This is a work of fiction; characters and events entirely made up. However, a friend of mine had his wife walk out on him taking half his assets, just like Ellen and Alex. The practice in parts of the third world of selling young women is abhorrent, but forced on parents by extreme poverty. Most end up in the sex industry, but a few find a better life, like Sofia.
They do say the husband/wife/partner is always the last to know. Okay, maybe I should have been paying more attention, but when I retired, the day my financial arrangements for pension and so on were finalised, it came as a total shock when my wife announced, "I want a divorce."
Our sex life had petered out several years previously and I didn't make an issue of it, or even think much of it. It never occurred to me she'd been having an affair. If it had, I would never have thought it would be a lawyer. Now, there are some decent lawyers. I know some ... well, a few ... well ... two actually. He'd set her up to hold out until I retired to maximise my pension, because she'd be getting half, and half the matrimonial home.
As it happens, one decent lawyer I know is actually my best friend. I know, I know ... but he really is honest. I think after sixty years (we met in infant school) I'd know if he was just on the make. Anyway ... he made sure that when she retired a few months after me, that I got half of her retirement benefits. It wasn't actually a break even, but I didn't come out of it too badly. We had a pretty decent house, which sold easily, as well, so I ended up in a small terrace in Crookes (one of the nicer parts of Sheffield, if you don't mind students which we have in abundance) and a certain amount of money. I'm pretty low maintenance, as well, so didn't need a lot of money to live on.
I was tempted to buy a motorbike, which I'd given up shortly after our marriage, but put it off. I had the impulse to go and see something of the ancient world. I wanted to visit Greece and I'd heard that the Balkans could provide an interesting and economical holiday. There's a lot of history in the Balkans. It was true. I had a very interesting holiday. It was also quite economical, though not as economical as I intended, because I brought back a souvenir, which is what this tale is about.
I flew (on a highly discounted ticket) into Athens and rented a car. I'm not going to give an account of the journey, because that's not the point of the story, but I drove up the east of Greece, because I wanted to read the inscription at Thermopylae... "Go, tell the Spartans, passers by ... that here the three hundred lie, obedient to their laws. The Athenians never came." Anyway, I passed through Thessaloniki and generally enjoyed a leisurely tour up into the mountains of Bulgaria, where I promptly got lost.
When I found a tiny farm, I stopped to ask the way to somewhere I could buy diesel and get a bed for the night. The farmer had a few ... very few ... words of English, and I had a Bulgarian phrase book, which would have been more help if he'd spoken ordinary Bulgarian, but with a smattering of Greek, a few words of Bulgarian, English and gestures, he conveyed the information that there was a town a few miles away. He then called his wife and there ensued a a gabble of incomprehensible words. I'm not sure if it was a discussion or an argument, but it ended with further shouting, which produced a younger man and a girl I later found was eighteen. Apparently, she would normally have been married several years earlier, but there were no takers which is really quite amazing. I didn't get all the details at the time. I didn't get any details at the time. What I got went something like this...
"Need," the man said, making that finger rubbing gesture that universally conveys 'money', "for ... her," pointing at the girl. I was slow on the uptake; I'm sure you've seen where this was going. I thought he was just begging, but I was quite wrong. In fact, he was a proud man, (by his own lights anyway) and wouldn't have taken money for no value.
I shrugged. "How much?" I've always been a sucker for a sob story, especially when it concerns a young woman. I was thinking he needed a few Euros for medical care or something. I dug out my wallet and as luck would have it, the first note I pulled out was a hundred. The farmer pointed at it and held up his hand, five fingers spread. He wanted five hundred Euros? I looked at the man and (I assume) his son, both of whom looked a lot stronger than me and were looking (I thought) rather unfriendly. My reaction, as a devout coward, was to dig on my wallet and produce another four notes of the same denomination and hand them over.
That resulted in another gabble; some tears from the older woman, a handshake ... and the girl walked over to me and knelt in front of me. I still wasn't at all sure what was going on, but let's say I was beginning to get an inkling. I backed out of the house, and the girl got to her feet and followed me out to the car. She pointed at herself, at me, and at the car and shrugged. I'd bought her. I don't believe in slavery! I'd bought a teenage girl. It's just as well she was with me, though, I'd never have found the town on my own. The communication was limited, but I did find out her name, Sofia. I always did like that name.
I filled up with diesel and we investigated the inn, which was incredibly cheap though we came away with itchy bites and one or two passengers. But the main memory is of the room itself, which boasted but one, double bed. While I tried to protest, it became clear I wasn't going to get anywhere and Sofia didn't seem bothered. The less said about the facilities, the better. There was no bath, not one I was prepared to use, anyway and the bathroom was like a fridge. The inn did a pretty good meal, a sort of stew, with bread and a bottle of very acceptable red wine. Sofia got rather giggly; I don't think she'd had wine before.
At bedtime, I stripped to t-shirt and boxers, my usual bed-time attire except when I sleep nude. Sofia, though, after several minutes cogitation, just ... stripped. Now I'm sure some out there are thinking 'Woo ... excellent' or something of the sort. I just nearly had a panic attack. There I was, sixty five (going on sixty-six) about to climb into bed with a slim and lovely, dark-haired, dark eyed nymph who I was reasonably certain was a virgin – which was later confirmed...
It was not a comfortable night. I was awake for a lot of it, very aware of the young woman beside me. The young, nude, nubile and lovely young woman beside me ... who was sleeping like a baby.
They gave us a very satisfactory breakfast and we got on the road as soon as possible. I was in a quandary. I felt responsible for the girl. If I just gave her some money and set her loose, I was pretty sure she'd end up in the sex trade, which is about the only option for a girl in her position. On the other hand, she had no papers of any sort. If I was going to take her home, I was going to have to do something about that. It was only about a hundred miles to Sofia (the place) but it took us all day. Sofia (the girl) was watching, fascinated, the scenery we were passing. Later, once we were able to communicate, she told me she'd never been further from home than the town we'd stayed in the first night. As it was, I tried to start her learning English and she did learn a few nouns and verbs as we drove.
The hotel we stayed in in Sofia offered us what I'd call a 'family room' – a large moderately uncomfortable double bed, a couch that served as a single, and a trundle bed under the couch. But it had a shower that worked. She'd never had a shower, and I don't think she'd ever used shampoo. She was amazed at the sweet-scented shower gel and shampoo and stayed under the shower for an inordinate amount of time. I need to say, here, that even before the shower she didn't smell bad ... afterwards, well...
When I emerged from the shower (which ran cold just as I was finishing) she was ensconced in the double bed. I ... started to make up the couch. That process was interrupted by a gabble of incomprehensible words from Sofia. I hadn't any idea what she was saying, but it was clear she was upset. After a while, I gathered I was expected to share the double bed with her. Now, don't get me wrong, here, I'm definitely hetero, and although my libido isn't what it was, I had no problem seeing her as desirable. I did have a problem with what I saw as cradle-snatching. To put it mildly. The reason I was not wanting to share the bed with Sofia was ... I wanted her. Badly.
I could not stand her crying; I put the sheets away, climbed into bed beside her and turned out the light. Only to have a slim, naked girl mould herself to my side. Instant boner. The hardest boner I'd had in ... well, years. Lots of years. But I wasn't about to start the process of becoming a father right then. I couldn't resist running my hands over her, though. The farm must have been tough; she was obviously both fit and strong, just not strong enough to do a man's job on the farm. Physically, apart from her age. I'd say she was exactly what I would have described as my ideal woman. Actually, slim isn't quite right, she was too solidly built and most of it muscle. But she had smallish breasts, just as I like them. Taut they were and supported by muscle so they stood high and proud on her chest. When I brushed a nipple it stood out stiff and hard and she groaned.
I kissed her. I don't think she had any experience of that, but she caught on quickly. Oh, but it was delicious. By that point my hands were on autopilot exploring her curves. When I slid a finger between her labia she jerked as though she'd had an electric shock, then moaned and moved against me. She wasn't, thankfully, noisy; when her orgasm hit she went rigid and groaned, then went limp for a few moments before plastering herself against me again and getting back to kissing me. Her hands wandered, then, and found my ... rigid member. Not only was it harder than I could remember it being, it also was lasting. And lasting. When she took hold of me, it was exquisite. Now, her hands were not soft; she was a farm girl, but she was gentle and fascinated by that portion of my anatomy. I hadn't come that quickly in years, either. Not having prepared, I had to get up and clean up so as not to sleep in wet, slimy sheets...
When I got back to bed, she was all set to go again...
Bureaucracy in the Balkans is like ... bureaucracy anywhere, times ten. Or maybe twenty, or even fifty. The difference is, in England, you have to fight your way through it and produce all the right paper work, fill in all the right forms and tick all the boxes. In Bulgaria, you have to buy your way through it. It took a week, but at the end of it, at a cost of just over a thousand Euros, she had a birth certificate and a passport, both of which were fictions, though issued with all due forms. She was legal.
I also had a supply of condoms, purchased with both Euros and guilt. I was pretty sure I was going to need them sooner rather than later and I was right.
I gave up on my tour. Well, not exactly. What I did was take a more direct route back to Athens than I intended. From Sofia, we drove to Skopje in Macedonia (working on our English) and found a hotel for the night.
As we got ready for bed again, she stood, quite naked and said, "Am ... I ... ugly?"
I shook my head. "No, not at all. You are beautiful."
I think she understood the meaning, but she cocked her head and looked me in the eye, "then ... why you not ... pravya lyubov."
In case you can't work it out (I had to look it up) it means 'make love'. I'd already resigned by that point that it was going to happen, hence the condoms; otherwise I wouldn't have bought them.
"Okay," I said, I think the expression is universal. Her eyes lit up and she smiled. I swear, she could have been an angel in human form; that smile lit up the room. I had to keep her away from the Arctic, she'd contribute to Global Warming. I stripped off my two items of clothing and waved her to the bed. I set out to use every bit of my experience and knowledge of anatomy to try to make it a very special experience for her. We started with kissing, but I kissed my way round her body before fastening my lips on her nipples. It wasn't any ordeal for me; my word no. When I got to her centre – I wasn't in any hurry – she was wet and I tasted her. She tasted musky and a little sweet. I just loved it. I flicked her clit with my tongue and she ... exploded. I rolled on a condom and slid into her while she was still quivering. Her hymen went easily – I'm not sure she noticed. But, oh, she was tight. She came twice more before me and I found my completion in something far more intense than anything I'd experienced before.
I pulled out of her and dropped the condom on the floor. When I turned back to her, she pressed against me, murmuring...
"Blagodarya. Az te obicham." ('Thank you ... I love you.' not that I understood at the time)
We slept; I, at least, utterly content.
From Skopje, we drove to Thessaloniki. Before bed, I got on the internet and found a couple of seats to fly back to Manchester, but then we bathed each other with enormous pleasure, went to bed and made love. I had no trouble keeping an erection, but once she'd had a couple of orgasms I didn't try to finish myself. From Thessaloniki, we went to Larisa, then to Athens where we had to occupy ourselves for three days.
What do you do in a city like Athens, when you're with a sweet, innocent farm-girl who's hardly left the farm all her life? Well, what I did was take her shopping. We'd bought a few things in Sofia (the place) but ... some things are embarrassing, even when you're as old as me and you've been married. It didn't help that I couldn't speak the local language, and Sofia were only just beginning to communicate. She was making great strides in that by the time we got to Athens, by the way, and despite my own linguistic incompetence I couldn't avoid picking up the odd word of Bulgarian. Mostly words like 'Az te obicham'.
I thought I might have a solution in Athens, though.
I think she must have been the store manager, or maybe assistant manager. She was a matronly woman, with a kind face, and more to the point she spoke good English and told me her name was Agafiya. I explained that 'the young lady' – Sofia – needed under-clothes.
"Nice ones," I said, "that fit and are comfortable. No itchy stuff."
She nodded, though with what I'd call a knowing smile. "But ... if they look nice too, that's a bonus, yes?"
I smiled too, though shaking my head. "As long as she's pleased with them."
"She isn't Greek, though, is she?"
"No, she's from Bulgaria. But she'll be travelling to England with me."
"Ah! Very good. I have an assistant..." she called to a young woman across the store. "Maria!"
Maria hurried across. "Maria..."
I have a few words of Greek, but very few and there was no way I could follow their conversation, but Maria turned to Sofia, spoke to her and waved in the direction of the interior of the store.
Sofia turned to me, looking worried. "Go," I said, "I will come back for you."
She nodded, reluctantly, and followed Maria.
I handed Agafiya a card with my mobile number on it. "I have some other shopping to do," I explained. "When Sofia is ready I will come back and collect her. And pay, I expect."
She laughed. "Do not hurry," she said, "I think she may be some time."
I shrugged ruefully, and left.
I wanted to buy a case and there was another matter, I realised. It was, maybe ... I frowned, trying to work it out. Eighteen days since I ... acquired ... Sofia. Something was due; she'd definitely not had a period since we met, so feminine hygiene was on the list.
Even so, I was waiting a long time in the café. How can it take so long for women to buy under-clothes? My phone buzzed, and I crossed the street to collect Sofia and pay for her purchases. She was waiting by the counter, chatting in animated Bulgarian with Maria. I handed my Visa card to Agafiya. I took a deep breath and sighed when I saw the figure, but paid up. I tucked the card away and turned to Sofia, who suddenly launched herself at me, flung her arms round my neck and fastening her lips on mine in a totally searing kiss. She'd learned a lot in a couple of weeks and I went a little weak at the knees.
Agafiya laughed at me, "That's only the first instalment," she said.
I smiled back at her. "Thank you for your help," I said, holding out my hand.
She took it and held it firmly, holding my eyes with hers.
"Kyrie..." (that's a sort of generic term of respect – 'lord' or 'sir'). "I think you are a kind man. She is your slave. I do not mean that badly. She is devoted to you already and that will only grow ... I ... it's none of my business, but, please, cherish her."
I could feel the intensity, the sincerity behind her words. "Thank you," I said, "I will."
We walked back to the hotel, Sofia practically skipping beside me with excitement. Before we got there, however, we passed a restaurant and as it was getting on for two pm my stomach was telling me it was lunch-time. The cuisine at the hotel was ... well, it was food, but not very exciting, so we turned in to the restaurant. At least, we sat at a table outside. We made friends with the waiter, Dion, who brought us a carafe of wine – made in the restaurant – which was delicious. So were the nibbles, and the lamb dish ... we were there all afternoon and by the time we got up to go, it was too late to do any more shopping ... and I felt as though I wouldn't need more food for a week.
Back in our room, she pulled me into the bathroom, undressed me and pointed me to the shower. I'd got the water about right when she joined me and began to wash me very thoroughly. When she finished, I couldn't refuse to return the favour. I might have thought she was wanting to make love, but she managed somehow to keep it sensual without indicating she was ready for intercourse. That was great – I was feeling pretty sluggish after the meal and I'd had more sex in the previous week than in the previous ten years.
Anyway, we dried each other off and leading me back into our room, she pushed me into a chair before disappearing back into the bathroom. I suppose I should have expected that she'd want to show off her purchases, but I hadn't. She treated me (and that's exactly the right adjective) to a lingerie fashion show. Agafiya and Maria had done an excellent job. The bra-and-pantie sets were clearly well-fitting in materials that felt smooth and silky to touch. Not particularly revealing, but none-the-less sexy. Then she came out in – I think they call it a peignoir. She took my breath away. Lastly, she came out naked, with something in her hand. Kneeling in front of me, she held out her hand to give me a collar. Elegant, embroidered ... but still, a collar, with a buckle and a D-ring.
I'm not fond of a number of common modern expressions, but one hit the spot for me then. It was for me a 'WTF' moment. I just looked at her. Okay, I'd paid money to her family. I'd forked out more – a lot more – in palm-greasing to get her travel documents, and I'd paid out for clothing, but I never thought of it in terms of buying her.
"Molya," she said, "please. You ... give me ... much. I have ... nothing ... only ... self."
I was frozen. She looked up at me, her expression gradually changing to anxiety and distress. I knew enough that I had to act or I'd have a very unhappy young woman to deal with. There was no way I could argue about it. I told myself that once we could communicate in a more comprehensive way, I could emancipate her. So, I opened the collar and buckled it snugly round her throat.
"Blagodarya vi, sobstvenik. Thank you, Master." her expression lightened and it was like the sun coming out. She bent and kissed my feet.
I had a slave.
It's roughly two thousand miles from Athens to Manchester; Athens is two hours ahead when we're on GMT. Now I may have got the figures wrong, because I haven't done all that much travelling and time-zones really mess me up. Anyway, we took off just before one in the afternoon, local time, landing just after three pm ... local time in Manchester. It was long. Even had the seat been comfortable, even had I been able to sleep, Sofia wouldn't have let me. Did I mention she had strong hands? She almost crushed my right hand on take off and climb-out, and didn't let it go for four hours. When she needed the loo, I had to go too. The stewardess (or whatever they call themselves these days ... flight attendant?) looked suspicious. I shrugged.
"She's scared. She's never been close to an aircraft before, let alone flown in one. You can go in and hold her hand if you like."
I got a slight smile for that. Emboldened, pretty sure what she'd been wondering I added, "besides, I'm too old and stiff for the gymnastics required."
That got an actual laugh. "Pass," she said, "I don't really mind anyway. It happens all the time."
It was cramped. Make that very cramped. I'd heard that people do manage to have sex in airliner toilets, but how? That I can't guess. We both managed to relieve our bladders, and while our hands did separate, we couldn't have stopped touching if we'd tried. That toilet just was never intended for more than one person.
We landed a little late and of course had to wait for luggage. Immigration gave Sofia a hard time, despite my insistence she was with me and despite her EU passport, but eventually we found our way to the station, where we just missed a train and had to wait forty-five minutes for another. Two trains an hour, and they run at fifty-five and eleven minutes past the hour. How logical is that?
Sofia was obviously very frayed by this time, but the train-ride is through some pleasant scenery (until you enter the tunnel, that is) and she was glued to the window. When we got to the tunnel, she turned to me and tucked herself under my arm, holding me tight. The approach to Sheffield is mixed, but there's quite a lot of green ... she just glanced out and pressed against me again.
I was tired, and I was sure Sofia was drained by the sheer tension of travelling and by all the new experiences, so I thought a taxi completely justified. I showed her into my little house at half-past six. Being November, it was dark and cold, despite my having left the heating on a maintenance programme. I turned it up, put the kettle on and showed her round. It's a small house and old, but it's clean, dry and comfortable. Certainly it's better than some of the hotels we stayed in.
I got a loaf of bread out of the freezer for the next day and called out for pizza. You'd think it was a gourmet meal the way Sofia responded, but afterwards she became upset; the moment I'd been expecting since Athens had arrived. Fortunately, I still had the supplies. That was the first night she wore anything to bed other than her birthday suit, but I was still happy to have her company in bed.