To read part one click here→
For every minute they spent together, the more Kat and Claire found themselves falling into fascination with one another. Reckless and headlong, irresistible fascination. They talked about everything, they shared secrets and they shared their hopes and ambitions. And in the clamour and chaos of the Barracuda bar, something unique blossomed.
Claire’s vociferous and animated mode of communication blended perfectly, with Katerina’s relatively quiet and contemplative tone of character. At first blush the pairing appeared a little incongruous, like oil and water. But somehow the juxtaposition of contradictions just worked.
They drank and joked and laughed and danced, and Kat beat Claire at the pool table over and over. Refusing to throw even a single game, even though centuries of practice gave her the upper hand. Better that she reasoned, than starting out with deception and manipulation.
And neither did Katerina employ her supernatural abilities, to look into Claire’s mind again. She had already taken in Claire’s ‘scent’ at the Temple, and she had probed a little into the girls mind when they first entered the Barracuda, but resolved never to do so again.
Kat had found nothing in Claire’s heart but genuine fascination and sincerity, there was nothing of duplicity in the human. And surprisingly little of affectation or façade. Kat had nothing to fear but the risk of a disappointment. And that was a risk she would have to take, if she truly intended to form a relationship on equal terms.
And even if it led to a broken heart, Kat vowed never to employ her lupine instincts or preternatural abilities on Claire, ever again. And Kat promised herself that the next time they got together, if they got together again, she would come clean with Claire about exactly what kind of a woman she was.
But not just yet, not tonight. Tonight she just wanted to be Kat, just a woman plain and simple. The beast that dwelt within her could wait for just one night.
And Claire was elated, what a night this had turned out to be. Kat was just amazing, the woman of her dreams. And although memories of heartbreak past tempered her enthusiasm with caution, she couldn’t help but hope. Maybe Kat could be the woman of her reality as well.
But as much fun as they were having, the hour was growing late and Claire eventually had to go. And as much as they both wished that night would never end, they found themselves once again standing outside the Barracuda’s neon glowing sign. Condensation forming as exhaled breath combined with chill night air.
“Well….it’s a school night tonight and there’s a lot to do tomorrow….”
“….I’d stay with you all night if I could.”
Claire wasn’t a one night stand kind of girl, and she certainly wasn’t careless with her heart. But there was just a small hint of hopeful suggestion in her remark nonetheless.
Kat detected the veiled meaning without recourse to animal intuition, and she smiled at the thought as she replied.
“Go home Claire, get some sleep or you’ll be wrecked tomorrow.”
Kat was amazed. Not once had her inner beast tormented her with its lascivious desires. And Claire had really touched her heart. There was something special here, a rare mutual attraction that she had not experienced in a very long time.
“….home.” Claire shuffled her feet before continuing.
“Do you want to maybe go out again…?”
“….maybe Friday? I don’t have to work Saturday, we could…you know, take our time.”
Kat put her arms around Clair’s shoulders.
“Okay, Friday. We can take our time.” She leaned in close to Claire, looking into the blue of her eyes, and she smiled wolfishly and continued.
“I think maybe this is probably the part where we kiss….”
“….would you like me to kiss you now Claire?”
And she did, and Kat and Claire melted entirely into one another. Their hearts both racing as they lost themselves in the moment, both wishing they could linger there for eternity.
Eventually Claire reluctantly pulled away, sighing and blinking her eyes as if dazed.
“….um….okay I really have to go. So…”
And Kat watched Claire as she reluctantly walked away. She breathed in and exhaled deeply, focussing on that place deep within herself that was neither entirely beast nor human. That in between place where the true Katerina Reynard lived.
Kat liked Claire, she really liked her. A lot. And she didn’t want the animal side of her to take over and ruin everything. But nor did she want the human girl she once was clamouring to regain her lost humanity either.
She had been celibate for ages, trying to get herself straightened out. Striving to become the woman she wanted to be. And it looked like she was succeeding. The beast was at bay and Kat felt confident that she was in control of her own destiny.
Kat walked home happy and at peace with herself. She had tested her sincerity, tested the strength of her resolve and she had been faithful and strong.
Kat felt proud.
Claire bounced home happily, her mind filled to the brim with thoughts of Katerina, and her heart swimming with bliss. She fought the urge to message her right away, to thank her for the kiss, or just say goodnight or something, anything. Anything just to be in some kind of contact with her. Just to know that she was actually real, and not some wonderful phantom lover she had conjured in her imagination.
But Claire resisted the temptation and thrust her hands all the deeper into her coat pockets, to ward off the crisp chill of the imminent dawn. She didn’t want to scare Kat off, to make her think she was clingy or some kind of freak or something.
There was something profoundly different about Katerina Reynard, she was something else entirely. Claire couldn’t quite put her finger on exactly what she was feeling, it was attraction of course. But somehow there was more to it than just that. Claire Hart was experiencing the most curious sensation of gravity, like her life had changed forever tonight.
And it was more than hopeful projection of some miraculous fantasy of the future, she was too calm for that. It was more a feeling of awe or splendour. It was like the first time she went to the Rockies, suddenly the world looked so much bigger. And so much more beautiful, and the world would never look quite the same again.
Claire couldn’t dislodge the woman from her mind, and she didn’t want to. Claire felt wonderful. More alive and free, and certainly more joyous and hopeful than she had felt in an awful long time.
Claire eventually made her way home before the sun was up, dog tired but without a care in the world. She hurriedly showered, got into her favourite pyjamas and bounced into bed like a kid on Christmas eve. The comforting embrace of her bed felt especially gorgeous tonight, she was exhausted and her legs ached from all the dancing.
Claire checked to make sure her alarm was set.
“Oh hell, it’s after five already.”
Even if she got to work late she’d still only get an hour or two of sleep at best, tomorrow was going to be a tough one. She briefly considered calling in sick, but that would be a really bad look, disappearing from your boss’s birthday party with some strange girl, and then calling in sick the next day. The office gossip tomorrow would be bad enough without that.
She pushed tomorrow from her mind and allowed her thoughts to wander back to Kat, while she waited for sleep to arrive. Wonderful Kat. She was funny and smart and energetic, so alive, and so beautiful. She listened when Claire talked, and she understood her so well.
Katerina just got her the way nobody else did, she seemed to understand her sense of humour. Her love of abstract nonsense just seemed to confuse people, most of the time. But not Kat, somehow against all probability, she seemed to be on the same wavelength.
And she wanted her, of all the people she could choose, she had chosen her. Claire, nerdy bloggy gamer Claire.
She tried her best to sleep, but Claire’s eyes wouldn’t close and her brain wouldn’t turn off. She was wide awake, her mind boiling with delightful agitation and excitement. It was like jet lag.
She swiped open her phone and shuffled through the selfies she and Kat had taken together, laughing and joking, pulling silly faces. Her heart began to race again and butterflies began fluttering in her belly as she turned the name over and over in her mind.
“Claire and Kat.” The two names sounded good together, and she found herself playing with the idea.
“Hi, I’m Claire and this is my girlfriend Katerina.”
“Claire and Kat….”
“….Kat and Claire.”
“Claire loves Kat.”
‘Love, that’s a bit much.’
‘Be careful. Don’t fall too hard too fast. Be cool. Slow down.’
She couldn’t be in love yet. They had just met, it was far too soon to be in love. Love takes time. Love grows slowly, love blossoms and blooms in its own time.
Claire realized she was using the word love an awful lot, so she put away her phone and made a concerted effort to close her eyes and get some sleep.
But it was hopeless.
There she was dancing in her mind’s eye. Oh gods, and now she was kissing her. Claire played the wonderful moment of their first kiss back in her mind again and again.
“I think maybe this is the part where we kiss….”
“….would you like me to kiss you now?”
“Yes.” Oh yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
Claire couldn’t help herself and she didn’t care anymore. For as much as she needed sleep, Claire wanted to treasure this moment, this wonderful feeling.
She lingered in the memory of their kiss and imagined more, so very much more. She imagined Kat’s lips against hers, and her teeth biting at her lip. She imagined Kat’s strength as she gathered her up in her arms, her hands exploring her body. Agile fingers popping buttons…
Clair’s hands wandered underneath her pyjamas, crept between her legs and under her knickers.
“Okay….” She giggled whilst stifling a yawn.
“….so no sleep tonight then.”
Claire slept little, but still managed to roll out of bed and zombie her way to work on time. She endured all through the day, carrying her exhausted body with as much poise and dignity as she could muster. Doing her best to ignore the chuckling and gossiping coming from the surrounding work stations. The salacious hushed rumour and speculation about why Claire Hart looked so awfully worn out today.
She made the mistake of guzzling too much black coffee, and she was back and forth to the toilet all day. And between the exhaustion and too much caffeine she felt edgy, terribly anxious and emotional. But she endured, determined to hold her ground against the wagging tongues. Eventually Zara came over to talk to her, and even she had a wry smile on her face.
“Yes Zara?” Said Claire tapping away at her keyboard.
“Did you have a good time last night?”
“Yes thanks’ Zara, the club was great.” Claire replied, every bit the professional.
“Yeah. The club…” Zara chuckled.
“….oh come on Claire it’s me….”
“….what’s her name?” Zara grabbed Claire’s enthusiastically hand and held it.
If she was going to trust anyone it was going to be Zara, Claire was sure she could rely on her professionalism and her discretion. And eventually Claire’s face broke into a broad grin.
“Katerina, and she’s wonderful.”
“So…?” Zara prompted impatiently.
“So….we went out and we danced, a lot.”
“She kissed me.” Claire beamed.
Zara rather theatrically clapped her hand to her mouth and gasped.
“So did you…”
“….but were going out again tomorrow.”
“So do you like her?”
Claire smiled broadly and nodded emphatically.
“That’s so wonderful Claire. You know, you can take off early if you want, I don’t mind.”
“Thanks, but no. I can feel the gossips at work already. If I leave now it’ll be that much worse. You know how it is.”
“Yeah, I get it….”
“….anyway, I’m proud of you Claire Hart. You deserve someone every bit as wonderful as you.”
“Thanks.” Claire was genuinely touched.
Eventually Claire made it through the day and collapsed in a heap that night. Crawling into bed early with Thai takeaway and a joint, and eventually fell asleep watching Adventure Time.
Then it was finally Friday, the big day. Claire dragged herself through her work routine, minute by agonizingly long minute. The office gossips having moved on to some other fragment of juicy nonsense, with an alacrity that left Claire feeling as much disappointed as anything. She waited, bided her time.
Restrained herself from calling Kat to see if she still wanted to go out, waiting for her to call first. Eventually she was sick of driving herself nuts and sent Kat a text.
‘Hey. Still want to get together?’
The reply was surprisingly fast, maybe she was going through the same torment.
‘Your turn to choose this time.’
‘Meet me at City Station @ 7:30.’
Okay, they were still going out, she could relax a little. Claire put her phone away and tried to concentrate on her work, but concentration was proving impossible.
Oh god, now it was real.
Where were they going….
….what was she going to wear?
How was she meant to know what to wear if she didn’t know where they were going? Claire started to panic a little, she sent a follow up text.
‘What should I wear, formal or casual’
‘Either. Whatever feels good. Makes absolutely no difference where we’re going.
Just be Claire.’
Claire put the phone down again. Well that didn’t help, she was even more at a loss than before. She put the thought from her mind and concentrated on work, she could deal with it later.
Eventually the clock rolled sluggishly over to half past four. Claire packed up and went to check in with Zara to go over some reports before leaving. But eventually she got out the door and hurried home to change. Her mind and body brimming with excitement.
Claire showered and washed her hair, blow drying and styling until she was not too dissatisfied with the results. Putting off the ordeal of going through her wardrobe and selecting the right outfit. She played with her hair, trying out various styles before deciding to go with neat space buns.
Sometime later Claire found herself standing in front of the mirror amid the wreckage of innumerable discarded ideas. She had eventually decided on an ensemble of black vine detailed stockings, and a cool looking retro style dress and a leather jacket. And to tie it all together a gorgeous, brightly coloured silk scarf wrap and tall, cherry red boots.
The clock was racing now and she was out of time. This would have just to do. Kat did say to just be Claire after all.
Well, just Claire is exactly what she would get.
Claire hurried to City Station and waited under the clock tower, the traditional place for people to meet. She checked her phone. It was seven thirty two and she was starting to worry a little.
What if she wasn’t coming?
What if she didn’t like her after all?
And before she knew it there she was. And she was even more beautiful than Claire remembered. She was wearing the most gorgeous red silk floral dress with a short brushed wool jacket, with large chrysanthemum designs around the looped and buttoned fastenings.
Claire’s heart began to race and she started to feel nervous.
God, it was like being a kid again.
Kat walked straight up to her, took her by the lapels and without a word she kissed her. And once again Claire melted.
“Hi.” Kat said simply.
“Hi.” Claire replied returning the kiss.
“I’ve been itching to do that again since Thursday morning.”
“Come on, let’s go.” Kat said taking Claire’s hand.
“Where are we going?”
They walked and talked and laughed, hand in hand through the city streets, until they stood before an unremarkable semi industrial looking building. Kat slid open a heavy goods receiving door and the sound of music issued forth. There were stairs leading up and down with two plain looking signs. One said Bar Up with an arrow pointing up, and another which read Bar Down with an arrow pointing down.
“Which way?” Asked Claire.
“Well, Bar Down is best at night, Bar Up is better in the morning, when the sun is coming up. This place hardly ever closes”
“Okay” said Claire, “Bar Down it is.”
The two walked down the stairs and Kat’s new friend brightened immediately. One of her favourite songs, by her undisputed all-time favourite band was blaring over the sound system as they descended. Claire delighted in ascending the stairs in perfect time to the anthemic song. It was too perfect.
“….now this is my kind of place.”
The stairs opened out onto an enormous room, probably once a factory floor. There was a dance floor and a bar, but maybe half of the cavernous room was given over to sofas and arm chairs, coffee tables of all descriptions.
Against the back wall and along one side of the room were pool tables, and on the opposite side was a collection of old arcade games. All the classics and a few new ones. The patrons were as mixed and diverse a group of people as Claire had ever seen. This looked like the kind of place where just about anyone could come and feel comfortable.
“Okay. Now this is kind of a private club, not open to the public. I have to talk to someone, sign you in. I’ll meet you at the bar when I’m done.”
“See that man over there?” Kat indicated a tall, pale looking waifish fellow behind the bar.
“That’s Peter. Go see him, tell him you’re my guest. He’ll put whatever you want on my account.”
Claire agreed and made her way over to the bar. She was struck by the heterogeneity of the crowd. This was as diverse a group of people as she had ever seen. It appeared that humanity in all its myriad diversity was represented in this room.
But there was something odd about the group as well. People generally have a tendency to group together in predictable and identifiable ways. But not this group. There were obvious cliques, but with no readily identifiable common thread.
Whatever commonality bound these social groups together, was not superficially obvious through race, gender or even fashion.
Claire was impressed by the manifold variety, such that she was entirely oblivious to the keen interest and attention her presence provoked.
For Claire Hart was something of a lamb amongst the wolves….
….a human being in a room full of monsters.
Thank you for reading
More Queer Tales