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Kas 17

Ellen’s Tale Pt. 01

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Ellen was briefly mentioned in Jodie’s Story and I’ve decided to write a story about Ellen. It’s a little more visceral than my usual stories, so my apologies to anyone with a phobia about guns. I’ve tried to handle the theme of domestic violence as sensitively as possible but it is what it is. For those struggling with the terms biker and bikie as used in Australia. A biker is simply someone who enjoys riding bikes but a bikie is a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang. This subculture has a long history of systemic violence, criminality and misogyny. The Grey Ghosts don’t exist in real life as far as I can find out but their behaviour and rules certainly do exist in other clubs.

Ellen stared out the window at the dark thunderclouds. The forecasted cool change had been building for the last hour or so as cooler air moving up from the Southern Ocean hit the warmer air on the mainland. The last few weeks had seen an extended heatwave brought on by weather systems moving in from the north. Yesterday morning she’d hung out her washing at ten o’clock in the morning and brought it in just after midday when it was bone dry. She checked her phone again as the students behind her chatted amongst themselves. The class was nearly at an end and she went through the cleaning up routine in the blink of an eye, she could do it in her sleep.

Her eyes shifted as a restored Chrysler Charger pulled into the full carpark, but when the driver chose to park just opposite her she moved to the door. However, when she stepped out onto the verandah her annoyance dissipated as she saw a familiar figure in the front passenger seat. Elaine had been one of her students last year and whilst she’d dropped out after twelve months she still kept in contact with her. Elaine worked at Kmart in Boronia and because Ellen lived in Boronia Heights she often bumped into her whenever she was in Kmart.

The driver was unfamiliar but she carried herself with a confident air as she spoke on a phone. She was dressed in a short-sleeved, cream-coloured blouse tucked into light tan trousers, her long brown hair was tied back into a ponytail and then she turned and bent down to fold the seat forward. It was only then that Ellen saw the woman sitting in the back but she was partially hidden until she got out. Ellen noticed the thick blonde tresses tumbling over her shoulders and down her back and when she turned around she felt a slight weakness as she stared at her heart-shaped face. She looked to be in her mid twenties and was dressed in office attire, a white blouse and brown trousers. The driver ended the call a moment later as Elaine moved towards the verandah.

“Hiya, saw your light on, thought we’d drop in for a few minutes.”

“How’s it going?” Ellen dug her hands into her pockets.

“Great,” she glanced over her shoulder, “this is Julie, my landlady, and this her colleague, Anna,” she turned back to Ellen, “Anna wants to sign up for a course and I’d like to sign up as well.”

“Of course,” she turned her attention to Anna, who had fallen into step behind Julie. Now that she was a little closer she could see that she had green eyes, and a wedding ring but when she smiled Ellen still felt as if she was frozen to the spot. She came to an instant later as the three women mounted the steps.

“Come in,” she smiled, “I’m Ellen.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Julie held out her hand, “Elaine’s told me a lot about you.”

She registered that with a smile. Anna didn’t say anything as she shook her hand but Ellen had the strangest feeling that the woman was checking her out or was that just her idle imagination? Now that she was closer, Ellen could get a closer look at the blouse. The short sleeves were held closed by two-button cuffs and they were puffed out. The wingtip collar was open and the bodice had been finished off with pleats.

She released Julie’s hand and turned to Elaine, who had always dressed down for as long as she’d known her, albeit she’d been painting ceramics. She also wore a blouse but hers was a pussybow blouse made of chiffon, she wore a tanktop underneath and both were tucked into denim shorts. The blouse was open to her belly, and as if sensing her attention, Elaine offered up a smile and took her hand briefly.

“Long time no see,” Elaine inclined her head.

She led them inside a few moments later and fell into a familiar routine as she explained the setup to Anna. The ceramics class was broken up into two distinct classes. The first was for those who wanted to learn how to paint the figurines they’d bought. The second class was for those who’d finished the basic course and simply wanted to continue as members. The major advantage being that they got their figurines at a hefty discount and instead of paying for a full course they just paid on a weekly basis, the money covered the cost of paint and overheads.

“I’d only be able to do the Saturday afternoon class,” Anna glanced at the brochure in her hand, “I work during the week.”

“Of course, that’s not a problem,” Ellen reassured her, “the Saturday one is a mixed class istanbul escort but we could certainly fit you in,” she glanced at Elaine, “and I assume you’re just back for the Saturday session?”

“For sure,” she nodded, “I’ve missed the companionship,” she looked around the room at the same time and smiled.

“Some of the old crew are still here on Saturday,” Ellen reassured her, “Stacey, Melanie, Gitti, Phu Linh, Naga, and Fatima.”

“Cool,” she smiled at Julie, “so, does this spark your creative desires?”

Julie smiled as she picked up a statuette of a stone age woman and wolf on top of a rock, the woman was holding a flint spear.

“It does, but I’d find it hard to maintain my other interests,” she put it down.

“Julie makes clothes,” Elaine tugged at her blouse, “which is why I’m wearing this blouse on a day like today.”

“Wow,” Ellen tugged at one of the ties.

“She made that blouse too,” Elaine looked past Ellen and fixed her eyes on Julie, “and the slacks.”

“Huh?” Ellen turned around suddenly and stared at Julie, and this time she had a good look at her outfit, Julie almost seemed to be enjoying the attention.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” she murmured, “I would never have known.”

“Thanks,” Julie smiled crookedly, “my biggest character flaw is modesty.”

“What do you charge? For the shirt?”

“Seventy five dollars but it’ll last a lot longer than a similar shop bought one.”

“I can imagine, I’d be interested.”

“No worries,” Julie dipped a hand into her handbag, “my card,” she took out a card and handed it over, “I work part time out of home.”

Ellen read the card as Julie stared at the statuette she’d picked up earlier.

“How much for that?” Julie pointed at it.

“A hundred and seventy five.”

“Cash or card?”

“Either,” Ellen pocketed the card.

“Cool,” she picked it up, “I’ll take it.”

“Of course,” Ellen recovered and moved towards the small counter near the door, “part of the price goes towards the running expenses.”

“Whatever,” Julie shrugged.

It took the better part of two minutes to process the transaction. Ellen had to fill a box with packing as well whilst Elaine and Anna examined the statuettes on the other side of the room. Once she’d processed the transaction and packed the purchase Julie walked over to them. Elaine glanced over her shoulder and then walked over to the counter, leaving Julie with Anna.

“I’ll just grab a fag,” she grinned.

“No worries, can I bot one of yours?” Ellen raised an eyebrow.

“Of course,” she stepped out onto the verandah.

“Fatima will be pleased,” Ellen spoke up a minute or so later, “she painted the figurine.”

“I like Fatima,” she smirked, “she always was a cutie,” Elaine took a toke on the cigarette, “I’ve um made some changes since I was last here.”

“Changes?” Ellen inclined her head at the door.

“Yeah,” Elaine put her back against the railing and flicked ash onto the ground, “personal changes, I’m with someone now, Jodie.”

“Jodie?” Ellen glanced over her shoulder at Julie and Anna, who were examining painted figurines on display.

“Yeah, I met her through my old landlady, Ilona who’s going out with Julie,” she smiled and went on, “one thing led to another and I stepped across the line six months ago.”

“Wow,” Ellen slipped her hands into her pockets, “that’s something not even I can do and I only ever sleep with women nowadays.”

“Are you with someone?” Elaine asked her.

“I have a friend although I wouldn’t call it a permanent arrangement,” she looked at her briefly, “Dee is married but she recently separated from her husband, but they’re trying to work things out and I’m just sitting on the sidelines watching it all go past.”

“You haven’t made a move yet?” Elaine walked to the steps.

“Not my style,” she grimaced, “three’s a crowd and until she makes a decision one way or the other I’m not pitching my tent,” she shifted on her feet.

“Sounds like someone I’ve just met,” Elaine lowered her voice as she stepped down to the ground, “that’s part of the reason she’s here, she needs to be out of a toxic environment and Julie asked if I could introduce her to you,” she glanced over her shoulder as Ellen joined her.

As if sensing she was now the topic of conversation, Anna turned to look at her even though she was well out of earshot and Ellen felt a slight weakness in her belly.

“Well, it’s certainly a place to sit and chill out, I noticed the ring.”

“I don’t know much about him, just that he works in finance at some joint in the city but Julie said on the way here that she needs to be out of a toxic environment,” she grimaced.

“So, read into that what you want but she seems pleasant enough.”

Ellen opened her mouth to say something but then shut it again as Julie and Anna stepped out onto the verandah and then Ellen glanced down as the first raindrops splashed onto the ground.

“Here it comes,” she glanced up, “I expected it an hour ago,” she moved back to ataköy escort the verandah, “so, we can expect you next week?”

“Yes,” she too glanced at the sky as the rain kept falling, “Saturday, do I pay the whole amount up front or just three months?”

“Whatever you can afford,” she replied, “we’re flexible.”

Anna offered up a smile and then descended the steps.

“No worries, see you then.”

“Thanks for the tour,” Julie nodded at her, “all right, girls, let’s get undercover before we turn into drowned rats.”

Ellen watched from the cover of the verandah as they got back into the car and as she executed a three-point turn the skies opened up followed by a flash of forked lightning. The rolling thunder sounded just as Julie drove away. She stared at the car until it vanished from sight and then turned back towards the door. One woman was standing at the window and several others were looking outside as well.

Time to start packing up, Ellen decided.

A moment later she stepped inside.

***

Ellen’s daughter, Tabitha was sitting doing her homework when Ellen stepped into the living room some forty five minutes later.

“Hiya, rascal,” she greeted her with a kiss, “how’s your day been?”

“Good, mum,” she replied, “I got a B for geography.”

“You got a B?” Ellen grinned, “the best I got for geography at your age was an F for fail, so you’re smarter than your mum,” she glanced at the homework.

“You done your homework?”

“Yeah, almost, just one more bit to do. Auntie Gitti says we’re eating here tonight.”

“Is that right?” Ellen glanced in the direction of the kitchen as she heard running water, “sounds like a plan,” she stepped back, “well done, sweetie.”

She stepped into the kitchen to find Gitti staring out the window at the hailstones bouncing off the concrete slab and her bungalow. The older woman looked at her and frowned.

“It’s gonna piss on us all night.”

“Too right,” Ellen joined her at the sink, “it started at work.”

“How was work?” Gitti asked her.

“Pretty good, I got another piece partly done but we’ve gained another student, hopefully.”

“Well that’s a bonus,” Gitti replied, “when’s she starting?”

“Saturday, she works during the week.”

“What does she do? Or didn’t you ask that question?”

“A tax consultant for H and R Block, she was brought here on Elaine’s recommendation.”

“Elaine?” Gitti frowned, “I’ve heard that name before.”

“She was a student a couple of years back but then she finished her course and quit. I see her from time to time at Kmart, she works there.”

“That’d be it,” she inclined her head as Tabitha came into the room, “what is it?”

“I’ve finished my homework, can I go online now?”

“Sure, sweetie,” Ellen turned around and put her back to the sink.

Tabitha opened the fridge to take out some yoghurt and then proceeded to tear the lid off.

“Elaine’s coming back as well, she’s doing the other course so that’s a double win.”

“Excellent,” Gitti replied, “well, seeing as you’re eating here tonight, you can prepare the meat, we’re doing the shepherd’s pie tonight.”

“Yum,” Tabitha smiled, “I love shepherd’s pie.”

“Make sure that’s all you have before dinner,” Ellen warned her.

Tabitha left the kitchen shortly afterwards.

“How was your day?” Ellen asked her.

“It started off quiet,” she replied, “then it got busy around midday, early arvo and then died in the arse just after Tabitha got home.”

Ellen didn’t reply as she sliced the onion. Gitti’s home accountancy business was a far cry from her former job as a detective with the Victoria Police but she never begrudged the career change. An accountancy practice didn’t involve drawing your pistol at short notice. Despite the fact that Tabitha called her auntie, Gitti wasn’t at all related to either Ellen or Tabitha. She had only just taken out an early retirement package when a chance conversation with a colleague had led her to a frightened young mother desperate to get away from her violent ex husband.

It had taken a bit of wrangling but Gitti had managed to convince the department that putting Ellen and Tabitha up at her place was a better option. Ellen had never agreed to turn state witness against the bikie gang her ex belonged to, which basically meant that she couldn’t technically receive state aid in getting a new identity or a safe house. The Ghost Riders were on the police radar for alleged drug and gun running, as well as an expanding trade in stolen motorcycles but Ellen was the partner of a member and had little knowledge of the criminal activities. Outlaw bikies were a misogynistic group and including a woman in the commission of offences was a rarity unless it suited them. She did need to escape the lifestyle if she wanted to avoid the usual ‘retirement’ protocol.

Gitti had never had cause to doubt her decision three years ago and the Ghost Riders had never come calling. In the months following Ellen’s departure avcılar escort they’d become embroiled in a vicious feud with a local drug lord who’d sent his own foot soldiers into battle. Ellen’s ex husband had become one of the casualties and all Ellen could say when Gitti sat her down one night to explain was, “what a waste of a life.”

She hadn’t attended the funeral but she had gone to the grave once on her own and once with their daughter, that particular visit had felt somewhat surreal because Tabitha just stared blankly at the grave stone.

“Why are we here, mum? He’s not here.”

“Because it’s important to pay your respects and remember.”

“Did you love him?”

Ellen had stared at her daughter, unsure of her answer as Tabitha spoke again.

“I’m sad he’s gone but I’m glad you’re happy.”

Had John been that distant?

The question had lingered at the fringes of her mind for the next few days and it was Gitti who furnished an answer.

“Children are far more adaptable than we give them credit for, their primary concern is security, and she knows you’re happier now than you were before.”

“Well there’s less shouting, that’s for bloody sure.”

***

Ellen looked over the top of the laptop some five hours later as she sat up in bed. She’d put in the website address for Julie’s online store and had been presented with a large array of clothes, some of the pictures were of her creations but the vast majority were just pictures of the patterns on the packaging. At first, she focused on dresses and skirts but then found herself browsing the blouses and tops, there seemed to be a fairly large range. She eventually went from browsing to selecting once she’d investigated the rather slick online shop and when she hit the submit button she was taken through to a form where she filled in her name and contact details, and a range of preferred times and dates for a measuring session. There was no charge for using the site and she was quite pleased to note that the session was also free unless she decided to order a garment. If so, then she needed to leave a cash deposit of not less than 25%.

Her last thought before sleep claimed her an hour later was of Anna, the woman had seemed a quiet and pleasant type but Elaine’s cryptic comment about a toxic relationship had been lingering around the fringes of her mind.

Just how toxic is it?

***

Some three days later, Ellen found herself standing in doorway of Julie’s Mooroolbark home and there was a familiar figure sitting on the large L-shaped sofabed in the living room. Anna sat with a woman Julie introduced as her partner, Ilona and after exchanging pleasantries Ellen followed Julie into the sewing room.

“I’ve got your selections here,” Julie motioned to the packets spread over the table.

“It’s a very slick website,” she picked up a packet containing a pattern.

“Thank you, it’s a recent thing. Ilona’s sister in law set it up, she’s just finished a web design course and I was her third customer. It’s made my life a hell of a lot easier.”

“Is Anna here for a measuring as well?”

“Yeah,” Julie picked up her measuring tape, “she’s actually due after you but she works beside Ilona and I so there’s no drama there,” she turned towards her, “all right, lose the shirt and tee shirt so I can start.”

“Do you do clothes for kids as well?” Ellen asked her some five minutes later.

“On occasion,” she replied, “I’ve been contemplating adding a children’s section but because of the price and the fact that kids are always growing the demand is sporadic. I make some money out of speciality items like prom dresses and the odd tuxedo for boys, so that tends to justify the prices I charge for handmade items.”

“Maybe I should bring my daughter around,” she mused, “she’s got a prom night coming up, it was never a thing when I was her age but these days everything is so Americanised.”

“Tell me about it,” Julie chuckled, “we had a chicken and champagne breakfast on the Yarra River and I threw up in the Flinders Street toilets a few hours later, I haven’t had champagne since.”

“I never even got that far,” she confessed, “a bottle of Bundy mixed with Coke and when that ran out we broke out the dope. I seem to recall stumbling into a chicken and chip shop in the early afternoon but the owner ordered us out when one of the guys started a fight.”

“The pains of youth,” Julie stepped back, “all right, that’s your measurements,” she nodded at the patterns, “just pick out what you want first.”

Ellen had initially been caught between three designs, a pussybow blouse similar to the one Elaine had worn the other day, a blouse with a separate tie and a blouse with a mandarin collar, but when Julie offered her a discount for two, she chose the latter two.

“The other one is nice though,” she picked up a pattern for a pussybow blouse, “maybe some other time, this will be the most feminine shirt I’ve ever worn,” and in answer to Julie’s quizzical look she went on, “I’m an ex bikie chick.”

“Oh, okay,” Julie smiled crookedly, “I did leather pants for a woman once, and a white leather prom dress for someone’s daughter. He was a bikie although I never asked if he was part of a club. He had the jacket and the bikie look but there was no patch on the back.”

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