Grumpy Old Man
Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Heterosexual, Fiction, Interracial, Slow,
Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Older divorced man, younger battered damsel in distress, motorbike and boat. What more do you want?
I used to be a grumpy old man, but you can call me Joe. To my mind, there's plenty to be grumpy about – the decline in basic courtesy, especially on the roads, cold-calling, litigation over trivial problems, religious fundamentalism ... need I go on? But this is about how I stopped ... well, mostly stopped ... being a grumpy old man and became a happy one.
Where to start? I suppose a good place – if there's anything good about it – would be my wife leaving me. I was forty-five, going on forty-six. To be fair, probably boring too. We were both teachers. Barbara, a year younger than me, taught history. Me ... mathematics. She went on an in-service training course, and when she came back announced she wanted a divorce, forthwith, having met the man of her dreams (she thought) on the course. I argued a little, offered to go to counselling, but in the end we divorced fairly amicably.
Teachers aren't paid spectacularly well, but the two of us had been quite thrifty and we'd never had kids, so splitting wasn't a financial disaster. I rented a small flat, leaving Babs the house until the end of the school year, when she moved to be with the boyfriend in Luton. (Luton? Who lives in Luton?) For me, I applied for, and got, a post ... head of maths at a comprehensive in Ipswich ... Properties were reasonably priced and I only had to rent for a few months until I completed on a pre-war semi on the Nacton Road. I decided early on that a bike – pedal cycle – was a better idea than a car, which helped my physical fitness and stopped my incipient middle-aged spread in its tracks. For longer distances, I bought a motor-bike, something Babs would never consider.
The work was okay. The kids were somewhat better behaved than the products of a northern inner-city, so I had no problems there, though the accent took some getting used to. The town was, well, okay. Ipswich wasn't immune from the effects of eighties politics – no town or city with a socialist Council was immune – but it certainly didn't suffer the blight of northern cities like Liverpool or Sheffield. Regeneration was the thing. The docks, instead of grubby, industrial activity, became a hive of yuppy entertainment; upscale apartments, restaurants and marinas.
Me? I pedalled to work during the week, and at the weekend pottered around the East Anglian countryside on my anachronistic Triumph twin motorcycle. I was a regular visitor to the Minsmere nature reserve throughout the year, but also explored places like the Museum of East Anglian Life at Stowmarket. If there was some event advertised, like the Suffolk Show, I at least put in an appearance and frequently met people to talk to. It was interesting to listen to points of view I'd never previously considered, and hear about ways of life strange to me. And there was a masochistic pleasure to be had when many of the folks I chatted to were willing to moan about the same things that I grumped about. I'm sure my pupils considered me dour, to say the least, but I never had any discipline problems. I was settled in a comfortable, if unexciting, rut.
It all changed, or began to change, the day I visited the East Coast Boat Show. One of the activities on offer was a short sail in a small dinghy. A life-long devotee of Arthur Ransome, I was instantly hooked. Several weekends at Alton Water, and I was comfortable enough to go out and buy my very own dinghy. Not owning a car, I kept it at Felixstowe Ferry, where I had access to the River Deben, and if I was brave enough, the sea. There's a big difference between sailing on an inland lake or reservoir, with a safety boat on call, and sailing independently on tidal waters. For one thing, on the lake, really the worst thing that can happen is a wetting, and the safety boat will pull you out anyway. On a tidal estuary, one has to take account of the current, which might flow at five or six miles an hour, and the tide, which can mean a difference of four metres in the depth of water (more in some places). So, if you capsize, you're on your own and probably drifting into danger: rocks, wrecks and hypothermia. I prepared as best I could in theory and chose very carefully when I was going to sail.
Most sailors are a friendly bunch and I did make some friends, who gave me some good advice (and some bad advice, too – but I managed to learn). After a year or so, I was getting a little bored. The dinghy was fun and had given me invaluable experience, but it limited me to day sails of a few hours. I know people who sleep on the bottom boards of dinghies like my little Wanderer. I tried it ... once. I decided immediately, having survived the experience, that while I could have enjoyed it in my twenties, it definitely didn't suit me in my early fifties.
The next step was a small yacht. It had to have at least one reasonably comfortable bunk, toilet and cooker, and be sound. Through word of mouth, I found a twenty-seven foot, one off, sloop. That is, she had one mast, setting two sails, like my little dinghy. She had an odd-shaped double bunk in the fo'c'sle, toilet and wet-locker. In the main cabin, two six foot six single bunks, which doubled as bench seats during the day – feet end on the port side went under a tiny sink, and on the starboard side a two-burner hob and grill. A small inboard motor lived under the cockpit. She was steered by a tiller, and a lazaret* at the stern held two propane gas bottles and spare warps. All in all, quite a convenient and effective layout.
(*Lazaret – an enclosed storage space usually right at the stern of the boat).
Built of marine ply on oak, she was of double chine construction like the Wanderer, meaning her hull had six flat parts bent into shape, hence just curving in one direction. As she was 'home built', double curvature was clearly beyond her builder's capabilities. A test run revealed that she sailed extremely well. I was delighted. A final feature that was ideal for me was the triple keel*, which meant she could stand upright on firm ground when the tide went out, rather than tilting over to lay on her side.
She came with a mud berth on the River Blackwater, at Maldon. Berths can be expensive and scarce, so I happily took it over, despite the distance from Ipswich. The Wanderer I sold, to delight another novice sailor.
Each weekend between about Easter and October, I'd ride down to Maldon Friday evening. Depending on the weather and tides, I'd either sail or just camp out in the boat. During the summer, I got quite far afield, exploring the local rivers; Crouch, Colne, Stour, Orwell, Deben, Ore and Alde. I could live in that little boat quite comfortably for a week at a time, especially if I was able to get a shower every few days in a marina or sailing club.
The sailing season ends, or tapers off, sometime in October. Of course, there's nothing to stop a hardy soul from making the most of the short, cold days, and I intended to do so, but the need for some heat in the cabin necessarily limited things. Also, a visit to the boat every so often to make sure the bilges were dry and everything okay was essential.
All I've told you so far isn't what made me a happy, instead of a grumpy, old man. I was content in a way I hadn't been for years, but not yet happy. The incident that really changed matters happened on my third check-up visit, in late November. Friday night, about nine; I parked the bike in the sailing club compound, making sure I'd locked the gate behind me, and picked my way over the rough grass to 'Joy', which was solidly set in the mud, the tide being out. I climbed on board, opened the cabin doors and stepped down into the cabin.
I flicked the switch – a small solar panel kept a leisure battery topped up, even in winter – and dumped my kit-bag on one of the bunk-seats. I then remembered I needed to turn the gas on, and had to climb out again to go to the lazaret.
On return to the cabin, I realised I was not alone.
A pretty face, marred by a serious black eye – apparent despite milk chocolate skin – framed by a halo of frizzy dark hair.
"I'm sorry." A mellow, contralto voice, a little slurred, from between swollen lips. Her body, wrapped in my cover-less duvet.
"Sit down." I filled the kettle and lit the burner under it, lit the little gas fire to take the chill off the cabin. She was still standing, so I repeated, "Sit." And waited until she had done so. "Tea? Coffee? Cocoa? Herbal?"
We were silent as the kettle boiled and I made tea. "Milk?"
I poured, and waved the sugar tin interrogatively; she shook her head. "No, thanks."
"So..." I drew it out, unsure of how to proceed. "I don't suppose I need to ask why you're hiding out in my boat."
"The boyfriend ... beat on me once too often."
I nodded, and we were silent again for several minutes. "Well, I'm not about to cut you loose..." I paused, and she gave a little sigh of relief. "But if you want to stay, the accommodation is limited. I only have the one duvet here, so we'll have to share."
I thought there was a bit of fear in her expression, but she nodded. "Okay."
"And, in the morning, we'll need to work out how best to make sure you're safe. I suppose, as we're going to sleep together, we'd better be introduced, don't you think? I'm Joe."
"How do you do, Joe. I'm Denise."
"How old are you, Denise? Do we need to get child services involved?"
She snorted. "I wish. But I thank you for the compliment. I'm thirty-four."
I was shocked. "Really?" I would have put her as early twenties at most.
"Oh, yes. It's a curse – the boyfriend and his mates really got off on imagining I was jail-bait."
I took a deep breath and shook my head, but said no more until we'd finished the tea. "D'you need me to go on deck for a bit?" There being no privacy for the toilet.
"Don't you mind?"
"No." I didn't say I was going to pee over the stern anyway. Happily, the wind was right for that.
When I'd done and had a bit of a look round, I called out before re-entering the cabin.
"One minute..." and, not more than a minute later, "Okay."
When I was back below, I could tell she was uncertain about something. "You okay, Denise?"
"Um..." pause, blush... "What do you do with all those levers?"
"Ah ... Well, there's no river outside just at the moment, so we can't use the toilet normally. But we can pump it out and flush with a little water from the basin." I showed her how, and explained how to use the taps and valves when Joy was afloat. "Don't even try when she's not floating. I don't want the hassle of clearing the inlet of mud."
I turned off the gas, then it was time for bed. Embarrassment, mostly dealt with by wearing clothes; not ideal, but...
It'd been, what? Six years? since I'd shared a bed with my wife. And the bed then was a lot bigger than the fo'c'sle berth aboard Joy. I slept, off and on, and woke before dawn. Denise was fast on; she said later that she'd found it difficult to get to sleep, but I got up, relieved myself into the ebbing river, turned on the gas and made coffee. Got a forecast, not that I was thinking of sailing; not promising. Gloomy, cold, drizzle, cutting wind from the east. The sky was lightening with a grey dawn before I heard movement from the fo'c'sle.
Sounds of churning around, mumbling, followed by, "Er ... Joe?"
"Here. You want a bit of privacy?"
I wandered round the boat compound, looking at dinghies. It seemed that they had quite a variety. A shout from the gate. "Hey! You there..."
I ambled over. "Morning," I said. "Can I help you?"
One should not stereotype. I know it – it is, after all, drummed in to anyone dealing with people on a regular basis, but I didn't much care for the look of the guy. Taller than me, heavier. Flashily dressed, the gleam of gold visible inside the half-zipped jacket. Dreadlocks.
"Seen anyone around? Woman?"
"No ... I got here after dark, but I certainly haven't seen anyone this morning. Gate's locked anyway."
"Let me in to have a look round?"
"Sorry, mate. Against the Club rules. Give me your number, though, and I'll call you if I see anyone."
"Naw..." he turned and walked away.
I made my way back to Joy, tapped on the cabin door.
She was dressed – jeans that might have been painted on. T-shirt that clearly displayed her assets. Oh, my. Spectacular, or what?
"Your boyfriend ... six foot three, eighteen stone or so? West Indian? Lots of gold jewellery?"
She went pale. "Is he here?"
"No, he's gone. I pointed out that the compound was locked, and didn't suggest there might be a way round the fence. But I dare say it would be a good idea for you to be somewhere else quite soon."
"I don't know where to go."
"Don't take this the wrong way, but ... do you want to come home with me?"
"Sure. But I'll need to get you some gear..."
"Gear?" She sounded shocked. I remembered that sometimes drugs are called 'gear'.
"I'm on a motorbike. You'll need a helmet, at least. Over-suit. It's the wrong time of year for motorcycling in comfort."
"Oh..." she relaxed.
"Your boyfriend ... into drugs? Ganga?"
"Yeah. Not just ganga, either. Coke, H, ecstasy ... whatever."
"No way. One reason he beat on me. I guess he thought it'd be another hold. I was pretty scared to leave, but it got that I was even more scared to stay."
I nodded. "How about breakfast? Porridge? Bacon sandwich?"
That took us to nearly ten o'clock. "Denise, I'm going to go and buy you a helmet. I think my foul-weather sailing gear will do to get you to Ipswich, and you can wear some of my woollies for warmth." I handed over my mobile phone. "Look, tuck yourself away under the duvet in the fo'c'sle. I'll lock the door from outside, and the hatch to the foredeck is bolted on the inside. If there's any problem, use speed-dial nine and ask for the Police. Say you're in a boat in the Sailing Club compound and there's a man trying to break in and you're afraid. I'll be as quick as I can. Okay?"
She nodded, jerkily.
It took me longer than I'd expected to find somewhere to sell me a helmet. Not long to buy one, even when I added a pair of gauntlets. Sirens are so much a part of everyday life, I didn't think anything of it when I heard them. But when I got back to the sailing club, there was a patrol car outside the gate and there were two officers struggling with the gentleman I'd encountered earlier, who was handcuffed but putting up a fight none-the-less. They'd presumably paddled or squelched round the end of the fence to get in. I unlocked the gate, and met them as they encouraged him to move toward the car, clearly much against his will.
"Good morning, Officers ... Did I see you dragging him off my boat?"
"That's your boat, is it? You need to check it out, there's some damage to the door, and stuff tossed about. And we've left a woman there. She needs to come to the station to give a statement. So do you, please."
"Yeah. Said she was hiding up in the front. Used your mobile phone to call us when this guy started breaking in. Come to think of it, he may have damaged some of the other boats..."
"A woman? I saw this guy hanging about earlier – said he was looking for a woman. Hadn't seen her..."
"How'd she get in your boat, if the door was padlocked?"
"Probably through the fore-hatch," I improvised. "It bolts on the inside, but I don't always remember."
"Well, if she didn't break in it's between you and her. Trespass isn't a criminal offence. Him, on the other hand ... breaking and entering."
They loaded him into the car and left, bumping over the uneven road. I went to board Joy.
There was some splintering where the cabin doors had been forced, but as I entered the cabin, I didn't notice the disturbance, or the crunch of glass under my boots, because I was looking at Denise. She was sitting on one of the bench seats and trembling.
"Are you okay?" Stupid question, I know, but how else do you ask?
"Few more bruises. I'm sorry I brought this on you..."
"Not blaming you. Still want to come home with me?"
"Don't you mind?"
I shook my head.
"Well, I'll tell the cops I'm going to a shelter. But I'll probably be even safer with you. Actually, I tipped the cops off to check out his car. So he'll probably get held for possession with intent to supply."
I nodded. "Well, I'll give you a lift up into the town, then it's probably best if we go into the station separately. I'm going to deny I'd seen you before. Perhaps you could say you got in by the fore-hatch and hid after you saw me leave?"
She, in her turn, nodded too.
The bike was a new experience to her, but she hung on. I let her off at the bottom of Cromwell Hill, so she could walk up, and put the helmet in my top-box, then carried on down the hill to Tesco, where I bought a cheap PAYG mobile. Using my own phone, I called the club secretary to pass the word for people to check their craft for damage. (Rather later I found out that several of the cabin boats had, in fact, been entered. Some which had been locked had suffered damage.)
I had to wait some time in order to give my statement, but it didn't take long once someone got around to me. There was no sign, though, of Denise. Once I made my escape, I bought what was necessary to secure Joy, if not make good the damage. It was after dark that I heard Denise calling my name, and went to see. The tide was up over the mud, so I didn't blame her for not wanting to try to get round the end of the fence. I let her in.
I wondered at the very odd sensation in my chest as I walked with her back to my boat.
Cheese sandwiches and soup, before turning off the gas and packing up to leave. My waterproofs and boots – much too big – on Denise. We were off back to Ipswich.
She clung to me. One of the great joys of life is a pretty woman on the pillion of a motorbike, pressed against one's back. An hour and a half, and we were home, turning up the heating and ordering Chinese for supper. I showed Denise my spare bedroom.
"It's not much," I apologised, "but perhaps more comfortable than the fo'c'sle berth on board Joy."
"It's fine. I'm just grateful..." she trailed off. "Joe," she hesitated, "how ... how long may I stay? I've no-where to go except a women's shelter and honestly, I'd almost rather camp under a bridge than that."
"As long as you need ... as long as you want. You'll need clothes and such; I'll help you with that and you can pay me back when you get back on your feet. I didn't ask ... have you got a job?"
"Not for the last year..." she blushed, and I didn't want to press her, but she went on, "Leon wanted me around him all the time. Before that..."
"Before that... ?"
"I was an exotic dancer."
I nodded, not saying anything. There was no doubt she was a sexy woman and moved with apparently unconscious grace.
"I got into it to pay my way through Uni, but when I graduated ... well ... what do you do with a history degree? Jobs were scarce anyway and I was making way more than, say, a teacher." She looked at me, searching for any evidence of judgement or rejection. "You can kick me out any time, you know, now you know about me."
"Know what? That you're intelligent enough to get a bachelor's degree? That you're a beautiful woman, and dance well enough to make your living at it? No, you're welcome to stay as long as you want."
"I won't be a burden. There's money in the bank for me when I can get to it on Monday. I never mentioned that to Leon, and I destroyed the card when I began to realise what he was like."
Chinese food, a selection. Chopsticks – I've never learned how to use them, but Denise was adept – showers, thermal undies in place of pyjamas for both of us, though they were a bit long for Denise. Her clothes in the washing machine, washed and out to dry before we went to bed.
I can't speak for Denise, but I lay awake quite a while, chewing over what had happened. What had I let myself in for? Why was I doing it?
Who was I kidding? I was doing it because she was a gorgeous woman, even if she was twenty years younger than me and looked younger still.
*Traditionally, boats have a single keel to grip the water and stop the boat sliding sideways under the pressure of the wind; essential if you want to sail anywhere except downwind. If the boat is allowed to rest on the ground when the tide goes out, it will lean to one side or the other and depending on the depth of the keel, that can be extreme. Some boats carry 'legs' to keep them upright in that situation. It's not unknown, if a boat is aground on a sloping bottom, to end up on its side, not merely leaning a bit ... This can lead to the boat flooding when the tide returns. Boats intended for use in shallow water – 'shoal built' – sometimes have 'bilge keels' either instead of the centre keel, or as well as, hence in that case, 'triple keel'. This keeps the boat more or less upright unless one side is on very soft mud.