Forgetting the Past

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Carrie picked irritably at a small piece of lint on her pristinely starched uniform. She would have preferred to wear civilian clothes but she knew the uniform was expected of her and Jonathon ‘Jonno’ Clark had deserved her respect.

She sat dry eyed and numb throughout the service, as the vicar droned on about the terrible waste of human life, the selfless sacrifice to protect human rights and finishing up with the predictable blurb about him now being in a better place. The vicar was doing his best but it was obvious he hadn’t known Jonno, which is hardly surprising as Carrie had never known him set food inside a church unless it was for a wedding, christening or funeral.

She’d enlisted into the army with Jonno straight from school. Neither of them came from financially well-off families and they knew that if they wanted to go to university they would end up working their arses off in a bar, coffee shop or some other similarly mundane activity to fund their way and would probably still end up with massive student loans to pay off. The army however would sponsor them through their degrees while also paying them. A life in the forces also seemed quite exciting and they would get to see some of the world along the way, so they both decided that this would be a much better option.

They applied together and were both delighted that not only did they both get accepted but would be completing their basic training together. As they were both engineering students, they ended up spending much of their army careers in the same unit, helping and encouraging each other along the way.

That had been eight years ago and they had both achieved excellent degrees in engineering. Carrie had left the army as soon as her seven year stint came to an end and was now a successful, self employed civil engineer but Jonno had signed up for another stint; full of grandiose ideas about using his skills to rebuild the infrastructure that had been torn apart by war in Afghanistan — shame the Afghani insurgent hadn’t recognised his good intentions when he laid the land mine on the approach to the new bridge he was constructing huh?

She glanced across the aisle of the church to where his Commanding Officer was sitting in a wheelchair, both legs and one arm lost in the same explosion — maybe Jonno had actually been the lucky one?

Having no intention of attending the wake and having to make polite small talk with senior officers with whom she now felt no sense of camaraderie she walked quickly from the church at the end of the service, stopping to gaze over the river that she and Jonno had swum in as kids, while she smoked a cigarette.

Stepping around a huge oak tree to shield her from view of the departing mourners she was startled to find a woman already standing there, her black clothes and red eyes testament to the fact that she had been at the same funeral.

‘I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.’ and she turned to walk away. ‘It’s ok CJ, you don’t have to leave.’

Carrie was startled. She didn’t recognise the woman and hadn’t been called CJ for a few months. Not since the last time she’d seen Jonno in fact as he was the only person who called her by that nickname.

‘I’m sorry, do I know you?’ ‘You used to once but I looked a little different then. Imagine me 10 years younger, 4 stone heavier, black hair and with glasses an inch thick.’

The cogs were turning in Carrie’s head. The voice sounded familiar and when she thought about the description she came to a startling conclusion.

‘Susan?’ she stammered, shocked at the transformation that Jonno’s sister had made from ugly duckling to magnificent swan ‘Bloody hell I would never have recognised you! How are you?’ Susan shrugged, tipping her head toward the mourners exiting the church as if to say ‘I’ve had better days’.

Jonno’s sister was a couple of years older than they were and hung around with a very different crowd, so although their paths had crossed regularly they had never been friends. Susan was a Goth in her youth, dressed in black and purple and wearing enough dark makeup to effectively mask her features.

They spent most of their time hanging around the local dive bar where the Goth bands played or standing on street corners smoking weed, whereas Jonno and Carrie were more likely to be playing football or tennis, working out in the gym or off for the weekend climbing mountains or orienteering in Wales or Scotland.

Carrie had changed little during the intervening years; still slim, sporty and fit but with a few battle scars of her own gained along the way — hers were mainly mental though.

Susan had changed beyond recognition. Her black scraggy hair was now a deep and luxurious chestnut and her chunky and rotund figure was now voluptuous and shapely in all the right places. The glasses and thick makeup had gone, revealing a pair of beautiful green eyes set in a face that while pained, was very attractive.

‘Can I cadge one of those off you? This damn dress casino oyna doesn’t have any pockets and I left mine in the car.’

Carrie handed over her cigarettes and lighter, noticing how Susan’s hands shook as she took the packet and tried to get one out. Looking at her face it was obvious that she was struggling to hold back the tears that were trying to break free.

‘I thought he’d come out of the army when you did. You know he only joined up because of you? Why didn’t he leave when you did?’

Carrie was shocked by this statement and also knew it to be false.

‘Susan he didn’t join because of me, we both joined to achieve a goal. We achieved that goal and I had my own reasons for leaving, just as Jonno had reasons to stay; he thought he could do some good out there.’

‘Oh bullshit! He joined because he was in love with you and he didn’t want to be away from you! What happened? Did you dump him? Break his heart? There must have been a fucking good reason as to why he stopped following you around like a puppy!’

Carrie had no energy for a fight right now and she didn’t want to upset Susan further, equally she didn’t feel that she had to explain herself to this woman — she may have been Jonno’s sister but she hardly knew her and it certainly wasn’t her place to tell her things that Jonno hadn’t told her himself for whatever reason.

Suddenly her uniform felt tight across her chest as if it was trying to stop her breathing and cut off her circulation. She had once promised herself never to wear it again and right now she needed to get home and get changed, so she turned on her heel and walked toward her car without looking back.

Once back home Carrie stripped out of her uniform and stood under a scalding shower for as long as she could bear, trying to rinse the day away along with the suds that cascaded down her body and swirled down the drain.

Eventually she towelled off, sat on the end of her bed and finally allowed herself to mourn the loss of the person who had been her best friend since she was 11 years old, the tears coursing down her cheeks freely until she sobbed herself into a fitful sleep.

————————————————————————-

Carrie got home from work late having been at a site visit all day, pulled off her heavy work boots and slumped onto the sofa. It had been 2 weeks since Jonno’s funeral and although the intense pain had subsided, there was still a lingering heaviness in her heart that she just couldn’t shift.

As she sat there trying to decide what to have for dinner she noticed the light flashing on her answering machine, so she grabbed a notepad and pen from her briefcase and hit the ‘play’ button.

There were 3 telemarketing calls, 2 calls from potential clients and 4 hang-ups. She hated hang-ups as it seemed the height of bad manners to call someone’s number and not at least leave a message, especially as she assumed that these calls were probably automated sales calls.

Having made a note of the messages from clients she deleted the calls from the machine and was just heading into the kitchen when the doorbell stopped her in her tracks. She sighed to herself, wondering who would be calling on her without prior notice at 9pm at night and headed to the front door.

She was surprised when she opened the door to find Susan standing there looking sheepish and embarrassed. She was hungry and tired from a tough day at work, dealing with men who were convinced they knew more about engineering than she did purely because they had a dick between their legs. She really couldn’t face another showdown right now but she could hardly slam the door in her face either.

‘Hello Susan, how can I help you?’ ‘Hi CJ, I owe you an apology — can I come in please? I tried to call a few times but it seemed cowardly to leave a message on your machine.’

The familiarity implied by the use of Jonno’s nickname for her was irritating but she stood back and allowed Susan entry, following her into the living room and standing there waiting for her to say something. At least it explained the phone hang-ups.

‘I had no right to talk to you the way I did the other day. I was stressed and upset and I apologise. Your relationship with Jon is none of my business and I know that his getting killed wasn’t your fault — I was just looking for someone to blame and it wasn’t fair of me to take it out on you, especially when you must be hurting too.’

‘I understand your anger at his death but I didn’t have a relationship with Jonno, at least not in the sense that you’re implying.’

‘It’s ok; you don’t have to deny it CJ. I know you two were as thick as thieves and that you ran away into the army together. I just you’d wish stayed together and that he’d left when you did, but I don’t blame you and I was wrong to shout at you.’

‘I accept your apology but you’re still wrong about our relationship. I loved Jonno like a brother, he was my best friend but that’s as far slot oyna as it went and I’d really appreciate it if you stopped calling me CJ.’

‘Then what am I supposed to call you, I thought it was your name? It’s what Jon always called you.’

‘My name is Carrie. Only Jonno called me CJ it was a private nickname.’

‘Oh right, so you weren’t involved but you had pet names for each other? I guess C&J are your initials then?’

‘No they aren’t my initials and it wasn’t a cutesy pet name it was a juvenile nickname, only Jon…….oh for god’s sake!’

Carrie was tired and exasperated but it was perfectly plain that unless she gave a pretty comprehensive explanation Susan was never going to believe her or understand. Maybe if she did then Susan would go away and leave her alone.

‘Sit down Susan and I’ll tell you all about my relationship with your brother, it might help you come to terms with things. I’ll put the kettle on.’

Returning to the living room with mugs of tea Carrie wondered where she should start, eventually settling on starting right at the beginning.

‘Jonno and I started the same senior school when we were 11. We were both sporty and were members of a lot of the same after school clubs — it gave us a lot in common and we became friends pretty quickly.

We were into the same sports and were both very competitive so we trained together a lot and it brought us close together.

We could talk about anything, no subject was taboo. We told each other our dreams, desires and fears, discussed who we fancied, laughed about our first fumbling sexual encounters. He was the closest friend I’ve ever had and we promised we’d always be there for each other but there was never anything sexual between us.

When we were fourteen I confided to him that I was having disturbing feelings about other girls. Jonno thought this was hilarious but other than taking the piss every now and again he was as fully supportive as a fourteen year old boy could be; I think he secretly found it quite cool to have a budding lesbian as his best friend.

He helped me to realise that it was ok to be different; we even compared notes on girls that we fancied and that’s where the nickname CJ came from — it stands for cunt jockey.’

‘Oh!’ stammered Susan obviously embarrassed once again, although Carrie didn’t know if it was because of the crassness of the nickname her brother had bestowed or the fact that she had been proven wrong in her assumptions.

‘So you see Jonno and I were never a couple, we were never lovers and he wasn’t in love with me. We joined the army together because we wanted to get good degrees without incurring huge debts.

Jonno fell in love in Afghanistan. Her name was Husna and she was a Doctor from Pakistan, working with the Red Cross. She was pretty, talented, intelligent and had a heart of gold — they made a wonderful couple, both wanting to do what they could to fix the war-torn country. He asked her to marry him and come to the UK to live; she agreed but it was going to take a while to sort out the logistics so he signed up for another 3 years, volunteering to spend them on tour in Afghanistan to be close to her.’

‘Oh god Carrie, I’m so very sorry!’ sniffed Susan as she wiped the tears from her eyes ‘he never told us anything about her. The only woman he ever spoke about was you, we all just assumed……..’

‘Yeah well, he probably wanted to make sure everything worked out ok first.’

‘So how come you left after your 7 years were up, weren’t you temped to stay?’

‘The military is trying to drag itself into the 21st century but same sex relationships are still frowned upon. I had a lover who was less than discrete and once the brass found out about it they made life very difficult for us. She was transferred to another unit and although I left of my own free will, it was obvious that my life was going to be pretty uncomfortable if I’d stayed, It’s hard enough being a female engineer in a male dominated army as it is.’ It was her standard answer. It wasn’t the whole truth but it usually sufficed.

‘I owe you a much bigger apology than I thought Carrie, please forgive me?’

‘Yeah, no worries.’ Sighed Carrie ‘but now I really need to eat something and get some sleep.’ And she ushered Susan out of the door before the conversation could go any further.

————————————————————————-

For the next few weeks Carrie lived and breathed the project she was working on. She had been promised a very lucrative bonus if she could get it completed early and much as it had meant riding the contractors hard to beat the deadline she’d managed it.

No-one had minded too much once they realised they were getting a share of the bonus and she’d taken them out to celebrate once the job was complete.

Carrie had left them to it once they were all plastered enough to start acting like cavemen; why was it that every bloke she worked with seemed canlı casino siteleri to take her lesbianism as a personal challenge once they’d had a few drinks? Even the married ones weren’t above making jibes and sneers about ‘converting’ her — even though she was pretty sure they’d run a mile if she actually gave them the opportunity to make good on their boasts about their sexual prowess.

Walking out of the pub she checked her mobile, finding a text message from a friend she hadn’t seen in a while: ‘Hey Carrie, you’ve been working too hard and we miss you. A few of the girls are getting together at the Flag tonight, come and join us if you can. Love ya, Ali xx

She and Ali had had a brief fling once but having a relationship with someone in the army isn’t always easy to start with, bordering on nigh-on impossible once they get stationed overseas, so they soon worked out that they were better off as friends. She sighed and glanced at her watch, it was still early so why not go and have some fun, so she hailed a cab and headed over to the Flag.

On entering the club she was assaulted by the volume of the music, peering into the darkness as she tried to locate her friends, finally spotting them at a table near the bar. She wasn’t a huge fan of the Flag; like many gay clubs and bars it could be a meat market and by the looks of the couples that had paired off in the darker reaches of the room, tonight was no different.

‘Hi guys, what’s the occasion?’ ‘Carrie!’ chorused her friends in unison and she was quickly ushered into a chair while someone went and ordered her a drink.

Ali leaned over and gave her a huge hug ‘It’s been way too long Carrie, what’ve you been up to? I was really sorry to hear about Jonno babe, are you coping ok?’

‘Yeah I’m ok thanks, I still miss him but I’m doing ok. I had a visit from his sister the other day though, she was convinced we were a couple, she obviously didn’t know I’m gay.’

‘Sue? What a stunner she turned out to be! She was here earlier but I haven’t seen her for a while so maybe she left already.’

‘She was in here?’ Carrie was about to question Ali further but her drink turned up and the conversation quickly moved on, Jonno’s sister getting forgotten in the onslaught of questions that were flowing back and forth as the friends tried to catch up on everything that had been going on since they last saw each other.

As Carrie exited the bathrooms some time later and was trying to manoeuvre her way through the crowded dance floor back to her friends, she noticed an argument going on in front of her. She noticed that the aggressor was a big, butch dyke called Sam, who was known for not taking no for an answer if she’d had a few drinks and it looked like tonight was one of those nights.

She’d got a firm grip on another girl’s arms and was physically trying to drag her off the dance floor, her victim resisting and trying to pull away unsuccessfully.

Carrie may have been in the Engineering Corp in the forces, but you don’t spend any time in the army without learning to be a soldier first and foremost. Her wiry frame was deceptively strong so she knew she could help the girl out if she needed it, so she sidled up behind her and listened in on the argument, gauging the situation first to make sure it wasn’t just a lovers tiff.

‘For god’s sake woman, one dance does not mean that I want to go home with you, now get your fucking hands off me!’ ‘Oh come on sweetie, afraid you can’t handle a butch like me? I’ll show you a good time, you know I will.’ Slurred the big butch, tightening her grip. ‘I am NOT coming home with you, not now, not ever, now go hit on someone else!’

OK, so this was no tiff; what’s more Carrie had recognised Susan’s voice as she tried to extricate herself from the vicelike grip on her arm so she walked up beside Sam, nudging her out of the way slightly as she spoke.

‘Hey Susan, there you are — I’ve been looking everywhere for you, I’m so sorry I was late.’

Susan looked startled at first and then relieved as she recognised Carrie’s intentions.

‘Hey Carrie, thank god you’re here at last!’ and she gave a meaningful look toward the girl who still had hold of one arm but was starting to ease her grip.

Carrie slipped her arm around Susan’s waist and kissed her cheek before looking at the butch and saying playfully ‘Hey, not stealing my date are you?’

‘She’s not your date and I saw her first, so how about you just back off?’ Sam slurred again.

Carrie sighed. She’d been determined to do this verbally with as little fuss as possible but it was becoming apparent that Sam was too drunk to take a hint. She was much bigger physically than Carrie and therefore probably assumed she would back down — well, she got that one wrong.

She saw a hand coming up to take a hold of Susan’s other arm but she intercepted it and deftly twisted it around backwards, pushing the thumb back at the same time and applying light pressure to the inside of the reversed elbow.

She wasn’t causing any pain at this point but she had effectively disabled the bigger woman and was providing enough discomfort to make it obvious that more pressure on her elbow or thumb was going to be very unpleasant.

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