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Oca 08

After the Christmas Party

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Claudia let out a slight grunt as she set down the last of the crates in the corner of the office’s kitchen area. As usual she had overestimated how hungry and thirsty her employees would be, which meant that for the next two weeks or so they would be padding out their lunches with plenty of leftovers.

Overall, she had to admit, the Christmas party had been a success. There had been some grumbling early on about her insistence on having the catering be vegetarian but between the open bar she had set up and the generous Amazon gift cards everybody received that grumbling had soon passed. Now, everybody had gone home happy and tired. Everybody except for Claudia, and Linda, of course. The fact that her personal assistant had insisted on lingering even during the Christmas party to help Claudia finish up her day hadn’t been lost on Claudia.

Even now Linda was working, helping the rental company get the karaoke system and the bar equipment they had rented for the party into the elevator. Claudia emerged from the kitchen just in time to see Linda walk back into the main office area, where the desks had all been moved up against the wall to create an open area. Whoever came into work on the twenty-seventh would have to help move things back into their usual place. That would probably be Linda too.

She had to admit, seeing Linda in a dress was something else. Her personal assistant had had to miss last year’s Christmas party due to an illness, so this was the first time seeing the younger woman in something that didn’t seem specifically designed to hide how attractive she was.

It was a rather simple cocktail dress in a wine red cotton blend with a slight flare to the skirt and a sash around the waist to emphasize her hips. The neckline was a bit conservative, especially compared to what some of her female coworkers were wearing, but with her hair in an elaborate bun and subtle yet eye-catching make up Linda was being seen in a whole new light.

Throughout the night Claudia had watched as a handful of male co-workers had come up to Linda to make conversation with her. She had never wandered close enough to hear what was being discussed but body language suggested it was more than just the weather. Much to her surprise Claudia had felt a pang of jealousy every time she watched one of her male employees flirt with her personal assistant. The first time it had happened Claudia had actually retreated to her private office for a few minutes under the guise of having to answer an e-mail.

Claudia wasn’t sure where that sudden feeling of jealousy had come from. Her relationship with Linda was… complicated, but not romantic. They had agreed to that the moment it seemed like Linda’s work would start to include more than running Claudia’s schedule and bringing her coffee.

Then why did she want to send the man talking to her personal assistant home that very moment? Was it just because she was worried that if Linda started dating someone, she would lose interest in working late? Or was it more? She finally forced herself not to think about it. She had a party to run. Besides, she knew that the moment she did anything that might make people think she had any kind of interest in Linda they’d both be in deep shit. Her more than Linda.

Thankfully the man that was talking to Linda eventually retreated to mingle some more. And while those same pangs of jealousy seemed to return every time someone struck up a private conversation with Linda she managed to make it through the party without causing a scene.

Now they were left to clean up together, at least so much that the custodial staff would have room to do the actual cleaning. Linda just smiled as she walked up to Claudia. “Hell of a party Claudia…” she smiled. “Did you know that Greg seemed to think that I personally saved his job?”

Claudia blinked, thinking for a moment. A few weeks ago she had sent Greg Wilson home after a client had expressed dissatisfaction with his work. But Claudia had gone over the work he had done and come to the conclusion that the problem was the client, not the work. So the people she had assigned to the job had been allowed to come back and continue working on the account. As far as Claudia was concerned Linda had had nothing to do with them being allowed to come back. After all, their special relationship worked because Linda never interfered with how Claudia ran the company.

“What did you tell him?” Claudia said cautiously.

“The truth.” Linda said simply as she slipped past Claudia and into the kitchen. “That his work was good, and that you don’t fire people just because the client isn’t happy when they got exactly what they asked for.”

Claudia nodded, that was true enough. She watched as Linda emerged from the kitchen with a plastic garbage bag. “Mind if I give you a hand with that?” Claudia immediately offered.

“Sure Claudia.” Linda smiled. “Just thought that I’d get the worst of the clutter sorted before I headed out.”

Claudia illegal bahis nodded, it was such a Linda thing to do. She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen her personal assistant be in an actual hurry to get home. Together they filled up the bag quickly, mostly with plastic drink glasses and paper plates and napkins. Halfway through Claudia had to head back to the kitchen to retrieve a second bag, but twenty minutes of systematic work left the office area looking mostly clean, or at least clean enough that she wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving the custodians to take care of the rest of it.

Linda had just finished washing her hands when Claudia appeared in the doorway to the kitchen area again. “Hey Linda, you never told me what you’re doing to celebrate Christmas…”

Linda paused, then sighed, finishing washing her hands. Claudia blinked, realising immediately that she probably overstepped. After all, the question was unusually personal. Claudia wasn’t even sure why she had asked it. She watched as Linda slowly turned off the faucet and dried off her hands with a tea towel before turning to face her boss. “I was just going to hang out with some friends.” she said.

In spite of the tone of the answer Claudia couldn’t help but press the matter a little. “You never really told me about your personal life Linda…”

Linda shrugged, putting the tea towel back on the hook on the wall. “I don’t have much of a personal life.”

“I find that hard to believe…” Claudia said with a small frown. “I mean, you work a lot, but…”

“Yes, I do work a lot.” came Linda’s quick reply, her words seemingly containing an implicit message about Claudia not needing to concern herself with what she did outside of that work, whether as Claudia’s personal assistant or her mistress.

But Claudia wasn’t ready to leave well enough alone. “Look, Linda…” she said softly. “I’m just trying to get to know you a little better… you seem to know me incredibly well…”

Linda sighed and shook her head. “I know what you need Claudia, and how to take care of those needs. I thought we agreed that it would be just that.”

Claudia sighed softly. What was she supposed to say to that? That seeing Linda talk to men in a flirty way had suddenly made her realise she wanted more than just a personal assistant and a mistress? She knew that the most likely outcome, and the rational one, was for Linda to shut her down, hard. Maybe end her role as Claudia’s mistress. Maybe end her employment entirely. And Linda’s qualities as a personal assistant alone meant that Claudia didn’t want to give her up. The only option left was deflection. “Sorry… I was just making conversation.”

Linda paused for a moment, watching her boss out of the corner of her eye, trying to read her. There were parts of Claudia’s body language she could read like a book. When she needed to bring her decaf rather than regular coffee. Or when it was time to bust out the collar and strap her to her desk chair and edge her for an hour or so to help her unwind. She wasn’t sure what to do now that her boss indicated she just wanted to make conversation.

Finally she reached a decision in her mind. She wasn’t sure whether it was the right one, which was rare for her, but it seemed right for the moment. “I wasn’t lying when I said I was going to spend Christmas with friends. There’s a bar a few blocks from here… I think you should see it.”

That caught Claudia off guard. It was hard to imagine Linda as a bar fly. She tried to form a mental picture of one where Linda would fit in. Her mind, normally so creative, failed her completely. All she could come up with was “Should I see it right now?”

“I don’t know if they’re open… hang on.” Claudia watched as Linda brushed past her and went to retrieve her phone from her purse. Claudia couldn’t see exactly what she was doing with it, but about two minutes later she looked up. “You’re in luck… grab your coat.”

Claudia nodded, heading back to her office. A dark woollen coat covered up her own cocktail dress, a long black number made by her personal tailor. She stepped back out to find Linda similarly prepared. “So where are we going?” she asked cautiously.

“A bar, like I said. We’ll take the subway.” came Linda’s response as she headed to the elevator, leaving Claudia to catch up with her. The older woman wasn’t wearing her collar right now but it was obvious that Linda was still very much in charge.

The subway ride was uneventful, mostly. Claudia’s company wasn’t the only one who had their Christmas party that night. There was an unusual proliferation of well dressed couples clinging to each other. Claudia couldn’t help but wonder how many of them were actually together, and how many of them were just spurred on by cheap champagne to dive headfirst into a one night stand that would probably make for some incredibly awkward moments when they returned to work after the holidays.

For a moment illegal bahis siteleri Claudia considered taking Linda’s hand as the younger woman led the way out of the subway station but her body language made her decide against it. She just followed Linda’s lead up two escalators, then out into the snowy street. The bar turned out to be quite close to the subway station, just two blocks away, but also very well hidden.

The building itself looked like any brick and mortar apartment building in this part of the city. A wrought iron fence lined the front and Linda walked along it. There turned out to be a staircase on the other side, leading below street level, the concrete steps worn with decades of use. At the bottom was a heavy metal door. Claudia could just make out the camera, a spherical ball of dark glass that she probably would have missed if it weren’t for the pinprick of light created by a red LED. Linda pressed on the doorbell and smiled up at it. A moment later there was an electric buzzing sound followed by a loud click, and Linda pushed the door open.

Claudia had no idea what to expect form the space beyond. It turned out to be a narrow hallway, about ten feet long, red tiles along the floor and yellowing wallpaper lining the walls. A metal door similar to the one they had just stepped through was visible on the far end. Claudia couldn’t help but wonder what kind of bar needed security measures like that. But then she pushed past those thoughts – she had to trust Linda.

She handed her coat to her personal assistant. Linda hung both from the coat rack mounted on the wall, then pushed open the second door, leading Claudia inside.

The bar was unlike any Claudia had ever seen. Her first instinct was dive bar, it was small and dimly lit and below ground, but it was far too clean for that. Most of the furniture looked old and the predominant colour seemed to be brown, although this was brightened up considerably by framed prints of modern art. Claudia recognised a Kandinsky and a Lichtenstein, although they seemed to have been picked based on being colourful rather than belonging to any particular genre or style.

Something she hadn’t immediately noticed, but which stood out above everything else once she did, was the complete absence of any kind of holiday decoration. She was just about to ask Linda about it when her attention was drawn to a female voice calling out ‘Hey, Linda.’ She looked around to see that it had come from the woman who stood behind the bar.

In the dim light it was hard to make out how old she was, although Claudia estimated her to be in her early twenties. Perhaps it was the poor lighting or her being rather short that threw off her estimate. She was dressed rather casually, just a white tank top with a black bra clearly visible underneath. She had a broadness to her shoulders and a thickness to her arms that suggested working out for more than just staying in shape. A floral pattern sleeve tattoo ran up the right side of her arm, and what was visible of her left breast showed a swirling circular tattoo in a geometric pattern that was partially hidden by her clothing. Her haircut was something Claudia had never seen before, the sides and back shaved close to the skin but the hair on top dyed platinum blonde and slicked back. It was only after a moment that she realised the young woman was eyeing her suspiciously.

“I didn’t think you were into femmes Lin.” she said after a moment, her voice sounding quite a bit older than Claudia had estimated her at. She wasn’t sure what to think about the bartender’s remark. The way she said femme… it wasn’t quite meant as an insult, but the tone wasn’t exactly kind either.

“Be nice, Jay.” came Linda’s gentle scolding voice as she sat down on one of the bar stools and motioned for Claudia to sit down with her. “Claudia is new to all this. I’m just showing her around. She’ll have a decaf cappuccino, I’ll have a cherry coke.”

The bartender’s eyes moved back to Claudia once more before she set to work making the drinks. The coffee machine turned out to be a big hunk of chromed steel that spluttered to life as Jay punched in the order. While she waited for the espresso to finish Jay eyed Claudia up and down again. There was something about the way the bartender looked at her that made her uncomfortable. The woman set down their drinks in front of them then wandered over to the other end of the bar where a small laptop was set up, an open book next to it. She sat down in front of it and began typing, the soft clicking of the keyboard breaking the silence.

“So…” Claudia asked after a while. “What kind of bar is this?”

Linda paused, glancing at Jay. The bartender just shot her a look back that communicated ‘your guest, your problem.’ before she turned her attention back to whatever she was working on. Linda sighed. She had hoped that this wouldn’t be Claudia’s last time here, and it would help if Jay was a little more welcoming. She took a canlı bahis siteleri sip of her drink to buy herself time to formulate her answer.

“Petra isn’t a bar. It’s more of a private club that happens to have a bar. If I hadn’t texted ahead to check if Jay was in we probably wouldn’t even have gotten inside, so… thanks for that, Jay.”

Jay acknowledged Linda’s gratitude with an annoyed grunt. Linda sighed and carried on. “So yeah… Petra is a private club. It’s been around for… almost fifty years now? Since the seventies. It’s a place where women who love women can hang out. And more.”

“More…?” Claudia blinked, glossing over the part of her being a woman who loves other women for now. She had had a few lesbian experiences, but it wasn’t until she had started what she had going on with Linda right now that she had seen the same woman twice in that manner, or done things that were undeniably sexual.

Linda nodded slightly. “I guess we’re an offshoot of the Daughters of Bilitis and other groups… We’re women who love other women, and help out women like us, make life easier for them.”

Claudia nodded, idly running her finger along the rim of her cup as she did. She had so many questions. Thankfully she was smart enough not to question the necessity of such groups, or to point out that she didn’t consider herself a lesbian. She had a feeling that Jay would have kicked her out on the spot if she had done that. “So, uhm… will you be spending your Christmas here?” she finally asked, bringing things back to the question that had initially started it all.

Linda nodded. “Yeah… friends.” she smiled. “Some of us moved across the country to live here, others…”

“Others have parents who value stone age religious books over basic human decency.” came Jay’s growling voice, the bartender not looking up from her work.

Claudia just nodded. She had no idea what to say to that. What could she say? It made her wonder about Linda, if this was the reason why her personal assistant was spending her Christmas here rather than with her family. She knew that this wasn’t the time to ask though. She just put down her empty cup and turned to Linda. “So… how busy does it get here?” she asked carefully.

“Well, the bar holds about fifteen on a busy night… usually it’s only a handful on weekdays though.” Linda explained. “Sometimes we have bigger events, but we rent spaces for that. We also…”

“Don’t.” Jay said sternly. “She doesn’t need to know about that.”

Claudia glared. She had been polite so far, but being told that there was something she wasn’t allowed to know about grated. Linda seemed to agree with the basic sentiment. “Fuck, Jay, I trust her…” she frowned.

“I don’t.” Jay snapped back almost immediately.

Claudia could see that there was something in her face that wasn’t just anger at this newcomer. She decided to drop the issue to keep the peace. “It’s fine Linda…” she sighed. “I’m new here, I don’t need to know everything.”

That seemed to satisfy Jay, for the moment at least. “Let me get you a refill.” she sighed. “And sorry I snapped at you.”

“It’s…” Claudia paused, the spluttering and gurgling of the coffee machine interrupting her. “It’s fine.”

Jay nodded, setting down the fresh cup in front of Claudia. She was just about to sit down again when Claudia spoke up again. “Jay? Can I ask you about something else?”

Jay’s body language seemed to suggest more raised hackles for a moment, but then there was a look from Linda that forced her to relax. Besides, Jay had to admit, it wasn’t like Claudia had done much to earn her ire beyond just being incredibly green. She just sighed and nodded. “Yeah, sure.”

“When I came in…” Claudia said after a moment’s hesitation. “When you were talking to Linda, you called me a femme… what did you mean?”

Rather than answer her Jay looked to Linda. The personal assistant just grinned. “You’re the one who threw her into that particular minefield…”

Jay sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Fine… fine.” She paused, turning around for a moment and rummaging around with the bottles. When she turned around again she was holding a glass of what looked like Sprite. Clearly this was going to be a lecture.

“In short, you being a femme means that you dress and act like how society expects a woman to act.” she said, rather simply. “Feminine presenting.”

“Jay…” Linda sighed. “She’s going to need more than that.”

“I was getting to that!” Jay rolled her eyes, turning back to an increasingly confused Claudia. “The opposite of a femme is a butch. Don’t ask me where that word came from, nobody knows. It’s a woman who acts and presents herself in a more masculine way.”

“Like you?” Claudia asked, for lack of a better thing to say.

“Yeah, sure, let’s go with that.” Jay sighed, deciding to give Claudia the benefit of the doubt. Besides, Claudia was just beginning to wrap her mind around the butch/femme dichotomy, she doubted she was ready for a deep dive into the spectrum of gender presentation, the concept of being non-binary… no, she was sure Claudia had more than a few questions, but she wanted to focus on the most important one.

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