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Friends or Lovers
Commissioned by Social Exchange Ltd
Friends or Lovers
For every man who has lost love, and every woman who can’t find it… Penny Leyton is one smart sexy woman on her way to the top. Bridget Jones she certainly is not, but she has the same chaotic approach to romance. Just as she is breaking through the glass ceiling, her boss Dave Stockton hints at a workplace scandal. Ablaze with moral outrage, Penny realises too late that one of her own friends is implicated and that she is part of the problem. Can she untangle herself from a hidden web of intrigue and save herself? Dr Rory Ridley-Duff is an author, composer and university lecturer whose research established how friendship, courtship and parental interests shape behaviour in organisations. His interest in gender issues and workplace democracy evolved out of directorships in worker cooperatives and 15 years of consultancy work in the social economy.
“Anyone who cares about love will give this book to their partner or spouse, sister or brother.” Dr Poonam Thapa Gender, Culture and Sexual Health Expert
Also by Rory Ridley-Duff
Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy:
Alternative Perspectives on Human Behaviour “Rory‟s work is insightful and helps to redress some of the imbalances in the feminist theory of patriarchy while simultaneously introducing the concepts of gender and intimacy to the subject of enterprise governance”.
Professor Phil Johnson, Head of HRM and Organisational Behaviour, Sheffield University
“Rory is a man who has deliberately chosen the left-hand path of progress. He does not shun the moral maze of human desires and passions but brings greater understanding to that very facet of life – the forbidden fruit that made us fall from grace and its role in our emancipation.”
Dr Poonam Thapa Gender, Culture and Sexual Health Expert Available from Amazon.co.uk
Copyright © Rory Ridley-Duff, 2009 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission except as defined below. No material may be reused except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4LP. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. Rory Ridley-Duff has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Acts 1988. Published by: Rory Ridley-Duff 4 Rosehill Close Penistone Sheffield S36 6UF
Social Exchange logo designed by Natasha Ridley-Duff
my wife. Your comments were invaluable and I trust you will spot your influence in the end result. This book is fiction but without undertaking a series of workplace studies. you have been a constant source of inspiration and the best antidote to loneliness that any writer could ask for. you are still my dream woman. Our conversations about the human condition will remain with me always. propose story lines. To my muse in business. and who will also check their manuscript for errors and support them through lean times. . It is every author‟s dream to have someone with whom they can freely discuss ideas. For these and many other reasons. this text would never have seen the light of day or come close to the reality of working life in early 21 st Century Britain. Poonam. Firstly.Acknowledgements The people who made this book possible are numerous. for the enormous patience and support she has given to my writing aspirations. Natasha and Bethany. you have my enduring thanks. To family members and life-long friends who did not spare my feelings in their feedback on early drafts. I thank you for helping me find moral courage when everyone around me thought I was mad or hopelessly naïve for writing this novel. draft chapters. This book tackles a sensitive subject and I am indebted to many research participants and work colleagues for the insights they have provided over the years (whether intended or not). To my children. I‟d like to thank Caroline.
“Bit of a tease. and sometimes I think she‟s tried to flirt with me. that‟s not what I‟m saying. She wanted to discuss something private so I asked her if she‟d like to go for a drink. Mike was traditionalist all right. The frown on his brow was more pronounced. concise – look him in the eye. she never showed it. if you ask me. “No. confident. If she felt uncomfortable. Mike was moderately bright.” Yes. And yes. To him a „bit of fun‟ probably included the occasional trip to a lap-dancing bar or shagging in the toilets. was she?” I said with a laugh. There‟s been a complaint. it was a different matter. just a misunderstanding. He was 50. landed himself a regional sales management job and probably felt he was enjoying the best years of his life. He was married and fancied himself a bit too much. “why have you been bothering Elona?” He looked so unconcerned that it made me slightly irritable. I‟m not making out she was „up for it‟ or anything crude like that. To Elona. End of story.” “She‟s never said anything about it. we‟ve been close at times.” I said. but that is not something that you show in this job. She said „no‟. one of those „pretty boys‟ who does not realise that . Calm. I just never got any sense that she didn‟t like the way I behaved. maybe.” Mike looked uncomfortable now. had worked his way up through the ranks. Time to give him a push. His eyes looked around the floor.” “Not to you. Mike. He prided himself on being „friendly‟ but I just found him a creep. Still. It‟s no big deal. but I‟ve always been careful. “It‟s nothing.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 1 “So.
I guess. Mike the macho. I‟d better check with my boss before I do anything here. I guess the sexual revolution has helped a bit. In my previous job I‟d been fast-tracked to deputy director but came up against the glass ceiling. particularly in the company of like-minded female friends. steer clear of Elona. was he past it! He had aged well. Mike is proof enough of that. here we are. Twenty years ago this company would not have contemplated me in this position. “Mike. I can see that men have it harder in some respects. Many of my management colleagues are women too. probably bored at home. So. It can be quite a laugh making a sexist-pig squirm. I‟m fairly new here. Nine months into my first job as Head of Personnel. perhaps. Married with children. I‟ll look into this and get back to you. She‟s a bit sensitive at the moment. God. Not quite as straightforward as some situations I‟ve faced because he has a good reputation and is well liked. I think. Leave it with me for the next 24 hours. He was certainly not my type. now leading a successful team but getting angry when one of his administrative staff won‟t go for a drink with him. I could see right through him. Come see me tomorrow and we‟ll wrap this up. To progress I had to move. but the patriarchy seems alive and well. Boyfriend trouble. sales rep of the year four years ago.Friends or Lovers they are past it. but too old for me – definitely! And he really irritated me when he shared dirty jokes with his friends but never with me. I think. Not my type at all. In the mean time. I would not call myself a feminist.” . still wanting to resurrect his youth and put it about. but I‟m not averse to a confrontation with the occasional unreconstructed man.
He shook my hand.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike did not look relieved at these comments and mumbled something I could not hear. . He had never struck me as a formal sort before. His eyes met mine and he fixed his gaze for just a second then looked away.
I can‟t let this rest.” I liked Dave. We shared a professional ethic and modern outlook. but we should move him.Friends or Lovers Chapter 2 “He‟s done what?” asked Dave. “As far as I‟m aware this is the first such complaint against Mike. he engaged with women as equals and was sympathetic to many of the problems they faced. * * * Innovation Centre Ltd was modern and dynamic. and I knew that he was ambitious too. my director. Okay?” I nodded. but it clearly looks like he‟s got the hots for Elona. He was not much older than me. Mike‟s good – his team like him. He . But I agree we can‟t let this pass. Dave was „Director of Business Development‟ and spent his time seeking out creative types and developing relationships with them. Zero-tolerance and all that! What‟s right here. “Do it sensitively. This does worry me. I hear he‟s not been a paragon of virtue in the past. Penny?” I was not sure whether the question was rhetorical but as no more words were forthcoming I gathered my thoughts. “Well. He enjoyed working with me but was careful never to overstep the mark or make me feel uncomfortable. Unlike most men. I could happily spend time in his company in the office or away on business. Penny. “Not completely sure.” Dave looked at me thoughtfully for several seconds. I don‟t think he should be sacked. Elona‟s upset. It‟s fair to Mike and it„ll send a strong message to the rest of the company that it won‟t be tolerated. this isn‟t easy.
intelligent. speaks well and is incredible at building trust. got them to commit their products to us then helped them obtain development grants. able to live independently. however. the Innovation Centre – or IC as we call it in-house . I still prefer the „relationship‟ thing. I‟ve worked hard for my career. I remember that he wistfully joked once that IC not only wanted its pound of flesh but also insisted that you hand it over with a smile. My friends joke that I am a model of the Cosmopolitan revolution – vibrant. I thought I may as well get myself an MBA couldn‟t see what harm it would do . Dave has a penchant for that too. Of course he‟s taken – most guys like him are – and he now has a young child that he rarely sees.and now I understand all that talk of returns on investment. but avoid the ones called „How to Find the Man of your Dreams at Work”. They were dishing out bursaries to encourage graduates into management.Rory Ridley-Duff found inventors. He mentors me and I appreciate that. but even so I am a bit of a man magnet when I wear black. Workplace relationships might put that at risk. I‟ve read my share of self-help books. nett present values and can put together a business plan.has created a network of 60 inventors and a catalogue of wonderful gadgets. As for me. football . I have my share of paranoia about my looks. he is „strictly business‟. smartly sexy. They‟re fine for those who want to give up work when they find their prince. Over the last decade. but for me they‟re a heap of crap. but go out on the town and get a shag if I want to. I did the „women into business‟ thing a few years back. interested only in sex. Much as I like him. and decided to specialise in human relations work. He looks smart. Most men are bastards anyway.
“I‟ve had a chat with Dave and Elona about the situation and I‟ve a suggestion for you. Penny. * * * “Thanks for dropping in. then around the side of his head as he pinched his ear-lobe. .” he said quietly. I dumped him. of course.Friends or Lovers and drinking. Same salary. I lived with a guy once but soon felt like his mother. Another feather in your cap. so we want someone with lots of experience. I‟ve taken my pleasure carefully and on my own terms. Our eyes locked and his hand moved up and rubbed his chin. It‟d mean travelling more. but only until they want me to cook them a „special‟ meal or wash their clothes.” Mike interjected. “It‟s a new project.” Mike looked at me and nodded to indicate he was ready. “I wasn‟t born yesterday.” Mike looked blankly at me for a moment. “That‟d create a problem. “Carry on. I‟m taking the flak for Elona.” “And what if I don‟t take this position?” he asked. same status. It seems to work for me. “We think it‟d be a good move for you to join Direct Marketing. I do boyfriends. Since then. but it goes with the territory and you have to harden yourself to it. They‟re a bit wet behind the ears. aren‟t I?” “Well. and working with a new team. “Can you give me until Monday?” he asked. we need a solution to that too.” I said showing him to a chair.” “Cut the crap. I can‟t say that I like this side of my job.” I said firmly. and this provides one. Mike.
” “She‟s working. Mike. Penny.” he hesitated. Mike. I‟m away in France next week. “If that‟s all. “What is it.” “Can‟t you call her? Meet her for lunch?” “I‟ll try. I do have a conscience. but I don‟t want this hanging around while I‟m away. I was able to protect his income. I get a small amount of satisfaction that I can contribute to changing the values of society and make the world slightly safer for women. Mike called me back later that day and accepted the new job. I feel sorry for Mike. He was not a happy man. I have to go.Rory Ridley-Duff “No. His awkwardness was palpable but no further words came out. It is never easy giving someone a sideways move but it has to be done sometimes. The problem is sorted and Elona is protected.. He was trying to say something.” I got up from my seat and felt his eyes burn a hole in me. but I could see that he was struggling to find the words.. I can give you „til 4 pm. He can‟t really complain. Mike?” “This…” his eyes looked up at the ceiling then down at the floor. . The hardest thing is protecting someone‟s dignity while sending a message that some behaviour is unacceptable. In some ways. His family is still safe. If you need to talk to your wife then take the day off. If I have to clip the wings of a man who sets a bad example then it feels like a job well done. but the world is changing and the type of behaviour he is responsible for is no longer acceptable to either men or women.
Usually that pissed me off. It was a dull evening. Our eyes met briefly a couple of times. When he cast them in my direction. The second night I decided to dress up and take my chances at the conference party. but not . He had dark brown hair with touches of white. After relaxing in the bath. They were nice eyes. If there is one thing I enjoy about going away on business it is the freedom I have in the evenings. wrists and breasts before setting off to await the chat up lines. If I go to these events with Dave I feel obliged to spend time with him. He had definitely aged well. moisturised myself with assorted oils. I studied him. I shaved. First night I snuggled down with a Bernice Rubens novel. I guess he was around 45 but still had a hint of the handsome features of his youth. This time I did both. Clearly he was a person used to smiling and laughing. He must have been at least ten years older than me and at the boarding gate I saw him reading what looked like a textbook. At home I might bump into a neighbour or colleague from work. His eyes were brown and there were wrinkles stretching from the outer corners across both temples. I could feel them undressing me. and applied a dab of Clinique near my ears. but this time I was on my own and had the chance to really let my hair down. kind but sexy. but hard work – a two-day conference. I can either lock myself away in my hotel room and read a good book or slip on a sexy outfit to indulge myself at conference parties. The best approach I got all week was not at the conference.Friends or Lovers Chapter 3 France was fun. He was casually dressed in jeans and a black top. But abroad.
he continued to gaze at the buildings and roads below. My bum looks good in jeans so I ensured that he got a good look at it by bending down to tie a (non-existent) shoelace.” I paused for a moment and then quipped. I obliged by reading it out. He held my gaze long enough to let me know he liked the way I looked. It seemed to have the desired effect because five minutes later I was in a window seat and he sat down next to me. and at other times he frowned. then without another word he resumed reading his book. “You look down there and you realise just how insignificant you are. I thought. “Flying always makes me feel humble. “Some comedy!” .” he suddenly remarked. “Of sorts. “A comedy?” I asked. From then on.” he remarked showing me the title of an article he was reading. When we boarded the plane.Rory Ridley-Duff today. As the plane rose higher and higher. I instinctively smiled back. A pity he had not been at the party the night before. underlining phrases that caught his imagination. All the lines at the corners of his eyes creased.” He looked straight into my eyes and held my gaze for a second. He turned to me again and smiled. “The impact of sexuality on group dynamics: a symbolic interactionist perspective. I manoeuvred myself into the queue just in front of him. and then he smiled. After a while he let out a laugh. I noticed his every move. He continued to read his book until the plane took off but then started to look across me out of the window. Definitely nice eyes. He was not bad. He was reading intently. Sometimes he would sigh.
I guess.” “Very enigmatic.” he responded. acknowledging my interest and deflecting it at the same time. “Well….” There was that smile again.” he said guardedly. “forty-something consultant from London. I write. .” “You‟re a writer?” This was getting better and better. eh! In what field?” I enquired. “I challenge the way people look at themselves and each other. “Are you in my line of work?” I asked.” “So are you a relationship counsellor? A sex therapist?” As I said the word „sex‟ I placed just enough emphasis on it to ensure he knew it was a flirt. I would guess they read my work sometimes…. writing is a by-product of my living. but I‟m not a writer. I sometimes work with HR people. This time I held his gaze for a little longer to let him know I liked the way he looked.” “Partly. “In what way?” I was genuinely curious. I‟m an HR manager. what is it you do?” He paused.Friends or Lovers He looked carefully at me and nodded in agreement. or women to look at men differently. “A consultant. hoping to dig a bit into his background. “And what line is that?” “Employees. I mean I don‟t write for a living.I might help men to look at women differently.” I announced. “Penny.” he responded. “Well. “thirty-something manager from Warwickshire. “Behaviour. “Only to my wife!” he joked. So.” “John.
brushing aside his comment with a smile. right? You must have an abundance of „knowledge‟ about men and women. more than that. A taster only. “Woman are made of sugar and spice and all things nice while men are made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails.” “Of course. Khaki never was my colour and I don‟t like getting dirty. Let‟s take something outside your everyday experience. like a challenge. “We don‟t have long enough to discuss that one! Okay.” “You disappoint me. “Some of my clients think of me as a pain in the arse. You must be acutely aware of their typical profile. Did I detect the hint of mockery? “As much as the next person.” he said. surely? It is your job to know about men and women. raising his eyebrows.” he immediately answered. he convinced me that they had not. “Why?” “Well.Rory Ridley-Duff “You‟ve got a wife?” the words came out so fast that I kicked myself. “Yes. . “What about the army.” He smiled. let‟s see. If my cheeks had coloured up. but resisted. Let‟s think about the army. You‟re in HR. He continued without any trace of embarrassment while I wanted to shrink into my seat.” I said with a smile.” “The army!” I was genuinely surprised.” The way he said „knowledge‟ was weird. and kids. “Your assumption is right. I guess.” I was tempted to make another flirty comment. then?” I asked.” “Oh.
I felt nervous and my right hand instinctively went to pinch my ear lobe. “Can I ask the audience?” “Well. I found it difficult to look him in the eye while I thought.” “Bullying. “Aha! The million pound question!” I said. I liked that. However. “Bullying. I started to offer less controversial suggestions.Friends or Lovers “Well. . staffed largely by men with the purpose of keeping men in power.” He looked at me kindly.” he said. “Can I phone a friend?” I teased. Here‟s your question. “That‟s three things.” he said with mock severity. raping and abusing. rape and abuse happen to men as well. and she talked of similar things happening to her. “I saw a documentary some time ago about women in the army. it may not be fair.” John said. I imagine the army is even worse. “All mobiles must be switched off during the flight. and it made me pause. “Fuck! Where do I begin?” Where would this lead? I turned over half a dozen arguments in my head – the army is.” he said. it‟s your opinion that really intrigues me. I usually ask this question at the end of a course. I had a girlfriend who was in the police. It was flattering to think I intrigued him.” he said with a wry smile. „What‟s the most sexist thing about the army?‟” What an odd question. after all. “Okay. Some had to put up with dreadful abuse. I thought. an organisation created by men. I didn‟t want to spoil a promising conversation by saying this.
men don‟t. a woman is always going to feel more violated. “You did ask!” he said with a laugh. usually when in enemy hands. Have we asked the men how they felt about it?” I paused. “Women soldiers get raped….” I replied somewhat apologetically.” Even as I said it. more powerless. “God. I felt. “Maybe. “It‟s not a trick question. “I mean. “You‟re right. He was probably so practised at fielding answers to this question that I was on a hiding to nothing so I looked for a way out. I wasn‟t going to be put off that easily.” “Bit of a depressing subject. surely?” I retorted. was the real thought provoker.Rory Ridley-Duff “What‟s the most sexist thing about the army?” I repeated quietly to myself. I wasn‟t sure that I was making sense.” I added and shot him an irritated look that hopefully did not cross the boundary into rudeness.” “Indeed. don‟t you think?” In a way it was and I kept looking for the way he wanted the question answered rather than the way that I would have answered it myself. I was genuinely shocked to hear that. And I wouldn‟t want you to remember me as the depressing old git who spoiled your flight home.” “Male soldiers get raped too. “I can‟t say I‟ve given this much thought. It‟s food for thought.” “You wouldn‟t be alone in that.” “But it‟s not the same. But it‟s a thought provoker. That. . that‟s sick. so I thought some more.” “Don‟t get me wrong.” said John. is it?” “Not at all.
er…. “Yes. married man! Should you be talking to me like that?” I snapped back ensuring my eyes caught his again.. “Then I‟d better not get to know you too well. it was not this. “Watch me? I think you opened up this….” I laughed before I could stop myself.” I quipped. “Okay. please. “Hey. I wanted the conversation to continue.line of talk. “Do you like to open up?” he asked inquisitively.Friends or Lovers “But not a very sexy topic. “Less of the „young‟.” “Perhaps you should be a bit more choosey about the things you say.” I said coyly. but the way he looked at me as he said it. Nice thought. what should I say to a young woman like you?” It was not what he said that induced butterflies.” I was enjoying this. I felt that perhaps I should not be encouraging him to continue this conversation but there was something magnetic about him and I found myself energized in his company.. but only with strangers. had I?” Whatever I had expected on the journey home. Are you asking me to lie to you? I thought women hated liars…. “But it is sexy.” “Hmmm. I was not sure whether to invite him to join the mile high club.” I said these words with a smile that reassured him that his compliments were very welcome. It was one of those moments where I could have . or punch him in the balls for being so cheeky. Not nearly as sexy as your perfume …. “I‟m old enough to gobble you up. I can see that I‟m going to have to watch you!” he chuckled.
It was not just his forwardness that . survived a few ups and downs.” The brevity and simplicity of his response made me pause again and he used the moment to spring another surprise on me.” Friendship? That was a quite a leap in such a short space of time and I was taken aback. Our banter continued. I don‟t hide my friendships from her. “The way they really are. His boy was 12 and his daughter 14. “My wife knows me well. As our descent into Heathrow started. “Would you like to meet up for a drink next week?” “What about your wife and kids?” I said with a hint of sarcasm. Ann. “So what is it you do exactly?” “I just told you.” he said pleasantly. He was an academic turned marketing consultant. who specialised in work with creative teams. and children.Rory Ridley-Duff stubbed out the fire before it got too hot but chose to fan the fire instead. and had two children he loved deeply. He‟d been married for 20 years. For a living he helped companies educate men and women to improve their marketing skills.” “And what way is that?” I added. Our flirting gave way to convivial conversation but as I found him both engaging and interesting I did not care so long as it continued. continuing to dig. “Exactly. He thought for a moment. He talked fondly of his wife. I took him back to the start of our conversation. By the time we landed I felt like I‟d had a brief tour of his life. “I try to find another way to look at human relationships.” I stressed.
He was hard to resist. He saw my hesitancy and I felt a burning need to say something.Friends or Lovers caused me to stop short. I gave him my personal email. and his hands moved slowly across me tantalising and pinching my nipples. “Okay. but did not look disappointed. “You‟re a most unusual man and while I‟d like to go for a drink. caressing my stomach. went through my winding down routine and settled into bed.” He nodded his head. I could not get him out of my mind.” “Do you need to pretend?” he inquired without a trace of mockery. When I reached home. “Just thought I‟d ask. As I drove away. I‟d flirted with quite a number of men over the years but I‟d never really cared whether they liked me or not. My head and body arched as the pleasure rose within me. His eyes moved over me. How about swapping e-mail addresses?” I smiled. then slowly pulling down my knickers. rather than work. “I can pretend that we met at the conference. I let a story unfold in my mind. Here was a man who knew how to make a woman . I actually found that I cared what he thought.” I found myself agreeing before I could stop myself. I don‟t think it would be sensible…. greedily consuming every inch of my skin. With John it immediately mattered to me that he liked me for more than my womanly charms. I continued to think of him as I allowed my fingers to work their way down into my pants. I chucked my bags into the corner of my bedroom. As we swapped cards I felt a pleasant sensation that was rare for me. but also a sense of disappointment that his aspirations were not a little higher. With one assured movement his mouth latched onto me and began to knead my flesh. anything.
Rory Ridley-Duff feel good all over. . I focussed all my thoughts on his delicate firm tongue circling and massaging until every nerve ending in my body sizzled and my heart pounded so loud that I heard it thumping in the dead of night.
I asked one of my staff. This gave me time to cast my eye over some of the mail I had received. junk mail still got through and I weeded this out as quickly as possible. wanted specialist training for her team on consumer behaviour. Phil. where they would have a second interview with Jo. I turned to my e-mails. There were offers of Viagra and penis enlargers as well as selection of links to web-sites for dating rich men or a quick shag.Friends or Lovers Chapter 4 On my return to work I found that Mike was now complaining that his salary would drop because his team would earn no commission until the direct marketing operation was up and running. There were several memos about recruiting regional organisers for the new home catalogue. Jo. I found most of these distasteful but they were becoming commonplace and whatever we did the problem still increased. and then interviewed them at a hotel. just a variant on previous recruitment campaigns. . really. but specialising in a much broader range of gadgets. We advertised in the local press. not simply beauty products. Despite the efforts of our IT department. The marketing manager. After spending the morning organising the following week‟s meetings. Our approach was to recruit people with school age children who could use their local networks to recruit others (usually mothers) to go door-to-door. to find out the unresolved issues and discuss them with me at the end of the day. None of this was new. short listed people. Just like Avon. Those that I liked would be invited to our headquarters in Leamington Spa for an assessment day.
I kept wondering if he was going to reply. To think that you are so willing to corrupt a sweet innocent girl like me…. Had a word with my wife. John My god.com Subject: Drinking with women? Penny. There were several messages from Dave wanting to set a meeting to discuss what I‟d learnt in France so I arranged a follow up session for Monday. The hour seemed to drag.Rory Ridley-Duff I dealt with a couple of e-mails from friends wanting to know if I‟d had any conference adventures and I responded with the cyberspace equivalent of flouncing my hair.com To: penny@hotlips. I hit the [Reply] button: From: email@example.com@tascali.. Every time a new e-mail arrived.t. Penny. there was a message from someone that I did not immediately recognise: From: j. he‟s e-mailed me already.com Re: Drinking with Women Hi John. I felt a sense of expectation disturbing me. He must be keen.t. Lastly. Who are you playing verbal tricks on today? Penny Even though I knew that I had more pressing tasks to do. Isn’t it your turn to teach me some tricks…? John .simons@tascali. No probs if you want a drink.com To: j.
I’ll come if you wear a kilt. Bugger. habit caused me to hit the Send button. I can walk on my hands (always goes down well in a beer garden when I’m wearing a summer dress without knickers).Friends or Lovers Good. Penny. Tricks? Well. Hmm! Tempting. very tempting. Which? Wear a summer dress. Penny x Not much chance of him accepting on those terms. Can you do that? Penny While I pondered whether this was too risqué. He likes to play. But unfortunately I don’t have a kilt. Do you have any that would fit me? John x . John. I think my wife has one from her Scottish dancing days. And the bastard made me wait over an hour for a reply. Penny. Too late. John. but at least I get to kiss him back. walk on my hands or lose my knickers? John x Ha! He‟d added a kiss! What was he trying to say? I started to wonder whether he‟d really asked his wife about me or whether it was just a trick to put me off my guard. This time he replied quickly. but she’s petite and it won’t fit me. We can shock some genteel country folk by doing handstands together…. Every time a voice inside me warned me to be cautious another told me to be daring.
hit me with it. He was personable too.” was my starter for ten. He was young and hard working. but not that big….” “Shit!” I exclaimed. . John. I’m a big girl. “What‟s he playing at?” Phil settled back in his chair. they had to be put on hold because Phil entered the office and sat down with a large sigh. the pick of an excellent bunch.Rory Ridley-Duff The cheeky bugger! He‟d mentioned his wife again. Penny x I hoped that I‟d not pushed him away too quickly. I felt a mixture of annoyance and regret. and with careful guidance I could see him going far. He had good grasp of psychology (always useful in this line of work) and had recently graduated with a good degree. Whatever my thoughts. Better back off for now. “Good news first. Phil was a good lad. the joy I‟d been feeling drained away. he had to learn how to do the donkeywork and that meant devising and running the administrative systems I needed. “Okay. After 45 minutes. please. For now.” “That‟s good. bright but inexperienced. So what is the bad news?” “You‟ve got three vacancies in Mike‟s old team. What was I playing at? Were we flirting or joking? I was not sure.” I replied. however. After 30 minutes.. “I think I‟ve found the people to fill the vacant positions in the marketing team. He‟d clearly had an eventful meeting with Mike. Looks like we are going to have to postpone that drink for the time being. “Do you want the good news or bad news?” he asked.
I thought! Perhaps he weaves a magic spell that I don‟t know about yet. Sounds okay to me. . part of a new generation that accepts the way the workplace is changing.Friends or Lovers “Not sure. they would be. He had no problem working for a woman and we got along well. I‟ll check with Dave. He was fresh out of college. They want to move with him. “Well.” “It‟s not the men – it‟s three of the women. Their sales records are pretty good. They were pissed as hell at Mike being moved. I‟ll keep you posted. he said that he‟ll accept the temporary drop if these three can join him. Anything else?” “Nope. I get the feeling that he‟ll quieten down if he gets his way on this.” How weird. “Well. wouldn‟t they? The old boy network will naturally stick up for him. Two have school age children and the other has grandchildren. Thanks. All have contacts from previous sales jobs. They all fit our desired profile. Few things to round off. Not sure he‟s playing at all.” “Okay. or prepare for battle if he doesn‟t. They want to work with Mike. The moment I arrived in his department I was collared by three of his sales reps. “Not yet.” Phil was good. Are you off now?” I asked. What d‟you want to do?” “Leave it with me.” “Hmm. I nodded to Phil to carry on. Don‟t worry about it. What about Mike‟s money concerns? Did he raise that?” I asked. “It overlaps their territories so they‟re confident they‟ll build sales quickly.
Something was disturbing him.Rory Ridley-Duff I sought out Dave to confer on the latest developments.” . The differences were not so great that we needed to worry.it may come in handy. Dave finally agreed but as I left he said something that set off alarm bells. The job information we sent out would be slightly misleading. “Mike may become a problem. He asked if recruiting three salespeople for Mike‟s old team would be any more difficult than recruiting for the new one? I thought not. He did not immediately jump at the idea and rubbed his chin in thought. but I could explain the changes at interview. Find out more about him . The starting salary would be the same.
Mixed in with my anger was a spine-chilling excitement that I could not shake off. In saying that I don’t want you to read more into these comments than is in them. so it was a surprise when another e-mail from him appeared in my inbox. I like you. Hope to hear from you soon.Friends or Lovers Chapter 5 Back at my desk I started to wind down for the night. If you are okay with this. then I still have a pleasant memory of meeting a smart and sexy woman. however. Before logging off. then we will become friends. I‟d forgotten about John. It was fun. I could not concentrate. Penny. I hope we can enjoy more banter in the weeks to come. Thanks for playtime. I love my kids.” “A Fantasy. Before that resumes. John x Who was this guy? His arrogance pissed me off. If you are not.” Why does . But enjoying a mutual attraction does not mean I’m going to make a pass at you (that will have to remain a fantasy). I want to give you the chance to walk away if you wish. I locked away sensitive information and tidied my desk. Our relationship is a strong one. I have women friends and I’d like you to be one of them. I love my wife. Fuck him. You are an attractive woman. I retrieved my e-mails to see whether there were any final issues to deal with. That is a lovely thought to keep in my head if that is all you want to give. That evening I settled down with my Bernice Rubbens again. What had he called me? “Smart and sexy. If I flirt it is because I think you find it fun too. Try as I might. My wife does not usually interfere in my personal friendships (unless she feels threatened) and we have become much more relaxed in recent years.
No guy has ever talked to me like this. Why does this hurt? Don‟t let him in. My thoughts kept returning to our e-mail exchanges. The word „danger‟ keeps forcing its way into my thoughts but my mind wanders back to his eyes. Don‟t let him in. circling around like vultures gnawing at old wounds. Don‟t trust him. The hours passed and still I could not read my book. I must stop thinking like this. He‟s intelligent. I put on music. He‟s too old for me. no denying it. He makes me laugh. Slowly it dawned on me why I‟m angry at him – he dares to resist me. He dares to resist me. the minutes ticked and questions invaded my thoughts. but I did not listen to it. As I lay in bed. I tried to watch a film but the moving images were just a backdrop. He‟s got kids. He‟s got “ups and downs” in his life. . He‟s sexy. The prospect of looking into them thrills me. By 2am. Why do I want to trust him? I never trust men. For a few hours I was free of the conflict raging in my soul. Penny. He‟s married. Play it cool. Maybe he is just after a fling. Penny. He‟s fun. my eyes finally got so heavy that I dropped asleep. And that realisation had a strange effect.Rory Ridley-Duff he tell me he won‟t make a pass at me? Why not? Bastard.
I too felt awkward because I had initially imagined that work was conducted in the way described in study texts. then join in the conversation. . see if they talk about him. Whether I like it or not. not find out dark secrets. When you experience the real world. we have to work within management objectives and commercial constraints. I remembered the first time that my manager asked me to keep my ears and eyes open.” “If I start asking about him. won‟t they start wondering why?” “Just spend time with them in the canteen. you find there is this whole other world that no-one talks about. “Nothing in particular. “I‟m still concerned about Elona‟s complaint. I asked Phil to find out more about Mike. “What am I looking for?” he asked. we are part of the management team and that means we bend to their wishes.” He rubbed his hands together. I‟m trying to build a picture. Just take an interest.” I said. he quizzed me. get to know them.to start by finding out what he could from members of his former team as unobtrusively as possible.” Phil looked awkward. I told him not to be too obvious . Much as I wanted to focus on recruiting the best people and developing them to their full potential. he scratched his nose. Naturally. As he looked up. “I want to be sure that there is not a pattern to his behaviour. If they do. and his brow still showed a frown.Friends or Lovers Chapter 6 Following my conversation with Dave. of course. His eyes looked at the table while he rubbed his chin. Just see if you can find out about him.
“Phil, I understand how you must feel. Sometimes we have to do things that are not pleasant. The worst thing you might have to do one day is make people – decent people – redundant. If you stay in this profession, you‟ll learn how awful that can be. At other times, you may suspect that someone is acting more in their own interests than those of the business. When that happens, we sometimes need to be circumspect in finding out what we can. It is a very difficult job and we can only find out so much by asking people directly. I‟m not asking you to spy, just keep your ear to the ground and mix in certain circles when the opportunities arise.” He looked at me briefly and smiled, but the lines on his forehead never totally disappeared. “Okay. I‟ll see what I can find out.” “Good man,” I said and I felt my body relax. I smiled strongly at him, got up and walked towards the door. Phil got up slowly and made to leave. As he passed me, I put my hand on his shoulder and reassured him. “You‟ll be fine. If you‟re not, come and talk to me.” With Phil gone, my mind turned back to the task I‟d been putting off. I knew that I must reply to John, but did not relish the task. Even though I‟d thought about it all the previous evening, I was still not sure what to say. One thing I am sure about - I want to keep in touch with him. The problem is how to do that without ending up in a “situation” where I get hurt. Words and phrases keep going around and around in my head but no concrete sentences form. It is just a drink, I keep telling myself, but I cannot forget that nearly every relationship I‟ve had with a man gets complicated. One that I lived with, despite having a lovely side to his character, ended up taking me for
Friends or Lovers
granted. I don‟t want to mother my partner; I want him to look after me. There have been others that I adored for a short while (and who adored me) but as soon as they started talking about their goals in life, I felt them threaten my own. One wanted me to move with him to London just after I‟d started this job. I wouldn‟t go and the relationship ended. Why am I thinking like this? It is just a drink, after all. As much as I keep trying to convince myself that he only wants friendship, I cannot shake off the idea that going drinking with a married man will lead to problems. If I get close to him, will he make a pass at me? Why will this one be any different? And if he did, would I be able to resist him? Perhaps this is why I am so nervous. I don‟t want to be a mistress. I have to write something so I create an e-mail and stare at the screen. My fingers start to type:
John, Tell me about your marriage. How strong is it? Penny
I hit the Send key before I realise that he might take this question the wrong way. While contemplating my gaff, a message appears in my inbox.
Penny, Strong enough for you not to worry about it. John
I had hoped for a fuller explanation than that. No kiss today, I notice. Perhaps my question irritated him. At times like this, I tell myself to follow my head. What does my head say today? I listen carefully to my thoughts; there is danger here, to myself, to his marriage and children. But there is potential too. What if
he is how I hope he is? It will be a pleasure to know him. Could he become a friend I can trust and talk to like my father? But what if he turns out to be a creep? What will happen if I start to love him? I can‟t deny my desire to meet him or the thought that if I turn this opportunity down I‟ll always ask have the question “what if..” I will never answer any of my questions if I don‟t get to know him. As one of my school friends used to say to me “life is not a dress rehearsal”.
John, I accept. When would you like to meet? Penny x
In for a pound. Later that day, he e-mailed me back to ask if I‟d meet him in Leamington the following Wednesday. He could stop by as he was working in Birmingham then staying with friends in Warwick. With that out of the way, I relaxed and focussed better on my work.
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With the week coming to an end, I finalise arrangements with interviewees and then decide to check on Elona. She is quite young, in her mid-twenties, and works within sales administration. She‟s been with the company since leaving school and is well-known about the place. I‟ve only met her half a dozen times or so since joining, twice due to her recent complaint. I want to check that she is happy with the way we have dealt with it so I decide to read over her file and recent appraisals. She is a single child, the daughter of local shopkeepers. When she was in her teens, she worked in the shop with her parents and saved enough money to go to college for two years. She lives in Kenilworth, a small town about 7 miles away. Nice place. In her interview notes it says that she led a relatively sheltered upbringing due to her parents‟ ties to the shop. Holidays have been few but she does have good friends in the local community. She has a boyfriend – her fiancé - who she provided as a second emergency contact. They hope to buy a house together soon but each live with their parents at the moment. Her career at IC has progressed fairly smoothly. She started in a typing pool seven years earlier. When it was disbanded she took on a series of clerical jobs, including a stint in customer services, but eventually felt her attention to paperwork and maintaining filing systems was being under utilised. In short, she wanted something more challenging than a continual stream of phone calls. The move to sales administration, therefore, was a good one for both her and the company. Her knowledge of
order processing together with customer skills equipped her for a trouble-shooter role in which she dealt with customer complaints. By all accounts, she appears to be a reliable hardworking employee. So I called her and asked her to drop by. Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting together in my office having a cup of tea. “Hi. Glad you could come. Do you take sugar?” I asked. “No. Thanks. Hmmmm. That‟s very welcome,” she said taking her first sip. “I won‟t take much of your time – I‟m sure you want to get away like me. I want to check that you are happy with the way we have dealt with your complaint.” Elona looked slightly puzzled, but smiled and settled back in her chair a bit. “Yes. Very. It‟s the first time I‟ve seen anyone in this company take a complaint like this seriously,” she commented. “Good. I‟m glad I‟m making a difference. The directors want this company to follow best practice and I‟m here to make sure that happens.” Elona‟s comment made me feel good on the inside. I continued boldly and directly. “Elona. One of the directors wants to be sure that Mike‟s behaviour is not part of a pattern. Had you ever been concerned about his behaviour before you made the complaint?” “Me? Well…” she hesistated, “…sometimes I felt uncomfortable around him. He‟s very friendly – too friendly if you ask me – and he does seem to be very attentive to some of the women reps.”
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Elona stopped for a moment to gather her thoughts. She rubbed the back of her neck and crossed her legs. “They didn‟t seem pleased with me when they came in for a meeting yesterday. I heard later that they were leaving my section to stay with Mike. They always speak highly of him and he‟s always joking with them. I find it embarrassing sometimes. He treats them almost like they are his daughters. They seem to like it, but I don‟t. I don‟t like it when men are too familiar with me, put their arm round me and things.” “Things?” I asked. “Well, you know…” she said. “No, Elona, I don‟t know. Tell me?” I said firmly. “Well sometimes, especially if we‟re down the pub after work, they go too far.” “How?” I asked. “They put their arm round me like they would their girlfriend or something. I don‟t like it.” “Does Mike do this?” “Not often. Sometimes. The younger lads are worse.” “How exactly?” “Well sometimes their hands go down my back, and sort of rub it. It‟s too familiar, but I feel stupid if I say „no‟ because everybody seems to be okay with it. One of them sometimes puts his hand on my bottom and squeezes it. I don‟t know what to do, so I do nothing.” This seemed like „normal‟ behaviour in most companies that I‟d worked in but that did not make it okay. Clearly Elona was more shy than most. Others would have to be sensitive. I decided to dig a little more deeply; I adopted a more woman-to-woman style.
I wondered . “And quite right too. Elona. Why?” “If you‟ve asked someone to stop and they continue to touch you in a way that you don‟t like.” I smiled strongly at her as I drew the conversation to a close. “Yes.” she confirmed. I‟ll try. I have a boyfriend and I only like him to touch me like that. “I was just saying that perhaps some blokes‟ attention is nicer than others?” She rubbed her ear and her brows came together as she spoke. eh?” I said with a furtive look. come and see me. I could see she was agitated so I took another approach. “What do you mean?” she replied as she shuffled in her seat. I‟m glad we had this talk. Her defensiveness suggested she was hiding something. I thought. make a note in your diary.Rory Ridley-Duff “I guess it depends whose got their hand on your behind. doesn‟t it? If anyone does something that you don‟t like. tell them straightaway. Elona tensed and was unsettled by this remark.” “Do you have a diary?” I asked. Can you do that too?” “Sure. Okay?” She seemed to relax. “Okay. “It seems that we have a few more heads to knock together. I don‟t want other men doing it. Can you do that?” “Yes. Still.” “And if you feel the need. I detected a touch of embarrassment in her behaviour. After Elona left the room I pondered her behaviour. Ms Leyton.” Ms Leyton? A bit formal. “I don‟t understand what you are implying.
I‟ll discuss with Phil before I depart on Monday.Friends or Lovers if she was receiving more attention than she was saying. Clearly we will need to work on this problem together. .
Although I live on my own. Last year.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 8 I live on the outskirts of town in a two-bedroom flat. two years younger than me. they had children quite late. each with different tribal markings. After meeting at university they wanted to travel the world together for a while. It suits me for the moment. I always work hard to make my living room the most welcoming one in the house. At ground level. Recently he got a promotion to project analyst and is now supervising others for the first time. I take some pride in my home. On the opposite wall. after I was accepted in this job. Next to Carole is a picture of my parents on their 40 th wedding anniversary. The mantelpiece supports two tall candles in wrought iron holders and a number of stone carved nightlights. I splashed out on a wooden floor and cream leather sofa. They had decided that if they still wanted to be together after living in each other‟s pockets for two . the candles give the room a romantic sexy feel. At the moment she is on maternity leave. When I settle down with a box of chocolates and dim the light. I‟ve worked hard to shape it in my own image. Considering their generation. I think he‟s a bit of dope – she does too – but since their son was conceived he‟s taken his job (as a computer programmer) more seriously. On the wall either side are two African masks. I have large vases with dried flowers that give some colour and texture next to an attractive gas fire. She is 30. I have a photo of my younger sister. and has made her career in teaching. Over the brick fireplace I have some ethnic artwork. Carole. although one day I‟d like a house with a garden that I can tend. her first child with boyfriend Chris.
I ask if we will hear wedding bells soon but the most optimistic response she‟s given so far is “Next Year: probably. A few of these hang on a pin board in my living room. And so it has been. We now call each other every week. My mother. she will be able to retire next year. He even gets to write answers for the Prime Minister sometimes. Sometimes he gets to prepare answers for TV. they‟d do it for life. My favourite card is… Men have only two faults Everything they say And everything they do …although I also like another one that says “Grow your own dope: plant a man”. My sister sent these to me when she was having difficulty getting her boyfriend to settle down with her. . but hope springs eternal where she is concerned. I reckon. I keep telling her that we are better off without them. however.” What is it about men and commitment? Even though she‟s been with him for three years now. When they got back. many of our phone conversations still dwell on “man problems”. My father is the kindest man I know but I have had a prickly relationship with my mother ever since I turned 14. sometimes we write e-mails to each other and swap humorous cards. I grew close to my sister and we stayed that way ever since. still has two years before he can retire. like my sister. I‟m proud of him. but she holds out hope that eventually they‟ll get married. got married and had children. I guess. He is a civil servant who rose through the ranks to lead a unit that answers parliamentary questions. they each established their careers. is a teacher. Forlorn. Fame of a sort. My father.Friends or Lovers years. At that time.
so a sensuous bedroom equipped for lingering self-pampering is one of life‟s essentials. carefully selected so that on the rare occasions I think enough of a man to invite him back.Rory Ridley-Duff My bedroom is a mini-paradise. necklaces. and on each bedside table I have one of these new cylindrical lights with slow moving silver flakes that refract light. moisturisers. just perfect for fuelling my fantasies when I feel like playing with myself. Wrapped in my duvet. The other side draw holds my collection of lingerie. It gets me out of the house . facial scrubs. make-up remover and spot sticks. I feel deliciously erotic. a sensual and very personal love nest. I switch out the main light. The work units and oven are built in so there is a reasonable amount of workspace and cleaning is easy. I don‟t have a regular fella to keep me warm at night. They know how I like to adorn myself. switch on the bedside lights. so the dresser came with an array of drawers to hold all my paraphernalia: lip gloss. I have a built-in wardrobe and dresser – a present paid for by my parents when they helped me buy this place four years ago. Either side of the mirror is a raised area for an assortment of bottles. nail varnishes and eye shadows (which I use only on special occasions). Jewellery is in one of my side drawers. The focus is my pinewood king-size bed with a deluxe duck feather duvet and pillows. The kitchen is small but functional. and watch the patterns that meander around the room. I don‟t have space for a washing machine so I still do my laundry down the road. and a choice of rings for fingers and toes. belly bars. When I go to bed. bracelets (wrist and ankle). I can make him think that he‟s gone to heaven early. selections of lipsticks. The headboard is decorated with subtle white lights. organised into earrings.
yet?” “Haven‟t raised it for a while.” “Nothing on the matrimonial front. He actually gets upset that he can‟t feed his child. I reassure him that as soon as he starts on solids then he‟ll be able to get in on the action. I don‟t know. but baby refuses to be fed by bottle. Just wish he could cook then he‟d be really useful to me. * * * “Hi sis‟” “Hi Carole. She gives me the latest celebrity gossip. bless him. it just creates tension. When Big Brother hits our screens we chat about it each week and I invite her around my flat to watch eviction nights. Good week?” I enjoy these chats with my sister. He is trying too. He can change a nappy now. “Chris has raised the idea of using his flexi-hours to spend more time at home. He is. I‟m not sure about it. This has been a standing joke ever since she started going out with him. “I try.” “He sounds keen. How about you?” . “Not bad.Friends or Lovers and I can chat to Betty who does the service washes. but he just makes more work for me.” “If only adults were as easy to amuse…” I commented. He‟s sitting up now and he‟s a lot happier because he can look around.” “Can‟t you train him better?” I ask. I give him a toy with a bell on it and he sits there shaking it and laughs for ages. In some ways it‟s good to have him home.” I interjected. Quite sweet really. I try. “Yes.
Sounds like he‟s a fast worker.my inability to find any man worthy of me.” “So. He‟s intelligent.Rory Ridley-Duff This is another standing joke .” “No Carole. it‟s not like that. I‟m not sure. nothing to report there.” “You‟re smitten. Like I say.” “Oh don‟t say that Carole.” .” “Too right you will. He is a practiced flirt.” I said weakly. I can tell. I have no idea whether I‟m doing the right thing and you know what I‟m like with men. a writer. “Go for it.” “And your libido?” “I don‟t think so. let you know how it goes.” “Tell me more…. “No. He‟s most odd. I want to satisfy my curiosity.” Carole quipped. I can‟t explain. He has lovely eyes. he‟s an oddball. “No. got kids. “Oh. He burned my ear with all this stuff about sexism in the army.” “Hey you. But he seems different. He was keen to meet me again so we‟ve agreed to meet up next week for lunch. so that‟s a no go area. but I didn‟t even convince myself so I doubt that I convinced her. and you‟re giving him a big green light. “Yeah! I‟ll call you in the week. “He‟s married. yes?” she asked. a consultant. But I did meet an interesting man this week on the plane back from France. why are you meeting him?” It was a pertinent question.” We are so alike. “Oh.” No sooner had I uttered the words than I realised how stupid they sounded. I say! You only live once.
. we both put down the phone and returned to our very different lives.” “I will.Friends or Lovers “Say „hi‟ to mum for me if you talk to her.” “Bye sis‟” And with that. Stay cool.
Sometimes I get really scared. I can also avoid having my house systematically trashed by boisterous kids (although I imagine it won‟t be long before my nephew will oblige). Despite the façade of strength I present at work. Not having a man about the house also helps in that respect. Her last boyfriend punched and kicked . I think. if the doorbell rings on a dark winter evening I use my spy hole to check who‟s the other side. One thing that only women can understand. reading. I still can‟t get used to going to bed by myself and I especially miss the pleasure of waking up next to someone. cleaning. snuggling up to them. but with others you can visibly see their bodies convulse with anger. but my sister was not so lucky. Breaking up with a man is traumatic because you never know how he‟s going to react. and getting up when I like. There is a constant battle to train them to put their clothes in a bag ready for them to take away when our romantic interludes are concluded. So far none have hit me.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 9 My weekend was fairly typical: shopping. and sharing my thoughts and feelings. I don‟t always feel safe on my own. No way am I going to start washing their clothes. Some withdraw into themselves and skulk off. I have the pleasure of buying in exactly the foods I wish. But I can‟t deny that there is loneliness too. is the silent fear we have of violence. I particularly hate having workmen in the flat during the day. If it is a man I do not know – and sometimes even if I do – I don‟t let them in. watching only the television that I want to. Living on my own. most men who I let into my bed think that the corner of my room has an invisible linen bin placed there. relaxing and sleeping.
At the moment I wonder whether my life is going in the direction that I want. and I was able to remove my jumper and wear just a tee-shirt and shorts. By Sunday. time and space to think. looking at her bruised mouth and eye. an isolated and desolate beauty searching the wilderness for something in life that will make it more meaningful and satisfying. good career with responsibility and the chance to travel. It was a pleasant day. a family I can see when I need (far enough away not to crowd me but close enough to visit the same day). In my mind. I have a nice home and neighbours. watching her shrivel with humiliation as she admitted to a nurse how she received her injuries. . so why do I feel so empty? As I walk on the brow of the hill I look north towards Worcester. I recall John‟s comment that looking down on the world reminds us of our insignificance. Walking gives me a wonderful sense of freedom.Friends or Lovers her when she ended the relationship. that‟s an experience that‟ll never leave me. two circles of friends (inside and outside work) that balance each other and provide good times and support for bad times. holding her hand while she sobbed like a young child. Sitting with her. The houses on the plain are as tiny as an architect‟s model and the specks that move slowly along the motorway look like matchbox cars. I‟m sufficiently attractive to be able to enjoy male company more or less whenever I like. The wind buffets my face as I stand like the French Lieutenant‟s Woman. warm for April. I‟d done my chores so I took myself off to the Malvern Hills for a walk. On the surface it looks very fulfilling. Am I significant? Do I make a difference? Have I had a positive influence on the people I‟ve known? I wasn‟t sure.
Why is it that the greatest source of pleasure is also the source of so much fear and pain? As I resume my walk I cannot help but notice that most people are walking with someone else.Rory Ridley-Duff I‟ve been hard on boyfriends who would not make a commitment to me. I can‟t show them the real me. I don‟t think I‟ve shared myself fully with anyone. The life I have is safe. and I have many things that give me pleasure. In fact. My deepest need. perhaps). If my parents knew how I behaved sometimes they would probably die with shame. . but perhaps it is me who is avoiding commitment. cannot be satisfied with any of them. I even hide my feelings from my sister. Parents walk with children. I‟m not sure there is anyone with whom I can do that. the desire to share myself physically. Family and friends are great but there are limits to how I can be with them. the hills are filled with people who have come to terms with sharing themselves with another. I still feel lonely. Even when I‟m shacked up with a man. Husbands walk with wives (lovers or friends. emotionally and spiritually. but deep in my heart I‟m still quite lonely. Rarely do I see two women or two men walking together. I‟m too afraid.
We e-mailed each other over the weekend and agreed to meet at Pizza Hut. The car parks itself as if I‟m on auto-pilot.Friends or Lovers Chapter 10 I‟m in Leeds today. turn right into an NCP car park. . I can‟t help but feel excited even though I know this is not an appropriate way to feel. no matter what I do. The interviews went off as well as could be expected. I‟m driving back to meet John. At the moment. “Go away!” but ranting makes no difference. But I keep driving towards the town centre. Both with children in the 11-15 age range and extended family support (that‟s usually necessary in this line of work). “Stop it!” I shout. He too seems to possess the necessary enthusiasm and skills. I wish I didn‟t feel like this. I keep reminding myself that this is an unrealistic (and unhealthy) way to be thinking but the butterflies in my stomach won‟t go away. Love Me One More Time” on the CD player and this fuels an expectation that lunch will be the start of a romance. I also interviewed a single man who had won custody of his children. As I enter the outskirts of town. both married. I found a man and woman. I have George Benson playing “Lady. I shouldn‟t be meeting him. the clock shows there are only 50 minutes to go and my breathing deepens and lengthens as my nerves start to intensify. see the front of the car turn to the left and climb the levels. I try not to think and focus on getting through the next few minutes. There was a single woman with previous direct sales experience and good family support so I think we have found the people we need. watch the barrier rise.
” “Thank you?” I ask. a subtle shade of blue (just enough to emphasise my long black lashes without looking trashy). But his hair looks freshly washed and there . Thank you. I can feel myself beginning to relax. Choose “Cash no receipt”. Look in the shop windows. There‟s no harm in showing off my pert behind and womanly curves. Thank you for making the effort to look nice. classy but not tarty. Take the money. Where is my lippy? Look in the shop window. I applied a modest amount of eye shadow and liner. Go to cashpoint.” I say with false modesty. I‟m not only pleased I‟ve made an impression but also delighted that he‟s noticed. Now right. All this elegantly covered by a light purple trouser suit that hugs my figure. Walk. I take off my jacket and sit down. Inside. Turn left. Go down the stairs. look at him and smile. Studs with a light blue jewel adorn my ears and a matching necklace drapes around my neck. My hair was washed this morning and tied back into a ponytail.” The moment I hear his words I come out of my trance. The necklace is long enough for the jewel to draw attention to a hint of cleavage. Turn left. “Penny! There you are. Check my handbag.” “Just my normal work clothes. Enter. Press lips together. Turn left. Apply evenly.Rory Ridley-Duff Find the exit. I‟ve put on a white top – thin enough to give a hint of the lace bra underneath – styled into a „V‟. Along the high street. “You look good. £50. Wait for card. Press 7725. Open the door. He has turned up wearing an unironed tee-shirt and jeans with a hole in one knee. What a surprising remark! “Yes. I appreciate it. Around the eyes. Continue.
” he jests. His face has worn well and his hair shows only slight signs of greying. “It did. I need an exclusive casual outfit for each day otherwise my beach cred is seriously damaged. when he‟s relaxed they disappear. did your interviewing go well?” he asks. but in the daylight I guess he‟s a bit younger than I first thought – somewhere in his late 30s.” I say boldly. “Tell me. I carefully ironed the creases into the shirt and hired a tailor to give my trousers that deliberate „just torn‟ look. “So. then?” I quip. obviously. I still don‟t know how old he is. Good on the wrinkles. I like it. Very energetic woman. “I see you dressed up for me too…” I say cheekily.” “Perhaps it will catch on in Hollywood?” He laughed and looked deeply into my eyes. Shortlisted four people. “Yes.Friends or Lovers is a day‟s stubble giving him an undeniably rugged look. I felt comfortable and content. yes! I don‟t beat about the bush. All the nerves that I‟d felt were swept away. I have to work hard to keep up with her. “how old are you?” “Forward aren‟t we?” “Oh. Especially before I go on holiday.” . The lines at the corners of his eyes only display when he smiles. “I use my wife‟s Nivea every day.” “I‟m 44. would you believe?” “Only just. “Lots.” he says without any embarrassment. Then he adds.” “She keeps you young. I settle into my seat and look at him more closely.” “Does your tailor get much business from you.” “Yes. including a single father.
Politics became liberal. Started to like men less.” “Okay. Born. It suits her. I felt we should dwell there a bit. She saves her strong opinions for our marriage and children. got angry with women.” “Strong minded?” He says nothing. attended women‟s groups. Here we go. One sister who is two years younger than me. Likes . Can you do that? Then I‟ll give you mine. Tried a few. manager at 29 but stumbled across the glass ceiling. Protested the Gulf War (the first one). age 0. He doesn‟t need to.Rory Ridley-Duff Given that we‟d moved onto the subject of his wife. got angry with men.” “Not out and about like you. Relatively happy modern career woman. “Your life in 5 minutes. Developed well. Shouted regularly at politicians. including that he admires her. his smile and nod say it all. Warm loving home for the first dozen or so years. “What does she do?” “She‟s a linguist. “Want to try something I do on my courses?” “Why not?” I answer. in Malvern where I grew up with my teacher mother and civil servant father. Did radical bit at university. then?” “She prefers a quieter existence where her opinions are not the subject of public scrutiny. always closer to dad. Age 13 onwards I became a bit of a rebel. now with child and dopey boyfriend. She‟s also a teacher but currently on maternity. Now HR manager in a growing firm. I could sense a question coming. fell out with mum. Translates government documents from English to French to German and back again. Started to like men more. “So!” he says. Chose career instead.
Protested the Poll Tax. “I think that‟s the best exercise I‟ve had all day. Lots of responsibility. the pay. Always liked women. Liked kudos. then calmed down. Loved kids. Married her. Went through the basketball craze. usually fine. “All in one breath?” I laugh out loud. romantic comedies. Now 32. Tried real world. This is fun and I am enjoying myself. Flirted with radicals (both ideologically and literally). Went off real world. Started writing. “How about you?” I quickly ask. Loved them again. Both older.” He stops and takes in a deep breath to replenish his oxygen supply. Eastenders. A rebel until age 13. I stop. “Right. refused to pay it. Had kids. A waitress stands at the end of our table ready to take our order.” he adds. Went through the football craze. fell in love with one. Missed first Gulf War demo. Hated kids. nights in with cat. Marine engineer dad who died when I was eight. My turn. Tried a few. Got hired as a consultant. Went through the „girls‟ craze. Friends. Went off radicals. Born in Hampshire. Artist mum. Worked in academia. the freedom. Lots of freedom. Did my extremist bit at university. “Wow!” he injects. exercise. Sex and the City – shame it has finished. . Frost. same age as you funnily enough. One works in a women‟s refuge. sometimes lonely.Friends or Lovers chocolate. walking. Two sisters. Very sad but coped okay. Returned to research. Hobbies include walking. the other lectures in some obscure social science. No Angels. Did a masters. then PhD. The portfolio life is for me. flirting and friendship – but in reverse order. We both laugh in unison and I look at her. Mexican food.
“I think someone has placed a contract to sabotage all cappuccino makers worldwide. not a new one.” I request. others not. some well-founded.” he answers politely. “Cappuccino?” asks John. sir. we were joyous and smiling. “Decaf coffee. and I was drawn more and more into the conversation. People have many preconceptions. He felt like an old friend. “Helping some marketing recruits find new ways to look at men and women. “I‟d afraid the machine‟s broken.” “And did you succeed?” I was actually interested this time and he could sense this. His demeanour changed and took on a more relaxed and thoughtful expression. Wherever I go they never seem to work. he leans over towards me and speaks quietly.” * * * As we chatted away.” “Such as?” . “These things take time. “So what have you been doing in Birmingham?” I enquired. “Would you like any drinks while you are thinking?” Her voice came out in a monotone as if it had been prerecorded. Is a normal coffee okay?” “Of course. please. As he started to speak. As soon as she went. he started to gesticulate.Rory Ridley-Duff “Could you give us a few more minutes?” I ask.
I could tell that he was selecting one from a great long list.” “The studies must be biased. “That men are instinctively more violent than women.” I affirmed. “There‟s a growing body of research now. not just women. In the last few years there have also been findings that children raised by single fathers are less violent that those raised by single mothers.” . “In the 70s and 80s. You see it all the time. “It depends on whose data you look at. In the papers. It‟s my job to make sense of reliable data.Friends or Lovers He thought for a moment.” But he sounded sceptical.” “Is that well-founded or not?” I asked. I don‟t understand why. but John continued calmly and reassuringly. feeling that I knew the answer already.” “You are joking! I don‟t believe you. It‟s everywhere. on TV.” he continued. Over one-hundred and seventy studies in the last three decades disagree with you.” “But we all know that men are more violent that women.” he replied surprisingly. “lot of studies suggested that men were more violent than women in personal relationships. Men are definitely more aggressive and violent. The results were surprising and not what you‟d expect. Then some people started to ask whether the research design was distorting the results. “Difficult to tell.” I thought of my sister and my body felt tense all over. I could feel a sprinkle of alarm go through me because I could sense he was leading me into a trap. “Perhaps. Researchers started to ask both men and women.
Yes. I am interested. I know you are going to try.” “I don‟t believe them. I‟m sure there was a hint of sarcasm in her tone. different age groups.” “Of course. “D‟you remember „Wait „Til Your Father Gets Home‟?” he suddenly asked. quickly found something we liked and ordered. John and I looked at each other and this time we didn‟t laugh. At that moment. It is just hard to accept. What is meant by this phrase? I looked at John with curiosity. I was in deep shock. Is that your point?” I asked. and have been conducted by people from different research backgrounds.” John paused.” said the waitress. “Dad is being used to threaten the kids. John looked at me supportively. different social environments.” he said with a smile.” “I can‟t explain it – this is very new data to me too and I need time to reflect on it.” he said. We both picked up a menu. “Thank you. But the results are consistent across different industrialised countries.Rory Ridley-Duff “I can‟t rule that out. “We don‟t have to talk about this if you don‟t want to.” “Explain. “No it‟s okay. I remembered a TV series with this name. the waitress returned. She had an impatient look on her face.” “You‟re not alone. I stopped for a moment. . I thought for a moment.
“When I think about this. I have threatened it once or twice. “Maybe we use Dad as a weapon whether he wants to be scary or not. I hate doing it – I feel like I‟ve failed . “Now I come to thing of it.Friends or Lovers “Not sure. That happens in my house too.‟ Even my female students used to say that they‟d play dumb or frightened to get their brothers. “Maybe we use Dad as a weapon because he is more scary. He was forming his thoughts onthe-fly as well. there have been times when my wife says „are you going to let that man talk to me that way?‟” John became immersed in thought again and I watched him struggle to put his thoughts together.but what d‟you do when kids won‟t respond to anything?” I was beginning to see his point. they won‟t listen to me. Make them go to bed.” he said finally. I‟ve seen girls say „leave me alone or I‟ll get my dad onto you‟ or they might say „I‟ll get my brother onto you. I think it is about Mum making Dad responsible for discipline.” He paused.” he continued. John paused for a moment.” he answered speaking directly from the heart. The threat is only effective if the kids fear Dad. will you?‟ I‟ve managed to avoid smacking so far.” I said. fathers and boyfriends to do things for them. “I‟m not sure any more that men choose to be aggressive. My wife sometimes says to me „John. . but sometimes they dig their heels in and I come very close. “you see it everywhere.
I‟m sure you are right. Tricky situation in one department.” John looked at me in a way that suggested he did not know whether to carry on. We have a man who has been pressuring a young woman for a drink. He tried to cool it off. “John. Instinctively. The woman is holding something back. We‟re never free of fear. we shared a stuffed crust with extra mushroom and chicken. “Yes. I‟m trying to find out more because something peculiar seems to be going on. and I was eating chicken dippers.” “Yes. That moment. but he‟s done this before and the young woman was so upset that I had to separate them. She‟d been having some difficulties at home and she singled him out as a father figure to talk to. After that.Rory Ridley-Duff “Maybe. I‟ve had to move him. He‟d ordered potato skins.” I answered. I have a friend who felt a young woman was getting too close to him. But it is double-edged.” We both paused. He only became worried after she started to flirt a bit. You understand?” I said. I don‟t understand all the ins and outs. “Okay. “What‟s your work like?” he asked. our starters arrived. Completely. I raised my eyebrows. But I‟m under no such obligation. I‟m not sure it is appropriate for me to talk about this. “but the issue for women is that the threat is always there. I‟m not sure exactly what. isn‟t it? On the one hand we want men to be violent for us but we don‟t want them to be violent against us.” I stopped myself. The threat is enough. Busy at the moment. we both realised we‟d had enough of this. nodded and then .
” He held my gaze. protecting our egos while leaving the door open just in case we both had a change of heart. Next thing he knew she‟d complained about him.Friends or Lovers tilted my head slightly to one side to indicate that he should continue. no. I could have said “I‟ll be very sensitive about your marriage”. but only after I made him promise that it would be my treat next time.” “Me neither. we danced around each other using metaphors hoping the other would understand. “We‟ll be fine. isn‟t it?” I said. Always. . I hoped he was right. A minefield. I said softly…. I hoped that I had found a friend – a real friend. When we parted. He could have said “I don‟t want to ruin this by sleeping with you. We both knew exactly what the other was thinking. we hugged. We swapped mobile phone numbers too. “…we‟ll have to tread very carefully…” He nodded and also spoke softly. After coffees. “I don‟t want to tread on any mines. As I walked back to my car.” I responded. “Yes. Men and women talk to each other in such oblique ways. I felt good.” “It‟s always complicated. he paid.” But. “He suggested they meet outside work to sort things and made it clear that he was providing her support as her manager and not asking her out on a date. We both agreed there would be a next time in about a month.” he asserted. We had our own minefield to navigate. She backed off and was hurt.
Not quite what I expected. we‟ve found our perfect candidate only for them to decline the position at the last minute. but interesting nevertheless. those that were marginal in the recruitment process turn out to be the best performers. The assessment centre uses an array of techniques to provide a more rounded picture of a candidate‟s suitability for a position. I found them a good deal more open than I expected. participate in role playing exercises. but I‟m confident that we‟re reducing the recruitment lottery through the use of these techniques. I got Phil to phone all the candidates and give them the news. Lastly. At other times. More than once. recruitment is a hit and miss affair.” “I chatted to Elona too. I met Dave to discuss the interviews. “Some.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 11 When I returned to work. then confirmed the final shortlist. They undertake a psychometric test. Anyway. we introduce them to teams that undertake similar work to give them a flavour of the „real‟ workplace. and also to give the teams a chance to evaluate the candidates in a less formal setting. I called Phil into my office for an update on Mike. Even with all this care and effort. Four accepted an invitation to our offices for the following week. Nearly all his team talk highly of him. “Have you been able to find out anything?” I asked. you first?” “Okay. there is a formal interview that asks a series of technical and social questions that enable us to probe their experience and handling of social situations. They are sad that he‟s . I‟d like to better understand why people decline. After I rounded off with Dave.
. “Elona told me she felt uncomfortable socialising with her team.” I said. but was also sympathetic and supportive when his staff had problems. Finally. and some of the younger men. “Those that knew she had made a complaint were surprised. I still think there is something going on that we don‟t know about. Some said they were shocked because they thought the two got on extremely well. Mike. particularly the women. They were always working together to resolve customer issues. some words were forthcoming. He rubbed his chin and touched his eyebrow before making several attempts to start speaking.” I decided to share what I found out.. Some didn‟t mention the complaint – in fact I got the impression they didn‟t know about it. polite and caring to women and a bit rougher and more argumentative with the men.” “Did you pick anything up about Elona? Were he and Elona close?” “Yes and no. you know. People liked her well enough but they found her a bit quiet. and I felt that it wasn‟t the right time to probe. A couple found him a bit „old school‟.” Phil paused. but they all respect his abilities as a manager and as a salesperson. touch her and make her feel uncomfortable. She worked closely with Mike – that went with the job.Friends or Lovers moved on.” Phil stopped talking for a moment and had a puzzled look on his face. then he gave out a slight laugh. They wouldn‟t elaborate. “I can feel a „but‟ coming…. It sounds like he had a reputation for not putting up with any nonsense.
but I would hazard a guess that he broke up with his wife for a while. “Tricky. I don‟t know.No. Nobody said it out loud.a cross between a brother and a lover…. He got close to Sally. There was such a familiarity in the way she talked about him. and his wife kicked him out for a while. one of the sales reps.” “Interpretation?” Phil was hesitant. “….” He paused again and I was starting to get a little frustrated. “Come on Phil. He did have a rough patch a couple of years back.” I shared something that Dave had told me. “Yes?” I prompted.” Then Phil said something that shocked me.something didn‟t feel right but I can‟t put my finger on it. I got the impression that they were saying „don‟t go there‟. “I‟ve heard that too. “Sally‟s attitude to him was so different from the others. She spoke about him almost like…. as if they had spent a considerable amount of time together outside work…. I think they sensed at this point why I was taking an interest. but I pressed him..” “What about Mike‟s marriage?” “Ah! Yes.Rory Ridley-Duff “I agree….” He rubbed his chin vigorously as he sat thinking.” . spit it out.. They clammed up a bit. “Yes – I gathered that much and I‟m sure I spoke to her. He was searching for words.” “Why d‟you think that?” I said with genuine surprise.
Elona is upset. he lived with the rep for a while. I got the feeling that Sally had lived with him for while. Okay. We now know that Elona has been troubled by over attentive men at social events and that she‟s hiding something. Mike had an affair with a sales rep.Friends or Lovers “Well. Secondly. What do I know? Firstly. and when he admitted this he was definitely agitated. Thirdly. Keep your ear to the ground. . he still lives with his wife. his wife kicked him out. Am I missing something? Why would the women put their jobs on the line to move with him? Why is his ex-lover so supportive? I think I should talk to Mike again – it is only fair to let him tell his side of the story. I‟ll see what I can find out my end. Mike admits that he put his arm around her. his wife forgave him and he moved back in. What I find hard to understand is why his team is so supportive of him.” After Phil left my office I pondered what I‟d learnt.” “Hmm. Fourth. I just can‟t work it out at the moment. So far as I can see. Mike asked Elona out for a drink.
Yes…. Come on in.. to be frank. “Not in any detail.” The moment I said this. “I‟m not accusing you of anything. She worked well. We worked well. I understand that you worked closely with her. “Mike. Are you happy to talk about it some more?” Mike‟s hands were locked together and he looked very tense. “Is there anything further you can tell me about your working relationship with her?” He knew he had to talk and I watched as he drew in a large breath and settled into his chair.” but he stopped short of saying anything more and looked down at his knees while he pondered further. It was as if he was trying to decide whether he should speak. “What do you want to know?” he asked. Mike shuffled a bit in his seat. but I liked her . “I talked with Elona about a week ago and I can‟t help feeling that she‟s holding something back. but I wondered if there is anything that you can tell me that would help me understand the situation. “It was good.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 12 “Hi. She was not the most talkative or outgoing young woman. it doesn‟t make sense to me. I let him settle before I continued. Mike.” I said with a welcoming tone.” Mike looked at me for quite a few seconds. He did not look relaxed so I tried to put him at ease. I‟m trying to clear up the background to this situation with Elona and. Is that right?” “Er. I understand that things have not gone smoothly with her boyfriend. “Has she told you about her problems at home?” he asked.
“Why are we raking it up again?” “Because I think there‟s more that I don‟t know and maybe I didn‟t fully understand. It was someone else in the department.” I corrected. “There is more. “Haven‟t we been over this before?” he asked. Nobody‟s interests are served by withholding relevant information. I thought I detected a wry smile. “but she spoke to me in confidence. they clearly had no idea what was going on. She does have problems at home and some issues within the team – my old team – but I felt she and I had a good understanding. Then his right hand moved swiftly to his face and he touched his cheek.” His statement puzzled me. But she‟s hedging.” I said. but tried to remain calm. “Why did you ask her out for a drink?” Mike tensed and I could see his hands clench.” “Well that explains a lot. He started to nod slowly and relaxed a bit.” I asserted. “Well. Mike. “What do you mean?” I asked. Her complaint took me by surprise.” he commented.” “I‟ve tried.” “She didn‟t make a complaint. I need to know. I was not sure where to go next. Mike.” I felt myself start to get irritated. “If I‟ve made a mistake. she confided personal stuff to me and I don‟t think I should break her confidence. His hands settled back into lap and he started to speak.Friends or Lovers and worked well with her. “No. “She didn‟t?” he asked. “Penny. I would feel more comfortable if you talked to her directly about it.” .” he said deliberately.
I talked to her several times over a number of weeks. Like I say. I knew the damage had been done. He decided to open up. “You get close to people don‟t you?” I commented. I thought I must‟ve said or done something insensitive. but I needed him to calm down if we were to make any progress. “What on earth do you mean?” I regretted the remark but it was out now and I had to limit the damage. I apologise but I really don‟t know what was alleged or why. nobody‟s accusing you of anything. I also offered to meet her outside work and the next thing there‟s a complaint against me. Mike. He immediately tensed again. “Nobody is accusing you of anything. “She spoke to me in private about issues with her boyfriend and also an upsetting incident with a team member.” “Who‟ve you been talking to?” he asked aggressively. “I am used to handling these things within my team. “I know you give good support to your team. I looked him in the eye. “I thought you were trying to straighten this thing out.” “Then why can‟t you look me in the eye when you say that?” he retorted. then gathered his thoughts. gave her whatever support I was able.” I found that remark patronising and privately wondered if he resented my involvement. “Mike.” His defences were up now.” “Why didn‟t you come to me earlier?” I asked. Slow down.” Inside.Rory Ridley-Duff He thought for a moment. If I have. .
You are well liked by your team. You have a chance to be open with me now.Friends or Lovers “Okay. he seemed to relax. I did not want this situation to get nasty but experience told me to remain calm and sit in my chair. or Elona and a team member. “I did not „overstep the mark‟.” He was a stubborn bugger and I decided to exert a bit of pressure. I think something has taken place between you and Elona. or later. but it is as well you understand how I feel. “I don‟t want to fall out about this Mike. I will have to talk to Dave about calling a formal enquiry.” “She spoke to me in confidence and I‟m not prepared to break that confidence. I felt uneasy. I offered personal support for a member of my team who was experiencing personal difficulties at work and at home. But you have got too close to team members before and this has made managing the team complicated. Even if it makes my position difficult I‟m not prepared to break my word. “Cards on the table. On the basis of this conversation. He fixed my gaze. Clearly you give them excellent support and I can see they appreciate this and it has worked well in the past.” Mike looked at me.” he said with some force. I cannot manage a situation I don‟t understand. I gave her my word.” I said. Curiously. “I did what any good manager would do.” I struggled to contain my own impatience. It sounds like one or more of policies have been breached and you have a duty to inform me if this is the case. . “Then tell me about these things. Are you sure you‟ve not overstepped the mark with Elona?” I could see his anger rising and his face started to go red.
“No. calling an enquiry will just compound things. People will get hurt. You‟ve made mistakes already.Rory Ridley-Duff “Do that and a can of worms will open so large that you may never recover from it”. Are you going to give it to me?” He stood thinking. he said My patience ended.” I argued. There is more at stake here than my job. I gave him one last chance. and seeing as you‟ve moved me to another department it is no longer my responsibility. Mike?” It was my turn to fix my eyes on his. maybe this is one can of worms that needs to be opened. “Okay. I‟ll await your call.” “Mike.” he replied. Let me think on this and I‟ll get back to you.” Trust him? I don‟t think so. “If you get Elona‟s consent. Then. . “People have already been hurt. I‟m saying that you do not know enough about this situation to handle it. “Are you threatening me. I need your co-operation. I‟ll talk. This is one situation in which I will trust my own instincts. This is not in your interests – trust me.” His tone was slightly sarcastic and that annoyed me. you and others will be hurt if you pursue this. but I let it ride and saw him to the door. There is some serious shit going on here and it is my job to find out what it is. Elona.” “Right. “Penny. with a more friendly gesture he made a concession.
Friends or Lovers Chapter 13 Things calmed down over the next few weeks.. then perhaps we‟ll be approaching the end of the sex war. “there’s some good news and some bad news”. I responded with a George Burns quote: . she said to Adam. He replied with “masculist” ones. With all the recruitment issues to deal with. finally discovered the food that reduces women’s sex drive by 90%…. . after 20 years of diligent research. …to which he responded…... The other one I really liked was: After God made man. We bantered about men and women and I started sending him feminist jokes. Question: Why does it take 20 million sperm to impregnate an egg? Answer: Because the egg is so busy rehearsing a speech about equality it forgot to meet the sperm half-way.. My favourites were: Question: Why does it take 20 million sperm to impregnate an egg? Answer: Because none of them know how to ask for directions. and a study involving 2000 women.. and the new starters.it’s called Wedding Cake. Adam asked to hear the good news first. He added that when both men and women could laugh at both jokes. “The bad news is that you can only use one at a time. Scientists have. “So what’s the bad news?” asked Adam.” ….to which he replied…. “The good news is that I’ve given you a brain and a penis”. I put the Elona issue on a back burner. John and I continued to e-mail each other in the evenings and steadily got to know each other.
And with this power comes some responsibility. they do say that in their own way after they‟ve shagged me. at least let the man have a . more ardour than intellect. now I come to think of it. About an hour ago I had a bath and soaked myself in essential oils. out for fun without commitment. They managed to pack the baby off to mum‟s so we‟re going to really rock „n‟ roll. there is a perverse balance of power. after several months off the scene. Although I‟m thirty-two. It hurts a lot. His final retort was that there were still too many women who thought the best way to end the sex war was to chop off the useless bit of skin attached to a penis called “a man”. Not all women have this power – I‟m lucky.Rory Ridley-Duff There will always be a sex war because men and women want different things: men want women and women want men. Do I care? Yes. actually. I‟ve decided it is party night! My sister Carole and Chris will be around in half an hour and we are going to hit the pubs. It still gives me a thrill to lead a man from first eyecontact to passionate fuck knowing that I am controlling every second of his (and my) pleasure. But the men in the singles scene are playing the same game. I can choose to blow his mind or tell him to piss off. In fact. not least because I have looked after it. I guess. I am lucky to have young skin. shaved under my arms and between my legs (quite the fashion at the moment). They don‟t call me. I easily pass for 25 and that means I can still enjoy the singles scene and taste the delights of men who have more passion than technique. But when I think about things. If I‟m eventually going to get rejected. it hurts. * * * Tonight. I‟m well into my beautification routine. If they didn‟t fancy me they‟d probably tell me to piss off.
I like to soap my boobs. I‟ve put on some crystal studs and some dangly earrings that have a blue tint (to match my eyes). On my feet. Tonight. I look sexy as hell without looking cheap or trashy. and a cock as big as his ego. a handsome face. I‟m a piece of art. Any under wired bra brings out the best in them. While I wait for my sister. I have a great pair – no need for a padded bra or implants. plenty of money in his wallet. It is studded with crystals and an eye catching sky blue jewel that fits into the crease of my cleavage. Sometimes being a woman is such fun. I imagine most blokes won‟t notice the detail. I‟ve put on black high heels with open toes and a single buckle strap at the ankle. I‟m going for it. Around my neck I have a Swarovski necklace bought for me by a former boyfriend – bastard wanted it back but I wouldn‟t give it to him. fashioned to move the senses.Friends or Lovers smooth tanned muscular body. a living sculpture. They are not that comfortable. . Under my trendy black leather jacket there is a leather skirt with an overlong belt – dead stylish. and when I put on a black body-hugging Elle top with a suitably cut V-neck. This is a skill men cannot appreciate – one area where you must be ambidextrous and exercise care so that the varnish is evenly applied and no splodges get on the skin. a femme fatale out for a kill. but the women will. To complete the effect I‟m wearing close woven black fishnet stockings – not the unsubtle type with large holes that you get from Ann Summers – the type with holes so small that a guy won‟t notice them until he‟s up close and personal. I‟m a hot babe tonight. really cool – and cut above the knee but not so short that I look like a chav. When I‟m getting ready for nights like this. but they complete the vision. I apply sky blue varnish to my fingernails.
Even with all this preparation, it‟s not looks alone that will attract. I‟ve learned from experience that the way I walk into a bar, the way I dance, the way I talk and engage makes a huge difference. If I go out in a bad mood and don‟t talk much, far fewer men approach me. But when I‟m with girlfriends being vivacious, talking boldly giving men discrete (and sometimes indiscrete) eye contact, then they flock to me like bees around a honey pot. There is nothing magical about it, I just understanding how to flaunt myself. Now my nails are dry, I open a bottle of wine. No harm having one glass before I go out. If I do have to buy my own drinks (unlikely) then it will cut down the cost of getting drunk. I take in the latest episode of Eastenders while I sip away. Eastenders! That reminds me – out comes my pad and pencil. I decided to try something out. Do men or women hit more in the soaps? To my astonishment, I find that the women hit far more often. Funny, I‟d never noticed that before. And as for adverts, I am finding that if anybody is ridiculed it is men. The only advert that reverses this is „Nuts!‟ an advert for a trashy weekly men‟s magazine. That advert is so unfunny – like women don‟t know how to do car repairs or serious DIY work in the home. Actually I don‟t know how to do these either, but it doesn‟t matter because I get my father to come over. If I‟m really stuck, then I pick up the phone to get my favourite handyman to sort it out for me. Isn‟t that what men are for? The adverts that do make me laugh are the car adverts aimed at women. „Size matters‟? It sure does – although girth is probably more important. And that AA car insurance advert, it just shows what plonkers men really are. Why spend hours and hours looking for a good deal when the AA can do it for you?
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And there are those women only insurance companies now. I can‟t believe that there is talk about banning them or forcing them to offer insurance to men too; if we women are safer drivers we should get cheaper insurance. All this stuff about insurers discriminating against men, it‟s just bollocks. Why don‟t men just learn to drive more safely? Anyway, these thoughts go through my mind as the doorbell rings. Up I get, open the door, and see Carole and Chris looking chic and ready to party. “Come on in,” I say. “Just let me finish my glass of wine and we can shoot.” I give Carole a hug. She looks great too, but her bust isn‟t as good as mine. She tends to avoid „V‟ neck tops and wears a wonderbra with smooth silky fabric against her skin. This gives the suggestion of a full breast and shows her nipples when she gets sweaty or turned on. She‟s got great nipples, my sis‟. I compliment her while I look at Chris. His eyes are on stalks as he takes in my outfit. He may be a bit of a twit, but he knows how to look at a woman and make her feel good. “You look good tonight Chris,” I say. I‟m not lying. He‟s been to River Island to buy new jeans and a shirt. I imagine Carole went with him, but he‟s a credit to her. His hair is washed and groomed. He‟s clean shaven – which I know Carole likes – and he‟s got some dead cool trainers on too. “Just let me pop to the loo,” interjects Carole. “Back in a mo.” As soon as Carole is out of sight, Chris turns to me. “You look fantastic, Penny. Whoever reels you in tonight will be a lucky guy.” “Thank you, Chris.” I respond coyly. “I aim to please.” I pause for a second and then a thought occurs to me.
“…but I think it is me who will be doing the reeling in.” “I bet you will,” he replies, his eyes firmly looking into mine. “Doesn‟t Carole look great?” I say to deflect his attention. “She sure does. I‟m a lucky guy going out on the town with you two – I‟ll be the envy of every other bloke there. You both look a million dollars.” He was doing so well up to that point but had to spoil it by drawing attention to how good we‟ll make him look. I like attracting men, but hate it when they regard me as some sort of trophy. It is comments like these that show Chris for the prat he is. Still, Carole loves him, so I guess there must be something about him. For the life of me I can‟t see what it is. Carole returns from the loo and we call a taxi. Carole and Chris stay over on nights like this and I give Chris a pair of spare house keys. There is a good chance I won‟t make it back home so they need to be able to let themselves in. I usually try to come back for breakfast, but I like to take things as they come. I can‟t predict whether I‟ll feel like coming back home; it depends on whether a gorgeous guy has whisked me off to a stunning penthouse. The taxi arrives and drives us to a classy bar at the better end of town. I like this bar. It has lots of comfy chairs to relax in with stylish tables. There is a dining area too with a dance floor between the bar area and restaurant. On Friday nights it is quiet until about 8.30pm and is rocking by 10pm. A good time to arrive is 8.15 – as we have done – early enough to get a table in the bar area, drink until the restaurant table is ready, and then work off the calories on the dance floor. Chris gets in the first round of drinks. I alternate between sparkling mineral water and wine on these occasions – it gets me
Friends or Lovers
drunk quite quickly and the water prevents me dehydrating. We chat while deciding what to eat: “So what‟s happening in your life, sis?” asked Carole. “Usual stuff at work. Always someone having difficulties or creating tension,” I replied. “And outside work?” she added. “Well, I met John. We had a good time, I think.” “You think?” queried Chris. “You can never be sure, but yes, I think we had a good time,” I confirmed. Carole looked at me closely, and rested her chin on her hand momentarily as a subtle grin took shape on her face. “What?” I asked. She continued to grin but didn‟t say anything. “Why are you looking at me like that?” Both Carole and Chris looked at each other and smiled. “Are you going to meet him again, then?” Carole finally asked. “Yes. Now would you like me to tell you the length of his penis?” I remarked pointedly. Chris laughed. Carole looked me directly in the eye and did not miss a beat. “Yes. Just give me a rough idea. Was it as long as his CV?” “His what?” “His CV – you said he was an academic turned consultant – he must have a very long CV…..” “Carole. I‟ve news for you. He‟s just a friend.” “Oh yeah.” She took on a superior tone as she started to make fun of me. “My big sister who is all upright and proper at work, but a regular shag-bag outside work, has got a „friend‟. It‟s got bells on. Try again.”
“I like him, okay. He‟s married. He‟s told me straight that he loves his wife, his kids. This is a friendship.” “And you believe him?” interjected Chris. I paused for a moment. Inside I was not sure whether I believed him or not. I was not sure I wanted to believe that all he wanted was friendship, but for reasons that I could not understand I felt that he meant what he said, even if I would have liked more. Finally, I spoke. “Yes,” was all I said. Both Chris and Carole looked at each other again and gave each other a puzzled look. “But you never have male friends outside work!” shrieked Carole. “You have male friends at work and a line of hunks knocking at your door outside work.” I was about to object but on reflection she was probably right. I do have female friends although many stop seeing me when they have steady boyfriends. I used to think they were just busy, but slowly I realised that they were deliberately avoiding me. Men as friends? No. She was right. Friendship with men had thus far proved impossible. “Hey! Perhaps she‟s growing up?” Chris commented to Carole. “Cut the cheek you,” I objected, but there was no stopping him. “Next you‟ll be telling us that you are going to look for a husband.” “Not tonight,” I quipped. Then, to make sure Chris was aware that I‟d not enjoyed his comments, I looked at him with a dismissive smile. “Men over 25 need not apply.”
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It was Carole‟s turn to laugh. “God sis‟! When are you going to grow up and settle down?” If there is one thing that Carole had never said to me before it was that I should settle down. I thought she knew better, but the way she said this in such a carefree and matter of fact way actually stopped me in my tracks for a second. “Not tonight,” I said after a moment. “I‟ll give it some thought tomorrow.” My mind returned to the task in hand and I could feel my face relax and a more pleasant demeanour return. “But since the night is young and there are some young strapping lads here who are hot and willing…….let‟s get on and eat, drink and party.” We ordered our food and I finished my second glass of wine. People were beginning to come into the bar in greater numbers; couples, groups of young men and women, sometimes together and sometimes separate. By 9pm we were sitting at our table, and the bar was getting so crowded that we had to queue for drinks. After main courses and coffee, and a third glass of wine, I was ready to dance. “Shall we hit the floor?” I asked. Carole turned to Chris and gave a gesture. “I‟ll stay here and order some coffees?” he responded. “I‟d rather have another sparkling water. Best not to mix drinks too much,” I said with a delicate hint of sarcasm. Carole nodded and we made our way onto the floor. As I looked around, I could see the eyes of several men follow me. One of my great pleasures in life is attracting admiring looks when I dance. When the DJ put on “You Sexy Thing” I began to take control of the dance floor. I like this song, particularly
God. Each time I turned quickly the hem of my skirt rose up enough to show an increasing number of admirers that I had black stockings and suspenders on. As I walked towards this young man I looked directly at him and I could see his nervousness. “I‟ll just help Chris with the drinks. A two-second gaze is a come-on. He looked good and I caught his eye before quickly turning my face away and giving him a sight of my curves swinging in time to the music. I grinned broadly and briefly as I flashed a look at the young man sitting at the bar. As the song ended. He was with friends. Good. I put my arms above my head and I let my hips swing and my long hair fall sensuously about me. but his eyes kept looking in my direction. At the bar was a strong looking young man in a white tee-shirt and jeans. I saw that Chris was queuing at the bar not far from him so I turned to Carole.Rory Ridley-Duff since I saw Robert Carlisle strut his stuff in The Full Monty. As I walk right past him. I give him a series of strong admiring looks each lasting a second or two.” and off I went. our eyes meet. within a couple of feet. One was so taken that his girlfriend put her hand under his jaw and twisted his face back so that it looked at her. As I cast my eyes around the restaurant tables. chatting. In Cosmo I read that a second of eye contact is a flirt. For now. Then I turn to Chris so that my back is towards him. I began to look around as I danced to see whose eye I could catch. he was great – but I think I have the edge when it comes to oozing sex appeal. I have his attention. . Three-seconds is tantamount to telling him I want him inside my knickers. I caught half a dozen men looking in my direction.
” I ask.” “It‟s not his heart I‟m interested in. He seemed a bit more nervous that most men. I think” I say turning to my admirer and catching his eye again.Friends or Lovers “Shall I take that. Whether it was the drink or not.” “Watching you makes my throat go dry too. he definitely looked good to me. They were. I walked past my admirer again and this time I made sure that I brushed close by him and turned my head to check his eyes were following me.” he jokes. Chris. The next record was Madonna‟s Open Your Heart. I could feel the effects of the drink. “Go easy on the young lad. One gave him a shove forward as if to say “Go on. it had been a while since I‟d let my hair down so I decided to take things as I found them. one of my favourites. His friends realised I was giving him the eye and they were ribbing him and laughing loudly. Soon I was in full flow again. I tip-toed around her while I downed the water. Pretending to be helpful. gently moving in time with the music so as not to spill anything. I knew that I‟d probably had enough. and Carole decided to leave me to hog the limelight while she drank her coffee. .” Even though I was alternating water and wine. As I returned to the dance floor. Pen. Carole was bopping away to YMCA when I arrived back with my drink. “Dancing is thirsty work. Penny. “Not as much as his. get after her!” He smiled and laughed in an embarrassed way but did not come out onto the dance floor. I decided to bide my time. and that another glass might cause me to get sleepy before I‟d had any fun. His heart may not be up to it. with my arms above my head. gyrating my hips and inviting the onlookers to let their imagination run wild. Still.
“Back in a minute!” I walked towards the bar again and could see my catch stare at me as I approached him. I allowed them to dance near me. I imagined my youthful admirer . I put my hand on his shoulder as I drew my mouth close up to his right ear. The tingle of anticipation heightened my arousal as I entered a cubicle to relieve myself. like the parting of the red sea. backed away a little as I went up to him calmly and confidently. I was ready. Yes. My black hair had become loose and free-flowing and I looked like a high-class tart. “White wine. but if they tried to touch I quickly moved away so as not to discourage the man I‟d set my eyes on. I let my cheek very gently touch his. After five minutes Carole and Chris joined me and we grooved away for the next couple of records. past two young couples who were already exploring each other‟s throats and fondling each others‟ buttocks.” I shouted in Chris‟s ear. letting the alcohol and atmosphere go to our heads. “Just going to the loo. Would you like to get me a drink and we can chat when I get back?” He broke into a big grin and nodded.almost certainly rock hard by now – as I entered the women‟s loos to reapply make-up that had been affected by the sweaty atmosphere.Rory Ridley-Duff A number of men tried to join in with me while my young admirer remained at the bar drinking his pint. he was really very fit indeed and his face was kind and very pleasing to the eye. . It was time to cast my line and hook my man.” As I drew away. I shan‟t be long. I looked in the mirror. “Hi! I‟m just going to the girls‟ room. I closed my eyes and pictured the young man who was buying me a drink. I walked down the stairs to the toilets. His friends.
” I said. fast enough to give a flash of suspenders. It occurred to me that I had not heard him speak yet so I held out my hand. “Hi.” I said. looking over in their direction. but I thought it was already obvious that I was coming onto him. if I‟d not known better I would have said he almost wet his pants. “Them lot?” he said. not overloaded in the brain department. he raised it to his lips and kissed it. but there was a hint of humour there. “Most of us work for the AA. trying to get the conversation going again.” he said. Load of tossers. “Yeah. His conversation skills could do with a bit of grooming. “So. looking him straight in the eye. you know.” He took it and instead of shaking it. then?” I wondered if this was too much of a come on. . Again.Friends or Lovers I returned to the bar and he had my drink ready.. I decided to play with him and see how far he would go. Very smooth. he did not respond. To my surprise. “Are you feeling lucky tonight. what do you and your mates do?” I said. he didn‟t respond and I began to wonder whether I‟d misread him. emergency breakdowns and that stuff. “George. “Nothing wrong with a good toss….” I raised my glass in their direction and they acknowledged me en masse. “Out with your mates. In fact. It looked like I was going to have to be gentle with him. I see. Rescuing damsels in distress!” So. I‟m Penny. I must say. but they‟re alright. “Do you like the outfit?” I asked giving him a quick twirl.
Is he deliberately flattering me or does it come naturally.I…. “I‟m twenty five. “Hmm. How about you?” I decided to lie – no point shattering his illusions. Hot stuff. “Well.Rory Ridley-Duff I saw the Adam‟s apple in his throat move.. and then gave him a wicked look. She‟s over there with her would-be hubby. “I only go out when I‟m with my sister. I thought. very smooth. “There. he really was nervous! But then some words came out.” Cool.” he said.I think you look….” I moved closer to him and pointed her out on the dance floor. “I‟ve not seen you here before.” “Fuck. “I…. that wasn‟t so hard. spit it out. you look like a fit young lad. “I….” Keep them coming. but from that moment on he seemed to change into a different person.” Come on lad. I smiled at him – a genuine smile of appreciation. Christ.” he said and then he must have detected a slight movement in me because he looked me in the eye and continued “…but not as hot as her younger sister. You don‟t look it!” I was not sure whether that was a compliment or not but I need not have worried because he quickly reassured me. “I thought you were my age.absolutely fucking fantastic.. I‟m not sure exactly what I did or said. That was good.” At last. “Twenty next week. was it?” He laughed and suddenly he relaxed.I think you look…. .. Are you old enough for me?” I teased.
There was a sudden movement from all of George‟s friends and I followed them onto the dance floor. I went to check my make-up again. plenty of time for that later…. I thought him quite a sexy dancer and his friends were fun too. Carole and Chris joined us and we had quite a party for the next hour. I opened my mouth and let his tongue in. gently as first. For his age he was a good kisser. I heard a slow rising sound from my right. We kissed passionately. It felt confident and firm which I hoped was a good sign for later. “….don‟t waste it all now. Over the loud music. with George‟s arms around my waist as we did a bump and grind. We must have cut quite a picture – my arse pressed against his groin as he pretended to pump me from behind. I managed to make him understand that he should meet me outside the loos in 5 minutes. I drank another glass of water and wine and started to feel very naughty. relieved myself once more and then waited outside. and his tongue explored my mouth. The place suddenly came alive and I found myself surrounded by young men. and then more passionately. He moved well. He came down the stairs and I could see the animalism in him.” I put my hand between his legs and gave a quick squeeze.Friends or Lovers “Old enough to teach you a few tricks?” Before I knew it he‟d slipped his firm hand around the back of my head and kissed me. leaning against the wall like a prostitute waiting for a client. our tongues winding around each others.. . I pulled away slightly and whispered in his ear. I parted my legs slightly and guided him in between them. He friends were looking on and gave a long slow “Wwwwooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrr!” With perfect timing Rock DJ started to play.
My hands were inside his tee-shirt. rubbing him up and down while he finger-fucked me.Rory Ridley-Duff our hand moving over each others bodies and between each others legs. closed my eyes. I grabbed his head. Then he climbed roughly back on top of me and tried to put it in. indicating he should stop. He did . under my skirt and inside my top. moving up slowing. I slowly pulled my arms up behind my head. “That room. I flagged us a taxi and gave the driver the address. Then came my first disappointment. “Time to get out of here. Then a finger was inside me and I gasped before grabbing his hair and guiding his mouth back to mine. His fingers worked inside the hem of my pants and rubbed around my clit.” I indicate with a nod of the head. who bid us farewell with the comment “Have fun!” As soon as we were inside the door of my flat. He carried me through and dropped me on the bed. and pointed down to his crotch. feeling his muscular body. His head was between my thighs. and opened my legs wide for him so he could see my suspenders in all their glory. His hands were all over me. As the car moved away. He nodded and we gathered our jackets and left. He pulled my pants to one side and buried his face in my pussy.” I said. I jumped up and put my legs around his waist. I tried to focus and get excited but his tongue action was so off putting that I could not put up with it for long. We paid the taxi driver. kissing me gently. his hand was under my skirt again and I opened my legs wide for him. That firm tongue that was so good exploring my mouth felt like a dish mop between my legs. He understood immediately and took off his trousers and pants.
fill me up with your spunk. I liked it long and slow.. so I shut my eyes and let him fuck me for a few minutes.Friends or Lovers not guide it in with his hand. I started talking. Then quickly nodded. ”Long and deep. “John?!” he shouted and suddenly pulled out of me. It started to work. but poked around inexpertly. come on big boy.” I said with a hint of impatience. and his cock working away in my pussy. his strong hands on my back. egging him on. Eventually he was inside. but he pumped me so fast and furiously that it hurt. “Do you want me on all fours?” I asked.” I added in a seductive tone. I was beginning to get frustrated. give it to me hard. my excitement rose. thumping away in my hole and I began to feel a prickle welling up in my body.” he said furiously. I took up my position. looking for the entrance. Yeah. . “Take it a bit slower. I pictured John‟s handsome face behind me. I shut my eyes and started to imagine it was John behind me. preferably with my lover holding my legs up over his shoulders and making sure he angled his cock into the pit of my stomach. and lowered my head against the pillow and presented my perfectly fuckable clean-shaven fanny to him. He looked at me in an odd way. He broddled about again before he found the hole and despite my instruction he continued to pump fast and furious. “Yeah. come on John……. I put my hands down between my legs and tried to compensate for this unerotic experience by massaging my clit. Then I did something that perhaps I should not have done. “Who the fuck is John?” he shouted at me.
but he closed the door and it smashed. got up and shot an irritated glance at him as I walked to the bathroom. are never 25. “Well.” I picked up a glass of water by the bed and threw it at him. come on….” He dressed quickly and did not bother to button up his shirt or jacket before he made for the door.!” I shouted at the top of my voice but he was already out of the front door before I‟d finished saying it. my emotions started to erupt. come on hun. What am I doing? I‟m a grown . engulfing me and crashing frenetically throughout my body. You‟re a fucking crap kisser. I suppose it was good while it lasted!” I added sarcastically. George. “And you. Then he bellowed. “You bastard. you old slapper. His face turned red..” I saw his face slowly turn to beetroot as the resentment rose in him. I turned away. the wave started to break. Piss off out of here. As he left the room. “Fuck off out of here…. swelling like a wave and rolling slowly into shore.Rory Ridley-Duff “George. so it rose in me too. As soon as I realised he was going to leave the rage boiled over in me too. your tongue is like a dish mop and you fuck like a pneumatic drill! Go on. I sat back on the bed and curled up. he turned around and with a cruel sneer made a parting remark that I‟ll never forget. I felt my mouth twitch and my eyes grow moist. get it back in me. It grew inside me slowly. As I felt it get closer. “I am not a piece of meat!” He started to put on his clothes. As it did. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with distress and an emotion that I‟d not felt for years.
I thought of only one thing. Never in my life had I felt such pain and I wept for the first time in 11 years. My insides convulsed in pain. as if I had been run through with a wooden stake. With my eyes dripping. John. the first time since I kicked out my university boyfriend after he‟d cheated on me with my best friend. I was being swept away on a huge wave of feeling. to feel his arms around me. to weep as I lay on his chest. My pitifully shallow life crushed me. What am I doing? Suddenly. I wanted to be with John. .Friends or Lovers woman picking up a teenager for sex. I thought of nothing else but to be with John. And as I wept. I curled up into a ball and started to howl like a baby.
Okay. Every year that passes. Sometimes I wish people would just stay still. I was all over the place. I get up and go to the bathroom. the less I seem to feel for people. Who am I? What is this life I have created? Why am I so afraid? Why do men treat me like shit? Why do I treat them like shit? As much as I hated George for saying it. I push them away. I‟ve lived like this. same old. I had treated him like a piece of meat. I used to like the staff I recruited. never letting anyone settle with me. There must be something beyond passion and sex. for ten years. certainly nothing that would last. Yet another person leaves and I have to shuffle everyone around. pulled this way. but achieved so little. I earn more brownie points but feel less enthusiasm. There must be more. but I don‟t know any more. Same old. If they run away. Who have I ever made happy? I‟ve done so much. so I can pull the guys. But there is something missing that I can‟t understand. week after .Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 14 I cried for an hour as thoughts bounced around my mind like a powerball inside a hollow steel container. I get mad and grab onto someone else to ease the pain. on and off. But now. am I really happy at work? I tell everyone that I am. update more systems. it is a chore. In the past. I never sought a relationship. never settling with anyone. Why not? What was I doing wasting my life? I‟m not young any more. a succulent Sunday roast to devour and then throw away the carcass. fill out more paper work. My face is stained and I look ugly. If they get too close. then that. The greater the responsibility. to enjoy nurturing them and watching them grow. And. I feel ugly.
“Penny? What is it? What‟s happened?” In the background. It rings. Pick it up. No hurry.” I knew I was not making much sense but at least some feelings were coming out. I try to talk but all I can do is sob..of…. It sounds like the line is breaking up.this…ime…. John. “Just take your time. be there. but then his voice comes across strongly.”wh…. I pull my hair back and begin to dab my face to remove some of the stains while the tears start to flow again. “Just hearing a friendly voice helps.she …. “Hello?” he asks. And rings. I finally manage to say my name. Good. What is the point? As I throw myself on the bed. “Urrm.Friends or Lovers week. month after month. Who is it?” Amongst the whimpers. “Oh. “I‟m such a fool. I look at the clock and the mobile phone next to it.giht”. Hawww… Who‟s th… What time is it? Fuck! What? Errm.” I paused. I can make out a woman‟s voice saying “who is it. Just tell me what happened. Who is there?” he finally says. I‟ve really fucked up. Come on John. but the moment he said the word „love‟ I started to feel safer. love?” I have no idea why. I calmed down enough to get a sentence out. “I can hear you crying. I can faintly hear another question…. Without a moment‟s thought. I really did not know what to say. darling?” and he responds that it is me. Such a fool.” I said. pick it up. “Penny? You still there? What happened. But what‟s happened?” he asked again. I pick it up and type „John‟ and press „Dial‟. .” “Good.
It is so stupid. I don‟t even understand why I‟m upset or why I‟ve called you. Write out what you are feeling.it‟s just…. “Tomorrow I‟ll come round and we‟ll read it together.” I knew that he would not be able to make head or tail of this. “Can you get a pen and paper and write down what you are feeling now. Normality returned. I just wanted to talk to someone. It‟s just that…. Thank you. Then another faint question: “why…. He said he didn‟t know but that he‟d find out tomorrow. and much . but as I talked I was trying to work out in my head exactly what it was that I was upset about. It‟s not that. To know that I was going to see him made such a difference that I felt my tears and distress subside.uck….” I continued.” I replied. Before he signed off I heard her say in a less concerned. Maybe it is the drink..ling you?”. Please forgive me for waking you up.” I stopped for a moment and he spoke with a strong voice.Rory Ridley-Duff “I feel so stupid. No. Can you do something for me?” “I‟ll try. Right now. “Have you been attacked?” he said kindly.you know I just don‟t know what it is. Why exactly was I crying? “I just had a bad night. “Thank you. I‟m not even sure.goin….” I could hear a woman‟s voice again asking “wher…. “Penny. “No. I‟ll call again in the morning.” “Why?” I said with a puzzled tone. just get a pen and paper and write.morrow?” and then John‟s voice explain that it was me on the phone and that I was seriously distressed by something.” And that was all he needed to say. Don‟t think too hard. John.
I got a pen and paper and started to think. By the time I heard a key in the lock I had written only two words.ed. Penny.Friends or Lovers friendlier voice “come…ack…t…. superman.” I said that I would. I’m lonely. Find that pen and paper. Start writing for me. Then he spoke to me again. I did so for over 30 minutes trying to form thoughts in my mind and get them down on paper. “I have to go now.”. .
We just want to help.” “What a bastard!” said Carole.I…. I had to tell them enough of the truth for them to understand and not blame anyone.” “What about the police?” Chris asked. „sis. Carole holding my hand. started having sex and then he just got up and walked out on me.d‟you…. Chris slept in the spare bed while little „sis slept with me.” “Why not?” they said together. “It‟s too painful. mid-shag. “He walked out on me.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 15 Carole looked after me. They just sat there quietly. I‟m sure she must think that I was raped or assaulted. that I was fantasising about another man. Then Carole took my arm and spoke more softly. with his hand on my back.and luckily she did not press me. no!” I said with a start.” “I…. Carole and Chris had no idea how to stop me. How do you tell that to anyone. you can tell us. No. “I‟ll punch his face in next time I see him.He….” . Chris on one side. You must not blame him. let alone your sister? I had another session sobbing my eyes out at the breakfast table. I could tell they‟d been talking to each other. “You mustn‟t do that!” “But…. “Um…. but I just can‟t tell her that the man I‟d seduced had realised. “What happened.I just couldn‟t . We got back here.Do you…. I couldn‟t tell her what happened .” threatened Chris. “No. “God.want to…” “No.” I said quickly.” I had to tell them something.
So will you. That‟s all I can say.” Carole‟s mouth dropped open. Chris smiled back then put his arms around both of us. It just all came down on me. she took my hand and indicated I should stand up. “No fairy tales. It is no-one‟s fault – you must not blame him .” “But why all the tears. My life looks great on the outside but inside it is a heap of shit. I look at you and Chris and wonder what I‟m doing with my life. “Oh! Carole. “Why not?” “I found my prince charming. but I could not tell them what happened. What could I say? “I don‟t want to tell you. sis.” she said pulling away and looking me in the face.” he said. “Something happened that upset the evening. and for reasons I could not understand another wave of emotion engulfed me and the tears .” and she cast a glance at Chris the like of which I‟d never noticed before.” she whispered. sis‟” said Chris. As soon as I was on my feet she held her arms open and I fell into them. “Family cuddle.” I started but suddenly the words started to come out. I was so used to her moaning about his habits that I‟d not noticed that she really admired him. Clearly she could not believe what she was hearing.Friends or Lovers What could I say? I did not want to lie. “Don‟t be such a cynic. No happy endings?” I asked. “Welcome to the real world. I know I look all confident and happy.but when this „something‟ happened we got angry with each other. but I‟d trade places with you if I could. Then her mouth closed.
” Carole suddenly interjected. “Now girl. “By the way. I wondered if.” I suddenly realised that my little sister had done more growing up than I had. He was going to keep his word. but the smile that was creeping back into my demeanour communicated to him that I did not really mean it.30. I went over to the dresser and combed my hair. “Don‟t dress up for him. I had misjudged him. He said he‟ll pick you up at 12pm.” “John? Oh God. It was already 10. Let it out.Rory Ridley-Duff started to flow again. Chris smiled back at me. I‟d never been ready to do that. Just put on something real casual and be yourself.” My hand rose to my forehead as I gave her a salute. perhaps. What had I done? Yeah. Carole spoke softly while Chris hugged us both. Go on. “I‟ve had all the romance I can take for one weekend. shut up. She had taken on the responsibility of a partner and baby. “John called.” said Carole. “Oh.” “Don‟t!” was my first response. “He sounded nice.” I said. I had my career but how did that compare to the responsibility of loving another person? I hadn‟t done that. yes!” I remembered and was amazed. Carole smiled at me. “That‟s right. And I was still not sure if I was ready to do it now. I‟d never noticed before what a kind smile he had. . John was coming at mid-day so I had to stir myself to start getting ready. Get it out.” “Romance?” laughed Chris.
but it always annoyed me when she gave advice like this. however. however it goes. Just let the day unfold and run with it.Friends or Lovers “Don‟t try to impress him.” I knew she was trying to help. I took it on the chin. it was good advice after all. .
“She has got a sexy voice.” I quipped nodding my head in Chris‟s direction. The one with the sexy voice. .” Chris was standing behind Carole and wrapping her in his arms. and I could feel a few butterflies in my stomach with each passing minute. I looked at my watch and could not believe that it was only 12:06. “Don‟t apologise. fidgeted. As each car passed outside. I drank the dregs of my tea. “Sure. just jeans and a rugby shirt (with a cut especially for women). “Oopps!” he said self-consciously. I‟d removed my make-up. She lent back and gave him a kiss on his neck to thank him for the compliment. After what seemed like forever.” “And her partner….” chirped Chris. I‟d dressed casually. walked around again and generally irritated everybody. He put his hand over his mouth. He was clearly looking at the house numbers to check which doorbell to press. “Hi there!” he said without a moment‟s hesitation. and just put on a small amount of transparent lippy to give them a moist look.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 16 Twelve o‟clock came and went. sat down. walked around. I unlatched the door and opened it. a car pulled up and a handsome man in jeans and a black pullover got out of the car and looked around. The wait seemed interminable. “Would you like to come in for a sec?” I asked. John had a cup of coffee and made small talk with Carole and Chris while I gathered up my things. I kept expecting it to be him. I can meet that sister of yours.
or gas-guzzler.Friends or Lovers “I‟m set to go!” I finally said.” he joked as he escorted me to his car. “Any preferences?” “I particularly like Carly Simon. Queen. the Yellowjackets and Mozart. “Any particular destination you‟d like?” he asked gently. said his „farewells‟ and „nice to meet yous‟. He took out the „Very Best of Carly Simon” CD and away we drove to the rich tones of „You‟re So Vain‟.” I suggested. John got up. he had a selection of CDs. Madam. Norah Jones and Eva Casidy but it doesn‟t look like you have any. incar stereo/CD player. I had no wish to go a long way. I thought. just the sensuous experience of listening. Inside the car. I thought for a moment. but was keen to walk somewhere quiet. but from work I had more knowledge of motors than the average gal. full security system. It was quite a swish car.” To my surprise he opened another hidden compartment with a further dozen CDs. It fitted his character. . I was no expert. and the colour and style had a hint of sexiness about it. He‟d chosen a mid-range Ford in black. “Your carriage awaits you. He had no need for a flashy sports car. but he liked a few luxuries. with a 2-litre engine. “How about Warwick castle? We could walk around the grounds. He saw my eyes casting over his collection. compilations of classical music by French classical composers and American jazz artists. sunroof and alloy wheels. the music of a person did not care about fashion or his own image. In there was music by Casiopeia. Carly Simon. His tastes were broad and selective.
Rory Ridley-Duff He nodded. “Was your wife okay about your coming here today?” “Not really. I realised that he must already know the area. I was about to give him directions but he made a left turn. I could hardly tell him the truth. “But there is one condition. “What‟s that?” “No hanky panky!” he said with a smile. I have friends in Warwick.” “Of course.” It didn‟t fit somehow with the conversations we‟d previously had about equality between the sexes. I still had a bit of a hangover so food was not high on my agenda yet. “You know the way?” I queried. I was not sure what to say. I‟d called him when I was distressed and he was bound to think I wanted to talk about what happened. She knows that no man – particularly me – can totally resist being a knight in shining armour. Now he was here.” I suggested. “Yes. “Do you want to eat before or after the walk?” he asked. She‟ll get over it.” he added. you told me.” I did not feel talkative because I was not sure how to start. I recalled the voice in the background during our phone conversation. a bit.” “Is that what you are?” I asked. “I don‟t mind being a stand-in until you find someone who can do it for you full time. . She was forgiving. “Let‟s walk first. but at this particular moment I was happy to borrow someone else‟s knight for the day.
but he caught my message and smiled back at me briefly. Madam. He may have been driving. The trauma of the previous night receded as I filled my senses with thoughts of what we would do with our day. my man.” “In my dreams”. He continue playing the game of „protector‟ by opening the car door for me and indicating the direction of the grounds with a slight nod and wave of his right hand.” he confirmed. “I do.” I snapped back with a grin. We turned a corner that brought the castle into view then drove around the perimeter to the visitor car park. “Okay. After this. Even though it sometimes got me into trouble. Then I blew it by whispering to him „do I give you a tip?‟ He broke into a chuckle as he swung the door shut.” I said. This small phrase.” he said with mock politeness. We set off on a path around the perimeter of the castle.” I said with a haughty look that I imagined women of class would give to a chauffeur. with some irony. the kitten in me was still there. I felt myself relax and the prospect of the day ahead filled me with pleasure. seemed appropriate for the contract that we were making between us. I thought to myself. then up a slight incline as we crossed more open ground until we had . “Thank you. I was grateful for that. normally the preserve of people tying the knot. “Just so long as we both understand the boundaries. I liked this path because it led through a couple of wooded areas. My sumptuous naughty side had not been destroyed by the humiliation I‟d been through. “I am now in your hands.Friends or Lovers “The thought never crossed my mind. or footman.
lots of conflicting emotions about how angry I feel about things that happened in the past.Rory Ridley-Duff a view of the whole locality. he spoke. made myself a coffee and tried to write down what was troubling me. We walked for a couple of minutes without saying anything to each other. This is not easy for me to talk about. Finally. The full circuit would take about 45 minutes and by then I would feel ready for lunch. I could have written .” I was afraid but I longed to talk to him. “I imagine a man was involved somehow last night?” I wished it was that simple. “Yes. I sensed that both of us were looking for an opening line that would enable us to talk about what had happened. All the boyfriends I dumped. “Last night I tried to follow your advice. “Penny. “It‟s okay. or didn‟t call me. but then backed off when I opened my heart in response to their lovely words. That was the trigger. She‟s found a man to love her and now has a beautiful child that she dotes on. I could have written pages and pages of trivia. the bastards that dumped me. we don‟t have to talk about this if you don‟t want to. but I had to start somewhere.” I replied. irritations with things at work. their irritating habits. particularly with men. He did not interrupt and I realised that he expected something more.” He gave me one of those half-smiles that conveyed both sympathy and an understanding of my suffering. “The trigger for what?” I looked at him and the distress must have shown in my face. lots of tiny agonies. or made me feel beautiful when they were trying to get in my knickers. I‟m not good at sharing my feelings. I could have written about how jealous I am of my sister. I sat down after I came off the phone.
but I would not be controlled. Unlike my sister. They made me feel safer and all warm inside. John?” “Come here. but he followed form by asking me anyway. And then I got a total shock. real passion and I did not want to wait until some stupid outdated law said I could sleep with boys. . I felt my eyes moisten again and I looked at him. John. “I fought her for years. He was crying. I could see a single tear rolling down his left cheek. it was my mother who was constantly critical. his arms were larger and stronger.” He nodded. John. Do you know what I wrote in the end?” It was a rhetorical question. all this was going through my head last night while I held the pad.” he said.” As I said the words. but no. I noticed that he was listening intently so I continued. She thought I was „too young‟ for boyfriends! How can you choose things like that? I was ready at 14. I said out loud the words that I‟d hidden in my head for years.Friends or Lovers about the distance I feel from my mother for the way she used to look at me when I brought boyfriends home. I could tell she thought I was little better than a tramp so I dug my heels in and took my boyfriends up to my bedroom just to make her mad. “John!” I started. however. “I‟m lonely. There were times we would hit each other. and just as my sister had earlier in the day. And then I said it. He was crying. “What is it. he offered his arms and I fell into them. “Well. You‟d think my father would be the one to object. I had passion in me. Really lonely.” I stopped for a second to gather my recollections.
I‟ll bet. never let anybody run my life for me. so I gave him a puzzled look.” As he said this he cupped my cheek with his hand.” He gave me a sideways glance. talked like this?” I thought hard. “All that „control‟. I wished that I could have stayed in his arms for longer. all that „competence‟. you had lads competing to become your boyfriend. “But at such a high price…” he responded. But those few hours were the loneliest. I felt the . but it would not have been right. He spoke more.” I smiled. or be my slave. I sat alone in my room and felt so unbearably alone that I cried my eyes out. Unbearable.” “And by the end of the day. something that my father might have done to me as he put me to bed. Penny. you had made several girlfriends who later became your enemies.. “I‟ve made all my own choices.” “We all need intimacy in our lives. It was such a gentle gesture. “When was the last time you felt like this. all that „professionalism‟ comes at a high price. I was not sure what he meant. Then he released me and started to walk again. My God! I looked at him. “Yes. don‟t you think?” And I did think.Rory Ridley-Duff He rocked me gently from side to side for a few seconds. even hard-nosed career women. And after your first disco. “Not since my first day at university. I could not remember a time when I had cried like this…. After my parents drove away. but I was still not sure what he meant. For the first time in years.
however. He walked out. after all.” . “Because if there is anyone who can help me unravel the minefield that stands between men and women. “I fell out with the person I picked up at a bar.” There was a pregnant pause while he considered the import of what I had just said. “Of course I will. “Do you want to talk about last night?” he asked as we resumed our stroll.” I detected his pleasure at hearing this. You‟re an expert in it. “I‟ll try. I was not sure. That. I guess it is you.” he said reassuringly. Penny.Friends or Lovers warmth of a man‟s love and I could not stop my head incline itself towards his soft touch. “Help me. was the question I did not want to answer. It is just something I take a keen interest in. “Not an expert. but I felt I should give him something to understand why I‟d called. John. I felt I just had to hear your voice. I had to say something. indeed. All that loneliness – it just crashed down on me and I had to talk to you.” “Why mine?” he asked.” Suddenly some words popped out of my mouth that I did not intend.
I admired him. climbed a tower. but the desire to seduce him slowly ebbed away. “How‟s that problem at work you had?” he asked.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 17 Over the next few hours we took in the views around Warwick. the meaning of life. I was more relaxed with him than I had been with any man for over a decade. Our conversation never stopped all day. hear his voice. and know that he was nearby. and it filled me with a confidence that I could not explain. The sexual tension was always there. not ogling my body. occupy the same space. He looked at me as if he was searching my soul. perhaps more relaxed with him than any man except my father. I chose my favourite Italian. he suggested that we might like to eat at Pizza Hut again. My attraction to him never completely left me. joked. I felt. discussed politics. however. I could tell that he was sucking in my beauty so that he could savour and bathe in it. that I should take him somewhere special to thank him for the day out. lunched in a tea shop. we talked and exchanged thoughts constantly. as we started on our desserts. . whatever we did. but with a festive atmosphere. travelled to deepest outer space. laughed. and the way his eyes fixed themselves on me sometimes. Wherever we were. By late afternoon. just filled with the admiration a person might feel looking at a beautiful portrait or marvelling at a moment of cinematic brilliance. and generally just chilled together. a place tucked away in a cobbled side street that was quiet enough to have a hint of romance. His eyes were not lustful. I just wanted to be with him.
but I think she is holding back on an incident with somebody in the team. His face told me that he was interested in more than the game. but he‟s very sensitive about what happened. the more I sense that he‟s trying to be straight with me. “The one about the problem you had at work. it has been difficult at home for him. The more I learn about the woman‟s situation…… Well. I get the feeling that some sexual shit is going on that nobody wants to talk about.” . Things don‟t seem to be quite right. “I don‟t know. not just about the current incident but about a past relationship too. “Do you want to ask the first one?” I was not giving up first.” I said with a victory salute. “What was your question again?” was my retort.” “So what‟s the story there?” “Well. second or third question?” he said chuckling. What about your friend? “I‟ve only had one update. “Work. “My first. The more I talk to the man. so I dropped the stupid stuff and regained my composure. but he‟s hiding something from me.” “Why‟s that?” “He thinks it will be okay. The problem at work has made things worse at home.” “Gotcha. Can we?” he said with his smile broadening all the time. She‟s a prude for sure. he seems more on the level than I first thought. Things have moved on a bit. Yeah. but I should get the full story soon – we‟ll be working together on a project. “You mean there are so many?” “Can we utter a sentence without it being a question?” I asked.Friends or Lovers “Which problem is that?” I answered without looking up. Fifteen love.
It took a few months but eventually his wife came around and let him come back home. he gave her support but after a few weeks they had a real heart to heart and she said she wanted to get out. and to this day he has always denied it. His wife accused him of having an affair.” I commented “Not something you hear about every day. Right. He didn‟t want to let . She took him back but made him promise never to get involved with another woman again. The money thing was too much for her and she threw him out. yes.” “So what happened?” “Well. “Anyway. She became his lodger for several months while they waited for a vacancy at a refuge.er…four years. Big rows. His wife was not pleased. about four years ago.” I said. Well he had a difficult period with his wife about….” he clarified.” “I bet his wife did not like that!” “Yeah. Later he helped her find and move into a flat – he even gave her the money for a deposit.” “Not a situation you come across every day. He helped her furnish her room.” “So how does that have a bearing on his current problem?” “From what I gather he started to help another woman at work who had been having problems at home. “Okay. So he stayed with his woman friend as her lodger for a while.” “I‟m in no rush. that night he collected her from her home and took her to his. One of his colleagues was having marital problems and she started talking to him about them – eventually she admitted she was being abused by her husband. He‟s a really sweet guy. but he convinced her that he‟d no choice. Big problem.Rory Ridley-Duff “Why?” “To explain that I‟d have to go way back.
” I felt sorry for this guy.” Hell. I got a feeling that John just cared about people. I said it anyway. This was risky. “Sometimes things don‟t need to be said. John was relaxed while we chatted and I could tell he cared about his friend. I don‟t think it was this because he immediately raised his eyebrows in astonishment. “Deal. So he backed off and upset her. There didn‟t seem to be anyone in his life that he did not like. “Penny.” I stopped. “John. why was I so nervous? I hate my nerves. “Do you…. Did I have the courage to say it? “Do you…. “Do you…. He changed jobs and only told his wife afterwards.” Why was I asking it? I was not sure. “I‟ll answer that question if you will tell me why you‟re asking it..” and he gave me that same warm smile that I remembered from our first meeting.” Inside I could feel my heart pumping and my breathing quicken. In fact.” I said. “Do……ah!” Then he did something that really startled me. . I‟ve enjoyed today.Friends or Lovers her down. but he also didn‟t want her to get too close to him. He took my hands in his. He took one hand away and squeezed his nose.ever fantasise about me?” I asked. I‟ve enjoyed today too. Whatever he had expected. one that invites intimacy. He sounded like he really cared for both his wife and his work colleagues and just wanted to help everybody.” It was one of those leading phrases.
” I stopped and looked down into my lap.” I never trusted anyone so why did I want to trust him? What was I doing here with him? He was married and we were holding hands in a restaurant while his family was a hundred miles away. Was this going to lead to disaster? I wanted to tell him. but not when I‟m making love to my wife.” he said. I was not sure if I had the courage to say it.. I could feel the emotion rising in me again. but I did not want him to reject me.” he repeated.. “Last night?” he queried. You don‟t need to say it. but disappointment that he mentioned his wife. a deep pleasure that he thought of me sexually. “Penny. Clearly he wanted me to know that I would not take her place. I hesitated. I closed my eyes and summoned my strength. about the way things had unfolded. “Last night….Rory Ridley-Duff He hesitated. reminding me of the pact.” I felt a peculiar sensation. “I…. What if he was angry? What if I spoiled the whole day? What if it ruined our friendship? “I…. .. I tensed.” but I stopped again. This was crazy.” my hands started to shake. I wanted to tell him about the night before. I shuddered because I realised why I‟d asked him this question. “The answer is „Yes‟. to tell him the part he had played in it. I wanted to tell him I fantasised about him. but only for a moment. “You don‟t need to say it. “Your turn. I wanted to share this. and he noticed immediately and took my hands again. Penny. I wanted to share my humiliation with him.
letting the tears roll. John got up from his seat. came around to my side of the table and pulled up his chair. “Yes. I‟m attracted to you. He got really mad at me. tears were dripping down my face. and I shuffled awkwardly in my seat. He put his right arm around my back. I looked up. I felt the tears fill my eyes again and I looked up at him. I laughed. I had never talked like this with anyone. not my sister. I shouldn‟t be saying this. not my father or any of my boyfriends. I laughed and suddenly I felt it was okay to carry on.as he was fucking me I started to think of you. “You bet it did. I just could not. I like that – it‟s honest. He gave my hands a little squeeze to keep me reassured.” “So we‟ve broken the rules. I‟m so sorry I rang you. why?” he asked again. My whole body was rigid.” “Why?” he asked. “…I felt so alone. ….” he said with a laugh. with relief mostly. and then I blurted out your name. Through my sobs I suddenly heard the sound of my own voice. I could not say the words. “Why?” I said with astonishment. And…and…” His hand was rubbing my back and it felt lovely. I can‟t believe I‟m telling you this. I should not be telling you this. “It was awful. not my mother. “Are you crazy? You‟re married and I‟m pouring out these feelings to you. and stroked my cheek with his left hand.Friends or Lovers I made an attempt at a smile. You‟re attracted to me. Big deal.” “Shit! I bet that cooled his ardour. People normally . And then he left. but it was not a very convincing one.
“I love it that you are attracted to me. “but I couldn‟t keep it up!” I shook my head as my smile returned.Rory Ridley-Duff make each other miserable because they can‟t express or share the simplest feelings. Why was he thanking me for sobbing all over him? “What for?” “For sharing this.” I said. “Why?” I asked with genuine curiosity.” I responded.” he said.” He paused. “I feel a bit better.” he finally said. He was quiet for a while and just rocked me in his arms. There are only sexual relationships where they agree not to have sex. didn‟t it?” “More than you‟ll ever know. “Somebody once said to me that there is no such thing as a non-sexual relationship between a man and a woman. How did he make this happen? How did he take my troubles away at the very moment I felt more vulnerable than ever before? “I can‟t believe how close I feel to you.” he interjected.” I said.” “Thank you. “That took courage.” There was a prolonged silence during which neither of us dared to ask the question that was on both our minds. I was not sure where to go from here but it did not matter because he carried on talking. He was so strange. “I tried Mr Normal. “Because my fantasies will be much more exciting now!” I laughed again. It was my turn to break the silence. .” “You are really weird.
but on this occasion I let it pass.Friends or Lovers “And thank you. “Isn‟t that why people go to work?” he asked. Perhaps you‟ve already met him?” he suggested. yes. “Oh. “And you know that they are happy and committed?” “Well no. “You‟re welcome. Take an interest. where will you find Mr Right?” His question was rhetorical. “I don‟t think people react well to women in positions of authority having sexual relationships at work. “If not at work. “You don‟t need to ask.” “Why on earth not?” he reacted. He asked the waitress for coffee then continued. then?” I wanted to say I‟d found one. All you need to do is get the person you are interested in talking about their life.” I answered.” he responded. “What do you mean?” “Why is work any different from anywhere else?” “It‟s a place of work. So long as you know where to look. “Find out. I could not think of any good prospects at work that were not already in relationships and said so. but I knew that it was not the right thing to say.” I said at last.” I said. “Where?” I queried. “Have you looked at work?” he asked. I was not about to start another debate.” I was about to say that I thought he must be joking. I don‟t.” . “I can hardly ask them. surely?” “Employerspeak!” he laughed. “Where are we going to find you a good man. “Are there any left?” I asked.
risk more. At the door. but I knew he needed to get back home to his family. and share the best of myself. then returned to the car and gave me a salute as he drove off. In the movies we might have kissed. I‟ve been more distraught today than I can ever remember. a warmth so spiritual that I can feel my humanity light up. to live more. but I just knew that we would not. Is this. but inside I now feel like I‟m walking on water.Rory Ridley-Duff We drank the last of our coffee and I paid the bill. He‟d given up a whole Saturday for me and it was important that I should not intrude further on his time. I wonder. how people feel when they first experience the deepest kind of love? . Then. he hugged me. This is not like the butterflies of teenage love. pecked me on the cheek. I wanted him to come in. he drove me back to my house and walked me to the door. I find it difficult to describe how I feel now. but a tingling feeling burrowing into the darkest caverns of my soul. He makes me want to be a better person.
Even Mike had admitted to me that he‟d flirted with her. “What about him?” “He was quite cagey when the others were talking.Friends or Lovers Chapter 18 Due to a lot of demands on my time. . If you ask me. According to them. “Then there‟s this Nathan!” Phil said. Nathan was a lad in his mid-twenties and the general consensus was that she had a crush on him. Most of his team said that he was very gentlemanly. the relationship between Elona and Nathan is connected to all of this somehow. Phil was first to update me. He did not volunteer anything and I got the feeling that the whole conversation made him uncomfortable.” “D‟you think I should talk to him?” I asked. Phil thought this was more to bond with his mates than to pursue Elona. “Well. I was perplexed by this. I don‟t understand how Mike fits in – maybe he got jealous or something – but I feel there must be a connection somewhere. Elona was pretty off-hand with all of them except one. “They are surprised that she accused Mike. particularly Elona. He had been diligently taking lunch with Elona‟s team and learned that a number of the men enjoyed teasing her and flirting with her. What about Mike and Sally?” I enquired.” “Okay. when I got to work the weekend was purged from my mind. Nathan himself was not that interested although he did join in some of the flirting. It did not seem to fit. I nodded for Phil to continue. He was careful how he behaved and spoke around everyone.
I promptly went to WH Smith and bought the book.” I had to set this to one side for the moment. so I signed off a purchase order for 30 days consultancy and left her to get on with it. John had suggested I look for a partner at work for two reasons. The marketing manager. who would have thought this? To think that hoards of women at . Secondly.” I was puzzled too. “Okay. Perhaps it is time for another chat with Elona. why would she want to keep working with him? It doesn‟t make sense. I found the statistics both staggering and appalling. We seem to be getting closer. I thought back to my weekend conversation. but there was nothing to be gained by discussing it now. Then I‟ll speak to Nathan. Well done. She said that she had worked with a consultant several times and wanted to bring him in again. most people meet their marriage partner in a workplace setting.Rory Ridley-Duff “Yeah. As I was up to my eye-balls helping Dave bring on board some new inventors. I told him the second one must be rubbish. Sure enough he was right. In this modern age. I was keen to off-load this. He did live with her for a while. Jo. I was right about that. She‟s one of the people who transferred with him to the new team. after 40 years of gender equality. Nobody is completely sure why they are so close. Firstly. If they‟d had an affair and split up. I could not see any reason to object. I‟ll have a word with Dave. but they did live together for a few months. he‟s back with his wife. but he provided me with a source. It all sounds kind of bizarre. had enlisted Mike‟s support to get his team some training in consumer behaviour. But they don‟t live together now. he claimed that nearly half of all married women chose their job in order to find a partner.
Standard Terms?” I asked.” said Dave. I wondered. but Brian will be getting 25%” “Is he worth it?” I asked.” I‟d never pictured Dave as someone with either the inclination or ability to appreciate cutlery and kitchenware. Sorry I didn‟t ask you beforehand. But a good find. was searching for a husband in our workplace? * * * “Come in Penny. Brian Thwaite from Birmingham.” I commented.” He gave me an odd look. “We‟ll see in due course. He also wants help recruiting marketing support staff and I said we‟d be able to help. I did my best to ignore it and returned to the issue at hand. “Rare that?” “Yes. and Claire Nunn from Glasgow. They manufacture through companies in Sheffield. “Careful. I‟ve got Clive Preston coming over from London. Who. She‟s ready for exposure and now has a large portfolio. “your wife will be asking for freebies.” “A woman?” I remarked.Friends or Lovers work were actively looking for husbands. She‟s a remarkable designer and has assembled a small team of engineers to make customised kitchenware. I‟m sure you‟d be impressed. We are poaching him away from his current distributor so I had to offer a bit extra. “For Claire and Clive yes. “Okay. So what needs doing today?” I asked. Is that okay?” . The thought actually annoyed me. “Hi. “We need to draw up three contracts.
he touched my arm to stop me. “my wife doesn‟t buy stuff for the house any more. “…. I made his request sound like an imposition. Lots of rumours flying about. I imagine.” I insisted..” I said. most people just think they had a fling – that they moved into a flat together and that it didn‟t work out so he left.” “Come on.” It was not often that Dave ever talked about anything outside work and it took me a bit by surprise. “By the way. one of the local sales reps. Spill it. “She‟s…. “I‟ll see what I can do…. “I heard they shared a flat for a while. He really could look quite cute at times.” “I‟m sorry to hear that. Do you know anything about that?” Dave pondered and raised his eyebrows.” Something in his tone suggested that he had something else to add. Dave.” As I made to go. but I did not mind. just tittle tattle. I confirmed the contract details with him one last time and then remembered that I wanted to ask him about Mike and Sally. “And?” I asked with an expectant look. He looked hesitant.. opened his palms and shrugged his shoulders. I hope she gets better soon. “There is something else.Rory Ridley-Duff He gave me one of his hopeful looks. I used to get on well with one of Sally‟s colleagues and it seems that she moved in with him and .” “Why‟s that?” I asked. “Well.” he added..not well. “I‟ve been putting together a picture of our sales manager friend and it seems that he has a mystery relationship with Sally.and I don‟t believe that.
“How does this link to Elona?” he finally asked. I‟m meeting Elona in a few minutes. I thought. What he does in his own time is really not our business. “No. What is it with you and him?” I enquired. “They still get on well. of course. Not sure what happened after that – all I know is that his personal life got into a real mess for a while. “Not sure.” He paused for a moment as pieces of the jigsaw were reassembled in his head.” I said. then Nathan.” “He‟s back with his wife now. I think Sally had some domestic crisis and Mike offered her a way out. and then carried on. Then Mike joined her. “Interesting.” Dave paused for a smirk. That‟s not the sort of thing that she would do if she was having an affair him. “Maybe. “Apparently not.” . She asked to carry on working with him recently when he moved jobs. I think we‟ll get to the bottom of this soon.” he remarked.” I said. Unless the affair came later. I just think that whenever people let their personal and professional lives get confused things can become very messy. “He should‟ve left well alone. I think. “Oh. it caused no end of problems in his marriage and Sally had to move out.Friends or Lovers his wife.” “Feathering two nests. Not sure. I‟m not a rumourmonger.” My sentiment entirely. Anyway. I think. I‟ve no strong feelings. Should find out soon. Bet Sally was pissed when he went back. “Really?” he said with surprise. you think?” I sensed that there was no love lost between Dave and Mike.
When you have a complete picture we can discuss how to bust up this secret network. . With Dave‟s support.” I had not realised before how similar Dave and I were in our outlook but it pleased me that we shared this point of view. Keep me posted. I thanked him and returned to my department to meet Elona.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay. I felt ready to get to the bottom of things and achieve closure.
“If you want him to stay. There‟s no need to worry. As Phil left the room. “Elona. Although Elona had declined the tea. He put one cup on my desk.” I said as I welcomed Elona into my office. she immediately . keeping the other for himself. I got up from my chair and sat beside her. but I decided to ask Phil to make one for me anyway. “Don‟t worry. is there anything you want to share with me privately?” She glanced at me and shook her head quickly in denial. Phil entered the room with two cups of tea and a glass of water. Before Phil comes back. “Do you mind if Phil sits in on this one?” Elona looked around the room and rubbed her ear. She would not look at me and her hands were clasped together on her knees. as I put my hand on her shoulder.” Despite my calm and sympathetic words I detected an increase in her nervousness. She lifted her hand to decline the offer. I guess that‟s okay with me. This is just a quiet chat to establish what has been going on. She looked unsure but answered positively. “Can I offer you a cup of tea?” I asked. There!” I said.Friends or Lovers Chapter 19 “Come in. It would give me a moment to put Elona at her ease. “Elona. so I‟d like him here. Phil‟s been following up on some of your concerns and we want to discuss a few things with you. come in.” “Thanks. He knows more about this situation than I do.” Elona shuffled in her seat and looked uncomfortable.
I looked squarely at her. I tried to calm the atmosphere further. As she put the glass down. “As I was saying earlier. If you like Nathan‟s attention. Phil‟s talked to others in your team and they admit they behaved inappropriately to you. “Elona. It is alright. Elona. and she looked a little more relaxed. “Elona. We just need to understand whether there is any link between this and the incident with Mike? Is there?” .” She looked down at the table in front of her. Elona immediately went bright red and got extremely agitated. love. gave you some attention and that you did not seem to mind. “There is one thing. I‟ll be talking to them in due course. “Well. you ignored them. saying nothing.” I said reassuringly.” I began. the lads in the team said that one of them.” Elona seemed to relax when I told her this. “What they say is that they flirted with you. Nobody is judging you.Rory Ridley-Duff picked up the glass of water and drank half of it. nobody minds. “Thanks for coming in again. Phil chipped in too.” At the mention of Nathan‟s name. but clearly this was a sensitive matter and she was deeply embarrassed. and they stopped. Would you agree with that?” Elona said nothing but nodded her agreement.” “What‟s that?” she asked. we are grateful that you made a complaint and raised some important issues. she summoned up a slight smile and I felt ready to begin. called Nathan. however. “Thanks for that. finally finding her voice.
” I said. Phil got up to follow her. “No! No! No! I don‟t want to talk to anyone about any of this. Her shaking got more acute and suddenly she exploded.” At this. “Now?” he asked. “Something about Nathan?” Phil asked. Leave me alone!” She got up and ran out of the room in tears. Elona looked up at me and her mouth dropped open. She was clearly fighting back tears but to my surprise she started to nod. “Mike won‟t speak about it without your permission. She nodded again. but I shot him a look that he should let her go. . “Yes? You did confide in Mike?” She nodded again. her face went red again and her eyes filled with moisture. It fuelled my desire to find out more. “Mike mentioned that you confided some information in him.Friends or Lovers Elona seemed to be petrified by this suggestion and started to shake.” “Fuck!” offered Phil. “Go get Nathan!” I commanded Phil. I remembered that Mike said he would talk if Elona gave her permission. That‟s for sure!” I felt angry that Elona was still so distressed. “Let her calm down. He has refused to talk about it because he gave you his word that he wouldn‟t. Would you give your permission?” At this suggestion. “Some serious shit has happened to her. “Not now. We can always go and see her later. I tried a new tack.
” Nathan held my gaze and did not flinch for even a fraction of a second.” He sat down. “Tell me what happened. “Nathan. looking as puzzled as he was concerned. Take a seat. I started to get angry again.” he asked. Can you explain?” Nathan seemed to go completely white and started reeling in his chair. “Look at me!” Nathan looked pale and distressed but finally looked me in the eye. As I was running over all these things in my mind. I was in no mood to be pushed around any more. “Fuck!” he said as his eyes seemed to look everywhere in the room except at Phil or myself. “I‟ve just had Elona in here and clearly something has happened between you and her.Rory Ridley-Duff “Yes! Now!” I said raising my voice. What had Nathan done to her? Had he raped her? Had she confided this in Mike? Had Mike done nothing? Had Mike tried to take advantage? Why was she later upset with Mike and not Nathan? None of this seemed to make any sense. But no more words came forth. “I would like to leave. “Nothing. Come on in. She is extremely distressed. please. . “Nathan.” “What has Elona said?” he asked. Phil returned with suspect in hand. My mind was spinning again. That is why I am asking you.” I said. Phil held up both his hands as if to hold me at bay and quietly made his way out of the room.
Nathan. “I would like to leave. “Nathan. still calm and unflinching. but he will not talk either. You can either give me an account of your behaviour or I‟ll call a disciplinary hearing.” he added. You can give a full account to your line manager and myself. gave me a look of absolute disgust. who was sitting in the corner. but my anger got the better of me and I let rip. Do you understand?” “I would like to leave. “If you use that type of language once more. “No!” I shouted.” Phil looked as white as a sheet.” he asked again. “You tell me what happened. the whites of my teeth were showing too. “You don‟t have a fucking clue. She confided something to Mike. “About what?” I fired back. Phil. do you?” Nathan started. . That did not satisfy me. With Phil in the room I felt a bit bolder. “A fucking clue about anything…. I‟ll suspend you here and now. or I will have to take this to your line manager first thing in the morning. however.” I said. “Let me be completely open with you…. Phil was gently moving his head from side to side to indicate „no‟.” he repeated without showing any anger. please. What on earth was going on here? Nathan kept looking at me and was unmoved. Someone in Elona‟s team has made a sexual advance. please.. What is it to be?” I imagine that while I said this. seemed to get agitated and looked at me and if to indicate that he should be allowed to go.Friends or Lovers Phil.” I saw Nathan‟s lips go tight and the whites of his teeth show. in the corner. She is seriously distressed and will not talk. “We have a situation here. was looking down at the floor as if he could not bear to watch what was happening.
You may go. I imagine she tried to confide this in Mike.” Holding my gaze. “Okay. He must have suggested they go out for a drink and then said something that upset her. she tried to confide in Mike and he tried to handle it „within the team‟. then dumped her. I felt on a roll. “Is Mike still in the building?” Phil looked unsure. I held myself together and summoned Phil over. Shaken as I was. Whatever he said made Elona mad. Nathan must have made a pass at Elona. Then again. Still looking shaken himself. but he was too intimidated. What a bloody amateur. he slowly left the room with hatred burning in his eyes. what if Elona did want Nathan to make a pass? Perhaps he seduced her. I was glad that Phil was in the room. Do not take no for an answer. Idiot. I want you to get Mike and bring him here immediately. “Right.” Phil nodded. you have made your choice. Maybe she didn‟t reciprocate and got upset. I would like you here at 10am tomorrow morning with your line manager. as if everything was coming together. perhaps he would have suggested that I sleep on this. Phil nodded a „yes‟. The situation felt like it was getting out of control. Is that clear?” Phil obediently did as I asked while I made myself another cup of tea. I could feel them pierce me right through.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay. This kind of . Whichever is true. who seemed taken aback at this question. “Is Mike still in the building?” “Sorry?” asked Phil. but I had one more card to play. go immediately to Nathan‟s manager and inform him of the meeting at 10am. If he‟d been more experienced. Firstly.
“I told you to back off this. It has come to light that there is a relationship problem between Elona and Nathan and that she reported this to you. Phil returned with Mike. . He looked me calmly in the eye. always the man who gets away with it. and then he rubbed his cheek. “Okay. “So where d‟you want to start?” he asked. “I‟m not surprised. She got so upset that she left the room in tears. Mike. She won‟t talk about it. Sit down and let‟s talk about this. seemed to slow down and take this in. He looked away as he thought for a moment. “What the hell is this? I was in a meeting with my team and Phil tells me that you have an emergency.” Mike raised his hands and grabbed his head in despair. surprisingly. Always the woman who gets hurt. What is so urgent it cannot wait until morning?” “Sit down. “Yes. Mike. What on earth are you doing?” “Don‟t piss me around. I want to know what she said and how you handled it. who stormed into my office with an irritated look on his face. okay.” he finally said.Friends or Lovers stuff really makes my blood boil.” Phil had again retreated to the corner of the room and was looking uncomfortable.” he said ushering me into my chair with his open palm. “What‟s the relationship problem between Elona and Nathan?” I asked. “Why?” I asked. “Have you talked to Elona?” he responded.” Mike.
And what about Nathan? What about me? Are you concerned about us too?” “What? What on earth are you going on about?” If looks could have killed. I can see that alright.Rory Ridley-Duff “Because this situation is probably the most upsetting thing that has ever happened to her. “She‟s distressed. “Yes. “I did and she confirmed that she had confided in you. I cannot help her unless I understand the cause of the distress. “There may have been a breach of the law and I have a duty of care towards her. “Did you ask her if she‟d mind me talking?” he asked. “Did you ask her if she was okay about you talking to me?” he repeated. then Mike would have been dead on the floor in an instant.” I responded keeping my calm. I‟m trying to help her. “How dare you! If people told me what the fuck is going on then we could sort this mess out.” I confessed. I began to wonder who was conducting this enquiry.” I replied.” “A duty of care! You call this a duty of care?” he asked accusingly. She is of great concern to you. “They why don‟t you respect her wishes?” he asked.” “Are you going to tell me about it?” I asked again. “Did it ever occur to you this witch-hunt is the cause of her distress?” His words inflamed me. . but she did not answer. Why can‟t you see that?” “Oh. him or me.
Mike snapped and shouted at me in a way that reverberated in the marrow of my bones. my being a woman has nothing to do with it……. not for one second!” . I resented him asking all the questions. He seemed to think that I don‟t know what I‟m talking about.” Suddenly. “You stupid woman!” I was bright red with anger and started to defend myself. She is the one who is distressed and somewhere in this heap of shit Nathan or you did something to cause that distress. pointed an accusing finger at me and carried on. “He would not talk. “Because he‟s right. One of you is going to answer for Elona‟s distress. “You sexist bastard…. Did it ever occur to you that it might be Elona who made a pass at Nathan? Did it ever occur to you that Nathan was the one receiving unwanted attention? Did it ever occur to you that Elona might have made accusations because she felt rejected and hurt? No. but I did not know how to respond.” “And what did Nathan tell you?” he asked.Friends or Lovers “I‟m asking you why you only seem concerned to protect Elona?” “You arrogant bastard. however.” Mike gave a small laugh. You are not going to wriggle out of this.” “You think you are so fucking clever! Well.” Mike. not this time. “What‟s so funny?” I said angrily. One of you is going to answer for what happened. “It‟s got everything to do with it..
It took me a full 10 minutes to calm down and regain my composure. He came over slowly looking as shaken and as shocked as me. during which time Phil remained seated. “Mike‟s an awkward bugger.” Phil looked at me and nodded slowly. He found it difficult to look at me. There have only been a few occasions in my life when I have been completely lost for words. This time. “What a mess. What a total fucking mess! Call Mike and tell him that I want him back here at 10am tomorrow. What had just happened? I looked up at Phil and beckoned him over to my desk. . Penny. “Tell me. “have you ever made a pass at a man?” Then he calmly walked out of the room. and his hands fidgeted on his knees. His mouth opened several times without any words coming out. I was so shocked that I did not know what to say. With his eyes fixed on the desk.” I asked. “Sit down. I looked at the cold cup of tea on my desk and gave a short laugh. “Tell me honestly. Mike got ready to speak again. he eventually ventured an opinion. After a moment.” I said.” he said as he fixed his gaze on me.Rory Ridley-Duff He paused for a moment and seemed to calm down. his voice was much calmer but the words cut into me and I felt a shiver run through my body. isn‟t he?” I grabbed my head with both hands. This was one of them. Phil. “What d‟you think of what he just said?” Phil looked uncomfortable.
He argued that science was always oriented towards a political goal. my father was quite different. He was an unusual man. We don‟t study a subject because it is intrinsically interesting – if that were true then everybody would be interested in the same things. he had a strong spiritual side that. As such. His words echoed in my head. my father told me that my instincts and emotions were my greatest assets. were doing themselves a disservice when they argued that emotion had no place in science. We study something because it is interesting to us. “When we are interested in something. he would say. Together we had many conversations in which we traced my interest back to an emotional experience or aspiration. he always pressed me to talk about the underlying reason for my interest in something. It is interesting to us because it is meaningful. it is because it moves us emotionally.Friends or Lovers Chapter 20 When I was young. Emotion. Penny. . including a view that science was rarely scientific. even if that goal was a modest one such as building the scientist‟s reputation. he argued. if not religious. put great stock in objectivity and science. Scientists. particularly men. He would ask me why I enjoyed learning some things but not others. Intertwined in our deliberations. While many people. is the key to a deeper understanding. I think it was his career inside the civil service that inclined him towards a political way of thinking. was imbued with deeply human values. He would ask me why I liked some people and not others.
my father was. Had I hurt him and he was now trying to get back at me? My emotions did not settle and Mike‟s words kept echoing in my head. I disliked her for that – she seemed to deliberately misunderstand him . more humane than anyone else I‟ve met. on the other hand.Rory Ridley-Duff “Don‟t you find it strange when people talk about being motivated? They talk as if the thing that motivates them is outside themselves. my love for him grew with the conviction that there was wisdom in his words. We may find ourselves learning new skills. and is. Why does this situation with Elona and Mike make me so angry? Why does Mike rub me up the wrong way? What is the deeper truth here? Is my past coming back to haunt me? My father would say that if I want to hurt someone it is because they have hurt me. To me. So strange. would often walk out of the room and leave us to it. studying new things in order to impress them. We open our mind to their views. become more willing to learn things they are interested in. “Just look at what we do when we desire someone‟s attention. And the reverse! What monsters we can be when we don‟t want a relationship. My mother. Emotion is what drives us! When people say we should not let emotion affect our judgement they forget that it‟s emotion that inclines us to make a judgement in the first place. Our behaviour and feelings can change dramatically.” Despite his slightly pompous manner. We‟re at our most cruel when trying to get people out of our lives. . Has Mike hurt me? Maybe it was the other way around. more willing to change our own values.and this was one of the reasons she and I argued throughout my teens. She said my father talked twaddle about sex.
I could not make the pieces fit the puzzle. I felt used by men. At first I was flattered. not those that chose me. I may have the veneer of confidence. My father helped me look at these as learning experiences. And yet. I felt. I empathise with her. . she was quiet and scared. and finally annoying. I decided that I‟d never again be a shrinking violet. I fell apart and he quickly left me for someone else. I would make up my own. Elona would not make up an accusation like this. Am I reacting to my own past? I can feel Elona‟s hurt. In my first year at university. would she? I couldn‟t buy Mike‟s view that Elona was the protagonist here. I had no feelings about him except as yet another person who was adding to Elona‟s distress. but later he cheated on me and I was crushed. It was only the previous day that I had learned there was a Nathan at all.Friends or Lovers “Did it ever occur to you that Nathan was the one who was receiving unwanted attention?” Had I considered this? It was an unfair question. It was exciting. So. We either buckle under the weight or kick back. but underneath I understand how it feels to be crushed by the weight of male attention. even as I had these thoughts. I would have the men I chose. my emotions kept on churning. Whenever I met her. Would a person like that make a move on Nathan? I did not see how it was possible. She was as introverted as any person I had ever met. then confusing. It made no sense. I committed to one lad. I would no longer wait for a man to make up my mind. I tossed and turned throughout the night and in every configuration. Eventually.
I realised that I was crossing another line and inviting a new type of relationship. John. I was a bit irritated by his use of the word „girl‟. Up until this point. if you don‟t mind. I can see why young women might be attracted to him. no!” I laughed. Encountering him up close was disturbing me. Penny. We‟d been intimate in a personal way. Maybe he could help. “Are you still troubled by the weekend?” The weekend? That seemed like a lifetime ago.” I replied. Both mentally and physically. All the other women seem to like Mike. but I let it pass. “Good lord. “Hi.Rory Ridley-Duff Is my past affecting me now? Can I really understand her? For the first time I am having real doubts. As if by instinct. “That‟s my girl” he responded.” he said brightly as he answered the phone. he immediately sensed concern in my voice. “Hi. He might have some words of wisdom for me so I called him. I thought of John. That situation at work is spiralling out of control. He is a good-looking man. the burden of the last few hours seemed to lift instantly. . I find it very confusing and thought……” I hesitated for a moment. It is quite possible that Elona likes him more than she‟s saying. “I just thought I‟d pick your brains. Do I understand what she is going through? I thought of Mike. “What‟s up?” he asked. but never professionally. I had never intruded into his professional world to benefit my own. He‟s strong too. Even at his age. As I did so. This was something new.
But the strangest thing is that the boss is now saying that she had a crush on the lad. “Yes. They initiate with non-verbal stuff that induces the man to talk to her. “Involved in what way?” John enquired. “Sure. why not?” he answered without a moment‟s hesitation. When it works everyone is happy. She confided something to her boss about this lad. Has anything changed?” he asked. but later she accused the boss of inappropriate behaviour. In this world. “Most relationships are started by women in very subtle ways. It seems there is another young lad involved and that she and this other lad somehow got „involved‟ with each other.” “Yes. It is fallacy that men always pursue and women always resist. How likely is that?” I asked this as a rhetorical question. and that the situation was caused by her giving him too much attention.” As I said the word „involved‟ I cringed. but there it was tripping out of my lips before I could stop it.Friends or Lovers “…. it is more like a ritual series of moves that women and men make in turn. but John took it literally and gave me a most peculiar answer. “Perhaps. Sure I do.” I chose my words carefully. When it .I thought that maybe we could discuss it a bit more and you could guide me a bit. and not seeking a fatherly opinion so much as a professional dialogue.” I said. “Hmmm! This does sound a bit more complicated than you first thought. “That‟s not clear. “Do you remember that I mentioned someone who had been moved to a new job because he had distressed a young woman in his department?” I asked. I was not an amateur.
Men who don‟t pay attention to a . This is true in most cultures. but most don‟t. Many won‟t – they‟ll get scared.Rory Ridley-Duff doesn‟t things can turn quite nasty. don‟t you think?” “If that is what you believe. most of men‟s are verbal – at least initially. it will look that way. I‟d studied psychology and this was the opposite of what I had learnt. if an unattractive woman signals in a similar way. feeling a little more relaxed.. Men are always pursuing and pestering women.” “Do men signal?” I asked. providing they can overcome their own nerves. Men respond. I assure you that it‟s not the case. Others jump in with both feet at the first opportunity. Most of women‟s behaviours are non-verbal.” I paused for a moment unsure what to say next. “So you are saying this is only true for some people?” I asked. These are generalisations. “Men will respond quickly if an attractive woman signals. He started to give me to fuller explanation. Men comfort their own egos by thinking they‟ve initiated the relationship. “Successful ones do. “Well…. she may be ignored both verbally and nonverbally. I suppose it is. Close observation. But. Women signal. Men tend to think they are making the first move but often they are responding to a non-verbal cue. I was puzzled by this. shows women select the man they want and do everything they can to ensure he notices them so that he starts a conversation. There are women who take verbal initiatives but generally it is the other way around. Women comfort their own egos by thinking they have been singled out by an attractive man. “Is that a surprise. particularly if one party feels led on and then humiliated. Penny?” he asked. however.yes.
increase their eye contact. such as prolonged eye contact. he nods. she links his arm. Interesting as this was. This is often unconscious. If she likes him enough. she nods. she whispers in his ear. talk about common interests. he lifts a glass. I‟ve never met them and different couples behave differently. Then you get a kind of game that signals mutual interest. positive body movements and such like. but in the trade it is called „synchronisation‟ or „rapport building‟. start sharing opinions. “I don‟t know the specifics. she‟ll eventually make a move that he cannot ignore. Not everyone agrees about the meaning of this.” “So this is unlikely?” I confirmed. I felt a need to direct the discussion.Friends or Lovers woman‟s signals will probably end up embarrassing themselves. They‟ll exchange personal information. just gut feeling stuff. otherwise they‟ll ignore the signals. I‟m giving you behaviour patterns. but people have been able to observe it. tell stories. he laughs and says something back. we are talking probabilities. he puts it around her. In these early exchanges. turn towards each other. “Well. start touching each other. Men who get a signal will usually proceed fairly gently at first to see whether they continue to get signals. All I can say is that it is possible but against the norm.” I stifled a laugh. laughter. behaviour moves through a series of stages. “Is it likely she made a pass at him?” I asked. If there is a mutual attraction. a woman‟s behaviour generally encourages the man to talk more.” . She lifts a glass. You‟ll know if this is happening in a group because a pair seem to be ignoring everyone else. They‟ll only carry on if they are interested.
it will be easier to talk next week. “….” I could hear an urgency in his voice. “Penny. “Errr….” he said.can you let me get my diary?” I asked to buy myself a moment. Sort of…” he responded. she‟ll feel rejected and may do something to hurt his feelings. What is going on here? I wondered. . “Sure.Rory Ridley-Duff He paused for a second before making one final comment. “Um. “Only kidding!” I added. Are you free?” I could hear other voices in the background and realised that someone in the house was calling to him. I was still contemplating when he started to talk again. I decided to ask directly. He hesitated for a moment. She‟ll give him an emotional slap. but would you like to meet up next week to chat about it? You can give me specifics. so my defences were immediately triggered. It was unlike John to cut short any conversation. I‟m away in the Lakes this weekend. but I detected a coolness in his tone.” he added with a light-hearted chuckle. It is nothing special for them. There was a moment of awkward silence as I contemplated my last comment. We could meet in the morning if you are free. “Is there something you need to do?” I asked. I‟m in Leamington next Wednesday afternoon and all Thursday. It really pissed me off that someone else only had to shout and he wanted to cut off our conversation. Men are routinely humiliated. “If he doesn‟t respond. “No less than they deserve!” I replied quickly.
“…. making him wait a bit longer. If Nathan had started flirting.” He rang off before saying goodbye..Friends or Lovers “Let me see….maybe. No. I‟ll e-mail you with a time and see you then. Still. Phil told me that all the lads had flirted with her. He confirmed that it was unlikely Elona would have made the sexual advance. I was not impressed. I wondered if he resented me asking him for a professional opinion.. “I can fit you in on Wednesday morning. but could have done so if Nathan had not been responding to her. No. yes!” I finally said.” “Okay.” I said. I think I have enough here to read the riot act to Nathan tomorrow if I don‟t get answers. his comments were interesting and useful. I could not understand why he had been curt with me. The conservation was not as friendly or as pleasant as I had come to expect.ah……yes…. No. . from what John says. it is unlikely that Elona would have felt any need to make an advance..
Big news. There is not much to do. He‟s on his back with a rattle in his hand. I just can‟t fathom it out. Every time she does something grown up like this it makes me feel a little bit older. along with holders for utensils and . put the few plates I‟ve used in the dishwasher wondering just how lazy I can be. feet in the air.” she said trying to contain guffaws. This is just brill! I wish you could see this. has progressed from sitting up to rolling around. she roars with laughter as he manages to shift his weight again and roll onto his back. “He‟s on his back. She called me a few nights ago almost wetting herself with laughter. “I just wish you could see him. Still. I still can‟t get used to being an aunty. but if another sprog is going to come along I guess I‟ll just have to accept it fully. she‟s happy and that‟s what matters. I tidy up the house. cooing and laughing. Come on baby. When I go around to Carole‟s.” Try as I might to understand how watching a baby roll over and over can make her giggle like a schoolgirl. She says she has news. I imagine that she‟s pregnant again and wants to celebrate in style.” I dutifully command. “Well.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 21 My sister has just called. Carole‟s boy. do your stuff!” As I wait. I tidy round the kitchen. Young Toby. Wait………here he goes. trying to sound enthusiastic. it always looks like a bomb has hit it. “Tell me what you see…. My windowsill is adorned with an assortment of stones and rocks that I‟ve picked up over the years. Over onto his front now. While I wait for her to come around.
I flick the switch on the kettle and amble back into the living room. “Try a bit higher.” she says. “The door‟s open….” And in she walks looking groomed and beaming. “Don‟t tell me you‟ve had these done?” “Better than that!” she jokes and with one swift move she places her left hand on top of my right hand. the front doorbell rings. “Come on in!” I shout. I look carefully. Just as the boredom is banished. “See anything now?” she asks. . “Has someone given you a happy pill?” I ask “No need. Her hand is different.Friends or Lovers instruments for practising my Nigella Lawson recipes. I look her up and down to try to understand what is different. “All right you. I walk right up to her and put my hand on her stomach. I think. playing with me. It is firm and flat. I cannot put my finger on it but something has definitely changed in her appearance. “Am I getting warm?” I ask. I give her a puzzled look and start to move my hand upwards. What is it?” “Keep looking. Her breasts look quite firm today so I cup one in each hand. with her smile getting wider all the time. Nothing special there.” she says. I think. Decadence! Just what the moment needs and I rustle around the cupboard seeing if I have the ingredients for a calorie busting meal. I continue tracing a line from the elbow to her hand. tracing a line from her shoulder to her elbow. She smiles. Absolutely no sign of a baby there.” she says mysteriously.
” “I don‟t know what to say.Rory Ridley-Duff As I look at the image before me. Carole!” I still felt in shock.” “Some present!” I shouted and suddenly the tears were there. How many women have ever been asked that question?” “‟Yes‟ will do nicely. It is so hard to describe how I‟m feeling. “Careful sis‟. of course. It isn‟t happiness. I don‟t know why I was crying but the drops started to roll down my face as I grabbed her with both my arms and squeezed her as if my life depended on it. “July 31st?” “Oh. what she has been dreaming of for the last few years. “I want to make it to the alter without crushed ribs. I could feel the moisture start to fill my eyes. What do you say when your younger sister displays a dazzling engagement ring and asks you to be her „best woman‟? I pulled her to me and held her tight. “Be my „best woman‟?” she asked. He came home and told me that he‟d got another promotion and had a present for me. I want a „best woman‟!” I just looked at her unsure what to say. “Your what?” “My „best woman‟. I took a step back and held both her arms. “When?” was the only word that came out. but now the moment is .” I just closed my eyes and nodded. The tears just kept rolling down my cheeks. My mouth dropped open and I barely heard myself speak as a wave of emotion moved through my neck and my head started to tingle.” she gasped. one with each hand. It is. I felt something in my sides coarse up through my body. “When did he ask?” “Last night.
“Sis‟? Are you alright?” “I feel a bit woozy…. Of course. .Friends or Lovers here. “What‟s happened?” “You think I know?” I ask. Put your arm around me!” She levers me towards the sofa and finally I think I can make it to my feet. “If I knew my news would have this effect on you. We never took it in turns. I did not expect her to marry before me. concerned. For a few moments. “Jeez sis‟. I feel cold and sweaty. I would have got you to sit down first…. We would write all the words of the ceremony out and act the whole thing for hours and hours.” And then it happened. My little sister is getting married. I feel worried..!” Instead of feeling wild with excitement and happiness. My legs just gave way as if they simply could not hold me up any more.” says Carole almost falling to the floor with me. we would play „weddings‟ and I was always the bride and she the bridesmaid. “Of course. “I never thought of you as heavy!” she joked as she hauls me up. My little sister is getting married. but I realise that I did not expect to feel like this. like the room is spinning. and I tumbled onto the floor and nearly hit my head on the table. “Here. shocked – every emotion I have in me just crashes down and I feel giddy with the intensity of it all. When we were young. ecstatic. My little sister. I can‟t explain why. I am pleased for her. she was always the bridesmaid and I was the bride. I can‟t get up.” I manage to get out before I completely give the game away.
” “Okay sis‟ – lead the way!” and with that remark we went to the pub. got thrown out when we started to sing rude songs and staggered back to my place. It pains me to say it. I feel like taking a dagger and stabbing myself for not thinking of her. but she is the mature one. She is my big sister. talk dirty and then……. How can I possibly tell her? Whatever she was expecting it was not this. my confidence returning. totally useless. We flopped on my bed in fits of giggles. totally old. “Right!” I shout. As I go to get my coat. not being able to feel the excitement she feels. totally alone. not me. My little sister is getting married. I playfully punch her on the arm. But the truth is that my little sister‟s announcement makes me realise that I have not grown up yet. I quickly turn and give her a sly look.. When I hear her wicked suggestion the grin returns to my face. “You make us all laugh with a funny speech and then you get drunk and try to shag the „best man‟!” My moment of despair is over as quickly as it started.” “That‟s simple!” she says without a moment‟s hesitation. “Okay! Okay!” I say. She is not my little sister any more. . and yet I feel totally hollow inside. “I think I can manage that. get smashed.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked up at her and felt ashamed. How can I feel like this? I bury my head in my hands as more tears emerge. my lips part and my teeth are showing. “down the pub we go. A few seconds later.you tell me exactly what is expected of a „best woman‟…. for not thinking of how happy she must be feeling. This should be one the happiest moments in our life. but she took it in her stride. drank all evening.
Friends or Lovers “Do…. my words just will not come out properly. No. Be serious!” I demand as we lie there trying not to giggle. “I do!” she shouts hysterically. “Stop a moment. “Do you want to hear something funny? Do you want to know what I thought?” “Thought about what?” Carole asks. No!” I exclaim.do you….” “Tell me!” she asks. Carole dissolves into fits of giggles and starts kicking her feet in the air.” Laced with liquor. “Do you want to hear something funny?” she retorts busting her sides and unable to contain her hilarity.. come on! Spill it to sis‟” I tell her. “It‟s due in November and her name is going to be Penny Anne – after you and mum!” .” I laugh. “No. “I am!” she says. “Yeah.. “Thought your „big news‟ was going to be…. “I thought you were going to say that you were pregnant again.
but I thanked her and spent a few moments considering what to do next. I‟ll see if he‟s still here. Can I help you?” “Hello.” I replied. Is Mike there?” I asked. “Hello?” she said. I switched on my PC and opened the personnel database system and searched for their details. I think he‟s already gone. “He‟s already gone to work. “It‟s nothing really. “Leamington 397333. I called Mike‟s department and his colleague said that he had also not arrived at work yet. almost mocking. I . the woman returned to the phone.” There was a long pause and in the distance I thought I could hear some voices.” she said. I called Nathan first and heard an answer phone message. Can you get him to call me?” “Sure.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 22 My plans for Elona were thwarted the next morning. “Can I ask who is calling?” “My name is Penny – I‟m the Head of Personnel at IC. Next I called Mike‟s home number and a woman replied. Eventually.” I answered. Nathan phoned in sick. We‟ll have to rearrange. Can I take a message?” I thought for a moment because the issue was sensitive. “if I see him before you do. “I‟m still here.” The tone in her voice was strange. We had a disciplinary meeting this morning but Mike‟s not turned up for work. “Hang on a minute. I left a message asking him to call me. I had a full schedule until the end of the following week.
Hi John. I’m stopping overnight with friends so we could either have our meeting late morning or make an evening of it. I’ll save the silky black dress for another occasion (!!) you’ll just have to admire my power suit instead. Was I being too flirty? Hell. Penny xx I read over the message again. Phil agreed to inform all the parties concerned. I retrieved my e-mails and my mood improved when I received a note. I was to chaperone the young entrepreneur who would be speaking while Dave was acting as host. naughty. I checked my diary and found that I had to go to an evening event with Dave – a launch event for a new product.30am. I’d love to be seen with you. Still trying to corrupt my sweet innocence? Naughty. this was John and “flirt” was his middle name so I hit the [Send] . With a tinge of regret I declined John‟s offer of an evening meal.Friends or Lovers really wanted this resolved now and did not want it to drag on. and I felt my emotions stir a bit when I read his greeting. if you prefer. We found a slot free at 3pm the following Wednesday week – I would meet them after I‟d had lunch with John. I called Phil into my office and asked him to check later that day whether Nathan or Mike made it into work. Just to let you know that I’ll be arriving in Leamington about 10. but it will have to be in the morning as we arranged – although a lazy lunch is possible. Will it damage your street cred if you are seen out on the town with an oldie like me? I was glad that his sense of humour had returned. Hi sexy.
The evening event had two guest speakers . Meet you at 12. just been going through some Professional Development stuff. We can compare power suits. If my meeting goes well in the afternoon then I’ll be in Leamington quite a lot over the next 2 months and you can impress me with your silky attire . Do you know of any CIPD events coming up that we could attend to catch up on the latest issues? Dave I confirmed that I could meet him and asked Phil to call the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development to find out any events that would be running in Birmingham in the near future. It would run on 30th June and covered the latest legislative changes in our field.Rory Ridley-Duff button without further ado. Penny. I finished going through my emails and the last one was from Dave about the evening event.30pm at Bella Marie? John xx I loved flirting with him. Are you able to meet me in the morning so that I can try out my presentation on you? Also. Subject: Launch Event Pen. Fewer than five minutes had passed before I received his response. Lazy lunch it is. Both you and I need to consider this before our appraisal in July. He found an afternoon event with an optional evening dinner. He still had a way of making me feel special. Just finalising stuff for Wednesday. The issues with Nathan and Mike slipped from my mind as I contemplated the prospect of spending more time with John. I confirmed the time and place of our next lunch date and allowed myself a few minutes to bask in the warmth of feeling attractive and desirable.
I thought Dave would enjoy the first talk so I asked Phil to liase with him and book the overnight option for both of us. . For those attending the evening event. Given what was going on.Friends or Lovers scheduled – one giving a talk on entrepreneurial behaviour and the other called “Intimacy at Work”. there was an option to stay overnight in the hotel. Thankfully the day ended without further incident. the second of these really caught my attention.
” I smiled because it was unusual for him to call me. “Hi.” and with these words he pulled the handset from his ear and gave it a harsh look. “Wednesday. Phil. I mouthed to him „who is it?‟ but he shrugged his shoulders to indicate that he didn‟t know.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 23 On the Monday morning.” I say. sir! I‟ll see if I can find her. John.. “could you get that for me?” He picked up the receiver and redirected the call to his own phone.” “Well he doesn‟t sound very friendly to me. John!” I pointed out. “It‟s okay. He insists he must talk to you.” Phil said as he diverted the call to my phone. I got into work early and resumed work on the contracts for Dave. A few moments later I could hear him conversing in a slightly agitated way. “And a „good morning‟ to you too. “It‟s a man for you. “He‟s a friend. Around 9am.she‟s busy at the moment. He may be bold by e-mail but he rarely initiated phone conversations. I picked up the receiver. . the phone rang.” I shouted. “Who is it?” I asked out loud. “I‟m afraid she‟s……no she‟s…. Can you meet any earlier?” he asked without seeming to pause for breath. “Phil. Called John. “Please hang on a moment. Can you……?” It sounded as though someone was not letting him get a word in edgeways. Is everything okay?” I asked.
I‟ll tell you Wednesday.” “Hang on. trying to slow him down.” he repeated. he rang off. “Why not? The heavens haven‟t fallen down over the weekend have they? My sister‟s wedding hasn‟t suddenly been cancelled. Penny. I don‟t want to talk on the phone. He did not answer my question about his wife and I wondered whether something might have happened between them.” With that last comment. But .” “John? Has something happened to you?” I could feel concern creeping into my being.” “Your wife?” “Penny. hang on!” I say. Try not to worry. not on the phone. Penny. “Well.30 – we can talk over a coffee before lunch.” “That sounds fairly ominous! What do „we need to talk‟ about?” I said in an attempt to mock him slightly and lighten the mood. Can you meet any earlier on Wednesday?” he repeated.30. “Can‟t say. I‟ll see you at 11. “What is this all about?” “Can‟t say. I‟ll meet you at 11. That‟s good. a bit – I could bring it forward to 11. Whenever anybody says “try not to worry” it is sure to make you worry even more. “It‟s better to talk in person. not on the phone. It was unlike John to sound so agitated.30 if that helps. has it?” He completely ignored this piece of news and carried on. We need to talk. “No! Not me. Okay.” “Yes.Friends or Lovers “Sorry Penny! „Good morning‟ to you.
He‟s a pushy guy alright. He was just very insistent that he talk to you immediately.” .” I thought for a moment. What then? “Did he say anything to you?” I asked Phil. Very pushy guy.” In my head I added a few extra words that Phil did not hear. if you ask me. “About what?” “Did he say what he wanted to talk about?” “No. “Yeah. “That‟s what I love about him.Rory Ridley-Duff then I remembered that he said it was nothing to do with him.
“Of course! Is she not better?” Dave did not show any emotion. “Do you remember I said my wife was ill? I vaguely recollected him saying something. “Come on. Something on your mind?” I enquired. If there‟s something. “Do you have to rush off?” he asked. He ran through the section again until I gave him a thumbs up and we continued this process until late morning. “No. Dave.” I was beginning to get used to the idea that I was going to be an aunty twice over. looking straight into my eyes in a way that I‟d never seen before. He licked his lips and I could tell that he was slightly nervous so I walked up to him and touched his arm. Tell aunty Penny…. We don‟t do many major product launches so Dave was putting in extra effort. After working through the contracts. come on then. but I responded with more confidence than I felt.Friends or Lovers Chapter 24 I took the contracts around to Dave‟s office and he ran through his presentation. “Well. “Yeeaah!” he finally said slowly. It was almost like he was a blank. and for him to pause for any length of time before giving an answer was quite strange. you can tell me!” . we agreed a few minor changes for his afternoon meeting. I took notes and stopped him after each section to give him feedback. Dave is rarely hesitant. His belief in this entrepreneur and his innovations was high so he was making a career gamble by investing in a lavish public relations event.
I held his left arm in my right hand and then placed my left hand on his shoulder. She‟s not been well for a while. I was sad for the rest of the day. “Have you told anyone?” “No. “She‟s dying!” This news had a deep and lasting impact on me. Come here. Finally. He was in pain and I let go of his arms and put my hand on his cheek and stroked it. I took her into hospital this weekend because her headaches were so painful that she could not sleep. and she‟s been back and forth to the doctor. They‟ve done a scan and found a tumour. “Oh Dave! I‟m so sorry.” I put his head on my shoulder and my arms around him. he spoke. There was fear in them. and in the evening when I was on my own I felt acutely . As I held him I could feel his heart breaking and the gentle movement of someone crying. He didn‟t say anything either.” I‟d worked with Dave for 10 months and this was by far the most human moment that we had shared. I had never seen him like this before. just tilted his head until it rested on my hand and closed his eyes. He licked his lips again. Sometimes you work with a person for a while and simply do not realise the bonds that are forming.Rory Ridley-Duff He looked into my eyes again. It‟s advanced. They don‟t think she‟ll survive more than a few months. He turned slowly and left the room. You‟re the first person I‟ve told. Dave had a lot of energy but deep down he was a gentle soul. “Family? Have you told them?” “I‟ll do that later today. We stood there for many minutes before he slowly pulled away and without looking at me said “thank you”.
He needed someone to care about him. As I lay there . but not by much. cruel and so unfair. He was a bit older than me.I decided he needed a friend. There was no God if this could happen.thinking of him sitting with his wife at the hospital . I had not realised I cared about him and it came as a surprise. My friend Dave should not have to bear this so young.Friends or Lovers distressed. . It was unnatural. Deep down a pain formed inside me that actually hurt. my moment to face someone else‟s pain and not shrink from the thankless task of helping him through it. It was my time. I found myself struggling to get to sleep as the silent anger I felt kept me awake.
I was surprised at how flattered I felt.” he said sheepishly. I was due to meet Mike and Nathan for a showdown. But it was a good lie. I looked at him with new eyes. too young for me. a few words came out. he raised his eyebrows. “You‟re welcome. Hi Penny. “That young entrepreneur will think he‟s died and gone to heaven!” For Phil to pay me a compliment was so unexpected that I actually stopped in my tracks. John .” I said. “That‟s very sweet of you. In the afternoon. When Phil saw me. He was a good-looking lad. but for a moment I looked at him in a lustful way. I had taken extra care getting dressed because I wanted to look good for my lunch date with John. Is there any background information you can bring on that personnel problem you have got? May help us find out what is going on. In the evening was Dave‟s product launch. I got myself a cup of coffee and went through my e-mails. smiling. I strode into work feeling smart and confident. He looked a little embarrassed.” I lied. as if he had said more than he meant to. I had no idea what was in store for me.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 25 When Wednesday came. “Got the launch event tonight and have no time to go home. but with a small shuffle of his feet and with his eyes slightly lowered. See you soon. “Doing something special today?” he asked. I thought.
I took Phil with me. I couldn‟t take anything with me. a reward for his earlier flattery. That would be lovely.Friends or Lovers Even if I had wanted to. He was impressive and looked cute. As he stood there in a new suit and tie. A swift response winged its way back through the IT network. After the speeches. It was quite a showpiece. there was an e-mail from Dave. Subject: CIPD Pen. complete with visuals and sound.” “Are you sure? Are you really sure?” he hurriedly asked. We would have to discuss the issues as a series of hypothetical situations. I look forward to it.” I reassured him. The other e-mails were either trivial or junk. I just don’t feel like a big social evening afterwards. would you like a drink? Not the most difficult executive decision I have ever had to make. “You don‟t think that final video is slightly overlong or overdone?” I put my hand on his arm and reassured him. hair cut and groomed. I thought he cut a fine figure. If I hired him. Thanks for booking the CIPD thing. . and we both settled into the company‟s small lecture theatre. Dave. but I responded by saying that the Data Protection Act prevented me sharing confidential records. Next. it would be different. the time for Dave‟s presentation approached. “You‟ll go down a treat. his voice confidently outlined the magnificent benefits of tomorrow‟s personal health gadgetry. “The preparation was worth it. By the time I‟d waded through them. The information was confidential.
but much less spin. His behaviour was different as well and I initially attributed this to his meeting in the afternoon. John „the businessman‟ just didn‟t seem quite right. We settled down at the table. “Nervous about this afternoon?” I asked. The materials were fine. When we chatted on the phone yesterday. “See you tonight when the madness has died down. .” He just beamed. he took this as a big compliment. even though I didn‟t intend it that way. It was the first time I‟d seen him wear a tie. He was dressed in a dark deep blue suit. ordered drinks and looked at the menu.” he said. I felt. As he was a dedicated New Labour supporter. Pen. He intended to use the money to support his writing for several months. He would be nervous. I thought. but it was Dave who gave them charm and wit.50 and settled down for lunch. he said that this was one of the best contracts he had been offered and it would bring him about £30k for little more than a month‟s work. We arrived at Bella Marie around 11.Rory Ridley-Duff “Slicker than a New Labour political broadcast. * * * John was slightly late. He was well groomed and I quickly realised that I preferred him in casual attire. The banter I expected didn‟t materialise so I probed him to see if anything was up. He was pleased to see me but carried a grave look that I‟d not seen before.” This was going to be a very long day. “Thanks.
50-ish. slightly relieved. John nodded and set himself in a listening pose.” he requested. so I thought I‟d dress the part. There are others to convince. I feel he looks down on me sometimes. Sometimes he gives me the creeps. but his gaze remained firmly on the menu. patronizing. but I‟m not sure why. but he averted his eyes quickly. I find him a bit „old school‟. I know the person contracting the work. his gaze started to focus on me properly. No point beating about the bush.” John intervened at that point. My boss Dave is suspicious of him. personable and popular. We had quite a row last week. “John. “Not sure why? Can you expand on that?” “Well. and women would fall for him.” I looked at him directly as I said this. Not too bad. you know. married. We‟ve worked together several times so I think today‟s a formality. I called him a sexist pig!” . I started to feel that something had changed between us but was at a loss to understand why. I can see that he‟s good looking. He momentarily looked up and tried to smile. Very smart – you‟ll knock them dead. he‟s good at his job. What‟s on your mind?” He looked up. “Tell me about Mike…. however. “You look the part. “Our hypothetical Mike!” I answered.Friends or Lovers “A bit.” If it was not his interview then why was his behaviour so different? I was puzzled and tried a bit of flattery. He called me a „stupid woman‟. As he settled back in his chair. “He‟s one of our sales staff. You said we had to talk.
“My instinct tells me that the lads went too far. She was sufficiently upset to confide in her boss.” “So what‟s changed?” John asked. not the other way around. I asked my assistant to keep his ear to the ground. I moved him to a new position. She‟s engaged to be married. “Well. and his demeanour was attentive and serious. says the young woman confided in him but he won‟t talk unless she consents. He has a history. their former boss.” . He made a pass and she rejected him. I don‟t buy his story. women mostly. There‟s a meeting this afternoon. He took some of his staff with him. they got close. and I thought that‟d be the end of it. Mike. It looked open and shut initially. looking very thoughtful. She lives at home. He gave her support. “What do you think?” he asked. The boss is pissed off with everyone because he got landed with the blame for a situation not originally of his own making. he invited her for a drink and perhaps she misunderstood – or maybe he was making his own play she got upset again and now she won‟t talk. Now he‟s implied she might have been pursuing the young man. But I know her. encouraging me to continue. The young woman won‟t say what happened. I intend to crack some heads. He found that men in the department had been flirting with her. however. because he‟s got a reputation as a womaniser. That‟s where the stories conflict.Rory Ridley-Duff John nodded. The young lad won‟t co-operate. “Someone complained that he was hassling a colleague for a drink. and one in particular got quite keen.” John nodded. my boss wanted me to find out more. There was one lad in particular that seemed to take a fancy. either.
She‟s confused.” . She starts to receive more sexual attention. and has a job as administrator to a department that has quite a few young men. But then he realises that her boyfriend is an old school friend. His mate is crazy about Elena.” I said hesitantly. She confides in her boss. I was not looking for another interpretation. Let‟s call him Nath. I was slightly taken aback. So he backs off. If things go badly. fairly pretty. “Where are you getting these names from?” “This is a hypothetical example. but likes one of them. Okay. a bit embarrassed. She‟s inexperienced with men. I want to help. In her previous job she worked with women so this is a change for her. He backs off some more. Let me pretend this is a hypothetical case. You use the information as you see fit. wants to marry her. Nath thinks she‟s a bit of alright and joins in the flirting at first. “Okay. Elena is not put off and actually starts to single out Nath himself. “The young woman – tell you what. shall we?” “Hold on!” I said. let‟s call her Elena – she‟s quiet. Explain!” I commanded. I had never seen him this intense and studious before. We‟ll call her boss Mick. “Shall I try another interpretation for you?” he asked. shall we?” “You know these people. right?” This was too coincidental. I could be called as a witness to a tribunal. if I tell you the source of my information then I‟ll be involved and could be dragged into the process. but he sees her flirting with a whole group of lads. but I nodded to indicate he should carry on. Penny. “Err. Regardless. “Penny.Friends or Lovers John kept nodding. John started to talk.
” It was my turn to start nodding. John knew Mike. Mick listens to Elena and realises she‟s in a difficult situation.Rory Ridley-Duff I was angry. Luckily. Having recovered my composure. She becomes desperate to leave home. He never asked.Mick?” I asked. He‟s been known to intervene personally sometimes and help people out when their personal lives are troubled. He storms around and tells her the wedding is off. I struggled to keep my emotions in check. “D‟you want me to continue?” he asked. “Mick‟s known for his kindness. Nath then tells his old school friend that Elena came onto him and was flirting with all her work colleagues. “Her boss has a reputation for being sympathetic to his staff. I asked John questions. “What happened to…. Her parents are furious. He continued the story. Pin-pricks shuddered all the way through me. He seemed to have more information than I did.” As these words came out. For a moment. I reeled. I‟d never told John exactly where I worked. completely bewildered. . Every day she goes home they argue with her and tell her she‟s ruined everything. I did not know where he was getting this information but suddenly things started to make more sense. I nodded. Her boyfriend reacts badly. He‟d risked his own marriage to get her out. He put her up at his home until she found a new home. I could feel the shock rise through me as I realised where all this was coming from. It never seemed relevant. Once he helped a work colleague suffering abuse. the waitress brought the drinks and asked for our order. When I felt in control again.
but could not let her move into his house or give her any money. she goes around to Nath‟s house and tells him what he‟s done. She kicked him out.” I felt I knew where the story was heading and my sense of dread started to increase. Someone walking past stops to watch and immediately reports the scene to their manager. She resists so he takes hold of her by the arm and makes her leave. Nath tells her to „piss off‟. Mick‟s wife felt betrayed. She tries again to persuade Mick to take her in. on the condition that he be allowed to help her find a place to live. She won‟t calm down so Mick tries to persuade her to leave the building and continue the conversation at a local pub for a drink. He hoped that would be the end. In a rage. My head dropped and my eyes fixed on the table as John continued talking. She goes into work the next day and is angry. “Elena wanted Mick to let her have his spare room. however. said that he would help her. Mick gave in. that he never bring another woman into their home. Mick agreed. Either the work colleague leaves or the marriage is over. With nowhere else to go…. There was a condition.” . but he refuses.Mick…. she finally relented and let him go back home. They became extremely close but were never lovers. but later his wife learned that he‟d given money to buy furniture.Friends or Lovers “The situation got so bad that Mick‟s wife gave him an ultimatum. Elena told him private details about her life and now felt abandoned. Elena was angry because she‟d heard how Mick had helped someone else. not with Nath.. but with Mick and shouts at him for not helping her. After a few months of Mick calling his wife every day. Mick was sympathetic.moved into a flat with his work colleague.
one day. “Mick. because of the past. “He‟s been to a solicitor. Penny. She feels the problem lies with the way Pen handled the original complaint. “There is another hypothetical character. His wife‟s curiosity is fired and she relentlessly asks questions until Mick tells her the whole story. in some ways I‟m relieved. “It gets worse. However. he told a half-truth.” “Worse? How could it get worse?” “You may want a stiff drink.” I said. “She did what?” I said.” “Well. that the new job was a promotion rather than a convenient solution to an accusation of sexual harassment.” said John. “What a total fucking mess!” John was silent so I looked up at him feeling completely at a loss. There was more to come and I had to hear it. I did not speak for several minutes. So.” No prizes for guessing who the „friend‟ is. let‟s call her Pen. He was concerned that his wife would pre-judge the situation and end the marriage. a clear case of sex . did not tell his wife why he had recently changed job. “She threw him out again.Rory Ridley-Duff My head just hung there as I looked down at the table. “Why the hell did she do that?” “At the moment he‟s staying at a hotel with a friend.” At the mention of this name. I thought. Are you ready?” “I need a stiff drink now!” I said trying to lighten the mood but John‟s face was implacable. Pen calls his house announcing herself as the Head of Human Resources and that Mick should be in a disciplinary meeting. another shock wave went through me and I became rigid with fear.
” “Is that true?” I ask. There is also the issue of the call to his home. and my eyes dropped as I let John finish.” I commented sardonically. Could I really have got everything so wrong? “Well. that is the story he will stick to if challenged. “It is. I lost my appetite. “Today he‟s going to bring his solicitor. The solicitor is coming as a friend. “He and his solicitor have checked the employment contract. “Fucking mess was about right. “How noble of you!” I retorted.Friends or Lovers discrimination and failure to observe natural justice principles now enshrined in law. Suddenly. “Penny!” John exclaimed. “Why are you telling me?” I asked in a slightly accusing way. It says he can bring a friend if there is a disciplinary hearing. At least. There‟s nothing to say whether the friend must be a work colleague or not. .” I was silent. Penny!” said John. The solicitor takes the view that Pen has not fulfilled her duty of care to all the parties concerned. I think. My head was spinning while I tried to work out what to do.” My body froze a second time.” “He can‟t do that!” I interject.” I felt attacked from all sides and my defences started to bristle. “Because I couldn‟t let you go into your meeting later today completely unprepared. that‟s one way of looking at things. She‟s been a friend since his university days. I did not know how to feel.
Mick…. this is all too much. He‟ll ask for my help and I will give it to him.” “Yes. I‟m trying to help.” “I try not to take sides. I‟ve not known a kinder more honest man in my entire life. This is serious. What was I to do? “Where did that come from?” he demanded. but this could come between us if Mike asks me to testify. or knew I‟m telling you this. I needed to talk to the legal department of the company before the meeting.” “So it‟s all lads altogether is it?” I didn‟t know where these words were coming from. I care about you. Panic overwhelmed me.” “You what? You‟re saying you might testify against me?” “Penny! He‟s been a friend all my life.” I was getting more and more defensive and angry. really. he might terminate our friendship.Rory Ridley-Duff “M….” I snapped.has been a life-long friend of mine. It‟s going to come down on my fucking head not yours. I act as an expert witness at tribunals. He doesn‟t know that I know you. This could be the end of my career. you are just telling one side of the story. “Don‟t be like that. “Penny. this is my field. This is serious. just give a professional opinion. “Just let me think a moment. If he did.” “Penny. He‟s been like a father to me.” . He led my scouts group when I was a kid. but part of me sensed that I had to get out of the restaurant and find Dave.” “Why on earth would he do that? This is nothing to do with you. I don‟t want to lose your friendship.” “How? Why? You know nothing about this case.
just existing from second to second. but acknowledge the points of view of the other parties. hoping somehow I would disappear down a hole in the ground and this would all go away. “You must listen this afternoon.” I wished that I could stop myself being sarcastic and argumentative but I was shaking from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Once you talk to .” “There is a way out. You‟ll have to grab it with both hands this afternoon.” “I‟ll have to involve the company lawyers…. I felt like I was being driven by something outside myself. Listen to the story the way it is told by the other parties. Make notes. You – and the company – will be completely exposed. just listen..” “Another way? Is there another way? You said he‟ll have a solicitor with him this afternoon….. this is going to end up in a court of law.Friends or Lovers “You are going to testify against me. Do whatever you have to do to get the company to offer mediation to all the parties involved. Don‟t say anything.” he shouted.” “No! You mustn‟t do that. I‟m fresh out of ideas.” I said weakly. Don‟t admit liability. You have to mediate. “If you don‟t. “The moment you talk to them. they‟ll call your insurers and the insurers will instruct you to have no further contact. aren‟t you?” “Not if we can find another way. At the moment I was not in control. Help him with his domestic situation until the mediation is complete. If you contact Mike after talking to your insurers.” “I don‟t know if I can do that. lots of notes.” “Well. the insurers will not cover your employer for any losses. Amuse me.
“Penny. My responsibility was to the company. . Not John. This is too big for me. to protect him. For all I knew. then I could lose my job as well. “What if you can mediate?” he insisted. I had to protect the company‟s interests. You are personally at risk from prosecution.Rory Ridley-Duff your legal team it will be out of your hands and will go to court. John. please listen. Anyway. “There are risks. This was as real as it gets. Do you think you get to my position and not know stuff like that?” I resented him treating me like an idiot. “Once a formal process starts it‟s almost impossible to stop. “Penny. John was not put off and continued his attempts to persuade me.” “I can‟t handle this. why should I take your advice? I hardly know you.” he said firmly. I did. “And if I don’t tell the legal team. John was doing this to save Mike. “What if you can get Mike and his wife back together?” The pretence that we were talking about hypothetical characters had completely vanished. Do you appreciate that.” He looked hurt at my words but composed himself. John?” My fiery response took him back a bit and he regrouped. Please. There was little chance I would survive after such a misjudgement.” “I bloody know that. but what then? What of your future career?” “Oh God! I don‟t know!” Privately. But do you think they‟ll protect you? They might get you through the court case.” I wanted to talk to Dave. Not Mike.
I can‟t keep this from him. I don‟t think he‟ll like this. I looked at the meal in front of me.” he said in a slightly frosty way. sensing immediately he had irked me. John continued. In any other circumstances it would have looked beautiful and tasted delicious. “I‟m sorry for getting angry. “I mean that you were looking at the situation the way the vast majority of people look at such situations.” he said. “We can only see what we look for. It sounded like he was criticising my judgement. but I picked at it intermittently. “And you‟re the big shot who thinks he knows?” I said sarcastically.” I said. We‟re close. “It‟s okay. “What?” he reacted.Friends or Lovers “I can‟t authorise that on my own. I wasn‟t blind to this!” I said with some irritation. how could I know? There was so much that I‟d not been told. “No more than anyone else. I‟d need Dave‟s support. I felt sick. and that women spend most of their time resisting men. How could you know?” Indeed. I can run it past him. .” “Would he help?” “I couldn‟t do this without him. We assume men pursue women. At the very least.” “Don‟t stereotype me. It‟s a kind of blindness.” The waitress brought our food and asked if we‟d like any more drinks. “What do you mean?” I asked sharply.” “Would he help?” “I see him later tonight.
try divorcing one!‟” “John.” I simmered for a few minutes and ate my food. John ventured a question.” I said with as much conviction as I could muster.” he said. He laughed again and I found that I could not sustain my anger with him.” he laughed. “Equality means protecting both sexes. Penny?” “What?” I responded. I‟m sure you are very knowledgeable. I remembered Mike saying something similar during our earlier argument. I didn‟t mean to sound critical. “Bugger off!” was all I could say. “Women aren‟t weak. Unless you understand that both men and women are initiating and responding in different ways it is easy to presume the man is doing all the initiating and is always to blame. I nodded. I looked at him.” I looked at him coolly. “Sorry. . “But this is my field!” he responded. “You are not the first person to say that. “Good!” I added. I started to realise that I was being deeply unfair to him. As the remorse grew.” “Stop talking like a fucking academic…” I wished I could stop myself behaving in such an angry way. It‟s a common problem. You are so fucking pompous!” He smiled.” he said looking me firmly in the eye.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m sorry. “Sorry. “You know that. “Who is protecting the men. but it just kept pouring out of me. “As one of my friends told me a few years ago „if you think women are weak.
It would have been much easier for ignore it. I saw real concern in his eyes. I acknowledged what he was saying but said that I still didn‟t see how I could avoid discussing this internally. We chatted away. As we departed. Touching says everything that needs to be said. I considered what an ordeal this must have been for him. or cry off the lunch date and avoid me. he reiterated that the situation could go pear shaped if the legal teams got involved. Sometimes words are so inadequate and unnecessary. I guess John must have felt the same way. offering a conciliatory smile. I had to protect myself. Hearing this story from Mike. How was I going to protect myself while finding a way to resolve the situation? We said our goodbyes outside the restaurant and agreed to call each other the following evening. He hugged me for a whole minute and I just clung on for as long as I could. “Shall we enjoy the rest of our meal?” I continued. Parting turned out to be quite difficult. I was not going to waste either a moment longer. As I left the restaurant. about nothing in particular. . his own smile broadened and I realised how tense he had been throughout. We stood there chatting for a bit then going silent then chatting some more. Eventually. not just the other parties. When he saw this. and then deciding to tell me over lunch. he said “come here” and guided by an external force I stepped forward and fell into his arms. and for the first time I saw him more as a friend than a potential lover. it was this last point that occupied my mind. must have been difficult for him. As his body relaxed. Neither of us wanted to walk away. for the next hour.Friends or Lovers Right now I had a plateful of food and an attractive man sitting opposite.
. “Can you close the door?” I asked. I sat there both angry at myself and at others. how could I have known? Was I being too hard on myself? Nobody would explain.” At this suggestion. Another thing that consumed me was how I felt about myself. Mike and his wife.” He looked as apprehensive as I felt. I hatched a plan.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 26 By the time I returned to work all my doubts and dilemmas had returned. “I need to discuss things with you before we go into the meeting. I thought about visiting the legal department to spill all this out. In the end. and my invitation to discuss things did nothing to reduce his unease. I was ashamed. I decided to follow some of John‟s advice. I felt so torn about what to do that I went to the staff canteen for another coffee. How could I have known? So. and that of Nathan.” I said as I returned to my office. If I had got things completely wrong then I was responsible for a great deal of misery. but John‟s caution made me pause – at least for now. Another part of me wanted to find Dave and have a heart to heart but he was preoccupied with the product launch. “Come into my office for a chat. Others could see I was troubled and avoided me. Nobody would talk. and he duly obliged. Elona‟s distress. his apprehension seemed to progress to outright fear but he obediently followed me. even John – these all beat a path to my door. And yet. * * * “Hi Phil.
” The idea that Phil has worked out the situation without help came as both a relief and a surprise. “That thought had occurred to me too.” He was moving in the right direction.” I paused for a moment to see if Phil would say anything. so I gave him a few moments by leaving the room to make coffee. Phil‟s lips parted and his rigid body began to move and come alive. Clearly he had not expected this. were cautious. Then listen and listen and listen…. or considered this question. It makes more sense.” I let the words linger for a moment. “I think we need to admit that maybe we got it wrong.Friends or Lovers I had gathered my thoughts and knew how I wanted to play this. both of which had been in his lap. “……how are we going to approach this meeting?” As I asked this question. he was more relaxed. Everything about his body screamed “Thank God!” His words.. suddenly surfaced and started to gesture strongly. When I returned. I took a deep breath and made a start. but his eyes remained fixed and expressionless.. “I agree with you on the „listen and listen and listen‟. “Any ideas?” I asked as I walked in the door.. Phil…. “I‟ve been thinking a lot about Mike‟s outburst. Phil was my first port of call for a good reason. Phil‟s moment of relief ended and his face became thoughtful again. but a little more caution was called for. “If he is right. .” I answered. His hands. I wondered whether I should have solicited his opinion more quickly. “What if he‟s right?” At this suggestion. however.
and then waited until his eyes were again looking into mine. if we admit that we „got it wrong‟ both you and I could be for the high jump if this ever goes to court……” I had his attention now and a look of horror spread across his face. and just keep insisting that we‟ll do everything we can to mediate a solution. I smiled back at him – a big smile showing my teeth. with just a hint of a smile. I offered my opinion. We‟ll say that we want to look at the whole thing again. Okay?” I could see from Phil‟s reaction that his ego felt well and truly massaged. “Of course. I completed the act of seduction. listen to what they have to say. This afternoon is about buying time. I looked away from him to give the impression the meeting was over. “You‟re a good lad. We‟ll keep our mouths shut. “Okay. When Phil got up and made to leave the room. He broke into a smile and nodded.Rory Ridley-Duff After waiting for a moment to see whether he might say anything else. I looked him straight in the eye as I answered him.” he said. When he looked up again. “Then I guess admitting we got it wrong is out of the question.” . at least until I‟ve talked to Dave and Legal. “We‟ll make a manager out of you yet!” Without letting my eyes wander even for an instant I took the lead. His eyes left mine and looked down at the table for a few seconds. We‟ll do as you suggest. “Phil?” I asked. I appreciate you. Phil. there was a definite sense of conviction as he spoke. I want you to bring a notebook and take lots of notes.
I smiled back.Friends or Lovers I did not look away and his eyes remained on mine until he could hold the gaze no longer. but when he reached the door he glanced over his shoulder and smiled at me again. started to walk. I caught a trace of redness in his cheeks. He turned to go. . I have to admit that sometimes it is great fun being a woman.
I noticed that her look changed from one of confidence to one of . prompted. gave their accounts while I nodded. Mike initially looked as if he was ready for a battle. I might have peppered my pleasantness with a brusque manner. At certain points in the narrative. To my surprise. Phil looked up and smiled. still beaming from our earlier encounter. At the start of the meeting. she had looked calm and confident. If his solicitor had been a man. Every few minutes I glanced at Mike‟s solicitor friend to see how this was playing with her. I expressed surprise and shock at what I was hearing. then Mike.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 27 I feigned surprise when I met Mike‟s solicitor and was as pleasant as possible. a married woman giving a single woman a hard time in the witness box would not be pleasant. If we made it through this conflict. but my opening gamble paid off and took the wind out of his sails. enquired and encouraged. With each reaction. I introduced Phil as my assistant and said that he had expressed a view that we should listen to Mike and Nathan. Phil followed my lead and we successfully communicated the seriousness of what had taken place. I found myself developing a grudging respect for him. No conclusions had been reached. At the mention of his name. If we were to meet again in a court room or industrial tribunal. First Nathan. I opened the meeting and stressed that we would be as cooperative as possible. Phil made copious notes as the story unfolded more or less exactly as John said it would. I promised myself that I would get to know him better. I have to say that Mike was proving a lot smarter than I‟d expected.
“How?” I was growing in confidence and put the final piece of my plan into place. I cannot guarantee that we will . and a problem with his housing situation……” “We can help with that. I offered to get Phil to type them up and send Mike‟s to her for checking. “My pleasure.” I answered. after taking both Mike‟s and Nathan‟s statements. Sometimes she would look at Mike and tilt her head to one side. At this suggestion.” I answered. She was not expecting this.” I answered. “And what about the loss of pay since changing his job?” “On pay. “Mike‟s got issues over lost pay. With surprise on her face she uttered a question. I didn‟t like her using my first name but I let it pass. “That‟s good of you.” she said.Friends or Lovers puzzlement. she started to engage me. David Stockton. One of them is free at the moment and I can arrange for Mike to use it until he can make alternative arrangements. “The company will pay. Penny. I‟ll have to clear any changes with my director. She was trying to work out how the meeting could be going so well for her client. I meet him later tonight.” “Who will pay?” she asked. My comment stopped her in her tracks. “What would be helpful is if you could work out with Mike the amount of wages he has lost.” I paused for a second before I asked the next question to ensure it had maximum impact. “There are two flats rented by the company to accommodate sales managers who commute here from time to time. At the end.
but I‟m sure it will be sufficient for him to treat you to dinner. he gave a short chuckle. but as it turned out a mutual respect was born. then you‟ll have my response tomorrow. “Women! I have no idea why you go around letting men think they are in charge. “Penny?” he asked.” Mike looked at me. but now I saw him in a moment of happiness. Thank you. Mike can confirm it in writing. he‟d looked worried and pensive. I‟ll deliver it by hand. Thank you. I‟d hoped to stall things long enough to consult with Dave but we‟d gone almost as far as resolving the . “Yes. “I‟ll check with Dave tonight.” He chuckled again as he looked at Phil.” He looked me strongly in the eyes. then me again. then at her. They looked at each other for a moment and I noticed that she nodded her head at him. if necessary. I was taken aback at just how attractive he looked.Rory Ridley-Duff meet it in full. then at me again. I would have been happy to see someone kick him hard in the balls.” At the start of the day. “I underestimated you. If we don‟t. “just to see whether I need to involve Legal. I looked at them both. In all our previous meetings. After a few moments. Could you do that?” As I asked this question.” I said. We‟ll do that now.” Mike smiled at me – the first time I had seen him do so – and I have to admit that his face was handsome. I detected a smile on his face. “I underestimated you as well. “Yes?” I answered.
. As Mike turned to leave the room. when he felt at ease. Not only did he have integrity and courage but. “I can now see why Dave hired you. The moment of exhilaration passed and I finally understood why he had such a good reputation as a salesman.Friends or Lovers whole thing. he fixed me one last time with his handsome face. He beat me at my own game.” I tried to return his look but found that I could not as I felt a rush of adrenalin rip through me. he was also extraordinarily sexy.
“Thank you. It‟s hard to force niceness and that was exactly what I had been doing for most of the last two hours. offered a further comment. fussed about me. touched and moved indicated a much closer relationship. Phil. the way they looked. It was time to cool Phil‟s ardour now the job was done. “What made you change your mind about Mike?” he asked. “That is sweet of you. but also the gap in status between us. but I actually felt exhausted. Mike. Clearly they were more than acquaintances. “Let‟s just call it a woman‟s intuition.” was all he could say.” I said. developed a small frown and his body language became submissive. while still smiling. . “That was fantastic. It made me wonder why Dave harboured hostility towards him. “Can you tidy up the loose ends here? I need to get ready for this evening. “Nothing more?” he asked again inquisitively. Penny! Absolutely brilliant. with a puppyish expression.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 28 I remained in the room with Phil while Mike and his solicitor exchanged words. His face. This comment caught me short for a moment.” Phil nodded and still smiling. A curious look came over his face. I noticed them hug warmly as she departed. with a look that communicated not just my appreciation.” Such praise I can live with. was a friendlier person than I had thought.” he said. now I was experiencing him up close. laughed. shall we?” I responded. “I learnt a lot today.
“Don‟t you believe in women‟s intuition. and Phil‟s shrewdness at seeing through me. surprises. “I certainly believe in a woman‟s cunning!” he remarked. I flicked my head back. Suddenly things came together. and let my locks fall about my face alluringly. A number of shocks. Perhaps men were not jerks after all. I thought back over the whole day. . If he had felt dominated a few moments ago. I had one of those “ah ha!” moments in life. all trace had left him. He started to walk out of the room and his final remark not only surprised me.Friends or Lovers Clearly he was not convinced. Mike‟s willingness to accept a settlement when he could have thrown the book at me. twists and turns had left their mark. Phil?” His smile returned as well as his confidence. As I stood there. but also deflated my ego a bit. I thought of the way John had helped.
“Hmm! He can look quite dashing at times. Are you coming?” “Yes. I thought for a moment. “You look happy. “Yes. I‟ll be there. not attractive. I enjoyed fantasising about people – sometimes people I knew – but did that mean I was looking? Jo smiled at me as she washed her face and removed some of her make-up. She had cut her hair quite short – a mistake I thought – because without a good size bust it gave her a rather boyish look. As I delicately added a small amount of rouge to my cheeks. Always enjoy watching Dave strut his stuff!” she remarked.” “Sounds good. Certainly. Long hair would have made her look womanly. “I‟m off tonight to see Dave strut his stuff at the launch. Shame he‟s taken. I visited the women‟s toilets.” I remarked. thinking back to the book John had recommended to me. Her comment surprised me. She was not a stunner but even without make-up her skin was quite good. Jo looked professional.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 29 What a day it had been and there was still quite a way to go. and get the new team ready. All the good ones are. . but as I‟d had a totally stressful day. We signed a contract this afternoon. good meeting.” I chirped.” “You looking?” I asked. of course. can‟t he?” “Yeah! I‟ll say. Was I? I didn‟t really know. I let my hair down a bit as well. “Aren‟t you?” she answered. Jo – the marketing manager – came in looking very pleased with herself. It will give a boost to our training programme.
I certainly felt that I wanted that before I died. Then there was Dave. “No! Not Dave. the sadness in his eyes when he thought of his wife. and how hard he had tried to make things work with his wife. I found it hard to believe that Dave himself would mention this to anyone else. “That his wife has cancer. “What‟s the rumour?” I asked. sweet really. With Carole announcing her marriage. my neighbour went round and they admitted she was not well. Even John. perhaps I was ready to look. He might be back on the market soon. “There‟s a rumour going round that his wife is ill. Anyway. having a second child.” Her comment made me both cross and curious. I considered Mike. there were men who wanted marriage. had a maturity and confidence that came from understanding how to keep a relationship interesting. Clearly. that she won‟t live long.” Jo seemed pleased that she was not in competition and moved a little closer. I also considered her question. Perhaps I had misjudged him. One of my neighbour‟s children is at school with Dave‟s kids. Over the last couple of months I felt a change in myself.” . They were playing one day and came straight out with it. flirty as he was. deciding to dig a bit. but I don‟t think he‟s my type. “Really? With Dave?” I could not help but laugh out loud at this suggestion. Perhaps he had. “Maybe I am!” I finally answered. He‟s nice and all. the total commitment he seemed to have for her.Friends or Lovers As these thoughts flashed through my mind. „My mum‟s going to die‟ he said. with meeting John and feeling more comfortable with men as friends.
clearly not satisfied by my response. My respect for Dave remained intact. of course. You know anything?” With this remark. “Anyway. Quite masterful that. I omitted. that it was Jo who had told me the rumour only a few moments ago.” I responded as casually as possible. “Where did you hear it?” she asked. I was relieved that she‟d got the rumour from outside the company. I said nothing. At the same time. as if she‟d been unable to sleep for a week. “Well. Jo seemed to know as much as I did. “they said that Dave‟s wife looked terrible. but did not talk and started to look in the mirror. “Oh! A couple of weeks ago.” I was not sure whether to confirm or deny the rumour. She looked dreadful. even if her source was a little further from home. where do you hear most rumours?” I asked. “Hi!” we both said to her. Elona walked in. I think. “When was this?” I asked.” Jo continued. “In here!” she responded. I could tell that Jo was digging for information because her casual manner was suddenly replaced by attentive curiosity. “I‟ve heard the same rumour. and the admission that I‟d heard a rumour did nothing to substantiate or deny her claim. She nodded. I thought.Rory Ridley-Duff Just as Jo was giving me the low down. I gave a small laugh. rumours spiralling out of control were problematic and could cause embarrassment. Jo. This was a difficult call because I was obliged to keep information confidential. It was not a lie. .
but I could not take it in. If there was a rumour. “‟bout me and Nathan!” “What about you and Nath?” Jo enquired.” I turned to leave wondering whether issuing a denial was wise. “That rumour. or whether Elona was trying to start one.” I said. I knew from past experience that if a rumour started it would be hard to quash. Ellie?” asked Jo. “If you haven‟t heard.Friends or Lovers Elona reapplied her make-up and listening to our conversation. “Someone been pissing you off. By drawing attention to it. I turned back to Jo. As she left. I was concerned at the direction of this conversation. “Bloody rumours!” she remarked. “That Nath has a thing going with me!” What was Elona doing? I felt that I had to act fast. Half an hour earlier. you will soon. glancing at Elona.” “What rumour‟s that?” asked Jo. “is not true. She gestured with her eyes and head to indicate something to me. Jo looked both shocked and amused. but whichever it was I had to put a stop to it.” Jo clearly did not understand why Elona had the hump. “Elona! Not another word. There‟s a rumour going „round about me. Ellie?” she asked. “What rumour?” asked Jo enthusiastically. clearly not happy. “Sorry. They are hurtful and mess people up. I felt . “What rumour?” “I just said that I don‟t like rumours. “Quickly now!” I demanded and Elona packed up her stuff and hurried out of the toilets. I was indicating that „something‟ was going on between Elona and Nathan. it was the first I‟d heard. To my office now!” I was not sure if there was a rumour.
but now they could easily spiral out of control again. “Just answer the question. I turned to her and let fly.thought you…. trying to get a grasp of the situation.” she replied.” blurted Elona. . “What…. I don‟t often lose my temper. If Jo went back to her team and started talking about it. like something out of Yes. the rumour might yet cause more problems. however. “What the fuck d‟you think you were doing?” Elona was so shocked that she did not sit down. “But…. As soon as Elona was installed in my office. There was too much pleasure in it...I thought…. with a smile.what do you mean?” she said quietly.but you……you…. “Yes.Rory Ridley-Duff that things were under control. “I what?” “I….” I demanded. “Jo?” I said. Elona.” mumbled Elona “Thought what?” Given that I was faking my anger. “I thought you knew?” she said. But it was a smile I didn‟t feel I could trust. did not really cut the mustard as “Sir Humphrey” and that made it hard for me to keep a straight face. Prime Minister. this exchange struck me as slightly comical.. but this was an occasion when coolly losing my temper was the most effective way to drive home what I had to say.. “I would appreciate if you did not repeat to others what Elona just said.” “Sure!” she said. when Jim Hacker had Humphrey Appleby in a corner embarrassed and grasping for words.
but I did not oblige. I accept that you‟ve had a .” I started. “I thought you……well you had Mike and Nathan in here nearly all afternoon.” I said. Elona‟s eyes started to dart around the room as if she was looking for something to say. Clearly. I‟m satisfied that all parties have told me the truth. but to do so would breach the confidentiality I observed in these matters. and I don‟t think that questioning people further will reveal anything more. “Elona.Friends or Lovers This was an interesting turn of events. “Sit down. she was trying to get me to say what I knew. please tell me what you think I know. “Elona. gesturing that I needed more clarification.” She looked relieved. Was Elona implying that there was something going on with Nathan. don‟t you?” she prompted again. “Does that mean you‟ve got to the bottom of things?” I wondered what she wanted to hear. didn‟t you?” “Yes. Elona.” Elona looked concerned but did not say anything. it was good to see her relax. I considered carefully how to put it across. “We won‟t be looking into it any more. “Thought what?” I repeated. “I imagine you‟re wondering what happened earlier?” She took her place and nodded.” “So you know. Was she asking who had been found „guilty‟? I wished I could tell her more. at least as far as they are able to. “I can say with reasonable certainty that we will not be investigating the matter any further. I did. When I remember the way she left my room in some distress. or just that she thought I knew about the rumour.
Rory Ridley-Duff difficult time. “I have an idea. okay?” I said pointedly. I‟ll ask around discretely. and I don‟t want to add to your distress any more. She looked up and paused for a moment. I braced myself. I hope. You can go home tonight and sleep better. She must surely realise I was being kind and saving her face. “I‟ve got a question. “So don‟t start any rumours. But could she really think that Mike and Nathan would back up her story? That was naivety beyond possibility. “Do you know anywhere I could stay?” I didn‟t enquire why.” she said. “Don‟t want to do that. and I don‟t want to say. but no untruths passed my lips. Then she nodded to indicate that she understood. “Give me a few days.” I said. “I don‟t.” I was being economical with the truth. My only regret was that Elona might think that her account of events had been vindicated.” “Okay. Is there anything else?” “No. I‟m afraid.” . “People will ask why.” she answered. Have you put a notice on the board?” I asked. She seemed happier and relaxed.” Elona said.
Sam‟s product went one further. This last product. legs. Sam tells me that his wife. This last product is something that every woman will want.Friends or Lovers Chapter 30 The evening passed off well. was the one that Dave believed would become a top seller. Sam‟s product range comprised „advanced technology‟ approaches to personal care that were – to say the least – sensuous in their design and application.” said Dave boldly. A narrator started to explain benefits to an attentive audience. It was a battery operated hair remover that could be strapped onto arms.” Dave announced. “All of Sam‟s products involve the use of advanced technology to improve personal hygiene. Elaine. He had his younger wife and family with him and the evening was something of a personal endorsement and triumph for him after years of struggling at home and in university laboratories. has extensively tested this final product. however. “I‟ve saved the best for last. He was dynamic and Dave made the most of this during the presentation. or anywhere else that a woman wanted to remove hair. and there was a gentle ripple of laughter as the video images appeared. and every man will want to buy for her. The entrepreneur that Dave was promoting came across fairly well. . She will vouch for it personally.” Dave cast his eye over to the other side of the stage where Sam and Elaine were standing. “Play it again. The lights dimmed as the finale began. Just as selfexercise belts use gels to transmit current into the muscles (without actually having to do any exercise). Sam. and I quite enjoyed minding him for the evening.
With a hint of wickedness in her grin. The mockhero slides down the mountain-side. with his card. risking life and limb. a handsome male model gave a gift wrapped present to a beautiful brunette. her face full of mock excitement at receiving her „favourite‟ present. in her bathroom and jumps out of the window into the night. to deliver a second package to a mansion home in the valley beneath. to have silky smooth skin. Then. He leaves the package. On the screen. adorned with tasteful jewellery. . Moments later. removes the gift from her package and relaxes.Sensuous Hair Removal Experience.Rory Ridley-Duff What does every woman want? Yes. a blonde in a long robe picks up the package. The music changes again. she takes the package into her stately bedroom and lies down on the four-poster bed. the model tastefully disrobes. a beam of light is shone onto her from the back of the auditorium and the volume of the music lowered. The satire switches to playful pastiche of 1980s Flake adverts. The man jumps off a cliff edge and the next 90 seconds is a tongue in cheek satire of past Milk Tray adverts.and a fanfare of music alerts the audience to a James Bond like action sequence. You want to SHARE. he dons a pair of black glasses – a la Terminator . What every woman will want next Christmas. and what every man will want to buy for her. and as the model‟s eyes close and she enjoys the sensual delights of the SHARE experience. And what does every man want? To buy the ultimate gift for his partner and bring a smile to her face. Dressed in a daring black dress. Sam‟s wife moves to centre stage. as the man wanders onto a patio to reveal a breathtaking mountain landscape. is the .
He did tell me that there was another presentation but that Sam and Elaine were keeping it under wraps. then bit her finger. Take away your own SHARE experience and enjoy the benefits of the latest in personal hygiene technology. he had not shown me this video. . as her mind becomes occupied with the erotic. Even as I was starting to think that this was a bit OTT.” As she stepped back from the microphone. As Elaine walked off the stage and sat down next to me. were on stalks watching every tiny movement of the model applying gel to the insides of her thighs.” It was my turn to smile at her. The eyes of the men. I looked around the hall and saw women alternating their glances at the presentation with chuckles into the ears of their female friends.Friends or Lovers “Dear guests – Sam and I are so confident that you will enjoy this wonderful product that we – and I personally – will guarantee that you will treasure it. I could now see why. the larger than life model held a pose reminiscent of the flake advert delicately crumbling chocolate between two gorgeous red lips. but we can‟t say that here. “We will be. She sucked. Nobody said it out loud. When I watched Dave‟s practice run.and herself on. This was no ordinary hair remover. “You should be selling this at Ann Summers parties!” She gave a broad smile and leaned towards me. then turning the appliance . We‟ve prepared a gift pack for every woman here tonight. but everyone clearly understood. however. “What accessories?” I whispered with more than a hint of curiosity. I lent over and whispered into her ear.
It‟s a good hair removal product. As the final chord echoed throughout the hall. “You won‟t see the accessories advertised anywhere in your brochures. much less painful than wax and much more effective than creams. This was pretty risqué for IC but it was becoming clear why Dave was prepared to take the unprecedented step of a full product launch. We exchanged smiles and a final fanfare alerted the audience to the finale. There is a range of „innovative‟ extensions. the blonde looked seductively into the camera and spoke breathlessly.Rory Ridley-Duff “Let me put it like this. “If we‟ve not beaten „the rampant rabbit‟ into second place by next Christmas then I‟m going to be pissed as hell.” said Elaine. Dave walked back to the microphone and announced that drinks and snacks were available in the lobby.there is something I need to discuss. I pulled Dave to one side for a private word. When the VIPs had been safely escorted home in pre-booked taxis. Dave thought it might be regarded as distasteful. It can‟t wait until tomorrow. She carried on talking in my ear as the video presentation neared the end. The gift packs could be collected at the exits. “Much better than Milk Tray!” The place filled with roars of laughter and the lights came up. The chatter was interminable but the evening was a success with guests energised and enthusiastic.” “Can‟t wait to try mine out!” I said. Our pilot trials have produced spectacular feedback. “Can we slip out of here .” .” I chuckled.
” . shook their hands and spoke with a representative of the PR company. They have everything under control. “Okay – we‟re off. He exchanged words with them. then walked over to Sam and Elaine.Friends or Lovers Dave nodded.
” I said. As soon as he had parked the glasses on the table. “You wanted to talk about something?” he asked. He confessed that he thought the product was risqué for IC. Not at the actual conference. it might catapult the company into the top league. “No point standing on ceremony.. With the company enjoying some success. “Yes. and Dave reacted in quite a peculiar way. “Yes.” “Is he married?” he interrupted sternly. the portfolio was now broad enough to weather a set-back. “Why do you ask?” His question irritated me.” “You should try wearing high-heels!” I joked.. there was a feeling that a calculated risk was appropriate.” I recounted the events. Dave bought the first round – a real ale for himself. including the lunchtime meeting with John. “May as well take it off. We spent a few minutes discussing the evening. Alternatively. he removed his jacket and loosened his tie.” “I‟ve been wearing these things for 20 years and still hate them. “Is it wise?” .” I said a bit defensively. on the flight home. It might backfire.” I said. but if it did so. “I‟ve had quite a day.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 31 We walked to a nearby bar and settled ourselves into a corner table. We both thought it had been a mini-triumph. a gin and tonic for me. but Harry (the MD) had given him the go ahead. “John? Who‟s this John?” “I met him at the conference in Paris.
” he said casting me a badtempered glance.Friends or Lovers “Dave! You are married too!” I said trying to lighten the mood. “Work colleagues often go out together. I could see in his body language and movements that he felt hurt.” Dave raised his eyebrows. I sat for a few moments wondering why it mattered to Dave. “John and I exchange e-mails as often as you and I talk. “It‟s different.” I affirmed. “Why is it different?” I said. For all the time I‟d spent with Dave.” I thought about how much more John knew about me. “It‟s different!” he said. As I didn‟t . Dave immediately looked a bit put out. but it must have been obvious because Dave backed off a bit. Dave looked at me with surprise and I realised that he may have misinterpreted what I said. Could he be jealous. The more I thought about it. “How often do you and I go out after work?” I asked. “John and I know each other well. “I didn‟t even know that your wife had been unwell until you told me recently. I wondered? “Well…I see you all the time.” I wished that I could hide my irritation.” he said starting to sound defensive. deciding to defend my friendship with John. We know each other well. Penny. but I‟m a close colleague. the more incensed I got. “Yes. It‟s just different isn‟t it?” “I don‟t see why.” I said firmly. he knew only a fraction of the real me.
“Maybe after another round of drinks…” he said tentatively.” Dave gave a small laugh. He‟s shacked up at a hotel at the moment. but I was immediately irritated. “Thanks!” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster. He looked up at me and appeared unsure.” “D‟you want to talk about it?” I asked. and concurred with me that I would need his authorisation to fund Mike‟s housing costs until he could find accommodation elsewhere. He promised to email them first thing in the morning. I think. Why did he have to laugh like that? Why take pleasure at Mike‟s marriage breaking down? I didn‟t expect it of Dave. and his face lit up again. “I‟m fond of you. He seemed to take it in okay. I don‟t know why. then I‟ll get the next round in. I downed my gin and tonic then went to the bar to get another round of drinks. “My parents are with her tonight. Dave!” I said. He recommended that I see Legal to arrange a three-month tenancy. “When does he want to move in?” “As soon as possible. “How are things at home?” The smile left his face and his eyes were downcast.Rory Ridley-Duff want the situation to spiral out of control I decided to offer some reassurance. Dave listened to the story that unravelled with Mike. “Let‟s get this work stuff finished. I watched him closely as I described Mike‟s part of the story to see if I could detect anything in his response. Nathan and Elona. I had not been to this place before so I cast my .” I said positively. I don‟t think she‟ll ever leave hospital.
I thought of my father. He looked pained and I could not really work out why. but it was impossible for me to feign feelings that I didn‟t have. The problem. He looked awkward and reticent. I liked it. there” routine just was not me.” he said.” I continued. I returned to the table and asked Dave again about the situation at home. there was wood panelling. The doctors want to talk to me tomorrow.” It was difficult to respond. was that I didn‟t know how else to be. Certainly I cared. and each table had a bowl in the middle that had the appearance of driftwood. filled with stones. I thought about trying to show deep sympathy. Dave. On the wall. deliberately unvarnished to fit in with the tenor of the furnishings. The edges were jagged and rough. “You‟ll have to tell them something. “Er…. I don‟t think he expected me to ask such a question. not that “manufactured to the nearest tenth of a millimetre” feeling. drawn from his love of cricket: “playing a straight bat”.I‟m….I‟m……” he stopped for a moment. I wondered if I was being insensitive. He had an expression. Drinks in hand.. “They give her less than a month. . but doing the “there. however. The tables were wooden. so I put my hand on his shoulder and encouraged him. His eyes looked down into his lap as he spoke. “What will you say?” I finally responded. They had a natural look about them. Not having had a lover or even a family member in this situation. I‟m dreading it.Friends or Lovers eyes around while waiting to be served. “She‟s deteriorating. He looked up. Most of the patrons were in their 30s and 40s.
he sure was immature. “I‟m torn between helping her die and keeping her alive. There in my mind was my father smiling at me. Penny?‟ I kept asking myself „why don‟t I feel more sympathy?‟ Why? The right thing to do at this moment would have been to put my arms around him. of course!” I felt a bit of a twit but then some words emerged from my mouth that I wished had remained in the darkness of my mind. I had no problem comforting him.” he responded brusquely. A few days ago. encouraging me to reflect. Suddenly. but for some reason he was irritating me. And yet. I could see his face growing red.torn!” Finally! “What are you torn about?” He gave me a look that was puzzling. For someone approaching forty. “…. the . But why? “What is the deeper meaning here?” I kept asking myself. “I‟m sorry. Dave.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m……I‟m……” I began to grow tired of his hesitation. as if he had noticed my prickliness and was responding with some of his own. I surely should have felt more sympathy for him. I traced my mind back and suddenly realised that his moment of mirth at Mike‟s situation really infuriated me. as if he thought I might be slightly mad. but I tried not to show it.. even as I had these thoughts I heard my father‟s voice. “Might it be kinder to let her die?” He looked at me and I saw tears form in his eyes. „What‟s the deeper meaning here. Why was I putting up barriers now? These thoughts swirled around in my head.
I continued with a straight bat. I didn‟t feel worthy of his respect. he found it in him to pay me a compliment.” As he said this. So I sat there and found myself no longer wanting to comfort Dave. I can‟t bear the thought of losing her. It was generous and I kept thinking I had completely misjudged him. Why did it matter? Dave broke the silence. “It would be kinder. I stopped looking at him but then he spotted my awkwardness. I even started to wonder if Dave was playing the sympathy card. “Yes. wouldn‟t it?” Dave‟s eyes were on me now as we talked and I felt increasingly self-conscious. He had every reason to hate me.Friends or Lovers awful realisation hit me. I kept asking myself why I felt more sympathy for Mike than Dave. When the meeting with Mike had concluded. Unbearable. deciding which of them would get my sympathy. I hardly knew Mike.” he had said. The moment Dave took pleasure at Mike‟s misfortune he lost my respect. I saw his eyes furtively look at mine. He was watching me to see how these lines played. but instead he appreciated me. “Penny? Are you okay?” . Even as I chastised myself for being so uncharitable. I fought a gut instinct to get up and walk out. That didn‟t seem right. But kinder!” It felt incongruous that he was looking deep into my eyes while talking about his wife dying. “I don‟t want to admit that it would kinder to let her die. After all. I was evaluating them. “I can see why Dave hired you.
It was an instant reaction and both of us realised what it meant. you should do the same!” I blurted out. My sense of urgency was growing.” I said hurriedly. Pick the car up tomorrow. Grab every moment you can. “Okay. Wait here. “It‟s okay.” I was talking too quickly. “Look. D‟you want me to walk you back?” “No. When I came out. I‟ve drunk too much. I grabbed my glass and tried to smile. It went really well tonight. I was sure he sensed my tension because his hand dropped and eyes looked away. then. “I‟ll do that!” he replied.” . Don‟t stay up too late. “I feel a bit unwell. no!” I said too quickly. will you?” “No. I felt his hand touch my back and my body reacted like it had received an electric shock. Book some time off and spend it with your wife. I‟ll get a cab. Pen. I made my way to the toilets and lingered there for as long as I could without appearing rude. As I started to get up. “Perhaps. You were a star.Rory Ridley-Duff I was not sure what to say. okay.” I looked at the table and saw that he had nearly a whole pint to drink up.” he replied. I couldn‟t tell him how I was feeling. I‟ll come in early and sort the stuff out with you. “Just need to go to the loos and then I‟ll be back.” I said. he did not challenge me and just kept nodding. I‟ve had a really long day and my stomach does not feel good. I appreciate you meeting me and going through things. I‟ll see you in the morning. I won‟t” “Bye. Dave. Even so. “Okay. “Okay.
As I rode home in the taxi. it was a sixth sense telling me not to get close to him. he had changed from someone on a level with a placement student. Whatever hopes I had of growing close to Dave. the events of the last week just kept playing in my mind. My opinion of Mike had risen from rock bottom to something approaching respect.Friends or Lovers “Bye. As for Dave. my respect for him was waning. they evaporated that night.” he replied with just a hint of sarcasm. What was going on? What was happening? . I could not explain why. Perhaps I was attracted to him? My desire for John had changed from one of girlish lust to one of sisterly love. to a sharp and roguish young man who merited the occasional fantasy. As for Phil.
It was as if he felt threatened by Mike and wanted me to get dirt on him.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 32 When I got home. I indulged myself by recalling Phil‟s red cheeks when I flirted with him. This was a good way to relax. I made a mental note to follow it up with Phil. he chose not to be. but he was quite a dish. I poured myself another glass of wine and had a bath. the more I felt I had misjudged him. He had told me to “find out about Mike” because “he may become a problem”. it was there. With the soap in my hands. Then I did my stomach. He may be young. I thought about Mike. Even though he had reason to feel bitter. I wondered why he was not offended. the more I started to like him. but the water kept washing away the wetness I was feeling and prevented me reaching orgasm. As these positive thoughts about Mike ran around my head. I undid the larger one to reveal a tasteful . With these thoughts behind me. I was now curious about Dave‟s comments. I had to find a way to make up for the way I had treated him. I ran it over my breasts and built up a sumptuous lather. The events with Dave were upsetting so I tried to eradicate them from my mind with soothing music and some self-pampering. it raised new questions over Dave. I arched my buttocks and started working on the folds of flesh between my legs. so I got out of the bath and returned to my bedroom. I ran a bath and as I lay in the warm water. The more I thought about him. The SHARE experience? Yes. I started to relax and drink the wine. On my bed was the bag from the launch. Inside the bag there were two gift-wrapped presents. thighs and between my legs.
I looked like someone‟s whore.” So there I lay on the bed almost breathless with anticipation. plugged the panel into the motor. On the side were four holes for attaching accessories. The gel was good and it slid in nicely and I worked it around until its full length .Friends or Lovers package that contained a battery operated motor. Inside was a dildo extension and another tube of gel. There were several pads and a tube of gel. Some of the pads were round. and attached the straps that were included. There was a fine mesh of plastic teeth interspersed with similar inlaid metal panels. By the time I had finished. I lifted up my legs and inserted the dildo into the motor device then inserted it. one for switching the device on and off. enjoying my sexual power. I started to feel aroused as the sense of expectation started to build. I pictured Phil‟s cock in my hand to increase my excitement. I looked like a porn model. I started to lick my lips with a sense of exhilaration. The dildo was mainly plastic but there were small metal panels inlaid at various points. I used my fingernail to slide under the sellotape and gently remove the gift wrap from the second gift. There were two buttons on it. I applied the first tube of gel. Lying back on the bed. As I opened the package. I took it in my hand and turned it over. and the other to increase and decrease the intensity. Next I took the dildo and second tube of gel and worked my hands up and down the shaft until it was covered all over. but one was triangular and obviously moulded so that women could use it to remove their pubic hair. A small instruction book was also inside and I excitedly opened it and read: “Apply the SHARE gel to both the accessory and the pubic hair remover for an unforgettable experience.
I reached over to the motor and pressed the on switch. John started to pinch and suck my nipples and run his hands all over my stomach and sides. Phil and John came either side of me. I wanted to fuck him like . dildo inserted. Mike and John walking into the room. I imagined Phil. I imagined my three lovers filling me with cock and spurting their cum over me until wave after wave of pleasure set my convulsing body on fire. With each press. small shots of electricity engulfed my pussy from both the hair remover and the dildo and I just gasped. there was a gentle vibration inside me. as I played out a fantasy of being a hot and horny slut. As I lay on the bed exhausted. Then. There I was. then hard as his firm tongue edged me towards a heavenly climax. massaging gently then harder then gentler again. As I let my finger work me into a frenzy. Firstly. I played with myself for a couple of minutes. two strange thoughts burrowed into my mind. Not only could I feel a gentle vibration on my pubic bone. I remembered the booklet describe an intensity button for “a special experience”. I imagined Mike‟s hand on the insides of my thighs and his mouth sucking on my fingers.Rory Ridley-Duff was pressing on the pit of my stomach. and the other periodically pressing the „ecstasy button‟. I wanted Mike. A sensation ripped through me that made me shudder in total ecstasy. The SHARE experience had been thoughtfully designed. pressing on my clitoris at the same time to heighten my arousal. bare breasted and naked with my legs wide apart. John took my breasts in his hand and gentled rubbed them while I felt Phil‟s mouth on mine. and I closed my eyes as I imagined Mike‟s tongue in place of my finger. with my free hand. While they gorged themselves. My finger was now circling furiously. With one finger on my clit.
the future took on a positive glow and I saw myself as Phil had seen me. . With these debauched thoughts filling my mind my satisfied. finishing a new plan to suck as much pleasure out of life as possible. the SHARE experience was going to make IC rich beyond belief. Secondly. emotionally and physically spent body fell into a deep sleep. a vixen with a keen eye. as a Professor of Cunning. How could this product fail? How could anything capable of bringing women so much pleasure be anything except a runaway success? In that moment. naked.Friends or Lovers no-one else I had ever met and felt I would do anything to have him.
Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 33 Despite my good intentions to get up early and speed off to work. I signed for the keys on my own authority and proceeded to the legal department to sort out the paperwork. my exertions the previous day caused me to oversleep. “Did he e-mail you about it?” I asked “Let me check. “But you‟ll need Dave to sign the contract. Has Dave been in yet?” “Yes. he was in here about half an hour ago. Hurriedly. I felt entitled. “Hi.” That‟s strange.” “Okay. “He must have forgotten!” I said.” “Well. Even so.” . Can you sort out the paperwork and I‟ll come back this afternoon. but he didn‟t mention anything about a flat. my first port of call was Office Services from where I picked up the key to the company flat. I found that Dave had not e-mailed them and I wondered whether he too had overslept. I can get the paperwork sorted. Perhaps I had misunderstood him. “We agreed last night that I could rent it out to Mike Bennett. I thought. I need to arrange for Mike to rent it for three months. Stella.” Stella replied. “I‟m here about the company flat. Once at work.” I said walking up to her desk. It has to be a director. I was sure Dave said he would sort this out. I got up and took breakfast on the way to work. I was half an hour late.” said Stella. That being the case. She quickly checked her inbox and shook her head. I need to sort out a threemonth tenancy agreement for him. Given my attendance beyond the call of duty the previous evening.
Friends or Lovers
I returned to my desk and said good morning to Phil. He was cheerful and greeted me warmly. I felt that we were developing a good working relationship and the prospect of that pleased me. We had been through an emotional experience together. I sent Dave an e-mail to ask him to sign the contract that Stella was preparing and promised to catch up with him later in the day. I told him that “after testing the product personally, I think the SHARE experience is going to be a winner.” I chatted with Phil and mentioned that I wanted to offer my apologies to Mike. “Keep that off the record,” quipped Phil. “Yes, of course,” I responded. Then – for a reason I could not fathom - I winked at him. He gave me a broad smile in return. What was I doing? Even as I struggled to understand myself, I felt good inside, like a newborn person. She was happier than the old one, confident and self-assured, complete and rounded, tolerant and self-critical. I found that it gave me pleasure to give others pleasure. I found Mike having a coffee with a woman. “Can I just interrupt a moment?” I asked. “Sure, we‟re just chatting.” “Here are the keys for the flat. Dave says you can move in any time you like. There‟s some paperwork being drawn up. You‟ll need to sign that later.” “Thanks! I appreciate this.” The woman nodded her approval too, which struck me as slightly odd. She was older than me. Her clothes were well kept but not designer labels. She came across as someone who would look chic if she could afford it, but was not currently able
to. Her face had a modest amount of make-up around the eyes, but other than this she had a natural beauty that her advancing years did nothing to diminish. “Do you need any help moving in?” I asked. “Are you offering?” Mike replied, in hope more than expectation, I think. “Sure, I‟ll help!” I responded. “Thanks!” he said with some surprise and pleasure. “This is Sally,” he said looking at his coffee companion. “She‟s offered to help as well.” Sally! Things quickly slotted into place. I studied her more closely and felt her doing the same to me. She was in her midforties and kept herself fit. Her face looked as if she applied cream, but I could not detect any eye-shadow or blusher. Her attractiveness was natural, not manufactured. I extended my hand. “Good to meet you. I feel like I already know you a bit,” I said. She glanced in Mike‟s direction as she responded. “Yes, I gather he has told you quite a bit about me. Not all good I hope!” I liked her playfulness and returned the favour. “Well, he said he‟d leave you to fill in the details.” Mike smiled when he heard me say this and glanced at Sally to check that she was not going to scold him. Sally continued the riposte. “From what he‟s been telling me, it doesn‟t sound like he left details out!” “Then you can get your own back by telling me all his secrets!”
Friends or Lovers
I felt an instant rapport. It was like that with John, and I hoped it would be the same with Sally. Sally looked playfully at Mike. “Good idea. There are plenty to tell,” and then, as she looked back at me she added, “Are you interested in them?” Linguistically speaking, she had just speared me and I realised she was checking me out on Mike‟s behalf. My confidence was high, however, and I continued to joust. “Only the particularly wicked ones!” She laughed out loud and then turned to Mike. “Watch this one, Mike! She‟s got her eye on you.” Mike gave me a wry smile. Today I stood my ground much better and did not look away. “And very nice eyes they are too,” he complimented. Sally laughed and managed to divert attention from the colour that was flushing through my cheeks. “Well, I have to familiarise myself with this new SHARE experience!” blurted Sally. I laughed out loud and it caused both of them to look at me enquiringly. At that moment I felt just a touch of embarrassment. “What?” I asked. They both paused momentarily, and then Mike spoke. “Are you going to share it?” he said, with a chuckle. I caught his dark and sexual humour, but it went over Sally‟s head. I wondered how I could respond without being too explicit. “I‟m already familiar with the SHARE experience. Sally, you‟re in for a treat – particularly if they give you a product sample.”
Sally and Mike looked at each other in a puzzled way, and then Mike turned and winked at me out of Sally‟s line of sight. I actually felt butterflies. He was definitely flirting with me. To my relief Sally did not ask any further questions. “See you after work, then?” asked Sally. “I‟ll come by your office around 5-ish,” answered Mike. “You definitely in?” asked Sally, directing the question at me. I nodded and then Sally lent over and whispered into my ear. “Be careful! He‟ll charm the pants off you and before you know it you‟ll be deeply in love with him.” Her remark cleared up many loose ends. The story that Phil had uncovered, and that Dave had hinted at, suddenly made sense. Sally realised that she would never have a hold over Mike the way that she wanted to and had accepted the next best thing. I realised that she was talking from experience and while I was grateful for the advice, it also brought home to me that the issue was not whether he could charm the pants off me, but whether I could charm the pants off him.
Friends or Lovers
Back at my desk, I asked Phil to come into my office. As my mind went back over events, I realised that Dave had fuelled my concerns about Mike and this had directly motivated me to ask Phil to investigate Mike‟s private life. Given the way that events had turned out, I wondered why Dave had done this. “How are you feeling?” I asked. Phil looked quite relaxed so I felt it may be a good time to gather his thoughts on the outcome of the investigation. “Okay. Quite a turn of events, wasn‟t it?” “Yes – it certainly was. When did you think something wasn‟t right?” I asked. Phil sat back in his chair and became quite animated. He clearly appreciated his views being taken seriously and was keen to express them. “Quite a while ago. When I sat in the canteen with Mike‟s colleagues nothing seemed to fit. When Mike lost his temper with you in that meeting, I think my suspicions were confirmed.” I wondered how much I should tell Phil. I was going to need his help again and involving him would be risky. I decided to come clean. “I was not particularly clever over this,” I said. “You seemed pretty sharp to me,” he replied. I gave him a smile and shrugged my shoulders. “I‟d love to take the credit,” I said, “but that would be dishonest. Someone outside work – a good friend – suggested to me that maybe I was looking at things the wrong way.” “I see,” mused Phil.
“You were not entirely wrong when you asked if someone had influenced my thinking.” It was Phil‟s turn to smile at me. “Anyone I know?” he asked. “No. Someone outside work. We discussed the situation – hypothetically.” Even as I gave Phil this explanation, I felt a tinge of embarrassment that I did not admit how completely wrong I had got things. Why had I been so convinced that Elona was right and Mike wrong? Mike, if anything, had acted with remarkable restraint when I moved him to a new department. I took that as an indication of his guilt. It never crossed my mind for one second that he might actually be helping and protecting his accuser. In fact, he sacrificed his own interests to honour a promise to Elona. I had never met anybody willing to do that. It did not just add to my respect for him, it shamed me for the selfish way I conducted my life. In the pub, John said we only see what we are looking for. What an insight that is! I was only looking for things that confirmed Mike‟s guilt and Elona‟s innocence. As I considered these thoughts, I reflected on my own behaviour. How many times had I taken the lead? Often. How many times had I made a pass at a man? I had lost count. I was a master at coaxing someone into making a pass and I suddenly realised how it is almost impossible for two people to get into an intimate situation without both parties actively considering a relationship. In the past I had been hurt. My cavalier attitude toward men, indeed my hostility toward them, was rooted in the pain of past rejection. Afterwards, I had judged all men harshly. It was only
Finally. My loneliness was largely a choice and not an accident or misfortune. My errors were born out of a desire to protect myself. The humility did me good. It was strange to sit in my office exchanging these views with a person who just a few days earlier I would not have credited with sufficient experience or wisdom to handle a dispute.Friends or Lovers when I met John that I wanted to find a way out. I might have been responsible for a tremendous injustice. Phil waited patiently. and wondered what else I might have missed. “I can only speak for myself. but I‟m old enough to have seen people dig themselves into an early grave through bitterness. fearful and difficult they are. In this moment. I felt young next to him.” he said. Can I forgive myself for not being perfect? Can I forgive myself for having fears? If shame and fear are the price of the warmth and desire I now feel. “You should take some credit. I want to know the people in my life better.” I looked up at Phil. to avoid the pain of rejection and avenge those who I thought were responsible. I spoke. My fear of being intimate – my fear of sharing thoughts and feelings – began to fade when I met John. then it is a price worth paying.” I saw Phil‟s eyebrows quickly rise and fall and he tried to form some words. He taught me the value of being honest about my desires. “If he had not helped me understand my own prejudices. “When did you become so wise?” I asked. He grew in . I may be young. “We all have our cross to bear. However imperfect.” he said with just a hint of sadness. inconsistent.
“Are you suggesting what I think?” queried Phil. “Phil. “I need your help again. “we‟ve just poked around a number of people‟s private lives and screwed them up. .” I said pointedly. Not sure what else we can do because I‟ve no idea where to start.” “I understand.” “How?” Phil asked. “We need to find out whether there‟s a reason for Dave‟s animosity. This isn‟t a seek and destroy mission. Perhaps I had as much to learn from him as he from me. “And now I‟m not sure who to believe.” “I did so because Dave led me to think Mike might become a problem. “What‟s that?” I swallowed hard at the thought of what I was about to say. “And now?” Phil asked.” “Okay.Rory Ridley-Duff stature before my eyes. “Eyes and ears to the ground again. I‟ll see what I can find out.” This instant loyalty and acceptance of responsibility moved me so I felt it necessary to sound a note of caution.” Phil realised not only the extent to which I was about to take him into my confidence. but also the import of what I was about to suggest.” he replied. “Phil.” I added.” “What did you have in mind?” “D‟you remember that I asked you to find out about Mike – a kind of necessary evil?” “Yes. “There‟s one other thing.” I responded. I saw him momentarily shuffle uncomfortably. just a way to understand what happened.” I said.
Friends or Lovers “I am starting to fancy Mike like crazy.” “Oh!” I said. “I think. Do you think I‟m mad?” Phil‟s face broke into a broad smile. “that he is old enough to be your father…. much as John had taken a risk with me. “…and that he‟s also one hell of a lucky guy.” I was so chuffed that Phil said this that I was lost for words. what d‟you think?” I asked with urgency. but Phil put up his hand to indicate that I should stop talking. “Friends?” I said. “Come on. somewhat deflated. I offered him my hand. The amount of goodwill that was generated between those four walls in a few minutes contributed to one of the best working partnerships I would ever have.” Phil said with a momentary pause. in a moment of blind instinct. It was a risk. . Eventually. “Yes. of course!” he replied. As I look back over my life now I can trace the start of my friendship with Phil to this meeting. He took my hand and shook it firmly. The result would be one of the most enduring and loving relationships I would ever have.
so I took the contract to Harry.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 35 Later in the afternoon. That‟s good to hear. I admitted my mistake. As I walked into her office I heard a voice that was familiar. but I‟m assured by Dave that you‟ve made quite a mark here. “You‟ve no idea. A strange feeling came over me. “I know we see each other infrequently. the company‟s managing director. Harry accepted my comments with good grace.” “Thank you. “Quite a learning experience?” he asked. My detour took me near to Jo‟s office. I guessed that Dave must be too busy to deal with it. I felt I should touch base with her over the comment Elona had made. I did not want gossip or rumour to spread. and explained the situation. He signed off the contract to rent the flat to Mike and called Legal to approve the pay settlement. I returned to Legal to collect the contract for Mike. I found that Dave had still not signed it. I thanked him for his help and left his office feeling as though I had just grown wings and could fly. I had only met Harry formally.” I responded. but also said that the proposed settlement would ward off the possibility of litigation and save the company money in the long run. Until now. .” I answered. “Don‟t be afraid to drop in from time to time. I added that Mike was doing a good job establishing the new sales team and that any protracted dispute could have indirect costs that were unforeseeable.” I swallowed quite hard when I heard this. Today was turning into a very good day indeed. The flattery that I felt was considerable and I duly made the promise. Penny. but he was inviting me to be more informal with him.
but if I had denied it then it would surely have shown in my face. As I entered the room. I was not sure whether to admit to a close friendship in front of all the others. . our eyes connected just long enough for others to register that we were more than acquaintances.” I could see Sally looking both pleased and surprised as she whispered something in the ear of a colleague. Tongues would probably wag. “Jo and I are good friends too….” I answered.we‟ve worked on projects together and had some interesting results!” The way he said „interesting‟ made both Jo and him laugh out loud. “We are good friends. but there was little I could do. presentation in full flow. “You know each other?” asked Jo. My attitude to mixing business and personal relationships was momentarily compromised. John was outlining his thoughts on male and female consumer behaviour.” he replied. “Hello there!” he said with just a trace of a smile. “You are Jo‟s new consultant. I imagine she was asking herself the same question about me.Friends or Lovers Surely it could not be? But as I walked up to the door the voice was unmistakable. As I looked at John. In my mind I wondered “how good?” but I resisted the temptation to ask. Everybody turned around to look at me and for a moment I felt quite embarrassed. continuing the charade. “…. then?” John looked at Jo. “Yes. John noticed me at the back of the room and his face beamed.
Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay everyone. . We are going to learn where different products are advertised and you are going to do some serious research about men and women! And don‟t forget to ask yourself „what is the most sexist thing about the army?‟ We‟ll touch on that again next time. I thought for a moment and remembered my commitment to Mike. but John did not understand. isn‟t it?” “I guess it is. For a second I wondered whether to chide him for creating the impression we were close. Remember to bring in lots of magazines. “Things worked out. See you all next Wednesday. “Watch out! He‟ll charm the pants off you before you know it!” I laughed out loud. “Well.” With these words. smiled. then?” “Sure did!” and he immediately sensed the glint in my eye. however. this is a turn up. Mixed with surface irritation. Without batting an eyelid. he shut down his laptop to signal the end of the meeting and walked over to greet me. That‟s more or less it for today. Not only did it make me feel special. buy some this week. and gave a thumbs-up sign. was a deep pride that he acknowledged me so warmly. you‟ll need to bring some in yourself – if you don‟t buy them normally. it would probably do my social standing amongst the staff no harm at all. John leaned over and whispered into my ear. “How are you fixed later?” asked John. but his manner was so open and unaffected that he disarmed me. “Helping Sally and Mike move him into a company flat!” He turned to them both.” I responded. he put his hand on my shoulders and kissed me on the cheek. Guys.
“Problem is that he‟s far too devoted to his wife!” “Can a man be too devoted?” I joked.” His eyes had that glorious warmth that I had come to adore. I am. indeed his life.” “Aren‟t you devoted to your wife?” I asked. but an instinct told me not to. . I could have deliberately misunderstood him and read more into his words than was there. but Mike is not just a nice man. must be an endless juggling act. “I would normally not say such a thing. He immediately sensed this. I felt myself giving up any aspirations I had to seduce John and I comforted myself by looking forward to more fantasies. but I was beginning to realise the limits of his commitment.” “I intend to. “Yes. Sure he wanted to be close to me. Penny. “Penny. Reluctantly. he‟s a very nice man. but not so much that I would avoid your company. Damn it. “So what‟s going down with Mike.” he quipped. with just a hint of playfulness. why do I do that! His remark caught me so off-guard that for a moment I was angry with him. Treat him well. “Sure if it leads him to deny himself the company of other interesting people. then?” I asked. John took one look at me and twigged. I felt that his marriage. and his tone changed in an instant.Friends or Lovers “Someone else said the same thing earlier!” “Must be true then.” I said. John smiled. “You interested?” I blushed.” he said in a low voice and drawing me towards the corner of the room.
They fight and bicker all the time! She‟s been in love with him for years. I still felt no maternal twinge. “The way he tells it to me is that she wants children – he does not. I wanted a man. “Thanks for that. Whether he was being deliberately obtuse or just plain dumb. I did not care. I looked at John again. John then grinned at me and I realised that he was playing. they‟re like a married couple. Mike and Sally came over and John announced that he too was helping with the move. I was looking forward to the evening. He‟s got three already and does not want any more. but I can‟t see his feelings changing. Even as my own sister brought hers into the world. I returned to my office and decided to make one more trip to Dave‟s before packing up my things.” I responded. If they‟d agreed on that then perhaps he would have let her get close to him. .” he said with more confidence than I felt. Apart from that. “For that advice.” I said warmly. Knowing that neither Mike nor I wanted children took away one potential conflict. “What advice was that?” he said. “For what?” he asked. not children.Rory Ridley-Duff “I believe you will. “What about Sally?” I asked. I thought there was no harm seeing if she was competition. but because of this he would never let anything start. more as a remark to myself than a question for John.” “No more kids?” I said.
but I didn‟t approve it. He was standing next to his desk. “The flat.” “Why‟s that?” answered Dave. You said you would go and see them to sort this out.” he said.” I said again. “I said you‟d need my approval. I didn‟t agree to it. This was odd. His stubbornness was mirrored by the rigidity in his body. “I just dropped by to say that I‟ve sorted it anyway.Friends or Lovers Chapter 36 “There you are!” I said. but I confined myself to the issue in hand. What was he playing at? “Well. My mood changed from one of confusion to concern.” “What do you mean? You said you‟d e-mail Legal this morning. Penny. “He‟s moving in tonight.” “Dave! What d‟you mean?” “I wanted to discuss it with Harry first. When I finished. I thought. We didn‟t agree anything last night – you just told me what you wanted to do. he finally said something. the contract!” I said “What contract?” answered Dave. Mike is moving in tonight. I went over the talk we had the night before in the pub and he listened without making comment. whatever Dave!” I said. “I‟ve been looking for you all day. His fists were clenched as he spoke.” “What?” Dave was acting so strangely that I felt like asking why. I couldn‟t understand why he was behaving this way.” “You‟re mistaken. “Don‟t you remember?” I asked. Dave was behaving quite strangely and I was confused. .
I wondered if something might have happened at the hospital. His behaviour was strange and my evening engagement so much more inviting. I left the room. but I wanted to retreat.” He looked defensive and angry. I have. I didn‟t „go around you‟. almost shouting. “So how d‟you sort it?” he asked with a tone bordering on aggression. On another occasion I would have challenged him. He must have had a very bad day. He was speaking to me like a child. That was so out of character I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. clearly irritated.” “You went around me?” “No. You haven‟t signed it yourself?” “No!” I answered. I couldn‟t find you so I got Harry to sign. “Don‟t do it again!” he said finally. “I need to sign it. “How?” he said. . You haven‟t given him any keys. It was my turn to feel defensive. “Okay.” Dave looked at me.” I said.Rory Ridley-Duff “But we haven‟t sorted out a contract yet. have you?” “Yes. And I‟ve sorted out the contract. Without saying goodbye. “I got someone else to sign it because I couldn‟t find you.
we quickly filled each of them up. he needed to take only a few easily transportable things. As the flat was partly furnished. As the evening wore on I felt more and more relaxed. after we had consumed a pizza-takeaway and several bottles of wine. Sally stood up and raised her glass. unloaded and had four glasses of champagne on the table before the 7pm. Sometimes he would look back and acknowledge my interest. . drove to the new flat. I mean that he rescued me in here. “Yes he did! Yes he did! I don‟t mean he saved my life like he rescued me from death or anything.” Mike‟s eyes looked downward as he shook his head and laughed. plus his clothes.Friends or Lovers Chapter 37 It took us less time than expected to move Mike‟s stuff. “…. but they took care to include me in their conversation. Sally raised her glass.. but at other times he would remain engaged in conversation with John and Sally.” she announced. bedding.” She pointed to her heart with a finger and kept stabbing herself as she laughed. “Penny. By nine o‟clock. computer.” she lost her balance for a moment as the drink began to affect her. She quickly regrouped and continued. “To new beginnings!” I noticed myself glancing in Mike‟s direction repeatedly.this man saved my life. With four helpers and four cars. “This man here…. I initially felt out of place amongst such close friends. We all dutifully raised our glasses and clinked them together. hi-fi and a portable television.” she started. “To new beginnings.
As I spoke I looked deep into John‟s eyes. “Well firstly. “Did he? Well. I never. “Come on Sal. “This man saved my career!” John smiled back and raised his glass to me in appreciation. I wanted him in no doubt how special he was to me. “If she wants to praise you. “…. I stood up. “You leave „er alone.” answered Mike. When he did that…. “How d‟ee do that?” I was feeling liberated so I let my feelings spill out.” responded Sally. let „er!” As Sally sat down. “I don‟t think Dave would see it like that….” I said looking at him. “He and his stinking brother can rot in hell for all I care. you!” I said boldly.” This outburst – and the mention of Dave‟s name – fired my curiosity but in my drunken state I was more interested in giving Sally some sisterly support. “Don‟t you look around the place like that!” she barked at Mike. he helped me see something that I couldn‟t see. sit down love and rejoin the party.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike‟s eyes looked everywhere but towards me and I sensed that he wished Sally would shut up. “You‟re one of life‟s superheroes. I wobbled momentarily as I raised my glass to John.” Mike threw up a hand to discard her remark. “This man. I decided to mimic Sally so I feigned a stumble. Her boldness had made me bold and I wanted to say my piece as well.” “Sod Dave!” she said.he stopped me causing this man…” .” Everybody laughed as I struggled to articulate what I felt.(hic)….
” as the words formed in my head a single tear started to roll down one of my cheeks.. John noticed and started to get up but I put my hand up to stop him. “This man….” “Penny!” John interrupted again. I do have to say it and I want these two to listen. “Penny.this man….Friends or Lovers I quickly glanced at Mike before continuing “…any more upset and pain. .this man….. “you don‟t have to say this. “John. “You don‟t have to.” I laughed as I realised just how comfortable I suddenly felt.” He sat down again and with a resigned look. I do.this man…. the other three giggled away. braced himself for what he thought I was going to say. I did not understand what was happening to me. Before I knew it there were tears in my eyes and I was struggling to talk. “….” I said and then continued.” I looked at him and was overcome with such feelings of love and affection that I put my hand up again. but in my mind a whole world of understanding descended on me and I felt completely overwhelmed.. “I was about to do one of the most stupid things I‟d ever done.” Mike‟s embarrassed look left his face and was replaced by one of genuine surprise.” as these words spilled out my hand instinctively moved to cover my mouth.” As I stood there. Really you don‟t. “Ah shit! What the hell.this man did more than save my career. and I would‟ve done so if my good friend John – who I will now love forever…. but I knew that I had more to say so I gathered myself and started to find the words.” said John. “….
but a vixen at night who stalks and preys on vain and needy men to satisfy her own vanity and neediness. John looked less worried and began to take in what I was saying. I‟ve been a bad girl. “Right! This man…. me. I‟m the sort of person your mother warned you about. I had them all where I wanted them now. “You‟ve had this coming to you for a long time so don‟t spoil it. and John gave a short chuckle and relaxed in his chair.. Good as gold at work. so I continued . and I‟ll tell you!” Sally creased up with laughter when I called Mike an arsehole..” Sally and Mike were transfixed as they witnessed this intimate exchange. I‟ve known a series of jerks and losers and none of them ever made me actually want to know them.Rory Ridley-Duff “Shut up. so this caught him by surprise.you….arsehole!” I said with a smile. you arsehole. I mean really living – not just have a job and exist. “You men. You John. you changed all that.” As I spoke. “…you made me want to behave!” Sally and Mike creased up with laughter as I fired my double barrel. John…” I fixed my eyes and aggressively pointed my finger at him. you…. “For the last 10 years. “Since when did you two get so close?” asked Mike.” John obviously felt that I was going to tell him again how much I loved him. I don‟t know how you did it but you made me take an interest in living again. “You shut up too. “taught me how to feel again.” and this time I paused for effect more than anything else. honestly! Never know when to shut up…. What I‟ve done while at conferences would fill the pages of a Jackie Collins novel! But you. I giggled at the comedy that was taking place.
It was the most exquisite feeling I had ever known. And then he pulled away. Sally. Then. and kept his eyes on me while he sat down in his chair.Friends or Lovers with the performance and grew in confidence. And one more thing…” I held up both hands to stop them interrupting. If I had thought that John had helped me to feel again. He roared and clapped. “You make me want to be bad again!” When I said this. There was not a force in the world that was going to stop it. “You make me want to be bad too!” he whispered in my ear. A modest contented grin was etched onto his face and we both knew what was going to happen. Was this love? Was this lust? In that moment I was touched by my own humanity. grinned to himself contentedly. Mike starred back at me and for a few seconds we were transfixed by each other. on the other hand. I knew. In that moment. “…are the most difficult. I blew Mike a kiss then sat down.” I said conjuring up the sexiest look I could muster. Sally‟s giggles subsided and it was John who creased up with laughter. on the other hand…. came over and gave me a hug. the vixen started to return and my gaze left John and fixed on Mike. better than any orgasm. Suddenly all the other sounds in the room seemed to go silent and every fibre and nerve-ending in my body was focussed on Mike‟s eyes and mouth. As Mike‟s giggles subsided. Mike. better than any drug. he got up. This was living. . I knew. started to join in too. stubborn…and surprising person I‟ve ever met. walking backward. despite her feelings. “You. A few moments later I felt a tingle rush through my body and I had to shut my eyes and wait until it passed.. it was nothing compared with the tidal wave that engulfed my being on hearing these words.
the thought ran through my mind that his loyalty was coming to an end.” she started to say. “How else do you think I got to know all the stuff that was going on in his life?” he quipped firing a glance at Mike. it was Sally. “John! How long has this been going on?” He looked at me half-embarrassed. . Then he was so loyal to Elona that he nearly destroyed his career. I pointed at John and shouted at him. “he‟s been a bad boy a few times. It was not only his family that he was protecting. She did not need to say anything. “Sally?” I quizzed. “You sly old dog.Rory Ridley-Duff It took me a few moments to notice that Sally had climbed onto John‟s knee and was kissing his forehead. “But I thought he told you?” I responded. “He was so loyal to this sweet woman that he nearly destroyed his marriage. you! And there was me thinking you were a devoted and loyal husband!” “You are mixing me up with Mike!” he said. and he glanced back.” I was laughing again. Suddenly his resistance made sense. “As for this one. haven‟t you my dear?” Now it was my turn to crease up with laughter.” I joked. He was not the paragon of virtue I had believed him to be. Sally looked at me. All my inhibitions regarding John vanished.” answered John. “He‟s too damn loyal for his own good. “And there was I thinking that you are a family man. She and John were lovers. Mike raised his glass to John in appreciation but when I glanced at Mike.
“I want to talk about this. darling. That‟s why I had to go. As my hand slipped under his shirt and felt his strong body. so I grabbed him and led him roughly across the living room and out of the flat.Friends or Lovers “He is. Whether it was the drink.” I remembered the recent phone call. “You have no idea…. his hands clutched my behind. .” said Sally. I pressed myself up against him. “Oh yes I have….” As I said these words. I was not going to waste this moment.” I replied.” I got up from my chair. put my hands around his buttocks and pulled him close. “He‟s frustratingly devoted to his wife and children.. Why did you resist me?” He looked at me and draped his arms around my neck. We pulled each other close and snogged until we both sensed that enough was enough. “This is the one and only chance you will ever get to kiss me because by midnight tonight I‟m going to be off the market. and you called me right in the middle of it! She thought you were Sally and started wrecking the house. She consented. and asked Sally if I could borrow him for a minute. “Right you!” I said. Our lips met. “One day soon.” he said. You must have known how much I wanted you. or the knowledge that he was weak with women. “You told her. gently parted. offered my hand to John.” “Why did you tell her?” “I wanted to stay at Sally‟s while working on this contract. the situation. didn‟t you?” “Yes.” I said to him. and our tongues touched.
You made it possible for me to love again. “That‟s what I thank you for the most. but it‟s not that. Things changed some years back. “You have yourself a deal. not surprisingly. that‟s how you did it. Penny.” He laughed and held hands. You are the first man. You liked me from the moment we met. He did not have to explain how he felt. This isn‟t the first time for either of us.there has been one other. John. That made you special. “I love you.” “What about Sally?” “If I‟d not slept with Sally. very needy. You‟re the first woman I‟ve not had to sleep with to keep interested. Being with you was enough.” “She‟s certainly a looker. But with you.” I stroked his face. that I‟ve not been afraid to love. Very special. It was hard for her to leave her husband. if they thought I was not intending to sleep with them. even after I told you I wouldn‟t make a pass at you.” I said.” I said. If you „saved me‟. Penny Leyton. I‟m fond of her and she was in a state after Mike returned to his wife. it was different somehow. That was the price of continued friendship.” “How are things with your wife?” “They‟re okay. With others. after my father. they would lose interest. I was there. “You look after her and I‟ll look after you. Just being with him had been enough for me too.” “And I love you too.Rory Ridley-Duff “Sally is not the only woman that I‟ve given in to . When the kids were both at . I think.” I nodded as I spoke. I was part of her recovery. I‟d have lost her. She was. Mike was gone. “Yes.
When we are together we still have a fabulous time. She‟s a lovely woman and.” With this exchange of words we made our pact. my whole life‟s like that. A nomadic life suits me and I have friends and nests in many places. “As long as you behave.” “But you need somewhere that‟s a home.Friends or Lovers school she started working again. There‟s no reason to divorce. I travel for days. We both get lonely. We found that we both liked the idea of more freedom. I‟m just a temporary distraction for her. We worked things through but a lot changed. This is a long contract and it‟ll be lovely to spend time with Sally.” “Don‟t worry. I admitted to her that I‟d thought of having an affair as well. I‟m travelling much more. We hugged again but this time . There‟s no way to get it back so things have changed. She holds a torch for Mike and likes having her own place. The kids are older now. I was determined to hold onto his love. You‟re secret is safe with me. at a time. I admire her more than when we first married but the exclusivity has been lost. Sally won‟t marry me. “Not so white as white. Soon after.” “D‟you think you‟ll have a house in one piece when you get home?” I quipped. Then I met Sally through Mike and gave in again! My wife and I are still good friends. We drifted apart and she had an affair. You don‟t want to just drift between places like a visitor?” “With my work. sometimes weeks. Maybe I can sleep in your nest occasionally?” I smiled. Penny. I took the plunge. lover.” I said. am I? I hope you aren‟t disappointed. thankfully. we‟re able to get past blaming each other. “We both love the kids. That was a lovely thought and I warmed to it.
Our relationship was now like that. I retired to the other with Mike. we had become lovers of a sort. only ones where they chose not to have sex. Sally retired to one of the bedrooms with John. Sleeping with Mike for the first time was.that acquaintances would misunderstand. As for the rest of the evening. the most special moment of one of the most extraordinary days of my life. We both understood our attraction to each other. There was now such a deep intimacy.Rory Ridley-Duff it was devoid of sexual passion. It would be John and I that others would mistake now. It was almost as if we were saying goodbye and hello at the same time. without question. This diamond is mine. a bond as strong as I‟d ever known. It would be our joke – just as it had been for Sally and Mike . The memory is like a precious stone. We knew that sex would be there if we ever both needed and wanted it at the same time. I thought of Sally and Mike and how everyone thought they had been lovers. I remembered John‟s words that there was no such thing as a non-sexual relationship between men and women. and mine alone. But I didn‟t care either way – the most important thing was to protect the trust. a priceless treasure that sparkles. I hope you will forgive me for shielding it from gossip that would corrupt it. . But when I thought about it.
firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Sorry Pen. Don’t worry about email@example.com. As I sensed these feelings. I was astonished and frightened. To have waited nearly 33 years to discover this! Suddenly I understood why people could fall apart when their partner leaves.Friends or Lovers Chapter 38 I went into work the next day on a tremendous high. . Even though I felt like telling him (and the whole world) what had happened the night before. I felt capable of doing anything. and songs made sense and I realised people were not simply making it up. or how a husband or wife might feel driven to murder after discovering the other was having an affair.uk To: penny. From: dave. Suddenly all those soppy romance novels. movies. We all have off days. there was an apology from Dave. Can you I answered immediately. As I settled down to my computer to retrieve my e-mails. Every few minutes I would pause to think of the future. I was pleased that Dave apologised because that was how I expected him to be. If anybody tried to steal Mike from me. it would have been imprudent and insensitive. Is there anything we need to follow up after the product launch? I was irritable and too harsh. worried and pleased at the passion I felt. forgive me? Dave. Sorry about yesterday.
“I guess that‟s a good idea. Phil looked up and my smile told him all he needed to know. “Thank you. “Don‟t you go blurting this around the place. “You don‟t have sugar. boss!” he said sarcastically. “Bloody hell.” I said..” “Have to keep the boss happy!” he joked. She‟s over the 10-day mark and her manager is asking if you‟ll visit.you…. I want them to come from me. Penny. That‟s very sweet of you.. That was fast work.” Elona! I had forgotten about her in all the excitement. “No need to do that today. That‟s the third time in two weeks. right?” he asked.” Phil said. Strange.” . But I can‟t see this staying a secret for long. “Okay.Rory Ridley-Duff There was a knock at the door and Phil was standing with a cup of coffee. I‟m happy enough for both of us. Have you called her?” “Yes. They‟ll probably be in the shop. “Don‟t tell me….” “Hard to believe it myself. give me the address and I‟ll go round.” I responded. okay?” “Okay. Okay. This was a surprise. What have you got for me?” “Elona‟s off sick again.” “Sure thing. No answer.?” I just kept silent and smirked enough for him to work out that he was right. Keep it under wraps for now. Phil did not usually make coffee unless I asked.” “Hmm. “If any rumours start. No answer from her parents?” “No.
” I asked them to let me in. She turned around and after a moment of confusion she saw the breakfast tray. You looked like you could do with something. “She‟s up there but we can‟t get her out of bed. of course. love!” she shouted. I finally assembled something that looked appetising. my dear. “Elona! Elona. “there‟s someone here to see you…. We‟re worried sick. all last night.” *** I drove to Elona‟s flat and rang the bell. maybe make her a drink. There was no reply so I entered the shop and spoke to her mother.” There was silence. just crying and crying. “Elona?” I said gently as I rocked her shoulder. We‟ll be in the shop. We‟re at our wits end.” I sat with Elona for fifteen minutes before stirring myself to go to the kitchen. . “Oh the pet!” said her mother. Her mother led me though the shop and up the stairs. bread.” “Feel free. “You‟ve been busy!” “Yes. I took the liberty of putting together breakfast-in-bed. What do you want to do?” “Can I stay here a bit. plates and bowls.Friends or Lovers “Yes. “She‟s cried herself to sleep.” “What‟re you doing here?” she asked. Don‟t know what to do. All weekend. Having played hide and seek with the butter. so her mother gently opened the door of her room and a crumpled figure lay in the bed asleep. wake her up and chat.
” Earlier in my career I might have believed that these visits were out the kindness of the company‟s heart but over the years I had come to realise that this was just another way to ensure that people did not take the piss and bunk off work.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m finding out how you are.” I responded. I‟m here because you‟ve been off work for 10 days this year and it is my job to be here.” . “He‟ll just say I‟m depressed and give me some drugs. And yet I did feel concern for her so I accepted her thanks. “No. Eventually. She looked at me sorrowfully and tried to talk but nothing coherent came out. I don‟t want that. It is hard watching someone sink into the depths of despair.” She sat up in bed and I gave her the tray.” she commented. We were worried.” “I‟m sure they‟ll do what‟s best. Have you seen a doctor?” She gave a dismissive laugh. “You didn‟t have to come. I could see the tear stains around her eyes. she started to nod and the tears began to flow as she tucked into her toast and cup of tea. At the same time I do care what happens to you and if there‟s a way I can help then I will. We sat there while she finished her breakfast and then she thanked me again. I won‟t kid you.” “Just part of the job. but still had a girlish charm. Don‟t make me into a saint. I did not try to start a conversation and just sat next to her. This is kind of you. Nobody at work could contact you. Without make-up she looked quite different. “This is kind of you. “Elona.” As I looked at her face. “Your mum and dad say you‟ve been upset.
I wondered if he might be able to help. I‟m useless. completely fucking useless.” she said. Nobody likes me. “I‟m nothing. “I said I don’t want that. “Yes. “Don‟t give me that crap.Friends or Lovers At this comment Elona looked at me angrily. a failure. Even though she was slightly built I began to feel a bit afraid. “You don‟t need me. “I‟m useless. “I don‟t give a shit.” “Why?” I asked.” “Is this to do with Nathan?” At this remark she turned toward me and I could see the rage building in her face. “Nothing. I recalled the many conversations I‟d had with John. In the back of my mind.” My efforts were not rewarded. “I need you. Did you not hear me?” The sharpness of her tone took me aback and I realised that perhaps she was not quite the shrinking violet that I had previously thought. Nobody. There are people at work who believe in you. a zero. however. I‟ve seen your file and you‟ve earned that position. As I walked out of the room a torrent of abuse showered my back as .” It was my turn to show a bit of aggression. so I started to clear the tray and returned to the kitchen.” I said. Administrators are ten-a-penny. I heard you.” I said. I was on my own and had to do the best I could. At the moment. Nobody likes me. She looked like she was going to explode. “What then?” I asked.” I listened with patience. a waste of space. It‟s all meaningless.
Rory Ridley-Duff she screamed the place down about Nathan. me. motionless except for the occasional stroke of her face. When I returned from the kitchen I held out my hand and surprisingly she took it. There are a couple of people I want to talk to and then I‟ll be back. I need to go now. I tried to remain calm but it was difficult. I sat with her for another quarter of an hour. She turned onto her side and wept again. We had all ruined her life. . Phil. her exboyfriend. “Elona. her parents. Mike. work. Do you understand?” She made no movement so I repeated the question and she gave a nod of her head.
My first port of call was John. What is it?” he asked as soon as I closed the door.” “We‟ve got to keep a lid on it at work. “…. “What can I do for you?” “Can I speak to you in private?” I asked. but none that I can act on here. He was in a meeting with Jo.Penny!” he said slightly stiffly. I‟d go and have one. “Plenty. “Okay.” I said.” He pulled his head away and I noticed there was a bulge in his trousers. but he agreed to take a break at mid-day and chat to me in the canteen. . “…. “If there was a cold shower somewhere.. “Anything in particular you want to speak about?” he enquired. I managed to calmly lead him into his own office. he smiled at me as if it was any other day at work. but this has to come first …. “Hello…. “Any ideas?” he replied. “Better do something about that!” I said with a smile. “Elona!” I said in response and suddenly he dropped the formality and whispered in my ear.” I whispered back. He nodded and even though I felt like dragging him into the nearest broom cupboard for a quickie. I felt myself get aroused as I moved closer toward him. Even though I was there on business. I busied myself.and there was I hoping you wanted to shag me in the toilets….I do.Friends or Lovers Chapter 39 For the rest of the day.” I said. As I walked through the door.err…. looking down towards his crotch. Next I went to see Mike.
She was upset and I was there so she took it out on me.” I protested. but I think she needs some space to herself. I‟m not sure it‟d be a good idea anyway. “You‟re not thinking…. I visited her and she‟s in a right state. Penny?” he said.” I proffered.Rory Ridley-Duff “Elona needs somewhere to stay.” “Elona? What‟s the problem now?” “The same problem. if you want to get back with your wife…. It‟s technically your place. I don‟t hold what happened against her. “Are you checking me out?” he queried. . I can‟t act without your consent.” “Does that mean you‟d be okay if she moved into the other room?” “It‟s going to look very odd. I‟ll talk to John later. We were always friends before and I‟m sure we will be again.. Is it really that urgent?” “Well actually. He looked surprised at my remark. I could hardly believe what I‟d said and started to apologise profusely.Jeez! I‟ve only just got you to myself.” “What d‟you have in mind?” I gave a half smile and got ready to ask him. but he anticipated me. I allowed him to kiss me briefly but stopped him when I felt my passion rising. “Of course.” “Elona and I have always got on well. I wanted to know how you felt about the idea. “Stop! People will see. “Let them!” he said. He walked over and silenced me with a kiss. My hand instinctively jumped to my mouth.
I lent over and spoke quietly into his ear “Because this week I‟m going to fuck your brains out every night!” And with that remark. . one of the reps came up and congratulated me. One of his staff had noticed our kiss and by lunchtime a rumour was making its way around the offices. “May as well have sent out an e-mail!” he retorted with a chuckle.I‟ll tell her that she can move in next weekend if she wants. the rumour about myself and Mike had spread to Phil.” Phil looked at me warmly. As I sat with John in the canteen. “Not a word passed my lips!” said Phil as I brought him a cup of tea.” he said with a big grin. I played it cool by asking “what for?” I talked to John about my idea and he concurred that a move to the flat might be helpful to Elona. “Oh well! It‟s out now.” “Why next weekend?” he asked. “I‟m all yours.Friends or Lovers “I‟ll tell her…. just a little kiss in his office. “What did you do – send out a company wide e-mail?” “No. I turned to leave the room. She promised to think about it and let me know the next day. When I returned in the afternoon. I told her again that there were people at work who cared. She took the news of the flat offer in her stride and did not seem to show any great enthusiasm. Elona was up and dressed. When I got back to the office. “Already?” I asked.” I replied.
Penny?” I swivelled my screen around so he could read the e-mail.” he said. Dave x I sat for 30 minutes while thoughts burned my mind. I decided to have one last trawl through my emails in case Dave had replied. Where on earth had this come from? As I tried to find answers to impossible questions. “Oh fuck!” . the high spirits that had kept me aloft all day dissolved. “What‟s up. With every passing minute.30pm Phil found me slumped at my desk.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m happy for you. By 4. I just wanted to say that the thought of you testing the SHARE experience “personally” is definitely something to dream about at night!! I look forward to a blow-by-blow description of your experiences. *** At my desk. Beads of sweat formed over my body and face. just two words sprang forth from his lips. Subject: Sorry Pen. After a few moments. crashing and spinning out of control. and the clarity I had brought to work evaporated as my mind felt like it was turning to treacle. my heart sank slowly into the quicksand of despair.
” he answered. sat with me. I think he expected me to jump him as I walked through the door. Could I talk to him? What if I scared him off by mentioning it? What if he asked questions? Did I really want to explain that I‟d told Dave about testing out the SHARE experience? Whichever way my mind went. I returned to Mike‟s flat. stroking me.I . He seemed to take it in his stride and did not press me. He made me a cup of coffee.Friends or Lovers Chapter 40 Instead of going home. He joked that the second was “just in case”. but the promise to explore the love-making potential of the flat was a distant thought. we communicated a lot. “Just in case what?” I asked. His right hand lay on the side of my face. “Just in case we finish the first one. Even though we were not speaking. but after receiving Dave‟s e-mail. I could see a potential for disaster. He went out for bottle of wine and came back with two. watched the television and held my hand. To others we looked like a regular couple but inside I was full of questions about how far I could trust him. he would slide his fingers between mine and hold my hand more tightly . his left hand would stroke the back of mine and I would move my head and nestle it even more deeply in his lap. I could tell he was nervous too but he poured us both a glass of wine and we passed the time watching Channel Four News. Sometimes. I gave him a hug. My right hand rested on his knee and every few moments I would caress it and sometimes rub the inside of his knee. He sat at one end of the sofa and I put my head on his lap. Now I had a personal problem it dawned on me that I hardly knew him. Intermittently. my mind was preoccupied.
there‟s nothing bigger is there?‟ Don‟t you think that‟s a great line?” He smiled and stroked my head again. There‟s nothing bigger is there?” “Little what?” he answered. “Not yet. “Where‟s this coming from. “I remember this film. She says to him „I miss the little things‟ and the man replies „ah!…. “When did you know?” I asked. you are stroking me. but it gave me confidence that he looked upon me as more than a fling. There‟s a man standing with a woman and she‟s talking about her husband who has just died. I was not really watching it so I started to ask Mike questions. Penny?” he asked. “The little things. “Know how you felt about me?” I answered.” he said. “Are you going to tell me about your wife?” I asked. “When I insulted you!” I sat up and looked at him. and these little things mean a lot. “Plenty of time for that!” It was a small remark. “Well I was just lying here and our hands are touching.Rory Ridley-Duff would respond by tightening my grip to catch and squeeze his fingers. “Know what?” he replied. I‟m stroking you. a line from a film entered my head.the little things. I sipped the wine as the TV programme played in the background. As I lay there. “What do you mean?” . don‟t they?” “I hope so.” he said.
” “Do you remember when we first met?” he asked. he‟d asked me the same question.” I was not sure how to react. Before I had time to think. I can‟t remember ever standing up to my wife like that.” I answered.” I encouraged. “Well. maybe. And there I was challenging you on whether you had ever made a pass at a man. “You thought of that while we were arguing?” “Well. but at home I‟ve always been quite passive. I did. At work. so the thought came into my head. I remember being really angry. . when you held my gaze and would not look away. yes. “Won‟t forget that in a hurry!” “Well there I was shouting at you. “I was thinking how nice it would be if you made a pass at me.Friends or Lovers “When we were arguing and I called you a „stupid woman‟ and I asked you if you‟d ever made a pass at a man. I think there were two moments. I thought and went back over my mind. That‟s my trick and you stole it from me! You made me go funny inside and I couldn‟t hide from myself that you excited me.” I laughed out loud because at that moment I would have fed him to the sharks. “When did you know?” he asked. when you asked why women let men think they rule the world. Firstly. Secondly.” “Go on. I‟d always pegged you as old fashioned and that completely took me back. then looking at you intently thinking that a woman as confident and smart as you would surely have made a pass at a man. Do you remember that?” “Yes.
“Why are you laughing?” I demanded.” I interjected. I started the joke then stopped when I saw you walking toward us. “Dave and I were chatting and I was about to tell him a sexual joke. “Why would you be afraid of me when you don‟t even know me?” .Rory Ridley-Duff I tried to recollect but I couldn‟t. “Tell me. “Yes. He said to be careful because of you.” he said. you did. after a moment.” I commanded. He‟d been bitching about Harry insisting on your appointment. I thought back.” “My God! I remember now.” he replied. He preferred the other candidate. “John. “I was with Dave.” This came as a surprise. “Go on. Yes.” he replied.” I directed.” “Is that true?” It was Mike‟s turn to reflect. “I annoyed you. “He‟d say that I censored myself because I was afraid of you. “He didn‟t want you in the company. Anyway.” Mike laughed. didn‟t I?” commented Mike. “I was thinking what John would say. “What about him?” I asked. He told me to watch out for you because you were a „ball breaker‟” “He said that!” I exclaimed. I pegged you as a paternalistic antifeminist old git. but Harry insisted on you. Dave had successfully hidden this from me for nine months. “Yes.
We soon finished the first bottle of wine and opened the second. While he had charm and sex appeal. Without any further words he pulled my face closer. One of John‟s best. it was. “Why?” he asked. he did not routinely crack jokes or flirt when he was alone with me. “I didn‟t want your first impression of me to be a bad one. If I don‟t tell the joke. “Tell me the joke. “Damned if you do.” I thought back to my e-mail exchanges with John. “I don‟t know any male manager today who‟s not afraid of sexual accusations.” he replied. . I‟m sexist because I‟m excluding you. “My God. damned if you don‟t.” “That‟s the problem. “I can imagine. His mouth met mine and we got properly reacquainted. a witty remark would have been forthcoming as he popped the cork.” I said sinking into his lap.” he said.” I said. “What‟s the problem?” I asked.” “What do you mean?” I queried “If I tell the joke. I‟m sexist because I turn women into sex objects.” “Was it a good joke?” I said trying to lighten the mood. you are!” I responded. but Mike was quieter and calmer. If he had been John. I‟m afraid. “Because you didn’t tell me the joke. “No. It was strangely reassuring.” “Well.” “Are you serious?” Mike frowned.” I replied.Friends or Lovers Mike looked me in the eye. “It was brilliant.
“Did pretty well.Rory Ridley-Duff “I had a shock today. not absolutely sure how I felt about him now. “You‟re concerned?” he asked. Mike obliged but kept talking at the same time. Mike felt no need to press me to explain myself. “Very well indeed. He‟s never done that before.” he continued. “Too repressed?” “Yeah. “He asked me to find out about you. Nice.” I blurted out. His body was relaxed and I felt comfortable opening up to him. yes. around my waist and started to caress the small of my back.” I said. “Yeah! He behaves great to his favourites or women he fancies.” he answered seductively as his hand moved under my blouse. “Well.” I said. “And?” “That‟s it.” I remarked.” “Too repressed for his own good. Comes across as such a „nice guy‟ but underneath beats a heart of appalling meanness. “Dave sent me an e-mail that was sexually suggestive. I was his boss back then. Do that some more. “I‟ve always liked him.” I recalled how Dave had been suspicious of Mike.” he said with considerable force. “Dave and I go back a long way. Clearly the feelings were reciprocated. didn‟t I?” I quipped.” . “We joined IC at roughly the same time. Get on the wrong side of him and you‟ll discover just what a bastard he can be.” I said.” “Did he really?” said Mike with a sarcastic knowing laugh. I am. “Hmmm.” he answered.
“You like being teased. “What doesn‟t work?” “The „can you explain it to me coz I‟m a stupid woman‟ routine. “We fell out over Sally. Mike.” I suddenly pretended to be stupid. You know how dim women can be. “Oh.” “Doesn‟t work!” he suddenly said. Where did he get these insights from. Whenever there is shit in the workplace. “Okay. as if waiting for me to ask a question. “What about the other half?” “Optimist!” he said without missing a beat.” he asserted. Please explain it for me. “Get on with your story.Friends or Lovers “What happened?” I asked. “Are you going to ask how?” he continued. . “Only half the time…” he answered.” he replied. smiling or wavering for an instant.” I said with mock impatience. “What?” “Doesn‟t work!” he said again. How?” “She was Dave‟s sister-in-law. there is usually a man and woman involved!” “Cynic!” I joked. I began to realise that his wit was considerably drier than John‟s. “You‟re teasing me!” I answered. “Sally?” I responded with some surprise.” He paused. I wondered. “Sally used to be related to Dave.” he said. “Oh yes.
. yes. “What are you smiling for?” I asked. “Sally used to be married to Dave‟s brother. but his assertive and commanding manner turned me on. will you?” I said briskly. . he continued and finished the story. “So now you know why he and I are not best buddies. You‟ve had this story from John so I‟m not sure what else to tell you. I like strong direct women. There was just a hint of smile on his face.” he answered. “Just get on with the bloody story. “Oh. do you?” I queried. my lad. “You are going to like me a lot!” He relaxed a bit and laughed. I could feel my confidence and ardour beginning to build. With only a moment‟s hesitation. “That works!” he said with a laugh. It was beginning to dawn on me that Mike liked to play things straight. “You are so sexy when you raise your voice. He gave a gesture to indicate that he did not understand. He might not make me laugh as much as John.” he replied. “What?” I asked. “Say again?” I asked. “Well. Dave‟s brother used to beat her.Rory Ridley-Duff He did not play the way that John played so I tried another approach.” “It‟s okay – I was being rhetorical!” I said.” Mike concluded.” I sat up straight and suddenly the pieces dropped into place. gathering words together in my head. “Sally used to….” I said. “You like it.
No wonder Dave had a grudge against Mike! Suddenly my need to tell Mike about Dave‟s e-mail became more urgent. there could be more unpleasantness.” “Did you?” I asked. “No. “You don‟t need me to answer that. You leave your wife after a big row . that Dave had invited me out after the CIPD event in Birmingham and that we would be staying in the hotel together.” I said. “He thinks that you…..” I insisted. Whatever Dave felt when he recruited me. So what? Then the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place and I instinctively covered my mouth in shock. When I told him the details of the recent e-mail exchanges.” Mike replied.and Sally. What would Dave do if he found that I was sleeping with Mike? “Maybe we should deny our relationship?” I suggested. her illness. “He has to know sometime. “Okay. he thinks I fucked Sally and broke up his brother‟s marriage. “I want to tell you more. The words came out so fast I had no time to retract them.Friends or Lovers I still did not get it completely.” he replied.” “You may not like it. And out it all came. “He thinks…. “You and I are at loggerheads.. I don‟t. “Still want to hear. I began to wonder whether I had been completely blind.” I started. If Mike and Dave had fallen out once before.” I added. “Just try to look at this from his perspective.” I said. I thought he was getting ready to make a move on me. He had helped Sally. I told Mike of Dave‟s wife.” he responded. my fondness for him.” “Yes.
That was the first of many times we made love there. I suddenly felt quite clever. “He must have taken your message as encouragement….Rory Ridley-Duff with me in the workplace. again?” asked Mike. When I did not respond. The following morning he didn‟t want to sign the contract for this flat. Later he and I had our first angry words. he gave me another shove and I realised he wanted to play. So I shoved him off the sofa. Within a month neither of us had any secrets left to tell. we used my flat as a new base. The next day Elona decided she wanted to move in and with only a few days of freedom. then my giggles gave way to a low pitched moaning as I suddenly felt his hand between my legs and his hot breath on my neck. “What did he say. his strong frame moved towards me and my screams gave way to giggles. I find you a company flat to move into. Mike!” Having felt a bit dim a moment before. . As I backed up against the wall. After she moved in.” Mike pointed out. “I didn‟t mean it like that. Mike and I made the most of our freedom.” “You? Polite?” he teased again. I gave him a playful shove and he shoved me back with a deadpan face. got up and ran away. I repeated the recent e-mail exchanges with Dave. Then it comes out that we are sleeping together. For the next 10 minutes he chased me all over the flat until he managed to corner me in the bathroom. I don‟t want to take the risk. Never in my life had I enjoyed such passion and intimacy with a man. How does that look to you? Dave behaved strangely at the pub the other night. I was just being polite after the hasty exit the night before.
they accepted and welcomed this development and all quietly congratulated me. The threads of our lives intertwined and bonds were woven into a fabric so strong that I could not imagine them ever breaking. When. I talked to her of the things we had done together. and our love-making was varied and passionate. Our conversations were realistic and grounded. our plans firm and concrete. for all the intense times we spent together. Carole and my parents thought I had disappeared off the face of the earth. for all the future plans we mapped out. For sure our relationship took off at quite a pace. Privately Mike and I had discussed that if we enjoyed living together. At the end of each . we started to talk extensively about politics (office and otherwise). he learnt of mine. our first month felt like a honeymoon that would never end. I listened to his experiences as a father. But throughout all this. towards the end of June. he listened to my memories of childhood. for all the commitments we made. not even John and Sally. Many joint dreams were born. I turned up at my parent‟s house for Sunday lunch with Mike in tow. John and Sally occasionally dropped in and we would all go out for a meal. the words “I love you” never passed our lips. we announced that he would be moving into my flat. To call this a “whirlwind romance” does not do it justice. Even as they expressed surprise. but we were never a lovely-dovey couple. If our first night together was the most special moment of my life. I learnt of his dreams and fantasies. but never of our future aspirations. I savoured every second. knew of our plans.Friends or Lovers Despite the generation gap. Carole phoned me daily after Mike and I had appeared for lunch at my parents. he might file for divorce so we could marry. But publicly nobody.
The only person I updated from time to time was Phil. we remained the very souls of discretion. speech in hand. told me about people that he fancied. . I apologised for not getting more involved but she assured me that mum was on top of everything.Rory Ridley-Duff phone call she would say “I‟m really happy for you” and gradually I began to see what it was that bound she and Chris together. in turn. I broke the news to her that I would have to pass up the opportunity of shagging the best man. He. If people knew. make everybody laugh and be beautiful. the rumours at work died quickly and did not spread further. Like true professionals. We talked about her forthcoming wedding and the preparations. did not learn of our relationship and Mike and I managed to keep our contact low-key and light-hearted. Dave. To my surprise. All I needed to do was to turn up. fortunately. there was a conspiracy of silence.
I was conscious that my probationary period was coming to an end and Dave would decide my future. Following the launch of the SHARE experience. We exaggerated. Neither of us spoke about the situation with his wife or his admission that he fantasised about me. . we developed too. I felt that raising it with him was too risky. Mike. and many side-stories and alternative plot lines were elaborated. as sales manager for the domestic market. our personal relationship had cooled.Friends or Lovers Chapter 41 The prospect of going to the CIPD event with Dave was something that I came to dread. I would join them for drinks and found that I particularly enjoyed Elaine‟s company. Even if he had said it as a joke. So far as I could tell. confirmation was a formality but this new situation meant that I could no longer take my appointment for granted. In the back of my mind I wondered whether it was wise to say nothing. I met Sam and Elaine again (with Dave) to organise the recruitment of more support staff. John knew Elaine from academic conferences so all six of us started going out weekly for meals. but there was sufficient common ground to compare perspectives. also met Sam and Elaine regularly to develop marketing strategies. While we still worked together well on a professional level. After much drinking we playfully acted out the battle-axe and gentle man confronting each other angrily while an unspoken mutual passion was developing. The story of how Mike and I got together became something of a party piece. Her background in sociology and international business was different to mine. of course. As a group.
” “Is there such a thing?” she asked. “I guess. They married secretly and this triggered a hostile reaction from some board members. I arranged to go with her to Birmingham beforehand to buy an evening dress. They decided to establish a new company for Sam to continue working on his ideas. “So what you going to get?” Elaine asked. I look good in tight black dresses but perhaps that would be too risqué. We would take lunch together and have girly chats. After obtaining an MBA she took up a senior management post at the engineering company where Sam had been working. After all their hard work. I love sexy outfits. This enabled them to expand their market and leverage in considerable financial investment. “Not sure. and the company‟s ignorance of its potential. On the day of the CIPD conference. She had also been a human resources manager before advancing her education.” “Get something you can wear for other occasions as well!” said Elaine. . that spurred their close relationship. Their close working relationship evolved into a personal one. She picked me up about 10am and we made our way up the motorway. but as I‟m going with Dave I don‟t want to send out the wrong signals.Rory Ridley-Duff Elaine became the first person to learn of my private aspiration to marry Mike. they were beginning to achieve security both for themselves and the company. It had been a struggle but the relationship with IC was a breakthrough. For the last 5 years they had developed their product line. It was her interest in his engineering.
A matching necklace and earrings completed the vision. but I don‟t have millions stashed away to bring in the punters. She reminded me of John. “Some of them do. “If only men tasted as good!” said Elaine. “Don‟t know about you love. “Just ask Erin Brockovich.” she answered. she took her foot off the gas and cruised into Birmingham at 90mph.Friends or Lovers “Depends. she gave out a loud “Yee-haw!” and put her foot down on the accelerator as if she was about to drive off the cliff in Thelma & Louise. flushed with shock and excitement.” I quipped.” I quipped. I nodded and she carried on. Her Porsche 911 accelerated quickly and my body pressed back into the seat. But I do have a lovely pair of legs. “Chocolate delight! They weren‟t kidding were they?” I said as I tucked away another slice and sipped on my café latte. coffee and chocolate cake. “You‟ll have to introduce me.” “Killer combination. “Men use their power when it suits them. . I could hardly wear something like that to work!” She glanced at me and we laughed at the thought. lunch. She was irrepressible. After a few seconds.” “You better believe it!” And with our sights set on the shops. After shopping. We shouldn‟t be embarrassed about using ours. surely. we retired for coffee and cake. great boobs and a sharp brain.” she replied. It hung at the knee and had a waist that was gathered with a belt that was covered in ethnic beads. I found a lovely black dress. elegant with a cut that was suggestive without being too daring. irresponsible and exuded a freedom than I‟d never witnessed at close quarters.
then pairs of people acted out one-to-one meetings between an employee and personnel officer.Rory Ridley-Duff I could see why they had become friends and I secretly wondered if perhaps she was the „other woman‟ to whom he had once „given in‟. we adjourned and were asked to come back at around 7. My new circle of friends gradually brought me out of my shell. but many organisations still did not grasp the full impact. Nagging at the back of my mind was the possibility that he might be harbouring feelings for me. I found an emotional security that reminded me of my early childhood. pampered myself with goodies from my overnight bag. Others made notes and gave feedback on the legality (or otherwise) of their intended actions. I sat with Dave during the keynote speech but we were separated for the group sessions. I showered. I talked more about my thoughts and feelings to Mike. Elaine and John than to everyone else in the whole of my life. we were split into workgroups for role-play exercises that covered recent legislative changes.30pm. After a question and answer panel. and closing comments. Their employment rights had been strengthened. Of particular concern were provisions regarding temporary and part-time staff. The CIPD event went off well. We said our farewells and departed to attend to our respective tasks. My sense of well-being grew. then sat in front of the mirror applying my face. As I retired to my room I began to realise that for the first time I found myself struggling to find things to say to him.30pm for the dinner. Various scenarios were introduced on video. Dave and I checked into the hotel and agreed to meet in the bar about 6. . After an opening key speech.
” “Thank you. and the prospect of spending the whole evening together. “Here you are ma‟am. The barman looked surprised but took the hint and gave me the bill. I‟ll have a rum and black. but nothing was forthcoming.” he said looking at me. He smiled gently at me but it only increased my nervousness. “Barman?” I said boldly.” said the barman as he delivered the drink. He presented the till slip for Dave to sign. “Here she is!” he said.” He duly ordered and the barman said he would bring it to our table. I felt I should broach the subject of his wife. I signed it and gave it back to him. I expected more than this.30 I made my way down to the bar. “How are things at home?” I asked. Dave. “What would you like?” asked Dave. Dave was chatting and laughing with the barman. “That was a bit „familiar‟. wasn‟t it? Do you know him?” “No. “I don‟t suppose it matters who signs it. I was just being polite. ma‟am!” he said with appropriate emphasis. “She‟s stable. “Doesn‟t she look fabulous?” A compliment is almost obligatory when a woman presents herself in a new frock so I acknowledged and dismissed the remark. He turned to face me again.Friends or Lovers At 6.” he responded. Perhaps I should have complimented him too but I didn‟t. Penny!” he said and we both smiled. Given the occasion. “You can call me. Penny! I‟m not the queen. “Thanks.” . Dave looked slightly flustered. “Thank you.
“Don‟t use that tone with me. You‟re representing the company here.” “You were.Rory Ridley-Duff I wondered if we were in for a bad tempered night. “You shouldn‟t be too familiar with bar staff. “I don‟t want to fall out with you. Penny?” “Up yours!” I said.” I said dismissively. We sat in silence for a few minutes. “Dave?” I said. “Oh lighten up. That was a really dumb thing to do with my appraisal only a few weeks away so I phoned Mike on my mobile. immediately recalling that Dave was laughing with the barman when I entered. At the end of the conversation. Dave. however.” he said sternly.” I started. Penny. “Dave.” he said. A bubble of rage formed in the pit of my stomach but I managed to contain it. Penny.” “And I was doing it splendidly. I felt so awkward that I got up and went back to my room. . Penny. I began to panic.” “You are at work. however. I was none the wiser whether I should apologise or not. I decided that it would be stupid not to. “Just don‟t. But please don‟t tell me how to behave towards people when I‟m not at work. being polite to the hotel staff.” I answered. which made me all the more cantankerous.” I said. “You were flirting with the barman. At first he laughed. but he managed to calm me down.” he said defensively. “Yes. holding my drink aloft. First. I decided to see if table places had been set.
” I said. no. Waiters and waitresses plied us at regular intervals with wine and aided the socialisation over dinner. “Not at the moment.” she said with a warm smile. who showed me to a private bar and the seating plan for the evening. “I really appreciate this. “Glad to help. The sea change in our relationship worried me. “Dave?” I asked. but there was no smile. I had been allocated a place next to Dave so I asked Jules if I could sit elsewhere. I returned to the main bar.” I answered. I thanked Jules then went to the private bar to order another rum and black. I waited for him to give me an apology in return. the conference manager. Husbands and wives joined the delegates and professional bodies had been invited for the evening speakers and networking opportunities. With the prospect of a stressful evening receding. were excellent. It had been turned into a charity event so the 50 participants were swelled with another 200 people for the dinner. This time I went back to the private bar without making a show of my feelings. Using her mobile she called reception and about ten minutes later a man came through with an amended seating plan.” he said. but none was forthcoming. “I‟m sorry for earlier.” “Forget it. The food was well presented but not especially delicious. He turned around and acknowledged me. however.” “Not too keen on your boss. “Thank you. I take it?” she asked. That was rude of me. The service and company.Friends or Lovers In the dining room I met Jules. My table included a CEO and his .
wife, a female entrepreneur and her husband, and three other human resource professionals (two men and a woman). With four men and women around the table, the conversation was mixed and lively. The woman entrepreneur started to talk about one of the speakers. She heard him once in Scotland. Later they contracted him to assist in the investigation of a sexual harassment case. She described him as humorous and charming, but with a mind and attitude so sharp that you could cut yourself on it. She found him difficult to work with but praised the way he helped staff reconcile their differences. Desserts came and went, coffees were served, and the chatter was eventually interrupted by a clink of glasses as the Chair introduced the fundraiser. It was a typical appeal to emotional sympathies. I felt sickened by the scene of an earnest charity worker begging for crumbs at the tables of the rich. I wrote a cheque for £30 – unsure what would be considered an appropriate amount – but as I was getting dinner for free I contributed the cost of the meal to the charity. Even as I did it, I felt no virtue. There must be better ways to help the less fortunate than this. The first speaker was reasonable. The subject matter was more in Dave‟s line, but I did see the pros and cons of entrepreneurial behaviour amongst employees. While she talked about side-stepping rules and procedures, the CEO at my table joked that if anybody tried that in his place, they‟d be out. Controls were there for a reason, he said, and had to be followed. I wondered whether he had ever been an accountant. Our table was a long way from the platform. When the second speaker stood up, I did not recognise him but there was a touch
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of familiarity in his voice. I thought he must be a celebrity off the TV but annoyingly one of my dinner companions kept distracting me. The speaker continued. “Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said. “I hardly recognise myself in those kind words.” I asked my dinner companion if we could continue our conversation later because I was particularly keen to hear this speaker. He looked offended, but at last I was able to focus on the speaker‟s words. “I‟ve been asked to talk about a subject that most of us think about daily, some of us talk about regularly, but which is rarely talked about publicly. It is a subject hardly ever discussed in business books. In my view, it exerts more influence over the workplace than any other single thing and is the bedrock of social organisation both at home and at work. I‟m talking, of course, about sexual attraction and intimacy. Now if you think I‟ve come here to talk about bonking in the broom cupboard……” With most of the audience tipsy, the speaker expected a few giggles and paused. A few people obliged. Everyone else stopped chatting and started to listen. “…..or kissing in the canteen, then you are going to be disappointed. If you‟ve come here to understand how private lives impact on work then you are in the right place.” I noticed that more and more people were sitting up and taking notice. On the top table was a jug of water. The speaker paused for a moment and poured himself a glass. “Always good when they give you a large jug of gin to drink – always makes the talk more interesting,” he quipped. “If you see them bringing a second jug, then the chances of me telling
you a story about bonking in the broom cupboard rises considerably!” A slightly larger group laughed at this remark, but one of my dinner companions just raised their eyebrows and gave a disapproving look. “Talking of stories,” he continued, “I have a couple for you that I hope will prompt interesting discussion in the bars.” Everybody in the room was now paying attention. He came across as an above average public speaker. “Not so long ago I was sitting in an airport lounge and an attractive woman called Patsy glanced in my direction. When they called the flight, Patsy joined the queue and edged her way in front of me.” I laughed out loud as I recalled the way John and I had met. A few people on adjacent tables turned their heads to look at me. I thought it was uncanny the speaker had such a similar experience. “Then Patsy did something that most people here will probably think is a bit bizarre, but which – to me – was not bizarre at all. She bent down to tie her shoelace……” My laughter subsided and I began to feel slightly uncomfortable. “Nothing strange in that, you might think? Well, it would not have been strange except for one small detail. Patsy was wearing shoes that had no shoelaces……” A ripple of laughter went around the room and the speaker paused to let the import of the joke linger. As for me, my heart was pounding as I realised that the speaker was John and that he was talking about our first meeting.
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“What is significant about this story is that Patsy‟s willingness to give me a bird‟s eye view of her butt was one of several reasons I decided to sit next to her. Very bold behaviour, I felt, and not something I was likely to come across every day. We fell into conversation, swapped e-mail addresses and later met for lunch. Now we take walks together. She became a close friend and is now also a professional colleague.” He paused again. “She‟s also dating one of my best friends!” he said loudly with gusto. His comic timing was excellent and there was a further smattering of laughter. “Now what‟s the relevance? Sexual attraction is often the reason we choose to take an interest in someone. As we work out the tensions many long and durable friendships are formed. I was lucky. Patsy liked and welcomed my response, but not immediately and not without a lot of soul searching about my intentions towards her. If she had taken offence, she might have withdrawn, confronted me, argued with me, perhaps even accused me of sexually harassing her.” “We are still, even in this modern age, overwhelmingly social beings. Yes, we come to dinners like this to talk about how to make more - or lose less - money. We come for the networking opportunities, the social opening that will start a new business venture. But I want to suggest to you that there is something more than that, something deeper, more important.” He paused and took a sip of his water before continuing. “Once, a business mentor of mine said to me that money was not the most important thing to him. To him, the money was a means and not an end. The money enabled him to feed his
family, to open doors to social networks he wanted to belong to, to attract and be in the company of many beautiful women. In short, he was in business to have fun. „If you‟re not having fun‟ he would say, „sell the business‟. To him, business was entertainment.” “So what‟s the key thing here?” asked John. “For him, being in business meant an emotionally fulfilling life. He did it for the buzz. For the challenge. For the company. And yes, let‟s admit it, for the sex. He was, in a way, one of the business world‟s rock stars, although he liked to avoid the press.” “Of course, there are many out there….and perhaps even in here…who will take a dim view of this. Business is about profitmaximising, about efficiency, about effectiveness and all those terms that are popular in business schools and board rooms. There are a few strange people who actually get off on this. Picture them in your mind: Laddie Lawyer…… Amy Accountant…… Adam Auditor.” There was substantial laughter as he recounted these names. He knew his audience. Human resource staff often battled legal and financial staff for influence and John cleverly used his knowledge of workplace tensions to win them over. “Now, I imagine that you‟re sitting there thinking „not me‟. I‟m rational, everybody else is emotional. I always do my best for my boss. I‟m a complete professional – never let myself get distracted by this stuff. So I‟m going to ask for a bit of audience participation. Can I have a show of hands, please? How many of you met your most recent wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend in an organisation? Don‟t just think of your own place of work. Did you meet in theirs? Was he or she your client? Were you students together?”
Friends or Lovers
The hands started to rise, at first tentatively. The murmurs grew as spouses and partners reminded each other of their first meeting, with the result that more and more hands were raised until at least three-quarters held them aloft. “More than usual,” he commented. “We have a horny bunch in tonight!” The room rumbled with chatter and laughter as people started to absorb what had just been illustrated. As the noise died down, so John continued. “So let me make one or two comments before I tell you my second story. Firstly, how is it that most human resource professionals here tonight met their partner or spouse in a workplace and yet the profession is being persuaded to support zero-tolerance policies towards sexual behaviour at work?” There was less laughter now and he paused to have another drink. The women entrepreneur opposite looked irritated. “See what I mean?” she said. I nodded, but privately I thought John had a point. “Need a bit more gin for this bit,” John quipped as he drank some more water. “More controversially, recent research suggests that research participants say harassment is very rare, almost unheard of, during the formative stages of a relationship. Accusations are made when relationships are breaking down. This raises an issue. Are we are missing the underlying sexual dynamics that bring about these accusations. It may be that a man is trying to break off the relationship rather than form it, or that a woman is trying to back off a relationship that has aroused her sexual feelings. When it comes to the law, have politicians created a rod to break our back?”
“Would it have been funny if I‟d told you that Ben was making comments to Diane about one of the women director‟s tits?” The room quickly went quiet. It involves Ben and Diane. “Yes – it‟s funny. and without fail there is some set piece bit of „corporate fun‟. but this time it belongs to a man. I looked hard but couldn‟t find that induction technique in the CIPD manual!” he quipped. “Okay. The year Ben joined. “Here‟s the rest of the story. During Ben‟s induction. Diane is a CIPD qualified member of staff. “This leads me onto my second story. . He somehow managed to avoid accusing his audience. they had a „Butt of the Year‟ competition. okay – I realise that some of you probably consider this essential work in the run up to the Christmas party. John‟s tone was not critical. isn‟t it?” he agreed with his audience. but questioning. Diane told him about the company annual dinner. but everyone in the room suddenly felt embarrassed that they had been laughing. This also has a lovely butt in it. “Diane thought one of the directors‟ butts was so sexy that she described it to Ben during his induction. He paused and the audience obliged with more laughter.” He paused again and took another swig of „gin‟. Each year they have a big celebration. Then his tone suddenly became quieter. This involved a number of men taking pictures of each others‟ naked bottoms and creating a slide show for the women. the hum of personal reflection lingered in the air. In the silence that followed. but this story has a challenging ending. Then he delivered a killer sentence.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked around and saw some people nodding.” John smiled. The audience laughed some more. more measured.” he continued boldly.
” “You may think that you know what is coming……. His objections fell on deaf ears. He did not mind her attention and they grew close.” John raised his volume a couple of notches to finish the story “He was fired. Ben thanked her and felt reassured. Both were married. “Ben‟s marriage collapsed and Diane offered him a place to sleep. “a woman who talked openly about her lust for a male director during Ben‟s induction. She now claimed that Ben was „womanising‟ and might misuse personnel records. They started to go out for drinks after work. hypocritical and sexist. put ice cubes down Ben‟s trousers at a party. Ben confessed his wife had been having an affair. When Ben asked why. Diane confessed that her marriage was sexless. She told him repeatedly that he had „admirers‟.Friends or Lovers “At the Christmas Party. “So!” he said.” A few people in the audience gasped. invited Ben to stay at her house. He thanked her but did not accept. Ben responded that he liked one or two of the women at work and had asked one out for a drink. Ben argued with the company‟s MD.‟ she told him. told Ben he had admirers and then got jealous when Ben admired someone . Diane reported his activities to her own manager. Ben was questioned for over an hour in a private room about „inappropriate‟ behaviour.” he teased. Diane got cross and told him he should not look for love at work. „You won‟t be lonely.” “Instead of being pleased for him. Ben argued that the accusation was unjustified. Diane flung her arms around Ben and playfully put ice cubes down his trousers.
“a kind of power that we don‟t acknowledge. Workplace behaviour arises out of our desire for. in turn. but this time he did so for effect. or our desire to avoid. Both parties play a part. are affected by what is taking place in our lives outside work.” John paused again. at the way the accusation against Mike has triggered the storm inside IC. Those desires. Most people are like icebergs. That much is obvious and while it is not discussed much. This said. HR departments rarely investigate the motive for an accusation. Our desires are not always sexual.Rory Ridley-Duff else…she only had to make an accusation that Ben might be behaving inappropriately for his world to quickly fall apart. Nine tenths of what might be known is submerged beneath the surface. “That is power. Attention switches immediately to the accused. Maybe we are trying to be accepted. We had weathered it but not without capsizing a few times. intimacy. The accuser may be given special protection before it is known whether their accusation is true. most enlightened people realise it. feeling accepted by a sexually . Accusations often reveal as much about who is hurting as who is being hurt. “What can we learn from this?” continued John. only the accusation itself. Both parties are responsible. “These are two cases where the underlying dynamics are known. “Firstly. Maybe we are trying to avoid loneliness. “My main point is that whenever there is a sexual conflict it is usually underpinned by a complex intimate relationship. my main point is not that men can also be subject to sexual harassment or false allegations.” he said.” I thought back over my own experience.
Isn‟t this the most naïve policy in the history of humankind? “So. I want you to think about how to contribute to the current debate on equality of opportunity and sexual harassment. That ignores the costs of training and lost . How would you go about investigating that to undercover „the truth‟?” “So. It is. are we destroying our society with zero-tolerance policies? Are we compromising our ability to take. Firstly. regardless of my intent. to conclude. “Two thoughts for you as you retire to the bars. In Ben‟s case it cost the company over ten thousand pounds to replace him. therefore.Friends or Lovers desirable or successful person is particularly meaningful. Would it not be better to have a process that allows each party to tell their story until they find closure? Should we approach conflicts in a way that allows both parties to learn about each other. emotive and triggers disruptive conflicts. by deliberately being provocative. would I have been guilty of sexual harassment? Or was her behaviour. or continue to „name and blame‟ one party? Are we serious about equality? “If you are sitting next to your financial director and she or he is saying „too expensive‟. face and overcome the everyday risks that underpin stable enduring relationships? Zero-tolerance approaches assume it is right and proper to prevent any intimacy that could be interpreted as sexual. if Patsy had objected when I started to talk to her on the airplane. itself a form of sexual harassment? Perhaps neither? The situation we have now is that if she claims to others that I am creating a „hostile environment‟ for her. I could be accused in the same way as Ben. enough to pay for over 20 days of mediation. I ask you to think of the cost of replacing staff.
it is also a financial one.thank you for listening! My name is John Simons and I am at your service. I got up and walked towards the front. My mood changed and John noticed instantly. “Can you forgive me?” he asked. then – as he realised that I had been in the audience – he started to look apologetic. he initially beamed with pleasure. “Ladies and Gentlemen . Instead.” “Indeed we do. Suddenly I felt another person moving up beside me.” “Dave! Good talk. eh?” “You think I‟m being economical with the truth.” said John. So. Dave. however. John smiled as we shared the private joke.” “Not at all. When John saw me. “You know each other a lot better than you are telling me.” I said with a smile. My business cards and these two cases are available on the table. yes!” “And close friends. “Such a good story and I never thought that you would ever be in one of my audiences. “You might have asked. Penny?” “I‟ll let you get away with it. “Hello. while this is an ethical issue. My name is John. turning on the professional charm. Hope I‟m not interrupting anything. I did not join in. just this once. am I?” “An anonymous one. mate.” I said. I did not realise that ……” . “Get away with what?” asked Dave.” “And I‟m a case study.Rory Ridley-Duff productivity.” The audience broke into a round of applause. I can see. was surprisingly astute. It ignores whether the replacement is as good at the job.
“So. Penny. “And you don‟t. There was little point denying it. “Don‟t what?” asked Dave.Friends or Lovers Oh God! I prayed that he was not about to say what I though he was about to say. you don‟t just flirt with barmen. you are a dark horse.” said Dave. “Don‟t you flirt?” asked John. John and I hesitated. “Would you like to have this conversation at the bar so I can buy you a drink?” asked John. whether I like it or not. “but like most adults I still end up in situations where there is flirting. “Flirting is dangerous. Dave?” asked John. “Well. “So am I. “I‟m married!” he said indignantly. “…. Just ask them to charge it to Room 1156 and I‟ll sign the receipt in a moment. . is this Patsy?” asked Dave pointedly.” “And John. “If you go to the bar and order what you like.” replied John. “Yes. one of my best friends was in the audience. I‟ll join you in a second. How else can people establish another person‟s motive?” Dave was slightly taken aback at these remarks.” “One of your best friends!” said Dave. Dave nodded. Dave laughed. Is this the John you mentioned to me? The one you met on a plane?” I hesitated..” “Are you coming. but also strange men in airports!” John joined in the conversation again. Penny?” asked Dave.
Rory Ridley-Duff John glanced in my direction and I realised that he was trying to get me on my own. You‟ve got a problem.” “Do you want to talk about it later?” asked John.” . Having negotiated these questions. Freud thought it all emanated from complexes formed in childhood experiences. “You were saying that flirting is dangerous?” remembered John.” “I can meet you later if you like?” he asked again. “I disagree. “I‟ve chatted to Mike and thought we were through this. Most people do this in non-threatening ways and it works most of the time. “He‟s hurt.” said Dave.” Dave had committed himself now and went off to the bar. okay. in the sense that sexual desires and aspirations underpinned a lot of adult behaviour. “Yes. Were the stories true? Yes. We found a space to talk. John did agree with Freud. he engaged with people who wanted to talk to him. “Tell me about it. They push and probe to check out how the other responds. “I‟ll join you in a second.” said John. It is those who are inexperienced or shy who are uncomfortable with flirting. He did not agree with that. “Flirting is a good way for men and women to establish the level of intimacy they want in their relationships. said John. We had an argument earlier this evening.” John and I made our way to the bar.” said John boldly. I accept it is a problem for them. totally true. Many find it fun. On the way. “Always leads to trouble. However. Was it not all a bit Freudian? Not really. I just want a quick word with John. It‟s getting worse and worse. we got to the bar and Dave was ready with our drinks.
“Insensitive?” I asked. as John proceeded to respond. “But it causes so much disagreement. “What about you. “…as well you know!” John picked up my allusion and acknowledged my concern. By the way. Dave. “Oh! Are you two getting together?” asked Dave. I added a rider as a warning shot.” “Don‟t buy it. “Only if people are insensitive to each other. “I‟ve had to deal with many problems caused by flirting.” he added. but it has certainly landed others…” I responded. however. also picked up that some covert message was passing between us. It was almost as if he was suggesting that Dave was inexperienced and shy. “but I think we will later. Penny?” said John. John.” insisted Dave. “Not directly. The sarcasm was back and I couldn‟t help fuelling the situation. .” answered John.Friends or Lovers I was not sure whether John intended to be offensive but he was coming perilously close.” said Dave. They never land on your desk.” “I don‟t doubt it. “Sounds like you‟ve discussed this before. Too much experience. “Flirting causes misunderstandings.” said John. how is Sally?” “Sally?” asked Dave.” said John. “I can‟t say that flirting has ever landed me in deep water at work.” said Dave arrogantly.” commented Dave. mate. “You‟re a good flirt!” I wanted John to stop because his comments could deepen my problems. “but you won‟t notice all the problems that are solved by it. “Yes we are. “Perhaps that‟s not a good word.” answered John.
” “Sally at work? Do you know Sally?” “Yes – known her for years. totally engaged by this discovery.” replied Dave. “After!” I said firmly.” “And when did this happen?” he asked. Didn‟t you know?” I said.Rory Ridley-Duff “Oh she‟s great.” answered John. “Just as well. “Perhaps the two of you could explain to me what the fuck is going on?” Both Dave and I looked at John with a start. “She never mentioned you to me. By asking John about Sally it invited John to ask me about Mike. “Small world. Dave intervened. “You and Mike?” he asked. .I wish I could stay longer but I‟m needed back at home.” said Dave cynically. “What?” said Dave. isn‟t it?” he added. “Do you and Mike want to come over for dinner on Sunday night?” My blood ran cold. Before I could answer. “Well!” he started.” asked John. “Before or after you arranged the flat for him?” Dave asked with disdain. We‟re enjoying ourselves . John made another intervention. John looked at me. piecing things together in his head. “By the way. “Yes. “John is staying at Sally‟s while he works for us. “No. “Just recently – hardly got used to the idea myself!” I said pretending joy while my mind was turning to clay.” said Dave. slightly embarrassed and mouthed the word „sorry‟. Penny.
I want to be there to watch you beat the shit out of him!” “And you the mediator?” I asked.” Dave turned and left before I could answer.” responded John. Penny!” said John trying to calm me down.” It took me a moment to get the joke..” said Dave. “Not complicated at all.” “Shit! You‟re right. “There are better ways to do it. If he starts a fight with you. my sense of humour returning. “as well as this. then find me. You‟ve not been employed for a year yet. “That….. “Be careful.” I said. trying to diffuse the situation.pig is going to do my appraisal in three weeks!” “Then you‟ve got to use this. “because if he‟s not we really have a problem. John moved closer and whispered in my ear.” quipped John.” he said pointing at my head. “Why don‟t we circulate for a bit and then slip out? If Dave comes anywhere near you.Friends or Lovers “It‟s a simple question. Why?” “It‟s complicated.” . “I‟m fed up working with this tart. “No. A few people near us picked up my tone and turned to look. “The two of you are antagonising each other. I was about to go after him and make him apologise but John stopped me.” he said with his hand on his heart.” “My knight in shining armour?” I queried. “Only as a first resort!” he responded. “I‟d like to fry his arse!” I shouted. “Fuck him! Wanker!” “I hope so.that….
.. today had not been a good one. I never drink before a talk so if you want to go home. “I‟ll call him later. He called Elaine and Sam. When I set out this morning I was full of the joys of spring. but now I was battling to save my job. “Damn. I could see the concern growing on his face. As days go.” I said before I saw his grin. the launch evening. I told him of my wish to marry Mike.” he joked.” he corrected. I noticed that his eyes were filled with tears.Rory Ridley-Duff “You‟ll need friends for this one. You‟re a sweetie. About an hour later.” The rest of the evening passed off without any more incidents. he cryptically replied that „every good soldier needed the support of his unit‟. I want to go home. I told him not be such a soppy idiot. I can take you. Penny. When he heard this. “I‟m probably the only sober person in the room. When I asked why. John and I took a cab to a quiet pub and I told him about Dave‟s wife. Dave‟s e-mail and my conversations with Mike. he grabbed me and hugged me for what seemed like an age. How‟s Mike going to take this?” he asked. He said that he wanted to talk “strategy”.” “Thank you. invited them for dinner then insisted that I come with Mike. When he let go.” “I‟d take you – but I‟ve been drinking gin all evening….
Hard as it was to admit. Two months earlier. as John had suggested. When I told him what had happened. I had been judgemental about Mike‟s motives. then I was up shit creek without a paddle. he was matter of fact and kept reassuring me that I had truth on my side. I had been convinced that sexual harassment laws were progressive. The law required me to investigate. or left Mike and Elona to sort out their own problems. Not only had I misjudged Mike. How could others possibly know or understand what had gone on? How could I possibly explain the complexity of this situation so that another person could understand it? The world not only looked more complex but it also made more sense. I was now experiencing things from the other side. In the past. Now it was Dave who was being judgemental about me. Given what I‟d learnt from the conflict between Mike and Elona. Dave would not be looking for evidence of my innocence. If. It was bad enough that I had intruded into a number of delicate personal relationships. we can only see what we are looking for.Friends or Lovers Chapter 42 I was glad to get home to Mike. but now it was the other way around I started to experience how the intrusions feel on the receiving end. I began to wonder whether perhaps I might have done things differently. however. however. but now I was not so sure. only evidence of my guilt. I was less confident. but I now realised that my attitude had been coloured both by the hurt I felt in the past and my attraction to him. And what was it that I was guilty of? Most of his attacks were about my flirting. It may not only have been my . and the frustration of having to deal with others‟ unstated agendas.
I was also emotionally disconnected and dysfunctional. he had no wish to talk “strategy”. others intruded into my world. Mike the stubborn idealist. Firstly. John was the pragmatic politician. but were also contributing to better decisions about people in the workplace. They rarely saw eyeto-eye. but every conversation made me question my life a little bit more. In my mind. I had my island existence at work. Later. I remember once seeing the film About a Boy. Not everybody saw the distinctions as I did. Mike did the same. I did this not only to share treasured . I had created an imaginary world in which men and women should behave one way at work and another way outside work. The main character Will tried to live an „island‟ existence but gave in to the attention of a lonely 12-year-old boy. Mike and John were different. I retraced the route I took with John around Warwick castle and we ended up at the same Italian restaurant. John pierced my armour. but perhaps my values as well. Mike and I had a quiet day. or felt they should be enforced. Together they were a formidable combination. and most recently Elaine. I protected myself with professional ethics and personal boundaries to create a haven for corporate values. to some extent. I started to see myself as a female version of Will. I was „independent‟ and „efficient‟. rather than at home. Instead he just savoured the conversation we had. searching for “truth” and “justice” and then working out how to make it happen. Just like Will. Unlike John. however. On Sunday we went for a walk. Elona has. and Phil has also made some inroads.Rory Ridley-Duff judgement that was at fault. I was coming to a realisation that these bonds not only reached deep into my personal life.
in body. “And for me. With John. “I‟m just interested. “You don‟t talk about the past. Mike.” “What would you like to know?” I suddenly realised that it was not so much his past that I was interested in. from the moment I faced-down my fear and shared my most private feelings. but as a tribute to John.” I commented. “Do you have any special places? Places you went with your wife?” I asked.” responded Mike. I smiled and said that would be nice. “Would you take me to them?” “I‟d rather find new places.” “Yes.” he replied.” I said. But I also want to know the person in here!” I said.” he replied with a straight face. “And now for me. “A few. my change of heart.” he said.Friends or Lovers memories with Mike. “You. stock and barrel. When I look back.” I said. Lock. . pointing to his head. “Nice for him.” he answered. but with Mike you had to dig for them. That was another difference between them. his emotions always came out as he spoke. He never used five words where three would do. “You might be disappointed. “You have me. my coming out of myself started on that day. “I brought John here a couple of months ago. but any remaining attachments that might affect our future together. “What would be solved by talking about it?” he responded.” I said.
Even though I did not push him. Strangely. His silence on the issue of his wife troubled me. I felt unconcerned.Rory Ridley-Duff “Haven‟t been so far. “I prefer not to think about it. “I guess. “I guess I‟m curious how you feel about your marriage.” I said with a grin. I realised that I was starting to have doubts about his commitment. I would have these memories forever. “That‟s because you‟ve only microscopically examined my body!” he joked. . then held me in his arms and kissed me.” he replied. No matter what happened in the future.” He stopped and turned to me. While it was nice to have his attention. he had also evaded the question. There was little point holding back now I had started. While we had made plans – and I kept telling myself that I should take comfort from them – it worried me that he may not truly be over her. nothing could take away the bliss that I was enjoying right now.” I responded. “You were very committed to her……” Suddenly I stopped.
Sam.Friends or Lovers Chapter 43 “He‟s not going to bring that up!” asserted John. Mike?” asked John. We had been discussing my situation at work for nearly half an hour over after-dinner coffee. surely?” responded Mike.” “But you said that even Harry thought you were doing a good job. “Thank you. getting quite heated. who probably knew the least about all the cock ups I had made. “Nearly 6 years. John was trying to persuade everyone that Dave was going to block my appointment. Penny?” said Sam. He thought the company would be crazy to sack me. It was Dave who gave him this impression. But John is right about Dave. “How long have you been there.” he answered. He‟s pissed off with me. won‟t he?” . but most of the others would not believe him. but it was good to have his support. “He‟s going to look at the truth.” Mike joined in the “strategy” discussion and kept coming back to what people had said about my work. “But Penny is brilliant at her job – aren‟t you. “Now look at this from Harry‟s point of view. “But that‟s what pisses him off – surely he‟ll raise it?” I argued. I knew he was biased. Is he going to believe someone he‟s worked with closely for 6 years or a probationer that he‟s met just once or twice?” asked John. “He‟ll see through Dave.
“That‟s right. who had been listening more than talking.” she started. Elaine had talked to me about some of the corporate battles that she‟d been in. He‟s under no obligation to keep her on.Rory Ridley-Duff John gave Mike a dismissive look. “I certainly am. If there is a conflict. If Dave wants to fuck it up because he can‟t deal with Penny‟s rejection then I want to apply some pressure. But if I‟m right then we need to ensure that Dave does not control what Harry is hearing. showing considerable irritation. “Let‟s assume that Dave is going to look for a way to get Penny out. I began to catch her drift. “No. I concur with John.” “But isn‟t this between Penny and Dave?” asked Sam. “We‟ve invested a huge amount in this partnership. If he sacks Penny. then I‟m going to kick his arse – it will affect my working relationship with him!” she said pointedly.” said Elaine. “You‟re not suggesting we get involved?” queried Sam.” Everyone around the table stopped for a moment to consider her remarks. the subtle political pressures and pragmatic alliances that work behind the scenes. Everyone turned to look at her. “What do you mean?” asked Sam. I noticed John smile at Elaine and she raised her glass to him. It‟s not what‟s going to happen. “If I‟m wrong then we have nothing to worry about. now joined the conversation. “And how is Mike going to be able to work when . He does not even have to give her a proper reason.” “And also give Dave a few worries of his own!” added Elaine. “Let‟s assume for a moment that John is right. Elaine. but what we are going to do about it. The only thing Dave has to fear is Harry‟s reaction.” said John enthusiastically. he‟ll control what Harry hears.
This isn‟t just about our friends. I wondered for a moment whether Sally might secretly want me off the scene to open the way to Mike again. Perhaps you‟re right!” responded John. With John returning home in a couple of weeks she might start to miss Mike‟s company. If Mike‟s . Mike‟s our sales manager. If your colleagues talk about it. I could understand Sally‟s fear. Sam. Sal. “It‟s not that. “I don‟t have a way of influencing things the way you do. Since we‟d become a couple.” she said. She was also in a line management situation with Dave. Mike was not aware that I‟d talked to the others and he shot me a quick glance then cast his eyes down at the table.” she said. Can‟t you see the threat?” Since I had told both Elaine and John about my marital aspirations it had been common knowledge within the group.” “On the ground?” she asked. “But you can influence things on the ground. Only Mike stood between her and Dave. “You‟d stand by while Dave shits on Mike?” asked John. Dave‟s the Director of Business Development. Elaine had both political and financial independence whereas Sally‟s life was more precarious. “So little confidence!” complained Elaine. “You too. “Stuff like this doesn‟t stay secret.Friends or Lovers Dave sacks his future wife. However. Sally!” Sally had remained fairly quiet throughout. “I‟m keeping out of this. you can put them straight!” “And have Dave on my back?” she asked. “We all have an interest!” said Elaine.” “Okay. I‟d taken over his life and he saw her much less. this is about our company‟s well-being.
It was reassuring that my friends took such a keen interest in protecting my future. The debate continued over more bottles of wine. but they were protecting theirs at the same time.” he replied. we had some idea of what to do if Dave tried to block my appointment and there was talk of a “last resort” action plan if he succeeded. “Yes. “Sal has to be careful. As soon as the car sped away from Sally‟s house. Elaine. Various scenarios and plans were hatched.” said Mike. debated and discarded. Mike opened up. “I‟m much older than you. “Are you having second thoughts?” “Not exactly. “What then?” I enquired. I did not have to wait long. or protecting themselves. as protecting the group. I made a mental note to update her. In fact. Mike and Sally.” he said. we do. I realised. He had been much quieter after her comment. We all wanted to work and live together and this guided our discussions. was not over worried regardless of the outcome of my appraisal.Rory Ridley-Duff position was threatened then Dave would be able to exact personal revenge on Sally. as we talked. I realised that it was not so much that they were protecting me. By the time Mike and I left. My security came from the knowledge that there was no shortage of organisations seeking HR professionals. therefore. I focussed more on Mike‟s reaction to Elaine‟s comment about our marriage plans. did not understand the complex background and network of relationships involving Dave. “We have to talk.” I replied. Penny!” “So what?” . My mind.
she accidentally got pregnant. it dawned on her this might be her only chance to be a mother. “How do you mean?” I said. Did I want to give up the choice? “Tell me about your friend. When I considered the question in the abstract I was sure of my feelings. She had a good career. “I had a friend once who „didn‟t want children‟ until she got pregnant.” I answered.” “But have you ever been pregnant. “I don‟t want them. I actually felt a pang of disappointment that he did not want children with me. but when I asked myself how . “She was successful – like you. Once she faced a real choice her feelings started to change. “Well. a regular boyfriend who she lived with. the argument began to affect me. And who could blame her?” he asked.” “How can you know that?” “My wife got pregnant a few years ago and I was completely opposed. Mike. You know that. “You don‟t now.” I asked. Did she want to miss that chance?” “I have thought about this. She didn‟t want children until – in her mid-thirties .” “What‟re you saying?” “I‟m saying that I know for sure that I don‟t want children. But what if you change your mind? What if you accidentally get pregnant?” “I don‟t know!” I answered. I paused trying to imagine what it would be like to have a child growing inside me.Friends or Lovers “What if you want children?” he asked. I don‟t want children.” Despite what I had told him previously. Penny?” When he asked that question.
“What will happen if you get pregnant and I don‟t want it?” His questions were beginning to deeply unsettle me and I started to feel emotional. When I was young I imagined that all serious relationships operated on the basis of unending commitment.” I pondered this strange proposal. Is it a good idea to marry?” I did not respond. I really don‟t.” I finally answered. She never forgave him for leaving.” “So what‟re you saying? You want to break up?” “No. “I can‟t say.” “What did your friend do?” “She had the child. Mike!” “That‟s what worries me. She thought he‟d change when the child was born. our relationship won‟t survive. “It could tear us apart. He never forgave her for ignoring his feelings. . Could I do that? “No.Rory Ridley-Duff I would feel aborting Mike’s child it affected me differently. They both feel the other betrayed them. Now they hate each other with a vengeance. “I‟ll live with you – but if you want children then I‟m going to bow out so you can fulfil your dream. I can‟t stand in the way of that. If you want a child and I don‟t.” “But don‟t you love me?” He smiled broadly. no.” he continued. I was not sure what to think. The relationship with her boyfriend broke up soon after. no! I want to treasure this for as long as possible and that means being realistic. I haven‟t. Our relationship probably won‟t survive the birth of a child. “Yes – but I don‟t want to be a dad in my 70s.
this was the clearest indication I‟d had that we were going to have a long-term relationship. we arrived home. I‟ll think about it. but that was Mike through and through. Moments later I felt one of his arms around me as he kissed my neck and said “goodnight”.” he continued again. The future was still full of possibilities. For the first time since we‟d started sharing a bed we did not make love before going to sleep. . Romantic this was not. then went upstairs. I‟ll marry you!” I gave a short chuckle.Friends or Lovers “Tell you what. “If you reach the menopause and we‟re still together. “Okay. Even though we‟d talked about the possibility of breaking up. We chatted more in front of the TV and caught a late night film. went into the kitchen and made two cups of cocoa.” And with that.
my professional worries receded. As a result. Was I a bully? Mike sometimes joked that I could be. on the other hand. When I had been at her parents‟ shop and heard her torrent of abuse. He had not seen me when I felt weak and feeble (the way John had seen me). but also to learn about myself. she accused me of bullying her. a by-product of my strength of character. but also the scriptures and morality that affected her freedom. they chided her for . her parents disapproved of her drinking in pubs and when the situation erupted at work they felt deeply ashamed. not just to learn about her. It took two weeks for her to feel strong enough to return to work.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 44 Elona‟s move into the flat with Mike was problematic at first. I was trying to build her confidence. turned out to be strong in ways I‟d not realised. just a Sunday and Wednesday afternoon when the shop closed. I told him I was not always strong but he would not believe it. I asked Phil to make some visits to see how she was progressing. Her parents were committed Christians and they arranged for her aunt to take her to Sunday school each week. I decided to visit her when Mike went out with his drinking pals. Normally we would not visit so much. I felt we should visit daily. but given her precarious state. Even as a grown up. We talked about her upbringing. As part of his professional development. There was no weekend in her family. I dropped in a couple of times to check how things were. When she did. Elona. Instead of showing sympathy. Brownies and Guides followed and she talked of the many skills she had developed. We started to have chats in the evening at home and at work during lunch breaks.
Even so. Private conversations with boys were not allowed in her house – one or other parent had to be present. she simply said that she had not been able to. Attitudes to sex – or more accurately. those of our parents could not have been more different. When I asked her how she got to know boys. Instead.upstairs was strictly out of bounds even after she reached the age of 18. They did not even let her take girlfriends upstairs. My room was a private space to do as I pleased. people pursued each other for sex and treated each other disrespectfully. Elona. and avoided the temptation to get angry with either her or her parents. I started to wonder how she had turned out so „normal‟ despite her upbringing. Elona‟s father was protective and would never let her go to parties. More than once that led to us having a fight. although my mother would tell me what I should and should not do. They would tell her that in the „devil‟ world of „Godless‟ people. I listened as much as I could. chat and talk. was not allowed to bring boys into the house without the permission of her father . and . If I had a boy with me they would knock on my bedroom door. on the other hand. my voice was heard and sex talk was commonplace in our house. judged as little as I could. play music.Friends or Lovers getting mixed up with a “bad crowd”. Both my father and mother allowed me to have male friends. I can still remember my parents telling me on my 16 th birthday that if I wanted boys to stay over they would be allowed to sleep with me if I wished. especially my father. I remember only mild embarrassment at their openness. to take them up to my room. My parents had been liberal in their attitudes. Sometimes I would get keen on a boy and still my parents would not interfere.
Others picked on her and ridiculed her prudishness. Even at work. When the young lads at work invited her to the pub. When he rebuffed her. I shared with her my boldest adventures. Privately she lusted after the kind of life that was described in them but never imagined she could ever be part of it. he triggered all the feelings she was harbouring. when it came to my mind. betrayed and misled. she was bursting with curiosity. this strange morality where people could express themselves freely. Some women deliberately excluded her. We laughed as stories came out of hiding and got aired for the first time. She fantasised about this other world. As I talked. She imagined bold heroines aggressively seducing their prey. it was as if I was also talking to myself. But in talking to me. Elona. There was something tragic in hearing her story. You could not rely on what was written in books. at their attitude. and showed interest in her. When Nathan took a shine to her. I tried to reassure her that experience had to be gained first hand. or meek wallflowers schooled in the art of attracting „real‟ men. She was a young woman trying to navigate the minefield of courtship armed only with knowledge from romance novels. she felt bitter. thoughts and feelings I was . she would walk away if she heard crude conversations. on the other hand felt embarrassed if her parents even hinted at sex. rather than relieved. They admitted that they knew but chose not to say anything.Rory Ridley-Duff confessed to them that sometimes I had sneaked a boyfriend into my room in the middle of the night. While I had no inhibitions about my body. she gradually opened up and admitted that she had been buying romance novels for years. I remember feeling grateful.
They mattered to him and he felt the pleasures that came from fatherhood and family life outweighed any problems in his relationship with his wife. “If she‟d had a father like you. I started to realise new things that I had been missing – that the ephemeral materialism . Before I realised it. I was learning again from someone years my junior. He did admit too that. It was the financial betrayal that killed it. A mother like me! At hearing those words. As I watched Mike and learnt about each new layer of his character. His comment started a chain of thoughts that still haunts me. despite the problems.Friends or Lovers even more inhibited than Elona. His wife never forgave him for giving financial support to another woman. I found yet another avenue to release the pain and hurt of the past.” “And a mother like you. he gradually opened up about his marriage and I learnt that his kids were the principle reason he had remained for so long. and our friendship gave her a way to compare her fantasy world to the reality of my life. you know!” I told him. As for Mike. I felt a shudder. she might have grown up very differently. I switched the conversation back to Elona. I started to get a sense of just how important parents are and the huge responsibility they bear. But since the fall out over Sally he had returned home only to be with his children. perhaps?” he retorted. Mike joked that if he had lied and said it was „just sex‟ his marriage might have survived. Was my hostility to motherhood another way of avoiding responsibility? These questions troubled me. Through her candid confessions to me. “You are good for her. he found his wife attractive and their argumentative relationship spiced up their sex life. I found new depths in myself.
she would make up new adventures on the spur of the moment. In them.Rory Ridley-Duff of corporate life. something that my father‟s pragmatism and liberalism also shaped. but was not life itself. For me. Perhaps my own mother encouraged this creative streak in me. it was a means. And when Mike suggested I would make a good mother the urge to be a parent grew stronger and stronger. was not important. In their place. Their stories – which had for two decades been a source of entertainment and amusement to me – started to lose their standing. The world of parenthood took on a new fascination. No longer could I ignore how the crazy complicated mess that Elona and I had created at work had its foundation in our family histories. Corporate life was not a reason for being. I cast my mind over my life with my mother and father. my mother told me stories. That spurred me to take greater interest in how I came to be who I am. Before the arguments of my teenage years. it was a place where vanity ran amok. The media was not reality. she and I would join the gang and solve our own mysteries. I had loved Scooby Doo and rather than watch videos again and again. . I found that there was nothing more fascinating or more pleasurable than getting to know people well. Perhaps that is what spurred me to write this story. conversations with real people flourished to the point that my television became just another piece of furniture. It was a setting in which our lives unravelled. the transient consumerism pressed on us by the media. where those obsessed with self-importance told us how to live our lives. setting out my life on paper became part of my liberation.
Her eyes were wide open and her face was so animated that I thought she would burst a blood vessel. “Well. come here!” I hastily hung up my jacket. then “inbox”. “What‟s happened?” I asked. “Have you won the lottery?” “Better than that. pressed “menu”. come on. M and P tell me u r recovering. “Well. “Penny! Penny! Come here. Elona excitedly pressed a green button and the message appeared. but at the top was a phone number. Wud u like drink with mates after work? Phil x “Better than the lottery?” I asked. Her excitement was so great that she could not contain it. something happened that transformed her life. I mean he must……he must like me!” . Show me!” Inside her sweaty palm was her mobile phone. When I emerged. Down the list I could see messages from her old boyfriend. come on then. The moment I arrived at her flat she screeched at me to come and see something.” she answered. it‟s good isn‟t it. She open the lid. then “messages”. she was waiting on the sofa clutching something in her hand. “Who is that from?” I asked. raising my eyebrows in wonder.Friends or Lovers Chapter 45 Six weeks after Elona moved in with Mike. For a couple of seconds a fancy graphic showed a pile of papers being sorted. pleaded with Elona to let me go to the loo first.
You‟ve met him?” I asked..” My heart sank. He may be interested in that. Pretend he‟s your fantasy hero. “Everyone talks about him at work.” “But my Dad said…. especially after he did that workshop about sexism in the army. but then again it may not and I felt that it would be irresponsible not to prepare her for the possibility.” . but remember that this may be your wish but not his. starting to look a bit downcast. She duly obliged. I mentally got ready to nail Phil when I saw him next morning. “Dream all you like.. my love. He had mentioned Elona.” I interrupted.” I commented.” “What about John?” she continued.” she answered.” I said as I took her hands and our eyes locked. “When a man asks you for a drink. it does not always mean that he‟s asking you to be his girlfriend. “Yes. or an attempt to help her mix in with people at work. “I was excited. It may be that Phil was asking her out.. Very excited. but had his eye on others as well. “But it‟s a drink invitation! He‟s asking me out. “Elona. “Maybe you shouldn‟t read too much into it. Secretly I thought about him a lot.” “Forget your Dad. It was „good‟. “I have a friend called John and when he first asked me for a drink I thought that perhaps he was trying to ask me out…. but when I was with him I took nothing for granted. But he may just want to be your friend….Rory Ridley-Duff I didn‟t know how to break the news that this may be kindness. however. love! Look at me.” “You just want to spoil my dreams!” she interrupted.
Would it be so bad? “I can‟t have a text conversation with him.” “Good. But you don‟t want him thinking you‟re not interested either?” I replied. “Just start me off. eh? I want him to know I‟m interested – I mean really interested. I don‟t want to appear too forward. I gave her a school-ma‟am grin.” I said.” I said finally. “You‟re hot for him. I saw that she looked slightly hurt by my mirth so I immediately apologised and gave it some thought. She jumped on her seat and punched the air with her fist.Friends or Lovers “Have you replied to this?” I asked.” . “But I don‟t know what to say! Could you…?” “Could I what?” “Could you reply?” I laughed. Pen.” she said imploringly. “Why not?” she asked. “Just send the first few messages then I‟ll take over. “How d‟you want to play it then?” I replied. Perhaps Phil would never know the difference. “I think it would be better if it all came from you. right?” “You‟re the best! First impressions. “No! I was waiting for you.” I thought about this. She‟d been planning this all day. She so wanted to get this one right. The thought of me flirting by mobile with Phil while he thought he was talking to Elona tickled me. returning to the question in hand. giving in to her. My heart went out to her.
“I‟m flattered. I knew Phil could be shy. But it‟s so exciting. “On what?” I asked. “Don‟t you care?” “A bit. Thank you!” I said. We were so different. I showed the message to Elona and she kept nodding enthusiastically. I guess. She took my free hand with both of hers. Then she broke into laughter as I added the last two words. I guess it didn‟t!” “Penny?” I looked up at her and she continued to speak. in response. wondering if she was drunk. “On whether I care about frightening him off!” I‟d assumed that she‟d be crushed if he turned her down so I was confused by her comment. but also that he had a quiet confidence. “I want to have some fun!” I suddenly felt as if. I hardly knew her. you know?” I answered. “No. isn‟t it?” she replied. I sat for a second wondering why she would admire me. “D‟you think that‟s too risqué?” I asked her. “Never stopped you!” she said. “Depends!” she replied. despite all our conversations. Could she change that much in a few weeks? “You can get hurt. in a matter of fact way. . We didn‟t want to be tacky or crude.” I said.Rory Ridley-Duff I thought for a second. How could we use that? “Okay! Give me the phone. “Do you have any idea how much I admire you?” “What! Admire me?” I said. I selected „reply‟ and typed away carefully.
lonely and wretched. she wanted me as her role model.” She suddenly got cross with me. I‟ve pissed around and messed things up big time. What possible claim could I have to a life better than hers? And yet. Inside I have doubts just like you. you know how to live!” She said this with such force that I didn‟t know what to say. or suffer the disappointments she had faced. Elona! I‟m nothing of the sort.. “you‟re a natural. studied. Inside I knew I was no better and no stronger than she was.” she continued.and kind and thoughtful. got a good career and now a fantastic man. “Oh.” She glanced at the phone. Elona. Been places. you only see what‟s on the outside. that‟s such a sweet thing for you to say. “What are you talking about? You‟ve done so much with your life. “Elona. travelled. emotional. “But most of all. I can be crabby and unreasonable. selfish. and strong and fair……” I shuddered at the thought that someone would use me as a role model. Sometimes I‟m miserable.Friends or Lovers “You‟re my heroine!” she said. then?” .. I‟d not had to overcome the things she had lived through.” “I wish! Seriously. It was not something that I felt I could refuse. mean and nasty……” I started to run out of words so Elona decided to take over. I‟m really touched. “…. bitchy. From where I‟m sitting. “Are we going to send that.” “What do you mean?” “I mean that you live your life without any fear. and sexy and vivacious.. done things.
” “But Penny?” “Trust me. “Skn-tite and sexy? Wow! Looking 4wrd to seeing you in it…and out of it….” I said. Let‟s reel him in.. I looked up at her. she read Phil‟s reply out loud while jumping up and down.” I said confidently.” “Okay. “He‟s added four kisses. When I finished. She read the message to herself and cackled again. okay?” .” I said. Elona handed me the phone again and I typed away. “Where are you going?” she asked. “Accept. “This is the last one I send. “Wot u have in mind? P xxxx” “Look! Look!” shrieked Elona. sexy?” Elona took the phone out of my hand and pressed the green button. Ellie. Elona held it up and read it out loud. Call right now!” I got up and went to get my coat. “You two should be alone.” She looked slightly confused. This is between you and him. girl. He‟s taking the bait. her mobile signalled the arrival of new mail so we excitedly opened her inbox. A moment later. She pressed the green button and away it went. We were like two schoolgirls swapping messages in class with a boy. What outfit wld u like me 2 wear for u. “But tomorrow. “I want all the gory details. “Too late for second thoughts now. okay? After this you‟re on your own!” Elona nodded. I think. In an instant.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked at the message once more and read it out loud.
” I replied. Some other time. I realised that perhaps this mattered less to her than the example I had set. Even as I chided myself for my judgement. I had challenged the behaviour of others and shown no fear. only the confidence and bluster that erupted when I was in the grip of moral indignation. I walked over and gave her a big hug. I turned and walked out of the flat.Friends or Lovers She grinned broadly. Elaine and John – the extent of my impact on Elona was beginning to dawn on me. Even as I contemplated my own heroes and heroines – Mike. ready to learn „how to live‟. As I walked down a flight of stairs into the car park. Perhaps I was able to show her that you could be a woman in your own right. As she dialled the number and let it ring. Elona had come alive – she was. piss off then and see if I care!” she said. “Thank you!” she said. With my coat on. For me. with your own thoughts and feelings. as she put it. “Okay. If I had only heard her words I might have been offended. able to make your own judgements – even if sometimes they turn out to be flawed and wrong. I had taken from the experience that I had to be more cautious and respectful of others. “You‟re welcome. I would have to talk to her about that. I realised that this was the first time I‟d ever been someone‟s heroine. She could not see what was going on inside me. She had seen me stand up for her against men she felt had hurt her. In her eyes. In the distance the sound of an excited young woman could be made out amidst much laughter and giggling. She was . but the excitement and joy that filled her whole body was matched only by the size and breadth of the smile she beamed.
She grasped her future with both hands and held on firmly.Rory Ridley-Duff setting out on a bumpy road – of that I had no doubt – but after several weeks of pain and years of loneliness it was a moment of unfettered joy. .
” I started to say. then moved underneath my skirt and played with the elastic of my pants.Friends or Lovers Chapter 46 Mike and I had a quiet evening at my flat watching a DVD. Ellie!” I said. “I don‟t think „slowly‟ is in his vocabulary.” she said coyly. “Not just booked a holiday with Phil.” “Then how come you are talking to me now?” I heard her giggle.” “I did nothing. and Mike looked at me with a quizzical expression on his face. Take things slowly.” Mike got up and walked over to me and I felt his arms move around my stomach. “I‟ve got to go now. “What was that? Is there someone with you?” “Maybe. and then heard something crash in the background. one of his hands edged up inside my blouse and started to fondle my breasts while the other stroked my leg. Need a raise to keep my mobile phone topped up. have you?” “I talked so much I ran out of credit. “Faaannnnntttttaaaassssttttiiiiccccc!” I shouted. It was Elona again. really. Gradually. “Why?” “Because I won‟t be able to talk soon!” . laughing and shouting that she needed a wage rise. He fondled me gently as I talked some more. Pen!” “Are you okay?” “I‟m on cloud nine! Thank you so much. “Why?” I asked. “Now don‟t rush things. At around 10pm the phone rang.
I tried to imagine Elona‟s excitement as she trembled in anticipation of her first fuck.to go…. “Ellie? I have a man here who is dying ……….left nipple. her level of laughter increased and I heard her shriek. “Me too!” she said when she finally came back to the phone.aaahhhh……has just gone down inside my pants.oooohhh….bye Ellie!” I put the phone down and spread my legs wide. that Phil‟s strong body had moved between Elona legs.tomorrow…….. “Keep talking..” Mike whispered in my ear “Keep talking”.this………conversation………Oh God!……. while the other…….. lifted me onto the table. Elona thought I was talking to her and asked again what was wrong.. I imagined what might be happening to Elona. He was dying for me.. then picking her up and carrying her to bed..” I heard a round of giggling as Elona repeated my words to Phil. “What?” I replied.” whispered Mike a second time. I pictured Phil ripping open Elona‟s blouse.. “Better finish…. . Right there in the hall Mike nibbled the folds of my flesh while two fingers eased their way in.” I had to pause for a second as his finger touched a spot that took my breath away.I‟ve got….” Mike had knelt down on the floor. “……to have sex with me while I talk on the phone to you…….Rory Ridley-Duff “Why? What‟s wrong?” “Nothing at all – it is just that right at this moment there is someone‟s hand gently playing with my…. pulled down my knickers and buried his head between my legs. “……. A few moments later. As Mike pleasured me between my legs.
my breath shortening. “Do what?” he asked. The surge continued and built. “I don‟t know. . Comes naturally. “This much?” he said. gesturing a small amount with his thumb and finger. moaning. Then I put both my hands on his cheeks and felt tears welling up in my eyes.” He did not intend the pun.Friends or Lovers In my mind‟s eye. I watched him as he spread her legs and climbed between them. waves of pleasure started to glide up through my body. His strong muscular buttocks thrust into her with each movement of Mike‟s fingers inside me. I arched back and focussed my thoughts on the feeling of Mike‟s tongue while picturing Phil between Elona‟s legs. “Have you any idea how deeply I am in love with you?” I asked. He tried to kiss me but I pulled away. but I laughed anyway. Just as I started to wonder whether it was pure wickedness to picture Phil as Mike brought me off. my eyes closed. As I lay there. until the nerve ends all pulsated simultaneously and I convulsed struggling to catch my breath. and I surfed towards heaven. “How d‟you make me feel like that?” He laughed gently. “How do you do that?” I said. It was the first time I had uttered the actual words and I waited for his reply. Mike‟s lips made their way up the front of my body gently kissing the breasts that I had exposed. until I felt his breath on my face. I guess.
As a teenager. As the man I had chosen to give my heart glided into me again and again. and guided his penis towards my pussy. remembering the way Elona and I had goaded Phil. I helped to bring him to the heights of ecstasy.Rory Ridley-Duff I laughed again but wanted to preserve the tenderness of the moment. big boy. he picked me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist. I spread my legs as wide as I could. As we kissed. I immediately pushed the thought from my mind. “And I love you this much!” he said. I held his sleek and powerful body as it tensed and relaxed. I held his head in my hands as I explored everything I could find. Something told me I was wicked but I just knew he was dying for me.” I said. “Come on. Then. I gave in and allowed him to overpower me. After carrying me to the bedroom. as Mike overpowered me and started to thrust himself deep into me. pretending to resist while egging him on to have his way with me. my sister once said to me that she could not imagine anything more satisfying than the thought of her lover so filled with passion . He tried to spread my legs but I resisted him. “Show me what you are made of!” As these words left my mouth. “No. Suddenly here. for reasons I could not fathom. This much!” I said as I pressed my lips onto his and aggressively pushed my tongue into his mouth. my mind suddenly cast itself back to the moment when John had asked me about the army and sexism. I found myself wondering if I had stumbled across the answer. I revelled in the lust that we‟d created and teased him to the full. he threw me down manfully and put his hands on my knees while glancing down at a huge erection.
.Friends or Lovers that he could not resist her. I held him in my arms and wept. At the time. But in this moment I realised what was so exciting to her. with Mike‟s spent body still lying inside me. She would fantasise about her boyfriend so full of lust that he would force himself on her as she tried to resist him. I watched his face strain as he reached the limits of his passion. I had entered a new world and reached a new level of understanding. not even I. the woman that he could not resist. I found her fantasies sick. could stop. All the certainties that I had ever felt about how men and women should behave vanished in the dust. I wanted to be Mike‟s greatest fantasy. I wanted to him to feel an uncontrollable desire for me that no-one. as if she was fantasising about rape. And there. What greater gift could I give him? And what more could he give me than show his inability to resist me? As I lay on the bed. If I could do that to him…for him…he would be mine forever. I hoped he felt the bewilderment and disorientation I felt when his magic tongue took me to another plane of existence. as Mike arched in the throws of orgasm and shot his sperm deep into me. every spark of sexual energy that he possessed ignited and firing through his body. I hoped he was feeling the same crushing desire that I felt for him.
but today I looked at them differently. But when it came to “attention to detail” the reverse was probably true. It was strange filling out an appraisal form that I had designed myself. he was late so I passed the time by checking over my emails.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 47 My first task. then one of my subordinates and lastly get feedback from a director.one personal. It was my appraisal form. was to invite Phil into my office for a private conference. I was tempted to tear up the zero-tolerance policy on porn completely. the other professional. In fact. I felt this was better than a 1 – 5 scale because “communication skills” in a CEO were much more important than in a bookkeeper. I printed it and filled it in. I had two agendas . then ask one of my peers. When I started. when I arrived at work the next morning. There was the usual junk that I discarded. Each part of the appraisal had tick boxes. The tick boxes allowed each person to say how the employee performed relative to their own expectations. Would it really cause a problem to treat people like adults and allow them to exercise their own judgement? I received an e-mail from Dave. but I did it both quickly and diligently. The objective was to stimulate discussion and reflection about different perceptions of my work. one of my first acts was to introduce 360º reviews. I found myself less worried about pornography than e-mails offering prescription drugs. adding written . Unusually for him. Did we want staff self-prescribing Vallium or Diazepam? That thought horrified me considerably more than sex-invitations from places like Dirty Dicks or Giant Jugs. I had to appraise myself.
” My gentle sarcasm amused him and he felt slightly awkward as I put my arms around him for the first time. then felt his hands on mine. Finally. “Good morning. As he walked through the door the two of us beamed at each other in the knowledge that we had both enjoyed the evening before. After a second. did you?” “Yes. . I started to rub his back. It felt really good. “Had a good evening. I found myself hanging onto him and not letting go.” he replied with a smile. Mr Trent!” I said with mock formality. I gave the form to him and asked if he would complete it then pass it to Jo. Ms Leyton. Dave had to complete the section as director. Phil broke into laughter and I instinctively moved to embrace him.” I said. I was quite hard on myself – a reflection of the difficult period I had just been through – but in the comments I talked extensively about what I had learnt. “Between friends. As soon as Phil arrived. “Very pleasant. “Too late. “I think it‟s permitted. “For what?” I asked. slightly defensively. I realised that he was having a joke with me. “I‟m off the market.Friends or Lovers comments at the bottom of each section. When Phil had completed the form I called him into my office. his arms made their way around my back and he held me much more tightly than I expected.” he said. How about you?” “I‟ve had worse!” I replied in probably the biggest understatement of my entire life. Penny!” Before I could protest.
I found the . there‟s a first for everything!” I said with some surprise. “Rule number 1. “She gave me a message for you. It was not the wonderful and incredible experience that I had hoped for but it was still very exciting. “You are too kind. see you in a moment!” Phil. I lost something last night – I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean. by the way. On the outside were the words “Penny Leyton – strictly Private and Confidential”. Inside was a folded bit of paper. Go make a coffee or something. “Well. then treat it as private and confidential! Go on. “She worships you. as he separated himself from me and sat down in a chair.” I said. sir!” I said mocking him a bit.” “Aren‟t you going to show me?” he asked. “Go on then. slightly surprised. “I can. we looked into each other‟s eyes and both realised the intensity of the feelings that we had just communicated. I showed the writing to Phil. but accepting of my command. but inside I was uncomfortable at anyone building me into a special person. “I cannot think why!” I replied. “if an employee says something is private and confidential. you know!” A sudden surge of modesty interrupted my moment of vanity. Penny. “What is it?” He rummaged around in his briefcase and brought out an envelope.” added Phil. hoppit and come back in 5 minutes.” he said.Rory Ridley-Duff When we finally let go of each other. left for the coffee machine while I opened the envelope.
he‟ll want to give you as much pleasure as he can. . He wasn‟t that gentle!” “Then tell him. “Am I being too hard on him?” “No. “Can you talk?” I asked.” “I got your note!” I said. the better it gets. Ellie.Friends or Lovers cuddling afterwards more enjoyable and we talked and talked. Waking up with someone next to you is something else. Was the spark there?” “What do you mean?” “I mean did you want to rip his clothes off and jump into bed with him?” “God. Just be patient and it will happen.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see Phil coming back into the office. did people so often think that it was preferable not to hurt someone else‟s feelings when their body was being hurt? “Ellie.” “Why not?” “I might hurt his feelings!” Why. I wondered. yes. Sex is like everything else in life. “Yes. isn’t it? Is this normal – I don’t feel completely bowled off my feet? Ellie I immediately picked up the phone and dialled her extension. The more you practice it. If he doesn‟t then you‟ll want to think again about whether he‟s right for you.” “I can‟t do that. There‟s no-one here at the moment. But when we started it hurt a bit.
See you at the flat tonight. He suddenly looked quite sheepish and unsure. As I watched Phil struggle it reminded me of my own struggle with John. “She told you then?” “No secrets between girlfriends.” He hesitated again. “I‟m more interested in what you have to say. I remembered how he had moved around to my side and gently reassured me.” I answered.” “This is in confidence.” I offered. Please!” “Jeez.Rory Ridley-Duff “I have to go now. okay?” “Yeah. trying to be reassuring. sure!” I rang off as Phil entered the office. but we didn‟t……I didn‟t…. but if you are wondering whether she wants to see you again. “Are you alright? You don‟t have to say anything. He was surprisingly nervous. His eyes left mine for a moment and studied the floor and I noticed that his hands moved from his knees and joined together in an awkward clasp. I think I can definitely confirm that the answer is „yes‟!” He smiled as he gave me the coffee. When he didn‟t start talking I tried to give him some gentle encouragement. right?” “Like a doctor and patient!” I said. “Well. Ellie! I wouldn‟t dream of it.” I said. it was good and all. “Phil‟s coming!” “Don‟t tell him. “Phil?” I asked. I realised that his anxiety about sharing his feelings was no different from mine. I decided to .. “What did she say?” “That‟s between me and her.
I thought I might hurt her feelings.have any……foreplay!” he finally said. Phil!” I said confidently. Phil.. These are the moments when people are at their most vulnerable. Clearly this was difficult for him to say. I put my arm on his back and helped him. but I didn‟t know how to ask her to……you know…. As I sat next to him.” I had to stifle a laugh – he would not have understood why I found this funny. I just ended up sticking it in and pumping away. Can there be . “I wanted her to…but she didn‟t seem to know anything. But I‟d started and didn‟t want to take it out because I thought she might think I didn‟t want to make love to her.?” “I think I know what you mean.” “We didn‟t……. “I mean – I took her into the bedroom and I could tell she wanted me……” He hesitated again. I started to understand what he was saying and gently encouraged him.Friends or Lovers do the same. Penny! I just wanted her so bad. “But……we didn‟t……” “It‟s okay – nobody‟s going to judge you. I was instantly relieved. Neither was interested in blaming the other. They were going to do well if they cared so much about each others‟ feelings on their first date.. “I really like her and all. when one wrong word or gesture can destroy trust and end a relationship. I gently listened to him and tried to work out how to tell him what he needed to hear. It hurt and I was worried about hurting her. “I was so excited. but she didn‟t really know what to do. Do you know what I mean?” I looked at him and nodded.
had expressed his fears to me about sex. As Phil talked about the pleasure he had wanted to bring Ellie. “but I‟m confident you‟ll be happier the more you get to know her. I couldn‟t remember any other occasion when a man. Talk to her about her parents.” “I just wanted it to be better for her. . This was a first for me. I had always thought men didn‟t care but as Phil poured out his feelings. “She‟s ready to learn if you have the confidence to teach her.” I said reassuringly. “I can‟t do that!” I felt like I was in the middle of a re-run. Before I knew it. any man. friend or lover. “Tell her!” I said gently. you know?” “Then tell her. family. “No promises!” I said. He had screamed at me that he was not a piece of meat. Talk to her about her upbringing. I thought about George and the violence I had done him by not treating him with respect. I wonder? I tried to imagine how he must have felt as he walked away. I thought about George. If you can do that you will find the answers you are looking for and discover someone who is going to bring you a lot of pleasure. the lad I had picked up in the bar when I was out with Carole and Chris.” I started.” “You think?” he said.Rory Ridley-Duff anything more important in my line of work? Is there anything more important in life? “Talk to her. Phil. but I smiled broadly and looked him in the eye. “I did something once that I‟m truly ashamed of…. I saw his eyes grow moist. I realised.” As I looked at him. Where did he end up that night. words started to spill out of my mouth.
” as I struggled to say it. I realised that I was letting Phil into my life. letting the import of the words hang in the air for a moment. I ruthlessly seduced him. It felt nice.. “I took him back to my flat and demanded service. “I ruthlessly seduced him. saying nothing. not just as a professional . to cast my eyes down on the floor and wonder whether I had the courage to talk. “I…. When he wasn‟t very good at it. “What happened?” Phil asked. I looked up at him with eyes full of tears. but found it too hard to say at first. I looked at Phil and his gentle smile reassured me.wished…….” I repeated. “I……”. Out poured the story of that night with a frankness and level of detail that I had withheld from John. my eyes started to moisten and tears started to roll down my nose and drip onto the floor. He was called George. “I picked up a young lad once. “I wished he was someone else. As the realisation of what I had done engulfed me.. I did the most disrespectful thing I‟ve ever done…. not even as old as you…” It was Phil‟s turn to touch me gently and reassure me that it was okay to talk.” Phil looked surprised at my choice of words.” Phil sat there. I felt Phil‟s hand at the small of my back rubbing my spine. “Yes. I began.. but gently coaxed me with his eyes and gentle touch.Friends or Lovers It was my turn to feel ashamed and hesitant.” Phil just nodded and suddenly the words started to flow much more freely. instead of gently telling him how to give me the pleasure I wanted.
When do men talk about this I wondered? “Never?” I asked again. “Never!” he said again. “Then.Rory Ridley-Duff colleague but as my closest personal friend. I have to tell you that I think I‟m going to be sacked. When I stopped.” I said after a pause. for all John‟s openness. Phil started to talk again. “I‟m going to get us some more drinks. for all my closeness to Mike.” I said.” “Never?” I asked. “Penny. ever. drying my eyes. “Never!” he reaffirmed. about this kind of stuff. He nodded more strongly.” . When I thought about it. “My God. I poured out my feelings to him for nearly 15 minutes. neither of them had ever revealed to me how they felt about making love to a woman. “What a thought!” As we gathered ourselves up we noticed the cold coffees on the table. I‟ve never talked to anyone.
After I had divulged to Phil what happened at the CIPD event. mattered more to him than the prejudices I had initially displayed. At senior management levels. Phil reassured me that whatever happened I would always have his respect.Friends or Lovers Chapter 48 The rest of the week was unsettling. I nearly screwed up completely for no other reason than my own prejudices. as had Phil. I took the matter into my own hands and visited Harry. This was the beginning of the end. he said he could make „no promises‟ which I took to mean that a decision had already been taken. . Nevertheless. going over the issues that the appraisal had raised but avoiding the matter of Dave‟s behaviour toward me. I received my appraisal from Dave and there were no surprises. At the end of our meeting. The way I changed my mind about Mike. having briefed Dave and the other senior executives about the appraisal process. I quickly realised that my continued employment was problematic. Privately I knew that it had more to do with the way our relationship had turned sour. there was a growing interest in the dispute between Elona and Mike. I talked with him for nearly two hours. Phil berated me for being too hard on myself and said that I had come to terms with it more quickly and more fully than anyone else he had known. It was this that gave him confidence in me. I told him he was too generous. He had marked me down on most aspects of my performance and cited the handling of the dispute as the reason. Jo had been kind and positive. and the care I had shown to Elona. Phil confessed to me that he‟d been visited by Harry.
perhaps. If our propensity to sack people. Intolerance toward failure removes the very people learning the most and those lucky enough to avoid it remain untouched. challenges to management behaviour. a layer of new managers develops beneath them . I could see that matters were already spiralling out of control. Management failure is passed down the line and before long senior managers start to wonder why „no good people are coming through‟. They should have been urging him to avoid acting precipitously. but his isolation from what had taken place meant that people around him should have been urging caution.Rory Ridley-Duff As I left his office. Maybe he would survive it. or any moral debate about their actions. ideals. was about to make a corporate decision that would spark a major conflict. Harry would act on what he knew. thoughts and actions slowly fades away.the impacts of their decisions. I suddenly realised something that had never occurred to me before. I felt in awe of the social forces that were assembling. And so. The human resource policy capable of developing truly outstanding leaders is the one that allows people to learn from their mistakes.a generation of sycophants and conformists who (having watched their own bosses fall from grace) learn not to take risks and never do anything that might lead to failure. It is only by keeping someone in a post after they have made a mistake that a company can benefit from what they learn. or demote them. Harry. As conformity and false consensus takes root. As I contemplated what would happen if I failed my probation. goes unchecked then eventually a company loses the very people capable of forming a top-rate management team. Managers stop facing – on a daily basis . My two-hour conversation . maybe not.
Friends or Lovers was a drop in the ocean compared to the tidal wave of advice and information sweeping across his desk from Dave and others who knew nothing of what had occurred. Instead I returned to my office and trusted that my friends would be able to bring off their coup d’etat. . I was foolish to harbour any hope. I was tempted to return to Harry‟s office and say all this.
His contract at IC was at an end. I wanted to return to the scene of our first meeting.” “Mike talked to everyone in the department yesterday. Before I left. I finally realised why John‟s reputation was so good. there was a group of disparate and irritable people. As we looked over the menu. “Everything is set. It felt like a homecoming.” It was good to hear that the future was positive for IC staff despite the direction of my own life. I was particularly glad to see him. We were gearing up for the largest marketing and sales push in our history and even Sam and Elaine had taken the time to speak with everyone. “That‟s good. Now it was a cohesive squad equipped to take on the competition. I was moved that people listened to my views and were so supportive. They had . At the end of such an emotional week. The reaction was really good. The way he talked and cut through bullshit impacted on staff morale. A week ago I was dreading this. Two-months earlier when the department had been formed.” he said. He had anticipated a long lunch and had ordered a bottle of wine. he chatted about progress. He felt the training had gone well and that there was now a good chance that the SHARE experience would sell well. I talked to Jo and realised that John‟s contribution was not just technical.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 49 John was waiting for me at Pizza Hut. but now I‟m quite excited about it. he had formed a committed and thriving team. In the time he had been there. He let me say my piece.
I really want to know!” I said. “Remember my talk at the CIPD?” “Could hardly forget it!” “Well. You were reading a book. Several things bugged me and I wanted to clear them up. the table and me. When you did that I knew you must‟ve read Ms magazine. We chatted and exchanged small talk until the food came. trying to see myself through his eyes and understand how I had impacted on him. didn‟t you?” “Yes. like me. looking variously at his food.” I was listening attentively. As he did so. I think. Then I decided to get personal. His eyes wandered around. his face lit up.Friends or Lovers organised a drinks reception to round off the day: a last chance to let their hair down before “the big push”. Our eyes met a couple of times and I liked that. But it was when you moved in the queue that I realised you‟d noticed me too. “Yes.” . your arse was definitely part of the equation but not the main reason!” “What else?” “I noticed you sitting in the lounge. but as he spoke he focussed more and more on his thoughts. It was a novel by Bernice Rubens. “The clincher was definitely the shoelaces. Pen?” “Why did you sit next to me on the plane?” “Seriously?” “Yes. “You mentioned that in the speech. “John?” I started tentatively. I‟ve read her novels so I thought we might get on.” he said. He looked at me from time to time.
I think it was something like „The Working Woman‟s Guide to Sex at Work‟ right before an article about sexual harassment! Anyway. That‟s where the advice was first given to women. It was art creating life. I pictured you as a single professional woman who enjoyed her independence and men!” We both laughed at the irony. I remember. I was looking at you in those fantastic jeans and pondering the connection between us. The headline was quite uninspiring. I‟d never seen anybody do it. Are you really telling me that you remembered this article about tying non-existence shoelaces while in the queue at the airport?” “It‟s not so strange Penny. I didn‟t read the article. but I was still amazed that he‟d made a connection.Rory Ridley-Duff I did not understand how he could work out that I had once read Ms magazine. There was an article in the mid-90s telling women how to flirt at work. John looked me square in the eye. “How could you know that?” “Easy.” “You?” “Why so surprised? I‟d just finished my PhD and was full of that stuff. “So there you were doing something to attract me that I‟d written about nearly 10 years earlier. I stood there behind you and realised . I had to make a living and for a short while I wrote lots of magazine articles. “You never cease to amaze. I thought the idea was amusing and it would be a laugh for the magazine‟s readers. John.” “I can‟t believe it!” I said. absolutely gob-smacked. I wrote it! I added that bit of advice about the shoelace as a joke.
” he replied. To him. “Do you remember what you asked me on the plane?” “We chatted for ages.” I hesitated. dummy!” “Oh. Pen.” I said. “You mean there are people more forward than me?” he joked. if not thousands of times. I wanted to tell him of my discovery. that?” he said mockingly as I realised that he was jesting with me. I tried to think of one. then you have my total respect.” he laughed. the question was old hat. to comprehend the myriad of different things that he had been thinking about when we met. “Yes! You were very forward. “Yes. To me that question had separated him from everyone else I‟d ever known.” “To what?” “To your question. there‟s me!” I answered. a party piece that he‟d asked hundreds. “Well. “I have an answer for you. I couldn‟t resist talking to you. Usually I have to spend ages giving hints and heavy clues before people work it out. “You‟re definitely more forward than me!” As we laughed. but could not. “If you have. I must‟ve asked you many things.” As I was trying to take this in.Friends or Lovers that my life had touched yours 10 years earlier. What if I had missed the point and was about to make a complete fool of myself? I dismissed it quickly from my . I realised what a complex and accidental thing attraction can be. “About sexism in the army!” “Did I ask you that? My goodness – we must have got on well for me to ask you that!” He had forgotten.
That phrase kept popping into my head. I was encouraging him to be aggressive and I started to wonder why I was doing it. I wanted to know whether my answer was the one he was looking for so I set aside my fears and told him. I wanted to test that his love was so great that I couldn‟t stop him expressing it. He looked gob-smacked. Then it hit me. I felt bad. as if I was doing something wrong. So I started to resist him. So I started to tell the story. but I wanted him to overpower me to prove to me that he could. And then. “How did you come up with that?” He was truly amazed. as I started to tease him and goad him I had a sudden realisation that I wanted him to be strong – I wanted him to be stronger than me. And in the next instant. it would take its place at the back of a very long list of foolish thoughts and actions. really. He was truly amazed. making him use force to get what I dearly wanted to give anyway. “How did you work it out. .” I said. I wanted him to prove he was stronger than me. a grin started to spread over his face. Never before had I thought of sex as a kind of test through which men had to pass to prove their strength. Never before had I thought of the problems that might create. Just as I was about to panic that I‟d made a huge gaff. really dying for me‟. I thought how unfair it was that I should be testing him. Mike had been fondling me while I was talking on the phone and in my head I kept thinking „he‟s dying for me. His hand moved to his cheek and he rubbed it as his mouth stayed open. Initially. “It‟s strange. If I was to become a fool again.Rory Ridley-Duff thoughts. Pen?” he asked.
he told me that he would let me go if I wanted children. And yet. no preconditions. I put these two thoughts together. Suddenly. I wondered about that phrase. but not in the movie hero sense. I stopped resisting him. John.” I continued. even die for me. but I realised that I would not die for him. but that was not the same thing as being prepared to die to save him. I wanted him to be prepared to die for me. So I stopped teasing him and started to care instead about giving him as much pleasure as I could. “But your question. no tests. I gave it to him willingly. If he was not stronger than me. when we had been driving home. how could he ever protect me? And the moment I felt ashamed of thinking this way. I knew. Why do we say „he‟s dying for me‟? Where does that expression come from? There I was lying there wanting him to prove that he would be prepared to die for me. would sacrifice himself for me. It gave me my first true glimpse of the power that women can wield – that we make a man feel that he has to prove his willingness to die before we will love him.Friends or Lovers So I set out for John what had been going through my head. Mike. I wanted him to overpower me so that I would know he was strong enough to protect me. the phrase “he‟s dying for me” kept spinning through my head.” . A few days before. “It stopped me insisting that he be prepared to die for me as a pre-condition of my love. What could be more sexist than expecting a man to die for you when you were not prepared to die for him? Would I be prepared to die for him? I would kill to keep him. John‟s question popped into my head – it was one of those flashes of intuition that have no explanation. I could not imagine making such a sacrifice.
For the last 20 years.” I said with ardour of a convert. Pen – if we valued men as much as women .” I thought about this for a second and suddenly became bold. Many women are strong and fit. finally.” “Why? Surely we should recognise this….Rory Ridley-Duff “That‟s it. for the benefit of men. And for no other reason than they are men. Sensible. Equality means that women would insist on their responsibility to fight. . perhaps. maybe not. War might be fought – in the minds of the men who fought them – to protect those they love. my own part in men‟s violence became clearer to me. It had taken me all this time to see it a different way. What a journey I had travelled. We expect them to die to protect us.” I said. John interrupted my thoughts with some of his own. Penny! That‟s what men are taught to do. it was to show themselves worthy of someone‟s love. yes. since I had been introduced to feminism.” he said firmly. “Then that‟s what we should do. By rights.” “We expect men to die. Perhaps it was not even for this reason. but wanted him to be prepared to die for me. For them. John stopped me. our armies would have many women fighting alongside men.” I said. not just their right. Usually they never think twice about it for the entirety of their lives.we would be recruiting the strongest people to fight our wars. “If we cared about equality. As I faced up to the truth that I would not die for my man. “It‟s only fair!” “Fair. even if the average man is stronger than the average women.. “There is another point of view. I had been taught (and taught others) that war was caused by men. fought by men.
If I refuse to fight. It would take countless more generations to rebuild a community if this happened. “We don‟t force people into the army. “If women and men were fighting on the front line together.000 men and only 100 women left?” His question made me think. Penny. but only 100 men. I think any community would be happier as a result of that. “Let‟s suppose that there was a battle and after there were 1. His face. aren‟t they?” “I suppose they are. wouldn‟t they. Would the society be able to survive?” “Of course. my own government is likely to put me in jail where I can be expect to .” I insist. “Would you fight?” he asked.” “Of course you do.Friends or Lovers I gestured for him to continue. was not whimsical.” I started.000 women left in a village who could bear children. Women have fought alongside men in revolutions so why not in armies?” He smiled at me. And those men are going to be busy. “I don‟t buy that.” John disagreed. “Would you?” I responded. when the battle was over there would be roughly equal numbers left. not only would they be building mutual respect and enduring relationships with each other. “I don‟t have a choice. however. “But what if it was the other way around? What if there were 1. even if there were not as many left. I hesitated. I thought about his words but challenged them. “Look at the history of war.” he said.
Rory Ridley-Duff be beaten. Even if my own side spares me.” “My God!” was all I could say. I can choose the enemy. I felt sick. John saw my discomfort. They cleared the ground by shooting everyone they came across. “What do you mean?” “Do you remember Fallujah?” he enquired. The women and children were allowed to leave. there would be no need for conscription. would I get mercy from the enemy?” he asked. I have no choice except to fight. My only other alternative would be to take up arms against my own government – which means fighting my own people. “Fallujah? In Iraq you mean?” “Yes. Penny. “Only men were killed. no need for military laws to punish deserters. “No. They don‟t care if I support the war or not. “I don‟t have the choices you do. no . the enemy won‟t. my own government. If we did. Even if my own country supported a right to conscientiously object. or a court of law. It‟s not true that men love war. I am court-marshalled for cowardice. buggered and left to die. The horror of this appalled me. Not long ago I would have been executed if I tried to reject violence. No man between the age of 15 and 55 was allowed out of the city before the US forces attacked it.” John replied. If I fight at first. not bravery.” I objected. I‟m left with no way out of violence.” “But that‟s genocide. It‟s not a question that really means anything to me. then change my mind. Either way. Remember the phrase they used? The soldiers were „clearing the ground‟. Again. my own brothers and sisters. no need for draft laws. they‟ll still kill me.
After a second bottle of wine. . I was too drunk to drive home so we walked it off in the park and visited a coffee bar. Suddenly it made sense that little boys played with guns. John.Friends or Lovers need for court marshals.” He nodded and the conversation moved onto an assortment of trivia as we finished off a lovely “stuffed crust” pizza with chargrilled chicken. one day. “Keep saying these things. you would be forced to fight against your will.” I wondered what it must be like to grow up constantly wondering if. It‟s not necessary to teach them. peppers and extra cheese. Don‟t let anyone stop you. no executions or jail for men when they reject violence. I had a truly wonderful day. they simply work out for themselves that one day they may have to fight.
that truth and justice prevailed. problems which after millennia of neglect are finally becoming the subject of debate. some died so that I could do so. if you prefer the description on my employment record “Penny failed her probationary period because of poor job performance”. and I felt a responsibility to give back some of what they had given to me. or a voice to be used against men and women I had come to respect. that the initial love I felt for Mike lasted until the day I died. to make their peace with each other. but as things changed. but were as frail.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 50 I wish I could tell you that things worked out well. But nor did I want to become another woman who gave up her dreams of mixing work and family by finding a balance that enabled me to enjoy life outside the home. Or. Several generations of women made it possible for me to exercise choice. I wish I could say that most of us lived happily for most of our lives. I would have added to these statistics myself. For the rest of his life he enjoyed – if that is the right word – an open . between his and her escapades. I was sacked. prejudiced and limited as me. They did their best. It would have been easy to get bitter and start a crusade over the injustice but I did not want to become another statistic at the Equal Opportunity Commission. I did not want to end up being one of the women who contributed to the problems that men face today. John returned to his wife and they continued. who did so only out of affection for me. If it had not been for the intervention of a gifted person. It wasn‟t to happen. new relationships were formed and moments of happiness were found amidst the problems we all faced.
we got together to spend good times. At the same time. After serving just one term. But – and this is something I partly regret. I enjoyed many happy years with Mike. he kept returning home from his travels to enjoy time with the family that he created. he lost his seat and switched to writing.Friends or Lovers marriage. We parted amicably and he remains a good friend. I prefer to think of them as two free spirits with the capacity to forgive each other when loneliness led them astray. but he was right about my desire to have children. It was impossible. John remained a nomad for another decade before finally giving in to the temptation of politics. nurtured and loved. It is no less special for that and we continue to protect what we have in ways that seem right to us. Sometimes we would cuddle on the sofa. but I watched as he did his best to navigate them. but am also proud of – we have not felt the need to consummate our relationship. Sally was immediately on the scene and this time . He remains my dearest and most enduring friend. at times when we both felt sad. or the interests within which he had become embedded. My cynicism about politicians faded dramatically as I met him over the years and learned of the endless no-win scenarios that they face. for him ever be completely free of bias or prejudice. You have probably never heard of him. of course. Professionally. and certainly whenever she needed his support he made himself available. I gave him one or two pushes in that direction but he kept his word and stubbornly encouraged me into a new relationship. Once or twice. He never rose to the level of cabinet minister but he distinguished himself in small ways as a member of one government. John saw Sally from time to time. I have his books and read each one that comes out.
Mike ended up committing himself to Sally for life. In giving a „best woman‟ speech.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike gave in to her. I discovered my talent for public speaking. when the success of SHARE began to fade. he never fully recovered. Nine years after his first wife had falsely accused him of sleeping with her. I detect the kind of closeness that I have in my own marriage. She was the business brains and it was her will that prevailed in the short term. It was a sad way for our relationship to end and despite the bitterness on his side. His wife went into a hospice where she died six-months later. of course. he had a breakdown. Elaine enjoyed life as a company director and took on more directorships. He declined. but the events that took place following my departure cost him dearly. and their second child – Penny Ann – was born one day early. Within twelve months he had been demoted. I also found myself taking a much greater interest in being an aunt. Sam rejoined IC to engineer new products. She had been through the menopause and Mike lost his excuse for resisting her. Sam. I once wrote to him to see whether he wanted to talk about the past. She got a buzz from the political battles and liked to forge change. They are one of life‟s happy couples. The love . their marriage failed. Afterwards. The success of their company created problems. As for Sam and Elaine. their marriage hit the rocks about five years later. I think of the good times we had. adding that he hoped never to see me again. According to Phil. After Procter & Gamble bought them out. My sister Carole married Chris. Dave kept his job. Sally finally got her man. wanted to get back to inventing and engineering new products. They are now married. When I meet them.
I went to work for Sam and Elaine. As for me. the dispute between Elona and Mike was the catalyst that ended . the contingency plan worked a treat. Mike. he eventually stopped seeing them altogether. Sam and Elaine. with help from John. Phil and Elona had a crack at things. There was a furious legal battle. It broke his heart. eventually got married and had two children. persuaded the entire SHARE team to leave IC and become members of Sam and Elaine‟s company. When I look back. Phil was promoted into my position at IC and we kept in touch. When Elona‟s parents retired. it created a big rift between Elona and myself. so they took up this opportunity in large numbers. of course. Phil got limited access after a lengthy court battle. Everyone expected the SHARE product to be a success. Given what happened later. it did not last. Phil felt they spent all their time interfering in his marriage and the raising of his children. When Elona took out a court injunction to stop Phil seeing his children. However. they devoted themselves to grandparenthood.Friends or Lovers between Carole and Chris was elastic: it stretched and bent as life threw its worst at them. It took much of the spirit out of him for many years. I found it impossible to build bridges with her again. Each had a tremendous capacity to accommodate the other‟s weaknesses and failings. but Sam and Elaine had committed investors and staff. Sam and Elaine gave each member a generous shareholding in the new company. He felt so superfluous that eventually he left. He writes to them each birthday and still clings onto the hope that one day he will be able to make up for lost time. and when his children started blaming him for the marriage break-up. In exchange for giving up continuous employment rights.
this simple truth is not stated often enough. I remain close to Elaine and we both did well out of the company sale. it is not only inside the home that intimate relationships are of vital importance. It gave the rampant rabbit a good run as the number one sex toy. or company constitution. Many of us became paper millionaires for a while. against increasing numbers of . standardised codes of ethics and kitemarks. It is a thankless task arguing against bureaucracy. two people enter into their own agreement. As I learnt through reflecting on my life and writing this story.Rory Ridley-Duff IC‟s rapid growth. but never toppled it. That can happen without any written agreement. and certainly does not require a written contract of employment. Today. If it works for them both. against the trend towards ever more standards of excellence. In the 5 years that followed. but he is getting quite old now. While banks and development agencies get flustered about business planning. I rode on the crest of a wave as the SHARE experience exceeded all our expectations and became the number one seller in the personal hygiene market. Each new business starts out with two people who like and trust each other well enough to give the other what they need. but arrogance and shortsightedness eroded the share price before the company was sold off. they continue it. finance. constitutional matters and legal frameworks. I am its managing director and we help organisations develop progressive approaches to human resource management. Trade begins when you trust someone enough to pay for the products or services they offer. Through the simple act of exchanging labour for money. We formed a new business together – the Social Exchange. John works with us on some projects.
Phil and I are the closest of friends and managed to rekindle our passion for each other after we got the kids out of our bed. and that is why I wanted to tell you this story. We now have two lovely children: a boy I insisted we call John. customers. my time on this earth will not have been wasted. As I look to the future.Friends or Lovers laws that seek to regulate not only our behaviour. these things are never certain. and Phil split from Elona. There is a strength that grows from being quick to listen and slow to judge. Intimate relationships are the foundation our society. Three years later we had a girl. but even the way we articulate our thoughts. We called her Hope. there is only one thing of which I am certain. ~ End ~ . After I split from Mike. and from them spring not just new human life but new economic life as well. I learned this at IC. If I can teach this to my children and grandchildren. Our friendship developed into a lasting romance.made little headway. I started to see Phil more. and exploring ways to make it work in practice. Thankfully I have been able to make a living saying this to many people. employees and suppliers. but for now I am content. It may not last. there needs to be a culture in which relationships are intimate and people can learn from the mistakes they make. In this struggle I have – unsurprisingly . For a business to grow. But I am pleased to have influenced a few organisations so that they keep bureaucracy to a minimum and replace this with the exercise of moral judgement in the way they deal with investors.
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