“So, Scarlett,” Tanya yelled, over the thud thud of the music at Fork, one of the hippest and most deafening bistros in
Snapping a breadstick in half, she threw me a withering glance.
For one wild, desperate moment, I was tempted to pretend I hadn’t heard the question, but one look at the way she was gnashing at her breadstick told me I’d worn her patience paper thin, and that I owed her an answer.
“Well, are you?” she said, spraying crumbs all over the sleeve of my jacket.
Tanya had been encouraging me to take the plunge with Mr Haemorrhoid for ages, and I couldn’t help feeling, in some perverse way, that by failing to snag him, I’d somehow let her down. After all, she’d put so much effort into the project, offered so many tips on office seduction. Like advising me to ‘accidentally’ spill a glass of water down my shirt, the view of my bra apparently rendering me immediately irresistible to Mr Haemorrhoid. She’d also demonstrated exactly how to suck on a pen while you were in a meeting, in a seductive yet screamingly sensual way, which, she claimed, would have any man eating out of your hand.
The reason Mr Haemorrhoid was not responding to her master plan remained something of a mystery. Against my better nature, I’d followed her advice, sucking pens, soaking my shirt and engaging in other acts of total idiocy. And while I was pretty sure Mr Haemorrhoid had been quite intrigued by my shenanigans—he’d stared at my wet chest with keen interest, for example—the net result was that he had not invited me to a hotel for a lunch hour’s worth of frantic sex. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that not one licentious conversation has ever taken place between us. Go figure.
I brushed the crumbs slowly from my sleeve, stalling for time. Taking a sip of chilled Chablis, I tried to make light of the situation.
“It’s actually quite difficult to have an affair, when the object of your affections hasn’t even asked you out yet.”
Tanya rolled her big blue eyes. “How long is it since he’s been working at Zanorax? Eighteen months? This isn’t the nineteen fifties, you know. You can ask him out.”
I circled my finger round the rim of my glass. “I don’t know. I can’t get up the courage somehow. Besides, I’m beginning to think he’s got something that’s pretty rare these days.”
“What? You mean syphilis?” Tanya said, screwing up her face in concern.
“No, worse than that. Morals.”
Tanya tutted disapprovingly. She placed her hand reassuringly on my arm. “So you’re married. You have a kid. So what? You’re just suggesting a roll in the hay, not haring off to Vegas for an Elvis wedding. I think you need this. It’ll perk you up no end.” She leaned back in her chair, her expression suddenly stern. “Just ask him. And if you don’t, I’ll do it for you.”
His real name wasn’t Mr Haemorrhoid, of course. But when I first mentioned I had a crush on Connor O’Riordan, Tanya had said that the most essential rule of conducting an affair was not to call your object of desire by his real name. It was imperative, she insisted, that we come up with a code name, so that when he and I did become embroiled in a scorching fling, Tanya and I would be free to discuss it in public, without worrying that any of my colleagues might be earwigging.
I thought it a brilliant idea. A code name. How illicit. How secretive! Because Connor was dark and Irish, I suggested Colin Farrell. I reckoned that anyone I knew who overheard me talking about making passionate love to Colin Farrell would tune out, as soon as they twigged that I was just another lonely woman with a delusional fantasy life, but Tanya vetoed the idea, claiming Mr Haemorrhoid as the obvious choice. Since Connor was in charge of the Villorex haemorrhoid cream account, her logic was impeccable, and I ended up grudgingly acquiescing. Now that the code name had stuck, I was no nearer to having an affair, but the lunch with Tanya had given me the kick up the backside I sorely needed.
Now, back at Zanorax’s
I took a deep breath and turned the knob.
On entering his orderly grey and white office, and finding it utterly devoid of Mr Haemorrhoid, I wilted like a bouquet left out in the sun. His PA popped out of her office next door and informed me perkily that he was at a meeting at Villorex’s headquarters for the rest of the afternoon. Slinking back to my office, I started to doubt myself. Might I indeed have misread the entire situation? Had he, as I’d continued to believe, had he really been in lust with me, all those times I’d caught him staring at me in the kitchen where we made coffee? Or was he just one of those people who need glasses but are too vain to admit it?
No, I told myself firmly. There was a spark, I was practically sure of it. And besides, we had so much in common, it was destined to work out.
Yes indeed, on paper, Mr Haemorrhoid and I were perfection personified. As healthcare PR professionals, we shared a God given talent that enabled us to talk frankly about bodily functions, while earning six figure salaries in the process. Believe me, I didn’t get to the top of the PR game by being fainthearted. I have a proven track record of taking below the belt brands, including cystitis cream and personal lubricants, and making them household names. I had taken my current client, Flowerette incontinence pants, to the position of most popular adult diaper in
Tomorrow I would make my move.
If I didn’t, well, the fact was that any day now I would lose it, would corner him in his office, push him against the wall and crush my five foot four body against his big manly one.
“I have to have you,” I’d whisper breathlessly, as I started to unbutton my blouse.
The trill of the phone broke through my fantasy.
“Hello, Mrs Staines, it is Constanza.” Constanza was our new Chilean nanny. She had the unenviable task of taming my somewhat spoiled five year old, Ivy. “It is Ivy. She do pee pee on the floor.”
“Look, for the last time, call me Scarlett. Can we talk about this later? I’m a bit busy right now,” I said, still deeply immersed in my seduction of Mr Haemorrhoid. I would undress him slowly. How? Would I have to stand on a chair to remove his jacket? Was the height difference going to be a problem, once we got down to it?
Constanza was still going on. Should she use bleach on the hall carpet to remove the stain?
Usually I get all worked up about germs of any kind entering my house, but since urine is sterile, I figured there was no need to rush home in a blind panic. In any case, I’d been interrupted in the middle of a sexual fantasy, and was anxious to get back to it. “No, leave it,” I said. “I’ll deal with it when I get home.”
Unfortunately, once I’d put down the phone, my fantasy had fragmented, and there was nothing for it but to start working. Through my window, if I craned my neck violently to the right, I could see into Mr Haemorrhoid’s office. But there was very little point in risking permanent injury by wrenching my neck out of shape today, because he wasn’t there.
Miserably, I turned on my computer and started writing a press release about the Ultraguard, the new super absorbent incontinence pants Flowerette were launching in a few months time, which would be no thicker than a slice of bread, with the absorbency of a whole loaf.
I worked my keyboard with the professionalism of a concert pianist, emotive phrases running from my fingers. It was what I did. It was effortless. When the press release worked its way into articles in a host of magazines targeted at the incontinence prone, such as Fit Seniors, Mid-Life Monthly and Golden Years Digest, thousands of middle aged women would hit the roads, driven by a passion, a passion I had imbedded in their hearts, recklessly braving fog, flood or ice to fulfil that passion in their nearest pharmacy. All I could hope was that I wouldn’t inadvertently cause any road accidents.
Softness is our strength, I typed. Comfort without compromise. Can be worn under the tightest leather trousers without a hint of VPL (I knew that most fifty-five year old woman didn’t wear skin-tight trousers, but as I had learnt in this game, flattery got you everywhere). There’ll be a confidence in your step, the moment you slip on the Flowerette Ultraguard. Why wait? Let the magic begin.
My fingers hesitated on the keyboard for a moment, as a hopeless feeling swamped me, coupled with a longing, for the absent Connor. When would the magic begin for me? I wondered.
Tomorrow, I told myself, a smile slowly spreading across my face. Tomorrow the magic would begin.
If I could only grit my teeth and get through tonight.
The first thing I did when I got home to our Georgian terraced house in Islington, was to start scrubbing at Ivy’s pee stain with soapy water. Honestly, that Constanza! When I’d said don’t put bleach on it, I hadn’t meant don’t put water on it. The white carpet now had a dried in stain on it the colour of orange juice. I was almost in tears. My whole life revolved around pee. And the irony was that while I talked about it at work, it was in a purely abstract sense. I didn’t have to see it. Didn’t have to smell it. God, was this what my life was reduced to? Me, Scarlett Staines, mega-PR woman, cleaning up child’s pee.
I was still trying to rub away the stain, with little effect, when the two of them returned from the park. Constanza strutted in wearing white stilettos. She looked like a sex bomb from an eighties pop video, all heavy blusher and dark teased hair. She’d only been with us ten days and already looked at home, serenely poised, and giving off a subtle glow of contentment, as if looking after Ivy were an utter joy (which, in my opinion, it was not).
Ivy ran up to me, curly blonde hair bobbing, and crouched down beside the stain.
“Are you very mad at me?” she said, sticking her lower lip out in a manipulative little pout.
“Not angry, just confused,” I said, wishing Constanza would clear off and give us some privacy. “I mean, the toilet is just across the hall. I’m sure you didn’t mean to do it.”
“I did. I wanted to see what it smelt like.”
“Oh, I see,” I said, relieved. “It was for scientific purposes.”
Ivy nodded enthusiastically.
“And what did it smell of?” I said.
“Wee wees,” Ivy sang, in a squeaky, highly irritating voice, while she jumped and twirled about. “It smelt like wee wees, silly. Smelly, smelly wee wees.”
“All right,” I said. “That’s enough.”
As Ivy continued her stupid little chant, I pressed my fingernails, which were crying out for a manicure, into the dark blonde roots of my hair, which badly needed highlights, while I silently counted to ten to prevent myself from screaming.
Later that evening, as I lay beneath Alistair’s naked flailing body, I made a mental note to go on the Internet and order a product that got rid of pee stains without damaging the fibres of extremely expensive woollen carpets.
“From now on, things are going to be different,” Alistair moaned, in his posh authoritative, as he pounded away. “Because now that you’ve got yourself a nanny, you’ll be able to really relax. Maybe even stop thinking about cleaning fluids during sex so much.”
Before we got the nanny, I’d run myself ragged, ferrying Ivy to and fro from daycare. But now that she’d started school and we had Constanza to take away much of the stress of child care, Alistair seemed to expect me to transform into a nymphomaniac, or at the very least a woman who didn’t look permanently pissed off. In reality, having Constanza around hadn’t changed things all that much. I was still tense and exhausted. If Alistair really cared about my perilous mental state, he’d purchase me two hours of passionate sex with Mr Haemorrhoid. Not that Mr Haemorrhoid could be bought, of course, which was what I loved about him, but it was a tempting thought nevertheless.
More than anything, I longed for a sense of newness, a sense of unpredictability during sex. Right now, Alistair was about a minute away from orgasm, I could tell because he was working a tendril of my hair around his finger, which he always did when he was close. As my mind scuttled back to cleaning, and whether Ivy’s Lego bricks might possibly be due for a good soaking in bleach, I had to concede that I was no less predictable myself. Alistair had once mistakenly asked me what I thought about during sex. I’d admitted it was places around the house I still had to clean and did I have enough bleach left to do so. He’d looked a bit crestfallen. Men, they were never satisfied. Suppose I’d said I always thought about Brad Pitt, which I don’t actually, because he looks a bit too much like a monkey for my liking. But suppose I’d said that? What then, huh? Actually, I think he would have preferred it.
“Stop … thinking … about … bleach,” Alistair panted between thrusts.
“Was not,” I said, guiltily banishing all thoughts of bleach from my mind.
“Sure you were,” he said breathlessly.
“Well, I‘m not now,” I whispered, biting his shoulder and giving a pretty good impression of being in the throes of orgasm.
“I knew Constanza was a good idea,” he gasped. Then his face froze and his eyelids drooped, a sure fire sign he was seconds from reaching ecstasy. Sure enough, he came, letting out a drawn out moan as he ejaculated inside me, into the condom I insisted he wore even though I had an IUD. I loved Ivy and all that, but there was absolutely no way I was having another one.
Flopping back on the bed and panting softly as he regained his breath, he raked through his hair, which was sticking sweatily in tufts to his forehead. I propped myself up on my elbow and studied him. His hazel eyes, with their thick lashes, were his most striking feature, and were now marred by a slight bagginess that was beginning to form beneath them. The skin around his jowls, too, was looser than it had once been. He was softening and thickening, but what did I expect, he was almost forty. His aging didn’t detract from the fact that he was, to all intents and purposes, still handsome. I suppose I had grown used to his handsomeness, and grown tired of it, like one gets tired of a new handbag, however exquisite. When you first purchase it, you can’t stop your heart from pounding, as you run your fingertips lightly over the soft leather, as you draw the virgin strap over your shoulder. But with time, the allure fades. The allure hadn’t faded yet, though, on my new midnight blue Marc Jacobs handbag. I couldn’t keep my fingers from constantly fiddling with its shiny buckles and zippers. To be honest, I could hardly bear to be parted from the damned thing. I think you pretty much know your sex life has hit the skids when you’d prefer to fondle a handbag over your husband.
“Don’t know why you make me wear these bloody things,” he said, rolling away from me and starting to fiddle with his bits. I stared at his back, which was as anonymously symmetrical as that of a shop window mannequin, and didn’t seem to have anything to do with me. I didn’t have to look. I knew every hair, every hollow and ridge of muscle, every bulge of fat intimately. Maybe intimately wasn’t the right word. I no longer cherished each mole, every hollow and dip, yet I had memorized his body, like I had memorized my route to work, through years of repeated exposure.
I ran my hand down his back, suddenly desperate to find a thread of connection between us. As my fingers rested on the soft wedge of flesh around his middle, I felt a spark, of what? Of anger maybe, at all the nights I’d spent in top notch restaurants, bored to tears by his business associates. The wedge had come about because Alistair fancied himself as something of a gourmet, always searching out the finest restaurants with the freshest, most unusual ingredients. It was just so pointless, as far as I was concerned. Food was just fuel after all, and once I’d consumed the eighteen hundred calories I allotted myself per day, I just told my complaining stomach that food was no longer on the agenda.
Alistair slipped off the condom and threw it on the floor, turned round and stuck his tongue in my ear. You would have thought that after ten years of marriage he might have figured out I hated him doing that.
As he slurped in my ear, my thoughts turned to Constanza. She seemed pretty efficient, but had I, after all, made the right decision in employing her? I turned my head away, disengaging his tongue from my ear. I needed reassurance on this one.
“Do you think Constanza might be a bit too vulgar? I mean, can a person who wears sparkly eye shadow and bright pink lipstick—not to mention those tight little skirts she can hardly walk in—really be a good role model for Ivy?”
“I don’t think she’s vulgar,” he murmured, before proceeding to suck on the side of my neck. The last thing I needed was a love bite. It was far too warm to wear a turtleneck and … Shit. His cock was hardening against my stomach. I was too exhausted to fake another orgasm, but I would, for the sake of Alistair’s ego, the poor clueless sod.
As I reached down and took his now rock hard erection in my hand, I began to wonder whether the vision of Constanza I’d just imbedded in his imagination, tight skirts and all, had stimulated its remarkable recovery.
“Oh God Alistair, you like her, don’t you?” I said, as the revelation hit me. “Getting a huge crush on the nanny. It’s the oldest cliché in the book.” I started to laugh. A big warm laugh that snaked its way out of me and left me giddy.
Alistair didn’t reply. He just reached for my breast and started caressing it in that soft sensuous manner that drives me insane. Couldn’t he just grab me for once, instead of pussyfooting around? And then anxiety closed in. As his urgent lips met mine and he pulled on a condom, I tried not to think about the other condom, which at this moment was spewing its contents (chockablock with bacteria) all over my mushroom coloured carpet.
As he started fiddling about between my legs, I geared myself up for another stellar acting performance.
Question to anyone out there: Aaah, what do you think I should do? Should I just ask Mr Haemorrhoid out or what?
Also, what about Constanza, should I sack her? Do you think she’s after Alistair, or that he’s after her? Oh why do I overanalyze so much? Your advice would be much appreciated.