The first of September.
A not inconsequential date, or at least it had not been so in the past.
Even as recently as just a year ago, I would have been industriously finalising the details of the programme for the upcoming lectures and the timetable for the academic year that lay ahead. Oftentimes this would entail my managing those inevitable last-minute crises that somehow cannot be avoided, and generally doing so with such style and elan that, in all but the most exceptional of cases, it had become a rather routine and pedestrian matter for me, rarely involving more than a moment's reflection before I was able to deploy the correct solution. Though I was not the head of the department – Heavens forfend! – my skills of habit and experience were such that, in return for my unofficial assistance, I was indulged with a small degree of flexibility in the performance of my departmental duties, the consequence of which was an enhanced ability to attend more seminars than most, representing my department and my university with greater frequency than did my colleagues.
Not so, this year.
I was, rather, still at home, it was just after 11am, breakfast had been concluded, chores attended to, and I was smoking my first pipe of the day, browsing my bookshelves but somehow managing to see my books without any of them commanding sufficient of my attention to cause me to draw one down and begin reading.
First the jar of organic sun-dried tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil, and now this.
Once more I found myself reflecting and questioning the notion that this was what my retirement was becoming, thankful in no small part to the early warning that Trudi and Eleska had given me of the dangers and the pitfalls that I might face if I were to allow such lassitude to endure. As they had so keenly observed, some part of my self-identity came from the performance of the role of the tutor. Though it was possible that I might have been unconscious of this myself, it was perhaps more true to say that having spent so much of my time in the world of teaching, I therefore no longer noticed that world beyond unless my attention were specifically directed toward it.
Either way, it was undeniable that part of my self-identity was drawn from being a teacher, that I had been in danger of suffering psychiatric harm from no longer being a teacher and having my tutorial identity taken from me rather than by my own consent, and that I needed, at least for the present, to continue to teach in some capacity or another. That I had Trudi, probably Eleska, and quite probably Jemma too was more than enough to be considered a good and auspicious beginning, but again and again I kept wondering, were they enough?
Taking purely the issue of the pedagogic needs and my abilities or otherwise to meet those needs, in Trudi I considered that I had come upon a student whom I felt could achieve more than she had hithertofore, the difference between that which she had achieved and that which she might achieve being an issue of sufficiency of tutoring and encouragement. Although Trudi's grades were not in the least respect what I would have characterised as worrisome, there remained that space for improvement, and, from certain of her comments and insights, I had no lack of belief in her ability to fulfil that potential.
Eleska was a different student, not least in that, as a university student in her third year and with the necessity for making decisions as to her specialising for her dissertation, she presented with an altogether and substantially different set of needs to those of Trudi. Moreover, there was the matter of Eleska's self-perceived and perhaps not altogether mistaken belief that she needed to obtain a first if her career were to be what she hoped for, driving her to reach out to me for assistance and, no doubt, equally driving her to achieve her grade goals. Whilst Trudi's scholastic needs were a little unfamiliar to me, Eleska, as a bachelor-level student, had scholastic needs far more reflective of my recent teaching posts and, as such, somewhat easier for me to meet than were Trudi's. In short, though the intellectual disciplines at Eleska's level were higher than Trudi's, Eleska would, I considered, be less of a 'stretch' for me to teach.
With regard to Jemma, in some respects she fell between Trudi and Eleska in that much of her teaching needs would be shared with Trudi, but others, especially her interest in a possible career as a playwright, meant she would be as much of a 'stretch' as Eleska would be, albeit in a different direction.
Wryly I also noted, in passing, that given something of her behaviour that I had seen thus far, she might well share more of Trudi's more 'interesting' characteristics than I might have otherwise imagined.
In considering this, I also came upon the realisation that it was not altogether outwith the realms of possibility that Jemma and Trudi might find ways in which they might 'gang up' on their poor tutor, much as the previous night's MMS pictures had suggested they might be more than amenable to.
Re-directing my thoughts back to the issue of Jemma's parting exchange concerning her interest in becoming a playwright, and possibly an actress too, I had to admit to myself that here I would be on less certain ground. Whilst I had taught literary criticism of plays as texts, I had had much less involvement in those creative aspects of certain and, dare one say it, 'trendy' undergraduate degrees wherein students express themselves in play-form. Thus, were Jemma's expresséd interest to come to fruition, I would discover myself to be engaged in a rather interesting diversion from my usual scholastic pedagogic endeavours.
Summarising for myself: in Trudi I had a straightforward case of tutoring a teenager through her pre-university studies and exams; in Jemma, there was a certain overlap with Trudi's studies, but with the novel addition of all things relating to being a playwright; and, in Eleska, there was more of the same insofar as undergraduate tutoring was concerned.
Was this, I asked myself, enough?
There were, after all, seven days in the week, Trudi took Thursday afternoons, Jemma would presumably take another, and Eleska might need one more, or even, perhaps, one evening per week.
This left a lot of time for me and my pipe, my books and premature senility.
Unconsciously, I shook my head.
I would need to find at least one or two others to fill my weeks, but where might I find what I recognised to be my hubristic notion of what I considered to be suitable students for a tutor of my standing? I had, after all, been more than fortunate in happening upon Trudi, and Eleska, and the potential Jemma, too; but I could not rely upon good fortune to round out my diary.
No, I must, rather, seek some more directed manner of acquiring one or two more students.
Briefly I pondered the possibility of asking Trudi if she had other classmates whom she thought might be interested in such a proposition, but then I remembered both her slight jealousy at being my only student (notwithstanding it was she who had talked to and suggested Jemma) and also that Trudi claimed she was not so popular at school and so would be unlikely to have sufficient classmates to whom she was close enough to venture such a proposition.
That route, then, was closed.
As too, I realised, was the idea of posting some kind of advertisement at my alma mater, it being rather too close to suggesting that I felt that the present tutors were not up to the task of teaching their students. Some of them, of course, were not, but the majority were, and it would not look well or be well taken to make such an overt announcement of my opinion, mistakenly as may or may not be the case.
Might I, then, post an advert online somewhere, perhaps on noticeboards such as Gumtree? Whilst conceptually such a move was certainly possible, and no doubt within my limited technical abilities, I had heard sufficient horror stories of the kinds of persons who replied to such adverts from my colleagues and even, on occasion, from my students, that I felt this was not a move I was comfortable to make.
Frustratingly, I discovered my mental peregrination had sufficed only to lead me back to the position from which I had begun, namely that I would most certainly benefit and enjoy the acquisition of one or two more students, but I remained bereft of any real and reliable means of acquiring same.
There being nothing else for it, I packed my pipe with a bowl of Condor green, lit it, and went out into the garden to tend to the lawn and its borders.
It was not until the clock had gained 3pm that Friday afternoon, and having done my duty by way of the garden, showered, and lunched lately and lightly, that I checked my phone and saw that I had missed a call from an 'unknown number'. For a moment I considered dismissing it as I usually dismissed such things, rationalising my potentially-construed rudeness that if it were important, then that person whose call I had missed would call back. If it were not sufficiently important for them to call back, I therefore remained convinced that I was all the better for not speaking to them in the first place.
However, this chain of reasoning was interrupted with the remembrance that Jemma had said she would speak to her parents concerning the possibility of me tutoring her. Knowing something of the impatience and impetuosity of youth, I conjectured that the missed call might thus have been from a prospective employer and it is never, really, worth annoying persons of such a stripe.
Dutifully, I therefore pressed the requisite buttons on my phone and, a moment later, was rewarded with the ringing tone.
At the fourth ring, an unfamiliar voice, male announced "Dakerson's?" the speaker seemingly a little harried from the pace at which he spoke.
"Ah, hello. My name is Simon Armitage; I believe you called this number?"
There was a moment's hesitation, followed by the metaphorical light-bulb of realisation. "Ah yes, Mr. Armitage. This is Peyton Sherrod, Jemma's father. I missed you earlier..."
"Indeed. I was attending to my garden, giving it something of a late-summer tidying," I offered by way of an explanation.
"I see. You met with Jemma yesterday for a lesson with Trudi Maclean?"
"Indeed. I understand Jemma had already broached with you the possibility of my tutoring her in English, and yesterday was a 'trial' by which she was to see whether or not she felt we could work together."
"She tells me you called it an 'interview'?" Peyton said with a warm note to his voice.
"Indeed so, for in many respects so it was. May I enquire, did I pass the 'interview'?" I asked, careful not to sound as eager as I was to secure my third student, and trusting my years of self-control and self-awareness were enough to prevent me from committing a faux pas in this regard.
Peyton chuckled again, his previous harried tone gone. Clearly, whatever he was employed in doing, he was making the time to discuss his daughter, something which spoke well of him as a parent. "I think you can say that, yes, you passed the interview, at least you passed Jemma's interview. She came home last night very impressed with you, and a little in awe too."
"Really?" I asked, not quite being able to reconcile her being awed with the images which she had shared through Trudi, though her complicity in their distribution remained to be ascertained.
"Really, Mr. Armitage. Now, what would you say to meeting with my wife and me on Monday to discuss this further?"
"Certainly. What time would be convenient?"
"Sometime around 7pm?"
"Certainly. And the address?"
Peyton waited for me to find a pen and paper, whereupon I took down a note of where the Sherrod's lived, the street being one of the better though not the best streets in Grangemouth, a step down, perhaps, from the Maclean household.
"Do you need me to bring my papers with me?" I asked.
"I have an up-to-date Full Disclosure with regards to working with children," I explained.
"Ah! Well then, please, bring them with you. Honestly, I won't know what to look at, but it's comforting to know you've the papers and the honesty to mention them. So, then. Thank you for your time, Mr. Armitage, and we shall see you Monday evening."
"Indeed. Goodbye Mr. Sherrod."
And the line went dead, leaving me with the prospect of a secondary 'interview' which, should it and its attendant negotiations prove successful, would mean that I would indeed have succeeded in securing myself a second – or was that a third? – student by the beginning of the week. Feeling more than a little satisfied with the manner in which my retirement was developing into something altogether more diverting than endless time to read those texts I wanted to read rather than those required that I might be able to teach them, I poured myself a glass of JW Green and settled down to some John Buchan. It was thirty-nine steps of arrant nonsense, as my own professor had once described it to me many years ago, but it was also admirably diverting and only likely to take me an evening to read for perhaps the thirtieth or so time.
Who was that knocking on the door?
I turned over, fumbled for my clock, and turned it to see that it was 2:12am.
And there was someone at the door, my door?
As the cliché correctly summarises, a knock on the door in the middle of the night is never a harbinger of good news, but it is also something that cannot be ignored, no matter what misgivings one might hold.
Thus, having paused to add a dressing gown of unadorned pastel yellow silk – a gift from my former wife in former times and which had endured more years than had our marriage – to my habitual cotton pyjamas, I switched on the lights, winced slightly at their brightness, and trudged down the stairs to the door, all the while worrying over whom might be there.
Pausing to ensure that the chain was in place and that my foot was against the door, a measure more for my own peace of mind than for any potential it had against determined intruders, I cautiously opened the door.
"Hello, Simon," Trudi said as she stood there, alone, remarkable, and not a little afraid, as well she might be, to be in such a place and at such a time. Dressed in what appeared to be a long tee-shirt under a bulky jacket, tightly zippered, and with incongruously sock-less feet in her habitual trainers, she was as confusing a sight as she was a presence.
"Trudi?" I asked, my voice a worryingly theatrical stage whisper, there being something about the early hours of the morning that inhibits loud speech.
"Yeah. Um, can I come in?"
Blinking to try to clear my head of confusion, I monetarily closed the door as I removed the chain before holding it open for her as she walked in. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a incongruous yellow New York taxicab turn the corner at the end of the street, at least satisfying my curiosity as to how my guest had arrived.
No sooner had I closed the door, however, than I was suddenly enwrapped by a shaking and clearly disturbed young woman.
"Trudi?" I asked, still incredulous at her presence.
"I-I'm sorry, Simon, but I didn't know where else to go?" she explained, though her explanation lacked a certain something, namely that all-important element of explanation. All she had told me is she could not conceive of any other recourse than to myself, but for what purpose I still had no inkling whatsoever.
"But why here?" I asked before, in a moment's consideration of her clearly anxious state, I repressed my curiosity for the moment as I realised that should I be successful in establishing some kind of normalcy then, if I was fortunate, I might be able to elicit from her to a more coherent explanation concerning what was happening. This reflection taking but the blinking of an eye, I quickly followed my initial question with another, namely, "Please, Trudi, where are my manners. Might I offer you a drink?"
"I guess a whiskey is out of the question?" she grinned, though her heart was clearly not in it.
Ignoring her attempted humour as distracting from my need to establish some kind of normality, "Indeed, though perhaps not for me. Water?"
"You need to let go of me..." I suggested as gently as I could, seeking to make the idea seem like something inconsequential, and not in the least driven by an acute awareness of the closeness of her body to mine and the lack of layers of civilised clothing between us.
"I do? Really?" she asked, her smile lop-sided and still lacking conviction.
"Yes, Trudi. You do. Really," I insisted, but gently, as whatever had happened to drive her to my doorstep in the middle of the night was clearly worrisome for her and somewhat anxiety-inducing in myself in that I had no idea why she had come to me, and where her mother was in all of this?
"Oh-kay," Trudi replied, letting go of me bodily, but insisting she keep my left hand in her right, as though she were afraid I might disappear if she let go of me entirely.
Leading her into the kitchen, I poured us two glasses of orange juice and waited until she had taken a sip before I rather obviously enquired, "So, why are you here, Trudi? Does your mother know-"
Trudi's snorted interruption brought me up short. She had always impressed me with the quality of her manners, and her behaviour towards her mother had been nothing less than without any obvious kind of issue whatsoever. For Trudi to be so dismissive of her mother was, frankly, shockingly out of character for her. Whatever it was that had happened to produce such a change in her normally sweet nature was such as could only have been caused by something of rather impressive proportions – but what?
My intuition and my years of dealing with distressed students were such that I knew that there was no need for me to make any kind of immediate response to Trudi's guttural ejaculation. Something that provoked that strong a reaction could not be contained, and not for long.
"Mum, is ... well, Mum is kinda the reason why I'm here."
"Yeah," replied Trudi as she unfastened her jacket and confirmed my suspicion that she was indeed wearing a long tee-shirt as some kind of tee-shirt du nuit. Fleeting, I wondered what lay beneath, but dismissed the thought, worried as I was by Trudi's sudden and unexpected arrival upon my doorstep. Whatever my most repressed fantasies for Trudi, she was here, now, in need, in an emergency, and it would be remiss of me to behave in any less than the most professional manner possible towards her.
None of this, however, did anything to dampen the sound of cell-doors clanging shut in the echoes of my mind.
"And how is your mother implicated in all of this, Trudi?"
"I, I guess she's kinda the reason I'm here. She's out this weekend with ... him ... but, well, that's okay, I'm old enough and stuff, but, there were some people in the street, and I got nervous 'cause they were noisy and they were shouting and I think they were fighting-"
"But Trudi, why didn't you simply call the police?" I interrupted, more than a little confused and concerned that Trudi had not taken the most obvious course of action. I had thought her to be more sensible than this.
"I did, Simon! They came, and the people went, but after the police went, they came back and they were shouting about finding out who'd called the police and I got worried cause I'd switched the lights on and I was sure they'd've guessed it was me and then I started to get worried and I called the police again and they said they'd send someone as soon as they could but it was taking forever and I was getting really worried and so I called the taxi and it came and parked in the driveway and I just dashed out and locked the house and jumped in the taxi and told him to bring me here and here I am..." Trudi explained, her words and her lungs running out at the same time, leaving me in the possession of explanation and a somewhat distressed teenaged young woman wearing a white cotton tee-shirt whose bounteousness of size seemed to be inversely proportional to its quotient of opacity, there being certain undeniable and unmistakable shadows to Trudi's attire; three of them to be worryingly precise, two of which were a matched pair.
"I see, but the question, now, is quite what am I to do about you, Trudi?"
"Do... ?" Trudi echoed uncertainly.
"Indeed. As in do I need to inform the police? Do I need to inform your mother?"
"Ha! Good luck with that one!" Trudi snorted again, still, it seemed, rather more cross with her mother than she was prepared to discuss openly, and rather too young and inexperienced to realise how much her 'comments' were giving away as to her true thoughts on the subject.
"Which one?" I asked, again seeking a nugget of confirmation in a maelstrom of uncertainty.
"Er, the Mum bit."
"Because her phone's going to voicemail and ... his ... is just ringing out. What? You didn't think I'd think of that?" Trudi asked, a little hurt.
"Trudi, when people are under stress they sometimes forget the most obvious of things," I said, my tone as placatory as possible, and also chastising myself at my underestimating Trudi. Again. "Now, if you'd like to sit here, I think it would be for the best if I were to call the local police station and advise them of where you are, so that when they 'attend your locus' as they would describe it, they do not become concerned when you don't answer the door."
"Oh-kay ... just, please, don't be long? Okay?"
"I shall only be in the hallway," I said, waiting until Trudi nodded her permission before I quit the kitchen and indeed headed for the hallway where my landline phone stood. I quickly phoned the local constabulary, explained what had happened, where Trudi was, why she was here, and gave them my Full Disclosure details so that they could check to ensure Trudi was not in any danger were she to stay in my 'protection' for the remainder of the night. Assuring them that there was a spare room with a locking door which I would ensconce her within, and that they were free to call upon me in the morning to ensure that all was well, I concluded my call and returned to the kitchen where Trudi was finishing the last of her drink.
"So, any chance of that whiskey?" Trudi asked, grinning with genuine humour this time, her composure seemingly regaining with each passing moment.
"Not at all, Trudi. The police will be along in the morning to make sure you are okay, and I do not think the odour of alcohol would be beneficial in their estimation of this evening, do you? No? Now, do you wish them to undertake a search for your mother?" I asked, annoyed that I had not thought to ask them to do so. It seemed Trudi was not the only person this night not thinking as clearly as they might.
Trudi shook her head. "No. She's, well, they, er, that is, they, erm, okay, erm, Mum's said, sometimes, they go out in the car and, erm..."
"Trudi, there's no need to explain," I interrupted, worried that Trudi might think she need to say more than she really need to do so. "I think I can imagine what you are trying to say, and there is no need to say it. You are, I think, referring to their enjoyment of some private time alfresco?"
Trudi blushed deeply, her blush rushing up her neck and to her face like a spring tide of embarrassment. Casting my mind back to how I might have reacted when I was her age to such a suggestion concerning the conjugal conduct of one or more of my parents, I recognised how natural and uncomfortable her response would be, and so I chose to ignore her discomfort, thus not drawing attention to it or the reason thereof.
My stratagem seemed to be successful in that, though she did nod, Trudi said no more on the subject.
Pressing my advantage with a further injection of normalcy, I suggested, "In which case, if you would like to follow me, there is a second bedroom in which you can spend the rest of the night."
"Oh-kay," Trudi assented, though with somewhat less enthusiasm than I had anticipated.
I would soon know why.
Leading the way upstairs and into what was to be her bedroom for the night, I switched on the light, illuminating a small room with a single bed, already made up as I was in the habit of doing.
"Expecting someone?" Trudi asked, her tone oddly inflected with obviously suppressed anger and jealousy.
I shook my head. "Not at all, simply an old habit, something that I feel reflects an element of genteel civilisation which I wish to display. The bedding is changed regularly; in fact it was changed just yesterday, so all should be in order. There are spare pillows in the cupboard to your left, and here," I said, taking up the key from the dresser by the door, "is the key to the door, so you may lock it for security, should you feel the need."
"Indeed. The police seemed rather relieved that the door was lockable and that I would be entrusting you with the key."
"But, but you've got another?" Trudi asked, her tone cautious.
I held her gaze, but neither agreed nor disagreed; I did not need Trudi to become 'playful' in such circumstances.
Shrugging her shoulders in seeming acceptance of my lack of engagement, "Oh-kay. So. Bedtime, huh?"
"Indeed," I assented.
"Okay," said Trudi in a non-committal voice and, before I had the time to realise what she was doing or challenge her not to do so, Trudi cast her jacket casually onto the nearby chair, leaving her standing before me wearing just her sockless trainers and an over-sized white cotton tee-shirt. From the small Braille message her tee-shirt was seeking to impress upon me, my grave reservations as to whether Trudi was wearing anything more whatsoever underneath were quickly being confirmed.
Trudi caught my gaze, looked down, and covered her breasts with her hands. "Sorry about that," she said, looking back up again with a grin. "They've a mind of their own," she asserted, though neither of us took this to be true.
"Indeed. So. Goodnight, Trudi."
"Goodnight, Simon. Er, thanks. Really, really thanks," Trudi said, beginning to shake again.
Perhaps it was instinct but, without giving a thought to my actions or their possible consequences or interpretation, I stepped forward and took her in my arms, holding her lightly and kissing the top of her head, her hair smelling of fresh apples.
It was, I hoped and intended, a fatherly gesture.
"You're safe now," I said by way of reassurance, held her a moment longer, and then let her go, taking a step back before advising her, "Now, bed, sleep. I generally rise around 8am-" I began, causing Trudi to snigger despite her best efforts not to and causing me in turn to stumble a little over my words before I continued. "-and breakfast will be ready at 8:30am, should you be there. I'll try to find you something more suitable for you to wear, whereupon we can see about taking you home and finding your mother to inform her of what has happened."
"Oh-kay, Simon. And, sorry, but thanks," Trudi said as she grabbed for me once more, this time briefly kissing me on the cheek. "My saviour!" she gushed in theatrical praise before kicking off her trainers and making obvious her readiness for bed. It had, all things given their due consideration, to have been an anxious and trying experience for her, and I suspected that the adrenaline was washing out of her system, leaving lethargy in its wake.
I could not have been more wrong.
"Goodnight, Trudi," I said, clicking off the light on my way out, unable but to notice that she had forgotten – or ignored – the possibility of locking the door behind me.
I had not been asleep long, I guessed no more than an hour at the most according to my circadian sense, when I felt the bed move.
At once my sluggishness was gone, supplanted by a keen alertness and concern. There was, of course, only one explanation and that was Trudi was less-than-stealthily getting into my bed. But why? Was she a noctambulist? Was she normally so, or was this a reaction to what had happened to her tonight?
Remembering that it is not a good idea to wake a sleepwalker – though quite why that should be so, the answer to which my mind refused to recover – I reached over to the light on the nightstand beside my bed and switched it on.
My reward for this action was the impossible sight of Trudi, seemingly naked and certainly topless to the waist, easing herself under the duvet of my bed. Her pale but semi-erect nipples told me all I needed to be told – had I been in any way ignorant – of how much fun she was getting from this. Quite what the extent of that fun would prove to be, I was shortly to discover.
"Oops!" she giggled, looking frightfully unconcerned at being caught in such a place and such a state of undress.
"Oops?!" I repeated, my tone rather more concerned than was hers, and also rather more angry than I had intended. Surely she could not be ignorant of the potential consequences of her actions.
"Yeah, oops. I didn't mean to wake you ... okay, well not yet..." she trailed, the implications apparent and terrifying.
"Yet?" I rasped, unable to process or to comprehend what was happening, and desperately lacking for the time to consider and process and evaluate what was happening and what to do about it, time that was clearly not available.
"Yeah. Yet. I was, ah, planning to, ah ... oh fuck it, Simon!" Trudi suddenly yelled, getting back out of bed and confirming my fears that she was gloriously nude, her arse a glorious sight as she began to retreat into the dark of the hallway.
Somehow, I must not allow myself to be distracted.
"Trudi!" I barked, stopping her in her tracks.
"Trudi," I began again, my tone now as quiet as I could force it to be, though I was certain it was also more controlled than was I. "Please, sit down a minute and kindly explain to me what on Earth you think you are doing?" I said, neither needing nor bothering to outline the subject of our conversation – we both knew what that was.
Still cautious – and causing me to reprove myself for shouting at her in that way – Trudi slowly turned around, looked at me, and shrugged. She was, after all, displaying no more than she had done in other situations, though in those other occasions the sexual element had been less obvious and more complicated than it was threatening here to be.
The moment passed, and Trudi sat down on the bed in such a way that, even though the duvet prevented us from touching directly, any thoughts as to Trudi's nakedness were, for now, forgotten, swept away by the seriousness of the situation Trudi had placed us in.
"I'm sorry, Simon, I was, ah, urm, oh shit! This made sooo much more sense in my head," Trudi cried in exasperation, wrapping herself in her arms as an unconsciously self-protective act.
My heart melted. "What did, Trudi? What was it that made more sense in your head?"
For a moment, Trudi said nothing before, uncurling herself, she turned to me, took my hand in hers, and said in the most clear and adult and certain voice I had ever heard, "Simon, you have to know."
Presumably stunned by all that had taken place in such a short period of time, all I could do was shake my head in a reflection of my incomprehension.
Trudi looked up to me and smiled, her smile that such as one sees in an indulgent adult towards a beloved subject. "Simon, can you really not know?" she asked, so softly that I knew that no matter what I might say, she would, somehow, forgive me.
Again I shook my head, though now I was beginning to feel a vague sense of worry that though I might right at that moment know what Trudi was referring to, I was somehow and deliberately blinkering myself to what she was clearly intent on expressing if I did not wake up.
But I couldn't; I simply couldn't.
Trudi saved me from my vacillations.
Explaining as though it were the most obvious course of action, Trudi smiled as she said, "Simon. I'm going to get back into bed with you, and when I get out of that bed in the morning, I will be a woman. Now do you understand?"
Now I understood.
I gulped, but my throat was dry.
Awareness of this brought, too, awareness that my heart was beating like a hyperactive blacksmith's anvil.
"No," I gasped. This was it, this was the step we must not and should not and could not take.
I looked up into her eyes, and knew I was lost.
"Yes, Simon," was all she said, brushing her hair from her eyes, eyes which were hypnotising me, leading me, to cross that line in the sand that could not be uncrossed.
Even as I sat there, still in shock, trying to find the words to convince her not to do this, Trudi moved forward on the bed, took my head in her hands, and began kissing me, kissing me on my forehead, my lips, my neck ... until she met the barrier of my pyjamas.
Lingering to kiss me on the neck some more, Trudi began to unfasten the buttons of the jacket, kissing me where she unbuttoned me until she was kissing my navel.
Sitting up, my body complicit in her seduction, Trudi continued to kiss my lips as she eased my willing arms out of their sleeves, leaving the jacket to lie where it fell.
Breaking our kiss, Trudi moved to the side of the bed and lifted the duvet.
My excitement was obvious.
Trudi giggled. "Y'know, I've never seen it," she said.
I raised my hips and she gently tugged down my trousers until I was lying there, naked, aroused ... and my arousal began to fail.
"What's the matter?" Trudi asked, her voice the nectar of patience and kindness.
Looking up into her eyes, I asked, "But, but don't you wish for your first to be someone of your own age? Someone who is possible, someone who is ... not old?"
Trudi smiled and shook her head. "No, Simon. I want it to be with someone I love, and who I know loves me back."
I opened my mouth to speak, but Trudi put her finger across my lips.
Leaning forward, she began kissing me again, this time with an edge of hunger and urgency.
She would get her wish.
Taking her head in my hands, I gently brought our kiss to a conclusion. "What about protection?" I asked. "I have no condoms-"
Trudi sniggered. "You sure?" she asked, cocking her head to the dresser where I clearly saw two small boxes of condoms. "I, er, I wasn't sure what size, so I brought 'standard' and 'hung like a horse'," she explained, laughing at her own joke. "They were in my jacket pocket," she added in response to my puzzled expression.
"This ... this has all been a plan?" I asked, not sure how I felt about being comprehended to such a degree, my desire clearly abating as the feeling of being manipulated began to grow.
Trudi shook her head. "No, Simon. I promise. No. They've been in my pocket for a coupla weeks," she said, nodding in the direction of the condoms. "Tonight was just... lucky?"
I could not help but chuckle at her choice of word. Lucky.
Clearly a girl, no, a woman on a mission, Trudi became serious once more as she asked, "So, which is it?" her urgency bringing a degree of practicality to our exchange.
It took a moment for me to realise to what she was referring. Arching an eyebrow that, having seen, she still needed to ask, I confessed, "Normal."
"Cool!" Trudi triumphed. "Cause, y'know, I've seen the pictures, y'know, on the internet, and some of them, fuck, that has to hurt like a bitch..." Trudi halted, blushing more prettily than I had ever seen her blush before. "Er, sorry about the swearing, Simon. I guess I'm a bit on edge, huh?"
I smiled. "That's understandable to say the very least."
"Yeah. So..." Trudi began as she opened the box, took out a condom, unwrapped it, and with surprising economy and proficiency, slipped it over my re-interested pizzle until all was safe.
"That was very professionally done," I complemented, recognising the insane banality of my words even as I spoke them.
"Yeah, and the bananas in the house have been way useful," Trudi chuckled.
"So ... er ... Simon?"
"I know you'll be gentle and stuff, cause you are, I don't think you could be anything else, but, ah, please, make a woman of me?"
I nodded. "If this is your first time-"
"It is!" Trudi insisted with an indulgence way beyond her years.
"Then it would be better, for the first time, for you to be on the top. That way you have control of how deep and how fast. You understand?"
Trudi nodded as she pushed the last of the duvet aside and carefully straddled my hips until she was sitting on the tops of my thighs, looking at once vulnerable and determined and the picture of middle-aged fantasy. Her skin was flawless, her breasts small but glorious, her nipples stiff with desire, her areolae not quite as pale as usual but still much paler than were most women's, and the hair upon her vulva added that merest hint of mystery to the delights within and beneath. For a moment Trudi held her pose, my pizzle standing proudly wrapped in latex and more than ready to commit that act that I had never dreamt would happen. We both looked down and saw how, resting against the lightly haired mons pubis of her vulva, it seemed to be showing us the way forward.
As if we no longer knew what it would be.
"Oh-kay..." Trudi said, raising herself up and moving forward a little until she was satisfied everything was lined up, whereupon she looked down on me. "I love you, Simon."
"I know, Trudi, and you know I love you too."
"Yeah," Trudi nodded, and reached under with her right hand, found my pizzle, and lined it up with what I could already feel, even through the latex of the condom, to be the entry to her vaginal passage; the heat was unmistakable.