Is She?

When Claire starts university she moves in with fellow student Jasmine and immediately falls for her. But how do you tell if a girl is gay? Claire looks up the ‘signs’ on the internet and desperately seeks advice from friends. But with all the signs pointing in either direction she is just left wondering: Is she?

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1. CHAPTER ONE: THE VIEWING

“My feet hurt.”

“You shouldn’t have worn heels.” Mandy snapped.

“I didn’t know we’d be walking so far!” Claire whined.

“Well you insisted we go shopping first, I wanted to go straight there, but no, you said ‘let’s go down Oxford Street’, ‘let’s look at shoes and dresses and hats’—”

“You enjoyed it!”

“I come all this way so you can look at a load of random houses, and this is the thanks I get!”

“You came for the shopping!”

They continued to bicker all the way down Denmark Street and it was only when they reached the other end that that they realised they’d missed the turn.

“You’ve got the map!” Mandy said.

“Yes but everything in real life looks so different to how it is on paper!”

Mandy shook her head and turned round, pulling the map off Claire and heading back down the road, looking for the turn to Carlton Road. Claire followed, hauling her bags along with her.

Claire wasn’t angry with Mandy, she could never be really angry with her. They were best friends; she wasn’t sure what she would do without her.

Of course things hadn’t always been quite so easy between them.

It was Mandy that had made Claire realise, and learn to come to terms with the fact, that she was gay. She’d been in love with Mandy since she was thirteen, but had long come to accept that her feelings were unrequited. When she was seventeen she had eventually gained the courage to come out and Mandy had accepted it, without hesitation and their friendship had grown stronger.

Now Claire was moving to London to go to university she knew it would change everything and she had been so relieved when Mandy agreed to come with her to view houses. She’d been terrified of going on her own and just knowing that she would have Mandy with her had made things so much easier. Twenty Three Carlton Road was the last place on her list. It was the cheapest, but it was, by far, the furthest away from college and she already had a mind to turn it down.

Mandy rang the bell and when the door opened, Claire looked up to see a tall, dark, beautiful girl standing behind it. She had long, straight, black hair which looked smooth and silky as it flowed over her shoulders, her eyes were dark, almost black, her skin was soft, the colour of caramel, and she wore a gold necklace and earrings, but rather than be garish, the jewellery made her look like an Egyptian Princess.

“We’re here to see the room.” Mandy said, as it became clear that Claire wasn’t going to say a word.

“Oh right, ok well, do come in.”

“We’ve been shopping.” Mandy said, seeing the girl’s questioning look as they struggled over the threshold with bags upon bags filled to bursting with stuff.

“Yes I can see” she smiled and Claire felt butterflies spinning in her stomach at the sight. “I’m Jasmine, and you must be Claire.” She said holding out her hand to Mandy.

“No, I’m Mandy, I just came for the shopping. This is Claire.”

Claire managed a small awkward wave, but for some reason she had completely forgotten how to speak.

“Nice to meet you, shall I take you straight up?”

They both nodded and Jasmine turned and led them down the hallway. The carpet was old and threadbare, Claire wasn’t sure she could tell what colour it was supposed to be, there were so many patches and stains she wasn’t sure there was any of the original colour left. The wallpaper wasn’t much better, there were gaps where it had been ripped off and there was an ominous looking damp patch near the ceiling. But she said nothing and followed Jasmine up the flight of stairs onto a landing.

Rather than stopping, they continued up another flight of stairs onto the next landing. Claire was relieved when Jasmine went to open a door, but behind it was just another set of stairs. Clair summoned all the energy she could muster and followed her up the small winding set of steps.

“It’s quite a long way up.” Mandy said.

“Yes, it is.” Replied Jasmine “I don’t often come up here, my room is on the first floor, but there is a beautiful view up here.”

As she spoke she opened the door to a low ceilinged room. It was cramped but there was a double bed and a large chest of draws, Mandy went straight over to the cupboard. But Claire followed Jasmine to the window.

She was right, it was a beautiful view. Claire could see all the different parts of London; in the distance she could see the Gherkin and on the other side of the city she could see the London eye. But all the rooftops between her and the river made her think of the scene in Mary Poppins when all the chimney sweeps come out to dance.

“It’s beautiful.” Claire whispered turning to catch Jasmine looking straight at her and smiling softly. Her eyes bright, and yet dark, her smile subtle, yet radiating light from within her.

“Yes it is.” She whispered back.

“You can’t even put a hanger in this cupboard.” Mandy said, breaking the moment.

“The chest of drawers is really quite big” Jasmine said “and if there is anything that needs to be hung up there is a cupboard on the landing that’s never used.” She swept out of the room. “I’ll show you the rest of the house.” She called.

“I don’t like this place.” Mandy whispered.

“Yes, she’s lovely.” Claire whispered back, clearly not listening to a word Mandy had to say.

They followed Jasmine back down the three flights of stairs, struggling along with their bags, but in spite of the difficulty Claire couldn’t help but admire the way Jasmine’s body moved, the way her hips swayed in her long, loose shirt.

Jasmine stopped to open a small door. “This is the bathroom.”

Claire had at least been expecting to see a bath in the bathroom, instead it was just a tiny little cupboard with a toilet, a sink and a shower. It was cold and damp and there didn’t look like there was even enough room to get changed in there.

“Is there just one bathroom for everyone?” Mandy asked, aware that there were six bedrooms in the house.

“Yes, but everyone has different schedules, so you rarely get a queue.” Jasmine smiled and Claire couldn’t help but relax at the sight.

“Well that seems fine then.” Claire said, half dreamily.

“If we go down here I’ll take you to the kitchen.” Jasmine continued.

She led them down a dark stairway that led to the cellar; it looked like the type of place the main character should never go into during a horror film.

Jasmine opened a door and light spilled into the dingy little stairwell. Despite being in the cellar, the kitchen had French windows opening onto a small set of concrete steps leading up to an overgrown garden. The windows rattled slightly in the wind and Claire wondered how easy it would be for passing animals or criminals to get through them. She brushed off the thought and tried to think of the positive. Which was difficult in a kitchen that looked as though it had been through the Blitz.

All the furniture was ancient, the cupboards were stuck into the walls and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a museum, the sink was grimy and piled high with washing up, a rickety old ironing board had been left out and the oven looked as though it could burst into flames at any moment out of sheer misery.

“Well I think you’ve given us plenty to think about.” Mandy said “Thank you so much for showing us around, but we really have to be getting on.”

“It’s not a problem.” Jasmine said “I’ll show you out.” She took them back up the cramped stairs and towards the heavy front door. “You have my e-mail” Jasmine continued, “so if you have any questions, just give me a shout” she opened the door for them and they scrabbled through with their bags. “Take care.”

“Bye.” Said Claire as she headed down the steps and back onto the street.

“Thank you.” Mandy called.

Claire turned to wave and just caught sight of Jasmine smiling at her as she closed the door. The moment she was gone Claire felt a tugging, deep in the pit of her stomach.

They left Carlton Road and made their way back to Denmark Street. They looked up the long road, there was no way they were going to be able to walk all the way back, they would collapse in a heap of shopping bags and shoes before they got half way.

“BUS!” shouted Mandy.

Claire looked and sure enough, rattling towards them was an old red London bus, they took a run for it, flailing their arms wildly trying to catch the driver’s attention. The bus careened towards a shelter and stopped to let off a few passengers. Claire and Mandy ran up just in time to scramble on and wave their day pass at the unresponsive driver before he took off once again.

They hauled their bags up onto the top deck, where they were able to flop down, taking up two seats each. Claire fell back delighted to have the weight off her feet and immediately thinking about when she might next be able to see Jasmine.

“Well that house is definitely off the list,” Mandy started “the flat in Camden is my favourite and I know you liked that one too, plus the rent is still cheap—”

“I’m taking it.” Claire announced utterly certain that she was doing the right thing.

“Good, I was worried there for a moment that you might be mad enough—”

“If Jasmine lives there it can’t be that bad.”

“What? You’re taking Carlton Road! You can’t be serious—”

“Mandy?”

“What?”

“Did we just get the wrong bus?”

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