Edna positioned her head against Nellie's warm breast in the single bed in the cold attic. Edna's single bed stood empty; she wanted Nellie's warmth, her arms about her, her whispered words in her ear.
- If you listen, you can hear owls hooting, said Nellie, laying her cheek against Edna's hair, sensing it tickle her.
- I hear them, Edna said, looking out of the dull-curtained windows which were drawn back to give a view of the night sky.
- I used to love listening to them when I lived at home, Nellie said.
- It has that haunting feeling.
- Reminds me of churchyards.
- Worms? Said Nellie, putting her hand on Edna's hair, parting it a little.
- I used to dig them out of the earth at our local churchyard, until the vicar caught me, told my dad and he walloped me good and proper, Edna said, looking up at Nellie's face in the semi-darkness.
- Never trust a vicar.
- Never get caught.
- You did, Nellie said, kissing Edna's cold nose.
Edna giggled softly, wriggled into Nellie's soft breast more.
- Get away, what are you after? Nellie said, pushing Edna's head from her breast.
- Well, put your head between your knees.
- Why not your knees?
- Hush, Nellie whispered, holding her hand over Edna's mouth. She listened for sounds outside the door, any movement along the passageway. Mice along the skirting board scratched; owls hooted. She released her hand from Edna's mouth.
- What is it? Edna asked.
- I thought I heard something.
- I'm not sure. Nellie strained her ears for sounds.
Edna looked at Nellie's profile in the dull light from the window. - Who do you think it might be?
- Could be old Topdraw on the prowl.
- God, no, Edna muttered in a soft voice.
- Perhaps he's after you; wants to have his naughty way with you, Nellie whispered.
- I'd rather die, Edna said, looking at the door across the room.
- Before or after?
Nellie giggled, hugged Edna close to her, kissed her cheek. She smelt soap on Edna's cheek, felt Edna's head against her arm. She moved her hand up Edna's thigh; let her hand stay on her hip.
- It's been a long day, Edna said.
- Tiring, too.
- And that guest didn't turn up after all, Edna said.
- Thought better of it.
- I wonder who it was? Edna asked.
- Mrs Tard wouldn't say.
- She never does. Always keeps things close to her chest.
- Probably the gardener, too, Nellie said.
Edna laughed, clutched at Nellie's hand on her hip.
- You don't think she does do you? Edna said, bringing Nellie's hand against her groin.
- I wouldn't, but she might.
- Not in her bed?
- Has been known.
- You're lying, Edna said.
- Me? Lie? Nellie said, moving her hand around Edna's waist.
- I couldn't care less if she did or didn't, Edna whispered. She kissed Nellie's cheek, felt Nellie's hand move along her back, then descend to her backside. She held her breath, sensed her stomach tighten, felt a need.
Nellie closed her eyes, let her hand move between Edna's knees and kissed her nose. She sensed Edna move against her hand, heard her breath stop momentarily, felt her beating heart against her own.
- What was that? Edna whispered.
Nellie stopped what she was doing, opened her eyes to the semi-dark room and listened. -What did you hear?
- Not sure. Sounded like footsteps.
They both lay in the half-dark, listened attentively.
- I'm sure I head footsteps, Edna muttered quietly. Nellie said nothing; she strained her ears for any sounds. - Could be Mrs Tard underneath us; her room's under ours, Edna said. A door closed, voices sounded, a small giggle.
- That's her, Nellie said.
- And she's not alone either.
- Dirty bitch.
- She's only human; just wants to be hugged and kissed like the rest of us, Nellie said.
They listened a little longer, motionless, stiff in each other's arms, waiting for silence to return. The voices died down; the giggles softened. Nellie moved her hand once again, kissed Edna's lips. Edna softened, relaxed, felt the chill air of the attic move away, sensed Nellie's hand invade her. The moon witnessed; an owl hooted; another day emptied itself into the blackness of night, whispered sounds echoed gently about the house, then settled into the corners of the rooms like kindly ghosts.