This story is copyright Amanda 2003,2004 © please do not reproduce this work without my prior approval as it is close to my heart.
This story was inspired by a wonderfully talented writer.
Emma strolled aimlessly along the sea front, the warm summer breeze carrying with it the hint and scent of a thunderstorm. 'I knew I should have brought a coat, ' Emma sighed to herself, knowing that three successive days of hot English weather was about the best she could really hope for. The approaching storm had turned the air humid, making her flowered cotton sundress stick to her in places she really wished it wouldn't. Emma loved being able to wear summer clothes and wished she could be walking along a beach in the Seychelles, wearing nothing but a skimpy bikini and a diaphanous sarong. "Someday," she whispered to the rising wind, but in her heart of hearts she knew that at thirty-two it was unlikely to happen now.
All Emma had to look forward to right now was the six-week summer holiday that she considered the major, if not only, perk of being a teacher. As tradition demanded, she and her colleagues had gone out to celebrate the end of term with a few drinks. That had been only three hours ago and already she was alone, the others gradually drifting away with excuses of children to tend or spouses to meet.
"Trust Andrew to go away today," Emma softly cursed. Although even to herself she admitted that it wasn't really his fault he had to go away for work, or that he spent so many hours working these days he no longer seemed interested in her. More often than not he would claim tiredness as a well-worn refrain for slinking off to bed early, leaving Emma even more alone than when he wasn't in the house.
To try and fill the void that seemed to be widening with every passing day, Emma looked for other avenues to provide at least a partial distraction to her loneliness. She'd even considered having an affair, knowing at least two semi- decent candidates at her school who would not have objected. But like so many things in her life, such possibilities remained simply unfulfilled fantasies.
She had, at least for a short while, even tried to turn her hand to writing erotic fiction, finding a huge audience for such work on the internet. But she soon found that what people wanted was sex, not eroticism, let alone the kind of romance she wanted to write about. She had tried, but quickly realised that her lack of experience with men, other than Andrew, was a severe handicap. And one drunken kiss with her college roommate, no matter how enjoyable, could hardly give her a basis for writing lesbian stories.
Not surprisingly, her literary career waned, just as she herself sometimes thought she was doing; each day she felt smaller and less significant than the last, expecting one day to just disappear. 'Would anyone notice?' she wondered.
As she gazed out to sea, thinking of wasting away, Emma found herself contemplating her evening meal and thought of the selection of 'meals for one' currently residing in her freezer. 'Meals for people who eat alone' Emma termed them. She wanted to host dinner parties for people like herself, not sit in front of the TV with some aeroplane food in its own little plastic bowl. But friends were scarce, most of them left behind when they'd moved from their hometown a few years back for the sake of Andrew's career.
The first spot of rain broke in uninvited on Emma's reverie, and she thought about catching the bus home, but on looking up saw that she had walked further than she had realised and was only a couple of streets away from Gino's. At first a smile lit up her face as she recalled the lovely little Italian bistro she and Andrew used to go to in their younger days. But the smile faded, and her sadness, almost as heavy and cloying as the atmosphere, deepened as she realised she couldn't even remember the last time they had gone there.
A distant rumble of thunder threatened worse rain to come, and Emma made a quick decision to go to the restaurant for shelter; as much from her loneliness as from the rain.
With her high heels slowing her progress slightly, and the wind starting to blow her curly brown hair in front of her eyes, Emma made her way through the small side streets leading away from the promenade.
The rain was now coming full-tilt, gusting on each roar of thunder as Emma rounded the corner of the street on which Gino's stood. Small rivers of rainwater began to run down the edge of the road as the drains failed to cope with the sudden deluge. Had it not been for the awnings over the shops, Emma would by now have been totally drenched.
With her head down as she walked into the teeth of the mounting gale, her small clutch bag held ineffectually over her hair, Emma moved as fast as she could, only lifting her eyes occasionally to check on her progress. She stopped and was about to go into the restaurant when a silver Mercedes sports car pulled up sharply at the curb beside her. A plume of water shot out from under the car's front wheel towards Emma, soaking her best hold-up stockings from her feet to her knees.
Emma seethed; and as the driver's door opened and a large black umbrella was opened from inside, she fully intended to berate the driver for being such an inconsiderate oaf.
The words died on Emma's lips, however, as the umbrella was quickly followed by a tall redhead in a sumptuous green dress. "Oh, I am so sorry, honey," the redhead soothed, her voice dripping concern.
Wet though she was, Emma simply stood on the pavement as the woman walked around to the curb. Emma looked with a little envy at the woman as she nimbly stepped around the growing puddles, graceful, even allowing for the 4-inch stiletto heels of her gold strappy sandals that added to her already statuesque 5 foot 10.
The arm that held up the umbrella was bare, her obviously expensive green silk dress fitting under her left arm before sweeping across the top of her ample breasts in a diagonal line to her right shoulder. The right arm was close-sleeved to the elbow, and from there the material opened with a fluted diagonal edge that terminated in a point just above her wrist. A three-stranded diamond bracelet glinted in the dying light and matched the choker that encircled the woman's pale throat. The dress fitted tight around her waist, enhancing her breasts, then it flared slightly over her hips before cascading in soft folds to just above her knee.
"I really am sorry, honey. I just saw the parking space outside Persephone's and couldn't believe my luck, so I slung the car to a stop. I didn't see you; or the puddle," the redhead explained as she towered over Emma's petite frame, the umbrella now shielding both of them from the worst of the rain.
Suddenly, lightning flashed behind Emma, illuminating the face of her assailant and, like a strobe in a disco, it burned the image of red lips and deep green eyes on Emma's retina.
"Are you okay, honey?" the redhead asked, bringing Emma to her senses a little.
"Yes," Emma replied woodenly. "I'm fine. A little damp, but I suppose there's no real harm done."
"Are you going far? You'll catch your death in this rain."
"No, not far." Emma said, the hint of a smile just brushing her lips. "I thought I'd be able to get to Gino's before the worst of it came. But I guess I was wrong."
The redhead bit her glossy lower lip before saying, almost sadly, "I'm afraid Gino's closed eighteen months ago, honey. It re-opened as Persephone's about six months later."
Emma looked over her shoulder at the dusky pink that had replaced the slightly flaking green, red and white, confirming that Gino's was no more. Emma sighed at the thought that yet another of her memories would remain simply that, out of reach, never to be replayed in her humdrum life.
"Look, you can't go anywhere in this weather dressed like that, honey. Come inside and at least let yourself dry off until the rain stops. I'm sure they can find you a towel or something," the redhead said as she took Emma's elbow and turned her towards the blacked-out glass door of Persephone's. Emma waited at the door; gaining what shelter she could from the small overhang whilst the green-robed vision shook the heaviest drops from the umbrella. With the umbrella now folded, Emma opened the door, holding it for her companion.
"Why thank you, honey."
Emma found heat rising on her cheeks at being called 'honey', especially by someone who was obviously younger and richer and, she conceded, more beautiful than she was.
Once inside, the door closed quietly behind them, muffling the sound of the storm that still raged outside, and even the brightest stroke of lightning could not penetrate the blackness of the doors and windows.
Emma looked around and realised that the exterior paintwork was not the only sign of change in the restaurant. The whitewashed walls and pictures of the owner's former home in Tuscany were replaced with dark terracotta, made even darker by the subdued shell-shaped uplighters on the wall that provided what was now a totally separate reception with its only source of light.
Emma heard another door opening and she turned to see a woman emerging from what she assumed was the main dining area. No aging Italian matron here; no, this vision looked like she had just escaped from an old Robert Palmer video Emma had seen on VH1 only the other day. Quite simply, she was dressed in black; from her patent-leather high heels, up her stocking-clad legs to the shortest, clingiest jersey dress Emma had ever seen. The fact that the dress came right up to the woman's neck and had long sleeves only added to the overall sultry effect. Her jet-black hair was cut short and slicked back, and her eyes were surrounded by smoky eye shadow. The only hints of colour were her high cheekbones, which were blushed a rusty rouge, and her lips that almost glowed, they were so red and glossed.
The woman in black completely ignored Emma, turning on a magnificent smile which she aimed at the redhead and said, "Miss Amanda. How lovely to see you again. Please excuse me, I will be with you in just two seconds, Miss Amanda."
"Thank you, Jane," Amanda said as she looked in Emma's direction.
Jane followed the glance, and, in the time it took to swivel her head, turned off her smile like someone had thrown a switch. "I'm sorry. This is a private members' club and, if I'm not mistaken, you are not a member." Jane said with undisguised disdain as she regarded Emma's soaked dress and hosiery.
Emma was about to offer an apology and leave when Amanda said, whether for sport or some other motive, Emma was not sure, "This lady is my dinner guest, Jane. Please show her the respect that deserves."
Amanda didn't even look at Emma to see if she wanted to eat with her and Emma wondered why such a young, vibrant woman would even want to. 'Probably feels sorry for me standing here like a drowned rat, although that is partly her fault I suppose, ' Emma thought, but part of her was quite thrilled at the idea of having company whilst she ate and dried off.
Jane turned back to Amanda, and her obsequiousness made Emma's skin crawl as she said, "I'm so sorry, Miss Amanda. I hadn't realised. Does that mean you will not be requiring Sally's services tonight? I'm sure she will be most disappointed."
"Tell Sally she may wait on us instead, and inform her that I will, of course, render her usual tip."
"Of course, Miss Amanda," Jane said as she turned to Emma, her look saying that she still thought that Emma did not belong here, continuing, "You will have to sign in your guest, Miss Amanda."
Amanda took the pen that Jane held out to her and signed her name in the 'Guest Book' and passed the pen back to Jane. "I'm sorry, Miss Amanda, but I need her details; we're a private club, and the licensing laws..." Jane started to explain.
With a conspiratorial wink at Emma, Amanda said, "Why don't you fill it in, honey. I can never spell your surname."
Returning the smile, Emma took the pen from Jane and filled in her name, address and, a little reluctantly, her date of birth. Amanda stood by her shoulder reading what she had put. With the pen placed on the reception desk again, Jane spun the book around towards her and said as she read. "Thank you, Emma."
Taking a deep breath Jane started to recite what was obviously a prepared speech. "As the guest of a member of Persephone's, you are allowed to dine in the main dinning room providing you are accompanied at all times by a member. Due to the licensing laws..." Jane seemed determined to inform Emma about licensing laws, and unfortunately Amanda did nothing to stop her this time. "... you are not allowed to purchase food or alcohol; these must be ordered by the member. You are not allowed to enter any other area of Persephone's, except in the company of a member."
Jane then turned her attention back to Amanda and asked, "Will you or your guest be using the dressing room?"
Emma really didn't like the sneer in Jane's voice as she said 'guest', 'And what', she thought, 'is the dressing room?'
Amanda seemed to consider Jane's question for a couple of seconds before answering, "No, I don't think so, Jane; not tonight." But as she looked at Emma's still-damp legs, added, "However, I think Emma might like a change of hosiery. Have some sent to our table."
Emma was about to protest, but was cut short by Jane simpering, "Of course, Miss Amanda. Please follow me."
Jane opened the door through which she had recently emerged, and Emma found herself 'tagging along' behind the two taller women as they entered the room. "I have your regular table available, Miss Amanda." Jane said as Emma took a couple of seconds to take in the strange layout of the restaurant.
Whereas Gino's had been light and noisy, the owner cramming in as many tables as the fire authorities would allow, Persephone's was dark and almost as quiet as the grave.
The room, which was smaller than Gino's had been, Emma thought, was sectioned into small private booths surrounded on three sides with red velvet curtaining. Each booth had red leather bench seats around the three enclosed sides, allowing four people to dine in comfort, or six at a squeeze. At the open side, curtains were hung from brass poles and tied back, allowing the diners total privacy if they so desired, although none of them appeared to do so.
The booths were on either side of a wide aisle, and although the insides of the booths were hidden from view as Emma entered the room, it was possible to see into them as she walked past. Emma, who was not normally a nosey person, couldn't help but glance in as she passed.
As she was led past four pairs of booths Emma noted that the clientele were a mix of all ages and body sizes. The only constants seemed to be that they were all female, all in 'couples' and at least one of each couple was young, looking no older than late teens or very early twenties. 'It must be fancy dress night.' Emma chuckled to herself as she surveyed the eclectic choice of clothing. In fact, Emma realised, there were only two people who wore the same, or even similar, outfits. In both these cases it was the younger half of a pairing. Their white blouses tied in a knot beneath their breasts, pleated grey skirt, black stockings and open-toed black sandals just screamed 'school girl', even if you ignored the fact that their hair was tied with little silk bows into plaited pigtails.
mma smoothed her dress over her backside, feeling the still-damp cotton cling a little too closely as she slid across the bench. Amanda did the same, although, Emma had to admit, with a lot more grace. When they were both settled facing each other across the table, Jane asked Amanda, "Can I get you any drinks, Miss Amanda?"
Without bothering to enquire of Emma what her preference was, Amanda replied, "Vodka and tonics, I think, Jane." Fortunately for Emma she did quite like the odd V&T.
As Jane moved away to organise the drinks, Emma couldn't help glancing at the couple in the booth across from theirs. The one sitting the same side as Emma could not have been more than twenty-one with short blonde hair and was wearing the most gorgeous powder blue suit over a white blouse. Emma guessed that the other woman was at least forty-five, but still had a nice firm body; her dress, however, belonged on someone much younger. It was pink gingham-check with lace trim and a very short skirt. Emma had to accept though that it did go really well with how her hair was dressed with ringlets and small pink bows.
Emma glanced down, her eye caught by a movement under the adjoining table, and she saw that the young blonde had discarded one of her blue court shoes and was rubbing her stocking-clad toes up the calf of the older woman, just above her white bobby socks and black patent T-bar shoes. Emma felt the blood rising in her cheeks and, although she wouldn't admit it, a stirring lower down.
A little embarrassed by what she saw, and how she felt, Emma turned back to her dinner companion, who sat silently, a small grin lighting up her bright red, glossy lips. Unlike Amanda, Emma was not comfortable with silence and found herself saying, "I do like your dress, Amanda. It must have cost a fortune."
"This?" Amanda said as she held out her right arm, her hand turned in slightly so that the pointed open cuff hung straight down, leaving her forearm bare. Emma realised for the first time, at least consciously, just how thin the dress's material was, allowing it to almost mould itself to Amanda's large, firm breasts. "A few hundred, tops," Amanda informed her. "But worth every penny, if you like it."
Emma heard the 'come on'... was it a 'come on'? Emma was getting a little warm and glanced away from Amanda's chest as the blue suited 'businesswoman' slid round to sit beside her pink frocked 'little girl'. Emma had a habit of attaching labels to people sometimes.
The 'businesswoman' slipped her left arm around the 'little girl's' waist, her right hand resting protectively on her knee, but the 'little girl' just looked straight ahead, chewing a piece of gum.
"Quite cute, aren't they?" Amanda more said than asked, a hint of mischief in her voice. Emma dragged her gaze away and found herself looking into Amanda's eyes. 'Such a beautiful green, ' Emma thought, and a phrase from one of her own stories came unbidden to her mind, 'Eyes you could lose your soul in.' Her reverie was disturbed by a polite 'I am standing here, please take notice of me' cough.
Emma and Amanda both looked up to see a young brunette who was wearing the same sort of 'school uniform' as the two diners Emma had noticed on the way in.
"Good evening, Miss Amanda," the tall, leggy brunette said, with a smile reserved only for Amanda. Emma then remembered Jane's comment about Sally and how she would be 'disappointed that Amanda had a guest', and more enigmatically that Sally could wait on them instead. 'Instead of what?' Emma thought, her normal sharpness dulled a little by the closeness of the air; although whether that closeness was due to the late night summer heat or the overt sexuality of Persephone's she could not say. Eventually, the penny dropped. 'Of course! The two similarly dressed diners were waitresses joining the patron for dinner if they were unaccompanied!' Although why someone as beautiful as Amanda would need such a companion when every man, or woman for that matter, would give their right arm to dine with her, Emma couldn't comprehend.
If the penny dropped before, the full pound now crashed right through the floor. Emma couldn't believe she had been so naive. Even in her mind, Emma couldn't enunciate the word 'lesbian', but she knew that Amanda, and more than likely everyone else in the place, was gay. 'Everyone', Emma corrected herself, 'but me!'
Her cheeks burning from her epiphany, Emma turned her attention to Sally, who held a small silver tray balanced daintily on her upturned left hand. From the tray she removed two clear cut glass tumblers whose contents fizzed slightly around the ice cubes which clinked gently against the sides. The drinks delivered, Sally said to Amanda, "I have the hosiery you requested for Emma, Miss Amanda."
Emma found she didn't like the way Sally said 'Emma', leaving aside the lack of the 'Miss' she, and for that matter Jane, used when addressing Amanda. Unconcerned about Emma's disapproval, Sally passed a flat cardboard package to Amanda. Emma could see they were a very nice pair of Charnos 'Light Fantastic' lacy hold-ups 'with lycra'. At 7 denier they were much more sheer than Emma would normally wear. "Thank you, Sally," Amanda said, dismissing the waitress... disappointed diner? "I'll call you when we are ready to order."
With a "Yes, Miss Amanda," and a half curtsey, Sally moved away, and Emma followed her with her eyes and couldn't help seeing that the 'businesswoman' now had her right hand up the 'little girl's' skirt and was whispering something in her ear. The 'little girl' was motionless and continued to stare forward, chewing her gum.
"The one in the pink is Debra," Amanda informed Emma, who on hearing Amanda's voice turned to her companion. "And the one who is surprisingly still wearing the suit is Carla."
"Are they both 'members'?" Emma asked emphasising the word.
"Debra is," Amanda confirmed. "Carla is one of the waitresses, although I understand she has been put up for nomination; presumably by Debra."
Emma was intrigued. "Nomination?"
"That's how you get to be a member. Well, that's the free way, anyway. You can always buy your membership, but believe me, it isn't cheap," Amanda explained. "To be nominated, you have to have spent time 'on the staff', so to speak."
"I see," Emma said, even if she didn't completely.
Emma knew she shouldn't look, but she couldn't help herself, and she found her throat tightening, a feeling that even a sip of Vodka and Tonic couldn't quite quench, as she noticed Carla nibbling Debra's ear, her hand moving obviously beneath Debra's skirt.
"Don't worry, they'll more than likely move to a private room soon, or I can close the curtains if you like."
Emma smiled and said "No, it's okay, I don't mind, really." Even as she thought that, actually, it might be quite nice in here with the drapes closed.
Emma reached out with her left hand for her drink, but as her fingers touched the glass she stopped and, though she didn't really want to know, asked anyway. "Why did you invite me to eat with you?"
As soon as the words left her mouth, and before Amanda could reply, Emma had gone though the most likely responses, guarding herself against the inevitable bitter disappointment, 'Because I felt sorry for you.' 'Because I thought it would be amusing.'
"Because," Amanda started. Emma steeled herself. "I didn't like the way Jane treated you, and..."
'Here it comes.' Emma thought.