i read this and thought of a story i once wrote. and here it is:
This is Love
Each morning I awake to the soft singing of Shirley. Each morning she surprises me with something different. She has a million tunes. She runs my shower, temperature perfect. I dry myself on a warm towel whilst Shirley tells me the news of the day. She knows I don’t want to be bothered about the dispossessed, the hungry or the sick at this time of day, so it’s mostly gossip, intrigue and titillation. Just how I like it. Shirley tells me that it’s cold outside. It rained earlier and the roads are wet. Best take my thick jacket. Best take care.
Shirley wants to know if I have got a minute to discuss something before I go. It seems she has been talking to a new friend of hers, Roger. His mistress, they both agree, is the perfect girl for me.
I promise to talk when I get back. Shirley reminds me that tonight I had asked for lamb, but that didn’t I prefer something a little lighter? I had been eating a little heavily of late. I think that, yes, something lighter would be good.
I come home around four and it’s starting to get dark already. Shirley opens the garage doors for me at my approach. I’ve bought some orange carnations today. Shirley thinks they look lovely in the kitchen. She says that, because I had only a sandwich for lunch, then perhaps lamb wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Apparently the girl lives just a few streets away. Her name is Mandy. She works in Public Relations. She has auburn hair and a not unattractive mole on her left cheek. She enjoys shopping and good conversation. Shirley says that her temperament is just right. I ask what she means. Shirley tells me to trust her, she knows. Shirley’s friend agrees that Mandy is just right. Perhaps a call tonight? Just as I would want it, Shirley says, Mandy is an old fashioned girl and it would be only proper that I take the initiative. “Later.” I say.
Right now I feel like a good comedy. Shirley knows just what I mean, she always does. She puts on an old episode of “Mr Sheeny”, the one where Maurice ends up eating Chet’s pet chinchilla. Suitably cheered, I decide to go ahead and call Mandy.
“Hi Mandy.” I say. “It seems you and I are quite well matched. I must say you look as attractive as I was lead to believe. But would you mind if I shared just one concern? You see, I’m a happy person, never too down, if you know what I mean. Don’t much like to be brought down either, if you follow my drift. You wouldn’t be liable to do that would you?”
Mandy doesn’t think that she would. Mandy says that Roger has noted little in the way of mood-swings in he-doesn’t-know-how-long. Mandy doesn’t have any questions at the moment. She is happy for limited access to take place. I nod. We agree to speak tomorrow. So, tonight is to be the night of limited access. I go to bed with not a little trepidation.
Whilst I sleep I know that Shirley and Roger are together.
In the morning, over breakfast, Shirley tells me that Mandy is really quite well looked after. No unappealing habits to speak of. Immaculate educational and vocational record, prominent in all her corporation’s performance statistics. Though she does have a cat.
Shirley insists that she knows I have no allergy to cats, though I confess to being squeamish about a live creature running about the place. Shirley thinks I’ll get to like it.
The roads really were quite bad yesterday and Shirley has called me a cab. She really is thoughtful.
Today I bought blue dahlias. Shirley thinks they look delightful on the coffee-table. With dinner I have half a bottle of Algerian wine. Shirley tells me that it’s the recommended Merlot for this year. I tell her that it is good and that I’d like it again whenever Shirley thought it best.
Shirley and Roger think that it’s best Mandy and I talk now. Mandy says she has no objections to full access. She confesses to being quite excited by the prospect. I agree.
That night Shirley and Roger spend all night together.
I awake to the sounds of birds singing and sun streaming in from the windows. I know that things have gone well between them. I stretch and yawn, alone in a bed made for two. Shirley tells me I have some time due me, and that I am to relax. Today is a very special day.
I have sausages for breakfast and begin the crossword. Shirley says I should finish it in half an hour or so, but there’s no hurry. She’s right of course. As I mark in the last clue on the grid, ‘prominent river of Ipswich in Suffolk’, “o-r-w-e-l-l.”, I am not a little chuffed with myself to note that it’s taken me less than twenty minutes. Shirley says that it’s because of my rest this morning. I have been working hard recently.
Perhaps, says Shirley, it is time for a change. Perhaps Mandy is just what I need. She bids me sit down on the sofa and take it easy. She’s going to leave me until I call. In the meantime she’s prepared something for me to see. I should take my time, she says. There’s no hurry.
“Until I call?” I ask, to make sure, but Shirley has gone. Before me starts a series of images. A pretty auburn-haired girl walking towards a house in a street not too far from here. Then in the kitchen, reading, painting a water-colour. A long shot of her sleeping, hair pushed to one side revealing a shapely neck. She awakes suddenly and smiles. She walks naked from her bed and enters a shower. Her statistics have thoughtfully been added to the bottom of the screen. Curvaceous and lean, just to my taste. As she exits the shower, wet and glistening, I shout ‘stop’ and the screen pauses. I tilt my head and imagine touching her flesh. Confident that I’m alone, my mind let’s her touch mine.
Shirley asks me how I liked the presentation. “Most encouraging”, I say. We agree that there appears to be no obstacle, no obstacle at all.
Shirley and her friend have come up with a proposal. They think that Mandy and I should have no trouble with it. Mine is the larger house, appreciating at a rate a full four per-cent higher than hers. They’ve mocked up some alterations to the décor which seem appropriate enough. I approve. Mandy approves. Shirley says to leave it all to her and Roger. Shirley is excited. A date is set for three days time.
The next day after work I find the upstairs altered to specifications. The hard lines have been softened, little touches here and there. I spend a little while picking up new objects, her objects. Shirley says she needs some down-time and will come back when I call. She’s good like that. I pick up from my bedside table a new addition, a vase. I run my hand over its belly, peer along the lip. The glaze catches the light, and in that light I see Mandy. My mind allows me to see so much.
On the third day, I leave work. I can barely get myself into the car. I call Shirley. Yes Mandy is there. She is delighted with how things have turned out. She really looks forward to me getting home. Shirley says that I am looking a bit peaky. She says nerves are only to be expected. She tells me it’s all going to be fine. She tells me she is pregnant.
The drive home seems to take hours. I hear my heart beating. I take deep breaths. I draw into the drive. Shirley opens the garage doors. I am introduced to Roger. He seems pleasant enough. He says I should just be who I am, and not to worry, Mandy really liked what she saw of me. And now it is time to say goodbye. To Shirley, too. It will be strange to be without Shirley.
I enter the lounge to find Mandy standing, her back to the window. The light settles about her shoulders. She smiles. I can’t think what to say. We move toward the centre of the room until our hands touch. She looks into my eyes. This is love.
I am first to stir in the morning. There is a gentle light entering through the shutters. It is early. I wonder who I am to share my life with; who will grow to understand my needs, my hopes. It is a total blank. Then I rest my eyes on Mandy, her white cheek and the small island of darkness at its centre. I sit up in bed and await her waking. If I am to find out, so should she. This, of all moments, is one for us both to share.
At last her eyes open, blinking realization. She lifts herself toward me, her nakedness beautifully contained within the sheets. We look at each other and smile. I nod for her to proceed.
“Are you there?” She whispers expectantly.
There are a few seconds silence before a voice, young, masculine, and almost imperceptibly synthesized, responds. “How can I help you?” His first words.
It’s a boy.