Behind Every Great Man

Eden Baylee and I are having lots of fun co-writing our 800-word stories. We hope you like them, too. It’s interesting what the prompts – both ‘ordinary’ and ‘bizarre’ – trigger in us as individuals and when each of us is just picking up the threads of the other’s story.

This month’s prompt was: ‘We were drinking champagne and losing our shirts.’

It seems that, in the UK, those final three words refer to betting losses while elsewhere, they can be more… er … raunchy.

Parts 1 and 3 were from Eden and 2 and 4 were mine.

 

Behind Every Great Man

Bubbly does it to me. With just one glass, I’m inebriated. My husband’s off with the bigwigs who’ve flown in from Hong Kong. I make myself useful at the food station. No one in the room looks familiar, and it’s just as well. I’m relieved to not have to make small talk.

A young man in a chef’s hat stands behind the table of appetizers. “Can I offer you something?”

“Please.” I hold out my plate. “I’ll have one of everything!”

“Let me see how much I can fit on here,” he says without missing a beat. “They should give you bigger plates.” He positions a skewer of shrimp and pineapple in the middle, then adds a stuffed mushroom cap and a couple of meatballs beside it. A quick scan of the table later, he picks up a Chinese soup spoon filled with a brown substance. It’s delicately topped with pomegranate seeds.

“What’s that?”

“Foie gras. It’s my favourite hors d’oeuvre here.”

“Then I must try it.”

“Yes, it’s sublime.” He adds one more item to my plate—a giant scallop wrapped in bacon.

“Now that I recognize! Who doesn’t like bacon, right?”

He smiles shyly. “I hope you enjoy.”

+++

In the early days, when my husband was beginning to climb the ladder, I was restrained, even genteel (or at least my version of it). I wore neat jackets over necklines just low enough to suggest I might be available but not without some skilful preparatory schmoozing. I always kept my voice low and, apparently, interested, despite being better-versed in the business chat than the posturing suits that pigeon-holed me at all too frequent marketing events.

As I smile back at the young man and raise my glass to him, his shifting gaze confirms that enough is now on show to allow any schmoozing to be relatively perfunctory. However, what he doesn’t know is that, tonight, my aim is considerably higher than someone holding a bacon-wrapped scallop.

Oh no, my target is Dennis, the bald, middle-aged financial director who’s just arrived and who’s about to relocate back to London from Hong Kong. I’d met him over there only once, at the Happy Valley Racetrack where he’d basically chatted away to my breasts. He’s in London to oversee some small tech company takeovers and will need a local go-between, someone, in fact, like my dear, sweet and, fortunately, unsuspecting husband.

+++

“Eleanor, I was hoping to see you again!” Dennis wraps an arm around my waist and pulls me into him. My breasts flatten against his tailored suit. We air kiss in that pretentious way that only the English can.

“Dennis, fancy seeing you again.” I sound a squeaky octave higher than normal.

“You haven’t forgotten, have you Ellie?” He leans in to whisper in my ear. “You were so … naughty,” he says, looking around the room. “I suppose your husband is meeting with Mr. Chang and his team.”

I smile but remain quiet long enough to create an uncomfortable air of silence. Last time we met, we were drinking champagne and losing our shirts. Now, I make a point of sipping my drink cautiously. Before Dennis speaks again, I pick up both meatballs off my plate and pop them in my mouth at the same time, positioning one in each cheek before chewing and swallowing them. “What’s that you say … about me being naughty?”

Dennis wipes the sweat trickling down his brow. He turns his head from left to right as if looking for someone. “Ellie, you are too—”

“Perhaps we should step outside. It’s suddenly very warm in here.”

+++

As I knew he would, he jumped at the chance. The liberties I’d allowed him at that racetrack and which he now characterised as ‘naughty’ had, in fact, progressed through indiscreet and daring to unwise, evil, and eventually for him, life-threatening. But the hungers of rich, powerful, terminally unattractive men of his sort were easily satisfied and by the time, with his greedy fingers kneading my bum as we walked, we’d made our way to the summer house and total separation from all the other guests, the mere words I’d been using to recall those long ago frolics already had him slobberingly incoherent. He was literally salivating as he tugged at the zip of my dress. Over his shoulder, through the glass of the summerhouse, I saw the gorgeous young man in the chef’s hat carrying a tray of food to guests at a table on the lawn and briefly wished he, instead of the pawing Dennis, had the status to help me improve my husband’s career path. It would have been so much more fun. But the sight of him reminded me that what I was doing was, after all, a charitable act, so I succumbed.

And Dennis survived.

 

Hamlet was right

Another solo effort this month to complete April’s complement. This is my effort. You’ll find Eden Baylee’s take on the same prompt here.

Prompt: Dad gave me a wink, like we were pals or something.

Story by BK.

+++

Hamlet was right

Whether we’re religious or not, we all seem to stick to the ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’ commandment. It’s natural, isn’t it? Although I have to admit, my dad sometimes made it hard. Not in any nasty way but more by sort of redefining relationships – not just him and me, but him and Mum. Most of all, I remember the day he did the sex talk. I was 12. He started by making it pretty clear that birds and bees had nothing to do with it, then went into disgusting detail about dogs and people and ended up with what he did to Mum in Liverpool. (Something I didn’t understand or want to hear.)

It all came back to me many years later at my wedding. There was a moment when… well, Marjorie and I had just made our vows, and were parading slowly back down the aisle, past all the grinning friends and eye-dabbing aunties and, of course, Mum and Dad. And Dad gave me a wink, like we were pals or something. A huge wink, not just an ‘I’m proud of you, son’ wink, but one which seemed to welcome me into some sleazy club. It made me think of the Liverpool revelation. And now that I’ve got to know Marjorie so much better, I’m pretty sure I know what else that wink might have been about.

I was baffled at how she changed in just a couple of weeks. At first, I thought maybe it was just because her friend, Deirdre, the photocopying girl from marketing, showed her that magazine article about how exotic stuff made marriage more bearable. That was fair enough, but I didn’t understand why, on our first night, I had to wear all that ridiculous gear – the doormat taped to my chest, that fur hat of hers with real cherries on it, the shoelaces tied around my arms – I had no idea what they all meant. And why she made me go out to the shed to fetch that antique sword which she’d found in Mrs Robinson’s junk shop on Acacia Avenue. It was difficult enough carrying the bloody thing without my laceless shoes slopping loosely as I walked. And then all she did was make me stick it into the overhead beam in our bedroom and superglue my hands to the hilt. What was that all about? It was as if she’d been possessed by some sort of inner beast. And it hurt like hell when she took that drawing pin from the corkboard in the kitchen and stuck it through my earlobe. I put up with it because… well, I just wanted to humour her, I suppose. I’d always done that, right from the start of our relationship, but this was new.

And then nothing. Until this afternoon, and I’m just sitting there, watching her chop carrots on the kitchen table, singing that Country song she likes so much. The one about the blind orphan who’s been savaged by the stepfamily’s wolfhound. Nothing makes sense. Where’s the love? Where’s the sweet little virgin I married? She knows I’m supposed to be playing golf with Gerald today so why’s she just calmly chopping carrots?

‘Listen Sweetie,’ I say. ‘I really need to get my clubs organised. I’m supposed to be teeing off at 3.30.’

She looks up, her eyes cold, strange.

‘There’s not going to be any golf,’ she says. ‘I have other plans.’

‘But, Gerald… I mean, he’ll be expecting me…’

‘Shut it,’ she says. ‘If this knife slips and I cut my finger, its next target will be your genitalia.’

That’s scary. Whenever she starts using posh words I know I’m in trouble. I bet it’s that bloody 50 shades book again. When she started reading it, I thought it was about cats or knitting patterns for cardigans, or something. That’s the sort of thing she read before we were married, but that was before all the bedroom weirdness. And it’s that, that’s made me remember Dad laughing as he told me how I was conceived in that butcher’s shop in Liverpool.

I’m pretty sure that that wink wasn’t about him being proud of me.

But this is even weirder than that. She’s coming over to me, knife in her left hand, two carrots in her right.

I try to laugh. ‘Aw, come on, Sweetie,’ I say.

She shakes her head.

‘Shut it,’ she says. ‘All this time, all that boring missionary sex… Things are about to change. It’s time for some immaculate fornication.’

She pushes the points of the two carrots up my nostrils. I try to pull my head back, but too late. Ah well… I remember Dad’s final words as he finished the sex talk. ‘There’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’

+++

I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

Doggy Dilemma

One aspect of co-writing with the very talented Eden Baylee which I don’t think has occurred to me before is that choosing to create a story with a female narrator might present me with problems. In the event, it didn’t. We hope you like it.

Prompt: I decided the only solution was to seduce him.

Parts 1 and 3 BK
Parts 2 and 4 EB

Doggy Dilemma

My strike rate with men is pathetic. In fact, it’s non-existent. I spend a fortune on clothes, perfumes, make-up… I’ve even enrolled in French evening classes. I suppose I’m hoping I’ll be able to use that thing there is about Frenchness that seems to lead naturally to romance. No, not romance, sex.

Things have been this way ever since primary school. None of the boys in my classes ever tried any of the fumblings with me that the other girls described and giggled about. Even when, quite early, I started to grow breasts, no one ever asked about them or tried to touch them. I’ll be 24 this month and I’m getting desperate. It’s all very well having chastity, but when you decide to get rid of it, you don’t really know where to start, and you do things that seem crazy. So far, I haven’t been stupid enough to try any advances to colleagues at work. I fancy some of them right enough, and not even the obvious ones that Delia, Jane and the others fantasise about over coffee. No, the ones I prefer are the wimpy weirdoes who’ve got as little going for them sexually as I have.

+++

I met up with Kim for our regular Sunday morning walk. She with her Golden and me with my mutt, a stray from the local animal shelter. The six-year-old Pit mix had been abandoned and about to be euthanized until I came along. Maybe I related to the rejection he’d experienced, or maybe I thought a dog could make me more interesting to men. Whatever it was, I adopted him and named him Lucky.

That was three months ago, and he’s changed my world. I never thought I could fall in love with a dog, but here I was, walking him and picking up his shit. I even knitted him a little cap with the initial ‘L’ on it, for when the weather got cooler.

“You don’t need a man now that you’ve got Lucky!” Kim said. Her dog, Paddy, pulled her along the ravine. He knew the path; it was quiet and deserted this time of day. We let the dogs off leash and watched them run ahead of us.

“I’m looking for sex, not just a companion. If I could have sex with a dog, I would’ve done that by now!”

“Well … you can …”

+++

I’d been strolling a few yards ahead of her when she said that. I thought I’d misheard but when I turned to respond, the way she was standing and the look on her face made me suspect that she really had said it and it was meant to challenge me.

“What d’you mean? I asked.

She just shrugged.

Paddy had been foraging ahead but now came back and looked up at her, his tail flicking lazily. I looked at the two of them and shook my head.

“You mean you and him?” I said.

Again the shrug.

I frowned. I couldn’t work out what was going on. I mean she seemed serious. And I admit it was a pretty good-looking animal. But sex? Really? And, if so, how?

She bent and scratched between his ears. His tail lashed more furiously and he rubbed his side along her leg.

“It depends what you want,” she said.

The trouble is, I was desperate and more or less wanted whatever I could get. But not with a dog.

I looked at poor scruffy Lucky and decided the only solution was to seduce him. It might be OK as long as I didn’t get pregnant.

+++

Kim burst out laughing. “You’re so gullible, Linda! Did you really think I was serious?”

My thoughts suddenly evaporated. “Of course not, I’m not that desperate!”

“Look, it’d be nice if you met someone with a dog. Men with dogs are better humans. They’re more sensitive.”

“Yeah?”

“Take my brother, for instance. He’s much nicer since he adopted a dog.”

“So why haven’t you introduced me to him?”

“He’s gay.”

“I can’t win, can I?” We picked up the pace to catch up to Lucky chasing a squirrel.

“Try Tinder.”

“The dating app? I don’t know, makes me seem easy.”

“Easy?” Kim scoffed. “You can’t be easy if you’ve never been laid. Stop overthinking it.”

That evening after dinner, I relaxed in front of the TV. A movie called Tinder Swindler on Netflix caught my eye. The title already gave away the storyline. Scammers everywhere, and they scared me. Just then, Lucky jumped up beside me and rested his paw on my lap. He stared at me with his big puppy-dog eyes and licked my face.

Fuck it. What was life without trying something new?

I picked up my phone and downloaded the Tinder app.