“It’d be alright if sex was just like some…” Edina glances down at the magazine in her hands and makes a noncommittal noise, head wobbling slightly. She looks back up at Patsy, sitting beside her, “You know…” She vaguely waves the crinkled publication towards her friend and twists her mouth. “Like Razzle.”
The magazine in question rests innocuously in Edina’s hands. She had been shocked to find such a magazine in her son’s old room. Open to the centrefold, pages that have long ago lost their gloss show a full body nude. A young woman lies on a polar bear rug, long red hair spread about her head like a halo. One hand appears to trace the contour of a perfect breast, seemingly en route to a perfectly small nipple. The other hand is slipped between the model’s thin thighs, en route to somewhere far more forbidden. The model gazes at the camera vacantly, eyes half-lidded and sultry, lips pouting and glossy, and slightly parted, Edina can almost hear the small sigh that escapes them.
Edina clears her throat, suddenly all-too-aware that she’s been silent for a bit longer than is normal. She drags her eyes away from the centrefold and looks at Patsy. She is relieved to see that Patsy hasn’t noticed her lapse in conversation. In fact, Patsy seems completely unfazed, she is gazing into the middle distance, smoking her cigarette in long, measured drags. She turns to Edina, looking into her friend’s eyes impassively, breathing out a long billow of smoke from her nostrils.
“Have you ever considered that you might be into women, Eddie?”
Eddie is stunned. She shakes her head incredulously, “Wha- What? You- You what? I- Wo- Women? Me? Into women?”
Patsy takes another long drag of her cigarette, turning away from Edina and gazing once more into the middle distance. “Well you don’t have to deny it so vehemently. I just thought that, you know” she glances down at the magazine now lying in Edina’s lap, “maybe you haven’t had such a great time with men, because you’re more of a… girl’s girl.”
“Girls?” Edina’s voice has risen an octave.
“Oh it was just a thought, Eddie,” Patsy huffs. “You don’t have to simper about it.”
Something in Edina’s stomach tightens. She suddenly feels as if she is watching herself through a window. When she speaks, her voice is impossibly quiet, “No.”
“Hmm?” Patsy simply raises a single eyebrow and looks once more at her friend.
“No. I- I mean- I might be?”
“Might be what?”
She raises her voice slightly, “I- I might be… a girl’s girl. Well, a woman’s woman.” Edina’s jaw is tight, her hands clenched to fists. “Only a bit though," she qualifies.
Patsy leans back on the dirty bed they’re sitting on, resting on her hands. A smirk settles on her face. “I thought so.”
At that, Edina feels indignant, annoyed even. “You what? You thought so?” She twists her body to glare at the woman beside her. “I’ve never been with a woman. I’ve never spoken about it with you. How would you know?”
“Darling, I’ve known you your whole life, I know you’re frankly terrible with sex stuff.” Another puff of nicotine, “Honestly, it was just a thought, that maybe overall you’d be happier if you just shacked up with a hot chick.”
Edina is beginning to feel downright offended at Patsy’s casual tone. “Shacked up? Darling, shacked up? You think I should just find myself some lesbian and move to Sussex? You think I should establish a cottage garden and adopt some cats?”
Patsy regards Edina coldly, “That’s a bit derivative isn’t it? I’ve loved some girls in my time, Eddie. Does that make me one of your lesbians?” She draws out the last word, ending in a hiss.
Edina stammers again, ire quelled. “No, that’s not what I… what I meant.”
“Well, to tell you the truth, Margaret did find another young girl and moved to Essex after we dated, I hear they’re keeping chickens these days.” Patsy is silent for a moment, lost in reminiscence, “I’ve never liked stereotypes, but sometimes they’re accurate. The nicer ones at least. Anyway, I couldn’t live down in the country, London is where I am. It’s where I’ll always be.”
Edina is silent, digesting the enormity of what Patsy had just told her. When she speaks, her voice is slightly hoarse, “Are you telling me, darling, that you’ve been seeing women all this time and I’ve never known?”
Patsy lazily stubs her cigarette out on the bare face of Serge’s bedside table and scoffs. “Pretty regularly, Eddie, pretty regularly… Well, at first I didn’t tell you, ‘cos you’re such a prude. Then I guess it became a habit. I don’t know why I didn’t realise sooner that you probably have a lesbian-streak in you to put my own to shame.”
“But I’ve had husbands, Patsy. I’ve had kids.”
Patsy’s eyes flick upwards, a hint of mirth in their depths. “Sure, but they weren’t the most comfortable marriages I’ve seen, Eds. At least you got kids out of it I suppose.”
“So you think I’m gay?” Edina asks outright, wanting clarification.
“A bit, yes. Well,” Patsy smirks, “now I think about it, more than a bit.”
Edina bites her lip, eyes darting as she thinks. Patsy shifts forwards and takes one of Eddie’s hands.
“It’s ok, Eddie. You know that, right?”
“Hmm, what?” The sensation of being outside herself washes over Edina, soft waves of numbness. As her breath quickens uncomfortably, she finds herself focusing on Patsy hands on her own.
“It’s ok to be gay. That’s why it rhymes.” Patsy’s voice is soft, Eddie notes that she must have noticed that she’s spacing out. Patsy reaches across and tucks a lock of curly brown hair behind Edina’s ear. The sensation grounds Edina for a brief moment.
She asks the question before she consciously processes it. “Will you kiss me?”
Patsy blinks, raising her eyebrows. “Are you quite alright, Eds?”
“Yes.” Edina breathes, “Yes, I’m alright. Will you kiss me? Show me how it feels.”
Patsy’s eyes narrow, she suddenly appears cautious. “How what feels?”
“Kissing a woman, sweetie.” The act of clarifying herself once more draws Edina back to the moment. Her head tilts, almost achieving her characteristic wobble.
“Is that a good idea? You’re just sorting yourself out.”
“Oh for god’s sake, Pats.” Edina rushes forward, closing the gap between them and presses her lips to Patsy’s. She feels warm and soothed and calm. Patsy’s lips are dry, smoke-worn. A few seconds pass, and Patsy draws away, but Edina remains perfectly still, eyes squeezed shut. A seconds more and she slowly opens her eyes to see Patsy regarding her critically.
“You need practice.”
Edina erupts in laughter, grasping Patsy’s shoulders in mirth, gasping for breath. “Oh Pats,” she wheezes, smiling widely, “are you offering?”
Patsy is silent a moment, still watching Edina carefully. Without breaking eye contact, she reaches into her bra and pulls out another cigarette. Reaching into the other cup, she pulls out a lighter and unflinchingly lights up. Still watching Eddie, she takes a deep drag, pulling the smoke deep into her lungs. Both women are now silent, regarding each other shrewdly.
Patsy offers Edina a puff, and Edina shakes her head no. The corner of Patsy’s mouth quirks as she takes another drag herself, then points at her lips with a delicate finger. She raises her eyebrows in a manner that could only be described as suggestive.
Edina’s mouth falls open, and she nods slowly. This time, it is Patsy who initiates the kiss, leaning into Eddie, resting the hand that holds her cigarette lightly on Edina’s knee. Compared to the earlier kiss, this one feels more real to Eddie, and she languidly opens her mouth in response to Patsy’s delicate tongue. She can’t quite believe this is happening, that she’s necking like a horny teenager in her son’s old room with her oldest friend.
She distantly notices the sound of a door opening, dismissing the intrusion until she hears Saffy’s voice in the doorway.
“What are you doing?!” Saffy sounds mortified.
Patsy is the first to turn, she looks at Eddie’s daughter impassively and takes another pull on her cigarette. Edina, on the other hand, is suddenly flustered, and looks at Saffy with an expression of distress.
“Oh Saffy, sweetie, darling. I was just- We were just- Oh sweetie, it’s not- We were-“ Words fail her as she stammers into silence.
Patsy clears her throat in the stillness, and says with full conviction, “I had a bit of salad in my teeth, Saffron. Your mother was just helping me get it out.” She puts the cigarette to her lips again, and Edina can’t help it as her eyes follow the movement. Eddie notes Patsy’s mouth has become a soft rose colour.
Around her cigarette, Patsy dismisses Eddie’s daughter with an easy, “Haven’t you got anything better to do?”
Saffy turns immediately, cheeks reddening and runs down the hall. Edina worries at her lip once more as her daughter’s footsteps fade away. “What are we doing?” she whispers.
Patsy’s pragmatism comes to the fore and she cups Eddie’s chin, pulling her to look at her once more. “I don’t know about you, but whatever we were doing, I was enjoying it, and I think we should continue.” She leans close once more, stopping at the last millimetre and letting her lips ghost over Edina’s. “What do you think, Eds?”
Edina is perfectly still, it feels like every muscle in her body tenses up as she makes her decision. With tentative slowness, she moves closer to Patsy, and relishes the sensation of her lips enveloping the other woman’s. She brings a hand to Patsy’s cheek and runs her thumb along her cheekbone. Pulling away slightly, and resting their foreheads together, Edina speaks quietly, “I think this is good.”
Suddenly, Patsy is all business, taking Edina’s hand and standing quickly. “Good. Then we can take this somewhere other than this dingy little bedroom?”
Edina laughs, the tension in her shoulders easing slightly. She stands to join Patsy and presses another furtive kiss to the taller woman’s jaw line. “Yes. Let’s.”