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Author’s note: Things are likely to speed up a bit after this chapter. I think we’ll have 3 or 4 more before the story is finished.
Any character featuring in a sexual situation in this story is over the age of 18.
Finally. *Finally*. Some let up in the government restrictions. We heard the update on the radio, clustered around it with bated breath in a way probably not seen since the days of the War. Small changes, but significant. The main thing: you can now meet and visit with people outside of your household.
Of course you still can’t go mad: maintain distance, wear a mask if you have to get close, wash your hands every twenty seconds (or no, that’s not right…) – even when visiting, you’re not supposed to use the loo, which is an optimistic restriction to say the least. But it’s something.
Everyone’s feeling buoyed by the news. Mum and Dad are making plans, thinking they can maybe save the holiday, albeit by going to Devon instead of Greece but I can see why they find it exciting. Even Joanie’s smiling occasionally as she’s immediately messaging friends to arrange meetings. I don’t blame all of her miserable countenance on the lockdown, but it’s definitely contributed to the intensity of her loathing for everything and everyone in the family home.
I’m sitting with Ted in the garden, enjoying the early evening sunshine, listening to some favourite old rock of his on a little Bluetooth speaker. Within arms’ reach of each other, we are idly enjoying our secret new intimacy. No need to be touching, just closeness is enough. The busy mood that’s overtaken the house feels separate, like a lifting of the oppressive atmosphere, but one that serves to reinforce that, for us two, an even more significant change already took place a couple of days ago.
His eyes are closed, gentle sun warming his face and shining in his golden hair. Quietly, he murmurs. “We should go to the beach.”
“That sounds nice. Everyone will be having the same idea though.”
“They will, but there are some spots on the Norfolk coast where I expect it will be quiet still. Not far. Hour at most.”
The import of his words is obvious. “And nobody will know us… Well you don’t have to convince me, baby.” I do glance around to make sure no one is nearby, before I say it. A concession to secrecy. “Say the word and I’m ready.”
“Mmm, sure Pips. Probably next week – Tuesday or Wednesday. Let the weekend rush die down.”
He has a sip of beer and we relax into silence again, ease and comfort now paired with excitement at something to look forward to.
The previous two days had been a bit of a blur. Adjusting to the new dynamic of our relationship had been the main thing, obviously. We had to construct a pattern of discretion and misdirection to conceal not just the obvious: quickies and hurried kisses, sleeping in the same bed each night; but also the mundane. Coordinated use of the bathroom, mutual ravenous appetites after long sessions, and a sudden reluctance for me to go running and him to accept emergency call outs – to name but a few of the subtler ways in which we feared leaving devastating clues in our wake.
Just a few hours ago I finally took a Levonelle pill picked up at Boots. Ted drove me into town and I rushed in to the shop practically demanding the tiny thing. The pharmacist wouldn’t hand it over to me until she’d explained the key facts: the pill works by delaying ovulation, so if I’ve already ovulated and there’s sperm in my reproductive system then there’s a chance- etcetera etcetera. Like I hadn’t already compiled a thesis-sized amount of research on the stuff myself. Considering that it was around 60 hours since first insemination I felt that I absolutely didn’t have a moment to lose, and as soon as I had the packet in my hand I ripped it open and swallowed the pill. The pharmacist tried to remain professional but I could see the amusement – and concern – in her eyes, twinkling above the Covid mask. I then bought some of her new, yet already depleted, stock of condoms and was preparing to leave when a thought occurred.
“Do you know if any of the GP surgeries around here will register a new patient? I’m back from university so will need to get on the list. Especially if… you know.”
“Most *are* locked down tight, but you’re entitled to a place, so somewhere will have to accept you. I think the Churchfields practice is still taking emergency appointments, so that might be where to start.” She anticipated my next question. “It’s on the north side of town.”
Back in Ted’s van, I high-fived him for finally obtaining the pill, and asked for a detour via the new doctors’ practice on the way home. Getting registered would likely take weeks, especially right now, so starting as soon as possible was definitely wise.
I’d had an incredibly close call on Wednesday morning. Ted was in the shower, and I was lounging in his bed still naked. In retrospect it was careless, because we had definitely heard the rest of the house waking up, but it had been taksim üniversiteli escort relaxing and nice – and sexy – to just stay there while he went and did his thing.
But someone knocked on the door. In panic, I hid under the bedsheets, trying to make it look natural, able to see just a tiny sliver of the room from underneath. Completely still, trying not to even breathe, I watched mum walk in with the laundry bag and take a load of clothes out of his hamper, humming away and barely glancing around the rest of the room.
First of all: what the *fuck*. Mum was still doing Ted’s laundry? Even with the change in our relationship, Ted was still my brother, and discovering this fact was both infuriating and salacious. The injustice of mum coddling her 20 year old son while having firmly required both of her female children to do our own laundry for almost a decade was outrageous. And there was absolutely no way Ted was ever going to hear the end of this.
Much more importantly though, her casual lack of interest was extremely important, because had she looked over towards the bed, she’d have seen his discarded pyjamas from last night tangled up with the extremely out of place cream-coloured thong and chemise that I’d worn as a treat for him. I had looked at the incriminating evidence once the coast was clear, and the absurd little thong was just scrunched on top of the pile, plain as day. If any visitors had been allowed yet, she might have been able to rationalise it away as belonging to a casual hookup, but without an explanation like that she would have certainly had some questions to ask.
It had immediately sobered me up in terms of avoiding such close calls again. Mental notes: First of all – hide each others clothes when they were somewhere that couldn’t easily be explained, and second, get the hell out of bed *before* the signs of life elsewhere were heard.
Of course I still remembered to rip the piss out of him for the laundry thing when he got back. Sibling habits die hard, even when the siblings in question have been screwing each other’s brains out for the last two days.
After hearing the government announcement, Ted’s gone inside for another beer. I’ve rolled over onto my front and I’m messaging Jessie, propped up on my elbows. I’m wearing little shorts and a cropped t-shirt, reasonably demure, especially considering the weather, but it’s revealing enough to give him something nice to look at. I’d hoped to develop something of a tan, as I’ve got fuck all else to do without a job, but the little fingertip bruises he left on my shoulder make that unwise. Not that I’m insecure and want to look at least a little brown next to Jessie when I saw her again. Not at all.
She replies, full of the same excitement as everyone else.
// OMG yes at LAST. We need to meet up babes. I KNOW you’re not doing anythin because nobody is!
// We do! Can you use your olds’ car? The garden here is big so plenty of room even with my family around
// I can ask realllllly nicely. How’s tomorrow for you?
// You said you know I’m not doing anything x
With the plan made, I feel elated at the prospect of spending some time with an actual friend. I mention that she’s coming to Ted, who shrugs and offers me a beer.
The last hour of sunshine gradually fades away and it starts to get too cold to sit out in this outfit. It’s my turn to make dinner so I nip back upstairs to chuck a lightweight hoodie over the top, and then start preparing. The vibe over dinner is positive for the first time in weeks, and the news of Jessie’s visit tomorrow adds an extra note of levity to the conversation. Joanie’s planned to see some friends and dad’s even offered to drive her there, which is a remarkable level of positivity from each of them.
It’s not all completely easy for me though. Later that night, when everyone’s asleep, I reach for my phone and re-read the morning after pill guidance for the 50th time: no more certainty now than any of the previous readings. The only sign of it working is if I get my period within three weeks. *Three weeks* of not knowing! The anxieties start to bubble away again, well below the surface but undeniable.
The glow of my phone screen disturbs Teddy, who grumbles and pushes it away, wrapping me in his arms and pulling me back in towards him. Discarding the phone, I give in, and nestle in to his big spoon position, trying to calm my breathing and gradually melting into his calmness and warmth.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but still, I am surprised by what happens when Jess comes over to hang out in the garden and meets Ted for the first time. I guess, despite experiencing my own intense attraction for him, it had taken a while to build, and certainly had a large obstacle to overcome before I couldn’t ignore it any longer. So I was unprepared for the unsubtle and immediate eyepop reaction she has as soon as he strolls out of the house in shorts and a tight-fitting shirt.
My tophane escort own reaction to this is complex, to say the least. On one level it’s kind of adorable, this worldly, confident and sexy girl being flustered and awkward while he’s around. On another level, I feel territorial and jealous, because Jessie’s got the kind of figure that I would choose, if I could, and Teddy has been mine, all mine for the last few days.
He seems completely oblivious, fussing with the stereo on which he’s put on some very laid-back sounding jazzy tune, settling down into one of the newly cleaned deck chairs from the garage, putting on his shades, and reacting with polite enthusiasm to the various vapid topics that Jess and I manage to discuss while her attention is so fractured. After a while he shuffles the chair around a bit to get more direct sun, and takes his shirt *off*, resulting in a bit of fluster for me despite my recent exposure to his naked torso, and a most indelicate snorting sound as Jess attempts to contain her reaction.
Fortunately for her, his new position is facing partially away, and once he’s sat down again she can gather herself, trying to appear calm, and throwing glances my way as if to say ‘Why didn’t you warn me?!’
As the shock of the moment subsides, and we all settle into a more chilled vibe listening to the music and soaking up the sun, my mind teases at the situation that’s just presented itself.
First and foremost: I can’t ignore my own jealousy. What does that tell me? Thinking back to my mental slip of referring in my head to him as *boyfriend*, I’m forced to reflect that this is a dangerous signifier of feeling attached, of slipping into a state of wanting commitment and stability with Teddy. Neither of which is something that I can reasonably ask of him, considering the secrecy we already struggle to maintain and the scandal that would erupt if we were to fail. I went into this assuring myself it would be a transactional, casual thing for lockdown, owing to the unprecedented occasion, and only four days after we first touched each other in *that* way, I’m forced to admit to myself that this appears not to be the way it’s actually going. With Jess appearing in the mix, my initial territorial instinct makes it all the more undeniable.
If I try to be a bit more objective about this, I obviously can’t blame her for the obvious attraction she feels for him. And I start to wonder if actually, *he* deserves a relationship like that, rather than the one I’m allowing myself to fall into with him. A relationship that *doesn’t* require secrecy, and bring a risk of scandal. One where he can show off his super hot, busty, and gorgeously tanned girlfriend to friends and family and enjoy their approval. One where an accidental pregnancy would get a comparative shrug of the shoulders and eventual congratulations instead of the hand-over-mouth gasp of horror that ours would – maybe will – cause…
I think I’m talking myself into trying to set them up. At this thought, a pit opens up in my tummy and seems to swallow everything inside of me. But then another, more detached part of me simply sees that as more evidence that I *need* to do this, for him and probably ultimately also for me.
I feel the resolve stiffening. Hating it, but knowing that it’s the right thing. I’m going to make it happen.
Jess excuses herself to use the loo, and I direct her up to our kids’ bathroom on the top floor. After a modest pause, I go up myself, and lurk in the doorway of my room for a few seconds while I wait.
She looks a little surprised to see me when she opens the door, but I flash that awkward British smile that simultaneously means ‘Get the fuck out of my way’ and ‘I’m so sorry for ever existing and imposing on you for the slightest thing.’ And of course she understands completely. I’m gambling that she’ll do some lurking of her own, and be there to accost next when I come out.
And sure enough, I hear her hissing at me from my room as I open the bathroom door and step out onto the landing.
“*Claire!*” Its an urgent sound, trying to be discreet and sounding desperate. I follow the voice into my room and find her behind the door. “W T F Claire, why didn’t you warn me about your brother!”
Affecting ignorance, I simply respond: “Warn you? What do you mean?”
“Even you must be able to see that he’s smoking hot. Christ Claire, I lost it when he took his top off.”
“I suppose he is,” mock disinterest in my voice, head inclined to suggest I’m thinking of something else. “What would you have done to prepare?”
“If I had warned you, what would you have done?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Wear a nicer bikini. Sort my hair out before I got here.”
“You look fab babes, I’m sure he thought so.”
She snorts. “Don’t mess, he barely looked at me.”
“He’s just shy. He’ll take some time to warm up.”
“Is he single?”
I fight the clenching knot in my chest, and force myself to say yes. “Mmmhm.” Ok it’s not topkapı escort a yes but it will serve as an affirmative. “He split up with his girlfriend in February – Steph Beecham, you remember?” She doesn’t seem to. “Anyway, he’s probably gasping for some action from all these weeks locked in with us.”
I struggle to keep the act up, but will myself to appraise her, and muse: “Actually she was a similar build to you. Similar boobs, dark hair. You might even be his… type.” The effort of that final word is too much. I have to turn into the room and pretend to look for something on a shelf. Hand cream? That will do. It’s enough to give me an excuse to have a break from spinning this painful lie.
It’s probably unnecessary anyway, as Jess is looking herself over in the mirror, searching for imperfections that don’t exist, trying to build up confidence for going back out to the garden and trying to put herself in his path. It seems mad to me that she lacks any confidence at all, but I suppose we all do this to ourselves regardless of how many friends, mothers – boyfriends – insist we have no need to worry.
“Go get ‘im, Tiger,” I encourage, with a good deal more warmth than I feel, and wave her out of the room. “I’ll be right behind you.”
She grins, and skitters out the door. I realise that my fists are so clenched my nails have gouged big scratches out of my palms.
I do my best to absent myself from the proceedings. I don’t have the strength or conviction to be able to actually watch Jess attempt to seduce my brother, so while it would look strange if I were to disappear completely, I try to remain on the periphery: helping out when mum is repotting some plants at the other end of the garden; chasing the cat around the lawn to pin her down and apply the flea treatment that she needs (I have the scars to prove it); going into the house to make tea, fix drinks, get snacks at every opportunity. The sort of displacement activity that is the mainstay of awkward sitcom farce.
What little I actually observe of the interactions between Ted and Jess seems to be successful enough. I can tell that Ted is starting to get over his shyness when I hear the music volume go up at least 20% while indoors at one point. This can only be because he wants to point out a section of the tune to her. I feel this must be a good sign, although it beats me as to whether she’ll actually be interested or just politely listening. She’s not the one who needs to be won over, though, so I mentally shrug and wish her luck. It certainly took some very specific prior requirements for me to ever show an interest in his music.
The only other notable incident this afternoon is Joanie’s return from seeing her friends. If I’d thought she might be less miserable from having some social contact I thought wrong. Mum insisted that she sit outside for a bit, hoping that the general atmosphere of having a new person around would warm her out of her five year funk, and she spent all of ten minutes sitting next to me, swinging wildly between bitching about the music and nervously rolling scrappy little cigarettes which are then finished in a few jagged tokes. Her manner is quite frantic, and I suspect she’s on the tail end of a coke high. Her thick makeup is smudged and she looks like a red-eyed panda, brittle dark red hair askew, and fidgeting long fingers with chipped neon blue polish. With the state she’s in, even Jess and Ted glance at her more than a few times. I’m not one to judge, and even my miserable sister doesn’t deserve to make a fool of herself in front of her parents, so I gently encourage her to go drink some water and go to bed. She reads enough into my meaning to understand that I know what’s up, and suddenly goes all stiff.
“Chill Joanie, honey. I promise you, we’ve all been there.” I’m gesturing subtly at the three 20+ year olds around her.
Blustering, trying to deny, she nevertheless gets up and storms away, presumably to lock herself in her cave again. I watch her as she disappears. She’d been a rather unfortunately stocky teenager for much of the last several years. I remember her 18th birthday, when family photos had been taken under protest, and she was very much the odd one out in a picture of the three of us and Mum. I can imagine how it must have felt to compare herself to the others in that photo – all varying heights of slim and blonde, well beyond our awkward teenage years – and feel like she’d just got the shitty deal from the family gene pool. Dad’s unremarkable dark hair, a comparatively chunky build. But as she stumbles away I notice more length in her legs, some tapering at her waist, and a fine bone structure visible beneath her somewhat rounder face. She almost certainly doesn’t realise it, but she has been changing, and now that she’s an adult, she’s started to grow into herself.
Not that any of that will help her feel happier *now*. I know better than to try to say anything, but a flush of compassion has me thinking about ways to gently boost her confidence in other ways. Maybe she could be convinced to give running a go? Get some exercise endorphins into that angry brain. Maybe some kickboxing? I haven’t done that for a while but could show her enough to work out some frustration. I have pads back in Manchester, but we could probably improvise something. I expect Ted can get his hands on some insulating foam.
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