Marking Time

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College

1

Laura thought that her world had been turned upside down over the past few months, and certainly since she had entered the life of Neville Anderson. She found him to be a gifted, wealthy and successful business man; a man rejected by his wife and who had come to terms with the sudden, jolting change to his circumstances; an engaging man whom she had met on the last holiday that she had been able to take, before the hideous and limiting controls on everyone’s lives had been imposed.

The pandemic had taken its toll on countless millions, but she had refused to let the restrictions affect her re-ordered life with Neville. She had gone on that holiday to Barbados to recover from the break-down of a relationship. She soon discovered, as he was seen to be sitting on the beach and skimming stones so expertly, that Neville was there for similar reasons.

A certain and impulsive bond had soon formed between them and here she now was, at the Anderson family home; living the part of Neville’s live-in lover as the restrictions had been ramped up. Put simply, she could not leave and be in her flat in London; there to sort out the changes in her work and personal life that meeting Neville had persuaded her were necessary.

She was falling in love with the man, older as he was than she, and with a daughter and son; one still at school and the other, a precocious young man who was kept from his university studies; both of them around the house as she and Neville sought to make sense of their lives and where it would lead them; thoughts and feelings that their chance meeting on holiday now had them confront but in the cloistered surroundings of the Anderson home.

‘I’ve gone from the mayhem of a holiday to this…from a single, independent life to one with a man with a family who see me as an interloper as they adjust to different ways…’

Neville was breaking the lockdown rules and going into work, Laura, his daughter was to be driven to the care home where she sought work experience; and Josh, that enigma of a young man with his roving eyes, was at work somewhere in the house.

She had time to dress and plan her day.

2

They had wanted it to happen; they had seen it in each other’s eyes again as they dined under the stars and in unimaginably beautiful and incomparably different surroundings, the service attentive and yet unobtrusive. Candles flickered in fluted glasses set at the centre of the table; the evening air was balmy and the sharing of confidences seemingly the easiest way to break down any remaining barriers or doubts about what they chose to embark upon.

They rushed it; they prolonged it; but neither of them had said that they should stop doing it.

Kisses first enjoyed as they strolled along the beach had soon deepened; Neville’s touches through the silky film of her dress to the swell of her breasts, were soon followed by her responses; the press and clamp of hands to evidently firm and desiring flesh.

They knew moments of an aching restraint as they returned to the terrace of the hotel; all that they could touch or offer caresses to were the hands that they held as they walked to her choice and pricey bedroom suite; the fumble for a key made so difficult by the renewal of questing touches upon each other; the sharing in hungering kisses.

She had pushed on the door as Neville deftly unzipped her dress and eased it from her shoulders; she had felt slow fingers and kisses as he unfastened her bra, the slow progress over her belly until he lingered and caressed moist skin; he guided every move that soon had them naked in each other’s arms, their lips and tongues, fingers and hands exploring and pleasing; licking and kissing gently, touching and holding…then clasping and holding more urgently.

Laura laughed appreciatively at all that he soon did for her. ‘You know…?

‘Yes…I know…this beats skimming stones.’

The tumult of that first night together had been but the beginning of a journey without parallel in her life thus far..

3

Josh slumped down in the chair under the parasol and glanced only briefly her way; at his father and at that woman he had invited to the house; Laura. She couldn’t help but stare back at him, but not in a way that suggested that he should ignore what he had soon begun to feel. He believed that he knew enough to read the sign of approval in the look of those eyes upon him.

She was attractive enough in how she looked and in what she had chosen to wear. He liked the lightweight jacket with its studs and patterns of flowers; it complemented that floaty dress she had chosen for a warm summer’s day that Laura would spend with the Madeley family. It flattered her figure. When it swirled in the breeze it showed off slender legs and nicely shaped calves; she’d showed him enough to know what had attracted Dad to her. And…and she had an answer for what had been said to break the ice…to move them on from awkward moments after the introductions had been dispensed with.

He illegal bahis remembered how she had met his smile on first meeting him; the coolness of her touch. His appraising look may have been far too direct, but she hadn’t looked away, and he didn’t care what she might think of him doing that. He had even seen a wistful smile, on lightly rouged straight lips, that he took to be an acknowledgment of what was playing out in his mind, even on a first meeting.

Laura was simply someone Neville had brought to the house and for them to meet; a woman with long auburn hair and its blonde highlights that she had fastened neatly at her neck; the braid held by a jewelled clamp; her slender face lightly made-up. For her, he thought, no artifice was needed to catch the eye of Neville…or him, he now realised.

It was what he always did when he saw someone he fancied the look of. Leanne, his regular girlfriend…he wouldn’t go nearly so far as to say his steady girlfriend from school and college…had known it from the off in their relationship.

What had she told him, sometime later?

Oh yes; ‘you come on to people far too obviously.’

She hadn’t minded it, then. She’d also learnt of his restless ways too. So, it was just as well there was a long summer break and time enough for them both to meet other people…to live it all out if the chance came their way.

That had been the plan until the pandemic pushed life right off a known track. Still, on the plus side, they could all meet as a ‘family bubble’, even if to do so stretched the rules beyond breaking point. But who was to know, given where the family home was situated. It lay in the rolling hills close to Stoke on Trent and where Neville, Dad, had his pottery works – Anderson China.

He felt his wick twitch and fumbled.

It was as well that Laura and Dad were still standing by the fence. Dad, or is it Neville? When do you reach the age when one word falls away and a person’s name gets used?

Neville couldn’t keep his hands off her, or so it seemed. A touch to Laura’s arm or cheek, a kiss…just a peck really…showed him that he cared for the woman. It made a change, seeing the way he was with Laura. It was also at odds with how it had been with his mother; but then he and Megan weren’t around to see what might go down between them, parents, that other kids would see.

‘In loco parentis’: that was what you were made to feel and think, rely upon; when you were away at boarding school. The authorities there helped you through the day-to-day stuff; while your real parents got on with their lives…without you.

Should anyone be really surprised that he went and found it with girls; with any one of them that he took a fancy to and chose to pursue?

Maybe Mum and Dad had fallen out of love with each other.

Maybe, Mum had gotten bored with the routine ways of it that married people seemed to have. You lived with and loved with the same person for a hell of a long time, if you’re lucky. That Becky Sanderson, at Naismith’s where he was glad to work in his gap year – her marriage hadn’t lasted so very long. Three years, max; and she was just twenty-two and living it out again.

She had been hooked by a guy before she’d even lived it out and met him. ‘That was some drinks do the company put on and I went to,’ he murmured. ‘I was sure glad to get the invite, as we got on rather well, Becky and I; and I’ve not been there long and there’s something to look forward to beyond our first ways of it. There’s a lot more for her to know about me…’ He shifted to geta better view of Laura.

‘Work experience…keeping fit and prepping for the rugby season is fine as far as it goes. I also need other action and this lockdown is going to be a bind…will do my head in. The boundaries to my world are being drawn in; tight.’

‘All I’m doing is what he’s already gone and done; found another woman…that Laura.

She’s smart and she looks classy; but she’s no raging beauty; and in that lies the interest in her…for me. What goes for Dad may go for me too.

Leanne’s told me often enough. I’m not always the nicest of guys to be with, but she’s still there, clinging to me sometimes and…I guess I rely on that too. You have to hold on to whom you know and may get to care about. It doesn’t stop me looking around… to see what can be tamped.’

‘Josh?’ he heard Neville laugh out, ‘pay attention will you?’

‘What?’ Sorry; I was miles away…’

‘Don’t we just know it,’ Megan chipped in.

He noticed Laura look at Neville. She was sussing them all out again, and what she might be letting herself in for with this family; when the ‘kids’ are away and then into their own thing when they’re at home…Dad working at something that only he understood the reasons for…and the sparks off Megan and her ways of showing her disapproval of something or someone.

Sis had changed though, almost overnight. She’d gone all dreamy on them. And now, she’d taken a call from someone and had walked illegal bahis siteleri onto the lawn with a look on her face that showed she’d been pulled; how far it had gone he could only tell from what he heard about her…when they were packed off to that place away from here.

She was distant…uninterested, even in a fumble with someone at school. Megan’s smile now seemed to suggest things had changed and that some guy had taken a hold in her.

‘I was saying, Josh…that we’re going to have a barbecue this weekend…on Sunday.’

‘Right…

‘You could ask Leanne to join us and to be with you?’

‘I could do…but there’s a problem called the pandemic.’

‘Said with such enthusiasm,’ Neville teased. ‘Or ask someone else you’ve met recently through Naismith’s?’

‘I’ll ask her…ask Leanne,’ he retorted, clearly irritated at being hassled. ‘It’s a bit short on notice and it’s a hike for her…coming all the way here from London with all the restrictions in place.’

He saw Neville’s smile as he looked at Laura. What have they cooked up now, that I’ve got to go along with?

‘Leanne could get a lift with me,’ Laura now offered. ‘I could help you out there…’

Josh’s face remained impassive, but his mind raced.

The woman’s going to help me with my love life. No one’s ever done that before, not even Mum; she rarely, if ever, asked me about girlfriends and Neville just assumed that I did or didn’t do it, whatever that means. Questions, deep questions, about how I felt about being sent away were never asked…the closeness and presence of those you thought loved you…who didn’t go pushing you off somewhere. So, to get some balance, I just went looking for it, that sense of being deeply loved, and the girls I went with weren’t forced into being with me.

‘Thanks for the offer,’ he now told Laura. ‘I’ll call Leanne and tell her the plan…ask her what she thinks.’

The woman’s growing on me, and she’s going to be around the Anderson’s a whole lot more. He smiled inwardly to himself. The words that had sprung to mind were only too close to describing what he had begun to feel in his groin.

Laura’s presence would give him something to think on. Dad wouldn’t be about all of the time but his woman would be, or often enough for him to see what played out.

4

‘Hi…so you’re in here,’ she was startled to hear a voice say. ‘I heard you humming.’

Laura turned to look his way and met Josh’s smile; soon took in his appraising glance upon her. It again showed overt interest in her that she had seen on that day of a barbecue and when he had been with Leanne. It also hinted at renewed confusion in his mind.

She caught a glimpse of herself in the oval mirror that hung over the redundant fireplace in what had once been a parlour, but now served as a utility room. The sunlight streaming through the window made her long, unfastened hair glisten as she turned to look at him.

Neville’s silk bathrobe was tightly fastened at her waist, it accentuated the press of her breasts against the fabric; its hem was just above her knees; he would have seen her legs and that she stood barefoot before him; neatly painted red on her toenails, as on her fingernails. Her hair did look a mess, but she sensed that he did not notice that, at all.

She suppressed a sigh.

This could get complicated if she failed to take control of the situation. It was only too easy to look his way; more difficult to understand the sudden flush of longing that she now felt on seeing him, what she had heard Neville tell of his son, and knowing that they were alone in the house.

‘Hi…’

‘Sorry, if I startled you,’ he smiled. Josh leant casually against the door frame, his reticence all but gone. ‘Dad’s out, I suppose?’

‘Yes, Josh, he is. How long have you been standing there?’

‘It’s only been a few moments. Why, Laura…is it a problem?’

‘Never mind…’

She resumed her ironing but wondered about him; turning occasionally to look his way. Josh continued to lounge, with one hand in his pocket and evidently at ease; his bulk seemed to fill the space. He exuded confidence in what he was now doing.

‘I don’t mind you being here, you know?’ he soon told her.

Laura smiled.

I’ve gathered that, she thought.

She saw his eyes narrow, as if he’d taken in something new about her; perhaps it was the way that she moved or the slip of the silk robe over her skin. As her tan faded so the freckles on her breastbone, to the bridge of her nose and to her arms, became more pronounced. The effects of the Barbados sun on her auburn hair, the sun-bleached strands, that she was so pleased with, would remain a while longer.

She had become the centre of his attention; where was she to go with that?

She too had been there, on first seeing him such a short time ago. How disconcerting to know that that her interest in the young man had never quite left her; in spite of Neville’s assured, tender and deeply loving canlı bahis siteleri ways.

‘I’m glad you don’t mind. There’s no point in endless arguments about what your father’s been through…’

‘Quite the opposite, in fact,’ he laughed out. ‘I need someone to help me with Megan. She just wants to stress out…to make our lives…and yours, in particular, so bloody. As if we haven’t had enough to deal with…to get through, you know? My mother just splitting…and just like that!’ The snap of his fingers, to both hands, echoed in the room and startled her for its intensity. ‘Sorry…’

‘It’s okay…really. Neville’s told me about it…’ She smiled again, quickly, nervously. ‘And there’s Megan. She’s changed. She’s met Dylan…’

‘We’ll have to see…’

‘You and Leanne being with Dylan and Megan…you all got on so well at the weekend…I thought. Your father thought so too…’

‘Yes…so he said.’

He’d drawn closer and she had met his look upon her as the blouse was laid out on the ironing board, pressed time and again, needlessly, as they talked of things that concerned them most of all.

She felt conflicted, crazy as it was, and made to unplug the iron.

‘Here, let me do that?’ he said helpfully, brushing past her. Their shoulders touched; her hand brushed his arm. ‘I’m glad we can talk for a moment. Megan’s so bloody confrontational and possessive, sometimes. She puts everyone off…guys mostly…guys who’d like to be with her…guys at school when we were there, together, but who don’t want the mess and tangle that she brings.’

They stood awkwardly close, just talking.

‘And you’re not like that, are you Josh?’

‘You’ve noticed?’ he smiled and seemed to visibly relax. His look upon her had softened, and in that Laura felt a challenge. ‘That’s something…’

‘I’m beginning to do that,’ she answered, ‘to notice how it is here.’

It’s difficult not to, sometimes, she thought, trying to grab her blouse and to show Josh that she was intent on leaving him and getting dressed.

Josh saw her look down at the ironing board, a frown of indecision on her face.

‘I’ll deal with that too…okay?’ he soon told her.

Laura saw the soft ripple of his arm muscles under his lightly tanned skin as he handed her the blouse. The board was soon stowed away in the ceiling height cupboards that flanked one wall of the room; it served as a workspace and a sitting room, a place to get out of rain-soaked gear as and when the need arose. A battered but comfortably old armchair, covered in a faded floral fabric, stood in one corner by a table with an oil lamp set at its centre.

She had found it homely; now it was a place for a rendezvous with Josh; a place to talk, whether she wished it or not. No one, least of all a young man of Josh’s age, had come onto her in quite the way that he had.

‘Want a coffee?’ she blurted out, disconcerted; she had begun to think of what could follow these banal exchanges and how to deal with it.

‘No…no thanks,’ he soon corrected.

‘Then I’ll go and get dressed. Your father will wonder what I’ve been doing all this time.’

‘Chatting to me; but you can please yourself,’ he said moodily, all of a sudden. His eyes never left her as Laura fussed with her robe.

‘I will, Josh…’ He stood in the doorway once more, blocking her way as she made to leave. ‘Please, Josh; let me pass?’

‘In a moment,’ he said calmly. ‘You’re chic…in the ways that you dress…so different…and so beautiful to me,’ he blurted out. ‘I saw that the moment you first came here…when we met. You were wearing that swirly floral dress and a windcheater with its patterns…flowers and studs. I couldn’t forget that…I haven’t forgotten that special moment when I first saw you.’

She hadn’t either. ‘Stop Josh… just stop it, please.’

He had brazenly touched her face in a gentle brush of his fingertips; then to her throat.

‘Those freckles on your skin are something else…especially here.’ He now touched her breastbone, pressed his fingers to her flesh as she tried to make him give way. It failed to divert him from his purpose…of going with her.

She looked up at him, searchingly and wonderingly as a palpable sense of longing took hold in her and that his touch had aroused in mind and body. Yet she sought to disclaim it.

Don’t let this happen…

‘Josh, please stop this…you must stop. I won’t say a thing about it…what you’ve said and done just now. Your girlfriend, Leanne’s…’

‘Leanne’s not here and she’d never know!’ he flared. ‘She believes what I tell her.’

She gained another insight; his casualness when it came to others.

‘But we would.’

Josh shrugged.

She put her hands to his chest, sought to push past him once more or to get out of the way, or to persuade him to stand to one side. He didn’t move, but his manner was unthreatening. Was it to be consensual…with her agreement if she allowed it to continue? She remembered what Unity had often been consulted upon; the seduction of an agreement to proceed. Regrets later…for all that had ensued during those first few moments, when rejection, though difficult to hear in the ears of someone being rebuffed…were but empty sentiments.

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