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Author’s note: This is yet another new venture for me. Its genesis is history, in the seventies, but with a healthy sprinkling of imagination.
My loving thanks to my ever-tolerant muse and editor.
Thanks also to all those who trouble to read this. I hope I’ve written something you can appreciate.
NB: Edinburgh has many more vegetarian restaurants now than it had then. And the seventies were pre-AIDS.
The crowded conference room hushed as he stepped up to the lectern. He was a measured orator, knew that this was no place for demagoguery. He had to win his case by mastery of the facts and effective presentation of them, and he’d worked hard to prepare it. Gratified to see that many were scribbling notes as he spoke.
After his opponent had made her presentation, the questions flowed. The chairing was charming and competent, so whilst emotions ran high, decorum was maintained. The lengthiest and most thoughtful questions were delivered by a woman he’d known for some time, but with whom he’d always had a formal, even cool, relationship. Samantha Brown, he remembered. They were far apart politically, and she’d always been a bit haughty with him, so he was gratified at her attention to the case he’d presented.
Securing the support of her large and influential branch was one of his most important, and difficult, objectives at this conference. The woman was treating his presentation with respect. And she’d effectively ignored his opponent.
He knew that if he could win the support of her branch, others would fall into line. So he was pleased when the chair invited his opponent to respond to questions before him. It gave him more time to consider his final presentation. He had to deal with every point Ms Brown had made, and respond to other questions too.
When he was called to the lectern he was a wee bit nervous, but confident he could make a go of it. He sipped water, surveyed the room. His opponent’s handling of questions had been incomplete: she’d avoided dealing with some crucial matters. He wasn’t going to do that. He had solid answers to most of the issues raised, but he’d been floored by a couple of Ms Brown’s points. He didn’t have answers to them, and he wasn’t going to disrespect her intelligence by avoiding them.
He started speaking. He’d only six minutes to get this right. Dealt with the issues one by one, his eyes occasionally leaving the people in front of him to flitter between watch and notes. Five minutes through, he’d answered everything except Ms Brown’s hard questions:
– And finally. Those who know me understand that I never dodge questions. Ms Brown, I have to tell you frankly that I’d never considered the last two points you raised. I’m no more omniscient than anyone else in this room. I need to research and think before I can answer them properly. I do promise you answers in writing within the next few days. I hope you can live with that assurance for now. Thank you all for your attention.
As he left the lectern the applause was slow to begin with. By the time he’d returned to his seat it was rich and full. He thought he might just have won the day. On the show of hands it was clear he had. It went to a card vote, which weighed the total membership of the branches involved. The result, when it came, was overwhelming.
He heaved sighs of relief as delegates crowded round to shake his hand. It was his greatest achievement since he’d been elected president of the organisation. The issues were contentious and sensitive, and he’d won. He slowly gathered his papers, slipped them tidily into his briefcase. Headed for the door, mobbed by supporters anxious to buy him a dram in celebration.
She was standing by the door, a diffident smile flickering on her face:
– Sandy, can I get you a drink?
His surprise showed:
– Aye, of course Ms Brown, just a minute…
– My name’s Samantha. Go ahead. You’ll need to explain to your admirers that you’re drinking with the enemy.
The enemy? He turned to speak to his bemused friends. He knew he couldn’t have won by such a margin without the votes of this woman’s branch. His ‘admirers’ headed noisily for the bar and he turned back to her.
– OK, Samantha, I’m all yours for now.
He cringed as he said it. Fuck, it sounded awful.
– Just because I voted with you on the issue doesn’t mean that you’re all mine.
That cut-glass English accent:
– No, sorry, that was a stupid and patronising thing to say. Mibbe — he surveyed the noisy crowded bar — we should go next door. I’m assuming you want to talk to me, not just buy me a drink?
– Yes you’re right, I have something to say to you — she nodded towards the cocktail bar — how about there?
She didn’t wait for his response, strode purposefully through the throng. He followed, his gaze perforce on her back, her arse. He shook himself: this was politics.
They were the only ones in the dimly-lit wee bar. She turned:
– So what’s your tipple, Mr President?
– A large Laphroaig casino oyna thank you.
– Sit over there, I’ll get them up.
He found the corner, sat on a chair, not the sofa. This was business. She put the glasses on the table, drew up another chair. She wasn’t going to sit lower than him, if that was his game. She handed him his glass:
– Well, congratulations Sandy. Were you surprised at the vote?
He raised his glass, chinked hers — not sherry, madeira he thought. An unusual choice:
– Slainthe. I know my arithmetic. I could only have won narrowly at best without your votes. Thank you. I’m truly honoured to have won your support.
– Cheers. We voted on the logic and strength of the arguments, Sandy. Not for or against you.
They sipped their drinks, eyeing each other cautiously.
– I wan…
They laughed. He nodded to her:
– Please, you go first.
– Uhuh, ladies first is it? You may not know it, but I’m more of a feminist than your leftie groupies Sandy.
– I’d noticed that you’re scrupulous about being addressed as Ms. No, you go first because you wanted to say something to me. Please?
– Oh, and you don’t want to say anything to me?
– I’ve already thanked you for voting for me.
– I’ve dealt with that. God, you have an ego. — she smiled, an honest open smile — But I have one too. Goes with the job, big fish in small ponds.
He made to speak, but her hand fell on his in a cautionary way, was immediately withdrawn:
– Hear me out man. I wanted to tell you that I admired the fact that you didn’t fluff over my difficult questions. Um, and though we voted on the issues, not on the person, that swung the vote of my delegation. You were honest. A rare quality in politics.
He smiled now, genuine warmth:
– Thank you. I try to be honest. Some of us lefties believe that’s important. With anything less than honesty, you get funoot sooner or later. I’m in this for the long haul Samantha. I know lots of folk aren’t, but I suspect you might be too. I’ve always respected you. And umm…
Her brow cocked.
– … I’m enjoying this opportunity to get to know you a bit.
– Then maybe we should eat together tonight. Unless — her eyebrow rose again — you have other plans?
Something in him stirred:
– No. No other plans. Want another drink first?
– Over a meal please. I’m a veggie. Henderson’s OK for you?
– Aye, I like Henderson’s. I’m not a veggie, but I enjoy any decent food. Give me a minute to say goodnight to folks please?
– Of course. You’ll need to placate whichever groupie you had lined up for tonight. Off you go. I’ll be here, but don’t be too long, I really am hungry.
Jesus, he wasn’t going to respond to that. But she was right of course, he had to put Siobhan off. He left with a nod at Samantha, spoke to a few others in the big bar. Explained it was political business to his sceptical comrades, and went back to Samantha without directly confronting an upset Siobhan.
She led him to the wee door onto the street. He was happy not to exit through the busy bar. Both were preoccupied with their own thoughts, so the chat was light during the ten minute walk to Edinburgh’s only vegetarian restaurant. She was tall: neither had to compromise their pace. Just as well in the dry bitterness of a January night.
At the door she turned to him:
– I have a table booked. I’d intended to be here with someone else. Hope you don’t mind.
He followed her through to the back of the restaurant, bare stone walls in the eighteenth century basement, but it was warm enough. The table was in a secluded cubbyhole, set for two. He wondered who her cancelled date had been. Knew she was married, and whilst there were rumours, she’d no reputation for playing around.
She wondered which groupie he’d forsaken to eat with her. And why. But she knew why. Delia had as ever, been understanding when she’d phoned from the conference venue to defer their date.
They hung their winter coats on the stand and sat. She broke the terse silence:
– We go dutch on this.
It was a statement, not a question.
– Aye, fine. — he smiled — My entertainment budget’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
– I know exactly what your entertainment budget is Sandy. I read the financial report with care. You’re not overpaid for the hours I know you put in. Your presentation this evening was immaculate. That’s why I… we… voted for your case. But now, — smiling — time to order. What d’you fancy?
They considered the menu. Ordered. She asked for the wine to be brought immediately. He wasn’t used to a woman taking charge: feminism notwithstanding, he was a child of the sixties. But he was starting to get her measure, feel comfortable with her. He shifted his leg under the table, just touched hers. She didn’t move.
She nosed and tasted the wine when it came, nodded to the waitress. As they sipped, he initiated the ritual dance, nodding canlı casino to her ring-finger:
– Tell me about yourself Samantha?
– He’s Indian, a Sikh. Long story. In London just now.
– OK. But I meant, tell me about you?
– Liar. I know exactly what you meant, so I told you. What about you? I hear you have a partner, though many wouldn’t believe it from your behaviour.
– Yes, I have a partner. We’ve agreed…
– To have an open relationship, is that what it’s called?
He was beet red.
– Um yes, I suppose so.
– Well. Not like the commanding Sandy to suppose. You haven’t met a woman like me before, have you? And before you ask, I don’t have an open marriage.
She was right. He’d never before encountered a woman who could play with him. Not like this. Sweat formed on his brow:
– Look, I’m sorry I dissembled. Yes, we have an agreement on an open relationship. She exploits it as much as I do.
– I suspect she doesn’t have the opportunities you have, so I don’t believe you. Social workers don’t have the flocks of groupies that union leaders attract. But I can see you’re uncomfortable, so we’ll change the subject…
He was saved by the arrival of soup. They supped in silence. Every time his eyes passed over her face, she was appraising him. He knew he couldn’t bluster his way with this woman. As they pushed the empty soupbowls away, her knee brushed his, deliberately, he thought:
– So Mr President. Can you handle a real woman?
She was a bit older than him, maybe early thirties. He’d been with older women, but nobody like her. He smiled his best seductive smile:
– If you mean by that, can I handle you Samantha, the honest answer is, I dinna ken. You’re out of my league. But — he laid his hand over hers — I would like to discover.
The main courses were served. They hardly spoke as they ate, but her leg moved occasionally against his. Her intent was clear, or so he hoped. But his rising excitement was tempered by his own sense of inadequacy at the situation. Who the fuck was this enticing woman, who could put and hold him exactly where she wanted him? Who’d made it her business to know so much about him, could peer into his emotional innards like a disdainful vulture?
Cutlery scraped empty plates. Another bottle of wine appeared. He hazarded:
– You want a sweet Samantha? Cheese? Anything?
She chuckled low in her throat:
– Sandy, when I stopped you at the door earlier, you said you were all mine. Do you want to be? Just for tonight?
His cock jerked hard. Fuck.
He took her hand in his, noting her long fingers:
– Yes. I didn’t mean that before, but I mean it now. As I want you to be mine.
It was all strangely ethereal.
– You’d better be careful. My husband says I’m a spider, and you know what female spiders do. And he doesn’t know I sometimes play: I’m very discreet. Now, drink up.
She filled their glasses. Jesus, he’d never been anywhere like this. Deeply exciting. Darkly intimidating. He wanted this woman who’d discovered how to control him.
– Cheers. It has to be an away game for me, I can’t take you to my, our, flat. Is yours presentable? I’m a bit fussy.
At least he knew how to keep his living space in order:
– Well, I hope it passes your test. Tell me something. Who did you cancel on to eat with me tonight?
– You don’t know her.
So there was substance to the rumour then. He shrugged:
– Not an issue for me.
– The answer is yes. I play both ways. Not usually with men though, I’m pretty faithful to my husband in that. I like the power I have over my women partners. Can’t do that with him, he’s very traditional.
– I realise you’re enjoying playing with me.
– Don’t worry, you won’t be a notch on my bedpost Sandy. Though I know I’ll be one on yours. I can just hear it: ‘Did you hear, he fucked that stuck-up English bitch’.
– We had a long political discussion, that’s all anyone will ever know.
– Thank you for that. Might grow to like you Sandy.
Her pupils were liquid as he gazed into them, somewhere indefinable between green and amber. His fingers lifted to her face, stroked her cheek. She moved her head suddenly, trying to catch them in her mouth, but his other hand came up and stilled her head. Stroked both her ears, gentled behind them. His right hand left her, fastened round his glass, nudged her nose with it:
– I’m glad. I just might be getting to like you. Now come and sit beside me.
Her eyes dropped and she moved, into the shelter of the thick sandstone wall beside him. She sat, head slightly bowed, till his arm went round her, drew her close, fondled her breast through the Fair Isle jumper. Her mouth moved to his and they melted together, breathed each other as the kiss deepened.
She broke from him, corked the nearly-full bottle, put it in her shoulder-bag:
– I think we should go. Let’s get the bill and be out of here.
In kaçak casino the taxi they embraced lasciviously. His hand moved up her thigh, awkwardly straining against the tightness of her business suit. When he eventually reached her cleft, it was sodden. She moaned as he searched there, under the panties, into her wetness. She made no move to touch where hardness strained against his trousers.
When they entered his flat the phone was ringing. He knew who it was and ignored it. She turned him to face her, one eyebrow raised again:
– Shouldn’t you answer that? She’ll be worrying?
– No, it won’t be Siobhan, she doesn’t have my number.
– Oh, so that’s who I displaced? No, I didn’t think it was her. It’s your partner, isn’t it?
He didn’t reply. Fuck, this woman could read him like a book. He was nervous. Knew the inevitability of the evening’s outcome, but for once, didn’t know the next move to make.
– Let’s have a glass of wine, and you can give me the grand tour. And — she shivered — whilst you’re at it, can you turn the heating up?
She handed him the bottle. He was glad to have something to do, moved to the wee kitchen for glasses, and to turn up the heating. When he returned she was squatting to peer at his bookshelves and LPs, bum out in her crouch, glasses perched on her nose:
– So. There’s a feminist hiding in you Sandy. Marilyn French, Simone de Beauvoir, Marge Piercy, Liz Lochhead. Your partner has trained you?
– Yes of course. Don’t most couples learn from each other? But if you look at ‘The Second Sex’, you’ll see that I read it when I was at school. I was interested in Sartre, and that led me to her. I was introduced to feminism before I ever had sex with a woman.
She was standing again:
– That likely helps account for your legendary success in bedding women then. Now — she took his arm demurely — the tour please?
There wasn’t much to see. The wee kitchen was fairly clean and tidy. His flatmate’s bedroom, dominated by a huge ‘Girl on a Motorcycle’ poster of Marianne Faithfull in leathers, smelled of engine oil from bike parts laid out carefully on newspaper on the table. The only organised thing in the room. The bathroom with its cast-iron Victorian clawtub and ceramics, lined hardwood panelling. And his bedroom. Unlike every other part of the flat, it was recently decorated.
Thank fuck he’d changed the bedclothes this morning, and tidied the room. That had been for his planned seduction of Siobhan. It was even more important for this dignified woman who wanted sex with him. He knelt to light the gas fire:
– There’s no central heating in this room: it’s not my flat. I rent from Dave.
– Yes. I see you like to keep your bit smarter than the rest of the place. You get better and better, Sandy, and… — nodding at the papered fireplace wall – I’m glad we share an appreciation of William Morris.
– Someone else I learned to love as a teenager. But. I’m a wee bit surprised that you like him. Did you know that he was a communist, a friend of Engels?
He put down the glass and drew her into his arms, licked and kissed her neck, felt her need squirming against him. She whispered:
– No, I didn’t know that. About Morris.
She kissed his mouth. Removed her suit jacket. Jaeger, he noticed. Of course.
– Do you have a hanger Sandy?
He fetched hangers from the Victorian wardrobe in the corner. They undressed in silence, watching each other as they warmed in front of the fire. Fuck, this was disconcerting. But also incredibly exciting in its strange deliberateness. For both of them he knew, as the moistness of her cunt became evident when she removed her panties. He hung the clothes in the wardrobe, the scent on hers mingling with their sexneed which perfumed the warm air. When he turned she’d drawn the duvet back and was lying on his bed.
– Come and take me, man.
– Yes woman, I need that… — he lay down beside her, looking in her eyes — but I’m not sure who’s taking whom here.
She laughed, twisted to move her knee between his:
– I hope this is a mutual pleasure. As it should be…
Her words faded into the kiss. They wrestled each other in their need, mouths locked, fingers dancing and stroking. His lips suckled her nipples and she tightened, her fingers moving to hold his erection for the first time. Began stroking him.
– No Samantha, I don’t want to cum yet. Need to taste you.
– Ohhhh, yes, please. My husband never…
Her words were lost in moans as his mouth fastened on her seeping wetness. Licked, exploring her, learning her need as he breathed and drank it. Teasing and pleasuring her, but drawing back when she approached the edge, to shift his mouth back to her breasts, his cock sliming her legs.
– Please Sandy. Eat me more…
His head returned to her cuntneed, licking and nipping gently, lost in her, scent, taste, textures… and remained there, sexlaving, as her hips squirmed hard and her breathing became panting till she wailed her pleasure and arched against him, her hands on his head, pressing hard. Her explosion soaked his face and her fingers fell away. He moved up to kiss her mouth:
– That was very beautiful, woman.
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