Copyright© by Telephoneman 2005
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This story was written for a competition with certain criteria to be met, one was the use of the word 'Cockaigne', hence the story name.
'It's certainly no Cockaigne here.' I said about our small city.
John looked at me quizzically, then, with raised eyebrows, at the two girls before commenting. 'Hello! He's swallowed another page of the dictionary. Pray tell what a Cockaigne is.' He pronounced it as "Cock-cane" instead of the correct "Kah-Kane".
'An imaginary land of ease and luxury, somewhere similar to Utopia.' I explained before adding with a laugh, 'but as it sounds perfect then it must be mythical.'
John nodded and grinned, 'and I thought it was a splint for old men like you who can't get it up.'
The two girls burst out laughing. Kelly looked closely at me gauging my reaction. I laughed too, after all, I was well used to John's derogatory references to my age. We both worked for the same company although in different departments, he was in IT whilst I ran the Sales department. We'd talked many times about our mutual love of football but earlier this year we'd both decided to splash out and to go and support England at Euro 2004 in Portugal. Our two weeks there had cemented a friendship that I expected to last a lifetime, even though at twenty-six and exactly half my age, he was just a kid. 'The Kid' and 'The BOF' were what we regularly called each other, 'BOF' being short for 'Boring Old Fart'.
John was a tall, prematurely balding man who felt a lot more at ease with machines than he ever did with people, probably why he ended up talking to computers all day. Since Portugal I had come to recognise him as a really nice, genuine bloke, who because of his innate shyness was normally very difficult to get to know. When you did, as I had, it proved well worth the effort, as he had a great sense of humour and the intelligence to use it to good effect. Unsurprisingly, his introversion coupled with his lack of hair meant he was not very good with new people, especially those of the feminine gender; hence the reason for this little get together.
He had looked a few times at Vicky, who he was meeting for the first time, but, not surprisingly, had not said anything directly to her. Vicky herself had hardly said a word, to John or anyone. It was a good job that we weren't trying to set these two up. Of course, John was not to know that yet. I think he assumed that was our intention because she'd arrived with Kelly.
What could be said about Kelly?
Well for start, she was the vibrant bundle of energy whom I'd met a few months previous and had been in my life since. She was 32 but looked a decade younger and acted two. Looks wise, she was dark-skinned, had dark brown eyes, fabulous hair, thick, long and jet-black; she was petite, slim and way too active to ever gain even an ounce of fat. She was also a sexual demon and I secretly feared that I was getting too old to handle the typhoon that flew into my bed every night.
We had, in fact, agreed to split up as a couple, earlier that week. We both accepted that our brief but passionate affair had run its course. We knew that we would remain close friends but no longer lovers. She had tried her 'older man' and I had basked in her reflected glory. Sexually, it had been enlightening for each of us.
I had mentioned, jokingly, that she would have to watch out for 'The Kid', who fancied her like hell. When she asked how I knew, as she hadn't spotted any sign, I explained that she wouldn't would she and after a moment's thought she agreed. I then added, that he'd said a few times that he couldn't understand how I, at my advanced age, could pull a young stunner like Kelly. He'd asked if I could teach him just enough of my salesman's "Gift of the Gab" to win a similar beauty. We both knew, and were equally sorry, that that was never going to happen.
Being with me virtually every night, Kelly was one of the few women who had had the chance to see the real John, and unsurprisingly liked what she saw. I also knew that for her, personality mattered a lot more than looks, it must, after all, she had been with me, a man twenty odd years older than her and unfortunately past his prime.
She then surprised me by admitting that going out with John might be fun. Even though we had agreed to part, I still couldn't help feeling a slight twinge of jealousy. Then I laughed at myself, remembering the old adage "The King is dead! Long live the King".
As no one else knew that we'd split, Kelly had thought that it would be great fun for me to formally hand her over to John, which is what the whole evening was about. Neither of us thought, for one minute, that John would refuse my offer.
Why Kelly had brought Vicky along I had no idea. She hadn't mentioned it when we were planning the evening, but it was so typical of Kelly to spring a surprise on me too. Whatever the reason I assumed it would become apparent soon enough.
I hadn't met Vicky before either, so being the dirty old man that I am, I had looked her over pretty well, even when Kelly caught my eye and mouthed a firm 'No!' Vicky looked in her early twenties and had a sadness about her. Like Kelly she was slim but was quite tall, towering over the other girl. 5'9" I'd guess and very attractive, which, for me, was a nice bonus, as our plan required Kelly to spend most of the time flirting with John. This originally left me as the gooseberry, but talking to Vicky was a much more pleasant task, even though task it was, as I had to work hard to get any response. In fact her laugh at John's definition was the first smile I'd seen from her.
Kelly dropped her bombshell with her usual superb timing. John was just taking a sip from his pint, full of course, when she looked at him and said. 'Well Kid, I'm fed up with old codgers, I need a young man to keep me warm. Are you up to it?'
John nearly choked on his pint and Vicky looked shocked enough for me to guess that for whatever reason she was here, she hadn't been made aware of our little plot. I tried to look sufficiently amazed. John, to his credit, recovered quickly, making the obvious, but wrong, conclusion that it was a joke.
'About time you come to your senses.' He said smiling at me, 'and ditched that BOF.'
Before he could add any more, Kelly leaned across and gave him a long and judging by the bulge in his trousers, passionate kiss. As she let him go she too saw his all too obvious arousal. She laughed and said to Vicky and me. 'Well! I see he is up for it after all.'
Then she looked down as his erection and with a look of pure innocence, asked John one of the most embarrassing questions I've ever heard. 'And you want to put that where?'
I didn't look. I was too busy laughing, but I'm certain that his erection shrank as the blood from there and everywhere else rapidly rushed to his face.
Vicky, who still had no idea what was going, had not been able to see the effect of her friend's kiss but quickly cottoned on. She too burst out laughing at both Kelly's question and John's reaction. Something however was troubling her as the laughter, although genuine, subsided too quickly. It did leave behind a smile. It was that smile that captivated me. It lit up her face, but also jogged a memory that I kept buried deep within, one that no current friends were aware of but one that I would never forget.
It was time for my scene. I leaned back in my chair, looked from Kelly to John and said to him. 'Well if that's how the little tart's going to act then she's all yours John. I wash my hands of her.'
Kelly, trying hard to suppress a laugh at my ham acting, took 'The Kid' by the hand and dragged the dazed man out of the pub. I could tell by his face that he still wasn't certain if it was all a prank, especially as I was involved.
That was the last we saw of them that night. A few minutes after they left, with Vicky still staring in bewilderment at the door, my mobile rang. Kelly!
'I'm sorry to dump Vicky on you, but she needs help and I can't think of anyone better suited.' Her voice then changed to its usual jovial one when she added, 'and now I have a toy boy to attend to. Byyyeeee!'
I hadn't had chance to utter a word before Kelly had hung up.
'Kelly?' Vicky enquired perceptively.
'Is she coming back then?' Vicky asked.
When I shook my head, her expression changed. 'You mean that was for real. She just dumped you like that and for your friend as well.' It was easy to see that Vicky had been taken in by our little playacting.
'Yup! Looks that way.' I said trying to sound morose.
'How could she. She's not normally like that.' She cried indignantly.
The jest had been planned for John, not Vicky, so I decided to explain.
'Now that IS like Kelly.' She said after hearing the full story.
'Poor John!' we both said almost simultaneously before laughing at our timing.
After a few minutes of mundane conversation I asked her what was the cause of her obvious anxiety. She tried to pretend that nothing was up but I gradually drew her story from her.
Her boyfriend had regularly beaten her and earlier that day she'd finally had enough and walked out. She knew that he would try to find her and force her back home, as he'd done each other time she'd left him, so she'd headed somewhere he'd never think to look. Her mother came from Stoke and Vicky had been born here. When her father had left her mum desolate they'd ended up renting a room above Mr. Patel's shop. By Mr. Patel I knew she meant Kelly's father. Although Kelly was nine years older than Vicky the two girls had become close and stayed in touch over the years. She'd known what Vicky had been going through and it was she who had insisted that Vicky come here to escape.
During our conversation I couldn't help but notice and admire Vicky's physical attributes. Her hair was blonde, straight and worn shoulder length. Her bright blue eyes echoed her soul, there was an emptiness about them when she described the bad bits but they sparkled at happier memories. What I remember most was the few fleeting smiles she threw my way.
I asked her where she was staying and was told, despondently that she did not know. She had assumed it would be with Kelly but now she was not certain. Her story also explained the pretty full holdall that she'd brought with her.
'No problem!' I told her picking up her bag, 'you'll stay with me.'
I'd expected that I'd need to explain but Vicky just meekly nodded and followed me out. I was suddenly angry, she was looking and acting like the victim her boyfriend had made her, resigned to take whatever shit came her way.
'Vicky!' I said, the tone of my voice making her stop and look at me. 'I have four bedrooms. When I said you will stay with me, I meant in my house, with your own room.' The gloom lifted slightly.
'I assumed that you meant we'd sleep together.' She whispered.
'I know. I could see it in the way you acted, that's why I explained.'
'Sorry! I thought Kelly had set me up, but I should know her better. What do you want from me then?'
I shook my head. I didn't know who she was used to being with but they were certainly the wrong crowd for her. I wondered how this gorgeous young woman had had all her self-confidence drained from her. John was shy but he was not weak so it wasn't that. I knew of many abused women, and a few men, but still failed to understand why they put up with it. I remember one young woman telling me, 'it's the only way he shows he loves me.' The mind boggles. Now I set myself the task of helping Vicky regain her self-esteem.
'I want nothing from you.' Trying first to put her at her ease. I then tried a compliment. 'I must admit that you are a very attractive young woman but when I share my bed it is always with someone who wants to be there, not someone who is just prepared to be there. I know it's a subtle difference but to me it's a very important one. Plus, ' I added with a grin, 'I'm going to need at least a week to recover from Kelly!'
This last bit brought the smile back, if only momentary. That made my mind up for me. 'Actually Vicky, there is something I want from you.' Before she had chance to frown and to think, "I knew it" I finished, 'and that is your fabulous smile.'
And I got it too.
When we got back to my place I showed her two connecting rooms and told her that they were hers for as long as she required. As there was no en-suite in either of the rooms I did jokingly stress that I'd prefer not to have a heart attack by bumping into a sexy naked young woman on the landing. She smiled again, this time letting it linger.
Downstairs we talked some more about any plans she had, which turned out to be very limited, actually just the one, to let her mother know where she was. It appeared that she blamed herself for her father leaving when she was young; the lack of confidence was only around men and stemmed from that belief. Her mother had stressed that it was ninety percent his fault, ten percent her fault and zero percent Vicky's. I told her that I agreed with the zero bit, but could not comment about the rest. I was pleasantly surprised when first she came and sat by me for a cuddle and secondly that I felt nothing sexual about having my arms around her, it was as if I was cuddling a young child. We talked a bit about me before she declared how tired she was. She smiled her heart-lifting smile, kissed me on the cheek and quietly thanked me, before turning in for the night.
Later I lay on my large, king size bed, turning over in my mind the day's events. Our set-up of John had gone great, but it was Vicky who troubled me. She needed someone to appreciate her, someone to lavish time and attention on her dwindling ego. But! Was that person me? In the past I'd have jumped at the challenge but now I didn't think so. Kelly had turned out too young for me and Vicky was younger still. These were new feelings for me, for a quarter of a century, lust had ruled, ok with my own moral rules attached, but still the flesh came first.
With Vicky it was different, lust was there, but it was not the controlling emotion, but I was not quite sure what was. I just had to admit that there was something about her that appealed at a level I couldn't quite fathom.
As soon as I'd seen her smile I knew the memories would return. They weren't as strong or as frequent these days but regularly were the thoughts I went to sleep with. It was that smile, only this time it was not on Vicky but on another young woman, Angela. Angela Clarke, my first and only real love.
Twenty-five years ago this summer, I'd been out of work for the first time in my life, but with enough money to last so I'd decided to have three months off before looking for something else.
I went swimming one Saturday afternoon and there she was, sitting on the side of the pool, her lovely long legs just stirring the water. Her hair was short and dyed blonde, Annie Lennox style. Odd, I thought then and now, I usually hate short hair on women but on Angela it looked great. She was, I soon found out, celebrating her twentieth birthday with some girlfriends. Her black one-piece suit showed her slim body off to perfection; with her friends fawning around her she seemed like a princess holding court. I couldn't keep my eyes off her.
For the first time in my life I felt nervous about a woman, not that she'd even noticed me. I wanted her; it was initially just pure physical lust. Although I recognised that desire for what it was I couldn't work out just why it was so magnetic or even why her. Her hair was not to my taste, yes, she was pretty, but no more than that; she had a great body, but so did many others in the pool; so why her? As I pondered this, a friend whispered something in her ear and I had my answer. It was of course, her smile. I was mesmerised by it. I swam towards her, trying to think of an excuse to talk to her when fate intervened and it was taken out of my hands. A young boy, who later turned out to be her younger brother, pushed her into the water and by doing so earned my eternal thanks. Swimming as I was towards her, she landed right in front of me, splashing my face and forcing me to put my hands out to stop her colliding with me. Unintentionally my hands went straight to her breasts and stayed there for the seconds it took for both of us to realise where they were. Fortunately she was aware that it had not been deliberate and smiled, sucking my breathe from me.
'If you must cop a feel, at least wait until we've been introduced.' She said.
'I'm sorry.' I said feeling myself blush. 'I'm David, by the way.'
'Angela!' she replied, then remembering her opening words added still maintaining her beam, 'and no that doesn't mean you can have another feel.'
'Damn!' I exclaimed, 'Thought my luck had changed.' I said throwing her my best smile, a pale imitation of her own.
'I suppose a romantic meal for two is out of the question then?' I said on the spur of the moment.
This offer seemed to throw her as she didn't come back straightaway with a rejoinder. In fact before she could answer another feminine voice cried. 'Oh Angela! You must accept, what a perfect way to end your birthday.'
It was only then that I realised that we had a little audience, all of whom were egging their friend to accept my offer.
I was looking into the most wonderful hazel eyes I've ever seen, even to this day, my own eyes almost pleading.
Then a rush of blood flushed her face and chest and she said in an almost timid voice, 'OK then.'
A big cheer went up around her. We talked for a too brief moment, agreed when and where to meet that evening, but that was about all we had chance for. She was perpetually in demand.
I watched her from afar, winning the odd smile, but didn't speak again, partly because of her entourage but more from my fear of a change of mind on her part. When she finally left the pool, I watched her walk up the stairs to the changing rooms, her firm buttocks only half hidden by her bathing suit. My mind went back to our first contact and the thought of my hands on her small but very firm young breasts. I had an erection that took a lot of swimming before it had subsided enough for me to leave the pool.
I rushed to get dressed and headed down to the viewing area to try to see more of Angela. She was wearing tight fitting jeans that managed to show off her legs without actually showing her legs and a white tee shirt depicting a rabbit. As my eyes refocused on the whole tee shirt rather than the tantalising mounds of her breasts, I recognised the rabbit as one from the film 'Watership Down'. As in the pool the birthday girl was surrounded so I just smiled and waved, my heart missing a beat when she waved back and graced me with one of her smiles.
I went to my car and drove home, thinking that I was feeling like a teenager preparing for his first date; a nervousness I thought I'd left behind at fourteen took over my brain. I wanted to screw Angela, no correction, I wanted to make love to her, but more importantly and even more unusually, I wanted to make a good impression. My usual dates were either odds on certainties or planned with nothing but seduction in mind.
Why the hell was this one different?
I thought of the various restaurants I'd been before, with their secluded tables, but passed on then all. Then I knew where I'd take her, Pecks, a new type of restaurant that had not long been open. This was an eating experience that I genuinely hoped my date would love.
I arrived at our agreed meeting point, to my shame, twenty minutes early, I was that nervous. 'Would she actually turn up?' was a question I'd asked myself a hundred times, usually with the answer, 'probably not.'
Ten minutes after the allotted time I changed the 'probably' to a 'definitely' but still waited. Normally even a five-minute wait is too long for me, yet as the time grew to nearly thirty minutes I was still waiting.
Then, she turned the corner and looked at me, her smile one of apology, but still one that swept all resentment away.
'Sorry I'm late.' She spoke softly. A few seconds later she admitted, 'I very nearly didn't come.'
I felt the disappointment hit me but managed to ask, 'Why not?'
'I already have a boyfriend.' This time my dismay was too obvious, for she let out a little nervous laugh. 'You didn't really give me chance to tell you.'
I quickly decided that for the night I didn't care, for the moment she was with me and that was enough, and before she had chance to change her mind I took her hand and led her to my car. Once inside I told her where we were going and her eyes lit up.
'My parents have been there, they say it is a great place.' She enthused.
Congratulating myself for my choice I set out for the restaurant. Pecks is about twenty minutes drive from where we were and I knew that the meals there started at eight prompt, for everyone. More for something to say than any other reason I explained what made Pecks different.
'There is no menu as such. It's a seven course meal, and all the courses are served at the same time throughout the restaurant.'
'Does that mean that everyone has to eat the same thing?' she asked.
'No! Apart from the first course and the coffee, they actually bring a sample of every choice of the next course to your table, describe what it is and how it is cooked and only when you've seen them all do you choose.' I knew I was explaining it badly but Angela seemed to understand, probably because of her parent's visit.
' They do that for every course?'