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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
Your comments were invaluable and I trust you will spot your influence in the end result. To family members and life-long friends who did not spare my feelings in their feedback on early drafts. you are still my dream woman. and who will also check their manuscript for errors and support them through lean times. Our conversations about the human condition will remain with me always. Poonam. . 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.Acknowledgements The people who made this book possible are numerous. my wife. 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. for the enormous patience and support she has given to my writing aspirations. For these and many other reasons. propose story lines. Natasha and Bethany. I‟d like to thank Caroline. I thank you for helping me find moral courage when everyone around me thought I was mad or hopelessly naïve for writing this novel. 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). Firstly. you have my enduring thanks. It is every author‟s dream to have someone with whom they can freely discuss ideas. To my children. draft chapters. To my muse in business.
She said „no‟. I‟m not making out she was „up for it‟ or anything crude like that. To Elona.” “She‟s never said anything about it. The frown on his brow was more pronounced. it was a different matter. His eyes looked around the floor. I just never got any sense that she didn‟t like the way I behaved. Mike. “No.” I said. Mike was traditionalist all right. if you ask me. She wanted to discuss something private so I asked her if she‟d like to go for a drink. He was married and fancied himself a bit too much. landed himself a regional sales management job and probably felt he was enjoying the best years of his life. “why have you been bothering Elona?” He looked so unconcerned that it made me slightly irritable. we‟ve been close at times. Time to give him a push. she never showed it.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 1 “So.” Mike looked uncomfortable now. concise – look him in the eye. was she?” I said with a laugh. There‟s been a complaint. had worked his way up through the ranks.” “Not to you. End of story. one of those „pretty boys‟ who does not realise that . To him a „bit of fun‟ probably included the occasional trip to a lap-dancing bar or shagging in the toilets. but that is not something that you show in this job. that‟s not what I‟m saying.” Yes. confident. “It‟s nothing. just a misunderstanding. maybe. If she felt uncomfortable. It‟s no big deal. Still. And yes. “Bit of a tease. Calm. and sometimes I think she‟s tried to flirt with me. but I‟ve always been careful. Mike was moderately bright. He was 50. He prided himself on being „friendly‟ but I just found him a creep.
Not quite as straightforward as some situations I‟ve faced because he has a good reputation and is well liked. It can be quite a laugh making a sexist-pig squirm. now leading a successful team but getting angry when one of his administrative staff won‟t go for a drink with him. perhaps. I think. Not my type at all. “Mike. I would not call myself a feminist. He was certainly not my type. I‟m fairly new here. I could see right through him. steer clear of Elona. She‟s a bit sensitive at the moment. sales rep of the year four years ago. So. I guess. In the mean time. To progress I had to move. particularly in the company of like-minded female friends.Friends or Lovers they are past it. I‟d better check with my boss before I do anything here. I can see that men have it harder in some respects. In my previous job I‟d been fast-tracked to deputy director but came up against the glass ceiling. I guess the sexual revolution has helped a bit. but the patriarchy seems alive and well. but I‟m not averse to a confrontation with the occasional unreconstructed man. I‟ll look into this and get back to you. Married with children. Twenty years ago this company would not have contemplated me in this position. I think. Mike the macho. here we are. Nine months into my first job as Head of Personnel. Boyfriend trouble. Many of my management colleagues are women too. Leave it with me for the next 24 hours. but too old for me – definitely! And he really irritated me when he shared dirty jokes with his friends but never with me. God.” . probably bored at home. was he past it! He had aged well. still wanting to resurrect his youth and put it about. Come see me tomorrow and we‟ll wrap this up. Mike is proof enough of that.
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. .Rory Ridley-Duff Mike did not look relieved at these comments and mumbled something I could not hear. He shook my hand.
Zero-tolerance and all that! What‟s right here. he engaged with women as equals and was sympathetic to many of the problems they faced. It‟s fair to Mike and it„ll send a strong message to the rest of the company that it won‟t be tolerated. Okay?” I nodded. I could happily spend time in his company in the office or away on business. He was not much older than me. my director.” Dave looked at me thoughtfully for several seconds. but it clearly looks like he‟s got the hots for Elona. I can‟t let this rest. “As far as I‟m aware this is the first such complaint against Mike. Elona‟s upset. But I agree we can‟t let this pass. He .” I liked Dave. Mike‟s good – his team like him. but we should move him. I don‟t think he should be sacked.Friends or Lovers Chapter 2 “He‟s done what?” asked Dave. this isn‟t easy. “Not completely sure. This does worry me. I hear he‟s not been a paragon of virtue in the past. Penny. Dave was „Director of Business Development‟ and spent his time seeking out creative types and developing relationships with them. * * * Innovation Centre Ltd was modern and dynamic. Unlike most men. He enjoyed working with me but was careful never to overstep the mark or make me feel uncomfortable. Penny?” I was not sure whether the question was rhetorical but as no more words were forthcoming I gathered my thoughts. and I knew that he was ambitious too. “Do it sensitively. “Well. We shared a professional ethic and modern outlook.
I did the „women into business‟ thing a few years back. interested only in sex. football . nett present values and can put together a business plan. I‟ve read my share of self-help books. I still prefer the „relationship‟ thing. I have my share of paranoia about my looks.Rory Ridley-Duff found inventors. They were dishing out bursaries to encourage graduates into management. Of course he‟s taken – most guys like him are – and he now has a young child that he rarely sees. He mentors me and I appreciate that. but for me they‟re a heap of crap. able to live independently. he is „strictly business‟. Over the last decade. speaks well and is incredible at building trust. the Innovation Centre – or IC as we call it in-house . My friends joke that I am a model of the Cosmopolitan revolution – vibrant.has created a network of 60 inventors and a catalogue of wonderful gadgets. Much as I like him. got them to commit their products to us then helped them obtain development grants. I‟ve worked hard for my career. Workplace relationships might put that at risk. but avoid the ones called „How to Find the Man of your Dreams at Work”. but go out on the town and get a shag if I want to. and decided to specialise in human relations work. They‟re fine for those who want to give up work when they find their prince. however. Dave has a penchant for that too. He looks smart. intelligent. Most men are bastards anyway. 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.and now I understand all that talk of returns on investment. I thought I may as well get myself an MBA couldn‟t see what harm it would do . smartly sexy. but even so I am a bit of a man magnet when I wear black. As for me.
but only until they want me to cook them a „special‟ meal or wash their clothes. It‟d mean travelling more. Our eyes locked and his hand moved up and rubbed his chin.” “And what if I don‟t take this position?” he asked. I can‟t say that I like this side of my job.” Mike looked blankly at me for a moment. Another feather in your cap.” Mike looked at me and nodded to indicate he was ready. I lived with a guy once but soon felt like his mother. but it goes with the territory and you have to harden yourself to it.” Mike interjected.” I said showing him to a chair. Mike. aren‟t I?” “Well.” I said firmly. of course.” he said quietly. and working with a new team. Penny. “That‟d create a problem. I‟ve taken my pleasure carefully and on my own terms. It seems to work for me. They‟re a bit wet behind the ears. * * * “Thanks for dropping in. same status. “I wasn‟t born yesterday. so we want someone with lots of experience. then around the side of his head as he pinched his ear-lobe. Since then. “I‟ve had a chat with Dave and Elona about the situation and I‟ve a suggestion for you.” “Cut the crap. I‟m taking the flak for Elona. “We think it‟d be a good move for you to join Direct Marketing. “Can you give me until Monday?” he asked. and this provides one. “Carry on. . I do boyfriends. we need a solution to that too. I dumped him. “It‟s a new project.Friends or Lovers and drinking. Same salary.
. I do have a conscience. “If that‟s all.” “She‟s working. Mike.” “Can‟t you call her? Meet her for lunch?” “I‟ll try. Mike called me back later that day and accepted the new job. but the world is changing and the type of behaviour he is responsible for is no longer acceptable to either men or women. 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. Penny. I‟m away in France next week. In some ways.” I got up from my seat and felt his eyes burn a hole in me. He was not a happy man. If I have to clip the wings of a man who sets a bad example then it feels like a job well done. but I don‟t want this hanging around while I‟m away. If you need to talk to your wife then take the day off. It is never easy giving someone a sideways move but it has to be done sometimes. Mike. His awkwardness was palpable but no further words came out. . His family is still safe. “What is it. The hardest thing is protecting someone‟s dignity while sending a message that some behaviour is unacceptable. but I could see that he was struggling to find the words. He was trying to say something. Mike?” “This…” his eyes looked up at the ceiling then down at the floor. I was able to protect his income.Rory Ridley-Duff “No. He can‟t really complain. The problem is sorted and Elona is protected. I have to go..” he hesitated. I can give you „til 4 pm. I feel sorry for Mike.
He had definitely aged well. The best approach I got all week was not at the conference. This time I did both. kind but sexy. but hard work – a two-day conference. His eyes were brown and there were wrinkles stretching from the outer corners across both temples. He had dark brown hair with touches of white. When he cast them in my direction. Clearly he was a person used to smiling and laughing. He was casually dressed in jeans and a black top. I studied him. It was a dull evening. but not .Friends or Lovers Chapter 3 France was fun. If there is one thing I enjoy about going away on business it is the freedom I have in the evenings. I guess he was around 45 but still had a hint of the handsome features of his youth. I could feel them undressing me. I shaved. Our eyes met briefly a couple of times. After relaxing in the bath. moisturised myself with assorted oils. First night I snuggled down with a Bernice Rubens novel. At home I might bump into a neighbour or colleague from work. Usually that pissed me off. and applied a dab of Clinique near my ears. They were nice eyes. But abroad. If I go to these events with Dave I feel obliged to spend time with him. 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 second night I decided to dress up and take my chances at the conference party. 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. wrists and breasts before setting off to await the chat up lines. but this time I was on my own and had the chance to really let my hair down.
“A comedy?” I asked. He held my gaze long enough to let me know he liked the way I looked. Sometimes he would sigh. then without another word he resumed reading his book. I obliged by reading it out. I thought.” he remarked showing me the title of an article he was reading. He continued to read his book until the plane took off but then started to look across me out of the window. “Of sorts. 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. A pity he had not been at the party the night before. From then on. After a while he let out a laugh. “Flying always makes me feel humble. I manoeuvred myself into the queue just in front of him. underlining phrases that caught his imagination. He turned to me again and smiled.” He looked straight into my eyes and held my gaze for a second. I instinctively smiled back. I noticed his every move. and at other times he frowned. He was not bad. Definitely nice eyes. he continued to gaze at the buildings and roads below. It seemed to have the desired effect because five minutes later I was in a window seat and he sat down next to me.” I paused for a moment and then quipped. “Some comedy!” . “You look down there and you realise just how insignificant you are. All the lines at the corners of his eyes creased. “The impact of sexuality on group dynamics: a symbolic interactionist perspective.” he suddenly remarked. and then he smiled. As the plane rose higher and higher.Rory Ridley-Duff today. When we boarded the plane. He was reading intently.
.” “You‟re a writer?” This was getting better and better.” he said guardedly.Friends or Lovers He looked carefully at me and nodded in agreement. but I‟m not a writer. what is it you do?” He paused.” he responded. This time I held his gaze for a little longer to let him know I liked the way he looked. “Well…. acknowledging my interest and deflecting it at the same time. “thirty-something manager from Warwickshire. “Are you in my line of work?” I asked. “A consultant. I mean I don‟t write for a living.” There was that smile again. writing is a by-product of my living. I‟m an HR manager. I write. “Behaviour. I guess. “In what way?” I was genuinely curious.” “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 might help men to look at women differently. or women to look at men differently.” “John. “forty-something consultant from London. I sometimes work with HR people.” “Partly.” he responded.” “Very enigmatic. eh! In what field?” I enquired. “Well. hoping to dig a bit into his background. “I challenge the way people look at themselves and each other. So. “And what line is that?” “Employees. “Penny.” I announced. I would guess they read my work sometimes…. “Only to my wife!” he joked.
If my cheeks had coloured up. Let‟s think about the army.” I was tempted to make another flirty comment.” “The army!” I was genuinely surprised.” He smiled. Let‟s take something outside your everyday experience. “Your assumption is right. surely? It is your job to know about men and women. “Yes. right? You must have an abundance of „knowledge‟ about men and women. he convinced me that they had not. You‟re in HR.” “Of course.” I said with a smile. like a challenge. let‟s see. “Why?” “Well. I guess.” “Oh.” he immediately answered. but resisted. He continued without any trace of embarrassment while I wanted to shrink into my seat.” he said. Did I detect the hint of mockery? “As much as the next person. Khaki never was my colour and I don‟t like getting dirty.” The way he said „knowledge‟ was weird.Rory Ridley-Duff “You‟ve got a wife?” the words came out so fast that I kicked myself. “Some of my clients think of me as a pain in the arse. You must be acutely aware of their typical profile. “We don‟t have long enough to discuss that one! Okay. A taster only. and kids. . “What about the army. raising his eyebrows. then?” I asked.” “You disappoint me. brushing aside his comment with a smile. “Woman are made of sugar and spice and all things nice while men are made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails. more than that.
” “Bullying. I thought. after all. it may not be fair. Here‟s your question. “Can I phone a friend?” I teased. I didn‟t want to spoil a promising conversation by saying this. an organisation created by men. It was flattering to think I intrigued him.” he said with mock severity.” He looked at me kindly.Friends or Lovers “Well. Some had to put up with dreadful abuse. „What‟s the most sexist thing about the army?‟” What an odd question. I found it difficult to look him in the eye while I thought. “Aha! The million pound question!” I said. staffed largely by men with the purpose of keeping men in power.” he said.” he said. I had a girlfriend who was in the police. “That‟s three things. “Bullying. rape and abuse happen to men as well. “Okay. . “Fuck! Where do I begin?” Where would this lead? I turned over half a dozen arguments in my head – the army is. “Can I ask the audience?” “Well. I imagine the army is even worse. “I saw a documentary some time ago about women in the army. However. I usually ask this question at the end of a course. I felt nervous and my right hand instinctively went to pinch my ear lobe. I started to offer less controversial suggestions. “All mobiles must be switched off during the flight. and she talked of similar things happening to her. raping and abusing.” John said.” he said with a wry smile. and it made me pause. I liked that. it‟s your opinion that really intrigues me.
” “But it‟s not the same. more powerless. “I mean. It‟s food for thought. And I wouldn‟t want you to remember me as the depressing old git who spoiled your flight home.” Even as I said it. 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.men don‟t. is it?” “Not at all. “Maybe. “I can‟t say I‟ve given this much thought.” “Male soldiers get raped too.” I replied somewhat apologetically. that‟s sick. usually when in enemy hands. I wasn‟t sure that I was making sense. “You did ask!” he said with a laugh.” “Indeed. “God. I wasn‟t going to be put off that easily. “It‟s not a trick question. I felt.” I added and shot him an irritated look that hopefully did not cross the boundary into rudeness.Rory Ridley-Duff “What‟s the most sexist thing about the army?” I repeated quietly to myself. .” “Don‟t get me wrong. But it‟s a thought provoker. was the real thought provoker. “Women soldiers get raped…. I was genuinely shocked to hear that. so I thought some more. Have we asked the men how they felt about it?” I paused. 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.” said John. “You‟re right. That. a woman is always going to feel more violated. surely?” I retorted.” “You wouldn‟t be alone in that.” “Bit of a depressing subject.
” “Perhaps you should be a bit more choosey about the things you say. I was not sure whether to invite him to join the mile high club. 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. Nice thought. but the way he looked at me as he said it. please.line of talk. or punch him in the balls for being so cheeky. “I‟m old enough to gobble you up. Are you asking me to lie to you? I thought women hated liars…. “Watch me? I think you opened up this…. “Do you like to open up?” he asked inquisitively. “Hey.” I laughed before I could stop myself. “But it is sexy. it was not this. It was one of those moments where I could have . but only with strangers.” I said coyly. Not nearly as sexy as your perfume ….er….Friends or Lovers “But not a very sexy topic. “Okay. “Then I‟d better not get to know you too well. what should I say to a young woman like you?” It was not what he said that induced butterflies.” I was enjoying this. “Less of the „young‟. I can see that I‟m going to have to watch you!” he chuckled. married man! Should you be talking to me like that?” I snapped back ensuring my eyes caught his again. had I?” Whatever I had expected on the journey home.. I wanted the conversation to continue.” I quipped. “Yes.” I said these words with a smile that reassured him that his compliments were very welcome.” “Hmmm..
” I stressed. and had two children he loved deeply. who specialised in work with creative teams. By the time we landed I felt like I‟d had a brief tour of his life. “Exactly. As our descent into Heathrow started. “I try to find another way to look at human relationships. survived a few ups and downs. He‟d been married for 20 years. “So what is it you do exactly?” “I just told you.” “And what way is that?” I added. Our banter continued. He talked fondly of his wife. I took him back to the start of our conversation. and children.Rory Ridley-Duff stubbed out the fire before it got too hot but chose to fan the fire instead.” Friendship? That was a quite a leap in such a short space of time and I was taken aback. It was not just his forwardness that . “My wife knows me well. He was an academic turned marketing consultant. “Would you like to meet up for a drink next week?” “What about your wife and kids?” I said with a hint of sarcasm.” he said pleasantly.” The brevity and simplicity of his response made me pause again and he used the moment to spring another surprise on me. For a living he helped companies educate men and women to improve their marketing skills. 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. “The way they really are. Ann. His boy was 12 and his daughter 14. I don‟t hide my friendships from her. He thought for a moment.
rather than work. but also a sense of disappointment that his aspirations were not a little higher. With John it immediately mattered to me that he liked me for more than my womanly charms. “Okay.” He nodded his head. “Just thought I‟d ask. anything. I could not get him out of my mind. I actually found that I cared what he thought. His eyes moved over me. “I can pretend that we met at the conference.” I found myself agreeing before I could stop myself. went through my winding down routine and settled into bed. but did not look disappointed. “You‟re a most unusual man and while I‟d like to go for a drink.” “Do you need to pretend?” he inquired without a trace of mockery. With one assured movement his mouth latched onto me and began to knead my flesh. then slowly pulling down my knickers. Here was a man who knew how to make a woman . I chucked my bags into the corner of my bedroom. and his hands moved slowly across me tantalising and pinching my nipples. As we swapped cards I felt a pleasant sensation that was rare for me. greedily consuming every inch of my skin. How about swapping e-mail addresses?” I smiled. My head and body arched as the pleasure rose within me. I gave him my personal email. caressing my stomach. I‟d flirted with quite a number of men over the years but I‟d never really cared whether they liked me or not. I let a story unfold in my mind. 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 don‟t think it would be sensible…. As I drove away. I continued to think of him as I allowed my fingers to work their way down into my pants. When I reached home.
. 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.Rory Ridley-Duff feel good all over.
to find out the unresolved issues and discuss them with me at the end of the day. and then interviewed them at a hotel. I turned to my e-mails. Those that I liked would be invited to our headquarters in Leamington Spa for an assessment day. really. The marketing manager. There were several memos about recruiting regional organisers for the new home catalogue. junk mail still got through and I weeded this out as quickly as possible. I found most of these distasteful but they were becoming commonplace and whatever we did the problem still increased. . We advertised in the local press. After spending the morning organising the following week‟s meetings. Phil. 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. Despite the efforts of our IT department. Jo. just a variant on previous recruitment campaigns. None of this was new. short listed people. 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. but specialising in a much broader range of gadgets. wanted specialist training for her team on consumer behaviour. This gave me time to cast my eye over some of the mail I had received. not simply beauty products. Just like Avon. I asked one of my staff.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. where they would have a second interview with Jo.
I hit the [Reply] button: From: penny@hotlips.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. He must be keen. I felt a sense of expectation disturbing me. I kept wondering if he was going to reply.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org. Lastly. there was a message from someone that I did not immediately recognise: From: j. Every time a new e-mail arrived. The hour seemed to drag. he‟s e-mailed me already.t.com Subject: Drinking with women? Penny..simons@tascali. 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. Had a word with my wife.com Re: Drinking with Women Hi John. Penny. Isn’t it your turn to teach me some tricks…? John .simons@tascali. To think that you are so willing to corrupt a sweet innocent girl like me…. Who are you playing verbal tricks on today? Penny Even though I knew that I had more pressing tasks to do. No probs if you want a drink. John My god.com To: j.
He likes to play. And the bastard made me wait over an hour for a reply. but she’s petite and it won’t fit me. Do you have any that would fit me? John x . Penny x Not much chance of him accepting on those terms.Friends or Lovers Good. I can walk on my hands (always goes down well in a beer garden when I’m wearing a summer dress without knickers). Tricks? Well. Bugger. Hmm! Tempting. John. but at least I get to kiss him back. This time he replied quickly. We can shock some genteel country folk by doing handstands together…. Penny. Can you do that? Penny While I pondered whether this was too risqué. Penny. But unfortunately I don’t have a kilt. Which? Wear a summer dress. John. I’ll come if you wear a kilt. Too late. I think my wife has one from her Scottish dancing days. habit caused me to hit the Send button. 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. Every time a voice inside me warned me to be cautious another told me to be daring. very tempting.
the joy I‟d been feeling drained away.” I replied. He had good grasp of psychology (always useful in this line of work) and had recently graduated with a good degree. Penny x I hoped that I‟d not pushed him away too quickly. Better back off for now. I’m a big girl.” was my starter for ten. After 30 minutes. What was I playing at? Were we flirting or joking? I was not sure. they had to be put on hold because Phil entered the office and sat down with a large sigh. “Do you want the good news or bad news?” he asked. hit me with it. Whatever my thoughts. He‟d clearly had an eventful meeting with Mike. John.” “Shit!” I exclaimed. the pick of an excellent bunch.” “That‟s good.Rory Ridley-Duff The cheeky bugger! He‟d mentioned his wife again. . “Okay. After 45 minutes. but not that big…. Looks like we are going to have to postpone that drink for the time being. “What‟s he playing at?” Phil settled back in his chair. He was young and hard working. “I think I‟ve found the people to fill the vacant positions in the marketing team. “Good news first. I felt a mixture of annoyance and regret. So what is the bad news?” “You‟ve got three vacancies in Mike‟s old team. Phil was a good lad.. bright but inexperienced. and with careful guidance I could see him going far. he had to learn how to do the donkeywork and that meant devising and running the administrative systems I needed. He was personable too. however. For now. please.
part of a new generation that accepts the way the workplace is changing. What d‟you want to do?” “Leave it with me.Friends or Lovers “Not sure. They want to work with Mike. All have contacts from previous sales jobs. “It overlaps their territories so they‟re confident they‟ll build sales quickly. They want to move with him. The moment I arrived in his department I was collared by three of his sales reps. I nodded to Phil to carry on. I‟ll keep you posted. wouldn‟t they? The old boy network will naturally stick up for him. Two have school age children and the other has grandchildren.” “It‟s not the men – it‟s three of the women. What about Mike‟s money concerns? Did he raise that?” I asked. Anything else?” “Nope. They all fit our desired profile. “Well. He had no problem working for a woman and we got along well. I get the feeling that he‟ll quieten down if he gets his way on this. he said that he‟ll accept the temporary drop if these three can join him. . Few things to round off.” How weird.” “Hmm. Don‟t worry about it. they would be.” “Okay. Are you off now?” I asked. Not sure he‟s playing at all. They were pissed as hell at Mike being moved. or prepare for battle if he doesn‟t. Thanks. Sounds okay to me. He was fresh out of college. I‟ll check with Dave. “Well. “Not yet. Their sales records are pretty good.” Phil was good. I thought! Perhaps he weaves a magic spell that I don‟t know about yet.
The starting salary would be the same. 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. Something was disturbing him. The differences were not so great that we needed to worry. but I could explain the changes at interview.it may come in handy. The job information we sent out would be slightly misleading. Find out more about him . “Mike may become a problem.Rory Ridley-Duff I sought out Dave to confer on the latest developments. Dave finally agreed but as I left he said something that set off alarm bells. He did not immediately jump at the idea and rubbed his chin in thought.” .
In saying that I don’t want you to read more into these comments than is in them. Hope to hear from you soon. That evening I settled down with my Bernice Rubbens again. Thanks for playtime. But enjoying a mutual attraction does not mean I’m going to make a pass at you (that will have to remain a fantasy). Our relationship is a strong one. I retrieved my e-mails to see whether there were any final issues to deal with. I love my kids. If you are not.” Why does . What had he called me? “Smart and sexy. Penny. John x Who was this guy? His arrogance pissed me off. Mixed in with my anger was a spine-chilling excitement that I could not shake off. however. I could not concentrate. Before logging off.” “A Fantasy. You are an attractive woman. If I flirt it is because I think you find it fun too. I‟d forgotten about John. Before that resumes. Fuck him. so it was a surprise when another e-mail from him appeared in my inbox. My wife does not usually interfere in my personal friendships (unless she feels threatened) and we have become much more relaxed in recent years. then we will become friends. That is a lovely thought to keep in my head if that is all you want to give. It was fun. I love my wife. I have women friends and I’d like you to be one of them. Try as I might.Friends or Lovers Chapter 5 Back at my desk I started to wind down for the night. I want to give you the chance to walk away if you wish. If you are okay with this. then I still have a pleasant memory of meeting a smart and sexy woman. I like you. I hope we can enjoy more banter in the weeks to come. I locked away sensitive information and tidied my desk.
Why does this hurt? Don‟t let him in. Play it cool. Why do I want to trust him? I never trust men.Rory Ridley-Duff he tell me he won‟t make a pass at me? Why not? Bastard. The hours passed and still I could not read my book. He makes me laugh. Don‟t let him in. No guy has ever talked to me like this. As I lay in bed. The prospect of looking into them thrills me. Maybe he is just after a fling. He‟s married. Don‟t trust him. He‟s got kids. By 2am. circling around like vultures gnawing at old wounds. And that realisation had a strange effect. . The word „danger‟ keeps forcing its way into my thoughts but my mind wanders back to his eyes. I put on music. I must stop thinking like this. but I did not listen to it. Penny. My thoughts kept returning to our e-mail exchanges. I tried to watch a film but the moving images were just a backdrop. He‟s too old for me. He‟s fun. no denying it. He dares to resist me. He‟s sexy. He‟s got “ups and downs” in his life. Penny. the minutes ticked and questions invaded my thoughts. For a few hours I was free of the conflict raging in my soul. He‟s intelligent. my eyes finally got so heavy that I dropped asleep. Slowly it dawned on me why I‟m angry at him – he dares to resist me.
“I‟m still concerned about Elona‟s complaint. he scratched his nose. he quizzed me.” “If I start asking about him. As he looked up. “What am I looking for?” he asked. I asked Phil to find out more about Mike. get to know them. Much as I wanted to focus on recruiting the best people and developing them to their full potential. Just take an interest. 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.Friends or Lovers Chapter 6 Following my conversation with Dave. Just see if you can find out about him. I remembered the first time that my manager asked me to keep my ears and eyes open. you find there is this whole other world that no-one talks about. I‟m trying to build a picture. Whether I like it or not. won‟t they start wondering why?” “Just spend time with them in the canteen.” He rubbed his hands together. and his brow still showed a frown. Naturally. “I want to be sure that there is not a pattern to his behaviour. of course. we are part of the management team and that means we bend to their wishes. When you experience the real world. I told him not to be too obvious . .” Phil looked awkward.to start by finding out what he could from members of his former team as unobtrusively as possible. see if they talk about him. If they do. not find out dark secrets.” I said. we have to work within management objectives and commercial constraints. “Nothing in particular. His eyes looked at the table while he rubbed his chin.
“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.
eh?” I said with a furtive look. I‟ll try. Elona. “Yes. doesn‟t it? If anyone does something that you don‟t like. tell them straightaway.” she confirmed.” “And if you feel the need. come and see me. “Okay. I thought. “It seems that we have a few more heads to knock together. I wondered . “What do you mean?” she replied as she shuffled in her seat. Still. I could see she was agitated so I took another approach. Elona tensed and was unsettled by this remark. “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. I don‟t want other men doing it. Can you do that?” “Yes.” “Do you have a diary?” I asked. I have a boyfriend and I only like him to touch me like that.” I smiled strongly at her as I drew the conversation to a close.” Ms Leyton? A bit formal. Ms Leyton. Can you do that too?” “Sure. Her defensiveness suggested she was hiding something. Okay?” She seemed to relax. I‟m glad we had this talk.Rory Ridley-Duff “I guess it depends whose got their hand on your behind. “I don‟t understand what you are implying. “And quite right too. Why?” “If you‟ve asked someone to stop and they continue to touch you in a way that you don‟t like. I detected a touch of embarrassment in her behaviour. make a note in your diary. After Elona left the room I pondered her behaviour.
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. her first child with boyfriend Chris. although one day I‟d like a house with a garden that I can tend. two years younger than me. Over the brick fireplace I have some ethnic artwork. I splashed out on a wooden floor and cream leather sofa. On the wall either side are two African masks.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 8 I live on the outskirts of town in a two-bedroom flat. When I settle down with a box of chocolates and dim the light. after I was accepted in this job. Last year. I take some pride in my home. At the moment she is on maternity leave. It suits me for the moment. I‟ve worked hard to shape it in my own image. I have a photo of my younger sister. After meeting at university they wanted to travel the world together for a while. I have large vases with dried flowers that give some colour and texture next to an attractive gas fire. They had decided that if they still wanted to be together after living in each other‟s pockets for two . each with different tribal markings. On the opposite wall. the candles give the room a romantic sexy feel. She is 30. Next to Carole is a picture of my parents on their 40 th wedding anniversary. At ground level. I always work hard to make my living room the most welcoming one in the house. Recently he got a promotion to project analyst and is now supervising others for the first time. 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. and has made her career in teaching. they had children quite late. Carole. The mantelpiece supports two tall candles in wrought iron holders and a number of stone carved nightlights.
however. He even gets to write answers for the Prime Minister sometimes. And so it has been. sometimes we write e-mails to each other and swap humorous cards. My father. A few of these hang on a pin board in my living room. I keep telling her that we are better off without them. My father is the kindest man I know but I have had a prickly relationship with my mother ever since I turned 14. is a teacher. but hope springs eternal where she is concerned. they‟d do it for life.” What is it about men and commitment? Even though she‟s been with him for three years now. many of our phone conversations still dwell on “man problems”. Sometimes he gets to prepare answers for TV. When they got back. I guess. got married and had children. I‟m proud of him. He is a civil servant who rose through the ranks to lead a unit that answers parliamentary questions. they each established their careers. We now call each other every week. like my sister. Forlorn. My sister sent these to me when she was having difficulty getting her boyfriend to settle down with her. . At that time. 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”. she will be able to retire next year. I reckon. My mother.Friends or Lovers years. still has two years before he can retire. Fame of a sort. but she holds out hope that eventually they‟ll get married. I ask if we will hear wedding bells soon but the most optimistic response she‟s given so far is “Next Year: probably. I grew close to my sister and we stayed that way ever since.
When I go to bed. facial scrubs. The other side draw holds my collection of lingerie. so the dresser came with an array of drawers to hold all my paraphernalia: lip gloss. make-up remover and spot sticks. nail varnishes and eye shadows (which I use only on special occasions). and a choice of rings for fingers and toes. The focus is my pinewood king-size bed with a deluxe duck feather duvet and pillows. moisturisers. I switch out the main light. 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. I don‟t have space for a washing machine so I still do my laundry down the road. bracelets (wrist and ankle). so a sensuous bedroom equipped for lingering self-pampering is one of life‟s essentials. I don‟t have a regular fella to keep me warm at night. necklaces. and on each bedside table I have one of these new cylindrical lights with slow moving silver flakes that refract light. They know how I like to adorn myself. I can make him think that he‟s gone to heaven early. a sensual and very personal love nest. carefully selected so that on the rare occasions I think enough of a man to invite him back. Wrapped in my duvet. The headboard is decorated with subtle white lights. The work units and oven are built in so there is a reasonable amount of workspace and cleaning is easy. belly bars. Jewellery is in one of my side drawers. organised into earrings. switch on the bedside lights. The kitchen is small but functional. just perfect for fuelling my fantasies when I feel like playing with myself. I feel deliciously erotic. Either side of the mirror is a raised area for an assortment of bottles. and watch the patterns that meander around the room. selections of lipsticks.Rory Ridley-Duff My bedroom is a mini-paradise. It gets me out of the house .
He actually gets upset that he can‟t feed his child.” “If only adults were as easy to amuse…” I commented. I don‟t know. “Chris has raised the idea of using his flexi-hours to spend more time at home. She gives me the latest celebrity gossip.” “Can‟t you train him better?” I ask. yet?” “Haven‟t raised it for a while. He‟s sitting up now and he‟s a lot happier because he can look around. “Yes. bless him. He is. He can change a nappy now. but baby refuses to be fed by bottle. He is trying too. How about you?” .” “He sounds keen. Good week?” I enjoy these chats with my sister. Quite sweet really. In some ways it‟s good to have him home.” I interjected.” “Nothing on the matrimonial front. it just creates tension. I‟m not sure about it. When Big Brother hits our screens we chat about it each week and I invite her around my flat to watch eviction nights. I give him a toy with a bell on it and he sits there shaking it and laughs for ages.Friends or Lovers and I can chat to Betty who does the service washes. This has been a standing joke ever since she started going out with him. but he just makes more work for me. “I try. I try. I reassure him that as soon as he starts on solids then he‟ll be able to get in on the action. * * * “Hi sis‟” “Hi Carole. “Not bad. Just wish he could cook then he‟d be really useful to me.
” No sooner had I uttered the words than I realised how stupid they sounded. I‟m not sure.Rory Ridley-Duff This is another standing joke . He was keen to meet me again so we‟ve agreed to meet up next week for lunch. He‟s most odd.” “So.” “Tell me more…. He is a practiced flirt. He‟s intelligent. “No. “Oh. Sounds like he‟s a fast worker. it‟s not like that. “Oh.” “Too right you will. and you‟re giving him a big green light.” We are so alike.” “And your libido?” “I don‟t think so.” Carole quipped. but I didn‟t even convince myself so I doubt that I convinced her.” . let you know how it goes. a writer. he‟s an oddball. why are you meeting him?” It was a pertinent question.” “Hey you.” “No Carole. I have no idea whether I‟m doing the right thing and you know what I‟m like with men. I want to satisfy my curiosity. so that‟s a no go area.” “Oh don‟t say that Carole. a consultant.” “You‟re smitten. I can‟t explain. “No. But he seems different. yes?” she asked. got kids. He has lovely eyes.my inability to find any man worthy of me. nothing to report there. He burned my ear with all this stuff about sexism in the army. “He‟s married. Like I say.” I said weakly. “Yeah! I‟ll call you in the week. I say! You only live once. I can tell. “Go for it. But I did meet an interesting man this week on the plane back from France.
.” “I will.Friends or Lovers “Say „hi‟ to mum for me if you talk to her. we both put down the phone and returned to our very different lives. Stay cool.” “Bye sis‟” And with that.
I still can‟t get used to going to bed by myself and I especially miss the pleasure of waking up next to someone. I particularly hate having workmen in the flat during the day. Some withdraw into themselves and skulk off. No way am I going to start washing their clothes. I don‟t always feel safe on my own. Not having a man about the house also helps in that respect. I have the pleasure of buying in exactly the foods I wish. watching only the television that I want to. and getting up when I like. But I can‟t deny that there is loneliness too. if the doorbell rings on a dark winter evening I use my spy hole to check who‟s the other side. Her last boyfriend punched and kicked . So far none have hit me. I think. One thing that only women can understand. cleaning. and sharing my thoughts and feelings. Despite the façade of strength I present at work. snuggling up to them. Sometimes I get really scared. If it is a man I do not know – and sometimes even if I do – I don‟t let them in. reading. Breaking up with a man is traumatic because you never know how he‟s going to react. but my sister was not so lucky. relaxing and sleeping.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 9 My weekend was fairly typical: shopping. but with others you can visibly see their bodies convulse with anger. 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). 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. Living on my own. is the silent fear we have of violence. most men who I let into my bed think that the corner of my room has an invisible linen bin placed there.
good career with responsibility and the chance to travel. so why do I feel so empty? As I walk on the brow of the hill I look north towards Worcester. a family I can see when I need (far enough away not to crowd me but close enough to visit the same day). I‟d done my chores so I took myself off to the Malvern Hills for a walk. Sitting with her. It was a pleasant day. By Sunday. 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. On the surface it looks very fulfilling. Walking gives me a wonderful sense of freedom. time and space to think. looking at her bruised mouth and eye. two circles of friends (inside and outside work) that balance each other and provide good times and support for bad times. an isolated and desolate beauty searching the wilderness for something in life that will make it more meaningful and satisfying. The wind buffets my face as I stand like the French Lieutenant‟s Woman. watching her shrivel with humiliation as she admitted to a nurse how she received her injuries. In my mind. holding her hand while she sobbed like a young child. . At the moment I wonder whether my life is going in the direction that I want. I‟m sufficiently attractive to be able to enjoy male company more or less whenever I like.Friends or Lovers her when she ended the relationship. and I was able to remove my jumper and wear just a tee-shirt and shorts. warm for April. that‟s an experience that‟ll never leave me. I have a nice home and neighbours. I recall John‟s comment that looking down on the world reminds us of our insignificance. Am I significant? Do I make a difference? Have I had a positive influence on the people I‟ve known? I wasn‟t sure.
Even when I‟m shacked up with a man. I even hide my feelings from my sister. Rarely do I see two women or two men walking together. Husbands walk with wives (lovers or friends. the hills are filled with people who have come to terms with sharing themselves with another. perhaps). the desire to share myself physically. but perhaps it is me who is avoiding commitment. I don‟t think I‟ve shared myself fully with anyone. If my parents knew how I behaved sometimes they would probably die with shame. Family and friends are great but there are limits to how I can be with them. The life I have is safe. and I have many things that give me pleasure. I can‟t show them the real me. I still feel lonely. but deep in my heart I‟m still quite lonely. I‟m not sure there is anyone with whom I can do that. I‟m too afraid. In fact. Parents walk with children. . cannot be satisfied with any of them. emotionally and spiritually.Rory Ridley-Duff I‟ve been hard on boyfriends who would not make a commitment to me. 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. My deepest need.
But I keep driving towards the town centre. Love Me One More Time” on the CD player and this fuels an expectation that lunch will be the start of a romance. I shouldn‟t be meeting him. I can‟t help but feel excited even though I know this is not an appropriate way to feel. The interviews went off as well as could be expected. I also interviewed a single man who had won custody of his children. The car parks itself as if I‟m on auto-pilot. the clock shows there are only 50 minutes to go and my breathing deepens and lengthens as my nerves start to intensify. At the moment. Both with children in the 11-15 age range and extended family support (that‟s usually necessary in this line of work). 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. “Stop it!” I shout. I have George Benson playing “Lady. both married. I try not to think and focus on getting through the next few minutes. . “Go away!” but ranting makes no difference. We e-mailed each other over the weekend and agreed to meet at Pizza Hut. no matter what I do. He too seems to possess the necessary enthusiasm and skills. I‟m driving back to meet John. As I enter the outskirts of town. I wish I didn‟t feel like this. turn right into an NCP car park. see the front of the car turn to the left and climb the levels.Friends or Lovers Chapter 10 I‟m in Leeds today. There was a single woman with previous direct sales experience and good family support so I think we have found the people we need. I found a man and woman. watch the barrier rise.
” “Just my normal work clothes. I‟m not only pleased I‟ve made an impression but also delighted that he‟s noticed. But his hair looks freshly washed and there . What a surprising remark! “Yes. Thank you for making the effort to look nice. Take the money.” I say with false modesty. Thank you. Press lips together. Around the eyes. All this elegantly covered by a light purple trouser suit that hugs my figure. “You look good. £50. Turn left. Look in the shop windows. Open the door. Go down the stairs. Inside. He has turned up wearing an unironed tee-shirt and jeans with a hole in one knee. Continue. Walk. Along the high street. Press 7725. Turn left. The necklace is long enough for the jewel to draw attention to a hint of cleavage. Wait for card. I can feel myself beginning to relax. My hair was washed this morning and tied back into a ponytail. There‟s no harm in showing off my pert behind and womanly curves. I appreciate it. Turn left. I take off my jacket and sit down. a subtle shade of blue (just enough to emphasise my long black lashes without looking trashy). “Penny! There you are.Rory Ridley-Duff Find the exit. Where is my lippy? Look in the shop window.” The moment I hear his words I come out of my trance. Check my handbag. I‟ve put on a white top – thin enough to give a hint of the lace bra underneath – styled into a „V‟. Studs with a light blue jewel adorn my ears and a matching necklace drapes around my neck. Apply evenly. look at him and smile. I applied a modest amount of eye shadow and liner. classy but not tarty. Enter. Go to cashpoint. Now right. Choose “Cash no receipt”.” “Thank you?” I ask.
I need an exclusive casual outfit for each day otherwise my beach cred is seriously damaged. Good on the wrinkles. “Tell me. Shortlisted four people. Then he adds. but in the daylight I guess he‟s a bit younger than I first thought – somewhere in his late 30s.” I say boldly. “It did. obviously.” “Yes. “I use my wife‟s Nivea every day. did your interviewing go well?” he asks.” “Perhaps it will catch on in Hollywood?” He laughed and looked deeply into my eyes. when he‟s relaxed they disappear. Especially before I go on holiday. “Yes.” “Does your tailor get much business from you. including a single father.” “I‟m 44. “I see you dressed up for me too…” I say cheekily. then?” I quip.” he jests.” he says without any embarrassment. “how old are you?” “Forward aren‟t we?” “Oh. yes! I don‟t beat about the bush.Friends or Lovers is a day‟s stubble giving him an undeniably rugged look. Very energetic woman. I have to work hard to keep up with her. “Lots. The lines at the corners of his eyes only display when he smiles. I settle into my seat and look at him more closely. I like it. His face has worn well and his hair shows only slight signs of greying. I carefully ironed the creases into the shirt and hired a tailor to give my trousers that deliberate „just torn‟ look. I felt comfortable and content. I still don‟t know how old he is. “So.” “She keeps you young. All the nerves that I‟d felt were swept away. would you believe?” “Only just.” .
now with child and dopey boyfriend. “Your life in 5 minutes. attended women‟s groups. It suits her. his smile and nod say it all. He doesn‟t need to. Chose career instead. Now HR manager in a growing firm. “So!” he says. Did radical bit at university. age 0. Protested the Gulf War (the first one).” “Not out and about like you. Here we go. Born. always closer to dad. in Malvern where I grew up with my teacher mother and civil servant father. She saves her strong opinions for our marriage and children. Developed well. including that he admires her. Politics became liberal. I felt we should dwell there a bit. Shouted regularly at politicians. Started to like men less. Translates government documents from English to French to German and back again. Warm loving home for the first dozen or so years. One sister who is two years younger than me. Relatively happy modern career woman.” “Okay.” “Strong minded?” He says nothing. I could sense a question coming. “Want to try something I do on my courses?” “Why not?” I answer. fell out with mum. got angry with men. got angry with women. “What does she do?” “She‟s a linguist. Age 13 onwards I became a bit of a rebel. Likes . She‟s also a teacher but currently on maternity. Can you do that? Then I‟ll give you mine. manager at 29 but stumbled across the glass ceiling. Tried a few.Rory Ridley-Duff Given that we‟d moved onto the subject of his wife. then?” “She prefers a quieter existence where her opinions are not the subject of public scrutiny. Started to like men more.
romantic comedies. sometimes lonely. walking. Went through the basketball craze. I stop. “Right. Lots of responsibility. usually fine. Frost. Married her. The portfolio life is for me. Both older. “How about you?” I quickly ask. “I think that‟s the best exercise I‟ve had all day. Lots of freedom. Started writing. the freedom. Sex and the City – shame it has finished. Mexican food. Protested the Poll Tax. . A rebel until age 13. Flirted with radicals (both ideologically and literally). Tried a few. the other lectures in some obscure social science. Went through the football craze. Missed first Gulf War demo. then calmed down. Eastenders. Hobbies include walking. nights in with cat. “Wow!” he injects. then PhD. Got hired as a consultant. Went off real world. Did a masters. Now 32. Artist mum. Friends. We both laugh in unison and I look at her.” he adds. flirting and friendship – but in reverse order. “All in one breath?” I laugh out loud. This is fun and I am enjoying myself. Tried real world. Born in Hampshire. Loved them again. fell in love with one. Worked in academia. Went off radicals. same age as you funnily enough. My turn. A waitress stands at the end of our table ready to take our order. the pay. Returned to research. Always liked women. Two sisters. No Angels.” He stops and takes in a deep breath to replenish his oxygen supply. Liked kudos. Hated kids.Friends or Lovers chocolate. Loved kids. Had kids. Went through the „girls‟ craze. Marine engineer dad who died when I was eight. One works in a women‟s refuge. refused to pay it. exercise. Very sad but coped okay. Did my extremist bit at university.
“I‟d afraid the machine‟s broken. we were joyous and smiling. Is a normal coffee okay?” “Of course. “So what have you been doing in Birmingham?” I enquired. “Cappuccino?” asks John. not a new one. As soon as she went. and I was drawn more and more into the conversation. “Decaf coffee.” “Such as?” . As he started to speak. “Helping some marketing recruits find new ways to look at men and women.” he answers politely. “I think someone has placed a contract to sabotage all cappuccino makers worldwide. His demeanour changed and took on a more relaxed and thoughtful expression. “Would you like any drinks while you are thinking?” Her voice came out in a monotone as if it had been prerecorded.” “And did you succeed?” I was actually interested this time and he could sense this.” I request. he leans over towards me and speaks quietly. He felt like an old friend. sir.” * * * As we chatted away. “These things take time. he started to gesticulate. Wherever I go they never seem to work.Rory Ridley-Duff “Could you give us a few more minutes?” I ask. some well-founded. People have many preconceptions. others not. please.
not just women. You see it all the time. Then some people started to ask whether the research design was distorting the results. Researchers started to ask both men and women. I could tell that he was selecting one from a great long list.” . Men are definitely more aggressive and violent. I don‟t understand why. “lot of studies suggested that men were more violent than women in personal relationships. It‟s everywhere. on TV. 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. The results were surprising and not what you‟d expect. In the papers.” “The studies must be biased.” I affirmed. “Perhaps. It‟s my job to make sense of reliable data.” he continued. “Difficult to tell. feeling that I knew the answer already. “There‟s a growing body of research now. “In the 70s and 80s.” he replied surprisingly.” “Is that well-founded or not?” I asked. but John continued calmly and reassuringly.” “But we all know that men are more violent that women.” I thought of my sister and my body felt tense all over.” “You are joking! I don‟t believe you. I could feel a sprinkle of alarm go through me because I could sense he was leading me into a trap.Friends or Lovers He thought for a moment. Over one-hundred and seventy studies in the last three decades disagree with you. “That men are instinctively more violent than women.” But he sounded sceptical. “It depends on whose data you look at.
But the results are consistent across different industrialised countries.Rory Ridley-Duff “I can‟t rule that out. Is that your point?” I asked. What is meant by this phrase? I looked at John with curiosity.” he said with a smile. “Thank you. “D‟you remember „Wait „Til Your Father Gets Home‟?” he suddenly asked. the waitress returned. I am interested. We both picked up a menu. Yes.” John paused. different social environments. She had an impatient look on her face. I remembered a TV series with this name. I stopped for a moment.” “Explain. John looked at me supportively.” “I can‟t explain it – this is very new data to me too and I need time to reflect on it. John and I looked at each other and this time we didn‟t laugh.” said the waitress. quickly found something we liked and ordered. At that moment. It is just hard to accept. “No it‟s okay.” “Of course. . I‟m sure there was a hint of sarcasm in her tone. “We don‟t have to talk about this if you don‟t want to.” “You‟re not alone. I was in deep shock. different age groups.” he said.” “I don‟t believe them. and have been conducted by people from different research backgrounds. “Dad is being used to threaten the kids. I know you are going to try. I thought for a moment.
will you?‟ I‟ve managed to avoid smacking so far.” I said. but sometimes they dig their heels in and I come very close. 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.” he answered speaking directly from the heart. “Maybe we use Dad as a weapon whether he wants to be scary or not. My wife sometimes says to me „John. The threat is only effective if the kids fear Dad. 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. That happens in my house too.but what d‟you do when kids won‟t respond to anything?” I was beginning to see his point.” he said finally.” he continued. “I‟m not sure any more that men choose to be aggressive. I have threatened it once or twice. “Now I come to thing of it.‟ Even my female students used to say that they‟d play dumb or frightened to get their brothers. “When I think about this. Make them go to bed. I think it is about Mum making Dad responsible for discipline. “Maybe we use Dad as a weapon because he is more scary. fathers and boyfriends to do things for them. “you see it everywhere. I hate doing it – I feel like I‟ve failed .” He paused. . John paused for a moment. they won‟t listen to me.Friends or Lovers “Not sure.
and I was eating chicken dippers. The threat is enough. Completely. I‟m not sure it is appropriate for me to talk about this. He tried to cool it off.” I answered. Instinctively. “John. I‟m not sure exactly what. I‟m sure you are right. He‟d ordered potato skins. nodded and then . He only became worried after she started to flirt a bit. we shared a stuffed crust with extra mushroom and chicken. We have a man who has been pressuring a young woman for a drink. I have a friend who felt a young woman was getting too close to him. You understand?” I said. Tricky situation in one department.” John looked at me in a way that suggested he did not know whether to carry on.” I stopped myself. I don‟t understand all the ins and outs. “Okay. I‟ve had to move him. She‟d been having some difficulties at home and she singled him out as a father figure to talk to. But I‟m under no such obligation. But it is double-edged. 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. The woman is holding something back. our starters arrived. “but the issue for women is that the threat is always there. we both realised we‟d had enough of this.” “Yes. “Yes.Rory Ridley-Duff “Maybe. but he‟s done this before and the young woman was so upset that I had to separate them. I raised my eyebrows. I‟m trying to find out more because something peculiar seems to be going on. “What‟s your work like?” he asked.” We both paused. We‟re never free of fear. Busy at the moment. That moment. After that.
As I walked back to my car. “We‟ll be fine. but only after I made him promise that it would be my treat next time. “I don‟t want to tread on any mines. I said softly….” he asserted. Next thing he knew she‟d complained about him. We swapped mobile phone numbers too. We had our own minefield to navigate. isn‟t it?” I said. . She backed off and was hurt. “Yes. He could have said “I don‟t want to ruin this by sleeping with you. “…we‟ll have to tread very carefully…” He nodded and also spoke softly. I could have said “I‟ll be very sensitive about your marriage”. After coffees. no.” “It‟s always complicated. I hoped he was right.” But. Always. he paid. Men and women talk to each other in such oblique ways. When we parted.” He held my gaze.” “Me neither. We both agreed there would be a next time in about a month. protecting our egos while leaving the door open just in case we both had a change of heart. We both knew exactly what the other was thinking. “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 danced around each other using metaphors hoping the other would understand. I hoped that I had found a friend – a real friend.” I responded. we hugged.Friends or Lovers tilted my head slightly to one side to indicate that he should continue. A minefield. I felt good.
I met Dave to discuss the interviews. Even with all this care and effort. They are sad that he‟s . we‟ve found our perfect candidate only for them to decline the position at the last minute.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 11 When I returned to work. I‟d like to better understand why people decline. then confirmed the final shortlist. Nearly all his team talk highly of him. They undertake a psychometric test. you first?” “Okay. participate in role playing exercises. At other times. those that were marginal in the recruitment process turn out to be the best performers. recruitment is a hit and miss affair. “Some. More than once. Anyway. we introduce them to teams that undertake similar work to give them a flavour of the „real‟ workplace. I called Phil into my office for an update on Mike. 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.” “I chatted to Elona too. I found them a good deal more open than I expected. I got Phil to phone all the candidates and give them the news. and also to give the teams a chance to evaluate the candidates in a less formal setting. After I rounded off with Dave. The assessment centre uses an array of techniques to provide a more rounded picture of a candidate‟s suitability for a position. but interesting nevertheless. but I‟m confident that we‟re reducing the recruitment lottery through the use of these techniques. Not quite what I expected. “Have you been able to find out anything?” I asked. Lastly. Four accepted an invitation to our offices for the following week.
” I said. He rubbed his chin and touched his eyebrow before making several attempts to start speaking. “Those that knew she had made a complaint were surprised. “Elona told me she felt uncomfortable socialising with her team. Some said they were shocked because they thought the two got on extremely well. some words were forthcoming.” Phil paused. She worked closely with Mike – that went with the job.Friends or Lovers moved on. Mike. It sounds like he had a reputation for not putting up with any nonsense. They wouldn‟t elaborate. particularly the women. A couple found him a bit „old school‟. Finally. but was also sympathetic and supportive when his staff had problems. .” I decided to share what I found out. They were always working together to resolve customer issues. you know. 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. and I felt that it wasn‟t the right time to probe. touch her and make her feel uncomfortable. I still think there is something going on that we don‟t know about. then he gave out a slight laugh. “I can feel a „but‟ coming…. Some didn‟t mention the complaint – in fact I got the impression they didn‟t know about it. but they all respect his abilities as a manager and as a salesperson.” Phil stopped talking for a moment and had a puzzled look on his face.. People liked her well enough but they found her a bit quiet. and some of the younger men.
. “Come on Phil. “Tricky. but I would hazard a guess that he broke up with his wife for a while.” “What about Mike‟s marriage?” “Ah! Yes.” Then Phil said something that shocked me. I got the impression that they were saying „don‟t go there‟.” He rubbed his chin vigorously as he sat thinking.. Nobody said it out loud. “Yes?” I prompted. “Yes – I gathered that much and I‟m sure I spoke to her. one of the sales reps. but I pressed him.something didn‟t feel right but I can‟t put my finger on it. “…. He was searching for words. I think they sensed at this point why I was taking an interest. as if they had spent a considerable amount of time together outside work….” “Interpretation?” Phil was hesitant.” I shared something that Dave had told me.” He paused again and I was starting to get a little frustrated. She spoke about him almost like…. spit it out.No. They clammed up a bit. There was such a familiarity in the way she talked about him.a cross between a brother and a lover….Rory Ridley-Duff “I agree…. “Sally‟s attitude to him was so different from the others. I don‟t know. He got close to Sally. and his wife kicked him out for a while. He did have a rough patch a couple of years back. “I‟ve heard that too.” .” “Why d‟you think that?” I said with genuine surprise.
What I find hard to understand is why his team is so supportive of him.” “Hmm. I got the feeling that Sally had lived with him for while. he still lives with his wife. I just can‟t work it out at the moment.” After Phil left my office I pondered what I‟d learnt. Fourth. he lived with the rep for a while. Keep your ear to the ground. Mike had an affair with a sales rep. his wife kicked him out. Mike asked Elona out for a drink. . Thirdly. I‟ll see what I can find out my end. 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. and when he admitted this he was definitely agitated. What do I know? Firstly. his wife forgave him and he moved back in. Mike admits that he put his arm around her. Okay. Elona is upset. So far as I can see. We now know that Elona has been troubled by over attentive men at social events and that she‟s hiding something. Secondly.Friends or Lovers “Well.
Are you happy to talk about it some more?” Mike‟s hands were locked together and he looked very tense. I‟m trying to clear up the background to this situation with Elona and. “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. “Mike. “I talked with Elona about a week ago and I can‟t help feeling that she‟s holding something back. We worked well. Mike shuffled a bit in his seat. “It was good. Yes….. She worked well. I let him settle before I continued. to be frank. it doesn‟t make sense to me. but I wondered if there is anything that you can tell me that would help me understand the situation. He did not look relaxed so I tried to put him at ease. “Has she told you about her problems at home?” he asked.” but he stopped short of saying anything more and looked down at his knees while he pondered further. She was not the most talkative or outgoing young woman. Mike. It was as if he was trying to decide whether he should speak. Come on in. “What do you want to know?” he asked.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 12 “Hi.” Mike looked at me for quite a few seconds. “Not in any detail. “I‟m not accusing you of anything.” The moment I said this. I understand that things have not gone smoothly with her boyfriend. I understand that you worked closely with her. Is that right?” “Er. but I liked her .” I said with a welcoming tone.
Mike. they clearly had no idea what was going on.” he commented. “There is more. I was not sure where to go next. It was someone else in the department. His hands settled back into lap and he started to speak.” .” I said. He started to nod slowly and relaxed a bit. I need to know.” I asserted. Mike. “Why did you ask her out for a drink?” Mike tensed and I could see his hands clench. I thought I detected a wry smile. “Penny. Then his right hand moved swiftly to his face and he touched his cheek. Nobody‟s interests are served by withholding relevant information. “If I‟ve made a mistake. “but she spoke to me in confidence.” “Well that explains a lot. “Well.” I corrected. “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. Her complaint took me by surprise. “She didn‟t?” he asked.” he said deliberately. “Haven‟t we been over this before?” he asked. she confided personal stuff to me and I don‟t think I should break her confidence. I would feel more comfortable if you talked to her directly about it.” “She didn‟t make a complaint.” “I‟ve tried. 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. “No.” His statement puzzled me. but tried to remain calm.Friends or Lovers and worked well with her. “What do you mean?” I asked. But she‟s hedging.” I felt myself start to get irritated.
“You get close to people don‟t you?” I commented. I also offered to meet her outside work and the next thing there‟s a complaint against me.” “Then why can‟t you look me in the eye when you say that?” he retorted. gave her whatever support I was able. “What on earth do you mean?” I regretted the remark but it was out now and I had to limit the damage. “She spoke to me in private about issues with her boyfriend and also an upsetting incident with a team member. I thought I must‟ve said or done something insensitive. . I knew the damage had been done. nobody‟s accusing you of anything. I talked to her several times over a number of weeks. He immediately tensed again. I looked him in the eye.” His defences were up now. Like I say. If I have.” “Why didn‟t you come to me earlier?” I asked. “I am used to handling these things within my team.Rory Ridley-Duff He thought for a moment. Slow down. “I thought you were trying to straighten this thing out.” “Who‟ve you been talking to?” he asked aggressively.” Inside. but I needed him to calm down if we were to make any progress. then gathered his thoughts. He decided to open up. Mike. I apologise but I really don‟t know what was alleged or why. “I know you give good support to your team. “Nobody is accusing you of anything.” I found that remark patronising and privately wondered if he resented my involvement. “Mike.
I gave her my word. “Cards on the table.” I struggled to contain my own impatience. I think something has taken place between you and Elona. Are you sure you‟ve not overstepped the mark with Elona?” I could see his anger rising and his face started to go red. or Elona and a team member. “Then tell me about these things.” I said. or later.” Mike looked at me. Curiously. He fixed my gaze. But you have got too close to team members before and this has made managing the team complicated.” He was a stubborn bugger and I decided to exert a bit of pressure. On the basis of this conversation. I felt uneasy.” “She spoke to me in confidence and I‟m not prepared to break that confidence. Clearly you give them excellent support and I can see they appreciate this and it has worked well in the past. It sounds like one or more of policies have been breached and you have a duty to inform me if this is the case. he seemed to relax. but it is as well you understand how I feel. I cannot manage a situation I don‟t understand. I did not want this situation to get nasty but experience told me to remain calm and sit in my chair.” he said with some force. “I did not „overstep the mark‟. . Even if it makes my position difficult I‟m not prepared to break my word. I will have to talk to Dave about calling a formal enquiry. You are well liked by your team. You have a chance to be open with me now. “I did what any good manager would do. “I don‟t want to fall out about this Mike.Friends or Lovers “Okay. I offered personal support for a member of my team who was experiencing personal difficulties at work and at home.
” I argued.” “Right. Elona. Let me think on this and I‟ll get back to you. You‟ve made mistakes already.” Trust him? I don‟t think so. I‟m saying that you do not know enough about this situation to handle it. . “Are you threatening me. This is one situation in which I will trust my own instincts.Rory Ridley-Duff “Do that and a can of worms will open so large that you may never recover from it”. and seeing as you‟ve moved me to another department it is no longer my responsibility. you and others will be hurt if you pursue this. “Penny. maybe this is one can of worms that needs to be opened. “If you get Elona‟s consent. Then. People will get hurt.” “Mike. I‟ll await your call. I‟ll talk. with a more friendly gesture he made a concession.” he replied. he said My patience ended. I need your co-operation. Mike?” It was my turn to fix my eyes on his. I gave him one last chance. “People have already been hurt.” His tone was slightly sarcastic and that annoyed me. There is more at stake here than my job. but I let it ride and saw him to the door. Are you going to give it to me?” He stood thinking. “Okay. There is some serious shit going on here and it is my job to find out what it is. “No. calling an enquiry will just compound things. This is not in your interests – trust me.
it’s called Wedding Cake. Adam asked to hear the good news first. . 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. The other one I really liked was: After God made man. she said to Adam.. “there’s some good news and some bad news”.” ….. and the new starters. then perhaps we‟ll be approaching the end of the sex war. We bantered about men and women and I started sending him feminist jokes. finally discovered the food that reduces women’s sex drive by 90%…. “The good news is that I’ve given you a brain and a penis”. 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.Friends or Lovers Chapter 13 Things calmed down over the next few weeks. …to which he responded….. “The bad news is that you can only use one at a time. “So what’s the bad news?” asked Adam. I put the Elona issue on a back burner.. With all the recruitment issues to deal with. after 20 years of diligent research.to which he replied…. He added that when both men and women could laugh at both jokes. I responded with a George Burns quote: . John and I continued to e-mail each other in the evenings and steadily got to know each other. He replied with “masculist” ones. Scientists have..
I can choose to blow his mind or tell him to piss off. shaved under my arms and between my legs (quite the fashion at the moment). But when I think about things. not least because I have looked after it. 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”. They don‟t call me. About an hour ago I had a bath and soaked myself in essential oils. But the men in the singles scene are playing the same game. actually. it hurts. If I‟m eventually going to get rejected. now I come to think of it. I guess. I‟m well into my beautification routine. out for fun without commitment. at least let the man have a . 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. after several months off the scene. Although I‟m thirty-two. They managed to pack the baby off to mum‟s so we‟re going to really rock „n‟ roll. Do I care? Yes. they do say that in their own way after they‟ve shagged me. more ardour than intellect. In fact. It hurts a lot. And with this power comes some responsibility. I am lucky to have young skin. If they didn‟t fancy me they‟d probably tell me to piss off. Not all women have this power – I‟m lucky. * * * Tonight. 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.Rory Ridley-Duff There will always be a sex war because men and women want different things: men want women and women want men. 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. there is a perverse balance of power.
but the women will. 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. but they complete the vision. . When I‟m getting ready for nights like this. I‟ve put on black high heels with open toes and a single buckle strap at the ankle. 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. Under my trendy black leather jacket there is a leather skirt with an overlong belt – dead stylish. a handsome face. I‟m a piece of art. Sometimes being a woman is such fun. On my feet. Any under wired bra brings out the best in them. I‟m going for it. a femme fatale out for a kill.Friends or Lovers smooth tanned muscular body. Tonight. While I wait for my sister. I have a great pair – no need for a padded bra or implants. and a cock as big as his ego. fashioned to move the senses. I‟ve put on some crystal studs and some dangly earrings that have a blue tint (to match my eyes). and when I put on a black body-hugging Elle top with a suitably cut V-neck. 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 apply sky blue varnish to my fingernails. I‟m a hot babe tonight. It is studded with crystals and an eye catching sky blue jewel that fits into the crease of my cleavage. I imagine most blokes won‟t notice the detail. really cool – and cut above the knee but not so short that I look like a chav. I look sexy as hell without looking cheap or trashy. a living sculpture. They are not that comfortable. plenty of money in his wallet. I like to soap my boobs.
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?
Friends or Lovers
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.”
Friends or Lovers
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
As I cast my eyes around the restaurant tables. As I walked towards this young man I looked directly at him and I could see his nervousness. .” and off I went. I saw that Chris was queuing at the bar not far from him so I turned to Carole. He was with friends. Three-seconds is tantamount to telling him I want him inside my knickers. our eyes meet. At the bar was a strong looking young man in a white tee-shirt and jeans. One was so taken that his girlfriend put her hand under his jaw and twisted his face back so that it looked at her. “I‟ll just help Chris with the drinks. I began to look around as I danced to see whose eye I could catch. I have his attention. Then I turn to Chris so that my back is towards him. I put my arms above my head and I let my hips swing and my long hair fall sensuously about me. God. 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. In Cosmo I read that a second of eye contact is a flirt. Good. I grinned broadly and briefly as I flashed a look at the young man sitting at the bar. he was great – but I think I have the edge when it comes to oozing sex appeal. 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. within a couple of feet. I caught half a dozen men looking in my direction. For now. As I walk right past him. but his eyes kept looking in my direction. A two-second gaze is a come-on. chatting. As the song ended. I give him a series of strong admiring looks each lasting a second or two.Rory Ridley-Duff since I saw Robert Carlisle strut his stuff in The Full Monty.
I tip-toed around her while I downed the water. I think” I say turning to my admirer and catching his eye again. He seemed a bit more nervous that most men. Whether it was the drink or not. Still. The next record was Madonna‟s Open Your Heart.” “Watching you makes my throat go dry too. “Go easy on the young lad. 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.” Even though I was alternating water and wine. One gave him a shove forward as if to say “Go on. Chris. and Carole decided to leave me to hog the limelight while she drank her coffee. They were. Soon I was in full flow again. Pen. gyrating my hips and inviting the onlookers to let their imagination run wild.” he jokes. I could feel the effects of the drink. Penny. I knew that I‟d probably had enough. His friends realised I was giving him the eye and they were ribbing him and laughing loudly. it had been a while since I‟d let my hair down so I decided to take things as I found them. “Dancing is thirsty work.” I ask. gently moving in time with the music so as not to spill anything. get after her!” He smiled and laughed in an embarrassed way but did not come out onto the dance floor. As I returned to the dance floor. and that another glass might cause me to get sleepy before I‟d had any fun. His heart may not be up to it.Friends or Lovers “Shall I take that.” “It‟s not his heart I‟m interested in. Carole was bopping away to YMCA when I arrived back with my drink. he definitely looked good to me. I decided to bide my time. . Pretending to be helpful. “Not as much as his. with my arms above my head. one of my favourites.
His friends. The tingle of anticipation heightened my arousal as I entered a cubicle to relieve myself.Rory Ridley-Duff A number of men tried to join in with me while my young admirer remained at the bar drinking his pint.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. “Hi! I‟m just going to the girls‟ room. I imagined my youthful admirer . like the parting of the red sea.” I shouted in Chris‟s ear. Would you like to get me a drink and we can chat when I get back?” He broke into a big grin and nodded. letting the alcohol and atmosphere go to our heads. . I walked down the stairs to the toilets. After five minutes Carole and Chris joined me and we grooved away for the next couple of records. “White wine. I looked in the mirror. he was really very fit indeed and his face was kind and very pleasing to the eye. My black hair had become loose and free-flowing and I looked like a high-class tart. It was time to cast my line and hook my man. I closed my eyes and pictured the young man who was buying me a drink. I put my hand on his shoulder as I drew my mouth close up to his right ear. I was ready. “Back in a minute!” I walked towards the bar again and could see my catch stare at me as I approached him. I shan‟t be long. 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.” As I drew away. “Just going to the loo. Yes. backed away a little as I went up to him calmly and confidently. past two young couples who were already exploring each other‟s throats and fondling each others‟ buttocks. I allowed them to dance near me.
if I‟d not known better I would have said he almost wet his pants. “George.” He took it and instead of shaking it. “Most of us work for the AA. It occurred to me that I had not heard him speak yet so I held out my hand. you know. “Hi. trying to get the conversation going again.” I said. not overloaded in the brain department. but I thought it was already obvious that I was coming onto him. “Yeah. emergency breakdowns and that stuff. fast enough to give a flash of suspenders. then?” I wondered if this was too much of a come on. he raised it to his lips and kissed it. I must say. “Are you feeling lucky tonight. “Out with your mates. In fact. but there was a hint of humour there. what do you and your mates do?” I said. Again. I decided to play with him and see how far he would go. “So.. I‟m Penny. Load of tossers.” he said. To my surprise. Rescuing damsels in distress!” So. looking him straight in the eye. looking over in their direction. he did not respond. It looked like I was going to have to be gentle with him. “Nothing wrong with a good toss…. “Them lot?” he said.” I raised my glass in their direction and they acknowledged me en masse. . Very smooth. “Do you like the outfit?” I asked giving him a quick twirl.” I said. but they‟re alright. His conversation skills could do with a bit of grooming.Friends or Lovers I returned to the bar and he had my drink ready. he didn‟t respond and I began to wonder whether I‟d misread him. I see.
“There. “Well. . Christ..I think you look…. that wasn‟t so hard. I smiled at him – a genuine smile of appreciation.” “Fuck. 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. She‟s over there with her would-be hubby. but from that moment on he seemed to change into a different person.” At last. “I thought you were my age.I…. Is he deliberately flattering me or does it come naturally. “Twenty next week. very smooth. “I….” Come on lad.. “I‟ve not seen you here before. “I‟m twenty five. you look like a fit young lad. was it?” He laughed and suddenly he relaxed.” he said. Hot stuff. I‟m not sure exactly what I did or said. “I….absolutely fucking fantastic. and then gave him a wicked look.Rory Ridley-Duff I saw the Adam‟s apple in his throat move.I think you look….” 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. That was good. I thought. How about you?” I decided to lie – no point shattering his illusions. “Hmm. he really was nervous! But then some words came out..” I moved closer to him and pointed her out on the dance floor. “I only go out when I‟m with my sister.” Cool. spit it out.” Keep them coming. Are you old enough for me?” I teased.
“…. He moved well.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. I pulled away slightly and whispered in his ear. gently as first.. There was a sudden movement from all of George‟s friends and I followed them onto the dance floor. our tongues winding around each others. I managed to make him understand that he should meet me outside the loos in 5 minutes.don‟t waste it all now. plenty of time for that later…. I went to check my make-up again. Over the loud music. The place suddenly came alive and I found myself surrounded by young men. Carole and Chris joined us and we had quite a party for the next hour. It felt confident and firm which I hoped was a good sign for later. I drank another glass of water and wine and started to feel very naughty. I parted my legs slightly and guided him in between them. . I opened my mouth and let his tongue in. 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. I heard a slow rising sound from my right. and then more passionately. and his tongue explored my mouth. For his age he was a good kisser. He friends were looking on and gave a long slow “Wwwwooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrr!” With perfect timing Rock DJ started to play. We must have cut quite a picture – my arse pressed against his groin as he pretended to pump me from behind. relieved myself once more and then waited outside. with George‟s arms around my waist as we did a bump and grind. We kissed passionately. I thought him quite a sexy dancer and his friends were fun too. leaning against the wall like a prostitute waiting for a client.
His head was between my thighs. His fingers worked inside the hem of my pants and rubbed around my clit.” I said. “Time to get out of here. rubbing him up and down while he finger-fucked me. My hands were inside his tee-shirt. closed my eyes. 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. Then a finger was inside me and I gasped before grabbing his hair and guiding his mouth back to mine. I flagged us a taxi and gave the driver the address. 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. Then he climbed roughly back on top of me and tried to put it in. His hands were all over me. I slowly pulled my arms up behind my head. We paid the taxi driver. I grabbed his head. As the car moved away. Then came my first disappointment. his hand was under my skirt again and I opened my legs wide for him. indicating he should stop. “That room. moving up slowing. He pulled my pants to one side and buried his face in my pussy. under my skirt and inside my top. and pointed down to his crotch. He understood immediately and took off his trousers and pants. kissing me gently. That firm tongue that was so good exploring my mouth felt like a dish mop between my legs. He did . He nodded and we gathered our jackets and left. feeling his muscular body. and opened my legs wide for him so he could see my suspenders in all their glory.Rory Ridley-Duff our hand moving over each others bodies and between each others legs.” I indicate with a nod of the head.
fill me up with your spunk.Friends or Lovers not guide it in with his hand. but poked around inexpertly. so I shut my eyes and let him fuck me for a few minutes. come on John……. thumping away in my hole and I began to feel a prickle welling up in my body. “John?!” he shouted and suddenly pulled out of me. looking for the entrance. I took up my position. come on big boy. Then I did something that perhaps I should not have done. I started talking. “Do you want me on all fours?” I asked. give it to me hard. I shut my eyes and started to imagine it was John behind me.. I liked it long and slow. Then quickly nodded. egging him on. He broddled about again before he found the hole and despite my instruction he continued to pump fast and furious. It started to work. Yeah.” I added in a seductive tone. . Eventually he was inside. but he pumped me so fast and furiously that it hurt. I pictured John‟s handsome face 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. “Take it a bit slower. He looked at me in an odd way. I put my hands down between my legs and tried to compensate for this unerotic experience by massaging my clit. I was beginning to get frustrated.” he said furiously.” I said with a hint of impatience. his strong hands on my back. “Who the fuck is John?” he shouted at me. and his cock working away in my pussy. my excitement rose. ”Long and deep. “Yeah. and lowered my head against the pillow and presented my perfectly fuckable clean-shaven fanny to him.
” I saw his face slowly turn to beetroot as the resentment rose in him.. I sat back on the bed and curled up. It grew inside me slowly. Piss off out of here. As he left the room. As soon as I realised he was going to leave the rage boiled over in me too. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with distress and an emotion that I‟d not felt for years. His face turned red. “Fuck off out of here…. “You bastard. come on…. your tongue is like a dish mop and you fuck like a pneumatic drill! Go on. are never 25. George. but he closed the door and it smashed. Then he bellowed. engulfing me and crashing frenetically throughout my body. so it rose in me too. As I felt it get closer. “And you. As it did. my emotions started to erupt. swelling like a wave and rolling slowly into shore. What am I doing? I‟m a grown . “Well. get it back in me. I turned away. I suppose it was good while it lasted!” I added sarcastically.!” I shouted at the top of my voice but he was already out of the front door before I‟d finished saying it. he turned around and with a cruel sneer made a parting remark that I‟ll never forget.” He dressed quickly and did not bother to button up his shirt or jacket before he made for the door.Rory Ridley-Duff “George. come on hun.” I picked up a glass of water by the bed and threw it at him. the wave started to break. you old slapper. I felt my mouth twitch and my eyes grow moist. got up and shot an irritated glance at him as I walked to the bathroom. “I am not a piece of meat!” He started to put on his clothes. You‟re a fucking crap kisser.
John. the first time since I kicked out my university boyfriend after he‟d cheated on me with my best friend. My pitifully shallow life crushed me. I wanted to be with John. I thought of only one thing. . as if I had been run through with a wooden stake. My insides convulsed in pain. Never in my life had I felt such pain and I wept for the first time in 11 years. What am I doing? Suddenly. I thought of nothing else but to be with John.Friends or Lovers woman picking up a teenager for sex. With my eyes dripping. I curled up into a ball and started to howl like a baby. 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. And as I wept.
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. And. same old. There must be more. Every year that passes. to enjoy nurturing them and watching them grow.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 14 I cried for an hour as thoughts bounced around my mind like a powerball inside a hollow steel container. am I really happy at work? I tell everyone that I am. If they get too close. so I can pull the guys. Why not? What was I doing wasting my life? I‟m not young any more. I‟ve lived like this. Yet another person leaves and I have to shuffle everyone around. but I don‟t know any more. never settling with anyone. I feel ugly. In the past. but achieved so little. But there is something missing that I can‟t understand. the less I seem to feel for people. on and off. I was all over the place. I never sought a relationship. for ten years. never letting anyone settle with me. I get up and go to the bathroom. The greater the responsibility. I get mad and grab onto someone else to ease the pain. I used to like the staff I recruited. it is a chore. update more systems. Same old. My face is stained and I look ugly. pulled this way. Sometimes I wish people would just stay still. If they run away. I push them away. fill out more paper work. But now. certainly nothing that would last. I earn more brownie points but feel less enthusiasm. a succulent Sunday roast to devour and then throw away the carcass. week after . Okay. There must be something beyond passion and sex. then that. Who have I ever made happy? I‟ve done so much. I had treated him like a piece of meat.
Who is there?” he finally says. Without a moment‟s thought.of…. “Oh. I finally manage to say my name. No hurry. But what‟s happened?” he asked again. It sounds like the line is breaking up. “Hello?” he asks. “Penny? What is it? What‟s happened?” In the background. be there. Such a fool. I pick it up and type „John‟ and press „Dial‟.” I paused. but then his voice comes across strongly. but the moment he said the word „love‟ I started to feel safer. “Penny? You still there? What happened.” I knew I was not making much sense but at least some feelings were coming out. “Urrm.” I said. I pull my hair back and begin to dab my face to remove some of the stains while the tears start to flow again. I really did not know what to say. I calmed down enough to get a sentence out. Pick it up. pick it up. “I‟m such a fool. It rings. “I can hear you crying.” “Good.”wh…. Good. “Just take your time.she …. What is the point? As I throw myself on the bed. month after month. I try to talk but all I can do is sob. Come on John.this…ime…. John. Who is it?” Amongst the whimpers. I look at the clock and the mobile phone next to it. I‟ve really fucked up. darling?” and he responds that it is me. . Hawww… Who‟s th… What time is it? Fuck! What? Errm. I can make out a woman‟s voice saying “who is it. I can faintly hear another question…. And rings.giht”.Friends or Lovers week.. Just tell me what happened. “Just hearing a friendly voice helps. love?” I have no idea why.
goin…. I‟ll call again in the morning.” And that was all he needed to say. Please forgive me for waking you up. Normality returned. “Can you get a pen and paper and write down what you are feeling now. It is so stupid. “Thank you. “No. I‟m not even sure. just get a pen and paper and write.you know I just don‟t know what it is.. It‟s not that. He said he didn‟t know but that he‟d find out tomorrow.” I replied. Don‟t think too hard.uck…. I just wanted to talk to someone.” I knew that he would not be able to make head or tail of this.morrow?” and then John‟s voice explain that it was me on the phone and that I was seriously distressed by something. Thank you. “Penny.” I stopped for a moment and he spoke with a strong voice. and much .” I continued. John. I don‟t even understand why I‟m upset or why I‟ve called you.it‟s just…. Write out what you are feeling. Then another faint question: “why…. Right now.” “Why?” I said with a puzzled tone. Can you do something for me?” “I‟ll try. To know that I was going to see him made such a difference that I felt my tears and distress subside. Maybe it is the drink. “Have you been attacked?” he said kindly. Why exactly was I crying? “I just had a bad night.Rory Ridley-Duff “I feel so stupid. No. It‟s just that…. Before he signed off I heard her say in a less concerned.” I could hear a woman‟s voice again asking “wher…. but as I talked I was trying to work out in my head exactly what it was that I was upset about. “Tomorrow I‟ll come round and we‟ll read it together.ling you?”.
” I said that I would. superman.Friends or Lovers friendlier voice “come…ack…t…. Find that pen and paper. I did so for over 30 minutes trying to form thoughts in my mind and get them down on paper. Then he spoke to me again. I’m lonely. Penny. I got a pen and paper and started to think.”. Start writing for me. .ed. “I have to go now. By the time I heard a key in the lock I had written only two words.
I…. you can tell us. How do you tell that to anyone. Chris slept in the spare bed while little „sis slept with me. that I was fantasising about another man.He….” I had to tell them something. Then Carole took my arm and spoke more softly. mid-shag.” “What about the police?” Chris asked. Carole and Chris had no idea how to stop me.” “I….” I said quickly. We got back here. I had to tell them enough of the truth for them to understand and not blame anyone. I‟m sure she must think that I was raped or assaulted. “I‟ll punch his face in next time I see him. “He walked out on me.” threatened Chris. “God. but I just can‟t tell her that the man I‟d seduced had realised. “Um…. No. They just sat there quietly.” “Why not?” they said together.” “What a bastard!” said Carole.Do you….and luckily she did not press me. Chris on one side.want to…” “No. “It‟s too painful.I just couldn‟t . let alone your sister? I had another session sobbing my eyes out at the breakfast table.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 15 Carole looked after me.d‟you…. You must not blame him. started having sex and then he just got up and walked out on me. We just want to help. Carole holding my hand. I could tell they‟d been talking to each other. “You mustn‟t do that!” “But…. „sis.” . “No. no!” I said with a start. with his hand on my back. I couldn‟t tell her what happened . “What happened.
“Something happened that upset the evening.” he said.but when this „something‟ happened we got angry with each other. “Why not?” “I found my prince charming. “Family cuddle.” Carole‟s mouth dropped open. “No fairy tales. Then her mouth closed. “Welcome to the real world. My life looks great on the outside but inside it is a heap of shit. It just all came down on me.” I started but suddenly the words started to come out. So will you. “Don‟t be such a cynic.” she whispered. and for reasons I could not understand another wave of emotion engulfed me and the tears .” she said pulling away and looking me in the face. I was so used to her moaning about his habits that I‟d not noticed that she really admired him. It is no-one‟s fault – you must not blame him . As soon as I was on my feet she held her arms open and I fell into them.” and she cast a glance at Chris the like of which I‟d never noticed before.” “But why all the tears. No happy endings?” I asked. Chris smiled back then put his arms around both of us. but I could not tell them what happened. she took my hand and indicated I should stand up. I know I look all confident and happy. sis.Friends or Lovers What could I say? I did not want to lie. sis‟” said Chris. I look at you and Chris and wonder what I‟m doing with my life. Clearly she could not believe what she was hearing. That‟s all I can say. but I‟d trade places with you if I could. What could I say? “I don‟t want to tell you. “Oh! Carole.
” My hand rose to my forehead as I gave her a salute. And I was still not sure if I was ready to do it now. Go on. “Oh. Carole spoke softly while Chris hugged us both. I had my career but how did that compare to the responsibility of loving another person? I hadn‟t done that. shut up. He was going to keep his word. What had I done? Yeah. “He sounded nice. Let it out.” said Carole. John was coming at mid-day so I had to stir myself to start getting ready. She had taken on the responsibility of a partner and baby. “Now girl.” I said. .” “Romance?” laughed Chris. perhaps. but the smile that was creeping back into my demeanour communicated to him that I did not really mean it. Carole smiled at me. I‟d never noticed before what a kind smile he had. Get it out. “By the way. I had misjudged him.” “Don‟t!” was my first response. “John called.” “John? Oh God.30. Just put on something real casual and be yourself. I‟d never been ready to do that. “I‟ve had all the romance I can take for one weekend. Chris smiled back at me. I wondered if. “Don‟t dress up for him.Rory Ridley-Duff started to flow again.” Carole suddenly interjected. yes!” I remembered and was amazed. “That‟s right. He said he‟ll pick you up at 12pm. I went over to the dresser and combed my hair.” I suddenly realised that my little sister had done more growing up than I had. It was already 10.
Just let the day unfold and run with it.Friends or Lovers “Don‟t try to impress him. but it always annoyed me when she gave advice like this. however it goes. it was good advice after all. however. I took it on the chin. .” I knew she was trying to help.
I kept expecting it to be him. I unlatched the door and opened it. As each car passed outside. and I could feel a few butterflies in my stomach with each passing minute. “She has got a sexy voice.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 16 Twelve o‟clock came and went. “Would you like to come in for a sec?” I asked.” “And her partner…. and just put on a small amount of transparent lippy to give them a moist look. He was clearly looking at the house numbers to check which doorbell to press. I can meet that sister of yours.” Chris was standing behind Carole and wrapping her in his arms. The wait seemed interminable. walked around. He put his hand over his mouth. John had a cup of coffee and made small talk with Carole and Chris while I gathered up my things. sat down. I drank the dregs of my tea. “Don‟t apologise. “Hi there!” he said without a moment‟s hesitation. fidgeted.” I quipped nodding my head in Chris‟s direction. After what seemed like forever. “Sure.” chirped Chris. I looked at my watch and could not believe that it was only 12:06. I‟d removed my make-up. just jeans and a rugby shirt (with a cut especially for women). The one with the sexy voice. I‟d dressed casually. a car pulled up and a handsome man in jeans and a black pullover got out of the car and looked around. “Oopps!” he said self-consciously. She lent back and gave him a kiss on his neck to thank him for the compliment. walked around again and generally irritated everybody. .
He had no need for a flashy sports car. sunroof and alloy wheels. full security system. I had no wish to go a long way. “Any preferences?” “I particularly like Carly Simon. He‟d chosen a mid-range Ford in black. I was no expert. “Your carriage awaits you. John got up. It was quite a swish car. His tastes were broad and selective. but from work I had more knowledge of motors than the average gal. “Any particular destination you‟d like?” he asked gently. . or gas-guzzler. and the colour and style had a hint of sexiness about it. incar stereo/CD player. with a 2-litre engine. In there was music by Casiopeia. but was keen to walk somewhere quiet. Norah Jones and Eva Casidy but it doesn‟t look like you have any. I thought. the Yellowjackets and Mozart. “How about Warwick castle? We could walk around the grounds. Inside the car. compilations of classical music by French classical composers and American jazz artists. I thought for a moment. Queen. It fitted his character. said his „farewells‟ and „nice to meet yous‟.” he joked as he escorted me to his car. he had a selection of CDs. He saw my eyes casting over his collection. the music of a person did not care about fashion or his own image.” I suggested. Carly Simon.Friends or Lovers “I‟m set to go!” I finally said. just the sensuous experience of listening. Madam.” To my surprise he opened another hidden compartment with a further dozen CDs. He took out the „Very Best of Carly Simon” CD and away we drove to the rich tones of „You‟re So Vain‟. but he liked a few luxuries.
I was not sure what to say. “Let‟s walk first. a bit. but at this particular moment I was happy to borrow someone else‟s knight for the day. “Yes.” It didn‟t fit somehow with the conversations we‟d previously had about equality between the sexes. “You know the way?” I queried. I could hardly tell him the truth.” “Is that what you are?” I asked. I recalled the voice in the background during our phone conversation. “Do you want to eat before or after the walk?” he asked.” “Of course. She knows that no man – particularly me – can totally resist being a knight in shining armour. “What‟s that?” “No hanky panky!” he said with a smile. “I don‟t mind being a stand-in until you find someone who can do it for you full time. . I was about to give him directions but he made a left turn.” I suggested. She‟ll get over it. She was forgiving. I have friends in Warwick. I realised that he must already know the area. Now he was here.” I did not feel talkative because I was not sure how to start.Rory Ridley-Duff He nodded. I still had a bit of a hangover so food was not high on my agenda yet. “But there is one condition. “Was your wife okay about your coming here today?” “Not really.” he added. I‟d called him when I was distressed and he was bound to think I wanted to talk about what happened. you told me.
Madam.” I said with a haughty look that I imagined women of class would give to a chauffeur. The trauma of the previous night receded as I filled my senses with thoughts of what we would do with our day.” I said. My sumptuous naughty side had not been destroyed by the humiliation I‟d been through. This small phrase. We turned a corner that brought the castle into view then drove around the perimeter to the visitor car park. 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. Even though it sometimes got me into trouble. normally the preserve of people tying the knot. “Just so long as we both understand the boundaries. After this. my man. We set off on a path around the perimeter of the castle. I felt myself relax and the prospect of the day ahead filled me with pleasure. or footman. I was grateful for that. “Thank you. He may have been driving. with some irony. “I do. 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. but he caught my message and smiled back at me briefly. the kitten in me was still there.” he said with mock politeness.” “In my dreams”. I thought to myself. “Okay.” I snapped back with a grin. seemed appropriate for the contract that we were making between us.” he confirmed.Friends or Lovers “The thought never crossed my mind. I liked this path because it led through a couple of wooded areas. then up a slight incline as we crossed more open ground until we had . “I am now in your hands.
” I replied. their irritating habits. This is not easy for me to talk about. irritations with things at work. particularly with men. I sat down after I came off the phone. he spoke. “The trigger for what?” I looked at him and the distress must have shown in my face. I could have written about how jealous I am of my sister. “Yes. He did not interrupt and I realised that he expected something more. I‟m not good at sharing my feelings. we don‟t have to talk about this if you don‟t want to.” He gave me one of those half-smiles that conveyed both sympathy and an understanding of my suffering. made myself a coffee and tried to write down what was troubling me. “Last night I tried to follow your advice. We walked for a couple of minutes without saying anything to each other. lots of conflicting emotions about how angry I feel about things that happened in the past. “Penny. I could have written . or made me feel beautiful when they were trying to get in my knickers. the bastards that dumped me. “It‟s okay. Finally. I sensed that both of us were looking for an opening line that would enable us to talk about what had happened. “I imagine a man was involved somehow last night?” I wished it was that simple. lots of tiny agonies. She‟s found a man to love her and now has a beautiful child that she dotes on. but I had to start somewhere. but then backed off when I opened my heart in response to their lovely words.” I was afraid but I longed to talk to him.Rory Ridley-Duff a view of the whole locality. The full circuit would take about 45 minutes and by then I would feel ready for lunch. I could have written pages and pages of trivia. That was the trigger. or didn‟t call me. All the boyfriends I dumped.
I felt my eyes moisten again and I looked at him.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. it was my mother who was constantly critical. And then I got a total shock.” He nodded. 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. however. There were times we would hit each other. . He was crying. all this was going through my head last night while I held the pad. He was crying. Unlike my sister. John. John. “What is it. he offered his arms and I fell into them. I had passion in me.” he said. She thought I was „too young‟ for boyfriends! How can you choose things like that? I was ready at 14. but he followed form by asking me anyway. Do you know what I wrote in the end?” It was a rhetorical question. real passion and I did not want to wait until some stupid outdated law said I could sleep with boys. Really lonely. his arms were larger and stronger. I said out loud the words that I‟d hidden in my head for years. “I fought her for years.” I stopped for a second to gather my recollections. John?” “Come here.” As I said the words. but no. but I would not be controlled. They made me feel safer and all warm inside. “I‟m lonely. “Well. You‟d think my father would be the one to object. I noticed that he was listening intently so I continued. And then I said it. “John!” I started. I could see a single tear rolling down his left cheek. and just as my sister had earlier in the day.
For the first time in years. “Not since my first day at university. but I was still not sure what he meant. Then he released me and started to walk again.” As he said this he cupped my cheek with his hand. Unbearable. But those few hours were the loneliest. “When was the last time you felt like this. I felt the . And after your first disco.” I smiled. you had lads competing to become your boyfriend. all that „competence‟. Penny. I wished that I could have stayed in his arms for longer. all that „professionalism‟ comes at a high price. I was not sure what he meant.” “We all need intimacy in our lives. “All that „control‟. I‟ll bet. My God! I looked at him.Rory Ridley-Duff He rocked me gently from side to side for a few seconds. but it would not have been right. He spoke more. something that my father might have done to me as he put me to bed. I sat alone in my room and felt so unbearably alone that I cried my eyes out. so I gave him a puzzled look. you had made several girlfriends who later became your enemies. I could not remember a time when I had cried like this….. “I‟ve made all my own choices.” He gave me a sideways glance. It was such a gentle gesture. never let anybody run my life for me. don‟t you think?” And I did think. talked like this?” I thought hard. or be my slave. even hard-nosed career women.” “And by the end of the day. “But at such a high price…” he responded. “Yes. After my parents drove away.
You‟re an expert in it. “I‟ll try.” There was a pregnant pause while he considered the import of what I had just said.” . “I fell out with the person I picked up at a bar. He walked out.” Suddenly some words popped out of my mouth that I did not intend. indeed. “Help me. That.” “Why mine?” he asked. I was not sure. “Not an expert. It is just something I take a keen interest in. but I felt I should give him something to understand why I‟d called. I guess it is you.Friends or Lovers warmth of a man‟s love and I could not stop my head incline itself towards his soft touch. “Do you want to talk about last night?” he asked as we resumed our stroll. “Because if there is anyone who can help me unravel the minefield that stands between men and women. was the question I did not want to answer.” he said reassuringly. “Of course I will. John. after all.” I detected his pleasure at hearing this. All that loneliness – it just crashed down on me and I had to talk to you. Penny. I had to say something. however. I felt I just had to hear your voice.
His eyes were not lustful. we talked and exchanged thoughts constantly. but the desire to seduce him slowly ebbed away.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 17 Over the next few hours we took in the views around Warwick. however. and generally just chilled together. he suggested that we might like to eat at Pizza Hut again. He looked at me as if he was searching my soul. whatever we did. hear his voice. I admired him. The sexual tension was always there. occupy the same space. the meaning of life. just filled with the admiration a person might feel looking at a beautiful portrait or marvelling at a moment of cinematic brilliance. travelled to deepest outer space. Our conversation never stopped all day. . as we started on our desserts. laughed. and the way his eyes fixed themselves on me sometimes. and it filled me with a confidence that I could not explain. climbed a tower. I chose my favourite Italian. joked. that I should take him somewhere special to thank him for the day out. discussed politics. Wherever we were. not ogling my body. “How‟s that problem at work you had?” he asked. a place tucked away in a cobbled side street that was quiet enough to have a hint of romance. I felt. perhaps more relaxed with him than any man except my father. I could tell that he was sucking in my beauty so that he could savour and bathe in it. I just wanted to be with him. I was more relaxed with him than I had been with any man for over a decade. lunched in a tea shop. but with a festive atmosphere. By late afternoon. My attraction to him never completely left me. and know that he was nearby.
” “Gotcha. “You mean there are so many?” “Can we utter a sentence without it being a question?” I asked. he seems more on the level than I first thought.” “Why‟s that?” “He thinks it will be okay.” “So what‟s the story there?” “Well. not just about the current incident but about a past relationship too.” I said with a victory salute. “Work.” . “What was your question again?” was my retort. Things don‟t seem to be quite right. Yeah. it has been difficult at home for him. The problem at work has made things worse at home. but I think she is holding back on an incident with somebody in the team. “The one about the problem you had at work. so I dropped the stupid stuff and regained my composure. She‟s a prude for sure. I get the feeling that some sexual shit is going on that nobody wants to talk about. What about your friend? “I‟ve only had one update. second or third question?” he said chuckling. “My first. but he‟s very sensitive about what happened. The more I learn about the woman‟s situation…… Well. but I should get the full story soon – we‟ll be working together on a project. Things have moved on a bit. “Do you want to ask the first one?” I was not giving up first. “I don‟t know. but he‟s hiding something from me.Friends or Lovers “Which problem is that?” I answered without looking up. The more I talk to the man. His face told me that he was interested in more than the game. Can we?” he said with his smile broadening all the time. the more I sense that he‟s trying to be straight with me. Fifteen love.
She became his lodger for several months while they waited for a vacancy at a refuge. Later he helped her find and move into a flat – he even gave her the money for a deposit. So he stayed with his woman friend as her lodger for a while.” “I bet his wife did not like that!” “Yeah. “Anyway. She took him back but made him promise never to get involved with another woman again.” “Not a situation you come across every day. It took a few months but eventually his wife came around and let him come back home. that night he collected her from her home and took her to his. Right. about four years ago.” he clarified.” “I‟m in no rush. Big problem. and to this day he has always denied it.Rory Ridley-Duff “Why?” “To explain that I‟d have to go way back. he gave her support but after a few weeks they had a real heart to heart and she said she wanted to get out. Big rows.er…four years.” “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. but he convinced her that he‟d no choice.” I said. He didn‟t want to let .” “So what happened?” “Well. 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.” I commented “Not something you hear about every day. He helped her furnish her room. He‟s a really sweet guy. “Okay. yes. His wife was not pleased. His wife accused him of having an affair. Well he had a difficult period with his wife about…. The money thing was too much for her and she threw him out.
I said it anyway. “Do you….” I felt sorry for this guy. “Penny. why was I so nervous? I hate my nerves. He sounded like he really cared for both his wife and his work colleagues and just wanted to help everybody. In fact. So he backed off and upset her. “John. John was relaxed while we chatted and I could tell he cared about his friend. .Friends or Lovers her down. “Sometimes things don‟t need to be said. He took my hands in his.” and he gave me that same warm smile that I remembered from our first meeting.” It was one of those leading phrases. “Deal. He changed jobs and only told his wife afterwards. “Do you…. I‟ve enjoyed today too. “I‟ll answer that question if you will tell me why you‟re asking it. I got a feeling that John just cared about people.” Inside I could feel my heart pumping and my breathing quicken. Did I have the courage to say it? “Do you…. but he also didn‟t want her to get too close to him. Whatever he had expected. one that invites intimacy..” Why was I asking it? I was not sure.ever fantasise about me?” I asked. I don‟t think it was this because he immediately raised his eyebrows in astonishment.” Hell. This was risky.” I stopped. “Do……ah!” Then he did something that really startled me. I‟ve enjoyed today. There didn‟t seem to be anyone in his life that he did not like.” I said. He took one hand away and squeezed his nose.
I wanted to share my humiliation with him.. “The answer is „Yes‟. a deep pleasure that he thought of me sexually. “Last night?” he queried. I shuddered because I realised why I‟d asked him this question. “I…. I wanted to share this. but only for a moment. to tell him the part he had played in it.” he said. “Your turn. Clearly he wanted me to know that I would not take her place.. and he noticed immediately and took my hands again. .” I stopped and looked down into my lap.Rory Ridley-Duff He hesitated. reminding me of the pact. Was this going to lead to disaster? I wanted to tell him. I was not sure if I had the courage to say it. I wanted to tell him I fantasised about him.” I felt a peculiar sensation. I hesitated. What if he was angry? What if I spoiled the whole day? What if it ruined our friendship? “I…. “Penny. about the way things had unfolded. I tensed. You don‟t need to say it. but disappointment that he mentioned his wife. but not when I‟m making love to my wife.” 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. Penny. but I did not want him to reject me. I wanted to tell him about the night before. This was crazy. “Last night….” but I stopped again.. “You don‟t need to say it.” my hands started to shake. I closed my eyes and summoned my strength. I could feel the emotion rising in me again.” he repeated.
I‟m so sorry I rang you. And then he left. I can‟t believe I‟m telling you this. and then I blurted out your name. not my mother.” “Shit! I bet that cooled his ardour. I laughed and suddenly I felt it was okay to carry on. I just could not.” “Why?” he asked. I should not be telling you this. “Are you crazy? You‟re married and I‟m pouring out these feelings to you. Through my sobs I suddenly heard the sound of my own voice. Big deal. I shouldn‟t be saying this. My whole body was rigid. came around to my side of the table and pulled up his chair. and stroked my cheek with his left hand. why?” he asked again.” “So we‟ve broken the rules. I could not say the words. not my sister. but it was not a very convincing one. You‟re attracted to me. He got really mad at me. People normally . He gave my hands a little squeeze to keep me reassured. John got up from his seat. “Yes. “…I felt so alone. with relief mostly. “You bet it did. tears were dripping down my face. I had never talked like this with anyone. “Why?” I said with astonishment.Friends or Lovers I made an attempt at a smile. I laughed. “It was awful. not my father or any of my boyfriends. I felt the tears fill my eyes again and I looked up at him. letting the tears roll. and I shuffled awkwardly in my seat. I like that – it‟s honest. …. I looked up.as he was fucking me I started to think of you.” he said with a laugh. I‟m attracted to you. And…and…” His hand was rubbing my back and it felt lovely. He put his right arm around my back.
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. It was my turn to break the silence.” There was a prolonged silence during which neither of us dared to ask the question that was on both our minds.” I responded. There are only sexual relationships where they agree not to have sex. Why was he thanking me for sobbing all over him? “What for?” “For sharing this.” I said. “Somebody once said to me that there is no such thing as a non-sexual relationship between a man and a woman. I was not sure where to go from here but it did not matter because he carried on talking. didn‟t it?” “More than you‟ll ever know. “That took courage.” “Thank you. .” He paused.” “You are really weird. “I feel a bit better. “I love it that you are attracted to me. He was so strange.” he said. “Why?” I asked with genuine curiosity. “I tried Mr Normal. “Because my fantasies will be much more exciting now!” I laughed again.” I said. “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. He was quiet for a while and just rocked me in his arms.” he finally said.
“Have you looked at work?” he asked. I was not about to start another debate. “And you know that they are happy and committed?” “Well no. 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. I could not think of any good prospects at work that were not already in relationships and said so. “Where are we going to find you a good man.Friends or Lovers “And thank you. Perhaps you‟ve already met him?” he suggested. So long as you know where to look. surely?” “Employerspeak!” he laughed. “I can hardly ask them. “Isn‟t that why people go to work?” he asked. but I knew that it was not the right thing to say. but on this occasion I let it pass. “What do you mean?” “Why is work any different from anywhere else?” “It‟s a place of work.” I said at last.” . “If not at work. “Are there any left?” I asked. All you need to do is get the person you are interested in talking about their life.” I said. “You don‟t need to ask.” he responded. then?” I wanted to say I‟d found one. “Where?” I queried. I don‟t. He asked the waitress for coffee then continued. “Oh. “Find out.” “Why on earth not?” he reacted. yes.” I was about to say that I thought he must be joking. Take an interest. “You‟re welcome.” I answered.
He makes me want to be a better person. how people feel when they first experience the deepest kind of love? . but I knew he needed to get back home to his family. Is this. but a tingling feeling burrowing into the darkest caverns of my soul. In the movies we might have kissed. I‟ve been more distraught today than I can ever remember. I wanted him to come in. and share the best of myself. This is not like the butterflies of teenage love. At the door. but I just knew that we would not. risk more. I find it difficult to describe how I feel now. I wonder.Rory Ridley-Duff We drank the last of our coffee and I paid the bill. to live more. Then. a warmth so spiritual that I can feel my humanity light up. He‟d given up a whole Saturday for me and it was important that I should not intrude further on his time. pecked me on the cheek. he hugged me. but inside I now feel like I‟m walking on water. then returned to the car and gave me a salute as he drove off. he drove me back to my house and walked me to the door.
If you ask me. Nathan himself was not that interested although he did join in some of the flirting. when I got to work the weekend was purged from my mind.” “Okay. “They are surprised that she accused Mike. Nathan was a lad in his mid-twenties and the general consensus was that she had a crush on him. What about Mike and Sally?” I enquired. . Most of his team said that he was very gentlemanly. Even Mike had admitted to me that he‟d flirted with her. Phil thought this was more to bond with his mates than to pursue Elona. It did not seem to fit. He was careful how he behaved and spoke around everyone. 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. Elona was pretty off-hand with all of them except one. I nodded for Phil to continue. According to them. particularly Elona.Friends or Lovers Chapter 18 Due to a lot of demands on my time. “What about him?” “He was quite cagey when the others were talking. I don‟t understand how Mike fits in – maybe he got jealous or something – but I feel there must be a connection somewhere.” “D‟you think I should talk to him?” I asked. the relationship between Elona and Nathan is connected to all of this somehow. “Then there‟s this Nathan!” Phil said. Phil was first to update me. “Well. He did not volunteer anything and I got the feeling that the whole conversation made him uncomfortable. I was perplexed by this.
but they did live together for a few months. John had suggested I look for a partner at work for two reasons. As I was up to my eye-balls helping Dave bring on board some new inventors. We seem to be getting closer. Well done.” I was puzzled too. had enlisted Mike‟s support to get his team some training in consumer behaviour. Sure enough he was right. But they don‟t live together now. I‟ll have a word with Dave. It all sounds kind of bizarre. who would have thought this? To think that hoards of women at . why would she want to keep working with him? It doesn‟t make sense. after 40 years of gender equality. he claimed that nearly half of all married women chose their job in order to find a partner. “Okay. Then I‟ll speak to Nathan. so I signed off a purchase order for 30 days consultancy and left her to get on with it. Nobody is completely sure why they are so close. Perhaps it is time for another chat with Elona. Firstly. I found the statistics both staggering and appalling. but there was nothing to be gained by discussing it now. Secondly. I could not see any reason to object. I promptly went to WH Smith and bought the book. She‟s one of the people who transferred with him to the new team. If they‟d had an affair and split up. most people meet their marriage partner in a workplace setting. He did live with her for a while. I was keen to off-load this. In this modern age. Jo. but he provided me with a source. She said that she had worked with a consultant several times and wanted to bring him in again. he‟s back with his wife. I told him the second one must be rubbish. I thought back to my weekend conversation. The marketing manager. I was right about that.” I had to set this to one side for the moment.Rory Ridley-Duff “Yeah.
Friends or Lovers work were actively looking for husbands. “Careful. Brian Thwaite from Birmingham. “Okay. I wondered. Standard Terms?” I asked. “Hi. We are poaching him away from his current distributor so I had to offer a bit extra. “your wife will be asking for freebies. But a good find. but Brian will be getting 25%” “Is he worth it?” I asked. I‟m sure you‟d be impressed. and Claire Nunn from Glasgow.” said Dave. She‟s a remarkable designer and has assembled a small team of engineers to make customised kitchenware. Sorry I didn‟t ask you beforehand. “We‟ll see in due course. They manufacture through companies in Sheffield. “For Claire and Clive yes. She‟s ready for exposure and now has a large portfolio. Who.” I commented. I did my best to ignore it and returned to the issue at hand. The thought actually annoyed me.” I‟d never pictured Dave as someone with either the inclination or ability to appreciate cutlery and kitchenware. “Rare that?” “Yes. was searching for a husband in our workplace? * * * “Come in Penny.” He gave me an odd look. So what needs doing today?” I asked. I‟ve got Clive Preston coming over from London. He also wants help recruiting marketing support staff and I said we‟d be able to help. “We need to draw up three contracts. Is that okay?” .” “A woman?” I remarked.
“And?” I asked with an expectant look. Spill it. “Well.” I insisted.” he added. I used to get on well with one of Sally‟s colleagues and it seems that she moved in with him and . “I‟ve been putting together a picture of our sales manager friend and it seems that he has a mystery relationship with Sally. he touched my arm to stop me. “By the way. Do you know anything about that?” Dave pondered and raised his eyebrows.not well.. 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. “….. “She‟s…. Dave. opened his palms and shrugged his shoulders.” “Come on. I imagine.” As I made to go. He looked hesitant. one of the local sales reps.and I don‟t believe that. I hope she gets better soon. but I did not mind.” I said.” “Why‟s that?” I asked. He really could look quite cute at times. “I‟ll see what I can do…. just tittle tattle.” Something in his tone suggested that he had something else to add. “There is something else. “I heard they shared a flat for a while. I confirmed the contract details with him one last time and then remembered that I wanted to ask him about Mike and Sally..” It was not often that Dave ever talked about anything outside work and it took me a bit by surprise. I made his request sound like an imposition.” “I‟m sorry to hear that. Lots of rumours flying about.Rory Ridley-Duff He gave me one of his hopeful looks. “my wife doesn‟t buy stuff for the house any more.
I just think that whenever people let their personal and professional lives get confused things can become very messy.” I said. I‟m not a rumourmonger.” he remarked.” He paused for a moment as pieces of the jigsaw were reassembled in his head. She asked to carry on working with him recently when he moved jobs. That‟s not the sort of thing that she would do if she was having an affair him.” Dave paused for a smirk. “They still get on well. you think?” I sensed that there was no love lost between Dave and Mike. I think. Not sure what happened after that – all I know is that his personal life got into a real mess for a while. “Not sure.Friends or Lovers his wife. Not sure. “No. “Apparently not.” “He‟s back with his wife now. I think. What he does in his own time is really not our business. I‟ve no strong feelings.” “Feathering two nests. I think we‟ll get to the bottom of this soon. “Maybe. I thought. “Interesting. I think Sally had some domestic crisis and Mike offered her a way out.” I said. “How does this link to Elona?” he finally asked. and then carried on. Bet Sally was pissed when he went back. of course. What is it with you and him?” I enquired. I‟m meeting Elona in a few minutes. it caused no end of problems in his marriage and Sally had to move out. “Really?” he said with surprise. “He should‟ve left well alone. Then Mike joined her.” My sentiment entirely. Anyway. Unless the affair came later. “Oh. then Nathan. Should find out soon.” .
With Dave‟s support. I thanked him and returned to my department to meet Elona. I felt ready to get to the bottom of things and achieve closure. When you have a complete picture we can discuss how to bust up this secret network.” 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.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay. . Keep me posted.
He put one cup on my desk. There!” I said. “If you want him to stay. “Do you mind if Phil sits in on this one?” Elona looked around the room and rubbed her ear. Phil‟s been following up on some of your concerns and we want to discuss a few things with you. She would not look at me and her hands were clasped together on her knees.” Elona shuffled in her seat and looked uncomfortable.Friends or Lovers Chapter 19 “Come in. “Elona. she immediately . Phil entered the room with two cups of tea and a glass of water. I got up from my chair and sat beside her. There‟s no need to worry. “Elona.” Despite my calm and sympathetic words I detected an increase in her nervousness. It would give me a moment to put Elona at her ease. Before Phil comes back.” I said as I welcomed Elona into my office.” “Thanks. as I put my hand on her shoulder. She lifted her hand to decline the offer. She looked unsure but answered positively. This is just a quiet chat to establish what has been going on. keeping the other for himself. come in. so I‟d like him here. is there anything you want to share with me privately?” She glanced at me and shook her head quickly in denial. but I decided to ask Phil to make one for me anyway. Although Elona had declined the tea. He knows more about this situation than I do. “Can I offer you a cup of tea?” I asked. As Phil left the room. “Don‟t worry. I guess that‟s okay with me.
Elona.Rory Ridley-Duff picked up the glass of water and drank half of it. and she looked a little more relaxed. “Thanks for coming in again. love. “Thanks for that.” “What‟s that?” she asked. Phil chipped in too. “Well. saying nothing. finally finding her voice. but clearly this was a sensitive matter and she was deeply embarrassed.” I began. Elona immediately went bright red and got extremely agitated. she summoned up a slight smile and I felt ready to begin. we are grateful that you made a complaint and raised some important issues.” Elona seemed to relax when I told her this. however. you ignored them. I‟ll be talking to them in due course. and they stopped. “There is one thing. “What they say is that they flirted with you. the lads in the team said that one of them. Nobody is judging you. “Elona. Phil‟s talked to others in your team and they admit they behaved inappropriately to you. If you like Nathan‟s attention. called Nathan. nobody minds. “Elona.” I said reassuringly. As she put the glass down. I tried to calm the atmosphere further.” At the mention of Nathan‟s name. “As I was saying earlier. It is alright. We just need to understand whether there is any link between this and the incident with Mike? Is there?” . Would you agree with that?” Elona said nothing but nodded her agreement. gave you some attention and that you did not seem to mind.” She looked down at the table in front of her. I looked squarely at her.
“Some serious shit has happened to her.” “Fuck!” offered Phil. Phil got up to follow her. but I shot him a look that he should let her go. “Mike mentioned that you confided some information in him. Her shaking got more acute and suddenly she exploded. her face went red again and her eyes filled with moisture.Friends or Lovers Elona seemed to be petrified by this suggestion and started to shake. He has refused to talk about it because he gave you his word that he wouldn‟t. She nodded again. I tried a new tack. I remembered that Mike said he would talk if Elona gave her permission. “Mike won‟t speak about it without your permission. “Not now. “Go get Nathan!” I commanded Phil. She was clearly fighting back tears but to my surprise she started to nod. That‟s for sure!” I felt angry that Elona was still so distressed. It fuelled my desire to find out more. Leave me alone!” She got up and ran out of the room in tears. “Something about Nathan?” Phil asked. Would you give your permission?” At this suggestion.” I said. “Let her calm down. “Now?” he asked. We can always go and see her later.” At this. “Yes? You did confide in Mike?” She nodded again. . “No! No! No! I don‟t want to talk to anyone about any of this. Elona looked up at me and her mouth dropped open.
” he asked. Take a seat. please. I was in no mood to be pushed around any more.” He sat down. I started to get angry again.” I said. “Nothing. That is why I am asking you.Rory Ridley-Duff “Yes! Now!” I said raising my voice. My mind was spinning again. “Nathan. Come on in. But no more words came forth.” “What has Elona said?” he asked. As I was running over all these things in my mind. “Fuck!” he said as his eyes seemed to look everywhere in the room except at Phil or myself. “I would like to leave. “Nathan. “Tell me what happened.” Nathan held my gaze and did not flinch for even a fraction of a second. “I‟ve just had Elona in here and clearly something has happened between you and her. 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. Phil returned with suspect in hand. looking as puzzled as he was concerned. She is extremely distressed. . Phil held up both his hands as if to hold me at bay and quietly made his way out of the room. 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.
You can either give me an account of your behaviour or I‟ll call a disciplinary hearing. What on earth was going on here? Nathan kept looking at me and was unmoved. That did not satisfy me. “Let me be completely open with you…. seemed to get agitated and looked at me and if to indicate that he should be allowed to go. With Phil in the room I felt a bit bolder.” I said. but my anger got the better of me and I let rip. was looking down at the floor as if he could not bear to watch what was happening.” I saw Nathan‟s lips go tight and the whites of his teeth show. still calm and unflinching. however. Do you understand?” “I would like to leave.Friends or Lovers Phil.” Phil looked as white as a sheet. who was sitting in the corner. “I would like to leave. do you?” Nathan started. “We have a situation here. She confided something to Mike. gave me a look of absolute disgust. “If you use that type of language once more. “Nathan. “About what?” I fired back.” he asked again. What is it to be?” I imagine that while I said this. the whites of my teeth were showing too. I‟ll suspend you here and now. . please. “No!” I shouted. “You don‟t have a fucking clue..” he added. “You tell me what happened. “A fucking clue about anything…. Phil was gently moving his head from side to side to indicate „no‟. please. but he will not talk either.” he repeated without showing any anger. She is seriously distressed and will not talk. You can give a full account to your line manager and myself. Phil. Someone in Elona‟s team has made a sexual advance. or I will have to take this to your line manager first thing in the morning. Nathan. in the corner.
Shaken as I was. “Is Mike still in the building?” Phil looked unsure. Then again. as if everything was coming together. perhaps he would have suggested that I sleep on this. go immediately to Nathan‟s manager and inform him of the meeting at 10am. then dumped her. This kind of . but I had one more card to play. who seemed taken aback at this question. Nathan must have made a pass at Elona. I would like you here at 10am tomorrow morning with your line manager.” Phil nodded. Maybe she didn‟t reciprocate and got upset. You may go. The situation felt like it was getting out of control. I imagine she tried to confide this in Mike. but he was too intimidated. I felt on a roll. Whatever he said made Elona mad. “Okay. “Right. Whichever is true.” Holding my gaze. he slowly left the room with hatred burning in his eyes. Phil nodded a „yes‟. I want you to get Mike and bring him here immediately. What a bloody amateur. Idiot. I could feel them pierce me right through. Is that clear?” Phil obediently did as I asked while I made myself another cup of tea. what if Elona did want Nathan to make a pass? Perhaps he seduced her. you have made your choice. He must have suggested they go out for a drink and then said something that upset her. “Is Mike still in the building?” “Sorry?” asked Phil. Firstly. Do not take no for an answer. If he‟d been more experienced. Still looking shaken himself.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay. I was glad that Phil was in the room. I held myself together and summoned Phil over. she tried to confide in Mike and he tried to handle it „within the team‟.
always the man who gets away with it. “What‟s the relationship problem between Elona and Nathan?” I asked. She got so upset that she left the room in tears. “What the hell is this? I was in a meeting with my team and Phil tells me that you have an emergency. “Okay. What is so urgent it cannot wait until morning?” “Sit down. Sit down and let‟s talk about this. “I told you to back off this. He looked away as he thought for a moment. “I‟m not surprised. Mike. okay. “Have you talked to Elona?” he responded. “So where d‟you want to start?” he asked.” he said ushering me into my chair with his open palm. “Yes. and then he rubbed his cheek. who stormed into my office with an irritated look on his face. It has come to light that there is a relationship problem between Elona and Nathan and that she reported this to you. What on earth are you doing?” “Don‟t piss me around. Phil returned with Mike. Mike.” he finally said.” Mike raised his hands and grabbed his head in despair. I want to know what she said and how you handled it. surprisingly. .” Mike. seemed to slow down and take this in. She won‟t talk about it. Always the woman who gets hurt. He looked me calmly in the eye. “Why?” I asked.” Phil had again retreated to the corner of the room and was looking uncomfortable.Friends or Lovers stuff really makes my blood boil.
“I did and she confirmed that she had confided in you.” “Are you going to tell me about it?” I asked again. “She‟s distressed.Rory Ridley-Duff “Because this situation is probably the most upsetting thing that has ever happened to her.” I replied. “Did you ask her if she was okay about you talking to me?” he repeated. “They why don‟t you respect her wishes?” he asked. “There may have been a breach of the law and I have a duty of care towards her. him or me. then Mike would have been dead on the floor in an instant. . “Did you ask her if she‟d mind me talking?” he asked. “How dare you! If people told me what the fuck is going on then we could sort this mess out. but she did not answer. “Yes. I can see that alright.” “A duty of care! You call this a duty of care?” he asked accusingly. Why can‟t you see that?” “Oh.” I confessed. 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 cannot help her unless I understand the cause of the distress. I‟m trying to help her. “Did it ever occur to you this witch-hunt is the cause of her distress?” His words inflamed me. I began to wonder who was conducting this enquiry.” I responded keeping my calm. She is of great concern to you.
Friends or Lovers “I‟m asking you why you only seem concerned to protect Elona?” “You arrogant bastard. One of you is going to answer for Elona‟s distress. not for one second!” . pointed an accusing finger at me and carried on. You are not going to wriggle out of this. however.” Suddenly.” “And what did Nathan tell you?” he asked.” “You think you are so fucking clever! Well. She is the one who is distressed and somewhere in this heap of shit Nathan or you did something to cause that distress. my being a woman has nothing to do with it……. “He would not talk. “What‟s so funny?” I said angrily. He seemed to think that I don‟t know what I‟m talking about. One of you is going to answer for what happened. “Because he‟s right. “You sexist bastard…. not this time.” Mike.. 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. “It‟s got everything to do with it. “You stupid woman!” I was bright red with anger and started to defend myself.” Mike gave a small laugh. Mike snapped and shouted at me in a way that reverberated in the marrow of my bones. I resented him asking all the questions. but I did not know how to respond.
his voice was much calmer but the words cut into me and I felt a shiver run through my body. This time. Mike got ready to speak again. “Tell me. “Tell me honestly. It took me a full 10 minutes to calm down and regain my composure. “What a mess. What had just happened? I looked up at Phil and beckoned him over to my desk. He found it difficult to look at me.” I asked. With his eyes fixed on the desk.” Phil looked at me and nodded slowly. Phil. and his hands fidgeted on his knees. What a total fucking mess! Call Mike and tell him that I want him back here at 10am tomorrow. he eventually ventured an opinion. isn‟t he?” I grabbed my head with both hands.Rory Ridley-Duff He paused for a moment and seemed to calm down.” he said as he fixed his gaze on me. His mouth opened several times without any words coming out. “have you ever made a pass at a man?” Then he calmly walked out of the room. There have only been a few occasions in my life when I have been completely lost for words. during which time Phil remained seated. “Mike‟s an awkward bugger. This was one of them. After a moment.” I said. He came over slowly looking as shaken and as shocked as me. I looked at the cold cup of tea on my desk and gave a short laugh. “What d‟you think of what he just said?” Phil looked uncomfortable. I was so shocked that I did not know what to say. Penny. . “Sit down.
including a view that science was rarely scientific. . Scientists. He argued that science was always oriented towards a political goal. Together we had many conversations in which we traced my interest back to an emotional experience or aspiration. We study something because it is interesting to us. my father told me that my instincts and emotions were my greatest assets. he had a strong spiritual side that. “When we are interested in something. were doing themselves a disservice when they argued that emotion had no place in science. He would ask me why I enjoyed learning some things but not others. if not religious. even if that goal was a modest one such as building the scientist‟s reputation. it is because it moves us emotionally. is the key to a deeper understanding. He was an unusual man. particularly men. Emotion. was imbued with deeply human values. He would ask me why I liked some people and not others. As such. It is interesting to us because it is meaningful. Penny. my father was quite different. I think it was his career inside the civil service that inclined him towards a political way of thinking. he argued. he would say. Intertwined in our deliberations. We don‟t study a subject because it is intrinsically interesting – if that were true then everybody would be interested in the same things.Friends or Lovers Chapter 20 When I was young. His words echoed in my head. put great stock in objectivity and science. he always pressed me to talk about the underlying reason for my interest in something. While many people.
So strange. She said my father talked twaddle about sex. Has Mike hurt me? Maybe it was the other way around. would often walk out of the room and leave us to it. To me. more humane than anyone else I‟ve met. become more willing to learn things they are interested in. 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. my love for him grew with the conviction that there was wisdom in his words.” Despite his slightly pompous manner. We‟re at our most cruel when trying to get people out of our lives.and this was one of the reasons she and I argued throughout my teens. We open our mind to their views. 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. my father was. “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. . We may find ourselves learning new skills. Our behaviour and feelings can change dramatically. more willing to change our own values. I disliked her for that – she seemed to deliberately misunderstand him . 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. on the other hand. and is. studying new things in order to impress them. My mother.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.
In my first year at university. It was exciting. It made no sense. but later he cheated on me and I was crushed. I committed to one lad. At first I was flattered. not those that chose me. then confusing. Am I reacting to my own past? I can feel Elona‟s hurt. and finally annoying. I would make up my own. I empathise with her. my emotions kept on churning. I would no longer wait for a man to make up my mind. I decided that I‟d never again be a shrinking violet.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. even as I had these thoughts. . I felt used by men. I tossed and turned throughout the night and in every configuration. It was only the previous day that I had learned there was a Nathan at all. We either buckle under the weight or kick back. She was as introverted as any person I had ever met. So. And yet. would she? I couldn‟t buy Mike‟s view that Elona was the protagonist here. My father helped me look at these as learning experiences. I felt. I could not make the pieces fit the puzzle. Whenever I met her. Would a person like that make a move on Nathan? I did not see how it was possible. I may have the veneer of confidence. I would have the men I chose. she was quiet and scared. Eventually. but underneath I understand how it feels to be crushed by the weight of male attention. I fell apart and he quickly left me for someone else. Elona would not make up an accusation like this. I had no feelings about him except as yet another person who was adding to Elona‟s distress.
That situation at work is spiralling out of control. “What‟s up?” he asked.” I replied. “Are you still troubled by the weekend?” The weekend? That seemed like a lifetime ago. He is a good-looking man. Maybe he could help. This was something new. He might have some words of wisdom for me so I called him. I can see why young women might be attracted to him. Even at his age. but I let it pass. I find it very confusing and thought……” I hesitated for a moment. “I just thought I‟d pick your brains. Penny. no!” I laughed. We‟d been intimate in a personal way. As I did so. . John. He‟s strong too. Up until this point. I was a bit irritated by his use of the word „girl‟. but never professionally.Rory Ridley-Duff Is my past affecting me now? Can I really understand her? For the first time I am having real doubts. I realised that I was crossing another line and inviting a new type of relationship. “That‟s my girl” he responded. he immediately sensed concern in my voice. “Hi. It is quite possible that Elona likes him more than she‟s saying. if you don‟t mind. Do I understand what she is going through? I thought of Mike. Both mentally and physically. “Good lord.” he said brightly as he answered the phone. “Hi. the burden of the last few hours seemed to lift instantly. As if by instinct. All the other women seem to like Mike. I had never intruded into his professional world to benefit my own. I thought of John. Encountering him up close was disturbing me.
“Sure. and that the situation was caused by her giving him too much attention.” I chose my words carefully. why not?” he answered without a moment‟s hesitation. “Yes. She confided something to her boss about this lad. and not seeking a fatherly opinion so much as a professional dialogue. When it . I was not an amateur. In this world. “That‟s not clear.” As I said the word „involved‟ I cringed.” I said. Has anything changed?” he asked. “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. “Involved in what way?” John enquired. They initiate with non-verbal stuff that induces the man to talk to her. 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. But the strangest thing is that the boss is now saying that she had a crush on the lad. It is fallacy that men always pursue and women always resist. “Perhaps. “Most relationships are started by women in very subtle ways. but there it was tripping out of my lips before I could stop it.” “Yes. Sure I do. It seems there is another young lad involved and that she and this other lad somehow got „involved‟ with each other. but later she accused the boss of inappropriate behaviour.Friends or Lovers “…. “Hmmm! This does sound a bit more complicated than you first thought. When it works everyone is happy.I thought that maybe we could discuss it a bit more and you could guide me a bit. How likely is that?” I asked this as a rhetorical question.
providing they can overcome their own nerves.” “Do men signal?” I asked.yes. feeling a little more relaxed. Most of women‟s behaviours are non-verbal. These are generalisations. Others jump in with both feet at the first opportunity. I assure you that it‟s not the case. most of men‟s are verbal – at least initially.. however. if an unattractive woman signals in a similar way. “Men will respond quickly if an attractive woman signals. Men comfort their own egos by thinking they‟ve initiated the relationship. “Is that a surprise. particularly if one party feels led on and then humiliated. He started to give me to fuller explanation. There are women who take verbal initiatives but generally it is the other way around. Many won‟t – they‟ll get scared. it will look that way. but most don‟t. Men are always pursuing and pestering women. I‟d studied psychology and this was the opposite of what I had learnt. Close observation. shows women select the man they want and do everything they can to ensure he notices them so that he starts a conversation. 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. “Successful ones do. “Well…. Men respond. she may be ignored both verbally and nonverbally. Women signal. Women comfort their own egos by thinking they have been singled out by an attractive man. This is true in most cultures.” I paused for a moment unsure what to say next. I suppose it is. Penny?” he asked. “So you are saying this is only true for some people?” I asked. Men who don‟t pay attention to a .Rory Ridley-Duff doesn‟t things can turn quite nasty. don‟t you think?” “If that is what you believe. But.
just gut feeling stuff. she‟ll eventually make a move that he cannot ignore. such as prolonged eye contact. “Well. “Is it likely she made a pass at him?” I asked. You‟ll know if this is happening in a group because a pair seem to be ignoring everyone else.Friends or Lovers woman‟s signals will probably end up embarrassing themselves. start sharing opinions. If there is a mutual attraction. but in the trade it is called „synchronisation‟ or „rapport building‟. If she likes him enough. Interesting as this was. All I can say is that it is possible but against the norm. They‟ll exchange personal information. otherwise they‟ll ignore the signals. talk about common interests. she whispers in his ear. In these early exchanges. tell stories. we are talking probabilities. turn towards each other. she links his arm. she nods. he nods.” “So this is unlikely?” I confirmed. I‟ve never met them and different couples behave differently. Then you get a kind of game that signals mutual interest. he lifts a glass. This is often unconscious.” I stifled a laugh. but people have been able to observe it. increase their eye contact. “I don‟t know the specifics. Men who get a signal will usually proceed fairly gently at first to see whether they continue to get signals. a woman‟s behaviour generally encourages the man to talk more.” . They‟ll only carry on if they are interested. he puts it around her. I felt a need to direct the discussion. She lifts a glass. laughter. positive body movements and such like. behaviour moves through a series of stages. he laughs and says something back. start touching each other. Not everyone agrees about the meaning of this. I‟m giving you behaviour patterns.
“Um. I was still contemplating when he started to talk again.” he said.” I could hear an urgency in his voice. but would you like to meet up next week to chat about it? You can give me specifics. “Errr…. Men are routinely humiliated. Sort of…” he responded. We could meet in the morning if you are free. He hesitated for a moment. She‟ll give him an emotional slap. I‟m in Leamington next Wednesday afternoon and all Thursday. Are you free?” I could hear other voices in the background and realised that someone in the house was calling to him.” he added with a light-hearted chuckle. It is nothing special for them.it will be easier to talk next week. “No less than they deserve!” I replied quickly. I‟m away in the Lakes this weekend. “Penny. “If he doesn‟t respond. she‟ll feel rejected and may do something to hurt his feelings. I decided to ask directly. “Sure. “Only kidding!” I added. It was unlike John to cut short any conversation.Rory Ridley-Duff He paused for a second before making one final comment. “Is there something you need to do?” I asked. What is going on here? I wondered. so my defences were immediately triggered. “…. but I detected a coolness in his tone. .can you let me get my diary?” I asked to buy myself a moment. There was a moment of awkward silence as I contemplated my last comment. It really pissed me off that someone else only had to shout and he wanted to cut off our conversation.
No. his comments were interesting and useful. . it is unlikely that Elona would have felt any need to make an advance. but could have done so if Nathan had not been responding to her. “…. making him wait a bit longer.. yes!” I finally said. I could not understand why he had been curt with me. from what John says. The conservation was not as friendly or as pleasant as I had come to expect. “I can fit you in on Wednesday morning..ah……yes…. Phil told me that all the lads had flirted with her. No.” He rang off before saying goodbye. I‟ll e-mail you with a time and see you then. If Nathan had started flirting.Friends or Lovers “Let me see…. I think I have enough here to read the riot act to Nathan tomorrow if I don‟t get answers. I wondered if he resented me asking him for a professional opinion.” “Okay.” I said. No. Still.maybe.. I was not impressed. He confirmed that it was unlikely Elona would have made the sexual advance.
put the few plates I‟ve used in the dishwasher wondering just how lazy I can be. She called me a few nights ago almost wetting herself with laughter. do your stuff!” As I wait. She says she has news. There is not much to do. While I wait for her to come around. has progressed from sitting up to rolling around. “Tell me what you see…. I just can‟t fathom it out. Come on baby. Still. Young Toby. Wait………here he goes.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 21 My sister has just called. but if another sprog is going to come along I guess I‟ll just have to accept it fully.” I dutifully command. This is just brill! I wish you could see this. feet in the air. “I just wish you could see him. cooing and laughing. along with holders for utensils and . “Well. I imagine that she‟s pregnant again and wants to celebrate in style. Carole‟s boy. Big news. I tidy up the house. My windowsill is adorned with an assortment of stones and rocks that I‟ve picked up over the years.” she said trying to contain guffaws. He‟s on his back with a rattle in his hand. Over onto his front now. Every time she does something grown up like this it makes me feel a little bit older. trying to sound enthusiastic.” Try as I might to understand how watching a baby roll over and over can make her giggle like a schoolgirl. it always looks like a bomb has hit it. “He‟s on his back. I tidy round the kitchen. she roars with laughter as he manages to shift his weight again and roll onto his back. she‟s happy and that‟s what matters. I still can‟t get used to being an aunty. When I go around to Carole‟s.
the front doorbell rings. playing with me.” she says. “The door‟s open…. . Decadence! Just what the moment needs and I rustle around the cupboard seeing if I have the ingredients for a calorie busting meal. I look carefully. It is firm and flat. Her breasts look quite firm today so I cup one in each hand. “All right you. Just as the boredom is banished. “Come on in!” I shout. I look her up and down to try to understand what is different. Her hand is different. “Try a bit higher. She smiles. tracing a line from her shoulder to her elbow. “Am I getting warm?” I ask. I flick the switch on the kettle and amble back into the living room. “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.” And in she walks looking groomed and beaming. I continue tracing a line from the elbow to her hand.Friends or Lovers instruments for practising my Nigella Lawson recipes. What is it?” “Keep looking.” she says. “See anything now?” she asks. I walk right up to her and put my hand on her stomach. Absolutely no sign of a baby there. I cannot put my finger on it but something has definitely changed in her appearance. with her smile getting wider all the time. I give her a puzzled look and start to move my hand upwards. I think.” she says mysteriously. Nothing special there. I think. “Has someone given you a happy pill?” I ask “No need.
It is. He came home and told me that he‟d got another promotion and had a present for me. It isn‟t happiness. but now the moment is .” she gasped. 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. one with each hand. The tears just kept rolling down my cheeks. “When?” was the only word that came out. 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. I could feel the moisture start to fill my eyes. “July 31st?” “Oh. I took a step back and held both her arms. of course. I felt something in my sides coarse up through my body. “Careful sis‟. “Your what?” “My „best woman‟.” “Some present!” I shouted and suddenly the tears were there. 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. Carole!” I still felt in shock. It is so hard to describe how I‟m feeling. “I want to make it to the alter without crushed ribs. “When did he ask?” “Last night. I want a „best woman‟!” I just looked at her unsure what to say.” I just closed my eyes and nodded. “Be my „best woman‟?” she asked.Rory Ridley-Duff As I look at the image before me. what she has been dreaming of for the last few years. How many women have ever been asked that question?” “‟Yes‟ will do nicely.” “I don‟t know what to say.
” I manage to get out before I completely give the game away.Friends or Lovers here. like the room is spinning.. I feel worried. shocked – every emotion I have in me just crashes down and I feel giddy with the intensity of it all. and I tumbled onto the floor and nearly hit my head on the table. My little sister is getting married. We never took it in turns. ecstatic. “Here. I can‟t get up. Put your arm around me!” She levers me towards the sofa and finally I think I can make it to my feet. I can‟t explain why. I am pleased for her. I did not expect her to marry before me. “Jeez sis‟. “Sis‟? Are you alright?” “I feel a bit woozy….” says Carole almost falling to the floor with me. Of course. “What‟s happened?” “You think I know?” I ask. concerned. “If I knew my news would have this effect on you. but I realise that I did not expect to feel like this. I feel cold and sweaty. . My little sister. “I never thought of you as heavy!” she joked as she hauls me up.” And then it happened. “Of course. we would play „weddings‟ and I was always the bride and she the bridesmaid. she was always the bridesmaid and I was the bride. For a few moments. My legs just gave way as if they simply could not hold me up any more. My little sister is getting married. We would write all the words of the ceremony out and act the whole thing for hours and hours. I would have got you to sit down first….!” Instead of feeling wild with excitement and happiness. When we were young.
She is not my little sister any more. my lips part and my teeth are showing. but she is the mature one. How can I possibly tell her? Whatever she was expecting it was not this. I playfully punch her on the arm.” “Okay sis‟ – lead the way!” and with that remark we went to the pub. “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. I feel like taking a dagger and stabbing myself for not thinking of her. and yet I feel totally hollow inside. “Right!” I shout. drank all evening. It pains me to say it. for not thinking of how happy she must be feeling. not being able to feel the excitement she feels. As I go to get my coat. not me. but she took it in her stride. We flopped on my bed in fits of giggles. A few seconds later. I quickly turn and give her a sly look. totally old. How can I feel like this? I bury my head in my hands as more tears emerge. “down the pub we go. She is my big sister. got thrown out when we started to sing rude songs and staggered back to my place. get smashed. my confidence returning. . “I think I can manage that. totally alone.. This should be one the happiest moments in our life. My little sister is getting married.you tell me exactly what is expected of a „best woman‟….Rory Ridley-Duff I looked up at her and felt ashamed. But the truth is that my little sister‟s announcement makes me realise that I have not grown up yet. “Okay! Okay!” I say.” “That‟s simple!” she says without a moment‟s hesitation. totally useless. When I hear her wicked suggestion the grin returns to my face. talk dirty and then…….
“Stop a moment.do you…. Carole dissolves into fits of giggles and starts kicking her feet in the air. “I thought you were going to say that you were pregnant again. “I am!” she says. “It‟s due in November and her name is going to be Penny Anne – after you and mum!” . “Thought your „big news‟ was going to be….. “Do you want to hear something funny? Do you want to know what I thought?” “Thought about what?” Carole asks.” “Tell me!” she asks. “No.” I laugh. “Do you want to hear something funny?” she retorts busting her sides and unable to contain her hilarity. “I do!” she shouts hysterically. Be serious!” I demand as we lie there trying not to giggle.” Laced with liquor.Friends or Lovers “Do…. my words just will not come out properly. No. “Yeah.. No!” I exclaim. come on! Spill it to sis‟” I tell her.
Can you get him to call me?” “Sure. “It‟s nothing really. Eventually. “Hang on a minute. Nathan phoned in sick. We‟ll have to rearrange. Can I take a message?” I thought for a moment because the issue was sensitive. We had a disciplinary meeting this morning but Mike‟s not turned up for work. Can I help you?” “Hello.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 22 My plans for Elona were thwarted the next morning. “Leamington 397333.” she said. “I‟m still here. I had a full schedule until the end of the following week. “Can I ask who is calling?” “My name is Penny – I‟m the Head of Personnel at IC. “He‟s already gone to work. Is Mike there?” I asked.” There was a long pause and in the distance I thought I could hear some voices. but I thanked her and spent a few moments considering what to do next. I switched on my PC and opened the personnel database system and searched for their details. I called Nathan first and heard an answer phone message. “if I see him before you do. I‟ll see if he‟s still here. I think he‟s already gone.” The tone in her voice was strange. I called Mike‟s department and his colleague said that he had also not arrived at work yet. “Hello?” she said. Next I called Mike‟s home number and a woman replied.” I replied.” I answered. the woman returned to the phone. I left a message asking him to call me. almost mocking. I .
I retrieved my e-mails and my mood improved when I received a note. Phil agreed to inform all the parties concerned. Hi John. We found a slot free at 3pm the following Wednesday week – I would meet them after I‟d had lunch with John. With a tinge of regret I declined John‟s offer of an evening meal. I’m stopping overnight with friends so we could either have our meeting late morning or make an evening of it. Just to let you know that I’ll be arriving in Leamington about 10. this was John and “flirt” was his middle name so I hit the [Send] . I called Phil into my office and asked him to check later that day whether Nathan or Mike made it into work. and I felt my emotions stir a bit when I read his greeting. I checked my diary and found that I had to go to an evening event with Dave – a launch event for a new product. I’ll save the silky black dress for another occasion (!!) you’ll just have to admire my power suit instead. if you prefer. but it will have to be in the morning as we arranged – although a lazy lunch is possible. Hi sexy. I’d love to be seen with you.30am.Friends or Lovers really wanted this resolved now and did not want it to drag on. 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. Was I being too flirty? Hell. naughty. Penny xx I read over the message again. Still trying to corrupt my sweet innocence? Naughty. I was to chaperone the young entrepreneur who would be speaking while Dave was acting as host.
Rory Ridley-Duff button without further ado. Just finalising stuff for Wednesday. Meet you at 12. 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. The evening event had two guest speakers .30pm at Bella Marie? John xx I loved flirting with him. 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. 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 . Subject: Launch Event Pen. He found an afternoon event with an optional evening dinner. It would run on 30th June and covered the latest legislative changes in our field. just been going through some Professional Development stuff. We can compare power suits. Penny. The issues with Nathan and Mike slipped from my mind as I contemplated the prospect of spending more time with John. Fewer than five minutes had passed before I received his response. He still had a way of making me feel special. Lazy lunch it is. Both you and I need to consider this before our appraisal in July. Are you able to meet me in the morning so that I can try out my presentation on you? Also. I finished going through my emails and the last one was from Dave about the evening event.
Given what was going on. 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. .Friends or Lovers scheduled – one giving a talk on entrepreneurial behaviour and the other called “Intimacy at Work”. the second of these really caught my attention. Thankfully the day ended without further incident. there was an option to stay overnight in the hotel. For those attending the evening event.
He insists he must talk to you. Around 9am. Can you……?” It sounded as though someone was not letting him get a word in edgeways. I got into work early and resumed work on the contracts for Dave. “Who is it?” I asked out loud. “Hi. John!” I pointed out. “And a „good morning‟ to you too. the phone rang. . Phil.” I shouted. “could you get that for me?” He picked up the receiver and redirected the call to his own phone. “I‟m afraid she‟s……no she‟s….” and with these words he pulled the handset from his ear and gave it a harsh look.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 23 On the Monday morning. “It‟s a man for you. Called John. A few moments later I could hear him conversing in a slightly agitated way. I picked up the receiver. He may be bold by e-mail but he rarely initiated phone conversations. “He‟s a friend. “Please hang on a moment. “Wednesday.she‟s busy at the moment.” I smiled because it was unusual for him to call me. Can you meet any earlier?” he asked without seeming to pause for breath. Is everything okay?” I asked.” “Well he doesn‟t sound very friendly to me.” I say. “Phil.” Phil said as he diverted the call to my phone. John. I mouthed to him „who is it?‟ but he shrugged his shoulders to indicate that he didn‟t know. “It‟s okay. sir! I‟ll see if I can find her..
a bit – I could bring it forward to 11. “Can‟t say. Try not to worry.30.” “Hang on.” “That sounds fairly ominous! What do „we need to talk‟ about?” I said in an attempt to mock him slightly and lighten the mood.” “John? Has something happened to you?” I could feel concern creeping into my being. Okay.30 if that helps. not on the phone.” “Your wife?” “Penny.Friends or Lovers “Sorry Penny! „Good morning‟ to you. “It‟s better to talk in person. Penny. Can you meet any earlier on Wednesday?” he repeated. trying to slow him down.” “Yes. I‟ll meet you at 11. “Well. he rang off.” With that last comment. “No! Not me. I‟ll see you at 11. hang on!” I say. Penny. I don‟t want to talk on the phone.30 – we can talk over a coffee before lunch. But . I‟ll tell you Wednesday.” he repeated. We need to talk. He did not answer my question about his wife and I wondered whether something might have happened between them. has it?” He completely ignored this piece of news and carried on. not on the phone. Whenever anybody says “try not to worry” it is sure to make you worry even more. “Why not? The heavens haven‟t fallen down over the weekend have they? My sister‟s wedding hasn‟t suddenly been cancelled. It was unlike John to sound so agitated. “What is this all about?” “Can‟t say. That‟s good.
“That‟s what I love about him. What then? “Did he say anything to you?” I asked Phil. “About what?” “Did he say what he wanted to talk about?” “No. Very pushy guy.Rory Ridley-Duff then I remembered that he said it was nothing to do with him.” I thought for a moment. “Yeah. He‟s a pushy guy alright. He was just very insistent that he talk to you immediately.” . if you ask me.” In my head I added a few extra words that Phil did not hear.
He licked his lips and I could tell that he was slightly nervous so I walked up to him and touched his arm. 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. we agreed a few minor changes for his afternoon meeting. After working through the contracts. He ran through the section again until I gave him a thumbs up and we continued this process until late morning. “Do you have to rush off?” he asked. I took notes and stopped him after each section to give him feedback.” I was beginning to get used to the idea that I was going to be an aunty twice over. and for him to pause for any length of time before giving an answer was quite strange. 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. Dave is rarely hesitant. “Well. Dave. It was almost like he was a blank. “Do you remember I said my wife was ill? I vaguely recollected him saying something. Something on your mind?” I enquired. looking straight into my eyes in a way that I‟d never seen before. you can tell me!” . “No. come on then. We don‟t do many major product launches so Dave was putting in extra effort. If there‟s something. “Yeeaah!” he finally said slowly. “Of course! Is she not better?” Dave did not show any emotion. Tell aunty Penny…. “Come on.
Come here. He was in pain and I let go of his arms and put my hand on his cheek and stroked it. I had never seen him like this before.” I‟d worked with Dave for 10 months and this was by far the most human moment that we had shared. “She‟s dying!” This news had a deep and lasting impact on me. Dave had a lot of energy but deep down he was a gentle soul. She‟s not been well for a while. There was fear in them. just tilted his head until it rested on my hand and closed his eyes. I took her into hospital this weekend because her headaches were so painful that she could not sleep. He turned slowly and left the room. He licked his lips again.Rory Ridley-Duff He looked into my eyes again. You‟re the first person I‟ve told. “Oh Dave! I‟m so sorry. It‟s advanced.” I put his head on my shoulder and my arms around him. he spoke. As I held him I could feel his heart breaking and the gentle movement of someone crying. He didn‟t say anything either. “Family? Have you told them?” “I‟ll do that later today. I was sad for the rest of the day. Sometimes you work with a person for a while and simply do not realise the bonds that are forming. and in the evening when I was on my own I felt acutely . and she‟s been back and forth to the doctor. Finally. They don‟t think she‟ll survive more than a few months. We stood there for many minutes before he slowly pulled away and without looking at me said “thank you”. They‟ve done a scan and found a tumour. I held his left arm in my right hand and then placed my left hand on his shoulder. “Have you told anyone?” “No.
My friend Dave should not have to bear this so young. . I found myself struggling to get to sleep as the silent anger I felt kept me awake.I decided he needed a friend. but not by much.thinking of him sitting with his wife at the hospital . cruel and so unfair. He needed someone to care about him. I had not realised I cared about him and it came as a surprise. It was my time. There was no God if this could happen. As I lay there . my moment to face someone else‟s pain and not shrink from the thankless task of helping him through it. He was a bit older than me.Friends or Lovers distressed. Deep down a pain formed inside me that actually hurt. It was unnatural.
” I lied. I strode into work feeling smart and confident. but for a moment I looked at him in a lustful way. I was due to meet Mike and Nathan for a showdown. “You‟re welcome. I thought. Hi Penny.” I said. “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. I had no idea what was in store for me. but with a small shuffle of his feet and with his eyes slightly lowered.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 25 When Wednesday came.” he said sheepishly. See you soon. In the evening was Dave‟s product launch. But it was a good lie. “Got the launch event tonight and have no time to go home. “That‟s very sweet of you. He looked a little embarrassed. a few words came out. I was surprised at how flattered I felt. John . I looked at him with new eyes. too young for me. he raised his eyebrows. “Doing something special today?” he asked. I had taken extra care getting dressed because I wanted to look good for my lunch date with John. In the afternoon. When Phil saw me. He was a good-looking lad. smiling. as if he had said more than he meant to. Is there any background information you can bring on that personnel problem you have got? May help us find out what is going on. I got myself a cup of coffee and went through my e-mails.
” I reassured him. “You‟ll go down a treat. would you like a drink? Not the most difficult executive decision I have ever had to make. As he stood there in a new suit and tie. “You don‟t think that final video is slightly overlong or overdone?” I put my hand on his arm and reassured him. That would be lovely. I look forward to it. A swift response winged its way back through the IT network. I couldn‟t take anything with me. Thanks for booking the CIPD thing. there was an e-mail from Dave. By the time I‟d waded through them. complete with visuals and sound.” “Are you sure? Are you really sure?” he hurriedly asked. Subject: CIPD Pen. I thought he cut a fine figure. and we both settled into the company‟s small lecture theatre. We would have to discuss the issues as a series of hypothetical situations. “The preparation was worth it. I just don’t feel like a big social evening afterwards. He was impressive and looked cute. I took Phil with me. his voice confidently outlined the magnificent benefits of tomorrow‟s personal health gadgetry. it would be different. the time for Dave‟s presentation approached. The other e-mails were either trivial or junk. It was quite a showpiece. If I hired him. a reward for his earlier flattery. .Friends or Lovers Even if I had wanted to. but I responded by saying that the Data Protection Act prevented me sharing confidential records. Dave. After the speeches. The information was confidential. Next. hair cut and groomed.
He was pleased to see me but carried a grave look that I‟d not seen before. He would be nervous. I felt. The banter I expected didn‟t materialise so I probed him to see if anything was up. “See you tonight when the madness has died down. “Nervous about this afternoon?” I asked. We settled down at the table.” He just beamed. We arrived at Bella Marie around 11. As he was a dedicated New Labour supporter. The materials were fine. I thought. John „the businessman‟ just didn‟t seem quite right. Pen.50 and settled down for lunch. but much less spin. He was dressed in a dark deep blue suit.” This was going to be a very long day. “Thanks. * * * John was slightly late. he took this as a big compliment. 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. His behaviour was different as well and I initially attributed this to his meeting in the afternoon. even though I didn‟t intend it that way.Rory Ridley-Duff “Slicker than a New Labour political broadcast. When we chatted on the phone yesterday. ordered drinks and looked at the menu. but it was Dave who gave them charm and wit. . He was well groomed and I quickly realised that I preferred him in casual attire.” he said. It was the first time I‟d seen him wear a tie. He intended to use the money to support his writing for several months.
We‟ve worked together several times so I think today‟s a formality. I feel he looks down on me sometimes. his gaze started to focus on me properly. As he settled back in his chair. patronizing.” he requested. “Our hypothetical Mike!” I answered. “John. No point beating about the bush. Sometimes he gives me the creeps. I find him a bit „old school‟.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. I can see that he‟s good looking. “You look the part. We had quite a row last week. you know. He momentarily looked up and tried to smile. There are others to convince. Not too bad. My boss Dave is suspicious of him. John nodded and set himself in a listening pose.” John intervened at that point.” I looked at him directly as I said this. so I thought I‟d dress the part. slightly relieved. Very smart – you‟ll knock them dead. 50-ish. “Not sure why? Can you expand on that?” “Well. married. “He‟s one of our sales staff. he‟s good at his job. You said we had to talk. but he averted his eyes quickly. and women would fall for him. He called me a „stupid woman‟. I know the person contracting the work. I called him a sexist pig!” . but his gaze remained firmly on the menu. “Tell me about Mike…. What‟s on your mind?” He looked up. however. but I‟m not sure why. personable and popular. I started to feel that something had changed between us but was at a loss to understand why.
their former boss. The boss is pissed off with everyone because he got landed with the blame for a situation not originally of his own making. She was sufficiently upset to confide in her boss. He made a pass and she rejected him. That‟s where the stories conflict.” John nodded. 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. But I know her. not the other way around. I intend to crack some heads. and one in particular got quite keen. and his demeanour was attentive and serious. my boss wanted me to find out more. “What do you think?” he asked. looking very thoughtful. I asked my assistant to keep his ear to the ground. “Well.Rory Ridley-Duff John nodded. I don‟t buy his story. He has a history. She‟s engaged to be married. women mostly.” “So what‟s changed?” John asked. I moved him to a new position. He took some of his staff with him. Now he‟s implied she might have been pursuing the young man. says the young woman confided in him but he won‟t talk unless she consents. encouraging me to continue. “Someone complained that he was hassling a colleague for a drink. because he‟s got a reputation as a womaniser. either. and I thought that‟d be the end of it. It looked open and shut initially. The young lad won‟t co-operate. There‟s a meeting this afternoon. they got close. There was one lad in particular that seemed to take a fancy. Mike. The young woman won‟t say what happened. however. He found that men in the department had been flirting with her. “My instinct tells me that the lads went too far. He gave her support.” . She lives at home.
You use the information as you see fit. Nath thinks she‟s a bit of alright and joins in the flirting at first. I could be called as a witness to a tribunal.” . But then he realises that her boyfriend is an old school friend. Regardless. a bit embarrassed. “Err. if I tell you the source of my information then I‟ll be involved and could be dragged into the process.” I said hesitantly. So he backs off. Okay.Friends or Lovers John kept nodding. She‟s inexperienced with men. “Penny. Let‟s call him Nath. shall we?” “You know these people. let‟s call her Elena – she‟s quiet. Explain!” I commanded. “Shall I try another interpretation for you?” he asked. fairly pretty. His mate is crazy about Elena. “Okay. I had never seen him this intense and studious before. Let me pretend this is a hypothetical case. I was slightly taken aback. Elena is not put off and actually starts to single out Nath himself. I want to help. She‟s confused. John started to talk. but he sees her flirting with a whole group of lads. We‟ll call her boss Mick. right?” This was too coincidental. but I nodded to indicate he should carry on. shall we?” “Hold on!” I said. He backs off some more. “Where are you getting these names from?” “This is a hypothetical example. In her previous job she worked with women so this is a change for her. and has a job as administrator to a department that has quite a few young men. I was not looking for another interpretation. wants to marry her. but likes one of them. “The young woman – tell you what. She confides in her boss. She starts to receive more sexual attention. If things go badly. Penny.
completely bewildered. Once he helped a work colleague suffering abuse. Mick listens to Elena and realises she‟s in a difficult situation. Having recovered my composure. Her parents are furious. He seemed to have more information than I did. Nath then tells his old school friend that Elena came onto him and was flirting with all her work colleagues. He storms around and tells her the wedding is off. For a moment. Luckily. He put her up at his home until she found a new home. I did not know where he was getting this information but suddenly things started to make more sense. She becomes desperate to leave home. It never seemed relevant. Pin-pricks shuddered all the way through me.Rory Ridley-Duff I was angry. “Mick‟s known for his kindness. He‟d risked his own marriage to get her out. When I felt in control again. . the waitress brought the drinks and asked for our order.” It was my turn to start nodding. I reeled. He never asked. He‟s been known to intervene personally sometimes and help people out when their personal lives are troubled. I could feel the shock rise through me as I realised where all this was coming from. Her boyfriend reacts badly. “Her boss has a reputation for being sympathetic to his staff. He continued the story. “What happened to….” As these words came out. “D‟you want me to continue?” he asked. I nodded. John knew Mike. Every day she goes home they argue with her and tell her she‟s ruined everything. I struggled to keep my emotions in check. I‟d never told John exactly where I worked.Mick?” I asked. I asked John questions.
on the condition that he be allowed to help her find a place to live.Friends or Lovers “The situation got so bad that Mick‟s wife gave him an ultimatum. Mick agreed. but later his wife learned that he‟d given money to buy furniture. They became extremely close but were never lovers. He hoped that would be the end.” I felt I knew where the story was heading and my sense of dread started to increase. that he never bring another woman into their home. she goes around to Nath‟s house and tells him what he‟s done. After a few months of Mick calling his wife every day. Either the work colleague leaves or the marriage is over. but he refuses. With nowhere else to go…. My head dropped and my eyes fixed on the table as John continued talking. There was a condition. but with Mick and shouts at him for not helping her.” . but could not let her move into his house or give her any money. said that he would help her. She kicked him out. Elena told him private details about her life and now felt abandoned. she finally relented and let him go back home. She resists so he takes hold of her by the arm and makes her leave. Mick was sympathetic.Mick….moved into a flat with his work colleague. however. Someone walking past stops to watch and immediately reports the scene to their manager. Nath tells her to „piss off‟.. not with Nath. She goes into work the next day and is angry. Elena was angry because she‟d heard how Mick had helped someone else. Mick gave in. In a rage. “Elena wanted Mick to let her have his spare room. Mick‟s wife felt betrayed. 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. She tries again to persuade Mick to take her in.
let‟s call her Pen. His wife‟s curiosity is fired and she relentlessly asks questions until Mick tells her the whole story. “She did what?” I said.” I said.” “Worse? How could it get worse?” “You may want a stiff drink. a clear case of sex . “Mick. I thought. There was more to come and I had to hear it. “What a total fucking mess!” John was silent so I looked up at him feeling completely at a loss. because of the past. did not tell his wife why he had recently changed job. in some ways I‟m relieved. “Why the hell did she do that?” “At the moment he‟s staying at a hotel with a friend. one day. Are you ready?” “I need a stiff drink now!” I said trying to lighten the mood but John‟s face was implacable. “He‟s been to a solicitor. another shock wave went through me and I became rigid with fear.” said John. “She threw him out again. “It gets worse. he told a half-truth.” No prizes for guessing who the „friend‟ is. Penny. So. Pen calls his house announcing herself as the Head of Human Resources and that Mick should be in a disciplinary meeting.” “Well. I did not speak for several minutes. She feels the problem lies with the way Pen handled the original complaint. that the new job was a promotion rather than a convenient solution to an accusation of sexual harassment.Rory Ridley-Duff My head just hung there as I looked down at the table. However. “There is another hypothetical character.” At the mention of this name. He was concerned that his wife would pre-judge the situation and end the marriage.
“How noble of you!” I retorted. Penny!” said John. “Fucking mess was about right. “Why are you telling me?” I asked in a slightly accusing way.” I commented sardonically. I lost my appetite. I did not know how to feel. Could I really have got everything so wrong? “Well. The solicitor is coming as a friend. that is the story he will stick to if challenged.” I felt attacked from all sides and my defences started to bristle.” “Is that true?” I ask. “Because I couldn‟t let you go into your meeting later today completely unprepared.” I was silent. . “Today he‟s going to bring his solicitor.” My body froze a second time.” “He can‟t do that!” I interject. It says he can bring a friend if there is a disciplinary hearing. At least. The solicitor takes the view that Pen has not fulfilled her duty of care to all the parties concerned. “He and his solicitor have checked the employment contract. Suddenly. My head was spinning while I tried to work out what to do. She‟s been a friend since his university days. There‟s nothing to say whether the friend must be a work colleague or not. and my eyes dropped as I let John finish. I think.Friends or Lovers discrimination and failure to observe natural justice principles now enshrined in law. that‟s one way of looking at things. “Penny!” John exclaimed. There is also the issue of the call to his home. “It is.
” “You what? You‟re saying you might testify against me?” “Penny! He‟s been a friend all my life. What was I to do? “Where did that come from?” he demanded.” “Why on earth would he do that? This is nothing to do with you.” “Penny. He doesn‟t know that I know you. I act as an expert witness at tribunals. Panic overwhelmed me. you are just telling one side of the story.Mick…. I‟m trying to help.” “Yes. really. “Just let me think a moment. I care about you. “Penny. he might terminate our friendship. I don‟t want to lose your friendship.has been a life-long friend of mine. this is my field. He led my scouts group when I was a kid. This is serious.” . I needed to talk to the legal department of the company before the meeting.” “How? Why? You know nothing about this case. It‟s going to come down on my fucking head not yours. “Don‟t be like that.” “So it‟s all lads altogether is it?” I didn‟t know where these words were coming from.” “I try not to take sides. This could be the end of my career.” I snapped. He‟s been like a father to me. This is serious. I‟ve not known a kinder more honest man in my entire life. but part of me sensed that I had to get out of the restaurant and find Dave. or knew I‟m telling you this. If he did. but this could come between us if Mike asks me to testify. this is all too much.” I was getting more and more defensive and angry.Rory Ridley-Duff “M…. just give a professional opinion. He‟ll ask for my help and I will give it to him.
” “I‟ll have to involve the company lawyers…. they‟ll call your insurers and the insurers will instruct you to have no further contact.. “You must listen this afternoon. You have to mediate.” he shouted. At the moment I was not in control.. If you contact Mike after talking to your insurers.” 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. Don‟t admit liability. Make notes. lots of notes. Listen to the story the way it is told by the other parties. but acknowledge the points of view of the other parties. the insurers will not cover your employer for any losses.” “Well.” “I don‟t know if I can do that. I‟m fresh out of ideas. just existing from second to second. “If you don‟t. Once you talk to . You – and the company – will be completely exposed.Friends or Lovers “You are going to testify against me. aren‟t you?” “Not if we can find another way. just listen. Do whatever you have to do to get the company to offer mediation to all the parties involved.” I said weakly. I felt like I was being driven by something outside myself. Don‟t say anything. You‟ll have to grab it with both hands this afternoon.” “No! You mustn‟t do that.” “There is a way out. Help him with his domestic situation until the mediation is complete. Amuse me. “The moment you talk to them.” “Another way? Is there another way? You said he‟ll have a solicitor with him this afternoon…. hoping somehow I would disappear down a hole in the ground and this would all go away. this is going to end up in a court of law.
Do you appreciate that. Anyway. Please. My responsibility was to the company. “Penny. “What if you can mediate?” he insisted. “What if you can get Mike and his wife back together?” The pretence that we were talking about hypothetical characters had completely vanished. Not John. “Once a formal process starts it‟s almost impossible to stop. why should I take your advice? I hardly know you. John?” My fiery response took him back a bit and he regrouped. please listen. John was not put off and continued his attempts to persuade me. John. to protect him. There was little chance I would survive after such a misjudgement. Do you think you get to my position and not know stuff like that?” I resented him treating me like an idiot.” “I bloody know that. “And if I don’t tell the legal team.” “I can‟t handle this. “There are risks. John was doing this to save Mike. Not Mike. This was as real as it gets. I did. then I could lose my job as well. For all I knew. . “Penny.” he said firmly.Rory Ridley-Duff your legal team it will be out of your hands and will go to court. But do you think they‟ll protect you? They might get you through the court case.” I wanted to talk to Dave. This is too big for me.” He looked hurt at my words but composed himself. You are personally at risk from prosecution. I had to protect the company‟s interests. but what then? What of your future career?” “Oh God! I don‟t know!” Privately.
” I said. It‟s a kind of blindness.” he said in a slightly frosty way. I looked at the meal in front of me. I‟d need Dave‟s support. . “It‟s okay. I can run it past him. I don‟t think he‟ll like this.” “Would he help?” “I couldn‟t do this without him.” The waitress brought our food and asked if we‟d like any more drinks. In any other circumstances it would have looked beautiful and tasted delicious. “No more than anyone else. I felt sick. “I mean that you were looking at the situation the way the vast majority of people look at such situations. “And you‟re the big shot who thinks he knows?” I said sarcastically. John continued. How could you know?” Indeed. “I‟m sorry for getting angry. and that women spend most of their time resisting men. We assume men pursue women.Friends or Lovers “I can‟t authorise that on my own. how could I know? There was so much that I‟d not been told. but I picked at it intermittently.” “Don‟t stereotype me.” he said. We‟re close. I can‟t keep this from him. “What do you mean?” I asked sharply. “We can only see what we look for. At the very least. It sounded like he was criticising my judgement.” “Would he help?” “I see him later tonight. I wasn‟t blind to this!” I said with some irritation. “What?” he reacted. sensing immediately he had irked me.
” he said. Penny?” “What?” I responded. . try divorcing one!‟” “John. As the remorse grew. “As one of my friends told me a few years ago „if you think women are weak. You are so fucking pompous!” He smiled. “Sorry. John ventured a question. I nodded. “You know that. 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.” “Stop talking like a fucking academic…” I wished I could stop myself behaving in such an angry way.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m sorry. “Who is protecting the men.” I looked at him coolly. “Equality means protecting both sexes. “Good!” I added. but it just kept pouring out of me. It‟s a common problem. He laughed again and I found that I could not sustain my anger with him. I‟m sure you are very knowledgeable. “Sorry.” I said with as much conviction as I could muster. “But this is my field!” he responded. I looked at him.” he said looking me firmly in the eye. I didn‟t mean to sound critical. I remembered Mike saying something similar during our earlier argument.” I simmered for a few minutes and ate my food. “Bugger off!” was all I could say. I started to realise that I was being deeply unfair to him.” he laughed. “Women aren‟t weak. “You are not the first person to say that.
When he saw this. must have been difficult for him. not just the other parties. for the next hour. Touching says everything that needs to be said.Friends or Lovers Right now I had a plateful of food and an attractive man sitting opposite. It would have been much easier for ignore it. it was this last point that occupied my mind. As his body relaxed. We chatted away. I guess John must have felt the same way. Parting turned out to be quite difficult. I considered what an ordeal this must have been for him. Eventually. “Shall we enjoy the rest of our meal?” I continued. 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. I was not going to waste either a moment longer. I had to protect myself. he reiterated that the situation could go pear shaped if the legal teams got involved. Neither of us wanted to walk away. . Sometimes words are so inadequate and unnecessary. and then deciding to tell me over lunch. As I left the restaurant. Hearing this story from Mike. or cry off the lunch date and avoid me. his own smile broadened and I realised how tense he had been throughout. and for the first time I saw him more as a friend than a potential lover. As we departed. He hugged me for a whole minute and I just clung on for as long as I could. 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. he said “come here” and guided by an external force I stepped forward and fell into his arms. We stood there chatting for a bit then going silent then chatting some more. offering a conciliatory smile. about nothing in particular.
and that of Nathan.” He looked as apprehensive as I felt. I sat there both angry at myself and at others. I thought about visiting the legal department to spill all this out.” I said as I returned to my office. . his apprehension seemed to progress to outright fear but he obediently followed me. * * * “Hi Phil. I hatched a plan. Others could see I was troubled and avoided me. I decided to follow some of John‟s advice. even John – these all beat a path to my door. how could I have known? Was I being too hard on myself? Nobody would explain. If I had got things completely wrong then I was responsible for a great deal of misery. In the end. Mike and his wife. “Can you close the door?” I asked. I felt so torn about what to do that I went to the staff canteen for another coffee. I was ashamed. How could I have known? So. “Come into my office for a chat. Another part of me wanted to find Dave and have a heart to heart but he was preoccupied with the product launch. Another thing that consumed me was how I felt about myself. and he duly obliged. Nobody would talk. and my invitation to discuss things did nothing to reduce his unease.” At this suggestion. And yet. “I need to discuss things with you before we go into the meeting.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 26 By the time I returned to work all my doubts and dilemmas had returned. Elona‟s distress. but John‟s caution made me pause – at least for now.
or considered this question. It makes more sense.. both of which had been in his lap. “That thought had occurred to me too. so I gave him a few moments by leaving the room to make coffee. Clearly he had not expected this. Everything about his body screamed “Thank God!” His words. Phil‟s moment of relief ended and his face became thoughtful again. however. but his eyes remained fixed and expressionless.” I answered.” I let the words linger for a moment. Phil was my first port of call for a good reason. “Any ideas?” I asked as I walked in the door.” He was moving in the right direction.. were cautious. Phil‟s lips parted and his rigid body began to move and come alive. “What if he‟s right?” At this suggestion. Then listen and listen and listen…. “I think we need to admit that maybe we got it wrong. Phil….” I paused for a moment to see if Phil would say anything. His hands.Friends or Lovers I had gathered my thoughts and knew how I wanted to play this. he was more relaxed. “……how are we going to approach this meeting?” As I asked this question. I took a deep breath and made a start.” The idea that Phil has worked out the situation without help came as both a relief and a surprise. “If he is right. When I returned.. “I agree with you on the „listen and listen and listen‟. “I‟ve been thinking a lot about Mike‟s outburst. . I wondered whether I should have solicited his opinion more quickly. but a little more caution was called for. suddenly surfaced and started to gesture strongly.
We‟ll say that we want to look at the whole thing again. with just a hint of a smile. I offered my opinion. His eyes left mine and looked down at the table for a few seconds. “You‟re a good lad. We‟ll do as you suggest. “Then I guess admitting we got it wrong is out of the question. I looked him straight in the eye as I answered him.” he said. This afternoon is about buying time.” . When Phil got up and made to leave the room. “Of course. When he looked up again. “We‟ll make a manager out of you yet!” Without letting my eyes wander even for an instant I took the lead. there was a definite sense of conviction as he spoke. I want you to bring a notebook and take lots of notes. and just keep insisting that we‟ll do everything we can to mediate a solution. We‟ll keep our mouths shut.Rory Ridley-Duff After waiting for a moment to see whether he might say anything else. 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. I appreciate you. I smiled back at him – a big smile showing my teeth. I looked away from him to give the impression the meeting was over. “Phil?” I asked. and then waited until his eyes were again looking into mine. at least until I‟ve talked to Dave and Legal. “Okay. listen to what they have to say. Phil. I completed the act of seduction. He broke into a smile and nodded. Okay?” I could see from Phil‟s reaction that his ego felt well and truly massaged.
I caught a trace of redness in his cheeks. I have to admit that sometimes it is great fun being a woman. but when he reached the door he glanced over his shoulder and smiled at me again. started to walk.Friends or Lovers I did not look away and his eyes remained on mine until he could hold the gaze no longer. . I smiled back. He turned to go.
gave their accounts while I nodded. Mike initially looked as if he was ready for a battle. If we were to meet again in a court room or industrial tribunal.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 27 I feigned surprise when I met Mike‟s solicitor and was as pleasant as possible. If we made it through this conflict. No conclusions had been reached. Phil followed my lead and we successfully communicated the seriousness of what had taken place. I noticed that her look changed from one of confidence to one of . a married woman giving a single woman a hard time in the witness box would not be pleasant. I introduced Phil as my assistant and said that he had expressed a view that we should listen to Mike and Nathan. I promised myself that I would get to know him better. I might have peppered my pleasantness with a brusque manner. enquired and encouraged. she had looked calm and confident. I opened the meeting and stressed that we would be as cooperative as possible. At the mention of his name. but my opening gamble paid off and took the wind out of his sails. If his solicitor had been a man. prompted. Phil looked up and smiled. I found myself developing a grudging respect for him. still beaming from our earlier encounter. I have to say that Mike was proving a lot smarter than I‟d expected. With each reaction. First Nathan. I expressed surprise and shock at what I was hearing. At certain points in the narrative. At the start of the meeting. Every few minutes I glanced at Mike‟s solicitor friend to see how this was playing with her. Phil made copious notes as the story unfolded more or less exactly as John said it would. then Mike. To my surprise.
she started to engage me. I‟ll have to clear any changes with my director. I cannot guarantee that we will . My comment stopped her in her tracks.” she said. and a problem with his housing situation……” “We can help with that. after taking both Mike‟s and Nathan‟s statements. She was trying to work out how the meeting could be going so well for her client.” I answered.” I answered. Sometimes she would look at Mike and tilt her head to one side.” I answered.” I paused for a second before I asked the next question to ensure it had maximum impact. “What would be helpful is if you could work out with Mike the amount of wages he has lost. One of them is free at the moment and I can arrange for Mike to use it until he can make alternative arrangements. “Mike‟s got issues over lost pay. “That‟s good of you.Friends or Lovers puzzlement. “There are two flats rented by the company to accommodate sales managers who commute here from time to time. At this suggestion. At the end. David Stockton. “And what about the loss of pay since changing his job?” “On pay. “The company will pay. With surprise on her face she uttered a question. “How?” I was growing in confidence and put the final piece of my plan into place. Penny. I offered to get Phil to type them up and send Mike‟s to her for checking. I meet him later tonight.” “Who will pay?” she asked. I didn‟t like her using my first name but I let it pass. “My pleasure. She was not expecting this.
he‟d looked worried and pensive. Mike can confirm it in writing. then at me again. I was taken aback at just how attractive he looked. but I‟m sure it will be sufficient for him to treat you to dinner. I‟ll deliver it by hand. After a few moments. Thank you. then at her. They looked at each other for a moment and I noticed that she nodded her head at him. “Yes?” I answered. If we don‟t.” He looked me strongly in the eyes. I looked at them both. “I underestimated you. “Women! I have no idea why you go around letting men think they are in charge. Could you do that?” As I asked this question. “just to see whether I need to involve Legal. he gave a short chuckle. Thank you. “I underestimated you as well.” He chuckled again as he looked at Phil. but as it turned out a mutual respect was born. In all our previous meetings. “I‟ll check with Dave tonight.” Mike looked at me. then me again. We‟ll do that now.Rory Ridley-Duff meet it in full. I would have been happy to see someone kick him hard in the balls. “Penny?” he asked. I‟d hoped to stall things long enough to consult with Dave but we‟d gone almost as far as resolving the .” Mike smiled at me – the first time I had seen him do so – and I have to admit that his face was handsome.” I said. “Yes. I detected a smile on his face.” At the start of the day. but now I saw him in a moment of happiness. then you‟ll have my response tomorrow. if necessary.
” 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. when he felt at ease. Not only did he have integrity and courage but. “I can now see why Dave hired you. He beat me at my own game.Friends or Lovers whole thing. The moment of exhilaration passed and I finally understood why he had such a good reputation as a salesman. he fixed me one last time with his handsome face. As Mike turned to leave the room.
His face. Clearly they were more than acquaintances. “Nothing more?” he asked again inquisitively. Phil. now I was experiencing him up close. “Thank you. It was time to cool Phil‟s ardour now the job was done. fussed about me.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 28 I remained in the room with Phil while Mike and his solicitor exchanged words.” I said. . Mike.” he said. It made me wonder why Dave harboured hostility towards him. developed a small frown and his body language became submissive. with a puppyish expression. “I learnt a lot today.” was all he could say. but I actually felt exhausted. with a look that communicated not just my appreciation. offered a further comment. was a friendlier person than I had thought. It‟s hard to force niceness and that was exactly what I had been doing for most of the last two hours. touched and moved indicated a much closer relationship. “What made you change your mind about Mike?” he asked. shall we?” I responded. Penny! Absolutely brilliant. while still smiling. the way they looked. “That is sweet of you.” Phil nodded and still smiling. A curious look came over his face. I noticed them hug warmly as she departed.” Such praise I can live with. “Can you tidy up the loose ends here? I need to get ready for this evening. This comment caught me short for a moment. but also the gap in status between us. laughed. “That was fantastic. “Let‟s just call it a woman‟s intuition.
Friends or Lovers Clearly he was not convinced. He started to walk out of the room and his final remark not only surprised me. all trace had left him. Perhaps men were not jerks after all. 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. “Don‟t you believe in women‟s intuition. I thought back over the whole day. Suddenly things came together. I had one of those “ah ha!” moments in life. “I certainly believe in a woman‟s cunning!” he remarked. If he had felt dominated a few moments ago. and Phil‟s shrewdness at seeing through me. but also deflated my ego a bit. . surprises. I thought of the way John had helped. As I stood there. and let my locks fall about my face alluringly. A number of shocks. I flicked my head back.
I visited the women‟s toilets.” I remarked. and get the new team ready. As I delicately added a small amount of rouge to my cheeks. Was I? I didn‟t really know. Are you coming?” “Yes. “Aren‟t you?” she answered.” I chirped. but as I‟d had a totally stressful day. I thought for a moment. Always enjoy watching Dave strut his stuff!” she remarked. . “Hmm! He can look quite dashing at times. Shame he‟s taken. 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. “I‟m off tonight to see Dave strut his stuff at the launch.” “You looking?” I asked. of course.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 29 What a day it had been and there was still quite a way to go. can‟t he?” “Yeah! I‟ll say. Jo – the marketing manager – came in looking very pleased with herself. good meeting. Her comment surprised me. not attractive. I let my hair down a bit as well. She was not a stunner but even without make-up her skin was quite good. She had cut her hair quite short – a mistake I thought – because without a good size bust it gave her a rather boyish look. We signed a contract this afternoon.” “Sounds good. Long hair would have made her look womanly. All the good ones are. thinking back to the book John had recommended to me. Certainly. “You look happy. “Yes. I‟ll be there. Jo looked professional. It will give a boost to our training programme.
Friends or Lovers As these thoughts flashed through my mind. Perhaps he had.” Her comment made me both cross and curious. I certainly felt that I wanted that before I died.” Jo seemed pleased that she was not in competition and moved a little closer. “There‟s a rumour going round that his wife is ill.” . “No! Not Dave. Clearly. deciding to dig a bit. the sadness in his eyes when he thought of his wife. I also considered her question. With Carole announcing her marriage. that she won‟t live long. He‟s nice and all. there were men who wanted marriage. „My mum‟s going to die‟ he said. my neighbour went round and they admitted she was not well. had a maturity and confidence that came from understanding how to keep a relationship interesting. “That his wife has cancer. with meeting John and feeling more comfortable with men as friends. Perhaps I had misjudged him. One of my neighbour‟s children is at school with Dave‟s kids. Even John. I found it hard to believe that Dave himself would mention this to anyone else. and how hard he had tried to make things work with his wife. They were playing one day and came straight out with it. Anyway. sweet really. having a second child. but I don‟t think he‟s my type. “What‟s the rumour?” I asked. I considered Mike. perhaps I was ready to look. “Maybe I am!” I finally answered. Then there was Dave. the total commitment he seemed to have for her. flirty as he was. “Really? With Dave?” I could not help but laugh out loud at this suggestion. Over the last couple of months I felt a change in myself. He might be back on the market soon.
I thought. You know anything?” With this remark. as if she‟d been unable to sleep for a week. “Where did you hear it?” she asked. At the same time. It was not a lie. .” I responded as casually as possible. and the admission that I‟d heard a rumour did nothing to substantiate or deny her claim. She nodded. clearly not satisfied by my response.” Jo continued.” I was not sure whether to confirm or deny the rumour. I omitted. “Hi!” we both said to her. rumours spiralling out of control were problematic and could cause embarrassment. She looked dreadful. I think. I gave a small laugh. I could tell that Jo was digging for information because her casual manner was suddenly replaced by attentive curiosity. Jo. I was relieved that she‟d got the rumour from outside the company. This was a difficult call because I was obliged to keep information confidential.Rory Ridley-Duff Just as Jo was giving me the low down. “Well. “they said that Dave‟s wife looked terrible. I said nothing. Elona walked in. My respect for Dave remained intact. even if her source was a little further from home. “I‟ve heard the same rumour. Quite masterful that. “Anyway. that it was Jo who had told me the rumour only a few moments ago. Jo seemed to know as much as I did. where do you hear most rumours?” I asked. “In here!” she responded. of course. but did not talk and started to look in the mirror. “When was this?” I asked. “Oh! A couple of weeks ago.
I felt . “If you haven‟t heard. but I could not take it in. “Quickly now!” I demanded and Elona packed up her stuff and hurried out of the toilets. but whichever it was I had to put a stop to it. Ellie?” she asked. If there was a rumour. I knew from past experience that if a rumour started it would be hard to quash. or whether Elona was trying to start one. clearly not happy. you will soon. She gestured with her eyes and head to indicate something to me. I turned back to Jo. “Bloody rumours!” she remarked. Half an hour earlier. “What rumour?” asked Jo enthusiastically. it was the first I‟d heard. “Sorry. They are hurtful and mess people up.” I turned to leave wondering whether issuing a denial was wise. Jo looked both shocked and amused.Friends or Lovers Elona reapplied her make-up and listening to our conversation. “That rumour.” Jo clearly did not understand why Elona had the hump. By drawing attention to it. “That Nath has a thing going with me!” What was Elona doing? I felt that I had to act fast. As she left. To my office now!” I was not sure if there was a rumour. “What rumour?” “I just said that I don‟t like rumours. Ellie?” asked Jo. “Someone been pissing you off. glancing at Elona.” I said. I was concerned at the direction of this conversation. I was indicating that „something‟ was going on between Elona and Nathan. “Elona! Not another word. There‟s a rumour going „round about me.” “What rumour‟s that?” asked Jo. “‟bout me and Nathan!” “What about you and Nath?” Jo enquired. “is not true.
” “Sure!” she said. But it was a smile I didn‟t feel I could trust.. “Yes.” blurted Elona. “Just answer the question. “But…. but this was an occasion when coolly losing my temper was the most effective way to drive home what I had to say. If Jo went back to her team and started talking about it..but you……you…. There was too much pleasure in it. did not really cut the mustard as “Sir Humphrey” and that made it hard for me to keep a straight face. “I would appreciate if you did not repeat to others what Elona just said. “What the fuck d‟you think you were doing?” Elona was so shocked that she did not sit down. “Jo?” I said.thought you…. with a smile. Prime Minister.what do you mean?” she said quietly. . I turned to her and let fly. “I what?” “I…. but now they could easily spiral out of control again. however. As soon as Elona was installed in my office.” I demanded. this exchange struck me as slightly comical..” she replied.I thought…. I don‟t often lose my temper. trying to get a grasp of the situation. the rumour might yet cause more problems. “What…. Elona. “I thought you knew?” she said. like something out of Yes..” mumbled Elona “Thought what?” Given that I was faking my anger.Rory Ridley-Duff that things were under control. when Jim Hacker had Humphrey Appleby in a corner embarrassed and grasping for words.
” I said. “Does that mean you‟ve got to the bottom of things?” I wondered what she wanted to hear. Was Elona implying that there was something going on with Nathan. gesturing that I needed more clarification. “Elona. “We won‟t be looking into it any more. “Sit down. “Elona. I considered carefully how to put it across. Was she asking who had been found „guilty‟? I wished I could tell her more. don‟t you?” she prompted again. it was good to see her relax.” Elona looked concerned but did not say anything.” She looked relieved.Friends or Lovers This was an interesting turn of events. please tell me what you think I know. “I thought you……well you had Mike and Nathan in here nearly all afternoon. “I can say with reasonable certainty that we will not be investigating the matter any further. Clearly. and I don‟t think that questioning people further will reveal anything more. I did. at least as far as they are able to. Elona‟s eyes started to dart around the room as if she was looking for something to say. she was trying to get me to say what I knew. didn‟t you?” “Yes.” I started. or just that she thought I knew about the rumour. “I imagine you‟re wondering what happened earlier?” She took her place and nodded. “Thought what?” I repeated. but I did not oblige. When I remember the way she left my room in some distress. but to do so would breach the confidentiality I observed in these matters. Elona.” “So you know. I‟m satisfied that all parties have told me the truth. I accept that you‟ve had a .
“Don‟t want to do that. Then she nodded to indicate that she understood. “Do you know anywhere I could stay?” I didn‟t enquire why. “So don‟t start any rumours. I hope.” she said. Have you put a notice on the board?” I asked. She seemed happier and relaxed. “I‟ve got a question. “Give me a few days.” she answered.” “Okay. “I have an idea.” I was being economical with the truth. You can go home tonight and sleep better.” .” Elona said. and I don‟t want to add to your distress any more. But could she really think that Mike and Nathan would back up her story? That was naivety beyond possibility.Rory Ridley-Duff difficult time. I‟m afraid. “I don‟t. but no untruths passed my lips. Is there anything else?” “No. okay?” I said pointedly. I‟ll ask around discretely. She looked up and paused for a moment.” I said. She must surely realise I was being kind and saving her face. My only regret was that Elona might think that her account of events had been vindicated. and I don‟t want to say. “People will ask why. I braced myself.
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. “I‟ve saved the best for last. . Sam tells me that his wife.” Dave cast his eye over to the other side of the stage where Sam and Elaine were standing.” said Dave boldly.” Dave announced. He was dynamic and Dave made the most of this during the presentation. She will vouch for it personally. and every man will want to buy for her. Sam‟s product went one further. Just as selfexercise belts use gels to transmit current into the muscles (without actually having to do any exercise). “Play it again. A narrator started to explain benefits to an attentive audience. has extensively tested this final product. This last product is something that every woman will want. legs. or anywhere else that a woman wanted to remove hair. and I quite enjoyed minding him for the evening. however. Sam. The lights dimmed as the finale began. and there was a gentle ripple of laughter as the video images appeared. This last product.Friends or Lovers Chapter 30 The evening passed off well. The entrepreneur that Dave was promoting came across fairly well. It was a battery operated hair remover that could be strapped onto arms. Sam‟s product range comprised „advanced technology‟ approaches to personal care that were – to say the least – sensuous in their design and application. Elaine. “All of Sam‟s products involve the use of advanced technology to improve personal hygiene. was the one that Dave believed would become a top seller.
You want to SHARE. What every woman will want next Christmas. Sam‟s wife moves to centre stage. risking life and limb. The man jumps off a cliff edge and the next 90 seconds is a tongue in cheek satire of past Milk Tray adverts. adorned with tasteful jewellery.Sensuous Hair Removal Experience. Dressed in a daring black dress. to deliver a second package to a mansion home in the valley beneath. the model tastefully disrobes. Moments later. Then.Rory Ridley-Duff What does every woman want? Yes. a blonde in a long robe picks up the package. He leaves the package. and as the model‟s eyes close and she enjoys the sensual delights of the SHARE experience. On the screen. and what every man will want to buy for her. The music changes again.and a fanfare of music alerts the audience to a James Bond like action sequence. With a hint of wickedness in her grin. The satire switches to playful pastiche of 1980s Flake adverts. to have silky smooth skin. . a handsome male model gave a gift wrapped present to a beautiful brunette. she takes the package into her stately bedroom and lies down on the four-poster bed. as the man wanders onto a patio to reveal a breathtaking mountain landscape. The mockhero slides down the mountain-side. removes the gift from her package and relaxes. in her bathroom and jumps out of the window into the night. a beam of light is shone onto her from the back of the auditorium and the volume of the music lowered. with his card. is the . her face full of mock excitement at receiving her „favourite‟ present. And what does every man want? To buy the ultimate gift for his partner and bring a smile to her face. he dons a pair of black glasses – a la Terminator .
but everyone clearly understood. He did tell me that there was another presentation but that Sam and Elaine were keeping it under wraps. the larger than life model held a pose reminiscent of the flake advert delicately crumbling chocolate between two gorgeous red lips. Take away your own SHARE experience and enjoy the benefits of the latest in personal hygiene technology. When I watched Dave‟s practice run. then turning the appliance . I looked around the hall and saw women alternating their glances at the presentation with chuckles into the ears of their female friends. “What accessories?” I whispered with more than a hint of curiosity. were on stalks watching every tiny movement of the model applying gel to the insides of her thighs. This was no ordinary hair remover. The eyes of the men. however.” It was my turn to smile at her. “We will be. Nobody said it out loud. Even as I was starting to think that this was a bit OTT. We‟ve prepared a gift pack for every woman here tonight. he had not shown me this video.” As she stepped back from the microphone.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. then bit her finger.and herself on. I lent over and whispered into her ear. but we can‟t say that here. She sucked. as her mind becomes occupied with the erotic. . As Elaine walked off the stage and sat down next to me. “You should be selling this at Ann Summers parties!” She gave a broad smile and leaned towards me. I could now see why.
Rory Ridley-Duff “Let me put it like this.” said Elaine.” “Can‟t wait to try mine out!” I said.” . She carried on talking in my ear as the video presentation neared the end. 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. “If we‟ve not beaten „the rampant rabbit‟ into second place by next Christmas then I‟m going to be pissed as hell.” I chuckled. Dave walked back to the microphone and announced that drinks and snacks were available in the lobby. The chatter was interminable but the evening was a success with guests energised and enthusiastic. I pulled Dave to one side for a private word. the blonde looked seductively into the camera and spoke breathlessly. When the VIPs had been safely escorted home in pre-booked taxis. Our pilot trials have produced spectacular feedback. much less painful than wax and much more effective than creams. The gift packs could be collected at the exits. We exchanged smiles and a final fanfare alerted the audience to the finale. “Can we slip out of here .there is something I need to discuss. Dave thought it might be regarded as distasteful. It can‟t wait until tomorrow. “Much better than Milk Tray!” The place filled with roars of laughter and the lights came up. There is a range of „innovative‟ extensions. As the final chord echoed throughout the hall. “You won‟t see the accessories advertised anywhere in your brochures. It‟s a good hair removal product.
They have everything under control. then walked over to Sam and Elaine. He exchanged words with them. shook their hands and spoke with a representative of the PR company.Friends or Lovers Dave nodded.” . “Okay – we‟re off.
“You wanted to talk about something?” he asked. “I‟ve had quite a day. the portfolio was now broad enough to weather a set-back. Alternatively.” “Is he married?” he interrupted sternly. but if it did so. it might catapult the company into the top league.” I said. “Why do you ask?” His question irritated me.” I said. As soon as he had parked the glasses on the table.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 31 We walked to a nearby bar and settled ourselves into a corner table. With the company enjoying some success. “May as well take it off. Not at the actual conference. He confessed that he thought the product was risqué for IC. We spent a few minutes discussing the evening. “No point standing on ceremony.” I recounted the events.” “You should try wearing high-heels!” I joked. and Dave reacted in quite a peculiar way. We both thought it had been a mini-triumph. It might backfire. but Harry (the MD) had given him the go ahead. a gin and tonic for me. including the lunchtime meeting with John. he removed his jacket and loosened his tie.” I said a bit defensively. on the flight home. “Is it wise?” . there was a feeling that a calculated risk was appropriate. “Yes. “John? Who‟s this John?” “I met him at the conference in Paris. “Yes.. Dave bought the first round – a real ale for himself.” “I‟ve been wearing these things for 20 years and still hate them..
Friends or Lovers “Dave! You are married too!” I said trying to lighten the mood. “It‟s different!” he said. As I didn‟t . “How often do you and I go out after work?” I asked.” he said starting to sound defensive. Could he be jealous. Penny. “Why is it different?” I said. deciding to defend my friendship with John. “I didn‟t even know that your wife had been unwell until you told me recently.” Dave raised his eyebrows.” I wished that I could hide my irritation. “John and I exchange e-mails as often as you and I talk. “John and I know each other well. The more I thought about it. I sat for a few moments wondering why it mattered to Dave. It‟s just different isn‟t it?” “I don‟t see why. Dave immediately looked a bit put out.” he said casting me a badtempered glance. I could see in his body language and movements that he felt hurt.” I affirmed. I wondered? “Well…I see you all the time. he knew only a fraction of the real me. For all the time I‟d spent with Dave. We know each other well. “Work colleagues often go out together.” I said firmly. “It‟s different. but I‟m a close colleague. “Yes. the more incensed I got. Dave looked at me with surprise and I realised that he may have misinterpreted what I said.” I thought about how much more John knew about me. but it must have been obvious because Dave backed off a bit.
He looked up at me and appeared unsure. and concurred with me that I would need his authorisation to fund Mike‟s housing costs until he could find accommodation elsewhere. “Thanks!” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster. I think. He recommended that I see Legal to arrange a three-month tenancy. I watched him closely as I described Mike‟s part of the story to see if I could detect anything in his response. I don‟t think she‟ll ever leave hospital.” I said positively. and his face lit up again. Nathan and Elona. “How are things at home?” The smile left his face and his eyes were downcast. I downed my gin and tonic then went to the bar to get another round of drinks.Rory Ridley-Duff want the situation to spiral out of control I decided to offer some reassurance. I don‟t know why.” Dave gave a small laugh. He seemed to take it in okay. Why did he have to laugh like that? Why take pleasure at Mike‟s marriage breaking down? I didn‟t expect it of Dave. “When does he want to move in?” “As soon as possible. “Let‟s get this work stuff finished. Dave listened to the story that unravelled with Mike. then I‟ll get the next round in. I had not been to this place before so I cast my . Dave!” I said. but I was immediately irritated. “I‟m fond of you. He‟s shacked up at a hotel at the moment. “My parents are with her tonight.” “D‟you want to talk about it?” I asked. He promised to email them first thing in the morning. “Maybe after another round of drinks…” he said tentatively.
there” routine just was not me. He had an expression. He looked up.” he said. The tables were wooden. “You‟ll have to tell them something. and each table had a bowl in the middle that had the appearance of driftwood. however. I thought of my father. Drinks in hand. I returned to the table and asked Dave again about the situation at home. They had a natural look about them. The edges were jagged and rough. Certainly I cared. On the wall. I‟m dreading it. but doing the “there. “They give her less than a month. Dave. so I put my hand on his shoulder and encouraged him.I‟m…. deliberately unvarnished to fit in with the tenor of the furnishings. . Most of the patrons were in their 30s and 40s. “Er…. filled with stones. The doctors want to talk to me tomorrow. I wondered if I was being insensitive.” It was difficult to respond. there was wood panelling. He looked awkward and reticent.” I continued. “What will you say?” I finally responded.Friends or Lovers eyes around while waiting to be served. was that I didn‟t know how else to be. but it was impossible for me to feign feelings that I didn‟t have. not that “manufactured to the nearest tenth of a millimetre” feeling. Not having had a lover or even a family member in this situation. He looked pained and I could not really work out why.I‟m……” he stopped for a moment. drawn from his love of cricket: “playing a straight bat”. I don‟t think he expected me to ask such a question. The problem.. I liked it. “She‟s deteriorating. I thought about trying to show deep sympathy. His eyes looked down into his lap as he spoke.
as if he had noticed my prickliness and was responding with some of his own. Dave.torn!” Finally! “What are you torn about?” He gave me a look that was puzzling.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m……I‟m……” I began to grow tired of his hesitation. I surely should have felt more sympathy for him. “Might it be kinder to let her die?” He looked at me and I saw tears form in his eyes. I traced my mind back and suddenly realised that his moment of mirth at Mike‟s situation really infuriated me. Why was I putting up barriers now? These thoughts swirled around in my head.” he responded brusquely. Suddenly. “I‟m sorry. And yet. but for some reason he was irritating me. I had no problem comforting him. For someone approaching forty. 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. There in my mind was my father smiling at me. even as I had these thoughts I heard my father‟s voice. the . he sure was immature. I could see his face growing red. A few days ago. “I‟m torn between helping her die and keeping her alive. as if he thought I might be slightly mad. „What‟s the deeper meaning here. But why? “What is the deeper meaning here?” I kept asking myself. 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. encouraging me to reflect.. “…. but I tried not to show it.
Even as I chastised myself for being so uncharitable. After all. The moment Dave took pleasure at Mike‟s misfortune he lost my respect. I hardly knew Mike. “Penny? Are you okay?” . “Yes. I even started to wonder if Dave was playing the sympathy card. I didn‟t feel worthy of his respect. I continued with a straight bat. “It would be kinder. deciding which of them would get my sympathy. But kinder!” It felt incongruous that he was looking deep into my eyes while talking about his wife dying. Why did it matter? Dave broke the silence.” As he said this. I stopped looking at him but then he spotted my awkwardness. I kept asking myself why I felt more sympathy for Mike than Dave. I saw his eyes furtively look at mine. “I can see why Dave hired you.Friends or Lovers awful realisation hit me. When the meeting with Mike had concluded. I can‟t bear the thought of losing her. I was evaluating them. but instead he appreciated me. He was watching me to see how these lines played. Unbearable. he found it in him to pay me a compliment. He had every reason to hate me. That didn‟t seem right. I fought a gut instinct to get up and walk out. “I don‟t want to admit that it would kinder to let her die. So I sat there and found myself no longer wanting to comfort Dave. wouldn‟t it?” Dave‟s eyes were on me now as we talked and I felt increasingly self-conscious.” he had said. It was generous and I kept thinking I had completely misjudged him.
“I feel a bit unwell. Dave. It was an instant reaction and both of us realised what it meant. Book some time off and spend it with your wife. It went really well tonight. I won‟t” “Bye. D‟you want me to walk you back?” “No. Wait here. no!” I said too quickly. Grab every moment you can. then. I couldn‟t tell him how I was feeling. “I‟ll do that!” he replied. I‟ve had a really long day and my stomach does not feel good.” I said hurriedly. “Okay. I appreciate you meeting me and going through things. I‟ll come in early and sort the stuff out with you. Don‟t stay up too late. “Perhaps. Even so. My sense of urgency was growing. Pen. I‟ve drunk too much. will you?” “No.” I said.” . I‟ll see you in the morning.” I looked at the table and saw that he had nearly a whole pint to drink up. okay. Pick the car up tomorrow. “It‟s okay. When I came out. I was sure he sensed my tension because his hand dropped and eyes looked away. he did not challenge me and just kept nodding.” I was talking too quickly.” he replied. “Look. “Okay. you should do the same!” I blurted out. You were a star. I felt his hand touch my back and my body reacted like it had received an electric shock. “Okay. I‟ll get a cab. “Just need to go to the loos and then I‟ll be back. I grabbed my glass and tried to smile. As I started to get up.Rory Ridley-Duff I was not sure what to say. I made my way to the toilets and lingered there for as long as I could without appearing rude.
My opinion of Mike had risen from rock bottom to something approaching respect. Whatever hopes I had of growing close to Dave. Perhaps I was attracted to him? My desire for John had changed from one of girlish lust to one of sisterly love. my respect for him was waning.” he replied with just a hint of sarcasm.Friends or Lovers “Bye. I could not explain why. As I rode home in the taxi. he had changed from someone on a level with a placement student. it was a sixth sense telling me not to get close to him. the events of the last week just kept playing in my mind. to a sharp and roguish young man who merited the occasional fantasy. they evaporated that night. As for Phil. As for Dave. What was going on? What was happening? .
but he was quite a dish. This was a good way to relax. Then I did my stomach. it raised new questions over Dave. the more I felt I had misjudged him. he chose not to be. I ran a bath and as I lay in the warm water. I had to find a way to make up for the way I had treated him. Inside the bag there were two gift-wrapped presents. I was now curious about Dave‟s comments. the more I started to like him. I started to relax and drink the wine. I arched my buttocks and started working on the folds of flesh between my legs. He may be young. The more I thought about him. With the soap in my hands. so I got out of the bath and returned to my bedroom. He had told me to “find out about Mike” because “he may become a problem”. it was there. Even though he had reason to feel bitter.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 32 When I got home. but the water kept washing away the wetness I was feeling and prevented me reaching orgasm. I poured myself another glass of wine and had a bath. I undid the larger one to reveal a tasteful . With these thoughts behind me. I thought about Mike. The events with Dave were upsetting so I tried to eradicate them from my mind with soothing music and some self-pampering. I made a mental note to follow it up with Phil. I ran it over my breasts and built up a sumptuous lather. As these positive thoughts about Mike ran around my head. It was as if he felt threatened by Mike and wanted me to get dirt on him. On my bed was the bag from the launch. I wondered why he was not offended. thighs and between my legs. I indulged myself by recalling Phil‟s red cheeks when I flirted with him. The SHARE experience? Yes.
and the other to increase and decrease the intensity. By the time I had finished. 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. enjoying my sexual power. I looked like a porn model. There were two buttons on it. and attached the straps that were included. I pictured Phil‟s cock in my hand to increase my excitement. I lifted up my legs and inserted the dildo into the motor device then inserted it. 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. Some of the pads were round. I took it in my hand and turned it over. Inside was a dildo extension and another tube of gel. plugged the panel into the motor. I started to lick my lips with a sense of exhilaration. I started to feel aroused as the sense of expectation started to build.” So there I lay on the bed almost breathless with anticipation. I applied the first tube of gel. 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 . I used my fingernail to slide under the sellotape and gently remove the gift wrap from the second gift. As I opened the package. Lying back on the bed.Friends or Lovers package that contained a battery operated motor. There were several pads and a tube of gel. I looked like someone‟s whore. There was a fine mesh of plastic teeth interspersed with similar inlaid metal panels. one for switching the device on and off. The dildo was mainly plastic but there were small metal panels inlaid at various points.
John started to pinch and suck my nipples and run his hands all over my stomach and sides. with my free hand. and the other periodically pressing the „ecstasy button‟. small shots of electricity engulfed my pussy from both the hair remover and the dildo and I just gasped. I reached over to the motor and pressed the on switch. and I closed my eyes as I imagined Mike‟s tongue in place of my finger. bare breasted and naked with my legs wide apart. As I let my finger work me into a frenzy. two strange thoughts burrowed into my mind. With each press. massaging gently then harder then gentler again. As I lay on the bed exhausted. I imagined Phil. I played with myself for a couple of minutes. While they gorged themselves. A sensation ripped through me that made me shudder in total ecstasy. With one finger on my clit. I imagined Mike‟s hand on the insides of my thighs and his mouth sucking on my fingers. as I played out a fantasy of being a hot and horny slut. Phil and John came either side of me. I wanted to fuck him like . My finger was now circling furiously. I wanted Mike. Mike and John walking into the room. Firstly. John took my breasts in his hand and gentled rubbed them while I felt Phil‟s mouth on mine. There I was. then hard as his firm tongue edged me towards a heavenly climax.Rory Ridley-Duff was pressing on the pit of my stomach. there was a gentle vibration inside me. I remembered the booklet describe an intensity button for “a special experience”. Not only could I feel a gentle vibration on my pubic bone. Then. pressing on my clitoris at the same time to heighten my arousal. dildo inserted. 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. The SHARE experience had been thoughtfully designed.
the SHARE experience was going to make IC rich beyond belief. emotionally and physically spent body fell into a deep sleep. finishing a new plan to suck as much pleasure out of life as possible. 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. With these debauched thoughts filling my mind my satisfied. the future took on a positive glow and I saw myself as Phil had seen me. naked.Friends or Lovers no-one else I had ever met and felt I would do anything to have him. Secondly. . a vixen with a keen eye.
Has Dave been in yet?” “Yes. Stella. he was in here about half an hour ago. I felt entitled. Perhaps I had misunderstood him.” said Stella.” Stella replied. I was sure Dave said he would sort this out. “But you‟ll need Dave to sign the contract. It has to be a director. I thought. Given my attendance beyond the call of duty the previous evening.” I said walking up to her desk. “He must have forgotten!” I said. “We agreed last night that I could rent it out to Mike Bennett. my exertions the previous day caused me to oversleep. Once at work. “Hi. but he didn‟t mention anything about a flat. She quickly checked her inbox and shook her head. Can you sort out the paperwork and I‟ll come back this afternoon. my first port of call was Office Services from where I picked up the key to the company flat. I need to sort out a threemonth tenancy agreement for him.” “Okay. I got up and took breakfast on the way to work. Even so. “Did he e-mail you about it?” I asked “Let me check. I need to arrange for Mike to rent it for three months.” “Well. I can get the paperwork sorted.” That‟s strange. Hurriedly.” . I was half an hour late. That being the case. I signed for the keys on my own authority and proceeded to the legal department to sort out the paperwork. “I‟m here about the company flat.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 33 Despite my good intentions to get up early and speed off to work. I found that Dave had not e-mailed them and I wondered whether he too had overslept.
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
but I‟m old enough to have seen people dig themselves into an early grave through bitterness. My errors were born out of a desire to protect myself. In this moment. “We all have our cross to bear. I want to know the people in my life better. to avoid the pain of rejection and avenge those who I thought were responsible. He grew in . Phil waited patiently. However imperfect. fearful and difficult they are. He taught me the value of being honest about my desires. The humility did me good. My loneliness was largely a choice and not an accident or misfortune. “I can only speak for myself. and wondered what else I might have missed. inconsistent. My fear of being intimate – my fear of sharing thoughts and feelings – began to fade when I met John. Finally.” he said with just a hint of sadness.Friends or Lovers when I met John that I wanted to find a way out.” I looked up at Phil. I may be young. “When did you become so wise?” I asked. I might have been responsible for a tremendous injustice. 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. then it is a price worth paying.” I saw Phil‟s eyebrows quickly rise and fall and he tried to form some words. I felt young next to him.” he said. “You should take some credit. 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. I spoke. “If he had not helped me understand my own prejudices.
” “I did so because Dave led me to think Mike might become a problem. “Phil. 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. “What‟s that?” I swallowed hard at the thought of what I was about to say. “Are you suggesting what I think?” queried Phil.” I said pointedly. “And now?” Phil asked. I saw him momentarily shuffle uncomfortably.” “Okay. “There‟s one other thing. This isn‟t a seek and destroy mission. Not sure what else we can do because I‟ve no idea where to start. Perhaps I had as much to learn from him as he from me. “We need to find out whether there‟s a reason for Dave‟s animosity.” “What did you have in mind?” “D‟you remember that I asked you to find out about Mike – a kind of necessary evil?” “Yes.Rory Ridley-Duff stature before my eyes. .” I responded.” “I understand. just a way to understand what happened. “I need your help again. “Eyes and ears to the ground again. but also the import of what I was about to suggest. “Phil.” “How?” Phil asked.” I said.” he replied.” Phil realised not only the extent to which I was about to take him into my confidence.” I added. “we‟ve just poked around a number of people‟s private lives and screwed them up. “And now I‟m not sure who to believe.
” Phil said with a momentary pause. It was a risk. 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. “that he is old enough to be your father…. “…and that he‟s also one hell of a lucky guy. The result would be one of the most enduring and loving relationships I would ever have. but Phil put up his hand to indicate that I should stop talking. “I think. what d‟you think?” I asked with urgency. somewhat deflated. . I offered him my hand.” I was so chuffed that Phil said this that I was lost for words. He took my hand and shook it firmly. “Come on. in a moment of blind instinct. “Yes. Eventually. Do you think I‟m mad?” Phil‟s face broke into a broad smile. As I look back over my life now I can trace the start of my friendship with Phil to this meeting. of course!” he replied.Friends or Lovers “I am starting to fancy Mike like crazy. much as John had taken a risk with me.” “Oh!” I said. “Friends?” I said.
“You‟ve no idea.” “Thank you. Harry accepted my comments with good grace.” I answered.” I swallowed quite hard when I heard this. I returned to Legal to collect the contract for Mike. “I know we see each other infrequently. but I‟m assured by Dave that you‟ve made quite a mark here. Until now. and explained the situation. . A strange feeling came over me. Penny. “Don‟t be afraid to drop in from time to time. but he was inviting me to be more informal with him. Today was turning into a very good day indeed. That‟s good to hear. I thanked him for his help and left his office feeling as though I had just grown wings and could fly. but also said that the proposed settlement would ward off the possibility of litigation and save the company money in the long run. I guessed that Dave must be too busy to deal with it.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 35 Later in the afternoon. “Quite a learning experience?” he asked. so I took the contract to Harry. As I walked into her office I heard a voice that was familiar.” I responded. I admitted my mistake. My detour took me near to Jo‟s office. I felt I should touch base with her over the comment Elona had made. the company‟s managing director. I found that Dave had still not signed it. I did not want gossip or rumour to spread. I had only met Harry formally. 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. The flattery that I felt was considerable and I duly made the promise. He signed off the contract to rent the flat to Mike and called Legal to approve the pay settlement.
John noticed me at the back of the room and his face beamed. presentation in full flow. “Jo and I are good friends too…. but if I had denied it then it would surely have shown in my face. As I looked at John. “You are Jo‟s new consultant.” 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.” I could see Sally looking both pleased and surprised as she whispered something in the ear of a colleague. “You know each other?” asked Jo. then?” John looked at Jo. our eyes connected just long enough for others to register that we were more than acquaintances. “We are good friends. continuing the charade. “Yes. John was outlining his thoughts on male and female consumer behaviour. I was not sure whether to admit to a close friendship in front of all the others. . “…. I imagine she was asking herself the same question about me. Tongues would probably wag.” he replied. but there was little I could do. As I entered the room. Everybody turned around to look at me and for a moment I felt quite embarrassed.Friends or Lovers Surely it could not be? But as I walked up to the door the voice was unmistakable. My attitude to mixing business and personal relationships was momentarily compromised. In my mind I wondered “how good?” but I resisted the temptation to ask. “Hello there!” he said with just a trace of a smile.
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. Not only did it make me feel special. Remember to bring in lots of magazines. then?” “Sure did!” and he immediately sensed the glint in my eye. See you all next Wednesday. “Well. John leaned over and whispered into my ear. however. but his manner was so open and unaffected that he disarmed me.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay everyone. buy some this week. “Things worked out. I thought for a moment and remembered my commitment to Mike. but John did not understand.” I responded. it would probably do my social standing amongst the staff no harm at all. For a second I wondered whether to chide him for creating the impression we were close. he put his hand on my shoulders and kissed me on the cheek.” With these words. smiled. . “How are you fixed later?” asked John. you‟ll need to bring some in yourself – if you don‟t buy them normally. Mixed with surface irritation. “Watch out! He‟ll charm the pants off you before you know it!” I laughed out loud. and gave a thumbs-up sign. That‟s more or less it for today. “Helping Sally and Mike move him into a company flat!” He turned to them both. was a deep pride that he acknowledged me so warmly. Guys. he shut down his laptop to signal the end of the meeting and walked over to greet me. isn‟t it?” “I guess it is. this is a turn up. Without batting an eyelid.
” he quipped. Reluctantly. “I would normally not say such a thing. . “Problem is that he‟s far too devoted to his wife!” “Can a man be too devoted?” I joked. “You interested?” I blushed.” he said in a low voice and drawing me towards the corner of the room.Friends or Lovers “Someone else said the same thing earlier!” “Must be true then. I am. must be an endless juggling act. and his tone changed in an instant. Treat him well. Damn it. “So what‟s going down with Mike.” I said. “Sure if it leads him to deny himself the company of other interesting people. but not so much that I would avoid your company.” “Aren‟t you devoted to your wife?” I asked. indeed his life. He immediately sensed this.” His eyes had that glorious warmth that I had come to adore. Penny. “Yes. John took one look at me and twigged. “Penny. he‟s a very nice man. I felt that his marriage. but Mike is not just a nice man. I could have deliberately misunderstood him and read more into his words than was there.” “I intend to. Sure he wanted to be close to me. why do I do that! His remark caught me so off-guard that for a moment I was angry with him. I felt myself giving up any aspirations I had to seduce John and I comforted myself by looking forward to more fantasies. then?” I asked. but I was beginning to realise the limits of his commitment. with just a hint of playfulness. John smiled. but an instinct told me not to.
I returned to my office and decided to make one more trip to Dave‟s before packing up my things. I still felt no maternal twinge. they‟re like a married couple. They fight and bicker all the time! She‟s been in love with him for years. Even as my own sister brought hers into the world. He‟s got three already and does not want any more. John then grinned at me and I realised that he was playing.” I responded. “For that advice.” he said with more confidence than I felt. “What about Sally?” I asked. Whether he was being deliberately obtuse or just plain dumb. Mike and Sally came over and John announced that he too was helping with the move. Knowing that neither Mike nor I wanted children took away one potential conflict. more as a remark to myself than a question for John. . “For what?” he asked.” I said warmly. “The way he tells it to me is that she wants children – he does not. “What advice was that?” he said. but because of this he would never let anything start. I wanted a man. I thought there was no harm seeing if she was competition. If they‟d agreed on that then perhaps he would have let her get close to him. Apart from that.” “No more kids?” I said. I did not care. “Thanks for that. I looked at John again. not children.Rory Ridley-Duff “I believe you will. but I can‟t see his feelings changing. I was looking forward to the evening.
His fists were clenched as he spoke.” I said again. His stubbornness was mirrored by the rigidity in his body. “I‟ve been looking for you all day. I didn‟t agree to it. Penny. We didn‟t agree anything last night – you just told me what you wanted to do. What was he playing at? “Well. You said you would go and see them to sort this out. the contract!” I said “What contract?” answered Dave. I couldn‟t understand why he was behaving this way. I went over the talk we had the night before in the pub and he listened without making comment. My mood changed from one of confusion to concern. whatever Dave!” I said. he finally said something.” “Why‟s that?” answered Dave.” “What?” Dave was acting so strangely that I felt like asking why.” “What do you mean? You said you‟d e-mail Legal this morning. . “He‟s moving in tonight. “I just dropped by to say that I‟ve sorted it anyway. Dave was behaving quite strangely and I was confused. I thought. This was odd. He was standing next to his desk. Mike is moving in tonight. but I didn‟t approve it. When I finished. “The flat. “Don‟t you remember?” I asked.” “You‟re mistaken. “I said you‟d need my approval.Friends or Lovers Chapter 36 “There you are!” I said. but I confined myself to the issue in hand.” “Dave! What d‟you mean?” “I wanted to discuss it with Harry first.” he said.
Rory Ridley-Duff “But we haven‟t sorted out a contract yet.” I said. You haven‟t signed it yourself?” “No!” I answered. clearly irritated. Without saying goodbye. “How?” he said. He must have had a very bad day. He was speaking to me like a child. “Okay. . 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. It was my turn to feel defensive. I couldn‟t find you so I got Harry to sign.” “You went around me?” “No. I didn‟t „go around you‟. On another occasion I would have challenged him. You haven‟t given him any keys. almost shouting. I have.” Dave looked at me. “I got someone else to sign it because I couldn‟t find you. but I wanted to retreat. “I need to sign it. “Don‟t do it again!” he said finally. have you?” “Yes.” He looked defensive and angry. “So how d‟you sort it?” he asked with a tone bordering on aggression. That was so out of character I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. And I‟ve sorted out the contract.
“Yes he did! Yes he did! I don‟t mean he saved my life like he rescued me from death or anything. drove to the new flat.” she announced. . “This man here…. Sally raised her glass. computer.” Mike‟s eyes looked downward as he shook his head and laughed. I initially felt out of place amongst such close friends.” She pointed to her heart with a finger and kept stabbing herself as she laughed. Sally stood up and raised her glass. With four helpers and four cars. “To new beginnings. As the flat was partly furnished. but at other times he would remain engaged in conversation with John and Sally. we quickly filled each of them up.this man saved my life. “To new beginnings!” I noticed myself glancing in Mike‟s direction repeatedly. We all dutifully raised our glasses and clinked them together. but they took care to include me in their conversation. hi-fi and a portable television. She quickly regrouped and continued. bedding.” she started. Sometimes he would look back and acknowledge my interest. “…. “Penny. after we had consumed a pizza-takeaway and several bottles of wine.Friends or Lovers Chapter 37 It took us less time than expected to move Mike‟s stuff.” she lost her balance for a moment as the drink began to affect her. As the evening wore on I felt more and more relaxed. he needed to take only a few easily transportable things. unloaded and had four glasses of champagne on the table before the 7pm. By nine o‟clock. I mean that he rescued me in here.. plus his clothes.
“This man saved my career!” John smiled back and raised his glass to me in appreciation.” answered Mike.(hic)…. I wanted him in no doubt how special he was to me. I wobbled momentarily as I raised my glass to John. “Did he? Well. “He and his stinking brother can rot in hell for all I care.” Everybody laughed as I struggled to articulate what I felt. When he did that…. “You‟re one of life‟s superheroes.” responded Sally. “This man. “Well firstly. I stood up. sit down love and rejoin the party. he helped me see something that I couldn‟t see. As I spoke I looked deep into John‟s eyes.he stopped me causing this man…” . “How d‟ee do that?” I was feeling liberated so I let my feelings spill out. “If she wants to praise you.” 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. I never. “….Rory Ridley-Duff Mike‟s eyes looked everywhere but towards me and I sensed that he wished Sally would shut up. you!” I said boldly.” “Sod Dave!” she said. “Don‟t you look around the place like that!” she barked at Mike. “Come on Sal. “You leave „er alone. let „er!” As Sally sat down. Her boldness had made me bold and I wanted to say my piece as well. “I don‟t think Dave would see it like that….” I said looking at him.” Mike threw up a hand to discard her remark. I decided to mimic Sally so I feigned a stumble.
but I knew that I had more to say so I gathered myself and started to find the words. “I was about to do one of the most stupid things I‟d ever done.” said John.” I laughed as I realised just how comfortable I suddenly felt.. I do..” Mike‟s embarrassed look left his face and was replaced by one of genuine surprise.” He sat down again and with a resigned look. and I would‟ve done so if my good friend John – who I will now love forever….this man….” I said and then continued. braced himself for what he thought I was going to say.” As I stood there. but in my mind a whole world of understanding descended on me and I felt completely overwhelmed. “Ah shit! What the hell. Really you don‟t.Friends or Lovers I quickly glanced at Mike before continuing “…any more upset and pain. .this man…. “This man….this man…. the other three giggled away..” I looked at him and was overcome with such feelings of love and affection that I put my hand up again. Before I knew it there were tears in my eyes and I was struggling to talk. “You don‟t have to. John noticed and started to get up but I put my hand up to stop him.this man did more than save my career. “…. I did not understand what was happening to me. “John.” “Penny!” John interrupted again. “you don‟t have to say this. I do have to say it and I want these two to listen. “….” as the words formed in my head a single tear started to roll down one of my cheeks.” as these words spilled out my hand instinctively moved to cover my mouth. “Penny.
so I continued . What I‟ve done while at conferences would fill the pages of a Jackie Collins novel! But you. you….arsehole!” I said with a smile. I giggled at the comedy that was taking place.” and this time I paused for effect more than anything else. you changed all that. “You shut up too. I‟m the sort of person your mother warned you about.” 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. “For the last 10 years.” Sally and Mike were transfixed as they witnessed this intimate exchange. me.you…. honestly! Never know when to shut up….” As I spoke. “Right! This man…. John…” I fixed my eyes and aggressively pointed my finger at him. “Since when did you two get so close?” asked Mike. I mean really living – not just have a job and exist.. Good as gold at work. “…you made me want to behave!” Sally and Mike creased up with laughter as I fired my double barrel. John looked less worried and began to take in what I was saying. “You men. “taught me how to feel again. I‟ve known a series of jerks and losers and none of them ever made me actually want to know them. I had them all where I wanted them now. and John gave a short chuckle and relaxed in his chair. so this caught him by surprise.Rory Ridley-Duff “Shut up. You John. and I‟ll tell you!” Sally creased up with laughter when I called Mike an arsehole. but a vixen at night who stalks and preys on vain and needy men to satisfy her own vanity and neediness. I‟ve been a bad girl. “You‟ve had this coming to you for a long time so don‟t spoil it. you arsehole.
on the other hand…. grinned to himself contentedly. “You make me want to be bad too!” he whispered in my ear. There was not a force in the world that was going to stop it. started to join in too. on the other hand. In that moment. Mike. Then. Was this love? Was this lust? In that moment I was touched by my own humanity. stubborn…and surprising person I‟ve ever met. walking backward. As Mike‟s giggles subsided. better than any orgasm. I knew. Mike starred back at me and for a few seconds we were transfixed by each other.” I said conjuring up the sexiest look I could muster. came over and gave me a hug.Friends or Lovers with the performance and grew in confidence. 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. Sally. . the vixen started to return and my gaze left John and fixed on Mike.. And then he pulled away. better than any drug. “You make me want to be bad again!” When I said this. “You. despite her feelings. A modest contented grin was etched onto his face and we both knew what was going to happen. Sally‟s giggles subsided and it was John who creased up with laughter. And one more thing…” I held up both hands to stop them interrupting. This was living. he got up. 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. If I had thought that John had helped me to feel again. and kept his eyes on me while he sat down in his chair. I blew Mike a kiss then sat down. It was the most exquisite feeling I had ever known. “…are the most difficult. He roared and clapped. I knew.
She and John were lovers. . “Sally?” I quizzed. “he‟s been a bad boy a few times. “He was so loyal to this sweet woman that he nearly destroyed his marriage.” I was laughing again. “But I thought he told you?” I responded.Rory Ridley-Duff It took me a few moments to notice that Sally had climbed onto John‟s knee and was kissing his forehead. Then he was so loyal to Elona that he nearly destroyed his career.” answered John. “As for this one. She did not need to say anything. haven‟t you my dear?” Now it was my turn to crease up with laughter. Sally looked at me. the thought ran through my mind that his loyalty was coming to an end. Suddenly his resistance made sense. All my inhibitions regarding John vanished. you! And there was me thinking you were a devoted and loyal husband!” “You are mixing me up with Mike!” he said. I pointed at John and shouted at him. It was not only his family that he was protecting. and he glanced back. Mike raised his glass to John in appreciation but when I glanced at Mike.” I joked. “You sly old dog. “John! How long has this been going on?” He looked at me half-embarrassed. He was not the paragon of virtue I had believed him to be. “He‟s too damn loyal for his own good.” 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. “And there was I thinking that you are a family man.
his hands clutched my behind. “I want to talk about this. and our tongues touched.” he said. didn‟t you?” “Yes. . and asked Sally if I could borrow him for a minute. offered my hand to John.” I said to him. put my hands around his buttocks and pulled him close.” I replied. “You told her. We pulled each other close and snogged until we both sensed that enough was enough. gently parted. “Right you!” I said. That‟s why I had to go. Our lips met.. so I grabbed him and led him roughly across the living room and out of the flat. You must have known how much I wanted you. She consented. “You have no idea….” I remembered the recent phone call. As my hand slipped under his shirt and felt his strong body. “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.” As I said these words. I pressed myself up against him.” I got up from my chair.” said Sally. Why did you resist me?” He looked at me and draped his arms around my neck.Friends or Lovers “He is. darling. the situation. “Oh yes I have…. and you called me right in the middle of it! She thought you were Sally and started wrecking the house.” “Why did you tell her?” “I wanted to stay at Sally‟s while working on this contract. “One day soon. “He‟s frustratingly devoted to his wife and children. or the knowledge that he was weak with women. I was not going to waste this moment. Whether it was the drink.
but it‟s not that.” I nodded as I spoke. When the kids were both at . You‟re the first woman I‟ve not had to sleep with to keep interested. He did not have to explain how he felt. Very special.” “What about Sally?” “If I‟d not slept with Sally.” I stroked his face. That made you special.” I said.” “How are things with your wife?” “They‟re okay. that I‟ve not been afraid to love. not surprisingly.” “She‟s certainly a looker. Penny. I‟d have lost her. they would lose interest. I was there. very needy. With others.there has been one other. John. You are the first man. it was different somehow. after my father. Mike was gone. if they thought I was not intending to sleep with them. That was the price of continued friendship. “I love you. She was.” I said.” “And I love you too. If you „saved me‟. This isn‟t the first time for either of us. “Yes. You liked me from the moment we met. “That‟s what I thank you for the most. Just being with him had been enough for me too. I think. Things changed some years back.Rory Ridley-Duff “Sally is not the only woman that I‟ve given in to . even after I told you I wouldn‟t make a pass at you. I was part of her recovery. You made it possible for me to love again. “You look after her and I‟ll look after you. It was hard for her to leave her husband. Penny Leyton. Being with you was enough. I‟m fond of her and she was in a state after Mike returned to his wife. that‟s how you did it. But with you. “You have yourself a deal.” He laughed and held hands.
There‟s no way to get it back so things have changed. “Not so white as white.Friends or Lovers school she started working again. A nomadic life suits me and I have friends and nests in many places. at a time. We hugged again but this time .” With this exchange of words we made our pact. Soon after.” I said. thankfully.” “Don‟t worry. I‟m just a temporary distraction for her. I travel for days. I was determined to hold onto his love. am I? I hope you aren‟t disappointed. I admitted to her that I‟d thought of having an affair as well. We worked things through but a lot changed. When we are together we still have a fabulous time. You don‟t want to just drift between places like a visitor?” “With my work. “As long as you behave. I‟m travelling much more. The kids are older now. Sally won‟t marry me. “We both love the kids. we‟re able to get past blaming each other. sometimes weeks. I took the plunge. Maybe I can sleep in your nest occasionally?” I smiled. That was a lovely thought and I warmed to it. Penny. She holds a torch for Mike and likes having her own place. I admire her more than when we first married but the exclusivity has been lost. We both get lonely. We drifted apart and she had an affair. You‟re secret is safe with me. We found that we both liked the idea of more freedom. There‟s no reason to divorce. my whole life‟s like that. lover. Then I met Sally through Mike and gave in again! My wife and I are still good friends. This is a long contract and it‟ll be lovely to spend time with Sally.” “But you need somewhere that‟s a home.” “D‟you think you‟ll have a house in one piece when you get home?” I quipped. She‟s a lovely woman and.
It would be our joke – just as it had been for Sally and Mike .Rory Ridley-Duff it was devoid of sexual passion. I thought of Sally and Mike and how everyone thought they had been lovers. a bond as strong as I‟d ever known. It would be John and I that others would mistake now. only ones where they chose not to have sex. . we had become lovers of a sort. But I didn‟t care either way – the most important thing was to protect the trust. There was now such a deep intimacy. Our relationship was now like that. We knew that sex would be there if we ever both needed and wanted it at the same time. and mine alone. The memory is like a precious stone. I retired to the other with Mike. It was almost as if we were saying goodbye and hello at the same time. As for the rest of the evening. the most special moment of one of the most extraordinary days of my life. Sleeping with Mike for the first time was.that acquaintances would misunderstand. a priceless treasure that sparkles. without question. I hope you will forgive me for shielding it from gossip that would corrupt it. But when I thought about it. Sally retired to one of the bedrooms with John. This diamond is mine. We both understood our attraction to each other. I remembered John‟s words that there was no such thing as a non-sexual relationship between men and women.
I was astonished and frightened.Friends or Lovers Chapter 38 I went into work the next day on a tremendous high. Every few minutes I would pause to think of the future. From: dave. Can you I answered immediately. Don’t worry about it.leyton@innovation. To have waited nearly 33 years to discover this! Suddenly I understood why people could fall apart when their partner leaves.uk Subject: Sorry Pen. We all have off days.co.uk To: penny. or how a husband or wife might feel driven to murder after discovering the other was having an affair. As I sensed these feelings.co.stockton@innovation. Sorry about yesterday. worried and pleased at the passion I felt. As I settled down to my computer to retrieve my e-mails. If anybody tried to steal Mike from me. I felt capable of doing anything. and songs made sense and I realised people were not simply making it up. there was an apology from Dave. Is there anything we need to follow up after the product launch? I was irritable and too harsh. Even though I felt like telling him (and the whole world) what had happened the night before. forgive me? Dave. Suddenly all those soppy romance novels. . I was pleased that Dave apologised because that was how I expected him to be. it would have been imprudent and insensitive. movies.
Okay. “If any rumours start. Strange. “Thank you. That was fast work. What have you got for me?” “Elona‟s off sick again.Rory Ridley-Duff There was a knock at the door and Phil was standing with a cup of coffee.you…. “No need to do that today. That‟s very sweet of you. This was a surprise. Phil did not usually make coffee unless I asked. No answer from her parents?” “No.” Elona! I had forgotten about her in all the excitement. boss!” he said sarcastically. “Okay.?” I just kept silent and smirked enough for him to work out that he was right.. Have you called her?” “Yes. No answer. right?” he asked. She‟s over the 10-day mark and her manager is asking if you‟ll visit. “I guess that‟s a good idea. They‟ll probably be in the shop.” I responded. okay?” “Okay. Penny. “Don‟t tell me…. “Don‟t you go blurting this around the place. Keep it under wraps for now.” “Hmm.” I said.” “Sure thing..” “Hard to believe it myself.” . But I can‟t see this staying a secret for long.” “Have to keep the boss happy!” he joked.” Phil said. “You don‟t have sugar. “Bloody hell. I‟m happy enough for both of us. give me the address and I‟ll go round. That‟s the third time in two weeks. Phil looked up and my smile told him all he needed to know. I want them to come from me.
What do you want to do?” “Can I stay here a bit. “Elona! Elona.” “Feel free. “Oh the pet!” said her mother. wake her up and chat.” There was silence. I finally assembled something that looked appetising. “She‟s cried herself to sleep. We‟re at our wits end. We‟ll be in the shop.” I sat with Elona for fifteen minutes before stirring myself to go to the kitchen. “Elona?” I said gently as I rocked her shoulder. plates and bowls. so her mother gently opened the door of her room and a crumpled figure lay in the bed asleep. There was no reply so I entered the shop and spoke to her mother. We‟re worried sick. “You‟ve been busy!” “Yes. I took the liberty of putting together breakfast-in-bed.” I asked them to let me in. Don‟t know what to do.” *** I drove to Elona‟s flat and rang the bell. just crying and crying. all last night.” “What‟re you doing here?” she asked. Having played hide and seek with the butter. “She‟s up there but we can‟t get her out of bed. . my dear. “there‟s someone here to see you…. She turned around and after a moment of confusion she saw the breakfast tray. love!” she shouted. All weekend. of course. bread.Friends or Lovers “Yes. Her mother led me though the shop and up the stairs. maybe make her a drink. You looked like you could do with something.
” She sat up in bed and I gave her the tray. We sat there while she finished her breakfast and then she thanked me again. “You didn‟t have to come.” . I don‟t want that. “He‟ll just say I‟m depressed and give me some drugs. We were worried. This is kind of you. “Your mum and dad say you‟ve been upset. I could see the tear stains around her eyes. “This is kind of you. Nobody at work could contact you. “No. Eventually.” 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.” “I‟m sure they‟ll do what‟s best. “Elona.” As I looked at her face. She looked at me sorrowfully and tried to talk but nothing coherent came out. Without make-up she looked quite different.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m finding out how you are. but still had a girlish charm. Don‟t make me into a saint. I‟m here because you‟ve been off work for 10 days this year and it is my job to be here. I won‟t kid you. Have you seen a doctor?” She gave a dismissive laugh. And yet I did feel concern for her so I accepted her thanks. she started to nod and the tears began to flow as she tucked into her toast and cup of tea. I did not try to start a conversation and just sat next to her.” I responded. At the same time I do care what happens to you and if there‟s a way I can help then I will. It is hard watching someone sink into the depths of despair.” she commented.” “Just part of the job.
Nobody likes me.Friends or Lovers At this comment Elona looked at me angrily. She looked like she was going to explode. a failure. I‟ve seen your file and you‟ve earned that position. a zero. “What then?” I asked. It‟s all meaningless. completely fucking useless. I recalled the many conversations I‟d had with John. “I‟m nothing. “I said I don’t want that. In the back of my mind. I‟m useless.” My efforts were not rewarded. “Don‟t give me that crap. I heard you. a waste of space. “Yes. Nobody likes me. “I don‟t give a shit.” she said. 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. however. “Nothing. As I walked out of the room a torrent of abuse showered my back as . “I need you. I was on my own and had to do the best I could.” I said. There are people at work who believe in you.” I said.” I listened with patience. Even though she was slightly built I began to feel a bit afraid.” “Is this to do with Nathan?” At this remark she turned toward me and I could see the rage building in her face.” It was my turn to show a bit of aggression. Administrators are ten-a-penny.” “Why?” I asked. so I started to clear the tray and returned to the kitchen. “I‟m useless. Nobody. “You don‟t need me. I wondered if he might be able to help. At the moment.
I tried to remain calm but it was difficult. Do you understand?” She made no movement so I repeated the question and she gave a nod of her head. her exboyfriend.Rory Ridley-Duff she screamed the place down about Nathan. Phil. She turned onto her side and wept again. I sat with her for another quarter of an hour. me. I need to go now. “Elona. Mike. motionless except for the occasional stroke of her face. . her parents. We had all ruined her life. 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. work.
Penny!” he said slightly stiffly. looking down towards his crotch. .. As I walked through the door. I busied myself.” I said. “What can I do for you?” “Can I speak to you in private?” I asked. but none that I can act on here.” I said. he smiled at me as if it was any other day at work.” I whispered back. “Anything in particular you want to speak about?” he enquired.I do. “…. What is it?” he asked as soon as I closed the door. “Any ideas?” he replied. Next I went to see Mike. My first port of call was John.” He pulled his head away and I noticed there was a bulge in his trousers. “If there was a cold shower somewhere. Even though I was there on business.and there was I hoping you wanted to shag me in the toilets…. He was in a meeting with Jo. I‟d go and have one. I managed to calmly lead him into his own office. “Hello…. 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. “Plenty.err…. but he agreed to take a break at mid-day and chat to me in the canteen.” “We‟ve got to keep a lid on it at work. “Elona!” I said in response and suddenly he dropped the formality and whispered in my ear. but this has to come first …. “Better do something about that!” I said with a smile. “…. “Okay.Friends or Lovers Chapter 39 For the rest of the day.
I allowed him to kiss me briefly but stopped him when I felt my passion rising. He walked over and silenced me with a kiss. My hand instinctively jumped to my mouth.Jeez! I‟ve only just got you to myself.” I proffered. We were always friends before and I‟m sure we will be again.Rory Ridley-Duff “Elona needs somewhere to stay. I‟ll talk to John later. “Let them!” he said. I could hardly believe what I‟d said and started to apologise profusely. if you want to get back with your wife…. but he anticipated me.” “Does that mean you‟d be okay if she moved into the other room?” “It‟s going to look very odd. “You‟re not thinking…. I don‟t hold what happened against her. “Of course. It‟s technically your place. She was upset and I was there so she took it out on me. “Stop! People will see. He looked surprised at my remark..” “Elona and I have always got on well. “Are you checking me out?” he queried.” I protested. I‟m not sure it‟d be a good idea anyway. Penny?” he said. I wanted to know how you felt about the idea. I can‟t act without your consent. Is it really that urgent?” “Well actually.” “Elona? What‟s the problem now?” “The same problem. I visited her and she‟s in a right state. .” “What d‟you have in mind?” I gave a half smile and got ready to ask him. but I think she needs some space to herself.
“Already?” I asked. “I‟m all yours. I told her again that there were people at work who cared. “May as well have sent out an e-mail!” he retorted with a chuckle. As I sat with John in the canteen. 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.Friends or Lovers “I‟ll tell her…. She took the news of the flat offer in her stride and did not seem to show any great enthusiasm. When I returned in the afternoon. I turned to leave the room.I‟ll tell her that she can move in next weekend if she wants. 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. Elona was up and dressed. When I got back to the office. just a little kiss in his office. “Not a word passed my lips!” said Phil as I brought him a cup of tea.” I replied.” “Why next weekend?” he asked.” Phil looked at me warmly. One of his staff had noticed our kiss and by lunchtime a rumour was making its way around the offices. one of the reps came up and congratulated me. She promised to think about it and let me know the next day. “What did you do – send out a company wide e-mail?” “No.” he said with a big grin. the rumour about myself and Mike had spread to Phil. “Oh well! It‟s out now. .
Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m happy for you. crashing and spinning out of control. 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. Where on earth had this come from? As I tried to find answers to impossible questions. “Oh fuck!” . and the clarity I had brought to work evaporated as my mind felt like it was turning to treacle. just two words sprang forth from his lips. 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.” he said. Beads of sweat formed over my body and face. the high spirits that had kept me aloft all day dissolved. “What‟s up. Penny?” I swivelled my screen around so he could read the e-mail. After a few moments. With every passing minute. Subject: Sorry Pen. my heart sank slowly into the quicksand of despair. By 4.30pm Phil found me slumped at my desk. *** At my desk.
but after receiving Dave‟s e-mail. Intermittently. I returned to Mike‟s flat. stroking me. To others we looked like a regular couple but inside I was full of questions about how far I could trust him.” he answered. Now I had a personal problem it dawned on me that I hardly knew him. my mind was preoccupied. He made me a cup of coffee. My right hand rested on his knee and every few moments I would caress it and sometimes rub the inside of his knee. I could see a potential for disaster. He joked that the second was “just in case”.Friends or Lovers Chapter 40 Instead of going home. I think he expected me to jump him as I walked through the door. Even though we were not speaking.I . He sat at one end of the sofa and I put my head on his lap. we communicated a lot. he would slide his fingers between mine and hold my hand more tightly . but the promise to explore the love-making potential of the flat was a distant thought. Sometimes. I gave him a hug. He seemed to take it in his stride and did not press me. sat with me. “Just in case we finish the first one. 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. His right hand lay on the side of my face. 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. “Just in case what?” I asked. He went out for bottle of wine and came back with two. watched the television and held my hand. his left hand would stroke the back of mine and I would move my head and nestle it even more deeply in his lap.
“What do you mean?” . “Are you going to tell me about your wife?” I asked. “Plenty of time for that!” It was a small remark.the little things. but it gave me confidence that he looked upon me as more than a fling. “I remember this film. a line from a film entered my head. “Where‟s this coming from. don‟t they?” “I hope so. “When did you know?” I asked. “Know what?” he replied. I was not really watching it so I started to ask Mike questions. there‟s nothing bigger is there?‟ Don‟t you think that‟s a great line?” He smiled and stroked my head again. “The little things. you are stroking me. “Well I was just lying here and our hands are touching.” he said. There‟s nothing bigger is there?” “Little what?” he answered. “When I insulted you!” I sat up and looked at him. I‟m stroking you. “Know how you felt about me?” I answered. There‟s a man standing with a woman and she‟s talking about her husband who has just died. Penny?” he asked. “Not yet. I sipped the wine as the TV programme played in the background. She says to him „I miss the little things‟ and the man replies „ah!….” he said. and these little things mean a lot. As I lay there.Rory Ridley-Duff would respond by tightening my grip to catch and squeeze his fingers.
I remember being really angry. Firstly. “When did you know?” he asked. Before I had time to think. I can‟t remember ever standing up to my wife like that. yes. but at home I‟ve always been quite passive. . when you asked why women let men think they rule the world. Do you remember that?” “Yes. 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. “Well. “Won‟t forget that in a hurry!” “Well there I was shouting at you.” I laughed out loud because at that moment I would have fed him to the sharks. Secondly. I did. I think there were two moments.” I encouraged.” “Go on. when you held my gaze and would not look away. I‟d always pegged you as old fashioned and that completely took me back.” I answered. “I was thinking how nice it would be if you made a pass at me. And there I was challenging you on whether you had ever made a pass at a man.” “Do you remember when we first met?” he asked. then looking at you intently thinking that a woman as confident and smart as you would surely have made a pass at a man. maybe. At work. I thought and went back over my mind.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 was not sure how to react. “You thought of that while we were arguing?” “Well. so the thought came into my head. he‟d asked me the same question.
“Go on. “John. Dave had successfully hidden this from me for nine months.” he replied. “I was with Dave. Anyway. I thought back. didn‟t I?” commented Mike. He said to be careful because of you. I started the joke then stopped when I saw you walking toward us. “I annoyed you. He told me to watch out for you because you were a „ball breaker‟” “He said that!” I exclaimed. “He‟d say that I censored myself because I was afraid of you. but Harry insisted on you. “Why are you laughing?” I demanded. I pegged you as a paternalistic antifeminist old git. “Dave and I were chatting and I was about to tell him a sexual joke. “Tell me. He preferred the other candidate. “Why would you be afraid of me when you don‟t even know me?” . “What about him?” I asked.” Mike laughed.” he replied. you did.” he said.” “Is that true?” It was Mike‟s turn to reflect. after a moment.” “My God! I remember now. “Yes.” I commanded.” I interjected. “He didn‟t want you in the company.Rory Ridley-Duff I tried to recollect but I couldn‟t.” This came as a surprise. “I was thinking what John would say. He‟d been bitching about Harry insisting on your appointment. Yes.” I directed. “Yes.
Without any further words he pulled my face closer. “No. . I‟m sexist because I‟m excluding you. “It was brilliant. a witty remark would have been forthcoming as he popped the cork.” I said sinking into his lap.” “That‟s the problem. His mouth met mine and we got properly reacquainted. “Because you didn’t tell me the joke. “I don‟t know any male manager today who‟s not afraid of sexual accusations. It was strangely reassuring. damned if you don‟t. “Damned if you do. I‟m afraid. One of John‟s best. you are!” I responded. “I didn‟t want your first impression of me to be a bad one. “Why?” he asked.” I said.” “What do you mean?” I queried “If I tell the joke. “I can imagine.” I replied. he did not routinely crack jokes or flirt when he was alone with me.” I thought back to my e-mail exchanges with John.” he said.” he replied. We soon finished the first bottle of wine and opened the second. If he had been John.Friends or Lovers Mike looked me in the eye. “What‟s the problem?” I asked. If I don‟t tell the joke. I‟m sexist because I turn women into sex objects.” “Well. but Mike was quieter and calmer. “Tell me the joke.” “Are you serious?” Mike frowned. While he had charm and sex appeal. “My God.” “Was it a good joke?” I said trying to lighten the mood. it was.
I am.” .” “Did he really?” said Mike with a sarcastic knowing laugh. yes. His body was relaxed and I felt comfortable opening up to him. Nice.” I said. not absolutely sure how I felt about him now. didn‟t I?” I quipped.” I blurted out. “Dave and I go back a long way. “Well.Rory Ridley-Duff “I had a shock today. I was his boss back then. “Yeah! He behaves great to his favourites or women he fancies.” he continued. “He asked me to find out about you.” he answered seductively as his hand moved under my blouse.” I recalled how Dave had been suspicious of Mike. He‟s never done that before. Mike felt no need to press me to explain myself. “Too repressed?” “Yeah.” I said. “You‟re concerned?” he asked. Do that some more. “We joined IC at roughly the same time.” he said with considerable force. “And?” “That‟s it. “Hmmm. around my waist and started to caress the small of my back.” I remarked. Clearly the feelings were reciprocated.” I said.” he answered. Comes across as such a „nice guy‟ but underneath beats a heart of appalling meanness. “I‟ve always liked him. “Very well indeed. “Dave sent me an e-mail that was sexually suggestive. “Did pretty well. Mike obliged but kept talking at the same time. Get on the wrong side of him and you‟ll discover just what a bastard he can be.” “Too repressed for his own good.
“What?” “Doesn‟t work!” he said again. “You like being teased. Where did he get these insights from.” he replied. “Get on with your story.” I suddenly pretended to be stupid. there is usually a man and woman involved!” “Cynic!” I joked.” He paused. “What about the other half?” “Optimist!” he said without missing a beat. Whenever there is shit in the workplace. “You‟re teasing me!” I answered. I wondered. “Oh. “Are you going to ask how?” he continued. “Only half the time…” he answered.” I said with mock impatience. “What doesn‟t work?” “The „can you explain it to me coz I‟m a stupid woman‟ routine. as if waiting for me to ask a question. . “Okay. I began to realise that his wit was considerably drier than John‟s. Please explain it for me. How?” “She was Dave‟s sister-in-law.” he asserted. Mike.Friends or Lovers “What happened?” I asked. “Sally?” I responded with some surprise. “Oh yes. smiling or wavering for an instant. You know how dim women can be. “Sally used to be related to Dave. “We fell out over Sally.” he said.” “Doesn‟t work!” he suddenly said.
.Rory Ridley-Duff He did not play the way that John played so I tried another approach. “Say again?” I asked.” he answered. I could feel my confidence and ardour beginning to build. “You are so sexy when you raise your voice. yes. “Just get on with the bloody story.” “It‟s okay – I was being rhetorical!” I said. Dave‟s brother used to beat her. .” I said. will you?” I said briskly. It was beginning to dawn on me that Mike liked to play things straight. “Sally used to…. “Sally used to be married to Dave‟s brother.” Mike concluded. “What are you smiling for?” I asked. “What?” I asked. “So now you know why he and I are not best buddies. “Oh. gathering words together in my head. He gave a gesture to indicate that he did not understand. “Well. my lad. With only a moment‟s hesitation. I like strong direct women. “You are going to like me a lot!” He relaxed a bit and laughed.” I sat up straight and suddenly the pieces dropped into place.” he replied. “That works!” he said with a laugh. he continued and finished the story. You‟ve had this story from John so I‟m not sure what else to tell you. He might not make me laugh as much as John. “You like it. but his assertive and commanding manner turned me on. do you?” I queried. There was just a hint of smile on his face.
“Okay.” he responded.” “Yes. I don‟t. he thinks I fucked Sally and broke up his brother‟s marriage. When I told him the details of the recent e-mail exchanges. Whatever Dave felt when he recruited me.and Sally. “Just try to look at this from his perspective.” “Did you?” I asked.. “He has to know sometime. her illness. that Dave had invited me out after the CIPD event in Birmingham and that we would be staying in the hotel together. there could be more unpleasantness.” I said. And out it all came.” I insisted. You leave your wife after a big row . What would Dave do if he found that I was sleeping with Mike? “Maybe we should deny our relationship?” I suggested.” he replied. I began to wonder whether I had been completely blind. I thought he was getting ready to make a move on me.” I started. “No. So what? Then the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place and I instinctively covered my mouth in shock.” I said.” Mike replied. “You and I are at loggerheads.. If Mike and Dave had fallen out once before. my fondness for him. “You don‟t need me to answer that. “Still want to hear. “He thinks that you….” I added.Friends or Lovers I still did not get it completely. I told Mike of Dave‟s wife. The words came out so fast I had no time to retract them. No wonder Dave had a grudge against Mike! Suddenly my need to tell Mike about Dave‟s e-mail became more urgent. He had helped Sally.” “You may not like it. “He thinks…. “I want to tell you more.
” Mike pointed out. “He must have taken your message as encouragement…. For the next 10 minutes he chased me all over the flat until he managed to corner me in the bathroom. After she moved in. So I shoved him off the sofa. I don‟t want to take the risk. we used my flat as a new base. That was the first of many times we made love there.Rory Ridley-Duff with me in the workplace. Then it comes out that we are sleeping together. Mike and I made the most of our freedom. I repeated the recent e-mail exchanges with Dave. Within a month neither of us had any secrets left to tell. 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. . he gave me another shove and I realised he wanted to play. How does that look to you? Dave behaved strangely at the pub the other night. got up and ran away. “What did he say. When I did not respond. “I didn‟t mean it like that. As I backed up against the wall.” “You? Polite?” he teased again. Never in my life had I enjoyed such passion and intimacy with a man. I was just being polite after the hasty exit the night before. The next day Elona decided she wanted to move in and with only a few days of freedom. The following morning he didn‟t want to sign the contract for this flat. I gave him a playful shove and he shoved me back with a deadpan face. I suddenly felt quite clever. Mike!” Having felt a bit dim a moment before. Later he and I had our first angry words. his strong frame moved towards me and my screams gave way to giggles. I find you a company flat to move into. again?” asked Mike.
I talked to her of the things we had done together. he might file for divorce so we could marry. Carole phoned me daily after Mike and I had appeared for lunch at my parents. Privately Mike and I had discussed that if we enjoyed living together. our plans firm and concrete. But publicly nobody. To call this a “whirlwind romance” does not do it justice. for all the intense times we spent together. we announced that he would be moving into my flat. I savoured every second. he learnt of mine. Many joint dreams were born. and our love-making was varied and passionate. knew of our plans. At the end of each . we started to talk extensively about politics (office and otherwise). but we were never a lovely-dovey couple. our first month felt like a honeymoon that would never end. The threads of our lives intertwined and bonds were woven into a fabric so strong that I could not imagine them ever breaking. he listened to my memories of childhood. for all the future plans we mapped out. they accepted and welcomed this development and all quietly congratulated me. I turned up at my parent‟s house for Sunday lunch with Mike in tow. But throughout all this. towards the end of June. Even as they expressed surprise. for all the commitments we made. the words “I love you” never passed our lips. I listened to his experiences as a father. Carole and my parents thought I had disappeared off the face of the earth. but never of our future aspirations. not even John and Sally. For sure our relationship took off at quite a pace. Our conversations were realistic and grounded. I learnt of his dreams and fantasies. When. If our first night together was the most special moment of my life. John and Sally occasionally dropped in and we would all go out for a meal.Friends or Lovers Despite the generation gap.
fortunately. Like true professionals. The only person I updated from time to time was Phil. make everybody laugh and be beautiful. there was a conspiracy of silence. the rumours at work died quickly and did not spread further. we remained the very souls of discretion. If people knew. We talked about her forthcoming wedding and the preparations. Dave. He. told me about people that he fancied. . To my surprise.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. speech in hand. I apologised for not getting more involved but she assured me that mum was on top of everything. in turn. All I needed to do was to turn up. did not learn of our relationship and Mike and I managed to keep our contact low-key and light-hearted. I broke the news to her that I would have to pass up the opportunity of shagging the best man.
our personal relationship had cooled. confirmation was a formality but this new situation meant that I could no longer take my appointment for granted. We exaggerated.Friends or Lovers Chapter 41 The prospect of going to the CIPD event with Dave was something that I came to dread. also met Sam and Elaine regularly to develop marketing strategies. I felt that raising it with him was too risky. 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. we developed too. . Neither of us spoke about the situation with his wife or his admission that he fantasised about me. So far as I could tell. In the back of my mind I wondered whether it was wise to say nothing. Even if he had said it as a joke. but there was sufficient common ground to compare perspectives. as sales manager for the domestic market. Her background in sociology and international business was different to mine. I would join them for drinks and found that I particularly enjoyed Elaine‟s company. After much drinking we playfully acted out the battle-axe and gentle man confronting each other angrily while an unspoken mutual passion was developing. of course. The story of how Mike and I got together became something of a party piece. Mike. As a group. Following the launch of the SHARE experience. While we still worked together well on a professional level. I was conscious that my probationary period was coming to an end and Dave would decide my future. and many side-stories and alternative plot lines were elaborated.
She had also been a human resources manager before advancing her education.” “Get something you can wear for other occasions as well!” said Elaine. and the company‟s ignorance of its potential. Their close working relationship evolved into a personal one.Rory Ridley-Duff Elaine became the first person to learn of my private aspiration to marry Mike. It had been a struggle but the relationship with IC was a breakthrough. After all their hard work. I arranged to go with her to Birmingham beforehand to buy an evening dress. On the day of the CIPD conference. It was her interest in his engineering. For the last 5 years they had developed their product line. I look good in tight black dresses but perhaps that would be too risqué. After obtaining an MBA she took up a senior management post at the engineering company where Sam had been working. They decided to establish a new company for Sam to continue working on his ideas. “Not sure. . but as I‟m going with Dave I don‟t want to send out the wrong signals. “I guess. “So what you going to get?” Elaine asked. I love sexy outfits. We would take lunch together and have girly chats. She picked me up about 10am and we made our way up the motorway. they were beginning to achieve security both for themselves and the company. They married secretly and this triggered a hostile reaction from some board members.” “Is there such a thing?” she asked. that spurred their close relationship. This enabled them to expand their market and leverage in considerable financial investment.
“Some of them do. lunch. She was irrepressible. “Men use their power when it suits them.” I quipped. but I don‟t have millions stashed away to bring in the punters. I nodded and she carried on. I could hardly wear something like that to work!” She glanced at me and we laughed at the thought. It hung at the knee and had a waist that was gathered with a belt that was covered in ethnic beads. elegant with a cut that was suggestive without being too daring. irresponsible and exuded a freedom than I‟d never witnessed at close quarters. After a few seconds. We shouldn‟t be embarrassed about using ours. “If only men tasted as good!” said Elaine.Friends or Lovers “Depends. After shopping.” I quipped. “You‟ll have to introduce me. she took her foot off the gas and cruised into Birmingham at 90mph. “Just ask Erin Brockovich. .” “Killer combination. She reminded me of John. A matching necklace and earrings completed the vision. “Don‟t know about you love. I found a lovely black dress. Her Porsche 911 accelerated quickly and my body pressed back into the seat.” “You better believe it!” And with our sights set on the shops. surely. “Chocolate delight! They weren‟t kidding were they?” I said as I tucked away another slice and sipped on my café latte.” she answered. flushed with shock and excitement.” she replied. great boobs and a sharp brain. we retired for coffee and cake. 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. coffee and chocolate cake. But I do have a lovely pair of legs.
then pairs of people acted out one-to-one meetings between an employee and personnel officer. 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. and closing comments. pampered myself with goodies from my overnight bag. After a question and answer panel. Their employment rights had been strengthened.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‟. The CIPD event went off well. Dave and I checked into the hotel and agreed to meet in the bar about 6. then sat in front of the mirror applying my face. Of particular concern were provisions regarding temporary and part-time staff. we adjourned and were asked to come back at around 7. Various scenarios were introduced on video. we were split into workgroups for role-play exercises that covered recent legislative changes. 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.30pm. I showered. I talked more about my thoughts and feelings to Mike. . My new circle of friends gradually brought me out of my shell. I found an emotional security that reminded me of my early childhood.30pm for the dinner. Nagging at the back of my mind was the possibility that he might be harbouring feelings for me. We said our farewells and departed to attend to our respective tasks. Elaine and John than to everyone else in the whole of my life. My sense of well-being grew. but many organisations still did not grasp the full impact. After an opening key speech.
” .” He duly ordered and the barman said he would bring it to our table. Dave looked slightly flustered. Dave was chatting and laughing with the barman. “Thank you. He presented the till slip for Dave to sign. ma‟am!” he said with appropriate emphasis.” “Thank you.Friends or Lovers At 6. The barman looked surprised but took the hint and gave me the bill. “What would you like?” asked Dave. “I don‟t suppose it matters who signs it. “That was a bit „familiar‟. “Barman?” I said boldly. I‟ll have a rum and black. “Here she is!” he said. He smiled gently at me but it only increased my nervousness. I felt I should broach the subject of his wife. I signed it and gave it back to him. Penny!” he said and we both smiled. wasn‟t it? Do you know him?” “No. I was just being polite.” he responded. He turned to face me again. “She‟s stable.30 I made my way down to the bar. I expected more than this. Dave. but nothing was forthcoming. “How are things at home?” I asked. Perhaps I should have complimented him too but I didn‟t. Penny! I‟m not the queen. “Here you are ma‟am.” he said looking at me. “You can call me.” said the barman as he delivered the drink. Given the occasion. “Thanks. and the prospect of spending the whole evening together. “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 said. But please don‟t tell me how to behave towards people when I‟m not at work.” I said.” I answered. We sat in silence for a few minutes. . “Dave?” I said. A bubble of rage formed in the pit of my stomach but I managed to contain it. “Oh lighten up. I felt so awkward that I got up and went back to my room. Dave. which made me all the more cantankerous.” he said defensively. “Just don‟t. however.” I started. “You shouldn‟t be too familiar with bar staff. however.” “You are at work. At the end of the conversation. I decided to see if table places had been set. First. Penny. That was a really dumb thing to do with my appraisal only a few weeks away so I phoned Mike on my mobile. At first he laughed.” I said dismissively. I began to panic. but he managed to calm me down. You‟re representing the company here. being polite to the hotel staff. Penny?” “Up yours!” I said.” “You were. “I don‟t want to fall out with you. “Yes.” he said sternly. I decided that it would be stupid not to. Penny. holding my drink aloft. “Dave.Rory Ridley-Duff I wondered if we were in for a bad tempered night. Penny. “You were flirting with the barman. I was none the wiser whether I should apologise or not. “Don‟t use that tone with me. immediately recalling that Dave was laughing with the barman when I entered.” “And I was doing it splendidly.
“Not at the moment. I thanked Jules then went to the private bar to order another rum and black. He turned around and acknowledged me. The food was well presented but not especially delicious. but there was no smile. were excellent. no.” he said. I take it?” she asked. the conference manager. This time I went back to the private bar without making a show of my feelings. “Thank you. “I‟m sorry for earlier. however. The sea change in our relationship worried me. I waited for him to give me an apology in return. “Dave?” I asked. Waiters and waitresses plied us at regular intervals with wine and aided the socialisation over dinner. That was rude of me. but none was forthcoming.” I said. Husbands and wives joined the delegates and professional bodies had been invited for the evening speakers and networking opportunities. It had been turned into a charity event so the 50 participants were swelled with another 200 people for the dinner.” “Forget it.Friends or Lovers In the dining room I met Jules. I had been allocated a place next to Dave so I asked Jules if I could sit elsewhere. Using her mobile she called reception and about ten minutes later a man came through with an amended seating plan. With the prospect of a stressful evening receding. who showed me to a private bar and the seating plan for the evening.” she said with a warm smile.” “Not too keen on your boss. “Glad to help.” I answered. I returned to the main bar. “I really appreciate this. My table included a CEO and his . The service and company.
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
Friends or Lovers
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?”
He somehow managed to avoid accusing his audience. more measured. He paused and the audience obliged with more laughter.” He paused again and took another swig of „gin‟. During Ben‟s induction. Diane told him about the company annual dinner. “Yes – it‟s funny. . isn‟t it?” he agreed with his audience. and without fail there is some set piece bit of „corporate fun‟. “Okay. Then he delivered a killer sentence.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked around and saw some people nodding. It involves Ben and Diane.” John smiled.” he continued boldly. Diane is a CIPD qualified member of staff. “This leads me onto my second story. Then his tone suddenly became quieter. the hum of personal reflection lingered in the air. In the silence that followed. “Here‟s the rest of the story. but everyone in the room suddenly felt embarrassed that they had been laughing. but questioning. The audience laughed some more. they had a „Butt of the Year‟ competition. I looked hard but couldn‟t find that induction technique in the CIPD manual!” he quipped. but this story has a challenging ending. “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. but this time it belongs to a man. The year Ben joined. This also has a lovely butt in it. John‟s tone was not critical. “Diane thought one of the directors‟ butts was so sexy that she described it to Ben during his induction. okay – I realise that some of you probably consider this essential work in the run up to the Christmas party. Each year they have a big celebration. This involved a number of men taking pictures of each others‟ naked bottoms and creating a slide show for the women.
told Ben he had admirers and then got jealous when Ben admired someone . put ice cubes down Ben‟s trousers at a party. When Ben asked why.” A few people in the audience gasped. hypocritical and sexist. Diane reported his activities to her own manager. She told him repeatedly that he had „admirers‟. They started to go out for drinks after work. Ben thanked her and felt reassured. Diane flung her arms around Ben and playfully put ice cubes down his trousers. Ben responded that he liked one or two of the women at work and had asked one out for a drink. “Ben‟s marriage collapsed and Diane offered him a place to sleep. Ben argued with the company‟s MD. invited Ben to stay at her house. „You won‟t be lonely.” “You may think that you know what is coming…….” John raised his volume a couple of notches to finish the story “He was fired. He did not mind her attention and they grew close. His objections fell on deaf ears. “So!” he said. Diane got cross and told him he should not look for love at work. “a woman who talked openly about her lust for a male director during Ben‟s induction. Diane confessed that her marriage was sexless. Both were married.Friends or Lovers “At the Christmas Party.” “Instead of being pleased for him.‟ she told him. He thanked her but did not accept.” he teased. Ben argued that the accusation was unjustified. Ben confessed his wife had been having an affair. Ben was questioned for over an hour in a private room about „inappropriate‟ behaviour. She now claimed that Ben was „womanising‟ and might misuse personnel records.
Both parties are responsible. my main point is not that men can also be subject to sexual harassment or false allegations.Rory Ridley-Duff else…she only had to make an accusation that Ben might be behaving inappropriately for his world to quickly fall apart.” John paused again. Maybe we are trying to be accepted. “What can we learn from this?” continued John. Accusations often reveal as much about who is hurting as who is being hurt. Both parties play a part. only the accusation itself. The accuser may be given special protection before it is known whether their accusation is true. Our desires are not always sexual. Workplace behaviour arises out of our desire for. in turn. intimacy. at the way the accusation against Mike has triggered the storm inside IC. or our desire to avoid. This said.” I thought back over my own experience. That much is obvious and while it is not discussed much. HR departments rarely investigate the motive for an accusation. “a kind of power that we don‟t acknowledge. “Firstly. We had weathered it but not without capsizing a few times. Maybe we are trying to avoid loneliness. Those desires. most enlightened people realise it. Most people are like icebergs. feeling accepted by a sexually . Attention switches immediately to the accused.” he said. Nine tenths of what might be known is submerged beneath the surface. “These are two cases where the underlying dynamics are known. “My main point is that whenever there is a sexual conflict it is usually underpinned by a complex intimate relationship. “That is power. but this time he did so for effect. are affected by what is taking place in our lives outside work.
to conclude. I could be accused in the same way as Ben. emotive and triggers disruptive conflicts. “Two thoughts for you as you retire to the bars. would I have been guilty of sexual harassment? Or was her behaviour.Friends or Lovers desirable or successful person is particularly meaningful. enough to pay for over 20 days of mediation. 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. That ignores the costs of training and lost . 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. I ask you to think of the cost of replacing staff. Isn‟t this the most naïve policy in the history of humankind? “So. 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. I want you to think about how to contribute to the current debate on equality of opportunity and sexual harassment. if Patsy had objected when I started to talk to her on the airplane. by deliberately being provocative. In Ben‟s case it cost the company over ten thousand pounds to replace him. How would you go about investigating that to undercover „the truth‟?” “So. are we destroying our society with zero-tolerance policies? Are we compromising our ability to take. regardless of my intent. therefore. It is. 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‟. Firstly.
turning on the professional charm. Hope I‟m not interrupting anything.” “Dave! Good talk. I can see. I got up and walked towards the front. while this is an ethical issue. “You might have asked. was surprisingly astute. eh?” “You think I‟m being economical with the truth.” “And I‟m a case study. mate.” I said. “You know each other a lot better than you are telling me. am I?” “An anonymous one. So. When John saw me. My name is John.” The audience broke into a round of applause.” “Indeed we do. “Hello. It ignores whether the replacement is as good at the job. Suddenly I felt another person moving up beside me. yes!” “And close friends.” said John. “Can you forgive me?” he asked.” “Not at all. “Such a good story and I never thought that you would ever be in one of my audiences. I did not join in. “Get away with what?” asked Dave. My mood changed and John noticed instantly. just this once. he initially beamed with pleasure. “Ladies and Gentlemen . I did not realise that ……” . however. Instead. Dave.” I said with a smile.thank you for listening! My name is John Simons and I am at your service. John smiled as we shared the private joke. Penny?” “I‟ll let you get away with it. it is also a financial one. then – as he realised that I had been in the audience – he started to look apologetic.Rory Ridley-Duff productivity. My business cards and these two cases are available on the table.
I‟ll join you in a second.” “And John.Friends or Lovers Oh God! I prayed that he was not about to say what I though he was about to say. Dave laughed. “And you don‟t. Dave nodded. John and I hesitated. Is this the John you mentioned to me? The one you met on a plane?” I hesitated. “So am I. “but like most adults I still end up in situations where there is flirting. “Yes. “If you go to the bar and order what you like. “I‟m married!” he said indignantly.” “Are you coming. “Well. Dave?” asked John. “….” said Dave. “Would you like to have this conversation at the bar so I can buy you a drink?” asked John. you are a dark horse. Penny. “Don‟t you flirt?” asked John. whether I like it or not. you don‟t just flirt with barmen. but also strange men in airports!” John joined in the conversation again.” “One of your best friends!” said Dave. is this Patsy?” asked Dave pointedly.. Penny?” asked Dave. “Don‟t what?” asked Dave. How else can people establish another person‟s motive?” Dave was slightly taken aback at these remarks. one of my best friends was in the audience. Just ask them to charge it to Room 1156 and I‟ll sign the receipt in a moment. There was little point denying it. . “So. “Flirting is dangerous.” replied John.
He did not agree with that. Most people do this in non-threatening ways and it works most of the time. You‟ve got a problem. said John. okay. “Always leads to trouble. Many find it fun. I just want a quick word with John. “Tell me about it. I accept it is a problem for them. We found a space to talk. On the way. We had an argument earlier this evening. It is those who are inexperienced or shy who are uncomfortable with flirting. However. John did agree with Freud. “He‟s hurt.” John and I made our way to the bar. “I disagree. “I‟ll join you in a second. Was it not all a bit Freudian? Not really. “I‟ve chatted to Mike and thought we were through this.” “Do you want to talk about it later?” asked John.” . in the sense that sexual desires and aspirations underpinned a lot of adult behaviour. Freud thought it all emanated from complexes formed in childhood experiences. we got to the bar and Dave was ready with our drinks.Rory Ridley-Duff John glanced in my direction and I realised that he was trying to get me on my own. Having negotiated these questions. “Yes. They push and probe to check out how the other responds. It‟s getting worse and worse.” said Dave.” Dave had committed himself now and went off to the bar. he engaged with people who wanted to talk to him.” said John boldly.” “I can meet you later if you like?” he asked again. Were the stories true? Yes. “You were saying that flirting is dangerous?” remembered John. totally true. “Flirting is a good way for men and women to establish the level of intimacy they want in their relationships.” said John.
“I‟ve had to deal with many problems caused by flirting. “You‟re a good flirt!” I wanted John to stop because his comments could deepen my problems. also picked up that some covert message was passing between us. John. “Insensitive?” I asked. It was almost as if he was suggesting that Dave was inexperienced and shy. but it has certainly landed others…” I responded.” said John.” said John. “…as well you know!” John picked up my allusion and acknowledged my concern. “I can‟t say that flirting has ever landed me in deep water at work.” said Dave.” insisted Dave. Penny?” said John. however. The sarcasm was back and I couldn‟t help fuelling the situation. “Perhaps that‟s not a good word.” answered John. . “Only if people are insensitive to each other. “Yes we are. “But it causes so much disagreement. I added a rider as a warning shot.” he added. “Sounds like you‟ve discussed this before. Too much experience. “Not directly.” “Don‟t buy it. how is Sally?” “Sally?” asked Dave.” answered John. By the way.” commented Dave. mate.” said Dave arrogantly. “What about you. Dave. “but I think we will later. “Flirting causes misunderstandings.” “I don‟t doubt it.Friends or Lovers I was not sure whether John intended to be offensive but he was coming perilously close. as John proceeded to respond. “Oh! Are you two getting together?” asked Dave. “but you won‟t notice all the problems that are solved by it. They never land on your desk.
“Before or after you arranged the flat for him?” Dave asked with disdain. Before I could answer. “Small world. By asking John about Sally it invited John to ask me about Mike. isn‟t it?” he added. “After!” I said firmly. “Just recently – hardly got used to the idea myself!” I said pretending joy while my mind was turning to clay.Rory Ridley-Duff “Oh she‟s great. “Well!” he started. . Penny.” asked John.” replied Dave. “Just as well.” “And when did this happen?” he asked. slightly embarrassed and mouthed the word „sorry‟. John made another intervention.” said Dave cynically. John looked at me. “She never mentioned you to me. “John is staying at Sally‟s while he works for us. “Do you and Mike want to come over for dinner on Sunday night?” My blood ran cold. “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. Didn‟t you know?” I said. “No. “By the way. “You and Mike?” he asked.” said Dave. piecing things together in his head. Dave intervened. totally engaged by this discovery.I wish I could stay longer but I‟m needed back at home. “What?” said Dave.” answered John. “Yes. We‟re enjoying ourselves .” “Sally at work? Do you know Sally?” “Yes – known her for years.
“That….” It took me a moment to get the joke. “Only as a first resort!” he responded.” quipped John.” I said. my sense of humour returning..” he said with his hand on his heart. “I‟d like to fry his arse!” I shouted. “because if he‟s not we really have a problem. Why?” “It‟s complicated. You‟ve not been employed for a year yet. If he starts a fight with you.” he said pointing at my head.pig is going to do my appraisal in three weeks!” “Then you‟ve got to use this.” “Shit! You‟re right. “Why don‟t we circulate for a bit and then slip out? If Dave comes anywhere near you.” . “I‟m fed up working with this tart. Penny!” said John trying to calm me down. “Fuck him! Wanker!” “I hope so.. trying to diffuse the situation. “There are better ways to do it. John moved closer and whispered in my ear. I want to be there to watch you beat the shit out of him!” “And you the mediator?” I asked. “as well as this.” Dave turned and left before I could answer. “The two of you are antagonising each other.that…. “Not complicated at all. I was about to go after him and make him apologise but John stopped me. “No. A few people near us picked up my tone and turned to look. “Be careful. then find me.” “My knight in shining armour?” I queried.Friends or Lovers “It‟s a simple question.” said Dave.” responded John.
Rory Ridley-Duff “You‟ll need friends for this one.” I said before I saw his grin. When he heard this. I told him not be such a soppy idiot. today had not been a good one. I could see the concern growing on his face. . “Damn. but now I was battling to save my job. he cryptically replied that „every good soldier needed the support of his unit‟. Penny. When I asked why. He called Elaine and Sam. When he let go. As days go.” The rest of the evening passed off without any more incidents. He said that he wanted to talk “strategy”. the launch evening. How‟s Mike going to take this?” he asked. I told him of my wish to marry Mike. he grabbed me and hugged me for what seemed like an age. About an hour later. John and I took a cab to a quiet pub and I told him about Dave‟s wife.” he joked. I can take you.. “I‟ll call him later. “I‟m probably the only sober person in the room.” “I‟d take you – but I‟ve been drinking gin all evening…. Dave‟s e-mail and my conversations with Mike. I want to go home. When I set out this morning I was full of the joys of spring.” “Thank you.” he corrected. invited them for dinner then insisted that I come with Mike. I noticed that his eyes were filled with tears. I never drink before a talk so if you want to go home. You‟re a sweetie.
It was bad enough that I had intruded into a number of delicate personal relationships. The law required me to investigate. but now I was not so sure. I had been judgemental about Mike‟s motives. however. only evidence of my guilt. as John had suggested. or left Mike and Elona to sort out their own problems. Now it was Dave who was being judgemental about me. I had been convinced that sexual harassment laws were progressive. Hard as it was to admit. and the frustration of having to deal with others‟ unstated agendas. we can only see what we are looking for. Given what I‟d learnt from the conflict between Mike and Elona. he was matter of fact and kept reassuring me that I had truth on my side. I was now experiencing things from the other side. 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. Not only had I misjudged Mike. but I now realised that my attitude had been coloured both by the hurt I felt in the past and my attraction to him. In the past. When I told him what had happened. I began to wonder whether perhaps I might have done things differently. It may not only have been my . however. Two months earlier. but now it was the other way around I started to experience how the intrusions feel on the receiving end. If. Dave would not be looking for evidence of my innocence. I was less confident. And what was it that I was guilty of? Most of his attacks were about my flirting.Friends or Lovers Chapter 42 I was glad to get home to Mike. then I was up shit creek without a paddle.
I had created an imaginary world in which men and women should behave one way at work and another way outside work. I protected myself with professional ethics and personal boundaries to create a haven for corporate values. Mike and I had a quiet day. Not everybody saw the distinctions as I did. Mike and John were different. John was the pragmatic politician. Firstly.Rory Ridley-Duff judgement that was at fault. Instead he just savoured the conversation we had. I had my island existence at work. searching for “truth” and “justice” and then working out how to make it happen. but perhaps my values as well. and most recently Elaine. Mike did the same. and Phil has also made some inroads. I was also emotionally disconnected and dysfunctional. or felt they should be enforced. I remember once seeing the film About a Boy. John pierced my armour. Just like Will. to some extent. but were also contributing to better decisions about people in the workplace. In my mind. but every conversation made me question my life a little bit more. On Sunday we went for a walk. Mike the stubborn idealist. rather than at home. however. Later. I was coming to a realisation that these bonds not only reached deep into my personal life. Unlike John. I started to see myself as a female version of Will. I was „independent‟ and „efficient‟. I did this not only to share treasured . he had no wish to talk “strategy”. Together they were a formidable combination. They rarely saw eyeto-eye. I retraced the route I took with John around Warwick castle and we ended up at the same Italian restaurant. Elona has. others intruded into my world. The main character Will tried to live an „island‟ existence but gave in to the attention of a lonely 12-year-old boy.
” “Yes. from the moment I faced-down my fear and shared my most private feelings.” I said. I smiled and said that would be nice.” I commented. “What would be solved by talking about it?” he responded. . “You have me.” he answered. He never used five words where three would do. “You might be disappointed. “You don‟t talk about the past. “And now for me. “I brought John here a couple of months ago.” I said. “Would you take me to them?” “I‟d rather find new places.” I said.” “What would you like to know?” I suddenly realised that it was not so much his past that I was interested in. But I also want to know the person in here!” I said. pointing to his head. but any remaining attachments that might affect our future together. “Do you have any special places? Places you went with your wife?” I asked.” he replied. but as a tribute to John. in body. “You.Friends or Lovers memories with Mike. Lock. my coming out of myself started on that day.” he replied with a straight face.” responded Mike. “Nice for him. my change of heart. “And for me. “A few. Mike. stock and barrel. but with Mike you had to dig for them. With John. “I‟m just interested. When I look back. That was another difference between them. his emotions always came out as he spoke.” he said.
“That‟s because you‟ve only microscopically examined my body!” he joked. . then held me in his arms and kissed me. I felt unconcerned.” He stopped and turned to me. “I guess I‟m curious how you feel about your marriage. While it was nice to have his attention. Even though I did not push him. Strangely. “I prefer not to think about it.Rory Ridley-Duff “Haven‟t been so far. 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. I realised that I was starting to have doubts about his commitment. There was little point holding back now I had started. “I guess. “You were very committed to her……” Suddenly I stopped. he had also evaded the question.” he replied. I would have these memories forever.” I said with a grin. nothing could take away the bliss that I was enjoying right now. His silence on the issue of his wife troubled me.” I responded. No matter what happened in the future.
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. “How long have you been there. Sam. “But Penny is brilliant at her job – aren‟t you. “Now look at this from Harry‟s point of view. But John is right about Dave.” “But you said that even Harry thought you were doing a good job. We had been discussing my situation at work for nearly half an hour over after-dinner coffee. He thought the company would be crazy to sack me. but most of the others would not believe him. Mike?” asked John. won‟t he?” . getting quite heated. “He‟ll see through Dave. “Nearly 6 years. but it was good to have his support. “But that‟s what pisses him off – surely he‟ll raise it?” I argued. He‟s pissed off with me.” Mike joined in the “strategy” discussion and kept coming back to what people had said about my work. “He‟s going to look at the truth. It was Dave who gave him this impression.Friends or Lovers Chapter 43 “He‟s not going to bring that up!” asserted John. surely?” responded Mike. John was trying to persuade everyone that Dave was going to block my appointment. Penny?” said Sam. “Thank you. I knew he was biased. who probably knew the least about all the cock ups I had made.” he answered.
” Everyone around the table stopped for a moment to consider her remarks. The only thing Dave has to fear is Harry‟s reaction. I noticed John smile at Elaine and she raised her glass to him. I concur with John. then I‟m going to kick his arse – it will affect my working relationship with him!” she said pointedly. “You‟re not suggesting we get involved?” queried Sam. but what we are going to do about it. “No. showing considerable irritation. I began to catch her drift. “Let‟s assume that Dave is going to look for a way to get Penny out.Rory Ridley-Duff John gave Mike a dismissive look. now joined the conversation. It‟s not what‟s going to happen. If Dave wants to fuck it up because he can‟t deal with Penny‟s rejection then I want to apply some pressure. “And how is Mike going to be able to work when . But if I‟m right then we need to ensure that Dave does not control what Harry is hearing.” “And also give Dave a few worries of his own!” added Elaine. the subtle political pressures and pragmatic alliances that work behind the scenes.” said Elaine. He does not even have to give her a proper reason. who had been listening more than talking. He‟s under no obligation to keep her on. he‟ll control what Harry hears. “If I‟m wrong then we have nothing to worry about. Elaine had talked to me about some of the corporate battles that she‟d been in. Elaine. “I certainly am.” said John enthusiastically. “That‟s right. If there is a conflict. “What do you mean?” asked Sam. Everyone turned to look at her.” she started. “We‟ve invested a huge amount in this partnership.” “But isn‟t this between Penny and Dave?” asked Sam. If he sacks Penny. “Let‟s assume for a moment that John is right.
“We all have an interest!” said Elaine. “I don‟t have a way of influencing things the way you do. I‟d taken over his life and he saw her much less. Sam. However. Sal. If your colleagues talk about it. you can put them straight!” “And have Dave on my back?” she asked.” “Okay. She was also in a line management situation with Dave. “It‟s not that. “So little confidence!” complained Elaine.” “On the ground?” she asked. Dave‟s the Director of Business Development. 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. “But you can influence things on the ground. Mike‟s our sales manager. Since we‟d become a couple. Only Mike stood between her and Dave. This isn‟t just about our friends. If Mike‟s . I wondered for a moment whether Sally might secretly want me off the scene to open the way to Mike again.” she said. “Stuff like this doesn‟t stay secret.Friends or Lovers Dave sacks his future wife. “You‟d stand by while Dave shits on Mike?” asked John. Perhaps you‟re right!” responded John. “I‟m keeping out of this. “You too. With John returning home in a couple of weeks she might start to miss Mike‟s company. 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. Sally!” Sally had remained fairly quiet throughout.” she said. I could understand Sally‟s fear. Elaine had both political and financial independence whereas Sally‟s life was more precarious. this is about our company‟s well-being.
By the time Mike and I left. Elaine.” said Mike. It was reassuring that my friends took such a keen interest in protecting my future. I realised that it was not so much that they were protecting me. “What then?” I enquired. “Sal has to be careful. as protecting the group. I realised. I did not have to wait long. My security came from the knowledge that there was no shortage of organisations seeking HR professionals. I focussed more on Mike‟s reaction to Elaine‟s comment about our marriage plans. therefore. As soon as the car sped away from Sally‟s house.” I replied. Mike opened up. “Yes. In fact. I made a mental note to update her. “I‟m much older than you. we do. Mike and Sally. “We have to talk. We all wanted to work and live together and this guided our discussions. “Are you having second thoughts?” “Not exactly. did not understand the complex background and network of relationships involving Dave. was not over worried regardless of the outcome of my appraisal. or protecting themselves. debated and discarded.” he replied. but they were protecting theirs at the same time. The debate continued over more bottles of wine. Penny!” “So what?” . He had been much quieter after her comment.Rory Ridley-Duff position was threatened then Dave would be able to exact personal revenge on Sally. as we talked.” he said. 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. Various scenarios and plans were hatched. My mind.
I paused trying to imagine what it would be like to have a child growing inside me. “How do you mean?” I said. But what if you change your mind? What if you accidentally get pregnant?” “I don‟t know!” I answered.” Despite what I had told him previously. 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. but when I asked myself how . When I considered the question in the abstract I was sure of my feelings. “Well.” “What‟re you saying?” “I‟m saying that I know for sure that I don‟t want children.she accidentally got pregnant. She had a good career.” I answered. the argument began to affect me. Did I want to give up the choice? “Tell me about your friend. “I don‟t want them. “You don‟t now. You know that. Did she want to miss that chance?” “I have thought about this. I actually felt a pang of disappointment that he did not want children with me. a regular boyfriend who she lived with.” “But have you ever been pregnant.” I asked. it dawned on her this might be her only chance to be a mother. Once she faced a real choice her feelings started to change. “She was successful – like you. She didn‟t want children until – in her mid-thirties . “I had a friend once who „didn‟t want children‟ until she got pregnant. Penny?” When he asked that question. I don‟t want children.Friends or Lovers “What if you want children?” he asked.
our relationship won‟t survive. no. Is it a good idea to marry?” I did not respond. I haven‟t. She never forgave him for leaving. “I‟ll live with you – but if you want children then I‟m going to bow out so you can fulfil your dream.” “What did your friend do?” “She had the child. If you want a child and I don‟t.” “But don‟t you love me?” He smiled broadly.” he continued. “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.” I pondered this strange proposal.” “So what‟re you saying? You want to break up?” “No. Our relationship probably won‟t survive the birth of a child. Now they hate each other with a vengeance. “Yes – but I don‟t want to be a dad in my 70s. When I was young I imagined that all serious relationships operated on the basis of unending commitment.” I finally answered. He never forgave her for ignoring his feelings. no! I want to treasure this for as long as possible and that means being realistic. They both feel the other betrayed them. I was not sure what to think. The relationship with her boyfriend broke up soon after. She thought he‟d change when the child was born. Mike!” “That‟s what worries me. I can‟t stand in the way of that. “I can‟t say.Rory Ridley-Duff I would feel aborting Mike’s child it affected me differently. . I really don‟t. Could I do that? “No. “It could tear us apart.
“Okay. “If you reach the menopause and we‟re still together.” And with that.Friends or Lovers “Tell you what. I‟ll think about it. The future was still full of possibilities. Moments later I felt one of his arms around me as he kissed my neck and said “goodnight”. this was the clearest indication I‟d had that we were going to have a long-term relationship. We chatted more in front of the TV and caught a late night film. Romantic this was not. Even though we‟d talked about the possibility of breaking up. . we arrived home.” he continued again. I‟ll marry you!” I gave a short chuckle. went into the kitchen and made two cups of cocoa. but that was Mike through and through. then went upstairs. For the first time since we‟d started sharing a bed we did not make love before going to sleep.
Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 44 Elona‟s move into the flat with Mike was problematic at first. We started to have chats in the evening at home and at work during lunch breaks. It took two weeks for her to feel strong enough to return to work. As a result. As part of his professional development. I was trying to build her confidence. We talked about her upbringing. I decided to visit her when Mike went out with his drinking pals. they chided her for . her parents disapproved of her drinking in pubs and when the situation erupted at work they felt deeply ashamed. Elona. Even as a grown up. I dropped in a couple of times to check how things were. on the other hand. Was I a bully? Mike sometimes joked that I could be. When she did. I felt we should visit daily. not just to learn about her. Normally we would not visit so much. turned out to be strong in ways I‟d not realised. He had not seen me when I felt weak and feeble (the way John had seen me). I told him I was not always strong but he would not believe it. There was no weekend in her family. Brownies and Guides followed and she talked of the many skills she had developed. but also to learn about myself. but also the scriptures and morality that affected her freedom. she accused me of bullying her. Her parents were committed Christians and they arranged for her aunt to take her to Sunday school each week. When I had been at her parents‟ shop and heard her torrent of abuse. a by-product of my strength of character. just a Sunday and Wednesday afternoon when the shop closed. but given her precarious state. I asked Phil to make some visits to see how she was progressing. Instead of showing sympathy. my professional worries receded.
Attitudes to sex – or more accurately. and avoided the temptation to get angry with either her or her parents. judged as little as I could. Private conversations with boys were not allowed in her house – one or other parent had to be present. They would tell her that in the „devil‟ world of „Godless‟ people. my voice was heard and sex talk was commonplace in our house. Elona. Instead. to take them up to my room. They did not even let her take girlfriends upstairs. Both my father and mother allowed me to have male friends.Friends or Lovers getting mixed up with a “bad crowd”. When I asked her how she got to know boys. Sometimes I would get keen on a boy and still my parents would not interfere. and . especially my father. was not allowed to bring boys into the house without the permission of her father . My room was a private space to do as I pleased. chat and talk. If I had a boy with me they would knock on my bedroom door. people pursued each other for sex and treated each other disrespectfully. she simply said that she had not been able to. Elona‟s father was protective and would never let her go to parties. 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. More than once that led to us having a fight. I remember only mild embarrassment at their openness. play music.upstairs was strictly out of bounds even after she reached the age of 18. on the other hand. I started to wonder how she had turned out so „normal‟ despite her upbringing. Even so. I listened as much as I could. My parents had been liberal in their attitudes. those of our parents could not have been more different. although my mother would tell me what I should and should not do.
this strange morality where people could express themselves freely. Others picked on her and ridiculed her prudishness. She was a young woman trying to navigate the minefield of courtship armed only with knowledge from romance novels. She fantasised about this other world. on the other hand felt embarrassed if her parents even hinted at sex. at their attitude. Privately she lusted after the kind of life that was described in them but never imagined she could ever be part of it. I tried to reassure her that experience had to be gained first hand. and showed interest in her. Elona. he triggered all the feelings she was harbouring. I remember feeling grateful. Some women deliberately excluded her. We laughed as stories came out of hiding and got aired for the first time. She imagined bold heroines aggressively seducing their prey. she was bursting with curiosity. she would walk away if she heard crude conversations. When the young lads at work invited her to the pub. While I had no inhibitions about my body. When he rebuffed her. she gradually opened up and admitted that she had been buying romance novels for years. rather than relieved. when it came to my mind. But in talking to me. or meek wallflowers schooled in the art of attracting „real‟ men. she felt bitter. betrayed and misled. As I talked. You could not rely on what was written in books. Even at work.Rory Ridley-Duff confessed to them that sometimes I had sneaked a boyfriend into my room in the middle of the night. I shared with her my boldest adventures. it was as if I was also talking to myself. They admitted that they knew but chose not to say anything. thoughts and feelings I was . There was something tragic in hearing her story. When Nathan took a shine to her.
Before I realised it. I felt a shudder. Was my hostility to motherhood another way of avoiding responsibility? These questions troubled me.Friends or Lovers even more inhibited than Elona. I switched the conversation back to Elona. I was learning again from someone years my junior. I started to get a sense of just how important parents are and the huge responsibility they bear. he found his wife attractive and their argumentative relationship spiced up their sex life. It was the financial betrayal that killed it. Mike joked that if he had lied and said it was „just sex‟ his marriage might have survived. A mother like me! At hearing those words. But since the fall out over Sally he had returned home only to be with his children. 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.” “And a mother like you. His wife never forgave him for giving financial support to another woman. despite the problems. His comment started a chain of thoughts that still haunts me. He did admit too that. Through her candid confessions to me. As for Mike. As I watched Mike and learnt about each new layer of his character. he gradually opened up about his marriage and I learnt that his kids were the principle reason he had remained for so long. “You are good for her. you know!” I told him. and our friendship gave her a way to compare her fantasy world to the reality of my life. “If she‟d had a father like you. she might have grown up very differently. I started to realise new things that I had been missing – that the ephemeral materialism . I found new depths in myself. I found yet another avenue to release the pain and hurt of the past. perhaps?” he retorted.
Their stories – which had for two decades been a source of entertainment and amusement to me – started to lose their standing. Corporate life was not a reason for being.Rory Ridley-Duff of corporate life. was not important. In their place. she and I would join the gang and solve our own mysteries. In them. Perhaps my own mother encouraged this creative streak in me. The media was not reality. but was not life itself. . For me. Perhaps that is what spurred me to write this story. I had loved Scooby Doo and rather than watch videos again and again. It was a setting in which our lives unravelled. I found that there was nothing more fascinating or more pleasurable than getting to know people well. I cast my mind over my life with my mother and father. And when Mike suggested I would make a good mother the urge to be a parent grew stronger and stronger. it was a means. 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. my mother told me stories. Before the arguments of my teenage years. where those obsessed with self-importance told us how to live our lives. the transient consumerism pressed on us by the media. it was a place where vanity ran amok. something that my father‟s pragmatism and liberalism also shaped. setting out my life on paper became part of my liberation. she would make up new adventures on the spur of the moment. That spurred me to take greater interest in how I came to be who I am. conversations with real people flourished to the point that my television became just another piece of furniture.
pleaded with Elona to let me go to the loo first. Down the list I could see messages from her old boyfriend. it‟s good isn‟t it. “What‟s happened?” I asked. but at the top was a phone number. She open the lid. Her excitement was so great that she could not contain it. “Have you won the lottery?” “Better than that. then “messages”. come here!” I hastily hung up my jacket. For a couple of seconds a fancy graphic showed a pile of papers being sorted. then “inbox”. she was waiting on the sofa clutching something in her hand.” she answered. “Well. come on then. When I emerged. raising my eyebrows in wonder. M and P tell me u r recovering. Her eyes were wide open and her face was so animated that I thought she would burst a blood vessel. pressed “menu”. Wud u like drink with mates after work? Phil x “Better than the lottery?” I asked. Show me!” Inside her sweaty palm was her mobile phone. The moment I arrived at her flat she screeched at me to come and see something. come on. I mean he must……he must like me!” . “Well. “Penny! Penny! Come here. “Who is that from?” I asked. something happened that transformed her life. Elona excitedly pressed a green button and the message appeared.Friends or Lovers Chapter 45 Six weeks after Elona moved in with Mike.
starting to look a bit downcast.” . but then again it may not and I felt that it would be irresponsible not to prepare her for the possibility. He had mentioned Elona. but remember that this may be your wish but not his. or an attempt to help her mix in with people at work. “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….” My heart sank. “When a man asks you for a drink.. Secretly I thought about him a lot. “Elona. my love. but had his eye on others as well. I mentally got ready to nail Phil when I saw him next morning. “I was excited.” she answered.” “Forget your Dad. He may be interested in that. It was „good‟.” I said as I took her hands and our eyes locked. it does not always mean that he‟s asking you to be his girlfriend.. It may be that Phil was asking her out.” “What about John?” she continued.” I interrupted. “Everyone talks about him at work.” “You just want to spoil my dreams!” she interrupted.Rory Ridley-Duff I didn‟t know how to break the news that this may be kindness. Pretend he‟s your fantasy hero. She duly obliged.” I commented. “Maybe you shouldn‟t read too much into it. But he may just want to be your friend…. love! Look at me. “Dream all you like. “Yes. but when I was with him I took nothing for granted. especially after he did that workshop about sexism in the army. You‟ve met him?” I asked. however.. Very excited. “But it‟s a drink invitation! He‟s asking me out.” “But my Dad said….
” I thought about this. returning to the question in hand. “But I don‟t know what to say! Could you…?” “Could I what?” “Could you reply?” I laughed. She‟d been planning this all day.Friends or Lovers “Have you replied to this?” I asked. “Just start me off. Pen. right?” “You‟re the best! First impressions. “Just send the first few messages then I‟ll take over. “How d‟you want to play it then?” I replied.” “Good.” I said finally. My heart went out to her. I gave her a school-ma‟am grin. But you don‟t want him thinking you‟re not interested either?” I replied. “I think it would be better if it all came from you. I don‟t want to appear too forward. giving in to her. eh? I want him to know I‟m interested – I mean really interested. She jumped on her seat and punched the air with her fist. Would it be so bad? “I can‟t have a text conversation with him.” I said.” she said imploringly. Perhaps Phil would never know the difference. I saw that she looked slightly hurt by my mirth so I immediately apologised and gave it some thought. The thought of me flirting by mobile with Phil while he thought he was talking to Elona tickled me. “You‟re hot for him. “Why not?” she asked.” . “No! I was waiting for you. She so wanted to get this one right.
“I‟m flattered. Then she broke into laughter as I added the last two words. Could she change that much in a few weeks? “You can get hurt. I knew Phil could be shy. “Don‟t you care?” “A bit. She took my free hand with both of hers. Thank you!” I said. We didn‟t want to be tacky or crude. you know?” I answered.Rory Ridley-Duff I thought for a second.” I said. I guess. We were so different. in response. . in a matter of fact way. How could we use that? “Okay! Give me the phone. but also that he had a quiet confidence. “On what?” I asked. I guess it didn‟t!” “Penny?” I looked up at her and she continued to speak. “Depends!” she replied. “Never stopped you!” she said. “D‟you think that‟s too risqué?” I asked her. “Do you have any idea how much I admire you?” “What! Admire me?” I said. wondering if she was drunk. But it‟s so exciting. despite all our conversations. I hardly knew her. “No. “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. I selected „reply‟ and typed away carefully. I sat for a second wondering why she would admire me. I showed the message to Elona and she kept nodding enthusiastically. isn‟t it?” she replied. “I want to have some fun!” I suddenly felt as if.
she wanted me as her role model. It was not something that I felt I could refuse. I‟ve pissed around and messed things up big time. or suffer the disappointments she had faced. What possible claim could I have to a life better than hers? And yet. and strong and fair……” I shuddered at the thought that someone would use me as a role model. “But most of all. bitchy. I can be crabby and unreasonable. Inside I knew I was no better and no stronger than she was. Inside I have doubts just like you. I‟d not had to overcome the things she had lived through. studied. From where I‟m sitting. got a good career and now a fantastic man.” She glanced at the phone. Sometimes I‟m miserable. “Are we going to send that. you only see what‟s on the outside.” She suddenly got cross with me.. emotional. lonely and wretched. I‟m really touched. travelled. “What are you talking about? You‟ve done so much with your life. “you‟re a natural.” “What do you mean?” “I mean that you live your life without any fear. “…. “Elona.. done things.” “I wish! Seriously. Elona. that‟s such a sweet thing for you to say. you know how to live!” She said this with such force that I didn‟t know what to say.. selfish.Friends or Lovers “You‟re my heroine!” she said.” she continued. Been places.and kind and thoughtful. “Oh. then?” . and sexy and vivacious. Elona! I‟m nothing of the sort. mean and nasty……” I started to run out of words so Elona decided to take over.
She read the message to herself and cackled again. “I want all the gory details. Elona held it up and read it out loud. “Where are you going?” she asked. She pressed the green button and away it went. “Too late for second thoughts now. He‟s taking the bait.” “But Penny?” “Trust me. “But tomorrow.” I said confidently. okay? After this you‟re on your own!” Elona nodded. okay?” . “He‟s added four kisses. sexy?” Elona took the phone out of my hand and pressed the green button.” I said.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked at the message once more and read it out loud. “You two should be alone. she read Phil‟s reply out loud while jumping up and down. Ellie. “Skn-tite and sexy? Wow! Looking 4wrd to seeing you in it…and out of it…. Elona handed me the phone again and I typed away. A moment later.. When I finished. Call right now!” I got up and went to get my coat.” She looked slightly confused. I think.” I said. This is between you and him. “Wot u have in mind? P xxxx” “Look! Look!” shrieked Elona. “This is the last one I send. In an instant. We were like two schoolgirls swapping messages in class with a boy. her mobile signalled the arrival of new mail so we excitedly opened her inbox. “Accept.” “Okay. What outfit wld u like me 2 wear for u. I looked up at her. Let‟s reel him in. girl.
She was . I walked over and gave her a big hug. For me. With my coat on. piss off then and see if I care!” she said. as she put it. I turned and walked out of the flat. “You‟re welcome. able to make your own judgements – even if sometimes they turn out to be flawed and wrong. In her eyes. Even as I contemplated my own heroes and heroines – Mike. As she dialled the number and let it ring. I had taken from the experience that I had to be more cautious and respectful of others. only the confidence and bluster that erupted when I was in the grip of moral indignation. As I walked down a flight of stairs into the car park. I had challenged the behaviour of others and shown no fear. “Okay. I realised that this was the first time I‟d ever been someone‟s heroine. ready to learn „how to live‟. but the excitement and joy that filled her whole body was matched only by the size and breadth of the smile she beamed. with your own thoughts and feelings.” I replied. In the distance the sound of an excited young woman could be made out amidst much laughter and giggling. If I had only heard her words I might have been offended. 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. I would have to talk to her about that. Elona had come alive – she was. I realised that perhaps this mattered less to her than the example I had set. “Thank you!” she said. Perhaps I was able to show her that you could be a woman in your own right. Even as I chided myself for my judgement. Some other time. Elaine and John – the extent of my impact on Elona was beginning to dawn on me.Friends or Lovers She grinned broadly.
.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. She grasped her future with both hands and held on firmly.
” Mike got up and walked over to me and I felt his arms move around my stomach. “Not just booked a holiday with Phil. laughing and shouting that she needed a wage rise. then moved underneath my skirt and played with the elastic of my pants. “Why?” “Because I won‟t be able to talk soon!” .” I started to say.” she said coyly. Ellie!” I said. have you?” “I talked so much I ran out of credit. “I‟ve got to go now. “Why?” I asked.” “I did nothing. “I don‟t think „slowly‟ is in his vocabulary. “What was that? Is there someone with you?” “Maybe. He fondled me gently as I talked some more. Need a raise to keep my mobile phone topped up. Pen!” “Are you okay?” “I‟m on cloud nine! Thank you so much.Friends or Lovers Chapter 46 Mike and I had a quiet evening at my flat watching a DVD. “Now don‟t rush things. and then heard something crash in the background. Gradually. Take things slowly. really. At around 10pm the phone rang.” “Then how come you are talking to me now?” I heard her giggle. It was Elona again. “Faaannnnntttttaaaassssttttiiiiccccc!” I shouted. one of his hands edged up inside my blouse and started to fondle my breasts while the other stroked my leg. and Mike looked at me with a quizzical expression on his face.
oooohhh…..bye Ellie!” I put the phone down and spread my legs wide. “……to have sex with me while I talk on the phone to you……. Elona thought I was talking to her and asked again what was wrong. I imagined what might be happening to Elona. that Phil‟s strong body had moved between Elona legs. “……. “Ellie? I have a man here who is dying ……….” I heard a round of giggling as Elona repeated my words to Phil.to go…. pulled down my knickers and buried his head between my legs.. Right there in the hall Mike nibbled the folds of my flesh while two fingers eased their way in. As Mike pleasured me between my legs. He was dying for me. “Better finish….” Mike whispered in my ear “Keep talking”.aaahhhh……has just gone down inside my pants. “Me too!” she said when she finally came back to the phone. then picking her up and carrying her to bed.I‟ve got…. A few moments later..this………conversation………Oh God!…….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…. her level of laughter increased and I heard her shriek. “Keep talking. while the other…….” I had to pause for a second as his finger touched a spot that took my breath away.” Mike had knelt down on the floor.” whispered Mike a second time. I pictured Phil ripping open Elona‟s blouse... lifted me onto the table. “What?” I replied..left nipple.. I tried to imagine Elona‟s excitement as she trembled in anticipation of her first fuck.tomorrow……. .
moaning. .Friends or Lovers In my mind‟s eye.” He did not intend the pun. but I laughed anyway. His strong muscular buttocks thrust into her with each movement of Mike‟s fingers inside me. Mike‟s lips made their way up the front of my body gently kissing the breasts that I had exposed. waves of pleasure started to glide up through my body. I watched him as he spread her legs and climbed between them. “I don‟t know. “Do what?” he asked. my breath shortening. I guess. “Have you any idea how deeply I am in love with you?” I asked. my eyes closed. As I lay there. “This much?” he said. until I felt his breath on my face. Then I put both my hands on his cheeks and felt tears welling up in my eyes. Comes naturally. The surge continued and built. He tried to kiss me but I pulled away. It was the first time I had uttered the actual words and I waited for his reply. “How do you do that?” I said. “How d‟you make me feel like that?” He laughed gently. until the nerve ends all pulsated simultaneously and I convulsed struggling to catch my breath. gesturing a small amount with his thumb and finger. Just as I started to wonder whether it was pure wickedness to picture Phil as Mike brought me off. and I surfed towards heaven. I arched back and focussed my thoughts on the feeling of Mike‟s tongue while picturing Phil between Elona‟s legs.
“Show me what you are made of!” As these words left my mouth. I immediately pushed the thought from my mind. After carrying me to the bedroom. I found myself wondering if I had stumbled across the answer. for reasons I could not fathom. As we kissed. he threw me down manfully and put his hands on my knees while glancing down at a huge erection. as Mike overpowered me and started to thrust himself deep into me. As a teenager. “No. Then. This much!” I said as I pressed my lips onto his and aggressively pushed my tongue into his mouth. I revelled in the lust that we‟d created and teased him to the full. and guided his penis towards my pussy. my mind suddenly cast itself back to the moment when John had asked me about the army and sexism. remembering the way Elona and I had goaded Phil. I held his sleek and powerful body as it tensed and relaxed. pretending to resist while egging him on to have his way with me. he picked me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist. As the man I had chosen to give my heart glided into me again and again. “Come on. Something told me I was wicked but I just knew he was dying for me.” I said. “And I love you this much!” he said. 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. my sister once said to me that she could not imagine anything more satisfying than the thought of her lover so filled with passion . Suddenly here. I spread my legs as wide as I could. I gave in and allowed him to overpower me. He tried to spread my legs but I resisted him. I held his head in my hands as I explored everything I could find. big boy.
not even I. as if she was fantasising about rape. the woman that he could not resist. All the certainties that I had ever felt about how men and women should behave vanished in the dust. 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. I had entered a new world and reached a new level of understanding. I watched his face strain as he reached the limits of his passion. . with Mike‟s spent body still lying inside me. But in this moment I realised what was so exciting to her. And there. 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. I hoped he felt the bewilderment and disorientation I felt when his magic tongue took me to another plane of existence. I found her fantasies sick. could stop. If I could do that to him…for him…he would be mine forever. At the time.Friends or Lovers that he could not resist her. She would fantasise about her boyfriend so full of lust that he would force himself on her as she tried to resist him. I wanted to be Mike‟s greatest fantasy. I wanted to him to feel an uncontrollable desire for me that no-one. I held him in my arms and wept.
When I started. But when it came to “attention to detail” the reverse was probably true. but I did it both quickly and diligently. I had to appraise myself. 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. when I arrived at work the next morning. There was the usual junk that I discarded. one of my first acts was to introduce 360º reviews. It was my appraisal form. It was strange filling out an appraisal form that I had designed myself. was to invite Phil into my office for a private conference. then one of my subordinates and lastly get feedback from a director. The objective was to stimulate discussion and reflection about different perceptions of my work. In fact.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 47 My first task. I found myself less worried about pornography than e-mails offering prescription drugs. he was late so I passed the time by checking over my emails. adding written . but today I looked at them differently. 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. The tick boxes allowed each person to say how the employee performed relative to their own expectations. Each part of the appraisal had tick boxes. 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.one personal. the other professional. then ask one of my peers. I had two agendas . I was tempted to tear up the zero-tolerance policy on porn completely. Unusually for him.
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. I gave the form to him and asked if he would complete it then pass it to Jo. 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. did you?” “Yes. Penny!” Before I could protest. . I found myself hanging onto him and not letting go. Phil broke into laughter and I instinctively moved to embrace him.Friends or Lovers comments at the bottom of each section. “I think it‟s permitted. his arms made their way around my back and he held me much more tightly than I expected. “Too late. As soon as Phil arrived. Finally. After a second. “Very pleasant. “Between friends. “I‟m off the market. “For what?” I asked. Mr Trent!” I said with mock formality.” he replied with a smile. I realised that he was having a joke with me. then felt his hands on mine. “Had a good evening. When Phil had completed the form I called him into my office.” My gentle sarcasm amused him and he felt slightly awkward as I put my arms around him for the first time. Dave had to complete the section as director.” I said. How about you?” “I‟ve had worse!” I replied in probably the biggest understatement of my entire life.” he said. slightly defensively. I started to rub his back. Ms Leyton. “Good morning. It felt really good.
“Well. “Go on then. sir!” I said mocking him a bit.Rory Ridley-Duff When we finally let go of each other. Inside was a folded bit of paper. but accepting of my command. there‟s a first for everything!” I said with some surprise. It was not the wonderful and incredible experience that I had hoped for but it was still very exciting.” I said. “I can. I showed the writing to Phil. “She worships you. see you in a moment!” Phil.” he said. “Rule number 1. “She gave me a message for you.” added Phil. I found the . you know!” A sudden surge of modesty interrupted my moment of vanity. as he separated himself from me and sat down in a chair. Penny. left for the coffee machine while I opened the envelope. “I cannot think why!” I replied. hoppit and come back in 5 minutes. Go make a coffee or something.” “Aren‟t you going to show me?” he asked. we looked into each other‟s eyes and both realised the intensity of the feelings that we had just communicated. slightly surprised. then treat it as private and confidential! Go on. “You are too kind. On the outside were the words “Penny Leyton – strictly Private and Confidential”. I lost something last night – I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean. “What is it?” He rummaged around in his briefcase and brought out an envelope. by the way. but inside I was uncomfortable at anyone building me into a special person. “if an employee says something is private and confidential.
he‟ll want to give you as much pleasure as he can. “Am I being too hard on him?” “No. He wasn‟t that gentle!” “Then tell him. “Yes. “Can you talk?” I asked.” “I got your note!” I said. There‟s no-one here at the moment. The more you practice it.” “Why not?” “I might hurt his feelings!” Why. 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. yes.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see Phil coming back into the office. Sex is like everything else in life. But when we started it hurt a bit. did people so often think that it was preferable not to hurt someone else‟s feelings when their body was being hurt? “Ellie. the better it gets.Friends or Lovers cuddling afterwards more enjoyable and we talked and talked. 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. I wondered. Just be patient and it will happen. Waking up with someone next to you is something else.” “I can‟t do that. . If he doesn‟t then you‟ll want to think again about whether he‟s right for you. Ellie.
Please!” “Jeez. As I watched Phil struggle it reminded me of my own struggle with John.” I said. See you at the flat tonight. He was surprisingly nervous. I decided to . When he didn‟t start talking I tried to give him some gentle encouragement. “Are you alright? You don‟t have to say anything.. “What did she say?” “That‟s between me and her. I realised that his anxiety about sharing his feelings was no different from mine. but if you are wondering whether she wants to see you again.” I answered. Ellie! I wouldn‟t dream of it. trying to be reassuring.Rory Ridley-Duff “I have to go now. right?” “Like a doctor and patient!” I said. but we didn‟t……I didn‟t…. I think I can definitely confirm that the answer is „yes‟!” He smiled as he gave me the coffee. He suddenly looked quite sheepish and unsure. it was good and all.” He hesitated again. “Well. “Phil?” I asked. “I‟m more interested in what you have to say. I remembered how he had moved around to my side and gently reassured me. okay?” “Yeah. 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.” “This is in confidence.” I offered. “She told you then?” “No secrets between girlfriends. sure!” I rang off as Phil entered the office. “Phil‟s coming!” “Don‟t tell him.
“But……we didn‟t……” “It‟s okay – nobody‟s going to judge you. “I wanted her to…but she didn‟t seem to know anything. Clearly this was difficult for him to say. These are the moments when people are at their most vulnerable.have any……foreplay!” he finally said. Do you know what I mean?” I looked at him and nodded. I put my arm on his back and helped him. As I sat next to him.?” “I think I know what you mean. “I really like her and all. Neither was interested in blaming the other. but she didn‟t really know what to do. when one wrong word or gesture can destroy trust and end a relationship. 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 started to understand what he was saying and gently encouraged him.. “I mean – I took her into the bedroom and I could tell she wanted me……” He hesitated again. Phil. I thought I might hurt her feelings. It hurt and I was worried about hurting her.Friends or Lovers do the same. I just ended up sticking it in and pumping away.. Penny! I just wanted her so bad. “I was so excited. They were going to do well if they cared so much about each others‟ feelings on their first date. but I didn‟t know how to ask her to……you know….” I had to stifle a laugh – he would not have understood why I found this funny.” “We didn‟t……. I was instantly relieved. Can there be . Phil!” I said confidently. I gently listened to him and tried to work out how to tell him what he needed to hear.
Before I knew it. This was a first for me. friend or lover. I had always thought men didn‟t care but as Phil poured out his feelings. “No promises!” I said. “She‟s ready to learn if you have the confidence to teach her. I saw his eyes grow moist. I couldn‟t remember any other occasion when a man. I thought about George and the violence I had done him by not treating him with respect. “Tell her!” I said gently. “but I‟m confident you‟ll be happier the more you get to know her.Rory Ridley-Duff anything more important in my line of work? Is there anything more important in life? “Talk to her. family. As Phil talked about the pleasure he had wanted to bring Ellie. 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. He had screamed at me that he was not a piece of meat. Where did he end up that night.” I said reassuringly. “I can‟t do that!” I felt like I was in the middle of a re-run. but I smiled broadly and looked him in the eye. Talk to her about her parents. Phil. the lad I had picked up in the bar when I was out with Carole and Chris. Talk to her about her upbringing. had expressed his fears to me about sex.” “You think?” he said.” As I looked at him. I wonder? I tried to imagine how he must have felt as he walked away. you know?” “Then tell her. . “I did something once that I‟m truly ashamed of…. any man. I realised.” I started.” “I just wanted it to be better for her. words started to spill out of my mouth.
“I picked up a young lad once. not just as a professional . “Yes. but found it too hard to say at first. Out poured the story of that night with a frankness and level of detail that I had withheld from John. instead of gently telling him how to give me the pleasure I wanted. I began. As the realisation of what I had done engulfed me.Friends or Lovers It was my turn to feel ashamed and hesitant. “I took him back to my flat and demanded service.. “I……”. not even as old as you…” It was Phil‟s turn to touch me gently and reassure me that it was okay to talk. “I wished he was someone else.. to cast my eyes down on the floor and wonder whether I had the courage to talk. I looked up at him with eyes full of tears.” Phil just nodded and suddenly the words started to flow much more freely. “What happened?” Phil asked.” as I struggled to say it. “I…. It felt nice. I did the most disrespectful thing I‟ve ever done…. saying nothing. I felt Phil‟s hand at the small of my back rubbing my spine.wished……. I looked at Phil and his gentle smile reassured me. When he wasn‟t very good at it. I ruthlessly seduced him. He was called George. my eyes started to moisten and tears started to roll down my nose and drip onto the floor. “I ruthlessly seduced him..” Phil looked surprised at my choice of words. I realised that I was letting Phil into my life.” I repeated. but gently coaxed me with his eyes and gentle touch. letting the import of the words hang in the air for a moment.” Phil sat there.
“What a thought!” As we gathered ourselves up we noticed the cold coffees on the table. “My God. I‟ve never talked to anyone. When I stopped. “Never!” he reaffirmed. neither of them had ever revealed to me how they felt about making love to a woman. “I‟m going to get us some more drinks. Phil started to talk again.” I said. about this kind of stuff. I have to tell you that I think I‟m going to be sacked. “Never!” he said again. “Then. When I thought about it. He nodded more strongly. for all John‟s openness.” “Never?” I asked. I poured out my feelings to him for nearly 15 minutes.Rory Ridley-Duff colleague but as my closest personal friend.” I said after a pause. When do men talk about this I wondered? “Never?” I asked again. drying my eyes. “Penny. for all my closeness to Mike.” . ever.
The way I changed my mind about Mike. I nearly screwed up completely for no other reason than my own prejudices. I told him he was too generous. he said he could make „no promises‟ which I took to mean that a decision had already been taken. I took the matter into my own hands and visited Harry. At senior management levels. He had marked me down on most aspects of my performance and cited the handling of the dispute as the reason. mattered more to him than the prejudices I had initially displayed. there was a growing interest in the dispute between Elona and Mike. having briefed Dave and the other senior executives about the appraisal process. I quickly realised that my continued employment was problematic.Friends or Lovers Chapter 48 The rest of the week was unsettling. and the care I had shown to Elona. 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. Nevertheless. This was the beginning of the end. I received my appraisal from Dave and there were no surprises. After I had divulged to Phil what happened at the CIPD event. Jo had been kind and positive. Privately I knew that it had more to do with the way our relationship had turned sour. as had Phil. . At the end of our meeting. going over the issues that the appraisal had raised but avoiding the matter of Dave‟s behaviour toward me. Phil reassured me that whatever happened I would always have his respect. Phil confessed to me that he‟d been visited by Harry. I talked with him for nearly two hours.
or any moral debate about their actions. Harry would act on what he knew. The human resource policy capable of developing truly outstanding leaders is the one that allows people to learn from their mistakes. I could see that matters were already spiralling out of control. perhaps. Intolerance toward failure removes the very people learning the most and those lucky enough to avoid it remain untouched. If our propensity to sack people. Maybe he would survive it. My two-hour conversation . I felt in awe of the social forces that were assembling. or demote them. I suddenly realised something that had never occurred to me before. was about to make a corporate decision that would spark a major conflict. They should have been urging him to avoid acting precipitously. thoughts and actions slowly fades away. It is only by keeping someone in a post after they have made a mistake that a company can benefit from what they learn. As conformity and false consensus takes root. maybe not. a layer of new managers develops beneath them . And so. Management failure is passed down the line and before long senior managers start to wonder why „no good people are coming through‟. goes unchecked then eventually a company loses the very people capable of forming a top-rate management team.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. As I contemplated what would happen if I failed my probation. ideals. challenges to management behaviour.the impacts of their decisions. Managers stop facing – on a daily basis . Harry. 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.
Instead I returned to my office and trusted that my friends would be able to bring off their coup d’etat.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. . I was tempted to return to Harry‟s office and say all this. I was foolish to harbour any hope.
His contract at IC was at an end. Before I left. A week ago I was dreading this. I was particularly glad to see him. there was a group of disparate and irritable people. It felt like a homecoming.” he said. he had formed a committed and thriving team. I finally realised why John‟s reputation was so good. In the time he had been there. Two-months earlier when the department had been formed. As we looked over the menu. The way he talked and cut through bullshit impacted on staff morale.” It was good to hear that the future was positive for IC staff despite the direction of my own life. He had anticipated a long lunch and had ordered a bottle of wine. 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. At the end of such an emotional week.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 49 John was waiting for me at Pizza Hut. I wanted to return to the scene of our first meeting. 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.” “Mike talked to everyone in the department yesterday. The reaction was really good. he chatted about progress. “Everything is set. “That‟s good. He felt the training had gone well and that there was now a good chance that the SHARE experience would sell well. They had . I talked to Jo and realised that John‟s contribution was not just technical. but now I‟m quite excited about it. He let me say my piece.
Pen?” “Why did you sit next to me on the plane?” “Seriously?” “Yes. I‟ve read her novels so I thought we might get on. I think.” he said. didn‟t you?” “Yes.” . I really want to know!” I said. He looked at me from time to time. “Yes. Then I decided to get personal. “The clincher was definitely the shoelaces. like me. We chatted and exchanged small talk until the food came. your arse was definitely part of the equation but not the main reason!” “What else?” “I noticed you sitting in the lounge.” I was listening attentively. “Remember my talk at the CIPD?” “Could hardly forget it!” “Well. Several things bugged me and I wanted to clear them up. his face lit up. When you did that I knew you must‟ve read Ms magazine. trying to see myself through his eyes and understand how I had impacted on him. looking variously at his food.Friends or Lovers organised a drinks reception to round off the day: a last chance to let their hair down before “the big push”. As he did so. His eyes wandered around. the table and me. You were reading a book. Our eyes met a couple of times and I liked that. but as he spoke he focussed more and more on his thoughts. “You mentioned that in the speech. “John?” I started tentatively. It was a novel by Bernice Rubens. But it was when you moved in the queue that I realised you‟d noticed me too.
John. The headline was quite uninspiring. I had to make a living and for a short while I wrote lots of magazine articles. I thought the idea was amusing and it would be a laugh for the magazine‟s readers. I didn‟t read the article. I stood there behind you and realised . There was an article in the mid-90s telling women how to flirt at work. That‟s where the advice was first given to women. I‟d never seen anybody do it. I think it was something like „The Working Woman‟s Guide to Sex at Work‟ right before an article about sexual harassment! Anyway. I wrote it! I added that bit of advice about the shoelace as a joke. “So there you were doing something to attract me that I‟d written about nearly 10 years earlier.Rory Ridley-Duff I did not understand how he could work out that I had once read Ms magazine. I remember. “You never cease to amaze. I pictured you as a single professional woman who enjoyed her independence and men!” We both laughed at the irony. 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. absolutely gob-smacked. but I was still amazed that he‟d made a connection. “How could you know that?” “Easy.” “I can‟t believe it!” I said. John looked me square in the eye. I was looking at you in those fantastic jeans and pondering the connection between us. It was art creating life.” “You?” “Why so surprised? I‟d just finished my PhD and was full of that stuff.
What if I had missed the point and was about to make a complete fool of myself? I dismissed it quickly from my . I couldn‟t resist talking to you. To him. “You mean there are people more forward than me?” he joked.” As I was trying to take this in. “I have an answer for you.Friends or Lovers that my life had touched yours 10 years earlier. “Yes! You were very forward. “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.” I hesitated. to comprehend the myriad of different things that he had been thinking about when we met. I must‟ve asked you many things. I realised what a complex and accidental thing attraction can be. I wanted to tell him of my discovery. “You‟re definitely more forward than me!” As we laughed. Usually I have to spend ages giving hints and heavy clues before people work it out. but could not. “Yes. “Well. a party piece that he‟d asked hundreds. dummy!” “Oh.” I said.” he laughed. I tried to think of one. “Do you remember what you asked me on the plane?” “We chatted for ages.” “To what?” “To your question. To me that question had separated him from everyone else I‟d ever known. there‟s me!” I answered. Pen. if not thousands of times. the question was old hat. that?” he said mockingly as I realised that he was jesting with me. “If you have.” he replied. then you have my total respect.
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. Pen?” he asked. really dying for me‟. I wanted to know whether my answer was the one he was looking for so I set aside my fears and told him. Never before had I thought of sex as a kind of test through which men had to pass to prove their strength. . His hand moved to his cheek and he rubbed it as his mouth stayed open. And in the next instant. making him use force to get what I dearly wanted to give anyway. Just as I was about to panic that I‟d made a huge gaff. Mike had been fondling me while I was talking on the phone and in my head I kept thinking „he‟s dying for me. as if I was doing something wrong. So I started to tell the story.” I said. He looked gob-smacked. a grin started to spread over his face. I felt bad. That phrase kept popping into my head. but I wanted him to overpower me to prove to me that he could.Rory Ridley-Duff thoughts. “How did you come up with that?” He was truly amazed. I wanted to test that his love was so great that I couldn‟t stop him expressing it. really. I thought how unfair it was that I should be testing him. I wanted him to prove he was stronger than me. Then it hit me. And then. I was encouraging him to be aggressive and I started to wonder why I was doing it. “It‟s strange. He was truly amazed. Initially. Never before had I thought of the problems that might create. it would take its place at the back of a very long list of foolish thoughts and actions. So I started to resist him. “How did you work it out. If I was to become a fool again.
Friends or Lovers So I set out for John what had been going through my head. John‟s question popped into my head – it was one of those flashes of intuition that have no explanation. but that was not the same thing as being prepared to die to save him. John. no preconditions. And yet. Suddenly. 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. If he was not stronger than me. I stopped resisting him. how could he ever protect me? And the moment I felt ashamed of thinking this way. he told me that he would let me go if I wanted children. even die for me. I wanted him to overpower me so that I would know he was strong enough to protect me. I gave it to him willingly. A few days before. So I stopped teasing him and started to care instead about giving him as much pleasure as I could. I wondered about that phrase. I could not imagine making such a sacrifice. 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. no tests. but not in the movie hero sense. but I realised that I would not die for him. “It stopped me insisting that he be prepared to die for me as a pre-condition of my love.” I continued. I wanted him to be prepared to die for me. I knew. 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. the phrase “he‟s dying for me” kept spinning through my head. when we had been driving home.” . would sacrifice himself for me. I put these two thoughts together. Mike. “But your question.
What a journey I had travelled. “It‟s only fair!” “Fair. For the last 20 years.” I thought about this for a second and suddenly became bold. “If we cared about equality. As I faced up to the truth that I would not die for my man. I had been taught (and taught others) that war was caused by men. . finally.Rory Ridley-Duff “That‟s it. Many women are strong and fit. Equality means that women would insist on their responsibility to fight. not just their right. “There is another point of view. our armies would have many women fighting alongside men. War might be fought – in the minds of the men who fought them – to protect those they love.” I said.. fought by men. John interrupted my thoughts with some of his own.” I said with ardour of a convert. even if the average man is stronger than the average women. Usually they never think twice about it for the entirety of their lives. Pen – if we valued men as much as women . for the benefit of men. By rights. it was to show themselves worthy of someone‟s love. John stopped me. perhaps.” he said firmly. And for no other reason than they are men. my own part in men‟s violence became clearer to me.” “Why? Surely we should recognise this….we would be recruiting the strongest people to fight our wars. yes. It had taken me all this time to see it a different way. since I had been introduced to feminism. For them. Sensible. maybe not.” I said.” “We expect men to die. We expect them to die to protect us. Penny! That‟s what men are taught to do. “Then that‟s what we should do. but wanted him to be prepared to die for me. Perhaps it was not even for this reason.
“If women and men were fighting on the front line together.” I insist. “Let‟s suppose that there was a battle and after there were 1. my own government is likely to put me in jail where I can be expect to . “Would you?” I responded.” John disagreed. but only 100 men. “I don‟t buy that. I thought about his words but challenged them.” he said. Women have fought alongside men in revolutions so why not in armies?” He smiled at me. however. “Would you fight?” he asked. I think any community would be happier as a result of that. His face. wouldn‟t they.” I started. aren‟t they?” “I suppose they are. Penny. I hesitated. was not whimsical. “But what if it was the other way around? What if there were 1.Friends or Lovers I gestured for him to continue. when the battle was over there would be roughly equal numbers left. Would the society be able to survive?” “Of course. “I don‟t have a choice.” “Of course you do.000 women left in a village who could bear children. even if there were not as many left. It would take countless more generations to rebuild a community if this happened. If I refuse to fight. not only would they be building mutual respect and enduring relationships with each other. And those men are going to be busy. “Look at the history of war. “We don‟t force people into the army.000 men and only 100 women left?” His question made me think.
It‟s not true that men love war. They cleared the ground by shooting everyone they came across. My only other alternative would be to take up arms against my own government – which means fighting my own people. The women and children were allowed to leave. I am court-marshalled for cowardice. John saw my discomfort. buggered and left to die. I can choose the enemy. then change my mind. Again. It‟s not a question that really means anything to me. no need for draft laws. my own brothers and sisters. Even if my own country supported a right to conscientiously object. “No. no . Remember the phrase they used? The soldiers were „clearing the ground‟. my own government. I have no choice except to fight. Either way. I felt sick. If we did. If I fight at first. “I don‟t have the choices you do. Penny. “Only men were killed. or a court of law. they‟ll still kill me.” I objected. “What do you mean?” “Do you remember Fallujah?” he enquired. Even if my own side spares me. “Fallujah? In Iraq you mean?” “Yes. there would be no need for conscription. The horror of this appalled me.” “My God!” was all I could say. would I get mercy from the enemy?” he asked. Not long ago I would have been executed if I tried to reject violence. no need for military laws to punish deserters.” John replied.” “But that‟s genocide. the enemy won‟t. not bravery.Rory Ridley-Duff be beaten. I‟m left with no way out of violence. They don‟t care if I support the war or not. No man between the age of 15 and 55 was allowed out of the city before the US forces attacked it.
Don‟t let anyone stop you. 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. you would be forced to fight against your will. they simply work out for themselves that one day they may have to fight. “Keep saying these things.Friends or Lovers need for court marshals. one day. After a second bottle of wine.” I wondered what it must be like to grow up constantly wondering if. It‟s not necessary to teach them. John. I had a truly wonderful day. . no executions or jail for men when they reject violence.” He nodded and the conversation moved onto an assortment of trivia as we finished off a lovely “stuffed crust” pizza with chargrilled chicken. peppers and extra cheese.
Several generations of women made it possible for me to exercise choice. I was sacked. I did not want to end up being one of the women who contributed to the problems that men face today. prejudiced and limited as me. John returned to his wife and they continued. new relationships were formed and moments of happiness were found amidst the problems we all faced. Or. and I felt a responsibility to give back some of what they had given to me. but as things changed. For the rest of his life he enjoyed – if that is the right word – an open .Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 50 I wish I could tell you that things worked out well. It wasn‟t to happen. who did so only out of affection for me. that truth and justice prevailed. but were as frail. between his and her escapades. They did their best. If it had not been for the intervention of a gifted person. some died so that I could do so. or a voice to be used against men and women I had come to respect. to make their peace with each other. problems which after millennia of neglect are finally becoming the subject of debate. that the initial love I felt for Mike lasted until the day I died. 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. if you prefer the description on my employment record “Penny failed her probationary period because of poor job performance”. 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. I would have added to these statistics myself. I wish I could say that most of us lived happily for most of our lives.
I enjoyed many happy years with Mike. he lost his seat and switched to writing. John remained a nomad for another decade before finally giving in to the temptation of politics. At the same time. John saw Sally from time to time. He never rose to the level of cabinet minister but he distinguished himself in small ways as a member of one government. or the interests within which he had become embedded. Sally was immediately on the scene and this time . but he was right about my desire to have children. and certainly whenever she needed his support he made himself available. he kept returning home from his travels to enjoy time with the family that he created. My cynicism about politicians faded dramatically as I met him over the years and learned of the endless no-win scenarios that they face. we got together to spend good times. We parted amicably and he remains a good friend. After serving just one term. Once or twice. nurtured and loved. I prefer to think of them as two free spirits with the capacity to forgive each other when loneliness led them astray. for him ever be completely free of bias or prejudice. but I watched as he did his best to navigate them. I have his books and read each one that comes out. Professionally. Sometimes we would cuddle on the sofa.Friends or Lovers marriage. of course. It was impossible. It is no less special for that and we continue to protect what we have in ways that seem right to us. He remains my dearest and most enduring friend. You have probably never heard of him. I gave him one or two pushes in that direction but he kept his word and stubbornly encouraged me into a new relationship. at times when we both felt sad. but am also proud of – we have not felt the need to consummate our relationship. But – and this is something I partly regret.
when the success of SHARE began to fade. His wife went into a hospice where she died six-months later. their marriage failed. He declined. Sam. She had been through the menopause and Mike lost his excuse for resisting her. Dave kept his job. As for Sam and Elaine. their marriage hit the rocks about five years later. They are one of life‟s happy couples. of course. The success of their company created problems. Mike ended up committing himself to Sally for life. he never fully recovered. When I meet them. I also found myself taking a much greater interest in being an aunt. Afterwards. Elaine enjoyed life as a company director and took on more directorships. I detect the kind of closeness that I have in my own marriage. he had a breakdown. Sally finally got her man. Sam rejoined IC to engineer new products. I think of the good times we had. In giving a „best woman‟ speech. After Procter & Gamble bought them out. but the events that took place following my departure cost him dearly. She got a buzz from the political battles and liked to forge change. I discovered my talent for public speaking. She was the business brains and it was her will that prevailed in the short term. They are now married. My sister Carole married Chris. Nine years after his first wife had falsely accused him of sleeping with her. adding that he hoped never to see me again. and their second child – Penny Ann – was born one day early. The love . I once wrote to him to see whether he wanted to talk about the past. It was a sad way for our relationship to end and despite the bitterness on his side. Within twelve months he had been demoted.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike gave in to her. wanted to get back to inventing and engineering new products. According to Phil.
eventually got married and had two children. Everyone expected the SHARE product to be a success. they devoted themselves to grandparenthood. persuaded the entire SHARE team to leave IC and become members of Sam and Elaine‟s company. I went to work for Sam and Elaine. In exchange for giving up continuous employment rights. Phil was promoted into my position at IC and we kept in touch. Sam and Elaine gave each member a generous shareholding in the new company. Phil and Elona had a crack at things. Given what happened later. 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. Mike. 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. He felt so superfluous that eventually he left. it created a big rift between Elona and myself.Friends or Lovers between Carole and Chris was elastic: it stretched and bent as life threw its worst at them. However. and when his children started blaming him for the marriage break-up. Phil got limited access after a lengthy court battle. As for me. When Elona‟s parents retired. but Sam and Elaine had committed investors and staff. so they took up this opportunity in large numbers. it did not last. Each had a tremendous capacity to accommodate the other‟s weaknesses and failings. of course. he eventually stopped seeing them altogether. It took much of the spirit out of him for many years. with help from John. There was a furious legal battle. the dispute between Elona and Mike was the catalyst that ended . I found it impossible to build bridges with her again. It broke his heart. the contingency plan worked a treat. Sam and Elaine. When I look back.
In the 5 years that followed. constitutional matters and legal frameworks. Many of us became paper millionaires for a while. That can happen without any written agreement. but arrogance and shortsightedness eroded the share price before the company was sold off. It gave the rampant rabbit a good run as the number one sex toy. but he is getting quite old now. Today. finance. As I learnt through reflecting on my life and writing this story. I remain close to Elaine and we both did well out of the company sale. against increasing numbers of . and certainly does not require a written contract of employment. If it works for them both. or company constitution. it is not only inside the home that intimate relationships are of vital importance. this simple truth is not stated often enough. We formed a new business together – the Social Exchange. Each new business starts out with two people who like and trust each other well enough to give the other what they need. 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. It is a thankless task arguing against bureaucracy. While banks and development agencies get flustered about business planning.Rory Ridley-Duff IC‟s rapid growth. I am its managing director and we help organisations develop progressive approaches to human resource management. standardised codes of ethics and kitemarks. against the trend towards ever more standards of excellence. John works with us on some projects. 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. but never toppled it. they continue it. two people enter into their own agreement.
but even the way we articulate our thoughts. and Phil split from Elona. For a business to grow. and exploring ways to make it work in practice. and that is why I wanted to tell you this story. After I split from Mike. 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. In this struggle I have – unsurprisingly . there is only one thing of which I am certain. employees and suppliers. there needs to be a culture in which relationships are intimate and people can learn from the mistakes they make. If I can teach this to my children and grandchildren. We called her Hope. customers. ~ End ~ . my time on this earth will not have been wasted.made little headway. I started to see Phil more. 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. As I look to the future. It may not last. Three years later we had a girl. I learned this at IC. There is a strength that grows from being quick to listen and slow to judge. these things are never certain. and from them spring not just new human life but new economic life as well. Thankfully I have been able to make a living saying this to many people. Intimate relationships are the foundation our society. We now have two lovely children: a boy I insisted we call John.Friends or Lovers laws that seek to regulate not only our behaviour. Our friendship developed into a lasting romance. but for now I am content.
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