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Under Your Spell

Under Your Spell

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Introduction

This story stands alone but continues from Under Your Skin. There are also references to my series A Fishing Trip, that follows the adventures of the central character before she transitioned. This is a story about a relationship and love and in which gender is secondary, just as it should be.

She hated crying. She hated the way it made puffy red blotches on her face, she hated gasping for breaths, she hated the line of drool that hung from her mouth and the pain. Just the pain of it.

It’s said children cry for attention and seldom from life threatening pain. They quickly learn that tears are no antidote for pain like an anaesthetic.

Tears are our simplest language and its words our first. Few animals possess communication, beyond fight, flight, sex and food. Outside the line of primates, maybe dolphins, none make a noise that says “I am experiencing an emotion so unpleasant that I need to know I am not alone, this will pass, do not be frightened”.

These thoughts whirled round Hannah’s brain as she tried to reason with her runaway emotions. Slowly the big sobs subsided into smaller gasps and she found a tissue to wipe the drool off the arm of her fleece because when people cry, they never say “Just a minute, I have a tissue in the glove-box. Ok, I’m set, now I’ll cry.” She found herself taking a quick glance in the driver’s mirror to check her face and used the same tissue to wipe the tears out of the corners of her eyes, because she could only find one tissue. Bad planning Hannah.

The squall of tears was almost past. Her tummy ached like a winded baby and her eyes looked set for a Goth-themed house party. She took a couple of deep breaths and surprised herself at how un-shaky her exhales now sounded. She reached a hand to start the engine once again, it paused on the key, then suddenly she heard her own voice wailing.

“I’m so alone…. I want my Mum.”

She had to scrabble to find the half soaked tissue dropped in the foot well and brush off the grit and repeat the same recovery process.

This time she managed to start the engine, but then immediately switched it off and leaned back into her seat. By now her emotions hovered between anger, because she felt so stupid for reacting in such a childish way, and sadness for the loss something special. The thing, of course, was love.

Resting her hands on the top of the steering wheel, she leant her head forward. There was no pressure for her to move, it was a residential street and she was in no one’s way. She plonked her bag onto her lap and rummaged for her phone, then found an unopened pack of tissues.

“You see there is hope, Hannah,” she tutted to herself. “Even when everything in your life has turned to shit, you are a sensible girl and always have a pack of tissues.”

She blew her nose and checked her eyes in the mirror once again. She turned to the phone and swiped it into life. She didn’t yet trust her voice and rehearsed what she would say.

“Hi Mum…Hi Mum?…Hi Mum, it’s me. Hi Mum, it’s me — your daughter. The epically naïve, stupid, gullible daughter, not the smart one with a husband and gorgeous children.”

She sat tapping the edge of the phone and tried to wish away emotions that had overstayed their welcome.

The dial tone repeated twice and was then answered.

“Hi Hannah! Lovely to hear from you. Are you meaning to come and visit me — it’s been nearly six weeks? I’ve got Emma and Mike staying this weekend, so you can probably hear the pandemonium in the background. Everything alright?”

It was a relief to hear her mother’s voice for the instant feeling of normality it brought.

“Yea, I’m fine, Mum. I’d like to come over — what about next weekend?”

“Just a sec, Hannah.”

Hannah could hear some muffled laughter and voices over the line.

“Sorry love. Did you say Saturday or Sunday?” From the background noise, her mother was clearly much in demand from her grandchildren.

“Mum? Can I come down on Friday night, after work? Then stay over — if you’re not busy?”

This was not normal practise for her daughter, so she there was an immediate note of concern in her mother’s voice when she replied.

“Of course! I might have to go out at some point on Saturday, but anyway, that doesn’t matter. Is everything alright Hannah? Is it work? You’ve not insulted your boss again?”

Hannah swallowed an unexpected, lingering sob and made it into a laugh.

“No, no. I’m fine. I just need to… well it would be nice to see you and talk properly, instead of me dashing off like…”

“… like you’ve ants in your pants” Her mother finished the well-worn family saying. “Yes, come down Han. That would be lovely, darling. Give me a call Thursday in any case. Bye love. I’m needed again. Bye.”

The conversation with her mother proved to be exactly the tonic she’d hoped for. It had already blunted the pain she felt a few minutes earlier. She still felt sadness – the immense sadness of lost friendship. The friendship bomonti escort had been intense but, as it now turned out, brief.

She started the car again and made her way home.

* * * *

“Hannah, darling! This is wonderful! You’ve lost weight again haven’t you? How was the traffic?” Hannah’s mother showered her youngest daughter in a blizzard of questions.

All Hannah wanted to do was give her a big hug, so she ignored the questions, dropped her bag and threw her arms round her Mum. They rocked gently, making coos of love.

“Well come in, come in,” her mother said, fussing Hannah past her into the hallway. The hall mirror was emblazoned with children’s drawings that caught Hannah’s attention.

“Oh my gosh,” she squealed, looking affectionately at each one. “Is that a boat? Nope, I can’t figure that one. Is that you Mum?”

Mother and daughter stood chuckling at the scribbles and wonky writing annotations of her grandchildren.

“Pop your things up into your room and I’ll put supper on the table. You’ll have to excuse the mess, I haven’t had a chance to tackle upstairs yet, so you’ll probably find a dinosaur or two in your bed.”

It had been several years since it had really been Hannah’s bedroom. Her mother had long since decorated, so it was only hers by name. There was a chest of drawers that still had some of her clothes for weekends like this, so she was pleased to pull her shoes off and slip on an old pair of knitted Christmas socks in their place.

The two chatted across the kitchen table, while they ate supper. Hannah had brought a bottle of wine and though her mother was grateful, she left it unopened, just as Hannah knew she would. Hannah heard what was happening in the village, how her art classes were going, and of course every detail about the grand children.

“So what’s bothering you, Han?” Her mother finally asked, putting her hand over her daughter’s. They had tacitly acknowledged there was something amiss, so it was just a matter of time before they broached the subject.

“Oh Mum,” Hannah sighed, moved to sweep her long hair back with both hands, then propped her chin on them to give her mother a lop-sided smile.

Her mother waited to let Hannah frame her reply.

“It’s nothing new, I mean nothing weird. It’s just… well it’s just I’m sad — and disappointed.” Hannah spoke wistfully. “I really thought… I met this girl, she’s trans and we just clicked straight away, like when you meet someone and you feel like you’ve known them forever.”

“Familiarity,” her mother suggested, nodding back to her.

“Yea, that’s it. Like putting on an old glove, but not old… sorry I’m not making sense.”

Hannah shook her head and took another sip of her coffee.

“So you feel let down? Had you known each other long?”

“Yes, let down. But the stupid part is we’d only really met a few days ago. I trusted her straight away and you know I don’t do that. You know it takes me ages to trust someone — that’s how I pushed Martin away in the end.”

“Martin wasn’t right for you. You were as well to be shot of him,” her mother spoke defensively. “Well just because this other girl was trans, and you had lots in common, doesn’t mean that she’s going to be perfect, or that she’s going to think the same about you. Come on, Han — you know what we’ve always said, “Trans folk are normal folk”. I think maybe you were hoping against hope.”

Hannah knew her mother was right. As soon as she’d spoken the words, it was obvious and she knew now in her heart she’d simply avoided the truth. They sat quietly for a moment. Hannah stared blankly at the table in front of her, as she mulled it over. Finally she blew out her cheeks in a big exhale.

“Yea, I know, Mum. But fuck! I really wanted this to work. Sorry — I didn’t mean to use the f-word,” Hannah’s voice was full of resignation.

“Well, look at the time. It’ll be the Gardening Program, with Monty Don or that Adam Frost. Bring your coffee through and we can mull it over some more.”

* * * *

‘…And here’s some jobs for you to do, this next week’ said Monty, the gardener with his mischievous smile and signature sign off.

“Oo he’s lovely,” Mum laughed.

“He is Mum. He gives me goose bumps too. It’s those baggy cords he wears — very Mellors.” Hannah said looking across to her mother.

“It’s that way he presses the soil back in around plants too. Lovely man. Older man too!” and Mum laughed at her own idea.

“Talking of Mellors. Have you seen anything of Paul?” Hannah asked.

Paul was an old flame of Hannah’s from a number of years ago, before she transitioned.

“I have. Why?” her mother asked suspiciously.

Hannah simply raised her eyebrows in reply and her mother spluttered in reaction.

“Oh you’re not serious, are you, girl? After everything we’ve talked about?”

“That was all a long time ago,” Hannah replied, a little indignant.

“Paul was no good for you then, he’ll cihangir escort be no good for you now!” Mum reprimanded. “Think of the age difference.”

“Older man, Mum,” Hannah smiled.

“That’s different,” her mother batted the idea out of the air. “Besides, he’s gay isn’t he? Isn’t that why he went after you?”

Hannah slumped back into her armchair in surprise and pressed her folded hand against her mouth. The comment had wounded her and her reflex was to fight back, but this was her mother. She knew her mother was speaking out of concern and would trample on any principles to come to the aid of one of her children.

“I’m sorry, Hannah, I know that doesn’t sound very LGBT,” her mother grumbled the words out, realising she’d caused hurt.

“It’s fine, Mum. And seriously — I was only asking. Don’t jump down my throat over it.”

“Well yes, I see him. I think he’s still at Merriview. I suppose he’s a nice enough fella, in himself,” Mum acknowledged a little grumpily.

“I don’t bear him any grudges, Mum. I might not like him now anyway — I’ve moved on. I shouldn’t have asked,” Hannah reached a hand across as a show of contrition. “We-e-ell, I’m going to head for bed.”

Hannah rose and placed a kiss on her mother’s head, who in turn reached up to stroke her cheek.

“Is there anything you need, love?” she asked looking up.

“I’m fine, Mum. Night night, Thanks for supper — it’s nice to be home,” Hannah replied with an easy smile, letting her mother’s hand slip through hers.

In truth, Hannah was pleased to hear Paul still lived locally. She’d always kept a candle lit for him, even though in retrospect, he had perhaps taken advantage of her naivety at the time. Some emotions refuse to bend to the logic of common sense. Paul and her had parted when she left home to live in her university town, so she always felt there were words still unsaid between them.

****

“If I can leave you to clear the breakfast things, I can make a start. I hope you don’t mind, but I suspect Angie will want me to stay for lunch, so I’ll see you later,” Mum spoke as she gave herself a quick glance in the mirror.

“Ok. I’ll take a look at doing the updates on your Mac, then maybe take a walk — it looks like it’ll be sunny,” Hannah replied munching a piece of toast.

“Don’t worry about the computer today. Take some time off for heaven’s sake. Anyway, I’d better dash. See you later, bye,” said Mum, pulling the front door closed behind her.

Hannah sat at the kitchen table; absent-mindedly reading a cereal packet, then gave a long stretch, tipping the chair onto its back legs. She had a plan; the grain of an idea and her mother’s absence gave her the opportunity. Time for a walk.

The area near her old home was now a wildlife sanctuary, created after years of gravel extraction. Sailing clubs now occupied the numerous lakes, and the industrial past had vanished under the softening hand of nature. Hannah knew the area well and set off to follow a trail that wandered around the edge of several lakes.

It was one of those blissful end of summer days, when it was still warm enough for a dress. It was not yet autumn, but the horse chestnuts had already thrown in their card and let their leaves fade and conkers fall. Blue skies, white clouds and fresh air made Hannah’s soul sing and, first making sure no one could see her, she skipped a dance in a circle, embracing the sky with her arms.

Drifts of blue forget-me-nots flowed under trees in dappled sunshine and shy moorhens ducked under dipping branches as she passed. She sat on the bank for a moment to watch a dinghy, its sails a white triangle, pressing the breeze, making slow tacks. She had one just like it — her trusty friend that had shared so much joy with her.

She took a narrower, muddy path to cross a dry streambed, under hanging branches and inquisitive tendrils of briars, where few walkers ventured, to an adjoining lake that was a favourite of carp fishermen. They’d sit for days in their lakeside tent, seemingly oblivious to everything but the silver lines and clutch of rods that fanned across the water in front of them.

One of them, she hoped would be Paul. Just maybe.

Paul had been her first true love. They had met before Hannah had gone up to university, before she even came out as trans, before she changed her life. They’d spent a hot summer of hotter sex. He was quite a bit older than her, but he was kind and generous and she learnt from him that sex could be tender and fun as well as passionate.

He’d immediately seen the girl inside her, waiting to flower. Though she’d sensed it all her life, Paul had been yet one more influence that had converged in that crazy, kaleidoscopic summer holiday. As is sometimes the case, sex can be the spark to set the tinderbox ablaze, and from the flames — and yes, there are always flames — a phoenix can rise.

Hannah walked as quietly as she could as she approached. Carp are shy fish and kurtuluş escort fishermen do not thank heavy feet or bright clothes.

She could see a hand and knew it was Paul’s and felt a sudden flutter in her stomach. Was this such a good idea after all? She ran the thoughts through her head once more — that they could just chat, for old times sake, there needn’t be an ulterior motive. Anything more than that would be complicated and unwise.

But it was not wisdom or the promise of small talk that had brought her to this spot, within a few inches of a man who had known her body so well, who had worshipped it and shared such intimacies. That was not the reason and now here, at the threshold that became clear.

“Are you admiring the view or just being nosey?” his quiet voice familiar.

Hannah took a step forward and looked down at him, sprawled back in his camping chair.

The sun was behind her, so he squinted up at the silhouette of this young, slim woman now intruding on his peace.

“Are you lost Miss? You walked past a sign that said private lake. If you’re trying to follow the old path it’s there, under twenty feet of water, so you’ll need to go back to the track,” Paul had raised his hand to shield the sun but didn’t recognise her.

“It’s good to see you, Paul,” Hannah said, taking another two steps so he could see her properly.

The matchstick at the corner of his mouth, tipped downward, he opened his lips and half closed an eye in puzzlement.

“Is it, is it you, Janey?” Paul said in disbelief.

“Can I sit down, Paul?” Hannah asked, and picked a spot near him on a grass bank. Paul’s eyes followed her and he pulled himself upright in his chair.

“You’re right. I was Jane — I was that awkward, mixed up kid you knew. I’ve changed — a young woman as you see. Changed the name too — I’m Hannah, but Jane as well,” Hannah smoothed her dress down her thighs as she spoke and glanced up at his face, to gauge his reaction.

Paul had risen to his feet with his arms hanging limp at his sides. He was never a big talker, but now he was dumb. He was a little greyer; he still kept a stubble beard and was still the well-framed man she remembered. Still the dimple in his chin where her finger often pressed and the collar length hair he kept threatening to shave till she objected in horror. God, those eyes of his — they ought to be brown, but only those who looked closely found they were blue, under dark eyebrows.

“Oh. My. God.” Said Paul, punctuating each word with a pause and now standing with his hands on his hips and a broadening grin on his face.

‘Oh god that smile’ thought Hannah. ‘I’d forgotten how that smile made me feel.’ What she felt was a stir that started deep down, but burst into a shiver that rushed down her unmoving limbs.

Paul reached out both arms with a huge grin, inviting her to hug, but then stopped, uncertain.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t … I mean — you could have a boyfriend round the corner or something. But I am so happy to see you. Please. Can you give an old friend a hug?”

Hannah stepped forward and felt the immediate comfort of Paul’s body against her. He was strong, tall, fleshed out with muscle, but had the extra something that made her feel at home. He was always a great hugger. As his bear hug eased, she lent in to kiss his neck, then they stood back from one another, still holding hands, to look each other up and down.

“Well look at you, all grown up. It’s still you, but better than ever, Ja — Hannah,” Paul corrected himself.

“Thank you, Paul. It’s been a journey, but here I am, yup all grow’d up. So you like?” She said giving him a twirl of her dress.

“I’m sorry, forgive me for staring, but may I? It’s been — how long is it? It must be nearly ten years,” Paul puzzled. “It’s weird — in a good way. Your face is the same but… well you’ve a woman’s face now. From caterpillar to butterfly ” Paul’s roving eye, finished with a smile.

“The hair helps, huh? It was just a pageboy cut then, but now I get to play with it. I like it this length. Shall we sit? Have you still a kettle on the go?” Hannah was delighted by his comments. Few other people had witnessed the change in her from start to finish.

Paul ducked back into the tent and produced another chair for her, then lit his gas stove and carefully balanced the kettle over it and busied himself preparing a brew as they chatted.

“Hannah. Hannah… you must tell me if I’m being rude or intrusive, and forgive my curiosity, but my head is full of questions,” he said glancing up.

“Ask away, Paul — it’s fine. If you get too personal, I’ll change the subject,” Hannah laughed back.

“Ok then. Well… the first that pops into my head is your choice of name. I mean I can understand why you’d have wanted to change it. Well, I can take a guess. Was it because of us — it was the one I coined for you on a whim.”

Hannah curled forward as if to protect herself and made to run her hands down her shins to her ankles. Paul had gone straight for an awkward question and she didn’t want to hurt him with her reply.

“M’yea,” she toned. “Well, that was part of it. I needed to move forward, you know?”

“I do know. I do understand that. You needed to grow — as a person I mean.” Paul straightened up to face her.

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