Carol and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary earlier this year with a small get together at our house for family and friends. The whole gang was there. Our two boys, Jake and Harry; Carol’s sisters Jean and Claire and their husbands and kids; my brother Tom and his wife Elaine and her barren womb; our either side neighbours, Eric and Suzanne and Ross and Jessica, respectively; Ed and Rob, two of my colleagues from the bank and Jennifer, Pat and Rose, fellow teachers at Carol’s school. Namely, the same coterie I’ve seen at every function for as long as I can remember.
There came a certain point in the evening when Tom led all those present in a toast to the happy couple.
‘Here’s to Jon and Carol and the next twenty years.’
Everyone raised their glasses and cheered as Carol and I kissed. It was a touching scene. And only I and one other person present knew that it was all complete bullshit.
Later that evening, after everyone had left, I received a text. ‘Wait and see what I got you for our anniversary…’
I looked up at Carol who was clearing away glasses and smiled.
‘It’s from that Chinese restaurant,’ I said. ‘Bloody nuisance. Why don’t you go on up and let me finish up here?’
‘Well, ok,’ she said. ‘I am exhausted.’
‘So what’s new?’ I thought. I kissed her and wondered yet again at the completeness of her transformation into her mother. The same pinched, prissy lips, the same lustre-free grey-blonde hair, the same infuriating fatalism. Yet the old lady, now long since dead, had been pushing her mid sixties at the time I had first made her acquaintance. Carol was a woman of forty-six.
After she had gone upstairs, I replied to the text.
‘Can u talk?’
‘Yes,’ came the reply.
I dialled her number and she answered immediately.
‘So was tonight utterly fucking hellish for you?’ she said.
‘I think you know the answer to that,’ I said. ‘What’s this present then?’
‘The Oasis on Monday. All will be revealed,’ she said and hung up…
…The next day, Sunday, was the usual drag. I read the papers in the morning, mowed the grass in the afternoon, walked the dog at dusk. Eric invited us over for drinks that night and as I sat there, smiling and exchanging platitudes, I thought about the roles we play on a daily basis and the truth that lies behind the masks we adopt. Considered in this light, my entire public life was a sham. I no longer loved my wife yet I persevered with our marriage for the sake of our children and appearances. I hated my job but was too craven and set in my ways to do anything about it. My friends bored me to death but I put up with them because having no friends, or, more pertinently, being seen to have no friends, seemed a less desirable state of affairs. Perhaps all of this was why I clung so fervently not just to The Oasis and what she and I did there, but to the idea of The Oasis. That there existed a place where I knew I would never have to lie, where I could be absolutely free from the artifice that otherwise defined me, was the only thing that gave me the strength to keep on going. Without it, I probably would have killed myself long ago.
Our anniversary. It would be five years on Monday…She and Carol had been at a concert, hadn’t they? Tom Jones, I think it was. She was more than a little drunk, as was I. She wore tight, faded hipster jeans, a blouse of heavy crimson satin and had a white kerchief knotted about her neck. (Whenever I summon up her image, it is always tinged with those very colours.) We argued about some sexist remark of mine. She was an impossible adversary. She still is. Her main technique is provocation. That night she deployed it, and no mistake. The angrier I became, the more outrageously she goaded me. She called everything, from my intelligence to my masculinity, into question.
The more heated our exchanges became, the closer our physical proximity. At some point, though, it must have become too close because she slapped me. The stillness of the room in the immediate aftermath was dream-like. She said sorry but barely managed to get the word out before I had stopped her mouth with mine. She pushed me away and looked at me with a stunned expression that I could identify with absolutely. I’ll never know what possessed me to do it and hence was in as much of a state of shock as she was. Then she leaned forward and, taking my wrists in either of her hands, forced me back on to the sofa we were sitting on. Her expression was one of the utmost gravity. It asked me from where did I get my balls and, at the same time, what I intended to do next.
As I brought my mouth towards hers, I noticed she kept her eyes open. They remained so, still cagily watchful as our tentative kisses became more extravagant. Fascinated, I watched their expression change gradually, at first softening to amusement, followed by a gentle fluttering that suggested fatigue and finally their re-awakening, ablaze with the heat I could güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri now feel animating every inch of the body pressing down on mine. I pulled my lips away from hers and took her face in my hands.
‘What are we doing?’ I gasped.
‘This,’ she said kissing me again. ‘And this,’ she breathed into my mouth, her hand straying to my crotch. I unbuttoned her blouse and ran my tongue down her thorax, leaving a glistening stain upon the burnt sugar of her cleavage. She wriggled her body to help me in peeling her jeans from her hips, the sweat-pants I had on also being removed in the process. I touched her between her legs, pushing the thong she wore aside, my other hand cradling the side of her face, holding it steady so that she couldn’t avert her eyes.
‘Look at me,’ I said. I felt the wet meat of her cunt envelop the tip of my cock. She twisted her head and bit my finger hard enough to make me gasp. I felt myself plumb the last few velvet inches of her and was on the point of uttering some inanity on the topic of how good she felt when her phone beeped in her handbag.
‘Shit, I’d better get that,’ she said and, with me still inside her, leaned the top half of her body down and retrieved her phone. It was absurd.
‘Who the fuck is that?’ I whispered, pulling my hips back slowly to retract my cock. She giggled and gasped at the same time. ‘
‘It’s no-one. Don’t stop,’ she said.
I pushed myself into her again while she, with admirable skill, tapped out a reply. I couldn’t stop laughing and neither could she. Text sent, she dropped her phone to the floor and leaned forward to kiss me, extending her tongue towards mine and then pulling it away at the last second.
‘You have to be quicker than that,’ she sighed.
‘Like this?’ I quickened the tempo of my thrusts into her.
‘You don’t know what you mean, do you?’ She shook her head and bit her lip like the misbehaving girl she had once been. I closed my eyes and felt her torso bear down on mine, her face coming to rest in the crook of my neck. I felt for her breast, twisting the nipple clockwise, then anticlockwise as if seeking the combination to her. When my eyes opened again, I found her looking up at me, her pupils dark as spots of dried blood, a plaintive something trickling from her parted lips. Her thighs tautened and grasped mine.
‘Yes.’ Placing one hand over the other upon my chest she pushed herself aloft, her back arched like a poised bow, her ribcage stark beneath her breasts. She pressed down mightily upon me as if trying to smash through my sternum, the minor tremor that shook her belying the magnitude of the implosion I could feel underway inside her. Her chin drooped and she exhaled raggedly.
‘Is it okay to…?’ I gasped.
Later on, after she had left and I had taken my place next to a comatose Carol in the bedroom upstairs, I could still feel a vestige of the monstrous orgasm my new lover had wrung from me. I was so exhilarated that I didn’t sleep at all that night. Like Colombus catching a glimpse of the West Indies for the first time, I found myself on the threshold of an entirely new world.
Monday evening. A mass exodus of bodies from the glass and chrome monstrosities of the financial district. At the exit to the underpass on the opposite side of the river, the bulk of the crowd swung left, towards the station, where they would board trains back to the suburbs. The others, me included, turned to the right and the lamplit embankment by the river, past the lead poisoned trees and the benches with their resident vagrants, heading towards downtown and its myriad pleasures.
I turned left at the old cathedral, now an art gallery, and entered Summerhill, a gone to seed Georgian quarter that the developers had as yet failed to get their hands on. The majority of the houses had been converted into cheap apartments for students attending the University and the Art College on the other side of the river and as such, the general ambience was mild Bohemia. The pavement narrowed and its incline became steeper as I moved deeper into the district. Now the shabby facades of formerly splendid houses gave way to a square in which a cluster of shops huddled around a shuttered fruit market. The quality of the latter’s produce was legendary and one of the few things that still brought outsiders into the area. It was what had brought her here that day four years ago. And it had led to her discovery of the oasis to which I now made my way…
…The necessity of a safe place for us to meet had become apparent early on. There was a certain thrill to be had in defiling our respective marital beds and fucking in the back seat of my car while parked by the seafront or on the heath above the city, but it was a precarious state of affairs. Neither of us was prepared to wait around for opportune moments to arise, the hit and run shit, as she called it.
‘When I güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri need to see you, I need to see you,’ was how she put it. I felt the same. I promised her I would get right on it but in truth, beyond some cursory examination of property websites and supplements, I didn’t do very much, mainly because I wasn’t sure what to do. Buying or renting an flat somewhere was the ideal scenario but neither of us could afford it. Hotels, though we resorted to them occasionally, were too risky – in a small city, you never knew who you’d run in to. I toyed with the idea of a mobile home or a caravan but dismissed it as impractical. Anyway, both of our middle-class sensibilities revolted against the very idea. There didn’t seem to be any acceptable solution. And then one day she had rang me, breathlessly excited.
She’d been at the Summerhill Market on her lunch-break (the Courthouse, where she worked as a stenographer, was situated nearby on the riverfront). ‘Melons,’ she said, and laughed. ‘I was doing prosciutto that evening. I took a stroll up Lanchester where the charity shops are – you know the street I mean, across from the park with the memorial fountain, right? – and there’s this closed down nightclub there, The Oasis, that used to be a strip club or a brothel or something, belonged to that unpronounceable Armenian mob guy? Then there was the raid and the court case, the mysterious fire, all of that. So I’m walking past this place when who comes out of the alley next to it only Judy, she’s a detective, I know her from work…’
‘This story better be going somewhere,’ I said.
‘Oh, but it is. Well, we’re chatting and we get on to the subject of the club and whatnot, and you know what she tells me? She owns the building! After all the business went down there, there was some kind of bent auction of the Armenian’s assets and more for kicks than anything, she bought the place for peanuts. But now the upshot is Judy’s got a white elephant on her hands. Nothing’s shifting around there, and to make the place sellable she’d have to spend a bundle. Then, straight out, I tell her I’ll buy it. She doesn’t even blink, just shakes my hand and says, done. There’s some papers to be signed but…it’s ours, babe!’
‘How much?’ I said.
She quoted a ridiculously low figure.
‘That’s crazy,’ I said. ‘How is that even possible?’
‘There’s a flat upstairs,’ she went on. ‘It needs a little work…’
‘How much work?’ I said.
‘There’s some smoke damage…it’s not important. Babe, this is what we’ve dreamed about. Our own place. I thought you’d be pleased.’
‘I am. It’s just…’
‘What? What is it?’
‘You can’t just rush into something like this,’ I said.
‘Oh fuck it, I get it now,’ she said. ‘You don’t like that I took the initiative. So I’ll just give it back, will I? We can go back to shagging in car parks like a couple of stray cats.’
I sighed and held the phone away from my ear. I was in no mood for a fight.
‘…at least have a look at the place…’ she was saying when I tuned in again.
‘I’ll do that.’
‘Sometimes I don’t know why the fuck I bother,’ she said and hung up.
That makes two of us, I thought.
A day or two later, we met in a cafe across from the fruit market for what was to be my first look at our new nightclub. She had already arrived when I got there, even though I was five minutes early, and was sitting in an alcove towards the back, twirling a cappucino cup back and forth on its saucer.
‘What’s the face for?’ I said.
‘If you’re trying to piss me off more than you’ve done already, you’re going about it the right way.’
‘Let’s not, ok?’
‘Are you coming?’ She picked up her bag and stood up.
‘After you,’ I said.
We didn’t speak a word on the way to the club. I remained a step behind her all the way like a queen’s consort. There was some consolation to be had in the adoption of such a vantage point, however. Though I had seen her in many guises, it was in the formality of her work attire that she was at her most desirable to me. That day she was wearing a charcoal grey jacket with a matching knee-length pencil skirt, worn over a wide lapelled ivory blouse. Her legs were clad in sheer tan nylon and there were pearls in the buckles of her high heeled black shoes to complement those she wore about her neck and in the lobes of her ears. She wore her newly lightened hair down and I smiled as I watched her struggle to control the disobedient strands that the breeze sent skittering about her face. As we turned into Lanchester Street, she glanced back at me over her shoulder. I knew by the tightness around her mouth and the minute squint disfiguring her eyes that she was still angry. But she could no more hide her excitement from me than I could from her.
I drew level with her and touched my hand to hers.
‘You’re still a fucking arsehole,’ she said.
‘I know. It’s hard to stay mad though, güvenilir bahis şirketleri isn’t it?’ I squeezed her hand, heartened by the counter pressure she applied.
‘Well, no, and now you’re doing that emotional broker thing that I hate. Spare me your tips on what are the most appropriate feelings. Otherwise, we’ll have a problem. Here we are.’
We had stopped before an lane that ran alongside a building whose lower facade was concealed by a blue hoarding.
‘There’s a door to the upstairs down there,’ she said.
We entered the permanent twilight of the lane, glass and gravel crackling beneath our soles. The smell of her warm perfume mingled with that of the damp putrescence of our surroundings excited me immeasurably. She took a bunch of keys from her bag and undid the padlock and then the Yale lock on a scuffed metal plated door next to a drainpipe that sputtered water from a neat incision.
‘It’s so dark,’ I said, faced with the leering mouth formed by the doorway.
‘The electric still works, at least,’ she said. I followed her inside, breathing with the shallow reverence I reserved for my rare visits to church and art galleries. She flicked a switch and revealed a damp smelling hallway leading to a set of double doors in front of us and a stairway curving away up to our left, horror film green in the jittery fluorescent light. From somewhere in the building came the sound of running water. Otherwise, the silence was so complete that the sounds generated by our bodies – our breathing, the gurgle of fluid in her stomach – were amplified to startling proportions. She linked her arm in mine and shivered.
‘Let’s go up, shall we? It’s creepy down here.’
Halfway up the stairs, I stepped in front of her and kissed her.
‘This is fucking insane,’ I said. ‘I love it. We own a crime scene.’
Her mouth curled as it did when she attempted to stifle laughter but she failed on this occasion. Our ensuing kiss was slower and significantly deeper than the previous one.
‘Come on, I want you to see the flat. We haven’t much time,’ she said. I adored that woeful crack in her voice, a surefire tell that she was feeling horny. Still laughing, she took my hand again and led me up the remaining steps to a tiny landing flanked by two doors. As she unlocked the one to the right, I asked her what was behind the other one.
‘That’s where I keep the bodies of my other victims,’ she said.
‘Are you going to violate me before you kill me?’
She pushed the door open and stepped aside to let me see the place. ‘You, more than any of the rest of them,’ she said, her mouth against my ear, ‘I am going to destroy.’
I reached down and elevated her thigh, my other hand smoothing the tightly stretched fabric over her buttocks.
‘Would you care for a guided tour?’ Her breath was scalding upon my lips and carried an undercurrent of ripeness suggestive of the more intimate recesses of her body. My tongue slid over hers and into her mouth, in search of a richer lode of that essence in which to luxuriate. We inched forward through the bare and shabby room and through another door, shedding items of clothing along the way, our progress eventually halted by the ornate baseboard of a double bed. I led her to its edge and sat her down, pushing her hair back from her temples. Her lips peeled apart with a soft liquid hiss, coming together again to entrap the leisurely fingertip I touched to them, her upturned eyes dark with arousal and, as ever, not entirely free of playfulness.
She lay back, shrugging her blouse from her shoulders, the flesh of her belly olive coloured in the weird light. I kneeled down and helped her free of her skirt before pressing my mouth to the unstockinged bar of flesh upon her upper thigh. Here was the source of that I had sensed earlier upon her tongue. I hooked a finger inside the hem of her thong and lifted it away from the treasure it concealed. The hot reek of her poured forth in thick waves, its tendrils brushing my face, coaxing me towards her like gentle yet insistent fingers. I pushed the damp silk aside and ran my thumb about the chocolate and rose of her vulva, cooing in affirmation as her labia sundered beneath my touch, the sibilant entreaties she was now uttering seemingly issuing not from her mouth but from somewhere inside the space I had just exposed. ‘Kiss it,’ I heard her say but she didn’t need to tell me. I knew how she liked it. I had been coached.
‘Men,’ she had said once, ‘you think that all you have to do is keep knocking away at the clit, like its a magic orgasm button. Those of you who can find it, that is. Broaden your horizons. There’s a lot of pussy down there.’
When it came to oral sex, she disliked undue aggression (‘Take your latent misogyny elsewhere…’) and preciousness (‘Spare me your delusions of artistry…’) and asked only of a lover that he approach the task with a degree of enthusiasm. She had a habit of resting a hand upon the fur of her pubic mound while I was going down on her and its demeanour throughout was a good indicator of how she rated my efforts. The more animated its scrabbling, particularly at the mole she called my little eye which nestled in a hollow at the base of her stomach, the surer I was I was doing something right.