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In my story Time After Time, one of the main characters, Berry Osborne (then nineteen), had a brief affair with an older woman, Eleanor Montgomery, who had her own successful business. Eleanor was in a civil partnership with Simone, a French woman; the two were also business partners with Simone overseeing the French side of their trade. At the time Berry knew her, Eleanor and Simone had an open relationship. This is Eleanor’s story. Some characters and places have appeared in earlier stories of mine.
A Girl With Moonlight In Her Eyes is a long love story—there is sex but as always, I consider it secondary to the plot. I hope you enjoy it.
Characters in sex scenes are eighteen years old or over. All characters and places are imaginary—any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
Copyright © 2020 to the author
* * * * *
“Once upon a time a girl with moonlight in her eyes / Put her hand in mine and said she loved me so…”
Once Upon a Time (1962)
Music by Charles Strouse: Lyrics by Lee Adams
2017 — London: Sofia
Let’s face it, business conventions can be bloody tedious but it looked as if this one might pay off handsomely and for that reason I endured it.
So here I was, standing alone for the moment and trying to look as if I wasn’t bored out of my head. Even the glass of champagne I held wasn’t making things much better. Sadly it wasn’t very good champagne and the bubbles were rapidly dispersing. Better a glass of cheap red any day. Still, appearances are everything at these sort of events.
We had been approached several weeks previously by the London agent of some French billionaire to tender for the flower supply and floral arrangements for his daughter’s wedding. I guess we had been picked out because the affair was to be held at one of his homes, a Victorian mansion not far from our business in the historic market town of Helmsford. I said one of his homes—I think he had a string of them from California to Hong Kong, hopping between them by private jet or yacht or whatever. Anyway, said billionaire was attending this convention and my wife was currently engaged in conversation with him. Simone is French so we decided it would be best for her to deal directly with the great man.
Which goes to explain why, for the moment, I was standing all alone, with a glass of inferior champagne rapidly going flat, and feeling bored. Looking around, I couldn’t see anybody I knew or who appeared remotely interesting. A couple of tottering Lotharios about a hundred years old had tried to hit on me but I made it clear I wasn’t interested. Even if I’d been into men, neither of these two would have appealed, particularly the one with dewlaps and loose dentures.
One largish group of perhaps seven or eight people occupied a far corner of the room, surrounding a squat middle-aged man holding court. His hands were never still as he talked, waving, pointing, gesticulating, and he looked smug and self-satisfied, probably was. Perhaps cattily, but most likely accurately, I guessed that his sleek black hair owed more to a dye-bottle than to nature. One of the group was a woman but I couldn’t see what she was like as her back was turned to me.
Looking away, I continued people-watching so I didn’t see the woman detach herself from the group and make her way towards me.
I didn’t notice her until she spoke. “Eleanor?” She had a soft accent.
“Yes?” Puzzled, I turned to face her.
“Don’t you know me, Eleanor?” She smiled. “Oh dear, I’m bereft.”
It took me a second or two then: “Sofia Marín.”
“It’s De León now, Sofia De León. That’s Augustín, my husband, over there.” She gestured towards Mr Smug-and-Self-satisfied. “He’s here on Spanish government business, something boring to do with commercial contracts. Such a coincidence to meet you here. I’m pleased to see you, Eleanor, even if only briefly. We’re flying back to Spain early in the morning.”
I’m not sure that I would have recognised Sofia if I had passed her in the street. It wasn’t just that she was older—after all, we were all older. I was forty-five so she had to be fifty-something but she had changed physically. Her previously slim, almost girlish, figure was now dumpy, her dark hair, streaked with grey, was parted in the middle and drawn back into a tight bun, and her make-up was thick and heavy.
I don’t know if it showed in my face but Sofia said: “Yes, I know I’ve changed a lot, weight gain tends to run among women in my family—add my life-style to that, official dinners and so forth, and you get what you see. You’re the lucky one, Eleanor, age hasn’t left much of a mark on you, still as lovely as ever.”
We chatted about inconsequentials for a few minutes and mentioned how our lives had gone since last we met. I told canlı bahis şirketleri her of my business success; she had done well for herself in her chosen profession, now being a full professor at the Universidad de Granada. Then looking slightly sheepish, Sofia reached out and put a soft hand on my forearm. “Tell me, Eleanor, have you forgiven me…?”
1992 — City University: Sofia
There was an old and largely unused upright piano in one of the usually unattended back rooms of the Students’ Union. It was probably as well it was where it was—I shudder to think what might have happened to it in the bar when some of the students had had too much beer and decided a sing-song would be fun. So I said ‘largely unused’ but I liked to sit and play when I had a little free time—although it looked a bit timeworn it was properly tuned suggesting that someone had cared about it. Nobody ever bothered me much, I guess my choice of music wasn’t cool enough for the majority.
I’d always loved the piano from the time I was a very small girl. My maternal grandma had an upright and when I showed a little aptitude I was allowed to play on it. A bit later my parents arranged piano lessons for me and grandma gave me the piano as a gift. In the early days I had visions of becoming a concert pianist but fate decreed otherwise.
When I was sixteen I had to come out of two different closets and neither exit was easy for me.
The first was to my parents. I had known for several years that I was gay and decided admission was best sooner rather than later. The longer I held off, the more difficult it was likely to become.
I had started to suspect my sexuality when I was about thirteen or so and the question uppermost in my mind then was: ‘Am I weird, a freak?’ While most of my contemporaries were girly, giggly and gushing around boys I wasn’t. My instinct was to be girly, giggly and gushing around girls but kept the feelings suppressed because I assumed it was ‘wrong’. When I discovered masturbation, I realised the subjects of my fantasies were all girls and women. When a little older I tried several dates with boys, usually just to the cinema, trying to be ‘normal’ whatever ‘normal’ is, but there was never a second date with any of them. The first had sweaty hands which wasn’t very nice, particularly as he kept wanting to paw me. As we left the cinema a bus pulled up outside and I jumped on it to get away from him, shouting out it was my number. It was going the wrong way…
There were others, like the lad who had dry hands but who kept trying to feel my boobs, not that I had much at that time. (Actually, that might have been just about bearable if he’d been more gentle but he grabbed at me like a great white shark.) Then I had a date with Phil whose conversation was nothing but guffawing and gloating over the gorier scenes in horror films he’d seen and those he dragged me to. Another, a would-be film critic I reckon, must have assumed I was stupid for he spent the entire movie whispering explanations in my ear about what I could see for myself on the screen. I caught a lot of buses going the wrong way that year and eventually boys were off the menu. They might have improved when they grew up but I didn’t stick around to find out.
The moment arrived at last when I finally accepted my leanings, again at a cinema, a small backstreet picture-house. Double features had been history for at least fourteen or so years by then but this particular cinema backtracked to put on a tandem showing of the original Alien and its fairly-recent sequel Aliens. I went by myself and had just settled in my seat when I was recognised and joined by a girl I knew vaguely from school (she was a year or two older than me). We chatted until the first film started and then sat back to watch. It finally happened when the embryo alien creature burst out from John Hurt’s chest. My companion screamed and clutched at my hand and we continued holding hands throughout both pictures. I don’t think there was anything in it for her other than comfort during scary films—certainly nothing was said about it later—but for me it was a revelation, her warm hand feeling so natural and welcome in mine. I came to the conclusion then that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me, I preferred girls and that was it. I acknowledged what I was. (I also developed a serious crush on Sigourney Weaver.)
So, at the thought of coming out to my family I was scared. I don’t know why, my parents (both doctors, one a GP, the other a paediatrician) had never shown me anything but love and encouragement and I had never heard either of them say anything remotely homophobic. But I got a fixed image in my head, an image straight from Victorian melodrama. I saw my mother sitting by the fireside weeping quietly into a scrap of lace handkerchief while my father stood by the front door, sternly pointing to the outside world, canlı kaçak iddaa and me, abashed and banished and slinking out, never to darken their doorstep again. Crazy the ideas you can get as a teenager.
So with a certain amount of gulping and terrified stammering, I told them. My father, a great big cuddly bear of a man, looked at me for a moment, rubbed his chin and said: “You’re sure about this?”
I couldn’t meet his eyes. “Yes, Dad, absolutely certain.”
His next remark was an apparent non sequitur. “You enjoy playing the piano, don’t you?”
“You know I do, Dad.”
“And would being a lesbian interfere with your playing?”
I wondered where he was going with this. Was he going to cut off my lessons? “No, Dad.”
He smiled. “Then what’s the problem?”
That’s when I started crying. Both came to me and took me in their arms. “Silly girl,” said dad, “You didn’t really think we’d be upset and disown you?”
I sniffled back the tears as best I could. “Some parents would.”
“We’re not ‘some parents’, we’re us,” said mum, “and whatever is right for you and makes you happy… but take care, darling. Some women can be just as bad as some men.”
The second closet to open was with my music teacher.
As I said, I’d always seen myself as a future concert pianist. Over the years I’d mentioned this to Royston, my tutor, several times. Each time he commented: “Mmmhhh!” just that, “Mmmhhh!” and proceeded to the next part of the lesson. Part of my great plan was to train at some exclusive conservatoire and be discovered as an outstanding prodigy. Then came the sad day when I realised something: I just wasn’t good enough. On Royston’s advice, I’d listened to a number of recordings by some of the greats and compared them with my own playing. Even allowing for their ages and experience, it became obvious to me that I would never match up. At my next session I admitted as much to Royston.
He nodded. “I’m glad you realised for yourself, Eleanor. I was hoping that you would. I didn’t want to hurt you but sooner or later I would have had to tell you. You’re not a bad player, in truth you’re quite good at a non-professional or even light music level. You’re just not good enough to be a great, or even mediocre, professional classical pianist. You have a choice now. You can quit now or I can carry on teaching you until you leave school. Honestly, I’d say don’t waste more money. You’re as good now as you’ll ever be.”
I hugged my tutor. “Thanks for being honest, Royston.”
“You did the hard bit, Eleanor, recognising and admitting your shortcomings, and that was probably tough. But don’t stop playing, even if it’s just for you.”
So I took his advice and played for myself and family and friends and occasionally even to entertain in care homes and the like. I developed quite a repertoire that way: jazz, ragtime, pop, light music, all in addition to the classics. And now accepting that I would never be a great pianist acclaimed by millions, I had to rethink my future. I suppose mum and dad would have liked me to be doctor but I knew that wasn’t me. But plants were me. Since my early teen years I’d had a Saturday and holiday job in a local nursery which I loved almost as much as the piano. The City University offered a three-year graduate course in botany and horticulture so I managed to get onto that, combining it with business studies.
* * * * *
One evening I was in the piano room, keeping my hand in when I jumped a little at a quiet, softly-accented voice behind me. I hadn’t heard anyone come into the room. “Canon in D Major and very nicely played. I love that music.” The speaker came into my line of vision before I could turn. A pretty, olive-skinned, dark-eyed woman with black hair, she was slim and perhaps a couple of inches shorter than I am.
“Sofia Marín,” she introduced herself and extended a hand.
“I’m Eleanor Montgomery,” I replied, “I’m impressed. I don’t think too many students in here would have recognised Pachelbel.”
“And I wouldn’t have expected to find a student who could play it.” She laughed. “In fact, I’m not a student. I’m an exchange lecturer from Spain. My field is Spanish language and literature.”
The only Spanish literature I’d ever read was Don Quixote but I’d found Cervantes’s novel boring and heavy going. For me it fell within the category of what Mark Twain described as something like ‘a book everyone praises and no-one wants to read’. I decided it wouldn’t be tactful to mention that. Instead I said: “Your English is excellent.”
“My father is a languages professor. He made sure I was fluent in English and French.” Sofia picked up the sheet music from the stand and looked at it. “I didn’t know the college had a music faculty.”
“It has but I’m not a music student,” I told her, “I play for my own pleasure.”
She reached out and took one of my hands again, canlı kaçak bahis turning it over to look at both sides. She ran a finger along the very tips of mine, slightly hard and blunt from years of playing. Her own hands were dry and warm, soft and pleasant, so I didn’t pull away as I might have done with a man. “Short nails, I like that.” Was she flirting with me? I wondered, or was she simply being less inhibited than the average Briton?
“Long nails and piano-playing don’t exactly go together,” I pointed out.
“Ah yes,” she nodded, still gently stroking my hand. “There was a film some years ago starring Barbra Streisand,” Sofia continued, “I can’t remember the title but she played a typist. I often wondered how her character managed to type with the talons she had.” She indicated the piano. “Do you take requests?”
“Try me—if I don’t know the music I’ll say so.”
Sofia gave me a tiny smile, a smile with a touch of mischief. “Play ‘Misty’ for me.”
Now I really began to wonder about her. There was a film years ago called ‘Play Misty For Me’, from the 1960s I think. Of course I hadn’t been born when it came out but I had seen it on TV. It stars Clint Eastwood as a radio personality who is being stalked by a psychopathic fan.
Sofia’s roar of laughter must have been heard in the next room. “The expression on your face,” she snorted, trying to control herself, “it was wonderful! Don’t worry, Eleanor, I’m not some crazy woman plotting a terrible fate for you. I was just having a little fun. I do like ‘Misty’, though, if you know it.” She finally released my hand. I noticed as she did so that her nails, too, were short and neat.
I strummed a few warm-up notes on the piano and then played ‘Misty’ for her.
“Thank you, Eleanor,” she said when I finished, “You played that beautifully. Now, do you want to carry on here or can I offer to buy you a coffee?”
I wondered where this could be going. Still… Lowering the piano’s lid, I smiled at her. “Coffee would be lovely, thank you.”
* * * * *
I was at a meeting of the university’s LGB group (people had only just started using the initials in the early 1990s—the T would come later and the Q much later). At that time the uni set-up wasn’t so much a club as a help and support group. There were only about thirty or so of us then as plenty of others were still reluctant to come out—the student body numbered several thousand so despite the denials, I think the university’s closets were pretty crowded.
Perhaps it’s a bit sad that universities like ours needed support groups. After all,
they are supposed to be places of tolerance and understanding as well as scholarship and debate. Believe that if you want but it’s a myth. The City University had its quota of bigots, both among the student body and the faculty. When I was a fresher there was a lot of nastiness, rarely physical but certainly bitchy to the nth degree and some of the worst bitchiness came from men (mind you, a lot of that was if straight girls turned them down: “She wouldn’t go out with me, ergo, she must be a lesbian.”). I had had my share of mocking comments, some so ridiculous I actually found them funny. They included: I just needed a good man (or a good stiff hard-on) to put me right; was I the man or the woman in my relationships; how could I enjoy sex without a dick; or how could I even imagine sex without a dick; and I couldn’t possibly be a dyke because I didn’t look like a Russian tractor driver… you know, all the standard crap. Strangely, the most accepting and tolerant body was the Theology faculty.
Much of the unpleasantness abated a little when the Captain of the uni’s First XV rugby team came out. At six-seven and twenty stone or so of solid muscle, no-one was going to publicly give him grief. Funny really, for when not on the rugby field he was as sweet and gentle as anyone could be. It was quite comforting, though, feeling a huge shadow looming behind me when a couple of idiots were trying to talk me into a threesome (yukk!) to convert me and a deep voice saying: “You having trouble here, Eleanor?” It was fun to reply: “No, it’s okay, these gentlemen are just leav— oh, they’ve gone!”
Anyway, the meeting I referred to was just closing, all those with any problems or moans having got them off their chests, when a pair of soft hands came from behind to cover my eyes. “Guess who?”
“Sofia,” I said, “Who else round here has such a charming accent?” I turned and the Spanish woman kissed my cheek.
“Good guess—you win this evening’s prize.”
“How about coffee and a dish of ice-cream at the café?”
“Sold,” I said.
When we were settled at a table with drinks and luscious ice-cream treats, I said: “Are you gay too? I’ve never seen you at a meeting before. Or was that your first time?”
“I’ve been once or twice,” Sofia told me, “I hadn’t intended to go this evening but I passed the doorway after the meeting had started and thought I recognised you. When you played ‘Misty’ for me I felt an instant attraction. I wondered then if perhaps you are gay—maybe ‘hoped’ would be a better word.”
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