At the last minute, he decides to take the day off work.
He has no intention of wasting the day curled beneath the duvet like a contented sloth, or lounging before a stream of mind-numbing television. He’s going to work up a sweat, tend to the chores he’s neglected for months. The office has devoured his home and social lives, tilted his work-life balance so far from equilibrium he’s begun to wonder if it will ever be regained.
Yet again, he’d woken half an hour before the alarm clock’s shrill. He’d rolled onto his side and stared at the glowing numerals, listening to his wife slumbering obliviously beside him. He doesn’t remember the last time he rose refreshed from a night’s sleep, the last time he looked forward to the coming day with anything close to enthusiasm.
He’d watched the crimson digits mercilessly advance towards the inevitable with a growing sense of dread.
That was the moment he decided. Fuck it. Time to redress the balance, tip it back in my favour. If only a little. If only for a day.
He shares his plan with his wife while she’s brushing her teeth. Her reflection raises its eyebrows at his proposed rebellion, but she doesn’t try dissuading him. He knows she’s been feeling the same way. He’s seen the tiredness in her eyes too, but he fears that he’s the cause of her fatigue. It feels like he’s hardly at home, and when they are together, she might as well be alone. He can’t muster the energy or the inclination to engage with her, not as a husband or a friend. He doesn’t recall the last time they went out as a couple. They haven’t made love in more than four months, and their last attempt gave new meaning to the word ‘perfunctory’.
It’s the fact that this causes him little concern that he finds most disconcerting.
He goes downstairs and telephones the office. He tells the receptionist he thinks he’s coming down with something. No, he should be in tomorrow morning, definitely by the middle of the week.
He’s beaming when he hangs up.
They breakfast together, and then it’s time for her to leave to meet her own commitments. He feels a flush of guilt as he sees her to the door.
“If only we could all be so cavalier towards our employers,” she says as she presses her lips to the side of his face. It’s almost an air kiss. She backs out of the driveway and he waves, trying to judge how serious she was being. As her Audi dwindles, he decides that he doesn’t give a shit.
He basks in the early sunshine, warm despite noon being more than four hours distant. Overhead, the sky is clear blue, a hint of gauzy white away to the east.
Stolen time, he thinks as he throws his arms wide to Sol, and he smiles again. My time. And not to be wasted.
Dressed for labouring, he goes outside and unlocks the up-and-over garage door. He winces at the disarray waiting inside. He’s forgotten how bad it has become. No longer a place for any vehicle to nestle safely, it’s become a dumping ground, the once-neat orderliness he’d maintained obliterated by a profusion of lazy clutter.
You wanted to work up a sweat.
He strips off his sweatshirt and sets to work.
When he looks at his watch again, it’s just past eleven. There are dark circles of perspiration beneath his armpits and his t-shirt is glued to the small of his back. He goes to the kitchen for a bottle of water, lingering in the cool hallway there and back.
A car pulls onto the gravelled driveway.
He steps outside, shading his eyes with one hand. Their garage shares a common approach with several others. The ice-white Mini Cooper parked outside the garage adjacent to his belongs to their neighbour.
Fiona. Fiona the floozy, according to his wife. Fragrant Fiona, to his way of thinking.
He watches Fiona swing her tanned legs out of the car and stand up carefully on the loose gravel. She notices him watching, and smiles.
“Hi there,” she says.
She motions at the profusion of clutter, now outside as well as inside the garage. “Spring cleaning?”
He nods. “About six months too late.”
She takes a more studious look. “Only six months?”
He puts his hands up in mock surrender, tensing his abs as he does so. “Your powers of observation do you credit.”
She laughs with him as she turns to the back of the Mini. He admires her poise, particularly given the high heels on her sandals. She opens the boot and lifts out two carrier bags bearing the logo of the local supermarket.
“Can I help?” he volunteers.
She giggles. “My knight in sweaty casual attire!” She looks at him more seriously. “Actually, I’d love a hand. I’ve brought half the bloody shop back with me.”
He puts his water down and joins her at the back of the Mini. Despite the removal of two bags, it’s still full. He grabs two bags in each hand.
“Lead the way, my lady,” he says grandly.
He lets her go first. He could close his eyes and still find the way to her door by trailing the wake of her perfume. Not that he intends to close his eyes: her rear is sashaying far too invitingly beneath the knee-length fawn skirt. No hint of panty line to disrupt the smooth cotton as it stretches across her buttocks.
He can’t drag his eyes away from her as they follow the brickwork path to her front door.
She switches her carrier bags into one hand so that she can pull the key from her handbag. He pulls his gaze upwards just before she looks at him. He smiles neutrally.
She’s young enough to be your daughter.
Fiona pushes the door open, and he follows her inside.
It’s cooler inside her house than his. Air conditioning? He follows her down the narrow hallway into the kitchen. There are part-closed slats at the windows, and the piano key pattern cast across the cream floor tiles has the potential to disorientate. He lifts the four bags onto the work surface and steps back.
“Thank you, Sir Knight,” she says, affecting the same note of grandeur he had.
“Can I offer some refreshment? Something nice and chilled? It looked like you’d already worked up a sweat.”
He looks back towards the front door. “I should get back to work. You saw how bad it is.”
She smiles. “Five minutes won’t make much difference. A cold drink’s the least I owe you.”
“You don’t owe me anything.”
“Please. I’ll be offended if I can’t repay your courtesy with a little of my own.”
He studies his watch. “Sure. Why not?”
“Good.” She opens a wall cabinet and takes out two highball glasses. “Gin and tonic, with ice? That’s what I’m having, anyway.”
“I need to keep a clear head.”
She looks back at him over her shoulder, appraising him with a gaze belying her years. “A big, strong man isn’t going to have his head turned by one gin and tonic.” It’s not phrased as a question. Her blue-grey eyes dare him.
He holds her gaze, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks, and not giving a damn. “Just one, then.”
She leans forward and opens the below-the-counter freezer. Her skirt stretches across her buttocks as tight as physically possible. His eyes plunder her.
A big, strong man would have his head turned by one of you, Fiona.
She takes ice from the freezer, dropping a few cubes into both glasses. She covers them with gin and pours tonic water to within an inch of the rim.
She hands him his drink. “See? Plenty of tonic. No lemon or lime, though, I’m sorry.”
“That’s OK. I don’t much like them.”
She arches an eyebrow. “A man who prefers life’s sweeter tastes.” Again, she doesn’t phrase it as a question.
He wonders how best to answer her. Were her words as loaded as they seemed? Or is his middle-aged imagination running away with him?
“I guess so,” he says eventually.
He sips his drink. It’s good: cold and strong in equal measures. It cuts through the clag that’s been building in his throat all morning. He takes another sip, then another. The coolness of the liquid refreshes his mouth, and then he feels a flutter of heat in his core. He enjoys the extremes of sensation.
“How come you’re home?” she asks. “Using holiday time to catch up on your errands?”
Agreeing with her would be easy, an inconsequential lie. But for some reason, he doesn’t want to lie. He shakes his head. “This is my version of a duvet day. As far as the office knows, I’ve come down with a bug. I’ll probably be much better tomorrow.”
She flashes her eyes in mock outrage. “I’m shocked. I thought knights were too honourable for such deceit.”
“Too much time at the Round Table of late. A stolen day is the least I’m owed.”
“You don’t have to convince me.”
He glances at his watch. “And what’s your excuse for getting home halfway through the working day?”
She traces the rim of her glass with a manicured fingernail. “I told my boss I was having a migraine. She knows how badly they affect me, so she insisted that I come straight home. Which I did. Via a pit stop in the high street, of course.”
She smiles. Until today, they’ve only spoken to exchange greetings and pleasantries. That hasn’t prevented him from forming an opinion of her: intelligent, sociable, funny, not to mention attractive … but long accustomed to getting whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. A daddy’s girl, perhaps? That made her a little too spoilt for his taste.
But conversing with her alone, as adults … there’s a worldliness about her he hadn’t appreciated before. It’s as if she’s wiser than she ought to be for her age, that she knows far more than she should. It makes him a little uncomfortable.
It excites you a little, too, though, doesn’t it? More than a little.
“It’s so humid in here,” she says. “Even with the air conditioning turned on.”
With that, she undoes the uppermost button on her light blue blouse. It was already open at the neck, but now it gapes sufficiently to show the beginnings of her cleavage. He knows he shouldn’t look, knows that she’s testing him, that every second that his eyes are on her, she’ll be watching him.
He can’t stop himself.
Her skin is lightly tanned, with the faintest sheen of perspiration. There’s a small mole on the uppermost slope of her left breast. Looking at it makes his balls tingle and his cock begin to ache.
It takes willpower to draw his gaze back to her face. She’s watching his expression, as he knew she’d be. The hint of a smile curls her mouth upwards.
You tease, he thinks.
“The weather report said there might be thunder later.”
“We could do with it,” she says, her voice softer. “To clear the air.”
He swallows the last of his drink in two gulps. The ice cubes rattle in the glass as he puts it firmly down on the counter.
“I need to get back to work.”
“I can’t tempt you to another?”
How easy it would be to say yes. How easy to remain here with this nymph, to see what happens next.
But he knows that nothing will happen, because teasing is the beginning, middle and end of this game, and he doesn’t want to be a middle-aged chew toy for Fiona to worry at for a playful hour and then discard.
“No.” He points at the empty glass. “Thanks for that one, though.”
He’s halfway to the door when she calls out. “Be seeing you. Lancelot.”
He waves without looking back, but says nothing.
He’s been working for several more hours when he hears footsteps behind him. The clip-clop of high heels. He’s at the back of the garage, facing away from the open door as he lifts boxes into the roof joists to clear the floor. The garage is like an oven. He can feel fat beads of sweat across his forehead and the back of his neck.
He smells her fragrance as he’s lifting a box of assorted junk. He finishes what he’s doing, then stands facing the rear wall, trying to compose himself before he turns.
She’s wearing the same hint of a smile he saw after he’d stared at her breasts.
She looks about her, nodding sagely. “A three hundred per cent improvement, I’d say. You’ve been very industrious. Bravo.”
“It wasn’t going to take care of itself.”
“So few things do.”
Was it an opening? Or just another tease? He suspects that she’s here for the satisfaction of knowing that he wants her, for the gratification of seeing how far she can lead him and his fantasies.
He studies her eyes. They’re locked on him, as a predator’s lock upon the throat of the prey they’ve decided to bring down and devour.
“Is there something I can do for you, Fiona?”
“Yes. You can fuck me.”
“I’m sorry?” The words are a reflex. He wants to kick himself as soon as they’re out of him.
“I want you to fuck me.” She says it with care, pronouncing each word with the precision of a newsreader.
“You barely know me.”
“Why should that matter? Familiarity isn’t essential for fornication.”
“It is for some people.”
“Not for me. If I meet someone I desire, and I think they might desire me too, I make an overture. Simple. Honest. To the point. Life’s too short to wait and see if the stars align, if ‘cosmic ordering’ brings what you want to your doorstep.” Her eyes look him up and down. “I desire you. I don’t know why. Not why now, not why here. I just do, and I thought you desired me too. Did I read you wrong?”
“No. Yes. Look, Fiona…” He’s treading water, but the ocean is close to his mouth. “I’m beyond flattered, but-”
“But you’re married.”
He looks down at the ground. “Yes.”
“Fair enough.” She turns on the spot and begins walking towards the exit.
He watches her incredulously. “So that’s it?”
She pauses, half-turns towards him, so that he sees her in profile. She’s dressed in the same outfit as when she arrived home, but where before he was certain she was wearing a bra under her blouse, now she seems to be naked beneath it. Brilliant daylight as her backdrop, her breasts are silhouetted through the thin cotton. He thinks that her nipples are hard.
Her tone remains pleasantly casual. “What’s left to say? You’ve made it clear you’re not available,” she says. “And I don’t beg.”
She turns away.
She pauses again, but doesn’t turn towards him this time.
He’s caught, poised over a centre of balance he could never have anticipated. A step in either direction tips him irrevocably into… Into what? He doesn’t know. The only thing he knows is that whatever decision he makes now, regret will be the only guaranteed consequence.
Part of him recoils at the prospect of adultery. It wouldn’t be the first time he cheated on his vows, but it’s been a long time since he lay with another woman, and he’s striven to make his marriage work. But he’s tired of fighting a war in which he seems to be the only combatant that gives a damn about the outcome. But the bigger reason for his hesitance is the fear that he’s being played, that Fiona wants to take him to the point of committal, and then laugh gleefully in his face as his febrile fantasies turn to clinker and ashes.
But the way she looked at him…
He’s never imagined anything like this happening to him, not in the wildest of his reveries, and so he’s ill prepared for the moment. No script to fall back on, no clever lines to adapt on the fly. He’s out of his depth, the water covering his mouth and flooding his nose. In seconds, Fiona’s patience will evaporate, and nothing he might say will make her stop a third time.
There will never be another day like this one.
There will never be another chance like this one.
“Stay,” he says.
She turns her face and tilts her head back, a little too imperiously for his liking. But the decision is made and his cock is already hardening at the prospect of what he thinks is to come.
She’s the only other person on Earth who can hear him, but he still says the words furtively, like a thief who comes in the dead of night.
“Because I want to fuck you.”
Faust has made his pact.
For an age, Fiona doesn’t move, doesn’t speak. He wonders if this is the moment she delivers the coup de grâce, with a clown’s smile and a braying laugh. And then she reaches up for the edge of the garage door and guides it through a descending arc, until it closes with a metallic thunk.
There’s a grey steel plate in the upper centre of the door, with a lever that protrudes outwards a centimetre. Her thumb rests against it.
“Does your wife have a key?”
“Yes. But she won’t be home for hours.”
She forces the lever to the right, locking the exterior handle. To his ears, the clang is reminiscent of a heavy key turning in a cell door.
Am I being locked in? Or is this to be my release?
Slivers of light stream into the garage on all sides of the square door, enough to make her out as she walks toward him. A channel along the centre of the floor has been cleared, and she stalks it as if it’s a catwalk. In the fractured darkness, she could be woman or wraith. Only the sound of her heels against the concrete and the bouquet of her perfume affirm her corporealness.
“You’re sure?” she asks.
“Yes,” he lies, wondering what the penalty for saying no might be.
She reaches for the front of her blouse, as she did in her kitchen a few hours ago. But now there’s nothing casual about the action, and she doesn’t stop at the first button. One by one, she undoes them all, until she can pull the two halves of the blouse apart and hold them wide.
Her breasts are small and firm, in proportion to the litheness of her frame. Her nipples – the colour of cherry blossom – have bloomed. From being brushed by the blouse’s cotton, or from licentious thoughts of his acquiescence, he doesn’t know.
Does it matter? You think too much. Shut the fuck up.
She stops in front of him, smiling at the intensity of his scrutiny. “You like?”
He nods. His mouth is too dry to form words.
“Touch me,” she says.
With a hand that barely trembles, he reaches out to cup her breast. He closes his eyes, lost in sensation: the warm dampness of her skin, the rise and fall of her chest, the unyielding point of her nipple pressing against the middle of his palm, the rapid thump thump of her heart. He can smell her perfume. He can smell her heat.
He opens his eyes and kisses her.
Her mouth is tender beneath his, hesitant at first, melding with his as passion takes her. Her tongue flutters in his mouth like a hummingbird, hovering, darting flicks that tease and tantalise. His cock is thick, eager to be released. He pulls her close, entwines his arms about her back, pulling her breasts against his chest, forcing her loins against his. He wants to be naked with her, to have her skin on his.
She helps pull the damp t-shirt over his head, releases his belt and the fastenings of his jeans as he brushes her hair away and licks the salt from the side of her neck. Her hands reach inside his shorts, and she chuckles delightedly as she grasps his erection. His hands run down her back to the swell of her buttocks. He clutches them fiercely, squeezing their centres together, and she groans and presses herself against him. She works his foreskin back and forth, her tongue against his ear, her teeth pulling painfully at the lobe.
“I want you inside me,” she whispers.
He reaches for the hem of her skirt, draws it slowly up her thighs, bunching it about her waist. She’s naked underneath. He caresses her smooth buttocks, then slips one hand lower, his fingers stealing between her thighs. He finds her vulva, a smattering of silken hair, the lips soft and swollen. She kisses him on the mouth again, and as he finds the wetness hidden inside her, she cries out and her body trembles.
He gathers her in his arms and lifts her onto the edge of his workbench. He removes his jeans and underwear, steps between her parted thighs. He holds his jutting cock to her sex.
“You’re sure?” he asks.
Now she answers with a simple nod.
He nestles his glans in her flesh and thrusts slowly. He wants to see her eyes, to see how they change as he enters her for the first time. But her head goes back as she feels his flesh parting hers, and the moment is lost to him.
“Oh fuck,” she whispers, to the ceiling or to the gods. “Oh fuck!”
He takes his time. There will never be another chance like this one. He wants to relish every second of their union, to lose his mind in the sleek compression of her cunt. She lies back on the bench, and he rests a palm against her mound, his thumb brushing back and forth across the shy nub of her clitoris. His heavy balls hang against the cheeks of her arse each time he enters her to the hilt. She writhes languidly upon the bench, and it seems to him that she comes, quietly, but he doesn’t ask her to confirm it. He maintains his composure: long, leisurely thrusts, from clitoris to cervix. Every so often, he stops so he can lean forward and shower kisses upon her breasts. He licks the salt from her velvet skin, draws her nipples into his mouth, one after the other, grazing their crowns with his tongue. She cradles his head as he genuflects.
Only when her whispers and gasps become full-bloodied cries – uncaring of who might hear them, who might be beckoned by their siren call – do his thrusts become vigorous, assertive.
“That’s it,” she says, before her teeth bite down on her bottom lip. Her slender thighs grip his hips with hidden strength, and her calves scissor behind his buttocks, locking him inside her, impelling him to show her no respite. She drags him down into another frantic kiss, the glistening sweat on their faces smearing together, and then her mouth slides from his as she urges him to fuck her harder still, urges her body to meet each one of his thrusts, grinding her pubis against his. He reaches behind her, breaking the hold of her legs, lifting them so that the backs of her calves rest against his shoulders. On the balls of his feet, he pistons into her. She wails deliriously.
The sound only spurs him on.
The garage is a furnace now, filled with scorched air depleted of oxygen. His breathing sounds as harsh and ragged as hers, as they fight to draw the precious vapour into their lungs. His heart hammers in his ears. Ba boom. Ba boom. Ba boom. Sweat runs down his face like heavy rain, stinging his eyes, dripping onto her belly and her breasts. He tastes his own salt through the storm. She clasps it to her as though it were frankincense, smearing it into her skin. Her wanton eyes glitter brilliantly. He thinks that she comes again, and prays that he’s right.
He withdraws from her flesh just before his own orgasm. She reaches out for him, and the two of them stroke him until he ejaculates across her heaving belly. A fair amount of his semen finds her breasts. He tries not to let his smugness show.
Once the last of his aqua has spilled upon her skin, she pulls him down to her, smearing his come against his torso as she kisses him one last time with languorous fervour.
“I enjoyed that,” she says, once the kissing is done.
“So did I.”
He shakes his head, lying to her for a second time.
“Good. Regret is death-watch beetle in the soul.”
“That’s a quaint sentiment, from someone so young.”
She laughs. “I read it in a book, and thought it impressively profound. That’s the first time I’ve used it in anger, though.”
She looks at him flatly. “Don’t be. But don’t be regretful, either.”
Does she suspect I lied? Does she know? Does she care?
He draws away from her. The hairs on his belly are sticky with his come. He looks guiltily at the mess he’s made of her.
“We could both use a shower,” he says nonchalantly, hoping to break the sombreness. Will she invite him to her house, or follow him to his?
She shakes her head. “I’m going to lie in my garden and let the sun dry and cleanse me.”
“It’s called transpiration. The evaporation of water from plant leaves into the atmosphere.”
“But you’re not a plant.”
“Flora and fauna aren’t so different.”
She sits up, draws her blouse back across her breasts and buttons it up. She slips off the workbench and smoothes her skirt down. Her matter-of-factness stings him.
Her clothes are creased to hell, and her fringe hangs limply over her forehead, plastered to the skin.
She snorts at his scrutiny. “So how do I look?”
“Like you’ve been royally fucked.”
“I have been.”
She steps up to him and kisses him chastely on the cheek. It’s not an air kiss, though. He’s ridiculously grateful for that.
“Thank you, Lancelot,” she whispers.
She returns to the garage door and forces the protruding lever back to the left. The door is rolling upwards even as he’s wrenching at his jeans and undershorts. Fastening his belt, he squints against the brilliance to watch her leave.
She doesn’t speak again, doesn’t wave, doesn’t look back.
He listens to the receding clip-clop of her heels. When nothing remains of her, he looks about himself. A three hundred percent improvement? Yes, he can agree with that.
Time well spent.
She’s not entirely gone, though. An oval patch of dampness lingers at the edge of the workbench. He looks at it for a long time before he grabs his sodden t-shirt from where it had fallen and follows her footsteps outside.