Forever Autumn

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I hope you enjoy Forever Autumn but be warned: it has a harrowing theme and is a lot bleaker than most of my stories. You may recognise some minor characters as being from my earlier stories Twilight Time and Love Hurts.

Characters in sex scenes are eighteen years old or over. All characters and most places are imaginary—any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

Copyright © 2019 to the author.

* * * * *

“…Like the sun through the leaves you came to love me/Like a leaf on a breeze you blew away…”

Justin Hayward & The Moody Blues

An evening in late November 2015…

…and my kick in the teeth evening. It was cold and rainy out and it was very quickly cold and rainy in my heart. I arrived home and almost fell over the pair of packed suitcases lying just inside the flat’s doorway.

“That you, Sarah?” Carole called from the sitting room.

“No, it’s Bill the Burglar. Who did you think it was? And what’s with the suitcases?”

Carole stepped into the hall. She was fully dressed for outside—coat, scarf, woollen beany, thermal gloves sticking out of one pocket. Her eyes were slightly reddened as if she had been weeping recently. “What’s with the suitcases?” she echoed me, “I’m leaving you, Sarah.”

“What? You’re leaving me? What do you mean?”

“Simply that. I’m leaving you. I just thought it would be less cowardly to wait and tell you to your face rather than leave a note or texting you.”

“You’re leaving me? Why?” I felt in shock. “What have I done wrong?”

“You’ve done nothing wrong, Sarah. It’s what I’ve done, what I’m doing. I’ve put the keys to this flat on the hall table. I can’t see me needing them again…”

…she left me standing there with my tears pouring. What is the old song says? ‘I’ll do my crying in the rain…’ She was the only woman I’d ever truly loved and now it looked as if I’d lost her…

Early December 2014

It was the run-up to Christmas week and The Twilight Time Rooms, the best lesbian nightclub in the city and always very busy, was absolutely heaving. Not a seat nor a table to be had anywhere and there was quite a crush at the bar although I had managed to squeeze in and hold on to a corner spot. It could be awkward if I needed a pee at any point—I’d just have to suffer or lose my place, that or pee myself where I stood. I suppose I could always blame that on the cat, if they had one. The answer was staring me in the face: don’t drink enough to stretch my bladder, Christmas or not.

I managed to catch the eye of a barmaid to order a glass of white wine and when it came I drank in tiny sips, very ladylike. Someone blundered into me jogging my arm although not enough to spill my wine. A voice said: “Sorry.”

I glanced sideways, getting an impression of a woman two, three inches or so taller than me, smartly dressed in slacks and a white, military-style shirt. “That’s okay,” I said, “can’t be helped with the crowd in here.” I turned back to my drink.

“Sarah?” It was the same voice. “Sarah Rackham? It is Sarah, isn’t it?”

I looked again at the other, more carefully this time. There was something vaguely familiar about her. “Yes?”

“It is you, Sarah. Don’t you remember me? Carole. Carole Vernon.”

My God. Carole Vernon. A ghost from Christmas past. To paraphrase Dickens, not long past but my past. I’d been more than a little in love with Carole once when we were teenagers but I’m a shy person even now and did nothing about it. Well, except for one memorable occasion… when?…summer of 2002-3 perhaps…

Yes, it was Carole, I could see that now and I held out a hand to shake. “Don’t be so bloody formal, Sarah,” she laughed, “We’re old pals, gimme a hug.” So I gave her a hug, a brief one, and looked again to take her in. She was thinner in the face now, in fact she seemed thinner all over, although she’d never been more than average in build. Her hair used to be chestnut-brown, falling in waves to her shoulders. Now it was blonde-streaked in a slightly ragged pixie crop

“Sorry, Carole, I don’t think I’d have known you. You’ve changed, your hair’s much different, you’ve lost some weight. And…”

“…and we’re both older. Not that much, though. What is it, ten, twelve years?” She laughed again. “Yes, I’ve changed quite a bit but you haven’t changed at all, at least not a lot.”

“Can I buy you a drink?” I said.

“Well, I’m with some friends. They got here a lot earlier and managed to bag a table. Still, they’ve got their drinks already so… yes, I’ll have a drink please. A sparkling mineral water with ice and lemon.”

“Is that all? How about a glass of wine or something,” I offered, “It is Christmas.”

“No thanks, I don’t drink. Mineral water will be fine.”

“You don’t drink?” I was surprised. “If I remember rightly, you had quite a taste 1080 porno for strong cider when we were teenagers.”

“Yes.” The reply was so flat it discouraged further comment.

I let it go and with some difficulty managed to hail a barmaid and order Carole’s water. When it was delivered, Carole said: “You by yourself, Sarah? Why not come and join us? We’ve got one of the larger booths so there should be room for you if we all scrunch up a bit.”

I said I was shy and with that peculiar reticence some of we shy people are guilty of shook my head. “I don’t want to bust up your party.”

Carole took a sip of her water. “Don’t be daft, Sarah. There’s nothing to bust up, just some friends having a seasonal drink together, and you can’t be very comfortable crushed up against this bar.” Brooking no further argument, she took my hand and virtually dragged me after her.

Although we were the same age give or take a few months, it’s unlikely we’d have been friends except for the fact that we lived only a few houses away from each other. I was the retiring studious type whereas Carole was a bit of a wild one, not in a vicious way but just full of zip and vim and determined to get everything possible out of life that she could. I suppose I could have been the classic mousy friend tagged along to make her look even better. Maybe.

“Hey guys!” she called out, holding my hand aloft, as we neared her table, “Look what Santa’s brought me! This is Sarah Rackham. We were at school together and near neighbours at home. Lost touch when we went to uni at opposite ends of the country. Sarah, these are…” She introduced her friends.

As Carole had said, there was room for us when everyone shifted up a bit. As well as Carole there were five other women at the table, one of whom, Joanna Lloyd, I knew slightly on a ‘hello’ basis. I’m a legal executive with a firm of city solicitors and Joanna was a solicitor with another practice in the same office building. The petite pretty woman sitting beside her was her wife, Susie, and sitting next to Susie another married couple, Vicki and Niamh. The fifth woman was Hester something; her girlfriend was a doctor at the City Hospital and on duty this evening. Carole and I were singletons.

They all had some distinctive feature so it was easy enough to remember their names by association. As I’ve said, I knew Joanna from work and she and Hester were both above-average tall. Vicki was a natural-looking blonde, hair in a short bob. Susie was blessed with an impressive cleavage and I noticed a number of women passing our booth slowing down to take a good look. I found myself sitting by Niamh who had unmistakably Irish looks and a wonderful mass of deep red hair, a bit like the actress Maureen O’Hara. She and Vicki had a daughter, she told me. “She’s being spoiled rotten by my mum tonight,” laughed Niamh, “Gives us a chance to pretend we’re courting again.” She turned and kissed Vicki on the mouth. “Just you wait till I get you home, ó cailín mo chroí !”

Vicki put on an exaggerated swagger with her shoulders and said in a cod John Wayne drawl: “Think you’re woman enough to handle me, little lady?”

Niamh winked. “Bet your sweet pussy I am.”

“Is it? Sweet?” someone said.

“Like honey,” Niamh replied., winking again.

Everyone laughed. I was glad of the low lighting for I think I might have blushed a little. Although turned thirty and having had a several short-lived affairs, I was still taken aback by people letting it all hang out in company. I covered by asking: “What was that you just said, not ‘pussy’ but the other words, ‘col…’ something?”

“What, ó cailín mo chroí?” said Niamh, “It means ‘Oh girl of my heart’. I was born and raised in the UK but my parents both speak some Irish and I know a little.”

“Oh, that’s nice. One of my grandmas is Welsh and she almost always calls me ‘cariad fach’,” I told her, “That means ‘ little sweetheart’ and I love it.”

Ó cailín mo chroí, Oh girl of my heart. I liked that. I’ve sometimes thought that endearments in other languages can sound so much more romantic than in English. Probably just the appeal of the exotic unknown.

“When you two have stopped comparing Celtic languages,” Carole said to me, “what say we celebrate our reunion by having a dance?”.

I hesitated. “Dance floor’s a bit crowded,” I said, having looked round.

“Same old Sarah by the sound of it,” Carole grinned, “So the floor’s crowded. So what? All that much more excuse to cuddle up closely. C’mon Sarah, your inner shrinking violet should have turned into a passion flower long ago. And the music’s appropriate right now.”

I wasn’t sure what Carole meant by that last comment as the DJ had started to play Buddy Holly’s ‘True Love Ways’. But to avoid being nagged I took her hand and we squeezed our way onto the dance floor. We didn’t need an excuse to cuddle up close, 2 k porno we had little choice dancing in that mob. At least we weren’t alone, all the other couples being plastered together too. Carole’s arms were around my waist and mine around her neck. She was wearing some subtle scent I couldn’t identify but its effect on her warm skin made me feel quite heady.

‘True Love Ways’ finished and the DJ continued to play slow, smoochy music. I guess she didn’t have much option with that crowd. Anything faster and more lively would probably have resulted in trampled bodies everywhere. At last the DJ took a break and before leading me back to the booth Carole pressed soft lips to my forehead. It was just a little kiss but it sent a shiver down my back.

I must admit I was pleased that Carole had found me at the bar. I’d been prepared to spend the evening by myself, not even fancying a one-night stand pickup, just a couple of wines in the Twilight and then home. As it turned out I had a great time with that small group for they were all lovely in their different ways (I’m referring to their personalities although all were attractive too). The DJ came back and stuck with the easy listening music so we all danced at one time or another, making sure that at least one person stayed at the booth to make sure we didn’t lose it. In the end it was closing time and the party broke up. All my new friends hugged me as well as Carole before going their separate ways.

“Where do you live, Sarah?” Carole asked as we left the Twilight Time. I told her and she added: “Great, I drive right by there on my way home. I’ll give you a lift otherwise you’ll wait ages for a taxi.”

When we were on our way she said: “So you know Joanna?”

“Not well,” I admitted, “We work in the same building and we’re both in legal work although she’s higher up the ladder than me. What do you do now, Carole?”

“I’m in research with a pharmaceutical company.” I remembered then that she’d gone to study chemistry at university. Carole continued: “Susie’s my team leader which is how I came to know them all. Vicki’s been Susie’s best friend since they were kids. And Niamh works at the City Hospital with Hester, they’re both radiographers. Niamh’s parents are at the hospital too. It helped that all the girls are gay, gave me a social group to fit into without well-meaning people trying to fix me up with eligible men.” She gave a little laugh. “Although my mother’s determined to get me married off to ‘a nice young man’. Refuses to accept that I’m not made that way. Are you out to your family, Sarah?”

‘Yes, long time now.”

“How did they take it?” she asked.

It was amazing how they did take it…

* * * * *

…it was during my first year at university and I was home for the Christmas vacation. There were five of us in the house for Christmas Day and the few days on either side: my parents and I, my maternal Grandma Myfanwy, who had been widowed for several years, together with her brother, my Great-Uncle Ifan, a professor emeritus of history at Aberystwyth University. We had finished our Christmas lunch and now I was about to run the risk of ruining everyone’s day.

“While we’re all together, I’ve got something important to tell you,” I began, “I love you all but I’m not sure you’ll like me any more. This is difficult and I don’t know how you’ll take it so please don’t hate me, please…” I took a deep breath. “I’ve got to tell you that… well, I’m gay, I’m a lesbian…” I trailed off and waited for the reactions and recriminations.

There was an odd kind of chain reaction. Dad looked at Mum and smiled, she looked at Grandma and smiled, Grandma looked at Uncle Ifan and smiled who in his turn looked at Dad and smiled. And then they all burst out laughing.

I was mortified and felt angry tears welling. “What’s so funny?” I shouted, “It’s nothing to laugh at! You don’t know what it took for me to tell you!”

Mum came and put an arm around me, holding me close. “We’re not laughing at you, love.”

“No,” added Dad, “We’re laughing at life. You see—”

“Better if I tell her, Bill,” interrupted a chuckling Uncle Ifan in his pleasant Welsh tenor. He took a sip of his wine before continuing. “You see, cariad,” he told me, “we’re laughing because I’m gay too. And we’ve kept it from you all these years because we worried you might disapprove—contrary to popular belief, not all you young people are open-minded.”

“You, Uncle Ifan?”

He nodded, perhaps a little sadly. “Although I stayed celibate by choice. Things were different when I was your age, Sarah. In some circumstances I could have been sent to prison for a couple of years just for being what I am. Even a simple hug in public between men back then could be construed as what the law called ‘an act of gross indecency’ resulting in arrest. A few judges were understanding and compassionate but many 3 k porno others were exceptionally harsh towards homosexuals. I often wondered if some of the latter were closet gays, punishing others severely for what they were trying to deny and suppress in themselves. Fortunately most of our family were sympathetic towards me and we’ve always kept up the pretence that I’m a typical asexual academic bachelor, interested only in my studies and research. It’s a common enough breed and I’m accustomed to the life now. So of course we don’t hate you. I think I can speak for us all in praising your courage in coming out to us.”

And they all took it in turns to hug me. “Just be happy with what you are, my lovely,” said Grandma…

Another thing—to my dismay Carole didn’t come home that Christmas, nor, as far as I could ascertain, any other holiday…

* * * * *

“…are you out to your family, Sarah?”

‘Yes, long time now.”

“How did they take it?” she asked.

“Brilliantly,” I said, “I gather it wasn’t as easy for you.”

“So-so. I only got round to it a couple of years back. Cowardly of me, maybe, but I didn’t fancy facing the aggro. As it turned out, Dad was okay with it and my sisters think it’s cool—they seem to enjoy bragging about their gay big sister. Mother won’t accept it, though, said it’s just a phase I’m going through and I’ll come round in time. ‘Mr Right will soon put paid to all that nonsense,’ she said. A phase, for fuck’s sake! I’m over thirty and she thinks I’m going through a phase! ‘Okay’ is fine, ‘cool’ I like, ‘phase’ I don’t.”

I tried to lighten things. “Well, apart from that, how’re things with your family?”

Carole laughed. “Mum… well, I’ve just told you her attitude. You know what she used to be like and she’s not changed, if anything she’s a bit worse. But Dad’s still the lovely, laid-back type he always was. And the girls are all grown up now… (Carole had two much younger sisters, Josephine and Olivia, nice kids) … Josie’s twenty-two and Liv’s twenty.”

“God, and here was me still seeing them as children.” I shook my head. “What happened to all those years?”

Carole laughed. “You say that now, just wait until you’re eighty! Well, this looks like your place.” She pulled the car into the kerb, applied the hand-brake and then delved into her bag for her mobile. “Give me your number.”

We exchanged details then I said: “Thanks for tonight, Carole. It was fun.” I made to exit the car and she grabbed my arm.

“Haven’t you forgotten something, Sarah?”

“What?”

“This.” She pulled me towards her and gave me a gentle kiss on the mouth. “I’ll call you soon.”

* * * * *

‘Soon’ was sooner than expected. I received a text the next day.

fancy dnr 2nite? kno gr8 little Ital. place. if yes, pick u up 7:30 ok? C x

As so often happened, my weekend calendar was filled with a great big empty space, nothing to do but sit at home with a good book and a bad film (or vice versa). It would make a grand change to go out with a friend. Would it be a date, I wondered, or just a friendly outing? Did it matter? Just the going out bit would be lovely. I snapped off a quick reply.

luv 2. broke d8 with cara delevingne 4 u. flattered? c u 7:30. S x

I really didn’t know how to dress for this ‘date’. I guessed that the Italian restaurant wouldn’t be a dress-up sort of place so in the end decided to keep it fairly simple with boot-cut trousers and light sweater over a white blouse. Add a much-loved necklace and locket, a touch of my favourite scent and I felt ready.

My door buzzer went at 7:30 exactly and there was Carole with a big grin. Thank goodness she had dressed in much the way I had, simple and understated. “I’m flattered,” was the first thing she said, “You must break a lot of celebs’ hearts, always cancelling dates with them for the likes of me.” She hugged me and gave me another of those gentle kisses. This time I was ready and responded. “Worth coming round just for that,” Carole added.

The ‘great little’ Italian place was called Massarella’s and was just that, a great little place, small, cosy and family-run, the atmosphere redolent with the wonderful smells of tomato and basil and garlic and slow-cooked meats and all the other ingredients that go into good Italian food. The proprietors, a plump Momma and Poppa pair, greeted Carole effusively and with big hugs as if she were a long-lost daughter then gave me the same treatment (“Any friend of Signorina Carole is more than welcome in our ristorante!”)

We had antipasto then I ordered a spicy puttanesca dish with a glass of Valpolicella and Carole had a meat dish called cotoletta alla milanese and sparkling water. I asked if she wanted some wine but she just smiled, shook her head and said: “I’m driving.”

As we were having dessert, a large shared dish of gelato al caffè, Carole reached out and placed her hand on top of mine. Her eyes sparkled as she said: “Sarah, do you remember that weekend sleepover at my place?”

On impulse I turned my hand so that our palms nestled against each other and linked our fingers. Did I remember that weekend sleepover…

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