Due to its length I'm submitting this chapter in two parts. The first I hope will be stimulating in pure storytelling terms. Much of the actual juice however comes in the second. 26/06/10 11:26 GMT
Okay – so there have been a couple of developments since yesterday, both mildly problematic. I have work to do on more than one front it seems. Keeps a guy focused.
Neely called earlier, trying hard to sound calm and measured, but most definitely frayed underneath. I’m guessing the events of the past twenty-four hours have done much to unsettle her and that’s why she’s cancelled on me tonight. Oh she’s claiming church responsibilities and gave me the same reason for announcing that lunch dates might fit better with her schedule over the next few days, but it’s transparently obvious that the Jonas business has rattled her cage. The sight of her Christian comrade manifestly enjoying the carnal act (the brief glimpse I caught showed a guy unambiguously delighted with his current lot in life) is carrying out its subtle undermining work. Anyway, when I managed to pin her down to some quality evening time, she was talking in terms of next weekend…
Had I not got to know her as well as I now do, I might have thought she was trying to distance herself. However there was nothing distant in her tone. Truth is, this girl is so close to caving it terrifies her and she’s making final fraught attempts to wrestle the situation back to her control. Which would make me terribly pleased with myself to the point of buying in some preparatory lubricant, were it not for that irritant of a second problem.
Jasmin has been trying to contact me. She left a message with a secretary at the Inquirer
which was duly passed on to me. Apparently the little betrayer wants me to call her asap. I know you’ll be tempted, but I’d respectfully ask that you don’t do anything so cheap as cast my moment of weakness in my face once more. It’s a trifle and I’ll sort it out in the morning. I know how to deal with the Jasmins of this world. And the next chance I get, I’ll deal with Neely. I’ll write her something now to send her into a tail-spin – one that’ll make wreckage of her chastity.
Ray. 27/06/10 00:17 PST
Ray, Ray, Ray – the Jasmin time-bomb, still ticking. Better diffuse it, or all your velvet prose will count for shit. I’d apologize, but you don’t seriously expect me to pass over it without at least a cursory mention, do you? I’m glad you’re so sure the situation is under control; you’ll forgive me however if I don’t share your confidence. I know the convolutions of the female mind even better than you do, my knowledgeable friend, and who knows how you’ll squash this slut’s over-active conscience?
My anger has dissipated, Raymond. I’m simply overrun with melancholy that my reward to you may have to be withheld. How I meant to lavish my favor on the calm and ruthless debaucher of this pious Christian woman. But I’m not sure he’s entirely living up to my hopes, or whether his resolve and his nerve are as steely as his undeniably impressive cock.
I rewarded my married lover this very day – you know, for his patience (that and the ruby earrings he gave me over lobster at a five-star restaurant a little earlier). I’m still a little sore from the encounter. That good type of sore. I was wearing the same black-lace lingerie as in the photo I sent you, the set that got him so heated last time. Imagine it, Ray. I got the poor drooling sap to stand jacking himself as I removed it incrementally, thrusting tits or ass lewdly at him as I disrobed. Then when I was down to just garter belt and stockings, I let him know I hadn’t forgotten my promise. His cock I rubbed over with menthol lubricant – there was already a look of near-transcendent bliss about his face. After that I made him watch as I massaged oil into my taut buttocks, giving both firm globes a nice satin sheen. Pulled them apart and trickled the same warm liquid down my crack, till it leaked into my tight winking little asshole.
He was glued, Ray, as I burrowed my middle finger two knuckles deep in my rectum – I peered back over my shoulder to get his whole reaction as I readied myself for him. “Your cock in here next, baby. But please, be a gentleman and fuck my pussy first.” He looked such an eager puppy, bless him, even when he was kneeling down to plunge that stout erection inside me with all the manliness he could muster. Pumping away, such a busy boy, spreading all that menthol freshness about my wet cunt. But I knew he wanted to save himself for the evening’s main action, so I let him hear the words he craved: “In my ass, sweetie, in my ass…”
I was positioned nicely before the dresser’s mirror, so I got to see the wild, almost comical gratitude on his face, as he sank inch after inch of himself into my tight, gripping rectal tract, Ray. Nice, but so, so tentative, unlike other lovers of my acquaintance. “To the balls,” I was telling him, “push it deep and fuck my ass like you mean it, baby!” It took all my urging to get him all inside and then crank him up to a decent rhythm. Once he got going it was a commendable enough anal shafting. And he came like he was about to flatline. Such a happy thankful husband-of-someone-else. And I found it quite satisfactory too.
You know I might let him up my ass again, or I might save that clenching little tunnel for someone who proves more deserving...
Such a shame that you’re struggling with your Christian’s conscience. I had a mind to give it all
up to you, Ray, every hole I have. I was going to make myself utterly available, let you dominate this bitch like she hasn’t been controlled in a very long time. I was going to let you wreck my fucking ass. My business trip to the UK is all but arranged for two weeks’ time, did I mention that? Flight and hotel will be booked within days. If only I could shake the suspicion that you’ve jeopardised everything, I’d be one very happy lady and I’d make you happy too.
Can you really bring this one home?
Carlotta. 27/06/10 8:01GMT
God, girl, you’re one piece of work. Have some faith. I play a superior endgame.
* * * *
Neely woke up Sunday morning already wishing the weekend were over. She had cried off the church youth-club the previous evening, something she had not done since joining Alton Bridge, so desirous was she to avoid Jonas. What she might say to him that morning she had no idea, but the nettle would have to be seized; she could hardly pull a sickie to get out of the main service as well. Her conscience had plenty else with which to cope.
An entire day had been spent free of Sapphire’s Odyssey
, that was true. Her near-lucid dream had scared her from that, so terrified was she of Ray in the role of the Bavarian Duke. But sinful thoughts had been crowding nonetheless, whether she tried to do church-planning, served coffees in Lemongrass
or sat down to her Battlestar Galactica
box-set; even James Edward Olmos’ patrician sexiness disconcerted her.
The night had been another sweaty dream-ridden torture and once more she staved off extravagant Ray-fantasies, fumbling for her bathrobe. It had felt horrible to put off their date, confining their time together safely within daylight hours. She felt like she was provoking him with her body, then backing off, a worse tease than any of her sexually active friends, Jasmin included. It was a notion which only grew when she read the email Ray had sent her earlier that morning. Even its innocuous title ‘Sunday Thoughts’ sped up her heart-rate as she clicked on it. 27/6/10 8:47 GMT
Hey there angel –
Missed you last night, hope it was mutual. I’ve been subject lately to lonely nocturnal imaginings of a none-too-holy variety. I hope it’s not presumptuous to suppose that you’re plagued by thoughts akin to mine? I’m guessing that’s why you cancelled last night.
Which are you more frightened of, Neely, me or yourself? I feel sometimes that the passion we jointly experience threatens either to compromise your beliefs, or to warp your perception of what exists between us. So I wonder if there’s a middle ground, where we can still find ways of exploring and satisfying each other physically. Surely that’s not a sin.
You know how I burn for you, with desire and
with lust. Sometimes I want to make love to you, sometimes just take you, straight and simple. I don’t say that to shock or to add pressure. I just think you should know what a beautiful sexual human being you are.
Don’t be frightened, Neely. I’d rather have your chaste company that not have you at all. And in truth there’s a sort of pained deliciousness in being denied free rein with your body. But consider what I’ve said. And consider, next weekend, coming round to mine and bringing those oils. I have very good hands and I know how to take my time. All the more if it’s to make you feel good – and I’d make you feel so very
It left her breathless and confounded, with a racing pulse. She read it again – every nipple-pricking, pantie-soaking word – to take it all in and to try and fathom the mind behind it. Rules were being, if not broken, subverted and twisted into something she had never bargained for. There was sincerity in the words, she could sense it, but there was artfulness too, dammit there was outright cunning. His words were like ivy insinuating its way through her defences, gradually prising them apart. All his early promises, his protestations that he would never cross the boundaries she had laid down. She should feel mad at him, right? And yet how could
she when only her guilt prevented her from breaking into a huge girlish grin? (That and plunge her hand down her knickers to get herself off?) How could she when he seduced her with such daring and such grace?
Seduced… She was being gloriously, wickedly seduced. Her patient, sensitive, lovely guy was also a burning, horny male, who wanted her. Wanted to take her and not like she were a piteous ‘be-gentle-with-me’ kind of virgin. He wanted to ‘do’ her. Not that he was suggesting she let him. To his word he was still fundamentally true. He just hoped to play with her, explore her, make her feel good
. It made her want to spin around the room and throw herself voluptuously onto the bed, only to that urge she couldn’t give in. She mustn’t
give in. Hell, she had church to go to and she was late!
Padding to the bathroom, she caught a snatch of a Jasmin phone conversation from her housemate’s bedroom. It was not the first time she had overheard her friend in such fraught discussion. “Yeah, I know it just happened. I’m not saying you meant it to any more than I did. It’s just that it’s on my mind all the time… Mmm-hmmm, yes, I get what you’re saying. I understand, but… No, no I haven’t said anything. I’m just worried that you’re going to do the same thing again with… I know, I know, look – I’m in no place to judge, but…”
Neely caught herself eavesdropping and hurried the rest of the way to the bathroom. It seemed she and Jasmin were both having man-problems, however different. Jasmin’s were apparently more acute than normal; that would account for the girl’s strange secret attitude over the past few days.
It slipped from Neely’s mind as she hit the shower. She had plenty else to occupy her besides Jasmins’s sexual misdemeanours and their consequences. Her head was full of Ray’s email as she stripped off and lathered up in the shower. What a tease she felt, to have inspired such strong sentiments, such a bold play for the delights of her body. It made her feel guilty once more to be the cause of such torment, but she felt glowing too, in her wet nakedness, with self-satisfaction. Never had she felt such a womanly sex-goddess as now.
Every wash-time sensation felt heightened as she imagined Ray spying on her. Her breasts were wildly sensitive as her palms soaped in slow circles. She felt the slither of shampoo all down the curve of her back, foaming its way between her bum cheeks. What a vision for her boy – red hair trailing slick down her back towards her soapy ass-crack. The naughtiness of the exhibitionist fantasy overtook her and she dropped a hand to her pussy, middle finger going to insistent work on her clitoris. Her back leaned into the shower-wall as the tip rotated on the swollen hub of her sexual longing.
Lord, she had been free with her permanently wet sex these past few days. Evenings had brought together thoughts of Sapphire and of Ray with the buzz of her birthday gift (on her exterior only – how wrong it seemed that the first cock inside her should be a synthetic one). Now here she was, one hour shy of morning service, working herself all the way, till she exploded with orgasm, warm shower jets bursting against her sensitized skin. She slumped after, into relief and wretchedness, then forced her wrung-out self to dry and dress for church.
She stuck her head around Jasmin’s door before departing; she couldn’t let self-absorption blind her to her friend’s troubles. “Jaz, you okay?”
The petite brunette appeared startled. “God, Neely – I thought you were off to church already! Aren’t you late?”
“Just leaving now. Look, I heard you on the phone earlier. Wasn’t listening in, I promise. Everything alright?”
Her friend hesitated, momentarily lost for words. “Yes, yes… It’s… Bit of…”
“Guy trouble?” Neely gazed on her in sympathy. “Whoever he is, he’s not worth it. You’re way better than that. You’ve just got to start believing it.” Jasmin had a forlorn look Neely wasn’t used to. “Jaz, I want you back. I’ve got friends I’ve known for years behaving like crazy. I need some consistency right now. I miss it when you don’t take the piss out of me.”
Jasmin swallowed as though trying to gain control of her emotions. “I’m… I’m fine. It’s just some… It’s over. It’s sorted. You’ve got me back, I promise.”
Neely hugged her roommate, almost convinced. “Well that’s a relief at any rate. We’ll talk later, okay?”
What she had said was true. She needed Jasmin back, so off-centre seemed everything at Alton Bridge. When she arrived late and squeezed herself in at the back of the church, Jonas was leading a prayer from the front. She felt a spontaneous burst of anger at his hypocrisy, which she immediately turned back on herself. Who the hell was she to point a finger following her shower-stall shenanigans? Then Pastor Simmons stood up to speak on Christ’s parable of the Sheep and the Goats – “I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink” – and made her feel worse. What business had she getting so hung up on her own sexuality when there were real problems in the world, of poverty and starvation, war and homelessness? All that preoccupation with what she perceived as her own ‘needs’…
A powerful thought, but one which was overridden the moment she bumped into Jonas following the service and recalled Leona bouncing lustily on his cock, joy etched into both their faces. She and her co-worker could scarcely look each other in the eye, but then the Pastor swept them both up together, full of jovial bonhomie. “So, Neely, Jonas – everything shaping up for next weekend? You two are creating something impressive, I’m sure.”
A brief embarrassed pause ensued, Neely’s and Jonas’ eyes flicking to each other. “Yes,” said Neely eventually, forcing a smile. “It’s all coming together, right Jonas?”
“Yup, it’ll be great,” he chipped in. “We’ve got all sorts of ideas. You’ll like it.” The Pastor having moved on, he said confidentially to Neely, “We can get through these workshops, right?”
“Sure, whatever,” she muttered, not sure whether she was solely disgusted with him. “I studied drama at school. I’m sure I can pull off a performance.”
Jonas went to speak, but she left him standing. She was through the church gates and headed solo for the High Street, before she was caught up. But the restraining hand on her arm did not belong to Jonas. It was Leona’s.
“Neely, wait up…”
Neely was shocked and a little speechless at the shapely teen’s pursuit. The image of that fleshy ass shunting up and down above Jonas’ upright column flashed instantly across her mind and coloured her reaction. “Leona, what do you…”
“Look…” The pretty college student launched straight in. “I know you’re really mad at Jonas, but you mustn’t be. Don’t go thinking he went and seduced some innocent little girl, because it just wasn’t like that. It’s really bad you saw us like you did, and maybe it was all wrong of us to choose that place, but it’s not all sleazy and nasty like you probably think…”
Neely fought to stem the flow of words. This
she didn’t need. “Leona – Leona, don’t try and explain anything. If it was anybody else I’d say… I’d say go on, live your life, follow your conscience and I’ll follow mine and we’ll all be happy. I’d probably laugh about the other night. But you guys are… are my fellow-believers! Jonas is my co-worker! We’re talking to the youth group next week about sexual morality and just a year ago you were one
of that group! It’s messed up. I don’t blame you
, but what he’s doing is way out of order.”
“That’s wrong. That’s all
wrong. I’m not stupid, Neely,” Leona insisted. “Don’t dismiss me because I’m nineteen. I’m pretty mature for my age as it happens. Jonas cares for me. He does, don’t pull a face. Way before we first… you know, I knew he was a good guy. I dated a couple of guys when I was still at school who treated me badly…” Her expression darkened a little. “One in particular… Then I got involved with the church and… I’d never met someone like him before. He’s a really great person, Neely, just like you’ve always thought of him. Don’t let what you saw change all that. He’s a really sweet boyfriend, kind and considerate. He makes me feel… cared for and respected and… and if I want to show him my gratitude, then I will.”
Neely was taken back and a little exasperated. “Is that what you were doing? Showing gratitude? Leona, you don’t have to… to shag him just because he’s nice to you…”
“I don’t.” Leona bristled, obviously feeling patronised again. She fixed Neely with a bold stare. “I do it because I like to. I enjoy
it. For me
I like putting a great big smile all over his face, because he’s lovely and he deserves it. We’re a couple and that’s part of what we do. And it doesn’t feel wrong, it doesn’t feel sinful.”
“But you…” Neely felt confounded in this conversation with a girl six years her junior. “You can’t decide what’s sinful and what’s not based on how you feel. That’s not how it works!”
“Look, Neely, I’m not trying to be mean – I’ve always liked you and I know Jonas thinks the world of you, whatever you’re feeling right now – but we can’t all be as saintly as you.”
Neely was appalled. “I’m not saintly,” she protested. “I’ve never pretended to be saintly
“Although until two nights ago we both kind of thought you might be… you know, doing it with Ray.”
“You thought…” Neely’s head was almost spinning.
“Well we met him that night we went bowling? He’s… well… He’s not any kind of Christian. He’s, you know, a man of the world and he’s… he’s hot. We just figured…”
“Well you figured wrong!”
“Yeah, well, so it turns out. God, Neely, he must really
be into you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well he’s still there, isn’t he? Even though you don’t…” She filled in the gap with a flick of her head. “…With him. He’s a guy, Neely, he fancies the pants off you, that was obvious. He must really
be suffering, but he’s still around…”
Neely reeled with exasperation. She just couldn’t switch Jonas’ little hottie off. “Leona…”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry… I’ve said too much. That’s no business of mine. But look…” There was pleading in her eyes. “Go easy on Jonas. He really is the most Christian guy I’ve ever met. I mean that, whatever you think of what we do. He doesn’t want to lose your friendship and he wants to be able to keep working with you. Just… Just think it through. That’s all I ask.” She clutched Neely’s arm a moment. “I… I’ve got to go. See you.”
And she left, leaving Neely struggling to hold on to her indignation. It was difficult, when reminded of her history with Jonas, difficult in the face of guilt’s onrush at the thought of Ray struggling manfully with his fleshly urges. But then if her non-believing boyfriend could manage, why couldn’t Jonas? Because Jonas’ girlfriend isn’t so prim and ‘saintly’
, said an unhelpful part of her brain.
Neely carried her struggle into the city centre with her. She couldn’t think who to discuss it with. Jasmin and Leo would just encourage her to get laid. Her Alton Bridge friends would quote the Bible with advanced levels of earnestness. Jonas had been the one on whom she could depend for empathy and for honest counsel minus the piety. She couldn’t be too hard on him, she knew that now, for succumbing to temptations she felt all too strongly herself. But how could he be so blasé in the aftermath? How could he shrug off the whole sex issue as inconsequential when it pitched her into such turmoil? Turmoil
… The word summoned up a conversation she’d had mere days before and suddenly Neely knew who to talk to. In one sense it was bizarre, but it also clicked in her brain as perfect sense. She dug into her bag and retrieved a card she hadn’t thought of since her birthday. Then without hesitation she took her phone and thumbed in the number.
Her call rang out a couple of times before being answered. “Hello?” queried the voice on the other end.
“Yeah, hi... Who’s this?”
“It’s Neely Jordan. From Alton Bridge? We met in the bookshop last week.”
“Neely, hi!” Danny Woodward sounded surprised but not displeased to hear from her. “How are you? You want to find out more about the fair trade stuff?”
“No, well maybe… But that’s not the main reason I’m calling. Look, I’ve… I’ve got something on my mind and… and frankly I didn’t know who else to talk to. I just thought you might… Gosh, this sounds really weird…” She was embarrassed now at having called.
“No, it’s not weird. Not weird at all. You want to meet up?”
“Ehhh… yes. That would be good. Better than the phone. When’s good for you? I’m sure you’re busy…”
“Well not today. Church-worker no more, so this afternoon’s fine. I was just going to watch some football, but I can scratch that. What about lunch at Mackenzies
“With the big screen TV?” Neely couldn’t help but smile. “You’ll be watching the match over my shoulder.”
“Damn, you got me. We’ll eat outside on the patio. Then you’ll have my undivided attention. They do really good scampi there by the way.”
“I’ll try it. See you there… what, around two?”
Making her way to Mackenzies
she felt apprehension at hooking up with the guy she had inadvertently insulted five days before. She found him reclining casually in the sunshine of the beer garden overlooking the harbour. He had a rumpled weekend look about him, his slightly shaggy dark hair tousled and a razor having failed again that day to make its way to his chin. The stubble enhanced his rather swarthy, strong-jawed handsomeness, she thought. He had a long body and his tight understated muscularity was shown off well by his faded tee-shirt. A pint was already foaming in front of him. “What can I get you?” he asked, with a sense of welcome that allayed her fears.
“Glass of cider would be nice, thanks.”
“Scampi for two?”
He returned with her drink minutes later and they both stretched out, jeaned and tee-shirted in the beautiful June afternoon. “You know, you’ve probably rescued me from watching Bristol City get thumped by Torquay United, so it’s an act of mercy.”
“Well I’m glad to have helped you out. You glad Sunday’s not a work day anymore?”
“I need it. The rest of the week is bloody mental. I kind of make my own work and then reap the whirlwind that results.”
They swapped work stories and partook of the pub’s deliciously battered shrimp, Neely gradually relaxing into Danny’s quite amiable company as the summer breeze and the noise of harbour traffic wafted over them. “You take hot sauce
with your scampi?”
“Essential. Try it.” He proffered the bottle and she applied, tentatively sampling the result.
“Yow!” she exclaimed at the resultant flavoursome kick. “Wow, that is
“See? I knew you’d be a woman of taste.”
Neely munched almost happily for a moment, downing cider to help her cope with the burn in her throat. Then she broached the subject which continued to niggle. “Danny, look – I’m sorry I said what I did last week. I had no business.”
“And I’m sorry I teased,” he said. She recalled the excruciating vibrator moment and diverted her eyes. Gosh, maybe that episode was the whole reason he had been so amenable about lunching with her! “You know I was a little surprised you were keen to meet up with such a social leper in public,” he smiled. “What would people think if they saw you fraternizing with a reprobate like me?”
“Stop that! You’re teasing again!” she protested, although uncomfortable thoughts to that effect had
occurred to her on the way.
“I don’t mean like that,” he told her gently. “Really. It’d be understandable in your position if you wanted to go somewhere more discrete. The last thing I’d want to do is cause you trouble. I mean that.”
“I choose who I want to see and where,” Neely insisted, maybe making the point more to herself. “Look, Danny, I’m the one who wanted to talk, and I’m not going to hide you away somewhere to do it. I made a rash judgement about you last time based on second-hand rumours… I embarrassed myself.”
“I don’t think either of us was behaving at our best that day,” he said, and she warmed to something essentially kind in his dark eyes. “Besides, I’ve a feeling what you said was more to do with your own stuff than anything you’d heard about me. Am I right?” She looked at him and was drawn in by his searching gaze. “Is that what you wanted to talk about?”
Neely gulped. “Wow, you’re good.”
“Spooky, isn’t it? Go on then, just tell me. Before you chicken out.” Okay, well here goes. Gotta share this with someone…
“I met a guy. Not from the church, not from any
church. I mean I’ve tried dating there and… it just hasn’t worked out the way I always think it should.”
“Been there, trust me,” said Danny, and she sensed enough empathy in the words to continue.
“You think that a shared faith and shared attraction should be enough, but sometimes it just isn’t. And then – this bloke walks into my work, my café job. Not a believer, professing no spirituality whatsoever, but… we just clicked. We get along like a house on fire. And he’s… hot. As a house on fire
. Nor is he dismissive of my beliefs, in fact it’s the reverse – he’s really respectful. About everything. I mean, I really, really
like this guy.”
“All of which is good, right?” Danny chewed on the shrimp, his eyes never leaving hers.
“Well – yes. I mean, there’s no sense of our relationship undermining anything I believe or hold important. Apart from… on one level.” She paused, struggling to go further.
Danny dropped his voice and leaned in a little due to a hovering waitress. “And that would be the ‘sex level’, right?”
It was a relief he’d said it for her, but she still couldn’t meet his eye in that moment. The weirdness of confessing to a virtual stranger had almost robbed her of speech. “Yeah. Yeah, it would. Not that he’s pushing me. As such. I mean I know he’d like to, he’s made that clear, but he’s not… expecting. He’s not making it a condition at all… He’s a gentleman.”
“So if the problem’s not with him…” Neely looked up at Danny and found him regarding her with complete seriousness. She felt herself blooming into crimson under his stare. “It’s what you
want that’s troubling you.”
She sank back into misery in her chair. “Yes, it is. It totally is. It’s just… really difficult. I mean, it was tough before, but I felt in control. Now I’m… It feels like I’m struggling to cling on to values and practices I’ve held all my life.”
Once she’d started, the words flowed more easily. She told him all about her progressively more heated encounters with Ray (though skirting the erotic details), right up to her unexpected transgression on the evening of her birthday. “I just ended up doing something I’d never have dreamt of a few short weeks before.”
“Did that involve your…” His apparent sense of modesty allowed her to fill in the blank.
“No, no, no, gosh no!” She thought she caught a glimpse of amusement in his eye and turned defensive. “Are you messing with me, Danny? Don’t mess with me… That’s not what I expected from you, that’s not why I’m here.”
“It’s okay.” His face was completely grave again. “I wasn’t making fun. I’m listening, go on…”
She wondered if he was picturing her riding the vibrator’s throb in some fevered fantasy scenario and her blush deepened a little. However she went on – told him, naming no names, about the shock over Jonas and how greatly the unexpected scene had flummoxed her. “We’d always talked it over together, laughed about the frustration and how best to deal with it, but now he’s acting like it meant nothing, like the whole thing’s no big deal. While I’m all over the place. I can’t find a way to deal with this. I’m not planning on breaking it off, I can’t – I like Ray way too much. Wow, I don’t believe I’m telling you all this… But I can’t just give in to what I’m feeling either. The whole thing’s just… just…”
“Filling your head all the waking day,” Danny finished for her, and she knew this time he wasn’t being funny. He leaned further in, voice dropping and frown deepening as he went on. “Not to mention nights. Messing up your job and everything that goes with it. You’ve got your faith and all the problems around you, the ones you’ve dedicated yourself to alleviating through living out your beliefs. All that important stuff. Only you can’t focus on it anymore, because your own desires feel like they’re threatening to consume you. Like your body’s cravings mean more that everything else put together. You know how fucked that is, pardon the Anglo-Saxon, when you look at it rationally, but that doesn’t help you when you’re alone in your bed at three a.m. or when you’re face to face with the someone who’s got you so fired up…Something like that?”
Neely stared into Danny’s eyes, his words resonating through her like she were a struck gong. “Yup. Exactly like that.” She scrutinized his face and noticed a vaguely haunted quality similar to that she had seen in the bookshop. “I figured you’d get what I was feeling.”
“Just a bit.” His smile was laced with irony.
“Danny,” she ventured, for she had a sudden urge to know, “can you tell me what happened to you at Alton Bridge?”
He stared at her appraisingly a moment. “Not something I generally talk about…”
“It’s okay then. I’d no real right to ask.”
“No, it’s fine. Somehow I don’t mind you knowing. In fact somehow I’d like you to.” His hands closed around his pint and he looked into it, as though gathering himself pre-telling. “I’d been preaching at the church a couple of years when the whole thing went down. Woops, bad choice of phrase. When the whole thing occurred
.” He brushed away the double entendre
with a gesture of his hand and she could not help but smile. “I had the whole celibacy thing sorted out, so I thought, even though I’d been sexually active in my student days, before I embraced Christianity. And it took some serious self-control not to dwell on those times. Bad enough I’m sure if you’ve never indulged, all the tougher if you’ve got memories of what it’s really like.”
Neely could only imagine the intensity of that
struggle. She listened intently, amazed that she was being made privy to the dark secrets of Alton Bridge’s legendary defiler. “Anyway,” he told her, “I did a bit of discreet dating with girls in church circles, nothing that led to anything serious. I was ready to wait, not rush into marriage just because I was desperate to get laid. I was committed to Christ, the church, the kids and teens – I was just fine about the whole thing. Paragon of godly virtue. But I got a little too cocky. Damn…” He rolled his eyes. “Really got to stop that. A little too over-confident.”
“It’s okay,” Neely smiled, sensing that his dance with innuendo was a nervous reflex. “Just tell me. You don’t have to censor yourself.”
“Alright, I won’t,” he said, and she marvelled at this ‘over-confident’ man’s sudden show of relieved gratitude. The notorious ex-Pastor Danny was slightly discomfited at confiding in her. “The trouble started when a girl – attractive girl - showed up at the church professing interest in the faith and I agreed to drop in some night and talk it all through with her.”
“Oh-oh, I think I see the plot twist,” Neely said, cringing a little in anticipation.
“Maybe, maybe not,” he replied, with the same ironic smile as before. “She… wasn’t alone. She had a friend there. And neither of them were much interested in Bible study. That became clear very
quickly. I’d walked into… a very carefully prepared set-up.”
Neely’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She imagined the man before her strolling casually into a Sapphire-type scenario. “Oh wow… And you just… lost your cool and went along with it? Every man’s fantasy and all that?”
“No, I didn’t,” he said insistently, and he clutched his pint a little harder. “I struggled to get out, trust me on that. But I ended up… God, is it any wonder I never talk about this?” He rolled his eyes to the heavens as though beseeching help, before continuing. “I ended up… restrained
. On a bed. And – well…” He wore a lob-sided grin to counter his clear embarrassment. “…Used as their plaything
all night.” His voice was thick with a kind of pained arousal as he said it. He fixed her with a stare now, as though challenging her to disbelief him.
Neely was speechless a moment. The image of this good-looking man being subjected to exquisite sexual torments by a pair of wicked young women was distracting. To say the least. “Danny,” she almost laughed in her astonishment, “you make it sound like they raped
you.”. Then her smile faded as Danny’s face drained of all humour. “Danny?”
“I don’t think I’m ready to divulge any further details about that particular night,” he told her gravely. “Sufficient to say that it… stayed with me. Drove me insane for weeks. With lust and with guilt in equal measure. I was angry with them, I was angry with myself for being so naïve, I was racked with remorse…”
“But if it wasn’t your fault…”
it. For loving every hot second of it, even though it screwed me up so much. I kept craving all the sensations I’d felt, to the extent I couldn’t focus on my work. I kept thinking of both girls, one of them in particular, and then she
showed up at the church one night. That
night. The fatal night. She wanted to…” He laughed a little at the memory. “She wanted to apologise. I got furious with her, then I got raging hot for her, with
“…In walked Pastor Simmons,” finished Neely, in a kind of awe.
“With quite immaculate timing. And that, Neely, was the end of my time at Alton Bridge Community Church, even as yours began.” There was an extensive pause as she took in the whole revelation. Her breathing, she realised, had turned shallow, and her nipples hard. The crotch of her knickers, she realised, was thoroughly, inappropriately wet. “So,” he said, leaning his brawny arms on the table, “what do you think of that?”
“I think…” she said, cheeks burning though her side of the table was shaded, “I’m kind of stunned! Did you… see the girl afterwards?”
“For a while,” said Danny. “We had a brief… not quite sure you’d call it a relationship. It was intense, whatever it was. But it was pretty much doomed from the start. Because
of its start.”
“I’ll bet,” said Neely. For a moment she sat, trying to let the whole revelation sink in. Then there was something more she needed to know - the repercussions once you let yourself slip. “So since then, since reorganising your whole life – and tell me to butt out if I’m being a nosey cow – have you… given celibacy another shot? Or was that it?”
“I’m flattered you assume the options are there for me,” he smiled, and she pulled a face at him. Surely the robust, dark, rather brooding guy before her was under no illusion regarding the pull he might have on the opposite sex should he choose to use it. “Okay, Neely, here was no real going back,” he said with a shrug. “Psychologically at any rate. I’d been so strung-out by abstaining so long, whether I’d known it or not, I just swore I was never going to do that to myself again.” There must have been a crestfallen look on her face, because he picked up on what she was feeling. “That not what you wanted to hear?”
“I don’t know what
I wanted to hear.”
“I didn’t just kick the whole thing into touch,” he told her, as though in response to her disappointment, “although after Hailey – the church girl – I’ll admit I went a bit mad for a while. Figured I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, so I went and indulged in a few one-nighters. God, how much am I
sharing this afternoon?” She gave him a reassuring pat on the arm, to show it was okay. “But that wasn’t for me. Couldn’t deal with it. Messed with my head too much. I hooked up with a Dutch girl, Marieka, last summer, she was over here working with the YMCA. Had a rather more liberated attitude to Christian faith than I’d ever had, shall we say. We took a shot at keeping it going when she went back to Holland, but it didn’t work out. While we were together, though, she… tried to help me work things through.”
“I’ll bet she did.” Neely said with a reproving smile, one that couldn’t help but break into a full grin once he returned it. She was surprised to find how much she liked Danny Woodward, the debaucher of Alton Bridge.
“Look, Neely,” he said, “I didn’t abandon my faith. It changed, but it still motivates me the way it did. I’ve just had to… re-evaluate my priorities.”
Neely was confused. She was reminded too much of Jonas and his justifications. “So… So haven’t you just…”
“Changed the rules to suit myself? I don’t know. Maybe. All I know is it felt easier to deal with the guilt than pursue the same struggle as before. It was a relief to make other things my focus, not chase the type of purity that was always being preached at Alton Bridge. Including by me,” he added hastily, before she could rush to Pastor Simmons’ defence. “But Neely, I’ve got to say it… The sort of pressure being put on the youngsters there, the weight of guilt, was way out of proportion. Look, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of Jack Simmons when we met before, but the stuff he tells those kids sometimes is crazy. He announced from the pulpit once that having pre-marital sex was like crucifying Christ all over again. Word for word. I had Lacy Richards sobbing to me after the service, totally distraught, thinking she was some kind of executioner. I mean, you can’t condone that sort of thing, surely...”
“Of course I don’t,” Neely insisted. “Look, I know he can go too far at times. But… that’s a long way from deciding you can just go out and do what you feel. I don’t mean you
,” she added hastily. “I mean… us. Everyone. Me.”
“You really want to be with this guy, don’t you?” Danny said softly.
“Mmm-hmmm.” She couldn’t look at him.
“But… the Bible tells you that you can’t.”
“So… do you accept everything the Bible tells you, Neely, chapter and verse?” She raised her head to look at him. His gaze was mild, but challenging nonetheless. “You’re a sharp girl. Have you never wrestled with any of the teachings you’ve been brought up with?”
“Well... yes. All the time.”
He would push, wouldn’t he? How weird to be immersed in this with someone she hardly knew, this balmy June afternoon. “The doctrine of hell. Can’t accept the traditional teaching on it. Doesn’t fit with my idea of a loving God. And the whole… exclusive thing where belief in Jesus and going to Heaven are concerned. Like Ghandi and the Dalai L’ama are automatically shut out because they’re not ‘born again’. And… well… the teaching that homosexuality is sin. That my friend Leo is condemned because he’s in love with someone called Graham. I suppose I’m not very orthodox on any of that stuff.” She looked at Danny warily, sensing what was coming next.
“So if you question all that, then why can’t you make your own decision on how you conduct your love-life? Why do you need a book, however holy, to do it for you?”
“Because… Because…” Now Neely was
wrestling. “Because everything I’ve mentioned can be explained as a matter of Scriptural interpretation. But… But the whole teaching on sex – its meaning, its sacredness – that doesn’t go away. I can’t just bypass it because I’ve got the hots for someone.”
“What if you both care about each other, love each other? What if there’s a genuine bond between you but marriage just isn’t practical yet?”
“So – what – you’re saying I should just go sleep with Ray?”
Danny raised his hands in defence. “Neely, I’m not telling you anything. I’ve sweat enough over my own moral choices without trying to make someone else’s for them. You’ve got to work that one out yourself. I… just don’t like to see you tormenting yourself in the process. I know all too well what that’s like.”
It was enough for Neely that he understood. Enough to be going on with. They passed on to lighter subjects like family and creative use of spicy condiments till she had to go. She’d been relieved not to be discussing sex any more with this amiable, earnest, handsome guy. “Meeting some of the older teens about the Homeless Project,” she explained. “Look, thanks for scampi and for listening. Hey, I really would like to get some of the youth interested in fair trade. I’ll give you a shout about it.”
She’d almost gone when he called after her. “Neely… This Ray, he is
worth all the angst, right?”
“Yeah, he is,” she said, then added a little sadly, “I wonder if I’m worth his. Bye, Danny. See you...”
TO BE CONTINUED
(FOR DANNY WOODWARD'S FULL STORY, FOLLOW THE LINK TO MY EARLIER TALE 'LUSTS OF THE FLESH')
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<a href="http://www.lushstories.com/stories/first-time/nailing-neely-jordan-part-5a.aspx">Nailing Neely Jordan - Part 5a</a>