Here’s the next part of “Leefdale” by Michael Murray.
I’m following a well established nineteenth century tradition and publishing some of the novel in weekly instalments.
You can find the links to previous instalments on this page.
So, if you like the Dickensian idea of reading your novels in weekly instalments,
read on …..
Later, Sharon sat in her armchair in front of the fire sipping Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. On the sofa sat Greg Maynard, Louise’s father. He was a burly, dark haired man aged forty and was wearing a suit and tie. Next to him sat Louise, reading aloud from her school reading book. Occasionally, Greg made appropriate comments about Louise’s efforts.
Louise completed the last page and closed the book.
‘Well done,’ said Greg. ‘You’re really improving.’ He gave Louise a cuddle and kissed her on the cheek. Looking across at Sharon, he said, ‘Don’t you think she’s improving?’
Sharon’s lips tightened fractionally. ‘At reading she is!’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Didn’t Pam say anything?’
Pam was Greg’s wife. Jade’s mother.
Sharon looked incredulous. ‘You’ve been home, haven’t you?’
‘And she said nothing?’
Sharon turned to Louise, who’d become deeply engrossed in her book. ‘You’d better tell him what happened today.’
‘Not now, I’m reading.’
Sharon started up from the sofa and stood over Louise, with her arms folded. ‘Tell him now!’
Louise’s attention remained on her book. Almost casually, she said, ‘I hit Jade.’
Greg brought his face closer to Louise. ‘Oh? Why?’
‘She was saying horrible things about me again.’
‘It was the usual thing,’ said Sharon. ‘About her not having a father.’
Greg stroked Louise’s hair. ‘We agreed you were going to ignore all that.’
‘I tried, but she went on and on.’
‘That’s because she knows it upsets you. When you hit her she knew she’d won. You shouldn’t have done it.’
‘Why shouldn’t she?’ said Sharon, flaring.
Greg looked away. He hadn’t the stomach for this old argument again. ‘I can’t understand why Pam never said anything.’
‘Jade’s obviously not told her. She must be ashamed of it.’
‘How did you find out about it?’
‘A note from Mrs Henshall.’
‘Then Pam must have had one too. I’ll ask her.’
‘Don’t be stupid, she’ll want to know how you found out.’
‘I’ll say you told me, of course. She knows I’m dropping in here before the meeting.’
Sharon sighed. ‘That’s the trouble with this situation. You always have to think one step ahead.’ She found herself craving for a cigarette. ‘Anyway,’ she went on, ‘it gets worse. Louise nearly told Jade who her real father was.’
Greg stiffened and sat up very straight. ‘Did you?’
Louise scrambled off the sofa. ‘I’m going, if you’re going to be horrible.’
‘I’m not going to be horrible,’ said Greg, standing up. ‘I just want to remind you of the promise you made to me and mummy.’ He placed his hands on her shoulders. ‘I know it’s difficult but you know how much it’ll hurt us if the truth gets out.’
Louise shoved her father’s hand away. ‘Don’t give me that. You don’t care about me or mummy. You’re only worried about yourself and what people will say when they find out you’ve got two families.’
‘Louise!’ warned Sharon.
‘Well it’s true! Have you any idea what it’s like hiding who I am day after day? Never being able to be normal like everyone else?’
Louise rushed from the room. Shortly afterwards they heard the front door slam. Sharon got up and went over to the window. She remained there watching Louise stomping off down the street. When Louise was out of sight, Sharon returned to her arm chair and sat down.
‘She worries me,’ said Greg.
Sharon knew that Greg was not speaking out of fatherly concern but because he regarded Louise as the weak vertex in their fragile triangle of deceit. ‘Don’t worry, she’ll never say anything.’
‘Shouldn’t you go after her?’
‘It’s all right. She’s got a rehearsal.’
Greg began to complain about how difficult and unmanageable Jade had become recently. He explained that her behaviour had deteriorated at home and confessed he was at a loss to know how to deal with it.
‘I suppose it’s her age,’ he said, finally.
‘Are you sure she hasn’t discovered something?’
He smiled. ‘No. It’s nothing like that.’
Sharon was unconvinced. ‘Maybe Pam found out something and passed it on to Jade.’
Greg’s smile was intended to be reassuring but it merely made him look smug. ‘Pam knows nothing.’
‘Then why does Jade keep taunting Louise about not having a father?’
‘They’re kids. You know what kids are like. Evil little sods, sometimes.’
‘People aren’t blind. They see you coming in here. They put two and two together.’
‘Come on. No-one would think it odd that I drop in from time to time.’
Sharon accepted that this was probably true. He’d gone to great lengths to create the impression that all his visits to Honeysuckle Cottage were connected with his chairmanship of Community Watch and the Leefdale Primary School Governing Body. With his encouragement she’d become secretary of the Community Watch and a school governor. He’d correctly reasoned that this would provide a sufficient smokescreen behind which he could legitimately pay her regular visits on the pretext of discussing their joint civic responsibilities. Tonight he had a meeting of the parish council, and she knew he’d have told Pam he’d be dropping in to Sharon’s first to update his Community Watch report. That’s why he was dressed formally in his best suit, the navy blue one, wearing a crisp white shirt with the blue silk tie she’d given him for Christmas. She always thought blue suited him best.
It occurred to her that she too was dressed more or less formally, still wearing the clothes she’d worn that day for work. What a shame Louise rarely saw her father and mother together dressed casually. The girl had never seen Greg in his pyjamas because he’d never stayed overnight; no amount of Community Watch business could have justified that! And then there were all the other experiences Louise had missed because of their bizarre domestic arrangements. She’d never eaten breakfast with her father and probably never would. Nor had she ever seen him in a swimming costume or a beach shirt, for they’d never been on holiday together. On Christmas Day she’d never exchanged presents with him under the Christmas tree. She’d never gone to a cinema or a bowling alley with him. And, of course, he’d never once discussed Louise’s progress with a teacher at a parents’ evening. All of that was the privilege of his legitimate family. No wonder the poor kid was fed up. Sharon could feel the promise she’d given Louise asserting itself at the forefront of her mind. She steeled herself to tell him that the situation was untenable and would have to end. That she’d decided to move away from Leefdale.
At that moment an ice cream van passed by in the street outside. Its tinny chimes flooded into the room through an open window creating a nauseating atmosphere of synthetic happiness. How she loathed the sound.
‘Fancy an ice cream?’ Greg asked, smiling.
She reacted with a scoff. The question didn’t merit a response. She knew that being seen joining the queue for cornets was the last thing he wanted.
A silence fell over them. A certain tension had entered the room. They were both acutely aware that they had the cottage entirely to themselves. Sharon knew how embarrassed Greg was about making love when Louise was in the house, even when the girl was asleep. She wondered if he was thinking about risking a quickie. Now was the perfect opportunity.
The knowledge that they had the place to themselves and could have uninhibited sex would normally have excited her. But even though she’d known Greg for over ten years and he was the father of her child, tonight she felt unusually inhibited in his presence, as though he were a total stranger. Reminded of her promise to Louise, she again willed herself to tell him that they couldn’t go on, that it was all over. But she stopped short. The enormity of the step frightened her.
‘I took someone to view The Old Rectory today,’ she said.
She described Dylan Bourne and the reasons for his interest in the property. Once started she didn’t want to stop. She was surprised at the unexpected delight she took in uttering his name aloud, and of her pleasure at the thought of him.
Greg expressed perfunctory interest but she could tell from his tone that his mind was preoccupied. As she spoke she caught him eying her intently. She had a fair idea what he was thinking. It was already seven-thirty and his meeting was at eight. Louise was at a rehearsal. This was his rare chance for a shag. Should he take it?
She’d guessed his intention correctly but had no inkling of the trepidation with which he was approaching the opportunity. He was feeling uncharacteristically awkward and unsure. She looked so unattainable in her office clothes: white blouse, short black skirt, black tights; shoes off, feet curled under her as she sat on the arm chair. He was conscious of how young she was; how composed; how full of latent energy she seemed, and, more than ever, of the ten year age gap between them.
His instinct was to go over and kiss her, but he was afraid she might rebuff him. She seemed so cool and self-contained; so impregnable. When she was in this mood his recollection of their passionate and uninhibited fucking seemed like some remote sexual fantasy he’d indulged in when he’d been lying in bed beside his plump, motherly wife. He stared at Sharon again and mentally removed her clothes. Her naked image filled his mind. He savoured the memory of her heavy, swinging breasts, her black triangle of pubic hair and the full, rounded loops of her buttocks. Then he thought of the many, many times he’d breached that iron self-control of hers, and with just the touch of his hand or tongue inflamed in her such intense physical cravings she’d overcome all inhibitions and dissolved with him in an all-consuming, self-extinguishing, wildly abandoned lust. Such thoughts reassured and encouraged him. He felt his flesh stir and begin to thicken.
She saw him staring at her with that intense, preoccupied watchfulness that could only mean one thing. The thought of it sent a quiver of anticipation through her. Suddenly, tiny iron wings seemed to be beating under her breastbone; she felt her breathing quicken and was aware of that delicious spreading ache. Now she too, like him, was thinking only of one thing. She knew she should resist it but was incapable. Her determination to keep her promise to Louise receded as her will weakened and leached out of her. She felt powerless and heavy with acquiescence; thrilled at the futility of resistance; comforted by resignation. She was becoming inert and yet purposeful, like an egg. She wanted him. And with this admission came momentary despair. It was this need to fuck him which made life so difficult: prevented her from taking control or changing anything. The ecstasy of naked contact and penetration obliterated all rationality and logic. It reduced everything else to irrelevance. When they were locked together male and female she wanted it like that for all eternity and nothing ever to change. It had been weeks since she’d had him, and the thought of gorging greedily on such pleasure created a momentum within her which she knew would never be satisfied until her flesh was exhausting itself on his.
He watched her change position in her chair, uncurling her legs and swinging them out until they were planted firmly in front of her. He saw her knees move slightly apart.
He stood up and went across the room towards her. His bulk loomed over her. He stretched out an arm towards her.
She felt the touch of his large practical hand on her cheek. She closed her eyes and pressed her cheekbone hard against his steady palm.
He levered up her face to look at him.
‘We haven’t got much time.’
She stood up. In one smooth movement he bent towards her until his face completely filled her vision. It was his familiar face but with something added: the imperative of lust. Immediately she felt the press of his lips on hers; the warmth and intimacy of his breath; the overpowering musk of his after shave. Her lips parted at the insistence of his tongue and it was instantly inside her mouth, melding with hers, arching, coiling, exploring. The source of all awareness, all sensation seemed to be focussed entirely in this tiny point of connection between her tongue and his, so there was no sense of separateness only this blind and all-consuming commingling and exchange of sensation They kissed and kissed and kissed, their tongues arching and twisting them away into a swoon where there was only the blind ecstasy of hands feeling for all the secret forbidden places and a haste of unbuttoning and unzipping as they tore and pulled and tore and pulled until the last flimsy obstacles to their overwhelming desire were removed.
She grabbed him by the hand and began tugging him across the room towards the stairs.
He resisted and pulled her to him. ‘No, here. Let’s do it here.’
‘The curtains. I must close the curtains!’