Gill sighs and tugs the changing room curtain open. "I don't know. It's so 'mother of the groom'." She looks down at herself, at the pale green skirt suit she's wearing, then up at Julie, who is slouched on the cushioned seat opposite, leaning against the wall, looking exactly like a bored husband. Gill can't blame her, really. She's been a trooper; this is the second weekend they've spent like this, and it's the twelfth outfit Gill has tried on at this store alone.
"Love, you are the mother of the groom," Julie says. She looks Gill up and down, taking in the ensemble, but there's no reaction. Gill sighs. That's been the problem with all of these outfits, really. She's tried long dresses, cocktail dresses both fitted and floaty, any number of skirt-suits in every colour except navy, and none of them, not one, has made Julie sit up straight and pay attention. Maybe it's just overexposure, and Gill knows she should just pick something because she likes it, but none of these wedding-appropriate choices feel particularly her, so she's using Julie as a barometer. She doesn't think that's terrible, either. Gill knows the rules of weddings - nothing too ostentatious, don't outshine the bride - but she wants her partner, at least, to look at her twice.
Gill looks down at herself. "It's all so boring and frumpy," she says, tugging at the skirt. "I just want something..." She trails off, because if she knew what sort of something, they wouldn't be here. "What are you going to wear, anyway?" she throws at Julie.
Julie drops her head to the side, rolls a shoulder. "I haven't really thought about it yet. But it's easier for me, I'm a dyke. I've got a whole wardrobe full of suits to choose from; one of them will serve."
Gill feels a glimmer of irritation, though she knows it's not really directed at Julie. "Well, that's no bloody help."
Julie makes an apologetic face, but then she does straighten. "If you really don't like any of this, you could take a leaf out of my book."
Gill smiles. "I think all your suits would be a little too long in the leg, for me."
Julie snorts. "I don't mean mine, you daft cow. I mean one of your own."
"But all my suits are for work," Gill complains. "And Sammy's forbidden us looking like cops at his wedding."
Julie's smile is sardonic. "What are we doing here, again? I could have sworn it had something to do with exchanging money for goods."
Gill purses her lips, glares, but there's no heat in it. Obviously, she's been doing this too long, isn't thinking straight.
Julie slaps her thigh. "Come on, get dressed. I'm taking you to my favourite tailor." Gill arches an eyebrow at the demand, and Julie's expression softens. "If you don't like anything she suggests, we'll do this again next weekend, and the one after that, if need be. Just humour me, all right? Give it a try?"
Gill smiles. She's grateful to Julie for this, coming with her without question or complaint. The truth is, she's much more than a barometer for whether an outfit is working or not. Her position outside the changing room - just outside, always - is more like a bodyguard, running interference between Gill and pushy sales ladies liable to appear without warning behind the curtain. Gill's gotten better, in the last few months, but people appearing suddenly behind her still startles her, and without Julie's presence she'd probably have had a panic attack after an hour.
"All right," she says, even though she isn't sure.
"There," Roxannne says, clipping the jacket back last. "Obviously it sits differently like this, but that should give you an idea what you're looking at." Last of all, she drapes a swatch of cream-coloured fabric over Gill's shoulder. "And there's the colour." The sample suit is charcoal, but for a wedding, Roxanne recommended a cream with a slight sheen, and Gill studies herself in the mirror, looking at the colour and trying to imagine the whole suit made of it.
"I love it," she says, after some concentration. In the mirror behind her, Gill sees Julie's face split into a grin and smiles back at her. "The dyke handbook wins." Roxanne laughs beside her, and all three of them peer into the mirror.
"I'm not so keen on the shirt, though," Gill adds after a moment. It's basic white, which obviously is only for the demonstration, but Gill doesn't like the feel of it either, too stiff and work-like. "I'd like something a bit softer, I think. In a colour."
"More blousy?" Roxanne asks, and Gill nods. "Well, I don't have anything ready-made for you to try, but I do have some fabric that might suit, and it would be gorgeous with your colouring. Let me get it." She vanishes toward the back of the store, leaving Gill and Julie before the mirror.
"Well," Julie murmurs, reaching up to slide a hand over Gill's arse, "I know where my eyes will be all through the wedding."
Gill smiles, quirks a brow. "I've been waiting for that, you know. None of the other choices even made you blink."
Julie's hand falls away because they can hear Roxanne returning, but she shakes her head, leans in close to whisper: "You could wear a hessian sack and I'd still want to peel it off you with my teeth." She steps back as Roxanne reappears, but she's wearing a smug smile, and in the mirror Gill can see that her own cheeks have come up pink.
Roxanne pretends not to notice, presenting Gill with another swatch of fabric. It's jade green and crepey, and Gill runs her fingers over it with a barely restrained ooh. "That's gorgeous," she says, as Roxanne slides the creamy swatch off Gill's shoulder and drapes it over her arm to display the contrast.
"I can make you a blouse from this that will sit nicely under the suit. Softer collar, wider sleeves?"
For the first time, it occurs to Gill that this is all going to cost considerably more than an off-the-rack dress. She remembers them all, though, every one of them ordinary at best, and thinks sod it. "All right," she says. "Yes. To all of it. Yes."
Roxanne beams. "Excellent. Let me unclip you, and you can go and change, and then I'll take your measurements properly."
"All right," Gill says. She sneaks a glance at Julie in the mirror while she's being undone, and finds her looking very pleased indeed.
"Don't look so smug," she murmurs as she moves off toward the changing room, but that only makes Julie's smile wider.
"You'll be all right?" she asks, once they've collected everything Gill will need. The ladies of the bridal party are spending the morning together, having their hair and makeup done and no doubt drinking plenty of celebratory/nerve-calming champagne. Julie got out of it by playing the too-much-of-a-dyke card, and her cunning plan rests upon being able to get ready out of Gill's sight, but she'll go if she needs to, if Gill needs her to.
"I'll be all right," Gill assures her. "I've got my own makeup supplies, if I need them, and I can do my own hair as well, if it's too much. I won't drink if I'm nervous, I'll go outside." She repeats it like a mantra, all the things they've discussed, and Julie watches for signs that it's hollow, but she doesn't see any. She knows this day is going to be difficult for Gill - lots of people, potentially overwhelming - but they've agreed that Gill will do this thing by herself, and Julie knows that it's important to respect it when Gill says she's okay.
Julie smiles. "Good. Call if you need me, but otherwise, have fun." She tugs Gill in for a kiss, then watches her head out the door. She waits until the car has backed out of the driveway before she heads straight for Sammy's room and knocks on the door.
"All right, she's gone," Julie says when he opens up. "Have you got it all?"
"Course," Sammy says, grinning. He hands Julie a clothing bag on a hanger and a big paper shopping bag. He's had them stashed in his wardrobe for a month, her partner in crime.
"Thanks," Julie says, then looks him over. "How're you doing, kid? Jitters?"
"A bit," he responds, with that half-smile that is exactly like Gill's. "But I'm good. Getting married today, how mad is that?"
Mad is exactly the right word, at least in Julie's opinion, but Sammy and Orla seem suited to each other, and this is what they want, so. Julie smiles at him. "Not as mad as waiting until you're nearly fifty to tell your best friend you love her, I suppose." Sammy grins, and Julie continues. "Your Dad and your mates will probably be here soon. I'll make myself scarce. I'll be in the bedroom if you need me for anything."
Julie makes a pit stop in the kitchen for a beer and a snack, but she's well out of the way by the time the doorbell rings. Much better that way. The less making nice with Dave she has to do today, the better for everyone.
Julie's afternoon is leisurely. She doesn't need four hours to get herself ready, so she spends half of it relaxing on the bed. She tinkers around on her iPad, watches an episode of Game of Thrones, but rises before she usually would to shake her outfit out of the bag and lay everything out on the bed. Femininity - or at least this much of it - takes longer, doesn't it?
She's still ready early. Dressed, hair and makeup done, she's sitting on the edge of the bed buckling up her shoes when there's a knock on the door.
"It's me." Sammy's voice.
"Come in," she calls, tugging the strap tight as he opens the door and sitting up to greet him.
"Hey, I..." he starts, but breaks off when he sees her, eyes going wide. "Whoah. Holy shoulders, Batman. You look... Mum'll be made up when she sees you in that."
Julie smiles, leans back on the bed and crosses her legs. "That's the plan," she says, and might even have flipped her hair if it weren't pinned up. "Distract her so much she forgets to be bothered by the crowd."
"Good plan," he says, nodding in slightly awestruck approval, and Julie has to admit it's rather gratifying.
"Did you just come in to boost my ego, or...?"
"Oh! We're about to head off, so I'll see you there, I guess." He smiles, then looks suddenly self conscious, glancing down at himself and shuffling his feet. "Do I look all right? Did Dad do my tie properly?"
Julie looks him up and down, taking in the sharp black suit and grey waistcoat. His tie and pocket square are pale green. "You look very dashing," she says, pushing herself up and approaching him. Standing before him, she gives him another look-over. His tie looks fine, but far be it for Julie to concede that Dave Murray has ever done anything right (she supposes he shared his genetic material well enough, but most of the man Sammy is is down to Gill's influence, in Julie's opinion). She reaches out and straightens his tie a millimeter or two. "Perfect," she says.
Sammy smiles, but it's a fragile expression, and that's remarkably like Gill's as well. "Do you..." His voice falters. "Do you think I'm crazy, Julie? Doing this?"
Oh, god. He's really got the pre-wedding jitters now, and in the absence of Gill he's come to her for reassurance. Julie is torn between being incredibly touched by that and feeling completely unqualified to provide the right sort of answer. But Julie has always gotten by with honesty, so she supposes here is no place to try something new.
"I think you're both quite young to be making decisions about the rest of your life," she says, after a moment. "But then you're already doing that, aren't you? Picking out careers and study paths and all that. You've probably got more conviction now than you'll ever have, because it's all bollocks, you know, that stuff about older people having their lives sorted and making big decisions easily. You love Orla, yes?"
"Yes," Sammy says, with feeling.
"And you want to make a life with her?"
"Then it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I'm not - I've never been - much into the idea of marriage in general, but if that's a commitment you want to make, if that's important to you, then it's right. It is what you want to do, isn't it?" She eyeballs him, wondering if anyone has actually asked him that question yet. She can't imagine Gill not having had this conversation with him, but then Gill hasn't exactly been clear-headed these last few months.
Sammy glances down at his hands, back up. "I think so, yes. I mean, it is. I know Mum and Dad didn't get it right, but I want to, you know? I do worry a bit, though. I mean, they were older when they met, and still."
"You don't have to be married to get it wrong, believe me. I've messed things up more times than I care to count."
"But if that's what I knew, what if I...?" Sammy's hands flip helplessly.
Here, Julie hesitates, because it's a delicate issue; there's a lot of tangled history. "I think..." she starts, and weighs her words. "I think a lot of what was going on for your Mum - I can't speak for your Dad, and why he did the things he did - was that for a long time she held onto an idea of what her life was, what her relationship with your Dad was, rather than seeing things as they really were. That's a trap anyone can fall into, but it's also something you can learn from. Be open with each other, be honest with yourself, and you'll stand a pretty good chance of getting it right." She offers him a smile that she hopes is reassuring.
Sammy nods, smiles back. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah."
"And kid?" Julie claps him on the shoulder. "Never miss an opportunity to go down on her. Selfless giving forgives a multitude of sins." She grins, and Sammy bursts out laughing, face twisting into a grimace as his shoulders shake.
"Oh god," he moans, twisting his head away as his cheeks turn pink. "Talking about sex with you was much easier when you weren't having it with my mother."
Julie laughs, letting her hand fall away. "Should I tell them about that? Make a little speech at the reception?"
Sammy turns a more vibrant shade of scarlet. "God. Only if you want me to die of embarrassment before my wedding night."
Julie laughs again, then lets it trail off to a warm smile. "Don't worry, I won't."
Sammy smiles sheepishly. "Thanks."
Julie hesitates for a moment, then swoops in to give Sammy a quick hug. "You'll be fine," she assures him, pulling back to look him in the eye. "You know what you're doing is what you want."
"Yeah, it is," he agrees.
"I won't kiss you, because it wouldn't do to turn up at your wedding with another woman's lipstick on your cheek, but you'd better go. Your Dad will be in here to fetch you otherwise."
"Heaven forbid." Sammy smiles. He leans in and kisses her cheek. "Thanks, Julie."
"You're welcome. Probably not as good at pep talks as your Mum, but I hope I helped."
Sammy chuckles and shakes his head just slightly. "If you think I'd talk to Mum about any of that, you're mad."
With that, he pulls away and slips out the door, leaving Julie with a bemused smile on her face and an unusual warmth filling her chest.
Now, though, Gill is taking a well-deserved rest away from the growing throng of guests, hiding out next to a tree with an eye on the hedge gate, waiting for Julie to arrive. When a woman in red rounds the corner, it takes Gill a moment to realise that she has.
This woman looks like no version of Julie that Gill has ever seen before. Instead of the sharp black suit that was hung in Gill's wardrobe the night before, this woman is wearing a slinky red cocktail dress. It's high-cut, with a criss-cross neckline that emphasizes her athletic shoulders, and she wears it with a pair of black stilettos that show off her calves and draw Gill's eyes up legs that seem to go on forever. This woman's hair is twisted up in an elegant knot, and there's a glitter of dangling earrings at her throat. This woman is someone Gill had never thought about wanting to see, but now that she has, she's finding it a little difficult to form a coherent thought.
"Jesus," she whispers to herself.
Julie's first few steps toward the gathering of guests are tentative, hanging back. She lifts her head to scan the crowd, no doubt searching for Gill's face in it. Deciding that she's had enough of a break, Gill slips out of her hiding spot and heads over.
"Where's your fairy godmother, Cinderella?" she asks, once she's close enough. She can feel the smile spreading wide across her face as Julie turns, and she lets her eyes travel up and down Julie's body again, appreciating the sight even more up close. "That is not the suit you hung in my wardrobe."
Julie's own smile is cheeky. "Less of a fairy. He's in there, about to get married."
Sammy. Gill gives her head a disbelieving shake. "You two are far sneakier than I ever gave you credit for. I'll have to watch myself."
"Mm," Julie murmurs. "Just wait 'til you see his dress."
Gill laughs, then steps closer, so she's right by Julie's elbow. "You look amazing. You never told me you had legs all the way up to your neck."
"It's one of my better kept secrets," Julie murmurs, but her smile has become slightly bashful now. It's an unusual expression on her, but Gill likes it, and rather hopes she'll get to see it again before the day is out.
"Where were you, anyway?" Julie asks, still with that smile on her face.
"Hiding behind a tree," Gill admits. "I'm fine, I just wanted to take a break before we head in. Shall we?" She smiles, offering her arm.
"Lead the way, Prince Charming," Julie murmurs, curling a hand around Gill's elbow.
"I think you've got your fairytales mixed up, there," Gill says, as they make their way into the crowd.
"Oh, shut up."
"Nice seating plan," she murmurs to Gill as she hands her a glass of wine. "Worthy of King's Landing. Or Downton Abbey, I suppose."
"What does that make me?" Gill asks, taking the glass. "The dowager?"
"Or Queen Regent," Julie replies, smiling. "Probably best not to invoke that at a wedding, though."
"Do I want to know?"
"No. Shall we sit?"
It's a fantastic meal. Excellent food and plenty of wine, and Julie is seated between Gill and her brother, Greg, so she gets to listen to them joke and spar with one another. Greg takes the piss out of everything and anything, and it's fun to listen to Gill slip into some of the less polished vernacular of her childhood when she replies to him. It's the first time Julie has met some of the table's other residents, too - Orla's mother and her husband, as well as an aunt and uncle with their daughter who's the same age as Sammy, and they're all friendly; thoroughly enjoyable company. It's very different to Julie's own family gatherings, which tend to feel awkwardly polite at best and full of tense undercurrents at worst.
After the meal, Orla's father toasts the couple, then Sammy's best man stands up to say a few words. His speech is clearly directed toward the younger group of guests, but there are some funny anecdotes from Sammy's school days that make the whole room laugh and Sammy hide his face in his hands.
When Sammy stands up, following that, his cheeks are pink, but his voice is steady. He thanks the guests for coming, and says nice things about Orla's family and the bridal party. He even manages to find good things to say about Dave, and then his eyes swivel toward them and find Gill's face at the table. "I'd also like to say thank you to my mother, not only for all the effort you've put in to help us organise this, but for everything - for showing me who I want to be in life." Julie feels Gill's fingers close around hers under the table, glances at her to see her eyes bright with unshed tears. "And to Mum's fabulous partner, Julie, thanks for all the advice about girls. It's served me well." That gets a laugh from the room, and Sammy grins at her, but she can see the sincerity in his eyes.
Guests thus thanked, Sammy turns to Orla, raising his glass to his bride, and Julie returns the squeeze of Gill's fingers under the table. She's smiling but she still looks shaken, overcome. "Weird, huh?" Julie murmurs under her breath.
"Yeah," Gill replies in a whisper. "Remembering when he was born; seems like five minutes ago."
Gill's fingers are still entwined with Julie's when the speeches end and the dancing begins, and Julie uses them to tug her to the floor. It's a slow song but they laugh as they arrive on the floor, Julie pulling Gill close and smiling, looking her up and down. She takes another moment to appreciate the sight of Gill in her suit, the tailored waistcoat that fits her like a glove and the contrast of the cream fabric against the brilliant jade green blouse.
"Waistcoats are a wonderful look on you," she murmurs, pressing her palm against Gill's. "But who leads with you dressed like that, and me like this?"
Gill laughs. "The world's turned upside down." Her fingers fall against Julie's bare shoulder. "Still you, I think. Unless you want to be walked into people because I can't quite see over your shoulder."
"Hm, no, we can't have that," Julie replies, sliding her hand around Gill's hip. The fabric of the waistcoat feels thick and silky against her fingertips. "As the representatives for all queer ladies at this wedding, we have a reputation to uphold." She smiles. "Ready?"
Gill relaxes into her grip. "Ready," she says, and Julie steps her back.
And when it does get too much, when the press of people and the clamour of chit-chat starts to itch Gill between the shoulderblades, she only has to look at Julie and she's whisked away to a corner. Julie fetches wine and they both collapse into chairs. Julie complains that her feet are sore and she stretches out, draping her ankles across Gill's lap. Gill thinks maybe they are sore, her feet, though the careful way she arranges herself so that her shoes are in no danger of dirtying Gill's pale trousers gives the lie to her exhaustion. Gill recognizes and appreciates the gesture for what it is, the creation of a physical barrier between Gill and the other guests, that says in no uncertain terms that they would like to be left alone now.
There, with a wall behind them and the comforting weight of Julie's legs against hers, Gill feels her heart rate slow, and the feeling of too-tight skin fades away. She lets one hand fall onto Julie's calf, the other cradling her wine glass. They watch the guests in silence for a time, dancing and drinking and laughing, and then Gill glances sideways at Julie and asks a question she's been curious about all evening.
"So, when did you give Sammy advice about girls?"
Julie's eyes swivel from surveying the crowd to meet Gill's, and a secretive smile curls at her mouth. "I don't know if I should discuss that with you," she says, never one to betray a confidence, but there's a musical note in her voice that suggests she won't be too hard to convince.
"Oh, go on," Gill encourages, pouting. "He's leaving me today, going off into the world with his wife - god, that sounds strange - let me think of him as an awkward kid one more time."
Julie's smile broadens, but her eyes go soft. "The first time was when he was fourteen, when I was staying with you after Dave moved out. I picked him up from school one day because it was raining, and he was talking to a girl out the front. It looked like the kind of desperately difficult conversation you have when you like someone a lot, so I just waited, and I didn't ask him about her. About halfway home, though, he hit me with 'how do you ask a girl out?'"
Gill smiles. "And what did you say?"
"Talk to her, listen to her, find out what she likes, and then find something to do that she'll be interested in doing. It worked, I remember."
Gill tries to think back to that time, but those months were a bit of a blur, full of meetings with solicitors and waiting for the results of STI tests (fucking bastard). All she really remembers about them is how grateful she was for Julie's sturdy presence in her life.
"What were you, a guru, after that?"
Julie chuckles. "No, that came later. When he was sixteen I popped in on you one afternoon, on the weekend, only you were out. Sammy was practicing his football, though, so I stayed a while and played with him. He got me a Coke after and then out of nowhere he asked me what a clitoris was."
Gill is taking a sip of wine, and she nearly chokes on it, coughing a few times before she regains her composure.
"Yeah," Julie says, smiling. "That was about how I responded."
"Sixteen?" Gill manages, after a moment. She'd had no inkling that he was sexually active until sometime after Orla arrived on the scene.
"I don't know if it was a practical question or a theoretical one; I didn't ask. But I told him, and I gave him a few tips on what to do with one if he was lucky enough to get up close and personal, and, well. I think he told his mates he had a lesbian fairy godmother, actually, because after that I fielded about a question a week, until they all worked it out for themselves. So, you know." Julie takes a sip of her wine. "Your son learned at least half his tricks from me."
Gill doesn't know whether to cringe or be proud. She certainly doesn't want to think about Sammy performing any of the 'tricks' she knows Julie is capable of, settles for gigging helplessly into her wine glass.
"God, why did I ask?" she groans, when she can breathe again.
Julie laughs at her. "You look exactly like him when you make that face. Or he looks exactly like you. His mouth twisted in precisely that motion when I spoke to him this morning."
Gill glances at her. "What happened this morning?"
"Oh, nothing," Julie replies, and when Gill arches an eyebrow at her, adds: "that would be telling. But I did give him a little bit of unsolicited advice. Apparently it's no good now that it's tainted by the image of me shagging his mother."
Gill laughs. "Aw. Should we stop, just so you can go on being the fairy godmother?"
Julie snorts. "I'm not that altruistic, and neither are you, zombie lady." It's one of Julie's favourite jokes, that Gill's preferred position is 'the zombie' - on your back, being eaten - and to date, Gill's never been able to come up with an appropriate comeback. Nor can she tonight. She inclines her head, smiles, conceding defeat, but privately doesn't think allowing that one is conceding much at all.
They fall into silence again, Gill taking lazy sips of her wine and letting her thumb trace back and forth over Julie's leg as they watch the crowd. Most of the oldies seem to have retired to their tables by now, but people have read Julie's body language, and no one comes to encroach on their corner. Gill watches Sammy and Orla, watches their friends who still have the energy to keep dancing. They're so young.
"I hope they'll get it right," she says, eventually. "Not like their ridiculous septet of parents."
Julie grunts in response. "All that shows is that we all got it right, at least in the end. Well, except Dave. Karma's a bitch, they say."
Gill chuckles. "Or a hardworking professional woman, one and the same."
Julie snorts her agreement, and Gill notices that Sammy has broken away from the crowd and is moving towards their corner. He catches their eye and lifts his chin, then makes a fairly obvious movement around the back of a nearby table before he slips in behind them. Gill feels his fingers brush against her shoulder as he sets his hands against the back of their chairs and leans down between them.
"If you can manage one more dance, this last song's for you two. Orla and I considered it for our opening waltz, but in the end it made me think of you, so we saved it."
Julie glances up at him. "It's not 'Lady in Red', is it, because I might have to punch you."
Sammy laughs. "No." He nudges Gill's shoulder. "It's that noise you were always telling me to to turn down when I was a kid, then one day I came home and caught you listening to it while you cleaned. It's a slow one, though."
Gill smiles and Julie glances at her, eyes questioning, wanting to make sure she's up for it. Gill gives the tiniest of nods, so Julie heaves a dramatic sigh, swinging her legs off Gill's lap and climbing to her feet. "Well, I suppose we can hardly refuse when the groom is asking." She winks at Sammy, offers her hand to Gill. "Shall we?"
Gill's fingers slide into Julie's and she lets herself be tugged to her feet. They thread their way onto the dance floor just as the song begins with long, slow guitar notes. Julie's arm slides around Gill's waist and pulls her close. She makes to lift their joined hands, but Gill murmurs a protest, slipping her fingers out of Julie's and reaching up to curl her arms around Julie's neck instead.
"You are wonderful," she murmurs as Julie's other hand settles on her hip, as a haunting string instrument and whispered vocals join the slow guitar strum and they begin to move, swaying in time. Gill doesn't need to say why, couldn't quite find the words anyway, and she can tell from Julie's smile that she understands all of it. Can tell from everything she does.
"I know," Julie responds, with a quiet smirk. Gill's smile broadens, and Julie's hands slide around to rest against the small of her back, and they move. Julie isn't leading this time, neither of them are. They find the rhythm together, as they do in everything else, listening to each other, feeling their way. It works; Gill tries not to be constantly surprised by how well it works. She leans in closer, turns her head and curls her cheek in against the curve of Julie's throat, closing her eyes as they sway and just feeling, knowing that she's safe here, in Julie's arms. The music swells and they move with it, and this too is a surprise, how everyone else in the world ceases to be. She doesn't care that her ex-husband may be watching, may carry stories back to work about the display they put on, doesn't care if any of her relatives are scandalized. There's just music, and Julie's arms, and their heartbeats thudding in time with the drum, and nothing else.
The song seems to go on forever, but even so it's over too soon, the haunting strains of melody fading away and the overhead lights brightening to signal the end of the party. Gill knows they'll have to move, go and see Sammy and Orla off, but they stay there for just a few moments more after the song fades, still swaying, until Julie's fingers trail up Gill's back and she's forced to lift her head and acknowledge time.
"You with me?" Julie asks, when Gill finally does. She's wearing the softest smile now, all warmth and quiet elation, and Gill will never tire of being looked at like that, like she's the gift of a lifetime.
"Is there anyone else here?" she replies, curling her fingers against the back of Julie's neck and leaning up to kiss her.
"We have to go and say goodbye," Julie whispers, when they break apart.
"Mm," Gill responds. "And then I need to get you home and out of that dress. Slowly."
She lets her hands fall away from Julie's shoulders, and one of them finds Julie's fingers again. It's a wonder, the expression that crosses Julie's face, half lust and half the bashful smile from earlier. Gill can't wait to get home and find out how that translates when the dress is peeled off.
This time, when they make their way through the crowd, it's Gill who leads.