ALL WOMAN

Ray Anthony

Published by The X Press - 6.99
ISBN 1902934 06 7
eBook published by ACE $3.99
ISBN 978 0 9526287 2 9


CHAPTER 1

They stood 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 irrelevant.

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.

"Tracy, I'm only saying that if you're going to stay out late, you should tell me. I'm not asking for..."

"You don't own me."

"For chrissakes. I sat here waiting. I didn't know where you were or if anything had happened to you."

"I am not going to give you an account for my every movement."

"I don't want accounts of your every movement. A phone call would have been nice."

Her eyes narrowed as she leant across the table. "Piss off."

"Stop being so damn childish."

"Oh, fuck off." She banged the table with her fists.

"Yes? Where would you like me to fuck off to?"

She opened 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.

"This 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 each other."

"It was working."

"Yes, 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.

"I see. Why not? What happened?" His calmness belied his true feelings.

"I don't know why. I just know that I don't love you." She looked bored.

"So, you want to call it quits? Just like that?"

Looking momentarily into his eyes, she answered flatly. "Yes."

He leant back, stuck his hands into his pockets and looked around the room.

"What's his name?"

She threw 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."

She kissed her teeth, "You're a fucking idiot."

She wasn't 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.

Suddenly she 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 her hand.

"Who is he?"

She brushed 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."

He wouldn't 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.

She started 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..."

The sound 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.

Slowly, he 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.

She stood 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.

"I'll come from the rest of my things later," he said finally, starting towards her.

She stood firmly in his path. "This is my flat. Give me the keys."

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.

She caught 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 driving ban.

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.

"His 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.

"Who's it?" a gruff male voice demanded.

"Steve."

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."

He wasn't in the mood for jokes. "I need somewhere to crash for a night."

Andy let him in. "Woman problems?"

He wasn't in the frame of mind to talk about it. "Yeah, yeah. Kinda."

Andy nodded sympathetically. "Leave the mountain here. You want something to drink?"

"Yeah, something hot, but I'll make it. You go back to sleep. I'll tell you about it tomorrow."

He didn't want to talk about it. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.

"This 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.

Coming to 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 or not.

"One sleeping bag, one towel... and here's a dry track suit." Andy came up behind him.

"Cheers."

"Ready to talk about it?" Andy sat, expectantly.

"It's late, I'm tired. Go back to sleep."

"I was fast asleep but I'm awake now. So, what happened?"

He'd have to tell Andy something to get him off his back. "It's over. That's what happened."

Andy looked 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 twang.

He remained silent so Andy got up to leave.

"The sofa is yours for as long as it takes. See you in the morning."

"OK."

Spreading the sleeping bag on the sofa, he dived into it... It felt like he'd barely dozed off before someone was waking him up.

"What you doin' here?" Katrina asked in quiet hostility as she prodding him in the ribs with her bare foot.

He rolled over to see her staring down at him. Now here was another woman who could cause a whole heap of grief.

"I'm only staying one night," he bleated softly.

"What have you said to him?"

"Nothing much. Only that I've left that bitch." He sat up and started unzipping the sleeping bag.

"You've left Tracy?" She turned and headed for the door. "She's thrown you out more like."

He sighed. 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?

He climbed 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 he could.

Andy bounded into the room and looked him over, "Aren't you going to wash your stinky body?"

"Late for work."

"What? Plenty of time, man. Katrina is making some breakfast."

"Thanks, but I've got to split. Need to find somewhere to live, remember?"

"I told you, you can stay here," Andy protested.

"No offence mate, but that sofa and me don't 'gree," he laughed.

"OK. A tell you what, Jo knows 'nough people. I'll ask her, and if anything turns up I'll give you a bell."

Blinking, 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.'

"Naw man, you've done enough. Give me her number and I'll sort it. And anyway, long time me and her no chat."

"Cool." Half turning Andy reached for pen and paper then scribbled the number.

"Nice 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 behaviour.

***

Naheed 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.

She 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.

He 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.

He hadn't lied to Jo. This wasn't about 'going back', it was about going forward.

He 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.

***

She 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.

Yes, 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.

Her phone started ringing. She snatched it up on the third chime. "Denise Simmons."

"I'm really sorry Denise. I just forgot... Denise, say something. I said I'm sorry."

"I've told you to only phone me after four."

"It's after six, you absentminded boffin."

Turning 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?"

"No, I'm still in Dublin."

"We'll talk when you get home. Bye."

She slammed down the phone. They'd do a damn sight more than talk!

***

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 supposed.

"I'm now about as old as you were when I joined the army."

Her 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, don't you?"

Her 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?"

"You."

She 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 just heard.

"Me? You want me?" she asked sarcastically.

He gave a slight nod.

"So, 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?"

"It's eight years, five months, twelve days and," he glanced at his watch "... about four hours."

She almost smiled. "And now you want me?"

Again he gave a slight nod.

"So this has nothing to do with your woman flinging you out on the street then?"

How the fuck does she know that? Jo. How does Jo know? Andy. Bastard!

"It 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.

Despite herself her eyes suddenly filled with tears but she blinked them away.

"Also, 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.

Her eyes flicked down to the floor. Without looking up she said, "I'm in a long-term relationship."

"Well, you were bound to be. But do you love him as much as you loved me?"

Her 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."

Well, 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.

"I 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?"

"Done what?"

"Made you this... egotistic."

She 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'."

"You didn't come round when you left the army."

That 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.

"Still being a bit of a dickhead, leaving the army was just like joining. Another adventure."

Her eyes went back to the rucksack for a moment then she hung her head to the side. "You can stay but just for one night."

Ouch! No 'effin and blinding. No accusations. No recriminations. But she'd delivered 'one night' like a swift kick in the balls.

Because he didn't respond she stepped back and opened the door even further.

He didn't move.

Without speaking she gave him a hard and rapidly running out of patience stare.

Just then he'd rather sleep on a park bench that go through this 'so near and yet so far' shit.

Her stare changed to a 'What? This is exactly fuck all compared to what I had to go through' expression.

Figuring that serving penance must be a universal thing to do with pissing off women, he stepped through the door.

***

The hushed bleeping of the mobile phone woke her. Another text message: Staying u ntil tomorow. back late eve. XXXX HB.

She 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.

She 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...

"I'm dreaming, right?"

His sleepy baritone made her freeze.

"You say you want me?"

"Ugh?" He started to turn towards her

She used to like doing this. The middled of the night jump to see whether he'd wake before he got an erection.

"You want me? Show me that you want me." He was still turning so she rolled him on top of her.

"What?" He sounded disorientated, still sleepy.

Arching her back she wiggled while moving her knees to be almost under his armpits...

There! She used to spend a lot of time wondering if it was just him or could most men screw in their sleep?

"Do you want me?"

"Yeah." Looking down at her, he still far from being totally awake.

"Then fuck me like you want me."

In 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.

"Are you sure you're comfortable like this?"

"I'm comfortable, now fuck me like you really want me."

"I really want you. I really want this. And, Denise, I want you to want me too."

I'm sure you do. "Well come on, Baby, here it is."

"Are you sure you're...?"

"Yes, yes, yes."

Wrapping 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."

Now 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).

The 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.

"Is 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."

"I want you."

"Tell me like you mean it."

"I want you!"

"Fuck me like you mean it."

"Fuck you like this? Do you like it like this? Do you believe this?"

Sweat 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.

"Oh 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..."

She 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.

They 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.

Stepping out of the bed she had him looking up at her, puzzled.

"You want me? Well, you can't have me. You had it and now you've lost it. Forever."

Spinning on her heels she headed for the door. From the corner of her eyes had the satisfaction of seeing him punch the pillow.

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