As you may well know, last year I attempted to write one short story every month, just to get in the habit of writing more expanded stuff in preparation to tackle a full-length novel. That’s going pretty well, if I may say so, but in the meantime, I’ve been posting the unedited stories from last year. Here, then, in all it’s raw glory, is what I wrote last April. Enjoy.
It all started so innocently. One married man, one young woman, and a whole lot of attraction. It wasn’t about love. Just lust.
I’d been married for two years, and already things weren’t as they should be in a marriage. The loving, caring woman I’d married had turned into a clingy, needy, controlling drain on my psyche. She’d been talking about having children almost from the day we returned from our Honeymoon in Rhodes. Personally, I felt we needed time to gel as a married couple. Do the things couples do – go out with friends, go on holidays, spend money on ourselves, the normal stuff. As things got worse, I started spending more and more time at work. But even then, I still wasn’t totally safe. Like the time I went into a performance appraisal with my boss, only to be interrupted by a call from Michelle. I’d taken the call, expecting it to be of vital importance, only for Michelle to ask when I was going to be home for tea.
“The usual time, I expect,” I’d said, rather flustered.
“Well when is that?” she snapped.
“I suppose half past five. Is it that important you had to ring me at work?” I said, exasperated.
“Yes, so I know when to put the casserole in the oven.”
“Look,” I pleaded. “You don’t need to call me at work unless it’s an emergency. Okay?” Michelle was silent. “And I really think you should go back to work,” I finished. Michelle had been off work for about a week with a bad cold, and was starting to drive me mental. I went back and finished my appraisal.
Before long, those half hour commutes to work just weren’t long enough, so I took a job at my company’s head office – a good hour and a half drive from home on a good day – under the auspices of furthering my career. And it was there that I met Clare. Don’t go judging me, I wasn’t looking for Clare. There was no internal thought process that highlighted the need to find someone other than Michelle. It just sort of happened. I was a newbie Commercial Claims Handler, she was eight years my junior and part of the Personal Insurance Claims team. The first meeting was at my desk – I was being shown to it by Nick, my Team leader, and she was sitting at it, talking to Loren, one of my new colleagues. I didn’t really hear what they were talking about, as my nerves were still very much jangling away, but I’d hazard a guess that it was either men or television. Anyway, Nick pats the back of the chair.
“And here is where you’ll be working,” he winked at me. “You get your own seat warmer too, apparently.” Clare span round and looked a little flustered.
“Oh, sorry, I was just chatting. As you do.” She smiled at Nick, and then at me. It was a nice smile – warm and genuine. She stood up, all five foot and a little bit, and after wishing me luck, and saying her farewells to Loren, she scooted off across the room. I sat down at my new desk and felt the warmth you get when you sit in a recently vacated seat. It was a little weird, to be honest.
I got through my first day without too much trouble. They were kind and eased me in gently. I sat with Loren while she talked me through the processes they have. Although a lot of it was familiar, no two offices are exactly the same are they? I rang and spoke to Michelle at lunchtime to tell her how it was going. She seemed happy enough and said we would have a Chinese takeaway to celebrate my first day. Apart from that initial meeting, I didn’t see much more of Clare either. She was over the other side of the large office doing her own job.
The first week flew by. A stack of claim files was already building up on my desk, but it was enjoyable. On Thursday evening, Nick came and sat down next to me.
“So, enjoyed it so far?” He questioned.
“Yeah,” I replied. “It’s great. Can’t fault it.”
“Well tomorrow is Friday, which means two things.” He held up his index and middle finger together. “Firstly, it’s dress down Friday, which means casual, but no football shirts or anything like that.” He counted off his middle finger. “Secondly, to celebrate your first week, I thought we could go down to the Wetherspoon’s for lunch.”
“Sounds good,” I nodded.
“Great,” he exclaimed. “I’ll put an email round in the morning.” He scooted himself back to his desk without getting off his chair. “Now, sod off home!”
I laughed and did just that. I drove home, listening to a compilation CD that I’d put together especially for these journeys, with genuine excitement about my life.
Friday lunchtime came, and Nick and I wandered down to the pub, along with Loren, and Tim and Paul, some of my other Commercial Claims team. We went to the bar first, to get drinks, and there we met Clare and some of her team. Drinks sorted, we decamped to a large table where I ended up sandwiched between Clare and Loren. I tried to concentrate on the menu, but I couldn’t help but be drawn down to Clare’s chest, straining as it was to pop out of a red t-shirt with a ‘Keep Calm and Get Drunk’ slogan on it.
“Nice t-shirt,” I remarked. “Is that a philosophy of yours?” She giggled and shook her head.
“I’ve got another one that says ‘Keep Calm and Have Sex’, but I didn’t think it was appropriate for work.” She and Loren laughed themselves silly either side of me. Across from me, Paul smiled and shook his head in mock disbelief. Nick interrupted the mirth by requesting orders. I went for a rump steak and chips with peppercorn sauce, and offered to help Nick at the bar with more drinks. Clare put her hand up.
“You stay right there, new boy. This is our chance to get to know you better.”
I shrugged and proceeded to give anyone listening a potted history of my life, including Michelle (but not the bad stuff – it was way too soon for that).
We finished lunch and headed back to the office. As I walked, chatting to Tim and Paul about the weekend of football ahead, I couldn’t help but notice Clare in front of me. From behind I could see her pert little bottom as she walked ahead, clothed in the red top, a shortish black skirt that clung to her curves, and black tights topped off with some black heels that added some extra height to her usual diminutive figure. The afternoon sped by, thanks in part to a meeting with Nick just to assess the first week. I was packing up and switching off my computer at the end of the day, and I turned round and bumped right into Clare. I didn’t knock her over, but it certainly stunned her, so I offered her my seat to recover her composure. She took it graciously, and sat down. She kicked her shoes off and put her feet on my desk. She recovered enough to thank me eventually, and then invite me to her Birthday lunch the next week. I accepted, and then wished those colleagues that remained a good weekend.
I have to say that weekend was blissful – Michelle was feeling much happier, we went to her parents’ for Sunday lunch and generally had a great time. Tuesday was the day from hell though. After a hard day at work with no time to stop, or return Clare’s smiles and waves, which were sweet to start with, but by the end of the day, just plain weird, I got home to find Michelle all worked up over nothing.
“Where have you been?” She snapped at me as I came through the front door of our little semi-detached house.
“At work,” I replied confused, putting my bag down on the floor, and hanging my coat up on the coat stand in the hall.
“Until now?” she yelled. I followed the sound of her voice into the kitchen, where she stood amidst what can only be described as a cookery war zone. Used pans on the hob, a baking tray with what looked like the cremated remains of potatoes, and the oven door open and something that I took to be am uncooked chicken.
“Yes. This is usually what time I get home.” A wooden spoon shot past my right ear and clattered against the kitchen door. “Why? What the hell is the matter?”
Michelle proceeded to rant about the fact that she’d gone to the effort of making a nice cooked tea, only for me to treat her like a slave and not respect her or something like that. I shook my head in disbelief and left her to it. I sat myself down and watched the television, trying to blank her out, and unwind. I didn’t eat much that night; neither did I say much to Michelle. What do you say to someone that tried to take your head off with a wooden spoon? In bed that night, I lay with my back to her until I fell asleep, and when I woke up the next morning, we were both lay facing each other. She was still asleep, so I carefully got up and got ready for work. When I brought her a coffee, she was still asleep, so I kissed her on the forehead and went off to work. I hadn’t made any lunch, as it was Clare’s Birthday lunch.
I stopped off at the corner shop and picked up a birthday card for Clare – there was no way I would have bought it beforehand just in case it set Michelle off – and wrote a friendly but perhaps a little too saucy greeting before putting it in the envelope, and continuing my drive to work. When I got to the office and fought my way through the well-wishers to Clare’s desk where she sat, holding court in a white blouse under a black jumper, black trousers and black, sparkly flat shoes. I handed her my card and wished her a Happy Birthday. She jumped up and gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek. The warmth of her breath felt quite inviting after the night I’d suffered. I smiled and went over to start my day. When I left my desk to go for a pee later on, I had to go past where Clare was stood talking to one of the Department managers. I swear she stuck her foot out on purpose, but I didn’t see it until I had stumbled over it. She broke off her conversation to chase after me and catch me up in the corridor. I had just put my hand on the Men’s toilet door to push it open when she came up to me smiling mischievously. The look on my face must have been of pure confusion, because when I said ‘hello’, she smiled even more.
“Did you trip over me just then?” She smiled.
“A little bit,” I admitted sheepishly, my hand still holding the toilet door.
“Sorry about that. Did you hurt yourself?” She said, her hand rubbing my right arm.
“Uh, no, not really.”
“Sure? You don’t need me to kiss anything better?” The arm rubbing was getting firmer and more noticeable.
“Pretty sure, yeah,” I shrugged.
“Well, okay, but if you change your mind…” she let the sentence hang in the air. I nodded, and went into the toilet to have a pee, which the delay had only made more urgent.
The lunch for Clare’s Birthday turned out to be a bit of a let-down, mainly due to the fire alarm going off moments after we’d started eating. Standing out on the street was not the way Clare wanted to celebrate her day with her work-mates, I’m sure. As a nice gesture, Lynne, the overall Claims manager at Head Office sanctioned an early finish on Friday so the entire department could go out should they so wish. My challenge was going to be getting it past Michelle without too much of a fall-out. When I got home, we sat down to tea, and were having a nice talk about maybe booking a holiday in the summer when my phone went off. I ignored it, and went about finishing tea. Later on, when I was washing up, Michelle came into the kitchen with my phone in her hand and a stony expression on her face.
“Who’s Clare?” She asked, menacingly.
“Oh just a girl at work,” I replied nonchalantly, dipping a plate in the washing up bowl.
“Why is she texting you?”
“I have no idea,” I smiled. “I haven’t read the message yet. I’ll bet you have though.” Michelle sneered at me then looked at my phone and began to read.
“Thanks for the card, hope you will be coming on Friday. Kiss.” She glared at me. “What does that mean?”
“Well, it was her Birthday today, so I got her a card. There is a work thing on Friday after work. I was going to talk to you about it.”
“You’re not going.” She snapped, viciously.
“Why the hell not?” I argued, flinging the scourer into the washing up bowl and sending soap suds up the kitchen window. If I was honest, it wasn’t something I had been too keen on, but Michelle’s opposition to it had frankly triggered the ‘obstinate bastard’ gene within me.
“Because weekends are for us. I hardly see you during the week.”
“Well, I think it would be good for me to go. To bond with my new work-mates.” I looked at her authoritatively. “And I am going.”
Michelle looked at me with scorn, put my phone down on the worktop and stormed out of the kitchen. I dried my hands and replied to Clare’s text in the positive, whilst also wondering where she got my mobile number from. Suffice to say the atmosphere at home for the remainder of the week was almost Arctic, and I enjoyed my commutes to and from work even more than normal.
Friday morning dawned and I went to work with an added spring in my step, buoyed by the fact that I was going out in the evening, and also that it was a ‘dress down’ day, so there was none of the usual shirt and tie stuffiness. Upon my arrival at work, I sensed an atmosphere of togetherness, the polar opposite of what it was like at home these days. I busied myself with the morning’s batch of new claims and correspondence relating to current ones, exchanging football related emails with some of the guys in the office. Loren and Clare came into work around mid-morning – taking advantage of the flexi-time, clearly. Loren plonked herself down next to me, and when she caught my eye, she sort of smiled at me. Being polite, I sort of smiled back.
“Looking forward to tonight then?” She smirked.
“Yeah,” I nodded. “It’ll be nice to see people socially for the first time. Without the pressures of work and stuff.”
“Yeah, we like to let our hair down,” Loren chuckled and turned away to begin her work. Throughout the day, Clare seemed to pass by my desk on a regular basis. The first few times I didn’t really notice as I was either talking to policyholders or just generally busy.
At lunch time I offered to do the sandwich run into town. Having taken orders, I was stood waiting for the lift to take me down the two floors to the main door when Clare walked past. I say walked, it was probably more of a wiggle. She was wearing that short black skirt again, with black tights and heels. Her top was black and yellow, like a bee, with a plunging neck line that drew your eyes right to her cleavage. She smiled at me warmly, and went through the door into the stairwell. The lift finally arrived and I stepped in. I had the lift to myself, so starting humming the tune that had been going round my head all morning, and looking at myself in the mirrored lift car. I reached the desired floor with a judder and the doors opened in time to see Clare wiggling past towards the exit. I went out and caught her up, and we walked together down the road.
“Looking forward to Birthday outing take two?” I asked.
“Definitely, yeah,” she laughed. “Maybe we’ll get to finish dessert this time.” We both chuckled at that.
“Was your wife happy with you coming out with us on a Friday night?”
“Hmm,” I murmured. She looked at me.
“Is that a no, then?”
“It is a no. But I won’t bore you with the details.” There must have been something in my expression because she gave me a sympathetic look and patted my arm.
“Never mind. We’ll have a bloody good time tonight to make up for it.” At this she threw her head back and had a good belly laugh. “Are you drinking, or driving home?” She asked as we stood in the sandwich shop waiting for our orders to be made up.
“Stopping at Tim’s tonight, so I can have a drink or two.” I confirmed.
“Oh yeah, Tim,” she giggled.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“He generally doesn’t last the whole night – can’t take his booze.”
“Okay.” I picked up the sandwiches off the counter and started putting them in the carrier bag I’d been offered.
“You’ll be taking him home by ten o’clock, basically.” I turned to say something in reply, but just shrugged my shoulders. We wandered back towards the office, talking about work things, I found out a bit more about her – her parents were divorced, she had dropped out of university, her brother was in the Army, she wanted to be an artist (she even offered to do me a drawing), and she could never find a man that saw past her looks.
“I want a man that appreciates me for more than the way I look,” she opined. I nodded, understandingly, secretly thinking that if she dressed a little more conservatively, she might achieve that. But there was a corner of my brain that enjoyed the way she dressed, and wished for her to carry on dressing provocatively. That corner of the brain that controls the penis, to be exact, as we walked together and each time I looked down at her, I was able to see plenty of her cleavage.
The rest of the day flew by, and at four o’clock a number of us downed tools and went off to attempt Clare’s birthday meal a second time. I drove Tim home to his place, and we got changed and caught a taxi back into town and met up with everyone in the Wetherspoons. Clare was already there, holding court at the bar, sat on a high stool with her legs crossed, nursing a glass of something with coke. She hadn’t got changed, so was still in her bee-like outfit, and as I approached her at the bar, she complimented me on my black jeans, blue granddad shirt and black shoes combo.
“Thanks,” I smiled. “They’re Levis.” Clare reached forward and lifted the tail of my untucked shirt, essentially to check for the label. As she did, I tried desperately not to stare at her chest, but I cracked, and she just happened to catch me at it. Rather than be upset, she winked at me and hooked her forefinger into the neckline, dragging it down to reveal a tantalising glimpse of lacy bra.
Just a few hours later, after the food was done with, thankfully without any interruption, and we were all discussing where to go for the next drink, Clare was virtually glued to my side. She seemed to be on the way to getting herself an enormous hangover for the next day, with everyone else buying her a drink as they got their own. When we got into a swanky bar, I asked her what she wanted to drink. She winked at me lustfully and mouthed the word ‘You’. Having had a few drinks myself by now, the inhibition that would normally have made me blush beetroot colour had been bludgeoned into a stupor by the alcohol coursing through my bloodstream, so I put my arm round her waist and guided her away from everyone else into a darkened corner. I put my other arm round her and pulled her close, craning my neck so my lips met hers as she stood on her tiptoes. I could taste the alcohol and coke on her breath and she could probably taste the Guinness on my breath equally, and they mingled as we exchanged a tipsy but passionate kiss. We disengaged, and Clare looked me in the eye and motioned for me to lean forward. Doing so, she put her mouth to my ear and whispered. “You’re naughty. But I like it.” I grinned at her and nodded.
Suffice to say, we didn’t stay out much longer. After another bout of kissing, this time accompanied by some subtle groping, we re-joined the rest, only to find Tim had already gone home in a taxi, the drink having finally taken its toll. This left me in a potential tough spot – with Tim gone, he would most likely be flat out asleep by the time I wanted to go. I had no keys for Tim’s house. It looked like I was going to need a Plan B. It turns out Clare was able to solve my problem for me.
Just before midnight, as the party was beginning to break up a little – the older, family restricted folks were drifting away, and people were getting more drunk – Clare dragged me away from those that remained and we went outside. I motioned to flag down a taxi, but Clare pulled my arm down and shook her head. I shrugged in acquiescence and let her guide me off down the street. We walked for about fifteen minutes, leaving the town centre behind and entering suburbia. Clare led me up a street which had terraces running up both sides, with the road packed with parked cars along each kerb. Her particular house was fronted with an iron railing and a little gravelled area on which sat a couple of outdoor plants in pots. She put the key in the door and pushed it open, pulling me in with her. She sat me down on the cosy two-seater sofa, told me to wait there, and went out of the room. I sat and took in my surroundings. The living room was painted a delicate rose colour, a flat screen television stood in the bay window, a stack of DVDs beside it. A framed photograph of what looked like a boy in Army uniform stood on the mantelpiece, surrounded by candles and other little trinkets that girls seem to enjoy collecting. Clare returned carrying a tray loaded with a bottle of Tequila, two shot glasses, some lime slices and a salt cellar. We took a few shots each, first shaking some salt onto the back of our hands, licking it, downing the Tequila, before sucking the lime slices. After the second or third shot, we were kissing again. We stopped again, and Clare lifted her top up and pulled it over her head, dropping it on the floor, revealing a black satin balconette bra that was just about containing her breasts. She poured another two shots, and looked at me seductively, before tipping some salt on her exposed left breast. She beckoned me closer, and wiggled her chest. Boldy, I leaned in, licked the salt off her bare skin, turned to pick up a shot glass and downed it. I reached for a slice of lime, but there was none left.
“Ah, sod it,” Clare laughed. She pushed me against the back of the sofa, and leaned over me, unbuttoning my shirt slowly. After undoing four or five buttons, she spread the shirt open and tipped some salt on my chest. She ducked down and licked it off, before lifting her head up to take her shot.
We virtually emptied a full bottle of Tequila this way, before Clare stood up and led me up the stairs into her bedroom. We stood next to her bed, her fumbling with the rest of my shirt buttons and my jeans, me alternating between trying to unfasten her bra and lift her skirt up. Eventually disrobed, we collapsed onto the bed side by side, before she climbed on top of me, pinning down my arms and lowered herself down so her breasts dangled teasingly just out of reach of my mouth.
In the morning, we were both feeling a little delicate to say the least. I needed to get to Tim’s place to pick up my car and get home to Michelle, so Clare walked me down to the bus stop and told me which bus to get on, and where to get off. As the bus arrived, I went to thank her and she stood on her tiptoes and gave me a peck on the cheek, whispered “thank you” in my ear and started to walk slowly back to her house. I paid the driver and sat down on the bus, contemplating the events of the last twenty four hours, and trying to work what the repercussions were going to be. At the end of the day, I was married to Michelle, with all the issues that came with that. Yet what had happened with Clare wasn’t exactly eating away at me. I felt no guilt. I did feel a bit queasy thanks to all the bloody Tequila I’d drunk, though. Upon my arrival at Tim’s I was greeted with a smile and a playful punch on the arm – it seems the office gossip circuit is able to operate away from the office. He already knew that I’d gone home with Clare, and having stayed out all night, he had put two and two together and correctly come up with four.
“You dirty dog, you,” he chuckled as he handed me a much needed coffee.
“Well, you may think that Tim,” I paused to take a sip. “But as you know, I’m a married man. What I’ve just done is adultery.”
“Well, yeah, that’s right,” he admitted. “But you’ve done it in style. I’d give my right arm to give Clare one.” We both laughed at that.
“Maybe. All I’m going to end up with, though, is suspicion at home, and awkwardness at work.” I took a long drink of the new cool coffee, finishing it in one gulp. Tim did the same, then took my mug and his, and put it on the kitchen worktop.
“What you put up with at home is up to you, mate. I know that work won’t be a problem for you,” he looked at me seriously. “Unless you make it a problem.” The blank look on my face prompted Tim to roll his eyes, sit back down and then display insight that I never realised a man would be capable of. “From what I’ve noticed since you came to work here, she has been into you like nobody’s business. She never,” and he put emphasis on the ‘never’, “dressed like she does now.” I must have looked stunned or shell-shocked because he gave me another playful punch on my arm.
“How do you know all this stuff?” I said, slightly exasperated. Tim looked me in the eye, then looked away.
“Loren told me. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, but as you’ve effectively made the secrecy redundant by having sex with the girl, I think it’s safe to let you know.”
This made things a whole lot different. I thanked Tim for his hospitality and his coaching and started my journey home with a sinking feeling in my stomach that had nothing to do with alcohol or coffee, or lack of food. I had no idea how I was going to get through this weekend. My return home was met with a frosty reception, not even a kiss or a cuddle from Michelle. No matter how hard I tried to engage her, she kept blocking me and putting up walls. Before I left for work on the Monday morning, I left her a note on the kitchen table asking for a clear-the-air talk when I got home from work.
At work though, I soon forgot about Michelle. There was murmuring when I got to my desk, Tim winked at me across the desk, Nick gave me an embarrassed smile, and Loren just stared at me.
“Clare will be in a bit later,” she informed me. I smiled my thanks for the notice. “Don’t break her heart, will you?” She continued.
“I have no intention of doing that.” I defended myself. I didn’t know what I was going to do – but I wasn’t going to share that information freely. True enough Clare appeared about half an hour later and swept past the end of my desk with a spring in her step. All morning I was enthralled by her every move and motion as I found myself gazing at her across the room. Finally, our eyes met from a distance, and the smile she gave me set butterflies off in my stomach. I jerked my head to indicate we should nip out of the office, and she nodded. I checked if anyone needed coffee, and having taken positive responses from Tim and Loren, I went out to the corridor to the drinks machine. Clare joined me about a minute later. As we stood there together in the corridor, we both smiled at each other. That was when I knew I was having an affair.