My Friends' Wives And Me

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Chapter 12

It wasn’t till the Monday night that I got round to telling Liz about my trip. She seemed very excited for me but was disappointed that she was working. Relieved, I explained that the French man was very rich and that he had a cousin with a garage in France that had worked on his car since the day he bought it; he would only trust them to repair it, I said, so I would leave Thursday dinner-time and catch the ferry Thursday night. I could sleep most of the way on the boat, drive through France on Friday, drop the car off, catch the ferry back late on Saturday and be home Sunday morning.

“Is it a good-paying job?” she asked.

“I told him it would cost him £900 and he gave me £200 towards the ferry and fuel costs. He’s flying back tomorrow and ringing me Wednesday.”

Liz looked at the calendar on the kitchen wall. “I’m working Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so I’ll swap with someone on Friday. Just make sure he pays you when you get there. We need the money; the mortgage is due again and we haven’t got enough in our account, so you’ll have to pay this one. The electric and gas are due as well.”

This is what our marriage had come down to: it was not how much we loved each other, it was a case of who had the money to pay the bills on time.

Tuesday morning, I phoned to see what time the train would leave Folkestone and arrive in France and asked my mechanic to service my car so that it would be ready for the journey. Later that morning, I had a phone call from a bailiff, insisting I visit their office urgently to talk about a court summons, sometime that week. As I couldn’t go on Thursday or Friday, I made the appointment for Wednesday at ten.

On the morning of my meeting, I was very worried. I didn’t even look out for Debbie at the school. I went straight to the garage and collected some papers, then went to the court. It took a while to find the office as I strode through the marble corridors. On reaching the reception desk, I was instructed to have a seat and wait for someone to come out to me. I sat in the waiting room on my own for ages; well, it seemed like ages. Finally, a man came out and told me to follow him. We went into a small room and I sat down in front of a small desk. He sat down opposite me, opened a huge file and flicked through the pages.

“Here we are,” he said, pulling some papers out. As he looked at the first page, he said, “A company called Halsted has asked the court to retrieve the sum of £3.076, for parts supplied to your company.” Then he turned the page and said, “We wrote to you on the first of December and we don’t seem to have had a reply. Do I assume from that, you do not have the money?”

“I don’t have the money at the moment, it’s been very hard these last few months. Things are starting to look a little better but it’s going to be some time before I can come up with large sums like that,” I replied.

He turned the next page and said, “I understand, I have lots of people in the same boat. In fact, this file I have in front of me is only a few.” I looked at it again: it was about three inches thick. I felt a bit more at ease after he told me that. “The best thing to do,” he said, “is to make an offer of payment on a weekly, or monthly, basis. Something you can afford and then, if things get better, you can put up the payments. At least if you are trying to pay the debt off, the company will feel better and we will leave you alone.”

It was as if someone had removed a large weight from around my neck. I agreed to pay £100 per month, signed a few forms, and then he asked me to go back in the waiting room while he made a phone call. I walked out, feeling a lot better. The room was full of people by this time. There was a man pacing the floor, three children running riot, a big woman on the far side of the room was crying her eyes out and the man next to her was trying to take no notice, as he read his newspaper. I watched him out of the corner of my eye. Every time he turned a page, he had a sneaky look at her. Sitting there was like a touchier for not paying your bills on time.

I was called back into the room. “Right,” said the bailiff. “That’s all sorted. Can you give me a cheque for the first payment? That will start the ball rolling.”

I wrote one out, with my hand shaking, and he thanked me. I shook his hand and left as quickly as I could. I walked back through the waiting room and out into the corridor, followed the signs for the main entrance and left through the large revolving door. I felt like I had been released from prison. I ran back to my car.

As I put the key in the ignition, I noticed a pink piece of paper on my screen, in a see-through plastic bag. So I opened the door, pulled it from under the wiper blade and opened the bag. It was a parking ticket. I screwed it up and threw it on the seat next to me. I started the car and drove back, happy that was all over but annoyed about the parking ticket.

It was dinner-time and I was hungry, so I pulled up at a pub and had a pint and a sandwich. While I was sitting there, I thought about the garage and the options I had. Do I go bankrupt, as most people do, or do I try and carry on a little longer and hope that things get better? I wasn’t earning enough to pay the bills each week, never mind the old ones. In total, to get myself straight, I needed about £30,000 and I wasn’t going to get that sort of money easily. I thought about re-mortgaging the house but, to be honest, I didn’t want to tell Liz about the mess I was in. Another robbery was out of the question; I would end up with a heart attack if I tried that again. There was no point me putting the money in I was using for my dates because it wasn’t enough and, besides, if it wasn’t for them, I would probably go barmy with the worry.

I left the pub and went back to the garage, trying to forget about it and concentrate on getting to France. Then I suddenly remembered Lucy. I’d turned my phone off when I’d gone in to see the bailiff. She was going to ring me and tell me were to meet her. I looked at my watch: it was 3 20. She’d said she was going in the afternoon; there was nothing I could do because, if she had left, her mum would answer the phone. I didn’t know what to do.

I still hadn’t heard from Lucy by the time I left work that afternoon, so I drove past her house. Ivor was just pulling up on his drive, so I stopped and let the window down. He locked his Mercedes and came over to me. I said, “It’s been a long time, how are you?” He smiled and said he was OK, as he put his briefcase down on the floor, and crouched beside it to peer in at me. “You look suntanned or something,” I said, trying to get him to tell me about his holiday.

He smiled again. “We’ve been away skiing in Switzerland.”

“Did you have a good time?” I asked.

“Yes, the weather was cold and sunny, as you would expect. Do you want to come in for a coffee?”

“No thanks,” I said. “I’ve got to get home. How’s Lucy and the kids? I bet they enjoyed it, didn’t they?”

“Yes, in fact Lucy...” I thought, this is it, he’s going to tell me now. “... Has gone to stay with a girl we got friendly with on the slopes.”

“You mean, she went back again?”

“No,” he said. “ Colette lives in France, she’s gone for a long weekend.”

“That’s nice. By the sea?”

“No, it’s inland, it’s a place called Les Hemmes, just the other side of the Channel. It’s about thirty miles from Calais Airport. I was going to go but I’ve had too much time off work lately and I am so busy. I have to go to Holland on Monday and I have loads to do before I get there.”

We talked some more and I left happier, knowing whereabouts I was headed.

When I got home, I played with Mick for a while and put him in bed. Then I had a shower, packed myself a suitcase and Liz and I had dinner. She went up to bed about nine. I waited for a while and found the atlas that we’d bought Mick one Christmas, so I could see where I was going in France. I found the airport and then I found the village where Lucy was staying; it wasn’t far from the Eurotunnel entrance. I got into bed about ten and didn’t fall asleep for ages, I was too excited.

The next day I woke early, thinking about France. I told Mick I’d see him in a couple of days when I dropped him at the school gates. Then I bumped into Debbie in the playground. “How're things?” I asked.

“Not bad,” she said. “I still don’t like him but he is trying to make an effort.”

“Give it some time,” I said. “At least things aren’t as bad as they were.”

“I’ve missed you”, she said. “When can we go out together?”

“Soon,” I replied. “I’m going over to France today to deliver a car. I should be back on Sunday, so I’ll talk to you on Monday morning.”

Her eyes got bigger as she said, “I could have come with you if you’d given me some warning.”

“No, it’s too long. John was suspicious when you stayed out one night, he would go mental if you stayed away for three nights. Mind you, it would be nice, wouldn’t it? Perhaps later, when things have died down a bit, I’ll take you there.”

“I will hold you to that,” she shouted, smiling as I walked to my car.

When I got to work, everyone was working hard. I explained to them that I was going to Devon for a couple of days to a car auction and that I would be back at the weekend. I ordered some parts, opened a couple of letters and eventually left around noon. I had a slow ride down the motorway and stopped for something to eat about two o’clock, leaving a little after three, just as the head chef started shouting at a waitress behind the grill. I drove back on to the motorway and, within five minutes, there was steam coming from the engine. I quickly pulled over onto the hard shoulder and lifted the bonnet to have a look. One of the hoses had burst wide open. I phoned the police from the phone box on the motorway and they told me to wait with the car and said they would send a garage out as fast as they could. I explained that I had to be in Folkestone for seven o’clock to catch the Euro tunnel and was assured that someone would be there as fast as possible. I waited in the car for about forty minutes, until a tow truck pulled up behind me and this scruffy, long-haired teenager jumped out of his truck with an oily rag in his hand, walked over towards me dragging his feet and said, “What you done to your car, then?” He looked under the bonnet.

I said, “A hose has burst.”

“Oh, has it now.” He rubbed the oily rag up and down the wing of my car and said, “I don’t think I’ve got one of those.” I explained to him that I was going through the Euro tunnel at seven o’clock and he slowly walked over to his truck and drove it around to the front of my car, nearly causing an accident on the motorway as he pulled out. Two cars swerved to miss him. He reversed up to the front and dropped the two ramps down that stood up in the air on the back of the truck. “Can I have your keys, please,” he asked, “so I can drive it up on the back?” I was beginning to worry now and I kept looking at my watch. “Don’t panic, I will get you there on time,” he said as he started the engine. “It sounds a bit worse than just a burst hose,” he shouted as he shot up the ramps, onto the truck. Here we go, I said to myself, he’s trying it on now; he’s going to tell me the engine’s knackered. Sure enough, as he climbed down, he said, “Your engine sounds like it’s dropped a valve”. I didn’t say anything about me being in the same trade. I thought I’d better get back to his garage first and see if has the hose.

We drove off the motorway and down a country lane to his shed in a field. He parked the truck, jumped down and disappeared around the back somewhere. I waited in the truck and he appeared with a hose in his hand. “You’re lucky,” he said. “I was sure I didn’t have one for this model.” He drove my car off the back of his truck and lifted the bonnet again. I stood and watched him as he fitted the hose. Then he filled the radiator with water and started the engine. Again I looked at my watch; it was nearly 5.30. I waited while he revved the car and checked to see if there were any other water leaks. After a few minutes, he said, “I wouldn’t risk it but it’s up to you.”

I thought to myself, you’re an arsehole. I was just about to say something and then I remembered my chequebook had the garage name on it. I kept quiet and waited to see the look on his face. “I’ll risk it,” I said as he slammed the bonnet shut. “How much do I owe you?”

He rubbed his hands together, with the same oily rag, and said, “Call it £95, all in.”

I nearly fell over, the robbing bastard. “I’ll have to pay you by company cheque,” I said. I held it up in front of his face. He looked at it, read the garage name and said, “You should have told me you have a garage of your own.” He went red and turned away. “Call it forty for cash.”

I pulled out the money from my back pocket and paid him, smiling to myself as I climbed back into the car and drove off.

I pulled back on to the motorway and put my foot down to the floor, trying to make up some of the time I had lost. It was after six o’clock now and I was going to be late but I could still make it, if the road was clear. I pulled into the outside lane and sailed past everything. Then I started thinking about the night. Would Lucy be there first? And what would she be wearing? Would we smile secretly to each other? And who would speak first? I could talk to her with my Greek accent and no one would know I was English. Then there was the night, where would we make love? And for how long? How many times?

I just passed the sign for Bearsted, when there was a loud bang under the car. I quickly indicated and pulled off the motorway. This time I ground to a halt on the top of the slip-road and then there was smoke and steam everywhere. I couldn’t believe it. Again I lifted the bonnet and looked in. I couldn’t see anything for the smoke. I was beginning to think, it’s all over, I’m never going to make it now.

I sat in the car and waited. After a few minutes, when everything had stopped hissing and smoking, I had a look in the engine compartment and noticed the fan belt had disappeared. It had obviously snapped and fallen off on the motorway earlier. I lifted the boot and found one in a compartment on the side, with the tools in. So I rolled my sleeves up and proceeded to fit the belt as quickly as possible. After 15 minutes, I crossed my fingers and started the engine. Everything seemed to be OK at first, so I shut the bonnet and drove down the road, looking for a garage to get some more water for the radiator. Every time the needle on the water temperature gauge got close to the red mark at the top, I turned the engine off and waited for a while, to let it cool down again. After about three miles, and four stops, I found a small petrol station and pulled in, let the engine cool down again and slowly filled the radiator. Just as the last couple of litres were going in, I heard water running on the floor by my feet and across the forecourt. Something was leaking excessively. I looked under the car and noticed it was pouring out of the engine. The trip to France was all over. It was far too late to get anything done and I wasn’t in the mood to try anymore. I asked the cashier of the petrol station if there was a place I could stay for the night. She told me to try the Red Lion down the road and then she gave me the number for a taxi firm in the nearby town. I went back out to my car and moved it off the forecourt, parking it around the back of the garage, then phoned the number she’d given me from the car and waited. After a few minutes, the cashier came out to see if I was all right and told me to leave the car there and, in the morning, one of the mechanics would have a look at it. I thanked her and she asked me if I would like a coffee while I was waiting for the taxi. I suddenly noticed she was very pretty: long, blonde, straight hair, nice slim figure and about 25 years old. I agreed and went into the shop with her. I waited by the counter while she made the coffee, then, when she came out from the back, we sat and talked for a while. She told me her name was Diane and her dad owned the garage; she worked for him as the secretary and cashier sometimes. I told her my name and that I had a small country garage as well. We obviously had a lot in common and I was amazed she knew so much about cars. She was a friendly girl.

The taxi sounded his horn as he stopped on the forecourt. I was sorry he came; I could have talked to her for ages. I thanked her for the coffee and walked round to fetch the overnight bag from my car. I made sure to lock all the doors and went back in to give Diane the keys. As I dropped them on the counter, I asked her if she was going out tonight and would she like to show me the town, as I was all alone in a strange place?

She smiled and clipped a tag on my keys, with my registration number on it. “Meet me in the Harvester at 9.30. You can have something to eat there and I’ll have a drink with you.”

“Perhaps you would eat with me, then,” I said, “and tell me more about yourself.”

“All right,” she said. “I will, thank you.” I turned and left, with a smile that was hurting my cheeks.

The taxi driver dropped me at the Red Lion. I asked him to pick me up at 9.15 and take me to the Harvester. I booked in for the night and went up to my room to get changed. It was a basic room, nicely decorated and fresh, with a single bed. I unpacked a few things and showered, then got dressed for dinner. I walked into the reception just as the taxi pulled up by the front door. I handed in my key and left.

I arrived at the Harvester a few minutes early, so I sat at the bar and ordered myself a large whiskey with lemonade, flicked through a menu and waited for Diane to arrive. I watched every car that pulled into the car park and every person that came into the restaurant, till about 9.45, then I ordered a table for two from the barman, still hoping that she would turn up. In no time at all, the waitress came over to the bar and told me my table was ready. I followed her to the far side of the restaurant and sat down, looking at the same menu. I glanced over at the bar and Diane was standing there on her own, looking around the room. I waved and she waved back. I was so relieved. She came over and sat down next to me.

“Sorry,” she said. “We had a petrol delivery just as you left and I had to wait till they finished before I could lock the garage.”

“It’s OK,” I said, smiling. “I’ve had to do it too and it always comes at the wrong time.”

“Doesn’t it just,” she said, as she took her fur jacket off and slipped it over the back of her chair. She was wearing a black silk dress that touched every inch of her shapely body. As she sat down, she picked up the menu.

“Do you like red or white wine?” I asked.

She nodded. “Yes, I like both.” The waitress came over and I ordered our meals and two bottles of wine, one red and one white. Diane looked at me and said, “Is your room all right?”

“Yes, it’s clean and small but it’ll be all right for one night.” She looked at me again and smiled.

After we finished our meals, and most of the wine, I ordered two brandies and we sat talking for ages. In fact, we were the last to leave. I paid the bill and we went out into the car park. “Can I give you a lift to the Red Lion?” Diane asked.

“Yes, please, if you’re going that way.”

I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight. As I got into her Escort Cabriolet, I suddenly wondered what Lucy might be doing in France. We drove off and all the way back I asked myself, shall I ask her in or not? Would she say yes or no? We pulled up at the pub and I asked if she thought we would be able to get the last drink.

“We can try,” she said, locking the car and following me into the lounge. There were a few people still in there drinking, so I went to the bar. Diane said hello to a few people and then she came over and we sat on stools at the bar. I ordered two more brandies and sat chatting with her until about 12.30.

I asked Diane if she wanted a taxi, because of the amount she had drunk, but she said, “No, it’s all right, I’m already home.”

“You live here?” I said, surprised.

“Well, my mum owns the pub and I stay here sometimes. My parents split up some time ago and, basically, Dad got the garage and Mum got the pub. I have my own house down the road but I stay here most nights; it’s warmer.

“In that case,” I said, as I held my brandy glass up, “one more.”

“No, I’ve got to go to bed. Thanks for a lovely evening though, I’ve really enjoyed it.” She kissed my cheek and stood up.

Diane said goodnight to the bar staff and left the lounge. I had one more brandy, paid the bill and went up to my room, collecting the key on the way. I got undressed, climbed into bed and lay there for a while, looking up at the ceiling, with my hands behind my head, wondering if she would come to my room in the middle of the night.

The next morning, I awoke with the phone ringing next to my ear. “Good morning,” a voice said. “It’s Diane here, are you awake?” I looked at my watch, it was 7.30.

“Yes, just about,” I said, wondering where I was for a moment.

“Your breakfast will be ready in half an hour.”

“Thank you,” I said wiping my eyes, trying to focus.

I put the phone down and quickly got dressed to go downstairs. Diane was at the reception desk, on the phone. She put her hand over the mouthpiece and said, “It’s through there,” pointing to a door. “I’ll join you in a moment.” I went in and a young girl in a black waitress uniform showed me where to sit. I ordered coffee and toast and Diane came and sat with me. “Thanks again for last night.”

“It was my pleasure.” I added, “If you don’t fix my car today, we can do it again tonight.”

She laughed. “Well, it’s hard to get parts delivered out here,” she said. “I’ll leave at 8.30, one of the mechanics can have a look when they come in, and I’ll ring you later.”

Once I’d finished breakfast, I went back up to my room.

It was about 9.30 when the phone rang. “Hello, it’s Diane here. Your core plug has rusted and dropped out. I’ve ordered one and, unfortunately, it will be here before dinner, so when it’s ready, I’ll come down and collect you.”

I thanked Diane and put the phone down. While I was waiting, I decided to phone my garage, to see if everything was OK. I didn’t tell them where I was, only that I was having a bit of trouble with my car and that I would ring them on my way back.

Suddenly it hit me - Lucy was going to ring me from France. I needed to tell her I wasn’t coming and my phone was in the car. I tided up my room and walked to the garage. It was a fair walk but I wanted some fresh air. I arrived at the garage just as they were checking the car. Diane looked surprised to see me and said, “I would have fetched you.”

“It’s all right, I needed a walk. I suddenly realised I hadn’t got my phone. I’m waiting for an urgent call from France.” I went out to my car and picked my phone up off the floor. It was under my seat. I was horrified to see the battery was flat and I didn’t have the charger.

One of the mechanics went out in the car for a test drive while I waited in the shop with Diane. I thought about staying another night. I couldn’t go home earlier than Saturday night because I’d told Liz I wouldn’t be home till Sunday and there was no way I was going to chance a trip to France with all the trouble I’d had with the car. Lucy wouldn’t know where I was, in fact, no one would know where I was, except Diane. As I sat there, thinking long and hard, my car pulled up outside on the forecourt. One part of me wanted it to be knackered, so I wouldn’t have a choice, and the other part wanted it fixed, so I would.

The mechanic walked in and held the keys out in front of me. “It will be all right now,” he said. “We thought the head gasket had gone but I’ve given it a good run and it seems fine.”

I thanked him, took the keys and turned to Diane. She looked almost sad as I asked her for the bill. “Does this mean goodbye?” she said.

I still didn’t know what to say. I paused for a second or two and said, “What if I stay?”

“If you stay, I could return the meal; you paid for last night.”

Diane made up my mind for me. “OK, where?”

“At my house,” she said. “I’ll cook tonight, at 8.30. Bring some wine.” She scribbled her address on a petrol receipt.

I drove off down the road and the car seemed fine. I drove past the Red Lion and carried on. I had some time to kill, so I drove around and had a look at the town; it was a nice quaint little place. I stopped in a bar and had a drink or two and eventually made my way back, about six o’clock, to my room.

I had a lie-down but I couldn’t sleep; I was too excited. I showered and changed and lay back on the bed, checking my watch every other second. Then I drove over to Diane’s house. I parked on the big red paved drive, in front of the gigantic white garage doors, and rang the doorbell. Diane opened the door, wearing a short black waitress uniform and a white ribbon in her hair. She looked a picture. I went in with two bottles of champagne and a bunch of roses. We kissed in the hall, a very passionate kiss. I had that feeling of excitement and lust. I was free from everything and everybody. No one knew where I was. I was locked in a massive house, with a beautiful 25-year-old girl, two bottles of champagne and the whole night ahead of us.

We went through into the dining room and the oval table was laid out with gold cutlery and crystal glasses. There were two candelabras lit, one at each end. The candles were flickering in the dark and the seats were at both ends of the table, so we could face each other. I was stunned. Diane sat me down and disappeared into another room with the champagne and flowers. I opened my napkin, placed it on my lap and waited, looking around at all the beautiful paintings on the wall and the antiques standing on top of the mantle. There was a chandelier above the centre of the table. I had never in my life been in such a magnificent room before.

Diane appeared pushing a trolley. Steam was billowing out from the chrome-covered dishes. She pushed it up to the middle of the table and disappeared again. The smell was amazing. Then she reappeared with two plates. She placed one in front of me, one at the other end of the table and sat down.

I looked at her, with the candlelight reflecting in her eyes, and said, “You are marvellous. How on earth did you manage to cook all this in a few hours?”

She put her hands up, shrugged her shoulders and said, “It was nothing.” She looked down at her empty glass and said, “The champagne.” As she stood up, I asked if I could put some music on. “Help yourself,” she cried as she disappeared again. I looked through her CD collection and found ‘The Best of Kenny G’ and put it on quietly, as Diane walked back into the room with a bottle in each hand. She placed one at each end of the table, then she said, “This is my favourite.” I stood up, closed the cupboard gingerly and asked her to dance with me. She came over and we danced very close, holding each other like we would never let go. We kissed softly as the music played and slowly moved round and round on one spot. I put my hands on the back of her dress and felt a zip that went all the way down and hoped I could unfasten it later. The record stopped and Diane sat down as the next song started. I poured some champagne into her glass as she held it up by the stem, then she tipped it to her lips. My appetite was lost by now and the animal in me just wanted to make love with her on the table. I glanced at my watch. It was only 9 30; we still had hours left, even if I had to go back to the Red Lion on my own. I sat opposite and poured myself a drink, staring at Diane at the other end of the table. She walked over to the trolley and pushed it towards me. As I lifted the lid, the steam rose into the air. The smell was tremendous. Diane lifted the bowl and scooped six oysters onto my plate and then she walked back with the trolley, looking deep into my eyes. I picked up the clamp, to hold the oyster, and, with the golden fork, I flicked one out onto my plate. By this time, Diane had put some on her plate and was eating them with her fingers. Holding them up in the air and dropping them into her mouth. I took a sip of champagne and ate another. They were delicious.

When I finished the last one, she said, “Would you like some more?”

I wiped the sides of my mouth with the napkin and said, “No, I will save myself for the main course.”

She grinned at me and drank all the champagne that was left in her glass, then poured some more. I felt so relaxed and didn’t want this night to end. I sat back in the carver and picked up my glass again. Diane took the plates out and came back in with two clean ones. We danced again, even closer than we did before and this time we undressed each other slowly. I pulled the zip down and Diane’s dress dropped to the floor. She was naked apart from the ribbon in her hair. I took my jacket off, while she unfastened my shirt slowly and kissed my chest, as each button was undone. When Diane got to my trousers, she flicked open the clip. My hands were on her shoulders and she slowly slid the zip down to the bottom. They dropped to my ankles and she slowly pushed down my pants, then placed my solid erection in her mouth, sucking it hard. She put her hands on my buttocks and pushed me deeper into her mouth. It was sheer filth but I didn’t complain. I couldn’t take any more without me spoiling her dinner. I pulled myself out and Diane stood up. She waved her finger at me, from side to side, with a smile and a seductive look on her face, then she told me to sit down and wait. Naked, I sat down in my chair and Diane pushed the trolley forward again. I placed the napkin on my lap. This time it didn’t feel right, with a huge lump in the middle. Diane lifted the lid and served lobster next. We drank some more champagne and we both knew this was the moment we had been waiting for. Diane stood up and slowly walked around the table towards me. As she stood next to the table by my side, she pushed all the dinner plates into the middle, sat on the end and lay back, opening her legs wide. I kissed and licked the inside of her thighs, working my way up slowly to the top, softly touching and stroking her legs. My ears started ringing. I tried to take no notice and carried on. The ringing got louder and louder. I opened my eyes to see where it was coming from. It was a little table next to my bed in the Red Lion. I quickly closed my eyes again but the dream had vanished completely.

I answered the phone, distraught, and Diane asked me if I was going around. I looked at my watch and it said 9.50. “I’m coming, I’m sorry, I must have fallen asleep. It was that long walk I had to your garage this morning.” I threw the phone down and ran down the stairs, dropped my key at the reception desk and left in my car, speeding off down the road. I stopped at the shop to get two bottles of champagne; I thought at least that part would come true. When I found the house, it didn’t look anything like the one in the dream. It was a lot smaller and there was no big drive to park my car. I had to leave it on the road. I rang the doorbell, and Diane answered it. She was wearing tight jeans and a short top that showed off her tanned stomach. She looked nice; I could see her shapely figure. I went in and apologised for being late. The table was laid and we sat down to eat straight away. Diane had made spaghetti bolognese. It was nice but it wasn’t my favourite dish. The cold champagne helped to wash the taste away. We talked for a while and Diane cleared the table and took everything out to the kitchen.

When Diane came back in, she had a cigarette in her hand. “I didn’t know you smoked,” I said.

“I don’t normally, this is a special one.” It looked like she had just found it on the floor. “It’s grass,” she said, as she inhaled a good part of it and closed her eyes. “It helps me to relax.” Then she offered it to me.

“No thanks, I stopped smoking some years ago and it wouldn’t take a lot to start me off again after the last few months I’ve had.”

“Has it been hard, then?” she asked. I explained to her about the garage going through a bad patch and Diane told me about her father going through it as well. We drank some more champagne and, at about midnight, Diane asked me if I wanted to stay the night. I thought for a while, looking at her. I didn’t know anything about her sex life and the last thing I needed was AIDS or a bad dose of the clap to take home. Besides, after that dream, the night had kind of lost its edge.

I said “No”. She looked surprised. “I think I’ll get back to the Red Lion, I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow. I’ve had a lovely time and it wouldn’t be fair to either of us if I stayed, would it?” She looked at me, all dejected. “If I stay tonight we both know what will happen. Then I will go back home to my wife and son and we will probably never see each other again.”

Diane interrupted me and said, “Don’t say that, we don’t live a million miles away.”

“I think it would be best if we just say goodnight, and leave it at that, don’t you?”

Diane nodded and stood up. “Yes, you’re probably right,” she said. I thanked her again for the meal and walked out to the hall. We stood behind the closed front door. I said goodnight, kissed her on the lips and opened the door. “I’ll be down in the morning before I leave, to pay you,” I shouted as I opened the car door and got in. Diane waved and I drove back to the Red Lion.

The next morning, I lay in bed staring around the room. I was pleased I didn’t stay the night but I lay there for five minutes, thinking what it might have been like to have had sex with Diane. I climbed out of bed and got myself ready to leave.

As I was throwing everything in my bag, there was a knock at the door. I opened it and Diane was standing there. “Your breakfast is ready,” she said with a smile. I asked her in but she refused, so I left the door open while I packed the last few things away and followed her down the stairs. We sat and ate breakfast together in the dining room. I paid the hotel bill and we left. I followed her to the garage in my car and filled up with petrol. Then I went into her office behind the counter and paid for the repair at the same time.

“This is it then,” she said.

I felt sad at the thought of not seeing her again. I nodded. “I’m afraid so. I’ve got your phone number. Can I ring you from time to time for a chat?”

“Yes and if you are ever down here again, please call in and see me It’s been nice.”

I held my arms out and she came around the desk and kissed me for the last time.

I made my way back towards the motorway. It was just after 10 o’clock and I was on my way back to my garage. I had been on the motorway for about two and a half hours when I noticed the water temperature gauge was creeping up again slowly. I didn’t have long to go so I slowed down and tried to nurse the car along in the slow lane. It started to slow down, on its own, and the smoke started to pour out the back and this time I managed to pull off the motorway and find a telephone on the side of the road. I rang my garage and asked Roger to bring the truck out and fetch me. It wasn’t too far away. I gave him directions and sat in the car until he arrived.

We loaded the car on the back of the truck and he took me back to the garage. As we were travelling back, Roger asked if I’d had a good time. I told him that I went to Devon and the car broke down on the way back. He looked at me and said nothing as if he didn’t believe me. I asked him if everything was OK at work and he said yes, that we were very busy at the moment and had got some good jobs in. When we got to the garage, we unloaded the car and put it inside, ready for the mechanic to work on it Monday, and I borrowed the spare car to use at the weekend.

I was on my way home when it suddenly dawned on me; I wasn’t expected home till tomorrow morning, so I pulled into the Hare and the Hound pub for a drink. I sat at the bar on a stool and Janice asked me if I wanted my usual and poured me a double whiskey and lemonade, in a tall glass, with ice.

Janice and Peter had been friends of mine for years. They’d been landlords of three different pubs since I first met them 15 years ago and Janice, or Jane as she likes to be called, was on my list for a special night out.

I sat there drinking for about an hour, telling Jane the story of what had happened to me on the motorway and that I didn’t want to go home that night. Her face lit up. She told me Peter had gone away for the weekend playing golf, wouldn’t be back till Tuesday and there was a room empty I could have for the night. I asked her to book me a meal at eight, and she showed me to my room. I had a shower, went back down to the bar at 7.30 and sat on the same stool until Jane called me through to the dining area. I ordered a steak and, at about nine o’clock, when I had finished, I went back into the bar and sat talking with Jane while she served other customers through the night.

At 11.30, when everyone had gone from the bar and there was only one couple left in the dining area, she poured herself a large brandy from the optic on the wall and sat next to me at the bar. The waitresses finished, tidied up and, at twelve o’clock, there was only me and Jane left. She locked the doors from the inside and turned all the lights out, except the small lamps on the wall by the open fire. Jane poured two large brandies this time and we moved over and sat down next to the fire. We chatted for ages. She told me that Peter was having an affair with a waitress and he didn’t know that she’d seen them in the kitchen on the side one night when she’d come home early from her friend’s that it didn’t really bother her and how they lived separately. She told me how she’d nearly had an affair with a customer and how he kept asking her out, night after night, and she almost met him at another pub in town but lost her bottle at the last moment and didn’t go in.

Jane was a little older than me, only by two or three years. She was a typical landlady, masses of long blonde hair and a big bust that was always on display to the public. Her figure was tremendous. She worked out every other day at the local gym. When she stood up to get some more brandies, I couldn’t stop myself from glancing at her backside. She was wearing tight blue trousers and a half-unbuttoned blue silk shirt. I sat by the fire and waited untill she came back with the drinks. She placed one in front of me and squeezed past, so I could have another look, then she placed her glass on the table and sat on my lap, put her arms around my neck and said, “Will you give me one on the pool table?”

I was taken back a little; it came as a shock to be honest. I jokingly said, “Do you mean a game?”

“I can’t play pool,” she said and kissed me. I carefully put my hand up the back of her shirt and felt her solid body. It was warm and smooth. I worked my way up to her bra strap and she smiled as we were kissing. Then she said, “It’s at the front.” I looked down at her cleavage and was getting very excited at the thought of holding her naked in my arms, with that large bust pushed hard up against my chest. Jane stood up and sat back on my lap, with one leg either side of me. Then she forced my head into her chest. I kissed each one in turn, as I unfastened her blouse from the top down, then came the moment I had been waiting for. I unclasped the bra and they fell out. I licked her big, red, erect nipples first, then held one in each hand and, with my thumb, gently massaged them as Jane ripped open my shirt and forced it down my back. I kissed my way up her neck to her wet lips and licked the inside of them softly. Jane ran her fingers through my hair and down my back, then moved her hips backwards and forwards slowly.

My penis was banging on my trousers, shouting, “Let me out!” I ran my fingers down her back and felt the shape of her firm cheeks on my lap. Then, with one hand under each thigh, I stood up, lifting her into the air. She wrapped her legs around my waist and her arms around my neck and then I carried her over to the pool table, still kissing her, and carefully placed her on the edge. She lay back, with her hair evenly spread over the pool table and her legs dangling over the side.

Jane pushed the cues off the table while I pulled the zip down on her jeans and unfastened the button. I eased them down her legs to reveal her blue, silk, skimpy panties. I unfastened my trousers quickly and they dropped to the floor. Jane opened her legs and I leaned over her and kissed and licked her nipples again, at the same time as I rubbed my erection on her still-covered vagina. Then I slowly worked my way down to her navel and pulled down her panties. I threw them on the floor as her legs opened again and I stuck my tongue in between her juicy lips and licked her until she went wild, groaning and shouting, “More! More!” I felt her hands in my hair and she pulled my head up. I licked her stomach and then her nipples. Then, as I kissed her lips, I felt myself enter Jane and travel deep inside her. Her legs wrapped themselves around my waist and she held me in place with her strong leg muscles, still groaning and panting with ecstasy. My heart was racing ten times faster; we were both hot from the open fire and soaked in perspiration. We licked and kissed each other until I came, still locked in with her strong legs.

We lay in that position for a while, holding each other. We said nothing. I could hear the fire crackling in the hearth as the panting slowed down and we kissed softly.

Eventually, I stood up. Jane lay still for a while and then sat up, still on the edge of the pool table. She put her arms over my shoulder and around my neck. “Are you OK?” I asked.

She kissed my ear. “Much better now,” she whispered.

As I held her tight in my arms, I said, “I wanted to ask you out for an evening of romance sometime. Would it be possible?”

“Yes, I don’t see why not,” she said. “That would be lovely.”

“Could you stay out for a night?” I asked.

“Definitely,” she replied. “Where’re you going to take me?”

“I don’t know yet. Somewhere nice.”

We gathered our clothes together, got dressed and sat by the fire again. We finished our drinks and talked a little longer, then I glanced up at the clock on the wall over the bar. It was 2.30. Jane told me that she must go to bed because she had to be up early to organise the breakfast in the morning. We kissed once more and I went up to my room while Jane locked up and turned everything off.

I had a shower, climbed into bed, fell asleep almost immediately and woke up when the door knocked in the morning.

I opened it and Jane burst into my room and kissed me, “Thanks for last night,” she said. “I was beginning to think my sex life was over. It’s been a long time since I did it with Peter.”

I followed her down the stairs and went into the dining area for my breakfast. The waitress brought me coffee and, while I was waiting, Jane came over and sat with me. “Where are you going to take me, then?” she said. “I can’t wait.”

“I’ll have to think of somewhere special. I’ll ring you next week.”

“It would be better if you came in for a drink,” she said discreetly. “Peter will be back late Tuesday. I’m working Tuesday night behind the bar, on my own. Try and sort something out and tell me then.” The waitress arrived with my bacon and eggs and Jane left the table to speak to someone else that had come down for their breakfast.

When I finished eating, Jane came back and sat down again. I asked her for the bill but she wouldn’t let me pay. “No,” she said. “It’s on the house. After the way you handled your cue on the pool table last night, I wouldn’t hear of it.” I shook my head in disbelief and smiled. “Spend it on me when we go out,” she said. I thanked her and went up to get my things from the room. I eventually left about 9.30 and made my way home, trying to get my story straight about France before I spoke to Liz.

I parked my car on the drive and Andrew’s car was in the corner by the garage. A cold shiver went straight though me. I opened the front door and threw my bag on the floor. I started to shake with anger at the thought of them spending the night together. The kitchen door opened and Liz came out laughing, which riled me even more.

“Hello,” she said. “Andrew’s just come round to take us swimming. Have you had a good trip? You look shattered.” It was the anger in my face. Then Mick came out with his towel rolled up under his arm.

“Hello, Dad.” He dropped his towel on the stairs, jumped up and clung to me, hanging on around my neck. “I’ve missed you, Dad,” he said in my ear.

I didn’t know what to say. It all looked very suspicious, or was it just me? I decided not to say anything for now and kissed Liz on the cheek. “It’s been a long journey,” I said and walked into the kitchen.

Andrew was sitting at the table, eating beans on toast. “How did it go? Liz told me all about your trip to France. Was it worth it?” he said, as he put the last fork-full of beans in his mouth.

I switched the kettle on and said, “I think so. He paid me in cash but my car broke down on the motorway this morning. I managed to get it back to the garage and leave it there.”

Liz picked up a mug off the draining board and said, “What was it like in France?” I sat down at the table and Mick sat on my lap with his arm around my neck.

“It was cold and wet. I didn’t take much notice really. I dropped the car off and he introduced me to his family. Not one of them could speak English. I got there about midday Friday and had dinner with them, then left about tea-time, found a room for the night, fell fast asleep till Saturday morning and started back after breakfast. The ferry crossings went to plan and I came back £700 richer.

Then Mick said, “Did you bring me a present?”

This was my first mistake. “I did, but I’ve left it in my car at work. I’ll bring it home with me tomorrow night.”

Liz brought me my coffee over, put it on the table and said, “Did he pay you in Euros or English money?”

“English money, of course. He went to the bank while I was there. He was so pleased to see his car, I thought he was going to pay me double.”

I took a sip of coffee and then Liz said, “Roger rang me from the garage on Friday and said you were having some trouble with your car.”

I started to worry. I had the feeling they were firing questions at me because they didn’t believe me. “It was only an overheating problem. I pulled into a garage and they looked at it for me.”

“I didn’t know you could speak French as well,” Andrew said.

This was my second mistake. “Luckily for me the mechanic was English,” I said quickly. “I had lost a bit of water, that’s all. He changed a hose and I was on my way again in minutes. Anyway, what’s been happening here?” I thought I had better change the subject.

Liz said, “Andrew took me out for a drink on Friday night, because we were bored. Denise has gone to New York and you were in France, so we went to the Wooden. The usual crowd was there - we had a nice night.” Liz picked up Andrew’s plate and put it in the sink.

Then Andrew said, “Come on then, let’s go for a dip.” Mick jumped off my lap and Liz got her coat. I told him I was going to get my head down for a couple of hours. “I’ll see you later,” said Andrew and they left me alone.

I sat in the kitchen and finished my coffee, wondering if anything was going on between them. After about ten minutes, I decided to follow them to the swimming baths, to see if I could catch them doing anything.

While I was driving, I thought of all the things Andrew had said about not being able to have an affair, when he was talking about the naked woman in the house, while he was cutting down the tree that day in her garden and about all the times I came home and he was at my house. Then there was that time, a couple of weeks ago, when he was going to meet everyone in the pub, but never turned up and I thought I saw him on the other side of the dual carriageway. It was him, he knew I was out, so he went to see Liz instead. New Year’s Eve, he was dancing with Liz all night. It all started to fall into place.

I parked the car in the car park away from the baths and made my way over to the side window. I watched and waited furiously behind a big tree outside and then Mick came out from the changing rooms on his own and dived in the pool. The longer I waited, the angrier I got. It was a good job Mick could swim exceptionally well. He was on his own and they weren’t watching him at all. After about five minutes, Andrew and Liz came out together, laughing. They held hands and jumped in the water together. Mick was at the other end of the pool by this time and couldn’t see what was happening. I was shaking with anger and couldn’t watch any more, so I walked back to my car and left them to it. As I drove back, I thought more and more about it, annoyed with myself for not realising before.

I sat in the car on the drive and a thought suddenly occurred to me - I was getting wound up at those two fooling around and I was doing the same. But it was as if they didn’t care; they wanted to get caught. Mick was undoubtedly going to see them at some stage and tell me. I went indoors, unpacked my suitcase and waited till they came home.

It was nearly three hours before they got back from the swimming baths. When I heard the car pull up, I watched through the front bedroom window behind the lace curtains. Andrew dropped them off on the drive and drove off. I still wasn’t sure what to say to Liz. I heard the front door open and close. Then Mick shouted, “Dad, we’re home!”

I went down the stairs and Liz asked me if I’d had a good sleep. “Yes, thank you,” I answered, quite sharply. It was nearly three o’clock and I didn’t want to speak to Liz in case I said the wrong thing. I told Mick to get his football, so we could go over to the park and I could think for a while on my own.

Liz asked if everything was OK and said, “You sound annoyed.”

“I must be more tired than I thought,” I said as we walked out of the front door.

“See you later, Mum,” Mick cried, as the door slammed behind us.

As we were playing football, I asked Mick if he’d had a good time at the baths and he said, “Yes, but it wasn’t as good as the last time Andrew took me.”

“When was that, then?” I asked, as the ball went flying past me into the bushes.

“It was a few weeks ago when you went away.”

“Did Mum come with you?”

“No, it was just me and Andrew. We went to the swimming baths in Hallford, with the big slides, it was great fun. I was a bit scared at first, so I went on the small one twice and then the big one about five times!”

We kicked the ball about for an hour and then we decided to go home. We stopped at the shops and I bought Mick some sweets and we arrived home in time for tea.

As usual, Liz went up to bed at nine o’clock and I fell asleep watching the telly and woke when she went to work at 4.30. The telly was still on and I sat thinking more about Liz and Andrew. By 7.30, I had convinced myself that there was nothing going on but I would watch them both and let it drop for now, until I had definite proof.

Mick came down dressed for school and had his breakfast while I got ready for work. I dropped him off in the playground and his parting words were, “Don’t forget my present from France, will you, Dad?” I walked back to the car thinking about what I could get him from the shops, as I bumped into Debbie. I winked at her. She smiled and nodded her head as if to say, “wait for me”. I stood by the gate and she came out after she had seen her little girl into school. She asked me how I got on in France and I quickly told her the same as I’d told Andrew and Liz. As we walked towards her car, I couldn’t stop myself looking at her. She was gorgeous and every time I saw her I felt so different. She asked me again if we could go out soon. I briefly explained that it would be very soon. I was thinking about where Lucy was and if she had got back from France yet.

I drove to work and, just as I turned the corner to the garage, the phone rang. It was the girl herself. “Hello.”

“What happened to you, then?” she said, with a sharp voice.

“I’m sorry, I tried but the car broke down and I didn’t get out of England.” I told her I would explain when I saw her and then she told me she would be on her way home in the afternoon. It suddenly occurred to me that she was still in France.

“Could you bring me a present home for Mick? I’ll explain this to you as well but get him something with the price tag on it, from France. Something like a car, or a football - it must be from there, and have French writing on it.”

“All right,” she said. “I’ll bring you something back. Meet me tomorrow at the same pub as before for a drink and you can explain it all to me.”

We said goodbye and I parked the car on the forecourt and went in to see what had happened while I was away. Roger gave me the mail and the mechanic told me the water pump on my car was leaking and that one had been ordered. I told him to check it all over because I was going back down to collect the car that I bought while I was away, in the next few days. Then I went up to my office and opened all the mail. The worst letter I had was from the bank, telling me I was overdrawn and that they wouldn’t pay anything else until I put a large amount of money into the account.

When my car was fixed, I went out and collected money from some of my customers and paid it into the bank. It wasn’t nearly enough but it was all I could get.

Late in the afternoon, I had a phone call from Denise. “You promised to take me out again,” she said, “and I’m flying off to India in seven days.”

“It’s not possible at the moment,” I told her. “When will you be back?”

“I’m going for a week,” she replied. “I won’t see you for a whole fortnight.”

“It’s a bit awkward at the moment. I’ve just come back from France and it’s going to be hard for me to get out. I need to spend some time at work and home. As soon as you come back, I promise I’ll take you out again.”

We talked for a while and Denise mentioned she was going to New York for five days, after her trip to India. Now, that would be a romantic weekend, I thought. I wanted to ask her if she thought Andrew and Liz were having an affair but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. After a while, I put the phone down and eventually went home.

It was about eight when I drove past Lucy’s house. Ivor’s car wasn’t on the drive and I remembered him saying he was going to Holland today, so I phoned her house. “Can you talk?” I asked quickly.

“No,” she said. “I think you must have the wrong number.”

“Did you get me something for Mick?” I asked.

“Yes.” Obviously there was someone there with her in the house.

“Can you throw it out the bedroom window?” I asked.

Then she said, “Yes, it’s OK,” and put the phone down.

I waited in the car and eventually the bedroom light came on and the curtains opened. Then the window opened and Lucy’s hand came out and dropped something onto the ground. I sat for a few moments, then got out of the car, looked up and down the road to make sure no one was watching me, and slowly walked past the drive and onto the grass. I picked it up, then walked back to the car and got in quickly. I opened the bag and looked in. It was a Renault car in a box, with French writing on; exactly what I wanted. I drove home and parked on the drive and, before I locked my car, Mick opened the front door, with a big grin on his face.

“Have you got it?” he said.

“Yes.” I gave him the bag and he opened it as he walked into the front room.

He pulled the box out. “Thanks, Dad,” he said, then he opened it and showed his mum.

“That’s nice,” she said. “Aren’t you a lucky boy? Daddy didn’t bring me anything.”

I froze for a second. “I didn’t really have much time for shopping. I wanted to get home. You can have the seven hundred pounds.”

Liz laughed and said, “I’m only joking”.

I picked up the car and pointed out that the number plates were different to ours and the writing on the box was French - so that Liz would know it could only have come from France. Mick pushed it around on the carpet for a while and took it up to bed with him.

He took his car in to school to show his mates the next day. I didn’t see Debbie.

At midday, I arrived at the pub to meet Lucy but she didn’t show. I drove back to the garage, worried in case something had happened to her on the way to meet me. I rang the house from my mobile and Lucy’s mum answered. “Is Ivor there?”

“No, I’m sorry, who is it?” she asked.

“It’s Nick.”

“He’s gone to Holland.”

“It doesn’t matter, I was just ringing on the off chance he fancied a drink tonight.”

“He won’t be back till Thursday night.”

“No problem, I’ll ring him then. Are you all right?” I asked. “I haven’t seen you for ages.”

“Yes, I’m fine. Lucy has had to go down to Devon. Her friend’s husband has passed away and she has gone down to look after her for a couple of days. She left this morning early on the coach.”

“Never mind, I’ll ring them at the weekend. Is that the friend in...” I was struggling to think of a place in Devon. “Bude?”

“No, it’s a place in Woolacombe, called Mortoe, I think.”

“Oh, I know, with a bed and breakfast.”

“It’s a caravan park, it’s on the right as you go into the village.”

“That’s right, I remember them telling me now.”

“Yes, it was a shame, he was only 41,” she went on to say. “He was having an affair with a local girl when his heart gave up.”

Lucy’s mum was one of those people that never stopped talking and loved gossip. She told me about her illness and how bad she was on her last holiday in Cyprus and where she’d been, in full detail. I talked to her on the phone for ages; I couldn’t get her off. I had the information I wanted though and eventually I said goodbye to her after about twenty minutes and hastily put the phone down.

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