“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned...”
“I don't believe it, Judy,” he cut in, amiably. “But, in any case, you may have noticed I'm biased toward my two favourite schoolfriends when handing out penances.”
I smiled. “Laura has asked me to marry her, Steve. Has she told you?”
“No. Perhaps she wanted you to break the awkward news to me, love.”
“Probably. She'd like to have a baby and she thinks being married will make the idea more acceptable to our devout Christian families, if not to the Church and God. We appreciate that for same-sex couples to have a child is a mortal sin.”
“Indeed.” He sighed. “The glad tidings are that the Lord loves all children, whatever their provenance. How do you feel about this plan?”
“Well, we're mature adults and in a stable relationship, so why not? One of us will have to give up nursing for a while but we have well-paid jobs as A and E Sisters so we'll be okay for money. What do you think, though?”
“As a priest, I must advise you against this project, but as a friend I say go ahead, if it makes you both happy.”
“Thanks, Steve. You're a saint. Shall I make us a nice cup of tea before I reveal my naughty bits to you again?”
“Yes, please, love.”
I hopped off his sturdy knee and headed for the clergy house's neat and tidy little kitchen. In the taxi home from Steve's front door, I stared straight ahead from the rear seat, smiling.
When I entered our Canterbury flat's lounge, I found more bliss. Laura was standing naked by the large, double-glazed window gazing up at the blue sunny sky through the net curtains.
Hearing me, she sighed and said: “Isn't it a beautiful day, Judy? God is good.” “Amen to that,“ I replied, walking up beside her.
“How was Confession?” she asked, kissing my cheek.
“The same old scene.”
She sniffed my neck. “Hmm...nice scent. Seeing as you never wear perfume, I assume you've been sitting on Steve's knee again, you shameless little tart.”
“Hey, how do you suppose I always get off with a single Hail Mary and a donation to the organ fund?” I frowned. “Hang on, that's what you usually get from him, too.”
Laura lifted her thin, perfectly tapered eyebrows. “Oh, so I do. Steve feels sorry for me, I imagine.”
“For being gay?”
“No, for having to live with an annoying cow like you.”
We laughed, then kissed fondly and hugged.
She sighed near my ear. “You've made me so happy, darling. Thanks for accepting my proposal.”
“I've been meaning to ask you for years, but I thought you could do without the hassle.” She drew back and gazed into my eyes. “Well, I could. Can't we just elope?” “Our old-school Christian families would never forgive us.”
“I only intend to have a simple Register Office wedding, Judy.”
“It's the thought that counts, Laura. And you will get to dress up and show everyone your new and improved gym-body.”
She pouted. “Are you suggesting I'm vain, darling?”
“As a peacock.”
“Peacocks are male.”
“A lovely, colourful female bird of paradise, then.”
“Keep talking, you're turning me on.”
“Hold that thought while I pop in the shower,” I replied, hastily.
“I'll try, sweetie,” she purred.
Soon, I strolled out of the small bathroom wrapped in a white, fluffy towel, tying back my long, damp hair into a blonde ponytail and almost ran into Laura. She was leaving our bedroom, now dressed in a frilly cream shirt and tight purple skirt, a smile on her lean, made-up face.
“Remember this, Judy?” she cried. “I found it in our wardrobe.” She waved a pink folded card at me. I recognised it instantly and smiled, too. “My first Valentine's card to you. It must be...how long ago now?”
“Fifteen years,” I replied. “Lord, how time flies. We were in the school library both pretending to be looking for a copy of Wuthering Heights, as I recall.”
“We never found it, did we?” Laura said, gleefully. “I think we got distracted by something.”
“I hadn't got a card for you, so I gave you our first kiss instead. Gosh, I'm blushing all over again.” I hugged her slim waist from behind and softly kissed her smooth, scented neck. “Want to see?” I breathed, as the springy curls of her soft burgundy hair tickled my nose.
“I'm very tempted, you Jezebel,” Laura replied, grinning, as we re-read the life-changing message inside the card, “but time is pressing.” The schoolgirl Laura had added the word 'are' in green ink to the last line of the printed verse which originally said 'I know you like me'.
“I think of myself more as a Mary Magdelene figure, personally,” I said, once again admiring the two orange hand-holding kittens on the front of the card with her.
“Only a disciple, Judy? Or is this a long-awaited display of Christian humility?”
“Well, speaking of, the Church considers us to be still technically virgins – unless you've got something to tell me, dear?”
She slapped my wrist, broke free and turned to face me. Her thin lips twisted. “Why would I need a horrible man when I have you, darling?”
I smiled, then frowned. “Hey, what do you mean...?”
“Where are we, er, going this evening, anyway, love?” she asked, quickly. “I've arranged to meet three friends from A and E in Orlando's wine bar at 8.30.” “Okay. Did you mention our plans to Steve at all?”
“Yes. He approves on a personal level.”
Laura nodded. “I know having a baby is sinful for us, but it's what I've always dreamed of.”
“I want one, too, Laura...I mean, me.”
“I didn't think you were the maternal type, sweetheart.”
“Being slightly butch doesn't stop me having my womanly yearnings.”
Laura grinned and stroked my cheek. “Seeing you half-naked like this, I'm getting a few womanly yearnings myself.”
I raised my chin, pouting. “You had your chance earlier, love. I must go and get dressed.” I strolled off toward our bedroom, flipping up the towel behind me as I walked. “Now, that's just cruel...” she cried. I glanced over my shoulder at her and we chuckled.
I entered our bedroom and admired my youthful face in the dressing table mirror. You've still got it, babe, I mused, staring into my own light-blue eyes.
I noticed Laura's phone on the duvet and idly checked her received texts for any juicy scandal or news. I found one from Steve earlier today: Just spoken to Judy. I'll be happy to bless your marriage, despite what the Church teaches. Phone you soon. Love S.
“I see you've read Steve's message, Judy.” I looked up. Laura was standing in the bedroom doorway, smiling.
“Yes, it's lovely of him.”
“Well, I've already booked the Register Office, so now we just need to start our baby off. I thought we could ask Steve to help us.”
“What? He can't, he'd be sinning.”
“Like he's never done that for us before. He lets us take Communion, for goodness' sake. Besides, he's sweet on you. I'm sure you could persuade him to make a donation, Judy.”
“Who's going to be a Mummy first?”
“Why, you, darling, as you're so keen. I long for motherhood, too, but I've not endured a year of pain and sacrifice sculpting this perfect temple to ruin it quite yet.” She power-posed to emphasise her point.
“Cheers, babe,” I replied, archly, though secretly thrilled. I gazed into the mirror again
and reached for my fave scarlet lipstick. “Fine.” I grinned. “I'll see how far Steve wants to go next time I have Confession, shall I?”
I felt Laura gently slap my bum. “Don't get any ideas, you dirty cow.”
A week later, as I sat on his knee, Steve said, wryly: “I'll be defrocked and excommunicated if anyone finds out, you know.”
“Laura and I will never reveal your identity, sweetie, I promise - except to our child, perhaps.”
He sighed. “Okay. I'd love to help you both, especially you, Judy. I've fancied you since the time you snogged me at my sixteenth birthday party.”
“Laura dared me, but I wanted to, anyway. I just felt an overwhelming desire to kiss a handsome boy and see what I was missing. And now...”
I began to slowly undo the buttons on my blouse, pouting.
He gulped. “You don't mean...?”
“Unless you'd rather not, darling,” I breathed. “I thought we could avoid a lot of faffing about, that's all.”
“Oh, God...” he gasped.
Published in Issue #22