Monday, December 3, 2007

Wow Wow Wow

At five thirty that evening, Malc was in the hot, sweaty green room of the Genderblast studio, waiting to be escorted to meet Helenka Smythe. He was all squirrelly beside me, excited about meeting a woman who, he claimed, was one of the greatest movie stars of her generation. Since I’d never watched any of her movies, Malc was giving me a run down of her filmography. His favourite was a cult seventies flick, The Island of Lost Women, in which a boatload of nubile babes wearing fur bikinis and platform boots, are stranded on an island and taken captive by a band of kilt-wearing Scottish pirates.

“There’s a fight sequence in it between the girls and the pirates, where everything’s filmed from a very low angle,” he said. “One of the greatest leg sequences of all time. In one shot, the camera is imbedded in the sand, and you can see right up their skirts.”

“Hang on. I thought the girls were in bikinis?”

“I’m talking about the pirates. I don’t usually go for guys in frocks, but some of those legs are just spectacular. Glistening with sweat and flecked with sand.”

“Sounds, um …” like a piece of crap, “…fascinating.”

Malc had been nervously chomping his way through the complementary bowl of Ferrero Rochers, and his hands were covered in chocolate. I was just cleaning his palms with an antibacterial wipe, when the door opened and a researcher bustled in and introduced himself as Gavin.

“Malc darling,” he said in a cockney accent, sitting down beside Malc and putting an arm round his shoulder. “We’re in a bit of a pickle. Our transsexual punk band Anal Lube have just cancelled on us, so it looks like your slot’ll be twenty minutes, rather than the allotted ten. That all right?” Without waiting for a reply, he turned towards me. “And you are?”

“I’m his PR,” I said, extending my hand towards Gavin. “Scarlett Staines.”

He held my gaze and I started to get an Ireallyreallyfancythisblokehelp! feeling, while I felt my head vibrate like I’d just been walloped with a hammer.

What happened just then? Did we just have a moment? I returned his gaze shyly, mesmerized by his particular brand of street wise charisma. He was all sharp cheekbones and stubble, dripping with a sticky sensuality.

“You look a bit pale, sweetheart. Are you sure you’re all right?” he said, as reality poked its head through my sex daze. With his bleach blond crop and camp demeanour, he was obviously a screaming queen.

“I’m fine,” I replied, feeling like a total berk.

“I’m just dying to meet Helenka,” Malc gushed.

“And so you shall, my dear, just as soon as we get you primped,” Gavin replied. Then, putting his hand on my shoulder, in a friendly gesture that shouldn’t have turned me on, but did, he propelled me out of the room.

“I’m sorry to say I’ve never heard of Helenka,” I said, as he led me down the shabby corridor, with Malc scurrying behind.

“Don’t be. Someone as young as you couldn’t be expected to remember the old bag’s terrible forays onto celluloid,” he said pointedly, which was obviously meant to be flattering, which was flattering, since he looked a good few years younger than me. “She acts the lady, but let me tell you, everything about Helenka, apart from her bosoms, is fake. For a start, the name. Smythe indeed! Smythe, my ass. She was born plain Helen Smith in Bradford. Lost the accent along the way, of course. Tries to talk posh, but as I always say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. And between ourselves, she’s a right old bitch.”

“Helenka is not a bitch,” said Malc indignantly.

“You’ll see what I mean when you meet her,” Gavin said. We had come to a halt outside a pink door marked ‘Wardrobe.’ “Now then, Malc. Be a love and pop in here and let’s get you into some decent clothes.”

“Actually, I’d like him to keep that on,” I said, pointing to Malc’s t-shirt, which had Out of this World printed on it. “To advertise the agency.”

“Well, all right. Whatever you think’s best.” As he pulled a crumpled sheaf of papers out of the back pocket of his jeans, he exposed a rather tantalizing bit of back, which once again, got me in a bit of a tizzy.

His eyes drifted over my breasts, which were encased in a flimsy silk blouse. Actually, he stared at them rather longer than your average screaming queen might have. Most peculiar.

“Right now Scarlett,” he said, glancing over his papers. “I’ve read over this script you’ve written for your client.”

“Actually, it’s all my own work,” said Malc.

“Whatever. I’ve read through it and, well, it’s great. But remember Malc, if you do ad lib, keep it clean, in case they want to try and sell the program to the States. I think that horse joke will slip under the radar. What I need you to do for me now, is just pop down the hall to makeup, there’s a love.”

Once Malc had sloped off, Gavin said he’d take me through to meet Helenka if I liked, so I could see what a cow she really was. I giggled and said, all right then, and followed him through some doors and out onto the studio floor, which was enclosed by rows of seats which were rapidly filling up. We passed several TV cameras, until we were standing a few feet away from Helenka. She was sitting in one of those white sixties swivel chairs that look like a giant teacup that’s been sliced in half, and all I could see was the back of her head and a coppery ponytail, twitching about like the tail of a nervous horse. Over the murmurings of the audience, I could hear her shrieking, “What do you think you’re doing, you stupid girl?”

I have no idea who she was talking to.

“I’ve got to dash,” Gavin said. “Introduce yourself, if you dare.” He gave me a wink, before rushing off.

As I walked towards her, I could see that the girl she was abusing was on her knees, applying bronzer to her sizeable cleavage with a brush, while Helenka yelled, “No, no, that’s far too much. Wipe it off and start again.”

“Oh, hello there,” Helenka said, turning towards me. Her voice had a forced, theatrical quality. She had a mouth that was a little too wide and a nose that was a tad too crooked to make her conventionally beautiful, but what really struck me were her ice blue, otherwordly eyes, which were heavily outlined with black kohl. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re the spitting image of Mena Suvari?”

“Um, not that I recall,” I said, feeling flustered. Even though I’m nowhere near as beautiful as Mena, I couldn’t help but be flattered by the compliment. “Scarlett Staines, pleased to meet you.” It was awkward shaking hands over Alicia’s head, who was crouched down and sponging bronzer off her breasts.

“Well, Scarlett, I’m delighted to meet you. I expect you want an autograph, or are you a guest? I don’t know where I am half the time. That idiot Gavin never briefs me properly.”

“Actually, I’m here with a guest, Malc. He should be out of makeup at any moment.”

“Do take a seat,” she said, pointing to a chair that was a duplicate of her own. As I sank into it, she waved the make up girl away and leaned forward. Putting on a cashmere soft voice she said, “Look here sweetie, I don’t mean to pry, but you seem awfully down. You’re aura’s dark and look, I think I might be able to help. I don’t know if you’ve read about my psychic powers in the papers?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

She clutched my hand and closed her eyes. As I watched her double row of false eyelashes gently quivering, I began to feel afraid. “Wait,” she said. “This is so strange. I’m getting a transmission. I’m seeing someone. A child. A little blonde haired girl, walking away into the shadows. Yes, a girl is about to walk out of your life. Does that mean anything?” Her eyes flew open

“I do have a daughter, but she’s very much part of my life.”

“Look darling, do yourself a favour,” she said, pulling a card out of her handbag and pressing it into my hand. “Call me any time. I can clarify the future. These are troubling times for you, I can tell.”

Although the woman was clearly nuttier than a fruitcake, I couldn’t help wondering how she knew I had a daughter, and a blonde haired one at that. But before I could give the matter much further thought, Malc arrived, looking a bit of a state. They’d troweled on the foundation and overloaded his eyelashes with mascara.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Tori Spelling,” said Helenka, giving him the once over. Luckily, Malc was so thunderstruck, he didn’t hear the comment. He’d gone so peculiar over Helenka, that he’d curtsied, actually curtsied in front of her. I was embarrassed for him. I mean, honestly! He started rambling on about what an honour it was to meet her, and how he was shitting bricks at the prospect of appearing alongside such a megastar. At which point, Helenka stifled a yawn and told him he’d best pull himself together, since they needed to do a run through. She seemed much more interested in me, grabbing my hand and whispering “Ring me,” before I escaped across the studio floor and took my seat in the audience.

Tanya was on one side, Mia on the other, clutching Imogen’s hands and all fluttery with excitement. There was a lot of chatter around us, so I didn’t hear Malc do his run through. I hoped he’d be fine, I really did. But things didn’t look good. Helenka kept throwing her hands up, a look of exasperation on her face, as she gave him an ear full. Then calm would be restored for a few minutes, until she had another outburst.

I was getting more and more uncomfortable, sweltering away under the glare of the studio lights. Finally, after an interminably long wait, we were told to stop talking. The show was about to begin.

“So, darlings,” Helenka said to the audience. “We have this rather cute young man on tonight, Malc, who found love through the hippest gay dating agency in London. You may have heard of it, it’s called Out of This World, and it’s right here in Soho.” She leaned across and stroked Malc’s cheek. “He’s looking very glowy, because he’s just fallen in love.” She elongated the word love into a long purr.

The audience looked at a cue card and said “Aaaaah,” in unison, and Malc glanced up coyly, looking very much like he was in the first flush of love.

“Don’t be shy, darling. So, you met Mr Wonderful through Out of this World?”

This was going wonderfully. Another plug.

“Yes, he’s an absolute dreamboat. I am so glad I found him, because until I contacted the agency, I was the world’s worse commitmentphobic. And now look at me. We’re living together. After just two months!”

“Wow. I’ll have to take the number of that agency off you later. I haven’t exactly been too lucky in love recently.”

A guy at the front held up a cue card and the audience cooed, “Poor Helenka.”

Helenka leaned forward and put her hand over Malc’s. “Why do you think it took you so long to find the right guy?”

“Well I was always looking for The One. And I knew when I met The One, there’d be The Click.”

“The Click?”

“You know, your eyes meet for the first time and you’re overwhelmed by this tremendous rush of excitement.” Yes Malc, I know exactly what you mean, I thought. I just had a similar experience with a gay guy called Gavin. How weird was that? “If there wasn’t that va va voom in the first five minutes of meeting a guy, I was out of there.”

“Did you have any luck at all?”

“Oh yeah, I had tons of boyfriends. I was always falling for men I thought were deeply enigmatic, only to discover after a few weeks, or months, that they were about as complex as a piece of sponge cake. Then, once I’d decided I wanted to get rid of someone, I’d go in nice and easy with some soft fuzzy lines like, ‘I’m really not ready for a long term commitment with anyone at the moment’, or ‘Work’s too stressful right now for me to give you one hundred per cent, and I feel like you’re being short changed.’”

Helenka rolled her eyes. “Believe me doll, I can relate.”

“If that didn’t work, I’d take the critical route. Something like, ‘I usually date really toned guys and you’re a bit podgier than my average type, so I can’t really see this going anywhere long term.’”

“Ooh, you are naughty,” she said, giving a girlish giggle.

“If he was religious, I’d hone in on that. I’d be like, ‘You’re a Jew and I’m a Mormon. Did I not mention it? So really I’m looking for a relationship within my own faith.’”

A few laughs from the audience. Malc smirked. It looked like he was beginning to enjoy himself.

“But some of them still clung on? Like dying men clutching onto a sinking ship?”

Malc nodded, then turned to the audience with a boyish grin. “Want to know a line that’ll end any relationship in ten seconds flat?”

Nervous titters from the audience.

“Just say to the guy, ‘I’ve always wanted to have a threesome,” (pause, he waited for anticipation to rise in the audience. There were some giggles, he waited a beat), “with a horse.”

The audience exploded.

“I’d follow that up with, ‘Do you fancy going to the country this weekend, and making my fantasy reality?’” Malc shook his head, like he was deeply ashamed of the way he’d treated those poor guys. “Believe me, it works a treat.”

Helenka looked unconvinced. “I’ll make a note of that. So, what happened? Since your dating life was such a disaster, you decided you needed professional help?”

“Absolutely. When I went for my first interview at Out of this World, I told my matchmaker, Mia, that I didn’t have time to waste. That I knew the kind of man I wanted and needed her to find him for me. “What I’m looking for,” I told her, “is a guy who’s over six foot, with great abs, very white teeth, a brilliant sense of humour, who hates pets, and who doesn’t have thick curly hair.’ To which she replied, ‘I hear you, but I have this little five foot six guy on my books I just know you’re going to love.’

“Well, as you can imagine, I wasn’t too keen. My first question was, ‘What kind of hair has he got?’ I was particular about this, because my last boyfriend was always blocking up my plug with his curly black hair, not to mention shedding all over the bed. It was worse than having a dog. But Mia wouldn’t specify his hair type, she simply insisted I go on a date with, well, let’s just pretend his name is Adam.”

We would have to pretend, because Malc hadn’t had a date in months.

“So grudgingly, I agreed to go on a date with him. I knew that if we didn’t click in the first few minutes, he was toast.”

“So, what happened? Did you click?” Helenka asked, wide eyed with anticipation.

“I most certainly did not. We arranged to meet in a seafood restaurant, and the first thing I noticed when I got to his table, was that his hair was identical to that plug-blocking guy I’d ended up loathing. I think I could just about have overlooked the height factor, if everything else had been perfect. But everything else was not perfect. He had the hair, for God’s sake! And as we talked, it became abundantly clear that there was going to be no click, not even a faint one. I picked at my lobster and wondered how soon I could get out of there.”

The audience was silent with anticipation. Malc had them in the palm of his hand.

“But after a few glasses of wine, I was surprised to find I was quite enjoying myself. I kept telling myself that it was really such a shame that there had been no click, because he was really quite amusing, and the way he ate his oysters was quite a turn on.”

Nervous laughter from the audience.

“At the end of the night, we were standing outside the restaurant saying our farewells, when Adam started to look a bit peaky. He said that his stomach felt like it was on a spin cycle and that maybe there’d been something wrong with the oysters. Since I lived nearby, I suggested he come and lie down in my apartment until he felt better. As soon as we got inside, he rushed into the bathroom and started to retch.

“So I followed him in and asked him if he was all right, which was a bit of a stupid question, given the circumstances. And as I saw him puking into my toilet, I reached out and pulled back his hair, this shoulder length curly hair. And suddenly I caught myself thinking, What beautiful hair. He turned to me and said, ‘I’m fine, really. I think it’s all out now.’ And as he spoke he spewed all over my new Patrick Cox loafers.”

The audience erupted with laughter. Malc turned towards them, soaking up the attention.

“And guess what?” he said, addressing them. “I found I didn’t care. Because at that moment, I fell in love. For the first time, ever.”

“Wow,” said Helenka, shaking her head. “It gives us all hope, doesn’t it?”

“It certainly does. Since then I’ve even quit my old job and started working at the agency.” There was some truth to that. Malc had tried for years to make a living as a conceptual artist. Tanya and I used to go to his shows, held in disused warehouses, where we’d stand around drinking wine that tasted like paint stripper. I remember one of his installation pieces, entitled ‘Civil War’, which was a light bulb screwed into the side of a television set. I must admit, I never really got it. For years Malc dreamt of meeting a tall dark handsome collector, who would declare him a genius, buy all his artworks and promote him, but when it became clear that was never going to happen, Mia took pity on him and offered him a job. He was just as bad at working at the agency as he had been creating art, but at least it earned him a paycheck.

“This agency changed my life.” He looked direct to camera. “It could change yours too. Out of This World. Give them a bell.” Okay, so maybe he was laying it on a bit thick. He looked like a crazed televangelist. But what the heck, the audience evidently adored him. And from the ecstatic look on Helenka’s face, you’d think she loved him too. The two of them continued larking about and making the audience hoot with laughter, until Helenka finally wound things up.

As Malc exited to rousing applause, Mia gushed, “Wow, that was amazing,” while on the other side of me, Tanya whispered, “Well, that wasn’t a total pile of garbage.” I had to admit that, amazingly enough, Malc had pulled it off.

I sat through a couple more interviews, some hot shot director and a woman who sculpted giant vaginas, until I started to get anxious. Maybe I should check up on Malc. It wasn’t inconceivable that he might, at this very moment be insulting some poor unfortunate who he didn’t deign good looking enough to invade his personal space.

As I crept backstage and opened the door to the green room, I nearly got trampled by a drag queen version of The Supremes who were on their way to do a final number on the show. In the corner of the room sat a weary looking Malc. Good, at least he wasn’t in the middle of a row. In fact I’d never seen him look so lacklustre. He barely looked up as I sat beside him on the sofa.

“What’s wrong?” I said, putting my arm round his shoulders and giving him a squeeze.” No reply. He was staring down at his hands, which were trembling. “I expect meeting Helenka was overwhelming, wasn’t it? But wow, Malc, you really knocked them dead out there.” I continued to fawn over him, without generating the slightest response, until finally someone burst in the room. My heart did a little jump as I realized it was Gavin.

“What can I say?” Gavin said, rushing over to Malc. “You were brilliant.”

Malc came out of his catatonic state, smiled and said, “Do you really think so?”

“Sure I do.” Then, swivelling towards me, he said, “The show’s just wrapped. Any chance of you coming out for a drink?”

Malc jumped up, exclaiming, “Absolutely!” From the ecstatic look on his face, it was clear that I wasn’t the only one with a huge crush on Gavin.

“Great,” Gavin said, although he looked none too pleased.

Sitting down beside me, he said softly, “What about you? Are you up for it?”

His thigh was pressed against mine, which actually made it quite hard to think, and the intense way his green eyes were assessing me was almost, well, predatory. I found myself wishing that Malc would just disappear and leave us alone, until it dawned on me just how irrational that thought actually was, given the context that Gavin was gay.

Anxious to regain control over my emotions, I stood up abruptly. That was a bit better. Now my thigh was no longer in contact with Gavin’s, I could think a bit more clearly. Gavin was simply suggesting a friendly drink, I told myself sharply, and it would do no harm to go along.

“That would be great,” I said, “but I need to go get my friends in the audience first.”

“Fabulous,” he said, putting his palm in the small of my back and propelling me out the door. We didn’t get far down the corridor, however, because a group of young women were clustered outside Helenka’s dressing room. One of them was rapping rather insistently on her dressing room door.

“Jesus,” muttered Malc. “It’s like flipping Piccadilly Circus around here. Do you mind getting out of my way? Yes, I’m talking to you, young lady,” he said to a rotund girl who was sitting on the floor, staring at a photo of Helenka. “Can you move your substantial backside to one side so we can get past?” The girl looked up at him blankly.

“Groupies,” Gavin whispered, as we manoeuvred our way through the throng.

“Really?” I said, wide-eyed. “You mean, she sleeps with them?”

“Who knows? She claims she just invites them in for tea.”

“Afternoon tea, at this time of night?”

“I know, it does sound a bit weird, doesn’t it? But then, Helenka is a bit weird, as you’ve probably noticed.”

Helenka’s door creaked open and she popped her head out. “Will somebody get rid of these girls. I’m not up to seeing anyone today,” she bellowed, in a most unladylike manner. Then, spying me, her voice turned saccharine light. “Ah, Scarlett, fancy coming in for a cup of tea? I’d really like to talk to you more about your aura, darling.”

“Sorry, not tonight,” I said over my shoulder. “I’ve got plans.”

“Oh sweetheart, please don’t tell me you’ve been falling for Helenka’s hocus pocus,” Gavin said, as we slipped through a door and into the audience. “It’s so put on.”

Was it? I wasn’t at all sure. I was still thinking about Helenka’s ominous prediction, while Mia, Imogen and Tanya surrounded us and started congratulating Malc on his performance. They needn’t have bothered. Malc was too busy ogling Gavin to take any of it in.

Since the Genderblast studio was in Soho’s Greek Street, Gavin insisted we go round the corner to The Dog and Duck. Once inside its cramped, noisy confines, I couldn’t really relax, because I kept thinking I’d suddenly see Connor somewhere in the crowded pub, indulging in sausage and mash and a solitary pint.

I nursed a glass of white wine while I earwigged in to Malc’s one sided conversation with Gavin. He was deep into his favourite topic, about how no one understood what a genius he was, and that after he died he’d finally be recognized as one of the greatest artists of all time. Gavin looked thoroughly bored.

I was feeling pretty tired. The day had been way too stressful, and I was hoping I’d be able to relieve some of that stress by running home and giving my copper pans a thorough polish. Leaning over to Gavin I said, “Sorry to interrupt, but I think I’m going to head off.”

He looked perplexed. “But it’s still early.” Early indeed! It was a quarter past eleven. He rested his hand on my arm, causing a rush of excitement to jolt through me. “I was thinking of heading down to Club Mink later.”

“Oh, I go there all the time,” gushed Malc. “It’s fabulous.”

“Do you really?” said Gavin. “Then it’s strange that I don’t remember seeing you there, isn’t it? Because, let’s face it, your face is rather unforgettable.”

Tanya snorted with laughter, but Malc lit up, thinking he’d been paid a compliment. Gavin caught my eye and we shared the joke.

“Anyone else want to come?”

Mia and Imogen said they were heading home, but Tanya was keen.

“Count me out too,” I said. “This is way too late for me. Seriously.”

Gavin grabbed my hand. “Don’t be a kill joy. You’ve got to come.”

“Sorry, but I have to meet this client for a nine am meeting. I’ve really got to get a good night’s sleep,” I said, meaning it as I said it. So why did I have this unbelievable urge to go clubbing, an urge I hadn’t had in at least six years, with one of the hottest gay guys on the planet? And I didn’t mean Malc.

In the end Gavin was too persuasive. We took a taxi to Club Mink, and while Gavin hit the bar, Tanya and I dashed over to nab a free table. Malc came trailing over and slipped in beside me.

The table was illuminated with red light, casting Malc’s face into deep shadows and giving him satanic vibe.

“Gavin’s gay, or hadn’t you noticed?” he snarled. “So you needn’t waste any more of your time flirting with him.”

“Calm down Malc,” said Tanya, who, under the red lights, looked like an evil cherub. “I don’t think Scarlett’s flirting with him, she’s just being friendly.”

“No I won’t calm down. I think I’ve got a really good chance and Scarlett’s totally blowing it for me by monopolizing his attention.”

“You really are an old misery guts, do you know that?” said Tanya. “You should be enjoying your moment of glory. You were bloody good on that show. You did hear everyone laughing their heads off, didn’t you?”

“What good are laughs? I want love. Or if not love, then at least a decent shag.”

One nano-second later, he was beaming, as Gavin wedged himself between Malc and me and handed round the drinks.

“Okay Gavin, dish it,” said Tanya. “Has Helenka had work done on her face?”

“Oh yeah. I know for a fact that she’s had at least a couple of face lifts. Still, she looks pretty good for a broad who’ll never see fifty again.”

“Crikey,” said Tanya, sipping her cocktail. “I didn’t realize she was that ancient. What I don’t get about her is when she turned gay. I mean, wasn’t she living with that arms dealer, Donny Doherty, during the eighties?”

“Yeah she was, up until he went to prison, anyway. I’m not sure why she switched sides, but switch she did, some time in the mid nineties. Now she’s got quite a following, although it’s a bit of a puzzle what it is that makes all the girls go ga ga over her.”

“Oh, it’s not just girls, Malc’s got quite a thing for her too,” I said, while Gavin gave me a look that made me feel like he’d just peeled off my blouse and trousers and was going to do something totally obscene to me.

I hurried Tanya into the Ladies.

“Look, maybe I’m way off beam here, but is there any possibility that Gavin is, you know, straight? I can’t be sure, but I think he’s giving me the come on.”

“Hardly. The guy’s as bent as a six bob note.”

“You’re probably right.”

“I always am. All the sexiest ones are gay. Sod’s law, or something.”

Okay, so Gavin was attracted to men, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have fun, did it? Since there was no danger in flirting like mad with a gay guy, I decided there’d be no harm in asking him to join me on the dance floor. He was an incredibly good dancer and kept doing this grindy thing with his hips that was totally fluid, and, oh yeah, made me feel insanely horny.

As the night wore on and more and more drinks were consumed, it was pretty hard to enjoy myself, because every time I turned around, Malc’s horse face glared back at me. Tanya had managed to pick up a John Travolta in Grease clone, with a big quiff and a frantic line in dance steps. His shirt had come undone and he had a smoking body on him, so I wasn’t all that surprised when Tanya whispered in my ear that she was heading back to his place.

At the end of the night, the three of us left together, and walked down a dimly lit alley somewhere in King’s Cross, until we got to the main road. Malc wanted to share a cab, but since Gavin lived near me, in Muswell Hill, and Malc’s pad was all the way down in Croydon, Gavin decreed it would be more cost effective if Malc made his own way home.

Once Malc had got in his cab and I was left with Gavin, my stomach started churning with nerves. Fears sprang up like mushrooms. What was I doing? Who was this man I hardly knew? And why had I gone along with the idea of sharing a cab? Anything could happen in a cab. Anything.

While we were waiting for a cab to go past, I kept up a steady stream of nervous chatter.

“I think Malc really likes you. I guess he isn’t your type?”

He gave a little smile. “Well, of course he isn’t. I mean, the guy looks like a horse.”

“He does not.” I caught his eye and started to laugh. “Well, maybe a bit.”

“Why was he coming onto me anyway? I thought he’d found Mr Right through that agency.”

“Well no, actually that story was a little bit embellished.”

“You mean, made up?”

“Um, yeah. Malc’s actually single. Are you angry we weren’t straight with you?”

“Not at all. It was a very believable act. I’m more pissed about the way he kept trying to flirt with me although I made it obvious I wasn’t the slightest bit interested.”

A tense silence closed over us. I was thinking that the sooner a blasted cab came along and the sooner I could get home, the better, although by now I was way too weary to even consider polishing my copper pans.

At last, much to my relief, a taxi rolled up and we got in.

To be honest, I was a little perplexed at why he didn’t exactly keep to his half of the seat. His thigh was pressed up close to mine and he’d slightly angled his body round so that his shoulder and part of his chest brushed against me. Which was fine, it really was, if a little unconventional. It just made it very difficult to think about anything but kissing him, of pulling his t-shirt up and running my hands all over his chest, before bending down and running my tongue over his stomach.

Licking his stomach indeed! Help me God, I prayed, I’m losing it. I had to get home, had to. I’d take a cold shower. Slip into bed. Sleep. Tomorrow I’d look back on this night as an aberration.

Because he didn’t seem like he was going to break this interminable silence, I plunged in with, “So what kind of guys do you go for?”

He was quiet for a moment. Eventually he said, “The kind who have breasts. They’re known as women.”

“Oh,” I said, as a volcano of pleasure exploded in the pit of my stomach. “But I thought—”

“I know what you thought. Can’t say I blame you.”

So he wasn’t gay? So the signals he’d been giving me were all leading up to … to what? Now that his matter of sexual preference had been cleared up, it looked like we were headed in the direction of a night of hot, craven, passionate, meaningless sex. Was that what I wanted? Yes, oh please, yes. Did that mean I was going to cave in to my desires? It most certainly did not.

His face edged closer. I could feel his breath on my neck. His arm snaked round my shoulder.

I could stop him at any time. All I had to do was say something. I mean, just because I’d given myself the green light to forge ahead with Connor, did not mean I could hop in the sack with any Tom, Dick or Gavin.

I wondered whether this was a good time to mention that I was married. Maybe not, I thought, as Gavin’s lips met mine.

*******************************

We ended up at his crumbling old apartment block. The stairs creaked as we stumbled up them, kissing against walls, fumbling against banisters. All the way up five flights of stairs. Until we reached the door of his apartment and I suddenly realized I wasn’t as brave as I thought.

“I can’t do this,” I said, clenching my hand.

He lifted up my fist, and bit my knuckle in a way that made me ache for him to stop but also made me want him to bite harder. I pulled my hand away.

“Look, I’m married.”

“I guessed that much.”

“How on earth? I mean, I don’t wear a ring. I have one of course, but it’s so valuable I feel too nervous to wear it. I keep it in a safe.”

“Or maybe you do it because, subconsciously, you’d quite like an affair.”

He turned away and put his key in the lock.

“It’s not really a question of what I’d quite like,” I said, getting quite angry. “I have a daughter, responsibilities.”

“Look, why don’t you come in and have a drink? It might calm you down.”

“I don’t need to calm down,” I said.

I followed him in, because I didn’t want to leave, I suppose. We stood side by side in his bright yellow kitchen, and he handed me a gin and tonic.

“I should call a taxi.”

“I’d like you to stay the night. I mean, I won’t try and have sex with you, if you don’t want me to. Does that sound crazy?”

“Yes.” But I knew I was going to stay anyway.

We went through to the bedroom. The walls were painted white. One wall was taken up with a huge glass case full of toy robots.

“Robots? Isn’t that a kid’s thing?”

He looked a bit irritated. Me and my big mouth.

“Where’d you get that?” I said, pointing to a sign hanging over his bed, which was messy and covered in comics. The mess should have made me feel all agitated, like it did back home, but it didn’t.

“Like it?” he said, bending down to switch it on. PEEPSHOW flashed off and, off and on in neon pink. I found the sign insanely sexy.

“Is this it?” I said incredulously, gesturing around the room. He nodded. “Where’s the bathroom?”

“Down the hall. I share it with some of the other tenants. Not bad for a hundred quid a week, eh?”

“Gavin, how old are you?” I said, sitting down on the bed.

“Twenty eight.”

“Twenty eight and renting two rooms? You’ve come a long way baby.”

Getting up, I walked over to the window, lifted the tattered bamboo blind and peered out. The dawn was already settling softly on the red brick houses opposite.

He came up behind me and kissed me on the back of my neck, then reached under my blouse and pushed his hands under my bra.

A little sigh escaped my lip. My knees were buckling. I sank down on the floor and he rolled on top of me. Abruptly, I sat up and ran my hand through my hair.

“Okay look, let’s just talk, all right?”

“Sure,” he said, with barely controlled amusement.

We got up and sat down side by side on the bed. I picked up a Japanese comic book, featuring scantily clad girls with big doe eyes.

“Don’t tell me,” I said. “You read this just for the stories?”

“You think I’m a bit dense, don’t you?” he said, smiling.

“No,” I said, surprised. I hadn’t actually given the matter of Gavin’s intellectual capacities any thought.

He reached over and picked up the comic. “For your information I do speak Japanese. I worked on a game show in Tokyo for three years.”

“You studied Japanese?”

“Not studied no, I just picked it up. I was told I have a pretty good accent. Sometimes after talking to a contestant over the phone they’d meet me in the flesh and be surprised I wasn’t Japanese.”

“Really? I would have thought the name Gavin would have given it away.” What was the matter with me? I couldn’t manage to say anything nice. I suppose it was because I felt so frustrated. I was not going to cheat on Alistair with Gavin. Unlike Connor, he was a totally unknown quantity. “So, Tokyo, wow, where else have you worked?”

“Just Melbourne, Sydney, Seattle, Chicago, oh, and Boston.”

“Right. Kind of puts my stupid little life in perspective, doesn’t it?”

“You do PR?”

“Yeah, if you must know, I’m the publicist for Flowerette Incontinence Pants.” He was about to say something, probably make some really puerile joke, so I leaned over and lightly kissed his lips.

“I think that’s enough talk for now. I need to get some sleep.”

I took off my clothes, leaving on my underwear, and pulled the duvet up. I didn’t think I’d sleep at all because the PEEPSHOW sign was still flashing. But I did.

When I woke up, sun was streaming through the bamboo blind and I felt very calm.

He was lying beside me, looking at me.

“Hi.”

“Oh hi,” I said, blinking in the sunlight. “My head’s killing me. Do you have any coffee?”

“No, but I might have some tea. I’ll go look.”

I lay there in his bed, my limbs all luxurious and drowsy, while I watched Gavin stretch and wander off to the kitchen, wearing just his boxers. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I told myself, just kissed some boy who was into toy robots. By this evening I’d have forgotten all about him.

He brought me my tea and I sat up in my bra and sipped it. It tasted delicious. It was obviously some weird new fashionable mix like fennel and hibiscus. And there were things floating around in it. Lemongrass, maybe? I was no tea expert. I’d always been a hardcore coffee addict.

“Nice tea,” I said.

“Actually, it’s prawn flavoured ramen noodles. It’s all I had in the cupboard.”

“Right,” I said, laughing nervously. He made me feel so un-hip. I didn’t like that about him. As I drank the noodles and sank back into the pillow, reality seemed as far away as the moon. Alistair. Ivy. Work. Work! My meeting with Brian Mulhoon.

I bounded out of bed and started gathering up my clothes.

“Look, you don’t fancy a shower do you? You and me and a bar of soap?”

Yes I did. He didn’t know how much. But if I got into a shower with him, well, it was pretty much a given that I’d never make my meeting.

So I insisted we showered separately, before catching a taxi in together.

Sitting beside Gavin on the ride to work, there was an ease between us. It felt like we could have spent the whole ride just leaning towards each other, not saying a thing, but in the end, my inquisitive nature got the better of me.

“So, listen, I’ve got to know. What’s the deal with work? You seemed a lot more camp at the studio. Does everyone think you’re gay?”

“Yeah, well, actually that’s my own fault. It sort of slipped out that I was gay in the interview. I’d just got back from Australia and was desperate for cash. And I just sensed I’d have the edge if I just went with the whole gay thing.”

“Must be a bit of a strain, putting on an act all the time?”

“Yeah, I guess so. Like today, I’d like to go in and tell everyone about this really sexy girl I met last night. But of course, I can’t,” he said sadly. “Look, I’m not going to pressure you into giving me your number. But if you ever feel like getting together, ring me at work.”

That wasn’t exactly likely, now was it? I’d had my moment of insanity and now it was back to my nice boring marriage and my nice boring life. If I was going to cheat, it was going to be with Connor. That’s just the way it had to be. I sighed.

After we’d exited the cab outside my office, Gavin gave me a kiss and squeezed my hand, before going on his way. Seconds later, I’d just gone through the swing doors, when I noticed that Connor was right behind me. Shit. He must have seen everything.

We ended up side by side in the lobby, waiting for the lift.

“Nice morning for it?” he ventured.

I knew what it looked like. Like I’d blown off Connor’s sausage and mash in The Dog and Duck for a bout of heavy shagging with Gavin.

“Well, a nice morning for lounging around in bed, reading the papers, eating warm toast. Not a nice morning for a meeting with Brian about incontinence pants.”

At last the lift arrived. We got in and headed for the fourth floor.

“He keeps sending me these free samples. I don’t really want to throw them away, but what am I meant to do with them? I was thinking of sending them to my mother in Florida. She probably knows loads of old birds who’d find a use for them.”

“Count yourself lucky. I’ve got three boxes of Villorex blocking up my bathroom.”

“That is bad.”

And suddenly the awkwardness was gone, and we both broke into giggles.

We came out of the lift and turned left down the corridor. When we got to my office door he said, “I didn’t know you were seeing someone.”

“Oh, you mean Gavin?” I said casually. “He’s just a friend. Catch you later.”

I scrambled into my office and snapped open my hand mirror. My skin looked grey, but my eyes glowed with happiness. As I remembered kissing Gavin on the stairway of his apartment block, a bolt of lust shot through me. Just forget about him, I told myself firmly, before opening the door and heading down the corridor to the boardroom.

At the end of an excruciating two hours with Brian, in which we discussed promotional ideas for the Ultraguard, I managed to convince him not to send me any more pants.

I was slumped on my desk, my eyelids heavy with tiredness, when Tanya rang.

“Quite a night, huh? Wow. That Gavin is hot with a capital H, isn’t he?”

“I suppose so.”

“Hilarious, absolutely priceless, the way Malc was trailing him all night.”

“Yeah, Gavin didn’t fancy him at all. Poor old Malc.”

“Look, the reason I called was that I think I know what you can do with all those incontinence pants Brian keeps sending you.”

“Yes?”

“Sex shops.”

“Pardon?”

“Yeah, I just saw it on the Internet. Sex shops sell diapers for blokes who want to be adult babies. What do you think?”

“You’re a genius.” At least that was one problem solved. I’d drop them off at my local sex shop, as soon as I got a moment. “So, how’d your night go? That guy you went home with looked pretty sexy.”

“Strictly a one-nighter. Even though he spoke four languages, he wasn’t all that stimulating, once we got back to his pad. He was trying to woo me in Hungarian, but it got old very fast, let me tell you. The only way to shut him up was to gently lead his rapidly moving tongue to a place it would be a lot more useful.”

“You don’t mean—“ Sometimes Tanya’s audacity left me speechless.

“Well, what else was I meant to do to shut him up? And let me tell you, he was a very talented cunnilinguist. As he was lapping away, I kept wondering if there was a Ph.D in there somewhere. Something along the lines of whether cunning linguists always make good cunnilinguists? Do you think I should go back to college and find out?”

I giggled. “I don’t know about that. You jacked in your degree in fashion design after four months, didn’t you?”

“True, but that’s because I wasn’t inspired by the course. This is different. I really wouldn’t mind conducting this kind of research. Now, who do we know that speaks foreign languages?”

“Gavin speaks pretty good Japanese.”

“Oh really? I could test my theory out on him. No, bugger it, he’s gay.”

“Actually, he isn’t.” Shit. That was a mistake.

“Oh? And how would you know?”

I chewed the corner of my nail, something I hadn’t done since I was a teenager. I didn’t really want to tell her about Gavin, because I was basically trying to pretend the whole thing hadn’t happened. But at the same time, I was dying to tell someone.

“How do you think?”

She gave a horrified gasp. “You mean you road tested him?”

“Yeah, well, I kind of did.”

“I think I’m going to faint. You slept with him? You slept with Gavin?”

“Not exactly. We did share a bed, but—“

“Oh God, Scarlett. This is amazing. So?”

“What?”

“So, details. Like, is he a brilliant cunnilinguist?”

“Will you shut about that. I don’t know, because we didn’t do anything but kiss.”

“Right. And I’m Demi Moore.”

“Look Tanya, we’ll talk later. I’ve got to dash. A huge chunk of rainforest has just walked through the door.”

I couldn’t believe this abundant display could be from Gavin. Apart from anything else, I was pretty sure he didn’t have the cash to pay for this tangle of orchids and exotic palms.

The man carrying the flowers plonked them down and handed me a tiny envelope. When I pulled out the card I read,

Thank you so much. Can’t wait to watch the show on Thursday. I hope we get squillions of new clients thanks to you (and Malc of course!)

Mia xxx

Which was a bit of an anticlimax. Connor passed my window and stared at the flowers. I thought I detected a twinge of jealousy, but that may have been entirely in my head, seeing as I’d had about two hours sleep and was beginning to hallucinate. The smell of the flowers was actually giving me a headache, and my eyeballs felt gritty and sore, but somehow I got through the day.

Just as I was leaving, Mia phoned. After I’d thanked her for the flowers she replied, “My pleasure. I had to call you, now that Malc’s finally pushed off home. God, that guy is a pain.”

“What’s he done now?”

“He claims you went home with that Gavin bloke. Isn’t that ridiculous?”

“Why’d he think that?”

“God knows. Said you two seemed very keen to be rid of him at the end of the night. I told him that he he’d got the wrong end of the stick, that you wouldn’t cheat on Alistair in a million years. But you know Malc, he always expects the worst from people.”

“Actually,” I said in a tiny voice. “I did go home with him.”

“Oh?”

“Come on Mia. What’s the big deal? It was just a snog and I’m never going to see him again.”

“Are you sure you’re all right? This is so not like you Scarlett.”

“I know,” I said, wondering what on earth had got into me. “Isn’t it wonderful?”

Although by the evening, my mood had made an about-face. Lying next to Alistair in bed, I began to feel appallingly, awfully guilty about the whole business. But the guilt had an upside, in that when I made love to Alistair that night, it was frantic and heated. I even managed to pull off my first real orgasm in a very long time.

What do you all make of that then!! I’m too confused to make head or tale of it.

All I know is it was GOOD. I mean, how can something that feels that good be bad, you know?

2 comments:

ke said...

I really REALLY like the sound of Gavin. I would definitely call him if I were you. He sounds like he'd be pretty interesting in AND out of bed.

having my cake said...

Yup, I like the sound of Gavin too. Fantasising about him when you're shagging your husband probably means you quite like the idea too lmao :)