I met Chelsea at university. We were both in the Business School, and we shared several classes, including accounting. She was pretty, shapely, confident and she presented herself well. I wouldn't have tried to ask for a date had she not been so friendly. I eventually decided she wanted me to ask her, so I did. It took her most of our first year to train me to function socially to her satisfaction, and by the mid-point of our second year we were sleeping together regularly. By the time of our graduation, we were considered to be a couple; everyone, including myself, assumed we would eventually get married.
However, when it came to looking for a job, I decided to go blue-collar. I always loved working with my hands and there will always be a need for skilled tradesmen, so I went for a plumbing apprenticeship. Chelsea was rather quiet about it as she became involved in her father's business, but we shared a flat, still. She went travelling with her family during the summer; I kept working and studying for the various professional qualifications I would need.
When she returned, I took her out for a meal, intending to 'pop the question', but I never got the chance.
"Still insisting on working with your hands?"
"You know I've always liked it; I'm happier doing that than pushing paper in an office. I'll have my own business one day."
She snorted. "In case you haven't worked it out, there's no way I'll consider spending my life with a plumber."
She made it clear – give up my choice of occupation, or get out of her life ... and our flat.
I made my choice ... and we went our separate ways.
My mother made no comment except to assure me I was welcome in my old room, and I was back to living with my parents. Twenty-two years old, a business school graduate ... and living at home.
But I loved my job. Even the smell of hot solder and flux; I was one who never really liked the instant push-fit type fittings. There was something... elemental ... about the blow-torch, copper pipe and solder.
Living at home, I often ended up repairing odd items for my mother – Dad was slow to notice when a fitting was loose or broken. I didn't mind; I enjoyed it and it was something to fill my time. I didn't date, you see. My relationship with Chelsea had given me some confidence about certain aspects of, well, being a boyfriend, but not the initial approach and I didn't go many places where I might have met girls around my own age that I might have been interested in.
One day, I got in from College – day release, you see – a business degree doesn't qualify anyone as a tradesman; examinations had to be passed. One day a week I spent in college, learning about the science behind my chosen trade, and the legalities; how things should be done in theory, and why. I found Mum and our neighbour sitting at the kitchen table. Miss Atkins had always seemed to be old to me, though I later found out she was younger than my mother; she had grey hair – that sort of soft, light, uniform grey you see sometimes, not what you'd call 'iron grey' – cut short and I couldn't remember it ever being anything except grey. It didn't help she wore really thick-rimmed black-framed glasses and her clothing was invariably severe, mannish business suits. I didn't know much about her, I just gathered she was a P.A. to the managing director of a local business.
"Hi, Mum. Good afternoon, Miss Atkins."
They smiled. "Sit with us a minute," Mum said, "Miss Atkins has a problem. Would you mind seeing if you can do something about an overflow that's dribbling?"
I sat and Mum poured me a cup of tea, as usual putting milk in – a lot of milk – before I could say I'd rather drink it black. I sighed inwardly and sipped at it.
"I'll happily have a look," I said, "it shouldn't be a big deal. Saturday morning suit you?"
When I got there Saturday morning, I got a surprise; she was in jeans and a t-shirt. For the first time I looked at her as a woman. Those glasses were a distraction, though.
It only took half an hour or so to replace the washer in the header-tank ball-valve and most of that was getting it apart as it looked as though it hadn't been touched since the house was built. I was grubby and sweaty from wrestling with it in the loft space.
"How much do I owe you?" The look of gratitude in her expression had been payment enough and I waved it off.
"Just being a good neighbour," I smiled.
"At least let me make you a cup of coffee."
It would have been rude to refuse; besides, what did I have to go home to? Text books? The computer? Being nagged by Mum to go out and meet a girl? Or, worse, to find that some 'suitable' young woman was keeping her company so I could be introduced?
It was good coffee and we had a very enjoyable chat. I found we had quite a lot in common – similar tastes in music and food, she liked art which I didn't know much about but I told her I played with black-and-white photography. Well, I had before meeting Chelsea; all my gear had been packed away in my room since starting uni.
The morning was mostly gone before I stood to leave; I glanced round the kitchen.
"Your tap is dripping," I commented.
She shrugged. "Several of my taps are dripping ... I've sort of got used to it."
"If you like..." I paused, "I could come and service them next weekend."
"Thank you," she said, "I'd like that, if you don't mind giving up your Saturday morning."
We were standing quite close and she placed a hand on my neck and pulled me gently down to kiss me. I think it was meant as a 'thank you' gesture. I'd only ever kissed one other person on the lips – Chelsea – and I hadn't much experience for comparison.
Her lips were soft and yielding and I swiped my tongue along her lips. She tasted sweet with a hint of coffee as her lips parted and our tongues tentatively touched. It wasn't a 'lets rip our clothes off and fuck like rabbits' sort of kiss, but it was ... sensual. Incredibly sensual. When I pulled away, her eyes were closed and she was breathing a little heavily.
"I..." I croaked, and cleared my throat, "I'd better be going..."
"Do it again..." she whispered looking up at me. Her eyes were blue; a deep, intense blue.
I dipped my head and our lips met again. The second time – impossibly – was even better.
"Next Saturday ... I'll go through the house..." I said.
"I'll make lunch for you if you won't take money."
I was distracted all week, but managed to avoid any disasters. All I could think of were those kisses. How could a kiss make more of an impression than two years of sex with Chelsea?
I was there quite early Saturday morning, which was quite as well. Her plumbing had clearly had no attention for years and I had a struggle dismantling the taps, but after cleaning up and applying a little silicone grease and new tap-washers and re-cutting the valve seats, she had no leaky taps and, moreover, she had taps that worked smoothly and easily. Ten taps and two toilet ball-valve washers took me three hours.
"I need a shower," I commented.
"I'd offer mine," she said, "but you'll want to change into clean clothes. Lunch'll be ready at one."
I slipped next door, showered thoroughly and dressed carefully. Mum knew where I was going – I told her I was being fed in thanks for my efforts.
She was a great cook. She told me it was chicken paprikash; all I know was it was delicious. Fortunately she appeared happy that I had a second helping. Dessert was cheesecake – a favourite of mine; I wondered if she'd asked mum about my likes and dislikes. It seemed likely.
"I wondered..." she seemed nervous.
"I have an old recording of Artur Rubenstein playing Grieg's A minor Piano Concerto. I prefer it to Leif Ove Andsnes, though he's very good. I wondered if you'd like to hear it with me?"
I was happy for anything that would keep me there a little longer.
She carefully placed the LP on what looked like a high-end turntable and used a cleaning pad. She sat beside me; when the music started I was captivated. I wouldn't like to judge the relative talents of the top soloists who have played the piece, but it was wonderful. As it ended, I found that we were pressed together and it seemed natural to place my arm round her shoulders. She looked up at me and our lips were drawn together again. I'd longed all week to kiss her again and it was everything I remembered, everything I'd hoped for and we were – I was – lost in that kiss for an eternity.
She sighed as the kiss ended. "Oh, Jimmy ... thank you..."
"I don't know your name, and here I am kissing you," I said.
"My name is Patricia."
I removed those hideous glasses from her face. Those blue eyes gazed up at me. She was pretty. No. Let me say that again. She was beautiful. When I wasn't looking at her grey hair, or those business suits or distracted by those glasses, she was beautiful. How can I describe her face? Oval ... yes, but with a slightly pointed chin. Full, generous lips, a straight nose, and those eyes. Her ears were small and were framed by her short hair. I traced the outline of one with my finger and she sighed again.
"I think ... you could do anything you like with me at this moment," she said.
So I kissed her again.
I admit it was tempting, but I didn't drag her immediately up to her bedroom. I'm not that sort of guy. I mean ... from what you've read ... what would you have expected of me?
"If you mean that ... I'll call you Patty," I said.
Her eyebrows rose. "Oh ... okay."
"And I'd like to take you out to dinner next week."
"I'd like that."
"Have you anything between those business suits and jeans to wear?"
She giggled. "No, but I'll buy something."
"And, Patty ... can you get some contacts, or wire-framed glasses? I'm sorry, but those are really ugly."
"Can I have another of those kisses?"
"If you promise to go to the opticians on Monday."
I didn't want to wait ... Those kisses only got better.
I worried about telling my mother what I was doing, dating our neighbour, but thought I best to be honest. I was surprised; she wasn't exactly overjoyed, but she didn't make a fuss, just nodded her head, then said, "She's not as old as she looks."
I didn't pursue that at the time.
When I knocked on the door, I didn't really expect what I saw. I can't describe the dress, except it was flowery and knee-length. More to the point, apart from her grey hair, she'd have passed for under thirty. The dress didn't reveal much, but it did suggest she had a shape. I'd suspected that from the jeans and t-shirt anyway. What I could see of her legs was most encouraging too. She was wearing some glasses that were hardly noticeable.
"You look lovely!" I hope I didn't sound surprised and I really was sincere.
She smiled and bobbed a little curtsey. "Thank you, kind sir."
"I'm almost ashamed to let you in my car," I said; it was an elderly, small Datsun (Nissan). It had served me well, but it had seen better days.
"I really don't mind," she said, "we could take mine, but I think I'd rather go in yours."
I took her to a quiet gastro-pub in Derbyshire. Actually, they'd probably be apoplectic at that description as it's called a hotel. I won't name it, but it's in a village called Ashford-in-the-Water.
They fed us very well, I have to say. A little too well, as we were both, as the saying is, 'stuffed to the gills' and rather sluggish as we set off for home.
"Will you come in?"
Aren't they the words any man wants to hear after a date? I was regretting eating so enthusiastically, though, and I hesitated.
That gave me a jolt. I certainly didn't want to disappoint her, so I nodded, got out as quickly as I could and went round to her door in time to hold it for her. She took my left hand as I locked the car and we walked to the house hand in hand.
Inside, she turned to me and we moved together to hold each other. It just ... felt ... right. When we kissed, I didn't want to stop, but I was certainly flagging a bit.
"Will you ... come to bed with me?" There was a definite appeal in her voice.
"Yes, I ... I'd love to," I said.
We undressed in her room. I might have expected to be embarrassed. Had I known what I later discovered, I'd have expected her to be embarrassed, but somehow, it just seemed ... natural. We stood and looked at each other. I liked what I saw, and I think she did too. She was very nicely curved. I supposed her breasts (correctly) to be a B cup and her nipples were erect.
"Beautiful..." I breathed and ... she blushed. All over. I approached her and placed my hands on her hips, sliding them up her sides - she was ticklish and giggled – and brushed those nipples with my thumbs, producing a gasp.
Moving to the bed, we lay on our sides, face to face and went back to kissing. Now my relationship with Chelsea was not ... adventurous. She'd opposed the idea of oral sex, and I'd never pushed the issue. Intercourse was limited to three positions (which I suppose is better than one) and any knowledge I had of more was from books or the internet. I wasn't opposed to trying out some ideas, though, just a little worried about upsetting Patty.
The first thing I tried was sucking her nipples. She seemed to like that; I certainly did and I carried on for quite a while; still a little sluggish from our meal. Moving down the bed produced a weak protest; I wasn't sure if it was because I'd abandoned her nipples or the direction I was moving, but I kept going. I don't know why we get so uptight about natural body odours ... Patty smelt wonderful. I didn't hesitate to taste her and she sort of squeaked. Both her hands held my head in place. I tried everything I could remember, licking, flicking my tongue, fluttering it ... and I was rather proud of myself when she orgasmed. By that time I was ... fairly ready myself and slid up to cover her. Despite my face being covered with her juices, she pulled my head down to kiss me again before positioning me to enter her. As I pushed, I had a momentary awareness of an obstruction before she pushed against me and winced.
I stopped moving. "Are you okay?"
"Yes ... just stay like that for a minute..."
It hadn't occurred to me she might be a virgin.
She was very tight and, despite the shock I'd just had, I was pretty excited and I came too very quickly. I went to roll off, but she hooked her leg behind me and followed, so we were again face to face. I was asleep long before I dropped out of her.
We were woken by the her alarm. She was out of my arms and out of bed before I was fully awake.
"Your mother gave me some clothes for you, so you don't need to go home before work," she informed me, and left the room.
Puzzled, I climbed out of bed and tracked her to the bathroom. I entered the shower behind her; she looked round and her expression was rather odd. Later, I thought it was probably sadness. But we washed each other and I, at least, enjoyed it, but that was it.
She offered to cook me a breakfast, but I still wasn't hungry from the previous night and settled for toast and orange juice.
We kissed before I left for work. It was nice, but there was something missing.
I was distracted all day, barely managing to avoid serious mistakes. The tradesman I was working for kept shaking his head. "I don't know what's the matter with you lately," he commented, "but you'd better get your finger out, mate."
I didn't go straight home. How could I? I went next door to see Patty, who stood in the doorway when she answered my knock. Her body language was saying, 'don't come in'.
"Can I not talk to you?"
With obvious reluctance, she stood aside and let me in; she led the way to the kitchen and fussed about filling and putting the kettle on to boil for tea.
"What's the matter, Patty?"
She looked round, but the kettle boiled and she fussed with spooning tea in the pot and pouring on the water. She'd obviously picked up on my preferences, because she poured a mug of tea – no milk – and placed it in front of me. I could smell the fragrance of Bergamot; it was Earl Grey. She sat opposite me with her own mug.
"Do you know how old I am?"
I shook my head. "I don't really care," I said.
"I'm thirty-six," she said, watching me carefully.
She was younger than I thought.
"My hair started going grey in my teens," she said, "and I didn't have much of a figure, so the boys ignored me. I focussed my life on my career in business administration and even when I got a figure, nobody noticed me. Then ... you ... noticed me. I thought it would be nice to see what it would be like to ... be with ... a man. You made it a wonderful experience, but I was unfair to you. I am too old for you to be serious about, so I'm saying, 'no more, Jimmy'. I used you, and I'm sorry, but there's no future for us."
I walked away from the house, numb, and wordless. When I entered my home, my mother met me and drew me into a hug without saying a word; it was a little comforting, but I went to my room to brood.
I tried ... I really tried to put her out of my mind. I succeeded in concentrating on work and study, but not in forgetting her. I saw her, if anything, more often, coming and going from her house. She'd relaxed her dress style, and was presenting to the world something of the beauty I'd seen in her.
Was it unfair of me to experience a surge of jealousy when I saw a smart car draw up outside her house? When I watched a be-suited gentleman escort her to the BMW/Audi/Mercedes or whatever? If it was, then tough; because I did. I can't be blamed for my dreams, can I? Because I dreamed of her ... with terrible regularity.
Months passed and Spring was, well, springing when I got a call from Chelsea. Could we meet? I agreed to meet her in the Winter Gardens Saturday afternoon and was sitting there with a paper cup of coffee when she arrived. We spent half an hour or so in trivia; she brought me up to date with a few friends who were still in her circle. I told her a little about the progress I was making towards being a qualified tradesman.
Then there was a hiatus in the conversation before she took a deep breath.
"I need to say I'm sorry, Jimmy. I was cruel and unthinking and unfair."
I looked at her for a minute or so. I thought she was sincere.
"I forgive you," I said. "I'm sorry I couldn't be what you wanted."
She smiled brilliantly, "Can we try again, Jimmy?"
But her face fell at my next words. "No, I don't think so, Chelsea. I really don't resent you, but we're too far apart."
"But ... I don't mind if you continue your way..." She looked really unhappy.
"I'm sorry, Chelsea, I really am; but I don't think we were ever in love. We might have made a go of it, but I met someone I really want to be with. Even if it doesn't happen, I experienced something special and nothing less will do."
Her control slipped then and she started to cry. I put my arm round her and held her gently until she'd finished, then released her. "I'm really sorry, Chelsea, but I'm going now. I hope you can be happy."