, when she found out that as a baby, she had been adopted.

How should she have coped with the knowledge that the parents who brought her up were no more than just two wonderful people who had taken in a cuckoo, yet her birth parents were some distant, anonymous pair who had abandoned or rejected her? What were those birth parents like? What character traits did they have that would explain why Justine suddenly flared up in anger, or broke down in passionate sobs? Justine knew that she was a creature of extremes, and neither of her adopted parents had ever shown such traits.

Frantic searches in government and local records, hours upon hours upon hours of surfing on the internet, whole afternoons spent sitting in dusty libraries had told her only three things; her parents were called Walter and Mary Jackson; they were alive twelve years ago and living in Kent, England, and they had a daughter called Amanda. More than this she could not find out.

It was as if Walter and Mary had fallen off the face of the planet — and of the mysterious Amanda, Justine could find no further evidence. Was she herself the girl called Amanda? Or did she have a long-lost sister waiting to be found?

Despite repeated searches, Justine could not tell. And the effort she poured into this took her away from other things. Her work suffered, her friends became marginal acquaintances, and of course, there was David.

So her relationship with David became distant, even though they plastered over the cracks. Damn it all, she thought, sitting with her eyes tightly shut. It was the lies that hurt more than anything else. So when she had found out the David was seeing someone else, it stung, but not as much as she would have thought. When she found out that the other woman was a beautiful socialite with both brains and money, she could have been jealous, but she wasn’t. When she found the e-mails David had been sending this woman, and had recovered the pictures he thought he’d deleted from her computer, she’d been angry, but controllably so. It was realizing how many times he’d lied to her over the last eight months. How he’d deceived her time and time again, that was the thing that hurt.

Justine realized she was crying. She shut her eyes as tightly as she could, trying to squeeze the tears back inside. But they wouldn’t be denied and eventually, deflated, she relaxed her self-will and began to weep. She sat for a long time at the computer desk in her flat and cried for long, long minutes. She sobbed and heaved all the hurt and grief and pain that David had caused her.

And then she stopped. She looked up and saw her reflection in the dark, blank screen of the monitor. Her curly, fiery red hair, usually caught up and tamed in a functional ponytail, was in a mess. Strands of it hung loose down the sides of her face, bobbing up and down gently. Her face was bereft of any make-up, even the spare lipstick and eyeliner she usually wore. Her pale, freckled cheeks looked gaunt, and her stunning green eyes were red-rimmed and angry.

“God, I look a mess!” she said to herself, dabbing at the corners of her eyes to stop them getting too puffy. On impulse, she reached out and turned on the computer screen. She stared for a long moment at the beautiful blonde woman who was about to become the sole object of David’s affection and attention.

“Your funeral, bitch.” she murmured. But she knew that she hardly meant to insult the woman. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she pitied her. It wouldn’t be long, she felt sure, before David would repeat his antics with someone else.

Justine clicked on her mouse and the image on the screen disappeared. Navigating through her desktop, Justine fired up her internet connection and began to browse. She was moving swiftly from upset, to angry, to abandon. What her best friend, Beth, would call “a ‘fuck-it’ moment”. She clicked onto a number of travel websites, looking for a destination to catch some late-summer sun. One place in particular stood out more than any others. It promised long beaches with a small tourist population. Beautiful scenery, wonderful food and the best European wine.

“Portugal,” Justine said, clicking on the button to book some tickets. What she needed was a break from it all. And that was damn well what she was going to give herself.

*****

[Justine’s journal]

The plane is noisy, and hot. There had been a problem with the air conditioning, the pilot had said. Ever so sorry, the stuck-up stewardess had said. Not much we can do about it, the junior steward told us at last. So for two hours we’ve been fanning ourselves with booklets and magazines, drinking iced water and trying to ignore the heat. I tried to sleep, couldn’t, then tried to think about my situation as objectively as I could. Maybe I could patch things up with David? No. It had gone too far. I’d never trust him again. Would I trust anyone, after finding out I had parents who would abandon me at birth??

I have a seat by the window, and watched all of five minutes scenery between breaks in the grey clouds. The Bay of Biscay, stretching out a blue carpet of unbroken blue, lay far below me. I hope that Portugal won’t be cloudy.

*****

The sun, when the plane landed, scorched Justine’s delicate skin with a mid-summer intensity even though it was the beginning of October. The Englishwoman quickly dabbed on some sun cream and took off the long sleeved top she had just put on after getting out of the hot plane. She grumbled at the heat, then checked herself and grumbled at her own bad temper. Just travelling to Portugal hadn’t stopped her anger with David, nor solved whatever other demons were lurking in her mind.

Not having been to Portugal before, and not having one word of the language to her credit, she did what most people would do and went to the information desk in the main terminal.

“Hello. Hola. Do you speak any English?” she asked, her voice exaggerated and slow. The middle-aged, moustachioed man behind the desk smiled woodenly and shrugged.

“Um. I, er, need a hotel to stay in? A hotel?”

“Hotel?”

“Yes, hotel. Can you recommend me a hotel?”

“You at hotel?”

“Yes please. A hotel.”

“Which hotel?”

“Pardon?”

“Which hotel you at?”

Justine felt a headache coming on. “I would like a hotel. To stay in. Can you help me?”

“Help me?”

Justine sighed. “You need help,” she muttered. She fumbled around in her large handbag for the battered old 1950’s Portuguese phrase book she picked up at her local charity shop. It was at that point that the moustachioed man smiled at her again and walked away.

“Wait! No, don’t go. I’ve got a book. I-”

“Can I assist you?”

Justine turned at the voice. It was low, but distinctly female, with a very cultured, clipped accent that only just gave it away as coming from a foreigner. Standing to the left of where the moustachioed man was, closing a panel door behind her, was a tall, smart and very attractive woman.

“Oh, thank goodness!” Justine said, putting the book down by the table top. “I thought I wasn’t going to get anywhere.”

The woman smiled, dark red lipstick stretching across her full lips to make a slightly sardonic look. She had short blonde hair, tied up in a strict bob, and long, slender fingers unadorned with rings. Justine thought there was something ever so slightly masculine about the woman, but couldn’t pinpoint it on such an attractive frame.

“José can help with lots of things, mainly electrical problems… but his English isn’t so good.”

Justine felt her cheeks begin to redden in sympathy with her hair. She had just been trying to negotiate with one of the maintenance crew. “Oh gosh. I feel really silly!” she said.

The blonde woman shook her head slightly, indicating it was nothing. “You were looking for a hotel, perhaps?”

“Yes, please. I’ve just come out for a week at the last minute, and haven’t booked anywhere.”

The blonde woman tapped lightly at an unseen computer keyboard beneath the desk and checked the monitor in front of her. “You’re in luck,” she said. “Three weeks ago I’d have struggled to get you a spare bed in the YWCA.”

Justine barked a laugh. She felt the stress and tension begin to slip from her shoulders. The blonde woman carried on tapping at her keyboard for a few moments, then looked up.

“Okay,” she said, “there’s a couple of places with decent rooms available. What’s your price range?”

“Um, something more than budget, but less than presidential suite.”

The blonde woman smiled again, probably having heard that line more than a few times in the past, and looked back at her monitor. “Are you travelling alone?”

“Oh, yes. Most definitely.” Justine couldn’t help the acid in her own comment.

The woman looked up at Justine, locking eyes with her for the briefest of moments, and smiled crookedly. “Shame,” she said, returning her gaze to the monitor in an instant.

With a start, Justine realized what the woman had just said. Was she coming on to me? Oh my God, that woman was coming on to me! Justine shelved that thought, wondering why she was more flattered than concerned.

“There’s the Alsacon,” the blonde woman said. “It’s a very nice place, with good value rooms, but it’s a bit out of the way of the beaches. There’s the Pino Sol, which is close to the main town. It gets pretty noisy at night, but is close to all the main bars, etc. Or there’s the Puerta Riggio; a much bigger hotel with a large pool and lots of in-house facilities.”

Justine bit her lower lip, thinking. “Which one would you go for?”

The blonde woman raised an eyebrow. “If it were me, I’d go for the Pino Sol, but only because my favourite bar is very close to there.”

“What’s it called, this bar?”

“The—the Columbus,” said the blonde woman, momentarily flustered by the question.

“Pino Sol it is, then,” said Justine, brightly. “I’ve come here to get away from the humdrum, so a little noise and life would be good.”

The blonde woman smiled again and made some more delicate tapping on the keyboard. Within a few moments, she printed out a receipt and took Justine’s card, her manicured finger brushing against Justine’s.

She’s definitely coming on to me! Justine thought, giggling inside. For the first time in weeks, she actually felt butterflies in her tummy. God, I need for this break to be fun, she thought.

The blonde woman finished her admin, and returned Justine’s credit card, then leaned across the desk a little, pushing a brochure toward the Englishwoman. She turned a few pages and indicated toward a small map of the town.

“It’s here, by the main strip of shops, which is handy by day, and the bars along this street,” she said, tracing her painted fingernail along a small town map. “The hotel has a small pool, but is close enough to the beach so most people use that instead. They have a restaurant, but there are many places nearby that serve good food. I think you’ll like it.”

“Thanks.” Justine put the papers into her bag, along with the battered old Portuguese phrase book. “Maybe I’ll see you at the Columbus bar then,” she added, smiling.

“Maybe,” smiled the blonde woman. She held out her hand. “I’m Rosa.”

Justine took her hand and shook it, noting that it was a strange kind of masculine way to end a meeting. Rosa’s fingers were soft, and a little longer than Justine’s, and the blonde woman squeezed Justine’s hand just a little bit before breaking off. Not for the first time, she was a little shocked, but kind of liked the feeling.

“Bye,” she said, smiling for the last time. She was sure she saw Rosa wink back at her.

Justine, buoyed now by a much better mood, walked out toward the main doors to catch a cab, passing Maintenance Mario on the way. “Goodbye!” she called to him, waving.

He looked up, puzzled, raised a hand and probably wondered why all the strange foreigners picked on him.

*****

The Pino Sol was not, it had to be said, the finest hotel in the world. Nor in Portugal. Nor in town.

In fact, Justine reflected, looking at the peeling paint on her bedroom wall, it probably ranks in the lower quarter of local hotels. The shower looked like it needed replacing, and the TV was a very old model, but the sheets were clean and it was, as Rosa had indicated, close enough to the main strip where all the clubs and restaurants were.

Justine, her good mood slightly deflated, unpacked her things and sat down on her bed to collect her thoughts. Shopping or beach? Walk about or catch up on her sleep?

In the end, she decided to head down to the hotel pool, small though it was, and chill out there for a while. It was late afternoon, and although the sun was still blazing in a clear blue sky, it had lost its intensity from the day, and Justine thought it was an ideal time to start working on the beginnings of a tan for her pale, creamy skin.

She changed into a bikini David had bought for her last year; a simple yellow outfit with gold edging that she thought she looked okay in. It showed off her legs (which she considered her best asset, given the pounding she gave them on the street during her daily jogs), and the bikini top pushed up and together her smallish breasts, giving her a slight cleavage to be proud of. She wrapped a sarong around her waist, picked up her towel, book, sun cream and water bottle, and set off for the pool.

It was quiet down by the pool. An older couple were snoring quietly on sun loungers, and a dark-haired girl was sitting on another lounger, shaded by a large parasol, working on a laptop computer. She was slim, but with a bigger bust than Justine’s, wearing a small white vest top and black shorts, cut high to her hip. Dark sunglasses hid her eyes and her dark hair fell around the young woman’s face.

Justine set up her towel on a sun lounger a few feet away from the brunette, and started to cover her skin with the protective cream. When she had done enough, she lay back and picked up her book. She started feeling drowsy almost straight away, and put the book down, turned over and lay on her tummy. Reaching behind, she unclasped her bikini top and let the straps fall to her sides. She rested her head sideways, toward the older couple snoring on their loungers. She was just thinking about what to do for dinner when sleep stole up and claimed her for its own.

She woke up, sometime later, with the sun dipping down toward the rooftops of the houses nearby, and heard a noise behind her. She twisted on the lounger and saw that the brunette had gone, replaced with a nervous young man who was fiddling with the brunette’s laptop.

Justine squinted, rousing herself from her slumber, and the man saw her. He smiled nervously and said a few words in Portuguese. Justine, aware of how close he was, re-clasped her bikini top and sat up. At this movement, the man struggled furiously with a CD or DVD tray on the side of the laptop.

“Hey, is that yours?” Justine said.

The man, sensing a problem, got up from the lounger, checked over his left and right shoulders, smiled at Justine, and wandered off in a hurry. Presently, the brunette came back to the lounger and began to frown. She tapped a few keys in irritation, and started looking around her.

“There was a man here a moment ago,” Justine said.

The brunette looked round at her. “Pardon?”

“I said there was a man here a moment ago. A young man. He was fiddling with the DVD tray. I think—oh, sorry. I don’t even know if you speak English.”

“I speak English,” said the brunette. “You said there was a man here?”

“Yes. He was trying to open the DVD tray. He looked a bit nervous.”

The brunette swore in what might have been Portuguese, then sighed.

“I’m sorry,” Justine said, feeling for the woman. “I didn’t know—”

The brunette shook her head and offered Justine a conciliatory smile. “It’s not you,” she said. “Thank you for looking out for it. I suspect he was after the stuff on my hard drive.”

“Oh.” Justine ran out of words. The brunette closed her laptop lid and looked round, smiling anew. Another pretty girl, thought Justine.

“Are you staying here at the hotel?” asked the brunette.

“Yes. I only got here this afternoon.”

Justine sat up and, remembering the blonde woman at the airport, held out her hand. “I’m Justine.”

The brunette barked a small laugh and reached out to take Justine’s hand. “Very formal!” she said, slipping her fingers against the white skin of the Englishwoman. “My name’s Jan.”

“Are you on holiday too?” asked Justine. Jan smiled a slightly crooked smile. Her sunglasses still hid most of her features.

“Kind of,” she said. “I’m Portuguese, but used the late sun to get away for a while.”

“Just needed a break?”

“Yeah. I run a website and never have enough time to keep it up to speed, so I decided to get away for a while.”

Justine picked up her water bottle and took a swig. “Tell me about it. I know a webmaster at work who is always — always — complaining about not having enough time. What kind of website is it?”

Jan smiled, almost shyly, and looked at Justine through her sunglasses. “It’s a — it’s a kind of self-help group for women. It — um. Actually, that’s not explaining it very well. It’s a forum, basically, for women to share ideas, stories and testimonials. It’s — it’s –”

“Complicated?”

Jan laughed again. “Yes, complicated! Where are you from?”

“Brighton, in England. They call it ‘Little London’ over there because it’s so similar to the capital.”

“I’ve heard of it. I have a webpal who comes from there, I think. It has the big Indian palace there, yes?”

“That’s it!” said Justine, smiling. “The Brighton Pavilion. Awful place. Full of tourists.” The two women saw the unintended joke in that at the same time, and laughed.

They talked for a while, until the sky darkened a little, then Jan said she had to go. She said she’d be out by the pool the next day, if Justine wanted to catch up or go shopping or something.

Justine said goodbye, read some of her book, then went back to her room to get changed. The air was still warm, so she changed into shorts and a vest top like Jan, then went out looking first for some food, and then to get a drink. Without thinking about it, she had the Columbus bar in her mind.

*****

It was a hot and noisy bar, everything Justine expected she would find at a Mediterranean resort packed with young tourists. The floor was hardwood, but slicked with so much spilled drink she had to keep steady on her high-heeled sandals.

After retiring back to her modest room from the pool, Justine had changed into a new little red summer dress she had bought just the other day. It was cut high on her right leg, slanted so that the hem drew down to her mid thigh on her left. It was a simple design, with elegant straps over her shoulders and a Lycra underbodice that kept her breasts in place without the need for a bra. Cool, a little stylish and definitely club-wear. She’d decided against any fancy hair or make-up arrangement, just tying her hair back in a ponytail whilst applying her best lip-lock red lipstick and a little mascara. After all, she wasn’t an eighteen-year old on the pull anymore, right?

Justine reached the bar and caught the eye of the young barman serving the drinks. He gave her a quick, professional nod of acknowledgement. “Sol?” he asked, reaching behind him to the refrigerator stocked with the favourite gold coloured lager.

Until that moment, Justine was going to order her usual tipple; a vodka and orange but, hearing the barman say the word, she suddenly felt a flash or Latin impetuousness and nodded, smiling. “Sol, gracias,” she added.

The barman threw her a tired smile. “There you go,” he said, handing her the bottle, a thin slice of lime corked into the top of it. Justine handed him 5 euros and he didn’t return any change. She was about to question it when she had second thoughts and decided that fighting over the price of a drink wasn’t the first thing she wanted to do that evening. She’d just have to pace herself.

She turned round to the main bar area, and scanned the beautiful young things dancing, talking, shouting and snogging shamelessly. It reminded her exactly of a trip she went on five years ago to Ibiza; lots and lots of young people, mainly tourists, getting as drunk as they could, as quick as they could. It brought back a lot of memories for Justine, but somehow she felt that she’d moved on as a person since then.

She finished her drink thinking about this, and ordered another one. Again the barman gave her a chilled Sol, and again she gave him a 5 Euro note without change. She drank that one too, slowly feeling the effect of the alcohol begin to loosen her senses, and inhibitions. She finished her drink, then got up to dance to some retro 1980’s track the DJ was playing.

She stayed out on the dance floor for a while, losing herself to the music and the crush of the people dancing around her. When, eventually, she went back to the bar, the lazy-eye barman pulled out another bottle of Sol and handed it to her. Somewhat flustered, Justin went to open the tiny handbag slung securely over her shoulder when the barman held out a hand.

“No, no,” he said. “Is from your friend.”

Justine frowned, then looked over to where the barman was now pointing. Her gaze drifted, then locked onto the eyes of Rosa, the woman from the airport. Her face lit up with the recognition of a recent friend.

“Rosa!” she waved. The blonde raised her hand in reply, then beckoned Justine over. After grabbing her drink, Justine pushed her way over to the other woman.

“Is good, no?” said Rosa, smiling sardonically as the Englishwoman made her way next to her. They kissed on the cheek and Justine felt that tingle of something — something almost naughty about being so forward with someone. The two women looked one another up and down.

Despite the heat of the evening, Rosa was wearing a body-hugging mini-dress, in soft lime green with a shoulder-less top. She had on open-toed high heel sandals like Justine, and looked fabulous. Justine told her so. Rosa beamed at her and reached out, brushing the side of her hand against Justine’s hair.

“You too, I think!” she shouted as the music boomed around them. The two women beamed at each other, then Rosa beckoned Justine closer.

“Would you like to dance?” she shouted, into Justine’s ear. Justine nodded, and the two women put their bottles down and headed off to the main dance floor.

The 80’s tracks were still booming, and Justine felt herself letting go to the music; reacting to the beat and rhythm of the tunes. She and Rosa danced around each other for some time and, at the end of one song when Rosa slipped her arm around Justine’s waist, the Englishwoman didn’t mind. She didn’t mind at all.

Another spell dancing, and two Sols each later, and Justine was perfectly happy with the way Rosa’s manicured, painted fingers had slipped from her waist to rest across the curve of Justine’s ass. Justine caught herself smiling and staring into the eyes of the attractive Portuguese woman, and it came almost as a relief when Rosa leaned forward and brushed her lips against Justine’s lips, returned there and kissed her more deliberately.

Justine’s heart was racing. She had only ever kissed one girl before; at a party in university where she and Amy McDonald had dressed up as identical twins for Amy’s fancy dress party. The two had got drunk and, in front of a whole bunch of Uni friends, snogged as a dare for the boys.

But this time was no dare, and as Justine welcomed Rosa’s tongue into her mouth, and felt Rosa’s hand tighten its grip on her ass cheek, Justine felt her resolve drift away.

They kissed for a long time, then Rosa placed her lips beside Justine’s ear and shouted in a loud whisper;

“Is too hot. Want to grab some air?”

Justine nodded, shivering despite the heat as Rosa took the opportunity to nibble Justine’s ear.

They walked out, hand in hand, and when they spilled out into the street, the cool night air hit Justine almost immediately.

“Whooo,” she said, steadying herself on her feet. Rosa laughed and caught her up in a clinch.

“Too much Sol, yes?”

Justine giggled, then closed her eyes in the hope to stop the world spinning. She felt Rosa’s lips against her neck and suddenly felt a wave of eroticism wash through her.

“Is too cold?” said Rosa, whispering into Justine’s ear. “You want to go somewhere else?”

Justine grinned, thinking that she wouldn’t mind taking Rosa back to her hotel room. As it happened, she didn’t have to.

*****

When Justine woke up the next morning, in a different bed in an unfamiliar room with her head beginning to beat out a tattoo of revenge inside her skull, she wondered briefly who the fuck the other woman in bed with her was.

Justine lay back down for a moment, trying to shake the angry cobwebs from her mind. She felt down her body and wasn’t surprised to find that she was naked. Reaching out gingerly beneath the sheet, she touched the woman beside her and felt the soft warm skin of the woman’s ass. She pulled her hand back, only then realizing that the woman was Rosa, the attendant from the airport, and that she and Rosa had danced and drunk together, then kissed, walked through the streets hand in hand and—

Justine felt the dryness in her mouth. She shifted a little in bed and felt an ache in her groin. Jesus! she thought. It felt like she’d been fucked by an elephant! And her pussy was not the only place her body felt used. She brought her hand up to her left breast and gingerly touched the nipple. It was tender, much more so than usual, and reacted to her own touch. What had she been doing? How drunk had she gotten?

She slipped out of bed, away from the woman lying next to her, and carefully stood up. With this last movement she felt the final part of her intimacy call her attention. Justine had only anal sex twice before. It was not an experience she would choose on a regular basis, but both times she’d enjoyed it, despite the discomfort both during and after the sex. Her ass felt just the same as it did after those two times, and Justine felt her face begin to redden at the thought of what debauchery she’d got up to.

She gathered her clothes — strewn carelessly on the floor — and crept out. Mercifully, Rosa was still asleep, and did not wake even when the bedroom door creaked.

Justine dressed herself in the unfamiliar hallway outside, then chose some steps to descend in order to find a way out. She walked down the narrow staircase and saw, with some relief, a front door at the bottom of it. She stepped toward it but was stopped by some movement behind her.

She turned, heart in her mouth, and stared at the tall young man standing bare-chested at the other end of the hall. He had dark hair and dark eyes, and a lean, well-toned figure.

“Don’t look so frightened,” the man said, with a smile. “There are no ghosts here.”

Justine recovered herself a little, but inched closer to the door, just in case.

“‘I’m, er, I’m Justine,” she said, smiling as best she could. The man nodded in reply.

“Ah, so that’s your name. Rosa didn’t even tell me. But then again, she does not always know her girlfriends’ names herself.”

“I’m not sure, I—I mean, I don’t know what you mean,” Justine stammered. The young man grinned.

“She was right, though. You are a pretty one.”

Justine reached for the door handle behind her. “I have to go.”

The door opened, and Justine darted through it to the street beyond.

“Hey!” shouted the man, behind her. “Hey, what do I tell my sister?”

Justine fled down the street, clutching her bag to her chest and trying to breathe normally. What the hell had she done? What the hell had she gotten into? She’d never had sex with a woman before! Never! And now, not only did it feel like she’d been fucked by an access-all-areas elephant, but someone’s brother was involved, too. Had the man who said he was Rosa’s brother had sex with her too?

Justine had no way of knowing. She would never have accused herself of a one-night stand before. She would never have thought she’d had sex with another woman before. But last night seemed to change everything.

She went back to her hotel, trudged up to her room and took a shower. She cleaned and probed her sensitive areas, worried sick. But, on closer examination, she had no cuts, bruises, welts or scratches. If she’d had sex — as she was sure she had, in several intimate places — it was certainly not forced on her.

And that made Justine reconsider. She had come to get away from her old life. To get away from the humdrum, and the shit of a relationship turned sour. So was this her liberation? Was this a new chapter? Was she now able to abandon herself to guilty pleasure? It seemed so, but despite the shower, Justine felt fuzzy and sore.

She locked her room shut from the inside and went to bed. She slept for another eight hours, and it was late afternoon when she awoke feeling much fresher.

Justine decided to head down to the hotel swimming pool and cool off a little. She took her towel, book and water bottle with her, and made her way down. The poolside was empty when she got there, and the weather was just as hot and sunny as the climate promised. Justine set herself down on one of the hotel loungers and read her book for a while. She’d worn her gold bikini and a sarong, and the warm air began to make her feel drowsy, despite the sleep she’d only just had. She put down her book and lay back on the sun lounger, covering her eyes with her dark sunglasses and dozing.

She came to some time later, as the sun’s rays were dipping below the line of the houses around her. She heard splashing and, for one moment, thought it was the waves of the sea come to tickle her toes. She had been sunbathing once, on the beach in Brighton, and had fallen asleep only for the rising tide to wash over her belongings and soak both them and her. She was quite sensitive to the splashing of water since that time.

But here it was not the sea, but only the water in the hotel swimming pool catching her ear. She sat up, grabbing her water to take a swig. In the pool was another young woman, swimming away from her with a powerful breaststroke movement. Justine watched the other woman reach the end and turn, swimming back toward her. The other woman reached for Justine’s side of the pool and stopped. She bobbed up and down in the water, dipping underneath the warmish waters to cool her brow. She made eye contact with Justine and smiled, folding her forearms over the pool edge to steady herself.

Olá!” she said. “Justine, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” said the Englishwoman. “And you are… Jean?”

“Jan,” corrected the other. She raised an eyebrow to the sky. “It seems this is the time for us to meet, when the sun is going down, isn’t it?”

Justine smiled and nodded. There was something quite friendly and reassuring about Jan. Justine had only met her once, but they seemed to get on, and there was no dangerous sexual frisson between them, unlike the other woman, Rosa. Even thinking about the tall, handsome blonde made Justine feel uncomfortable.

“You will guard my computer for me?” asked Jan, giving a crooked smile and nodding toward a sun-lounger to Justine’s left.

“That’s my job,” Justine replied. “Computer security system.”

Jan laughed and bobbed back down into the water. “Two more laps,” she said, “then I can pretend I’ve done some exercise.”

Jan finished her swim, then climbed out of the pool close to where Justine was lying. Justine watched her emerge dripping out of the water, wearing a stylish one-piece bathing suit. With her dark hair and olive skin, Jan seemed every bit the local girl, and Justine wondered if Jan knew of the places like Columbus, whether she too had succumbed to some wild holiday romance in her own country.

Justine watched out of the corner of her eye as Jan wrapped a towel around her body, dabbing at her hips and torso. She let her eyes wander up and down the dark-haired woman’s form and wondered first if Jan ever gave strangers such cool appraisal. Then Justine caught herself and wondered why she was now checking out other women when, a couple of weeks ago, she would never have entertained the thought, let alone get up to whatever it was she did with Rosa last night.

“Have you had any more problems with your laptop?” Justine asked, once Jan had settled into her own lounger.

Jan looked across and turned toward Justine, smiling a little. “Not so much people as time,” she said, mysteriously. “I find that people are difficult, yes. But time is the thing that is the biggest problem. Too many things, not enough time, right?”

“They used to say that about women; ‘too many women, not enough time’.”

“You said this?”

Justine shook her head. “No, I think it was George Burns, the old actor. I — I wouldn’t know what to think.”

Jan paused for a moment before saying, “Is a bad time for you?”

Justine didn’t answer at first. She was thinking about the whirlwind of the last few days; the revelation of David’s lies, the gnawing problems of her missing birth parents and the mysterious “Amanda” and, of course, the fairly shocking recent memories of being seduced by a lesbian and getting up to some serious sexual play with the woman — which she couldn’t even remember!

Jan, taking this hesitation as a message that she had overstepped the mark, held up a hand. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.” She turned away from the Englishwoman and reached for her laptop.

“No,” said Justine, “Wait. I—” She faltered again, grappling for the words she wanted to say. Really, she wanted to let it all out; wanted to unburden her troubles just to clear them a little from her mind. But that would be unfair on this poor lady who had just come down to the hotel for a swim. Or maybe Justine should use this as an opportunity to confide in someone. She was hardly going to see this Portuguese lady again after the holiday, right? And Jan didn’t have to listen if she didn’t want to.

“I’ve recently broken up with my boyfriend. Actually, my almost-fiancée,” Justine said, at last. Jan gave her a tight smile and inclined her head. “Is never easy breaking up,” she said, non-committal.

Justine barked a laugh. “To be honest, that was the easy part! I’ve just — I’ve just had a — you know, holiday fling with someone. Here.”

“Already?” Jan asked, eyebrow arched. “Very quick work. You must work in stocks and shares, right?”

Justine laughed, feeling the burden across her shoulders beginning to lift already. “Not just any fling,” said Justine, smiling. The next words from her mouth came almost involuntarily. “One with a woman.”

There was a pause, and Jan gave the Englishwoman a cool look. “Your first time?”

Justine paused, then nodded. “I was so drunk I can’t even remember it!”

“What was she like? This mystery woman?”

“Oh tall, blonde. Short hair. Great, you know—” Justine cupped her breasts for emphasis. Jan held up a hand to her mouth, stifling a giggle.

“I am sorry. I don’t mean to tease. But you must know this is an incredible thing. Your first time — with another woman, right?”

Justine smiled distantly. “Yeah.” The gravity of it still hadn’t really sunk in. She had been thinking all along about whatever unknown sex acts she’d got up to without thinking much about the fact that Rosa was her first girl-girl liaison. Surely that didn’t make her a lesbian now, after one erotic night’s work? Justine’s head could not yet process that thought. Instead, she went on the offensive. It was a cold, business like tactic. But it backfired somewhat.

“Have you had a holiday fling yet?” she asked.

“No,” Jan said, smiling impishly. “But it would not be for the first time with a woman.”

“Not for the fir— Oh.” Justine was taken aback, but only a little. She found she was more intrigued about the prospect of this new friendship with Jan than about the thought of her being a predatory lesbian.

“You have a girlfriend?” she asked the dark Portuguese girl.

Jan went to answer, then stopped. “You have a boyfriend?” she asked in reply.

Justine looked down for a moment. “I, uh—I was engaged, to be married. Until very recently. But my boyfriend was seeing someone else. For quite some time, I think. It’s all a bit complicated.”

“Such is life,” said Jan. “Some things are more complicated than others. And now there is your fling too, right?”

Justine groaned. “Oh, don’t remind me. Things couldn’t get more complicated!”

Jan shifted on her lounger, drawing her tanned legs up to her belly. “You have a sister?”

“A sister?” asked Justine, frowning.

“Yes. Do you have a sister?”

Justine narrowed her eyes. “Wow,” she muttered. “You really know which buttons to press. Uh — I’m not sure. Why do you ask?”

“Because things could be much more complicated than your current situation,” replied Jan, a note of seriousness in her soft voice.

Justine gave her a quizzical look, and Jan seemed to pause for a long moment before answering. She was, perhaps, having similar thoughts to the Englishwoman’s earlier ones: Here is someone who I can speak to quite easily. She is on holiday and I’m unlikely to see her again. Perhaps I can be open with her.

“My work,” continued Jan, shifting again to face Justine more directly, “is more complicated than I suggested.”

Justine wracked her memory for what she could recall Jan had said the other day. Some kind of… self-help website?

“I run a website for women to talk and share about the love they have with other women. A love that — how you say — ‘dare not speak its name’.”

Justine nodded absently. So Jan runs a lesbian website? It certainly didn’t sound very taboo, not in this day and age. “I see,” she said.

Jan smiled crookedly, a stray lock of her dark hair spilling over her right eye and giving her a sultry look. “No, you don’t, I think.”

She paused again before continuing. “You said your love life was complicated, and I asked if you had a sister.”

“Yes, but I don’t see what — Oh.”

Justine and Jan looked at each other for a long while in the deepening Portuguese shadows.

“Do you—” asked Justine, in a small voice, “do you have a… a complicated sister?”

Jan laughed brightly; a soft, pretty laugh that lit up her face. “Si! I have a very complicated sister! But not one whom I consider complicated in that way. But many of the women on my website have sisters, and yes; there is love between them that some would say is wrong.”

“Well, it is wrong,” said Justine, flatly.

Jan arched her eyebrow. “Is it?” she asked. Her gaze bored into Justine’s eyes and the Englishwoman found she could not easily look away. What was this foreign girl saying, that love between two sisters was acceptable? That this kind of incest was okay?

“I mean, I suppose that sometimes sisters can be close, and maybe — maybe when growing up there is some, you know, experimentation or something.” Justine was desperately trying to think of any articles or news stories she had read about this kind of thing. “But that’s kind of normal, I suppose.”

“And other love isn’t?” asked Jan.

“Well — I mean, it’s just wrong!” Justine said, hitting a mental brick wall.

“Okay, let us put it this way. Women are naturally more affectionate. And passionate. And the bond between sisters is a very close one, right?”

“I — well, I suppose,” said Justine.

“Good. So we agree. And sisters can fight and bitch like no others, right? I do with my own sister sometimes!”

“Okaay.”

“So why is it so strange to think that two sisters can express their love, their passion, in sexual ways? If there is no coercion, if there is no rape, and if there is no chance of a genetic mismatch to make children, so what of it is wrong?”

Once again, the two women stared across the short distance between them for a long moment, taking in the quiet rustles of the early Portuguese evening.

“You’re serious?” said the Englishwoman.

Jan nodded. “Yes. I am. The Internet is not just good for news sites and conspiracy sites and pornography. There were many doors opened for people to talk to each other, about even the most taboo of subjects like this one.”

“There are really sisters who sleep with each other?”

“Yes! Not many, I suppose, and for many different reasons, but still they do. And it is not all about rampant sex like in adult films. Sometimes, the people on my website have a very quiet love for their sister, and do nothing more than hug, or kiss.”

“So this site is like one of those social networking websites?”

“Not quite,” said Jan, the twinkle in her eye. “But I have tried to fit as many things in it as I can. There are the testimonials of women brave enough to share their own, true stories. There are others who invent or write fictitious stories. Reviews of books and films that cover the subject of love between sisters. Many things.”

Justine was, admittedly, a little taken aback. Had it been in her own home, on an ordinary day, without the knowledge and hurt of David’s infidelity, she would not have listened to the pretty Portuguese woman. To be honest, she would probably not even listened as much right then had she not been thinking about her memory-blocked antics of the previous night. But she couldn’t deny that she’d changed a little since coming to Portugal.

She had let herself be seduced by another woman — unthinkable! — she had gone back for a one-night stand and felt sore in numerous sexual places — unheard of! — without any proper recollection of her evening, and she may even have slept with the woman’s brother  — unimaginable! So, given that, listening to an ordinary, young and slightly serious young woman talking about her website for women who sleep with their sisters didn’t turn her away. In fact, she felt strangely drawn to the subject.

Justine and Jan talked a little more about the many scenarios Jan had heard of regarding the love between two sisters. They talked until the shadows in the sky filled the air with darkness, and overhead lamps buzzed into life around them.

Jan excused herself after a long while, and Justine went back to her room to shower and change. She decided to go on a more quiet, sober night out that evening. Away from the main strip, finding a bar, maybe, or a restaurant on the seafront.

She only took a quick shower then, wrapped in nothing but a towel, went back to her bed and sat on the edge. She’d meant to go to her wardrobe to look for some clothes to put on, but her head felt fuzzy and a sudden wave of tiredness swept over her. She lay back onto the bed, and then drew herself up to the pillows. She pulled the soft towel open, exposing herself to the cool air of the room, closing her eyes to the feeling of the warm moisture on her skin evaporating into the air. Her red hair spilled out like a corona around her head and, as she trailed a fingernail up and down her bare belly, sleep stole up and claimed her.

*****

Justine was running down a corridor, like the one she remembered from her secondary school days, and she was late. She looked around her, thinking how much the corridor reminded her of her school, then realized that she was wearing her old school uniform again. That drab, dreary pleated tartan skirt. The formless, drab white shirt and the plain white socks and flat court shoes.

She also knew, without checking, that she was wearing a thong; that mildly exciting, mildly naughty piece of underwear that was her only rebellion to the drab uniform. Her hair streamed out behind her; caught fast in a ponytail with a thick band. She had no bag or case in her hand, but she was late and knew she’d be in trouble.

Without rhyme or reason, the corridor changed into the wood from her mind’s eye when she read The Hobbit many, many years earlier. She peered round the bole of a huge tree and looked to see if there were any monsters there. Her heart was pounding, and she was anxious that the other girl behind her didn’t lag. Justine reached down and brushed the hilt of her long dagger, sheathed down the outside of her knee-length calfskin boot. It was there, safe and secure. The hem of her short skirt tugged at the top of her thighs, and Justine felt the tickle of a leaf against her leg.

“Come on!” she hissed, glancing behind her.

The other girl was there, smaller yet similar to Justine, with long straw-blonde hair. It was Pip, Justine’s favourite doll from her childhood. The doll with the long hair and no knickers when Justine had dared to first peek under the skirt the doll wore. But this time, Pip wore a long, pleated skirt like the ones Justine wore at school, and it was slowing her progress in the undergrowth.

“I can’t!” said Pip, and Justine immediately felt somehow annoyed at the tinny voice. But she could not leave her.

“It’s not far now,” she said, as encouragingly as she could.

“I just want to go home!” said Pip. “I just want to go to bed and get cuddled.”

“Too late for that. Look! I can see the cabin!”

And there, through a clearing in the woods, Justine saw the log cabin that she knew was their sanctuary. “Come on!”

She took the now-alive doll by the hand and ran through the trees into the clearing and up to the door of the solid wooden cabin. She flung open the door, pulled Pip through and slammed it shut, ramming the sturdy bolt home. The two girls stood there for a moment, catching their breath. Pip kept whispering, “Thank you! Thank you!”

“That’s okay, Pip,” Justine said, smiling. The two women embraced, Justine grabbing up her living doll in a cuddle like she always used to in bed at night. Strands of fiery red-gold hair spilled and mixed together as the two girls cuddled into each other’s embrace.

“That’s it, now. We’re safe now,” Justine murmured.

Pip looked up at her momentarily; a dreamy smile on her face. “Thank you, ‘Stina,” she said, leaning forward to kiss the other girl lightly. Justine smiled back, suddenly very warm and happy. She felt Pip’s arms around her waist, felt the crush of Pip’s small but perfectly rounded doll-like breasts against her own, and knew that the hug was leading somewhere.

Pip trailed her hands down the small of Justine’s back until the Englishwoman felt them slide down the curve of her buttocks to the edge of the hem on her short skirt. She buried her face into Pip’s neck, tightening her arms around the living doll and breathing in the soft, sweet smell of the girl’s straw hair. She felt Pip’s fingers tug at the hem of her skirt, and lift it up over her buttocks, exposing them and the red thong she wore. Pip’s hands smoothed over Justine’s bare backside, then delved between them, teasing the little bud of skin at Justine’s anus.

“We can’t ever tell Mummy,” said Pip, as she probed her fingers between Justine’s legs.

“Of course not, Pip,” breathed Justine, feeling Pip’s soft fingers explore her most tender regions. “Of course we can’t.”

Pip shifted her head and the two met each other’s lips, kissing. At first their kisses were soft, wisp-like; the tender red skin barely touching. But the nearness of such intimacy gave them a passion neither girl could ignore. Their lips met, and crushed, more passionately and, as the day turned to dark around them, Justine felt that she was losing herself to Pip in the most extraordinary way; reveling in the touch and taste of the doll-girl’s tongue snaking and exploring inside her mouth.

It was so natural. So taboo and yet so natural making love to Pip. Of course they were young. Of course they were both only girls. And of course, Mummy should never know. That would be terrible.

Continue on to Chapter 2

 

No comments on Silver Lining, Chapter 1

  1. Amanda Lynn says:

    Loving this so far. I can sympathize with Justine.

  2. Poppabear says:

    Good, intriguing, with lots of possibilities, the stories on this site just get better and better.
    You know I can’t help myself. I need to point out a funny little typo that escaped the editor’s eye.
    [Admit it, you’re showing off again.]
    When Justine crosses the bar to meet Rosa in Columbus, her name switches from Justine to Jesting.
    Who’s kidding who?

    • Oops, you’re right. Looks like spell-check is playing games with someone — don’t know if it was the original author, or our editor, but either way that mistake has been fixed. Thanks for the catch, Poppa!

      • JetBoy says:

        Hells bells — how’d THAT escape me? Thanks for spotting that, Poppa… and thanks to Naughty Mommy for her diplomacy in choosing not to name me as the culprit editor who let it slip past.

  3. CaseyJo says:

    Cassie, this is a great start! Well written, completely believable characters and situations, and just a pressure to read. Thanks for sharing, and excited to twas what’s next

  4. Sarah says:

    I’ve had that same dream. What a fun story.

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