In celebration of the release of the second collection of my lesbian erotica, I’m posting a snippet and a nugget of background about each of the five stories in the volume.
The first story, Perspex Window, is set on an Irish ferry as it plows its way on the overnight journey to France. Kate, who can’t quit her nicotine habit, is out on deck in the middle of the night, when her solitary ciggie is interrupted by Orla and Annie, who are taking advantage of the quiet night for some loving, having forgotten to book a cabin. An unexpected bond develops between the young lovers and their middle-aged voyeur.
I lived in Ireland for several years, and each year we’d take the ferry to France — for a holiday in Europe, or simply a shopping trip for the cheap wine and huge selection of cheese. Sometimes we’d sleep on deck and watch the moonglade on the sea, freeze our arses off in the wind, and watch the few who would brave the cold for fresh air and a view. One time, when I couldn’t sleep, I conceived the idea for Perspex Window as I sat and shivered and watched the sea and sipped my wine.
A door crashes open behind her. Laughter, slurred and female, reaches her across the non-slip blue matting.
“For feck’s sake, Annie, can’t you walk in a straight line?” The voice is young and Dublin, and has an indulgent lilt to its censorial question.
“I can so. It’s this bleedin’ boat that can’t sail straight.”
Kate watches the women making their stumbling way to the railing. One bird-thin and fragile, the other stout with draught-horse buttocks; one with cropped hair, the other with a mess of tangled curls. They hold each other’s arms as they weave their way across the deck.
“Not here,” the thin one with cropped hair, Annie, mutters. “Anyone can see us.”
“There’s no one around.”
Annie is led back to a dubious shelter, to a nook behind one of the entrance doors, sheltered from the wind by a sheet of rust and Perspex.
Kate waits, watching idly, as she finishes her cigarette and takes a sip of Chardonnay. She can see them clearly, but obviously they haven’t noticed her.
“Here,” curly-head says decisively.
She turns crop-head and wraps her arms around her. Her mouth comes down, and Kate stifles a gasp. The kiss is long. Kate huddles deeper into her jacket and sips. Women. Kissing.
She’s not naive; she knows it happens, and happens here in Ireland, in spite of the church’s stranglehold. And she has sometimes wondered, in a sort of vague afterthought way when the TV showed a lesbian kiss, what it would be like. But never has she seen it unfold in front of her. The cigarette burns down to the butt as the women kiss, and Kate watches. It’s a long kiss, a deep, drugging kiss, and the two figures merge in the moon-wrapped night, blend into the deep blue of the deck matting, fade into the shadows of the lifeboats. And still they kiss. Kate can hear the short pants of breath merging with the lap of the water against the sides, and the creak of the boat as she rolls. She waits, not wanting to interrupt them now, although will they even notice?
They break apart. “I love it when you kiss me like that,” the one called Annie says.
“You’ll like what I’m about to do better.”
“Orla, no, not here-”
“Here, yes here.” Orla is insistent. “There’s no one around. All the families have gone to bed. The football has finished. And if you’d booked a cabin we’d be in it now, loving our brains out in peace and privacy instead of out here on deck.”
“It’s cold,” Annie whines, but Kate can see her hands burrowing around Orla’s waist, pushing up the bulky sweater to reveal a line of white flesh. Is it really that ethereal white, or is it the moonlight?
“You were hot inside,” points out Orla.
She’s the one choreographing this. Kate can see her pressing Annie into the Perspex, her hands moving purposefully over the waif-like body.
Kate knows she should move. Her cigarette is finished, and she should return to the privacy of her own cabin, go to bed and sleep. But instead, she takes a sip of wine, and continues to watch. Orla and Annie.