Six of us from the work team have been to a beer festival in town. Five of us have then gone on to have curry, and now the parting of the ways begins.
B heads off in the other direction as that’s where he lives. R and his girlfriend C need to catch the train.
“C and I are heading off to the station now…I guess you are too?” says R, looking at me with the face of someone having total fact-based 100% confidence that I’ll be heading in that direction too and will therefore naturally be heading off with them.
“Ummmmm, actually…. no… not right now….” I say, extremely sheepishly. There are only two of us left – me and OF – and we smile at each other.
“Oh! Right….” says a clearly baffled R, “right then…”
“`Bye then!” says OF to them extremely cheerily and with a huge smile, and off the pair of us go to buy wine.
Earlier that evening
We are sat around the table at the beer festival. There wasn’t a space next to me for OF initially, but later on a chair next to me is free, and OF sits himself in it to chat to me.
We chat about the beer and the train, and I very laughingly make a comment about how I either don’t have too many drinks, or he does the gentlemanly thing and lets me sleep on his new sofa that he keeps telling me about. I make it a throwaway comment that doesn’t need a reply, that isn’t pushy or bossy or assumptive so that I don’t scare him (although, Dear Reader, I confess that I have a toothbrush and a pair of knickers in my bag, and have gone to some trouble to pay for two days parking at the station on a very remote Just In Case off-chance. Be Prepared and all that.).
I’d hoped to go for dinner just the two of us after the beer event (and I’d emailed him as such earlier in the day), but it seems that everyone is feeling sociable and hungry, so off we go for curry and OF and I sit next to each other. It’s a lot of fun. I feel like my old self – the sociable fun old self who loved a work outing. I feel really happy.
The waiter comes to take our order and I very reluctantly ask for a bottle of sparkling mineral water.
Very quietly – very very quietly next to me – OF says “you can stay on the sofa”, and my happiness levels shoot through the roof.
I change my order very quickly to a large glass of wine… and after that, I don’t move my leg away when they brush under the table. Neither does he.
Dinner over, we say our goodbyes, make our less-than-subtle departure to the surprise of R and C, and stop at Sainsburys to buy wine on the way to the bus stop.
We wait for the bus at the stop where I went home from so many work outings back with the old work team, the OG team, those drunken days of pubs and not enough food. It’s cold and it’s familiar wrapped up in a new level of anticipation, of the feeling of something good being just a bus ride away.
The bus comes – it’s the bus I used to get home every day when I first starting writing this blog. The sense of the familiar and the comforting grows, and I’m only sad that the front seats at the top are taken. We sit down, we chat and laugh about how familiar this is to me, the time I was a tiny bit sick after too many wines out with the work gang, we chat and laugh and chat and our legs touch, and even though we are going home together and having a wonderful time we are still being careful and I don’t want to overwhelm him or scare him away.
We get off the bus a stop early at his suggestion so we can walk through the place where he lives a little. It’s somewhere I’ve been a little, somewhere I went through on the bus every working day for three years – my sense of the familiar is surrounding me like a warm blanket – to be back in the Cotswolds, it’s like a hug from an old friend.
His house is down a dark little lane and the stars are shining brightly on us. He opens the door to his little house, and there we are, in his little man-cave. He’s only lived there for two months, and I am charmed by how obvious it is that a man lives there. There are shirts on the banisters and washing up by the sink, and he laughs and tells me that the clearing up he told me he’d be doing the other evening didn’t happen… but it’s warm and cosy and has character, it has a particular smell which I really like which makes me feel at home. I like it very much.
He finds some clean glasses and I open the Prosecco. I look at his books (“got that one and that one and that one and that one and that one”) before we sit on the sofa, not quite touching, and start a marathon binge of Series 3 of First Dates.
After twenty minutes I ask if he’s going to sit so far away all evening, laughing. He budges up. Neither of us can drink competently and we both spill a great deal of fizz down ourselves, to shouts of laughter. We’re not wildly drunk – just merry and happy and completely clumsy. We cuddle up, snuggling and holding hands, and he turns out to be just as good at shredding the people on First Dates as I am, and I like him even more.
We talk about friends, about people with families. I explain who the Prof is, because that’s who I’m staying with in London next weekend. I explain that he is one of my best friends, that we hang out, play Rock Band and watch films – that is isn’t like “that”. He doesn’t bat an eyelid.
Eventually we end up having the “past relationships” chat. He tells me, slightly helplessly, that he’s only been single for two months, that it hasn’t been long. He tells me that it should have happened a long while before, probably. I ask him if he is happy with things, with living here, with how things are – and he says yes.
I don’t push too hard. Instead I tell him that I haven’t actually dated anyone remotely seriously for five years, I tell him a little bit about getting married young, about leaving him. He tells me a little about a couple of other long relationships. We are still cuddling, we haven’t moved apart. We agree that we don’t think anyone should get to our age (and we are the same age, he is exactly two months older than me) without having a reasonable about of past relationship baggage, we both think people are odd without it.
He smiles, looks at me and says “Yeah, I’ve been single for two months, and I thought, J– is nice…” – which makes my heart skip.
I snuggle into him and try to tell him that I know he’s not long been single, and that I have definitely chased him, but I can only say that I’ve liked him for TWO YEARS, that I fancied the pants off him at the conference and nearly nearly jumped on him then, but that I’m glad I didn’t, and that I thought if I didn’t chase him now then it would end up being someone else.
He is genuinely bemused.
“No….?” he says, looking down at me with an expression that actually makes me think that what he means is “no… I like you… it wasn’t going to be anyone else…” and I stop talking because I can’t explain what a catch I think he is. Also, I sound a bit bonkers.
We’ve passed the “relationship chat” test without either of us recoiling in horror…
“I’m glad I asked you out, then” I tease. Then I turn to him, “but do I have to wait till Date Three for kissing?? Because, just to make it clear, I’m not starting the kissing if there’s going to be any…”. Oh Cots, oh Cots who must know…
“No” he says, and kisses me. Then he lies back again and cuddles me.
“IS THAT IT?!?” I laugh and shout at the same time. I’m half mock-outraged and half real-outraged, and a tiny bit tiddly. I accidentally spill some more wine down me for good effect.
He is smiling at me, oh those lovely eyes. His face is blushing and I can’t read it.
“What?” I ask more gently. “It’s nothing. It’s just me being stupid” he says.
I have no idea what he’s being stupid about. I make a wild guess – well, the only guess that I can come up with. I sit up and turn to face him properly. This lovely kind diffident shy-in-some-ways and not-in-others gorgeous man has robbed me of every single subtle seduction trick I’ve ever learned. I feel like a teenager again.
“M – I know you’ve only been single for two months. I know that. But I live in —shire! I’m only in the office twice a week!! I’m not exactly a huge threat to your new single-maness!”
He laughs. I sit up even straighter and make him look at me properly.
“Well then – what???” I laugh. He is just looking at me all shyly, smiling.
“Do you like me?” I enquire.
“Yes!” he says.
“And am I kissable???” I demand, with a very exasperated look on my face.
“Yes!!!” he laughs.
“WELL….?!!!” I am laughing, shaking my head; words are failing me.
And so we kiss some more. Lots more. He is very gentle at kissing, but he gets a bit braver as we lie there finally doing something about it. We just kiss, we just lie there making out.
After a while he stands up, goes to the stairs and says “this would be a lot comfier upstairs” and I think, “oh good, I’m not sleeping on the sofa and his nerves have gone…”
I smile and I follow him.
We brush our teeth. I hastily get undressed, just leaving my knickers and vest top, and scramble under the duvet. I am unbelievably nervous. I can feel every bit of my body that I hate. I am so so scared he will hate them too.
He comes out of the bathroom and gets undressed, wearing a t-shirt and his boxers. He laughs at me sat in his bed, hugging my knees under the duvet. “You ok?” he asks, smilingly. “Yeah” I answer very shyly, peeking out from under my hair.
He climbs in, and we roll over to embrace each other. I laugh very nervously and quietly and tell him I feel like I’m eighteen again. He laughs and says “me too”.
And so then we kiss, and we start to very shyly touch each other. I am so goddamn nervous. I laugh very nervously and whisper “I feel like I have to ask your permission to touch you!!”.
“You don’t” he says, and after that everything is OK.
After that, in fact, he isn’t remotely shy in bed. I get a very pleasant surprise when, in the course of my tentative explorations, I discover something really lovely which I’m going to get to enjoy very much. I kiss him hard and think “thank god thank god thank god it’s not a disappointment”.
He takes his time, gently and confidently exploring me. We get rid of the nightwear. I can just see the outline of him in the dark, my brain is exploding with happiness telling me this is OF, this is really really OF, we are really doing this together.
He spends a lot of time stroking my tummy. Initially I am nervous – this is my most-hated part, and I’m convinced he’ll realise how awful it is.
But he doesn’t. He carries on. He moves further down, and there is not a jot of shyness or diffidence going on now. This OF is confident and talented. He touches me, and just for a moment I see the stars. All of our shyness is gone now – there is only us and this beautiful thing.
He spends a long time touching me, kissing me, stroking me. I touch him too, there is no shyness from me now, I want him and I want to please him, I want to hear the change in his breath.
I kiss my way down him and spend a long time lavishing attention on him. He is very quiet in bed – very very quiet – so I listen to his breath and listen to his body and give myself up to the pleasure of what I’m doing.
Eventually my arms tire and we are ravenous for each other. I rather think that if he’s been single for two months then he won’t have any supplies, so I quietly tell him that I have a coil. “Oh, was that just in case like your toothbrush?!” he teases me.
I smack his gorgeous arse and tell him no, and then we stop laughing and we kiss some more, and shortly afterwards it is so good that I do not have the words to describe it.
There is no hurry. There is only the two of us, just bodies and sweat and limbs; sweetness and ecstasy. As the hours drift by I count out loud to him “two” …. “three” … This, for me, has never been so sublime – it is utterly miraculous.
He teases me and laughs when I wriggle and complain; I sit on him and tease him right back, my arms resting on the beam of the sloping roof, his face in the dark beneath me. I slither down the bed again and taste the two of us.
And then more, oh more. “Four”… I breathe. He shifts position. “Five….” I exhale not long after, shocked and elated. I kiss him and ask what I can do to give him his one after my five…
“Don’t worry” he tells me “it won’t be long”. And he screws me hard into the bed, and silently, so silently, has his as I wrap myself around him.
We lie there in a tangle, breathing hard, hearts racing.
“Well” he says, “work’s never going to be the same again, is it??”
We get about two hours’ sleep. The rest of the time we are resting but not sleeping. I’m not woken up by a lovely morning surprise. There’s not much cuddling in the morning. It makes me a little nervous until I realise we’re both being a bit shy again.
We have a lovely snuggle then both of us get too hot. The confident uninhibited lovers of the night before have been replaced with who we are the rest of the time – slightly daft clumsy people. He teases me about something, and I laugh and say I won’t tell him the compliment I was about to give him… so he cuddles me again and I tell him matter-of-factly that what we did last night was some of the best I’ve ever had in my life.
He blushes and says “yeah, it was nice….”. I roll my eyes at him and say “NICE?!”, laughing. “Yeah. I’m not very good with words…” he tells me sheepishly. Which I already knew, he is forgiven and it is understood. And we have another in-joke to be used with a glint in the eye.
He cooks us breakfast, he lends me his dressing gown which he’s been wearing and smells of him. We get the duvet and flop out on the sofa watching some more First Dates, barely awake. I ache all over. He tells me I can stay as long as I want. I know he’s got coaching in the afternoon, he tells me I can let myself out if I want to, but it’s ok, I want to get the train and collapse in a heap.
He showers, I shower, and then he suggests we go to the pub as it’s ages to my train and he’s going to drop me off on his way to coaching. I smell of his deoderant which ridiculously makes me smile for no good reason.
And in the pub everything is OK again. We sit by the fire, his eyes are smiling at me, we talk about my M.E., we talk about the sport that he coaches. We talk and laugh and talk and laugh and it’s easy and natural and lovely. My sandwich comes and he eats my chips. We laugh again about R’s face when it turned out I wasn’t getting the train home. We swap phone numbers.
He perfectly artlessly suggests we have dinner again next week. On the short walk back from the pub we talk about my house, and I say he should come and see it. He would love to. Then we start talking weekend logistics, in great pre-Christmas complexity, before saying “oh, we’ll sort it out on Tuesday”.
And then I think it’s going to be OK. I think “he likes me, he wants to do this again, he wants to see me again, I haven’t put him off”. I smile and am a hair’s breadth from reaching for his hand as we walk, but something stops me. Shyness again.
He drops me at the station, looks edible in his sports kit. We kiss goodbye, I stumble over my thank-you, tell him it was “nice” with a very cheeky look in my eye, he laughs, and then I sit on the little platform at this little station and wait for my train, the happiest girl in the world.