By Shufflebum Munky
"I just don't think we can be friends anymore, I'm sorry..." Kelly blurted, rushing out the exit of the Black Swan.
Karen, momentarily bewildered, quickly followed behind her. "Kelly, wait... stop, will ya!" Outside, Karen grabbed Kelly's arm, forcing her to stay where she was. "You can't just say something like that and walk away! Look at me. What do you mean 'we can't be friends anymore'?" Karen asked, puzzled by Kelly's behaviour.
"You don't want to know..."
"Yes, I do."
"No, you don't. PLEASE don't do this!"
"Do what?! I don't understand, what's the problem? Whatever it is, just tell me..." Karen asked, a look of expectation on her face.
"I'm sorry," Kelly said, the regret in her voice obvious, "but Lisa was right."
"Right about what?" The brunette asked, getting more confused by the second.
"About you, and the fact that I've got... feelings... for you." Kelly answered, walking over to the other side of the road. She visibly took a deep breath, then turned around to face Karen.
There was an awkward silence, then Karen walked over slowly.
"That's why I didn't want to tell you, 'cos I didn't want to see THAT expression on your face." Kelly said, walking off again.
Karen grabbed her arm. "Kelly, wait... you got it all wrong!"
"Have I? Doesn't look like it from where I'm standing..." She looked at her feet in an attempt to hide her face.
"I was just a bit... shocked, that's all."
"Yeah, thought you might be." Kelly said, a sad tone of humour colouring her voice.
"But if anything," The brunette continued, trying to re-assure Kelly, "I'm as flattered."
Kelly looked at her, not believing a word. "You mean, you aren't upset?!"
"No, course not. I mean, you know I'm not..." Karen let the sentence hang, not needing to finish.
"I know you don't feel the same way about me, yeah..." Kelly looked at her feet once more.
Karen noticed this, and tried again to assure her friend. "But that don't mean we can't be friends."
"Are you kidding?! You and me? What, cosy little chats... bottles of wine... evenings in with a video...?! I don't think so..." Kelly tried to walk off once again, sarcasm and disbelief clouding her voice.
Karen was having none of it, oblivious to the true extent of Kelly's feelings for her. "Why not?"
Kelly turned around. "You just don't get it, do you?"
"No, I don't. Just give me one good reason why not!"
"You really want to know why?!"
They shared a long look, the raindrops being the only sound, and the young Australian mentally debated with herself over what to do.
"Okay." The blonde brought her hands up to cup Karen's face. She studied her for a moment before taking a deep breath, and pressed her lips against those of the shorter woman's.
A few seconds after, Kelly withdrew, automatically regretting the action.
She walked off, leaving Karen to draw in a much-needed breath and run a shaky hand through her damp hair.
"I'm just coming, wait there!" Was the only thing Karen heard before the door to Sadie's opened and revealed a young blonde wrapped up only in a towel.
"We need to talk. Can I come in?"
Kelly opened the door hesitantly. It had been a week since the kiss and she and Karen had managed to avoid each other the entire time. "Look, I'm so sorry... I..."
"Save it, Kelly." Karen sat down on one of the spare armchairs, obviously needing to get something off her chest.
"All I need to know is whether I led you on? I mean, did I do something that might've indicated I felt the same?" Karen absently let go of a breath, irrationally needing to hear the answer yet at the same time dreading what it might be.
A smirk appeared on Kelly's face, and she began shaking her head. "Of course not. I know you're straight, and I know you love Matt." Kelly looked down. "The only thing you've ever done is be my friend, and I'm sorry if I've jeopardised that in any way... I don't want to lose you Karen - you mean too much to me."
Karen sighed, "Kelly, don't do this again..."
"Karen, I meant as a friend."
There was a pause. Karen looked at Kelly's eyes and saw that nothing was hidden. It was only a kiss. There was nothing to stop them from being friends...
Except that Karen suddenly noticed Kelly. As if seeing her face for the first time, shade of her eyes, the natural highlights in her hair, the curve of her chest...
Karen stood up quickly, drawing in a deep breath and trying to think of a reason to get out of there. 'Kelly, is female, and gorgeous, and... and I do NOT like females in that way...' Karen tried to convince herself. It was obviously Kelly's fault. If Kelly hadn't kissed her she wouldn't be feeling all these mixed emotions.
"I'll speak to you tomorrow, you should get some clothes on." A brief thought of a naked Kelly flashed through her mind and the slightly blushing Karen let herself out of the house.
"... And one for yourself." The customer added, flashing a smile at Kelly.
"Oh! Thanks, but I'll have it later... drinking on the job - not a good idea!" Kelly looked at the customer again. She was about 5'6" with dark brown, wavy hair. She reminded Kelly of Karen.
"In that case, I'll have to wait here until you're finished, just to make sure you have your drink, of course."
And she was gay, that much was obvious.
"Well don't blame me if you get bored!" Kelly said, flashing a grin of her own.
'This woman certainly is persistent.' Kelly thought absentmindedly. Not that she was particularly bothered - there hadn't been anybody in her life since Lisa. Then there was Karen. There was only so long you could wait for a straight woman to change her preferences.
Later on, Kelly noticed the woman was still propping up the bar. Seeing that the pub was strangely deserted she wandered over, deciding to introduce herself.
"Hiya, I see you decided to stay then."
"Yeah, well there's nowhere else I have to be, and the people seem nice enough around here. I'm Ellen, by the way." The woman, Ellen, extended her hand, which Kelly proceeded to shake.
"Kelly." She said, deciding that she definitely liked this woman.
"So, Kelly, when do you finish?" Ellen asked, leaning slightly on the edge of the bar.
"Half an hour and then I'm free for the rest of the evening."
Ellen smiled. "The rest of the evening?"
"Yep." The blonde confirmed...
..... "This is actually my Aunt's house - she's been letting me stay here since I came over from Australia..." Kelly mentioned as they entered the lounge.
"Can't be good for privacy." Ellen commented.
"No - as my ex and I found out. She didn't like the thought that my Aunt could hear, well, 'everything', and I didn't particularly, either."
"Certainly not one of my fantasies." Ellen said wryly. They both laughed a little nervously, and Kelly made her decision.
Moving slightly closer to Ellen, Kelly kissed her lips lightly. Ellen responded, her kisses more urgent than before. Ellen pulled back. "Why don't we take this upstairs?" She asked, her voice no higher than a whisper. Kelly smiled, nodding her head, and lead the way upstairs...
"I'll get it!" Ellen called from the kitchen up the stairs. Making her way to the door she pulled the robe tighter around herself.
Karen stood outside the door, a puzzled expression settled on her features. "Is Kelly in?" She asked.
"Yeah, I'll just call her." Moving closer to the stairs she yelled up. "Kelly, darling, there's someone here to see you."
A muffled 'coming' travelled down the stairs followed by a series of loud thumps. 'Darling?'. Karen frowned - why the hell was this woman, who was dressed only in Kelly's robe, calling Kelly 'darling'?
Her rhetorical question was answered when Kelly came down the stairs in jogging bottoms and an inside-out T-shirt. Ellen kissed her on the cheek, "I'll be in the kitchen." She said, walking away.
Kelly turned her attention to Karen, who stood on the front step and seemed to be frowning and blinking in unison. "Hi, everything okay?"
"I didn't know you were seeing anybody..."
"Neither did I! I only met her last night!" Kelly explained.
Karen was lost for words. "Oh." She said simply. "That's good. For you, I mean. She seems nice, very pretty."
"I know! She's absolutely gorgeous..." Kelly beamed.
"I heard that..." Ellen said, chuckling, and came through to the hall - producing a mug of tea. She handed it to Kelly and turned to Karen.
"Hi, I'm Ellen."
"I'm Karen. Karen Webb." The brunette said, forcing a smile onto her face.
It'd been two months since Kelly had first met Ellen, and they'd soon started seeing each other regularly. Ellen lived in Manchester, which reduced the amount of time they could spend together - only managing to see each other on weekends, Ellen making the trip down in her car some weeks and Kelly travelling up there on the train on other occasions.
As things got better for them, things got worse for Karen. The decision between her and her husband, Matt, to try for a baby had been a bad one, soon coming between them. Each failed attempt putting more space between the couple. A heart to heart with her brother had made her realise two things: firstly, she was trying to fill a gap by having a baby, and secondly, she was no longer in love with Matt.
Jim, her brother, had also brought to her attention the fact that she seemed to be in love with someone else, but wouldn't say who, wanting her to realise things for herself. Karen, some two weeks after the chat, was still oblivious as to who the identity of this person was, but had broken off her relationship with Matt.
Karen tried to recall the conversation, the confusion from the past few weeks mounting up until she felt like she didn't really know herself at all...
*Two weeks previously*
"You've got to end it with him before you hurt both of you any more than necessary." Jim said, trying to stress his point. He knew only too well from his own experience about ignoring feelings - his own messy triangle concerning Cat and Nikki had hurt all involved much more than it would have if he'd only been honest from the beginning.
"But why? I might not love him anymore, but I'm not exactly young. He's familiar, comfortable, we trust each other... it takes time to build up something like that again." Karen said. It wasn't love, but she could settle for it.
"Why have friendship when you could have so much more someone else?" Jim asked, exasperated.
"What are you talking about?" Karen enquired - now Jim just wasn't making any sense.
"Oh, come on Karen, are you saying you don't even realise your own feelings?!"
"Well, if you're so sure - then yeah, I've got absolutely no idea what you're talking about!"
A certain young, blonde Australian flashed in Jim's head. "I give up. I suppose you'll realise in your own time..." Jim said, smiling and standing up. "Listen, I'll see you later, I've got a problem of my own that needs sorting out..."
"Right. See ya."
"And remember what I said!" He reminded his sister. He really hoped the two women sorted out their feelings.
He left Karen alone in the lounge with her troubled thoughts...
One Wednesday evening at the Black Swan, Kelly and Karen were working behind the bar, the quiet night meaning that Karen was now being subjected to Kelly's excited ramblings.
"She's asked me to move in with her..." Kelly said. This seemed to catch Karen's attention, and the brunette turned sharply. Unable to keep the venom out of her voice, she questioned her friend. "When?"
"On Sunday, just before I left for the station. But, it's strange, as she said something else, too..." Kelly said more to herself than to the quickly paling woman beside her.
"She said, well, she implied that I was still in love with... you." Kelly paused, wondering if she'd gone too far.
"Oh." Inside, Karen's heart began beating at an inhuman rate, her throat becoming dry.
"I told her I wasn't, but I'm not even sure myself. I said I'd move in. I mean, I don't really have anything to stay for. Aunt Sadie doesn't need me..." Karen polished the same glass she'd been polishing for five minutes.
"Well, there you go. If you've got nothing to stay for, then..." Karen didn't bother continuing - it seemed Jim had been right; she was completely and utterly in love.
Kelly's voice went so low Karen had to strain to hear her. "Unless I do have something to stay for. Do I, Karen?"
"Do you what?" Karen feigned naivety, she wasn't going to give up her feelings that easily.
"Do I have something to stay for?"
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