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Polyamory - Extract

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The girl with the banjo smiled broadly, breathed deeply, and began to play.    The intricate, unusual sound of the instrument rang out in the otherwise quiet – because it was   pedestrian – street.  The girl’s fingers moved skilfully on the frets, strummed and plucked the strings   with confidence.  People stopped to listen immediately.  It was a striking sound, and an upbeat tune.    An elderly woman put down her shopping.  A passing toddler pointed and jumped up and down.  Standing watching from across the street, Tessa was stunned.  She hadn’t known what to expect, but   though her knowledge of music was limited to pop, and though she would hardly have known a banjo   from a guitar, never mind a ukulele, she could tell that this was playing to a very high standard.  This   was true musicianship – street musicianship.  As people began to throw coins into the banjo player’s empty instrument case, Tessa felt an   unexpected surge of admiration and pride.  ‘Hey,’ she wanted to shout.  ‘That’s my friend playing, that’s Marie Scarlett, rising star!’  Well, ‘friend’ might have been too strong a word for it.  They had been neighbours as children and   gone to school together, but then Tessa had moved away.  But a few days ago they had bumped into   each other on a Brighton Street, and after a quick coffee, Marie had explained that she’d been doing   some busking in the streets, as well as the occasional pub gig, and invited Tessa to come and listen to   her. Tessa, who was working in an office near the theatre, had agreed – with a little trepidation.    Somehow she’d expected Marie not to have much talent.  A preconceived idea about buskers, perhaps,   or maybe it was the way Marie had been dressed when they’d met.  Cut-off leggings, scruffy jumper,   messy hair tied round with a scarf.  She’d looked – well, to put it politely – a bit ‘alternative’, whereas   Tessa was nothing if not conventional, always in smart work suits and high heels.  And yet here she was utterly entranced by the other girl’s musical skill, after just one piece.  Then, after some more spare change had been contributed, and a bit of retuning, Marie began to play   again – and also, this time, to sing.  It was a magic moment.  Tessa’s jaw dropped, and after just a few phrases, she felt she was surely   witnessing something pretty special.  Marie’s voice was deep and strong and quite distinctive.  The   song, and her style, was an intriguing mix of folk and jazz, difficult to describe.  The words were   moving, the sentiment strong.  As her voice rose towards the end, quite a crowd gathered.  Captivated, Tessa stood and watched Marie sing several songs, all accompanied by the most   astonishing and engaging banjo playing.  She applauded each one and waved at Marie, giving her a   thumbs up at one point, a cheer at another.  She would be further impressed later to learn that all the   songs had been written by Marie herself.  Not only did she play and sing – she composed also.  Marie’s attire today was as alternative as it had been the other day.  But this time she was wearing   bright red shorts, a strange baggy orange blouse and a flowery hairband in her deep red hair.  Tessa had   to admire her for her unique style and self-confidence.  She could never imagine herself doing anything   as gutsy as singing on a street corner; singing and playing her heart out for money.   But then it seemed the show was over.  The crowd dispersed, Marie stooped to count her takings,   and Tessa crossed the road so as to have a word. “That was amazing,” she gushed, adding a generous pile of coins to the hoard.   “You’re brilliant,   really!”  “Thanks,” said Marie blushing.  “I’m glad you liked it.”  “I did, it was fantastic,”  Tessa continued to enthuse.  “Seriously, I’m your biggest fan!”  “Not quite,” said a female voice beside her, and quite suddenly and unexpectedly, a slim blonde girl   in a long green dress rushed up to Marie and threw her arms around her.  “I’m her biggest fan,” said the   newcomer, and then, rather to Tessa’s shock, the two girls kissed.  “Er, this is my partner, Gill,” said Marie to Tessa.  “Hi,” said Gill pleasantly, though she seemed hardly to notice Tessa, as she only seemed to have   eyes for Marie. Tessa watched as the two girls in front of her gripped hands firmly, Marie grinning broadly and Gill   virtually jumping up and down in exuberance.  Oh, she thought to herself.  So my old school friend is gay, and I’m suddenly witnessing someone’s   beautiful love affair.  It was only when she got home that night that she faced the facts about what   feelings this experience had elicited in her.  A strange confusion, a niggling jealousy, the beginnings of   an unexpected preoccupation – with another girl.  Two days later Marie called Tessa at her office and invited her over for dinner.  She accepted   gratefully, though it was made clear that Gill would also be there, as she and Marie lived together.  How nice, looks like I might make some new friends, she thought.  Also perhaps seeing the couple   together would drive those other embryonic thoughts from her mind.  But when she arrived at their place – a colourful basement flat in the old town – she was faced with   another surprise.  Marie ushered her into the kitchen, where she was preparing salads, and gratefully accepted the   proffered bottle of wine.  But when Tessa looked through a glass door into the main room, she saw   pretty, blonde Gill sitting on the sofa entwined in the arms of a rather hunky looking young man.  She tried not to stare, but Marie had caught her expression and laughed.  “I should have warned you, I guess.  Sorry I’ve had a busy few days doing some recording and   everything’s been in a bit of a spin.”  Tessa looked away from the snogging couple with a query in her eyes.  “It’s just that, I thought when I saw you the other day, you said that Gill was your – ”  “Partner, yes.” “Oh – so did you mean business partner?”  “No,” Marie tore open a pack of spinach leaves.  “I meant the romantic sort of partner.”  Tessa struggled for words, intending to say something about how things must have changed in the   few days since they’d last met, but not wanting to offend.  “That’s Ross,” Marie indicated through the door.  “Gill’s boyfriend.  She swings both ways, you see   – unlike yours truly.”  “So she’s bisexual,” Tessa said stupidly.  “Correct.” “But – ”  This fact didn’t quite explain why Marie was in the kitchen calmly preparing dinner for   her supposed partner and that partner’s lover.  Marie put down the tomato she was chopping and placed her hand gently on Tessa’s arm.  “Don’t be shocked, please.  Ross lives with us, too.  We’re all happy together, it works fine.”  Before Tessa could comment further Gill and Ross stopped their snogging and came in to say hello.    Ross, dressed all in black and with long curly hair like a rock star, was friendly and open, and poured   Tessa a drink and asked her how she knew Marie, and how her work was going.  Before she knew it,   the awkward moment had passed and she had accepted the unorthodox arrangement as a facet of the   modern world – though it wasn’t something she’d come across before.  Over the meal of vegan lasagne and masses of home-made salads, Gill explained the trio’s history.  “Well, Marie was playing this gig and Ross was on bass guitar, and he was like all flirty with me but   he didn’t know me and Marie were, like – ” she giggled.  “And then there was this big party after and I   guess we all had a bit too much to drink.”  “What Gill is trying to say,” said Marie indulgently, “is that I caught them at it behind the drum kit.”  “Well, that’s a bit of a crude interpretation – ” Ross began.  “But,” Gill carried on, glancing from Ross to Marie and so obviously happy in their company, “she   didn’t mind at all and then somehow me and Marie were also – ”  “Really,” said Tessa, a bit embarrassed, “you don’t have to tell me all the details.”  “Well, let’s just say that one thing led to another,” Ross said, crunching on celery, “except for the   one thing that I might have hoped for but never happens!”  “Really, will you never let up,” Marie said, tossing aside her red hair as she looked at him.  “I do not   do boys, so sadly you are never going to get your threesome, I’ve told you enough times.”  Ross stood up and kissed Marie on the cheek, but she pushed him away.  Clearly this was an old and   comfortable issue between them though, as they were both laughing, and Gill just raised her eyes at   Tessa and shook her head. The lasagne disappeared and Tessa found herself at home with these people who in many ways were   so unlike her.  Her experience had been more conventional, more limited, clearly.  She began to wonder what she was doing in this particular basement flat, and how she fitted in – if   at all.  Somehow, over a few weeks, Tessa was drawn in to the life of this colourful threesome – or not quite   threesome.  She went a couple of times to watch Marie sing, feeling like she had joined a rather   exclusive fan club.  She remained entranced with Marie, a bit jealous and uncertain of Gill, who was so   charming and innocent in one way, but such a mystery in another.  And though she sort of fancied   Ross, she steered clear of him, as he seemed so besotted with Gill, and he only occasionally gave her   cryptic wink that made her wonder.  She supposed herself to just be a friend to them all, but then one day at the railway station, when   Marie walked Tessa to her train after an evening drink, something happened.  They stood opposite each other in the middle of the concourse, and suddenly Marie took Tessa’s hand   and the world changed.  “I think you’re so gorgeous, you know,” said Marie unselfconsciously.  Tessa by comparison was at a loss for words.    “But you’re... you’re...”  “With Gill?  Yes but as you can see, it’s not exclusive.”  “No, I mean...”  “I’m gay – but again, as you know, I’ve no problem with bisexual ladies.”  Tessa turned a deeper shade of red.  “But... but I’m not...”  “Are you sure?” “I’ve never...  I didn’t think...”  “I reckon you probably are, or why are we holding hands?”  “But...”  This time Tessa had to get it out.  “But I’ve got a boyfriend, James.  We’ve been together for   a year and he says he loves me.” Marie pursed her lips at this but didn’t let go of Tessa’s hand.  “Well,” she said, after a moment.    “We’re just going to have to see how that pans out.”  Trains were being announced but Tessa had no idea if one of them was hers, and she didn’t care.  The two young women looked into each other’s eyes.  “Tell me what you’re feeling?” Marie asked gently.  “I’m feeling,” said Tessa in response, “like for the first time in my life I want to kiss a girl – and not   just any girl, but YOU!”  Marie smiled broadly.  “And not just once,” Tessa continued, “but lots of times.”  “Shall we start now then?”  Their lips touched and some sort of spark passed between them.  The railway station receded   completely from their awareness.  Probably five minutes later, a couple of gay guys walked past hand in hand and one of them muttered,   indulgently, “Get a room!”  Tessa had embarked on a new path – and so had Marie. She’s wiping everything else out of my mind, thought Tessa, as Marie went down on her for a second   time.  I can’t believe I’ve never felt this way, thought Tessa, as Marie’s lips brushed her naked breasts.  Her hair is just amazing, thought Tessa, as Marie fell back against a white pillow.  It’s so sexy when she pushes my legs apart, thought Tessa, as Marie giggled against her thighs.  She drives me wild with those kisses, thought Tessa, trying to interpret the twinkle in Marie’s hazel   eyes. I wasn’t expecting that, thought Tessa, as Marie removed an item from her bedside drawer.  It’s so wonderful to give her pleasure, thought Tessa, as Marie squirmed and panted on the bed.  Surely there’s something special between us, thought Tessa, with Marie sitting opposite from her   drinking wine.  I adore her perfume, thought Tessa, as Marie climbed on top of her one more time.  Wow, I’ve never felt this tenderness with a man, thought Tessa, as she stroked Marie’s naked bottom   gently.  I want to do this again, thought Tessa, as Marie fell asleep in her arms.  They sat on a bench on the seafront, arms around each other, Marie’s leg hooked over Tessa’s knee.    People walked past but no-one batted an eyelid at two girls sitting so entwined with each other in   public.  This was Brighton after all, a very liberal and tolerant place, in the main.  They were watching the sunset, and it was just that magic time when the sea was a gentle silvery blue   and the sky above it a stunning rosy pink.  A beautiful contrast of colours.  Tessa was feeling happier than she had in a long time.  She was enjoying every moment of this   unexpected new life experience.  “I’m so in love with you,” she was emboldened to say to her   companion.  “Yes,” said Marie, throwing Tessa a cryptic glance.  “So you keep telling me.”  But she wasn’t in a   mood to be cruel and immediately broke into a grin.  “I love you too, poppet.  You’ve swept me away.”    And she reached over to bestow a brief but meaningful kiss.  The evening got a notch darker – more lights came on along the pier.  Tessa didn’t want anything to   ruin the moment, but she felt compelled to refer to the overall situation, which was never far from her   mind.  “What about Gill?” she asked quietly.  “What about her?  I love her too, as you know – we’ve been together a long time and she’s very   special to me.”  So it’s like, love me, love my dog, thought Tessa, but had the sense to hold back from that comment,   which could be misconstrued.  Some seagulls flew overhead, out across the water to some secret roost.  The flocks of starlings that   had earlier been circling the pier had now disappeared, settled down for the night.  “So how did all this come about for you?” Tessa queried after a while.  “How did I become so unconventional you mean?  I don’t know, it just feels natural.”  “Did you always feel sure you were, you know, a lesbian?”  “Yes, a hundred percent.” “So not ever interested in boys?”  “Nope.  Not ever interested in cock.”  Tessa shifted position a bit, wrapped herself around Marie even closer.  “But you’re not bothered about Gill being bisexual, about her having a boyfriend?”  “Why should I be?  She can’t help what she is, and he’s a nice guy.”  “That’s good, cos you know I’ve told you I’ve got a boyfriend too.  Or had.”  “Look, don’t dump him cos of me, it’s not necessary.”  “You’re amazing – you’re so understanding!”  Marie was quiet for a moment.  “I just don’t see the point of being hung up about these things,” she   said.  “We can all have what we want without there being any conflict.  What’s wrong with that?”  “Nothing,” Tessa said, though a little voice inside her insisted, surely it’s all too good to be true?  There was so much more she was curious about, so much more she wanted to ask Marie about her   past, about her feelings – about her sexuality.  The question that slipped out, however, was quite silly   and she regretted it immediately.  “I used to wonder, is it worse for a lesbian woman to get raped than a straight woman?”  “Oh don’t be ridiculous!  Let’s not get into hypothetical moral dilemmas, please!”  Marie jumped to her feet suddenly.  “Come on,” she said, dragging Tessa by the hand.  “Where are we going?”  “Onto the beach – oh hold on, let’s see what sort of shoes you’ve got on, good, they’ll be alright.”  Tessa had eyed up the beach, which was composed entirely of large pebbles, several times during her   time working at the seaside, but had never before ventured onto it.  She would have found it impossible   in heels or barefoot, but luckily she‘d chosen low slip-ons that morning.  She followed Marie onto the   stones and right down to the water’s edge.  They walked arm in arm towards the east, until the red glow   of the sunset had faded and the crowds were behind them.  “Don’t you love the sound of the sea?” Marie mused, stopping to look out over the water.  “ I love it   down here.” “It’s wonderful,” Tessa agreed, “but maybe a bit scary, now it’s almost dark.”  “Okay, we’ll go up soon,” said Marie.  “But not yet.”  She pulled Tessa towards her and Tessa melted at the feel of the other girl’s body, and the greedy   passion of her kiss.  “Tell me again you love me.”  Tessa was overwhelmed, caught up in the romance of the moment.  “I love you, I love you.”  Marie’s kisses continued, one moment hard, one moment tender.  And poor Tessa had to struggle to resist asking the question that so clamoured in her mind.   ‘But do you love me more than you love Gill?’  The sound of the roller coaster reached them from the pier.  The lights of a cruiseliner flickered on the   horizon.  Alone on the beach at night, the two lovestruck girls busied themselves with their hands.  “In the Poly community we talk about primary, secondary or tertiary partners.  The way I think of it is   that, if you suddenly got a new job and had to move to Scotland, your ‘primary’ would say, ‘when are   we moving?’, your ‘secondary’ would say, ‘when can I visit?’, and a tertiary would say, ‘it was nice   knowing you’.”  The speaker, a large woman in a flamboyant dress and an apparent need, for some reason, to display   her vast cleavage to those present, shuffled in her seat and continued with her lecture.  “There is of course a whole range of possible associations between those who label as ‘Poly’.  We   talk about ‘kitchen table’ relationships, which as you’d imagine means that everyone sits around   happily with everyone else at the kitchen table – as opposed to relationships where people have   separate family groups or living arrangements or only see each other occasionally.  In fact it’s rare for   more than two participants to actually live together, because of the added pressures and complexities   that entails, or simply because of the cost of housing these days.  Personally, I don’t live with any of   my lesbian partners.  I love them all to bits but I like to have my own space.”  Marie and Tessa sat together on a little couch and clutched hands.  They had travelled up to London   to attend a Polyamory Meet Up in a cafe – an introductory meeting which was supposed to allow   ‘newbies’ to ask questions and meet like minded people.  Marie had thought it might help Tessa to   come to terms with what was happening between them.  Tessa had agreed but in any case was happy to   do whatever Marie suggested, as she was quite besotted.  They had chatted briefly to some other participants – a young straight man who was coming to terms   with the fact that his wife was in love with someone else but still wanted to stay with him, and a girl   who had had a bad time coming out as gay and was now facing the fact that she was rather drawn to the   poly lifestyle as well.  A middle-aged lady explained that she had several lovers who all knew about   each other, although some of them had wives who remained in the dark.  It was all quite fascinating.  The actual formal talk was becoming a bit patronising though, and a bit embarrassing, especially   when it moved onto safe sex (including creative uses for clingfilm).  Another young woman, a latecomer, leant towards Marie and Tessa and started up her own   conversation in an undertone.  “I don’t like this ‘us and them’ approach,” she said.  “I don’t want to be   talked at by someone who considers themselves an expert.  Everyone’s experience is different, and we   don’t need all this labelling and terminology.”  “I know what you mean,” Marie whispered to the newcomer.  “This one rather likes the sound of her   own voice.”  The introductory talk did seem to go on a bit too long, and even when people tried to raise questions   or chat more amongst themselves, the two organisers seemed to stifle any free discussion and focussed   on giving everyone the benefit of their own vast personal experience.  Tessa tried to listen, though.  She was interested, and it did all seem so civilised, so mature – perhaps   a more sensible way of running society.  Allowing partners to express themselves by having other   relationships rather than suppressing those relationships and clamouring about disloyalty and betrayal.  “You can be ‘solo Poly’,” the woman with the cleavage was explaining.  “I’m a bit like that – it   means you are your own Primary, you’re really driven by your own needs and don’t really want a very   serious relationship with anyone else.”  “But how does all this differ from swinging?” said an older man.  “Isn’t it just an excuse for sleeping   with who you want without guilt?”  “It’s the fact that all the participants know about each other – nothing’s happening behind anyone’s   back.” “It’s ‘Ethical Non-Monogamy’,” the other organiser added, “as opposed to the non-ethical variety, ie   cheating.”  The older man persisted.  “But that can be the case with a group of swinging couples, that it’s not   behind anyone’s back.  Surely to be ‘Poly’, it must be more about love, about the seriousness of the   actual relationships.”  “Well yes.  Believe it or not, some people are more interested in having an engagement with   someone, something more meaningful.  It’s not just about sex – sometimes the relationships might not   even be sexual.”  “I guess I’ve been operating too much at the casual end of the spectrum,” said the older guy   thoughtfully.  “But if it’s not sexual, isn’t it just about friendship – a group of friends?” said someone else.  “Yes,” one of the organisers replied.  “Starting with friendship is a good idea.  Someone said to me   the other day, they wished they could marry all their friends.”  Tessa listened carefully and considered everything.  She supposed she was ‘Poly’ now, because she had been accepted by Marie, and by Gill and Ross, as   one of their group.  She was struggling a bit with her feelings about Marie and Gill, but was working on   it, and becoming more accepting and less jealous.  One problem remained though - one obstacle to complete honesty.  She still had to tell her own   boyfriend James about her new situation.  What would happen if he couldn’t accept it?  She supposed   then that she’d have to end that relationship.  If she had to choose, she knew already that she would   choose Marie.  And if he did accept it?  That would be interesting, if a little more complicated.  Maybe he would   surprise her by introducing her to some other secret lover of his own.  She wondered if she’d be ready   to cope with that!  But looking around her at these intense people openly discussing their private love lives, she felt   convinced of one thing.  That there was nothing bad or wrong about this polyamory idea.  In fact,   maybe the future of civilised society would come to depend on it!  On the train on the way home, Tessa and Marie talked and talked about the philosophical aspects of   what they’d heard, and the many questions that had remained unanswered by the issues raised.    (Ignoring the variously intrigued or disapproving looks of their fellow passengers.)  “Is being ‘polyamorous’ driven by an intellectual acceptance of the concept, or by your own sexual   interests?” “There was no mention of whether all the sex involved was one-to-one, or if everyone was having   threesomes and moresomes with each other.”  “And what happens if there are children?  What do you tell them; how do you explain things?”  “You notice how a lot of it is about men looking for bisexual women, just like in the swinging   community. No gay or bisexual men there, though surely a lot of gay men in serious relationships have   lots of other partners.”  A guy in a pink sweatshirt looked like he might have an opinion on this, but must have decided not to   comment.  An older couple gazed at them ambiguously, either shocked by their radical openness, or amused by   their youthful naivety – it was impossible to tell.  “It was all a bit confusing, to be honest,” Tessa concluded, as they got off the train in Brighton, and   headed to one of their favourite pubs for a drink.  “Don’t be confused,” Marie instructed, stopping short in the street and pulling Tessa towards her.  “I   love you and you love me, that’s all that matters.”  They kissed, then resumed walking to the pub.  “Oh, and I got the number of that woman who was complaining about ‘us and them’,”  Marie added,   apparently as an afterthought.  She turned her head towards Tessa with a cheeky smile.  “You don’t   mind, do you?”  They had had a discussion once, Tessa and Marie, about problem pages in tabloid newspapers, and   how, absolutely reliably, if a letter raised the issue of a threesome, and how one partner was pushing for   such a thing, the ‘agony aunt’ would invariably advise against it, saying that they only caused troubled   and that one party would feel jealous and left out.  Marie, so passionately positive about her alternative   lifestyle (she’d even written a song on the them recently, called ‘Polyperfection’), was scathing about   such advice, saying that only people who had never had a threesome would think such a thing.  Those   that had would understand that in a three way thing, by definition you got twice as much attention as   usual, and no-one would feel left out if the thing was done properly.  Tessa, who had bought into the polyamory idea heart and soul by this point, would later think about   this a lot, and wonder who had been right.  Not that threesomes were the issue – she wasn’t sure about the extent to which they featured in   Marie’s living arrangement, and she had yet to be asked to join one herself.  But the overall concept of   whether people were prepared to amicably share their partners, rather than react in a more conventional   and jealous way, was about to be tested.  The problem didn’t come from her – she had accepted the idea of having to share hook, line and   sinker.  The way she felt at the moment, she would do anything just to stay in Marie’s life.  The   problem lay elsewhere, and crept up on her unawares, eventually presenting itself as a very nasty   surprise.  She was in the flat alone one evening, waiting for Marie, who had trusted her with a key, when   someone came in through the door.  She rushed to greet her lover and came face to face with Gill.  All things considered, she hadn’t spoken very much with Gill.  But she’d got to know her quite a bit   better.  Gill was very beautiful, and had a natural, innocent style that Tessa admired.  Whereas Marie   was ‘alternative’ in a loud way – bright hair, chunky boots, occasionally offensive t-shirts, and one or   two slightly weird tattoos – Gill had a different sort of ‘alternative’.  She didn’t wear make up, she   favoured sandals even when it was cold, and always chose long wispy, flowy dresses, which she   sometimes wore with a long suede coat that was, to be honest, slightly smelly.  She bought cards with   unicorns and fairies on them, she liked to burn josticks, she was into feng shui.  She was very open with   her affections, very tactile with both Ross and Marie, and clung very close to them when they were out   together. Towards Tessa, she had been pleasant and indulgent in the same way as if Marie had bought herself a   cat.  Tessa had felt herself tolerated, indulged, and in a way ignored, as if being beneath Gill’s notice   and of no concern to her.  But it was only when Tessa caught sight of Gill’s face coming in the door   that day, that she realised that something was wrong, and remembered suddenly all the times that Gill   had been less than welcoming, all the little ways in which her attitude had grown colder as Tessa’s   relationship with Marie had developed.  Gill had clearly been crying, the signs were clear.  Something had obviously flipped with her and she   was not in a mood to hold back.  “No it’s not her, it’s only me,” she said stroppily, seeing Tessa’s face fall.  “How come you’re round   here again?  I guess you’ll be living here soon – how long before I have to move my stuff out?”  Tessa was not prepared for this, and had no idea what to say.  Gill dropped her bag on the floor and slipped out of her coat.  “Well, actually you’ll find I’m not so   difficult to dislodge.  I’ve lived here a while and I like it.”  “I wasn’t – ” Tessa began, but Gill suddenly erupted.  “Don’t fucking talk to me, I can’t stand the sound of your voice!  Why don’t you piss off back to   where you came from and leave us alone!  You’ve had your fun, go and mess someone else’s life up!”  A dreadful feeling rose up in Tessa, who had never been good with strife, and who suddenly saw all   her recent happiness slipping away from her.  She felt she should stand her ground and argue back, but   couldn’t think of a word to say.  And at that point the front door opened again and Marie walked in on them, banjo in hand.  She took one look at their faces and seemed intuitively to understand the whole situation.  “What’s   going on?” she said, her tone half sad, half angry.  “Well obviously you know very well what’s going on,” Gill raged, “since you’ve brought it about,   without any consideration for anyone else!  You’d think that after everything we’ve been through you’d   be a bit more sensitive!”  “What are you talking about, you stupid bitch?” It was Marie’s turn to get mad, something Tessa had   never seen before.  She stood mute as Marie and Gill argued.  “Oh, I’m a bitch now am I?  It’s funny how little it takes for you to turn on me in the end!”  “You are just being stupid!  Why don’t you calm down and tell me what’s the matter!”  “The problem is pretty clear, it’s your selfishness!  You have to come first, don’t you!”  “What?  I’m selfish?  Me?  I don’t think I’m the one that’s being selfish!”  “You think I enjoy watching you getting all lovey-dovey with this London cow with her stupid   mascara and ridiculous high heels?  Is that what you wanted all along?”  “I can’t believe I’m hearing this!  You’re objecting to mascara when you’ve bloody brought a cock   into the mix!”  Gill strode to the table to get some tissues and wiped her eyes, shaking her head with frustration and   starting to mutter something under her breath.  Marie put her stuff down and began to pace up and down, clenching and unclenching her fists.  Her   face, Tessa noticed, was getting a deeper shade of red, almost matching that of her hair.  “I know what your problem is, Gill”, Marie announced with a little laugh, flushed with anger now and   prepared to argue.  “Basically, you want it all your own way.  You’ve been very happy to be the one in   the middle of a triangle.  Oh yes, it’s been great for you to have a boyfriend and a girlfriend at the same   time, all nice and cosy and comfortable for you!  But now yours isn’t the only triangle!  That’s what’s   happened!  Now I’ve got myself a second lover and you don’t like it!  You’re not in the middle any   more and now it becomes clear that this was all a sham – you’re not actually prepared to be tolerant and   share, not when the tables are turned!”  Marie had not planned to make this speech, but suddenly it seemed like a very clear truth, and it   suddenly made her think that when it came to it, when put to the test, her long time partner was not   prepared to be as liberal and understanding as she herself had been.  Gill felt flustered and turned cold as she struggled to find words to deny the accusation, for she knew   in her heart that Marie had hit on the truth.  Yet she felt equally devastated, for did this mean it was all   over, and she would have to choose between the two people closest to her?  Would Marie even want   her any more?  Tessa was overcome with an impulse to creep from the room.  “This is all my fault,” she said quietly.    “I’ve just come between you – I’m sorry.”  “No, no!” Marie objected.  “Come on, we’ve got something special here, let’s not blow it please.    Let’s try and keep this together!”  Three troubled young women, each a torrent of mixed emotions and with tears in her eyes, looked at   each other and wondered what on earth would happen next and how the future would pan out for the   three of them.  No-one said polyamory was easy.