I'm going to tell you a story. Okay – that's what I do, I know. But this one is sort of true. You'll have to guess how much is truth and how much wishful fantasy...
Jack's an older guy, nearing retirement age. He was, when this started, married to Audrey. Now Audrey, sadly, only comes into the story peripherally, but I need to tell you about her so you understand where Jack was coming from. He really loved Audrey. She was lovely; loyal, reliable, caring, honest, sincere ... you'll get the picture, I'm sure. Physically, even at sixty, she was tall and slim with a nicely proportioned figure. Unfortunately, she was one of the forty percent or so of post-menopausal women who suffered from a condition which made intercourse uncomfortable, in her case, much too uncomfortable to be borne. More than that, she appeared to have lost interest in sexual intimacy. At sixty-two, Jack wasn't really ready for celibacy though admittedly his libido wasn't what it was at twenty. As I say, he really loved his wife, but couldn't help wondering if perhaps there was a woman out there who needed some sex as he did but didn't want commitment. Which is where our story begins. Jack didn't want to go to a prostitute; he wanted more than a quick shag; he wanted to give and receive pleasure sexually without destroying his marriage.
Well, he chewed it over and found there were websites that purported to bring together people who wanted no strings sex. Not just dating sites, places where he could look for someone with similar needs to himself. But he kept putting off getting involved until his wife decided she needed to travel overseas to visit relatives in America, one of whom she hadn't seen since she was a girl. Jack had no desire whatsoever to go to America, or to visit her relatives. However, he encouraged her to go and enjoy herself.
You need to know Jack wasn't the selfish sort – he'd give a friend the shirt off his back if he needed it. In a hole? He'd offer you an interest-free loan. Friend (male or female) over did the booze in the pub? He'd get them home and make sure they were okay. And he was a trusting sort. It cost him quite a lot over the years. But he'd just shrug.
"It's only money" (or whatever hadn't come back). Okay, he wasn't a fool, but he preferred to trust until a person showed that they were not to be trusted. Which brings us to his plan.
He rapidly found out that the sites catered to a wide range of age and interest. He was puzzled that quite a few young women seemed to be interested in him. Why? Of what possible interest was a sixty-two year-old married man to a twenty-something, very attractive, young woman.
Well, he found out. Seemed that at least some of them (there were one or two who genuinely had a thing for older men) made a living from nude web-cam sites and were really only interested in getting him to sign up for the sites, to pay to look at them, and vote on their performance. Naïve he may have been, but he was certainly sceptical, though his trusting principle - and the desire to find a friend-with-benefits – meant that he gave them a chance. Two of them basically gave up when he refused to go past a certain point, but one intrigued him. He was eighty percent sure she was stringing him along, but there was that twenty percent.
Her picture on the dating website showed a dark – possibly black – haired young woman with what might be called a Mediterranean complexion and a blinding white smile. Her name seemed to indicate Latin origins. He eventually found out her family were Filipinos. She asked him for money – relatives in Manila had suffered some catastrophe. His immediate thought was 'does she really think I'm going to send money to someone I don't know on the say-so of someone I've never met'?
Their only encounters had been via the site or instant messaging. He knew he had no guarantee that the picture was hers – or, for that matter, that she was even female.
To-ing and fro-ing on the issue, he wanted to meet her and place the money in her hands. (She lived in Birmingham) Not unreasonable, he thought. As I said before, he had no problems with giving money to someone who needed it – he just liked to know who he was giving it to, and why. Besides; the whole object of the exercise was to meet a congenial woman for sex. He wasn't about to bully, coerce or bribe a woman for sex, but he wanted a chance to meet her at least.
In the end – he couldn't have said why – he gave in and made a transfer. It wasn't an enormous sum of money, but probably in the Philippines quite significant. He was unsurprised – disappointed but unsurprised – when days passed and the possibility of a meeting with Carmelita receded and the time she spent instant messaging reduced until he'd gone a day without a single communication from her.
Was he a fool then? Perhaps you think 'serves him right for playing around on his wife'? He didn't give up hope, but as time went on became certain he had, indeed, been taken for a ride.
In due course, his wife was scheduled to be back, and he set off in the small hours of the morning to drive to Heathrow. Traffic, as he hoped, was light and he was there in good time. Of course, that had disadvantages too; the short-term parking at Heathrow is exorbitant, and it meant hanging around Arrivals for over an hour after the aircraft landed.
Eventually, she appeared, well back in a bunch of other passengers from the same flight. She looked weary, wrung out, drawn, and she was limping, but his heart leapt at the sight of her. He took her in his arms, suddenly grateful his attempts to find a 'fuck-buddy' had failed. He took her bag, they collected her case, and she limped with him back to the car.
Jack hated driving around the London area motorways. The traffic – impatient, rude drivers, speeding, congestion, complicated junctions, being in the wrong lane and unable to change; not being sure which junction to take ... he had to really concentrate. But he did manage to get onto the M25 orbital clockwise, then took the M40 towards Oxford. As soon as he was sure he was on the right track and not needing to take a turn, he glanced at his wife. She looked dreadful.
"Are you okay, love?"
"Not really. Leg hurts. But get me home, Chuck, please."
(Chuck, pronounced more like chook, is a common endearment in the North)
He wasn't too happy about that, but there weren't too many choices, either. He speeded up until he was maintaining the same speed as the rest of the traffic in the middle lane. In other words, rather over the official speed limit. He intended to take the A43 to join the M1 at Northampton, but as he approached Oxford, Audrey cried out in pain. She was pale and sweating profusely, tears running down her face, a hand pressed to her chest. They were ten miles short of Oxford. Pushing as hard as he could, he headed off onto the A40 and followed signs, ending up at the John Radcliffe Hospital Accident and Emergency Department.
Audrey was barely conscious, just whimpering a little with pain, as he lifted her out of the car – strength borne of desperation – and carried her in.
At the reception, he was greeted with, "Name?"
"Audrey Sanderson..." he gasped.
"MY WIFE IS DYING," he shouted, "CAN'T WE DEAL WITH THAT LATER?"
The receptionist was most affronted. "Don't..." but before she could say any more, there were uniformed and white-coated staff taking Audrey out of his arms, a flurry of activity, and she was gone.
Jack turned to the receptionist, but before either of them could say anything a nurse – actually the Sister (Charge Nurse, if you're American) as she was in navy blue – spoke quietly in the woman's ear. They left the desk – the receptionist returned several minutes later, subdued.
"I apologise..." she said, just as Jack was saying, "I'm sorry..." They both stopped and Jack gestured for her to continue.
"I am sorry," she said, "I should have seen it was an emergency, or at least potentially so."
"I shouldn't have shouted," he responded, "but I was in a panic. I need to park my car, though, before it causes an obstruction."
"Very well," the woman gave a small, tired smile, "we'll deal with the formalities when you come back."
He got to the car just in time to avoid a ticket...
He was lucky to find a space (about as far from the entrance as it was possible to get) and returned to the desk to complete the formalities, then slumped in an incredibly uncomfortable chair to await news.
He waited a little over an hour, but it seemed like a lifetime. A young woman (a student nurse, though he didn't recognise the uniform) approached him.
He stood. "That's me! How is she?"
"Will you come with me, Mr. Sanderson? Doctor LaCroix would like a word with you."
"I don't know, I'm afraid. I was just asked to take you to see the doctor. I'm sorry. I'm sure he'll be able to tell you more." She turned and moved away, looking over her shoulder to make sure he was following. She showed him into a small interview room, where he edgily moved around until a harassed-looking doctor entered.
"Won't you sit, Mr. Sanderson?"
Jack perched on the edge of a chair and the doctor almost fell into another.
"Mr. Sanderson, I'm very sorry, but your wife has died. We did everything we could, but we were just too late..." he continued talking, quietly, but Jack heard nothing after 'has died'.
The words, meaningless, flowed over him.
"Can I see her?" He interrupted the flow.
.... There is more of this story ...