scowling at each other across the table, neither prepared
to give an inch. All he wanted was an explanation. All
he was asking was why, for the third time in as many weeks,
she had seen it fit to crawl in at three a.m. She felt
that she owed him no such explanation. She was an adult,
she had stopped accounting for her movements when she'd
left home. She wouldn't cross question him if he came
in late. The fact that he never came in at that time was
This was the
latest in a recent series of vehement arguments. Something
was happening to their relationship. He had a pretty shrewd
idea of what it was. She had slowly turned off over the
last month or so . At first he'd thought that he had done
something to upset her. When he tried to get to the bottom
of it she said that everything was fine. But it wasn't.
Her behaviour had changed. They hardly spoke to each other
anymore. When they did, they always argued.
I'm only saying that if you're going to stay out late,
you should tell me. I'm not asking for..."
don't own me."
chrissakes. I sat here waiting. I didn't know where you
were or if anything had happened to you."
not going to give you an account for my every movement."
want accounts of your every movement. A phone call
would have been nice."
Her eyes narrowed
as she leant across the table. "Piss off."
being so damn childish."
fuck off." She banged the table with her fists.
Where would you like me to fuck off to?"
her mouth as if to tell him, but instead sat back down.
"This isn't working out, is it Steven?"
One of the
things he had learned through bitter experience was to
be cautious whenever she called him Steven. He also sat.
relationship is not as it should be," she continued.
"We're only kidding ourselves. You're unhappy and
so am I. This has got to stop before we end up hating
it was, for a couple of months. Then something happened..."
Her eyes became cold, distant and calculating. "I
don't love you any more," she said in quiet resignation.
Why not? What happened?" His calmness belied his
know why. I just know that I don't love you." She
you want to call it quits? Just like that?"
into his eyes, she answered flatly. "Yes."
He leant back,
stuck his hands into his pockets and looked around the
him one of her cutting glances. "Can't your inflated
ego handle the fact that after living with you for ten
months I can no longer stand the sight of you. There has
to be another man, does there?"
She was aiming
to hurt and humiliate him. He would be damned if he'd
let her. "Don't take me for a fucking idiot."
her teeth, "You're a fucking idiot."
going to get him lose. He wouldn't allow her to. Taking
his hands out of his pockets he folded them on the table.
Then, as conversationally as he could manage. he asked,
"Where's your cap?"
Her eyes went
wild. "You bastard! How dare you go through my things."
She jumped up, snatching her handbag off the sideboard.
He'd anticipated that move. With one hand he grabbed both
her arms, yanked her back into her seat and pinned her
arms to the table. She started to struggle. He let her
twist and turn for a while. Unable to break free she bent
to bite his hand. He lent back and with his free hand
slapped her face - not hard, but hard enough to let her
know who was running the show. Her head snapped back and
hair fell across her face. Like some cornered animal she
stared out at him in disbelief. Whatever it was that she
saw in his face frightened her.
pulled away and tried to kick him under the table. He
heard the loud crack of shin bone against timber as her
leg connected with the cross supports. The pain registered
and her eyes filled with water but she didn't make a sound.
Holding her fast, he twisted the handbag out of her grasp,
flicked the catch open and upended it. Make-up, keys,
diary, tube of spermicidal cream and the all-important
cap container scattered across the table. He released
the hair away from her face and scowled at him. With a
mixture of sobs, sneers and laughter she wailed, "If
you were any good... If, if you knew the first thing about
satisfying a woman... Who is he? A real man, that's who."
lose his temper. He couldn't afford to lose it. If he
did, he would start boxing her all round the room. Clamping
his mouth shut, he pushed his hands deep into his pockets.
All things considered, it was the best place for them.
massaging her leg under the table and with tears flowing
whined, "I'm fed-up of having to say, 'I enjoyed
that', when I didn't. You want to know something? Size
does matter. You'd do better using your finger. And another..."
of woman and chair crashing to the floor made him sit
up with a start. He knew what had happened, but he had
no recollection of how. One moment she was sitting opposite,
her mouth opening and closing, the next she wasn't. He
was sitting as before, except that his hands were no longer
in his pockets.
stood. He looked down at her. She was lying perfectly
still, spread eagled on the floor, a bloody gash on the
side of her head. He stared at her numbly; at the wholesomeness
of her face, and the fullness of her breasts. Her skirt
was up around her waist, a damp patch on her knickers.
She was still breathing he noted. He should pick her up...
Perhaps not, he just might end up throttling her. Instead,
he turned and without a backward glance, walked out of
the small diner. On autopilot he went into the bedroom
and took his rucksack from on top of the wardrobe. His
mind was blank, which was just as well, because if he
started to thinking he would go back in there and... He
started throwing things into the rucksack. Finally stuffing
a pair of trainers into the side pockets he zipped it
up. Grabbing his wallet he turned to leave.
blocking the bedroom door. With one hand she wiped a trickle
of blood away from her ear. In the other hand she held
a twelve-inch carving knife. He looked at her and the
knife. She looked at him and the rucksack. They stood
like that for several moments, she was more frightened
that he was.
come from the rest of my things later," he said finally,
starting towards her.
firmly in his path. "This is my flat. Give me the
It was his
flat in that he'd bought it and it was he who paid the
mortgage. But the bad news was that it was registered
in her name, on account of some County Court Judgments
he'd tripped over while discovering he wasn't cut out
to be an entrepreneur. She clearly intended to take him
apart, and not just in matters of fidelity. He took the
keys from his pocket and tossed them to her. This wasn't
capitulation, but he had to get away from here and he
had to do it now. He was on the edge of something. If
he stepped over he would end up in prison.
the keys and stepped backwards into the corridor. He pushed
past her, went to his bicycle and started to attach the
lights. He didn't fancy cycling at this time of the night,
but that's what you get for a three-year drinking and
She came up behind him still brandishing the knife, like
it somehow protected her. He looked down at her and then
heaved the rucksack over one shoulder and the bicycle
over the other. She took one step closer, changed her
grip on the knife and gave him a look of contempt.
name is Lewis... And he's white. I call him 'Lewis the
Lover' because every time we make love, he makes me come."
Did she really
think that meant anything to him? If the stupid cow knew
anything about stabbing she wouldn't be holding the knife
like she intended to butter some toast with it. Didn't
she realise how easily he could disarm her? Disarm her
and... Yet he did nothing, nor did he speak. Yes, she
had really hurt him and the best he could manage was to
suppress his desire to commit murder.
As she flopped
onto the bed and kicked off her shoes her mobile bleeped.
Massaging her foot with one hand, she reached into her
handbag with the other. Text message: Got to go to
Dublin. Back Thursday. C u l8r. XXX HB. No phone all.
No email. No explanation. Just 'C u l8r.' Placing the
phone on the pillow beside her, she eased out of her skirt
then undid her blouse and wearily folded them both over
the end of the bed. Taking off her bra she slid under
the duvet, far too tired for anger.
It was 4:15
a.m. He rang the bell again, then stood there shivering,
soaked to the skin. He'd left without his waterproofs
and, in keeping with the kind of day he was having, the
heavens decided to open up.
A light finally
came on and he heard footsteps coming down the hall.
it?" a gruff male voice demanded.
The door opened
and Andy stuck his sleepy head out. Looking his visitor
up and down, he laughed. "You don't half look pitiful,
like a drowned rat."
in the mood for jokes. "I need somewhere to crash
for a night."
Andy let him
in. "Woman problems?"
in the frame of mind to talk about it. "Yeah, yeah.
sympathetically. "Leave the mountain here. You want
something to drink?"
something hot, but I'll make it. You go back to sleep.
I'll tell you about it tomorrow."
want to talk about it. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.
is tomorrow," Andy beamed expectantly. When Steve
didn't respond he shrugged. "I'll get you a sleeping
bag." With that he disappeared into the bedroom.
Andy like this was his first, last and only resort. But
the stay could only be temporary due to a certain of friction
between him and Katrina, Andy's girlfriend. She allow
one night of grace. Then he had to get out, best friend
sleeping bag, one towel... and here's a dry track suit."
Andy came up behind him.
to talk about it?" Andy sat, expectantly.
late, I'm tired. Go back to sleep."
fast asleep but I'm awake now. So, what happened?"
to tell Andy something to get him off his back. "It's
over. That's what happened."
doubtful. "You reckon? You'll go back. You're hooked
on the woman," he said with certainty. "And
a mighty fine woman she is too," he added in a yankee
silent so Andy got up to leave.
sofa is yours for as long as it takes. See you in the
the sleeping bag on the sofa, he dived into it... It felt
like he'd barely dozed off before someone was waking him
you doin' here?" Katrina asked in quiet hostility
as she prodding him in the ribs with her bare foot.
over to see her staring down at him. Now here was another
woman who could cause a whole heap of grief.
only staying one night," he bleated softly.
have you said to him?"
much. Only that I've left that bitch." He sat up
and started unzipping the sleeping bag.
left Tracy?" She turned and headed for the door.
"She's thrown you out more like."
Here we go again.
What was Katrina's
problem? He could no more jump on his best friend's girlfriend
than he could one of his sisters. Maybe he'd allowed it
to go too far. Maybe saying, 'we'd better stop', when
she was already naked was far too late. But he hadn't
seen what was coming. He really hadn't. He'd only taken
her out like Andy had asked him to, while Andy was in
Jamaica. You don't expect your best friend's girlfriend
to make moves on you, do you?
out of the sleeping bag, crept over to the rucksack and
started rummaging around for a fresh pair of boxers. She
was back, standing by the door and he was stark bollock
naked. Slowly and deliberated she pulled her dressing
gown apart to give him a full frontal of the body he could
have had. He froze. She kept her eyes on his cock. It
was difficult for him to hide it from her. She moved her
legs apart and kept that pose until he had a respectable
erection. Then she smiled spitefully, wrapped the gown
around her and was gone. Talk about intimidation. What
did she want from him? Women the weaker sex? They didn't
half know how to cause pain. He got dressed as fast as
into the room and looked him over, "Aren't you going
to wash your stinky body?"
Plenty of time, man. Katrina is making some breakfast."
but I've got to split. Need to find somewhere to live,
you, you can stay here," Andy protested.
mate, but that sofa and me don't 'gree," he laughed.
A tell you what, Jo knows 'nough people. I'll ask her,
and if anything turns up I'll give you a bell."
he had to shake his head trying to clear it, then he just
stared at Andy. At the mention of Jo's name the revelation
had hit with force of a hurricane. What was it they'd
called it in his favourite film? 'A moment of clarity.'
man, you've done enough. Give me her number and I'll sort
it. And anyway, long time me and her no chat."
Half turning Andy reached for pen and paper then scribbled
one. Check you later." Taking the pre-offered scrap
of paper he grabbed his rucksack and headed for the door
hoping that Andy hadn't found anything strange in his
came into the workshop at about three o'clock and shouted
to tell him that someone was on the phone. He pulled himself
from under the car. With the loud music echoing around
the arches, he mouthed 'thanks' and started over. She
waited by the door and beamed at him.
He followed her down the warren-like passages. She was
waggling her arse with an exaggerated femininity. And
of course, she was wearing a ridiculously short skirt
- that's how she always dressed. Difficult to ignore.
Not for the first time he found himself trying to get
a handle on her. She wasn't white. She wasn't black. Nor
was she mixed raced. She could have been Indian except
that her hair didn't look Indian. Maybe she was Mediterranean.
Naheed? How old was she? 'Bout twenty-four, he guessed.
was the only woman working with seven men. He supposed
that she must crave the attention. Why did she need to
do that? She was seriously fit. He knew for a fact that
at least three of the lads had been there, including Tony
the boss and he was married with kids. Still, she was
a nice girl, always smiling. And she ran the place. Tony
just signed anything she put in front of him. She did
everything that needed doing except fix cars.
followed her cute arse into the office and picked up the
phone. It was Jo; she'd got his message, guessed what
he wanted, and no fucking way was she going to comply
or get involved. With Naheed standing there he didn't
want to start grovelling but, then again, this was important
so he simply said, 'Please, I beg you, please.' Jo's response
was 'You can't go back Steve,' which was good because
she'd said it like she was his big sister. It then took
him a little while, without sounding too much of a toady,
to persuade her that 'going back' was not his purpose.
Eventually, she gave him the address.
hadn't lied to Jo. This wasn't about 'going back', it
was about going forward.
lived in Kennington, worked in Vauxhall and the address
was in Fulham. He didn't fancy cycling all the way to
Fulham. No point in bawling about it, he had to get to
Fulham and give it his best shot. And, his best shots
were usually good enough.
had been working at this since six a.m. Finally, she managed
to debug the system. She was a systems engineer, not a
software engineer - this was not her bloody job! But the
company's attitude was, 'We pay you a great deal of money.
We're entitled to total dedication.' The software engineers
had cocked up, yet again, then had spent nearly a week
trying to iron it out, getting nowhere fast, and deadlines
approaching. So, yet again, she was dragged in.
they couldn't see the wood for the trees. Yes, they needed
a fresh pair of eyes. Yes, it was just like checking your
own spelling - seeing only what you expect to see. She
accepted all that. But why was it always her? She wasn't
in the States, Scandinavia, or the Far East that's why.
She was right on the doorstep. The thing that galled her
the most was that no one would say 'thanks' afterwards.
phone started ringing. She snatched it up on the third
chime. "Denise Simmons."
really sorry Denise. I just forgot... Denise, say something.
I said I'm sorry."
told you to only phone me after four."
after six, you absentminded boffin."
to the clock behind her, she saw that it was 6:07. No
wonder her shoulders and neck were hurting. "Are
you at home now?"
I'm still in Dublin."
talk when you get home. Bye."
slammed down the phone. They'd do a damn sight more than
Boy meets girl; boy leaves girl; boy realise
he's made a mistake and goes back to girl; girl chews
up and spits out boy. He was pretty sure that 'nough
songs have been written about this...
He vaguely knew the area. The ride over had been a pain
in the arse. Literally. But it hadn't taken him long
to find the street. A cycle ride from Vauxhall to Fulham
was more than enough time to get your argument together.
However, he hadn't put one together. He was simply going
to tell it like it was.
He pressed the bell for flat B and heard someone coming
down the stairs. The someone paused for a longish moment
before opening the door just enough to peek out. On
seeing him Denise opened it further, pulled herself
up to her full height, and just looked at him...
It was the wrong look, she was expecting him - Jo he
now about as old as you were when I joined the army."
eyes narrowed when they glanced over his shoulders to
take in his rucksack. This was OK coz his had taken in
the lack of a wedding ring. Everyone always said she was
a Naomi Campbell look-a-like. Yes, it was meant to be
a compliment but he always took it as an insult: she was
much prettier that Naomi Campbell. He smiled. "When
you're eighteen you have some weird ideas of what's important,
eyes started somewhere near his trainers and slowly worked
their way up to the top of his head like they were seeing
something you usually scraped off the bottom of your shoes.
"What do you want?"
did a double take, went to shout but choked in down, then
her eyes started panning to the left and right of him
as if frantically seeking an interpreter for what she
You want me?" she asked sarcastically.
gave a slight nod.
you can just pack up and leave. And then after ten years
without even so much as a 'Wha'appen dawg?' you drag your
black backside back and park it at my door?"
eight years, five months, twelve days and," he glanced
at his watch "... about four hours."
almost smiled. "And now you want me?"
he gave a slight nod.
this has nothing to do with your woman flinging you out
on the street then?"
the fuck does she know that? Jo. How does Jo know?
has everything to do with it. It probably takes the trauma
of something like that to make you realise that eighteen
year old boys shouldn't go out with twenty-six year old
women. That the life experience gap is too great. That
an eighteen-year-old boy can't really appreciate what
a twenty-six year old woman's got to give. That when she
loved him up, what she was really doing was spoiling him
for other women. This morning, around seven o'clock, I
clued in to this..." He did say he was going to tell
it like it was.
herself her eyes suddenly filled with tears but she blinked
because she was twenty-six and not eighteen she'd be more
committed, because she was more committed she'd be more
hurt, and because she was more hurt she'll be less forgiving."
That just about completed the gist of his early morning
revelation. Now that he'd layed it on the line he watched
closely for her reaction.
eyes flicked down to the floor. Without looking up she
said, "I'm in a long-term relationship."
you were bound to be. But do you love him as much as you
eyes slowly came up to meet his. She didn't say anything
for a while. Then she mumbled, as if more to herself than
to him, "You can't do this."
she hadn't said 'Rot in hell you bastard.' Yet he wasn't
feeling elated or hopeful. Why? If this was a going for
broke stroke, why wasn't he feeding her some lines? He
hadn't clapped eyes on her in eight years, five months,
twelve days and about four hours. Why wasn't he telling
her how criss she looked for a thirty-five/thirty-six-year-old?
Brutal honesty, that's why.
know I shouldn't do this. I know it's taking the
piss, right? But I can do it. I'm doing it because what
I'm saying is real."
Her eyes flashed anger. "Has the army done that to
you this... egotistic."
probably had a point but it had little to do with the
army. And much more to do with the recent appreciation
of how he could be so good at getting women into bed while
being total crap at keeping them as girlfriends. He was
looking at the cause... But, if he told her that it would
definitely sound like a line. "I can't change the
past. All I can do is say 'sorry'."
didn't come round when you left the army."
was said conversationally, almost in passing, but for
the first time he saw hurt in her eyes. It also
illuminated why she wasn't having a blue fit - there were
some women that he could think of who'd just invite him
in and, once they got him inside, string him up by his
balls - she didn't want to show him how she felt.
being a bit of a dickhead, leaving the army was just like
joining. Another adventure."
eyes went back to the rucksack for a moment then she hung
her head to the side. "You can stay but just for
No 'effin and blinding. No accusations. No recriminations.
But she'd delivered 'one night' like a swift kick in the
he didn't respond she stepped back and opened the door
speaking she gave him a hard and rapidly running out of
then he'd rather sleep on a park bench that go through
this 'so near and yet so far' shit.
stare changed to a 'What? This is exactly fuck all compared
to what I had to go through' expression.
that serving penance must be a universal thing to do with
pissing off women, he stepped through the door.
hushed bleeping of the mobile phone woke her. Another
text message: Staying u ntil tomorow. back late eve.
checked the time; one o'clock. One o'clock in a hotel
bar in Dublin getting smashed. Resisting the urge to hurl
the phone across the room, she got out of bed and headed
for the loo. Plonking her self down and rubbing the sleep
out of her eyes, she had a satisfying pee and... She was
having difficult sleeping anyway and... She was seriously
pissed off and... No more ands. She didn't care.
ran a shallow bath she squatted in it and took her time,
much more time than necessary for mere hygiene, washing
her fanny. Then she dried herself, took some calming deep
breaths, and strolled into the spare room. Already naked
she slipped into the bed. He was fast asleep, lying on
his side with his back to her. Placing her arm around
his waist she rested the palm of her hand on the flat
of his stomach, and started to stroke...
sleepy baritone made her freeze.
say you want me?"
He started to turn towards her
used to like doing this. The middled of the night jump
to see whether he'd wake before he got an erection.
want me? Show me that you want me." He was still
turning so she rolled him on top of her.
He sounded disorientated, still sleepy.
Arching her back she wiggled while moving her knees to
be almost under his armpits...
She used to spend a lot of time wondering if it was just
him or could most men screw in their sleep?
you want me?"
Looking down at her, he still far from being totally awake.
fuck me like you want me."
the dim light she could see his eyes blaze. She just smiled
up at him. No need to tell him twice. Raising himself
he moved his arms until his elbows were at the back of
her knees, hands under her, gripping her shoulders. Even
after eight years, five months, twelve days and however
many hours she knew exactly what he was going to say next.
you sure you're comfortable like this?"
comfortable, now fuck me like you really want me."
really want you. I really want this. And, Denise,
I want you to want me too."
sure you do. "Well come on, Baby, here it
you sure you're...?"
her arms around his neck she pulled him down into a kissing
embrace. Then he started to move, ever so slowly. Abruptly
moving out of sync and to a different rhythm, she let
him know that 'slow' wasn't what she had in mind. Breaking
the kiss she whispered in his ear, "Show me how much
you want me."
there was much more purpose and urgency about him, more
vigour and masculine intensity in his every movement.
Now they were really fucking, and she knew that he could
easily keep this up for an hour (that's unless he'd changed,
which she very much doubted).
temperature under the duvet rose, with sweating skin gliding
against sweating skin. She kicked the duvet away and lifted
her legs over his shoulders, then kissed him to pre-empt
the inevitable inquiry about her comfort. She never understood
why he couldn't get it through his thick skull that she
wouldn't do anything she found uncomfortable.
this how much you want me? Just this much, no more?"
she mocked, extended her fingers to fondle the cheeks
of his ample backside; signalling 'Faster! Harder! More!'
"Oh. Show me, show me, Baby. Tell me you want me."
me like you mean it."
me like you mean it."
you like this? Do you like it like this? Do you believe
was trickling down his face and drip, dripping onto her
neck, cleavage and breasts. Now almost upright he had
only one hand around her shoulder, pulling her to him
in time with their synchronous bumps and grinds. He could
keep at this but what she really wanted was for him to
come and come now.
Steven. Fuck me. Show me. Fuck me!" Sinking her nails
into his bum she drove him faster and faster. "Show
me, show me, show me. Ah. Ahh! Baby, just like this. Yeah,
just like thahh... Ooh... Harder..."
felt a more distant, a more detached, part of herself
sit back to spectate. It noted the urgency of his response
to her entreaty. He was strong, overexcited, unrestrained
and with her feet somewhere near her ears, she was now
bloody uncomfortable. She could feel every muscle in his
body tense as fifteen stones of man pounded into her,
his entire body quaking. "Oh. Denise, Denise, Deniseee!"
When he gently lowered her feet off his shoulders with
his cock still inside her, she made sure it popped out.
Collapsing to lie next to her he tried to kiss her fully
on the lips, she presented her cheek then turned her back
to him and he pulled her into a relaxed cuddle.
lay like that, neither speaking, just the warmth of their
bodies and the sound of their simultaneous breathing punctuating
the silence for the next ten minutes. This aroused and
it would only take him about ten minutes, unless he'd
changed. Rolling onto her stomach and folding her arms
under her, she raised her arse and, holding her breath,
waited. Quickly sitting up, he moved to be behind her.
So predictable. After all these years and she was still
able to read him. Doggy.
out of the bed she had him looking up at her, puzzled.
want me? Well, you can't have me. You had it and
now you've lost it. Forever."
on her heels she headed for the door. From the corner
of her eyes had the satisfaction of seeing him punch the