OK, right, well ummm...Yeah I know. It's been a while. What? Months... OK, over a year. Sorry about that. I always intended to finish this one, but life sort of got in the way. Life in the shape of a gorgeous 5'2" third year med student called Annabelle. She has a way of...distracting me...when I decide to sit at the laptop and crank out some prose. But even the beautiful Annabelle has had to give way to the urge to write. You asked for it. This is the start of the conclusion of 'Dirty Girl'. Possible smut ahead, but not until the angst lemon has been well and truly squeezed.
Reacquainted with those basics of human civilization, soap and water, passing strawberry shampoo and body lotion on the way, I dressed quickly in something simple and un-flashy. Just a clean pair of skinny black jeans, only slightly ripped at the knees...and a new blue and white v neck tee. My favourite Nikes, scrubbed a bit around the edges so they almost resembled the original grey and white, finished it off. Then I was ready. As I'll ever be, anyway...
I got on a city bus crowded with noisy homeward bound schoolkids to the housing estate, then walked a few hundred yards to the front gate of the house. Stopping only to take a deep, steadying breath, I fixed my face into something approaching a calm expression and knocked firmly on the only slightly peeling green door. I noticed one of those tourist souvenir Turkish 'lucky' eyes nailed over the porch. Whether or not it brought good fortune to the occupants, I don't know, but I secretly wished it would give me some.
There was a delay...quite a long delay if I'm honest… and part of my brain was cheering the ongoing silence inside. Maybe there wasn't anyone home, maybe I could do this another day...maybe even after a glass or two of that cheapo Sladki voddie I'd got used to downing by the bottle to numb the day, I could come back…?
But then I heard movement inside and the shuffling of feet in the hall. My heart thumped almost painfully in anticipation. Show time.
The door opened slowly and a teenage head peered round it. The look of shock on that face might have been amusing...if I'd had a single shred of humour left inside me. We stared at each other for a couple of seconds. Me with the same fixed half smile I'd contorted my face into before walking up the path, the other person gaping and wide eyed. So far, so predictable.
"N...Naomi?" the occupant said in a high pitched voice several octaves above its normal pitch.
"The same" I said levelly. "Can I come in?" My voice may not have wobbled as much as the person opposite me, but it was a fucking close thing.
For a moment, I thought the door might be slammed in my face. I was half expecting it. But although the eyes stayed wide and ever so slightly terrified, the mouth worked into something approximating a smile and the door opened to its fullest extent.
JJ stepped aside and let me walk inside.
I bet you were thinking I'd found my courage under the unmade bed and cloaked myself in Campbell armour for a trip to the Fitches? Well, that was definitely on the agenda for later. But right now I had to slay a lesser dragon. Call me a coward...why not? I've been that many times in the past. But I needed this. Needed to confront my fears and insecurity with the only boy who'd known Emily the way I had. Carnally, naked, willing. Words that echoed in my head as we skirted the stairs and made our way into the neat kitchen. I spared a glance up those mundane, carpet covered treads. Emily had probably walked up there once...with a no doubt drooling JJ in tow. Upstairs...somewhere, presumably in his Y front strewn adolescent fucking bedroom...she had given herself to him. Made love with him...fucked him, my evil inner voice goaded me. What was it Katie said under her breath in the shed when she thought I wasn't listening?
"Saw to him good and proper"
Words that slashed me like a filleting knife. Words she'd whispered to Karen McClair while I was standing there, head spinning and ears singing, about to launch bitter, stinging insults at a white faced Emily. Words that I wasn't supposed to hear.
"Saw to him good and proper...he had a smile on his face for days, Freddie said"
JJ looked back at me over his shoulder as I followed him into the room. He went to the other side of the plastic covered kitchen table and regarded me nervously. Never the most confident of souls, I could see he was on the verge of making a dash for the back door. Probably thought I had something sharp and lethal in my bag...ready to slice off those treacherous 'bits'...you know, the ones that had been inside Emily...my fucking Emily. I suppose my expression of calm and reasonableness had slipped a tad by now. Murderous would be closer. Those stairs and the unseen destination above had fucked with my head a bit.
While he sat there, picking at his fingernails and trembling, I let my imagination taunt me some more.
Had she come down in the morning….after, all cheerful smiles and easy chatter? Sat comfortably with JJ's mum, using that effortless Emily charm, while the tea was brewed and the toast browned? The morning after the night before. His mother probably delighted JJ had broken his duck..."and with such a pretty girl too"...hoping this one night stand turned into something more, for her shy and awkward son?
All this flashed through my mind as my smile turned into a grimace and the muscles in my cheeks tensed and flexed.
"Uh...oh...umm, would you like some tea Naomi...or mango juice?...I have loads in the fridge...gives me energy...mum gets a discount at the 7/11..."
JJ babbled as he is wont to do. His eyes kept flicking around the room, looking for an escape route. I shook my head and sat heavily on the chair he had pulled out for me. I saw a small relaxation of his face. Probably hoped me being seated gave him at least a sporting chance of making a run for it?
"I want to ask you something JJ" I said flatly.
I had no intention of physically attacking him, but saw no point in making him any more comfortable than he was. He still fucked my Emily, and forgiveness for that was as distant as the Dog Star…
He sat up stiffly and folded his arms defensively across his chest. Eyes betraying his unease.
"Naomi, I'm so sorr..." he started to say, but I waved a hand at his attempted apology. That wasn't why I was here, at all.
"No you're not JJ...why the fuck would you be? You nailed Emily Fitch, for Christ's sake?...something no other lad at Roundview has ever come close to?"
JJ gulped at my brutal rejection of his apology.
"So why...I mean I AM sorry Naomi...it was before you and...before even Emily and Effy got togeth…."
I growled at that clumsy reminder of my other love rival and he started like a deer caught in some very bright headlights.
"So not the point JJ. I didn't come here to hear you say how sorry you are. I just want some answers to a couple of simple questions?"
JJ nodded and swallowed hard, his eyes drifting to the fridge. I guess the mango juice was calling.
"Was it just that one time?" I said flatly.
He swallowed again and nodded.
"Yeah...It was after the night Emily got wasted at that club and you weren't talking to her...Cook was being his usual self and Katie dragged Emily out of the club before he got too handsy. I found her sitting on the kerb. She said...she said.."
"What?" I growled. Nothing about that night was going to make me happy, but even though the details were likely to stab me like a blunt blade, I had to hear it all. I'd tortured myself enough these past few days, imagining some rampant shagging session with a naked Emily losing herself in hetero lust with this...boy. Allowing him to take what I had stupidly thought was mine alone. I needed to hear what happened.
"She said that she knew how I felt...being alone. We talked and she said she didn't want to go home on her own"
Another stab of guilt hit me. I had made her so unhappy she'd got totally trashed and ended up being groped by the ever predatory Cook. Katie had rescued her from him, but then abandoned her on the cold kerb, shivering, wasted.
"We came back here and she asked if she could stay the night. My mum and dad were asleep and..." he looked away before going on "...I gave her something to wear in bed and then…."
I stared at him coldly. Now we were getting to the actual act, my stomach gave an unpleasant lurch.
"...she told me that sometimes we have to ask for what we want...otherwise it won't happen?"
"And of course...you wanted to shag her? You always have, haven't you JJ" I said.
Again, JJ's eyes flicked to the fridge. That mango juice must be hot stuff, I thought.
"No...I mean yes..I mean Emily's lovely and really beautiful and..."
"And you were never gonna turn down the chance to bone her, were you?"
Strangely, his expression hardened at that jibe. I suppose even the meek have a tipping point.
"No" he said, his voice stronger. "No, I wasn't. I liked Emily...like Emily. She's sweet and clever and kind...all the things that I want in a girlfriend. But be honest with yourself Naomi...you shut her out...made her feel her feelings were all one sided. She needed someone too. We helped each other that night. I know you all think I'm stupid Naomi...but I'm not. I know Emily is gay. She loves you, not me. She slept with me because she knew it was important to me to be normal. It was before you two got together properly anyway. I'm not ashamed of being her friend that night?"
My face burned as the truth of those words arced through me. I still hated the fact that he'd had her. But he was right. I doled out great lumps of rejection to Emily for months. Emily slept with JJ to make him feel good, not for herself. My shame at how I'd treated her made my legs shake. Just as well I was sitting down. I blinked at his impassive gaze.
"I...I" I started, unsure where I wanted to take this now. Far from interrogating JJ, it was me now on the witness stand. But I needed to know one more thing, even if it killed me.
"Was it...uh...was it just the one time Jay?" I said quietly.
"Yeah...like I said Emily is 100% gay...and she loves you very much Naomi. I think you probably need to talk to her now, not me?"
I left the house in silence. Not looking at the stairs any more on the way out. No need to torture myself. This house was in the past and Emily, if she'd have me, is my future. As I closed the front door, I heard the fridge door open and close. I managed a wry smile at that. Mango to the rescue.
Time to man up. I told myself as I stood at the bus stop, ignoring everyone around me. Time for me to do some apologising…
OK, next chapter is the last. Naomi goes to see Emily. Thanks for reading!