It was a last minute booking: Mr George Smithson. Reception claimed he had called on several occasions but failed to finalise the arrangements. That was shorthand for time-wasters who rang for kicks, with no intention of proceeding.
‘The old bugger kept giving a different name,’ Myra said, ‘but I recognised the voice and checked the number. He asked the same questions each time.’
I knew exactly what she meant: time wasters wanted descriptions of the girls and a list of the services on offer. But I could see Myra, always a chatty one, didn’t wish me to go away.
‘Like what?’ I said.
‘The old bore wanted to know how clean our ladies are, how often they have medical check-ups. I told him that our girls insist on condoms. Was that enough for him? No! He gave me a lecture on chlamydia. How deceptive it is, how people have it without knowing. And, guess what? He had shown a video to his students. He went on and on about how it causes infertility. Blah, blah, blah.’ She sighed. ‘Amanda, you’ve got a teacher on your hands.’
Neither here nor there, what they do. Sometimes the conversation dries up so I ask, but you can’t take the answer seriously. Not that I would take seriously anything a punter says. Once I am out of the room, they are out of my mind.
I remember a young chap telling me about his aunt touching his cock when he was a child and how, now that he was in his twenties, he would have liked her to do it, but she no longer has any interest in him. I took the hint: ‘Did she touch you like this, or like that?’ So what if I didn’t believe him? They pay and I give them what they want. If that includes listening to their stories, that’s fine. Fools all of them, young and old.
Mr Smithson lived in a street crammed with cars. When I finally found a parking spot, a woman rushed out of the house and screamed at me. She needed the space for her husband who was very old and could not walk far. I ignored her but she ran after me:
‘We are residents. We have the right to park in front of our house. You don’t live here.’
That was none of her business. Besides, if her husband couldn’t walk far, why didn’t she get one of those disabled bays painted in front of their place? The world’s full of liars.
‘I’m visiting a friend’s father. She’s been taken to hospital and her father needs help.’
‘How long will you be?’ Nosey bitch.
‘Depends how he is A couple of hours, I expect.’
I pushed the gate in front of a small terrace house with a long front garden and a crazy paving path. I had barely touched the bell when the door opened. But he didn’t let me in straightaway; he waited for me to ask whether he was Mr Smithson. I must say it’s unusual to give a surname to an escort agency. Once he had locked the door, turning the key twice, I noted, we stood in a narrow, dark corridor. I smiled, he didn’t smile back. I couldn’t imagine him in front of a class, in charge of kids; he was shaking like jelly. Late sixties he was, grey and balding, frameless glasses, brown trousers and a beige cardigan. A teacher in an amateur theatre show. I had to take the initiative.
‘So, George, no point being formal. Will you offer me a drink?’
‘Of course.’ He seemed flustered and I regretted being so direct. ‘And this is for you.’ He fetched a small envelope from the mantelpiece. His carpet slippers shuffled on the rug in the middle of the room.
‘For two hours, that’s right, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, thank you.’ I slipped the envelope into my bag.
‘Won’t you check?’
‘I trust you, George.’ I smiled.
In the front room, he pointed to the sofa, before disappearing to the kitchen. He reappeared straightaway, asking what drink I would like.
‘The same as you.’
‘At this time in the afternoon, it’s always Earl Grey for me.’ That wasn’t what I had in mind.
He walked away, but returned straightaway.
‘Only, I thought, if you would rather have a proper drink. I mean, wine, or brandy.’
‘If you’re going to have it…’
This time he came back to the room with two glasses of white wine. It wasn’t chilled.
The net curtains were drawn and, with the sun at the back, I worked out that you couldn’t see inside from the street.
When I said cheers, he lifted the glass and placed it close to his lips but I don’t think a drop of wine went into his mouth.
Avoiding my eyes, he stared at my feet. He looked married. Either she was away and he was worried she might turn up or it was his first time. I had to relax him. If only he would take a proper sip.
‘Would you like to sit closer?’ I patted the sofa next to me.
‘A bit later.’
‘It’s warm here. I’ll take off my jacket, if that’s all right.’
‘Please, make yourself comfortable.’ He couldn’t have known I was wearing nothing but a bra underneath.
‘Oh, that’s much better,’ I said, hoping he would look at me. He didn’t. I drank my wine. That was fine. Some want to talk. Others need company, silent company.
He stared out ofthe window. I was about to say something when the phone rang. He didn’t move. The ringing continued.
‘It’s OK with me. Answer it if you like.’ He shook his head.
‘I meant to disconnect it. I forgot in the rush.’ He looked worried. The ringing had stopped only to resume immediately.
‘Would you like me to go to another room?’
The answering machine switched itself on. The recorded message gave his name as Richard. When the caller spoke – ‘hello, it’s Vanessa…just back from our holiday…the kids would love to see you and I wondered if both of you…’ – I excused myself saying that I needed the toilet. He pointed to the door at the end of the corridor.
When I returned, he was sitting on the sofa, close to where I had been before. That was progress. His wine was still untouched.
‘Would you like to look at this?’ I took a girly magazine out of my bag. He glanced at the cover and shook his head but moved closer to me. I turned towards him and placed his right hand inside my bra. He sighed. His heavy breathing was audible. He squeezed my breast. I stood up and put a nipple in his mouth but, at that precise moment, the doorbell rang. He froze, blushing, and looked at me in panic. Raising an index finger, he indicated I should keep silent.
With my nipple still in his mouth, we waited for several minutes before we heard the steps on the garden path.
‘The milkman,’ he whispered. I had left him the money and a note saying that I would be away today, but he always calls for a chat.’
I cupped my breasts together and pushed them onto his face but he ignored me, stood up and moved to another armchair further away. I went over, knelt in front of him, unzipped his trousers and kissed him on the mouth. He didn’t resist. As soon as I put his hand on my breast, he shot.
‘That’s lovely. So much of it.’ Ignoring me, he pulled up his trousers and rushed to the kitchen. He brought a wet kitchen towel and scrubbed the armchair t
I knew guilt usually sets in at this point: the thought of the wife and what if she found out.
‘Would you like me to do anything else?’ he shook his head, without looking at me. I saw him brush away a tear.
We sat in silence for a while. I tried to map the best way to get to my next appointment but for some stupid reason I couldn’t empty my mind of what was really going on in the life of this man.
Eventually I stood up to go. The two hours were not up but there was nothing else to do.
‘Please don’t. Hold me. Please.’
I feared he might cry. I put my arms around him. His whole body was shaking.
‘It’s been three years. I wish I could get away from it…It wasn’t my fault…I had no idea anything was wrong. She was unhappy…from time to time. Like everyone else. But nothing serious. She didn’t complain.’
I looked at him. Showed concern.
‘I was away for a few days. A school trip. Just before I left, we had booked a holiday…I knew she was looking forward to it.’
I nodded. I’m good at being sympathetic.
‘Our daughter was in hospital…complications with her second pregnancy. So, no one called for three days…For three days, can you imagine? I will never forgive myself…’
His teeth rattled.
‘The door wasn’t bolted. If only it had been…I would have had to call the police or the fire brigade…I could tell the smell as soon as I opened the door.’
He put his hand on mine. A sigh.
‘She was on the first floor…tied a dressing gown cord onto the banister. I cut her down. Her body was rigid. I lay on the floor next to her and cried. It took me hours before I could make the phone call. They were not suspicious.’
He shook his head as if to reinforce what he meant.
‘No, I wasn’t a suspect. And you know, there was a note. She left a note. Addressed to me. Do you know what it said? She accused me of visiting massage parlours. She said she could no longer cope with my deceit. The word was underlined.’
He was sobbing now.
‘I had never rung one; today was the first time. Believe me.’
He looked at me.
‘You know, I still have the note. I haven’t shown it to the police.’
Vesna Main is a graduate of Comparative Literature and holds a PhD from the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. She has worked as a lecturer at universities in Nigeria and the UK.
She has had two novels published. Her articles, reviews and short stories have appeared in magazines. Her latest publication is Temptation: A User’s Guide, a collection of short stories brought out by Salt in January 2018.
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.
EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.
Visit the STORGY SHOP here…
of EXIT EARTH here…
Unlike many other Arts & Entertainment Magazines, STORGY is not Arts Council funded or subsidised by external grants or contributions. The content we provide takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce, and relies on the talented authors we publish and the dedication of a devoted team of staff writers. If you enjoy reading our Magazine, help to secure our future and enable us to continue publishing the words of our writers. Please make a donation or subscribe to STORGY Magazine with a monthly fee of your choice. Your support, as always, continues to inspire.