The Change in Anne
Chapter 1

Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Fiction, Slow,

Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - He was in the cemetery, visiting his parents, she was there mourning her husband. Fate introduced them....

Gavin Macmillan didn't get to the cemetery as often as he knew he should, but today he found himself slowly walking from the place where he parked his car to his parent's grave. His father had passed away when he was still quite young, but his mother had joined her husband just over two years ago. There seemed to be a lot less empty plots since the last time that he was there, but as he approached his parent's last resting place, he noted that what appeared to be a woman was standing quietly a few plots along from theirs.

While he was still some yards away, the woman seemed to drop to her knees on the grass surrounding the graveside and as she did so, she raised her hands in front of her into the classic attitude of suppli­cation. A little extreme, Gavin thought, but in its own way quite touching. In order not to come across the woman too quickly, he consciously slowed his walk considerably. He could see no headstone on the grave, so he assumed that it had only recently been occupied. He tried to gauge its size, to see whether it was full- or child-size and he estimated that it must contain an adult. He continued looking in the direction of the mysterious mourner, when all of a sudden he was surprised to see her slump to the ground on her side. His pace increased to a trot and as he passed his parent's grave to quickly stooped to place the flowers that he was carrying, before hurrying to the stricken woman's side.

Kneeling down beside her, he held his hand in front of her mouth and was relieved to feel the warmth of her breath on his skin. Then lowering his gaze, he noted the slow rise and fall of her upper torso as she appeared to be breathing regularly. There was nothing else to do but wait by her side: she hadn't fallen far or with any great force and the grass had softened the impact. He wasn't a medical man, but he decided that she had probably just been overcome by grief and had fainted. He would wait a few more minutes to see if she would recover before summon­ing the emergency services.

As there appeared to be no one else around, Gavin took the opportunity to study the woman in more detail. From her face, which lacked any makeup and seemed pale, he guessed that she was anything from 25 to 35, and under different circum­stances, probably quite attractive. She was covered from neck to wrists in quite plain and severe-looking clothing: a dark jacket over a dark-grey cardigan, which itself covered the white blouse; of which only the collar and top two fastened buttons were visible; she also wore a long, below knee-length skirt, under which appeared to be black opaque tights. Her black shoes had laces and a low heel. The woman's brown hair was medium-length and straight and her head was crowned with a dark, shapeless, beret-type hat. She wore a simple gold band on her wedding ring finger.

Gavin glanced at his watch; it had been about ten minutes since she fainted. He was unsure exactly how long he should wait before calling for medical attention, but just then the woman seemed to stir and he saw her eyes flutter open. At first she seemed confused, but then she tried to get up.

"Take it easy ... I think you fainted."

"Thank you, but I think I'll be all right now." But as she tried to stand, she faltered and Gavin reached out to steady her.

"Look, I'm not happy ... let me call someone to have a look at you."

"No, I'm fine ... really..."

" ... If you insist ... but I've got my car here; at least let me give you a lift somewhere."

" ... Well, perhaps ... I am feeling a little light-headed..."

"All right! If you can just give me a minute with my mum and dad..." The woman took Gavin's arm to steady herself, then they walked back the few yards to where he had laid the flowers. He took a few moments to rearrange them, then he said a few private words before returning to the woman.

"Are you ready, Mrs ... It's this way. My name's Gavin, by the way: Gavin Macmillan"

" ... Anne Gilchrist."

He continued to steady her by holding her arm until they reached his car. The remote control unlocked the doors and he held the passenger door open for her and waited until she was seated before closing it again before walking around to the driver's side.

"You need to do your seat belt up, Mrs Gilchrist."

"Oh, yes, of course ... sorry..."

"So where can I take you, Mrs Gilchrist?"

"Do you know Elsingham Avenue?"

"That's near the hospital, isn't it?"

"That's right: I live at number 42." Gavin sensed her reticence, so he didn't try to engage her in conversation any more. They drove through streets that he hadn't travelled down for some years, and although there had been changes, his old knowledge soon came back to him. Number 42 was an older, three storey house that had been converted into single-storey apartments many years before. It had once been a very affluent area and it still seemed very pleasant, with trees lining both sides of the road and apparently new-ish and well-looked-after cars parked outside most of the houses or on driveways where they had been created. He stopped outside the appropriate house, but left the engine running.

"Well, thank you very much again, Mr Macmillan! Perhaps ... if you're not in a hurry ... I can offer you a cup of tea for your kindness." For the first time she appeared to almost smile at him.

"I think that would be very welcome, Mrs Gilchrist ... but only on the condition that you call me Gavin."

" ... Very well ... if you'll call me Anne."

Anne Gilchrist occupied the ground floor flat of the house. Although it appeared very clean and tidy, Gavin got the impression that it all felt quite impersonal. He was shown into the sitting room while his host went to the kitchen at the back of the flat. Looking around him, he noted that there were few of the homely touches that his own home and those of his friends and acquaintances had: there were no pictures on the walls, nor photographs in frames standing on any of the dark-stained cabinets that seemed to contain nothing but mainly hardback books. The only adornment ... it could hardly be called a decoration ... was the large crucifix with a mounted Christ figure that hung from the wall above the fireplace. And although he couldn't see clearly from his seated position, he guessed that the cabinets would possibly contain a fair number of texts of a religious nature.

"Your tea Mr Macmillan ... Gavin," Anne said when she retur­ned, carrying a tray with cups and saucers and a teapot, milk jug and sugar bowl, with cubed sugar. She placed the tray on a low table in front of the sofa where he was seated. "Do you take milk and sugar, Gavin?"

"Yes to both, please, Anne: two lumps of sugar."

After handing him his tea, Anne poured herself one then sat in an armchair almost facing him. They sat drinking their tea, not speaking and trying hard not to look directly at each other. It was Gavin who broke the ice.

"I don't wish to intrude, Anne, but I was quite worried when I saw you collapse in the cemetery." He thought that he detected that little half-smile again as she looked at him.

"I thank you for your concern, Gavin: I haven't been sleeping very well or eating much lately, it was probably as a result of that which caused me to faint the way I did. My family doctor wanted to prescribe something to help me sleep, but it isn't our way..." Gavin looked at her quizzically, which she seemed to pick up on.

" ... We are quite religious people, Gavin, which you may have realised already. My husband ... my late-husband, I should say ... and I have always turned to prayer and our beliefs for solutions to life's problems, rather than pharmaceuticals or technology. Unfortunately, I've recently come to believe that what may be good for the immortal soul isn't always good enough for our mortal bodies."

" ... So that was your husband's grave, Anne?"

"Yes, James was taken about a month ago: a form of cancer they said; and even if it had been diagnosed earlier, it is un­likely that the outcome would have been any different."

"I'm very sorry to hear it: I lost my mother to cancer. I take it that you had no children ... do you have friends and relatives who can help you?" She looked sad.

"No, we weren't blessed with children, and there are no friends and relatives: only the people we knew through the Church. And I'm afraid, Gavin, that I've tended to abandon them since James died, I've been so angry lately! That was the reason that you may have seen me praying at the cemetery today: I was praying for forgiveness for my guilt of pride."

"And did it help, Anne?"

"Well, I thought not at the time, but since then I've come to realise that perhaps it did in a way that I hadn't considered ... you were there, weren't you..."

" ... I'm not sure that I understand what you're saying, Anne?"

"To be absolutely honest, Gavin, neither am I. But so much of my faith is based on the belief that, even if not preordained, everything happens for a reason: James' cancer; that we both happened to be in that cemetery, on that particular day and time; and that I happened to faint and you helped me. I don't know why you were there when you were, but I had only decided to go a few hours before hand, and even then I just missed the bus I intended to catch so I was there later than I should have otherwise been. I can't explain it any other way ... although you may well call it mere coincidence."

"And I have to be honest with you, Anne: I don't consider myself to be a religious person, but I am a rationalist and I concede that there are many things in life which are inexplic­able; but being a rationalist, I tend to come down on the side of coincidence ... although I accept your right to hold differing beliefs. When I saw you faint, I acted out of compassion and instinct, and I am just glad that I could help you in some way."

Gavin had nothing pressing that required his attention, and Anne seemed keen to talk more, so they sat there for several more hours, doing just that.

" ... I was married to James for six years. We are both originally from the West Country: he is from Bristol and I come from Portishead. He was four years older than I was. It wasn't exactly an arranged marriage, but he knew my parents ... espec­ially my father ... quite well, and it was deemed by my father and mother to be a good match. My father is a lay preacher and I had what a lot of people would call a strict upbr­inging: inas­much as the Church determined everything that we did; and being a good daughter, from birth until marriage, they cont­rolled and influenced my life, totally. The only people that I ever thought of as friends were other Church members; and even then we only met up during Church activities. I never rebelled against my lifestyle, because I never knew any different.

"And of course I never met any boys other than those who were the sons of Church members, and we were never permitted to do anything of which my parents and their parents deemed 'inappropriate'.

"James was trusted, of course, and as soon as we were officially engaged to marry, we were allowed to spend time together, to plan the rest of our lives together. I was happy: I liked James and I believed that marriage was my only vocation in life, and that, in time, I would come to love and respect him in the same way that my mother did my father. I am not completely sure, it was never discussed, but I am pretty sure that we were both completely inexperienced, with regard to our marital duties. I suppose what I'm trying to say, is that our wedding night was a complete surprise to the both of us, Gavin!

"Everything, in fact, that I know about such things has come from my mother; and whatever she has told me to do, with regard to my wifely duties, I have done until now. However, three years ago, James was offered promotion in his job, although it meant moving from Bristol to here. And for what­ever reason, the move caused a rift between James and my parents, who wanted him to turn down the promotion. I had grown up believing that I should honour my parents ... that is until I married ... and so for the last three years I have been estranged from them. I should add, however, that being married has taught me that my life before I married James wasn't what I'd always thought it was, and that I could never willingly go back to that lifestyle..."

"And have you thought about the future, now that you are alone, Anne: for example, how are your finances?"

"Well, despite our religious beliefs, Gavin, James and I both appre­ciated that we lived in the secular world: we both had jobs and life insurance policies which covered the mortgage on this flat; and apart from the mortgage, we've never bought things on credit. James' home and life insurance policies are currently being processed, but as soon as they are, the mortgage will be paid up and I will receive a settlement on James' life cover, and we lived simply so I should be comfortable."

"And what about you, Anne: your life and future has changed dramatically in a short space of time; are you coping, emotion­ally?"

"Yes, you're right, Gavin: I think that that's going to be the hardest thing to do ... and I admit that I am a little lost at the moment and a little afraid of what the future holds for me."

He was quiet for a while, as he sat and thought about everything that Anne had told him. He had only known her for a few hours, but already he felt the need to help her in some way if he could. At last he spoke:

"It seems like you need a friend in your life, Anne ... and I'd like to be that friend, if I may!" This time she definitely smiled.

Gavin had recently returned from working in Saudi Arabia: it had been a thirty-month contract, which is why he had been out of the country when his mother had died. He flew home for the funeral, but he had had no reason to return to England after that. He had an older sister, but they weren't particularly close and he had no plans to visit her now that his contract was over. It was a good life over there and it paid very well, but although he was offered an extension, he felt that the time was right to come home. He had a very healthy bank balance and his skills and experience meant that he should have no difficulty finding future employment, so he was in no hurry to look for any at that time.

He was 27, and up until then he had not considered putting down permanent roots anywhere. An attractive man, he had always had girlfriends, and despite Saudi's Islamic laws, there always seemed to be unattached western women about and he had had a satisfying, if casual, sex life. When he had first seen Anne, sex was the last thing on his mind: from a distance her age was indeterminate and it was only her clothes that suggested that she was female. He had never knowingly fooled around with married women, so when he saw her wedding ring, any last doubts as to her availability evaporated.

" ... I appreciate that this may not be the most opportune time, Anne, but would you like to go out for a meal with me sometime ... strictly as friends, of course!"

"Well, as you may appreciate, Gavin, this is not something that I have a lot of experience of ... but as a friend ... yes, please!"

"Very well! How about tomorrow evening? Say, 7:30 ... would that suit you?"

Although the Gilchrist's had a landline telephone in their home, Anne and Gavin hadn't exchanged numbers before he had left the day before, so they had had no further contact before he stood outside of her front door shortly before the appointed time. He had been dressed semi-casually at their first meeting, but now he was wearing a suit and he was carrying a large bunch of assorted flowers. Knowing what he now did about her life, he had expected her to be dressed much as she was in the cemetery, so he was somewhat surprised when she greeted him at the door: although still quite simply attired, she now wore a knee-length dress with short sleeves over bare arms, and the dark, opaque tights had been replaced with semi-transparent tan-coloured ones. Her hair was still the same, although it now seemed to have more gloss to it; and if she was wearing make-up, it was very subtle. However, the whole package was now very much more feminine, and Anne seemed to have acquired an increased air of confidence as a result.

"You're looking very nice, Anne! I wasn't sure what you're feel­ings are regarding cut flowers..."

" ... They're very nice, Gavin, and you are looking very smart, too! I'm ready to go, but I'll just put your lovely flowers in water ... please come in."

It turned out to be a very pleasant evening for both of them. Anne told Gavin that although she didn't have a career as such, as she expected to give up work once hers and James' children came along, she was currently working in office administration, and that her present clothing was what she usually wore in that capacity. Because of her recent bereavement, she was still on compassionate leave, but she was expected to either shortly return to work or to decide to resign. She was still undecided in her own mind. She told Gavin that, although her colleagues were generally friendly, she didn't really have much to do with them outside of working hours, and she and James, apart from attending Church services, tended to live very private lives. Her husband was a graduate and he worked as a designer in engin­eering. They attended a few social functions each year, organ­ised by his employers, but they never attended private social functions and James' colleagues had stopped inviting them after their invitations were continually declined.

And although the Gilchrist's still held on to their fundamental Christian beliefs, Anne believed that they no longer felt the need to live their lives in the same rigidly prescriptive way that they had until they left Bristol. Anne also seemed quite keen to hear about Gavin's life: particularly his time in Saudi Arabia, as it was so very different from her own life. She was also quite surp­rised how comfortable she felt in his company: he encour­aged her to speak about her life in a way that no one, not even her husband, had ever done before; and she couldn't remember a time in her life when she'd ever laughed as much, either. When Gavin took her home that night, he stayed for a little while for tea, and when he left she felt both happy and sad, but they had arranged to meet again the next day.

One of the things that Anne and Gavin had talked about during their evening out and afterwards, was how Anne might move on with her life now that a month had passed following her hus­band's death. Anne still felt, although she didn't articulate the thought again, that meeting Gavin was more than mere coincid­ence, as on the day that they had met in the cemetery she was praying to God for guidance about her life. Gavin had sugg­ested that perhaps now would be a good time to begin the change by disposing of all her late-husband James' clothes. He was sure that James would approve of his clothes being donated to either the Salvation Army or one of the charity shops in town. He further suggested that, if Anne made a start, then he would stop off to buy some strong bags and then they could take everything into town the following day.

When he duly arrived at Anne's flat the next morning, she greeted him with a bright-eyed look and a smile. He was once again surprised by her appearance: he expected much the same sort of clothing that he had seen her wear at her husband's graveside, but instead she was wearing another simple dress and for the first time she appeared to be bare-legged ... and nice, shapely legs they appeared, too!

"Hello, Gavin! I've made a start like you said."

He had only previously seen the flat's sitting room and bath­room, but Anne appeared to want him to follow her somewhere else. As they passed the former of these, he glanced through the open doorway and he noted the vase on top of one of the cabinets, with some of the flowers that he had bought her. However, Anne led him into the bedroom.

The room seemed to reflect the same style as the sitting room: functionality being seemingly more important than homeliness, and with the furniture being sturdy but perhaps more familiar to someone much older than Anne's generation. Knowing what he now knew of Anne's background, Gavin suspected that if he went into her parent's home he would find much the same sort of thing. However, another vase full of brightly coloured flowers stood on top of an otherwise utilitarian chest of drawers.

Laid out on the bed, there were several piles of clothes. Gavin noted those that were obviously James', but next to them were several items of women's clothing, of the type that he had expected Anne to be wearing.

"As you can see, Gavin," Anne said, noting where his eyes were looking, "I have decided that I really need to re-evaluate my own life and wardrobe as well. He smiled and nodded in acknow­ledge­ment.

The bags that he had bought were made of a much thicker plastic than large rubbish bags were and they were intended for such things as garden waste. They also had draw-strings at their open ends, which allowed them to be securely tied as each one was filled. Working together, it didn't take long to bag all of James and Anne's unwanted clothes, some of which were carried out to Gavin's car. The bags were quite bulbous and it was decided to make more than one trip, so Anne collected her jacket and handbag before rejoining Gavin in the car. He tried not to be too obvious, but he couldn't help noticing the way that Anne's dress slid up her legs as she got in, before she pulled it down and settled in her seat.

"if you wouldn't mind, Gavin, I'd like to do a little shopping once we've dropped all the clothes off. Now that I've discarded some of my things, I need a few replacements. I also wanted to ask you: do you think that I should get myself a mobile phone ... I must be one of the only people at work not to have one, and even children seem to nowadays."

"Well, they are convenient: especially for sending and receiving text messages, which you can't do with a fixed landline. And if you aren't a heavy user, they can be quite economical. We can always look while we're out, can't we."

The Salvation Army said that they were happy to take as much as Anne could give them, and unlike some charity shops who sometimes sold the best clothes on to second-hand dealers, they invariably used the ones they had to give to people who really needed them. Anne therefore gave them what she had in the car, as well as eventually those still at home.

Anne and her husband had always shopped on an 'as needed' basis; where value for money took precedence over all else. And due to Anne's childhood influences, she had never bought anything for herself based solely on aesthetics or fashion. Her husband tended to buy and wear the clothes he always had, and he and Anne never consulted each other about what the other wore. There was no definite dress code in Anne's place of work, but she had soon noted what other women tended to wear and so chose her own clothes accordingly. Out of choice she preferred plain, darker colours, as opposed to prints and patt­erns, and her skirts and dresses never rose above knee length. She believed that her female colleagues probably thought that she dressed too conservatively for someone who was only in their late twen­ties, but no one ever spoke unkindly to her, or commented to her face about it. And although others regularly did it, she couldn't ever remember a day when she went to work without wearing something on her legs.

Before the shopping began in earnest, however, Gavin took her to a coffee house, where he sat and explained to her all the things that his own phone did. Gavin was an IT consultant and so a bit of a high-tech geek: Anne was the complete opposite, and although she was fascinated by just how much a high-end smart phone could do, she couldn't see herself ever using most of it. In the end they decided between themselves that Anne should start off with a relatively inexpensive Pay-As-You-Go phone with just the basic call, text and camera functions. Gavin showed her how easy it was to send and receive texts and how to take and attach photos. There were lots to choose from, but in the end she bought a phone from the supermarket chain were she did most of her shopping. It was perhaps harder for her when it was time to buy clothes.

"We need a benchmark, Anne. You've told me that you work in an office with several other woman of about your age, so you can start by pointing out the sorts of things that they wear, and then tell me why you would or wouldn't want to wear the same thing yourself. And don't forget that it was you who said that you wanted to re-evaluate your life, so you're going to have to make choices that you wouldn't necessarily make. You should also bear in mind that everyone makes fashion mistakes; what looks good hanging in a shop, may not look so good when you get it home, so keep your receipts and you can always bring stuff back if you change your mind when you get home."

So, bearing in mind all that Gavin had said, they spent several hours walking around and looking in several shops, where Anne looked, considered, tried on and asked his opinion about, and eventually bought, some of the many clothes that they looked at. And by the time that they called it a day and carried every­thing back to Gavin's car, she still found it a somewhat daunting process, but she was slowly getting into it more.

"Look, why don't we stay in this evening, Anne, I'll even cook for you ... I'm not bad! Either at your place or mine. We'll take all your new purchases home and you can decide on the way." It didn't take that long for her to decide.

" ... Well, I've always done the cooking at home, it might be fun to let someone else do it for a change, and if we go to your place, you'll know where everything is. Do you have food enough there, or do you want to stop somewhere first?"

"No, I think I've got enough to whip something up ... that's part of the fun of cooking for me. And you've got time to shower and change into one of your new outfits if you like."

"All right. Do you live far from me, Gavin?"

"It's about fifteen minutes in the car, I suppose: do you know where the King George the Fifth grammar school is, my place is near there."

"I know of the grammar school, but not being local I've never been there. Do you have a flat?"

"Yes, I haven't been back from Saudi long, so I have a six-month lease. It's a similar set up to yours, but the house is smaller and I'm on the first floor."

When they got back to Anne's they carried all of her bags through to the bedroom, and then while she as getting ready to go out, Gavin unpacked her new phone. The battery was already part-charged, so after installing the pre-pay credit from the voucher that Anne had bought and entering his own phone's number and saving it onto the SIM card, he put the phone on charge so that it would be ready for her to use later.

When Anne reappeared, she was wearing one of her new skirts and tops. In terms of colour and style, they were both more casual than she was used to and the skirt was several inches shorter than anything that Gavin had seen her wear before; but as he already knew, she had the legs to carry it off.

"So what do you think?" she said, somewhat nervously.

"I think you look great, it suits you!" She smiled.

"Okay then ... shall we go." As they were driving to Gavin's she said: "I noticed today that a lot of young women had shorter hair styles: do you think that would suit me, Gavin?"

"Yes, I do! I think you are lucky that you have the type of face that suits long or short hair. When we get to my place, we'll look on the Internet ... you'll be able to see lots of images of women with your hair and eye colouring."

"That will be interesting. We use computers at work, of course, and I've heard others talking about the Internet, but I've never been on it."

In the short time that they'd known each other, although they had become quite close quite quickly, neither of them had said or done anything that would suggest that they were anything but friends. Gavin had looked at her and he could admire her physical attributes and he was pretty sure that Anne was definitely more than a little interested in him; but under the circumstances, he decided to just let things develop at there own pace and see what happened. From the little that he knew about Anne's life, and it was still only a little, he felt that she had gone from being almost totally dependent on her parents, to being dependent upon her husband in the same way. Gavin liked her a lot already, but if their relationship was to go further, he wanted her to become more self-reliant. He had been pleased that she was now making her own choices ... but the question was, was she doing it for herself or for his benefit? It didn't have to be one or the other, but he wanted to encourage her new spirit of independence along the way.

As Gavin had suggested, his current home was the rented upper floor of what was once a suburban, three-bedroom, semi-detached house; and whereas Anne's building was early Edwardian, or even Victorian, and thus over a hundred years old, the house that Gavin lived in was post-1945. He held the car door open for Anne, who then followed him along the short path to the front door. Inside, the staircase had been completely enclosed and the door to Gavin's flat blocked the way up. A shelf below a mirror screwed to the wall in the communal entrance hall was used to hold any mail that arrived at the house: there was a small pile with Gavin's name that must have been delivered after he'd left that morning. With the envelopes held in his left hand, he unlocked his door with his right, then, before they went up, he hit the switch that would keep a light on long enough for them to get to the top before switching off again. The illumination was only needed for the stairs, as there was still enough natural light through the windows to see clearly once they reach the landing. Gavin stood at the top of the stairs, and moving in an anti-clockwise direction, he pointed to all the doors in turn:

" ... Bathroom, bedroom, sitting room, kitchen. Make yourself at home, Anne, I'll just see what we've got here to eat. Can I get you a tea or coffee?"

"Thank you ... tea, please!"

Not wishing to seem to be nosy, Anne headed for the sitting room. With the curtains not drawn closed, she found a light, airy space; which compared to her own home, could be consid­ered cluttered. As in many rented accommodations, there was little co-ordination of the various pieces of furniture, which tended to be of the self-assembly variety, except for a large sofa and matching armchair, and a table and four chairs that stood in a corner of the room. On this table stood a largish computer monitor together with a trackball mouse and wireless key­board. Also, as in her own home, there was a large collection of books: a quick examination of which indicated that many of them seemed to be com­puter-related; although there were also a good many ass­orted paper­back novels. On a low cabinet, in the bay of a large window, sat a fairly large flat-screen tele­vision. Anne had just taken a seat on the sofa when Gavin came into the room carrying two mugs of tea.

"It's lovely and bright in here, Gavin ... did you decorate?"

"No, I was lucky: I think the former tenants were a young couple and they probably did it. I've lived in lots of rented accommodation in this country and this is probably the best so far. The dinner's all on and it won't take long. Drink your tea then I'll fire up the computer for you: it may be a little different to what you're used to, but the principle is the same."

Gavin's computer was an Apple iMac and he showed Anne how to use the trackball, which he preferred to a standard mouse. Being stand-alone and not networked, everything seemed so much faster than Anne's computer at work: a double click of the trackball button and everything appeared to happen almost immediately, rather than the delay that she was used to. His browser home page was set to Google UK, and another double click accessed the 'Images' page. Gavin typed in 'women with short brown hair and brown eyes' and after pressing the 'Enter' key, the screen was filled with images of women with these characteris­tics. Gavin pulled up another chair and sat besides her and together they scrolled through the pages; stopping occasionally to comment on one of the images they saw.

"I'm just going to check on the food ... you carry on, Anne."

When he'd left the room, Anne highlighted the word 'brown' in front of 'hair' in the search subject box and typed 'blonde' instead. Pressing the 'Enter' key again displayed a new set of images, which she looked at eagerly. After a few more minutes she heard Gavin call out: "Can you come and get the cutlery, Anne," so she closed down the browser but left the computer on, before heading for the kitchen. She was impressed: in not much time and with limited ingredi­ents, he had produced a very tasty meal.

"Where did you learn to cook, Gavin?"

"Well, because my dad died young and there wasn't a lot of money about, I spent a lot of time with my mum in the kitchen and we had to be both economical and inventive. Later, when I was older, she went back to work full-time, so I often cooked for us when she got home in the evening. And then when I went off to university I lived in shared accommodation for four years, and again, once the others knew that I could cook they were happy to let me do most of it. Mum remarried when I was in my late teens, so I never lived with her again apart from uni vacations, and even then I only cooked occasionally for her and my stepdad. How about you, Anne?"

"Well, like you, my mother taught me how to do basic things, but I don't think that it was ever a fun activity like yours sounds like it was. And it was never inventive or exciting food: just the basic British fare of meat and two veg. That was what James was used to as well, so that's what we stuck with. Even when we ate out, which was only very occasionally, we tended to stick to tried and trusted things. And we never went on holiday, so we never tried anything new from other cultures." Gavin was a little stunned when he heard this.

" ... You were married six years and you were both working ... and yet you never went on holiday for a week or two..."

" ... No ... but then I never went on what you would call a holiday with my parents, either: we went on day outings organised by the Church and we went to a retreat once a year ... but, no, never holidays..."

When the meal was over and everything washed up ... which Anne insisted on helping with ... Gavin made more tea as Anne didn't drink wine or any other alcohol, then they once again sat at the computer and he let her just surf the web and look at whatever took her fancy. Had he been home alone, Gavin would probably have just chilled out in front of the TV until bedtime, but as Anne didn't have a set at home, they just sat and chatted. The time went quickly, and at about 10:30 Gavin said:

"Well, it's getting late ... would you like me to run you home now, but you know that you're welcome to stay if you like." Anne seemed uncomfortable.

" ... Well, I ... I'm not sure..." Gavin quickly realized the cause of her discomfort.

" ... I'm sorry ... I didn't mean ... I really like you, Anne, but what I meant was you can have my room: I have a sleeping bag and this sofa is quite comfortable; I'll sleep here, of course!" Anne continued to look embarrassed, but she managed a smile.

"Yes, of course. You know that I like you, too: it was just that ... you know..."

"I really didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, Anne ... if you're ready to go..." But as he went to get up she put her hand on his arm and smiled.

" ... No, I'd like to stay."

"Okay, then. I can lend you a T-shirt to sleep in if you want, and use anything in the bathroom, there's a new tooth brush in the cabinet. I wouldn't usually go to bed this early, but you go whenever you're ready."

"All right. Thank you for this evening! I think I shall stay up a bit longer, too ... perhaps we can watch something on television: another new experience for me! And shall I make us both some more tea?"

"Okay! But I have drinking chocolate if you prefer..."

After having been introduced to mobile telephony and the Internet in one day, Anne was equally enthralled by satellite television: she couldn't get over the fact that so many channels and so much variety was available. The problem was, of course, that there were just too many channels. So once again she ceded to Gavin's judgement; which this time he was happy to do. After some gentle questioning about things that might interest her, they settled back to watch what was labelled as a 'family entertainment' movie. It was old hat stuff to Gavin, of course, but Anne looked on with almost childlike wonder­ment; to the extent that she became so enrapt with what she was watching that she was apparently unaware that after a while she was settled close to her friend and leaning into him. With another person, and at another time, Gavin might have put an arm around her; but he fought the temptation on that occasion. It was well after midnight when he suggested that Anne might like to sleep now; and that she was welcome to continue watching something the next day if she wished.

Anne resumed her slightly embarrassed attitude as she followed Gavin into his bedroom and while he sorted her out one of his largest T-shirts; but then he just smiled, collected his sleeping bag, and wished her a good night. After using the bathroom, Anne quickly undressed and pulled on his shirt, then climbed into the bed, which she found to be much more comfortable and welcoming than the one that for six years she shared with her husband. She was soon asleep. Gavin, meanwhile, was getting into the sleeping bag on the sofa, which he knew for a fact was nowhere near as comfortable as he'd told his guest it was: nevertheless, he, too, was tired and was also soon sound asleep.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Fiction / Slow /