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The place was a whirling cacophonous jostle of laughing, shouting, some impatiently crying, children – each one hell-bent on obtaining their choice, that is until they saw some other child’s undoubtedly even better one.
It was my first taste of the pre-Halloween hell of hiring a child’s costume – but then in the year since the divorce I had had many such new experiences.
Josh, my eight year old son, had been planning for weeks to go as his absolutely favourite character – ‘Spiderman’ – that was until his teacher had come up with her own plan. Recognising the realities of 21st century life, in which not all ‘families’ were nuclear, she had proposed, very generously I thought, to organise an evening that all the children could be involved in – including those whose parent/s or carer/s might actually be working.
She had co-opted those adults who were able to help out and organised the class into several groups, so the occupants of each house they visited wouldn’t find themselves assailed by all twenty or so excited children. Less enthusiastically heard, at least by the children, was the idea that would ensure the entire class wouldn’t all go around in just the same half dozen outfits.
To a non-parenting adult even that part of the scheme seemed a good one, a well thought out way of ensuring creative variety – however, to a parent of a child who missed out in the ballot, it was of course an unmitigated disaster. And I, unwittingly, was one of those.
I had spent much of the last several days dealing with Josh’s initially heart-broken tears and tantrums and it was only with some difficulty that I finally managed to persuade him that the character he had drawn in the ballot was in some ways an even better one. After all, Spiderman had never had to face a Balrog, as Gandalf had, and after all Gandalf had won! I’m not sure my logic itself had absolutely convinced him, but a second viewing of the entire ‘Lord of the Rings’ series seemed to – at least, if nothing else, it had stemmed the floods of angrily disconsolate tears.
So there we were, a weary group of long-suffering adults, along with twenty-odd, mainly disorderly children, lining up to collect their balloted costumes, then hurrying away to try them on.
We had been told that there were actually two Gandalf costumes; grey and white, and after a long and initially sulkily careful examination of the pictures in the hire-store’s brochure, Josh had chosen the former. He’d said it was because that was how Gandalf had been dressed when he’d actually fought and beaten the Balrog – I felt sure it was because it was the costume that included the charismatically floppily pointed hat.
Anyway, once kitted-out and he had a few minutes to display himself to his friends I thought everything finally seemed to be going well – but then I caught sight of what appeared to be a second wizard.
Luckily I spotted Josh’s teacher, Miss Soames nearby and leaving Josh to continue doing his best to summon up some creature or other, I wormed my way over to her. Being anxious that all her planning might have come unstuck I was guarded in the way I expressed my concern about there apparently being two identical characters.
‘Oh no Mike, young Steve’s not Gandalf, he’s Merlin – you know, King Arthur’s wizard. In fact the boys are quite good friends and that’s one of the reasons I’ve included him in the same group with Josh – the one you and his mother will be taking around. Two wizards should have twice as much power in getting themselves treats.’ she added cheerfully. ‘Come along, I’ll introduce you to his Mum, Francis Meadows, you’ll like her, I’m sure.’
In the year or more of the steadily unravelling, and by then totally frigid marital relationship that led up to the divorce, and even in the twelve months of supposed freedom that had followed it I had made no attempt at even trying to get close to a woman. Maybe I should have done what several of my male friends had recommended – ‘Get out, get laid!’ – was their general advice, but I hadn’t. So perhaps by that time I was overly susceptible to the effect of a pretty face and femininely warm smile, which is what I saw when Miss Soames introduced me to Steve’s mother.
Tallish, curvily slimmish, with dark, wavy brown hair and hazel eyes – Francis Meadows was undoubtedly attractive, and her smile was infectiously friendly. ‘Hi, I’m Josh’s Dad, Mike – I gather we’re working together on Halloween.’ I said as I extended my hand.
‘Francis, hi Mike – yes, it should be fun. Steve and Josh have told me a good deal about you, In fact I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.’ she added as she took my hand softly.
‘Well, you have the advantage of me there, don’t believe everything Josh says, he still expects Spiderman to take him on as his apprentice one day soon.’
She laughed – then before we had time to say anything more our two young wizards came bursting through the throng; Steve waving his wand like some half demented band-leader, escort bostancı while Josh used his staff to try to strike sparks from the floor.
Then, having checked that the costumes were complete and fitted satisfactorily we had to join the queue of parents waiting to complete the necessary charge-card transactions, and as we did so I noticed the two boys huddling together in a far corner. For a pair of super-excited eight year-olds they seemed to be talking unexpectedly earnestly, and, every now and then, looking up to glance across in our direction.
However, having used the time we were waiting to exchange addresses and phone numbers and agree the arrangements for the Halloween evening, we parted – but at odd times during the next few days I found myself recalling that warmly friendly smile and the sound of her laugh.
Maybe some of those thoughts were in fact prompted by Josh’s frequent comments about Steve, or their Halloween costumes, or, just occasionally, how nice Mrs Meadows always was to him when he and Steve were playing together. I was surprised to find there was whole section of Josh’s life I hadn’t previously even known about – and used those occasional comments to probe a little deeper into it. I discovered that the woman I had arranged to pick Josh up after school was sometimes a little late, and that rather than leaving him completely on his own Francis Meadows had got into the habit of waiting around until she arrived. So, over the months, and little by little, the three of them; Josh, Steve and Francis, had formed some sort of bond.
I made a mental note to thank her for her kindness – and to have strong words with the other woman the next time we spoke.
Then Halloween itself finally arrived. To give the kids the chance to show off their final make-up and costumes to each other Miss Soames had organised a small party before we were to head out round the streets and while the girls spent most of the time preening and cooing to each other most of the boys seemed far more interested in seeing how many cakes and cookies they could stuff into their mouths. But although Josh and Steve were certainly no slouches in that department they did seem less frenetic than the others, spending almost as much time doing what they had in the costume shop – huddled in deep conversation, and occasionally, making strange passing movements with their hands.
However, that time did give me a chance to pass on my gratitude to Francis and a chance for us to get to know each other just a little better – and I couldn’t deny I found myself liking her more and more. Her personality was as warm as her smile, she was clearly intelligent, laughed easily – even at my not all that overly humorous remarks – and seemed to be enjoying my company.
Once out on our rounds, and had only to supervise the half dozen kids in their door-knocking, we had even more time to talk. I discovered she was widowed, Steve’s Dad having died in a car accident just a year or so after she’d had their son. She had a part-time job at a local bank, which, although it meant a tight budget, avoided the necessity that so many single parents have of needing to find someone to either drop-off or pick-up their child from school.
We also discovered that we had not too dissimilar tastes in music and movies – and a comment she made about one of those that was upcoming locally suddenly prompted me to perhaps rashly suggest that we might, possibly, see it together.
‘Are you asking me for a date?’ she responded as she turned her head to give me a quirkily cheeky grin.
‘Why not?’ I replied a few short and thoughtful moments later.
‘Why not indeed – yes, thank you, I think I’d like that.’ she answered.
Although our conversation remained much as before no doubt an observer would have detected small and subtle differences; there was perhaps a slight shift in the tenor of our voices and language, a lessening in any formality between us, a willingness to speak in the personal rather than purely third person. And perhaps it was those changes that prompted what at the time I had thought of as being a purely cost-saving idea, an idea that might appeal to a woman with somewhat restricted income. And maybe that was what led to all that followed – but then again perhaps it merely sped-up what could very well, in time, have proved to be inevitable.
‘It’s just an idea, but when we go to the movie, there’s no need for us both to get sitters.’ I said. ‘My neighbours’ daughter often minds Josh for me and I’m sure she’d have no trouble having the two of them for two or three hours. So why not get Steve into his pyjamas beforehand then bring him over to my place, Josh can show him his latest PlayStation games – and if they start getting too obstreperous, Susie, that’s my sitter, can put them into bed. She’s quite capable of doing that, and there’s a bunk-bed in Josh’s room.’ I explained.
Francis was thoughtful for a moment or two, then simply said – ‘Thank you, that’s a great ümraniye escort idea.’
Having agreed the night and the time we returned to monitoring our charges and the next couple of hours went by almost uneventfully. As the only two boys in the group Josh and Steve had initially tended to try to throw their weight around, insisting that before approaching a house they be given a chance to cast their various spells that would ensure a more than usually compliant householder answering the door. But when, after the first three or four of these performances had gone on too long and the girls simply rushed straight by them, they realised they might miss out on the first pick of whatever was being handed out, so that palaver soon stopped.
Of course in between each house call Francis and I continued chatting, and in time the conversation gradually drifted from the general, to include some more personal matters. I discovered that she had known my ex-wife, if only slightly, through a few of the school’s varied activities – and that she had heard all about the affaire that had eventually led to our divorce. ‘To be frank, Mike, I think you’re better off without her – though I imagine you’re still feeling pretty raw.’ she said sympathetically.
‘Not too much Francis.’ I replied. ‘The affaire was just the trigger; the marriage had to all intents and purposes come to an end long before that. I think we were both just going through the motions – more from a misguided sense that it was better for Josh that way. I mean we hadn’t even shared the same bedroom for over a year.’ I added, perhaps a little unnecessarily.
‘That must have been difficult for you.’
‘For us both I think – though she obviously found it even more so than I did.’ I replied with a rather hollow sounding laugh.
‘And you didn’t even try to find yourself an alternative outlet?’
‘No, frankly I had neither the time, nor I think, the inclination.’ I answered honestly.
I didn’t get to find out where that particular conversation might have taken us because just then Francis and I realised we had almost come to the end of the last of the streets Miss Soames had given us to do our door-knocking in. ‘Time to start curbing their enthusiasm a little.’ I said, pointing to the excitable group coming back down the path after their latest happy hunting foray.
‘True, best we start heading back to the school.’ she replied, gathering the girls around her. I had a bit more difficulty with Steve and Josh, but a few minutes later we were all on our way, the children happily totting-up the number of crinkly wrapped goodies they might have in their bags and brimming baskets.
Before we went our separate ways I suggested to Francis that I could save her the bother of getting Steve’s costume back to the shop by picking it up the following morning, on the way to taking Josh to school. ‘In fact, if you like, I could take Steve too, if that would help.’ I added.
‘Why thank you Mike – that would be a great help. And I know Steve would enjoy going in with Josh. But are you sure it will be no trouble?’
‘Not at all, and I’ll drop the costumes off in my lunch hour.’
‘Well thank you again – just don’t expect me to be looking too glamorous at that time of the morning.’ she added.
If the way she looked the next morning was, by her standards, unglamorous, it certainly couldn’t, at least by me, be described as being unattractive – in fact even in the modest housecoat she wore I thought she looked scrumptious! Not that I said so of course – but then the expression on my face might just have hinted at my reaction.
However, right then the boys and the parcel took centre stage and a few minutes later, with far more noise than usual coming from the back seat, I was on my way to the school. But even with only the memory of her smile, and the way she looked that morning to fill the intervening days, I was surprised to find that I was already looking excitedly forward to our ‘date’.
* * * * *
Having spent rather more time on getting myself ready than I normally might have I then found my heart beating distinctly faster when I heard the door-bell ring. Perhaps she had recognised that it might take a while for two small boys to come down from the excitement of them being together for the evening, but I noticed that Francis had arrived a little early. When I opened the door I saw that because we had been getting intermittent showers all afternoon she had sensibly chosen to wear a raincoat, but as we still had to wait for Susie’s arrival I suggested she take it off. But then, even as the two boys raced off together, I simply couldn’t help myself staring at what in doing so, she had uncovered.
Her dark hair and light olive complexion made a dramatic contrast with the luminous whiteness of her polo-necked top, but it wasn’t that that really grabbed my attention, but the way it seemed to be moulded to the shape of what was filling it.
She gave me an amused half-smile as kartal escort bayan she said – ‘Thank you’ – and, to follow the boys, moved past me.
I stood there, watching her, for a few seconds; the tapering line of her back, the narrow waist, the flaring curve of her hips, and especially the sensuously swaying, knee-length pleated skirt. The word that had sprung to mind the last time I’d seen her was ‘scrumptious’, this time it would have to be ‘seductive’.
Even in the brief moments I continued standing there I realised there were two things I needed to find out – whether or not it was intentional – and, if it was, whether or not I was amenable. I admit that right at that moment I thought I might very well be – and, given what had until then been my non-existent and long-buried sex-life, that surprised me.
However, having given myself a brief mental shaking I followed them into the living room, where I’d previously had Josh set-up his computer game equipment.
The boys surprised us both by settling down much more quickly than either of us had anticipated and that gave us time to have a drink before Susie arrived to take over. Then, having made the boys promise to do as she told them, including going off to bed when she said so, we confidently left them to it.
The movie was good, though I think Francis enjoyed it more than I did – that was until when, at one particularly dramatically scary moment she automatically reached out and gripped the back of my hand. Gripped it really, really tightly. I flinched, more from surprise than pain, then rested my other hand on top of hers, then, as her grip relaxed a little, turned the lower one around so I could hold hers normally.
She turned her head and smiled – ‘That feels nice.’ – she mouthed softly.
‘Yes it does.’ I answered the same way, gently enfolding her with one hand and stroking the back of hers with the tips of the fingers of the other.
I quickly realised just how much I liked it, liked just holding her hand, feeling its soft warmth enclosed in mine. And because I did, and as she made no effort to remove it, we stayed like that through to the end of the movie. Even then I sensed a reluctance in the way she freed her fingers from mine as we stood to make our way out, so, once outside and we turned to head for the car-park, I reached for her again. She gave her hand more than willingly, knitting her fingers between mine and then binding them tightly.
I took a few more paces then stopped us, turning her to face towards me. ‘Would you think it inappropriate if I kissed you?’ I whispered.
‘Far from it, sir.’ she replied in a tone of almost mocking civility. So I did – and although that first kiss certainly couldn’t be described as being overly passionate, it was nonetheless invitingly moreish. So much so that we did it again, that time with a just a little more physical enthusiasm. Then again, by then pressing ourselves just a little more closely together.
‘I think that if we are going to continue this we should do so somewhere other than on a street corner – don’t you?’ I said when we finally broke for air.
‘Mmm, maybe we should.’ she agreed. ‘Where did you have in mind?’
I thought quickly, then replied – ‘Well I guess the obvious place is your place. I could make a quick call to Susie, tell her that we’d like to go on for a meal. I’m sure she’d be happy to stay on for another hour or so.’
‘We could do an awful lot of kissing in an hour.’ she replied somewhat cheekily.
‘Well who knows what else a pair of adults might think of doing.’
‘What indeed! OK, make the call.’
As I’d guessed, Susie was more than happy to earn another hour’s pocket-money and within minutes we were heading for Francis’ home.
Once inside, with the door closed firmly behind us, she took off her raincoat – and as before, I couldn’t help myself staring down at the tight, white top she was wearing beneath it.
Unlike many men I knew I had never been one who fetishised female breasts – of course I liked them, what’s not to like! But the size and/or shape of her breasts had never been the first thing I noticed about a woman – I was much more likely to be smitten by her eyes. So of course I was surprised to find myself reacting the way I did to Francis all too obvious charms.
‘I get the impression you like this.’ she said, posing so the shape of her breasts were outlined even more blatantly.
‘It certainly does wonders for what’s underneath it.’ I replied a little hoarsely.
‘Maybe the reality won’t live up to the image.’ she replied somewhat warily.
‘Maybe I won’t be too concerned with just one part, when I see the rest.’ I answered throatily as I moved forward to take her in my arms.
She came willingly; pressing herself tightly against me, her lips tongue and mouth more urgent than before. I really have no idea what fuelled it – maybe it was the need I sensed in her kisses, maybe the tension I’d felt slowly building between us since we’d first held hands, maybe it was just the more than two years of sexual deprivation – but I felt myself being consumed with something I had never known before, a deep-seated and lustful, hungry desire! I had to see her nakedness, see it and touch it, kiss it and fondle it.
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