“So, this is your new apartment,” Karen remarked when Alex had pushed open the door. “It’s small but it’s better than what I’ve got. Nice location, too.”
Alex nodded. It was a very much smaller than the house whose mortgage he was continuing to pay that was now in Isobel’s exclusive possession and where his daughter was free to scream and bawl all night long with no risk of disturbing him. There might be benefits in living alone, but one most definitely was not the size of accommodation he could afford to buy at such short notice.
“What does your wife think?” asked Karen as she waltzed past Alex to survey the kitchen, bathroom, living room and finally the bedroom of the freshly painted apartment. “She is still your wife, isn’t she?”
“We’ve separated,” said Alex. “Not divorced.”
“And all because of little old me,” said Karen with an irrepressible giggle in her voice as she bent forward to kiss her older lover. “I feel flattered. Really I do.”
“But it doesn’t change anything for you, does it?” Alex wondered sadly.
“Of course not, silly,” said Karen. “You’re far too old for me. And besides, I’ve got other boyfriends. It’s one thing to share lovers when you live alone. It’s another thing altogether if I were to move in. How would you like it if you found me having sex with someone else when you came home? How would you feel if another man wanted to stay overnight? And I don’t think I fancy a ménage a trois either. A threesome now and then is good fun. But every night...”
“I know. I know.”
“Still, it’s a great little flat you’ve got, Alex,” said Karen with enthusiasm. “So I guess I’ll be visiting you now rather than the other way round. I can’t imagine you’d appreciate me just turning up at any old time though; just in case you’ve got another woman sharing your bed.”
“There’s only you, Karen,” said Alex sadly.
“And then there was only one...” said Karen. “You’ve got greedy, you know. You won’t be satisfied with only me coming round a couple of times a week. You’ll want someone else. In fact, I insist on it. I don’t want to think of you being all alone when I’m having sex with Karl.”
“Is Karl your boyfriend?”
“Does it matter, Alex? He’s a guy I know. And Pete, Aaron, Ollie, and others. I know a lot of guys. Some are friends. Some are fucks. Some are both. Just don’t worry about it and we’ll be fine.” Karen placed the palm of her hand on Alex’s crotch. “You feel fine already. In the bedroom?”
“Yes,” said Alex while Karen pushed open the door that was already slightly ajar. Like everything else in the apartment, the bedroom was hurriedly and freshly decorated. The furniture, fittings and all the pictures on the wall were bought as a single item from John Lewis at Brent Cross. It already had the feel of a bachelor pad with yesterday’s underwear overflowing the laundry basket and pyjamas strewn over the pillow.
Karen picked up the pyjama trousers and held them between her thumb and forefingers as if they were contaminated. “You’re clearly not getting enough sex,” she said disdainfully. “Come on, Alex. Take off your clothes. We’re not going to fuck with you still wearing those designer jeans. And what’s with the fucking tee-shirt. Just what or who is Oasis?”
“It was a popular rock group when I was younger,” said Alex.
“Never heard of them,” said Karen who disposed of her own clothes with much more alacrity than Alex. She always seemed most comfortable when in the nude. Alex had asked her whether she was a naturist or the child of naturists, but she’d said she couldn’t see the point of such nonsense. As far as she was concerned, whether to wear clothes or not wasn’t an issue to ever get hung up about.
The two lovers lay on Alex’s bed with the duvet pushed onto the floor while, as always, Karen took the sexual lead. Alex’s penis was pumped, sucked, chewed and finally pushed deep inside a vagina that swallowed it whole within its warm liquid embrace. Alex had the feeling that he’d finally returned home after several weeks of denial during which he’d moved out of a larger home and hurried into his new apartment. There’d been no one to keep him company at the Holiday Inn where he’d stayed between leaving one home and moving into the next.
“How did your wife find out about me?” asked Karen when, still perspiring, Alex slumped back onto his back. Why did she always ask questions like that when he was least able to formulate a rational reply?
“Isobel hired a private investigator,” said Alex. “It was done very professionally. Ultimately paid for, of course, by me.”
“That’s what marriage is all about. Shared bank accounts. What’s mine is yours. That sort of stuff.”
“You weren’t thinking of sharing me with your wife were you, Alex?”
“What’s mine is yours.”
“No, never crossed my mind. Would it have been a good idea?”
“I don’t think so. I might like a lot of things, but I’m pretty straight on the whole. And I don’t think your wife would have appreciated it.”
“She wouldn’t have appreciated it at all,” Alex echoed remorsefully.
“What did she have to say?”
“She didn’t have to say anything. That was handled by the private detective agency. As I said, they were very professional.”
“I don’t understand.”
“They called me at work and told me they had something very urgent to discuss. When I told them that my wife was expecting me home that evening by, they informed me that in actual fact, no, I wasn’t. They arranged to see me at a coffee shop near the office.”
“Two of them: a man and a woman. When I asked how I’d recognise them, I was told not to worry. They’d recognise me.”
“So, what happened?”
“They showed me the photographs and assured me there was much more to see if I wanted, including film footage. They laughed in good humour when I asked if it would get on the internet. All the evidence they’d gathered belonged to Isobel and she could do with it what she wanted.”
“I’m intrigued, Alex. What were the pictures of? Any of us fucking?”
“Yes. Sort of,” said Alex. “They must have used a zoom lens from somewhere. You never draw the curtains in your flat, do you?”
“I’ve never thought to worry about things like that. Fuck! I hope I looked good in the pictures. Did they get my best side?”
“It was pretty explicit. I’d never seen a photo of me in the nude before.”
“No, I suppose you wouldn’t,” said Karen who clearly found this hilarious. “There’s a whole portfolio of me. I could show it to you one day if you like.”
Alex didn’t feel like laughing. “It wasn’t nice. I felt kind of violated. It was like standing in public with my trousers down by my ankles. But, as I say, they were very professional. They let me look at the pictures and made no comment while I was doing so. Then the man spoke. The woman said hardly anything, but I guess it must be good practice to have both a man and a woman together. Makes it more difficult for the person they’re dealing with to make a scene. He told me that my wife wasn’t expecting me to return home that evening and that she would arrange a time when it would be convenient for me to remove my possessions. He said that my wife wasn’t at this stage pushing for a divorce but that a separation was required. If I were to attempt to see my wife without prior agreement it might result in a legal separation order, but if I was cooperative that would not be necessary. Thoughtfully, they’d already arranged a hotel room for me to stay for the night which, of course, was the Holiday Inn at Brent Cross. And all the services arranged for me were, of course, paid by me.”
“I bet that hurt most of all, Alex,” said Karen with a wry smile.
“It’s not nice to have your life turned upside down.”
“It’s not as if you were the innocent partner.”
“I expected you to be a little more sympathetic.”
“I guess I should be, Alex, but I’m not the one who’s been deceitful. I don’t hide my amorous activities from anyone except, of course, for reasons of tact and diplomacy. I mean, I don’t think you really do want to know how many other guys I’ve ever fucked that weren’t you. But you’ve been a very naughty boy. You’ve been fucking me regularly for nearly two years and fucking your wife at the same time. And you’d never thought to tell her.”
“It isn’t something she’s likely to understand.”
“Well, I’m not surprised, Alex,” said Karen. She leaned over again and affectionately kissed Alex’s limp penis. She rested a hand on it and kissed him more conventionally on the mouth. “What made her suspicious?”
“I don’t know. They didn’t tell me.”
“I don’t suppose they’d even know. Why should they? Their job was to gather evidence once there was suspicion. I wonder if they ever trail anyone only to find that the wife’s suspicions are unfounded. Do they give you a refund when that happens?”
“I don’t know,” said Alex who was feeling very sorry for himself. “How could I have been so stupid?”
“Oh come on, Alex,” said Karen. “It’s not been all bad. Look, I’ll give you a blowjob to cheer you up and then we can watch some telly in your new living room.”
“A blowjob?” asked Alex incredulously.
“I’m just not up to more than two fucks in an hour,” said Karen. “And, any case, in the new spirit of candour that I guess we’re going to have to get used to, I’m seeing someone else this evening.”
“It really doesn’t matter,” said Karen. “Come here, sweetheart.”
She bent her head down between Alex’s thighs, took his penis in her mouth and once more brought it to life.
As the couple sat together watching a television news story about a demo against education cuts, there was much for Alex to reflect on. It wasn’t just his relationship with Isobel that had changed. It wasn’t even just the embarrassment of having to explain changed circumstances to friends and family. Nor was it the rather more complex arrangements that would accompany Alex’s relatively infrequent visits to his daughter. There was also a change in his relationship with Karen.
For so long, it had been predicated on the very fact of non-commitment that suited Alex so well when he was living with Isobel. Could their relationship survive now that Alex could no longer be described as unfaithful? He wondered whether he could continue a relationship for much longer with someone who not only didn’t want commitment from him but openly flaunted her lack of fidelity.
Even with Karen’s naked body beside him on the sofa and a glass of wine in one hand, Alex was feeling very miserable indeed. What did his ambitions amount to now?