Celia awoke with a start. She looked around blinking as sunlight seeped through the blue paisley curtains. Instead of a wardrobe, her dresses and jackets hung on a free-standing metal clothes rail set up against a side wall. That was when she remembered—this was the spare room. Her husband had taken the master bedroom for himself, and last night he hadn't even slept there. Joey was spending the weekend fucking another woman. So why on earth was she still sleeping in the spare room? Celia reached for the mobile phone which lay next to an almost empty box of tissues on the bedside table. It was nearly nine. Was her son already up?
Celia got out of bed and put on her blue silk dressing gown. She went out of the room onto the landing and saw that Stephen's bedroom door was open. Barefoot, she went downstairs and heard the sounds of a movie coming from the living room. Even before she opened the door, she could tell it was Disney's Hercules. A couple of days ago, she had used the film's plot to help her explain to the six-year-old the concept of a person being brought up by a man other than his 'real' father, but now she wondered if that had been such a good idea.
Stephen lay on the L-shaped couch like a stone figure on a tomb, with only his head propped up so that he could see the giant flatscreen. He looked serious for a little boy, even sullen, and he barely moved as Celia entered the room. There was no cheery 'Hello, Mummy!' and also no sign of the satsuma and flavoured milk he usually got for himself. Celia looked at the flatscreen and saw the evil god Hades descending into his cartoon underworld, ranting and raving about the new baby Hercules.
'Has the film just started?' she said.
'I'm watching it again,' said Stephen in a monotone.
'So, you've already seen it once?'
'I've seen it lots of times.'
'I mean, you've seen it once this morning?'
Celia picked up the remote and paused the film. Stephen continued to stare at the screen. Celia sat on the couch's matching pouffe and turned it towards him.
'Listen, Stephen, I know you're angry with me,' she said. 'And I don't blame you. But we have to make the best of it.'
That, thought Celia, was a good question. She imagined how she would have reacted if she had been told as a little girl that Daddy was not her 'real' daddy. She would have rained holy hell down on her mother.
'All right, fair enough,' said Celia. 'But unfortunately for you, I'm still your mother. So here's what's going to happen: you can carry on watching Hercules while I go upstairs and shower. Then you and I are getting dressed and having breakfast, and then we're going to take the car and go visit Grandma and Granddad. I called Grandma last night and we can stay the whole weekend.'
'Is Daddy coming?'
'You know full well that Daddy's not coming.'
Stephen's round little face wore a scowl, his gaze still fixed on the flatscreen. He was determined to be pissed off at her. Fine, thought Celia. Knock yourself out, little man. She picked up the remote, pressed to continue the movie and went to take her shower.
Joey slowly opened his eyes. He was in a bed which smelled different in a room tinged with greenish light—the dark green curtains were acting like a filter to the morning sunlight. There was a movement next to him.
Lorna was curled up on her side, facing away. She had surprisingly wide shoulders and the milky pale skin of her back looked cool and inviting. Joey moved behind her so his full chest and stomach could connect with that beautiful back. The coolness of her soft flesh met his warmer, more muscular torso and Joey felt as though his entire skin was sighing with pleasure. The woman released a sigh of her own and, when Joey reached his arm around her, he felt his own hand being taken and placed over her breast. He felt her buttocks seeking the warm curve of his groin and he moved his legs so that there was close contact along the entire lengths of their bodies. Lorna moved her head so that Joey's head could share her pillow and the two of them lay like that for a long time in blissful silence.
Joey felt Lorna move her foot so that it rested against his ankle.
'Morning, boss,' she said.
He felt her laugh silently. She squeezed the hand that was on her breast.
'I have decided...' she said '...that every woman should sleep with her boss, at least once in her life.'
'Why is that?'
Lorna gave a sigh.
'Every boyfriend I've ever had,' she said, 'I've gone to bed with as an equal in a relationship. But with you, there is no equality. You're my boss and a married man. If I want to have sex with you, I have to accept that you're the one in charge.'
Lorna twisted herself round so she could look Joey in the eye.
'And I love it,' she said. 'It actually scares me how happy this is making me.'
Joey looked at the woman, his expression serious. Lorna turned herself around to face him. They spent a few moments rearranging their bodies so their legs could intertwine and their hands touch each other, while still having eye-to-eye contact. Joey had a hand on her thigh while Lorna touched his face.
'When you made love to me yesterday,' said Lorna, 'it was like you were in command of everything. There was none of that "Let the woman come first" crap. It was like you'd decided in advance that you were going to impregnate me and once you'd decided that, nothing was going to stop you. I could feel it.'
'Well ... it's quite something when a woman tells you she wants to have your baby.'
'Can I ask you something?'
'If I had said, "Stop! I've changed my mind!" what would you have done?'
'I'd have come in you anyway,' lied Joey.
Lorna stared at him, her mouth open, unable to speak. Then she lunged forwards, her mouth and tongue all over his face, her legs moving below. Joey opened his mouth to return the favour and, before he knew it, he was rolling on top of her, his hands running over her thighs, her torso, her breasts. He slathered kisses on the woman's face as his body moved on hers, then his cock found the slippery place between her thighs and he pushed. His cock slid firmly into a wet cunt and Lorna cried out and grabbed his body. Joey fucked her with determined strokes and Lorna moaned, twisted her head and her lips and tongue found his nipple. Joey let out a loud groan of pleasure. His balls tightened, his body slapping into hers, and suddenly he was there.
Joey ejaculated, his body jerking and shuddering. Lorna held him tight, her knees pressing against the sides of his body, as she enjoyed the moment. The man's orgasm was violent, shaking his body as it happened, and Lorna's groans were almost as loud as his. Joey had the feeling that the woman's hungry cunt was sucking the semen through his cock and into her body.
It was a feeling to die for.
Celia edged her silver Nissan off the motorway and onto the series of B-roads and roundabouts which would eventually lead to the village her parents had retired to. It was a route she had taken many times and even Stephen could remember the landmarks as he sat scowling in the back seat.
Celia drove with a sense of mounting dread. During last night's phone call, she had told her mother about the Bjorn situation and now she wished she hadn't. Celia wasn't too worried about her father—she was always Daddy's Little Girl and a few apologies and penitent tears would see her through that one, but her mother was another matter entirely. She had a black belt in Judgement and Celia had hoped to get the worst of it over with in the phone call. Instead, her mother had responded to the news of Stephen's paternity with the iciest silence Celia could remember and she ended the call with a 'Let me talk to your father first.' It was nearly midnight before her mother called back. She told Celia that she and Stephen could come after all, but to arrive no earlier than noon. Celia had no idea why, but she sensed so much tension in her mother's voice that she simply agreed.
It was now half-past twelve and the silver Nissan entered a village with green trees and tidy houses. Five minutes later, Celia was pulling up in front of a limestone-and-brick cottage with a gabled porch and neat front garden of short-cut grass. There was a driveway to the side which led to the garage, but Celia's father liked to get his Jaguar in and out when he wanted, so Celia always parked out front.
As Celia got out of the car and went to open the rear door for Stephen, the front door under the porch opened and Celia's mother stepped out. Patricia Sinclair-Johnson was an elegantly dressed woman in her sixties with dyed dark hair worn bunched on her head. She wore heels and makeup, but also a full-length kitchen apron, making her look like a baroness who did her own cooking.
Stephen ran across the grass and Patricia stepped gingerly down from the porch and bent down to greet him. The boy threw himself into her arms and Patricia smiled as she held him. Celia made her way around the grass on the driveway, the overnight bag slung over her shoulder, and she looked at the pair with mixed feelings. As a mother, she was glad that her own somewhat aloof mother was not aloof with her son. But, as a daughter, something in her hardened whenever she saw just how much goddamn love her mother showed Stephen.
Celia swallowed her hurt and went up to the porch. Her mother straightened up and offered Celia her cheek. Celia gave her mother a dutiful kiss, noting that the other woman had yet to make eye contact with her. As if to underline the point, Patricia looked down at the boy.
'Stephen,' she said. 'Your grandfather isn't here, but he set up the swingball for you in the back garden.'
'Oh, wow!' Stephen looked at Celia, his anger suddenly vanished. 'Mummy, can I?'
'Of course, darling,' said Celia.
Stephen ran into the house and disappeared into the back. Celia watched him go, shaking her head. Then she looked at the driveway, absent one Jaguar.
'So, where is Dad?' she said.
'He's meeting up with some friends in the city,' said Patricia.
'Not really. He was on the phone this morning to see if one of them could put him up for the night.'
Finally, Patricia turned and looked her daughter in the eye.
'Celia, he doesn't want to see you.'
Celia felt like she'd been hit by a wrecking ball. Never, in the history of her entire life, had her father not wanted to see her. This was the man who supported her desire to be an artist, while her mother said she didn't have the talent. The man who drove her to art colleges around the country when she was a teenager and who stood proudly amongst his daughter's paintings and photographs at the degree show, while her mother seemed more interested in the other students' work. And when Celia realised that she didn't want to be an artist after all, it was her father who had given her a big hug and told her it was all right.
'But Dad ... all that money you spent,' she had said at the time.
'Celia, don't worry about it. I like nothing more than spending money on my little girl.'
'Yeah, but that doesn't mean I should waste it.'
Celia's father had taken gentle hold of her upper arms as he looked her straight in the eyes.
'Celia, it's my money,' he had said. 'As far as I'm concerned, it's impossible to waste it on you. You tried being an artist and it didn't work out. That's life. So try something else. But trust me, Celia ... whatever you do, I will always be proud of you.'
Celia stood on the stony path, staring at the empty driveway. The overnight bag suddenly seemed heavy enough to tear through her shoulder and she felt it thump to the ground. Her knees buckled and she felt her mother grab her arms to prevent her crumpling. Celia's breathing was coming fast and there was a tightness across her chest and around her throat. She sank against her mother, who struggled to hold her upright.
'Celia, please ... you're too heavy.'
Celia forced herself to stay on her feet, swallowing down the emotions which threatened to consume her. She felt a desperate wish for her Man to magically appear so she could collapse into his strong arms and cry on his solid chest. But those arms were now around another woman's body—and Celia was hit by another wave of raw emotions to swallow. Meanwhile, her mother looked on with a stricken expression, painfully aware that she had just quite literally pushed her daughter away.
'I'm sorry,' said Patricia. 'I was afraid we might fall.'
'Of course,' said Celia. 'I understand. No point you being dragged down with me.'
Celia saw by her mother's face that the barb had hit its target. Celia instantly regretted it.
'Mum, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. I didn't mean it. I was lashing out. It's just such a shock. Please ... I don't want to fight.'
Even without looking at her, Celia knew that her mother had a rejoinder ready, along with a library of counter-responses. No one could do the withering put-down better than her mother. And when Celia looked up, her eyes pleading, she could see that Patricia was exerting enormous self-control just to keep from saying anything. Eventually, the older woman took a deep breath, straightened her posture and looked calmly at her daughter.
'Would you like a coffee?' she said.
Joey spent the entire morning naked in bed with Lorna. They talked and fucked and talked and fucked some more. He learned that Lorna had two younger twin brothers who both worked in IT after three years at university. Her father, by contrast, had left school at sixteen and worked his way up to factory site manager of a large firm. Her mother had been a nurse and now ran a small-scale palliative care home. Lorna's own career had begun with a scholarship to a business school.
'I only did the test exam because Mum nagged me into it,' said Lorna. 'But when I got in, it seemed a shame not to do it.'
'Did you like it?' said Joey.
'Oh, yes! Especially the guy who taught Sales Negotiation—he was brilliant. I'll never forget what he said in his first lecture. "Everyone successful knows how to sell, whether they're in sales or not. Selling is persuasion without coercion, and if you can master that, you can get anything you set your mind to." '
'Was he right?'
Lorna smiled and said: 'It worked on you, didn't it?'
Joey also learned that Lorna was somewhat conservative in bed. He was surprised because the way she had given him a blowjob that first time had been bold and daring, to say nothing of the way she gloried in receiving his sperm. Yet when he positioned her on her hands and knees to fuck her from behind, he got the distinct sense that she was doing it for him—that she wanted to be 'a good fuck' for his sake.
He got that same feeling when he asked her to go on top. Lorna rode his cock the way a woman does, but there was none of that 'Oh-my-God!' energy he felt from her when they fucked missionary style. He wondered if it was his imagination, whether he was just projecting his memories of ... well, of Celia. But when he pushed Lorna onto her back and penetrated her, enfolding her in his arms so she couldn't escape, he felt her whole body came alive and his cock, which had previously resigned itself to 'No Cum This Time', now couldn't keep itself from exploding.
When Lorna went to the bathroom, Joey sat alone in her bed and pondered. Maybe she was shy about being naked. Women frequently judged their own bodies more harshly than men did, regardless of what the feminists said. Was Lorna a feminist? Nah, thought Joey. She likes me too much.
Lorna came into the bedroom wearing a white towelled bathrobe. She knelt on the bed and gave Joey a kiss, but did not go back under the covers.
'You hungry?' she said.
'Yeah, I could manage some breakfast.'
'Bit late for breakfast. How about brunch?'
'Sounds good to me.'
Lorna wanted to shower first, so Joey used that time to retrieve his phone from his coat and check for messages. There was a WhatsApp from Celia telling him that she and Stephen were spending the weekend at her parents. She added that she had told her mother about the Bjorn situation.
'Fuck,' muttered Joey.
When Lorna was done, Joey took a shower. It was good and hot and by the time he finished, he could smell bacon frying. His stomach rumbled and he realised that he really was hungry. Wearing his undershirt and Lorna's big white bath towel wrapped around his waist like a sarong, Joey went to join her in the kitchen.
Before long, the two of them were tucking into a meal of eggs, bacon and baked beans, served with toast, orange juice and coffee. Lorna had one of those metal moka pots which you put on the stove, so the coffee was dark and strong. It was a delicious, unpretentious meal and when he had cleaned his plate, Joey looked at Lorna and grinned.
'Well, that hit the spot!' he said.
'Glad to hear it,' said Lorna. 'Besides, I've got to keep your strength up!'
She waggled her eyebrows suggestively. Joey maintained his grin and took a sip of coffee to disguise his embarrassment. He liked Lorna when she was direct and businesslike, but her attempt at playful flirting fell as flat as a pancake. He glanced around the apartment.
'So, where's this fertility test thingy you bought for me?' he said.
Lorna was silent. Joey looked at her, a little shocked at the sudden change in mood. She wiped her mouth with a napkin, her eyes on the metal coffee pot.
'Look, can we forget that even happened?' she said.
'Joey! If I answer that question, we'll end up going deeper into the subject and that's precisely what I want to avoid.'
Joey wanted to say 'Why?' again, then realised he was going to sound like Stephen. He took a deep breath and asked his subconscious for an alternative.
'I don't understand,' he said.
Lorna sighed. The man was clearly not going to let it go.
'Look, what we did yesterday was reckless and irresponsible,' she said.
'And this morning.'
'No, this morning the line was already crossed. And we crossed it last night.'
'Okay, fair point.'
Lorna poured herself more coffee.
'Now, by rights, I should have woken up today in a complete panic,' she said. 'I should have rushed off to the bathroom, sat on the toilet with my head in my hands, thinking, 'What have I done? What have I done?' But I'm not.'
Lorna held her small cup in both hands and looked Joey in the eyes.
'I'm completely okay,' she said. 'In fact, I can't remember the last time I felt this okay. But I also know, deep in my gut, that if you were to do the test and it showed a negative result, my feeling of okayness would disappear like that.'
Lorna snapped her fingers.
'You see, Joey, I'm not okay in spite of having done this reckless, irresponsible thing. I'm okay because of it. Which makes no sense, because why would I be okay doing something reckless and irresponsible? And yet this little voice inside me says: "Don't worry about it, Lorna. Just embrace the feeling." So that's what I want to do. I don't want to understand why or figure it all out. I just want to be here, in this moment with you. A moment where you and I might have just created a new human being.'
Lorna reached across the table and took the man's hand.
'Joey, I feel pregnant.'
'Yes, but ... don't you want to know?'
'But I will know. In a couple of weeks, I will have my period or I won't. Meanwhile, I just want to enjoy the feeling.'
Joey let go her hand and stared at the table. Lorna looked at him, then started when he suddenly looked back at her.r"