Those

Were The Days,

My Friend

She spotted him first, having a good two minutes to observe him across the crowded bar, trying to see her lover as others do, without the halo of her passion.   

He looked sad, staring down into his half-empty glass, oblivious to the Friday night rowdiness.  How she wanted to enfold him in her arms and stroke away whatever grieved him, ease the melancholy she found so endearing.  He was dressed in black: how the darkness brought out the pallor of his skin, the straw blond of the curls she loved to finger.  He wore his leather jerkin despite the closeness of the summer evening and the heat generated by the animated bodies surrounding him.  How she yearned to inhale the animal hide tang that permeated his body.   

In his secret darkness, he was at one with their rendezvous.  Outside, gnarled wisteria and dusty honeysuckle, entangled like ancient lovers, obscured Jacobean brickwork; here beneath the low yellowed ceiling and blackened beams, he was seated in a shadowed corner, set against mahogany panelling.  His weekend holdall occupied the chair beside him.  As she watched, a stranger tried to claim the seat; he looked up, and with that beguiling blend of firmness and charm she had come to cherish, he smiled and shook his head.  He had reserved the place for her.   

He looked down again at his bitter and she pictured the nape of his hidden pale neck bearing the weight of his lovely head. 

She was late.  Perhaps he was despairing of her not appearing at all.  

It had been exhilarating simply to drive away, waving, smiling the deceit.  She had lied to Jim, lied to the children. 

"Oh, damn, Jim, I've double booked again!  I must get a diary!  You don't mind do you, darling?  It'll give you a chance to get that work finished."  And: "No, I'm sorry my darlings, I can't break a promise, can I?  You'll have a lovely time with your Auntie Jean, won't you?"   

She was surprised how easily she accessed her mendacity, used the device of rhetorical questions to manipulate those she loved into acquiescence.  It had been harder to take the risk of confiding in Jeannie, her cover, her - what was the word they used in crime thrillers?  - her alibi.  Then she had been shocked to discover, in her determination to be with the man Jeannie called her paramour, how thrilling it can be to betray trust.  

Jeannie had asked, "For goodness' sake, what's this man got that Jim hasn't?" 

"He makes me laugh," she had replied without thinking.  Then added, "And when he's not beside me, I've seen a sort of sadness about his eyes.  He needs me." 

Now, she touched her breastbone lightly and began nudging her way through the cluster of noisy drinkers to the empty chair, her seat, the bolt-hole safe-guarded for her alone by the man she desired; all this despite her husband whom she loved and resented, regardless of the children she adored and would protect against anything, even her own ardour. 

Jim had looked doleful after she brushed his forehead goodbye with her dry lips.  His expression had irritated her; now, she saw a similar countenance in her unknowing, waiting lover, a vulnerability that roused in her an urge to probe, uncover and soothe.  She knew that at the moment he saw her, he would work at throwing off his melancholy and amuse her. 

She stood before him, "Interesting place you chose." 

He jumped up, his face transformed, sporting his wide, bright, pink and white smile.  He reached across to her.  "Ah, welcome to Ye Olde Taverne," he growled in his Treasure Island Robert Newton voice, "Jim, lad!" 

She hesitated. 

"Oh, sorry."  It was his own voice now.  He put his hand to his mouth.  "Put both my big feet right in there!"  He added swiftly, "You didn't know I was a contortionist, did you!"  He kissed her firmly, moistly full on the lips, then whispered, playing the lusty pirate again, "Wait till I get ye in the four-poster, me hearty.  Ye knows what they say about men with big feet, don't ye!" 

She played along, widened her eyes and bobbed a curtsey, her finger under her chin.  Being with him was fun.  Sod it, everyone deserves a little fun in their life.

 

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