The Borderline Ch. 01

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Big Tits

Memory is both seductive and selective. We’ve all relived the so-called ‘good old days’ and I’m no different. The older I get the more I find myself returning again and again to one particular year. It was 1988 and I was nineteen. I was a country girl from Healesville on the outskirts of Melbourne, the eldest of three daughters. Dad was a vet at Healesville Sanctuary and mum worked at the local clinic as a medical receptionist. Australia’s Prime Minister was Bob Hawke. Home And Away debuted that year but one of the most watched shows was Hey Hey It’s Saturday featuring Daryl Somers and Ossie Ostrich, a pink, wisecracking ostrich. It was the year of big hair, Australia’s Bicentennial and U2 but it was also the year I met my first love.

I haven’t seen her for years but just recently I stumbled across an article in The Independent about a doctor from Médicins sans Frontières who’d just returned from the war in Yemen. My heart skipped a beat when I read the name, Holly McMahon. The picture brought a smile to my face and a lump to my throat. Twenty eight years have aged us both but she could still pass for forty five.

She was a twenty two year old nurse in 1988 when I knocked on the door of her house in Bayswater North on a hot summer day. I was staring at the imposing grandeur of Mount Dandenong, the most dominant feature in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs.


She wore a patterned shirt-dress and her straight brown hair nudged the small of her back, very unlike my blonde mane, yes, I had the big hair as well!

“It’s quite a view,” her brown eyes twinkled, “I love sitting by the window in the morning with a coffee, I’m Holly McMahon,” she held out her hand.

“Rachel,” I took her hand, “Rachel Wood.”

“Rachel,” her smile was disarming as she glanced at the bible poking out of my handbag, “if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness then they’ve got a vendetta against me. I had two here last week.”

“I’m not,” I blushed, “although I am a believer, I just came from church, I’m here about the room?”

“Ah,” she took a step back and gestured, “that’s different, come on in. You’re actually lucky to catch me, I was getting ready to go shopping,” she closed the door behind me, “I’m a nurse and this is one of my days off. Sad I know.”

I laughed at the joke and then I saw the iconic Flashdance poster hanging above the mantelpiece. I was transfixed by the picture and it wasn’t some homoerotic fixation.

“You like Jennifer Beals?” Holly raised her eyebrows.

“She’s okay,” I brushed a lock of hair aside, “I haven’t seen the movie yet.”

“She’s my dream woman,” she smiled slyly.

The statement took a moment to sink in. There were gays in town but they tried to stay anonymous, there was one polite older man who rarely spoke to anyone, and a cast off relic from the punk era called Doris. Most of us tried to avoid Doris because she could be quite abrupt and she could take care of herself in a fight as Charlie found out in the Grand hotel one night. She’d impressed the proprietor so much he hired her as a barmaid slash bouncer. Only a foolish man would argue with Doris if she refused to serve him. I stared blankly at Holly as it sunk in. She certainly didn’t look like a lesbian, but I’d only ever known Doris with the tattooed arms.

“Normally I don’t mention it but you’re here about the room, so…”

“Oh, okay, it just took me by surprise.”

“I’m in a relationship,” she paused, “if that puts your mind at ease?”

“And your girlfriend doesn’t mind?”

“She lives in Moonee Ponds, it’s complicated,” she smiled and gestured, “so, if you’re okay with that I’ll show you the rest.”

The house was a three bedroom, weatherboard with a large living room and a monster back yard. One of its most unusual features was the fact that the bedroom came fully furnished. If I took the room I’d have a double bed for the first time. She used the third bedroom as a sewing room.

“Rent is seventy a month,” she leaned against the wall, “but we can bring the price down if it’s too high. Where do you work by the way?”

“I work out at the Christian bookshop in Heathmont.”

“Oh, I know where you are now,” she smiled crookedly, “not that I’ve ever set foot inside.”

I didn’t reply as I sat on the bed and stared at the mirrored wardrobe.

“So, what do you think? I had a guy in here up until last month, the furniture here actually belongs to him but he was getting married and didn’t need it, so you must be the luckiest woman in Melbourne.”

She wasn’t wrong there, I stared at myself.

“Not what you’re looking for?”

“I didn’t say that,” I blushed, “it’s just that my lifestyle might be a little difficult for you, I’m a Christian and while I’ve got nothing against lesbians, I’d be worried about the impact on your love life.”

Her mouth dropped and then she burst out laughing.

“And I thought I’d heard it all, here’s a Christian worried about moving into the spare room in case she drives a wedge between me sinop escort and my girlfriend.” she flicked at her hair.

“I’ll give it to you straight. Kelly is older than me and when I told her I was looking for a house mate she actually suggested a straight woman, for reasons that should be obvious.”

I nodded and smiled but didn’t reply.

“Look if you want to think about it I’ll understand,” she checked her watch, “I’d prefer you because I like the way you come across and your Christian beliefs are actually just perfect, so I’ll hold off on interviewing anyone else for twenty four hours.”

“Thank you, I’ll think about it, I really should be going too. I’ve got to go shopping as well.”

“So why don’t you tag along with me? If you can survive a trip to Eastland without turning gay then there’s a chance you might last here.”

Little did I know as I slid onto the passenger seat of her blue Ford Falcon XA coupé that it would be the first of many shopping trips, I still feel her presence whenever I go there today although the place has changed so much. Suffice it to say that by the time we returned some two hours later my mind was made up. She had a worldliness about her that was comforting. She was born in Peterborough but came with her parents to Australia in 1966, she was also an only child.

“We were ten pound Poms, mum went back home years ago and I haven’t seen my father for fifteen years,” she smiled crookedly, “he headed out west.”

She’d travelled throughout Europe though and over the course of the next few hours she told me about her travels while we wandered through Eastland’s cavernous interior. Like many Aussies I was obsessed with travel.

I moved in the following week after breaking the news to my parents and at first I was worried about their reaction to Holly’s sexual orientation but my fears were groundless. Mum was drawn to Holly when she heard about her family situation and dad was pleased to see I’d be moving in with a keen Collingwood supporter. None of us followed football.

“She’s the kind of mum I wish I’d had,” she commented that night as I walked her to the car, “I feel like I can just put my feet up and relax, and that’s a good thing I hope.”

“It is,” I replied, “we’re country folk, I mean they’re born again Christians but they would never hold it against you for the way you are.”

“Amen to that,” she unlocked the car, “give me more of that,” she took the casserole dish from me.

“We will, don’t worry.”

“So, everything’s fine?”

“Everything is fine.”

That impromptu mid week dinner was the first of many dinners and get togethers. Holly never pushed herself into her family, it was more the other way around, we dragged her in. She had boundaries of course, she sometimes made excuses not to go up to Healesville and she was in a relationship with Kelly on the other side of town but that was a fortnightly thing. She stayed the weekend when he had the kids, but Kelly refused to let her come around when the children or her ex, Darren were there. It worked both ways though, she refused to let Kelly come around, telling her it was a line she wouldn’t cross and I left it at that.

“It’s a good arrangement, we’ve got our own separate lives but once every two weeks we let our hair down.”

With the benefit of hindsight I can see the flawed logic but I was nineteen going on twenty and terribly naïve about relationships. My parents did ask her to come to a church function but she politely declined and after that the subject was never raised. Sometimes she came into the book store, especially if she’d arranged to pick me up from work. Now and then she bought inspirational cards for patients and it was amusing to see the girls at work greeting her with a hug. She admitted that she had a crush on Mandy, which made me burst out laughing.

“Mandy is even straighter than me, but if I hear otherwise I’ll tell you.”

“Thanks, I could fall into her eyes and never be seen again.”

Summer turned to autumn and the days grew milder, I’d gotten involved in a church closer to home with an active youth program but I limited my involvement to the morning church service and the occasional night service. John, the youth pastor tried his best to get me to join his bible study group but I always refused. These clumsy attempts at courtship actually pushed me closer to Holly and drove me to find things we could do together that wouldn’t upset the relationship between her and Kelly, it was something I was very conscious about.

One of these things was a six week horse riding course out in Woori Yallock. It was a skill she’d always wanted to learn. After our lessons we’d drive up to Healesville and stay the night. In fact sleepovers became so frequent she started leaving clothes there. Our couch folded out to become Holly’s bed and on Sunday morning I’d tiptoe past her on my way to my old church and come back to find her sitting reading the paper or preparing lunch.

Winter saw us staying closer sivas escort to home and nights in front of the telly watching videos, we were regulars at the local video stores and that winter I actually saw my first porn movie. I’d mentioned it as a joke of course and in the spirit of having a laugh, she went out and hired the only half decent one she could find and then swapped the cover with Bolero. It took a few minutes to realise this wasn’t a trailer and Holly was nearly in stitches.

“Sorry,” she finally recovered, “but you asked for that one,” she reached for the remote, “here, I’ll put Bolero on instead.”

“No,” I stuck the remote under my jumper, “now you’ve got to sit through it and suffer.”

It was a series of short fifteen minute films and the experience left me feeling a little weird. It was as if I’d crossed an invisible line. Holly dismissed porn as being unrealistic and went to explain her objections.

“It’s a guy thing,” she stretched, “guys like to think that we women are just gagging for a cock and as for swallowing cum,” she shuddered, “gross, trust me, been there done that.”

Not once did Holly ever make a pass at me or suggest I try going out with women, if anyone raised the subject of homosexuality it was always me and she’d answer my questions honestly. It was so refreshing asking her because not only was she my friend and house-mate, she was also a nurse and so that winter I learned so much more about sex in general. She covered the entire subject both clinically and personally, it was like having the blinkers pulled off and by the start of spring I found I was able to actually talk about sex without feeling guilty.

Spring came late that year and brought changes in October when Kelly announced to Holly that she was going to New Zealand for two weeks with Darren and the kids. I was more shocked than her at the time but I could tell she was slightly nervous.

“Darren’s parents live there,” she explained, “it’s their golden wedding anniversary.”

However, despite my naïvety my gut feeling turned out to be correct when Kelly abruptly ended their twelve month affair. I wasn’t there when she arrived, I’d been out shopping late Friday night and when I got home I found a conservatively dressed older woman sitting on the recliner where I usually sat. Holly was on the couch and the atmosphere was icy. Kelly was polite enough to me when we were introduced but when I offered her a coffee she shook her head.

“I’ve got to go, I’ve been here long enough.”

When her car backed out the driveway Holly let out a sob.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

She hurled a wine glass against the brickwork façade behind the gas heater and I came running through to find her with her face in her hands, sobbing. She stiffened when I sat on the arm of the couch and rubbed her back but kept crying.

“Fucking bitch.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing is what happened,” she sank back against the couch, “she’s gone back to Darren, the fucking bitch.”

It was a night of drama and tears. I learned things about Holly I’d never known and not just about her relationship with Kelly, but the abusive assaults of her own father. He’d never been charged with sexual assault but in my opinion he should have been jailed along with his wife who’d let it go on without saying a word until it became obvious to all. The only reason she hadn’t been made a ward of the state was because her social worker was one of the new breed breathing new life into a broken system of institutionalised incarceration.

“Alan was as gay as they come but he really straightened me out, he put me in touch with tutors to bring my grades back up and wrote me the reference that helped me get into nursing college. Mum settled down but things were never the same afterwards. When I turned eighteen she bought a one way ticket to Britain and calls me on my birthday and Christmas. I’ve actually gone to Alan’s house for Christmas dinner a couple of times.”

I went to bed with my head in a whirl. I felt her sadness like a physical pain and vowed that if anyone hurt her again I’d go through them like a dose of salts and I wasn’t the only one looking out for Holly. Mum came down three times that week with her, “saw the lights on, thought I’d drop in,” excuses. Slowly but surely the turmoil began to fade and she finally admitted a couple of weeks later that if not for us she might have hit the bottle.

“I’m no alcoholic but I can hit it hard when I put my mind to it,” she smiled.

“I was nearly on the verge of suggesting we go to a gay bar.”

“Thanks for the thought but no,” she smiled crookedly, “I never thought I’d see the day you’d suggest that.”

“I’d do it for you.”

“Thanks that means a lot,” her head hit the back of the couch, “I remember playing truth or dare at a party years ago, I think that was one of the dares.”

“We used to play truth or dare too, although our dares were a lot tamer.”

She laughed when I told her some of our dares and that tekirdağ escort got us started on a game of truth or dare, with embarrassing questions that had us laughing out loud before we graduated to questions on sex, which had us laughing even harder. It was only at the very end when we were both thinking of going to bed that we issued our first dares.

“Truth or dare?” I asked.

“Fuck it, I’ll go a dare,” she propped on the edge of the couch, “this should be good.”

I thought for a moment and then grinned as I remembered her saying she’d never gone to a church service voluntarily.

“Okay, I dare you to go to two church services in one day.”

“Two services in one day?” Holly looked at the Flashdance poster and closed her eyes, “I knew you were going to dare something like that,” she opened her eyes, “all right I accept your dare but I’ve got one of my own.”

“Name it,” I folded my arms, “as long as it doesn’t involve nudity.”

“Drats, foiled again,” she swatted the air, “okay, one kiss.”

“One kiss,” I frowned, “that doesn’t sound very equal, compared to two services.”

“I haven’t finished yet,” she grinned, “you have to open your mouth and it’s got to last for a full minute.”

I said yes before I realised it and she looked down for a moment.

“This is a silly game, so we can laugh it off or go through with it.”

“Let’s go through with it,” I stretched and yawned, “but I’m off to bed.”

“All right, when?”

“This Sunday?”

“Okay, we’ll do your dare first and then mine.”

Nothing more was said about it until the Friday night when Holly came home to tell me that she’d been asked to cover for a colleague on the Sunday night.

“I’m not backing out, honest,” she held her hands up, “I’ve already reserved the following Sunday.”

“That’s fine,” I shrugged, “it’s no problem, really.”

And it wasn’t a problem until two days later when the head pastor announced that starting next week, there would be a series of three sermons on homosexuality and the Christian response. I felt as if the earth was opening up beneath me. How could I take my gay best friend to this church? I considered another one but this was my regular church. The new date was another issue. The first November weekend is Melbourne Cup weekend, a four day holiday, but that might work in my favour if I had to make it up to her, perhaps we could do something nice instead like go to the pictures. I prayed about it as well and God did answer my prayers because Holly was stunned to find she’d been given the whole four days off. In fact considering the carnage on the roads every long weekend back then, it probably qualifies as a genuine modern miracle. Holly even said as much that night as we got ready to go to the pub.

“Maybe there is something in this God stuff after all,” she fluffed out her hair, “if that isn’t a miracle then my name isn’t Holly McMahon.”

I was extra nice to Holly at the pub, she got pissed on my shout and on Saturday we went into Melbourne and shopped till we dropped. Holly bought me a blouse despite my attempt to talk her out of it. It was made of semi sheer material with two wide strips covering my womanly charms and a lace pussybow collar tie. She told me it would look perfect in an office and I weakened when I stepped out of the dressing room to show her.

“You’re in the wrong job, babe,” she adjusted the tie, “you should be modelling not selling books. You could wear this to your church and not invite the wrath of God, just don’t walk into a gay pub, you’ll have the lesbos creaming their knickers,” she poked me playfully in the belly and winked, “but it’s a great way to get free drinks.”

Which is precisely what we did that day in the Prince of Wales in St Kilda.

Sunday was a typical Melbourne spring day complete with the usual four seasons in one day forecast. The outfit I chose for church was significant, the blouse she’d bought the previous day and a black, three-quarter skirt with silver buttons down the front, black boots completed the outfit.

“Wow, smear me in honey and throw me to the lesbians, who’s this hot chick in my bedroom?”

“Thank you,” I eyed her. She wore a green and white striped blouse tucked into a white skirt accessorised with a black belt, white waistcoat and green shoes, “very church like.”

“I’m playing it safe,” she picked up a crucifix and then winced. “Shit, we’re going to a Protestant church. What was I thinking?”

“I’m sure it’d be okay.”

“No it’s a Catholic cross. I’d hate to upset your friends, I really do want them to like me.”

Those words came back to haunt me two hours later as we stepped out into the sunshine. The pastor had promised to give the Christian response to homosexuality and he delivered a blood and thunder diatribe. To her credit she sat through it stony-faced and afterwards even smiled and chatted with the congregation, but when we drove away she sighed.

“That was tougher than I thought.”

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, “he doesn’t know anything about you.”

“Obviously not,” she looked at me, “are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I swallowed.

“Jeezo, my face looks like thunder but yours could send a thousand ships to the bottom of the ocean.”

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