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In this part Penny reciprocates with her part of the bargain, a visit to the coffee shop. She is a little wary of showing too much attention however because Robyn is 20 and she is 29 and trying to steer her career and business in the right direction. Thus, romantic liaisons are on the back burner but Helen on the other hand has taken an active interest in Robyn. This section begins the day after Robyn attended a meeting on Friday night.
Author’s note: Dim sims or dimmies are a kind of dumpling unique to Australia. Despite the name, they are not classed as Asian food, being filled with minced meat, spices and a mixture of spices. The name was apparently chosen at random back in the 60s and has stuck ever since.
For readers outside Australia, the Liberal Party in Australia equates to the GOP in the U.S or the Tory Party in the U.K.
Helen flipped through the thick folder of patterns as she sat in her car outside the quaint house in Williamstown with its wrought iron fence and gate. The old woman she’d rung earlier that morning had told her that all the pattern books had been sold except for one. Considering she was the last person Helen had called that morning, all of whom had either sold their books or had buyers on their way with the money, she’d taken a chance with Elspeth Daniels and as she turned the plastic envelopes she reasoned that perhaps fortune had smiled on her.
The pattern books had been opened up and used as a backing for the actual patterns inside, which were also inside the envelope. The patterns all dated from the 1980s and hadn’t yet come back into fashion but they certainly looked as if they more or less matched the clothes she’d seen Robyn wearing a few days ago, those double-breasted blouses were certainly eighties and then there was the other thing she’d purchased from Elspeth.
She looked over her shoulder at the sewing machine. Elspeth assured her it worked and so Helen had driven to the nearest ATM to take out money from her other account and that was significant for her because she rarely withdrew money from her emergency account. Taking that much money out of it had triggered something inside herself. It was a declaration that from now on she was going to withdraw from Roxy and focus entirely on a new challenge.
Helen closed the folder and put it on the seat beside her and as she started the engine she stared at the beautifully kept garden behind the fence. Her mother had a garden at her house in Box Hill but hers had more weeds than flowers, she’d never been much of a green fingers. Helen released the parking brake. Operation Seduce Robyn had begun but first she had to scout out the landscape.
Fools rushed in where angels feared to tread.
Penny certainly felt like a fool as she stood with a plastic bag filled with sausage rolls, dim sims, some donuts and two bottles of Coke. She stared at the real estate listings hanging in the front window of the office at the top end of Main Street, Croydon. Her eyes alighted on a house in nearby Montrose that was going for an eye-watering price. My God, my joint would sell for three times that amount without breaking a sweat. Her eyes shifted to the front door and she contemplated her next move. It was bold and risky, and she risked looking like the girl who got all dressed up for the prom and turned up at her date’s house only to discover that her date’s date was standing behind her with a bemused smile on her face.
She glanced at her reflection in the mirror. She’d chosen a casual look this morning, a white blouse tucked into jeans, the three-quarter length denim coat was fringed with fur at the collar and on the cuffs. A pair of brown suede boots completed the outfit along with the western style leather belt. The winter cold had begun to bite early this year, this last week of May had seen torrential rain drenching the city last week. The previous day had seen a brief respite but they were forecasting a wet finish for this city of four seasons in one day.
Just do it, start walking.
She opened the door and stepped inside, a woman directly to her right looked up but then she saw Robyn at the next desk talking to someone on the phone. Her eyes widened and she raised a hand and pointed to the seat in front of her. As she walked to the desk she glanced at the rear of the office where a woman in her forties sat behind a desk and she also looked up and her eyes widened. Her age suggested she was the branch manager and just appraising a new potential client, Penny pulled the chair back and sat down.
“Yes, I know, I know, but unfortunately the price is still too high but if you were to spend some time on renovations and repairs then we could do a new valuation,” she smiled.
“I understand that but we do have a listing of qualified tradesmen who do offer a variety of services, they’re not part of our company but we often use them for repairs on rental properties. I could mail you the listing if you like and then it’s up to you. Some charge more than others but I can assure you that we wouldn’t use topkapı escort tradesmen who weren’t up to scratch,” she leaned forward.
“Okay, yes, I can mail that out this morning, unless you have an email address? You do?” Robyn picked up a pen, “no worries,” she started writing.
“Great Mrs Pennyworth, I’ll email this right away and when you’re ready for a new inspection please call us and we’ll arrange it… Okay then, thank you very much, you have a lovely afternoon too, bye now,” she hung up and put the phone down.
“My God, what a conversation,” she grinned and fiddled with one of the pleats on her pussybow blouse, “how are you? And what are you doing here?”
“I brought some lunch,” she held the bag up, “but then I thought that maybe I should’ve checked with you first but by then I’d already paid for it.”
“That was a bit… impetuous of you,” she glanced at a woman on the other side of the office, “but fortune favours the bold and in this case you, I’m just about to head out for lunch,” she clicked her mouse, “but just let me email Mrs Pennyworth this listing,” she clicked again.
“Bloody Outlook, it’s the bane of my life,” she clicked again, “waiting… waiting… oh this is like watching the bloody paint dry… ooh, progress and action,” she started typing.
Penny smirked as she waited for her to send the email and then she became aware that the older woman had left her desk and was now approaching the desk. She glanced up and gave her the once over. She had light brown hair pulled back with a hair clasp and a broad face with brown eyes and a wide mouth. Her attire was businesslike, white blouse and black trouser suit and as she came to a stop a nervous smile nudged her lips.
“Are you? Ms Jones?”
“I am,” she inclined her head slightly and turned towards her, “Penny Jones.”
“You’ve been in the local paper a couple of times?”
“I have,” she pulled a wry grin, “I’m one of the founders of women who talk.”
“I thought so, I’m Yvonne Gilchrist, branch manager.”
“Pleased to meet you,” she extended her hand, “I’m just taking our newest member out for lunch,” her hand slipped into Yvonne’s, “if that’s all right?”
“Of course, of course,” her eyes flickered to Robyn who had just sent the email, “I’ve been meaning to come along to one of your groups,” she shook her hand briefly, “but it’s finding time.”
“I fully understand that one, I find it hard to juggle timetables myself,” she let of her hand, “but we have different chapters meeting at various times of the month, so it’s usually easy to find a time that suits you. We even have unofficial coffee circles within the chapters where members meet up once or twice a week for coffee, we’re flexible like that,” she put a hand into her handbag and took out a business card.
“Here, give that number a phone and there’s a website address that has phone numbers for the various chapters.”
“Of course, thank you,” she glanced briefly at Robyn, “well, I won’t keep you any longer,” she took a step back as Robyn stood up and plucked a grey tailored jacket off the back of her seat.
“No worries,” she smiled and stood up as well, “nice to have met you.”
Yvonne nodded once more and returned to her desk. Penny turned her attention to Robyn as she slid the jacket over her shoulders, it matched the three-quarter length pencil skirt and her eyes flickered momentarily to the blouse. It was also reminiscent of an earlier era with its white lace pussybow that reached her belly, the blouse had a wide pleat on either side of the bodice and when she moved around the desk Penny noted the black, knee-high boots.
“Shall we?” Robyn smiled as she slung her handbag over her shoulder.
“Of course,” Penny nodded and waved to Yvonne as they walked out.
“Well,” Robyn glanced over at her as they stopped in the middle of Main Street, “you sure made an impression on my boss, “she’s usually only that friendly when the regional manager comes around. You must get that a lot.”
“I do but it’s been months since someone did that,” she looked up and down the street, it was filling up with lunchtime shoppers and shop workers, the latter were queuing up at the hot bread kitchen or heading for cafés.
Robyn stared up at the sky and smiled crookedly at the blue sky.
“God, the winter’s so bright I gotta wear shades,” she took her sunglasses out of her bag, “where are we lunching?”
“Um, over there?”
“Gee, how convenient,” she chuckled as she slipped a hand into the crook her arm and led her to the bench seats arranged around a small tree, “she brings the lunch to me and the restaurant, smooth, I like it. Are they dimmies I can smell?”
“They are,” she sat down, “steamed dim sims.”
“Well, I’m glad we have something in common,” Robyn sat down beside her, “that’s a healthy start, I hate the fried ones.”
They sat and ate lunch for a few minutes and she loved the steamed dim sims with soy sauce but had to lean forward and take small tuzla escort bites to avoid dripping soy sauce over herself, but as she took a mouthful of Coke she turned and looked at her briefly.
“So, be honest with me. Why are you really here?”
Penny’s eyes shifted and she hesitated before replying.
“I’m knocking a hole in one of my walls.”
“And what can you see through the hole in your wall?”
“A young woman, very smartly dressed who works at a real estate office in Croydon. She loves to eat steamed dim sims but is careful not to get soy sauce on her clothes. She is courteous to clients and open minded enough to accept an impromptu date with a gay woman.”
“Good answer,” she picked up a sausage roll, “she also loves sausage rolls and pasties, but hates meat pies because it’s not real meat.”
“So, you’re not a vegetarian.”
“I was raised in Warbie,” she replied a few seconds later, “have you seen the number of cows and sheep up there? If you don’t eat meat your choices are severely limited, the only people out there who are vegetarians or vegans are people with loads of money and nothing to spend it on.”
“Now that’s a better answer than mine,” she remarked.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against vegetarians but humans are omnivores first and vegetarians second, the first is a natural state, the second is a lifestyle choice.”
“I would have called to make sure I wasn’t intruding,” Penny picked up a sausage roll, “but I didn’t have your phone number and so I decided to come into Croydon instead. I was going to come and ask you first but then I got distracted by the hot bread shop and walked in there instead,” she took a bite out of the sausage roll.
“Well there’s one way to solve that problem,” she raised the sausage roll to her mouth, “we need to swap phone numbers and addresses, after all, I know where you live now, it’s only fair.”
She took another bite and for the next minute or two they each consumed a sausage roll, and then Penny spoke up.
“Okay, we’ll do that. That’s another brick in the wall I’ve removed,” she held the bag open for her and took another sausage roll.
“Thanks,” she took it out, “so, how do we remove some more bricks?”
It was a question Penny answered herself as she finished the second sausage roll.
“We need to do more of this, meeting up I mean.”
“Okay, when and where?” Robyn glanced at her.
“So direct,” she smiled as she raised her Coke.
“Somewhere neutral? Like, a café?” Robyn frowned.
“Maybe,” Penny mused a few moments later, “I’m fairly flexible that way.”
“Of course, but you are the boss,” Robyn lowered her Coke, “but that might be too distracting, there is a risk someone we know might be there too, plus I’m on a budget and before you offer it, I don’t want you paying for everything, it’s not fair on you or me,” Robyn took a mouthful of Coke but the other woman seemed almost distracted and so Robyn continued.
“We need to take out the bricks where they’re thickest.”
“Where?” Penny looked at her.
“At the base,” she swivelled towards her, “your house.”
“My house?” Penny’s eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, your home really is like a castle on top of a mountain. My place isn’t a good idea, I live with two straight girls there and there’s no privacy but your house is better because it’s where you feel most secure. You can do your housework in the nude and no one would know, and if I’m to tear down my walls, I need to sit in a lesbian’s house to confirm that she’s not going to ravish me on the couch,” she took another mouthful of Coke.
“And I’ll see how you really live. Do you have sex toys stashed in convenient places all over that big house of yours in case the urge takes you in the kitchen or a spare room? Do you have women lined up waiting for their turn to be ravished on the couch? And do you do your housework in the nude or is that just some stupid shit on a porn video? I basically just want to talk about sex without feeling like I have to try it on for size there and then. Just so we’re clear, I do have a boyfriend,” she took another mouthful of Coke.
“So, if you’re burning a candle for me it might just burn all the way down, I’m curious about sex in general and genuinely wondering why I find women more attractive than men but right now I’m at that stage in life where I have the luxury of sitting on the riverbank and just thinking.”
“There’s nothing wrong with sitting on a riverbank, I’ve been doing that for the last three and a half years despite some generous offers. This is strictly an exchange of ideas,” Penny nodded.
“That’s a good answer,” Robyn replied.
“But to answer the question about porn,” Penny smiled, “I’ve seen a couple of videos over the years and I find them to be mindless bullshit. One scene that comes to mind was when a woman came into the house with flecks of snow on her and when she took off what little she was wearing she had no bra or knickers.”
“Well, ümraniye escort that’s another brick knocked out,” Robyn took out her phone, “I guess we’d better exchange phone numbers, in my nanna’s day people wrote down phone numbers in little black books.”
“I still do that today,” Penny smirked.
After they’d exchanged contact details there were a couple of minutes of silence before Robyn slipped the phone into her handbag.
“So, which day suits you for our one on one sessions?”
“Thursday, Friday at a push, and Sundays, although you’re in church so that wouldn’t suit but I can rearrange other things and give you another day.”
“Huh, how about that?” Robyn smirked, “that’s another thing we have in common, the same free nights, I only go to church in the morning but the rest of the day is mine, I’ll take Thursday, but if you need to reschedule then text me.”
“I will,” she turned her attention to the office window, “so, moving onto mindless chatter, how do you like working in real estate?”
“It’s challenging at times but also rewarding,” she replied, “I’m just doing clerical work but once I turn twenty one Yvonne wants to move me up the ladder and get me out doing inspections and then taking clients through houses.”
“So, you’re looking for a career in real estate?”
“I’m undecided,” she mused.
“I fell into this job when I worked part time at the branch in Lilydale a little over two years ago. Originally I had the idea of doing an arts degree at uni but I desperately wanted to be out of home and earning money too, so at the moment I’m stuck with drawing and dreaming.”
“What kinds of things do you draw?”
“Women for the most part,” she replied, “I copy pictures out of catalogues and just lately I’ve been looking at my drawings and wondering if I could make something like that, so it was a bit of a boon to meet the woman who made my suit last night.”
“I found two pictures of your grandmother last night,” Penny ventured, “they were class photos, year eleven and twelve,” she paused, “I scanned them into my computer the other night but forgot to mention it to you last night.”
“I’d like to see them,” she pursed her lips, “can you email them to me?”
“Sure, what’s your email address?” Penny took out her phone but Robyn was already tapping it out on her phone, the address came through a few seconds later.
“Cool, it won’t be until tonight or tomorrow, it’s on the computer.”
“No rush, it’d be interesting to get another couple of pictures of nanna, and you,” she smiled slyly, “and on that pleasant note,” she looked at her watch, “I have to love you and leave you.”
She stood up and waited for Penny to stand as well.
“I only get forty five minutes for lunch on Saturday because I finish earlier today and I’ve got to get some money out of the hole in the wall,” she stepped forward and putting an arm around her waist, gave her an air kiss.
“But if our menstrual cycles are in sync then you’ll have to hire me,” she giggled and with that she was striding confidently down Main Street, only glancing over her shoulder once as Penny stared at her as she turned around.
Did she just make a pass at me? Penny touched her sunglasses, in public?
It was a question that was still swirling around her brain as she turned into Ruskin Park drive some fifteen minutes later. The brief physical encounter had been entirely initiated by Robyn, almost as if she was testing her boundaries and yet it was similar to the kind of affectionate goodbye she’d had from both gay and straight women in the past and could be interpreted either way.
Caroline greeted her at the flywire door with a cheery smile.
“Looks like I’m being invaded by lesbians again,” she opened the door, “my sister in law is here as well,” she glanced over her shoulder briefly.
“Louise,” she replied, “she’s helping me finish off her wedding dress.”
“If I’m keeping you,” Penny’s eyes shifted as she stepped inside.
“Nonsense,” she replied, “you’re not disturbing anyone, Louise just wants a bit of supervision so the two of us can sit drinking coffee while she works.”
Caroline’s sewing room was currently set up in the dining room. Their dining table was rarely used for dining as she and her family usually ate dinner in front of the television. At twenty eight years of age Caroline had three children, Sven, Marcus and Birgit, who was only three years old and was sitting on the dining room floor with her toys. The two boys had gone to play with the kids over the road whilst her husband, Mark was at work at a garage off Hewish Road.
Louise Barnes was a thirty something bank teller who had met her partner, Sigrid when they both worked at the Westpac bank in Boronia. Melanie had been their manager and their biggest supporter when they got together. Louise’s late mother however had been a particularly cold-hearted woman who officially disowned her oldest daughter when she came out. What amazed even her friends was the fact she’d lost one daughter to cancer a few months previously and thus disowning her only other child effectively isolated her from family. The reasons for her homophobia were never clear and even Louise couldn’t explain it, but she suspected that her mother must have been attracted to women at some stage in the past.
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