|Primary Characters:||Mandy, Arthur, Curt|
|Warning:||m/m sex, m/f sex, strong language|
|Description:||Mandy wants to get back at Brian for the divorce. She decides to go after Curt. Arthur is still looking for Brian Slade, but when he finds him, things don’t turn out the way he was hoping.|
Sunset People – Doing it right, Night after night, Holding on til the last breath of life. On Sunset. Sunset People.
Mandy wasn’t normally introspective. Hell, a couple of drinks, a few pills, a smoke or two usually took care of that problem. But once she’d sobered up a bit after her post-divorce blackout, she started to think. Being treated like that by Brian was intolerable. How could he just throw her away, and for that Shannon bitch of all people? She’d already known she’d lost him when she saw him with Curt Wild. That she could understand. Wow. But Shannon? That insipid, tiresome, scheming little bitch?
Mandy made a face and looked around for her robe. A coffee. Or maybe – why shouldn’t she try to make an effort to be healthy for once? She sure wasn’t getting any younger and her and Brian’s plan to live fast and die young to make pretty corpses suddenly didn’t feel too appealing, in the light of day.
An orange juice. Fighting down the nausea, Mandy determinedly poured herself half a glass of the stale stuff. She’d need to go shopping. At that thought, she almost gave up the idea of pulling herself together. Wasn’t it much easier to pick up the phone and call for some more weed?
But no. She’d show Brian. That ought to teach him to treat her like a cheap little groupie. And deep down, she knew she’d always have a weakness for him. A stupid, ill-advised hope that one day, he’d see sense and come back to her.
She shook her head and doing so recalled that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to wash her hair. Yes, she’d pull herself together and when she looked pretty damned good, she’d get on with making Brian pay.
That got her thinking about what she might do to get back at her ex. What would hit him the hardest?
Again, the image of Curt Wild’s magnificent body hovered in front of Mandy’s eyes. Mmm. Curt. She knew Brian had loved him as much he loved her. What if – But for all she knew, Curt didn’t even fancy women. On the other hand, did it hurt to try? She seriously doubted Curt would go running to Brian and tell him all about her failed effort to get him. And who said her attempt needed to fail at all? At least it was worth a shot.
She had a hunch she’d find him somewhere not far from Jack Fairy. And she and Jack went way back. Back to her early days in London, just arrived from back home. Yes, it would be nice to see Jack again. He could be a darling, but then again, sometimes not. Still, he’d be sure to let her know where to find Curt, and maybe, if she was lucky, give her a hint or two if her plan had any hope of success.
When Mandy had showered and done her hair and put on a slightly less spectacular makeup than normally, it was just about time for lunch or – something Jack would appreciate far more – a pre-lunch drink and maybe a bit of smoke.
Mandy took a cab to Jack’s favorite haunt, picked a table where she’d be sure to spot her old friend, and ordered a martini. Healthy was all very well, but she saw no reason to overdo it.
She was in luck. Jack walked in, not five minutes later, and he was alone. His usual entourage must have strayed to other pastures, or he was in one of his moods. But Mandy knew how to get round those. And she had a feeling that somewhere inside Jack’s shallow persona there was a soft spot for her. At least she hoped so.
She’d always liked Jack, believe it or not. There was something so – eternal about him. As if he’d always been around and always would be. Ha. As if she didn’t know how impermanent everything was. Anyway, here was now, anyway, and that was all she needed for the moment.
Whatever the reason for Jack’s solitary entrance, he appeared to be pleased to see Mandy.
“Darling. It’s been a while. I heard about Brian.”
“Yeah. What can I say? Shit happens. Can I get you a drink?”
Later, as they were sitting at Jack’s table over by the window, where he could be seen and admired by passing fans, they got to talking about the old days. Mandy didn’t quite know how to bring up the topic that was on her mind. But Jack seemed to sense there was something she wanted to discuss and suddenly became very businesslike.
“Now, what can I do for you? You didn’t come out this early just to reminisce, am I right? Come on, tell me all about it. What are your plans?”
“Right. I guess it’s no use bullshitting you, Jack. Ok. Here’s what I’m planning. Brian treated me like shit. You know he did. And can you imagine he’s now got that little tramp, Shannon, running around doing his dirty work?”
“Yes, I can. Girls like her should be watched. If I were you, I’d have done something about her a long time ago. But I know how it is. You get stoned, you got work to do. Time flies. It’s easy to be wise after the fact. Never mind. He’ll drop her before long.”
“I’m not so sure, but anyway, it’s over. I just have to face it. So, I was thinking I’d do something to get back at him.”
“Simple revenge? Yes, it could work. What did you have in mind? Anything I can do?”
“Maybe. Curt Wild. You wouldn’t happen to have him tucked away somewhere?”
“You could say that, yes. Curt. Yes, yes. That should get Brian’s attention. How clever of you.”
“Except I don’t know if he likes girls at all.”
Jack’s face took on an almost angelic quality and Mandy wondered what he was about to tell her. He nearly always had a subtle stab in the back for you, when he was looking like that.
“Darling, everyone likes girls. You just go right ahead and charm him.”
“Ok. Here goes.”
“He’s back at my place. I won’t be going back there until later. Much later. So go ahead. Knock yourself out. You can stay there or go out. Just knock and Pierre will let you in. You’ll have Curt all to your lovely self. This should be interesting.”
Now that she’d confided her plan in Jack, Mandy wasn’t quite as happy about it anymore. Hadn’t she seen first hand what a handful Curt was even to Brian? What if she couldn’t handle him? Oh, well, it was worth a try.
If all else failed, she might set someone to work on that bitch Shannon instead. She might even be able to enlist Jack’s help with that. Not that it would really hurt Brian. Mandy was pretty sure all Brian wanted from the slut was her devotion, that and her hard work, probably for a pittance in terms of money. Oh, well, that wasn’t Mandy’s problem. One thing at a time.
Now that she had what she’d come for, Mandy was getting restless. She knew that if she had more time to think about what she was getting into, she might lose her nerve.
Jack seemed to read her as well as always and with a typical Jack-smile, he decided to hurry her along. Long lunches weren’t his style anyway.
“Go on. He’ll be waking up about now anyway. And I happen to know he hasn’t had any in quite a while. You can’t fail, darling. Off you go.”
“He hasn’t? I thought -“
Jack waved away her question with an elegant hand gesture. No. Curt Wild hadn’t been quite what he’d expected him to be. Too rowdy, too difficult to handle. And Jack knew well enough that whatever Mandy had planned didn’t have much future. Curt was way too messed up for that.
Still, Jack had a feeling that something like this might be just what the American needed. Another American. Or rather, someone like Mandy. A less destructive relationship for a change. And Mandy was as tough as nails. She was just the right girl to try it on with Curt.
Jack had been right. Pierre still remembered her and let her in without questioning her presence. She knew Jack did this kind of thing all the time anyway. Invited people to stay. There was some weird Asian woman or guy – Mandy wasn’t quite sure what to make of the geisha-like apparition – who, according to rumor, had been staying with Jack for more than ten years. But Geisha-boy or girl rarely ventured outside his or her room, so Mandy didn’t imagine she’d run into him or her anyway.
Now that she was here, she stopped and looked around the huge sitting room. This was where Jack entertained most of his guests, those that didn’t get the guided tour of the upstairs rooms. There was a time when she’d been one of the chosen few, but that was something Mandy really didn’t have time to dwell on right now.
In the end, she didn’t have much trouble locating Curt. He was lying, very decoratively on the couch, only partially covered by a sheet. From what she could see, he wasn’t wearing anything. That did not square with what Jack had just told her about how much Curt supposedly needed sex right now, but then again, he was alone. Anyway, she didn’t think she had anything to lose.
Pierre was hovering around the doorway, apparently prepared to accept Curt’s order for breakfast, should he wish for any. Mandy took one look at Curt, and judging by his condition, he’d need plenty of black coffee if she would be able to make her proposition with any hope that he might be able to understand it.
Since Curt was only showing vague signs of life, Mandy decided to take charge.
“Pierre. I think Curt will have some coffee. Black. Lots of it.”
“And for you, Mrs Slade?”
“Nothing. I’m cool.”
Pierre bowed politely and made himself scarce. Having worked for Jack Fairy long enough, he probably knew when he wasn’t wanted.
Now Curt sat up and began to take an interest in his surroundings. Just like Mandy had guessed, it wasn’t until now that he recognized her. It appeared as if he could hardly believe his eyes. He got up, flinging the sheet to the floor and stormed over to her.
“Did he send you?”
“No. Brian doesn’t know about this, I can assure you. Anyway, didn’t you hear? He’s dumped me.”
“Well, I’m not fucking coming back. Ever. You can tell him that. He can just -“
“Didn’t you hear me? I’m not here for his sake.”
Finally, her words began to sink in. Curt stopped and closed his mouth as if to contemplate her words.
“Yeah? I’m listening.”
He began to look around for his clothes, and after some search found most of it on the sofa or on the floor nearby.
As always, she was struck by his apparent vulnerability. This tall, strong man who was constantly out to shock and provoke.
“Would you like to go out for a drink or dinner or something?”
He looked up as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“You want to take me out to dinner?”
His smile hinted at amusement, but the anger had died just as quickly as it had flared. So far so good.
“Yeah. Why not? But dinner is not really what I’m after right now. Did I hear you order coffee for me?”
“Then let’s have breakfast together instead. Or have you already had yours?”
“Some hours ago. I’ve just had lunch.”
“Ok. Pierre can get you something else then. Or you might want to come back later when I’m more -“
“Never mind. We can talk now. When you’ve had your coffee.”
Pierre did up a small table over by the window, and despite Mandy’s negative reply earlier, he’d brought her a cup too. So she and Curt ended up having coffee together. Mandy couldn’t help laughing inwardly at the image of the two of them together. Having coffee like a married couple. She and Curt Wild.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh, you know. You and me sitting here together like this. Having coffee.”
“Oh, yeah. That is funny. Maybe we should get Pierre to get us some other stuff. What do you want?”
“No, I’m ok.”
For some reason, Curt seemed determined to put on his best behavior. He was smiling at her, in a way she’d only seen him do at Brian. A shiver went down her spine. This was how it had all begun. But Brian wasn’t here, and she had work to do.
There was toast and croissants on the tray, and to her surprise Mandy noted that Curt was actually eating. She could hardly remember seeing him eat before. He looked good. Healthier, stronger. Maybe the breakup with Brian had done him good. Hell, maybe it would even do her some good eventually.
Curt seemed to sense her intense scrutiny and with another one of those smiles, returned the gaze.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking. You’re looking good.”
“Yeah, I’m ok. Never better. Can’t say the same about you though. You look like shit, Mandy. What did he do to you?”
“Brian? Oh, he just threw me out. For good this time. Divorce papers and everything. And can you believe it, he’s got that little bitch Shannon doing his dirty work now.”
“Shannon? Yeah. That little -“
“And I didn’t mean you look like shit. I just meant -“
This was going well. She looked like shit. Terrific. But maybe it wouldn’t make much difference anyway. In the time she’d known Curt, she’d hardly ever seen him around women, and certainly not having sex with one. Though there was no reason for her to have been around to see it anyway.
Oh, well, only one way to find out. Bracing herself, Mandy decided to take the plunge. Curt looked wide awake by now, and in a good mood. She’d probably never find a better opportunity.
“Listen, Curt. I was wondering. Did you ever do it with a girl?”
His face seemed to shut down. Was this it? Had she blown it already? Too late, Mandy realized that if she’d worked at it, she might at least have been able to hang around Curt enough so Brian would believe they were doing it, even if they weren’t. But if she’d moved too fast and ruined everything, that probably wouldn’t even be an option anymore.
If Jack Fairy counted. They had done it, in a fashion. Not quite like she and Brian had done it, but back home what they’d done certainly qualified as doing it.
Laughing softly, Mandy decided to take that as a slight encouragement.
“Would you like that? In that case, I might have.”
Curt didn’t seem to be amused. Now he was fixing her with those intense eyes, as if he’d never seen her before. In a way, maybe he never had, not properly. Back then, she’d just been Brian’s wife. A potential complication. But the way their marriage had been, the way Brian had marketed it, there had never been any chance for her to object. No, she’d never stood in the way of what they’d been doing. It might have been better if she had, but then again, maybe not. And by now it was too late to worry about it.
“Why do you ask?”
“Would you like to?”
Now he was laughing too as if at a splendid joke. Oh, well, shrugging inwardly, Mandy prepared herself to be let down. At least she’d tried.
But she was wrong. Curt got up, and pulled her to her feet, then pulled her closer still. The kiss was awesome. She sure couldn’t complain about his enthusiasm. How could she blame Brian for wanting this?
An amused smile spread across his features. Not the sort of joke she imagined apparently.
“Baby, I’m into everything.”
Mandy hardly remembered how they made their way to his bedroom upstairs. Afterwards, there was one thing she just couldn’t get over: they hadn’t needed any drugs to make it perfect. It worked anyway.
She had always known it couldn’t last, but in the end, she realized that she had at least hoped it would last longer. For a while she’d been sensing a change coming over Curt. He was getting restless and she knew what that meant. For a while, she considered doing something to hold him back, but she knew it wouldn’t work. If his mind was made up, it was. Nothing she could try would make any difference.
At least she’d had the satisfaction of knowing Brian knew exactly what was going on between his ex-wife and his ex-lover. She had made sure they were seen together, kissing, touching, getting it on in public. And she’d looked into Brian’s eyes, and flashed him a challenge. To her intense satisfaction, she saw Brian’s face drain of all color. Anger and shock alternated until finally, he looked away, apparently defeated. Vengeance could be sweet sometimes. And more than that, her time with Curt had been great. Nothing like she could ever have imagined.
And during their time together, a realization had grown in Mandy that what Curt needed – no craved – was pain. Being hurt emotionally, perhaps also physically. Actual inflicting of pain had never come up during their brief but intense relationship, but Mandy could sense the need buried under his enforced joie de vivre.
She knew the time had come, and when they made love the last time, Mandy had tried hard to focus on the present and ignore the future.
Curt didn’t doze off beside her as he always did, instead, he began looking around for his clothes. It wasn’t too late at night to go out, but he hadn’t mentioned it, or suggested that she go with him. That in itself told her what he had in mind.
For a second, she considered pretending as if nothing was changed, and let him go, as if he would be back later. But something wouldn’t let her give up without a fight.
“You’re going to go back to him, aren’t you?”
They both knew she wasn’t referring to Jack.
Curt paused as if in consideration, then shook his head, then changed his mind again and nodded.
“To him or someone like him. Mandy – I’m no good at goodbyes.”
“I know. Me neither. I want you to know that -“
“Yeah. I know. Me too. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. But Curt – he’s going to hurt you.”
“I know. It’s just something I have to do.”
Again, Mandy told herself to leave well enough alone. This had been far better than she could have expected. Why not leave it at that? But part of her just didn’t want Curt to return to Brian, even if he wouldn’t stay with her.
“What if I were to – hurt you instead? Would you like that?”
She wasn’t sure what it was she was asking and offering, but she was pretty sure it was a mistake. Despite that, she felt she had to try.
Those eyes. Damn them. Why did he have to look at her like that, when he was leaving? There seemed to be – don’t be a bloody fool, Mandy – so much love, so much pain – so much –
“No. Not you. I want to be able to look back at this as the only pure thing in my life. The only thing that ever was real. Well, apart from the drugs. No, I don’t mean that. You know what I mean. I just need him or someone like him. It’s just who I am.”
“I know. I understand.”
Did she though? Not really. Why consciously choose to get hurt, when you could as easily choose not to? But she was beginning to realize that with Curt, things were never that simple.
In any case, for a brief second, she thought she had somehow managed to change his mind. He was walking over towards the bed. Maybe – He had to know that she would never object to the occasional other guy. In fact, she’d do it too. Whatever it took. But she wasn’t like this. Not so fucking weak. She was a big girl and if Curt walked out of her life, she’d take it. Just like she’d taken all the bloody crap life on this pathetic little island had given her.
And anyway, Curt was just kneeling beside the bed to kiss her. One last kiss goodbye. She prepared herself to remember this kiss forever. Just like she’d always remember her nights with Brian. The wedding night – No. She closed her eyes and let him get on with it.
It turned out she’d been wrong. Not about his intention of leaving her. Just about what he was about to do. Not just a kiss. All of it. One last time.
Arthur left the bar, his head filled with an exultant hope. The interview with the former mrs Slade had certainly given him food for thought.
He’d always known that this project meant far more to him than simply just another assignment. Excitement was building inside him. All the things that had thrilled him as a kid returned in force making him as giddy as if he was stoned again.
When he made the mind-boggling connection, and finally guessed where Brian Slade had been hiding all these years, Arthur could hardly believe it. But he had been right. And when he went to the concert, it was as if all the boring, responsible years in between had vanished. He caught sight of Mandy Slade out of the corner of his eye, but was too excited to give it much thought at the moment.
The night with Curt had been everything he’d hoped it would be, but when it was over, Arthur had felt a strange emptiness inside. What else did he have to look forward to now?
But there was still Brian/Tommy to track down. The article he had been working on ceased to matter. All he cared about was closing the circle.
He was beginning to realize that there was a rift that separated the young, geeky unhappy Arthur and today’s outwardly successful, but increasingly frustrated professional. That rift needed to be closed, the mental dichotomy healed, before he could go on with his life.
Then another night, another concert, he simply stalked Tommy’s limo. Arthur finally found himself close to his idol. He chose a spot where he could watch the house, while staying out of sight himself. Patiently, he waited. The opportunity came sooner than he had expected. Apparently, Tommy liked to go to clubs after the concert to unwind.
Arthur didn’t have much hope of being singled out among all the eager young groupies, but he knew he was going to try anyway. As luck would have it, the club was one that he had visited for a while last year, for another assignment. He knew how to get in, even if he didn’t kid himself that he was the type who usually frequented the place.
Once inside, Arthur picked a table where he had a reasonably clear view of the Stone table. He caught the waiter’s eye and ordered a large scotch. Usually, he didn’t drink much beyond the occasional beer. Tonight, however, so close to the realization of his dreams, he felt wired and over-excited. Would it be anything like it had been with Curt?
The waiter seemed to be regarding him with something like disapproval. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the man suspected him of being a reporter or a cop, not a genuine guest.
“Would that be all?”
“No. I want to buy a bottle of champagne for the Stone party over there. Would you make sure they get it?”
Now all he had to do was hope that his offering would be accepted. For one absurd second, Arthur had a vision of himself as a worshiper at the altar of his god. In a way, that wasn’t as far from the truth as it might seem.
There. The waiter was approaching the Stone table, bringing the champagne bottle. With abated breath, Arthur awaited the outcome of his gamble.
He could see Tommy/Brian talking to the waiter, then looking across to his table. Now the waiter was returning, leaving the bottle, as Arthur noted with rising expectations.
“Mr Stone would like to extend his invitation to join his party.”
“This way, sir.”
Apparently, he was to be escorted all the way over, so he wouldn’t stray off course, and perhaps make any observations that might result in an unfavorable story.
At last. Arthur could almost feel Brian’s gaze travel across his face and body. Would he do? Was Brian even into men these days? With an effort, Arthur made an attempt to flash his idol an inviting smile.
“Do I know you?”
“Anyway, thanks for the champagne. Anything in particular you’d like us to drink to?”
“I don’t know. To meetings. To long awaited meetings.”
From the way Brian was devouring him with his eyes, Arthur was beginning to relax. It was going to work out. Whatever else had changed over the years, he hadn’t lost it.
He was right. Brian wasted no time getting rid of his entourage, and before long, they found themselves alone in the Stone limo, heading back to the Stone mansion. Arthur had no idea where the rest of Tommy’s party had gone off to, but he didn’t really care.
All that mattered was that at last, after all these years, he was finally on his way to – the fulfillment of all his dreams. His arousal increased, and for a second he was afraid he wouldn’t last until they got to their destination. Like a boy on his first date. But he needn’t have worried. Brian didn’t intend to waste any time.
Would Brian want passivity or something more outgoing? It occurred to Arthur that in the past when he’d had sex with men, he had always played the passive role. Had he even wanted it for himself or just to rebel against his father or to earn his keep, as it were? He’d wanted it with Curt, and he knew he wanted it with Brian, but before that – There was nothing in his experience that he could draw on. Of course, in theory, he knew what to do but he didn’t feel this was the moment to improvise.
Brian was stoned. Or was he? In any case he was giggling elatedly, as he began to undress Arthur. A strange calm came over him at that moment. It didn’t matter what he did. Not now, not afterwards. It was as if he was a pilgrim who had only just now reached his paradise, his nirvana. Whatever he did, this was what he’d been waiting for all his life.
He felt Brian’s lips brush his and his lips slid apart to allow Brian’s tongue entry. The kiss lasted long enough to get Arthur going again. Then he felt Brian’s long slim fingers trail down his chest. But before long, Brian appeared to lose interest, and his hands instead began to reach inside his own shirt. Not for long though. Now his hands found the waistband of his pants, and with a few impatient moves, he pulled them open in front.
Arthur’s eyes were irresistibly drawn down there. He could hardly wait to fall to his knees before his idol and begin his worship. He only vaguely noticed that he was climaxing already. All his attention was focused on Brian, and what he was being allowed to do to serve him.
Brian slumped back in his seat, and turned his attention on to the cigarette he was smoking. Though he could tell the guy was no expert, this would do. Idly, he placed his hands on the guy’s neck and pushed a little. There. Almost done. A soft sigh escaped his lips as he climaxed. He didn’t let go until the guy had finished the job.
As he was straightening out his clothes, he let his eyes wander indifferently across the guy’s features. Ok looking, nothing more. Not exactly young. Oh, well, what was the difference? Tomorrow night he’d have his people pick up some teenager.
“Thanks, Arnold. We have to do this again some time. Now where can I drop you off? In the city?
The guy didn’t answer. He was looking kind of funny. Was he expecting some kind of reward? Brian rummaged through his pockets, and found a crumpled up ten pound note.
“Here. For the taxi or whatever. Will that do? Good. See you around. Don’t forget to come to one of my concerts, will you? Great.”
And that was that. A few moments of fumbling. Then it was all over.
The limo drove off, leaving Arthur standing on the pavement, staring down at his hand as if it was an alien object. A ten pound note. Perhaps that was no more than he was worth. A mediocre blow-job. Thanks, Arnold. We have to do this again some time.
He felt the laughter bubble up from his throat that was feeling sore. It really depended on how you looked at things. In a way, this was fitting. His father would have shook his head ‘I told you so’. Of course, it wasn’t the first time he’d made a few bob like this, but the last time he’d been a homeless teenager. Apparently, there wasn’t much difference. How absurd.
Startled, one of the homeless looked up and stared in dismay at the young man who was laughing like a madman at this hour. The tramp shrank back against the wall, hoping the guy wouldn’t notice him, or at least that he wouldn’t be a homicidal maniac.
The slight noise made Arthur whirl around, causing the old man to cower helplessly in his corner. Only a wino. Some homeless man.
“Here. Take this. Buy yourself a hot drink or something.”
Suspiciously, the old man stared down at the young man’s hand. A ten pound note. There had to be something dodgy about it.
And without waiting for a reply, Arthur dropped the note into the old man’s lap and turned and left. Until now, he hadn’t felt the effects of the scotch, but as he began to look around for some familiar landmark, or a Tube station, he knew he was walking unsteadily. If he should bump into a bobby, he might be in trouble.
Without noticing, he had stopped laughing, and instead, tears were streaming down his face. He didn’t pay attention to that either. His father had been right about him all along. Suddenly, Arthur felt old and tired. He had left the glamrock days behind him years ago, without even noticing.
Though this was closure of a kind, he could as well have done without it. No, he corrected himself. If he hadn’t sought out Brian Slade/Tommy Stone and faced him, and his own past, he wouldn’t have had closure. Now he did. It was a bitter conclusion he had been forced to draw, but at least he now knew.
Those days had been fun. He’d grown from his experiences. But why in the world had he missed those days when they were over? And he realized another thing. While he had been so busy rebelling against his dad, and exploring his sexual identity, he’d lost sight of the fact that once he was off the street and starting out in his chosen career, he’d been quite content to date women. When was the last time he’d been with one? Nine, ten months ago? 18 months? He didn’t even remember.
When he finally got back to his flat, he decided to call in sick. Once the decision was made, he felt a little better. After another drink or two he climbed into bed and dozed off. He woke up to the sound of the phone ringing.
The first couple of seconds he had no recollection of last night. Next followed the realization that the sun was shining through his window, and he must have forgotten to call in sick. Wonderful.
“Arthur? Where the hell are you? Did you get that Stone story?”
“Bloody hell. Don’t tell me it isn’t done yet. We’ll need it by tonight at the latest.”
“I’ll get right on it.”
“You went out and continued that old Brian Slade story, didn’t you? Or did you just go drinking with your mates? Don’t answer that. Get me that story and you can sleep as late as you like tomorrow.”
But Lou had already hung up. Arthur felt he could barely focus, but surely he wasn’t that drunk? Had Brian given him something in the car? Or while they were still at the club? He tried to think. It was possible that someone had put something in his champagne while he was in the gent’s. But why would Brian do anything like that? Shaking his head, Arthur gave up trying to remember. He’d better get that story done or he’d be out of a job, as well as a dream short.
At least he knew what to put into the story. Once the room stopped spinning around him, he was alright. By four thirty, the story was finished and after a quick shower, Arthur got into a taxi and delivered the typewritten pages.
He tried to ignore the astonished looks that followed him as he hurried in and out, leaving the sheets of paper on Lou’s desk. Now he needed a drink.
He was already half way there, when he realized what bar he was heading for. Swearing softly, he shook his head. As if he hadn’t had quite enough of that scene. The driver stared back at him through the mirror.
“No. Keep driving.”
He kept telling himself that he was not going to look for her. He’d just get a drink and unwind a bit, then he’d go home and get a good night’s sleep.
But she was there. As he passed her by, on his way over to order his drink, she looked up and appeared to recognize him.
“Well, well, well. If isn’t the reporter. Arthur, right?”
He nodded nervously. Did he want to get more involved in all that?
But it was too late. If he turned and left now –
“Yes. Can I buy you a drink?”
“Alright. Same again.”
He gestured to the bartender, who unhurriedly began to serve up his order.
Mandy indicated the empty chair on the other side of her table.
“So – Here you are again. Did you find him?”
Her expression changed as the implications struck her. Then she shrugged.
“Told you I was a liar.”
“Oh. Fair enough. But I don’t get it. I thought you and Brian -“
Despite everything, Arthur’s reporter’s instinct was taking over. There was still a mystery left to solve and he wanted to do it. What else was left for him?
“That we hated each other? I certainly hated him for a while. But life goes on. Afterwards, I decided to go out and do something constructive for a change.”
“Like fucking Curt.”
“Curt? But I thought -“
“What? You don’t think I’m attractive enough?”
“No. That’s not what I meant. I just thought he wasn’t into -“
“Oh. Well, I guess you were wrong. What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Are you? Never mind.”
She laughed and shook her head, thinking of the young heiress who had come to London to live life to the full. And she had. Hadn’t she just?
“Anyway, did he fuck you?”
“Yes. They both did, though not at the same time.”
“Curt too? He would. Good. I’m glad you got something out of this.”
She looked up from her drink and stared unashamedly at her guest. There was something about his tone that hinted he might not be quite as happy as she had thought he would be. Not like the last time. She’d known then exactly what it was he was after from her ex-husband, and her ex-lover. His ex-lover too. And now, this strangely diffident tone. The expression on his face wasn’t nearly as content or as enthusiastic.
“And no. It was everything I’d always dreamed of – or close enough. But not quite. I guess – that wasn’t what I wanted after all. I wanted those days back. And I thought that being shagged by Brian Slade had to be the best thing that could ever happen to me.”
“And it wasn’t? He must have changed a lot. I’m sorry. Anyway, don’t expect him to call you back. In his own mind, there’s no doubt about it, he’s a god. You and I are just mortals, grovelling at his feet.”
Arthur tensed up as he remembered how he must have looked last night. Grovelling at his feet. Exactly. But he forced the image away, and instead focused on Mandy’s voice. Despite her choice of words, there was a longing in her voice that wasn’t lost on Arthur. Did she miss Brian? Or did she miss those days, just like he did?
“Do you miss it? Those days.”
“Sure. I miss it. Them. Everything. What did you think? Look at me. Even if you didn’t see me back then -“
“I did. You haven’t changed as much as you think. Mandy, would you like it to be that way again?”
She laughed, wearily. Right. Wouldn’t it be good if you could dream yourself back and never wake up again? All her best years vanished in one extended cocaine rush, in between all the screwing she and Brian had been doing. No, they’d made love.
He had been wrong. It wasn’t all for nothing. He’d learned something. And across the table from him was this woman who had been there too. She – why hadn’t he noticed that she was actually kind of cute? And just like him, she’d been taken for a ride by Brian Slade. In a way, she’d been thrown out onto the streets with a pittance in her hands, after all they’d been through together, just like he had. He put his hand on hers, and squeezed it.
She shook as if hit by an electric charge, and he began to think he’d assumed too much. Then slowly, a smile spread across her pinched features, and Arthur saw her, as she must have been back then. Young, eager, happy.
“Where are we going?”
“Your place or mine.”
He was guessing she thought all he wanted was to shag. But she’d see. He only hoped she wanted the same thing he did. The days of glamrock might be over – but still –
To his relief, she smiled back at him, and jumped up, with the same enthusiasm he was beginning to feel.
On second thought, Arthur realized that her place would be a better choice. After all, all he’d ever been was a dilettante. She must have really excelled at the art of makeup.
He had guessed correctly. Her beauty box contained stuff he’d never even heard of. And once she realized what he was after, she was only too happy to play along. In fact, she seemed to enjoy it every bit as much as he did.
He closed his eyes, leaned back and placed himself into her capable hands. Every little touch, every little smear caused a thrill to build inside, from his toes all the way up to his head.
“Ok. You can look now.”
She held the mirror in front of his face. Was that him? That made up tart? At least that was how his father would have referred to him. His mother would most likely have buried her face in her hands and wept. But he looked fantastic. The painted mask was perfect. Far more perfect than anything he’d ever been able to achieve. No one could see through the mask to the insecurities underneath.
“I love it. Now it’s your turn.”
“Ok. Hold on a sec.”
In less time than he thought possible, she had applied the makeup to her own face, and when she stared back at him, it wasn’t her anymore, not the worn out, bitter woman he’d met at the bar. It was Mandy Slade, just as she had looked at Brian’s side all those years ago.
Arthur leaned over and kissed her. They might not be gods and goddesses, but they could still play the game. And he wasn’t alone anymore. Not alone anymore. The words were echoing inside his mind as he left a trail of kisses across her breasts.
For the second time in less than twenty-four hours, he dropped to his knees before someone else. He was surprised to find that he was just as excited now as he had been then. This time, the reaction was different. Before either one of them had climaxed, Mandy grabbed his hand and pulled him along towards the bed. Once there, she pushed him down and jumped on top of him. Her skillful hands didn’t have any difficulty unzipping his jeans.
Amazing. Not until afterwards did he consider the fact that this was Mandy Stone. Brian’s wife. That Brian had been inside of her, just as he was now. When he did think about it, it didn’t matter at all, either way. Actually, he didn’t think at all. And when it was over, Mandy gave no indication that she wanted him to leave. They curled up together, like Arthur had never done before with anyone.
They woke up late. Mandy before Arthur. When he came to, he heard the shower running. What time could it be? He fumbled around on the bedside table and eventually found a clock. 12.30? Oh, well, the gov had said he could sleep in today.
He began to look around for his clothes. It would be best if he was out of here when Mandy returned. If there was anything he hated more than anything else, it was facing someone who was already regretting last night and couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Too late. There she was. She was looking great, and he was feeling like something the cat dragged in.
“Good morning. Are you going to lie there all day? Come on. What are you waiting for? Aren’t you going to get dressed?”
“Sorry. I’ll be out of your hair in -“
“If that’s what you want. I was thinking more about breakfast. But suit yourself.”
Mandy took a closer look. She had thought her brains had been fried by drugs, but apparently the cute reporter was in even worse shape. From the way he sounded, you’d think he’d never had breakfast in his life.
“Yeah, you know. Toast and orange juice and coffee and so on. Don’t you English do that?”
Arthur couldn’t believe he was hearing this. Apparently, Mandy wasn’t at all like her ex. No curt dismissal. No degrading payment in hand. Instead, she wanted to take him out for breakfast. But he had to come up with some kind of reply before she came to the conclusion that he was a total moron.
“Oh. I used to do that. A long time ago. Sounds good to me.”
“Come on then.”
With Mandy standing over him, watching every move he made, Arthur felt self-conscious, but that soon passed. He was beginning to get into the spirit of the day.
Having breakfast with someone he’d spent the night with? Incredible. He found that he had a hard time taking his eyes off her face, which made for slow going. But he could tell from Mandy’s amused smile that she wasn’t complaining. Could it be that she’d been feeling lonely too? And apparently, she seemed to be in no hurry to get rid of him.
For the first time in his life, Arthur knew that he wouldn’t mind sticking around. A relationship? For him? Could he really be heading that way? Last week he would have laughed. Now – Well, he’d take one day at a time.
There. At last, he had all his clothes on. He was ready to go. At least he thought so. Why was Mandy looking at him with such a smirk on her face?
“Just a sec.”
She grabbed him and propelled him over to the mirror hanging on the wall. Oops. She had a point. Though much of the makeup had rubbed off during the night, he still had enough on to cause a bit of a stir down at the Ritz, or wherever the rich and famous breakfasted. A sheepish grin spread across his face as he looked around for something to clean his face.
“Here. Let me do it.”
And very matter-of-fact, she pulled out a tissue which seemed to contain some sort of lotion, and proceeded to wipe his face off. He was stunned to realize that getting it off felt just as good as putting it on. Maybe he didn’t need to wear a mask anymore.
“There. Much better, don’t you think?”
“You wouldn’t want me to touch up the mascara or the lipstick?”
Was she serious? No, she had to be kidding. Arthur smiled again to show he got the joke.
“How about later tonight?”
“It’s a date. Now, let’s go. I’m starving.”
Apparently, they both had something to look forward to.