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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
you have been a constant source of inspiration and the best antidote to loneliness that any writer could ask for. Your comments were invaluable and I trust you will spot your influence in the end result. Natasha and Bethany. Our conversations about the human condition will remain with me always. For these and many other reasons. .Acknowledgements The people who made this book possible are numerous. you have my enduring thanks. This book is fiction but without undertaking a series of workplace studies. you are still my dream woman. propose story lines. It is every author‟s dream to have someone with whom they can freely discuss ideas. Firstly. 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). for the enormous patience and support she has given to my writing aspirations. Poonam. and who will also check their manuscript for errors and support them through lean times. my wife. 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. To my children. draft chapters. To my muse in business. To family members and life-long friends who did not spare my feelings in their feedback on early drafts. I thank you for helping me find moral courage when everyone around me thought I was mad or hopelessly naïve for writing this novel. I‟d like to thank Caroline.
and sometimes I think she‟s tried to flirt with me.” I said. but that is not something that you show in this job. just a misunderstanding. confident. “Bit of a tease. Still. but I‟ve always been careful. He was 50. maybe. She wanted to discuss something private so I asked her if she‟d like to go for a drink. we‟ve been close at times. His eyes looked around the floor. Mike was moderately bright. I just never got any sense that she didn‟t like the way I behaved. Calm. that‟s not what I‟m saying. one of those „pretty boys‟ who does not realise that . I‟m not making out she was „up for it‟ or anything crude like that. The frown on his brow was more pronounced. had worked his way up through the ranks. was she?” I said with a laugh. There‟s been a complaint. she never showed it. To him a „bit of fun‟ probably included the occasional trip to a lap-dancing bar or shagging in the toilets. concise – look him in the eye. “No. If she felt uncomfortable.” Yes.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 1 “So. She said „no‟. He prided himself on being „friendly‟ but I just found him a creep. “It‟s nothing.” “She‟s never said anything about it. End of story. it was a different matter. landed himself a regional sales management job and probably felt he was enjoying the best years of his life. Mike was traditionalist all right. To Elona.” “Not to you. Mike. Time to give him a push. And yes. “why have you been bothering Elona?” He looked so unconcerned that it made me slightly irritable. if you ask me. He was married and fancied himself a bit too much.” Mike looked uncomfortable now. It‟s no big deal.
Boyfriend trouble. To progress I had to move. here we are. It can be quite a laugh making a sexist-pig squirm. I think. Not quite as straightforward as some situations I‟ve faced because he has a good reputation and is well liked. still wanting to resurrect his youth and put it about. She‟s a bit sensitive at the moment. In my previous job I‟d been fast-tracked to deputy director but came up against the glass ceiling.” . perhaps. but I‟m not averse to a confrontation with the occasional unreconstructed man. So. I think. Many of my management colleagues are women too. Mike the macho. God. Nine months into my first job as Head of Personnel. but too old for me – definitely! And he really irritated me when he shared dirty jokes with his friends but never with me. Not my type at all. steer clear of Elona. I‟d better check with my boss before I do anything here. He was certainly not my type. I guess. I‟m fairly new here. sales rep of the year four years ago. Come see me tomorrow and we‟ll wrap this up. probably bored at home. but the patriarchy seems alive and well. “Mike. I guess the sexual revolution has helped a bit. In the mean time. I can see that men have it harder in some respects. Leave it with me for the next 24 hours. I would not call myself a feminist. Mike is proof enough of that. Twenty years ago this company would not have contemplated me in this position. was he past it! He had aged well. particularly in the company of like-minded female friends. I‟ll look into this and get back to you.Friends or Lovers they are past it. I could see right through him. Married with children. now leading a successful team but getting angry when one of his administrative staff won‟t go for a drink with him.
Rory Ridley-Duff Mike did not look relieved at these comments and mumbled something I could not hear. He had never struck me as a formal sort before. He shook my hand. His eyes met mine and he fixed his gaze for just a second then looked away. .
but it clearly looks like he‟s got the hots for Elona. I can‟t let this rest. “Do it sensitively. He . this isn‟t easy. This does worry me. Dave was „Director of Business Development‟ and spent his time seeking out creative types and developing relationships with them. Penny?” I was not sure whether the question was rhetorical but as no more words were forthcoming I gathered my thoughts. Unlike most men.” I liked Dave. I don‟t think he should be sacked. But I agree we can‟t let this pass. he engaged with women as equals and was sympathetic to many of the problems they faced. Zero-tolerance and all that! What‟s right here.Friends or Lovers Chapter 2 “He‟s done what?” asked Dave. “As far as I‟m aware this is the first such complaint against Mike. It‟s fair to Mike and it„ll send a strong message to the rest of the company that it won‟t be tolerated. “Not completely sure. He was not much older than me. He enjoyed working with me but was careful never to overstep the mark or make me feel uncomfortable. I could happily spend time in his company in the office or away on business. * * * Innovation Centre Ltd was modern and dynamic.” Dave looked at me thoughtfully for several seconds. “Well. Okay?” I nodded. my director. Penny. Mike‟s good – his team like him. and I knew that he was ambitious too. I hear he‟s not been a paragon of virtue in the past. but we should move him. We shared a professional ethic and modern outlook. Elona‟s upset.
smartly sexy. I still prefer the „relationship‟ thing. I thought I may as well get myself an MBA couldn‟t see what harm it would do .and now I understand all that talk of returns on investment. but even so I am a bit of a man magnet when I wear black. They‟re fine for those who want to give up work when they find their prince. I‟ve read my share of self-help books. able to live independently. He looks smart. Most men are bastards anyway. got them to commit their products to us then helped them obtain development grants. He mentors me and I appreciate that. 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.has created a network of 60 inventors and a catalogue of wonderful gadgets. Workplace relationships might put that at risk. I‟ve worked hard for my career. but avoid the ones called „How to Find the Man of your Dreams at Work”. I have my share of paranoia about my looks. Dave has a penchant for that too. football . however. I did the „women into business‟ thing a few years back. interested only in sex. the Innovation Centre – or IC as we call it in-house . speaks well and is incredible at building trust. Of course he‟s taken – most guys like him are – and he now has a young child that he rarely sees. Much as I like him. nett present values and can put together a business plan. As for me. My friends joke that I am a model of the Cosmopolitan revolution – vibrant.Rory Ridley-Duff found inventors. intelligent. but for me they‟re a heap of crap. They were dishing out bursaries to encourage graduates into management. but go out on the town and get a shag if I want to. Over the last decade. he is „strictly business‟. and decided to specialise in human relations work.
It seems to work for me. so we want someone with lots of experience. and this provides one. we need a solution to that too. Same salary.” “And what if I don‟t take this position?” he asked. then around the side of his head as he pinched his ear-lobe.” Mike looked at me and nodded to indicate he was ready. They‟re a bit wet behind the ears.” “Cut the crap. same status. I‟m taking the flak for Elona. but only until they want me to cook them a „special‟ meal or wash their clothes. but it goes with the territory and you have to harden yourself to it.” Mike looked blankly at me for a moment. I do boyfriends.Friends or Lovers and drinking. “It‟s a new project. “Can you give me until Monday?” he asked. of course. “Carry on. I can‟t say that I like this side of my job.” I said firmly. “I‟ve had a chat with Dave and Elona about the situation and I‟ve a suggestion for you. “We think it‟d be a good move for you to join Direct Marketing. I dumped him. Penny. Mike. .” he said quietly. and working with a new team. Our eyes locked and his hand moved up and rubbed his chin. Another feather in your cap.” Mike interjected. aren‟t I?” “Well. “I wasn‟t born yesterday. * * * “Thanks for dropping in. I lived with a guy once but soon felt like his mother. It‟d mean travelling more. Since then. I‟ve taken my pleasure carefully and on my own terms.” I said showing him to a chair. “That‟d create a problem.
I have to go. He was trying to say something. but I could see that he was struggling to find the words. I was able to protect his income. I feel sorry for Mike.” “Can‟t you call her? Meet her for lunch?” “I‟ll try. “What is it.” I got up from my seat and felt his eyes burn a hole in me. He can‟t really complain. He was not a happy man. 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. The hardest thing is protecting someone‟s dignity while sending a message that some behaviour is unacceptable.” he hesitated. The problem is sorted and Elona is protected. It is never easy giving someone a sideways move but it has to be done sometimes. I do have a conscience.. His awkwardness was palpable but no further words came out. I‟m away in France next week. Penny. I can give you „til 4 pm. In some ways. “If that‟s all. but I don‟t want this hanging around while I‟m away. His family is still safe. Mike?” “This…” his eyes looked up at the ceiling then down at the floor. but the world is changing and the type of behaviour he is responsible for is no longer acceptable to either men or women.” “She‟s working.. .Rory Ridley-Duff “No. Mike. Mike. Mike called me back later that day and accepted the new job. If you need to talk to your wife then take the day off. If I have to clip the wings of a man who sets a bad example then it feels like a job well done.
At home I might bump into a neighbour or colleague from work. He was casually dressed in jeans and a black top. This time I did both. But abroad. They were nice eyes. Our eyes met briefly a couple of times. moisturised myself with assorted oils. but not . 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. and applied a dab of Clinique near my ears. I studied him. He had definitely aged well. First night I snuggled down with a Bernice Rubens novel. I shaved. but hard work – a two-day conference. wrists and breasts before setting off to await the chat up lines. I guess he was around 45 but still had a hint of the handsome features of his youth. His eyes were brown and there were wrinkles stretching from the outer corners across both temples. When he cast them in my direction. 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. After relaxing in the bath. If there is one thing I enjoy about going away on business it is the freedom I have in the evenings. If I go to these events with Dave I feel obliged to spend time with him. Clearly he was a person used to smiling and laughing. kind but sexy. It was a dull evening. Usually that pissed me off. The best approach I got all week was not at the conference. I could feel them undressing me. The second night I decided to dress up and take my chances at the conference party. but this time I was on my own and had the chance to really let my hair down.Friends or Lovers Chapter 3 France was fun. He had dark brown hair with touches of white.
” He looked straight into my eyes and held my gaze for a second. “The impact of sexuality on group dynamics: a symbolic interactionist perspective. After a while he let out a laugh. I noticed his every move. It seemed to have the desired effect because five minutes later I was in a window seat and he sat down next to me.” he suddenly remarked. He continued to read his book until the plane took off but then started to look across me out of the window. “A comedy?” I asked. “You look down there and you realise just how insignificant you are.Rory Ridley-Duff today. As the plane rose higher and higher. and at other times he frowned. “Of sorts. Definitely nice eyes. he continued to gaze at the buildings and roads below.” he remarked showing me the title of an article he was reading. Sometimes he would sigh. I instinctively smiled back. then without another word he resumed reading his book.” I paused for a moment and then quipped. When we boarded the plane. 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. “Some comedy!” . From then on. All the lines at the corners of his eyes creased. I obliged by reading it out. He turned to me again and smiled. He was reading intently. and then he smiled. “Flying always makes me feel humble. I manoeuvred myself into the queue just in front of him. A pity he had not been at the party the night before. I thought. He was not bad. underlining phrases that caught his imagination. He held my gaze long enough to let me know he liked the way I looked.
” There was that smile again. what is it you do?” He paused.I might help men to look at women differently. “Are you in my line of work?” I asked. or women to look at men differently.” “You‟re a writer?” This was getting better and better. “Penny.” he responded. “thirty-something manager from Warwickshire. “And what line is that?” “Employees.” “John. hoping to dig a bit into his background.” “Partly. “In what way?” I was genuinely curious. “I challenge the way people look at themselves and each other.” he said guardedly.” he responded. “Well. “forty-something consultant from London. “Only to my wife!” he joked.” “Very enigmatic. I‟m an HR manager. .” I announced. writing is a by-product of my living. I would guess they read my work sometimes…. I mean I don‟t write for a living.” “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. “Behaviour. So. but I‟m not a writer. This time I held his gaze for a little longer to let him know I liked the way he looked. I write. “Well….Friends or Lovers He looked carefully at me and nodded in agreement. I sometimes work with HR people. acknowledging my interest and deflecting it at the same time. eh! In what field?” I enquired. “A consultant. I guess.
A taster only.” he said.” “Of course. right? You must have an abundance of „knowledge‟ about men and women.” I was tempted to make another flirty comment. “Yes. surely? It is your job to know about men and women. Let‟s think about the army.Rory Ridley-Duff “You‟ve got a wife?” the words came out so fast that I kicked myself. “What about the army. but resisted. Did I detect the hint of mockery? “As much as the next person.” The way he said „knowledge‟ was weird. You‟re in HR. If my cheeks had coloured up.” “Oh. and kids. “We don‟t have long enough to discuss that one! Okay.” He smiled.” he immediately answered. more than that. “Why?” “Well. “Your assumption is right. . “Woman are made of sugar and spice and all things nice while men are made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails. Khaki never was my colour and I don‟t like getting dirty. he convinced me that they had not. then?” I asked. like a challenge. You must be acutely aware of their typical profile. raising his eyebrows. Let‟s take something outside your everyday experience. He continued without any trace of embarrassment while I wanted to shrink into my seat. let‟s see. “Some of my clients think of me as a pain in the arse. brushing aside his comment with a smile.” I said with a smile.” “The army!” I was genuinely surprised. I guess.” “You disappoint me.
“Can I ask the audience?” “Well. “Can I phone a friend?” I teased. I imagine the army is even worse. “Okay.” “Bullying. It was flattering to think I intrigued him. I didn‟t want to spoil a promising conversation by saying this. I thought. I found it difficult to look him in the eye while I thought. it may not be fair. „What‟s the most sexist thing about the army?‟” What an odd question. Some had to put up with dreadful abuse. “I saw a documentary some time ago about women in the army.” He looked at me kindly. .” he said with a wry smile. “That‟s three things. I started to offer less controversial suggestions. I had a girlfriend who was in the police. Here‟s your question. “All mobiles must be switched off during the flight. staffed largely by men with the purpose of keeping men in power. rape and abuse happen to men as well. “Aha! The million pound question!” I said.” he said. and it made me pause. However.Friends or Lovers “Well. an organisation created by men. I felt nervous and my right hand instinctively went to pinch my ear lobe. I usually ask this question at the end of a course.” John said. I liked that.” he said with mock severity. raping and abusing. after all. “Bullying. and she talked of similar things happening to her. “Fuck! Where do I begin?” Where would this lead? I turned over half a dozen arguments in my head – the army is. it‟s your opinion that really intrigues me.” he said.
” I replied somewhat apologetically. And I wouldn‟t want you to remember me as the depressing old git who spoiled your flight home. that‟s sick. . But it‟s a thought provoker.” “Male soldiers get raped too.” said John.” “Bit of a depressing subject. usually when in enemy hands. so I thought some more.Rory Ridley-Duff “What‟s the most sexist thing about the army?” I repeated quietly to myself. I wasn‟t sure that I was making sense. “Women soldiers get raped…. I was genuinely shocked to hear that.men don‟t. 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.” Even as I said it. That. a woman is always going to feel more violated. “It‟s not a trick question. I wasn‟t going to be put off that easily.” “You wouldn‟t be alone in that. I felt. “I can‟t say I‟ve given this much thought. It‟s food for thought.” I added and shot him an irritated look that hopefully did not cross the boundary into rudeness. “I mean. more powerless. Have we asked the men how they felt about it?” I paused.” “Indeed. “You did ask!” he said with a laugh. “Maybe. “You‟re right. He was probably so practised at fielding answers to this question that I was on a hiding to nothing so I looked for a way out. surely?” I retorted. “God. was the real thought provoker.” “Don‟t get me wrong. is it?” “Not at all.” “But it‟s not the same.
” I said coyly.” “Perhaps you should be a bit more choosey about the things you say. please.” I said these words with a smile that reassured him that his compliments were very welcome.. Nice thought. it was not this. Are you asking me to lie to you? I thought women hated liars…. 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.er….Friends or Lovers “But not a very sexy topic. “But it is sexy. I wanted the conversation to continue.. married man! Should you be talking to me like that?” I snapped back ensuring my eyes caught his again. I was not sure whether to invite him to join the mile high club. I can see that I‟m going to have to watch you!” he chuckled. “Watch me? I think you opened up this….” “Hmmm. had I?” Whatever I had expected on the journey home. “Do you like to open up?” he asked inquisitively.line of talk.” I was enjoying this.” I laughed before I could stop myself. but only with strangers. “Okay.” I quipped. It was one of those moments where I could have . “Yes. Not nearly as sexy as your perfume …. “Hey. “Then I‟d better not get to know you too well. or punch him in the balls for being so cheeky. but the way he looked at me as he said it. “Less of the „young‟. “I‟m old enough to gobble you up. what should I say to a young woman like you?” It was not what he said that induced butterflies.
He talked fondly of his wife. and had two children he loved deeply. “Would you like to meet up for a drink next week?” “What about your wife and kids?” I said with a hint of sarcasm. As our descent into Heathrow started. I don‟t hide my friendships from her. For a living he helped companies educate men and women to improve their marketing skills.” 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 . “I try to find another way to look at human relationships. By the time we landed I felt like I‟d had a brief tour of his life. “The way they really are. and children. Our banter continued.” “And what way is that?” I added. His boy was 12 and his daughter 14. “So what is it you do exactly?” “I just told you. “My wife knows me well.” he said pleasantly. who specialised in work with creative teams. 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. survived a few ups and downs. He was an academic turned marketing consultant.” I stressed.” The brevity and simplicity of his response made me pause again and he used the moment to spring another surprise on me. Ann. I took him back to the start of our conversation.Rory Ridley-Duff stubbed out the fire before it got too hot but chose to fan the fire instead. He thought for a moment. He‟d been married for 20 years. continuing to dig. “Exactly.
“Okay. I don‟t think it would be sensible…. With John it immediately mattered to me that he liked me for more than my womanly charms. He was hard to resist. went through my winding down routine and settled into bed. As we swapped cards I felt a pleasant sensation that was rare for me. My head and body arched as the pleasure rose within me. Here was a man who knew how to make a woman . With one assured movement his mouth latched onto me and began to knead my flesh. I continued to think of him as I allowed my fingers to work their way down into my pants. “Just thought I‟d ask. I actually found that I cared what he thought. 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 could not get him out of my mind. How about swapping e-mail addresses?” I smiled. then slowly pulling down my knickers. caressing my stomach. and his hands moved slowly across me tantalising and pinching my nipples. but did not look disappointed. rather than work. greedily consuming every inch of my skin.” He nodded his head.” “Do you need to pretend?” he inquired without a trace of mockery. “I can pretend that we met at the conference. As I drove away. When I reached home. I chucked my bags into the corner of my bedroom. I let a story unfold in my mind.Friends or Lovers caused me to stop short. but also a sense of disappointment that his aspirations were not a little higher.” I found myself agreeing before I could stop myself. His eyes moved over me. He saw my hesitancy and I felt a burning need to say something. I gave him my personal email. anything. “You‟re a most unusual man and while I‟d like to go for a drink.
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.
short listed people. This gave me time to cast my eye over some of the mail I had received. After spending the morning organising the following week‟s meetings. junk mail still got through and I weeded this out as quickly as possible. I turned to my e-mails. I found most of these distasteful but they were becoming commonplace and whatever we did the problem still increased. . Phil. There were several memos about recruiting regional organisers for the new home catalogue. and then interviewed them at a hotel. to find out the unresolved issues and discuss them with me at the end of the day. Those that I liked would be invited to our headquarters in Leamington Spa for an assessment day. Just like Avon.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. not simply beauty products. We advertised in the local press. really. wanted specialist training for her team on consumer behaviour. 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. The marketing manager. but specialising in a much broader range of gadgets. just a variant on previous recruitment campaigns. None of this was new. I asked one of my staff. Jo. Despite the efforts of our IT department. where they would have a second interview with Jo. 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.
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.t. He must be keen. Lastly.com Subject: Drinking with women? Penny. I felt a sense of expectation disturbing me. The hour seemed to drag. John My god.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‟s e-mailed me already. Who are you playing verbal tricks on today? Penny Even though I knew that I had more pressing tasks to do. Every time a new e-mail arrived.com To: penny@hotlips.. I hit the [Reply] button: From: firstname.lastname@example.org. Penny. there was a message from someone that I did not immediately recognise: From: j. I kept wondering if he was going to reply.simons@tascali. Isn’t it your turn to teach me some tricks…? John . Had a word with my wife.simons@tascali. To think that you are so willing to corrupt a sweet innocent girl like me….com To: j.com Re: Drinking with Women Hi John. No probs if you want a drink.
Do you have any that would fit me? John x . I’ll come if you wear a kilt. habit caused me to hit the Send button. I can walk on my hands (always goes down well in a beer garden when I’m wearing a summer dress without knickers). Every time a voice inside me warned me to be cautious another told me to be daring. He likes to play. very tempting. Hmm! Tempting. 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. And the bastard made me wait over an hour for a reply. This time he replied quickly. Which? Wear a summer dress. Bugger. Penny. We can shock some genteel country folk by doing handstands together…. but she’s petite and it won’t fit me. Can you do that? Penny While I pondered whether this was too risqué. John. I think my wife has one from her Scottish dancing days. Penny. Too late. Tricks? Well.Friends or Lovers Good. but at least I get to kiss him back. Penny x Not much chance of him accepting on those terms. But unfortunately I don’t have a kilt. John.
After 30 minutes. Looks like we are going to have to postpone that drink for the time being. John. and with careful guidance I could see him going far. For now. the pick of an excellent bunch. Phil was a good lad. he had to learn how to do the donkeywork and that meant devising and running the administrative systems I needed. I’m a big girl. After 45 minutes. bright but inexperienced. “Okay. He‟d clearly had an eventful meeting with Mike. please. So what is the bad news?” “You‟ve got three vacancies in Mike‟s old team. “I think I‟ve found the people to fill the vacant positions in the marketing team. “Good news first. .Rory Ridley-Duff The cheeky bugger! He‟d mentioned his wife again. What was I playing at? Were we flirting or joking? I was not sure. I felt a mixture of annoyance and regret. “Do you want the good news or bad news?” he asked. “What‟s he playing at?” Phil settled back in his chair. however.” was my starter for ten.” “Shit!” I exclaimed. He was young and hard working. Whatever my thoughts. He had good grasp of psychology (always useful in this line of work) and had recently graduated with a good degree. they had to be put on hold because Phil entered the office and sat down with a large sigh.. Penny x I hoped that I‟d not pushed him away too quickly.” “That‟s good. Better back off for now.” I replied. but not that big…. the joy I‟d been feeling drained away. hit me with it. He was personable too.
Their sales records are pretty good. he said that he‟ll accept the temporary drop if these three can join him. I‟ll check with Dave. wouldn‟t they? The old boy network will naturally stick up for him. What about Mike‟s money concerns? Did he raise that?” I asked.” “Okay. I nodded to Phil to carry on. part of a new generation that accepts the way the workplace is changing.” “Hmm.Friends or Lovers “Not sure.” How weird. He was fresh out of college. they would be. They all fit our desired profile. I thought! Perhaps he weaves a magic spell that I don‟t know about yet.” “It‟s not the men – it‟s three of the women. Two have school age children and the other has grandchildren. The moment I arrived in his department I was collared by three of his sales reps. “It overlaps their territories so they‟re confident they‟ll build sales quickly. Few things to round off. Thanks. What d‟you want to do?” “Leave it with me. . He had no problem working for a woman and we got along well. Not sure he‟s playing at all. Anything else?” “Nope. “Not yet. They want to move with him. Are you off now?” I asked. They were pissed as hell at Mike being moved. “Well.” Phil was good. “Well. Sounds okay to me. I‟ll keep you posted. or prepare for battle if he doesn‟t. Don‟t worry about it. They want to work with Mike. All have contacts from previous sales jobs. I get the feeling that he‟ll quieten down if he gets his way on this.
He did not immediately jump at the idea and rubbed his chin in thought.it may come in handy. The starting salary would be the same.Rory Ridley-Duff I sought out Dave to confer on the latest developments. 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. “Mike may become a problem. The differences were not so great that we needed to worry.” . Dave finally agreed but as I left he said something that set off alarm bells. Find out more about him . The job information we sent out would be slightly misleading. but I could explain the changes at interview. Something was disturbing him.
Mixed in with my anger was a spine-chilling excitement that I could not shake off. If I flirt it is because I think you find it fun too. however. Hope to hear from you soon.” “A Fantasy. What had he called me? “Smart and sexy. If you are okay with this. Our relationship is a strong one. In saying that I don’t want you to read more into these comments than is in them. I locked away sensitive information and tidied my desk. But enjoying a mutual attraction does not mean I’m going to make a pass at you (that will have to remain a fantasy). You are an attractive woman. Before logging off. then I still have a pleasant memory of meeting a smart and sexy woman. so it was a surprise when another e-mail from him appeared in my inbox.Friends or Lovers Chapter 5 Back at my desk I started to wind down for the night. Penny. It was fun. My wife does not usually interfere in my personal friendships (unless she feels threatened) and we have become much more relaxed in recent years. Before that resumes. John x Who was this guy? His arrogance pissed me off. I retrieved my e-mails to see whether there were any final issues to deal with. If you are not. I have women friends and I’d like you to be one of them. I like you. I could not concentrate. Try as I might.” Why does . That evening I settled down with my Bernice Rubbens again. Fuck him. Thanks for playtime. I love my kids. then we will become friends. I hope we can enjoy more banter in the weeks to come. I love my wife. I want to give you the chance to walk away if you wish. That is a lovely thought to keep in my head if that is all you want to give. I‟d forgotten about John.
The prospect of looking into them thrills me. circling around like vultures gnawing at old wounds. Maybe he is just after a fling. He‟s got kids. He‟s married. By 2am. He‟s too old for me. The hours passed and still I could not read my book. I tried to watch a film but the moving images were just a backdrop. No guy has ever talked to me like this. And that realisation had a strange effect. the minutes ticked and questions invaded my thoughts. my eyes finally got so heavy that I dropped asleep. Penny. Don‟t trust him. For a few hours I was free of the conflict raging in my soul. . Why does this hurt? Don‟t let him in. Don‟t let him in. I put on music. He‟s got “ups and downs” in his life. He‟s intelligent. The word „danger‟ keeps forcing its way into my thoughts but my mind wanders back to his eyes. Penny. no denying it. Play it cool. My thoughts kept returning to our e-mail exchanges. He‟s sexy.Rory Ridley-Duff he tell me he won‟t make a pass at me? Why not? Bastard. but I did not listen to it. He makes me laugh. As I lay in bed. I must stop thinking like this. He‟s fun. He dares to resist me. Why do I want to trust him? I never trust men. Slowly it dawned on me why I‟m angry at him – he dares to resist me.
I remembered the first time that my manager asked me to keep my ears and eyes open. When you experience the real world. not find out dark secrets.Friends or Lovers Chapter 6 Following my conversation with Dave. of course.to start by finding out what he could from members of his former team as unobtrusively as possible. he quizzed me. we are part of the management team and that means we bend to their wishes. I too felt awkward because I had initially imagined that work was conducted in the way described in study texts.” He rubbed his hands together. As he looked up.” “If I start asking about him. and his brow still showed a frown. If they do. we have to work within management objectives and commercial constraints. “I want to be sure that there is not a pattern to his behaviour. won‟t they start wondering why?” “Just spend time with them in the canteen. Much as I wanted to focus on recruiting the best people and developing them to their full potential. he scratched his nose.” I said. I‟m trying to build a picture. Whether I like it or not. “Nothing in particular. . you find there is this whole other world that no-one talks about. “I‟m still concerned about Elona‟s complaint. see if they talk about him. Naturally. His eyes looked at the table while he rubbed his chin. I asked Phil to find out more about Mike. get to know them. then join in the conversation. I told him not to be too obvious . Just take an interest.” Phil looked awkward. Just see if you can find out about him. “What am I looking for?” he asked.
“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.
Elona.” “Do you have a diary?” I asked.” Ms Leyton? A bit formal. Why?” “If you‟ve asked someone to stop and they continue to touch you in a way that you don‟t like. I have a boyfriend and I only like him to touch me like that. “Yes. tell them straightaway. After Elona left the room I pondered her behaviour. Can you do that too?” “Sure. Ms Leyton. eh?” I said with a furtive look. “Okay. “And quite right too. “I don‟t understand what you are implying. “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. Okay?” She seemed to relax. “What do you mean?” she replied as she shuffled in her seat. Can you do that?” “Yes. Still. make a note in your diary. doesn‟t it? If anyone does something that you don‟t like.” she confirmed. I detected a touch of embarrassment in her behaviour. Her defensiveness suggested she was hiding something. I don‟t want other men doing it. come and see me. Elona tensed and was unsettled by this remark. I‟ll try. “It seems that we have a few more heads to knock together. I could see she was agitated so I took another approach.Rory Ridley-Duff “I guess it depends whose got their hand on your behind. I‟m glad we had this talk.” “And if you feel the need. I thought.” I smiled strongly at her as I drew the conversation to a close. I wondered .
Friends or Lovers if she was receiving more attention than she was saying. Clearly we will need to work on this problem together. . I‟ll discuss with Phil before I depart on Monday.
When I settle down with a box of chocolates and dim the light. after I was accepted in this job. It suits me for the moment. the candles give the room a romantic sexy feel. Considering their generation. At ground level. I always work hard to make my living room the most welcoming one in the house. They had decided that if they still wanted to be together after living in each other‟s pockets for two . I have large vases with dried flowers that give some colour and texture next to an attractive gas fire. Carole. I‟ve worked hard to shape it in my own image. two years younger than me. On the opposite wall. and has made her career in teaching. 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. She is 30. although one day I‟d like a house with a garden that I can tend. I have a photo of my younger sister. Although I live on my own. Recently he got a promotion to project analyst and is now supervising others for the first time. On the wall either side are two African masks. Over the brick fireplace I have some ethnic artwork. her first child with boyfriend Chris.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 8 I live on the outskirts of town in a two-bedroom flat. At the moment she is on maternity leave. The mantelpiece supports two tall candles in wrought iron holders and a number of stone carved nightlights. After meeting at university they wanted to travel the world together for a while. each with different tribal markings. Last year. I splashed out on a wooden floor and cream leather sofa. Next to Carole is a picture of my parents on their 40 th wedding anniversary. I take some pride in my home. they had children quite late.
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”. He is a civil servant who rose through the ranks to lead a unit that answers parliamentary questions. My father. Fame of a sort. they each established their careers. however. Forlorn.” What is it about men and commitment? Even though she‟s been with him for three years now. but she holds out hope that eventually they‟ll get married. And so it has been. He even gets to write answers for the Prime Minister sometimes. sometimes we write e-mails to each other and swap humorous cards. At that time. . still has two years before he can retire. I‟m proud of him. I keep telling her that we are better off without them. When they got back. like my sister. but hope springs eternal where she is concerned. many of our phone conversations still dwell on “man problems”. My sister sent these to me when she was having difficulty getting her boyfriend to settle down with her. My father is the kindest man I know but I have had a prickly relationship with my mother ever since I turned 14. got married and had children. they‟d do it for life. Sometimes he gets to prepare answers for TV. A few of these hang on a pin board in my living room. I ask if we will hear wedding bells soon but the most optimistic response she‟s given so far is “Next Year: probably.Friends or Lovers years. I guess. We now call each other every week. I reckon. she will be able to retire next year. My mother. is a teacher. I grew close to my sister and we stayed that way ever since.
The other side draw holds my collection of lingerie. I don‟t have space for a washing machine so I still do my laundry down the road. organised into earrings. necklaces. The kitchen is small but functional. carefully selected so that on the rare occasions I think enough of a man to invite him back. moisturisers. and a choice of rings for fingers and toes. I don‟t have a regular fella to keep me warm at night. Wrapped in my duvet. and on each bedside table I have one of these new cylindrical lights with slow moving silver flakes that refract 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. so the dresser came with an array of drawers to hold all my paraphernalia: lip gloss. and watch the patterns that meander around the room. just perfect for fuelling my fantasies when I feel like playing with myself. It gets me out of the house . belly bars. They know how I like to adorn myself. The focus is my pinewood king-size bed with a deluxe duck feather duvet and pillows. nail varnishes and eye shadows (which I use only on special occasions). facial scrubs. When I go to bed.Rory Ridley-Duff My bedroom is a mini-paradise. I can make him think that he‟s gone to heaven early. selections of lipsticks. so a sensuous bedroom equipped for lingering self-pampering is one of life‟s essentials. Jewellery is in one of my side drawers. I switch out the main light. Either side of the mirror is a raised area for an assortment of bottles. make-up remover and spot sticks. switch on the bedside lights. The headboard is decorated with subtle white lights. a sensual and very personal love nest. bracelets (wrist and ankle). The work units and oven are built in so there is a reasonable amount of workspace and cleaning is easy. I feel deliciously erotic.
I‟m not sure about it. but he just makes more work for me. “Not bad. “Chris has raised the idea of using his flexi-hours to spend more time at home. Quite sweet really.” “Can‟t you train him better?” I ask. How about you?” . Good week?” I enjoy these chats with my sister. In some ways it‟s good to have him home.” I interjected. When Big Brother hits our screens we chat about it each week and I invite her around my flat to watch eviction nights. I don‟t know. * * * “Hi sis‟” “Hi Carole. He is trying too. He is. yet?” “Haven‟t raised it for a while. Just wish he could cook then he‟d be really useful to me. “I try. He can change a nappy now.” “If only adults were as easy to amuse…” I commented. I reassure him that as soon as he starts on solids then he‟ll be able to get in on the action. but baby refuses to be fed by bottle. bless him.” “Nothing on the matrimonial front. I try.” “He sounds keen. “Yes. This has been a standing joke ever since she started going out with him. He‟s sitting up now and he‟s a lot happier because he can look around.Friends or Lovers and I can chat to Betty who does the service washes. He actually gets upset that he can‟t feed his child. it just creates tension. I give him a toy with a bell on it and he sits there shaking it and laughs for ages. She gives me the latest celebrity gossip.
I say! You only live once. I can‟t explain. Sounds like he‟s a fast worker. I want to satisfy my curiosity. it‟s not like that. He was keen to meet me again so we‟ve agreed to meet up next week for lunch. he‟s an oddball. a consultant.” “Tell me more….” “Oh don‟t say that Carole. “No. I have no idea whether I‟m doing the right thing and you know what I‟m like with men.Rory Ridley-Duff This is another standing joke . and you‟re giving him a big green light. I‟m not sure. He‟s most odd. let you know how it goes. “No.” “No Carole.my inability to find any man worthy of me.” We are so alike. “Yeah! I‟ll call you in the week.” “Hey you. He burned my ear with all this stuff about sexism in the army. but I didn‟t even convince myself so I doubt that I convinced her.” . why are you meeting him?” It was a pertinent question.” I said weakly.” Carole quipped. Like I say. nothing to report there.” “You‟re smitten.” “Too right you will. He‟s intelligent. But I did meet an interesting man this week on the plane back from France. He has lovely eyes.” “And your libido?” “I don‟t think so. so that‟s a no go area. He is a practiced flirt. “He‟s married. I can tell. “Oh. “Oh. But he seems different.” “So.” No sooner had I uttered the words than I realised how stupid they sounded. “Go for it. yes?” she asked. got kids. a writer.
. we both put down the phone and returned to our very different lives.Friends or Lovers “Say „hi‟ to mum for me if you talk to her.” “Bye sis‟” And with that.” “I will. Stay cool.
Despite the façade of strength I present at work. 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). One thing that only women can understand. So far none have hit me. Sometimes I get really scared. I particularly hate having workmen in the flat during the day. cleaning. and sharing my thoughts and feelings. 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. But I can‟t deny that there is loneliness too. relaxing and sleeping. if the doorbell rings on a dark winter evening I use my spy hole to check who‟s the other side. and getting up when I like. is the silent fear we have of violence. Living on my own. I have the pleasure of buying in exactly the foods I wish. Not having a man about the house also helps in that respect. reading. but my sister was not so lucky.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 9 My weekend was fairly typical: shopping. Her last boyfriend punched and kicked . watching only the television that I want to. I think. most men who I let into my bed think that the corner of my room has an invisible linen bin placed there. No way am I going to start washing their clothes. snuggling up to them. Breaking up with a man is traumatic because you never know how he‟s going to react. Some withdraw into themselves and skulk off. If it is a man I do not know – and sometimes even if I do – I don‟t let them in. I don‟t always feel safe on my own. but with others you can visibly see their bodies convulse with anger. I still can‟t get used to going to bed by myself and I especially miss the pleasure of waking up next to someone.
so why do I feel so empty? As I walk on the brow of the hill I look north towards Worcester. I have a nice home and neighbours. two circles of friends (inside and outside work) that balance each other and provide good times and support for bad times. I‟d done my chores so I took myself off to the Malvern Hills for a walk. It was a pleasant day. looking at her bruised mouth and eye. an isolated and desolate beauty searching the wilderness for something in life that will make it more meaningful and satisfying. In my mind. The wind buffets my face as I stand like the French Lieutenant‟s Woman. I‟m sufficiently attractive to be able to enjoy male company more or less whenever I like. I recall John‟s comment that looking down on the world reminds us of our insignificance. At the moment I wonder whether my life is going in the direction that I want. warm for April. . that‟s an experience that‟ll never leave me. Am I significant? Do I make a difference? Have I had a positive influence on the people I‟ve known? I wasn‟t sure. and I was able to remove my jumper and wear just a tee-shirt and shorts. Sitting with her.Friends or Lovers her when she ended the relationship. On the surface it looks very fulfilling. By Sunday. time and space to think. watching her shrivel with humiliation as she admitted to a nurse how she received her injuries. 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. holding her hand while she sobbed like a young child. good career with responsibility and the chance to travel. a family I can see when I need (far enough away not to crowd me but close enough to visit the same day). Walking gives me a wonderful sense of freedom.
and I have many things that give me pleasure. Husbands walk with wives (lovers or friends. the desire to share myself physically. I still feel lonely. but deep in my heart I‟m still quite lonely. Rarely do I see two women or two men walking together.Rory Ridley-Duff I‟ve been hard on boyfriends who would not make a commitment to me. I even hide my feelings from my sister. In fact. the hills are filled with people who have come to terms with sharing themselves with another. cannot be satisfied with any of them. perhaps). If my parents knew how I behaved sometimes they would probably die with shame. Even when I‟m shacked up with a man. The life I have is safe. My deepest need. . but perhaps it is me who is avoiding commitment. I don‟t think I‟ve shared myself fully with anyone. I can‟t show them the real me. I‟m not sure there is anyone with whom I can do that. I‟m too afraid. Parents walk with children. 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. emotionally and spiritually. Family and friends are great but there are limits to how I can be with them.
At the moment. “Stop it!” I shout. I can‟t help but feel excited even though I know this is not an appropriate way to feel. I keep reminding myself that this is an unrealistic (and unhealthy) way to be thinking but the butterflies in my stomach won‟t go away. . Love Me One More Time” on the CD player and this fuels an expectation that lunch will be the start of a romance. We e-mailed each other over the weekend and agreed to meet at Pizza Hut. the clock shows there are only 50 minutes to go and my breathing deepens and lengthens as my nerves start to intensify. There was a single woman with previous direct sales experience and good family support so I think we have found the people we need. turn right into an NCP car park. I wish I didn‟t feel like this. see the front of the car turn to the left and climb the levels. The interviews went off as well as could be expected. The car parks itself as if I‟m on auto-pilot. I shouldn‟t be meeting him. Both with children in the 11-15 age range and extended family support (that‟s usually necessary in this line of work). I try not to think and focus on getting through the next few minutes. “Go away!” but ranting makes no difference. watch the barrier rise. I have George Benson playing “Lady. He too seems to possess the necessary enthusiasm and skills.Friends or Lovers Chapter 10 I‟m in Leeds today. As I enter the outskirts of town. I‟m driving back to meet John. But I keep driving towards the town centre. no matter what I do. I also interviewed a single man who had won custody of his children. both married. I found a man and woman.
look at him and smile. Take the money. 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. “Penny! There you are. Around the eyes. Thank you for making the effort to look nice. Press 7725. Turn left. Wait for card. The necklace is long enough for the jewel to draw attention to a hint of cleavage. Enter. Walk.Rory Ridley-Duff Find the exit. Turn left. Open the door. I‟ve put on a white top – thin enough to give a hint of the lace bra underneath – styled into a „V‟. Go to cashpoint. Thank you. But his hair looks freshly washed and there .” I say with false modesty. I take off my jacket and sit down. What a surprising remark! “Yes. Check my handbag. Along the high street. Choose “Cash no receipt”. He has turned up wearing an unironed tee-shirt and jeans with a hole in one knee. £50. classy but not tarty. Press lips together. Apply evenly. Continue. “You look good.” “Just my normal work clothes. I‟m not only pleased I‟ve made an impression but also delighted that he‟s noticed. I can feel myself beginning to relax. Where is my lippy? Look in the shop window. Inside. Now right. Turn left. Go down the stairs. All this elegantly covered by a light purple trouser suit that hugs my figure. a subtle shade of blue (just enough to emphasise my long black lashes without looking trashy).” The moment I hear his words I come out of my trance.” “Thank you?” I ask. I applied a modest amount of eye shadow and liner. I appreciate it. Look in the shop windows. Studs with a light blue jewel adorn my ears and a matching necklace drapes around my neck.
Then he adds. The lines at the corners of his eyes only display when he smiles. Very energetic woman.” he jests. I like it. “It did.” “She keeps you young. “I see you dressed up for me too…” I say cheekily. I still don‟t know how old he is.” I say boldly.” . I have to work hard to keep up with her. did your interviewing go well?” he asks.Friends or Lovers is a day‟s stubble giving him an undeniably rugged look. including a single father. “I use my wife‟s Nivea every day. “So. I need an exclusive casual outfit for each day otherwise my beach cred is seriously damaged. Especially before I go on holiday.” “Yes. obviously. “Tell me. “how old are you?” “Forward aren‟t we?” “Oh. “Lots.” he says without any embarrassment. when he‟s relaxed they disappear. His face has worn well and his hair shows only slight signs of greying. would you believe?” “Only just. Good on the wrinkles. I felt comfortable and content. “Yes. All the nerves that I‟d felt were swept away. Shortlisted four people.” “I‟m 44. yes! I don‟t beat about the bush. but in the daylight I guess he‟s a bit younger than I first thought – somewhere in his late 30s. I carefully ironed the creases into the shirt and hired a tailor to give my trousers that deliberate „just torn‟ look. then?” I quip.” “Does your tailor get much business from you.” “Perhaps it will catch on in Hollywood?” He laughed and looked deeply into my eyes. I settle into my seat and look at him more closely.
” “Strong minded?” He says nothing. Chose career instead. got angry with men. She‟s also a teacher but currently on maternity. always closer to dad. He doesn‟t need to. She saves her strong opinions for our marriage and children. Tried a few. Here we go. now with child and dopey boyfriend.” “Not out and about like you. fell out with mum. Politics became liberal. Started to like men less. “Your life in 5 minutes. attended women‟s groups.” “Okay.Rory Ridley-Duff Given that we‟d moved onto the subject of his wife. “So!” he says. “Want to try something I do on my courses?” “Why not?” I answer. Shouted regularly at politicians. his smile and nod say it all. Translates government documents from English to French to German and back again. in Malvern where I grew up with my teacher mother and civil servant father. It suits her. Relatively happy modern career woman. including that he admires her. Developed well. Born. age 0. Did radical bit at university. Warm loving home for the first dozen or so years. Likes . Now HR manager in a growing firm. got angry with women. manager at 29 but stumbled across the glass ceiling. then?” “She prefers a quieter existence where her opinions are not the subject of public scrutiny. Age 13 onwards I became a bit of a rebel. I felt we should dwell there a bit. “What does she do?” “She‟s a linguist. Protested the Gulf War (the first one). I could sense a question coming. Started to like men more. Can you do that? Then I‟ll give you mine. One sister who is two years younger than me.
Went through the „girls‟ craze. same age as you funnily enough. Mexican food. Tried a few. Married her. Tried real world. Now 32. Went through the football craze. Artist mum. Lots of freedom. Marine engineer dad who died when I was eight. “How about you?” I quickly ask. Sex and the City – shame it has finished.” he adds. Lots of responsibility. Started writing. My turn. exercise. flirting and friendship – but in reverse order. Worked in academia. Born in Hampshire. Flirted with radicals (both ideologically and literally). then PhD. Got hired as a consultant. Went through the basketball craze. A waitress stands at the end of our table ready to take our order. The portfolio life is for me. Both older. No Angels. We both laugh in unison and I look at her. “I think that‟s the best exercise I‟ve had all day. Frost. “All in one breath?” I laugh out loud. “Wow!” he injects. “Right. Missed first Gulf War demo. Did a masters. nights in with cat. Friends. This is fun and I am enjoying myself. Went off radicals. then calmed down. I stop. A rebel until age 13. sometimes lonely. usually fine. the freedom. . Loved kids. Protested the Poll Tax. Did my extremist bit at university. Two sisters. fell in love with one. refused to pay it.Friends or Lovers chocolate. the pay. Always liked women. One works in a women‟s refuge. Loved them again. Very sad but coped okay. Liked kudos. Hated kids. Went off real world.” He stops and takes in a deep breath to replenish his oxygen supply. Eastenders. Hobbies include walking. Returned to research. walking. Had kids. romantic comedies. the other lectures in some obscure social science.
some well-founded. and I was drawn more and more into the conversation. As he started to speak. sir. others not. He felt like an old friend. As soon as she went. “Would you like any drinks while you are thinking?” Her voice came out in a monotone as if it had been prerecorded. Wherever I go they never seem to work. please. Is a normal coffee okay?” “Of course. “These things take time.Rory Ridley-Duff “Could you give us a few more minutes?” I ask. “So what have you been doing in Birmingham?” I enquired.” “And did you succeed?” I was actually interested this time and he could sense this. he leans over towards me and speaks quietly.” I request. People have many preconceptions.” “Such as?” . “Cappuccino?” asks John. “I‟d afraid the machine‟s broken. “Helping some marketing recruits find new ways to look at men and women. His demeanour changed and took on a more relaxed and thoughtful expression.” he answers politely.” * * * As we chatted away. not a new one. “Decaf coffee. we were joyous and smiling. he started to gesticulate. “I think someone has placed a contract to sabotage all cappuccino makers worldwide.
It‟s everywhere. 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.” But he sounded sceptical.” I affirmed.” .” “You are joking! I don‟t believe you. “In the 70s and 80s.” “The studies must be biased. I don‟t understand why. Then some people started to ask whether the research design was distorting the results. “It depends on whose data you look at. Over one-hundred and seventy studies in the last three decades disagree with you. on TV. Researchers started to ask both men and women. “There‟s a growing body of research now.” I thought of my sister and my body felt tense all over. “Perhaps. not just women. I could feel a sprinkle of alarm go through me because I could sense he was leading me into a trap. “That men are instinctively more violent than women. It‟s my job to make sense of reliable data. You see it all the time.” he replied surprisingly. but John continued calmly and reassuringly. In the papers. “Difficult to tell. feeling that I knew the answer already. I could tell that he was selecting one from a great long list. The results were surprising and not what you‟d expect.” “Is that well-founded or not?” I asked.” he continued.Friends or Lovers He thought for a moment. “lot of studies suggested that men were more violent than women in personal relationships. Men are definitely more aggressive and violent.” “But we all know that men are more violent that women.
What is meant by this phrase? I looked at John with curiosity. Yes. the waitress returned. I am interested. I stopped for a moment.” he said with a smile. I‟m sure there was a hint of sarcasm in her tone.” said the waitress. At that moment. . John and I looked at each other and this time we didn‟t laugh. different social environments. I know you are going to try.” John paused. But the results are consistent across different industrialised countries. “Dad is being used to threaten the kids.” “I don‟t believe them. Is that your point?” I asked. different age groups. and have been conducted by people from different research backgrounds. We both picked up a menu. “Thank you. quickly found something we liked and ordered. I thought for a moment. “No it‟s okay.” “Of course. She had an impatient look on her face. “D‟you remember „Wait „Til Your Father Gets Home‟?” he suddenly asked. It is just hard to accept. I was in deep shock. I remembered a TV series with this name.” “I can‟t explain it – this is very new data to me too and I need time to reflect on it. “We don‟t have to talk about this if you don‟t want to. John looked at me supportively.Rory Ridley-Duff “I can‟t rule that out.” “You‟re not alone.” “Explain.” he said.
He was forming his thoughts onthe-fly as well. I think it is about Mum making Dad responsible for discipline. “you see it everywhere. they won‟t listen to me.” he answered speaking directly from the heart. I hate doing it – I feel like I‟ve failed .Friends or Lovers “Not sure. “Now I come to thing of it. “I‟m not sure any more that men choose to be aggressive.” he said finally. I‟ve seen girls say „leave me alone or I‟ll get my dad onto you‟ or they might say „I‟ll get my brother onto you. fathers and boyfriends to do things for them. Make them go to bed. “Maybe we use Dad as a weapon whether he wants to be scary or not. but sometimes they dig their heels in and I come very close. That happens in my house too. My wife sometimes says to me „John. The threat is only effective if the kids fear Dad. “When I think about this. will you?‟ I‟ve managed to avoid smacking so far. John paused for a moment.but what d‟you do when kids won‟t respond to anything?” I was beginning to see his point. 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 paused. I have threatened it once or twice.” I said.” he continued. “Maybe we use Dad as a weapon because he is more scary.‟ Even my female students used to say that they‟d play dumb or frightened to get their brothers. .
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. but he‟s done this before and the young woman was so upset that I had to separate them. we shared a stuffed crust with extra mushroom and chicken. nodded and then . That moment. “What‟s your work like?” he asked. we both realised we‟d had enough of this. Completely. and I was eating chicken dippers. You understand?” I said. The woman is holding something back. I‟m not sure it is appropriate for me to talk about this. “Okay.” We both paused. I‟m not sure exactly what.” I stopped myself. “but the issue for women is that the threat is always there. She‟d been having some difficulties at home and she singled him out as a father figure to talk to. Instinctively.” I answered. We have a man who has been pressuring a young woman for a drink. The threat is enough. I‟m sure you are right. We‟re never free of fear. He‟d ordered potato skins. But it is double-edged. I‟ve had to move him.” “Yes. “Yes. I have a friend who felt a young woman was getting too close to him.Rory Ridley-Duff “Maybe. He tried to cool it off. I‟m trying to find out more because something peculiar seems to be going on. Tricky situation in one department. “John. our starters arrived. He only became worried after she started to flirt a bit. I raised my eyebrows. Busy at the moment. But I‟m under no such obligation.” John looked at me in a way that suggested he did not know whether to carry on. I don‟t understand all the ins and outs. After that.
isn‟t it?” I said. Men and women talk to each other in such oblique ways. I hoped that I had found a friend – a real friend. “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. but only after I made him promise that it would be my treat next time. protecting our egos while leaving the door open just in case we both had a change of heart. When we parted. . I felt good. I hoped he was right. I said softly….” “Me neither. I could have said “I‟ll be very sensitive about your marriage”. we hugged. Next thing he knew she‟d complained about him. A minefield.” But.” he asserted. After coffees. We both knew exactly what the other was thinking. no. He could have said “I don‟t want to ruin this by sleeping with you. “Yes. We both agreed there would be a next time in about a month. We had our own minefield to navigate. “I don‟t want to tread on any mines. we danced around each other using metaphors hoping the other would understand.” He held my gaze. he paid. Always. As I walked back to my car.Friends or Lovers tilted my head slightly to one side to indicate that he should continue. She backed off and was hurt. We swapped mobile phone numbers too. “…we‟ll have to tread very carefully…” He nodded and also spoke softly.” I responded. “We‟ll be fine.” “It‟s always complicated.
The assessment centre uses an array of techniques to provide a more rounded picture of a candidate‟s suitability for a position. I met Dave to discuss the interviews. I‟d like to better understand why people decline. I got Phil to phone all the candidates and give them the news. At other times. “Have you been able to find out anything?” I asked. I called Phil into my office for an update on Mike. and also to give the teams a chance to evaluate the candidates in a less formal setting. They are sad that he‟s . but I‟m confident that we‟re reducing the recruitment lottery through the use of these techniques. More than once.” “I chatted to Elona too.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 11 When I returned to work. you first?” “Okay. Four accepted an invitation to our offices for the following week. After I rounded off with Dave. those that were marginal in the recruitment process turn out to be the best performers. 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. we‟ve found our perfect candidate only for them to decline the position at the last minute. I found them a good deal more open than I expected. Anyway. Nearly all his team talk highly of him. then confirmed the final shortlist. we introduce them to teams that undertake similar work to give them a flavour of the „real‟ workplace. participate in role playing exercises. They undertake a psychometric test. but interesting nevertheless. Not quite what I expected. “Some. recruitment is a hit and miss affair. Lastly. Even with all this care and effort.
“I can feel a „but‟ coming…. Some said they were shocked because they thought the two got on extremely well.” “Did you pick anything up about Elona? Were he and Elona close?” “Yes and no.. and some of the younger men. but they all respect his abilities as a manager and as a salesperson. “Elona told me she felt uncomfortable socialising with her team. some words were forthcoming. People liked her well enough but they found her a bit quiet. touch her and make her feel uncomfortable. It sounds like he had a reputation for not putting up with any nonsense. but was also sympathetic and supportive when his staff had problems. They wouldn‟t elaborate. particularly the women.” Phil paused. She worked closely with Mike – that went with the job. They were always working together to resolve customer issues. A couple found him a bit „old school‟. “Those that knew she had made a complaint were surprised. then he gave out a slight laugh.” Phil stopped talking for a moment and had a puzzled look on his face. and I felt that it wasn‟t the right time to probe. you know.” I decided to share what I found out. Mike.” I said. . He rubbed his chin and touched his eyebrow before making several attempts to start speaking. I still think there is something going on that we don‟t know about. Finally. polite and caring to women and a bit rougher and more argumentative with the men.Friends or Lovers moved on. Some didn‟t mention the complaint – in fact I got the impression they didn‟t know about it.
“Tricky. He did have a rough patch a couple of years back.” He paused again and I was starting to get a little frustrated.. He got close to Sally.something didn‟t feel right but I can‟t put my finger on it.No. She spoke about him almost like…. “I‟ve heard that too. one of the sales reps. spit it out.” . and his wife kicked him out for a while.Rory Ridley-Duff “I agree….” I shared something that Dave had told me. “Come on Phil. “Yes?” I prompted. but I would hazard a guess that he broke up with his wife for a while. There was such a familiarity in the way she talked about him. I don‟t know. Nobody said it out loud.” “Why d‟you think that?” I said with genuine surprise. 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…. but I pressed him. “Yes – I gathered that much and I‟m sure I spoke to her..” He rubbed his chin vigorously as he sat thinking. “Sally‟s attitude to him was so different from the others. They clammed up a bit.a cross between a brother and a lover…. “….” “Interpretation?” Phil was hesitant.” “What about Mike‟s marriage?” “Ah! Yes. He was searching for words.” Then Phil said something that shocked me. I got the impression that they were saying „don‟t go there‟.
his wife forgave him and he moved back in. he lived with the rep for a while. So far as I can see. Elona is upset. I just can‟t work it out at the moment. Okay. I got the feeling that Sally had lived with him for while. and when he admitted this he was definitely agitated. Thirdly. What do I know? Firstly. Mike asked Elona out for a drink. Mike had an affair with a sales rep. What I find hard to understand is why his team is so supportive of him. 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. his wife kicked him out. .” “Hmm. We now know that Elona has been troubled by over attentive men at social events and that she‟s hiding something. Keep your ear to the ground. Fourth. Secondly. he still lives with his wife.Friends or Lovers “Well. I‟ll see what I can find out my end.” After Phil left my office I pondered what I‟d learnt. Mike admits that he put his arm around her.
Are you happy to talk about it some more?” Mike‟s hands were locked together and he looked very tense.. “I talked with Elona about a week ago and I can‟t help feeling that she‟s holding something back. Come on in. Is that right?” “Er. to be frank. She was not the most talkative or outgoing young woman. I understand that you worked closely with her. It was as if he was trying to decide whether he should speak.” Mike looked at me for quite a few seconds. I‟m trying to clear up the background to this situation with Elona and. “I‟m not accusing you of anything. “Not in any detail. She worked well.” but he stopped short of saying anything more and looked down at his knees while he pondered further.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 12 “Hi. We worked well. I let him settle before I continued. it doesn‟t make sense to me.” I said with a welcoming tone. “Is there anything further you can tell me about your working relationship with her?” He knew he had to talk and I watched as he drew in a large breath and settled into his chair. but I wondered if there is anything that you can tell me that would help me understand the situation. but I liked her . Mike shuffled a bit in his seat. He did not look relaxed so I tried to put him at ease. Mike. I understand that things have not gone smoothly with her boyfriend. Yes…. “Has she told you about her problems at home?” he asked. “What do you want to know?” he asked. “Mike. “It was good.” The moment I said this.
” “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.” he said deliberately. Nobody‟s interests are served by withholding relevant information.” “She didn‟t make a complaint. I need to know. It was someone else in the department.” I felt myself start to get irritated. Mike. Mike. “Haven‟t we been over this before?” he asked. “What do you mean?” I asked. they clearly had no idea what was going on.Friends or Lovers and worked well with her.” His statement puzzled me. Then his right hand moved swiftly to his face and he touched his cheek. I thought I detected a wry smile.” “Well that explains a lot. she confided personal stuff to me and I don‟t think I should break her confidence. But she‟s hedging. “If I‟ve made a mistake. I was not sure where to go next. I would feel more comfortable if you talked to her directly about it.” I asserted.” I said. “but she spoke to me in confidence. “There is more. Her complaint took me by surprise. “Penny. “Well. He started to nod slowly and relaxed a bit.” he commented. “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. “Why did you ask her out for a drink?” Mike tensed and I could see his hands clench. “She didn‟t?” he asked.” I corrected. “No.” . but tried to remain calm. His hands settled back into lap and he started to speak.
nobody‟s accusing you of anything. “I know you give good support to your team. I knew the damage had been done. I looked him in the eye. Mike. “She spoke to me in private about issues with her boyfriend and also an upsetting incident with a team member. but I needed him to calm down if we were to make any progress. “Nobody is accusing you of anything. If I have. “What on earth do you mean?” I regretted the remark but it was out now and I had to limit the damage.” “Why didn‟t you come to me earlier?” I asked.” “Who‟ve you been talking to?” he asked aggressively. Like I say.” “Then why can‟t you look me in the eye when you say that?” he retorted. He decided to open up. “I thought you were trying to straighten this thing out. then gathered his thoughts. “You get close to people don‟t you?” I commented.” His defences were up now. I also offered to meet her outside work and the next thing there‟s a complaint against me. I talked to her several times over a number of weeks. Slow down. gave her whatever support I was able. I thought I must‟ve said or done something insensitive. I apologise but I really don‟t know what was alleged or why.” I found that remark patronising and privately wondered if he resented my involvement.” Inside. He immediately tensed again. “I am used to handling these things within my team. “Mike.Rory Ridley-Duff He thought for a moment. .
I gave her my word.” He was a stubborn bugger and I decided to exert a bit of pressure. I will have to talk to Dave about calling a formal enquiry. Are you sure you‟ve not overstepped the mark with Elona?” I could see his anger rising and his face started to go red. On the basis of this conversation. Even if it makes my position difficult I‟m not prepared to break my word. Curiously. “I don‟t want to fall out about this Mike. “I did not „overstep the mark‟. I offered personal support for a member of my team who was experiencing personal difficulties at work and at home.” I said. or later. I felt uneasy.” Mike looked at me. You have a chance to be open with me now. or Elona and a team member. “I did what any good manager would do.” “She spoke to me in confidence and I‟m not prepared to break that confidence. . but it is as well you understand how I feel. But you have got too close to team members before and this has made managing the team complicated.Friends or Lovers “Okay. “Cards on the table. He fixed my gaze.” he said with some force. It sounds like one or more of policies have been breached and you have a duty to inform me if this is the case. Clearly you give them excellent support and I can see they appreciate this and it has worked well in the past. I think something has taken place between you and Elona. I did not want this situation to get nasty but experience told me to remain calm and sit in my chair.” I struggled to contain my own impatience. I cannot manage a situation I don‟t understand. You are well liked by your team. “Then tell me about these things. he seemed to relax.
and seeing as you‟ve moved me to another department it is no longer my responsibility. I need your co-operation. calling an enquiry will just compound things. Then. I gave him one last chance. I‟ll talk.” Trust him? I don‟t think so. Are you going to give it to me?” He stood thinking. I‟ll await your call.” he replied. “If you get Elona‟s consent. This is one situation in which I will trust my own instincts. People will get hurt. maybe this is one can of worms that needs to be opened. Let me think on this and I‟ll get back to you. “Are you threatening me. he said My patience ended. “No.Rory Ridley-Duff “Do that and a can of worms will open so large that you may never recover from it”.” His tone was slightly sarcastic and that annoyed me.” “Right. Mike?” It was my turn to fix my eyes on his.” “Mike. with a more friendly gesture he made a concession. you and others will be hurt if you pursue this. “Penny. but I let it ride and saw him to the door. .” I argued. There is some serious shit going on here and it is my job to find out what it is. You‟ve made mistakes already. This is not in your interests – trust me. I‟m saying that you do not know enough about this situation to handle it. Elona. “People have already been hurt. There is more at stake here than my job. “Okay.
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. With all the recruitment issues to deal with. . “The good news is that I’ve given you a brain and a penis”. and the new starters. “there’s some good news and some bad news”. John and I continued to e-mail each other in the evenings and steadily got to know each other. I put the Elona issue on a back burner. …to which he responded…. He replied with “masculist” ones. she said to Adam. He added that when both men and women could laugh at both jokes.. We bantered about men and women and I started sending him feminist jokes.Friends or Lovers Chapter 13 Things calmed down over the next few weeks.to which he replied….” ….. finally discovered the food that reduces women’s sex drive by 90%…. after 20 years of diligent research.. I responded with a George Burns quote: . 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. “So what’s the bad news?” asked Adam. “The bad news is that you can only use one at a time.it’s called Wedding Cake. The other one I really liked was: After God made man. Scientists have. and a study involving 2000 women. then perhaps we‟ll be approaching the end of the sex war. Adam asked to hear the good news first...
I guess. If I‟m eventually going to get rejected. They don‟t call me. It hurts a lot. Not all women have this power – I‟m lucky. more ardour than intellect. If they didn‟t fancy me they‟d probably tell me to piss off. it hurts. there is a perverse balance of power. I am lucky to have young skin. actually. 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. at least let the man have a . But the men in the singles scene are playing the same game.Rory Ridley-Duff There will always be a sex war because men and women want different things: men want women and women want men. But when I think about things. They managed to pack the baby off to mum‟s so we‟re going to really rock „n‟ roll. Although I‟m thirty-two. they do say that in their own way after they‟ve shagged me. * * * Tonight. And with this power comes some responsibility. I‟m well into my beautification routine. I can choose to blow his mind or tell him to piss off. 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”. out for fun without commitment. shaved under my arms and between my legs (quite the fashion at the moment). In fact. now I come to think of it. 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. after several months off the scene. 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. Do I care? Yes. About an hour ago I had a bath and soaked myself in essential oils.
really cool – and cut above the knee but not so short that I look like a chav. I‟m a piece of art. While I wait for my sister. a living sculpture. 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. I like to soap my boobs. Sometimes being a woman is such fun. but the women will. Tonight. I‟m a hot babe tonight. I‟ve put on some crystal studs and some dangly earrings that have a blue tint (to match my eyes). When I‟m getting ready for nights like this. plenty of money in his wallet. Under my trendy black leather jacket there is a leather skirt with an overlong belt – dead stylish. fashioned to move the senses. I look sexy as hell without looking cheap or trashy. . a femme fatale out for a kill. I imagine most blokes won‟t notice the detail. It is studded with crystals and an eye catching sky blue jewel that fits into the crease of my cleavage. a handsome face. On my feet. and when I put on a black body-hugging Elle top with a suitably cut V-neck. I‟ve put on black high heels with open toes and a single buckle strap at the ankle. 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. Any under wired bra brings out the best in them. I apply sky blue varnish to my fingernails. but they complete the vision. I have a great pair – no need for a padded bra or implants. They are not that comfortable.Friends or Lovers smooth tanned muscular body. I‟m going for it. 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. and a cock as big as his ego.
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.”
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It was Carole‟s turn to laugh. “God sis‟! When are you going to grow up and settle down?” If there is one thing that Carole had never said to me before it was that I should settle down. I thought she knew better, but the way she said this in such a carefree and matter of fact way actually stopped me in my tracks for a second. “Not tonight,” I said after a moment. “I‟ll give it some thought tomorrow.” My mind returned to the task in hand and I could feel my face relax and a more pleasant demeanour return. “But since the night is young and there are some young strapping lads here who are hot and willing…….let‟s get on and eat, drink and party.” We ordered our food and I finished my second glass of wine. People were beginning to come into the bar in greater numbers; couples, groups of young men and women, sometimes together and sometimes separate. By 9pm we were sitting at our table, and the bar was getting so crowded that we had to queue for drinks. After main courses and coffee, and a third glass of wine, I was ready to dance. “Shall we hit the floor?” I asked. Carole turned to Chris and gave a gesture. “I‟ll stay here and order some coffees?” he responded. “I‟d rather have another sparkling water. Best not to mix drinks too much,” I said with a delicate hint of sarcasm. Carole nodded and we made our way onto the floor. As I looked around, I could see the eyes of several men follow me. One of my great pleasures in life is attracting admiring looks when I dance. When the DJ put on “You Sexy Thing” I began to take control of the dance floor. I like this song, particularly
he was great – but I think I have the edge when it comes to oozing sex appeal. As I cast my eyes around the restaurant tables. 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. As the song ended. 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 grinned broadly and briefly as I flashed a look at the young man sitting at the bar. I put my arms above my head and I let my hips swing and my long hair fall sensuously about me. Then I turn to Chris so that my back is towards him. I caught half a dozen men looking in my direction. For now. chatting. our eyes meet. Good. but his eyes kept looking in my direction. I saw that Chris was queuing at the bar not far from him so I turned to Carole. 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.” and off I went. within a couple of feet. Three-seconds is tantamount to telling him I want him inside my knickers. As I walked towards this young man I looked directly at him and I could see his nervousness. I give him a series of strong admiring looks each lasting a second or two. At the bar was a strong looking young man in a white tee-shirt and jeans. God. I began to look around as I danced to see whose eye I could catch. In Cosmo I read that a second of eye contact is a flirt. I have his attention. He was with friends. As I walk right past him.Rory Ridley-Duff since I saw Robert Carlisle strut his stuff in The Full Monty. “I‟ll just help Chris with the drinks. A two-second gaze is a come-on. .
I could feel the effects of the drink. get after her!” He smiled and laughed in an embarrassed way but did not come out onto the dance floor.” “It‟s not his heart I‟m interested in. I tip-toed around her while I downed the water. one of my favourites.” I ask.” Even though I was alternating water and wine.” “Watching you makes my throat go dry too. One gave him a shove forward as if to say “Go on. His heart may not be up to it. Whether it was the drink or not. Pretending to be helpful. with my arms above my head. Still.” he jokes. Chris. Pen. I think” I say turning to my admirer and catching his eye again. The next record was Madonna‟s Open Your Heart. Soon I was in full flow again. “Dancing is thirsty work. . and Carole decided to leave me to hog the limelight while she drank her coffee. “Not as much as his. I knew that I‟d probably had enough. They were. gently moving in time with the music so as not to spill anything. and that another glass might cause me to get sleepy before I‟d had any fun. He seemed a bit more nervous that most men. I decided to bide my time. he definitely looked good to me. “Go easy on the young lad.Friends or Lovers “Shall I take that. His friends realised I was giving him the eye and they were ribbing him and laughing loudly. Penny. As I returned to the dance floor. Carole was bopping away to YMCA when I arrived back with my drink. gyrating my hips and inviting the onlookers to let their imagination run wild. it had been a while since I‟d let my hair down so I decided to take things as I found them. 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.
I closed my eyes and pictured the young man who was buying me a drink. “White wine. I was ready. His friends. “Hi! I‟m just going to the girls‟ room. letting the alcohol and atmosphere go to our heads. Would you like to get me a drink and we can chat when I get back?” He broke into a big grin and nodded. Yes. like the parting of the red sea. I looked in the mirror. “Back in a minute!” I walked towards the bar again and could see my catch stare at me as I approached him. I imagined my youthful admirer . I put my hand on his shoulder as I drew my mouth close up to his right ear.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. The tingle of anticipation heightened my arousal as I entered a cubicle to relieve myself. I allowed them to dance near me. It was time to cast my line and hook my man. past two young couples who were already exploring each other‟s throats and fondling each others‟ buttocks. “Just going to the loo. After five minutes Carole and Chris joined me and we grooved away for the next couple of records. .Rory Ridley-Duff A number of men tried to join in with me while my young admirer remained at the bar drinking his pint. I walked down the stairs to the toilets.” As I drew away.” I shouted in Chris‟s ear. backed away a little as I went up to him calmly and confidently. he was really very fit indeed and his face was kind and very pleasing to the eye. I let my cheek very gently touch his. My black hair had become loose and free-flowing and I looked like a high-class tart. 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 decided to play with him and see how far he would go. I‟m Penny. . “Most of us work for the AA. I must say. but they‟re alright. looking him straight in the eye. emergency breakdowns and that stuff. I see.” I raised my glass in their direction and they acknowledged me en masse. fast enough to give a flash of suspenders. you know.Friends or Lovers I returned to the bar and he had my drink ready. In fact. if I‟d not known better I would have said he almost wet his pants. he raised it to his lips and kissed it. Load of tossers. “Do you like the outfit?” I asked giving him a quick twirl. “So.” He took it and instead of shaking it.” I said. Again. It occurred to me that I had not heard him speak yet so I held out my hand. then?” I wondered if this was too much of a come on. but I thought it was already obvious that I was coming onto him. but there was a hint of humour there. It looked like I was going to have to be gentle with him. His conversation skills could do with a bit of grooming. “Out with your mates. Rescuing damsels in distress!” So.” he said. “Hi. Very smooth. he didn‟t respond and I began to wonder whether I‟d misread him. To my surprise. “Are you feeling lucky tonight. looking over in their direction. “Them lot?” he said. not overloaded in the brain department. he did not respond.” I said. “George. trying to get the conversation going again.. what do you and your mates do?” I said. “Yeah. “Nothing wrong with a good toss….
” he said. you look like a fit young lad. She‟s over there with her would-be hubby.” Come on lad. spit it out. How about you?” I decided to lie – no point shattering his illusions.” “Fuck.” I moved closer to him and pointed her out on the dance floor. and then gave him a wicked look.Rory Ridley-Duff I saw the Adam‟s apple in his throat move. was it?” He laughed and suddenly he relaxed. but from that moment on he seemed to change into a different person. I smiled at him – a genuine smile of appreciation.” Keep them coming. “There. . That was good.I think you look….. Is he deliberately flattering me or does it come naturally. You don‟t look it!” I was not sure whether that was a compliment or not but I need not have worried because he quickly reassured me.I think you look…. “Twenty next week. “I…. very smooth.” At last.absolutely fucking fantastic. Christ. “I‟ve not seen you here before. “Well. “Hmm. I‟m not sure exactly what I did or said.” Cool. “I only go out when I‟m with my sister. “I….. “I‟m twenty five. he really was nervous! But then some words came out.I….” 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. I thought.. “I thought you were my age. Hot stuff. Are you old enough for me?” I teased. that wasn‟t so hard.
plenty of time for that later…. I drank another glass of water and wine and started to feel very naughty. and his tongue explored my mouth.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 put my hand between his legs and gave a quick squeeze. He moved well. Carole and Chris joined us and we had quite a party for the next hour. I parted my legs slightly and guided him in between them. and then more passionately. We kissed passionately. gently as first. . I thought him quite a sexy dancer and his friends were fun too. I managed to make him understand that he should meet me outside the loos in 5 minutes.don‟t waste it all now. I went to check my make-up again. I heard a slow rising sound from my right. relieved myself once more and then waited outside. The place suddenly came alive and I found myself surrounded by young men. I pulled away slightly and whispered in his ear. There was a sudden movement from all of George‟s friends and I followed them onto the dance floor. “…. He came down the stairs and I could see the animalism in him. He friends were looking on and gave a long slow “Wwwwooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrr!” With perfect timing Rock DJ started to play. For his age he was a good kisser. We must have cut quite a picture – my arse pressed against his groin as he pretended to pump me from behind. our tongues winding around each others. It felt confident and firm which I hoped was a good sign for later. Over the loud music. with George‟s arms around my waist as we did a bump and grind.. leaning against the wall like a prostitute waiting for a client. I opened my mouth and let his tongue in.
” I said. He carried me through and dropped me on the bed. I flagged us a taxi and gave the driver the address. feeling his muscular body. That firm tongue that was so good exploring my mouth felt like a dish mop between my legs. under my skirt and inside my top. He nodded and we gathered our jackets and left. “That room. 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. and opened my legs wide for him so he could see my suspenders in all their glory. His head was between my thighs. I grabbed his head.” I indicate with a nod of the head. We paid the taxi driver. his hand was under my skirt again and I opened my legs wide for him. As the car moved away. indicating he should stop. He did . moving up slowing. kissing me gently. and pointed down to his crotch. He understood immediately and took off his trousers and pants. Then a finger was inside me and I gasped before grabbing his hair and guiding his mouth back to mine. rubbing him up and down while he finger-fucked me. He pulled my pants to one side and buried his face in my pussy. Then he climbed roughly back on top of me and tried to put it in. I jumped up and put my legs around his waist. closed my eyes.Rory Ridley-Duff our hand moving over each others bodies and between each others legs. Then came my first disappointment. His fingers worked inside the hem of my pants and rubbed around my clit. My hands were inside his tee-shirt. who bid us farewell with the comment “Have fun!” As soon as we were inside the door of my flat. I slowly pulled my arms up behind my head. His hands were all over me. “Time to get out of here.
“Who the fuck is John?” he shouted at me. He looked at me in an odd way. I started talking. so I shut my eyes and let him fuck me for a few minutes. . I shut my eyes and started to imagine it was John behind me. but he pumped me so fast and furiously that it hurt.” he said furiously. fill me up with your spunk. “Take it a bit slower.” I added in a seductive tone. come on big boy. I put my hands down between my legs and tried to compensate for this unerotic experience by massaging my clit. I pictured John‟s handsome face behind me. Eventually he was inside. I took up my position.” I said with a hint of impatience. Then quickly nodded. It started to work. give it to me hard. “John?!” he shouted and suddenly pulled out of me.. Yeah. preferably with my lover holding my legs up over his shoulders and making sure he angled his cock into the pit of my stomach. Then I did something that perhaps I should not have done. I liked it long and slow. my excitement rose. thumping away in my hole and I began to feel a prickle welling up in my body. He broddled about again before he found the hole and despite my instruction he continued to pump fast and furious. “Do you want me on all fours?” I asked. and his cock working away in my pussy. come on John……. egging him on. his strong hands on my back. but poked around inexpertly. and lowered my head against the pillow and presented my perfectly fuckable clean-shaven fanny to him. I was beginning to get frustrated. ”Long and deep. “Yeah.Friends or Lovers not guide it in with his hand. looking for the entrance.
your tongue is like a dish mop and you fuck like a pneumatic drill! Go on. As he left the room. “You bastard. “And you. What am I doing? I‟m a grown .” I picked up a glass of water by the bed and threw it at him. “Well. 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. but he closed the door and it smashed. I sat back on the bed and curled up. engulfing me and crashing frenetically throughout my body. Then he bellowed.!” I shouted at the top of my voice but he was already out of the front door before I‟d finished saying it. “Fuck off out of here…. As I felt it get closer. As it did. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with distress and an emotion that I‟d not felt for years. Piss off out of here. got up and shot an irritated glance at him as I walked to the bathroom. swelling like a wave and rolling slowly into shore. are never 25. you old slapper.Rory Ridley-Duff “George. It grew inside me slowly.. His face turned red. get it back in me.” I saw his face slowly turn to beetroot as the resentment rose in him. As soon as I realised he was going to leave the rage boiled over in me too. come on hun. so it rose in me too. I turned away. come on…. You‟re a fucking crap kisser. I suppose it was good while it lasted!” I added sarcastically. “I am not a piece of meat!” He started to put on his clothes. I felt my mouth twitch and my eyes grow moist. my emotions started to erupt. the wave started to break. George.
I was being swept away on a huge wave of feeling. With my eyes dripping. My pitifully shallow life crushed me.Friends or Lovers woman picking up a teenager for sex. to weep as I lay on his chest. What am I doing? Suddenly. John. I wanted to be with John. as if I had been run through with a wooden stake. I thought of nothing else but to be with John. . My insides convulsed in pain. I thought of only one thing. I curled up into a ball and started to howl like a baby. to feel his arms around me. And as I wept. the first time since I kicked out my university boyfriend after he‟d cheated on me with my best friend. Never in my life had I felt such pain and I wept for the first time in 11 years.
Every year that passes. so I can pull the guys. I‟ve lived like this. but achieved so little. week after . I earn more brownie points but feel less enthusiasm. fill out more paper work. but I don‟t know any more. for ten years. I get up and go to the bathroom. Who am I? What is this life I have created? Why am I so afraid? Why do men treat me like shit? Why do I treat them like shit? As much as I hated George for saying it. I feel ugly. then that. on and off. Yet another person leaves and I have to shuffle everyone around. never letting anyone settle with me. Sometimes I wish people would just stay still. I push them away. If they get too close. certainly nothing that would last. to enjoy nurturing them and watching them grow. a succulent Sunday roast to devour and then throw away the carcass. Who have I ever made happy? I‟ve done so much. Why not? What was I doing wasting my life? I‟m not young any more. In the past. Same old. I used to like the staff I recruited. I was all over the place. There must be more. I never sought a relationship. My face is stained and I look ugly. But now. There must be something beyond passion and sex. pulled this way. never settling with anyone. I get mad and grab onto someone else to ease the pain. But there is something missing that I can‟t understand. The greater the responsibility. And. am I really happy at work? I tell everyone that I am.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 14 I cried for an hour as thoughts bounced around my mind like a powerball inside a hollow steel container. I had treated him like a piece of meat. update more systems. it is a chore. same old. Okay. If they run away. the less I seem to feel for people.
. I look at the clock and the mobile phone next to it.she ….” I paused. darling?” and he responds that it is me.giht”. “Just hearing a friendly voice helps.” I said. “Just take your time. be there. Come on John. “Urrm.”wh…. Hawww… Who‟s th… What time is it? Fuck! What? Errm.” “Good. It rings. pick it up. “I can hear you crying. Good. “Oh.this…ime…. Such a fool. I finally manage to say my name. Who is there?” he finally says. but the moment he said the word „love‟ I started to feel safer. “Penny? What is it? What‟s happened?” In the background. No hurry. I really did not know what to say. “Hello?” he asks. And rings. I pick it up and type „John‟ and press „Dial‟. But what‟s happened?” he asked again.Friends or Lovers week. “Penny? You still there? What happened. Pick it up. What is the point? As I throw myself on the bed.. Who is it?” Amongst the whimpers. Just tell me what happened. month after month. It sounds like the line is breaking up. I calmed down enough to get a sentence out.” I knew I was not making much sense but at least some feelings were coming out. love?” I have no idea why. I‟ve really fucked up. I pull my hair back and begin to dab my face to remove some of the stains while the tears start to flow again. but then his voice comes across strongly. John. I can make out a woman‟s voice saying “who is it. “I‟m such a fool.of…. Without a moment‟s thought. I try to talk but all I can do is sob. I can faintly hear another question….
” I replied. I‟ll call again in the morning. It is so stupid. and much . It‟s just that….ling you?”. just get a pen and paper and write. “No. Right now. Thank you.you know I just don‟t know what it is.” “Why?” I said with a puzzled tone. Write out what you are feeling. Why exactly was I crying? “I just had a bad night. It‟s not that. No. “Tomorrow I‟ll come round and we‟ll read it together..uck…. “Thank you. Please forgive me for waking you up. I don‟t even understand why I‟m upset or why I‟ve called you. “Penny.” I knew that he would not be able to make head or tail of this.goin…. He said he didn‟t know but that he‟d find out tomorrow. Before he signed off I heard her say in a less concerned. but as I talked I was trying to work out in my head exactly what it was that I was upset about.morrow?” and then John‟s voice explain that it was me on the phone and that I was seriously distressed by something. Don‟t think too hard. Then another faint question: “why…. Normality returned. Can you do something for me?” “I‟ll try. John. I‟m not even sure. “Can you get a pen and paper and write down what you are feeling now. I just wanted to talk to someone. Maybe it is the drink.Rory Ridley-Duff “I feel so stupid.it‟s just…. “Have you been attacked?” he said kindly.” I could hear a woman‟s voice again asking “wher….” I continued.” And that was all he needed to say. To know that I was going to see him made such a difference that I felt my tears and distress subside.” I stopped for a moment and he spoke with a strong voice.
. Start writing for me.”. I did so for over 30 minutes trying to form thoughts in my mind and get them down on paper. I got a pen and paper and started to think. By the time I heard a key in the lock I had written only two words. I’m lonely.Friends or Lovers friendlier voice “come…ack…t…. Penny. superman.” I said that I would. Then he spoke to me again. Find that pen and paper. “I have to go now.ed.
started having sex and then he just got up and walked out on me.” I said quickly. Carole and Chris had no idea how to stop me. “I‟ll punch his face in next time I see him.” “Why not?” they said together. I couldn‟t tell her what happened . that I was fantasising about another man.” “What a bastard!” said Carole. “Um…. Then Carole took my arm and spoke more softly.” I had to tell them something. We got back here. “God. “It‟s too painful. you can tell us. I‟m sure she must think that I was raped or assaulted.” “I…. We just want to help. I could tell they‟d been talking to each other. “You mustn‟t do that!” “But….I…. How do you tell that to anyone. let alone your sister? I had another session sobbing my eyes out at the breakfast table. mid-shag.Do you….I just couldn‟t . No. „sis. “He walked out on me.” “What about the police?” Chris asked. “No.want to…” “No. Carole holding my hand. “What happened.” threatened Chris.d‟you…. You must not blame him.He….and luckily she did not press me. Chris on one side. I had to tell them enough of the truth for them to understand and not blame anyone.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 15 Carole looked after me. but I just can‟t tell her that the man I‟d seduced had realised. no!” I said with a start. Chris slept in the spare bed while little „sis slept with me. They just sat there quietly. with his hand on my back.” .
As soon as I was on my feet she held her arms open and I fell into them. It just all came down on me. “Welcome to the real world.” Carole‟s mouth dropped open.” he said.” and she cast a glance at Chris the like of which I‟d never noticed before. Clearly she could not believe what she was hearing. I was so used to her moaning about his habits that I‟d not noticed that she really admired him. “Why not?” “I found my prince charming. No happy endings?” I asked. It is no-one‟s fault – you must not blame him . “No fairy tales.Friends or Lovers What could I say? I did not want to lie.” I started but suddenly the words started to come out. What could I say? “I don‟t want to tell you. “Something happened that upset the evening. “Family cuddle. I know I look all confident and happy.” “But why all the tears.” she whispered. So will you. sis‟” said Chris.” she said pulling away and looking me in the face. My life looks great on the outside but inside it is a heap of shit. Then her mouth closed. and for reasons I could not understand another wave of emotion engulfed me and the tears . “Oh! Carole. but I‟d trade places with you if I could. but I could not tell them what happened. sis. That‟s all I can say.but when this „something‟ happened we got angry with each other. “Don‟t be such a cynic. she took my hand and indicated I should stand up. I look at you and Chris and wonder what I‟m doing with my life. Chris smiled back then put his arms around both of us.
It was already 10. John was coming at mid-day so I had to stir myself to start getting ready. Go on.” said Carole.Rory Ridley-Duff started to flow again. I had misjudged him. I‟d never been ready to do that. I had my career but how did that compare to the responsibility of loving another person? I hadn‟t done that. I wondered if. “John called. He said he‟ll pick you up at 12pm. perhaps. Chris smiled back at me.” “John? Oh God. She had taken on the responsibility of a partner and baby. I went over to the dresser and combed my hair. but the smile that was creeping back into my demeanour communicated to him that I did not really mean it.30.” I suddenly realised that my little sister had done more growing up than I had.” “Don‟t!” was my first response.” Carole suddenly interjected. shut up. “I‟ve had all the romance I can take for one weekend. Let it out. “By the way. Carole smiled at me. “He sounded nice. Get it out. . He was going to keep his word. yes!” I remembered and was amazed. “Don‟t dress up for him.” My hand rose to my forehead as I gave her a salute. “Oh. “That‟s right. What had I done? Yeah. “Now girl. And I was still not sure if I was ready to do it now.” “Romance?” laughed Chris. Just put on something real casual and be yourself. Carole spoke softly while Chris hugged us both. I‟d never noticed before what a kind smile he had.” I said.
” I knew she was trying to help. . it was good advice after all. I took it on the chin. however. Just let the day unfold and run with it. however it goes.Friends or Lovers “Don‟t try to impress him. but it always annoyed me when she gave advice like this.
He was clearly looking at the house numbers to check which doorbell to press. a car pulled up and a handsome man in jeans and a black pullover got out of the car and looked around. sat down. I can meet that sister of yours. I drank the dregs of my tea. I unlatched the door and opened it.” “And her partner…. I‟d dressed casually. “Hi there!” he said without a moment‟s hesitation. As each car passed outside. “Oopps!” he said self-consciously. “She has got a sexy voice. “Sure. After what seemed like forever. walked around. .Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 16 Twelve o‟clock came and went.” chirped Chris.” Chris was standing behind Carole and wrapping her in his arms. I‟d removed my make-up. He put his hand over his mouth. I looked at my watch and could not believe that it was only 12:06. John had a cup of coffee and made small talk with Carole and Chris while I gathered up my things. I kept expecting it to be him. fidgeted. and I could feel a few butterflies in my stomach with each passing minute. “Would you like to come in for a sec?” I asked. She lent back and gave him a kiss on his neck to thank him for the compliment. The one with the sexy voice. walked around again and generally irritated everybody.” I quipped nodding my head in Chris‟s direction. The wait seemed interminable. just jeans and a rugby shirt (with a cut especially for women). and just put on a small amount of transparent lippy to give them a moist look. “Don‟t apologise.
just the sensuous experience of listening. but was keen to walk somewhere quiet.” I suggested. I thought for a moment. Madam. It fitted his character. and the colour and style had a hint of sexiness about it. Inside the car. or gas-guzzler. . In there was music by Casiopeia. with a 2-litre engine. Queen. but he liked a few luxuries.Friends or Lovers “I‟m set to go!” I finally said. I was no expert. compilations of classical music by French classical composers and American jazz artists. I thought. “Any particular destination you‟d like?” he asked gently. His tastes were broad and selective. He took out the „Very Best of Carly Simon” CD and away we drove to the rich tones of „You‟re So Vain‟. John got up. the Yellowjackets and Mozart. He had no need for a flashy sports car. the music of a person did not care about fashion or his own image.” To my surprise he opened another hidden compartment with a further dozen CDs. He saw my eyes casting over his collection.” he joked as he escorted me to his car. He‟d chosen a mid-range Ford in black. incar stereo/CD player. “Your carriage awaits you. said his „farewells‟ and „nice to meet yous‟. “How about Warwick castle? We could walk around the grounds. It was quite a swish car. “Any preferences?” “I particularly like Carly Simon. Carly Simon. I had no wish to go a long way. Norah Jones and Eva Casidy but it doesn‟t look like you have any. but from work I had more knowledge of motors than the average gal. he had a selection of CDs. sunroof and alloy wheels. full security system.
I still had a bit of a hangover so food was not high on my agenda yet. “You know the way?” I queried.” “Is that what you are?” I asked. I realised that he must already know the area. a bit. “Do you want to eat before or after the walk?” he asked.” I suggested. She knows that no man – particularly me – can totally resist being a knight in shining armour.” he added.” “Of course. “I don‟t mind being a stand-in until you find someone who can do it for you full time. She was forgiving. “Was your wife okay about your coming here today?” “Not really. She‟ll get over it. . I could hardly tell him the truth. “But there is one condition. Now he was here.Rory Ridley-Duff He nodded. I was not sure what to say. “Yes. “What‟s that?” “No hanky panky!” he said with a smile.” I did not feel talkative because I was not sure how to start. I recalled the voice in the background during our phone conversation. “Let‟s walk first.” It didn‟t fit somehow with the conversations we‟d previously had about equality between the sexes. I was about to give him directions but he made a left turn. I have friends in Warwick. but at this particular moment I was happy to borrow someone else‟s knight for the day. I‟d called him when I was distressed and he was bound to think I wanted to talk about what happened. you told me.
normally the preserve of people tying the knot.” “In my dreams”. After this.” he confirmed. “Thank you. seemed appropriate for the contract that we were making between us. 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. or footman. “Okay. with some irony. I felt myself relax and the prospect of the day ahead filled me with pleasure. This small phrase. “Just so long as we both understand the boundaries. The trauma of the previous night receded as I filled my senses with thoughts of what we would do with our day. He may have been driving. my man. We turned a corner that brought the castle into view then drove around the perimeter to the visitor car park. then up a slight incline as we crossed more open ground until we had . Even though it sometimes got me into trouble.Friends or Lovers “The thought never crossed my mind. I liked this path because it led through a couple of wooded areas. 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. “I am now in your hands. We set off on a path around the perimeter of the castle.” he said with mock politeness. I thought to myself. “I do. I was grateful for that.” I snapped back with a grin. My sumptuous naughty side had not been destroyed by the humiliation I‟d been through.” I said with a haughty look that I imagined women of class would give to a chauffeur. Madam.” I said. the kitten in me was still there. but he caught my message and smiled back at me briefly.
the bastards that dumped me. but I had to start somewhere. “Yes. All the boyfriends I dumped. lots of tiny agonies. He did not interrupt and I realised that he expected something more. irritations with things at work. he spoke. She‟s found a man to love her and now has a beautiful child that she dotes on. or made me feel beautiful when they were trying to get in my knickers. but then backed off when I opened my heart in response to their lovely words. or didn‟t call me. lots of conflicting emotions about how angry I feel about things that happened in the past. Finally. particularly with men. we don‟t have to talk about this if you don‟t want to. “It‟s okay. I could have written about how jealous I am of my sister. That was the trigger. I could have written . This is not easy for me to talk about. made myself a coffee and tried to write down what was troubling me.” I was afraid but I longed to talk to him.” He gave me one of those half-smiles that conveyed both sympathy and an understanding of my suffering. I‟m not good at sharing my feelings. I sensed that both of us were looking for an opening line that would enable us to talk about what had happened.Rory Ridley-Duff a view of the whole locality. “Last night I tried to follow your advice. I sat down after I came off the phone. I could have written pages and pages of trivia. The full circuit would take about 45 minutes and by then I would feel ready for lunch. their irritating habits. “I imagine a man was involved somehow last night?” I wished it was that simple. We walked for a couple of minutes without saying anything to each other. “Penny.” I replied. “The trigger for what?” I looked at him and the distress must have shown in my face.
” I stopped for a second to gather my recollections.” he said. “I fought her for years. John. I could tell she thought I was little better than a tramp so I dug my heels in and took my boyfriends up to my bedroom just to make her mad. John?” “Come here. There were times we would hit each other. Do you know what I wrote in the end?” It was a rhetorical question. however. and just as my sister had earlier in the day.” He nodded. She thought I was „too young‟ for boyfriends! How can you choose things like that? I was ready at 14. I said out loud the words that I‟d hidden in my head for years. “Well. I could see a single tear rolling down his left cheek. John.” As I said the words. Unlike my sister. “I‟m lonely. Really lonely. but no. They made me feel safer and all warm inside. He was crying. I felt my eyes moisten again and I looked at him. it was my mother who was constantly critical. I noticed that he was listening intently so I continued. And then I said it. . “What is it. his arms were larger and stronger. but I would not be controlled. And then I got a total shock. He was crying. real passion and I did not want to wait until some stupid outdated law said I could sleep with boys. I had passion in me. all this was going through my head last night while I held the pad. but he followed form by asking me anyway. “John!” I started. he offered his arms and I fell into them.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. You‟d think my father would be the one to object.
“But at such a high price…” he responded. but I was still not sure what he meant. you had made several girlfriends who later became your enemies. After my parents drove away. Then he released me and started to walk again.” I smiled. But those few hours were the loneliest. “When was the last time you felt like this. “All that „control‟.” “And by the end of the day. I could not remember a time when I had cried like this…. I was not sure what he meant. but it would not have been right. He spoke more. It was such a gentle gesture. I felt the . For the first time in years. I wished that I could have stayed in his arms for longer. talked like this?” I thought hard. I sat alone in my room and felt so unbearably alone that I cried my eyes out. never let anybody run my life for me. Unbearable. “Not since my first day at university. Penny. so I gave him a puzzled look. all that „professionalism‟ comes at a high price. or be my slave. My God! I looked at him. I‟ll bet.” He gave me a sideways glance.” “We all need intimacy in our lives.Rory Ridley-Duff He rocked me gently from side to side for a few seconds. something that my father might have done to me as he put me to bed. “I‟ve made all my own choices..” As he said this he cupped my cheek with his hand. you had lads competing to become your boyfriend. “Yes. all that „competence‟. don‟t you think?” And I did think. even hard-nosed career women. And after your first disco.
“Not an expert. I had to say something.” Suddenly some words popped out of my mouth that I did not intend.” . You‟re an expert in it. “Because if there is anyone who can help me unravel the minefield that stands between men and women. I guess it is you. It is just something I take a keen interest in. “Do you want to talk about last night?” he asked as we resumed our stroll. “I‟ll try. “Of course I will. “I fell out with the person I picked up at a bar. “Help me.” “Why mine?” he asked.” There was a pregnant pause while he considered the import of what I had just said. after all. All that loneliness – it just crashed down on me and I had to talk to you.” he said reassuringly. indeed.” I detected his pleasure at hearing this. That. I was not sure. Penny. I felt I just had to hear your voice.Friends or Lovers warmth of a man‟s love and I could not stop my head incline itself towards his soft touch. but I felt I should give him something to understand why I‟d called. John. however. was the question I did not want to answer. He walked out.
however. lunched in a tea shop. hear his voice. but the desire to seduce him slowly ebbed away. travelled to deepest outer space. . climbed a tower. “How‟s that problem at work you had?” he asked. I just wanted to be with him. By late afternoon. and the way his eyes fixed themselves on me sometimes. I was more relaxed with him than I had been with any man for over a decade. occupy the same space. I could tell that he was sucking in my beauty so that he could savour and bathe in it. we talked and exchanged thoughts constantly. and generally just chilled together. he suggested that we might like to eat at Pizza Hut again. The sexual tension was always there. a place tucked away in a cobbled side street that was quiet enough to have a hint of romance. I admired him. laughed. perhaps more relaxed with him than any man except my father. My attraction to him never completely left me. He looked at me as if he was searching my soul. Wherever we were. joked. and it filled me with a confidence that I could not explain. discussed politics. not ogling my body.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 17 Over the next few hours we took in the views around Warwick. I chose my favourite Italian. that I should take him somewhere special to thank him for the day out. whatever we did. Our conversation never stopped all day. His eyes were not lustful. 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. but with a festive atmosphere. I felt. and know that he was nearby. as we started on our desserts.
” “So what‟s the story there?” “Well. Things have moved on a bit. What about your friend? “I‟ve only had one update.” . “You mean there are so many?” “Can we utter a sentence without it being a question?” I asked. but he‟s very sensitive about what happened. Can we?” he said with his smile broadening all the time. Yeah. “Do you want to ask the first one?” I was not giving up first. His face told me that he was interested in more than the game. but he‟s hiding something from me. “I don‟t know. not just about the current incident but about a past relationship too. “My first. it has been difficult at home for him.” “Gotcha. but I think she is holding back on an incident with somebody in the team. The more I learn about the woman‟s situation…… Well. the more I sense that he‟s trying to be straight with me.” I said with a victory salute. but I should get the full story soon – we‟ll be working together on a project. “What was your question again?” was my retort. “The one about the problem you had at work. second or third question?” he said chuckling. I get the feeling that some sexual shit is going on that nobody wants to talk about. Fifteen love.Friends or Lovers “Which problem is that?” I answered without looking up. Things don‟t seem to be quite right. The problem at work has made things worse at home. he seems more on the level than I first thought. She‟s a prude for sure. so I dropped the stupid stuff and regained my composure.” “Why‟s that?” “He thinks it will be okay. The more I talk to the man. “Work.
His wife was not pleased. He helped her furnish her room. He‟s a really sweet guy. but he convinced her that he‟d no choice.” I commented “Not something you hear about every day. Big rows. yes. Big problem. She took him back but made him promise never to get involved with another woman again. “Anyway. and to this day he has always denied it. She became his lodger for several months while they waited for a vacancy at a refuge. about four years ago.” “I‟m in no rush. He didn‟t want to let .Rory Ridley-Duff “Why?” “To explain that I‟d have to go way back. 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. It took a few months but eventually his wife came around and let him come back home. Right. that night he collected her from her home and took her to his.” “Not a situation you come across every day. His wife accused him of having an affair. “Okay. Well he had a difficult period with his wife about….” “So what happened?” “Well.” he clarified. So he stayed with his woman friend as her lodger for a while.” “I bet his wife did not like that!” “Yeah.” I said. The money thing was too much for her and she threw him out.” “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. Later he helped her find and move into a flat – he even gave her the money for a deposit.er…four years. he gave her support but after a few weeks they had a real heart to heart and she said she wanted to get out.
“Sometimes things don‟t need to be said. I don‟t think it was this because he immediately raised his eyebrows in astonishment. one that invites intimacy. I got a feeling that John just cared about people. I‟ve enjoyed today.Friends or Lovers her down.” I stopped. “Deal.. I said it anyway. “Do……ah!” Then he did something that really startled me. but he also didn‟t want her to get too close to him. He sounded like he really cared for both his wife and his work colleagues and just wanted to help everybody. why was I so nervous? I hate my nerves. I‟ve enjoyed today too. .” Why was I asking it? I was not sure. John was relaxed while we chatted and I could tell he cared about his friend.” Hell. There didn‟t seem to be anyone in his life that he did not like. “Do you….” I said.” I felt sorry for this guy. So he backed off and upset her. This was risky.” and he gave me that same warm smile that I remembered from our first meeting. “I‟ll answer that question if you will tell me why you‟re asking it. In fact. He took my hands in his. He changed jobs and only told his wife afterwards.” Inside I could feel my heart pumping and my breathing quicken. Whatever he had expected. “Do you….” It was one of those leading phrases. He took one hand away and squeezed his nose. “Penny. “John.ever fantasise about me?” I asked. Did I have the courage to say it? “Do you….
Penny. I hesitated. You don‟t need to say it. but disappointment that he mentioned his wife. “I…. I wanted to share my humiliation with him. Clearly he wanted me to know that I would not take her place.” he repeated.. This was crazy. “You don‟t need to say it.” 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.” but I stopped again. “Your turn. I could feel the emotion rising in me again. but I did not want him to reject me.” I stopped and looked down into my lap. I closed my eyes and summoned my strength.” I felt a peculiar sensation. What if he was angry? What if I spoiled the whole day? What if it ruined our friendship? “I….” my hands started to shake. I tensed. I wanted to tell him about the night before. “Last night…. I was not sure if I had the courage to say it. to tell him the part he had played in it. and he noticed immediately and took my hands again. a deep pleasure that he thought of me sexually. “Penny. “Last night?” he queried. “The answer is „Yes‟.” he said.Rory Ridley-Duff He hesitated. Was this going to lead to disaster? I wanted to tell him. but only for a moment. I wanted to tell him I fantasised about him. about the way things had unfolded.. I wanted to share this. . but not when I‟m making love to my wife.. I shuddered because I realised why I‟d asked him this question. reminding me of the pact.
letting the tears roll. People normally . I could not say the words. came around to my side of the table and pulled up his chair.” “Why?” he asked. I laughed. with relief mostly. why?” he asked again. I can‟t believe I‟m telling you this. I should not be telling you this. “You bet it did. Big deal. not my mother.” he said with a laugh. tears were dripping down my face. I felt the tears fill my eyes again and I looked up at him. I‟m attracted to you. I shouldn‟t be saying this. I looked up. and stroked my cheek with his left hand. and then I blurted out your name. And…and…” His hand was rubbing my back and it felt lovely. And then he left. “Are you crazy? You‟re married and I‟m pouring out these feelings to you.” “Shit! I bet that cooled his ardour. I‟m so sorry I rang you. …. Through my sobs I suddenly heard the sound of my own voice. John got up from his seat.as he was fucking me I started to think of you. I just could not. “Yes. You‟re attracted to me. He put his right arm around my back. and I shuffled awkwardly in my seat. He gave my hands a little squeeze to keep me reassured. I like that – it‟s honest. “It was awful. I had never talked like this with anyone. but it was not a very convincing one. not my father or any of my boyfriends.Friends or Lovers I made an attempt at a smile. “…I felt so alone. “Why?” I said with astonishment. My whole body was rigid. I laughed and suddenly I felt it was okay to carry on. not my sister.” “So we‟ve broken the rules. He got really mad at me.
“I feel a bit better. “That took courage. Why was he thanking me for sobbing all over him? “What for?” “For sharing this.Rory Ridley-Duff make each other miserable because they can‟t express or share the simplest feelings. .” he interjected. He was so strange. He was quiet for a while and just rocked me in his arms. There are only sexual relationships where they agree not to have sex.” he said.” “Thank you.” There was a prolonged silence during which neither of us dared to ask the question that was on both our minds. “I love it that you are attracted to me. I was not sure where to go from here but it did not matter because he carried on talking.” he finally said. “Why?” I asked with genuine curiosity. It was my turn to break the silence. “but I couldn‟t keep it up!” I shook my head as my smile returned. “I tried Mr Normal.” He paused. didn‟t it?” “More than you‟ll ever know.” I said.” “You are really weird. “Because my fantasies will be much more exciting now!” I laughed again. “Somebody once said to me that there is no such thing as a non-sexual relationship between a man and a woman. How did he make this happen? How did he take my troubles away at the very moment I felt more vulnerable than ever before? “I can‟t believe how close I feel to you.” I responded.” I said.
” I was about to say that I thought he must be joking.” I said at last. “I can hardly ask them. yes. “You don‟t need to ask. “Isn‟t that why people go to work?” he asked. “If not at work. where will you find Mr Right?” His question was rhetorical.” I said. “I don‟t think people react well to women in positions of authority having sexual relationships at work. All you need to do is get the person you are interested in talking about their life.” “Why on earth not?” he reacted. then?” I wanted to say I‟d found one.Friends or Lovers “And thank you. “You‟re welcome. “Find out. I was not about to start another debate. “And you know that they are happy and committed?” “Well no.” he responded. I could not think of any good prospects at work that were not already in relationships and said so. “What do you mean?” “Why is work any different from anywhere else?” “It‟s a place of work. “Have you looked at work?” he asked. but I knew that it was not the right thing to say. So long as you know where to look. I don‟t. Perhaps you‟ve already met him?” he suggested. but on this occasion I let it pass. Take an interest.” . “Where?” I queried. He asked the waitress for coffee then continued.” I answered. surely?” “Employerspeak!” he laughed. “Oh. “Where are we going to find you a good man. “Are there any left?” I asked.
but I knew he needed to get back home to his family. I wonder. to live more. In the movies we might have kissed. He makes me want to be a better person. Is this. At the door. but a tingling feeling burrowing into the darkest caverns of my soul. I‟ve been more distraught today than I can ever remember. he drove me back to my house and walked me to the door. I wanted him to come in. but inside I now feel like I‟m walking on water. pecked me on the cheek. I find it difficult to describe how I feel now. then returned to the car and gave me a salute as he drove off. This is not like the butterflies of teenage love. He‟d given up a whole Saturday for me and it was important that I should not intrude further on his time. but I just knew that we would not. and share the best of myself.Rory Ridley-Duff We drank the last of our coffee and I paid the bill. Then. how people feel when they first experience the deepest kind of love? . he hugged me. risk more. a warmth so spiritual that I can feel my humanity light up.
when I got to work the weekend was purged from my mind. Nathan was a lad in his mid-twenties and the general consensus was that she had a crush on him. If you ask me. “Then there‟s this Nathan!” Phil said.” “Okay. Most of his team said that he was very gentlemanly. He did not volunteer anything and I got the feeling that the whole conversation made him uncomfortable. I don‟t understand how Mike fits in – maybe he got jealous or something – but I feel there must be a connection somewhere. Phil thought this was more to bond with his mates than to pursue Elona. “Well. It did not seem to fit. He was careful how he behaved and spoke around everyone. What about Mike and Sally?” I enquired. . According to them. Phil was first to update me. “They are surprised that she accused Mike. I was perplexed by this. Nathan himself was not that interested although he did join in some of the flirting. 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.Friends or Lovers Chapter 18 Due to a lot of demands on my time.” “D‟you think I should talk to him?” I asked. the relationship between Elona and Nathan is connected to all of this somehow. Even Mike had admitted to me that he‟d flirted with her. particularly Elona. “What about him?” “He was quite cagey when the others were talking.
after 40 years of gender equality. most people meet their marriage partner in a workplace setting. But they don‟t live together now. but there was nothing to be gained by discussing it now. The marketing manager. so I signed off a purchase order for 30 days consultancy and left her to get on with it. but he provided me with a source. Perhaps it is time for another chat with Elona. Then I‟ll speak to Nathan. In this modern age.” I had to set this to one side for the moment. Jo. We seem to be getting closer. I was keen to off-load this. I could not see any reason to object. Well done. Sure enough he was right. why would she want to keep working with him? It doesn‟t make sense. “Okay. I thought back to my weekend conversation. I promptly went to WH Smith and bought the book. Firstly.” I was puzzled too. She said that she had worked with a consultant several times and wanted to bring him in again. I told him the second one must be rubbish. She‟s one of the people who transferred with him to the new team. He did live with her for a while. I was right about that. I‟ll have a word with Dave. Secondly. If they‟d had an affair and split up. As I was up to my eye-balls helping Dave bring on board some new inventors.Rory Ridley-Duff “Yeah. had enlisted Mike‟s support to get his team some training in consumer behaviour. he‟s back with his wife. he claimed that nearly half of all married women chose their job in order to find a partner. I found the statistics both staggering and appalling. who would have thought this? To think that hoards of women at . It all sounds kind of bizarre. John had suggested I look for a partner at work for two reasons. Nobody is completely sure why they are so close. but they did live together for a few months.
The thought actually annoyed me. Brian Thwaite from Birmingham. She‟s a remarkable designer and has assembled a small team of engineers to make customised kitchenware. “Careful. Who. I‟ve got Clive Preston coming over from London. We are poaching him away from his current distributor so I had to offer a bit extra.” I commented. Sorry I didn‟t ask you beforehand. “We need to draw up three contracts.” I‟d never pictured Dave as someone with either the inclination or ability to appreciate cutlery and kitchenware. Is that okay?” . “Okay. I did my best to ignore it and returned to the issue at hand. “Hi. I wondered.” said Dave. So what needs doing today?” I asked. “We‟ll see in due course.Friends or Lovers work were actively looking for husbands. “your wife will be asking for freebies. “Rare that?” “Yes. was searching for a husband in our workplace? * * * “Come in Penny. But a good find.” “A woman?” I remarked. “For Claire and Clive yes. but Brian will be getting 25%” “Is he worth it?” I asked. and Claire Nunn from Glasgow. She‟s ready for exposure and now has a large portfolio. Standard Terms?” I asked. He also wants help recruiting marketing support staff and I said we‟d be able to help. They manufacture through companies in Sheffield. I‟m sure you‟d be impressed.” He gave me an odd look.
I hope she gets better soon. one of the local sales reps. “my wife doesn‟t buy stuff for the house any more.” It was not often that Dave ever talked about anything outside work and it took me a bit by surprise.. “There is something else. He really could look quite cute at times..” Something in his tone suggested that he had something else to add. “Well.not well. but I did not mind. “…. Dave. I made his request sound like an imposition. he touched my arm to stop me.” I said.” he added.. “And?” I asked with an expectant look. Do you know anything about that?” Dave pondered and raised his eyebrows.” “Why‟s that?” I asked.Rory Ridley-Duff He gave me one of his hopeful looks.and I don‟t believe that. He looked hesitant. I confirmed the contract details with him one last time and then remembered that I wanted to ask him about Mike and Sally.” “Come on.” As I made to go. Spill it. just tittle tattle. “By the way. “I‟ll see what I can do…. “She‟s….” I insisted. opened his palms and shrugged his shoulders. Lots of rumours flying about. “I‟ve been putting together a picture of our sales manager friend and it seems that he has a mystery relationship with Sally. I used to get on well with one of Sally‟s colleagues and it seems that she moved in with him and . 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.” “I‟m sorry to hear that. I imagine. “I heard they shared a flat for a while.
Should find out soon. I thought.” My sentiment entirely.” . “Oh. then Nathan. I think. I‟m meeting Elona in a few minutes.” “He‟s back with his wife now. That‟s not the sort of thing that she would do if she was having an affair him. What he does in his own time is really not our business. “No. Anyway. Bet Sally was pissed when he went back. “Interesting. I think Sally had some domestic crisis and Mike offered her a way out. “Apparently not. Not sure what happened after that – all I know is that his personal life got into a real mess for a while. What is it with you and him?” I enquired. of course. “They still get on well.” “Feathering two nests. it caused no end of problems in his marriage and Sally had to move out. “Really?” he said with surprise. Unless the affair came later. “Maybe. I‟ve no strong feelings. I‟m not a rumourmonger. I think we‟ll get to the bottom of this soon. I just think that whenever people let their personal and professional lives get confused things can become very messy.” he remarked. She asked to carry on working with him recently when he moved jobs. “Not sure. “He should‟ve left well alone. Then Mike joined her.” He paused for a moment as pieces of the jigsaw were reassembled in his head.Friends or Lovers his wife. I think. and then carried on.” Dave paused for a smirk. “How does this link to Elona?” he finally asked.” I said.” I said. you think?” I sensed that there was no love lost between Dave and Mike. Not sure.
I thanked him and returned to my department to meet Elona.” I had not realised before how similar Dave and I were in our outlook but it pleased me that we shared this point of view. Keep me posted.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay. With Dave‟s support. . 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.
There‟s no need to worry. “Elona.” “Thanks.” I said as I welcomed Elona into my office.Friends or Lovers Chapter 19 “Come in. It would give me a moment to put Elona at her ease. She lifted her hand to decline the offer. but I decided to ask Phil to make one for me anyway. As Phil left the room. He put one cup on my desk. She looked unsure but answered positively. “Elona. He knows more about this situation than I do. I guess that‟s okay with me. as I put my hand on her shoulder. “If you want him to stay.” Elona shuffled in her seat and looked uncomfortable. “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 immediately .” Despite my calm and sympathetic words I detected an increase in her nervousness. She would not look at me and her hands were clasped together on her knees. Before Phil comes back. There!” I said. come in. Phil entered the room with two cups of tea and a glass of water. so I‟d like him here. keeping the other for himself. “Can I offer you a cup of tea?” I asked. I got up from my chair and sat beside her. Although Elona had declined the tea. This is just a quiet chat to establish what has been going on. “Don‟t worry. is there anything you want to share with me privately?” She glanced at me and shook her head quickly in denial.
“What they say is that they flirted with you. It is alright. “Well. “Elona. gave you some attention and that you did not seem to mind. If you like Nathan‟s attention. called Nathan. Would you agree with that?” Elona said nothing but nodded her agreement.” I began. “Thanks for that. she summoned up a slight smile and I felt ready to begin.” Elona seemed to relax when I told her this. the lads in the team said that one of them. Nobody is judging you. we are grateful that you made a complaint and raised some important issues.” At the mention of Nathan‟s name. saying nothing. “Thanks for coming in again.” She looked down at the table in front of her. and she looked a little more relaxed. finally finding her voice. Phil chipped in too. you ignored them. “There is one thing. but clearly this was a sensitive matter and she was deeply embarrassed. As she put the glass down. I looked squarely at her.Rory Ridley-Duff picked up the glass of water and drank half of it. “Elona. however.” “What‟s that?” she asked.” I said reassuringly. Phil‟s talked to others in your team and they admit they behaved inappropriately to you. Elona. love. I‟ll be talking to them in due course. “As I was saying earlier. and they stopped. We just need to understand whether there is any link between this and the incident with Mike? Is there?” . Elona immediately went bright red and got extremely agitated. I tried to calm the atmosphere further. nobody minds.
Leave me alone!” She got up and ran out of the room in tears. her face went red again and her eyes filled with moisture. “Some serious shit has happened to her. She nodded again. She was clearly fighting back tears but to my surprise she started to nod. Elona looked up at me and her mouth dropped open. “Not now. “Yes? You did confide in Mike?” She nodded again.” At this.” I said. Phil got up to follow her. I remembered that Mike said he would talk if Elona gave her permission. It fuelled my desire to find out more. “Mike mentioned that you confided some information in him. “Go get Nathan!” I commanded Phil.Friends or Lovers Elona seemed to be petrified by this suggestion and started to shake. “No! No! No! I don‟t want to talk to anyone about any of this. Would you give your permission?” At this suggestion. We can always go and see her later. That‟s for sure!” I felt angry that Elona was still so distressed. “Now?” he asked. Her shaking got more acute and suddenly she exploded. I tried a new tack. “Something about Nathan?” Phil asked. He has refused to talk about it because he gave you his word that he wouldn‟t. .” “Fuck!” offered Phil. “Mike won‟t speak about it without your permission. but I shot him a look that he should let her go. “Let her calm down.
” Nathan held my gaze and did not flinch for even a fraction of a second. “Tell me what happened. Phil held up both his hands as if to hold me at bay and quietly made his way out of the room. “Nathan.” I said. I started to get angry again. But no more words came forth. I was in no mood to be pushed around any more. .” he asked. “Nothing. Take a seat. That is why I am asking you. looking as puzzled as he was concerned. As I was running over all these things in my mind.” He sat down. “I would like to leave. “Look at me!” Nathan looked pale and distressed but finally looked me in the eye. “I‟ve just had Elona in here and clearly something has happened between you and her. She is extremely distressed.” “What has Elona said?” he asked. Can you explain?” Nathan seemed to go completely white and started reeling in his chair. My mind was spinning again. Phil returned with suspect in hand.Rory Ridley-Duff “Yes! Now!” I said raising my voice. “Fuck!” he said as his eyes seemed to look everywhere in the room except at Phil or myself. Come on in. “Nathan. please. 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.
please. however. You can give a full account to your line manager and myself.” he added. “About what?” I fired back. Phil was gently moving his head from side to side to indicate „no‟. Do you understand?” “I would like to leave. “If you use that type of language once more. “A fucking clue about anything….” he asked again. “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.” I saw Nathan‟s lips go tight and the whites of his teeth show. do you?” Nathan started. You can either give me an account of your behaviour or I‟ll call a disciplinary hearing. That did not satisfy me. “Nathan. Nathan. but he will not talk either. “No!” I shouted. I‟ll suspend you here and now. who was sitting in the corner. .” I said. What on earth was going on here? Nathan kept looking at me and was unmoved. Phil. Someone in Elona‟s team has made a sexual advance.” he repeated without showing any anger. or I will have to take this to your line manager first thing in the morning. still calm and unflinching. in the corner.. “We have a situation here. What is it to be?” I imagine that while I said this.Friends or Lovers Phil. She is seriously distressed and will not talk. “You don‟t have a fucking clue. “You tell me what happened. She confided something to Mike. but my anger got the better of me and I let rip. the whites of my teeth were showing too. was looking down at the floor as if he could not bear to watch what was happening. please. With Phil in the room I felt a bit bolder. gave me a look of absolute disgust. “I would like to leave.” Phil looked as white as a sheet.
Maybe she didn‟t reciprocate and got upset. You may go. he slowly left the room with hatred burning in his eyes. If he‟d been more experienced. but he was too intimidated. what if Elona did want Nathan to make a pass? Perhaps he seduced her. I felt on a roll. This kind of . she tried to confide in Mike and he tried to handle it „within the team‟. Still looking shaken himself. I would like you here at 10am tomorrow morning with your line manager. Phil nodded a „yes‟.” Holding my gaze. “Is Mike still in the building?” “Sorry?” asked Phil. as if everything was coming together. Do not take no for an answer. I held myself together and summoned Phil over.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay. “Okay. you have made your choice. What a bloody amateur. Whichever is true. Idiot. “Right. The situation felt like it was getting out of control. “Is Mike still in the building?” Phil looked unsure. I imagine she tried to confide this in Mike. go immediately to Nathan‟s manager and inform him of the meeting at 10am. Whatever he said made Elona mad. then dumped her. but I had one more card to play. Nathan must have made a pass at Elona. I want you to get Mike and bring him here immediately. Then again. perhaps he would have suggested that I sleep on this. Firstly. I was glad that Phil was in the room.” Phil nodded. Shaken as I was. Is that clear?” Phil obediently did as I asked while I made myself another cup of tea. who seemed taken aback at this question. I could feel them pierce me right through. He must have suggested they go out for a drink and then said something that upset her.
” Mike raised his hands and grabbed his head in despair. She won‟t talk about it. “Why?” I asked. Sit down and let‟s talk about this. Phil returned with Mike. “What the hell is this? I was in a meeting with my team and Phil tells me that you have an emergency. surprisingly. “Yes. Always the woman who gets hurt. He looked me calmly in the eye. “I told you to back off this. . She got so upset that she left the room in tears. What on earth are you doing?” “Don‟t piss me around.” Mike. “What‟s the relationship problem between Elona and Nathan?” I asked. “I‟m not surprised. “Okay. “Have you talked to Elona?” he responded. always the man who gets away with it. “So where d‟you want to start?” he asked. Mike. He looked away as he thought for a moment. What is so urgent it cannot wait until morning?” “Sit down.Friends or Lovers stuff really makes my blood boil. who stormed into my office with an irritated look on his face.” he said ushering me into my chair with his open palm. Mike. seemed to slow down and take this in. It has come to light that there is a relationship problem between Elona and Nathan and that she reported this to you. okay.” he finally said. I want to know what she said and how you handled it.” Phil had again retreated to the corner of the room and was looking uncomfortable. and then he rubbed his cheek.
I began to wonder who was conducting this enquiry. I cannot help her unless I understand the cause of the distress. then Mike would have been dead on the floor in an instant.” I replied. “I did and she confirmed that she had confided in you. but she did not answer. “They why don‟t you respect her wishes?” he asked. “Did you ask her if she was okay about you talking to me?” he repeated. “Yes.” I responded keeping my calm.” I confessed. “Did it ever occur to you this witch-hunt is the cause of her distress?” His words inflamed me. Why can‟t you see that?” “Oh. She is of great concern to you. I‟m trying to help her. I can see that alright. “Did you ask her if she‟d mind me talking?” he asked.Rory Ridley-Duff “Because this situation is probably the most upsetting thing that has ever happened to her.” “Are you going to tell me about it?” I asked again.” “A duty of care! You call this a duty of care?” he asked accusingly. “How dare you! If people told me what the fuck is going on then we could sort this mess out. “There may have been a breach of the law and I have a duty of care towards her. 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. him or me. . “She‟s distressed.
. “He would not talk. “It‟s got everything to do with it. You are not going to wriggle out of this. not this time. “You stupid woman!” I was bright red with anger and started to defend myself. Mike snapped and shouted at me in a way that reverberated in the marrow of my bones. but I did not know how to respond. my being a woman has nothing to do with it……. He seemed to think that I don‟t know what I‟m talking about. 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.” “And what did Nathan tell you?” he asked. not for one second!” . I resented him asking all the questions.” Mike gave a small laugh.” Mike. pointed an accusing finger at me and carried on.Friends or Lovers “I‟m asking you why you only seem concerned to protect Elona?” “You arrogant bastard. “You sexist bastard…. however.” Suddenly. She is the one who is distressed and somewhere in this heap of shit Nathan or you did something to cause that distress. One of you is going to answer for what happened. “Because he‟s right. “What‟s so funny?” I said angrily.” “You think you are so fucking clever! Well. One of you is going to answer for Elona‟s distress.
I looked at the cold cup of tea on my desk and gave a short laugh. This was one of them. What had just happened? I looked up at Phil and beckoned him over to my desk. he eventually ventured an opinion.” he said as he fixed his gaze on me. What a total fucking mess! Call Mike and tell him that I want him back here at 10am tomorrow. I was so shocked that I did not know what to say. “What d‟you think of what he just said?” Phil looked uncomfortable. “Mike‟s an awkward bugger. His mouth opened several times without any words coming out. This time.” I said. his voice was much calmer but the words cut into me and I felt a shiver run through my body. It took me a full 10 minutes to calm down and regain my composure. “Sit down. There have only been a few occasions in my life when I have been completely lost for words. After a moment. Mike got ready to speak again. Penny. “Tell me.Rory Ridley-Duff He paused for a moment and seemed to calm down. “have you ever made a pass at a man?” Then he calmly walked out of the room. He came over slowly looking as shaken and as shocked as me. during which time Phil remained seated. Phil.” Phil looked at me and nodded slowly.” I asked. “What a mess. isn‟t he?” I grabbed my head with both hands. . and his hands fidgeted on his knees. “Tell me honestly. He found it difficult to look at me. With his eyes fixed on the desk.
We study something because it is interesting to us. he had a strong spiritual side that. “When we are interested in something. Emotion. was imbued with deeply human values. I think it was his career inside the civil service that inclined him towards a political way of thinking. my father told me that my instincts and emotions were my greatest assets. my father was quite different. As such. Together we had many conversations in which we traced my interest back to an emotional experience or aspiration. He was an unusual man.Friends or Lovers Chapter 20 When I was young. We don‟t study a subject because it is intrinsically interesting – if that were true then everybody would be interested in the same things. Penny. he argued. . is the key to a deeper understanding. Intertwined in our deliberations. While many people. He would ask me why I liked some people and not others. if not religious. He argued that science was always oriented towards a political goal. He would ask me why I enjoyed learning some things but not others. he always pressed me to talk about the underlying reason for my interest in something. were doing themselves a disservice when they argued that emotion had no place in science. put great stock in objectivity and science. including a view that science was rarely scientific. it is because it moves us emotionally. Scientists. even if that goal was a modest one such as building the scientist‟s reputation. he would say. It is interesting to us because it is meaningful. particularly men. His words echoed in my head.
and is. studying new things in order to impress them. And the reverse! What monsters we can be when we don‟t want a relationship.and this was one of the reasons she and I argued throughout my teens. I disliked her for that – she seemed to deliberately misunderstand him . become more willing to learn things they are interested in. Has Mike hurt me? Maybe it was the other way around. She said my father talked twaddle about sex. We‟re at our most cruel when trying to get people out of our lives. . Our behaviour and feelings can change dramatically. more humane than anyone else I‟ve met. So strange. 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. more willing to change our own values.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. We open our mind to their views. “Just look at what we do when we desire someone‟s attention. my father was. 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. on the other hand. My mother. We may find ourselves learning new skills.” Despite his slightly pompous manner. my love for him grew with the conviction that there was wisdom in his words. 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. To me. would often walk out of the room and leave us to it.
I would no longer wait for a man to make up my mind. . I tossed and turned throughout the night and in every configuration. We either buckle under the weight or kick back. I had no feelings about him except as yet another person who was adding to Elona‟s distress. not those that chose me. She was as introverted as any person I had ever met. I decided that I‟d never again be a shrinking violet. At first I was flattered. she was quiet and scared. So. Whenever I met her. I committed to one lad. It was only the previous day that I had learned there was a Nathan at all. I could not make the pieces fit the puzzle. I felt. It was exciting. My father helped me look at these as learning experiences. I would have the men I chose. I fell apart and he quickly left me for someone else. I would make up my own. Would a person like that make a move on Nathan? I did not see how it was possible. And yet. It made no sense. Am I reacting to my own past? I can feel Elona‟s hurt. Elona would not make up an accusation like this. I felt used by men.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. would she? I couldn‟t buy Mike‟s view that Elona was the protagonist here. but later he cheated on me and I was crushed. In my first year at university. even as I had these thoughts. Eventually. my emotions kept on churning. I empathise with her. and finally annoying. but underneath I understand how it feels to be crushed by the weight of male attention. I may have the veneer of confidence. then confusing.
We‟d been intimate in a personal way. “Are you still troubled by the weekend?” The weekend? That seemed like a lifetime ago. if you don‟t mind. the burden of the last few hours seemed to lift instantly. “What‟s up?” he asked. He‟s strong too. He is a good-looking man. I thought of John. Do I understand what she is going through? I thought of Mike.Rory Ridley-Duff Is my past affecting me now? Can I really understand her? For the first time I am having real doubts. It is quite possible that Elona likes him more than she‟s saying. “I just thought I‟d pick your brains. Even at his age.” he said brightly as he answered the phone. but never professionally. “Hi. John. I can see why young women might be attracted to him. I realised that I was crossing another line and inviting a new type of relationship. Both mentally and physically. This was something new. Maybe he could help. I had never intruded into his professional world to benefit my own.” I replied. Encountering him up close was disturbing me. As if by instinct. That situation at work is spiralling out of control. but I let it pass. “Hi. Penny. “That‟s my girl” he responded. All the other women seem to like Mike. “Good lord. . he immediately sensed concern in my voice. Up until this point. no!” I laughed. I find it very confusing and thought……” I hesitated for a moment. I was a bit irritated by his use of the word „girl‟. As I did so. He might have some words of wisdom for me so I called him.
It seems there is another young lad involved and that she and this other lad somehow got „involved‟ with each other. “Yes. Sure I do. When it . But the strangest thing is that the boss is now saying that she had a crush on the lad.Friends or Lovers “….” I said. It is fallacy that men always pursue and women always resist.” I chose my words carefully. When it works everyone is happy. “Sure. In this world. Has anything changed?” he asked. “Perhaps. “Involved in what way?” John enquired. “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. “Most relationships are started by women in very subtle ways. but later she accused the boss of inappropriate behaviour. I was not an amateur. She confided something to her boss about this lad.I thought that maybe we could discuss it a bit more and you could guide me a bit. They initiate with non-verbal stuff that induces the man to talk to her. How likely is that?” I asked this as a rhetorical question.” “Yes. it is more like a ritual series of moves that women and men make in turn. “That‟s not clear. and not seeking a fatherly opinion so much as a professional dialogue. why not?” he answered without a moment‟s hesitation. but John took it literally and gave me a most peculiar answer. “Hmmm! This does sound a bit more complicated than you first thought.” As I said the word „involved‟ I cringed. and that the situation was caused by her giving him too much attention. but there it was tripping out of my lips before I could stop it.
if an unattractive woman signals in a similar way. I was puzzled by this. Women signal. Men respond. don‟t you think?” “If that is what you believe. it will look that way. providing they can overcome their own nerves. I suppose it is.” “Do men signal?” I asked.. but most don‟t. Others jump in with both feet at the first opportunity. particularly if one party feels led on and then humiliated.” I paused for a moment unsure what to say next. however. There are women who take verbal initiatives but generally it is the other way around.Rory Ridley-Duff doesn‟t things can turn quite nasty. Men are always pursuing and pestering women. Many won‟t – they‟ll get scared. These are generalisations. Men tend to think they are making the first move but often they are responding to a non-verbal cue. “Is that a surprise. most of men‟s are verbal – at least initially. Penny?” he asked. she may be ignored both verbally and nonverbally. “Successful ones do. “Well…. I‟d studied psychology and this was the opposite of what I had learnt. This is true in most cultures. I assure you that it‟s not the case. 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. Women comfort their own egos by thinking they have been singled out by an attractive man. Most of women‟s behaviours are non-verbal. “So you are saying this is only true for some people?” I asked. Men who don‟t pay attention to a . But. “Men will respond quickly if an attractive woman signals. He started to give me to fuller explanation. feeling a little more relaxed. Men comfort their own egos by thinking they‟ve initiated the relationship.yes.
This is often unconscious.” . You‟ll know if this is happening in a group because a pair seem to be ignoring everyone else. she‟ll eventually make a move that he cannot ignore. laughter.Friends or Lovers woman‟s signals will probably end up embarrassing themselves. Interesting as this was. start touching each other.” “So this is unlikely?” I confirmed. All I can say is that it is possible but against the norm. we are talking probabilities. I‟ve never met them and different couples behave differently. “Well. Then you get a kind of game that signals mutual interest. talk about common interests. They‟ll exchange personal information. positive body movements and such like. otherwise they‟ll ignore the signals. he lifts a glass. but in the trade it is called „synchronisation‟ or „rapport building‟. he laughs and says something back. She lifts a glass. a woman‟s behaviour generally encourages the man to talk more. Not everyone agrees about the meaning of this. “I don‟t know the specifics. behaviour moves through a series of stages. increase their eye contact.” I stifled a laugh. she links his arm. turn towards each other. she nods. If there is a mutual attraction. If she likes him enough. “Is it likely she made a pass at him?” I asked. he nods. she whispers in his ear. start sharing opinions. They‟ll only carry on if they are interested. In these early exchanges. Men who get a signal will usually proceed fairly gently at first to see whether they continue to get signals. tell stories. I felt a need to direct the discussion. he puts it around her. but people have been able to observe it. I‟m giving you behaviour patterns. such as prolonged eye contact. just gut feeling stuff.
“Errr…. I was still contemplating when he started to talk again. “Penny. “Sure. It is nothing special for them.can you let me get my diary?” I asked to buy myself a moment. so my defences were immediately triggered. He hesitated for a moment.Rory Ridley-Duff He paused for a second before making one final comment. but would you like to meet up next week to chat about it? You can give me specifics. “If he doesn‟t respond. What is going on here? I wondered. It was unlike John to cut short any conversation. “…. She‟ll give him an emotional slap. “Um.” I could hear an urgency in his voice. but I detected a coolness in his tone. “Only kidding!” I added. I‟m in Leamington next Wednesday afternoon and all Thursday. she‟ll feel rejected and may do something to hurt his feelings. Sort of…” he responded.” he added with a light-hearted chuckle. I‟m away in the Lakes this weekend. “No less than they deserve!” I replied quickly.” he said.it will be easier to talk next week. . It really pissed me off that someone else only had to shout and he wanted to cut off our conversation. There was a moment of awkward silence as I contemplated my last comment. We could meet in the morning if you are free. Men are routinely humiliated. Are you free?” I could hear other voices in the background and realised that someone in the house was calling to him. “Is there something you need to do?” I asked. I decided to ask directly.
If Nathan had started flirting. No.. The conservation was not as friendly or as pleasant as I had come to expect. from what John says. I wondered if he resented me asking him for a professional opinion.” “Okay. I think I have enough here to read the riot act to Nathan tomorrow if I don‟t get answers. “…. his comments were interesting and useful.” He rang off before saying goodbye. No. He confirmed that it was unlikely Elona would have made the sexual advance.ah……yes…. yes!” I finally said. Phil told me that all the lads had flirted with her.Friends or Lovers “Let me see….” I said... making him wait a bit longer.maybe. it is unlikely that Elona would have felt any need to make an advance. I could not understand why he had been curt with me. No. “I can fit you in on Wednesday morning. I‟ll e-mail you with a time and see you then. . I was not impressed. but could have done so if Nathan had not been responding to her. Still.
I still can‟t get used to being an aunty. I just can‟t fathom it out. Come on baby. She says she has news. “Well. trying to sound enthusiastic. Wait………here he goes. Young Toby. While I wait for her to come around. but if another sprog is going to come along I guess I‟ll just have to accept it fully. she‟s happy and that‟s what matters. I tidy round the kitchen.” I dutifully command. He‟s on his back with a rattle in his hand.” Try as I might to understand how watching a baby roll over and over can make her giggle like a schoolgirl. When I go around to Carole‟s. There is not much to do. Carole‟s boy. it always looks like a bomb has hit it. put the few plates I‟ve used in the dishwasher wondering just how lazy I can be. Every time she does something grown up like this it makes me feel a little bit older. “He‟s on his back. Still. My windowsill is adorned with an assortment of stones and rocks that I‟ve picked up over the years. This is just brill! I wish you could see this. feet in the air.” she said trying to contain guffaws. she roars with laughter as he manages to shift his weight again and roll onto his back.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 21 My sister has just called. “Tell me what you see…. She called me a few nights ago almost wetting herself with laughter. along with holders for utensils and . Over onto his front now. I imagine that she‟s pregnant again and wants to celebrate in style. “I just wish you could see him. Big news. cooing and laughing. do your stuff!” As I wait. I tidy up the house. has progressed from sitting up to rolling around.
I give her a puzzled look and start to move my hand upwards. “All right you. I continue tracing a line from the elbow to her hand. She smiles. “Try a bit higher. Her hand is different. I think. Absolutely no sign of a baby there.” And in she walks looking groomed and beaming. with her smile getting wider all the time. Her breasts look quite firm today so I cup one in each hand. “The door‟s open….Friends or Lovers instruments for practising my Nigella Lawson recipes. Just as the boredom is banished. “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. tracing a line from her shoulder to her elbow. playing with me. What is it?” “Keep looking.” she says mysteriously.” she says. I flick the switch on the kettle and amble back into the living room. “Has someone given you a happy pill?” I ask “No need. It is firm and flat. I look her up and down to try to understand what is different. “Am I getting warm?” I ask. Decadence! Just what the moment needs and I rustle around the cupboard seeing if I have the ingredients for a calorie busting meal. the front doorbell rings. I walk right up to her and put my hand on her stomach. I look carefully. .” she says. I think. “See anything now?” she asks. I cannot put my finger on it but something has definitely changed in her appearance. Nothing special there. “Come on in!” I shout.
” I just closed my eyes and nodded. “I want to make it to the alter without crushed ribs. I want a „best woman‟!” I just looked at her unsure what to say. It isn‟t happiness. “When?” was the only word that came out. I could feel the moisture start to fill my eyes. I took a step back and held both her arms. “July 31st?” “Oh. “Careful sis‟. one with each hand. but now the moment is .” “Some present!” I shouted and suddenly the tears were there. How many women have ever been asked that question?” “‟Yes‟ will do nicely.” she gasped. I felt something in my sides coarse up through my body. 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. It is so hard to describe how I‟m feeling. “When did he ask?” “Last night. 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.Rory Ridley-Duff As I look at the image before me. He came home and told me that he‟d got another promotion and had a present for me. The tears just kept rolling down my cheeks. It is. “Your what?” “My „best woman‟. of course. 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. “Be my „best woman‟?” she asked. Carole!” I still felt in shock. what she has been dreaming of for the last few years.” “I don‟t know what to say.
Put your arm around me!” She levers me towards the sofa and finally I think I can make it to my feet. We never took it in turns. My legs just gave way as if they simply could not hold me up any more. “If I knew my news would have this effect on you.” says Carole almost falling to the floor with me. “What‟s happened?” “You think I know?” I ask. ecstatic. When we were young.Friends or Lovers here. For a few moments. she was always the bridesmaid and I was the bride.!” Instead of feeling wild with excitement and happiness. “Jeez sis‟. I can‟t get up. and I tumbled onto the floor and nearly hit my head on the table. I did not expect her to marry before me.. “I never thought of you as heavy!” she joked as she hauls me up. I can‟t explain why. shocked – every emotion I have in me just crashes down and I feel giddy with the intensity of it all. We would write all the words of the ceremony out and act the whole thing for hours and hours. “Sis‟? Are you alright?” “I feel a bit woozy….” I manage to get out before I completely give the game away. I am pleased for her. “Of course.” And then it happened. Of course. . “Here. like the room is spinning. I would have got you to sit down first…. My little sister. but I realise that I did not expect to feel like this. I feel worried. My little sister is getting married. we would play „weddings‟ and I was always the bride and she the bridesmaid. concerned. I feel cold and sweaty. My little sister is getting married.
As I go to get my coat. My little sister is getting married. We flopped on my bed in fits of giggles. It pains me to say it. I feel like taking a dagger and stabbing myself for not thinking of her. How can I possibly tell her? Whatever she was expecting it was not this. get smashed. but she is the mature one. for not thinking of how happy she must be feeling. talk dirty and then……. my lips part and my teeth are showing.. . She is not my little sister any more. I quickly turn and give her a sly look. my confidence returning. totally old. This should be one the happiest moments in our life. “I think I can manage that. but she took it in her stride. not being able to feel the excitement she feels. When I hear her wicked suggestion the grin returns to my face.you tell me exactly what is expected of a „best woman‟….Rory Ridley-Duff I looked up at her and felt ashamed. not me. How can I feel like this? I bury my head in my hands as more tears emerge. “Right!” I shout. “down the pub we go. I playfully punch her on the arm. drank all evening. got thrown out when we started to sing rude songs and staggered back to my place. She is my big sister. totally alone. totally useless. “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. But the truth is that my little sister‟s announcement makes me realise that I have not grown up yet. “Okay! Okay!” I say.” “Okay sis‟ – lead the way!” and with that remark we went to the pub.” “That‟s simple!” she says without a moment‟s hesitation. and yet I feel totally hollow inside. A few seconds later.
“Do you want to hear something funny? Do you want to know what I thought?” “Thought about what?” Carole asks. “It‟s due in November and her name is going to be Penny Anne – after you and mum!” . “Yeah. come on! Spill it to sis‟” I tell her. Carole dissolves into fits of giggles and starts kicking her feet in the air.. “Do you want to hear something funny?” she retorts busting her sides and unable to contain her hilarity. “I do!” she shouts hysterically. “Thought your „big news‟ was going to be….Friends or Lovers “Do…. “No.do you….” Laced with liquor.” I laugh. “Stop a moment. “I am!” she says.” “Tell me!” she asks. Be serious!” I demand as we lie there trying not to giggle. “I thought you were going to say that you were pregnant again. my words just will not come out properly. No!” I exclaim. No..
Can I help you?” “Hello. “if I see him before you do. “Hello?” she said. Is Mike there?” I asked. “He‟s already gone to work. I‟ll see if he‟s still here.” she said. “Hang on a minute. “It‟s nothing really. Can you get him to call me?” “Sure.” There was a long pause and in the distance I thought I could hear some voices. I had a full schedule until the end of the following week.” The tone in her voice was strange. Can I take a message?” I thought for a moment because the issue was sensitive. the woman returned to the phone.” I answered. “I‟m still here. almost mocking. Nathan phoned in sick. I switched on my PC and opened the personnel database system and searched for their details. We had a disciplinary meeting this morning but Mike‟s not turned up for work. I left a message asking him to call me. “Can I ask who is calling?” “My name is Penny – I‟m the Head of Personnel at IC. We‟ll have to rearrange. I think he‟s already gone. I called Mike‟s department and his colleague said that he had also not arrived at work yet. I called Nathan first and heard an answer phone message. Next I called Mike‟s home number and a woman replied. “Leamington 397333. Eventually. but I thanked her and spent a few moments considering what to do next.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 22 My plans for Elona were thwarted the next morning. I .” I replied.
Still trying to corrupt my sweet innocence? Naughty. I checked my diary and found that I had to go to an evening event with Dave – a launch event for a new product. Phil agreed to inform all the parties concerned. I’d love to be seen with you. I was to chaperone the young entrepreneur who would be speaking while Dave was acting as host. Penny xx I read over the message again. I’ll save the silky black dress for another occasion (!!) you’ll just have to admire my power suit instead. I’m stopping overnight with friends so we could either have our meeting late morning or make an evening of it. With a tinge of regret I declined John‟s offer of an evening meal. naughty. We found a slot free at 3pm the following Wednesday week – I would meet them after I‟d had lunch with John. Hi sexy. if you prefer. I retrieved my e-mails and my mood improved when I received a note. Just to let you know that I’ll be arriving in Leamington about 10.Friends or Lovers really wanted this resolved now and did not want it to drag on. 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.30am. but it will have to be in the morning as we arranged – although a lazy lunch is possible. Will it damage your street cred if you are seen out on the town with an oldie like me? I was glad that his sense of humour had returned. Was I being too flirty? Hell. this was John and “flirt” was his middle name so I hit the [Send] . Hi John.
I confirmed the time and place of our next lunch date and allowed myself a few minutes to bask in the warmth of feeling attractive and desirable. Lazy lunch it is. It would run on 30th June and covered the latest legislative changes in our field. Fewer than five minutes had passed before I received his response. He found an afternoon event with an optional evening dinner. He still had a way of making me feel special. Just finalising stuff for Wednesday. 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 .Rory Ridley-Duff button without further ado. Are you able to meet me in the morning so that I can try out my presentation on you? Also. The issues with Nathan and Mike slipped from my mind as I contemplated the prospect of spending more time with John. Subject: Launch Event Pen.30pm at Bella Marie? John xx I loved flirting with him. We can compare power suits. just been going through some Professional Development stuff. Penny. Meet you at 12. Both you and I need to consider this before our appraisal in July. 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. The evening event had two guest speakers . I finished going through my emails and the last one was from Dave about the evening event.
. For those attending the evening event. the second of these really caught my attention.Friends or Lovers scheduled – one giving a talk on entrepreneurial behaviour and the other called “Intimacy at Work”. Thankfully the day ended without further incident. there was an option to stay overnight in the hotel. 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.
Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 23 On the Monday morning.” and with these words he pulled the handset from his ear and gave it a harsh look. . Around 9am.” I say. “Phil. I picked up the receiver. “I‟m afraid she‟s……no she‟s…. I mouthed to him „who is it?‟ but he shrugged his shoulders to indicate that he didn‟t know.” “Well he doesn‟t sound very friendly to me. He may be bold by e-mail but he rarely initiated phone conversations. “Hi.” I shouted. “It‟s okay. “Who is it?” I asked out loud. John!” I pointed out.” Phil said as he diverted the call to my phone. Can you meet any earlier?” he asked without seeming to pause for breath. Called John. Phil. “And a „good morning‟ to you too. “Wednesday. “Please hang on a moment. John. “He‟s a friend. Is everything okay?” I asked.” I smiled because it was unusual for him to call me. I got into work early and resumed work on the contracts for Dave. “It‟s a man for you. A few moments later I could hear him conversing in a slightly agitated way.she‟s busy at the moment. Can you……?” It sounded as though someone was not letting him get a word in edgeways. sir! I‟ll see if I can find her.. He insists he must talk to you. “could you get that for me?” He picked up the receiver and redirected the call to his own phone. the phone rang.
Penny. trying to slow him down. “Can‟t say. not on the phone.” “That sounds fairly ominous! What do „we need to talk‟ about?” I said in an attempt to mock him slightly and lighten the mood. Okay.” “Yes.” “Your wife?” “Penny. It was unlike John to sound so agitated.30 – we can talk over a coffee before lunch. That‟s good. I‟ll see you at 11. “It‟s better to talk in person. I don‟t want to talk on the phone. a bit – I could bring it forward to 11.Friends or Lovers “Sorry Penny! „Good morning‟ to you. He did not answer my question about his wife and I wondered whether something might have happened between them.30. I‟ll meet you at 11.30 if that helps. But . hang on!” I say. Penny. “Well. Whenever anybody says “try not to worry” it is sure to make you worry even more. has it?” He completely ignored this piece of news and carried on. not on the phone. “Why not? The heavens haven‟t fallen down over the weekend have they? My sister‟s wedding hasn‟t suddenly been cancelled.” “John? Has something happened to you?” I could feel concern creeping into my being. Can you meet any earlier on Wednesday?” he repeated.” With that last comment.” “Hang on. “What is this all about?” “Can‟t say.” he repeated. I‟ll tell you Wednesday. “No! Not me. Try not to worry. We need to talk. he rang off.
” . He‟s a pushy guy alright. He was just very insistent that he talk to you immediately. “That‟s what I love about him. Very pushy guy. “Yeah. “About what?” “Did he say what he wanted to talk about?” “No.Rory Ridley-Duff then I remembered that he said it was nothing to do with him.” In my head I added a few extra words that Phil did not hear. What then? “Did he say anything to you?” I asked Phil.” I thought for a moment. if you ask me.
Dave. Dave is rarely hesitant. Something on your mind?” I enquired. but I responded with more confidence than I felt. come on then. He ran through the section again until I gave him a thumbs up and we continued this process until late morning. 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. After working through the contracts. you can tell me!” .Friends or Lovers Chapter 24 I took the contracts around to Dave‟s office and he ran through his presentation. “Come on. “Of course! Is she not better?” Dave did not show any emotion. “Well. Tell aunty Penny…. “Do you have to rush off?” he asked. we agreed a few minor changes for his afternoon meeting. “No. and for him to pause for any length of time before giving an answer was quite strange.” I was beginning to get used to the idea that I was going to be an aunty twice over. I took notes and stopped him after each section to give him feedback. “Yeeaah!” he finally said slowly. We don‟t do many major product launches so Dave was putting in extra effort. He licked his lips and I could tell that he was slightly nervous so I walked up to him and touched his arm. It was almost like he was a blank. looking straight into my eyes in a way that I‟d never seen before. “Do you remember I said my wife was ill? I vaguely recollected him saying something. If there‟s something.
Dave had a lot of energy but deep down he was a gentle soul.” I‟d worked with Dave for 10 months and this was by far the most human moment that we had shared. Sometimes you work with a person for a while and simply do not realise the bonds that are forming. They‟ve done a scan and found a tumour. He didn‟t say anything either. She‟s not been well for a while. It‟s advanced. There was fear in them. “Have you told anyone?” “No. I held his left arm in my right hand and then placed my left hand on his shoulder. They don‟t think she‟ll survive more than a few months. just tilted his head until it rested on my hand and closed his eyes. he spoke. Come here. I had never seen him like this before. He was in pain and I let go of his arms and put my hand on his cheek and stroked it. and in the evening when I was on my own I felt acutely . I took her into hospital this weekend because her headaches were so painful that she could not sleep. I was sad for the rest of the day. He turned slowly and left the room. “Oh Dave! I‟m so sorry.Rory Ridley-Duff He looked into my eyes again. You‟re the first person I‟ve told. Finally. “She‟s dying!” This news had a deep and lasting impact on me.” I put his head on my shoulder and my arms around him. and she‟s been back and forth to the doctor. “Family? Have you told them?” “I‟ll do that later today. He licked his lips again. As I held him I could feel his heart breaking and the gentle movement of someone crying. We stood there for many minutes before he slowly pulled away and without looking at me said “thank you”.
cruel and so unfair.thinking of him sitting with his wife at the hospital . There was no God if this could happen. It was my time. He needed someone to care about him. He was a bit older than me. As I lay there . My friend Dave should not have to bear this so young. .I decided he needed a friend. I found myself struggling to get to sleep as the silent anger I felt kept me awake. but not by much.Friends or Lovers distressed. I had not realised I cared about him and it came as a surprise. my moment to face someone else‟s pain and not shrink from the thankless task of helping him through it. Deep down a pain formed inside me that actually hurt. It was unnatural.
John . In the evening was Dave‟s product launch. I had no idea what was in store for me. He was a good-looking lad. When Phil saw me. Is there any background information you can bring on that personnel problem you have got? May help us find out what is going on. “You‟re welcome. I looked at him with new eyes. I was due to meet Mike and Nathan for a showdown. smiling. In the afternoon. “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 lied. But it was a good lie. a few words came out. too young for me. “Doing something special today?” he asked. I got myself a cup of coffee and went through my e-mails. I was surprised at how flattered I felt. as if he had said more than he meant to. See you soon. “Got the launch event tonight and have no time to go home. he raised his eyebrows. “That‟s very sweet of you. I thought. He looked a little embarrassed. but with a small shuffle of his feet and with his eyes slightly lowered. I strode into work feeling smart and confident. Hi Penny. but for a moment I looked at him in a lustful way.” I said.” he said sheepishly. I had taken extra care getting dressed because I wanted to look good for my lunch date with John.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 25 When Wednesday came.
A swift response winged its way back through the IT network. After the speeches. I thought he cut a fine figure. Next. his voice confidently outlined the magnificent benefits of tomorrow‟s personal health gadgetry. “The preparation was worth it. It was quite a showpiece. He was impressive and looked cute. Subject: CIPD Pen. it would be different. As he stood there in a new suit and tie. Thanks for booking the CIPD thing. The information was confidential. complete with visuals and sound. “You don‟t think that final video is slightly overlong or overdone?” I put my hand on his arm and reassured him. I took Phil with me. I couldn‟t take anything with me. The other e-mails were either trivial or junk. and we both settled into the company‟s small lecture theatre. Dave. We would have to discuss the issues as a series of hypothetical situations. “You‟ll go down a treat. . would you like a drink? Not the most difficult executive decision I have ever had to make. I look forward to it. there was an e-mail from Dave.” “Are you sure? Are you really sure?” he hurriedly asked. By the time I‟d waded through them. I just don’t feel like a big social evening afterwards. That would be lovely. a reward for his earlier flattery. If I hired him.Friends or Lovers Even if I had wanted to.” I reassured him. the time for Dave‟s presentation approached. but I responded by saying that the Data Protection Act prevented me sharing confidential records. hair cut and groomed.
” This was going to be a very long day. The banter I expected didn‟t materialise so I probed him to see if anything was up. As he was a dedicated New Labour supporter. The materials were fine. I thought. * * * John was slightly late. It was the first time I‟d seen him wear a tie. he took this as a big compliment. John „the businessman‟ just didn‟t seem quite right. ordered drinks and looked at the menu. He was dressed in a dark deep blue suit.” He just beamed. . He would be nervous. even though I didn‟t intend it that way. I felt. He intended to use the money to support his writing for several months. We settled down at the table. We arrived at Bella Marie around 11.50 and settled down for lunch.Rory Ridley-Duff “Slicker than a New Labour political broadcast. “Thanks. He was pleased to see me but carried a grave look that I‟d not seen before. His behaviour was different as well and I initially attributed this to his meeting in the afternoon.” he said. He was well groomed and I quickly realised that I preferred him in casual attire. “Nervous about this afternoon?” I asked. When we chatted on the phone yesterday. “See you tonight when the madness has died down. but much less spin. but it was Dave who gave them charm and wit. Pen. 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.
I can see that he‟s good looking. There are others to convince. 50-ish. however. personable and popular. but I‟m not sure why. “Our hypothetical Mike!” I answered. “You look the part. We‟ve worked together several times so I think today‟s a formality. We had quite a row last week. his gaze started to focus on me properly. I feel he looks down on me sometimes. Very smart – you‟ll knock them dead. Sometimes he gives me the creeps. John nodded and set himself in a listening pose. he‟s good at his job. As he settled back in his chair.” If it was not his interview then why was his behaviour so different? I was puzzled and tried a bit of flattery. but his gaze remained firmly on the menu. You said we had to talk. He called me a „stupid woman‟.” John intervened at that point. I find him a bit „old school‟. He momentarily looked up and tried to smile. “John. but he averted his eyes quickly. “He‟s one of our sales staff. so I thought I‟d dress the part. I know the person contracting the work. patronizing. What‟s on your mind?” He looked up. married.” I looked at him directly as I said this.” he requested.Friends or Lovers “A bit. No point beating about the bush. I called him a sexist pig!” . you know. “Tell me about Mike…. “Not sure why? Can you expand on that?” “Well. My boss Dave is suspicious of him. Not too bad. slightly relieved. I started to feel that something had changed between us but was at a loss to understand why. and women would fall for him.
“My instinct tells me that the lads went too far. He made a pass and she rejected him. “What do you think?” he asked. and I thought that‟d be the end of it. they got close. He took some of his staff with him.Rory Ridley-Duff John nodded. I asked my assistant to keep his ear to the ground.” “So what‟s changed?” John asked. It looked open and shut initially. He found that men in the department had been flirting with her. says the young woman confided in him but he won‟t talk unless she consents. There‟s a meeting this afternoon. my boss wanted me to find out more. and one in particular got quite keen. not the other way around.” John nodded.” . The boss is pissed off with everyone because he got landed with the blame for a situation not originally of his own making. He has a history. Mike. “Well. But I know her. because he‟s got a reputation as a womaniser. The young woman won‟t say what happened. I moved him to a new position. I don‟t buy his story. I intend to crack some heads. encouraging me to continue. “Someone complained that he was hassling a colleague for a drink. however. looking very thoughtful. women mostly. and his demeanour was attentive and serious. She was sufficiently upset to confide in her boss. That‟s where the stories conflict. She‟s engaged to be married. either. their former boss. She lives at home. Now he‟s implied she might have been pursuing the young man. The young lad won‟t co-operate. There was one lad in particular that seemed to take a fancy. He gave her support. 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.
“Err. Elena is not put off and actually starts to single out Nath himself. If things go badly. I was not looking for another interpretation. Okay. fairly pretty. “Penny.Friends or Lovers John kept nodding. right?” This was too coincidental. “The young woman – tell you what. “Where are you getting these names from?” “This is a hypothetical example. and has a job as administrator to a department that has quite a few young men. “Shall I try another interpretation for you?” he asked. but I nodded to indicate he should carry on. Let me pretend this is a hypothetical case. Penny. Explain!” I commanded.” . She‟s inexperienced with men. His mate is crazy about Elena. I had never seen him this intense and studious before. In her previous job she worked with women so this is a change for her. if I tell you the source of my information then I‟ll be involved and could be dragged into the process. John started to talk. We‟ll call her boss Mick. let‟s call her Elena – she‟s quiet. But then he realises that her boyfriend is an old school friend. but he sees her flirting with a whole group of lads. but likes one of them. I could be called as a witness to a tribunal. shall we?” “You know these people.” I said hesitantly. She‟s confused. She confides in her boss. a bit embarrassed. She starts to receive more sexual attention. So he backs off. I want to help. “Okay. He backs off some more. shall we?” “Hold on!” I said. wants to marry her. Nath thinks she‟s a bit of alright and joins in the flirting at first. You use the information as you see fit. I was slightly taken aback. Let‟s call him Nath. Regardless.
I reeled.” It was my turn to start nodding. I‟d never told John exactly where I worked. “What happened to…. I asked John questions. I nodded.Mick?” I asked. For a moment. Her parents are furious. Having recovered my composure. Mick listens to Elena and realises she‟s in a difficult situation. He never asked. . Her boyfriend reacts badly. Luckily. He‟d risked his own marriage to get her out. the waitress brought the drinks and asked for our order.” As these words came out. “D‟you want me to continue?” he asked. He storms around and tells her the wedding is off.Rory Ridley-Duff I was angry. He continued the story. Every day she goes home they argue with her and tell her she‟s ruined everything. She becomes desperate to leave home. Pin-pricks shuddered all the way through me. When I felt in control again. He put her up at his home until she found a new home. I struggled to keep my emotions in check. He seemed to have more information than I did. I did not know where he was getting this information but suddenly things started to make more sense. “Mick‟s known for his kindness. John knew Mike. Once he helped a work colleague suffering abuse. completely bewildered. “Her boss has a reputation for being sympathetic to his staff. Nath then tells his old school friend that Elena came onto him and was flirting with all her work colleagues. He‟s been known to intervene personally sometimes and help people out when their personal lives are troubled. It never seemed relevant. I could feel the shock rise through me as I realised where all this was coming from.
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. There was a condition. After a few months of Mick calling his wife every day.” .Mick…. Either the work colleague leaves or the marriage is over. Someone walking past stops to watch and immediately reports the scene to their manager. on the condition that he be allowed to help her find a place to live. but could not let her move into his house or give her any money. Mick agreed. Elena was angry because she‟d heard how Mick had helped someone else. not with Nath. My head dropped and my eyes fixed on the table as John continued talking. They became extremely close but were never lovers. Mick gave in. She tries again to persuade Mick to take her in. She resists so he takes hold of her by the arm and makes her leave. but with Mick and shouts at him for not helping her. but he refuses. she finally relented and let him go back home. she goes around to Nath‟s house and tells him what he‟s done. Elena told him private details about her life and now felt abandoned. said that he would help her.” I felt I knew where the story was heading and my sense of dread started to increase. In a rage. With nowhere else to go…. “Elena wanted Mick to let her have his spare room. Mick was sympathetic. that he never bring another woman into their home.Friends or Lovers “The situation got so bad that Mick‟s wife gave him an ultimatum.moved into a flat with his work colleague. Nath tells her to „piss off‟. She goes into work the next day and is angry. Mick‟s wife felt betrayed. He hoped that would be the end.. however. She kicked him out. but later his wife learned that he‟d given money to buy furniture.
one day. Are you ready?” “I need a stiff drink now!” I said trying to lighten the mood but John‟s face was implacable. She feels the problem lies with the way Pen handled the original complaint. Pen calls his house announcing herself as the Head of Human Resources and that Mick should be in a disciplinary meeting. “She threw him out again. He was concerned that his wife would pre-judge the situation and end the marriage. I thought.” At the mention of this name.” “Worse? How could it get worse?” “You may want a stiff drink. Penny. “What a total fucking mess!” John was silent so I looked up at him feeling completely at a loss.” I said. because of the past. His wife‟s curiosity is fired and she relentlessly asks questions until Mick tells her the whole story. “Mick.” “Well. another shock wave went through me and I became rigid with fear. 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.” said John. “There is another hypothetical character. a clear case of sex . There was more to come and I had to hear it. I did not speak for several minutes. So.” No prizes for guessing who the „friend‟ is. let‟s call her Pen.Rory Ridley-Duff My head just hung there as I looked down at the table. he told a half-truth. “He‟s been to a solicitor. “She did what?” I said. However. that the new job was a promotion rather than a convenient solution to an accusation of sexual harassment. “It gets worse.
Friends or Lovers discrimination and failure to observe natural justice principles now enshrined in law. There is also the issue of the call to his home. Could I really have got everything so wrong? “Well. “Penny!” John exclaimed. that is the story he will stick to if challenged. She‟s been a friend since his university days. The solicitor takes the view that Pen has not fulfilled her duty of care to all the parties concerned. .” My body froze a second time. At least. “Fucking mess was about right. There‟s nothing to say whether the friend must be a work colleague or not. I think. It says he can bring a friend if there is a disciplinary hearing.” I commented sardonically. “It is. Penny!” said John.” I felt attacked from all sides and my defences started to bristle. and my eyes dropped as I let John finish. that‟s one way of looking at things. My head was spinning while I tried to work out what to do. The solicitor is coming as a friend. “He and his solicitor have checked the employment contract. I did not know how to feel. “Today he‟s going to bring his solicitor. “Because I couldn‟t let you go into your meeting later today completely unprepared. I lost my appetite.” “He can‟t do that!” I interject.” I was silent. “How noble of you!” I retorted. Suddenly. “Why are you telling me?” I asked in a slightly accusing way.” “Is that true?” I ask.
“Don‟t be like that. I‟m trying to help.” “I try not to take sides. I needed to talk to the legal department of the company before the meeting. This could be the end of my career.” “Yes. this is all too much. It‟s going to come down on my fucking head not yours. he might terminate our friendship. “Just let me think a moment.” “So it‟s all lads altogether is it?” I didn‟t know where these words were coming from.Mick…. He led my scouts group when I was a kid. He doesn‟t know that I know you. I‟ve not known a kinder more honest man in my entire life.” “You what? You‟re saying you might testify against me?” “Penny! He‟s been a friend all my life.” “Why on earth would he do that? This is nothing to do with you. really. this is my field. I care about you.” “Penny.has been a life-long friend of mine. This is serious. you are just telling one side of the story. Panic overwhelmed me. He‟s been like a father to me.Rory Ridley-Duff “M…. but this could come between us if Mike asks me to testify. He‟ll ask for my help and I will give it to him. This is serious. “Penny. I act as an expert witness at tribunals. I don‟t want to lose your friendship. If he did. or knew I‟m telling you this.” .” I snapped.” I was getting more and more defensive and angry.” “How? Why? You know nothing about this case. but part of me sensed that I had to get out of the restaurant and find Dave. just give a professional opinion. What was I to do? “Where did that come from?” he demanded.
I felt like I was being driven by something outside myself.. Make notes. Don‟t say anything.” “I‟ll have to involve the company lawyers…. I‟m fresh out of ideas. just existing from second to second. they‟ll call your insurers and the insurers will instruct you to have no further contact. hoping somehow I would disappear down a hole in the ground and this would all go away. but acknowledge the points of view of the other parties. If you contact Mike after talking to your insurers. Don‟t admit liability. “If you don‟t. Do whatever you have to do to get the company to offer mediation to all the parties involved. Help him with his domestic situation until the mediation is complete.” 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. lots of notes. You‟ll have to grab it with both hands this afternoon. this is going to end up in a court of law.” “I don‟t know if I can do that..” he shouted. At the moment I was not in control.” “There is a way out.” “Well. Once you talk to . Amuse me.” I said weakly.” “Another way? Is there another way? You said he‟ll have a solicitor with him this afternoon…. just listen. You have to mediate. You – and the company – will be completely exposed.Friends or Lovers “You are going to testify against me. “You must listen this afternoon. aren‟t you?” “Not if we can find another way. the insurers will not cover your employer for any losses. Listen to the story the way it is told by the other parties.” “No! You mustn‟t do that. “The moment you talk to them.
Please. I did. why should I take your advice? I hardly know you.” he said firmly. John?” My fiery response took him back a bit and he regrouped. John.” “I can‟t handle this. then I could lose my job as well.Rory Ridley-Duff your legal team it will be out of your hands and will go to court. John was doing this to save Mike. John was not put off and continued his attempts to persuade me. Anyway. to protect him.” He looked hurt at my words but composed himself. My responsibility was to the company.” I wanted to talk to Dave. This is too big for me. Not Mike.” “I bloody know that. I had to protect the company‟s interests. For all I knew. “Penny. please listen. “Penny. You are personally at risk from prosecution. “There are risks. “Once a formal process starts it‟s almost impossible to stop. 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. Do you appreciate that. This was as real as it gets. “And if I don’t tell the legal team. But do you think they‟ll protect you? They might get you through the court case. “What if you can mediate?” he insisted. but what then? What of your future career?” “Oh God! I don‟t know!” Privately. Not John. . “What if you can get Mike and his wife back together?” The pretence that we were talking about hypothetical characters had completely vanished.
but I picked at it intermittently. We‟re close. “We can only see what we look for.” he said. It sounded like he was criticising my judgement. “And you‟re the big shot who thinks he knows?” I said sarcastically. “I mean that you were looking at the situation the way the vast majority of people look at such situations. I don‟t think he‟ll like this.” 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. I can run it past him. how could I know? There was so much that I‟d not been told.” “Would he help?” “I see him later tonight. It‟s a kind of blindness. “I‟m sorry for getting angry. I wasn‟t blind to this!” I said with some irritation. How could you know?” Indeed. I felt sick. sensing immediately he had irked me. I‟d need Dave‟s support. and that women spend most of their time resisting men. “It‟s okay. “What do you mean?” I asked sharply.” “Don‟t stereotype me.” I said. John continued.Friends or Lovers “I can‟t authorise that on my own. “No more than anyone else. We assume men pursue women. “What?” he reacted. .” “Would he help?” “I couldn‟t do this without him.” he said in a slightly frosty way. At the very least. I can‟t keep this from him. I looked at the meal in front of me.
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. “Good!” I added. “As one of my friends told me a few years ago „if you think women are weak.” he said looking me firmly in the eye.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m sorry. John ventured a question. “But this is my field!” he responded.” he said. “You are not the first person to say that. but it just kept pouring out of me. I started to realise that I was being deeply unfair to him. I‟m sure you are very knowledgeable. I looked at him.” I simmered for a few minutes and ate my food. I remembered Mike saying something similar during our earlier argument. “You know that. “Sorry. .” he laughed. I nodded. “Women aren‟t weak. try divorcing one!‟” “John.” I looked at him coolly. As the remorse grew. “Bugger off!” was all I could say. “Sorry. I didn‟t mean to sound critical.” “Stop talking like a fucking academic…” I wished I could stop myself behaving in such an angry way. “Equality means protecting both sexes. You are so fucking pompous!” He smiled. It‟s a common problem. He laughed again and I found that I could not sustain my anger with him. “Who is protecting the men. Penny?” “What?” I responded.” I said with as much conviction as I could muster.
As we departed. Parting turned out to be quite difficult. it was this last point that occupied my mind. or cry off the lunch date and avoid me. As I left the restaurant. We chatted away. I had to protect myself. Hearing this story from Mike. Touching says everything that needs to be said. Sometimes words are so inadequate and unnecessary. Neither of us wanted to walk away. and then deciding to tell me over lunch. his own smile broadened and I realised how tense he had been throughout. for the next hour. I acknowledged what he was saying but said that I still didn‟t see how I could avoid discussing this internally. We stood there chatting for a bit then going silent then chatting some more. I guess John must have felt the same way. about nothing in particular. offering a conciliatory smile. and for the first time I saw him more as a friend than a potential lover. he said “come here” and guided by an external force I stepped forward and fell into his arms. Eventually. I saw real concern in his eyes. As his body relaxed. he reiterated that the situation could go pear shaped if the legal teams got involved. “Shall we enjoy the rest of our meal?” I continued. He hugged me for a whole minute and I just clung on for as long as I could. .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. When he saw this. 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. not just the other parties. I was not going to waste either a moment longer. I considered what an ordeal this must have been for him. must have been difficult for him.
” At this suggestion. I hatched a plan. I felt so torn about what to do that I went to the staff canteen for another coffee. Others could see I was troubled and avoided me. . * * * “Hi Phil. I thought about visiting the legal department to spill all this out. and he duly obliged. but John‟s caution made me pause – at least for now. How could I have known? So. I was ashamed. In the end. Another thing that consumed me was how I felt about myself. his apprehension seemed to progress to outright fear but he obediently followed me. And yet. Elona‟s distress.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 26 By the time I returned to work all my doubts and dilemmas had returned. even John – these all beat a path to my door. “Come into my office for a chat. I decided to follow some of John‟s advice. and that of Nathan. Mike and his wife. “I need to discuss things with you before we go into the meeting. I sat there both angry at myself and at others. Nobody would talk. If I had got things completely wrong then I was responsible for a great deal of misery. and my invitation to discuss things did nothing to reduce his unease. Another part of me wanted to find Dave and have a heart to heart but he was preoccupied with the product launch.” I said as I returned to my office.” He looked as apprehensive as I felt. “Can you close the door?” I asked. how could I have known? Was I being too hard on myself? Nobody would explain.
When I returned. however.. “I agree with you on the „listen and listen and listen‟. both of which had been in his lap. Phil‟s moment of relief ended and his face became thoughtful again.” I let the words linger for a moment. “I think we need to admit that maybe we got it wrong. “Any ideas?” I asked as I walked in the door.. or considered this question. Then listen and listen and listen…. I took a deep breath and made a start. suddenly surfaced and started to gesture strongly.” I answered. but his eyes remained fixed and expressionless. but a little more caution was called for. were cautious. “……how are we going to approach this meeting?” As I asked this question. so I gave him a few moments by leaving the room to make coffee.” He was moving in the right direction. “If he is right. I wondered whether I should have solicited his opinion more quickly. he was more relaxed. “What if he‟s right?” At this suggestion. Phil was my first port of call for a good reason.” The idea that Phil has worked out the situation without help came as both a relief and a surprise. “That thought had occurred to me too.Friends or Lovers I had gathered my thoughts and knew how I wanted to play this. Phil…. Clearly he had not expected this. . Everything about his body screamed “Thank God!” His words. “I‟ve been thinking a lot about Mike‟s outburst. Phil‟s lips parted and his rigid body began to move and come alive. It makes more sense. His hands..” I paused for a moment to see if Phil would say anything.
Okay?” I could see from Phil‟s reaction that his ego felt well and truly massaged. “We‟ll make a manager out of you yet!” Without letting my eyes wander even for an instant I took the lead.Rory Ridley-Duff After waiting for a moment to see whether he might say anything else. with just a hint of a smile. This afternoon is about buying time. I looked him straight in the eye as I answered him. “Okay. I want you to bring a notebook and take lots of notes. When Phil got up and made to leave the room. I looked away from him to give the impression the meeting was over. and then waited until his eyes were again looking into mine. “Phil?” I asked. I appreciate you. I smiled back at him – a big smile showing my teeth. and just keep insisting that we‟ll do everything we can to mediate a solution. listen to what they have to say. He broke into a smile and nodded. at least until I‟ve talked to Dave and Legal. We‟ll do as you suggest. “You‟re a good lad.” he said. We‟ll keep our mouths shut.” . 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 offered my opinion. I completed the act of seduction. His eyes left mine and looked down at the table for a few seconds. there was a definite sense of conviction as he spoke. We‟ll say that we want to look at the whole thing again. “Of course. Phil. When he looked up again. “Then I guess admitting we got it wrong is out of the question.
started to walk. but when he reached the door he glanced over his shoulder and smiled at me again.Friends or Lovers I did not look away and his eyes remained on mine until he could hold the gaze no longer. I caught a trace of redness in his cheeks. I smiled back. . I have to admit that sometimes it is great fun being a woman. He turned to go.
I opened the meeting and stressed that we would be as cooperative as possible.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 27 I feigned surprise when I met Mike‟s solicitor and was as pleasant as possible. At the start of the meeting. If we made it through this conflict. Mike initially looked as if he was ready for a battle. I promised myself that I would get to know him better. prompted. Phil followed my lead and we successfully communicated the seriousness of what had taken place. Phil made copious notes as the story unfolded more or less exactly as John said it would. I might have peppered my pleasantness with a brusque manner. still beaming from our earlier encounter. I expressed surprise and shock at what I was hearing. Every few minutes I glanced at Mike‟s solicitor friend to see how this was playing with her. I found myself developing a grudging respect for him. gave their accounts while I nodded. With each reaction. Phil looked up and smiled. I have to say that Mike was proving a lot smarter than I‟d expected. a married woman giving a single woman a hard time in the witness box would not be pleasant. but my opening gamble paid off and took the wind out of his sails. then Mike. To my surprise. I introduced Phil as my assistant and said that he had expressed a view that we should listen to Mike and Nathan. At the mention of his name. I noticed that her look changed from one of confidence to one of . At certain points in the narrative. First Nathan. No conclusions had been reached. If his solicitor had been a man. she had looked calm and confident. enquired and encouraged. If we were to meet again in a court room or industrial tribunal.
“And what about the loss of pay since changing his job?” “On pay. “The company will pay. My comment stopped her in her tracks. “My pleasure.” I answered. “What would be helpful is if you could work out with Mike the amount of wages he has lost. I didn‟t like her using my first name but I let it pass. “That‟s good of you. “There are two flats rented by the company to accommodate sales managers who commute here from time to time.” I answered. I cannot guarantee that we will .” she said.Friends or Lovers puzzlement. Sometimes she would look at Mike and tilt her head to one side. I‟ll have to clear any changes with my director. David Stockton. “Mike‟s got issues over lost pay. With surprise on her face she uttered a question. At this suggestion. after taking both Mike‟s and Nathan‟s statements.” I answered. I offered to get Phil to type them up and send Mike‟s to her for checking. She was trying to work out how the meeting could be going so well for her client. Penny. She was not expecting this. she started to engage me. and a problem with his housing situation……” “We can help with that.” “Who will pay?” she asked. One of them is free at the moment and I can arrange for Mike to use it until he can make alternative arrangements.” I paused for a second before I asked the next question to ensure it had maximum impact. I meet him later tonight. At the end. “How?” I was growing in confidence and put the final piece of my plan into place.
I would have been happy to see someone kick him hard in the balls. “I underestimated you as well. Could you do that?” As I asked this question. he‟d looked worried and pensive.” I said. I‟d hoped to stall things long enough to consult with Dave but we‟d gone almost as far as resolving the . Thank you. then me again. They looked at each other for a moment and I noticed that she nodded her head at him. “Yes?” I answered. but now I saw him in a moment of happiness. Mike can confirm it in writing. We‟ll do that now. I detected a smile on his face. “Women! I have no idea why you go around letting men think they are in charge. “Yes. “Penny?” he asked. I looked at them both. “just to see whether I need to involve Legal.” Mike smiled at me – the first time I had seen him do so – and I have to admit that his face was handsome. he gave a short chuckle. “I‟ll check with Dave tonight. After a few moments. but I‟m sure it will be sufficient for him to treat you to dinner. then at her.” He chuckled again as he looked at Phil.Rory Ridley-Duff meet it in full. then at me again. I was taken aback at just how attractive he looked. I‟ll deliver it by hand. In all our previous meetings. if necessary.” He looked me strongly in the eyes. If we don‟t. Thank you. then you‟ll have my response tomorrow.” At the start of the day. but as it turned out a mutual respect was born. “I underestimated you.” Mike looked at me.
” I tried to return his look but found that I could not as I felt a rush of adrenalin rip through me. he fixed me one last time with his handsome face.Friends or Lovers whole thing. he was also extraordinarily sexy. “I can now see why Dave hired you. As Mike turned to leave the room. Not only did he have integrity and courage but. . The moment of exhilaration passed and I finally understood why he had such a good reputation as a salesman. when he felt at ease. He beat me at my own game.
It was time to cool Phil‟s ardour now the job was done. “That is sweet of you. now I was experiencing him up close. “Nothing more?” he asked again inquisitively. . Phil. shall we?” I responded. “Thank you. It‟s hard to force niceness and that was exactly what I had been doing for most of the last two hours. offered a further comment. but I actually felt exhausted.” I said. “Let‟s just call it a woman‟s intuition. “I learnt a lot today. It made me wonder why Dave harboured hostility towards him. while still smiling. fussed about me. was a friendlier person than I had thought. touched and moved indicated a much closer relationship. This comment caught me short for a moment. the way they looked.” Such praise I can live with. Mike. A curious look came over his face. laughed. with a puppyish expression. “What made you change your mind about Mike?” he asked. His face. Clearly they were more than acquaintances. “Can you tidy up the loose ends here? I need to get ready for this evening. with a look that communicated not just my appreciation. but also the gap in status between us.” he said.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 28 I remained in the room with Phil while Mike and his solicitor exchanged words.” was all he could say.” Phil nodded and still smiling. Penny! Absolutely brilliant. developed a small frown and his body language became submissive. “That was fantastic. I noticed them hug warmly as she departed.
but also deflated my ego a bit. I had one of those “ah ha!” moments in life. He started to walk out of the room and his final remark not only surprised me. I flicked my head back. all trace had left him. I thought back over the whole day. Perhaps men were not jerks after all. twists and turns had left their mark. Mike‟s willingness to accept a settlement when he could have thrown the book at me. I thought of the way John had helped. “I certainly believe in a woman‟s cunning!” he remarked. Phil?” His smile returned as well as his confidence. A number of shocks. . and Phil‟s shrewdness at seeing through me.Friends or Lovers Clearly he was not convinced. “Don‟t you believe in women‟s intuition. and let my locks fall about my face alluringly. As I stood there. surprises. If he had felt dominated a few moments ago. Suddenly things came together.
” “Sounds good. good meeting. Always enjoy watching Dave strut his stuff!” she remarked. Jo looked professional. Are you coming?” “Yes. Jo – the marketing manager – came in looking very pleased with herself. We signed a contract this afternoon. Her comment surprised me. “You look happy. Long hair would have made her look womanly.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 29 What a day it had been and there was still quite a way to go.” I remarked. but as I‟d had a totally stressful day. 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.” “You looking?” I asked.” I chirped. I let my hair down a bit as well. She had cut her hair quite short – a mistake I thought – because without a good size bust it gave her a rather boyish look. “Yes. of course. “I‟m off tonight to see Dave strut his stuff at the launch. not attractive. . All the good ones are. She was not a stunner but even without make-up her skin was quite good. Shame he‟s taken. I thought for a moment. can‟t he?” “Yeah! I‟ll say. thinking back to the book John had recommended to me. Was I? I didn‟t really know. It will give a boost to our training programme. As I delicately added a small amount of rouge to my cheeks. I visited the women‟s toilets. “Aren‟t you?” she answered. and get the new team ready. “Hmm! He can look quite dashing at times. I‟ll be there. Certainly.
“Maybe I am!” I finally answered. Even John.” . flirty as he was. He‟s nice and all. but I don‟t think he‟s my type.” Jo seemed pleased that she was not in competition and moved a little closer. “Really? With Dave?” I could not help but laugh out loud at this suggestion.Friends or Lovers As these thoughts flashed through my mind. I found it hard to believe that Dave himself would mention this to anyone else. Then there was Dave. Over the last couple of months I felt a change in myself.” Her comment made me both cross and curious. perhaps I was ready to look. He might be back on the market soon. my neighbour went round and they admitted she was not well. They were playing one day and came straight out with it. having a second child. Anyway. “There‟s a rumour going round that his wife is ill. With Carole announcing her marriage. “That his wife has cancer. “What‟s the rumour?” I asked. „My mum‟s going to die‟ he said. I also considered her question. Clearly. sweet really. there were men who wanted marriage. the sadness in his eyes when he thought of his wife. the total commitment he seemed to have for her. One of my neighbour‟s children is at school with Dave‟s kids. Perhaps he had. I considered Mike. “No! Not Dave. Perhaps I had misjudged him. had a maturity and confidence that came from understanding how to keep a relationship interesting. with meeting John and feeling more comfortable with men as friends. and how hard he had tried to make things work with his wife. that she won‟t live long. deciding to dig a bit. I certainly felt that I wanted that before I died.
“When was this?” I asked.” Jo continued. but did not talk and started to look in the mirror. “they said that Dave‟s wife looked terrible. I was relieved that she‟d got the rumour from outside the company. I think. Quite masterful that.” I was not sure whether to confirm or deny the rumour. At the same time. rumours spiralling out of control were problematic and could cause embarrassment. This was a difficult call because I was obliged to keep information confidential. “Anyway. She looked dreadful. “In here!” she responded. Jo seemed to know as much as I did. . Jo. She nodded. even if her source was a little further from home. I thought. where do you hear most rumours?” I asked.Rory Ridley-Duff Just as Jo was giving me the low down. “Where did you hear it?” she asked. and the admission that I‟d heard a rumour did nothing to substantiate or deny her claim. My respect for Dave remained intact. It was not a lie. I said nothing. Elona walked in. that it was Jo who had told me the rumour only a few moments ago. of course. clearly not satisfied by my response. “Well. “Oh! A couple of weeks ago.” I responded as casually as possible. “Hi!” we both said to her. I omitted. I gave a small laugh. “I‟ve heard the same rumour. I could tell that Jo was digging for information because her casual manner was suddenly replaced by attentive curiosity. You know anything?” With this remark. as if she‟d been unable to sleep for a week.
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. it was the first I‟d heard. I felt . “‟bout me and Nathan!” “What about you and Nath?” Jo enquired. clearly not happy. “If you haven‟t heard. To my office now!” I was not sure if there was a rumour.” Jo clearly did not understand why Elona had the hump. Half an hour earlier. Jo looked both shocked and amused. As she left. “Elona! Not another word.” “What rumour‟s that?” asked Jo. I was indicating that „something‟ was going on between Elona and Nathan. I knew from past experience that if a rumour started it would be hard to quash.” I turned to leave wondering whether issuing a denial was wise. Ellie?” she asked. “That rumour. glancing at Elona. There‟s a rumour going „round about me. or whether Elona was trying to start one. I turned back to Jo. “Sorry.” I said. She gestured with her eyes and head to indicate something to me.Friends or Lovers Elona reapplied her make-up and listening to our conversation. I was concerned at the direction of this conversation. “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. “Someone been pissing you off. “is not true. They are hurtful and mess people up. but I could not take it in. Ellie?” asked Jo. If there was a rumour. you will soon. “What rumour?” asked Jo enthusiastically. “Bloody rumours!” she remarked. “What rumour?” “I just said that I don‟t like rumours.
” mumbled Elona “Thought what?” Given that I was faking my anger. but this was an occasion when coolly losing my temper was the most effective way to drive home what I had to say.” blurted Elona. but now they could easily spiral out of control again. “I thought you knew?” she said. As soon as Elona was installed in my office. when Jim Hacker had Humphrey Appleby in a corner embarrassed and grasping for words.. the rumour might yet cause more problems.” I demanded. “Jo?” I said. “What the fuck d‟you think you were doing?” Elona was so shocked that she did not sit down..I thought…. “Yes. There was too much pleasure in it. “What…. .. this exchange struck me as slightly comical.what do you mean?” she said quietly.thought you…. however.but you……you….Rory Ridley-Duff that things were under control. “But…. did not really cut the mustard as “Sir Humphrey” and that made it hard for me to keep a straight face. But it was a smile I didn‟t feel I could trust. If Jo went back to her team and started talking about it. I don‟t often lose my temper. Prime Minister.” she replied.” “Sure!” she said. “I would appreciate if you did not repeat to others what Elona just said. Elona. with a smile. “Just answer the question.. trying to get a grasp of the situation. like something out of Yes. I turned to her and let fly. “I what?” “I….
I considered carefully how to put it across. or just that she thought I knew about the rumour. and I don‟t think that questioning people further will reveal anything more. it was good to see her relax.” I started. “Thought what?” I repeated. Clearly. but I did not oblige. Elona. she was trying to get me to say what I knew. didn‟t you?” “Yes. “We won‟t be looking into it any more.” “So you know. “I imagine you‟re wondering what happened earlier?” She took her place and nodded. don‟t you?” she prompted again. Was she asking who had been found „guilty‟? I wished I could tell her more. at least as far as they are able to. I accept that you‟ve had a . “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. When I remember the way she left my room in some distress.” She looked relieved. Was Elona implying that there was something going on with Nathan.” Elona looked concerned but did not say anything. “Does that mean you‟ve got to the bottom of things?” I wondered what she wanted to hear. but to do so would breach the confidentiality I observed in these matters. “Elona. I did.Friends or Lovers This was an interesting turn of events. “Sit down. gesturing that I needed more clarification. Elona‟s eyes started to dart around the room as if she was looking for something to say. I‟m satisfied that all parties have told me the truth.” I said. please tell me what you think I know. “Elona.
and I don‟t want to say. “People will ask why. “Do you know anywhere I could stay?” I didn‟t enquire why. “So don‟t start any rumours.” I said. Is there anything else?” “No. okay?” I said pointedly. I braced myself.” . She looked up and paused for a moment. I‟m afraid. “I‟ve got a question. but no untruths passed my lips. “Give me a few days. You can go home tonight and sleep better. I‟ll ask around discretely.” I was being economical with the truth. I hope. She seemed happier and relaxed.Rory Ridley-Duff difficult time.” she said.” “Okay. But could she really think that Mike and Nathan would back up her story? That was naivety beyond possibility. Have you put a notice on the board?” I asked.” Elona said. “I have an idea. “I don‟t. Then she nodded to indicate that she understood. My only regret was that Elona might think that her account of events had been vindicated. and I don‟t want to add to your distress any more. “Don‟t want to do that. She must surely realise I was being kind and saving her face.” she answered.
” Dave announced. Just as selfexercise belts use gels to transmit current into the muscles (without actually having to do any exercise). He was dynamic and Dave made the most of this during the presentation. Sam‟s product went one further. however. Sam tells me that his wife. It was a battery operated hair remover that could be strapped onto arms.” Dave cast his eye over to the other side of the stage where Sam and Elaine were standing. Sam‟s product range comprised „advanced technology‟ approaches to personal care that were – to say the least – sensuous in their design and application. Elaine. The entrepreneur that Dave was promoting came across fairly well. has extensively tested this final product. “I‟ve saved the best for last. . “All of Sam‟s products involve the use of advanced technology to improve personal hygiene. 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. This last product. A narrator started to explain benefits to an attentive audience. “Play it again. Sam. The lights dimmed as the finale began.” said Dave boldly. legs. and there was a gentle ripple of laughter as the video images appeared. and every man will want to buy for her. and I quite enjoyed minding him for the evening. was the one that Dave believed would become a top seller.Friends or Lovers Chapter 30 The evening passed off well. She will vouch for it personally. or anywhere else that a woman wanted to remove hair. This last product is something that every woman will want.
a handsome male model gave a gift wrapped present to a beautiful brunette. her face full of mock excitement at receiving her „favourite‟ present. What every woman will want next Christmas. a beam of light is shone onto her from the back of the auditorium and the volume of the music lowered. in her bathroom and jumps out of the window into the night. she takes the package into her stately bedroom and lies down on the four-poster bed. the model tastefully disrobes. The man jumps off a cliff edge and the next 90 seconds is a tongue in cheek satire of past Milk Tray adverts. and as the model‟s eyes close and she enjoys the sensual delights of the SHARE experience.Rory Ridley-Duff What does every woman want? Yes. He leaves the package. Sam‟s wife moves to centre stage. to deliver a second package to a mansion home in the valley beneath. to have silky smooth skin. . as the man wanders onto a patio to reveal a breathtaking mountain landscape. The satire switches to playful pastiche of 1980s Flake adverts. removes the gift from her package and relaxes. You want to SHARE.Sensuous Hair Removal Experience. With a hint of wickedness in her grin. Then. and what every man will want to buy for her. Moments later. with his card. risking life and limb. adorned with tasteful jewellery. he dons a pair of black glasses – a la Terminator . And what does every man want? To buy the ultimate gift for his partner and bring a smile to her face. The mockhero slides down the mountain-side. is the . a blonde in a long robe picks up the package.and a fanfare of music alerts the audience to a James Bond like action sequence. The music changes again. Dressed in a daring black dress. On the screen.
but everyone clearly understood.and herself on. We‟ve prepared a gift pack for every woman here tonight. She sucked. I looked around the hall and saw women alternating their glances at the presentation with chuckles into the ears of their female friends. When I watched Dave‟s practice run. however. then turning the appliance . then bit her finger.” As she stepped back from the microphone. “You should be selling this at Ann Summers parties!” She gave a broad smile and leaned towards me. he had not shown me this video.” It was my turn to smile at her.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. Take away your own SHARE experience and enjoy the benefits of the latest in personal hygiene technology. He did tell me that there was another presentation but that Sam and Elaine were keeping it under wraps. . As Elaine walked off the stage and sat down next to me. I lent over and whispered into her ear. as her mind becomes occupied with the erotic. I could now see why. Nobody said it out loud. “We will be. were on stalks watching every tiny movement of the model applying gel to the insides of her thighs. “What accessories?” I whispered with more than a hint of curiosity. the larger than life model held a pose reminiscent of the flake advert delicately crumbling chocolate between two gorgeous red lips. The eyes of the men. This was no ordinary hair remover. Even as I was starting to think that this was a bit OTT. but we can‟t say that here.
Rory Ridley-Duff “Let me put it like this. She carried on talking in my ear as the video presentation neared the end. “Can we slip out of here .” said Elaine. 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.” I chuckled.” . There is a range of „innovative‟ extensions. much less painful than wax and much more effective than creams. When the VIPs had been safely escorted home in pre-booked taxis. The gift packs could be collected at the exits. “Much better than Milk Tray!” The place filled with roars of laughter and the lights came up.” “Can‟t wait to try mine out!” I said. Dave thought it might be regarded as distasteful. We exchanged smiles and a final fanfare alerted the audience to the finale. the blonde looked seductively into the camera and spoke breathlessly. Dave walked back to the microphone and announced that drinks and snacks were available in the lobby. I pulled Dave to one side for a private word. It can‟t wait until tomorrow. “You won‟t see the accessories advertised anywhere in your brochures. Our pilot trials have produced spectacular feedback. The chatter was interminable but the evening was a success with guests energised and enthusiastic. “If we‟ve not beaten „the rampant rabbit‟ into second place by next Christmas then I‟m going to be pissed as hell. It‟s a good hair removal product.there is something I need to discuss. As the final chord echoed throughout the hall.
Friends or Lovers Dave nodded. They have everything under control.” . He exchanged words with them. “Okay – we‟re off. then walked over to Sam and Elaine. shook their hands and spoke with a representative of the PR company.
Not at the actual conference.” “You should try wearing high-heels!” I joked. “Yes. “No point standing on ceremony. It might backfire. on the flight home. Alternatively. a gin and tonic for me.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 31 We walked to a nearby bar and settled ourselves into a corner table..” I said. “Why do you ask?” His question irritated me. “John? Who‟s this John?” “I met him at the conference in Paris. He confessed that he thought the product was risqué for IC. As soon as he had parked the glasses on the table. and Dave reacted in quite a peculiar way. but if it did so. it might catapult the company into the top league.” I recounted the events. “May as well take it off.” I said a bit defensively. With the company enjoying some success. Dave bought the first round – a real ale for himself. We both thought it had been a mini-triumph. “I‟ve had quite a day.” I said. We spent a few minutes discussing the evening.. including the lunchtime meeting with John. “Yes. “Is it wise?” . “You wanted to talk about something?” he asked.” “I‟ve been wearing these things for 20 years and still hate them. he removed his jacket and loosened his tie. the portfolio was now broad enough to weather a set-back. there was a feeling that a calculated risk was appropriate. but Harry (the MD) had given him the go ahead.” “Is he married?” he interrupted sternly.
” he said starting to sound defensive. but I‟m a close colleague. I sat for a few moments wondering why it mattered to Dave.” I affirmed.” I thought about how much more John knew about me. Dave looked at me with surprise and I realised that he may have misinterpreted what I said. “How often do you and I go out after work?” I asked. Penny. For all the time I‟d spent with Dave. The more I thought about it. “It‟s different!” he said. “John and I exchange e-mails as often as you and I talk. “Yes. the more incensed I got. As I didn‟t . “John and I know each other well.” I wished that I could hide my irritation.” Dave raised his eyebrows.” he said casting me a badtempered glance. I could see in his body language and movements that he felt hurt. I wondered? “Well…I see you all the time. he knew only a fraction of the real me. but it must have been obvious because Dave backed off a bit. We know each other well. “Why is it different?” I said. “It‟s different. “Work colleagues often go out together. Dave immediately looked a bit put out. Could he be jealous. deciding to defend my friendship with John. “I didn‟t even know that your wife had been unwell until you told me recently. It‟s just different isn‟t it?” “I don‟t see why.Friends or Lovers “Dave! You are married too!” I said trying to lighten the mood.” I said firmly.
Dave!” I said. He looked up at me and appeared unsure. I had not been to this place before so I cast my . “Maybe after another round of drinks…” he said tentatively. I don‟t think she‟ll ever leave hospital.” Dave gave a small laugh. “How are things at home?” The smile left his face and his eyes were downcast. and his face lit up again. Why did he have to laugh like that? Why take pleasure at Mike‟s marriage breaking down? I didn‟t expect it of Dave.” “D‟you want to talk about it?” I asked. “My parents are with her tonight. “Let‟s get this work stuff finished. I don‟t know why. “Thanks!” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster. but I was immediately irritated. “I‟m fond of you. Dave listened to the story that unravelled with Mike. I downed my gin and tonic then went to the bar to get another round of drinks. then I‟ll get the next round in. He recommended that I see Legal to arrange a three-month tenancy. He‟s shacked up at a hotel at the moment.” I said positively. I think. I watched him closely as I described Mike‟s part of the story to see if I could detect anything in his response. and concurred with me that I would need his authorisation to fund Mike‟s housing costs until he could find accommodation elsewhere. Nathan and Elona.Rory Ridley-Duff want the situation to spiral out of control I decided to offer some reassurance. He seemed to take it in okay. He promised to email them first thing in the morning. “When does he want to move in?” “As soon as possible.
He looked up. there was wood panelling. drawn from his love of cricket: “playing a straight bat”. I don‟t think he expected me to ask such a question. I wondered if I was being insensitive. I returned to the table and asked Dave again about the situation at home. Drinks in hand. The edges were jagged and rough. I‟m dreading it. deliberately unvarnished to fit in with the tenor of the furnishings.I‟m……” he stopped for a moment.” I continued. “She‟s deteriorating. but doing the “there. On the wall. I liked it. His eyes looked down into his lap as he spoke. He looked pained and I could not really work out why. so I put my hand on his shoulder and encouraged him.” It was difficult to respond. however. was that I didn‟t know how else to be. He looked awkward and reticent. The doctors want to talk to me tomorrow. . He had an expression. filled with stones.” he said. “They give her less than a month.Friends or Lovers eyes around while waiting to be served. there” routine just was not me.I‟m…. Dave. Not having had a lover or even a family member in this situation. and each table had a bowl in the middle that had the appearance of driftwood. but it was impossible for me to feign feelings that I didn‟t have. “What will you say?” I finally responded.. Most of the patrons were in their 30s and 40s. I thought about trying to show deep sympathy. “Er…. I thought of my father. They had a natural look about them. not that “manufactured to the nearest tenth of a millimetre” feeling. Certainly I cared. The tables were wooden. The problem. “You‟ll have to tell them something.
but for some reason he was irritating me. Suddenly. A few days ago. I traced my mind back and suddenly realised that his moment of mirth at Mike‟s situation really infuriated me. Dave. as if he had noticed my prickliness and was responding with some of his own.. but I tried not to show it. “Might it be kinder to let her die?” He looked at me and I saw tears form in his eyes. And yet. as if he thought I might be slightly mad. “I‟m torn between helping her die and keeping her alive. “…. even as I had these thoughts I heard my father‟s voice. I had no problem comforting him. For someone approaching forty. Why was I putting up barriers now? These thoughts swirled around in my head. But why? “What is the deeper meaning here?” I kept asking myself. the . I could see his face growing red. encouraging me to reflect. 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.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m……I‟m……” I began to grow tired of his hesitation. 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.torn!” Finally! “What are you torn about?” He gave me a look that was puzzling. I surely should have felt more sympathy for him.” he responded brusquely. “I‟m sorry. he sure was immature. „What‟s the deeper meaning here. There in my mind was my father smiling at me.
I fought a gut instinct to get up and walk out. I stopped looking at him but then he spotted my awkwardness. When the meeting with Mike had concluded. So I sat there and found myself no longer wanting to comfort Dave. but instead he appreciated me. “Yes. He had every reason to hate me. Why did it matter? Dave broke the silence.” As he said this. I didn‟t feel worthy of his respect. Even as I chastised myself for being so uncharitable. I continued with a straight bat.” he had said. I was evaluating them. That didn‟t seem right. “I can see why Dave hired you. he found it in him to pay me a compliment. I can‟t bear the thought of losing her. wouldn‟t it?” Dave‟s eyes were on me now as we talked and I felt increasingly self-conscious. I saw his eyes furtively look at mine. Unbearable. He was watching me to see how these lines played. It was generous and I kept thinking I had completely misjudged him. I even started to wonder if Dave was playing the sympathy card. After all. I kept asking myself why I felt more sympathy for Mike than Dave. “I don‟t want to admit that it would kinder to let her die. I hardly knew Mike. deciding which of them would get my sympathy. “It would be kinder.Friends or Lovers awful realisation hit me. But kinder!” It felt incongruous that he was looking deep into my eyes while talking about his wife dying. The moment Dave took pleasure at Mike‟s misfortune he lost my respect. “Penny? Are you okay?” .
Don‟t stay up too late. I‟ll come in early and sort the stuff out with you. you should do the same!” I blurted out. I‟ll get a cab. As I started to get up.” . Dave. I was sure he sensed my tension because his hand dropped and eyes looked away. I‟ve had a really long day and my stomach does not feel good. Book some time off and spend it with your wife. I won‟t” “Bye. When I came out. I felt his hand touch my back and my body reacted like it had received an electric shock.” I said hurriedly. Pick the car up tomorrow. I made my way to the toilets and lingered there for as long as I could without appearing rude.” I looked at the table and saw that he had nearly a whole pint to drink up.Rory Ridley-Duff I was not sure what to say. Grab every moment you can. Even so.” I said. Wait here. “Okay. I appreciate you meeting me and going through things. “Just need to go to the loos and then I‟ll be back. You were a star. “Okay. he did not challenge me and just kept nodding. “Okay. okay. My sense of urgency was growing. It was an instant reaction and both of us realised what it meant. I‟ll see you in the morning. “Perhaps.” I was talking too quickly. will you?” “No. Pen. “Look. “I‟ll do that!” he replied. I‟ve drunk too much. then. I couldn‟t tell him how I was feeling. I grabbed my glass and tried to smile. It went really well tonight. D‟you want me to walk you back?” “No. no!” I said too quickly.” he replied. “I feel a bit unwell. “It‟s okay.
to a sharp and roguish young man who merited the occasional fantasy. As for Phil. he had changed from someone on a level with a placement student.” he replied with just a hint of sarcasm. 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. As I rode home in the taxi. My opinion of Mike had risen from rock bottom to something approaching respect.Friends or Lovers “Bye. my respect for him was waning. I could not explain why. As for Dave. What was going on? What was happening? . Whatever hopes I had of growing close to Dave. they evaporated that night. Perhaps I was attracted to him? My desire for John had changed from one of girlish lust to one of sisterly love.
With these thoughts behind me. I made a mental note to follow it up with Phil. The SHARE experience? Yes. I was now curious about Dave‟s comments. I started to relax and drink the wine. it was there. I thought about Mike. He had told me to “find out about Mike” because “he may become a problem”. the more I started to like him. On my bed was the bag from the launch. This was a good way to relax. Even though he had reason to feel bitter. With the soap in my hands. The events with Dave were upsetting so I tried to eradicate them from my mind with soothing music and some self-pampering. I indulged myself by recalling Phil‟s red cheeks when I flirted with him. I wondered why he was not offended. the more I felt I had misjudged him. he chose not to be. but the water kept washing away the wetness I was feeling and prevented me reaching orgasm. I ran it over my breasts and built up a sumptuous lather. Then I did my stomach. I ran a bath and as I lay in the warm water. It was as if he felt threatened by Mike and wanted me to get dirt on him. I undid the larger one to reveal a tasteful .Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 32 When I got home. it raised new questions over Dave. but he was quite a dish. He may be young. I poured myself another glass of wine and had a bath. As these positive thoughts about Mike ran around my head. I had to find a way to make up for the way I had treated him. thighs and between my legs. so I got out of the bath and returned to my bedroom. I arched my buttocks and started working on the folds of flesh between my legs. The more I thought about him. Inside the bag there were two gift-wrapped presents.
I looked like someone‟s whore. but one was triangular and obviously moulded so that women could use it to remove their pubic hair. I looked like a porn model. enjoying my sexual power. I applied the first tube of gel. 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. By the time I had finished. The dildo was mainly plastic but there were small metal panels inlaid at various points. Inside was a dildo extension and another tube of gel. I started to lick my lips with a sense of exhilaration.” So there I lay on the bed almost breathless with anticipation. one for switching the device on and off. Lying back on the bed. I took it in my hand and turned it over. There were two buttons on it. and attached the straps that were included. There was a fine mesh of plastic teeth interspersed with similar inlaid metal panels. Some of the pads were round. I used my fingernail to slide under the sellotape and gently remove the gift wrap from the second gift. I pictured Phil‟s cock in my hand to increase my excitement. The gel was good and it slid in nicely and I worked it around until its full length . plugged the panel into the motor. 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.Friends or Lovers package that contained a battery operated motor. I lifted up my legs and inserted the dildo into the motor device then inserted it. On the side were four holes for attaching accessories. I started to feel aroused as the sense of expectation started to build. There were several pads and a tube of gel. and the other to increase and decrease the intensity. As I opened the package.
massaging gently then harder then gentler again. there was a gentle vibration inside me. Firstly. I imagined Phil. I imagined my three lovers filling me with cock and spurting their cum over me until wave after wave of pleasure set my convulsing body on fire. With one finger on my clit. As I lay on the bed exhausted. Not only could I feel a gentle vibration on my pubic bone. I reached over to the motor and pressed the on switch. small shots of electricity engulfed my pussy from both the hair remover and the dildo and I just gasped. The SHARE experience had been thoughtfully designed. dildo inserted. Phil and John came either side of me. A sensation ripped through me that made me shudder in total ecstasy. My finger was now circling furiously. I wanted Mike. As I let my finger work me into a frenzy. with my free hand. I played with myself for a couple of minutes. While they gorged themselves. bare breasted and naked with my legs wide apart. and the other periodically pressing the „ecstasy button‟. pressing on my clitoris at the same time to heighten my arousal. then hard as his firm tongue edged me towards a heavenly climax. and I closed my eyes as I imagined Mike‟s tongue in place of my finger. as I played out a fantasy of being a hot and horny slut. two strange thoughts burrowed into my mind. Then. Mike and John walking into the room. I wanted to fuck him like . John started to pinch and suck my nipples and run his hands all over my stomach and sides. John took my breasts in his hand and gentled rubbed them while I felt Phil‟s mouth on mine. There I was. With each press. I imagined Mike‟s hand on the insides of my thighs and his mouth sucking on my fingers.Rory Ridley-Duff was pressing on the pit of my stomach. I remembered the booklet describe an intensity button for “a special experience”.
With these debauched thoughts filling my mind my satisfied. as a Professor of Cunning. Secondly. emotionally and physically spent body fell into a deep sleep.Friends or Lovers no-one else I had ever met and felt I would do anything to have him. finishing a new plan to suck as much pleasure out of life as possible. a vixen with a keen eye. the future took on a positive glow and I saw myself as Phil had seen me. naked. How could this product fail? How could anything capable of bringing women so much pleasure be anything except a runaway success? In that moment. . the SHARE experience was going to make IC rich beyond belief.
” .” That‟s strange.” “Okay. Given my attendance beyond the call of duty the previous evening.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 33 Despite my good intentions to get up early and speed off to work. I was half an hour late. “Did he e-mail you about it?” I asked “Let me check. “He must have forgotten!” I said.” Stella replied. Even so. I thought. She quickly checked her inbox and shook her head. my first port of call was Office Services from where I picked up the key to the company flat. Can you sort out the paperwork and I‟ll come back this afternoon. he was in here about half an hour ago. I need to sort out a threemonth tenancy agreement for him. I need to arrange for Mike to rent it for three months. Has Dave been in yet?” “Yes. I found that Dave had not e-mailed them and I wondered whether he too had overslept. Once at work. I felt entitled. my exertions the previous day caused me to oversleep. but he didn‟t mention anything about a flat.” said Stella. Stella. “I‟m here about the company flat. “But you‟ll need Dave to sign the contract. Hurriedly. I can get the paperwork sorted.” I said walking up to her desk. I got up and took breakfast on the way to work. That being the case. “Hi. “We agreed last night that I could rent it out to Mike Bennett. I signed for the keys on my own authority and proceeded to the legal department to sort out the paperwork. It has to be a director. Perhaps I had misunderstood him. I was sure Dave said he would sort this out.” “Well.
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
” he said with just a hint of sadness. My loneliness was largely a choice and not an accident or misfortune. 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. fearful and difficult they are.Friends or Lovers when I met John that I wanted to find a way out. I may be young. 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 can only speak for myself. “If he had not helped me understand my own prejudices. I spoke. However imperfect. inconsistent. In this moment.” I saw Phil‟s eyebrows quickly rise and fall and he tried to form some words. I felt young next to him. He taught me the value of being honest about my desires. Phil waited patiently. but I‟m old enough to have seen people dig themselves into an early grave through bitterness. Finally. The humility did me good. “We all have our cross to bear. My fear of being intimate – my fear of sharing thoughts and feelings – began to fade when I met John. then it is a price worth paying. to avoid the pain of rejection and avenge those who I thought were responsible. My errors were born out of a desire to protect myself. I want to know the people in my life better. “You should take some credit.” he said. I might have been responsible for a tremendous injustice. He grew in . and wondered what else I might have missed. “When did you become so wise?” I asked.” I looked up at Phil.
but also the import of what I was about to suggest. Not sure what else we can do because I‟ve no idea where to start. just a way to understand what happened.Rory Ridley-Duff stature before my eyes. “Eyes and ears to the ground again. “And now I‟m not sure who to believe.” I said pointedly.” I said. “I need your help again. “we‟ve just poked around a number of people‟s private lives and screwed them up. “What‟s that?” I swallowed hard at the thought of what I was about to say. “There‟s one other thing.” “What did you have in mind?” “D‟you remember that I asked you to find out about Mike – a kind of necessary evil?” “Yes. . “We need to find out whether there‟s a reason for Dave‟s animosity. This isn‟t a seek and destroy mission. “Phil.” “How?” Phil asked. “And now?” Phil asked. I saw him momentarily shuffle uncomfortably. “Are you suggesting what I think?” queried Phil.” I responded. I‟ll see what I can find out.” “I did so because Dave led me to think Mike might become a problem.” Phil realised not only the extent to which I was about to take him into my confidence.” he replied.” “I understand.” This instant loyalty and acceptance of responsibility moved me so I felt it necessary to sound a note of caution. Perhaps I had as much to learn from him as he from me. “Phil.” I added.” “Okay.
but Phil put up his hand to indicate that I should stop talking. 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.” I was so chuffed that Phil said this that I was lost for words. “Friends?” I said. “Come on. Eventually. “that he is old enough to be your father…. of course!” he replied. what d‟you think?” I asked with urgency. He took my hand and shook it firmly. It was a risk. Do you think I‟m mad?” Phil‟s face broke into a broad smile.Friends or Lovers “I am starting to fancy Mike like crazy.” Phil said with a momentary pause. “I think. in a moment of blind instinct.” “Oh!” I said. “…and that he‟s also one hell of a lucky guy. “Yes. much as John had taken a risk with me. I offered him my hand. somewhat deflated. . The result would be one of the most enduring and loving relationships I would ever have. As I look back over my life now I can trace the start of my friendship with Phil to this meeting.
“You‟ve no idea. Penny. I guessed that Dave must be too busy to deal with it. I had only met Harry formally.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 35 Later in the afternoon.” I answered. I found that Dave had still not signed it. I thanked him for his help and left his office feeling as though I had just grown wings and could fly. “I know we see each other infrequently. Today was turning into a very good day indeed. The flattery that I felt was considerable and I duly made the promise. so I took the contract to Harry. “Quite a learning experience?” he asked. As I walked into her office I heard a voice that was familiar. A strange feeling came over me. but I‟m assured by Dave that you‟ve made quite a mark here. I admitted my mistake. but he was inviting me to be more informal with him. I did not want gossip or rumour to spread. I added that Mike was doing a good job establishing the new sales team and that any protracted dispute could have indirect costs that were unforeseeable.” I responded. My detour took me near to Jo‟s office. “Don‟t be afraid to drop in from time to time. He signed off the contract to rent the flat to Mike and called Legal to approve the pay settlement. and explained the situation. Until now. the company‟s managing director. That‟s good to hear. I felt I should touch base with her over the comment Elona had made. . Harry accepted my comments with good grace. I returned to Legal to collect the contract for Mike.” “Thank you.” I swallowed quite hard when I heard this. but also said that the proposed settlement would ward off the possibility of litigation and save the company money in the long run.
John was outlining his thoughts on male and female consumer behaviour. Tongues would probably wag. presentation in full flow. My attitude to mixing business and personal relationships was momentarily compromised. “You know each other?” asked Jo. but if I had denied it then it would surely have shown in my face. As I entered the room. I was not sure whether to admit to a close friendship in front of all the others. but there was little I could do. our eyes connected just long enough for others to register that we were more than acquaintances.” he replied.” I answered. “You are Jo‟s new consultant. Everybody turned around to look at me and for a moment I felt quite embarrassed. John noticed me at the back of the room and his face beamed. “…. As I looked at John.Friends or Lovers Surely it could not be? But as I walked up to the door the voice was unmistakable. .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 imagine she was asking herself the same question about me. “Hello there!” he said with just a trace of a smile. then?” John looked at Jo. “We are good friends. continuing the charade.” I could see Sally looking both pleased and surprised as she whispered something in the ear of a colleague. “Jo and I are good friends too…. In my mind I wondered “how good?” but I resisted the temptation to ask. “Yes.
That‟s more or less it for today. Not only did it make me feel special. it would probably do my social standing amongst the staff no harm at all. was a deep pride that he acknowledged me so warmly. 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. smiled. Mixed with surface irritation. he shut down his laptop to signal the end of the meeting and walked over to greet me. . then?” “Sure did!” and he immediately sensed the glint in my eye. “Watch out! He‟ll charm the pants off you before you know it!” I laughed out loud. “Things worked out. but John did not understand.” I responded. isn‟t it?” “I guess it is. Guys. See you all next Wednesday.” With these words. and gave a thumbs-up sign.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay everyone. however. Without batting an eyelid. John leaned over and whispered into my ear. “Helping Sally and Mike move him into a company flat!” He turned to them both. you‟ll need to bring some in yourself – if you don‟t buy them normally. For a second I wondered whether to chide him for creating the impression we were close. but his manner was so open and unaffected that he disarmed me. “Well. Remember to bring in lots of magazines. I thought for a moment and remembered my commitment to Mike. he put his hand on my shoulders and kissed me on the cheek. “How are you fixed later?” asked John. buy some this week. this is a turn up.
Treat him well. “Sure if it leads him to deny himself the company of other interesting people. John smiled. “I would normally not say such a thing.” “Aren‟t you devoted to your wife?” I asked. I felt myself giving up any aspirations I had to seduce John and I comforted myself by looking forward to more fantasies. I could have deliberately misunderstood him and read more into his words than was there.” His eyes had that glorious warmth that I had come to adore. but an instinct told me not to. Sure he wanted to be close to me. “Penny. but Mike is not just a nice man. “Problem is that he‟s far too devoted to his wife!” “Can a man be too devoted?” I joked.” “I intend to.Friends or Lovers “Someone else said the same thing earlier!” “Must be true then. indeed his life. why do I do that! His remark caught me so off-guard that for a moment I was angry with him. He immediately sensed this. but not so much that I would avoid your company. but I was beginning to realise the limits of his commitment. I felt that his marriage. he‟s a very nice man. Penny.” I said. must be an endless juggling act. “So what‟s going down with Mike. with just a hint of playfulness.” he quipped. and his tone changed in an instant. . Reluctantly. “Yes.” he said in a low voice and drawing me towards the corner of the room. then?” I asked. Damn it. “You interested?” I blushed. John took one look at me and twigged. I am.
” he said with more confidence than I felt. but I can‟t see his feelings changing.” I responded. “What about Sally?” I asked. not children. “The way he tells it to me is that she wants children – he does not. If they‟d agreed on that then perhaps he would have let her get close to him.Rory Ridley-Duff “I believe you will.” I said warmly. They fight and bicker all the time! She‟s been in love with him for years. I still felt no maternal twinge. “For what?” he asked. they‟re like a married couple. but because of this he would never let anything start. . Even as my own sister brought hers into the world. “Thanks for that. I returned to my office and decided to make one more trip to Dave‟s before packing up my things. Whether he was being deliberately obtuse or just plain dumb. Apart from that. I did not care. “What advice was that?” he said. I was looking forward to the evening. “For that advice.” “No more kids?” I said. more as a remark to myself than a question for John. John then grinned at me and I realised that he was playing. I looked at John again. Knowing that neither Mike nor I wanted children took away one potential conflict. He‟s got three already and does not want any more. Mike and Sally came over and John announced that he too was helping with the move. I wanted a man. I thought there was no harm seeing if she was competition.
. “I said you‟d need my approval. I went over the talk we had the night before in the pub and he listened without making comment. I couldn‟t understand why he was behaving this way.” I said again. We didn‟t agree anything last night – you just told me what you wanted to do.” he said.” “What?” Dave was acting so strangely that I felt like asking why. Mike is moving in tonight. He was standing next to his desk. “The flat. This was odd.” “What do you mean? You said you‟d e-mail Legal this morning. the contract!” I said “What contract?” answered Dave. My mood changed from one of confusion to concern. His stubbornness was mirrored by the rigidity in his body. Penny. “I‟ve been looking for you all day. “I just dropped by to say that I‟ve sorted it anyway. His fists were clenched as he spoke.” “Why‟s that?” answered Dave. I thought. “He‟s moving in tonight. What was he playing at? “Well. whatever Dave!” I said.” “You‟re mistaken.Friends or Lovers Chapter 36 “There you are!” I said. “Don‟t you remember?” I asked. When I finished. but I confined myself to the issue in hand. but I didn‟t approve it. Dave was behaving quite strangely and I was confused. he finally said something. I didn‟t agree to it.” “Dave! What d‟you mean?” “I wanted to discuss it with Harry first. You said you would go and see them to sort this out.
“Okay. His behaviour was strange and my evening engagement so much more inviting. have you?” “Yes. You haven‟t signed it yourself?” “No!” I answered.Rory Ridley-Duff “But we haven‟t sorted out a contract yet. almost shouting. I wondered if something might have happened at the hospital. I have. but I wanted to retreat. He must have had a very bad day. And I‟ve sorted out the contract.” Dave looked at me. You haven‟t given him any keys. I couldn‟t find you so I got Harry to sign. That was so out of character I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Without saying goodbye. “How?” he said. I left the room. It was my turn to feel defensive. On another occasion I would have challenged him. “I got someone else to sign it because I couldn‟t find you.” “You went around me?” “No. “Don‟t do it again!” he said finally. . clearly irritated. I didn‟t „go around you‟. He was speaking to me like a child. “I need to sign it.” I said.” He looked defensive and angry. “So how d‟you sort it?” he asked with a tone bordering on aggression.
he needed to take only a few easily transportable things. I initially felt out of place amongst such close friends. “Yes he did! Yes he did! I don‟t mean he saved my life like he rescued me from death or anything. With four helpers and four cars.Friends or Lovers Chapter 37 It took us less time than expected to move Mike‟s stuff. unloaded and had four glasses of champagne on the table before the 7pm. We all dutifully raised our glasses and clinked them together. Sally raised her glass. She quickly regrouped and continued. bedding.” she lost her balance for a moment as the drink began to affect her. I mean that he rescued me in here. computer.” she started. “…. but they took care to include me in their conversation. after we had consumed a pizza-takeaway and several bottles of wine. we quickly filled each of them up. .” She pointed to her heart with a finger and kept stabbing herself as she laughed. As the evening wore on I felt more and more relaxed. By nine o‟clock.” Mike‟s eyes looked downward as he shook his head and laughed. As the flat was partly furnished. hi-fi and a portable television. drove to the new flat.” she announced. plus his clothes.. “To new beginnings. Sometimes he would look back and acknowledge my interest. “To new beginnings!” I noticed myself glancing in Mike‟s direction repeatedly. but at other times he would remain engaged in conversation with John and Sally. Sally stood up and raised her glass. “This man here…. “Penny.this man saved my life.
let „er!” As Sally sat down. Her boldness had made me bold and I wanted to say my piece as well.he stopped me causing this man…” . “You‟re one of life‟s superheroes.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike‟s eyes looked everywhere but towards me and I sensed that he wished Sally would shut up. I stood up.” responded Sally. “This man.” “Sod Dave!” she said. “Don‟t you look around the place like that!” she barked at Mike. When he did that….” Everybody laughed as I struggled to articulate what I felt. “This man saved my career!” John smiled back and raised his glass to me in appreciation. “…. “Well firstly.(hic)…. “I don‟t think Dave would see it like that…. “Come on Sal. “He and his stinking brother can rot in hell for all I care.” I said looking at him. I decided to mimic Sally so I feigned a stumble.” answered Mike. “If she wants to praise you. sit down love and rejoin the party.” 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. As I spoke I looked deep into John‟s eyes.” Mike threw up a hand to discard her remark. I never. I wobbled momentarily as I raised my glass to John. he helped me see something that I couldn‟t see. I wanted him in no doubt how special he was to me. “You leave „er alone. “How d‟ee do that?” I was feeling liberated so I let my feelings spill out. you!” I said boldly. “Did he? Well.
“John. but I knew that I had more to say so I gathered myself and started to find the words.” He sat down again and with a resigned look. “….” I laughed as I realised just how comfortable I suddenly felt.” Mike‟s embarrassed look left his face and was replaced by one of genuine surprise. “This man…. the other three giggled away. and I would‟ve done so if my good friend John – who I will now love forever….this man….this man did more than save my career.” I said and then continued.” I looked at him and was overcome with such feelings of love and affection that I put my hand up again..” “Penny!” John interrupted again. . I do have to say it and I want these two to listen.Friends or Lovers I quickly glanced at Mike before continuing “…any more upset and pain. I did not understand what was happening to me.this man….” As I stood there..this man….. but in my mind a whole world of understanding descended on me and I felt completely overwhelmed. “I was about to do one of the most stupid things I‟d ever done. Before I knew it there were tears in my eyes and I was struggling to talk. I do.” as these words spilled out my hand instinctively moved to cover my mouth. “you don‟t have to say this. “….” as the words formed in my head a single tear started to roll down one of my cheeks. “You don‟t have to. Really you don‟t. braced himself for what he thought I was going to say. “Ah shit! What the hell. John noticed and started to get up but I put my hand up to stop him. “Penny.” said John.
you…. “You men. “For the last 10 years. I‟ve known a series of jerks and losers and none of them ever made me actually want to know them..Rory Ridley-Duff “Shut up. “Right! This man…. I had them all where I wanted them now. John looked less worried and began to take in what I was saying. I‟m the sort of person your mother warned you about. John…” I fixed my eyes and aggressively pointed my finger at him. “You shut up too.” Sally and Mike were transfixed as they witnessed this intimate exchange.arsehole!” I said with a smile. you arsehole. but a vixen at night who stalks and preys on vain and needy men to satisfy her own vanity and neediness. What I‟ve done while at conferences would fill the pages of a Jackie Collins novel! But you. I don‟t know how you did it but you made me take an interest in living again. honestly! Never know when to shut up…. so I continued . you….” John obviously felt that I was going to tell him again how much I loved him. and John gave a short chuckle and relaxed in his chair. “…you made me want to behave!” Sally and Mike creased up with laughter as I fired my double barrel. me. and I‟ll tell you!” Sally creased up with laughter when I called Mike an arsehole.” As I spoke. “taught me how to feel again. I giggled at the comedy that was taking place. “Since when did you two get so close?” asked Mike. so this caught him by surprise. you changed all that. Good as gold at work. I‟ve been a bad girl.. I mean really living – not just have a job and exist. You John.” and this time I paused for effect more than anything else. “You‟ve had this coming to you for a long time so don‟t spoil it.
I knew. 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. better than any drug. There was not a force in the world that was going to stop it. on the other hand. walking backward. Was this love? Was this lust? In that moment I was touched by my own humanity. In that moment. the vixen started to return and my gaze left John and fixed on Mike. Mike. And one more thing…” I held up both hands to stop them interrupting. If I had thought that John had helped me to feel again. stubborn…and surprising person I‟ve ever met. He roared and clapped. I blew Mike a kiss then sat down. Sally. I knew. on the other hand…. It was the most exquisite feeling I had ever known. “You. A few moments later I felt a tingle rush through my body and I had to shut my eyes and wait until it passed. This was living. started to join in too. . came over and gave me a hug. it was nothing compared with the tidal wave that engulfed my being on hearing these words. Sally‟s giggles subsided and it was John who creased up with laughter.” I said conjuring up the sexiest look I could muster. Mike starred back at me and for a few seconds we were transfixed by each other. he got up. A modest contented grin was etched onto his face and we both knew what was going to happen..Friends or Lovers with the performance and grew in confidence. “…are the most difficult. despite her feelings. “You make me want to be bad too!” he whispered in my ear. and kept his eyes on me while he sat down in his chair. “You make me want to be bad again!” When I said this. grinned to himself contentedly. better than any orgasm. Then. And then he pulled away. As Mike‟s giggles subsided.
and he glanced back. She did not need to say anything. “He was so loyal to this sweet woman that he nearly destroyed his marriage. “As for this one. . Suddenly his resistance made sense.” I joked. Mike raised his glass to John in appreciation but when I glanced at Mike. “John! How long has this been going on?” He looked at me half-embarrassed. you! And there was me thinking you were a devoted and loyal husband!” “You are mixing me up with Mike!” he said.” she started to say. “He‟s too damn loyal for his own good. haven‟t you my dear?” Now it was my turn to crease up with laughter. I pointed at John and shouted at him. “You sly old dog. “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.” I was laughing again. Sally looked at me. All my inhibitions regarding John vanished. the thought ran through my mind that his loyalty was coming to an end. “Sally?” I quizzed. “And there was I thinking that you are a family man. it was Sally. “he‟s been a bad boy a few times. He was not the paragon of virtue I had believed him to be. She and John were lovers. It was not only his family that he was protecting. “But I thought he told you?” I responded.” answered John. Then he was so loyal to Elona that he nearly destroyed his career.Rory Ridley-Duff It took me a few moments to notice that Sally had climbed onto John‟s knee and was kissing his forehead.
” I got up from my chair. and you called me right in the middle of it! She thought you were Sally and started wrecking the house. the situation. Whether it was the drink. Why did you resist me?” He looked at me and draped his arms around my neck. That‟s why I had to go.” he said. . I pressed myself up against him. I was not going to waste this moment.” I said to him. and our tongues touched. You must have known how much I wanted you. She consented.” said Sally. “I want to talk about this. Our lips met. darling.” I remembered the recent phone call.” As I said these words. “You have no idea…. and asked Sally if I could borrow him for a minute. “Oh yes I have…. “You told her. We pulled each other close and snogged until we both sensed that enough was enough. As my hand slipped under his shirt and felt his strong body.. gently parted. “He‟s frustratingly devoted to his wife and children. or the knowledge that he was weak with women. didn‟t you?” “Yes. “Right you!” I said. so I grabbed him and led him roughly across the living room and out of the flat. “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. put my hands around his buttocks and pulled him close. offered my hand to John. his hands clutched my behind.” “Why did you tell her?” “I wanted to stay at Sally‟s while working on this contract.Friends or Lovers “He is.” I replied. “One day soon.
I‟d have lost her. You liked me from the moment we met. after my father. I‟m fond of her and she was in a state after Mike returned to his wife. You are the first man. it was different somehow. I was part of her recovery. But with you. Penny Leyton. With others. that‟s how you did it. He did not have to explain how he felt. That made you special. This isn‟t the first time for either of us.” I nodded as I spoke.” He laughed and held hands. Being with you was enough. You‟re the first woman I‟ve not had to sleep with to keep interested. but it‟s not that. “You look after her and I‟ll look after you. Very special.” I said.” I stroked his face. I was there. “You have yourself a deal. they would lose interest. Penny.” “And I love you too. It was hard for her to leave her husband. very needy. That was the price of continued friendship.Rory Ridley-Duff “Sally is not the only woman that I‟ve given in to .” I said. not surprisingly. You made it possible for me to love again. When the kids were both at . “That‟s what I thank you for the most. if they thought I was not intending to sleep with them. “Yes. I think. “I love you. Mike was gone. If you „saved me‟. even after I told you I wouldn‟t make a pass at you. She was. John.” “How are things with your wife?” “They‟re okay. Things changed some years back.” “She‟s certainly a looker.there has been one other.” “What about Sally?” “If I‟d not slept with Sally. Just being with him had been enough for me too. that I‟ve not been afraid to love.
I took the plunge. The kids are older now. I travel for days.” “But you need somewhere that‟s a home. We drifted apart and she had an affair. we‟re able to get past blaming each other. I admire her more than when we first married but the exclusivity has been lost. Maybe I can sleep in your nest occasionally?” I smiled. A nomadic life suits me and I have friends and nests in many places. my whole life‟s like that.” “D‟you think you‟ll have a house in one piece when you get home?” I quipped. Sally won‟t marry me. Penny. She holds a torch for Mike and likes having her own place. We hugged again but this time . This is a long contract and it‟ll be lovely to spend time with Sally. That was a lovely thought and I warmed to it. There‟s no way to get it back so things have changed. Soon after. I admitted to her that I‟d thought of having an affair as well. We worked things through but a lot changed. I was determined to hold onto his love.Friends or Lovers school she started working again. There‟s no reason to divorce. You‟re secret is safe with me. thankfully. at a time. “We both love the kids.” “Don‟t worry. I‟m just a temporary distraction for her. When we are together we still have a fabulous time. She‟s a lovely woman and. We both get lonely.” I said. Then I met Sally through Mike and gave in again! My wife and I are still good friends. I‟m travelling much more. We found that we both liked the idea of more freedom. You don‟t want to just drift between places like a visitor?” “With my work. sometimes weeks. lover. “Not so white as white. “As long as you behave. am I? I hope you aren‟t disappointed.” With this exchange of words we made our pact.
that acquaintances would misunderstand. It would be John and I that others would mistake now. Sally retired to one of the bedrooms with John. I remembered John‟s words that there was no such thing as a non-sexual relationship between men and women. But I didn‟t care either way – the most important thing was to protect the trust. 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. we had become lovers of a sort.Rory Ridley-Duff it was devoid of sexual passion. a priceless treasure that sparkles. a bond as strong as I‟d ever known. and mine alone. I retired to the other with Mike. It would be our joke – just as it had been for Sally and Mike . without question. . only ones where they chose not to have sex. I thought of Sally and Mike and how everyone thought they had been lovers. We knew that sex would be there if we ever both needed and wanted it at the same time. This diamond is mine. Our relationship was now like that. It was almost as if we were saying goodbye and hello at the same time. We both understood our attraction to each other. But when I thought about it. The memory is like a precious stone. There was now such a deep intimacy. I hope you will forgive me for shielding it from gossip that would corrupt it.
From: dave. Suddenly all those soppy romance novels. worried and pleased at the passion I felt.Friends or Lovers Chapter 38 I went into work the next day on a tremendous high. . To have waited nearly 33 years to discover this! Suddenly I understood why people could fall apart when their partner leaves. Sorry about yesterday. forgive me? Dave. I felt capable of doing anything. it would have been imprudent and insensitive.uk To: penny. Every few minutes I would pause to think of the future. or how a husband or wife might feel driven to murder after discovering the other was having an affair.co. We all have off days. movies. there was an apology from Dave. Even though I felt like telling him (and the whole world) what had happened the night before.stockton@innovation. If anybody tried to steal Mike from me. I was astonished and frightened. Don’t worry about it.co. Is there anything we need to follow up after the product launch? I was irritable and too harsh. and songs made sense and I realised people were not simply making it up. As I sensed these feelings. As I settled down to my computer to retrieve my e-mails.leyton@innovation. Can you I answered immediately.uk Subject: Sorry Pen. I was pleased that Dave apologised because that was how I expected him to be.
I want them to come from me.” I responded.” Elona! I had forgotten about her in all the excitement. Strange. give me the address and I‟ll go round. She‟s over the 10-day mark and her manager is asking if you‟ll visit. “I guess that‟s a good idea.?” I just kept silent and smirked enough for him to work out that he was right. “Don‟t tell me…. “No need to do that today. I‟m happy enough for both of us.” “Have to keep the boss happy!” he joked.” “Sure thing. That was fast work. What have you got for me?” “Elona‟s off sick again.” . Keep it under wraps for now.” Phil said. That‟s the third time in two weeks. That‟s very sweet of you. right?” he asked.Rory Ridley-Duff There was a knock at the door and Phil was standing with a cup of coffee. Okay. “Thank you.” “Hmm. Penny.. They‟ll probably be in the shop. boss!” he said sarcastically. okay?” “Okay. Have you called her?” “Yes. “Okay. Phil did not usually make coffee unless I asked.. No answer. But I can‟t see this staying a secret for long. “If any rumours start.” I said. “Bloody hell. No answer from her parents?” “No. “You don‟t have sugar. “Don‟t you go blurting this around the place. This was a surprise.” “Hard to believe it myself. Phil looked up and my smile told him all he needed to know.you….
You looked like you could do with something. “Oh the pet!” said her mother. Her mother led me though the shop and up the stairs.” “What‟re you doing here?” she asked. She turned around and after a moment of confusion she saw the breakfast tray. love!” she shouted. There was no reply so I entered the shop and spoke to her mother. .” There was silence. my dear. “Elona?” I said gently as I rocked her shoulder. We‟ll be in the shop. I finally assembled something that looked appetising. all last night. What do you want to do?” “Can I stay here a bit. Don‟t know what to do.” *** I drove to Elona‟s flat and rang the bell.Friends or Lovers “Yes. so her mother gently opened the door of her room and a crumpled figure lay in the bed asleep.” I asked them to let me in. All weekend. just crying and crying. “She‟s up there but we can‟t get her out of bed. wake her up and chat. We‟re at our wits end. “You‟ve been busy!” “Yes. Having played hide and seek with the butter. We‟re worried sick. “there‟s someone here to see you…. of course. maybe make her a drink. “She‟s cried herself to sleep. plates and bowls. I took the liberty of putting together breakfast-in-bed.” I sat with Elona for fifteen minutes before stirring myself to go to the kitchen. “Elona! Elona.” “Feel free. bread.
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. Nobody at work could contact you. She looked at me sorrowfully and tried to talk but nothing coherent came out.” I responded. I could see the tear stains around her eyes.” she commented. “This is kind of you. And yet I did feel concern for her so I accepted her thanks. I don‟t want that. We were worried. At the same time I do care what happens to you and if there‟s a way I can help then I will. Have you seen a doctor?” She gave a dismissive laugh.” 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.” “Just part of the job.” . This is kind of you.” “I‟m sure they‟ll do what‟s best. Eventually. “You didn‟t have to come. “Your mum and dad say you‟ve been upset. It is hard watching someone sink into the depths of despair.” As I looked at her face.” She sat up in bed and I gave her the tray. “Elona. Without make-up she looked quite different. “He‟ll just say I‟m depressed and give me some drugs. 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. Don‟t make me into a saint.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m finding out how you are. but still had a girlish charm. “No. We sat there while she finished her breakfast and then she thanked me again.
She looked like she was going to explode. I‟m useless. Even though she was slightly built I began to feel a bit afraid. so I started to clear the tray and returned to the kitchen. completely fucking useless. At the moment. Administrators are ten-a-penny.” I said. I was on my own and had to do the best I could. “You don‟t need me. Nobody.” “Is this to do with Nathan?” At this remark she turned toward me and I could see the rage building in her face. As I walked out of the room a torrent of abuse showered my back as . a failure. Nobody likes me. In the back of my mind. a waste of space. I heard you. however. “Don‟t give me that crap. There are people at work who believe in you. “I need you. I‟ve seen your file and you‟ve earned that position. 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. “I said I don’t want that. “I‟m nothing.” she said.” I listened with patience.” “Why?” I asked. “Yes. “What then?” I asked.” I said. I wondered if he might be able to help.Friends or Lovers At this comment Elona looked at me angrily. Nobody likes me. a zero. I recalled the many conversations I‟d had with John.” My efforts were not rewarded. “I‟m useless. “I don‟t give a shit. It‟s all meaningless. “Nothing.” It was my turn to show a bit of aggression.
When I returned from the kitchen I held out my hand and surprisingly she took it. I need to go now. her exboyfriend. I tried to remain calm but it was difficult. I sat with her for another quarter of an hour. work. me. Do you understand?” She made no movement so I repeated the question and she gave a nod of her head. Phil. Mike. her parents. motionless except for the occasional stroke of her face.Rory Ridley-Duff she screamed the place down about Nathan. . We had all ruined her life. “Elona. She turned onto her side and wept again. There are a couple of people I want to talk to and then I‟ll be back.
What is it?” he asked as soon as I closed the door. I felt myself get aroused as I moved closer toward him. My first port of call was John..” I said. Even though I was there on business. looking down towards his crotch. “Hello….” “We‟ve got to keep a lid on it at work. but he agreed to take a break at mid-day and chat to me in the canteen.and there was I hoping you wanted to shag me in the toilets…. “Any ideas?” he replied. “Anything in particular you want to speak about?” he enquired. “Okay. As I walked through the door. “…. He was in a meeting with Jo.Penny!” he said slightly stiffly.err….Friends or Lovers Chapter 39 For the rest of the day. I‟d go and have one.I do. I busied myself. he smiled at me as if it was any other day at work. but none that I can act on here.” I said. “Elona!” I said in response and suddenly he dropped the formality and whispered in my ear. He nodded and even though I felt like dragging him into the nearest broom cupboard for a quickie. “Plenty. I managed to calmly lead him into his own office. .” He pulled his head away and I noticed there was a bulge in his trousers. “What can I do for you?” “Can I speak to you in private?” I asked. “…. “Better do something about that!” I said with a smile. “If there was a cold shower somewhere. Next I went to see Mike. but this has to come first ….” I whispered back.
” I protested.” “Does that mean you‟d be okay if she moved into the other room?” “It‟s going to look very odd. but I think she needs some space to herself. . I wanted to know how you felt about the idea. “Let them!” he said. I‟m not sure it‟d be a good idea anyway. It‟s technically your place. He walked over and silenced me with a kiss. We were always friends before and I‟m sure we will be again. I can‟t act without your consent.” “Elona and I have always got on well. He looked surprised at my remark. Is it really that urgent?” “Well actually. I‟ll talk to John later.” “Elona? What‟s the problem now?” “The same problem. I allowed him to kiss me briefly but stopped him when I felt my passion rising. “Are you checking me out?” he queried. She was upset and I was there so she took it out on me. if you want to get back with your wife…. I visited her and she‟s in a right state.” I proffered.. “Of course. I don‟t hold what happened against her. Penny?” he said. My hand instinctively jumped to my mouth.Jeez! I‟ve only just got you to myself.” “What d‟you have in mind?” I gave a half smile and got ready to ask him. “Stop! People will see. I could hardly believe what I‟d said and started to apologise profusely. but he anticipated me.Rory Ridley-Duff “Elona needs somewhere to stay. “You‟re not thinking….
She took the news of the flat offer in her stride and did not seem to show any great enthusiasm.I‟ll tell her that she can move in next weekend if she wants. “What did you do – send out a company wide e-mail?” “No.” “Why next weekend?” he asked.” I replied. Elona was up and dressed. When I returned in the afternoon. “Already?” I asked. one of the reps came up and congratulated me. the rumour about myself and Mike had spread to Phil. “Oh well! It‟s out now. “May as well have sent out an e-mail!” he retorted with a chuckle. She promised to think about it and let me know the next day. As I sat with John in the canteen. I turned to leave the room. “I‟m all yours. 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.Friends or Lovers “I‟ll tell her…. When I got back to the office. “Not a word passed my lips!” said Phil as I brought him a cup of tea. .” he said with a big grin.” Phil looked at me warmly. I told her again that there were people at work who cared. just a little kiss in his office. 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. One of his staff had noticed our kiss and by lunchtime a rumour was making its way around the offices.
crashing and spinning out of control. Beads of sweat formed over my body and face. By 4. Penny?” I swivelled my screen around so he could read the e-mail. just two words sprang forth from his lips.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m happy for you.30pm Phil found me slumped at my desk. my heart sank slowly into the quicksand of despair. I decided to have one last trawl through my emails in case Dave had replied. Dave x I sat for 30 minutes while thoughts burned my mind. “Oh fuck!” . Where on earth had this come from? As I tried to find answers to impossible questions.” he said. *** At my desk. After a few moments. 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. and the clarity I had brought to work evaporated as my mind felt like it was turning to treacle. the high spirits that had kept me aloft all day dissolved. Subject: Sorry Pen. “What‟s up. With every passing minute.
My right hand rested on his knee and every few moments I would caress it and sometimes rub the inside of his knee. I gave him a hug. I could see a potential for disaster. “Just in case we finish the first one. He joked that the second was “just in case”. stroking me. I think he expected me to jump him as I walked through the door. He seemed to take it in his stride and did not press me.” he answered. He went out for bottle of wine and came back with two. His right hand lay on the side of my face. He sat at one end of the sofa and I put my head on his lap. his left hand would stroke the back of mine and I would move my head and nestle it even more deeply in his lap. watched the television and held my hand. Now I had a personal problem it dawned on me that I hardly knew him. my mind was preoccupied. To others we looked like a regular couple but inside I was full of questions about how far I could trust him. Intermittently.I . 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. “Just in case what?” I asked. Sometimes. sat with me. we communicated a lot. Even though we were not speaking. but the promise to explore the love-making potential of the flat was a distant thought.Friends or Lovers Chapter 40 Instead of going home. I returned to Mike‟s flat. he would slide his fingers between mine and hold my hand more tightly . 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. but after receiving Dave‟s e-mail. He made me a cup of coffee.
don‟t they?” “I hope so. you are stroking me. “Know how you felt about me?” I answered. “Are you going to tell me about your wife?” I asked. “Where‟s this coming from. “Plenty of time for that!” It was a small remark. There‟s nothing bigger is there?” “Little what?” he answered. there‟s nothing bigger is there?‟ Don‟t you think that‟s a great line?” He smiled and stroked my head again. and these little things mean a lot. a line from a film entered my head. As I lay there. I was not really watching it so I started to ask Mike questions. “I remember this film.the little things. I sipped the wine as the TV programme played in the background. “Not yet. “When did you know?” I asked. I‟m stroking you.” he said. There‟s a man standing with a woman and she‟s talking about her husband who has just died. “When I insulted you!” I sat up and looked at him.” he said. “The little things. but it gave me confidence that he looked upon me as more than a fling. “What do you mean?” . “Know what?” he replied.Rory Ridley-Duff would respond by tightening my grip to catch and squeeze his fingers. “Well I was just lying here and our hands are touching. She says to him „I miss the little things‟ and the man replies „ah!…. Penny?” he asked.
” I laughed out loud because at that moment I would have fed him to the sharks.” I encouraged. “Won‟t forget that in a hurry!” “Well there I was shouting at you.” I answered. Do you remember that?” “Yes. yes. then looking at you intently thinking that a woman as confident and smart as you would surely have made a pass at a man.” “Go on. I thought and went back over my mind. I remember being really angry. “I was thinking how nice it would be if you made a pass at me. but at home I‟ve always been quite passive. Before I had time to think. I can‟t remember ever standing up to my wife like that. maybe. Firstly. “Well. That‟s my trick and you stole it from me! You made me go funny inside and I couldn‟t hide from myself that you excited me. I did. And there I was challenging you on whether you had ever made a pass at a man. “You thought of that while we were arguing?” “Well. when you asked why women let men think they rule the world. when you held my gaze and would not look away. he‟d asked me the same question.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‟d always pegged you as old fashioned and that completely took me back. “When did you know?” he asked. At work. I think there were two moments.” “Do you remember when we first met?” he asked. so the thought came into my head. Secondly.” I was not sure how to react.
Yes. He told me to watch out for you because you were a „ball breaker‟” “He said that!” I exclaimed. but Harry insisted on you.” he said. “I was thinking what John would say. Dave had successfully hidden this from me for nine months.” “My God! I remember now. didn‟t I?” commented Mike. you did. He‟d been bitching about Harry insisting on your appointment. I started the joke then stopped when I saw you walking toward us.Rory Ridley-Duff I tried to recollect but I couldn‟t.” I interjected. I pegged you as a paternalistic antifeminist old git.” This came as a surprise. “Yes. He said to be careful because of you. “Yes. “He didn‟t want you in the company. “Dave and I were chatting and I was about to tell him a sexual joke.” he replied. I thought back.” he replied. Anyway.” “Is that true?” It was Mike‟s turn to reflect. “What about him?” I asked. “I was with Dave. “Why are you laughing?” I demanded. after a moment.” Mike laughed. “John. “I annoyed you.” I directed. He preferred the other candidate.” I commanded. “Go on. “Tell me. “Why would you be afraid of me when you don‟t even know me?” . “He‟d say that I censored myself because I was afraid of you.
I‟m sexist because I turn women into sex objects. I‟m afraid.” “Was it a good joke?” I said trying to lighten the mood.” I thought back to my e-mail exchanges with John. It was strangely reassuring. Without any further words he pulled my face closer. but Mike was quieter and calmer.” he replied. damned if you don‟t. it was. I‟m sexist because I‟m excluding you. “Damned if you do. you are!” I responded. We soon finished the first bottle of wine and opened the second.” “Well. . “What‟s the problem?” I asked. His mouth met mine and we got properly reacquainted. “My God.” “Are you serious?” Mike frowned. he did not routinely crack jokes or flirt when he was alone with me. “I didn‟t want your first impression of me to be a bad one.” I replied. While he had charm and sex appeal. “Why?” he asked.” “What do you mean?” I queried “If I tell the joke.” I said sinking into his lap. “Because you didn’t tell me the joke.” he said.” I said. a witty remark would have been forthcoming as he popped the cork. If I don‟t tell the joke. “I can imagine. One of John‟s best. “I don‟t know any male manager today who‟s not afraid of sexual accusations. “No.” “That‟s the problem. “It was brilliant.Friends or Lovers Mike looked me in the eye. “Tell me the joke. If he had been John.
“Very well indeed.” “Too repressed for his own good. “Yeah! He behaves great to his favourites or women he fancies.” he answered. yes. “Hmmm. Do that some more.” he answered seductively as his hand moved under my blouse. “He asked me to find out about you.” I blurted out. Nice. “I‟ve always liked him.” he continued. I was his boss back then. His body was relaxed and I felt comfortable opening up to him. He‟s never done that before. “We joined IC at roughly the same time. Get on the wrong side of him and you‟ll discover just what a bastard he can be. “And?” “That‟s it.” I said.” I said. didn‟t I?” I quipped. “Dave sent me an e-mail that was sexually suggestive.” I said. “You‟re concerned?” he asked. “Too repressed?” “Yeah. “Well. around my waist and started to caress the small of my back. Mike obliged but kept talking at the same time. Mike felt no need to press me to explain myself.” he said with considerable force. Clearly the feelings were reciprocated. “Dave and I go back a long way. not absolutely sure how I felt about him now.” I recalled how Dave had been suspicious of Mike. I am. “Did pretty well.” .” I remarked. Comes across as such a „nice guy‟ but underneath beats a heart of appalling meanness.” “Did he really?” said Mike with a sarcastic knowing laugh.Rory Ridley-Duff “I had a shock today.
“You‟re teasing me!” I answered. there is usually a man and woman involved!” “Cynic!” I joked.” “Doesn‟t work!” he suddenly said. You know how dim women can be. I wondered. “Sally?” I responded with some surprise. “Okay. “Sally used to be related to Dave. as if waiting for me to ask a question.Friends or Lovers “What happened?” I asked. Where did he get these insights from.” he replied.” I suddenly pretended to be stupid.” I said with mock impatience. How?” “She was Dave‟s sister-in-law. smiling or wavering for an instant. “We fell out over Sally. “You like being teased. . “Are you going to ask how?” he continued.” he said. “What?” “Doesn‟t work!” he said again. “Only half the time…” he answered. “Oh yes. Mike. I began to realise that his wit was considerably drier than John‟s.” He paused.” he asserted. “Get on with your story. “What about the other half?” “Optimist!” he said without missing a beat. Please explain it for me. “What doesn‟t work?” “The „can you explain it to me coz I‟m a stupid woman‟ routine. Whenever there is shit in the workplace. “Oh.
he continued and finished the story. “Oh.” he answered. I like strong direct women. “Sally used to be married to Dave‟s brother. will you?” I said briskly. “What?” I asked. “So now you know why he and I are not best buddies. “Well. . I could feel my confidence and ardour beginning to build.” he replied.” I sat up straight and suddenly the pieces dropped into place. do you?” I queried.” I said. “Say again?” I asked.. “You like it. Dave‟s brother used to beat her. With only a moment‟s hesitation. “You are so sexy when you raise your voice.” Mike concluded. “What are you smiling for?” I asked. You‟ve had this story from John so I‟m not sure what else to tell you. “You are going to like me a lot!” He relaxed a bit and laughed. “Sally used to…. He might not make me laugh as much as John.” “It‟s okay – I was being rhetorical!” I said. “Just get on with the bloody story. but his assertive and commanding manner turned me on. He gave a gesture to indicate that he did not understand. gathering words together in my head.Rory Ridley-Duff He did not play the way that John played so I tried another approach. yes. “That works!” he said with a laugh. It was beginning to dawn on me that Mike liked to play things straight. There was just a hint of smile on his face. my lad.
my fondness for him. And out it all came..” he replied.and Sally. What would Dave do if he found that I was sleeping with Mike? “Maybe we should deny our relationship?” I suggested. “Just try to look at this from his perspective. I told Mike of Dave‟s wife. I don‟t.. “He thinks…. So what? Then the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place and I instinctively covered my mouth in shock. The words came out so fast I had no time to retract them. there could be more unpleasantness.” I said. “Okay. No wonder Dave had a grudge against Mike! Suddenly my need to tell Mike about Dave‟s e-mail became more urgent. “You don‟t need me to answer that.” “You may not like it.Friends or Lovers I still did not get it completely. He had helped Sally.” I said.” I added. When I told him the details of the recent e-mail exchanges. “I want to tell you more.” I insisted. “No.” Mike replied.” he responded. “He has to know sometime. “He thinks that you…. that Dave had invited me out after the CIPD event in Birmingham and that we would be staying in the hotel together. You leave your wife after a big row . I thought he was getting ready to make a move on me. If Mike and Dave had fallen out once before. Whatever Dave felt when he recruited me.” “Yes. “Still want to hear. “You and I are at loggerheads. her illness. he thinks I fucked Sally and broke up his brother‟s marriage. I began to wonder whether I had been completely blind.” “Did you?” I asked.” I started.
The next day Elona decided she wanted to move in and with only a few days of freedom. again?” asked Mike. Later he and I had our first angry words. we used my flat as a new base. I don‟t want to take the risk. When I did not respond. . I suddenly felt quite clever. As I backed up against the wall. Then it comes out that we are sleeping together. I gave him a playful shove and he shoved me back with a deadpan face. I repeated the recent e-mail exchanges with Dave. got up and ran away. So I shoved him off the sofa. 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. That was the first of many times we made love there. 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. For the next 10 minutes he chased me all over the flat until he managed to corner me in the bathroom.Rory Ridley-Duff with me in the workplace.” “You? Polite?” he teased again.” Mike pointed out. I find you a company flat to move into. his strong frame moved towards me and my screams gave way to giggles. “What did he say. I was just being polite after the hasty exit the night before. Mike!” Having felt a bit dim a moment before. Never in my life had I enjoyed such passion and intimacy with a man. After she moved in. Within a month neither of us had any secrets left to tell. The following morning he didn‟t want to sign the contract for this flat. Mike and I made the most of our freedom. “He must have taken your message as encouragement…. “I didn‟t mean it like that.
If our first night together was the most special moment of my life.Friends or Lovers Despite the generation gap. our plans firm and concrete. Carole phoned me daily after Mike and I had appeared for lunch at my parents. I savoured every second. the words “I love you” never passed our lips. not even John and Sally. Our conversations were realistic and grounded. But publicly nobody. I talked to her of the things we had done together. Carole and my parents thought I had disappeared off the face of the earth. but never of our future aspirations. for all the commitments we made. he might file for divorce so we could marry. our first month felt like a honeymoon that would never end. To call this a “whirlwind romance” does not do it justice. But throughout all this. I turned up at my parent‟s house for Sunday lunch with Mike in tow. we started to talk extensively about politics (office and otherwise). I listened to his experiences as a father. knew of our plans. I learnt of his dreams and fantasies. When. The threads of our lives intertwined and bonds were woven into a fabric so strong that I could not imagine them ever breaking. John and Sally occasionally dropped in and we would all go out for a meal. Many joint dreams were born. he listened to my memories of childhood. we announced that he would be moving into my flat. they accepted and welcomed this development and all quietly congratulated me. and our love-making was varied and passionate. for all the future plans we mapped out. Privately Mike and I had discussed that if we enjoyed living together. At the end of each . For sure our relationship took off at quite a pace. Even as they expressed surprise. but we were never a lovely-dovey couple. towards the end of June. for all the intense times we spent together. he learnt of mine.
fortunately. I broke the news to her that I would have to pass up the opportunity of shagging the best man. All I needed to do was to turn up. make everybody laugh and be beautiful. . Like true professionals. told me about people that he fancied. I apologised for not getting more involved but she assured me that mum was on top of everything. We talked about her forthcoming wedding and the preparations. To my surprise. we remained the very souls of discretion. speech in hand. did not learn of our relationship and Mike and I managed to keep our contact low-key and light-hearted. Dave. The only person I updated from time to time was Phil. in turn. there was a conspiracy of silence. the rumours at work died quickly and did not spread further. If people knew.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. He.
and many side-stories and alternative plot lines were elaborated. . as sales manager for the domestic market. our personal relationship had cooled. also met Sam and Elaine regularly to develop marketing strategies. I felt that raising it with him was too risky. confirmation was a formality but this new situation meant that I could no longer take my appointment for granted.Friends or Lovers Chapter 41 The prospect of going to the CIPD event with Dave was something that I came to dread. Following the launch of the SHARE experience. Her background in sociology and international business was different to mine. The story of how Mike and I got together became something of a party piece. but there was sufficient common ground to compare perspectives. While we still worked together well on a professional level. As a group. John knew Elaine from academic conferences so all six of us started going out weekly for meals. Even if he had said it as a joke. I was conscious that my probationary period was coming to an end and Dave would decide my future. of course. we developed too. We exaggerated. So far as I could tell. I met Sam and Elaine again (with Dave) to organise the recruitment of more support staff. After much drinking we playfully acted out the battle-axe and gentle man confronting each other angrily while an unspoken mutual passion was developing. Neither of us spoke about the situation with his wife or his admission that he fantasised about me. In the back of my mind I wondered whether it was wise to say nothing. I would join them for drinks and found that I particularly enjoyed Elaine‟s company. Mike.
” “Is there such a thing?” she asked. “Not sure. For the last 5 years they had developed their product line. I love sexy outfits. . “I guess. After obtaining an MBA she took up a senior management post at the engineering company where Sam had been working. and the company‟s ignorance of its potential. On the day of the CIPD conference. Their close working relationship evolved into a personal one. We would take lunch together and have girly chats.” “Get something you can wear for other occasions as well!” said Elaine. they were beginning to achieve security both for themselves and the company. It was her interest in his engineering. “So what you going to get?” Elaine asked. This enabled them to expand their market and leverage in considerable financial investment.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. They decided to establish a new company for Sam to continue working on his ideas. They married secretly and this triggered a hostile reaction from some board members. that spurred their close relationship. I arranged to go with her to Birmingham beforehand to buy an evening dress. but as I‟m going with Dave I don‟t want to send out the wrong signals. She picked me up about 10am and we made our way up the motorway. I look good in tight black dresses but perhaps that would be too risqué. She had also been a human resources manager before advancing her education. After all their hard work.
She reminded me of John. “Just ask Erin Brockovich.” I quipped. She was irrepressible. But I do have a lovely pair of legs. 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. A matching necklace and earrings completed the vision. irresponsible and exuded a freedom than I‟d never witnessed at close quarters.” “Killer combination. lunch. “Some of them do. After shopping.” she replied.Friends or Lovers “Depends. “Don‟t know about you love. It hung at the knee and had a waist that was gathered with a belt that was covered in ethnic beads. I could hardly wear something like that to work!” She glanced at me and we laughed at the thought. I nodded and she carried on. We shouldn‟t be embarrassed about using ours. After a few seconds. coffee and chocolate cake. “If only men tasted as good!” said Elaine. I found a lovely black dress. . flushed with shock and excitement.” “You better believe it!” And with our sights set on the shops. “Men use their power when it suits them. elegant with a cut that was suggestive without being too daring. “You‟ll have to introduce me. she took her foot off the gas and cruised into Birmingham at 90mph.” she answered. “Chocolate delight! They weren‟t kidding were they?” I said as I tucked away another slice and sipped on my café latte.” I quipped. surely. great boobs and a sharp brain. but I don‟t have millions stashed away to bring in the punters. we retired for coffee and cake. Her Porsche 911 accelerated quickly and my body pressed back into the seat.
pampered myself with goodies from my overnight bag. Nagging at the back of my mind was the possibility that he might be harbouring feelings for me. Various scenarios were introduced on video. My sense of well-being grew. I sat with Dave during the keynote speech but we were separated for the group sessions. Dave and I checked into the hotel and agreed to meet in the bar about 6. 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.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‟. then pairs of people acted out one-to-one meetings between an employee and personnel officer. We said our farewells and departed to attend to our respective tasks. we adjourned and were asked to come back at around 7. . I found an emotional security that reminded me of my early childhood. but many organisations still did not grasp the full impact. Of particular concern were provisions regarding temporary and part-time staff. and closing comments. then sat in front of the mirror applying my face. Elaine and John than to everyone else in the whole of my life. Others made notes and gave feedback on the legality (or otherwise) of their intended actions. I talked more about my thoughts and feelings to Mike. Their employment rights had been strengthened.30pm for the dinner. After a question and answer panel. we were split into workgroups for role-play exercises that covered recent legislative changes. After an opening key speech. I showered.30pm. My new circle of friends gradually brought me out of my shell. The CIPD event went off well.
ma‟am!” he said with appropriate emphasis.” “Thank you.Friends or Lovers At 6. Penny! I‟m not the queen. “She‟s stable. but nothing was forthcoming. “I don‟t suppose it matters who signs it. Dave. I signed it and gave it back to him. “Here she is!” he said. Dave looked slightly flustered.” He duly ordered and the barman said he would bring it to our table. “What would you like?” asked Dave. Given the occasion.30 I made my way down to the bar. He turned to face me again. I‟ll have a rum and black. He presented the till slip for Dave to sign. and the prospect of spending the whole evening together.” . I felt I should broach the subject of his wife.” he responded. “Thank you.” he said looking at me. Dave was chatting and laughing with the barman. He smiled gently at me but it only increased my nervousness.” said the barman as he delivered the drink. “Here you are ma‟am. Penny!” he said and we both smiled. I expected more than this. “How are things at home?” I asked. The barman looked surprised but took the hint and gave me the bill. wasn‟t it? Do you know him?” “No. “Thanks. I was just being polite. “That was a bit „familiar‟. “You can call me. “Barman?” I said boldly. “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. Perhaps I should have complimented him too but I didn‟t.
Rory Ridley-Duff I wondered if we were in for a bad tempered night. At first he laughed.” he said defensively. “You shouldn‟t be too familiar with bar staff. “You were flirting with the barman. “Oh lighten up. . I decided to see if table places had been set. “Dave. which made me all the more cantankerous. “Yes.” “You were.” I said dismissively. But please don‟t tell me how to behave towards people when I‟m not at work. Penny. A bubble of rage formed in the pit of my stomach but I managed to contain it. but he managed to calm me down.” I started. I was none the wiser whether I should apologise or not. however. “Dave?” I said.” “You are at work.” I said. holding my drink aloft. however. We sat in silence for a few minutes. First. At the end of the conversation. Dave. Penny?” “Up yours!” I said. That was a really dumb thing to do with my appraisal only a few weeks away so I phoned Mike on my mobile. I decided that it would be stupid not to. “I don‟t want to fall out with you. Penny. I began to panic. “Don‟t use that tone with me.” I answered. I felt so awkward that I got up and went back to my room. Penny.” he said. being polite to the hotel staff. You‟re representing the company here.” he said sternly.” “And I was doing it splendidly. immediately recalling that Dave was laughing with the barman when I entered. “Just don‟t.
however.” “Forget it.” “Not too keen on your boss. I take it?” she asked. the conference manager. no. The sea change in our relationship worried me. Waiters and waitresses plied us at regular intervals with wine and aided the socialisation over dinner. “Glad to help. 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.” I answered.” he said. The service and company. I thanked Jules then went to the private bar to order another rum and black. The food was well presented but not especially delicious. I returned to the main bar. but there was no smile. I had been allocated a place next to Dave so I asked Jules if I could sit elsewhere. My table included a CEO and his . who showed me to a private bar and the seating plan for the evening. “I really appreciate this.” I said. I waited for him to give me an apology in return. With the prospect of a stressful evening receding. “Not at the moment. “Thank you.” she said with a warm smile.Friends or Lovers In the dining room I met Jules. “Dave?” I asked. were excellent. but none was forthcoming. That was rude of me. “I‟m sorry for earlier. Using her mobile she called reception and about ten minutes later a man came through with an amended seating plan. This time I went back to the private bar without making a show of my feelings. He turned around and acknowledged me.
wife, a female entrepreneur and her husband, and three other human resource professionals (two men and a woman). With four men and women around the table, the conversation was mixed and lively. The woman entrepreneur started to talk about one of the speakers. She heard him once in Scotland. Later they contracted him to assist in the investigation of a sexual harassment case. She described him as humorous and charming, but with a mind and attitude so sharp that you could cut yourself on it. She found him difficult to work with but praised the way he helped staff reconcile their differences. Desserts came and went, coffees were served, and the chatter was eventually interrupted by a clink of glasses as the Chair introduced the fundraiser. It was a typical appeal to emotional sympathies. I felt sickened by the scene of an earnest charity worker begging for crumbs at the tables of the rich. I wrote a cheque for £30 – unsure what would be considered an appropriate amount – but as I was getting dinner for free I contributed the cost of the meal to the charity. Even as I did it, I felt no virtue. There must be better ways to help the less fortunate than this. The first speaker was reasonable. The subject matter was more in Dave‟s line, but I did see the pros and cons of entrepreneurial behaviour amongst employees. While she talked about side-stepping rules and procedures, the CEO at my table joked that if anybody tried that in his place, they‟d be out. Controls were there for a reason, he said, and had to be followed. I wondered whether he had ever been an accountant. Our table was a long way from the platform. When the second speaker stood up, I did not recognise him but there was a touch
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of familiarity in his voice. I thought he must be a celebrity off the TV but annoyingly one of my dinner companions kept distracting me. The speaker continued. “Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said. “I hardly recognise myself in those kind words.” I asked my dinner companion if we could continue our conversation later because I was particularly keen to hear this speaker. He looked offended, but at last I was able to focus on the speaker‟s words. “I‟ve been asked to talk about a subject that most of us think about daily, some of us talk about regularly, but which is rarely talked about publicly. It is a subject hardly ever discussed in business books. In my view, it exerts more influence over the workplace than any other single thing and is the bedrock of social organisation both at home and at work. I‟m talking, of course, about sexual attraction and intimacy. Now if you think I‟ve come here to talk about bonking in the broom cupboard……” With most of the audience tipsy, the speaker expected a few giggles and paused. A few people obliged. Everyone else stopped chatting and started to listen. “…..or kissing in the canteen, then you are going to be disappointed. If you‟ve come here to understand how private lives impact on work then you are in the right place.” I noticed that more and more people were sitting up and taking notice. On the top table was a jug of water. The speaker paused for a moment and poured himself a glass. “Always good when they give you a large jug of gin to drink – always makes the talk more interesting,” he quipped. “If you see them bringing a second jug, then the chances of me telling
you a story about bonking in the broom cupboard rises considerably!” A slightly larger group laughed at this remark, but one of my dinner companions just raised their eyebrows and gave a disapproving look. “Talking of stories,” he continued, “I have a couple for you that I hope will prompt interesting discussion in the bars.” Everybody in the room was now paying attention. He came across as an above average public speaker. “Not so long ago I was sitting in an airport lounge and an attractive woman called Patsy glanced in my direction. When they called the flight, Patsy joined the queue and edged her way in front of me.” I laughed out loud as I recalled the way John and I had met. A few people on adjacent tables turned their heads to look at me. I thought it was uncanny the speaker had such a similar experience. “Then Patsy did something that most people here will probably think is a bit bizarre, but which – to me – was not bizarre at all. She bent down to tie her shoelace……” My laughter subsided and I began to feel slightly uncomfortable. “Nothing strange in that, you might think? Well, it would not have been strange except for one small detail. Patsy was wearing shoes that had no shoelaces……” A ripple of laughter went around the room and the speaker paused to let the import of the joke linger. As for me, my heart was pounding as I realised that the speaker was John and that he was talking about our first meeting.
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“What is significant about this story is that Patsy‟s willingness to give me a bird‟s eye view of her butt was one of several reasons I decided to sit next to her. Very bold behaviour, I felt, and not something I was likely to come across every day. We fell into conversation, swapped e-mail addresses and later met for lunch. Now we take walks together. She became a close friend and is now also a professional colleague.” He paused again. “She‟s also dating one of my best friends!” he said loudly with gusto. His comic timing was excellent and there was a further smattering of laughter. “Now what‟s the relevance? Sexual attraction is often the reason we choose to take an interest in someone. As we work out the tensions many long and durable friendships are formed. I was lucky. Patsy liked and welcomed my response, but not immediately and not without a lot of soul searching about my intentions towards her. If she had taken offence, she might have withdrawn, confronted me, argued with me, perhaps even accused me of sexually harassing her.” “We are still, even in this modern age, overwhelmingly social beings. Yes, we come to dinners like this to talk about how to make more - or lose less - money. We come for the networking opportunities, the social opening that will start a new business venture. But I want to suggest to you that there is something more than that, something deeper, more important.” He paused and took a sip of his water before continuing. “Once, a business mentor of mine said to me that money was not the most important thing to him. To him, the money was a means and not an end. The money enabled him to feed his
family, to open doors to social networks he wanted to belong to, to attract and be in the company of many beautiful women. In short, he was in business to have fun. „If you‟re not having fun‟ he would say, „sell the business‟. To him, business was entertainment.” “So what‟s the key thing here?” asked John. “For him, being in business meant an emotionally fulfilling life. He did it for the buzz. For the challenge. For the company. And yes, let‟s admit it, for the sex. He was, in a way, one of the business world‟s rock stars, although he liked to avoid the press.” “Of course, there are many out there….and perhaps even in here…who will take a dim view of this. Business is about profitmaximising, about efficiency, about effectiveness and all those terms that are popular in business schools and board rooms. There are a few strange people who actually get off on this. Picture them in your mind: Laddie Lawyer…… Amy Accountant…… Adam Auditor.” There was substantial laughter as he recounted these names. He knew his audience. Human resource staff often battled legal and financial staff for influence and John cleverly used his knowledge of workplace tensions to win them over. “Now, I imagine that you‟re sitting there thinking „not me‟. I‟m rational, everybody else is emotional. I always do my best for my boss. I‟m a complete professional – never let myself get distracted by this stuff. So I‟m going to ask for a bit of audience participation. Can I have a show of hands, please? How many of you met your most recent wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend in an organisation? Don‟t just think of your own place of work. Did you meet in theirs? Was he or she your client? Were you students together?”
Friends or Lovers
The hands started to rise, at first tentatively. The murmurs grew as spouses and partners reminded each other of their first meeting, with the result that more and more hands were raised until at least three-quarters held them aloft. “More than usual,” he commented. “We have a horny bunch in tonight!” The room rumbled with chatter and laughter as people started to absorb what had just been illustrated. As the noise died down, so John continued. “So let me make one or two comments before I tell you my second story. Firstly, how is it that most human resource professionals here tonight met their partner or spouse in a workplace and yet the profession is being persuaded to support zero-tolerance policies towards sexual behaviour at work?” There was less laughter now and he paused to have another drink. The women entrepreneur opposite looked irritated. “See what I mean?” she said. I nodded, but privately I thought John had a point. “Need a bit more gin for this bit,” John quipped as he drank some more water. “More controversially, recent research suggests that research participants say harassment is very rare, almost unheard of, during the formative stages of a relationship. Accusations are made when relationships are breaking down. This raises an issue. Are we are missing the underlying sexual dynamics that bring about these accusations. It may be that a man is trying to break off the relationship rather than form it, or that a woman is trying to back off a relationship that has aroused her sexual feelings. When it comes to the law, have politicians created a rod to break our back?”
.” He paused again and took another swig of „gin‟. okay – I realise that some of you probably consider this essential work in the run up to the Christmas party. “This leads me onto my second story. He somehow managed to avoid accusing his audience. more measured. I looked hard but couldn‟t find that induction technique in the CIPD manual!” he quipped. During Ben‟s induction. isn‟t it?” he agreed with his audience. and without fail there is some set piece bit of „corporate fun‟. but everyone in the room suddenly felt embarrassed that they had been laughing. John‟s tone was not critical. Then his tone suddenly became quieter. This also has a lovely butt in it. The year Ben joined. It involves Ben and Diane. “Here‟s the rest of the story. In the silence that followed. “Diane thought one of the directors‟ butts was so sexy that she described it to Ben during his induction.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked around and saw some people nodding. He paused and the audience obliged with more laughter.” John smiled. Then he delivered a killer sentence. they had a „Butt of the Year‟ competition.” he continued boldly. Diane told him about the company annual dinner. “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. “Okay. “Yes – it‟s funny. Diane is a CIPD qualified member of staff. but this story has a challenging ending. but this time it belongs to a man. the hum of personal reflection lingered in the air. but questioning. 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. The audience laughed some more.
Ben thanked her and felt reassured.” John raised his volume a couple of notches to finish the story “He was fired. Diane got cross and told him he should not look for love at work. They started to go out for drinks after work.” he teased. Both were married. Ben argued that the accusation was unjustified.‟ she told him. Diane reported his activities to her own manager. She now claimed that Ben was „womanising‟ and might misuse personnel records. “So!” he said. put ice cubes down Ben‟s trousers at a party. told Ben he had admirers and then got jealous when Ben admired someone . “a woman who talked openly about her lust for a male director during Ben‟s induction. He did not mind her attention and they grew close. Ben confessed his wife had been having an affair.Friends or Lovers “At the Christmas Party.” A few people in the audience gasped. His objections fell on deaf ears. Ben was questioned for over an hour in a private room about „inappropriate‟ behaviour. „You won‟t be lonely. Diane flung her arms around Ben and playfully put ice cubes down his trousers.” “You may think that you know what is coming……. “Ben‟s marriage collapsed and Diane offered him a place to sleep. He thanked her but did not accept. When Ben asked why. She told him repeatedly that he had „admirers‟. hypocritical and sexist.” “Instead of being pleased for him. Ben argued with the company‟s MD. Ben responded that he liked one or two of the women at work and had asked one out for a drink. invited Ben to stay at her house. Diane confessed that her marriage was sexless.
Those desires. Our desires are not always sexual. We had weathered it but not without capsizing a few times. Most people are like icebergs. only the accusation itself. That much is obvious and while it is not discussed much. “These are two cases where the underlying dynamics are known.” John paused again. “What can we learn from this?” continued John. feeling accepted by a sexually . This said. Both parties play a part. or our desire to avoid. “My main point is that whenever there is a sexual conflict it is usually underpinned by a complex intimate relationship. Attention switches immediately to the accused.” I thought back over my own experience. Both parties are responsible. in turn. Maybe we are trying to avoid loneliness. but this time he did so for effect. Nine tenths of what might be known is submerged beneath the surface. Workplace behaviour arises out of our desire for. Maybe we are trying to be accepted.Rory Ridley-Duff else…she only had to make an accusation that Ben might be behaving inappropriately for his world to quickly fall apart. “Firstly.” he said. intimacy. HR departments rarely investigate the motive for an accusation. my main point is not that men can also be subject to sexual harassment or false allegations. “a kind of power that we don‟t acknowledge. “That is power. most enlightened people realise it. Accusations often reveal as much about who is hurting as who is being hurt. at the way the accusation against Mike has triggered the storm inside IC. are affected by what is taking place in our lives outside work. The accuser may be given special protection before it is known whether their accusation is true.
That ignores the costs of training and lost . I ask you to think of the cost of replacing staff. How would you go about investigating that to undercover „the truth‟?” “So. if Patsy had objected when I started to talk to her on the airplane. It is. 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. In Ben‟s case it cost the company over ten thousand pounds to replace him. Isn‟t this the most naïve policy in the history of humankind? “So. I could be accused in the same way as Ben. would I have been guilty of sexual harassment? Or was her behaviour. by deliberately being provocative. regardless of my intent. or continue to „name and blame‟ one party? Are we serious about equality? “If you are sitting next to your financial director and she or he is saying „too expensive‟. face and overcome the everyday risks that underpin stable enduring relationships? Zero-tolerance approaches assume it is right and proper to prevent any intimacy that could be interpreted as sexual. therefore. are we destroying our society with zero-tolerance policies? Are we compromising our ability to take. emotive and triggers disruptive conflicts.Friends or Lovers desirable or successful person is particularly meaningful. Firstly. I want you to think about how to contribute to the current debate on equality of opportunity and sexual harassment. 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. enough to pay for over 20 days of mediation. to conclude. “Two thoughts for you as you retire to the bars.
” I said with a smile.” “Dave! Good talk. he initially beamed with pleasure. yes!” “And close friends.” said John. John smiled as we shared the private joke. Suddenly I felt another person moving up beside me. however.thank you for listening! My name is John Simons and I am at your service. My business cards and these two cases are available on the table. My mood changed and John noticed instantly. then – as he realised that I had been in the audience – he started to look apologetic. was surprisingly astute. “Ladies and Gentlemen . My name is John. “You might have asked. When John saw me. “Such a good story and I never thought that you would ever be in one of my audiences. it is also a financial one. Penny?” “I‟ll let you get away with it. I did not join in. Dave. mate. Hope I‟m not interrupting anything. I can see. “Hello. am I?” “An anonymous one. while this is an ethical issue. turning on the professional charm.” The audience broke into a round of applause. Instead. I did not realise that ……” . just this once. So.” “Indeed we do. “You know each other a lot better than you are telling me. eh?” “You think I‟m being economical with the truth. I got up and walked towards the front. “Get away with what?” asked Dave.” “And I‟m a case study.” I said.Rory Ridley-Duff productivity. “Can you forgive me?” he asked. It ignores whether the replacement is as good at the job.” “Not at all.
“…. you are a dark horse. “Would you like to have this conversation at the bar so I can buy you a drink?” asked John. Penny.. is this Patsy?” asked Dave pointedly. “Well. I‟ll join you in a second. but also strange men in airports!” John joined in the conversation again.Friends or Lovers Oh God! I prayed that he was not about to say what I though he was about to say. John and I hesitated. Dave nodded. Dave laughed. “but like most adults I still end up in situations where there is flirting. Just ask them to charge it to Room 1156 and I‟ll sign the receipt in a moment. “So. whether I like it or not. “So am I.” “One of your best friends!” said Dave.” replied John. “Don‟t you flirt?” asked John. “And you don‟t. Penny?” asked Dave. “Don‟t what?” asked Dave. you don‟t just flirt with barmen.” “And John. one of my best friends was in the audience. “Yes. How else can people establish another person‟s motive?” Dave was slightly taken aback at these remarks. There was little point denying it. “I‟m married!” he said indignantly. Dave?” asked John.” “Are you coming. “If you go to the bar and order what you like. “Flirting is dangerous. . Is this the John you mentioned to me? The one you met on a plane?” I hesitated.” said Dave.
“I disagree.” Dave had committed himself now and went off to the bar. Having negotiated these questions. We found a space to talk. said John. Were the stories true? Yes.” “Do you want to talk about it later?” asked John. I just want a quick word with John.” John and I made our way to the bar. we got to the bar and Dave was ready with our drinks. Many find it fun. On the way. he engaged with people who wanted to talk to him. “I‟ll join you in a second. Was it not all a bit Freudian? Not really. “Always leads to trouble. totally true. in the sense that sexual desires and aspirations underpinned a lot of adult behaviour. “Yes. “I‟ve chatted to Mike and thought we were through this.” said Dave.” “I can meet you later if you like?” he asked again. “He‟s hurt. Most people do this in non-threatening ways and it works most of the time. Freud thought it all emanated from complexes formed in childhood experiences.” . We had an argument earlier this evening. You‟ve got a problem. okay. I accept it is a problem for them. They push and probe to check out how the other responds. “You were saying that flirting is dangerous?” remembered John.” said John. It is those who are inexperienced or shy who are uncomfortable with flirting. “Tell me about it. John did agree with Freud.” said John boldly. He did not agree with that. It‟s getting worse and worse. “Flirting is a good way for men and women to establish the level of intimacy they want in their relationships. However.Rory Ridley-Duff John glanced in my direction and I realised that he was trying to get me on my own.
“Sounds like you‟ve discussed this before. By the way. “Flirting causes misunderstandings. however. .Friends or Lovers I was not sure whether John intended to be offensive but he was coming perilously close. “but you won‟t notice all the problems that are solved by it.” “Don‟t buy it. Penny?” said John. It was almost as if he was suggesting that Dave was inexperienced and shy. “What about you.” answered John. “Not directly. “but I think we will later. “Only if people are insensitive to each other. Too much experience. “You‟re a good flirt!” I wanted John to stop because his comments could deepen my problems. They never land on your desk. John. but it has certainly landed others…” I responded. “…as well you know!” John picked up my allusion and acknowledged my concern.” insisted Dave. “But it causes so much disagreement.” said Dave.” said Dave arrogantly. mate. “I‟ve had to deal with many problems caused by flirting. The sarcasm was back and I couldn‟t help fuelling the situation. I added a rider as a warning shot.” said John.” answered John.” commented Dave.” said John. Dave. how is Sally?” “Sally?” asked Dave. “Insensitive?” I asked. “Yes we are. “I can‟t say that flirting has ever landed me in deep water at work. as John proceeded to respond.” he added.” “I don‟t doubt it. “Perhaps that‟s not a good word. also picked up that some covert message was passing between us. “Oh! Are you two getting together?” asked Dave.
“What?” said Dave. “Just recently – hardly got used to the idea myself!” I said pretending joy while my mind was turning to clay.” asked John. “She never mentioned you to me. By asking John about Sally it invited John to ask me about Mike.” replied Dave. “Before or after you arranged the flat for him?” Dave asked with disdain. Penny. Didn‟t you know?” I said. “Yes. totally engaged by this discovery. piecing things together in his head.” answered John. .I wish I could stay longer but I‟m needed back at home.” “Sally at work? Do you know Sally?” “Yes – known her for years. “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. “No. “Small world. “By the way. John made another intervention. “John is staying at Sally‟s while he works for us. We‟re enjoying ourselves . isn‟t it?” he added. “Just as well. “After!” I said firmly. slightly embarrassed and mouthed the word „sorry‟. Before I could answer. “You and Mike?” he asked.” “And when did this happen?” he asked.” said Dave. “Well!” he started. “Do you and Mike want to come over for dinner on Sunday night?” My blood ran cold.” said Dave cynically.Rory Ridley-Duff “Oh she‟s great. Dave intervened. John looked at me.
“That….” he said pointing at my head.” quipped John. John moved closer and whispered in my ear. “because if he‟s not we really have a problem.” said Dave. “Not complicated at all.” he said with his hand on his heart. Why?” “It‟s complicated. If he starts a fight with you.” Dave turned and left before I could answer.pig is going to do my appraisal in three weeks!” “Then you‟ve got to use this.” . “Be careful. “I‟d like to fry his arse!” I shouted. I want to be there to watch you beat the shit out of him!” “And you the mediator?” I asked.that…. “The two of you are antagonising each other.” It took me a moment to get the joke. “as well as this. “Only as a first resort!” he responded.” “My knight in shining armour?” I queried. “Fuck him! Wanker!” “I hope so.” responded John.Friends or Lovers “It‟s a simple question. “Why don‟t we circulate for a bit and then slip out? If Dave comes anywhere near you. then find me.. trying to diffuse the situation.. “There are better ways to do it. my sense of humour returning. Penny!” said John trying to calm me down. You‟ve not been employed for a year yet.” “Shit! You‟re right. I was about to go after him and make him apologise but John stopped me.” I said. “No. “I‟m fed up working with this tart. A few people near us picked up my tone and turned to look.
How‟s Mike going to take this?” he asked. About an hour later. When I asked why. . When I set out this morning I was full of the joys of spring. He called Elaine and Sam. but now I was battling to save my job. “I‟m probably the only sober person in the room. he cryptically replied that „every good soldier needed the support of his unit‟. “Damn. I noticed that his eyes were filled with tears.” I said before I saw his grin.” “Thank you. Penny. John and I took a cab to a quiet pub and I told him about Dave‟s wife. I never drink before a talk so if you want to go home. You‟re a sweetie. the launch evening. I can take you.. Dave‟s e-mail and my conversations with Mike.” The rest of the evening passed off without any more incidents. When he heard this. “I‟ll call him later. He said that he wanted to talk “strategy”. When he let go. I told him of my wish to marry Mike. I want to go home. As days go.” he joked.” he corrected. he grabbed me and hugged me for what seemed like an age. today had not been a good one. invited them for dinner then insisted that I come with Mike. I told him not be such a soppy idiot.” “I‟d take you – but I‟ve been drinking gin all evening…. I could see the concern growing on his face.Rory Ridley-Duff “You‟ll need friends for this one.
I began to wonder whether perhaps I might have done things differently. but now I was not so sure. It was bad enough that I had intruded into a number of delicate personal relationships. And what was it that I was guilty of? Most of his attacks were about my flirting. only evidence of my guilt. In the past. I had been convinced that sexual harassment laws were progressive. I was less confident. or left Mike and Elona to sort out their own problems. When I told him what had happened.Friends or Lovers Chapter 42 I was glad to get home to Mike. however. Now it was Dave who was being judgemental about me. we can only see what we are looking for. I had been judgemental about Mike‟s motives. It may not only have been my . 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. as John had suggested. but now it was the other way around I started to experience how the intrusions feel on the receiving end. Hard as it was to admit. Two months earlier. If. he was matter of fact and kept reassuring me that I had truth on my side. then I was up shit creek without a paddle. however. Not only had I misjudged Mike. Given what I‟d learnt from the conflict between Mike and Elona. I was now experiencing things from the other side. Dave would not be looking for evidence of my innocence. but I now realised that my attitude had been coloured both by the hurt I felt in the past and my attraction to him. The law required me to investigate. and the frustration of having to deal with others‟ unstated agendas.
but were also contributing to better decisions about people in the workplace. I retraced the route I took with John around Warwick castle and we ended up at the same Italian restaurant. I remember once seeing the film About a Boy. Mike and John were different. Just like Will. Together they were a formidable combination. and most recently Elaine. I protected myself with professional ethics and personal boundaries to create a haven for corporate values. however. John pierced my armour. but perhaps my values as well. Later. others intruded into my world. Mike the stubborn idealist. to some extent. I had my island existence at work. Mike and I had a quiet day. and Phil has also made some inroads. Firstly. I did this not only to share treasured . I was also emotionally disconnected and dysfunctional. Instead he just savoured the conversation we had. In my mind. rather than at home. The main character Will tried to live an „island‟ existence but gave in to the attention of a lonely 12-year-old boy. I was „independent‟ and „efficient‟. I was coming to a realisation that these bonds not only reached deep into my personal life. On Sunday we went for a walk. Mike did the same. I started to see myself as a female version of Will. or felt they should be enforced. John was the pragmatic politician. Not everybody saw the distinctions as I did.Rory Ridley-Duff judgement that was at fault. but every conversation made me question my life a little bit more. he had no wish to talk “strategy”. Unlike John. They rarely saw eyeto-eye. Elona has. searching for “truth” and “justice” and then working out how to make it happen. I had created an imaginary world in which men and women should behave one way at work and another way outside work.
from the moment I faced-down my fear and shared my most private feelings. “Nice for him.” I said.” I said. “You might be disappointed.” he answered. stock and barrel. my coming out of myself started on that day.” he replied with a straight face.” “What would you like to know?” I suddenly realised that it was not so much his past that I was interested in.” he said. “You. “You don‟t talk about the past.” “Yes. “I brought John here a couple of months ago.” I commented.” responded Mike. “And for me. but any remaining attachments that might affect our future together. . He never used five words where three would do.” I said. With John. “Do you have any special places? Places you went with your wife?” I asked. Lock. I smiled and said that would be nice. “I‟m just interested. “You have me. “A few. When I look back. my change of heart. pointing to his head.Friends or Lovers memories with Mike. “What would be solved by talking about it?” he responded. But I also want to know the person in here!” I said.” he replied. his emotions always came out as he spoke. in body. but as a tribute to John. Mike. “Would you take me to them?” “I‟d rather find new places. That was another difference between them. “And now for me. but with Mike you had to dig for them.
Strangely. While it was nice to have his attention.” I said with a grin.” he replied. “You were very committed to her……” Suddenly I stopped. he had also evaded the question. . “I guess. Even though I did not push him. nothing could take away the bliss that I was enjoying right now. 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.Rory Ridley-Duff “Haven‟t been so far. I realised that I was starting to have doubts about his commitment. His silence on the issue of his wife troubled me. “I guess I‟m curious how you feel about your marriage. No matter what happened in the future. then held me in his arms and kissed me. “That‟s because you‟ve only microscopically examined my body!” he joked.” He stopped and turned to me.” I responded. There was little point holding back now I had started. “I prefer not to think about it. I would have these memories forever. I felt unconcerned.
“He‟s going to look at the truth. He‟s pissed off with me. “How long have you been there. surely?” responded Mike. “But Penny is brilliant at her job – aren‟t you. It was Dave who gave him this impression.” “But you said that even Harry thought you were doing a good job.Friends or Lovers Chapter 43 “He‟s not going to bring that up!” asserted John. Penny?” said Sam. Sam. getting quite heated. John was trying to persuade everyone that Dave was going to block my appointment. “But that‟s what pisses him off – surely he‟ll raise it?” I argued. I knew he was biased.” he answered. but most of the others would not believe him. who probably knew the least about all the cock ups I had made. But John is right about Dave. “He‟ll see through Dave. “Now look at this from Harry‟s point of view. 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. “Thank you. won‟t he?” . “Nearly 6 years. but it was good to have his support. Mike?” asked John. He thought the company would be crazy to sack me.” Mike joined in the “strategy” discussion and kept coming back to what people had said about my work. We had been discussing my situation at work for nearly half an hour over after-dinner coffee.
” said Elaine. I noticed John smile at Elaine and she raised her glass to him. “We‟ve invested a huge amount in this partnership. “That‟s right. “Let‟s assume that Dave is going to look for a way to get Penny out. “And how is Mike going to be able to work when .” Everyone around the table stopped for a moment to consider her remarks.” she started.Rory Ridley-Duff John gave Mike a dismissive look. “No. It‟s not what‟s going to happen. 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. If there is a conflict. Everyone turned to look at her. now joined the conversation.” said John enthusiastically. showing considerable irritation. “What do you mean?” asked Sam. the subtle political pressures and pragmatic alliances that work behind the scenes. he‟ll control what Harry hears. If Dave wants to fuck it up because he can‟t deal with Penny‟s rejection then I want to apply some pressure. then I‟m going to kick his arse – it will affect my working relationship with him!” she said pointedly.” “But isn‟t this between Penny and Dave?” asked Sam. He does not even have to give her a proper reason. He‟s under no obligation to keep her on. Elaine. “You‟re not suggesting we get involved?” queried Sam. If he sacks Penny. Elaine had talked to me about some of the corporate battles that she‟d been in. I concur with John. I began to catch her drift. “Let‟s assume for a moment that John is right. but what we are going to do about it. who had been listening more than talking. “I certainly am. The only thing Dave has to fear is Harry‟s reaction. “If I‟m wrong then we have nothing to worry about.
“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. Since we‟d become a couple. “It‟s not that. I wondered for a moment whether Sally might secretly want me off the scene to open the way to Mike again. Mike‟s our sales manager. Dave‟s the Director of Business Development. “But you can influence things on the ground.” she said. this is about our company‟s well-being. Only Mike stood between her and Dave.” “On the ground?” she asked. However. Sal. 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. “Stuff like this doesn‟t stay secret.” “Okay.” she said. “I don‟t have a way of influencing things the way you do. This isn‟t just about our friends. “We all have an interest!” said Elaine. “You‟d stand by while Dave shits on Mike?” asked John. Sally!” Sally had remained fairly quiet throughout. If Mike‟s . She was also in a line management situation with Dave. Elaine had both political and financial independence whereas Sally‟s life was more precarious. I‟d taken over his life and he saw her much less. “I‟m keeping out of this. “So little confidence!” complained Elaine. you can put them straight!” “And have Dave on my back?” she asked.Friends or Lovers Dave sacks his future wife. Perhaps you‟re right!” responded John. Sam. I could understand Sally‟s fear. If your colleagues talk about it.
“I‟m much older than you. “Sal has to be careful. “Are you having second thoughts?” “Not exactly.” he said. I focussed more on Mike‟s reaction to Elaine‟s comment about our marriage plans. As soon as the car sped away from Sally‟s house. as we talked. as protecting the group. debated and discarded. “We have to talk. We all wanted to work and live together and this guided our discussions.” he replied. Mike opened up. By the time Mike and I left. It was reassuring that my friends took such a keen interest in protecting my future. we do. The debate continued over more bottles of wine. Elaine.” said Mike. 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.” I replied. My security came from the knowledge that there was no shortage of organisations seeking HR professionals. My mind. I realised that it was not so much that they were protecting me. therefore. “What then?” I enquired. was not over worried regardless of the outcome of my appraisal. or protecting themselves. I realised. I did not have to wait long. I made a mental note to update her. did not understand the complex background and network of relationships involving Dave. Penny!” “So what?” . Various scenarios and plans were hatched. “Yes.Rory Ridley-Duff position was threatened then Dave would be able to exact personal revenge on Sally. He had been much quieter after her comment. Mike and Sally. In fact. but they were protecting theirs at the same time.
Friends or Lovers “What if you want children?” he asked. a regular boyfriend who she lived with.” “How can you know that?” “My wife got pregnant a few years ago and I was completely opposed.” I asked. I paused trying to imagine what it would be like to have a child growing inside me. When I considered the question in the abstract I was sure of my feelings. “She was successful – like you. Once she faced a real choice her feelings started to change. She had a good career. “You don‟t now.” “What‟re you saying?” “I‟m saying that I know for sure that I don‟t want children. I actually felt a pang of disappointment that he did not want children with me. it dawned on her this might be her only chance to be a mother. She didn‟t want children until – in her mid-thirties .” Despite what I had told him previously. Mike.she accidentally got pregnant. the argument began to affect me. But what if you change your mind? What if you accidentally get pregnant?” “I don‟t know!” I answered. Penny?” When he asked that question. “How do you mean?” I said. “Well. You know that. Did I want to give up the choice? “Tell me about your friend. Did she want to miss that chance?” “I have thought about this. “I had a friend once who „didn‟t want children‟ until she got pregnant. I don‟t want children. “I don‟t want them. And who could blame her?” he asked. but when I asked myself how .” I answered.” “But have you ever been pregnant.
” “What did your friend do?” “She had the child. I can‟t stand in the way of that. Is it a good idea to marry?” I did not respond. Now they hate each other with a vengeance. our relationship won‟t survive. “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. no.” “But don‟t you love me?” He smiled broadly. I was not sure what to think. no! I want to treasure this for as long as possible and that means being realistic. If you want a child and I don‟t. Our relationship probably won‟t survive the birth of a child. The relationship with her boyfriend broke up soon after. “It could tear us apart. “Yes – but I don‟t want to be a dad in my 70s.” “So what‟re you saying? You want to break up?” “No. “I can‟t say. I really don‟t. .” I pondered this strange proposal. She never forgave him for leaving. She thought he‟d change when the child was born. “I‟ll live with you – but if you want children then I‟m going to bow out so you can fulfil your dream. Mike!” “That‟s what worries me. When I was young I imagined that all serious relationships operated on the basis of unending commitment.” he continued.Rory Ridley-Duff I would feel aborting Mike’s child it affected me differently. I haven‟t. He never forgave her for ignoring his feelings. They both feel the other betrayed them.” I finally answered. Could I do that? “No.
For the first time since we‟d started sharing a bed we did not make love before going to sleep. we arrived home. Romantic this was not. I‟ll think about it. “Okay. but that was Mike through and through. The future was still full of possibilities.” he continued again. “If you reach the menopause and we‟re still together. I‟ll marry you!” I gave a short chuckle. Even though we‟d talked about the possibility of breaking up. went into the kitchen and made two cups of cocoa. 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. then went upstairs.Friends or Lovers “Tell you what. .” And with that.
her parents disapproved of her drinking in pubs and when the situation erupted at work they felt deeply ashamed. but also the scriptures and morality that affected her freedom. He had not seen me when I felt weak and feeble (the way John had seen me). I dropped in a couple of times to check how things were. but also to learn about myself. a by-product of my strength of character. not just to learn about her. turned out to be strong in ways I‟d not realised. I decided to visit her when Mike went out with his drinking pals. It took two weeks for her to feel strong enough to return to work. she accused me of bullying her. As part of his professional development. they chided her for . When she did. We started to have chats in the evening at home and at work during lunch breaks. As a result. I told him I was not always strong but he would not believe it. When I had been at her parents‟ shop and heard her torrent of abuse. I felt we should visit daily.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 44 Elona‟s move into the flat with Mike was problematic at first. I asked Phil to make some visits to see how she was progressing. Instead of showing sympathy. There was no weekend in her family. Brownies and Guides followed and she talked of the many skills she had developed. Was I a bully? Mike sometimes joked that I could be. Even as a grown up. just a Sunday and Wednesday afternoon when the shop closed. We talked about her upbringing. but given her precarious state. Elona. Normally we would not visit so much. on the other hand. Her parents were committed Christians and they arranged for her aunt to take her to Sunday school each week. I was trying to build her confidence. my professional worries receded.
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. judged as little as I could. Even so. Sometimes I would get keen on a boy and still my parents would not interfere. I listened as much as I could.Friends or Lovers getting mixed up with a “bad crowd”. play music. They would tell her that in the „devil‟ world of „Godless‟ people. my voice was heard and sex talk was commonplace in our house. When I asked her how she got to know boys. More than once that led to us having a fight. I remember only mild embarrassment at their openness. and . those of our parents could not have been more different.upstairs was strictly out of bounds even after she reached the age of 18. chat and talk. My room was a private space to do as I pleased. Elona. and avoided the temptation to get angry with either her or her parents. Instead. Elona‟s father was protective and would never let her go to parties. to take them up to my room. especially my father. although my mother would tell me what I should and should not do. on the other hand. Private conversations with boys were not allowed in her house – one or other parent had to be present. Both my father and mother allowed me to have male friends. was not allowed to bring boys into the house without the permission of her father . Attitudes to sex – or more accurately. They did not even let her take girlfriends upstairs. I started to wonder how she had turned out so „normal‟ despite her upbringing. My parents had been liberal in their attitudes. she simply said that she had not been able to. people pursued each other for sex and treated each other disrespectfully. If I had a boy with me they would knock on my bedroom door.
You could not rely on what was written in books. Privately she lusted after the kind of life that was described in them but never imagined she could ever be part of it. or meek wallflowers schooled in the art of attracting „real‟ men. I tried to reassure her that experience had to be gained first hand.Rory Ridley-Duff confessed to them that sometimes I had sneaked a boyfriend into my room in the middle of the night. She imagined bold heroines aggressively seducing their prey. she would walk away if she heard crude conversations. he triggered all the feelings she was harbouring. While I had no inhibitions about my body. When he rebuffed her. this strange morality where people could express themselves freely. Even at work. She was a young woman trying to navigate the minefield of courtship armed only with knowledge from romance novels. When Nathan took a shine to her. it was as if I was also talking to myself. Others picked on her and ridiculed her prudishness. They admitted that they knew but chose not to say anything. Elona. on the other hand felt embarrassed if her parents even hinted at sex. rather than relieved. at their attitude. I remember feeling grateful. We laughed as stories came out of hiding and got aired for the first time. Some women deliberately excluded her. she felt bitter. There was something tragic in hearing her story. she gradually opened up and admitted that she had been buying romance novels for years. But in talking to me. when it came to my mind. She fantasised about this other world. she was bursting with curiosity. I shared with her my boldest adventures. When the young lads at work invited her to the pub. thoughts and feelings I was . betrayed and misled. and showed interest in her. As I talked.
Was my hostility to motherhood another way of avoiding responsibility? These questions troubled me. I started to get a sense of just how important parents are and the huge responsibility they bear. But since the fall out over Sally he had returned home only to be with his children. perhaps?” he retorted. As I watched Mike and learnt about each new layer of his character. “If she‟d had a father like you. 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. He did admit too that. His comment started a chain of thoughts that still haunts me. “You are good for her. Through her candid confessions to me.” “And a mother like you. Before I realised it. A mother like me! At hearing those words. His wife never forgave him for giving financial support to another woman. I found new depths in myself. I switched the conversation back to Elona. Mike joked that if he had lied and said it was „just sex‟ his marriage might have survived. I was learning again from someone years my junior. It was the financial betrayal that killed it. she might have grown up very differently. he found his wife attractive and their argumentative relationship spiced up their sex life. despite the problems. I felt a shudder. I found yet another avenue to release the pain and hurt of the past. and our friendship gave her a way to compare her fantasy world to the reality of my life. As for Mike. you know!” I told him. he gradually opened up about his marriage and I learnt that his kids were the principle reason he had remained for so long.Friends or Lovers even more inhibited than Elona. I started to realise new things that I had been missing – that the ephemeral materialism .
she would make up new adventures on the spur of the moment. In their place. No longer could I ignore how the crazy complicated mess that Elona and I had created at work had its foundation in our family histories. Corporate life was not a reason for being.Rory Ridley-Duff of corporate life. For me. That spurred me to take greater interest in how I came to be who I am. It was a setting in which our lives unravelled. my mother told me stories. something that my father‟s pragmatism and liberalism also shaped. was not important. . Perhaps my own mother encouraged this creative streak in me. 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. Their stories – which had for two decades been a source of entertainment and amusement to me – started to lose their standing. Perhaps that is what spurred me to write this story. The world of parenthood took on a new fascination. setting out my life on paper became part of my liberation. conversations with real people flourished to the point that my television became just another piece of furniture. where those obsessed with self-importance told us how to live our lives. I had loved Scooby Doo and rather than watch videos again and again. but was not life itself. it was a place where vanity ran amok. I found that there was nothing more fascinating or more pleasurable than getting to know people well. the transient consumerism pressed on us by the media. it was a means. In them. Before the arguments of my teenage years. The media was not reality. she and I would join the gang and solve our own mysteries.
For a couple of seconds a fancy graphic showed a pile of papers being sorted. Her excitement was so great that she could not contain it. pleaded with Elona to let me go to the loo first. When I emerged. she was waiting on the sofa clutching something in her hand. “What‟s happened?” I asked.” she answered. “Penny! Penny! Come here. pressed “menu”.Friends or Lovers Chapter 45 Six weeks after Elona moved in with Mike. Her eyes were wide open and her face was so animated that I thought she would burst a blood vessel. come here!” I hastily hung up my jacket. “Well. Elona excitedly pressed a green button and the message appeared. come on. “Have you won the lottery?” “Better than that. but at the top was a phone number. something happened that transformed her life. Show me!” Inside her sweaty palm was her mobile phone. then “inbox”. M and P tell me u r recovering. I mean he must……he must like me!” . come on then. She open the lid. Down the list I could see messages from her old boyfriend. raising my eyebrows in wonder. “Well. then “messages”. “Who is that from?” I asked. The moment I arrived at her flat she screeched at me to come and see something. it‟s good isn‟t it. Wud u like drink with mates after work? Phil x “Better than the lottery?” I asked.
starting to look a bit downcast. “Elona. love! Look at me. “Yes. or an attempt to help her mix in with people at work. She duly obliged.. Pretend he‟s your fantasy hero. but then again it may not and I felt that it would be irresponsible not to prepare her for the possibility.” “What about John?” she continued. It may be that Phil was asking her out. He may be interested in that.” I commented. You‟ve met him?” I asked.” “But my Dad said….” . but remember that this may be your wish but not his. but when I was with him I took nothing for granted.. Very excited.Rory Ridley-Duff I didn‟t know how to break the news that this may be kindness. especially after he did that workshop about sexism in the army. “Maybe you shouldn‟t read too much into it. “But it‟s a drink invitation! He‟s asking me out. it does not always mean that he‟s asking you to be his girlfriend. “Everyone talks about him at work.” I said as I took her hands and our eyes locked. “Dream all you like. It was „good‟. my love. “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…. however.” she answered. Secretly I thought about him a lot.” My heart sank. I mentally got ready to nail Phil when I saw him next morning.” “Forget your Dad. “When a man asks you for a drink. “I was excited. but had his eye on others as well. He had mentioned Elona.” I interrupted.. But he may just want to be your friend….” “You just want to spoil my dreams!” she interrupted.
right?” “You‟re the best! First impressions. Perhaps Phil would never know the difference. “I think it would be better if it all came from you.” I thought about this.” “Good. But you don‟t want him thinking you‟re not interested either?” I replied. “Just start me off. The thought of me flirting by mobile with Phil while he thought he was talking to Elona tickled me. “You‟re hot for him.Friends or Lovers “Have you replied to this?” I asked. Would it be so bad? “I can‟t have a text conversation with him. “Why not?” she asked. I don‟t want to appear too forward.” I said. She‟d been planning this all day. Pen. She so wanted to get this one right. I saw that she looked slightly hurt by my mirth so I immediately apologised and gave it some thought. eh? I want him to know I‟m interested – I mean really interested.” she said imploringly. My heart went out to her.” . returning to the question in hand. “But I don‟t know what to say! Could you…?” “Could I what?” “Could you reply?” I laughed. I gave her a school-ma‟am grin. “How d‟you want to play it then?” I replied. “Just send the first few messages then I‟ll take over. She jumped on her seat and punched the air with her fist. “No! I was waiting for you.” I said finally. giving in to her.
She took my free hand with both of hers. despite all our conversations. I knew Phil could be shy. wondering if she was drunk. “D‟you think that‟s too risqué?” I asked her. Could she change that much in a few weeks? “You can get hurt. “On what?” I asked.Rory Ridley-Duff I thought for a second. “Depends!” she replied. “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 want to have some fun!” I suddenly felt as if. Then she broke into laughter as I added the last two words. “Do you have any idea how much I admire you?” “What! Admire me?” I said. you know?” I answered. but also that he had a quiet confidence. But it‟s so exciting. . We didn‟t want to be tacky or crude. I showed the message to Elona and she kept nodding enthusiastically. in a matter of fact way. I hardly knew her. I guess. in response.” I said. “No. How could we use that? “Okay! Give me the phone. I guess it didn‟t!” “Penny?” I looked up at her and she continued to speak. I selected „reply‟ and typed away carefully. “Never stopped you!” she said. isn‟t it?” she replied. Thank you!” I said. We were so different. “I‟m flattered. I sat for a second wondering why she would admire me. “Don‟t you care?” “A bit.
then?” . Inside I knew I was no better and no stronger than she was. mean and nasty……” I started to run out of words so Elona decided to take over.and kind and thoughtful. she wanted me as her role model. travelled. “But most of all. studied. “…..” “I wish! Seriously. you know how to live!” She said this with such force that I didn‟t know what to say.” She glanced at the phone. From where I‟m sitting. Elona! I‟m nothing of the sort. Inside I have doubts just like you.” she continued.. that‟s such a sweet thing for you to say. “Are we going to send that.” She suddenly got cross with me. It was not something that I felt I could refuse. I‟m really touched. “What are you talking about? You‟ve done so much with your life. “Oh. got a good career and now a fantastic man. lonely and wretched. “Elona. done things. I can be crabby and unreasonable. emotional.Friends or Lovers “You‟re my heroine!” she said. I‟d not had to overcome the things she had lived through. bitchy. Sometimes I‟m miserable. What possible claim could I have to a life better than hers? And yet. you only see what‟s on the outside. selfish. I‟ve pissed around and messed things up big time.. and strong and fair……” I shuddered at the thought that someone would use me as a role model. or suffer the disappointments she had faced. “you‟re a natural. Elona. and sexy and vivacious. Been places.” “What do you mean?” “I mean that you live your life without any fear.
We were like two schoolgirls swapping messages in class with a boy. He‟s taking the bait. “I want all the gory details. sexy?” Elona took the phone out of my hand and pressed the green button. “Where are you going?” she asked. “Accept.” I said confidently.” “Okay. She read the message to herself and cackled again. This is between you and him. Call right now!” I got up and went to get my coat. “But tomorrow.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked at the message once more and read it out loud. “He‟s added four kisses. Elona handed me the phone again and I typed away. When I finished. her mobile signalled the arrival of new mail so we excitedly opened her inbox. In an instant. she read Phil‟s reply out loud while jumping up and down. Elona held it up and read it out loud.” She looked slightly confused. Let‟s reel him in. “This is the last one I send. “Too late for second thoughts now.” I said. okay?” . “You two should be alone.” I said. Ellie. I think. A moment later. I looked up at her. “Skn-tite and sexy? Wow! Looking 4wrd to seeing you in it…and out of it…. “Wot u have in mind? P xxxx” “Look! Look!” shrieked Elona. girl. okay? After this you‟re on your own!” Elona nodded..” “But Penny?” “Trust me. She pressed the green button and away it went. What outfit wld u like me 2 wear for u.
She had seen me stand up for her against men she felt had hurt her. As I walked down a flight of stairs into the car park. With my coat on. I had taken from the experience that I had to be more cautious and respectful of others. I realised that perhaps this mattered less to her than the example I had set. I turned and walked out of the flat. piss off then and see if I care!” she said. I realised that this was the first time I‟d ever been someone‟s heroine. “Okay. Even as I chided myself for my judgement. In her eyes. She was . “Thank you!” she said. only the confidence and bluster that erupted when I was in the grip of moral indignation. I would have to talk to her about that. as she put it. Even as I contemplated my own heroes and heroines – Mike. Elona had come alive – she was. As she dialled the number and let it ring. with your own thoughts and feelings. I had challenged the behaviour of others and shown no fear. I walked over and gave her a big hug. Some other time. able to make your own judgements – even if sometimes they turn out to be flawed and wrong. “You‟re welcome. In the distance the sound of an excited young woman could be made out amidst much laughter and giggling. Elaine and John – the extent of my impact on Elona was beginning to dawn on me. She could not see what was going on inside me.” I replied. 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.Friends or Lovers She grinned broadly. Perhaps I was able to show her that you could be a woman in your own right. If I had only heard her words I might have been offended. For me.
. She grasped her future with both hands and held on firmly.Rory Ridley-Duff setting out on a bumpy road – of that I had no doubt – but after several weeks of pain and years of loneliness it was a moment of unfettered joy.
and then heard something crash in the background. one of his hands edged up inside my blouse and started to fondle my breasts while the other stroked my leg. “Faaannnnntttttaaaassssttttiiiiccccc!” I shouted. “Why?” “Because I won‟t be able to talk soon!” .Friends or Lovers Chapter 46 Mike and I had a quiet evening at my flat watching a DVD. laughing and shouting that she needed a wage rise.” I started to say. At around 10pm the phone rang. Gradually. “Why?” I asked.” she said coyly. “What was that? Is there someone with you?” “Maybe. have you?” “I talked so much I ran out of credit.” Mike got up and walked over to me and I felt his arms move around my stomach. and Mike looked at me with a quizzical expression on his face. then moved underneath my skirt and played with the elastic of my pants. It was Elona again. “I‟ve got to go now. “Now don‟t rush things. Ellie!” I said. really. Pen!” “Are you okay?” “I‟m on cloud nine! Thank you so much.” “Then how come you are talking to me now?” I heard her giggle. Need a raise to keep my mobile phone topped up. Take things slowly. “I don‟t think „slowly‟ is in his vocabulary. “Not just booked a holiday with Phil.” “I did nothing. He fondled me gently as I talked some more.
A few moments later.” Mike had knelt down on the floor.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….. “Keep talking...” I had to pause for a second as his finger touched a spot that took my breath away.aaahhhh……has just gone down inside my pants. As Mike pleasured me between my legs. while the other…….bye Ellie!” I put the phone down and spread my legs wide.oooohhh…. “What?” I replied.” Mike whispered in my ear “Keep talking”..left nipple. “Ellie? I have a man here who is dying ………. I pictured Phil ripping open Elona‟s blouse.to go…. He was dying for me.” whispered Mike a second time.. lifted me onto the table. pulled down my knickers and buried his head between my legs.I‟ve got…. I tried to imagine Elona‟s excitement as she trembled in anticipation of her first fuck.this………conversation………Oh God!……..tomorrow……. “Better finish…. then picking her up and carrying her to bed. her level of laughter increased and I heard her shriek. “……to have sex with me while I talk on the phone to you……. Right there in the hall Mike nibbled the folds of my flesh while two fingers eased their way in. that Phil‟s strong body had moved between Elona legs. I imagined what might be happening to Elona.” I heard a round of giggling as Elona repeated my words to Phil. “Me too!” she said when she finally came back to the phone. “……. .. Elona thought I was talking to her and asked again what was wrong.
and I surfed towards heaven. I watched him as he spread her legs and climbed between them. but I laughed anyway. waves of pleasure started to glide up through my body. It was the first time I had uttered the actual words and I waited for his reply. “How d‟you make me feel like that?” He laughed gently. Mike‟s lips made their way up the front of my body gently kissing the breasts that I had exposed.Friends or Lovers In my mind‟s eye. “Do what?” he asked. moaning. “I don‟t know. He tried to kiss me but I pulled away. Just as I started to wonder whether it was pure wickedness to picture Phil as Mike brought me off. As I lay there. “Have you any idea how deeply I am in love with you?” I asked.” He did not intend the pun. I guess. until I felt his breath on my face. my breath shortening. Then I put both my hands on his cheeks and felt tears welling up in my eyes. Comes naturally. “How do you do that?” I said. “This much?” he said. until the nerve ends all pulsated simultaneously and I convulsed struggling to catch my breath. . The surge continued and built. gesturing a small amount with his thumb and finger. my eyes closed. I arched back and focussed my thoughts on the feeling of Mike‟s tongue while picturing Phil between Elona‟s legs. His strong muscular buttocks thrust into her with each movement of Mike‟s fingers inside me.
” I said. Suddenly here. my sister once said to me that she could not imagine anything more satisfying than the thought of her lover so filled with passion . As the man I had chosen to give my heart glided into me again and again. He tried to spread my legs but I resisted him. remembering the way Elona and I had goaded Phil. big boy. I spread my legs as wide as I could.Rory Ridley-Duff I laughed again but wanted to preserve the tenderness of the moment. This much!” I said as I pressed my lips onto his and aggressively pushed my tongue into his mouth. he picked me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist. I held his head in my hands as I explored everything I could find. he threw me down manfully and put his hands on my knees while glancing down at a huge erection. I helped to bring him to the heights of ecstasy. “Show me what you are made of!” As these words left my mouth. I gave in and allowed him to overpower me. As we kissed. my mind suddenly cast itself back to the moment when John had asked me about the army and sexism. pretending to resist while egging him on to have his way with me. for reasons I could not fathom. I held his sleek and powerful body as it tensed and relaxed. as Mike overpowered me and started to thrust himself deep into me. “Come on. I found myself wondering if I had stumbled across the answer. I revelled in the lust that we‟d created and teased him to the full. After carrying me to the bedroom. “No. Something told me I was wicked but I just knew he was dying for me. “And I love you this much!” he said. and guided his penis towards my pussy. I immediately pushed the thought from my mind. As a teenager. Then.
At the time. I watched his face strain as he reached the limits of his passion. as if she was fantasising about rape. as Mike arched in the throws of orgasm and shot his sperm deep into me. I had entered a new world and reached a new level of understanding. 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 wanted to him to feel an uncontrollable desire for me that no-one. could stop. not even I. If I could do that to him…for him…he would be mine forever. . I hoped he felt the bewilderment and disorientation I felt when his magic tongue took me to another plane of existence. I hoped he was feeling the same crushing desire that I felt for him. I held him in my arms and wept. But in this moment I realised what was so exciting to her. I wanted to be Mike‟s greatest fantasy. She would fantasise about her boyfriend so full of lust that he would force himself on her as she tried to resist him. And there. the woman that he could not resist.Friends or Lovers that he could not resist her. All the certainties that I had ever felt about how men and women should behave vanished in the dust. with Mike‟s spent body still lying inside me. every spark of sexual energy that he possessed ignited and firing through his body. I found her fantasies sick.
he was late so I passed the time by checking over my emails. It was my appraisal form. but today I looked at them differently. It was strange filling out an appraisal form that I had designed myself. but I did it both quickly and diligently. I had two agendas . I printed it and filled it in. There was the usual junk that I discarded. Each part of the appraisal had tick boxes. I had to appraise myself. I found myself less worried about pornography than e-mails offering prescription drugs. When I started. was to invite Phil into my office for a private conference. then one of my subordinates and lastly get feedback from a director. Unusually for him. I was tempted to tear up the zero-tolerance policy on porn completely. the other professional. then ask one of my peers. In fact. The objective was to stimulate discussion and reflection about different perceptions of my work. one of my first acts was to introduce 360º reviews.one personal.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 47 My first task. 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. 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. But when it came to “attention to detail” the reverse was probably true. when I arrived at work the next morning. I felt this was better than a 1 – 5 scale because “communication skills” in a CEO were much more important than in a bookkeeper. adding written .
” he said. “Had a good evening. did you?” “Yes. How about you?” “I‟ve had worse!” I replied in probably the biggest understatement of my entire life. . 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. “Between friends. I found myself hanging onto him and not letting go. Penny!” Before I could protest. “For what?” I asked. “I‟m off the market. Ms Leyton. “Good morning.” My gentle sarcasm amused him and he felt slightly awkward as I put my arms around him for the first time. “Too late. I started to rub his back. Mr Trent!” I said with mock formality.” I said. Phil broke into laughter and I instinctively moved to embrace him. I realised that he was having a joke with me. 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.Friends or Lovers comments at the bottom of each section. his arms made their way around my back and he held me much more tightly than I expected. “Very pleasant. then felt his hands on mine. “I think it‟s permitted. slightly defensively. It felt really good. Dave had to complete the section as director.” he replied with a smile. As soon as Phil arrived. After a second. Finally. When Phil had completed the form I called him into my office.
It was not the wonderful and incredible experience that I had hoped for but it was still very exciting. by the way. hoppit and come back in 5 minutes. “Well.” I said. we looked into each other‟s eyes and both realised the intensity of the feelings that we had just communicated. Inside was a folded bit of paper. slightly surprised. “She gave me a message for you. Go make a coffee or something. “I cannot think why!” I replied. Penny. “She worships you. “Rule number 1. there‟s a first for everything!” I said with some surprise. as he separated himself from me and sat down in a chair. “if an employee says something is private and confidential. I lost something last night – I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean. “You are too kind. you know!” A sudden surge of modesty interrupted my moment of vanity. then treat it as private and confidential! Go on.” “Aren‟t you going to show me?” he asked. sir!” I said mocking him a bit. I showed the writing to Phil. see you in a moment!” Phil.” added Phil. left for the coffee machine while I opened the envelope. I found the . On the outside were the words “Penny Leyton – strictly Private and Confidential”. but inside I was uncomfortable at anyone building me into a special person.Rory Ridley-Duff When we finally let go of each other. “Go on then. but accepting of my command. “What is it?” He rummaged around in his briefcase and brought out an envelope.” he said. “I can.
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. Ellie. There‟s no-one here at the moment. “Yes. The more you practice it. Waking up with someone next to you is something else. he‟ll want to give you as much pleasure as he can. Just be patient and it will happen. He wasn‟t that gentle!” “Then tell him.” “Why not?” “I might hurt his feelings!” Why.” “I got your note!” I said. If he doesn‟t then you‟ll want to think again about whether he‟s right for you. 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.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see Phil coming back into the office. “Can you talk?” I asked.” “I can‟t do that. 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. . But when we started it hurt a bit.Friends or Lovers cuddling afterwards more enjoyable and we talked and talked. yes. “Am I being too hard on him?” “No. Sex is like everything else in life. I wondered.
“Are you alright? You don‟t have to say anything. See you at the flat tonight. okay?” “Yeah. it was good and all. “Phil‟s coming!” “Don‟t tell him. “She told you then?” “No secrets between girlfriends. He was surprisingly nervous. sure!” I rang off as Phil entered the office.” He hesitated again. I realised that his anxiety about sharing his feelings was no different from mine. I think I can definitely confirm that the answer is „yes‟!” He smiled as he gave me the coffee. “I‟m more interested in what you have to say. Please!” “Jeez. 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. As I watched Phil struggle it reminded me of my own struggle with John.” I answered. “Well.Rory Ridley-Duff “I have to go now. Ellie! I wouldn‟t dream of it. but we didn‟t……I didn‟t….” I offered. I decided to . He suddenly looked quite sheepish and unsure. trying to be reassuring. right?” “Like a doctor and patient!” I said.. I remembered how he had moved around to my side and gently reassured me. “Phil?” I asked. “What did she say?” “That‟s between me and her. but if you are wondering whether she wants to see you again.” I said. When he didn‟t start talking I tried to give him some gentle encouragement.
I put my arm on his back and helped him.Friends or Lovers do the same. when one wrong word or gesture can destroy trust and end a relationship. Clearly this was difficult for him to say. “I wanted her to…but she didn‟t seem to know anything.. “But……we didn‟t……” “It‟s okay – nobody‟s going to judge you. Can there be .” “We didn‟t……. It hurt and I was worried about hurting her. Penny! I just wanted her so bad. 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. but she didn‟t really know what to do. I just ended up sticking it in and pumping away.. “I really like her and all. “I mean – I took her into the bedroom and I could tell she wanted me……” He hesitated again.?” “I think I know what you mean. I started to understand what he was saying and gently encouraged him. Do you know what I mean?” I looked at him and nodded. As I sat next to him. Phil!” I said confidently. I gently listened to him and tried to work out how to tell him what he needed to hear. These are the moments when people are at their most vulnerable. They were going to do well if they cared so much about each others‟ feelings on their first date. I thought I might hurt her feelings. Neither was interested in blaming the other.have any……foreplay!” he finally said. Phil. 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. “I was so excited. I was instantly relieved.
” I said reassuringly.” As I looked at him. 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. Talk to her about her upbringing. but I smiled broadly and looked him in the eye. Talk to her about her parents. “I did something once that I‟m truly ashamed of…. Where did he end up that night. Phil. I couldn‟t remember any other occasion when a man. had expressed his fears to me about sex. . This was a first for me. any man. As Phil talked about the pleasure he had wanted to bring Ellie. “She‟s ready to learn if you have the confidence to teach her. “Tell her!” I said gently. I wonder? I tried to imagine how he must have felt as he walked away.Rory Ridley-Duff anything more important in my line of work? Is there anything more important in life? “Talk to her. “No promises!” I said. I thought about George. “but I‟m confident you‟ll be happier the more you get to know her.” “You think?” he said. you know?” “Then tell her. I had always thought men didn‟t care but as Phil poured out his feelings. He had screamed at me that he was not a piece of meat. friend or lover.” I started. I saw his eyes grow moist. I realised. “I can‟t do that!” I felt like I was in the middle of a re-run. words started to spill out of my mouth.” “I just wanted it to be better for her. Before I knew it. I thought about George and the violence I had done him by not treating him with respect. the lad I had picked up in the bar when I was out with Carole and Chris. family.
not just as a professional . letting the import of the words hang in the air for a moment.Friends or Lovers It was my turn to feel ashamed and hesitant.” Phil looked surprised at my choice of words. I did the most disrespectful thing I‟ve ever done…. instead of gently telling him how to give me the pleasure I wanted. “I wished he was someone else. I began.” I repeated..” Phil sat there. “What happened?” Phil asked. I looked at Phil and his gentle smile reassured me. As the realisation of what I had done engulfed me. “I took him back to my flat and demanded service. “Yes. “I picked up a young lad once. to cast my eyes down on the floor and wonder whether I had the courage to talk.wished……. 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…. Out poured the story of that night with a frankness and level of detail that I had withheld from John. but gently coaxed me with his eyes and gentle touch. I looked up at him with eyes full of tears. I realised that I was letting Phil into my life.. “I……”. but found it too hard to say at first. saying nothing. my eyes started to moisten and tears started to roll down my nose and drip onto the floor.” as I struggled to say it..” Phil just nodded and suddenly the words started to flow much more freely. It felt nice. “I ruthlessly seduced him. He was called George. When he wasn‟t very good at it. I ruthlessly seduced him. I felt Phil‟s hand at the small of my back rubbing my spine.
for all John‟s openness. ever. I poured out my feelings to him for nearly 15 minutes.” I said after a pause. When do men talk about this I wondered? “Never?” I asked again. drying my eyes. I‟ve never talked to anyone. neither of them had ever revealed to me how they felt about making love to a woman.” I said.Rory Ridley-Duff colleague but as my closest personal friend. “My God. “Then. “What a thought!” As we gathered ourselves up we noticed the cold coffees on the table. for all my closeness to Mike. I have to tell you that I think I‟m going to be sacked.” . about this kind of stuff. “Penny. When I stopped. When I thought about it. He nodded more strongly. Phil started to talk again. “Never!” he said again. “I‟m going to get us some more drinks. “Never!” he reaffirmed.” “Never?” I asked.
After I had divulged to Phil what happened at the CIPD event. mattered more to him than the prejudices I had initially displayed. having briefed Dave and the other senior executives about the appraisal process. I nearly screwed up completely for no other reason than my own prejudices. It was this that gave him confidence in me. I quickly realised that my continued employment was problematic. there was a growing interest in the dispute between Elona and Mike. he said he could make „no promises‟ which I took to mean that a decision had already been taken. . At senior management levels. Jo had been kind and positive. 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. At the end of our meeting. Nevertheless.Friends or Lovers Chapter 48 The rest of the week was unsettling. 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. I took the matter into my own hands and visited Harry. I talked with him for nearly two hours. He had marked me down on most aspects of my performance and cited the handling of the dispute as the reason. Privately I knew that it had more to do with the way our relationship had turned sour. The way I changed my mind about Mike. as had Phil. Phil confessed to me that he‟d been visited by Harry. and the care I had shown to Elona. This was the beginning of the end. I told him he was too generous. I received my appraisal from Dave and there were no surprises.
goes unchecked then eventually a company loses the very people capable of forming a top-rate management team. If our propensity to sack people.the impacts of their decisions. Intolerance toward failure removes the very people learning the most and those lucky enough to avoid it remain untouched.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. My two-hour conversation . As I contemplated what would happen if I failed my probation. 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. Managers stop facing – on a daily basis .Rory Ridley-Duff As I left his office. It is only by keeping someone in a post after they have made a mistake that a company can benefit from what they learn. perhaps. I felt in awe of the social forces that were assembling. thoughts and actions slowly fades away. Maybe he would survive it. As conformity and false consensus takes root. Harry would act on what he knew. but his isolation from what had taken place meant that people around him should have been urging caution. was about to make a corporate decision that would spark a major conflict. ideals. or any moral debate about their actions. a layer of new managers develops beneath them . And so. or demote them. Management failure is passed down the line and before long senior managers start to wonder why „no good people are coming through‟. They should have been urging him to avoid acting precipitously. Harry. I suddenly realised something that had never occurred to me before. maybe not. challenges to management behaviour.
. I was tempted to return to Harry‟s office and say all this.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 foolish to harbour any hope. Instead I returned to my office and trusted that my friends would be able to bring off their coup d’etat.
They had . I wanted to return to the scene of our first meeting. I finally realised why John‟s reputation was so good. 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. I was particularly glad to see him. there was a group of disparate and irritable people. He had anticipated a long lunch and had ordered a bottle of wine. In the time he had been there. Now it was a cohesive squad equipped to take on the competition. As we looked over the menu. His contract at IC was at an end. I talked to Jo and realised that John‟s contribution was not just technical. I was moved that people listened to my views and were so supportive. but now I‟m quite excited about it. The reaction was really good. A week ago I was dreading this.” It was good to hear that the future was positive for IC staff despite the direction of my own life. Two-months earlier when the department had been formed. He let me say my piece. Before I left. At the end of such an emotional week.” he said.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 49 John was waiting for me at Pizza Hut.” “Mike talked to everyone in the department yesterday. It felt like a homecoming. he chatted about progress. “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. The way he talked and cut through bullshit impacted on staff morale. he had formed a committed and thriving team. “Everything is set.
I think. trying to see myself through his eyes and understand how I had impacted on him. But it was when you moved in the queue that I realised you‟d noticed me too. We chatted and exchanged small talk until the food came. the table and me. looking variously at his food. your arse was definitely part of the equation but not the main reason!” “What else?” “I noticed you sitting in the lounge. His eyes wandered around. his face lit up. As he did so. “You mentioned that in the speech.” . You were reading a book. I really want to know!” I said.Friends or Lovers organised a drinks reception to round off the day: a last chance to let their hair down before “the big push”. He looked at me from time to time. “John?” I started tentatively. like me. “The clincher was definitely the shoelaces. It was a novel by Bernice Rubens.” he said. When you did that I knew you must‟ve read Ms magazine. Several things bugged me and I wanted to clear them up. didn‟t you?” “Yes. Our eyes met a couple of times and I liked that. I‟ve read her novels so I thought we might get on. Then I decided to get personal. Pen?” “Why did you sit next to me on the plane?” “Seriously?” “Yes. “Remember my talk at the CIPD?” “Could hardly forget it!” “Well.” I was listening attentively. but as he spoke he focussed more and more on his thoughts. “Yes.
I remember. “So there you were doing something to attract me that I‟d written about nearly 10 years earlier. “You never cease to amaze. I wrote it! I added that bit of advice about the shoelace as a joke.Rory Ridley-Duff I did not understand how he could work out that I had once read Ms magazine. Are you really telling me that you remembered this article about tying non-existence shoelaces while in the queue at the airport?” “It‟s not so strange Penny. I think it was something like „The Working Woman‟s Guide to Sex at Work‟ right before an article about sexual harassment! Anyway. I didn‟t read the article. The headline was quite uninspiring. “How could you know that?” “Easy.” “You?” “Why so surprised? I‟d just finished my PhD and was full of that stuff. I pictured you as a single professional woman who enjoyed her independence and men!” We both laughed at the irony. That‟s where the advice was first given to women. There was an article in the mid-90s telling women how to flirt at work. John looked me square in the eye. I‟d never seen anybody do it. I was looking at you in those fantastic jeans and pondering the connection between us. It was art creating life. I had to make a living and for a short while I wrote lots of magazine articles. but I was still amazed that he‟d made a connection. John. I stood there behind you and realised . absolutely gob-smacked.” “I can‟t believe it!” I said. I thought the idea was amusing and it would be a laugh for the magazine‟s readers.
I tried to think of one.” As I was trying to take this in. “Yes. “Yes! You were very forward. What if I had missed the point and was about to make a complete fool of myself? I dismissed it quickly from my . then you have my total respect.” I hesitated. “You mean there are people more forward than me?” he joked. I couldn‟t resist talking to you. the question was old hat.” he laughed. “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 said. Usually I have to spend ages giving hints and heavy clues before people work it out. that?” he said mockingly as I realised that he was jesting with me. but could not. there‟s me!” I answered. if not thousands of times. a party piece that he‟d asked hundreds. dummy!” “Oh. I realised what a complex and accidental thing attraction can be. to comprehend the myriad of different things that he had been thinking about when we met. To me that question had separated him from everyone else I‟d ever known.Friends or Lovers that my life had touched yours 10 years earlier. “You‟re definitely more forward than me!” As we laughed. I must‟ve asked you many things. Pen. To him. “I have an answer for you.” he replied. “If you have. I wanted to tell him of my discovery. “Well.” “To what?” “To your question. “Do you remember what you asked me on the plane?” “We chatted for ages.
” I said. “It‟s strange. And in the next instant. He was truly amazed. That phrase kept popping into my head. And then. but I wanted him to overpower me to prove to me that he could. Pen?” he asked. I wanted to know whether my answer was the one he was looking for so I set aside my fears and told him. I wanted to test that his love was so great that I couldn‟t stop him expressing it. it would take its place at the back of a very long list of foolish thoughts and actions. as if I was doing something wrong. If I was to become a fool again. really dying for me‟. “How did you come up with that?” He was truly amazed. He looked gob-smacked. Mike had been fondling me while I was talking on the phone and in my head I kept thinking „he‟s dying for me. “How did you work it out. . Never before had I thought of the problems that might create. His hand moved to his cheek and he rubbed it as his mouth stayed open. So I started to resist him. Initially. I felt bad. a grin started to spread over his face. Just as I was about to panic that I‟d made a huge gaff. I thought how unfair it was that I should be testing him. making him use force to get what I dearly wanted to give anyway. I wanted him to prove he was stronger than me. really. Never before had I thought of sex as a kind of test through which men had to pass to prove their strength. 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. Then it hit me. So I started to tell the story.Rory Ridley-Duff thoughts. I was encouraging him to be aggressive and I started to wonder why I was doing it.
A few days before. I gave it to him willingly. John. I wanted him to be prepared to die for me. I knew. I wondered about that phrase. 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. but I realised that I would not die for him. how could he ever protect me? And the moment I felt ashamed of thinking this way. If he was not stronger than me. “But your question. So I stopped teasing him and started to care instead about giving him as much pleasure as I could. but not in the movie hero sense. And yet.” . I wanted him to overpower me so that I would know he was strong enough to protect me. he told me that he would let me go if I wanted children. when we had been driving home. even die for me. no tests. I put these two thoughts together. but that was not the same thing as being prepared to die to save him. no preconditions.” I continued. I stopped resisting him. would sacrifice himself for me. It gave me my first true glimpse of the power that women can wield – that we make a man feel that he has to prove his willingness to die before we will love him. Mike. the phrase “he‟s dying for me” kept spinning through my head. 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. “It stopped me insisting that he be prepared to die for me as a pre-condition of my love. John‟s question popped into my head – it was one of those flashes of intuition that have no explanation.Friends or Lovers So I set out for John what had been going through my head. Suddenly. I could not imagine making such a sacrifice.
it was to show themselves worthy of someone‟s love. War might be fought – in the minds of the men who fought them – to protect those they love.” I said. maybe not.we would be recruiting the strongest people to fight our wars.” he said firmly. By rights. perhaps. For the last 20 years. “If we cared about equality. I had been taught (and taught others) that war was caused by men. Penny! That‟s what men are taught to do. Usually they never think twice about it for the entirety of their lives. since I had been introduced to feminism. Perhaps it was not even for this reason. for the benefit of men. We expect them to die to protect us. John stopped me. Many women are strong and fit. even if the average man is stronger than the average women. “There is another point of view. It had taken me all this time to see it a different way.. my own part in men‟s violence became clearer to me. finally. For them.” I said with ardour of a convert. not just their right. but wanted him to be prepared to die for me. Sensible. our armies would have many women fighting alongside men. And for no other reason than they are men. Pen – if we valued men as much as women . What a journey I had travelled. “It‟s only fair!” “Fair. John interrupted my thoughts with some of his own. Equality means that women would insist on their responsibility to fight. As I faced up to the truth that I would not die for my man.” “We expect men to die.” “Why? Surely we should recognise this….” I said. fought by men.Rory Ridley-Duff “That‟s it. yes.” I thought about this for a second and suddenly became bold. “Then that‟s what we should do. .
“Would you fight?” he asked.000 women left in a village who could bear children. Women have fought alongside men in revolutions so why not in armies?” He smiled at me. my own government is likely to put me in jail where I can be expect to . even if there were not as many left. but only 100 men. I thought about his words but challenged them. “But what if it was the other way around? What if there were 1. however. aren‟t they?” “I suppose they are.000 men and only 100 women left?” His question made me think. I think any community would be happier as a result of that. “I don‟t have a choice. It would take countless more generations to rebuild a community if this happened.” I insist.” “Of course you do. not only would they be building mutual respect and enduring relationships with each other. “I don‟t buy that. “Let‟s suppose that there was a battle and after there were 1. “We don‟t force people into the army. was not whimsical. And those men are going to be busy. when the battle was over there would be roughly equal numbers left. “Would you?” I responded.” John disagreed. Penny. If I refuse to fight. “Look at the history of war.Friends or Lovers I gestured for him to continue. “If women and men were fighting on the front line together. His face. I hesitated. wouldn‟t they.” he said.” I started. Would the society be able to survive?” “Of course.
there would be no need for conscription. No man between the age of 15 and 55 was allowed out of the city before the US forces attacked it. If we did. “I don‟t have the choices you do. would I get mercy from the enemy?” he asked. John saw my discomfort. Not long ago I would have been executed if I tried to reject violence. not bravery. my own brothers and sisters. I have no choice except to fight. or a court of law. Either way. “No. Penny. It‟s not true that men love war. no need for draft laws.Rory Ridley-Duff be beaten. I‟m left with no way out of violence. The women and children were allowed to leave. Remember the phrase they used? The soldiers were „clearing the ground‟. “Only men were killed.” “But that‟s genocide. They don‟t care if I support the war or not. my own government.” John replied. Again. It‟s not a question that really means anything to me. The horror of this appalled me.” I objected. the enemy won‟t. then change my mind. Even if my own side spares me. I can choose the enemy.” “My God!” was all I could say. no . they‟ll still kill me. I am court-marshalled for cowardice. buggered and left to die. They cleared the ground by shooting everyone they came across. no need for military laws to punish deserters. Even if my own country supported a right to conscientiously object. If I fight at first. My only other alternative would be to take up arms against my own government – which means fighting my own people. I felt sick. “What do you mean?” “Do you remember Fallujah?” he enquired. “Fallujah? In Iraq you mean?” “Yes.
Friends or Lovers need for court marshals. no executions or jail for men when they reject violence. “Keep saying these things. peppers and extra cheese. one day. Suddenly it made sense that little boys played with guns.” He nodded and the conversation moved onto an assortment of trivia as we finished off a lovely “stuffed crust” pizza with chargrilled chicken. . I had a truly wonderful day. It‟s not necessary to teach them. Don‟t let anyone stop you.” I wondered what it must be like to grow up constantly wondering if. they simply work out for themselves that one day they may have to fight. After a second bottle of wine. you would be forced to fight against your will. I was too drunk to drive home so we walked it off in the park and visited a coffee bar. John.
between his and her escapades. who did so only out of affection for me. 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. 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. and I felt a responsibility to give back some of what they had given to me. that truth and justice prevailed. Several generations of women made it possible for me to exercise choice. to make their peace with each other.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 50 I wish I could tell you that things worked out well. If it had not been for the intervention of a gifted person. some died so that I could do so. Or. but as things changed. problems which after millennia of neglect are finally becoming the subject of debate. For the rest of his life he enjoyed – if that is the right word – an open . prejudiced and limited as me. I did not want to end up being one of the women who contributed to the problems that men face today. I was sacked. It wasn‟t to happen. but were as frail. They did their best. John returned to his wife and they continued. I would have added to these statistics myself. or a voice to be used against men and women I had come to respect. that the initial love I felt for Mike lasted until the day I died. new relationships were formed and moments of happiness were found amidst the problems we all faced. I wish I could say that most of us lived happily for most of our lives. if you prefer the description on my employment record “Penny failed her probationary period because of poor job performance”.
we got together to spend good times. I prefer to think of them as two free spirits with the capacity to forgive each other when loneliness led them astray. He remains my dearest and most enduring friend. for him ever be completely free of bias or prejudice. John remained a nomad for another decade before finally giving in to the temptation of politics. It was impossible. He never rose to the level of cabinet minister but he distinguished himself in small ways as a member of one government. We parted amicably and he remains a good friend. but am also proud of – we have not felt the need to consummate our relationship. and certainly whenever she needed his support he made himself available. John saw Sally from time to time. I gave him one or two pushes in that direction but he kept his word and stubbornly encouraged me into a new relationship. It is no less special for that and we continue to protect what we have in ways that seem right to us. at times when we both felt sad. But – and this is something I partly regret. he lost his seat and switched to writing. or the interests within which he had become embedded. After serving just one term.Friends or Lovers marriage. I enjoyed many happy years with Mike. nurtured and loved. At the same time. You have probably never heard of him. but I watched as he did his best to navigate them. Once or twice. Sometimes we would cuddle on the sofa. I have his books and read each one that comes out. of course. but he was right about my desire to have children. My cynicism about politicians faded dramatically as I met him over the years and learned of the endless no-win scenarios that they face. Sally was immediately on the scene and this time . he kept returning home from his travels to enjoy time with the family that he created. Professionally.
In giving a „best woman‟ speech. I also found myself taking a much greater interest in being an aunt. I once wrote to him to see whether he wanted to talk about the past. Sally finally got her man. The success of their company created problems. I think of the good times we had. They are one of life‟s happy couples. of course. when the success of SHARE began to fade. When I meet them. Nine years after his first wife had falsely accused him of sleeping with her. Sam. Elaine enjoyed life as a company director and took on more directorships. wanted to get back to inventing and engineering new products. My sister Carole married Chris. I detect the kind of closeness that I have in my own marriage. Mike ended up committing himself to Sally for life. It was a sad way for our relationship to end and despite the bitterness on his side. He declined. Dave kept his job. but the events that took place following my departure cost him dearly. adding that he hoped never to see me again.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike gave in to her. Sam rejoined IC to engineer new products. She got a buzz from the political battles and liked to forge change. Afterwards. I discovered my talent for public speaking. he never fully recovered. She had been through the menopause and Mike lost his excuse for resisting her. As for Sam and Elaine. Within twelve months he had been demoted. After Procter & Gamble bought them out. His wife went into a hospice where she died six-months later. their marriage failed. They are now married. The love . According to Phil. and their second child – Penny Ann – was born one day early. their marriage hit the rocks about five years later. he had a breakdown. She was the business brains and it was her will that prevailed in the short term.
It took much of the spirit out of him for many years. Each had a tremendous capacity to accommodate the other‟s weaknesses and failings. I found it impossible to build bridges with her again. When I look back. In exchange for giving up continuous employment rights. Sam and Elaine gave each member a generous shareholding in the new company. Sam and Elaine. of course. When Elona‟s parents retired. As for me. Given what happened later. so they took up this opportunity in large numbers. 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. There was a furious legal battle. it did not last. the contingency plan worked a treat. However. and when his children started blaming him for the marriage break-up. When Elona took out a court injunction to stop Phil seeing his children. the dispute between Elona and Mike was the catalyst that ended . Mike. Phil got limited access after a lengthy court battle. Phil was promoted into my position at IC and we kept in touch. he eventually stopped seeing them altogether. Phil and Elona had a crack at things. Everyone expected the SHARE product to be a success. but Sam and Elaine had committed investors and staff. It broke his heart.Friends or Lovers between Carole and Chris was elastic: it stretched and bent as life threw its worst at them. eventually got married and had two children. He felt so superfluous that eventually he left. with help from John. Phil felt they spent all their time interfering in his marriage and the raising of his children. it created a big rift between Elona and myself. persuaded the entire SHARE team to leave IC and become members of Sam and Elaine‟s company. they devoted themselves to grandparenthood. I went to work for Sam and Elaine.
That can happen without any written agreement. and certainly does not require a written contract of employment. but arrogance and shortsightedness eroded the share price before the company was sold off. against increasing numbers of . standardised codes of ethics and kitemarks. In the 5 years that followed. Today. 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. constitutional matters and legal frameworks. but he is getting quite old now. they continue it. If it works for them both. it is not only inside the home that intimate relationships are of vital importance. John works with us on some projects. I remain close to Elaine and we both did well out of the company sale. While banks and development agencies get flustered about business planning. It is a thankless task arguing against bureaucracy. Many of us became paper millionaires for a while. two people enter into their own agreement. finance. Trade begins when you trust someone enough to pay for the products or services they offer.Rory Ridley-Duff IC‟s rapid growth. We formed a new business together – the Social Exchange. As I learnt through reflecting on my life and writing this story. It gave the rampant rabbit a good run as the number one sex toy. this simple truth is not stated often enough. I am its managing director and we help organisations develop progressive approaches to human resource management. Through the simple act of exchanging labour for money. Each new business starts out with two people who like and trust each other well enough to give the other what they need. but never toppled it. against the trend towards ever more standards of excellence. or company constitution.
Thankfully I have been able to make a living saying this to many people. Our friendship developed into a lasting romance. and exploring ways to make it work in practice. I started to see Phil more. As I look to the future. I learned this at IC. 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. If I can teach this to my children and grandchildren. There is a strength that grows from being quick to listen and slow to judge. For a business to grow. these things are never certain. customers. Intimate relationships are the foundation our society. and that is why I wanted to tell you this story. and from them spring not just new human life but new economic life as well. and Phil split from Elona. there is only one thing of which I am certain. my time on this earth will not have been wasted. Three years later we had a girl. After I split from Mike. It may not last.Friends or Lovers laws that seek to regulate not only our behaviour. 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.made little headway. ~ End ~ . employees and suppliers. In this struggle I have – unsurprisingly . but for now I am content. but even the way we articulate our thoughts. there needs to be a culture in which relationships are intimate and people can learn from the mistakes they make. We now have two lovely children: a boy I insisted we call John. We called her Hope.
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