tagLesbian SexThe Courtship of Rachel

The Courtship of Rachel



This is part one of The Courtship of Rachel, a series that runs concurrently with My Two Mothers. In this account, Tess's mother, Rachel tells her side of the story, about her childhood and growing into maturity and I apologise for its length. I was tempted to split it into two parts but decided to push on regardless. I hope you enjoy Rachel's Story: The Early Years. The next story will be part two of My Two Mothers.


I loved reading my daughter's account and there was a lot going on behind the scenes and so it's up to me to fill in the blanks and dust off the skeletons in my closet and I've got a few there! My father was a payroll accountant at a window factory in Bayswater North, which was where he met mum in 1966 and their office romance lasted some six months before they finally made it public. Her parents were Dutch and his were Irish on his mum's side and Scottish on his father's. They used to meet up in the ladies lounge at The Coach and Horses before migrating to Daisy's because the Coach was such a rough pub.

They married in 1967, dad was balloted in for the call up for national service but when he married mum he was balloted out. Dad's father thought it somewhat cowardly but my father was a pacifist until the day he died, he wouldn't even argue with his own father about avoiding conscription and when the truth about the Vietnam war finally became mainstream news his father finally conceded that it was a stupid waste of men and resources. However, if dad was a pacifist, mum was most definitely not. Her parents had lived through the Second World war and her grandfather and his brothers were part of the Dutch Resistance.

I was born in 1968 and given the name Rachel Hannie Barrett, my middle name was the alias for Jannetje Johanna Schaft, a famous Dutch resistance fighter executed a month before the liberation of Holland. Mum used to tell me the story of her execution on the sand dunes when the first bullet merely grazed her head and she cried out, "you can shoot better than that." That story seems to be permanently embedded in my mind as encapsulating courage in the face of certain death. I know that at school I was never afraid to stand my ground, I was educated at Bayswater Primary and then Bayswater High and as has been already mentioned I was a good student but in Primary I was a very precocious child. I was the one who instigated the dares. In my last year at Bayswater Primary I dared my youngest sister to smear herself in a potion consisting mostly of horseshit. I'd told her that I had added secret ingredients to turn it into perfumed paste.

Mum was not impressed!

My sister Jodie was born in 1970 and Sue was a '72 child. Jodie and I were always close but Sue was the baby of the family and was left out of some of our activities.

My childhood was pleasant. We lived in a shady street not far from the high school. During term holidays I used to go down to Knox City Shopping Centre just to hang out, we'd tell mum we were going to the library but most of the time we were darting in and out of shops and then we'd take turns bumming cigarettes from strangers. We sprayed ourselves with perfume before we got home in case mum found out. I was never afraid to try something new although when it came to boys I was kind of backward at coming forward but I'm just getting to that.

Dean was my first major crush, I was in Year Ten and he was in the next year up. For a period of about three months we used to walk home together and I honestly thought he was the coolest boy in school. I never hung out with him at school because we were a year apart and I had my girlfriends but one day I was late out of school and caught up to him on Mountain Highway. He was with one of his mates and he pulled me aside and explained that he didn't want his friends to think we were going out together. I remember looking at the ground, wishing it would open up and swallow me, his mate was some ten feet away and laughing.

It was the first time I'd come across something I couldn't handle. I always had a quick tongue but that rejection cut me to the quick and I swore off boys until my final year when I did go out with Desmond, the school punching bag. I intervened one recess when I came down to the shelter shed to find a bunch of kids laying into him.

"Leave him alone you bastards," I screamed at them.

One of them started towards me but my best friend Vicki, was just coming up behind me. She just laughed at the ringleader, Andrew.

"If you touch him one more time we're closing our legs."

Vicki was well known around the school for her exploits and while I was still the virgin, I wasn't about to admit it to these clowns.

That ended a year of misery for poor Des. I gravitated towards him because he was a quiet boy and what the hell, I could talk for both of us. I became his girlfriend, at least that's what I told my girlfriends but the truth is stranger than fiction.

You see Des was also gay although in his last year of high school he was trying to fight it. He'd done a few years at Aquinas College in Heathmont but was transferred to Bayswater when his parents divorced and the money ran out. His mother was a staunch Catholic and the Holy Mother church isn't exactly welcoming of gays and back then you had the cliché that being gay was for weaklings. He clung onto me because I never judged him and even better he never tried to cop a feel when we were alone together. Not even when I patently made it clear in my awkward way that I wasn't against the idea. It all came to a head during the summer of 82/83 when I found out the real reason he wouldn't take things to the next level.

If I'd been younger I know I would have reacted differently but by then I was 17 and looking forward to my 18th birthday. Dad was teaching me how to drive in his two year old Holden Commodore and now that Des was out of the closet, to me at least, I could broaden my horizons and with that I must leave you and go do the grandmother thing. Paul is taking his girlfriend out for dinner and a show so little Abby is staying with us tonight.


Okay, I'm back now, Abby is sitting with her other grandma, Birgit and they're making cookies in the kitchen. I love the way Birgit is with Abby, her eyes light up whenever she sees her and Abby for her part just thinks of her as grandma Birgit, she cracked Paul up when she told him that Abby was telling other kids that she had three grandmas.

And now back to the story and the winter of 83. It might seem odd that by the age of 18 I still had my virginity, my girlfriends had lost theirs quite some time ago. For me however, I'd had a front row seat to the ongoing love cycles of my girlfriends. I'd seen the way they'd been treated, as if they were a trophy. It was one of the reasons I was so stuck on Desmond because he never treated me as a trophy, but then again he was as camp as a row of tents and it was actually through Des that I met the guy who would be my first real love.

His name was Adam and I met him at a gay bar in town, I'd met up with Des one night after lectures, I was studying Economics at Monash University. By then Desmond had lost his cherry and wanted to introduce his new beau to his 'girlfriend' and the fact he could do that was quite touching. I really had so much respect for that guy.

Adam was a bit of a lad and liked a drink. He was not gay either but open minded enough to drink in gay pubs, straight pubs, as long as the bar was open he was happy. We hit it off and because I'd missed the last train back home he volunteered to put me up for the night at his joint in Brunswick and I happily said yes. To cut a long story short we did it that night although I can't really say it was that enjoyable because I was pissed. I woke up the next morning feeling groggy, a little sore and more than a little ashamed. I made some excuse about needing to go to the 7/11 for a Coke and just kept going but forgot that we'd exchanged phone numbers. Hey I was drunk!

Adam phoned me the next night and must have sensed I was feeling guilty. When he was sober he was a genuinely nice guy and he apologised for what had happened the night before. Eventually we decided to go out on a proper date, dinner, a movie and see what happens next. Well that lasted a good six weeks and by the end of it I knew that Adam had the Jekyll and Hyde personality of an alcoholic. He was never abusive or violent to me, but when he'd been drinking he would pick fights with the biggest guy in the pub. I'd be the one having to pull him back and I seemed to have a calming effect on him because he'd settle down for a while.

But eventually even I gave him the ultimatum, either do something about your drinking or we're finished. You don't need to be Einstein to work out which love claimed his heart, King Alcohol and as a mini postscript Adam died in a horrible car accident when his car went through the railway boom gates at Centre Road, Bentleigh. Not surprisingly, the updated newspaper report a few days later stated he was three times the legal limit.

Nevertheless, dad and mum were relieved when Adam and I broke it off, they'd seen the writing on the wall before me but typical for them, they just let me have my head and hoped I'd survive. I moved out of home not long after that and into a house with two girlfriends from uni, it was a four bedroom house, the fourth bedroom was rented out on a short term basis and because it was so bloody small it was referred to as the cupboard. The other thing I remember most vividly about the house was the open fire, most houses by then had gas fires and we used to scour the neighbourhood for recently cut down trees. People left the sawn up trunk out for free firewood and we'd fill up the boot of a car to save us buying firewood.

I have many good memories of that house. Mandy and Georgie were the best of friends and I can honestly say that in that house I came of age in a very real way. They were both a year older than I and had that much more experience and over the next two and a half years I had four boyfriends and I learned plenty. The dating scene really is like fishing. In a big city you've got plenty of choice but country towns are notorious for slim pickings. Mandy and Georgie were both Albury girls and hitting the big smoke was like being let loose in a candy store with a load of cash. They went wild and I just followed on behind. Over a few drinks and the odd joint, we'd compare notes once the boys were absent from the house. However, while Mandy and Georgie were one night stand girls, I was definitely looking for something more regular.

However, looking back with 20/20 vision, I can see that all this experience had taught me that men were basically all the same. Show a bit of leg or rub their cock and the end result was the same, and that brings me to Maggie and my first encounter with a woman.

Maggie was six years older than I and we met her one Friday night in March 1986 at our usual watering hole, The Whitehorse Inn. I had to use an online calendar to pin down the exact date, March 28 because the following weekend Mandy and Georgie went back home to Albury, they always went back the first weekend of the month.

Maggie had just been discharged from the army and had enrolled at Box Hill TAFE to do Introduction to Law, which was how she ended up at our table. She looked gay in a kind of butch/femme way with her collar length hair cut in a mannish style, but that night she wore a white shirt, tight black jeans and a leather tie with the knot halfway down her front. She was on the lolly water that night because she was also working security, but towards the end of the night she took a seat near us to wolf down a counter tea. The pub used to serve a half decent counter tea and one of the fringe benefits of working there was getting a free meal sometime during your shift. Local TAFE students used to serve behind the bar. We got talking because she was security and after a few minutes we learned that her digs in Nunawading were just shithouse.

"I mean I've certainly experienced homophobia before, but this woman is totally obsessed with getting rid of gays altogether. I had to kiss a gay guy out the front of the house just to prove I'm not gay, it cost me a whole nights worth of drinking to pay him back for helping me out."

"So why not move out?" Georgie asked the question.

"Well that's the plan, ma'am," she set her pot down, "you wouldn't happen to know of anywhere a girl could bed down, would you?"

We all looked at each other and she rolled her eyes.

"I meant bed down alone, I'm not looking for a partner, just a bed."

"I don't think we've ever had a gay woman in the cupboard," Mandy leaned back, "so, which one of us would you fuck first? And if you say Georgie, I'll empty this bundy over your head."

"Probably Rachel," she grinned, "oh, shit, now I've done it," she noticed I'd winced.

"Look in all honesty, I'm looking for a room, not a fuck. It just gets complicated."

Which sounded fair enough to all of us and so we invited her back to the house for the customary drink after we'd had a drink and a cone, if we like you enough. That night she stayed in the 'cupboard' and the next morning when I checked on her, she'd not only showered but she had made the bed and I commented that it looked perfect.

"It's a habit I picked up from the army," she smiled.

"My God," Mandy came up behind me and putting her arms around my waist, propped her chin on my shoulder, "you even made the bed? Can you cook breakfast as well?"

"It's what I did in the army," she shrugged, "before I moved into transport."

"What do you think?" Mandy pinched my belly.

"Better than the last few tenants," I murmured.

"Okay, I reckon you're in, Rachel likes you but if you touch my pussy you're out on your ear."

And that was how Maggie ended up staying with us and with that I need to get to bed but I'll tell you more about what happened next tomorrow.


Maggie moved her gear in the very next day, March 25th. I drove out in my little Torana to help her move. Maggie had this red Mazda RX7, which I thought was sexy as hell but those cars weren't designed for carrying much else apart from a single passenger. She didn't have an awful lot of stuff to move though, mostly clothes, her portable boom box and a few books. The only item I raised an eye over was her Ruger 10/22 rifle. I mention that rifle because it was the same model used in the Hoddle Street massacre over twelve months later.

"For rabbits," she smirked, "but if it's any problem I can leave it with my mum."

"Just keep it locked away, get a padlock for the wardrobe."

As it turned out though, the other two couldn't give a stuff about the rifle, they were both country girls and firearms were quite common in the country. What was extra cool though was the fact that Maggie was also pretty good at unarmed combat, I mean she was no black belt in anything but she could put a man on his back with relative ease. She was open about her sexuality and indeed being in a place where she didn't have to hide her sexual preference was like a breath of fresh air. Maggie really came out of her self-imposed exile, and although she still looked butch, being around stylish younger women caused her to modify her wardrobe somewhat. She actually bought her first skirt with me out at Doncaster Shoppingtown, now Westfield, it was the first of several and because of my success in 'feminizing' our 'dyke' I became her unofficial style guru. The other two girls did get along with her but perhaps due to their country upbringing combined with my go get 'em attitude, Maggie became 'my girl,' so to speak.

Ultimately it was that subconscious relegation that led to us getting together along with another factor I haven't mentioned yet, the burglary and Senior Constable Lewis Murphy. It was late on Friday night when we returned home from a night out at Doncaster Shoppingtown to find a cop car outside and Maggie sitting inside with two cops. It turned out we'd been burgled and our telly, stereo and some cash taken. Maggie had arrived home barely minutes afterwards and had run out into the street just in time to see two youths ducking around the corner into the next street. She'd been tempted to give chase but remembered at the last moment that she had a gun in the wardrobe and thankfully that was still there.

Senior Constable Murphy seemed quite relieved that the rifle had been missed.

"Although hiding it in a blanket on the top shelf of the wardrobe isn't secure, get a cupboard and a good padlock."

I smile at what I've just written because it's so lackadaisical but that's exactly the thing cops would say back then. It would take several more massacres before the government finally clamped down on gun ownership on a federal level instead of letting state governments have their own rules. There was a kind of innocence about those days although we certainly had to watch out in certain parts of town. That night however, Senior Constable Murphy casually asked me if I'd like to go out for a drink one night, which is also something that would almost never happen today. I kind of said, okay and arranged to meet him out at the Whitehorse Inn.

Maggie however, was of the opinion he'd overstepped his boundaries and when I thought about it later I did agree and so I purposely stayed away the next Friday night but the following Friday night I did turn up with the girls and lo and behold, Lewis Murphy was there with some of his mates and he chided me for leaving him high and dry on a date. It was only then I noticed the wedding ring on his finger, I hadn't noticed that when he was at the house.

"You're married."

"Yeah," he fiddled with the ring, "but it's over."

"So, you're single."

"Let's just say that it may as well be over."

"So, you're not single."

He opened his mouth to protest, saw the look in my eyes and finally came clean.

"Look, I'm married but it's on the rocks. It's not as if I'm the bastard, she's been seeing other guys as well, so I figured if you can't beat them join them."

A plausible enough excuse but I'd seen that movie before and it never ended well. I politely excused myself and went over to Maggie who was working the door.

"The bastard's married."

"Yeah, I saw him here last week with another woman, he met her here."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"I thought you'd listened to my warning as well," her eyes shifted, "look, he's a prick. If you wanna fuck him, fine but you'll just be a convenient place to keep his dick warm while he looks around for some other woman."

Maggie always was blunt.

Nothing more was said about that for another couple of weeks but I finally admitted that it was stupid to even think about going out with Lewis and life went back to normal. I'd been working as a temp for an accountancy firm in Mitcham, as part of my final year assessment. They did pay a part time wage, it was never a lot but I took it seriously, down to the sensible but chic office outfit, just in case I caught the eye of one of the eligible men.

The night we got together was monumental. The girls used to go back home to Albury on the first weekend of every month but the first weekend of August, Top Gun had just been released. It was much anticipated in our house because we all had the hots for Tom Cruise and Maggie had a serious crush on Kelly McGillis, so we'd kind of planned to all go and see it together. However, that weekend was also when Georgie's parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and so it was put off to the following weekend. Their timing could not have been more opportune. It was the week Maggie got together with a woman she'd met at the pub and broke up with some three days later. I was going to drop in at the pub on the way home from work but instead I headed on out to Doncaster to buy some clothes and came home sometime after eleven o'clock.

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