In the end Erica wasn’t required to do any sneaking because the cat was let well and truly out of the bag.
“Glow worms, hey?”
Liz was looking at her with a disbelieving, almost indulgent smile on her face. They were sitting around the fire pit towards dinner time. Liz and Bea had been describing the caves they had visited when Erica told them about the glow worms she and Franky had seen.
She blushed slightly. “Yes,” she reiterated. “They were beautiful,” she said softly, lost in the memory for a moment. It was special, staring up at the those quite remarkable insects as she rested against Franky’s front, the guide’s arms resting around her comfortably while she was uncharacteristically quiet.
“You’re looking a bit glow wormy yourself lately, Erica,” Bea told her. “Isn’t she, Liz?”
Liz studied Erica inquisitively. “She is glowing,” she agreed eventually and Erica felt slightly self-conscious under their regard.
“Rubbish,” she refuted. She picked up a stick and began to pull it apart with fierce concentration. It didn’t stop her companions though.
“She certainly doesn’t look like she is day,” Bea paused, “what day is it? Day five?”
“Six,” Vera supplied helpfully.
“Right, you don’t look like you’re day six into a hike,” Bea told her.
“What should I look like then?” Erica asked defensively.
“Not glowing!” They all exclaimed together, much to their own amusement.
She knew they were teasing her. She knew better than to glance at Franky who was busy preparing their dinner. She knew it was best to keep silent.
“There must be a reason for it,” Bea continued, seemingly intent on getting to the bottom of it.
“Of course there is,” Linda entered into the fray. “It has to do with a certain guide.”
“What?” Erica blustered, immediately forgetting her own wisdom. “That’s ridiculous!” She denied it vehemently but could feel the telltale warm flush of embarrassment flooding her face. She looked around at the amused expressions. “Really!” Her eyes eventually reached Liz.
“They all know, love,” she said gently.
She looked at Bea for confirmation. “Saw you coming out of Franky’s tent the morning after the storm,” she told her with a smile.
She looked at Linda. “Franky can’t keep her hands off you,” she shrugged. “I bet Will ten bucks you were on together.”
She looked at Jake. “Vera told me,” he at least looked sheepish.
She looked at Vera. “You were practically having sex in the bushes the other night,” she said with an embarrassed laugh.
Well, that was true, she acknowledged. Still, the rest was completely deniable. People were just making assumptions.
“And Franky told me,” Dan finished with a laugh.
Just then Franky arrived. “What did I tell ya?” She asked before dropping down on her haunches beside Erica. “Found this in one of the containers and thought you’d like some,” she said with a grin, handing her a wedge of mango.
Erica stared at her. “You told him? About us?”
“Huh?” Franky only took a moment to catch up. “Danny? He already knew, Erica. I just confirmed it.” She took Erica’s hand and put the mango in her palm.
“Well, apparently everyone knows!” She said, exasperated. She was annoyed and she wasn’t entirely sure whether she was most annoyed with Dan, Franky, or herself.
“Really?” Franky looked around at the group. “I don’t think John knows,” she whispered with a grin.
”It’s not funny,” Erica replied in a hiss.
Franky looked at her. “Seriously?” She asked, looking unconvinced. “You thought it was pretty funny when Vera busted us,” she pointed out. She stood up. “I gotta get on with stuff.”
Erica watched her walked away and sighed. She was overreacting to this. Franky was right. It hadn’t bothered her the night before when she was flushed with booze and post coitus haze. Now Franky was annoyed with her, or at least her reaction to them being outed. Maybe she thought Erica was embarrassed to be with her. She hadn’t thanked her for the mango, she realised. She fiddled with it, her appetite gone.
“You all right, love?” Liz sat down next to her. “Don’t mind that lot,” she said, nodding her head in the direction of the group. “They’re just teasing you. Franky’s used to it but she should realise you might feel uncomfortable.”
“It’s not her fault,” Erica defended the guide. “I’m just,”
“You’re just worried about your fiancé,” Liz finished for her. She patted her thigh. “It’ll be all right,” she reassured her.
“Will it?” Erica asked sceptically. She had doubts about all of it now the word was out. Suddenly she remembered she had a very real fiancé who had very real expectations of her. It wasn’t that she had forgotten Mark, because she hadn’t, but she had reduced him to a concept in her mind rather than someone with feelings who was entitled to respect.
She looked across to the dark haired guide. It all suddenly seemed complicated and messy. Didn’t Franky deserve the same amount of respect? How could she possibly achieve both those outcomes while continuing her liaison? If Erica was honest with herself though she didn’t think she could stop. She didn’t want to stop. Franky had surprised Erica that afternoon, and not just with the massage. She hadn’t expected the cocky guide to have such a romantic side. She had been tender and sweet while showing her the glow worms and asking Erica to spend the night with her. It gave Erica the sense that Franky wanted more.
She looked at the piece of mango in her hand. Another example of Franky’s attempt to woo her by reminding her of their shared moment over her dislike of bats. She smiled.
“Are you going to eat that?” Bea asked, “or just swoon over it?” Her smile was good natured.
“Either way, you’re not going to get your hands on it,” Erica told her heartlessly and began to eat the fruit.
“You must have done something special to score that,” Bea teased.
“Oh go easy on her,” Liz chastised mildly.
As Dan began to talk through the next day’s hike and the group gathered round him to hear better, Erica got up and went over to where Franky was grilling zucchini and eggplant and something that looked like halloumi cheese.
“Thank you, for the mango, it was delicious,” she opened with.
Franky nodded. “Sure,” she acknowledged as she concentrated on the task at hand. Erica wondered if Franky was annoyed with her.
Erica hovered then decided to tackle things head on. “I overreacted before, it was stupid.”
“Yeah, you did,” Franky looked up then, pausing in her attempts to flip the vegetables. “Why did you?”
“It’s not what you think,” Erica said hastily.
“What do I think?” Franky asked curiously.
“That I’m embarrassed to be with you maybe,” Erica suggested tentatively.
Franky laughed a little cynically. “I hadn’t thought that actually.” She went back to flipping her vegetables.
Erica mentally kicked herself for her mistake. “Good,” she said emphatically, “because it’s got nothing to do with you. I’m just worried, about Mark, I mean I’d rather he didn’t find out,” she saw Franky’s eyebrows go up in surprise. “Third hand, I’d rather tell him myself, wouldn’t you?”
“Dunno,” Franky shrugged, “I’ve never cheated on someone.”
Erica felt the weight of judgement in those words even though Franky had spoken them without any tone or particular emphasis. She was a cheater.
“Neither have I,” she defended herself, “not in all the years I’ve been with Mark, until now,” she conceded, “but this is different.”
“Why? Coz I’m a girl?” The way she said it, so whip fast, made Erica suspect Franky had heard all this before. “That’s bullshit, Erica.” She tossed down her tongs and squared off, facing her, suddenly fierce and intimidating, her green eyes fiery, her hackles up in warning. Erica held her breath. She was magnificent.
“No,” she whispered when she had found her voice, “because it’s you.”
Franky was surprised by her response, Erica could see, unsure of it. She pressed her advantage.
“Do you have any idea just how intoxicating you are? Just how dazzling? You make everyone else seem like blancmange, and safe,” she added. “I can’t see or hear anyone without thinking of you, and how they pale in comparison next to you.”
Franky was silent, studying her closely, looking for something. Maybe she was trying to work out whether the words were sincere or just a lie cloaked in sincerity. Then she smiled, her demeanour changing instantly, and Erica relaxed.
“You sound a bit smitten,” she teased, immediately lightening the atmosphere as only Franky could.
Erica laughed self consciously because that was exactly what she was. “Are we still on for that sleepover?” She asked lightly. “I mean we won’t have do any sneaking around now, which does disappoint me somewhat,” she smiled.
“On one condition,” Franky said seriously.
“No funny business.”
“What!” Erica’s exclamation caused conversations to halt.
Franky gave a shout of laughter. “Your face!” She managed to splutter. “Fuck, you really looked worried!”
Erica grabbed Franky’s flannel shirt and pulled her close. “You really can be a -“ she never got to finish her sentence because Franky kissed her soundly.
The halloumi was chewy because Franky had over cooked it because Erica had distracted her, or so she claimed. Erica didn’t care. The upside of everyone knowing about her and Franky was that she got to sit with her, leaning against her after dinner in the glow of the firelight, relaxed and happy, Franky’s arms were around her, as she watched the flames and listened to the banter. She didn’t want tomorrow to come. She wanted this night to last forever.
“Come on,” Franky murmured eventually, “let’s go to bed.”
They stood up together and went hand in hand to Franky’s tent, cat calls and wolf whistles following them, and jokes about ear plugs. Erica heard John ask what all the fuss was about. She smiled, Franky had been right about John.
She stopped at her tent. “I need to clean my teeth,” she said.
“Give me your mat and sleeping bag,” Franky instructed.
By the time Erica had arrived, Franky’s had laid out her mat and bag next to her own along with her tiny pillow. The tent no longer looked spacious instead it looked cosy. Erica took off her boots, leaving them outside under the fly. Franky arrived back from cleaning her teeth as Erica was delayering. It was cold away from the fire and without her down jacket and merino layers.
Franky slid past her and knelt on her own mat, pulling off her layers and folding them neatly and placing them carefully. Erica made a comment about how fastidious she was about it.
“Yeah, well, I like to know exactly where everything is so I can put my hands on it quickly in the dark if I need to,” Franky explained.
“Does that include me?” Erica asked.
Franky laughed, “Maybe,” she acknowledged, “if you’re lucky.”
Erica reached across the small space between them and kissed her. “I am lucky,” she told her.
“Turn your torch onto the red setting,” Franky instructed, “we’re lit up like a Christmas tree from the outside.”
“What red setting?” Franky showed her. “It didn’t even know it had that feature,” Erica grumbled. “My tent’s been lit up like a Christmas tree for days.”
Franky’s grin was shadowed in the the dim light. “I know,” she admitted.
“You could have told me,” Erica chastised her.
“And ruin the show? No way!” Franky pulled off her top, giving Erica a show of her own.
“That’s pervy,” Erica told her, doing her own perving as Franky sat in her bra and underwear, folding the last of her clothes.
“I’d go to sleep thinking about your naked silhouette,” Franky confessed. “Thinkin’ how hot you are, fantasising about you. The first moment I saw you, I wanted you.”
“I thought you could see right through me,” Erica admitted with a smile, “with those entrancing eyes of yours.”
Franky pulled off her bra, letting her breasts spring free of their confines. Erica had never really considered other women’s breasts before. If she was being honest she might have noticed the odd show of cleavage and been distracted by it momentarily. She would avert her eyes in those instances and let the conversation carry on. Now her words died on her lips and her eyes drank in the sight. She remembered how they felt under her hands, how those buds tightened as her tongue lashed them. Franky had perfect breasts in Erica’s view. They disappeared when Franky pulled on her sleeping top and Erica sighed with disappointment.
Franky slid into her sleeping bag and propped herself on one elbow facing Erica. She patted the space next to her, eyes lit up like an excited five year old. Erica lay down next to her, looking up at Franky, smiling. It felt ridiculous and touching at the same time.
Franky leant down and kissed her. “I’m glad you’re here,” she murmured. “Here properly I mean and not because you fell asleep here accidentally.”
“So am I,” Erica replied, kissing her back. Franky tasted of spearmint. Franky slid a hand under Erica’s top, letting it rest lightly on her stomach, as they kissed. It was leisurely as lips then tongues explored mouths knowing time was limitless for a change. Erica fought the need to rush things as her body responded to Franky’s touch. She sensed Franky’s own restraint as Erica’s hands ventured lower over the guide’s tight arse pulling her close. She moaned softly against Erica’s mouth. Erica slipped her thigh between Franky’s legs and Franky grinded against her. They were trying to be quiet but Franky’s breathing was becoming increasingly ragged.
Her mouth had worked its way to Erica’s throat then her collarbone. The fabric stopped her venturing any further. So instead Franky pushed up her shirt and began kissing the soft skin of her belly while working the top higher until Erica had to lift her arms so the clothing could be removed by an insistent Franky. “I’m getting you ready for bed,” she murmured against her ear. Then she began a slow journey south using her mouth and tongue and occasionally her teeth to navigate her way. Franky’s hands were unbuttoning Erica’s hiking pants then fiddling with her zip until she worked it open. Her warm hand found Erica’s hot, wet centre, fingering her through her underwear until Erica felt she would explode with want. “Franky,” she murmured, “wait.” She couldn’t quite believe she had said it.
Franky did pause, pulling her head up to look at Erica. Her eyes were glazed with desire and her gaze startling in its intensity. Erica wondered if she looked as sex drunk as Franky did just then. She pulled herself up and kissed Erica on the mouth, rubbing her thumb across her bottom lip. “You okay?” She asked with a frown.
Erica was touched by Franky’s concern. “Yes, it’s just, I want to,” she pushed her thigh against Franky’s centre, “I want you to come first.”
Franky grinned. “In case you didn’t realise, me getting you off, gets me so fucking turned on, it’s only gonna take the slightest pressure and I’m gonna come, listening to you and watching you is fucking hot. In fact just talking about it is getting me wet. Wanna feel?”
Franky guided Erica’s hand between her legs and Erica could feel the wet patch on Franky’s underwear. “Take them off,” Erica demanded.
Franky wriggled out of them then roughly pulled off Erica’s own pants and underwear and resumed her attentions, kissing her way along Erica’s inner thighs. Erica let her legs fall open giving Franky full access. The guide’s hands held her hips as she licked along the full length of her. Erica shoved the heel of her hand into her mouth to muffle her gasp. Oh God, she didn’t think she would be able to keep quiet. Franky was lapping up her juices before slipping her tongue inside Erica’s opening. She thrust her hips up seeking deeper penetration and Franky replaced her tongue with her fingers. Franky was breathing heavily against her as she flicked Erica’s clit with her tongue. A small squeal escaped her clenched mouth. “Oh, oh!” “Oh fuck!” Her thrusts began to get wilder and she could feel her clit pulsing against Franky’s mouth as she clenched around Franky’s fingers. She reached out blindly, and her hands found Franky’s head. She held her there, letting Franky coax her to another orgasm before pulling her up and slotting her thigh back between Franky’s thighs, feeling how wet she was. “Franky,” she gasped.
Franky sat up and straddled her waist. Erica slipped her finger inside Franky’s wetness and felt Franky move against her. She was breathing hard, her eyes never straying from Erica’s. She gasped as Erica’s thumb flicked her clit and moved harder until she gasped and then relaxed, collapsing next to Erica. It took barely a moment.
They heard distance laughter from the group by the fireside as their breathing regulated. Erica wondered if they had been heard. Right at that moment she didn’t really care, she would face the embarrassing comments in the morning knowing it had been worth it.
“How do you feel about PDA?” Franky asked randomly.
“What?” Erica asked with a laugh.
“Personally I kinda like it but I know not everyone’s into it,” she explained.
“I don’t know,” she admitted, “I like having sex with the curtains open.”
“Well, I think that’s something different,” Franky said with a smile in her voice, “but good to know.”
Erica rolled onto her side and looked at Franky. “You wouldn’t mind I think, not like Mark.”
Erica wondered what she had given away in that statement to make Franky study her so thoughtfully.
“Why have you stayed with Mark for so long if you don’t suit?”
Erica thought about the convenience, the expectation and her own ambition to have a successful life. Franky wouldn’t understand the constricting nature of those things. Franky would laugh at it. It was easy, when you had no family and nothing to lose, to make bold choices. Erica had always felt like she had something to lose so she had followed the path expected of her, from her parents and her upbringing. The only time she had veered away had been her decision to take up a position at Wentworth and that had cost her both her father and her career. After losing her father she couldn’t face losing anyone else. Her mother loved Mark like the son she’d never had. It was a safe option.
“Cowardice,” she said eventually. “I’m a coward.”
“Maybe you’ve just never had anything worth being brave for,” Franky told her.
Erica hoped she was right.