by F.J. Davey
Copyright © by F.J. Davey, February 8, 2003
Mel shivered even though the day was hot. She wasn't cold, she was scared. This was the last day of living in her home town of Broome in the far north of Western Australia. Tomorrow she would be moving south to Perth -- to another home, another life, another future. Her fear of meeting new people was overwhelming and the knowledge that she was the cause of her mother and herself moving was scary.
Margaret Fogerthorpe knocked and entered her daughter's bedroom to check that she was packed and ready.
"We have to be up early tomorrow to catch the coach. It's a good job you're used to being up and out of the house early." Mel grimaced. For years she had been leaving the house by 5am, six mornings a week, cycling down to the local pool, training for two hours and riding home in time for breakfast and then school.
Mel's talent for swimming had emerged at the age of thirteen and for nearly four years she had regularly been the champion, first in her age groups and then in the open competitions in the surrounding areas. The state-wide development program had picked her out as a potential state competitor for the last couple of years and, this year, her mother's circumstances had allowed her own ambitions for her daughter to lead to organising a work transfer, buying a house and re-locating to Perth.
The state's top woman coach had been approached and been persuaded to give Mel a chance.
"It's a different proposition being just one of a pack after being the local champion." she pointed out. "Some girls just can't take the change." Mel knew that it wouldn't bother her, as she'd never thought of herself as being in any way better than the other swimmers. In fact being the focus of attention was the biggest drawback of swimming.
Mel loved the feel of water surrounding her. She loved to surge through the water, she loved to glide and she loved to pierce the water in a dive. She would’ve been happy to swim just for fun but her mother, recognising the talent within, had entered her in competitions and she had surprised even herself with her determination to go faster, swim better, get stronger and, above all, win. Her whole personality changed when she entered the water in a race. She pushed herself so hard that it hurt and she loved the feel of it. She felt dominant in the water as she never felt out of it. The thought of racing against the best in the state brought on a thrill of anticipation but the fear of the move, of meeting new people, tempered the feeling.
It was 8pm, her usual bedtime. How many times had she railed against this rule? It had prevented her from keeping friends as they, from the age of fifteen, had been partying, going to dances, sleep-overs and late night movies. Mel was only allowed to be out in the early evening so her friends had stopped asking her. She mentally shrugged, thinking her mother was probably right -- she'd have plenty of time to socialise when she gave up competitive swimming. She undressed, got into bed and shivered again as frissons of fear tingled up her spine.
The coach trip down seemed to take forever. The hours passed and the temperature outside dropped as they approached Perth which, in early spring, was much cooler than the balmy Broome spring days. Mel thought about Ms Naven, her new coach, whom she had met once, briefly, on a development squad weekend in Perth. She had seemed quite severe, unsmiling and unapproachable. Mel hoped she would be friendlier once she got to know her. She remembered that the coach's short, dark hair was almost mannish, though this was probably much more practical than Mel's own long, fair hair. Her height had been daunting - Mel rarely met women who were taller than herself; and her deep voice had been both powerful and very confident. She seemed to be the absolute opposite of Mel herself and she wondered if they would ever get the rapport which she'd had with Joe. Mel's wide mouth curled into a smile as she thought of Joe, her coach and very good friend. He had encouraged, coaxed and drawn the best out of her in all the various strokes, even breaststroke, her least favourite. She knew she was a quick learner because she listened well and attempted to rationalise the instructions, as well as following them. She was intelligent, as her school grades showed and she looked at the technical side of each stroke, going into the biomechanics with Joe. They had worked very well together and she wondered if she would be able to work as well with Ms Naven.
Mel wasn't given any time to adjust to city life as training started two days later, on the first day of the
October holidays. Five am saw her on her bike approaching the Challenge Stadium for a 5:15am arrival, ready for
a sharp 5:30am start. The phone call from Ms Naven had been abrupt - training times during the holidays were 5:30
- 7:30am every morning except Sundays, 3pm - 6pm Monday - Wed - Friday and a group run on Sundays.
‘Damn!’ Mel thought as she felt the immediate effect of the back tyre puncture. She jumped off the bike and grimaced at the nail sticking out of the tyre. She had no facilities for a puncture repair with her so she had no choice but to push the bike. The sweat broke out on her brow as she looked at her watch, increasing her speed still more. It was already 5:15am and she was further from the stadium than she'd thought - a 5:30am start was going to be impossible.
She entered the car park, dropped her bike at the front -- no time to lock it -- and showed her pass. As her bathers were already on, she threw her outer clothes and her bag into the change room, grabbed her goggles and hurried into the pool area, her eyes searching for Ms Naven and her group. She spotted them and walked quickly forwards, an apology and explanation on her lips.
"Oh, you have decided to join us then?" Ms Naven started sarcastically. "When I say 5:30am I mean exactly that Melissa. Now, I want an eight hundred metre warm-up, don't push it. I will speak to you later." She turned away abruptly.
Mel dived into the water. ‘It's not fair! It wasn't my fault! I hate it here! She didn't even let me try to explain!’ She churned through the water, her eyes filling with tears.
"Melissa! Melissa!” finally penetrated her thoughts. She looked up. "I said to take it easy. Please follow instructions." Mel cringed - knowing she had lost concentration. ‘What a great start!’ she thought ‘I look a real idiot.’ She took herself in hand and completed the training session following all instructions to the letter.
"Melissa, can you come over here please?" was requested politely after Mel had showered and dressed. "Melissa, there are good reasons for having our rules. I can explain them if you'd like me to."
"No, no, you don't have to." Mel jumped in guiltily.
"All right, we'll forget this morning's late start. By the way, was there a valid reason or are you still tired from the trip?" Mel was grateful for the opportunity of telling Ms Naven the reason for her late arrival but was taken aback when her coach said that she would take Mel and her bike home in the van. Mel was most uncomfortable at being singled out so kept her head down as she walked past the rest of the squad in Ms Naven's wake. She cheered slightly as she heard some cheerios from the squad members, saying they'd see her that afternoon.
Ms Naven drove her the five kilometres or so to her home, asking questions about her previous training. She seemed quite impressed with Mel's understanding of her past training program, reasons for it and evaluation of it. Mel became quite animated as she talked about swimming and her normally serious face lit up with her enthusiasm. Ms Naven's offer to pick her up on the way through in the afternoon was shyly refused as Mel assured her that the bike would be fixed by then.
"OK - don't be late then." was said with a slight smile.
The first week's training was hard for Mel as the sheer volume was so much more than her old training regime. By Saturday her legs felt heavy and her tall, slim frame was struggling to cope with the tiredness. She was dreading the Sunday morning run as she knew she wasn't a good runner and, at this time while she was so tired, she doubted whether she could complete a three kilometre jog. She briefly contemplated being ‘sick’ but that went totally against her character.
Mel hadn't talked to her coach since the previous Monday and this seemed odd after having a coach who had discussed her training on a daily basis. Of course she wasn't criticising Ms Naven, the situation being entirely different, with Ms Naven having a squad of fifteen very good swimmers. Ms Naven had a weekly discussion with each swimmer about their training programs and progress. Mel was due for her first talk after the run on Sunday and she was looking forward to asking questions regarding her strokes.
The swimmers had an enjoyable sleep in on Sunday, not meeting for the run until 9am. Mel arrived early, as she had for every training session since Monday. A couple of the girls turned up next and Mel smiled shyly, not having spoken much to them before. She’d actually got on much better with the boys in the squad as they’d seemed to be more on her wave-length. She couldn't get interested in the girls’ conversations -- make-up, hair and boys seem to dominate them and Mel had never had an interest in any of them. The boys though, talked mainly about sport which Mel loved and also were more ready to laugh and joke, whereas the girls didn't seem to laugh very much. Her favourite person was Mark, who had been the first to approach her with a big smile, welcoming her to the group. He was very popular with the girls as he was tall, good-looking and confident. Mel got a few side-long looks when Mark appeared to single her out but Mel knew that she wasn't a threat to any of the girls, as her only interest in Mark was as a friend. Mel pondered again her lack of attraction to boys, as all the girls her own age were always talking about kissing this boy or that one or how much, or little, they allowed boys to touch them. It sounded as if they really enjoyed it but the only time Mel had kissed a boy, at a rare party soon after she'd turned 16, she had disliked it totally. His smell, his scratchy chin, the roughness, had all combined to put Mel off so she hadn't been interested in trying it again. Occasionally a boy would put an arm around her and try to fumble a kiss but she always turned away. She looked at Mark as he arrived and thought ‘He's good looking, got a good body, is interesting to talk to, and I like him - but I just don't want to kiss him.’ She mentally shrugged. She had plenty of time for that when she was older, maybe!
She saw Ms Naven's van pull up and felt her stomach lurch, she was still nervous when her coach was around as she was so keen to impress her. Today's nervousness was also related to the run which she dreaded. She overheard one of the girls mutter, as Ms Naven and an older lady got out of the van.
"I see 'Alexander the Great' has brought the girlfriend with her again." Knowing her coach's name was Alex, as the older squad members were allowed to call her, Mel couldn't understand the reference to 'girlfriend' as the woman with Ms Naven must have been approaching fifty and, though attractive and wore her clothes well, could never be called a 'girl'!
The squad assembled to stretch and warm-up while Ms Naven's friend greeted a few of the group by name. Ms Naven told the squad to stay together for the first kilometre of the run, starting off very easy. They could then go at their own pace for the remainder. She made sure everyone knew the route and, at 9:30am, they set off.
Mel could never understand how her muscles, strengthened by so much swimming and weights etc, could feel so weak when it came to running. Her feet and ankles always hurt and she lost the fluency of her body which was so natural in the water. After only about five hundred metres she was at the rear of the field struggling to keep up with the group.
"Keep up with everyone, Mel." Ms Naven urged her on but she again dropped off the back of the group and Ms Naven's "Come on Mel, put in a bit of effort." couldn't overcome the ankle pain and lack of co-ordination. As Mel dropped further and further behind, she retreated into daydreams, her favourite pastime. In this particular daydream scenario she was running well behind the pack when she came upon Ms Naven, who had tripped and fallen, knocking herself out. Mel saw herself lift up Ms Naven and carry her for a kilometre (or maybe it should be longer?) ‘Maybe I could have been behind the rest because I'd twisted my ankle - yes, that's good! I have to carry Ms Naven for nearly two kilometres with a twisted ankle - maybe even a chipped bone.’ Mel imagined. ‘OK, then just before we get to the end she comes to and realises that I've saved her life (or at least helped her - said Mel's more prosaic self) and is really grateful and recognises my commitment and determination - and likes me . . . likes me . . . likes me . . .’ Mel's imagination needle was stuck on repeating the words to herself.
"For goodness sake, Mel - it wasn't supposed to be a stroll in the park, it was part of the training program!" jerked her out of her reverie as she realised her ordeal was over but now the consequences had to be dealt with. Her eyes veered away guiltily so happened to see the puzzled look that Ms Naven received from her friend.
"I. . . I'm sorry" Mel stammered "I just don't run very well." Her eyes returned to Ms Naven.
"Well, don't forget our talk is today. Stretch down and meet me over on that bench.
"Al, what's wrong with you? You were awfully sharp with that poor girl." Alex smiled ruefully at her friend.
"I don't know Penny. I just keep finding myself snapping at her. There's just something about her that makes me do it." Penny smiled, as she shook her head.
"She reminds me of someone -- not in looks, just some kind of aura about her. Can you guess who?"
"God, Penny, I don't feel like guessing games at the moment. Who does she remind you of?"
"You, Al. A much younger you, as you were when we first met." This was said with a quirky smile, "Remember?"
Alex looked at Penny and remembered. She was eighteen years old again . . .
* * *
When I first met Penny I'd been a street kid for a year or more. I'd left home at seventeen, turning my back
on a successful swimming career. ‘The next Dawn Fraser’ they'd said. Yeah, well they didn't know just how much
I resembled the great Dawn did they? I'd been shy, withdrawn, a real tomboy with the boys but awkward and ungainly
with girls. I’d recognised at an early age that I was different from other girls. I'd had the normal crushes on
female teachers but I'd taken it further and had many fantasies about kissing (and more) other girls and women.
When I first heard the word 'lesbian', I looked it up and recognised myself instantly in the description of the
My home environment had been totally homophobic, so I knew there’d be no sympathetic understanding there. Dad often laid into us and Mum turned a blind eye. There were many arguments within the family and I had welcomed my regular escapes to training. I’d put all my energies and frustrations into my swimming and had many State and Australian age gold medals to prove my abilities. I’d been deeply in love with my coach and, a year later, I still blushed when I remembered how I’d thought my love was returned. After a more than usually bitter argument at home when I'd left before the blow could be delivered, I'd gone to my coach's house and made a very stumbling, uncouth pass at her. Her outraged response remained in my mind. The scathing remarks burned into my brain and I left, knowing I could never face her again. I went home, packed what I could into a rucksack, withdrew my money from the bank - and left.
The next year had been a learning experience for me, I’d lived with junkies, drunks, prostitutes, aids-sufferers and more. I’d had a rocky start but had been guided by Tracy, a coke-head with a heart of gold. My money hadn’t lasted long and she’d provided me with food (I didn't ask where she got it!) and love. We were never actual lovers but we cuddled up close at night for warmth and comfort. She’d been willing and probably eager for more but I didn't want to experiment without having much stronger feelings than the ones I had for Tracy. She’d taught me the ropes of living on the streets and, along with a series of casual jobs and the occasional dole cheque I’d managed to learn to live on the streets. I had no wish to steal and I avoided all drugs, as I could see, first hand, the results of taking them. I had enjoyed the cameradie and, as long as I avoided the aggressive few, life had been interesting for me.
I’d drifted away from Tracy as her interests and needs led her in a different direction from me. I met up with her again one day and picked up immediately that she was now ‘using’. I didn’t need to see the track marks on her arm and inner thigh. She had a ‘job’ set up for that night, a break-in of an isolated house in the northern suburbs. She asked me to go with her but, as usual, I refused.
“Hey! It's a real simple one. I know the woman is away. She’s Josie’s boss and is over east for another three days. It’ll be easy - in and out in a few minutes.” She couldn’t persuade me, so she shrugged and said she’d catch me around some time.
That evening I came across Josie drinking heavily in her ‘squat’.
“Bloody woman!” she was mumbling.
“Who?” I asked, without much interest.
“Fucking know-all Pommie boss!” My interest quickened.
“Why? What’s happened?”
“Come home early, the bitch and found me having a kip. Shit! The bloody sneak gave me the fucking push.”
“Oh shit.” I knew I couldn’t just leave Tracy to walk into an occupied house so I found out the address and went to warn Tracy. I arrived to see the house in darkness. ‘Good, maybe she’s out for the evening.’ I crept round the back and found the telltale sign of an open laundry window.
“Trace.” I whispered through the gap. There wasn’t a sound - at least she was quiet! More so than me! I climbed through the window and kept walking into furniture, cracking my shins on coffee tables etc. The sweat dripped steadily into my eyes, stinging them. ‘One more room then I’m off’ I decided. I opened the door slowly, stepped in and felt a hand clamp my arm. “Christ, Tracy, don’t do that! Listen, get out of here, she’s back from her trip early, she may be here any time now. Bloody idiot that you are. Come on, let’s go!” As I clasped the arm belonging to the hand which still held me tight, it slowly dawned on me that the gentle scent I could smell was not just in the room but was emanating from the figure standing so close to me - definitely not the more earthy Tracy smell. “Trace?” I queried and then flinched as light suddenly illuminated the room and I blinked and squinted slightly down into the face of a complete stranger. ‘God, what a stunner!’ was my first treacherous thought, then ‘Oh hell - I’m in trouble now’ immediately followed it. In my naiveté it never occurred to me to use any force to break away. I just looked at her and accepted I was sprung.
A rich, mellow voice with an English accent spoke quite pleasantly.
“I think your friend has been and gone. She, obviously, is more experienced than yourself and soon realised that the house was not empty. Luckily for me she left my possessions quite untouched. I, however, made the mistake of presuming that her entry and exit were through the same window and it wasn’t until your quite clumsy efforts of climbing in the window and half-demolishing my furniture, that I realised there was another window left open.” I was fascinated by her voice and the way her expressions changed as she talked. The slight upward quirk to her lips drew my attention and I barely registered what she’d said. She looked to be about mid-thirties with a well-built figure. My eyes were drawn again to her face as I realised she had finished talking.
“You can raise just one eyebrow.” I commented inconsequentially. She looked confused for one second and then looked intently into my face. I saw her shoulders tense but, at the same time her grip on my arm relaxed slightly. I could have broken away but I was too fascinated as I watched the tendons in her throat working as her teeth clenched and unclenched.
She shifted her position round to face me more squarely and she glanced down at my body, making my face flush and my fingers and toes tingle. She lifted her eyes to my face once more as her thumb relaxed its grip still more and started to circle the pulse in my wrist, the pulse which suddenly started pounding erratically.
My breathing became jerky as I pictured myself touching her face, feeling those lips on mine. I wanted to hear her voice again, to drown in the sound. I swayed towards her without volition and, as she looked into my face, I saw a softness appear in her eyes and her jaw relaxed as her lips parted slightly. I found my hand lifting to her face and I traced a finger across her lips, feeling them part further. A flicker of her tongue against my fingers turned my legs to jelly and my knees buckled slightly. Her arms went around me to support some of my weight and she took a step to bridge the gap between us. Her face lifted to mine and a hand slid up to the back of my head exerting slight pressure.
Our lips touched, every nerve tingling with the fire I felt in hers. I was home, it seemed to be where I belonged, it was what I was made for. My hands crept to her thick, shoulder-length hair. I buried them as I wanted to bury myself into her warmth, her smell, her body! Our lips explored new territory and I lost control of my senses as they merged with each other - feel, touch, smell, sound, sight. I was on the bed, she was over me, overpowering, dominant. I was helpless, in her total control. She undressed me, kissing each patch of skin as it was uncovered, causing little shivers and goosebumps as her moist mouth left damp patches which the air immediately cooled.
Her mouth covered a breast, fingers rolling a nipple, still more fingers moving to the part of me that only my own fingers had ever known. My body screamed for her to enter me, touch me, relieve this unbearable itch. Everything became a blur dominated by the pressure building inside me. I didn’t know what was inside me, on me, touching me, stroking me. Sometimes it was wet, sometimes hard, sometimes hot, sometimes gentle. I was totally lost, completely blanketed by new sensations. The explosion engulfed me, all conscious thought gone. I gasped and whimpered through the pulsating contractions, clinging to this unknown woman as the nerve-ends reached their pinnacle -- then sobbed, uncontrollably, as they descended again into gentle throbbing. My mouth was open as I gasped for breath.
“Excuse me, Ms Naven,” Mel was tentative as she looked at her coach. She looked a bit strange, her face was flushed, her lips slightly apart and she was breathing quite heavily. ‘Had they been having an argument?’ she wondered silently but when she glanced across, her coach’s friend was smiling and her eyes were twinkling at Ms Naven who appeared to blush before saying abruptly.
“Mel, this is a friend of mine, Penny Allenby, who often comes to watch the squad train and compete. Penny, this is Mel Fogerthorpe, our new addition.”
“How do you do Mel? I’m very pleased to meet you. I’ll look forward to watching you compete in a few weeks.”
“Thank you Ms Allenby.”
“No. Call me Penny, everyone else does, don’t they Al?” she received a nod of agreement. “Well, I’ll leave you two to talk tactics and I’ll chat to the rest of the squad.”
“Ms Naven,” Mel took a deep breath, “I honestly wasn’t shirking today. I really have trouble running and I will try hard to improve it.” Alex looked at her, wondering what Penny had seen that could possibly be like herself at eighteen.
“OK Mel, let’s get down to your training program. Let me hear your thoughts on it.”
They talked for about an hour and became completely engrossed in the technicalities of the different stroking techniques, the possible corrections which could be made and the competition program which was commencing in three weeks time. Mel became quite garrulous as she talked about her ideas and goals and her face lit up with enthusiasm. Alex found herself becoming drawn into Mel’s emotions and ambitions and had to force herself to mentally take a step back. When she heard, for about the tenth time, a sentence starting with “Oh Ms Naven . . . “ she spoke out.
“Hold it, hold it. Let’s make it Alex, shall we? Its less of a mouthful.” Mel flushed and smiled shyly. “Thank-you Ms Na . . . I mean Alex.” They continued their discussion, oblivious to their surroundings until they heard the drawling voice.
“Well darlings - I do think you’ve well and truly had your weekly discussion - don’t you?” Mel jumped guiltily and Alex smiled ruefully at Penny and then at her watch.
“Sorry Pen, we got a bit carried away.” Mel got up and grabbed her bike.
“Thanks a lot Alex. Hope to see you again Penny.”
“'Alex' now, is it?” Penny teased.
“Well, you told me to ease up on her didn’t you? Actually I was very agreeably surprised with her knowledge of the sport. A hell of a lot more than I had at her age! She’s keen, talented and could go far. Bloody terrible runner though!” Alex laughed, “I couldn’t see the resemblance to me at all. God knows where you got that one from Pen.” Penny looked at Alex thoughtfully.
“Well, one day you just may see it. Anyway Al, how are things going? Seeing anyone at present?”
“No, not for a while. You know how careful I have to be while I’m in charge of a squad of youngsters. It's already messed up two relationships in the last five years. Both Sue and Barbara ended up resenting the fact that I couldn’t be ‘out’ with them and continually had to be circumspect. I’m getting pretty close to making the decision to retire from coaching, so that I can get a life. That manager’s job at the leisure centre is still on the cards and it appeals to me. I’d miss the kids though.”
“Well, don’t jump into anything too quickly and if you want to talk it over sometime, you know you’re always welcome. Angela was only saying the other day that you hadn’t been round for dinner for a couple of months.” Penny’s aristocratic face softened as she spoke of Angela.
“Things are pretty good between you and Angie.” Alex stated the obvious fact.
“Yes, its ten years next week. I’ve got a special date planned. God, I love that woman!”
“I know. I get so envious of your great relationship. I often wonder if I’ll ever get so lucky.” Alex’s voice was pensive, remembering their own relationship fifteen years previously. Penny had taken her off the streets, found her a job, loved her and cared for her. She’d given back her complete adoration. Penny could do nothing wrong in Alex’s eyes. They’d taught each other so much. Penny’s instructions had been in personal development, the arts, culture and, of course, what sex between women was all about - hot and pulsing but also loving and caring. Alex had taught Penny about love, justice, equality and complete loyalty. Their relationship had lasted two years, at the end of which time Penny’s career entailed her having to re-locate to the U.K for a two-year period. They had discussed at length the possible alternatives and had decided that, as Alex was just starting her second year of study at university, aiming towards a degree in physical education, the only real option was for Alex to stay and Penny to go.
Though they wrote and rang each other frequently it was obvious, long before Penny’s stay was over, that they had drifted apart. Alex’s need for Penny’s guidance had lessened as she matured. By the time Penny arrived back they were both able to slip into a very relaxed and loving friendship. Within a couple of years Penny had met Angela and it soon became evident that it would be a lasting relationship. Alex had had a couple of relationships in the intervening years but, for the most part, was happy in her circle of close friends. She had got her degree and followed it up with many coaching courses which were fitted around her various jobs. She had been persuaded by Penny to get back into the swimming scene and coach a group of young children, some of whom were still in her squad now. Mark was one of them and he was now on the verge of Australian selection. She had thoroughly enjoyed the last six years and, though she was a pretty strict disciplinarian with the young and new squad members, she had a very good rapport with the older ones and had been able to relax the rules and know that she wouldn’t be taken advantage of. They sensed that she understood and empathised with them and she often found herself listening to and sometimes advising on their teenage problems.
Mark was the one who sought her help the most. As he came to terms with his sexuality she had been the first person he had told - but now both his parents knew that he was gay and had accepted it. It wasn’t known within the squad and Alex watched as the various girls made a play for him. He was friendly with them all and very sensitive and helpful if others had problems and needed to talk. Alex knew she had no need to be concerned regarding the other boys in the squad as Mark was in a very loving relationship with an older man. Alex had been surprised at Mark’s obvious liking and singling out of Mel as he normally didn’t encourage any of the girls. She hoped that Mel wasn’t getting her hopes up in that direction.
The next few weeks passed quickly as Mel got into a routine of training and school work. Mark and Mel gravitated together more and more but she was relieved that he didn’t make any sort of pass at her. They were both quite comfortable for the rest of the squad to think they were an ‘item’ as it saved them having to reject unwanted overtures. Mel still regularly disappeared into her daydreams. Mostly they were about swimming successes but Mel came to realise that in these daydreams the race wins were becoming less important to her and Alex’s responses to those wins more and more important. She realised that her immediate ambitions were aimed at pleasing Alex and gaining her respect and liking, which made her quite comfortable with the hugs she received from Alex in these daydreams as they were just the visual result of earned respect.
On a cool Saturday morning, just before the start of the competitive season, Alex had been particularly hard on both Mel and Mark at training and every time she saw them together her brows would furrow into a frown. Mel caught her giving Mark sharp looks with a touch of perplexity in them. She was extra hard on Mel and, for a fleeting moment, Mel thought that maybe Alex was jealous of the attention that Mark was giving her. However she soon discarded that idea as the thought of anything between Alex and Mark was impossible to think of.
Mel left the stadium after the session, before remembering the towel she'd left on the change-room bench. Knowing it would disappear between then and Monday, she retraced her steps back inside. As she walked pool-side she glanced into the fast lane just as two powerful arms, glistening with water, erupted from the water, followed by the top of a head, torso and, finally, the buttocks as the butterfly stroke was performed perfectly. Always aware of technique, Mel stood in awe at the grace and perfection of this most difficult stroke. Her heart thumped with excitement at the sheer majesty as the arms rose high above the water and then the graceful dolphin kick which propelled the body forward. Mel was so entranced with watching the lines of the body that it took her a few seconds to realise that it was Alex in the water. She felt somehow that she was spying, as Alex had never been seen to enter the water. Mel guessed that Alex didn’t want to swim in front of any of the squad, so she veered away into the change-room, grabbed her towel and turned to leave. She had almost reached the exit before her curiosity got the better of her and she turned into the viewing gallery to watch and admire.
Alex churned through the water. ‘What the hell is wrong with me?’ she pondered irritably. ‘What is my problem with seeing Mel and Mark together so much? Do I think she may change his sexual preference? So what!’ She had more questions than answers so she mentally shrugged but still felt the need to burn away this tension from her gut with hard exercise. She often swam after the last of her charges left for home. She didn’t know why she objected to their watching her swim, maybe she craved the privacy which she’d never had while she was swimming competitively, or maybe it was a case of ‘do as I say and not as I do’, though she knew the technique and strength were still there; it was just the speed she had lost over time with lack of training.
She continued to power through the water, feeling more confused and less confident in herself than she had for many years. She knew she was thinking more often than she should of Mel and she didn’t know why she was occasionally too hard on Mel and Mark. Maybe she was more ready to have a change of lifestyle and focus than she’d thought. She did a flip turn and came up into a more relaxing breast-stroke. She thought about her squad and knew she’d miss them, as she enjoyed their company and liked watching them swim; some more than others. She quickly veered off those thoughts, looking around the pool to take her mind off those disturbing thoughts. She glanced into the viewing gallery and caught a glimpse of long blonde hair. Her heart did a flip until she chastised herself. She’d started seeing Mel in every young, long-haired girl lately. She told herself it was just because she’d been concerned about her, hoping that she wasn’t going to get hurt by Mark.
Mel quickly backed off as she saw Alex glance up at the gallery, realising that she had been leaning forward, almost to the glass. Her breathing had quickened as she watched Alex’s arms as they seemed to rip the water apart with each downward movement of her body before the shoulders surged up again, lifted high, then plunged into the water once more. When she’d switched into the more leisurely breast-stroke Mel had watched the muscles working in her lightly-tanned arms as she glided forward, her legs rhythmically opening and closing as she did the appropriate frog-kick, the buttocks rising out of the water on each stroke before the hip movement flattened them to the water once more. Mel felt a tingling between her legs and her briefs felt damp against her. ‘God, I get turned on by a perfectly executed swimming stroke while other girls get turned on by guys!’ she thought in exasperation. ‘However . . . Those legs and arms look so strong, I wonder how they would feel to touch?’ she wondered involuntarily before blanking her mind from the thought.
Alex’s sleep that night was restless. She finally fell into a dream-filled sleep after much tossing and turning. She was swimming alone in a pool. She stopped at one end and looked up to see long, sleek, tanned legs. Two hands reached down to her and pulled her out of the water. The steamy smell of water on hot concrete assailed her as her feet connected with the ground. Thighs, hips and breasts came into view as she was slowly drawn upright, the head, faceless as usual, was in front of her. Lips pressed to her own with such force that she could feel the imprint of the other woman’s teeth on her lips before they softened the assault, relaxing the lips. Every inch of their fullness massaged her mouth. She felt the straps of her bathers being slowly slipped from her shoulders. The lips left hers to chase the top of the bathers down over her breasts, suddenly taut and straining, over her stomach with the muscles tense and hard, down to the very tip of the curling hairs which protected and guarded her.
Her bathers were slipped down her legs and she stepped out of them. A soft voice told her to open her legs, to accept the hands, the fingers of which were now caressing her as the woman’s lips came back to claim her own. She felt the long, silky hair brush her shoulders and, somewhere in the dimness of reality, knew that this was different from her normal dreams. The fingers were entering her, feeling, seeking and then it seemed that it was her own fingers that were inside the faceless stranger. She could feel everything -- both through her own fingers and through the warm, soft centre of herself. The fingers were feeling, searching for the culmination of the ever-increasing tempo, the body was moving with the tempo and insisting on more. I have to look, I have to see the face just once, so, still cocooned within her dream, she opened her eyes and saw Mel’s face looking tenderly into her own.
“No! we can’t!” She woke, unsure whether she’d said the words out loud or not, a film of perspiration on her brow. She felt her fingers still inside herself and realised that her rotating hips were still demanding that the fingers give the relief her body craved. She was helpless to that demand and shut her eyes tight to block out the face as her body took up the rhythm once again. She knew, in her awakened state, the points to caress and stroke and, very soon, she was rising…. rising, as the pulsating began. Unbidden, the face of her pupil re-appeared in her mind as the orgasm shook her and melted her as it hadn’t for a long time. She shuddered as she tried to calm her breathing, forcing desire and passion from her mind. ‘Goddam it! I don’t believe this!’ Her thoughts turned to anger. ‘You’ll have to keep a bloody lid on this one my girl - otherwise you’ll have to retire even earlier than you’d anticipated.’
As Mel’s first competition was looming she started to get nervous. Her mother had become totally bored with hearing every sentence start with, “Alex says . . .” but she was glad that Mel had taken to her coach as it had looked a bit uncertain at first. Margaret worried a bit about her daughter seeing Mark so much but, as Mel was still getting the necessary sleep and her school marks were still very high, she didn’t put too many barriers in the way of the friendship.
On the day of her first competition Mel was glad of the advice Mark had given her regarding pre-race preparations and she did try to relax but was still tense in her first race - the hundred metre free-style and she finished third in a relatively slow time. Alex took her aside after the race as she did all her squad members (‘definitely no different treatment for Mel’ Alex predetermined) and talked about her technique and breathing in a very soothing voice which calmed Mel after her initial, rather frantic apology for letting down her coach.
“You’re swimming for yourself Mel, not for me and not for your mother. Relax and - most of all - enjoy it!”
Her next race was the hundred metre butterfly, arguably Mel’s best event. She felt her toes curl over the edge of the starting block and a quick look to the left confirmed that Alex was in her seat. ‘No,’ corrected Mel, ‘I’m doing it for you Alex. Or maybe for myself to earn your congratulations, your respect, your . . . .’ The gun interrupted her reverie and Mel was momentarily left standing on her block. The dive was arrow straight and she did the obligatory three dolphin kicks under water before bursting out, head first, with both arms coming over her head ready for her fingertips to spear the water again. She was exhilarated. She loved the feel and the power of the butterfly stroke, misnamed because it was a far cry from a butterfly’s gentle wing movement. She turned, not seeing the other competitors, just feeling the rhythm, feeling also her breathing start to strain a little but knowing she had enough left to finish with strength.
The pain started with about twenty metres to go, closer to the finish than normal, the adrenaline having blocked out the earlier pain. She saw the flags above her head and made a slight adjustment to her second last stroke to allow her arms to come over one more time, straight into the wall without a glide or the dreaded half stroke. Her chest heaved as her lungs grasped at the hot, humid air. She saw a couple of the other swimmers congratulating the swimmer to her left so she knew she had not touched first but, until she got out of the pool, she was unaware of her second placing. She glanced over and saw a smile and a look of approval on Alex’s face and basked in it. She glanced at her time and was pleased to find it was only just outside her best time and, coming off a heavy winter program with no taper, it was very satisfying.
Alex approached her with a smile.
“So, what were you daydreaming about on the blocks?” was said with mock severity. “You were half a lap behind the others,” she exaggerated.
“Sorry, I lost concentration,” Mel admitted.
“Well, we’ll have to work on those starts of yours - but the swim itself was beautiful, the stroking nice and strong but relaxed. When we have our talk on Sunday I’ve got a suggestion to put to you.” One more smile and Alex walked away, throwing over her shoulder instructions to warm-down and then prepare for the four by one hundred metre relay.
Sunday loomed; Mel’s least favourite day of the week. First there was the run which she hated but then there was the empty afternoon with nothing to do, as Mark was never available on Sundays -- always being evasive regarding his plans.
She was steadily improving in her running and could now stay with the group until they were allowed to split up and go their own pace. Everyone else went faster at this stage and Mel dropped off the pace. Alex periodically jogged back to check on her but was now more understanding about her lack of running ability as she knew that Mel always put everything into whatever she did so the pace she ran was her ‘one hundred per cent’ effort.
Penny was there again on that Sunday and, after the run, stretch and shower, she congratulated or commiserated with the different squad members over their performance on Friday night. To Mel she was particularly congratulatory, saying she was most impressed with her never-say-die attitude in the butterfly after giving the others nearly two metres start.
Penny drove Alex’s van to the shops to pick up some provisions while Alex and Mel settled for their weekly talk. Alex put the suggestion to Mel that she try a two hundred metre individual medley as she had a feeling that this could be Mel’s forte. Mel’s jaw dropped.
“What about my breast stroke? You know that it’s terrible!”
“That’s only because Joe didn’t put as much time into it as the other strokes." Alex had heard a lot about Mel's previous coach and, though she was impressed with his teaching techniques, she thought he'd been a little easy on the girl as she'd been growing up. "I think with a bit of extra technique work, you’ve got the basic strength to do a two hundred metre I.M. I’d like to give it a go. What do you say?” Mel sat and digested the proposition for a while then queried.
“Well, I’ll give it a go - but when could I do the techniques training?”
“How about Tuesdays and Thursdays after school? It wouldn’t be hard work, it would only be stroking.” Alex suggested. “Unless you have other plans for those days?” Mel shook her head decisively.
Penny arrived back and looked around at the empty park. “Damn!” she remembered, “I’d meant to ask if there were any volunteers to help us put up that back shed this afternoon.” Alex looked at Penny, a puzzled look on her face.
“Surely we can do that ourselves or on another day. I don’t desperately need it up today.” Mel glanced shyly at Penny and then Alex. She spoke diffidently, looking at Penny.
“I could help, if you think an extra body may be useful. I’m not doing anything this afternoon.” Alex opened her mouth but Penny jumped in quickly.
“That’d be great, Mel. Tell you what, I’ve just bought rolls and ham and salad. Why don’t you ring home and check if you can come over for lunch with us before we get started.” Mel didn’t see the irate glance which Alex threw Penny as she enthused.
“Yes, that’d be great - I’ll ring straight away.” Penny walked with her to the phone box, thereby escaping Alex’s ire.
Receiving the expected permission, Mel and Penny wandered back, chatting about the work involved in putting up the shed. They found Alex in the van awaiting them, Mel's bike safely in the back. Mel wondered at the closed look which was on Alex’s face but, after a quick re-cap of her own actions that morning, discarded the possibility that she was the cause of Alex’s annoyance. From her back seat position she saw Penny grin over at Alex, who shook her head in exasperation, then shrugged in seeming acceptance.
They had an enjoyable lunch with Mel feeling very comfortable with the two older women, especially Penny. She felt her shyness disappear as she answered questions, discussed current issues and when she found herself fencing playfully with Penny. Her barriers dropped as her confidence lifted and she even teased Penny about her penchant for ice-cream. They worked for a couple of hours in the heat of the sun, putting up the shed. Alex relaxed her guard and joined the amusing repartee which had developed between Mel and Penny, until Penny asked Mel about boyfriends. Alex jumped in quickly, chastising Penny for her inquisitiveness, saying she was getting too personal.
“No, its OK Alex,” Mel started, “I don’t mind telling Penny. Everyone knows that Mark and I see . . . “
“Oh, Mark! I do so like him.” interrupted Penny.
“Well, actually,” Mel confided, frowning briefly at Alex’s disappearing back, “there’s really nothing between us at all. We do like people to think there is, because it stops others coming on to us. I don’t know about Mark, I think it’s just that he doesn’t want to get into an emotional relationships as it may screw up his swimming - but with me . . .” she looked again at Alex’s distant figure with regret, as she’d wanted her to listen to this.
“Yes, with you . . . ?” prompted Penny. Mel spoke in a rush.
“I’ve never been interested in boys -- you know -- kissing and everything. It leaves me cold thinking about it. In fact I . . . " she trailed off.
“Yes?" Penny pushed.
“No. It doesn’t matter.” Mel was flushing more than the afternoon sun warranted. Penny stepped forward and put a hand on Mel’s shoulder.
“If you want to talk, my love, I’ll always be here to listen -- as will Alex.” Mel jumped.
“No! I could never say anything about this to Alex!” Penny smiled with understanding but advised.
“Never say ‘never’ my dear. Be open-minded and most of all be yourself - don’t compromise.” Mel felt tears prickle behind her lashes as she smiled her thanks.
After a couple of weeks of the new breast-stroke training Mel was feeling frustrated. She couldn’t seem to grasp what Alex was trying to tell her from the side of the pool. She continued to swim well at meets in her other strokes -- occasionally winning, normally placing in the first three; but the breast stroke just wasn’t getting there. It was the Sunday before Christmas and Mel was determined to ask Alex if she really thought this experiment was worth it. She was jogging behind the others with half the run still to go when she rounded a bend and almost fell across Alex, who was sprawled awkwardly in the middle of the track.
Mel had a sudden flashback to her daydream on her first run -- before pushing it firmly behind her in her concern for Alex.
“Dammit!” Alex exploded. “My bloody ankle! That bloody rabbit!” told the full story to Mel. Squatting in front of Alex she looked at the rapidly swelling ankle.
“Can I examine it?” she asked tentatively. “I’ve done a first aid course.”
“Yeah -- go for it Mel but I’m pretty sure it’s not broken, I just went right over on it.” Mel knew that ice, compression and elevation were the three things needed but, of the three, they could only immediately elevate it, which she did by putting Alex’s leg onto her own shoulder.
Mel looked around for something to strap the ankle with. She looked at Alex’s white face and wanted to hold her, comfort her. She swallowed nervously.
“The only thing I can think of to tie around the ankle is -- my bra!” Alex laughed, wincing as the pain shot through her.
“Actually that’s good thinking, though one is probably not enough, we’ll use both.” as her hand went to the middle of her back and expertly unclipped her bra. Mel half turned away and fumbled a bit with her own.
“Come here, turn around,” In a trice Alex has released the pressure around Mel’s chest. Mel tied them around Alex’s ankle as well as she could and Alex said that the compression was actually very good.
“Well, Mel, I hope you’re feeling strong, ‘cos the only way out of here is to walk and I’m going to need some help in that department. Give me a hand-up, please.” Mel slipped an arm around Alex’s back under her arm and took the strain as Alex put her weight on her good leg. They managed to stand but Alex could put very little weight on her injured ankle so Mel kept her arm around Alex as they gingerly set off.
As they got into the pattern of walking and matching their steps, Mel became aware that the hand which was under Alex’s right arm was brushing against Alex’s full breast. Every time they stepped out the loosened breast rubbed against the inside of Mel’s fingers. Mel started having visions of her fingers inching their way forward to encompass more of the tantalising skin. ‘Oh God, it is skin too,’ thought Mel, as she realised that Alex’s running top had gradually twisted round. It was quite skimpy and the fabric had bunched and left Alex’s skin exposed under Mel’s suddenly perspiring hand. Mel’s heart thumped in embarrassment. ‘What if Alex guesses what I’m thinking and knows why my hand is so slick with sweat?’
“Sorry,” Alex interrupted Mel’s panicked thoughts, “I’m going to have to lean on you a bit more.” as she put her left arm over Mel’s shoulder.
“That’s fine,” Mel’s rather strained voice assured, as new sensations started to assail her. This time it was her own right breast which was regularly touching Alex’s left breast as the movement of their walking rocked them together. ‘I can’t bear this’ she felt, as each nerve responded with tingles at every touch of Alex’s body. Mel’s thoughts were chaotic, she ached to close the gap - to press her body against Alex’s own, to feel those breasts pressing against her, in her hand, in her mouth!
The shock of these thoughts followed by the realisation that here was the clear explanation for the previous incoherence of her thoughts almost stopped her in her tracks. It was blindingly obvious. Why she’d never wanted to touch or go out with boys, why she’d felt uncomfortable around some girls and women, wanting contact with them but shying away from it. Her daydreams were suddenly no longer just daydreams but longings, desires. Her mouth framed the words - ‘Gay’, ‘Lesbian’, ‘Dyke’, ‘Queer’, all the ugly words she’d heard. Was she? Could she accept it?
“You’re very quiet” brought her back to the present and the very close proximity of this woman whom she desired above all others. ‘What would she think, if she knew.’ Mel shuddered and tried to pull away a little. “Hey! Careful - don’t leave me! I still need you.” The words tantalised Mel. ‘Oh, if only . . . .’
“Sorry,” is what she said out loud. “I was just cramping up a bit. I’m fine now.” She moved closer again, Alex’s body moulding into her own. She felt a slight tremor run through Alex and, concerned, asked if her foot was worse.
“No, I just want to hurry back; out of here.” Alex sounded irritable.
Voices from up ahead were heard before the ‘search party’ came into view. It gave both of them time to surreptitiously move slightly apart and Mel felt the chill of the air on the side which had been pressed close to Alex. Concerned squad members, with Penny in tow, circled them, asking questions. Penny’s eyebrows rose at the sight of the two bras wrapped around Alex’s foot. Her glance at the two women’s unfettered bodies brought a flush to Alex’s face as the older woman took charge.
“Well, I think we only need to escort these two for the last couple of hundred yards. Mel seems to be doing a great job here. Hey guys - run back and tee up an ice pack please - and girls -- how about going into Alex’s van and getting out the first-aid kit. There are some compression bandages there that may be a little more effective than the present ones!” This brought a good-natured laugh from the girls as they strode off together. “How’s it feeling, pet?” she asked Alex and Mel was surprised at the lover-like tone of voice. She looked from one to the other, remembering the comment about ‘the girlfriend’ on her first Sunday. She wondered, ‘could they be?’ but, on second thoughts, decided that, though they were close, she would have known, surely she would have seen, if they were lovers and anyway, Alex wasn’t gay -- was she?
By the time Alex had had her twenty minutes of ice and been strapped up again, all the other squad members had left. Penny offered Mel and her bike a lift home, which she accepted with pleasure. “What are you doing on Boxing day, Mel?” Penny asked as Mel jumped out at her house.
“Nothing much.” Mel replied.
“Well, I’m having a BBQ at my place, just a few friends. Come as my guest, we’ll be pleased to have you.” Mel accepted quickly before Alex had time to jump in with the protestations that Mel could see on her lips. She gave Alex a quick apologetic smile and added,
“I’d really love to, you know. I don’t know anyone that I like better than the two of you,” she said ingenuously.
“Great, I’ll pick you up at about 3pm and run you home at the end. Tell mum it may be late but you’ll be safe,” Penny reassured Mel as she put the van in reverse.
“Penny! What the fuck are you doing?” Alex exploded. “Don’t, for God’s sake, play God with my life! I know you think I’m attracted to her and,” a rueful laugh, “you’re right of course -- but I can’t do a goddam thing about it. You know that. Anyway, what am I supposed to do with a sixteen year old straight girl. Tell me that!”
“Alex, Alex, settle down. I’m not trying to encourage you to seduce her. Get to know her. Try to see yourself in her. Anyway, she’s almost seventeen isn’t she?” Penny added inconsequentially.
“Yes, on January 11th,” Alex absent-mindedly replied. “No, I can’t see me in her. You know better than anyone that I was gay at her age and she, well, she’s probably screwing the pants off Mark!” This was said with a glare. Penny smiled soothingly.
“Alex…. Alex…. Alex! For an intelligent woman, sometimes you are so obtuse. Let’s leave it for now however.”
Mel couldn’t get Alex out of her mind, the memory of their bodies touching tormented her day and night. She went through the motions of training, leading up to the Christmas break as there would be three weeks off from competition over Christmas and New Year. Alex, with her ankle tightly strapped, still attended training but Jenny, her offsider, became more involved with the training. Alex backed off a little and watched Jenny expand as she got more and more authority. Alex liked the way Jenny coached and also her rapport with the squad. Alex was becoming increasingly confident that she could leave the squad safely in Jenny’s competent hands if and when she decided to take the manager’s job at the leisure centre. A final decision was going to have to be made by late February and it was looking more and more as if she may give it a try.
Mel watched Alex start to back away from the group with a feeling of panic. What if she stops coaching us? When would I see her? Why is she letting Jenny coach us more? Is it just because of her ankle? Questions circled Mel’s head as the week drifted by. Her thoughts were filled with Alex, the look of her, the feel of her, even the smell of her. She found herself touching her own body more and more, often dreaming and imagining Alex touching her. The strangely insubstantial orgasms she gave herself were all for Alex. She would go to sleep at night with a whispered “Goodnight Alex.”
On Christmas Eve, Margaret came in to Mel’s room looking rather stern.
“Melissa, I need to talk to you. I’ve been hearing some disturbing things about your coach.” Margaret started. Mel’s heart dropped ‘How could my mother have learned about my feelings for Alex?’ This wasn’t the case though, as Margaret continued. “I’ve heard a very serious rumour about her and if it is true I will have grave reservations about allowing you to continue being coached by her.”
“What rumour?” Mel demanded in defence.
“I don’t like to pass on rumours as you know and I really hesitate to talk about this with you …. but I have it on good authority that it is a fact so I will put aside my normal abhorrence of discussing other people.”
“Oh mum, just get on with it and tell me. I swear it isn’t true - whatever it is.” Mel tried to hurry her mother along.
“All right I’ll tell you. I have heard that Ms Naven is homosexual! There -- it’s said!” As Margaret looked at her daughter’s totally astonished face she was satisfied that Mel had no inkling of this. “If I find out that this is indeed the case, I can’t let you train with her anymore.”
“For God’s sake!” Mel started, her chest swelling with indignation at the intended slur on Alex. “What the hell has it got to do with you, or me for that matter, what she is. She’s a bloody good coach and I’m staying with her. Whether she’s gay or not!” Mel’s heart thumped with excitement as she said the word ‘gay’. “I’m sorry mum.” her voice had calmed a little, “In this day and age it really doesn’t matter -- and you can’t discriminate against people because of their sexual preferences. Anyway, I like Alex. I like her coaching and I’m staying with her.” This last was said firmly.
Margaret looked at her daughter. What on earth had happened to the little girl who would always do as she was told and would never, ever, answer her back? She wasn’t sure about this more self assured young woman who seemed to know her own mind -- and was not afraid to speak it. What had happened in the last two months to bring out this self confidence?
“Mum. If you don’t mind, I’m a little tired and we’ve got a big day tomorrow, so I’d like to sleep now.” Margaret had little option but to leave but tried one more time.
“Well I don’t really want you going to her friend’s party on Boxing day. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was that way as well and I don’t think you need to mix with them socially, even if you insist on training with Ms Naven. Its not that I have anything against them - its just that I don’t want them in a position to influence you.” Mel yawned.
Christmas day dawned hot and cloudless, a typical West Australian Christmas. Margaret and Mel visited Margaret’s work mates, opened presents, swam in pools and had a pleasant day. Mel didn’t want to spoil it for her mother by telling her she still intended going to Penny’s on Boxing day. She left it until the next morning before informing her mother that she didn’t intend being so rude as to not go to the party on the basis of an unsubstantiated rumour. Mel quietly prepared some meat, put towel and bathers in a bag, dressed and waited for Penny’s arrival, occasionally catching her mother’s eye and calmly looking at her until Margaret’s eyes fell.
Penny arrived at a few minutes before 3pm and Mel picked up her bag, politely said goodbye to her mother and walked out to Penny’s blue Commodore.
“Everything OK?” Penny asked. “Mum’s fine with it?”
“Yes, everything is just fine.” Mel said with more conviction than truth.
There were about half a dozen people at Penny’s house, all of whom were unknown to Mel. Introductions were made, firstly to a couple who were in their forties. Then one male, who appeared to be there alone and, to Mel’s eyes, looked as if he may be gay. There were two women, one a bit older than the other, who were seated side by side on a sofa and Mel’s stomach flipped over at the way they were looking at each other, oblivious of anyone else in the room. Mel wished that she and Alex could look at each other in just that way. The other unknown woman was in the kitchen and was introduced as ‘Angie’. She gave Mel a quick hug and welcomed her to the party. Mel was a bit perplexed as she’d thought it was Penny’s party, at her own house. She watched Angie bustle about the kitchen with the assurance that only ownership could bring. She looked across and saw Penny in turn watching her. Penny smiled at her.
“I’ll leave it for you to figure out, honey,” she said with a smile. “Alex will be along shortly, she’s just picking up some more ice. Don’t worry, she’ll be here soon,” she laughed gently at Mel’s flushing face and, reaching with a finger, gently stroked it. “You hang in there, young Mel,” she said enigmatically as she turned to greet another, more elderly couple who had just arrived.
A few young people, several years older than Mel, arrived next and were introduced as Angie’s son, daughter and friends. Mel’s eyes kept straying to the women on the couch and she had a compunction to meet them, talk to them, ask them questions, find out how? Why?
At long last Alex arrived back with the ice and Mel looked searchingly at her, her mother’s accusations at the forefront of her mind. Did she look gay? Well, she had the short hair, the deep voice, the independent, strong manner - but this didn’t necessarily add up to her being gay. Mel watched as she strolled over to the women on the couch, leaned over to kiss them both on the cheek, then perched on the arm talking casually to them. ‘No!’ Mel admonished herself. ‘That, also, doesn’t mean she’s gay - maybe she’s just gay friendly.’ Her heart dropped a notch until she remonstrated with herself, ‘What are you trying to do here? Prove she’s not gay for your mother’s benefit, or prove she is gay - for yours?’
Everyone was going in and out of Penny’s pool all afternoon. Mel had a dip herself at the hottest time and was joined by the ‘gay’ looking young man. They chatted easily and Mel was thinking how similar it was to talking with Mark when it hit her! ‘God, how could I be so obtuse!’ Mark had been giving her hints for the last few weeks and she just hadn’t listened. It was just so obvious now that Mark had been trying to tell her that he was gay and -- ‘What was that he’d said about us being so alike in fundamental ways? Had he recognised my sexuality before I had?’ It was a daunting thought and she wondered if anyone else had seen through her. Her glance went around the garden and alighted on Penny. Yes, Penny had seen through to not only her sexuality but her attraction to Alex -- and what had she said? ‘Hang in there!’ She grinned, yes, she’d certainly do that!
Tea was a fun meal with everybody in high spirits and lots of laughing and teasing of each other. Alex always seemed to be talking to someone else and, though Mel herself had plenty of interesting people to talk to, she hungered to be in close proximity to Alex - to hear her voice, to smell her.
Everyone became a little merry though Mel herself had only had two small glasses of wine and she noticed that Penny hadn’t had any alcohol. As it got dark the fairy lights were put on and the music was turned up for dancing. Mel had no shortage of partners, both male and female, as the dances were fast ones. She turned abruptly once and saw Alex’s eyes boring into her with a frown on her face. She glanced up at her present partner, Angie’s son, to see if he’d noticed but he hadn’t. She looked around again and Alex had disappeared.
Mel excused herself to go inside to the bathroom and, when she came out, she heard the opening, haunting bars of a slow song which someone had slipped in with the fast ones. She was passing a room, glanced in and saw two figures swaying to the music. She recognised them as the two women from the couch and she stopped, entranced, at their sinuous movements. They had eyes only for each other and, at a particularly poignant point of the song, they swayed together, their lips touching, their mouths moving sensually against each other. The younger woman’s hand came up and gently cupped her partner’s breast, eliciting a groan from the older woman. The kiss deepened and Mel stood, transfixed, watching and absorbing it all. Her own hand had crept up to just below her breast and her breathing had quickened. A tingle between her legs completed the arousal she felt.
“Enjoying the spectacle are we?” A quiet, but no less sarcastic voice said in her ear. Mel jumped and moved away from the doorway, turning to face a furious Alex. “What the hell are you doing? Getting your kicks at seeing how the other half live?” She asked harshly. “Can’t they even have privacy in their friend’s home?” Mel couldn’t answer, to deny the accusations. The emotion that had built watching the erotic dance made the words choke in her throat and her eyes fill with tears, so that Alex’s face became a blur.
“I . . . I . . . wasn’t . . . “ she tried to speak but couldn’t. Alex’s blurred face suddenly came closer.
“What the h…. ! Don’t, Mel. Please don’t . . ..” The voice lost it’s ire, was softer, was more -- what? Mel didn’t have time to ponder this as Angie came through a doorway into the hall.
“Why, what’s the matter, pet?” she crooned. “You come with me and we’ll wash your face - nothing can be that bad,” and she led Mel away. Mel threw a pleading look over her shoulder at Alex and surprised a soft, vulnerable look on her coach’s face.
Angie washed her face but refrained from asking questions. Penny came into the bathroom and said that, as it was getting late, it was probably time to take Mel home. They sat in silence on the journey home, Penny not wanting to intrude and Mel feeling guilty about causing a scene. As they arrived at Mel’s house, Penny put a hand on Mel’s arm.
“Things aren’t as bad as they seem.” she consoled.” Remember, if you want to talk about anything. Anything! Come and see us, don’t bottle it up. Angie and I will do all we can.” openly confirming Mel’s earlier guesses. Mel smiled a watery smile and impulsively leaned over and kissed Penny’s cheek.
“Thank you very much for inviting me and thank you for trusting me.”
The new year started without much fanfare for Mel, the only memorable thing being her new year’s resolution. She promised herself she would try, in all ways possible, to make Alex love her and look at her in the way the women at the party had looked at each other. Nothing, not even her own shyness, would be allowed to stand in the way of her aim.
Training resumed on the second of January with Jenny still conducting most sessions. Mel still couldn’t grasp the tiny changes that Alex wanted her to make to her breast-stroke on their special sessions. In frustration Mel commented that if she could only see Alex doing the actual stroke she may get the idea and be able to grasp it. Alex, mindful of Penny’s advice for her to get to know Mel, put forward the suggestion that Mel come round to Penny’s house on Tuesdays and Thursdays and they could practice in her pool.
“It’ll be OK with Penny and Angie as they both work and don’t get home until about 5pm. Maybe we could make a start at 3pm. Would that be all right with you?” she asked.
On Tuesday of the following week Mel rode her bike the extra distance to Penny’s house with anticipation, mixed with a little trepidation. What would the session bring? Would she get an opportunity to hint to Alex that she was attracted to her? Could she actually make some sort of a move, touch her - kiss her? Mel’s heart flipped at the thought.
Alex called for her to come in, after Mel knocked on the door. She was wearing a one-piece figure hugging costume which accentuated the swell of her breasts, much fuller than the average swimmer and even larger than Mel’s own, previously unwanted and unwelcome, breasts which now, however, tingled at the imagined feel of Alex’s hands on them, touching and caressing.
“Let’s get started then,” Alex prepared to dive into the pool. Mel stood back a little and watched the clean dive, arrow straight into the large pool. Alex’s shoulders flexed to take up the strain of sweeping away the water. Mel watched the powerful thighs, generating a rhythmic kick, stabilising the body perfectly, minimising the body roll and propelling her through the water. Mel dived in before Alex could hurry her along and almost gasped at the chill of the water on her heated body - ‘and brain!’ she laughed a little at herself.
“We’ll start with a nice gentle ten minute warm-up, we don’t want any pulled muscles.” They swam side by side, Mel breathing every two strokes so that she could watch and admire Alex’s muscles flex and relax rhythmically. At the end of the ten minutes Alex stood at the shallower end of the pool, the water lifting her breasts slightly in a bobbing motion until the water settled a little. Seeing Mel’s eyes glancing down at her breasts brought a flush to Alex’s face as a feeling of vulnerability enveloped her and she felt exposed and suddenly unsure of her control. A sudden hunger gripped her just as Mel’s eyes lifted to her own. Mel, looking into Alex’s eyes, saw something but was too inexperienced to know quite what it was. She just knew that, at that moment in time, she was the one in control. She smiled, hugging the knowledge to herself and, just as it seemed that something momentous would be done or said, Alex dragged her eyes away.
“OK - watch me!” she said abruptly, albeit a little huskily.
Alex went through the individual motion of the stroke and then watched Mel try to emulate it.
“No, no, you’re still taking your arms through too much - make the movement smaller, snappier and bring the hands to the chest quicker.” Alex instructed. She watched - “Yes, that’s better. Now, push the arms forward, longer -- longer! You’ve got to make the glide long before you turn out the hands. Try it again.”
Mel watched, listened and practised for about forty minutes before Alex called it a day, saying that they had made more progress in that one session than all the others put together.
“Yes, this was a great idea,” Mel enthused. “It’ll be even better on Thursday.”
“Hang on!” Alex suddenly thought, “Isn’t it your birthday on Thursday?” Mel was surprised and pleased that Alex knew and had remembered.
“Yes it is -- but it’s all right. I’d rather be doing this than anything else. Anyway, Mum has to work that night so we’ll probably go out for a meal on Friday night instead.”
“Hey, you can’t do nothing on your birthday. Why not stay here after the lesson and we’ll put some meat on the barbeque?” Alex suddenly hesitated. “That is, if you don’t have plans already. Maybe you and Mark are doing something?” Mel smiled.
“Alex. Mark and I aren’t dating or anything, you know. We’re friends, nothing more than that - and yes I’d love to stay for a barbeque. Thank you.”
They took turns in showering and, when dressed, Alex offered Mel an orange juice while she sipped on a beer.
“Do you know - I’m seriously considering relinquishing the group to Jenny,” Alex started. “I’ve got the opportunity of managing a leisure centre from next month and I think I’m in need of a change.” Mel’s heart sank.
“No, I didn’t know. Is that why Jenny’s taking lots of the sessions? I thought it was because of your foot at first, then I thought you were having a break over Christmas.”
“Don’t say anything to the other squad members. I don’t want any rumours as yet.” At the word ‘rumours’ Mel flinched and flushed guiltily.
“What is it?” Alex wanted to know.
“Oh, er - nothing.” Mel said lamely.
“Come on Mel! What rumours have been spreading through the squad?”
“No, no, not the squad,” Mel stumbled with embarrassment.
“Give!” Alex instructed in a mock, severe, teacher’s voice. Mel smiled briefly but was very reluctant to mention her mother’s accusations.
Alex put her hand on Mel’s arm.
“Hey, Mel. What is it? What can be so bad you can’t tell me?” Mel looked at the floor, then up into Alex’s face.
“My mum has heard a rumour that you’re gay. She told me; but she wouldn’t tell anyone else.” She looked away quickly. Alex withdrew her hand from Mel’s arm.
“That makes a difference?” she asked coldly. “With your mother? With you too?”
“God no! Not with me - I don’t care at all!” she insisted. “My mum wasn’t happy but I told her it didn’t make any difference to me. I would still train under you!”
“Well, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Alex’s voice was dry. “Well, maybe your Mum will be quite happy if Jenny takes over!”
“Yes; but I won’t be.” Mel mumbled miserably before looking up sharply. “You haven’t confirmed or denied it.” She looked expectant.
“No, my girl -- and I don’t intend to.” Looking into Mel’s face she was surprised to see a look of disappointment. ‘At what?’ She wondered.
They heard the sound of a car and, soon after, the door opened and Penny and Angie came into the house, laughing together. Penny threw her arm around Angie’s shoulders and Angie turned her face to receive Penny’s kiss before they glimpsed Alex and Mel through the open doorway to the patio. Penny kept her arm around Angie as they strolled outside.
“Hi, girls - have a good swim?”
“Yes thanks Penny. Hi Angie.” Mel said, a smile lighting her face.
“We were just about to leave.” Alex said a little tightly. “Thanks for the use of the pool. Oh, by the way, it’s Mel’s birthday on Thursday and I invited her to stay on for a barbeque. That OK with you two?”
“Yes, that’ll be lovely,” they chorused. “Are you sure you can’t stay a little longer today, Mel?” Penny continued.
“Sorry. Mum’s expecting me home for dinner soon, thanks again.” She picked up her bag, got her bike and rode off.
“Everything all right?” Angie asked Alex.
“Oh yeah, great! Mel’s Mum has heard a rumour that I’m gay and wants to drag her,” she paused. “Actually, I’m quite surprised though; it sounds as if Mel put her foot down and was insistent about staying with me.” Penny laughed.
“Our little Mel is growing up methinks -- and seems to know her own mind as well.” She turned and winked at Angie, who smiled and shook her head slightly in exasperation.
“Keep out of it!” she mouthed at Penny, then laughed aloud at Penny’s innocently surprised look.
Thursday saw Mel back at Penny’s house with bathers, meat and a salad which she’d made during the day. Alex also had meat and she had baked a cake as a surprise for Mel. The phone rang just before they were ready to enter the water and it was a breathless Penny, “Really sorry guys - there’s a problem over at Angie’s daughter’s house and Angie asked me to go with her. Something to do with a broken pipe - there’s water everywhere. I don’t know what time we’ll be back but, probably, it’ll be late. Have the barbeque, there’s salads etc. made, in the fridge. Share a bottle of wine -- I’m sure Mel’s now old enough and you can always run her home. Sorry again. Say ‘happy birthday’ to Mel. Gotta run now - bye!” Alex didn’t get a chance to speak and was still holding the receiver in her hand, looking at it, when Mel strolled in.
“Any problem?” Alex was looking bemused.
“Penny and Angie won’t be able to make it but they said for us to still have tea,” she saw Mel’s relieved look. “Oh yes, she wished you a happy birthday.” She put the phone down, shaking her head in exasperation.
The water was chilly in comparison with the warm air. They began to swim side by side and then began the lesson. Mel had grasped the changes to her arm movement and Alex was very pleased with her.
“OK, now to the legs. Hold on to the side of the pool.” she instructed. Mel did so but had trouble keeping her body and legs on the surface as she tried to move her legs in the slow motion needed to grasp the changes Alex wanted her to make.
Alex put both hands under Mel’s torso, one just below the breasts, the other covering her navel. Mel shivered at the touch of Alex’s hands but Alex seemed not to notice. Mel tried to concentrate on the tiny changes but had trouble doing so, as her mind was wholly on the feel of those hands. Alex was patient.
“OK, watch me again.” She attempted to show Mel but was confronted with the same problem of sinking. “Put your hands under me and watch my legs.” Mel didn’t need asking twice and, eagerly but quite clumsily, put her hands beneath Alex, realising immediately her lack of judgement as the thumb and index finger of her left hand felt the swell of Alex’s breast and the index finger of her right hand touched Alex’s pubic bone. She tried to wriggle them away from these regions but realised she was making things worse so she kept them still, pretending she couldn’t feel anything. She could feel the tension in Alex’s body and, when Alex explained her leg movements, her voice sounded hoarse and strained. Mel tried the movement once more but it was obvious that she hadn’t got it quite right.
“Let’s give it a miss today.” Alex surprised herself by saying. “It’s your birthday - let’s just enjoy a swim, hey?”
They swam, dived in, did handstands off the side of the pool and generally relaxed. Mel’s hair was cascading around her as she floated past Alex, her eyes closed. Alex couldn’t resist trailing her fingers through Mel’s hair, supposedly accidentally. She pulled herself from the pool and prepared to dive in again. Mel stopped to watch, her legs feeling rubbery as she looked at Alex’s bathers, dark with wetness, nipples standing out as the air rippled over her body. Mel’s desire ascended to a new plateau and she watched Alex with eyes that were wide and needful.
Alex caught her breath as she saw Mel standing in the water, watching her. She could see water streaming from tendrils of hair, a mouth that was slightly apart and eyes that were looking at her, displaying need and hunger. Alex hesitated. Thought ‘No! I can’t go in there with her. I can’t trust myself.’, then found herself swaying towards Mel, falling forward into the water in an involuntary belly flop. She rose to the surface, gasping for the air that had been forced from her body.
“Are you OK?” Mel was standing very close, her hand lifting to Alex’s face.
“Yes.” Alex nodded as she watched, mesmerised, as the hand came closer….. closer, until the fingers brushed her cheek with an unbelievable gentleness. She turned her head, without volition, into the hand and felt the thumb brush her lips.
“No!” she gasped, unable to say more. Mel looked at her with a confidence which belied her age and lack of experience.
“Yes!” she said as her other arm encircled Alex’s waist drawing her even closer. The bodies slightly bumped against each other as the swell in the water settled. They drifted apart a few centimetres until Mel exerted just enough pressure to join them again. Mel felt Alex’s breasts straining against her own and felt the tremor which went through Alex. The faces were millimetres apart and Mel exulted ‘Yes!!’ as her innocent lips closed the gap to Alex’s own.
Alex’s arm crept up around Mel’s back, stroking, caressing. Her own, experienced, mouth parted and felt Mel’s mouth following suit. Her tongue reached in and found Mel’s willing tongue, eager to match each movement. Mel lost all ability to think, her whole body was feeling, experiencing, the sweetness, the taste, the ecstasy of Alex’s mouth. Mel increased the pressure of her lips, craving more but not knowing what. She felt the imprint of Alex’s teeth against her lips and felt the need to touch them so her tongue left the warm caress of Alex’s tongue and traced their way along Alex’s small white teeth, first top, then bottom.
Alex groaned at this totally new exploration of her mouth. ‘How sweet this girl tastes, how firm she feels, how young she is’ and reality suddenly hit. She pushed Mel away.
“For God’s sake Mel! What in hell are you doing?” She tried to catch her breath. Mel tried to pull her back but she wrenched herself away. “Don’t! Don’t touch me!”
“Why?” Mel asked simply.
“You -- we can’t! You don’t know what you’re doing! This is impossible!” Alex's voice was sounded hoarse. Mel looked seriously at Alex.
“No, Alex, you’re wrong. Not only is it not impossible, it’s inevitable; and you know it. If you want to leave it for now then OK; but one day….. you know, we both know, that it will happen.”
Alex barely recognised Mel, the poise, confidence and recognition of herself had transformed her, in minutes, from a tentative girl to a woman who knew what she wanted and intended pursuing it. Alex backed away, panic building inside. ‘My God, I’m her coach, I’m in a position of care over her - but I want her so much, I want to love her, make love to her.’ Her thoughts were jumbled and confused but one thought was clear -- after what had just happened her mind was quite made up concerning the manager’s job -- she now had to take it, she now had no choice but to make a break from the squad.
Alex turned from Mel, her voice chilly as she forced herself to tell Mel that nothing would ever happen between them. She pulled herself from the pool, grabbed a towel and Mel watched as she sawed the towel back and forth across her shoulders and back before going to organise the food. Mel’s heart was slowing again and her eyes reflected her disappointment at Alex’s reactions but her adrenaline was still up as she felt the imprint of Alex’s mouth on her own and remembered the excitement she sensed in Alex’s body. She didn’t allow any pessimism to enter her. ‘I’ve just got to keep working on it but I’ll take it slowly, just as slowly as I need to,’ she told herself.
Alex was determined to bring everything down to an even keel after they had showered and dressed, so kept the conversation impersonal, mainly discussing the squad and their aspirations and probabilities of success. She told Mel the details of the job that she had now decided to take and they discussed Mel’s own ambitions. Alex’s aim was for Mel to try the 200 metre individual medley in a fortnight’s time so she wanted Mel to try a 100 metre breaststroke race in the two meets before that.
“You have to practice the turns, going from one stroke to another. I will have a chat with Jenny about re-organising your training to allow for that.”
They both ate well and, between them, finished the bottle of wine with Mel having the majority, as Alex had already offered to run Mel and her bike home. The unaccustomed wine, the aftermath of emotion and the warm day all contributed to a lethargy in Mel. She lay down on the lounge and, within seconds, was asleep. Alex watched her innocent face in repose. Her hair was loose with tendrils crossing her face, waving softly each time Mel exhaled. Alex leaned across and gently pushed the offending hair away, not wanting it to wake her. She continued to stroke the hair, feeling it’s softness spill over her hands. She imagined it across her own breasts, tickling her, as Mel reared above her. She imagined herself grasping a handful, pulling Mel’s face down to her own. She looked at Mel’s sleeping mouth, remembering the feel and taste of her lips and regretted the need to deny herself the pleasure of experiencing them again. She knew, however that, regardless of Penny’s encouragement of it, an affair with Mel was not possible.
If you have enjoyed F.J. Davey's "Change Of Tide, Part One", then please be certain to e-mail her at francis7[at]bigpond.net.au and thank her for posting this Story.
Click here to continue on to "Change Of Tide, Conclusion"
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