Get Away with Martha Hall
Warning: sex and bad language. Hooray!
When Jo rounded the gate and into her front garden, the sight of someone on her front doorstep gave her such a shock she felt like a cartoon character literally jumping out of their skin.
“Saints fucking preserve us!”
It was Martha. Martha sitting on her front step, sheepish and beautiful, her knees tucked up under her chin.
“How did you know where I live?”
“You’re in the phone book. We used to live round the corner”
Jo let her keys jangle through her fingers, not sure what to say or do. With each second that ticked past, Martha looked increasingly uncertain and nervous. It obviously got too much for her and she jumped up, rubbing the palms of her hands on her shorts.
“I’m sorry. It seemed like a good idea. I guess it wasn’t”
As she moved to make off, Jo snapped out of her stupor and caught Martha’s hand.
“No, please, I’d like to talk to you”
Martha’s body relaxed, Jo could feel it through her fingers.
“Come in, I’ll put the kettle on”
Martha knew the layout of the bungalow like she knew the inside of her own eyelids. It always freaked her out a little, the houses the same as hers except not, each decorated and furnished differently enough to make her feel disjointed. The wall between the living and dining rooms had been knocked through, a bookcase acting as a room divider. One shelf of the case was taken up with a large tropical fish tank, Martha drawn to the colourful fish like a child.
“These are beautiful”
“My Uncle Pete got me into them. He swears they’re therapeutic. Mostly they are”
“Yeah, when they’re not turning up their fins and dying on me”
“I saw a whole load of those orange one, like the one in Finding Nemo, when we did a thing about snorkelling off the Gold Coast”
“They’re angel fish”
Jo was no less tense inside the house than she had been out. Admittedly, she wasn’t fiddling with her keys but Martha could see the outline of her hands as they clenched and relaxed in the pockets of her trousers. The beautiful line of her jaw was tighter than usual too, although she had stopped short of grinding her teeth. Martha wanted to run her fingers through hair that looked as if Jo had just tumbled out of bed. With a jolt, Martha had a disquieting thought: maybe Jo had grown sick of her and had found someone else, maybe that was why she wanted to talk, why she was so tense. Martha felt sick. Jo was looking at her, her face creased with concern.
“Are you alright, Matty? Do you want a glass of water?”
She nodded, unable to speak for a moment. Jo calling her Matty eased the fear a little, but her stomach still roiled. Jo disappeared through a door Martha knew led into the kitchen. While she was gone, Martha sat on the floor and watched the fish.
Jo’s Uncle Pete had a point: they were therapeutic, so much more so when you watched them through the toughed glass of an aquarium rather than the toughed plastic of a diving mask. Martha shuddered; the claustrophobia of the mask and snorkel, of having to pretend to love every second when in fact she was terrified of sharks and box jelly fish, pressing in on her. But sitting on the floor in Jo’s living room, the carpet a little rough on the skin of her calves, she was mesmerised by the flashes of improbable colour. Jo had created some sort of sub-aquatic Camelot of miniature castles and arches, fronds of greenery like forests, red, blue and yellow gravel scattered across the bottom like gem stones. She couldn’t help but smile; trust Jo to make such a fairytale environment for her fish.
Jo stood in the door way, watching Martha. She was sitting on the floor, her legs stretched out in front of her, leaning back on her arms, staring at the aquarium with a secret smile on her face. Martha Hall was in her house, sitting on her carpet, looking at her fish. She was beautiful and she was there. Jo cleared her throat of its sudden tightness, making Martha glance up; Jo smiled at her and walked over, handing Martha the glass of water before dropping down next to her, sitting with her legs crossed. To her surprise, Martha rested her head on her shoulder, and they sat watching the fish. Jo felt light and happy; if she could, she would hold onto this moment forever. But it was too good to last.
“Martha, I have to tell you something”
“You’ve met someone else, haven’t you?”
Martha looked as if she was about to burst into tears. Instinctively, Jo put her arms around her and hugged her close.
“No, no, of course not”
She felt Martha relax a little, her voice so muffled against Jo’s chest she wasn’t sure she heard her. It sounded like Thank God.
“That shouldn’t worry you. You have Lauren”
At that, Martha pulled back a fraction, her expression puzzled.
“I saw you on the pier”
“Ah, Donovan and Mickey said as much”
Warm, surprisingly strong fingers were stroking the back of Jo’s neck. She should’ve stopped them as they were distracting, but the sensation was too nice, too much what she wanted. Instead, she tried to press on, but when she started to speak, Martha placed her fingers on her lips, effectively silencing her.
“Jo, I won’t lie to you, although I’ve been lying to myself most of my life. I’ve always liked girls. Much more than I ever liked boys. I was just too scared to do anything about it. When I was a kid, I had a real thing about tomboys”
She was staring down at an imagined speck on the carpet, scraping her fingernail, making the pile stand up.
“They were magnificent. Like boys only much better. They were bold and courageous but also kind and gentle”
She sighed softly, settling back into Jo’s embrace.
“Lauren was in love with me and I think I was probably in love with her, but I was frightened. I’ve always been afraid of everything, I’m afraid of flying, afraid of snorkelling, I’m even afraid of getting on the back of a camel”
“But you still do it”
Jo felt Martha shrug.
“I’m a coward, Jo. You were a tomboy, you wouldn’t understand”
“What makes you think I was a tomboy?”
Martha drew back to look at her, incredulous.
“Of course you were. I bet growing up you didn’t have any female friends. No, scrub that, I bet you had one really close girl, didn’t you? What was her name?”
“Jo and Josie? That is beyond cute. And I bet she was the girlie version of you”
“Like you were the girlie version of Lauren”
“Lauren was bold and courageous and I was a coward and an idiot”
“You can make up for it now”
Martha shook her head.
“There are some things you can never make up for”
“I’m sure she’s prepared to forgive you”
She couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her voice, and Martha understandably reacted to it, drawing back to regard her.
“There’s nothing going on between me and Lauren”
Jo couldn’t meet her gaze. Martha grabbed hold of her chin, pulling Jo’s face towards her own and made her look her in the eye.
“There isn’t, I promise”
Jo’s breath caught in her chest when soft lips touched her own and arms tightened around her. But she couldn’t give in to it, not yet.
“About Marco – ”
“I haven’t spoken to him in almost three weeks”
“No, what I meant is – I mean – I didn’t tell him about us”
Martha put her fingertips to Jo’s cheek, the touch so light it almost wasn’t there at all.
“I told you I was a coward. It was easier to make it your fault”
“I should’ve kept my mouth shut, but he was in my face, threatening me with his connections”
“Don’t tell me, the Bonettis”
“Yeah. Can I ask you how he’s connected to them?”
“His Uncle Guido is part owner of one of their restaurants”
“Hm, I suspected it would be something like that. Joe’s not going to be happy if he catches wind of Marco implying it’s something more dodgy”
“You seem to know a lot about it”
Jo gave her a wry smile.
“More than I should be comfortable with, that’s for sure. Matty – there’s something I want you to know. About my father – ”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to – ”
“No, no, I do. Marco was wrong about him. He’s not a murderer, but it’s possible he did kill someone. He’s doing twenty years”
“O Jo, what happened?”
“I’m not ashamed of my dad but I am ashamed of what he’s done. He made his choices in life, I guess. He and my Uncle Pete are pretty hardcore, Matty, armed robbery. They did a wages snatch with Joe Bonetti’s nephew Sammy. Nobody quite knows what happened but a guard got shot. I think Sammy pulled the trigger and Dad took the fall for him. God only knows why”
“When was this?”
“Fifteen years ago”
“O God, Jo, you’ve been without him all that time?”
“Can you see why I didn’t want to tell you?”
Martha nodded, resting her head back on her shoulder. Jo gave in to temptation and let herself stroke Martha’s hair. When Martha sighed with contentment, Jo kissed the top of her head.
“I couldn’t bear it when Marco tried to pull that shit on me”
“I’m sorry, honey”
Jo was soft and warm. Martha wanted to curl up in her lap and bury her face in her neck and never move. She reached up and twined her fingers in Jo’s hair. Jo gasped, her voice husky.
“Matty – ”
“Doesn’t – doesn’t any of this bother you?”
“You can’t help who your father is anymore than I can”
“But I’ve just told you he’s an armed robber”
Martha looked into anxious grey eyes. O God, those eyes. She let her fingers drift down Jo’s cheek.
“This’ll probably make you laugh. My dad’s a copper, a Detective Inspector. And as far as I know, he’s never done a decent thing in his life. He wouldn’t cross the road to help someone else, let alone sacrifice himself. Work that one out”
They fell quiet for a moment, both stroking the other’s hair and skin.
“Jo, I’m sorry for the way I treated you. It wasn’t fair of me”
“It wasn’t anything less than I deserved”
“You know that’s not true, don’t you? You’ve only ever been decent to me from the moment I met you. It’s not everyone who’d buy a total stranger a new set of clothes”
“You weren’t a stranger. You were Martha Hall, the nation’s sweetheart”
“I should be glad you didn’t sell the story to the tabloids”
“My hot night of lesbo fun with TV travel girl?”
“See, you’re wasted on the broadsheets”
Jo kissed the top of Martha’s head. Martha couldn’t help but let another happy sigh escape.
“The feature you did on Janine was brilliant”
“You read it?”
Jo sounded like a child, pleased that a grown up had shown an interest in her. Martha was touched by it, and stroked Jo’s chest through the material of her shirt. It was meant to be simple affection but she felt a tingle in her fingers that slowly crept up her arm. It was an effort to keep her tone even.
“Yes. I noticed that you kept your own ego out of it. So many feature writers make it about themselves. And you captured the Janine I know but I’m not sure the public do. They think of her as some bit of fluff telly presenter and don’t see beyond that”
“Like they don’t with you”
“Maybe I don’t want them to see beyond it. Anyway, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be that girl off the telly”
Jo pulled away and looked at her, her eyes worried.
“Marco’s not going to sack you, is he?”
“He’d be fucking stupid if he did. You’ve just won an award”
Jo’s righteous indignation made Martha want to laugh, a big, happy laugh that bubbled up in her chest and bordered on hysterical if she hadn’t fought to keep it in check.
“That wouldn’t stop him. But I think it would be more me quitting before he gets the chance to fire me”
“But everyone loves you”
“Which is always a good time to go, before they say O God, not that tired old slapper. Do you remember when I called you from Canada?”
“I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I hated travelling. I’ve always hated it, from the first time I flew to Majorca with my mum and dad. The only assignments I’ve been able to bear are those featuring British holidays, and then it had to be the glories of the Cornish coast or the English Riviera. It’s been wasted on me, Jo. I’ve been to some places that are paradise on Earth but getting there was such an ordeal, I’ve never appreciated it. Apart from – ”
She was suddenly shy, realising that she was about to admit to her fantasies. Colour was inflaming her cheeks, which seemed to serve only to intrigue Jo.
“Apart from what?”
“It doesn’t matter”
“O no, you don’t get away with it that easily, Hall. Cough”
“Erm, okay – well, I have to admit that it has given me a sort of reference databank that – er – comes in useful at times”
Jo was understandably confused.
“O God, I can’t believe I’m telling you this. It helps that I’ve seen all these gorgeous places because I can imagine you in them”
Silver grey eyes widened.
“Really? You do that? Well, obviously you do. Martha Hall, you sly old dog. Tell me, where do you imagine me?”
Martha could feel the tips of her ears burning, but Jo looked like a little girl on Christmas morning, so she swallowed her embarrassment.
“I imagine you and me driving around Rome on a scooter”
“I hope you’re wearing that dress with the flowers on”
Martha nodded, unable to speak for a moment at the delight in Jo’s voice and face.
“On a yacht in the Caribbean”
“You – you’re all tanned, it makes the grey of your eyes stand out. And – and your hair is all windswept”
“And how do you look on this yacht?”
“I try not to think about that as I get sea sick on the boating lake”
“Where’s your sense of romance?”
Martha didn’t think it possible to flush any deeper, but she did.
“O ho, I suspect another fantasy location”
“Shush, or I won’t tell you”
Jo pushed Martha’s shoulder, catching her off guard and off balance with a surprised yelp as she fell back onto the floor. Jo wasted no time and straddled her, pinning her hands above her head.
“You’ll have to tell me now”
Jo’s weight pressing into her was making it hard for Martha to think let alone string a sentence together. She swallowed and looked up into eyes that had gone the colour of wood smoke. Some how she found her voice.
“We – we’re in a rowing boat on the Mediterranean”
Jo cocked her head to one side, her thumbs gently stroking Martha’s wrists.
“You’re not feeling sea sick, are you?”
Martha slowly shook her head.
“No, the water is still as a mill pond”
“Tell me about it”
“It’s beautiful, a clear blue”
“Like your eyes”
Jo leant in, her mouth softly covering hers for a fraction of a second.
“Nothing’s better than your eyes. But I interrupted you. Please go on”
“The water – the water is blue and then green and the bottom is sand and you can see the shadow of the ripples on it. And you – ”
Martha ran out of speech for a second time as Jo’s mouth came to her neck.
“And me – go on”
“And you – you’re swimming”
Jo kissed her neck, her lips firm.
“That’s good. I like to swim. What am I wearing?”
“That – that depends. Sometimes it’s a swimming costume”
There was a nip of teeth against sensitive skin, Martha biting back a groan.
“Sometimes it’s a tight T shirt”
Jo’s voice was a whisper on her neck.
“Blue and white stripes, like a sailor, and you’re wearing tight fitting shorts”
Jo’s laugh was a tremble that shot electricity through Martha, sparking her synapses.
“I almost fancy myself”
“You should – everything clings to you, shows off all that lean tomboy muscle”
“Everyone knows tomboys climb trees and swim in rivers”
“In clothes that cling to them?”
“Yes, to show the girls what makes them better than the boys”
The hot breath had moved to Martha’s ear.
“And what’s that?”
“Let me go and I’ll show you”
Jo released Martha’s wrists, and Martha seized the opportunity. Her thumbs flickered over nipples that instantly hardened through cotton. Jo’s voice was hoarse.
“Boys have nipples”
“The last time I did this to a boy, I can guarantee it didn’t make him as wet as I know it just made you”
She moved her palms so that they were cupping Jo’s breasts, loving the way they filled her hands.
“Don’t the girls mind that the tomboys are missing an import piece of equipment?”
Martha stroked the backs of her hands across Jo’s abdomen until she reached the hem of her shirt, edging her hands, palms down up the hot, smooth skin.
“No, because it’s only the boys who care about that. Boys and other boys. The girls secretly know that the tomboys make more of an effort and have way more imagination”
“In your fantasy –”
Jo was evidently trying to regain control of the situation and Martha was happy to let her, especially as she had let her hands slip around to Jo’s back and was indolently drawing her nails lightly over more of that peerless skin. Let Jo think she was in charge.
“In your fantasy do I just keep swimming?”
“Lovely as it is to watch you, no. Eventually you pull yourself back into the boat, water dripping off that fabulous torso of yours”
Jo braced herself above Martha, the muscles standing out in her arms, looking exactly as Martha had imagined her.
“What about you? What are you doing?”
Martha ran her hands up the struts of Jo’s arms.
“I’m lying in the bottom of the boat admiring your physique”
“In my dripping wet T shirt and shorts?”
“Sometimes – sometimes you’re naked”
Martha watched Jo’s eyes become almost entirely black, just a thin halo of silver remained.
“And what about you?”
“I’m in my red bikini”
“I think I’d prefer you naked too”
“That’s up to you, Ms. Wheeler”
It didn’t take much for Jo’s mouth to meet Martha’s: a quick dip of her head and her lips were pressed against a pair as pliable and compliant as her own, that opened the instant contact was made. The heat of Martha’s tongue was a delight Jo knew she would never get over. She’d told herself that she was over the feel and taste of her, that it was an erased memory, but the second the tip of Martha’s tongue slipped into her mouth, she knew she was a self deluded liar. The memory was only ever just below the surface and, like all recovered memories, would mob her. Not that she put up much of a fight. Martha was lifting herself up off the floor in an attempt to get her mouth closer to Jo’s, Jo put her hands on Martha’s shoulders and pushed her gently until she was lying on the floor again, Jo lowering herself so that she covered Martha. She felt Martha groan into her mouth as their bodies connected, her own a growl in the back of her throat when Martha’s legs fell open.
“O God, Jo, I love the feel of you on me”
“I’m not too heavy?”
“No, you’re perfect”
Martha’s eyes were hot, her cheeks flushed, and the memory of when they’d last been in this position set off a bomb in Jo’s groin. Her whole body clenched with the explosion, the damage doubled in intensity when Martha caught hold of Jo’s bottom lip between her teeth and tugged. Flicking her tongue along the throbbing lip, she looked directly at Jo.
“Was that what I think it was?”
Jo shook her head, causing Martha to raise an eyebrow.
“Are you sure? I’m not an expert or anything but that seemed an awful lot like an orgasm to me”
Jo shook her head again but couldn’t help but smile.
“Maybe a bit of a one”
“Half an orgasm? You should demand your money back”
“Uh-uh, it was just what I ordered. For now”
Martha ran her hands into Jo’s hair, tugging on it gently. Jo felt the pull of it through the whole of her body, making her push her hips into Martha, in turn making the other woman groan and thrust back.
“Jo, take me to bed”
“You don’t want to do it on the living room floor?”
“I would, but the fish are watching”
Jo attempted to push herself off Martha, but surprisingly strong arms wrapped around her shoulders and drew her back down again.
“I thought you wanted to go to bed”
“Hm, in a moment. You feel so nice where you are, I can’t bear to let you go”
Jo made sure the majority of her weight was distributed through her forearms, resting on either side of Martha’s head.
“You don’t have to be so delicate, baby, I’m tougher than I look”
“I don’t want to squash you”
“I don’t care if you squeeze the air out of my lungs, put all your weight on me. Let me feel you”
Christ Almighty. There wasn’t a part of her that wasn’t touching a part of Martha. Martha had opened her legs so that Jo could fit snugly between them, and now she’d hooked her legs so they were wrapped around Jo’s, rubbing her heels down Jo’s calves, her hands doing the same on Jo’s shoulders before moving into her hair, pulling her into a slow, deep kiss. Involuntarily, Jo started to rock into Martha, her tongue buried in Martha’s mouth, the rhythm of both matching and marking time. Martha broke the kiss.
“Now, now it’s time to go to bed. Let me up”
As soon as she was released, Martha made for the hall and straight to the master bedroom without being told which door it was. Jo was amused by the familiarity Martha had with the house, allowing herself a moment to pretend that they lived together. It was a thought that made her giddy as she followed Martha up the hall, finding the middle door open.
Martha was lying in the centre of the double bed, having kicked off her shoes, but remained dressed. It was a beautiful, warm room that got the afternoon sun, naking the pinky terracotta walls glow. A pool of honey sunshine fell across the bed and Martha shifted so she was lying in it, relishing it on the bare skin of her arms and legs. She pulled up her T shirt so it could hit her stomach; she stroked the newly warm skin, feeling it heat her blood. Looking up, she saw Jo standing in the doorway watching her. Martha raised a knee and let her fingers slide towards the waistband of her shorts.
“Hey, good looking, what are you standing over there for?”
“There’s a strange woman lying on my bed”
“And you’re just enjoying the view?”
“I have to tell you, it’s not half bad”
“Come a bit closer then, handsome, and get a better look”
Martha maintained eye contact with Jo as she ran her fingers to the button of her shorts, flipping it open in one easy movement, the zip putting up no resistance. Jo had moved further into the room but was still standing away from the bed, leaning a hip on the stripped pine chest of drawers. Martha could see her chest moving up and down with her breathing, her eyes darker than she’d ever seen them and intently fixed on Martha’s fingers as they smoothed back up her own belly, under her T shirt, cupping her breast under the material. She wasn’t wearing a bra and was glad of it as her fingers came into direct contact with already puckering skin. There was a shaky gasp from across the room, which only encouraged Martha to be bolder. She pinched her nipple until it hardened, sending a jolt directly between her legs, making her forget for a second that she wasn’t alone, and the groan that escaped her was genuine and heart felt. She hadn’t realised her eyes were closed until she felt the bed move and they opened.
Jo was sitting on the edge of her own bed as if she shouldn’t be there, her eyes suddenly shy, but fixed on Martha, never straying from Martha’s hand. The intensity of her gaze touched Martha, and she reached out to cup Jo’s cheek, stroking it lightly with her thumb.
“You’re so beautiful Jo”
Jo moved her face so that her lips nuzzled into the palm of Martha’s hand. It was soft and warm and Martha couldn’t suppress the small gasp which became more protracted when she felt the tip of Jo’s tongue trace her life line.
“Come and lie down with me, honey”
They were lying so close Martha could feel Jo’s breathing as well as hear it. Martha traced a dark eyebrow with her index and middle fingers before running them down Jo’s jaw to repeat the action over her lips. When she moved her fingers it was only so she could replace them with her lips, taking her time to feel every millimetre. Kissing Jo was incredible, as far removed from kissing Marco as it was possible to be. With him she had always felt a means to an ends, foreplay to warm her up and make her more responsive. But maybe that was doing him a disservice. It wasn’t his fault that she had always felt more a disinterested bystander than an enthusiastic participant. Martha had long ago resigned herself to the fact that sex was something pleasurable that helped to pass the time and bond relationships, it was something that held a man to her, something socially important. It was expected of her and was a way of receiving the emotional closeness and affection she craved. It wasn’t as if it was terrible and she was forced to do things she didn’t want to. It wasn’t as if she never reached orgasm. She had thought that maybe she didn’t have that strong a libidinal drive. Now she knew different.
As she ran her tongue along Jo’s upper lip, she knew. She knew there was no going back, no seeking sanctuary in the arms of a boy who would take her virginity and boast about it at school the following Monday. Sometimes the thing you ran to was worse than what you were trying to escape. In one stupid night Martha had lost her self respect, lost Lauren and lost her way. She wasn’t planning on doing that a second time.
Jo’s eyes had fluttered shut, her long dark lashes almost skimming her cheek bones; she looked vulnerable and trusting, and Martha felt her chest tighten. She knew, and hated, that she had the potential to hurt Jo. She was suddenly unbelievably precious to Martha, so much so that she couldn’t restrain the sob in her breathing.
“Are you okay, Matty?”
Martha’s fingers trembled as they touched Jo’s face. Her voice was equally shaky.
“Jo, don’t let me hurt you”
“I’ll do my best”
“No, I mean it”
Tears had sprung into her eyes, she could feel them massing and then escaping. There was a soft brushing of fingers against wet skin, eyes pale grey and serious met hers.
“And I promise I’ll do my best not to let you. I’m not Lauren. Even she’s not the Lauren she was then. We’re both more emotionally robust than a teenage girl”
Martha buried her face in Jo’s shoulder, her breath still ragged. Jo was stroking her hair, slowly smoothing it between her fingers, an action so gently soothing Martha felt herself relax against Jo, moving her face into Jo’s neck, breathing in the warm smell of her. It was a primal, instinctive need for comfort, comfort she didn’t need to ask for. Jo’s hands slipped down to her shoulders, to her back, moving rhythmically, above her T shirt but she could feel the warmth of her palms through the material. It wasn’t meant as sexual but Martha found herself responding anyway. She kissed the skin of Jo’s throat, pushing herself into Jo as the hands on her back became more assertive, more intent on touching skin and muscle.
Martha wriggled away a little so that she could slip the shirt off in one easy movement. Jo’s eyes widened when Martha took her hand and put it on her naked breast. With a soft moan, Martha arched her back slightly so that her small, sensitive breast pushed further into Jo’s palm. Jo was a bright woman and could take a hint; the hand closed over her breast, gently kneading.
“O God, baby, that feels wonderful”
Jo’s voice was husky with barely concealed desire.
“I’ve never met a woman with breasts as sensitive as yours. I love how you respond to my touch”
Martha couldn’t help herself; the noise that came out of her mouth was a cross between a whimper, a moan and a growl. Jo chuckled.
“See what I mean. Sexiest thing I’ve ever heard”
“How – how does it make you feel?”
“Like I could put my face between your legs and stay there forever”
“Christ, Jo, I can’t think of anything I’d want more”
“Take your shorts off for me then”
Martha was blushing like a born again virgin as she raised her hips to slip cotton shorts down her legs. She lay back, panting from the exertion.
“Knickers too, sweetheart”
How did Jo manage to make the words knickers and sweetheart sound like the filthiest in the English language? Martha could feel the flush cover not only her face but her throat and chest. Her nipples were erect to the point of painfulness and wetness slicked the insides of her thighs. She wriggled her hips experimentally, gasping at the feel of her buttocks against Jo’s bedspread, the slipperiness of her pussy. Jo was watching her intently, letting a hand skim across Martha’s belly. Every atom reached out towards her palm, singing and burning with a blind joyful fury. Martha had heard people say they were hot for their lovers and she’d never known what they meant. Now she did. She was flame, gobbling up the oxygen in the room; no wonder she was finding it hard to breathe, her breath was a succession of shallow pants that left her light headed. Jo’s hand stilled, her voice soft and concerned.
“Take a deep breath, Matty”
A deep breath? What was she talking about? No, breathing had to be this rapid in and out. The hand was smoothing her chest.
“C’mon, sweetheart, breathe with me”
Breathe with me. Yes, she could do that. Match Jo’s pacing. It felt good, Jo’s hand rising and falling with the deep, slow breaths that filled Martha’s lungs with sweet air. Air that smelled of Jo: her perfume, her washing powder, the suddenly remembered scent of her arousal. Martha’s breathing hitched up another gear, but the hand pressed gently on her chest, calming her. Yes, this was perfect, lying on Jo’s bed, breathing together as if they were asleep.
“Are we asleep?”
Are we asleep? Martha’s voice was dreamy. Jo felt a surge of affection for the woman who had seemed on the point of passing out only moments earlier. Martha’s responses were always so immediate and bordering on the extreme, Jo was constantly caught off guard. She’d never known anything like it. There was never a dull moment with Martha Hall. And now she was looking at her with huge blue eyes, trusting and open as a child. Jo smiled at her fondly, running her fingers through soft blonde hair.
“No darling, we’re wide awake. Can I kiss you?”
Martha nodded, so Jo let her fingers slide to the side of Martha’s face, drawing her close until their lips brushed. Martha’s sigh was a puff of warm air on Jo’s lips, a whisper, and Jo felt an upsurge of happiness so pure it made her laugh. Martha looked perplexed, her smile uncertain and at odds with her creased forehead.
“Did I do something?”
Jo put her arms around her and pulled her in, covering her face with small kisses.
“Yes you did. You’re here with me and I couldn’t be happier”
Martha still looked like a little girl but a surprised, delighted one.
Jo pressed her mouth to Martha’s, letting her tongue dart into Martha’s mouth.
“Really. You are a truly exquisite woman, Martha Hall, and better than that, you’re lying, naked, on my bed at four o’clock in the afternoon, and I’m hoping you’re going to stay all night. Will you?”
Speechless and wide eyed, Martha nodded.
“Good, then come here and let me touch those fantastic breasts of yours”
Martha was pretending to pout. She tugged on the collar of Jo’s shirt.
“I think it’s hardly fair that I’m buck naked while someone else appears to be fully clothed”
“Well, that’s easily rectified”
Jo started to unbutton her shirt only to feel her hands stilled by Martha’s.
O God, could there be anything sexier than Martha Hall slowly prising open the little plastic buttons on her shirt? There couldn’t be a single lad that read Loaded or GQ who wouldn’t kill to be in her position. She shook her head with disbelief. Last time she and Martha Hall had ended up in bed she had barely had time to take it in, that the woman underneath her, who had come so hard, was the same woman she’d seen on TV. To be honest, Martha Hall the celebrity hadn’t impinged much on her consciousness. Jo didn’t really read the tabloids or the gossip magazines; she’d sometimes see an episode of Get Away and her attention would be caught by the beautiful young woman with the nice body and fantastic eyes, but then the programme would move onto some other featured holiday destination and Jo would instantly lose interest. Now the sight of Martha on the cover of Heat or Zoo would stall her in supermarkets and newsagents. She knew that it was the professional Martha Hall who gave that dazzling but not very warm smile, the one who could brazen out a skimpy two piece bathing suit, providing wank material for any self respecting heterosexual male. It wasn’t her Matty, the woman shy about her body, wanting closeness, reassurance.
Jo had never been a star fucker; she’d done feature pieces on a number of famous people, some of whom were generally considered desirable, and sometimes she could see the appeal. A couple had even made a play for her, but she had always managed to maintain a professional distance; she hadn’t even been tempted. So why was she acting like the alley cat who’d got the celebrity cream? Jesus, was it Martha’s fame she was attracted to?
Martha had reached the last button on Jo’s shirt and Jo looked down, her eyes catching the slight tremor in the fingers that now lightly brushed the skin of her stomach. Looking up again, she met sky blue eyes made huge by the enormity of what she was doing. Her cheeks were flushed and her lips parted, her breath a little short and rapid again. No, Jo thought as she reached out a hand to run through Martha’s hair, this wasn’t star fucking. She wouldn’t have cared if Martha was a check out girl in Tescos, she was, after all, a woman she met in a public toilet.
Martha’s hands had slipped up to push Jo’s shirt from her shoulders, Jo gripped her wrists to stop her. Martha was wide eyed, shaking her head.
“I want to. I’ve – I’ve dreamt of touching you, Jo, please let me”
How could Jo say no? She released Martha’s hands and shivered slightly when soft fingers brushed the skin of her shoulders and the tops of her arms as Martha pushed the cotton shirt off her. Jo had always liked this shirt, purple, light and dark blue stripes; as Martha bit her bottom lip and eased Jo out of it, she knew it would be her favourite from now on. She was starting to feel the same way about the plain white bra as the fingers continued their exploration. It was impossible to hold back her groan as her nipples tightened and hardened, jutting through the silky material. Martha’s hands went around her back to fumble slightly with the clasp, making Jo chuckle.
“You’re so smooth, Ms. Hall”
Martha blushed but still smiled.
“We don’t all have your extensive experience, Ms. Wheeler”
“You’ve never fumbled a girl out of her bra before?”
“Last time you weren’t wearing one”
Christ Almighty. A wave of intense heat hit Jo, pooling between her legs with urgent intensity.
“Would you like me to help?”
Martha shook her head.
“No, I’ve got it”
She had. The straps slid down almost of their own volition, the cups falling as Jo leant forward a little. Martha seemed mesmerised, her intent gaze never leaving Jo’s now naked breasts. The tip of her tongue slipped out between her slightly parted lips, the effect on Jo immediate. Her nipples were tingling to the point of distraction.
“You – ”
She had to cough to clear her throat.
“You can touch them if you like”
Fuck. The breath was spurting out of Martha’s lungs. She didn’t remember Jo’s nipples being so luscious, how they went the colour of raspberries. Her mouth drenched and she swallowed convulsively, desperate to taste them. Unconsciously, her fingers drifted up to her own breast; she didn’t realise what she doing until she felt a rock hard nipple under her fingers, confused that it wasn’t Jo’s but her own. Jo’s eyelids fluttered closed for a moment and then slowly opened, her smoky grey eyes watching as Martha teased her own breasts.
“You like watching me touch myself, don’t you?”
“I can’t help it. You’re so fucking sexy”
Martha smoothed her hand down her chest and stomach to linger at the top of her thigh. It was Jo’s breath that shallowed this time, her blood that that came hot to the surface.
“Take your jeans off, baby. Let me see all of you”
Jo slid off the bed and stood in front of Martha. Jesus, she was gorgeous, her shoulders broad as a diver, the muscles in her upper body toned but not over worked. If Jo went to the gym, she didn’t feel the need to over do it and Martha was pleased. Her fingers slipped lower, brushing wiry hair that was becoming incredibly wet. Jo’s eyes never left her as she slowly unbuckled her belt and flipped open the buttons on her fly. So much sexier than a zip, it was an unhurried reveal. She pulled back the material to expose exactly the sort of close fitting boxers Martha had fantasised about. Jo gave her a teasing smile as she ran her fingers across her abdomen, letting them dip briefly below the waistband of her shorts. Martha mirrored the gesture, her fingers dipping into wetness, relishing the flush that swept over Jo’s face.
“C’mon, handsome, come here”
Jo stopped her teasing, quickly stepping out of both her jeans and her boxers. She stalked over to the bed and climbed on top of a laughing Martha, but the laughter turned into a groan when Jo lowered herself and skin touched skin, and Martha wrapped her legs around Jo’s back to hold her close. But only for a moment. With a quick flip of her hips, she turned Jo over onto her side, and then took advantage of Jo’s surprise and got her on her back.
“Martha – ”
“No, let me. Last time I didn’t get to touch you. Not really”
Martha rocked back on her heels and let herself taken in the sweep of Jo’s body. She let the tips of her fingers trace what her eyes had already absorbed: the arch of Jo’s eyebrows, the dips of her collarbones and her navel. Her soft warm skin had the strict demarcation of a T shirt and shorts tan, her arms and legs brown, her stomach, chest and thighs vulnerable in their paleness. Just above her right hip was the slash of an appendix scar, Martha trailed the edge of her thumb over the raised skin. It was longer than any of the others she’d seen and she frowned slightly, knowing there was a story, but it could wait until later. As it was, she was almost overwhelmed with tenderness and looked directly into Jo’s grey eyes. She bent her head and touched her lips to the scar, feeling Jo’s abdomen twitch under her. She let her kisses stray up Jo’s body until she reached her breasts and finally gave into the temptation of that dark pink nipple.
O sweet Mother of God. Jo arched her back when Martha took her nipple in her mouth, when she flicked her tongue over it she cried out and grabbed the back of Martha’s head, drawing her closer. When teeth scraped over the sensitive skin the cry became a keening that was close to genuine tears. Martha’s pulled back and looked at her with concern.
“Did I hurt you?”
Jo reached down and drew Martha up so they were face to face, and she kissed her gently.
“God no. It felt incredible. You can’t imagine how long I’ve wanted that”
“Probably as long as I’ve wanted to do it”
Martha pressed herself into Jo, snug between Jo’s thighs. Martha Hall is between my thighs. The pressure was building in Jo’s head. It wasn’t going to take much to make her explode, a fact that became stunningly obvious when Martha altered her position so that her thigh was pressed between Jo’s legs, and Jo’s was between hers. The shift was enough to make Jo’s body react strongly, her back to arch, her knees to rise, effectively pushing Martha in more firmly. She was acutely aware of Martha crying out and realised that the move had brought her thigh into direct contact with Martha, that wetness bathed her skin. In reaction, Martha pushed back.
“O yes, Martha, like that”
Martha’s rocking was slow to start with, easing herself in, getting the measure of what Jo needed. And also what she needed. The thigh that was pressed into her pussy was gentle but insistent, she couldn’t get away from it, and didn’t want to, not while it made her feel like this. She was simultaneously hot and urgent, indolent and dreamy; she wanted to come but she also didn’t want the sensation to ever end. Jo’s body moving under hers was a revelation: the small noises she was making instilled more tenderness as well as a rising passion; that Jo was willing to open herself up to Martha, to make herself vulnerable, affected Martha deeply. Already she felt a tightness in her throat, intense emotion accompanying equally intense arousal.
Hot eyes met hers. Fingers wound in her hair.
“When I come – O God, and it won’t be long – I am going to cry”
Fingers trailed to caress her face.
“I – I thought I should warn you”
Speech disappeared when Jo’s other hand slipped between their bodies, her fingers finding Martha’s clit without any problems. Three direct strokes was all it took. Light exploded behind Martha’s eyes, fragments of colour swimming around like a whole aquarium of tropical fish. Her own hand fumbled its way between Jo’s legs, hoping to give her a fraction of what she was receiving. Judging by the change in Jo’s breathing she was succeeding. The small cries became a stream of incoherent noise, Jo’s body thrusting up into Martha’s hand and thigh.
No one had ever called out her name when they’d come, and the tears she had predicted couldn’t be contained. She collapsed onto Jo, sobs wracking her body. Arms enveloped her, holding her close, hands slowly, gently smoothing the hot skin of her shoulders, her back.
“Hey, it’s okay. You’re beautiful, sweetheart, so beautiful”
“Jo – ?”
“Don’t let go”
The arms tightened.
“I don’t intend to”
In the middle of the night, the weather broke and rain pelted the window, waking Jo. They’d had a good run of nice weather; it was bound to come to an end. Jo didn’t mind, it was all part of what made an English summer: equal parts sunshine and rain. She didn’t mind the rain because she was safe indoors, in bed and she wasn’t alone. Martha was curled up, her back to Jo as if she didn’t expect to be held. Jo couldn’t help herself; she tucked her body in close to Martha’s, wrapping an arm loosely around Martha’s stomach. Martha murmured something Jo didn’t catch, and pushed back into Jo. Smiling, Jo fell asleep.
“And what time do you call this?” Lauren stood, hands on hips, pretending to be stern. Martha had the decency to look sheepish, but that wasn’t all she looked. It was pretty obvious what had transpired the previous night. Martha was loose and easy in her body, her cheeks flushed and her lips fuller than usual, a little bruised and swollen. She was wearing a different T shirt from the day before, a faded Depeche Mode logo on the front and worn away dates and venues on the back, it was evidently well loved. Jo had good taste. Lauren couldn’t help the grin that threatened to crack her face. She ran over to Martha and, to the other woman’s surprise, pulled her into a squeezing bear hug.
“I take it from your appearance it went well?”
Martha nodded mutely.
“So what the hell are you doing here?”
Martha was now blushing, which added to her already irresistible charm.
“Lauren – I hope you don’t mind but – but Jo asked me to stay with her. You don’t – you don’t mind do you – ?”
“Mind? God no, I’ll be glad to get you off my hands”
Martha was looking at her very intently, as if trying to judge the sincerity of her words. Lauren softened her face and put a hand to Martha’s flushed cheek.
“I’m so happy for you, Matty. I think it’s fantastic. What I saw of Jo, I approve of whole heartedly”
Martha’s relief was palpable. Lauren tried to remember if Martha had always telegraphed her feelings so obviously. Of the two of them, Martha had been the more reserved it was true, and maybe Lauren had never taken the time to observe how Martha reacted to things. She’d been too caught up in her own stuff, her turbulent adolescent emotions. She was too focused on being in love with Matty to even bother with how the other girl might be feeling. Some friend. However, she was no longer a teenager and neither was Matty. She slipped her arm around Martha’s shoulder and hugged her.
“You don’t have to rush off, do you?”
“No, not at all”
When Alistair Ray came downstairs he couldn’t see Lauren, which was odd as she already gone down to open up. However, he could hear voices, and was surprised to eventually see Lauren sitting cross legged on the floor, travel books spread out in front of her. He was even more surprised to see that she was holding hands with little Matty, listening wide eyed as the other woman told her how she’d ridden the bullet train on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka. Little Matty was pointing at a photo of a Shinto temple, the picture’s age betrayed by the surreal quality of its colour reproduction. It looked hand tinted, the reds and greens back washed with monochrome. Matty suddenly became aware of his presence and dried up, Alistair was a little saddened. He’d never heard her speak with such animation, or at such length. He smiled encouragingly and then laughed.
“I feel like I should be offering you two lemonade”
“That’d be a first”
Little Matty seemed about to slip her hand out of Lauren’s but Lauren squeezed their fingers tighter together, turning her back on Alistair.
“Tell me more about Mt. Fuji. Does it look like it does in the pictures?”
“Like a big snow covered mountain?”
“That’s about it. Don’t mind me, I’m a bit obsessed with mountains”
“They always freaked me out”
“Spoken like a true East Anglian”
Martha relaxed. Lauren’s hand in hers was nice, warm and affectionate. With her free hand she flicked through the pages of the book on Japan, glancing at the pictures of women in traditional dress, of farms and countryside. It wasn’t the Japan she’d experienced, the disorientating high technology of Tokyo. Any countryside she’d seen had whizzed by at over a hundred miles an hour, and that sort of countryside was the same regardless of where you were: Japan, France or Canada. Lauren was looking at another equally antiquated book on America, her expression unreadable. In the week Martha had been staying with the Rays, Lauren had barely talked about America. She’d only briefly mentioned the woman, Julia, instead she’d moved the conversation on to what Martha was going to do about Jo, and Martha had been happy to let her.
“Did you see the Rockies?”
It seemed a safe way to bring up the subject. Lauren nodded.
“They were some awesome”
Lauren gave her a wry smile.
“Yeah, some awesome”
She seemed so sad suddenly, Martha gave her hand a gentle squeeze and what she hoped was a reassuring smile.
“I had to do snowboarding in Aspen”
Lauren barked with laughter, Martha grinning at her. Martha had spent her time at school trying to avoid PE, her lack of ability at anything sporting legendary.
“As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time on my arse in the snow. In the end they just had me posing around with the board in my hands”
“Heaven forbid that Martha Hall should look anything but poised”
Martha felt her smile falter. Lauren saw it.
“I didn’t mean anything by it”
“I know, I guess I’m just – ”
They sat quietly for awhile until Lauren leant in and kissed Martha on the cheek. The press of her soft lips made Martha blush.
“I’m glad you’re here”
“So am I”
They had become so absorbed in their bibliographical travels that when the phone went its piercing ring made them both flinch. It was cut short when Lauren’s father answered.
“Lauren, it’s for you”
Lauren was puzzled.
“Who the hell would ring me in the shop?”
Martha shrugged even though she suspected the question was largely rhetorical.
“Who is it, Dad?”
It was Alistair’s turn to shrug.
“Some American woman”
Lauren’s puzzled expression became a bemused frown but she got up from the floor and took the phone from her father.
“Hello? Deputy Sanchez! O wow, this is such a surprise. No, no, a good one. A fantastic one. How are you?”
Martha sat back on her heels and watched as Lauren spoke on the phone, the flush that now coloured her cheeks, the smile that threatened to crack them. Her body language was open and keen. Martha thought about Jo, about how they’d woken early and made love, slowly exploring each other’s bodies. It still amazed Martha that she could bring Jo to climax with just her hands, her mouth; it was something she didn’t think she would ever get over. Even though Lauren wasn’t looking at her, Martha couldn’t help but smile at her friend. She gathered the books into a neat pile before going upstairs to collect her things.
“Now I’m pretty sure my next guest needs no introduction. Back in the summer she won a People’s Star Award, and it’s not often I get to say this, but she’s also a very good friend of mine. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Martha Hall”
It was evident from the audience’s reaction how popular Martha was, the applause was loud, spontaneous and genuine, no need to whip them up into a false frenzy like they had to with some guests. Martha came in from the wings, visibly taken aback by their reaction but recovering quickly, she waved and gave them one of her million watt smiles before taking Janine’s hand and kissing her on both cheeks.
“I have to say you are looking very well. I love the new image”
“Thanks, I thought it was time for a change”
“Well, it certainly suits you”
It did. Martha had had her hair cut so that it was quite short at the back and sides, the top tousled and rumpled. She’d also let it go back to its natural colour, a rich, pale toffee. She ran her fingers through it, giving her even more of a just-rolled-out-of-bed look. It was an unconsciously sexy gesture that sent a palpable buzz through the audience. They were putty in Martha’s hands and, as usual, she seemed totally unaware of it. Martha had always been stylish but sometimes it had been hard to tell her apart from other media starlets of her age; their hair tended to be styled and coloured more or less the same, it was hard to tell one blonde from another.
Left to her own devices, Martha’s dress style was quite retro, she often favoured a 1950s look that suited her and set her apart from the others. Janine remembered the dark blue taffeta evening dress she’d worn at the awards ceremony, how she had outclassed almost everyone else there. With her hair cut like this, she looked like no one else and Janine felt sure that after this interview, as soon as her picture got in the tabloids, then it was a style that would be emulated; already some of the women in the audience were more interested in Martha’s hair than in what she was saying. Janine suppressed a smile; they could do a lot worse and probably had.
“So, Martha, no more Get Away?”
Anyone watching might’ve interpreted Martha’s expression as regretful but Janine was sitting closer and knew better.
“I’ve been very lucky to see some fabulous places in the last four years, but I think it’s time to try something new. And I think Anthea will fit in just fine”
Anthea Weeks was Martha’s replacement in more ways than one. She was a cookie cutter blonde: young and pretty with more energy than brains, the girl was doubtless being moulded by Marco Santini into something more to his liking both on camera and in bed. Martha seemed singularly unbothered that she’d been passed over. Far from it, she seemed happy and relaxed.
“Aw now, hen, that’s a crying shame”
“Not really. I’ve had a change of direction and moved into radio”
“That’s right. I’m doing the drive time show on Eastern Counties radio. Now, Janine, don’t look like that. You should give it a go yourself. Tell you what, sometime you should come in and co-host with me. What do you reckon?”
The last sentence had been directed at the audience who laughed and said a collective yes. Martha turned back to Janine.
“It suits me down to the ground. I started on local news if you remember, so it’s getting back to my roots. I’ve moved back to my home town and I have to say I’m loving it. What’s not to love, playing records, doing phone ins, talking rubbish for three hours a day and nobody cares what I look like”
“I have to say, you do look very happy”
“I am. Part of it’s the new job but mostly – ”
Her smile had become a little shy and Janine was intrigued.
“Mostly, it’s being in love”
Janine wanted to squeal with joy, she wished that she and Martha were in her kitchen and that she could fling her arms around her friend and squeeze the air out of her. Instead, Janine O’Reilly the professional raised an eyebrow, a trademark gesture that managed to convey enough curiosity for Martha’s grin to threaten to blind the viewers with its intensity.
“In love, eh? Care to elaborate?”
“I’m not sure I should, Janine”
“Well, they must be pretty special”
Martha’s sudden blush gave it away that the she had slipped out unintentionally but the grin didn’t diminish with the revelation. Janine knew Bridget would be pissed off with her, but Janine didn’t care, she was dying to have her suspicions confirmed.
Some how, Martha’s grin grew wider and she nodded. A ripple of surprised astonishment ran through the audience and intensified when Martha suddenly leapt up off the sofa and ran towards them, the camera and soundmen in hot pursuit. They were set up to follow Janine into the audience, which she did about twice a show, so they had no problems keeping up as Martha ran up the steps in the centre of an increasingly excited audience until she got to the middle row where she grabbed the arm of a woman sitting three in from the aisle and yanked her out of her seat. It was a blushing Jo Wheeler who appeared equal parts mortified and delighted. When Martha wrapped her arms around Jo and kissed her soundly on the cheek there was a collective gasp from everyone in the studio, Janine included. Martha tapped Jo on the chest.
“This is my honey”
At her announcement, the audience erupted into thunderous applause. Martha took Jo’s hand and pulled her back down the steps towards Janine who could only stand and stare. There was no denying they made a good looking couple; Martha had an effortless elegance, Jo a boyish charm, they complemented each other beautifully and the audience seemed to appreciate it as much as Janine. There were times when the British public amazed her. She was still shaking her head when Martha and Jo reached her. Martha addressed both the studio and the cameras.
“Everyone, this is Jo. Janine already knows her cos Jo wrote a fantastic piece in The Observer about Neen, which I’m sure you all read”
“Indeed, lovely to see you again, Jo”
Jo, handsome in a purple and blue striped shirt, nodded while a sound engineer fumbled a mic onto the edge of Jo’s shirt, murmuring her apologies. Janine couldn’t hide her smirk, she’d never seen the young woman so flustered but then Jo was as hard to resist as Martha.
“I guess no one warned you about our girl Martha, did they?”
Jo laughed, a laugh so full of obvious affection that Janine felt the audience warm to her instantly.
“Matty is a force of nature that’s for sure, but I wouldn’t change her for the world”
Janine was looking at their joined hands when it hit her. Martha Hall, the nation’s sweetheart, had just come out. Martha Hall, the nation’s sweetheart, had just come out on live television on her show. O my God, this is incredible. Danny Tussaud was gonnae be pure pissed off. Brilliant.
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