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.
Apart from the tufts in his arm-pits he had no hair on his upper body that she could see and he was tanned a golden brown. Blond hair on his long legs gleamed in the lamp-light, ending in a profusion of honey-gold at his groin. Out of this bush and lying fat and thick along his inner thigh was his penis. Olwen had never had a close-up of any man's penis apart from Gerry's. His had been lost in the fat folds of beer-belly that overhung it and the black wiry hair that sprouted all over him but mostly between his legs.
David moved and gave a little moan, stirring in the bed. Suddenly she realised that she had entered quite far into the room. Slowly she stepped back. She stared in fascination as the foreskin seemed to peel back from the hardening penis and the plum-like head emerged. It swelled, longer and thicker. Olwen gazed in wonder and curiosity. She licked her dry lips and glanced quickly at his face. His eyes were fast shut but his mouth was open slightly and she could hear him breathing more rapidly. She looked back and saw the penis, now hard and thick.
'Like a big courgette '. She found the association funny and had to press her hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle. The penis began to move, slowly and jerkily across his thigh and abdomen, till it swung free, to stand pointing up his body. It rose, long and thick and hard, a great veined ivory pole with a large bulbous purple knob at its end, quivering above the hard, muscled belly...
'It's beautiful', she thought, 'so proud and strong'.
David was now beginning to breathe in shallow quick gasps as the blood-gorged cock throbbed with a life all of its own.
Olwen knew she should leave but the sight held her like a victim is held by a swaying king-cobra. Her heart was drumming in her chest and she could hardly breathe but she couldn't take her eyes off the scene a few feet from her. Then, without warning, a spasm rippled through him and gouts of white semen spurted from his rearing penis to splatter over his chest and belly.
Olwen turned and fled.
David Salford retreated to his bedroom to complete drying himself after his shower. He smiled ruefully as he reflected on the fact that he had had his first wet dream for years. In truth it had been his only sexual experience since Julie had gone into the last stage of her illness three years ago. He sat naked on the edge of the bed and tried to remember sex with Julie. But the images became interspersed by visual memories of those last awful months, as she had withered to a skeleton and he had held her frail body as he fed her and washed her and nursed her, until he could cope no longer and she had gone to the hospice for the last ten days of her life.
He sat sad and forlorn, remembering. After a bit he got up and began to dress. It was ironic that he had come to this strange town for a new start and within minutes of his arrival had found himself nursing another sick woman.
'Not really THAT sick!' he reminded himself. Still, he'd had to do everything for her for in the last couple of days. She had been out of it.
He remembered how she had collapsed in his arms and he had put her to bed and watched over her as she went into high fever. Despite his three years in medical school he had been a bit alarmed when she'd become incoherent and delirious. He'd thought of getting her doctor but didn't know how to contact him. He'd tried both neighbours but got no reply. They seemed to be away.
When at last he'd got her doctor's number in the address book by the phone, he'd found out that she'd only recently gone on the man's list. He'd come out though. She'd come round just before he arrived but was incoherent and woozy. The doctor had given her a good check-up and advised David to keep her in bed and get lots of fluid into her.
'She'll sweat a lot. But her heart is sound enough. She's got a bad bout of this 'flu that's going about. But as long as you stop her from dehydrating she'll be o.k. Phone me again if you're worried, lad' And he had gone.
In the middle of that first night he had got her to drink a fair amount of warm juice. She was very weak and sleepy. He'd had to support her as she slurped the juice. She'd mumbled away, mentioning, ' Gerry' - whoever he was - several times. Even when he'd half-carried her to the bathroom and held her while she peed, then knelt to wipe her as she lay half-draped across his back, she had simply whimpered and moaned softly.
When he had removed her sweat-soaked clothing and bathed her as she sat on the bath towel on the bed, her arms over his shoulders, her head lolling, there had been no resistance. Drying her, he had been aware of how physically attractive she was. He guessed she must be in her early forties but she was in good shape. The memory of those big melon-shaped breasts with their large brown aureoles and berry-tipped nipples, the thick strong thighs, the skin like silk beneath his soapy hands and the feel of her bushy mound under the thin face-cloth as he had bathed her, now caused his cock to harden. And yet at the time, he had been so focussed on the tasks that he had not been so affected. 'Well, almost not affected', he thought.
Three times he had bathed and changed her over the two days and nights.On the last occasion the fever had gone and she had remained dry. She had held on to him that last time as he had dried her, and he thought she had said something but he couldn't make out the words. But when he had finished and looked at her face, her eyes were shut and her breathing was even and regular. Laying her down on the bed he had looked at her before he covered her with the duvet. Her colour was good and she looked relaxed and at peace. And he had thought then of Julie and the wasting away. And, later in his bedroom, he had cried.
David finished dressing and went down to the kitchen. As he ate breakfast he wrote a note. Breakfast finished and the dishes cleared he went into the walled garden and hung out the things he'd washed.
Ready to go, he went up and looked in her bedroom. Mrs. Matteo lay on her back, one arm resting on the pillow above her head, the other hidden beneath the duvet. Her breathing was steady and deep. She was asleep. Quietly he tiptoed downstairs. He lit the gas and put the soup on at a simmer heat.
The sun was shining as he set off down the path in the front garden and, despite the cold, the prospect of a good long walk in the nearby wood after a week-end cooped up in the house with little sleep, filled him with pleasure.
Olwen heard the door closing. She had lain awake for a long time after returning to her room. Had heard him get up and go into the bathroom. The noise of the shower. Had felt a hitherto unknown longing as she had visualised him soaping that slim muscled body. The heavy balls - and that cock. Other thoughts had come to her and she had buried herself under the duvet to shut them out, trying in vain to go back to sleep but eventually slipping into a peaceful unconsciousness.
Now with the house to herself she got up and went into the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet she began to have flashes of memory. She found these disturbing. She felt very, very exposed and wondered how she could face David Salford.
Later, showered, dressed in jeans and a turtle neck sweater, and with the radio playing, she sat in her kitchen and reread the note:
'Dear Mrs. Matteo,
I've gone out for a couple of hours - I know it's safe to leave you now, but don't overdo it, you'll be shaky for a bit. There's soup in the big pot and I've made a vegy salad - it's in the fridge along with fresh orange juice. The chicken breasts on the work-top are defrosting for tonight's dinner - I'll be back to make it o.k. I think you need to start eating again!!
Take it easy.
P.S. I'll get some bread and milk and other stuff while I'm out.'
Olwen got up. She was still shaken to discover that she had been out of it for two days. Two days! Her mind tried to recollect but it was too hazy and exhausting. She sat down, the note in her hand, feeling very weak and alone. In the walled garden beyond the kitchen window, the lines of newly- washed night dresses, knickers, bras, blouses and tights, fluttered in the light breeze.
She went into the conservatory and gazed at them; tears trickled down her face. She didn't know why she was crying. She became aware she was humming a tune. For a bit she couldn't remember any words or title. She kept humming, then the words came:
'There's a Somebody I'm longing to see,I hope that he, turns out to be, Someone to watch over me.'
Lying back in the lounger, she began to sob, hugging herself and feeling so very vulnerable.
After she had breakfasted on muesli and prunes, Olwen explored the house. 'It's never been so tidy', she thought.
She entered his room last. Like the rest of the house the room was extremely tidy: the bed neatly made and the clothes all hung away in the wardrobes. Opening these, she was surprised at the number of shirts and suits. The hitherto empty book shelves were now stacked with books: English Literature text-books, American fiction and three shelves of history books, and lots of books on trees and plants. The bottom row of one of the units surprised her : it consisted of medical text books.
'Odd', she murmured.
There was a guitar in one corner with a worn finger-board. On the dressing table stood a framed photograph of a woman. She looked about twenty with long blonde hair and a captivating smile. She was very beautiful. Olwen picked up the frame.
'To my Darling David - the doctor of my dreams. Love always, Julie xxxx'
Olwen found herself disturbed by the picture and its inscription. The reference 'doctor', puzzled her but there was more than that and she chided herself for thinking that an attractive young man like David would be celibate. What of it anyhow? It was none of her business.
She had been about to start her lunch when he returned, cheeks aglow from the chill wind. He expressed delight at at finding her up and dressed.
Olwen listened to his flow of talk as he put away various things into freezer, fridge and cupboards before he ladled soup into a bowl and then sat at the table to face her.
'Mr. Salford... David... I don't know where to begin... I... I... I feel so embarrassed at what I've put you through'... she faltered.
He reached across and touched her hand where it lay on the table. ' Don't, Mrs. Matteo. I'm o.k. with it. Really.'
She could not meet his eyes. He let go her hand.
'I want to say this and then leave it. Just over two years ago my wife Julie died'.
Olwen's head came up.' I'm so sorry, David... ' He raised his hand as if to silence her.
'Hear me out, Mrs. Matteo. I have an idea of how you must feel as you've discovered what I've had to do for you in the last couple of days'
She felt herself blush furiously and a cold sweat breaking. She stared at her soup.
'Julie and I married when I started medical school. I was in my third year as a student and our marriage was ten months old when she got cancer. It was inoperable. She hated hospital so I nursed her at home. The last six months were very bad, Mrs. Matteo. I had to do everything for her. To help her I had to become almost detached at times. Professional, if you like. You need feel no embarrassment about what I've done for you, Mrs. Matteo. None at all. I'm glad I was here for you. - Mrs. Matteo?'
She looked up at the questioning tone. His blue, blue eyes looked straight at her. Steady. True.
'I've never told anyone about what I did for Julie. Not till now. And I'll never breathe a word about you. You've my word. Don't you think I make great soup?'
The tension broke. His eyes were smiling now and she responded with a little unforced laugh. 'Wonderful... really wonderful', she said. He laughed and they began to eat.
The next two weeks were the happiest Olwen Matteo could remember. In the first few days she found herself to be weaker than she had expected. As a consequence she slept late. On the first morning after her recovery she was awakened by David bearing a tray with tea and hot toast. She struggled up sleepily.
'Hey, take it easy. I'm sorry if I woke you.' His voice was soft.
'What time is it? I must get up.' She was wide awake now. 'There's so much to do.
'There's nothing that won't wait. Here, grip my hand ', he leaned over the bed and held out his hand to her. Puzzled she took hold and he pulled her upright then with his free hand he plumped the pillows behind her.
'Now you lean back and take it easy. I'm going to run you a hot bath, it's more relaxing than a shower. Then you can put on some old clothes and we'll have a walk round the garden. It's a fine morning but very cold. You'll need to wrap up well. Don't argue! !' He wagged a finger at her and looked comically menacing, 'Doctor's orders !'
And so it had been. Walking round the garden in these first days she had leaned on his arm, amazed at the weakness in her body and grateful for his strength. At the same time she marvelled at his considerate manner - never patronising but caring, and so, so interesting. He spoke knowledgeably of flowers and vegetables and trees and she discovered that his grandfather had been a well-known horticulturalist. It was he who had brought David up after his parents' messy divorce and his mother's suicide. Olwen had asked about Julie and he had spoken of her without bitterness but with a great sadness in his voice.
'You must have loved her very much.'
They were under the old cherry tree near the centre of the garden and she stopped to lean on the tree. He turned to face her. She looked steadily at him. He looked at her in the same way but there was no note of pain in his voice.
'I did. I'd loved her for as long as I can remember. I sat behind her all through school and I loved the sight of her at my gate every morning waiting for me, I loved the back of her head in class every day. We walked home from school and played together at nights. We couldn't bear to be apart and we celebrated our final year exam successes by making love for the first time just as we'd agreed when we were thirteen years old. We planned to grow old together... ' He stopped and stepped closer, then reached up and grasped a branch above her head.
'Yes, I loved her, very, very much. But she's dead, Mrs. Matteo. And life goes on. You can't let the dead past ruin the present and waste the future. That's what she said to me before she died. And that's how it's going to be.'
Without thinking Olwen reached up and kissed his cheek. He gave a little laugh and hugged her close to him with one arm and they turned to walk back to the house.
Next day he suggested a drive in her car. It was a crisp sunny morning and she sat in the passenger seat as he drove through the busy centre of town.
'Where are we going?', she had asked as they sat at the breakfast bar.
'It's a surprise. But not too far. Just a couple of hours. You're still a bit weak. We'll just take it slowly'. And that was as much as she could get out of him.
Now she watched those strong capable hands of his on the steering wheel as he manoeuvred through the traffic. He was so different from Gerry who had cursed and raged at every other driver and always drove as though there wasn't a minute to spare.
'What are you thinking ?' His question broke her reverie.
'Oh, nothing really. I was just thinking how lucky I am to have you taking such good care of me. I don't know how I'll ever repay you.'
'Don't be daft'. He reached across and touched her hand where it lay in her lap, ' I'm glad I was there - and I'm glad to have your company on this lovely morning. And here we are. Have you been to the Botanic Gardens before, Mrs. Matteo?'
She hadn't. And she loved the choice. Squirrels were running across the green lawns long-shadowed in the winter sunshine. David produced a bag of nuts and she marvelled at their lack of fear as they came right up to her and fed from her hand.
They walked slowly along the paths, lined with silver-barked trees, while he told her about the plants and shrubs and their countries of origin. She couldn't remember feeling so happy in years. It was so good to be alive.
Just as they were ending the descent from the Chinese garden, she stumbled on the steps and he caught her before she could fall. She leaned against him to catch her breath, thankful for his strength but now very aware of him.
'Are you o.k.?' His lips were at his ear as he held her.
'Yes, I just slipped. I'm a bit tired but I'm fine'
'Let's go back. Here, you take my arm.' He slipped her arm through his and held her close. 'That's better. Now just take your time. There's a little restaurant I found the other day. We can have a bit of a rest there and something to eat.'
The restaurant was delightful: half full of older couples, quietly relaxing in the warm simplicity. With a view of the woodland, with a pot-bellied stove pouring out heat, and a service that was unobtrusive and friendly, it just matched their mood. They sat at a little wooden corner table and feasted on hot croissants and rich aromatic coffee. And they talked and talked. Olwen couldn't remember when she had ever talked to anyone so care freely. They talked about films they had seen and books they had read and music they liked and T.V. soaps they hated. She told him about Gerry and how he had eventually left her.
'Why did you marry him ? Gerry, I mean. Didn't you know what he was like?'
Olwen smiled ruefully. 'Why, indeed', she thought.
'I met him when I was twenty. I was on holiday with my parents staying at a hotel on the outskirts of London. He was there arranging some business deal and he met my father in the bar. That first evening there was a dance after dinner and he came over and asked me to dance. He was a good dancer. I was literally swept of my feet. I'd never had a boyfriend.'
She gave a little laugh, 'I suppose it seems strange to you - but I'd never been very interested. And I was... am... a bit of a plain Jane'.
David began to protest at this but she reached across and squeezed his hand in a kind of rebuke. 'Gerry stayed on and he paid me a lot of attention. I know now that part of that was because he was persuading my father to put money in his business. Daddy was quite rich you see. But I also think he was attracted to me. I was different from his other conquests'
Olwen faltered and stared intently into her coffee cup, gripping the edge of the table, 'I... I. I wouldn't sleep with him you see. Anyway', she raced on, 'he flattered me and took me out and bought me gifts. When we went home he phoned every day. And then he and Daddy became partners, And shortly after that he proposed. And we got married.'
Olwen looked up. David was gazing at her with those steady iris-blue eyes. 'It was never a good marriage. I... I... He wanted... I... '. She held herself very straight in her chair, 'He was unfaithful to me the week after we got home from honeymoon - with the woman next door '. And that was just the start.'
David Salford took her hands, ' I'm so sorry'. She looked into his eyes. They were full of concern.
Her eyes filled. ' It's o.k. I don't know why I'm telling you this and spoiling a lovely day.'
'You're not spoiling anything', he continued to hold her hands, 'maybe you needed to tell someone.'
'I think that's true ', she said softly as if to herself. 'Any way', she retrieved her hands and sat up very straight with a determined look on her face, 'when he walked out on me I got a really good lawyer and she sorted him. So there! You didn't know I was a hard woman, did you?'
They laughed together and got up to go. It hadn't spoiled the day. She was glad that she had told what she had. But they were both very quiet on the way home and after a light lunch she went to her room. She heard David go out and she lay back on the pillows and thought about the morning.
How could she have said so much to a man she scarcely knew? And yet he seemed so understanding. She thought of his own story : about Julie - and the terrible sorrow he had experienced. In a way they were alike: life had treated them both so unfairly. Her last thought before sleep overtook her was that she needed to talk to him about the rent and the other domestic arrangements.
'I need to get back in charge of things ', she murmured as she fell asleep.
She was furious to discover that he had paid his deposit and a month's rent into her account and even more angry to discover that he had set up a Direct Debit to pay his rent each month. It was the discovery that he had found out her account number by looking in her cheque book.
'I saw the cheque with my signature and the cheque book lying beside it... It seemed the common sense thing to do. I'm sorry that you're so upset.'
'You'd no right. Invading my privacy', she shouted at him.
'Invading? Hey wait a minute. I'm not taking that'. He sat across from her at the breakfast bar, eyes blazing blue.
'What else do you call it?', a little alarm bell was ringing in her head but she was NOT going to be stopped. For too many years she had been the subservient little woman, 'You go through my cheque book and take a deposit slip. You go into my bank with it and make payments into my account. That's my stuff! You've no right ! '
Her voice had risen in pitch and volume and she was red in the face from yelling.
David Salford got up slowly and walked past her. As she stood trying to calm herself she heard the front door close and through the window she watched him struggling into his coat as he strode up the path and out the gate.
She sat down and burst into tears.
She was in the middle of her yoghourt lunch when the phone rang. Her heart was beating wildly as she lifted the receiver.
'Olwen. It's Isabel'
She had thought it would be David and a mixture of relief and disappointment swept her.
'Isabel. I... I Where are you? How nice to hear you'.
Isabel Langford had been her closest friend since school-days but five years earlier she and her husband had gone off to the States. Neither she nor her husband Mark had liked Gerry and the couples had drifted apart long before USA venture, although Olwen had written to Isabel at the time of Gerry's departure. There had been no reply.
'I'm at the Filmhouse restaurant. I'm back here to stay, Olwen. I want to see you. Are you o.k.? Please let's meet? I've got so much to tell you - and to ask. Say yes.'
Olwen suddenly felt uplifted. 'Of course! I'll get a taxi right now. Will you wait there or shall we meet somewhere else?'
'I'll be here', Isabel laughed,' I'm going to have a bacon roll and REAL British coffee ! '
They laughed together then hung up.
Isabel looked good. She was a tall willowy honey blonde with a smile that could win prizes. She was an excellent companion: chatty but eager to listen as well. She was also very direct and honest with her opinions.
'I'm not sorry about Gerry', she said as they got down to serious catching-up, 'he was a bastard. You're well rid of him. Anybody else around? For you I mean.'
'Of course not', Olwen felt herself blushing, ' My God, Isabel, I'm 44 years old. And look at me.'
'I am looking at you. You look a bit pale but far less strained than you did last time I saw you. All that stress has gone. You look in great shape. And there's something about you. I think there is a man around. You can't fool me - I know you too well'.
They laughed and Olwen took Isobel's hands over the table. 'it's so good to be with you. I 'd forgotten how we used to laugh. How's Mark? I can't believe I've been talking to you for all this time and not asked. Is he still the same workaholic?
Isobel's face grew seriously sad. ' We, that is I... we went through a bad patch... he... he... ', tears welled up in Isobel's eyes and Olwen clasped her hand in hers. 'Mark had an affair... someone at work... it was just after you found out about Gerry.' She brushed her hair back from her face and taking the napkin blew her nose fiercely. 'We split up eighteen months ago. He's in New York with his new American 'model', fifteen years younger than the one he traded in! That's me of course.'
Olwen gripped her friends hand tightly. 'I'm so sorry, Isabel. So very sorry'.
Isabel smiled through her tears, then came a great rush of words: 'Oh. I'm getting over it. If you ever really get over it. You'll know about that. Sam and Esther have been great. They're both working in London and I've been down there since the divorce. But I need to be back up here. I've bought a bungalow on the outskirts of town. You must come and visit me. I only moved in three days ago so things are a bit of a mess. I also wanted to ask you if you fancy joining a dating agency along with me. That is if you aren't already involved with someone. Are you ?'
'A dating agency?' Olwen gazed at her friend in astonishment.
Isabel l gave a kind of forced little laugh, a wry look on her face, 'Don't be so old fashioned, Olwen. It's just a way of meeting some nice men. You don't want to be alone for the rest of your days, do you? Or is there someone else in your life already? I have an idea there is. You've got a secret, my girl.'
Protesting her freedom of any involvement with the opposite sex, Olwen, however,was at last forced to speak of David Salford.
'But he's only my lodger. My goodness, Isabel, he could be my son. What would he want with an old bag like me? And before you start about toy-boys. I am not interested in someone who was born after I was married!'
And so they had gone on laughing and joking and filling in all the lost years until, having arranged to meet the following week they parted. Olwen did not go straight home. Instead she went for a walk in the Botanic Gardens. There among the trees she thought of David and how strange she had felt talking of him with Isabel.
And as she then began to think about the row they had had that morning and how he had stormed out the house she began to wonder if he would be there when she got home. She turned quickly and made for the exit.
He was asleep when she finally got home, tired and exhausted from the two-bus journey and the long walk from the bus-stop. David lay stretched out on the settee with his long legs dangling over its arm. She looked down on him as she regained her breath.
'He's quite beautiful, she thought, ' almost like a girl with that long blonde hair and that smooth golden skin.' Then there flashed through her mind the sight of him as she had seen him that night with that throbbing erection, and her breath caught and her heart raced at the memory.
He had been ironing - he seemed to have a thing about doing it and they had laughed about this - and both armchairs were piled with clothes, so she sat down at one end of the settee next to his cushioned head. To her alarm he at once gave a heave and drew his legs up and at the same time lurched his body round and back, so that now he lay in the fetal position, but with his head resting against her thigh, his face turned inward towards her.
She sat very still, desperately trying to control her breathing. David gave a great sigh and snuggled his head so that now his head was resting on her thigh as though it were a pillow. His cheekbone pressed sharply against her muscle and very gingerly she moved, easing herself with her weight on her hands, until his head lay more comfortably in her lap.
A minute passed. She could feel his warm breath through the cloth of her skirt. David was as sound asleep as anyone could be and she sat there in a reverie, feeling at peace, cradling his head and thinking of how wonderful it was to feel so secure and good about things. The last two weeks had been the happiest she had known for years. When he woke she would apologise for the row she had made that morning. Thinking about what she would say she began to run her fingers through his hair, so caught up in her thoughts that she was quite unaware of her actions.
Then, still in a kind of dream-state, not thinking of anything other than how lovely it was to lie like this with this beautiful gentle man, she began to trace the outline of his cheek-bone where his face lay in the hollow of her lap. He gave a gentle sigh and she felt the heat of his expelled breath against her lower belly. An warm sense of pleasure rose up from deep within her and she felt drawn into a deeper feeling of peace and happiness. She felt a strange kind of longing. It was a feeling beyond explanation. But it was lovely. She felt sleepy and totally relaxed but so alive at the same time.
She slipped lower in the settee and he seemed to move in harmony with her so that she found herself cuddling his head which now lay with his nose touching her blouse so that his breath warmed her skin through the thin material.