Monthly Archives: April 2016

The End?

To my surprise he was on time and actually waiting for me.

‘Thanks for coming,’ he said and lingered before me, trying to suss out whether I was going to agree to a hug or not. As I didn’t volunteer to step close to him, he seemed happy to leave it. ‘Let’s go to my place.’

For him, the 1-bedroom flat was rather modest, but for being in the middle of Covent Garden is was quite sizeable. He showed me into the sitting room and parked on the couch, waiting for me to sit down.

I felt angry, mainly with myself, for allowing his presence to toy with my emotions once more – especially as it was officially over and had been for some time. For a moment I wanted to just run out of there, but before I could make up my mind he pulled me down onto his lap, facing him, and put his strong arms around me, willing me to do the same. I followed his orders, as usual, and for a moment it was as though my hurt was on pause and it was old times again.

‘I’m so sorry for confusing you and for hurting you. For all this…’ he said, the velvet in his voice caressing my wounded soul with the words I had given up on hearing from him. I nodded, indicating I was listening. ‘I’ve just been trying to figure out what I want in life…’

A silence built up between us as he rested his chin on my head, allowing me to put my mouth and nose against the crook of his neck, inhaling the scent of his skin.

‘I’ve appeared angry at times because I’ve been frustrated…’ I eventually offered.

‘You don’t need to explain, I understand. I do,’ he whispered and sighed, simultaneously tightening the grip around my back, like he didn’t want to let go.

I considered standing up and gracefully bowing out, leaving it like that, but I felt unable to move. He was like a drug I’d spent a long time trying to quit but could just never resist when it was in front of me.

‘Ideally I’d have you naked right now,’ he sighed a minute or so later, making me wish that I in fact had followed my instinct and walked out before – at the same time making me glad I hadn’t. ‘You bring out sides of me that others just… don’t.’

‘You know what you do to me…’ I muttered and didn’t move, although I knew I should have.

He laughed sweetly, once more tightening his grip around me, allowing one of his hands to travel up and down my back. I pulled back slightly so I could look at him as I stroked his face and neck, his mouth lingering just over mine. I could feel his heart beating hard in his chest. ‘You’re not going to make this easy, are you?’

I shook my head. To me, it was a bizarrely satisfying moment of knowing he wanted me as much as he ever did, if not more. I knew I could have him, even though I shouldn’t. I wanted him to seduce him and make him give in to his desires, especially as he shouldn’t succumb to me. I wanted to take him from her, if only for a moment.

‘What is it you want?’ he asked and I noticed that the touch of velvet was back in the middle of his voice.

‘Isn’t it obvious?’ I asked, my expression strong and clear.

He nodded. ‘You know how I like it when you’re vocal about what you want.’

‘I want you,’ I whispered as I looked straight into his eyes. ‘Now.’

‘Could we end it on a positive note, like this?’ he asked but didn’t wait for an answer, just moved his hands from my back and up to my cheeks, pulling my face up to his and meeting my mouth in a kiss that reflected the raw passion we had for each other, one that didn’t seem to vanish – in spite of our best efforts to stay away from one another.

We couldn’t reach the bedroom fast enough, only stopping off in the hall to share another kiss. A simple touch of his lips made my crotch pulsate with noble passion.

I pulled him with me into the bedroom and let gave in to the urge once more.

Just. Once. More.

As I finally rolled off him about an hour or so later, the afterglow of my orgasm left me wanting to say things to him, things I knew would be better left unsaid. He embraced my back and offered another kiss. He stoked my back, kissed me once more, let his fingers play with my hair, as we both enjoyed the silence and the afterglow.

‘…definitely on a good note…’ he finally uttered and I could feel my heart go cold, to be reminded so abruptly that it was indeed “the final time”. ‘I know what you’re thinking,’ he added quickly. ‘Don’t dwell.’

As the spell was already broken, I got up and followed the trail of my clothes into the hall. I put them on in silence, avoiding eye contact with him but all the time weary that he was standing there next to me, waiting for me to finish. I finally stood up before him and rested my head on his chest.

‘Please don’t dwell,’ he said again. ‘I do it too. Don’t…’ he whispered, before squeezing my shaking body against him. I took a step back and lingered before him, once again trying to overcome the strong desire to just… say it. To say the words I never felt the urge to say to anyone. I met his eyes and took a deep breath. He knew me well enough to know what was coming. ‘Please don’t…’ he pleaded quietly.

Overcome with sadness I waved the urge goodbye, stood on my toes and let my mouth barely touch his lips for a moment, followed by a deep, slow breath that gave me the necessary strength to step away and out the door.

For good.

Excerpt from my novel, “A Masochism Tango” (2012-)

It’s Not Over Even When It’s Over

The following morning I woke up from Cavaradossi kissing my forehead. I opened my eyes and saw he was sitting on his knees in front of me, fully dressed.

‘Just stay in bed, I have to go to a rehearsal right now because the tenor I’m covering for is sick. I’ll be back this afternoon.’

‘OK, we’ll be in touch,’ I mumbled.

‘You took me by surprise yesterday,’ he stated and smiled vaguely, got up and walked out the door. I sat up on my elbow for a moment, wondering whether that was meant as a positive or a negative comment. A couple of minutes later the doorbell rang and I got up, thinking Cavaradossi had forgotten something. After all, he didn’t have a key to my flat yet. I put on his shirt from the night before, pulled it around me without buttoning it up and opened the door.

The man outside the door wasn’t Cavaradossi.

‘What are you doing here? It’s…’ I paused and looked at the wall clock. ‘It’s nine in the fucking morning!’

‘Apologies,’ he said dully and added with sarcasm; ‘we could have finished this last night but your knight in shiny armour rescued you from the devil at the last minute.’

‘Are you jealous?’ I asked with a slight hint of gloating in my voice.

‘Not necessarily,’ he spat and looked down.

‘Thanks for dropping by,’ I stated and tried closing the door. His hand immediately grabbed onto the edge of it, stopping me in my track.

‘Can we just have a quick talk over coffee? Then I’ll leave you alone. Please?’ he requested, milder and with added desperation.

‘Fine…’ I muttered and let him in, suddenly aware that I was just wearing a white shirt with nothing underneath. Whilst buttoning the shirt up I made my way to the kitchen. I picked out two glasses and poured some juice before turning around and nearly spilling the contents of both glasses onto the floor as I crashed into him. He put his fingertips on my hip bones for a moment, took a couple of deep breaths and expanded his large chest so it nearly touched my breasts, before taking a step back.

‘Seeing you with him yesterday…’

‘I thought you were here to talk about you, not him?’ I interrupted and walked past him into the living room where I parked myself on the sofa. I could have bothered getting dressed, but considering he’d seen more of me than most people I wasn’t all that fussed. He sauntered after me and sat down on the table in front of me, putting one leg on each side of mine, causing his trousers to tighten around his… I immediately looked away. ‘What do you want?’

‘The way it ended was totally selfish, I just… I was in a bad place and she…’

‘Look, whatever your reasons were, I don’t care. I’ve had it with you. You’ve left me for this woman twice! It’s not so much the fact that you did it, but the way in which you did it. Nobody I know has put me through as much shit as you have, repeatedly, like you’re trying to fulfil some sick desire in me to take as much crap from you as humanly possible.’

‘I know. I don’t blame you for moving on with Goody Two-Shoes…’

‘Leave him out of this!’

He sighed and took another deep breath before raising his voice, ‘How do you expect me to leave him out of it? How do you suppose that’ll work? Do you love him?’

‘That’s none of your business,’ I spat and stood up.

‘Do you love him?’ he repeated.

‘He’s a fantastic man who treats me like I deserve to be treated.’

‘Do… you… love… the man?’ he asked again and raised to his feet so we stood as face-to-face as we possibly could with him in shoes and me barefoot.

‘He’s everything you’re not!’ I challenged and stared up at him before making my way towards the front door. I opened it to indicate that his time inside my home was coming to an end. He quickly followed me but rather than walking through it he put his hand on it so it slammed shut. ‘Please leave,’ I panted through short breaths as he was leaning over me, still with one hand on the door.

‘You can’t say it, can you?’ he challenged.

‘Fuck you!’ I spat and shoved the bottom end of the palm of my hands into his chest with a thud, pretty much causing him to immediately press his entire body mass onto me until I was squeezed against the door, quickly followed by his mouth overpowering mine. For a passing moment everything seemed irrelevant and I kissed him back with added lust and pent-up desperation, until moments later I ducked down and sat down on the floor.

Although I sat face to face with the obvious sign of his desire, an image that still made me go dizzy with lust, I rested my face on my knees rather than looking at him.

‘You need to leave,’ I said to the floor. ‘Now, please.’

‘This isn’t over,’ he said as I moved out of the way so that he could open the door and take his exit. I quickly locked it behind him and went back to bed, feeling violated, in complete chaos and so turned on I sighed audibly the moment I slipped my hand in between my legs.

At the same time his final words haunted me. This always seemed to be the problem with him; even when it was over it was never really over.

Excerpt from my novel, “A Masochism Tango” (2012-)

Light Bondage

I woke up from his weight on top of me, but couldn’t move my arms. I opened my eyes, but quickly found that I was staring into a cloth of some kind, tied over my eyes. I jerked my hands forward and realised that I’d been handcuffed to the bed pole above my head.

‘What…’ I started and immediately got shushed by his soft voice.

‘Sssh, don’t speak. Relax.’

He removed himself from me and the sound and brief wind caused from the covers being removed washed over me. I had no idea if it was the middle of the night or morning already, all I knew was that I was handcuffed, blindfolded and spread eagle on the bed. For the longest time nothing happened, and I found myself shaking in anticipation from what he’d do. He finally put his hand on one of my thighs, buckled my leg slightly and pushed my knee outwards whilst gently caressing my thigh with his hand. Whilst doing the same to my other leg, he kissed the inside of my thigh, his stubble tickling my sensitive skin all the way up to where I was now dying for him to be.

Then his touch stopped for what seemed like forever and I started squirming in anticipation. Suddenly I could feel his breath on my stomach, which meant he was close enough to my skin to get the desired effect, but not close enough to actually touch it. When he moved upwards I got instant goose bumps as his tongue briefly touched my erect nipple before the subtle trail of his breath continued up my upper chest, up the side of my neck, across my cheek… then nothing, until his tongue lightly separated my lips, followed by another (what felt like) several minutes of anticipation before his soft lips finally landed on my mouth.

I went for him like a hungry animal, but he held back just enough so that I couldn’t take charge. I jerked at the handcuffs to be able to stretch towards him but to no avail, and actually found myself shaking my head like a bound dog at the off-chance of getting closer. At this point I was pretty sure I could hear his Cheshire Cat-like grin, with the way his breath changed to more irregular.

‘What are you waiting for?’ I challenged.

‘What are you waiting for?’

‘You!’ I moaned and arched my back to get closer to wherever he was. He had already moved down between my legs again, this time he placed his tongue on my pubic bone and licked his way up a straight line and stopped just above my breasts. For a moment I lay still, awaiting his next move – and couldn’t help but squirm and sigh audibly as he blew cold, hard air onto the wet trail.

Again I lay still, unaware of what his next move was going to be, until I felt the tip of his tongue in between my legs. First in light, circular movements, then harder and more demanding – just the way he knew I liked and needed it. I could hardly breathe and got more and more frustrated by the restriction – and yet more and more turned on by it.

Then he stopped. I could hear him walking up to the head of the bed, followed by a quick fiddle with the handcuffs. One went off my wrist before I got turned over on my stomach and then re-cuffed. I kept myself in the position he’d put me, eagerly awaiting his next move. He grabbed hold of my hips, lifted me onto my knees and put his hand on my neck to signal for me to keep my head down, then stroke it all the way up my spine until he ended up by my buttocks. I gasped for air as he firmly, yet lightly, slapped the right cheek.

He then bent my back further down so that my chest was resting on the mattress, giving him a chance to embrace my hips with his grip and easily slide into me from behind. My moans rapidly went up in pitch, and it was clear that his little game had turned him on as well because he followed my lead and panted through clenched teeth – a noise I knew well and would recognise anywhere. He kept the thrusting slow and rhythmic until I started shaking, the clear sign that I was well on the way, at which point he sped up the process and finished within a few seconds of me.

My knees slowly gave way and I slid onto my stomach, my whole body feeling raw and sensitive, as he unlocked the handcuffs and removed the blindfold. It was with some surprise that I noticed that the room was completely light and the clock on the wall showed ten to eleven in the morning. It had somehow felt like it was in the middle of the night, probably purposely so.

Who’d have thought I would enjoy that degree of… submissiveness?

Excerpt from my novel, “A Masochism Tango” (2012-)

An Indecent Proposal

The morning after lunch with the parents we sat at the table eating breakfast. I pretended to read the newspaper, but all I was really thinking about was getting chained to the outdoor railing on the balcony in the middle of the night some hours earlier.

‘Maybe we should ask Cavaradossi for a ménage a trois?’ he asked just as I had sipped my first mouthful of coffee, pretty much causing me to snort it back out through my nose.

Pardon?’

‘I’ll take that as “what a good suggestion, darling, let me think about it and get back to you”, then?’ he chuckled. ‘I know you’re attracted to him so I’m game. It’s not like we haven’t invited others into bed with us before.’

‘True,’ I had to agree. ‘But would you be able to look at him in the same way, ever, if you approached him and he said no? Or even worse, if he actually said yes?’

‘So either way it would be bad for me,’ he grinned broadly. ‘And yet I’m willing to sacrifice my integrity as well as my good name and reputation to please you.’

‘Is this when you’re going to tell me you want a separate threesome with Tosca and/or a chorus girl?’

‘Absolutely not,’ he said, surprisingly earnestly. ‘There’s no need.’

‘So this is a trick question,’ I concluded.

He sighed mockingly. ‘It’s an honest, valid proposition. Take it or leave it.’

I took another sip of my coffee and too large a bite of my burnt toast while I thought about it for a moment. Sure, he was incredibly attractive. Sure, we weren’t strangers to this kind of… behaviour, but although we’d done similar in Sin City it had been different then. We hadn’t been involved in the same way as we’d become. To have sex with another man when he was next to me would, at this point, have been a complete and utter mind fuck.

I cleared my throat to make a statement, and he folded away his copy of the New York Times in mock anticipation. ‘Yes, dear?’

‘What if he just… watched?’

A broad smile appeared and he chuckled. ‘So what you’d like me to do is ask our star tenor if he’s into voyeurism? You’re right, that’s a lot less awkward than asking for a straight threesome.’

When he went in for that evening’s performance, I sat in our flat and tried to imagine how the conversation in question would go down. “Hey, man, nice day, isn’t it? Listen, I was wondering, are you by any chance into…?” If he said no, it would be very awkward for everyone involved. If he said yes it would also be very awkward – but in a different way. I’d find myself naked in the same room as two of the best singers in the world of opera for starters. Not intimidating at all, obviously.

Within half an hour of curtain close, I heard the key turn in the lock, closely followed by, Honey! I’ve got a present for you!’

‘How did it…’ I asked as I stepped into the hall, rapidly slowing down as the first person I saw was in fact… Cavaradossi in all his gorgeousness, newly showered for the occasion. ‘…go…?’

‘I didn’t have any plans for this evening,’ Cavaradossi informed me in his polite and velvety foreign accent.

‘Right! Tea?’ I stated, somewhat taken by surprise, and yet I don’t know why I didn’t realise this was a probable outcome. I gave him a disapproving stare and he just shrugged. Cavaradossi had already made his way past me and into the kitchen, presently looking for the kettle, leaving us alone in the hall.

‘We got to talking and I asked him what he thought of you,’ he whispered. ‘At first he didn’t know what to say, given what happened on the opening night and everything, but when I explained the intention of my questioning he was very complimentary towards you. When I asked if he was up for it, he literally launched at the idea.’

‘Where are the teabags?’ we heard from the kitchen.

‘Second cupboard from the left,’ he shouted back before returning to whispering. ‘So what do you say?’

‘Please explain to me how this benefits you in any way?’ I whispered back.

‘Think about it! From a total alpha-male perspective, I get to show him who you belong to!’

I chuckled. I should have known that it would be about his ego in the end. ‘You could have warned me so that I could have at least changed,’ I stated and hit his arm.

‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll be out of your clothes in no-time anyway,’ he said as he made his way to the kitchen to help our spectator find the teabags. As I slowly followed them, I did wonder why I hadn’t offered him something with high alcohol content instead. I entered the room, only to find them both leaning against the kitchen worktop with a cup of tea in their hands. My eyes flickered from one to the other and I had to tell myself to breathe.

‘Let’s head on into the living room,’ he suggested and Cavaradossi agreed. I stayed behind, opened the cupboard next to the one with the tea and took out a half-bottle of brandy. Rather than going for a glass, I threw back a nice big gulp and let it settle for a moment before joining them.

They sat on opposite sides of the white couch, chatting lightly, when I changed my mind and went for the bathroom to change into my robe. I undressed completely, looked at myself in the mirror and covered myself with the thin fabric. I figured I could either just go for it all the way or not at all so I took a breath, went into the living room and parked myself on the thick, black carpet between the couch and the TV. I stood still for a moment and shot both a quick glance before letting the robe slide off my back.

‘How are we going to do this then?’

Excerpt from my novel, “A Masochism Tango” (2012-)

A Masochism Tango

There I was, three years later, allowing one reminder of his existence to think that it wouldn’t be a totally disastrous idea to check if I could find his schedule to see where he was currently at. He was probably still at the Met anyway and therefore far away from where I could potentially run into him.

Moments later I’d gone online and plotted his name into a search engine, hoping for a result. He didn’t have his own website, but on page two of the search results I found what I was looking for; he was in town, doing a series of recitals in… churches. One was that same evening, at a church half an hour by motorbike away from where I lived. Chances were I’d never get in, because he was a fairly big name by then. For all I knew he was still with her, and did I really want to go there again?

It didn’t take me long before the emotional masochist in me decided that the answer to that question was, in fact, yes.

I took a quick shower, fixed all the bits that needed to be fixed and put on my leather suit, aka my protective gear for the bike ride. The recital had already started, but all I was worried about was catching him on his way out. If I left straight away I’d get there in time for the intermission and possibly manage to sneak in for the second half. I rode there too fast, and broke various speed limits, as a thousand thoughts flew through my head.

Yet, as I arrived at the church, I had no idea what my supposedly genius plan was.

I saw a few hundred people standing outside smoking and talking, which confirmed my suspicion that I would arrive in time for the intermission. I looked around for someone who looked vaguely in charge of entries and eventually found an elderly lady with a clip board on the steps. I enquired whether it was possible to obtain a spare seat and as we stood and looked through the seating chart, people started moving past us inside the church. Mid-crowd the lady in question grabbed me by my elbow and pulled me through the masses at an alarming speed.

Row three, aisle seat.

The only place worse would have been at the very front. Considering I was still in my leather gear, I stood out like a sore thumb among the crowd of dinner jackets and dresses. I even managed to get a few disapproving looks as I sat down, which made me feel a whole lot better.

The orchestra came on to great applause, as did the conductor and the chorus. I sank down into my seat as the principle singer came back on to even greater appreciation. It was just him by himself. I’d have expected at least a female companion, but there was nobody else in sight. The orchestra started playing, and from there everything else fell into motion and ended with his strong, velvety voice filling the church room. I started feeling faint.

As he accepted his applause gracefully from the first number, my crash helmet fell to the floor with a loud thud – causing him to look in my direction just long enough to recognise me. He looked like he’d been hit by a thunder bolt and froze in his tracks, stared wildly at me for a moment before turning away, scratching his neck nervously. This was one of his little ticks that I’d learned to recognise.

It was at this point I realised that if this concert had been a few days away, I would have had time to think about it and acknowledged what a stupid idea this had been in the first place.

Moments later he started singing a song whose melody I didn’t recognise, and yet it seemed so familiar. As our eyes met briefly, I knew which song it was; it was the one he’d sung to me, a’capella, in his dressing room that time. The one I still had no clue what was about but that made my whole body tingle at the thought of that experience – and others.

As soon as he was done I made my way out of the church behind frustratingly slow-moving people, sneaking out in the middle of the crowd as I wanted to get on my bike and race away as fast as humanly possible before I got myself into trouble. I wasn’t sure I could take another round of what nearly drove me insane some years earlier.

‘Excuse me, miss?’ I heard a male voice behind me enquire as I was about to put my crash helmet on. It wasn’t his voice, I knew that straight away, so I turned and looked at a balding man in his mid-40s with round glasses that looked a bit like George Costanza in “Seinfeld”.

‘Yes?’

‘Will you come with me, please?’

I don’t know why I came, but I did. He didn’t say anything, just lead the way back into the church, through a corridor on the right, up a flight of stairs and basically plonked me outside a closed door before disappearing. I figured I would either be forced to do ten Hail Marys for causing disruption in church with my helmet, or I was about to come face to face with him behind that door. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to find out, so I turned on my heel and was about to shoot back down the stairs when the door opened and a voice filled the empty space between us;

‘Leaving so soon?’

I didn’t even have to turn around to see which one of my options were standing in the doorway behind me. I knew that if I turned around I’d be sold, so I just nodded quietly and caressed the wooden banister. I could hear his steps disappear inside the room behind me so I looked back, noticing the door was still open and inviting me to walk through it. I took a deep breath, continued a couple of steps downwards, before stopping again.

Oh, who was I kidding?

I walked through the door and closed it behind me. It was a small church room with a cross on the wall, a chair and a small table, a sink and mirror across from the small window. He stood with his back against me, his hands in his trouser pockets, looking out the window. The bleak lamp on the table next to the chair gave the room an eerie atmosphere. I tried not to look at him, tried not to awaken the beast of desire by remembering what the man before me was able to make me do at the wink of an eye and the crooking of a finger.

I didn’t trust myself with him – with very good reason.

He slowly turned around and faced me, his eyes looking dark, cold and controlled for a moment as he made his way towards me. The scene seemed strangely familiar. In a mild strike of panic, I backed away until I hit the closed, heavy wooden door. He stopped a few inches shy of me and supported himself against the door. His arm was so close to my face I could smell the scent of his skin; that impossibly masculine scent that he always seemed to smell of, a scent that didn’t come out of any bottle. He leaned in, his face close to mine, his eyes trying to focus, and it was with some relief I saw the stern look disappear and a softer one appear.

He sighed and looked down.

For the longest time we just stood there, him looking down and me closing my eyes to attempt escaping that way – obviously failing miserably. With another sigh he lifted his gaze and looked at me, slowly moving his face closer to mine, before meeting my mouth with a slow, soft and controlled kiss. As resisting would be pointless, I welcomed it but moments later he aborted, lingering face to face with me for a few seconds before taking a few steps backwards into the centre of the room.

‘Jesus, you look good in that body armour,’ he muttered after having given me the once-over whilst running a hand through his hair. ‘Seeing you there tonight…’ he paused. ‘How long has it been?’

‘Three years. I take it you’re still attached?’

‘Yes. No. I mean, the thing is that…’

‘…it’s complicated. Yes, it always is,’ I said with a hint of sarcasm and started feeling for the door knob. Immediately he moved close to me again, his hand cupped mine, stopping it in its tracks towards freedom.

‘Please…’

‘The same woman you left me for?’ I asked, not really interested in hearing the answer.

‘Technically,’ he said earnestly. ‘But what I was going to say is that as we speak, she’s packing her things and moving out of our shared accommodation. So it’s complicated… only it’s not. It’s been coming for a while, as she’s with someone else and has been for a while.’

‘What goes around…,’ I said sternly, wiggled out of his grip, turned around and walked out the door in a rush. I knew that if I lingered for just another second, I’d never leave. I heard his voice calling for me, begging me to wait. I could hear the door slam behind him, his footsteps running down the stairs after me. I dug out the bike keys from my leather pocket, burst out through the heavy church doors and ran towards my motorcycle as I put my helmet on. Once I reached the bike I jumped on it and put the key in the ignition. The engine roared. I saw him in the doorway, eyeing a car that I presumed was his. It looked like he weighed the pros and cons for running after me and fetching the car, but pretty quickly started running towards the vehicle.

I span around on the pebbles and rode off as fast as I could, hoping I’d escape him – and yet hoping he’d catch me up.

Excerpt from my novel, “A Masochism Tango” (2012-)

An Opeatic Finale

It’s the day of my dad’s performance at the Royal Opera House. The laryngitis that kept the original Wotan from performing tonight is still preventing him, which means my dad is going to get his dream fulfilled. As he’s nearly 72 now, it really is his last chance.

He had given up years ago, but mother and I never did.

I’m meeting Annie in twenty minutes, and we’ve decided to bring Sue to the performance. I’ve already taken her out of the closet and put her on the kitchen worktop. I’ve found a presentable bag that has room for the box, that at the same time won’t look weird on row five in an international opera house.

I’m wearing my tuxedo, which doesn’t happen all that often, but this is a special occasion – for several reasons.

I’ve called for a cab and make my way downstairs to greet it. We’ll pick Annie up on the way, despite that being a little bit of a detour. The woman is 30 weeks pregnant, whatever that actually means in real terms. Eight months? I’ve only spoken to her on the phone since she met my parents three weeks ago, so I don’t know how much she’s grown, but from what she’s said it’s substantial.

I wonder if Sue is going to show up and join in tonight – in spirit, so to speak. I find it a mix between alarming and amusing that I think this is normal now, to have the spirits of dead friends hanging around. What’s actually more alarming than funny is that I have her ashes in a bag on my lap at the moment, intend on taking her to the opera and call that normal behaviour.

Don’t worry, there’s a reason for it.

We stop outside the Old Vic theatre where Annie is waiting. She’s dressed in a bright red, flowing dress that comes in under her breasts and lightly hugs her growing belly. She has a black shawl around her shoulders to – I presume – keep her arms covered in the wind. This will, in fact, be rather important later.

‘Thanks for picking me up,’ she smiles and gives me a brief kiss as she sits in. I’m not sure if it was meant to land on my mouth or if she was aiming for my cheek, or if I provoked the outcome by turning my head towards where I presumed she was aiming for. One more analytical thought like that, and I need to check if I still have my cock intact.

Christ.

‘Are you ready? For everything?’

‘Absolutely. Is she in there?’

I nod and briefly show her the box. It’s snowing again, more than it has for decades, and the weather has disrupted just about every road and every airport in the country. So the chances are that the bass-baritone set out to do Wotan wouldn’t have been able to get here from Germany anyway, even without laryngitis.

The wind hits us hard as we drive across Westminster Bridge, and for once I don’t mind that. I have a knot in my stomach about tonight. I know dad will do well, I’ve heard him sing a million times before, but I know how important this is to him. This has been his dream since I was a child. He’s always wanted to be on that stage.

‘Are you nervous?’ Annie asks and puts her hand on mine.

‘A little,’ I admit. ‘But I’m pretty sure everything will work out tonight.’

‘I’m sure it’ll all be perfect.’

We pull up on Bow Street and get out. I notice that she’s been sensible in her choice of footwear, and has left her heels at home. Being in heels tonight would be hard for several reasons. I offer her my elbow and we stagger across the sidewalk and in through the main entrance.

I wonder who mother is bringing to be her “date” for the night, but I’ll soon find out. She’s always early and we usually arrive separately. I’m also pretty sure she’ll be backstage with dad for as long as he’ll let her, to help calm his nerves.

‘What a lovely place,’ Annie enthuses and looks around. What a wonderful first time experience for her. The first time I was in here I was seven. Dad and I went to see “Fanciulla del West” in January of 1978, starring Plácido Domingo as Ramerrez.

It wasn’t a bad first time, I must say.

We find our seats in the middle of row five, and as we’re about to sit down mother arrives with dad’s friend Mr. Wilkinson. I’ve never known his first name, come to think of it. He’s an old man now, bless him. He must be more than fifteen years older than dad – which makes him almost ninety. Yet, he still walks without a stick, and only uses glasses for when he reads the newspaper.

‘Elton, my boy, this is a great day for us all,’ he greets me. ‘And who might you be, my dear?’

‘I’m Annie… Sir,’ she says and smiles.

As we sit down, I smile to myself.

I don’t know exactly why people immediately treat Mr Wilkinson with such respect. I’ve always felt him very authoritarial although he’s never told me how to speak to him. It’s funny that Annie’s reaction was to call him “Sir” as well. It could be because he’s always spoken with a terribly posh accent, a bit like John Gielgud.

We hear the final announcements, which basically means we’ve only got a couple of minutes to go. Even before the curtain is up, we hear the well-known intro; “Ride of the Valkyries”. I notice Annie’s grinning as she recognises the music. She leans across to whisper something in my ear.

‘Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the waaabbit!’ she sings, aping Elmer Fudd, which basically makes me fight the urge to laugh out loud. Mother gives me a stern look as she realises that I’m snorting and shaking, as I’m trying not to burst. I try pulling myself together, but every time I succeed I think of Bugs Bunny as Brünnhilde in that opera-piss-take cartoon.

In front of us, the Valkyries (read: sopranos) are doing various high notes, still with the same music in the background. I’m sure I’ll be fine as soon as this particular tune fades out.

Ten minutes into the performance dad walks in, clutching his score. The anticipation is just about killing me. Annie grabs hold of my hand and squeezes it. I hold onto mother’s on the other side. The audience have no idea who the new Wotan is, and will be suspicious until he opens his mouth.

‘Hörst du’s, Brünnhilde,’ he growls, as he’s supposed to be angry with her for disobeying him. Her punishment is basically to be transformed into a mortal and be held in a magic sleep on the mountain, a prey to any man who comes by. The other Valkyries look on in dismay before disappearing, leaving Brünnhilde to plead with Wotan alone. Finally he consents to her last request: encircle the mountaintop with a magic flame, which will deter all but the bravest of heroes.

The soprano who sings Brünnhilde has a massive voice but the most satisfying thing about it is that dad actually manages to produce an equally big sound. Although he’s, let’s face it, a short-arse, he actually sound like the dangerous, Norse God he’s meant to portray.

That’s Odin, by the way, if you hadn’t figured it out yet.

When he does the soft, moving “Wotan’s Farewell”, none of us can help ourselves and quietly dry our faces. If this had been a proper opera, this is when he would have laid her down on a rock, embraced her and  kissed her eyes closed, sending her into an enchanted sleep. Instead, she exits the stage, leaving him on his own to summon Loge, the Norse demigod of fire, to ignite the circle of flame that will protect her. He then slowly departs in sorrow, after declaring (in German), “Whosoever fears the point of my spear shall not pass through the fire.”

The curtain falls.

There is a stunned silence.

Then there’s roaring applause.

We all stand up, as the singers make their way through the curtain and take a bow. Dad is grinning like a Cheshire Cat, bowing and blowing kisses like a true star. Annie’s holding onto my arm, quietly drying away tears as they keep running down her face.

I can’t think of anyone that I’d rather be here with me this evening than her.

The lights come on and we’re being informed of a break. Yes, this isn’t just one forty-minute concert, you see. As a part of the Wagner evening, they’ll do selected acts from four of his works: “Die Walküre”, “Lohengrin”, “Tannhäuser” and “Der fliegende Holländer”.

Annie and I will miss at least parts of the remaining three, hopefully just one.

We make our way out of the auditorium, and I bring out a little map that I’ve drawn. I’ve spoken to one of the chorus tenors and asked him to find out how to get to the emergency exit to the roof. This is why it was important for Annie to have sensible shoes and something to cover up her naked skin. We won’t have a whole ceremony, but we’re planning to release Sue up there.

It’s the closest thing to a perfect send-off we could think of.

‘This way,’ I whisper and push my way through another door. The idea is to not be seen, and to follow the right signs towards the right emergency exit. Finally we end up by a stairway that goes upwards. I’m surprised none of the doors are locked, but I guess in case of an actual emergency, they can’t be. The last bit we have to climb up an iron ladder, and finally we’re on the roof.

The wind blows straight through our clothes and as I help Annie onto the flat roof, I take off my jacket and put it around her.

‘No objections,’ I say before she has the time to protest. I take the box out of the bag and hand it to her. ‘Is there anything you’d like to say before we send her off?’

‘I miss you, Sue. Life isn’t quite the same without you… Most of all, right now I wish you could have been here to see my baby grow up. I know you’d have loved to be an auntie to her. I hope you’re happy where you are now,’ she sobs, clutching the box containing her friend’s remains.

She takes a moment before handing it back to me.

‘I hope you felt loved when you were here with us, because you were…’ I start and then my mind goes blank. Everything else I’ve had rehearsed in my head is gone. My head feels light and I suddenly feel warmth, like I’m not standing on an opera house roof in the middle of a snow storm.

‘Do you feel that?’ Annie asks. ‘I feel warm!’

‘Let’s release her,’ I smile and hold the box out in between us. Annie opens the lid, and we stand there for a moment, watching its contents, until a gust of wind grabs hold of it and takes it away.

I swear I can hear Sue’s laughter as the ashes mixes with the snow and wind and disappears.

Then suddenly, it’s freezing cold again.

Excerpt from my novel, “The Basic Model” (2010)

A Serenade – Part VI of VI

He asked me how I wanted to do it. Small? Big? Church? Register office? I had never been terribly romantically inclined and wasn’t one of those girls who’d planned her wedding since she was four. I didn’t have hundreds of friends, family and acquaintances that I needed present, so I went for the least complicated option: register office with two witnesses, namely Mrs Connelly and her son Marcus. I got a simple, white dress and he wore a flawless black suit. We took a taxi together to Westminster City Hall, holding hands. Laura and Marcus were already there when we arrived and took us to the waiting room with other couples.

As it was our turn to stand before the clerk, he looked at Alfredo and nodded. A melody came on and then he started singing. The serenade that he had first performed when he thought I wasn’t around, then again at my request:

Over us the moon is shining
Bright as flowers in the spring
Silently heard is the sound of a bird
Mixing in the air that’s beaming

Can this song be heard forever
As it calls my heart to you
While we drift along together
Adrift are my thoughts of you

Your voice is the sound of the wind beneath the willows
Your features I see in the strangers that I pass
The wind that’s bending, the strangers passing
The seashore brushing against the tide
Stringing along where my heart has a song
And that song in my core cannot pale
This is a serenade, my yearning serenade

Over us the moon is shining
Bright as flowers in the spring
Silently heard is the sound of a bird
Mixing in the air that’s beaming

Can this feeling last forever
There is nothing more I want, so trust me
Let this feeling live forever
And till the end of time

It was soft, powerful, loving, moving and highly emotional. Normally the cheesiness of the lyrics would have made me gag, but the way he sang every word as though he’d written them himself had me in tears. So much so that I was unsure of whether I had any mascara left on my eyelashes by the time he was done. I fell into his arms as he finished the last word on a soaring high note that sent shivers down my spine.

‘I love you,’ he whispered into my ear and kissed my cheek. I was unable to speak but my reaction to his outpouring was probably enough of an answer for him ‘Let’s get married, shall we?’

I turned to the clerk and noticed that he had “something in his eye” and had to clear his throat.

‘Right… we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in marriage… You fell in love by chance, but you’re here today because you’re making a choice. You both are choosing each other. You’ve chosen to be with someone who enhances you, who makes you think, makes you smile, and makes every day brighter. You’re about to make promises to each other that you intend to keep. You’re going to vow to take care of each other, to stand up for one another, and find happiness in the other. There’s a simple premise to each of these promises: you’re vowing to be there. You’re teaming up and saying to the other, “Every experience I am going to have, I want you to be a part of.” Will you, Maria, keep Alfredo as your favorite person – to laugh with him, go on adventures with him, support him through life’s tough moments, be proud of him, grow old with him, and find new reasons to love him every day?’

‘I will.’

‘Will you, Alfredo, keep Maria as your favorite person – to laugh with her, go on adventures with her, support her through life’s tough moments, be proud of her, grow old with her, and find new reasons to love her every day?’

‘Definitely.’

‘I would now like to read “Blessings for a marriage” by James Dillet Freeman.’

While the clerk was reading the Freeman text, Alfredo and I stood holding hands and looking at each other. He finally said we were man and wife, and “you may kiss the bride”. We met in a decent, understated, subdued kiss that would look romantic in a picture, at first. Then we pulled away for a moment, looked at each other again and a devilish look swept across his face. He turned to the clerk, then to our witnesses, said “excuse me”, bent me backwards and kissed me again – Hollywood style. We chuckled all the way out of the room, where the next couple was standing outside. The bride, in her 60s, was looking adoringly at Alfredo as he walked past.

‘Excuse me, Sir, was that you singing in there?’

‘Yes, it was.’

‘You really, really sound like…’

‘I hope you’ll have a wonderful wedding day,’ he smiled and touched her shoulder as we continued walking past them. It wasn’t like him to interrupt someone talking to him. As I was about to ask him, he turned to look at me. Something in his eyes seemed unfocused. Then, I watched it happen as though in slow motion: his hand went up to his chest, his eyes rolled back in his head and his knees gave way. I dropped to the floor and turned him over on his back as Marcus ran to the reception and shouted for them to call 999. I ripped open his jacket and was about to start CPR, once again, when he suddenly gasped for air and his hand took hold of my wrist.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he whispered as a tear ran down his temple. ‘Stay with me… please.’

Blankets appeared out of nowhere, one under his head and one covering him. I lay down on my side and put my head on his shoulder, where I could both be close to him and pay attention to his breathing. I slipped my hand under the blanket and put it on his chest, as his arm went around my back. His heart beat was weak but still somewhat erratic. His complexion was a pale grey and his skin was clammy. I blocked out the noise going on around us and didn’t even notice when the medics arrived, only when they lifted me off him and got him onto a stretcher. I fought off Marcus who wanted to comfort me and ran in the direction of the ambulance. He’d been given an oxygen mask and drifted in and out of consciousness as we rushed to the hospital.

Once we arrived I refused to leave his side, even when he was being examined, and nobody objected. It may have had something to do with me being in a wedding dress, of course. As feared, the news wasn’t good: he once again had blood poisoning, this time more serious than the last time, due to a kidney infection – but his liver was failing, his right kidney had shut down, his left was severely infected and his heart was weaker than ever before.

‘I’m sorry,’ said the doctor. ‘We can make you comfortable, but…’

‘Will you please give me a moment alone with my wife?’

‘Certainly.’

I felt numb. The silence in the room was deafening.

‘I love you, sweetheart. I’m so sorry.’

‘I love you, too,’ I sobbed. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t let you die in this place.’ I hadn’t said the D-word out loud until this point. ‘I’m going to take care of you.’

He nodded with a smile, just as the doctor returned.

‘Knowing you, Alfredo, you want to go home. What are your thoughts?’ he asked me.

‘Just tell me what I need to do.’

‘We’ll administer the first dosage of antibiotics and morphine intravenously and then I’ll give you a written schedule with when you need to administer the antibiotics. I’ll arrange for a nurse to come in three times a day to administer the rest.’

Within two hours we were in a taxi on route to Lennox Gardens. We’d been offered an ambulance, but Alfredo refused. He didn’t like them and wanted to sit next to me instead. He held my hand and rested his head on my shoulder, his breath caressing my naked skin as he was quietly singing the finale of the serenade he’d sung to me at our wedding ceremony a few hours earlier:

‘…can this feeling last forever? There is nothing more I want, so trust me. Let this feeling live forever and till the end of… time…’

Minutes later there was a change in his entire body, that was almost unnoticeable, like every muscle relaxed simultaneously, combined with the steady flow of air against my arm ceasing. I wrapped both my hands tightly around his and let streams of warm tears run down my cheeks, knowing that this was it: his heart had finally given up.

In a bid to keep him with me for as long as possible, I asked the driver to drive around Hyde Park, where he and I had walked every day for the past few months, and then to return to the hospital. I don’t know when the driver realised what was going on, but as soon as we pulled up he left the car and came back with two men in white and a stretcher. A nurse came out to look after me as they took him away. It wasn’t until the double doors closed behind him that it felt like my heart ruptured. The nurse took me to the doctor who had tended to him a short time before. When I stepped into his office he had a package in his hands.

‘He asked me to give you this in the event of his death,’ he said and handed me the brown envelope. ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’

He touched my shoulder as he walked past me. I slowly opened it and took out a vinyl single and a handwritten note. Underneath a picture of him as a young man was the title “A Serenade”, released in 1954. The note said:

“My darling –

Hopefully this will prevent the song in your heart from fading.

I’ll be with you, always.

Alfredo x”