Eyes closed, my nostrils wafted in long ago memories.
I lifted my head from the bouquet, and glared at Tom. “OK son. There’s no cause to shout, I’m not deaf.”
“Sorry Dad,” he hushed, “I forgot.” The pretence of my deafness has existed for so many years that he forgets from time to time.
He gestured towards the florist. “Do you want to choose a card to go with the flowers?”
The woman behind the counter fanned a bundle of cards for Tom’s attention. Clearly, based on his treatment of me, she’d decided I was an ancient imbecile, with him acting as my guardian.
I scowled at her and snatched the handful of cards. “I’m not stupid, young lady.”
My choice was immediate, one with an oil painting of a bluebell wood. Diane would appreciate my selection; it was appropriate, even though it was over forty years late.
I removed the Parker pen from my blazer pocket and wrote the message. There were so many more words I would have loved to write, but there was no point. Decades of regret had passed, never to be recovered.
While Tom scowled with characteristic impatience, I allowed far more time than was necessary for the ink to dry.
“And the address, Mr Grantley?”
“The Parkway Hospital. I presume you have the details.”
She ignored my sarcasm. “Yes, we deliver regularly. Who are they for?”
Her name smoothed over my tongue. “Clarissa Cavendish.”
Tom’s head jerked around; by contrast, the florist didn’t react. I assumed she was in the habit of delivering bouquets to celebrities at the region’s most prestigious private hospital.
During the time I wrote the cheque for the bouquet, I was conscious his attention was fixed on me.
When I finished, I turned to him. “Ready, son?”
He hadn’t shown so much interest in me since he was a youngster. “Yes, Dad. We’ll be off then.”
“Good Day, Madam,” I said, as I tipped my hat. “Thank you for your assistance.”
Her goodbye was uncertain as Tom held open the door for my exit.
I slid into the passenger seat of my Bentley. From the time I was diagnosed with a heart problem, my doctor will neither accept bribes nor coercion to allow me to drive. Blasted man! He’s in far worse condition than me, yet he still runs around in his Jaguar.
Tom started the engine. “Home?”
Fatuous question. He would never consider taking me anywhere else. He can’t be rid of my burden quick enough. I grunted my assent.
Tom pulled into the stream of High Street traffic and casually remarked, “Clarissa Cavendish?”
“Yes,” I stabbed at him, “what of her?”
“I wasn’t aware you knew her.” His voice was quiet, my pretend deafness ignored. For years, my supposed hearing problem allowed us to travel in silence, a situation we were both at ease with.
“I know that, Tom. I never told you.”
He gave me a sideways grimace. “Are you going to tell me now?”
“I doubt it would be of interest to you ... or anyone for that matter.”
Tom smoothed the Bentley into the car park of The Greswolde Hotel. “We are both referring to the actress, aren’t we?”
“You know perfectly well that we are. Her arrival at the hospital was on the evening news last night.”
He parked and swivelled sideways so he all but faced me. “I am interested. Very!”
“You want a drink, Dad?”
He smiled at me, which was a rarity. “Yes,” he offered.
He knew my weakness is cognac, more so since my idiot doctor banned it.
I followed Tom into the hotel. Like me, he’s a lanky beanpole except, since my retirement a year earlier, the inactivity caused me to add ten pounds.
In the lounge, we allowed our bodies to settle into the depths of the leather armchairs.
“We can’t drink on empty stomachs.” He handed me a menu. “Lunch?”
“Thank you, Tom. That will be good.”
While we perused the menus, an attractive waitress arrived. She appeared to be in her early twenties, all smiles and eager to please.
“What would you like, Dad?”
“A sandwich will suit me.” I attempted to gain the attention of the waitress who hadn’t seemed to notice my existence. It was obvious her interest was in Tom’s handsome features. I coughed loudly. “Miss!”
With a lack of enthusiasm, her gaze abandoned his Paul Newman blue eyes as she turned to me with a false smile.
“Tuna,” I growled and added a reluctant, “please.”
“I’ll have the same,” Tom added, as he sleeked a tanned hand through his premature grey hair. “And two Armagnacs ... make them large.”
“Certainly, Sir.” She gave him a final cherub smile and left.
He settled back into his seat and smirked. “Well Dad, you are the dark horse.”
I grunted. “You can dispense with the wise cracks. Do you want me to tell you?”
“Very well, except I must have your assurance you will not repeat a word of it.”
His dark eyebrows raised and, although he was clearly intrigued, he kept his silence, except to provide me with a hesitant agreement.
“It happened just before the end of the war, in the spring of ‘44.”
“Hmm, forty six years ago.”
“Yes, almost exactly. It was in April ... the sixth.”
“You recall the exact date of this ... event?” He studied my features. “Something momentous then?”
“It involved Diane. Clarissa is not her real name. You realise that?”
Tom smiled and nodded. “April 1944. That’s when you met her?”
“No, we knew one another before.” My memory recalled the initial excitement when I first saw her, but I pulled myself back to the present. “Well, that’s not strictly correct. I knew her, but I doubt she ever noticed me. To be frank, I had a serious crush on her, even before that day. Not that I would have dared to tell her, for one thing, she was eighteen months older.”
“My guess is, she still is.”
I ignored Tom’s infantile humour. “The war was great for youngsters. It was a week after my fifteenth birthday. We were too young to realise how bad things were for the adults; for us, it was a great adventure. In those days, it was safe for children to roam, there was freedom to explore bomb sites and...”
I tailed off as I looked up and saw his stone face.
“Yes, I know. I’m off on a tangent.”
Our lunch arrived and we sipped our brandies.
“You may not remember Bill’s Wood. You were still a baby when we left Shirley and moved to Dorridge. Wartime, the wood was far larger. My best friend was Steve, Steve Potts. You wouldn’t know him, we drifted apart many years ago.”
Steve, dear chum. Why didn’t we stay in touch?
My eyes misted over. “I went to his funeral last November ... up in Nottingham.”
Tom glared at me once more.
“Sorry, son. I’m rambling.”
“That day, Steve and I were in Bill’s Wood. We frequented a pond, it wasn’t very large, but big enough to swim five strokes from one end to the other. We used it because most of the kids preferred the larger one, half a mile away. Although early April, it was a warm day and we were swimming. Naked.
“We splashed about and laughed and, I presume it was our noise that meant we didn’t see her.”
“Yes.” Oh, that name. Such melody. Diane, Diane.
“She wore a pale blue dress, a denim coloured cotton, buttoned at the front from top to bottom. She had sandals and ankle socks ... white. The dress was old, not tattered, but faded.” She was so beautiful.
“She laughed at us, a teasing snigger. ‘Where are your clothes, lads?’
“It was instinctive to look to the spot on the grass where we’d left two bundles of clothing. They’d gone.
“Steve was the first to respond, he waded through the water, but skidded in the thick mud on the bank. Despite that, he was soon back on his feet and after her.
“I was out of the water in a search for our clothes. It took a minute before I located them, bundled behind a nearby oak. While I’d been in a rummage through the undergrowth, Steve had shouted for me. I pulled on my short trousers – no pants, and followed his voice.
“I found them fifty yards down the trail. He had her pinned against a tree, although it was obvious he was about to lose her. Steve and I were at the age just prior to sprouting, whereas she was sixteen and a good eight inches taller. We were all slim, there were few fat kids during wartime, but Diane was that bit stronger. However, against the two of us, she had no chance, and we soon frog marched her back to the pond.
‘What should we do with her, Will?’
‘How should I know?’
‘Whatever you do, you mustn’t mud bath me.’ Her pale blue eyes stared into mine. I swear she blushed a little.
‘Good idea, ‘ agreed Steve, as he struggled to wrestle her to the ground.
“I helped him, while wondering why she’d suggested her own reprisal. It didn’t make sense.
“Diane lay on the grass, her arms pinned down by Steve, while I part sat and part lay along her legs.
‘Now what?’ I queried. ‘How do we get mud and stop her from escaping?’
“Steve stared at the pond, ten feet away. ‘Will, can you hold her while I get the muck?’
‘I suppose.’ I shrugged. ‘I’m bigger than you, so best for me to give it a try.’ I leaned forward until my torso rested on hers. ‘Go on, quick before she tries to escape.’
“While Steve scooped up a double handful of mud, I rested full length on Diane. I was amazed. She didn’t struggle, but lay dormant as though afraid to move. My head rested beside hers and I could feel the warmth of her soft breath on my cheek.
“When Steve returned, I sat up and repositioned myself until I straddled her hips, my thighs acting as a gentle restraint.
“He looked down at us, as mud drips splattered on the grass. ‘What do we do now? Sprawl it over her?’ His eyes pleaded with me. ‘Will?’
“Diane twisted her head until she could see him. ‘Steve Potts, if you ruin my dress, my mum will flay you alive.’
“Steve’s eyes began to bat. Not only did they open and close in rapid succession, but his face scrunched up with each eye movement.
‘Calm down, Steve. She’s kidding you.’
“He looked ready to cry. ‘What can we do, Will?’
‘Suppose we pull off her dress.’ As I uttered the words, I was nearly sick. I couldn’t believe I’d dared to say them.
“Her face was impassive. Astounded by her indifference at my outrageous suggestion, I asked, ‘Diane, is that OK?’ It was a stupid question.
“There was no reply, yet I was sure I detected a faint smile which seemed to inform me she was in agreement.
“Steve and I exchanged glances, undecided as to our next action.
“Diane began to unbutton her dress, while we stared in awe. Halfway down, with her hands mere inches from my crutch, she gazed up at me.
“From her expectant look, I guessed what she wanted and moved out of her way. I slid down and knelt astride her, with my lower limbs and her thighs in tender contact.
“She tugged up the light fabric, pulled it around her waist and released the remaining buttons. Without hesitation, she pulled the dress apart so the two halves lay on the grass. Diane stretched out on her dress, seemingly relaxed despite her exposure. Her bra and panties were white cotton, simple and basic – sexless by comparison with modern lingerie. To me, it was the most incredible sight I’d seen.
“I near fainted at what she did next.
“She arched her body from the ground and her hands slipped behind her back. With a quick flick, she pulled the bra loose and tossed it onto the grass. ‘My mum would kill me if you ruined it.’ She winked at me and I sensed the burning of my face.
“My heart clambered into my mouth and I gazed in awe of her. I’d never seen breasts and hers were exquisite, with the palest of pink tips.
“Steve’s eyes explored her body. They still batted open and shut, and a nervous twitch of his head added to his ludicrous appearance. He allowed the lumps of mud to fall from his grasp and they splattered onto her chest with the sound of gentle slaps. He grabbed her wrists and forced them to the ground. ‘Go on then, ‘ he gestured to me. ‘Rub it in.’
‘Why me?’ I protested.
‘Cause I’m holding her arms.’
“She lay motionless. It didn’t appear she required any constraint. It was as though Diane was eager to get a mud bath. Nevertheless, I accepted his logic, swallowed deep and forced my hands towards her bosom.
“As much as possible, I avoided physical contact with her chest as I retrieved handfuls of mud. It was smeared over her, and beginning at her stomach, my strokes layered the sludge with firm pressure.
‘Will, not so hard, ‘ she hushed. ‘Be gentle with me.’
“The reprimand was given in such a soft whisper, it excited me in a way I couldn’t comprehend.
“With care, I smoothed the mud over her stomach and midriff until my hands were poised below her breasts. I examined her face. Was it a dare? She nodded her approval as though she could read my mind. I felt the need to form an additional barrier between my massage and her audacious breasts, and asked Steve for another helping from the bank.
“He returned and, that time, avoided her body as he deposited a massive load onto the grass. It splashed down and large gobs showered the girl and I.
“Steve grabbed hold of her wrists and sat cross-legged.
“I scooped up a handful and smeared it over her breasts. I spread it into her skin and in a short while, the muck was no longer sticky. The more it smoothed over her, it became thinner, turning soft and silky like her skin. Within a short time, it was almost water and, through the thin film of dirty liquid, I sensed her nipples as they pressed against my palms. I continued to roll my hands over them, conscious of a curious sensation in my stomach.
“She groaned, a sound that resonated deep within her throat. Not only once, but over and over, like an animal in pain.
“Steve’s eye batting had increased in intensity, but her moans changed that. Wide-eyed, unblinking, he looked at her.
“In addition to the unusual sounds from her open mouth, Diane’s eyes were half closed and her head lolled to the right.
“It was too much for Steve, he abandoned his responsibility and forced himself up onto shaky legs.
‘Hey, ‘ I complained. ‘You let her go.’
‘What was that noise?’ he whispered. ‘Why did she do that?’
‘How should I know?’
“He gathered his clothes and pulled them on while he continued to stare at her. ‘I have to go, ‘ he squealed. ‘You coming?’
“My gaze lowered to Diane. Her eyes were glazed as they bore into mine. She shook her head from side to side as if to deny my absence. I didn’t know why, but there was nothing on earth that could have persuaded me to leave her.
“Steve sat on the grass as he struggled to pull on his boots. ‘OK, ‘ he said. ‘See you tomorrow?’
‘Yes. Come round in the morning. Usual time.’
‘What shall we do? Go to the pictures?’
“My mind couldn’t cope with such trivia. ‘Er, what?’ I replied, while her eyes locked onto mine. ‘Oh yes, I don’t care what we do.’
“Steve rushed through the clearing, shirt tail trailing out of his shorts. When he reached the line of trees, he took a last look back over his shoulder and vanished along the pathway.
“I was never so glad to see him leave, though worried as to what I should do with Diane. Not for long!
“The girl took my hands, placed one on each breast and pushed them onto her flesh. Her eyes smiled into mine.
“Unsure of what I should do, my fingers remained where she’d left them.
“She took control, used her hands to guide mine over her bosom, manipulated my touch to pleasure herself.
“Dad,” Tom snapped. “I’ve heard enough.”
I pulled back to reality to see his irritation aimed at me. “Yes, sorry. Sorry, Tom.”
He rose to his feet and buttoned up his double-breasted jacket. “I should go. I forgot I have a client to see.” He checked his watch. “There’s time to drop you off.”
My food was untouched. “No, Tom. You carry on. I’ll finish my lunch.”
“Here,” he said, as he folded the napkin around the sandwich. “You can take it with you.”
Tom looked startled at my abruptness. “Fair enough. You’ll get a taxi?”
“Of course. Bye.”
He gave me a lengthy appraisal before he strode away.
I ordered another double and sat back to reminisce.
Diane’s face was beautiful. Long strawberry blonde hair flowed haphazard in the grass, lips parted by the pinkness of her tongue, eye’s closed against the world, as she lay in some secret place of her own.
My hands trembled as she guided my fingers over the softness of her slim body. Her nipples grew, swelled into pencil rubbers, while she rolled them beneath my palms. The mud had all but gone as it slithered down the sides of her body, and collected into patches on her open dress.
“Will,” she hushed.
I blushed at the look she gave me. “Yes,” I stuttered.
“Hold my nipples.” She pressed the right one between her finger and thumb. “Like this, Will.” As I gazed in amazement, she rubbed herself.
Diane’s hands captured mine and, with the most delicate touch, they led me to her breasts. Her eyes held me, and as my fingertips closed around her buds, she released a long sigh and her eyelids softly closed.
“That’s the way, Will. Squeeze them gently as you pull on them.” Her eyes opened for a brief moment before she groaned.
She asked me to cup her breasts and press them together. “That’s good. Your touch is so tender.” She gave me a reassuring smile. “Yes,” the dear girl sighed. “Keep doing it, don’t stop.”