Housemates Part 4

Because Mia had mentioned it especially, Ellie had a crisis about what to wear.

Obviously.

She started in shorts and an old rugby jersey, the jersey from the year she’d played social touch after work. It was what she’d been planning when she’d first woken up, and was lying in bed, thinking. The jersey was completely sensible, perfect for moving boxes, but also suited her quite well. She’d never entirely worked out why, just the colour, or the bigness of the collar, or something like that. The shorts were good too, running shorts that went with the jersey, just loose and long enough they looked like they ought to be sensible, but actually weren’t at all.

She put both on, and looked at herself, and decided shorts the were okay.

The shorts were okay, but the jersey didn’t work.

It just didn’t work at all.

She’d always thought it looked fine when she was playing touch, but now, perhaps looking at herself a little more critically, she wasn’t sure. The fabric was odd, some kind of densely woven synthetic that was both thick and stiff. It stuck to her chest, and fell past her waist, and made her look kind of square-ish.

She’d never noticed that before. She’d probably never cared before.

She’d never put it on planning to impress someone before, she supposed.

She told herself not to panic. Mia had already seen her dozens of times in whatever she just happened to have on. Mia probably didn’t care what Ellie wore, so Ellie didn’t need to worry.

Ellie cared, though. She cared a lot.

She tried a couple of other tops, but decided they were too nice for moving boxes. She didn’t want anything getting dirty or torn.

She thought for a moment, but decided she had to be sensible. Because it was sensible to be sensible, but also because Mia had teased her.

Ellie knew she was obsessing far too much about one small thing that Mia had said. Especially when Mia was chasing her, and apparently liked her how she usually was, and probably had just been teasing, or trying to help, and hadn’t meant to cause this crisis.

Ellie had the crisis anyway. It only took five minutes.

She found an old singlet in the end. She wasn’t completely happy with it, but it would have to do. She kept the shorts, because it had to be shorts, because Mia looked at her legs, and she put her hair up, because a ponytail was sensible, and Mia wanted her to be sensible. She thought for a moment, then decided against make-up, because not wearing any ought to be sensible as well, although she did her eyes because she couldn’t stand not to.

She decided she was ready. She already had some on, but she sprayed herself with body spray again in case moving got sweaty, then went outside to sit on the front steps and wait.

Mia turned up in a ute.

Ellie didn’t realize it was her at first. The ute was big, an actual truck. Not a practical ute either, all old and dusty. It was shiny, and clean, and had metal wheels and extra bars along the front, and behind the cab.

Ellie started looking the other way, avoiding noticing it, so she didn’t get shouted at or anything.

Her phone rung. She answered, and Mia said, “It’s me in the truck.”

Mia wound the window down, and waved too. As if she knew what Ellie had been thinking.

Ellie sat where she was, and looked for a moment. “What the fuck is that?” she said in the end.

“A truck.”

“You have a truck?”

“I have friends with trucks.”

Ellie thought that over. She hung up her phone. She stood up, and went over to the road, and said, quietly, “Is this like some thing because you like women? That they have trucks?”

She said it quietly, into the window, in case Mia didn’t want her business shouted around. And because Ellie didn’t want Mia’s business shouted either, right outside her own house.

Mia looked completely startled for a moment, then started making the face she made when she was trying not to laugh.

“It’s not, is it?” Ellie said.

Mia shook her head.

“I’m being a dick, aren’t I?”

“No,” Mia managed. “Hop in.”

Ellie went around the front of the truck, and got in. By the time she had, Mia wasn’t laughing. She wasn’t obviously trying not to, either.

“So where’d it come from?” Ellie said.

“I know geeks,” Mia said. “You smell good.”

“Thank you. And geeks. Um, so?”

“Guy geeks. They have cars like this sometimes.”

Ellie hadn’t known that. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, kind of. Overcompensating, I guess.”

“Like lesbians?”

Mia looked at her for a moment, then said, “Yeah probably.”

“Do you want one.”

“Nope. Mark does though. He just hasn’t yet.”

“Oh,” Ellie said, a bit surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

Mia put the truck in gear, and started driving. They were both quiet again, like they had been the day they went to the market, but this time the silence was far less uncomfortable.

Ellie was getting used to Mia and her way of just keeping quiet when she didn’t have anything to say. It wasn’t unsettling any more.

Mia drove for a while, then said, “So just to warn you, this might get weird. These two, they’re both lovely people, but they fight, a lot.”

“Okay.”

“Like in public. Like in the street, or a restaurant. Anywhere.”

Ellie nodded.

“Just to warn you. I’m assuming they will be while they move. Now they’re in the habit. And breaking up, too.”

“Yeah,” Ellie said. “I would.”

Mia grinned.

“I’ll just go outside or something if it gets nasty,” Ellie said. “Don’t worry.”

“Yeah, me too. I just wanted to warn you. So it didn’t scare you or anything.”

“Scare me?” Ellie said, surprised.

“It gets kind of intense sometimes.”

Ellie didn’t know what to make of that, so she just nodded, and went back to watching Mia drive.

*

Intense became clear almost as soon as Ellie and Mia arrived.

Mia’s friends were lovely to Mia, and really lovely to Ellie, but constantly, endlessly horrible to each other.

They were Rose and Amanda, and they weren’t happy with one another at all. They disagreed on everything. Neither could do a single thing right, the way the other wanted it done. Every decision about what to pack was wrong, every question about what belonged to who was obvious, and stupid, and didn’t need asking. They had their first fight within two minutes of Ellie and Mia walking into the house, and didn’t stop again all afternoon.

It really was that sudden. Ellie and Mia had gone inside, and Mia said hi, this was Ellie and she was here to help. Rose asked if they wanted coffee, and Mia said yes, and it took as long as the coffee took to make for the fight to start.

As far as Ellie overhead, it was because Amanda didn’t want Rose using some particular mugs, because then those mugs would be wet when they got packed. And Rose didn’t think it mattered, because she could wrap the mugs in a tea-towel, and they were her mugs anyway, so how was it Amanda’s problem? Amanda started to answer, but Rose cut her off, and said Amanda was just being rude again, like she always was to their friends. And selfish, like she always had been as well. Then Amanda called Rose a bitch, and Rose said that was good, coming from her, and then they were talking in quiet, angry voices, going over all the problems they’d ever had, that were now breaking them up, while Mia and Ellie stood in the lounge, trying not to listen.

It took Ellie a moment to realize they were actually having a fight, despite the calm voices.

Ellie looked at Mia, and Mia just shrugged, and said, “This is normal.”

Ellie just said, “Oh.”

“Normal before this,” Mia said. “It’s just them.”

Ellie had no idea what to say.

“I’ll just get changed,” Mia said, loudly, to the kitchen door, and Rose called back, “Yep.”

And then kept telling Amanda how Amanda was completely self-absorbed and selfish.

Mia started towards the hall, obviously heading for a bathroom or spare room. Another room, Ellie thought, somewhere else.

A room that wasn’t this one.

“Hey,” Ellie said, and Mia looked back.

“Don’t leave me here alone with them,” Ellie said quietly, a little desperately. “Please.”

Mia grinned, and said, “Yeah, of course. Come on.”

There was a bathroom across the hall. A nice bathroom, filled with nice bathroom things.

Ellie wasn’t sure what she’d expected her first lesbian bathroom to look like. More like a man’s perhaps.

She looked around, and decided her own looked more like a man’s, because it had Mark’s razors and shampoo and stray hairs all over the place. Rose and Amanda’s looked like a nice bathroom, with a bath, and half-burned candles, and a lot of little bottles that were probably bath salts and oils which Ellie made herself not pry at.

Mia closed the door, while Ellie was looking around, and took off her shoes.

Mia had shorts too. She had shorts that looked about as sensible as Ellie’s, in the pocket of her hoodie. She took them out, and put them on the bench, and undid her jeans.

Ellie turned around.

She didn’t know why, since she wanted Mia, and Mia wanted her, but turning around seemed polite.

She turned, and saw Mia grinning as she did.

There was the sound of moving cloth from right behind Ellie.

Ellie had never realized how sensual the slithery sound of cloth sliding over skin could be, not until right then. There were rustles, and Mia’s breathing, and a sliding sound as Mia moved her foot, and Ellie wanted to turn around, she wanted to turn around a lot, but she didn’t.

She listened, and thought about cloth sliding over skin some more instead.

“Okay,” Mia said, after a moment.

Ellie turned around.

Mia had put on her shorts, and now she had her legs.

Her smooth, silky legs which she used to fuck people. Those legs were just bare, in front of Ellie, right there. An arm’s length away. Close enough to touch, if Ellie bent down a little.

Ellie stared.

She stared, and knew she was staring, but she couldn’t help herself. Somehow, in the past few days, she’d become obsessed with Mia’s legs.

And Mia just grinned. She stood there, seeming quite happy to let Ellie look.

For a moment, at least.

“Um,” Mia said. “Maybe we’d better get back out there.”

“Yeah,” Ellie said, and didn’t move.

“Are you okay?”

Ellie nodded, still staring.

Mia waved her hand in front of Ellie’s face. “You sure?”

Ellie blinked. “Yeah, I’m…”

“We should go back out. It’s kind of insensitive, us being in here, when they’re out there, breaking up…”

Ellie nodded.

“And I kind of wanted to be around to referee,” Mia said.

Ellie nodded again. “Yeah, of course.”

“I mean, unless you have a better idea for what we could do?”

Ellie looked at Mia for a moment, and decided she was teasing. She was grinning like she was teasing, and wasn’t getting all intense and starey like she did when she was about to do something to Ellie.

“No,” Ellie said, and Mia grinned some more, and opened the door. Ellie followed her back out into the lounge.

Rose and Amanda still seemed to be arguing about coffee mugs.

“We’re back,” Mia called, but the argument kept going.

“Don’t worry about coffee,” Mia shouted. “We’ll just start.”

The voices continued in the kitchen.

“Fuck,” Mia said, and looked at Ellie, and then around at the stacked, labeled boxes on the floor. “I guess we just start,” she said, and picked one up, and went over to the front door.

Ellie got one too, and followed her.

She wasn’t staying in the house by herself, no matter what.

*

They all moved boxes for a while. Mostly, Ellie did what she always did when she helped people move. She carried boxes sometimes, and put things in other boxes occasionally, and felt like she was helping, but really, she did a lot more standing around than she did packing and carrying, while other people decided what had to go, and in what order.

It was like helping anyone move, just with more fighting.

Most of the decisions seemed to require an argument, or a snide comment, or someone getting upset and leaving the room. An awful lot of them needed a half-packed box to be set aside until the other one could decide what needed to go into it.

Ellie felt uncomfortable. It awkward being there, trying to act normally, while Rose and Amanda bared their souls, and their pain, to each other.

In the end, to Ellie’s relief, Rose and Amanda stopped fighting, and just started avoiding each other. Rose did a lot of carrying, so she was outside, and Amanda did a lot of packing in one of the other rooms, just bringing boxes out to the pile near the door, then disappearing again. That seemed to work better for everyone, except when they ran into one another. Then there was usually another fight.

It would have been exhausting if Mia hadn’t been there too, grinning, acting like everything was fine, and it would have been exhausting if Rose and Amanda weren’t perfectly, impeccably, calm and polite to both Mia and Ellie. Even while they were being horrible to each other.

There also wasn’t that much to move, Ellie noticed. Mostly already-packed boxes. Most of the furniture was Amanda’s and was staying. Rose only had a desk, and an office chair, and some kind of antique dresser thing that had to go.

Mia and Rose started moving the desk, and Ellie followed along, rolling the chair, asking if they needed a hand.

Mia kept saying no, and telling Rose what to do, and Ellie couldn’t quite work out if Mia was showing off or just being useful.

She wasn’t sure that Rose knew either.

Rose let Mia micromanage lifting the desk into the back of the ute, even though all morning she’d been reacting very badly to Amanda telling her what to do. Even when it was something sensible like there’s a box behind you, don’t trip, which happened once. Maybe Rose was just angry with Amanda, Ellie thought, but maybe Rose was letting Mia have her moment, too, because Ellie was watching.

As if Rose was treating Ellie like Mia’s new girlfriend, who Mia needed to impress. Ellie thought that was quite interesting.

Mia and Rose went back inside, and got the dresser, and Ellie followed them again, this time with a lamp.

She’d wasn’t going to stay in the house on her own. Not when a fight could start and finish in the time it took Mia to go to the ute and back. Even when Rose was outside with Mia, Ellie wasn’t staying inside, in case Amanda started talking to Ellie about Rose. Which would almost be more awkward.

Ellie was getting used to how Rose and Amanda were, though. The squabbling still made her a little uncomfortable, but after a while she started becoming resigned, like Mia seemed to be. After a while, whenever Rose and Amanda started snapping at each other, Ellie just picked up the nearest thing and took it out to the truck, no matter what it was, then stayed out there for a couple of minutes, fiddling with the boxes in the back, sliding them around, arranging them more neatly.

It actually worked pretty well.

Sometimes she had to take whatever she’d carried out back in, because Mia looked, and said she thought it was Amanda’s, and then Ellie did. But Mia seemed to realize what Ellie was doing, because she always said it with a grin, and half the time Mia was carrying something back inside as well. Often enough that Ellie was pretty sure Mia was doing the same thing.

She was noticing Mia more today, watching Mia a lot. More than she ordinarily did when Mia was around.

She was looking at Mia as Mia went past.

While Mia was walking around.

With her legs.

Mia’s legs, that did what Mia’s legs did.

After a while Mia took her hoodie off and just wore her shorts and a tee-shirt. So Ellie took her own off too, just because.

So Mia could look at Ellie, like Ellie was looking at Mia. If Mia wanted to.

Ellie did, so she looked.

Once, when Mia bent over, Ellie looked down her top for a moment. She saw breasts, like she expected to see, but she didn’t see them quite the same way she always had before. She saw, and she got interested. She looked down Mia’s shirt, at the smoothness of Mia’s skin, and the curve of her chest, and the purple color of her bra.

She looked down Mia’s top, and suddenly realized she was seeing breasts as something interesting, something she wanted to look at. It was a surprise to her, because she’d never thought of them, though of anyone’s, as at all interesting before.

She hadn’t thought of them as anything other than just there, and a bit of a nuisance.

She didn’t know what was happening to her.

She looked away, before Mia noticed, and went back inside for more boxes. She carried them outside, quietly, unsure what to think.

*

It was hot carrying boxes around in the sun. After a few trips outside, Ellie was starting to feel unpleasantly sticky.

She was feeling sticky, and she was starting to realize Mia was still watching her.

Ellie was hot, and flushed, and probably a little bit shiny too, and Mia was looking at her every time they passed each other, the way Mia always did. Noticing Ellie, aware of Ellie, just like normal, but this time while Ellie was carrying boxes. In the sun. Getting sweaty.

Ellie had been a little bit annoyed when she first realized. It had bothered her, but not very much. Not as much as it probably ought to have.

She was a little surprised by that. Being looked at, while grotty, that seemed like something she ought to care about.

But apparently not. Not when it was Mia.

Ellie just didn’t care.

She was actually quite surprised by that.

She spent another couple of trips thinking it over, and decided she liked how the rules for Mia were different. She didn’t know why, but she liked it. She liked how Mia’s stare didn’t annoy her, when anyone else’s would have, and she especially liked that she wasn’t even deciding that on purpose.

The not on purpose seemed like quite an important thing.

She was getting used to Mia’s constant half-attention, she supposed. She was becoming accustomed to it, and starting not to notice. In a way it was quite flattering, having Mia always watching.

It ought to be a little scary, but it wasn’t.

Maybe because Mia just seemed to like Ellie. To like watching her. She watched Ellie go past, with sweat on her arms, watched her put cartons down, with a bit of a shove because she was tired, then stand there and yank at her hair and put her hairtie back in, roughly.

Mia watched all that, and seemed to like it.

And Ellie was actually quite pleased.

At the end of her next trip out to the ute, because Mia was standing nearby, Ellie pulled up her singlet up and wiped her face. Because she knew Mia would look.

Mia looked.

Ellie watched her, and took a moment longer than she needed to putting the singlet back down. And Mia kept staring while Ellie’s stomach was bare. Apparently Mia was into tummies, Ellie thought. That was good to know.

Or maybe, she thought, Mia was into sweatiness, and doing stuff, and she was into old clothes. It could be that as well. She was starting to think that with Mia, it could be anything.

Ellie suddenly wasn’t sure.

It still seemed a little odd that Mia had asked Ellie to help, of all the people in the world. Ellie didn’t mind, but she also didn’t quite understand. It was as if Mia didn’t realize they could just go for a drink, or sit on Ellie’s couch and talk, or whatever else Mia might want to do.

Or perhaps Mia did realize, and just didn’t like doing that kind of thing. Perhaps she’d rather have a particular task they’d planned around, so she had something to do. It seemed almost possible, Ellie thought. It would save Mia being forced to make conversation, like she would have to at a bar, and suddenly that seemed almost possible, since Mia really didn’t seem to like making conversation.

As if Mia had worked out a way to do things with people without ever having to make small-talk, Ellie thought.

She almost wondered if it was true.

She told herself no. She made herself stop.

It was probably just that Mia was just nice, and a bit disorganized and impulsive, and that she’d wanted to help her friends, and see Ellie, and decided to do both at the same time. It was probably that, Ellie thought. Like when they’d gone to the farmer’s market. Like when Mia was around at home seeing Mark, and also grinning at Ellie. Mia changed her plans, and came up with new things, and was just a bit disorganized. She did things, and they happened, and she might not over-think everything as much as Ellie did.

It was probably that, Ellie thought, and that something Ellie could probably learn from.

Mia was still standing in front of Ellie, watching Ellie think. Looking at Ellie’s bare arms, at her bare legs. Glancing up at the house, then looking back to Ellie. Almost as if she was wondering whether to hurry Ellie up.

Ellie wasn’t sure.

She felt a bit tired. She wasn’t used to this much carrying. She sat down on the back of the ute, on the part that had folded down so they could load the boxes in, and said, “I’m resting.”

“You okay?”

Ellie nodded. “I just need a moment.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yep.”

“Okay,” Mia said, and walked towards the house.

She started walking. She was halfway there when more shouting started inside. She stopped, and turned around, and came back to the ute.

“Maybe I’ll have a break too,” she said.

“I would,” Ellie said.

Mia grinned. She sat beside Ellie, and looked around, but didn’t say very much, apparently just waiting. She seemed to be looking at a tree down the road, one that had a lot of flowers in it. Ellie didn’t know what it was.

The shouting went on for a while. It got quite loud.

“Are they okay in there?” Ellie said eventually.

Mia nodded. “I think so.’

“It sounds kind of nasty.”

“They’re breaking up, so I guess it will. But I think they’ll be friends again in a month or three.”

Ellie nodded. They were Mia’s friends, and Mia presumably knew when it was time to start being concerned. Mia’s lack of worry made Ellie stop worrying too.

It was nice sitting in the sun. Having a rest. Just sitting.

“Did I say you smell good?” Mia said suddenly.

Ellie looked at her, then said, “Yep.”

“You do.”

Ellie leaned sidewards a little, towards Mia, and tipped her head away. Left her neck bare, for Mia to smell if she wanted to.

Mia did. She leaned, and breathed in for a moment, and then sat back upright.

Then she grinned, and Ellie grinned back.

They were staring to understand each other.

Mia slid her hand sideways, just a little, across the back of the ute. Slid so her fingertips were against Ellie’s bare leg, making the very slightest contact.

As if smelling Ellie had made her think beyond moving.

Ellie rather like that idea. That she could get Mia interested just with her smell.

She felt Mia’s fingers, barely touching. She liked Mia touching her, too.

She sat, and didn’t move, and after a while, she said, “I like how you smell too.”

Mia grinned. She grinned in the way that was probably somehow teasing, even though Ellie couldn’t work out how.

Ellie was pretty sure it was teasing. She looked at Mia, almost glared. “You started it,” she said.

“I did.”

“So stop making faces like that.”

Mia shrugged. Then leaned over and breathed in next to Ellie’s neck again.

Ellie forgave her. She did what she had before, leaned sideways, tipped her head, and then just sat in the sun, letting Mia breath against her.

And getting turned on.

Mia’s nose was almost, but not quite, touching Ellie’s skin. Which meant her mouth was not quite touching too. Ellie remembered the last time Mia’s mouth had been where it was now, she remembered that very well. So well she wanted to shiver, or sigh, or lean sideways enough that Mia’s lips made contact with her skin.

She wanted to do something, but instead she sat where she was.

She sat completely still.

After a moment Mia sat back up, and swung her feet a little, and looked around.

The moment seemed to be gone.

Ellie was disappointed. She was almost upset. She felt like she’d missed some kind of opportunity she hadn’t even known was being offered.

She opened her mouth to speak, to say that, then closed it again.

She wasn’t ready to say. She just couldn’t.

Instead she sat in the sun.

*

Ellie and Mia sat in the sun, on the back of the ute, and something seemed to have changed. Whatever Mia had just been doing, breathing against Ellie’s neck, she had suddenly stopped, and sat up, and moved away.

Ellie was disappointed, quite miserably so, until she realized Mia seemed to be listening.

Ellie listened too, and realized the shouting inside had stopped.

“Do you think it’s safe?” Ellie said.

“I’d give it a couple more minutes.”

Ellie nodded, and sat there for a while. Thinking about Mia, and lost opportunities, and opportunities she had imagined were lost, that had never been at all.

She wanted to be sure. “Is that why you sat up?” she said.

Mia looked at her. She seemed surprised.

“Just then,” Ellie said. “You sat up. Were you trying to hear?”

Mia shrugged. “Yeah,” she said. “Um, why?”

Ellie shook her head. “No reason.”

Mia looked at Ellie, and Ellie looked away. She stared straight ahead, and ignored Mia’s stare, but now she felt a lot better.

Better enough she wanted to start something. She wanted to be brave.

After a moment she moved her leg slightly, moved it over, so it bumped against Mia’s hand.

Mia looked down, and grinned, and then moved her fingers again. She stretched them out, to touch Ellie’s skin. She stroked at the side of Ellie’s leg, just below her shorts, sliding her fingers up and down Ellie’s bare skin.

Ellie sat there, and felt that touch, and wondered if she was brave enough yet to say how much she wanted Mia. She wanted Mia to know. She was fairly sure Mia knew, and was just teasing her, pretending not to know how turned on Ellie was, playing her games, intending to do something about it later. Ellie hoped, but wasn’t completely. Part of her wished she could just make herself say, but she didn’t seem to be able to.

She sat, and felt Mia stroke her, and after a moment she said, “That’s nice.”

Mia smiled.

Ellie watched Mia’s hand, and wondered why she was here. She’d been wondering off and on all day. She almost wondered if Mia had planned this part, had expected the constant fighting inside, and these pauses in the sun, and thought that moments like this were a good opportunity to be alone with Ellie. Ellie almost believed that, except that Mia couldn’t really think that watching a catastrophic break-up would get Ellie horny. It must be something else. Perhaps something more complicated. Ellie thought for a while, wondering what. Perhaps Mia was trying to make a point. To show Ellie that relationships were bad. That they ended like this. That being friends, and having sex, was a far better way.

Ellie wasn’t sure if Mia had actually planned that out, but watching Amanda and Rose, she was almost starting to agree.

Mia moved, quite suddenly.

She took her hand away from Ellie’s leg, then slid off the truck. It creaked as she moved, and rocked a little. She went to the cab part, and opened the door, and came back with two plastic bottles of water.

They looked cold. They had condensation on the outside. “Sorry,” she said. “I should have thought of this sooner.” She held one out to Ellie.

Ellie looked for a moment. She did want a drink, but she wanted something from Mia too. Some kind of intimacy.

“Just open one,” Ellie said. “Keep the other one for later.”

Mia looked puzzled. “We don’t have to drink it all…”

“Just do,” Ellie said. “Please.”

Because she wanted Mia’s attention again. She wanted to make Mia look at her, and notice her, and for them to be how they ought to be.

Mia went and put one bottle back, then held the other out to Ellie.

“You first,” Ellie said.

Mia opened it, and drank. She seemed a little confused.

She seemed sensual too. She tipped her head back to drink, and Ellie looked at her neck. At her neck, and at her breasts, which were apparently something more than in the way, and at her lips on the bottle, and her slightly open mouth.

Ellie was quite surprised how much she wanted her.

Mia stopped drinking, and looked at the bottle. Making sure there was enough left, Ellie thought.

She held the bottle out to Ellie.

Ellie took it and drank too. She put her lips where Mia’s had been. She swallowed water Mia had just been drinking from. That was sensual, somehow. Sharing the touch of their mouths.

It was more sensual than they’d been for a few days, except for sniffing each other.

Ellie held the bottle back to Mia, but Mia shook her head. Ellie kept it, and kept sipping.

Ellie was still sitting on the back of the ute. Mia was standing in front of Ellie, watching Ellie drink.

Mia moved closer, so she was almost touching Ellie’s legs. Then a little more, so she was between Ellie’s knees. She bumped one slightly with her hip, nudging it sideways.

“What are you doing?” Ellie said.

Mia ignored her and did it again, and Ellie realized she was trying to push herself between Ellie’s knees. Ellie moved, so she could. Mia stood between Ellie’s legs, her hands on Ellie’s thighs, just resting there, watching Ellie sip her water.

Ellie sipped slowly, watching Mia back.

After a moment she lowered the bottle.

Mia kissed her, suddenly, quickly.

Ellie was surprised enough she didn’t kiss back. She actually hadn’t expected it.

Mia looked at her, then took the bottle out of Ellie’s hand, and drank a little herself.

“Do that again,” Ellie said.

Mia shook her head.

“Please?” Ellie said.

Mia grinned. “Later.”

“I don’t get you,” Ellie said, after a moment.

Mia grinned past the bottle. “Good.”

“I mean it.”

“Me too.”

”Why? Why would you possibly want that?”

Mia shrugged, and grinned some more. “Just do.”

Ellie sat there for a while, completely confused.

After a moment, as if taking pity, Mia said, “Don’t complicate it. I like you. That should be enough.”

Ellie nodded slowly and wondered if it was.

*

There hadn’t been any shouting from inside for a while, and the moment with Mia seemed to be over, so Ellie thought they might as well get back to moving.

Since there was no reason to stay outside.

“Should we?” Ellie said, looking towards the house.

Mia nodded, and stepped away from Ellie. Slowly, Ellie thought, almost as if Mia didn’t entirely want to. Ellie was quite pleased by that.

Ellie and Mia went inside. There was no shouting. Rose and Amanda had both gone quiet, and seemed to be back to silences and being in different rooms again.

Ellie was quite glad of that.

Ellie and Mia carried boxes. Ellie stayed with Mia, hurrying to keep up, still worried about being abandoned in the house alone in case a fight started. They went backwards and forwards, and each time they were outside, when Ellie was at the ute with Mia, standing beside Mia, pushing boxes onto the back, she kept hoping Mia would do something, that their little moment would resume.

It didn’t. Not during the first few trips.

On the third or forth, Ellie put her box on the back, and shoved, sliding it forward a little to where the others were sitting.

She looked up, and saw Mia standing there watching her. Usually Mia turned around right away and went back inside, but this time she was watching Ellie.

“What?” Ellie said.

Mia took a half-step closer. Ellie stayed where she was, fairly sure Mia was about to start again.

“I want to kiss you,” Mia said.

“So do,” Ellie said. She almost wanted to say it was about time.

“It seems kind of awful when they’re breaking up inside,” Mia said.

“So do it without them seeing.”

Mia looked around. After a moment she took Ellie’s hand and led her behind the ute, around to the side away from the house. It was a fairly big truck. It was high enough that Ellie wasn’t quite as tall as it, and the windows were tinted slightly too, enough it was difficult to see through. Standing behind it, to someone looking out from the house, they probably wouldn’t be visible. Shadows behind glass that could be doing anything.

Not necessarily kissing.

Mia grinned, and seemed quite proud of herself, and Ellie smiled back.

Mia kept looking at Ellie, drifting closer. Almost sidling, somehow. She took her time getting to Ellie, but in the end they kissed.

Mia kissed Ellie, and Ellie just let her for a moment, because Mia kissed so well.

Mia was the only person Ellie had met who could make just standing with your mouth open interesting.

Mia kissed, and Ellie stood there, trying to do that. Then she got distracted, got too interested in Mia’s kiss, and stopped being silly. She kissed back. She didn’t want Mia thinking badly of her, anyway. That she was boring, or uninterested.

They kissed, and Ellie forgot to worry about whatever she was meant to be worrying about. Being seen, or something.

Mia had her hands on Ellie’s hips, and Ellie had hers on Mia’s neck, and both seemed to be holding on to the other quite desperately. Ellie was breathless, she was having trouble getting enough air just through her nose.

She was excited. She needed this.

Then Mia stopped, and stepped back. “I should get another box,” she said.

Ellie looked at her for a moment, and thought she understood. This was another of Mia’s teasing games. Ellie could play that too.

“Yep,” she said.

Not please don’t, or how can you, or just fuck me here. Just yep. She was quite proud of that.

“Wait here?” Mia said, and Ellie nodded.

She nodded because she didn’t have the breath to speak.

Mia kissed her again, briefly, and went inside.

Ellie stood where she was, behind the truck, trying to look natural. Like she wasn’t doing anything particular, and wasn’t too turned on to think. She almost put her hands in her pockets, then didn’t in case Mia came back and found her like that and thought she was doing something rude. She folded her arms across her chest instead, and tried to get her breathing to slow down.

It was warm, outside. It was nice. She had a little shade, standing here, from a tree down by the road.

A older woman walked past on the street, with a small dog in a coat on a lead. The day seemed to warm for the coat, but the dog didn’t look like it minded.

Ellie smiled, and waved, but wasn’t sure she was seen.

Mia reappeared, and dumped a box on the back of the ute, and then came around the side looking for Ellie.

“Hold on,” Ellie said, and looked towards the road.

Mia saw, and nodded, and waited.

They both stood there, side by side, watching the elderly woman walk past. She walked slowly. The waiting was almost as painful as waiting out one of Mia’s games. Watching something completely unrelated to them, knowing they would start again as soon as the audience was gone.

Ellie almost couldn’t stand it.

Mia didn’t seem to be able to either. She put her hand on the small of Ellie’s back, pressing against Ellie, her skin all warm through Ellie’s shirt. She slid it downwards, slowly, while they watched the old woman walk. Slid it lower, all the way down to Ellie’s ass.

Ellie wanted to gasp. Or sigh. Or something.

She reached back, and found Mia’s wrist, and held her hand there. Pulling Mia’s fingers against herself, so Mia knew how much she wanted to be touched.

They waited, watching. Ten steps to go, then five, and then finally, the old woman was out of sight, behind the neighbour’s fence.

As soon as she was gone, Mia turned Ellie around, and pressed her against the truck, and kissed her.

Kissed her until Ellie’s knees got shaky and her breath went ragged again.

And then Mia grinned, and went to get another box.

Ellie almost couldn’t stand it.

*

Mia seemed to like her new game. Now, as they moved boxes, Mia and Ellie kissed behind the ute at the end of every trip.

Ellie loitered around back there, waiting for Mia, giving Mia opportunities, and Mia took the chance, a lot. Enough that Ellie’s lips felt tender and well-kissed. Enough her chest was tingly, her heartbeat fast. They kissed while pretending to rearrange a box, kissing while Mia pretended to tug on a carton somewhere in the back. They kissed while pretending to be fetching water out of the cab, or checking for phone messages, or seeing how much fuel was left.

They were getting closer to something happening, Ellie thought. Mia was pushing Ellie, tempting her, and Ellie was getting a bit desperate with all the waiting. Something was building up between then, building almost inevitably. Something was going to happen, Ellie knew, even though she wasn’t quite sure what.

The obvious thing, more sex right here behind the ute, couldn’t actually be what Mia planned. Not there, in the driveway, in full view of the street. Mia couldn’t be that willing to take chances, Ellie thought, even though she couldn’t work out where else they could go.

She kept carrying boxes, and kissing Mia, and touching her, and in the end, eventually didn’t really care. She wanted Mia. That was all. She was lost in Mia. She wanted to touch Mia, to feel Mia. She’d do anything Mia wanted her to, if Mia only asked.

Ellie started groping Mia more determinedly, while they kissed. She started touching back a lot more than she had been.

She slid her hands over Mia’s body, down her hips, up her arms. She reached up, as they kissed, and found Mia’s hair, and pulled her fingers through it gently. Pulled, so Mia’s hairtie came out slowly, and Ellie felt her hair come free, to tickle her hand.

Tickle Ellie’s hand, and then her face as they kissed. Like it had the day at the market.

Later, feeling even more brave, Ellie stuck her hand up Mia’s top and grabbed something that was probably a bra. She had no idea, and felt silly for not being sure, felt embarrassed as soon as she’d done it. Then Mia did it back, and kind of stroked the bare skin right underneath of Ellie’s, and Ellie went breathless and weak and decided she’d done the right thing after all.

Then Mia kissed Ellie with her leg between Ellie’s. Pressing on Ellie, in the way Ellie desperately wanted her to, but was embarrassed to admit she did. Mia’s leg, which even thinking about turned Ellie on, sliding against Ellie, against her shorts, pressing her closer to something.

Ellie didn’t care any more. She didn’t care about anything except Mia’s mouth, and hands, and where Mia was touching her.

They kept kissing, between breathless pauses to carry boxes, until, after one trip, they started to kiss and just didn’t stop again.

Several minutes passed. Mia seemed to have forgotten about getting boxes, and Ellie wasn’t going to remind her. Mia slid her hand into Ellie’s shorts, slid in her special, particular way, her fingers spread on Ellie’s tummy, under her shirt, just touching and kissing, while Ellie waited, breathless. Then the sliding downwards. The sliding that filled Ellie’s world, and made everything about this perfect. Feeling Mia’s fingertips over her skin, down her tummy, into her undies, then slippery against her.

Ellie sighed, and closed her eyes, and leaned her forehead on Mia’s shoulder. She put her arms around Mia, and just stood there for a moment

Mia was kissing her. Mia was stroking her, was slipping the very tip if her finger into Ellie.

She was fingering Ellie again, and Ellie was doing nothing to her except stand there.

Ellie suddenly decided that wasn’t fair. It had been going on long enough. She didn’t want Mia to stop, but she had to say something, to make sure Mia knew this wasn’t just going to be Mia getting Ellie off, and then grinning at her.

Not this time.

“Wait,” Ellie said, into Mia’s mouth.

Mia kept kissing Ellie.

“I get to do you this time, all right?” Ellie said.

Mia stopped, and looked at Ellie, and grinned. “We’ll see.”

“I have to,” Ellie said. “I really do.”

“We’ll see.”

“It isn’t fair.”

Mia grinned some more. And Ellie looked at her, and couldn’t decide if she was serious.

“This is some kind of plot to make me desperate for you, isn’t it?” Ellie said. “Like keep saying no until I beg to do you?”

Mia seemed to think that was funny. “Sure,” she said. “It’s that.”

She moved her fingers, slid them further. Slid along Ellie, all slippery and clever, like she had at the market. She kissed Ellie’s neck, and slid with her fingers, and Ellie felt her go a little way inside and had never wanted anything so much.

Ellie gave up. She didn’t care enough about being fair she was going to stop Mia right now. She closed her eyes, and put her arms around Mia, and kissed her more carefully, feeling everything Mia was doing.

She kissed, until Mia stepped back and took her hand away.

Ellie opened her eyes, dismayed.

“I’d better get another carton,” Mia said. And grinned her grin.

Ellie stood there, astonished, as Mia walked away. “Seriously?” she called after Mia.

“We’re moving house,” Mia said, and kept walking. “We’re meant to be doing this.”

Almost as if she’d forgotten the last few minutes.

Ellie couldn’t decide if Mia was serious. She almost thought Mia was, that she somehow got so turned on she’d had a memory lapse. Until, halfway there, Mia wiped her hand on the back of her shirt quickly, and then looked back and grinned at Ellie.

She was just playing her games.

Ellie leaned on the ute, and stayed where she was. She didn’t bother doing any carrying herself, because her knees were shaking too much. Mia would be back in a moment.

Ellie waited, and Mia was.

Mia came back outside, carrying a box, and put it on the back of the ute. Ellie watched her. Mia put it down, then turned around and went back inside.

“Fuck,” Ellie said. “Dude…”

Mia ignored her.

Mia came back out again, and walked towards the ute. This time, she walked the other way around it to reach the back. The longer way, past Ellie, completely unnecessarily. Grinning.

Ellie grabbed her. She couldn’t wait. She pulled Mia over, and grabbed the box, and put it on the ground, and kissed her again.

“Where’s your hand?” she whispered in Mia’s ear, and Mia slid it back inside her shorts.

Ellie had asked. She felt proud. She felt brave. She was pleased she was doing this, learning to say what she wanted. To insist.

She felt proud, and she felt good too. Of course she felt good, with Mia fingering her.

She closed her eyes, and leaned on Mia, and didn’t even have the concentration to kiss.

And after another moment, Mia let her go, and stepped back, and went back inside.

Ellie almost hit her.

*

Ellie waited beside the ute for Mia for come back outside. To come back out and grope her some more.

Ellie felt a little bad Mia was doing all the carrying now, but only a little bit bad. It was really Mia’s fault that Ellie couldn’t help, because it was Mia who kept touching Ellie, making Ellie’s knees not work right, which meant she wasn’t any use for carrying.

So Ellie stayed where she was, and watched.

Mia came out the front door, and walked towards Ellie. She was holding a bigger box, was almost hidden behind it. She was legs, from where Ellie was watching. Just her bare smooth legs, which did the things they did.

Mia reached the ute, and slid the box onto the back, and then came around the side to Ellie. She kissed Ellie, slid her hand down Ellie’s front, towards Ellie’s shorts.

“No,” Ellie whispered. “Not your hand this time.”

Mia stopped.

“Do the thing with your leg. Show me that.”

Mia hesitated. She glanced around.

“Please?” Ellie said.

“I want to, but I really can’t right here.”

“Extra please? With extra horny?”

Mia grinned. “It’s just kind of obvious. Like how we’d be moving around. Someone might notice.”

“In the ute?”

“The ute would be moving.”

Ellie felt disappointed. She must have looked it.

“Later,” Mia said. “I will. I promise.”

“Later?”

“Or another time.”

Ellie wasn’t sure what to make of that. Another time almost sounded like she was going to be disappointed.

“Soon?” she said, and Mia nodded.

“I’ll remember,” Ellie said, and was about to start kissing again, but Mia grinned, and stepped back, and went inside for another box.

Ellie stood there, and watched her go, and was almost frustrated enough to slam doors and shriek. She decided she had to do something. She had to hurry Mia up. She couldn’t stand to keep being teased like this all afternoon.

She thought for a moment, trying to think of some excuse to get away for half an hour. To run an errand, to race to one of their houses, and make Mia finish what she’d started.

She could fake a message that she was needed at home, she thought, and say Mia needed take her. That seemed almost reasonable, since they only the ute, and Ellie hadn’t brought a car. She almost did that. She even almost lied to Mia too, just to make sure it happened, in case Mia had some kind of conscience about abandoning Rose.

Then she had a better idea. A flirtier idea. An idea that was more weird, and unusual, and far more her and Mia.

She opened the ute cab’s door, behind her, and got out all the water bottles she could see. One full, one mostly empty. She checked under the seats and made sure there weren’t any more.

She stood there, holding them, and waited.

Mia came outside again, and put another box on the back of the ute. She stood there, all grinning and hot, with her bare legs right there. Perfectly aware her bare legs were right there, Ellie thought, and aware of how Ellie was noticing them.

“So,” Ellie said, and opened the full water bottle, and started tipping it out.

Mia looked at her, and seemed a bit surprised. As she would be, Ellie thought. They both watched the water glug and splash. Ellie felt a little splatter of cold on her ankle, and suddenly smelled wet concrete and earth.

She got the second bottle, and emptied out what was left of that too. Then shook it to make sure it was empty. Then threw both bottles back into the ute.

Mia was just watching.

“Oh no,” Ellie said. “Oh shit. We’re out of water. We’d better go get some more.”

“There’s taps inside,” Mia said, grinning.

“I meant beer,” Ellie said. “I need beer, right away.”

“While we’re helping Rose move?”

“Juice? I need juice. For the sugar. My blood sugar’s low.”

Mia kept grinning.

“I don’t care,” Ellie said. “I really don’t give a fuck. But can we go somewhere please? Like, right now?”

“The shop?”

“The shop would be perfect. Anywhere is fine. Anywhere I can be alone with you for just, like, ten minutes would be completely perfect. Five minutes, even. Maybe even only two.”

“I’ll just go and tell them we’re going to the shop,” Mia said.

“You do that,” Ellie said. “I’ll wait here.”

Mia stepped forward, and kissed Ellie.

“Go,” Ellie said.

“I am,” Mia said, and kept kissing. She slid her hand up between their chests, and caught hold of Ellie’s shirt. She pulled Ellie forward, while they kissed, pulled so her knee went between Ellie’s, so her thigh pressed between Ellie’s legs, and then pushed it sort of slithery downwards.

Ellie was surprised, and then breathlessly excited. She shivered and tingled, both at the same time. It felt achingly good. Mia’s knee was pushing onto Ellie, pressing on the parts of her that were almost hurting with wanting, but it wasn’t only that. This was more. Mia’s pushing was the like essence of sex, all of it, everything Ellie needed, just like that. Sex, without all the complications of fingers and mouths and tongues, and without all the dreary undressing. Just that one touch.

It really quite wonderful.

“Oh,” she said, sort of sighed and gasped, both at the same time, both into Mia’s mouth.

That seemed to be what Mia wanted. She let go, and kissed Ellie again, then said, “Wait,” and went inside.

Ellie reached backwards, and opened the ute’s passenger door. She got in, sat in the seat, and waited there. She was impatient, but also, she probably couldn’t have stood up right then, even if she’d wanted to.

Mia came back out, and went and closed the back of the ute, then got in beside Ellie.

“All good?” Ellie said.

Mia nodded. “We’re out of water. Rose wants some too because she’s already unplugged her filter.”

“Oh,” Ellie said.

“Yeah,” Mia said. “Amanda thought she should use the tap.”

“Amanda thought?”

“Well, Amanda told her. For a while. Amanda still was when I just gave up and left.”

“Oh.”

“Apparently that’s been a thing for a while. Who knew.”

Ellie looked at Mia for a moment, and decided she wasn’t quite as calm about her friends fighting as she wanted to seem.

“I’m sorry,” Ellie said. “That you have to watch this.”

Mia shrugged. “It happens.”

Ellie put her hand on Mia’s leg, and just left it there. Trying to be comforting, rather than sexy. Mia smiled, like she was grateful.

Then she started the ute’s engine.

Ellie put her seatbelt on. Mia backed slowly, turning around to see. When she turned around, her shirt pulled tight over her chest, and Ellie looked, thoughtfully. She was still having trouble working out how she felt about breasts.

Mia didn’t seem to notice, this time.

They started driving. After a moment Mia said, “I have no idea where I’m going.”

“You don’t know?”

Mia shrugged.

“You haven’t been here before?”

“Once or twice. But not to look for a shop.”

“There’ll be signs.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Good idea for a first date,” Ellie said. “By the way. I get to see where everything’s going to end up. In the end.”

Mia grinned. “Not a date,” she said.

“Kind of seems like it. With the groping and all.”

“Nah, friend, I told you. Helping me out. And not first, anyway.”

Ellie looked at her.

“If this is one, then the farmer’s market was too.”

“I suppose,” Ellie said. “So is it or not?”

Mia shrugged.

“Not?” Ellie said.

“I don’t know.”

“I want to say not,” Ellie said. “Then we can do something really good later on.”

Mia grinned some more. As if she liked that idea too.

“Shops,” Ellie said suddenly, and pointed. There was a sign, pointing off down a side-street. Mia turned suddenly, and went that way.

It was a small neighbourhood shopping centre. One row of about five shops, including a takeaway and a small supermarket, one row of car-parks. Mia drove straight past the carpark and around the back. She parked in a service lane, behind the shops.

Ellie sat there, looking at her. They were in an alleyway, beside a skip, looking at the back door of a supermarket.

“What?” Mia said. “You want to be round the front?”

Ellie shook her head slowly.

Mia undid her seatbelt and leaned over, and Ellie sat where she was, and watched. Ellie didn’t lean. She didn’t help. She just sat, and watched Mia, because she felt like being the one who was waiting, and grinning, and making everyone else feel demoralized for once.

It worked.

Mia leaned most of the way towards Ellie, then stopped. “What’s wrong?” she said.

“Nothing.”

Mia looked at her a moment longer. “So are we…?”

Ellie nodded slowly.

Mia kissed her, and Ellie sighed into Mia’s mouth, and kissed her back, and was glad. Just glad they were here.

*

Ellie and Mia kissed. It was warm in the ute, and Mia’s hand was on Ellie’s arm, and suddenly they didn’t have to keep stopping so Mia could go inside.

They could sit here kissing all day.

Ellie thought that was quite wonderful.

She opened her mouth, and felt Mia’s lips on hers, felt Mia’s tongue slowly teasing, and just sat there enjoying it.

She felt close to Mia. She liked Mia. She wanted to be here, doing this, with Mia.

“I like kissing you,” Ellie said, after a moment.

“Good.”

“You’re really good.”

“So’re you.”

That surprised Ellie. Enough she thought about it while they kissed. She’d been assuming Mia was more putting up with her clumsiness and ineptitude just because. Because Mia wanted to seduce straight girls, or something. But that didn’t really make sense. Mia presumably knew other people, other women who were into women. And yet she kept chasing around after Ellie.

Ellie suddenly wondered why. Whether it really was just that Ellie was conveniently disinterested in commitment. Or if it was something more.

She hadn’t though about that before. She’d almost just assumed Mia couldn’t help herself, but that didn’t really make any sense.

She started to think. About being good at kissing, and what Mia wanted, and what else Ellie might be good at.

That was a surprising thought as well.

They kept kissing. Ellie liked kissing, and liked Mia, and liked how they were together. Teasing and fun and sexy, too. She was starting to get used to how Mia made her feel, confused and aching with wanting in equal parts.

She was staring to relax. She was staring to get used to all of this, and not to worry as much about what it all meant, and just to enjoy it.

She was staring to feel brave. Almost brave enough to touch Mia again.

She wanted to be brave, so she did.

She touched Mia.

She put her hand on Mia’s arm, and stroked, gently.

After a moment she moved her hand. She put it on Mia’s breast. Because that seemed like something she ought to do. She put her hand on Mia’s breast, and felt Mia, through her clothes.

Mia felt like a bra.

She felt like a tee-shirt bra so thick Ellie couldn’t feel very much of Mia through it, and so thick Mia probably couldn’t feel Ellie’s hand, either.

It felt, Ellie thought, like grabbing herself, if she’d happened to do that.

Not that it actually mattered.

The actual touching wasn’t nearly as important as knowing that she could.

She wasn’t touching Mia to feel Mia with her hand, not really. What she was feeling with her hand hardly mattered at all. What mattered was the idea she could touch Mia, touch her there, touch Mia’s breast. The knowing she was, that was intriguing and sexy.

That turned her on.

It confused her too. Touching Mia’s breast and not feeling anything of Mia’s breast turned her on, and that didn’t make sense.

After a moment, Ellie squeezed gently, just because it seemed like the thing to do. She squeezed, and kissed, and Mia sighed.

Sighed like Ellie sighed when Mia touched her. Like Ellie did when Mia did things with her legs.

Ellie was quite pleased by that.

They kissed some more, and Ellie had started thinking about Mia’s legs. About what they could do, and what Mia had just done, a little while ago, back at the house.

Mia’s legs turned Ellie on.

Ellie wanted to touch Mia’s legs. She couldn’t help herself.

She lowered her hand.

She put her hand on Mia’s leg, and spread her fingers out, and just rested it there, on Mia’s soft, silky skin. Feeling Mia’s warmth. Feeling Mia move as they kissed, lifting her knee slightly, so her leg pressed up against Ellie’s hand.

Telling Ellie she wanted to be touched, Ellie realized. Telling Ellie without using words, with realizing she was. Telling Ellie as desperately as Ellie sometimes told her. Wanting that touch as much as Ellie always did.

Ellie hesitated a moment, unsure, then slid her hand a little way upwards, up Mia’s leg. Slid, like Mia was always doing to her.

Mia shivered. She sighed into Ellie’s mouth. Her lips went still for a second.

Ellie was quite surprised by that.

She sat for a moment, then slid her hand again, ever so slightly, and this time Mia murmured something into Ellie’s mouth, words that Ellie couldn’t make out.

“You like that,” Ellie said, astonished.

Mia opened her eyes, and whispered, “Well, yeah.”

“Oh,” Ellie said, and just sat there, amazed. She was taken aback. The idea she could do things to Mia like Mia did to her was actually almost disconcerting. Obvious, now Ellie thought about it, but for some reason it had never occurred to her.

This, their thing, always felt like Mia was leading Ellie. Like Mia was deciding what to do, and Ellie was chasing along behind, unsure of herself, a little silly. That Mia was showing Ellie things, and Ellie was letting her. Enjoying what Mia did, but not really participating, just enjoying.

It felt like that too often, Ellie thought, so often she’d started to think it was true.

But it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. Because apparently Ellie could make Mia shiver and melt too.

Just like Mia did to Ellie.

It was both of them, it was them together, and Ellie really quite liked that idea.

Ellie slid her hand some more, feeling silky skin.

Mia was still watching her. Watching, her eyes half closed, all of her very still.

“That’s good?” Ellie said, suddenly unsure. Feeling her sudden confidence disappear.

Mia nodded, but didn’t speak.

“You’re sure?” Ellie said.

Mia nodded again.

“Say something,” Ellie said, worried. “Please.”

“It’s good,” Mia said, her voice a little hoarse. “Don’t stop.”

“Oh,” Ellie said, and suddenly understood. Mia had been quiet because Ellie was good. Because Ellie’s touch was good. Not because Ellie was doing something wrong.

Ellie felt better. She felt pleased, and proud.

She felt confident. She wanted to do this now.

She slid her hand further. She slid until the very tips of her fingers were inside the leg of Mia’s shorts.

She watched her hand, and Mia watched too. Mia was breathing oddly, a little too fast. She was holding onto the armrest of the door, holding tight, like she was trying to stop herself from moving. From grabbing Ellie, Ellie supposed. From hurrying Ellie along.

Ellie understood that feeling because Mia made her feel it all the time. She liked that she could do it back.

She grinned, and slid her hand.

She pushed a little more, but suddenly found her hand wouldn’t go any further.

Mia’s shorts were like Ellie’s shorts, a little too tight to be sensible. Ellie’s hand was half-inside one leg of Mia’s shorts, and was stuck where the cloth began to tighten.

Ellie suddenly didn’t know what to do. She stopped. She went still.

Mia looked at her, and seemed to realize.

“Hold on,” Mia said, in a shaky voice, and quickly undid her shorts.

Ellie watched. She was feeling confident, and proud, and like she could give something back to Mia. Like she really could do to Mia what Mia did to her.

Ellie reached forward. She put her hand on Mia’s tummy. It was warm, and firm, and silky.

Ellie touched. She slid her fingers, slid every so slightly downwards.

She slid further, while Mia watched.

Ellie was about to touch Mia, to slip her hand inside Mia’s clothes, and she’d never wanted to touch anything so much in her life as she did Mia right then.

*

Ellie’s hand was inside Mia’s shorts, was slithering down Mia’s tummy, and Ellie still couldn’t quite believe it was.

She was proud of herself. She was feeling brave. She was excited enough that her hand was trembling a little, although Mia didn’t seem to have noticed.

Ellie was actually going to do this. She was going to do to Mia what Mia had already done to her.

She felt completely ready.

She was about to start, and then her hand got tangled.

It got tangled in exactly the way Ellie had expected it to, when she and Mia had talked about this at the market together. Ellie had been right. Sliding her hand into Mia’s clothes wasn’t the same as into her own, because her hand was back to front for what she was used to.

It did need to be the other way around, and her wrist didn’t bend the way it needed, and she sat there, helpless, completely unsure what to do next.

Ellie almost felt silly. She would have, if she hadn’t been busy feeling smug because she was right.

Ellie glanced up, and saw Mia looking at her, and tried very hard not to make herself say anything. It wasn’t the time, and Mia probably wouldn’t know what she meant anyway, and it was just a bad idea to say.

But Mia was looking at her, and in the end she couldn’t help it.

“I told you,” Ellie said.

Mia looked confused. Mia was probably a little distracted.

“At the market,” Ellie said. “I said it was different this way around.”

Mia nodded. “I remember.”

“It is. See?”

“Ellie…” Mia said. “Maybe not now?”

“Oh yeah,” Ellie said. “Sorry. Should I…?”

“You could, yeah.”

Ellie moved in her seat a little, trying to reach, but couldn’t. She undid her seatbelt, and sat up. She leaned over, leaned further, in the end shifted her whole arm to a different angle and finally managed and put her hand back in Mia’s shorts.

She stopped, and tired to work out what to do.

She knew what to do, of course she knew. She just wasn’t sure exactly how to do it. She was nervous about being too rough, about scratching or scraping with her nails, or jabbing Mia with a finger and hurting her.

Ellie was suddenly over-thinking something that really shouldn’t be that difficult. She tried to make herself to stop.

When Mia had fingered Ellie the first time, she’d just pushed Ellie against a wall and done it, Ellie thought. But now it was Ellie’s turn, she was sitting there, hesitating, thinking about everything that could go wrong.

Mia sat there waiting. Ellie looked at her. Mia was hoping, Ellie thought. Mia was turned on. Mia was into this, and didn’t seem nervous at all.

Ellie thought about that for a moment.

If Mia wasn’t worried by what Ellie might do to her, then probably Ellie shouldn’t worry either. And Mia was nice. She liked Ellie. They were friends, as well as all this. If Ellie did something wrong, Ellie thought, Mia would probably just show her a better way. And if Ellie did it right, Mia would be happy.

Ellie liked Mia, and wanted her to be happy.

Ellie decided she had to stop worrying and just get on with it. She decided she was just going to. Because none of this was nearly as complicated as it was starting to seem in her head.

“You really don’t need to,” Mia said, after a moment. “Not if you don’t want to.”

“Yeah I do,” Ellie said.

“You don’t. I promise. We can just…”

“Shut up,” Ellie said.

Mia looked surprised.

“I mean it,” Ellie said. “Just shut up and let me.”

Mia grinned, and shrugged, and said, “Okay.”

Ellie was going to. She knew she was going to.

She was starting to feel sure of herself in a way she hardly ever had before with Mia, and she couldn’t work out why.

The difference seemed to be having her hand in Mia’s shorts.

“I’ve never done this before,” Ellie said. “That’s all.”

“I know.”

“No,” Ellie said, “Not like, oh my god, I’m shit and don’t know what to do. Like, be turned on. I’ve never done this before, and I’m about to with you.”

Mia nodded slowly.

“I’ve never done this with anyone before,” Ellie said. “I’ve never touched another woman. Like this. And I’m about to with you.”

“Yeah.”

“Because I want to. With you. That much.”

“Yeah,” Mia whispered, and sat up, and kissed Ellie.

Kissed her, while Ellie rested her hand on the bottom of Mia’s tummy. On the part of Mia that her shorts would have covered, if they’d been done up. On the part of her that was right above her underwear, without quite touching it.

Ellie rather liked that thought. It was intriguing enough that she almost didn’t notice the kissing at first. Not for a moment, at least. Then she did, and got distracted, and kissed Mia’s open mouth. And because she was distracted, her hand slipped a little, and Mia made a little sigh.

And then Ellie was aware of her hand again.

Ellie opened her eyes.

Mia looked lost. Mia looked as lost as Ellie usually felt when Mia touched her. Mia was gripping Ellie’s wrist, as if afraid to let go in case Ellie disappeared. Mia was desperate. She clearly, obviously wanted Ellie’s touch, just like Ellie wanted hers, and had been wanting it all afternoon.

Ellie liked that. She really liked that.

Because knowing Mia wanted her that badly changed everything.

This wasn’t Mia chasing Ellie after all.

That was what Ellie had thought this was, but it just wasn’t true. It wasn’t Mia chasing Ellie, it was them both chasing each other, and Ellie had never quite realized that until now.

Mia wanted Ellie as much as Ellie wanted Mia, and Mia reacted to Ellie’s kisses and touches just like Ellie did to hers.

It was equal. It was fair.

Ellie could do things to Mia like Mia could do to her, and that made everything seem better.

Ellie was terribly relieved to have finally realized that.

*

Mia was still kissing Ellie, and still seemed to be lost in Ellie’s mouth, lost in the touch of Ellie’s hand.

Ellie wanted to explain what she’d just realized but didn’t want to stop kissing to do it.

She decided to try while they kissed.

“I really want you,” Ellie said into Mia’s mouth. “I’m not just finding excuses not to touch you, I promise. I’m not making problems that aren’t there.”

“Okay,” Mia said back. “I’m glad.”

She put her hand behind Ellie’s head and kept kissing Ellie, determinedly so, like she wanted Ellie to keep quiet.

“Wait,” Ellie said, after a moment. “Stop kissing. I want to touch you.”

“You are.”

“Stop kissing.”

Mia did. She looked at Ellie.

“We can sort of kiss and touch each other at the same time,” Mia said. “Just if you hadn’t realized…?”

She was teasing, Ellie thought, but for once Ellie didn’t mind.

“No,” she said. “I want this to be…” She didn’t know what she wanted.

“Solemn?” Mia said, after a moment.

“Yeah,” Ellie said. “Actually.”

She tried to decide if Mia was teasing.

“I know,” Mia said, and seemed not to be. “I get it.”

“So be solemn then,” Ellie said.

Mia looked like she was trying. She was biting her lip, though, as if she was trying not to laugh.

“Never mind,” Ellie said.

“I am. I’m trying.”

“Don’t try too hard,” Ellie said. “You look funny.”

“Don’t care,” Mia said.

“I’m just saying.”

“Ellie,” Mia said. “Just… Please?”

“Sorry,” Ellie said, and slid her hand a little further. Inside of Mia’s underwear, so she could feel warm cloth on one side of her fingers, and warm Mia on the other. Inside Mia’s undies, but not so far she was touching anything except skin.

She could feel heat, though. She could feel warmth, just past her fingertips.

When she slid a tiny bit further, she was going to be doing something she never had before. With Mia. Who she wanted to do it with.

Ellie thought a little about that.

She looked at Mia, into Mia’s eyes. They were wide, and a little desperate, the pupils very big and dark.

“I’ve never done this before,” Ellie said softly.

“I know. You keep saying.”

“I know you know. I want us both to know. I want you to be turned on like I am by thinking about that.”

“I am. I honestly am. I promise.”

“And also I’m just…” Ellie stopped.

“Savouring?”

Ellie nodded.

“Me,” Mia said. “I’m just, tingling. Just so’s you know. I’m squeezed up. I’m about to burst.”

Ellie realized Mia was serious. Mia had her hands at her sides, and was holding onto the edges of the seat. She had her back oddly bent, like she’d started lifting up towards Ellie’s hand, then stopped herself. She looked tense. A lot of her looked tense. There were muscles showing in her arms and legs.

“I’ve never done this before,” Ellie said again, softly, like it was something wondrous.

“I know,” Mia said, like she thought it was too. “But please, just fucking please…”

Ellie was about to move, to slide all the way, to push her hand further, until she felt Mia wet and soft, until she was against Mia, or inside Mia, or whatever she needed to do to touch Mia like Mia touched her.

She was about to do everything Mia wanted.

Then a delivery truck roared past beside them, pulling into the service lane. It was loud, and very near, right against the window of the ute.

Ellie and Mia both jumped.

Ellie snatched her hand away, and Mia yanked her top down, over her shorts, and then they both sat there looking at each other while the delivery truck went past.

Ellie suddenly realized where they were, and how distracted she’d been. From Mia’s face, she was realizing too. Ellie probably should have been looking around, but she hadn’t been. She hadn’t looked at all.

They’d probably been lucky no-one had caught them.

The delivery truck slowed down stopped a little in front of them, at the next goods entrance along from where they were parked. A man got out, and opened the back, and began unloading boxes.

“Fuck,” Mia said, watching the truck. “Just fuck.”

“He might not be long.”

“He looks like he will.”

“We could go somewhere else.”

Mia didn’t answer. She just sat there. Then said, “Fuck,” again.

“I was,” Ellie said after a moment. “I promise I was going to.”

“I know,” Mia said. “I could see you were.”

Silence.

“That’s what makes it so awful,” Mia said. “I knew you were about to, right then.”

Ellie looked at the truck. The driver wasn’t paying any attention to them.

“We still could…” she said.

Mia looked at her.

“Should I?” Ellie said

Mia hesitated, then shook her head. “There’s better places,” she said. “Somewhere quieter. Your place or mine.”

Mia did up her shorts. She seemed disappointed. Ellie watched, disappointed too.

Ellie thought for a moment, and then said, carefully, because she was proud of how much Mia had wanted her, “You can wait that long? For your place or mine?”

Mia grinned. She looked at Ellie, and grinned, and leaned over and kissed her quickly. “You have no idea,” Mia said. “None at all. It’ll be close. It’ll be horribly, painfully close. But I think I’ll just manage.”

“I think I do,” Ellie said. “Have an idea. All afternoon, remember?”

And Mia grinned some more. “Yeah,” she said, as if she was feeling smug now too. “Suppose.”

“Later?” Ellie said. “We will?”

“I really think we have to.”

Ellie thought for a moment. “I feel like that,” she said. “How you feel right now. I always feel like that, around you.”

Mia nodded. “I know.”

“And now you feel that way too.”

Mia didn’t look entirely happy about that. “Yeah,” she said.

Ellie sat there a moment longer, then said, “Completely serves you right.” Then she opened the ute door, and got out, and went into the shop to get drinks.

She was wet. She hadn’t quite realized while she was thinking about Mia, but everything had turned her on too. She was wet she could feel it as she walked. She didn’t like it, and felt a bit embarrassed. She hoped Mia wouldn’t know, when she got back in the ute, but Mia probably would, since Mia could tell things like that from across whole rooms.

Actually, Ellie thought, she hoped Mia did know.

She hoped Mia was too, and was suffering like Ellie was, and was sitting there in the truck, right now, watching Ellie walk away and being tempted to finish herself off. Just like Ellie was always tempted to, after Mia did something like this to her.

Ellie went inside, and found bottled water, and thought about what had just happened.

She decided she didn’t mind the stopping.

She understood better what was happening now, and she felt a lot better, having some of the power herself. She liked this more when they were both driving each other a bit wild, instead of it all being Mia.

She decided that, and was so pleased with herself she forgot to be frustrated.

At least, until she came back out to the ute and saw Mia again, waiting. Frustrated herself, and utterly wanting Ellie.

*

Ellie hardly spoke as they drove back to Rose and Amanda’s house. She wasn’t actually sure what to say after everything that had happened, and she also didn’t especially want to talk.

She wanted Mia to be thinking instead. Thinking about what just hadn’t happened. She wanted Mia all full of need, not distracted by conversation. She wanted Mia barely able to stand the waiting until they got somewhere alone and Ellie could do all the things she wanted to do to Mia.

Even things Ellie didn’t know existed yet.

They drove back to Rose and Amanda’s in silence, and Ellie hoped Mia’s quiet was as much about aching with need as her own was.

Ellie was looking forward to what happened next. She looking forward a lot, but when they got back, things between Rose and Amanda had got a lot worse.

Rose was outside, standing in the driveway, looking furious and crying, both at the same time. Amanda was standing at the front door, as if she was blocking it, and not letting Rose back into the house.

“Fuck,” Mia said as they pulled up, and actually sounded worried. She stopped the ute, and got out, saying, “Hey, is everything okay…?”

It wasn’t.

Rose and Amanda both told her at once. Something about all Rose had done was ask if Amanda actually wanted this awful piece of shit that someone gave her, and suddenly Amanda had told her to leave.

Mia left the ute’s door open, and went towards the house, saying everything would be fine, just calm down.

Ellie stayed where she was. She didn’t think she knew Rose and Amanda well enough to get involved. She sat in the ute, and pretended not to be there, even though she could hear everything through the open driver’s door.

Mia went up to the house, sounding conciliatory, saying could they all calm down a bit please. Mia was trying, but it didn’t seem to be working. Amanda said she wanted Rose to leave. Just to leave, to go, that Rose could get the rest of her things another time, when Amanda was at work.

Mia reached Rose, and hugged her quickly, but was still trying to talk to Amanda.

Ellie thought the hug might be a mistake, in case it looked like Mia was taking sides.

Amanda seemed to think so too. She looked at Mia and Rose, and looked just icy cold, hurt and angry and exhausted too.

“Just go,” Amanda said. “Please.”

Then went inside and closed the door.

She probably locked it too, Ellie thought. Ellie would have. Just to make the point.

Rose looked distraught.

Mia was talking to Rose, standing in the middle of the driveway. She put her arm around Rose, and started leading her back towards the ute.

“Maybe we should go,” Mia was saying, “And let her calm down,” and Rose was nodding, seeming to agree. “She’s just angry,” Mia said, “She’ll calm down,” and Rose sniffed, and nodded, and let Mia lead her away from the house.

Mia opened one of the back doors of the ute, the one behind Ellie, and got Rose to sit there, half inside. Mia was hugging Rose, was rubbing Rose’s arm, and saying it would be okay, and it was fine just to go now, since they had most of Rose’s stuff.

Ellie sat where she was for a moment, unsure what to do. Unsure how serious this was.

Then she decided it was too late for polite, with Rose right behind her in the ute, and that continuing to ignore Rose was just weird.

Ellie sat up in her seat, and turned around, and tried to look sympathetic.

Sympathetic, since there wasn’t much useful she could do.

Mia was still hugging Rose, as best she could with Rose half in and half out the ute’s doorway. She saw Ellie move, and met Ellie’s eyes past Rose’s shoulder, and silently mouthed, “Sorry.”

Ellie shrugged and mouthed back, “It’s fine,” because there wasn’t really much else that Mia could do.

Ellie waited, like Mia seemed to be waiting, and let Rose cry herself out.

After a while Rose stopped, but she still looked completely shattered.

As if she hadn’t expected Amanda to actually tell her to go, Ellie thought. As if maybe the fighting was normal, and the squabbling as they packed had seemed almost normal too. But that now, once Amanda had actually closed the door, Rose was starting realize, truly realize, that it was over, and she was on her own.

Ellie felt awful for her.

She wanted to help. She just didn’t know how.

She felt helpless.

She felt horny too, and a little resentful as well. Because her flirting day of fun was being ruined.

Ellie stopped, and thought, and wondered where that had come from.

It was an awful thing to think. She felt ashamed. More than ashamed, because she was being quite breathtakingly selfish.

That made her feel guilty instead, and the guilt almost a relief.

Ellie looked at Mia, still hugging Rose, and mouthed, silently, “Don’t worry, it’s fine.” It was a complicated thing to try and say, silently like this, but Mia nodded, as if she understood.

“As long as you need,” Ellie mouthed, and Mia nodded again.

After a moment Mia mouthed, “Thank you.”

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