Live Well and Prosper || Chapter 11. Wrennie and a Pub

The two of you spend Christmas in the Alps. Both of you can only spare three days for the hols, but it goes truly brilliantly. There’s a fireplace in the chateau; you eat, shag, and chat. He reads you books; you tell him of your childhood. It’s as sincere and as real as it gets.

You even go skiing. Once. He endeavours to teach you; you’re pathetic. The two of you laugh, and topple over into the snow. His bright blue eyes – like a husky dog, as if outlined with black – are shining. You lean in and kiss him.

The nights are as amazing as they ever are, and feel new and exciting. After the skiing, you complain that everything hurts. You get a massage – and three orgasms.

You wake up in the morning, and you just can’t get enough of him. He’s guffawing, insincerely battering your hands away, whining that he’s an old man with a weak heart. The two of you shag against the wall, and then again and again – and then there’s a breakfast, and you go back to bed. Soon, it’s hard to separate cuddling and reading – and it is Khayyam after all – from sex. You’re straddling him, and your hips are moving in the rhythm with the ten century old poetry. And then afterwards, he’s nodding off, his cheek pressed to your buttock, his head heavily pressing your pelvis into the sheets, and you close your eyes, feeling the acute and definite happiness.

***

When you’re back home, there’s so much to do that you even stay at Lan and Killian’s couple nights. They live closer to the lab.

And then one evening you’re chewing Thai takeaway, and John makes that funny throaty noise of his. It means he remembered something he needs to tell you. You snort. This ever growing feeling of knowing him well, and loving it – is ace.

“What?” he asks, and you give him a wide grin.

“Go ahead. What is it?” you say and encourage him with a wave of chopsticks.

“You know me too well, and it’s discouraging,” he answers with a smirk, and you snort again. “Graham has a favour to ask, and I said I’d inquire.”

“Oh?”

“His Canadian gyno is lonely,” John announces, and you know he’s paused to let you appreciate the statement.

“He should put it on a t-shirt.” You giggle. “Does he want me to take her for a walk?”

He nods, and you roll your eyes.

“I’m the worst possible option here,” you remind John. “I’m introverted, constantly busy, and alcohol intolerant. I assume I’m not expected to take her to an art gallery? After those time I’ve seen her, she doesn’t strike me as an artsy type.”

“He meant a pub,” John answers with a chuckle. “And you should take Martin.”

Ah, Thea. That makes sense. Thea can organise a satisfying night out for the Pope.

“OK, I’ll ask her.”

“Thank you.” The two of you chew for a while, and then he yawns. “Can we go to bed early today? We’re having this cocktail party tomorrow, another book signing of another professor whose dull work no one will read…”

You pretend to be very busy grinding a baby corn with your teeth, while in reality you’re trying to unclench your suddenly spasmed jaw. Another party that you’re hearing about in passing; and for some reason feel like you’re being politely excluded out of? Is Wrennie mental? Aye, she is. Should she be? Hm… Eventually, you jerkily nod, and he leaves for the kitchen to get some water. You’re staring at his plate.

***

It takes you three weeks to find an evening when Thea and yourself can finally introduce Candice, the Canadian gyno, to the joys of a pub bender.

She shows up, all perky and bouncy, in a jolly pink jumper. Her blonde curls look almost unnaturally golden, shiny, and even. They remind you of cup-a-noodle, or buttercream in Mary Berry’s Victoria sandwich.

There’s a small moment of awkwardness, and then she offers to buy the first round.

You’re still on yours second virgin Pina Colada – and you do know how pathetic this drink sounds – when the ladies switch from lager to ‘something with a kick,’ as Candice puts it. Somehow a kick in Candice’s understanding gets best delivered by rum. Thea doesn’t mind at all.

Candice gets arsed up astonishingly quickly. And chatty, she gets very chatty.

“God, girls, you’re awesome!” she hollers, and her arms lie on your and Thea’s shoulders. “So awesome… I’m so glad we went out together. It really sucks here, without my girlfriends…” She gives you a shaky smile. “I had friends I went to med school with, and we would always get drinks on Friday, and I miss it, you know? So good to be here with you.”

Thea gives you a sardonic look from under a hiked up eyebrow. She had as much as Candice, but Thea Martin is a hard chicka. For her, it’s just an appetizer.

“So, what is it that you do, Thea?” Candice asks, and starts waving her right hand in the air, trying to catch the attention of the waiter. Her left hand is still tightly gripping your shoulder.

“I’m dabbling,” Thea give her usual answer.

“A what?” Candice blinks her large blue eyes.

“She’s good at a lot of things,” you explain. “She tries different things. She sings too. Like a siren.” You salute Thea with your glass, and she winks to you.

“Oh wow! We should go to karaoke next time then.” Candice takes a deep breath in, her lovely round tits rise in the tight jumper. “I’m rather OK myself. Have the right apparatus, you know?” She laughs and pats her cleavage. You believe her. She’s short, curvy, and all and all delicious. Graham is a lucky duck.

“I’m in computer science right now,” Thea explains lazily. “But I won’t last. It’s dull.”

“Wow, looks and the brains, all in one package!” Candice throws an admiring look over Thea. “You’re so cool! You both are!” she rushes to reassure you, and you laugh at her eagerness. “No, no, no, I’m serious!” Her words are a bit slurred. She’s as bladdered as a poached pear. “You, Wren! You’re a genius! Graham told me, and my Graham knows what he’s saying, you know?” Her round pretty face gets all loved-up, and Thea shakes her head and topples another shot of rum into her throat.

“Thank you, Candice, that’s very nice of both of you,” you answer, your voice shaking of laughter. You’re properly in the dark how to respond to this exuberant friendliness.

“I mean, with your studies, and your work… And you’re a fucking pixie, Wren!” She gestures an inch away from your nose, and you shy away. “I mean, the eyes and the cheekbones. You’re like an elf, or something.” Did you just hear a hiccup? “And your head is… Just wow. You deserve the best, Wren. All the best! And you too, Thea. Do you have a guy? Does he treat you well?” the Canadian asks in a strict tone, and Thea barks a throaty laugh.

“Chicka, you should ask whether I treat him well. I’m the bad one here.” She gives Candice a salacious wink.

“Good, very good! Let’s drink for it!” Candice finally catches a waiter – by a sleeve no less; and orders three shots, apparently having already forgotten you don’t need one.

“Men need to be kept under control, you know? Not all of them are as nice as my Graham.” She shakes her finger somewhere in the space between you and Thea. “And we deserve all the best, right? Especially you, Wren, you need to take it under control, you know?” She focuses her peepers on you. “I mean, it’s your man, after all, you can’t let that slut just steal him. You need to fight for him!”

You know how they say ‘like a bucket of cold water?’ That’s exactly how it feels. Scorching wave all over your skin, first like a burn, and then cold; then pain, in all joints, and full petrification. You have trouble breathing, and the glass starts shaking in your hand frozen mid air.

“I mean…” Candice continues, so clearly full of good intentions. And we all know where that sodding good intention pavement leads. “I’d just go and pull her hair out. Kick her skinny ass! Tell her to keep her hands off him. I get it, you guys might things differently here.” She lifts her hands in a defensive gesture. “Maybe you can talk to him too – but I say, what can a guy decide, right? They think with their dick, and this one is clearly a goner. I mean they left that book signing party together, and Graham agrees that she’s got her claws in him…”

Thea’s drink falls on the table, and rushes across the table, and pours onto Candice’s lap. The Canadian swears loudly and jumps off her chair.

“Oh shite, sorry, darling.” Thea starts pushing napkins into Candice’s hands.

“It’s OK,” Candice laughs. “I guess, you’re a bit tipsy too, heh?” She gives Thea a wide grin, and Thea nods.

“To be honest, I think I’ve had enough.” Thea’s as smooth as ever. “How about we call it a night, Candice?”

“Only if you promise me we’ll do it again soon.” She wraps her arm around Thea’s waist, she wouldn’t reach Thea’s shoulder. “Yeah?”

“Definitely.” Thea gives her a brilliant smile. “I’ll get you a cab, love. You’ll be here, Wren?” She throws you a quick look, and you’re still in the same pose as before, your eyes on the slowly expanding puddle of lager on the table. You give a short nod, and the two of them disappear.

“Be right back.” Thea’s whisper is the last thing you hear.

You don’t notice how time passes, and suddenly Thea plops back on her chair in front of you.

“What the fuck is going on, Leary?”

Thea Martin Method || Step Two: Red Dress (Preparation Stage)

Chapter 4

Step 2: Red Dress

(Preparation Stage)

“Thea! That’s preposterous! I’m not buying yet another dress!” Caitlin flails her left, unoccupied arm, and makes a few irritated puffy noises into her mobile. “If I buy anything else for the sole purpose of seducing a bloke, a shag with him will feel like hiring an escort. Once we’re done, I’ll know exactly how much it cost me!”

Caitlin climbs into her Prius, and smacks the door behind her.

“Cai, you asked for my help, may I remind you!” Thea is full of righteous indignation.

Caitlin’s phone beeps, and she sees she has another call.

“Thea, shush! He’s ringing me! What do I do?!”

“Remember that film with the yummy Scot we watched couple months ago?” Caitlin realizes Thea means The Ugly Truth with Gerard Butler.

“I’m not letting him go to voicemail! And even more so, I’m not picking up and calling him a wrong name. I can see his office number on my screen!”

“Suit yourself,” Thea answers in an haughty tone. “At least don’t agree on the day he proposes.”

“But… But… I don’t know what to say!” Caitlin thrashes in her car, not sure what to do; she drops the keys; her purse jumps under her feet from her lap; and finally she manages to swipe the screen, and choke out a ‘hello.’

“Dr. McGrath?” Oh god, how is he not assaulted on the everyday basis with a voice like that?!

“Uh-huh,” answers Dr. McGrath, PhD in Mediaeval French Lit, and Women Studies. You’d think a person with all these degrees would be more articulate. “Dr. Oakes?”

“Perhaps, we could use our first names, Caitlin?” Caitlin sags in her seat, and closes her eyes. Perhaps, they could – but how will she refrain from rubbing herself up and down all his glorious bod like a cat if he does it in public settings?

“Sure, John, I’d love to. What can I do for you?”

“I was hoping you were still interested in going to that exhibition next week. The photography one, by the American artist, August Anderson?”

Caitlin confirms she is. They set up day and time, and agree to meet in a coffee shop in front of the gallery. He’s talking; Caitlin’s wondering if it’s just her, or the students at his lectures also have out-of-body experiences at the sounds of his wonderful Northern accented speech? It’s like velvet, chocolate fondue, and the 16 year old Lagavulin.

She hangs up, and then realizes that she has the Master of One-Off, the magnificent Thea Martin still waiting on the other line. And Caitlin has just openly disobeyed an order and agreed on the day he offered. She’s also probably broken couple rules she doesn’t even know about. Caitlin exhales, and braces herself.

***

The same evening the two ladies are having a ladies’ night. And it doesn’t involve the activities, prohibited by the Equality and Human Rights Commission as unlawful gender discrimination. It involves a film, sweets, and a jar of Phenomé Blossom Therapeutic Face Mask.

While Matt Damon is industriously planting potatoes on the screen, Caitlin is chewing a macaron.

“I still think you should get a new dress. And it should be red,” Thea suddenly announces, and Caitlin ignores her, as if absorbed in the intricacies of Martian agriculture. “Cai…”

“Thea, I’m not buying a dress. I already bought one for your Step One. I’ll still wear it later, so that wasn’t a complete waste; but that’s the end of it. I’ll find something to wear to the photo exhibition.”

“But how are you going to execute Step 2. Red Dress, if you don’t have a red dress?” Thea asks pouting, and Caitlin finally turns to her.

“What exactly is Step 2?”

“Well, Caitlin, I’m glad you asked…” Thea grins widely. “It involves three simple sub-steps. Stun. Tease. Retreat.”

“Sounds complicated.” Catlin sighs and picks up another macaron. “Can I just spend an evening with him? Maybe he didn’t even get what it’s all about last time, you know…” She’s sad to admit that the thought has visited her before. What if he didn’t quite understand that she was asking him out with shag being the outing’s direct and sole consequence?

“Wow, McGrath! Wait a minute!” Thea exclaims, and pauses the film. “Are you saying me there’s a chance that he might be expecting something else out of it?  Not a nice thorough one-off?” Thea looks suddenly mortified. “Goodness, Cai, are you saying you might have hinted it was a… date?” Thea spits out the last word like the worst of swearings.

“No! I mean, maybe… I don’t know… I hope not!” Caitlin mournfully ponders the purple almond beauty in her hand.

“What do you mean ‘maybe?’ It’s either shag, or… blagh… romance! What else is there?”

“Maybe, he thinks we’re just… mates. He had no one to go there with, and I offered. Maybe he’s spoken for. He’s officially single, I checked. But maybe he isn’t looking.”

“Who cares, Cai? If he has a doxy, or a girlfriend, it’s his business!” Thea scoffs. “You should only bother to understand where he’s taking it, and redirect him if the poor sod is lost.”

“Maybe he’s gay,” Caitlin offers another option, and Thea chokes on the tea she was drinking.

“Cai, how off is your sex-dar if you can’t tell?”

“Thea, I haven’t had sex in five years! How off do you think the poor gadget is?” Caitlin answers snappily, and jumps off her sofa to march to the kitchen to start the kettle.

“God, McGrath, I’d have died!” Thea hollers after her.

Caitlin rolls her eyes. Thea wouldn’t understand, so there is no point to explain – but Caitlin just didn’t feel like it. It wasn’t important. It wasn’t interesting. It is interesting now.

***

Caitlin is standing by the sink watching water run into the kettle.

She needs to make sure that Dr. Oakes – with his wide shoulders, mouth-watering jaw line under the exciting black and silver beard, and his large scorching hands – knows exactly what it’s all about, and where it’s going.

And perhaps for the first time in her life, Caitlin agrees with Thea wholeheartedly. Romance is out of the question! Caitlin doesn’t need a man! She needs a man after midnight – as in ‘gimme, gimme, gimme’ – and after that toodle-pips, and adios!

Caitlin loves her life. It’s fulfilling, rewarding, and exactly the way Caitlin wants it to be. She has her work, her students, her books, her paintings – her interests and habits. She doesn’t want to acclimatize to another set of those.

Also, Caitlin worries. She worries about her very, very old Nana, her only living relative. She worries about every single of her students: Are they satisfied with their studies? Are they feeling suffocated in the academia? Are their needs met? Are they developing as persons and scholars? Is there something she could do, or stop doing to allow them to better fulfill their potential?

She worries about her six goddaughters and five godsons; about Thea; about the world politics; about climate change; about each and every charity she participates in; about the decline of tiger population in the world; about polar bears in Canada.

Caitlin doesn’t need to worry about a man.

Having one and living with him seemed as a marginally attractive theoretical possibility when she was twenty. She isn’t anymore.

There’s only one way to ensure that after she rises out of the arms of Dr. Oakes, PhD, she isn’t required to cuddle and listen to his problems. And he surely has plenty, real, or imaginary – he’s male. She wants to say a polite and relaxed ‘goodbye,’ take a cab home, and then enjoy a long bath. After which she will go back to her life in all its perfection, with pleasant – hopefully – memories of consensual, adult, quality shag.

And the path to this – hopefully – satisfying ending lies through Step 2: Red Dress.

“Thea, I’m going to need more instructions on the whole ‘stun, tease, retreat,’” Caitlin shouts from the kitchen, and hears Thea’s ‘thank Odin and other creepy Norse deities’ over the noise of the boiling kettle.

***

Next Thursday, after her classes, Caitlin is running out of her building on campus, huffing and puffing, and panicking. A student fainted in Caitlin’s class. And then there was a long conversation with the nurse; and the student turned out to be pregnant. And then there was the drama with the student ringing up her boyfriend; and then the other bloke she’s shagging; and on and on. And somehow the student decided that letting go of Caitlin’s hand was out of the question.

And now, instead of her carefully chosen outfit – Thea participated, and the dress and the heels did receive her approval – Caitlin is clad in her usual assortment of cozy cotton and linen layers, all loose, and baggy. Caitlin buys most of her clothes on Etsy. She likes the idea of her money travelling all over the world supporting women, and the closeness she develops with some of her ‘dealers.’ Currently, she’s her usual ball of shawls, harem trousers, and oversized tunics by Aakasha. All grey and charcoal. The clobber is ace. It travelled all the way from Bulgaria – but unlike the slaggish and non-feminist outfit sadly abandoned on Caitlin’s bed – it doesn’t say ‘come hither, sailor.’

She’s also ten minutes late; and Thea said being late could be interpreted as romantic. Caitlin can’t allow anything remotely romantic to happen! She’s here to suss out if Dr. Oakes is up for a lovely one-off; with anything else being a no-no.

She pushes the door of the coffee shop, and smacks into his chest. He was standing by the entrance, reading a flier for some indie play he’d picked up from the cork board by the door.

Sadly, Caitlin’s libido doesn’t get a chance to enjoy the delicious shiver that runs through her body after the smack. She’s just starting to formulate her hungry thoughts and her randy assumptions on what’s underneath this black Burberry peacoat, when he ruins everything!

“Caitlin, evening!” Does he need to looks so happy to see her, and smile, and show his white teeth, and have these crow’s feet, and be so… nice?! “You look flourishing! Were today’s lectures inspiring? You look like a professor well listened to.”

He chuckles, offering her to share into how silly his joke was. Oh horror! She did like the joke! And she thought it was funny! And he didn’t say ‘you look lovely tonight,’ which only means either ‘I know I’m expected to say this,’ or ‘I’ve noticed you dressed up for me.’  

Oh poop.

The story will continue in Chapter 5. Stage 2: Red Dress (Execution Stage)