Patricia McBride

     Articles                         Ghost Writing

          Fiction                          Courseware

I have this strict rule. I never sleep with a guy on my first date. So can you image how special the guy was who got me to break it? Super special.

     If only I’d known...

     Great sounding date tonight, I thought as I waxed my legs. My first two internet dates were real duds, so I was hoping it would be third time lucky. I looked again at what he’d written:

     ‘Hi, my name is Josh, 42 years old. I’m single but looking to change that. My politics are slightly left of centre. I’m an engineer and self employed. My work is challenging and takes me abroad regularly. I’m looking for a close relationship based on trust, humour and mutual respect.’


     I’d learned the lesson of the earlier dates and spent time getting to know Josh on the phone as well as online. He sounded so promising I could barely wait to meet him. With my history with men, it was time to strike it lucky. I looked again at his photo while I sipped a glass of wine. Skiing downhill wearing dark glasses and a knitted hat, the photo wasn’t particularly great, but he looked fit and hot.

     Hot is good.

     Hot is very good.

Just what I need after a dry period so long it made the Sahara desert look fertile.

My name is Sarah Winner: Winner by name, loser by nature some say, but hey, things can always look up. I firmly believe this: that's why I read every self help book I can lay my hands on. 

Why do we do this? I asked myself as I shrieked from the pain of pulling the hairs out of my legs. Blokes just shower and put on clean clothes, if we’re lucky. We girls wax or shave any trace of body hair, get facials, and do all the stuff to try to convince ourselves that someone will find us attractive. With the deafening ticking of my biological clock, this so called beauty routine is becoming more important to me than chocolate, and that’s saying a lot.

     I'd been on another workshop a while ago, 'Dating Essentials', and we'd got all sorts of useful tips that I was acting on:

Tell someone where you're going and who with. Tick. I’d told Adam. He’s my intern at work and we’re pretty friendly.

Arrive ten minutes late. Being on time seems too keen and much later and he'll think you've stood him up or are just plain tardy. Tick.

Have enough money for a taxi home. Tick.

Get someone to call you half an hour into the date so you can pretend you have an emergency and make a hasty exit if necessary. Tick. Adam was ready to make the calls for me.

Have a the number of the police station on speed dial. Tick.

Have a way of recognising each other. Tick. We'd carry a copy of The Guardian.

I'm sure there were more, but those were the essentials. I was ready to go.

As I walked into the pub where Josh suggested we meet, he sent a text saying he would be ten minutes late. Lots of apologies and kisses on the text too, kind of nice. So I bought a glass of wine, my second that evening already.

I know that alcohol affects my judgement, but I forgot that it affects my memory about it affecting my judgment. I shouldn’t have had the second glass. But would it have made a difference?

I put my copy of the Guardian prominently in front of me and sat back to look around. The pub was about five miles from Cambridge, traditional with a thatched roof and very pretty. Hanging baskets outside and plenty of flowers inside too.

As I sipped the Pinot Grigio, I started to feel mellow, just what I needed after a busy week. I reminded myself not to talk about work until I got to know this date better. I’m an investigator for Social Security. It’s like owning up that you are a police officer or a doctor. People have such strong views one way or another that you never get off the damn subject. So I just say, ‘I’m a Civil Servant doing desk work’ and their eyes glaze over quicker than you can say ‘Bill, please’. Or they think I’m a social worker.

I opened the Guardian and started looking at the pages. That’s all I was doing, looking, the paper might even have been upside down. I was so keyed up waiting for Josh I couldn’t take in a single thing on the page.

A few minutes later the door opened and this gorgeous bloke walked in. Tall, tanned and looking so cool it’s a wonder he didn’t freeze over. He looked around, saw my newspaper and his smile was enough to melt a Snickers bar.

Josh put me at ease right away, he was so relaxed and attentive. After all the blokes I’d met who talked non stop about themselves, droned on about their wicked exes or scratched their love nuts, this was bliss. We talked about so many things, and had so much in common, it quickly felt as if we’d known each other for ages. When he got me another drink, a coke this time (after all I had to drive home) he brushed his hand against mine and there was a definite tingle. I was too stunned to look him in the eye, but he was easy with the moment and gently touched my arm when he was making a point about something a few minutes later. This time the tingle was stronger. Wow!

Half and hour went so quickly, when my mobile phone rang I completely forgot the arranged call from Adam and answered without thinking:

‘Hello, Sarah here.’

There was a piercing scream so loud I instinctively pulled the phone away from my ear. A strangled voice said, ‘Come quick, murder happening now, Social Security office.’

I was about to leap off my seat and rush to my car when the penny dropped.      

‘Adam,’ I said, ‘stop messing about.’

‘You okay?’

‘Better than okay, thanks.’

‘Oohhh,’ he said in a very affected voice, ’remember to keep yourself special and tell me about it on Monday.’

That was so not going to happen.

After three and a half hours of non-stop talking and, I noticed, with matching body language which I’d learned in one of my self-help books meant we were getting on especially well, Josh and I made to leave.

‘When can I see you again, Sarah?’ he asked taking my hands in his, ‘I’d invite you in for coffee, but I’m staying with a friend while my flat is decorated and he’s working early tomorrow, so I don’t want to risk disturbing him.’

What could I do? I didn’t want this magical night to end, so of course I invited him round to mine for coffee. Or whatever. Thank goodness I’d tidied my flat before I left. Well, a bit. To be truthful, I’m never going to win Housewife of the Year competition. While Josh went to the bathroom I hid dirty dishes in the oven, and dashed in the bedroom to shove discarded clothes under the bed.


Now I could give him my total concentration.

We cosied up on the sofa with a bottle of wine, and it was bliss. We’d travelled to some of the same countries and it was great to swap stories and to find out we had much the same attitudes to other people and cultures. It was like we were made for each other.      

I learned that he was rich. I like that in a man. His own engineering company, a BMW, foreign travel, big house. I could feel myself being drawn in. We were only half way though the bottle when we moved to the bedroom.

And what a night it was! The most fantastic night of my life. Our first lovemaking was a hurried affair, with us virtually tearing the clothes from each other. The next three, yes three, times, were gentle, explorative, tender and altogether wonderful.

Within minutes of him leaving at 3am Josh sent me a text:

‘I think I’m falling in love with you. Please meet me for lunch tomorrow.’

‘Love to, xxx’ I texted back.

‘One o’clock at Cafe Rouge?’ he asked.

So we met in Bridge Street at my favourite French restaurant. It was a chilly day and he took my coat and hat and hung them up with a flourish. I’m not used to such treatment but thought I could get used to it. Quickly.

When we’d studied the menu, he called a waiter and ordered in French. The waiter looked confused. Josh repeated the order.

‘So sorry, sir,’ the waiter replied, ‘I am Albanian, no speak French.’

Josh looked at me, ‘You speak Albanian?’  

Half way through the meal Josh took my hands in his,

‘I have never felt so close to someone in such a short time. I feel there could be something very special between us, Sarah. Do you feel it too?’

My huge, silly smile told him I agreed. I felt like I was floating on air for the rest of the meal. In fact, I felt like someone out of a corny romance.

We spent two and a half hours over lunch and then I had to leave to meet some friends. Before we separated Josh asked if he could see me next day for afternoon tea. Of course he could, better still, we could have tea at my place and perhaps some intimate entertainment too.

And we did. This man was the best lover I had ever had. Not that I’ve had dozens you have to understand, but by my age you have to have had one or two. At least. Not that I’m that old. Early thirty something is young, isn’t it?

When he left my head was swimming. What a perfect weekend. Josh was going abroad for work early next morning, Monday, and I wouldn’t him for ten days. I lay in bed and counted the hours.

I was awake for at least another blissful hour planning our wedding; a quiet affair with only about fifty people on a beach in the Caribbean. I even chose names for our kids. One boy and one girl of course, Josh Junior and Holly. This guy was definitely THE ONE.


Back to earth with a bump

Next day, Monday, I was into work bright and early. We deal with benefits for the unemployed, disabled and pensioners. Being a Social Security Investigator doesn’t make me a social worker; they work for Social Services, a completely different government department. Mind you, most of the population don’t know the difference and I was a bit confused myself when I applied for the job. I left school at eighteen with three respectable A levels. Not good enough to get me into Cambridge University, which would have saved on accommodation costs as I live there, but giving me a choice of several others.

I wasn’t ready for that though and decided to have a gap year, following the student herd to Australia. What a brilliant place! I walked around Sydney the first day in a daze; it was even better than the photos. I kept thrusting my camera at unsuspecting tourists and forcing them to take pictures of me in front of the Opera House, in front of the Harbour Bridge, in front of... well, you get the idea.

I checked into a backpackers hostel and set off with my one-year student visa to find work. I was lucky enough to have a bit of choice and decided that I’d work in a small residential unit for people with learning difficulties. Oh dear, I’ve just realised that makes me sound like a ditsy beauty queen sighing, I just want to help people, as I stick out my chest and hope for the best. Thing is, I do. Want to help people, that is. Sticking out my chest would probably be unnoticeable, more’s the pity. Sticking out my hips doesn’t need any effort at all. My size 12/14 hips somehow seem to show a lot more than my size 10 top half.

I worked in the Home for six months in a suburb called Northbridge. Often it was frustrating as we tried time and time again to help residents to learn a new skill. The aim was to increase their independence. But the satisfaction when they could do up a shirt or make toast was such a buzz, we all danced around the kitchen like demented beings. I loved it.

Then I spent six months drifting around the coast and fell in and out of lust with a few hunky Ozzie blokes. One was even a life-guard, and there was plenty of competition for them, believe me. No-one tempted me enough to want to leave my family and friends behind at home though.

Long story short, I decided uni wasn’t for me, did a few uninspiring jobs and then decided on Social Security. Well, to be honest, I went there to sign on for benefits when I was between jobs, and the woman behind the counter told me they had a couple of vacancies. The rest is history.

I found I enjoyed helping people to get the correct benefits when they were down on their luck. I also discovered I had a bit of a talent for spotting the cheats; the people who were claiming benefits they weren’t entitled to. That made me mad; benefits were small enough anyway without having them leached away by people who were on the fiddle. I reported my suspicions to the Investigations Team each time, and got it right so often, I was asked to join them. Me, headhunted! So here I am, Investigator. It’s great, I get out and about quite a bit spying on, sorry observing, potential fraudsters. I’ve always been dead nosey so it suits me down to the ground.

So, as I say, I turned up at work next day. It seemed like a normal Monday. Adam was wearing yet another new outfit. He swore he was broke and it was a mystery to me how he always looked like he’d stepped off a catwalk. Today, he was wearing black drainpipe trousers, patent leather shoes with very pointed toes and a black jacket.

He took one look at me and the bags under my eyes and said loudly, ‘Dry spell over, Sarah?’

I’m going to kill him one of these days.

I tried to look disapproving and mysterious, but my smug smile spoke volumes. I had a good excuse to avoid him and his probing though. The front desks were short of staff, so I’d agreed to work there for the morning to help out.

I took the file for the next claimant to the kitchen to read as I drank my coffee. ‘Gary Bishop, aged 44. Married, wife Norma, also unemployed. One son aged 18. Invalidity benefit. Back injury.’

On my way back to the desk, I glanced through the window at the waiting claimants. They each get a number like you do in some cafes so the waitress knows who to serve next. In our office claimants are usually amazingly organized and sit in rows, moving along one as each person goes to the desk. Easier for them and easier for us to see who was coming next. So there I am holding all the paperwork for a new claimant called Gary Bishop and who was sitting in the first seat with the right number?


If my jaw had dropped any lower it would have rested on my tiny boobs. I rushed back to one of my colleagues who was between claimants. Thrusting the paperwork into his hands, I said,

‘Tim, Tim. Can’t explain, but you just have to see the next bloke, Gary Bishop.’


‘Because I thought he was THE ONE.’

‘The one? One what?’

‘You know, the one.’

‘One of your cheating claimants?’

‘No, the one. A bloke I dated this weekend who I thought was great. I thought he had a job too, his own business, but here he is getting ready to make a claim. Make sure he’s who he says he is and if he’s really married. I’m going to listen in. I’ll see one of yours in a minute.’

‘What’s it worth?’ he asked. He knows I’m a sucker for chocolate. I fished around in my bag and found a Mars Bar.

‘Here, we’re quits.’

He called Josh/Gary over.

‘Can I check your details?’ Tim asked.

Josh/Gary gave all the details I’d seen in his initial information sheet. I knew he’d have had to present ID and marriage certificate on his first visit, so what the hell was going on? Did Josh have an identical twin brother?

‘What efforts have you made to find suitable work this week?’ asked Tim.

'I don't have to, do I?' Josh/Gary said, 'I'm on disability benefit. Not only that, my wife’s been ill, I’ve had to look after her. And cook for the kid, of course.’

Tim could see me jumping up and down behind the screen and stopped the interview for a minute to come over to me. ‘What is it?’ he hissed.

‘Make double sure he’s who he says he is.’ I whispered, ‘and ask if he’s got a twin brother.’

Poor Tim went through it all again and there was no mistake. My ideal man was a fraud and a married fraud at that.

Something had to be done.

You see, I was once deeply in love with Chris. We met just after I got back from travelling and were inseparable. We lived together for three years and everyone said we were a perfect match. We’d got our future all mapped out. Buy a house, two children, a small car, modest holidays. Normal, everyday dreams, and happy ones. We had similar interests, liked each other’s friends and even after three years, the sex was fantastic if not quite as frequent. I thought we’d be together for ever. He was kind, generous, thoughtful, and I just knew he’d make a great father when the time came. All that got blown away when I came home early from a course one day and found him in bed with my best friend. My ex-best friend, that is.

I was devastated, I felt my whole world had ended. The future that had stretched before me was gone. I finished the relationship and plunged into a deep depression that took ages to work through. Betrayal like that is worse than a bereavement. At least the dead don’t generally choose to leave, but someone leaving you says all sorts of things about who you are and what you’re worth. It took me a long time before I could begin to think of trusting anyone again, including myself. One thing was for sure, I’d never let another man two-time me.

So no way was I going to let a man like Josh/Gary make a fool of me. Revenge was called for. I was going to get him if it was the last thing I did.

It nearly was.


Sarah hedges her bets

Sighing heavily, I picked a soggy leaf out of my hair, noticing a streak of blood as I caught my hand on a thorn. It was a few days after the fateful date with Josh/Gary, and this was the first step in my revenge plan.

     I'd been sitting in the hedge outside Gary’s house for so long I'd lost all feeling in my feet. But, hey, I'd got to know the rabbit who'd been sheltering from the damp in here with me so well she'd invited me to be godparent to her next litter.

     Double-checking there was no one at the windows of the 1960s semi, I cautiously stood up. Well, stooped up to be more accurate. Just as I was rubbing my aching back, a car came speeding round the corner and screeched into the drive. A woman jumped out wearing more bling than you could find in Accessorize.

     'Hey!' she shouted. Her voice was so rough she could have used it to smooth my granny's heels. 'What you doing in my hedge?'

     I froze. She couldn’t be anyone but Josh/Gary’s his other half. I couldn't give the game away that I was snooping or he'd be more careful in future.

     'Pest control' I shouted back with what I hoped was professional confidence. "We had a report that the three legged, lesser spotted newt had been seen around here. Looks like you're in the clear though."

     She looked alarmed and lifted her feet as if expecting the fictitious newts to attack her at any moment. I left her to it and, before she could ask for any ID, headed back to the office.

     Our office is tucked away behind the Social Security main entrance. It’s on a busy road about ten minutes walk from Cambridge city centre. We have to run a gauntlet of claimants waiting for the doors to open just to get into work. Most are fine, but some hurl abuse or worse. Many have dogs, and somehow I'm glad they have them. A high percentage of our homeless claimants have been in care. I often think the dog is probably the first thing they’ve been able to trust in their entire lives. I’ve been known to buy tins of dog food at the supermarket and give them to claimants as I go into the office. Of course, I’d never tell my colleagues that. They already think I’m crazy.

     I took off my coat and headed towards the kitchen to make my first coffee of the day. I worked on the front desks for four years, helping people to make their social security claims. Most people were honest and looking hard for work or had genuine disabilities. I was glad to be able to make sure they got the best benefits they could. Over time though, I developed a real instinct for those people who were cheating the system. Apart from asking probing questions, there was nothing I could do about it but report them to the Investigation Team. I got it right so often that I was headhunted to join the team.

     Me, headhunted!

     My head was so big for a month that all the office doors needed to be widened. It was good, though, to know that for every fraudster I catch there is more money in the pot for people with genuine need. Well, unless the politicians took it away, of course.

     Before I could get started on the day’s work Albert, my boss, called me into his office. It's a joke really, we work open plan so he doesn't actually have an office. He uses one of three 'pods' kept for quiet work or for people getting a good telling off, as my mother would say. Every time any manager calls someone in there the noise levels drop as we all try to eavesdrop on the conversation. Then when the door opens again, we are all amazingly busy. Don't know why we bother, it’s as transparent as a pane of glass.

     Albert was irritated. He a tense man, although mostly he keeps it under control. Our workload is so huge he is under enormous pressure the whole time, so we try to cut him some slack. Of course, it could be he’s just a miserable sod. Most of the time he hides in his office tapping away on his computer. He’d rather send an email to the people who sit near him than get up and speak to them. But at least it means we’re spared the worst of his bad temper, thank goodness. Come to think of it, there must be something in the Dignity at Work policy that says he can’t behave like that. One day I’d find time to look at it. Unfortunately, Albert had caught me out spending too much time trying to prove Gary Bishop was up to no good.

     ‘Sarah, I’ve been looking for you all afternoon,’ he said, ‘what have you been doing?’

     He took a step back and looked at me properly, ‘Is your hair supposed to look like that or have you been sitting in a hedge?’

     Ah oh. I began to suspect he’d been having me tailed. Either that or he was a mind reader. Or perhaps I’d still got bits of greenery in my hair.

     I reported back my lack of progress, but he wasn’t impressed by my dedication to catching Gary Bishop.

     ‘He’s just one of dozens of suspects,’ he said, ‘why are you spending so much time checking him out? This isn’t going to help your promotion prospects.’

     Well, what could I say? ‘It’s like this. I broke my own rule and had sex with him on the first date. I thought he was the man of my dreams and planned our wedding, but he turned out to be a fraud.’

     No, I had to lie.

     ‘My instinct radar is buzzing loudly. And, do you know what he said when I interviewed him in the office last time? No? He looked at my left hand and asked me why I wasn’t married. He sneered as though being married was the be all and end all of life and...’

     Albert interrupted, ‘Isn’t that why you keep dating all those blokes from those website?’

     I glared at him. ‘That’s not the point. Anyway, how do you know about that?’ I asked. Now I had something else to do - find out which of my colleagues had been telling Albert about my private life. And kill them. Slowly and painfully.

     'I don't care if he suggested eloping, he doesn't deserve much of your time,' Albert said. 'do the usual checks and sign it off or pass it through for action.'

     'But I...' 

     'No buts, and while you're about it, here are another three claimants for you to check up on.'

     I took the files and groaned. Looked like some evening or early morning work coming up.  I pushed them into the filing cabinet, pushing aside my store of snacks to fit them in.  I'd think about them next day. Meanwhile, I’d have to think how to find time to fit in snooping on Gary Bishop without my boss knowing.

     Just then Adam, my intern, stopped by my desk. 

     'I couldn't help overhearing,’ he said glancing at his reflection in a window and touching up his hair. 'Fancy a quick drink after work? I'd love to hear about those lie detecting techniques you learned on that course last week.‘       

     'You sure you're old enough for alcohol?' I teased him. With his cute boyish looks he still had to produce ID regularly.  Wish I had that problem.  A bit more than ten years older than him, I sometimes felt like his mother.


Lie Detection

Adam and I settled ourselves in a trendy bar in Kings Parade, on a couple of those uncomfortable stools that look like upturned pixie hats. The place was filling with the after work crowd wanting to see and be seen. And in some cases wanting to get home late enough to avoid doing the cooking. I sympathised with that one.

     Not that my Asda meal for one would take long to microwave.

     Wood, chrome and glass were everywhere and the hard surfaces bounced the sound around making it difficult to hear each other, especially when we wanted to talk about the other people in the bar.

     'So,' Adam said, looking round at the variety of drinkers, 'come on, there are a lot of people in here chatting, tell me who's telling porkies.'

     I took my time looking round. People watching is one of my favourite pastimes, I never get bored with it. There was the usual wonderful mixture. Two Muslim women wearing hijabs and drinking soft drinks. They were talking intensely with no signs of lying going on. A couple nearby were gazing into each other's eyes and talking in hushed tones. If they got any closer they’d have been sharing underpants.

     Then I spotted them, a group of women probably all in their early twenties. One was smiling excitedly and showing off her engagement ring.  

     'Quick,' I said to Adam, 'look over there. See the three women admiring the ring?  Which one doesn't actually like it?' 

     He looked at the group, looked at me, looked at them again and then shrugged his shoulders. 'No idea. But the blond bloke standing behind them is someone I’d like to get to know.'

     'Look at the woman in the red top and sparkly drop earrings.' I said, 'Her smile doesn't reach her eyes. Her body is much more still than the others, and she has this little twitch in her cheek. Remember Monica Lewinski?'

     Of course he didn't; way too young, I barely did myself, although I vaguely remember my parents turning off the TV whenever the news item came on. They'd told us all about it on the course I attended. I turned on my iPad and showed Adam the YouTube video where you could see every twitch as President Clinton famously said, 'I did not have sex with that woman.'

     Adam couldn't believe his eyes. He watched the video three times. 'Epic.’      

     Adam spotted a group of five guys where one was giving off about something to his mates. We couldn't hear what he was saying, but it sure looked like he was boasting about something. But the telltale signs of lying were there. 

     'Wow,' Adam said, ‘I bet that's a skill we can use every day at work.'

     As he spoke the cool guy turned and gave Adam the tiniest, most subtle of winks.

Adam blushed so red you could have used him in a Gatorade ad. Strawberry flavour of course. 'Did that guy... Did you see... I think he...'

     I smiled. 'Yes, Adam, he fancies you. And why not?'

     'Yeah, right,' he said, 'got to really get into this body language business or I could miss a lot of fun.'

     'You’re right, but enough of that. Focus.’ I said, ‘So, want to help me catch this crim?  It'll mean working outside office hours. No pay either.' 

     'Try to stop me.'


Peggy learns some new tricks

House prices in Cambridge are higher than the London Shard. I'd just got into the housing market and bought a two storey, two bedroom maisonette on the edge of Kings Hedges, an estate in the north of the city. It's an area where properties used to belong to the local authority, but are now mostly privately owned. It's kind of strange living in a two storey house built over a flat below, but I was getting used to it.

     The couple downstairs are in their late sixties, but still working. Bob is a porter at St Saviour’s College; that means he mostly sits in the Porter’s Lodge and sees to anyone who comes in. His job is a bit like a hotel receptionist, but with the tales he tells me it’s a whole lot more entertaining. Students and academics seems to have a lot going on. Bob always says, ‘They’re a rum lot. Anything you can image going on outside the college, goes on inside.’

     Peggy works there too, I think she’s worked there for about forty years. She’s a bedmaker, or bedder at they’re called. Those lucky students and dons who live in the beautiful ancient buildings get their rooms tidied and the beds made for them. I could do with that. Peggy only works part time now, too hard on the back, she says.

     We’d always kept an eye out for each other. They take in parcels for me, and I give them lifts if they're stuck.

     As I walked past their door Peggy opened hers.

     'Fancy a quick cuppa?' she asked. She's a traditional woman, traditionally built. Her well rounded bosom (somehow I couldn't use any other term for it) covered by a homely cardigan. It was the exact same colour as her slippers. 

     I knew Bob, her husband, was in hospital, so I didn't have the heart to say no.

     'Just a quick one though Peggy; got a date tonight.'

     I sat in her small, spotless kitchen. Like the rest of her flat, every surface was covered with a doily or scrap of fabric. Family photos were on many of them; others had little momentos she’d collected over the years.

     'I hope you won't think I'm being nosey, dearie,' she said, measuring out tea leaves into the brown china pot, 'but can I ask you a personal question?'

     She looked sheepish, not at all her usual self. She fiddled around making the tea, fussing over spooning in the tealeaves, filling the study brown china pot, lining the cups and saucers up just so, and even finding a pretty jug for the milk. She always uses one of those knitted bobble tea cosies. It reminded me of tea time with my granny when I was a child.

     She often starts questions this way, but without the embarrassment. Usually she wants to know which brand of washing liquid I use or something equally impersonal. To say I was unprepared for her question would be the understatement of the year. No, the century.

     'I've just been reading this book, you see,' she said, avoiding my eye, 'I got it from the library. You know, the one over the road. They’ve cut down their opening hours, such a nuisance, all the council’s fault, I expect. I must write to them to complain.’

     She paused for breath as she poured the tea, still not looking at me.

     ‘Anyway, I thought this book was a romance, it was in the romance section, but it's very racy. Goodness gracious. I'll have to take it back in a brown paper bag. Never read anything like it in my life. I had to read it twice. The couple in this book, well, they do this oral sex thing.'




     My coughing fit stopped her for a minute, but she was on a roll.

     'And well, I thought that cunnilingus thing they do in the book sounded quite nice once I worked out what it is.  I must be so naive. At first I got in such a muddle because I thought they meant that Irish airline or a new sort of pasta. I had to get my dictionary out. You know, the one I always have on hand for my crosswords. That reminds me, I still haven’t done ten across today. I can’t believe I haven’t heard about it before with all the stuff I see in the students’ rooms. I'm sure a young thing like you will have tried it.'

     ‘Ten across? No, I haven’t seen the crossword, want to show me?’

     ‘No, dear, not the crossword. I mean, have you tried that oral sex thing.’

     I started edging towards the door hoping she'd sense my discomfort. No such luck.

     'Does it tickle? Of course, at my age I don't have quite so much hair left down there now,’ she coyly pointed downwards to make sure I’d get her meaning, ‘so maybe that's not such a worry. How does the man breathe? Bob will be out of hospital in a couple of days so I thought we could...'

     I backed away and muttered something about it being very nice and would do her the world of good. As I edged out of the door I wondered if I hadn't set her up for needing a hip replacement. Or two.

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