tagLesbian SexEach & Every Corner Ch. 02: Reframe

Each & Every Corner Ch. 02: Reframe

byLimentina©

More background and plot development. Introducing the main theme. Feedback would still be very welcome. ;)

*****

Ray and Angela had, after several failed attempts, finally managed to align gaps in their respective workloads for today so that they could make it out for lunch. The family owned cafe where they had traditionally held these informal meetings had bowed to economic pressures and closed late the previous year. After this the unit hadn't been left to stand empty for long before it was snapped up by one of the usual chains. They had fitted it out as yet another ticky tacky coffee shop serving trendy flat whites and flavourless plastic sandwiches to the local footfall. Unexpectedly this had turned out to be a good thing for the two of them, if not for the staff and owners of the late lamented little independent.

Angela and Ray though, having been denied the complacency of their old routine, were forced to change up their pattern. Nowadays when they went out to eat they would try to find somewhere different each time and today's venue had been picked out by Angela. It was a very traditional pub only two minutes from the bus stop but on a side alley off the west end of Fleet Street. The beloved lunchtime sanctuary of generations of jobbing lawyers and journalists. The kind of wooden panelled, leather upholstered temple where you might reasonably expect to find a standard menu of various reheated bar classics to accompany the ubiquitous starchy chips.

Here though London's multiculturalism was paying some of its dividends and the microwaves and deep fat fryers had been stripped out. The whole lot had been replaced by a very competent, if incongruous, Vietnamese kitchen and the new menu was packed with bun hue, ban mi, and pho. All of these were figuratively, as well as literally, a foreign language to Ray but Angela knew the territory well. She'd lived in the Little Vietnam area of Manchester while at university (that was after all why she had picked the spot in the first place) and so she had been able to steer Ray around the options to find something which she'd enjoy.

"I was expecting it to be like Thai for some reason," said Ray. "Probably just because I don't know a lot about that side of the world so I tend to bundle it together. This is very different though, better actually I think."

"Yeah, it's good stuff. Lighter than Thai mostly, more refreshing in the hot weather maybe. So anyway it seems forever since we caught up properly hon'. How's married life. Still sickeningly lovely I imagine."

Ray grinned, "Yes still just as wonderful I'm afraid. Kind of much the same as it was before really if I'm honest, although maybe even a little nicer in a way."

Angela had known Sarah for almost as long as she had known Ray, and she'd watched Ray as she had started to fall in love with Sarah. She'd known what it was even before Ray had understood what was happening to herself.

"It was never going to make that much difference for you two I suppose." she said. "You have always been so close you might as well have been married from day one. Well even before that really."

"I'll tell what has surprised me though," Ray said. "How much I've enjoyed the name change. When we were stuck with doing all the paperwork it seemed like an awful lot of effort for no good reason, but actually it has turned out to be brilliant. Like a constant opportunity to boast you know - look what I've got. I've been feeling generally smug for quite a while now."

Angela nodded her appreciation of this, "And really the wedding was perfect Ray, it was totally worth doing. The party afterwards was spectacular as well."

*****

Angela and her boyfriend Andy had been among the few close friends who had made their way from London down to the farm Ray's family owned in Somerset for the celebration. There Ray's cousins, her aunt Jennie, and Jennie's partner Lynne had taken charge of hosting and organising the whole thing. They had all the space they could possibly need to hold a party on the farm. So, instead of hiring a room elsewhere for the reception, they'd taken the opportunity to renovate one of the old timber framed barns and laid it with boards for the dancing. Their major expense in the end had been bringing in local caterers to manage the kitchen and the bar.

Invitations to the ceremony itself had been limited to a very select group of friends and immediate family. The one real surprise for everyone had been that Ray's mother had not only replied to the invitation they had sent (the one they'd sent to Sarah's family had received, as anticipated, no response) but had actually confirmed she would be coming as well.

Ray hadn't seen her mother since she was a child almost a decade before and she had been very worried about seeing her again now. In part this was because she was fully aware that, according to the strictures of her mother's adopted moral code, she had strayed a very long way from the fold by now. Equally though she was feeling personally guilty according to her own standards for having left it so long before trying to get back in touch herself.

When she finally arrived Ray was waiting in the farmhouse kitchen for her. Slouched, as if trying to make herself physically smaller, she stood as far away from the entrance as she could get without actually fleeing the room. Jennie had practically had to drag her sister Grace through the door as well and having done so she raced off as quickly as possible. That left the two of them standing there, neither of them entirely sure what to say. Ray was surprised to see how small her mother had become over the years.

"Hello Mum," she said. Not breaking any world records for creativity, but at least cutting through some of the tension.

Grace was holding her bag in front of her with both hands like a shield and Ray was shocked when she realised that her mother was at least as nervous as she was. Despite this the older woman managed a cautious smile.

"Rachel my darling," she said, "I don't think I'd even have recognised you if I hadn't known. You're so tall now, and you look so different, your hair..."

She had been in a pinafore with pigtails when they had last seen each other, and only then starting her adolescent growth spurt. Now she was in jeans and a tee shirt, her hair cropped short and spiked, and standing taller than her father.

Reaching out her hand to touch her daughter's arm Grace hesitated. Ray finally took the initiative, as children always must in the end, and closed the gap to hug her.

"I'm glad you came," she said.

"I'm so happy to see you Rachel." her mother replied.

"I don't really call myself Rachel now, you'll have seen on the invitation," Ray spoke into the air above her mother's head. "Although just occasionally Sarah does, and I suppose you of all people have the right. She calls me her darling like you do as well."

"It should be Ray if that's what you prefer now. And I'm pleased to know you've found someone else who will call you darling too. Is Sarah here? I've been looking forward to meeting her again, but she was treated very badly back then, by everyone really, and I didn't know if she'd want to see me."

Ray set her mother's mind at rest, assuring her that Sarah remembered her fondly. Then they'd gone to track down Jennie who'd been hiding in the sitting room preparing to deal with the emotional fallout had things not gone so well. The three of them had done a lot of their catching up over the next hour or so; a kitchen table with an endless supply of hot tea was a middle ground where they could all be comfortable.

Along the way Ray discovered that she couldn't explain her job to her mother more specifically that to say it involved computers. She also learnt that both of her brothers were already married. And that Ginny, who she had known as a child, had left home in circumstances possibly even more controversial than Sarah's.

After this the next few days had been filled with the constant activity of first planning for and then celebrating the wedding. Aside from one short moment of flawless tranquility of course, the ritual itself, nestled between the two like a jewel. There in a small room, with those who meant most to them bearing witness, Sarah and Ray had exchanged their rings and the vows they had written for one another. And though these could only be brief approximations of the enduring private promises they had already cultivated between themselves, they were a public declaration of those deeper unbreakable truths nonetheless.

And Angela was right, it had all been worth it, and the evening of the reception had indeed been a crowning highlight. As well as the guests who had been specifically invited it was also taken for granted locally that Gateway Farm was an open house for the day. You can't give out free food and drink and not expect to draw a crowd, and a huge contingent from the surrounding area had dropped in at one point or another.

Cynicism aside the family and their business were both cornerstones of the community, bridging the gap in many ways between modernity and tradition, so everyone wanted to be part of the event and pay their respects to the brides while they were holding court. Taking their turns to spend a few moments with Ray resplendent in her immaculate suit, and Sarah in her dress and sandals, with flowers plaited into her hair and looking every inch the fairy queen. Throughout the day the two of them sat together to receive their guests or promenaded sedately arm in arm through the crowd.

The weather was sunny and stayed warm late into the evening in that sultry midsummer style. While the older people crowded around the barn and the farmyard a lot of the younger adults and the children made their way out onto the grass in the orchards, still within the shelter of the music, to make their own entertainment. Little fire pits had been cut into the turf amongst the trees for them. There were hay bales for seating and hundreds of brightly coloured lanterns strung from the branches.

Eventually though the night became cold. Tiredness, and for many the aftereffects of wine and cider, set in. Ray's cousins, playing their role as hosts, slowed the party deftly down until it stopped. With the glow of the new day already in the eastern sky the last of the guests and the wedding party made their respective ways home and to bed.

*****

"It's still amazing every day Angela," Ray smiled happily. "We're so very lucky."

"I can just about imagine, and you can rest assured that I'm extremely envious," Angela said. "I'm picturing the long evenings, all cosied up at home, only the two of you. Perfection itself."

Ray was dipping into her bowl of pho, fishing for a new combination of treats. "Three of us, actually," she replied distractedly.

Angela coughed around her own mouthful of soup (probably swallowed a rogue chilli seed Ray thought) and looked over. "Um, what?"

Ray glanced up, spoon poised between hand and mouth, "Didn't I tell you. We've taken LIzzie in. She and Amy split up so we've got her living in the spare room."

Angela took a moment to swallow properly and recover her breath, "Ah no, you didn't mention that, I'd have remembered I'm sure. We were wondering what had happened to Lizzie just the other day though actually."

Ray inclined her head, inviting Angela to continue.

"Oh," she went on, "weird situation. Amy turned up at one of our things the other weekend with some bloke we'd never seen before. Tim? Tom? One of those I think. Seemed pleasant enough, young, friendly, eager, a bit out of his depth but far too naive to notice. Exactly her type really come to think of it, although, you know, bloke-ier than we'd have expected. Anyway, obviously no sign of LIzzie which raised questions, but the two of them stuck so close all evening that we didn't get the chance to ask. So how's Lizzie doing."

Ray considered the question. "Well she seems ok to me. She's no trouble, keeps herself to herself. Joins in the cooking a bit, she's not very good at that really but she's improving. Generally she's out at work or on her own in her room. As far as I can tell she spends most of the weekends asleep. We don't get a lot of conversation out of her."

She paused, then added, "Sarah says she's not ok though."

Angela had been taking a fairly laid back approach to what Ray had been saying. She'd only been half listening really, and taking her lead from the tone of voice rather than the words themselves, but that last statement most definitely caught her notice. In the slightly surreal world of her imagination it was highlighted by the sound of a needle scratching across a record.

With her elbow on the table and spoon balanced loosely in her hand she gazed thoughtfully at Ray while she picked her way back through the last section of the conversation in her head. This time around she paid a little more attention to the content and reframed it for herself as she went along. When she thought about it like this it didn't really add up as the broadly positive state of affairs Ray appeared to think she had been describing.

"And what exactly does Sarah have to say," she said carefully.

"She says Lizzie's unhappy with the way her life is going, but that she's not found a way of understanding why. So she can't do anything about it and she just keeps on going around in circles messing everything up for herself. And that she's not finding the things she used to enjoy very rewarding any more but she's not been replacing them with anything else either."

Angela looked at her in horror.

"Good grief," she said. "That's fucking terrible Ray."

"It doesn't sound great does it," Ray agreed.

"And it is true that she doesn't seem to do much," she added helpfully.

"Well Sarah, as ever, will be right," said Angela. "There's no mileage to be gained in questioning that."

"How's Lizzie's hair." she asked.

Ray was momentarily taken aback by the change of direction. The twists of Angela's thought processes were a constant mystery to her though and she'd accepted long ago that just because she couldn't follow them it didn't mean they were without a logic of their own. Internally she shrugged to herself then she took a moment to reroute her train of thought down this unexpected new track before she answered the question.

"It's a few different tones of dark grey with some midnight blue at the moment I think. Looks very sleek, it's probably fashionable. She's had it like that for about a week now, something like that."

Angela nodded, apparently content with this.

"Good, maybe she's not doing quite that badly then. With any luck she's just putting a few things on hold for a while until she's settled her head. If she starts letting it fade and grow out let me know though; although I'm sure Sarah will already be on the case if it gets to that point."

*****

"Are you staring at my hair Ray?"

Lizzie had offered to cook tonight and Ray was camped out at the kitchen table with her laptop. She was meant to be getting some work done but was really spending more time observing what LIzzie was doing and chipping in with some occasional tactful words of guidance here and there. Trying as hard as she could to stay on the right side of the line which separated supportive from overbearing. Lizzie was attempting a roast chicken, with herbs and garlic butter stuffed under the skin and a selection of the usual sides to go with it. So although it was a simple enough job on the face of it there was plenty to do, and by extension, plenty to go wrong.

Just a moment ago Ray had been standing behind Lizzie, supposedly watching her check the potatoes were parboiled and ready for the oven, but in fact studying the back of her head closely, when Lizzie had turned and caught her in the act.

"Um, no?" said Ray, not even sounding convincing to herself. "Definitely not, but now that you mention it are your roots growing out a bit?"

This provided the moment of distraction Ray had been angling for and Lizzie's eyes widened, "Oh bloody hell I hope not, I only did this one last week and it took ages. How fast can the awful stuff possibly grow. I blame you two for making me eat healthy things, I knew they weren't good for me."

Leaving the colander to drain she ran quickly off to the bathroom where she checked her scalp carefully in the mirror. "No," she shouted back as she returned. "This is fine, it'll be a fortnight before they're really obvious. Except to the most critical of observers of course."

With a decisive shake she broke the potatoes up a bit before dusting them with pepper and salt and sliding them gently into the sizzling fat. She put the roasting tray back into the oven.

"You know sometimes I think I should just give up and let it grow out. It isn't as if I've got anyone to pretty up for right now."

Panic warnings lit up in Ray's mind, that was definitely a danger sign from what Angela had said. Best to head this off right now she thought.

"No, don't do that," she blurted out, possibly a little more forcefully than she had intended as Lizzie looked quite startled. She went on, reining in her voice but still struggling a bit with the content.

"It looks, nice," she hazarded. "And it's always interesting seeing what you're going to do with it next. This one is very, stylish."

Lizzie looked back at her in utter confusion, wondering half seriously whether she was about to become the butt of an obscure joke.

"Um, thanks Ray," she said hesitantly. "I didn't think you noticed. But just for you I'll keep up the dye jobs for now ok?"

She waited dutifully for the punchline but apparently it wasn't coming.

"Ok, good, yes," Ray said instead. "And I do notice you know. They make you look really special, and pretty. I just don't usually think to say anything."

Lizzie was still completely off balance, and by now starting to feel as if she'd accidentally taken a wrong turning into a parallel universe without noticing. Quite a nearby one, where the rules were just marginally different. Maybe green would mean stop here, and red would mean go, and oh yes let's not forget - Ray would be suddenly interested in talking about hair colour and trying to dish out compliments.

Her conversations with Ray in the recent past had tended toward the practical and this was an unsettling deviation from the norm. She had grown used to Ray being more blunt that most of the people she knew, but at the same time managing to be a little distant as well. Neither of which seemed to be adding up cleanly with where they found themselves at the moment. And yet it was quite disarming to get this glimpse of a slightly more fragile Ray, obviously struggling a little as she attempted her clumsy compliment. She looked across at the other woman and wondered whether she could try to use this as an opportunity to make them into better friends.

But sadly, deep in Lizzie's mind dwelt a persistent worm of doubt, left over from when they had been moving her out of her old flat. Ray had talked then about wanting more space and this still loomed large for Lizzie even now. She had worried away at the thought and co-opted in Ray's taciturn manner and any number of other perceived minor slights and dismissals as supporting evidence. Eventually she had pretty much convinced herself that the message intended for her was that Ray would be much happier if she just got her act together and moved on - so she and Sarah could have their room and their privacy back. Lizzie struggled with herself for long seconds, but in the end she couldn't quite break through the barrier of that conviction and instead she was left with no other option but to shut the conversation down.

"It's ok Ray. I'm glad I did this one anyway, and that you think it came out so well. After all I'm going out on Saturday and I want to look my best. You never know, if I'm lucky I might even meet somebody nice who likes it as much as you do."

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