The joyful cry carried all the way across the lawn, and for a long, optimistic moment Eleanor considered ducking behind a perfectly manicured shrub and pretending she wasn't there. But it wasn’t meant to be; Tahani’s dumb, mile-long legs brought her right up to Eleanor before she could even twitch.
"Tahani," she said, pasting a pleasant smile on her face, thinking of flying shrimp and burning houseplants and being found out and sent away to be mauled by double-mouthed bears for all eternity. "Hey... girl. How's it hanging?"
"Oh, Eleanor," Tahani said, either ignoring or not noticing her awkwardness, "I'm so glad I ran into you." She hooked her arm through Eleanor's, then started walking back towards her house, giving Eleanor no choice but to follow.
"So I've been exploring my house," Tahani said, and Eleanor mentally braced herself. "It's so big, you know, I've only been able to get through half of it so far, but guess what I found in the east wing. You'll never guess." She turned her perfect smile on Eleanor, and really, weren't British people supposed to have bad teeth? What the hey.
"A swimming pool?" Eleanor guessed.
Tahani laughed like a very beautiful and rich wind chime. "Oh, no, the swimming pool is in the back yard. Or, one of them is. We've got an Olympic down in the basement, as well. No, what I found in an exact replica of the tea room my grandmother had in her townhouse. Isn't that exciting?" She squeezed Eleanor's arm in a weird kind of happy arm hug. "I have so many fond memories of spending afternoon tea there. So, I suppose it makes perfect sense that I'd find it here, don't you think?”
Eleanor nodded awkwardly. Luckily, Tahani went on before she had to come up with a response.
"So, of course, I thought to myself, I simply must invite someone over for tea immediately. And who better than my very best bestie, Eleanor?" Tahani grinned. It made her look like a movie star.
"Oh," Eleanor said intelligently, and followed along where Tahani led her.
They strolled like that, arm in arm, through Tahani's beautiful garden, lapsing into a comfortable silence. Eleanor wished that it could be at least be a mildly awkward silence, but no, she fond herself relaxing, pressed up against Tahani's side, enjoying the smell of the climbing roses, and the twitter of the birds, and whatever scent it was that Tahani had spritzed herself with this morning. Probably looking like a model while she did. Eleanor thought about asking, but she knew deep in her soul-bones what the answer would be.
"Oh, that's just my natural scent, darling. Perfume gives me such a dreadful headache. I never wear it," Eleanor muttered under her breath.
"What was that, darling?" Tahani asked. "Didn't quite hear you."
"Oh, nothing," Eleanor said, shooting a sunny smile at Tahani. "I was just thinking to myself that the," beautiful, elaborate, "rose arch thingies," she gestured vaguely towards the fragrant and multicolored trellises, "looked a little plain, you know?"
Tahani slowed, peering over towards the trellises with narrowed eyes, before turning back to Eleanor with a smile splitting her face. "Oh, Eleanor," she exclaimed, and why couldn‘t Tahani ever say things like a normal person? She always sounded like she was narrating a prestige documentary about artisan jewelers, "you're absolutely right. And I know exactly what to do with them—look." She wheeled them around so that Eleanor had to skip to keep up. "Here," Tahani said," I'll moved these all closer together and in a line. One will be able to walk through them, like--like a hallway of roses! Charming. Hmm." She laced her fingers through Eleanor's and brought their joined hands up to rest against her chin. Thinking, but also holding Eleanor's hand. "I think I'll have the hedges lengthened as well, and the trellises can serve as a path between the rose garden and the evergreen garden!"
"That's—a really good idea," Eleanor said, strangled.
"Yes, isn't it? I think I'll start this afternoon. But first, tea." She dropped their hands back down to normal hand position, but did not let go, and started off again towards the grand entrance of her house.
The inside was the same as the last time Eleanor had seen it. Ostentatious, but in a way you couldn't even make fun of because it was so tasteful.
The tea parlor, too, was lovely, in an obnoxious way. The couches were pale pink, in some kind of fancy French style, and so comfortable, the carpet was plush in a way that made Eleanor want to kick off her shoes.
Instead, she tried to perch gingerly on the edge of one of the sofas, but it was so plush she sank right in. Tahani sat next to her, their thighs pressed together. Eleanor gave her a frantic look.
Tahani smiled serenely. “Janet!”
“Hello,” Janet said, popping into existence with a pleasant ding. Eleanor was still so not used to that. Tahani, though, barely blimked. Eleanor supposed she was used to having servants, and one that was some kind of weird robot/genie/angel wasn’t enough of a deviation to faze her.
Wait, robot butler. That actually a cool idea, now that Eleanor thought about it. It was too bad she was dead and couldn’t call up her dealer, Marcus, who was also a screen-writer. Although, he probably wasn’t that good if he spent all his time dealing to college kids and Eleanor. Unless dealing pot just paid better than screen-writing?
“We’ll need a traditional afternoon tea spread,” Tahani was telling Janice. “Like my grandmother would have served, you know.”
“I do know,” Janet said. “I know everything. Would you like the raspberry mille-feuilles that were your favorite from ages six-and-a-half to fifteen?”
“Oh!” Tahani clapped her hands. “Why, I haven’t had those for—it must be nearly twelve years.”
“Fifteen,” Janet said helpfully. “You were two months, one week, and three days away from your thirtieth birthday when you died.” Janet was kind of the best sometimes, Eleanor decided. She hid her smile behind one hand.
“Yes, thank you, Janet,” Tahani said hurriedly, glancing at Eleanor. “Please go get our tea now.”
“Okay,” Janet said, and then wasn’t there anymore. Eleanor pretended to sneeze so she had an excuse for having her hands over her face.
”Bless you,” Tahani said.
An awkward silence descended. Eleanor was almost overcome with the completely foreign urge to say something nice to Tahani. Possibly about how she didn’t need to worry because her bod was showing no signs of quitting any time soon. Luckily, Janet came back into existence holding a multi-tiered tray before Eleanor could open her mouth.
“Here you go,” Janet placed the tray down on the intricately carved coffee table, “traditional Afternoon Tea, in the style of Tahani’s maternal grandmother, who, fun fact, was briefly exiled from the UK because her tea parties were reported to be more tasteful than the Queen’s.”
“Hm, yes,” Tahani said, a wistful look on her face, “that certainly was an interesting six months. Grandmama was such a character. That’ll be all, Janet.”
Janet disappeared again with a cheerful “okay!”, and Eleanor took the opportunity to get a good look at the tea spread. Fancy little cakes, check. Tea cups so thin and delicate they looled like they’d shatter if Eleanor breathed too hard on them, check. A plate piled with precarious stacks of raspberries, cream, and wafers that were probably those Millie’s Fool things. “This all looks amazing,” Eleanor said with grudging honesty. She was eyeing a plate of tiny cream puff things that needed to be in her mouth yesterday.
“Ah, thank you,” Tahani preened, as if she’d made it all herself. She began preparing herself a cup of tea expertly. “It really is very accurate, this place. People used to fight—sometimes literally—over invitations to Grandmama’s formal teas, but this,” she gestured around at the huge, opulent parlor, “little place, was always just for us. I used to come here every Sunday.”
”On purpose?” Eleanor asked around a mouth of ladyfinger. “I used to hate when my mom would dump me at my grandma’s. The lady had, like, twenty birds. I think she stole a couple from a zoo.”
“Uh-huh,” Tahani said, not seeming sure how to respond. “How... novel.
“But yes, I was here on purpose, more or less. My sister Kamila,” Tahani’s smile became strained, ”would always have some kind of performance or art exhibit or avant-garde poetry recital Sunday evenings, and I was excused from those after,” her lips pressed together, “that one time. So I was packed off out of the way—like a cousin from East London—every weekend. Not,” she added quickly, “that I didn’t love it here. Grandmama was always very good company.”
“Oh.” Eleanor lowered the cream puff she had been about to make sweet mouth love to from her lips. She wanted that pastry-y goodness, but this seemed like something an ethical person would deal with first. “Tahani, that… sucks?”
“No, no, no,” Tahani shook her head, a look of determined bravery on her face, “it was lovely, really it was. Me and my grandmother got along splendidly. And,” she gave Eleanor a conspiratorial look, “she once told me that between me and my sister, she thought I was the more down-to-earth.”
“Uh-huh.” It wasn’t the first adjective Eleanor would have come up with, but she figured the Al-Jamils graded on a curve.
“But enough about me,” Tahani said, waving a hand. “I feel as if I’m always talking about myself.”
“Why ever could that be,” said Eleanor under her breath.
“What? Didn’t quite catch that.”
“Nothing.” Eleanor leveled her most disarming smile at Tahani. “You were saying something about how you always talk about yourself.”
“Oh, yes. Well, of course, I don’t mind regaling everyone with charming anecdotes about me, and all the famous and attractive people I know, but I feel as if I don’t know a single thing about you, Eleanor. Tell me, what was your family like? Apart from your bird thief grandmother?”
“Well,” Eleanor said, trying to decide how much outright lying she could get away with, ethically speaking. She landed on a story that was true, but ultimately not very revealing, “my mom once bought me a hamster. For my ninth? Birthday, I think? And then two days later, she traded it to our neighbor for a box of white wine.”
Tahani, who had been twisted into some kind of extra elegant version of an active-listening pose, recoiled at the mention of boxed wine. She made an unhappy little noise, like a pure bred kitten who had been asked to try generic brand cat food. “Eleanor, that’s just awful—”
“Oh yeah, and the real kicker is, a hamster’s, like, twenty bucks. I know because I looked it up. And that was a five dollar box of pinot grigio she traded it for.” The cream puff Eleanor was still holding buckled underneath the pressure of her fingers, the cream oozing down her hand, which was weird because Eleanor hadn’t realized she’d been squeezing it so hard. Must have been a random finger spasm, because she was definitely, one-hundred percent over the hamster thing. “Shirt,” she hissed, trying to lick up the cream before it ran down her wrist.
“Here,” Tahani said, catching Eleanor’s wrist in her hand, “let me get that.” She tabbed at the mess with a embroidered napkin. Eleanor let her, for some reason. “I'm so sorry to hear about that, Eleanor. That wasn’t a very nice thing to do at all.”
“Yeah, well,” Eleanor said, hypnotized by the sight of Tahani’s hands, as they carefully wiped cream out from between Eleanor’s fingers, “my mother wasn’t a very nice person at all.”
Tahani finished and set the napkin aside, but she didn't let go of Eleanor’s hand, folded between her own. Eleanor wasn’t sure if it was her imagination, or if the air of the room was getting heavier. Her fingers spasmed, a little, under Tahani’s. She looked up from their conjoined hands to Tahani’s face, which was much closer than she expected. Tahani licked her lips. Eleanor’s brain fizzled.
“Um,” said Eleanor’s mouth without her input, “would you—”
“Do you want to snog a bit?” Tahani’s voice was pitched higher than normal, and the words came so fast they ran up against each other. It took Eleanor a second to parse them.
“Oh, you know,” Tahani said, extricating one of her hands to nervously tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “Kiss? Oh, what do Americans call it. Neck? Yes, neck. Silly thing to call it, really. It almost sounds as if you’re meant to—well, it doesn’t matter.”
”Wait,” Eleanor said, all the pieces finally clicking together into a picture so perfect she almost didn’t want to believe it, “did you bring me here to seduce me?”
”Well, I mean, I wouldn’t have made it sound so sordid—”
“But that was totally your plan all along,” Eleanor said, triumphant. “You want to bone me. You’ve been craving a piece of this,” she gestured down at herself, “hot, sexy bod. You were trying to impress me with tiny, fancy cakes so you could get into my pants. They were delicious, and I am actually impressed, but you still did it because you wanna f—”
”Okay, yes, shut up!” Tahani said, and kissed her. Her lips were as soft, and she tasted delicately of black tea and sugar, and smelled even more amazing this close. Eleanor buried her hands in Tahani’s hair, and that was soft too. One of them made a little noise in the back of their throat, and for a while everything was a sweet, soft, sexy blur.
They broke apart, breathing hard.
”Well,” Tahani said. She looked much more put together than she had any right to. Her lipstick wasn’t even smudged. God, she was the worst. Eleanor hated her so much.
”I’m down to fork if you are,” Eleanor said. Then her brain finally caught up with her. She groaned internally. Good Person Eleanor probably wouldn’t bang her hot neighbor without a second thought about the consequences, even if she really, really, really wanted to. “Wait,” she sighed, “what about Chidi and Jianyu?”
“Oh,” Tahani’s face fell a little. “I mean, we don’t have to tell them, do we? Jianyu’s always so busy meditating and being silent and disappearing for hours on end. And to be perfectly honest, I haven’t gotten laid once since I here.” She gave Eleanor a beseaching look, and Eleanor could feel her resolve crumbling like a ritz cracker.
”I guess...” Eleanor mumbled. Honestly, how was she supposed to resist those huge, dark eyes. Those lightly trembling lips, the perfect skin, the affected, but stupidly sexy accent, the hair, the boobs. Eleanor was only—a pretty mediocre—human, okay.
"Just because we're not soulmates, doesn't mean we can't have a little fun," Tahani said in her dumb, fancy accent.
“Okay, you’ve convinced me.” Eleanor clambored into Tahani’s lap, none too gracefully. It’s not as if any of them were actually soulmates, anyway. No one was getting hurt. It was a victimless crime. It wasn’t even a crime. It was sex. And if Tahani was under the impression that Eleanor was some kind of kid-saving philanthropist, instead of a snake oil selling scumbag from Arizona, well half the guys Eleanor had slept with had told her they were doctors. It never hurt her none to find out they were actually pharmacists who sold pills to college kids on the side. It was character building. “Just so you know, I am one hundred percent a-okay with whichever direction this ends up going. Like, heavy groping, hand stuff, mouth stuff, other stuff, weird stuff, if you’re into that. I’m down.”
“Oh, okay,” Tahani said, her hands coming up to frame Eleanor’s waist. “Well,” she smiled mischievously, “I suppose let’s see where the evening takes us.” She leaned in and pressed her lips against Eleanor’s. For a long moment it was sweet and warm and gentle, then Eleanor took the opportunity to grab both of Tahani’s boobs.
The next hour happened in a series of hazy, pleasure-filled moments. More kissing. A lot soft, dark skin that Eleanor was suddenly allowed to touch. The little noises she could get from Tahani if she stroked just right. Eleanor eventually ending up with her legs over Tahani’s shoulders, trying to stay balanced on the edge of the chaise lounge.
"Oh, of course you're amazing at this," Eleanor said as Tahani's tongue immediately figured out that she liked it just a bit to the left, in a half-circle. Tahani laughed without lifting her head, and the vibrations felt amazing too.
Eleanor sank her hands into Tahani’s silky-soft hair in revenge, gripping tight enough to sting. Tahani didn’t complain, just continued to drive Eleanor slowly insane.
Later Eleanor gasped into her arm, every thrust getting so deep inside her it should have hurt, but didn't. Maybe that was just the Good Place. Sex was always the best. But somehow, she thought it was Tahani. Or maybe that ridiculously expensive looking strap-on she'd conjured from somewhere.
"What'd your grandma think?" Eleanor slurred, her vision going a little fuzzy as Tahani changed angles. "Of you forking girls over her antique coach?"
Tahani laughed, and bite Eleanor on the neck. She'd make a sexy vampire, Eleanor thought. She could turn Eleanor, and they could have freaky vampire sex. "She'd be horrified, of course." Tahani leaned in close, and murmured in her ear, "After I've made you squirt all over this hand-sewn, silk upholstery, I'm going to strap this dildo to you, and ride you until you cry uncle."
"Oh my God," Eleanor moaned as Tahani picked up the pace. Her pussy was started to make that weird, squelching noise which meant she was getting really turned on. "Squirt is just pee—fork me, that's so good."
Tahani drew almost all the the way out, before sliding back in. Agonizingly slow. "Tell me again."
"Squirt is just pee."
"No, silly, the other thing."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Eleanor lied insistently.
"Oh, I think you rather do," Tahani said, draping herself over Eleanor's back. She ran her lips over the really good spot behind Eleanor's ear. "Eleanor," she breathed, and the way she said Eleanor's name always made it seem so much classier. It was just her name, but Tahani made it sound rich, old-world. Made it sound like Eleanor Roosevelt, and fine ladies drinking tea out of delicate teacups in posh drawing rooms. It made her shiver.
"There's something about you," Tahani said, slipping her hands under Eleanor's stomach, and running them up her ribcage, to her breasts. "Something so, oh what's the word, casual? Sloppy? Uninhibited? Oh, I can't think. Eleanor, you make it so hard to think. But you're different from everyone else, and it just drives me absolutely mad."
Every long slide started with the tip of the dildo just barely teasing Eleanor's entrance, and ended with a slow grind. It was, Eleanor thought grimly, probably the best fuck she'd ever had.
"Come on, darling," Tahani said, wiggling her fingers between Eleanor's thighs. She missed Eleanor's clit on the first try, and Eleanor let out a triumphant little "ha!" that morphed into a moan halfway through, as Tahani got it dead the second time. "Come on, Eleanor. Oh, you look so good like this. Tell me how good I'm making you feel."
Eleanor shook her head mutely. Stubborn.
“Oh, don’t be difficult, tell me,” Tahani said, her voice pitching lower. “It’s not as if I can’t infer. You’re so wet you’re dripping down your thighs, all your muscles twitch every time I do this,” she angled down, pressing the head of the dildo right up against Eleanor’s g-spot. “Eleanor, Eleanor, come on,” and Tahani’s own voice was starting to sound a little ragged, “tell Mommy how good it is.”
Eleanor felt something snap inside her brain. Probably the last of her sanity giving up the ghost, because that had really done it for her. She hadn’t thought it was possible to get more turned on than she‘d already been, but, well, here they were. Eleanor lost control of her mouth.
“Fork, fork, fork,” Eleanor almost sobbed, “it’s so good.”
“Of course it is, darling,” Tahani breathed into Eleanor’s ear, her fingers finding an evilly good rhythm, in counterpoint to her thrusts. “Let Mommy take care of you. I’ll take such good care of you, I promise.”
Yep, that was definitely a thing Eleanor did not hate. She’d process that later. Or, more likely, just drink heavily and try not to let the memory turn her on too much.
“Oh, I am actually going to come,” Eleanor said right before she did, the world going fuzzy around the edges.
“Excellent, my turn,” Tahani said, manhandling Eleanor onto her back. Then there was a confusing blur of straps and buckles, which ended with Tahani straddling her hips, and Eleanor staring up at the miles of perfect skin and hair and a pair of unfairly perfect tits.
“I am going to die,” Eleanor said very seriously.
Tahani laughed, which made her breasts do very interesting things. “Don’t be silly,” she said, “they can’t send you to heaven twice.”