Hi! My name's Jim Price, and I'm a Son of Martha. You don't know what I mean? It comes from a poem;
The Sons of Martha by Rudyard Kipling...
"It is their care in all the ages, to take the buffet and cushion the shock,
it is their care that the gear engages, it is their care that the switches lock."
I wouldn't have known about it, but I was introduced to it by my girlfriend, Petra. I didn't know that poetry could be like that. The poem talks about the people who have to sort things out for everyone else. It's based on a story in the Bible. There was Jesus, visiting friends. One of the ladies of the house, Mary, is sitting listening to him, the other, Martha is bustling around like a blue ... fly trying to get food on the table. She complains to Jesus, wanting him to tell Mary to go help, but he just says that Mary has chosen the better part. See the point? There she is doing all the work for the benefit of everyone in the house and no-one really appreciates it or realises how much work there is.
What do you think when you're held up in traffic because there's a big hole in the road? Do you think "Wow, those poor guys are sweating to make sure everyone has electricity/water/gas/drains" or do you just curse them because you're going to be late for work?
Once I wouldn't have given all this any thought at all. I just like fixing things. I really hate to see a piece of machinery that's not working right, a piece of equipment that's got badly fitted casings, or a door that's not hung right, and my hands just itch to get at them. I didn't think about it; I just did it. I'm good with stuff like that, I read all the journals, keep an eye on stuff on the internet, you know, so I'm confident with anything at all technical.
I'm not so good with people. Oh, it's not a problem when they ask me to fix something. I look, and listen and say, 'Oh, it sounds like such-and-such... ' and it usually is, and they're impressed and grateful when I put it right, but I'm pretty hopeless with social stuff. At least I was, until Petra took me in hand.
There I was, a real nerd, a total geek, nineteen years old and never kissed a girl, in an undergrad engineering course at Hallam University in Sheffield - with a sideline in computing — can't get away from computers, even if I wanted to. I probably wouldn't even have noticed Petra, (don't get me wrong, I noticed girls, but the ones I noticed wouldn't look twice at me ... unless something needed fixing) but Petra, well, she didn't try to look pretty, and dressed in baggy slacks and hoodies. But when she asked me to fix her home network (which I did, no problem) I noticed this marvellous old Morris Traveller in their drive. Turned out, it was actually Petra's, and needed some attention. My hands got that itch, I just had to get my hands on it. It was a little worrying she wanted to work on it with me, but I was willing to put up with that. It turned out she was pretty good. It was nice to have a female friend, too. Notice, I don't say 'girlfriend'. She really worked hard to get my attention, and I didn't really realise what was going on at first. Oh, my, was I slow on the uptake.
Anyway, I went with her to Classic Car shows with the Morris, and gradually got used to going places with her. When the car got a 'commended' at a show, she got so excited she kissed me. I rather liked it, and asked if I could have another. I suppose that was when we started being properly girl-friend and boy-friend. But I still didn't have a clue, and Petra took the lead all the way, until she got hurt in an accident. I realised then what she meant to me. I sat by the hospital bed and held her hand, and begged her not to leave me, and told her that I loved her. When she came round, she told me she dreamed I was calling her, she was walking away from me, but she turned round and came back, because I said I loved her.
After that, well, I still was barely socialised, but she gave me confidence, and I learned to ask questions and how to have a conversation with people. Gradually, I was accepted as a human being, rather than 'that nerd who's really good at fixing things'. The girls I noticed pre-Petra, now noticed me. Some of them made a pass at me. Funny thing, before, I wouldn't have known what to do; now, I could probably have dated some of them, but I didn't want to. Petra was all I needed.
She wasn't more experienced than me in some things, but that didn't matter. She had the confidence and the theoretical knowledge, and it was sort of good that I was her first real boyfriend. Once she started taking care with her appearance, I had no complaints about that either. Honestly, I really loved her as a person, not because of her face or figure, but once I started to really look at her, well, wow. She was about five foot seven, with dark brown, glossy, wavy hair, brown eyes, a heart-shaped face and a perfectly proportioned figure. Some might say she was a bit stocky, maybe, but I never went for the skinny look anyway.
She'd always subtly been in charge in our relationship. If she hadn't I never would have done a thing, but once she was out of the hospital, she made sure I knew she wanted me to touch her, that I wasn't to treat her like fine china. The plaster casts meant our initial explorations were limited, but they were still pretty exciting to me.
When she was home from hospital, she spent a lot of time in what had been the living room, and was now at least temporarily her bedroom. The Wilsons had moved out the furniture, and moved in her bed, desk and so on ... I helped ... so that she didn't have to negotiate the stairs. She was in a lower body cast supporting her pelvis and legs, so she couldn't bend in the middle. I leave to your imagination some of the difficulties that caused ... It was a pretty big bed. It needed to be, poor lass. But the first time we were alone in the room, she told me briskly to get on the bed with her. She took my hand and stuffed it inside her top, holding it against her breast. Wow. It felt wonderful, firm and smooth and round. Her nipple pushed against my hand; I rubbed my palm against it, feeling the rubbery resistance, while she fumbled with my zip and extracted my penis. I was relieved that she produced a small hand-towel from under the pillows and placed it strategically.
"Jim," she sighed (a sigh of resignation, not passion, as even I could tell) "Relax, get down here and kiss me, dammit."
"Will not disturb us, I promise."
So, I did as I was told. There are few things I enjoyed as much as kissing Petra; my first direct encounter with her breasts enhanced my pleasure immensely. When I came — it didn't take long — she sighed again.
"However has it taken so long to get to this point? Now, Jim; have I taken the edge off?"
What could I say? "Petra, that was fantastic..."
"DON'T let go my breast, Jim ... I like it and I want you hold me like that while I talk to you."
What could I do, but listen?
"Listen carefully, Jim. I'm not going to be able to do much while I'm like this. Tell me, are other girls hitting on you now, when I'm not with you? I've seen the way some of them look at you."
"Well ... I suppose ... yes."
"Fine. I'm telling you now, that I want you to go out with any girl that you like, that asks you. I'm not going to get uptight about it. In fact, I'll extend that to, ask any girl out you like."
"Look, Jim. I set out to get you. You had hardly a chance. I'm saying, look around. If there's a girl out there that can get and keep your attention, you're free to go for it. If you date someone, or someones, but come back to me, then I'll know it's because you really want to. Understand?"
"I don't think I'll ever understand you. I don't care how we got to here, but I'm happy — I love you."
"You think you do, Jim. You've never had anything to compare with the way you feel."
"But ... haven't we got a connection? You said I called you back!"
"So I did, and so you did. I didn't say you don't care, or that we don't have a connection. I'm just saying ... Oh, I don't know how to say it. I don't want to trap you."
"I'm not trapped, I'm here because I want to be, because I love you!"
"And I'm happy you're here. I don't want you to stop coming here. Just ... be free. For me."
Well, she was right about one thing; being on my own, while Petra was confined to bed, I was getting some attention. Maybe it wasn't more than usual, just that I noticed when Petra wasn't holding my attention, but I don't think so. It was weird; why were they interested?
My first lunch-time after that encounter, Charmaine MacMahon plonked down next to me;
"Mind if I join you, Jim?"
I gulped. Charmaine is, well, don't misunderstand, but she's a 'walking wet dream'. The sort of girl ordinary guys fantasise about. I mean, before Petra, I did. Tall, slim, toned legs, a figure to die for... really blonde (and I'm pretty sure it's real). Only problem was she seemed to be the epitome of stereotypical blondes. I don't really think intelligence is related to hair colour, but perhaps some girls (and guys for that matter) find that they can trade on their looks and don't bother making use of however many grey cells they may possess. By the end of lunch I was, well, desperate was an understatement. I couldn't find a single topic I believed she was interested in except clothes and parties. I may be socially inept, but I can tell when someone is "pretending to be interested."
The next encounter was with Lorna Pearson, who rubbed her ... tits ... against my arm in the queue while I was waiting to pay for my meal. I had to be polite over the meal, when I really wanted to read my new 'Honor Harrington' novel. (Never heard of Honor? Science fiction by David Weber)
By the end of the week I was ready to scream. Not that I really minded having boobs rubbed against my arm, though the hands on my thigh under the table got to be ... embarrassing. What was it with them? It's not that I wasn't interested in sex, but ... they'd never shown any interest before.
Friday afternoon, I'd just flopped with a cup of tea, when Susheela sat opposite.
"Er, Jim ... sorry to ... I mean" she blushed. She has lovely dark skin — I think she's from Malaysia — I haven't said her surname, because no-one can pronounce it, and I certainly couldn't spell it, but despite her skin colour, I could tell she was embarrassed.
"Hey, no problem," I said, "relax, I don't bite."
"Uncomfortable and immobile," I replied, "and, do you know, you're the first person to ask me about her?"
"Really, really. I'm going to see her later; want to come?"
"I..." she paused, "you know, I think I'd like that!"
I had a session in a computer lab, Susheela a psychology seminar, so we got to Petra's about five-thirty. After a few minutes chit-chat, I realised Petra's eyes were looking at me and flicking towards the door. Colour me stupid; it took several minutes before I realised the message was 'get lost for a bit, we need some girl-time'.
"I, er, just need a word with your Mum," I said, getting up and walking to the door. It was no hardship — I like Elaine Wilson.
We'd been chatting for a while when Susheela looked into the kitchen.
"I'm just leaving now," she said, "hello, Mrs. Wilson! Thanks, Jim, for bringing me here. I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Er, yes, I suppose so," I said
Mrs Wilson raised her eyebrows as Susheela left. She looked at me and I just shrugged, helplessly.
"You'll stay for tea," she said. It wasn't a question.
"Sure, I'd like that," I said, "I'll just go to Petra now, though, if that's okay?"
"Of course. I'll call you when tea's ready, and you can come and take it to her."
When I went to Petra, she demanded that I lay next to her, and she did the same as last time. I was putty in her hands ... When I came (it didn't take long this time, either) she held my hand against her breast again;
"Monday," she said, "you will ask Susheela for a date. It won't be a hardship, will it?"
"Um," I said, trying to decide how to handle it. "I'd rather be here with you..."
"Did you not hear what I said last time?" She demanded, a little peevishly.
"I heard, but I really don't want anyone else," I complained. "I've had girls hitting on me that a few months ago wouldn't give me the time of day, except to ask me to fix something. Do you know that Susheela was the first one to show any concern about you?"
"I believe it, which is partly why I said what I did. She needs a little encouragement, she likes you, and she asked if I minded. And if you decide you like her more than me, then that's the way the cookie crumbles."
"Petra! Anyone would think you were trying to get rid of me. Are you?"
"NO! But I do want to be sure you want to be with me. Comprende?"
I nodded, and about then I heard her mother calling me to fetch our tea.
Next day, being Saturday, I spent with Petra. She's a pretty good chess-player, but after a couple of games we moved on to more interesting things. I'm pretty sure it was three orgasms she had once she talked me through what to do with my fingers; it might have been four. I managed a couple, thanks to her one free hand and her kissing technique. Once we'd taken the edge off, we just cuddled as well as we could bearing in mind the plaster-of-Paris obstacle. At least I could fondle her breasts; she seemed to like that nearly as much as I did. I didn't think I could ever tire of it. I was pretty distracted, though. Why was she pushing me to date other girls? Why, in particular, Susheela? I liked Susheela; her shyness was much more attractive than the more ... brazen? ... approach I got from Charmaine and Lorna; that was really intimidating.
I had some stuff to do Sunday, so it was after lunch when I got to Petra's. What is it about girls that they like surprising us? Susheela was already there.
"I was just telling Susheela about the Morris," Petra said, "why don't you take her and give her a ride?" She turned to Susheela and added "there's not many I'd trust with my car, but Jim's one of them. After all, he fixed it for me." She reached out to her bedside table, and picked up her keys and tossed them to me.
"Would you give me a moment with Petra?" I asked Susheela, who smiled, nodded, and left the room. "I don't know what's going on here ... I don't suppose I'll ever understand, but I am not leaving here without at least one proper kiss," and bent over to touch my lips to hers. Her hand went behind my neck and our tongues tangled until we had to surface to breathe properly. "We need to practice that," I said, "I'll require another practice session when I bring the car back."
"Yes, Jim," was all she said; I thought her eyes were suspiciously bright, but she made a shooing motion with her hand, so I 'shooed'.
Susheela was good company. The old Morris was great for pottering along in the Derbyshire countryside and at forty miles an hour or so, we could have a reasonable conversation. I knew she was bright, and of course it was obvious she was pretty, but more than that we ... our conversation ... struck sparks, I suppose. She was interesting, and seemed to be interested in what I said, too. We drove out through Hathersage and Hope to Castleton and had a snack in one of the tea-rooms; I think it was called 'Four Roofs' — something like that. It was about opposite the car park. Anyway, by the time I'd taken Susheela home and returned the Morris to the Wilsons', it was after six and Mrs. Wilson insisted I have some tea with Petra. I didn't argue too hard; I wanted more kissing practice.
Monday morning, when I arrived at the cafeteria for my morning caffeine fix, I saw Susheela sitting, on her own, by the window. Her head was down, and a book open in front of her, so she didn't see me — at least, I don't think so. I got the 'breast-rubbing-on-the-upper-arm' treatment from one of the other girls in the queue — I think called Hayley; she got a smile just before I paid for my bacon sandwich and coffee ... and walked straight (and briskly) over to Susheela.
"Hey, can I join you or do you really want to read that book? I won't be offended if you do."
She looked up at me and smiled. Petra's smiles make my heart turn over; Susheela's seemed to light the room up.
"I'll take that as permission, then," I said, sitting next to her. "I was wondering, would you like to see a film with me? 'Miss Potter' is showing at the Odeon." I took a bite of sandwich. 'Miss Potter' was Petra's suggestion; I wouldn't have known what was showing much less what to choose to go to.
"Really?" It was more of a gasp than a question.
I swallowed my bite of bread and bacon. "Sure," I said, "I really enjoyed our little trip yesterday."
"Wow ... Petra said she'd told you to date other girls while she was out of commission, but I didn't think you'd want to ask me!"
"Why ever not? You're as pretty as any of the others, and you've got a brain as well!"
There was a very long pause.
"Of course," I said, "if you'd rather not, I don't want to..."
"No! I mean yes! I mean, I'd love to; I was just surprised. Could it be Wednesday? I'm busy tonight and tomorrow."
"That's fine! There's just one thing though," I lowered my voice and whispered in her ear, "would you mind holding my hand when we're together? I'm hoping it'll discourage the others ... not to mention being nice for me." That was an afterthought, but apparently the idea appealed, because her smile, which had faded a little, returned with even greater intensity.
We parted company at her level, after telling her I'd be glad of her company any time we were in the cafeteria at the same time. That was good, as over the next couple of days we managed to have lunch together and most breaks too. I found her fascinating — she could talk intelligently (and comprehensibly) about her subjects, and ask sensible questions about my interests. She could be quiet, or chatter. I liked walking holding her hand, sitting and eating or sipping coffee. I particularly enjoyed the puzzled expressions of the girls who had tried to attract my attention. Monday and Tuesday evening, I visited Petra, of course, and told her all about what had happened each day ... and about my date for Wednesday.
"And are you enjoying yourself?"
"Well, yes ... she's sweet, clever, fun to be with once she gets over her shyness; I like her. She's not you, though."
"You've noticed that, then?"
I frowned at her. "What's going to happen in a few weeks, when you're back in circulation? Am I going to have to choose which of you to hurt?"
She squeezed my hand. "You're assuming she'll want to continue seeing you."
"No," I said, "I'm considering the possibility she will want to continue seeing me."
"Good!" she smiled, "and you were the one who said you weren't socialised! I know quite a few lads older than you that wouldn't have thought of that."
"That doesn't answer the question!"
"No, it doesn't, does it? Just ... be yourself, and do what you've just done ... think about how other people are going to feel."
She got me too involved then to argue further, but it didn't stop me worrying.
We actually watched the film, Wednesday night. I always thought that was the point, but I know I'm odd that way. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it; of course having my arm around the shoulders of a lovely young woman, and having her rest her head against my shoulder made a difference. We rode the bus back, but as we approached the Children's Hospital she hissed "push the button!". After she poked me, hard, and repeated the instruction, I obeyed, and we got off the bus. Weston Park is opposite the Hospital.
"I want to walk with you in the park," she said, so we crossed the road. There was a moon, and the park was pleasant in the light.
Did I mention Susheela is small? At five foot ... something, there's about a foot difference in our heights. That means it is difficult to walk comfortably with arms around one another at anything above a snail's pace (try it) but we eventually wound up at a park bench that wasn't in full view of the whole population of the area.
Sitting together, with her head tucked in against me, I felt her move and looked down. Our eyes met and a mysterious force drew our lips together. It was beautiful; the world ceased to exist except for the pressure of her lips on mine and the warmth of her body in my arms. When out lips separated, she sighed and snuggled close.
"Thank you," she said to my chest.
It was as if there were two people in my head. One saying, 'wow! This is love' and the other, 'oh, shit, I was afraid of this.' I knew that whatever else happened, my world had just been upset ... again.
Sheffield is hilly; locals claim it's like Rome, built on seven hills. As a result there is very little level ground; it's not unusual for a house to have a front door at one level and a back door on another, one floor up or down. Steps up to the front door are quite usual. This is quite handy sometimes; like when I got Susheela home. By standing her on the bottom step, we were able to kiss goodnight without either of us getting a crick in the neck. That in turn meant kissing goodnight went on, and on...
I walked home, wondering — agonising might be closer — about how I was going to handle the situation. As a result, I slept badly and woke early. Having no need to go into Uni, I thought I'd better go bite the bullet and see Petra. Maybe we could sort it out between us...
"Well," she said as I walked in and looked at her. "Something happened last night, then."
I sat on the edge of the bed and took her hand. "I'm ... torn in two."
"You don't need to be," she smiled. "Are you still my friend?"
"And Susheela is my friend. You aren't going to abandon me, are you?"
"So, there is no problem. Kiss me."
"Just do it, Jim."
I leaned over and touched my lips to hers. It was very nice, but ... there was something missing.
"See what I mean?" She said, with one eyebrow raised. "Jim, I love you. I believe you love me and don't want to hurt me. But there's a difference between loving someone and being in love with someone. At our age, we're sometimes, well, not fixed in our affections. I think you knew there was a risk, which is why you were reluctant to date anyone else. I thought this might happen, and that's partly why I pushed you. Don't fuss; you're free. Just keep coming to see me sometimes, okay?"
"Okay - I think we'll both want to come and see you;" I smiled, " especially if we can borrow the Morris from time to time."
"That's a deal!"
Susheela and I were an item. That was clear to the other students that knew us. We ate together, studied together, went on dates ... and went everywhere hand in hand. While Petra was still stuck at home, one or other of us, often both, would call in each day. Elaine Wilson always seemed happy to see us. I was surprised how accepting she was of us; much later I realised Petra had explained what was going on, which was more than she'd done for me. I understand, now, but at the time I was in the dark. Petra mended, eventually, but by the time she'd been through physio and was able to cope with getting around, we were well into the autumn term.
Some of the other students — mainly the girls — were on the look out to see what happened when we three met. I dare say they were disappointed that the public meeting consisted of a hug for Susheela, and a hug and kiss on the cheek for me. We went everywhere together — well, nearly everywhere. Petra made it clear she wasn't going to be intruding on our relationship, so we had dates on our own. Apart from that, we had outings together, the three of us.
One evening, as I was leaving Susheela, she asked;
"Jim, do you love me?"
"Why, yes, very much," I said.
"You said I was pretty, early on."
"Yes, I did; and so you are. More than that, you're beautiful."
"So, why won't you go further than kissing me?"
"Because..." I frowned, struggled for the right thing to say, "because I don't know what you want, and I don't want to hurt you or do something you don't want, and I'm not used to, well, picking up the non-verbal signals."
"Well, Jim Price, I will spell it out for you. I love you, and I love you holding me and kissing me. It's been a dream come true. BUT, I want you to touch me and caress me, and take me to bed, and make love to me."
She looked up at me, waiting for my reaction.
I managed to get my vocal chords under control. "What, now?"
"No, silly. But the next time we've got the opportunity and time ... like, on Saturday my parents are out all day ... please?"
I'm sure she and Petra had it all worked out between them, because Petra had 'other plans' for Saturday. I'm equally sure Petra told her I'd need a push.
Saturday came round; the weather was seasonal ... damp and gloomy, threatening rain. I turned up at Susheela's just as her parents were leaving; her father shook hands as he left, her mother said "Look after our daughter", and smiled. I thought there was more than one message there.
I lugged a bag of books up to her room (not, admittedly that I expected to use them) and we watched her parents drive away.
"Susheela," I paused, "will ... you marry me?"
That smile lit up the room. "I'd love to!" but then, "would you ask me again after we graduate?"