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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
propose story lines. draft chapters. I thank you for helping me find moral courage when everyone around me thought I was mad or hopelessly naïve for writing this novel. and who will also check their manuscript for errors and support them through lean times. For these and many other reasons. This book is fiction but without undertaking a series of workplace studies. Our conversations about the human condition will remain with me always. Your comments were invaluable and I trust you will spot your influence in the end result. I‟d like to thank Caroline. you have my enduring thanks. Natasha and Bethany. Firstly. my wife.Acknowledgements The people who made this book possible are numerous. for the enormous patience and support she has given to my writing aspirations. . To my children. you have been a constant source of inspiration and the best antidote to loneliness that any writer could ask for. 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). 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. you are still my dream woman. Poonam. To my muse in business. It is every author‟s dream to have someone with whom they can freely discuss ideas. To family members and life-long friends who did not spare my feelings in their feedback on early drafts.
He was married and fancied himself a bit too much. He prided himself on being „friendly‟ but I just found him a creep. maybe. concise – look him in the eye. it was a different matter. but I‟ve always been careful. “Bit of a tease. Mike was moderately bright. End of story.” Yes. She said „no‟. just a misunderstanding. He was 50. “It‟s nothing. She wanted to discuss something private so I asked her if she‟d like to go for a drink.” “Not to you.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 1 “So. landed himself a regional sales management job and probably felt he was enjoying the best years of his life. The frown on his brow was more pronounced. I‟m not making out she was „up for it‟ or anything crude like that. And yes. confident. I just never got any sense that she didn‟t like the way I behaved. that‟s not what I‟m saying. If she felt uncomfortable.” “She‟s never said anything about it. Mike was traditionalist all right. but that is not something that you show in this job. “why have you been bothering Elona?” He looked so unconcerned that it made me slightly irritable. Time to give him a push.” Mike looked uncomfortable now. Still. To him a „bit of fun‟ probably included the occasional trip to a lap-dancing bar or shagging in the toilets. “No. she never showed it. Mike. had worked his way up through the ranks. if you ask me. Calm. His eyes looked around the floor. There‟s been a complaint. It‟s no big deal. To Elona. we‟ve been close at times.” I said. was she?” I said with a laugh. one of those „pretty boys‟ who does not realise that . and sometimes I think she‟s tried to flirt with me.
I can see that men have it harder in some respects. but I‟m not averse to a confrontation with the occasional unreconstructed man. steer clear of Elona. Twenty years ago this company would not have contemplated me in this position. So. “Mike. here we are.Friends or Lovers they are past it. Many of my management colleagues are women too. perhaps. It can be quite a laugh making a sexist-pig squirm. I think. Mike the macho. Leave it with me for the next 24 hours. In the mean time. He was certainly not my type. I think. but too old for me – definitely! And he really irritated me when he shared dirty jokes with his friends but never with me. Come see me tomorrow and we‟ll wrap this up. Married with children. She‟s a bit sensitive at the moment. Boyfriend trouble. was he past it! He had aged well. In my previous job I‟d been fast-tracked to deputy director but came up against the glass ceiling. I guess the sexual revolution has helped a bit. still wanting to resurrect his youth and put it about. probably bored at home. now leading a successful team but getting angry when one of his administrative staff won‟t go for a drink with him. I‟m fairly new here. Nine months into my first job as Head of Personnel. I could see right through him. I‟ll look into this and get back to you. sales rep of the year four years ago.” . To progress I had to move. Not quite as straightforward as some situations I‟ve faced because he has a good reputation and is well liked. particularly in the company of like-minded female friends. Not my type at all. I‟d better check with my boss before I do anything here. but the patriarchy seems alive and well. I guess. Mike is proof enough of that. I would not call myself a feminist. God.
. 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.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike did not look relieved at these comments and mumbled something I could not hear.
Dave was „Director of Business Development‟ and spent his time seeking out creative types and developing relationships with them. “Well. This does worry me. “Not completely sure. Elona‟s upset. Unlike most men. “Do it sensitively. he engaged with women as equals and was sympathetic to many of the problems they faced. He enjoyed working with me but was careful never to overstep the mark or make me feel uncomfortable. my director. It‟s fair to Mike and it„ll send a strong message to the rest of the company that it won‟t be tolerated. Penny. He . But I agree we can‟t let this pass. I don‟t think he should be sacked. Zero-tolerance and all that! What‟s right here. but we should move him.” I liked Dave. I could happily spend time in his company in the office or away on business. We shared a professional ethic and modern outlook. Penny?” I was not sure whether the question was rhetorical but as no more words were forthcoming I gathered my thoughts. I hear he‟s not been a paragon of virtue in the past. I can‟t let this rest. and I knew that he was ambitious too. * * * Innovation Centre Ltd was modern and dynamic. this isn‟t easy. Mike‟s good – his team like him. but it clearly looks like he‟s got the hots for Elona. Okay?” I nodded. “As far as I‟m aware this is the first such complaint against Mike. He was not much older than me.Friends or Lovers Chapter 2 “He‟s done what?” asked Dave.” Dave looked at me thoughtfully for several seconds.
but for me they‟re a heap of crap. They‟re fine for those who want to give up work when they find their prince. Most men are bastards anyway. Much as I like him. the Innovation Centre – or IC as we call it in-house . smartly sexy. I still prefer the „relationship‟ thing. Over the last decade. He mentors me and I appreciate that. but avoid the ones called „How to Find the Man of your Dreams at Work”. As for me. but go out on the town and get a shag if I want to. Dave has a penchant for that too. 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. however. he is „strictly business‟.has created a network of 60 inventors and a catalogue of wonderful gadgets. able to live independently. Of course he‟s taken – most guys like him are – and he now has a young child that he rarely sees. He looks smart. They were dishing out bursaries to encourage graduates into management. I have my share of paranoia about my looks. got them to commit their products to us then helped them obtain development grants. I thought I may as well get myself an MBA couldn‟t see what harm it would do . intelligent. I did the „women into business‟ thing a few years back. but even so I am a bit of a man magnet when I wear black. My friends joke that I am a model of the Cosmopolitan revolution – vibrant.and now I understand all that talk of returns on investment. I‟ve worked hard for my career. football . I‟ve read my share of self-help books. and decided to specialise in human relations work. interested only in sex.Rory Ridley-Duff found inventors. nett present values and can put together a business plan. speaks well and is incredible at building trust. Workplace relationships might put that at risk.
” Mike looked blankly at me for a moment. * * * “Thanks for dropping in. “That‟d create a problem. It seems to work for me. “Can you give me until Monday?” he asked. Since then. I lived with a guy once but soon felt like his mother. It‟d mean travelling more.” “And what if I don‟t take this position?” he asked. then around the side of his head as he pinched his ear-lobe. I do boyfriends. They‟re a bit wet behind the ears. and this provides one. “I‟ve had a chat with Dave and Elona about the situation and I‟ve a suggestion for you. “Carry on.” he said quietly. but it goes with the territory and you have to harden yourself to it. we need a solution to that too. “It‟s a new project. but only until they want me to cook them a „special‟ meal or wash their clothes. of course.” I said firmly. I‟m taking the flak for Elona. Mike. I can‟t say that I like this side of my job. I‟ve taken my pleasure carefully and on my own terms. I dumped him.” I said showing him to a chair.” Mike looked at me and nodded to indicate he was ready. .” Mike interjected. aren‟t I?” “Well. Our eyes locked and his hand moved up and rubbed his chin. so we want someone with lots of experience.Friends or Lovers and drinking. Penny.” “Cut the crap. Same salary. Another feather in your cap. “I wasn‟t born yesterday. same status. “We think it‟d be a good move for you to join Direct Marketing. and working with a new team.
but I don‟t want this hanging around while I‟m away. Mike. He was trying to say something.” “Can‟t you call her? Meet her for lunch?” “I‟ll try. . He was not a happy man. Mike?” “This…” his eyes looked up at the ceiling then down at the floor. I can give you „til 4 pm. I have to go. His awkwardness was palpable but no further words came out. If I have to clip the wings of a man who sets a bad example then it feels like a job well done. The problem is sorted and Elona is protected. I was able to protect his income. but I could see that he was struggling to find the words. “If that‟s all. I do have a conscience. In some ways..Rory Ridley-Duff “No. “What is it.” I got up from my seat and felt his eyes burn a hole in me. His family is still safe. If you need to talk to your wife then take the day off.” he hesitated. but the world is changing and the type of behaviour he is responsible for is no longer acceptable to either men or women.. It is never easy giving someone a sideways move but it has to be done sometimes. I‟m away in France next week. Penny. Mike called me back later that day and accepted the new job. He can‟t really complain. The hardest thing is protecting someone‟s dignity while sending a message that some behaviour is unacceptable. Mike. I feel sorry for Mike.” “She‟s working. 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.
He had definitely aged well. 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.Friends or Lovers Chapter 3 France was fun. This time I did both. At home I might bump into a neighbour or colleague from work. When he cast them in my direction. After relaxing in the bath. First night I snuggled down with a Bernice Rubens novel. I guess he was around 45 but still had a hint of the handsome features of his youth. The second night I decided to dress up and take my chances at the conference party. He was casually dressed in jeans and a black top. moisturised myself with assorted oils. and applied a dab of Clinique near my ears. but not . But abroad. His eyes were brown and there were wrinkles stretching from the outer corners across both temples. I could feel them undressing me. The best approach I got all week was not at the conference. I shaved. but this time I was on my own and had the chance to really let my hair down. Usually that pissed me off. wrists and breasts before setting off to await the chat up lines. but hard work – a two-day conference. I studied him. They were nice eyes. It was a dull evening. 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. Our eyes met briefly a couple of times. Clearly he was a person used to smiling and laughing. He had dark brown hair with touches of white. kind but sexy. 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.
He was not bad.” I paused for a moment and then quipped. then without another word he resumed reading his book. he continued to gaze at the buildings and roads below. I obliged by reading it out. As the plane rose higher and higher. “Of sorts. My bum looks good in jeans so I ensured that he got a good look at it by bending down to tie a (non-existent) shoelace. “The impact of sexuality on group dynamics: a symbolic interactionist perspective.” He looked straight into my eyes and held my gaze for a second.” he suddenly remarked. “Some comedy!” . After a while he let out a laugh. He held my gaze long enough to let me know he liked the way I looked. When we boarded the plane. underlining phrases that caught his imagination. A pity he had not been at the party the night before. All the lines at the corners of his eyes creased. I thought. and then he smiled.” he remarked showing me the title of an article he was reading. He was reading intently. From then on. and at other times he frowned. I noticed his every move. “A comedy?” I asked.Rory Ridley-Duff today. I manoeuvred myself into the queue just in front of him. Definitely nice eyes. “You look down there and you realise just how insignificant you are. I instinctively smiled back. “Flying always makes me feel humble. He continued to read his book until the plane took off but then started to look across me out of the window. It seemed to have the desired effect because five minutes later I was in a window seat and he sat down next to me. Sometimes he would sigh. He turned to me again and smiled.
writing is a by-product of my living. “Only to my wife!” he joked.” he said guardedly. but I‟m not a writer. “A consultant.I might help men to look at women differently.” I announced. I‟m an HR manager. “Well….” he responded. “In what way?” I was genuinely curious. eh! In what field?” I enquired.Friends or Lovers He looked carefully at me and nodded in agreement. “Behaviour. I would guess they read my work sometimes…. So. hoping to dig a bit into his background. “thirty-something manager from Warwickshire. “I challenge the way people look at themselves and each other. I guess. acknowledging my interest and deflecting it at the same time. I sometimes work with HR people.” “You‟re a writer?” This was getting better and better.” “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. “forty-something consultant from London. “Penny. or women to look at men differently. “And what line is that?” “Employees. “Are you in my line of work?” I asked.” “Partly.” There was that smile again. I mean I don‟t write for a living. This time I held his gaze for a little longer to let him know I liked the way he looked.” “John.” “Very enigmatic.” he responded. . “Well. what is it you do?” He paused. I write.
” “The army!” I was genuinely surprised.” he immediately answered. “Woman are made of sugar and spice and all things nice while men are made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails. “Some of my clients think of me as a pain in the arse. “We don‟t have long enough to discuss that one! Okay. right? You must have an abundance of „knowledge‟ about men and women. . Let‟s think about the army. but resisted. A taster only. You‟re in HR. “Yes. “What about the army.” “Of course. then?” I asked. brushing aside his comment with a smile.” The way he said „knowledge‟ was weird. surely? It is your job to know about men and women. Khaki never was my colour and I don‟t like getting dirty. he convinced me that they had not.Rory Ridley-Duff “You‟ve got a wife?” the words came out so fast that I kicked myself. I guess. raising his eyebrows. Let‟s take something outside your everyday experience. and kids. If my cheeks had coloured up. Did I detect the hint of mockery? “As much as the next person.” “Oh. You must be acutely aware of their typical profile.” I said with a smile. let‟s see. “Why?” “Well.” “You disappoint me.” he said. more than that.” He smiled. He continued without any trace of embarrassment while I wanted to shrink into my seat.” I was tempted to make another flirty comment. “Your assumption is right. like a challenge.
” “Bullying. I felt nervous and my right hand instinctively went to pinch my ear lobe. it may not be fair. “Okay. „What‟s the most sexist thing about the army?‟” What an odd question. raping and abusing.” he said. It was flattering to think I intrigued him. Here‟s your question. rape and abuse happen to men as well. an organisation created by men.” he said with mock severity. . “Can I ask the audience?” “Well. I thought.” he said with a wry smile.” John said. Some had to put up with dreadful abuse. I didn‟t want to spoil a promising conversation by saying this. I imagine the army is even worse.Friends or Lovers “Well.” he said. “That‟s three things. I found it difficult to look him in the eye while I thought. and it made me pause. However. “Bullying. “All mobiles must be switched off during the flight. I liked that. and she talked of similar things happening to her.” He looked at me kindly. “Aha! The million pound question!” I said. after all. “Can I phone a friend?” I teased. I started to offer less controversial suggestions. staffed largely by men with the purpose of keeping men in power. I usually ask this question at the end of a course. “Fuck! Where do I begin?” Where would this lead? I turned over half a dozen arguments in my head – the army is. I had a girlfriend who was in the police. it‟s your opinion that really intrigues me. “I saw a documentary some time ago about women in the army.
“I mean. “God. usually when in enemy hands.” said John. . I was genuinely shocked to hear that. Have we asked the men how they felt about it?” I paused. a woman is always going to feel more violated.” I added and shot him an irritated look that hopefully did not cross the boundary into rudeness. “Maybe. I felt. 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. that‟s sick. “It‟s not a trick question.” “Indeed. surely?” I retorted.” “But it‟s not the same. so I thought some more. And I wouldn‟t want you to remember me as the depressing old git who spoiled your flight home. “Women soldiers get raped…. It‟s food for thought.” “Male soldiers get raped too.Rory Ridley-Duff “What‟s the most sexist thing about the army?” I repeated quietly to myself.” “Don‟t get me wrong. That. He was probably so practised at fielding answers to this question that I was on a hiding to nothing so I looked for a way out. I wasn‟t going to be put off that easily. more powerless. “You did ask!” he said with a laugh.” “Bit of a depressing subject. is it?” “Not at all.” I replied somewhat apologetically. I wasn‟t sure that I was making sense.” Even as I said it. was the real thought provoker. “You‟re right. “I can‟t say I‟ve given this much thought.men don‟t. But it‟s a thought provoker.” “You wouldn‟t be alone in that.
” “Hmmm. married man! Should you be talking to me like that?” I snapped back ensuring my eyes caught his again. what should I say to a young woman like you?” It was not what he said that induced butterflies.. “Yes.” I was enjoying this. Are you asking me to lie to you? I thought women hated liars…. but the way he looked at me as he said it. “Okay.” I said coyly.” “Perhaps you should be a bit more choosey about the things you say. “Do you like to open up?” he asked inquisitively. or punch him in the balls for being so cheeky.” I laughed before I could stop myself.” I quipped..line of talk. Nice thought. “I‟m old enough to gobble you up.Friends or Lovers “But not a very sexy topic. it was not this.er…. I can see that I‟m going to have to watch you!” he chuckled.” I said these words with a smile that reassured him that his compliments were very welcome. “Then I‟d better not get to know you too well. “But it is sexy. I wanted the conversation to continue. had I?” Whatever I had expected on the journey home. “Watch me? I think you opened up this…. but only with strangers. “Less of the „young‟. Not nearly as sexy as your perfume …. 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. I was not sure whether to invite him to join the mile high club. please. “Hey. It was one of those moments where I could have .
For a living he helped companies educate men and women to improve their marketing skills. His boy was 12 and his daughter 14. and children. Ann. As our descent into Heathrow started. “Exactly. continuing to dig.” The brevity and simplicity of his response made me pause again and he used the moment to spring another surprise on me.” Friendship? That was a quite a leap in such a short space of time and I was taken aback. “My wife knows me well. “Would you like to meet up for a drink next week?” “What about your wife and kids?” I said with a hint of sarcasm. and had two children he loved deeply. He‟d been married for 20 years.” “And what way is that?” I added. Our banter continued. He thought for a moment. who specialised in work with creative teams.Rory Ridley-Duff stubbed out the fire before it got too hot but chose to fan the fire instead. 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. I took him back to the start of our conversation. “The way they really are. By the time we landed I felt like I‟d had a brief tour of his life.” I stressed. “I try to find another way to look at human relationships. survived a few ups and downs. He talked fondly of his wife. “So what is it you do exactly?” “I just told you.” he said pleasantly. It was not just his forwardness that . He was an academic turned marketing consultant. I don‟t hide my friendships from her.
I‟d flirted with quite a number of men over the years but I‟d never really cared whether they liked me or not. greedily consuming every inch of my skin. How about swapping e-mail addresses?” I smiled. “Okay. Here was a man who knew how to make a woman . then slowly pulling down my knickers. caressing my stomach. My head and body arched as the pleasure rose within me. “You‟re a most unusual man and while I‟d like to go for a drink. He was hard to resist. I gave him my personal email. With one assured movement his mouth latched onto me and began to knead my flesh. With John it immediately mattered to me that he liked me for more than my womanly charms. and his hands moved slowly across me tantalising and pinching my nipples. I chucked my bags into the corner of my bedroom. “I can pretend that we met at the conference. but did not look disappointed. He saw my hesitancy and I felt a burning need to say something. but also a sense of disappointment that his aspirations were not a little higher. When I reached home.” I found myself agreeing before I could stop myself. As I drove away. “Just thought I‟d ask. went through my winding down routine and settled into bed. As we swapped cards I felt a pleasant sensation that was rare for me. rather than work.Friends or Lovers caused me to stop short. anything. I continued to think of him as I allowed my fingers to work their way down into my pants. I don‟t think it would be sensible…. I let a story unfold in my mind.” “Do you need to pretend?” he inquired without a trace of mockery.” He nodded his head. I actually found that I cared what he thought. I could not get him out of my mind. His eyes moved over me.
.Rory Ridley-Duff feel good all over. I focussed all my thoughts on his delicate firm tongue circling and massaging until every nerve ending in my body sizzled and my heart pounded so loud that I heard it thumping in the dead of night.
This gave me time to cast my eye over some of the mail I had received. There were several memos about recruiting regional organisers for the new home catalogue. The marketing manager. junk mail still got through and I weeded this out as quickly as possible. . but specialising in a much broader range of gadgets. 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. really. 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. not simply beauty products. and then interviewed them at a hotel. where they would have a second interview with Jo. Phil. I found most of these distasteful but they were becoming commonplace and whatever we did the problem still increased. Despite the efforts of our IT department.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. I asked one of my staff. wanted specialist training for her team on consumer behaviour. None of this was new. We advertised in the local press. just a variant on previous recruitment campaigns. to find out the unresolved issues and discuss them with me at the end of the day. I turned to my e-mails. Just like Avon. After spending the morning organising the following week‟s meetings. short listed people. Those that I liked would be invited to our headquarters in Leamington Spa for an assessment day. Jo.
there was a message from someone that I did not immediately recognise: From: j. The hour seemed to drag. 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. To think that you are so willing to corrupt a sweet innocent girl like me…. I hit the [Reply] button: From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com@tascali.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. Lastly. No probs if you want a drink.com Subject: Drinking with women? Penny.firstname.lastname@example.org Re: Drinking with Women Hi John. he‟s e-mailed me already. He must be keen.t.. I felt a sense of expectation disturbing me. Isn’t it your turn to teach me some tricks…? John . Every time a new e-mail arrived.com To: j. Who are you playing verbal tricks on today? Penny Even though I knew that I had more pressing tasks to do. John My god. Penny. Had a word with my wife. I kept wondering if he was going to reply.
Can you do that? Penny While I pondered whether this was too risqué. 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. Which? Wear a summer dress. This time he replied quickly. I think my wife has one from her Scottish dancing days. Every time a voice inside me warned me to be cautious another told me to be daring. Penny. We can shock some genteel country folk by doing handstands together…. but she’s petite and it won’t fit me. And the bastard made me wait over an hour for a reply.Friends or Lovers Good. Do you have any that would fit me? John x . Tricks? Well. I’ll come if you wear a kilt. But unfortunately I don’t have a kilt. He likes to play. but at least I get to kiss him back. Penny. Bugger. John. very tempting. I can walk on my hands (always goes down well in a beer garden when I’m wearing a summer dress without knickers). John. habit caused me to hit the Send button. Penny x Not much chance of him accepting on those terms. Too late. Hmm! Tempting.
however. please. they had to be put on hold because Phil entered the office and sat down with a large sigh. I felt a mixture of annoyance and regret. Penny x I hoped that I‟d not pushed him away too quickly. He was personable too. After 45 minutes. “What‟s he playing at?” Phil settled back in his chair. What was I playing at? Were we flirting or joking? I was not sure. I’m a big girl. he had to learn how to do the donkeywork and that meant devising and running the administrative systems I needed..Rory Ridley-Duff The cheeky bugger! He‟d mentioned his wife again. bright but inexperienced. So what is the bad news?” “You‟ve got three vacancies in Mike‟s old team.” “Shit!” I exclaimed. Whatever my thoughts. hit me with it. “I think I‟ve found the people to fill the vacant positions in the marketing team. and with careful guidance I could see him going far. . He‟d clearly had an eventful meeting with Mike. the pick of an excellent bunch. the joy I‟d been feeling drained away. “Good news first.” I replied. After 30 minutes. Phil was a good lad. Better back off for now. “Okay.” was my starter for ten. He had good grasp of psychology (always useful in this line of work) and had recently graduated with a good degree.” “That‟s good. He was young and hard working. “Do you want the good news or bad news?” he asked. John. but not that big…. Looks like we are going to have to postpone that drink for the time being. For now.
” How weird. The moment I arrived in his department I was collared by three of his sales reps. Anything else?” “Nope.” “Hmm. What d‟you want to do?” “Leave it with me. What about Mike‟s money concerns? Did he raise that?” I asked. I thought! Perhaps he weaves a magic spell that I don‟t know about yet. or prepare for battle if he doesn‟t. “Not yet. they would be.” “Okay. Sounds okay to me. They want to move with him. I‟ll check with Dave. he said that he‟ll accept the temporary drop if these three can join him. They want to work with Mike. I get the feeling that he‟ll quieten down if he gets his way on this. They all fit our desired profile. “It overlaps their territories so they‟re confident they‟ll build sales quickly. Thanks. I‟ll keep you posted. I nodded to Phil to carry on. He had no problem working for a woman and we got along well. “Well.” Phil was good. Their sales records are pretty good. part of a new generation that accepts the way the workplace is changing. Are you off now?” I asked. wouldn‟t they? The old boy network will naturally stick up for him. Not sure he‟s playing at all. “Well. He was fresh out of college. Two have school age children and the other has grandchildren. Few things to round off.Friends or Lovers “Not sure.” “It‟s not the men – it‟s three of the women. All have contacts from previous sales jobs. They were pissed as hell at Mike being moved. Don‟t worry about it. .
Something was disturbing him.” . He did not immediately jump at the idea and rubbed his chin in thought. The starting salary would be the same. Dave finally agreed but as I left he said something that set off alarm bells.Rory Ridley-Duff I sought out Dave to confer on the latest developments. Find out more about him . 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.it may come in handy. but I could explain the changes at interview. The job information we sent out would be slightly misleading.
Try as I might. I could not concentrate. John x Who was this guy? His arrogance pissed me off. I‟d forgotten about John. You are an attractive woman. then we will become friends. Before logging off. Thanks for playtime. however. so it was a surprise when another e-mail from him appeared in my inbox. I locked away sensitive information and tidied my desk. I hope we can enjoy more banter in the weeks to come. What had he called me? “Smart and sexy. Penny. Hope to hear from you soon. That evening I settled down with my Bernice Rubbens again. That is a lovely thought to keep in my head if that is all you want to give.Friends or Lovers Chapter 5 Back at my desk I started to wind down for the night.” Why does . I want to give you the chance to walk away if you wish.” “A Fantasy. I have women friends and I’d like you to be one of them. If you are not. Mixed in with my anger was a spine-chilling excitement that I could not shake off. It was fun. If you are okay with this. My wife does not usually interfere in my personal friendships (unless she feels threatened) and we have become much more relaxed in recent years. Our relationship is a strong one. In saying that I don’t want you to read more into these comments than is in them. Before that resumes. If I flirt it is because I think you find it fun too. I retrieved my e-mails to see whether there were any final issues to deal with. Fuck him. then I still have a pleasant memory of meeting a smart and sexy woman. I like you. I love my kids. I love my wife. But enjoying a mutual attraction does not mean I’m going to make a pass at you (that will have to remain a fantasy).
Why do I want to trust him? I never trust men. He‟s fun. Play it cool.Rory Ridley-Duff he tell me he won‟t make a pass at me? Why not? Bastard. The hours passed and still I could not read my book. And that realisation had a strange effect. the minutes ticked and questions invaded my thoughts. Why does this hurt? Don‟t let him in. He‟s sexy. The prospect of looking into them thrills me. Penny. He‟s too old for me. Don‟t trust him. He‟s got kids. As I lay in bed. The word „danger‟ keeps forcing its way into my thoughts but my mind wanders back to his eyes. I tried to watch a film but the moving images were just a backdrop. my eyes finally got so heavy that I dropped asleep. no denying it. Don‟t let him in. but I did not listen to it. He‟s got “ups and downs” in his life. By 2am. He‟s intelligent. He‟s married. He makes me laugh. He dares to resist me. No guy has ever talked to me like this. I put on music. I must stop thinking like this. Slowly it dawned on me why I‟m angry at him – he dares to resist me. My thoughts kept returning to our e-mail exchanges. Maybe he is just after a fling. Penny. . circling around like vultures gnawing at old wounds. For a few hours I was free of the conflict raging in my soul.
When you experience the real world. I‟m trying to build a picture.Friends or Lovers Chapter 6 Following my conversation with Dave. Naturally. “Nothing in particular. I asked Phil to find out more about Mike. get to know them. His eyes looked at the table while he rubbed his chin. see if they talk about him. Just see if you can find out about him. I too felt awkward because I had initially imagined that work was conducted in the way described in study texts. then join in the conversation. he scratched his nose. I told him not to be too obvious .” “If I start asking about him. and his brow still showed a frown. “What am I looking for?” he asked.” Phil looked awkward. won‟t they start wondering why?” “Just spend time with them in the canteen.to start by finding out what he could from members of his former team as unobtrusively as possible. he quizzed me. Just take an interest. “I‟m still concerned about Elona‟s complaint. we are part of the management team and that means we bend to their wishes. not find out dark secrets. of course. If they do. we have to work within management objectives and commercial constraints. you find there is this whole other world that no-one talks about.” I said. As he looked up. I remembered the first time that my manager asked me to keep my ears and eyes open.” He rubbed his hands together. Much as I wanted to focus on recruiting the best people and developing them to their full potential. . “I want to be sure that there is not a pattern to his behaviour. Whether I like it or not.
“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.
” Ms Leyton? A bit formal. Elona. “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. come and see me. “What do you mean?” she replied as she shuffled in her seat. Can you do that too?” “Sure. eh?” I said with a furtive look. Still. “Okay. Ms Leyton.Rory Ridley-Duff “I guess it depends whose got their hand on your behind. “And quite right too.” she confirmed. Her defensiveness suggested she was hiding something. “Yes. I wondered . Can you do that?” “Yes.” I smiled strongly at her as I drew the conversation to a close. I detected a touch of embarrassment in her behaviour. Why?” “If you‟ve asked someone to stop and they continue to touch you in a way that you don‟t like. Elona tensed and was unsettled by this remark. I could see she was agitated so I took another approach. Okay?” She seemed to relax. doesn‟t it? If anyone does something that you don‟t like. I‟ll try.” “Do you have a diary?” I asked. “I don‟t understand what you are implying.” “And if you feel the need. I‟m glad we had this talk. make a note in your diary. I don‟t want other men doing it. “It seems that we have a few more heads to knock together. I have a boyfriend and I only like him to touch me like that. I thought. tell them straightaway. After Elona left the room I pondered her behaviour.
. Clearly we will need to work on this problem together. I‟ll discuss with Phil before I depart on Monday.Friends or Lovers if she was receiving more attention than she was saying.
At the moment she is on maternity leave. Recently he got a promotion to project analyst and is now supervising others for the first time. I splashed out on a wooden floor and cream leather sofa. her first child with boyfriend Chris. two years younger than me. At ground level. On the opposite wall. I always work hard to make my living room the most welcoming one in the house. each with different tribal markings. Over the brick fireplace I have some ethnic artwork. 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. they had children quite late. Although I live on my own. I‟ve worked hard to shape it in my own image. Considering their generation. after I was accepted in this job. It suits me for the moment. On the wall either side are two African masks. the candles give the room a romantic sexy feel. I have large vases with dried flowers that give some colour and texture next to an attractive gas fire.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 8 I live on the outskirts of town in a two-bedroom flat. although one day I‟d like a house with a garden that I can tend. After meeting at university they wanted to travel the world together for a while. She is 30. They had decided that if they still wanted to be together after living in each other‟s pockets for two . When I settle down with a box of chocolates and dim the light. Next to Carole is a picture of my parents on their 40 th wedding anniversary. and has made her career in teaching. The mantelpiece supports two tall candles in wrought iron holders and a number of stone carved nightlights. I have a photo of my younger sister. Carole. Last year. I take some pride in my home.
sometimes we write e-mails to each other and swap humorous cards. got married and had children.” What is it about men and commitment? Even though she‟s been with him for three years now. Fame of a sort. still has two years before he can retire. And so it has been. but she holds out hope that eventually they‟ll get married. many of our phone conversations still dwell on “man problems”. . At that time. I grew close to my sister and we stayed that way ever since. Forlorn. My father. My mother. but hope springs eternal where she is concerned. 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”. I‟m proud of him. He is a civil servant who rose through the ranks to lead a unit that answers parliamentary questions. like my sister. He even gets to write answers for the Prime Minister sometimes. A few of these hang on a pin board in my living room. We now call each other every week.Friends or Lovers years. they‟d do it for life. she will be able to retire next year. Sometimes he gets to prepare answers for TV. however. is a teacher. they each established their careers. My sister sent these to me when she was having difficulty getting her boyfriend to settle down with her. When they got back. I ask if we will hear wedding bells soon but the most optimistic response she‟s given so far is “Next Year: probably. My father is the kindest man I know but I have had a prickly relationship with my mother ever since I turned 14. I keep telling her that we are better off without them. I guess. I reckon.
make-up remover and spot sticks. moisturisers. It gets me out of the house . bracelets (wrist and ankle). necklaces. The other side draw holds my collection of lingerie. Wrapped in my duvet. nail varnishes and eye shadows (which I use only on special occasions). organised into earrings. switch on the bedside lights. I can make him think that he‟s gone to heaven early. The headboard is decorated with subtle white lights. The kitchen is small but functional. I switch out the main light. a sensual and very personal love nest. They know how I like to adorn myself. Either side of the mirror is a raised area for an assortment of bottles. The work units and oven are built in so there is a reasonable amount of workspace and cleaning is easy. belly bars. I don‟t have space for a washing machine so I still do my laundry down the road. 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. carefully selected so that on the rare occasions I think enough of a man to invite him back. so a sensuous bedroom equipped for lingering self-pampering is one of life‟s essentials.Rory Ridley-Duff My bedroom is a mini-paradise. When I go to bed. and on each bedside table I have one of these new cylindrical lights with slow moving silver flakes that refract light. Jewellery is in one of my side drawers. facial scrubs. I feel deliciously erotic. The focus is my pinewood king-size bed with a deluxe duck feather duvet and pillows. I don‟t have a regular fella to keep me warm at night. selections of lipsticks. and watch the patterns that meander around the room. and a choice of rings for fingers and toes. so the dresser came with an array of drawers to hold all my paraphernalia: lip gloss. just perfect for fuelling my fantasies when I feel like playing with myself.
” “He sounds keen. Good week?” I enjoy these chats with my sister. but he just makes more work for me. * * * “Hi sis‟” “Hi Carole. I give him a toy with a bell on it and he sits there shaking it and laughs for ages. “Chris has raised the idea of using his flexi-hours to spend more time at home. I don‟t know.” I interjected. This has been a standing joke ever since she started going out with him. She gives me the latest celebrity gossip. bless him. He can change a nappy now. “Yes. He is.” “Nothing on the matrimonial front. “I try.Friends or Lovers and I can chat to Betty who does the service washes. I try. Quite sweet really. I reassure him that as soon as he starts on solids then he‟ll be able to get in on the action. How about you?” . When Big Brother hits our screens we chat about it each week and I invite her around my flat to watch eviction nights. He actually gets upset that he can‟t feed his child. Just wish he could cook then he‟d be really useful to me. it just creates tension. “Not bad. but baby refuses to be fed by bottle.” “If only adults were as easy to amuse…” I commented. In some ways it‟s good to have him home. He‟s sitting up now and he‟s a lot happier because he can look around. He is trying too.” “Can‟t you train him better?” I ask. I‟m not sure about it. yet?” “Haven‟t raised it for a while.
but I didn‟t even convince myself so I doubt that I convinced her. so that‟s a no go area.Rory Ridley-Duff This is another standing joke . He burned my ear with all this stuff about sexism in the army. it‟s not like that. “No.” “You‟re smitten.my inability to find any man worthy of me. He was keen to meet me again so we‟ve agreed to meet up next week for lunch. got kids. he‟s an oddball.” We are so alike. “Oh. “No.” No sooner had I uttered the words than I realised how stupid they sounded. I want to satisfy my curiosity. a consultant. yes?” she asked.” “Too right you will. “Oh. I say! You only live once.” “No Carole.” “And your libido?” “I don‟t think so. a writer. He‟s most odd.” “Oh don‟t say that Carole. I can tell. He‟s intelligent. I have no idea whether I‟m doing the right thing and you know what I‟m like with men. why are you meeting him?” It was a pertinent question. “Yeah! I‟ll call you in the week. He has lovely eyes. Like I say. “He‟s married. I can‟t explain. nothing to report there. Sounds like he‟s a fast worker.” “So. “Go for it.” .” “Hey you.” “Tell me more…. I‟m not sure. and you‟re giving him a big green light.” Carole quipped. But he seems different. But I did meet an interesting man this week on the plane back from France. He is a practiced flirt. let you know how it goes.” I said weakly.
Friends or Lovers “Say „hi‟ to mum for me if you talk to her. Stay cool.” “I will.” “Bye sis‟” And with that. we both put down the phone and returned to our very different lives. .
Breaking up with a man is traumatic because you never know how he‟s going to react. but my sister was not so lucky. Despite the façade of strength I present at work. I particularly hate having workmen in the flat during the day. I don‟t always feel safe on my own. snuggling up to them. So far none have hit me. If it is a man I do not know – and sometimes even if I do – I don‟t let them in. 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. Some withdraw into themselves and skulk off. reading. I have the pleasure of buying in exactly the foods I wish. cleaning. Sometimes I get really scared. I think. and sharing my thoughts and feelings. No way am I going to start washing their clothes. Not having a man about the house also helps in that respect. I still can‟t get used to going to bed by myself and I especially miss the pleasure of waking up next to someone. is the silent fear we have of violence. Her last boyfriend punched and kicked . 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. most men who I let into my bed think that the corner of my room has an invisible linen bin placed there. But I can‟t deny that there is loneliness too. relaxing and sleeping. Living on my own. watching only the television that I want to. 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. but with others you can visibly see their bodies convulse with anger.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 9 My weekend was fairly typical: shopping.
Walking gives me a wonderful sense of freedom. At the moment I wonder whether my life is going in the direction that I want. two circles of friends (inside and outside work) that balance each other and provide good times and support for bad times. . an isolated and desolate beauty searching the wilderness for something in life that will make it more meaningful and satisfying. so why do I feel so empty? As I walk on the brow of the hill I look north towards Worcester. By Sunday. I‟d done my chores so I took myself off to the Malvern Hills for a walk. time and space to think. On the surface it looks very fulfilling. I recall John‟s comment that looking down on the world reminds us of our insignificance. I have a nice home and neighbours. good career with responsibility and the chance to travel. that‟s an experience that‟ll never leave me. watching her shrivel with humiliation as she admitted to a nurse how she received her injuries. warm for April.Friends or Lovers her when she ended the relationship. It was a pleasant day. In my mind. The houses on the plain are as tiny as an architect‟s model and the specks that move slowly along the motorway look like matchbox cars. I‟m sufficiently attractive to be able to enjoy male company more or less whenever I like. holding her hand while she sobbed like a young child. The wind buffets my face as I stand like the French Lieutenant‟s Woman. a family I can see when I need (far enough away not to crowd me but close enough to visit the same day). and I was able to remove my jumper and wear just a tee-shirt and shorts. Sitting with her. Am I significant? Do I make a difference? Have I had a positive influence on the people I‟ve known? I wasn‟t sure. looking at her bruised mouth and eye.
I still feel lonely. emotionally and spiritually. . Family and friends are great but there are limits to how I can be with them. I‟m too afraid. Even when I‟m shacked up with a man. Rarely do I see two women or two men walking together. but deep in my heart I‟m still quite lonely. 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. the hills are filled with people who have come to terms with sharing themselves with another. My deepest need. If my parents knew how I behaved sometimes they would probably die with shame. In fact. the desire to share myself physically. I can‟t show them the real me. perhaps). I even hide my feelings from my sister. cannot be satisfied with any of them. I don‟t think I‟ve shared myself fully with anyone.Rory Ridley-Duff I‟ve been hard on boyfriends who would not make a commitment to me. I‟m not sure there is anyone with whom I can do that. The life I have is safe. but perhaps it is me who is avoiding commitment. Husbands walk with wives (lovers or friends. and I have many things that give me pleasure. Parents walk with children.
He too seems to possess the necessary enthusiasm and skills. As I enter the outskirts of town. The car parks itself as if I‟m on auto-pilot.Friends or Lovers Chapter 10 I‟m in Leeds today. I wish I didn‟t feel like this. I found a man and woman. no matter what I do. turn right into an NCP car park. “Go away!” but ranting makes no difference. There was a single woman with previous direct sales experience and good family support so I think we have found the people we need. Love Me One More Time” on the CD player and this fuels an expectation that lunch will be the start of a romance. Both with children in the 11-15 age range and extended family support (that‟s usually necessary in this line of work). I‟m driving back to meet John. “Stop it!” I shout. . the clock shows there are only 50 minutes to go and my breathing deepens and lengthens as my nerves start to intensify. At the moment. 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. watch the barrier rise. But I keep driving towards the town centre. We e-mailed each other over the weekend and agreed to meet at Pizza Hut. I shouldn‟t be meeting him. see the front of the car turn to the left and climb the levels. I try not to think and focus on getting through the next few minutes. I can‟t help but feel excited even though I know this is not an appropriate way to feel. I also interviewed a single man who had won custody of his children. I have George Benson playing “Lady. both married. The interviews went off as well as could be expected.
Thank you. Turn left. Choose “Cash no receipt”. Enter. I appreciate it. Turn left. All this elegantly covered by a light purple trouser suit that hugs my figure. Studs with a light blue jewel adorn my ears and a matching necklace drapes around my neck.” “Just my normal work clothes.” I say with false modesty. Along the high street. Press lips together. Press 7725. I‟m not only pleased I‟ve made an impression but also delighted that he‟s noticed. Wait for card. Go down the stairs. Around the eyes.Rory Ridley-Duff Find the exit. “You look good. Apply evenly. Walk. Thank you for making the effort to look nice. Look in the shop windows. I applied a modest amount of eye shadow and liner. But his hair looks freshly washed and there . Open the door. Where is my lippy? Look in the shop window. Now right. Go to cashpoint. £50. I‟ve put on a white top – thin enough to give a hint of the lace bra underneath – styled into a „V‟. What a surprising remark! “Yes.” “Thank you?” I ask. Turn left. a subtle shade of blue (just enough to emphasise my long black lashes without looking trashy). The necklace is long enough for the jewel to draw attention to a hint of cleavage. “Penny! There you are. I take off my jacket and sit down. Inside. Continue. Check my handbag. I can feel myself beginning to relax. He has turned up wearing an unironed tee-shirt and jeans with a hole in one knee.” The moment I hear his words I come out of my trance. There‟s no harm in showing off my pert behind and womanly curves. Take the money. My hair was washed this morning and tied back into a ponytail. classy but not tarty. look at him and smile.
“It did. would you believe?” “Only just. I carefully ironed the creases into the shirt and hired a tailor to give my trousers that deliberate „just torn‟ look. Shortlisted four people.” . The lines at the corners of his eyes only display when he smiles. Good on the wrinkles. did your interviewing go well?” he asks. “Yes. when he‟s relaxed they disappear.” he says without any embarrassment.” “She keeps you young.” “Does your tailor get much business from you. “Lots.” “Perhaps it will catch on in Hollywood?” He laughed and looked deeply into my eyes. I have to work hard to keep up with her. Then he adds. All the nerves that I‟d felt were swept away. then?” I quip. but in the daylight I guess he‟s a bit younger than I first thought – somewhere in his late 30s. I still don‟t know how old he is. I like it.” he jests.” I say boldly. “Tell me. yes! I don‟t beat about the bush. I felt comfortable and content. including a single father. His face has worn well and his hair shows only slight signs of greying.” “I‟m 44. “how old are you?” “Forward aren‟t we?” “Oh. I settle into my seat and look at him more closely.” “Yes. “So. “I see you dressed up for me too…” I say cheekily. “I use my wife‟s Nivea every day. I need an exclusive casual outfit for each day otherwise my beach cred is seriously damaged. Especially before I go on holiday. obviously.Friends or Lovers is a day‟s stubble giving him an undeniably rugged look. Very energetic woman.
Rory Ridley-Duff Given that we‟d moved onto the subject of his wife. I felt we should dwell there a bit. “So!” he says. Relatively happy modern career woman. Politics became liberal. Translates government documents from English to French to German and back again. Shouted regularly at politicians. She saves her strong opinions for our marriage and children. Here we go. always closer to dad. Tried a few. Born. She‟s also a teacher but currently on maternity. Age 13 onwards I became a bit of a rebel. It suits her. He doesn‟t need to. Did radical bit at university. Chose career instead. Started to like men more. “Want to try something I do on my courses?” “Why not?” I answer. age 0. Developed well. Can you do that? Then I‟ll give you mine. fell out with mum.” “Strong minded?” He says nothing. Protested the Gulf War (the first one). One sister who is two years younger than me. manager at 29 but stumbled across the glass ceiling. now with child and dopey boyfriend. “Your life in 5 minutes. “What does she do?” “She‟s a linguist. including that he admires her. attended women‟s groups. then?” “She prefers a quieter existence where her opinions are not the subject of public scrutiny. got angry with women. Now HR manager in a growing firm. I could sense a question coming. Likes .” “Okay. in Malvern where I grew up with my teacher mother and civil servant father. Started to like men less.” “Not out and about like you. Warm loving home for the first dozen or so years. his smile and nod say it all. got angry with men.
“I think that‟s the best exercise I‟ve had all day. The portfolio life is for me. “Wow!” he injects. No Angels. Did a masters. Hated kids. We both laugh in unison and I look at her. Eastenders. Friends. flirting and friendship – but in reverse order. Tried a few. Born in Hampshire. Lots of responsibility. Always liked women. Now 32. Did my extremist bit at university. One works in a women‟s refuge. Sex and the City – shame it has finished. Loved them again. Got hired as a consultant. Worked in academia. Hobbies include walking. Mexican food. Had kids. the freedom. My turn. Loved kids. A waitress stands at the end of our table ready to take our order. “How about you?” I quickly ask. Protested the Poll Tax. refused to pay it. Went off radicals. Went through the football craze. “Right. Both older. then PhD. Liked kudos. the pay. Tried real world. then calmed down.Friends or Lovers chocolate.” he adds. Missed first Gulf War demo. nights in with cat. Lots of freedom. Started writing. Returned to research. I stop. Flirted with radicals (both ideologically and literally).” He stops and takes in a deep breath to replenish his oxygen supply. “All in one breath?” I laugh out loud. This is fun and I am enjoying myself. Frost. Went through the „girls‟ craze. Artist mum. usually fine. the other lectures in some obscure social science. romantic comedies. walking. A rebel until age 13. exercise. fell in love with one. same age as you funnily enough. . Two sisters. Very sad but coped okay. Marine engineer dad who died when I was eight. Went through the basketball craze. Married her. Went off real world. sometimes lonely.
others not. “So what have you been doing in Birmingham?” I enquired. please. “I think someone has placed a contract to sabotage all cappuccino makers worldwide. “Decaf coffee. Wherever I go they never seem to work. As soon as she went. he leans over towards me and speaks quietly. some well-founded. sir.” I request. “I‟d afraid the machine‟s broken. “Cappuccino?” asks John. he started to gesticulate. Is a normal coffee okay?” “Of course. He felt like an old friend. “Helping some marketing recruits find new ways to look at men and women.Rory Ridley-Duff “Could you give us a few more minutes?” I ask.” he answers politely. People have many preconceptions.” * * * As we chatted away.” “And did you succeed?” I was actually interested this time and he could sense this. not a new one. and I was drawn more and more into the conversation. His demeanour changed and took on a more relaxed and thoughtful expression.” “Such as?” . As he started to speak. “These things take time. we were joyous and smiling. “Would you like any drinks while you are thinking?” Her voice came out in a monotone as if it had been prerecorded.
I don‟t understand why.” “You are joking! I don‟t believe you.Friends or Lovers He thought for a moment. “Perhaps. feeling that I knew the answer already. The results were surprising and not what you‟d expect.” I thought of my sister and my body felt tense all over.” “Is that well-founded or not?” I asked. Then some people started to ask whether the research design was distorting the results. “That men are instinctively more violent than women.” he continued. “There‟s a growing body of research now.” he replied surprisingly. It‟s everywhere.” I affirmed. Over one-hundred and seventy studies in the last three decades disagree with you. Researchers started to ask both men and women.” “The studies must be biased.” “But we all know that men are more violent that women. “It depends on whose data you look at. I could feel a sprinkle of alarm go through me because I could sense he was leading me into a trap. on TV. but John continued calmly and reassuringly. You see it all the time. not just women. I could tell that he was selecting one from a great long list.” But he sounded sceptical. “In the 70s and 80s. In the papers. Men are definitely more aggressive and violent. “Difficult to tell. It‟s my job to make sense of reliable data.” . “lot of studies suggested that men were more violent than women in personal relationships. 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.
I am interested.” “Explain. I was in deep shock. the waitress returned. I‟m sure there was a hint of sarcasm in her tone. different age groups. “We don‟t have to talk about this if you don‟t want to.” he said. John and I looked at each other and this time we didn‟t laugh. She had an impatient look on her face.” John paused. At that moment.” “I can‟t explain it – this is very new data to me too and I need time to reflect on it. and have been conducted by people from different research backgrounds. “D‟you remember „Wait „Til Your Father Gets Home‟?” he suddenly asked. different social environments. I know you are going to try.” “Of course. . We both picked up a menu.Rory Ridley-Duff “I can‟t rule that out. I remembered a TV series with this name. I thought for a moment.” “I don‟t believe them.” said the waitress. quickly found something we liked and ordered. “No it‟s okay. “Dad is being used to threaten the kids.” he said with a smile. What is meant by this phrase? I looked at John with curiosity. I stopped for a moment.” “You‟re not alone. Yes. It is just hard to accept. But the results are consistent across different industrialised countries. John looked at me supportively. Is that your point?” I asked. “Thank you.
. John paused for a moment. will you?‟ I‟ve managed to avoid smacking so far.” I said. My wife sometimes says to me „John. but sometimes they dig their heels in and I come very close. “When I think about this. fathers and boyfriends to do things for them. “I‟m not sure any more that men choose to be aggressive. I think it is about Mum making Dad responsible for discipline. “you see it everywhere.” he answered speaking directly from the heart. 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. The threat is only effective if the kids fear Dad. He was forming his thoughts onthe-fly as well. “Maybe we use Dad as a weapon because he is more scary. “Now I come to thing of it.Friends or Lovers “Not sure. I have threatened it once or twice.but what d‟you do when kids won‟t respond to anything?” I was beginning to see his point. “Maybe we use Dad as a weapon whether he wants to be scary or not.” He paused.” he said finally. 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 continued.‟ Even my female students used to say that they‟d play dumb or frightened to get their brothers. Make them go to bed. That happens in my house too. they won‟t listen to me. I hate doing it – I feel like I‟ve failed .
we both realised we‟d had enough of this. and I was eating chicken dippers. I raised my eyebrows. I don‟t understand all the ins and outs. “but the issue for women is that the threat is always there. I‟m trying to find out more because something peculiar seems to be going on. We‟re never free of fear. I‟m not sure it is appropriate for me to talk about this. He tried to cool it off.” “Yes. He‟d ordered potato skins. You understand?” I said.” I stopped myself. I‟ve had to move him. our starters arrived. That moment. “Yes. She‟d been having some difficulties at home and she singled him out as a father figure to talk to. We have a man who has been pressuring a young woman for a drink. nodded and then . He only became worried after she started to flirt a bit. After that. But I‟m under no such obligation. I‟m sure you are right. But it is double-edged. Instinctively. 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.” John looked at me in a way that suggested he did not know whether to carry on. “What‟s your work like?” he asked. but he‟s done this before and the young woman was so upset that I had to separate them. Completely. The threat is enough.Rory Ridley-Duff “Maybe. “John. we shared a stuffed crust with extra mushroom and chicken. Tricky situation in one department. Busy at the moment. I have a friend who felt a young woman was getting too close to him. I‟m not sure exactly what. The woman is holding something back. “Okay.” I answered.” We both paused.
we danced around each other using metaphors hoping the other would understand.” I responded. As I walked back to my car.” “Me neither. He could have said “I don‟t want to ruin this by sleeping with you. he paid. We had our own minefield to navigate. protecting our egos while leaving the door open just in case we both had a change of heart. A minefield. After coffees.Friends or Lovers tilted my head slightly to one side to indicate that he should continue. I felt good. I said softly…. Next thing he knew she‟d complained about him.” He held my gaze. isn‟t it?” I said. no. We swapped mobile phone numbers too. I hoped he was right. I hoped that I had found a friend – a real friend. “Yes. we hugged.” he asserted. “He suggested they meet outside work to sort things and made it clear that he was providing her support as her manager and not asking her out on a date. We both agreed there would be a next time in about a month.” But. “…we‟ll have to tread very carefully…” He nodded and also spoke softly.” “It‟s always complicated. I could have said “I‟ll be very sensitive about your marriage”. . “We‟ll be fine. When we parted. We both knew exactly what the other was thinking. She backed off and was hurt. Always. “I don‟t want to tread on any mines. Men and women talk to each other in such oblique ways. but only after I made him promise that it would be my treat next time.
you first?” “Okay. Four accepted an invitation to our offices for the following week. recruitment is a hit and miss affair. “Some. After I rounded off with Dave. I met Dave to discuss the interviews. Anyway. “Have you been able to find out anything?” I asked. but interesting nevertheless. Even with all this care and effort. Nearly all his team talk highly of him. I got Phil to phone all the candidates and give them the news. Not quite what I expected. They undertake a psychometric test.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 11 When I returned to work. we introduce them to teams that undertake similar work to give them a flavour of the „real‟ workplace. and also to give the teams a chance to evaluate the candidates in a less formal setting. Lastly. 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. More than once. we‟ve found our perfect candidate only for them to decline the position at the last minute. I‟d like to better understand why people decline. I called Phil into my office for an update on Mike. then confirmed the final shortlist. At other times. The assessment centre uses an array of techniques to provide a more rounded picture of a candidate‟s suitability for a position.” “I chatted to Elona too. participate in role playing exercises. I found them a good deal more open than I expected. They are sad that he‟s . those that were marginal in the recruitment process turn out to be the best performers. but I‟m confident that we‟re reducing the recruitment lottery through the use of these techniques.
People liked her well enough but they found her a bit quiet. “Elona told me she felt uncomfortable socialising with her team..” I said. then he gave out a slight laugh. and I felt that it wasn‟t the right time to probe. I still think there is something going on that we don‟t know about. . “I can feel a „but‟ coming…. touch her and make her feel uncomfortable. Finally. and some of the younger men. Mike.” “Did you pick anything up about Elona? Were he and Elona close?” “Yes and no. you know. She worked closely with Mike – that went with the job.” Phil paused. A couple found him a bit „old school‟. “Those that knew she had made a complaint were surprised. They were always working together to resolve customer issues. They wouldn‟t elaborate.” Phil stopped talking for a moment and had a puzzled look on his face. particularly the women.” I decided to share what I found out. Some said they were shocked because they thought the two got on extremely well. but they all respect his abilities as a manager and as a salesperson. He rubbed his chin and touched his eyebrow before making several attempts to start speaking. Some didn‟t mention the complaint – in fact I got the impression they didn‟t know about it. but was also sympathetic and supportive when his staff had problems. It sounds like he had a reputation for not putting up with any nonsense.Friends or Lovers moved on. some words were forthcoming. polite and caring to women and a bit rougher and more argumentative with the men.
“Come on Phil.” He rubbed his chin vigorously as he sat thinking.No. one of the sales reps. I think they sensed at this point why I was taking an interest.” “What about Mike‟s marriage?” “Ah! Yes. “I‟ve heard that too.Rory Ridley-Duff “I agree….” “Interpretation?” Phil was hesitant. He got close to Sally. as if they had spent a considerable amount of time together outside work…. I don‟t know. Nobody said it out loud. There was such a familiarity in the way she talked about him. He did have a rough patch a couple of years back.” “Why d‟you think that?” I said with genuine surprise.. but I pressed him.a cross between a brother and a lover…. “Tricky. “Sally‟s attitude to him was so different from the others. “….something didn‟t feel right but I can‟t put my finger on it. “Yes – I gathered that much and I‟m sure I spoke to her.” He paused again and I was starting to get a little frustrated..” I shared something that Dave had told me. spit it out. She spoke about him almost like…. and his wife kicked him out for a while. but I would hazard a guess that he broke up with his wife for a while.” . He was searching for words. “Yes?” I prompted.” Then Phil said something that shocked me. They clammed up a bit. I got the impression that they were saying „don‟t go there‟.
Thirdly. he lived with the rep for a while. his wife forgave him and he moved back in. 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. Secondly. What do I know? Firstly. . Okay. We now know that Elona has been troubled by over attentive men at social events and that she‟s hiding something. I got the feeling that Sally had lived with him for while. his wife kicked him out.” “Hmm. Keep your ear to the ground. he still lives with his wife. I just can‟t work it out at the moment. I‟ll see what I can find out my end. Mike had an affair with a sales rep. Mike asked Elona out for a drink.Friends or Lovers “Well. Elona is upset. Fourth. What I find hard to understand is why his team is so supportive of him. So far as I can see. and when he admitted this he was definitely agitated.” After Phil left my office I pondered what I‟d learnt. Mike admits that he put his arm around her.
“What do you want to know?” he asked. I understand that things have not gone smoothly with her boyfriend. “Has she told you about her problems at home?” he asked. to be frank. He did not look relaxed so I tried to put him at ease. “Mike.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 12 “Hi. but I liked her . Yes….. “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. I understand that you worked closely with her. It was as if he was trying to decide whether he should speak.” The moment I said this.” but he stopped short of saying anything more and looked down at his knees while he pondered further. She was not the most talkative or outgoing young woman. “It was good. We worked well. “I talked with Elona about a week ago and I can‟t help feeling that she‟s holding something back.” I said with a welcoming tone. Is that right?” “Er. Come on in. She worked well. “I‟m not accusing you of anything. it doesn‟t make sense to me. I let him settle before I continued. Mike.” Mike looked at me for quite a few seconds. but I wondered if there is anything that you can tell me that would help me understand the situation. Mike shuffled a bit in his seat. I‟m trying to clear up the background to this situation with Elona and. Are you happy to talk about it some more?” Mike‟s hands were locked together and he looked very tense. “Not in any detail.
But she‟s hedging. It was someone else in the department.” .” he commented. I need to know. “Penny. I thought I detected a wry smile. they clearly had no idea what was going on.” I felt myself start to get irritated. Her complaint took me by surprise.” “Well that explains a lot.” he said deliberately. “No. I would feel more comfortable if you talked to her directly about it.” His statement puzzled me. Mike.” “I‟ve tried. “There is more.” I said. Then his right hand moved swiftly to his face and he touched his cheek.” “She didn‟t make a complaint. “What do you mean?” I asked. 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.” I asserted. “If I‟ve made a mistake.” I corrected. Mike. He started to nod slowly and relaxed a bit. “but she spoke to me in confidence. but tried to remain calm. “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. she confided personal stuff to me and I don‟t think I should break her confidence. “Haven‟t we been over this before?” he asked. “Why did you ask her out for a drink?” Mike tensed and I could see his hands clench.Friends or Lovers and worked well with her. “She didn‟t?” he asked. “Well. His hands settled back into lap and he started to speak. I was not sure where to go next. Nobody‟s interests are served by withholding relevant information.
He immediately tensed again. “I am used to handling these things within my team. I apologise but I really don‟t know what was alleged or why. “I thought you were trying to straighten this thing out.Rory Ridley-Duff He thought for a moment. He decided to open up. I thought I must‟ve said or done something insensitive.” “Who‟ve you been talking to?” he asked aggressively. .” His defences were up now. “She spoke to me in private about issues with her boyfriend and also an upsetting incident with a team member. “I know you give good support to your team. gave her whatever support I was able. I knew the damage had been done. Slow down. “You get close to people don‟t you?” I commented. Mike. “Nobody is accusing you of anything. Like I say.” Inside. I also offered to meet her outside work and the next thing there‟s a complaint against me. “Mike.” “Then why can‟t you look me in the eye when you say that?” he retorted. If I have.” I found that remark patronising and privately wondered if he resented my involvement. but I needed him to calm down if we were to make any progress. nobody‟s accusing you of anything. I looked him in the eye. I talked to her several times over a number of weeks. “What on earth do you mean?” I regretted the remark but it was out now and I had to limit the damage. then gathered his thoughts.” “Why didn‟t you come to me earlier?” I asked.
I think something has taken place between you and Elona. “I did not „overstep the mark‟.Friends or Lovers “Okay. but it is as well you understand how I feel. I offered personal support for a member of my team who was experiencing personal difficulties at work and at home. or Elona and a team member. I cannot manage a situation I don‟t understand. “I don‟t want to fall out about this Mike.” I said.” He was a stubborn bugger and I decided to exert a bit of pressure. But you have got too close to team members before and this has made managing the team complicated. “Then tell me about these things.” I struggled to contain my own impatience. Are you sure you‟ve not overstepped the mark with Elona?” I could see his anger rising and his face started to go red. It sounds like one or more of policies have been breached and you have a duty to inform me if this is the case. I gave her my word. “I did what any good manager would do. You are well liked by your team.” Mike looked at me. He fixed my gaze. he seemed to relax. . “Cards on the table. On the basis of this conversation. I felt uneasy. You have a chance to be open with me now.” “She spoke to me in confidence and I‟m not prepared to break that confidence. I did not want this situation to get nasty but experience told me to remain calm and sit in my chair.” he said with some force. I will have to talk to Dave about calling a formal enquiry. Even if it makes my position difficult I‟m not prepared to break my word. or later. Clearly you give them excellent support and I can see they appreciate this and it has worked well in the past. Curiously.
” Trust him? I don‟t think so. “No. I need your co-operation.” “Mike. he said My patience ended. “Okay. I‟ll talk. Elona. You‟ve made mistakes already. I‟ll await your call. Are you going to give it to me?” He stood thinking. I‟m saying that you do not know enough about this situation to handle it. Mike?” It was my turn to fix my eyes on his. Then. . This is not in your interests – trust me.” I argued. There is some serious shit going on here and it is my job to find out what it is.” His tone was slightly sarcastic and that annoyed me. There is more at stake here than my job. but I let it ride and saw him to the door. “Are you threatening me. and seeing as you‟ve moved me to another department it is no longer my responsibility. “Penny. People will get hurt.” he replied. This is one situation in which I will trust my own instincts. with a more friendly gesture he made a concession. you and others will be hurt if you pursue this. “People have already been hurt. Let me think on this and I‟ll get back to you. maybe this is one can of worms that needs to be opened. calling an enquiry will just compound things. “If you get Elona‟s consent.Rory Ridley-Duff “Do that and a can of worms will open so large that you may never recover from it”. I gave him one last chance.” “Right.
.Friends or Lovers Chapter 13 Things calmed down over the next few weeks. “The bad news is that you can only use one at a time. Scientists have. finally discovered the food that reduces women’s sex drive by 90%….. John and I continued to e-mail each other in the evenings and steadily got to know each other.” …. and a study involving 2000 women. “there’s some good news and some bad news”. 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. after 20 years of diligent research.it’s called Wedding Cake. 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. We bantered about men and women and I started sending him feminist jokes. I put the Elona issue on a back burner. she said to Adam.to which he replied…. He replied with “masculist” ones. . The other one I really liked was: After God made man. “So what’s the bad news?” asked Adam. and the new starters. “The good news is that I’ve given you a brain and a penis”.. I responded with a George Burns quote: .. With all the recruitment issues to deal with.. Adam asked to hear the good news first. He added that when both men and women could laugh at both jokes. then perhaps we‟ll be approaching the end of the sex war. …to which he responded….
If they didn‟t fancy me they‟d probably tell me to piss off. I can choose to blow his mind or tell him to piss off. * * * Tonight.Rory Ridley-Duff There will always be a sex war because men and women want different things: men want women and women want men. Not all women have this power – I‟m lucky. 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. 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”. shaved under my arms and between my legs (quite the fashion at the moment). And with this power comes some responsibility. they do say that in their own way after they‟ve shagged me. now I come to think of it. 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. I‟m well into my beautification routine. more ardour than intellect. But when I think about things. Do I care? Yes. They don‟t call me. If I‟m eventually going to get rejected. They managed to pack the baby off to mum‟s so we‟re going to really rock „n‟ roll. 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. out for fun without commitment. But the men in the singles scene are playing the same game. it hurts. after several months off the scene. actually. It hurts a lot. Although I‟m thirty-two. I am lucky to have young skin. I guess. About an hour ago I had a bath and soaked myself in essential oils. In fact. there is a perverse balance of power. not least because I have looked after it. at least let the man have a .
It is studded with crystals and an eye catching sky blue jewel that fits into the crease of my cleavage. plenty of money in his wallet. but the women will. I‟ve put on some crystal studs and some dangly earrings that have a blue tint (to match my eyes). I imagine most blokes won‟t notice the detail. When I‟m getting ready for nights like this. I‟m going for it.Friends or Lovers smooth tanned muscular body. and a cock as big as his ego. really cool – and cut above the knee but not so short that I look like a chav. I‟m a piece of art. I‟m a hot babe tonight. Tonight. a femme fatale out for a kill. They are not that comfortable. Sometimes being a woman is such fun. Under my trendy black leather jacket there is a leather skirt with an overlong belt – dead stylish. 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. and when I put on a black body-hugging Elle top with a suitably cut V-neck. 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 apply sky blue varnish to my fingernails. I look sexy as hell without looking cheap or trashy. I like to soap my boobs. While I wait for my sister. On my feet. I‟ve put on black high heels with open toes and a single buckle strap at the ankle. a living sculpture. a handsome face. . This is a skill men cannot appreciate – one area where you must be ambidextrous and exercise care so that the varnish is evenly applied and no splodges get on the skin. but they complete the vision. fashioned to move the senses. I have a great pair – no need for a padded bra or implants. Any under wired bra brings out the best in them.
Even with all this preparation, it‟s not looks alone that will attract. I‟ve learned from experience that the way I walk into a bar, the way I dance, the way I talk and engage makes a huge difference. If I go out in a bad mood and don‟t talk much, far fewer men approach me. But when I‟m with girlfriends being vivacious, talking boldly giving men discrete (and sometimes indiscrete) eye contact, then they flock to me like bees around a honey pot. There is nothing magical about it, I just understanding how to flaunt myself. Now my nails are dry, I open a bottle of wine. No harm having one glass before I go out. If I do have to buy my own drinks (unlikely) then it will cut down the cost of getting drunk. I take in the latest episode of Eastenders while I sip away. Eastenders! That reminds me – out comes my pad and pencil. I decided to try something out. Do men or women hit more in the soaps? To my astonishment, I find that the women hit far more often. Funny, I‟d never noticed that before. And as for adverts, I am finding that if anybody is ridiculed it is men. The only advert that reverses this is „Nuts!‟ an advert for a trashy weekly men‟s magazine. That advert is so unfunny – like women don‟t know how to do car repairs or serious DIY work in the home. Actually I don‟t know how to do these either, but it doesn‟t matter because I get my father to come over. If I‟m really stuck, then I pick up the phone to get my favourite handyman to sort it out for me. Isn‟t that what men are for? The adverts that do make me laugh are the car adverts aimed at women. „Size matters‟? It sure does – although girth is probably more important. And that AA car insurance advert, it just shows what plonkers men really are. Why spend hours and hours looking for a good deal when the AA can do it for you?
Friends or Lovers
And there are those women only insurance companies now. I can‟t believe that there is talk about banning them or forcing them to offer insurance to men too; if we women are safer drivers we should get cheaper insurance. All this stuff about insurers discriminating against men, it‟s just bollocks. Why don‟t men just learn to drive more safely? Anyway, these thoughts go through my mind as the doorbell rings. Up I get, open the door, and see Carole and Chris looking chic and ready to party. “Come on in,” I say. “Just let me finish my glass of wine and we can shoot.” I give Carole a hug. She looks great too, but her bust isn‟t as good as mine. She tends to avoid „V‟ neck tops and wears a wonderbra with smooth silky fabric against her skin. This gives the suggestion of a full breast and shows her nipples when she gets sweaty or turned on. She‟s got great nipples, my sis‟. I compliment her while I look at Chris. His eyes are on stalks as he takes in my outfit. He may be a bit of a twit, but he knows how to look at a woman and make her feel good. “You look good tonight Chris,” I say. I‟m not lying. He‟s been to River Island to buy new jeans and a shirt. I imagine Carole went with him, but he‟s a credit to her. His hair is washed and groomed. He‟s clean shaven – which I know Carole likes – and he‟s got some dead cool trainers on too. “Just let me pop to the loo,” interjects Carole. “Back in a mo.” As soon as Carole is out of sight, Chris turns to me. “You look fantastic, Penny. Whoever reels you in tonight will be a lucky guy.” “Thank you, Chris.” I respond coyly. “I aim to please.” I pause for a second and then a thought occurs to me.
“…but I think it is me who will be doing the reeling in.” “I bet you will,” he replies, his eyes firmly looking into mine. “Doesn‟t Carole look great?” I say to deflect his attention. “She sure does. I‟m a lucky guy going out on the town with you two – I‟ll be the envy of every other bloke there. You both look a million dollars.” He was doing so well up to that point but had to spoil it by drawing attention to how good we‟ll make him look. I like attracting men, but hate it when they regard me as some sort of trophy. It is comments like these that show Chris for the prat he is. Still, Carole loves him, so I guess there must be something about him. For the life of me I can‟t see what it is. Carole returns from the loo and we call a taxi. Carole and Chris stay over on nights like this and I give Chris a pair of spare house keys. There is a good chance I won‟t make it back home so they need to be able to let themselves in. I usually try to come back for breakfast, but I like to take things as they come. I can‟t predict whether I‟ll feel like coming back home; it depends on whether a gorgeous guy has whisked me off to a stunning penthouse. The taxi arrives and drives us to a classy bar at the better end of town. I like this bar. It has lots of comfy chairs to relax in with stylish tables. There is a dining area too with a dance floor between the bar area and restaurant. On Friday nights it is quiet until about 8.30pm and is rocking by 10pm. A good time to arrive is 8.15 – as we have done – early enough to get a table in the bar area, drink until the restaurant table is ready, and then work off the calories on the dance floor. Chris gets in the first round of drinks. I alternate between sparkling mineral water and wine on these occasions – it gets me
Friends or Lovers
drunk quite quickly and the water prevents me dehydrating. We chat while deciding what to eat: “So what‟s happening in your life, sis?” asked Carole. “Usual stuff at work. Always someone having difficulties or creating tension,” I replied. “And outside work?” she added. “Well, I met John. We had a good time, I think.” “You think?” queried Chris. “You can never be sure, but yes, I think we had a good time,” I confirmed. Carole looked at me closely, and rested her chin on her hand momentarily as a subtle grin took shape on her face. “What?” I asked. She continued to grin but didn‟t say anything. “Why are you looking at me like that?” Both Carole and Chris looked at each other and smiled. “Are you going to meet him again, then?” Carole finally asked. “Yes. Now would you like me to tell you the length of his penis?” I remarked pointedly. Chris laughed. Carole looked me directly in the eye and did not miss a beat. “Yes. Just give me a rough idea. Was it as long as his CV?” “His what?” “His CV – you said he was an academic turned consultant – he must have a very long CV…..” “Carole. I‟ve news for you. He‟s just a friend.” “Oh yeah.” She took on a superior tone as she started to make fun of me. “My big sister who is all upright and proper at work, but a regular shag-bag outside work, has got a „friend‟. It‟s got bells on. Try again.”
“I like him, okay. He‟s married. He‟s told me straight that he loves his wife, his kids. This is a friendship.” “And you believe him?” interjected Chris. I paused for a moment. Inside I was not sure whether I believed him or not. I was not sure I wanted to believe that all he wanted was friendship, but for reasons that I could not understand I felt that he meant what he said, even if I would have liked more. Finally, I spoke. “Yes,” was all I said. Both Chris and Carole looked at each other again and gave each other a puzzled look. “But you never have male friends outside work!” shrieked Carole. “You have male friends at work and a line of hunks knocking at your door outside work.” I was about to object but on reflection she was probably right. I do have female friends although many stop seeing me when they have steady boyfriends. I used to think they were just busy, but slowly I realised that they were deliberately avoiding me. Men as friends? No. She was right. Friendship with men had thus far proved impossible. “Hey! Perhaps she‟s growing up?” Chris commented to Carole. “Cut the cheek you,” I objected, but there was no stopping him. “Next you‟ll be telling us that you are going to look for a husband.” “Not tonight,” I quipped. Then, to make sure Chris was aware that I‟d not enjoyed his comments, I looked at him with a dismissive smile. “Men over 25 need not apply.”
Friends or Lovers
It was Carole‟s turn to laugh. “God sis‟! When are you going to grow up and settle down?” If there is one thing that Carole had never said to me before it was that I should settle down. I thought she knew better, but the way she said this in such a carefree and matter of fact way actually stopped me in my tracks for a second. “Not tonight,” I said after a moment. “I‟ll give it some thought tomorrow.” My mind returned to the task in hand and I could feel my face relax and a more pleasant demeanour return. “But since the night is young and there are some young strapping lads here who are hot and willing…….let‟s get on and eat, drink and party.” We ordered our food and I finished my second glass of wine. People were beginning to come into the bar in greater numbers; couples, groups of young men and women, sometimes together and sometimes separate. By 9pm we were sitting at our table, and the bar was getting so crowded that we had to queue for drinks. After main courses and coffee, and a third glass of wine, I was ready to dance. “Shall we hit the floor?” I asked. Carole turned to Chris and gave a gesture. “I‟ll stay here and order some coffees?” he responded. “I‟d rather have another sparkling water. Best not to mix drinks too much,” I said with a delicate hint of sarcasm. Carole nodded and we made our way onto the floor. As I looked around, I could see the eyes of several men follow me. One of my great pleasures in life is attracting admiring looks when I dance. When the DJ put on “You Sexy Thing” I began to take control of the dance floor. I like this song, particularly
As I walk right past him. For now. I grinned broadly and briefly as I flashed a look at the young man sitting at the bar. Then I turn to Chris so that my back is towards him. chatting. I began to look around as I danced to see whose eye I could catch. I saw that Chris was queuing at the bar not far from him so I turned to Carole. I caught half a dozen men looking in my direction. but his eyes kept looking in my direction. I put my arms above my head and I let my hips swing and my long hair fall sensuously about me. Three-seconds is tantamount to telling him I want him inside my knickers. our eyes meet. I have his attention. One was so taken that his girlfriend put her hand under his jaw and twisted his face back so that it looked at her. “I‟ll just help Chris with the drinks. God. As the song ended. As I walked towards this young man I looked directly at him and I could see his nervousness. He was with friends. he was great – but I think I have the edge when it comes to oozing sex appeal. In Cosmo I read that a second of eye contact is a flirt. 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. A two-second gaze is a come-on. within a couple of feet.Rory Ridley-Duff since I saw Robert Carlisle strut his stuff in The Full Monty. I give him a series of strong admiring looks each lasting a second or two.” and off I went. . Good. 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. At the bar was a strong looking young man in a white tee-shirt and jeans. As I cast my eyes around the restaurant tables.
I knew that I‟d probably had enough. His friends realised I was giving him the eye and they were ribbing him and laughing loudly. gyrating my hips and inviting the onlookers to let their imagination run wild. Still. I could feel the effects of the drink.” “It‟s not his heart I‟m interested in. . and that another glass might cause me to get sleepy before I‟d had any fun. One gave him a shove forward as if to say “Go on. get after her!” He smiled and laughed in an embarrassed way but did not come out onto the dance floor. “Go easy on the young lad. I tip-toed around her while I downed the water. His heart may not be up to it.” Even though I was alternating water and wine. Whether it was the drink or not. Chris. Carole was bopping away to YMCA when I arrived back with my drink. Pretending to be helpful.Friends or Lovers “Shall I take that. it had been a while since I‟d let my hair down so I decided to take things as I found them. “Not as much as his. one of my favourites. The next record was Madonna‟s Open Your Heart. with my arms above my head. I think” I say turning to my admirer and catching his eye again. I decided to bide my time. “Dancing is thirsty work. He seemed a bit more nervous that most men. They were.” I ask. Penny. As I returned to the dance floor.” “Watching you makes my throat go dry too. Soon I was in full flow again. he definitely looked good to me. Pen. 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. gently moving in time with the music so as not to spill anything.” he jokes. and Carole decided to leave me to hog the limelight while she drank her coffee.
I shan‟t be long. I let my cheek very gently touch his. Would you like to get me a drink and we can chat when I get back?” He broke into a big grin and nodded. I walked down the stairs to the toilets. I looked in the mirror. backed away a little as I went up to him calmly and confidently. I closed my eyes and pictured the young man who was buying me a drink. “White wine. After five minutes Carole and Chris joined me and we grooved away for the next couple of records. It was time to cast my line and hook my man. he was really very fit indeed and his face was kind and very pleasing to the eye. The tingle of anticipation heightened my arousal as I entered a cubicle to relieve myself. I imagined my youthful admirer . like the parting of the red sea. . “Just going to the loo. I was ready. past two young couples who were already exploring each other‟s throats and fondling each others‟ buttocks.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 put my hand on his shoulder as I drew my mouth close up to his right ear.” As I drew away. letting the alcohol and atmosphere go to our heads. but if they tried to touch I quickly moved away so as not to discourage the man I‟d set my eyes on.” I shouted in Chris‟s ear. “Hi! I‟m just going to the girls‟ room. His friends. I allowed them to dance near me. “Back in a minute!” I walked towards the bar again and could see my catch stare at me as I approached him. Yes.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. My black hair had become loose and free-flowing and I looked like a high-class tart.
It occurred to me that I had not heard him speak yet so I held out my hand. but there was a hint of humour there. “Do you like the outfit?” I asked giving him a quick twirl. he raised it to his lips and kissed it.” He took it and instead of shaking it. “Most of us work for the AA. Very smooth. His conversation skills could do with a bit of grooming. “Out with your mates. Again. Load of tossers. It looked like I was going to have to be gentle with him. I see. emergency breakdowns and that stuff. I must say. looking over in their direction. I‟m Penny. he did not respond.Friends or Lovers I returned to the bar and he had my drink ready. not overloaded in the brain department. trying to get the conversation going again. he didn‟t respond and I began to wonder whether I‟d misread him. Rescuing damsels in distress!” So. fast enough to give a flash of suspenders. “Yeah. what do you and your mates do?” I said. then?” I wondered if this was too much of a come on. looking him straight in the eye.” I said. In fact.. To my surprise.” I raised my glass in their direction and they acknowledged me en masse. but they‟re alright. but I thought it was already obvious that I was coming onto him. “So. “Them lot?” he said. “Are you feeling lucky tonight. “George. “Nothing wrong with a good toss…. . “Hi.” he said. if I‟d not known better I would have said he almost wet his pants. I decided to play with him and see how far he would go. you know.” I said.
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.” “Fuck. and then gave him a wicked look.” he said. I‟m not sure exactly what I did or said.I…. was it?” He laughed and suddenly he relaxed. Is he deliberately flattering me or does it come naturally.Rory Ridley-Duff I saw the Adam‟s apple in his throat move.I think you look….. “There. “I….I think you look…. I smiled at him – a genuine smile of appreciation. but from that moment on he seemed to change into a different person.. “I only go out when I‟m with my sister. “I‟ve not seen you here before. “I‟m twenty five.” Cool. “Hmm. Hot stuff. you look like a fit young lad. very smooth. he really was nervous! But then some words came out. “Twenty next week. I thought.” 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…. Are you old enough for me?” I teased.absolutely fucking fantastic.” Come on lad. That was good. spit it out.” At last. . Christ.” Keep them coming. She‟s over there with her would-be hubby. “I thought you were my age. that wasn‟t so hard. “Well.” I moved closer to him and pointed her out on the dance floor. How about you?” I decided to lie – no point shattering his illusions..
leaning against the wall like a prostitute waiting for a client. He came down the stairs and I could see the animalism in him. I thought him quite a sexy dancer and his friends were fun too. 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. . I managed to make him understand that he should meet me outside the loos in 5 minutes. I pulled away slightly and whispered in his ear. The place suddenly came alive and I found myself surrounded by young men. Over the loud music.don‟t waste it all now. with George‟s arms around my waist as we did a bump and grind.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. gently as first.” I put my hand between his legs and gave a quick squeeze. It felt confident and firm which I hoped was a good sign for later. He moved well. I opened my mouth and let his tongue in. I heard a slow rising sound from my right. I went to check my make-up again.. “…. plenty of time for that later…. For his age he was a good kisser. Carole and Chris joined us and we had quite a party for the next hour. We kissed passionately. and his tongue explored my mouth. There was a sudden movement from all of George‟s friends and I followed them onto the dance floor. I drank another glass of water and wine and started to feel very naughty. I parted my legs slightly and guided him in between them. He friends were looking on and gave a long slow “Wwwwooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrr!” With perfect timing Rock DJ started to play. and then more passionately. relieved myself once more and then waited outside.
kissing me gently. He did . He carried me through and dropped me on the bed. We paid the taxi driver. 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. “That room. feeling his muscular body. I slowly pulled my arms up behind my head. He pulled my pants to one side and buried his face in my pussy. Then came my first disappointment. His head was between my thighs.” I said. moving up slowing. and opened my legs wide for him so he could see my suspenders in all their glory. under my skirt and inside my top. his hand was under my skirt again and I opened my legs wide for him. closed my eyes. who bid us farewell with the comment “Have fun!” As soon as we were inside the door of my flat. I jumped up and put my legs around his waist. indicating he should stop. Then he climbed roughly back on top of me and tried to put it in. He understood immediately and took off his trousers and pants. I grabbed his head. My hands were inside his tee-shirt. He nodded and we gathered our jackets and left.” I indicate with a nod of the head. I flagged us a taxi and gave the driver the address. “Time to get out of here. and pointed down to his crotch. His hands were all over me. That firm tongue that was so good exploring my mouth felt like a dish mop between my legs. As the car moved away. His fingers worked inside the hem of my pants and rubbed around my clit. rubbing him up and down while he finger-fucked me.Rory Ridley-Duff our hand moving over each others bodies and between each others legs. Then a finger was inside me and I gasped before grabbing his hair and guiding his mouth back to mine.
I shut my eyes and started to imagine it was John behind me.” I said with a hint of impatience. “Do you want me on all fours?” I asked. It started to work. fill me up with your spunk.” I added in a seductive tone. I pictured John‟s handsome face behind me. so I shut my eyes and let him fuck me for a few minutes. my excitement rose. I put my hands down between my legs and tried to compensate for this unerotic experience by massaging my clit.” he said furiously. looking for the entrance. and his cock working away in my pussy.. egging him on. but poked around inexpertly. and lowered my head against the pillow and presented my perfectly fuckable clean-shaven fanny to him. “Yeah. “Take it a bit slower. thumping away in my hole and I began to feel a prickle welling up in my body. “John?!” he shouted and suddenly pulled out of me. I started talking. ”Long and deep. Eventually he was inside. Then quickly nodded. I was beginning to get frustrated. come on John……. Yeah.Friends or Lovers not guide it in with his hand. give it to me hard. 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 took up my position. come on big boy. but he pumped me so fast and furiously that it hurt. He looked at me in an odd way. “Who the fuck is John?” he shouted at me. He broddled about again before he found the hole and despite my instruction he continued to pump fast and furious. his strong hands on my back. I liked it long and slow.
You‟re a fucking crap kisser. the wave started to break. come on hun. As I felt it get closer. I suppose it was good while it lasted!” I added sarcastically. It grew inside me slowly.” He dressed quickly and did not bother to button up his shirt or jacket before he made for the door. are never 25. my emotions started to erupt. “Well. engulfing me and crashing frenetically throughout my body.” I saw his face slowly turn to beetroot as the resentment rose in him. get it back in me.” I picked up a glass of water by the bed and threw it at him. I sat back on the bed and curled up.!” I shouted at the top of my voice but he was already out of the front door before I‟d finished saying it. His face turned red.. I turned away. “And you. so it rose in me too. he turned around and with a cruel sneer made a parting remark that I‟ll never forget. “I am not a piece of meat!” He started to put on his clothes. got up and shot an irritated glance at him as I walked to the bathroom. “You bastard. I felt my mouth twitch and my eyes grow moist.Rory Ridley-Duff “George. As soon as I realised he was going to leave the rage boiled over in me too. but he closed the door and it smashed. George. come on…. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with distress and an emotion that I‟d not felt for years. As it did. Then he bellowed. “Fuck off out of here…. As he left the room. swelling like a wave and rolling slowly into shore. Piss off out of here. you old slapper. your tongue is like a dish mop and you fuck like a pneumatic drill! Go on. What am I doing? I‟m a grown .
John. My pitifully shallow life crushed me. I curled up into a ball and started to howl like a baby. With my eyes dripping. the first time since I kicked out my university boyfriend after he‟d cheated on me with my best friend. And as I wept. I thought of nothing else but to be with John. as if I had been run through with a wooden stake. to weep as I lay on his chest. Never in my life had I felt such pain and I wept for the first time in 11 years. . What am I doing? Suddenly. I wanted to be with John. My insides convulsed in pain. to feel his arms around me.Friends or Lovers woman picking up a teenager for sex. I was being swept away on a huge wave of feeling. I thought of only one thing.
Who have I ever made happy? I‟ve done so much. Every year that passes. If they run away. pulled this way. then that. Okay.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 14 I cried for an hour as thoughts bounced around my mind like a powerball inside a hollow steel container. I get up and go to the bathroom. Why not? What was I doing wasting my life? I‟m not young any more. never letting anyone settle with me. same old. And. I used to like the staff I recruited. I feel ugly. Who am I? What is this life I have created? Why am I so afraid? Why do men treat me like shit? Why do I treat them like shit? As much as I hated George for saying it. I push them away. If they get too close. There must be more. the less I seem to feel for people. There must be something beyond passion and sex. In the past. but I don‟t know any more. Sometimes I wish people would just stay still. The greater the responsibility. a succulent Sunday roast to devour and then throw away the carcass. I had treated him like a piece of meat. But now. for ten years. fill out more paper work. Same old. Yet another person leaves and I have to shuffle everyone around. on and off. I never sought a relationship. But there is something missing that I can‟t understand. but achieved so little. week after . it is a chore. never settling with anyone. I earn more brownie points but feel less enthusiasm. certainly nothing that would last. I was all over the place. I‟ve lived like this. update more systems. am I really happy at work? I tell everyone that I am. I get mad and grab onto someone else to ease the pain. so I can pull the guys. to enjoy nurturing them and watching them grow. My face is stained and I look ugly.
I calmed down enough to get a sentence out. Come on John. “Just hearing a friendly voice helps. I finally manage to say my name.”wh….this…ime…. Such a fool. What is the point? As I throw myself on the bed. . Who is it?” Amongst the whimpers. Pick it up.of…. It rings.” I knew I was not making much sense but at least some feelings were coming out. “I can hear you crying. I pick it up and type „John‟ and press „Dial‟. be there.. “I‟m such a fool. I really did not know what to say. But what‟s happened?” he asked again. I‟ve really fucked up.” I paused. “Just take your time.she …. Hawww… Who‟s th… What time is it? Fuck! What? Errm. I can make out a woman‟s voice saying “who is it. I pull my hair back and begin to dab my face to remove some of the stains while the tears start to flow again.” “Good. love?” I have no idea why. pick it up. And rings. “Penny? You still there? What happened. Without a moment‟s thought. “Urrm. “Oh. month after month. I try to talk but all I can do is sob. Just tell me what happened. but then his voice comes across strongly. John. “Penny? What is it? What‟s happened?” In the background. “Hello?” he asks. No hurry. It sounds like the line is breaking up.” I said. Who is there?” he finally says.giht”. darling?” and he responds that it is me. but the moment he said the word „love‟ I started to feel safer. I look at the clock and the mobile phone next to it.Friends or Lovers week. I can faintly hear another question…. Good.
uck…. Please forgive me for waking you up. I‟m not even sure. He said he didn‟t know but that he‟d find out tomorrow.” I stopped for a moment and he spoke with a strong voice. Before he signed off I heard her say in a less concerned.ling you?”.” I replied. Right now. Write out what you are feeling. and much .goin…. It‟s not that.you know I just don‟t know what it is. I just wanted to talk to someone.” And that was all he needed to say.” I knew that he would not be able to make head or tail of this. To know that I was going to see him made such a difference that I felt my tears and distress subside. “Thank you. John.” I could hear a woman‟s voice again asking “wher….” I continued. just get a pen and paper and write. “Penny. Normality returned. “No.” “Why?” I said with a puzzled tone. I‟ll call again in the morning. It is so stupid.it‟s just…. Can you do something for me?” “I‟ll try. Thank you. “Tomorrow I‟ll come round and we‟ll read it together. “Can you get a pen and paper and write down what you are feeling now. Then another faint question: “why….morrow?” and then John‟s voice explain that it was me on the phone and that I was seriously distressed by something. It‟s just that…. No. Maybe it is the drink. but as I talked I was trying to work out in my head exactly what it was that I was upset about.Rory Ridley-Duff “I feel so stupid. Don‟t think too hard. I don‟t even understand why I‟m upset or why I‟ve called you.. Why exactly was I crying? “I just had a bad night. “Have you been attacked?” he said kindly.
By the time I heard a key in the lock I had written only two words. superman.Friends or Lovers friendlier voice “come…ack…t…. Find that pen and paper. I’m lonely. I did so for over 30 minutes trying to form thoughts in my mind and get them down on paper. Penny. Start writing for me. .”. I got a pen and paper and started to think. “I have to go now. Then he spoke to me again.” I said that I would.ed.
Do you…. “It‟s too painful. “You mustn‟t do that!” “But…. “God.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 15 Carole looked after me. I‟m sure she must think that I was raped or assaulted.” “What a bastard!” said Carole.” “What about the police?” Chris asked.” “Why not?” they said together.” . „sis.I just couldn‟t . that I was fantasising about another man. Carole holding my hand.He…. “What happened. I had to tell them enough of the truth for them to understand and not blame anyone. They just sat there quietly.and luckily she did not press me.I….” threatened Chris. “Um….” I had to tell them something. but I just can‟t tell her that the man I‟d seduced had realised. How do you tell that to anyone. Chris on one side.want to…” “No. “I‟ll punch his face in next time I see him. Carole and Chris had no idea how to stop me. Then Carole took my arm and spoke more softly. “He walked out on me. We got back here. no!” I said with a start. We just want to help. mid-shag. with his hand on my back.” I said quickly. You must not blame him. Chris slept in the spare bed while little „sis slept with me.” “I…. you can tell us. let alone your sister? I had another session sobbing my eyes out at the breakfast table. I couldn‟t tell her what happened . No. started having sex and then he just got up and walked out on me.d‟you…. “No. I could tell they‟d been talking to each other.
“Family cuddle. Then her mouth closed. As soon as I was on my feet she held her arms open and I fell into them. What could I say? “I don‟t want to tell you. I know I look all confident and happy.” she said pulling away and looking me in the face. It just all came down on me. “Welcome to the real world. sis. and for reasons I could not understand another wave of emotion engulfed me and the tears .” and she cast a glance at Chris the like of which I‟d never noticed before.” he said. So will you. Clearly she could not believe what she was hearing. I look at you and Chris and wonder what I‟m doing with my life.but when this „something‟ happened we got angry with each other.” “But why all the tears.” Carole‟s mouth dropped open. but I could not tell them what happened. but I‟d trade places with you if I could. I was so used to her moaning about his habits that I‟d not noticed that she really admired him. “Something happened that upset the evening. No happy endings?” I asked.” she whispered. My life looks great on the outside but inside it is a heap of shit.Friends or Lovers What could I say? I did not want to lie. sis‟” said Chris. That‟s all I can say. “Oh! Carole. “No fairy tales. “Don‟t be such a cynic. It is no-one‟s fault – you must not blame him .” I started but suddenly the words started to come out. she took my hand and indicated I should stand up. “Why not?” “I found my prince charming. Chris smiled back then put his arms around both of us.
” “Romance?” laughed Chris. shut up. Go on. Let it out.” “Don‟t!” was my first response. “John called. Just put on something real casual and be yourself.” I said.” I suddenly realised that my little sister had done more growing up than I had.” said Carole. It was already 10. I wondered if. She had taken on the responsibility of a partner and baby. “He sounded nice. “Oh. I‟d never been ready to do that. “I‟ve had all the romance I can take for one weekend. . “That‟s right.” My hand rose to my forehead as I gave her a salute. I‟d never noticed before what a kind smile he had. And I was still not sure if I was ready to do it now. I went over to the dresser and combed my hair.Rory Ridley-Duff started to flow again. yes!” I remembered and was amazed. but the smile that was creeping back into my demeanour communicated to him that I did not really mean it. Carole spoke softly while Chris hugged us both. Carole smiled at me. “Now girl. I had misjudged him.” “John? Oh God. I had my career but how did that compare to the responsibility of loving another person? I hadn‟t done that. Chris smiled back at me. Get it out. He was going to keep his word. What had I done? Yeah.30. He said he‟ll pick you up at 12pm. perhaps. John was coming at mid-day so I had to stir myself to start getting ready. “By the way. “Don‟t dress up for him.” Carole suddenly interjected.
it was good advice after all.” I knew she was trying to help. however it goes. . I took it on the chin. however. but it always annoyed me when she gave advice like this.Friends or Lovers “Don‟t try to impress him. Just let the day unfold and run with it.
After what seemed like forever.” “And her partner…. . She lent back and gave him a kiss on his neck to thank him for the compliment. “Sure. walked around again and generally irritated everybody. fidgeted. I looked at my watch and could not believe that it was only 12:06. I‟d removed my make-up. He put his hand over his mouth.” Chris was standing behind Carole and wrapping her in his arms.” chirped Chris. As each car passed outside. I kept expecting it to be him. I can meet that sister of yours. a car pulled up and a handsome man in jeans and a black pullover got out of the car and looked around.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 16 Twelve o‟clock came and went. I unlatched the door and opened it. and just put on a small amount of transparent lippy to give them a moist look. “Would you like to come in for a sec?” I asked. The one with the sexy voice. The wait seemed interminable. I drank the dregs of my tea. “She has got a sexy voice. “Don‟t apologise. and I could feel a few butterflies in my stomach with each passing minute. “Oopps!” he said self-consciously. He was clearly looking at the house numbers to check which doorbell to press. “Hi there!” he said without a moment‟s hesitation.” I quipped nodding my head in Chris‟s direction. just jeans and a rugby shirt (with a cut especially for women). sat down. walked around. John had a cup of coffee and made small talk with Carole and Chris while I gathered up my things. I‟d dressed casually.
but was keen to walk somewhere quiet. the music of a person did not care about fashion or his own image. He saw my eyes casting over his collection. Queen.” To my surprise he opened another hidden compartment with a further dozen CDs. . and the colour and style had a hint of sexiness about it. he had a selection of CDs.” he joked as he escorted me to his car. “Your carriage awaits you. said his „farewells‟ and „nice to meet yous‟. with a 2-litre engine. full security system. I thought for a moment. but he liked a few luxuries. or gas-guzzler. but from work I had more knowledge of motors than the average gal. sunroof and alloy wheels.” I suggested. It fitted his character. the Yellowjackets and Mozart. Norah Jones and Eva Casidy but it doesn‟t look like you have any. I had no wish to go a long way. His tastes were broad and selective. “Any preferences?” “I particularly like Carly Simon. Inside the car.Friends or Lovers “I‟m set to go!” I finally said. just the sensuous experience of listening. I was no expert. “How about Warwick castle? We could walk around the grounds. “Any particular destination you‟d like?” he asked gently. John got up. compilations of classical music by French classical composers and American jazz artists. It was quite a swish car. He‟d chosen a mid-range Ford in black. Carly Simon. Madam. He took out the „Very Best of Carly Simon” CD and away we drove to the rich tones of „You‟re So Vain‟. I thought. incar stereo/CD player. He had no need for a flashy sports car. In there was music by Casiopeia.
“But there is one condition. you told me.Rory Ridley-Duff He nodded. I have friends in Warwick.” he added. I‟d called him when I was distressed and he was bound to think I wanted to talk about what happened. “What‟s that?” “No hanky panky!” he said with a smile. “Was your wife okay about your coming here today?” “Not really. a bit. “You know the way?” I queried. I recalled the voice in the background during our phone conversation. Now he was here. .” “Is that what you are?” I asked. She was forgiving. “Yes. I was not sure what to say.” I did not feel talkative because I was not sure how to start. but at this particular moment I was happy to borrow someone else‟s knight for the day. “Do you want to eat before or after the walk?” he asked. “Let‟s walk first. I could hardly tell him the truth. I still had a bit of a hangover so food was not high on my agenda yet.” I suggested. I was about to give him directions but he made a left turn.” It didn‟t fit somehow with the conversations we‟d previously had about equality between the sexes. She knows that no man – particularly me – can totally resist being a knight in shining armour. “I don‟t mind being a stand-in until you find someone who can do it for you full time.” “Of course. I realised that he must already know the area. She‟ll get over it.
“Thank you. 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.Friends or Lovers “The thought never crossed my mind. seemed appropriate for the contract that we were making between us.” he said with mock politeness. This small phrase.” I said. “I am now in your hands.” he confirmed. with some irony. After this.” I said with a haughty look that I imagined women of class would give to a chauffeur. “Okay.” I snapped back with a grin. My sumptuous naughty side had not been destroyed by the humiliation I‟d been through. 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 . We set off on a path around the perimeter of the castle. normally the preserve of people tying the knot. the kitten in me was still there. I felt myself relax and the prospect of the day ahead filled me with pleasure. or footman.” “In my dreams”. I liked this path because it led through a couple of wooded areas. “I do. 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. Madam. The trauma of the previous night receded as I filled my senses with thoughts of what we would do with our day. “Just so long as we both understand the boundaries. Even though it sometimes got me into trouble. He may have been driving. but he caught my message and smiled back at me briefly. I thought to myself. my man. I was grateful for that.
the bastards that dumped me. “Penny. I‟m not good at sharing my feelings. We walked for a couple of minutes without saying anything to each other. I could have written about how jealous I am of my sister. lots of tiny agonies. All the boyfriends I dumped.” I replied. I could have written pages and pages of trivia. I sensed that both of us were looking for an opening line that would enable us to talk about what had happened.” I was afraid but I longed to talk to him. This is not easy for me to talk about. He did not interrupt and I realised that he expected something more. lots of conflicting emotions about how angry I feel about things that happened in the past. “Last night I tried to follow your advice. The full circuit would take about 45 minutes and by then I would feel ready for lunch.Rory Ridley-Duff a view of the whole locality. I sat down after I came off the phone.” He gave me one of those half-smiles that conveyed both sympathy and an understanding of my suffering. I could have written . but I had to start somewhere. “Yes. their irritating habits. or made me feel beautiful when they were trying to get in my knickers. She‟s found a man to love her and now has a beautiful child that she dotes on. irritations with things at work. “I imagine a man was involved somehow last night?” I wished it was that simple. we don‟t have to talk about this if you don‟t want to. “It‟s okay. particularly with men. Finally. but then backed off when I opened my heart in response to their lovely words. That was the trigger. made myself a coffee and tried to write down what was troubling me. “The trigger for what?” I looked at him and the distress must have shown in my face. or didn‟t call me. he spoke.
John?” “Come here. Do you know what I wrote in the end?” It was a rhetorical question. but he followed form by asking me anyway. You‟d think my father would be the one to object. . I felt my eyes moisten again and I looked at him. I could see a single tear rolling down his left cheek. “I‟m lonely. I noticed that he was listening intently so I continued. it was my mother who was constantly critical. They made me feel safer and all warm inside. and just as my sister had earlier in the day. but I would not be controlled. “John!” I started.” he said. And then I got a total shock. John. Really lonely. Unlike my sister. real passion and I did not want to wait until some stupid outdated law said I could sleep with boys. I said out loud the words that I‟d hidden in my head for years. however. There were times we would hit each other. “I fought her for years. I had passion in me. He was crying. She thought I was „too young‟ for boyfriends! How can you choose things like that? I was ready at 14. John. He was crying. 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. “Well. his arms were larger and stronger. all this was going through my head last night while I held the pad.” I stopped for a second to gather my recollections. And then I said it.” As I said the words.” He nodded.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. he offered his arms and I fell into them. but no. “What is it.
I felt the . My God! I looked at him. you had made several girlfriends who later became your enemies. all that „competence‟.” “We all need intimacy in our lives. I sat alone in my room and felt so unbearably alone that I cried my eyes out. something that my father might have done to me as he put me to bed. I wished that I could have stayed in his arms for longer. After my parents drove away.Rory Ridley-Duff He rocked me gently from side to side for a few seconds. all that „professionalism‟ comes at a high price. I could not remember a time when I had cried like this…. so I gave him a puzzled look. For the first time in years. But those few hours were the loneliest. you had lads competing to become your boyfriend. “When was the last time you felt like this.” I smiled. It was such a gentle gesture. “I‟ve made all my own choices. I‟ll bet.” He gave me a sideways glance. but I was still not sure what he meant. even hard-nosed career women. but it would not have been right. “But at such a high price…” he responded. talked like this?” I thought hard.” “And by the end of the day. “Not since my first day at university. “Yes. or be my slave. And after your first disco. Penny. Unbearable. I was not sure what he meant. “All that „control‟. never let anybody run my life for me.” As he said this he cupped my cheek with his hand. Then he released me and started to walk again. He spoke more. don‟t you think?” And I did think..
Friends or Lovers warmth of a man‟s love and I could not stop my head incline itself towards his soft touch. “I‟ll try. I felt I just had to hear your voice. “Help me. was the question I did not want to answer. “Not an expert. but I felt I should give him something to understand why I‟d called. “Do you want to talk about last night?” he asked as we resumed our stroll.” he said reassuringly. You‟re an expert in it.” .” Suddenly some words popped out of my mouth that I did not intend.” There was a pregnant pause while he considered the import of what I had just said. I had to say something. That. Penny. I was not sure. “I fell out with the person I picked up at a bar. “Because if there is anyone who can help me unravel the minefield that stands between men and women. however. It is just something I take a keen interest in. All that loneliness – it just crashed down on me and I had to talk to you. “Of course I will.” I detected his pleasure at hearing this. John. He walked out.” “Why mine?” he asked. after all. I guess it is you. indeed.
My attraction to him never completely left me. He looked at me as if he was searching my soul. Wherever we were. as we started on our desserts.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 17 Over the next few hours we took in the views around Warwick. discussed politics. and generally just chilled together. he suggested that we might like to eat at Pizza Hut again. I chose my favourite Italian. and know that he was nearby. we talked and exchanged thoughts constantly. I admired him. just filled with the admiration a person might feel looking at a beautiful portrait or marvelling at a moment of cinematic brilliance. . climbed a tower. Our conversation never stopped all day. hear his voice. but the desire to seduce him slowly ebbed away. not ogling my body. and the way his eyes fixed themselves on me sometimes. a place tucked away in a cobbled side street that was quiet enough to have a hint of romance. I was more relaxed with him than I had been with any man for over a decade. and it filled me with a confidence that I could not explain. By late afternoon. laughed. perhaps more relaxed with him than any man except my father. lunched in a tea shop. The sexual tension was always there. that I should take him somewhere special to thank him for the day out. “How‟s that problem at work you had?” he asked. travelled to deepest outer space. I just wanted to be with him. but with a festive atmosphere. joked. His eyes were not lustful. the meaning of life. whatever we did. I felt. occupy the same space. I could tell that he was sucking in my beauty so that he could savour and bathe in it. however.
not just about the current incident but about a past relationship too. but I should get the full story soon – we‟ll be working together on a project. “The one about the problem you had at work. Fifteen love. second or third question?” he said chuckling. Yeah. so I dropped the stupid stuff and regained my composure. “Work. “Do you want to ask the first one?” I was not giving up first.” “So what‟s the story there?” “Well. “My first. but I think she is holding back on an incident with somebody in the team.” I said with a victory salute. but he‟s hiding something from me. What about your friend? “I‟ve only had one update. it has been difficult at home for him. Can we?” he said with his smile broadening all the time.” “Gotcha. “You mean there are so many?” “Can we utter a sentence without it being a question?” I asked. he seems more on the level than I first thought. I get the feeling that some sexual shit is going on that nobody wants to talk about. “What was your question again?” was my retort. Things have moved on a bit. The more I talk to the man. “I don‟t know. The more I learn about the woman‟s situation…… Well. She‟s a prude for sure. The problem at work has made things worse at home. His face told me that he was interested in more than the game. Things don‟t seem to be quite right. but he‟s very sensitive about what happened.” “Why‟s that?” “He thinks it will be okay.Friends or Lovers “Which problem is that?” I answered without looking up. the more I sense that he‟s trying to be straight with me.” .
er…four years. 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. She became his lodger for several months while they waited for a vacancy at a refuge.” I commented “Not something you hear about every day. he gave her support but after a few weeks they had a real heart to heart and she said she wanted to get out. Big problem. about four years ago.” “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. Right.” “I bet his wife did not like that!” “Yeah. “Okay. The money thing was too much for her and she threw him out. He‟s a really sweet guy. He helped her furnish her room. His wife accused him of having an affair.” “I‟m in no rush. “Anyway. He didn‟t want to let . and to this day he has always denied it. yes.” he clarified. but he convinced her that he‟d no choice.” “So what happened?” “Well. So he stayed with his woman friend as her lodger for a while.Rory Ridley-Duff “Why?” “To explain that I‟d have to go way back. Well he had a difficult period with his wife about…. that night he collected her from her home and took her to his. It took a few months but eventually his wife came around and let him come back home. She took him back but made him promise never to get involved with another woman again.” I said.” “Not a situation you come across every day. Big rows. His wife was not pleased.
“Do……ah!” Then he did something that really startled me. “Do you…. There didn‟t seem to be anyone in his life that he did not like. “I‟ll answer that question if you will tell me why you‟re asking it. I‟ve enjoyed today.ever fantasise about me?” I asked. He changed jobs and only told his wife afterwards. So he backed off and upset her. He took my hands in his. He took one hand away and squeezed his nose. “Penny. one that invites intimacy.” It was one of those leading phrases. . “Sometimes things don‟t need to be said. I said it anyway. “Do you…. John was relaxed while we chatted and I could tell he cared about his friend. I don‟t think it was this because he immediately raised his eyebrows in astonishment. “Deal. I got a feeling that John just cared about people.” Why was I asking it? I was not sure.. Did I have the courage to say it? “Do you…. why was I so nervous? I hate my nerves.” I stopped.” Inside I could feel my heart pumping and my breathing quicken.” I felt sorry for this guy.” and he gave me that same warm smile that I remembered from our first meeting. but he also didn‟t want her to get too close to him. Whatever he had expected.” Hell. This was risky. He sounded like he really cared for both his wife and his work colleagues and just wanted to help everybody.Friends or Lovers her down. I‟ve enjoyed today too. In fact.” I said. “John.
“Last night….. to tell him the part he had played in it.Rory Ridley-Duff He hesitated. I could feel the emotion rising in me again. I wanted to share my humiliation with him. I shuddered because I realised why I‟d asked him this question. but I did not want him to reject me. a deep pleasure that he thought of me sexually. reminding me of the pact. about the way things had unfolded. I wanted to share this. I tensed. I closed my eyes and summoned my strength. “The answer is „Yes‟. but only for a moment. “You don‟t need to say it. You don‟t need to say it.” my hands started to shake. “Your turn. .” but I stopped again.. but disappointment that he mentioned his wife.” I never trusted anyone so why did I want to trust him? What was I doing here with him? He was married and we were holding hands in a restaurant while his family was a hundred miles away. This was crazy. and he noticed immediately and took my hands again. I wanted to tell him I fantasised about him. “Last night?” he queried. I hesitated. “I….” I felt a peculiar sensation.” I stopped and looked down into my lap. Clearly he wanted me to know that I would not take her place. Was this going to lead to disaster? I wanted to tell him. but not when I‟m making love to my wife. I was not sure if I had the courage to say it.. Penny. I wanted to tell him about the night before. “Penny.” he said. What if he was angry? What if I spoiled the whole day? What if it ruined our friendship? “I….” he repeated.
“Why?” I said with astonishment. I laughed. I‟m so sorry I rang you. and I shuffled awkwardly in my seat. with relief mostly. I had never talked like this with anyone. I just could not. John got up from his seat. I looked up. “Are you crazy? You‟re married and I‟m pouring out these feelings to you. “Yes.” he said with a laugh.Friends or Lovers I made an attempt at a smile. “It was awful.” “So we‟ve broken the rules. but it was not a very convincing one. I laughed and suddenly I felt it was okay to carry on. Through my sobs I suddenly heard the sound of my own voice. not my mother. “…I felt so alone. I could not say the words. I should not be telling you this. tears were dripping down my face. letting the tears roll. He gave my hands a little squeeze to keep me reassured. I can‟t believe I‟m telling you this. why?” he asked again. Big deal. ….as he was fucking me I started to think of you. not my father or any of my boyfriends. came around to my side of the table and pulled up his chair. He got really mad at me.” “Shit! I bet that cooled his ardour. He put his right arm around my back. not my sister. And then he left. People normally .” “Why?” he asked. I felt the tears fill my eyes again and I looked up at him. “You bet it did. I like that – it‟s honest. My whole body was rigid. I shouldn‟t be saying this. I‟m attracted to you. You‟re attracted to me. And…and…” His hand was rubbing my back and it felt lovely. and then I blurted out your name. and stroked my cheek with his left hand.
It was my turn to break the silence.” “You are really weird. Why was he thanking me for sobbing all over him? “What for?” “For sharing this.” I responded. “I tried Mr Normal.” I said.Rory Ridley-Duff make each other miserable because they can‟t express or share the simplest feelings. He was quiet for a while and just rocked me in his arms.” There was a prolonged silence during which neither of us dared to ask the question that was on both our minds. “That took courage. “but I couldn‟t keep it up!” I shook my head as my smile returned. “Because my fantasies will be much more exciting now!” I laughed again. I was not sure where to go from here but it did not matter because he carried on talking. “I love it that you are attracted to me. “Why?” I asked with genuine curiosity.” he interjected. . 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. There are only sexual relationships where they agree not to have sex.” I said.” “Thank you.” he said. didn‟t it?” “More than you‟ll ever know.” He paused. “I feel a bit better.” he finally said. He was so strange. “Somebody once said to me that there is no such thing as a non-sexual relationship between a man and a woman.
Perhaps you‟ve already met him?” he suggested. but on this occasion I let it pass. “Isn‟t that why people go to work?” he asked. but I knew that it was not the right thing to say. I was not about to start another debate. “What do you mean?” “Why is work any different from anywhere else?” “It‟s a place of work. “You‟re welcome. “Oh. “And you know that they are happy and committed?” “Well no. where will you find Mr Right?” His question was rhetorical. “Are there any left?” I asked. “Where are we going to find you a good man.” I was about to say that I thought he must be joking. yes. surely?” “Employerspeak!” he laughed. “Where?” I queried.” I said at last. “I don‟t think people react well to women in positions of authority having sexual relationships at work. “I can hardly ask them. I don‟t.” I answered. Take an interest. So long as you know where to look. I could not think of any good prospects at work that were not already in relationships and said so. All you need to do is get the person you are interested in talking about their life.” .” “Why on earth not?” he reacted. He asked the waitress for coffee then continued. then?” I wanted to say I‟d found one. “Find out. “Have you looked at work?” he asked. “If not at work.Friends or Lovers “And thank you.” I said. “You don‟t need to ask.” he responded.
but I knew he needed to get back home to his family. and share the best of myself. Then. 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. a warmth so spiritual that I can feel my humanity light up. to live more.Rory Ridley-Duff We drank the last of our coffee and I paid the bill. I find it difficult to describe how I feel now. I‟ve been more distraught today than I can ever remember. Is this. but I just knew that we would not. how people feel when they first experience the deepest kind of love? . risk more. I wonder. I wanted him to come in. then returned to the car and gave me a salute as he drove off. He makes me want to be a better person. In the movies we might have kissed. he drove me back to my house and walked me to the door. but a tingling feeling burrowing into the darkest caverns of my soul. but inside I now feel like I‟m walking on water. he hugged me. At the door. pecked me on the cheek.
Phil thought this was more to bond with his mates than to pursue Elona. when I got to work the weekend was purged from my mind. If you ask me. It did not seem to fit. Most of his team said that he was very gentlemanly. “What about him?” “He was quite cagey when the others were talking. What about Mike and Sally?” I enquired. He did not volunteer anything and I got the feeling that the whole conversation made him uncomfortable. According to them. particularly Elona.” “D‟you think I should talk to him?” I asked. the relationship between Elona and Nathan is connected to all of this somehow. I don‟t understand how Mike fits in – maybe he got jealous or something – but I feel there must be a connection somewhere. Even Mike had admitted to me that he‟d flirted with her. I was perplexed by this. I nodded for Phil to continue. Nathan himself was not that interested although he did join in some of the flirting. “They are surprised that she accused Mike. Nathan was a lad in his mid-twenties and the general consensus was that she had a crush on him. 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. “Then there‟s this Nathan!” Phil said. .” “Okay. Elona was pretty off-hand with all of them except one. Phil was first to update me. He was careful how he behaved and spoke around everyone. “Well.Friends or Lovers Chapter 18 Due to a lot of demands on my time.
She‟s one of the people who transferred with him to the new team. but he provided me with a source. who would have thought this? To think that hoards of women at . John had suggested I look for a partner at work for two reasons. I could not see any reason to object. Firstly. Secondly. I thought back to my weekend conversation. As I was up to my eye-balls helping Dave bring on board some new inventors. had enlisted Mike‟s support to get his team some training in consumer behaviour. he claimed that nearly half of all married women chose their job in order to find a partner. I‟ll have a word with Dave. I told him the second one must be rubbish. I was keen to off-load this. but there was nothing to be gained by discussing it now. We seem to be getting closer. But they don‟t live together now. Then I‟ll speak to Nathan. so I signed off a purchase order for 30 days consultancy and left her to get on with it.” I was puzzled too. I found the statistics both staggering and appalling. Sure enough he was right. he‟s back with his wife. “Okay. Perhaps it is time for another chat with Elona. I was right about that. I promptly went to WH Smith and bought the book. why would she want to keep working with him? It doesn‟t make sense. If they‟d had an affair and split up. but they did live together for a few months. Nobody is completely sure why they are so close. Jo. In this modern age.” I had to set this to one side for the moment. The marketing manager. He did live with her for a while. It all sounds kind of bizarre.Rory Ridley-Duff “Yeah. most people meet their marriage partner in a workplace setting. She said that she had worked with a consultant several times and wanted to bring him in again. after 40 years of gender equality. Well done.
was searching for a husband in our workplace? * * * “Come in Penny.” He gave me an odd look.” “A woman?” I remarked.” I commented. “your wife will be asking for freebies. The thought actually annoyed me. “Hi. Sorry I didn‟t ask you beforehand. “Careful. and Claire Nunn from Glasgow. She‟s ready for exposure and now has a large portfolio. “Okay. They manufacture through companies in Sheffield. But a good find. Standard Terms?” I asked. but Brian will be getting 25%” “Is he worth it?” I asked. “We‟ll see in due course. We are poaching him away from his current distributor so I had to offer a bit extra. I did my best to ignore it and returned to the issue at hand. She‟s a remarkable designer and has assembled a small team of engineers to make customised kitchenware. Is that okay?” . “Rare that?” “Yes.” I‟d never pictured Dave as someone with either the inclination or ability to appreciate cutlery and kitchenware. “For Claire and Clive yes.” said Dave. “We need to draw up three contracts.Friends or Lovers work were actively looking for husbands. I wondered. Brian Thwaite from Birmingham. Who. So what needs doing today?” I asked. I‟m sure you‟d be impressed. I‟ve got Clive Preston coming over from London. He also wants help recruiting marketing support staff and I said we‟d be able to help.
he touched my arm to stop me. Do you know anything about that?” Dave pondered and raised his eyebrows.” It was not often that Dave ever talked about anything outside work and it took me a bit by surprise. Lots of rumours flying about. Dave. I hope she gets better soon. “There is something else.. “Well.” Something in his tone suggested that he had something else to add. “my wife doesn‟t buy stuff for the house any more.” I said. “She‟s…. I imagine. 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. one of the local sales reps. “I‟ve been putting together a picture of our sales manager friend and it seems that he has a mystery relationship with Sally..” “Why‟s that?” I asked.” he added.” “I‟m sorry to hear that. “I heard they shared a flat for a while.Rory Ridley-Duff He gave me one of his hopeful looks. opened his palms and shrugged his shoulders. I used to get on well with one of Sally‟s colleagues and it seems that she moved in with him and . Spill it.” “Come on.not well. I confirmed the contract details with him one last time and then remembered that I wanted to ask him about Mike and Sally. “I‟ll see what I can do…. “…. He really could look quite cute at times.and I don‟t believe that.” As I made to go. “By the way. “And?” I asked with an expectant look.. but I did not mind. I made his request sound like an imposition.” I insisted. just tittle tattle. He looked hesitant.
“No. “Not sure. I think Sally had some domestic crisis and Mike offered her a way out.” He paused for a moment as pieces of the jigsaw were reassembled in his head. I‟m meeting Elona in a few minutes. “He should‟ve left well alone.” “Feathering two nests. “Really?” he said with surprise.” I said. “They still get on well. of course. and then carried on.” Dave paused for a smirk. I think we‟ll get to the bottom of this soon. I‟ve no strong feelings. Not sure what happened after that – all I know is that his personal life got into a real mess for a while.” “He‟s back with his wife now. Anyway. “Apparently not. Unless the affair came later.” . “How does this link to Elona?” he finally asked. I just think that whenever people let their personal and professional lives get confused things can become very messy.” I said. it caused no end of problems in his marriage and Sally had to move out. Bet Sally was pissed when he went back. I think. Should find out soon.” My sentiment entirely. What he does in his own time is really not our business. Not sure. I‟m not a rumourmonger. “Maybe. I thought. Then Mike joined her.Friends or Lovers his wife. then Nathan. That‟s not the sort of thing that she would do if she was having an affair him.” he remarked. What is it with you and him?” I enquired. “Interesting. you think?” I sensed that there was no love lost between Dave and Mike. I think. “Oh. She asked to carry on working with him recently when he moved jobs.
Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay. With Dave‟s support. When you have a complete picture we can discuss how to bust up this secret network. Keep me posted.” 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. I felt ready to get to the bottom of things and achieve closure. . I thanked him and returned to my department to meet Elona.
“Do you mind if Phil sits in on this one?” Elona looked around the room and rubbed her ear. He knows more about this situation than I do. She would not look at me and her hands were clasped together on her knees. Phil entered the room with two cups of tea and a glass of water. It would give me a moment to put Elona at her ease. but I decided to ask Phil to make one for me anyway. There‟s no need to worry.” Despite my calm and sympathetic words I detected an increase in her nervousness. Phil‟s been following up on some of your concerns and we want to discuss a few things with you.” “Thanks. She lifted her hand to decline the offer. as I put my hand on her shoulder. She looked unsure but answered positively. “Elona.Friends or Lovers Chapter 19 “Come in. This is just a quiet chat to establish what has been going on. “Don‟t worry. Before Phil comes back. “If you want him to stay. she immediately . There!” I said. Although Elona had declined the tea. is there anything you want to share with me privately?” She glanced at me and shook her head quickly in denial. As Phil left the room. “Can I offer you a cup of tea?” I asked. I got up from my chair and sat beside her. come in. “Elona. so I‟d like him here. keeping the other for himself.” I said as I welcomed Elona into my office.” Elona shuffled in her seat and looked uncomfortable. He put one cup on my desk. I guess that‟s okay with me.
I looked squarely at her. “What they say is that they flirted with you. gave you some attention and that you did not seem to mind. “Thanks for coming in again. and they stopped. Would you agree with that?” Elona said nothing but nodded her agreement.” I began.Rory Ridley-Duff picked up the glass of water and drank half of it. nobody minds. Elona immediately went bright red and got extremely agitated. “Elona. Elona. and she looked a little more relaxed. the lads in the team said that one of them. we are grateful that you made a complaint and raised some important issues. We just need to understand whether there is any link between this and the incident with Mike? Is there?” . “Well. “Elona. however. saying nothing.” Elona seemed to relax when I told her this. As she put the glass down. Nobody is judging you.” At the mention of Nathan‟s name.” “What‟s that?” she asked. If you like Nathan‟s attention. “As I was saying earlier. you ignored them. It is alright. I tried to calm the atmosphere further.” I said reassuringly. called Nathan. Phil‟s talked to others in your team and they admit they behaved inappropriately to you. but clearly this was a sensitive matter and she was deeply embarrassed. I‟ll be talking to them in due course. Phil chipped in too. love. “Thanks for that. finally finding her voice. “There is one thing. she summoned up a slight smile and I felt ready to begin.” She looked down at the table in front of her.
“Let her calm down. “Now?” he asked. Her shaking got more acute and suddenly she exploded. Elona looked up at me and her mouth dropped open. He has refused to talk about it because he gave you his word that he wouldn‟t. “Some serious shit has happened to her. her face went red again and her eyes filled with moisture. I tried a new tack.” At this. She nodded again. It fuelled my desire to find out more.Friends or Lovers Elona seemed to be petrified by this suggestion and started to shake. I remembered that Mike said he would talk if Elona gave her permission. . but I shot him a look that he should let her go. “Mike mentioned that you confided some information in him. We can always go and see her later. Would you give your permission?” At this suggestion. Leave me alone!” She got up and ran out of the room in tears. Phil got up to follow her.” “Fuck!” offered Phil. She was clearly fighting back tears but to my surprise she started to nod. “Not now. “Something about Nathan?” Phil asked.” I said. “Go get Nathan!” I commanded Phil. “Yes? You did confide in Mike?” She nodded again. That‟s for sure!” I felt angry that Elona was still so distressed. “Mike won‟t speak about it without your permission. “No! No! No! I don‟t want to talk to anyone about any of this.
Phil returned with suspect in hand. “Nothing. “Fuck!” he said as his eyes seemed to look everywhere in the room except at Phil or myself.Rory Ridley-Duff “Yes! Now!” I said raising my voice. .” He sat down. “I would like to leave. Can you explain?” Nathan seemed to go completely white and started reeling in his chair. “Nathan. “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. I started to get angry again. “Tell me what happened. “Nathan. “Look at me!” Nathan looked pale and distressed but finally looked me in the eye.” I said.” Nathan held my gaze and did not flinch for even a fraction of a second. Phil held up both his hands as if to hold me at bay and quietly made his way out of the room. As I was running over all these things in my mind. please. That is why I am asking you. But no more words came forth. Come on in. Take a seat.” he asked. looking as puzzled as he was concerned. I was in no mood to be pushed around any more. My mind was spinning again. 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.
was looking down at the floor as if he could not bear to watch what was happening. You can give a full account to your line manager and myself.” he repeated without showing any anger. please. With Phil in the room I felt a bit bolder. Nathan. That did not satisfy me. in the corner.” he asked again. “You tell me what happened.” he added. You can either give me an account of your behaviour or I‟ll call a disciplinary hearing. or I will have to take this to your line manager first thing in the morning..” I said. “If you use that type of language once more. but he will not talk either.” I saw Nathan‟s lips go tight and the whites of his teeth show.Friends or Lovers Phil. . “We have a situation here. the whites of my teeth were showing too.” Phil looked as white as a sheet. but my anger got the better of me and I let rip. “I would like to leave. “A fucking clue about anything…. still calm and unflinching. What is it to be?” I imagine that while I said this. “About what?” I fired back. who was sitting in the corner. gave me a look of absolute disgust. “No!” I shouted. Do you understand?” “I would like to leave. however. do you?” Nathan started. Someone in Elona‟s team has made a sexual advance. Phil was gently moving his head from side to side to indicate „no‟. She confided something to Mike. please. “Nathan. She is seriously distressed and will not talk. “Let me be completely open with you…. I‟ll suspend you here and now. seemed to get agitated and looked at me and if to indicate that he should be allowed to go. “You don‟t have a fucking clue. Phil. What on earth was going on here? Nathan kept looking at me and was unmoved.
If he‟d been more experienced. he slowly left the room with hatred burning in his eyes. The situation felt like it was getting out of control. then dumped her. Firstly. What a bloody amateur. I felt on a roll. go immediately to Nathan‟s manager and inform him of the meeting at 10am. “Is Mike still in the building?” Phil looked unsure. Then again. perhaps he would have suggested that I sleep on this. Idiot. He must have suggested they go out for a drink and then said something that upset her. as if everything was coming together.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay. Maybe she didn‟t reciprocate and got upset. “Right. you have made your choice. I would like you here at 10am tomorrow morning with your line manager. I want you to get Mike and bring him here immediately. Phil nodded a „yes‟. This kind of . Whatever he said made Elona mad. “Okay. but he was too intimidated. Nathan must have made a pass at Elona. Shaken as I was. I held myself together and summoned Phil over.” Holding my gaze. but I had one more card to play. I imagine she tried to confide this in Mike.” Phil nodded. who seemed taken aback at this question. You may go. Still looking shaken himself. Whichever is true. she tried to confide in Mike and he tried to handle it „within the team‟. “Is Mike still in the building?” “Sorry?” asked Phil. I was glad that Phil was in the room. Do not take no for an answer. I could feel them pierce me right through. Is that clear?” Phil obediently did as I asked while I made myself another cup of tea. what if Elona did want Nathan to make a pass? Perhaps he seduced her.
okay. She won‟t talk about it. Mike. Mike. “Okay. “What the hell is this? I was in a meeting with my team and Phil tells me that you have an emergency. It has come to light that there is a relationship problem between Elona and Nathan and that she reported this to you. “So where d‟you want to start?” he asked. Sit down and let‟s talk about this.” Phil had again retreated to the corner of the room and was looking uncomfortable.” Mike. Phil returned with Mike. “Why?” I asked. “I‟m not surprised.” he finally said. What is so urgent it cannot wait until morning?” “Sit down. What on earth are you doing?” “Don‟t piss me around. always the man who gets away with it. “What‟s the relationship problem between Elona and Nathan?” I asked. “Have you talked to Elona?” he responded. surprisingly. He looked me calmly in the eye. She got so upset that she left the room in tears.” Mike raised his hands and grabbed his head in despair. seemed to slow down and take this in.Friends or Lovers stuff really makes my blood boil. “Yes. I want to know what she said and how you handled it. and then he rubbed his cheek. Always the woman who gets hurt. . He looked away as he thought for a moment.” he said ushering me into my chair with his open palm. “I told you to back off this. who stormed into my office with an irritated look on his face.
“Did you ask her if she‟d mind me talking?” he asked. but she did not answer. “There may have been a breach of the law and I have a duty of care towards her. .Rory Ridley-Duff “Because this situation is probably the most upsetting thing that has ever happened to her. Why can‟t you see that?” “Oh. “She‟s distressed. “They why don‟t you respect her wishes?” he asked. 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. “Yes.” I confessed. I‟m trying to help her.” I responded keeping my calm.” “Are you going to tell me about it?” I asked again. him or me. “Did it ever occur to you this witch-hunt is the cause of her distress?” His words inflamed me. “I did and she confirmed that she had confided in you. I cannot help her unless I understand the cause of the distress. “How dare you! If people told me what the fuck is going on then we could sort this mess out. I began to wonder who was conducting this enquiry.” I replied. then Mike would have been dead on the floor in an instant. I can see that alright. “Did you ask her if she was okay about you talking to me?” he repeated. She is of great concern to you.” “A duty of care! You call this a duty of care?” he asked accusingly.
” “And what did Nathan tell you?” he asked. 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.Friends or Lovers “I‟m asking you why you only seem concerned to protect Elona?” “You arrogant bastard. I resented him asking all the questions. “It‟s got everything to do with it.” Mike.. One of you is going to answer for what happened. not for one second!” . Mike snapped and shouted at me in a way that reverberated in the marrow of my bones. “You sexist bastard….” Mike gave a small laugh. She is the one who is distressed and somewhere in this heap of shit Nathan or you did something to cause that distress. but I did not know how to respond. my being a woman has nothing to do with it……. not this time.” Suddenly. He seemed to think that I don‟t know what I‟m talking about. “Because he‟s right. however. “He would not talk. “What‟s so funny?” I said angrily.” “You think you are so fucking clever! Well. pointed an accusing finger at me and carried on. One of you is going to answer for Elona‟s distress. “You stupid woman!” I was bright red with anger and started to defend myself. You are not going to wriggle out of this.
isn‟t he?” I grabbed my head with both hands. This time. He came over slowly looking as shaken and as shocked as me. With his eyes fixed on the desk. “What a mess. he eventually ventured an opinion. His mouth opened several times without any words coming out. “have you ever made a pass at a man?” Then he calmly walked out of the room. Phil. I was so shocked that I did not know what to say. Penny. What had just happened? I looked up at Phil and beckoned him over to my desk. . his voice was much calmer but the words cut into me and I felt a shiver run through my body. He found it difficult to look at me. This was one of them. “Sit down. and his hands fidgeted on his knees. Mike got ready to speak again. It took me a full 10 minutes to calm down and regain my composure. “What d‟you think of what he just said?” Phil looked uncomfortable. I looked at the cold cup of tea on my desk and gave a short laugh. “Tell me honestly. What a total fucking mess! Call Mike and tell him that I want him back here at 10am tomorrow. “Mike‟s an awkward bugger.” I said.” I asked. “Tell me. during which time Phil remained seated. After a moment.Rory Ridley-Duff He paused for a moment and seemed to calm down. There have only been a few occasions in my life when I have been completely lost for words.” Phil looked at me and nodded slowly.” he said as he fixed his gaze on me.
While many people. he had a strong spiritual side that. He would ask me why I liked some people and not others. . We don‟t study a subject because it is intrinsically interesting – if that were true then everybody would be interested in the same things. Together we had many conversations in which we traced my interest back to an emotional experience or aspiration. It is interesting to us because it is meaningful. it is because it moves us emotionally. my father was quite different. even if that goal was a modest one such as building the scientist‟s reputation. We study something because it is interesting to us. Emotion. put great stock in objectivity and science. my father told me that my instincts and emotions were my greatest assets. “When we are interested in something. was imbued with deeply human values. He was an unusual man. were doing themselves a disservice when they argued that emotion had no place in science. Penny. if not religious. Scientists. particularly men. is the key to a deeper understanding. His words echoed in my head. he would say. he argued. he always pressed me to talk about the underlying reason for my interest in something. As such.Friends or Lovers Chapter 20 When I was young. Intertwined in our deliberations. He would ask me why I enjoyed learning some things but not others. including a view that science was rarely scientific. I think it was his career inside the civil service that inclined him towards a political way of thinking. He argued that science was always oriented towards a political goal.
and this was one of the reasons she and I argued throughout my teens. become more willing to learn things they are interested in.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 may find ourselves learning new skills. So strange. and is. I disliked her for that – she seemed to deliberately misunderstand him . “Just look at what we do when we desire someone‟s attention. She said my father talked twaddle about sex. would often walk out of the room and leave us to it. 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. 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. Why does this situation with Elona and Mike make me so angry? Why does Mike rub me up the wrong way? What is the deeper truth here? Is my past coming back to haunt me? My father would say that if I want to hurt someone it is because they have hurt me. my father was. And the reverse! What monsters we can be when we don‟t want a relationship. My mother. on the other hand. We‟re at our most cruel when trying to get people out of our lives. Our behaviour and feelings can change dramatically. We open our mind to their views. my love for him grew with the conviction that there was wisdom in his words. To me. Has Mike hurt me? Maybe it was the other way around.” Despite his slightly pompous manner. more willing to change our own values. more humane than anyone else I‟ve met. studying new things in order to impress them. .
would she? I couldn‟t buy Mike‟s view that Elona was the protagonist here. My father helped me look at these as learning experiences. I could not make the pieces fit the puzzle. I would no longer wait for a man to make up my mind. I committed to one lad. Whenever I met her. even as I had these thoughts. I would have the men I chose. not those that chose me. I decided that I‟d never again be a shrinking violet. . I may have the veneer of confidence. she was quiet and scared. It was exciting. At first I was flattered. and finally annoying. I fell apart and he quickly left me for someone else. It was only the previous day that I had learned there was a Nathan at all. We either buckle under the weight or kick back. but underneath I understand how it feels to be crushed by the weight of male attention. then confusing. She was as introverted as any person I had ever met. Eventually. Elona would not make up an accusation like this. I had no feelings about him except as yet another person who was adding to Elona‟s distress. 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. my emotions kept on churning. I tossed and turned throughout the night and in every configuration. Am I reacting to my own past? I can feel Elona‟s hurt. And yet. Would a person like that make a move on Nathan? I did not see how it was possible. but later he cheated on me and I was crushed. I empathise with her. It made no sense. I felt. In my first year at university. I would make up my own. So.
if you don‟t mind. no!” I laughed. He might have some words of wisdom for me so I called him. I find it very confusing and thought……” I hesitated for a moment. We‟d been intimate in a personal way. Both mentally and physically. This was something new. “I just thought I‟d pick your brains. “Are you still troubled by the weekend?” The weekend? That seemed like a lifetime ago. he immediately sensed concern in my voice. Penny. As if by instinct. “Hi. I thought of John. I was a bit irritated by his use of the word „girl‟.” he said brightly as he answered the phone. “That‟s my girl” he responded. but I let it pass. I realised that I was crossing another line and inviting a new type of relationship. Encountering him up close was disturbing me. “What‟s up?” he asked. Maybe he could help. As I did so. “Hi. I had never intruded into his professional world to benefit my own.” I replied. I can see why young women might be attracted to him. “Good lord. All the other women seem to like Mike. the burden of the last few hours seemed to lift instantly. Up until this point. but never professionally. He‟s strong too.Rory Ridley-Duff Is my past affecting me now? Can I really understand her? For the first time I am having real doubts. . Do I understand what she is going through? I thought of Mike. That situation at work is spiralling out of control. John. He is a good-looking man. It is quite possible that Elona likes him more than she‟s saying. Even at his age.
“Yes. Has anything changed?” he asked.” I chose my words carefully. “That‟s not clear. “Do you remember that I mentioned someone who had been moved to a new job because he had distressed a young woman in his department?” I asked.” As I said the word „involved‟ I cringed.” I said.I thought that maybe we could discuss it a bit more and you could guide me a bit. why not?” he answered without a moment‟s hesitation. but there it was tripping out of my lips before I could stop it.” “Yes. “Involved in what way?” John enquired. It is fallacy that men always pursue and women always resist. It seems there is another young lad involved and that she and this other lad somehow got „involved‟ with each other. but John took it literally and gave me a most peculiar answer. They initiate with non-verbal stuff that induces the man to talk to her. But the strangest thing is that the boss is now saying that she had a crush on the lad. In this world. When it . I was not an amateur. “Hmmm! This does sound a bit more complicated than you first thought. it is more like a ritual series of moves that women and men make in turn. “Perhaps. and not seeking a fatherly opinion so much as a professional dialogue. Sure I do. She confided something to her boss about this lad. but later she accused the boss of inappropriate behaviour. “Sure. and that the situation was caused by her giving him too much attention. When it works everyone is happy.Friends or Lovers “…. “Most relationships are started by women in very subtle ways. How likely is that?” I asked this as a rhetorical question.
There are women who take verbal initiatives but generally it is the other way around. Men who don‟t pay attention to a . He started to give me to fuller explanation. Close observation. Men respond. Men comfort their own egos by thinking they‟ve initiated the relationship. But. providing they can overcome their own nerves. Men tend to think they are making the first move but often they are responding to a non-verbal cue. “Is that a surprise. I was puzzled by this. feeling a little more relaxed. Women comfort their own egos by thinking they have been singled out by an attractive man.” I paused for a moment unsure what to say next. “Successful ones do. don‟t you think?” “If that is what you believe. most of men‟s are verbal – at least initially. if an unattractive woman signals in a similar way. “So you are saying this is only true for some people?” I asked. I suppose it is. “Men will respond quickly if an attractive woman signals. Most of women‟s behaviours are non-verbal. I‟d studied psychology and this was the opposite of what I had learnt. shows women select the man they want and do everything they can to ensure he notices them so that he starts a conversation.” “Do men signal?” I asked. Others jump in with both feet at the first opportunity. particularly if one party feels led on and then humiliated. however.yes.Rory Ridley-Duff doesn‟t things can turn quite nasty. This is true in most cultures. Men are always pursuing and pestering women. Penny?” he asked.. it will look that way. Many won‟t – they‟ll get scared. These are generalisations. Women signal. she may be ignored both verbally and nonverbally. I assure you that it‟s not the case. but most don‟t. “Well….
“Well. she links his arm. just gut feeling stuff. he lifts a glass. In these early exchanges. They‟ll exchange personal information. she‟ll eventually make a move that he cannot ignore. Not everyone agrees about the meaning of this. he puts it around her. If she likes him enough. laughter. She lifts a glass. behaviour moves through a series of stages. he laughs and says something back. he nods. otherwise they‟ll ignore the signals. increase their eye contact. “Is it likely she made a pass at him?” I asked. They‟ll only carry on if they are interested. positive body movements and such like.” . she nods.” “So this is unlikely?” I confirmed. such as prolonged eye contact. Men who get a signal will usually proceed fairly gently at first to see whether they continue to get signals.” I stifled a laugh. she whispers in his ear. we are talking probabilities. This is often unconscious. turn towards each other. I‟ve never met them and different couples behave differently. Then you get a kind of game that signals mutual interest. All I can say is that it is possible but against the norm. I felt a need to direct the discussion. but in the trade it is called „synchronisation‟ or „rapport building‟. start sharing opinions. start touching each other. I‟m giving you behaviour patterns.Friends or Lovers woman‟s signals will probably end up embarrassing themselves. but people have been able to observe it. a woman‟s behaviour generally encourages the man to talk more. If there is a mutual attraction. You‟ll know if this is happening in a group because a pair seem to be ignoring everyone else. tell stories. talk about common interests. Interesting as this was. “I don‟t know the specifics.
. “Penny. Are you free?” I could hear other voices in the background and realised that someone in the house was calling to him. She‟ll give him an emotional slap. I decided to ask directly. “Sure. “No less than they deserve!” I replied quickly. I was still contemplating when he started to talk again.Rory Ridley-Duff He paused for a second before making one final comment. It is nothing special for them. He hesitated for a moment. I‟m away in the Lakes this weekend. “If he doesn‟t respond. It really pissed me off that someone else only had to shout and he wanted to cut off our conversation. “Is there something you need to do?” I asked.” I could hear an urgency in his voice. What is going on here? I wondered. “Only kidding!” I added. she‟ll feel rejected and may do something to hurt his feelings. There was a moment of awkward silence as I contemplated my last comment. We could meet in the morning if you are free.can you let me get my diary?” I asked to buy myself a moment. but I detected a coolness in his tone. Sort of…” he responded. “Errr…. “…. but would you like to meet up next week to chat about it? You can give me specifics. Men are routinely humiliated. It was unlike John to cut short any conversation. so my defences were immediately triggered. I‟m in Leamington next Wednesday afternoon and all Thursday.it will be easier to talk next week.” he said. “Um.” he added with a light-hearted chuckle.
I was not impressed.” “Okay. I could not understand why he had been curt with me.maybe. from what John says. I‟ll e-mail you with a time and see you then. He confirmed that it was unlikely Elona would have made the sexual advance..” I said. The conservation was not as friendly or as pleasant as I had come to expect. No. yes!” I finally said. it is unlikely that Elona would have felt any need to make an advance.” He rang off before saying goodbye. his comments were interesting and useful.Friends or Lovers “Let me see….. making him wait a bit longer. but could have done so if Nathan had not been responding to her. I think I have enough here to read the riot act to Nathan tomorrow if I don‟t get answers.. Still.ah……yes…. If Nathan had started flirting. “…. Phil told me that all the lads had flirted with her. I wondered if he resented me asking him for a professional opinion. No. “I can fit you in on Wednesday morning. No. .
along with holders for utensils and . My windowsill is adorned with an assortment of stones and rocks that I‟ve picked up over the years. feet in the air. I still can‟t get used to being an aunty.” I dutifully command. but if another sprog is going to come along I guess I‟ll just have to accept it fully.” she said trying to contain guffaws. Big news. “I just wish you could see him. cooing and laughing. she roars with laughter as he manages to shift his weight again and roll onto his back. Carole‟s boy. There is not much to do. “He‟s on his back. Come on baby. “Tell me what you see…. she‟s happy and that‟s what matters. Still. it always looks like a bomb has hit it. I tidy round the kitchen. He‟s on his back with a rattle in his hand. Young Toby. put the few plates I‟ve used in the dishwasher wondering just how lazy I can be. Wait………here he goes. I tidy up the house. trying to sound enthusiastic.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 21 My sister has just called. She called me a few nights ago almost wetting herself with laughter. When I go around to Carole‟s. has progressed from sitting up to rolling around. I just can‟t fathom it out. Over onto his front now.” Try as I might to understand how watching a baby roll over and over can make her giggle like a schoolgirl. Every time she does something grown up like this it makes me feel a little bit older. “Well. This is just brill! I wish you could see this. I imagine that she‟s pregnant again and wants to celebrate in style. She says she has news. While I wait for her to come around. do your stuff!” As I wait.
I look her up and down to try to understand what is different. “The door‟s open…. Decadence! Just what the moment needs and I rustle around the cupboard seeing if I have the ingredients for a calorie busting meal. She smiles. I give her a puzzled look and start to move my hand upwards.” she says. I cannot put my finger on it but something has definitely changed in her appearance. It is firm and flat.” she says. “Come on in!” I shout. the front doorbell rings. “See anything now?” she asks. . I walk right up to her and put my hand on her stomach. with her smile getting wider all the time.” And in she walks looking groomed and beaming. I flick the switch on the kettle and amble back into the living room. tracing a line from her shoulder to her elbow. “All right you. “Am I getting warm?” I ask. I continue tracing a line from the elbow to her hand. Her hand is different. “Try a bit higher. Her breasts look quite firm today so I cup one in each hand. “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. I think. playing with me. “Has someone given you a happy pill?” I ask “No need. Nothing special there. I look carefully. What is it?” “Keep looking. I think.Friends or Lovers instruments for practising my Nigella Lawson recipes. Absolutely no sign of a baby there. Just as the boredom is banished.” she says mysteriously.
I want a „best woman‟!” I just looked at her unsure what to say. “Be my „best woman‟?” she asked. of course. 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. How many women have ever been asked that question?” “‟Yes‟ will do nicely.” “I don‟t know what to say. The tears just kept rolling down my cheeks. Carole!” I still felt in shock. one with each hand. 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.” “Some present!” I shouted and suddenly the tears were there.” she gasped. It is. It isn‟t happiness. “I want to make it to the alter without crushed ribs. I felt something in my sides coarse up through my body. but now the moment is . 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. I could feel the moisture start to fill my eyes. “Your what?” “My „best woman‟. “When did he ask?” “Last night.” I just closed my eyes and nodded. He came home and told me that he‟d got another promotion and had a present for me.Rory Ridley-Duff As I look at the image before me. “Careful sis‟. “When?” was the only word that came out. “July 31st?” “Oh. what she has been dreaming of for the last few years. It is so hard to describe how I‟m feeling. I took a step back and held both her arms.
“Jeez sis‟. shocked – every emotion I have in me just crashes down and I feel giddy with the intensity of it all. and I tumbled onto the floor and nearly hit my head on the table. I would have got you to sit down first…. My little sister. We never took it in turns. “Sis‟? Are you alright?” “I feel a bit woozy…. “What‟s happened?” “You think I know?” I ask.. she was always the bridesmaid and I was the bride. .” And then it happened. Put your arm around me!” She levers me towards the sofa and finally I think I can make it to my feet. My little sister is getting married. but I realise that I did not expect to feel like this. “If I knew my news would have this effect on you. “Here. My legs just gave way as if they simply could not hold me up any more. I feel cold and sweaty. My little sister is getting married. I can‟t get up. We would write all the words of the ceremony out and act the whole thing for hours and hours. Of course.Friends or Lovers here. I can‟t explain why. we would play „weddings‟ and I was always the bride and she the bridesmaid.” says Carole almost falling to the floor with me. “I never thought of you as heavy!” she joked as she hauls me up.” I manage to get out before I completely give the game away. concerned.!” Instead of feeling wild with excitement and happiness. I feel worried. “Of course. like the room is spinning. I did not expect her to marry before me. I am pleased for her. For a few moments. When we were young. ecstatic.
and yet I feel totally hollow inside. “down the pub we go. We flopped on my bed in fits of giggles. but she took it in her stride. “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. my confidence returning. got thrown out when we started to sing rude songs and staggered back to my place. my lips part and my teeth are showing. This should be one the happiest moments in our life. My little sister is getting married. How can I possibly tell her? Whatever she was expecting it was not this. not me. but she is the mature one. I quickly turn and give her a sly look.you tell me exactly what is expected of a „best woman‟…. not being able to feel the excitement she feels. drank all evening. get smashed. “Right!” I shout. When I hear her wicked suggestion the grin returns to my face. A few seconds later.. But the truth is that my little sister‟s announcement makes me realise that I have not grown up yet. totally alone. talk dirty and then……. It pains me to say it.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked up at her and felt ashamed. I feel like taking a dagger and stabbing myself for not thinking of her. “I think I can manage that. totally useless. How can I feel like this? I bury my head in my hands as more tears emerge. I playfully punch her on the arm.” “That‟s simple!” she says without a moment‟s hesitation.” “Okay sis‟ – lead the way!” and with that remark we went to the pub. She is not my little sister any more. . totally old. As I go to get my coat. “Okay! Okay!” I say. She is my big sister. for not thinking of how happy she must be feeling.
come on! Spill it to sis‟” I tell her. No!” I exclaim. “I am!” she says.” “Tell me!” she asks. No. “Do you want to hear something funny? Do you want to know what I thought?” “Thought about what?” Carole asks. “Stop a moment. “No.. “Thought your „big news‟ was going to be….Friends or Lovers “Do…. Be serious!” I demand as we lie there trying not to giggle.” I laugh.” Laced with liquor. “Yeah. “I do!” she shouts hysterically. “Do you want to hear something funny?” she retorts busting her sides and unable to contain her hilarity. Carole dissolves into fits of giggles and starts kicking her feet in the air.do you….. my words just will not come out properly. “It‟s due in November and her name is going to be Penny Anne – after you and mum!” . “I thought you were going to say that you were pregnant again.
I called Nathan first and heard an answer phone message. I . I switched on my PC and opened the personnel database system and searched for their details. Is Mike there?” I asked. Can you get him to call me?” “Sure. “He‟s already gone to work. We had a disciplinary meeting this morning but Mike‟s not turned up for work. Can I take a message?” I thought for a moment because the issue was sensitive. Next I called Mike‟s home number and a woman replied. “Hang on a minute.” she said. “It‟s nothing really. “Hello?” she said. I called Mike‟s department and his colleague said that he had also not arrived at work yet. Can I help you?” “Hello. the woman returned to the phone.” I replied. “I‟m still here.” There was a long pause and in the distance I thought I could hear some voices. “Leamington 397333.” I answered. I‟ll see if he‟s still here. “if I see him before you do. almost mocking. I left a message asking him to call me. Nathan phoned in sick.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 22 My plans for Elona were thwarted the next morning. I had a full schedule until the end of the following week. “Can I ask who is calling?” “My name is Penny – I‟m the Head of Personnel at IC. but I thanked her and spent a few moments considering what to do next. Eventually. We‟ll have to rearrange.” The tone in her voice was strange. I think he‟s already gone.
and I felt my emotions stir a bit when I read his greeting. I’m stopping overnight with friends so we could either have our meeting late morning or make an evening of it. We found a slot free at 3pm the following Wednesday week – I would meet them after I‟d had lunch with John. I checked my diary and found that I had to go to an evening event with Dave – a launch event for a new product. this was John and “flirt” was his middle name so I hit the [Send] . Penny xx I read over the message again. Was I being too flirty? Hell. With a tinge of regret I declined John‟s offer of an evening meal. Just to let you know that I’ll be arriving in Leamington about 10. I’ll save the silky black dress for another occasion (!!) you’ll just have to admire my power suit instead. I retrieved my e-mails and my mood improved when I received a note. I’d love to be seen with you. Hi sexy. I was to chaperone the young entrepreneur who would be speaking while Dave was acting as host.Friends or Lovers really wanted this resolved now and did not want it to drag on. naughty. Hi John. if you prefer.30am. Phil agreed to inform all the parties concerned. Still trying to corrupt my sweet innocence? Naughty. I called Phil into my office and asked him to check later that day whether Nathan or Mike made it into work. 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. but it will have to be in the morning as we arranged – although a lazy lunch is possible.
Subject: Launch Event Pen. Both you and I need to consider this before our appraisal in July. 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. 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 .30pm at Bella Marie? John xx I loved flirting with him.Rory Ridley-Duff button without further ado. We can compare power suits. Are you able to meet me in the morning so that I can try out my presentation on you? Also. 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. He found an afternoon event with an optional evening dinner. The evening event had two guest speakers . Meet you at 12. Lazy lunch it is. Penny. It would run on 30th June and covered the latest legislative changes in our field. Just finalising stuff for Wednesday. I finished going through my emails and the last one was from Dave about the evening event. just been going through some Professional Development stuff. He still had a way of making me feel special. The issues with Nathan and Mike slipped from my mind as I contemplated the prospect of spending more time with John. Fewer than five minutes had passed before I received his response.
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. Thankfully the day ended without further incident. Given what was going on. . there was an option to stay overnight in the hotel. For those attending the evening event.Friends or Lovers scheduled – one giving a talk on entrepreneurial behaviour and the other called “Intimacy at Work”. the second of these really caught my attention.
John. Can you meet any earlier?” he asked without seeming to pause for breath. He may be bold by e-mail but he rarely initiated phone conversations. Around 9am.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 23 On the Monday morning. “And a „good morning‟ to you too. Can you……?” It sounded as though someone was not letting him get a word in edgeways. “He‟s a friend. Phil. “It‟s a man for you. Called John. “Please hang on a moment.” I say.” I shouted. He insists he must talk to you. John!” I pointed out.” and with these words he pulled the handset from his ear and gave it a harsh look.she‟s busy at the moment.” Phil said as he diverted the call to my phone. “could you get that for me?” He picked up the receiver and redirected the call to his own phone.” “Well he doesn‟t sound very friendly to me. I picked up the receiver. A few moments later I could hear him conversing in a slightly agitated way. Is everything okay?” I asked.” I smiled because it was unusual for him to call me. “I‟m afraid she‟s……no she‟s…. “Wednesday. “Phil. I got into work early and resumed work on the contracts for Dave.. I mouthed to him „who is it?‟ but he shrugged his shoulders to indicate that he didn‟t know. “Who is it?” I asked out loud. the phone rang. “It‟s okay. “Hi. sir! I‟ll see if I can find her. .
not on the phone.” he repeated.30 – we can talk over a coffee before lunch. he rang off. We need to talk. I‟ll meet you at 11.” “Hang on.” “John? Has something happened to you?” I could feel concern creeping into my being.30 if that helps. “Well.Friends or Lovers “Sorry Penny! „Good morning‟ to you.30. That‟s good. It was unlike John to sound so agitated. Try not to worry. “What is this all about?” “Can‟t say. has it?” He completely ignored this piece of news and carried on. I don‟t want to talk on the phone. trying to slow him down. a bit – I could bring it forward to 11. 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. Penny. Whenever anybody says “try not to worry” it is sure to make you worry even more.” “Your wife?” “Penny.” “That sounds fairly ominous! What do „we need to talk‟ about?” I said in an attempt to mock him slightly and lighten the mood. Penny. But . hang on!” I say. He did not answer my question about his wife and I wondered whether something might have happened between them. I‟ll tell you Wednesday. “It‟s better to talk in person. “No! Not me. Okay.” “Yes.” With that last comment. “Can‟t say. I‟ll see you at 11. Can you meet any earlier on Wednesday?” he repeated.
He was just very insistent that he talk to you immediately.” . Very pushy guy.” 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. if you ask me. “Yeah.Rory Ridley-Duff then I remembered that he said it was nothing to do with him. “That‟s what I love about him.” I thought for a moment. “About what?” “Did he say what he wanted to talk about?” “No. He‟s a pushy guy alright.
I took notes and stopped him after each section to give him feedback. looking straight into my eyes in a way that I‟d never seen before. “No.Friends or Lovers Chapter 24 I took the contracts around to Dave‟s office and he ran through his presentation. He licked his lips and I could tell that he was slightly nervous so I walked up to him and touched his arm. we agreed a few minor changes for his afternoon meeting. “Of course! Is she not better?” Dave did not show any emotion. come on then. 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. but I responded with more confidence than I felt. He ran through the section again until I gave him a thumbs up and we continued this process until late morning. We don‟t do many major product launches so Dave was putting in extra effort. Something on your mind?” I enquired. “Do you remember I said my wife was ill? I vaguely recollected him saying something. It was almost like he was a blank. Dave. After working through the contracts. “Yeeaah!” he finally said slowly. If there‟s something. “Well.” I was beginning to get used to the idea that I was going to be an aunty twice over. and for him to pause for any length of time before giving an answer was quite strange. Dave is rarely hesitant. “Come on. you can tell me!” . Tell aunty Penny…. “Do you have to rush off?” he asked.
It‟s advanced. She‟s not been well for a while. “Oh Dave! I‟m so sorry. Finally. he spoke. He didn‟t say anything either. and she‟s been back and forth to the doctor. I was sad for the rest of the day. “She‟s dying!” This news had a deep and lasting impact on me. We stood there for many minutes before he slowly pulled away and without looking at me said “thank you”. He was in pain and I let go of his arms and put my hand on his cheek and stroked it. I held his left arm in my right hand and then placed my left hand on his shoulder. I had never seen him like this before. “Have you told anyone?” “No.Rory Ridley-Duff He looked into my eyes again. Sometimes you work with a person for a while and simply do not realise the bonds that are forming.” I‟d worked with Dave for 10 months and this was by far the most human moment that we had shared. You‟re the first person I‟ve told. He turned slowly and left the room. They‟ve done a scan and found a tumour. There was fear in them. Dave had a lot of energy but deep down he was a gentle soul.” I put his head on my shoulder and my arms around him. and in the evening when I was on my own I felt acutely . just tilted his head until it rested on my hand and closed his eyes. They don‟t think she‟ll survive more than a few months. He licked his lips again. Come here. As I held him I could feel his heart breaking and the gentle movement of someone crying. I took her into hospital this weekend because her headaches were so painful that she could not sleep. “Family? Have you told them?” “I‟ll do that later today.
There was no God if this could happen. Deep down a pain formed inside me that actually hurt. It was unnatural. As I lay there . I found myself struggling to get to sleep as the silent anger I felt kept me awake.I decided he needed a friend. . He needed someone to care about him. I had not realised I cared about him and it came as a surprise. He was a bit older than me. but not by much. my moment to face someone else‟s pain and not shrink from the thankless task of helping him through it. cruel and so unfair.thinking of him sitting with his wife at the hospital .Friends or Lovers distressed. My friend Dave should not have to bear this so young. It was my time.
too young for me. I had taken extra care getting dressed because I wanted to look good for my lunch date with John. “You‟re welcome.” I said. I thought. smiling. When Phil saw me. but for a moment I looked at him in a lustful way.” he said sheepishly.” I lied. I strode into work feeling smart and confident. Is there any background information you can bring on that personnel problem you have got? May help us find out what is going on. I got myself a cup of coffee and went through my e-mails.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 25 When Wednesday came. John . “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. but with a small shuffle of his feet and with his eyes slightly lowered. I was due to meet Mike and Nathan for a showdown. “Got the launch event tonight and have no time to go home. He looked a little embarrassed. a few words came out. In the evening was Dave‟s product launch. I had no idea what was in store for me. “Doing something special today?” he asked. he raised his eyebrows. I was surprised at how flattered I felt. But it was a good lie. “That‟s very sweet of you. I looked at him with new eyes. See you soon. Hi Penny. as if he had said more than he meant to. He was a good-looking lad. In the afternoon.
complete with visuals and sound. It was quite a showpiece. his voice confidently outlined the magnificent benefits of tomorrow‟s personal health gadgetry. If I hired him. Next. The information was confidential. He was impressive and looked cute. I look forward to it. Subject: CIPD Pen. After the speeches.” “Are you sure? Are you really sure?” he hurriedly asked. “You‟ll go down a treat. a reward for his earlier flattery. By the time I‟d waded through them. I took Phil with me. A swift response winged its way back through the IT network. . I couldn‟t take anything with me.” I reassured him.Friends or Lovers Even if I had wanted to. Dave. the time for Dave‟s presentation approached. I just don’t feel like a big social evening afterwards. “The preparation was worth it. hair cut and groomed. but I responded by saying that the Data Protection Act prevented me sharing confidential records. The other e-mails were either trivial or junk. I thought he cut a fine figure. Thanks for booking the CIPD thing. and we both settled into the company‟s small lecture theatre. As he stood there in a new suit and tie. it would be different. That would be lovely. there was an e-mail from Dave. We would have to discuss the issues as a series of hypothetical situations. would you like a drink? Not the most difficult executive decision I have ever had to make. “You don‟t think that final video is slightly overlong or overdone?” I put my hand on his arm and reassured him.
” He just beamed. He was well groomed and I quickly realised that I preferred him in casual attire.” he said. “See you tonight when the madness has died down. He was pleased to see me but carried a grave look that I‟d not seen before. * * * John was slightly late. even though I didn‟t intend it that way. He would be nervous. . The materials were fine. I thought. His behaviour was different as well and I initially attributed this to his meeting in the afternoon. 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. “Nervous about this afternoon?” I asked. The banter I expected didn‟t materialise so I probed him to see if anything was up. I felt. We arrived at Bella Marie around 11. As he was a dedicated New Labour supporter. When we chatted on the phone yesterday. but it was Dave who gave them charm and wit.Rory Ridley-Duff “Slicker than a New Labour political broadcast. It was the first time I‟d seen him wear a tie. He intended to use the money to support his writing for several months. ordered drinks and looked at the menu.” This was going to be a very long day. We settled down at the table. “Thanks. Pen.50 and settled down for lunch. he took this as a big compliment. John „the businessman‟ just didn‟t seem quite right. He was dressed in a dark deep blue suit. but much less spin.
and women would fall for him. There are others to convince. however. Sometimes he gives me the creeps. I started to feel that something had changed between us but was at a loss to understand why. We had quite a row last week. John nodded and set himself in a listening pose. but I‟m not sure why. My boss Dave is suspicious of him.” he requested. He called me a „stupid woman‟. “Not sure why? Can you expand on that?” “Well. “Our hypothetical Mike!” I answered. Very smart – you‟ll knock them dead. As he settled back in his chair. “You look the part. I called him a sexist pig!” . He momentarily looked up and tried to smile. “John. personable and popular. his gaze started to focus on me properly. married. I feel he looks down on me sometimes. What‟s on your mind?” He looked up. but he averted his eyes quickly. but his gaze remained firmly on the menu. I know the person contracting the work. he‟s good at his job. “He‟s one of our sales staff. 50-ish.Friends or Lovers “A bit. We‟ve worked together several times so I think today‟s a formality. patronizing. I find him a bit „old school‟. so I thought I‟d dress the part. “Tell me about Mike….” If it was not his interview then why was his behaviour so different? I was puzzled and tried a bit of flattery. you know. I can see that he‟s good looking. No point beating about the bush. slightly relieved. You said we had to talk.” John intervened at that point.” I looked at him directly as I said this. Not too bad.
women mostly. my boss wanted me to find out more. “Well. and one in particular got quite keen. they got close.” John nodded. The young woman won‟t say what happened. I moved him to a new position. She lives at home. “What do you think?” he asked. 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. But I know her. The young lad won‟t co-operate. because he‟s got a reputation as a womaniser. I don‟t buy his story. He took some of his staff with him. It looked open and shut initially. 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.” “So what‟s changed?” John asked. He made a pass and she rejected him. not the other way around. and I thought that‟d be the end of it. Mike. however. She‟s engaged to be married. “Someone complained that he was hassling a colleague for a drink. either. their former boss. looking very thoughtful. The boss is pissed off with everyone because he got landed with the blame for a situation not originally of his own making. There‟s a meeting this afternoon. There was one lad in particular that seemed to take a fancy. I asked my assistant to keep his ear to the ground. Now he‟s implied she might have been pursuing the young man. That‟s where the stories conflict.” . “My instinct tells me that the lads went too far.Rory Ridley-Duff John nodded. He has a history. and his demeanour was attentive and serious. encouraging me to continue. He gave her support. She was sufficiently upset to confide in her boss. I intend to crack some heads.
but he sees her flirting with a whole group of lads. She‟s inexperienced with men. Explain!” I commanded. “Err. I was slightly taken aback. Elena is not put off and actually starts to single out Nath himself. He backs off some more. “Where are you getting these names from?” “This is a hypothetical example. Regardless. We‟ll call her boss Mick. right?” This was too coincidental. Penny. I had never seen him this intense and studious before. Nath thinks she‟s a bit of alright and joins in the flirting at first. I was not looking for another interpretation. She starts to receive more sexual attention.” I said hesitantly. Okay. She confides in her boss. She‟s confused.Friends or Lovers John kept nodding. a bit embarrassed. In her previous job she worked with women so this is a change for her. but likes one of them. shall we?” “Hold on!” I said. but I nodded to indicate he should carry on. I could be called as a witness to a tribunal. I want to help. Let me pretend this is a hypothetical case. “Shall I try another interpretation for you?” he asked. fairly pretty. So he backs off. “Penny. let‟s call her Elena – she‟s quiet. if I tell you the source of my information then I‟ll be involved and could be dragged into the process. If things go badly. You use the information as you see fit. “The young woman – tell you what. His mate is crazy about Elena. John started to talk. wants to marry her. Let‟s call him Nath. shall we?” “You know these people.” . and has a job as administrator to a department that has quite a few young men. But then he realises that her boyfriend is an old school friend. “Okay.
” As these words came out. “Her boss has a reputation for being sympathetic to his staff. “What happened to…. Pin-pricks shuddered all the way through me. He continued the story. Mick listens to Elena and realises she‟s in a difficult situation. He‟s been known to intervene personally sometimes and help people out when their personal lives are troubled. I did not know where he was getting this information but suddenly things started to make more sense. Nath then tells his old school friend that Elena came onto him and was flirting with all her work colleagues. Having recovered my composure. It never seemed relevant. “Mick‟s known for his kindness. When I felt in control again. He seemed to have more information than I did. Once he helped a work colleague suffering abuse. “D‟you want me to continue?” he asked. Her boyfriend reacts badly. Every day she goes home they argue with her and tell her she‟s ruined everything. I reeled.Mick?” I asked. . Luckily. I struggled to keep my emotions in check. He put her up at his home until she found a new home. the waitress brought the drinks and asked for our order. I asked John questions. I‟d never told John exactly where I worked.” It was my turn to start nodding. John knew Mike. He never asked. He storms around and tells her the wedding is off. Her parents are furious. completely bewildered. For a moment. I nodded. He‟d risked his own marriage to get her out.Rory Ridley-Duff I was angry. I could feel the shock rise through me as I realised where all this was coming from. She becomes desperate to leave home.
moved into a flat with his work colleague. however. Mick gave in. Elena told him private details about her life and now felt abandoned. but later his wife learned that he‟d given money to buy furniture. Either the work colleague leaves or the marriage is over. My head dropped and my eyes fixed on the table as John continued talking. Someone walking past stops to watch and immediately reports the scene to their manager. 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. Mick was sympathetic.. that he never bring another woman into their home.” I felt I knew where the story was heading and my sense of dread started to increase. but could not let her move into his house or give her any money. She goes into work the next day and is angry. There was a condition. she finally relented and let him go back home.Friends or Lovers “The situation got so bad that Mick‟s wife gave him an ultimatum.” . not with Nath. They became extremely close but were never lovers. With nowhere else to go…. on the condition that he be allowed to help her find a place to live. She tries again to persuade Mick to take her in. said that he would help her. In a rage. Mick‟s wife felt betrayed. but with Mick and shouts at him for not helping her. Mick agreed. He hoped that would be the end. She kicked him out. but he refuses. “Elena wanted Mick to let her have his spare room. She resists so he takes hold of her by the arm and makes her leave.Mick…. she goes around to Nath‟s house and tells him what he‟s done. Elena was angry because she‟d heard how Mick had helped someone else. After a few months of Mick calling his wife every day. Nath tells her to „piss off‟.
” “Worse? How could it get worse?” “You may want a stiff drink. Pen calls his house announcing herself as the Head of Human Resources and that Mick should be in a disciplinary meeting. “Mick. Are you ready?” “I need a stiff drink now!” I said trying to lighten the mood but John‟s face was implacable. “Why the hell did she do that?” “At the moment he‟s staying at a hotel with a friend. His wife‟s curiosity is fired and she relentlessly asks questions until Mick tells her the whole story. he told a half-truth.Rory Ridley-Duff My head just hung there as I looked down at the table. one day. I thought.” At the mention of this name. in some ways I‟m relieved. However.” No prizes for guessing who the „friend‟ is. “She threw him out again. “He‟s been to a solicitor. Penny.” I said.” said John. He was concerned that his wife would pre-judge the situation and end the marriage. I did not speak for several minutes. “She did what?” I said. “There is another hypothetical character. a clear case of sex . There was more to come and I had to hear it.” “Well. let‟s call her Pen. “It gets worse. another shock wave went through me and I became rigid with fear. So. did not tell his wife why he had recently changed job. She feels the problem lies with the way Pen handled the original complaint. that the new job was a promotion rather than a convenient solution to an accusation of sexual harassment. because of the past. “What a total fucking mess!” John was silent so I looked up at him feeling completely at a loss.
The solicitor is coming as a friend. I lost my appetite. Suddenly. It says he can bring a friend if there is a disciplinary hearing. . “Because I couldn‟t let you go into your meeting later today completely unprepared. that‟s one way of looking at things. There is also the issue of the call to his home. “He and his solicitor have checked the employment contract. She‟s been a friend since his university days. “Fucking mess was about right. and my eyes dropped as I let John finish.” I commented sardonically. that is the story he will stick to if challenged. I think.” I was silent.Friends or Lovers discrimination and failure to observe natural justice principles now enshrined in law. “Penny!” John exclaimed.” “Is that true?” I ask. I did not know how to feel. “Why are you telling me?” I asked in a slightly accusing way.” “He can‟t do that!” I interject. The solicitor takes the view that Pen has not fulfilled her duty of care to all the parties concerned. Could I really have got everything so wrong? “Well. “Today he‟s going to bring his solicitor. Penny!” said John.” I felt attacked from all sides and my defences started to bristle. “How noble of you!” I retorted.” My body froze a second time. At least. “It is. There‟s nothing to say whether the friend must be a work colleague or not. My head was spinning while I tried to work out what to do.
or knew I‟m telling you this.Rory Ridley-Duff “M….” “Why on earth would he do that? This is nothing to do with you. He led my scouts group when I was a kid. I needed to talk to the legal department of the company before the meeting.Mick…. he might terminate our friendship. This could be the end of my career.” I was getting more and more defensive and angry. Panic overwhelmed me. I care about you.” “Yes. but part of me sensed that I had to get out of the restaurant and find Dave. I‟m trying to help. you are just telling one side of the story. really. He‟ll ask for my help and I will give it to him. He‟s been like a father to me. This is serious.” “I try not to take sides. He doesn‟t know that I know you.” “So it‟s all lads altogether is it?” I didn‟t know where these words were coming from.” “Penny. I‟ve not known a kinder more honest man in my entire life.” I snapped. What was I to do? “Where did that come from?” he demanded. I act as an expert witness at tribunals.has been a life-long friend of mine. “Penny. just give a professional opinion.” “You what? You‟re saying you might testify against me?” “Penny! He‟s been a friend all my life. this is all too much. If he did. I don‟t want to lose your friendship.” “How? Why? You know nothing about this case. this is my field. but this could come between us if Mike asks me to testify. “Don‟t be like that. This is serious.” . It‟s going to come down on my fucking head not yours. “Just let me think a moment.
hoping somehow I would disappear down a hole in the ground and this would all go away. “The moment you talk to them. aren‟t you?” “Not if we can find another way.” “Another way? Is there another way? You said he‟ll have a solicitor with him this afternoon….” “Well. Help him with his domestic situation until the mediation is complete. “If you don‟t. Once you talk to . I‟m fresh out of ideas. Don‟t admit liability. but acknowledge the points of view of the other parties.” “I don‟t know if I can do that. just existing from second to second.. Make notes. If you contact Mike after talking to your insurers. You have to mediate. they‟ll call your insurers and the insurers will instruct you to have no further contact. the insurers will not cover your employer for any losses.” 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.” “I‟ll have to involve the company lawyers…. You – and the company – will be completely exposed.Friends or Lovers “You are going to testify against me. “You must listen this afternoon. Listen to the story the way it is told by the other parties.. just listen. Amuse me. At the moment I was not in control. You‟ll have to grab it with both hands this afternoon. Don‟t say anything.” I said weakly. this is going to end up in a court of law.” he shouted. Do whatever you have to do to get the company to offer mediation to all the parties involved.” “There is a way out. lots of notes.” “No! You mustn‟t do that. I felt like I was being driven by something outside myself.
I had to protect the company‟s interests. “And if I don’t tell the legal team. Please. “There are risks. John.Rory Ridley-Duff your legal team it will be out of your hands and will go to court. You are personally at risk from prosecution. John?” My fiery response took him back a bit and he regrouped. But do you think they‟ll protect you? They might get you through the court case. John was doing this to save Mike. This was as real as it gets. “Penny.” “I bloody know that. This is too big for me.” he said firmly.” He looked hurt at my words but composed himself. There was little chance I would survive after such a misjudgement. “Penny.” I wanted to talk to Dave. . please listen. to protect him. John was not put off and continued his attempts to persuade me. then I could lose my job as well. Anyway. Do you think you get to my position and not know stuff like that?” I resented him treating me like an idiot. why should I take your advice? I hardly know you. Not Mike. My responsibility was to the company. “Once a formal process starts it‟s almost impossible to stop. I did. “What if you can get Mike and his wife back together?” The pretence that we were talking about hypothetical characters had completely vanished. For all I knew. Do you appreciate that. “What if you can mediate?” he insisted. but what then? What of your future career?” “Oh God! I don‟t know!” Privately.” “I can‟t handle this. Not John.
How could you know?” Indeed.Friends or Lovers “I can‟t authorise that on my own. In any other circumstances it would have looked beautiful and tasted delicious.” he said in a slightly frosty way. “I‟m sorry for getting angry. We‟re close. At the very least. I can‟t keep this from him. “We can only see what we look for. I wasn‟t blind to this!” I said with some irritation. how could I know? There was so much that I‟d not been told. We assume men pursue women.” The waitress brought our food and asked if we‟d like any more drinks. “What?” he reacted. I‟d need Dave‟s support.” I said. “No more than anyone else. It‟s a kind of blindness. “It‟s okay. “I mean that you were looking at the situation the way the vast majority of people look at such situations. I can run it past him. and that women spend most of their time resisting men. I don‟t think he‟ll like this. sensing immediately he had irked me.” he said.” “Would he help?” “I couldn‟t do this without him. . “And you‟re the big shot who thinks he knows?” I said sarcastically. John continued.” “Don‟t stereotype me. “What do you mean?” I asked sharply. I felt sick.” “Would he help?” “I see him later tonight. I looked at the meal in front of me. but I picked at it intermittently. It sounded like he was criticising my judgement.
” “Stop talking like a fucking academic…” I wished I could stop myself behaving in such an angry way. “Sorry. I nodded.” I simmered for a few minutes and ate my food.” he laughed. “Equality means protecting both sexes. As the remorse grew. . “Who is protecting the men.” he said looking me firmly in the eye. I didn‟t mean to sound critical. “You are not the first person to say that. “Bugger off!” was all I could say. I looked at him. I‟m sure you are very knowledgeable. try divorcing one!‟” “John. but it just kept pouring out of me. You are so fucking pompous!” He smiled.” he said. “Sorry. “As one of my friends told me a few years ago „if you think women are weak. John ventured a question.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m sorry.” I looked at him coolly. 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. I remembered Mike saying something similar during our earlier argument. “You know that. He laughed again and I found that I could not sustain my anger with him. I started to realise that I was being deeply unfair to him. “But this is my field!” he responded.” I said with as much conviction as I could muster. Penny?” “What?” I responded. It‟s a common problem. “Women aren‟t weak.
Sometimes words are so inadequate and unnecessary. I was not going to waste either a moment longer. Eventually. about nothing in particular. It would have been much easier for ignore it.Friends or Lovers Right now I had a plateful of food and an attractive man sitting opposite. he said “come here” and guided by an external force I stepped forward and fell into his arms. Hearing this story from Mike. Neither of us wanted to walk away. When he saw this. Parting turned out to be quite difficult. for the next hour. “Shall we enjoy the rest of our meal?” I continued. I had to protect myself. or cry off the lunch date and avoid me. offering a conciliatory smile. and then deciding to tell me over lunch. He hugged me for a whole minute and I just clung on for as long as I could. As his body relaxed. As I left the restaurant. I considered what an ordeal this must have been for him. I guess John must have felt the same way. 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. We chatted away. it was this last point that occupied my mind. I acknowledged what he was saying but said that I still didn‟t see how I could avoid discussing this internally. As we departed. Touching says everything that needs to be said. I saw real concern in his eyes. We stood there chatting for a bit then going silent then chatting some more. must have been difficult for him. his own smile broadened and I realised how tense he had been throughout. he reiterated that the situation could go pear shaped if the legal teams got involved. not just the other parties. and for the first time I saw him more as a friend than a potential lover. .
I sat there both angry at myself and at others.” At this suggestion. * * * “Hi Phil. and he duly obliged. I hatched a plan. and my invitation to discuss things did nothing to reduce his unease.” He looked as apprehensive as I felt. And yet. how could I have known? Was I being too hard on myself? Nobody would explain. and that of Nathan. his apprehension seemed to progress to outright fear but he obediently followed me. In the end. Others could see I was troubled and avoided me. I thought about visiting the legal department to spill all this out. even John – these all beat a path to my door. but John‟s caution made me pause – at least for now.” I said as I returned to my office. How could I have known? So. Another thing that consumed me was how I felt about myself. Mike and his wife. I decided to follow some of John‟s advice. “Come into my office for a chat. Another part of me wanted to find Dave and have a heart to heart but he was preoccupied with the product launch. Nobody would talk. “I need to discuss things with you before we go into the meeting. Elona‟s distress. . “Can you close the door?” I asked. If I had got things completely wrong then I was responsible for a great deal of misery. I was ashamed.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 26 By the time I returned to work all my doubts and dilemmas had returned. I felt so torn about what to do that I went to the staff canteen for another coffee.
Friends or Lovers I had gathered my thoughts and knew how I wanted to play this. Everything about his body screamed “Thank God!” His words.” I let the words linger for a moment. “That thought had occurred to me too. however. both of which had been in his lap. “What if he‟s right?” At this suggestion. “I‟ve been thinking a lot about Mike‟s outburst. or considered this question. “……how are we going to approach this meeting?” As I asked this question. Then listen and listen and listen….” I paused for a moment to see if Phil would say anything. I took a deep breath and made a start. but a little more caution was called for. When I returned..” I answered. Clearly he had not expected this. I wondered whether I should have solicited his opinion more quickly. suddenly surfaced and started to gesture strongly. His hands. “I agree with you on the „listen and listen and listen‟. Phil‟s lips parted and his rigid body began to move and come alive.” He was moving in the right direction.. . were cautious. “If he is right. so I gave him a few moments by leaving the room to make coffee.. Phil…. “I think we need to admit that maybe we got it wrong. Phil was my first port of call for a good reason. but his eyes remained fixed and expressionless. “Any ideas?” I asked as I walked in the door. he was more relaxed. Phil‟s moment of relief ended and his face became thoughtful again.” The idea that Phil has worked out the situation without help came as both a relief and a surprise. It makes more sense.
I offered my opinion. “You‟re a good lad. This afternoon is about buying time. at least until I‟ve talked to Dave and Legal. “Okay. I smiled back at him – a big smile showing my teeth. His eyes left mine and looked down at the table for a few seconds. He broke into a smile and nodded. if we admit that we „got it wrong‟ both you and I could be for the high jump if this ever goes to court……” I had his attention now and a look of horror spread across his face. I appreciate you. Okay?” I could see from Phil‟s reaction that his ego felt well and truly massaged. “Of course. “We‟ll make a manager out of you yet!” Without letting my eyes wander even for an instant I took the lead. When Phil got up and made to leave the room. “Phil?” I asked. I want you to bring a notebook and take lots of notes. “Then I guess admitting we got it wrong is out of the question.” he said. We‟ll keep our mouths shut. I completed the act of seduction.” .Rory Ridley-Duff After waiting for a moment to see whether he might say anything else. I looked away from him to give the impression the meeting was over. We‟ll do as you suggest. Phil. with just a hint of a smile. When he looked up again. there was a definite sense of conviction as he spoke. We‟ll say that we want to look at the whole thing again. listen to what they have to say. and then waited until his eyes were again looking into mine. I looked him straight in the eye as I answered him. and just keep insisting that we‟ll do everything we can to mediate a solution.
. started to walk. He turned to go. but when he reached the door he glanced over his shoulder and smiled at me again. I smiled back. I have to admit that sometimes it is great fun being a woman. I caught a trace of redness in his cheeks.Friends or Lovers I did not look away and his eyes remained on mine until he could hold the gaze no longer.
Every few minutes I glanced at Mike‟s solicitor friend to see how this was playing with her. If we made it through this conflict.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 27 I feigned surprise when I met Mike‟s solicitor and was as pleasant as possible. I expressed surprise and shock at what I was hearing. Phil looked up and smiled. I might have peppered my pleasantness with a brusque manner. I promised myself that I would get to know him better. enquired and encouraged. then Mike. No conclusions had been reached. Mike initially looked as if he was ready for a battle. At certain points in the narrative. Phil made copious notes as the story unfolded more or less exactly as John said it would. With each reaction. I noticed that her look changed from one of confidence to one of . gave their accounts while I nodded. Phil followed my lead and we successfully communicated the seriousness of what had taken place. At the mention of his name. I opened the meeting and stressed that we would be as cooperative as possible. still beaming from our earlier encounter. If we were to meet again in a court room or industrial tribunal. I found myself developing a grudging respect for him. a married woman giving a single woman a hard time in the witness box would not be pleasant. At the start of the meeting. prompted. First Nathan. I have to say that Mike was proving a lot smarter than I‟d expected. I introduced Phil as my assistant and said that he had expressed a view that we should listen to Mike and Nathan. If his solicitor had been a man. but my opening gamble paid off and took the wind out of his sails. To my surprise. she had looked calm and confident.
” I answered. Sometimes she would look at Mike and tilt her head to one side.” I answered. I meet him later tonight. I didn‟t like her using my first name but I let it pass.” I paused for a second before I asked the next question to ensure it had maximum impact. David Stockton. At the end.Friends or Lovers puzzlement. I‟ll have to clear any changes with my director. Penny. “My pleasure. after taking both Mike‟s and Nathan‟s statements. With surprise on her face she uttered a question. “The company will pay. “That‟s good of you. She was not expecting this. At this suggestion. she started to engage me. “There are two flats rented by the company to accommodate sales managers who commute here from time to time.” I answered.” she said. “And what about the loss of pay since changing his job?” “On pay. “Mike‟s got issues over lost pay. “What would be helpful is if you could work out with Mike the amount of wages he has lost. She was trying to work out how the meeting could be going so well for her client.” “Who will pay?” she asked. I offered to get Phil to type them up and send Mike‟s to her for checking. and a problem with his housing situation……” “We can help with that. “How?” I was growing in confidence and put the final piece of my plan into place. I cannot guarantee that we will . One of them is free at the moment and I can arrange for Mike to use it until he can make alternative arrangements. My comment stopped her in her tracks.
” He looked me strongly in the eyes.” Mike looked at me. then at her. I looked at them both. I detected a smile on his face. I would have been happy to see someone kick him hard in the balls. They looked at each other for a moment and I noticed that she nodded her head at him. “I underestimated you as well. Thank you. “I‟ll check with Dave tonight. In all our previous meetings. After a few moments. Thank you. We‟ll do that now. “I underestimated you. “Penny?” he asked. I‟ll deliver it by hand. If we don‟t. if necessary. “just to see whether I need to involve Legal. “Yes. Mike can confirm it in writing.” He chuckled again as he looked at Phil. he‟d looked worried and pensive. then me again.” At the start of the day. “Women! I have no idea why you go around letting men think they are in charge. I was taken aback at just how attractive he looked. Could you do that?” As I asked this question. but now I saw him in a moment of happiness.” I said. but I‟m sure it will be sufficient for him to treat you to dinner. “Yes?” I answered. then you‟ll have my response tomorrow. he gave a short chuckle.” Mike smiled at me – the first time I had seen him do so – and I have to admit that his face was handsome. but as it turned out a mutual respect was born. I‟d hoped to stall things long enough to consult with Dave but we‟d gone almost as far as resolving the .Rory Ridley-Duff meet it in full. then at me again.
when he felt at ease. he was also extraordinarily sexy. As Mike turned to leave the room. He beat me at my own game. .” I tried to return his look but found that I could not as I felt a rush of adrenalin rip through me.Friends or Lovers whole thing. 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. he fixed me one last time with his handsome face. “I can now see why Dave hired you.
This comment caught me short for a moment. while still smiling. “Nothing more?” he asked again inquisitively. “That is sweet of you.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 28 I remained in the room with Phil while Mike and his solicitor exchanged words. with a puppyish expression.” Phil nodded and still smiling. developed a small frown and his body language became submissive. fussed about me. “Can you tidy up the loose ends here? I need to get ready for this evening. Phil. “What made you change your mind about Mike?” he asked. . now I was experiencing him up close. It made me wonder why Dave harboured hostility towards him. “I learnt a lot today. A curious look came over his face. shall we?” I responded. the way they looked.” Such praise I can live with. It‟s hard to force niceness and that was exactly what I had been doing for most of the last two hours. I noticed them hug warmly as she departed. Penny! Absolutely brilliant. Clearly they were more than acquaintances. with a look that communicated not just my appreciation. It was time to cool Phil‟s ardour now the job was done. but also the gap in status between us. touched and moved indicated a much closer relationship. “Thank you. “Let‟s just call it a woman‟s intuition.” was all he could say. but I actually felt exhausted. Mike.” I said. laughed. “That was fantastic. His face. offered a further comment. was a friendlier person than I had thought.” he said.
but also deflated my ego a bit. A number of shocks. “Don‟t you believe in women‟s intuition. Phil?” His smile returned as well as his confidence. and Phil‟s shrewdness at seeing through me. I thought back over the whole day. and let my locks fall about my face alluringly. “I certainly believe in a woman‟s cunning!” he remarked. If he had felt dominated a few moments ago. He started to walk out of the room and his final remark not only surprised me. . all trace had left him. surprises.Friends or Lovers Clearly he was not convinced. I thought of the way John had helped. I flicked my head back. As I stood there. I had one of those “ah ha!” moments in life. Perhaps men were not jerks after all. Mike‟s willingness to accept a settlement when he could have thrown the book at me. Suddenly things came together. twists and turns had left their mark.
We signed a contract this afternoon. Are you coming?” “Yes. Always enjoy watching Dave strut his stuff!” she remarked. and get the new team ready. .” “You looking?” I asked. I thought for a moment. All the good ones are. 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. Long hair would have made her look womanly. She was not a stunner but even without make-up her skin was quite good. As I delicately added a small amount of rouge to my cheeks. but as I‟d had a totally stressful day. Certainly. Jo – the marketing manager – came in looking very pleased with herself. “You look happy. not attractive. can‟t he?” “Yeah! I‟ll say. “Yes. I‟ll be there. She had cut her hair quite short – a mistake I thought – because without a good size bust it gave her a rather boyish look.” I remarked.” I chirped.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 29 What a day it had been and there was still quite a way to go. thinking back to the book John had recommended to me. It will give a boost to our training programme. Jo looked professional. I let my hair down a bit as well.” “Sounds good. of course. Shame he‟s taken. “Hmm! He can look quite dashing at times. “I‟m off tonight to see Dave strut his stuff at the launch. Her comment surprised me. “Aren‟t you?” she answered. I visited the women‟s toilets. good meeting. Was I? I didn‟t really know.
Even John. deciding to dig a bit. I certainly felt that I wanted that before I died. flirty as he was. perhaps I was ready to look. They were playing one day and came straight out with it. Clearly. and how hard he had tried to make things work with his wife. Then there was Dave. with meeting John and feeling more comfortable with men as friends. I also considered her question.Friends or Lovers As these thoughts flashed through my mind. that she won‟t live long. With Carole announcing her marriage.” . there were men who wanted marriage. sweet really. the sadness in his eyes when he thought of his wife. my neighbour went round and they admitted she was not well. Over the last couple of months I felt a change in myself. had a maturity and confidence that came from understanding how to keep a relationship interesting. Perhaps he had. “Maybe I am!” I finally answered. “There‟s a rumour going round that his wife is ill. „My mum‟s going to die‟ he said. One of my neighbour‟s children is at school with Dave‟s kids. having a second child. Perhaps I had misjudged him. I considered Mike. the total commitment he seemed to have for her. but I don‟t think he‟s my type. I found it hard to believe that Dave himself would mention this to anyone else.” Jo seemed pleased that she was not in competition and moved a little closer. He‟s nice and all. “That his wife has cancer. “What‟s the rumour?” I asked.” Her comment made me both cross and curious. Anyway. “Really? With Dave?” I could not help but laugh out loud at this suggestion. “No! Not Dave. He might be back on the market soon.
She nodded. “I‟ve heard the same rumour. “Oh! A couple of weeks ago. She looked dreadful. that it was Jo who had told me the rumour only a few moments ago. where do you hear most rumours?” I asked. rumours spiralling out of control were problematic and could cause embarrassment. “they said that Dave‟s wife looked terrible. “Where did you hear it?” she asked. Jo seemed to know as much as I did. but did not talk and started to look in the mirror. as if she‟d been unable to sleep for a week. “Anyway. “When was this?” I asked.Rory Ridley-Duff Just as Jo was giving me the low down. I said nothing. I omitted. It was not a lie. My respect for Dave remained intact.” Jo continued. This was a difficult call because I was obliged to keep information confidential. of course. Jo. “In here!” she responded. I think. . You know anything?” With this remark. Elona walked in. even if her source was a little further from home. I was relieved that she‟d got the rumour from outside the company. I could tell that Jo was digging for information because her casual manner was suddenly replaced by attentive curiosity. At the same time.” I responded as casually as possible. “Well. “Hi!” we both said to her. and the admission that I‟d heard a rumour did nothing to substantiate or deny her claim. Quite masterful that. I gave a small laugh.” I was not sure whether to confirm or deny the rumour. clearly not satisfied by my response. I thought.
I knew from past experience that if a rumour started it would be hard to quash. “That Nath has a thing going with me!” What was Elona doing? I felt that I had to act fast. I felt . “What rumour?” asked Jo enthusiastically. but I could not take it in.” “What rumour‟s that?” asked Jo. There‟s a rumour going „round about me.” I turned to leave wondering whether issuing a denial was wise. To my office now!” I was not sure if there was a rumour. but whichever it was I had to put a stop to it. glancing at Elona. Ellie?” she asked. I was concerned at the direction of this conversation. Jo looked both shocked and amused. “is not true. clearly not happy. If there was a rumour. “That rumour.” I said. you will soon. They are hurtful and mess people up. “Someone been pissing you off. “Quickly now!” I demanded and Elona packed up her stuff and hurried out of the toilets. “Elona! Not another word. “If you haven‟t heard. or whether Elona was trying to start one. As she left. “What rumour?” “I just said that I don‟t like rumours. Ellie?” asked Jo. I turned back to Jo. “‟bout me and Nathan!” “What about you and Nath?” Jo enquired. “Sorry.” Jo clearly did not understand why Elona had the hump. Half an hour earlier. it was the first I‟d heard. By drawing attention to it. “Bloody rumours!” she remarked. She gestured with her eyes and head to indicate something to me. I was indicating that „something‟ was going on between Elona and Nathan.Friends or Lovers Elona reapplied her make-up and listening to our conversation.
” she replied. I don‟t often lose my temper. “I would appreciate if you did not repeat to others what Elona just said.” I demanded. There was too much pleasure in it. this exchange struck me as slightly comical.thought you…. “What…. Elona. If Jo went back to her team and started talking about it. but this was an occasion when coolly losing my temper was the most effective way to drive home what I had to say. As soon as Elona was installed in my office.” mumbled Elona “Thought what?” Given that I was faking my anger. did not really cut the mustard as “Sir Humphrey” and that made it hard for me to keep a straight face. Prime Minister.. the rumour might yet cause more problems. “What the fuck d‟you think you were doing?” Elona was so shocked that she did not sit down.I thought…. “I what?” “I…. “Yes..but you……you…. “Just answer the question. but now they could easily spiral out of control again. “I thought you knew?” she said. “But…. . But it was a smile I didn‟t feel I could trust.what do you mean?” she said quietly. “Jo?” I said.. trying to get a grasp of the situation..Rory Ridley-Duff that things were under control. however. when Jim Hacker had Humphrey Appleby in a corner embarrassed and grasping for words. like something out of Yes.” “Sure!” she said.” blurted Elona. with a smile. I turned to her and let fly.
Was she asking who had been found „guilty‟? I wished I could tell her more. but to do so would breach the confidentiality I observed in these matters. Elona. I‟m satisfied that all parties have told me the truth. Clearly. but I did not oblige. “Elona. “I can say with reasonable certainty that we will not be investigating the matter any further. “Sit down.” I started. or just that she thought I knew about the rumour. When I remember the way she left my room in some distress. Was Elona implying that there was something going on with Nathan. Elona‟s eyes started to dart around the room as if she was looking for something to say. “Does that mean you‟ve got to the bottom of things?” I wondered what she wanted to hear. gesturing that I needed more clarification.” Elona looked concerned but did not say anything. she was trying to get me to say what I knew. “We won‟t be looking into it any more. “I imagine you‟re wondering what happened earlier?” She took her place and nodded. I accept that you‟ve had a . please tell me what you think I know. I considered carefully how to put it across.” I said. “Elona. “I thought you……well you had Mike and Nathan in here nearly all afternoon. and I don‟t think that questioning people further will reveal anything more.” “So you know. I did. it was good to see her relax. at least as far as they are able to. “Thought what?” I repeated. don‟t you?” she prompted again. didn‟t you?” “Yes.” She looked relieved.Friends or Lovers This was an interesting turn of events.
” I said.” “Okay. okay?” I said pointedly. I‟ll ask around discretely. Is there anything else?” “No.” I was being economical with the truth. She must surely realise I was being kind and saving her face. She seemed happier and relaxed. I‟m afraid. “People will ask why. I hope. “Don‟t want to do that. “I‟ve got a question. Have you put a notice on the board?” I asked. Then she nodded to indicate that she understood. She looked up and paused for a moment. and I don‟t want to add to your distress any more.Rory Ridley-Duff difficult time.” she answered. and I don‟t want to say. “So don‟t start any rumours. “I have an idea. But could she really think that Mike and Nathan would back up her story? That was naivety beyond possibility. “I don‟t.” .” Elona said.” she said. I braced myself. You can go home tonight and sleep better. “Do you know anywhere I could stay?” I didn‟t enquire why. “Give me a few days. My only regret was that Elona might think that her account of events had been vindicated. but no untruths passed my lips.
This last product. 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. . The entrepreneur that Dave was promoting came across fairly well. This last product is something that every woman will want.” Dave announced. and I quite enjoyed minding him for the evening. It was a battery operated hair remover that could be strapped onto arms. She will vouch for it personally. or anywhere else that a woman wanted to remove hair. has extensively tested this final product. “Play it again. Sam‟s product range comprised „advanced technology‟ approaches to personal care that were – to say the least – sensuous in their design and application.Friends or Lovers Chapter 30 The evening passed off well.” said Dave boldly. “All of Sam‟s products involve the use of advanced technology to improve personal hygiene. He was dynamic and Dave made the most of this during the presentation. and there was a gentle ripple of laughter as the video images appeared. was the one that Dave believed would become a top seller. however. A narrator started to explain benefits to an attentive audience. legs. Just as selfexercise belts use gels to transmit current into the muscles (without actually having to do any exercise). Elaine. The lights dimmed as the finale began. “I‟ve saved the best for last. Sam tells me that his wife.” Dave cast his eye over to the other side of the stage where Sam and Elaine were standing. Sam. and every man will want to buy for her. Sam‟s product went one further.
a handsome male model gave a gift wrapped present to a beautiful brunette. The music changes again. with his card. On the screen. The man jumps off a cliff edge and the next 90 seconds is a tongue in cheek satire of past Milk Tray adverts. The mockhero slides down the mountain-side. her face full of mock excitement at receiving her „favourite‟ present. Moments later. With a hint of wickedness in her grin. And what does every man want? To buy the ultimate gift for his partner and bring a smile to her face. and as the model‟s eyes close and she enjoys the sensual delights of the SHARE experience. a blonde in a long robe picks up the package. a beam of light is shone onto her from the back of the auditorium and the volume of the music lowered. You want to SHARE. What every woman will want next Christmas. Then.and a fanfare of music alerts the audience to a James Bond like action sequence. risking life and limb. the model tastefully disrobes. is the . to deliver a second package to a mansion home in the valley beneath. Sam‟s wife moves to centre stage. and what every man will want to buy for her. she takes the package into her stately bedroom and lies down on the four-poster bed. Dressed in a daring black dress. to have silky smooth skin. He leaves the package.Sensuous Hair Removal Experience. in her bathroom and jumps out of the window into the night. he dons a pair of black glasses – a la Terminator . . removes the gift from her package and relaxes.Rory Ridley-Duff What does every woman want? Yes. The satire switches to playful pastiche of 1980s Flake adverts. adorned with tasteful jewellery. as the man wanders onto a patio to reveal a breathtaking mountain landscape.
but we can‟t say that here. he had not shown me this video. . I looked around the hall and saw women alternating their glances at the presentation with chuckles into the ears of their female friends. I lent over and whispered into her ear. The eyes of the men. Even as I was starting to think that this was a bit OTT. “What accessories?” I whispered with more than a hint of curiosity. as her mind becomes occupied with the erotic. We‟ve prepared a gift pack for every woman here tonight. however. then bit her finger. She sucked. This was no ordinary hair remover. “We will be.and herself on. the larger than life model held a pose reminiscent of the flake advert delicately crumbling chocolate between two gorgeous red lips. He did tell me that there was another presentation but that Sam and Elaine were keeping it under wraps. “You should be selling this at Ann Summers parties!” She gave a broad smile and leaned towards me. then turning the appliance .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. but everyone clearly understood.” It was my turn to smile at her. were on stalks watching every tiny movement of the model applying gel to the insides of her thighs. Nobody said it out loud. As Elaine walked off the stage and sat down next to me.” As she stepped back from the microphone. When I watched Dave‟s practice run. I could now see why.
Dave thought it might be regarded as distasteful. The gift packs could be collected at the exits. “If we‟ve not beaten „the rampant rabbit‟ into second place by next Christmas then I‟m going to be pissed as hell. It can‟t wait until tomorrow. She carried on talking in my ear as the video presentation neared the end. Dave walked back to the microphone and announced that drinks and snacks were available in the lobby. the blonde looked seductively into the camera and spoke breathlessly.” I chuckled. We exchanged smiles and a final fanfare alerted the audience to the finale. When the VIPs had been safely escorted home in pre-booked taxis. “Can we slip out of here . The chatter was interminable but the evening was a success with guests energised and enthusiastic.Rory Ridley-Duff “Let me put it like this. “Much better than Milk Tray!” The place filled with roars of laughter and the lights came up. I pulled Dave to one side for a private word.” . Our pilot trials have produced spectacular feedback. As the final chord echoed throughout the hall.” said Elaine. “You won‟t see the accessories advertised anywhere in your brochures.there is something I need to discuss. much less painful than wax and much more effective than creams. This was pretty risqué for IC but it was becoming clear why Dave was prepared to take the unprecedented step of a full product launch. There is a range of „innovative‟ extensions.” “Can‟t wait to try mine out!” I said. It‟s a good hair removal product.
He exchanged words with them. They have everything under control.Friends or Lovers Dave nodded. then walked over to Sam and Elaine. “Okay – we‟re off. shook their hands and spoke with a representative of the PR company.” .
a gin and tonic for me.. “I‟ve had quite a day. We spent a few minutes discussing the evening.” “I‟ve been wearing these things for 20 years and still hate them. “May as well take it off.” “Is he married?” he interrupted sternly. Dave bought the first round – a real ale for himself. It might backfire.” I said. but Harry (the MD) had given him the go ahead. but if it did so. “Why do you ask?” His question irritated me.” “You should try wearing high-heels!” I joked.” I said. Not at the actual conference. “John? Who‟s this John?” “I met him at the conference in Paris. he removed his jacket and loosened his tie.” I recounted the events. We both thought it had been a mini-triumph. “Yes.” I said a bit defensively.. Alternatively. the portfolio was now broad enough to weather a set-back. there was a feeling that a calculated risk was appropriate. With the company enjoying some success. He confessed that he thought the product was risqué for IC. “Is it wise?” . and Dave reacted in quite a peculiar way. As soon as he had parked the glasses on the table. it might catapult the company into the top league. on the flight home. “No point standing on ceremony.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 31 We walked to a nearby bar and settled ourselves into a corner table. “Yes. including the lunchtime meeting with John. “You wanted to talk about something?” he asked.
For all the time I‟d spent with Dave. As I didn‟t . “How often do you and I go out after work?” I asked. We know each other well. “I didn‟t even know that your wife had been unwell until you told me recently. Penny. but it must have been obvious because Dave backed off a bit. deciding to defend my friendship with John. It‟s just different isn‟t it?” “I don‟t see why. “It‟s different.” I thought about how much more John knew about me. “Yes.” Dave raised his eyebrows. I could see in his body language and movements that he felt hurt.” he said starting to sound defensive. Dave immediately looked a bit put out.” I affirmed. I wondered? “Well…I see you all the time. “Work colleagues often go out together.” I said firmly. “John and I exchange e-mails as often as you and I talk. Could he be jealous. “It‟s different!” he said. “John and I know each other well.” I wished that I could hide my irritation. I sat for a few moments wondering why it mattered to Dave. Dave looked at me with surprise and I realised that he may have misinterpreted what I said. “Why is it different?” I said. The more I thought about it. the more incensed I got.” he said casting me a badtempered glance. he knew only a fraction of the real me.Friends or Lovers “Dave! You are married too!” I said trying to lighten the mood. but I‟m a close colleague.
” I said positively. “Maybe after another round of drinks…” he said tentatively. Nathan and Elona. I don‟t know why. and his face lit up again. I downed my gin and tonic then went to the bar to get another round of drinks. “I‟m fond of you. but I was immediately irritated. Dave!” I said. I think. I don‟t think she‟ll ever leave hospital. I had not been to this place before so I cast my . “Let‟s get this work stuff finished. “How are things at home?” The smile left his face and his eyes were downcast. “When does he want to move in?” “As soon as possible.” “D‟you want to talk about it?” I asked. Dave listened to the story that unravelled with Mike.” Dave gave a small laugh. I watched him closely as I described Mike‟s part of the story to see if I could detect anything in his response. He seemed to take it in okay. then I‟ll get the next round in. Why did he have to laugh like that? Why take pleasure at Mike‟s marriage breaking down? I didn‟t expect it of Dave. “My parents are with her tonight. He looked up at me and appeared unsure. and concurred with me that I would need his authorisation to fund Mike‟s housing costs until he could find accommodation elsewhere. He recommended that I see Legal to arrange a three-month tenancy. He promised to email them first thing in the morning. He‟s shacked up at a hotel at the moment. “Thanks!” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster.Rory Ridley-Duff want the situation to spiral out of control I decided to offer some reassurance.
Most of the patrons were in their 30s and 40s.” I continued. I thought of my father. He had an expression. I‟m dreading it. He looked awkward and reticent. but it was impossible for me to feign feelings that I didn‟t have. I don‟t think he expected me to ask such a question.. not that “manufactured to the nearest tenth of a millimetre” feeling. and each table had a bowl in the middle that had the appearance of driftwood. however. The tables were wooden.Friends or Lovers eyes around while waiting to be served. Certainly I cared. “They give her less than a month. I wondered if I was being insensitive. I thought about trying to show deep sympathy. so I put my hand on his shoulder and encouraged him. He looked up. I returned to the table and asked Dave again about the situation at home. was that I didn‟t know how else to be. He looked pained and I could not really work out why. drawn from his love of cricket: “playing a straight bat”. there was wood panelling. Dave. Not having had a lover or even a family member in this situation. “You‟ll have to tell them something. On the wall.I‟m……” he stopped for a moment. The problem. there” routine just was not me. The edges were jagged and rough. “What will you say?” I finally responded.I‟m…. “Er…. They had a natural look about them. The doctors want to talk to me tomorrow.” It was difficult to respond. deliberately unvarnished to fit in with the tenor of the furnishings. filled with stones. His eyes looked down into his lap as he spoke. but doing the “there. Drinks in hand. I liked it. “She‟s deteriorating. .” he said.
he sure was immature. even as I had these thoughts I heard my father‟s voice. Suddenly. But why? “What is the deeper meaning here?” I kept asking myself. “I‟m sorry. I traced my mind back and suddenly realised that his moment of mirth at Mike‟s situation really infuriated me. the . of course!” I felt a bit of a twit but then some words emerged from my mouth that I wished had remained in the darkness of my mind. I had no problem comforting him.. as if he thought I might be slightly mad. but for some reason he was irritating me. I surely should have felt more sympathy for him. encouraging me to reflect.torn!” Finally! “What are you torn about?” He gave me a look that was puzzling. „What‟s the deeper meaning here. I could see his face growing red. “Might it be kinder to let her die?” He looked at me and I saw tears form in his eyes. as if he had noticed my prickliness and was responding with some of his own. Dave. but I tried not to show it. And yet.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m……I‟m……” I began to grow tired of his hesitation. Why was I putting up barriers now? These thoughts swirled around in my head. A few days ago. 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.” he responded brusquely. “I‟m torn between helping her die and keeping her alive. For someone approaching forty. There in my mind was my father smiling at me. “….
I can‟t bear the thought of losing her. “I can see why Dave hired you. The moment Dave took pleasure at Mike‟s misfortune he lost my respect.” he had said. It was generous and I kept thinking I had completely misjudged him. wouldn‟t it?” Dave‟s eyes were on me now as we talked and I felt increasingly self-conscious.Friends or Lovers awful realisation hit me. “I don‟t want to admit that it would kinder to let her die. Why did it matter? Dave broke the silence. but instead he appreciated me. Even as I chastised myself for being so uncharitable. He had every reason to hate me. When the meeting with Mike had concluded. “Yes. deciding which of them would get my sympathy. I kept asking myself why I felt more sympathy for Mike than Dave. Unbearable. That didn‟t seem right. I didn‟t feel worthy of his respect. I fought a gut instinct to get up and walk out. I even started to wonder if Dave was playing the sympathy card. But kinder!” It felt incongruous that he was looking deep into my eyes while talking about his wife dying. I was evaluating them. I saw his eyes furtively look at mine. he found it in him to pay me a compliment. I stopped looking at him but then he spotted my awkwardness. After all. I continued with a straight bat.” As he said this. “It would be kinder. So I sat there and found myself no longer wanting to comfort Dave. “Penny? Are you okay?” . He was watching me to see how these lines played. I hardly knew Mike.
no!” I said too quickly. Grab every moment you can.” I said. D‟you want me to walk you back?” “No. I won‟t” “Bye.” he replied. I made my way to the toilets and lingered there for as long as I could without appearing rude. I‟ve drunk too much. Book some time off and spend it with your wife. he did not challenge me and just kept nodding. I appreciate you meeting me and going through things. “Okay. I‟ll come in early and sort the stuff out with you. When I came out. It was an instant reaction and both of us realised what it meant. “Perhaps. I grabbed my glass and tried to smile. Dave. you should do the same!” I blurted out.” I looked at the table and saw that he had nearly a whole pint to drink up. Even so. I couldn‟t tell him how I was feeling. My sense of urgency was growing. “Look. then. I‟ll get a cab. “I‟ll do that!” he replied. “Okay. As I started to get up. I felt his hand touch my back and my body reacted like it had received an electric shock. Wait here. “It‟s okay. I was sure he sensed my tension because his hand dropped and eyes looked away. okay.” I was talking too quickly. Pen. I‟ve had a really long day and my stomach does not feel good.Rory Ridley-Duff I was not sure what to say. “Okay. “I feel a bit unwell.” . It went really well tonight.” I said hurriedly. “Just need to go to the loos and then I‟ll be back. Pick the car up tomorrow. You were a star. will you?” “No. Don‟t stay up too late. I‟ll see you in the morning.
he had changed from someone on a level with a placement student. my respect for him was waning. they evaporated that night.Friends or Lovers “Bye. What was going on? What was happening? . it was a sixth sense telling me not to get close to him. As I rode home in the taxi. As for Phil. As for Dave. to a sharp and roguish young man who merited the occasional fantasy. Perhaps I was attracted to him? My desire for John had changed from one of girlish lust to one of sisterly love. I could not explain why.” he replied with just a hint of sarcasm. Whatever hopes I had of growing close to Dave. the events of the last week just kept playing in my mind. My opinion of Mike had risen from rock bottom to something approaching respect.
He had told me to “find out about Mike” because “he may become a problem”. it was there. The SHARE experience? Yes. The more I thought about him. the more I started to like him. I wondered why he was not offended. it raised new questions over Dave. I started to relax and drink the wine. I arched my buttocks and started working on the folds of flesh between my legs. This was a good way to relax. With these thoughts behind me. thighs and between my legs. I ran a bath and as I lay in the warm water. but the water kept washing away the wetness I was feeling and prevented me reaching orgasm. I was now curious about Dave‟s comments. Then I did my stomach. I had to find a way to make up for the way I had treated him. It was as if he felt threatened by Mike and wanted me to get dirt on him. Inside the bag there were two gift-wrapped presents. I made a mental note to follow it up with Phil. but he was quite a dish.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 32 When I got home. Even though he had reason to feel bitter. He may be young. I poured myself another glass of wine and had a bath. the more I felt I had misjudged him. so I got out of the bath and returned to my bedroom. he chose not to be. I ran it over my breasts and built up a sumptuous lather. I thought about Mike. The events with Dave were upsetting so I tried to eradicate them from my mind with soothing music and some self-pampering. With the soap in my hands. On my bed was the bag from the launch. I undid the larger one to reveal a tasteful . As these positive thoughts about Mike ran around my head. I indulged myself by recalling Phil‟s red cheeks when I flirted with him.
” So there I lay on the bed almost breathless with anticipation. There were two buttons on it. As I opened the package. but one was triangular and obviously moulded so that women could use it to remove their pubic hair. Inside was a dildo extension and another tube of gel. one for switching the device on and off. I looked like a porn model. Some of the pads were round. There was a fine mesh of plastic teeth interspersed with similar inlaid metal panels. and the other to increase and decrease the intensity. plugged the panel into the motor. and attached the straps that were included. I used my fingernail to slide under the sellotape and gently remove the gift wrap from the second gift. There were several pads and a tube of gel. The gel was good and it slid in nicely and I worked it around until its full length . I lifted up my legs and inserted the dildo into the motor device then inserted it. I applied the first tube of gel. I took it in my hand and turned it over. Lying back on the bed.Friends or Lovers package that contained a battery operated motor. By the time I had finished. 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. I started to feel aroused as the sense of expectation started to build. enjoying my sexual power. The dildo was mainly plastic but there were small metal panels inlaid at various points. I looked like someone‟s whore. I started to lick my lips with a sense of exhilaration. I pictured Phil‟s cock in my hand to increase my excitement. 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. On the side were four holes for attaching accessories.
two strange thoughts burrowed into my mind. John took my breasts in his hand and gentled rubbed them while I felt Phil‟s mouth on mine. pressing on my clitoris at the same time to heighten my arousal. I remembered the booklet describe an intensity button for “a special experience”. John started to pinch and suck my nipples and run his hands all over my stomach and sides. and the other periodically pressing the „ecstasy button‟. While they gorged themselves. Phil and John came either side of me.Rory Ridley-Duff was pressing on the pit of my stomach. dildo inserted. The SHARE experience had been thoughtfully designed. as I played out a fantasy of being a hot and horny slut. As I let my finger work me into a frenzy. and I closed my eyes as I imagined Mike‟s tongue in place of my finger. massaging gently then harder then gentler again. Firstly. Not only could I feel a gentle vibration on my pubic bone. I imagined Phil. there was a gentle vibration inside me. I reached over to the motor and pressed the on switch. A sensation ripped through me that made me shudder in total ecstasy. There I was. I wanted Mike. With each press. then hard as his firm tongue edged me towards a heavenly climax. I played with myself for a couple of minutes. With one finger on my clit. small shots of electricity engulfed my pussy from both the hair remover and the dildo and I just gasped. As I lay on the bed exhausted. I imagined Mike‟s hand on the insides of my thighs and his mouth sucking on my fingers. bare breasted and naked with my legs wide apart. I wanted to fuck him like . 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. Mike and John walking into the room. with my free hand. Then. My finger was now circling furiously.
a vixen with a keen eye. naked.Friends or Lovers no-one else I had ever met and felt I would do anything to have him. as a Professor of Cunning. . finishing a new plan to suck as much pleasure out of life as possible. 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. Secondly. the future took on a positive glow and I saw myself as Phil had seen me. emotionally and physically spent body fell into a deep sleep. With these debauched thoughts filling my mind my satisfied.
“Hi.” That‟s strange. I need to arrange for Mike to rent it for three months. but he didn‟t mention anything about a flat. I need to sort out a threemonth tenancy agreement for him. I found that Dave had not e-mailed them and I wondered whether he too had overslept. I signed for the keys on my own authority and proceeded to the legal department to sort out the paperwork. my first port of call was Office Services from where I picked up the key to the company flat. Hurriedly. That being the case. “I‟m here about the company flat. Even so. I was half an hour late.” “Well. I can get the paperwork sorted.” said Stella. Perhaps I had misunderstood him. “But you‟ll need Dave to sign the contract. “Did he e-mail you about it?” I asked “Let me check. Can you sort out the paperwork and I‟ll come back this afternoon. my exertions the previous day caused me to oversleep. I was sure Dave said he would sort this out. She quickly checked her inbox and shook her head. he was in here about half an hour ago. I got up and took breakfast on the way to work. “We agreed last night that I could rent it out to Mike Bennett.” I said walking up to her desk. “He must have forgotten!” I said. 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 felt entitled.” “Okay. Has Dave been in yet?” “Yes. I thought.” . Once at work. Stella.” Stella replied. It has to be a director.
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
Phil waited patiently. He taught me the value of being honest about my desires. I may be young. inconsistent. However imperfect. “You should take some credit.” he said. My loneliness was largely a choice and not an accident or misfortune.” he said with just a hint of sadness.Friends or Lovers when I met John that I wanted to find a way out. Finally. then it is a price worth paying. “We all have our cross to bear. I might have been responsible for a tremendous injustice. to avoid the pain of rejection and avenge those who I thought were responsible. The humility did me good. 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. He grew in . I felt young next to him. My fear of being intimate – my fear of sharing thoughts and feelings – began to fade when I met John. I want to know the people in my life better. “When did you become so wise?” I asked. and wondered what else I might have missed. “I can only speak for myself. but I‟m old enough to have seen people dig themselves into an early grave through bitterness.” I looked up at Phil. In this moment. “If he had not helped me understand my own prejudices. fearful and difficult they are. 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. I spoke. My errors were born out of a desire to protect myself.” I saw Phil‟s eyebrows quickly rise and fall and he tried to form some words.
” This instant loyalty and acceptance of responsibility moved me so I felt it necessary to sound a note of caution. I saw him momentarily shuffle uncomfortably. Perhaps I had as much to learn from him as he from me. I‟ll see what I can find out. “And now I‟m not sure who to believe.” Phil realised not only the extent to which I was about to take him into my confidence. “we‟ve just poked around a number of people‟s private lives and screwed them up. “I need your help again.” “I understand. “We need to find out whether there‟s a reason for Dave‟s animosity. “There‟s one other thing. “Phil.” he replied. “Eyes and ears to the ground again. . “Phil. but also the import of what I was about to suggest.” I responded.” I added. “And now?” Phil asked.” “I did so because Dave led me to think Mike might become a problem. “Are you suggesting what I think?” queried Phil. “What‟s that?” I swallowed hard at the thought of what I was about to say.Rory Ridley-Duff stature before my eyes.” “How?” Phil asked.” I said. just a way to understand what happened.” “Okay.” I said pointedly. Not sure what else we can do because I‟ve no idea where to start. This isn‟t a seek and destroy mission.” “What did you have in mind?” “D‟you remember that I asked you to find out about Mike – a kind of necessary evil?” “Yes.
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. of course!” he replied. “…and that he‟s also one hell of a lucky guy. “Come on. much as John had taken a risk with me. “I think. He took my hand and shook it firmly. I offered him my hand. in a moment of blind instinct. “that he is old enough to be your father…. It was a risk. Eventually. what d‟you think?” I asked with urgency.” I was so chuffed that Phil said this that I was lost for words.Friends or Lovers “I am starting to fancy Mike like crazy. “Yes. “Friends?” I said. 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.” Phil said with a momentary pause. .” “Oh!” I said. somewhat deflated. Do you think I‟m mad?” Phil‟s face broke into a broad smile.
He signed off the contract to rent the flat to Mike and called Legal to approve the pay settlement. A strange feeling came over me. “Don‟t be afraid to drop in from time to time. I had only met Harry formally. Until now. but I‟m assured by Dave that you‟ve made quite a mark here. “Quite a learning experience?” he asked. Harry accepted my comments with good grace. I found that Dave had still not signed it. Today was turning into a very good day indeed.” I answered. I guessed that Dave must be too busy to deal with it. but also said that the proposed settlement would ward off the possibility of litigation and save the company money in the long run. That‟s good to hear.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 35 Later in the afternoon. Penny.” “Thank you.” I responded. “You‟ve no idea. The flattery that I felt was considerable and I duly made the promise. I felt I should touch base with her over the comment Elona had made. and explained the situation. but he was inviting me to be more informal with him. . the company‟s managing director. I admitted my mistake. so I took the contract to Harry. I thanked him for his help and left his office feeling as though I had just grown wings and could fly.” I swallowed quite hard when I heard this. 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. My detour took me near to Jo‟s office. I did not want gossip or rumour to spread. “I know we see each other infrequently. As I walked into her office I heard a voice that was familiar. I returned to Legal to collect the contract for Mike.
“You are Jo‟s new consultant. continuing the charade. Everybody turned around to look at me and for a moment I felt quite embarrassed. “We are good friends.” I could see Sally looking both pleased and surprised as she whispered something in the ear of a colleague. I was not sure whether to admit to a close friendship in front of all the others. John was outlining his thoughts on male and female consumer behaviour. “…. “Jo and I are good friends too…. Tongues would probably wag. I imagine she was asking herself the same question about me. My attitude to mixing business and personal relationships was momentarily compromised. our eyes connected just long enough for others to register that we were more than acquaintances.” I answered. but if I had denied it then it would surely have shown in my face. “Hello there!” he said with just a trace of a smile. presentation in full flow. but there was little I could do. As I looked at John. “You know each other?” asked Jo. “Yes. In my mind I wondered “how good?” but I resisted the temptation to ask.Friends or Lovers Surely it could not be? But as I walked up to the door the voice was unmistakable. As I entered the room.” he replied. then?” John looked at Jo.we‟ve worked on projects together and had some interesting results!” The way he said „interesting‟ made both Jo and him laugh out loud. . John noticed me at the back of the room and his face beamed.
was a deep pride that he acknowledged me so warmly.” With these words. isn‟t it?” “I guess it is. but John did not understand. but his manner was so open and unaffected that he disarmed me. See you all next Wednesday. I thought for a moment and remembered my commitment to Mike. this is a turn up. then?” “Sure did!” and he immediately sensed the glint in my eye. 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. he put his hand on my shoulders and kissed me on the cheek. “Watch out! He‟ll charm the pants off you before you know it!” I laughed out loud. . Without batting an eyelid. Remember to bring in lots of magazines. Not only did it make me feel special.Rory Ridley-Duff “Okay everyone. and gave a thumbs-up sign. John leaned over and whispered into my ear. “How are you fixed later?” asked John.” I responded. buy some this week. you‟ll need to bring some in yourself – if you don‟t buy them normally. however. Mixed with surface irritation. smiled. “Things worked out. “Helping Sally and Mike move him into a company flat!” He turned to them both. That‟s more or less it for today. For a second I wondered whether to chide him for creating the impression we were close. “Well. he shut down his laptop to signal the end of the meeting and walked over to greet me. it would probably do my social standing amongst the staff no harm at all. Guys.
“Sure if it leads him to deny himself the company of other interesting people. I am. “Yes. Penny. “I would normally not say such a thing. Reluctantly. “You interested?” I blushed. “So what‟s going down with Mike. Damn it. I could have deliberately misunderstood him and read more into his words than was there. and his tone changed in an instant. “Penny.” His eyes had that glorious warmth that I had come to adore. he‟s a very nice man. why do I do that! His remark caught me so off-guard that for a moment I was angry with him. indeed his life. but I was beginning to realise the limits of his commitment. He immediately sensed this. I felt myself giving up any aspirations I had to seduce John and I comforted myself by looking forward to more fantasies. must be an endless juggling act. but an instinct told me not to.” “I intend to. with just a hint of playfulness. then?” I asked.” “Aren‟t you devoted to your wife?” I asked. I felt that his marriage. but Mike is not just a nice man.” he quipped.” I said. but not so much that I would avoid your company. John took one look at me and twigged. . Treat him well. John smiled. “Problem is that he‟s far too devoted to his wife!” “Can a man be too devoted?” I joked.” he said in a low voice and drawing me towards the corner of the room. Sure he wanted to be close to me.Friends or Lovers “Someone else said the same thing earlier!” “Must be true then.
I still felt no maternal twinge. John then grinned at me and I realised that he was playing.” I responded. “For that advice. but because of this he would never let anything start. I returned to my office and decided to make one more trip to Dave‟s before packing up my things. I wanted a man. they‟re like a married couple.” I said warmly. They fight and bicker all the time! She‟s been in love with him for years. Apart from that. “For what?” he asked. “What about Sally?” I asked. “Thanks for that. more as a remark to myself than a question for John. I did not care. “What advice was that?” he said. Mike and Sally came over and John announced that he too was helping with the move. Knowing that neither Mike nor I wanted children took away one potential conflict. I was looking forward to the evening. He‟s got three already and does not want any more. I looked at John again. not children.” he said with more confidence than I felt. . “The way he tells it to me is that she wants children – he does not.Rory Ridley-Duff “I believe you will. If they‟d agreed on that then perhaps he would have let her get close to him. Whether he was being deliberately obtuse or just plain dumb. but I can‟t see his feelings changing. Even as my own sister brought hers into the world.” “No more kids?” I said. I thought there was no harm seeing if she was competition.
Mike is moving in tonight. I went over the talk we had the night before in the pub and he listened without making comment. When I finished. This was odd.Friends or Lovers Chapter 36 “There you are!” I said. “Don‟t you remember?” I asked. I couldn‟t understand why he was behaving this way. whatever Dave!” I said. “The flat.” “Dave! What d‟you mean?” “I wanted to discuss it with Harry first. but I confined myself to the issue in hand. We didn‟t agree anything last night – you just told me what you wanted to do.” “You‟re mistaken. he finally said something. I didn‟t agree to it.” “What do you mean? You said you‟d e-mail Legal this morning. His fists were clenched as he spoke. but I didn‟t approve it.” I said again. What was he playing at? “Well. I thought. “I‟ve been looking for you all day. Dave was behaving quite strangely and I was confused. Penny. My mood changed from one of confusion to concern. His stubbornness was mirrored by the rigidity in his body. . “He‟s moving in tonight.” “What?” Dave was acting so strangely that I felt like asking why. the contract!” I said “What contract?” answered Dave. He was standing next to his desk. “I said you‟d need my approval.” “Why‟s that?” answered Dave. You said you would go and see them to sort this out. “I just dropped by to say that I‟ve sorted it anyway.” he said.
You haven‟t given him any keys. It was my turn to feel defensive. “Okay. “Don‟t do it again!” he said finally. “How?” he said. On another occasion I would have challenged him. have you?” “Yes. almost shouting. And I‟ve sorted out the contract.” Dave looked at me. I have. Without saying goodbye. I wondered if something might have happened at the hospital. You haven‟t signed it yourself?” “No!” I answered. His behaviour was strange and my evening engagement so much more inviting.” He looked defensive and angry. He must have had a very bad day.Rory Ridley-Duff “But we haven‟t sorted out a contract yet. I couldn‟t find you so I got Harry to sign.” “You went around me?” “No. . “So how d‟you sort it?” he asked with a tone bordering on aggression. I didn‟t „go around you‟. That was so out of character I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. but I wanted to retreat. He was speaking to me like a child. I left the room. “I need to sign it.” I said. clearly irritated. “I got someone else to sign it because I couldn‟t find you.
Friends or Lovers Chapter 37 It took us less time than expected to move Mike‟s stuff. We all dutifully raised our glasses and clinked them together. With four helpers and four cars. “Yes he did! Yes he did! I don‟t mean he saved my life like he rescued me from death or anything.” Mike‟s eyes looked downward as he shook his head and laughed.” she announced.” She pointed to her heart with a finger and kept stabbing herself as she laughed. “…. . drove to the new flat. “Penny. “To new beginnings!” I noticed myself glancing in Mike‟s direction repeatedly. he needed to take only a few easily transportable things. I initially felt out of place amongst such close friends. we quickly filled each of them up. plus his clothes. By nine o‟clock. unloaded and had four glasses of champagne on the table before the 7pm. but they took care to include me in their conversation.. Sally raised her glass. “This man here…. “To new beginnings. hi-fi and a portable television. Sally stood up and raised her glass. bedding.” she started. Sometimes he would look back and acknowledge my interest. but at other times he would remain engaged in conversation with John and Sally. She quickly regrouped and continued. I mean that he rescued me in here. after we had consumed a pizza-takeaway and several bottles of wine. As the flat was partly furnished.this man saved my life. As the evening wore on I felt more and more relaxed. computer.” she lost her balance for a moment as the drink began to affect her.
“Don‟t you look around the place like that!” she barked at Mike. “He and his stinking brother can rot in hell for all I care. “I don‟t think Dave would see it like that….” 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.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike‟s eyes looked everywhere but towards me and I sensed that he wished Sally would shut up. sit down love and rejoin the party. “This man saved my career!” John smiled back and raised his glass to me in appreciation. “You leave „er alone. I stood up. I wobbled momentarily as I raised my glass to John. let „er!” As Sally sat down. When he did that…. I decided to mimic Sally so I feigned a stumble.” Everybody laughed as I struggled to articulate what I felt.(hic)….” answered Mike. I wanted him in no doubt how special he was to me.” “Sod Dave!” she said. As I spoke I looked deep into John‟s eyes. he helped me see something that I couldn‟t see. “You‟re one of life‟s superheroes. “Did he? Well.” responded Sally. “…. Her boldness had made me bold and I wanted to say my piece as well. “Well firstly. I never. “This man.” Mike threw up a hand to discard her remark. you!” I said boldly. “If she wants to praise you. “How d‟ee do that?” I was feeling liberated so I let my feelings spill out.he stopped me causing this man…” . “Come on Sal.” I said looking at him.
“I was about to do one of the most stupid things I‟d ever done.this man…..” As I stood there. the other three giggled away. “Penny. “…. “John. Really you don‟t.” said John.this man….” “Penny!” John interrupted again.” I looked at him and was overcome with such feelings of love and affection that I put my hand up again. “you don‟t have to say this. braced himself for what he thought I was going to say.” He sat down again and with a resigned look. “This man….” I laughed as I realised just how comfortable I suddenly felt. “…. Before I knew it there were tears in my eyes and I was struggling to talk. I do have to say it and I want these two to listen. John noticed and started to get up but I put my hand up to stop him. I do.” as these words spilled out my hand instinctively moved to cover my mouth.” Mike‟s embarrassed look left his face and was replaced by one of genuine surprise.. “Ah shit! What the hell.. “You don‟t have to.Friends or Lovers I quickly glanced at Mike before continuing “…any more upset and pain. and I would‟ve done so if my good friend John – who I will now love forever….this man did more than save my career.” as the words formed in my head a single tear started to roll down one of my cheeks. . but in my mind a whole world of understanding descended on me and I felt completely overwhelmed. but I knew that I had more to say so I gathered myself and started to find the words.this man….” I said and then continued. I did not understand what was happening to me.
I mean really living – not just have a job and exist. “For the last 10 years. John looked less worried and began to take in what I was saying.” As I spoke. I‟m the sort of person your mother warned you about.. I don‟t know how you did it but you made me take an interest in living again.” Sally and Mike were transfixed as they witnessed this intimate exchange.” John obviously felt that I was going to tell him again how much I loved him.arsehole!” I said with a smile. but a vixen at night who stalks and preys on vain and needy men to satisfy her own vanity and neediness. John…” I fixed my eyes and aggressively pointed my finger at him.you….Rory Ridley-Duff “Shut up. “You shut up too.. You John. “taught me how to feel again. Good as gold at work.” and this time I paused for effect more than anything else. I had them all where I wanted them now. and I‟ll tell you!” Sally creased up with laughter when I called Mike an arsehole. you…. “You men. What I‟ve done while at conferences would fill the pages of a Jackie Collins novel! But you. “Right! This man…. me. so I continued . and John gave a short chuckle and relaxed in his chair. honestly! Never know when to shut up…. I‟ve known a series of jerks and losers and none of them ever made me actually want to know them. “Since when did you two get so close?” asked Mike. I‟ve been a bad girl. you changed all that. “…you made me want to behave!” Sally and Mike creased up with laughter as I fired my double barrel. I giggled at the comedy that was taking place. so this caught him by surprise. you arsehole. “You‟ve had this coming to you for a long time so don‟t spoil it.
It was the most exquisite feeling I had ever known.. .Friends or Lovers with the performance and grew in confidence. And then he pulled away. he got up. and kept his eyes on me while he sat down in his chair. I knew. despite her feelings. better than any orgasm. He roared and clapped. started to join in too. And one more thing…” I held up both hands to stop them interrupting. Mike. walking backward. better than any drug. “You make me want to be bad too!” he whispered in my ear. grinned to himself contentedly. “You make me want to be bad again!” When I said this. it was nothing compared with the tidal wave that engulfed my being on hearing these words. “…are the most difficult. As Mike‟s giggles subsided. A few moments later I felt a tingle rush through my body and I had to shut my eyes and wait until it passed. Sally. Sally‟s giggles subsided and it was John who creased up with laughter. the vixen started to return and my gaze left John and fixed on Mike. on the other hand. In that moment. 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. If I had thought that John had helped me to feel again. Was this love? Was this lust? In that moment I was touched by my own humanity. stubborn…and surprising person I‟ve ever met.” 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. I blew Mike a kiss then sat down. on the other hand…. There was not a force in the world that was going to stop it. came over and gave me a hug. This was living. A modest contented grin was etched onto his face and we both knew what was going to happen. Then. “You. I knew.
She and John were lovers.” she started to say.” I was laughing again. “You sly old dog. and he glanced back. She did not need to say anything. “Sally?” I quizzed.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 joked. He was not the paragon of virtue I had believed him to be. . “he‟s been a bad boy a few times.” answered John. It was not only his family that he was protecting. “He was so loyal to this sweet woman that he nearly destroyed his marriage. you! And there was me thinking you were a devoted and loyal husband!” “You are mixing me up with Mike!” he said. it was Sally. “As for this one. Mike raised his glass to John in appreciation but when I glanced at Mike. “But I thought he told you?” I responded. Then he was so loyal to Elona that he nearly destroyed his career. “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 pointed at John and shouted at him. “He‟s too damn loyal for his own good. the thought ran through my mind that his loyalty was coming to an end. “And there was I thinking that you are a family man. “John! How long has this been going on?” He looked at me half-embarrassed. haven‟t you my dear?” Now it was my turn to crease up with laughter. Suddenly his resistance made sense. All my inhibitions regarding John vanished. Sally looked at me.
Why did you resist me?” He looked at me and draped his arms around my neck. I pressed myself up against him.” I said to him. his hands clutched my behind. so I grabbed him and led him roughly across the living room and out of the flat.” I remembered the recent phone call.” I replied. or the knowledge that he was weak with women. gently parted. darling. .” “Why did you tell her?” “I wanted to stay at Sally‟s while working on this contract.Friends or Lovers “He is. Whether it was the drink. didn‟t you?” “Yes.” he said. “One day soon. “Right you!” I said. “You told her. and our tongues touched. and asked Sally if I could borrow him for a minute. and you called me right in the middle of it! She thought you were Sally and started wrecking the house.” As I said these words. put my hands around his buttocks and pulled him close. You must have known how much I wanted you. I was not going to waste this moment. As my hand slipped under his shirt and felt his strong body. “You have no idea…. offered my hand to John. She consented. “He‟s frustratingly devoted to his wife and children. “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. That‟s why I had to go.” I got up from my chair. Our lips met.” said Sally. the situation. We pulled each other close and snogged until we both sensed that enough was enough. “I want to talk about this.. “Oh yes I have….
Mike was gone. Things changed some years back.” “What about Sally?” “If I‟d not slept with Sally. but it‟s not that. if they thought I was not intending to sleep with them.” “And I love you too.Rory Ridley-Duff “Sally is not the only woman that I‟ve given in to . that I‟ve not been afraid to love.there has been one other. She was. Penny Leyton. that‟s how you did it. But with you. “You look after her and I‟ll look after you.” He laughed and held hands. I think. John. This isn‟t the first time for either of us. very needy. You‟re the first woman I‟ve not had to sleep with to keep interested. “You have yourself a deal. Just being with him had been enough for me too. When the kids were both at . That was the price of continued friendship.” “How are things with your wife?” “They‟re okay. With others. It was hard for her to leave her husband. You made it possible for me to love again. I was there. He did not have to explain how he felt. even after I told you I wouldn‟t make a pass at you.” I stroked his face.” I nodded as I spoke. Very special. it was different somehow. not surprisingly. Penny.” I said. I was part of her recovery. after my father. Being with you was enough. If you „saved me‟. “Yes. You are the first man. they would lose interest. You liked me from the moment we met. I‟d have lost her. I‟m fond of her and she was in a state after Mike returned to his wife. “I love you. “That‟s what I thank you for the most.” I said.” “She‟s certainly a looker. That made you special.
“Not so white as white. am I? I hope you aren‟t disappointed. We both get lonely. thankfully. That was a lovely thought and I warmed to it.” “But you need somewhere that‟s a home. I admire her more than when we first married but the exclusivity has been lost.” I said. This is a long contract and it‟ll be lovely to spend time with Sally. There‟s no reason to divorce.” With this exchange of words we made our pact. We drifted apart and she had an affair. You‟re secret is safe with me. I‟m travelling much more. Soon after. Maybe I can sleep in your nest occasionally?” I smiled. we‟re able to get past blaming each other. When we are together we still have a fabulous time. I‟m just a temporary distraction for her. She holds a torch for Mike and likes having her own place. We hugged again but this time . I took the plunge. sometimes weeks. I travel for days. You don‟t want to just drift between places like a visitor?” “With my work. There‟s no way to get it back so things have changed. at a time. We found that we both liked the idea of more freedom. “As long as you behave. Sally won‟t marry me.” “Don‟t worry. A nomadic life suits me and I have friends and nests in many places. I was determined to hold onto his love. The kids are older now. my whole life‟s like that. “We both love the kids. I admitted to her that I‟d thought of having an affair as well. She‟s a lovely woman and.Friends or Lovers school she started working again. We worked things through but a lot changed. Penny.” “D‟you think you‟ll have a house in one piece when you get home?” I quipped. lover. Then I met Sally through Mike and gave in again! My wife and I are still good friends.
But when I thought about it. Sleeping with Mike for the first time was. I thought of Sally and Mike and how everyone thought they had been lovers. It would be our joke – just as it had been for Sally and Mike . a priceless treasure that sparkles.Rory Ridley-Duff it was devoid of sexual passion. Sally retired to one of the bedrooms with John. I hope you will forgive me for shielding it from gossip that would corrupt it. It was almost as if we were saying goodbye and hello at the same time. Our relationship was now like that. I retired to the other with Mike. only ones where they chose not to have sex. We knew that sex would be there if we ever both needed and wanted it at the same time. we had become lovers of a sort. But I didn‟t care either way – the most important thing was to protect the trust. I remembered John‟s words that there was no such thing as a non-sexual relationship between men and women. a bond as strong as I‟d ever known. We both understood our attraction to each other. without question. There was now such a deep intimacy.that acquaintances would misunderstand. the most special moment of one of the most extraordinary days of my life. It would be John and I that others would mistake now. As for the rest of the evening. This diamond is mine. . The memory is like a precious stone. and mine alone.
movies. worried and pleased at the passion I felt. . From: dave. I felt capable of doing anything. We all have off days. As I settled down to my computer to retrieve my e-mails. Sorry about yesterday. Don’t worry about it.leyton@innovation. there was an apology from Dave. To have waited nearly 33 years to discover this! Suddenly I understood why people could fall apart when their partner leaves.co. I was astonished and frightened. I was pleased that Dave apologised because that was how I expected him to be. or how a husband or wife might feel driven to murder after discovering the other was having an affair.uk Subject: Sorry Pen. forgive me? Dave. Suddenly all those soppy romance novels.Friends or Lovers Chapter 38 I went into work the next day on a tremendous high.co.stockton@innovation. If anybody tried to steal Mike from me. Is there anything we need to follow up after the product launch? I was irritable and too harsh.uk To: penny. Can you I answered immediately. it would have been imprudent and insensitive. and songs made sense and I realised people were not simply making it up. Every few minutes I would pause to think of the future. Even though I felt like telling him (and the whole world) what had happened the night before. As I sensed these feelings.
“If any rumours start. “You don‟t have sugar. right?” he asked. “Don‟t you go blurting this around the place.Rory Ridley-Duff There was a knock at the door and Phil was standing with a cup of coffee. What have you got for me?” “Elona‟s off sick again. She‟s over the 10-day mark and her manager is asking if you‟ll visit.” I responded.” Phil said. But I can‟t see this staying a secret for long. okay?” “Okay. I want them to come from me.” .. “I guess that‟s a good idea. boss!” he said sarcastically. Strange.” Elona! I had forgotten about her in all the excitement.” I said. “Bloody hell. This was a surprise. Penny. I‟m happy enough for both of us. Phil looked up and my smile told him all he needed to know. “No need to do that today. No answer.. “Don‟t tell me….” “Sure thing. “Thank you. They‟ll probably be in the shop. Keep it under wraps for now.” “Hmm. “Okay. No answer from her parents?” “No.” “Hard to believe it myself. That was fast work.?” I just kept silent and smirked enough for him to work out that he was right.you…. Phil did not usually make coffee unless I asked. give me the address and I‟ll go round. That‟s the third time in two weeks. Have you called her?” “Yes.” “Have to keep the boss happy!” he joked. Okay. That‟s very sweet of you.
maybe make her a drink.” *** I drove to Elona‟s flat and rang the bell. We‟ll be in the shop. I took the liberty of putting together breakfast-in-bed. plates and bowls.” I sat with Elona for fifteen minutes before stirring myself to go to the kitchen. “Oh the pet!” said her mother. “She‟s up there but we can‟t get her out of bed.” “Feel free. Her mother led me though the shop and up the stairs. all last night. “You‟ve been busy!” “Yes.Friends or Lovers “Yes. She turned around and after a moment of confusion she saw the breakfast tray.” There was silence. bread. What do you want to do?” “Can I stay here a bit. You looked like you could do with something. my dear.” “What‟re you doing here?” she asked.” I asked them to let me in. Having played hide and seek with the butter. Don‟t know what to do. “She‟s cried herself to sleep. love!” she shouted. We‟re at our wits end. . There was no reply so I entered the shop and spoke to her mother. “Elona?” I said gently as I rocked her shoulder. We‟re worried sick. wake her up and chat. so her mother gently opened the door of her room and a crumpled figure lay in the bed asleep. of course. “Elona! Elona. I finally assembled something that looked appetising. All weekend. just crying and crying. “there‟s someone here to see you….
” 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. “Your mum and dad say you‟ve been upset.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m finding out how you are.” . We sat there while she finished her breakfast and then she thanked me again. Nobody at work could contact you. she started to nod and the tears began to flow as she tucked into her toast and cup of tea. I won‟t kid you. I could see the tear stains around her eyes. At the same time I do care what happens to you and if there‟s a way I can help then I will. Don‟t make me into a saint. but still had a girlish charm. Without make-up she looked quite different.” As I looked at her face.” I responded. This is kind of you. I‟m here because you‟ve been off work for 10 days this year and it is my job to be here. We were worried. I don‟t want that.” “Just part of the job. And yet I did feel concern for her so I accepted her thanks. Eventually.” she commented.” “I‟m sure they‟ll do what‟s best. She looked at me sorrowfully and tried to talk but nothing coherent came out. “Elona. It is hard watching someone sink into the depths of despair. “He‟ll just say I‟m depressed and give me some drugs. Have you seen a doctor?” She gave a dismissive laugh. I did not try to start a conversation and just sat next to her. “This is kind of you. “You didn‟t have to come.” She sat up in bed and I gave her the tray. “No.
” she said. a failure. “I‟m useless. Even though she was slightly built I began to feel a bit afraid. completely fucking useless. “I need you. Nobody.” My efforts were not rewarded. 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. Administrators are ten-a-penny. She looked like she was going to explode. At the moment. I heard you. Nobody likes me. “You don‟t need me.Friends or Lovers At this comment Elona looked at me angrily. “I‟m nothing.” It was my turn to show a bit of aggression. “I don‟t give a shit. a zero.” “Is this to do with Nathan?” At this remark she turned toward me and I could see the rage building in her face. I‟ve seen your file and you‟ve earned that position. I‟m useless. In the back of my mind. It‟s all meaningless. I recalled the many conversations I‟d had with John. “Nothing.” I said. however.” I said. “I said I don’t want that. There are people at work who believe in you. I was on my own and had to do the best I could. I wondered if he might be able to help. “What then?” I asked. “Yes.” I listened with patience. Nobody likes me. As I walked out of the room a torrent of abuse showered my back as .” “Why?” I asked. “Don‟t give me that crap. so I started to clear the tray and returned to the kitchen. a waste of space.
There are a couple of people I want to talk to and then I‟ll be back. “Elona. Mike. Do you understand?” She made no movement so I repeated the question and she gave a nod of her head. We had all ruined her life. I tried to remain calm but it was difficult. me. When I returned from the kitchen I held out my hand and surprisingly she took it. motionless except for the occasional stroke of her face. her exboyfriend. She turned onto her side and wept again.Rory Ridley-Duff she screamed the place down about Nathan. work. Phil. her parents. I sat with her for another quarter of an hour. . I need to go now.
“Okay. but this has to come first …. Next I went to see Mike. Even though I was there on business. but he agreed to take a break at mid-day and chat to me in the canteen.” He pulled his head away and I noticed there was a bulge in his trousers.. He nodded and even though I felt like dragging him into the nearest broom cupboard for a quickie. “Plenty. I felt myself get aroused as I moved closer toward him. “Better do something about that!” I said with a smile. He was in a meeting with Jo. My first port of call was John.” I said. I‟d go and have one. “If there was a cold shower somewhere. but none that I can act on here. “…. What is it?” he asked as soon as I closed the door. “Elona!” I said in response and suddenly he dropped the formality and whispered in my ear. “Anything in particular you want to speak about?” he enquired.” “We‟ve got to keep a lid on it at work. “Hello…. As I walked through the door.Penny!” he said slightly stiffly. “….err…. I managed to calmly lead him into his own office. I busied myself. “What can I do for you?” “Can I speak to you in private?” I asked.” I said. looking down towards his crotch. .I do. he smiled at me as if it was any other day at work. “Any ideas?” he replied.” I whispered back.and there was I hoping you wanted to shag me in the toilets….Friends or Lovers Chapter 39 For the rest of the day.
” I proffered.” “Elona? What‟s the problem now?” “The same problem. We were always friends before and I‟m sure we will be again. He looked surprised at my remark. “You‟re not thinking….Jeez! I‟ve only just got you to myself.” “Elona and I have always got on well. I visited her and she‟s in a right state. but he anticipated me.Rory Ridley-Duff “Elona needs somewhere to stay. “Are you checking me out?” he queried. I wanted to know how you felt about the idea. She was upset and I was there so she took it out on me. .. I allowed him to kiss me briefly but stopped him when I felt my passion rising. Penny?” he said. I‟m not sure it‟d be a good idea anyway. My hand instinctively jumped to my mouth. I could hardly believe what I‟d said and started to apologise profusely. I don‟t hold what happened against her. “Of course. I‟ll talk to John later. It‟s technically your place. if you want to get back with your wife….” “Does that mean you‟d be okay if she moved into the other room?” “It‟s going to look very odd. “Let them!” he said.” “What d‟you have in mind?” I gave a half smile and got ready to ask him. He walked over and silenced me with a kiss. I can‟t act without your consent. but I think she needs some space to herself. Is it really that urgent?” “Well actually. “Stop! People will see.” I protested.
“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. 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 the reps came up and congratulated me.” Phil looked at me warmly. When I returned in the afternoon.” I replied.” “Why next weekend?” he asked. She took the news of the flat offer in her stride and did not seem to show any great enthusiasm.Friends or Lovers “I‟ll tell her…. I told her again that there were people at work who cared. “What did you do – send out a company wide e-mail?” “No.I‟ll tell her that she can move in next weekend if she wants. just a little kiss in his office. “May as well have sent out an e-mail!” he retorted with a chuckle. One of his staff had noticed our kiss and by lunchtime a rumour was making its way around the offices. “Oh well! It‟s out now. I turned to leave the room. the rumour about myself and Mike had spread to Phil.” he said with a big grin. “Not a word passed my lips!” said Phil as I brought him a cup of tea. “Already?” I asked. As I sat with John in the canteen. When I got back to the office. Elona was up and dressed. She promised to think about it and let me know the next day.
“Oh fuck!” . After a few moments.30pm Phil found me slumped at my desk. just two words sprang forth from his lips. Subject: Sorry Pen.Rory Ridley-Duff “I‟m happy for you. the high spirits that had kept me aloft all day dissolved. With every passing minute. crashing and spinning out of control. my heart sank slowly into the quicksand of despair. Dave x I sat for 30 minutes while thoughts burned my mind. “What‟s up. *** At my desk. Beads of sweat formed over my body and face. I decided to have one last trawl through my emails in case Dave had replied. Where on earth had this come from? As I tried to find answers to impossible questions. By 4. I just wanted to say that the thought of you testing the SHARE experience “personally” is definitely something to dream about at night!! I look forward to a blow-by-blow description of your experiences.” he said. and the clarity I had brought to work evaporated as my mind felt like it was turning to treacle. Penny?” I swivelled my screen around so he could read the e-mail.
He made me a cup of coffee. Now I had a personal problem it dawned on me that I hardly knew him. Could I talk to him? What if I scared him off by mentioning it? What if he asked questions? Did I really want to explain that I‟d told Dave about testing out the SHARE experience? Whichever way my mind went. I gave him a hug. Intermittently. Even though we were not speaking. he would slide his fingers between mine and hold my hand more tightly . but the promise to explore the love-making potential of the flat was a distant thought. stroking me. He sat at one end of the sofa and I put my head on his lap. His right hand lay on the side of my face. 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. I could see a potential for disaster. “Just in case what?” I asked. I returned to Mike‟s flat. watched the television and held my hand. I think he expected me to jump him as I walked through the door.Friends or Lovers Chapter 40 Instead of going home. He went out for bottle of wine and came back with two. my mind was preoccupied. My right hand rested on his knee and every few moments I would caress it and sometimes rub the inside of his knee. but after receiving Dave‟s e-mail. He joked that the second was “just in case”. He seemed to take it in his stride and did not press me. sat with me. his left hand would stroke the back of mine and I would move my head and nestle it even more deeply in his lap.” he answered. Sometimes.I . “Just in case we finish the first one. we communicated a lot. To others we looked like a regular couple but inside I was full of questions about how far I could trust him.
I was not really watching it so I started to ask Mike questions.the little things. As I lay there. “I remember this film.” he said. don‟t they?” “I hope so. a line from a film entered my head.” he said. “Plenty of time for that!” It was a small remark. you are stroking me. “Not yet. She says to him „I miss the little things‟ and the man replies „ah!…. there‟s nothing bigger is there?‟ Don‟t you think that‟s a great line?” He smiled and stroked my head again. There‟s nothing bigger is there?” “Little what?” he answered. I sipped the wine as the TV programme played in the background. I‟m stroking you. “When did you know?” I asked. “Know how you felt about me?” I answered. but it gave me confidence that he looked upon me as more than a fling. “What do you mean?” .Rory Ridley-Duff would respond by tightening my grip to catch and squeeze his fingers. There‟s a man standing with a woman and she‟s talking about her husband who has just died. “Well I was just lying here and our hands are touching. “When I insulted you!” I sat up and looked at him. “Know what?” he replied. and these little things mean a lot. “Are you going to tell me about your wife?” I asked. Penny?” he asked. “The little things. “Where‟s this coming from.
” I was not sure how to react. I thought and went back over my mind. Secondly. I did.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 answered. when you held my gaze and would not look away.” “Do you remember when we first met?” he asked. “Well.” “Go on. maybe. 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. I can‟t remember ever standing up to my wife like that. At work. I remember being really angry. so the thought came into my head. 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. “When did you know?” he asked. And there I was challenging you on whether you had ever made a pass at a man. I think there were two moments. . but at home I‟ve always been quite passive. Firstly. Do you remember that?” “Yes. “You thought of that while we were arguing?” “Well. I‟d always pegged you as old fashioned and that completely took me back.” I laughed out loud because at that moment I would have fed him to the sharks. “I was thinking how nice it would be if you made a pass at me. when you asked why women let men think they rule the world. “Won‟t forget that in a hurry!” “Well there I was shouting at you. Before I had time to think. he‟d asked me the same question.” I encouraged.
didn‟t I?” commented Mike. I pegged you as a paternalistic antifeminist old git. “He didn‟t want you in the company.” I interjected. after a moment. “Why would you be afraid of me when you don‟t even know me?” . “Yes.” he said. “Tell me. Dave had successfully hidden this from me for nine months.” “My God! I remember now. Yes. you did. “He‟d say that I censored myself because I was afraid of you. but Harry insisted on you. I started the joke then stopped when I saw you walking toward us.” “Is that true?” It was Mike‟s turn to reflect. “I was thinking what John would say. He‟d been bitching about Harry insisting on your appointment. “I annoyed you.” he replied. “Why are you laughing?” I demanded.” This came as a surprise.Rory Ridley-Duff I tried to recollect but I couldn‟t. I thought back. “Dave and I were chatting and I was about to tell him a sexual joke.” I commanded. “I was with Dave.” he replied. “What about him?” I asked. He preferred the other candidate. He said to be careful because of you.” I directed. Anyway. “John. “Go on. “Yes. He told me to watch out for you because you were a „ball breaker‟” “He said that!” I exclaimed.” Mike laughed.
It was strangely reassuring. he did not routinely crack jokes or flirt when he was alone with me.” “Well. “Because you didn’t tell me the joke.” I said sinking into his lap. “It was brilliant. I‟m afraid. If he had been John. If I don‟t tell the joke. “Tell me the joke.” I replied.Friends or Lovers Mike looked me in the eye. “No. “Damned if you do.” “Was it a good joke?” I said trying to lighten the mood. Without any further words he pulled my face closer. “I can imagine. a witty remark would have been forthcoming as he popped the cork. I‟m sexist because I‟m excluding you. “Why?” he asked. One of John‟s best. but Mike was quieter and calmer.” “That‟s the problem. it was.” he said. “I don‟t know any male manager today who‟s not afraid of sexual accusations. His mouth met mine and we got properly reacquainted. “My God. damned if you don‟t. you are!” I responded. “What‟s the problem?” I asked. I‟m sexist because I turn women into sex objects.” he replied. We soon finished the first bottle of wine and opened the second.” “What do you mean?” I queried “If I tell the joke.” I thought back to my e-mail exchanges with John.” “Are you serious?” Mike frowned. . “I didn‟t want your first impression of me to be a bad one.” I said. While he had charm and sex appeal.
not absolutely sure how I felt about him now.” “Did he really?” said Mike with a sarcastic knowing laugh. I was his boss back then. around my waist and started to caress the small of my back. “Did pretty well.” I said.” I recalled how Dave had been suspicious of Mike. “Hmmm.” .” he answered seductively as his hand moved under my blouse. Mike obliged but kept talking at the same time. “Too repressed?” “Yeah. “Very well indeed. “Well. Clearly the feelings were reciprocated.” he answered. He‟s never done that before. I am. “He asked me to find out about you. Get on the wrong side of him and you‟ll discover just what a bastard he can be. “I‟ve always liked him.” I blurted out.” he continued. didn‟t I?” I quipped. “Yeah! He behaves great to his favourites or women he fancies. His body was relaxed and I felt comfortable opening up to him.” he said with considerable force. Mike felt no need to press me to explain myself.” I said. “We joined IC at roughly the same time. “You‟re concerned?” he asked.Rory Ridley-Duff “I had a shock today.” I remarked. “And?” “That‟s it. “Dave sent me an e-mail that was sexually suggestive. Do that some more. Comes across as such a „nice guy‟ but underneath beats a heart of appalling meanness.” I said. yes.” “Too repressed for his own good. “Dave and I go back a long way. Nice.
Whenever there is shit in the workplace. “Sally?” I responded with some surprise. “Only half the time…” he answered. “Sally used to be related to Dave. Where did he get these insights from.Friends or Lovers “What happened?” I asked. “What?” “Doesn‟t work!” he said again.” He paused. “Get on with your story.” he asserted. as if waiting for me to ask a question.” “Doesn‟t work!” he suddenly said.” he said. “Are you going to ask how?” he continued. “You‟re teasing me!” I answered. “Oh. Please explain it for me. “You like being teased. “What about the other half?” “Optimist!” he said without missing a beat. smiling or wavering for an instant. I wondered. “What doesn‟t work?” “The „can you explain it to me coz I‟m a stupid woman‟ routine.” he replied. Mike. “Oh yes.” I said with mock impatience. I began to realise that his wit was considerably drier than John‟s. . there is usually a man and woman involved!” “Cynic!” I joked. You know how dim women can be.” I suddenly pretended to be stupid. “We fell out over Sally. How?” “She was Dave‟s sister-in-law. “Okay.
“Say again?” I asked. He gave a gesture to indicate that he did not understand. “Sally used to…. You‟ve had this story from John so I‟m not sure what else to tell you.” he replied. “Oh. “So now you know why he and I are not best buddies. “Just get on with the bloody story.” I sat up straight and suddenly the pieces dropped into place. will you?” I said briskly. he continued and finished the story. my lad. but his assertive and commanding manner turned me on. “What are you smiling for?” I asked.” he answered. With only a moment‟s hesitation.” I said. It was beginning to dawn on me that Mike liked to play things straight. Dave‟s brother used to beat her. He might not make me laugh as much as John.” “It‟s okay – I was being rhetorical!” I said. gathering words together in my head. I could feel my confidence and ardour beginning to build. “What?” I asked. do you?” I queried. “Sally used to be married to Dave‟s brother. “You are so sexy when you raise your voice. .” Mike concluded. “You are going to like me a lot!” He relaxed a bit and laughed. “That works!” he said with a laugh.Rory Ridley-Duff He did not play the way that John played so I tried another approach. There was just a hint of smile on his face. “You like it. “Well.. I like strong direct women. yes.
” he replied. When I told him the details of the recent e-mail exchanges. If Mike and Dave had fallen out once before. “You and I are at loggerheads.” I said. “He thinks…. He had helped Sally. “Okay.” Mike replied. “Still want to hear. her illness. I thought he was getting ready to make a move on me. So what? Then the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place and I instinctively covered my mouth in shock.Friends or Lovers I still did not get it completely. You leave your wife after a big row . that Dave had invited me out after the CIPD event in Birmingham and that we would be staying in the hotel together. he thinks I fucked Sally and broke up his brother‟s marriage..” “Did you?” I asked. “You don‟t need me to answer that.” he responded.” “You may not like it. “No. I began to wonder whether I had been completely blind.” I said. “I want to tell you more. No wonder Dave had a grudge against Mike! Suddenly my need to tell Mike about Dave‟s e-mail became more urgent. “He has to know sometime..” I added.and Sally. The words came out so fast I had no time to retract them. I told Mike of Dave‟s wife. my fondness for him. “Just try to look at this from his perspective.” I started.” I insisted. Whatever Dave felt when he recruited me. I don‟t.” “Yes. And out it all came. “He thinks that you…. What would Dave do if he found that I was sleeping with Mike? “Maybe we should deny our relationship?” I suggested. there could be more unpleasantness.
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. I suddenly felt quite clever. When I did not respond. Mike!” Having felt a bit dim a moment before. his strong frame moved towards me and my screams gave way to giggles. I gave him a playful shove and he shoved me back with a deadpan face. The following morning he didn‟t want to sign the contract for this flat. Later he and I had our first angry words. Mike and I made the most of our freedom. “He must have taken your message as encouragement…. . got up and ran away. As I backed up against the wall. I don‟t want to take the risk. How does that look to you? Dave behaved strangely at the pub the other night. I was just being polite after the hasty exit the night before.Rory Ridley-Duff with me in the workplace. Within a month neither of us had any secrets left to tell. For the next 10 minutes he chased me all over the flat until he managed to corner me in the bathroom.” “You? Polite?” he teased again. I find you a company flat to move into. That was the first of many times we made love there. “What did he say. After she moved in.” Mike pointed out. Then it comes out that we are sleeping together. we used my flat as a new base. The next day Elona decided she wanted to move in and with only a few days of freedom. I repeated the recent e-mail exchanges with Dave. he gave me another shove and I realised he wanted to play. “I didn‟t mean it like that. again?” asked Mike. Never in my life had I enjoyed such passion and intimacy with a man. So I shoved him off the sofa.
Carole and my parents thought I had disappeared off the face of the earth. Carole phoned me daily after Mike and I had appeared for lunch at my parents. and our love-making was varied and passionate. Even as they expressed surprise. not even John and Sally. Many joint dreams were born. The threads of our lives intertwined and bonds were woven into a fabric so strong that I could not imagine them ever breaking. we announced that he would be moving into my flat. But publicly nobody. I listened to his experiences as a father. knew of our plans. John and Sally occasionally dropped in and we would all go out for a meal. To call this a “whirlwind romance” does not do it justice. Privately Mike and I had discussed that if we enjoyed living together. I learnt of his dreams and fantasies.Friends or Lovers Despite the generation gap. towards the end of June. he learnt of mine. For sure our relationship took off at quite a pace. At the end of each . I turned up at my parent‟s house for Sunday lunch with Mike in tow. I savoured every second. When. If our first night together was the most special moment of my life. but never of our future aspirations. But throughout all this. for all the commitments we made. our plans firm and concrete. for all the intense times we spent together. but we were never a lovely-dovey couple. he listened to my memories of childhood. for all the future plans we mapped out. they accepted and welcomed this development and all quietly congratulated me. he might file for divorce so we could marry. Our conversations were realistic and grounded. the words “I love you” never passed our lips. we started to talk extensively about politics (office and otherwise). our first month felt like a honeymoon that would never end. I talked to her of the things we had done together.
I apologised for not getting more involved but she assured me that mum was on top of everything. He. To my surprise. make everybody laugh and be beautiful.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. . We talked about her forthcoming wedding and the preparations. there was a conspiracy of silence. fortunately. the rumours at work died quickly and did not spread further. All I needed to do was to turn up. Dave. I broke the news to her that I would have to pass up the opportunity of shagging the best man. we remained the very souls of discretion. told me about people that he fancied. did not learn of our relationship and Mike and I managed to keep our contact low-key and light-hearted. The only person I updated from time to time was Phil. speech in hand. in turn. Like true professionals. If people knew.
John knew Elaine from academic conferences so all six of us started going out weekly for meals. and many side-stories and alternative plot lines were elaborated. Following the launch of the SHARE experience. but there was sufficient common ground to compare perspectives. Even if he had said it as a joke. Her background in sociology and international business was different to mine. I was conscious that my probationary period was coming to an end and Dave would decide my future. we developed too. In the back of my mind I wondered whether it was wise to say nothing. as sales manager for the domestic market. confirmation was a formality but this new situation meant that I could no longer take my appointment for granted. our personal relationship had cooled. As a group. We exaggerated. . I would join them for drinks and found that I particularly enjoyed Elaine‟s company. I felt that raising it with him was too risky. The story of how Mike and I got together became something of a party piece. While we still worked together well on a professional level. of course.Friends or Lovers Chapter 41 The prospect of going to the CIPD event with Dave was something that I came to dread. Mike. So far as I could tell. I met Sam and Elaine again (with Dave) to organise the recruitment of more support staff. also met Sam and Elaine regularly to develop marketing strategies. 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.
” “Is there such a thing?” she asked. Their close working relationship evolved into a personal one. We would take lunch together and have girly chats. She had also been a human resources manager before advancing her education. On the day of the CIPD conference. that spurred their close relationship. I look good in tight black dresses but perhaps that would be too risqué. . It had been a struggle but the relationship with IC was a breakthrough. After obtaining an MBA she took up a senior management post at the engineering company where Sam had been working. They married secretly and this triggered a hostile reaction from some board members. I arranged to go with her to Birmingham beforehand to buy an evening dress. She picked me up about 10am and we made our way up the motorway. but as I‟m going with Dave I don‟t want to send out the wrong signals. They decided to establish a new company for Sam to continue working on his ideas. This enabled them to expand their market and leverage in considerable financial investment. and the company‟s ignorance of its potential. “Not sure. I love sexy outfits. “I guess. “So what you going to get?” Elaine asked. they were beginning to achieve security both for themselves and the company. After all their hard work.” “Get something you can wear for other occasions as well!” said Elaine. It was her interest in his engineering.Rory Ridley-Duff Elaine became the first person to learn of my private aspiration to marry Mike. For the last 5 years they had developed their product line.
“If only men tasted as good!” said Elaine.” she replied. coffee and chocolate cake. “Chocolate delight! They weren‟t kidding were they?” I said as I tucked away another slice and sipped on my café latte.Friends or Lovers “Depends.” I quipped. I nodded and she carried on. irresponsible and exuded a freedom than I‟d never witnessed at close quarters. A matching necklace and earrings completed the vision. We shouldn‟t be embarrassed about using ours. flushed with shock and excitement. great boobs and a sharp brain. elegant with a cut that was suggestive without being too daring.” she answered. “Don‟t know about you love. surely. but I don‟t have millions stashed away to bring in the punters. “Just ask Erin Brockovich. After a few seconds. . After shopping. I could hardly wear something like that to work!” She glanced at me and we laughed at the thought. She was irrepressible. we retired for coffee and cake. lunch. It hung at the knee and had a waist that was gathered with a belt that was covered in ethnic beads. 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.” “You better believe it!” And with our sights set on the shops. I found a lovely black dress. “Men use their power when it suits them. But I do have a lovely pair of legs. Her Porsche 911 accelerated quickly and my body pressed back into the seat. she took her foot off the gas and cruised into Birmingham at 90mph. She reminded me of John. “Some of them do.” “Killer combination. “You‟ll have to introduce me.” I quipped.
After an opening key speech. After a question and answer panel. and closing comments. The CIPD event went off well. Others made notes and gave feedback on the legality (or otherwise) of their intended actions. pampered myself with goodies from my overnight bag. Elaine and John than to everyone else in the whole of my life. 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. . Nagging at the back of my mind was the possibility that he might be harbouring feelings for me.30pm for the dinner.30pm. Various scenarios were introduced on video. 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‟. Dave and I checked into the hotel and agreed to meet in the bar about 6. My new circle of friends gradually brought me out of my shell. but many organisations still did not grasp the full impact. we were split into workgroups for role-play exercises that covered recent legislative changes. Of particular concern were provisions regarding temporary and part-time staff. I sat with Dave during the keynote speech but we were separated for the group sessions. then pairs of people acted out one-to-one meetings between an employee and personnel officer. I talked more about my thoughts and feelings to Mike. then sat in front of the mirror applying my face. My sense of well-being grew. I showered. Their employment rights had been strengthened.
I‟ll have a rum and black. Perhaps I should have complimented him too but I didn‟t. and the prospect of spending the whole evening together. He presented the till slip for Dave to sign. “She‟s stable. “Thank you. Dave looked slightly flustered. ma‟am!” he said with appropriate emphasis. I signed it and gave it back to him. wasn‟t it? Do you know him?” “No. “I don‟t suppose it matters who signs it. “How are things at home?” I asked. He smiled gently at me but it only increased my nervousness. Dave was chatting and laughing with the barman. Penny! I‟m not the queen. “Here you are ma‟am.” “Thank you. “Barman?” I said boldly. Given the occasion.” . The barman looked surprised but took the hint and gave me the bill.30 I made my way down to the bar. “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. “That was a bit „familiar‟. “Here she is!” he said.” he responded. I was just being polite. He turned to face me again.” He duly ordered and the barman said he would bring it to our table. “What would you like?” asked Dave. I expected more than this. Dave. “Thanks.” said the barman as he delivered the drink. “You can call me.” he said looking at me. but nothing was forthcoming.Friends or Lovers At 6. Penny!” he said and we both smiled. I felt I should broach the subject of his wife.
“I don‟t want to fall out with you. I was none the wiser whether I should apologise or not. We sat in silence for a few minutes. “Yes. I decided to see if table places had been set. “Dave?” I said. but he managed to calm me down.” I said dismissively. . however. “Dave. holding my drink aloft. “Don‟t use that tone with me. I decided that it would be stupid not to.” he said defensively.” he said. however. That was a really dumb thing to do with my appraisal only a few weeks away so I phoned Mike on my mobile.” he said sternly. I felt so awkward that I got up and went back to my room. “You were flirting with the barman.Rory Ridley-Duff I wondered if we were in for a bad tempered night. being polite to the hotel staff. First.” “And I was doing it splendidly. which made me all the more cantankerous. A bubble of rage formed in the pit of my stomach but I managed to contain it. At the end of the conversation. Dave. “You shouldn‟t be too familiar with bar staff. At first he laughed.” I started. Penny?” “Up yours!” I said.” “You were. Penny. immediately recalling that Dave was laughing with the barman when I entered.” I said. “Oh lighten up. Penny. “Just don‟t.” “You are at work. You‟re representing the company here. Penny.” I answered. I began to panic. But please don‟t tell me how to behave towards people when I‟m not at work.
who showed me to a private bar and the seating plan for the evening. “I really appreciate this. “Dave?” I asked. The food was well presented but not especially delicious. I thanked Jules then went to the private bar to order another rum and black.” I answered. I returned to the main bar.Friends or Lovers In the dining room I met Jules. The service and company. He turned around and acknowledged me. That was rude of me. I take it?” she asked. It had been turned into a charity event so the 50 participants were swelled with another 200 people for the dinner. the conference manager.” she said with a warm smile. Husbands and wives joined the delegates and professional bodies had been invited for the evening speakers and networking opportunities. but there was no smile. no. but none was forthcoming. The sea change in our relationship worried me. I had been allocated a place next to Dave so I asked Jules if I could sit elsewhere.” “Forget it. Waiters and waitresses plied us at regular intervals with wine and aided the socialisation over dinner. “I‟m sorry for earlier. were excellent. My table included a CEO and his . I waited for him to give me an apology in return.” he said.” I said. however. “Glad to help. “Thank you.” “Not too keen on your boss. This time I went back to the private bar without making a show of my feelings. “Not at the moment. With the prospect of a stressful evening receding. Using her mobile she called reception and about ten minutes later a man came through with an amended seating plan.
wife, a female entrepreneur and her husband, and three other human resource professionals (two men and a woman). With four men and women around the table, the conversation was mixed and lively. The woman entrepreneur started to talk about one of the speakers. She heard him once in Scotland. Later they contracted him to assist in the investigation of a sexual harassment case. She described him as humorous and charming, but with a mind and attitude so sharp that you could cut yourself on it. She found him difficult to work with but praised the way he helped staff reconcile their differences. Desserts came and went, coffees were served, and the chatter was eventually interrupted by a clink of glasses as the Chair introduced the fundraiser. It was a typical appeal to emotional sympathies. I felt sickened by the scene of an earnest charity worker begging for crumbs at the tables of the rich. I wrote a cheque for £30 – unsure what would be considered an appropriate amount – but as I was getting dinner for free I contributed the cost of the meal to the charity. Even as I did it, I felt no virtue. There must be better ways to help the less fortunate than this. The first speaker was reasonable. The subject matter was more in Dave‟s line, but I did see the pros and cons of entrepreneurial behaviour amongst employees. While she talked about side-stepping rules and procedures, the CEO at my table joked that if anybody tried that in his place, they‟d be out. Controls were there for a reason, he said, and had to be followed. I wondered whether he had ever been an accountant. Our table was a long way from the platform. When the second speaker stood up, I did not recognise him but there was a touch
Friends or Lovers
of familiarity in his voice. I thought he must be a celebrity off the TV but annoyingly one of my dinner companions kept distracting me. The speaker continued. “Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said. “I hardly recognise myself in those kind words.” I asked my dinner companion if we could continue our conversation later because I was particularly keen to hear this speaker. He looked offended, but at last I was able to focus on the speaker‟s words. “I‟ve been asked to talk about a subject that most of us think about daily, some of us talk about regularly, but which is rarely talked about publicly. It is a subject hardly ever discussed in business books. In my view, it exerts more influence over the workplace than any other single thing and is the bedrock of social organisation both at home and at work. I‟m talking, of course, about sexual attraction and intimacy. Now if you think I‟ve come here to talk about bonking in the broom cupboard……” With most of the audience tipsy, the speaker expected a few giggles and paused. A few people obliged. Everyone else stopped chatting and started to listen. “…..or kissing in the canteen, then you are going to be disappointed. If you‟ve come here to understand how private lives impact on work then you are in the right place.” I noticed that more and more people were sitting up and taking notice. On the top table was a jug of water. The speaker paused for a moment and poured himself a glass. “Always good when they give you a large jug of gin to drink – always makes the talk more interesting,” he quipped. “If you see them bringing a second jug, then the chances of me telling
you a story about bonking in the broom cupboard rises considerably!” A slightly larger group laughed at this remark, but one of my dinner companions just raised their eyebrows and gave a disapproving look. “Talking of stories,” he continued, “I have a couple for you that I hope will prompt interesting discussion in the bars.” Everybody in the room was now paying attention. He came across as an above average public speaker. “Not so long ago I was sitting in an airport lounge and an attractive woman called Patsy glanced in my direction. When they called the flight, Patsy joined the queue and edged her way in front of me.” I laughed out loud as I recalled the way John and I had met. A few people on adjacent tables turned their heads to look at me. I thought it was uncanny the speaker had such a similar experience. “Then Patsy did something that most people here will probably think is a bit bizarre, but which – to me – was not bizarre at all. She bent down to tie her shoelace……” My laughter subsided and I began to feel slightly uncomfortable. “Nothing strange in that, you might think? Well, it would not have been strange except for one small detail. Patsy was wearing shoes that had no shoelaces……” A ripple of laughter went around the room and the speaker paused to let the import of the joke linger. As for me, my heart was pounding as I realised that the speaker was John and that he was talking about our first meeting.
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“What is significant about this story is that Patsy‟s willingness to give me a bird‟s eye view of her butt was one of several reasons I decided to sit next to her. Very bold behaviour, I felt, and not something I was likely to come across every day. We fell into conversation, swapped e-mail addresses and later met for lunch. Now we take walks together. She became a close friend and is now also a professional colleague.” He paused again. “She‟s also dating one of my best friends!” he said loudly with gusto. His comic timing was excellent and there was a further smattering of laughter. “Now what‟s the relevance? Sexual attraction is often the reason we choose to take an interest in someone. As we work out the tensions many long and durable friendships are formed. I was lucky. Patsy liked and welcomed my response, but not immediately and not without a lot of soul searching about my intentions towards her. If she had taken offence, she might have withdrawn, confronted me, argued with me, perhaps even accused me of sexually harassing her.” “We are still, even in this modern age, overwhelmingly social beings. Yes, we come to dinners like this to talk about how to make more - or lose less - money. We come for the networking opportunities, the social opening that will start a new business venture. But I want to suggest to you that there is something more than that, something deeper, more important.” He paused and took a sip of his water before continuing. “Once, a business mentor of mine said to me that money was not the most important thing to him. To him, the money was a means and not an end. The money enabled him to feed his
family, to open doors to social networks he wanted to belong to, to attract and be in the company of many beautiful women. In short, he was in business to have fun. „If you‟re not having fun‟ he would say, „sell the business‟. To him, business was entertainment.” “So what‟s the key thing here?” asked John. “For him, being in business meant an emotionally fulfilling life. He did it for the buzz. For the challenge. For the company. And yes, let‟s admit it, for the sex. He was, in a way, one of the business world‟s rock stars, although he liked to avoid the press.” “Of course, there are many out there….and perhaps even in here…who will take a dim view of this. Business is about profitmaximising, about efficiency, about effectiveness and all those terms that are popular in business schools and board rooms. There are a few strange people who actually get off on this. Picture them in your mind: Laddie Lawyer…… Amy Accountant…… Adam Auditor.” There was substantial laughter as he recounted these names. He knew his audience. Human resource staff often battled legal and financial staff for influence and John cleverly used his knowledge of workplace tensions to win them over. “Now, I imagine that you‟re sitting there thinking „not me‟. I‟m rational, everybody else is emotional. I always do my best for my boss. I‟m a complete professional – never let myself get distracted by this stuff. So I‟m going to ask for a bit of audience participation. Can I have a show of hands, please? How many of you met your most recent wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend in an organisation? Don‟t just think of your own place of work. Did you meet in theirs? Was he or she your client? Were you students together?”
Friends or Lovers
The hands started to rise, at first tentatively. The murmurs grew as spouses and partners reminded each other of their first meeting, with the result that more and more hands were raised until at least three-quarters held them aloft. “More than usual,” he commented. “We have a horny bunch in tonight!” The room rumbled with chatter and laughter as people started to absorb what had just been illustrated. As the noise died down, so John continued. “So let me make one or two comments before I tell you my second story. Firstly, how is it that most human resource professionals here tonight met their partner or spouse in a workplace and yet the profession is being persuaded to support zero-tolerance policies towards sexual behaviour at work?” There was less laughter now and he paused to have another drink. The women entrepreneur opposite looked irritated. “See what I mean?” she said. I nodded, but privately I thought John had a point. “Need a bit more gin for this bit,” John quipped as he drank some more water. “More controversially, recent research suggests that research participants say harassment is very rare, almost unheard of, during the formative stages of a relationship. Accusations are made when relationships are breaking down. This raises an issue. Are we are missing the underlying sexual dynamics that bring about these accusations. It may be that a man is trying to break off the relationship rather than form it, or that a woman is trying to back off a relationship that has aroused her sexual feelings. When it comes to the law, have politicians created a rod to break our back?”
I looked hard but couldn‟t find that induction technique in the CIPD manual!” he quipped. This also has a lovely butt in it.” He paused again and took another swig of „gin‟. isn‟t it?” he agreed with his audience. “Diane thought one of the directors‟ butts was so sexy that she described it to Ben during his induction. He somehow managed to avoid accusing his audience. Then his tone suddenly became quieter. the hum of personal reflection lingered in the air. “Yes – it‟s funny.” John smiled. The audience laughed some more. Diane is a CIPD qualified member of staff. He paused and the audience obliged with more laughter. more measured. but questioning. Then he delivered a killer sentence. but this time it belongs to a man. Diane told him about the company annual dinner. “Okay. 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. It involves Ben and Diane. The year Ben joined. “Here‟s the rest of the story. and without fail there is some set piece bit of „corporate fun‟. “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.” he continued boldly.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked around and saw some people nodding. . In the silence that followed. but everyone in the room suddenly felt embarrassed that they had been laughing. okay – I realise that some of you probably consider this essential work in the run up to the Christmas party. they had a „Butt of the Year‟ competition. but this story has a challenging ending. John‟s tone was not critical. During Ben‟s induction. “This leads me onto my second story.
put ice cubes down Ben‟s trousers at a party.‟ she told him. His objections fell on deaf ears.” “You may think that you know what is coming……. Ben confessed his wife had been having an affair. Ben thanked her and felt reassured. invited Ben to stay at her house. They started to go out for drinks after work.” A few people in the audience gasped. He thanked her but did not accept. She now claimed that Ben was „womanising‟ and might misuse personnel records. Diane flung her arms around Ben and playfully put ice cubes down his trousers. Diane reported his activities to her own manager. “a woman who talked openly about her lust for a male director during Ben‟s induction. Diane confessed that her marriage was sexless.” John raised his volume a couple of notches to finish the story “He was fired. Ben argued with the company‟s MD. Both were married. Diane got cross and told him he should not look for love at work. When Ben asked why.” “Instead of being pleased for him.” he teased. He did not mind her attention and they grew close.Friends or Lovers “At the Christmas Party. told Ben he had admirers and then got jealous when Ben admired someone . Ben was questioned for over an hour in a private room about „inappropriate‟ behaviour. “Ben‟s marriage collapsed and Diane offered him a place to sleep. hypocritical and sexist. “So!” he said. Ben argued that the accusation was unjustified. Ben responded that he liked one or two of the women at work and had asked one out for a drink. She told him repeatedly that he had „admirers‟. „You won‟t be lonely.
are affected by what is taking place in our lives outside work. “a kind of power that we don‟t acknowledge.Rory Ridley-Duff else…she only had to make an accusation that Ben might be behaving inappropriately for his world to quickly fall apart. Maybe we are trying to avoid loneliness. “My main point is that whenever there is a sexual conflict it is usually underpinned by a complex intimate relationship.” I thought back over my own experience. Attention switches immediately to the accused.” he said. Both parties are responsible. Most people are like icebergs. “That is power. only the accusation itself. We had weathered it but not without capsizing a few times. Nine tenths of what might be known is submerged beneath the surface. This said. intimacy. “These are two cases where the underlying dynamics are known. Those desires. Maybe we are trying to be accepted. HR departments rarely investigate the motive for an accusation. That much is obvious and while it is not discussed much. Our desires are not always sexual. or our desire to avoid. at the way the accusation against Mike has triggered the storm inside IC. in turn. but this time he did so for effect. feeling accepted by a sexually .” John paused again. Both parties play a part. “Firstly. “What can we learn from this?” continued John. Workplace behaviour arises out of our desire for. Accusations often reveal as much about who is hurting as who is being hurt. my main point is not that men can also be subject to sexual harassment or false allegations. most enlightened people realise it. The accuser may be given special protection before it is known whether their accusation is true.
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. enough to pay for over 20 days of mediation. would I have been guilty of sexual harassment? Or was her behaviour. if Patsy had objected when I started to talk to her on the airplane. It is. 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.Friends or Lovers desirable or successful person is particularly meaningful. 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‟. regardless of my intent. therefore. I ask you to think of the cost of replacing staff. I want you to think about how to contribute to the current debate on equality of opportunity and sexual harassment. “Two thoughts for you as you retire to the bars. Firstly. 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. are we destroying our society with zero-tolerance policies? Are we compromising our ability to take. emotive and triggers disruptive conflicts. I could be accused in the same way as Ben. Isn‟t this the most naïve policy in the history of humankind? “So. to conclude. How would you go about investigating that to undercover „the truth‟?” “So. In Ben‟s case it cost the company over ten thousand pounds to replace him. by deliberately being provocative. That ignores the costs of training and lost .
” “Dave! Good talk. mate. Instead.” The audience broke into a round of applause. eh?” “You think I‟m being economical with the truth. yes!” “And close friends. “Can you forgive me?” he asked.” “And I‟m a case study. it is also a financial one.” said John. My mood changed and John noticed instantly. “Hello. just this once.” I said. It ignores whether the replacement is as good at the job.thank you for listening! My name is John Simons and I am at your service. was surprisingly astute. however. I can see. My name is John. “You might have asked.Rory Ridley-Duff productivity. “Ladies and Gentlemen . “You know each other a lot better than you are telling me. Penny?” “I‟ll let you get away with it. “Get away with what?” asked Dave. John smiled as we shared the private joke. he initially beamed with pleasure. then – as he realised that I had been in the audience – he started to look apologetic. My business cards and these two cases are available on the table.” “Not at all. am I?” “An anonymous one. I did not realise that ……” .” I said with a smile. Dave. Suddenly I felt another person moving up beside me. So.” “Indeed we do. When John saw me. while this is an ethical issue. Hope I‟m not interrupting anything. I did not join in. turning on the professional charm. “Such a good story and I never thought that you would ever be in one of my audiences. I got up and walked towards the front.
“Yes.” replied John. “Don‟t you flirt?” asked John. Dave?” asked John.. How else can people establish another person‟s motive?” Dave was slightly taken aback at these remarks. John and I hesitated.” “And John. “So. “but like most adults I still end up in situations where there is flirting. “So am I. I‟ll join you in a second. you don‟t just flirt with barmen. Penny. “Flirting is dangerous. whether I like it or not. . “I‟m married!” he said indignantly. Dave nodded. There was little point denying it. Just ask them to charge it to Room 1156 and I‟ll sign the receipt in a moment. “…. “If you go to the bar and order what you like. Is this the John you mentioned to me? The one you met on a plane?” I hesitated. but also strange men in airports!” John joined in the conversation again. is this Patsy?” asked Dave pointedly.” “One of your best friends!” said Dave. “Don‟t what?” asked Dave. “Would you like to have this conversation at the bar so I can buy you a drink?” asked John. Penny?” asked Dave.Friends or Lovers Oh God! I prayed that he was not about to say what I though he was about to say. Dave laughed. you are a dark horse.” “Are you coming. “Well. one of my best friends was in the audience.” said Dave. “And you don‟t.
“I disagree. said John. “Always leads to trouble. On the way. “Flirting is a good way for men and women to establish the level of intimacy they want in their relationships.” said John boldly. It is those who are inexperienced or shy who are uncomfortable with flirting.” . Most people do this in non-threatening ways and it works most of the time. However. John did agree with Freud. “I‟ll join you in a second. totally true. Were the stories true? Yes.Rory Ridley-Duff John glanced in my direction and I realised that he was trying to get me on my own. “Yes. Having negotiated these questions. “You were saying that flirting is dangerous?” remembered John. Many find it fun.” Dave had committed himself now and went off to the bar. I accept it is a problem for them. “I‟ve chatted to Mike and thought we were through this. “He‟s hurt. we got to the bar and Dave was ready with our drinks. he engaged with people who wanted to talk to him. I just want a quick word with John.” John and I made our way to the bar. They push and probe to check out how the other responds. “Tell me about it. Was it not all a bit Freudian? Not really.” said John. It‟s getting worse and worse. You‟ve got a problem. Freud thought it all emanated from complexes formed in childhood experiences.” “Do you want to talk about it later?” asked John. He did not agree with that. We found a space to talk. okay.” said Dave. We had an argument earlier this evening.” “I can meet you later if you like?” he asked again. in the sense that sexual desires and aspirations underpinned a lot of adult behaviour.
“Perhaps that‟s not a good word. but it has certainly landed others…” I responded. They never land on your desk. “Not directly.” commented Dave. “but you won‟t notice all the problems that are solved by it. “Sounds like you‟ve discussed this before. as John proceeded to respond. By the way.” said Dave arrogantly. “You‟re a good flirt!” I wanted John to stop because his comments could deepen my problems.” answered John. “but I think we will later.” “I don‟t doubt it. “I can‟t say that flirting has ever landed me in deep water at work. Penny?” said John.Friends or Lovers I was not sure whether John intended to be offensive but he was coming perilously close. John. “Flirting causes misunderstandings. “Only if people are insensitive to each other.” he added. “But it causes so much disagreement. “…as well you know!” John picked up my allusion and acknowledged my concern.” answered John. I added a rider as a warning shot.” said John. “Oh! Are you two getting together?” asked Dave. “Yes we are. also picked up that some covert message was passing between us. Too much experience. It was almost as if he was suggesting that Dave was inexperienced and shy.” said John. “What about you. how is Sally?” “Sally?” asked Dave. “I‟ve had to deal with many problems caused by flirting. . mate. however. Dave.” “Don‟t buy it. “Insensitive?” I asked.” insisted Dave.” said Dave. The sarcasm was back and I couldn‟t help fuelling the situation.
piecing things together in his head.” “And when did this happen?” he asked.” said Dave cynically. “Do you and Mike want to come over for dinner on Sunday night?” My blood ran cold. John made another intervention. “Just recently – hardly got used to the idea myself!” I said pretending joy while my mind was turning to clay. Penny. John looked at me. Didn‟t you know?” I said. Before I could answer. “John is staying at Sally‟s while he works for us. We‟re enjoying ourselves . “After!” I said firmly.” replied Dave. “No. “Just as well.Rory Ridley-Duff “Oh she‟s great. slightly embarrassed and mouthed the word „sorry‟.” asked John. “What?” said Dave. “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. By asking John about Sally it invited John to ask me about Mike. “Before or after you arranged the flat for him?” Dave asked with disdain. “By the way. Dave intervened. “She never mentioned you to me. “You and Mike?” he asked. isn‟t it?” he added.” “Sally at work? Do you know Sally?” “Yes – known her for years. .” answered John. “Well!” he started.I wish I could stay longer but I‟m needed back at home. totally engaged by this discovery.” said Dave. “Small world. “Yes.
” “My knight in shining armour?” I queried.” responded John. trying to diffuse the situation. “The two of you are antagonising each other. my sense of humour returning. then find me. If he starts a fight with you. “Fuck him! Wanker!” “I hope so.” said Dave. I want to be there to watch you beat the shit out of him!” “And you the mediator?” I asked.” he said pointing at my head.” It took me a moment to get the joke. “I‟m fed up working with this tart. “No.pig is going to do my appraisal in three weeks!” “Then you‟ve got to use this. “There are better ways to do it. “I‟d like to fry his arse!” I shouted.” . “Only as a first resort!” he responded.” I said.” “Shit! You‟re right.” Dave turned and left before I could answer.. I was about to go after him and make him apologise but John stopped me. “Why don‟t we circulate for a bit and then slip out? If Dave comes anywhere near you. “Be careful. “That…. You‟ve not been employed for a year yet. “Not complicated at all.. Why?” “It‟s complicated.” quipped John. John moved closer and whispered in my ear.that…. “because if he‟s not we really have a problem.” he said with his hand on his heart. Penny!” said John trying to calm me down. “as well as this.Friends or Lovers “It‟s a simple question. A few people near us picked up my tone and turned to look.
the launch evening.Rory Ridley-Duff “You‟ll need friends for this one.” I said before I saw his grin. “I‟ll call him later. When I set out this morning I was full of the joys of spring. When he heard this. I told him of my wish to marry Mike. When I asked why. When he let go. I noticed that his eyes were filled with tears. I never drink before a talk so if you want to go home. he grabbed me and hugged me for what seemed like an age. I could see the concern growing on his face. About an hour later. You‟re a sweetie.” he corrected. “I‟m probably the only sober person in the room.” The rest of the evening passed off without any more incidents.” he joked. He called Elaine and Sam.. invited them for dinner then insisted that I come with Mike.” “I‟d take you – but I‟ve been drinking gin all evening…. As days go.” “Thank you. he cryptically replied that „every good soldier needed the support of his unit‟. “Damn. Penny. today had not been a good one. I can take you. . How‟s Mike going to take this?” he asked. I told him not be such a soppy idiot. Dave‟s e-mail and my conversations with Mike. He said that he wanted to talk “strategy”. I want to go home. but now I was battling to save my job. John and I took a cab to a quiet pub and I told him about Dave‟s wife.
Friends or Lovers Chapter 42 I was glad to get home to Mike. he was matter of fact and kept reassuring me that I had truth on my side. The law required me to investigate. If. but now it was the other way around I started to experience how the intrusions feel on the receiving end. Not only had I misjudged Mike. I was now experiencing things from the other side. And what was it that I was guilty of? Most of his attacks were about my flirting. only evidence of my guilt. we can only see what we are looking for. or left Mike and Elona to sort out their own problems. 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. Dave would not be looking for evidence of my innocence. and the frustration of having to deal with others‟ unstated agendas. When I told him what had happened. It was bad enough that I had intruded into a number of delicate personal relationships. but now I was not so sure. but I now realised that my attitude had been coloured both by the hurt I felt in the past and my attraction to him. Given what I‟d learnt from the conflict between Mike and Elona. Hard as it was to admit. In the past. however. I had been judgemental about Mike‟s motives. I was less confident. I began to wonder whether perhaps I might have done things differently. Two months earlier. however. Now it was Dave who was being judgemental about me. as John had suggested. I had been convinced that sexual harassment laws were progressive. It may not only have been my . then I was up shit creek without a paddle.
I remember once seeing the film About a Boy. I did this not only to share treasured . I protected myself with professional ethics and personal boundaries to create a haven for corporate values. and most recently Elaine. John pierced my armour. I had my island existence at work. I had created an imaginary world in which men and women should behave one way at work and another way outside work. On Sunday we went for a walk. Mike the stubborn idealist. or felt they should be enforced. I was coming to a realisation that these bonds not only reached deep into my personal life. and Phil has also made some inroads. to some extent. Mike and I had a quiet day. Together they were a formidable combination. searching for “truth” and “justice” and then working out how to make it happen. Mike and John were different.Rory Ridley-Duff judgement that was at fault. John was the pragmatic politician. but perhaps my values as well. They rarely saw eyeto-eye. I was also emotionally disconnected and dysfunctional. I started to see myself as a female version of Will. Firstly. Mike did the same. Unlike John. Just like Will. 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. however. Instead he just savoured the conversation we had. Elona has. others intruded into my world. Later. but every conversation made me question my life a little bit more. I was „independent‟ and „efficient‟. Not everybody saw the distinctions as I did. rather than at home. In my mind. The main character Will tried to live an „island‟ existence but gave in to the attention of a lonely 12-year-old boy. he had no wish to talk “strategy”.
When I look back. .” he replied. “I brought John here a couple of months ago. He never used five words where three would do. my coming out of myself started on that day. but any remaining attachments that might affect our future together. my change of heart. “You have me. “You don‟t talk about the past.” he answered. “A few. “I‟m just interested.Friends or Lovers memories with Mike. With John.” responded Mike. “And now for me.” “What would you like to know?” I suddenly realised that it was not so much his past that I was interested in. but as a tribute to John. “You might be disappointed. “And for me. from the moment I faced-down my fear and shared my most private feelings.” I said. Lock.” he replied with a straight face. stock and barrel. but with Mike you had to dig for them. pointing to his head. “Do you have any special places? Places you went with your wife?” I asked. Mike. “You. “Would you take me to them?” “I‟d rather find new places.” he said. “What would be solved by talking about it?” he responded.” “Yes. “Nice for him. in body. his emotions always came out as he spoke.” I commented. That was another difference between them. But I also want to know the person in here!” I said.” I said. I smiled and said that would be nice.” I said.
he had also evaded the question. Strangely. I felt unconcerned. “That‟s because you‟ve only microscopically examined my body!” he joked.” I said with a grin.” He stopped and turned to me. “You were very committed to her……” Suddenly I stopped. nothing could take away the bliss that I was enjoying right now. then held me in his arms and kissed me. “I prefer not to think about it.” he replied.Rory Ridley-Duff “Haven‟t been so far.” I responded. 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. No matter what happened in the future. While it was nice to have his attention. “I guess I‟m curious how you feel about your marriage. . “I guess. I realised that I was starting to have doubts about his commitment. There was little point holding back now I had started. His silence on the issue of his wife troubled me. Even though I did not push him. I would have these memories forever.
It was Dave who gave him this impression. “But Penny is brilliant at her job – aren‟t you.” “But you said that even Harry thought you were doing a good job. 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. won‟t he?” . He‟s pissed off with me. Mike?” asked John. Sam. He thought the company would be crazy to sack me.” he answered. “But that‟s what pisses him off – surely he‟ll raise it?” I argued.” Mike joined in the “strategy” discussion and kept coming back to what people had said about my work. but it was good to have his support. I knew he was biased. But John is right about Dave. “Now look at this from Harry‟s point of view. John was trying to persuade everyone that Dave was going to block my appointment. “He‟ll see through Dave. “He‟s going to look at the truth. Penny?” said Sam. who probably knew the least about all the cock ups I had made.Friends or Lovers Chapter 43 “He‟s not going to bring that up!” asserted John. We had been discussing my situation at work for nearly half an hour over after-dinner coffee. “Nearly 6 years. surely?” responded Mike. getting quite heated. “Thank you. “How long have you been there. but most of the others would not believe him.
Elaine had talked to me about some of the corporate battles that she‟d been in. he‟ll control what Harry hears. showing considerable irritation.” she started.Rory Ridley-Duff John gave Mike a dismissive look. I began to catch her drift. It‟s not what‟s going to happen. The only thing Dave has to fear is Harry‟s reaction. “What do you mean?” asked Sam. “That‟s right. If he sacks Penny. Everyone turned to look at her. “If I‟m wrong then we have nothing to worry about. If Dave wants to fuck it up because he can‟t deal with Penny‟s rejection then I want to apply some pressure.” “And also give Dave a few worries of his own!” added Elaine. If there is a conflict. I noticed John smile at Elaine and she raised her glass to him. I concur with John. Elaine. but what we are going to do about it. “And how is Mike going to be able to work when .” Everyone around the table stopped for a moment to consider her remarks. “We‟ve invested a huge amount in this partnership.” “But isn‟t this between Penny and Dave?” asked Sam. the subtle political pressures and pragmatic alliances that work behind the scenes. “I certainly am. now joined the conversation. “No. “You‟re not suggesting we get involved?” queried Sam. He does not even have to give her a proper reason. “Let‟s assume that Dave is going to look for a way to get Penny out. then I‟m going to kick his arse – it will affect my working relationship with him!” she said pointedly. But if I‟m right then we need to ensure that Dave does not control what Harry is hearing. who had been listening more than talking.” said John enthusiastically. “Let‟s assume for a moment that John is right. He‟s under no obligation to keep her on.” said Elaine.
I could understand Sally‟s fear.” she said. “But you can influence things on the ground. I‟d taken over his life and he saw her much less. If Mike‟s .” “On the ground?” she asked. Mike was not aware that I‟d talked to the others and he shot me a quick glance then cast his eyes down at the table.” she said. This isn‟t just about our friends. “So little confidence!” complained Elaine. Sam. you can put them straight!” “And have Dave on my back?” she asked. Dave‟s the Director of Business Development. “You‟d stand by while Dave shits on Mike?” asked John. “I‟m keeping out of this. She was also in a line management situation with Dave. If your colleagues talk about it. “Stuff like this doesn‟t stay secret. I wondered for a moment whether Sally might secretly want me off the scene to open the way to Mike again. Perhaps you‟re right!” responded John. Sal. Sally!” Sally had remained fairly quiet throughout. “I don‟t have a way of influencing things the way you do. Elaine had both political and financial independence whereas Sally‟s life was more precarious. this is about our company‟s well-being. Mike‟s our sales manager. “We all have an interest!” said Elaine.” “Okay. However. Only Mike stood between her and Dave. “You too. With John returning home in a couple of weeks she might start to miss Mike‟s company.Friends or Lovers Dave sacks his future wife. 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. Since we‟d become a couple. “It‟s not that.
Mike and Sally.Rory Ridley-Duff position was threatened then Dave would be able to exact personal revenge on Sally. As soon as the car sped away from Sally‟s house. “Are you having second thoughts?” “Not exactly. as protecting the group. I realised that it was not so much that they were protecting me. My mind. Penny!” “So what?” .” I replied. By the time Mike and I left. was not over worried regardless of the outcome of my appraisal. Elaine. “We have to talk. or protecting themselves. It was reassuring that my friends took such a keen interest in protecting my future.” said Mike. My security came from the knowledge that there was no shortage of organisations seeking HR professionals. debated and discarded. “What then?” I enquired. as we talked. In fact. we do. I did not have to wait long. I focussed more on Mike‟s reaction to Elaine‟s comment about our marriage plans. The debate continued over more bottles of wine. Various scenarios and plans were hatched. He had been much quieter after her comment. I realised. Mike opened up. did not understand the complex background and network of relationships involving Dave.” he said. we had some idea of what to do if Dave tried to block my appointment and there was talk of a “last resort” action plan if he succeeded. therefore. but they were protecting theirs at the same time. We all wanted to work and live together and this guided our discussions. “Sal has to be careful. “I‟m much older than you. “Yes. I made a mental note to update her.” he replied.
” I asked. “How do you mean?” I said.” Despite what I had told him previously. “I don‟t want them. Once she faced a real choice her feelings started to change. And who could blame her?” he asked.she accidentally got pregnant. She had a good career. She didn‟t want children until – in her mid-thirties .Friends or Lovers “What if you want children?” he asked.” “What‟re you saying?” “I‟m saying that I know for sure that I don‟t want children.” “But have you ever been pregnant.” “How can you know that?” “My wife got pregnant a few years ago and I was completely opposed. “I had a friend once who „didn‟t want children‟ until she got pregnant. Penny?” When he asked that question. it dawned on her this might be her only chance to be a mother. I don‟t want children. You know that. “You don‟t now. I paused trying to imagine what it would be like to have a child growing inside me. “She was successful – like you. When I considered the question in the abstract I was sure of my feelings. “Well. Mike. a regular boyfriend who she lived with. Did she want to miss that chance?” “I have thought about this.” I answered. the argument began to affect me. but when I asked myself how . But what if you change your mind? What if you accidentally get pregnant?” “I don‟t know!” I answered. I actually felt a pang of disappointment that he did not want children with me. Did I want to give up the choice? “Tell me about your friend.
I was not sure what to think.” “But don‟t you love me?” He smiled broadly. “I‟ll live with you – but if you want children then I‟m going to bow out so you can fulfil your dream. “It could tear us apart. “What will happen if you get pregnant and I don‟t want it?” His questions were beginning to deeply unsettle me and I started to feel emotional. When I was young I imagined that all serious relationships operated on the basis of unending commitment.” I pondered this strange proposal. If you want a child and I don‟t. I haven‟t.” I finally answered. “Yes – but I don‟t want to be a dad in my 70s. no! I want to treasure this for as long as possible and that means being realistic. Mike!” “That‟s what worries me. Now they hate each other with a vengeance. She thought he‟d change when the child was born. The relationship with her boyfriend broke up soon after. She never forgave him for leaving. .” “What did your friend do?” “She had the child. no. I can‟t stand in the way of that.” he continued. Could I do that? “No. “I can‟t say. I really don‟t. Is it a good idea to marry?” I did not respond. They both feel the other betrayed them. Our relationship probably won‟t survive the birth of a child. our relationship won‟t survive.” “So what‟re you saying? You want to break up?” “No.Rory Ridley-Duff I would feel aborting Mike’s child it affected me differently. He never forgave her for ignoring his feelings.
” he continued again. “Okay. Moments later I felt one of his arms around me as he kissed my neck and said “goodnight”. I‟ll marry you!” I gave a short chuckle. The future was still full of possibilities. . “If you reach the menopause and we‟re still together.Friends or Lovers “Tell you what. I‟ll think about it. went into the kitchen and made two cups of cocoa. For the first time since we‟d started sharing a bed we did not make love before going to sleep. Even though we‟d talked about the possibility of breaking up.” And with that. We chatted more in front of the TV and caught a late night film. we arrived home. but that was Mike through and through. this was the clearest indication I‟d had that we were going to have a long-term relationship. Romantic this was not. then went upstairs.
just a Sunday and Wednesday afternoon when the shop closed. We talked about her upbringing. I was trying to build her confidence. Her parents were committed Christians and they arranged for her aunt to take her to Sunday school each week. her parents disapproved of her drinking in pubs and when the situation erupted at work they felt deeply ashamed. There was no weekend in her family. on the other hand. We started to have chats in the evening at home and at work during lunch breaks. I felt we should visit daily. Elona. a by-product of my strength of character. but also to learn about myself. my professional worries receded. I dropped in a couple of times to check how things were. but also the scriptures and morality that affected her freedom. she accused me of bullying her. I decided to visit her when Mike went out with his drinking pals. When she did. I asked Phil to make some visits to see how she was progressing. Was I a bully? Mike sometimes joked that I could be. not just to learn about her. Instead of showing sympathy. Even as a grown up. When I had been at her parents‟ shop and heard her torrent of abuse. Normally we would not visit so much. As part of his professional development. but given her precarious state. they chided her for . It took two weeks for her to feel strong enough to return to work. As a result. I told him I was not always strong but he would not believe it.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 44 Elona‟s move into the flat with Mike was problematic at first. turned out to be strong in ways I‟d not realised. He had not seen me when I felt weak and feeble (the way John had seen me). Brownies and Guides followed and she talked of the many skills she had developed.
upstairs was strictly out of bounds even after she reached the age of 18. and . If I had a boy with me they would knock on my bedroom door. those of our parents could not have been more different. 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. was not allowed to bring boys into the house without the permission of her father . Elona. My parents had been liberal in their attitudes. I remember only mild embarrassment at their openness. on the other hand. Instead. to take them up to my room. Elona‟s father was protective and would never let her go to parties. especially my father. Even so. people pursued each other for sex and treated each other disrespectfully. They would tell her that in the „devil‟ world of „Godless‟ people. Sometimes I would get keen on a boy and still my parents would not interfere. Both my father and mother allowed me to have male friends. chat and talk. play music. and avoided the temptation to get angry with either her or her parents. When I asked her how she got to know boys. Attitudes to sex – or more accurately. Private conversations with boys were not allowed in her house – one or other parent had to be present. although my mother would tell me what I should and should not do. my voice was heard and sex talk was commonplace in our house. judged as little as I could. she simply said that she had not been able to. I listened as much as I could. More than once that led to us having a fight. My room was a private space to do as I pleased. They did not even let her take girlfriends upstairs.Friends or Lovers getting mixed up with a “bad crowd”. I started to wonder how she had turned out so „normal‟ despite her upbringing.
Some women deliberately excluded her. she was bursting with curiosity. I shared with her my boldest adventures. it was as if I was also talking to myself. or meek wallflowers schooled in the art of attracting „real‟ men. betrayed and misled. As I talked. When Nathan took a shine to her. They admitted that they knew but chose not to say anything. thoughts and feelings I was . When the young lads at work invited her to the pub. on the other hand felt embarrassed if her parents even hinted at sex. She imagined bold heroines aggressively seducing their prey. We laughed as stories came out of hiding and got aired for the first time. at their attitude. 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. when it came to my mind.Rory Ridley-Duff confessed to them that sometimes I had sneaked a boyfriend into my room in the middle of the night. Elona. But in talking to me. She was a young woman trying to navigate the minefield of courtship armed only with knowledge from romance novels. this strange morality where people could express themselves freely. Even at work. I tried to reassure her that experience had to be gained first hand. She fantasised about this other world. rather than relieved. I remember feeling grateful. Others picked on her and ridiculed her prudishness. he triggered all the feelings she was harbouring. she would walk away if she heard crude conversations. There was something tragic in hearing her story. When he rebuffed her. she gradually opened up and admitted that she had been buying romance novels for years. While I had no inhibitions about my body. and showed interest in her. she felt bitter.
you know!” I told him. His wife never forgave him for giving financial support to another woman. and our friendship gave her a way to compare her fantasy world to the reality of my life. Mike joked that if he had lied and said it was „just sex‟ his marriage might have survived. But since the fall out over Sally he had returned home only to be with his children. I found new depths in myself. Was my hostility to motherhood another way of avoiding responsibility? These questions troubled me. he gradually opened up about his marriage and I learnt that his kids were the principle reason he had remained for so long. Before I realised it. I started to realise new things that I had been missing – that the ephemeral materialism . she might have grown up very differently. he found his wife attractive and their argumentative relationship spiced up their sex life. It was the financial betrayal that killed it. As for Mike. I started to get a sense of just how important parents are and the huge responsibility they bear. I switched the conversation back to Elona. His comment started a chain of thoughts that still haunts me. “You are good for her. Through her candid confessions to me. A mother like me! At hearing those words. I was learning again from someone years my junior. He did admit too that.” “And a mother 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. despite the problems.Friends or Lovers even more inhibited than Elona. I felt a shudder. I found yet another avenue to release the pain and hurt of the past. “If she‟d had a father like you. As I watched Mike and learnt about each new layer of his character. perhaps?” he retorted.
I had loved Scooby Doo and rather than watch videos again and again. The world of parenthood took on a new fascination. conversations with real people flourished to the point that my television became just another piece of furniture. I found that there was nothing more fascinating or more pleasurable than getting to know people well. Before the arguments of my teenage years. And when Mike suggested I would make a good mother the urge to be a parent grew stronger and stronger. I cast my mind over my life with my mother and father. was not important. Their stories – which had for two decades been a source of entertainment and amusement to me – started to lose their standing. In them. setting out my life on paper became part of my liberation. That spurred me to take greater interest in how I came to be who I am. 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. something that my father‟s pragmatism and liberalism also shaped. Perhaps my own mother encouraged this creative streak in me.Rory Ridley-Duff of corporate life. she and I would join the gang and solve our own mysteries. but was not life itself. it was a place where vanity ran amok. she would make up new adventures on the spur of the moment. In their place. my mother told me stories. where those obsessed with self-importance told us how to live our lives. Perhaps that is what spurred me to write this story. It was a setting in which our lives unravelled. . the transient consumerism pressed on us by the media. The media was not reality. For me. Corporate life was not a reason for being. it was a means.
then “inbox”. Her eyes were wide open and her face was so animated that I thought she would burst a blood vessel. “Well. I mean he must……he must like me!” . The moment I arrived at her flat she screeched at me to come and see something. but at the top was a phone number. “What‟s happened?” I asked. Down the list I could see messages from her old boyfriend. come on. come on then. Wud u like drink with mates after work? Phil x “Better than the lottery?” I asked. For a couple of seconds a fancy graphic showed a pile of papers being sorted. “Well. she was waiting on the sofa clutching something in her hand. it‟s good isn‟t it. raising my eyebrows in wonder. then “messages”. come here!” I hastily hung up my jacket.Friends or Lovers Chapter 45 Six weeks after Elona moved in with Mike. “Have you won the lottery?” “Better than that. When I emerged. pressed “menu”. M and P tell me u r recovering. “Penny! Penny! Come here. something happened that transformed her life. “Who is that from?” I asked.” she answered. Show me!” Inside her sweaty palm was her mobile phone. She open the lid. pleaded with Elona to let me go to the loo first. Her excitement was so great that she could not contain it. Elona excitedly pressed a green button and the message appeared.
He may be interested in that.” I said as I took her hands and our eyes locked. Very excited.” “What about John?” she continued.” “But my Dad said…. It may be that Phil was asking her out.Rory Ridley-Duff I didn‟t know how to break the news that this may be kindness. “But it‟s a drink invitation! He‟s asking me out.” My heart sank. I mentally got ready to nail Phil when I saw him next morning. love! Look at me. But he may just want to be your friend…. “Maybe you shouldn‟t read too much into it. “When a man asks you for a drink. Secretly I thought about him a lot. Pretend he‟s your fantasy hero. but had his eye on others as well. but remember that this may be your wish but not his. She duly obliged. but then again it may not and I felt that it would be irresponsible not to prepare her for the possibility. however. You‟ve met him?” I asked. or an attempt to help her mix in with people at work. it does not always mean that he‟s asking you to be his girlfriend. “Elona.. “Everyone talks about him at work. “Yes.” I interrupted. but when I was with him I took nothing for granted. especially after he did that workshop about sexism in the army..” I commented. “I was excited..” “You just want to spoil my dreams!” she interrupted. my love. starting to look a bit downcast.” “Forget your Dad. “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….” she answered. It was „good‟. “Dream all you like. He had mentioned Elona.” .
Pen. Perhaps Phil would never know the difference. “Just start me off. I don‟t want to appear too forward. eh? I want him to know I‟m interested – I mean really interested. giving in to her. She jumped on her seat and punched the air with her fist.Friends or Lovers “Have you replied to this?” I asked. The thought of me flirting by mobile with Phil while he thought he was talking to Elona tickled me. “How d‟you want to play it then?” I replied. “I think it would be better if it all came from you. “But I don‟t know what to say! Could you…?” “Could I what?” “Could you reply?” I laughed. She‟d been planning this all day.” I said finally. “Why not?” she asked. returning to the question in hand. Would it be so bad? “I can‟t have a text conversation with him. She so wanted to get this one right.” .” she said imploringly. right?” “You‟re the best! First impressions. “You‟re hot for him. “No! I was waiting for you. I saw that she looked slightly hurt by my mirth so I immediately apologised and gave it some thought. But you don‟t want him thinking you‟re not interested either?” I replied. I gave her a school-ma‟am grin.” “Good.” I thought about this.” I said. “Just send the first few messages then I‟ll take over. My heart went out to her.
I knew Phil could be shy.Rory Ridley-Duff I thought for a second. But it‟s so exciting. “Do you have any idea how much I admire you?” “What! Admire me?” I said. “On what?” I asked. “Depends!” she replied. How could we use that? “Okay! Give me the phone. I guess. I hardly knew her. but also that he had a quiet confidence. “I‟m flattered. We didn‟t want to be tacky or crude. Could she change that much in a few weeks? “You can get hurt. “D‟you think that‟s too risqué?” I asked her. in response. “Don‟t you care?” “A bit. wondering if she was drunk. Then she broke into laughter as I added the last two words. “I want to have some fun!” I suddenly felt as if. “No. despite all our conversations. She took my free hand with both of hers. .” I said. “Never stopped you!” she said. isn‟t it?” she replied. you know?” I answered. I showed the message to Elona and she kept nodding enthusiastically. Thank you!” I said. “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 sat for a second wondering why she would admire me. I guess it didn‟t!” “Penny?” I looked up at her and she continued to speak. We were so different. in a matter of fact way. I selected „reply‟ and typed away carefully.
lonely and wretched.Friends or Lovers “You‟re my heroine!” she said. Elona. she wanted me as her role model.and kind and thoughtful. I‟m really touched.” “I wish! Seriously. From where I‟m sitting. I‟d not had to overcome the things she had lived through. “Are we going to send that.. you only see what‟s on the outside. Been places.. “Elona. then?” . “….” She glanced at the phone. “you‟re a natural. selfish. done things.” She suddenly got cross with me.. and strong and fair……” I shuddered at the thought that someone would use me as a role model. Inside I knew I was no better and no stronger than she was. Inside I have doubts just like you. I can be crabby and unreasonable. “What are you talking about? You‟ve done so much with your life.” she continued. It was not something that I felt I could refuse. “But most of all. Elona! I‟m nothing of the sort. I‟ve pissed around and messed things up big time.” “What do you mean?” “I mean that you live your life without any fear. and sexy and vivacious. bitchy. studied. that‟s such a sweet thing for you to say. emotional. mean and nasty……” I started to run out of words so Elona decided to take over. travelled. you know how to live!” She said this with such force that I didn‟t know what to say. or suffer the disappointments she had faced. What possible claim could I have to a life better than hers? And yet. got a good career and now a fantastic man. “Oh. Sometimes I‟m miserable.
What outfit wld u like me 2 wear for u. “I want all the gory details. Call right now!” I got up and went to get my coat. This is between you and him. I looked up at her. “Accept.” I said.Rory Ridley-Duff I looked at the message once more and read it out loud.. “Where are you going?” she asked. sexy?” Elona took the phone out of my hand and pressed the green button.” She looked slightly confused. I think. She read the message to herself and cackled again. Elona held it up and read it out loud. “Wot u have in mind? P xxxx” “Look! Look!” shrieked Elona. her mobile signalled the arrival of new mail so we excitedly opened her inbox. “He‟s added four kisses. “You two should be alone. We were like two schoolgirls swapping messages in class with a boy. “This is the last one I send. “Skn-tite and sexy? Wow! Looking 4wrd to seeing you in it…and out of it….” “But Penny?” “Trust me.” I said confidently. Ellie. she read Phil‟s reply out loud while jumping up and down. When I finished. girl. Elona handed me the phone again and I typed away. He‟s taking the bait. okay? After this you‟re on your own!” Elona nodded. A moment later. She pressed the green button and away it went.” I said. okay?” . “Too late for second thoughts now. In an instant. “But tomorrow. Let‟s reel him in.” “Okay.
If I had only heard her words I might have been offended. Even as I contemplated my own heroes and heroines – Mike. For me. Even as I chided myself for my judgement. ready to learn „how to live‟.” I replied. only the confidence and bluster that erupted when I was in the grip of moral indignation. Some other time. As she dialled the number and let it ring. In her eyes. I had taken from the experience that I had to be more cautious and respectful of others. Perhaps I was able to show her that you could be a woman in your own right. She was . I turned and walked out of the flat. able to make your own judgements – even if sometimes they turn out to be flawed and wrong.Friends or Lovers She grinned broadly. Elaine and John – the extent of my impact on Elona was beginning to dawn on me. I had challenged the behaviour of others and shown no fear. Elona had come alive – she was. with your own thoughts and feelings. piss off then and see if I care!” she said. I realised that perhaps this mattered less to her than the example I had set. I would have to talk to her about that. as she put it. With my coat on. “Thank you!” she said. but the excitement and joy that filled her whole body was matched only by the size and breadth of the smile she beamed. “Okay. “You‟re welcome. She could not see what was going on inside me. I walked over and gave her a big hug. She had seen me stand up for her against men she felt had hurt her. In the distance the sound of an excited young woman could be made out amidst much laughter and giggling. As I walked down a flight of stairs into the car park. I realised that this was the first time I‟d ever been someone‟s heroine.
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. “Faaannnnntttttaaaassssttttiiiiccccc!” I shouted.Friends or Lovers Chapter 46 Mike and I had a quiet evening at my flat watching a DVD. “Now don‟t rush things. He fondled me gently as I talked some more. Pen!” “Are you okay?” “I‟m on cloud nine! Thank you so much. one of his hands edged up inside my blouse and started to fondle my breasts while the other stroked my leg. Gradually. It was Elona again.” “I did nothing. and Mike looked at me with a quizzical expression on his face. Ellie!” I said.” Mike got up and walked over to me and I felt his arms move around my stomach. then moved underneath my skirt and played with the elastic of my pants. At around 10pm the phone rang. “Why?” I asked.” she said coyly. laughing and shouting that she needed a wage rise. Take things slowly. Need a raise to keep my mobile phone topped up. “What was that? Is there someone with you?” “Maybe.” I started to say. “I‟ve got to go now. “Not just booked a holiday with Phil.” “Then how come you are talking to me now?” I heard her giggle. really. “Why?” “Because I won‟t be able to talk soon!” . “I don‟t think „slowly‟ is in his vocabulary. have you?” “I talked so much I ran out of credit.
I pictured Phil ripping open Elona‟s blouse. pulled down my knickers and buried his head between my legs. “……to have sex with me while I talk on the phone to you…….this………conversation………Oh God!……. while the other…….aaahhhh……has just gone down inside my pants.oooohhh….to go….” whispered Mike a second time.” Mike had knelt down on the floor. Elona thought I was talking to her and asked again what was wrong...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…. As Mike pleasured me between my legs.. “…….. then picking her up and carrying her to bed. her level of laughter increased and I heard her shriek.I‟ve got…. “Keep talking..” Mike whispered in my ear “Keep talking”. lifted me onto the table. .. that Phil‟s strong body had moved between Elona legs.” I heard a round of giggling as Elona repeated my words to Phil. A few moments later.tomorrow……. I tried to imagine Elona‟s excitement as she trembled in anticipation of her first fuck.” I had to pause for a second as his finger touched a spot that took my breath away. He was dying for me. “Ellie? I have a man here who is dying ………. “What?” I replied. “Better finish….left nipple. Right there in the hall Mike nibbled the folds of my flesh while two fingers eased their way in.. “Me too!” she said when she finally came back to the phone.bye Ellie!” I put the phone down and spread my legs wide. I imagined what might be happening to Elona.
I arched back and focussed my thoughts on the feeling of Mike‟s tongue while picturing Phil between Elona‟s legs. It was the first time I had uttered the actual words and I waited for his reply. waves of pleasure started to glide up through my body. my breath shortening. “Have you any idea how deeply I am in love with you?” I asked. I guess.” He did not intend the pun. moaning.Friends or Lovers In my mind‟s eye. . and I surfed towards heaven. “Do what?” he asked. “How d‟you make me feel like that?” He laughed gently. my eyes closed. His strong muscular buttocks thrust into her with each movement of Mike‟s fingers inside me. As I lay there. Comes naturally. Mike‟s lips made their way up the front of my body gently kissing the breasts that I had exposed. until the nerve ends all pulsated simultaneously and I convulsed struggling to catch my breath. “How do you do that?” I said. Then I put both my hands on his cheeks and felt tears welling up in my eyes. “This much?” he said. He tried to kiss me but I pulled away. gesturing a small amount with his thumb and finger. “I don‟t know. until I felt his breath on my face. Just as I started to wonder whether it was pure wickedness to picture Phil as Mike brought me off. The surge continued and built. I watched him as he spread her legs and climbed between them. but I laughed anyway.
I gave in and allowed him to overpower me. I found myself wondering if I had stumbled across the answer. for reasons I could not fathom. he threw me down manfully and put his hands on my knees while glancing down at a huge erection. “No. I helped to bring him to the heights of ecstasy. as Mike overpowered me and started to thrust himself deep into me. He tried to spread my legs but I resisted him. “And I love you this much!” he said. As we kissed. I held his sleek and powerful body as it tensed and relaxed. my mind suddenly cast itself back to the moment when John had asked me about the army and sexism. This much!” I said as I pressed my lips onto his and aggressively pushed my tongue into his mouth. pretending to resist while egging him on to have his way with me. I held his head in my hands as I explored everything I could find. After carrying me to the bedroom. he picked me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist. remembering the way Elona and I had goaded Phil. Something told me I was wicked but I just knew he was dying for me. As the man I had chosen to give my heart glided into me again and again. I immediately pushed the thought from my mind. “Show me what you are made of!” As these words left my mouth. Suddenly here. “Come on. I revelled in the lust that we‟d created and teased him to the full. As a teenager. Then. and guided his penis towards my pussy.Rory Ridley-Duff I laughed again but wanted to preserve the tenderness of the moment. big boy. my sister once said to me that she could not imagine anything more satisfying than the thought of her lover so filled with passion . I spread my legs as wide as I could.” I said.
At the time.Friends or Lovers that he could not resist her. I had entered a new world and reached a new level of understanding. I hoped he felt the bewilderment and disorientation I felt when his magic tongue took me to another plane of existence. . as if she was fantasising about rape. the woman that he could not resist. All the certainties that I had ever felt about how men and women should behave vanished in the dust. not even I. every spark of sexual energy that he possessed ignited and firing through his body. I found her fantasies sick. I wanted to him to feel an uncontrollable desire for me that no-one. But in this moment I realised what was so exciting to her. And there. What greater gift could I give him? And what more could he give me than show his inability to resist me? As I lay on the bed. I hoped he was feeling the same crushing desire that I felt for him. as Mike arched in the throws of orgasm and shot his sperm deep into me. I held him in my arms and wept. I wanted to be Mike‟s greatest fantasy. I watched his face strain as he reached the limits of his passion. could stop. with Mike‟s spent body still lying inside me. If I could do that to him…for him…he would be mine forever. She would fantasise about her boyfriend so full of lust that he would force himself on her as she tried to resist him.
I had to appraise myself. then ask one of my peers. he was late so I passed the time by checking over my emails. It was my appraisal form. I was tempted to tear up the zero-tolerance policy on porn completely. There was the usual junk that I discarded. But when it came to “attention to detail” the reverse was probably true.one personal. adding written . Unusually for him. The tick boxes allowed each person to say how the employee performed relative to their own expectations. I found myself less worried about pornography than e-mails offering prescription drugs. I felt this was better than a 1 – 5 scale because “communication skills” in a CEO were much more important than in a bookkeeper. but I did it both quickly and diligently. when I arrived at work the next morning. 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. was to invite Phil into my office for a private conference. the other professional. then one of my subordinates and lastly get feedback from a director. I had two agendas . In fact. one of my first acts was to introduce 360º reviews. It was strange filling out an appraisal form that I had designed myself. When I started. 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. Each part of the appraisal had tick boxes. but today I looked at them differently. I printed it and filled it in.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 47 My first task. The objective was to stimulate discussion and reflection about different perceptions of my work.
I realised that he was having a joke with me.Friends or Lovers comments at the bottom of each section. How about you?” “I‟ve had worse!” I replied in probably the biggest understatement of my entire life. I started to rub his back. “Had a good evening. “Too late. I gave the form to him and asked if he would complete it then pass it to Jo. I found myself hanging onto him and not letting go. “For what?” I asked.” he said. “Very pleasant. Finally. When Phil had completed the form I called him into my office. . “Between friends. “I‟m off the market. did you?” “Yes. It felt really good. As soon as Phil arrived. Mr Trent!” I said with mock formality. Penny!” Before I could protest. After a second. Phil broke into laughter and I instinctively moved to embrace him.” he replied with a smile. 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.” My gentle sarcasm amused him and he felt slightly awkward as I put my arms around him for the first time. “Good morning. Ms Leyton. Dave had to complete the section as director. slightly defensively. 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. then felt his hands on mine.” I said. his arms made their way around my back and he held me much more tightly than I expected. “I think it‟s permitted.
“She gave me a message for you.Rory Ridley-Duff When we finally let go of each other. but inside I was uncomfortable at anyone building me into a special person. by the way. “if an employee says something is private and confidential. as he separated himself from me and sat down in a chair.” “Aren‟t you going to show me?” he asked. Go make a coffee or something. see you in a moment!” Phil. “Rule number 1. Penny. “Well.” he said. sir!” I said mocking him a bit. left for the coffee machine while I opened the envelope. I lost something last night – I’m sure you’ll understand what I mean. there‟s a first for everything!” I said with some surprise. “I can.” I said. “Go on then. It was not the wonderful and incredible experience that I had hoped for but it was still very exciting. “What is it?” He rummaged around in his briefcase and brought out an envelope. we looked into each other‟s eyes and both realised the intensity of the feelings that we had just communicated. I found the . but accepting of my command. you know!” A sudden surge of modesty interrupted my moment of vanity. “She worships you. slightly surprised. “I cannot think why!” I replied. I showed the writing to Phil. hoppit and come back in 5 minutes. On the outside were the words “Penny Leyton – strictly Private and Confidential”. “You are too kind. Inside was a folded bit of paper.” added Phil. then treat it as private and confidential! Go on.
He wasn‟t that gentle!” “Then tell him. “Am I being too hard on him?” “No.” “I can‟t do that. “Yes. Sex is like everything else in life. “Can you talk?” I asked. Ellie.” “Why not?” “I might hurt his feelings!” Why. did people so often think that it was preferable not to hurt someone else‟s feelings when their body was being hurt? “Ellie. If he doesn‟t then you‟ll want to think again about whether he‟s right for you.” “I got your note!” I said.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see Phil coming back into the office. isn’t it? Is this normal – I don’t feel completely bowled off my feet? Ellie I immediately picked up the phone and dialled her extension. the better it gets. Just be patient and it will happen. yes. .Friends or Lovers cuddling afterwards more enjoyable and we talked and talked. 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. I wondered. There‟s no-one here at the moment. The more you practice it. Waking up with someone next to you is something else. But when we started it hurt a bit. he‟ll want to give you as much pleasure as he can.
“Well. “Are you alright? You don‟t have to say anything. As I watched Phil struggle it reminded me of my own struggle with John. “Phil‟s coming!” “Don‟t tell him. okay?” “Yeah. I realised that his anxiety about sharing his feelings was no different from mine. I decided to .Rory Ridley-Duff “I have to go now. “What did she say?” “That‟s between me and her. I think I can definitely confirm that the answer is „yes‟!” He smiled as he gave me the coffee.” He hesitated again. “She told you then?” “No secrets between girlfriends. it was good and all. 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. He suddenly looked quite sheepish and unsure. right?” “Like a doctor and patient!” I said.. Ellie! I wouldn‟t dream of it. “Phil?” I asked.” I offered. He was surprisingly nervous. sure!” I rang off as Phil entered the office. When he didn‟t start talking I tried to give him some gentle encouragement. Please!” “Jeez. See you at the flat tonight. trying to be reassuring.” I said. I remembered how he had moved around to my side and gently reassured me. but we didn‟t……I didn‟t…. but if you are wondering whether she wants to see you again.” “This is in confidence.” I answered. “I‟m more interested in what you have to say.
I just ended up sticking it in and pumping away. Clearly this was difficult for him to say. when one wrong word or gesture can destroy trust and end a relationship. These are the moments when people are at their most vulnerable. 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. Can there be . “I mean – I took her into the bedroom and I could tell she wanted me……” He hesitated again.” “We didn‟t…….have any……foreplay!” he finally said. “I wanted her to…but she didn‟t seem to know anything. As I sat next to him. “I really like her and all. 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. but I didn‟t know how to ask her to……you know…..?” “I think I know what you mean. Phil!” I said confidently. Phil. Penny! I just wanted her so bad. I put my arm on his back and helped him.Friends or Lovers do the same. but she didn‟t really know what to do.” I had to stifle a laugh – he would not have understood why I found this funny.. Do you know what I mean?” I looked at him and nodded. “I was so excited. Neither was interested in blaming the other. “But……we didn‟t……” “It‟s okay – nobody‟s going to judge you. I was instantly relieved. I gently listened to him and tried to work out how to tell him what he needed to hear. It hurt and I was worried about hurting her. I started to understand what he was saying and gently encouraged him.
Talk to her about her upbringing. you know?” “Then tell her.” “I just wanted it to be better for her. Phil. I realised. I saw his eyes grow moist. Where did he end up that night. 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. “No promises!” I said. words started to spill out of my mouth.” I said reassuringly. This was a first for me.” I started. “I can‟t do that!” I felt like I was in the middle of a re-run. but I smiled broadly and looked him in the eye. the lad I had picked up in the bar when I was out with Carole and Chris. Talk to her about her parents. “I did something once that I‟m truly ashamed of…. I couldn‟t remember any other occasion when a man.” “You think?” he said. . He had screamed at me that he was not a piece of meat. Before I knew it. “but I‟m confident you‟ll be happier the more you get to know her.” As I looked at him. “Tell her!” I said gently. had expressed his fears to me about sex. I thought about George and the violence I had done him by not treating him with respect. any man. As Phil talked about the pleasure he had wanted to bring Ellie. family. friend or lover. 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. I had always thought men didn‟t care but as Phil poured out his feelings. I thought about George. “She‟s ready to learn if you have the confidence to teach her.
saying nothing.. I realised that I was letting Phil into my life. instead of gently telling him how to give me the pleasure I wanted. When he wasn‟t very good at it. I ruthlessly seduced him. I began.” Phil looked surprised at my choice of words. but gently coaxed me with his eyes and gentle touch. Out poured the story of that night with a frankness and level of detail that I had withheld from John.” as I struggled to say it. “I picked up a young lad once. my eyes started to moisten and tears started to roll down my nose and drip onto the floor. “I took him back to my flat and demanded service. I looked at Phil and his gentle smile reassured me. “I……”. I felt Phil‟s hand at the small of my back rubbing my spine.” Phil sat there. letting the import of the words hang in the air for a moment. It felt nice. “What happened?” Phil asked. I did the most disrespectful thing I‟ve ever done…. He was called George. As the realisation of what I had done engulfed me. “I ruthlessly seduced him. “Yes. to cast my eyes down on the floor and wonder whether I had the courage to talk. 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…. I looked up at him with eyes full of tears.” Phil just nodded and suddenly the words started to flow much more freely. but found it too hard to say at first. not just as a professional . “I wished he was someone else.wished…….” I repeated.Friends or Lovers It was my turn to feel ashamed and hesitant...
” . ever. “My God.” I said. neither of them had ever revealed to me how they felt about making love to a woman. Phil started to talk again. I poured out my feelings to him for nearly 15 minutes. drying my eyes. “Penny. for all John‟s openness. “Never!” he said again. “Then.” “Never?” I asked. When do men talk about this I wondered? “Never?” I asked again. He nodded more strongly.Rory Ridley-Duff colleague but as my closest personal friend. for all my closeness to Mike. When I stopped. “Never!” he reaffirmed.” I said after a pause. I‟ve never talked to anyone. “What a thought!” As we gathered ourselves up we noticed the cold coffees on the table. I have to tell you that I think I‟m going to be sacked. about this kind of stuff. “I‟m going to get us some more drinks. When I thought about it.
I talked with him for nearly two hours. and the care I had shown to Elona. Privately I knew that it had more to do with the way our relationship had turned sour. I told him he was too generous. At senior management levels. After I had divulged to Phil what happened at the CIPD event. going over the issues that the appraisal had raised but avoiding the matter of Dave‟s behaviour toward me. as had Phil. The way I changed my mind about Mike. Phil confessed to me that he‟d been visited by Harry. . Nevertheless.Friends or Lovers Chapter 48 The rest of the week was unsettling. having briefed Dave and the other senior executives about the appraisal process. I quickly realised that my continued employment was problematic. Phil reassured me that whatever happened I would always have his respect. It was this that gave him confidence in me. This was the beginning of the end. I received my appraisal from Dave and there were no surprises. I nearly screwed up completely for no other reason than my own prejudices. mattered more to him than the prejudices I had initially displayed. He had marked me down on most aspects of my performance and cited the handling of the dispute as the reason. At the end of our meeting. 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. he said he could make „no promises‟ which I took to mean that a decision had already been taken. there was a growing interest in the dispute between Elona and Mike. I took the matter into my own hands and visited Harry. Jo had been kind and positive.
I suddenly realised something that had never occurred to me before. I felt in awe of the social forces that were assembling. or any moral debate about their actions. As I contemplated what would happen if I failed my probation. goes unchecked then eventually a company loses the very people capable of forming a top-rate management team. a layer of new managers develops beneath them . or demote them. but his isolation from what had taken place meant that people around him should have been urging caution. If our propensity to sack people. Maybe he would survive it. Managers stop facing – on a daily basis . perhaps. It is only by keeping someone in a post after they have made a mistake that a company can benefit from what they learn. maybe not. Harry would act on what he knew. ideals.the impacts of their decisions. Harry. thoughts and actions slowly fades away. challenges to management behaviour. They should have been urging him to avoid acting precipitously.Rory Ridley-Duff As I left his office. Intolerance toward failure removes the very people learning the most and those lucky enough to avoid it remain untouched. was about to make a corporate decision that would spark a major conflict. My two-hour conversation . As conformity and false consensus takes root.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. 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. Management failure is passed down the line and before long senior managers start to wonder why „no good people are coming through‟. And so.
I was foolish to harbour any hope. 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. Instead I returned to my office and trusted that my friends would be able to bring off their coup d’etat.
A week ago I was dreading this. 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.” It was good to hear that the future was positive for IC staff despite the direction of my own life. I wanted to return to the scene of our first meeting. I talked to Jo and realised that John‟s contribution was not just technical. “Everything is set. They had . It felt like a homecoming. there was a group of disparate and irritable people. I was particularly glad to see him. but now I‟m quite excited about it.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 49 John was waiting for me at Pizza Hut. He felt the training had gone well and that there was now a good chance that the SHARE experience would sell well. “That‟s good. In the time he had been there. The way he talked and cut through bullshit impacted on staff morale. He let me say my piece. Two-months earlier when the department had been formed. As we looked over the menu. he chatted about progress.” “Mike talked to everyone in the department yesterday. I finally realised why John‟s reputation was so good. Now it was a cohesive squad equipped to take on the competition. His contract at IC was at an end. The reaction was really good.” he said. He had anticipated a long lunch and had ordered a bottle of wine. Before I left. I was moved that people listened to my views and were so supportive. he had formed a committed and thriving team. At the end of such an emotional week.
didn‟t you?” “Yes. Several things bugged me and I wanted to clear them up. the table and me. When you did that I knew you must‟ve read Ms magazine. “The clincher was definitely the shoelaces. You were reading a book. I think. “You mentioned that in the speech.” he said. We chatted and exchanged small talk until the food came. But it was when you moved in the queue that I realised you‟d noticed me too. “John?” I started tentatively. trying to see myself through his eyes and understand how I had impacted on him. Then I decided to get personal. Our eyes met a couple of times and I liked that. his face lit up. It was a novel by Bernice Rubens. like me. looking variously at his food. His eyes wandered around.Friends or Lovers organised a drinks reception to round off the day: a last chance to let their hair down before “the big push”.” I was listening attentively. but as he spoke he focussed more and more on his thoughts. I really want to know!” I said. “Remember my talk at the CIPD?” “Could hardly forget it!” “Well. He looked at me from time to time. “Yes. As he did so. I‟ve read her novels so I thought we might get on. Pen?” “Why did you sit next to me on the plane?” “Seriously?” “Yes.” . your arse was definitely part of the equation but not the main reason!” “What else?” “I noticed you sitting in the lounge.
There was an article in the mid-90s telling women how to flirt at work. I wrote it! I added that bit of advice about the shoelace as a joke. 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 was looking at you in those fantastic jeans and pondering the connection between us.” “I can‟t believe it!” I said. I had to make a living and for a short while I wrote lots of magazine articles. I stood there behind you and realised .Rory Ridley-Duff I did not understand how he could work out that I had once read Ms magazine. “How could you know that?” “Easy. It was art creating life. but I was still amazed that he‟d made a connection. I didn‟t read the article. John. “You never cease to amaze. I pictured you as a single professional woman who enjoyed her independence and men!” We both laughed at the irony.” “You?” “Why so surprised? I‟d just finished my PhD and was full of that stuff. John looked me square in the eye. I think it was something like „The Working Woman‟s Guide to Sex at Work‟ right before an article about sexual harassment! Anyway. I thought the idea was amusing and it would be a laugh for the magazine‟s readers. “So there you were doing something to attract me that I‟d written about nearly 10 years earlier. I‟d never seen anybody do it. The headline was quite uninspiring. I remember. absolutely gob-smacked. That‟s where the advice was first given to women.
“Yes. “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 have an answer for you. I couldn‟t resist talking to you. a party piece that he‟d asked hundreds. the question was old hat. Usually I have to spend ages giving hints and heavy clues before people work it out. dummy!” “Oh. “You‟re definitely more forward than me!” As we laughed. To me that question had separated him from everyone else I‟d ever known. “Well. “Do you remember what you asked me on the plane?” “We chatted for ages. “If you have. I tried to think of one. I must‟ve asked you many things. What if I had missed the point and was about to make a complete fool of myself? I dismissed it quickly from my . I wanted to tell him of my discovery. “Yes! You were very forward. “You mean there are people more forward than me?” he joked. there‟s me!” I answered.” he laughed. to comprehend the myriad of different things that he had been thinking about when we met.” I said. but could not.” I hesitated. that?” he said mockingly as I realised that he was jesting with me. I realised what a complex and accidental thing attraction can be. To him.” “To what?” “To your question.” As I was trying to take this in. Pen.Friends or Lovers that my life had touched yours 10 years earlier.” he replied. then you have my total respect. if not thousands of times.
I wanted to know whether my answer was the one he was looking for so I set aside my fears and told him. a grin started to spread over his face. really dying for me‟. “It‟s strange. Mike had been fondling me while I was talking on the phone and in my head I kept thinking „he‟s dying for me. Never before had I thought of the problems that might create. I thought how unfair it was that I should be testing him. I wanted him to prove he was stronger than me. Pen?” he asked. And in the next instant. I felt bad. but I wanted him to overpower me to prove to me that he could. If I was to become a fool again. as if I was doing something wrong. I was encouraging him to be aggressive and I started to wonder why I was doing it. 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. “How did you work it out. He looked gob-smacked. “How did you come up with that?” He was truly amazed. That phrase kept popping into my head. . So I started to resist him. He was truly amazed. I wanted to test that his love was so great that I couldn‟t stop him expressing it. making him use force to get what I dearly wanted to give anyway. Initially. Just as I was about to panic that I‟d made a huge gaff. So I started to tell the story. really. Then it hit me.Rory Ridley-Duff thoughts. Never before had I thought of sex as a kind of test through which men had to pass to prove their strength.” I said. it would take its place at the back of a very long list of foolish thoughts and actions. His hand moved to his cheek and he rubbed it as his mouth stayed open. And then.
John. Suddenly. Why do we say „he‟s dying for me‟? Where does that expression come from? There I was lying there wanting him to prove that he would be prepared to die for me. he told me that he would let me go if I wanted children. no preconditions. If he was not stronger than me. but that was not the same thing as being prepared to die to save him. how could he ever protect me? And the moment I felt ashamed of thinking this way. I gave it to him willingly. “But your question. I wondered about that phrase. no tests. 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. but I realised that I would not die for him. I knew. I could not imagine making such a sacrifice. Mike. but not in the movie hero sense.” . I wanted him to overpower me so that I would know he was strong enough to protect me. A few days before. would sacrifice himself for me. “It stopped me insisting that he be prepared to die for me as a pre-condition of my love. So I stopped teasing him and started to care instead about giving him as much pleasure as I could.Friends or Lovers So I set out for John what had been going through my head. John‟s question popped into my head – it was one of those flashes of intuition that have no explanation. I wanted him to be prepared to die for me. 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. I stopped resisting him. even die for me.” I continued. the phrase “he‟s dying for me” kept spinning through my head. And yet. when we had been driving home. I put these two thoughts together.
. By rights. It had taken me all this time to see it a different way. Many women are strong and fit. yes. We expect them to die to protect us. “If we cared about equality.” I said with ardour of a convert. “It‟s only fair!” “Fair. For the last 20 years. our armies would have many women fighting alongside men. for the benefit of men. Pen – if we valued men as much as women . War might be fought – in the minds of the men who fought them – to protect those they love. even if the average man is stronger than the average women. Sensible.” I thought about this for a second and suddenly became bold. fought by men. John interrupted my thoughts with some of his own.” I said. finally. but wanted him to be prepared to die for me. I had been taught (and taught others) that war was caused by men. For them.” “Why? Surely we should recognise this…. since I had been introduced to feminism. Penny! That‟s what men are taught to do. maybe not.” I said. “There is another point of view.” he said firmly. it was to show themselves worthy of someone‟s love. John stopped me. not just their right. . “Then that‟s what we should do.we would be recruiting the strongest people to fight our wars. Equality means that women would insist on their responsibility to fight.” “We expect men to die. What a journey I had travelled.Rory Ridley-Duff “That‟s it. As I faced up to the truth that I would not die for my man. Perhaps it was not even for this reason. my own part in men‟s violence became clearer to me. And for no other reason than they are men. perhaps. Usually they never think twice about it for the entirety of their lives.
not only would they be building mutual respect and enduring relationships with each other.” John disagreed. “I don‟t have a choice. His face.” I insist.000 women left in a village who could bear children. “We don‟t force people into the army. but only 100 men.” he said. I hesitated.Friends or Lovers I gestured for him to continue. “If women and men were fighting on the front line together. when the battle was over there would be roughly equal numbers left. I thought about his words but challenged them. And those men are going to be busy. even if there were not as many left. wouldn‟t they. aren‟t they?” “I suppose they are. was not whimsical. Would the society be able to survive?” “Of course.000 men and only 100 women left?” His question made me think. I think any community would be happier as a result of that. Penny. Women have fought alongside men in revolutions so why not in armies?” He smiled at me.” “Of course you do. “Let‟s suppose that there was a battle and after there were 1. “Look at the history of war. “Would you fight?” he asked. It would take countless more generations to rebuild a community if this happened. “I don‟t buy that.” I started. however. “But what if it was the other way around? What if there were 1. If I refuse to fight. my own government is likely to put me in jail where I can be expect to . “Would you?” I responded.
Rory Ridley-Duff be beaten. Even if my own country supported a right to conscientiously object. no need for draft laws.” “My God!” was all I could say. Remember the phrase they used? The soldiers were „clearing the ground‟. my own brothers and sisters. Penny. No man between the age of 15 and 55 was allowed out of the city before the US forces attacked it. “I don‟t have the choices you do. or a court of law.” John replied. They cleared the ground by shooting everyone they came across. “Only men were killed. there would be no need for conscription. John saw my discomfort. It‟s not true that men love war. The horror of this appalled me. Not long ago I would have been executed if I tried to reject violence. no need for military laws to punish deserters. no . would I get mercy from the enemy?” he asked. not bravery. I felt sick. I‟m left with no way out of violence. Either way. “No. I can choose the enemy.” I objected. Even if my own side spares me. They don‟t care if I support the war or not. It‟s not a question that really means anything to me. buggered and left to die. they‟ll still kill me. If I fight at first.” “But that‟s genocide. “What do you mean?” “Do you remember Fallujah?” he enquired. the enemy won‟t. I have no choice except to fight. The women and children were allowed to leave. then change my mind. my own government. If we did. I am court-marshalled for cowardice. “Fallujah? In Iraq you mean?” “Yes. My only other alternative would be to take up arms against my own government – which means fighting my own people. Again.
It‟s not necessary to teach them.” I wondered what it must be like to grow up constantly wondering if.” He nodded and the conversation moved onto an assortment of trivia as we finished off a lovely “stuffed crust” pizza with chargrilled chicken. they simply work out for themselves that one day they may have to fight. I was too drunk to drive home so we walked it off in the park and visited a coffee bar. John. peppers and extra cheese. I had a truly wonderful day. one day. After a second bottle of wine.Friends or Lovers need for court marshals. . Suddenly it made sense that little boys played with guns. you would be forced to fight against your will. Don‟t let anyone stop you. no executions or jail for men when they reject violence. “Keep saying these things.
I would have added to these statistics myself. new relationships were formed and moments of happiness were found amidst the problems we all faced. problems which after millennia of neglect are finally becoming the subject of debate. some died so that I could do so. Several generations of women made it possible for me to exercise choice. or a voice to be used against men and women I had come to respect. 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. that the initial love I felt for Mike lasted until the day I died. but were as frail. between his and her escapades. 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. They did their best. but as things changed. that truth and justice prevailed. if you prefer the description on my employment record “Penny failed her probationary period because of poor job performance”.Rory Ridley-Duff Chapter 50 I wish I could tell you that things worked out well. and I felt a responsibility to give back some of what they had given to me. Or. If it had not been for the intervention of a gifted person. I did not want to end up being one of the women who contributed to the problems that men face today. to make their peace with each other. I was sacked. For the rest of his life he enjoyed – if that is the right word – an open . I wish I could say that most of us lived happily for most of our lives. John returned to his wife and they continued. prejudiced and limited as me. It wasn‟t to happen. who did so only out of affection for me.
for him ever be completely free of bias or prejudice. he lost his seat and switched to writing. he kept returning home from his travels to enjoy time with the family that he created. It is no less special for that and we continue to protect what we have in ways that seem right to us. Professionally. John remained a nomad for another decade before finally giving in to the temptation of politics. but he was right about my desire to have children. At the same time. Sally was immediately on the scene and this time . I enjoyed many happy years with Mike. I have his books and read each one that comes out. and certainly whenever she needed his support he made himself available. I gave him one or two pushes in that direction but he kept his word and stubbornly encouraged me into a new relationship. but I watched as he did his best to navigate them. My cynicism about politicians faded dramatically as I met him over the years and learned of the endless no-win scenarios that they face. It was impossible. Once or twice. nurtured and loved.Friends or Lovers marriage. He remains my dearest and most enduring friend. He never rose to the level of cabinet minister but he distinguished himself in small ways as a member of one government. at times when we both felt sad. of course. or the interests within which he had become embedded. After serving just one term. But – and this is something I partly regret. I prefer to think of them as two free spirits with the capacity to forgive each other when loneliness led them astray. John saw Sally from time to time. we got together to spend good times. You have probably never heard of him. Sometimes we would cuddle on the sofa. but am also proud of – we have not felt the need to consummate our relationship. We parted amicably and he remains a good friend.
The love . of course. their marriage failed. their marriage hit the rocks about five years later. Dave kept his job.Rory Ridley-Duff Mike gave in to her. Nine years after his first wife had falsely accused him of sleeping with her. adding that he hoped never to see me again. She was the business brains and it was her will that prevailed in the short term. She got a buzz from the political battles and liked to forge change. I think of the good times we had. His wife went into a hospice where she died six-months later. As for Sam and Elaine. 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. Afterwards. I discovered my talent for public speaking. The success of their company created problems. Sam rejoined IC to engineer new products. After Procter & Gamble bought them out. They are one of life‟s happy couples. When I meet them. he had a breakdown. I once wrote to him to see whether he wanted to talk about the past. My sister Carole married Chris. Sam. and their second child – Penny Ann – was born one day early. he never fully recovered. Sally finally got her man. They are now married. wanted to get back to inventing and engineering new products. when the success of SHARE began to fade. I detect the kind of closeness that I have in my own marriage. She had been through the menopause and Mike lost his excuse for resisting her. He declined. According to Phil. In giving a „best woman‟ speech. but the events that took place following my departure cost him dearly. I also found myself taking a much greater interest in being an aunt. Within twelve months he had been demoted. Elaine enjoyed life as a company director and took on more directorships.
As for me. It broke his heart. but Sam and Elaine had committed investors and staff. When I look back. There was a furious legal battle. However. eventually got married and had two children. It took much of the spirit out of him for many years. Phil got limited access after a lengthy court battle. Phil felt they spent all their time interfering in his marriage and the raising of his children. Phil was promoted into my position at IC and we kept in touch. I found it impossible to build bridges with her again.Friends or Lovers between Carole and Chris was elastic: it stretched and bent as life threw its worst at them. the dispute between Elona and Mike was the catalyst that ended . When Elona‟s parents retired. I went to work for Sam and Elaine. so they took up this opportunity in large numbers. it did not last. He felt so superfluous that eventually he left. When Elona took out a court injunction to stop Phil seeing his children. Sam and Elaine gave each member a generous shareholding in the new company. persuaded the entire SHARE team to leave IC and become members of Sam and Elaine‟s company. with help from John. the contingency plan worked a treat. he eventually stopped seeing them altogether. 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. In exchange for giving up continuous employment rights. of course. Phil and Elona had a crack at things. and when his children started blaming him for the marriage break-up. they devoted themselves to grandparenthood. Each had a tremendous capacity to accommodate the other‟s weaknesses and failings. Sam and Elaine. Mike. it created a big rift between Elona and myself. Everyone expected the SHARE product to be a success. Given what happened later.
against increasing numbers of . 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. against the trend towards ever more standards of excellence. Many of us became paper millionaires for a while. standardised codes of ethics and kitemarks. I am its managing director and we help organisations develop progressive approaches to human resource management. In the 5 years that followed. constitutional matters and legal frameworks. 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. We formed a new business together – the Social Exchange. If it works for them both. and certainly does not require a written contract of employment. two people enter into their own agreement. Through the simple act of exchanging labour for money. That can happen without any written agreement. this simple truth is not stated often enough. It gave the rampant rabbit a good run as the number one sex toy. finance. but he is getting quite old now.Rory Ridley-Duff IC‟s rapid growth. While banks and development agencies get flustered about business planning. they continue it. John works with us on some projects. but arrogance and shortsightedness eroded the share price before the company was sold off. I remain close to Elaine and we both did well out of the company sale. Today. As I learnt through reflecting on my life and writing this story. it is not only inside the home that intimate relationships are of vital importance. Trade begins when you trust someone enough to pay for the products or services they offer. It is a thankless task arguing against bureaucracy. or company constitution.
there is only one thing of which I am certain. I started to see Phil more. employees and suppliers. Thankfully I have been able to make a living saying this to many people. As I look to the future. It may not last. Our friendship developed into a lasting romance. I learned this at IC. ~ End ~ . We now have two lovely children: a boy I insisted we call John. If I can teach this to my children and grandchildren. and exploring ways to make it work in practice. Three years later we had a girl. but for now I am content. and that is why I wanted to tell you this story. these things are never certain.Friends or Lovers laws that seek to regulate not only our behaviour. We called her Hope. 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. After I split from Mike. In this struggle I have – unsurprisingly . and Phil split from Elona. there needs to be a culture in which relationships are intimate and people can learn from the mistakes they make. and from them spring not just new human life but new economic life as well. Intimate relationships are the foundation our society. but even the way we articulate our thoughts.made little headway. my time on this earth will not have been wasted. 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. For a business to grow. customers. There is a strength that grows from being quick to listen and slow to judge.