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Love, Marriage and trouble with Ainsworth

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Ann seldom went to the pub but this night Catherine had convinced her to go.

‘You need to get out and mingle with people otherwise you will vegetate here. You will dry up and blow away on the air.’

‘I suppose you are right, Catherine.’ Ann said. ‘I will come with you on the promise that you will leave me to find my way.’

‘Okay!!’

‘Now, what should I wear.’ Ann said to herself but Catherine heard her.

‘Something comfortable, something that will attract a sexy male suitor.’

Ann didn’t answer her. She didn’t want to be seen by a man as a prospective girlfriend. She wanted a girlfriend. Someone to be there for her always. So, she wore jeans and her favourite t-shirt.

Catherine wasn’t impressed with what Ann wore but she had her willing to go to the pub which was more than Ann had done in the last six months. She had mopped around home after the death of her brother and his wife while they were on their honeymoon in Naples..

Ann had become joint heiress to the family fortune with her older sister, Elizabeth and every fortune hunter around wanted to get their hands on her money.

‘Will we take your car or mine, Catherine?’

‘We can take your car, if you want.’ Catherine was hoping her tall dark and handsome would take her home.

They arrived at the Shibden Inn at 9pm just in time for the band to begin their usual Saturday night gig.

‘Catherine I’ll sit at the bar. You can do whatever you want. I will be fine. Now, go find your boyfriend. He must be here somewhere. Isn’t this where you meet him every week?’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, now go!!!’

It was then that she spied Anne Lister. She was sitting alone drinking beer. She had never seen someone so beautiful and so handsome. She sidled up and sat next to her without even realising it.

Ann said ‘Can I buy you a drink, Miss Lister?’

‘Why?’

‘Because I find you very attractive.’

‘You sure you know who I am?’

‘Yes, you are Anne Lister of Shibden Hall. The woman they talk so much about around Halifax. The woman they say who cannot be trusted in the company of other women. The woman who seems to only be after anyone’s money as long as they have plenty.’

‘So, you do know what they say about me!! That I will do anything to get my hands on your wealth, little Miss Walker.’

‘How do you know my name? I don’t leave my home that often. Well, not since my brother’s death in Naples. You know he was on his honeymoon.’

‘Oh I have heard so much about you, lately.’

‘Okay!! Oh, I know what they say about you. How you want to be part of the landed gentry. I know how my money would suit your ambitions.’ Ann said. ‘I am also aware that your life hasn’t always been wonderful. I know you have had many women in your life and every time you allowed yourself to get close to them, they left you for a man.’

‘How the hell did you find out about that?’

‘It’s common knowledge.’

‘What else do you know about me?’

‘You are the eldest daughter of Jeremy & Rebecca Lister. Your mother passed away quite a few years ago. You live at Shibden Hall which you inherited from your Uncle James.’

‘Do tell me more!’

’You were engaged to marry Mariana Belcombe only she married a charmless buffoon, Named Charles Lawton, who is quite a few years older than her. You were in love with Vere Hobart, only she wasn’t like that, gay. She married Donald Cameron. That made you re-evaluate your life that’s why you are back home here in Halifax talking to me.’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘Well, I am single with loads of money and I hear you want it. Is that true?’

‘No!! So, why did you ask if you could buy me a drink?’

‘Oh, I want to get to know the other Anne Lister. The Anne Lister no one knows about. The one who often cries herself to sleep at night. The Anne Lister who cannot see her way clear. She feels there is no future for her.’ Anne eyed her with great interest. She never imagined someone so naive would want to be with her. She never imagined that someone would overlook her flaws and only want to see the person under all the masks. Only was she willing to shed them for someone she only knew a bit about?

‘Why do you want to know that Anne Lister? I buried her years ago.’

‘Why did you bury her? Bring her out so I can see her. I can’t help but wonder if I would like her as much as other people seem to despise the other Anne Lister.’

‘’So you want to get to know me better? What do you think you will benefit from learning so much about me?’ Anne has always wanted someone to talk to. Someone who would just get her but she was unsure of Ann’s motives. What did she wanted from Anne?

‘Probably not much but I would like you to know that I only want to be your friend then some. If that is possible’

‘What do you mean by then some?’

‘You know what I mean. Come on, let’s go for a drink.’

“Where?’ Anne gets up to leave with Ann. She is happy that someone wants to talk to her. Then Catherine appears.

‘Where are you going with her?’ Catherine asks Ann.

‘Mind your business. I know who she is and what she has done. We are just leaving.’

Hey Ann, do you still want to do this?’ Anne questioned

‘Yes, let’s go somewhere quiet. Somewhere we can talk in private. My place or yours. I don’t mind. I have good coffee at my place. What do you think?’

‘Okay! Your place. Will I take my car or can we both go in your car?’

‘Your move!!’ Ann didn’t know what else to say. She was in awe of Anne Lister.

‘Let’s go in your car since you know where you’re going.’ Ann wasn’t expecting that answer.

‘Oh we are a barrel of laughs. Aren’t we?’

‘No, I’m fucking nervous. I don’t know you nor do I know why you want to be with me. Yet, I want to talk to you and let you find out about me. You intrigue me.’

‘And you me, Miss Lister.’ I am scared shitless. I don’t know what will happen, Ann thought.

‘Please call me Anne.’

‘You can call me Ann too. Yes, we have the same name.’

‘I never imagined I would be in a car with the most eligible woman in Halifax. Well, that’s what I have been told, Miss Walker, sorry, Ann.’ They sat there. Ann didn’t seem interested in driving while Anne was talking. She couldn’t focus on two things at once. So, they sat there talking. Ann was worrying with her skirt.

‘I never imagined I would ever find the courage to talk to you, Anne. I always had feelings for you only I have never been able to express those feelings because others have always told me that I shouldn’t have feelings for women the way women have feelings for men.’ Anne lifted her hand and laid it to rest on Ann’s thigh. She thought Ann would move it. Ann left it there because it felt good to be touched by a woman and that woman was Anne Lister. She had never had that feeling before but she didn’t want it to end.

‘I have always felt this way about women. I love and only love the fairer sex and am beloved by them. My heart revolts on any other love than theirs.’ Anne said.

‘So, you will never marry.’ Hoping she will say that she would marry if she found the right woman.

‘Oh, I will marry as long as I find the right woman. Sometimes, I wonder if that will ever happen.’

‘Hey, what did I just say? Were you really listening?’ Bloody hell, Anne. Are you deaf? Ann wondered why Anne didn’t hear her.

‘What? Sorry!! I often find myself thinking about things when other people talk to me. Then I don’t hear what they say.’

Anne, I said, I have feelings for you!!! I think I am a little bit…..in love with you. I know that seems strange since we just met.’

‘Love at first sight.’

‘No!! Love at fifty first sight. I see you often but you seem not to see me. I am sorry to say I have watched you so much I feel I know you intimately.’

‘Is that so? What do I do most days?’

Oh Anne, it isn’t like that. It’s when we have been in the same place at the same time, like the bookstore last week. You were buying a book about anatomy. I hear you tell Mr, Whitley the title.’

‘Okay!!! I understand now.’ I do remember seeing you there, thought Anne..

‘I’m not sure you do.’

‘How would that be?’

‘Imagine being told everyday that you are an invalid by your family. That you should marry the first man who asks you. I think they just want me out of their way. They make me feel unworthy of any real love. Then I see you. I have never felt this way about anyone in my life.’ Ann wondered what Anne would think. She never imagined she would think this.

‘Good lord! You don’t want to marry me, do you?’

‘Hey, we just met. I cannot expect you to give me a yes or no answer right now, right this minute.’

‘So, you’re giving me time to think it through.’

‘No!!! I am just telling you how I feel about you. No strings attached. Okay!!’

‘Okay!! I am sure we can be friends.’

‘Great, Anne!! That will be fine. My sister once said, sometimes, often a good friendship is better than a marriage.’

‘Did she now?’

‘I don’t think she is happily married. I think he only married her for her money.’

‘Well, when you’re rich you can never be sure of people’s motives, can you?’

‘No!!’

‘So, why do you trust me?’

‘I’m not really sure. I guess I just want to get to know you better than what I do.’

‘Me, Anne Lister, who you were told has had so many women that it would make your head spin.’

‘No, you, Anne Lister, who has been rejected by so many women it makes my head spin.’

‘Oh fuck!!! I cannot believe my luck. Why would anyone want to be with me. You know what they say about me.’

‘Yes, I know what they say about you. I don’t listen to their words because I know beneath that strong exterior you show others there lies a very vulnerable woman who just wants someone to love and accept her for who she is.’

‘What am I to you?’

‘The most beautiful woman I know.’

‘Did you say that because that’s what you think I want to hear or is it what you want me to hear?’

‘It is what I want you to hear.’

‘Thanks, Ann!!! No one has ever told me that. Mariana has always made me feel less than who I am.’

‘Who is Mariana to you?’

‘Just someone whom I thought would marry me. Only she couldn’t wait until I got my inheritance from Uncle James so she married Charles Lawton.’ Anne said ‘Yes, you have already mentioned her. I had forgotten that. Sorry!!’

“That’s okay!!’

‘Now, can I buy you that drink?’

‘I thought we were going to your place.’

‘I think after all this you need something stronger than coffee or tea. So, let’s go back into the pub for a beer or three.’

‘Okay!!’

So, off they went back into the pub. Catherine was there looking for Ann. She was wondering what had happened to her and if Anne Lister had seduced her. ‘Ann, are you okay?’

‘As you can see she is fine, Miss Rawson.’

‘Catherine, we have been sitting in my car in the parking lot all this time chatting.’ Ann was annoyed Catherine questioned Anne’s motives. She never could understand why she asked her to come here in the first place if it wasn’t to meet someone. Hasn’t she done that?

‘Ann, you know what people say about her.’

‘Unfortunately, I do. Thankfully I don’t listen to gossip like you do.’

‘Hey, you don’t know her that much, Ann.’

‘I know her better than what you think, Catherine.’

‘How? You have only been out there chatting for 90 minutes.’ She looked at Catherine who was beginning to be aware that Anne Lister was right next to Ann.

‘What’s wrong, Miss Rawson?’

‘You’re Gentleman Jack. A woman who can’t be trust in the company of other women.’

‘So, I have been told. Only they don’t know me and neither do you. So, I will ask you to leave Ann & I to get to know each other better, if you don’t mind.’ Catherine left but kept glancing over in Ann’s direction for a long time.

‘Thanks, Anne. I always feel intimidated by family when they tell me what I am doing isn’t in my best interest. I wish you had been part of my life sooner then I would always have had someone to talk to.’

‘Well, you have me now. That’s better than never having me. Isn’t it?’

‘Yes!! But I never thought I would find the courage to talk to you, Anne.’

‘Let’s sit at the bar and get a drink. We can find an empty booth to sit in while we chat. Is that possible?’ Ann asked.

‘Anything is possible. Isn’t it?’

‘Yes, oh yes, it is.’ Ann was imagining what it would be like to be intimate with

Anne. She had never thought about being that close to anyone in her life. Yet, with Anne anything seemed possible.

They collected their drinks and walked over to a booth. Anne guided Ann to sit down. She was watching what Catherine was doing. Anne could see that Catherine wasn’t happy that Ann was spending time with her. Only Ann seemed to be happy being there with Anne.

‘Are you okay, Ann?’

‘Yes!! Why do you ask?’

‘Just look at the way Miss Rawson is looking at us.’ Ann looked to see where Catherine was.

‘Oh bugger!!! I don’t seem to be able to get peace anywhere. Can we finish our drinks and leave? I am fed up with being trolled by my tribe.’

‘Yes, where would you like to go, Ann?’

‘Anywhere but here. What do you have in mind, Anne?’

‘Drink up. I will take you somewhere in my car. She doesn’t know what I drive. So she will not find us.’

‘I hope you are right, Anne.’ Ann gulps her drink. ‘How are we going to get out of here?’

‘I have a way. I know the owner. She has a secret back door not many people know about. Come with me.’ Anne walked Ann back to the bar. It looked as though they were going to sit down. Only they were taken behind the bar. Catherine was wondering what was happening. Then they disappeared out the back.

‘Hurry, Ann. Let’s move a little faster otherwise Catherine or whoever she was talking to will find us out.’

‘Oh, that was her sister, Delia. She also watches me like a hawk.’ Ann was having trouble keeping up with Anne. Then they were near Anne’s car. She unlocked the doors and they climbed in.

‘Sit tight & belt up. This is going to be a bumpy ride but I do know where I am going.’

‘Okay, Anne. I will do that just get me out of this place. I can see Catherine over there looking for us.’

Anne looked over. Sure enough Catherine was looking for them. Anne started the car and they were off. Catherine heard them leave the car park. Only she couldn’t tell who they were or where they were heading because Anne hadn’t turned on her headlights. Yet, she knew where she was heading and once out of sight she turned them on.

‘Anne, do you think Catherine will follow us?’

‘I don’t think so. Especially not where we are heading.’

‘Does this car have all wheel drive?’

‘Yes!! Hang on!!’ Anne sped off over a bumpy road. Ann had no idea where they were. Then Anne drove up a lane way and stopped.

‘I don’t think they will find us here. Now, what were we talking about before Miss Rawson forced us to leave?’

‘I don’t remember. All I remember was Catherine interfering, Anne.’

‘Okay! What do you want to talk about?’

‘Nothing, Just kiss me, Miss Lister.’

‘Is that an order?’

‘It’s however you see it.’

Anne leaned over to kiss Ann on the lips before she could do that Ann had her hand between Anne’s legs. She was stroking her sex. Anne wasn’t use to being taken advantage of.

‘STOP!!!’

‘What’s wrong, Anne?’

‘You are touching me.’

‘I thought this was what you wanted me to do!’ Ann said sheepishly.

‘I normally don’t have others touch my queer.’

‘Why, Miss Lister? Do you always want to be in control?’

‘I feel too exposed when I am touched there, Ann.’

‘How do you imagine I would feel if you touched me there?’

‘Exposed?’

‘Yes!!’

‘I will allow you to touch me this time. I think I can trust you not to make me feel exposed.’

‘Why would I want to do that to the woman I only wanted to buy a drink for?’

‘Then continue on, Ann.’

‘Miss Lister, you have no idea what you do to me.’

Then Ann resumed what she was doing. It caused Anne to thrash her body wildly. Anne thought this isn’t where I wanted to have sex with this lovely lady.

‘STOP!!’

‘Am I going too far, Anne?’

‘No, we need to go somewhere lest confined.’ Anne said, ‘somewhere more intimate.’

‘where?’

‘Would you like to go to your place or mine?’ Anne inquired.

‘Well, I don’t want to go home right now because that’s where Catherine will be now. You see, she lives with me, has done for so long I don’t remember when she moved in.’

‘Why?’

‘The tribe think I need someone to watch me like a hawk so I don’t harm myself.’

‘How inappropriate to do that to you?’ Anne said sincerely.

‘They are only concerned for my well being. I haven’t had an easy life. My parents died when I was young. Then my brother  and his wife died died on their honeymoon in Naples. They were in a horrific car accident. ’

‘Ouch!! You haven’t had the best of it. Have you?’

‘I am dealing with it the best way I can only sometimes I can’t cope that’s when they tell me I am an invalid.’

‘You don’t look invalid to me.’

‘Thanks, Anne. You are the first person that has told me that. So, can we go to your place, please.’

‘Yes, we can. Buckle up and hang on Lets go to my place now.

‘Okay!! Let’s go!’’

Then Ann could hear voices in her head telling her that Anne Lister was trouble and not to tangle with her.

‘Are you right?’ Anne said. ‘Have I said or done something wrong?’

‘No.’

‘What’s up, then?’

‘Voices in my head telling me I am doing the wrong thing being out here with you.’

‘Why do you listen to them?

‘I don’t know.’

‘Well, stop, listen to me. I know I don’t have a very good past and I am not the best person to hang around with. I have this crazy reputation. People think I am a womaniser. I don’t know why.’

‘Why would they say that?’ Ann said. ‘ You have told me about Mariana. Who else have you been with?’

‘Let me take you to my place then we can talk about this.’ Anne drove for what seemed like ages. Yet, it was only a few minutes. when they arrived at her place. She parked her car and they walked inside. There seated on the couch were Marian, father and Aunt Anne. Anne didn’t mention that she lived with her family and when she introduced them Ann began  feeling uncomfortable. She had wanted Anne to fuck her. She doubt that would happen now.

‘Ann, come, I will show you around. Shibden Hall isn’t a grand place but one day I would like to do some renovations to make it grand.’

‘So, this is Shibden Hall. My home is called Crow Nest. I would like you to see it soon.’ Anne showed Ann her home. Ann liked it but Anne seemed to brag a bit about it.

‘This is Shibden Hall, the home of the Listers. Its been in the family for generations.’

‘Hey Anne, you are full of it.’

‘What?’

‘Just a little pompous, aren’t we?’

‘Just proud of my heritage. That’s all. It’s not illegal.’

‘No, it’s not illegal but hey, enough please.’

‘Why shouldn’t I be proud of my heritage?’ Anne stammered. She was confused as to why Ann was acting as she was.

‘That’s okay!! When I feel threatened I can be a bit rude. Sorry.’

Then they were in Anne’s bedroom. It was slightly smaller than Ann’s but she didn’t mention it because she thought she had already said too much. Anne could see she wasn’t comfortable so she pulled her in for a hug. They stood like that for sometime until.

‘Ann, are you okay? You seem a bit uncomfortable when you met my family. They don’t bite. It’s just that they are a bit odd, sometimes.’

‘That’s okay. You just didn’t mention you had family living here. So, I was….a bit surprised when I saw them.’

‘Okay!!! Now, what?’

‘’I was imagining you and I having sex but that doesn’t seem possible with your family here. They wouldn’t like that and I would be afraid I wouldn’t know what to do.’

‘I wouldn’t worry about that. I have had a few lovers here and no one has said anything.’ Ann looked surprised. She hadn’t expect Anne to have brought her lovers home. Then she thought hell, she would have. Only she was still wasn’t sure what would happen.

Then a voice broke into her thoughts. It was Anne.’Hey, we could go down to my favourite place if you like. I have a chaumiere on the estate where I go to find peace and somewhere to read. I am sure you will like it.’

‘Can we go now?’ Ann said

‘Now, really?’

‘Yes, now!’

‘It’s getting rather late. What would I tell Aunt? She tends to worry about me more than she needs to.’ Anne said as she eyed Ann for an answer.

‘We could say you were taking me home and wouldn’t be home until morning. Does that sound okay to you?’ Anne smiled because it was the perfect answer and she hadn’t thought about it.

‘Genius, let’s get this show on the road before you change your mind.’ Ann grinned sheepishly. She was hoping Anne would like her answer. They told everyone what they were doing and left. As they were leaving Marian got up and walked over to Anne and said, ‘I know where you’re going just bring Ann back for breakfast in the morning and I won’t say anything to Aunt and father. Okay!!’

‘Deal!’

‘What was all that about. Anne?’

‘It seems Marian likes you and wants to get to know you better. So, she has invited you to have breakfast with them in the morning. Is that okay?’ Anne didn’t know what Ann’s answer would be. She looked at her hopefully because she didn’t want to just spend the night with her. She was hoping this could be her forever.

‘Yes, I would like that.’

They drove to the Chaumiere in comfortable silence. When they arrived Anne climbed out then walked to the passenger’s side, opened the door and held her hand out for Ann to take. They walked hand in hand to the chaumiere. Anne unlocked and opened the door. She lead Ann in after she turned on the light. Ann smiled. What she saw was the quaintest cottage ever. There were bookshelves stacked with books of every description. There was a fireplace and a small television, some DVDs that she imagined Anne watched only when she had little else to do since some were still in their packaging. There seemed to be a kitchenette to one side and a small bedroom. She imagined that Anne would bring her lovers down here.

Well, it was likely because that’s where they were right now.

‘Sit down, I need to look at you more closely. I haven’t been able to do this all night. Do you feel more relaxed now we are here?’

‘Yes, it’s lovely. When did you build it?’

‘So long ago I have forgotten but I am sure if I checked my journal I could find out for you.’

‘You keep a journal. I didn’t think anyone did that any more. It often seems like something only record keepers would do.’

‘That’s me. I write about everything that happens during my day and what is happening on the estate.’

‘Do you write about your lovers?’ Ann asked quietly.

‘What? I didn’t hear what you said. Could you please say it again?’

‘Do you write about your lovers?’

‘Always.’ Anne said. Then she leaned over and kiss Ann passionately on her lips. They were locked in an embrace for what seemed like hours.

Anne lifted Ann up and walked her into the bedroom. It was very small with only room for a bed and chair. Anne lowered her onto the bed. She asked Ann for consent to remove her clothes. Ann said yes. Anne removed Ann’s clothes then her own.

They were lying naked on Anne’s bed when Ann leaned over and kissed Anne fully and furiously on her lips. From that moment on there was a flurry of arms and legs going in every direction. Lips locking lips. Windows fogging. Then they found a position they were comfortable in. Ann was lying on her back. Anne was trailing kisses down her body, her neck, between her boobs. She nipped Ann’s nipples then sucked on them furiously. Ann was moaning loudly, gasping for breath. Her nipples were hard & erect. Anne surveyed what she had done and was pleased.

‘You are so beautiful, Ann. So lovely!’ She kissed Ann down her stomach, her belly button until she found her clit. It was throbbing just like Ann was. Her body was trembling. Anne rubbed her clit with her thumb then inserted two fingers into her centre. She was thrusting them in and out quite quickly. She could feel her own heart racing. She had gone out to find someone to fuck but she never thought it would be Ann Walker. Yet, there they were in the chaumiere making out.

Anne was deep in thought and must have stopped. ‘Anne, why did you stop? Ann said. ‘Is everything okay?’ Anne looked puzzled then realised her hand was resting against Ann’s queer. ‘Sorry, I was just thinking about why I went to the bar tonight.’ Then Anne was rubbing Ann’s clit and Ann was screaming out with pleasure. ‘Yes, Anne, yes, just there, yes, fuck, that feels soooooo good.’ Then she could feel Ann’s body shaking, her walls crushing in around Anne’s fingers.

Ann’s body shuddered uncontrollably and Anne held her until she felt relaxed. Then they were kissing again, gently, softly and with an ease they seem to have gained  so quickly in the short time they had known each other.

‘Now, it is my turn to give you pleasure.’ Ann said. I want to make you feel as good as you have made me.’  Anne didn’t feel completely comfortable with Anne touching her yet she felt safe with Ann. Then Ann’s lips crashed with Anne’s again in a searing kiss. Her fingers found Anne’s clit and gently made circles around it. She ran kisses down Anne’s neck, between her breasts, across her well toned stomach to her centre. There she licked the edges. She heard Anne moaning above. Anne grabbing at her hair and pushing her mouth onto her clit. She licked it with her tongue and grasped it in her teeth. She sucked it gently between with her lips. She continued licking and sucking until she felt Anne’s body thrashing wildly and could feel Anne come. She drew every ounce of goodness out of Anne until Anne’s body relaxed. She slid up next to her. They kissed softly and gently.

‘Thank you, Ann. I didn’t realise how much I had been wanting someone to do that to me. Thank you.’

‘It was my pleasure, Anne. Now, let’s sleep.’

Ann put her back to Anne’s front and they spooned until they fell asleep. Anne had never thought she would imagine bliss until now. Ann felt so safe with Anne, even though she had only known her for a few hours. Yet, she felt she was falling in love with Anne. This enigma who sometimes, not often was unsure of who she was. Yet, Anne was able to smile through silent tears because she was confident she had found her forever love.

They woke the next day wrapped in each others’ arms. Anne was the first to open her eyes. She was surprised that Ann was still sleeping so peacefully. She was shocked that Ann hadn’t asked Anne to take her back home to Crow Nest. They were expected up at the main house by Marian for breakfast and it was already 7.30. So, Anne gently shook Ann to wake her. Ann’s eyes opened but she seemed to forget where she was. She was surprised to see a woman beside her in a bed that wasn’t hers.

‘Where am I?’

‘You are here with me, Ann. I am Anne Lister. Don’t you remember last night?’ Then as if the flood gates open she suddenly remembered every moment of last night. How Anne had fucked her until she had come so wild it had frightened and excited her and how she had made love to Anne. What a pleasure that was. ‘Yes, I remember. Sorry for startling you. I guess my mind wasn’t awake.’

‘That’s okay!! We need to dress and walk up to the hall. Remember Marian is expecting us for breakfast. I know she wants to get to know you better. I don’t know why. She only met you yesterday. Didn’t she? You haven’t met her before that?’

‘No! I have only seem her in town but never to talk to.’ Ann said.

‘Okay!!’

They dressed quickly then walked up to the hall. Everyone was up sitting at the dining room table waiting for breakfast to be served.  

‘Good morning, Ann. Thanks for coming here to have breakfast with us.I have heard so much about you from your cousin, Catherine. She told me you were often sad and alone.’ Ann blushed because that was the truth. She was very often sad and lonely. ‘I’m sorry. I made you blush.’ Marian said.’I just want to get to know you better because I think, no matter what others say, you are a good person. I, too, have had my share of sadness and loneliness.’

‘Thank you, Marian. I would love to spend time with you. I feel we have so much in common, for one, I have an older sister and so do you.’ Ann said, ‘I think that’s a good place to start.’ Then there was Anne’s family sitting around the table, allowing Ann to dish up her food and eat first. she waited for everyone until she did.

‘How did you met our Anne, Ann?’ Aunt Anne inquired.

‘I met her at the bar last night. I was cajoled into going there by my cousin, Catherine Rawson. I don’t go out that often. I am so glad I let her cajole me into going.’

‘Are you, Ann? Aunt Anne and Marian said in unison. They both knew how often Anne’s heart had been broken. They didn’t want to bring it up now or ever. Only they wanted to be there for Anne no matter what.

‘Yes. I have heard the tales about Miss Anne Lister. How others say she is a womaniser and sleeps around. All I see is someone who has been hurt so much and that makes my heart break.’ Anne was quietly listening to what Ann was saying. She could feel tears well in the corners of her eyes. She had to blink them back so no one would see how affected she was by Ann’s words.

‘Have you told, Anne that? Or is she just hearing it for the first time?’ Marian said.

‘I told her last night. I am telling her again now to reinforce what she means to me.’

‘Thank you, Ann. I really appreciate that. I have had lovers in the past and thought they were committed to me. Only to have them leave me and married a man. Anne said. ‘So, I am very wary of anyone who says I love you.’

‘I will never say that and not mean it.’

‘Thanks! What do you want to do after breakfast, Ann?’ Marian asked. ‘I think Anne has some estate work she wants to attend to.’

‘That is so true, Marian. Maybe you could take her for a stroll around the estate and show her what we are doing.’

‘Yes, Anne. I will do that.’

‘Thank you. Well, I must be off. There is so much that needs to be done. Will you still be here for dinner, Ann? I would like to see you again.’

‘Yes, I think Marian will be able to keep me occupied until then. We have so much to talk about.’ Ann said.

‘Excellent. See you tonight then.’

‘See you later, dearest.’

Anne has gone. Marian and Ann sat quietly at the table. It seemed a good idea they spend time together when Anne was there but Ann is beginning to feel uncomfortable. She wonders if she should go home. She is sure Catherine is wondering where she is.

‘Ann, are you okay? You seem a little tense.’

‘Sorry, I don’t mean to be bothersome. This just feels a little awkward.’

‘Okay. What do you want to do?’ Marian asks.

‘I’m not sure if I should just go home.’

‘Please stay. I want to get to know you better. I think you would be good for Anne. She hasn’t had anyone who loved her as she is. I think she may have found that someone in you. I don’t know.’ Marian pleaded. She looked at Ann with pleading eyes. She could see Ann was on the verge of leaving. Only there was something inside her that was keeping her grounded in her seat.

‘Can we go for a walk?’

‘Yes, I will show you around the estate. We might even see Anne. She is usually working with the men. Would you like to go now?’

‘Not right this minute. I think we can wait if you like. I do understand that you and Anne don’t really hit it off that much. Yet, I want to be your friend too. Is that possible.’

‘Ann, what happens between Anne and me is inevitable. We are like chalk and cheese but we do love and respect each other and we do have moments when we can talk without yelling at each other. Okay.’

‘Okay!!!’

‘So, let’s go for that walk. We can begin our walk on the east side of the house. It will be sunny there.’ Marian said.

‘Okay!!’

‘You’re very agreeable. Is that always how you are? You don’t need to be.’

‘Oh, I want to go for a walk with you, Marian.’ They collected their coats from the foyer and walked into the sunshine. It seem to have been raining because the grass was damp and there were puddles on the path. Ann was wondering how to talk to someone she didn’t know. Marian was aware that Ann wasn’t use to opening up to strangers. Although she didn’t understand how she had talked to Anne and allowed Anne to bring her to Shibden. Last night’s events began to look stranger by the minute.

They walked in comfortable silence for quite some time until Marian suggests they sit for a moment. She could see Ann was tired. ‘Let’s sit here for a bit, Ann. The estate is big. I don’t want to exhaust you on your first time here.’

‘Yes, that would be great. I am feeling a bit tired. Who owns the estate, Marian?’

‘I guess you haven’t had the conversation with Anne yet. She owns Shibden. She inherited it from our Uncle James. I guess he thought she could manage it better than father.’

‘Yes, we have had this talk and she told me that but I never thought that she would also work on the estate with her employees.’

‘Yes, she likes to have things done a certain why and all hell breaks out if it isn’t done her way.’

‘Ouch!!’

‘Yes, ouch!! She is a bit demanding but that’s how Anne is.’

Ann looks at Marian wondering if she fully understands how she feels about her sister. Ann sits for a while trying to find words that will allow her to say what she is thinking without seeming to be too forward. Is it possible Marian knows about her and Anne without Ann needing to say something. She didn’t know where to begin.

‘Are you okay? You seem lost in thought. Where are you, Ann?’

‘i want to tell you so much but I don’t know where to begin and what to say. I don’t know if you know about Anne. Who she is and who she loves?’

‘Oh!! Yes, I know about Anne’s dalliances with women. Speak to me. I think I know what you’re going to say. Please tell me I am right.’

‘Y…yes, you are right about us. I am in l…love with Anne. I have been for a very long time. I am not sure how she feels about me. She often seems standoffish at times making me think she wants no more from me than just someone to have sex with.’

Marian blushed then she said, ‘Anne has been hurt in the past by women who said they would make a commitment with her only they left her to marry a man. I think it had something to do with Anne’s lack of wealth.’

Ann’s heart was breaking. She couldn’t imagine the unsinkable Anne Lister falling apart. ‘She needn’t worry about me leaving her for a man. As for money I am doing fine. So she needn’t worry about that. Okay.’

‘Won’t your tribe be angry if you move into Shibden with Anne, if it comes to that.’ Marian said quietly and Ann didn’t hear her.

‘What did you say?’

‘I said won’t your tribe be angry if you move into Shibden with Anne, if it comes to that.’

‘I already know they will. That’s their problem not mine. Like I said, I love Anne. I’m in love with her. I always have been.’

‘WOW!!’ Marian said.

Then Anne appeared. ‘What’s this the secret meeting of the get Anne Lister group?’ Ann looked worried then Anne grinned and Ann realised she was just joking.

‘Yes, we have so much shit on you and you will never live it down.’ Ann said as she grinned sheepishly.

‘Oh, you do now. Do you?’

‘Yes.’ Marian said, ‘but when to use it that’s the question.’

‘Now, come Miss Walker, I want to show you what I have been doing while you and Marian have been scheming to tease me.’  Then she pulled Ann into a tight hug and planted a sloppy kiss on her lips. Ann pulled away. She was slightly red faced. ‘Now, who’s embarrassed.’ Both Ann and Marian were gobsmacked. ‘Got ya.’ Anne whispered in Ann’s ear. Marian left them to go back inside. Anne and Ann walked around to where Pickels and Booth were planting trees.

‘What do you think of the landscaping we have been doing, Ann?’

‘I don’t really know that much about landscaping but I think it looks marvellous.’

‘Do you?’ Anne looked at her quizzically. She wasn’t sure she was doing the right thing. She tried to trust her instincts but sometimes that didn’t work.

‘Yes, I do love it. I love this place so much. I am sure it would be a great place to live.’ Then Ann realised what she had said. She blushed.

‘You want to live here. Why?’

‘Because.’ Ann said

‘Because why?’ Anne said confused. She didn’t know what Ann was thinking and she wanted to know.

‘Because. Its bloody obvious. Isn’t it?’ Not to someone like Anne Lister. Even though she is so smart, she is a bit dense at times.

‘Sometimes you need to spell it out to me, Ann.’

‘What?’ Ann squealed. ‘You don’t know why I want to live here. Why should I tell you when it is staring you in the face.’ Ann stared at her. Then Anne realised what she was saying. She was the reason Ann wanted to live at Shibden. The only reason. She smiled sheepishly.

‘Are you proposing to me?’ Anne didn’t know if that was what she wanted. They had only know each other for less than 24 hours.

‘Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I have only know you for a short time but yes, I would love to marry you. Only let’s wait. We don’t need to do it today. How about tomorrow?’ Ann said.

‘What? You really want to marry me, Anne Lister, the person everyone has warned you about. The person who has…’

‘Had so many lovers it would make your head spin. Yeah, we have had this conversation before. Haven’t we?’ Anne looked so surprised she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She wasn’t sure what to say. Yet, she couldn’t wipe the silly grin off her face. So, Ann pulled her into a group of trees where no one could see them and kissed her passionately. Anne kissed back. ‘Hey, let’s continue this inside.’ Ann said. They ran back into the hall and raced up the stairs into their bedroom. They heard Marian scream out,’Dinner will be in half an hour and I would like it if you would keep your muddy boots out of the house.’ Both Anne and Ann giggled. They weren’t listening to Marian. They were going to Italy then wintering in Rome. Hey, why not. Then they were getting married but it seemed all too much for Anne who leaned against the bedroom door after Ann closed it. She looked forlorn. ‘Are you alright, Anne.’

‘I’m always alright.’she said as tears welled in the corners of her eyes.

‘No you’re not alright. Are you?’

‘Not really. You have taken me by surprise, Ann.’

‘That was my intention. I want to see how you would react. I had heard some horrid things about you. Sometimes I thought they were true but in my heart I knew they weren’t.’ Ann mumbled. ‘I love you, Anne. I’m in love with you. I always have been.’ Anne looked at her. Now, she was having trouble breathing and her heart was racing so fast. It was hard for Anne to look at Ann. This sweet angel loved her and wanted to marry her. ‘Oh good god.’ Anne said.

‘Come over here, Anne. Sit down on our bed so you don’t faint on me. I didn’t think you would react this way. I am s…s….sorry, I have upset you.’

‘No, you haven’t. I am speechless because I never thought I would ever get married. I thought I would die a lonely, old spinster.’ Anne said. ‘ I want to marry you.’

‘Okay!!’ Ann said quietly.’Let’s do it when we are both ready.’

‘Tomorrow would be fine by me. If that is what you would like.’

‘Do you mean that? Tomorrow as in the day after today.’ Anne smiled at Ann.

‘You’re being silly now. Of course, I mean tomorrow. The sooner the better. I wish it could be today, Ann.’ Ann smiled sheepishly. They had only know each other for a short time but this seemed to feel right with them. You know what do to lesbians do on their second date? Uhaul. They both grinned when they remembered that.

They were getting married and Ann was moving into Shibden. Only they never imagined the fuss it would cause. They never thought about anything other than the day they would make a commitment to each other.

Then Ann remembered she had left her car in the car park at the pub. Bugger I wonder when I can collect that, she thought to herself.

‘What’s up?‘ Anne said.

‘My car. It’s still in the pub’s car park.’

‘We could collect it after dinner.

‘Okay!’

‘Dinner’s ready.’ Marian called them from the dining room.

They collected Ann’s car after dinner. Anne felt good knowing she would be married tomorrow and even though they had only just met it felt like it would be a lifetime commitment.