This Wretched Heart

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Head And Heels

‘And the clouds ain’t so high anymore, since my head and my heels left the floor’

Feathered Pocket by Wallis Bird


He had slept with a lot of women, seen so many vaginas and breasts , that his recollections of one night stands were always strange myriads of different parts melded together. He had come most of the time bar the few ‘brewer’s droop’ incidents. If asked he would have said he enjoyed most of them. Physically one shag had been pretty much the same as another. He had his routine ‘down’ so to speak, a lick here a stroke there, seemed to please most of them. Lying next to Lara it occurred to him that he had for a very long time been going through the motions with women. Last night had woken him up to the sad realisation. His repertoire had finally changed because he had actually listened to her body. Every groan she had made,every movement of her hips and lips, lashes and thighs had been hardwired to his own and he had responded in a way he could never remember doing. Her pleasure had been at the forefront of his mind that he would have happily let her come with just his hand. He had wanted to feel her throbbing on his fingers but she had wanted him inside her and he had been only too happy to oblige. All the little glimpses of her over the last few months had been foreplay he realized and seeing her there in front of him in all her beautiful incandescent nakedness would nearly have been enough to convulse him like a horny teenager. It had taken all his strength and experience not to.

She had been awake before him and he cringed a little as he wondered had he perhaps farted unknowingly in his sleep. This was always a hazard of sleeping with someone new but for some reason with Lara it felt one hundred times worse were she to witness such an emission. Maybe because he knew this was the kind of thing Peter would do or any guy in a long term ‘comfortable’ relationship. He didn’t want to be that person to her yet. He wanted to be her something new and she could be his something borrowed. He blushed slightly at that comparison.

‘ Hey’ He pulled his arm off her chest and wondered how long she had been lying there trying to get out.

‘ Hey …’ She smiled quickly but he gulped as he realised she wasn’t basking in the afterglow of last night.

Sitting up he pulled the covers around his waist.

‘ Everything ok ?’ Here it goes she never wanted to see him again and she was about to tell him what he had told so many girls before that this was a one night thing.

‘ Yeah I mean no. Look sorry I just have to grab my phone’ She looked guilty ‘ Sorry this is awkward but I forgot to tell Peter I would be here all night and I left my phone in the hall’. She leaned over and grabbed her T shirt and he caught a glimpse of her perfect porcelain buttocks which she then covered with her turquoise knickers.

He grinned both relieved that she wasn’t ditching him and also because he was brought back to where they had started their night’s activities. He could just about hear her mumbling voice in the sitting room and wondered how that conversation would go. He was finding it difficult to amalgamate the image of Peter his friend with the Peter with whose wife, he had just spent the night with. He felt sad that all of this meant an end to their friendship but he understood why it had to be that way. Obviously.

She came back in and her face was unreadable.

‘Something wrong?’ He seemed to be in agony aunt mode this morning.

‘ No.. no I suppose everything is as it should be.’ She walked over to the bed and sat on the edge facing away from him looking out the window. The lawn was covered with the white coating of crisp frost and he couldn’t help but hope that his parents wouldn’t decide to go out in the garden right this moment. He never knew with them. If he hadn’t been so busy last night he might have remembered to draw the curtains. Had he done so he wouldn’t have the chance to watch Lara for a moment with the sunlight gleaming in upon her bare back making her hair and skin glow reminding him again of how bewitching she could seem. He reached out and lightly stroked her back and she moaned, lying back onto his lap. Her beautiful breasts were waiting to be licked and instead of asking her to elaborate on her mood he made it better, the best way he knew how.


She was lying on his chest and they were both completely naked on his living room carpet. They hadn’t made it to his bedroom this time. It had all been too surreal for a while. She had jumped out of the box that was her life and was dancing on the lid. She thought back to her first night with Sam and how mind blowing it had been, in so many different ways. Being with him after all those months of longing had taken its time to sink in. The first time she had awoken next to him had been both blissfully wonderful and heart shakingly difficult. When she had rung Peter that first morning he had been on his way home from spending the night with another woman. Even though she had prepared herself mentally for that, it hadn’t stopped her wanting to retch when he told her.

‘ Where are you ?’ She could hear traffic and it was much too early for him to be going anywhere.

‘ I’m on my way home ...’.

‘ So you’ve done it?’ She felt like she was asking a hitman whether he had completed his assignment.

‘ Yeah ,Oh God this feels so strange doesn’t it? Are you mad at me? Where are you ?’ She tried to feel relief that they had both been with other people on the same night but instead she was overcome with dread. It was like when they were going out first and she sometimes felt she didn’t have a handle on what he got up to when she wasn’t around. He would tell her about something he did with his friends while she was at home moping and she would feel almost betrayed by the fact that he had a life outside of her. It would make her realise how little she knew him despite how infatuated she was with him. Now she felt the same alienation. He had gone out and done something completely unknown to her and it felt as if he was drifting away from her. It was different for him because he knew who she was with. At least he had a face to put to her night. Her imagination would do its worst.

‘ Are you still there?’ She wasn’t sure if he meant on the line or at Sam’s.

‘ I’m still at Sam’s’.

‘ Are you ok?’ She didn’t really know the answer to that one.

‘ I will be. I’ll be here another while and then I’ll be home we can talk’. She was glad it was the weekend because going to work and waiting to have that conversation would have been pure agony.

‘ I love you Lara I love you so much , that hasn’t changed’. This time she felt relief because she loved him too and all that had happened hadn’t changed that , at least.

‘ I love you Peter’. It sounded insincere and that was only because the jealousy she was trying to subdue was rearing its ugly head.

As she hung up she intended on telling Sam she was going to leave but when his fingers touched her breasts it was easier to let her mind switch off as she luxuriated in getting to know his body all over again. She couldn’t believe that she now had two men in her life who were attracted to her. She felt like the luckiest woman in the world although its burden was heavy with uncertainty. She had left him lying in bed smiling at her. There was the tug of Peter, home now alone, pulling her away fighting the desire to crawl back into bed with Sam for another day.

Peter had hugged her deeply when she got home and had started kissing her passionately.

‘ I want to get a shower’ She hadn’t had one after all and it would just feel gross sleeping with her husband when Sam’s smells were all over her.

‘ I had one already’ He smiled sheepishly ‘ I’ll wait for you’.

They had sat opposite each other at the kitchen table as they had done before all of this happened. She didn’t want to fall into bed again. Apart from being exhausted , she wanted to talk about what had happened.

‘ Coffee?’ Peter laughed nervously ‘ We probably both need one’.

The picture of him writhing around with a faceless stranger was too strong this time and she allowed herself to feel the upset that had been brimming.

‘ I’m sorry Peter I know we agreed to this, I’m just feeling all this hurt and resentment and I’m trying so hard not to caus I know I’ve done the same to you’. She tried to smiled through the tears ‘ This is pretty fucked up isn’t it ?’ She rarely swore but this seemed an occasion that warranted profanity.

‘ It’s pretty unusual Lara, yes it is’. She could smell his aftershave he got up to put on the coffee but a floral tinge also followed and she knew this must have been what the other woman had been wearing. It must have been a quick shower. This time the pang of hurt was replaced with one of overbearing curiosity. She hadn’t been sure if she would want to know the details or whether she would want to share them but now she knew that this arrangement could not continue unless she gauged exactly what her husband’s night had been. Her own imagination hadn’t up to that point dwelled too much on what Peter’s experience of being with another woman would be like. Selfishly she had been too preoccupied with Sam. Had he felt strange when he woke up ? Had the sex been amazing ? She needed to know.

That first morning they shared in great candid detail the ins and outs of their separate nights. They had sat all morning in the kitchen talking about how strange it had all been. It was clear that for her the night had been a much more intimate affair. Being with Sam had been much more than just the sex and she had reluctantly admitted this to Peter who seemed to try to understand where she was coming from. Unhinging perhaps was the fact that he was more preoccupied with the physical comparison between them both.

‘ Was he bigger than me ?’ She refused point blank to answer that. The truth was that Peter was extremely well endowed and that often she had to ask him to slow down during their own lovemaking. Sam perhaps not as ‘hung’ as Peter was well endowed himself so it hadn’t meant anything other than she could take all of him in one fell swoop. Her neck became tingly as she remembered how far into her he had seemed. It would feel too mean to talk about Sam’s body to Peter and she hoped he would see that she would do him the same favour if the table’s were reversed. So instead of asking each other about body details they told each other what they had done and this seemed somehow less painful. So it was that Lara would never know whether Karen had bigger breasts than her own or whether she sported brazilian or californian waxed nether regions. Everything else Peter told her and it became apparent that he hadn’t enjoyed the night as much as she had.

‘ I’m sorry’. She blurted it out.

‘ For what ?’ Peter’s hand squeezed hers.

‘ That it wasn’t great for you.’

‘ It’s not your fault. I was so nervous and drunk to be honest that I think it was like what most guys feel like when they lose their virginity’.They giggled because their first time had been quite special and somehow all of this was making them both appreciate what unique situation they had.

‘ Do you want to stop?’ Her heart quit thumping for a few moments because the answer could change everything.

‘ No.. ‘ Peter grinned like a naughty boy ‘ Do you ?’

‘ God no’.

As they always did, holding hands they walked up to their bedroom and had the most spectacular sex they had ever had. Later Lara would wonder had it been because they had something to prove more than ever or had the relief that they were not lost to each other fuelled the passion of their lovemaking. Admittedly it would be a mix of all those and what surprised her the most, the mental image of Peter penetrating someone else had sent her over the edge.

The months had flitted by and life continued as normally as possible. During the day they all did what they usually did. Lara went to everyday to a job she had always just about managed to tolerate only it didn’t eat her up the way it used to. She had a completely new dimension to her life to think about and it was amazing how fantasising about it could make the day go by. Her manager noticed the spring in her step and people complimented her on the glow she was apparently emitting. She had smiled inwardly at what they might have said had she told them what was going on in her personal life.Scratch below the surface of this country and you were back to the conservative 1950’s of acceptable relationships. She had realised over the last year that people liked to pretend they were crazy and interested in all things unusual and different but when it came to it their Catholic guilt was alive but disguised. It was perfectly acceptable to sleep around when young and single but really all of this was just so that people could end their days by settling down with the ‘one’.

She had broached the topic of open relationships with certain friends. But even in a completely detached scenario and from friends whom she had considered free spirited all seemed to agree that it was playing with fire. She didn’t know why she kept trying to talk about it. It must have been her need for approval again. This area of her life was something she would not receive approval of. It frightened people who were in relationships because it fell into the cheating category.

‘ But it’s not cheating is it if you tell each other ?’ She had to be careful to sound casual otherwise people would become suspicious.

‘ If Luke’s dick is anywhere near another woman’s vagina it’s cheating in my book’. Sally one of her colleagues had laughed ‘Whether he writes me a note about it or not it’s still cheating’.

How could she explain to anyone that she felt she was in a love story within a love story. Hers and Peters was still moving forward still evolving and she felt her love grow deeper as his trust and mutual respect never failed to surprise her. Free of the shackles of jealousy, the world seemed to have taken on a different colour and dimension. In this sense she knew what hippies meant when they said free love. She was free now to love and to lust. Women were no longer threatening and neither were men. She wanted to shout it from the rooftops ‘ Don’t waste your life on jealousy, free yourselves’. Her new life had a pink hue to it, gone were the jagged emeralds of before.

Then there was her new blossoming relationship with Sam. She had fallen back so easily into teenage behaviour. Was this what it was always like at the start of every relationship? She had nothing to compare it to other than her own with Peter and then they were teenagers. Although they still went to the park they rarely jogged anymore. They would walk about slowly getting to know each other in a way that hadn’t been possible before. Although she had shared so much of herself with him before she had often omitted details. (She told him about her mother ( Is this the first time ?)

She explained to him the depths of the depression she had been to and that really this had always been part of her life before ever her mother’s suicide. He had listened with such understanding and although he hadn’t suffered the black she had , it made her feel better to have him know, because although she was in a great place it could always come back and she needed to prepare him for it.

‘ I mightn’t want to see you’ She had warned him ‘ I never want to see anyone’.

‘ I’ll force you to come out ‘ He had teased her then in a more serious tone ‘ I understand Lara, I’ve actually read a little about depression and I know you can’t force someone out of it’.

But in those days of blissful infatuation she couldn’t imagine feeling anything like she used to.

Of course there were the technical difficulties of having such a relationship. She knew that Sam couldn’t wait around for her all the time and that he too would go out. She had told him that he was of course perfectly in his right to sleep with other women. At first the thoughts of him doing this had filled her with an anguish so sharp she was completely taken aback. Jealousy was uncertainty’s sidekick it would seem and was she surmised bound to rear its ugly head in precarious situations. She could not really lay claim to Sam as she was already taken. She tried not to think about the possibility of him finding someone else and falling for them. They had talked about it of course.

‘ If you meet someone else I want you to tell me and we can stop this’. She had surprised him with this revelation one morning after a night of sex so intense it had frightened her.

He had sat up with a look of such hurt on his face, she wondered why she had blurted this out.

‘ What the hell are you talking about?’ He seemed angry then.

‘ I just mean that I don’t want you to sabotage your future for a half life’. She took his face in her hands.

‘ I want you to be happy and not stuck in nowhere land’.

‘ I’m not stuck Lara, I know I can leave if I want to, but I don’t want to, I’m happy with this .. whatever this is’. The lump in her throat was both relief and melancholy that this beautiful man was willing to have part of her. She didn’t ask him whether he was in fact still having one night stands because it didn’t really matter. In a strange way she hoped he was because at least he wouldn’t be lonely on the nights when she was at home with Peter.

And although it shouldn’t have mattered it began to feel lonely having an open relationship. When Kate or other friends asked her how she was she had to say ‘fine thanks’. She couldn’t explain that she was feeling more confused as time went by because the only open part of her marriage was where she went to spend time with Sam when her husband was working late. Peter seemed to have given up on his end of the bargain and despite having a free pass had just had one more night stand in nearly six months. Who would understand that this seemed to be fine with him and that he had gotten used to the idea that she and Sam were having a relationship as long as it didn’t interfere with their marriage which up until now it hadn’t. His needs still came first and if he wanted her to stay in with him for no other reason than just wanting to spend time with his wife then she would have to cancel whatever plans she had made with Sam. As it happened he never pulled out this card. She was lucky that his job involved so many night shifts because then she could be with Sam without it infringing on their own time. The boundaries of their lives were constantly changing and the rubber cage she had squeezed out of lay deflated behind her.


She came into the kitchen and he felt the cooling air of a September evening follow her. He had worked from home today and caught up with some much needed bookkeeping. He had been trying to balance the books when suddenly a wave of realization swept over him. And although the past year had been so full of changes and turmoil nothing had floored him quite so much as what just occurred to him. Scrambling to get up he grabbed his keys and wallet and ran out the door.

So when Lara walked in after work she was greeted with a kitchen glowing with candlelight and the yellow of sunflowers, dotted everywhere in glass jars.

‘ Oh my God’. Her hand went straight to her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. She ran towards him and hugged him so tightly he thought she might soak into skin.

‘ Peter I’m so sorry I forgot’ Her green eyes blinked the tears away ‘ Happy Anniversary’.

‘ It’s ok, I forgot too until this afternoon’ They both looked sheepish.

‘ Do you think this means anything ?’ She whispered this and he got where she was coming from. Any other year he would have put it down to their busy work lives and hectic schedules but now everything was different.

‘ I think it means that we’re both useless at remembering dates, like we’ve always been’. She grinned and hugged him again.

He had ordered a takeaway so that he wouldn’t be too tired later. He planned a night of passion with his wife and he hoped that this would pan out. Since she had been with Sam, their sex life had been amazing. He had feared that she would be too tired to do anything with him after all her cavorting with Sam but it was the opposite. At first the thought it might have been guilt on her part and that she was feigning orgasms to bolster up his ego but months later and he was beginning to believe her when she said that she was doing no such thing.

‘ It’s weird but it’s like it makes me enjoy our sex more because it’s so different. I mean Sam doesn’t know me like you do’. No one knew Lara like he did. Looking into her eyes now in the candlelight he remembered their wedding day only a few years ago. It had been a small affair which they had both been completely adamant about. This only proved difficult when telling his mother who couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to invite every possible permutation of family member.

‘ But you’d get so many gifts’ She had implored them ‘ And money’. She thought this would sell it her underfunded son but they were determined not to have a big fuss of a day.

They would have married in a civil ceremony only that he knew that Lara’s dad and his mother would have been extremely upset. So instead they had a tiny service with only their immediate family. Joe had been there of course but apart from that neither he nor Lara wanted anyone else. All their mutual friends were understood and because they knew no one else was invited they weren’t offended. Joe could claim catering duties for his invite. There had been so little planning involved and so little stress that the occasion may well have slid by unnoticed had it not been for the sheer presence of pure love that day. When Lara had walked into the tiny village church everything he had ever wished for came true. Her beautiful copper hair was in loose curls over her shoulders. Later he would see that a delicately jewelled emerald hair clip was holding it back from her face. He realised what she meant when she said she had drawn her inspiration from a nouveau art book she had bought. Her dress was thick lace that came up to her chest which became light and see through up to her neck. He had seen the movies where the brides seemed to float towards the men but he was the one that felt he was floating. Her father had shaken his hand as he handed his only daughter over and Peter felt that there should be some sort of physical exchange at this part. Something to be given back for taking such a precious treasure. Instead he smiled sincerely and hoped David would understand how much he loved his daughter. They had years together before that moment but standing there and declaring that they intended to spend the rest of their lives together propelled them out into the universe on their own. They now formed a new constellation.

Did he feel that they had lied to everyone that day given what path they had taken ? Maybe they had mislead them and themselves that day. But what had really changed ? They would still be together in sickness and in health. They were still faithful to each other. He knew that although Lara had very strong feelings for Sam, he was the one she came home to. He wanted to think she loved him more but he was resigning himself to the word ‘ Differently’. He had their history on his side, a thousand more moments that she and Sam could not catch up on, not at least if he stayed by her side. Did he hope that her infatuation with Sam would dwindle and eventually dim completely. At the beginning yes. At the beginning it had racked his body with torment. When he had come home after his first one night stand and opened the door to an empty house his rage had taken over. He had smashed the bowl they kept in the hall against the wall. Lara’s voice telling him she would be with Sam ‘ a while longer’ had made him want to scream ‘ get the fuck home now you whore’ He knew he was being ridiculous. As ridiculous as he could be in this farcical set up. He had just fucked another woman and yet he still felt that he been somehow coerced into it. He was annoyed he hadn’t really enjoyed it. What kind of man was he? He had been given the go ahead to do what any married man would have wanted , the chance for ‘irreproachable’ cheating. Why was he acting like such a wimp. Would it have been different if Lara was out with anyone else other than Sam ? Maybe. It was a huge risk on his part that he had said yes. The chances of him falling for one of his conquests would be slim. She had already bonded with Sam ever before they had fallen into bed together. But then when she had come home and they had talked everything seemed normal again. The talking part was the most important part of this and despite rolling his eyes at how often people said it , communication in relationships really was key no matter how many people were involved.

‘ So watching Oprah did teach you something after all ?’ Lara teased him when he shared his thoughts with her.

’ Yeah I’m sure she meant ‘open relationship’ when she said it’.

As time had gone by he had gone out and had one more night stand but it was harder than he had previously thought and he found it really difficult to put himself out there. Women could be so harsh and he had never experienced this type of rejection before. He had been too shy before he met Lara to go up to girls at local organised discos but he had just been coming into his own when he met her. After that there had been no need to walk up to the opposite sex and hope for the best. He had the best as far as he had been concerned and still had. He couldn’t picture Lara ever behaving the way some of the women had towards him. Dancing flirtily with a man seemed to mean nothing to them other than a way to pass the night away. If you tried to make a move (which he had just once), they would look at the unfortunate man in a way that was so shocked and disgusted that it was a wonder how anyone ever got together. You needed very thick skin to be a man in today’s world and he wasn’t willing to put himself out there when everything he really wanted was at home. He couldn’t face the teenage angst of self doubt and body issues that accompanied the search for sex. Instead he resigned himself to sharing his wife for the moment. She was happier and this made things between them a lot better. Where it was going was anybody’s guess.

‘ You’ll never leave me for Sam?’ He had asked her a couple of times.

‘ Peter please that’s not going to happen. I’m happy to go as we are and who knows what will happen? Sam will probably meet someone else and then that would be that’. Her voice squeaked a little when she said that and her tell tale neck rubbing gave her away.

All in all though his life hadn’t changed as drastically as one would think.

‘ Does it not make you want to strangle them both knowing they’re up to God knows what right now ?’ Joe seemed to determined to see him lose his cool over what was going on.

‘ Well yeah at first I found it hard but you know it’s not so bad anymore. It kinda takes the pressure off me in a way’. Joe’s bemused face was his reply.

‘ Do you mean in the sex department?’

‘ God no. I mean that I don’t feel so guilty anymore that I can’t be there in the evenings for Lara. At least I know she’s not moping and lonely’,

‘ Far from it.’ Joe scoffed, ‘ Fair play I tell you, fair play’.

The real test for Peter in whether he was truly adapting to his new arrangement happened some ‘idle Tuesday’ as the song went. He had been picking up some milk on the way home and was making his way up to the counter when he saw that Sam had just walked in the sliding door. His heart stopped for a moment and he felt he was going to pass out . Sam’s face registered what could only be described as terror. Shocked by this, he forced himself to half smile in his direction. Sam nodded and grinned then walked away. Looking back, Peter was grateful. Grateful that Sam hadn’t come over for a chat. What would they have said to each other ? It was too tortuous to imagine. Another thing that struck Peter was the sadness he had also felt not being able to have a chat with what he had once considered an unlikely but good friend. Would it ever be possible for them both to be friends ? He didn’t think so.

‘ You’d have to try a spit roast’ Joe had suggested unhelpfully.

‘ Fuck off’.

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