It's a good thing Kelly's my best friend, or else, I might have throttled her. There are few things more irritating then people who think they're hysterically funny when, in fact, they're not.
A case in point: that morning, I phoned Kelly up at work, told her all about this supposed VIP invitation - glaming it up of course - and invited her to come along. And what did she do? She giggled away, made a good dozen jokes about getting to meet my "new mega-wuss wannabe accountant boyfriend," and told me that if I thought an evening out at the hardcore-rock-n-roll-graffiti-covered-pit that is The Deep End was the height of class, then I needed to get out more. Not funny, not at all, right? And then, after all that, can you guess what she did? She agreed to come with me. Both to lunch and to the VIP bash, even without quite knowing what it was, after having so thoroughly slandered the venue. On the condition that we'd have a girlie shopping trip together beforehand, of course, but then if she hadn't brought it up, then I would've. (Honestly- who do you take me for!) Still, Kelly does my head in sometimes. That's no way to thank your best friend for inviting you to such a fab do, is it? Honestly. Some people.
To keep at bay the annoyance I was feeling, I spent the rest of the morning thinking about Kieran. About how lovely he was, about his scrumptious buttocks, and about the things he had said about me earlier that morning when we were still in bed together. How could I not? It would have made any woman's head spin. No man had ever complimented me in the way he had. Okay, so to the uneducated, it might have seemed tacky and overwrought, like I was being flattered silly just for the sake of it, but I'd thought his words were full of feelings and lyricism. He might have been a wuss, but he sure knew the things a woman likes to hear. Namely, that she's fabulous, beautiful, and can do no wrong.
Not that I needed Kieran to tell me that, of course. There are those who might say he was stating the obvious. (And if you ever meet them, send them my way - I never said Kelly was irreplaceable as my best friend.)
And so by the time I picked Kelly up from work, any irritation I'd been feeling towards her had pretty much melted away. And not only was I really keen to see Kieran again, I was all excited at the prospect of having my best mate meet him, too. Deep down, I knew that however much she liked to kid around, Kelly would behave when in front of Kieran. When she stepped into the car, I couldn't help noticing she'd made a special effort to look good, pulling her hair up and sporting eye-catching earrings. And she was looking great… except for the smudged mascara and shiny nose, which got me arching my brows in surprise. I opened my mouth to ask her if everything was all right, but she didn't give me time.
"Don't say anything. I know I look a bit of a mess; there's this new trainee in my department who took a shower in cologne. I must be allergic to it, because I've been sneezing my head off all morning."
My heart skipped a beat. "Oh no! Poor thing! Was it really bad?"
I couldn't not ask, right? Fortunately, Kelly didn't notice anything was amiss. Possibly because she's used to my asking her strange questions.
"Was it, hell! In fact… heeassshah!… my nose is still tickling from it. It's like I can still smell it. I really hope he doesn't wear it tomorrow. I'd have to quit my job!"
I couldn't help giggling at that, imagining Kelly handing in her resignation explaining she had to leave for sneezy reasons. If her boss was anything like me, though, she'd force Kelly to stay on.
And make her supervise the cologne-drenched trainee.
I have to say it was a fun ride. Kelly kept sneezing intermittently, and I have always thought she had a great sneeze. She lets go pretty seldom, so this was a bit of a treat for me. I felt bad for enjoying it so much, because she was looking rather miserable, and kept muttering angrily after each harsh
"heaaashah!" And then, part of me thought that maybe it was fair dos for having been so evil to me when I called her up that morning.
We were right on time, entering The Canal Bar for half past twelve as I'd promised Kieran. When the weather's nice, as it was on this day, tables and chairs were put out on the waterfront. Kelly declared that the fresh air would do her good, so after having quickly popped into the loo so that she could wash away the smeared mascara, we sat outside and enjoyed the sun's rays.
It was one of those days you sometimes get in mid-winter, where the sky is clear and the sun shines low and bright. Kelly was sat with her back to the sun and I was just thinking about moving so I could see her better, when Kieran himself loomed out of the light. He was looking gorgeous and masculine; he obviously hadn't shaved in a couple of days. He was wearing a cranberry-coloured, tight fitting top, and he looked scrumptious with a tight pair of jeans hugging his long, lean body. Also, I immediately noticed that he smelled great; like sand dunes and sandalwood. Subtle but lovely.
For once, I had to say he didn't look the least bit wussey. Even Kelly couldn't disagree. I mean, his jeans were so tight I could tell he was "facing the wrong way" just like the first night we met in Creation. Honestly, it was hard for me not to laugh; since he dresses himself every morning, you'd think he'd take the extra five seconds to insure he wouldn't be in any discomfort later on, wouldn't you?
I tried to introduce him to Kelly, but Kieran bent down and kissed me on the lips before I had a chance to say anything. As I've already said, my man had a great sense of timing. If he was going to ingratiate himself to Kelly, that was the right way to go about it. I could see that she was already impressed.
Allow me to explain: Kelly has always had a thing about men being afraid to show affection in public. She thinks it's completely daft- and though I'm not quite so vehement about it, I do tend to take her side. This is one of the reasons why she sometimes moans about being attracted to muscle-bound hunks; they're not usually the type of blokes who get all kissy-snuggly-wuvvie in public.
Still, despite all this, I was a little embarrassed at getting a smacker from Kieran in full view of Kelly. She, on the other hand, didn't mind in the least, and approval was written all over her smiling face. I could almost read her thoughts: Kieran had made a good start.
Ever the gentleman, he then apologised for having interrupted me.
"I'm sorry, Sian, I just couldn't help myself," he teased. "What were you about to say?"
"I was trying to introduce you to my best friend, Kelly. I think you've seen each other before, that night you and I met, but you hadn't been formally introduced."
Kelly snickered as Kieran bent down and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Formally introduced!"
Kieran smiled at her and said, "Hi Kelly, I'm very pleased to meet you."
"And I you," she replied, still smirking. Then, she frowned. "Ooh, you smell like… like…
Kieran jumped back, startled. "Oh my, bless you!"
"Shit, sorry," Kelly said, rubbing at her nose. Then, she frowned. "You're wearing cologne, aren't you?"
Kieran subtly caught my eye. "Yes… why?"
Kelly shook her head, sniffling intermittently as she explained about the trainee at work, and how her nose was already hypersensitive. "And you smell just like him," she moaned, looking at me in dismay. "Look, just don't get too near me, or else I'll start sneezing again. God knows, I've been doing all day so far!"
The fact that Kieran coloured wasn't lost on me. I shot him what I must confess was a rather jealous look; for the first time, it occurred to me that there could be a down side to Kieran sharing my fetish. How dare he get interested in Kelly's sneezes? Did he think they were sexier than mine? Oh my! The green-eyed monster was rearing its head with a vengeance. Fortunately, Kelly then interrupted my train of thought, and asked,
"So what's this bash you're inviting us to, then?"
Kieran started, as if he'd forgotten the real purpose of our lunch date despite the fact that he had a camera in his hand. I couldn't help smirking at his confusion. Served him right for ogling my best mate.
"Oh, right, yeah. It's a big private gig at The Deep End. I told Sian about it earlier, and I'd asked her to- oh no, wait, sorry…"
He was interrupted by his mobile 'phone. Kelly and I hadn't heard a thing, which meant it was set to vibrate. I couldn't help finding that quite amusing, given the tightness of his jeans. What can I say - I've always wanted a vibrating mobile phone. I once told Kelly this, and asked whether she'd be willing to ring me on long, lonely nights if I agreed to return the favour. As I recall, we'd both had a good laugh. And then, thinking that perhaps this phone-play bordered on disintermediated lesbianism, we decided that perhaps we should stick with the ringing kind.
Kieran was struggling to fish his phone out of his pocket. When he finally managed, he looked at the number appearing on it and said, "Oh, pigsbum!"
"'Pigsbum'?" I giggled.
Kelly laughed as well. I could tell she was thinking the exact same thing I was at that moment: I was dating a man who swore like a Teletubby. How embarrassing. Of course, Kelly couldn't let it slide.
"Language, Timothy!" she said. "They'll kick us out if you keep using such dirty words. I mean, think of the children, bless their lil' ears."
"Yes, the children," I hooted, "if any heard you, they just might die laughing."
Fortunately, I don't think he heard either of us, instead concentrating on whoever was calling him.
"Oh hiya, Peter!" Then, shielding the mouthpiece, he turned to me and whispered,
Kelly looked at me with her eyebrows raised. I shrugged. I couldn't place who 'Peter' was. It didn't matter- by then, Kieran was once again completely focussed on carrying on his conversation, and we'd already moved on from the 'pigsbum' thing.
"Yes," he said. "Actually, yes I do. Why?"
Kelly and I watched silently as an expression of combined grief and anger slid across his face. Then, we exchanged worried looks, wondering what on earth was going on. And then, Kelly paused, inhaled sharply, and let out a rather loud,
"Oh shit!" Kieran started, his eyes darting in Kelly's direction. Then, he composed himself and said, "But that wasn't his fault… Oh no… So they sacked him? But he was only doing his job, so why…"
By this point, Kelly and I were on the edge of our seat, hanging on to every word in the hope that we would find out what was happening. That is, until Kelly's nostrils started to twitch and she did it again:
Her nose must have been really irritated if Kieran's subtle cologne was getting to her. Nonetheless, I couldn't help becoming turned on. Like I said, she does have a rather sexy sneeze, and seeing her large doe eyes becoming just that little bit more liquid than usual was really quite exciting. Add that to the way her already large nostrils were flaring right before she finally let loose, and she was really a most divine tableau.
I thought Kieran was doing quite well to carry on his conversation in spite of this. Kelly gave her nose a good rub, which seemed to quell the itch for a while. She gave me a smile as I blessed her silently, but I couldn't help hoping that wouldn't be her last sneeze of the day.
"He can't have been expected to know," Kieran said. "He's told not to admit people wearing jeans, so he doesn't admit people wearing jeans! Listen, Peter why don't you just…"
And then, the man on the other end said a few words, and we were both relieved as Kieran's worries seemed to melt away, replaced by a grateful, pleased smile. We'd been so engaged in following our end of the conversation that we were amused when we noticed our expressions were identical to Kieran's, even if we didn't know what he was smiling about.
"Oh, you have already. Good. I'll try and have a word with him on Thursday, then. Okay Pete. I'll see you later today. G'bye!"
I had a feeling I knew or should have known something about the phone call, though. Something about it was tugging at my subconscious, but I couldn't put my finger on it at the time. It was now becoming a quest to find out what my new bedmate did for a living without asking him. Industrial law, maybe?
Kieran turned his attention back to us.
"Right, where were we?"
Kelly smiled. "At The Canal Bar, eavesdropping on your conversation."
Kieran rolled his eyes. "Sorry about that; Peter doesn't have the world's best sense of timing."
"Amen," I said.
"Right," Kieran continued, "so we're having a big do at The Deep End, as I'm sure Sian explained, and I wanted to do lunch because I need to take your photos for the security guy on the door."
"You what?" Kelly asked, beginning to take me seriously about the importance of the event for perhaps the first time. "You can't be serious!" she cried, and then paused, her upper lip quivering again. She sneezed, an unrestrained
"Heeaaatchew!" before adding, "I look a right mess. That security guard will never let me in with a picture like that."
Kieran pretended he wasn't listening, though I knew better. Silently, he took his camera out of the bag he had brought, crouched down, and took separate photographs of us both. Red nose, leaking eyes, lustful glow and all, captured on celluloid forever, to be glanced at by a doorman who would never know what he'd miss.
"Gorgeous," Kieran said, with just a little bit too much enthusiasm for my liking. I wanted to ask him which of us he was referring to in particular, but then he said, "And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm afraid I need the loo. I'll get us a round on the way back as well. Same again?"
We nodded, and my man turned on his heels. I smiled at his retreating back and, not caring that he couldn't see him, blew him a kiss. I know, I know - I'm such a girl.
"Don't forget to wash your hands!" Kelly shouted after him.
I really do love my best mate. Surely there wasn't a single person within a ten-kilometre radius who was left unaware that Kieran was going to take a leak. Really, she is the essence of subtlety at times.
I was thinking this and looking at her. Kelly was looking right back at me, and then I wondered what she was thinking about.
"What?" I asked
"You know what," she said, rubbing at her nose. "The guy waltzes in here, kisses you in front of the whole world, you hang on to his every word, and hey, as soon as he goes to the bathroom, you're fucking blowing him kisses."
"So?" I knew what she was saying, but the words still stung. No woman likes it being pointed out that she's acting like a lovesick idiot.
"So bleargh!" Kelly said, making a half-serious motion of jabbing fingers down her throat. "This isn't like you, Sian. I mean, you usually pussyfoot around for ages, and now here y'are head over heels with this guy after how long? A
week? He's taking ID pictures of us for some do - look, I don't mean to pry, but what kind of bash is this meant to be? ID means big - what does your man do for a living, anyway?"
I couldn't come out and admit that I didn't know. I felt it would make me look even sillier than I felt at that moment. So instead, I said,
"Oh Kelly, I don't know. This thing with Kieran, it's fun, but it's scary too. This is moving out of control. He's lovely, though. I know it sounds crazy, but have you ever had that feeling, like you've known someone for ages even if you've only just met them?"
I sounded like a line out of a trashy romance novel and I knew it. There was nothing else I could say, though, for that was what I felt. God invented clichés for a reason, you know. And so I braced myself for the onslaught from the none-too-subtle Kelly… which never materialised. She rubbed her nose again, giving her a few seconds to think. And when it came, her response was calm and measured and a hundred times worse for it. She was still looking at me oddly, her head cocked to one side, her eyes wide and shining.
"What does it matter? You've found him haven't you?"
"Who?" I said, fogged. Really, it wasn't like her to be so cryptic!
"Him. Kieran. He's yours, he's your man. He was made for you. Your trouble is you don't know the doors from the windows. Trust me, love, he's your big T.O."
"The One," Kelly elaborated, "for you. You can feel it and… Hell, even if I like to poke fun and all that, seeing you together, even I can sense the energy between you. Stop being scared, Sian, and just go for it."
"I have done already," I snickered, but then grew serious again. "What if he's got a whole lot of baggage that I don't know about, though?"
"Maybe," Kelly flicked her hand in a dismissive gesture, "but then he's a man. He
I swatted at her.
"I'm kidding, love. Baggage, you say. Look, you said he's thirty something. At that age, who hasn't got baggage? Just think of the fun you'll have opening it through the years. When you're raising his babies, or when you're rocking together on the steps of the old folks home."
By then she was laughing, and so was I. How had we gotten from my worrying about going too fast with Kieran to babies and a nursing home?
"Well, we'll always take time out to visit you in that place where they wall off the criminally insane," I countered. "Besides, I thought you thought he was a wuss."
"Oh, darling," replied Kelly with genuine love in her voice, "You're such a clot. Of course I take the piss - I'm your best mate: it's compulsory. But who cares about what I think? All that matters is what you think! 'Cause I'm sure not having any little wuss-babies, me."
I sharp retort, of the "and your completely irrelevant point is?" variety was poised for release, when Kelly abruptly became serious again, catching me completely off guard.
"He's in love with you, you know."
Well then. What was I supposed to say to that? I'm never that lucky! "Don't be absurd," I said.
"Absurd about what?"
Kieran came back with the drinks and was fixing us with a look of mild curiosity. Fortunately, Kelly and I - being women - were absolute experts when it came to emotional cover-up. We could have been discussing names for children and seating arrangements at the wedding but, hearts thudding and blush rising, we would have been able to make light of it.
Kelly jumped to the rescue. "I was telling her about my mate Steve. He's got Tourette's syndrome, see, but only in writing. He used to get into a whole lot of trouble over homework assignments as a kid, see, but now he's making a fortune as a writer for a men's magazine."
Genius. I dove in after her. "And I was saying that was preposterous. Any other questions, young man?"
Kieran had that softly confused look on his face, the one that always makes me want to eat him. His eyes go round and he cocks his head to one side like a wounded puppy dog. It's the cutest thing. And so, accordingly, I was about to ask him to return to the loo with me and
shag me blind, only Kelly spoke up again.
"Kieran." This was her no-nonsense, don't-even-think-about-avoiding-my-question tone. "What does your dad do?"
"What?" he asked, both bemused and amused as men so often are at the way women can jump from one topic to the next without any warning.
"What does your dad do for a living?" I repeated
Kieran settled himself in his seat and took a sip of his pint before answering. "He's a chartered accountant. Why?"
"And your mother, what does she do?" I asked. Having gotten one answer, I wanted more, as if getting more information about Kieran's background would provide clues to help me solve his own mystery.
"She's a senior lecturer in applied mathematics," he replied, taking another gulp of lager. "Sian, is something the matter?"
I ignored his last question. I was impressed.
"Blimey, where is she at, your mum?"
Kieran's hand tightened around his glass. "At the University here. And my sister?"
"What?" I asked, confused
"My sister, don't you want to know what she does as well? " said Kieran, grinning at my silliness.
"You've got a sister?" I asked. I'd never thought about it. I don't know why.
"Yeah, I've got a big sister," Kieran shrugged. I watched his Adam's apple bob up and down as he drank, wondering whether he was doing so because all my questions were making him nervous. "She's a top barrister."
I had a mental picture of a sultry, dark haired woman, and was instantaneously jealous. Of a sister whom I'd never seen. And I didn't even know why. What was happening to me? And then, it was my turn to lift my glass to my lips, swallowing cool liquid to quell the uneasy fire rising within me.
I needed to make light of the conversation, to pretend that the discovery of my man being from such a posh background was no big deal. "Does she, er, practice here?"
"No ducks, my sister lives in Guildford. God help her."
Then, with absolutely excellent timing, Kelly broke the spell completely.
"Oh no… Uh… heeeeaatchah!"
Kieran smiled. "Bless you."
"Hold on," Kelly gasped, "I'm not done… Heh… heaaatch! Heeaahtchaa!"
I caught Kieran's eye as he said, "Bless you again."
"Fuck!" Kelly groaned. "Bloody cologne."
"I thought it was all right," Kieran feigned hurt.
"I'm sure you did," Kelly said before her nose seized again and she delivered another sneeze:
"Poor baby. Your nose really isn't having a good day, is it?" I said.
Kelly nodded but didn't speak. Her eyes were still closed, and she looked like she was intent on something, her eyes closed and eyebrows knotted, her lips hanging open expectantly as her nostrils flared in a classic I-can-feel-another-sneeze-coming expression that was beautiful to behold.
And that's when I noticed Kieran shifting uncomfortably in his seat. Looking down, I couldn't fail to see that he was getting hard. And seeing as he was still facing the wrong way - what, did he enjoy it or something? - things were getting pretty uncomfortable for him.
Kelly made a small groaning noise and our eyes caught a hold of her, beautiful in that frozen moment where her head was thrown back, completely unselfconscious as she was about to deliver a truly stunning sneeze. She brought her hands up to catch it, and they hovered like black birds a few centimetres from her face. Still, the sneeze didn't come out - it was lying in wait, torturing her, making her face perform all sorts of gymnastics that would probably have been most amusing for people who didn't happen to get off on this sort of stuff.
I was loathe to leave the mesmerising theatre of Kelly's pre-sneeze face to look at Kieran again, but I did. He was sitting very still, absolutely eating up my best mate with his eyes. He had one hand loosely draped over his crotch, as if to hide the obvious, or maybe just to keep it down in order to avoid pain. I wanted to say something, to poke him, anything to stop him mentally recording every single millisecond of something I just knew was bringing him far too much pleasure… but obviously, I couldn't, so I turned back to Kelly.
The urge to sneeze had reached break-point, and her upper lip rose up definitively, her hands flying up to cover her mouth just in time. Her ample breasts shook as her fingers and lips collided in a spectacular delivery:
"HEEEAACCHAH!… Huh-HEEEACCHH!… HEEEATTCHAAA!"
And then, like a balloon deflated, she opened watery, tired-looking eyes and said, "Oh God, that felt good."
I was awed. All I could say, hoping my eyes weren't radiating lust, was: "Bless."
"Do either of you have a tissue? Fucking allergies. My nose is really starting to run."
What are best friends for? However much I would have liked to have Kelly keep on sneezing, it wouldn't have been right. Well, okay - to be honest, if we'd been alone, I might have claimed to be tissueless, but with Kieran sat right next to me enjoying Kelly's sternutory exertions, I was only too quick to find one and give it to her.
"Ooh, that's better," she sighed when she was done blowing. And then: "Heeaash! God, Kieran, did you bathe in the stuff?" Kelly asked, with more venom than strictly necessary.
Before he could say anything, I said: "C'mon Kelly, he couldn't
know. It's not his fault."
Kelly, shamed, apologised. Then, she said: "Right, I should just leave you two and get back to work. I'm just going to keep sneezing if I stay here, and besides, I want to leave early and I know you two have an errand to run."
"You're such a bad liar," I whispered in her ear as I rose to return the hug she gave me. "Do you want a ride back?"
"No, no, you just stay and enjoy Kieran. I mean, lunch. I'm just going to keep sneezing if I stay here, and besides, now that I've met him properly and seen that he's a decent fellow, I'm happy. I'll just get a sandwich and take the bus - it runs from the next street corner over."
It was on the tip of my tongue to tell Kelly that she was welcome to stay at The Canal Bar and sneeze right through lunch, but Kieran's eyes stopped me. By that time, Kelly had let go of me and moved on to give Kieran a peck on the cheek.
"It was nice meeting you, Kieran and I'll see you at The Deep End on Thursday. Sian, call me later, all right?"
"See you Kelly," said Kieran.
"Okay love," I smiled.
As soon as Kelly had taken her coat and bag and vacated our table, issuing us with a parting
"Heeeatchaah!" as she did so, Kieran turned to me and said,
"Well she's really nice."
"What do you mean?" I asked, my eyes turning a little bit green around the edges again as I noticed he was still half hard.
"I mean she's a good friend, silly," Kieran said, catching my eyes and knowing full well what I was thinking. "Honestly, you silly rabbit."
"Sorry," I said, not entirely meaning it.
"All I meant was, stick to her: she cares about you. I wouldn't want to be in her vicinity if someone hurts you. She positively smoulders. Does she sing?"
"Only a bit of warbling in the bath," I replied, biting my tongue to keep from adding:
"It doesn't hold a patch on the way she sneezes."
Kieran shrugged and gave me one of his lovely boyish smiles.
"Just a thought," he said. "Hey, Sian, you know you're going to have to take me to the heli-pad eventually if I'm not going to be late. Is that okay?"
"No, it's not okay," I replied.
"What?" Kieran said, that adorable look of confusion spreading across his features.
"What do you think?" I said. "Don't think I didn't see the way you were looking at Kelly back then."
Kieran cocked his head to one side.
"With the cologne?" I prodded, and then felt a bitter bloom of satisfaction when I saw him looking guilty.
"I'm sorry Sian. You know it didn't mean anything. Kelly's a beautiful woman who was doing something… extra special. But you know that right now, I only have eyes for you."
He was looking me straight in the eye and had reached out a hand to touch my forearm. What can I say? Sometimes, I can be a bit insecure, and stupidly jealous. But the way he was looking at me, I couldn't help but melt. I could tell he really meant it.
"Am I forgiven?" he asked.
"Look, I am sorry," Kieran said, beginning to look genuinely sad.
Oh no! Of course he was forgiven - I'd only been teasing. I immediately felt horrible for what I'd done, and decided that I wanted to make up for it.
"Kieran, it's all right. I was just messing with you. But before you get to the helipad, there's two things I absolutely need us to do."
"What, then?" he asked.
"I want us to have some lunch. You're not going anywhere without a decent meal in you, young man - you're thin as a rake already."
"Sure," Kieran smiled.
"And also, I want you to make love to me until my thighs hurt."
Kieran's eyebrows rose.
"That's right. Food and sex. Not necessarily in that order."
"Okay then," he replied, eyes alight, "no problem. Or rather, there is - just a little one."
I caught his drift. "It doesn't seem so little to me!"
"You sweet talker, you," he laughed. "I don't know about you, but I think I may have to pop to the loo again. Just to see to this little problem."
"Like I said, I don't think it's such a little problem. I think you might need some help with it. Maybe I should go with you."
Kieran's smile was beautiful. "I think you might be right. It's not so little."
How fortunate that the owners of The Canal Bar had thought to tuck away the bathroom at the end of a dark corridor where no one would notice a man slipping into the ladies' toilet. Nor, for that matter, a man slipping into a lady.
We were quick about it, to be fair. He took me in one of the stalls; I barely had time to get out of my knickers and hike my skirt up before I was impaled with by back pressed against the cold metal door. Kieran's face was flushed, his eyes alight, and I knew my expression of delight must have mirrored his. And while we were going at it, for some reason, the image of Kelly's face as she'd been about to deliver a forceful sneeze or three kept surfacing in my head. Her heavy-lidded eyes, her pouting lips, her worried frown, the trembling of her nostrils… all of it was so erotic that it was getting me unbelievably excited. With each of Kieran's thrusts, I imagined a new sneeze, each more tortured and powerful than the last, until another thought crept up on me, like a worm at the core of sweet, white apple flesh.
"Are you thinking about Kelly?" I whispered.
Kieran slowed, then stopped. "What?"
"Well, are you?"
Kieran looked away, and I knew I'd guessed correctly. I was furious. "I don't believe you. You're shagging me and thinking of my best mate. That," I cried, "is horrible!"
I could feel his erection wilt, then slip out of me.
"No, really! It's disgusting!"
He took a deep breath. "Sian, look. Okay, so I was thinking about Kelly. Or rather, I was thinking about the way she'd let go at the table earlier. It doesn't mean anything. A sneeze is just…" he shook his head, looking lost.
"Exciting." Kieran said. "Hey, you should know. Everything we've shared - sneezing, most people can't understand, but I know you do. It's just sex. It's just lust. It means a lot, but at the same time, it doesn't mean anything, you know?"
I was beginning to soften, starting to see his point of view. But I didn't let on. I wanted him to tell me more.
"So I was thinking about Kelly sneezing. So what? When I'm alone, sometimes I think about people I've never even met. And if I like the way they sneeze, it doesn't mean I like them. Whereas you…"
"You, I like. Very much. And I've told you that - I've told you how I think you're gorgeous, and sexy, and funny, and sweet… oh, bugger it!" Kieran said, and then punched one of the stall's walls.
"Hush," I said, taking his fist and kissing it. "It's okay."
"No it's not," Kieran persisted. "You're mad at me."
"Well," I started, and then stopped as I was struck by the stupidity of this argument.
Why was I giving Kieran a hard time for fantasizing about Kelly's sneezing? Had I not been doing the same thing? And then, the answer came to me: we were so new, Kieran and I, that we didn't know each other well enough for me to trust him completely. I was feeling insecure: if he was fantasizing about Kelly, did that mean he liked her, and not me? I was behaving like a five-year-old, jealous and petty. Only Kieran had been too good to lay the facts bare before me.
"Well?" he asked. He was looking at me from beneath lowered lashes.
"Well," I said, "I'm sorry." I decided to tell him what was on my mind. "I got carried away. I thought that if you were thinking about Kelly sneezing, that meant that maybe you had a bit of a thing for her. That you'd…" I swallowed hard. "That you'd rather be in here with her."
Kieran looked at me for a few seconds, and then started to snicker. "You stupid girl," he said, hugging me tight. "As if."
"And do you want to know what the worst part is?" I said, still feeling horrid over my little tantrum.
"I was thinking about Kelly sneezing too."
Kieran's arms tightened around me as he threw his head back and laughed. "God Sian, you're amazing. So does this mean that you'd rather be with Kelly than with me?"
I shook my head no, and then joined him in laughing.
"Come on then, let's get dressed," Kieran offered. "All these histrionics have got me feeling hungry."
It crossed my mind to tell him that we had unfinished business, but upon reflection, I decided that we were probably both no longer in the mood.
"Good going, Sian. Not exactly the brightest crayon in the box, are we?" my conscience whispered. I told it to shut it as I put my knickers back on and followed Kieran out of the loo.
He and I agreed to share a quick ploughman's (The Canal Bar always gives portions that would leave an elephant feeling bloated), and then we were on our way to where my car was parked. I was walking by the roadside, holding Kieran's left hand, chatting away about nothing in particular, when all of a sudden he switched sides with me so that he was walking by the road.
"What was that for?" I asked. "Are you afraid I'll jump in front of the next oncoming bus?"
"Nah," he grinned. "Nothing so sordid. See, you've got to let me keep my sword-side free so I can defend you!"
What can I say: I've always been a sucker for that kind of medieval chivalry.
"Lord," I said, thanking Him that Kelly was not here to witness this, as I'd never have heard the end of it. "You are so sweet…"
And so we reached my car. Typical bloke, inspected it thoughtfully, rubbing his chin.
"Hmm," he said, in that indescribably irritating tone men adopt when discussing cars. "Red Sky Liner."
"Actually," I corrected him with no little satisfaction, "It's a Sky-line."
Oddly enough, he climbed into the car by my side, apparently lost in thought. He was
muttering to himself,
"Red Sky Liner rollin', rollin' down the road dee-dee-dee-dee. With your wheels in motion..."
I must have been looking at him as though he'd grown an extra head because he stopped and flashed an unabashed smile at me. It then occurred to me that maybe he was in advertising, one of those men paid to come up with annoying jingles that run around your brain in circles, but I was buggered if I was going to ask him!
It took about twenty uneventful minutes to reach the heli-pad. There was indeed a helicopter waiting with a group of men near to it. Kieran cried "There they are!" but whoever "they" were, they were too far away for me to make out their features.
He looked at me closely and said,
"Can I ring you tonight?"
"' Course you can!" I replied, very much hoping that he would. "Sorry again for that scene in the loo. I can get crazy sometimes, but I'm a good person at heart."
Kieran kissed me, then left to join the others by the helicopter. I could feel something inside me tearing as I watched him go.
That night, I did hear from him, and I must say I was relieved that he hadn't decided I was a complete idiot, a jealous shrew not worth wasting his time with. In fact, far from it, my lovely Kieran sounded bouncy and cheerful.
"Things are going really well down here," he said. "We're getting loads done. I'm missing you, though, and I'm looking forward to getting back home so I can be with you again."
The sweetness of his words were great for my ego, but what I was also pleased by was the distinct and gratifying note of lust in the man's voice.
"When are you coming back?" I asked.
"In a couple of days. Can I ring you again tomorrow?"
"You don't have to ask for my permission, you know. Of course you can."
"Right then, I will," he chuckled. "Bye!"
The next day, he rang around the same time. I would have had a strong sense of déjà vu but for his tone: instead of happy, Kieran sounded downbeat and depressed.
"What's the matter?" I asked, "Aren't things going well?"
"No," he said, "things are still going fine. I miss you, that's all. This is a bit silly. I'm thirty, not fifteen and I know I'm going to see you the day after tomorrow."
I was a bit taken aback by this. I didn't know he was beginning to feel like this. I'm afraid that despite his morose voice, being missed thus buoyed me.
"Don't worry," I said. "Two days'll pass in no time. You'll see."
"Of course." He didn't seem convinced, as though time could develop an elasticity all its own. Then, he said - said, not asked - "I'll ring you again tomorrow."
And so he did, this time early in the morning and filled with animation.
"Listen," he said, not even giving me time to ask him how he was doing, "something's come up and I've got to come back up to Leeds right now. Can you pick me up from the railway station in two and half hours?"
Could I? I assented. And then, I suddenly noticed two things: firstly, that Kieran sounded like he was walking and talking on his mobile, and secondly:
"The railway station?" I asked, "What's wrong with your helicopter?"
"It's not my bloody helicopter," he laughed, "That's still in London. Everyone else is still there. They'll be coming back on it tomorrow."
I had more questions for him, but Kieran sounded like he needed to be on his way, so I didn't want to hold him back. We hung up light-hearted, both looking forward to seeing the other. It was great to hear him sounding his old self again. The sound of his voice and the prospect of seeing him again was getting me all juiced up, a condition that only got worse as the clock ticked while I waited for his arrival.
To be truthful, such was my arousal that I arrived at the station half an hour early. Kelly, I knew, would have laughed long and hard. Fortunately and amazingly (oh, the wonders of British Rail…), the train pulled into the station bang on time. I couldn't wait to drag him home and into my bed. As soon as he spotted me on the platform, Kieran rushed towards me and put his arms around me, picking me off the ground and spinning 'round like they do in movies.
I laughed, and almost collapsed breathlessly to the ground when he set me down. And yet after the initial rush that being with him had brought on, I couldn't help but notice two rather odd things about him. Firstly, he didn't seem as sexually excited to see me, as I was to see him. Secondly, he was shaking.
I didn't have time to ask about either - my lips were welded to his by a long, lingering kiss. And yet I still couldn't feel what had become a now familiar sensation of his hard-on against me. When he'd gotten his fill of kissing, he let go and, to my amazement, my knees buckled. This had never happened to me before! I had to grab hold him to stop me from falling!
"Your place?" he whispered.
"Yes please," I said.
I drove us home in silence, but he insisted in our holding hands. That meant he changed gear for me with his free hand. (Don't try that at home, children. In fact, don't try anything Kieran and I ever got up to at home. Or anywhere else, now that I think about it…)
When we arrived at my place we rushed into my bed and, to be fair, he seemed just as anxious as I to get there. Yet the love we made that afternoon was not the passion filled erotic riot that I'd expected.
Throughout the whole session there were no "wandering palms"
He just held me tight the whole time we made love, and the session was one big kiss.
I still came, but it was more of a low-key throbbing than an earth-shattering orgasm. I was sated, and yet I was still hungry. After our separation, I'd longed for something more animalistic, a warm-blooded session of raw lust that would leave us both breathless and damp, seeing stars as we fell asleep, exhausted, in each other's arms.
I don't know if Kieran was seeing stars, but he stared into space after we'd finished. I could tell he was troubled by something.
"There's something wrong isn't there?" I said, putting it as a questions even though, to my mind, it wasn't really.
"Yeah. Well, there is only if you say there is."
"What?" This kind of cryptic line was usually more Kelly's style.
"Right, I'll just out and tell you. Sian, I really like what we've got together and I don't want to lose it. But…"
But. I hate that word. It's a short abortion of a word, a destroyer of possibilities, a devourer of futures. And, if you add an extra t, it's right next to bollocks where men are concerned. This last had been pointed out to me once, by Kelly no less, and I remember at the time thinking that this observation made a lot of sense.
But. Kieran had said "I like what we have together. But." A small word that could lead on to so many things. But I don't love you. But it's not going to work out. But you're not the girl for me. But I've found someone else.
But. Such a small word, but it frightened me. Out of all the hurtful "buts" spinning around in my head, I chose the one that I felt was least painful.
"There's another woman isn't there?"
"No," he said oh-so-quietly. Then, that word again. "But…" another pause…
He was driving me crazy with all his monosyllables! I was so on edge I could have smacked him.
What's wrong? I wanted to shout, but I could only repeat: "There's another woman isn't there?"
"Of course there isn't," Kieran said, killing that line of my self-defence with a kind of amused irritation. Then he looked away, composing his thoughts before looking back at me, again with that bemused look that told me I'd said something really stupid. "Sian, you silly rabbit. I've never met a woman who had such a bad case of the green eyes monster."
"Hmm," I said. I didn't think it was dopey. I thought that every woman should and did fancy the pants off this man, because I did.
Then he dropped his bombshell.
"It's been a while, but…" if he said that word one more time, I really was going to hit him! "It feels to me like I may be falling in love with you." His eyes didn't leave mine for a second, but he brought his hand up to stroke my jaw, as though I was indeed a rabbit, but precious instead of silly like he'd said. "Thing is, I'm not sure we've been together long enough for me to be feeling or saying things like that without having it affect our relationship. My worry is that you won't believe me."
Actually, the first thing that worried me was the change in technique in our lovemaking.
I liked the closeness of the new intense lovemaking but I also liked the eroticism of the more passionate sexual bouts. I wanted both; and what's wrong with that?
Before I had a chance to even think about worrying over this revelation, something took me completely by surprise.
I only just managed to get my finger under my nose.
I normally get plenty of warning when I'm going to sneeze, but this time I didn't. When I don't get any warning I'm going to sneeze, though, it normally means one of my rare (yet potent) sneezing fits. I confess that I usually hate when this happens, but to have it happen right then? All I can say is, someone up there has a great sense of timing.
I caught sight of Kieran's face as I braced myself for the onslaught. He was looking at me wide-eyed and open-mouthed. A smile spread across his face, and I swear his penis went from dormant flesh to tent pole in a blink, which caused me to fall back onto the pillow laughing. This might not seem like the best of reactions to some people, but I tend to find it funny when Kieran gets horny lightening-fast just because it was so funny the first time I saw it happen.
I composed myself and sat back up to greet my old friend.
"Oh Sian," whispered Kieran, "You've got to let me kiss you."
"Hold on, Kieran, I... I have to sneeze!"
Kieran, in response, said, "Hold on, Sian, I… I have to kiss you!"
"I don't care!" I laughed. "Oh, God, and I really am gonna…. Aaah….
My nose was really tickling. Shit. It really was a sneezing fit. This was too funny. I was snickering and sneezing and oh, but you should have seen the look on Kieran's face, like I'd gone crazy but he still wanted to shag me rotten.
"Ah… tishoo! Tishoo!… tish-hoo! Ah… tsheew!"
"God," he breathed, "That was so brilliant!"
"You've got your tenses wrong, chap," I told him.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"It is brilliant," I replied. " I'm not done yet. I still need to... oh...
I… ATSHHooh! ... really... AAHHTCHH-HOO!"
I paused for a moment, catching my breath, still on tenterhooks, but the tickle was now gone. Kieran was still looking at me, but I shook my head to signify that I was all done sneezing.
I pulled back the duvet and said, "Right, let's see what we got to work with." I clasped my hands to my bosom. "My, how you've grown!"
I put my thumb and forefinger round his cock and began moving up and down the shaft of his erection.
Kieran sat bolt upright, "Hey, wait a minute, Sian!"
I continued to stroke him.
"Sian, f'chrissakes!" he gasped.
This is just the best game!
"I'm only playing, " I scolded him. " I'll put it back when I've finished. Oh, and, guess what, my nose is tickling again."
I put my finger under my nose, oozing dramatic flair as I puffed up my chest for maximum effect. "Oh, Kieran, I can feel another sneeze coming on!"
By now Kieran was pushing himself up the headboard.
I let my face contort as the urge built and built. My lips were quivering and my eyes narrowed to slits. I breathed in and out through my nose, letting it tingle and twitch as the sneeze became harder and harder to resist.
"I'm going... going to- aah... have to do another... aahh... sneeze again. Any... mi- minute now. Ahh… AAHH ...
Poor Kieran couldn't hold it back any longer and ejaculated high into the air.
"Whee!" I said.
Spent, Kieran lay back on the bed, exhausted.
"C'mon, sit up," I chided. "You can have your kiss now."
"I changed my mind. Sian, I hate you."
Despite my laughing in response to his words, he sat up obediently and we had a long slow kiss. Then, he pulled away gently.
"We still ok then?"
It did seem like a fairly ridiculous question after what had just happened.
"Well it would seem so, yes, "I replied. I tried to keep the mood light. "Tell me more about tomorrow."
"Why, what's happening tomorrow?"
"The Deep End?" I prompted.
"I thought you'd just gone off it now," Kieran replied.
I rolled my eyes. "You know what I meant. Your gig?"
"Oh yeah," he grinned
"How do have we to dress? Ball gowns?"
"Oh, God no," he replied. "Dress the way you did when I met you in Creation. After all, it's Only The Deep End."
"Okay," I said.
"And don't have an evening meal. There's a spread on as well."
Then, just as I was leaning in for another kiss, wouldn't you know it, Kieran's mobile phone rang.
"Bloodyhellfire" he cursed, all in one word, as he stumbled to retrieve it from his coat, which had been unceremoniously dropped to the floor in our haste to get reacquainted.
"Let me guess - is this going to be the infamous Peter?" I asked, struggling to keep the vitriol out of my voice. I'd never even met this man, but I was beginning to dislike him already. Couldn't he ever be on the phone to Kieran when we weren't getting cosy together?
My man went and sat on the chair I have in front of my dresser. "Hello? Oh, hiya Peter."
I looked at Kieran, who wasn't looking at me, and mouthed, "I knew it!"
"Have you? Oh well done! What's his name? Mm, how dull. I thought it'd be Japanese. So, when are we meeting?"
I was still watching it, and couldn't help an amused snicker as I watched his eyebrows jump halfway up to his hairline at the response Peter gave him.
"I can't go to fucking Washington tonight! What about tomorrow at... Oh, Washington, County Durham. Ahem. Sorry."
I was rocking with silent laughter, but I kept it bottled up inside as their conversation ended. By the time Kieran looked at me, I was sporting a sweet smile. Far from me the idea of poking fun at him over the fact that he was certain his boss found him important enough to whisk off to Washington D.C. in America and at the drop of a hat.
"Y'know, " he said, "some days it just don't pay to get put of bed. Bloody Peter."
"Well come back in then," I said, spreading the covers in wide invitation.
"I can't, love. I have to go to Washington," he said, sounding like an extra from a dodgy spy flick.
"Washington C.D. and not D.C. ?"
"Very funny." And it was - he was laughing.
"Shall I give you another lift?"
"But you already gave me two so far today," Kieran said.
"I meant a lift in my car."
"I wasn't going to say no to a third of the other kind, mind."
I paused to consider this.
God he was gorgeous, sitting on a chair not five metres away, toned body outlined by the afternoon's pale light like a finely tuned instrument just waiting for me to play it. I wanted him, wanted to taste him and stroke him and make him quiver as he did the same to me. It was still early; we had time to indulge, did we not? If it had been Washington D.C., I might have forfeited my right as newfound object of Kieran's love to an excellent shag. But since it was only Durham calling…
"I'll see what I can do."