Thursday, 12 April 2012
BOUND TO FAIL
Warning: Although there is no strong language in this short story, some people may be offended by the explicit descriptions of sexual matters.
BOUND TO FAIL
‘Get yourself a dog. That should solve your problem.’
‘It’s almost as if they’re recommending some kind of kinky solution to a deep-rooted sexual dilemma,’ Katy thought. That suggestion they’d made. Her colleagues at the office. Especially James. The Office Brat. Young James, who was always chatting her up. Or trying to.
But, she quickly reassured herself. No, no one there knew anything about her sex life. She was sure of that. And, if she did have a problem, it was only that she wasn’t getting any right now. Well, on the odd occasion, perhaps, but not regularly, since she’d broken up with Ian. Since she’d thrown him out, to be specific. Out of her flat and out of her life.
Luckily, only she knew about Ian. And she was glad it was over now anyway, that long and tedious relationship, when she’d been with him. When it had been so desperately mundane that she’d lost interest. ‘Why on earth did I stay with him so long, I wonder? Only Ian could make sex that boring.’
Katy smiled to herself. They were referring to the popular misconception, she decided, that you need a dog to meet people. That’s obviously what James thought anyway. But Katy didn’t like dogs. They frightened her. In fact, she hated dogs. ‘And they all smell, don’t they? Because that’s what dogs are. Smelly animals that make the house reek. And sometimes even stink. To high heaven when they’ve been rolling around in God knows what. Although their owners rarely notice any of this, it seems. Just like no one ever hears their own dog barking. It only upsets their neighbours.’
As far as Katy was concerned, dogs were either big and boisterous, full of slobber and over friendly. Or they were small and yappy and left their hairs everywhere.
And the thought of being in bed with a dog revolted her.
So, until then, until they started talking about a dog for her, Katy had never thought she had a problem. In any case, even without a dog, she’d never had any difficulty meeting people. And getting to be on friendly terms with them if she wanted to. Even if she was on her own right now.
Unfortunately though, when they suggested a pet, she started thinking about the situation.
‘No, there’s no problem. Really there isn’t,’ she thought, trying desperately to reassure herself. Well, nothing to speak of anyway. Other than the usual everyday problems like where she was going to get the money to buy that small house of her dreams? Or what she was going to do with her mother who was behaving more and more strangely and asking sillier and sillier questions? Or could she afford another holiday in Italy this year?
But for some strange reason they’d decided that she was in a dilemma. Those sticky-beaks she worked with. Where, in fact, she spent most of her waking hours.
And the way they carried on anyone would think she was in dire straits. With trouble ahead. About to endure some kind of emotional crisis that she was, for the moment, unaware of. They’d decided, apparently, that not having a partner was tantamount to living the life a leper.
At first Katy had thought it rather intrusive of them. Especially that new kid, James Bourke. The Brat. But then, on reflection, she decided that they only had her best interests at heart. And in the way of office politics, matchmaking was high on the agenda. Or, more correctly perhaps, never far from the minds of those busy bodies most involved. Instead of getting on with their jobs, they lost themselves in romance. Or to put it differently, in other people’s affairs.
‘Five minutes in a park with a dog on a lead and they’ll be forming a queue to chat you up.’ That’s what James had said to her in the pub. At one of the regular end of the working week binges. ‘There’s nothing wrong with your looks. And everybody at work likes you. So you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a man.’ He gave a nervous laugh. ‘Provided, of course, you’re not one of those women who like …’
‘Shut up Bourke, you do go on a bit,’ said one of his friends.
She wasn’t quite sure whether to be irritated or touched. Irritated, perhaps, because it was obvious they’d been talking about her. Or touched maybe, because they appeared to have had her wellbeing in mind.
‘Look James, don’t be patronizing. You’re not old enough. So be a darling and let me sort my own life out. And no, I don’t prefer women.’
But when she thought about it, she realised that she was the only one in the office who was unattached, as the saying goes. Not living with anyone, neither spouse nor partner, and no one, apparently, on the horizon. And this had been the status quo since she’d broken up with Ian. Which, when she counted up the months on her fingers, she was surprised to find was over a year ago now. Well over.
But, she asked herself, how could anybody see this as a problem? In fact it had been an enormous relief when they’d finally agreed to separate. Well, when she finally told him to leave. After five years of what she now looked back on as unmitigated drudgery. Five years of Christmas dinners with his boring family. Trying to be nice to his bitch of a sister. Trying to understand what his stroke affected father was saying to her. Doing her best to reassure his mother that she was right about the dishes she’d prepared for the festive season. The stuff that Katy struggled through every twenty fifth of December for all those years. ‘Yes, Josephine, they really are really, really so tasty. You’ve done an outstanding job again. And really so nutritious, too I’m sure.’ And to herself, ‘Josephine. Christ, what a name.’
Katie’s mind went back over the five tedious years of painful Saturday morning shopping, followed by the weekend chores Ian had always insisted they ‘get stuck into’ sooner rather than later. And five years of boring, unadventurous, once a week sex. ‘Let’s settle on Sunday mornings, shall we,’ he’d said, ‘and then we can change the sheets straight afterwards. So that we can sleep in a nice clean bed through the week.’ As if the residue of what they did between the sheets would somehow contaminate them if they ever came into contact with it again.
So Katy never bothered with a dog.
But she did meet someone in a park. By chance. Or that was how it seemed at first, because, at that stage she was not aware of the obsessive attention that lay behind the apparent chance meeting.
Katy marvelled at what she then thought were coincidences. A succession of events that coincided and that would have irritated her in the plot in a novel. She even had a brief twinge of apprehension when she thought about what had happened. How quickly the situation had developed. This new arrangement she now found herself in. And what the future held.
But she was so captivated by the developments that she put all this stuff out of her mind. She was sure that something exciting was brewing. And about to be consummated. She had the feeling that she was starting out on an adventure. She felt that her life was about to change.
And she was right. It was an exhilarating time.
For a while, anyway. And of sorts.
It all started in Victoria Park, a large, nondescript configuration of muddy paths that meandered about leading nowhere except, possibly, to the public toilets. A bleak, tired public space. Neglected by the council. Abused by kids. And really only used as a short cut by those who were in a hurry and prepared to risk the dog shit.
Despite its drabness, Katy often walked in the park. It wasn’t exactly a glamorous environment, but it was outdoors in the fresh air. If the air in that area could ever be called fresh.
One weekend Katie was reading a paperback novel she’d found in a second hand bookshop. She’d chosen a flaking bench in a sunny spot. Well, novel is a bit of an overstatement. Although chicklit was not exactly her thing, the blurb had attracted her and this one was mildly interesting. It was a long book but it wiled away the surplus hours. Those hours between waking and working or working and sleeping that single people have to contend with on their own and sometimes find boring. She went back to the same bench on successive days while she ploughed through the pages.
Out of the blue one evening, a man came and sat down next to her. Nothing wrong with that she thought. She even smiled at him as she moved over. Not that this was necessary. There was plenty of room on the bench. But it seemed the right thing to do. To indicate that she didn’t mind if he sat on her bench, so to speak. As long as he sat on the other side. And didn’t disturb her.
She surreptitiously studied his features out of the corner of her eye. He was, she thought, a little older than her. Fit looking, and with a lined, what used to be known as an attractively rugged, face. And a fashionable one or two day’s growth.
Then she realized that he was doing the same thing, but in a more direct, perhaps even brazen manner. He was simply staring directly at her.
His opening gambit was blunt. ‘What you reading love?’
She ignored the question.
‘Come on share it with me. I only want to know the title.’
Katy was so taken aback by his direct, if old fashioned and definitely non-pc, manner and with what she took to be the guiltlessness of his question, that she smiled.
The trouble was, although she was well into the book, she’d forgotten the title, so she said just that. ‘I don’t know.’ It sounded contrived and lame. If not an outright lie. So she added, ‘It’s not that interesting. And it’s pretty poor writing.’
‘Get off darling. You must know the name of the book you’re so engrossed in. You’ve been reading it for a few days now.’
And that’s how Sam Dupont came into her life. And that’s what he said his name was.
‘Sam Dupont. Originally French, I think. That’s what I’ve been told anyway.’
They’d chatted on about books for a while. He told her what he was reading, although he had nothing with him. It sounded pretty esoteric, and she’d never heard of the author. ‘It sounds highbrow, I know, but it’s basically about enjoying yourself, and how to achieve your goals. You know, in life.’
She didn’t know why afterwards, but she suddenly made a rather lame excuse and got up and left.
But that was how it started.
The trouble was, she couldn’t get him out of her head. ‘He was rather good looking in a way,’ she told herself. ‘And he seemed… well, interesting, I suppose.’ Then she berated herself, ‘Can’t understand why I left him on the bench so quickly. He must think I’m potty. Or scared of men.’
For some reason, it had not crossed her mind to ask how he knew she’d been reading the same book for a few days.
Katy went to the park the following weekend. Then on Monday evening again. And on Wednesday. She stayed quite late, walking backwards and forwards, until she told herself she was being childish.
She went home in what she realised was a mildly depressed mood. ‘Don’t be so infantile,’ she told herself, ‘Probably not even from this area.’
But she continued to go back to her bench for several evenings in succession.
She’d almost given up seeing the man again, when there he was, sitting on her bench, reading a newspaper. She went over to him and said, ‘Hello love, what you reading about?’
A few days later he moved in with her.
And that night they were in bed together. Not long after nine o’clock.
They’d had dinner. Katy had cooked, and he stood around handing her ingredients and utensils, making small talk, quite interesting and sometimes quite amusing, but generally getting in the way in the small kitchen.
With a bottle and a half of wine, the dinner went down well. The conversation turned risqué. Quite quickly, she decided when she thought about it later. Not that it mattered. It was just part of the sequence that had been a very enjoyable experience. For her. And for him, she hoped.
‘Oh let’s not beat around the bush,’ she said to herself, in a mildly reproaching manner. ‘So, we went to bed on the first night. And I should have read his sexual innuendos better. But he took the lead. Not doubt about that. It should have been a sign. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I should have insisted on waiting a few days. But what’s done is done.’
The things he talked about had shocked her at first, but now she realised it was all part of his persona and repertoire. Reminding her about his French surname. And adding that Frenchmen made good lovers. Telling her what he was going to do. To her in that usual masculine way. And how she’d enjoy it. He’d made a play of being the dominant partner. He assured her she was in for something good.
And afterwards, he looked for reassurance. ‘Was that OK? Did you enjoy it?’
‘I thought it was wonderful? Just perfect. How about you?’ And to herself. ‘Are all men so obsessed with their performance, I wonder?’
‘I always do. But it’ll be better the next time. When we get to know each other a bit more. Our likes and dislikes. If you get what I mean.’
So that’s how it started. And that’s how it stayed.
Well, with a few variations.
Because that’s how it could have ended. But life’s not like that. That’s not what happens in reality. So that’s not what happened.
But Sam was right in one respect, she had to admit. It did get better. And she did enjoy it. More and more. Right up to the end, in fact.
Katy realized quite quickly that her life had changed. Forever. From once having been independent to the point of being lonely, she now adored being with him. In fact, she had to admit, it had become an obsession. She hated leaving him when she went to work in the morning. And she was desperate to get home to him afterwards. The Friday evening sessions with her colleagues quickly became a thing of the past.
‘Something’s happened in Katy’s life, that’s for sure,’ James said in the pub one Friday night. ‘She must have found someone. Because she’s dropped us like a hot brick. I hope it’s not a woman she’s fallen for.’
Katie lay on the bed, her bed, their bed, waiting. He was in the bathroom and she could see him looking in the mirror while he shaved. Beads of water glistened on his back where he had not dried himself properly after his shower. From time to time he looked at her reflection in the glass and spoke to her without turning. The muscles in his buttocks tightened when his body moved as he tilted his head back to shave under his jaw. She watched as he cut corridors through the shaving foam as he guided the old-fashioned cutthroat razor across his face. He wiped the excess off with a towel, rinsed the blade, folded it back into its handle, and put it into his toilet bag.
When he turned around, she could see that he was excited and ready to get back into the bed.
But it wasn’t only the bedroom that gave her life a lift. Sam liked reading. She did too. He said he’d read a lot of philosophy and books on comparative religion. He also liked cooking. Katie devoured cookbooks. They liked different fiction, but assured each other they’d each try out the other’s favourite authors.
But that was about it really. That was the sum total of what she knew about him. He never spoke of his former life. Where he was brought up, where he was educated and what his background was remained a blank.
‘Let’s just say my early life was full of unedifying and ungratifying experiences,’ he’d said. ‘I didn’t get on with anyone in my family. And I hated school. It was an unmitigated disaster, as the saying goes. I don’t want to sound callous about my home or mellow dramatic about my school, but I left both as soon as I could.’
And that was as far as he ever went. He didn’t elaborate any further. And Katy left it at that. ‘I suppose he’ll tell me about it some day. When he’s ready. When it suits him. When he feels comfortable about it. And when he feels at home here,’ she added somewhat wistfully.
‘Well, yes, James, I have found someone, if you must know,’ she told the Office Brat in the tearoom one day. They were on their own and James had popped the question he seemed desperate to get an answer to.
‘And I even managed to snare my new partner, Sam’s his name, without the dog you recommended.’ She smiled at the boy. ‘So you don’t need to worry any more on my behalf. I’m leading a full, happy and exciting love life.’
‘Why don’t you bring him…, well, you know, to meet us? In the pub on Friday night when we’re all there. You know your old friends from the office… it is a him is it?’
‘Yes, James, rest assured Sam is a man. A real man if you must know. But no, he doesn’t like pubs, and he’s not really that good with groups of people.’
‘So you’re in love, are you Katy, with this Sam, are you?’
Katie smiled. ‘Look James, I think you should just run along now. I’m sure you’ve got lots of work to do, and I’ve answered the question you’re most interested in, so that’s that. So be a darling and stop being so intrusive.’
James kept the news to himself until he got to the pub on Friday night where he announced, ‘Just as I thought, our Katie’s found herself someone. And he’s moved in with her. Sounds a really weird arrangement if you ask me. Bound to fail, I’d say. And it seems they spend a lot of time in bed,’ he smirked, ‘that’s why she can’t wait to get back home on Friday nights. The reason she doesn’t come here with us any more.’
A few weeks after his arrival, how time flies, Katy thought, he brought up the subject of protection.
‘It’s much more fun without it, you know. I mean for both of us. Enhanced enjoyment, you know, more touch and feel, no barrier to enjoyment, and all that. Tactile and sensual. They’re the key words, I suppose.
‘And I’m as clean as a whistle. I can assure you of that. If it’s ever crossed your mind. And I hope it has. Because it’s very important. No one should ever forget how to spell condom these days.
She could see that he was being serious. More serious than usual. ‘I’ve always made sure about regular checkups, so there’s nothing to worry about on my part. It’s one thing I’ve always been adamant about. Because your health is so important. My annual medical check up is what I’m on about. And blood tests. And if you’ve noticed that slight rash that comes and goes on my groin, it’s called Dhobie’s itch. It’s like athletes foot. A mild dermatitis. Only you get it in a more, what shall we say, delicate area. An antifungal ointment clears it up quite quickly. So put that out of your mind, if it was ever there, that is.’ Then he laughed and added, ‘What about you?’
She smiled, and thought about it for a while. She had noticed the slight reddish area near his… ‘Well, genitals, I suppose, but I’m sure that’s just a natural discolouring in the pigment of the skin. A tea stain, some people call it. Like a birth mark.’
She told him if it was going to be much more fun, or even just more fun, without it, they should forget about protection.
So they did. And he was right. She somehow felt the experience more intimate during foreplay. With an enhanced sensuality, she thought. And no more messing around with blister packs or wrappers at the moment critique. So, just like he said, without doubt, much better sex.
Sam was also very generous with money. They dined out a lot. Not ever anywhere fancy, it must be said, but wherever they went, they always ate well.
And, although it was obvious that he didn’t have a job, he seemed to have access to an unlimited supply. Whenever they were short he’d simply say, ‘Let’s go and see if that old couple who sit inside the cash machine, and whose job it is to give out banknotes to nice people like us, will give us any money today.’
A relative, he explained, although not anyone close to him, had left him a generous endowment. Why him he never knew. ‘Count your blessings, I suppose. What more can I say? It’s there and I use it. Very handy indeed. I never knew the man, and I don’t know why he left it to me. So there’s no point in doing any mental gymnastics to work it out.’
And because he had it, he didn’t hesitate to spend it.
Katy thought back to the night before. She marvelled again at the sequence of events. On this occasion, he’d cooked an elaborate dinner. The lights were put out. Candlelight provided a romantic ambiance. A few glasses of white to kick off with and then a bottle of read with the meal. His natural musky body odour mixed with a man’s fragrance. Disrobing. Casual caressing. The inevitable body contact. Skin on skin. The excitement of penetration. His ecstatic climax. And then hers. He was attentive enough to ensure that she was as satisfied as he was.
‘His gift of the gab is astonishing,’ she thought. How he gets one thing to flow onto the next. Almost as if it’s been scripted. It’s a very polished technique, I suppose you’d have to say.’
Everything seemed to go well for a month or so. Very well, Katy thought. It was a new life.
Then, one Saturday, Sam went out for almost the whole day. This was unusual, and he told her he’d be gone for ‘quite a while.’
Katy was upset at first, but tried not to show it. Why had he chosen the weekend? Why hadn’t he gone during the week when she was at work?
She tried to be rational. To be fair to him, Katy told herself that they had known each other only for a short while. He was entitled to his privacy. She was well aware that she had no formal hold on him.
Then it dawned on her. She realised that she was simply jealous. Of his time, she supposed. Their time. It was then that she knew that she was in love with Sam. Katy was living a dream. She had never been happier in her life.
But don’t be silly, she told herself. ‘It’s just a relationship. Let’s not get into another affair, no matter how casual.’
But, but, but, for some inexplicable and irrational reason, she allowed an occasional cloud to enter her thoughts. A nagging idea crossed her mind, and it was quite hard to get rid of. ‘How long would it would last? Would it always be as good as this, or would Sam eventually move on?’
When she tried hard, she managed to dismiss this horrible prospect. ‘Surely not. It’s just not logical. Why should he? He’s got no reason to. None whatsoever. So stop being neurotic.’
But the cloud was not always that easy to dismiss. It kept coming back into her thoughts. Because she was acutely aware of how suddenly he’d arrived in her life. ‘Could he leave just as suddenly? Had he done just that to someone else before moving in with me?’
She tried her best to be positive. ‘But no surely not. He’s just not like that. And he seems so happy here. Making me happy. So let’s just live the present.’ And she went back to thinking about how happy she was. And about making Sam happy. And about making love with him. And looking forward to his return. So they could do it again. And again. And again.
Katie loved to hear Sam talking about things she would previously have baulked at listening to. And he seemed totally uninhibited, no matter what the subject. He spoke casually and interestingly about foreplay. He asked her about the things she liked in bed. What she liked him to do to her. And he told her what he liked her to do to him. They discussed erogenous zones. And he told her why he’d been circumcised although it was so rare other than for religious reasons. He spoke about ejaculation. He tried to explain how it felt. ‘It’s such a powerful but complex feeling that it’s almost impossible to describe.’
He asked her how often she really came. ‘Every time or just sometimes?’
They spoke about afterplay.
And he talked to her about masturbation. Male and female.
She surprised herself by asking, ‘Do you do it Sam? Still do it, I mean? Now that we’re together? You know, when you’re on your own. Like when you’re away from me for a while.’
‘Well, yes of course,’ he said laughing. ‘Most men masturbate. All, probably, I’d say. And they do it all the time. In the lavatory. In the shed. In the shower. Because it’s a fallacy that they only do it when their wives or partners are away. That’s not true at all. Men just do it because they like it. Whenever they feel the urge. I’m convinced that men just see wanking as another form of sex. Apparently it’s what about a third of the males in the world are engaged in right now. And it has the bonus of warding off testicular cancer, apparently. So, in answer to your question, yes, of course I do.’
And then, ‘What about you, Katie? Do you, you know, ever play with yourself?’
She felt herself reddening. ‘Well, yes, occasionally, I suppose, and when I was younger I did it quite a bit. But, unfortunately, I thought it was the wrong thing to do. It seemed to have such a taboo association. I had to make a determined effort to stop.’
‘Well, that’s a pity, but it just shows you how badly we bring up our kids. That anyone should feel anything but joy when masturbating is beyond me.’
‘Yes… I suppose you’re right, but my family were quite old-fashioned religious, and they never said anything to me about sex. Or periods, or, well, we never discussed things like that. So, like everyone else, I had to find it out for myself. Those grope sessions with boyfriends. How far could you go? What would he say to his mates? And coping with the fear of developing a reputation, or, much worse, of falling pregnant. And picking up information from friends and older siblings. Or the usually quite ambiguous stuff in teenage magazines. So, no, not really, not these days, I suppose it the answer.’
‘As I said, such a pity. But let’s not let this get too serious.’ He got up form his chair and sat down next to her on the couch. ‘Take your top off. I want to start with some of those things you said you like.’
Afterwards, they lay together for almost an hour of blissful dozing in and out of a hazy, colourful, post coital consciousness.
Sam rarely, if ever, swore. When Katy thought about it, she couldn’t remember him using a four-letter word. Even when talking about sexual matters, he used the coldheartedly correct anatomical word or euphemisms. In more intimate situations he would use colloquialisms or slang. And some of these expressions were, to put it mildly, hilarious.
But he certainly taught her how to really enjoy lovemaking. A kind of grooming, perhaps, she thought.
It was as if he was leading her through different levels of sexual experience. And she was loving it.
Katie realised that while he had been with her, she’d lost a lot of her residual inhibitions that had probably accompanied her since childhood.
A mild reproach concerning her past life. A self-criticism. ‘Perhaps it was partly my fault that it had never been so good with Ian.’ But she shook her head. She didn’t want to go down that road. So she concentrated on the present and how she was enjoying her new life and her new man and her new attitude and the excitement that had come into her life when she met Sam.
‘Sam Dupont,’ she said to herself, but then adding for no known reason, ‘if that’s what his name really is.’
If her sexual life with Ian was mundane, Sam soon made amends.
‘You’ve got a daring imagination, darling,’ she told him one day. ‘Some of the things we get up to. In bed I mean.’
He laughed. ‘Well the missionary position has been out of fashion for quite a while, you know. People are looking for something… well… a little different, I suppose, these days.’ He looked at her intently. ‘Do you mind? Just tell me if there’s something you’d prefer not to do. Me to you, I mean. Nothing’s compulsory, you know.’
And then, ‘And, please, please tell me if there’s something you particularly like. Whether it’s me doing it to you or you doing it to yourself or both of us doing it together.’ He laughed. ‘Well, I made a mess of that sentence, didn’t I. But I think you know what I mean.’
And there was no doubt that what happened in the bedroom, and elsewhere in the flat, if truth be told, became an important and exciting part of their routine. And Sam was a great, but considerate sexual partner. Just like he’d said he’d be. Of course, she told herself, she’d had limited experience. So, who was she to judge, and what were the criteria, she wondered?
‘Well, apart from Ian, I suppose I have had a few casual engagements. And that one affair that lasted just, well, what was it? Six months or so, I suppose. Peter? Yes, of course, Peter, that was his name.’ Peter had even moved in with her. But he soon got on her nerves and this got to her. So she showed him the door. And her life went back to normal. She preferred being on her own. At that stage. Before she met Sam, that is.
So, yes, she supposed, it was probably safe to say that Sam was very good in bed. Anyway, she liked it. She always looked forward to it, and she enjoyed some of the things they did that she would once have considered risqué. Even kinky, perhaps. Just a little bit that is. ‘But nothing heavy duty,’ she thought. ‘I wonder how I’d react to anything like that. If he suggested something off the wall.’
But, with a feeling of mild relief, she added the cold rider that he had never suggested anything to do with pain, torture, extreme domination, fetishism, or any kind of sado stuff.
Not yet anyway.
Katy sometimes tried to get more about his early life out of him. But he was usually very reticent to discuss this. She managed to work out that his parents were both dead. And she knew he had an older sister and a younger brother. But he never saw either them. Never ever, he said with finality.
He told her he’d needed to see a doctor once. Regularly. But not recently. When he was younger. Although he did not use the word, she realised that it must have been some kind of therapy.
‘Not a regular GP or anything like that. I mean a shrink. You see, I was depressed for a long time. It was when I was a teenager, so I needed help. But I’m well over that stage of my life, and I’m OK now. One hundred percent, in fact.’ Then he used his trick to get off a subject he no longer wanted to discuss. ‘How about you? Ever been depressed?’
On another occasion they saw some police officers pushing two kids into a van. They, and a few other pedestrians, stopped to watch, and she realised, from his reaction, that he must have been in jail at some time. ‘They want to stay out of trouble, they do. Those kids. It’s really bad news where they’re going. And it’s hard to stay out of trouble once you’ve been there. Even if they get out quite soon the first time. Because once you’ve been in, it takes a lot of effort to stay out. They’ll find that out the next time they’re picked up. Or the time after that. Or whenever. Because sooner or later they’ll have to stay inside for quite a while. And then they’ll find out about bad things, they will. They’ll see really things you’d never want to see where they’re going. Things you wouldn’t believe could happen. Even in nightmares. Things you wouldn’t wish on anyone.’
Katy woke up confused, slightly perplexed by what had happened the night before. It had lasted a long time during the dark, midnight hours, and she lay next to him now thinking about it. The night they’d just come through.
There was no doubt that she enjoyed going to bed with Sam. If not exactly Victorian rectitude, he’d helped her to sweep aside a residual prissiness that had stayed with her as she matured. And again, she thought, you have to admire his method.
Then, as reassurance, ‘At least he had the good grace to air the ideas first. This thing he’s leading me into.’
It was true. He’d flagged what he had in mind. At first she thought he was just talking dirty or showing off. Trying to get her or himself titillated and into the right mood. But then she realised he was serious. Although he masked his ideas with chatter, levity and light-hearted banter. ‘Let’s just give it a try. I know you’ll like it. And if not, we’ll stop.’
Sam certainly was good company. And Katy loved having him around. He invariably had a slightly different perspective on ordinary, everyday things. She liked his sense of humour. She liked his casual, scruffiness. He was as interesting as he was mysterious.
‘And, well, let’s be honest,’ she said to herself, again, for the umpteenth time, he’s just great in bed.’
But an element of disquiet had crept into her mind. And it nagged at her thoughts. It wouldn’t leave, even during the daylight hours. ‘I wonder where this is going?’ kept nagging at her thoughts. ‘Just where is he leading me to?’
Katy enjoyed staying in bed late on the weekends. It was a good time to talk. Sam was sometimes quite expansive. They’d have tea, and sometimes orange juice and toast before getting up for a cooked breakfast. Or brunch. Because it was never much before the lunchtime news came on that they were up and showered and dressed. And sometimes, more often than not really, there were exciting diversions along the way. In the bathroom. Especially in the shower. Or while they were drying themselves. Quite often these escapades would lead them back into the bedroom for a while. Sometimes for quite a while.
‘Well, let’s look at it like this,’ Sam said. ‘Things change. It’s called fashion, I suppose. And I’m not only talking about clothes. It’s what’s acceptable at any given time. It’s like a pendulum. And normal sexual boundaries are wont to shift from time to time, so the definition of what’s acceptable and what’s not in bed migrates with those boundaries. What our parents would have considered bordering on perversion are commonplace practices nowadays. They thought it daring when the more licentious of them were experimenting with the outrageous idea of having intercourse with the lights on.’
She watched his face, while he was thinking. ‘I read somewhere that they make condoms for twelve year olds in Sweden these days, or perhaps it was Switzerland. Well, wherever it is, it’s a giant step forward, as the saying goes. It’s called liberation.’
Katy snuggled up to him. She put her hand on his chest. ‘I’m so glad you said that. You make so much easier to understand why you do some of the things you do. To me, I mean. Things I’ve never had done to me before.’
‘Well, don’t start thinking of yourself as any kind of pervert, Kate, just because you’ve been titillated by a few new experiences. In any case cameras and oils and toys weren’t around in our parents day were they? When they were just starting to experiment with swinging, you know wife swapping, threesomes, foursomes, orgies, drugs, and, what were they called, gang bangs? Yes, that’s it. All that kind of thing. That was considered pretty avant guarde at the time wasn’t it? But you wouldn’t turn a hair if you read about any of those today would you?’
She felt for his hand and pulled it onto her breast. ‘If you say so, darling.’
He sat up on his elbow, taking his hand away. To show that this was important. ‘Don’t just say that, Kate. Think about it. You know, I’ve been around quite a while. And I’ve thought quite it a lot. It’s such an important thing in our lives. But we always shy away from talking about it. We never teach our kids what to do. We just give them a book when they’re old enough. What did your parents say to you? Did they ever say what great fun masturbation is? How important intercourse is in a relationship? And what would they have said if you’d fallen in love with a woman?’
Katy realised he was serious. More serious than usual. She thought for a while. ‘Well no, you’re right. I don’t suppose I got very much from them.’
He relaxed back into the covers. ‘You see, I’ve seen lots of things. Like I said, I’ve been around a bit. And I’ve experienced quite some quite unusual stuff too. We won’t go into that right now, but let’s just say that tolerance is the key word. That’s the conclusion that I’ve come to, anyway. You should enjoy your own sex life and do what you want to do. Go where your ideas take you. So long as it does not damage anyone else that you’re involved with. And don’t worry about what others do. That’s their affair. I’m talking about gays. And lesbians. And others, I suppose, who do things we’d never do. But that’s none of our business.’
He put his hands behind his head and thought for a while. And then, ‘Trouble is, my theory, which is not mine really, I got it from things I’ve read, but anyway, it just doesn’t wash with kids. Young people have to be protected. And this is where it gets very complicated. Because children are a case apart. Luckily though, most people see it that way,’
Katy moved closer to him. She put her finger on his lips. He knew the signal. But he had a bit more to say to her.
‘Look, I promise you this. If I ever do something, or try something, should I say, that you’re not one hundred percent comfortable with, just say so and I’ll stop. No arguments. I promise you that.’
Katy pushed herself up against him. ‘Do it now.’ She paused. She moved her hand across his chest and down. ‘I want you now,’ she whispered, softly biting his ear. ‘And do it hard. I like it when you pound into me like that.’
And when she climaxed, just after Sam, she felt they’d shared something on a higher level.
Of course there were disagreements. Life’s not all plain sailing. Especially living with a partner. It takes effort. And determination. And stamina. To keep it on even keel. And stable.
Sam went off in a huff one day. And he was gone a long time. Katie was worried. That nagging thought had entered her head again, and there it stayed. Like a simple tune that’s played over and over in the mind. One that’s hard to get rid of.
When he got back, he was grumbling about dirty stations and trains that showed up and departed at times that bore not relation to the printed timetable.
He arrived with flowers, but he never said anything that remotely resembled an apology. Katie rationalised this to mean that he thought their argument had been too trivial to resurrect. Which it was. She’d already decided that.
In the end, she supposed, she decided, it was all good clean fun. Well, almost.
He tied her hands behind her back one night, but the knots had been rather loose. She could easily have slipped out of her bonds. Had she wanted to. But she didn’t.
So she surprised herself by submitting. To being tied up. And other things that she’d once been afraid of. She felt a kind of exhilaration at the feeling of vulnerability and helplessness. She relished the sense of being completely in his power.
Katie clearly remembered, and she could recite in her mind, what he’d said, almost word for word. That first time he’d talked about doing something really different.
‘Sure as hell was rather a surprise. A bit of a shock, in fact, I suppose you’d have to say.’ This was when Sam had asked for those scarves for the first time. It was a Friday, at breakfast. Over their yogurt and cornflakes. ‘Yes, scarves. That’s what I said. Four if you have them.’ He smiled at her, but it was, well, not evil, exactly, but a rather mysterious smile she thought. ‘Because I’m going to tie you to the bed tonight. Then I’m going to beat you to within an inch of your life. And then I’m going to ravish you.’
Katy went to work thinking about scarves. She thought about scarves all day at the office. She was thinking them when she spoke to the Office Brat in the tearoom. But she hardly remembered what they’d talked about. She thought about scarves when she was hurrying home. The idea wouldn’t shift from her mind. Thinking about what lay ahead. Apprehensive but excited by the idea of being tied up with four scarves. Would it work? Should she submit? Would she enjoy the variation? Would he hurt her? ‘Yes, yes, yes and no, well maybe,’ is how she eventually answered the three questions.
She could hardly wait to get home.
‘No point in talking to her today,’ James Bourke said at the office when she’d left. ‘What a strange mood she was in. She hardly heard what I was saying to her. She’s changed a bit has our Katie. I wonder what’s happened? I hope she’s OK. She’s a nice person, you know. When you can get through to her.’
As time passed, she’d stopped worrying about the things he liked her to do in bed. In fact she’d started to enjoy some of the bizarre positions he cajoled her into adopting. She remembered the first time he’d used the scarves. And how helpless she’d felt with her limbs spread to the four corners of the bed. But how she’d begun to enjoy the anticipation of his weight on top of her. After he’d done all the things he liked doing to her. And she’d started to enjoy having them done to her.
Including the beating he’d made such a thing of, but which, it turned out, was hardly more than a few playful smacks on her bare bum.
But the lovemaking that followed the hour or so of whatever you called this kind of thing had been pure ecstasy.
And, to be fair to Sam, he was quite happy to play the submissive role from time to time. Then it was her chance to take the lead. And she did.
On one occasion he’d added an extra dimension by tying her up with her underwear on. Then he’d cut off her bra and panties with his razor. And then he’d made love to her with fragments of fabric still clinging to her body. She surprised herself again by admitting she had been excited by the suspense of the cold blade touching her skin. And the deft way he handled the razor.
‘Mmm. That was lovely, darling,’ she whispered to him before they went to sleep. Let’s do it again.’
‘What? When? Now, do you mean? I thought we were finished for tonight. I’m whacked.’
‘Yes. No. I mean no, not now, and yes, I need some sleep. But let’s do it again. I mean, you do it again, sometime. Whenever it suits you.’
It suited him the early next morning.
Katy smiled. She was thinking about the things Sam had taught her. She had to admit that she’d been a little apprehensive at first. Even afraid. Like when he’d tied her to the bed for the first time. But he’d done it gently and caringly, she thought, without any hint of violence or sadism. And she had to admit that some of the things they did added a sense of adventure, a frisson, to what happened in bed. Even that time he’d asked if she minded being shaved. And how she’d been afraid. Perhaps this is going a step too far, she thought as he brushed and massaged her pubic area with his shaving gear. How the fear level had risen while he was sharpening his razor. And the mixture of pleasure and terror when she felt the cold steel scrape into her pubic hair.
And then the ecstasy when she felt his tongue moving through the soft, fluffy shadow.
Katy woke up, not in bed, but on the couch. She was covered with a blanket. And she had a pillow under her head. She remembered they’d been watching a video. Some pretty weird things happened in the movie. She wondered where he’d got it. But then she remembered some of the things he’d shown her on the Internet.
Sam brought her a cup of tea. He was naked, but, as usual, totally uninhibited. His body was strong and wiry with only the slightest hint of sagging muscles around his midriff. He had an intricate design tattooed on one shoulder. It was based on a Mayan sun, he’d told her.
And then she remembered the video again. But she didn’t want to dwell on that. So she put it out of her mind.
Suddenly spring arrived.
The trees were losing their grey winter sheen. Daffodils appeared in the park, overnight, or so it seemed. Window boxes struggled to show off their restless first bulbs.
Bright, warmer days were forecast. Obvious signs of change, Katy thought. This was definitely the season for lovers.
They’d made love twice already that morning. Very early when it was still dark, and then again after their Spartan breakfast. Before they embarked on their weekly replenishment program.
It was a fine day to start off with, but around noon it turned to drizzle. ‘Let’s just ignore it. Perhaps it’ll go away,’ he said, holding her hand as they wandered down the mall window-shopping.
They stopped for a while outside a pet shop. Brightly plumed birds in ornate cages and puppies on sawdust. ‘Ever thought about a dog for a pet?’ he asked her.
She laughed, remembering what they’d said at the office when they were in matchmaking mode. About enhancing the chances of meeting people if you were walking a dog. She’d almost forgotten that, it was such a long time ago now. ‘No never. I don’t like dogs much and I can’t stand cats. And that’s the last word on the subject. So please don’t ever come home with one as a surprise.’
He smiled and they walked on.
They crossed the road against the red man. A taxi hooted irritably.
At the end of the mall, when they turned into the High Street, Katy saw two thickset men walking towards them. They were taking up most of the pavement. Just as Sam let go of her hand to let them through, a third man they’d just passed loitering in a doorway stepped out and came up from behind. He struck Sam a fierce blow on the side of his head with a truncheon. Sam pitched forward onto the pavement and the three men were on him, pinning him to the ground. Another burly man got off a motorcycle as it stopped alongside them. He was holding a gun and pointing it at Sam’s head.
Katy screamed. An ugly woman with scraggy blond hair grabbed her firmly around the waist and dragged her away from the melee on the pavement. ‘Steady on miss, this won’t take long. You’re safe now.’
She looked back and saw Sam being helped to his feet. His hands were handcuffed behind his back. Two police cars arrived their sirens blaring. Sam was pushed into the back of one.
Then it was all over. In every sense of the word.
Katy put a finger in her mouth when she read the lurid redtop headline.
‘RAZOR REAGAN CAUGHT.’
She started reading the copy. ‘Samuel Reagan the notorious The Razor Killer was wrestled to the ground in a dramatic High Street capture yesterday.’
She read on:
‘Sam Reagan has been on the run for six months. He escaped from a high security facility where he was being held for life with no possibility of remission. Sam Reagan has killed five women over a period of five years.’
Katy sat down on a kitchen chair. She stopped reading, concentrating on regaining her composure. Then, as if in a dream, she read on. The tabloid gave all the gruesome details.
‘Sam Reagan tied his victim to their beds after luring them into sexual adventures that would have startled the Marquis de Sade. He then slowly cut their throats. All five victims were murdered in this way. His preferred weapon was a sharp paring knife or sometimes a cutthroat razor.’
But the really bad news for Katy was kept until the end of the article. A terrifying sting in the tail. The details were in the last line.
‘A police spokesperson said she had seldom come across such an evil person. She confirmed that Sam Reagan would be returned to prison to serve out his sentence. Which was life with no chance of parole. Fortunately for the taxpayer, this was not expected to be more than a few years due to his advanced HIV condition.’
A TEST OF WILLS
The kids found out that Wills was having an affair quite a while before his wife did.
But Jessica gradually worked it out for herself. Even blind Freddy would have picked it up. What was going on between her husband and Amber eventually became obvious to everyone. A debilitating shock spread slowly through her body.
Then, just when she was about to confront Wills with his infidelity, news of the cancer arrived. Having started in her right breast, it too was spreading through her body, but quite quickly they said.
There was some good news, however, if good is ever the right word to use with cancer. It was only type one, if only is ever the right word to use with cancer. And at this stage Jessica didn’t yet know all the tacky details about Wills and Amber. If not knowing all the tacky details about your husband’s affair with and your best friend is a helpful position to be in when you’ve just been diagnosed with a life threatening disease. Perhaps an even terminal one.
The timing of these events could not have been bleaker. News of both bobbed up just before Jessica’s fortieth birthday. They quickly put an end to any plans anyone may have had for a celebration.
‘Some present,’ she said to herself about the cancer, ‘Talk about a double whammy. Who the hell needs a breast operation at my age?’
To be fair, Wills’s affair with Amber went on the back burner straight away when he found out that Jessica was sick. After all, twenty-five years of married life did mean … well, something. So his relationship with Amber was sidelined. For a while anyway. But not for very long as it happened.
‘How on earth can you miss a hard lump in the armpit?’ they asked. ‘She must have felt it when she showered,’ was what one young mother said at the tennis club. ‘Surely you notice it when your skin takes on the rough, mottled surface of an orange?’ But in those days, screening was not yet routine, and many women avoided getting involved.
So it was easy to miss. Or to avoid recognizing because of fear of the truth.
When she first noticed the slight swelling, Jessica told herself it would go away. That it was nothing to worry about. It was simply a symptom of getting on in life, a little older, along with stiffness in the joints and the constant fight against those extra pounds around the waist. And thank God, it didn’t hurt. How could a thing that wasn’t painful be a symptom of something so terrible? Jessica convinced herself that it was nothing and it would soon be gone.
But then one of her nipples started to discharge a sticky, greenish fluid. It looked like pus, and she was so frightened that she stayed in bed all day. Without even phoning the office. Wills found her still in her nightdress when he got home. From seeing his new friend Amber. At a hotel with a rather dubious reputation. Because it hired out rooms by the hour. And they’d met there mid afternoon. Then they’d had a few drinks in the bar, before wending their respective ways home.
Although the diagnosis was positive, when one wanted it to be negative, the prognosis was, apparently, good.
In the short term that was all true. Because of huge strides in the treatment of breast cancer, surgery and postoperative chemotherapy soon returned Jessica to a relatively normal and healthy lifestyle. For a while anyway. Because, once it has paid a visit, cancer never likes to be shown the door.
Wills was very supportive during the recovery period. So were the children who provided as much support as he did. And Wills gave up seeing Amber altogether. For a while, anyway. Because once he had established that kind of relationship, it was very difficult to find the door.
But beware. Cancer is never to be taken lightly. Jessica’s reasonably aggressive procedure should have been the giveaway. Patients with a good prognosis are usually offered a less invasive treatment. So despite the prayers of her parents and children, and most of her friends and neighbors, and Wills’s positive thinking it must be said, because he did not believe in the power of prayer, the cancer turned to be much more tenacious than had first been expected. It refused to be beaten. It came back quite soon. And with a vengeance.
Once again, Wills put his assignation with Amber on the back burner for … well, for quite a while this time. But as the days dragged by, and the ambience in the home deteriorated, getting more depressing and debilitating, they started meeting again. It was Wills who initiated it and Amber didn’t need much convincing. But who can blame him? A man has his needs doesn’t he? And if he can’t get it at home, what else is he supposed to do?
Arranging the funeral was trying. It was very difficult for all concerned. The discussions were testy throughout the meeting with the undertaker. And deciding on the music, dress, coffin, makeup and flowers caused lots of arguments. What would Jessica have wanted? Well, no one knew. Because she’d never discussed it with anyone. And she’d never written anything down. Not even a will. Which meant, as they would all find out later, that all of the considerable investments that she’d inherited from her very wealthy grandfather, would automatically go to Wills.
The more family orientated arrangements were even more difficult. Wills was determined that Amber should attend the funeral. All three of the kids were vehemently pitched against this. He pointed out that Jessica had once been quite friendly with his new friend. Matty’s reply was somewhat outspoken. Without actually looking at Wills he said, ‘Yes, but that was before mum realized that you were fucking her best friend.’ The comment set the tenor for the rest of the discussion. Eventually Wills gave up and left in a huff. It was left to Russell, Karen and Matty to settle on the venue. They chose Jessica’s parent’s house, and all the other difficult details were eventually handled by Jessica’s mother.
On the day of the service, family ties exploded completely. Wills hated going into churches at the best of times, and he hung about outside talking to the few friends who had not totally ostracized him. And Amber hung around with him. So, when it was time to stop hanging around any more, and ignoring completely what was obviously the choice of his children, Wills eventually marched boldly into the church with his girlfriend. They went in to attend his dead wife’s funeral.
Wills sensed that everyone already inside was waiting for a dramatic entrance. As if expecting thunder and lightening to announce that Wills and his painted strumpet, the sinners behind this event, had arrived. Heads all over the assembled congregation moved together to mutter and whisper. And the muttering and whispering echoed high up in the arches of the nave on their way to heaven.
Needless to say, they were not invited to Jessica’s parent’s house afterwards. Russell had telephoned Wills to say he would not be welcome. So Wills had booked a large double room in an up market hotel, and they went there straight after his wife’s funeral for Champaign. And other things.
‘Perhaps we were a little hard on him,’ Russell said to Matty and Karen afterwards. ‘He was with her for twenty five years, and, after all, he is our father.’
The last straw, as far as the kids were concerned, was when Amber moved in with Wills. ‘That’s it,’ said Matty. ‘It’s the end of the ride as far as I’m concerned. I’ll never go there again.’
His brother and sister agreed. ‘You’re right Matty. It’s all over now.’
So that’s how Amber’s relocation broke the camel’s back, and the kids broke off all contact with their father. Karen used her answer machine to monitor all calls as she always had, and she never called Wills back when he left a message. Russell’s partner invariably answered their telephone phone, and although she gave Russell Wills’s messages, he never phoned his father back. And Matty didn’t have a phone in the flat he shared, so he was very difficult to get hold of.
When Wills tried writing, his letters and post cards were simply and studiously ignored.
‘Got something from dad the other day,’ Karen told Russell, but I tore the envelope up without even opening it.’ All communication between the notional head of the household and his children had come to a dead stop. A cul de sac. And nothing, it seemed, would reinstate their family relationships.
‘Look,’ Wills said to Amber before they got up one morning, but after their almost daily romp, ‘I’ve made up my mind about my kids. So this is the bottom line as far as they’re are concerned. I’m prepared to give it a year. And I’ll work hard for a rapprochement. But, if after 365 days they’re not prepared to treat me as a human being, there will be consequences. And they’ll regret how they’ve treated me.’
As usual Amber agreed with everything he said. She always did, including whenever he suggested, well… everyone knows what. Even if she didn’t feel like it. And when she could have used the perennial cliché, that she ‘had a headache’. Because she, at least, knew which side her bread was buttered on.
About six months later Wills spoke to Amber about the next move. ‘Look, I’ve tried hard to contact them, but they’re being pig headed. All three of them. As if they’re colluding against me. It appears they’re determined to be bloody-minded. So I’ve decided that a warning should be issued.’
He picked up the phone and dialed Barclay, Berber and Jordan’s number. He asked to speak to Jordan, the senior partner.
A few days later Matty phoned Russell. ‘Fucking hell, have you got the lawyer’s letter? What’s a stipend, by the way?’
‘Yes mate, just opened it. And I’ve spoken to Karen. She’s got one too. And a stipend is the cheque you get every month. Well, used to get, is probably more accurate now.’
‘Hang on mate. That was mum’s money. She inherited it from her father. And she was the one who decided that we should all have a regular income from his investments. Dad had better not be able to stop it now, because I couldn’t live without it.’
‘Frade he can mate. She left everything to him. And she never had time to change her will. Or she was too sick to do so. When she heard about his girlfriend and all that.’
There was a pause as the brothers thought about their situation.
‘Well, what are we going to do?’ asked Russell. ‘Should we speak to him. See if we can get him to change his mind?’
‘No mate, not me. Fuck him. I’d rather starve than grovel.’
Another six months went by with no sign of a thaw. Wills dialed Barclay, Berber and Jordan again and asked for Jordan. After a few pleasantries, he said, ‘Look, this is not a joke, and I’m not drunk or on drugs. I’ll come into your office to sign the papers when you’ve carried out these instructions I’m about to give you. I want to change my will. I want all my assets to go to a cat’s home. Is that clear? I’ll say it again just so there’s no misunderstanding. A cat’s home. I don’t care which one, You choose. So long as it’s definitely a bone fide cat’s home. Because I want to disinherit my kids. All of them. Utterly and completely. I never want them to get any of my money. I couldn’t care less if they live in penury for the rest of their lives and die paupers.’
As the eldest, it was Russell’s responsibility to phone his siblings when he heard from Mr Jordan.
He spoke to his sister first. She burst into tears, and hung up.
He dialed his brother’s new cellphone number. ‘Hello, Matty, I’ve just heard from dad’s solicitor again.’
‘Oh yes? He’s giving us a hand out to salve his conscience, is he?’
‘Frade not, mate. Worse than that. He phoned to say that dad has completely changed his will.’
‘Whaddaya mean, completely?’
‘Well, I hope you’re sitting down mate. You see everything goes to a fucking cat’s home.’
There was a long pause.
‘You there, Matty?’
‘Yes, but I don’t know what to say. First mum. Now this.’ Another pause. Then, ‘I hope he burns in hell. And sooner rather than later.’
‘Whoa. Don’t say that Matty. He’s still our dad. And you never know. Time heals everything. He may change his mind one day. And reinstate us all as beneficiaries. Perhaps we should start working on it. Right away. Eat some humble pie if necessary. Suck up to him a bit. Because there’s a lot of money riding on it.’
A short while later the chairman and sole principal of ‘Our Feline Friends’ got a letter from Mr Jordan.
Dear Mr Champion,
THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM “WILLS” XAVIER HODGKINS
I am writing to you as the executor of Mr Wills Hodgkin’s estate (a person who is probably quite unknown to you). Mr Hodgkins recently nominated your trust, viz, “Our Feline Friends”, also known as “Champion’s Cats Home”, as the sole beneficiary of his estate, and in his will dated 6th June, he bequeathed one hundred percent of his total assets to your trust.
As Mr Hodgkins and his partner of several years were both tragically killed in a motor accident a week ago, an amount of 1.69 million dollars has been credited to your organization’s bank account.
Please contact me directly if you have any queries.
J J Jordan.
***If you would like to read some chapters from my novel THE KILLING OF FAT BOY KOEN,
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