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.
.... There is more of this story ...