I met Chelsea at university. We were both in the Business School, and we shared several classes, including accounting. She was pretty, shapely, confident and she presented herself well. I wouldn't have tried to ask for a date had she not been so friendly. I eventually decided she wanted me to ask her, so I did. It took her most of our first year to train me to function socially to her satisfaction, and by the mid-point of our second year we were sleeping together regularly. By the time of our graduation, we were considered to be a couple; everyone, including myself, assumed we would eventually get married.
However, when it came to looking for a job, I decided to go blue-collar. I always loved working with my hands and there will always be a need for skilled tradesmen, so I went for a plumbing apprenticeship. Chelsea was rather quiet about it as she became involved in her father's business, but we shared a flat, still. She went travelling with her family during the summer; I kept working and studying for the various professional qualifications I would need.
When she returned, I took her out for a meal, intending to 'pop the question', but I never got the chance.
"Still insisting on working with your hands?"
"You know I've always liked it; I'm happier doing that than pushing paper in an office. I'll have my own business one day."
She snorted. "In case you haven't worked it out, there's no way I'll consider spending my life with a plumber."
She made it clear – give up my choice of occupation, or get out of her life ... and our flat.
I made my choice ... and we went our separate ways.
My mother made no comment except to assure me I was welcome in my old room, and I was back to living with my parents. Twenty-two years old, a business school graduate ... and living at home.
But I loved my job. Even the smell of hot solder and flux; I was one who never really liked the instant push-fit type fittings. There was something... elemental ... about the blow-torch, copper pipe and solder.
Living at home, I often ended up repairing odd items for my mother – Dad was slow to notice when a fitting was loose or broken. I didn't mind; I enjoyed it and it was something to fill my time. I didn't date, you see. My relationship with Chelsea had given me some confidence about certain aspects of, well, being a boyfriend, but not the initial approach and I didn't go many places where I might have met girls around my own age that I might have been interested in.
One day, I got in from College – day release, you see – a business degree doesn't qualify anyone as a tradesman; examinations had to be passed. One day a week I spent in college, learning about the science behind my chosen trade, and the legalities; how things should be done in theory, and why. I found Mum and our neighbour sitting at the kitchen table. Miss Atkins had always seemed to be old to me, though I later found out she was younger than my mother; she had grey hair – that sort of soft, light, uniform grey you see sometimes, not what you'd call 'iron grey' – cut short and I couldn't remember it ever being anything except grey. It didn't help she wore really thick-rimmed black-framed glasses and her clothing was invariably severe, mannish business suits. I didn't know much about her, I just gathered she was a P.A. to the managing director of a local business.
"Hi, Mum. Good afternoon, Miss Atkins."
They smiled. "Sit with us a minute," Mum said, "Miss Atkins has a problem. Would you mind seeing if you can do something about an overflow that's dribbling?"
I sat and Mum poured me a cup of tea, as usual putting milk in – a lot of milk – before I could say I'd rather drink it black. I sighed inwardly and sipped at it.
"I'll happily have a look," I said, "it shouldn't be a big deal. Saturday morning suit you?"
When I got there Saturday morning, I got a surprise; she was in jeans and a t-shirt. For the first time I looked at her as a woman. Those glasses were a distraction, though.
It only took half an hour or so to replace the washer in the header-tank ball-valve and most of that was getting it apart as it looked as though it hadn't been touched since the house was built. I was grubby and sweaty from wrestling with it in the loft space.
"How much do I owe you?" The look of gratitude in her expression had been payment enough and I waved it off.
"Just being a good neighbour," I smiled.
"At least let me make you a cup of coffee."
It would have been rude to refuse; besides, what did I have to go home to? Text books? The computer? Being nagged by Mum to go out and meet a girl? Or, worse, to find that some 'suitable' young woman was keeping her company so I could be introduced?
It was good coffee and we had a very enjoyable chat. I found we had quite a lot in common – similar tastes in music and food, she liked art which I didn't know much about but I told her I played with black-and-white photography. Well, I had before meeting Chelsea; all my gear had been packed away in my room since starting uni.
The morning was mostly gone before I stood to leave; I glanced round the kitchen.
"Your tap is dripping," I commented.
She shrugged. "Several of my taps are dripping ... I've sort of got used to it."
"If you like..." I paused, "I could come and service them next weekend."
"Thank you," she said, "I'd like that, if you don't mind giving up your Saturday morning."
We were standing quite close and she placed a hand on my neck and pulled me gently down to kiss me. I think it was meant as a 'thank you' gesture. I'd only ever kissed one other person on the lips – Chelsea – and I hadn't much experience for comparison.
Her lips were soft and yielding and I swiped my tongue along her lips. She tasted sweet with a hint of coffee as her lips parted and our tongues tentatively touched. It wasn't a 'lets rip our clothes off and fuck like rabbits' sort of kiss, but it was ... sensual. Incredibly sensual. When I pulled away, her eyes were closed and she was breathing a little heavily.
"I..." I croaked, and cleared my throat, "I'd better be going..."
"Do it again..." she whispered looking up at me. Her eyes were blue; a deep, intense blue.
I dipped my head and our lips met again. The second time – impossibly – was even better.
"Next Saturday ... I'll go through the house..." I said.
"I'll make lunch for you if you won't take money."
I was distracted all week, but managed to avoid any disasters. All I could think of were those kisses. How could a kiss make more of an impression than two years of sex with Chelsea?
I was there quite early Saturday morning, which was quite as well. Her plumbing had clearly had no attention for years and I had a struggle dismantling the taps, but after cleaning up and applying a little silicone grease and new tap-washers and re-cutting the valve seats, she had no leaky taps and, moreover, she had taps that worked smoothly and easily. Ten taps and two toilet ball-valve washers took me three hours.
"I need a shower," I commented.
"I'd offer mine," she said, "but you'll want to change into clean clothes. Lunch'll be ready at one."
I slipped next door, showered thoroughly and dressed carefully. Mum knew where I was going – I told her I was being fed in thanks for my efforts.
She was a great cook. She told me it was chicken paprikash; all I know was it was delicious. Fortunately she appeared happy that I had a second helping. Dessert was cheesecake – a favourite of mine; I wondered if she'd asked mum about my likes and dislikes. It seemed likely.
"I wondered..." she seemed nervous.
"I have an old recording of Artur Rubenstein playing Grieg's A minor Piano Concerto. I prefer it to Leif Ove Andsnes, though he's very good. I wondered if you'd like to hear it with me?"
I was happy for anything that would keep me there a little longer.
She carefully placed the LP on what looked like a high-end turntable and used a cleaning pad. She sat beside me; when the music started I was captivated. I wouldn't like to judge the relative talents of the top soloists who have played the piece, but it was wonderful. As it ended, I found that we were pressed together and it seemed natural to place my arm round her shoulders. She looked up at me and our lips were drawn together again. I'd longed all week to kiss her again and it was everything I remembered, everything I'd hoped for and we were – I was – lost in that kiss for an eternity.
She sighed as the kiss ended. "Oh, Jimmy ... thank you..."
"I don't know your name, and here I am kissing you," I said.
"My name is Patricia."
I removed those hideous glasses from her face. Those blue eyes gazed up at me. She was pretty. No. Let me say that again. She was beautiful. When I wasn't looking at her grey hair, or those business suits or distracted by those glasses, she was beautiful. How can I describe her face? Oval ... yes, but with a slightly pointed chin. Full, generous lips, a straight nose, and those eyes. Her ears were small and were framed by her short hair. I traced the outline of one with my finger and she sighed again.
"I think ... you could do anything you like with me at this moment," she said.
So I kissed her again.
I admit it was tempting, but I didn't drag her immediately up to her bedroom. I'm not that sort of guy. I mean ... from what you've read ... what would you have expected of me?
"If you mean that ... I'll call you Patty," I said.
Her eyebrows rose. "Oh ... okay."
.... There is more of this story ...