This is all twelve parts of my most recent fiction serial, posted as a complete story, in 14,190 words.
Steve got back before Ellie that evening. He had escaped from work early, claiming to have a dental appointment. But as the weather was so good, he just wanted to get home, get out of his suit, and enjoy a beer in the garden. As he closed the door, he saw a small card on the mat in the hallway. It had delivery details printed on it, but they were the wrong name and address. Steve sighed, knowing how the careless naming of streets in the town often caused such confusion, and now it had happened again.
They lived in Maple Close, but there was also a Maple Drive, and a Maple Avenue. Someone in authority had seriously lacked imagination at one time, there was no doubt about that. The card was from ES Electrical, and had their motto underneath the name. ‘ES, always Extra Special’. It stated that the parcel had been left behind the side gate, ‘as instructed’. It should have gone to Maple Drive of course, right across the other side of town. Steve decided to see what it was, and thought he might just save the hassle, by delivering it himself.
Opening the side gate, he shook his head in disbelief. The huge carton filled the narrow path that led to the back garden, and from the name on the side, was unmistakably a washing machine. No way was that ever going to fit into his tiny car, even if he had been able to handle the weight of it on his own. He went back into the house, and checked the card again. The customer services department was open until six, so he would call them to let them know about the delivery to the wrong address.
Of course, there were lots of options. Press this for that, press that for this. Steve pressed zero, and waited for an answer.
“ES electrical, always extra special. Sophie speaking, how may I help you?” Her voice was rich, and sounded as if she had a throat full of honey. Impossible to guess her age, and suggestive of a vamp from a 1930s film. He had never heard a voice like it.
“Hello, my name is Steven Fuller, and I live at number twelve Maple Close. I have received a delivery today that should have gone to a Mr Ali, at number twelve Maple Drive. It’s a washing machine, and it is behind my side gate. Who leaves a washing machine that costs about five hundred pounds behind a gate? That’s crazy. Can you pick it up and take it to the right address, please?”
She replied without hesitation. “Can I take your customer reference number, sir. Or the order number, one of them should be on the card.” Steve scanned the card, but it only had the name and address, as well as the details about leaving it behind the gate, as instructed. He told her all this, and she asked him to hold. At least there was no annoying music. Her sonorous voice came back on the line. It was immediately reassuring, and so pleasant to hear. “I do apologise, sir. It would appear that our delivery team did indeed take this to the wrong address. I can arrange for it to be picked up tomorrow, between nine and five, if that is suitable”. Steve could have listened to her all day. He would have paid good money to hear her read out the telephone directory.
“Yes, that’s fine. Thank you, Sophie. I will leave the side gate open for them to get it. Thanks very much for your help, you are a pleasure to deal with”. Steve was smiling at the phone. It felt good to have complimented her. He was sure that people mostly shouted and moaned at call centre operators, so it might be nice for her to be appreciated for once. Her voice sounded even more seductive as she replied.
“Why thank you sir, that is so kind of you. Would you be willing to supply an email address for a customer satisfaction survey? It is very short, and won’t take up too much of your valuable time”. How could he refuse that voice? He replied that he would be happy to do the survey, and supplied his main personal email address. She thanked him once again, and he hung up.
Ellie was hot and bothered when she got home. There was no seat on the train, and she had been forced to stand in the packed carriage, surrounded by sweaty commuters. Steve started to tell her about the delivery, but she walked upstairs to get out of her clothes and have a shower, not in the least bit interested. He took off his jacket, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and went to sit in the garden. He thought about the call to the electrical company. Not often you got such satisfaction, in this day and age. That Sophie was worth her weight in gold. He hoped that they appreciated her.
After dinner, Ellie settled down to watch a rom-com on TV, and Steve scanned his emails on the laptop. There were two new ones. The first was the customer satisfaction survey from ES Electrical. He checked a few tick boxes, and got to the free space for comments. Smiling to himself, he began to type.
‘Rarely do you get such good service from a company these days. Your employee Sophie did a great job, and was very efficient and professional. She is undoubtedly an asset to your company, and I sincerely hope that you appreciate her’. He pressed ‘send’, and closed the survey.
The second email was from firstname.lastname@example.org At first, Steve didn’t connect the name. But when he saw the message headline, ‘Thanks for your kind words’ he knew it was from her. He felt stupidly guilty as he opened the message, even glancing across at Ellie, to make sure she was still concentrating on her film.
‘Dear Mr Fuller, I wanted to thank you for your kind words to me today. They meant a great deal, and you sounded so genuine, with such a nice voice too. I have taken the unusual step of contacting you directly to thank you. I hope that causes no offence, but I really wanted you to know how much I valued your thoughtfulness. Sincerely, Sophie. xx’
Steve felt strangely excited. Two kisses at the end, and an obviously thoughtful woman, to thank him personally. He moved the email into his personal items folder, switched off the laptop, and told Ellie he was going to bed. After a quick shower, he slipped under the duvet and stretched out.
But he couldn’t sleep.
Ellie was gone before Steve woke up. She left earlier and earlier these days, claiming that it was the only way she could get a seat on the train. He felt sluggish and tired, the result of a troubled sleep. It had been impossible to get the voice of Sophie out of his head, leaving him feeling like a Cobra being charmed by the notes from a snake-charmer’s flute. And that unusual email, with two kisses at the end. He was sure that meant something, but hesitated to overstate the implication.
After twelve years together, married life with Ellie had settled into a routine for both of them. They hardly went out anymore, and their circle of friends had slowly diminished as to be almost non-existent. Living so far from both sets of parents meant they generally did the trip just a few times a year, Christmas and birthdays. Between both jobs, and a long daily commute, they hardly had the energy to chat at night, let alone attempt anything remotely exciting. The truth was, Steve was bored, and he was certain that Ellie felt exactly the same. At least they had stuck to their decision not to have children. He couldn’t imagine coming home to all that noise and mess, and he was sure that his wife would have hated the disruption to her life.
He checked his watch. Wouldn’t hurt to be a little bit late. Easy enough to blame traffic on the ring road. So he went downstairs and switched on the laptop. When it had loaded up, he checked Sophie’s email again. No mistaking the friendly tone, or the way it read with genuine affection. A reply would only be polite, he decided.
‘Dear Sophie, I was very pleased to get your nice email, and not at all offended. I completed the survey, and gave you five stars, as well as a nice personal recommendation. You said that I have a nice voice, but I have to tell you that you have an amazing voice; perfect for your job, and so pleasant to listen to. If only everyone was as kind and professional as you, life would be a lot easier. By the way, please call me Steve. Mr Fuller is far too formal. It’s a strange thing to say in an email to someone I have never met, but you seem to me to be a very warm and sincere person. I really appreciated you contacting me. Regards, Steve. xx’
Once it was sent, Steve immediately regretted adding the kisses. But as he was getting dressed later, he relaxed about that. After all, he was only doing the same as she had done, so she was unlikely to get the wrong idea, or be upset about it.
The traffic was genuinely bad that morning. Terrible in fact. He hardly needed the excuse when he got to work, as everyone else was moaning about it too. On top of arriving late, he had a lot on. There was a big building project south of the town, and his company were tendering for much of the work. He spent all morning costing the prices of pipework, groundwork, and concrete. It was very dull, but easy for him, after so many years at the same firm. By the time it got to his lunch break, he decided to buy something from the van that stopped outside head office, and eat outside, in the sunshine.
Sitting on the low wall, he checked his emails using the smartphone. One from his Mum, and another two from work colleagues trying to arrange a night out at a football match. He deleted them after reading, as he couldn’t be bothered with all that macho stuff at the football, and his Mum was just waffling on about her sister being ill again. The fourth one caught his eye, as it was from Sophie.
‘Dear Steve, I was so excited to get your reply, and very pleased that you didn’t mind me writing to you. I love what you said about my voice, as it never sounds anything like that to me. I have never contacted a customer like this before, but felt sure we had connected in some way. I hope you agree. Feel free to email me any time, I will look forward to it. Sincerely, Sophie. xxx’
Steve grinned as he read it. Three kisses, she had slipped in one extra. But as nice as it was, he knew he had to tread carefully. No point giving her the wrong impression, or leading her on. He put down the unfinished sandwich, and typed a reply.
‘Hi Sophie. I am pleased that you liked the fact I replied. I will be happy to keep in touch, but should tell you up front that I am married, thirty-four years old, and not looking to give you the wrong impression. I was sincere about your voice of course, as it is genuinely wonderful to listen to. But for all I know, you could be an eighteen year old girl, or a married woman with a family, so I thought it best to be honest with you. Regards, Steve. xxx’
He pressed send without even realising that he had also added three kisses, but sure that he had done the right thing by being honest.
The afternoon was a nightmare, as the dates for the tenders had been moved forward, and his boss was raging about possible corruption in the Town Hall. It looked like they might have been working on this for months, and it was all going to come to nothing. Steve retreated to the toilets for a break, hiding inside one of the cubicles to chill out. He checked his phone, and sure enough he had a reply from Sophie. Not just a text message, but a photo too. It was a selfie, apparently taken at her desk that day, judging by all the screens surrounding her, and the fact she was wearing a headset.
‘Dear Steve, thanks for being so honest with me. I am twenty-nine, and have never been married. I live on my own in a small flat, with a cat for company. 🙂 I thought you might like to see a photo of me, so sent one separately. I am not trying to disrupt your life at all, but imagined it might be nice to be friends. Don’t you agree? Love, Sophie. xxxx’
Steve looked at the photo. Despite looking a lot older than twenty-nine, she was gorgeous. Even the large frame glasses she was wearing suited her, and although the picture only showed her from the waist up, her curvy body was evident. It certainly suited her voice, he had to conclude.
And yes, it might be nice to be friends.
Steve got home late that evening. Everyone had been expected to stay on, as the boss was frantic about getting the paperwork finished. He had phoned Ellie to let her know, and she had decided to go out for a meal with her gay friend, Lee. With the house empty until she got home, he slid a frozen pizza into the oven, and changed into a T-shirt and shorts. The memory of the washing machine flashed into his head, and he checked at the side of the house. It was gone. After eating mechanically, he checked his phone again.
The earlier email had definitely stepped up a gear. Sophie had signed it ‘Love, Sophie’, and added four kisses this time. Steve deleted the thread, then plugged the phone into his laptop to transfer the photo she had sent. Once that was on the computer, he deleted it from his phone too. Better safe than sorry. Drumming his fingers on the trackpad, he thought about what he was going to say in his reply.
‘Dear Sophie, thanks for the earlier email and photo. Sorry I am replying so late, but it got crazy at work today. It was nice of you to send me a photo, so I can imagine your face as I type. I have to say that you look very attractive, and find it hard to believe that you are on your own, without a partner. At least your cat is very lucky to have you. Yes, it would be nice to be friends. I am often lonely, to be honest, though that might sound a bit mad, when you know I’m married. Regards, Steve. xxx’
He re-read the email, and was content to have been relaxed, as well as not going with the same four kisses as she had. Then he pressed send. The reply came back so fast, he was sure that she must have just been sitting waiting for him to contact her.
‘Dear Steve, thank you so much for saying I look attractive. That means the world to me, it really does. That photo was used on the company website a few years ago, not long after I started. But I am much the same now. I am so sorry that you feel lonely in a marriage, but I have heard so many people say similar things. Well you have me as a friend now, so you don’t have to be lonely anymore. Can you send me a photo too, Steve? I would also like to see the face that goes with the voice. Love, Sophie. xxxx’
Her remark about the photo worried him a little. He already thought she looked older than twenty-nine, and if that shot was a few years old, he wondered why she hadn’t just taken a selfie today, and sent him that. Still, it seemed only fair, to send one of him in return. He went up to the bedroom and stood opposite the mirrored doors of the big wardrobe. Ruffling his hair a little, and adopting a friendly grin, he took a series of photos on his phone. Choosing the one he thought showed him off the best, he transferred it to the laptop, and added it to his reply.
‘Dear Sophie, well this is me in casual mode. I need a shave, and I’m not very smartly dressed, but it is what it is. Like most people, I don’t really like looking at photos of myself, but I hope that you like it. Regards, Steve. xxx’
Once again, she replied so quickly, he wondered if she had even had time to read his email.
‘Oh, Steve. WOW. I knew you would be nice, but had no idea how handsome and sexy you would look. I’m rather overwhelmed, to be honest. Your photo has really set my pulse racing tonight, I can tell you. I’m so pleased that we delivered the parcel to the wrong address, or I might never have got to meet you. I doubt I will sleep later, as I will be looking at your photo, and thinking all sorts of things. I’m blushing now. Lots of love, Sophie. xxxx’
He shook his head and smiled as he read that. She had ramped things up to ‘Lots of love, Sophie’ now, and was a bit over the top with her remarks about what he looked like. But it wasn’t a bad thing for a stranger to think you were sexy and good-looking, he had to admit that to himself. He wasn’t sure what to reply, but before he got the chance, another email arrived, with a photo attachment.
‘Dear sexy Steve, here’s a very big kiss, just for you. You have got me trembling all over. Lots of love, Sophie. xxxxx’
She had gone to five kisses now. He opened the photo, and at first he was not too sure what it was. A close-up, very close-up. A pair of full lips, photographed in great detail. Her lipstick was deep red, and the lips were luscious indeed, pouting slightly. Steve had to admit that she had made a good choice. He hadn’t kissed another woman since he met Ellie, and the sight of those big red lips filling the screen made him imagine exactly what it might be like to kiss them. He felt rather excited, and not a little aroused too. A beep shook him from those thoughts. Another email from her.
‘Dear Steve, I hope that you like the photo of my lips. Can you imagine them kissing you? I hope that you can, because I am imagining kissing every inch of you right now. Lots of love, Sophie. xxxxx’
Well she was certainly moving things on, no doubt about that. She was perceptive too, because he could indeed imagine the kisses she was writing about. So much so, that his face had become flushed, and he was even unconsciously wiggling his toes inside the espadrilles he had on his feet. But he was unsure what to say in reply. How do you behave in such situations? He had never experienced this kind of communication before, though he had heard some guys at work talk about their experiences on dating websites. He thought for a moment, then clicked on ‘Reply’.
Before he could type one word, he heard the noise of a diesel-engined car pull up outside the house. It must be Ellie, back from her dinner with Lee. She had obviously taken a taxi, as Lee had probably had too many drinks to be able to drive her home. He closed the laptop, and slid it down the side of the sofa.
Ellie looked hot and bothered. She kicked off her shoes in the doorway, before popping her head around to give Steve the briefest of smiles. “I’m so hot, love. Lee got roaring drunk, all upset about breaking up with his latest man. I’m going to have a shower and get to bed. You OK?” Steve nodded. “Fine thanks, but it is warm tonight, isn’t it?” She was halfway up the stairs before he had finished talking, showing no interest in his reply whatsoever.
The next day was just as busy at work. Stopping for a mid-morning coffee, Steve checked his phone for emails. Nothing from Sophie at all. For some reason, he felt upset about that. He hadn’t replied to her rather suggestive comments the previous night, and was now regretting not bothering. After such a brief period of exchanging messages, he found that he had already started to look forward to them.
Lunchtime brought the same result, nothing. As it got close to the end of the day’s work, he started to feel edgy, though admitting that to himself felt stupid too. Once he was in the car ready for the drive home, he surrendered to the urge, and sent Sophie an email.
‘Hi, Sophie. Thanks for your sexy message last night. I’m sorry I had no chance to reply then, and I have been busy at work today too. I don’t want you to think I was ignoring you, or being rude, so I am sending this before I leave work, just so you know. Regards, Steve. xxx’
No sooner had he reached over to put his phone down on the passenger seat, than his message beep went off. He switched off the engine, and picked the phone up to read the email.
‘Oh Steve, I am so pleased to hear from you, my sexy man. I was sure that I had gone too far last night, and possibly upset you. But after seeing your photo, I really couldn’t control myself. I can’t tell you what a disturbed night I had, wondering if I had spoiled everything so soon. I really appreciate you contacting me, you’re wonderful. Lots of love, Sophie. xxxxx’
Steve couldn’t resist a rather self-satisfied grin. It seemed that Sophie was as keen as ever. But what do do now? Where did he go from there? He decided another email was in order.
‘Sophie, I wasn’t upset at all. I was very flattered, and pleased that you seem to like me so much. If I get a chance after I get home, I will contact you later. But I am not really sure where we go with this, other than the friendly emails. I can’t see that there is much in it for you, as you know I am married, and not free to do anything more. Regards, Steve. xxx’
As expected, her reply came back at lightning speed.
‘Dear sexy Steve. Don’t worry about where we go. Contact me later, and I will tell you. And show you! Lots of love, your Sophie. XXXXX’
So she wasn’t about to be put off. She had now become ‘your Sophie’, and her five kisses were now in capitals. He turned on the engine again, and put the phone on the passenger seat. Sitting in the usual evening traffic, his mind was all over the place. He had no idea what he wanted to do about Sophie. On one hand, the affectionate messages were exciting, and a nice change. But the logical next step was meeting up, maybe even an affair. And though he was bored senseless by his current domestic situation, the idea of cheating on Ellie had never once crossed his mind.
Dinner was a takeaway, as Ellie had got home in a bad mood, and Steve had been stuck in traffic that made him late. He ordered Chinese using an app on his phone, and they ate in silence, in front of the TV. She had wanted to watch one of her serials, and was already changed into her pyjamas when he got back. Eventually, she told him that her bad mood was caused by someone at work being promoted over her, leaving her stuck as an admin assistant for another year. That came as a relief, as for some reason, Steve had been convinced that his wife had somehow discovered about Sophie. When the programme finished, and Ellie told him she was going to have an early night, he immediately thought that would give him the chance to email Sophie.
‘Dear Sophie, I’m on my own at home now. What was it you wanted to tell me? I hope it’s not too late for you now. Regards, Steve. xxx’
The first reply had the heading ‘Just For You’. There was no text, just a photo. It was of a pair of legs, wearing black stockings attached to a suspender belt. The thighs were a little heavy, but the lower legs shapely and curved. It seemed to him that she had taken the photo looking along her body as she lay on a sofa, judging by the material underneath the legs. The second email followed almost immediately, and this time was headed ‘All Yours’. It was a photo of a pair of large, heavy breasts. They were stuffed into a see-through black nylon bra which hardly contained half of them. The photo must have been hard to take on a phone, head-on, and showing nothing but the boobs and bra.
Before he could even think of what to say in reply, a third email arrived.
‘Dear wonderful, sexy Steve. I hope you like what you see in my photos? This is what I would wear under my dress when we met, and I would be very pleased to know what you think of your Sophie. Lots of love, XXXXX’
Once again, he was at a loss to know how to reply. She was making no secret of what was on offer, and that was very appealing indeed. But she had undoubtedly moved it all to the next level, by showing him her sexy underwear, and suggesting that they would meet. Steve stared at the laptop for some time flicking back and forth between the two photos. Looks like it was decision time, he had to conclude. But before he had even hit a key, another message arrived.
‘Oh Steve, didn’t you like my underwear? I bought them just for you. If you prefer, I can show you the same views with nothing on. Lots of love, your Sophie. XXXXX’
His reply was as calm as he could make it, given the situation.
‘Dear Sophie. I really like your underwear, and appreciate what you have shown me, I really do. There’s no need to send more explicit photos, I assure you. I think you look very sexy, I honestly do. But I am not sure where we go now. Regards, Steve. xxx
The reply was taking no prisoners.
‘Steve, my love. Where we go is that you make an excuse to get a night out. I send you my address, and you get to come to my flat and enjoy me in and out of that underwear. That’s where we go of course, you sexy man. All my love, your Sophie. XXXXX’
Steve raised his eyebrows and shook his head.
Seems like it was time to either shit or get off the pot.
After Sophie’s unmistakable message last night, Steve had started to think up ways that he could get away for an evening, perhaps even stay out all night. It wasn’t as if he ever did that, but that also made it more noticeable, a break from his usual behaviour. On the plus side, Ellie didn’t know hardly anyone he worked with. He could come up with a late meeting perhaps, and then crashing at a colleague’s place. It wouldn’t matter who he said it was, as she was unlikely to be interested enough to ever bother to check out his story. Or the football was an easy excuse too, even though Ellie knew all too well that he had no interest in the sport. He would just complain that he couldn’t get out of it, and the others were pestering him to go.
He hadn’t replied to Sophie’s suggestive comments, deciding to see if she still felt the same way in the cold light of day. And as he parked in the company car park that morning, his message alert went off.
‘Darling Steve, I really hope that I wasn’t too shocking last night. When you didn’t reply, I was worried that I had gone too far, and was taking things too fast. Please tell me that you’re not upset, my sexy man. Even though I fancy you so much, and want us to meet up, I don’t want to spoil what we have between us. Lots of love, your Sophie. XXXXX’
So she still felt the same. Steve decided to keep his options open, at least for now.
‘Dear Sophie. I wasn’t upset at all. But what you suggest is a big step for me, and could cause a lot of problems with my marriage. I have to give it a lot of thought, even though I fancy you too, and think you are very sexy. Steve. xxx’
He knew that she would reply immediately, so slipped the phone into his pocket. He had to get in to work to face another busy day, and he had no time for sitting there exchanging endless emails with Sophie. But he had to admit that she was stuck in his mind, as he logged on to his computer.
At the lunch break, he wasn’t surprised to see that she had replied.
‘Oh, Steve, I do understand, I really do. I would never want to cause you any marital problems, honestly. But I don’t think you can deny that we had a real connection, and I think you might even be holding back on your emotions too. If you were happy with your wife, you would not have carried on sending me emails, or that photo. I don’t want to be pushy, and will leave you alone to think about what you really want. But I can’t help hoping that you will decide that you want me. Lots of love, your Sophie. XXXXX’
With the prospect of a fraught afternoon ahead, Steve decided to skip a reply. He didn’t want anything on his mind, as he had really serious work issues to deal with. He also had to seriously consider whether a night of fun with Sophie was worth the chance of ruining his marriage, if Ellie ever found out. After working late to meet all the deadlines, the boss came to thank everyone personally, telling them he would do his best to fight to get their tenders approved for the new project. Steve sent Ellie a text, suggesting they eat out, as he was running late. She replied that she had realised he was probably going to be late, so had arranged to meet Lee for a burger. She didn’t suggest he join them, and omitted to name the restaurant.
Back at home, he settled for eggs on toast, and a couple of beers. As it was still not even nine, and he had no idea how late Ellie would be, he opened the laptop. There were four emails from Sophie. He gave a low whistle. She had been busy.
The first was another photo, headed ‘Ready for you’. It showed a downward view of her large breasts. No bra this time, and they were supported by her left arm. Voluptuous was the word, and he had to admit that the contrast with Ellie’s comparably tiny assets was something to behold. The second email was another photo, headed ‘Lying on my back’. Her breasts again, the left arm wrapped around them, holding them close together. Once more, he had to confess to himself he was very impressed. He opened the next one, text this time.
‘Dearest sexy Steve. I thought I would show you what you are missing, and hope you approve. I am incredibly hot for you tonight, and had to stop myself taking much more explicit photos. If you get the chance, please let me know what you think about your sexy Sophie. All my love, XXXXX’
The last one was a lot longer. She was thinking hard, obviously.
‘My darling Steve, I wish you would think seriously about us meeting up. I would be very discreet, I promise. I have a car park space off the road, and nobody will ever know you have been here. I hope that you can think up an excuse to come over one Friday. Then perhaps you could stop the night, and we would wake up together on Saturday. Wouldn’t that be nice? I promise I would give you a night to remember, I really would. There is nothing I wouldn’t do with you, and I mean NOTHING. All my love, from your sexy Sophie. XXXXX’
Steve was excited of course, but still unsure. He had to keep her interested, in case he changed his mind, and even the emails were a lot of fun. If nothing came of them in time, then no harm done. He pressed ‘Reply’, and typed quickly, before he lost his nerve.
‘Wow, Sophie! Those photos are very sexy indeed, and you are certainly tempting, as well as very desirable. A Friday sounds good to me, but as I almost never go out, I am going to have to think up a good excuse. I hope that you won’t get fed up waiting, and will give me time to come up with a solid idea, so I wouldn’t have to cancel on you? I can certainly imagine that you would give me a night to remember. I have no doubt about that. Love, Steve. xxx’
He had changed to ‘Love, Steve’, but kept the three small kisses. Hopefully, she would stay interested. But making no promises also meant he wouldn’t feel bad about having to let her down, if that was how things turned out. Her reply was almost immediate, as usual.
‘Darling Steve. I will never get tired of waiting for you. You are the only one I want. Truthfully. All my love, your Sophie. XXXXX’
He smiled at her reply, and spoke out loud. “Well, that seems to have worked”.
The weekend was set to be dull. As far as he knew, they had no plans to do anything. He was still just about waking up when Ellie walked back into the bedroom. She was dressed and ready to go out. For a change, her smile looked sincere, and she spoke with some warmth. Something like the old Ellie. “I’m off to the shops in the city, love. I might meet up with Val from work for lunch, but I will get us something nice for dinner later. Maybe we can watch a DVD, and have a bottle of wine? Steve grinned back at her. “Yeah, sounds great. Enjoy your shopping”. She was downstairs and out the door before he even realised it was still only eight. She was obviously determined to be there at the moment the shops opened their doors.
After two cups of coffee and a long bath, he got to work on the laptop. The photos were swapped into an anonymous folder, and he created a new email folder with an insignificant name, moving all the emails into that. For some reason, he didn’t want to delete them just yet, as he thought it might be useful to re-read them, and see how Sophie’s thought process could have become accelerated so quickly. She had moved things on so rapidly, Steve was left wondering if anything he had said in the emails could have been misconstrued.
Once everything was neatly tucked away from the possibility of prying eyes, he went back over the photos, almost able to get an overview of the woman by assembling the various parts in his mind. After ten minutes, he came to a couple of conclusions. He didn’t believe she was only twenty-nine, that was definite. And she was obviously bigger than her workplace photo had indicated, he could tell that from her thighs. He smiled to himself. You couldn’t really blame her. Alright, she might be a little older, and somewhat heavier, but there was no denying that what he had seen so far was attractive, and she sure as hell wasn’t being coy. He thought again about the contrast with Ellie’s slim and sporty body. He had never been with a woman like Sophie, not once.
Her email was not unexpected, and he opened it as soon as the notification pinged up.
“Good morning, sexy Steve. It’s Saturday, and I woke up wishing you were in bed next to me, like we talked about. Oh I had such a restless night, imagining everything we would do together. And I can’t wait until you can come up with a plan to get away overnight. Did you think of one yet? Did you think about your Sophie last night? Have you been looking at the photos I sent you? I bet you have! 🙂 And I bet you are imagining just what an amazing time you would have with me too. Let me know, my lovely man. Lots of love, your Sophie. XXXXX’.
Steve felt his face flush. It was as if she was reading his mind, or somehow knew he had been looking at the photos, imagining what she would look like in person. This woman seemed to understand him so much better than Ellie ever had. And she certainly gave him more encouragement and attention than he had ever received from his wife. In a ridiculously short time it was as if they had established a very strong bond, one that he had never expected to experience with a woman. He imagined that wonderful voice speaking the words he was reading. That would be something to hear.
Without him even being aware of it, his brain slipped a gear, and something seemed to have taken over his thought process. He started to type very quickly, adding the number of his mobile phone as the heading.
“Dear Sophie, yes of course I have been looking at your photos, and thinking about all the sexy things you have been saying in your emails. Even when I am at work, I can’t stop thinking about you, and your amazing voice. I will be alone here for a few hours, and thought that you might like to ring my mobile when you have time, so I can actually hear you talking. What do you think? Love, Steve. xxx’
The phone started to ring almost as soon as he pressed ‘Send’, and it made him jump. And then he heard that voice.
“Hi Steve. I’m so happy that you suggested I call you, my love. I was going to ask if I could, but I never know when I will get you alone of course. How are you today, my darling? I hope that you are feeling sexy this morning, because I am.”
He sat listening to the tone of her voice. Now even more sensual than when they had spoken about the parcel, with a huskiness that made his thighs tingle. He didn’t really know what to say now he had asked her to call, and would have been happy to just listen to her talk uninterrupted. But he had to say something.
“It’s so good to hear your voice again, Sophie. I admit that I really just wanted to hear you speaking again, and I feel a bit silly that I don’t really know what to say”.
Steve needn’t have worried, she was happy to take over the call. She launched into great detail about how thinking about him drove her mad with desire, then added some excitingly graphic extras explaining just what he made her do to herself. Not content to leave it there, she described her plans about the proposed weekend they would spend together, making his mind spin with her inventiveness and passions. He felt like he was drunk, as he listened to her get more and more sultry, saying things he had never heard from the mouth of a woman before. Listing her delights as if reading out a menu, they became more and more fixed in his imagination. He had no idea that women like this existed.
When he was suitably and uncomfortably aroused, he realised she had stopped speaking, remembering her last line. “We will never need leave the bedroom, Steve. You won’t want to, believe me”.
Emboldened by her candid conversation, he made a decision. “The lads at work are going off on a football trip soon, to watch the local team in a big away match. I could say I’m going with them, as they are stopping on both nights, the Friday and the Saturday. I never usually go, but I could tell my wife they are pestering me. I doubt she could care less, so it should be possible. I will let you know the date, but will have to stay for two nights. Will that be OK with you, Sophie?”
Her voice lowered to little more than a growl. “Oh yes, two nights will be perfect, my gorgeous man”.
Now committed, Steve was very excited but also rather scared. “Oh good. Well I better go now. Thanks so much for ringing me, I will be in touch soon”.
He hung up before she could say anything else. He was already overwhelmed enough for one morning.
Ellie was as good as her word, returning that afternoon with some delicious ingredients to use to make dinner later, two bottles of wine, and a DVD of the latest action blockbuster. She didn’t seem to have bought anything else, as there were no clothes bags. And there was no mention of lunch with Val either, but Steve let that go. It would be nice to have a normal night in together. Might be like it used to be, years ago.
He cut the grass on the tiny patch of lawn, and watered the three rose bushes. They didn’t have much of a garden, and hardly ever sat outside anymore. But with such a pleasant evening on the way, he thought it might be nice for them to use the bistro table and chairs before eating. Ellie spent a long time chopping and browning. A lovely aroma of garlic wafted through the house, and he heard the sizzle as she added wine to the dish. Then as it was cooking, she set up the little folding table in the free space by the window. Small, intimate, just two chairs. He noticed that she had used the good knives and forks, and some of the crystal glasses that had been a wedding gift.
When she went upstairs to shower and change, he thought about opening his laptop, then decided against it.
Back down and fussing in the kitchen, Ellie called out to him. “It will be ready in twenty minutes, Stevie. You should go and shower now love”. As he stood in the water, he realised that she had called him ‘Stevie’. He hadn’t heard her call him that for at least five years or more. It felt strange.
Steve took his time over the meal, instead of wolfing it down as he usually did. It was delicious, tender beef in a luscious sauce, different flavours dancing off his tongue. The vegetables were steamed to perfection, and the accompanying wine, a pricey Bordeaux, complemented the meat perfectly. Ellie chatted about nothing much, but was animated and friendly. As they both got close to finishing, he decided now was a good time to make his suggestion.
“Those guys at work, you know, the football fans I told you about? Well they keep on at me about travelling to support the local team for that first big grudge match of the season in a week or two. They have a deal with a cheap hotel, and will rent a minibus. It’s quite a reasonable price all-in, as it includes a ticket to the match. But it’s so far, they are planning to go after work on the Friday, then stay on the Saturday too, after the game. I should be home on Sunday afternoon. What do you think?” Ellie put down her knife and fork.
“You don’t have to ask me, Stevie. You can go where you want, silly. By all means tag along with the lads to see the match. I expect it’s just an excuse for them to all get drunk, anyway. But I am a little surprised that you can be bothered, as you have never been interested in football since I have known you”. She started to clear the table, and he stood up quickly, eager to help.
“It’s not really about the football, more about fitting in, I suppose. We have been up against it at work this last couple of weeks, and everyone needs to have a break, and let our hair down a bit”. Ellie walked ahead of him into the kitchen, speaking without turning. “That’s fine. Maybe I will get the train up to see Mum and Dad, while you’re away. It will be a nice surprise for them.
Can you fold up the table and chairs, love, and put them back in the hall cupboard please?”
As they sat together watching the film, Steve wasn’t concentrating at all. Ellie had taken that very well, he thought. Sophie was going to be very pleased.
Later that night, Steve woke up on the sofa. Finishing the second bottle of wine hadn’t been a good plan, and he had no idea what time Ellie had given up on him and gone to bed. He turned over, deciding to stay downstairs. No point risking waking her up in the middle of the night. As he felt the pounding in his temples, he knew he was going to feel awful when he woke up.
It was early, he could tell that by the still air, and lack of noise coming from the surrounding houses. Plodding into the kitchen, he found some headache tablets in a drawer, and took three, with a bottle of water ice cold from the fridge. Ellie made him jump as she appeared behind him, silent in her bare feet. “I just heard from Lee. Some sort of crisis. I could do without that on my days off, but I will have to go, or he won’t stop ringing. There’s a lasagna in the freezer if I am not back in time for dinner”. Steve turned and looked at her. Fresh, dressed, made-up, and ready to go once her shoes were on.
His eyelids felt heavy as they flapped open and closed slowly. “What time is is love?” She grabbed her keys from the worktop as she answered. “Just before seven, I think. I have a taxi coming at seven, so I want to be ready. You OK with that? I can tell Lee to come here instead if you want, but I doubt you need all that grief on top of a hangover”. Steve shook his head. “No, that’s fine. You go to him. I don’t really need all that hysteria this morning. You got that right”. She gave him a peck on the cheek, and went outside to wait for her cab.
Steve waited thirty minutes until his headache started to fade. When he opened the laptop, he was actually surprised that there was no email from Sophie. How quickly he had come to expect her regular contact, and how soon it made him anxious, when there was no message. He smiled to himself at how silly that was, and began typing.
‘Dear Sophie. Well it is all arranged! I told my wife that I am going to the away match with the football guys from work, and she didn’t care at all. I looked it up, and it is next Saturday. So I will come round after work on the Friday, and I can stay until Sunday lunchtime. Let me know if that’s still alright with you. Love, Steve. xxx’
There was no immediate reply. Maybe she was still asleep, it was still early for a Sunday. For some reason, he didn’t want to shut the laptop. Instead, he waited for the reply to arrive, sure it wouldn’t be long in coming.
But by the time it got to almost nine, he gave up, and went to have a bath.
Between his bath and making a sandwich for lunch, Steve checked the laptop more times than he cared to admit to himself. It was past midday, and still nothing from Sophie. After making the arrangement with Ellie to be away for the whole of the following weekend, it now seemed that Sophie might have either changed her mind, or just disappeared without trace. As he munched the sandwich without tasting it, a thought occurred to him, for the first time since all this had started.
Sophie was very good at this stuff. The sexy voice, the rapid build up with the email seduction, making her seem so desirable and special. But perhaps she was too good? Maybe he was just one guy on a very long list of potential conquests, and she had tired of him as soon as she considered him to be well and truly hooked. One of the others had made her a better offer perhaps? Not married, no attachments, something like that. He started to imagine her flirting with every male customer that called in to her company, grinning to herself as she spun her web of sexy chat and photos around the unsuspecting admirers. By the time he had finished the sandwich, and started on his third beer, he could feel himself getting angry.
Steve resolved not to open his laptop until at least three in the afternoon. No point in constantly checking, when he was so convinced he would probably never hear from her again. He switched on the TV, and flicked through the couple of hundred channels available on the subscription service. As usual, there seemed to be nothing worth watching, so he rang his Mum instead. The phone call went pretty much as expected. He could have written the script. Dad was busy in the garden, Mum’s sister was having more tests at the hospital next week, and despite all the campaigns, that new estate was being built less than a hundred yards from their back fence. Dad was so furious, he was talking about selling up, and buying a static lodge home at the coast. Despite letting her drone on, the call still only ate up twenty minutes of the afternoon, leaving him staring at the laptop like a heroin addict surveying an empty syringe.
Long before his previously determined time, he gave in and opened the screen. Refreshing the page, he smiled. There was an email from Sophie, headed ‘SORRY!!!!’
‘Dearest sexy Steve, I am so, so sorry. My Internet went down this morning, and that left me in such a state. I made so many calls to the helpline, but it took ages to get back on. I was sick with worry that you might think I was ignoring you, and get angry with me. I would have sent a text, but had no way of knowing if you were alone. It’s wonderful that you are able to get away next weekend and come to stay with me here. I am already super-excited about it, even planning what outfits to wear, to look nice for you. Oh, Steve, I will give you such an amazing time, I promise you. I bet you won’t even want to leave on Sunday. 🙂 Lots of love always, your Sophie. XXXXX’
Of course, he would forgive her completely. It wasn’t her fault if the connection went down. It used to happen to their Internet all the time, until they spent the extra for the new fibre system. He made sure to calm her fears in his reply.
‘Dear Sophie. I am pleased to hear from you, and sorry that you lost your Internet. I know how annoying that can be. I wasn’t angry or anything, just a little worried that you might be unwell. Next weekend sounds exciting of course, but I perhaps should tell you that I am not that experienced. Honestly, I have only ever been with my wife. We were sort-of childhood sweethearts, and never dated any others before we got married. I don’t know what you are expecting, but this is all new to me, truthfully. Love, Steve. xxx’
He felt better letting her know about his lack of experience, as he dreaded the fact that she might have expected him to be some sort of super-stud.
Her reply took a little longer than usual, and started with a photo attachment. The heading was ‘Leave it to me’.
The photo was of her, full length in front of a mirror, and completely naked. Now he could see how all those different bits she had tempted him with added up to a whole. He felt his face flush, as there seemed something very personal about her unashamed image. As he had suspected, she was quite heavy, but not unacceptably fat. One hand was draping her dark hair around her face, but he could still make out it was her. The other hand was pressed flat against her belly, perhaps helping to reduce the effect of the obvious bulge. But the overall effect was suitably sexy, like a glamour photo from the past, something glimpsed in the magazines stored under the bed of a friend.
The text under the photo was pure Sophie.
‘Oh Steve, I am so hot for you, I had to show you what you will be getting on Friday. Don’t worry about experience, as your Sophie will take care of you in every way you can imagine, and some that you probably can’t imagine too. I hope you like what you see, sexy Steve. Let me know if it makes you feel sexy, my gorgeous man. I will send you some more photos during the week, just to make sure to keep you interested. Lots of love, your Sophie. XXXXX
Steve saved the photo, then added it to the anonymous folder. Before replying, he clicked on it, and enlarged it to fill the laptop screen. Not bad.
Not bad at all.
‘Dear Sophie. Thanks very much for the photo. It is very sexy of course, and I like it a lot. You look like a glamour model, very confident, and deliciously curvy too. I have never met anyone like you, Sophie, that’s the truth. I will be happy to have you taking care of me next weekend, I am sure about that. Love, Steve. XXX’
He had put the kisses in capitals this time, but left it at the same three. As he pressed ‘Send’ he wondered if he should have gone to four.
The week went by so fast for Steve. Work was still up in the air, with the decision on the tenders and contracts delayed once again. The pressure was well and truly off now, but stress levels were still high for everyone, as they waited for the news that might make or break the company.
Sophie kept going with the photos and texts. The pictures she sent became increasingly graphic, and Steve was so worried about them being on his phone, he deleted them almost immediately, not even bothering to save them to the folder. As well as that, her written text became incredibly lurid, as she spared no detail of what he could expect once Friday night arrived. He had to admit to getting cold feet, and had begun to wish he had never arranged the imaginary football trip with the guys from work.
But he couldn’t back out now, of that he was sure. He would always regret not following it through, if he cancelled at this late hour.
It didn’t help that Ellie was as nice as pie all week. She was coming home earlier, cooking some nice food, and even foregoing her usual soap operas and serials on the TV. There was no more mention of Lee, since last weekend’s drama, and she even helped him pack on Thursday night, revealing a present she had bought him. It was an official away shirt for the local team, in orange and black. As she folded it into his small case, she grinned. “I knew you wouldn’t think to get one, and I bet all the others have one. Probably scarves too. I didn’t get you a scarf though, as it’s far too warm at the moment”. He smiled as he zipped up the case. Trust her to make him feel guilty, at the last minute.
That morning at work passed as if in a dream. Sophie sent her first email just after nine.
‘I hope you are thinking about me, sexy Steve? Only eight and a half hours to go, and you will be in my arms! Lots of love, your Sophie. XXXXX’
He didn’t bother to reply, and just before lunch, another one arrived in his inbox.
‘Are you excited yet? I am! Only five hours to go! Lots of love, your Sophie. XXXXX’
Steve was far from excited. In fact, he was feeling quite ill, and his stomach was turning over as if it was doing somersaults. He spent most of the lunch break thinking up reasons he could give her to cancel. But they were all lame. Pathetic, in fact. He knew he would just have to man up, and go through with it. He sent her a quick message, as it seemed the right thing to do.
‘Hi Sophie. Oh wow, yes I am excited. But things are hectic at work, so I may not get the chance to email you again. Love, Steve. XXX’
Her reply was as quick as he imagined it would be.
‘Flat 4, Pembroke Court, Montgomery Drive. You can park in the car park at the back, in space number 4. XXXXX’
He laughed as he read it. He had completely forgotten until then that he didn’t even know her address.
On arrival at the flat, Steve was more nervous than he could ever remember being in his life. He had brought along a huge bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates, and two bottles of Prosecco. He hoped that covered all the social niceties. In the same shop, he had also casually thrown a box of condoms into the basket, and turned away as the shopkeeper added up his purchases and popped them into a bag. The car park space was empty, as Sophie had said it would be, and he walked up the steps to the first floor feeling like a condemned man ascending the scaffold. The bell had a melodious and slow ‘bing-bong’, and the door was opened before the sound of the ‘bong’ had finished.
The smell of the perfume hit him, and he almost sneezed. She was much shorter than he had anticipated, probably just five feet tall, in her stockinged feet. Her curves were squeezed into a black velvet dress that was short in the leg, and low at the front. And her make up was heavy, even noticeable under the large square frames of her glasses. Then that voice, even more overpowering, face to face.
“Come in, Steve darling. Don’t just stand there, honey. My, you are so tall and handsome, even better than your photo.”
She turned a little to the side, making sure that he had to brush against her body as he walked into the tiny hallway.
He handed over the bag, unsure what to say. “Er, these are for you, Sophie”. She took the bag from him, allowing her soft warm fingers to gently touch his hand as she did so. As she turned and walked into the flat, he closed the door, and followed. She turned left into what he discovered was the kitchen, and he looked at her back view as she began to unload the contents. Definitely curvy, very curvy indeed. He watched from the doorway as she put the wine into a fridge under the worktop, then placed the chocolates on the side. Running some water into the sink, she placed the bunch of flowers into it, still wrapped. He blushed as she found the box of condoms, and was surprised when she turned and dropped them into a pedal bin. She spoke with her back still facing him. “Nice thought, Steve darling, but we won’t be needing those. Your Sophie has that all sorted, my love”.
Finally, she turned, leaning her back against the edge of the sink. In the light from the window, Steve could immediately tell she was indeed a lot older than twenty-nine. He reckoned that forty-five was more like it, and he was being generous. Just as it seemed he had stared for a little too long, her amazing voice snapped him back into reality. Once again, it felt like she was reading his mind.
“OK, darling. Sophie lied a little. Just a small lie. As you can probably tell, I am not twenty-nine. But I won’t say my real age. You are here now, so it doesn’t really matter. You don’t want to turn around and go home, I take it?” He could almost feel the vibration of that voice passing through him like some sort of radio wave. It made him tingle to the point of trembling. Steve swallowed hard once again, and just shook his head.
He watched transfixed, as she slowly walked the few steps toward him. She opened her arms wide as she pressed herself against his body, then closed them around his waist. Looking up at him with a sultry smile, she hit him with that voice, as deep as a growl.
“This is the bit where you kiss me, Steve”.
Steve could hardly remember how they got from the kitchen to the bedroom. Things happened very fast. Then they slowed down, then they got very fast again. It was almost nine at night, and his stomach was rumbling. He hadn’t eaten anything since a tasteless sandwich at lunchtime, and Sophie had well and truly worn him out, with almost three hours of non-stop sexual antics.
Not that he was complaining. It had only taken him two minutes to stop caring about how much older she was, and as she had promised, she certainly looked after him, in every way imaginable.
And then in some ways he had actually never imagined.
Now she was in the kitchen, preparing what she had called ‘a snack’. He stretched out in her comfortable bed, hardly unable to credit what they had been up to so far. After all that time with Ellie, he had honestly never realised that some women could be like Sophie. He thought long and hard for the right word.
It had felt like she was handling him as if he was an inexperienced teenager, like he was a puppet, with her controlling his strings. Even that made him smile, as he had to admit to being a very willing puppet indeed. Although momentarily shocked by her age when he saw her in the kitchen, he was now eagerly awaiting her return to the small cosy bedroom, wondering what other delights she might have in store for him.
Sophie walked back into the bedroom, dressed in what she had laughably called her ‘dressing gown’. It was a floor-length, diaphanous see-through number, with the tightly-tied belt hardly able to contain her generous curves. Her hair was brushed, make-up tidied, and she was giving him such a wonderful smile as she placed a tray on the bed. The cheese and ham paninis tasted like the most delicious thing he had ever eaten, and she sat chatting to him as they ate them, washed down with large glasses of wine.
“So what’s the verdict, Steve darling? Are you happy with your Sophie? Didn’t I look after you, as I said I would? Judging by your reaction, I am guessing that you were pleasantly surprised, and you certainly didn’t hold back, once we got started”. The voice still sounded amazing. He could listen to that all night, of that he was sure. She nibbled daintily at the corner of the bread, waiting for him to speak.
“Honestly, I had no idea it could be like this, Sophie. I mean, I have had sex many times before of course, but now I can see I was just playing at it, going through the motions. You’re fantastic, I have to say. I didn’t even know women like you existed. I always believed they were just men’s fantasies”. His reply seemed to please her a great deal, and she even managed to look and sound a little coy.
“Why Steve, you are very kind to your Sophie. I do believe I could fall in love with you, my gorgeous man. I am so happy to see you so relaxed now, darling. You seemed so stressed and nervous earlier, when you arrived”. With her free hand, she stroked his chest as she was speaking. Steve wanted to say something nice, and make it seem that he hadn’t been worried about meeting her.
“Sorry about that, Sophie love. I was stressed earlier. But it wasn’t you, honestly. Just work. We have been waiting on the acceptance of some tenders for a big job. We submitted a few totalling almost fourteen million, and we have no idea what our competitors have priced the jobs at. That’s why things have been so fraught recently. Nothing to do with you at all, you’re fantastic”.
Her smile broadened. “Fantastic. That’s twice you’ve said that, Steve. Nobody has ever said I was fantastic before. I was worried that you might be feeling guilty about your wife. Ellie, isn’t it? Now hurry up and eat your food, I can’t wait to get back in bed with you”.
He swallowed such a big lump of the panini, that it hurt going down. “Yes, she is called Ellie. I did feel a bit guilty before I drove here this evening, that’s true. But that was before I had any clue about just how wonderful you are, and all the amazing things we have done since we kissed in the kitchen. Now I feel alright, wonderfully relaxed, and actually happy for the first time in ages. I never imagined it would turn out like this, I really didn’t”.
Nodding knowingly, she stood up, and placed the tray on the floor. One jerk of the tie cord had the black gown slipping away from her shoulders, and onto the floor. As she climbed back into bed, she stroked his face, her voice more seductive than ever. “I’m very happy too, Steve. Now let’s see if I can make you fall in love with your Sophie”.
Everything she had said had come true. The whole weekend was spent in bed. They only got up to shower, and Sophie brought snack food into the bedroom, so they didn’t have to delay their love-making for too long. On Saturday morning, Steve had asked her, “What are we going to do today?” He felt silly as he asked that, as it was not as if they could go out, and be seen together around the town. Her reply came back without hesitation. “We are going to do it all again. Then after that, we are going to do it all again. You won’t be bored, believe me. It will just get better and better”. She had been right about that, and how.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, knowing that he would have to leave later that day, they were still awake, reluctant to let sleep steal away those last hours. Sophie was cuddled up to him, her head resting on his chest, that voice purring like a contented cat. “Do you love your Sophie now, Steve? Even just a little bit perhaps? You know I love you, I have made that very clear”. As she spoke, she moved her leg up and down his body, and stroked his hard chest. Steve could hardly believe that he was getting so aroused again, after everything they had already done. He cleared his throat.
“Oh I am in love with you, Sophie. And not just a little bit. I’m crazy about you”.
She pulled herself up on him, and kissed him softly.
Her smile seemed different somehow, but that didn’t worry him.
On the short drive home that Sunday afternoon, Steve was running through a serious reappraisal of his life. The impact of the time spent with Sophie had been overwhelming. He had to admit to himself that he had told her the truth, and that he was crazy about her. He could imagine living with her in that small flat, coming home to her after work, returning to a very different life than the one he had settled into with Ellie. Sure, she might be in her forties, but so what? She was something special, a force of nature. Confident, affectionate, and so much more. He had expected to feel guilty, but he didn’t. He felt energised, excited, and ready to make some significant changes.
Ellie was upstairs in the spare room when he got home. She was ironing all her clothes for the week at work. As he looked around the door, she smiled. “How did the match go? Did you all get really drunk?” He had remembered to check the result of course. “We won. It was unexpected, but the lads were very happy. Strangely enough, nobody got that drunk, but it might have been worse if we had lost”. She nodded at the ironing board. “I will be about thirty minutes, then I will start to prepare dinner, OK?” She seemed normal, and he was sure she didn’t suspect a thing. As he turned on the landing, he remembered to ask. “How did it go with your parents? Are they OK?” Through a sudden burst of steam, she answered. “Oh, I didn’t go in the end. I just stayed here”.
Back downstairs, Steve suddenly remembered he hadn’t worn the football shirt. He took his small case into the kitchen, emptied all the clothes into the washing machine, added the powder, and turned it on. Then he walked quickly through to the living room, and switched on his laptop. There was nothing from Sophie on his emails, but as he had only left there twenty minutes earlier, that was to be expected. He waited, listening to the bursts of steam from the iron upstairs. There would be time for a quick message.
‘Dearest Sophie, I just cannot express what a wonderful time I had this weekend. As I told you, you are just fantastic, and you have changed my life around. I didn’t just say I was crazy about you, I meant it. On the way home, I was imagining us being together, full-time. What a terrific life we could have. I don’t care that you are older, and I won’t even ask your age. You have opened up my world, and it is just amazing. Let’s try to meet up soon, and have a serious chat about taking the next step. What do you think? I love you. Your Steve. XXXXX’
He had gone to the five kisses, in capitals too. Sophie couldn’t mistake his intentions, he was certain of that. He pressed ‘Send’, and logged off.
The evening was pleasant enough. Ellie cooked a nice dinner, and they watched a new drama serial on TV. She didn’t mention the football weekend again, and he didn’t ask why she hadn’t visited her parents. When she went up to bed just after ten, he kissed her goodnight, and turned down the volume on the TV, so as not to disturb her. Once he was sure she was in bed, he opened his laptop, and logged on to his emails.
Nothing. That was a surprise, as he had expected something from Sophie. Even one line, to acknowledge what he had suggested. Maybe she wasn’t online? She might well be sleeping off the excesses of their weekend together. But he wasn’t about to let it bother him, not after everything she had said to him since Friday evening. He would wait until tomorrow, she would definitely email him when she woke up.
As he pulled into the car park at work the next morning, Steve checked his phone. Still nothing, and she would have been at work by now. Oh well, a busy day ahead for both of them, no doubt. He would catch up with Sophie later.
He kept busy by going over all the previous reports and costings, in case they were needed. Just after eleven, he went to get a coffee in the staff room, and checked his phone again. Still nothing. As he left the room holding the paper cup, he was surprised to see his boss standing in the corridor. Next to him was the security guard, Thomas. “Steve, can you follow me, please. I need to speak to you in my office. Put the coffee back inside”. His tone was flat, and Steve searched for a word to describe it.
In the large office, nobody sat down. Thomas stood with his back to the closed door, a bored look on his face. The boss turned a large laptop around, so the screen faced Steve. As his finger hovered over one of the keys he looked up, his face pale. “I want you to watch this, and then you can explain it to me”. He pressed something, and what appeared on the screen made Steve recoil in alarm.
It was Sophie’s bedroom. He was sprawled out naked on her bed, and she was sitting on the other side, wearing that silly robe. The quality of the footage was remarkably good, and even though it was in black and white, he could see and hear every detail. An icy shiver ran up his back, as he heard himself speaking on the screen.
“Sorry about that, Sophie love. I was stressed earlier. But it wasn’t you, honestly. Just work. We have been waiting on the acceptance of some tenders for a big job. We submitted a few totalling almost fourteen million, and we have no idea what our competitors have priced the jobs at. That’s why things have been so fraught recently. Nothing to do with you at all, you’re fantastic”.
He couldn’t speak, but his boss did. “At eight this morning, our chief competitor submitted a revised tender bid of less than thirteen million pounds. It has already been accepted, and we are unable to compete with that, so no point trying to. I presume this woman, whoever she is, supplied them with the information on our bid, based on your pillow talk. They are not saying of course, claiming that they never even received this video. All those months of work down the drain, jobs at risk, and all because you wanted to impress some tart with your self-importance. What have you got to say, Steve?”
He didn’t want to say anything, fearful that he might vomit over the huge mahogany desk. It felt as if he was falling down a flight of stairs, unable to stop his descent.
“I thought as much. Don’t think I didn’t consider charges of industrial espionage, but I doubt it was the case. You were just showing off to that woman, hoping to big yourself up by boasting to her. That’s it, isn’t it?” Steve couldn’t look at him, and simply nodded. No point trying to talk it through.
“OK, you are suspended with pay, pending an official disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct. Hand your staff pass over to Thomas, and he will take you to get your personal stuff, then see you off the premises. Are you listening to me?” Steve nodded again, then followed Thomas back to his desk. The eyes of everyone else in the office were averted, as he picked up a few things and dropped them into a large envelope. They didn’t want to be associated with him. The news had already spread around the building, like a wildfire.
Fumbling with his keys next to the car, Steve dropped the envelope, and finally vomited onto the tarmac. There was hardly anything to bring up, but it left him feeling cold, and he was shivering.
As he sunk to his knees, unable to support his weight any longer, the message beep went off on his phone.
When he finally regained his composure, Steve got into the car and remembered the message beep. He checked his phone, and saw it was a text from Sophie.
‘Did you like the video?’ He needed to know why she had done that, and pressed ‘Call’. There was no ringtone, just a recorded message saying that the number was no longer in use. All that was left to do was to drive home, and think up an explanation for Ellie. He would say it was about losing the bid, and not mention Sophie at all. Perhaps she might believe that a few of them had been laid off, given how important that contract had been.
Outside the house was a small rental van, parked with two of its wheels on the kerb. He drove his car into the space in front of the living room window, presuming that a neighbour must be using the van for something. Climbing wearily out of driver’s seat, he left the envelope inside, and fished the door key out of his pocket. As he walked through into the hallway, he heard voices from the living room, and one of them was Ellie’s.
They were sitting together on the sofa, and both smiled coldly as Steve walked in. He stood open-mouthed as he surveyed the scene. Sophie looked very different. Her hair was drawn up on her head, and she had almost no make-up on. The rather severe trouser suit she was wearing looked very masculine, nothing at all like her style. But it was definitely her, and she was sitting next to Ellie, holding her hand. In the middle of the room, three suitcases in assorted sizes looked packed and ready to go, and there were four or five large boxes too, all sealed down with brown parcel tape. It was Sophie who spoke first, that unmistakable voice still making him tremble, even after what had happened this morning.
“Close your mouth and sit down, Steve. You look rather foolish standing there, and we all need to have a little chat. Ellie has a story to tell you, don’t you love?”. She turned to Ellie and smiled, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. Steve dropped back into the armchair, more as if he was falling into it, than sitting down. He had a terrible taste in his mouth, and absolutely no idea what his wife was going to say. Ellie sat up straight. Without looking directly at him, she began to talk.
“Over a year ago, when you were away at that concrete seminar, or whatever it was, we had a parcel delivered here. It was for a Mr Ali, and had come to the wrong address. I think it was a toaster or something. I rang the company, and was put through to Sophie. She sorted it all out for me, and we started to chat. By the end of the call, she knew I was here alone, and that you were away with work, so suggested it might be nice to meet for a drink that evening. I said ‘Why not?’ I don’t have that many friends here, outside of work, so thought it might be nice. We hit it off straight away, and ended up going for an Italian meal”. She stopped to catch her breath, and turned to smile at Sophie. The older woman nodded encouragement, and patted her hand.
“I was left in no doubt that Sophie was very interested in me. You know, in that way. As we were walking to the taxi rank, she suggested I might like to go back to her flat, and it was obvious what she was talking about. I said I was flattered, but happily married, though it would be nice to meet up again, just as friends. She took that well, and kept in touch with me on and off. Sometimes I would meet her at the shops in town, and we would go for coffee. She carried on telling me she was interested, and I kept thanking her, and declining her offer of being a lot more than friends. Then just recently, she let me know that she had spoken to you, about another parcel. You had been nice to her, and sent a nice email. Then you started to reply to the personal emails she sent you too”. Sophie leaned forward, and took over the story.
“I told Ellie that you were flirting with me, and responding to my obvious advances. After all that time of her telling me what a faithful and loyal husband you were, I thought she should know what you were really like. I suggested that I continue, and we would see how far you were prepared to take it. If you went along with it to the inevitable conclusion, then she would know that you were no longer worth bothering about, and see sense”. Steve felt as if he should say something. But he had no idea what. Ellie reached into a bag at her side, and threw a large stack of papers onto the coffee table.
Then she started speaking again.
“Those are printouts of all the emails, Steve. And I have heard the recorded phone call, and watched most of the video that Sophie filmed all weekend, with the concealed camera in her bedroom. That was why you two never left that room, do you get it now? I had refused to believe it at first, but I couldn’t argue with the proof. You see there was no Lee, no gay bloke at work. It was always Sophie that I was going to see. She kept me updated on what you were up to, and sometimes I was in her flat as you exchanged emails. Right up to the end, I kept telling her that you would never go through with it, never betray me. But what you did last weekend was so shocking, I decided to get my own back, and ruin your career”. She finally smiled. A rather self-satisfied smile that wasn’t at all like Ellie. Then she sat back, looking relaxed now, and continued.
“So I am moving out, and going to live with Sophie. I have her to thank for showing me what my husband is really like, and I finally realise that I have wanted to be with her since that night in the restaurant. But I was loyal to you, and faithful too. Something you couldn’t manage. You can stay here for as long as you can afford to, but it will have to be sold. There isn’t much equity, given what we paid for it, and the slump in the housing market. And with no job, I doubt you will be able to afford much around here. Maybe you should move back in with your parents? I don’t really care, to be honest. I have transferred half of our joint savings into another account. There wasn’t much to start with, but you still have your half. My mail will be redirected, and I would appreciate it if you only contacted me regarding any legal matters over the house. Have you got anything to say, before we leave?”
Steve wanted to say lots of things, but they all sounded pointless, in his mind. He looked up at her, then across to Sophie, who was grinning. He said nothing, so Sophie spoke instead.
“Perhaps you would be kind enough to go upstairs and keep out of the way while we load up the van, Steve?” That voice again. Still amazing, despite what she had done.
As he walked past her to the hallway, Sophie suddenly reached out and took his hand. He looked back at her and she was shaking her head slowly. Her last words to him were softly spoken, and as seductive as ever.