Oh yes. Oh … oh … yes! Mmmmm. Yes. Ahhhhh, oh yes! Thankfully, these responses are inside my head because my filter, for once, is firmly engaged, stopping them from spewing out of my mouth. Sax is kissing my neck as his strong hands caress me through my thin silk blouse. His lips slide up to my ear, making me shiver with anticipation as I turn my head to give him better access. I feel his mouth curve into a smile as it bestows feather-light kisses along my jaw. He pulls back and regards me with eyes full of yearning, full of promise and definitely full of impending satisfaction.
His arms are around me dipping me into the Hollywood golden era embrace. That’s it; I’m putty in his hands, and gooey putty at that. Now he’s kissing me as though his life depended upon it and we’re just about to get naked when I hear an odd noise. I burrow down into his chest, sighing at the warmth and comfort it brings but the noise doesn’t abate. If anything, it gets louder.
What is that? It’s really off-putting.
I bolt upright and realise two things simultaneously. One, I’m dying. Two, someone is banging on my door like they want to break it down.
Oh and three, I’m not about to get it on with the gorgeous one. It was a stupid sodding dream. I slump back into the warmth of my duvet and immediately regret it as a wave of nausea washes over me. Why oh why did I think it was a good idea to drink a whole bottle of wine on a school night? Okay, so my recycling bin would suggest it was two bottles but my recycling bin is clearly a compulsive liar.
Bang. Bang. Bang!
“Get stuffed,” I mumble from under my duvet, not caring that whoever it is that’s hell bent on kicking in my front door can’t hear me. By the time I manage to get both feet out of bed and not vomit, the banging has stopped. The merry-go-round inside my head, has not. Bright morning light is flooding into the room because someone, namely me, forgot to close the curtains last night when I literally crawled into bed.
I feel my way into the en suite and manage not to fall down the toilet, despite misjudging the arse-to-seat-manoeuvre twice. Something’s wrong but I can’t put my finger on it. Yes, as I pee for England, I know something definitely isn’t right but, since my urine stream is impersonating Niagara Falls in terms of volume (amount and loudness), my head isn’t capable of rational thought … except the one saying ‘do yourself a favour – get back into bed, Bella’.
I’m tempted but I guess my rebelliousness needs some work. I sigh, wipe, flush and then turn on the shower. It’s when I’m rinsing off my conditioner that I realise what was amiss as I teetered into the en suite. It’s light inside my room … now, unless that was a S.W.A.T. team hammering on my door and they have floodlights trained on the house, that means daylight. In December. Bollocks!
I step out of the shower, grabbing a towel and attempting to get it around me as I leg it into the bedroom. Instead, I trip over it and stumble forward, stubbing my big toe on the foot of the bed. “Ouch. Ouch. Ouch!” I sit on the bed and rub my toe completely forgetting what I was supposed to be doing until I realise I’m squinting because of the insensitive sunlight. Why couldn’t it be cloudy today, for goodness sake? And why is it so bright?
Oh shit. That’s what I was doing … I turn quickly.
I almost lose control of the contents of my stomach. I still, closing my eyes, and waiting for the ‘boat rocking’ to subside.
There actually could be a S.W.A.T. team at my front door, you know. That goddamn inconsiderate racket could be a battering ram, trying to smash down the solid oak door. Yes, the banging has commenced again … but no, it’s not the police’s fault. It’s mine. Or that of some vineyard. The thumping is only inside my head. I’m relieved, since I don’t want to be the subject of a dawn raid, but at least the end of that bloody awful noise would be in sight.
I don’t think I’m going to be so fortunate. There’s no shortcut to stop the hammering in my head.
There is, however, a household conspiracy … first the recycling bin and now my alarm clock – both telling whopping fibs. It can’t be ten to nine. It just can’t . . .
Oh bloody hell.
It’s ten-thirty when I practically limp through the door of The Miles Onions Entertainment Agency. The door slams shut behind me and I automatically turn to Miles’ desk to give my apologies, only to find it empty. I look across to Shallot’s desk and blissfully, that’s unoccupied too. I can’t believe it. I’ve only got away with being very, very late – something that only Shallot seems to do – on a regular basis. But for my hangover, I’d be tempted to do a Shania and burst into song to celebrate my tardy behaviour sneaking under the radar.
Speaking of Shania, I can feel eyes on me but the office is silent. And I plan to keep it that way for as long as I can. I know I won’t get away without Shania at least making some attempt at a humorous, possibly sarcastic, interjection but the longer I can stall her, the better, since I’m still in the hangover’s grip and, because of my rushing around, my head’s banging again and I’m in serious need of a caffeine injection. But still, I got away with being late – Shania’s observations will be a small price to pay for my victory. I grin, keeping my eyes straight ahead and hobble up to my bestie, hitting it up for a cappuccino, heaping in an extra sugar because, you know, I have cause to celebrate. I’m a rebel. A rebel who rolls in late and gets away with it. Go me!
My arse just meets the seat of my executive office chair (a cast off from Shallot) when I realise that I have not, in fact, got away with it. Far from it. Within sixty seconds I’m wishing Miles and/or Shallot were here: grovelling to the boss or his irritating daughter would be far less torturous than being interrogated by a smug looking Shania. It starts off innocently enough.
“Good morning, Bella. Or should I say good afternoon?” she says, looking up at the clock with a huge grin on her face.
“Good morning, Shania,” I retort, assuming that she’s grinning because of the absence of management to witness my tardiness. I look towards Sax and wish him a good morning but I can’t meet his eye. Memories of my lustful thoughts have me blushing scarlet – even if they were dreamed and therefore, out of my control. Before he has a chance to reply, Shania continues, and I can hear the glee and unspoken request for gossip, since her voice goes up an octave. “Heavy night, last night?”
I boot up my computer trying to spot the hidden agenda – unless of course it’s just because I’m so uncharacteristically late.
“Not particularly,” I say nonchalantly.
“A late night then?” she persists.
“Go out, did you?”
I busy myself, logging on and opening my emails, hoping that she’ll get bored. Something’s going on here. Feeling his eyes on me, I glance over to Sax, planning to give him a smile but he looks away hastily as if I’d caught him in the act of something nefarious.
“So where did you go?” Shania persists. Man, she’s like a dog with a bone.
“I didn’t,” I mumble with a slight shrug of my shoulders. It’s my feeble attempt at putting her off the scent … but my disinterest only seems to fuel further interest.
“Hmm, so you stayed home.” She says it like it’s a fact. “Oooh, is Richard back early?”
I look over, eyebrows raised but she cackles and cries, “Of course he is. Why else would you come scurrying in here late, looking like you’d been kept up half the night and barely able to walk … you lucky, lucky thing.”
I gasp as I grasp her meaning. I open my mouth to tell her about my toe stubbing incident but she’s off, having an almighty paroxysm of laughter. I see Sax observing the situation closely and for some reason known only to my stupid brain, I find myself blushing before I can look away, which of course only goes to prove my guilt in Shania’s eyes. She points her finger at me accusingly, helpless to do anything more because of the constant cackling.
Thankfully, the phones start ringing and Sax quickly grabs his phone and picks up the call. Immediately, Shania comes scooting over to my desk – a psychedelic vision that has my head hurting and my stomach churning – even when she’s standing still. The reason for the interrogation becomes clear. So does the realisation that if there was ever a time to be a full-blown rebel and pull a sick day, it was this morning. What a shame that realisation was too late.
“So,” she says, eyes as big as my monitor. “Let’s have all the juicy deets.”
I frown. This is where my belated rebel realisation begins.
“Oh come on,” she says, nudging me none-too-gently in the ribs with her elbow. “You’re different. I can’t put my finger on it but something’s changed with you. You’ve never turned in late before – and you should have seen your face when you came through that door. You looked across to Miles’ desk with an expression that said ‘Fuck you.’ That, Bella Montgomery-Smythe, is just not you. So what gives?”
Oh God. This is where I have to confess that my marriage is over. That Rich– Dick would rather pay for sex than get it on with me: his wife.
Oh, my poor, poor head. I need paracetamol … or something stronger. This hangover isn’t getting a chance to leave me in peace. I wonder if a hair of the dog is called for … how long is it till lunch?
I realise Shania is staring at me expectantly. Bollocks. I open my mouth, grasping at straws to put her off because I really can’t deal with this now. Not until my head’s feeling human but, before I can even formulate a reply, she’s off again. “Oh my God, you’ve got another job, haven’t you? You don’t care about this one because you’re moving on, aren’t you?”
I shake my head feebly.
She gasps theatrically. I prepare myself for her ‘lightbulb’ moment, assuming that she’s backtracked and figured out that Dick and I are no more.
“I’ve got it!” she crows, clapping her hands, and I have to bite back the sarcastic riposte that’s on the tip of my tongue … what, syphilis?
“You’re pregnant!” It’s definitely a statement, not a question. I hear a thud on the other side of the office and turn to find Sax staring at us, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, as he blindly attempts to put his phone down, only to miss … several times.
I blush the colour of beetroot. Why the hell do I do that when accused of something I’m not guilty of? All it does it convince everyone of my guilt when I am, in fact, innocent. Well, pregnancy’s hardly a crime, now is it? On second thoughts, being impregnated by Dick’s traitorous sperm probably would be a crime … not to mention unsafe. Syphilis comes to mind for the second time in as many minutes.
Maybe, given his philandering ways, a visit to a sexual health clinic should feature in my near future. Oh God. A failed marriage and an STD … not much to look back on in my year-end review, is it? Maybe I’ll defer my fresh start until the new year. A new year, a new me. Yeah, onward and upward.
My thoughts have taken over and I’ve drifted off, taking my whole self to another place. As my eyes come back into focus, I realise I’ve been staring, unseeing, at Sax’s phone. My eyes slide to his face. He’s frowning at me and I don’t know why. I hear an exaggerated throat clearing exercise and turn to come practically face to face with Shania who’s staring at me expectantly. Expectantly … oh no!
“No!” I exclaim, probably louder than necessary, given that she starts visibly. “I’m not pregnant, Shania.”
Disappointment floods her features. I know she likes to be right and that she’s only disappointed that she’s wrong, not that I don’t have a bun in the proverbial. However, for some reason known only to my raging hangover or deranged emotions, I know not which, I’m suddenly pissed off with her. No, make that inexplicably and unimaginably angry … so what do I do? I don’t so much react as overreact.
“I’m not pregnant. I don’t have a new job. I wasn’t up all night shagging. I was actually alone last night. All night sodding long!” I can see how my vitriolic outburst has taken her aback. She’s looking unsure of herself … practically regretful – something that’s unheard of for Shania. Something rolls in my gut, and I feel pleased that she’s regretting her unwarranted intrusion into my private life. Maybe I can teach her to think before she goes sticking her nose into other people’s business.
Emboldened, I continue, although frankly, as soon as the words start leaving my mouth, I want to jump out and take them back before they reach her ears. Sadly, I can’t. “I was alone last night. I’ll be alone tonight. Not because Richard’s on a business trip, but because I am alone. My marriage is over. I, Bella Duvall, am therefore single. Washed up. Alone. An old maid. Spinster. Unfucked and unfuckable it seems.”
I see her gasp before I hear it and, for some reason I’ll never get to the bottom of, my mouth keeps on running. “I wish I hadn’t been alone last night. I wish I had been fucking some stud until the early hours before falling asleep, my needs properly sated … something I’ve not experienced for some time – if ever. So now you know, Shania. You wanted to know what’s different about me – well, there you have it.”
Now anyone with an ounce of normality, finding themselves on the receiving end of such a rant would either apologise or scuttle off, or both – that would certainly be my course of action. Not Shania. That just goes to show how not normal she is.
“What happened?” She asks, her regretful expression now morphing into one of eager anticipation. “Did you grow apart? Lots of couples do, you know. Especially couples who’ve been together since their late teens like you two. I guess that’s the downside of settling down early. You haven’t had a chance to become who you really are. I’m right, aren’t I?” She’s nodding as though I’ve already given her confirmation.
“No, Shania. We didn’t just grow apart. If you must know, and clearly you must … I found out he had a penchant for fucking prostitutes!”
I take some satisfaction from eliciting the second gasp of the day from her O-shaped mouth before I continue. “You didn’t see that coming, now did you?”
She clearly didn’t. She’s stock still like a statue of modern art … no, scratch that, she looks more like a toddler’s finger painting (she’s wearing lime green and orange today).
“Now you’ve got what you came over here for, perhaps you’d better get on with your work,” I spit, knowing that I’m on shaky ground in the morality stakes when it comes to work, given that I was so late and that I still haven’t managed to do a thing yet. But she just stands there, gawping at me. I pick up my cup and stomp past her to my office ally, my dependable friend, Nespresso, knowing it will give me what I need. Or so I think … an angry, flashing warning light is all I get when I stab my finger on the button.
Without warning, I burst into tears as if a blinking red light is more than I can cope with. I stand with my back to the office and attempt to get myself under control, not least so I can see what I’m doing to get the caffeine I so desperately need. With even less warning, I feel two strong arms wrapping around me from behind and I stiffen instinctively. I’m gently pulled back into a muscular chest as my nose is assaulted in the best possible way by a scent that is only vaguely familiar, yet is incredibly comforting.
“Oh Bella. I’m so sorry,” he whispers as I feel myself relaxing against him. “Your husband must really be a dick. If you want someone to talk to, I’m here for you. If you want someone to get pissed out of your skull with, I’m here. If you want someone to help you celebrate the beginning of a whole new chapter of your life, I’m here. If you want to pretend that nothing’s going on, that everything’s completely normal, that’s fine. Just say the word. Whatever you want, I’m here. Unless you want me to leave you alone, then feel free to tell me to piss off, and I will. But if that’s what you’re about to do, can I first just say, for what it’s worth, back there … you were … well, you fucking showed her. I think you’re pretty awesome.”
I smile though my tears, knowing that he can’t see me. I’m grateful for his intervention, although it is the last thing I was expecting. Of all the options he’s given, getting pissed together sounds like the best plan.
I don’t know this man. Not at all, but in the two days since we met, I’ve ended up in his arms twice. Maybe I’m inexperienced in these things but I’m pretty sure that’s not something that happens often. Add to that the fact that I was on the verge on an unstoppable sobfest that’s stopped in its tracks … and that just being in his presence messes with my head, making me feel and act like a teenager with raging hormones … I think Sax might be just what I need right now.
I can’t help wondering whether it would be inappropriate of me to suggest another option. One that involves several of his options, just to be fair. We could get pissed as I tell him all the gory details, then celebrate my new single life … before fucking Dick out of my system, making damn sure that I fell asleep totally and utterly sated … something that Dick never accomplished.
I nibble my lip as the words form in my brain. It would be so easy to let them tumble out of my mouth.
Should I, or would that be a step too far?
Well, should she? Part six, coming soon!