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I look at where Rachel stands, the centre of attention, in her silk shirt, her short-but-not-too-short leather skirt, her black stockings and her “fuck-me” pumps. She is flirting with Richard, my boss, and he is obviously captivated.

Hot tears sting my eyes, but I can’t show them. I walk to the drinks, where Richard’s wife Susan is standing, stiff, and clearly angry.

“She’s very vivacious, your roommate, isn’t she? I wouldn’t have thought she had much in common with a quiet girl like you.” Susan says coldly.

If I could tell Susan, tell everyone, I could put a stop to this. If I could just screw up the courage to say “She’s my lover, not my room-mate.” That’s what all this is about after all, the sexy get-up, the flirting, she is punishing me for denying her.

“Bel,” Rachel calls out, “my choker has come loose. Be a love and tie it for me again.” There is no way I can refuse gracefully, and she knows it.

I go over and stand behind her, and she uses both hands to lift her heavy mane of mahogany-coloured hair out of the way. I hear Richard stifle a groan and mutter “Tease” at her, as I pick at the hopelessly knotted ribbon.

In my mind I can see what he sees, and can only agree with him. With her arms up and back like that her sheer white shirt will be pulled tight – stretched across the fullness of her breasts. I know she’s getting a kick out of doing this to me, and I’m sure that not only is she aroused, but that the fact will be absolutely obvious. I can picture the fabric clinging to those curves, see the sharp jutting points, and it takes all my willpower not to whimper my desire.

She smells like a summer garden, roses and freesias and camellias, and she makes my senses swim.

I bite down on my lower lip, trying to wipe the image from my mind, and finally, after what seems like an age, I get the choker retied and go to move back to where I was before. She stops me, with a hand on my wrist.

She warned me that she would do this if I didn’t make the situation clear. She stormed and wept and said that I was ashamed of her. She told me that if I didn’t “claim” her she would make me sorry. I want to, I really do, but I can’t face the knowing looks, the sleazy comments, the nodding gossip about “Oh, so that’s why Daniel left her.” It’s not. Until I met Rachel, I didn’t even know I was bi.

“You’re an angel,” she declares loudly, for the room to hear, brushing her scarlet lips across my cheek, and whispering for my ears alone, “Are you aching yet, baby? I hope so.”

I walk back to Susan, and pour myself a large vodka.

“Rachel’s an outrageous flirt,” I say, “but she has her good points.”

Her bright hair spread on the pillow in the morning. The way she holds me. Her gentleness. How she gave me back myself when Daniel had convinced me that I was useless, worthless, boring and undesirable. The fact she loves me. Even her behaviour tonight I deserve, all she wants is for me to love her back, openly.

Susan looks doubtful. As Richard laughs again I see pain flit across her face. I have to say something to reassure her.

“Look Sue, if it’s any consolation, Rachel really isn’t interested in Richard, she’s just playing. She has someone of her own.”

“Really? I’ve never heard about him”

Tell her!

I blush, and reply “Her lover has their reasons for not wanting it to be open.”

“Oh, I see.” She is all disapproval again.

No, you don’t see. You really don’t. Gods, I wish I wasn’t such a coward.

As I go to lift the glass to my lips, Rachel calls out to me again. “Don’t drink that please Belinda.”

I look at her. She comes over to me, smiles at Susan. “I had a long day at work, I’m tired, and I’d like to go home, if you’re ready. And, in case you’ve forgotten, you’re driving.”

I nod, and we say our goodbyes.

As we walk to the car, she looks at me.

“I wanted to hurt you more than that, you know, but I just couldn’t. You looked so lost, standing there with Susan, I just wanted to kiss you and make it better.”

Forgive me?” I ask, reaching for her hand, lifting it to my lips, and kissing it.

She shakes her head.

“No,” she says, “but I love you.”

I don’t deserve her.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

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