Copyright belongs to the author SANINIAN. Neither this story nor any extract of it can be reproduced in anyway without the author's consent.
Olwen Matteo stood in her pine-clad kitchen surrounded by plastic bags full with a week's shopping. She reread the lawyer's letter and began to cry, silently. She felt stupid and ill and very alone.
It was 2 years since Gerry had left her for that bimbo secretary of his. Why then was she crying? Was it the finality? Or just the loneliness? She crumpled up the letter informing her that her 25 year marriage was over and pushed it into the bin.
'God! I feel awful', she thought, and shivered again All morning she had been fluey - sometimes boiling up and sweating, the next minute shivering,with all her bones aching. Then the letter, awaiting her on her return from the supermarket.
'And of all mornings', Olwen caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her mascara streaked. Her shortish black hair looked a mess. She began to put the food away in the fridge- freezer.
'I should be in bed', she said to herself, 'with someone pampering me. Not worrying about how I'm going to cope with a stranger under my roof.'
Olwen's decision to advertise for a paying lodger had been made 3 months earlier when she had decided to give up work as soon as she knew the terms of the divorce settlement. And because she needed additional income to pay the mortgage on the house she had moved to when her daughter had gone off to Uni. She had set too high a monthly rent for what had been her daughter's big study/bedroom, and the response had been small. After a bit of thought, Olwen had accepted a 25 year-old computer programmer with glowing references from his university, and from his local doctor, who in a long rambling character-reference had described him as, 'a young man of the highest moral integrity who has come through a really bad time and needs to make a new start.'
She glanced at the kitchen wall-clock. Nearly one o'clock ! He'd be here by three. Maybe she'd feel better if she lay down for an hour. Olwen finished putting everything away and went upstairs. She began to feel dizzy as she undressed in the warmth of the bedroom.The weak winter sun shafted through the gap in the middle of the curtains giving a dim sad light to the room. As she stepped out of her knickers she tripped and nearly fell over, her fall only being arrested as she banged into the mirror door of the wall-to wall ward-robe. Straightening up she gazed at her naked reflection in the mirror.
The figure she saw was about 5'5 " tall and weighed around140 lbs.
'Twenty pounds too much',Olwen thought ruefully as she patted the smooth round olive-skinned swell of her belly, 'I need to get back to the gym - but at least I'm not flabby'.
There was just the faintest hint of the stretch marks she had done her damnedest to avoid when pregnant with Amy 20 years ago. She cupped her breasts and admired them before letting them go - getting a sense of satisfaction when their melon-like shapes did not droop and sag. Olwen stooped to pick up the black sweatshirt she wore in bed and eased it down over her breasts and then her wide round hips. Her bum, she thought, was still in good shape.
'A bit big but not flabby', she mused. Last of all she pulled on her jeans, feeling as she did so, the hardness of her strong muscular thighs. ' Not bad for 44', she thought.
In all of this, Olwen Matteo did not have a single sexual thought. Years of living with her husband, Gerry Evans and his drunken, demanding rutting, his quick self-gratifying thrusting into her, regardless of her feelings or desires, and his loutish violence, combined with his jibes and sneers, had convinced her long ago that she was one of those women for whom sex would never be a pleasure.
Olwen set the radio alarm and took two paracetamol. She slipped into the warm bed and switched off the electric-blanket, then snuggled down under the duvet. In two minutes she was fast asleep.
She awoke as one coming up slowly from the depths of a great pool of heavy warm enveloping water. Somewhere in the distance a bell was ringing... It grew louder. She opened her eyes. Again the bell rang. She sprang out of bed, tripping over her discarded clothes and banging her elbow on the dressing table. She yelped with pain. The radio was playing. Its clock showed 3.10 p.m. Pulling on her dressing gown, Olwen raced downstairs and into the hall. As she opened the inner glass door, the bell rang again just above her. It seemed to reverb ate forever inside her head. She opened the main door.
On the doorstep stood a very tall thin young man with blonde hair reaching down to just below his ears. He seemed to be surrounded by boxes and had a suitcase in one hand and a travelling bag in the other. He wore a black wool overcoat with the collar turned up against the biting wind. But it was his eyes that she found exceptional. They were a deep piercing iris-blue and they seemed to be smiling.
'Mrs. Matteo?' The voice was soft and deep.
'Yes, I'm Ms Matteo', she heard herself say,' are you... are you... Mr Salford?
'Yes... I'm sorry if it's inconvenient. I... I hope I haven't got you out of bed. I. I... ', his voice tailed off and she suddenly remembered how she must look.
'No. it's fine... that is... I think I'm coming down with flu... I've been lying down.' She shivered in the cold air coming through the open door. ' Please come in.'
Carrying his bag and case David Salford stepped into the hallway.
'Shouldn't you go back to bed, Mrs Matteo,' he looked at her with concern, 'you mustn't take chances with flu. Keep warm and lots of fluid. I can manage myself and bring all my stuff just into the hallway... and I'll go out and get something to eat... and come back later.'
His voice was over-anxious but at the same time, warm and full of caring.
'My God, how young he is ', Olwen thought, 'And lecturing me on taking care of myself. He must see me as some kind of geriatric.' She was aware she was visibly shivering with cold. She felt dreadful. But she spoke as firmly as she could, ' Please come in, David. I'll take you up and show you your room. Then you can bring in your stuff and get settled while I put the kettle on.' Pulling her dressing gown round her she started up the stairs. David Salford followed.
He was pleased with the room. Over the moon in fact. She managed back downstairs with an effort and went into the kitchen, leaving him to deal with his stuff. She took another two paracetamol and put the kettle on. Her head was pounding and hot. Waves of fever swept her aching body. She sat down and cradled her head on the work-top.
'Mrs Matteo ', the voice seemed to come through a cotton-wool, 'Mrs. Matteo, you really must lie down... you are very unwell... '
She tried to get up from the stool but her legs gave way. Strong hands caught her and pulled her upright. She was aware of being held against a solid hard body. Then she slipped into nothingness.
It was quite dark when she awoke and she was pouring with sweat.As she came to consciousness she saw that her bedroom was dimly lit by a strange bed-light sitting on her dressing table.
'Where did that come from?' Memory came back. 'What am I doing here? How did I get here... ?' She pushed back the duvet - and realised with some surprise that there was a sheet as well. And, here her heart began to pound, she was wearing a strange sweat-shirt and big baggy jogging bottoms and an unknown pair of woollen socks several sizes too large for her small feet...
There was a half-empty carafe of what looked like orange juice on the chest of drawers at her bed, along with a tumbler - both on coasters, she noticed. The glass and carafe were warm to the touch. She sat on the bed and poured herself some juice. And thought.
Someone had put these clothes on her. 'And took the old ones off !' Her throat dried and her breath caught as that thought hit home. She desperately tried to claw a memory from the blankness of her mind.
She looked round the bedroom. Everything looked tidy and in place. She examined the bed. The electric blanket was missing. And there was a different under-sheet as well as the new top one. They were definitely from her linen cupboard though. She got up and came round the end of the bed. Her stockinged foot trod on the hot-water bottle. She picked it up. It was lukewarm.
She sat on the bed. Puzzled and worried. Then another thought struck her: It was dark. She drew back the curtain and peered out of the window. A waning crescent moon gleamed in a velvet black sky sprinkled with stars. She dropped the curtain.
'How long have I been asleep ?' she asked herself.
Opening the bed-room door she tiptoed along the hall. The door to the spare room was ajar with a dim light coming fthrough the opening. Olwen edged round the doorway. She could see on the chest of drawers by the window another of these night-lights.
'He must have bought them specially', she thought, 'How very good of him. But why?' She edged further into the doorway. She could hear him breathing.
'Not snoring, thank God', then wondered why she had that thought. Then she saw him.
The duvet was lying in a heap on the floor and he was lying on his back arms and legs spread wide across the entire width of the double bed. He was quite naked. Olwen's breath caught in her throat and her lips felt dry. She looked at the long lean tanned young body and had a fleeting picture of Gerry: his beer belly and his covering of coarse black hair and his sweat and his snoring. David looked like a Greek god.
.... There is more of this story ...