Playing Away

Adele Parks
Książka Playing Away
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Connie has been happily married for a year. She's just met John Harding. Imagine the sexiest man you can think of. He's a walking stag weekend. He's a funny, disrespectful, fast, confident, irreverent pub crawl. He is also completely unscrupulous. He's about to destroy Connie's peace of mind, her grand plan for living happily ever after with her gentle, loving husband Luke. It's against the rules. It's the closest thing you'll get to an affair, without actually having one. Before the invention of networking people simply met, social climbed or licked arse. Now it's more hygienic. Now we have networking conferences, in Blackpool. I don't know, which is more depressing.I walk into the hotel lobby, late, to demonstrate my mind set. I shake the April showers from my umbrella and I'm immediately splattered with boisterous laughter from the hotel bar. The evening's entertainment is already underway. My esteemed colleagues are tipping sand buckets down the stairs and racing shots, badly, so that pink sticky liquid comes out of their noses. My heart sinks, I don't want to be here. I want to be at home with my husband, curled up in bed, reading or making love. Husband! I love that word. It's my favourite word and I've used it excessively over the last nine months, since I netted him.I know the whole conference will be a fearful bore; too much testosterone and not enough intelligence. I work for a large Management Consultancy (Looper Jackson) and in six month time we are merging with a mammoth Management Consultancy (Peterson Wind) to form a huge, dick singing one (Peterson Windlooper - I'm unsure what is to become of Jackson). The purpose of this conference for the management to identify natural leaders, team players and losers in a bid to reconstruct departments. I imagine preferred scenarios. I want to be on a beach in Barbados, I want to be in All Bar One with the girls, The King's Road, I want to be just about anywhere, other than here. I Pause. Except the office. That was a very miserable thought. Best to check in, clean up and face it.I drop my bag, sigh, cast a glance around the chintzy bedroom, then call my husband. Disappointingly but somewhat predictably, he isn't in. The bathroom is large and white, with hideous gold swan taps, a butchers window at Christmas time. I run a bath, emptying the Crabtree and Evelyn salts into the lunging faucet. After bathing I dress. It's a black tie evening and every woman will opt for a conventional flouncy dress. To provide contrast I dress with a nurtured, rebellious streak, choosing a black sheer trouser suit. The top parts to show a tantalising flash of my stomach; currently flat, brown and sexy. I pile my hair on top, it looks too serious, so roughly, hurriedly I pull down random strands and twist them into dreadlocks. I check the result in the mirror and I'm pleased. I'm still more delighted when I thread my way through the white table clothes, black suits and predictable, unflattering ball dresses.It's the usual corporate dinner thing; vast, unseemly and profligate. Everyone is really going for it, a scene from Sodom and Gomorrah. Beery, bleary men stand in pulsing packs leering at the women. Red, drunken faces lurch forward, slurring their words and thoughts. The women wear their make up smudged around their eyes and their noses, their foreheads are shining, hardly vogue. Tomorrow will be the day for embarrasses nods and painful headaches but fuck it, tonight is the time to go for it. Sod them and tomorrow. By contrast my plan is, dinner, excuse, retreat, retire and ring my husband. I find my table and name plate, sit down and pull my face into a practised, polished social smile.His eyes are unfair.Too big, too blue, too overwhelming to allow any female a reasonable attempt at indifference. He has fine, transparent skin with a sprinkling of freckles. He is lean, taught, well defined, athletic. Not an ounce of unnecessary about him. He smells clean but not perfumed. He looks at me and his eyes level me, slice me. He's exploded a kaleidoscope of emotion. Fizzy splinters of rich colours blast internally, lodging in my head and breasts. My knickers and heart pull together. I'm shivering. The predictable masses surrounding, merge into one pointless, homogenous blur, we're left in an appalling clarity. I'm shocked and disturbed by my jumping la Perla. I immediately dismiss any semblance of disguising, polite, small talk."I'm married.""I'm a tart," he smiles.Both the defence and challenge."That's the introductions over with, want a drink." He is already pouring me one.We are outrageously overt. We flirt to an awe-inspiring level. Within minutes I slip back into my flirtatious ways that were second nature before I married but unnecessary and unseemly for some time. I am direct, evasive, sophisticated, straight forward, coy, seductive. Much more seductive than I've ever been before. He is also full of contradictions. He talks about his job, which is dull, but he appears brilliant. He's jumped through burning hoops and balanced balls on his nose to secure his position at Peterson Windplane. Now he can smell his own success, it reeks. He tells me he deserves the conference gig, the whole jolly. It's obvious he has no intention of doing any work, beyond scoring women and drugs. He stands up and is disappointingly short but seems majestic. It is devastatingly ambiguous. It is irreparably clear-cut.We talk about sex and not much else, establishing the things we have in common. He confesses that he has an unsquashable habit of immediately identifying the most desirable woman in the vicinity. Wherever he is; a bar, at work, the pub, the tube, in a shop. I remember that skill and tell him so. He nods and simply affirms, "It's compulsive. I don't think this talent is a unique one. Many a time a mate and I have settled on the same sleek bob of hair or slim set of hips. The odd thing is finding a woman who tells me she does the same." He shakes his head in disbelief. "Sometimes if I am on the pull, I don't bother with chasing the most attractive. I mean it's a waste of fucking time if really you just want to get your end away. So I identify the most readily available. Quite distinct and apart.""What am I?" I ask, shamelessly. I know he is unlikely to admit he is keen for a quick shag and I'm giving of available signals. But I sowant him to flatter me."You gorgeous, with your masses and masses of long blond hair, beautiful face, cracking figure, full round tits and tiny waist_"He touches my knee with the edge of his whiskey glass, I shiver but drag it away."_You with your intelligent eyes, eyes which you turn on me with cold indifference, are undoubtedly the most attractive woman here."He touches my knee again and I don't move it."But you are different. Because, whilst being undoubtedly the most attractive woman here, you are also the most unobtainable. You see I never dip my pen in the company ink and besides which, you're married." Yet habit compels him to add, "I've slept with ninety nine women, how do you fancy being the hundredth?""Does that line ever work?" I ask, laughing at his audacity, despite myself."Ninety nine times, to my certain knowledge.""You're pathetic.""But it doesn't worry you."He is right. I fancy him so much I think I'm going to be sick. I fancy him so much I think I must be sick. He leans towards me. I'm so very close to his mouth I can taste, on the air that he expounds, beer and cigarettes; an intoxicating perfume."You fascinate me Sweetie, you are fucking fascinating."I bristle with the excitement, have I ever fascinated my husband?"You are so bloody cocky, full of yourself. I like that in a girl."He adjusts his trousers, fighting his erection."I like your calmness of manner. It disarms me slightly that you are so confident in your attraction. But, fair play to you I admit, your assessment of your attractiveness is in no way over ambitious. You are a very beautiful women. You're also very clever, more intuitive than intellectual to tell the truth I rate the latter higher than the former, but neither should be ignored." Without giving me time to be offended, he continues, "you are dead amusing. You really must be, because I've laughed all night and I can't imagine that it is all motivated by my desire to flatter you."I nod, too hoarse with desire to answer. I sip some water."But we agreed I am unavailable."He smiles."Yes. Having said that, it seems odd to me that earlier, when I smiled and nodded to you, you returned with a smashing smile. It seemed to me that your eyes, well_" he shrugs, "I'm experienced enough to know that your indifference is feigned. I think you are quite capable of myopic and hedonistic fucking, your brazen frivolity is obvious.""I'm married." I insist."You mentioned that.""Blissfully so."He grins, "How long?""Six months.""Six months and you are behaving like this?"For a second I despise his smugness."We've been together for four years."He raises his eyebrows as if he's heard it all before. I'm furious with myself for trying to justify."I've never looked at another man in all that time_""Until now." He finishes my sentence with appalling accuracy. "Can I get you another drink?" I hesitate. "Go on a quick one," he coaxes. He stands up and makes towards the bar. I look at the gold and diamonds on my left hand and throw out a final, desperate clasp at respectability."It's OK our flirting like this, as I really am happily married and it can't go anywhere. I will never, ever have an affair. I will never, ever, have sex with anyone other than my husband."I spell it out plainly before he gets the wrong idea, before I get the wrong idea! But just as I settle into smug self-righteousness, I hear myself add, "but if I'm wrong and if ever I were to have an affair it would be with you.""Yeesssssssssssssssssss." He punches the air and practically skips to the bar.Noooooooooooooooo. I sit alone in the crowd, horrified with myself. As soon as his back is turned, I run to my room. I close the bedroom door behind me and lean heavily upon it, shaking. I kick off my Gucci steel healed shoes, slowly undress and climb into bed."Shit. That was close, to close." Angrily I punch the pillows and make a feather husband. Curling tight into the effigy I vow to spend the rest of the conference arduously avoiding him.
Data wydania: 2003
ISBN: 978-0-14-029065-3, 9780140290653
Język: angielski
Wydawnictwo: Penguin Books

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