Skin of Dark Honey
So here it is Jake – the first draft of the first instalment. Have a look and let me know what you think – if it is okay I’ll finish it off over the next couple of weeks. I think it is much as you told me except I’ve fiddled around with the chronology to make it more ‘literary’. Hope you approve. I must admit some of the stuff you informed me of came as a bit of a surprise – but good on you for being so frank. Other bits and pieces I already knew from our gasbagging at the Brunswick on Thursday arvos. When you turned up here that Friday a month or so back I was initially taken back by your request. Leigh must have wondered what we were doing in the ‘man-cave’ for that length of time. And you, with that dinky little cassette recorder from some time last century! You have never come to terms with the digital age, have you? But it did a good job recording what you related to me so I had something to work from writing your story up. These days my memory is pretty well stuffed so I would never have recalled the detail without it. Well, you are a bit of a dark horse, aren’t you? Now I know what your trips to Sydney are all about. Still you are in a much happier place these days compared to the years before you left Burnie. I did wonder about Franksy’s disappearances in Melbourne. Now I know what that was about as well. I did have my suspicions. It honestly doesn’t bother me what both you and Franksy have been doing, but I do feel you in particular had good cause. If I didn’t have Leigh – who knows Jake? In your situation I may well have done the same, but I doubt it. With Franksy it is a bit different I suppose. I am humbled that you entrusted me to do this for you. I know you have enjoyed some of the other scribblings I have given you, so thank you for allowing me to place ‘your journey’ on my blog – with a name change of course to protect your ‘reputation’. So read on, let me know of any alterations you require, or errors of detail I may have made. I’ll wait for an okay, or not, to complete the task.
When she left I felt ecstatic, euphoric even. She was all I had hoped for – and more. After all my, as it turned out, not so thorough planning; after all my nerves; she had put me at ease from the get go and she was just perfect. After that night I knew I could get on with stuff, have some control over where the rest of my life would take me before I ran out of time – and its has taken me to some pretty good places. She changed me, gave me back some respect. Let me accompany you to another place in time, though, to where this journey began.
I remember the black tarmac out in the front of our state school – the Mount Street frontage. The big boys had their play area down the side of the clay-yellow school buildings; the primary girls had a quadrangle near the Alexander Street entrance, cut off from everybody else. For us little kids, though, it was boys and girls all in together – that being how I first came in contact with Ellen. I was usually too involved in marbles with the other small lads to notice any girl. I must have been in Grade 1A or 1B – there had been no kinder for me and prep didn’t exist. For some reason that particular recess I had forsaken chalked circles of thumb driven glass balls for the monkey bars. I must have been testing out my limits when I fell from the highest ones to the unforgiving black stuff below – no soft landings back then! I head-butted the rock-hard surface of the infant school playground. It hurt. I let out an almighty yelp and then started howling. And she came rushing over to me – Ellen. She put an arm around me and told me I was going to be fine. Then she rushed off to find the duty teacher – Miss Tiddy (you can imagine the fun the naughtier scamps had with that name!) She took one look at me, disappeared inside and then came back with a lump of cold butter and told Ellen to hold it against my forehead and I’d soon be as right as rain. By now my howling had diminished to a whimper when Ellen draped her arms around my shoulders again and kissed me on the cheek. It was my first non-familial kiss. I remember it was as light and as delicate as a feather. I recall also being stunned. She then informed me, in a proprietorial way, that I could be her boyfriend if I liked – if it would make me feel better. I soon forgot all about my throbbing head. Of course we were only about five or six which meant being boyfriend/girlfriend was all about holding hands and occasionally a chaste peck on the lips. It didn’t last. I was soon back with the marbles and she with her giggly coterie, but I knew I’d keep an eye on her, this little lass with skin of dark honey.
‘Satisfaction’ – that was the name of the pay-TV series that started me thinking about it all. By the time I was working my way through the three seasons of the show about an upper end Aussie brothel my wife had been long gone and I had found myself in an emotional desert. Shows like ‘Satisfaction’ helped in a way that porn never did. I started thinking about it as a possibility for me – I’d been starved of affection for so long.
Ellen was there with me all through primary school, in each of my classes as I made my way into the primary section where finally I got to kick the footy with the big boys. Grade 6, the final year, came with Mrs Harrison. She was really, really old – sixty at least, or so I figured. Unattractive, squat and dowdy – but boy, did she know how to teach. She was going to give our cohort the basics, come hell or high water. There were no frills with her, but she did give me a great grounding for the years to follow. Gone was any form of the fun stuff and I thrived.
It was the role played by Alison Whyte in ‘Satisfaction’ that really drew me. Her brave, or so I felt, revealing performance as the mature lady on the premises made me think on my nascent plan. She wasn’t physically the mind-image I couldn’t shake from all those years ago – in fact, with her pallid complexion, she was more akin to my former wife – and where did that lead to? I knew ‘Satisfaction’ wasn’t reality, but maybe, just maybe there were women like Lauren, Ms Whyte’s role in the small screen offering. Someone who catered for men, like myself, whose fantasies didn’t revolve around nubile girls barely legal. But could I really do it? I had my doubts.
By Grade 6 the girls in the class were developing, Ellen included. I formed a special interest in their chests – hers especially. That year at Burnie Primary School I spent a great deal of time observing and imagining. I also knew from thinking about them under the blankets of a night I was changing too. My dreams were almost exclusively of her – she of the flawless complexion and honeyed skin. Of course she was so cool these days, always in a tight huddle with her mates. She never failed to give me a smile or a wave though – keeping my hopes alive.
I started to research on-line. I knew it’d be useless locally. I’d read those daily ads in ‘The Advocate’. I couldn’t imagine anything more tawdry – but what did I know? No, for me it would have to be classy – the last place I would want to carry out out my fixation would be a seedy hotel room or suburban brothel. Melbourne was a possibility, but it was too associated with our footy trips and too likely that I would run into someone I knew from back home. No, if I was going to do this, then Sydney would be the place. I’d research Sydney. If I could summon the courage to go down that course, Sydney was the go.
As my final year at primary school drew to an end and high school beckoned, I realised my connection with her would be broken. Living on the cusp of Burnie’s hill suburbs the secondary facility on the southern fringes would be my home for the next four years. Ellen lived down on the flat, on the other side of the town’s main park, so she would be attending the older, more reputable school by the sea at Cooee. The thought disturbed me that I would no longer be within cooee of my honey skinned classmate. We hadn’t been boy/girl friend at any time since those very early times. So why was I feeling so bereft?
I set to googling. Googling ‘Sydney Mature Escorts’ to see what I would find. What an eye-opener that was! ‘Satisfaction’s’ Lauren had many real world contemporaries – and some of the sites had pictures. Some were a tad on the seamy side, but most were tasteful – lingerie, that sort of thing. I could draw up a list of possibilities – lookalikes, or at least, what I’d imagined she’d resemble these days. But could I go through with it – me? I’d been faithful to the woman I promised to devote my life to at our nuptials. My life since her departure had me devoid of what I wanted most in the world. Since that summer my confidence had been shot; my tentative efforts to find what I needed were usually stymied because the few women I got to first base with didn’t fit my parameters, my ideal. My fault, not theirs. That ideal had been formed back when I was a youth – in truth I had lived in its shadow ever since.
Finally I realised an Aussie rules footballer I’d never be, nor would I ever wear the ‘baggy green’. I had no aptitude for those pursuits, but in high school I knew racquet sports would be my forte. Initially it would be tennis. I was at training at the old courts in Avon Street that Saturday as summer approached during my Year 8. After I finished there I decided to walk along the beach into town. My early secondary school time saw me morph into what would now be call a ‘nerd’. I was studious, a book worm apart from tennis and I wore not particularly appealing glasses. I also sported a heavy fuzz – I was no chick magnet. But in recent weeks I’d been to the optometrist and had more fashionable specs. I’d also survived my first shaves. I was feeling better about myself. I felt change was in the air. I hadn’t laid eyes on Ellen for almost two years by then and she was the furtherest person from my mind that day as I perambulated the strand. I was probably thinking about the following year at school and what ‘options’ I would undertake. I’d be moving away from the compulsory subjects of the first six terms, some of which I struggled with. I had decided biology would be one. I was quite excited about that.
The trip to Sydney was booked. I’d lashed out on a reasonably flash hotel in the Rocks. It’d been a while since I’d been to the Emerald City so I felt somewhere near Circular Quay would suit. I’d a list of phone numbers for a dozen or so seemingly suitable escorts, or at least those of their agencies. They were the ones that seemed best to fit my fantasy – or perhaps obsession would be a better word for it now. Could I go through with it once I made it there? That remained to be seen.
That day, way back in 1965, lost in thought on West Beach, I looked up and happened to spot a lone figure in the surf. I didn’t really pay much attention at first, but as I came closer I noticed it was a girl in a yellow bikini. Closer still and it dawned on me it was her. She had picked up on me as well and smiled, giving me a wave. I waited as she emerged from the water and pointed to a white towel on the sand. I gathered she meant for me to pick it up and hand to her – which I successfully negotiated. And at that stage I noticed her breasts. She had grown since I had last seen her.
I arrived in Sydney towards dusk on that fateful day and took a taxi to the hotel. I was pleased with what I found. My chamber was well appointed and comfortable, with a view across the Museum of Contemporary Art to the Quay, the Opera House and beyond. My stomach had churned the whole flight – and to think that for some men this was normal when away from home. I couldn’t dream of eating yet. The deed had to be attempted first.
She dried herself off and I observed her honeyed complexion had not diminished and was uniform all over her anatomy, or that of it I could see. Of course she noticed me looking. No doubt I went beetroot red, but soon she had chucked on some jeans and a t-shirt over her bathers and asked where I was headed. When I mentioned Wilson Street, Burnie’s main drag, she informed me I would be accompanied to my destination. She asked how I’d been and about life at that other school. I managed to stutter some semblance of reply. She then inquired if I’d remembered our romance way back when. I nodded in the affirmative and she laughed. ‘How would I like to be her boyfriend again?’ she shot back, with a mischievous glint in her eye. I responded in a querulous voice that I supposed I would be fine with that, incurring yet another chortle from her. Then, to my surprise, she took my hand and held it the rest of the way into town. We had a shake at the Vogue Milk Bar before we went our separate ways. It was all too brief, but she left me in heaven.
Of course, how idiotic of me! As I nervously worked my way down my list all my prospects, or their mouthpieces, told me they were already booked. What was I thinking. Book in advance. I’d do it for everything else – why wouldn’t it apply to escorts? Stupid, stupid, stupid man!
The following Monday, at school, a girl I didn’t know came up to me, asked if I was Jake and gave me a note. It read, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t be your girlfriend. Love. Ellen x’. I was shattered. I couldn’t understand. Of course back then I had little sense of the fickleness of the teenage female mind. I moped for days afterward, barely uttering a word to my parents. But, as she didn’t attend my school and there was no daily reminder, time passed and I recovered.
There were only a couple left on my list now and I was fast losing all my initial bravado. In our trips to Melbourne, when others, as they inevitably did, suggested a visit to the fleshpots of King Street, I always demurred. Thankfully Steve, the other constant on those footy excursions to the G and later Docklands, passed as well. In later trips Franksy would take to disappearing too, so Steve and I would head off to Crown, or maybe a night game when they became a fixture. Since his heart scare Franksy doesn’t come any more. Back then it was now well past meal-time when I rang the penultimate one listed – Constance – before my nerve departed for good.
In 1967 I finally had a real girlfriend – a lovely freckle faced soul called Jocelyn. We were, for some reason, down on Hilder Parade, by the sea, on an excursion and she asked me to join her on the other end of a cruddy old see-saw. After a while she hopped off and requested that I accompany her for a walk along that same beach. It was the start. Soon we were ‘going together’. It lasted a few months. We pashed and we fondled. I became all hot and bothered but that was as far as it went. As my time at the school on the hill drifted to its conclusion, so did my first proper relationship. I’d had some fun with Jocelyn, but wasn’t too despondent when she moved on to one of the cooler guys. I went to the leavers’ function on my tod. I knew now I was attractive enough to be a ‘player’ – my time would come.
Constance had a whispery, throaty voice on the other end of the line. She had an accent – slightly Italian or Greek I would have thought – and partly because my ‘specifications’ I wasn’t surprised. She kept calling me ‘darling’. I liked that. Fortunately, or so I hoped, she’d had a cancellation for the following evening. She mentioned her fee. She didn’t come cheap, but she intimated I’d get my money’s worth. Sounds sleazy I know, but didn’t seem to me to be the way she said it. ‘Would I like to take her out for dinner?’ I asked if that was expected. She riposted that it wasn’t compulsory, but in her experience it made for a far more pleasurable affair if we were as relaxed as possible in each other’s company. It was then I mentioned my special request. At that she gave a throaty chuckle and stated that, as requirements went, mine were easy to meet compared with some. She concluded by saying it would be a pleasure to do it for me. It’d give her an excuse to engage in some shopping in the morning.
I was awarded the biology prize at the speech night before school broke up for the year. When I moved to the other school for my matriculation – as the system worked back then – I naturally decided to continue on with that, along with some geology, history and English. I was also starting to think what my future, beyond the education process, would hold. I was contemplating teaching. Also, at the back of my mind there was the notion that the school by the sea could mean that I would be able to reconnect in some way with the girl with the skin of dark honey – with Ellen.
After I put the mobile down, the little bottle of whiskey from the room’s bar fridge was partaken of. I needed to calm down. I had done it – or at least set the wheels in motion. I then took myself out into the warm night air of a late spring Friday. I wandered around the Rocks and found a quiet bar, no mean feat as everywhere else seemed to be pulsating with end of the working week suited revellers. I ordered a few more scotches, listening to an exotic young lady as she trilled a torch song and tinkled on the piano. This soothed me, despite the rest of the clientele largely ignoring her efforts. My gut was starting to feel normal and a pleasant buzz from the alcohol relaxed my mind as I sauntered back to my hostelry. I had my hopes that the planned evening may be a turning point in my life.
I did. She acknowledged me in passing on my first day at Burnie High. Soon I discovered she was in both my English and history classes. I couldn’t believe my luck. That dissipated somewhat when I saw her frequently in the company of a burly lad wearing a bright red and yellow ribbon on the pocket of his green school blazer. I discovered that this signified his status as a prefect. I also uncovered the fact that his name was Geoff. My hopes became increasingly dashed when the news reached my ears they had been an item for sometime, a high profile item in the social milieu of the senior cohort. But still, when we encountered each other in passing, she always smiled or waved. In class I couldn’t keep my eyes off her, but she never sat anywhere near me in those early days.
Where would I take her? That was the next issue that weighed on my mind as I plied the streets around my hostelry that bright Saturday morn, following a fitful sleep. Eventually I found it – the cafe on George Street I breakfasted at had an upstairs restaurant as well. I took a peep at the menu – it seemed suitable, being neither too pretentious nor too basic. Being caught out once, I wasn’t about to make the same mistake. I booked a table for two for seven-thirty. I moped around – purchased a Ken Done print in a sale at his shop nearby, then took myself around to the ferries.
By winter that year I had two new people in my life. Firstly Steve and I struck up a friendship over our mutual regard for a local footy team. We took to hanging out together and cheering the mighty Burnie Tigers on of a weekend. And then there was June, whom I met – you guessed it, in June. She didn’t have the beauty or sheen of the obviously unobtainable girl with the honeyed complexion, but she had a pair of twinkling hazel eyes, a trim figure and was pretty easy-going. Her draw-back was that she wasn’t a ‘Burnie-bird’, residing in the next town to the east. Of course I was carless in those days, so of a Saturday she’d catch the early bus into Wilson Street and we potter around the milk bars until the footy started. Steve was pretty keen on a young lady called Glenys, so we were usually a foursome at West Park where matches of Aussie Rules were fought out to a far larger crowd than would attend these days. It was much the same as with Jocelyn – much fondling and fevered kissing, but neither June nor I seemed particularly driven to go ‘all the way’, even if it was possible to find a likely location. At school we spent out breaks together, again often with Steve and his ‘squeeze’. The relationship meandered on till the end of year formal. She was my partner, but by this stage it was in its death throes. She was heading off the following year to teacher’s college in Launceston, I had to proceed on into Year 12. We didn’t see much point in continuing after we said our last goodbyes the final day before the Christmas hols. I haven’t laid eyes on her since.
The rest of that Saturday in ‘Sin City’ went in a blur. I played tourist in Manly, listlessly wandering around the Corso and then down to the beach. Where the two intersected was a large pub, so I had a few bevvies watching the frolicking on the sand, before catching a returning boat back to Circular Quay around five. It was time to make ready for what lay ahead.
That summer of 68/69 passed with nary a sighting of Ellen around my provincial town – neither at the beach nor up the main drag, so when school recommenced in February I half expected her to have gone the way of June. I’d made it close to attaining my matriculation the previous year, so I was expecting a fairly easy time of it academically. Uni lay ahead, and a studentship to enter the teaching profession. I knew I’d have my work cut out once I hit Hobart, so I thought I’d deliberately take a bit of pressure off myself and get involved in a few of the extra-curricula activities the school offered. One of them was volleyball, which I found I could play reasonably well – adept enough anyway, I thought, to make the school team. Back then it was a mixed sport. The other development in my life was that my father had purchased me a car – a decrepit old Morris Minor, but it went after a fashion. I had some freedom in my life.
Of course I wasn’t totally unprepared for it. I called in to a bottle-o on my way back to my room and had a bottle of Tassie champers chilling. I had bought with me a collection of images of my candidates, printing them off from the net. My printer wasn’t up to much, so they were a bit out of focus, but the one for Constance showed her in some black confection of a negligee, not overly revealing and in quite good taste – or so I thought. If all went to plan tonight she’d be wearing something else entirely. She was quite a striking woman, bosomy with long, straight black hair – that being a requirement. She wore glasses, as I did, so I didn’t hold that against her. I’m not sure if looking at her made me less in trepidation, but the point of no return was quickly approaching. Shortly I would be summoned down to the hotel’s foyer. I needed a sup or two on some scotch to give me some Dutch courage. That Sydney eve, in my mind, would be be a milestone in several ways. I hoped, back then, that one would make the other a night I’d never forget.
So there you go Jake. What do you reckon? Worth persevering with? Of course, by the time this part ends I had come into your life – but not Franksy or Celia. But then, nor had Ellen – not really. But it was Constance who was the real game changer for you. I’ll let you have time to digest all this and when you are ready for me to have a go at the second part, get back to me. Feel free to suggest any changes to what I have written already. I’d like to think it is a reasonably accurate reflection of what you told me in the man-cave not so long ago. I admit I’ve enjoyed the exercise you gave me. Maybe I’ll have a go at my own story, such as it is, one of these days.
A Taste of Honey
So Franksy came clean with you Jake. The couple of times I visited him Raissa was there so obviously I wouldn’t be privy. She patently wasn’t there when you attended his bedside. We now know why he absented himself during our trips in recent years. Of course we were astute enough to never let on to Raissa about his disappearances. So he was with Judy. I remember her from school you know. In fact we had a ‘thing’ going for a while – about a week I think. You know how it was back then. The couple of times I have visited him up in Burnie he seemed so flat – almost as if he has done all his living. I put it down to him still getting over his op – but now I am not so sure. Gee, though, with a woman like Raissa, you’d think he’d have enough for any man. I’ve always had a soft spot for her and I know you have too Jake. And she is still a stunner, even after all these years. You remember when we first came across her and Franksy – at Tich’s dinner parties all those tears ago. I wonder if he’s still around, old Tich?
Anyway my mate, I’m glad you’re okay with what I did to the first part of the tale and I hope you now like how I’ve pulled it all together here. So ol’ fella sit back, read and hopefully enjoy what I’ve done to the rest of your journey to this point. You are no longer the sad old Jake of not that long ago – the Burnie Jake. The move down to Hobs has done you good too, as it has me. Yes, I know now it’s not just down to that. I for one am glad she happened and I look forward to catching up with you at the Brunswick for a few bevvies and a bit more of a chat now its all out in the open, so to speak.
The call up from down below was right on the dot of seven. She was, as promised, on time – probably realising my nerves would be jangling, as they were. My tum, as it turns out, was a mess, but I answered that I’d be down in a jiff.
I was bloody hopeless at it, I really was. What made it worse was that she was quite the opposite. Franksy was the one who saved the day and turned my life around, well at least my working life. He took me away from one nightmare, but another came in any case with her leaving – but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Constance, after the receptionist gestured in her direction, eased across to me, put her painted lips to my ear and whispered, ‘Are you ready for a special night, darling?’ She was fulsome, without being over-weight, was sheathed, neck to knee, in something green and satiny, with her arms and fingers revealing some serious bling. Both that and her outfit highlighted her skin – toned to the lustre of bronzed honey; she smelt musky and spicy at the same time. She held up a small carry bag. ‘In here is something special for you. I have not forgotten. May I deposit it in your room before we dine, darling?’
To my delight it turned out that Ellen was still on campus, greeting me in the manner I’d come accustomed to when she first espied me. Sadly, she wasn’t in any of my classes as it turned out, but rewardingly, there was no sign of Geoff. I didn’t realise till later when I was informed that he was Grade 12 the previous year and was now down south. The best bit though was that she turned up to the volleyball try-outs later on in that first week – and we both successfully made it across the line into teams.
In the harsher light of the elevator I had the chance to more fully appraise Constance, trying to estimate her age. Judging from her laughter lines around her not unattractive face I eventually decided on mid-forties, although the blurb that came with the image stated she was a decade younger. This, at a later time, was confessed. In her high heels she was about my height and she was certainly well put together. Going up she asked about our dining venue and yes, it was okay that we walked the couple of blocks to it. Slowly, she was putting me at my ease.
Volleyball after school was a couple of nights a week – one for practice, one for the matches. I eagerly anticipated them – they were the highlights of my life at that time. I would see her, watch her bounce around the court and we would, occasionally, exchange a few words. By now I’d deduced Geoff was definitely off the scene and she didn’t seem involved with anyone else. Steve had made it his business to find out all this for me. A good mate then – a good mate now. He was still attached at the hip to Glenys and was nagging me to get a move on with my girl of the honeyed skin so we could be a foursome. I knew for my dream to become a reality I had to make a move – but how, that was the issue.
I opened my door and ushered Constance in. As soon as it was shut behind us this radiant woman stepped in close to me, almost touching, but not quite. I could feel her breathing as she inquired, ‘You like what you see, darling?’ When I nodded in the affirmative she closed the micro-space between us, put her lips on mine and pulled me into her. I could feel her breasts pressed against me and that first kiss was long and deep. I melted. There were tears in my eyes as she finally pulled away. It had been so long. ‘And that is but a taste my darling. Now you must pay me.’
As the first term drew on and the days shortened I was still prevaricating, but Steve never stopped his urgings. Without him I would have bailed completely. One evening Ellen and I were sitting closely together on the bleachers when she leaned across and asked how I was enjoying volleyball and my final year. I told her it was all pretty good except for one thing and that one thing would make it a whole lot better. In answer to her expected and given response I simply requested to have the pleasure of driving her home. She smiled and her eyes twinkled. ‘That would be wonderful’, she said, ‘but not tonight. I have already made arrangements. But next time I will be sure not to.’ She hadn’t changed. She still loved to tease. I wanted her even more.
Constance took my arm as we walked to hopefully the culinary delights ahead, although I was more focused on the other delights beyond – and still nervous, if not now petrified. It was a balmy Sydney eve as we entered our destination and took to stairs to the second floor. I was due to fly back to Tassie the following day and as we were guided to our places, I was wondering what my recollection of this night would be.
Taking her home became a regular occurrence after volleyball with it being a credit to my little Morris that its part was played perfectly. Although on other occasions it wasn’t the same story, she never let me down when I was transporting the girl with the golden skin. We usually chatted away amiably and I had the distinct feeling that she liked me – but was there more to it than that? Did her friendliness mask the sort of feelings I had for her. Would my yearnings ever be reciprocated? How could I get to the next level? In the end I didn’t need to worry – Ellen saw to that.
In my recall the meal is just a blur. But I remember our conversation vividly. She wanted my back story and I agreed to give it. There was the condition that I’d receive hers in return. She declared it a deal. She beckoned to me to commence my narrative.
Term one was quickly coming to an end and I was not looking forward to a fortnight without the joy of her company. Then, as I dropped her off after the final game for the semester she reached into her bag and passed me an envelope. In the privacy of my room I opened the precious document. It was a formal invitation to her eighteenth birthday bash, to be held at her parent’s home on the other side of Burnie Park the Saturday before school went back. By this I realised she was a tad older than I and it was a pretty formal invite, or so it seemed till I read what she wrote in brackets after all the details – (I will save the last dance for you).
I told Constance at that meal of the day I met Celia in my second year of university studies. I’d seen her at my lectures – a tall slim strawberry blonde, always surrounded by a bevy of happy, laughing female students. Since Ellen, I hadn’t been in a relationship of any significance. After gaining my matriculation I’d moved down south, sharing a room at a residential college. Passing my freshman year exams ensured me a single room for as long as I continued to be academically successful. That particular morning it was bitterly cold – a chill wind howling off from Wellington above. I was on my tod at the nine o’clock lecture – most of my mates were doing arts, so I rarely had company. I looked up as Celia and her friends walked noisily in. Normally they’d find a pew up behind me somewhere, but this morning Celia peeled off, coming to sit on a seat right next to me. Soon the lecture started and as it droned on I could feel her presence. When the hour was up, meaning our confinement together was ended, Celia put her hand on my knee and asked if I’d like to partake of coffee with her over at the student ref. When I indicated my agreeableness to this notion, she asked me my name, giving me hers. I remember we shook hands. When we were seated in front of our beverages she explained to me what had happened an hour earlier to cause me to be sharing a table with this quite attractive young lady. She told me of the daily dares they used to spice up their days. It was her turn that morning to be on the receiving end and the dare was me – to see if she could entice an unknown victim of the male persuasion for a coffee. I then inquired after her accent. Celia explained that she grew up in Belfast, but as a result of the ‘Troubles’ her family had to make a quick exit to as far away as possible. It seems her father, a peace activist, had incurred the wrath of extremists on both sides in the conflict. There was no further away than Tasmania. So we chatted on and she asked if I would really put ‘the cat amongst the pigeons’. In response to my obvious question she wanted to know if I would mind doing this after a few more lectures – that would really get her mates wondering! I reckoned I didn’t have a problem with that.
It turned out Constance’s accent was Italian. She and her former husband had migrated to Oz back in the seventies and with his family connections soon became successful in the Sydney restaurant scene. She discovered he was having an affair and had left him five or so years previously, leaving a life of relative luxury. It was important to her to maintain her lifestyle with as little assistance as possible from her ex, thus she had discovered the financial returns involved in being a higher end escort.
I was again a nervous wreck as Ellen’s party approached. What to wear? Exactly what did that ‘last dance’ notation mean? Would there be something expected of me as a result? At that stage I was still a virgin and would of thought that would not be the case for Ellen. Over all this I was in a right lather!
I told Constance of how the coffee led to much more and soon Celia was sneaking into my room for mutual pleasures at all hours of the day. That was common as the security was haphazard, made up of mainly senior boys – our mates by the time we were in second year. They turned a blind eye. Celia was the complete physical opposite of Ellen – almost boyish in her physique with a milky white complexion she was inordinately proud of. Even at this stage she was applying copious unguents to to keep it that way. She resided in Hobs with her parents and was, like me, indentured to teach the sciences. We seemed to fit together pretty well, although she was certainly not into sex to the degree Ellen had been, but by year’s end we were engaged. At the conclusion of our third year we married.
Constance informed me that she rather enjoyed her ‘job’. Because she was expensive and ‘classy’ – her words, but I was soon to concur – she attracted quality clientele. As many were getting towards the latter stages of their lives often it wasn’t sex they were after – more the company, affection, spice or just someone to listen to them. Just about all her ‘johns’ were straight, but when some, like me, had requests, as long as they weren’t too outlandish, Constance tried to fulfil them. If they wanted more than she was prepared to give she simply let them know and usually they acquiesced. She stated this in such a way I knew I had to take note.
Ellen had thoughtfully invited Steve and Glenys to the party to ensure I had company on the night. Her house was packed, the music loud and I was having a reasonable time. I kept a weather eye out for Ellen who, in modern parlance, was working the room. I had a few dances and a couple of beers, even if, strictly, I wasn’t of age. Just after midnight the lights came on and Ellen’s parents came out. Her father said a few words in praise of his daughter and then Ellen announced it was the last dance of her function. And as the Beach Boys’ ‘Then I Kissed Her’ cranked into life she walked over to me, offered her hand and we took to the floor. She pulled me in close, wrapped her arms around me and I was in heaven. Then, as we swayed to the final chorus, she did as the song prompted. It was long, it was deep and I knew. Finally, my girl with the skin of honey, had really kissed me.
I told Constance how the Education Department on my island appointed Celia and I back to Burnie. I was given the school on the hill, my old alma-mata; she the one down on the flat beside the sea. Her vivaciousness made her a natural. She thrived. She connected with her students, was innovative in the presentation of her material so she readily engaged. By the end of her first year she was already talked of as a future school leader. Admittedly my appointment was the harder nut to crack, catering to the tougher hill suburbs’ kids, but I really struggled that first year. My students didn’t seem to dislike me as much as they, in the main, just simply ignored me. My colleagues all reassured me that one’s initial twelve months were always tough – why not for Celia then was my thought? In my second year, I was soothed, I’d soon get on top of it all. I didn’t; it became worse; much worse. My labs were out of control, my senior master was tearing his hair out because of me and strings were pulled to get me out of the place at the end of ’76. I was transferred to the next town to the west. There was only one secondary school and it was where Steve taught. I hoped that’d make a difference – it didn’t. My mate did his best to support me – he was clearly on top of it all, but I soon sank back to the direness I endured at my previous school. I knew I was digging a hole for myself fast and I still had another year to serve before I could eject myself from the job I was clearly not cut out for. Celia, by now, was already in charge of her department and clearly was disappointed in me. It was a strain on our relationship and she could barely bring herself to sleep in the same bed, let alone have any intimacy with her husband. I had hoped for children. She clearly was having nothing to do with that. She was going places, or so she thought. She was spending as much time as she could out of the department house we rented for a peppercorn next to her school and I was a mess. Thankfully, as I told my stunning companion, it was Steve and Franksy who rode to my rescue.
After the Beach Boys had finished harmonising, Ellen grabbed my hand and led out the back door of her place. We walked down the street to the darkened park. Once inside the gates she pulled me close. ‘It’s bloody cold’, she whispered as she kissed me again, ‘but you know there is more of this if you want it. And I will promise you there will not be a note of rejection this time!’
Constance seemed genuinely interested in my life in that provincial Tasmanian town so I continued on as our main courses were delivered. I told her how Steve was mates with Tich, well known by the local teaching fraternity for giving the best diner parties in his federation home near Burnie’s centre. Of course I, equally well known for being so hopeless at my job by this stage, was now a joke around the traps, but somehow Steve wangled me an invite for one of Tich’s gigs back in the late seventies. By this stage I was, I think, close to a breakdown, but Celia was beside herself with joy and saw the evening as a chance for what we now call ‘networking’ and ‘promoting her brand’. There was no way she was missing out on a night to do this, so I reluctantly suited up and out we went. As chance happened, when Tich’s wife Lynne started serving the meal, Celia and I were seated next to Franksy. I had vague memories of him attending footy matches at West Park with his wife, Raissa, and another fellow back in the day, so at least I had the starting point for a conversation. We then moved on to jobs. It transpired he was an accountant at what was locally referred to as the Pulp – the paper mills, the town’s big employer. As I had a few wines in me and my defences were down, I confessed to him my abhorrence of teaching, how I would do anything to get out of it. After doing a bit of probing about my scientific background, Franksy let me know he may be able to help. He knew of positions opening up in the research labs on the South Burnie site. He couldn’t promise anything, but he’d see what he could do. That night, for the first time in months, Celia and I made love. It was the night that changed my life as Franksy came up with the goods. We also conceived.
Ellen and I were soon inseparable, both at school and out of it. I knew, that for me, it was only a matter of time before our fondling and explorations, grabbed when were could find time and privacy, would lead to us taking the next step. We were both keen, but also wanted it to be ‘special’, to be something romantic we’d remember the rest of our days. Boy, did she get that right. She knew I was a virgin just as I was correct in the summation she wasn’t. I suppose being older it was only fair she was the more experienced of us – at least that’s what I told myself back then. My own eighteenth was coming up and I decided that for me a meal at my town’s flashest restaurant, the Raindrops Room, would suffice. Ellen and myself, our parents and Steve accompanied by Glenys – that would be it. Ellen informed me not to plan for anything after the meal – she would take care of that.
During the break between mains and dessert I continued to regale my attentive companion with my back story. I told her that once I had settled into my job at the Pulp, lab testing the company’s product in various ways, life seemed to improve with Celia now that little Dawn was on the scene. Initially I couldn’t fault my wife as a mother and I was starting to feel I was pulling my weight in a job place and as a breadwinner. By the time my wife was ready to re-enter the work force in the mid-eighties, the future was definitely appearing rosier. Celia, however, resumed where she had left off. If anything she became even more driven. She began to focus entirely on her career, determined to make up for lost time. Her fretting about her complexion became an obsession. She spent ridiculous amounts on potions and ointments. In the warmer weather she took to walking around town completely covered and with a parasol, standing out like a sore thumb in casual Burnie. I found accompanying her anywhere acutely embarrassing – but fortunately there was little call on my services in that regard. Dawn was largely left to my care. For most weekends and for large chunks of the holidays my wife would undertake the haul down to Hobs to ‘spend time with her parents’. I seriously thought it was a cover for an affair, but I had no way of knowing. As the peace process got under-way in Northern Ireland, she informed me her parents were thinking of returning to Belfast. What that ultimately meant for our marriage, as it turned out, was worse than any affair could have been.
My eighteenth birthday bash was lovely. My father made a boozy speech and all was fine in my world until, just as coffee was being served, Ellen’s mother let it slip. She asked the question, ‘And what do you think of Ellen’s news?’ My love quickly hushed her, but the damage was done. I asked the obvious and Ellen told me it was nothing to worry about; she’d tell me when we were alone, after everybody had departed.
‘If she wasn’t having the affair,’ asked Constance, ‘what was she doing in Hobart?’ My response was that, although I didn’t know it until much later, Ellen had decided that her future lay back on the Emerald Isle, and worse, Dawn was included in this plan. It didn’t happen quickly, but by the Christmas of ’96 she went on what was ostensibly a visit to the old country. She’d been several times before once her parents had re-established themselves there, but this time she took my beloved daughter. Neither she nor Dawn returned. I remained quiet for a while and then Constance asked, ‘Do you mean you haven’t seen Dawn in all this time?’ I said that wasn’t the case – that there have been visits, but Dawn always wanted to go back. I even visited Belfast once but found the place, Celia and her parents, cold and unwelcoming. I joke that the main reason she went back was that their abominable climate was kinder on her complexion, but deep down I know there was more to it that that – especially the position at one of the city’s most prestigious girls’ schools her father, through his connections, wangled for her. I told Constance how expensive any court action would have been against Celia and then I told her how it had broken my heart. ‘My poor darling,’ responded Constance.
Nothing could feel as bad as when the realisation hit that I had lost a daughter, but when I heard Ellen’s news the night of my coming of age, it came close. As the dinner wound down my beautiful young lady of the honeyed skin indicated that her present was awaiting as soon as I saw off my guests. Eventually they all departed and I immediately asked her what her mother was referring to by ‘her news’. She told me to forget about it for a while – she’d tell me after she had given me her gift. When eventually I found out later that night it wasn’t good – at least, not for me. It turns out her parents had arranged a job for her and therefore she would not be joining me in Hobart for university as we had both expected. Through her uncle she was to be employed by Myer, in administration, in Melbourne; living with her uncle’s family for the time being. Ellen was naturally very excited at the prospect, but she realised I was committed by this stage to training to be a teacher. She figured our relationship was strong enough to withstand the separation. I wasn’t so sure, but I tried manfully not to rain on her parade. For the rest of our time together that year we tried to put the impending parting to the back of our minds and just enjoy the time we had remaining. We had a mantra of platitudes about what would happen that coming summer, but I think we both knew that the distance would make it incredibly hard, if not impossible. We had a blissful relationship going on, not the least of it being building on what followed that evening of my eighteenth at the restaurant.
Constance could see I was upset, so we paid up our bill at that other restaurant and made our way back to the hotel. She held my arm tightly, pressing her body up to mine at every opportunity over those couple of blocks we had to walk. Once back in the room my lovely hired lady was quite solicitous. She pulled me into an embrace and kissed my face all over, then suggested I see what the fridge had to offer by way of a nightcap. I was feeling more myself by this time and told her that was already taken care of, producing my Tassie champers. We had a couple of flutes each and then she said, ‘And now you must go and have a shower. When you return I shall be ready for you.’
After the departures Ellen produced a key. I asked the obvious but she simply took my hand and guided me to the stairs that led from the dining room to the hotel rooms above. Room No.11 was ours for the night, her gift to me – or at least part of it. Again I asked about her news, but she shushed me. She told me to undress. She told me to get into bed. She told me she’d be back before I could blink as she disappeared into the bathroom.
When I returned from my ablutions Constance was ready for me. She was wrapped in what I had requested. She moved towards me, reached for my hand, placing it under the silk, on her breast. I melted. I just simply melted. Another night came flooding back to me. Then Constance removed that special garment and she and I made love. In fact, we made love several times that night. I may have cried at one stage, it had been so long, you see, since I’d had a woman in that way. She stayed till morning. She didn’t have to. That wasn’t part of the deal. But she did – and I think with that she turned my life around. When she left, well, to excuse the awful pun, it was akin to a new dawn for me.
Since that night I now go to Sydney quite regularly and each time I see Constance. Don’t get me wrong. I know she has a soft spot for me, but it is all strictly professional – but she’s worth it. Another change occurred a few years back when Steve finally retired and moved to Hobart to be with his lovely lady. I followed him. I figured that would really give me a fresh start. By the end of my working life, with the Pulp long gone, I was now at the Elliott Research Station, just down the road from where Steve was then teaching. I have made a few lady friends in Hobart, with occasionally there being some intimacy. If I really feel like some TLC Sydney is less than two hours away. Constance is now a given in my life and I’m happy. I meet up weekly with Steve at the Brunswick, we chat over a few coldies. And now he’s done this for me. Dawn has come out to Oz a few times in the last few years and I am hopeful one day she’ll resettle here. We’ll see. I’ve been over there once more and it didn’t seem so bad this time. And yes, I’ve tried to reconnect with Ellen. There has been no joy through the usual means – presumably she is married – and that’s probably for the best. It has taken a while, but I have now moved on – I’m finally content with life.
After that night in the hotel Ellen and I made love at every opportunity, taken a few risks although I think by now both sets of parents were happy to turn a blind eye. It all became more fervent as the time for her departure approached. We loved each other with that particular night staying in my mind. You might say I was obsessed with it – that is, until Constance. Ellen and I were young, so young back then it seems now – but she made me so happy, a happiness I’ve never felt until Constance came into my life. Constance has only worn the garment once, but it was enough. Things really went belly-up for Ellen and I once we separated. We wrote to each other for a while, then her end went quiet. I later discovered from her parents that there was now someone else. It disappointed me, but I wasn’t surprised. I would have liked to have heard it from her though. I thought she owed it to me, but now, looking back, I know that I owe her far more.
And really it wasn’t much to obsess over, it really wasn’t. But having Constance wear it on the night I turned fifty, well there was the parallel to that other night so long ago when I reached another milestone. It signified something in my mind – it really did. All those years with Celia – as that relationship waned so my time with Ellen came to the forefront as my template for contentment. Maybe Celia sensed that – who knows? Then, for all those years it was Ellen I fantasised about. Without Steve, Franksy, Raissa, our sporting trips to Melbourne I think I would have gone spare. Good friends. Knowing how content Steve is with his gorgeous Leigh, seeing what a difference Judy made to Franksy’s being – not that we knew that for a long time, it is magic what true affection can do for one. And as for ever-beautiful Raissa, a saddened husband is not making it easy for her – but then I suppose she has choices too – we all do. I made some, albeit belatedly.
She took my breath away as she walked from the bathroom to the bed. Simply and loosely sheathed in that knee-length white silk robe. She lent over me to kiss, almost fully exposing a breast to do so. She knew I was getting a good eye-full. She took my hand, pulled back the silk and placed it over that beautiful honeyed globe. I melted. I really did. When she fully disrobed and we made love. Well obviously I became a man that night in more ways than one.. The years have flowed away, but not a day goes by when I do not think of that moment of my hand cupping her breast. The thought keeps me forever young.
How have I done Jake? I think I’ve done okay, but you be the judge. Enjoy the rest of your life. I know I’ll enjoy sharing it with you. You and I, we’re mates for the duration. I know you can now go easy on yourself. I am so happy you’re finally at peace. And I suppose you have heard the news too – that Franksy has left Raissa and moved to Melbourne. I received an email from her a few days ago, as no doubt you did. Judy, I suppose.