I thank my LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proof reading, editing skills and of course encouragement. I also like to add that we don't always see eye to eye; they tell me off sometimes - well quite often really. Anyway as I've been known to fiddle, after they've seen it. I take full responsibility for the content and any cock-ups in this story.
My thanks must also go to Just Plain Bob. The grain of an idea for this tale formed in my head after reading one of his stories. No, don't go looking for similarities with what Bob writes, I'm pretty sure you will not find any. Well, not many!
Life can lead you down many strange paths. At nearly forty years old I tried a lot of them. No, I'd never been married but I had one hell of a time in my younger days. As a teenager I'd been a randy little bugger known for a high score count. In my twenties I'd turned into the office wolf and shagged my way out of several good jobs and some good relationships, if it comes to that.
No, none of my relationships ran the course. We would set up house together for a while but in the end they would catch me out. You see, I had always found attractive women a challenge. Come on, I found nearly all women a challenge. Married or single, it made no difference to me. I had to experience them in bed; or rather they had to experience me. God, I'm good - well I bloody should have been with all the practice I'd had.
I never though I was particularly handsome. I suppose that by some folk's standards I might not have been considered handsome at all. But what I had was "the gift of the gab" as they say and I could normally talk any bird I fancied into bed. Of course once I got her there I had the experience to keep her there. Come on, you ladies know what I'm talking about. Well, if you don't, get yourself another bed partner!
Morals? Yeah I've always had morals. Well, my own interpretation of morals, that is. I have always steered well clear of my buddies' women. If she belonged to an acquaintance, that was a completely different matter. But my buddies' women were completely off limits; even if they did give me the old come-on.
You see morals are a man made thing. You know, some old Git thought them up years ago and everyone else has to choose whether to live by them or not. Now me, I wrote my own moral code and I've stuck by it for most of my life.
But all good things must come to an end sometime I suppose. Now I'm pushing forty and with over twenty-five years of hard living behind me beginning to show, it was like someone had turned a switch off. Suddenly my bed was empty as the younger bucks took all the best pickings. I was beginning to wonder whether I'd lost the "knack" and beginning to feel real old.
Or maybe it was just that I was fed up with playing the game. I still got invited to lots of parties, but I was tending to show up less and less nowadays. If I left a party alone, people noticed. I had a reputation to uphold; in the past I always left with company. Female, of course, and you know, I would get those little knowing winks and sly smiles off of the other guys.
They had all stopped now, as I usually tended to go home alone. Yeah, there were often a few disparate women about, but I had my standards. And besides, sometimes I wondered just where my life was going. There I was thirty-nine years old and with nothing to show for it. No wife, no kids, just a flat in a rather nice block. But if I kicked the bucket tomorrow, who the hell would care?
Anyway this story really starts in a supermarket; Safeway, to be precise, right by one of the frozen food cabinets. There I was sorting through the instant microwave dinners. No, I never have been much of a cook. When suddenly I got rammed in the leg by one of those bleeding killer carts. Shit, those things can do some real damage, especially when they're fully loaded.
"Oh, I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" A female voice said. I think I had probably cussed out loud a bit.
"No, lady, I'll live. Don't you go worrying your pretty little head about it. I just hope you don't drive your bloody car like that?" I hadn't looked at the woman. I was too busy inspecting the damage to my ankle.
"I'm so sorry some of these trolleys are so hard to control. I'm afraid my daughter picked a bad one this time."
I finally looked up at her, and the woman's face was somewhat familiar to me. Apparently she recognised me at the same time.
"Oh, my, it's George, isn't it?" She said, "Long time no see, George; how have you been keeping?"
I must have looked confused as I tried to place her face.
"Luchia, Luchia Roberts, surely you remember me? Mind, it must have been nearly twenty years since we last met."
"Of course, I recognised you, Luchia," I said, lying my head off and somewhat relieved that she had told me her name. For one horrible moment I'd been worried that she was one of my ex's. It's one thing for them to catch you out cheating on them and dump you. But to forget an ex's name, that would have been really embarrassing. Luckily Chia was not an old flame of mine; she'd married a one-time friend.
"I was sorry things didn't work out for you and Jerry."
"Oh, that's been over and done with for years now. Do you know, he never comes to see the girls and we haven't heard from him in years. Do you see him at all?"
"No, I haven't seen him since he married that little tart."
"Twice, he's been married twice since he walked out on me. My solicitors had all kinds of trouble getting the child support money out of him.
Strange that she said Jerry walked out on her as I had always thought she had thrown the silly Pratt out. To be honest the conversation was going in directions I really didn't want it to. But just then two young ladies walked up to join us.
"Oh, girls, come over here and meet George. He was an old friend of your father and I whilst we were courting. George was best man at our wedding you know. George, these are my daughters, Amelia and Claire."
I said hi to the two quite beautiful young ladies. If my memory served me correctly, the elder Amy must have been about twenty or twenty-one now and the younger one Claire would be about eighteen-ish. They smiled at me as they first approached, but once Chia mentioned that I'd been Jerry's best man at the wedding, their faces took on a cold expression.
"Do you have any children, George?"
"No, I never did get married, Luchia. You know me, I never stayed with one girl long enough to get spliced."
"No, I didn't know you, George - well, not closely anyway, but I always found you to be a gentleman."
Um, unexpected and surprising one that. Perhaps Chia had forgotten some of the things she said to me in our younger days.
"Oh, now there's a lot who wouldn't agree with you on that one, Chia."
"I say it as I see it, George, you know that. Now, I gather you're single."
'Whoops, alarm bells ringing, where is this conversation going now?' I thought. I must have looked confused.
"The TV dinners," Luchia explained, "you wouldn't be buying those if you had a woman at home looking after you, now, would you?"
"I never was much of a cook, Luchia. I eat out most of the time. But I keep the freezer stocked for when I have the odd evening in." Not the whole truth, as I was spending a lot of evenings alone indoors nowadays.
"I see youÕre into Bar-B-Q's by the look of what you've got stacked into that trolley," I commented wishing to turn the subject away from me.
"Yes, we're having a bit of celebration this evening; Amy has just got herself engaged."
"Good for you, Amy; who's the lucky guy?" A silly question for me to ask really, as I wouldn't know the guy from Adam anyway.
"Oh, just a guy I met at college," Amy replied, her tone telling me to mind my own business.
"I know. What are you doing this evening, George? Why don't you come along and join us?" Chia asked. "It'll be fun to talk about the old times."
I could see the girls weren't overly enamoured with this suggestion, but Chia persisted. She said she would enjoy talking about the old days before she was married. In the end I said I would go. Really, just to bring the conversation to a close, I didn't have any intention of actually turning up.
Then we went off in opposite directions to complete our own shopping. It was as I was leaving the checkout line that Claire came up to me.
"I don't know who you are, but my mother hasn't got very many friends. She's spent most of her time bringing up my sister and me. It's against my better judgement as you're a friend of my fathers, but I hope you do show up this evening for her sake. It appears she's looking forward to your company. Mind, if you do anything to upset her, I'll hunt you down and you'll be sorry you ever set eyes on her again. She's had a hard time since that bastard left us."
The venom in the girl's voice was unmistakable.
"Claire, I haven't counted your father amongst my friends since their divorce. I was never anything other than a friend to your mother. I think I told both your mother and father that I thought they were too young to get married in the first place. I always thought your father was much too immature to make the commitment. What he did to your mother and you two girls, I found inexcusable and I have told him so on many occasions."
"Very well then, we'll expect to see you about seven." With that she turned and stomped away.
I suppose this is a good point to tell you about Jerry and Luchia. Jerry had been a friend of mine whilst we were at school and then college together. Somewhere along the line, I can never remember exactly how or when, he hooked up with Luchia. So for most of our teenage years Chia was around somewhere. Normally a very quiet girl, she and Jerry would go out together a couple of times a week. Sometimes he would bring her along with us - us was our little crowd, about seven guys along with they're respective assorted girlfriends - who regularly went out on the town together.
Chia was a nice girl, but she never really fitted in. As I said, she was very quiet for most of the time. But one thing about Luchia that no one ever missed was that she had no idea about tact and, when she did speak, would often say whatever came into her head. That could sometimes lead to embarrassing situations for all of us and never helped much in enlarging her own circle of friends.
Personally I had always liked her. No, not as a piece of skirt to chase. She was my buddy's girl. I did have some standards, but her openness meant you knew exactly where you stood with her. I knew that I wasn't ever her favourite person. Because she didn't like my wandering ways when it came to women and on occasions, she had been quite vocal on the subject. Damn we'd had some right old set-to's on the subject.
She came from a strict Catholic background, her parents kept her on a tight rein and she had a strict curfew. Jerry appeared to be besotted with her when he was with her. But when she wasn't around, he would always seem to be on the prowl for a bit of spare.
I think they were both about seventeen when they got engaged. I honestly advised Jerry against it. I never thought he was mature enough to make that kind of commitment. Shit, I had no plans to tie myself down and I thought I was much more mature than Jerry.
Come on, I told you that I ran around on my women but I never gave any of them a ring. I never promised them anything in the long term. So don't go thinking I'm some kind of a hypocrite.
Jerry was chasing bits of skirt all the time he was engaged to Chia. I never did think that was very fair of him. Christ, he had asked the girl to marry him and he was shagging anything he could lay his hands on, on the side. I went as far as to get a mutual girlfriend to warn Chia off. But it didn't appear to achieve anything, except Chia refusing to talk to Marion anymore.
Well, the inevitable happened. Jerry and Chia got married, and you don't have to guess who did the best the man bit. But after the wedding Jerry didn't change his ways; he was still apparently chasing anything in a skirt that he could. I tried to play the father figure character - I was a year older than Jerry and Chia - and I told Jerry his behaviour was well out of order.
Of course he just pointed out that I was playing around on the girl whom I was living with at the time. What he couldn't seem to get his head around was the fact that he was married, whereas my girl was just sharing my flat and my bed. And she definitely knew the score. To my mind there's a big difference there.
Several years went by, during which Chia had the two girls. Actually I think it was whilst Chia was pregnant with Claire that, during the course of one of our frequent discussions in a pub. Jerry, after he had drunk one or two pints more than he could handle - he had always had a low tolerance to alcohol - started to give me the old sob story.
Apparently he had not been very truthful with us over the years. He had always led us to believe that he and Chia had been enjoying a full sex life all the time they had been together courting. That night he revealed that he had married a virgin, who he now claimed was very repressed in bed. Well, she was to his mind, that is. I've always found that opinions on sex are very subjective, aren't they?
Jerry claimed that he was running around on Chia because she was rationing the amount of sex that she would let him have. I found that somewhat hard to believe because Chia had by that time had one child and was carrying her second. But from the way he told it, Chia was frigid in bed. This really was more information than I really needed to know; I never was one to play the Agony Aunt if I could help it. Luckily once Jerry was sober he never mentioned the subject again.
Maybe six months after that Jerry was arrested. Apparently he'd got some other girl pregnant and her father had gone after him. Jerry had somehow got the upper hand, but overdone things a bit and finished up being charged with GBH or something. I'm not sure as I kept my head down around that time. I really didn't want to get involved.
Well, that spelt the end of his marriage to Chia. Catholic or not, there was no way she was going to stand for that kind of crap and I don't think anyone could blame her.
Jerry got himself out of the can with the courts by marrying the silly little tart that he had got pregnant. I think her father must have dropped the charges in return for him marrying her, as I can't remember hearing anymore about it.
I saw Jerry a few times after that, but not much, if I could help it. I don't know; I suppose it must be the dual standards thing. I never thought anything about seducing a married woman. But Jerry doing the dirty on Chia, that, for some reason, I found unacceptable.
The girl that Jerry had put in the club had only been sixteen years old at the time. Cradle snatching, was looked down on by myself, and most of our peers. Any stupid Pratt could get a youngster drunk and shag her. No man would need to stoop so low.
So that was it really. Now nearly twenty years later I'd run into Luchia again and I'd been invited to Amy's engagement party. I had no illusions that I was being invited in any other capacity than that of an old friend.
I arrived at seven on the dot, a couple of six-packs under my arm and half a bottle of rum in my inside pocket. I like rum, but very few folks keep it in the house.
Amy and her soon-to-be husband Mike greeted me at the door. He seemed to be a nice lad and I warmed to him straight away. Amy dragged me off to one side and gave me a similar lecture to the one Claire had given me earlier, only a little bit more forcefully. I got the feeling they had questioned their mother about me and Chia had - as she always did - told them the truth about me.
Chia appeared and welcomed me with a kiss on the cheek. That wasn't what I was expecting! Then, she took me round and introduced me to her friends and relatives.
An interesting experience that, as it appeared some of her relatives remembered me from her wedding to Jerry. I got some very funny looks, I can tell you.
They had the party split over two downstairs rooms and the back garden. The front room was like a reception area where all the old fuddy duddies were holding court. The back room had been stripped of almost everything except the stereo and was where all the dancing was going on. Out in the rear garden there was the Bar-B-Q and a bar.
I circulated for a little while; then settled myself in a garden seat not far from the bar. Chia came to sit with me for a while and we talked about old times, but then she had to go a circulate herself. Both her daughters came and chatted for a while. I think their worst fears had been allayed when I told them I'd advise both their mother and father against marrying.
Chia came back about nine thirty and asked me to dance with her. We hadn't been on the cramped dance floor for more then a couple of minutes when raised voices drew our attention to a disturbance in the front room. Chia, of course, had to go to investigate the cause of the disturbance and I, out of curiosity, followed.
As Chia entered the front room I heard someone start to throw obscenities at her. I didn't recognise the voice, but I knew it had to be Jerry and he was obviously worse for the drink. He was shouting that his daughter was getting engaged and he hadn't been invited to the party.
Chia told him that Amy had not wanted him there, as I was getting into a position where I could see what was going on. I heard Amy's voice saying that Jerry hadn't wanted to know her all the years she'd been growing up, so she didn't want to know him now.
I'm not too sure what happened then. I think it could have been that Jerry went to backhand Amy. I know I heard him say something about her being a cheeky little bitch and he'd teach her some manners. But Mike was not about to let that happen.
Unfortunately for Mike, Jerry - like myself - had in his younger days always been a bit of a roughhouse. We'd been in more street fights than I'd care to remember and learnt the hard way how to handle ourselves. Although Mike was the much younger man, he didn't really stand a chance against a street fighter like Jerry.
Jerry laid him out with the first blow. Okay, my cue, muggings to the rescue. I stepped forward and Jerry saw me.
"Fuck me if it isn't super stud! What the hell are you doing here, Georgie boy, fucking my ex-wife, are we?"
"No, I'm not, Jerry. I'm here as an old friend, which apparently is more than you are. Now I suggest it would be a good idea if you were to leave now, whilst you still can."
"Ooh! Threatening words, Georgie boy. Now, you don't look like you're in too good a shape to me, Georgie boy. I think you've gone soft in your old age."
Oh, the Georgie boy bit? That was Jerry trying to wind me up. He knew I objected to being called Georgie boy and he hoped I would lose my cool over it. You know, lose your temper and lose the fight.
"On your bike, Jerry, whilst you can still walk. You really don't want to find out how fit I am."
For a moment Jerry thought. I think he was undecided whether he could take me or not. Mind you, I wasn't too sure that I could take him either. I hadn't resorted to fisticuffs for nigh on twenty years. Maybe if he hadn't been drinking for most of the afternoon things might have turned out differently. But in the end he squared up and took a swing at me. Christ, he advertised it with neon signs and it missed me completely as I side stepped it.
I didn't even punch him, I caught him with the back of my forearm on the side of his neck as he swung around and he joined the now recovering Mike on the floor. I was on Jerry in an instant. I pulled his right arm behind him and twisted it up behind his back, holding it there with my left hand. I placed my other arm around his throat and dragged him back up onto his feet. Before he had time to realise what was happening, I was marching him out of the front door that someone had opened for me.
"Jerry, me old mate, I think you can gather that you're not welcome here. Now I'm going to release you, and if you know what's good for you, I would suggest you'll keep on walking down the road and do not look back. I always was better that you when it came to a punch-up and I keep myself in shape no matter what it looks like."
Bullshit, of course. I have never been near a gym in my life, but Jerry wasn't to know that. Jerry did just that; he walked or rather staggered down the street without looking back, although he was muttering something. I decided to ignore it, as I was really getting a bit old for all this scrapping lark.
I was just about to re-enter the house when a police car arrived. I assume someone must have called them. I informed the officers that I had been forced to eject Jerry from the house and pointed him out to them. The officers said they would make sure he left the area.
When I got back inside, I was met by Chia at the door. She went to say something, but I put my finger to her lips to silence her and then led her back to the dance floor. Some folks wanted to make a big thing out of me throwing Jerry out, but I quickly made it clear to that the incident was over.
The rest of the evening went off very well. I think Mike was a little embarrassed about Jerry taking him out so quickly. But I told him that in the old days Jerry and I were in a lot of street fights. A more experienced man outclassed Mike. But if it had been down to stamina, Mike would have beat Jerry hands down.
Around one A.M. we were down to the clearing up. When most of that was done, I announced I was calling a taxi to take me home. Chia asked me if I would mind staying the night, as she claimed she was frightened that Jerry would return. I doubted he would, but I agreed to make myself comfy on a sofa.
In the morning I awoke to the sounds and smells of bacon and eggs frying. In the kitchen I found Chia slaving over a hot stove.
"Good morning, Chia. How's your head? You were putting it away quite well last night."
"It's fine, George, I never get hangovers. How did you sleep?
"Out like a light, girl. I can sleep anywhere."
Chia looked over my shoulder as if to check if anybody else was around.
"I thought you might have sleep-walked a little during the night, George."
Taken by surprise, I didn't at first get what she was talking about.
"Sorry, where did you get that idea? I've never sleep-walked in my life."
"That's a pity. I was hoping you would come and find me."
"Luchia, are you saying what I think youÕre saying?"
"Yes, I am. You were always supposed to be the bogeyman. I thought you might have come looking for a shag."
"For crying out loud, Chia!" I said, as this time I checked to see that no one else was within earshot. But I think they were all still asleep up stairs.
"Come on, George, you been into more women's nickers than they've got in Dorothy Perkin's. I remember what they used to say about you when we were young. If it wears a skirt, George will shag it. ArenÕt I good enough for you to shag."
"Well, of course you are, but hold on a minute, girl. I don't know where you got that idea, but it isn't exactly true, you know. I've never shagged a woman in my life. I make love with a woman and I'm bloody good at it. Even if I do say so myself."
"There's a difference?"
"Yes, there bloody well is. I've never been into having a quick bang against a wall in a dark alley or the back seat of a car. Making love is something that has to be worked at. The act of making love between a man and a woman is a work of art that has to be carefully choreographed."
"Oh, I see, that explains it."
"Why all those girls used to swoon all over you. Why they put up with you having two or three girlfriends at the same time. And why Jerry has always felt inferior to you."
"You're losing me, girl."
"Look, you two-timed every girl you ever went out with, right?"
"Wow, hold on there. I never made a commitment to any of them."
"I know that, silly, but they knew you were two-timing them and they put up with it. None of the other guys ever got away with it like you did. All of the girls called you "The Stud," did you know that? They would drop any guy they were going out with, to go out with you."
"I never noticed."
"No, you wouldn't, you had your head so far up your own arse back then, you couldn't see what was going on around you. You were one arrogant bugger; I never could make out what the girls saw in you."
"Hold on. You were just saying that you wanted me to join you in your bed last night."
"Yeah, I've always wanted to know what the attraction was. But you never did make a play for me. I think you've just told me what the attraction was."
"Ah, I've slipped up, have I? But to be honest with you, the reason I never made a play for you was because you were Jerry's girl. It's not done, you know, to chase after a mate's girl."
"Do I take it that, if I hadn't been 'Jerry's girl', you would have asked me out and tried to get me into bed?"
"Now thatÕs a silly question. Of course I would have."
"Bugger, I should have dropped Jerry when Marion told me he was being a bastard and running around with other girls behind my back. But I thought that was you just trying to break us up, so that you could get into my pants."
"You knew that I asked Marion to tell you?"
"Well, I suspected you put her up to it at the time. But I'm sorry to say that I completely misinterpreted your intentions. I thought you were after getting into my knickers. It was only later, after the divorce when I ran into Marion again one day that I was sure you put her up to it. Then I realised that for all your randy reputation, you were trying to warn me. You really are a gentleman at heart."
"I think there's a few folks out there who won't agree with you on that one. You know I've been named in more than one divorce, don't you?"
"I'm sure that all those marriages were really already over before you became involved in them. Remember it takes two to tango, I'm sure you were just a handy excuse."
"I suppose you could be right. I can't say I've ever had any angry husbands actually come after me. But it has cost me a few good jobs over the years."
"Anyway, I'm figuring I'll come over to your place tonight and make you a nice home cooked meal. Then you can show me what all the fuss was about."
"Luchia, you are propositioning me again."
"Yes, well, you never came after me last night. Now we'll have to use your house as the girls will be here tonight"
"But they were here last night."
"They were pretty drunk and they had their fiancŽes with them last night. I could have screamed the place down and they would've been too busy to notice."
"Luchia! Are you telling me that you let your daughters sleep with their boyfriends?"
"Oh, for Christ sake, George, come off it, and you always called me a bloody prude. You were sharing a bed with your girlfriends when you were much younger than my girls are! Talk about double standards, this is 2005 you know the goalposts have moved a lot over the years."
"I suppose youÕre right. I must be getting old."
"Not too old I hope, you're going to show me how it's done tonight. Now eat this and then get the hell out of here. I've got a lot to do today. I'll be over at your place about five."
I spent most of the day trying to turn my flat back into some semblance of a home. I'd been without a housemate for a year or so by then and I'm afraid I'd let things slide a little. Well, quite a lot really; it had become a typical bachelor pad.