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Rabbi Solomon Perlman and his wife, Rebekka, escaped Germany in 1936. His congregation, recognising that he was in dire danger having spoken out against the Nazis, smuggled them, with their four year old daughter, Bente, into France. When they realised France was likely to come under German rule, they moved again, wearily, to England where an immigration clerk unwittingly renamed them Pearlman and the weary, frightened refugees couldn’t be bothered to put him right.
When I spoke to her for an article I was writing last year, Professor Bunty Pearlman (her first name another casualty of the beaurocrat’s ineptitude) she told me a little of her story.
“I don’t remember much about our escape. My parents seldom spoke of it and, on the rare occasions when they did, they spoke merely of the relief of arriving here in England. There was plenty of anti-semitism here too, of course, but in the main, people were kind and welcoming, especially the small Jewish community in this part of Somerset.
“My father eventually became Rabbi to the local synagogue, my mother, who had taught in Germany, became a teacher here too and we avoided internment during the war, although exactly how I never discovered.”
I interviewed her in her home; an imposing Georgian town house in the better quarter of the city. When I arrived her assistant, Celia, opened the large, black front door and invited me inside quickly to get away from the pelting summer rain. I was then in a large vestibule and Celia took my coat. She was about my age, 30, and 5′ 8″ with long, very silky black hair and startling blue eyes. She was wearing denim dungarees, cut on the shin and with a white cotton shirt under. She led me to Bunty’s study where I met for the first time the small, bird-like academic, with gimlet eyes, close cut silver hair and a warm smile.
My article was about social polarisation and Bunty, as she instructed me to call her was a sociologist of huge renown and had often written abut the subject.
When Celia was politely despatched to bring us tea, I sat in a comfortable leather chair and Bunty sat facing me in another, a small table between us. I used then, as always, my phone to record our conversation but I also took shorthand notes. She approved, telling me that correctly recording an interview was crucial to accuracy.
“And I have always admired your accuracy.”
“You’ve read some of my work?”
She smiled. “Most of it, I imagine. I don’t always agree with your conclusions but I like that you don’t either.” Her eyes fixed me. “You recognise doubt in yourself and others, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“We all should.” She was, I could tell, a rigorous academic but my main reason for interviewing her was that she was outspoken about gender, courting hostility and threats which she fearlessly ignored. “I’ve been queer as long as I can remember,” she said. “We know about hostility. Imagine, a queer, jewish immigrant. Any one of those three was enough to make the English middle class rise up. Curiously, the upper classes were far more relaxed, particularly about sexuality.”
Was she afraid she’d be attacked? “I’m 90, Eleanor. I think any opponent with an ounce of brain would simply wait. I’ll be out of their hair soon enough.”
Celia, who’d been a silent, occasional party to our conversation as she brought tea and cake, said, “Please don’t talk like that.” She put her hand on Bunty’s shoulder and I saw affection, maybe more.
Bunty covered Celia’s hand. She smiled at me. “Celia is a dream who came into my life too late but, better late than never.”
I stayed far longer than I intended, finding her engaging, funny, easily angered but swift to calm down.
A week or so later, I went to see her again. I took my finished article for her to read and approve. I felt like I was back at University in a tutorial as I sat facing her desk while she read it. My prof used to lie on a couch and have me read it, but Bunty sat at her desk, glasses half way down her nose and read. I was inordinately proud that she didn’t find a single spelling error, but then, I’d proofed it several times to make sure she didn’t.
When she’d finished, she looked up at me and studied me for a bit, then congratulated me. “Accurate, sensitive, thoughtful. Thank you. I’m speaking at the University Union on Thursday. Would you like to come. I suspect there might be some amusement. I’m talking about wokery. It’s a particular loathing of mine and I suspect a few of my critics will be delighted to have a chance to give me a hard time. It might be fun.”
Before the speech and while Bunty was in a meeting with her fellow speakers and chair, Celia and I had a glass of tepid white wine in an ante room. She looked fabulous, her hair tied back, and wearing a long, Sincan Escort floaty dress that emphasised her great body. I said, “You love her, don’t you?”
“I do. She tried to stop me falling in love, but, well, what can you do?” I freely admit I felt a pang of jealousy. I have no idea if she saw something in my eyes, but she put her and on my shoulder and said, “You’ve felt her strength too, I know. I’m not remotely jealous so please don’t be worried. Our love is platonic. That’s her choice. She thinks that sex between women so far apart in years is, in her words, revolting. I know she loves me and I’ll take whatever she is prepared to give.”
She clearly thought I was jealous of her. I didn’t say anything to disabuse her.
The meeting was great for a reporter. I recorded, using my rusty shorthand since recording devices were banned, the highlights and my own thoughts. There was vitriol, hideous rudeness, hostility, heckling. Bunty seemed to revel in it. Celia, at one point when Bunty was being attacked viciously, if only verbally, took my hand and squeezed it, almost as if she was saying, don’t worry, she’ll be ok. I glanced at her and saw how she was staring, bright eyed at Bunty with adoration and admiration.
I wrote an article about the meeting and, as before, sat while Bunty read it. She called for Celia to join us and told her to read it too. I was astonished when, having read it, Celia kissed me!
“I thought you’d like it,” said Bunty. “Sentimental nonsense some of it, of course.” Her smile reassured me she was acknowledging the admiration I had expressed for her bravery, her incisive thinking and her simple humanity.
I became a regular visitor to their home. I began to feel more a friend than a guest and often, as I walked through that district, I’d drop in. Usually Celia was there, sometimes alone and we became close. We’d sit in her kitchen and have tea or coffee, sometimes brandy which I discovered Celia loved and that Bunty made her buy the best because ‘she deserved it.’ If Bunty was there, we’d all sit at the table and enjoy a conversation. Relaxed, they were both warm and funny and serious and I could easily see how they had mentally and emotionally if not physically become lovers. I was slowly drawn into their warm embrace but as a friend and no more.
At night, I’d masturbate, imagining Celia’s fingers were there, her lips on mine, her breasts under my hand. My legs would spread for her, my cunt moisten then flood as she brought me to a delicious orgasm. As I was imagining her touching me, I was also imagining my fingers on her and in her, my lips on hers, my tongue between her lips and on her cunt, deep between those lips as it had been in her mouth. I could feel her body, see her clench and arch and cum, loudly.
I wanted so much to see her hair spread, like a silken fan, across my white pillow, her eyes half open, their blue jewels sleepy with post-orgasmic content.
Bunty’s funeral was I think one of the saddest days of my life. For a ninety year old to die can hardly be considered tragic but, as I walked away from the crematorium with Celia I felt her pain. She looped her arm through mine and the two of us, dressed in sober black dresses, made our way slowly back to the house for the wake. Celia did not cry, her pain was too deep and intense for that. My tears were for her but I said nothing.
Celia inherited the house. Bunty had no other relatives and had left almost everything to Celia with gifts to feminist, jewish and relief charities. She left me a painting of her that I had admired. I stopped on the way back to the home and Celia stopped to see why.
“What about it?”
“I want it to stay in Bunty’s, your house. It should be there, for you.”
“It’s yours now. She wanted you to have it.”
“I know but if it’s mine I’d like to know you can see it whenever you want and, well, I”d like to keep coming to see you and enjoy it with you.”
‘Soft cow.” She kissed my forehead and we walked on.
Our friendship developed over the ensuing weeks. Celia resumed her own career as an academic and started to pursue the PhD she’d put on hold while she worked for Bunty. I felt her work was a sort of memorial to Bunty and Celia worked wth determination and huge enthusiasm, travelling to a number of university libraries and archive in pursuit of her subject, which had the working title, ‘Suppression and Oppression’, and was about racism, sexism, and the language associated with them.
When we could, we went out to dinner or theatre or concerts. She liked walking and I’d drive her (she didn’t drive herself) to Exmoor or the coast and we’d walk. I never saw her grieve, cry, nor did I hear her lament Bunty’s death but one day when I arrived, Escort Ankara the picture, my picture, which had been hanging in the hallway, wasn’t there.
As Celia let me in, she saw my eyes go automatically to the spot where the picture had been. “I moved it to her office. I have been using my own office upstairs, but, well, I decided it was time to treat the house as my own and her office has a much better outlook. It’s time to stop grieving. I loved her and she’s gone and she’d be absolutely fucking livid if she thought I was moping around and not making the most of my life.”
I hugged her. We sat together in her, Celia’s now, office and drank brandy which she poured from a decanter on a side table. We were both sitting the ‘student’s side’ of the desk. “She never drank when she was working. She liked her mind to be sharp.”
“Like a bloody razor,” I said.
She smiled. “She could be tough. She liked you though, Eleanor, more than anyone I think.”
“Obviously.” She smiled. “You know, the day before she died, she said to me, ‘Look after Eleanor. She’ll be hurting for you.'”
I had to turn away as my eyes filled with tears and I felt Celia’s hand on my shoulder, just as I had remembered it on Bunty’s. I bent my neck to rest my cheek on it and we stayed like that for a while until I could face her again. She pushed my hair back from my eyes and used a tissue to wipe my cheeks.
“She knew you were falling in love with me, Eleanor. I assumed you were in love with her. She told me I was blind. She was pleased. Pleased for you and for me because she said, whether I loved you or not, you’d be there for me.” I nodded. “I could only love her, you know that. But now she’s gone and you need to give me time. Can you do that?”
All the time in the world.
Talking about Bunty became easier for both of us as time passed. Celia would tell me stories of their life together. “We never shared a bed except in a ghastly hotel in Nepal. Glorious country, she loved the people and the food and the majesty of the scenery. We’d gone to the foothills of the Himalayas and our guide had arranged for us to stay in a sort of lodge-hotel. The bed was narrow and creaky and we hardly slept it was so uncomfortable. In the end she got out and slept on the floor. That was the only time. We never made love, physically. Oh, I have something for you.” She opened a drawer in the desk and took out a framed picture of Bunty at her graduation. She was beautiful and so, so young but the eyes were the same. “I want you to take it home. Our painting of her is here for us but now you will have something of hers in your home.”
We had decided we’d go to London to see a show and enjoy a weekend of sightseeing. Neither of us had been to the Capital for a while and we thought it would be nice. Celia said she’d book us an hotel and I’d get the train tickets.
it was a beautiful Summer Friday when we boarded the train. I’d worn a dress that reflected the weather, light green and loose, buttons from neckline to hem. Celia had selected a pair of pale blue jeans with a white button down. Her black hair, loose around her shoulders contrasted with the white shirt. She looked fabulous.
Settled in our seats and a happily sparsely occupied carriage, Celia produced with a small flourish, a bottle of ice cold champagne and two proper champagne flutes.
“Are we celebrating?”
She smiled. “Well, here we are, in first class, thank you by the way, and about to have a lovely weekend and I thought this might set the mood.”
It did. We sipped wine, chattered about not very much and everythig until she put her hand on mine and said, “You’ve been amazing.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been steadfast. You’ve never put any pressure on me. Until now, anyway.” I had no idea what she meant and said so. She grinned. “That dress and a very obvious lack of a bra.” She’d never made any comment about my clothes except a simple, oh that looks good or suits you. Certainly she’d never given me a hint she’d noticed my body. “I found you physically attractive from the first time you came to see Bunty. That has never changed. Don’t think for a moment that I haven’t been tempted, Eleanor. I wanted to wait, to be sure.” She leaned very close to me, her hair brushing my shoulder, her lips almost touching my ear. “You are beautiful. I love how your nipples show through your dress. I thought I could never love anyone, ever again. But, I love you.” Her lips kissed my ear.
I looked at her. “You,” I said, “can be a bitch.”
She recoiled, as if I’d slapped her and I thought for a moment I’d fucked it up completely, so I took her hand and kissed it. “You tell me you love me in a train, where I cant kiss you, hold you, I want Eryaman Escort Bayan to have you in my arms and squeeze the life out of you and all I can do is sit here and glow with pleasure.”
She relaxed. “The champagne was a celebration, to toast us.”
I raised my glass and toasted us. She wiped the tears from my cheeks. “Soft cow.”
She told me to sit and mind our bags in the hotel lobby while she checked us in and got our keys. We took the lift to our floor and walked along the corridor. Nobody was around and, for the first time, Celia kissed me. We stood outside her door and she kissed me, hard, deeply. Then she opened the door and went in.
“To my room, silly.”
“You think I’d pay for two rooms? I’m not made of money. Get yourself in here.” She had a delightfully wicked grin on her face. I dropped my bag inside the door and we stood, looking at one another for a few minutes, silent.
“Celia, are you…?”
‘Shh. Come here.” Her arms were open and I moved to her, felt her arms close around me and we kissed. “I’m sure.”
How often I had imagined a scene like this. How much I had wanted it to unfold. How much I had desired her. And the reality surpassed the imaginings. From the first, deep kiss I felt as if it was the most natural thing in the world. She was, it transpired, a talker. “God, I love your hair.” My hair was longer than I hd ever worn it, almost mid back and the ash blonde looked, I had hoped, good against the green of my dress. She had run her fingers through it as we kissed. When her hand found my breast, she gave a little sigh. Or was that me? “Your nipple is so, so hard.” She bent to kiss it through my dress, then she somehow had unbuttoned my dress and my tits were free and she was kissing them as I stroked, revelling in the silkiness of her hair.
Suddenly she stood back, and looked at me, my dress open. “Fuck, I have so wanted to see you like this.” She closed in again and put her hands on my shoulders. Another long, kiss and this time her leg worked between mine and pressed gently onto my cunt. My hands started to fumble with her belt but she stopped me and dealt with it herself, her eyes on mine. “Why didn’t you wear a bra?”
“It’s warm and, well, these girls don’t really need one.”
She laughed. “You’re not one of them are you” She unzipped her jeans and did a little dance to get her shoes off.
“One of what?”
“Someone who wishes her tits were bigger.”
“Good. They are just gorgeous.” Her jeans came down and slipped them off her feet. In her bare feet she was three inches taller than I in my shoes. She was wearing black knickers, almost transparent. I could see the shadow of her pubic hair, the crease of her labia. Then she undid the remaining buttons of my dress and opened it to see my own knickers, matching my dress. Moving close to me again, she pushed the dress of my shoulders and kissed me, Her hands stroked across my shoulders, down my back, and rested lightly on my bum.
I wanted to undo her blouse but she was too close, so I ran my hands up under it until, with a small gasp, I felt her nipple, hard in her bra and I circled it with my fingers. That seemed to be a trigger. She stepped back, swiftly unbuttoned and discarded her blouse before pulling me to her, hard against her, our breasts squeezing against each other. I undid the clasp of her bra and then we were skin to skin and I was kissing her neck.
Somehow we got onto the bed, don’t ask me how. She was over me, her body pressing down on me, my legs wide and I curled them around her as we kissed, long and hard, our groins hard against each other and I wanted nothing more than to get her panties off and feel her hair touching mine.
She kept me pinned down, kissing me, licking my lips, my ear, my neck and throat then descended to my tits which, as I held her hair, she sucked and chewed gently before she slid still further down. Pulling my panties down, she started to lick me, her tongue opening me and working magic on my clit.
I finally got to feel her hair when she pulled her own panties down and ground herself against my thigh when she started to kiss me again. She was positioned perfectly, her cunt on my leg, mine on hers. Then she shifted again and our cunts were kissing, rubbing as our mouths replicated their movement. There was no simultaneous orgasm, nor can I remember the order of them. All I can tell you is that mine was hard, one of those you almost have t squeeze out for fear you’ll burst. Hers was noisy, predictably I suppose given her disposition to verbalise.
We ended up, lying on our backs, close to each other with sweat and saliva and cum juices making our bodies shine.
“Christ,” she said. “I’d almost forgotten how good it can be.”
“You seemed to remember pretty well.”
Laughing, she rolled onto her side and kissed me. “We’ll be so, so good together.”
I held her as we lay, on our sides, face to face. I know my eyes were wet.
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