Cathy Turnbull wanted a job to earn a little extra spending money. Her husband, Dennis, had a good job, and now that their mortgage was paid up and their daughter, Sarah, was married, they had fewer overheads and more income available for their personal use. However, Cathy also had time on her hands and wanted to do something useful with it. She saw an advert in her local newspaper, asking for people who wanted to help the elderly with their housekeeping and getting shopping and so on, as well as providing a bit of company to people who lived alone and couldn't get out much any more. Cathy's own father had passed away some years previously and her mother had moved away, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something worthwhile with her time.
She therefore contacted the agency that placed the ad and within a few days of sending them a written application, she was invited to go along for an interview. She was taken on and spent the first two weeks shadowing another woman, to make sure that she understood what the job involved, and then she was assigned her own client. It had been agreed that just one person, a few hours a day and for five or more days every week, was enough of a commitment if Cathy only wanted to work part-time. His name was William Wilkins and Cathy had already gotten to know him a little during her induction fortnight, so she was quite looking forward to her first day of working on her own. Her husband was very supportive, as usual, and they had discussed 'Mr Wilkins' in depth.
" ... Apparently he was born just before the Second World War started, so he's only a few years older than my mum and dad. And it says here that he has a few medical problems that restrict mobility and he's single, not a widower. He always seemed very polite when I met him, too, so I think we'll get on all right!"
Cathy parked her car in front of the small house where Mr Wilkins lived. By now she was naturally a little apprehensive, but overall, relaxed, as she rang the doorbell. It was not unusual for domestic helpers to be trusted with one of their clients' door keys, in cases of impaired mobility, but as yet she had not been given one. After only a few minutes, William Wilkins answered the door.
"Hello again, Mrs Turnbull. Please come in!"
"Thank you, Mr Wilkins: and please call me Cathy. May I call you William, or do you prefer to keep it formal?"
"No, not in the least, Cathy ... but I prefer 'Bill' to 'William'. May I offer you a cup of tea?"
"Yes, please, Bill, but I'll follow you so that I can see where you keep things."
Cathy noticed that Bill was dressed quite casually, but that he was clean shaven. And as she followed him to his kitchen, he appeared to be walking quite normally, if a little slowly. The kitchen was compact, but also clean and tidy: he was expecting her, so cups and saucers were standing, waiting.
"Your file says that you suffer from arthritis, Bill: how is it at the moment?"
"Oh, not so bad at the moment, thank you! It tends to be worse in cold and damp weather, so on days like this it's much better. When it's bad my knees and hips are the worst; but I also get a touch in my wrists as well. My mother was a chronic sufferer, so perhaps there's a family predisposition: I just hope that I don't eventually get it as bad as her, but the medication that they prescribe now helps a lot."
He had no trouble carrying the tray with the tea and biscuits back to his sitting room, where Cathy sat on the sofa, while Bill had his favourite armchair.
"As you may know, Bill, I'm here today to find out how best I can help you. I'm not sure all that Peggy Armitage did while she was here, as I only made a couple of brief visits with her before, but in theory I can do anything you want and you know that you only have to ask. Getting you a bit of shopping is no problem, but I have my car, so if you feel like a run out to the shops at any time, we can do that, too. And I'm not a bad cook, so if you want, I'll be happy to oblige, as well as doing a bit of housework for you, but from the looks of it, you aren't doing such a bad job yourself. Tell me, Bill, do you have family and friends who look in on you?"
"Not really family: my parents are long gone, of course. I have a younger brother, Michael, but I haven't seen him for several years; although we speak on the telephone several times a month. He has a wife, children, grandchildren, and possibly even great-grandchildren, but they are all scattered throughout the world and my brother lives in the North-East. I still have a few acquaintances from when I worked, but as I have no car, I only really see them when they can make it to me, which again is fairly infrequently.
"As you may know, Cathy, I never married. I'm not anti the institution, but it just never happened for me ... and to be honest, I don't think that there's ever been a time that I regretted it. When I was working I took regular holidays, both here and abroad, and I have never been bored with my own company, or been at a loss with what to do with my time. Mrs Armitage only started coming here a few months ago and although she was pleasant enough company, a few hours at a time was enough for me! You also seem a very pleasant person, Cathy, and I'm sure that I will enjoy your company equally as well, but I'm afraid that you might find me a bit set in my ways..."
"That's fine by me, Bill! As I said, I'm here to help you in any way that I can, and not to impose upon your life any more than you want me too."
Over the next few weeks, and despite what Bill had said, Cathy found him to be a very warm, charming, and hospitable man. While she was upstairs doing little household jobs, he invariably sat at the dining table downstairs, reading his newspapers; but when Cathy was pottering around downstairs, they usually chatted while she went about her business. But there was also time for them to both sit and relax and at such times Cathy told him about her life and family; and in return Bill talked about his former career in the Civil Service, which now provided him with a very generous pension, so that he could live comfortably without money concerns. He was also very well read and it seemed to Cathy that there wasn't much that he didn't know something about.
There were days, too, when they went to the local supermarket in Cathy's car, which he enjoyed very much; and although it was well outside of her professional obligation, with Dennis' approval, Bill was invited round for Sunday lunch. Cathy's husband, Dennis, was a very straight-forward, working-class man, but he, too, took an instant liking to Bill.
While Cathy was at Bill's, having a tea break one day, the subject of marriage came up in the conversation. It was one of the few things that he had never experienced, first hand, so he was reluctant to offer any opinions, as was his way. However, he was always open to discussions about most things, so they continued to talk.
"I hope you don't mind me asking you this, Bill, but sex has always been an important part of my marriage, even after nearly thirty years, so it's difficult for me to imagine living without it, now! Have you ever been in a relationship with another person: after all, you are an attractive man and not being married doesn't necessarily mean living a sexless life." Bill looked at her and smiled, wryly.
" ... I'm afraid that in my case it does! When I was younger people were promiscuous, of course; but there didn't seem to be the same sort of pressures to have sex that young people today face. And of course people had sexual relationships outside of marriage, they had extra-marital affairs, and young unmarried women had illegitimate children; but there were also a lot of people who waited until their wedding night. I was also in a profession that emphasised good character and high standards of moral behaviour, and to be involved in a sexual liaison would have jeopardised that if one was caught. So as I never married, I abstained ... and the longer that I abstained, the least important any libidinous feelings became.
"I believe that I know you well enough, Cathy, to confess to you that I occasionally indulged in self-relief whenever I felt that it was necessary; but even that, too, becomes less of a necessity as time passes. And there is that aphorism: that what you've never had, you never miss. Well, I can assure you that that's true, but only up to a certain point ... I consider myself to be an inquisitive and open-minded man, so of course I've considered what it must be like ... but I have never allowed it to become an obsession."
Cathy was intrigued, so she perhaps pushed the subject further than she would have with someone that she knew less well, or who she liked less:
"I believe my husband when he says that I'm still an attractive and desirable woman, Bill ... out of curiosity, is that how I appear to you as well?" For a normally quite decisive man, he seemed to take a long time considering his answer:
" ... Yes, Cathy ... I find you to be an attractive and desirable woman: and as the popular cliché goes; I perhaps find myself wishing that I was thirty years younger..."
That evening, as they lay in bed, having enjoyed each other sexually, Cathy and Dennis talked about what Bill had said earlier.
"Do you think that there are many people like Bill, Love?" Cathy asked Dennis, "Although he never said it in so many words, I don't think that he's ever been with a woman."
.... There is more of this story ...