Nancy blinked groggily. It seemed to be quite light in the room. Her head hurt. Her mouth was dry. Her brain was oddly alert but simultaneously lacking in focus. Her left arm had gone numb where she had been lying on it, and as she rolled over to one side to free it and blood started to recirculate, it felt like a thousand tiny explosions.
Managing to lift her head slightly from the pillow she could see Kathie sitting up in the other bed, reading.
“Mmm... ello,” Nancy said.
“Ah, you’re awake, are you?” Kathie put her book to one side.
“Mmm. Or possibly dead. Not sure.”
Kathie came over and kissed her gently on the forehead. “I don’t think you’re dead, my love,” she said, sitting on the edge of Nancy’s bed.
“Oh.” Nancy gazed up at her. It was a beautiful sight, but unfortunately the world around Kathie was spinning in a rather unpleasant way. She closed her eyes.
“Oh, my love.”
“What happened?” Nancy asked, her eyes still closed. There was a pause, and when she opened her eyes, Kathie was looking at her with mild amusement.
“You got horrendously drunk.”
Nancy thought carefully for a moment. If she tried hard, she could remember bits of the night before but she wasn’t completely sure of the exact sequence of events.
“Oh...there was the wine, and then Biddy brought out the gin...”
“And the rest.”
“Why are you alright?”
“Because, unlike you, and, apparently, the rest of our colleagues, I know my limits. And I got to spend quite a long time in the bathroom looking after Sharlie who was being rather profusely sick.”
“Oh.” Nancy was hit by her own mild wave of nausea. “Oh, I shouldn’t drink.”
“Not that much, anyway,” Kathie agreed, handing her a glass of water from the bedside table. “Here, have this.”
Nancy did as she was told. Then a thought struck her. “Oh, God...I didn’t say – or do – anything stupid, did I?”
“More stupid than gin, rum and campari cocktails?”
“About us, I mean,” Nancy persisted.
“What, can’t you remember?”
Nancy looked horrified. “What?”
“Well, you did go on at length explaining why you find me so attractive.”
Nancy groaned. “Why didn’t you stop me?”
Kathie looked at her. “Vanity?” she shrugged.
“I didn’t do that at all, did I?”
Kathie shook her head with a grin.
“If I wasn’t currently immobile, I’d get you for that.”
“There was that whole bit where we got caught making love by one of our colleagues, though.”
“Oh. That. Yes.” Nancy paused, “But I’m pretty sure that happened before I got hideously drunk.”
Kathie nodded ruefully.
“I think that might be why I drank so much,” Nancy admitted.
“What, am I really that bad?” Kathie asked in mock indignation.
“No, you numpty, you’re perfect and you know it. But being caught...”
“Oh, Nance.” Kathie decided to get into the bed with her. Nancy suddenly frowned.
“What are you doing? Why were you in that bed?”
“My love, last night you were very drunk and largely insensible and not at all the most attractive proposition to share a single bed with.”
“Oh. OK. As long as you’ve not gone off me.”
“Now, is that likely?” Kathie kissed her gently, and they arranged themselves so that Kathie was sat with her back against the wall, with Nancy resting her head on her lap.
“Will she say anything, do you think?” Kathie asked, after a few moments, stroking Nancy’s hair back from her face.
“She said she wouldn’t.”
“Do you believe her?”
“We don’t really have a lot of choice.”
“We could stop all this– I don’t want you to lose your job over me.”
“Oh. Kathie. Frankly, I’d rather resign than lose you.” Nancy manouvred herself into a sitting position, wincing as she did so. “Goodness, that sounded rather melodramatic, didn’t it. We’ve only been seeing each other what, three and a half weeks. But I mean it. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.”
Her face suddenly went white.
“But oh, can I have some more water, please? I really don’t feel too well.”
It was a ramshackle crew that assembled in the hotel lobby just before lunchtime, with a number of rather sore heads and Ruth, quite inexplicably, displaying a pronounced limp. With desires ranging from “strong coffee” “..and dry toast” “...fried breakfast” “...cigarettes, please” “...water. I only want water,” Kathie and Nancy suggested that a nearby cafe (which they had discovered in one of their brief forays from the hotel) was certain to supply most, if not all, of these requests.
Just as they were on their way out of the hotel, Peggy stopped.
"Oh, bother, I’ve left my purse upstairs.” She said. “You go ahead. I’ll catch up. Or...Nancy, you’ll wait for me, won’t you?”
But as the others left, rather than going back upstairs, Peggy headed straight for the hotel lounge and ordered two black coffees.
Trailing behind her, Nancy asked with some confusion, “I thought you’d forgotten your purse?”
Peggy put her hand in her pocket and drew out that item. “A small lie. I thought we should probably have a chat away from the others.”
While they were waiting for coffee to be brought to them, they discussed their relative hangovers and the probability of the both of them still being more than a little drunk. And then, just after the waiter had departed leaving them two steaming mugs, Peggy said, “So.”
And Nancy replied, “So.”
“Are you sure about this – the two of you? I mean - It’s not like there aren’t plenty of men who’d be interested in you....either of you....if this is just some kind of...game...experiment...it’s a bit of a dangerous one.”
“It’s not a game and it’s not an experiment.” Nancy paused. “It’s just the way I am. A husband, marriage, babies, just don’t appeal.”
“And Kathie does?”
“Oh, completely. She’s all I could want.”
“And what does she think?”
Nancy went shy. “Well, I don’t want to presume, but I get the impression she likes me...”
Peggy smiled wickedly, “From the little I saw last night she likes you a lot...”
“Peggy!” Nancy blushed to remember how she and Kathie had been discovered the night before.
“Is this the first time you’ve...I’m sorry – it’s not my place to ask. But I’m...trying to find my feet with this. You don’t have to tell me anything.”
Nancy tried to weigh up the odds of telling and not telling, trying to work out could be told, and what was hers to tell.
“We’re not going into this blind. We’re neither of us...” Nancy rummaged for a word “....inexperienced.” As Peggy smirked, Nancy grimaced. “That probably wasn’t the right word to have gone for. What I’m saying is, we’ve both of us had relationships before.” She paused. “With women, I mean.”
“Yes, I know that’s what you meant.”
“Sorry. I...I think I’m just out of practise of talking about...this. It’s been a while.”
“Has there been anyone else while you’ve been at the school?”
“No. But when I was in England there was... and....” She sighed. ”...It’s a long story. I’ll tell you about it one day. But...not now. Now’s not really the time. Lord, this feels weird.”
“Talking about this. I mean – no-one here knows about this. About me. And it’s something I’ve barely spoken of to other people for so long. And now, there’s someone like you, who I’ve known for years, and there’s this big thing that we’ve never spoken of, and now I’m talking about it. It’s like there’s been a whole hidden part of me. I’d forgotten...I’d forgotten the sense of...relief...that comes from talking about this. From not hiding or...ignoring...a whole part of what I am.”
“Well, from what I’ve heard, this kind of thing’s becoming rather fashionable nowadays.” Peggy chuckled. Nancy shrugged. “You know,” Peggy went on, “I don’t think I’d have guessed, but now I know I can’t say I’m surprised.”
“I’m not sure how I should take that!”
“Oh...I mean...certain things make sense now. And you know, anyone with half a brain would have seen how close you and Kathie have been for the last few months, and all those little looks between the pair of you, and the making excuses to get an early night, and then have used that information in their half-brain to jump to the right conclusion...and prevent themselves from barging in on you when you were...well...rather preoccupied.”
“Indeed.” They laughed.
“I am sorry about that, you know. If I’d have known, I’d never have barged in like that...”
“Yes, you’ve said. As long as it doesn’t happen again. And thank you.”
“For taking this so...calmly.”
Peggy was thoughtful for a moment. “I don’t see the point in not being...calm...about it. I mean, it’s your life. And if it’s what you and Kathie want, then so be it. You seem like you’re...good together.”
“I think we are. Will you say anything?”
“I said last night...I think...the details are a wee bit hazy...that I wouldn’t. And even if I can’t really remember saying it, I mean it. If you want me to keep this to myself, I will.”
“I appreciate that. I’m...I’m not ashamed of what I am and I’m not ashamed of my relationship with Kathie. But it really is early days for us – less than a month. And I really...I really want this to work. So I appreciate you not putting us under that extra pressure.”
Peggy smiled. “We probably ought to be catching up with the others.”
“Yes, they’re going to be wondering where exactly it was that you lost your purse.”
“Aha, I’ve thought this through – given your display of map reading yesterday, I’m going to blame us being delayed on your getting lost skills.”
“Well, that’s hardly fair. Can’t we say it’s because you were throwing up in the toilet after drinking too much yesterday?”
“No, because my name’s not Sharlie Andrews and I can handle my drink. And you’re the appointed scapegoat here.”
Friendly banter took them almost up to the cafe where the others were waiting, but before they got there, Peggy had one last thing to say to Nancy.
“One thing, Nancy, you probably don’t need telling, but I’ll say it anyway. Be discreet. Not everyone’s going to like it if it gets out.”