TONGUE TIED AND CURIOUS.
Johanna and Maxine have connected on an emotional and intellectual level but Maxine is drawn to her physically as well but she’s still in a relationship with Mark and feeling increasingly put off by his ego and shallowness. In this next part the two grow closer together.
Johanna came to halt outside the white, weatherboard house in Bell Street. It had a large front yard with no front fence or gate and it looked a little rundown. She contemplated pulling into the drive but changed her mind and parked on the street instead. As she got out she heard a dog barking on the other side of the road followed by a man shouting something unintelligible. She was just about to ring the bell when the door opened to reveal Maxine on the other side of the flywire door and Johanna’s eyes shifted to take in the black leather mini skirt fastened with a row of silver press studs. The skirt contrasted with a white silk blouse that was sheer enough to give a hint of the bra underneath. Her face was slightly flushed and when she opened the door she caught the smell of alcohol. Abba’s Waterloo was playing and Johanna smiled, no doubt Maxine was setting the scene for her Swedish lesson.
“Hej,” Maxine grinned, “hur mår du?”
“Jag mår bra tack,” she replied, “you wanted to speak Swedish now?”
“Later,” she replied, “I was just getting into practice,” she stepped aside and let her enter, “I did a few lessons on Duo this afternoon. “Do you want a drink?” Maxine closed the door behind her.
“No thanks, maybe later,” she glanced at the woman coming into the living room.
“This is Rowena, my sister,” she indicated her, “and this is my language partner, Johanna.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Rowena closed the distance between them.
It wasn’t hard to see the similarities, they both had blonde hair but Rowena was slightly shorter and her face had a distinctive heart shape compared with Maxine’s angular-shaped face. Her attire was a little more casual, a rollneck jumper and jeans.
“Likewise,” Johanna shook her hand.
“Whereabouts in Sweden are you from?”
“Stockholm,” she glanced briefly at Maxine, “Hogdalen.”
“I haven’t been to Sweden yet,” her eyes twinkled, “Dave and I are flying over there at Christmas for the first time, Maxine has been praying for snow for us.”
“No need to pray for snow, it always snows in Stockholm, I brought dessert,” she held the plastic bag up, “cheesecake, I hope no one’s lactose intolerant.”
“Not here,” she took the bag and turned to the kitchen door, “Dave, cancel dessert!”
There was a muffled reply and then a man in his early twenties stepped into the room. He wore a white apron over a white tee shirt and black jeans.
“Oh, hi,” he glanced at Johanna, “I’m Dave, chief cook and bottle washer.”
“And love of my life,” Rowena grinned, “she brought cheesecake.”
“You little ripper,” he took the bag from Rowena and backed away.
“It’s a nice little place you have here,” Johanna finally commented as she perched on an L-shaped couch, “I parked out in the street.”
“Oh, bring your car up to the house,” Rowena commented, “no one’s going out tonight.”
“Thanks,” Johanna reached into her handbag and grabbed her keys.
Some five minutes later she came back into the house again to find Maxine sitting on the couch, Rowena was nowhere to be seen but she could hear her voice in the kitchen.
“Sit down,” Maxine patted the cushion next to her.
Johanna sat down and dropped her keys into her handbag.
“How was your day?”
“Different,” Maxine replied, “I went to the Croydon market today instead of church.”
“Cool, did you buy much?”
“A leather belt, a top and Rowena bought some candles. We were going to go to the Victoria market but the public transport on Sunday is always bad and it costs a fortune to park in the city.”
“I’ve been there once, not long after I arrived here,” Johanna replied.
“I was living in Brunswick with a girl from uni, it was pretty hectic but it was entertaining.”
“That’s one way of putting it,” she replied.
They lapsed into silence for a minute or two before Johanna spoke again.
“It’s good that we’re doing this. I had to ring my old friend, Åsa in Stockholm because it’s been so long since I had to use Swedish. My mom doesn’t even speak good Swedish,” she teased a lock of hair over her ear.
“It was great to catch up with Åsa too, we were best friends in school but since she got married we kind of drifted apart, I was over here and she was busy with her career and relationship. She’s been divorced for the last nine months now, they say opposites attract but they can also repel.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Maxine shifted slightly, “I’m the adventurous one but Mark is conservative, we don’t talk politics,” she smiled slyly.
“When they announced this referendum on gay marriage we had a big argument. I was all for it and he was worried that it’ll weaken straight marriage.”
“I’ve heard Çanakkale Escort that before,” she replied, “although you could argue the same thing from the other side, do straight marriages weaken gay marriages?”
“I said the same thing a while back, his eyes just rolled around in his head and Rowena nearly had an accident she was laughing so hard.”
“How long have she and Dave been together?”
“Three years in total,” she replied, “they’ve only been living together for two years though.”
“Are they getting married?”
“They’re pretty much married as it is,” she shrugged, “they’re happy together now, they have talked about it in the past but it’s not a priority.”
“So, this women’s meeting,” Johanna changed the subject, “what time?”
“They said to be there by six, they have a meal together first so bring your own food and it starts at about eight or so. We’ll go in my car seeing as I was there yesterday with Rowena,” she paused for a few moments.
“I ordered three blouses off Robyn. She’s quite a talented dressmaker, I’ve toyed with the idea of doing the course but I never have the time and it’d mean spending more time at the church.”
“And that’s a bad thing? She’s teaching dressmaking, she’s not preaching.”
“Point taken,” she smirked, “I’ve been at that church since I was seventeen and when I was younger I was there a lot but just lately I’ve been a bit complacent,” she smiled crookedly.
“Maybe I’ll check out her work,” Johanna replied.
“You should,” Maxine picked up her phone and thumbed the button, “I was checking the site out just before you rocked up,” she tapped an icon and found her most recently visited page.
“Here,” she moved closer.
The next ten minutes seemed to fly by as they checked out the range of clothes, which according to Maxine was only the tip of the iceberg, the rest were in the Archives section but before they could get to that Dave and Rowena brought dinner through.
“Roast duck and potatoes with steamed vegetables and mint sauce,” he announced.
Over dinner Johanna learned that Dave was actually twenty-nine-years old, eight years older than his partner although he looked to be in his mid twenties. He’d met Rowena when he came down from Sydney for a few weeks as part of a catering job for a conference on climate change, Rowena was one of the volunteers attending to the international guests. In true romantic tradition they hadn’t liked each other at first.
“I thought he was a poser,” she grinned, “and he thought I was just a bimbo but when a guest from England tried to humiliate me he just stepped in and sorted him out, nicely.”
That act of chivalry had changed everything. Dave was sitting in the foyer just taking a break from the kitchen as Lord Fotheringay was berating Rowena for asking for his ID and invitation. He had missed the first five days because he’d been on holiday in the British Virgin Islands and didn’t see why he should be asked for his ID and invitation. Dave just explained that she was doing her job to stop climate change deniers from getting into the venue to disrupt proceedings. Fotheringay backed down and actually said sorry to Rowena but blamed it on jet lag. The die had been cast however and the two embarked on a whirlwind romance that ended when he returned to Sydney, but he was back a month later, having handed in his notice and the rest was history.
The actual Swedish conversational lesson began as they were having coffee and harking back to their earlier conversation about clothes, Johanna brought up Robyn and Cindy’s website and started to ask about the garments. That enabled her to start with words like; skjorta (shirt), blus, (blouse) and combine them with colours, röd (red) and svart (black) to have a conversation about clothes in general. There were a few false starts but Johanna patiently enunciated the words again and again, and before too long she was starting to sound a little more Swedish and less like an Aussie trying to speak Swedish.
“The important thing is to think of the equivalent Swedish word as often as possible,” she patted the cushion, “while you’re saying sit down, think of sitt ner, come becomes kommer and when you look at the website consciously think svart, vit, röd,” she straightened up.
“It feels a little strained at first because you’re automatically picturing white blouse instead of vit blus but you’re training your brain to make new connections. The brain takes time to push stuff from short term memory into long term memory and it’s all repetition.”
“It felt konstig, strange?” Maxine mused, “it’s like I’m learning to speak for the first time.”
“Det går jättebra för dig,” Johanna nodded at her.
“I understood that,” Maxine straightened up, “jättebra is very good?”
“Jo, jo,” she replied, “jätte is an intensifier but it can also be used to describe large objects,” she picked up her phone, jättetanker is a supertanker for example.”
“We should do this again soon,” she replied, “like Çanakkale Escort Bayan next week?”
“Sure,” she rose, “Sunday?”
“Ja,” she nodded, “but don’t forget Friday.”
“Of course not.”
“Cool,” she squeezed her arm, “I’ll text you during the week to tell you what time to come and thank you for being so patient with me too.”
Those words remained with her as she drove back home. Jodie and Sue had both been convinced that she was reaching out for her and the body language certainly confirmed that diagnosis but did that mean she should pursue it?
The shopping centre out at Chirnside Park wasn’t the place where Maxine and Rowena went shopping normally, they preferred Eastland but because they’d gone up for a trial fitting at Penny and Robyn’s place on Tuesday night they detoured to Chirnside for a weekly shop after Dave asked for a few speciality items. The last time Maxine had been here was over nine months ago and she’d bumped into her friend Karen Mathiesson.
Karen had been her best friend for years. She’d been one of her bridesmaids two and a half years ago when she married Daniel and twelve months later she sat in her kitchen as Karen broke down in tears to tell of his long term affair with an ex girlfriend. To be honest, Maxine suspected that Daniel was the kind of guy who’d willingly cheat but like everyone else she just wanted Karen to be happy. She’d had a hell of a run of bad luck with guys ever since high school and Daniel had seemed the most mature of all her boyfriends.
Since that dramatic event in her kitchen however she’d been a little distant and it wasn’t Maxine’s doing, Karen had been binging out at nightclubs in a desire to recapture a lost youth or catch up on lost time. The clubs had never been Maxine’s thing and it had nothing to do with her faith, she’d been to clubs in the past but hated the meat market vibe and the combination of drugs and alcohol. The last time she’d seen Karen had been nine months ago at Chirnside Park.
Maxine had been a little shocked. Karen had always had great complexion but excessive drinking had led to burst capillaries on her face and she seemed a little groggy, she hadn’t said anything though. It’d been on her mind though but there were other things to deal with and thus when she bumped into Karen in the supermarket she didn’t recognise her until Rowena spoke up.
“Karen, how are you?”
“Huh?” Maxine turned around, “shit, Karen, sorry. I was miles away.”
“That’s okay,” she flicked at her hair, “but I’d understand if you did pass me by, I was a mess the last time you saw me.”
“You were,” she nodded and glanced at the broccoli in her hand, “your face has cleared up a little.”
“It’s getting better but the damage has already been done but I’ve been sober for nearly six months, my sponsor suggested I start buying fresh veggies.”
“Your sponsor?” Rowena looked past her as a dark-skinned girl approached, “you’re going to AA now?”
“Yeah, five months and three weeks without a drink,” she turned at the same time and nodded at the woman, “this is my girlfriend, Mandy.”
“Hello,” Mandy grinned, exposing perfect white teeth.
“Maxine and her sister, Rowena, we know each other from high school.”
Maxine blinked, Rowena stiffened slightly and then both of them smiled.
“Wow, you’ve come out, that’s great. How long have you been out for?” Maxine asked.
“I’ve only been out for about nine months,” Karen explained.
“Cool, surprising, but still cool but what brought this on?”
“Circumstances,” she replied, “one of my steps involved having a good hard look at myself and I discovered that the reason I kept fucking up with guys had nothing to do with the guys and more to do with my refusal to accept the real reason. I was always into girls but thought if I just slept with enough guys that I’d screw the gay out of myself.”
“Not a wise move,” Maxine agreed, “I’m with Mark now but he’s starting to piss me off.”
“In what way?” Karen cocked her head to one side.
“He votes Liberal, I vote Greens, he likes Christian music, I like my classic rock, we argued the other day because I’m getting Swedish lessons off this gay woman I met at the pool hall and I’m trying to find an excuse to drop him but apart from our differences I can’t find a decent reason to drop him just yet apart from the usual, we’re incompatible.”
She glanced at Rowena briefly but her sister wasn’t saying anything.
“Your differences do sound like pretty good reasons but what kind of man are you looking for?” Mandy asked.
“I’m not looking for any guy, but it’s easier to keep guys at bay if you’ve got a guy.”
“I used to have guys around for that same reason,” Karen spoke up, “they were a security blanket for me and like I said before, I thought if I just slept with enough guys I’d find the one I clicked with. I thought a wedding ring was what I needed but we both saw how that ended.”
“I remember,” she nodded, “I haven’t Escort Çanakkale seen him around lately.”
“He fucked off to Manilla three months ago and got himself arrested, he was buying drugs to take back to Australia and the stupid bastard didn’t realise he was being watched. I got a phone call from him just after I got sober, begging me for bail money.”
“What the fuck?” Rowena’s eyes widened.
“Yeah, I said the same thing,” Karen pulled a wry grin.
“What about his parents?” Maxine broke in.
“Ah, he tried them first but while they sent some money so he could buy a few things but he’s kind of made them all look bad. You know what that family is like, keeping up with the Joneses.”
“I remember,” she pictured his parents, “so he’s in a Filipino jail now?”
“Yeah, he faces a minimum of twelve to twenty years in a Filipino jail unless he manages to appeal to serve his sentence in Australia.”
“Is that likely?”
“Fucked if I know,” she shrugged, “he’s out of my life. There are plenty of warnings about buying drugs in Asian countries, he should count himself lucky he’s not facing the death penalty. I try not to think of him these days, I’ve got enough to worry about without giving him free rent in my head, I should’ve listened to my mum. She never trusted him because he used to check her out whenever he thought she wasn’t paying attention.”
“Ew,” Maxine screwed up her face, “you never mentioned before.”
“I didn’t know then,” she replied, “I only found out a few months later and it was one of those what the fuck moments.”
Maxine was tempted to ask more questions but decided against it.
“We should catch up sometime soon,” she picked up some broccoli as well, “I’ve been questioning it myself lately, I’m just not sure if it’s because I’m tired of Mark or avoiding the issue.”
“Sure,” she glanced at Mandy, “that’d be all right, wouldn’t it?”
“Of course,” Mandy smiled again, “we’d love to have you around.”
They made arrangements for Sunday afternoon and then parted company but the memory stayed with her as they continued shopping. In one way it made sense that Karen had come out, she’d been a self-confessed root rat and Rowena voiced that thought.
“It’s not that surprising, I’ve known a couple of girlfriends who tried it on with women, they were pretty active sexually, at least one of them has come out as gay but the other is bisexual.”
“But a Filipino jail,” she murmured, “that’s pretty intense.”
“Well, they’ve all been warned, your citizenship won’t protect you if you’re caught with drugs over there.”
It was a sentiment she agreed with, the warnings were graphic and explicit. The death penalty might be over the top in Australia but Asian countries saw it as normal and then their conversation moved to Karen’s coming out and inevitably to Mark.
“It’s true,” she confessed, “I can’t think of a reason to be with him.”
“So, why are you still with him?” Rowena glanced at her as they neared the till point.
“Convenience,” she sighed, “it’s a convenient relationship.”
Maxine considered herself fashionable. She could buy outfits with a particular purpose in mind and despite her Christian faith she had no aversion to wearing clothing that would be seen as sexually overt. Some women at church avoided hemlines that were too short or tops that showed too much of their derrière but they were married so that was understandable. She’d picked out the black leather mini she’d worn last week but was still undecided. The skirt was on the bed behind her as she buttoned the cream blouse, the garment had a white satin diamond pattern on it. She’d called Robyn at work to ask about the dress code but Robyn simply said it was a wear what you want.
“Some women use it as an excuse to dress up in their best and others dress down, there’s no hard and fast rule.”
It was about as vague as you could get. She finished buttoning the blouse and turned to look at the skirt and a moment later turned back to the wardrobe and eyed the clothes. One dress in particular caught her eye, it was a black pinafore dress open at the sides with a side zipper and two buttoned straps. She’d picked it up in an op shop a few years ago but only wore it if she was going out with women. Guys just saw it as an invitation to take things further and she felt the material.
Just then Rowena came into the room with some money in her hand.
“That’s the money for the clothes.”
“Oh right, thanks,” she nodded, “I can’t decide what to wear.”
“You’re not wearing that, are you?” Rowena glanced at the dress, “that dress screams fuck me hard all night long.”
“Thanks, it says a lot about my morals and I’m the Christian one.”
“You’re trying them on tonight?”
“Yeah,” she replied.
“So think practical, wear jeans. That way you’re just taking off what you’re wearing now.”
“Of course,” she winced, “what was I thinking?”
“Who knows?” Rowena perched on the bed, “what’s going through your head right now?”
“Conflict,” she walked to the chest of drawers, “I can’t think of anything we have in common apart from going to the same bloody church.”
“Dave’s mate from work has broken up with his girlfriend,” she turned towards her as Maxine sat down on the end of the bed.