I have been dreading this moment ever since Jake and I got together.
Joanna hasn’t seen me yet. I could just walk back out. But I will only be delaying the inevitable so I say a breezy “Hello”. And brace myself.
She is distinctly frosty towards me as we half-heartedly exchange pleasantries. My discomfort is intensified by the fact that she is naked. I don’t know where to look. So I concentrate on maintaining eye contact. But this is a little difficult when she keeps bending down to rub moisturiser onto her legs.
Then curiosity gets the better of me. And my eyes fall to her breasts before moving slowly across her stomach and thighs. It is not often I get the opportunity to compare my body against that of a real woman instead of an airbrushed version.
And her body is pretty impressive so I have to look longer and harder for flaws. Then she suddenly blurts out “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Damn. She caught me. My cheeks are burning with embarrassment.
“Seriously, what is a woman like you doing with my brother?
”Excuse me? “A woman like me? What is that supposed to mean?” She responds with “You honestly don’t know?”
A wave of panic rushes through my body. And makes its way out of my mouth “if-you-think-I’m-into-women-just-because-I-was-checking-out-your-body-then-you-are-wrong-trust-me-I-wasn’t-getting-any-pleasure-out-of-looking-at-your-body-not-that-you-haven’t-got-a-nice-body-but-I-was-only-looking-to-see-if-you-had-any-cellulite-or-stretchmarks-or-flabby-bits-not-that-you-have-well-actually-you-do-have-some-cellulite-but-hey-haven’t-we-all?”
Then my brain catches up. And it suddenly hits me “Oh. That was a reference to my age and not my sexuality wasn’t it?” Correct. And now she is being really hostile because I mentioned her cellulite “You’re far too old for him”
I point out that he has the manner of someone much older. Then remind her that she had the opportunity to tell me how young he was before I agreed to go out with him. But she didn’t take it. Then I surprise myself by adding “And I’m glad you didn’t because I may have missed out on something very special”.
She responds with “Oh yes, I’m sure the sex is very special” I ignore her sarcasm. And manage to keep my cool while she has a little rant at me. Then she calls me a ‘cougar’.
I explain (through gritted teeth) that cougars are women who deliberately prey on younger men. I thought Jake was older. In fact the only thing that I would change about him would be his age.
And I didn’t prey on him. “Therefore, by definition, I am most certainly not a bloody cougar”. I take my boxing gloves out of my bag. And slam the locker shut. Then I storm out of the changing room.
I go into the gym. And pummel the punch bag until my arms ache and I can’t see through my sweat. I don’t think I have quite come to terms with how our relationship is going to be perceived by others. And there won’t always be a punch bag in the near vicinity. So I really must find a way to deal with it that doesn’t involve violence.
My hands are still shaky when I get home. And what I am attempting to do requires both precision and a steady hand.
I empty the shampoo out of the bottle. Then I carefully fill it with head lice treatment. I’m putting the lid back on when I identify a flaw in my carefully thought out plan; the treatment won’t lather the way shampoo does.
Then it occurs to me that conditioner doesn’t lather either. So I empty the conditioner out of the bottle. And transfer the head lice treatment into that. Then I (strategically) place candles around the bathroom away from anything that is likely to go up in flames.
I have just finished when the doorbell rings. I open the door and leap into Jake’s arms (being very careful to avoid our heads touching). It is some time before we make it from the hallway into the living room. There is absolutely no denying the physical attraction between us. But Joanna is wrong; it is much more than just that otherwise it wouldn’t be so intense.
Then the phone rings. I can’t ignore it just in case it’s Mia. It isn’t. It’s my mother. She is on her way back from the airport and wants to pick up her bag.
I ask if it can wait until tomorrow. She gets annoyed “You said to call before I came over and I’m calling so what is the problem now?” The problem is that she is calling when she is only five minutes away.
I apologise to Jake. And ask him if he can wait in the bedroom until I get rid of her. I acknowledge that hiding him from my family is becoming a recurring theme; first Mia and now my mother. But I am doing this for his own good.
Jake reminds me that his mother is Spanish “so I am used to the Mediterranean....” He pauses before diplomatically concluding his sentence with “temperament”.
I quickly pull the clothes out of the top of the wardrobe until I get to the bag and yank it down. But I didn’t zip it up properly after I took my grandmother’s necklace out. And bundles of cash start flying out all over the floor. Shit. How dodgy does that look?
Then the doorbell rings. Jake helps me put all the money back in the bag “Don’t tell me, it’s their life savings and they don’t trust banks?” I nod. He understands their madness. And that makes him even more desirable.
I run to the door. My mother gives me a big hug “Why are you out of breath?” I hand her the bag. And tell her not to keep my father waiting. She eyes me suspiciously as she walks off.
I wait until the car disappears. Then let Jake out of the bedroom. I try not to wince when he scratches his head.
It’s time to put my master plan into action; I suggest we take a bath together. He says he had a shower before he came over. Oh dear. He thinks I am suggesting he needs a wash.
I explain that I am not questioning his personal hygiene standards “In fact, I think they are exemplary. I just think that it would be really sensual. And I would love you to lather my body”. He says that a bath sounds like a fabulous idea.
I light the candles, put the champagne in the ice bucket and scatter rose petals into the bath. I take Jake’s clothes off. Then mine. And lead him into the bathroom. It is all so romantic that I almost forget my ulterior motive.
We sink into the warm water with rose petals floating around us. The candle light and soft music heighten the sense of fantasy. I wrap my legs around him. Then I have to break the spell. And tell him that I’m going to give him a head massage with a deep conditioning treatment.
I massage the treatment in. He wrinkles his nose. I hold my breath. But he is too polite to mention the strong smell. Now I have to distract him for at least ten minutes to allow the treatment to work. So I massage his neck and shoulders.
Then I start kissing him. And the water is cold by the time I stop. I am rinsing his hair when the most absurd thought occurs to me; I think I am falling in love with him.
But I can’t be. This is only our third date. And I really don’t know him that well yet. I must be mistaking lust for love. That is much more logical.
No. Fuck logic. I’ll go with emotion. I am falling in love with him. Full stop. No justification. No logic. Wow. I’m making progress. Jake is obviously good for me.
We spend another incredible evening together. Then I find myself agreeing to go hiking with him next weekend. I don’t really ‘do’ the outdoors. I’m very much a city girl. And it isn’t exactly romantic.
But he asked me while I was drifting off towards a delicious sleep with his beautiful body wrapped around mine. And I would have agreed to absolutely anything at that moment in time.
I make a mental note not to commit to anything else unless we are both fully dressed. And I can’t see that happening for a while...