I looked at my sister in startled amazement. She had, sort of, in round about words, just offered to have sex with me. I think. I stared at her. She blushed slightly and dropped her gaze to the floor.
"I'll see you tomorrow then," she whispered.
"Uh. Okay, yeah tomorrow." I managed to say.
I turned and left, walking down the garden path towards my car, not seeing anything around me, just hearing her words over and over again in my mind.
"Okay then, why not tomorrow," she had said.
Viv was forty now, just turned forty one in fact. When she was in her teens and early twenties she was beautiful, sexy, and intelligent, everything I desired in a woman. At almost four years older than her, I'd gently lusted after her since before she was twelve, until, at around twenty nine, she'd finally got married. After she got married they moved abroad and I hadn't seen her so much, then a couple of years later she'd had two sons in fairly quick succession, just thirteen months apart, so her travels had come to an abrupt halt. I had never married, but I was self employed and hated taking time off work unnecessarily. If I didn't work, I didn't get paid, and I liked being paid, so I had to work. My travelling, apart from my work, was equally non-existent, but working away from home all the time, and never in the same place for more than a few months at a time, I had never found the time, or to be honest the inclination, to have a relationship myself, so although I managed a few small affairs and a few more one night stands, they never lasted.
Then John had upped and left her. There appeared to be no obvious reason, John wasn't seeing another woman, or man for that matter, and neither was Viv. She was shattered when he left and vowed to bring up their sons on her own. Unfortunately her mother in law had other ideas. Jennifer was a cow. No two ways about it, she was a nasty piece of work. No one was good enough for her son, and the fact that he'd married a non-Catholic, not only in a CofE church but not even in Ireland, was too much for her. As soon as she knew that her precious son had walked out on her hated daughter-in-law, Jennifer was off to immigration, and six weeks later Viv was summarily ejected, despite objections from her employer.
"Don't let anyone tell you Ireland is a nice place," she told us. "It is cliquey, prudish yet salacious, and in many ways, outside of the larger cities, extremely backwards. It's very pretty, but ..." she'd shaken her head in disgust. "Non Catholics are virtually second class citizens. For some, non Roman Catholic Christians are actually lower than non Christians." She'd looked around at the dinner table where most of the family were sitting, listening to her words whilst we ate.
"That's not right." Mum said, surprised.
"Between us," Viv said, "we've lived or worked in most countries in Europe for a while, and Phil's even worked in the States for three months. I bet not once did any of you notice any discrimination on grounds of religion."
We all shook our heads.
"Yeah but I was working not far from San Francisco, one of the genuinely more cosmopolitan cities in America." Phil said.
"There is Northern Ireland," said Dad, who had been sent to Belfast during the 1970's a few times by his office. "I never saw any problems in that respect, not once."
"Yeah, I know." Growled Viv. "At least there the religious bigotry is confined to a few morons and some politicians," she paused and shrugged, "one and the same I s'pose. At least there it's both out in the open and extremely obvious, and yet not as institutionalised as it is in the south, but in any case it's still Ireland and if you're the wrong denomination in the wrong place you'd better beware. You've heard the story that Jews actually think Northern Ireland is one of the safer places for them because the various Christian sects are fighting each other and leaving them alone?"
The was a mixture of shakes and nods around the table.
"I don't suppose it's really true, but it's an interesting comment on the relationship between the so-called Christian faiths across the whole of the island of Ireland." She shrugged and continued her diatribe. "When I went into hospital for Sam's birth, I had to fill in a form, and one of the things it asked was my religion. The only options were Catholic, Jew, Hindu and other. I don't think even Moslem was down, and the woman asking the questions had never even heard of Sikh's or Buddhist's. I ticked other, then put Church of England, which I suppose I am, or was, and the treatment I got from most of the staff was diabolical. Most of the nurses, but strangely not the midwife who I know was a devout Catholic, were rough with Sam and rude with me, John was treated like a sub human, I was discharged 24 hours earlier than I should have been, and I got the barest of minimum food whilst I was there. It was just as well that my own GP was a human being. Actually I have a sneaking suspicion that even though he had an Irish name, O'Connel, he wasn't actually Irish."
"What was work like?" Matt asked.
"That was fine. It was a German subsidiary of an American company, so there were lots of different nationalities around. Plus, being the type of company it was, 95% of the Irish working there were the intelligent and educated sort, which meant that most of them didn't give two hoots for religion, or if they did they weren't bigots, didn't worry about what other people were. A lot of the ones I knew were really horrified and embarrassed at the way I was treated, so it's not all Irishmen by any stretch of the imagination."
The conversation had gone on like that for a couple more hours. As much as anything it was her way of trying to cope with the loss of both a very well paid job, and her sons. The court in her local town had told her that because she hadn't converted to Catholicism she was by definition not a good mother and custody of the two boys therefore automatically went to the father. Viv was distraught at the loss, and for a while had become very fragile emotionally.
Fortunately John wasn't a bad father, in fact he was a very good father, and didn't deny Viv access, the only problem was getting to them as she no longer had the money. She was considering appealing to the UK courts, or even to the International Court of Human Rights, as she was sure that under EU law, the Irish government was not allowed to just deport her like that. Phil, our youngest brother told her all this, and she said she would investigate.
In the months since she had left Ireland her anger had actually got stronger, but it was now more controlled, and she could just about cope. Most of the time. She had bought a flat about fifteen miles from me, and about the same, or a little more, from our youngest brother. Our parents lived about 160 miles away, and the brother that fell between me and Viv, Matt, about 110 miles from me in the opposite direction. This was the first full family gathering we'd had since Viv had come home, but due to our parents age, by about eight in the evening they were starting to flag, and wanted to get back to their B&B. Matt also decided to head off back to Birmingham at the same time. He had a two hour plus journey ahead of him and his family, and Jake, his youngest son, was starting to get rather tired and fractious. Phil and I stayed a little longer before Phil's girlfriend rang him on his mobile, at which point he too had left. He was a building contractor and had to be at work at six in the morning. It was now nearly nine in the evening, and though still relatively early for us I thought it was time I too went.
"Hang on a mo. I want to ask you something."
"Sure," I said.
"I found your web site last week."
"Oh, yeah?" I asked cautiously. I took glamour photographs, had for a few years now, and had put up a large number of the better ones on my web site. I knew my mother disapproved, very strongly, but by both of us avoiding the subject at all costs, we got on. Viv on the other hand knew I had a web site, just had never been on it before.
"I like some of the photo's you've done. They're pretty."
"Yeah," I said, "that's the whole point. Photographing pretty girls rather than not so pretty ones." I smiled slightly.
"Which ones are your favourites?"
"In one way or another, all the ones that are up are my favourites."
"Yeah but you must have an overall favourite?"
"Three or four."
"Hard to say."
"Well then, blonde or brunette?"
"There's a couple of blondes, a brunette or two, at least one redhead."
She moved over to her computer and switched it on. "Well alright then, show me."
I shrugged and sat down next to her. Once she'd connected, she pulled up my web site and tried to get into the main portfolio. I took the mouse off her and redirected her to another part of the site.
"This is my own personal portfolio. There's only twenty pics here, and these ones are my particular favourites."
She clicked slowly though them, looking at them. Just under half of the pictures were portraits, there were a couple of full length fully clothed. The remainder were a mixture of topless, lingerie, with a couple of classic nudes thrown in for good measure. Three of the pictures were black and white, the remainder in colour. None of them were even vaguely pornographic. Not even soft porn. In fact the whole of the site was like that, not even soft porn except very very occasionally when a bit of pubic hair strayed into the picture. I'd photographed page 3 girls with their clothes on.
"So come on then," she said, "you must have a favourite amongst these."
.... There is more of this story ...