I am awake now. The long green curtains are still drawn yet I can see behind them that it is daylight now. Morning. Early.
I am naked and lying on the top of the covers of the double bed - her bed.
I move my head slowly to the left and see that she is still asleep with her long, thick and curly chestnut hair splayed out on the pillow. She is naked too.
I run my eyes, feeling kind of like a voyeur and a little guiltily, over the exposed flesh of her body which is half-turned towards me.
Her head is resting upon her left arm which is pale and shapely and speckled liberally and evenly with small moles. Her ample and firm left breast, the mound of which is also home to small mole, draws out to a prominent nipple - I like that.
I cast my eyes down to her trim little tummy and her long, lean and well-toned legs, the auburn triangle...
She opens her eyes, blue eyes, and yawns.
"Good morning, Sharon," I greet her.
"Morning, Matt," she replies in turn, and smiles.
It is warm in the bedroom and we are both naked above the covers. Naked without shame. Without embarrassment.
It has been a passionate night. I have fucked her and climaxed five times during the space of about twelve hours. But, I do not think she has come once.
I have not used a condom. Perhaps I should have. Too late now. What happens... happens. She is the right one for me. I know it.
She swivels her head to the right briefly and looks at the clock. The red digital numbers read: 07:02. She turns back and says, "You'll have to go soon as my mother will be round and I don't want her to find me in bed with you. It's too soon for that. Sorry."
"Don't worry, it's fine. I understand." And I do.
"I've got some Shreddies, you'll just have time to eat them before you go," she adds, perhaps feeling a little bad about kicking me out.
"Honestly, don't worry."
She smiles a wide smile with her thin yet oddly sensuous lips and I lean over and kiss her gently, sweetly, on them. I then swing myself off the bed and prepare to get dressed...
* * *
The credits roll for the end of The Marathon Man.
"That was really good!" I turn and say to her.
"Yes, it's one of my favourite films. Glad you enjoyed."
She sits up, kneels forward on the bed and then stretches out to switch the television off before returning back to lie on the covers. I am still lying on the bed and the time is just after eleven.
I roll over and give her a kiss as a prelude to fucking her.
"I'm afraid we can't do anything tonight - I'm on."
"Oh, okay," I say, a little disappointed. "But it's still good to be with you."
She pauses then says calmly, "Take all your clothes off."
I get off the bed and remove all my clothes conscious that she is looking at my body and cock which is now fully erect. And being naked in front of her arouses me.
"Come here and lie to the left of me." She pats the bed welcomingly and smiles provocatively.
I clamber back onto the bed and lay beside her.
She rolls the sleeve up on her right arm to the elbow and then grasps my penis.
With her left hand she gently kneads my sensitive nipples alternatively.
Commencing with a steady rhythm she brings her hand up and down my shaft.
Up and down.
Up and down.
I feel the pressure begin to build.
I visualise her caning me. Hard.
Up and down.
Up and down.
"Is that nice?" she says.
"Yes, it's really, really good. Please don't stop."
Up and down.
Up and down.
The pressure is becoming unbearable.
I glance down at her bare arm gripping my cock - my head is bulging and purple.
Up and down.
Up and down.
I imagine her caning me now without mercy and me screaming out in agony.
My prick feels like it is about to explode - and it does. Hot spunk jets out and I spasm ecstatically. She continues to pump out every last bit of my sperm.
I slump back totally spent onto the pillow.
"That was so bloody good. Thank you Sharon."
I can feel the warm juice on my stomach.
"Oh, I've got some of your cum on my hand."
I observe her bring the back of her hand up to her mouth and lick it off.
I rather like that for some reason...
* * *
Sharon and I have just got off the bus. I am day off and I have met her from work - she is employed in a drawing office - and have travelled back with her on the bus. I have no car now as money is tight for me.
It is about six o'clock. We are about to turn off into Victoria Grove when a red car passes. I recognise the registration number - it is my ex-wife's red Toyota Tercel - and sitting in the passenger seat is Leanne. Leanne is my ex-wife and the mother of my three year old son, James.
Driving the vehicle is Len, the new man in her life, the one she dumped me for.
I don't like Len much. Bighead and borderline bully.
I am not bitter anymore but the car is the one I bought her when she passed her test, and not long before we finished.
Leanne sees me and can't stop looking - it is the first time she has seen me with Sharon. In fact she keeps her head turned and gaze fixed on us till the car rounds a corner.
I feel inwardly self-satisfied because I have clearly made her jealous - she is a vain woman who believes she is irresistible to men and she would have liked me to have spent the rest of my life pining for her. I kid you not.
But I know I have got the better woman. And I'm 'moving on'.
Funny, how as one ego deflates the other inflates.
Sharon and I carry on walking down the avenue hand in hand. We are happy. And I just know it's going to be a good evening...
* * *
We are in Sharon's lounge and her daughter has gone to bed. We take off all our clothes and begin to cuddle and caress each other on the sofa. We know that we have to be quiet.
I am gently running my fingers over the bare flesh of her upper arm - I know she likes that. I am also kissing round her pert nipples - teasing her.
Suddenly she pulls herself up and says, "I want to go on top - I like it now and again."
"That's fine," I respond.
I lie down along the sofa and she gently manoeuvres herself down onto my cock.
"Mmm, that's better. Much better."
She begins to pull herself up and down slowly whilst kind of rotating her hips and groin ever so slightly. I watch her expression become of one of concentration and contentment and her breathing transforming into little gasps.
She leans forward and allows her arms to outstretch onto my chest to support herself, whilst at the same time rubbing my nipples. She is dextrous, no doubt about that.
As I too become increasingly aroused I allow myself to gaze at her sexy body with her firm tits and superbly trim figure, her pale flesh...
She starts to gasp even more with her face almost screwing up as I feel the insides of her vagina begin to contract and release...
And as she comes so do I too.
For a second we seem as one. And then it's over.
We both smile as she lifts herself off me and swings her legs away. I notice tiny dribbles of sperm running down the inside of her thigh.
"I rather enjoyed that," she says to me.
"Yeah, me too," I reply and then add: "I'd better be getting off as I have to get up at six - bloody job."
"Yeah, that's fine."
"That was good, I must say."
As I wipe myself down and prepare to get dressed I am beginning to believe that I may be the luckiest man alive...
* * *
I'm with my mother, my grandmother, my son and Sharon.
My mother says to me, "We are so glad you have met Sharon - she'll make you very happy."
I wake up to find myself in Sharon's double bed.
It's a dream and my mother and grandmother are both dead which makes me a little sad. And I am also alone as Sharon has gone to work.
I realise that I love Sharon now and that I no longer have any feelings whatsoever for Leanne.
For the first time in what has seemed to be a very long while I look forward to the future.
I also believe that I will be with Sharon for the rest of my life...
* * *
To my left, west, I can see across the river. Distant works. Green fields. Trees. Not people. Too far for that. I cannot see the water of the river. I know it is there though. Flowing. At times quicker. At times slower. Tidal. Changing directions.
For a moment I feel at one with nature, the cosmos.
Suddenly she turns to me and says, "Would you ever be unfaithful to me?"
"No. Never," I reply. "Why would I want to hurt you?"
She squeezes my hand tighter. She feels reassured.
I mean what I say. I will never betray her with another woman. Never...
* * *
We are sitting in her kitchen at the table. There are mugs of tea in front of us plonked down on the bare wooden surface. It is about nine o'clock at night. The lights are on but it stills seems a little dim.
"Before I met you I was really lonely. I hadn't been in a relationship for seven years. I remember crying once in the bath because I was so lonely," she confesses.
I visualise her naked in the soapy water with her legs drawn up and her arms pulling them close to her body. I see her with her head bowed and not noticing or caring that the curly ends of her long chestnut brown hair were touching the surface of the now tepid water. I imagine her sniffling with reddened eyes, and it makes me sad.
I take hold of her hand and say, "You'll never feel alone again. I will never leave you. I will always care for you." I then add, whilst stroking the back of her wrist, "The days of crying in the bath are over..."
* * *
"Be careful of her Matt, she is completely false."
I do not know quite how to take this.
"I w-will..." I stutter out.
I'm at an old friend's of my mother's and I have taken Sharon round to introduce her - I am proud to have Sharon as my girlfriend. Very proud.
She is in the loo.
"I'm a very good judge of character and I don't want to see you hurt, and you've had enough problems with Leanne. She doesn't want you to see her true character. Please be careful."
Polly is a very shrewd and clever woman - I respect her. She was head of department at the private school she used to teach at.
Sharon pops back into the room - she appears refreshed.
"We were just talking about you," I say.
"All nice I hope?" she replies cheerily.
"Oh yes, of course."
It is the first time I have been false to her. And I do not know if I like myself for that...
* * *
We're in bed in my late mother's house - my house now. We are having a lay in as it is a Sunday.
Sharon is joking about misbehaving at work and having to have her legs slapped...
I suddenly feel an impulse to open up to her about my unconventional desires and say, "A-actually," I stutter out, "I like being sp-spanked and slippered. Will you do that to me sometime?"
She says nothing.
I say nothing...
* * *
I dimly hear the words 'help me' followed immediately by a groan. I wake fully and I'm confronted by a ghastly spectacle - Sharon's features are agonisingly contorted and are slowly turning purple, she is foaming at the mouth and her arms are held rigid against her chest.
I leap out of bed convinced that she is experiencing a coronary and dying in the same room, but not the same bed, that my mother passed away in.
It is a grim coincidence.
I run downstairs and call for an ambulance -they tell me they are on the way.
I get back up to her as swiftly as possible and I have tears in my eyes - am I to lose another loved one so soon?
She appears limp now and her eyes are open, and staring into the distance.
I place my face close to hers and gently call her name.
"Sharon. Sharon, can you hear me?"
She recoils, startled, a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
I'm beginning to believe that she has suffered some sort of fit and very gradually now is beginning to revive, though still very confused. I am reminded of a boxer coming round after being knocked out. I am also aware that the paramedics will be arriving shortly so I must dress her as she is naked.
I pull back the sheets and see that she has wet herself and the mattress so I nip into the bathroom, wet a flannel, bring it back in and clean her as best I can.
I manage to finish dressing her just as the ambulance arrives.
I let the medics in and they place her carefully on a stretcher before taking her downstairs and then into the vehicle.
I then travel with her to the hospital holding her hand.
The medic explains to me that she has most likely had a 'grand mal' epileptic seizure.
I feel a little relieved now - I feared that it could have been far worse.
I just wish she had told me she suffered from epilepsy. I would have understood...
* * *
It is Valentine's Day and around about ten at night.
I am in my bedroom, alone, tired and ready to turn in.
I pull the covers back on the bed and I'm about to get in when I notice a large red envelope lying on the sheet - Sharon must have nipped in earlier whilst I was still at work and planted it there.
I pick up the envelope and pull out the card.
It is a tasteful card with a nice message but my attention is focussed on the post script in black ink at the bottom written in her characteristic and elegant style:
I don't always show it but I do really love you.
The sentiment touches me but I wonder why it is that she can't show me her love.
In fact she has been quite cold and distant recently at a time when I need her - in the last five months my six year old son has heartbreakingly chosen to live in Germany with his mother, Leanne and Len. I have also been laid low with mystery illnesses and I am in addition very short of money.
I had feared, really feared, that Sharon was about to dump me.
The darkness that I had shrugged off after my mother had died and Leanne had left me was once again threatening to overwhelm me.
I read the line once more:
I don't always show it but I do really love you.
I balance the card on my bedside table, clamber into bed, switch the light off and close my eyes.
I feel a little less down now...
* * *
I am holding a recent photo of Sharon and myself in my hand.
It is May and I have sold the old family house in Spencer Road and I am now living with Sharon and her sixteen year old daughter, Sophie in their council house in East Cowes.
The picture shows me arm in arm with Sharon outside the cottage, on a small patch of lawn, of my late Great Auntie Dorothy in Ravenoak Road, Cheadle Hulme - she had passed away the previous week and we had travelled up with my great uncle and his wife to attend the funeral.
Sharon is wearing a gaily coloured sleeveless top, jeans and sandals. Her brown (with just a hint of red) hair has been permed recently and is rather frizzy. Her figure is as superb as ever. Slim. Full chested. Long legged.
I am in a black T-shirt and jeans with black shoes.
My auburn hair with flecks of grey is of average length and my build is quite powerful though there are the beginnings of a slight paunch.
The one thing that strikes me most is how happy we look, but sat here now I am beginning to have doubts:
Sophie really resents me because I am not her father, a father that has cut off all contact and Sharon has become more controlling and moody.
I am also beginning to regret selling the family home - I was far more emotionally attached to it than I realised.
It is too late however - I have made my bed and now I must lie in it.
Perhaps it will be better once Sharon and I buy a new and better property between us. Perhaps.
The phone in the hall rings.
I get up from the kitchen table and go and answer it.
It is my son's grandmother.
"Matt, I have got some excellent news. James is returning here to live with us. He had become very unhappy in Germany."
"That's brilliant news," I respond.
I'm really happy about that as I have missed him but I wonder if it will cause issues with Sharon and Sophie.
* * *
"When you come back you will find all your belongings on the lawn!" Sharon snarls at me.
She's hurting, hurting badly, because I have informed her that I can no longer live with her - I have shattered her dream of us together for ever.
I am off to Yarmouth to meet Tom, an old school friend who now lives in Sway, for a drink.
"If you do that then, regrettably, I will have no option but to involve the police," I tell her politely but firmly.
I exit the black painted door of her council house and walk the short distance to the bus stop...
I'm sitting in the lounge bar of The Wheatsheaf in Yarmouth and Tom is opposite me across the table.
I am kind of envious of Tom as he is happily married. Or so he says though we never truly know what is in a person's mind.
Most of us, I have observed, have three faces: a work face; a social face and a behind-closed-doors face...
"So, Matt, it's not going too well between you and Sharon then?"
"Ha, that's an understatement - it's been sheer hell at times."
We both pick up our pint glasses and sup from them.
"It's been nothing but wild mood swings and resentment from her sixteen old daughter. And what's more I can't get a good nights kip because she fidgets in her sleep. And then there was Wales..."
I pause and take another sip of my lager.
"We thought it might be a good idea to have a little break so we opted for a week in North Wales - big mistake. There were five of us: me, Sharon, James, who's seven now, Sophie, who's Sharon's daughter, and her nineteen year old boyfriend, Jackson."
The alcohol is beginning to relax me - the atmosphere of the bar is comforting.
"Anyway, I drove them all up there in my Orion and we stayed in a holiday park near Caernarfon. It was a three bedroom cottage and the first mistake I made was to let Sophie and Jackson have the only room with a double bed. Sharon was furious that we would be in a room with two single beds but I was relieved as I would sleep better. We went to lots of places but Sharon had slipped into a sullenness, probably because of the sleeping arrangements. In spite of that we visited Anglesey, travelled on the Ffestiniog Railway, went up Snowdon, and went down an old copper mine - Sharon and Sophie went pony trekking. We had the odd difference - Sharon slapped my son hard one evening because he kicked her, which was understandable, but nothing serious - till Rhyl on the Thursday-"
"Sorry to interrupt you but the glasses are empty. Do you fancy another one?"
I stop and wait for a few minutes till Tom returns with the drinks.
I carry on with the tale.
"Well, it was getting on for about three and we still hadn't eaten. Sophie and her mum were arguing about where to eat - and it was pissing me off. Out of the blue I just said: 'Me and James are going to go in the first cafe we see - end of story' Sure enough we did that. The rest of them stayed outside. About twenty minutes later we came out and I couldn't see them. After straining my eyes I thought I spotted Sophie and Jackson in the distance. I walked towards them and sure enough it was them. Sophie was crying. 'Where's Sharon?' I asked her. 'She says she's fed up with being picked on and has gone home.' 'Gone where exactly?' 'To the station to catch the train back.' So, James and I traipse round to the station. She's nowhere to be seen. I ask the clerk if he's issued any tickets to Ryde or Portsmouth. He tells me he won't divulge people's travelling arrangements. I tell him that she has health problems and that she may not be safe to travel unaccompanied. He relents and informs me that a lady answering her description has indeed purchased a ticket but that she's wandered off. James and I go out to look for her with no success. We return to the station and see her sitting on the platform. I approach her and ask her if she is okay. 'I'm going home, I've had enough.' 'I don't think that's a good idea as Sophie is really upset. Come back with us.' 'I've bought the ticket now.' I told her that we could cancel it and get the money back. Fortunately, Tom she agreed, and she came back with us to the car. But, the weird bit is that Friday morning she woke up all cheerily and said, 'I feel really good, let's make the most of our last day before grabbing me to make love.' It was as though nothing had happened, no apologies, no nothing. Odd."
"She sounds as though she isn't quite right in the head, Matt, if you don't mind me saying."
"When we get back I realise that I cannot live with the mood swings or the resentment from Sophie so I tell her that I need my own place. Sharon goes ballistic and I'm relegated to the spare room surrounded by old boxes. I'm just waiting for a flat to come vacant in Brigstocke Terrace and then I'll be off. Meanwhile it's pretty miserable... and I don't know whether I will find all my clothes out on the front lawn when I get back."
"Something to look forward to eh?" Tom throws in.
I chuckle at my own predicament.
"Matt, we both know it's time to kick her into touch - she's a nightmare."
I nod in agreement but underneath I really love her and love is an addiction, an addiction I am increasingly beginning to believe that ranks in hazard with those of gambling, heroin and alcohol.
"My round Tom, same again?"
It's about eight o'clock and I'm making my way unsteadily along Vectis Road and as the house comes into view I notice that my belongings are not outside on the lawn...
* * *
She's round at my new flat in Brigstocke Terrace and despite everything I still love her.
"Are we still an item?" I ask her.
"Yes, but the relationship exists now on my terms and for what I can get out of it. Oh, and another thing, Sophie is pregnant, probably happened in Wales when you let them share a double bed."
Immediately I ponder what it is exactly she intends to get out of the relationship...
* * *
October. My day off. No chores to do. Bored. Frustrated.
Forty the previous August and a feeling that time is running out.
Dumped twice by Sharon during the summer but asked back by her after each occasion. And gone back.
I love her. But my loyalty and devotion seem to count for nothing.
Hedonism is all I appear to have to live for now.
I think I'm having a mid-life crisis.
Fuck, my whole life has so far been a crisis. Childhood anxiety. Teenage angst. Thwarted ambition.
I pick up a copy of The Daily Sport which a passenger has given me from the day before and for some reason peruse the 'massage' ads. One stands out: Tanya. Blonde 21 year old with tanned 36-24-36 figure. Bournemouth.
I ring the number. A female voice answers and informs me she's working today.
A tingle of excitement runs through my body. I know it's illicit, and that's what makes it thrilling.
What if I get caught? The shame.
You won't get caught. It'll be fun.
I'm in a dilemma.
A take a shiny 2p coin out of my wallet, balance it on my thumb and flick it spinning upwards...
Tails I go, heads I don't.
I catch the coin with my right hand and then slam it onto the back of my left hand. I uncover it and see that it is tails.
I'm on the train to Bournemouth and we're stopped at Brockenhurst. A group of school children board the train.
I suddenly feel a little uncomfortable and in a passing moment of paranoia I imagine them singing, We know where you're going!, We know where you're going!
I get a grip of myself.
The doors close and the train begins to pull away.
As I get closer to my dirty destination, my excitement and anxiety increase.
What if I suffer a heart attack?
I visualise the headlines in the local paper: Respectable local man dies in brothel - partner never knew.
Witty whispers from my former colleagues: He went before he came!
Suddenly I've arrive.
I alight at Pokesdown Station. It's aptly named.
I'm reminded of a rough suburb of London.
I exit the station and find myself in Boscombe High Street.
I attempt not to look like a bloke visiting a prostitute.
I find the address.
I'm outside and press the buzzer - I'm sure everybody is looking at me. My heart is pounding.
Answer the fucking door!
A middle-aged woman lets me in.
"Tanya will be with you in a minute."
Relief - it's not her.
She ushers me into a waiting room.
Tanya - her working name.
I know another Tanya - a tragic Tanya.
But that's a story for another day.
Then she appears.
Tanya is gorgeous: Blonde, tanned, shapely and beautiful.
She reminds me of a younger and slightly prettier version of Claire who's the ex-wife of a colleague.
I hand her the money, seventy pounds, and she slips out of the room for a brief moment.
She then returns and tells me the rules: No kissing and no exchange of bodily fluids. Fair enough.
She asks me what I want from her. I tell her.
We both strip and I lie face down on the bed.
She canes me gently on my buttocks. It stimulates me.
When I've had enough I tell her.
I put the durex on and fuck her whilst she rubs my nipples.
She tells me I'm a good looking fella with beautiful eyes.
I feel good but I suspect she flatters all her clients.
I climax with the vision of her smooth and tanned flesh in my head.
I get dressed and then wander down to the shops.
I feel strangely elated. And not an ounce of shame.
I then head back to the station...
I pop round to see Sharon in her new house in Arthur Street - she is living in Ryde now.
I still feel turned on and suggest an 'early night'.
"Not really in the mood, thanks."
Always in a mood nowadays actually, I think.
I realise that my actions this day have changed us - I have crossed the Rubicon.
It will never be the same...
I'm sitting in the Commodore Cinema and to my right is Diane.
We are watching the Full Monty.
Earlier in the day I had bumped into her outside Greenham's Newsagents in Ryde High Street.
She had told me that she was still down after her split up from her partner.
She had told me that she was lonely.
She had told me that she couldn't go to places on her own anymore.
She had told me that she wanted to see the Full Monty but didn't want to go by herself.
She was going to tell me more but I had stopped her - I had felt sorry for her.
"Pop round mine about half seven and I'll take you to see the film. It'll be my treat."
"Thank you very much Matt, but you don't have to pay though..."
It's at the beginning of the film with Gazza, Nathan and Dave balancing on the partly submerged car in the canal.
I surreptitiously glance at Diane.
She has a neat prettiness: straight raven hair just touching her shoulders, blue eyes, small features, roundish face. She puts me in mind a bit of the older Jenny Augutter.
I suddenly imagine her lying naked on the bed. I see her moist cunt, her black fur. And lust for it.
I wonder if she will let me fuck her later - she has done in the past, about fourteen years ago.
The film ends and the lights come on.
It's a tatty little theatre, though I'm kind of fond of it.
Yeah, a run-down cinema in a run-down town, and my life is running down too. I have abandoned my principles in the last six months. Mr Hyde is winning over Mr Jekyll for possession of my soul...
"Thanks Matt that was a really good film, the least I can do is invite you back to mine for a coffee and a chat."
"That'll be good"
I kind of feel like I have just taken the king's shilling.
We make our way along Star Street and then to the car park in Station Street.
Hers is the only car there: a new sleek lined black Toyota MR2.
She's done well for herself over the years: well-paying job and a nice new three bedroom semi on a nice new development just on the outskirts of Ryde too.
She clicks open the locks with her key fob and I momentarily feel like she's showing off but then think, what the fuck does it matter if she is?
I slide into the comfortable seat.
She starts the vehicle and we swiftly merge into Green Street then along Argyll Street.
I'm impressed by the smooth ride and quiet engine.
I catch a whiff of her musk, or is it psychological?
Shortly, I know, I will be reacquainting myself with her body: Big tits, long tanned limbs and enticing pungent cunt.
I think of Sharon - she's probably asleep by now - and blissfully unaware that her partner is about to betray her again.
I have kissed my morals goodbye - I did that the day I shagged the prostitute in Bournemouth.
Well, I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.
I weakly attempt to justify my actions.
We pull up outside her house and get out.
I then follow her in like a lapsed addict returning to a pusher for one last hit...
* * *
Sunday morning is still Saturday night.
I'm drunk and staggering up Ryde High Street on the way home.
I've reached the junction with Star Street where the precinct ends and the 'Old Town' begins.
"Oi! You look a bit like Steve Collins. I like him!"
I turn and see two fat slappers dressed in leather jackets and jeans loitering in a shop entrance. They are probably early twenties.
They put me in mind, for an instant, of the bloated spiders, you see in autumn, patiently straddling their webs hoping for a fly to stumble blindly in...
"You mean Steve Collins the 'Celtic Warrior', the boxer?" I respond.
I don't think I do resemble him, and I'm ten years older too but add: "You like boxing then? Lennox Lewis is fighting Andrew Golota tonight, pity I haven't got Sky or I would have watched it."
"We've got Sky. Come round ours!"
Fuck me, you're forward, I think, or rather what passes for thinking when you're pissed.
"Where do you live?" I don't want to trawl halfway across town.
Fuck! I live in Mount Street and I've never seen them before.
"Yeah. Thanks. I will."
"We're sisters you know," one of them says.
"You do look a bit alike."
They both have round flat fat faces and dark lank hair. You couldn't call them pretty, but then you couldn't call them ugly either. Still, I have been drinking a lot of lager.
The younger one of the two grabs hold of my hand and we turn right into Newport Street, left into Station Street, along Green Street and then into Mount Street.
We wander past Willow Cottage where I live and tucked in the corner of Mount Street and Little Arthur Street is their house - just three fucking doors away from mine. That could spell trouble.
We enter into the surprisingly expansive lounge and I plonk myself down onto the large sofa.
One of the sisters gets me a can and I pop it open.
The telly is switched on and tuned onto Sky Sports. I look forward to the big fight.
The preliminaries, fight clips and discussion seems to go on endlessly. The older bigger sister disappears off to bed and I'm left on the seat with the younger one, Mea.
After a bit I'm aware she's gone too, perhaps I had dozed off.
I feel a bit awkward sitting in a strangers house all alone watching their telly and using their electric but the fight will be on soon.
I become aware of footsteps and see Mea standing at the door in her nightdress.
"Are you coming to bed with me or what?"
The 'or what' option seems the least promising of the two so I say, "Okay."
She clicks the telly off and turns off the lights.
"Try not to make too much noise or you'll wake my mother up. She won't be too pleased to find you here."
I follow her up the stairs to her bedroom which remains unlit.
As my eyes adjust, the darkness becomes a gloom and I can just discern why she doesn't want it to be illuminated: the room is a complete and utter tip.
I strip off and slip under the covers beside her.
I give her a cuddle and French kiss her, gradually working round to caressing her skin under her nightie.
"Why don't you take your nightdress off?" I purr in her ear.
"I'm fine just the way I am thanks."
Eventually I penetrate her but something seems amiss - nerves perhaps?
I do not climax myself and fall into a drunken sleep.
Suddenly I'm awake, and very hard - I think it is she that has woken me.
She is leaning over me intently.
"Hurt me. I want you to hurt me!"
I resist the initial, cruelly witty, urge to call her a 'fat ugly slag' but instead say, "Have you got a hairbrush or a shoe?"
This is definitely my kind of female. I briefly fantasise about her pale fat naked body in the moonlight tied firmly to a tree with twine and me whipping her back and buttocks with a cat 'o nine tails, every lash echoing through the woods and bringing forth thin lines of blood...
"I would really like that but the noise will wake Mum up. Scratch my arms. Hard."
She whips the nightgown over her head - suddenly the shyness has evaporated.
I gently take her chubby left arm in my left hand and then rake down it hard from the forearms to the wrist with the prominent nails of my right hand.
I can feel her tense but she says nothing.
I repeat the action but this time even harder.
Her breathing begins to deepen.
Again I rake her.
I switch to her right arm - I do not start gently.
Four times I run my nails with force down the bare flesh of her arms.
Her deep breathing is becoming gasping now.
I return to her left arm, faster and faster, deeper and deeper, I rake her.
She seeks blood. And so do I.
My hand becomes warm and sticky.
"Do you want me to fuck you now, have you had enough?"
"Yes. That is good. Very good."
I mount her, slipping in easily, and my penis is broom handle stiff.
I get her to rub my nipples gently whilst I pinch hers really tight.
Within a few minutes I feel little ripples of spasms play along my shaft like the first drops of rain prior to the downpour as she begins to climax.
Her obese frame suddenly shudders and she utters a mute groan. I continue to pump and after a few seconds I too experience the sweet release of orgasm.
Spent, I withdraw and then collapse to the side of her. Slumber beckons.
"You can't fall asleep, you'll have to go. Mum will absolutely kill me if she finds you."
I clamber out of bed and struggle not only to find my clothes but also to put them on.
Eventually I succeed, wish her a good night, and then sneak out of the house.
I stroll the few yards home and let myself in.
I do not feel guilt yet but I know I will when I sober up.
I must keep this from Sharon who I really love.
I vow never to speak to the sisters again.
As I get into my bed I wonder how the fight went...
* * *
We're walking along Queens Road.
Things are going great between Sharon and myself.
Her daughter now has a family of her own and I've begun to get on really well with her too.
Sophie has matured and now accepts me - is fond of me even.
Sharon and I are seriously discussing buying a house together - it makes sense.
Little areas of disagreements have now been cleared up between us and I'm back on the 'straight and narrow'. But there is something I feel compelled to confess to her; to get things off my chest; to make a fresh start.
I take a deep breath and say to her, "I love you very much Sharon but in the last couple of years I have had sex with a prostitute and been caned by a couple of mistresses."
"YOU'VE DONE FUCKING WHAT!" she screams and shouts at me in the street before grabbing holding of my lapels and shaking me as violently as she can.
I notice passing cars slow down to watch the spectacle.
I realise too, too late, that there's only one thing that a woman hates more than a man that lies... and that's one that tells the truth.
She begins to calms down...
Back in my cottage she says, "I want you to see a counsellor. This sadomasochistic side to you is not normal or healthy."
"Okay," I reply, somewhat humbly and ashamed...
* * *
"Tell me something Matt, do you ever have visions or premonitions?"
It seems a strange question for a counsellor to ask I think, but nevertheless I reply.
"I have had, actually, a few dreams in the past that have come true..."
"I suspected so. Please tell me about them, and how they made you feel."
Thelma is my counsellor.
She is originally from Rhodesia, before it became Zimbabwe, about sixty and still retains a strong accent.
"Well, when I was about twelve I had this extremely vivid dream about being in a library. I felt that I could walk around and actually touch the books - it was just so real. When I awoke the dream seemed to be more like a memory - it was really odd. At the time of the dream I was attending Sandown Grammar School and was in the second year. The following year the school became comprehensive and was merged with the secondary school which was adjacent. In the third year the majority of our lessons were taken in the old secondary school, The Fairway, and in the first week there we had an English Class taken in the old Fairway library. When I walked in a chill ran through me as it was exactly as in the dream yet I had never been in there, could not see from the outside what it was like, or seen a photograph of it. The experience so spooked me that when I got home I prayed to God that He would not curse me with these premonitions, but they did continue, sporadically, over the years."
"Curious. Do you have a theory about the cause of these dreams?"
"I used to, or rather wanted to, believe that the sub-conscious could extrapolate future events from trends in the present. But I don't believe that now. I think that premonitions are in actual fact 'leaked memories' from the future and that the universe is actually five dimensional and humans can only perceive, for the vast majority of that time, in four dimensions. Every event, every feeling, every being exists in some incomprehensible way for all time, it's just that we are unable to experience the world that way. I know it doesn't make sense and that some logician could easily shoot me down but it's the only explanation I can think of."
"You've certainly given me some food for thought, Matt, and you're probably wondering why I asked you that question in the first place. Well, the reason for that is the personality quiz I requested you to complete and which I analysed just before you arrived. Character-wise you sit firmly in the middle between extroversion and introversion, but your dominant trait is intuition with thinking as your secondary function. Individuals like that tend to be a bit dreamy, arty, mystical and prone to visions and premonitions. I wanted to verify that by questioning you about premonitions."
"I see," I say, but I don't really.
"Reflect on what I've told you about your character - it may enable you to understand your behaviour better. I would like to change tack now. How is your relationship with Sharon?"
"Not too bad thanks. She has moved in since our last meeting and we are getting on fairly well. She is letting her house out to her daughter and kind of stepson as they were recently repossessed. I do not expect they are paying her any rent and so I have asked her only to pay a small amount to help me. The idea is that we can save some money up to put down on a house once she has sold hers. Could be a while though..."
"Excuse me interrupting but why won't she join you in counselling?"
"She claims that there is nothing wrong with her, and she doesn't want strangers meddling in her life when there is no need to."
"Why do you think that she doesn't want to come along?"
I hesitate before replying.
"I suspect that she seeks the counselling process to reveal that I am at fault and thereby strengthen her argument to take control of my life and money for her own aims."
I recall the cautionary words of Polly all those years ago talking about Sharon: I'm a very good judge of character and I don't want to see you hurt, and you've had enough problems with Leanne. She doesn't want you to see her true character. Please be careful.
"What do you think are her aims, her agenda, Matt?"
"She primarily seeks to put the financial and emotional well-being of her daughter, young grandchildren and herself first, maybe to my cost."
"I cannot comment on that in my role as a counsellor - I don't know her. I also only know what you tell me, but in your personality test remember that your dominant function is intuition."
With that the session is over.
I have a lot to mull over.
* * *
I take the video, Trainspotting, out of the player.
"That was a really good film, Matt, I really enjoyed it. Do you fancy a drink?" Jeremy, my friend suggests.
I'm in the front room of my cottage in Mount Street.
I look to Sharon for approval, though I have already made up my mind.
"Go out and enjoy yourself, you're day off tomorrow. I'll sleep in the spare room so that you don't wake me."
What harm can a few drinks do, I tell myself as I leave the property.
It's about half eleven and I'm recklessly drunk.
We're at the beginning of Ryde Shopping Precinct.
"I need a shag, Jeremy, and I'm going to call Diane - she's always up for it!"
"Won't Sharon find out though?"
"Na, I'll be back by two, she'll be fast asleep, and if she does wake up I'll just tell her I went to a club with you. But it's unlikely she'll ask anyway."
"Well, it's up to you and I'll back up your story if she does ask."
"Thanks Jeremy, you're a real mate."
I put my arm around his shoulders in a way that would make me cringe if I saw another drunkard perform it.
Jeremy turns and staggers off down the High Street to his house in Yelf's Road who he shares with his partner, Lena, in, he confides in me, an increasingly sexless relationship.
I wonder momentarily if he thinks me a fool.
With a ten pence piece clutched between my fingers, I swing open the door of the phone box, and dial Diane's number...
"You're a very naughty boy aren't you?"
I am totally naked with Diane on her bed - she is naked too.
"You haven't changed much over the years too," she adds.
"Neither have you, Diane, you're still a sexy bitch."
She is sexy and though I like her I know I can never love her - it is just, in the cold final analysis, a fuck to me.
We have been cuddling and chatting for too long - time to satiate my carnal appetite.
"Actually, I think it is you that is naughty, and you know what we have to do to naughty girls?"
Diane giggles excitedly - she has confessed to me in the past that she needs sometimes to be mildly disciplined.
Without asking she flips over onto her front.
Her legs and body are quite long.
She still retains a tan from the summer with the exception of the white bikini 'shadow'.
Her skin is free of blemishes though she has a small mole below her tummy button.
She interlaces her arms and rests her head with her raven hair to one side on them.
"Yes, punish me."
I start off gently and smack each pale buttock twice before switching to the other.
Her cheeks are slightly flabby but just the right size for chastisement.
I take my time and gradually increase the hardness of the slaps - I feel that for her spanking is primarily a sensual experience.
I observe with kinky satisfaction as her lily white buttocks become cherry red.
She remains mostly silent with the occasional 'ah' escaping her lips.
"I promise to be good now," she blurts out.
"My bum feels deliciously warm now."
"And my cock is deliciously hard."
She twists over and throws her arms behind her head - her black hair contrasting with the whiteness of the pillows.
The atmosphere is heavy with the scent of her cunt.
I roll onto her and guide my stiff prick into her juicy fanny.
I thrust deep and strong.
Deep and strong.
Deep and strong.
It is the final seconds prior to orgasm.
"Rub my nipples please," I just about manage to force out.
She does so and I can feel my hot seed spurt out inducing ecstasy.
I slump down as my last spasms die away.
"Thanks for that, it was really good."
She rubs my arm as if to say, 'my pleasure.'
"Hadn't you better get home - you'll be in trouble?"
"It's only just after one, I'll give you a cuddle but will set the alarm on my watch just in case I drop off."
The incessant alarm buzzer drills into my head.
I stretch out to turn it off.
Why the fuck does Sharon have to get up so early for fucking work?
I fumble blindly for the clock but I can't locate it.
Everything seems suddenly unfamiliar.
The body next to me stirs and the alarm is switched off as my mind switches on.
Fuck, fuck and fuck.
A tingle of fear runs through my body.
A wave of nausea washes over me too.
"What are you still doing here?" inquires Diane simultaneously as she yawns and rubs her eyes.
"Ending my relationship. That's what I'm doing," I reply softly, feeling racked with guilt.
She says nothing in response. What can she say?
"It's not your fault," I tell her.
The glowing red digits on the display of the clock read 06:03 but in reality, for my relationship with Sharon it is, metaphorically, the eleventh hour.
I cannot bullshit my way out of this - I will have to face the music.
"Would you like some breakfast?" Diane kindly asks.
"Just a glass of water, and a coffee, please."
Diane slides out of the bed.
She is naked but her body does nothing for me now.
I slip out of bed too and tidy the covers before I dress in the half light of morning.
I visit the loo - my bladder is bursting - and then make my way downstairs.
Diane is in the kitchen wearing a red and gold braided Chinese style robe.
I can smell the bread toasting - normally a comforting and homely odour but not this morning.
I am aware now of my hangover: Dry mouth, throbbing headache and mild nausea.
Diane passes me a glass of tap water which I gulp down.
"Your coffee is on the table."
I watch her consume her toast mainly in silence.
After a while she goes back upstairs to shower and dress for work.
I sit in her front room watching Sky News but I take nothing in.
It is now about 06:40.
Diane reappears looking smart in her suit.
"What are you going to do? You can't stay here."
"I'll come down with you to the Hovercraft Terminal and then I'll go for a walk. Sharon catches the 0720 to the Hospital - I want her to be gone before I return home."
Diane kills the engine of her car having drawn into a space in the Quay Road parking area.
We both get out.
I give her a peck on the cheek and watch her stroll in the crisp early morning air to the terminal.
I become aware of the low growl of the hovercraft as its turbines and propeller shafts tick over.
The time is about 06:55.
Sharon will be just making her last preparations before she too commences her journey to the Hospital where she works in Personnel.
I try to imagine what her mental state is like.
In contrast I know what my mental state is - a fucking mess!
I stroll disconsolately out of the car park and over the railway tunnel portal - I remember as a small boy choking on a boiled sweet there and having to be turned upside down by a stranger and my back thumped to dislodge it.
I had been looking in fascination, with my mother, as the steam trains passed under issuing great clouds of steam and smoke.
As I walk past LA Bowl one of my bus driver colleagues beeps me - I acknowledge him with a wave though I don't feel like responding.
As I make my way around the Canoe Lake I recollect coming here shortly after my mother died with her dog and looking up in awe at the Northern Lights - I had wondered at the time if it was a kind of message from my mother.
I get to the Appley Café - the new day is starting and people are out jogging and walking.
I check the time and conclude that it is 'safe' for me to make my way home slowly.
I gingerly put my key into the lock and turn it.
I half expect Sharon to be waiting for me, but the cottage is empty.
I espy a note on the table, it reads: Phone me when you get in.
I look at the time, 08:30, and realise that she will be at her desk now.
I pick up the receiver, take a deep breath, and dial her number.
The phone is answered immediately and in her professional manner.
"It-It's, it's me," I stutter out sheepishly.
"Where the hell have you been? I've been out searching for you, wondering if you've done yourself in because you're depressed. I've phoned the police, your counsellor. In fact you'd better the phone the police to inform them you've turned up..."
The staccato speech comes to an end and in slow deliberate tones she states, "You've slept with someone else, haven't you?"
"Yes, I'm really, really sorry, I love you so much."
"I'm busy now," her tone is scarily cold, "I will speak to you when I get back."
The line goes dead - I know she has slammed down the receiver.
The full enormity of what I have done suddenly overwhelms me.
I pick up her favourite jumper which she has left on the back of the chair and draw it close to me.
I begin to sob like a baby...
* * *
I'm sat in my counsellor's office.
It's been a week since I slept, or rather overslept, with Diane.
"You tell me that you didn't really fancy this woman or that you didn't fancy her as much as Sharon, that you could never love this woman. You want to know why you did it?"
"Yes," I state simply.
Thelma takes in a deep breath.
"I believe a part of you resents Sharon, rebels against her control, her manipulative behaviour. I think you drank in order to loosen the shackles and once the shackles were off you reasserted yourself in a very male way."
"I think you could be right, Thelma."
I prefer that explanation to the one that I'm a piss-head with utterly no scruples.
Thelma continues, "Listen Matt, you've been coming for a few weeks now and I feel that I have helped you but although you've been very open I suspect that you haven't told me everything. I want you think about that, and perhaps next time will be our last session."
"Thanks Thelma, I'll do some thinking."
I get up and make for the door.
The Service 1 bus draws up at the Hunnyhill stop.
The doors open and I show my pass to the driver who I know.
I go up to the top deck and find a seat.
I stare distractedly out of the bus window and my thoughts turn to Thelma's final words.
She's right - there is something I haven't mentioned, something that isn't illegal but something that I am so ashamed of - so very ashamed of - that I do not know that I will ever be able to admit it to anyone - ever.
It is the key, I believe, to my sexuality and my obsession or love for Sharon. And I have denied it for too long...
* * *
"Well, I must say, that you always come over as very chipper but, provided you've been honest, the questionnaire I asked you to complete shows that underneath you're very depressed and only just one step away from being suicidal. That concerns me so I've written to your G.P. and he may be able to prescribe something for you in the meantime."
"Thanks Thelma. I think I am a bit down but I shan't be jumping off any cliffs soon."
"That's reassuring to hear but depression is a dangerous state of mind, it doesn't take much to shade into suicide."
I think back to the time about eight years ago when I tried to hang myself.
"Remember, you have an eleven year old son and he would never get over it."
"Actually, I don't believe that you are naturally depressed, it's due to your circumstances, and when you change them, I think, you'll be fine. However, only you can do that, and it's not easy. You don't realise it but you actually have a lot going for you - you're very good at analysing people and circumstances but you are also quite creative too. That's a winning combination for many in this world."
But I'm a lazy fucker first and foremost - I'll never achieve anything of note.
"I think also that you are quite a 'moral' individual who plays by the rules and expects others to do so in return, and you are disappointed when they don't, and though you haven't said anything to me here I think you have quite a low opinion of humanity in general."
I smile as though I have been found out.
"You also have a low opinion of yourself, which is by far more important, because you are embarrassed by your sadomasochistic leanings - there is no need to be if you fulfil your desires legally. I used to have a lady client from a very respectable background who craved to be severely flogged but who feared that if she revealed her desires would be disowned by her family. I explained that her cravings were far more common than she had thought. Eventually she persuaded her husband to attend a session with me - he turned out to be very understanding and now gives her a good hiding on a regular basis though they do keep it from the rest of the family."
"Sharon has told me that she is not interested in that sort of thing - full stop."
"Would you do anything to satisfy her?"
"Yes, I would."
"Hmmm, successful relationships are about give and take, are they not? If you and Sharon were to split, how long do you think it would take to get over her?"
"About a year if past split ups are to go by."
Is she telling me to dump Sharon?
"I don't think I can help you anymore, but I feel that I have given you the tools to help yourself. I will be here if you need me but you are going to have to do some thinking for yourself. We will make this the last session. I wish you luck."
The counselling process has been interesting, no doubt of that, and I have learned some things about my personality, but is it too late to try and change my life? And do I have the guts to carry out what I know I should?
I wonder, shallowly, also if the money I had expended on counselling might have been better spent on secretly visiting a professional mistress.
Anyway, time to go home and then book on for a late shift. Hopefully there won't be too many scumbags travelling as it's a Tuesday...
* * *
We are in a guest house in Cherbourg. It is about eleven o'clock at night and Sharon is already in bed.
She is sitting up reading a magazine and I know that she is naked under the covers.
The sheets have slipped a little revealing her pale, firm and shapely breasts with prominent nipples.
Her bare arms, and in particularly, her right one are liberally speckled with small moles which kind of fascinates me at times and sometimes also oddly turns me on.
She will sense that I am ogling her.
I wander over to the king size bed and lie down next to her.
She continues to read.
I kiss my way along her right arm then make my way up to her shoulder before I alight upon the side of her slender neck.
She shudders slightly, betraying the onset of her arousal.
She allows the magazine to drop and turns to me saying, "I would have made love to you were it not for the shirt you are wearing."
"What's wrong with my shirt?" I enquire innocently.
"Do you not realise," I must look blank, "that it's the same one you were wearing about six weeks ago when you shagged that bus groupie. Though I don't actually believe it was a bus groupie. You see, I think you were lying, and that it was really your friend with the black Toyota, and that you are trying to protect her. But you needn't worry - I'm not going to confront her."
The strange thing is that Sharon is stating this all very coolly - her personality reminds me of the sea: One day calm and serene, the next, stormy and angry.
"Sharon, I am very, very sorry for what happened, and I do love you so much."
"I know you do otherwise I would have left you. Now, turn off the light and get some sleep as we are going to have a busy day tomorrow."
I strip naked, throwing the stripy shirt my half-sister had bought me for my birthday down a little harder than I would have done normally onto the floor, prior to switching the main light off and then slipping under the covers with Sharon.
I lie to her side but the slight dip in the mattress causes me to roll next to her warm body.
I wish her 'good night' and kiss her lightly on her forehead.
She is, of course, still punishing me for my indiscretion.
"Night," she responds.
I put my arms around her and my forearm brushes 'accidentally' against her erect nipples.
I realise that by denying me sex she is not only punishing me she is also punishing herself.
I allow my, now erect, penis to slip between her bum-crease but it will do me no good.
I am suddenly overwhelmed by a wave of insecurity and a sense of mortality. It scares me.
I gently hug Sharon affectionately, who stirs briefly, before falling swiftly back to sleep.
I vow never to hurt her again...
* * *
I awake abruptly in the dark and flick on the light but metaphorically I am still enshrouded by the dark.
There is only one solution and one place to go.
I slip my clothes on silently so as not to wake the other sleepers and for them to ask the question that I will not answer. Or perhaps cannot answer.
There is one thing I need to do before I go: I must give my slumbering son a kiss.
I am a few feet away from the cliff edge and but a few moments away from oblivion which is the cure for all suffering and at the same asks the question for which there is no answer.
I feel the breeze ruffle my hair. I hear the distant 'white noise' hiss from the countless and incessant breaking waves on the rocky beach below.
I look south to the bay and the orange glow of the street lights hovering over Sandown and Shanklin.
Soon, very soon, all this will be nothing.
Culver Cliff on the edge of Culver Down.
I am alone and lonely.
Here in the early hours of Sunday Morning.
I will not be the first to end their wretched existence at this place - many have before. Nor will I be the first from my year at school - a decade previous the boy with the Eastern European name, but then a man, had driven his car at high speed through the flimsy barrier that had passed as a fence.
I wonder what he felt and thought as his body became weightless in the vehicle as it at first arced and then plummeted with ever increasing velocity before crumpling loudly on the jagged rocks below.
We will never know but his former partner - a pretty black girl with a Yorkshire accent - had told me that he had been driven to it by his parents' treatment of him as a child.
"It is tragic but he is at peace now," she had concluded melancholically...
Why am I here?
Because life is hell with Sharon and you should have never have bought the bungalow with her. Because you are permanently tired from the job. Because you have no social life and see no future. Because you just exist. And that's not enough to stay alive.
I take a couple of paces closer to the edge.
The wind seems stronger here.
I think of my son soundly asleep in his bed.
I feel a tear roll down my cheek before it is blown off by the rising wind.
Choose life, I hear the words of Mark Renton from Trainspotting.
I can't do it.
Well, not today.
I twist on my heels and make my way back to the car.
I am not really 'choosing life' as life 'chooses' us - what I am really doing is choosing to postpone death as life is just death deferred or postponed.
As I drive down the narrow road from Culver Down and rattle over the cattle grid another question enters my mind: Did I really seek to end my life? Or was there a twisted dimension to it, knowing that I not only had the power to end my life but the power to ruin the lives of those who I was angry with?
Is that what it was really about?
It makes me wonder if I am indeed as nice a person as I would like others to believe.
I turn right at Yarbridge Crossroads and head along the A3055 for Ryde and home.
It is a road that is well lit...
* * *
I am in the changing rooms of The Heights leisure centre in Sandown. I have swum a mile then spent about thirty minutes luxuriating in the sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room. I'm glowing and feel really relaxed. I have also taken the week off work to wind down.
I take my mobile out of my back pack and switch it on. There is a pause before the message alert sounds.
Pop round for a cuppa when you're ready x
The message is from Claire. Claire is the ex-wife of one of my colleagues, Christopher. They have been divorced for about five years after she ran off with someone else. It broke his heart at the time but he is now happy with his new love. Her new relationship, however, didn't last. She has had a couple of boyfriends since but is now single. She is physically attractive, easy going and in possession of a good sense of humour - a dangerous cocktail for a weak willed yet strong desired man like me.
She had got on my bus a couple of times recently and after chatting had given me her mobile number. "Let's meet up for a tea and a chat before too long," she had stated in her lilting Liverpudlian accent before stepping off the platform of my double-decker bus the week before. As I had driven off she had turned and waved, the gaze of her arctic blue eyes locking enticingly onto mine...
I reply informing her that I will be about ten minutes.
I pick up my bag, walk out of the changing rooms, drop my health suite wrist band off at the reception and then exit the building. It is a cold, sunny winter's day but my body temperature is still warm from the heat of the sauna. I get into my car, a white Renault 19, and drive the short distance to her flat which is at the top of a two storey converted house. I press the buzzer and after a minute or so she answers the door.
"Hi, come in Matt, I've done you some sandwiches as I thought you might be hungry after all that swimming."
"Thanks, I am a little peckish."
She is wearing a tight white T-Shirt and jeans which emphasise her shapely buttocks.
She invites me to sit down in her plush and spacious sitting room while she goes off to make the tea.
"Help yourself to the sandwiches - I take it you like cheese and tomato?"
"I do, thanks."
The act of her preparing food for me makes me feel special, wanted even - it is a long time since Sharon cooked me a meal - and I am reminded of one of the few occasions when my mother had brought me in honey on buttered bread whilst I had been watching Robinson Crusoe on the old black and white television as a young boy all those years ago. I wonder if the root of all my emotional problems is not feeling loved enough as a child, and maybe not feeling loved enough now.
I pick up a sandwich and take a bite being careful not to drop any crumbs on her meticulously clean sofa and carpet. Claire enters the room and plonks down a cup of tea on the small table in front of me. She then settles herself comfortably into the armchair opposite me before saying, "You've been a bit up and down recently what with your father dying. How is it all going with Sharon? Still shaky?"
I look at Claire and realise that she puts me in mind of Gaby Roslin. I also catch a whiff of her fragrance, Chlöe.
"Yeah, it's not that good between us, we haven't had sex since the beginning of November but she did come down to Torquay for my father's funeral. I think we will split up eventually."
"My dad is clear from cancer at the moment but I do worry about him. We're very close."
"That's good and bad, it's good that you love him but bad that you may lose him. My relationship with my father was different, he split from my mother when I was about eighteen months old and then went off and married a German nurse working over at the Ventnor Chest Hospital whom he had got pregnant. I have a faint memory of a man holding me with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth but that's about it-"
"But you got in contact with them didn't you?"
"Yes, about six years ago I traced them to Torquay and discovered that I also had twin half-brothers, fourteen years younger than me, and of course met my half-sister who is three years younger than me. His wife made me feel very welcome but he couldn't face seeing me though he did write to me and speak on the phone. I always hoped that he would eventually relent and agree to meet, but we never did. He was an odd fellow but highly intelligent - he could rush through and solve the Times crossword in double quick time but was lazy and an alcoholic. He had also been in jail for a bit after smashing windows which his wife reckoned was to do with inner anger towards his parents who had had a greengrocers in Ryde - funny enough I pass by the old shop most days. Even though he wouldn't see me I used to pop down and visit the rest of the family who were very friendly and kind - on one occasion he hid in his room when I popped round-"
"He doesn't sound that nice, you were probably better off not knowing him. Would you like another cuppa Matt?"
"Yes please, two sugars."
A few minutes later she returns with more tea.
I carry on with the tale. "Anyway back in December, Thursday the 20th to be precise, I got a phone call from his wife telling me that he had died suddenly in the local post office - he was just seventy. She didn't seem upset at all, in fact that morning he had got into an argument from a chap from the council who had been round to arrange the fitting of free double glazing. The agent had left telling him that he would return when my father was in a better mood. As soon as his wife, I suppose she's technically my step-mother, heard that he had died she phoned the fellow up to get him to come round telling him, 'That you won't have any further problems with my husband as he has now died'.
"Between Christmas and the New Year Sharon and I drive down to Torquay for his funeral - there were only eight of us attending: his four children, his wife, his sister and her husband, and Sharon. He had no friends. There was no music or service as his wife couldn't see the point in spending a lot of money on him now that he was gone, and he wouldn't have done on her she said. Strangely my Auntie's husband told me that the last time he had seen me was when I was a baby and he had held me in his arms - he had never expected to see me again. The funny thing, Claire, is that I have six cousins across the water in Portsmouth and I have probably passed them in the street at some point without knowing it. After the funeral Sharon and I had a meal with the rest of the family before my half-brother and I scattered his ashes in the garden of remembrance - it was the closest I ever got to him."
"Do you feel sad?"
"That's another odd thing, I thought I would, I was curious about him, and disappointed that I didn't meet him, but I actually feel nothing for him. Nothing at all."
"Do you know what Matt, you're an orphan now!"
She picks up the plate and her cup and walks into the kitchen - I follow with my empty cup. She turns her back to me as she plonks the crockery in the sink. As she does, I kiss her on the back of her neck, draw in the heady fragrance and whisper, "Let's go to bed."
It is a moment of madness and I fear rejection but all she says is, "Okay, but we will have to be quick as my daughter is home in half an hour."
We go to her bedroom and both strip. I am only half hard at this point. She is naked on the bed and I take in her body: Small but nicely shaped tits with a slim figure. She is probably about five foot three and her fanny is light brown and looks trimmed. Her skin is quite fair with light freckles on her shoulders and her hair is shoulder length and blonde.
Blemish wise she has a small mole on her wrist and a couple of cuties on her midriff - she also has a slightly larger mole on her strong left thigh.
I take her in my arms and commence to kiss her.
"You're trembling slightly," she states softly.
"It's a reaction to the swimming," I reply. But it's not as I am in actual fact a little apprehensive and feel guilty. But obviously not guilty enough.
I run my fingers gently over her upper arms and kiss the exquisite curves of her neck. Her chest and face begin to flush with sexual arousal so I gently rub her nipples. She begins to moan so I slip my now fully erect member into her cunt. I thrust rhythmically and as I do she brings her hand down to her clit and starts to massage it - it turns me on more. I ask her to rub my nipples and she complies with my wish though she appears lost in her own rapture. As I begin to climax an image of a pretty dark haired girl with, who works in my local bank, forces itself into my imagination - I see myself being caned by her.
Having 'come' I return to the 'real world'.
I pull out my penis shrouded in spunk and juice and kiss Claire's fanny as she looks anxiously at the bedside clock. "You'd better go as my daughter will be back in the next five minutes."
I wipe myself as quickly as I can with a tissue then swiftly get dressed. I give her a quick kiss then leave.
As I start the car I can't believe what I have done. I have also broken the vow I made silently in Cherbourg to be faithful to Sharon.
I call in at McDonalds on the outskirts of Ryde for a Big Mac and fries. Whilst there I text Claire to tell her how good it was and how much I fancy her.
When I get back to the bungalow I will have a bath and put my clothes which are steeped in Claire's perfume into the washing machine.
It is about seven in the evening. I am watching television in the lounge-cum-dining room of our bungalow. I am still replaying in my head the events of earlier when I hear Sharon walk along the path and then slip her key into the front door.
I wonder what kind of mood she is in - not good if the past few days are to go by.
She puts her head round the lounge door and cheerily greets me, "Hi, you look very relaxed with your feet up, your little break from work seems to be doing you good. You've got some colour back in your cheeks, and I can tell you're less tense. What did you get up to today?"
She's very cheerful all of a sudden - odd.
"Not a great deal but had a few hours at the leisure centre followed by a healthy Mcdonalds."
I'm back in deceit mode.
"I'm going to get changed out of my work clothes and then perhaps we could go off to the cinema? Do you know what's on?"
"Vanilla Sky. It's supposed to be good."
Julie (Cameron Diaz) turns to David (Tom Cruise) in the car and confronts him saying, "The body makes a promise even if you don't."
I inwardly cringe as I recall my actions of a few hours previous.
The car speeds up and ends up crashing through the parapet of the bridge.
David is paying the price, a very high price, for his philandering, and his life will never be the same.
We're back in the bungalow now.
"Do you want a cup of tea, Sharon?"
"I'm okay thanks. Shall we just go to bed?"
What has got into her? She even held my hand in the cinema.
We both stroll into the double bedroom and remove all our clothes and though I have seen her naked a thousand times before I still cannot resist looking at her body. She has full and rich curly chestnut hair that tumbles half way down her pale back and is slim, probably weighs no more than nine stone, and is about five four in height with toned and shapely limbs. Her breasts are big and firm with prominent nipples, her pubes a reddish-brown. Her complexion is pale.
I turn the light off and get into bed next to Sharon. The room is still dimly illuminated by the lights around and in particular the floodlit Parish Church which is just a couple of hundred yards away on the corner of Queens Road and Upper West Street.
There is plenty of time for foreplay, unlike earlier, as I caress her arms and kiss her neck. I tease her as much as possible, licking as close to her nipples without actually making contact with them. I rub gently between her upper thighs without touching her 'lips' then kiss her mouth and tell her I love her whilst dimly discerning her swollen nipples in the half light. She moans and I know she is slowly beginning to reach heat. I reach down with my right hand and begin to massage her engorged clitoris. Her left hand tries to stop me but it is a game she plays for she really seeks to be forced to orgasm.
I pull her left arm behind her head and increase the frequency of my circling movements to her clitoris. I chew upon her nipples as her breathing deepens. She is close now to release.
Suddenly she arches her back and cries out before slumping back exhausted onto the bed.
"That was so good. It's been a while hasn't it," she says after a minute or so.
"Three months, but who's counting," I kind of joke.
"I'd better let you have your pleasure now. Do you want me on top or on bottom?"
I penetrate her and then wrap my legs around hers. She rubs my nipples without me having to request it. Within about half a minute of thrusting I reach the point of no return and as I do I visualise Claire's naked body.
"You were quick then."
"Men normally are quicker than women," I retort.
"Are they?" she responds cryptically.
We wish each other good night, embrace and kiss.
Prior to dropping off I reflect upon the events of the day, and the fact that having had no sex for three months I end up shagging two attractive women in the same day. I can't work out whether to feel guilty or self-satisfied...
* * *
I am walking along Carisbrooke High Street. It is dreary Sunday afternoon in November.
I have just been treated to a meal at Medina Quay by Lena and her new partner, Norman.
Sharon didn't want to come and is out with her daughter and young grandchildren - we don't seem to do a lot together nowadays.
Ironically the reason why I am here is due to Lena's ex and my childhood friend, Jeremy...
About three weeks previous Jeremy and I had been out drinking in Ryde when we had started chatting to a couple of attractive blonds in Wetherspoons - in actually fact it was they that had initiated the conversation.
They were both in their mid-thirties: One kind of resembled Kathleen Turner, the other, the actress Kate Ashfield.
They were also quite drunk and so were we.
We all had a curry in the Ryde Tandoori and then had staggered down to the Strand where 'Kate's' parents, who were away on the mainland, owned a holiday flat.
Once in the flat we had quickly paired off: Me with 'Kathleen' and Jeremy with 'Kate'.
Kathleen was absolutely gorgeous: long blonde hair, blue eyes, superb toned figure and tanned skin which apart from a mole under her chin and one on her neck was quite clear of imperfection.
We were both naked, kissing and caressing when we heard Kate bang on the door and shout out, "Get out of my fucking parent's flat - I don't want you here!"
"We're okay, Kate," Kathleen had responded out loudly.
"She can be a bit neurotic at times can Kate but she's okay," Kathleen had whispered to me.
When I returned to my duties my penis was flaccid and despite everything it just wouldn't become erect.
Another few minutes went by and again Kate hammered on the door.
I imagined the police being called and all manner of wild accusations being hurled at us.
"I think it might be best if we leave, sorry Kathleen."
I got dressed, left the room and then walked out the flat with Jeremy.
Once outside Jeremy and I both let out a big sigh of relief.
"That Kate is a fucking nutter, Jeremy."
I had really liked Kathleen though - she was the kind of woman I could have married and had kids with.
By the time I had got back to the bungalow it had been about three in the morning.
I had slept in the spare room and in the Saturday morning Sharon had asked me why I had been so late.
"We went to the Balcony Bar and then ended up chatting for ages after, you know what Jeremy's like when he starts on one of his hobby horses."
Sharon had accepted the explanation and dropped the topic.
So, when the following Saturday Jeremy - who was now footloose and fancy free - had suggested a quiet evening in Newport with his pal Grey I had reluctantly agreed.
"You won't get into any trouble in Newport, you hardly know anyone there, Matt."
Famous fucking last words.
We had been sitting in the corner of The George, shortly after Grey had gone home back to his wife and young baby, when two women in their early forties had asked if they could pinch a chair.
Well, a brief exchange had turned into a long chat and the longer I talked to one of them in particular. Kay, the more obsessed I became with her, one of the reasons being that she had lovely bare suntanned arms with a fascinating little mole on her right upper arm.
I ended up getting her mobile number.
On the bus back to Ryde Jeremy had told me he had liked them to talk to but he hadn't found them overly attractive.
Over the next couple of weeks I had texted back and forth with Kay the content of which had gradually become 'dirtier'.
We had agreed to meet up at the first opportunity...
I knock tentatively on the green door of her ground floor flat.
The door swings slowly open and she peers round it.
"Hi. You're a little later than expected. Quick, come in, the less people who see you here the better."
"Sorry I'm late but things dragged on longer than I expected."
"I'm just having a tea. Do you fancy one? Only got powdered milk, I'm afraid."
She hands me a mug and then lights a cigarette.
She is wearing a black T-Shirt and jeans.
Her hair is bobbed with blonde streaks and her features are strong - she is perhaps more handsome than pretty.
We chat about our respective jobs - she works in a bank - and then our personal lives.
She's part of an amateur dramatics group and is rehearsing for the Christmas pantomime.
She has a twenty year old daughter and two grandchildren.
She notices me noticing the few photos hung around of a pleasant looking older, round, ruddy faced, bald man.
"That's John, he doesn't live here but he's away as he's a merchant seaman. He's a really nice bloke and I don't want to hurt him. I should have told you. You can go if you like."
I had wondered if it was a brother or even her father.
"Don't worry, I understand."
Or rather, I don't care.
She stubs out her cigarette in the ashtray on the table and takes my empty mug off me.
"Shall we go in the bedroom?" she says.
A pleasant tingling sensation runs through my balls.
She draws the curtains and we both remove all our clothes depositing them on a chair in the corner.
I can't help but stare at her naked body.
She is about five foot five and of average build.
She looks quite toned - she had told me she regularly visited the gym in her texts - but her stomach is a little flabby.
Her tits are nicely proportioned though and she is tanned all over - all over.
She is blessed with a few beguiling moles on her right upper arm, her right shoulder, the middle of her back and a slightly larger one just below her stomach button.
Best of all I noticed that she has completely shaved her cunt.
It is at this point that I feel there is something slightly sluttish about her - I like that, it turns me on.
I settle down beside her on the covers - she has a smoky odour to her, and it is strangely attractive.
I am now extremely stiff.
I start off slow as I have learnt that is the best way to satisfy a female.
"You make love like a woman," she tells me matter-of-factly after a few minutes.
I wonder if I am overly gentle in reality to counter my fantasies of administering hard spankings to women, which is what I really seek as a prelude to sex.
"How do you know that?"
I carry on caressing her flesh softly.
"I was with a woman for a year. It was good but in the end I craved for cock."
"Interesting," is all I can say.
I slide down and commence to lick her shaved fanny - it tastes good and my tongue probes the delicious moist pink parts of her clitoris.
We are both extremely aroused.
"I'm going to ride you now. Lay back."
I do as I am told and she sits astride me.
My cock penetrates her as she lowers herself down.
She is quite tight and now that we are locked groin to groin she starts to rise and fall rhythmically.
Her breathing becomes deeper and her expression is now one of concentration.
Her fingers massage my nipples.
Unexpectedly I climax - I had planned on lasting.
"Oh," she lets out.
She looks suddenly disappointed.
"I'm sorry about that, I didn't mean that to happen so soon."
"Don't worry, actually, it's getting late, it's nearly five and I've got to get ready for another rehearsal this evening."
It does seem to be darker outside beyond the curtains.
She springs off the bed and throws me a towel.
"You can clean yourself up with that."
I wipe myself and then place the towel in her linen basket.
We both get dressed.
"I'll be off then. Thanks Kay, it was really good."
I give her a cuddle and kiss her on the cheeks.
She kisses me in return and I exit her little flat.
I have a suspicion that we will never see each other again - passing ships in the night and all that.
I wander down to the bus station and just miss a bus back to Ryde.
Newport town can be bleak on a winter Sunday and the all too familiar guilt and feeling of dirtiness is beginning to rise within me again - I do not seem able to stop my self- destruction.
I stroll down to KFC - food will cheer me up.
I order two pieces and fries with a coke and idly speculate that I could be in America.
I consume my meal in silence coldly illuminated by the bright fluorescent strip lights - I feel lonely.
My belly full, I walk out of the place.
I notice a rat scurry by on the riverbank - the River Medina runs through Newport.
Apparently there has been a problem with rats in this area.
Shortly, however, there will be one less rat to worry about in Newport - he is getting the next bus back to Ryde...
* * *
The time is 0835 and I am getting ready for work - I sign on at Ryde Depot at 0855.
The phone rings in the hallway and I answer it thinking it is probably the Company wanting me to swap shifts or work overtime.
"Is Sharon there?"
It's the softly spoken Yorkshire tones of Sharon's mother, Lauren.
"I'll get her. SHARON! - it's your mum on the phone."
I place the receiver down gently on the hall table and enter the kitchen to finish off preparing my sandwiches.
I hear Sharon say, "You should have called for an ambulance when you couldn't have got through. Yes, umm, I'll get down straightaway."
I hear her replace the receiver.
I poke my head out of the kitchen door and say, "Everything okay?"
"My Dad's been taken ill. I'm going down to their house."
"I hope he's alright."
"So do I, so do I." Sharon mutters with some concern.
I look at my watch: 0845 - time to set off for work.
I wheel my old green Dawes bike - I've had it since I was fifteen - out of the porch and out into Argyll Street, noting that it is a clear and mild day for the time of year, then mount it before riding along Green Street, down St John's Hill left into Monkton Street and then right into Park Road where the bus depot is located.
It is now 0850 and my first trip is the 0915 service 7 to Ventnor.
I book on, perform the vehicle checks, screen up the destination and number, and then proceed slowly out of the depot.
The 'off service' route from the depot to the bus station takes me past the end of Bellevue Road where Sharon's retired parents live.
As I pass Bellevue Road I see an ambulance blocking the road - it is obviously there for her father - its blue warning lights flashing silently.
The sight of the ambulance reassures me, on the one hand, that he is now in the best hands but concerns me that he requires emergency treatment on the other.
I merge onto Ryde Esplanade from Dover Street with my double-decker, drive along the dual carriageway to the end swing it round the roundabout at the junction with St Thomas's Street, past the Pier entrance and then into the bus station where I park it on the stand.
I walk into the drivers' rest room, stick my sandwich box in the fridge and then get out my change dispenser, bag and module from my locker.
I check the time, 0905, and decide to phone her parents' house from my mobile - there is no answer.
A few minutes later I try again - still no answer.
I conclude that they may have gone off in the ambulance with him or followed behind in the car.
I leave the building, get into my bus, make myself comfortable and await my first passenger...
I kill the engine at the Ventnor Albert Street stop, apply the handbrake, open the automatic doors and let the few passengers alight.
With no one around to disturb me, I get out my mobile and phone, once again, Sharon's parents' house.
It is Sharon.
"How's your dad?"
There's a pause.
"He died this morning."
"Shit, I'm really sorry. Look, I'll get round as soon as I can."
The connection is cut.
I phone the inspector at Ryde and tell him the situation.
"Don't worry, Matt, I'll cover your work for the rest of the duty when you get back to Ryde."
I knock on the door of the semi-detached house in Bellevue Road - it's about half eleven.
Sharon's mother - who in the photos I had seen of her in her youth had strongly reminded me of a stereotypical Hollywood forties film star but now with her wild long grey hair reminds me of Grandma Death or Roberta Sparrow from Donnie Darko - opens the door.
"Come in Matt, do you want a coffee or tea?"
She's remarkably composed and unfazed - it hasn't hit her yet I conclude.
I step directly into the lounge from the road.
Sharon and her daughter, Sophie, are sat on the sofa both with reddened faces and sore eyes. Brad, Sharon's older brother is also here but he seems in control of himself, and is chatting to Sophie's partner, Jackson.
Everybody acknowledges me.
"I'm so sorry to hear about Bob, he was a really decent bloke and we'll all miss him."
Although I tell a lot of lies in my life this is one thing I actually mean.
A murmur of agreement runs round the room.
I sit down next to Sharon, give her a hug then grasp her hand.
I venture to ask, "What happened?"
Lauren runs through the tragic turn of events.
"He's not been very good recently Matt. Around about Christmas time he blacked out and found himself on the floor so he went to the doctor's and he discovered his blood pressure was a bit high. His doctor arranged for him to go back and have it checked at a later date, but he never heard back from the surgery. He blacked out a few other occasions after but was okay the rest of the time. You have to remember that after his heart attack, which was twenty seven years ago when he was forty seven, he had been diagnosed with angina though he had had only two mild attacks in all that time - he had made a good recovery. Anyway, this morning he had got up wandered down to the newsagents to buy a newspaper, as he does every Sunday, and when he had got in he had appeared ashen. He said to me, 'I don't feel too good Lauren.' He then went to the sofa and lay down on it. Next thing he said was, 'I've got these really bad pains in my chest.' He didn't say anything else. I phoned for the doctor but couldn't get through so in the end I got the ambulance. The crew tried their best but told me that it was too late. They also said that if he had revived he would probably have suffered brain damage, and perhaps ended up being a vegetable. He would have hated that."
"He's lived a good life. We've been reading his diaries and looking at some of his paintings," Lauren adds.
I'm not sure going through his personal diaries is appropriate so soon, just three hours, after his demise but I elect to say nothing.
I feel a tear form in the corner of my eye - I do nothing and allow it to run down my cheek.
We are walking along by the Canoe Lake - Bob loved feeding the swans.
There are four of us: Sharon, Sophie, Lauren and me.
Lauren had suggested getting a bit of fresh air.
Not so long ago Bob, with the aid of his son Brad, had produced a DVD of the locale with his gravelled Yorkshire accent voiceover pointing out the places of interest.
Sharon suddenly bursts into tears and blurts out, "I want to go back to the house!"
Without a word of objection we all turn back.
In that instant I catch a glimpse of her features and realise how middle-aged she has begun to look.
It is a strange and cruel thing to think in this the saddest of days for her.
It is about six o'clock now.
There is only Sharon and I left with Lauren in the house.
"You can't stay here by yourself Lauren, we can put you up at ours, no problem."
"Thanks Matt, but I'll be just fine - I've got a good book."
"I'm on early shifts all week so you can eat with us for the next few days, you don't want to be by yourself at a time like this."
"Okay then, thanks."
It is about half nine and we are back in the bungalow.
Sharon has been silent ever since we got in.
"Are you okay?"
It is a stupid question - that is the one thing she isn't - but I feel that she needs to speak.
She replies distractedly, "He was just lying there on his back on the sofa with his eyes peering into infinity and everybody was carrying on as though he wasn't there - I don't understand it, I just don't understand it."
I want to tell her that he wasn't actually there but I don't, instead I say, "Listen Sharon, I'm here if you want me."
"Are you here for me? Are you really here for me?"
"I'm sorry, truly sorry, that you have lost your dad, he was a great bloke. Come on, we need some sleep."
I cuddle next to her in bed.
She begins to sniffle - once you lose someone you love your life is never the same, I know that hard fact from experience but there is something bothering me: Why didn't Lauren phone for an ambulance immediately Bob had complained of chest pains - why phone Sharon and waste crucial time getting vital assistance?
Did she allow him to die because she didn't want to risk having to care for him twenty four hours a day and seven days a week for the rest of her life?
I visualise her nonchalantly smoking a cigarette with her elbow resting on the mantelpiece as his life ebbs agonisingly away secure in the realisation that the life insurances will provide well for her.
It is a question I will never ask because I truly don't believe I would get an honest answer. I could be terribly wrong too.
The one thing that is becoming increasingly clear to me is that Lauren's reaction, or lack of reaction, suggests that, if she ever did, she certainly had no feelings for Bob at the end.
I wonder if it is the same for all the women in this family that they have little or no feelings for their men-folk - Sophie certainly exhibits the same lack of concern for her partner.
The thing is, for a while now, I have begun to secretly believe that Sharon no longer loves me, and I wonder if my behaviour is in part a reaction to that.
Prior to dozing off I see myself lying on the floor of the lounge clutching my chest whilst Sharon casually looks on smoking a cigarette...
* * *
We are all waiting outside Bob and Lauren's house - well, just Lauren's house now - for Brad to turn up with the people carrier.
It's a sunny day and fairly mild - like the day two weeks ago when Bob died.
Everybody is attired in black, except Sharon - she's got a black skirt but is wearing a tight azure blue sleeveless top.
I don't think it looks quite right for a funeral but over the years I have suspected Sharon quite likes flaunting the bare flesh of her shapely limbs - I love her do so too as it's sluttish.
She's got a 'bitchy' expression on but nevertheless at this moment I wouldn't mind fucking her - we haven't had sex since before her father died.
At this moment Brad draws up in the people carrier.
"It was as though it wasn't him, he looked so different... and horrible," Sharon blurts out.
We are just passing over Wootton Bridge on the way to Whippingham where the crematorium is located.
"Bodies deteriorate quite quickly Sharon after a person dies - I didn't think it was a good idea to see him," Lauren responds calmly.
"I just wanted to say good-bye that was all."
I suddenly feel very sorry for the fact that she will never see her dad again, never hear his voice again, except maybe as a recording.
I am reminded of when I lost my mother, in actual fact every funeral I have ever attended has relived that terribly sad experience for me. And I have never been the same since.
We amble slowly and reverentially down the central aisle of the chapel where the service - a secular one - will be held for Bob.
Sharon stops me prior to the front row and turns to me saying, "You're in the row behind, the front row is for family only."
I am a little taken aback - in every funeral I ever attended partners and spouses accompany the relatives of the bereaved.
In that one moment I know what I had long suspected - I never was and never would be a part of Sharon's family.
I sidle up to Jackson, Sophie's partner and Trudy, Brad's long term partner in the pew behind. I say nothing but I do wonder what they are thinking...
"It was a good little send-off and much better than a traditional religious service - we got to know a little about his history, his many and varied interests, including his fascination for shoes and feet," Gilbert says, and chuckles.
Gilbert is tall, late forties, skinny and looks-wise is kind of a cross between Shaggy in Scooby-doo and Bob Geldof. He has known the family through Brad, Sharon's older brother, since they arrived on the Island.
"There was more to Bob than you'll ever know but he was a good man, and talented too, he was into art, music, electronics and a radio ham too."
"You're right there Gilbert, there were a lot of people there, and quite a few here too at the house. He was certainly well liked and respected."
"That reminds me, Matt, I bought along some fold up chairs in case there weren't enough seats, do you want to come to the car and help bring them down?"
"Sure, anything to help."
I espy Sharon in the corner of the lounge. She is talking to an aunt and I get the feeling that she is avoiding me.
As I walk up Dover Street with Gilbert I mention to him that Lauren is coping very well with her grief - it is a ploy of course for him to reveal more to me about this family of which I don't know half enough about.
"To be honest Matt I don't think she is grieving - the love between them long ago evaporated-"
"But they seemed quite close at times."
"It was just an act for the benefit of Brad and Sharon, and the grandchildren too."
Gilbert unlocks the boot of his car and fetches out a brace of stripy fold-up chairs which he hands to me.
"I lived next door to them in Minerva Road for a while and I remember seeing Bob going out as Lauren came in one day and neither spoke or even acknowledged the other as they passed in the passageway. I think they stayed together for the children, and because they would have been worse off financially had they gone their separate ways. Sad really."
Gilbert and I head down Dover Street now each of us carrying a handful of chairs under our arms.
Dover Street is wide and affords a panoramic view of LA Bowl, which used to be Ryde Pavilion, Eastern Gardens and a view across to Portsmouth with the nearly completed Millenium Tower.
"Why won't Sophie's dad see her? It has caused her a lot of angst in the past, and still now I suspect at the age of twenty five."
"I spoke to her father many years ago when he and Sharon had just split up and he said that he would either be a father full time or not at all. I don't agree with that but there you go."
We walk into the lounge and deposit the chairs.
A small group of mourners are gathered round admiring Bob's paintings which Lauren has set up along one wall, and she is talking about his work and life in glowing terms.
It is about nine o'clock and Sharon and I have just been dropped off back at the bungalow.
She has been 'off' with me all day and now I have to find out why.
"Sharon, I know that it has been an awful two weeks, but there's something else, you're really pissed off with me. Spit it out and clear the air, please."
The atmosphere is close, like an impending thunder storm.
"You want to know what I'm thinking, don't you? Well I'll tell you. Two days ago I paid a visit to the solicitor, and don't ask me why because it's none of your fucking business, and he informed me that were you to die then the bungalow would be paid off but I would have to pay out your son because half of it goes to him, and that isn't right because I shouldn't have to worry about getting new mortgages once you die. I was brooding about that all through the service when I should have been thinking about my dad."
"Hang on a minute Sharon, the same applies in reverse. If you were to pass away then I would have to pay Sophie out, but you knew this when we bought the place. If you remember we discussed getting insurance so that neither of our kids, or us, lost out, remember? We have yet to sort it out. Look we can make an appointment and sort it all out soon."
"You're a crafty bastard, I should never have trusted you. I wouldn't mind betting that you've got a load of money stashed away somewhere that I don't know about it. You make me sick."
"Sharon, calm down. We can get this all straightened out and everybody will be happy. I'm not trying to rip you off - honest."
I attempt to place my arm round her shoulder.
She storms off down the hallway and marches into the bedroom slamming the door behind her.
I retire to the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea - I'm not quite ready for bed yet...
* * *
I prop my bicycle up against the inside wall of the porch, slip my key into the lock of the front door and let myself in.
I divest myself of my back pack dumping it on the table in the hallway and then walk into the large L shaped lounge and dining room.
I slip my work jacket off and place it around the back rest of one of the dining chairs.
I become aware of activity from the kitchen - Sharon must be home early.
I fancy a cup of tea so I head for the kitchen.
As I enter the room I find myself becoming aroused which is odd since my libido seems to have been fading recently.
Sharon is at the sink and hasn't heard me. Or has pretended not to hear me.
I recall her saying to me a couple of weeks ago, I really enjoy sex with you, Matt, in fact you are the only man who has ever managed to give me an orgasm, and you are so gentle and considerate, but sometimes I just want to be taken...
She is wearing jeans and a navy blue sleeveless top with her chestnut hair, rich and lustrous as ever, hanging halfway down her back.
Her bare white arms move industriously, scrubbing each plate, placing it noisily in the rack before repeating the action with another piece of crockery or cutlery.
I feel my erection straining against the fabric of my trousers.
I imagine Sharon in hot pants and flimsy revealing top with thigh length black leather boots plying her trade as a hooker on the streets of New York City.
I steal up behind her, put my arms around her slim waist, brush her hair gently away from her neck and then kiss it.
I expect her to flinch but she doesn't.
Her arms stop working.
I press my body hard up against her - I need her to know that I am aroused and ready to take her, take her roughly if needs be.
My hands travel up beneath her top and slip her bra off - her nipples are hard.
I squeeze her breasts and knead her protuberant nipples.
I pull her top off and cast aside her bra. Her torso is still in good shape, and she is forty five now.
I quickly unbutton her jeans and pull them down to her ankles along with her black lace panties - she does not resist but says, "You know it is my period-"
"I know, and you know that I don't care."
She is naked and vulnerable in front of me her elbows resting on the edge of the sink.
I strip swiftly myself, tossing my clothes to the doorway.
I move to her and feel for the string of the tampon - she has given herself up totally to my animal lust now.
I pull the bloody and swollen sanitary pad from her vagina and lob it into the bin.
I grab hold of the tops of her arms and in a slow motion judo move I bring her body, shoulder blade first, down on to the cold lino of the kitchen floor.
I pin her down and penetrate her.
Her cunt, normally tight, is even tighter.
I start thrusting hard straightaway and in this moment I do not care if she climaxes - she exists purely for my gratification.
Her normally pale cheeks are flushed and her nostrils seem to flare with each push of my cock.
She starts to groan loudly now.
I reach, swiftly, the point of no return, climax strongly and then slump down satiated onto her heavily breathing frame.
"Fuck me, that was good, Sharon. I really needed that."
"Me too. Can you get up now - you're heavy."
I pull my penis out of her cunt, and it is streaked with blood and spunk. I like that. Blood and spunk - good title for a book I muse.
I feel good about us again - I think we are over the worst of things now.
"Fancy a cuppa Sharon?"
"Yes please," she says, bundling up her clothes and heading for the bathroom to clean up...
* * *
I feel good, fucking good.
I am in the changing rooms of the Waterside Swimming Pool which nestles at the Western end of Ryde Canoe Lake.
The time is about 21:20 and it's Friday.
It is also nearing the end of my first day off in four of a long weekend - I'll be back on the road for a late shift Tuesday.
I feel great because I have just swum 64 lengths, a mile, in just over thirty minutes, well, probably about thirty three minutes to be accurate.
I haven't performed like that since my early thirties, about thirteen years ago, when I used to regularly clock up about three to four miles in the pool every week.
I was about a stone and a half lighter then at thirteen stone and my muscles were toned - I used to feel a little more confident about myself back then.
There's no reason now that I can't get my slightly flabby frame back into shape now I am off the beta-blockers which I stopped taking Thursday.
I had been put on blood pressure tablets a few years back because my readings, at 140/90, were considered to be a little too high by Doctor Moore. "I wouldn't normally prescribe medication for this level of hypertension but you have a family history of coronary disease, especially where your mother died so young at sixty one," he had explained in his Indian accented English.
However, in the last week he had asked me to participate in trials for some new hypertension drugs. "All it will involve is coming off your normal medication, your blood pressure is only slightly high, and taking different tablets for a while, some may be placebos, but you won't know which as the boxes are all coded. It's only going to be for a couple of months and will involve having a twenty four hour monitor fitted to you for one day."
"That's fine, anything to advance our medical knowledge," I had replied.
The day before, Thursday, I had stopped taking the beta-blockers and commenced taking the plain white tablets which I was convinced were placebos.
There were two effects of that I had noticed within about a day: Firstly, I had regained energy and secondly my libido had returned with a vengeance - I had been 'suffering' with constant involuntary erections throughout the day.
A vigorous swim, and maybe, just maybe, a bit of rampant sex with Sharon, who had been in a strange denial about her father's death for the last fortnight, after would be the ideal way of assuaging all this newly acquired energy...
I finish dressing and break out of my reverie.
I sling my back-pack over my shoulders, exit the changing rooms and pool, bidding the staff a cheery 'goodnight', before I unlock my bike from the rack outside.
It's quite cool being February and I can clearly see the moisture in my breath condensing in the night air as vapour as I breathe out.
I carry my old racing bike up the slope to the Esplanade and then mount it for the ten minute ride back to Argyll Street...
"I'm going to make myself a cup of tea, do you want one?" I call out to Sharon.
I am home now and in the warm lounge.
Sharon is wearing her round framed glasses, and looks quite scholarly, engrossed in her course work for the part-time diploma she is studying for at Portsmouth University.
I wonder, idly, whether she has difficulty at times from stopping her spectacles sliding off as she has such a small - though cute in my book - nose. My nose, in contrast, is like a fucking ski ramp.
"Yes, please, I could just about do with one now."
She looks up from the book.
I stroll out of the lounge, into the hallway and then enter the kitchen - I am still glowing from the swim.
I fill up the electric kettle at the sink then plug it back in at the socket and switch it on.
I reach up and take two mugs from the cupboard before slinging a tea bag in each.
The kettle begins to rumble as it heats up and I lie back against the sink waiting for the water to reach boiling point.
Without any prior warning I suddenly feel as though I am dropping like a lift - I manage to stop myself falling and then experience this strange and disconcerting sensation that the nerve at the back of my neck is being strongly pinched with such force that I will black out.
The effect stops abruptly but I feel shaken and scared - it isn't good.
Trembling, I walk back into the lounge and tell Sharon what has just happened.
"You've overdone it at the pool, that's all. Your problem is that you still think you're twenty-five when in actual fact you're forty-five."
"I think it is more serious than that. I'm going to bed - you'll have to make you own tea. Night."
She responds and immediately returns to her studies.
I quickly clean my teeth and then get into bed - I feel anxious.
I wake up - it's Saturday morning and my bedside clock reads 09:30.
I don't feel a hundred percent but nevertheless I dress and have breakfast.
I am the only one here - Sharon is over at Newport with her daughter.
There is something not quite right with my vision - when I turn my head it seems as though my 'image' of the world lags behind momentarily.
It is odd, and worrying.
I wonder if I have experienced a minor stroke or brain haemorrhage.
Sharon is correct - I probably have overdone it and damaged something.
I make myself a cup of tea and take it into the lounge with the sun streaming in through the expansive windows.
I decide to make the most of the peace and get out the materials for my book-keeping course - it's boring but I've scored well for my coursework so far and it may get me out of the wearying grind of bus driving.
I finish reading the last part of the module and make the decision to have a go at the questions.
I click my word processor on in readiness to prepare my work for submission.
I feel that another tea may assist my mental processes so pop into the kitchen and make another one.
I realise that I am now feeling slightly nauseous, and my vision is becoming rather blurry.
In fact when I look at objects I am having difficulty focussing on them - I am getting double vision of the kind I have had when very drunk in the past.
I walk unsteadily into the front room and plonk my tea down on the coffee table opposite one of the sofas.
I am aware now of being in a cold sweat, and I feel sick to boot - I need to throw up.
I head to the toilet but I am having serious problems keeping on my feet - I feel like I am on the heaving deck of a ship in a storm. Or drunk but without the high.
I can see double of everything.
It suddenly, chillingly, occurs to me that I may be about to die - this could be the onset of a coronary.
I get to the toilet, slump down on the floor and with my head over the bowl, retch repeatedly till I am only spitting out bile.
My stomach contents completely evacuated I get and up stagger to my room where I get under the covers and assume a foetal position.
I try to keep as still as possible in order to minimise the dreadful sensation of spinning.
I await, terrified, the dreadful chest pains that must follow - my life is nearly over...
I awake - I am still alive.
The clock informs me that it is three o'clock - I have been asleep for about four hours.
I feel perfectly okay but as a precaution get out of bed gingerly.
I can't believe it - all my symptoms have disappeared but will they return at some point?
I am aware that I am extremely hungry so I go into the kitchen and prepare myself a cheese omelette.
Having consumed my food I return to the lounge, switch the telly on, stretch out on the sofa, and start surfing the numerous channels of Sky...
I hear Sharon open the door and enter the property - it is about seven.
She strolls into the lounge and asks me if I have had a good day.
"Actually, I have had a really bad experience. This morning I was doing my course when I started to sweat, lose balance, experience double vision and then ended up being violently sick. I thought I was going to die at one point-"
"You look fine now."
"That's the funny thing, I went to bed and woke up a few hours later feeling perfectly fine. It concerns me though."
"You've just had a twenty four hour virus, that's all," she responds dismissively.
"It worries me."
"Everything worries you, you think a zit is the beginning of cancer. A lot of people who know you think you are a hypochondriac. Try to start acting more like a man."
"You're using 'slantology' on me again, trying to present my perfectly acceptable concerns as some sort of hysteria in order to belittle me."
"You don't need me to belittle you, you're quite capable of doing that to yourself. And stop making terms up like slantology - whatever that means."
"Slantology - putting a slant on everything. You've taught me a lot about mind games, in fact I would say you are the Muhammed Ali of them."
She laughs derisively.
"Pure fantasy, you don't seem to live in the same world as the rest of us. Anyway, if you were that ill then why didn't you call for an ambulance?"
"It was an animal instinct, the urge just to go away somewhere quiet, curl up and die overwhelmed me."
"Oh please, my father has recently died and you're employing this pathetic attention seeking. Give it a rest."
I think about saying, How would you feel if someone had described your father's blackouts a few months before his death as attention seeking?
I don't say it though because I don't need a row. Or maybe it's because I am a coward.
"I'm making a tea, do you want one?" she says to me, her hostility waning suddenly.
"Yes, please," I reply, adding, "I'll arrange to see the doctor on Monday."
An image forces itself into my mind, an image I have had before:
I am lying on the lounge floor clutching my chest in agony whilst Sharon looks on, coolly smoking a cigarette...
* * *
I am upstairs in the dining area of Ryde Wetherspoons with my half-sister, Wendy, her husband, Stuart and their children, Cara and Martin.
We are sat around a table just finishing off our meal and it's about seven o'clock in the evening. . .
Just over a week ago they had suddenly announced they were popping up from Torquay to see us - it had taken me by surprise but I had managed to get the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off at fairly short notice.
They had arrived Tuesday evening and were intending to go back early Friday. It was of course half term.
I had been out with them all both days, which had included a visit to the highest point on the Island - St Boniface Down - and also a trip to the fascinating Submarine Museum over in Gosport.
Last night we had all, including Sharon, had a meal over at The Crab Inn located in Shanklin Old Village. It had been good to see them and even Sharon had enjoyed herself.
However, when I had phoned Sharon at work earlier about joining us all for a meal she had bluntly stated, "I always see Sophie on a Thursday night - you know that."
"But Wendy really likes you and wants to see you. I hardly ever meet up with them, it won't hurt just once to miss out on a visit to Sophie. In fact, bring her along - I'll pay."
"I went out last night and Sophie doesn't want to go out, and besides they're your family not mine."
"But your family are always round here, when have I ever refused them?"
"Last year you did, you said you wanted some peace."
"No, what happened was that I was ill with a cold and on a late shift, and I needed a kip before work which I wouldn't have got with your grandchildren, sweet as they are, running around screaming all over the place. I don't think that was unreasonable, and it is the only occasion when I have."
"Well, you upset Sophie that time, and I'm not prepared to upset her tonight. Sorry."
"For fuck's sake, Sophie wasn't upset at all."
"Look, I'm not changing my mind, they're nothing to do with me, they're your family, not mine - how many more times do I have to tell you?!"
She had put the phone down after that.
I had apologised to Wendy for Sharon's absence and she had told me not to worry but underneath I could see that she had felt snubbed. . .
"Anybody want another drink?" Stuart breaks in with his strong Devon accent.
"I'll have a pint of lager please Stuart," I say.
"What about you Wend'? Cara? Martin?"
I can tell Stuart wants a 'session'. I am not going to let him down.
"Actually Stuart I think it may be an idea if we get back to the Hotel as we've got packing to do. We don't want to leave it too late getting back home tomorrow. Have a few drinks with Matt and enjoy yourself. But try to be back before eleven."
He's been given the green light and scampers off to the bar downstairs reminding me of a young boy who has just been given his pocket money and can't wait to spend it.
"Right we'll be off now Matt, say goodbye to your uncle kids and we'll call in on the way back to the car ferry in the morning - probably be about nine to half past, and don't let Stuart get too drunk."
"I won't Wendy. See you all tomorrow."
I kiss Wendy and the kids and then follow them down the wide staircase of 'Spoons to the large main bar where they exit onto Union Street. I join Stuart at the bar where he is waiting to be served...
"Do you know what Matt, out of all of them, you are the one that was most like your father."
Stuart is just beginning to slur now as he talks about my three half siblings, Wendy and my fraternal twin brothers, Alan and Clive who are fourteen years younger than me.
"You look just like him, and what is astounding is that despite no contact for all those years, your handwriting is almost identical."
"Nature over nurture, eh?" I respond.
The funny thing is that all my relatives on my mother's side think I resemble my mother's uncle - but I don't mention this. People see what they want to see. And (like Sharon) hear what they want to hear.
"What was he like Stuart? What was he really like, my father? Be honest - I want to know."
"He was very intelligent, but do you know what, he did nothing with it. He was lazy and virtually an alcoholic, drinking cider for most of the day. He could be grumpy and would often lose his temper, but I'll say this for him, he was bloody good with Cara and Martin. I expect you're gutted that he would never see you, he should have done, even his missus said so."
"I was disappointed that I never met him, but maybe I would have been even more disappointed if I had, I don't know. Mum said he had mental problems and thought he would drink himself into an early grave, though he outlived her. I hasten to add that's not what I intend to do. Fancy another pint, Stuart?"
We both laugh when I say that.
I collect up the glasses and wend my way through the throng - the weekend has started early I think.
At the bar I catch the eye of a girl, well woman to be accurate - I feel that I ought to know her.
As I order she comes over.
"Not speaking then. Or don't you remember me?" she says quite cheerily.
I can't for the life of me recall her.
"You talked to me at that stag night in Chicago Rock few a weeks ago when your mate, what was his name, was getting married to a nurse."
"Ah yes, I remember you now. My mate's name was Patrick. Did you have a good time?"
I look her over - she's not really my type: tall, plain and quite a bit overweight. On the other hand her friend is exactly my type: willowy, blonde, shapely and young with sexy tanned arms. I want her but the reality is that she is out of my league, even if she hasn't got a boyfriend which she probably has.
"My name is Thia," the big one introduces herself, "and this is Victoria."
Victoria has indeed a lovely face and gorgeous blue eyes.
Stuart, in whom hope springs eternal when it comes to the opposite sex, sidles up to the bar and joins us...
I have been chatting and drinking to Thia and her pretty friend for about an hour now - she is a community nurse and Victoria is a trainee under her wing.
Thia is single with a son of twelve and lives at the top of St John's Hill just below the traffic lights.
Victoria has got a boyfriend but there are some relationship difficulties regarding trust.
Thia suddenly says to me, "Why don't you come down to Bar 53 with us?"
"I ought to be getting off home now."
"Don't be a wimp Matt, go on, have one then go."
I look to Stuart who says, "Actually, I'll be off now."
He wraps his arms round Victoria, who cringes, gives her a kiss then wishes everybody a slurry good night before staggering off.
Wendy would be pleased with that, I think.
I'm in the toilet of Bar 53 when I hear my message alert sound - it's Sharon.
Where are you and when will you be home?
I text back telling her that I'm with Stuart and that I will be making my way back very shortly.
I'm walking, or rather staggering, past the Star Inn between Thia and Victoria. I am holding hands with both of them.
I have been talked into having a coffee with them at Thia's house which is at the top of St John's Hill before I go home.
I notice a figure emerge unexpectedly from Newport Street...
Fuck, it's Sharon.
I let go of their hands but it is too late - Sharon has already seen me, and caught me red handed, well, two handed, as it were.
It takes a second for the girls to realise what is going on.
"That's my partner of twelve years, what the fuck do think you are doing with him?" Sharon angrily shouts in the face of Thia.
"We're not doing anything with him, he came with us of his own freewill," Thia counters calmly.
Sharon grabs my arm roughly and says, "You're coming home right now, you're fucking drunk again."
It is probably best not to argue with her - I don't want her scrapping in the street, and the police station is just a few yards away too.
She drags me along Newport Street.
"What were you doing?"
"I was jusht going to have coffee with them... thatsh all."
"DON'T FUCKING LIE TO ME!"
I point to the police station and put a finger to my lips.
"I don't care, which one were you going to shag? Or maybe you were intending on having both. Hope it wasn't the ugly one - that would be a real insult."
Funny how women despite all this feminism and 'sisters-in-arms' crap jettison all the solidarity when a bloke is involved. Funny how they automatically rank themselves with regards to their attractiveness too, I ponder in my dazed state.
"I don't know why you've gone back drinking, you were a much nicer and reasonable person when you were off it - I could trust you," she throws in sadly.
We can distantly hear the girls laughing - laughing about what has just happened - as they walk down the High Street.
"That says it all Matt, to them breaking up a relationship is just a joke."
I kind of agree with her, but if it was someone else I would have chuckled about it.
"I'll tell you something else, Matt, I am getting to the end of my tether. I can't and won't take much more, and you used to be such a nice bloke. I don't know what goes on in that crazy head of yours."
"You never told me that you thought I was a nice bloke. I need reassuring now and again. I felt used when I had to put more money into the bungalow than you did. What happened to the twenty grand you made on your house? Why did you only have fifteen grand?"
She answers the question by not answering the question - she bailed out her financially reckless daughter and son-in-law, and I bailed her out because otherwise we would have lost the place.
"That's all in the past now, eh?"
We walk down the pathway to the front door. Sharon opens up and I stagger into the hall.
She turns to me and says, "I'm going to sleep in the garage. I don't want to be pawed by your dirty hands in the middle of the night when you wake with a hard-on. You disgust me."
For some strange reason I see the Titanic just a few yards away from colliding with the iceberg...
* * *
The aroma of lavender in the scented pillow my head is resting on is just beginning to overpower me.
It is the first Tuesday in March and about two in the afternoon.
I am in Thia's double bed - she is next to me and we are both naked.
I have just fucked her, fucked her hard and fast because deeply penetrative sex makes her come.
I sit up, reach down and pull the condom off my now flaccid penis - I am careful not to allow any sperm to trickle out onto the sheets.
"Don't put it in the wastepaper basket - my son often wanders in and if he sees it he'll know what it is, and what I have been up to. Put it on the side and I'll flush it down the loo in a minute. It's handy I get these free from work," she informs me in her pronounced Isle of Wight accent.
I look her over and can't decide whether I fancy her or not.
She's about five nine with shoulder length dyed blonde hair and weighs about thirteen stone, though she's got quite a big frame to carry it off.
Her face is square with warm brown eyes, a nose tending to wideness and an expansive mouth - she's plain.
Her skin is an attractive milky colour and she has a few small moles dotted randomly about her arms, legs and torso - in addition she has a rather large raised and unappealing one just behind her right shoulder blade.
Her pubic hair is black and the coarse texture of it reminds me, unflatteringly, of a hedgehog.
All the time I had been thrusting inside of I had kept my eyes closed apart from when she had climaxed. I had attained orgasm a few moments after with a vision of her scantily clad friend Victoria being at my mercy as I slippered her naked buttocks, her sexy tanned arms tensing with each hard stroke.
I want to tell her this because her contented smile irritates the shit out of me, but I don't.
I don't know why I am here with Thia - I hardly fancy her and we don't have a lot in common character and interest wise.
" 'Ere! You'd better be off in a minute as nipper will be back soon from school," she says glancing, a tad nervously, at her bedside clock.
We roll out of bed on our respective sides simultaneously and start getting dressed...
"It is you. I've been aware of a slight smell of lavender ever since you got to bed, it's in your hair."
It's about half ten and I have just fucked Sharon - the first time since the embarrassing encounter with Thia and Victoria.
"I sprayed the loo with air freshener just before I joined you in bed, some of the droplets must have settled on my head."
I surprise myself with the quickness and competence of my lie.
"Yeah, that could be it."
I can't believe the lavender odour is so tenacious - I had showered thoroughly to rid my body of the lingering and incriminating rubber smell of the durex as soon as I had got back from Thia's.
The other thing I can't believe is that it is a little over a year ago when I had shagged Sharon and Claire on the same day too - history is repeating itself I postulate?
History doesn't repeat itself but, according to Mark Twain, it does rhyme.
Thia couldn't hold a candle up to Claire. Or Sharon either, who has dropped off to sleep and is now breathing heavily.
The shag with Sharon was just so satisfying, and looking at her naked body is a turn on not a turn off as it is with Thia.
Why am I doing this? I must be crazy. Sharon is right, I am fucked up good and proper.
I slide gingerly out from under the covers, taking care not to disturb Sharon, pad along the corridor and then have a piss. I do not flush the toilet but I do spray some lavender air freshener around.
I get back into bed and now speculate that if history can rhyme then why not the universe?
Perhaps the universe, over mind boggling periods of time, expands to a maximum then falls back under gravity to create a black hole before exploding as a 'big bang' and then repeating the process ad infinitum.
But, what if every rebirth of the cosmos was subtly different in each manifestation, rhyming rather than repeating. Does that mean that in some future alternate world I am happy with Sharon? Or maybe there is a world awaiting her in which she is happy with someone else?
For some reason, that last possibility makes me feel somewhat insecure...
* * *
I am walking hand in hand with Sharon down Green Street on our way to the Commodore Cinema to watch Chicago and we are about to turn left into Station Street.
I notice a white Suzuki 4X4 driving up from the traffic lights at the junction with the High Street and St John's Hill - it is Thia.
As she gets closer I pray that she doesn't beep.
She doesn't but she does stare curiously at Sharon and me.
She passes by and Sharon and I turn into Station Street.
I look at Sharon's neutral expression - she hadn't realised who it was.
I silently breathe out a sigh of relief...
* * *
I am waiting my time at Brook Chine on a 7B to Newport - it is nearly 0920.
The double-decker I am in is gentle swaying in the wind - the south west side of the Island is the one most exposed to the weather and not only are there fossilised skeletons of dinosaurs along the 'Jurassic' coast there are also the 'skeletons' of shipwrecks which have come to grief in storms past.
I am warm and cosy, however, in my cab reading a book.
The pleasant little message alert tone of my Company issued Motorola mobile phone sounds.
I take it out from my inner jacket pocket and read it.
The message is from Thia.
I don't want to be the other woman. Think about it and ring me tonite x
* * *
"I have decided that my future lies with Thia - I can't cope with your moods and mind games anymore."
It is a dangerous and desperate bluff - I want to shock her into change because deep down I really, really love her.
Sharon colours and coldly states, "If that's what you really want then you had better move out then."
"I'm not moving out - it's half my place."
Everything seems so suddenly unreal.
"We'll have the place valued and then put on the market - our relationship is over as of today. Can you grasp that?"
The problem is, I don't think I actually can grasp it.
I am beginning to believe now that it is me with the real mental and emotional problems, and the one worrying phrase that won't stop running through my mind is: I can't live with her, but nor can I live without her.
I must see the doctor - I need help...
* * *
I am thrust reluctantly into consciousness - the door to my bedroom has been swung open noisily.
In the doorway is framed the figure of Sharon. Her hair is wild and looks briefly as though it has been filled with St Elmo's Fire illuminated through as it is by the strong light of the hall.
For a second I am put in mind of an alien abduction scene.
She clicks the light on which leaves me blinking and strolls to my bed.
She thrusts her face in mine and growls, "What the fuck has been going on?"
"Nothing has been going on," I reply sheepishly, but also checking to see that her hands are clear of a knife or something equally nasty, and remembering that she once told me she had thrown a pot of hot stew over her ex-husband during a row.
"You must be shagging someone. Who is it?"
"I'm not shagging anyone - honest."
"I know you, you can't go without sex for more than twenty four hours - you must be getting it from somewhere, and obviously it's not me."
"But, you said our relationship was over, I mean the bungalow is now up for sale."
"Is it that Thia?" she snarls.
"No, I dumped her as she was more moody than you, and I never fancied her that much either," I respond with a bit of defiance.
She rips the duvet off my bed and throws it to the floor.
I am naked and place my hands over my genitals.
"Don't bother with all that pathetic bashfulness, you don't seem to care who sees your prick nowadays. Take your hands away. So who is it?"
I let my hands fall by my sides.
"There's nobody, nobody at all, besides I'm not interested in sex what with all the tablets I'm on. Gone right off it."
She snorts derisively.
The blow to my head surprises me but doesn't really hurt.
"Well, I'm going to find out exactly what you have been up to."
A vision of Norah Batty beating Compo round the head with an umbrella springs into my mind - I laugh.
"What's so fucking funny all of a sudden?"
A whole stream of hapless men from comedies across the decades getting 'what for' from their angry and exasperated spouse's floods into my head - it's just so funny, and I'm now part of that great tradition.
I can't stop laughing and I'm naked and rolling around on the bed - surreal.
Sharon starts to laugh now.
"Let me in on the joke."
"It's me, I'm laughing at me. I always vowed from a young age that I wouldn't end up one of those henpecked and battered husbands, and now it's happened. My life is turning into a Hal Roach production."
I start to whistle the Cuckoo Waltz.
Sharon chuckles and says quite calmly now, "You're a fucking weird one."
She walks out of my room pulling the door shut gently.
I get up, replace my duvet, switch the light off and then slip back beneath the covers.
It must be the antidepressants 'kicking in', that is the source of all this mirth, I think.
I close my eyes and wait for sleep...
* * *
Her face has a malevolent expression.
It is a Sunday afternoon.
I am half-heartedly watching television in the lounge and Sharon has just walked in. She is standing at the door, guarding it perhaps to prevent my exit.
"I was with Sophie in B & Q yesterday. Whilst we were there I saw Christopher, the bus driver, with his ex-wife, Claire and their daughter," she pauses ominously, "and she looks like the type-"
"What type?" I say, immediately falling into the trap.
"The type that would sleep with another woman's man. You've fucking slept with her and don't fucking deny it because I knew you were up to something. I took a day off whilst you were on a long shift to go through all your computer discs."
I thought I had been careful but she had found my secret diary whilst I was at work.
"I nearly slapped her made up little face, but I refuse to lower myself."
"I don't think that would have been a good idea - I get the feeling that Claire can handle herself in a scrap."
I think back to Claire recounting the incident of her and her older sister having to be separated by their mother after Claire had discovered her sister and ex-husband had been having an affair - I could imagine the fur flying that time.
I visualise the scene in B & Q as Claire and Sharon roll amongst the aisles as they scream, slap, bite and try to tear out each other's hair. It is not a pretty sight.
I shudder, thinking about it.
I also wonder what Christopher and his daughter - and Sophie - would have made of it.
I'm glad it didn't and that Sharon walked on by, seething inside nevertheless.
"I'm sorry, Sharon."
"No you're not, you're only sorry you got found out. Anyway, the estate agents phoned me on Friday - we've got someone round to view the place on Tuesday. Make certain the place is tidy - I would hate to have to be here with you any longer than is absolutely necessary..."
It is about eight o'clock now and Sharon is round her mother's house.
I text Claire and tell her that Sharon knows about the time we slept together - I reassure her that Sharon isn't going to do anything nor does she know where she lives or works.
Claire merely responds that she will cross that bridge if and when she gets to it.
I have a sneaky feeling that that isn't the first time Claire has found herself in such a situation. She also adds that maybe it's time we caught up over a cuppa or a drink.
* * *
Sharon corners me in the hallway and prods her finger in my chest.
"I've heard from good authority that you've fucking slept with half of Ryde."
"Not just Ryde, but Sandown and Carisbrooke too," I reply, smugly.
She slaps me hard across my face three times - it stings.
Sometimes in this world there's a time for a smart arse reply.
But this isn't one of them...
* * *
A weekday in early June.
"Thanks for inviting me out for your birthday Morgan. I can't be too late as up at half five for an early shift. I'll probably shoot off about nine."
The time is about seven and I'm in Wetherspoons by the window.
"What would you like to drink Matt?"
"Just a lager shandy..."
A grim faced Sharon suddenly strides by the window down Union Street - she doesn't see me.
"Actually, Morgan, on second thoughts I'll have a pint of Stella Artois instead. Cheers."
Why don't you dump Peter and go out with me? I really love you and will look after you and Camille for ever. Xxxxx
I press 'send' - the message is to Claire.
I am in Goldies in Union Street and it is about one in the morning.
A feeling that I need to throw up suddenly overwhelms me.
I stagger to the toilets...
I try to prop my bike up in the porch but it keeps falling over - I give up and let it lie on the concrete.
I manage, however, to get undressed and fall into bed...
The light wakes me, my bladder is achingly full and I am lying next to Sharon who is naked.
What the fuck!
I've got a thumping headache and I'm parched.
I get up, being careful not to disturb Sharon, and make my way to the bathroom.
I take a piss and then walk into the kitchen where I pour myself a large glass of water which I then gulp down.
The wall clock in the kitchen says 06:30.
Shit, I'm supposed to be booking on at Ryde Depot at 06:35.
I quietly phone the Inspector from the hall.
"I've got a really bad headache and I won't be able to make it in today. Sorry," I explain to the unconvinced and unsympathetic sounding Duty Inspector.
I'm rarely sick but I can't risk being breathalysed - perhaps after an accident that may not even be my fault.
I go back in the bathroom, clean my teeth and gargle with mouthwash.
I get back into Sharon's bed and cuddle her.
She stirs and wraps her bare arms around me.
I can't believe what is happening - perhaps she has forgiven me and now seeks reconciliation for us.
I kiss her neck, take in the inviting and musky odour of her arm pits, massage her breasts and squeeze her engorged nipples.
She is fully alert now and allows me to rub her clit and thrust my fingers into her damp and savoury cunt.
She groans and gradually I bring her to orgasm.
I watch her sexy body arch with pleasure before she sighs and falls back.
I clamber on and within half a minute I too have climaxed though my headache intensifies.
I am at a loss to understand what has happened.
"What, w-what does this mean Sharon?" I stutter out.
"I wanted to know if I could have sex with a man I didn't love. I have my answer now - yes," she replies cruelly.
I kiss her on the forehead nevertheless and then turn over.
I know now that it will be the last time I make love to her...
* * *
I cannot stand it anymore.
I do not know where she has been all night but she is back and playing the piano. Playing it badly. Playing it loudly.
It is the third night in a row and I cannot cope with the lack of sleep any longer.
I think of the irony, the law of unintended consequences, that we chose the place because it was detached so that we did not have to risk the noise of others...
And now I have to suffer the torment from within which she would not have imposed on those attached to us. What a joke that fate plays on us.
I understand her hurt and her anger but enough is enough.
I slip my gown on and walk anxiously to the lounge.
It is two o'clock in the early hours and I am up in four hours to drive a bus for ten hours.
I enter the room - she is oblivious.
The playing is classic 'Les Dawson', only she isn't larking about.
"Do you think you could stop playing and go to bed - I have to get up early for work."
She turns to me - her look is manic.
"It's my house and I can do what I like, your lack of sleep is your problem, not mine."
She carries on assaulting the keys and my senses alike.
"For fuck's sake Sharon I have to drive a bus tomorrow and it's important that I am alert, people's lives may depend on it."
"Don't be a drama queen, a little tiredness never hurt anyone."
"The Ministry of Transport may beg to differ with you on that."
"Well do the travelling public know that you can't keep your dick in your trousers?"
"What's that got to do with it?"
"If you don't like it here, then move out - simple."
She's trying to force me out, and maybe get her daughter and family in so that I relinquish my claim to the place - smart.
"I am not moving out."
"Well then, I am just going to continue playing the piano till you do," she says, and smiles evilly.
I drag the piano stool, with her still sitting on it, away and close the lid.
She walks calmly over to the television, switches it on and then turns up the volume to full.
"Come on, please let me have some sleep, Sharon."
I twist the volume knob down.
She turns the music centre on now - loud.
After only about twelve hours sleep in the last three days and at the end of my tether I snap.
I push her roughly onto the sofa and thrust my face into hers. "YOU ARE A FUCKING NUTCASE AND I HATE YOU!"
I want to punch her in the face but I've never done that to a woman and I'm not about to start now.
She looks scared and says nothing.
Maybe she wants me to hit her so she can get some sort of exclusion order placed on me.
Never do what your enemy wants, I counsel myself.
I walk into the hall and pick up the phone - I dial 999.
I idly wonder how many other couples are involved in 'domestics' across the country.
"What service do you require?"
Assassin I'm tempted to say but instead I request the police.
"Just putting you through."
There is a dialling tone.
I cannot believe that I am having to resort to this.
"Police here, how can we help, sir?"
"My partner is driving me round the bend, and if you don't come round I'm going to kill her."
I put the receiver up so they can hear the noise.
"No need to do that, sir. What's your address?"
Sharon comes out of the living room.
"Who are you talking to? Arranging to stay the night with one of your sluts?"
"No, it was the police."
The look of victory melts from her face.
The young policeman bids us a good evening and closes the door behind him.
"Never speak to me again."
"I won't," I respond.
They have had a 'quiet word' with us separately.
She walks in the direction of her bedroom.
I go back to mine.
The bungalow is silent now, like the rest of the street, apart from the odd vehicle passing.
I won't get trouble from her again like that, she can't risk her reputation and jeopardise her career prospects - ambition is her middle name - by being 'known' to the police as a hysterical female.
I don't give a fuck - I'm a bus driver and in my world where career-wise everybody is going nowhere fast, I'm going nowhere fast, faster.
I place my head on the pillow and wait for the bliss of sleep to overwhelm me - for a few precious hours at least...
* * *
I am on a late shift and it is the middle of July...
The word processor stops printing.
I take the document out, pick it up and hold it in my hand.
It is a response to a letter from her solicitors, received yesterday, falsely accusing me of assaulting and harassing her - I have done nothing wrong, legally or morally, and my conscience is clear.
I read it through...
It is extremely sad that the relationship between Sharon and I has broken down. I have loved Sharon very much but unfortunately we have not resolved personal problems between us - I believe we could have done and lived happy lives.
The relationship having finished, I felt it in both our interests to conduct the sale of the house and division of property in, as you say, an amicable matter. Sharon was determined that I should leave the property. I explained that I could not afford to do that and then she embarked upon a campaign of harassment - shouting, bursting into my bedroom, playing of loud music - which culminated in me having to call the police on the night/morning of ** July 2003 - the police log will confirm that I called first. I also believe that Sharon was attempting to provoke me into striking her in order to have some sort of exclusion order placed on me.
I can assure you that I have never assaulted or threatened Sharon in 12 years of our relationship. I do not condone violence to women and have never hit a woman. You are welcome to check with the police and social services or contact my previous partners.
Sharon, however, has struck me in the face on three separate occasions within the last three months - hardly the actions of a woman who feels intimidated by her partner!
Sharon has also attempted to bar me - illegally - from the property on two occasions by locking all doors and windows - I have had to rouse her in order to gain entry to the house.
I have never prevented or attempted to prevent Sharon's entry to the house.
I have phoned your client at work only once, if my memory serves me correctly, recently regarding the sale of the property - you are welcome to check any log of calls from my mobile or home phone. Also there may be a record of incoming calls at Sharon's workplace which I am sure Sharon would only be too glad to furnish you with!
Sharon has texted me on several occasions - one message consisted of a patently absurd allegation that I was trying to strangle her - I admit I responded sarcastically.
There is a small possibility that Sharon may travel on a bus driven by me - I have absolutely no intention of communicating with her in such an instance. Further, I have a copy of my shifts and rota displayed prominently in the kitchen - please inform her that I operate the 0720 to her workplace only when on duty 204 Mon to Fri.
I do not have a problem speaking to Sharon but if she prefers I will communicate through writing when dealing with matters of joint importance.
I also seek a speedy resolution to this situation and considering the lack of interest in the property feel that it might be to our mutual benefit to lower the asking price.
I put down the letter, get up and rummage for an envelope in the bureau.
I also think back to a few days ago when I had received a message from Sharon reminding me that I had attempted to strangle her a few years ago and how terrified she had been at the time.
What?!!!! had been my immediate reaction.
The only time I could recall was jokingly placing my hands around her throat after she had been cheeky - she had herself laughed at the time, surely she couldn't have been referring to that?
I had replied sarcastically saying that, "You'll be saying that I took you shark fishing during your period next!"
This was a reference to an Emo Philips gag she had once laughed at.
The next thing I get a letter from her solicitors, not that I knew she had any solicitors until that moment.
I seal down the envelope, take a first class stamp out from my wallet, affix it to the envelope and then place it next to my work jacket so that I won't forget to post it.
I pick up my latest copy of Axis, a fetish magazine I have recently been subscribing too, and start to peruse the personal ads. It is time I started to move on in life...
* * *
I'm off on a long weekend.
It is all over between Sharon and I - we have accepted an offer for the bungalow.
Everything seems slightly surreal to me, and I am retreating into hedonism.
I'm sitting on a train and my eventual destination is East Croydon though I will have to change at Haslemere.
I have arranged to meet and have a drink with a certain Mistress V with regards to my suitability to become her sub - it's only a preliminary meeting and I haven't brought along my favourite plastic beach shoe or garden cane.
For some reason I recall a paragraph I once read many years ago in a book about sexual perversion something along the lines that, the whip cracking, leather clad, fierce, obedience seeking woman of the male masochists fevered imagination is just that - imagination. These women do not exist in reality except perhaps in the garb that prostitutes put on to satisfy their clients...
Despite the fact that she stated in her letter that she was 'lifestyle' I have nevertheless bought along a fair amount of money - you can never be certain of anything in this game.
The train pulls in at Haslemere and I alight from the carriage, I ask one of the platform staff about the next train to East Croydon and I am directed to another platform.
I get into the carriage and wait for it to move off.
I get out of the carriage and have a look along the platform - it appears that there were two trains at the platform and the front one was for East Croydon. It isn't there anymore.
For fuck's sake!
Trust me to get in the wrong fucking train.
I make more enquiries and to my relief there is another train due shortly - I don't want to be late.
Safely settled in the train I reflect back on the circumstances that are leading to this encounter, slightly nervous as I am.
I had advertised recently in a fetish magazine called Axis for a dominant woman - only really expecting responses from professional mistresses - when I had received a letter and a photo from a Mistress V.
In it she had told me that she was forty and had just divorced her third husband - he couldn't take the pain any longer.
She was Russian and working over here giving seminars to business men.
Over the last few years she had given in to her previously suppressed sadistic and dominant impulses and was now looking for a male sub.
The photo showed a smartly attired slightly overweight woman with blonde hair possessing Slavic features - she was average looking.
After I had sent her a photo of myself she had phoned me and agreed a time to meet, during her long lunch hour, and for her to assess my suitability. That appointment was now drawing close.
The train draws into East Croydon, slows and stops.
I step out onto the platform and then make my way to the wine bar where we had agreed to rendezvous - I was okay for time after all.
The streets are crowded, and not a little rough for a small town boy like me.
I find the bar and make my way down the steps - it's busy but I can't see her.
I buy myself a drink and sit down keeping a lookout for her.
Whilst there I am momentarily startled to see my ex-wife there, but on closer inspection it isn't her, though the woman is extremely similar feature-wise. I can imagine the conversation...
"Hi Matt, fancy seeing you here of all places. What you doing?"
"Um, well Sharon and I are splitting up and as you know I am into S & M I've arranged to meet up for a lady to abuse and beat me. Still, that's enough about me, you?"
A few minutes later Mistress V strolls in, she's exactly as her photo, and dressed in a smart jumper with beige slacks.
I greet her and buy her a drink.
We have a short conversation before she says in Russian accented English, "I have taken zee afternoon off. You are going to come back to my place and vee are going to see vot you are made of!"
I gulp - she means and looks the business.
We finish our drinks and I follow her out, tamely.
She is only a short walk away and lives in a three bedroom terraced property.
As soon as I enter she orders me to, "Take off all zor clothes - I must examine you, and in addition you vill address me as Mistress."
I stand up straight with my arms by my sides as she scrutinises my nude body.
"Hmmm, a little overweight. So you have a big nose, big testicles and a small penis, hmm, vy are you smiling?"
"Well Mistress, I guess two out of three isn't bad!"
She slaps my face.
"Ve vill zee if you are still smiling in a minute?"
I am ordered to walk over to a wooden chair with arms to which she handcuffs me to.
It is at this point I experience real fear - she could be a bona fide nutter and I'm helpless.
The first stroke is with a leather paddle - it's painful but I take it.
Several more follow which I also take - my buttocks are beginning to warm up - and I thrust them out prior to each whack to show her that I can indeed take it.
Next is a cane which is cheap and breaks after about twenty strokes - she curses.
Last is a flogger and that really hurts as it wraps itself each time around my buttocks, sides, and tops of my legs.
"Zat is enough for zee moment!"
I am beginning to glow, and proud that I haven't let myself or her down.
"Vell, you are tougher than my ex-husband, he couldn't take half that but he vasn't really into pain even though I tried hard to persuade him that he vas, and he did zee best to please me!"
I could see why he did - she was one hell of a strong woman!
"It was when he vas made redundant that finished him off and he vas at home all the time. I used to come back dinner times and beat him zen too. I used to feel so much better in zee afternoon. But one day I came back after vork and he was gone leaving me a note telling me that he couldn't take the pain anymore - vimp!"
She releases me from the handcuffs.
"Valk upstairs, vee have talked enough for zee moment."
My hands free I take the opportunity to rub my sore buttocks.
I am ushered into a 'play room' where there is a bed stripped of mattresses and bed clothes. Various kinky magazines are lying round along with a few items of pain, impending pain.
"Lie face up on zee bed vith your arms outstretched and your legs apart - I am going to torture you," she states matter-of-factly.
A chill runs through my body but I feel I must comply, such is her natural dominance.
Secured tightly, I am now at her mercy, my life and well-being is in her hands, the very hands that had just administered the worst beating I had endured for a very long time.
She turns to the side and produces a pair of nipple clamps.
"I zink you vill like zeze, " she smiles sadistically.
I gasp as she attaches each one - they really are tight and my nipples feel as though they are being gripped by pliers.
I grit my teeth - I must not start to beg.
After a few seconds, strangely, the pain becomes bearable.
She then starts to attempt to fix pegs to my inner thighs but they keep slipping off.
"Zat is annoying, your legs are too muscular, and another zing zat is annoying me is your penis - it is not hard enough nor big enough. I zink I vill vip it!"
I am not keen on my pride and joy being whipped but what can I do - complain to the management?
She towers to my right with the small whip raised high in her right hand.
I close my eyes as she brings it down.
I experience tentacles of extreme pain bite hard into my penis and around my groin.
I grind my teeth and tense my muscles with each lash of the whip. After about ten she mercifully stops.
She unclamps my nipples, and there is a little ripple of discomfort in each as she does.
I look down at my nipples - they appear quite squashed.
I expect to be released but seeing me examining my breasts tempts her to whip them.
She only gives me about six strokes and not that hard - the pain is tolerable.
This time she does free me.
"How vas zat?"
"Erm, st-stimulating, M-Mistress," I stutter.
"I vill tell you zomezing, I do not like normal sex, I get off on fucking zee man up zee anus vith a strap-on dildo - it is zee only vay I can come. Have you ever been fucked up zee anus?"
"No, it doesn't really appeal to me to be honest, Mistress"
In her hand she is waving a large dildo.
It scares me, really scares me.
She places the beast back on the shelf and gets out a much smaller and slimmer vibrator.
"I zink vee vill try zis one first. Turn round and bend over."
I place my hands on a chair.
I feel the vibrator being pushed in - it's a bit like a medical procedure but not too bad.
She switches it on.
"Vat does it feel like?"
"To be honest I feel like I'm having a crap in reverse, Mistress."
"Vell you vill have to get used to it if you are to be my slave. Ven you get home I vant you to stretch your anus progressively by placing bigger and bigger items up it - understood?"
"I understand, Mistress."
"You look hot, vould you like a glass of water?"
"Yes please Mistress, and may I use your toilet please too?"
"You may use my toilet but I am not going to make it easy..."
I am placed in a yoke with my arms outstretched and a spreader bar placed around my ankles.
"If you miss the toilet bowl I vill punish you - hard. Now go, I vill bring you up some vater."
With the utmost difficulty I struggle to get down some steps and into the toilet.
I attempt to point my now flaccid and reddened penis as best I can in the direction of the bowl.
I allow the urine to flow but a few drops land on the rug - I pray that she doesn't check.
I finish and make my way back to the play-room where she is waiting with a refreshing glass of water.
She raises the glass to my parched lips and allows me to gulp most of it down.
"I vill now check the bathroom."
I gulp again.
She exits the room and within about half a minute is back.
"I vill have to punish you. Kneel on zee floor."
From her cupboard she produces a wooden paddle - it looks the business.
"Place your forehead on the carpet."
I fall forward with my face close to the pile.
The first blow is agony and pushes me forward - I can feel the colour drain out of my face, the pain is kind of sickening.
She administers three more hard ones - I try to take it but I can't.
"Mercy Mistress, please, no more please!"
"It is not for you to ask for mercy, I will stop when I feel you've had enough, you vimp!"
She whacks me twice more but not as hard and then admonishes me: "If you vant to be my slave you must never disobey me again!"
"I'm very sorry, Mistress!"
She takes off my yoke and spreader bar.
"You vill come down, vash up and zen prepare zum strawberries and cream for me."
I wash up her dirty plates as best I can.
"It is not good enough. Put your arms by your side when I address you?"
She slaps my left cheek resoundingly hard with her right hand - it hurts.
"Now prepare my food."
I do as she says - I expect her to be cross but she isn't.
She consumes the dessert in front of me.
"It is nearly time for you to go but I must examine your body for bruises and then photograph it. I vill not show your face. You have done vell and I vill contact you when I have tested the others."
"Thank you Mistress."
She takes pictures of my front, buttocks and penis and I wonder if she will send them to Truprint to be developed.
I get dressed and she allows me to give her a peck on the cheek.
At the station I begin to realise what a beating I have just undergone - it is rather painful to sit for long periods of time.
I get home to the Isle of Wight about half ten and fall straight into bed...
* * *
It is Saturday Morning and I still feel sore.
I go to the bathroom and examine myself in the long mirror - my torso, buttocks and penis are literally black and blue.
It will also be a while before I go swimming again...
* * *
It's Monday afternoon and I am walking along the road to visit my Uncle and Auntie in Lake.
The message alert sounds - it is Mistress V.
I want you to be my full time slave. You will shave your pubic hair and each day you will text me telling me how you will serve me. I will also send down a chastity device which you will wear. I also expect you to send me some money to purchase a caning table. When you have sold your property you will live with me.
Fuck, I can't do this - I can't give up my job and stop seeing my son, 24/7 is not for me.
I text back explaining.
She replies and wishes me luck.
I know that I will never hear from her again...
* * *
I am sitting in Claire's neat and nicely furnished flat.
I remember the last time I was here about eighteen months ago when I shagged her and Sharon in the same day. I can't deny it, it was one of the best days in my life.
That isn't going to happen today however - Claire has a boyfriend called Peter.
A couple of weeks ago she had boarded my bus and suggested that we meet up for a cuppa and a chat some when.
I accepted her offer because I wanted her to believe I'm the kind of guy who is just as happy being friends as 'fuck buddies', but that just isn't the case. The fact of the matter is that right now I only see women as sexual objects, and as sexual objects go, Claire is certainly up there with the best.
The funny thing is, since sitting here on her plush sofa, that I now know that Claire knows that - I cannot hope to deceive her.
I also believe that no man can deceive or control her because she knows that men are only interested in her for her body and more significantly she cannot love them back because, I believe, she still loves her ex-husband, Christopher, whom she cheated on, and destroyed her marriage in the process, several years ago...
I pick up the cup of tea she has made me and sip from it.
"You certainly make tea better than Sharon, she always makes it too strong and with too little sugar," I say, thinking I should have used the past tense.
"What's the situation like at home with her, Matt?" she queries in her attractive Liverpudlian accent.
"It's been hell at times, we've got an offer on the bungalow but it seems to be taking ages to complete."
I glance across at her with her legs folded under her on the armchair opposite - she is wearing a white T-Shirt and snug fitting jeans.
I still can't decide in my mind whom she most resembles: Jodie Foster or Gaby Roslin...
"So, you're not going to go back to her then like you have done before?"
"No, this time it is final."
"I must say I was disappointed in you when you went back after our little fling, that's half the reason I went out with Peter because he had no one else in the background."
"I only returned to her because I really loved her, but now its hell. I was in Somerfield one day buying groceries and the card wouldn't complete the transaction. Turned out she had closed the joint account and taken all the money out without telling me. Then she informed me that she was taking control of all the finances till the place was sold - I used to pay her so much a week. But the best of it was I got a red letter from the electric, so I tried to contact her and found out she was in fucking Portugal on holiday, and probably paid for out of the joint account. I still had to pay for the electricity though."
"You're best rid of her Matt."
"The sooner the better, the Doctor has put me on mild anti-depressants. That's enough about me, how are you getting on with Peter?"
"Well, Matt, that's half the reason I invited you round. I've had enough of him now. I'm going to dump him soon."
"I thought you really liked him though, he was slim and good looking et cetera..." I respond but thinking underneath, everything I'm not.
"Looks aren't everything, I want someone who I can have a laugh with and who's interesting. He was getting too controlling as well. Look, why don't we give it a go? You've got lovely eyes you know, they're quite feminine."
I can't believe what I'm hearing - she's asking me out despite my reputation as a cheat.
"So, would you be dumping him for me?"
I feel uncomfortable about that.
"No, I'll dump him whatever."
"But won't you be upset, you've been together for a year, you must have feelings for him?"
"I don't love him, can never love him."
I ease myself out of the chair and kiss her gently on the lips - she allows me that but no more.
"I do not want to be unfaithful to him however, there will be plenty of time in the future."
My erection is premature.
I have a vision of a year in the future and Claire is giving a pep talk to my successor...
"Even though he's a laugh and a bit of a character, I don't love him and never will, besides sometimes you crave a good looking bloke with a decent body..."
I shudder inwardly at the thought of it and realise that her heart is as cold as a glacier. Still, live for the day.
"I'd better be off now, Claire, text me. And thanks for the tea."
A tingle of excitement runs through my body as I exit her flat and make my way to the bus stop in Avenue Road...
* * *
It is about ten and a Saturday evening in October.
I am stretched out alone on the sofa in the lounge watching television.
I am the only one in the bungalow, and I feel a little melancholic. No, a lot melancholic.
I think back to times, not that long ago, when Saturday evenings would be spent, after a meal, with Sharon, Sophie and my son watching a film or maybe Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. I seemed happy then.
I am indeed completely by myself - a couple of days ago Sharon took her old female tabby cat to live at her mother's.
The temperature in the property is the same as it has always been but it feels chillier recently.
I feel slightly uneasy emotionally - it as though I am sitting at a beach bar supping cocktails whilst waiting for the tsunami to hit.
I hear my message alert sound tunefully. It is Claire.
Camille has just gone over to stay at her dad's tonight - do you want to come over? xx
I go into the hallway and phone her flat from our phone - I derive a small twisted satisfaction knowing that Sharon is going to pick up half the bill for that.
"Hi Claire, I'll get a taxi over as there isn't a bus for half an hour."
"There's no need for that as Christopher has lent me his car so that I can go shopping in the morning with Camille. I'll pick you up from Argyll Street but I won't wait right outside in case I bump into Sharon. If she sees me and has a go I may smack her one."
"It's unlikely that you will run into her as I haven't seen her for days but better safe than sorry - text me when you're outside."
I nip into my bedroom pull out the tube of massage cream from my bedside table, slip it into my trouser pocket then walk into the bathroom.
I brush my teeth, gargle with mouthwash, comb my hair then splash my cheeks with Aramis aftershave - I'm ready for her now...
She is lying face down naked on her bed - I am naked too but kneeling above her.
It is the first time we have been intimate since 'Vanilla Sky day'.
A few minutes ago she had said, "After the last time I was afraid you might think I was crap in bed."
"I never thought that but it was a bit of a rush what with Camille likely to run in at any moment, but no need to worry now, we've got all night if needs be," I had replied reassuringly.
It occurs to me suddenly that she is more concerned with image and ego than morals but who am I to pronounce judgement?
I squeeze a small amount of Patchouli scented massage cream from the tube onto my fingers.
I rub it in gently in half circle movements to the back of her right hand then down her wrist before working along her right arm.
Her skin is white, nearly as white as snow, but in the summer, I had noticed once, the sun teases out the pale freckles dormant in her flesh.
She is forty-one but looks younger - her body is in good shape - perhaps because she works physically hard as a chambermaid in the Sandringham Hotel not two hundred yards away.
I knead the muscles around her shoulders and stoop down to kiss the exquisite lines of her neck.
She shudders and tells me, "You've got a lovely touch Matt, don't stop."
I carry on applying the cream to her back and arms savouring her body as I do.
I work my way down to her legs leaving her strong pale buttocks till last.
I glimpse the light brown fur of her cunt between her upper thighs and get an urge to turn her over and probe my tongue around her clit and inner lips, but I am patient.
I grasp more strongly her powerful buttock muscles and knead them.
I can sense she is becoming aroused.
"Turn over, darling," I request her softly.
She complies wordlessly.
I take more cream and apply it to her limp body.
I rub her arms, tantalizingly around her modest tits but not her nipples, over her midriff, blessed with a couple of cute little moles, and then to the tops of her strong legs.
On her right thigh lies a slightly larger mole which I kiss - she does not notice as her breathing begins to labour and deepen.
Her pinkish brown nipples are fully engorged now and I tease her by squeezing small amounts of massage cream on them.
"Please rub them hard now, I can't take anymore!"
I lower myself onto her chest and take her left nipple between my teeth and her right nipple in my left hand.
I allow my right arm to travel down and find her crutch - she is soaking wet - and thrust my fingers up her cunt.
Using circular movements I rub her clitoris with my thumb.
She is close to release now, her breast and face flush, and her expression is one of concentration.
She begins to pant.
"I'm coming, oh God, that is good!"
Her internal muscles spasm and alternately grip and release my fingers, before fading away.
She is limp on the bed now - all tension dissipated.
"You'd better have your pleasure now, you deserve it Matt."
I mount and penetrate her, wrapping her legs between mine.
I support myself with my arms each side of her pretty head and blonde hair.
She commences to rub my nipples and along with my frantic thrusting I swiftly reach the point of climax.
As I do I visualise her in a sleeveless white cotton blouse, her bare and pale trembling arms supporting her bent over body, with her skirt lifted awaiting apprehensively the first hard swat of a plimsoll on her bare buttocks from me in front of a group of people...
As the slipper impacts in my fantasy I come in real life.
I feel my spunk jet out into her cunt and I too now slump down next to her totally satisfied.
"Thanks Claire, that was really good, I could get used to that."
There's a pause.
"Matt, I have to tell you this, don't fall for me, it's only a bit of adult fun."
"I understand," I respond, but do I?
The lights are switched off - we kiss, cuddle and then turn our backs on each other prior to sleep.
In the darkness I ponder another aspect of what love is: Is romantic love just another word for physical addiction?
I love my son but there's nothing sexual in that - a different kind of love.
I ask myself a frank question: Could I ever love a woman I didn't fancy?
The three women I have loved in my life - Claudia, Leanne and Sharon - I was extremely physically attracted to. And I still love Sharon.
Another speculation pops into me head: If love is physical addiction does that mean that an alcoholic is in love with alcohol, a drug addict heroin or crack?
I have gone off at a tangent - the real fear is: This woman, Claire, is extremely attractive and I could fall in love (become physically addicted to) with her, but she never will with me, and when she tires of me she will cast me off like old clothes without a second thought. And that will hurt like hell.
At least I could trust Sharon, and I knew she loved me, maybe still does but the reality is that Sharon and I are over - I will have to take a chance on Claire. Fuck it, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.
I chuckle to myself at the irony of that.
"What you laughing about?" Claire mumbles.
"Nothing, I'll get to sleep now..."
* * *
I call up to Sharon - she is on the top floor of a white washed hotel and looking out of the window.
"Do you fancy going out for the day? It's really nice."
"Yes, that would be really good, perhaps we could go swimming, take a picnic?"
We are on holiday in Italy.
The sky is deep blue and I feel happy, happy to be with Sharon and happy we never split up after all.
I watch her lustrous hair ruffle in the gentle breeze.
"Wait for me by the lift, I'll only be a few minutes." She then withdraws her head and closes the window.
I stand outside the lift doors - the last few feet of shaft having been cut out of the rock upon which the building stands.
The doors of the lift slide silently open - she isn't there.
Then I notice a shrivelled up figure, barely moving and just alive prostrate on the floor - it is Sharon.
I go to help her but a voice calls me away, a voice with a Liverpudlian accent.
"You can't help her and it's her own fault - she should have treated you better."
I look at Sharon and see that her skin is like parchment stretched over her bones as though the vital juices have been sucked out of her by some vampire.
I have done this to her.
Claire grabs me by my hand and pulls me away and says, "You are with me now and I will make you happy."
I turn for one last time.
The living corpse that is Sharon feebly raises a skeletal arm and waves goodbye...
The blue sky transforms into the blue wall of my bedroom as I phase into wakefulness.
What was in the post has now dropped through my letterbox.
The tidal wave has broken over, leaving me broken in its wake.
An ache of emptiness, hunger for her, hunger for Sharon, grips my heart - I desperately long for her but I know it will not be.
I cry and hug my pillows wishing them to be her.
The 'phoney war' emotions of the split have come to an end and the 'real war' has just begun.
There is no guarantee that I will prevail in the struggle for my sanity...
* * *
I slip my key into the lock for the last time - tomorrow the new people will move in.
I am now renting a flat in Spencer Road - it is, by a curious twist of fate, next to the one I had when I first started as a driver for the Company, eighteen years previous, with Leanne who was my wife at the time.
The last few days have been hectic with moving but it is all completed now - Claire and I 'christened' the place the day I took possession of the keys.
The time is about half nine at night and it is now mid-November.
I was going to drop the keys through the letterbox of the estate agents but I just had to say 'goodbye' one last time.
The front door to the bungalow swings open as I gently push upon it - the power is off but I can still see pretty well because the bright street lights are shining through the many windows of the property.
I walk into the lounge diner and my feet clatter loudly on the bare wooden floorboards.
I think back to our first Christmas dinner there with Sophie, her partner and her two kids, Sharon's mum and dad. It was a good day and we were optimistic about the future - never again.
I recollect our many evenings in watching the telly or chatting.
I think of Sharon on the piano, and cringe about the night I had to call the police - it is all in the past now.
I amble slowly, trying to take in as much as I can on this my last time here, into the kitchen.
I see Sharon bursting into tears the time I presented her with a red rose on Valentine's Day.
I smile as I recall the day I 'took her without consent' on the floor.
I think of the time that I nearly collapsed.
All just memories now.
I stroll down the dark hallway and look into what used to be my son's room when he stayed - I think of the time I came home and Sharon had bought him a hamster.
The tears begin to roll down my cheeks.
I enter the double room that we used to share before it all began to fall apart .
I think of the times we made love...
Too, too painful.
I move finally into the spare room that became mine - I remember the time I crawled under the covers fearing I was about to die and shudder.
I stand against the glass of the window and admire the floodlit spire of the Parish Church just three hundred yards away on the corner of Queen's Road and West Street.
I see Sharon's grandchildren running around, screaming with joy, in the spacious back lawn - I will never experience that simple pleasure again nor will I smell the heady scent of the honeysuckle in the warm summer evenings.
It all becomes too much for me - I sink slowly to the cold floorboards crying like a baby.
Through my sniffling I become aware of the outer door being opened - it must be Sharon saying her last goodbyes too.
She is chatting to someone - it is her daughter.
I pray that she doesn't find me here weeping.
They walk up and down the bungalow - their heels clacking loudly on the wooden floorboards.
I catch fragments of words - 'morning', 'keys', 'solicitor', 'estate agents' - but the rest is muffled by doors and walls.
The front door slams and suddenly they are gone.
I pull myself up and look at the imposing spire of the church again - how many times have I walked past it returning from a night at the Commodore Cinema hand in hand with Sharon?
I think back to some of the less forgettable films we have seen there: Being John Malkovich, Beau Travail, Donnie Darko, Talk to Her, Vanilla Sky...
All of my memories, all of it, have now begun that long irrevocable journey to float downstream upon the river of time, where they will eventually flow into and merge with that great and fathomless ocean of oblivion.
I put my hands to my face and cry again.
I counsel myself to be strong: What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.
I know I will get over her in time, and I am with Claire now.
I wipe away my tears, make my way to the front door, open and then close it for the last time before walking away with my pain, the pain I only have myself to blame for, and, not looking back, enter into the next chapter of my life...