This is the final part of Delicate Touches and I’ve struggled with this part more than any other part because I still feel I should have tacked this part onto Part Seven as it’s just an epilogue and the part where I tie up loose ends. The eventual novel that comes out of this would be longer but this is just the first draft, more or less. Thank you to the people who stayed with me to the end, it’s been a marathon effort but now that I’ve finished it, I’ll be moving onto shorter stories!
For many years Mei Lin had harboured an obsession with numbers. As a high school student she’d scored high in maths tests and gained an A+ for her final exam. Part of her fascination for numbers lay with her ninth year maths teacher Ms Grey and it had nothing to do with Ms Grey’s looks, rather it was her oft-repeated mantra that mathematics was the universal language of the universe. Alien beings might find our music and art baffling or even distasteful but we had a common tongue with mathematics. For someone like Mei Lin who’d spent the first few years of her life in Malaysia, the concept of a universal language was alluring. Her love of numbers had even infiltrated her religious beliefs. Six days to create the world and the seventh day to rest. Forty days and forty nights for a flood, and three days in a tomb.
Much of the latter however was behind her. The earth was four billion years old not six days, the flood had been but one of many floods and there was no proof Jesus had been resurrected. Yet despite that, she still attributed significance to certain numbers and after three days away from Stevie she felt as if she’d awakened as from a slumber. Contrary to her natural instinct, she didn’t stay the night at Stevie’s on the Sunday night and she didn’t go back to Elwood either. Nicki was there and she wanted to spend the night in her old bed because at least there beneath the duvet she could process her feelings.
Her mother had no idea of what had happened after the balloon flight but she already knew that Stevie was out. It was on her profile page and her mother had become something of an Internet junkie, constantly posting memes condemning abortion, same sex marriage and anything that smacked of liberalism. Thus, the first question she’d asked Mei Lin that Sunday night was about Stevie’s sexuality and Mei Lin candidly admitted that Stevie was gay.
“But it’s not a crime, mum,” she chose her words carefully, “not in Australia.”
“But it should be, now look at the country.”
“The country is still here,” she replied, “there are no gas chambers or concentration camps, people get married to people of the same sex and the opposite sex, children are born and life just goes on,” she finished suddenly as her father came into the kitchen.
“How was the balloon flight?”
“It was fantastic,” she smiled, “did you see the pictures?”
Unlike her mother, Mei Lin’s father didn’t spend a lot of time on the Internet when he wasn’t at work, it was only recently that he’d finally agreed to set up a Facebook profile. Perhaps he feared that his friends would visit his wife’s profile and think that they shared the same skewed beliefs or maybe he just saw it as a trivial thing.
“I have not checked the Facebook,” he frowned.
That gave Mei Lin the exit she needed and she spent the next half an hour or so showing him her pictures and the video. She felt a closeness to her father that she’d never felt for her mother, he was the one she looked up to and whenever she was hurting or confused she turned to her father first because he at least would defer to logic instead of lurching into an emotional tirade.
The next morning however she had felt somewhat guilty as she drove away because she hadn’t outed herself to her parents. She did out herself to Stella at work and the older woman merely raised her eyebrows and smiled.
“So, you and Stevie, huh?”
“It looks like it but I’m still confused.”
“One night between the sheets won’t turn you gay, trust me. I’ve slept with a few straight women for the first time and they’re still straight. Give yourself some room to breathe and take stock, it’s not a life or death decision to out yourself, or not,” she propped on her palm.
“And nobody should feel the pressure to out themselves. There are those out there on both sides of the divide who politicise the debate and shout it from the rooftops but they forget that ordinary men and women are merely falling in and out of love. We say in AA that most folks just want to be happy, whether that’s loving your own kind or building plastic model cars.”
“Model cars,” Mei Lin nudged her glasses.
“What do you think I did for the first six months of my sobriety,” she replied, “I came home from work and went to work on a model car until it was time to make dinner and go to a meeting, and after the meeting I’d come home and do a bit of work on the car and then try to sleep. My head was literally spinning, I white knuckled it for months and months.”
“Maybe I fatih escort should make model cars then.”
“Whatever,” she replied, “I gave most of them to my cousin’s son but I still have a couple of boxes buried on the top shelf of the wardrobe.”
And yet despite the offer, she’d not gone looking for model cars. Instead she’d kept herself busy with work and school work, anything to keep from facing the inevitable question. Am I gay or not? The second day was much like the first only this time she was at school and found herself both drawn to and repelled by girls she’d come to know as friends. Should she be looking at a friend like this? To make matters worse, Stevie hadn’t come to the rescue. Granted she texted two or three times a day but there was no I love you or promises of undying love. It seemed that Stevie was just waiting for her to make up her own mind and that frightened her. What if she made a decision and it turned out to be the wrong one?
On the third day however she came to a decision as she came home from a half day at school. She was going to go for a drive. She had no ultimate destination in mind. That was the thing about living here, you could literally drive for days without running out of road and if you drove right around Australia it would take months.
Mei Lin found herself heading east through the inner suburbs of Hawthorn and Camberwell, and then through Box Hill and Heathmont but as she drew closer to her parents house Mei Lin finally diverted to Linda’s ‘soon to be old home’ in South Croydon, not knowing if Linda was even at home and half expecting the house to be locked.
Linda’s door was open however and when Mei Lin called out, the older woman came to the door, judging by her old clothes and rubber gloves she’d obviously been cleaning.
“Can I come in for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” Linda stepped back to let her in.
“Are you busy?”
“Kind of,” Linda started peeling off her rubber gloves, “I’ve been cleaning half the day, I’m at the shower now and once I’ve cleaned that I’m having a cold shower. This fucking heat is taking it out of me.”
“We’ve got climate control at our place.”
“It can’t come soon enough,” Linda led her through to the kitchen, “you want something to wet your whistle?”
“Any particular flavour?” Linda opened the fridge, “one of the benefits of being a recovering alcoholic is having a good variety of lolly water although I’ve never taken to Doctor Pepper.”
“Me neither,” Mei Lin leaned against the bench, “I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
“Pepsi it is then,” she took out two cans, “do you want it in a glass or straight from the can?”
“I’m not fussed,” Mei Lin replied.
“Pull up a pew,” Linda indicated the stools on the other side of the breakfast bar, “I’ll get some ice and a couple of glasses.”
“Ice,” Mei Lin smiled, “I had ice last night.”
When she didn’t elaborate Linda raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask for an explanation as she filled the glasses. However it was only when Mei Lin had drained half the glass that the mystery was finally revealed when she told Linda about her date with Stevie and the aftermath. Linda listened without interrupting, the younger woman seemed anxious to unburden herself and indeed she even played her own devil’s advocate in an attempt to make light of the encounter.
“So, you had sex for the first time last night,” Linda finally spoke.
“Yeah,” she leaned on the bench, “and it’s made me think.”
“That’s usually a good thing,” Linda nodded, “so, what are you thinking?”
“About life, the way I’ve been living my life and,” she paused, “it’s like I’ve been in this waking dream. In front of mum and some of her friends I’ve been saying things I know aren’t true, I profess a belief in a God I don’t believe exists, at least not in the Catholic way. I feel guilty for lying but also embarrassed for being so pliable. I saw something on You Tube the other night, some speaker who was a Christian and what he said really hit me here,” she tapped her breast.
“He said what he hated most about Christianity was the fact it kept him stupid, believing that God created the world in six days, the story about Adam and Eve, the flood and all the rest and I felt like he was talking straight at me.”
“So, where do you want to go from here?”
“That’s what I’m trying to work out,” she frowned, “if I come out to my parents I know mum will cry and maybe even reject me, dad will play the peacemaker and I’m not even sure it’s a good idea to come out in the first place.”
“Well no one’s forcing you to even come out,” Linda replied, “it’s not like I go around bragging about the person I screwed last night or last year. That kind of information is on a need to know basis and it’s usually only if I feel the other person needs to know. For example if someone asks me out but I’m with someone else then I’d tell them I’m with someone already but I don’t have to go into lurid details or even define my sexuality. People etiler escort get hung up on the whole sexual identity thing and think they have to make a statement or draw lines in the sand, but sexuality is far more fluid than that. It’s like the tides constantly ebbing and flowing, it’s what happens between two adults who have some degree of trust,” she ran a finger along a crack in the bench.
“What we’ve seen in the last twenty or thirty years is just the gay community finally coming out and saying we’re here and we’re not about to take over the world and make you turn gay. In another twenty or thirty years it might become such a non issue that people might think it’s weird if you try to define your sexuality.”
“So, what do you think I should do?”
“Do whatever you think is best for you. I’m here and I’m your friend no matter which way you choose, and I’m sure that Nicki, Stella and Evie are the same. If you want to stay in the closet then stay there, it’s not a big deal and if you want to come out then that’s fine too. The important thing is to get to know Stevie better and work on your relationship. One night of sex doesn’t mean you’re committed to one person. I like the Danish way of it, they have sex first and decide later if they want to have sex a second time, the relationship part comes in time if they find they’ve got enough things in common.”
Mei Lin’s eyes shifted.
“I like the Danish way of looking at it, that’s exactly how I feel it should happen.”
The conversation soon moved onto other things, some were personal issues and others a little more mundane. Mei Lin ended up staying for dinner but she could’ve stayed later than 9:30 but she finally decided to head home and as she drove past the road leading to her old home she felt as if she’d crossed a line that hadn’t been visible until she actually spoke about it. She didn’t know if or when she would come out, she only knew that for today she was content to just be the way she was, for now.
“I really feel for her,” Linda commented as they pulled into her driveway.
“Yeah, I can identify with that one all right,” Caroline braked and eased the gear lever into Park, “it took me six whole weeks after my first sexual encounter with a woman to admit I enjoyed it.”
Linda stared out the window as she recalled Caroline’s story, she’d heard it from start to finish once already and she couldn’t imagine going down that route and yet, she glanced at her. In a sense she had done something similar. Was this love or was it just a flash in the pan. She recalled a woman in a meeting talking about trying to find herself some years ago and not knowing where to start and so she’d started trying different things like horse riding, pottery, dancing and other things. It became something of a personal adventure, attempting things she’d never done before and totally forgot about trying to find herself. In the end she found out what she liked and what she didn’t like doing and inevitably found herself remade as it were. It was true what they said in AA. If you didn’t lift the first drink and kept going to meetings and did a little about yourself along the way, they’d show you a way of life you never dreamed possible.
“Are you too tired for a cuppa?”
“Huh?” Linda blinked, “no, I’m fine,” she stared at the house, “just think, by this time tomorrow I’ll be driving away from this place.”
“Fancy some company?”
“Yeah, why not?” Linda paused, “are you staying the night or going home?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” Caroline replied, “but we should talk about what happened.”
“Yeah, I’ve been trying to put it off myself the last few days. Mei Lin isn’t the only one struggling to come to terms with a new way of doing things.”
“Okay, let’s talk,” Caroline undid her seatbelt, “but first I need a piss.”
Whilst Caroline was in the toilet Linda filled the kettle and grabbed two cups, she’d already packed her precious plunger coffee but a small jar of instant would suffice. She glanced up as she heard the toilet door open and then Caroline went through to the bathroom. What would it be like to have a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend? The idea would have sounded alien to her six months ago but a lot could happen in six weeks, let alone six months. Her marriage had dissolved and she was moving out of this place.
She traced a finger along the crack in the bench. This place had been home for over three years and despite her current status she still felt an attachment to the place. Here she was her own person, she could go to bed when she wanted, watch whatever she wanted and leave dishes in the sink until the morning. There was no one to answer to, now more than ever. Would a new living situation and a new relationship be too much too soon? She managed a smirk at that. Most alcoholics didn’t know the meaning of the word moderation, it was boots and all, in for a pound, in for a penny and yet as you put more years between you and your last drink you did settle down and find the balance. beşiktaş escort Those who kept bouncing from one fad to the next or changing everything in one go were often hiding something, their refusal to do one of the steps, not wanting to face up to a painful decision or any number of other reasons.
“You read my mind,” Caroline stepped into the kitchen, “I was just going to say no plunger coffee, I’d be awake half the night.”
“I packed the other coffee away,” she glanced at her.
“Your voice is echoing,” Caroline sat down opposite her, “I’ve never seen the place so empty.”
“Be strange moving into another house,” she glanced over at the kettle as it turned off, “I do like my own space and now I’ll be sharing it with other people, three other people.”
“And that’s a bad thing?”
“I could use the company,” she replied, “but it’s still a big step.”
Caroline nodded as Linda filled the mugs with hot water.
“So, where do you see this going?” Linda glanced up briefly.
“I still want to see you,” Caroline replied, “I don’t want you to move in with me and I’m not after a happy ever after ending. Let’s just take this one day at a time,” she paused, “the only red line I’ve got is we have to keep doing meetings, and not just together but separately too. I don’t want one of us to wind up doing meetings for the other, we’ve both seen the results of that method.”
“Amen to that,” Linda stirred the coffee, “so what about straight girlfriends? If I go out for coffee with a girlfriend how does that work?”
“It works with trust, maybe I’ll turn into a green eyed monster but not today.”
“Okay,” Linda grinned as she pushed the cup across the bench towards her, “and the same goes for me but if I’m sharing a bed with you then I’m not sharing a bed with anyone else.”
“Okay,” Caroline took the cup, “that’s my other red line.”
“Any other red lines?”
“None that I can think of,” Caroline raised the mug, “although I do want an all expenses paid trip around the world every two years.”
“Fuck, is that all?” Linda chuckled, “yeah, I can do that without breaking a sweat.”
They sipped their coffees in silence for a few minutes.
“Shall we?” Caroline inclined her head in the direction of the couch.
“What? Give the couch one last go? It is going to the bloody Salvos.”
“So we can’t tell them we fucked on it.”
“Definitely not,” Linda grinned.
As she followed Caroline into the living room Linda knew she was going to fuck tonight, maybe not on the couch but for the first time in years she felt no anxiety about this stage of a new affair. There had been no wild promises and no expectations.
I could get used to this.
Nicki woke with a start when Mei Lin opened the bedroom door and for a few moments she lay stock still just taking in Mei Lin’s silhouette in the doorway. She’d drifted off to sleep after a hard day at uni and work, and the pasta dinner she’d wolfed down after work had settled like lead in her stomach. She propped on her elbows and studied her friend.
“Hey,” Mei Lin spoke quietly.
“Hey back,” Nicki replied, “I was asleep.”
“Sorry, I just thought I’d let you know I was home.”
“It’s fine,” Nicki sat up, “how’s Stevie?”
“I haven’t seen her yet,” she moved further into the room.
“It’s been three days,” she replied, “are you still unsure?”
“I’ve been unsure,” she admitted, “but to be honest,” she perched on the edge of the bed, “I’ve just been putting off the inevitable. This is what I am, but if I was to follow my mother’s wishes I’d shut down my natural urges and marry a man.”
“You wouldn’t be the first.”
“Especially in my family,” she turned to face her, “I spent Sunday night there and you should have heard her go on, it was like she was on drugs and it got me thinking about something you said a few weeks ago, about mum.”
“Do you think she might have had an affair with a woman?”
“Possibly although knowing the country the way I do I think maybe it was suppressed, although she might have said something to embarrass herself but I’m not my mother,” their eyes met.
“What’s happening with you and Mia?”
“It’s early days,” Nicki confessed, “for once I’m not the alpha woman, she holds the cards and I’m just cooling my heels and playing her game. She’s not about to come out and I’m not about to force her into anything. I never thought I’d find myself in this situation.”
“Is that healthy?”
“It is for me, I don’t have to prove myself or rescue her from herself. I’ve been the perennial knight in shining armour although lately I’ve been a knight in rusty armour,” she restrained a smile.
“You don’t have to rescue anyone but yourself,” Mei Lin patted her leg, “that’s what Stella told me today at work.”
“Where is Stella?”
“With Evie at her place,” she replied, “I could’ve hitched a ride with her to Linda’s place but I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep going to Stevie’s, so I came home instead and got changed and then went driving.”
“She’s fine, she was going to a meeting tonight with Caroline and tomorrow she’ll be moving the last of her stuff to here,” she paused, “you heard about her and Caroline?”