'Please Dad!' My son pleaded.
'Do your own dirty work.' I replied for the fifth or sixth time.
'It's not my fault. It's Tess's. As usual.' He moaned.
Tess was his older sister and as was usual with my eldest child, she was trying to organise his life for him, whether he appreciated it or not. This time she had arranged a blind date for her single brother and had bullied him into agreeing to meet one of the sisters of a work colleague of Tess. I could hear her oft-repeated excuse for her meddling. 'He's twenty-five and needs a woman in his life.' Steve and I agreed with Tess in that a girlfriend would be a nice addition to his life, but where we disagreed, was her role in the process.
'I forgot Stoke were at home tonight.' He continued moaning.
'Stoke' was Stoke City FC, his main passion. I was not too surprised he'd forgotten; when Tess 'persuaded' people, they soon became so bewildered that they could easily forget their own names never mind anything else, plus our local football team rarely played on a Friday evening.
At first, he was just going to stand the poor girl up but I wouldn't hear of that. I insisted he turn up, even if it was to explain that it was all a mistake. Steve was too much a coward for that, and, it also meant that he would have to miss the start of the match. Instead my son was trying to talk me into meeting the girl and apologising for him.
'You usually go down the Museum on a Friday anyway, and that's almost in 'castle.' He explained as if I didn't know.
Our nearest town was 'castle, short for Newcastle-Under-Lyme, not the famous Newcastle of the Geordie's in the North East but a small town at the north edge of the English Midlands. My weekly visit to the Museum wasn't the cultural event it sounds, as the Museum is the name of my local pub and lies just on the outskirts of Newcastle's town centre.
Eventually I gave in and agreed to meet his blind date and offer his apologies. To be truthful, I did feel just a little sorry for him because even I knew how hard it was to stand up to my daughter at the best of times never mind when she considered that she was 'helping' you.
'You owe me big style!' I cried after him as he ran out the house just in case I had a change of heart.
'Cheers Dad! I won't forget!'
I laughed inwardly. Steve will have forgotten before he reached his car.
Ten minutes later I rang his mobile phone. I could almost hear his sigh from here as he realised who it was.
'You haven't changed your mind have you Dad?' He asked dejectedly.
'No! But a name and place where you're supposed to meet might prove useful.' I said laughing at his discomfort and our mutual forgetfulness.
Steve laughed too. 'Sorry Dad! I suppose you're right, although the idea of you walking around town asking girls if they're waiting for a blind date has a certain appeal to it.'
'Don't push it.' I said more sternly than I felt, as his comment was typical of our families' sense of humour.
Steve then told me that the girl's name was Mandy and he was supposed to be meeting her below the Clock Tower in the high street. She was tall with long blonde hair and would be wearing a red top. Not much, he admitted, but it was all he knew.
Ninety minutes later I was standing below the said Clock Tower looking for a young woman that met Steve's description of Mandy. A few matched the tall blonde bit, but none stopped long enough to warrant approaching. The only woman who was hanging around was quite petite with long dark hair, although she did have a red top on. She was also obviously waiting for someone so after ten minutes I tentatively approached her.
'Mandy?' I asked.
She looked up at me; I was nearly a foot taller, and said. 'Steve?' The question in her voice echoed my own.
'No, but I am here on his behalf.' I explained.
'Ah! That explains why I didn't think it was you.' She said, her voice now strong and confident. 'I'm Claire.'
She saw the puzzlement in my face and went on with a small laugh. 'I'm here on behalf of Mandy.'
We talked for a few minutes with me explaining who I was, and truthfully why I was there and not my son. Claire laughingly told me that she was here for almost the same reason; Mandy didn't have anywhere else to go, but felt that she too had been bullied by HER sister into meeting Steve. Mandy was a shy girl, who had a thing for another man and although she had yet to do anything about it, she did not want to spoil her chances by being seen with someone else. She had been stood up in the past and did not like it at all, so she had no intention of doing it to someone else and had persuaded Claire to come in her place.
'Why you?' I asked.
'First, I'm unattached and secondly Mandy knows that I have a mind of my own and that I'm quite capable of telling a man to "piss off" if that's what's required, ' she smiled before adding, 'and it usually is.'
I returned her smile, but I was old enough and, I believe, wise enough to know when to keep my mouth shut, besides I was not too old to remember what young men are like around attractive women, so the comment was probably well warranted.
'So what were you hoping for tonight?' I asked, more to make conversation than the desire to know.
'Hoping for? I suppose a nice meal with good conversation and an attractive man to look at.' She answered with a grin. 'What I expected was some lout, looking for a quick lay, for the least outlay.'
Once again I found it difficult to argue with her expectations but was compelled to try and defend my sex.
'I'm sure some men are like that but I'm sure Stephen isn't.' As I spoke I saw Claire's eyebrows rise so I corrected myself, because I actually thought my son was just like that. 'OK! He's not that bad.'
I was enjoying talking to this young woman, so I decided to prove that some men were honourable, if not many young ones and of course, prolong our conversation.
'I'll tell you what, ' I began, 'how about two of your hopes instead of your expectations?'
'Sorry?' Claire responded, unclear as to my meaning.
'As an apology for my sex, I will supply you with your nice meal and I hope I can provide reasonably stimulating conversation but the handsome face to look at will have to depend on who's sitting at the next table.'
This time she laughed properly, lighting up her eyes. Without hesitation she said, 'you're on.'
We swiftly agreed that a Thai restaurant a few minutes walk away was the ideal choice, so we set off. Playing the gentleman to the hilt, I offered my arm to Claire and was surprisingly pleased when she hooked her own arm through it with another laugh.
'I've never done this before, ' she commented, indicating our linked arms, 'it makes me feel a real lady.'
I turned and smiled at her. 'Deservedly so! For the rest of the night that's exactly how you will be treated.'
The smile I received was enough to make my evening and I still had the meal to look forward to. Obviously, by now I had also looked at Claire as a woman. As I said earlier, she was slimly built, about 5' 5" tall with long, almost black hair, held away from her face with a silver hair clip. Her lower legs were shapely but her knee length coat prevented better inspection. Her eyes were grey/green and quite large for her elfin face, which itself was beautiful and adorned with minimal makeup. I felt extremely proud to have this young lady on my arm when we entered the restaurant. My one complaint was that no one I knew witnessed the scene.
Inside I continued the gallantry, pulling her chair back for her and standing whenever she did. The removal of her coat enabled me to further appreciate her, this time the shapely figure enhanced by a subtly patterned black blouse tucked in a simple black skirt. A slender red belt, colour coded to her lipstick, emphasised her equally slender waist. I also loved the way her hair flowed about her as she moved. The overall effect was pure femininity. I was amazed that she was unattached.
On the whole it was a good meal made memorable by the company. I could easily see why good conversation was high on her wish list, for she revelled in it; agreeing and disagreeing with equal passion. She listened as well as she talked; a rare combination. A number of times Claire's laughter and beauty would bring me an envious look from some other man in the restaurant. After ten years of the single life and almost six of complete celibacy, a topic that amused Claire no end, I remembered just how good a woman's company could be. OK! I wasn't kidding myself about any relationship but I did bask in her reflected glory.
Our conversation touched briefly on Mandy and Stephen and what we both believed they were missing, but I knew, as I'm sure Claire did, that if either or both had been in our places then it was unlikely to have worked out as well. One of the reasons Stephen had capitulated was because he was told Mandy was blonde with big tits. For all her beauty I knew he wouldn't have looked twice at Claire - his loss.
A few times during the evening I almost reached for her hand, as if we were on a real date, but each time I managed to restrain myself. It was as close as I got to overstepping the mark.
I learned some, but by no means all, about my delightful young dining partner. She was twenty-six, almost thirty years my junior, single through choice and with no current boyfriend. Although she'd mentioned that when we'd first met, I found that, unjustly, I was pleased about the last snippet. She lived at home with her widowed mother and worked as a graphic designer.
When, eventually, we left our table, I insisted on paying and it was only when I explained that I could put it through my company as an expense that she finally agreed to let me.
I was delighted when; reaching the street Claire immediately hooked her arm through mine as we headed towards her car.
I desperately wanted to ask her out again, but was well aware of the huge age difference. I didn't want to make a fool of myself nor embarrass Claire, after all she had given me no hint of being anything other than passing friends during the evening, so I decided to keep quiet rather than risk spoiling the evening. I would leave our relationship to my fantasies.
As we approached her car it occurred to me that I was walking slightly differently; I was standing more upright and had my chest, if not actually puffed out with pride then pretty close. Once more, I was relishing accompanying this attractive, and as I had by then discovered, intelligent, young woman. We talked for a long time at her car, as if neither of us wanted to end the unexpected delight of the meeting.
Finally, after thanking me yet again for paying for the meal, Claire reached up and pecked my cheek before getting into her car. She started the engine of her Mazda MX5, a typically young woman's car, opened the window and said. 'Next time the meal's on me!'
She was watching my eyes closely as her words sunk in, or to be more precise two of the words sunk in, 'Next time'. When it did, she simply smiled and drove off leaving me standing there with my jaw dropped and mouth wide open.
The walk back home was a daze; dare I even hope for something more than an occasional meal with Claire. As usual I dissected my thoughts and analysed them individually. The first thing I worked out that my main attraction to Claire was NOT sexual. I had been without for long enough to know that. I knew that I there was a physical attraction, but no more than I'd had for many other women over the last few years and I'd had little inclination to pursue them. For a reason all my self-probing couldn't fathom I just wanted to be with her, where was irrelevant. As per usual in my life's dealings with the fairer sex I had absolutely no idea what Claire thought or wanted. I was confident enough in her to believe that she wanted to see me again, but the when and especially the why, totally escaped me.
A sleepless night left me none the wiser, so I decided to play it cool, or at least attempt to. Of course I failed miserably. Every time the phone went, I dropped whatever I was doing and rushed to it. Logic told me that Claire didn't know my number but it didn't stop me hoping. Typically I had calls from every Tom, Dick and Harry that morning. The only one of those numerous callers worth listening to was my daughter phoning to check on Steve and Mandy's evening out. Initially she was mad at her brother for chickening out but became at first, amused, and finally hysteric with laughter when I explained Mandy's substitution and the following events. I must admit to not mentioning just how much I'd enjoyed myself. My daughter gave me enough stick as it was without me providing more ammunition. An hour later I related the story once more when my son eventually managed to rise, with a similar mocking response. Stephen reckoned I owed him for 'fixing me up' as he called it. We laughingly agreed to disagree on that.
The rest of the day passed without note and come the evening I began to think that Claire had, in the light of a new day, had second thoughts. Sunday passed the same and by now I was sure that I would not hear from Claire. I was sad about it, but not upset, as I could not blame the young woman for not following up a date that wasn't, with a man twice her own age. I awoke on Monday morning with my mind half-filled with the cherished memory of Friday, believing that was all I would have of Claire.
At work, as at home I have a reputation for taking the proverbial, it is just my sense of humour I suppose, so that day, not being prepared to give my colleagues an easy chance to rag me, I kept quiet about Friday and when asked about the weekend, I claimed it had been as dull as ever, which was true if you did not count Friday as the weekend.
I got home, late as usual, to find my daughter and son sitting waiting for me. For my son, this was normal, he lived with me after all, but my daughter, I rarely saw her during the working week. Before I had even had time to remove my coat Tess showed why she was there.
'What did you actually do Dad?' She asked.
'Do?' I asked back, puzzled by her appearance and the question.
'Yes! Do?' She repeated impatiently. 'On Friday!' She explained seeing that I still had no idea what she meant.
It took a few moments to realise that she was talking about Friday evening and Claire. The first thing that went through my mind, perhaps helped by my daughter's insistent question, was, 'had Claire complained that I had done something to her?' Before I could think more about that I automatically defended myself.
'Do! I did nothing. I didn't even touch her.' I exclaimed a little too loudly.
Tess looked exasperated and Steve was laughing, but he managed to explain. Unlike his sister, and probably because he was male, he didn't assume that I instinctively knew what was in his mind.
'Don't worry Dad. Nobody is saying you did.' He was still laughing and did so even more when he looked at Tess and added, 'and I don't think she would have complained if you had.'
Tess too, seemed to find this amusing.
'So what's this all about?' I demanded. After working all day I was not really in the mood for riddles.
Tess calmed down a little and said, still smiling. 'Apparently Claire has not shut up about you all weekend. According to Jen, Claire reckons you're the best thing since sliced bread.'
'Jen! And who is Jen?' I asked.
'Jen is Mandy's sister, the one I work with, you know, the one who helped set up Friday night.' Tess then had a little laugh. 'Although, of course! That was supposed to be between Steve and Mandy, not you and Claire. Anyway! Jen reckons that Claire reckons that you're the nicest man she's ever met.' She looked at me then with a grin continued. 'Which of course just means she doesn't really know you yet. That, or she's only knows complete bastards.'
'Cheers!' I said, but for the first time since arriving home I was actually smiling.
'Anyway Dad, ' Stephen chimed in, 'just what did you do to have such an impact on her?'
'Yes Dad! What did you do?' asked Tess too.
'Nothing special! We just went for a meal and talked.'
'It must have been more than that, ' complained Tess.
'Not really; when we first met she complained about men being after only one thing, ' I looked at Stephen and he just grinned inanely, 'so, I did make an effort to treat her like a lady.'
'Whatever it was really worked, ' Tess said. 'When are you seeing her again?'
'I don't know.' I answered honestly.
'You ARE seeing her again?' My daughter half asked, half demanded.
'I don't know.' I repeated.
'Do you want to?' Tess asked, serious for a change.
Before I could reply, my son said with another grin. 'Of course he does Sis, you should have seen his face Saturday, it was like the cat that got the cream.'
I thought for a moment, not whether I wanted to see Claire again, I already knew that, but whether I wanted my kids to know. I knew their amusement was not spiteful so I decided on the truth.
'Yes I would like to see her again. However she is a bit young for me or I'm too old for her, whichever way you look at it.'
'So are you going to ring her?' Tess demanded to know.
'Difficult, as I don't have her number.' I answered sheepishly.
My two children looked up at the ceiling, then at each other before simultaneously saying 'Parents!'
Tess immediately took her phone out and dialled a number from her phone's memory.
'Hi Jen!' She began, 'Have you got Claire's number?' She waited a few moments then said, 'OK! Talk to you in a few minutes.'
I looked hard at Tess and asked, 'Are you sure you don't mind? Claire is younger than you, you know.'
'Cradle snatcher!' was her reply.
A few seconds later the tune to 'The Addams Family' filled the air, signifying that her mobile was ringing.
Tess grabbed a pen from the shelf and started scribbling on an old envelope. 'Thanks Jen! I'll ring you back when I get home.'
'Give me your mobile!' my bossy child ordered.
I complied, expecting her to enter what I assumed to be Claire's number into my phone's memory. This she did, then immediately rang the number, listened until a reply was heard then handed the phone back to me. As soon as I'd stuttered a grunt that was close to 'Hello!' Tess grabbed her brother's arm and pulled him out of the room, shutting the door behind them.
'Hello! Who is this?' Claire's voice asked confidently.
'It's David!' I replied, my spirits rising at the sound of her voice.
'Oh hi! I'm glad you called.' Claire said; her words lifting my spirit yet higher, then adding with a smile in her voice, 'you took your time though! I was beginning to think you didn't want to.'
I then had to explain my doubts and worries, all of which were laughed away by Claire. Finally, she, somehow, got me to admit just how much I did want to see her again. I think she was rather surprised, as she went very quiet. So quiet in fact I thought I'd blown my chance of seeing her again. When she did speak, she made no mention of it.
'So what made you change your mind and ring me then?' is what she did say.
I explained my homecoming reception and Tess's actions in getting her number.
'Oh damn!' I heard Claire say, 'of course you didn't ring; I forgot you didn't have my number. It felt as if we'd known each other so long I never thought about it.'
'Same here, ' I admitted.
We chatted for another half an hour about absolutely nothing, when during one of my longer listening moments, Tess and Stephen came back in.
Seeing I was still on the phone they both grinned and Tess mouthed the question, 'when are you seeing her again?'
Sensing that my attention had left her briefly Claire asked, intuitively, 'are your children back?'
I told her they were and after a few more words we agreed to meet on Wednesday evening. When I eventually hung up - acting all teenage by waiting for Claire to hang up first - I felt better than I had in years.
Tess, once she knew I was to see Claire again, left with a smug grin. Steve just commented, 'Good on yer, Dad!' and went up to his room. I sat in my favourite chair, only to realise I still had my coat on. I swiftly removed it, hung it up and returned to my comfy chair to contemplate the last half hour or so. Apart from the embarrassment of having my children involve themselves in my private life, everything was good. In fact, I had initially thought 'my sex life' before correcting my own thoughts.
For the first time I began to seriously contemplate making love to Claire. I had already fantasised about her but now I was wondering if there was now a chance that something could actually happen. I had now passed beyond fantasy into hope. True, I recognised all the reasons not to, but once in my mind that hope would not leave. Of course the hope also extended beyond mere sex to a proper relationship and I was honest enough with myself to know that, for all the age gap, is what I wanted most, although the erection I was sporting proved physical desire was pretty high too. My arousal was strong enough to need relief, which was provided during a long hot shower.
Over the inordinately long next forty-eight hours, I felt like a schoolboy with his first crush, sleeping only in fits and starts and, most unusually for me, my appetite disappeared. Typically, I tried to predict all the possible outcomes, not only for Wednesday itself, but for the short-term future as well (even in my most optimistic scenarios I couldn't see a long-term future for us). It took little effort to work out my behaviour for my 'date'; it would be as before, acting the perfect gentleman. Deciding what I was going to wear proved more difficult until I asked my daughter. Her reply was so typically logical.
'It doesn't matter Dad. You didn't dress up on Friday, besides if she were into 'appearance' in her men then she wouldn't be seeing you. Would she?'
So early Wednesday evening, casually dressed, I walked slowly, as I was twenty minutes early, and nervously to the pub where we were to meet. The gentleman part of me had misgivings about meeting her inside a pub, but the twenty-first century woman overrode my objections. I ordered a glass of white wine, not wanting my breath smelling of beer, which was my usual tipple when in a pub; pubs not being noted for the quality of their wines. I sat down facing the door, feeling foolish for being so excited, and waited. To my delight Claire arrived early too, only a couple of minutes but early, wearing the same coat as before, but higher heels making her lovely legs look even better.
Swiftly I rose and went to greet her. Her genuine smile on seeing me warmed my heart and helped alleviate most of the butterflies that had been tormenting my stomach. The brief kiss on my lips sent them all back again, this time accompanied by their whole families.
'Hi!' she said in the sweet voice I had rapidly come to love.
'Hi beautiful!' I replied, surprising myself with the confidence in my voice, I'd half expected to splutter.
To my further surprise Claire blushed at the complement.
'I suppose that's one advantage of going out with an old man.' She replied.
'Ah! You mean the complement.' I grinned.
'No! I mean the poor eyesight.' She laughed.
We continued in the same vein for the rest of the evening, laughing and joking as if we'd known each other for years and there was no generation gap separating us. We ate at an Italian restaurant, once more walking to it with linked arms, where Claire insisted on paying. Again her attire was simple and elegant, this time a short sleeved black dress with a neckline that just showed the merest hint of cleavage, although with her breasts matching the rest of her petite frame Claire was never going to display much in the way of cleavage. It suited me, as, unlike my son, I preferred smaller breasts.
Throughout the evening I behaved impeccably, although as we were waiting for coffee I reached across the table to hold Claire's dainty hand. She smiled at my touch and placed her other hand on mine to show me that she approved. It was the first romantic touch that we had shared and I felt my stomach churn as her hand covered mine.
The walk to her car was different from Friday's. We had already made plans to see each other again, so this time I didn't need to strut, didn't care if anyone saw us or not, I knew that this fabulous woman was with me, and that I'd be seeing her again, knowledge that was more than enough.
At her car I held the door open for her to get in but to my amazement she just pushed it shut and turned to look at me.
'This model behaviour thing can go too far you know!' she stated. 'Do you want to kiss me?' She demanded.
Before I could answer, Claire looked at me and in a softer voice answered for me. 'Of course you do. You're just trying to prove that some men can keep their hands to themselves. The problem is that when we have a good man like that, we women don't want him to. Oh! Just kiss me.'
I was more than willing to oblige so I leaned back against her car with my legs spread wide and pulled her to me. This way the height difference was marginal and our lips met for the second time. The first kiss of greeting was sweet enough, but now we kissed with a passion that had been simmering for most of the evening. I'd forgotten just how good a kiss can be, not just the taste of her mouth and touch of her tongue against mine, but the physical contact as her body pushed against mine, the smell of her hair; all of this overpowered my senses and left behind just an immense pleasure.
When we finally broke off the kiss, we looked closely at each other; both of us a little taken aback by just how much went into that kiss.
'I think I'd better go.' Claire said to my great disappointment. She then cleared my momentary dismay by adding with a grin, 'whilst I still can. Its a good job I'm driving - my legs have gone all wobbly.' She finished with a laugh.
'I know what you mean.' I said meaningfully. 'Thanks for a wonderful evening and you were right as you could probably tell.'
'Right about what?' she asked.
'About me wanting to kiss you! I've been wanting to do that since about an hour after meeting you.'
'It took a whole hour!' she said with simulated disgust. 'I must be losing my touch.'