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Diseased Soul

By Andy Hayward All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Romance

Chapter 1

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 14/03/2008 11:02:17

Subject: First Date

Dear Beth, Thanks for a terrific first date yesterday and suggesting I drop you an email when I found time. Well, it’s Saturday and though I made a brief appearance at work I’m now enveloped in a plush, albeit heavily scuffed chesterfield in a window of “Coffeehaus,” soaking up Wi-Fi, sipping mocha with Sigur Ros’ Góðan Daginn playing the mid-ground. A terrific morning.

I didn’t say this over lunch but I very nearly didn’t ask you out at all. That morning, I bolted past that mouse-infested holding room you call your second office countless times. Disappointing, annoying, frustrating – you get the idea – confidence with women has never been a strength. It took an entire morning of sub-vocalising “So how about Lunch?” over and again to summon enough courage to deliver my line. When, finally, we stood face to face, I noticed at once how your petite womanly figure was apparent beneath the standard-issue-blue lab-coat and words, well, they failed me. Great! All that practice sublimated in matter seconds! But, bolstered the encouraging look in your eyes, I somehow spat out all four words– probably in the wrong order– to put across my invitation and somehow, probably out of pity you accepted. All round, an excellent outcome for such a poor delivery.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 14/03/2008 11:25:05

Subject: RE: First Date

Hey Jon, I’m familiar with that coffee shop and avoid it like the plague! Urgh! From what I can tell, it’s usually crammed with nerds who sit alone, thinking it’s cool to open up a laptop and pretend to be working on something “BIG” whilst drinking overpriced coffee. I suspect these men, boys more like, aren’t working on anything “BIG” at all. It’s obvious isn’t it? They have no friends and have nothing better to do. That’s why they go there. Pfff! You better hadn’t turn out to be one of them. And that mouse-infested holding room as you put it, houses Transgenic mice, so whilst you might be pretending to work on something big I am working on something BIG, a cure for Parkinson’s, in fact. I’ve been waiting for you pluck up the courage to ask me out since you started working here at Metro… months ago! I almost gave up dropping hints and looking my best for you! Don’t you know blue lab coats are in vogue and BTW, Jon, you don’t look so bad in yours either. Frankly, you’re luuuush! If I’m honest, I couldn’t make head nor tail of your garbled speech, but I got the gist. It had quite an effect too. I turned the colour of a million sun ripe tomatoes. A woman of nearly forty blushing over a lunch invitation! How humiliating. That asinine quip I made about reaching the menopause multiplied the effect. Talk about making it difficult. What young post-doc would want to go out with a menopausal woman? Don’t answer, none. What a normoron!
Lunch was lovely. I’ve always liked that bar, it’s relaxed, not too pricy, not too far from the lab, in all an ideal setting for a “working lunch.” And my goodness, the way you gazed into my eyes so intently made me feel like a teenager again. By the time our plates were cleared there was no question I’d found my new favourite plaything.


From:
To: Elizabeth.
Date: 14/03/2008 11:32:30
Subject: RE: First Date
Beth, I’ll overlook your comments about Coffeehaus for now. Having just glanced around the place you might be right. I count three such nerds – me included – all typing then sipping or sipping then typing depending on your point of view. Hang on a sec. Now that’s delicious Mocha! Where was I? Making an effort to look good for me worked a treat. Incidentally, it’s not the first time you’ve caught my eye. On my way into the lab as a student I often noticed you outside The Tower smoking, irrespective of the weather. It’s odd to think, isn’t it? We worked in the same lab for years without exchanging even a polite “Hello” or “Good Morning,” not a word until I began working at Metro. I shouldn’t worry your blunder. I was too busy cart wheeling over my words to notice that menopause comment!


From: Elizabeth.
To:
Date: 14/03/2008 11:15:21
Subject: RE: First Date I’m not sure whether to be flattered or freaked being noticed taking fag breaks. Have you been stalking me all this time? Creep. And just for the record, I don’t remember you a bit. The very thought that someone might look at me that way makes me feel kinda dirty, cheap, like I’m a piece of meat, an object to be gorped at or something. People should keep their roaming eyes and filthy minds to themselves, in my opinion. There’s no telling what I’d do if I spotted my guy look at another woman that way ….you’ve been warned! To set the smoking record straight, I was cajoled into taking a drag by my first boyfriend. He was cool, which made it cool and that made me cool. Gottit? Sure, I slip up occasionally after a glass of wine, who doesn’t? But, after an arduous battle, I kicked the habit years ago. Happy? Good.


From:
To: Elizabeth.
Date: 14/03/2008 11:20:18
Subject: RE: First Date
Beth, Warning of roaming eyes duly noted and logged Ma’am! Please be flattered. Had I been stalking you, then a failure to recollect me suggests all my attempts failed, miserably. I am no stalker. I simply noticed you. Come, there’s no harm admiring someone from afar… Drats, the barista wants me to move to a smaller table so she can accommodate a family of four. There goes my peace and quiet! More to follow in a minute or two…

From:
To: Elizabeth.
Date: 14/03/2008 11:27:01
Subject: RE: First Date Phew, that was a lucky escape. I’m now settled into an equally shabby man chair at the back of the place away from inevitable family squabbles. Shoes off, feet comfortably rested on a table to the front. Time’s getting on. No wonder I’m hungry. What shall it be today? As usual, my usual: toasted bagel crammed with chicken, salad and oodles of mayonnaise…oh…and a Victorian style lemonade. Perfect! About smoking. I don’t suppose the odd nicotine fix every now and again is nearly as bad as the 40-a-day habit Dad kept. I was fully aware, even from a young age that cigarettes, apart from having a nauseating smell and being prohibited in the house, could kill. It’s probably one of the few useful lessons I learned from mother and as a boy I often begged Dad to stop. He was as a railwayman and part of his working habit was sharing his Players Number Six out like sweets among his work mates during break times. Such was the concern I had for Dad’s health that once the dust had settled after a previous attempt, I again planned to sabotage his cancer sticks. For one of my more devilish schemes, I cut up a shot-ring of a cap-gun in secret and hid a single round in the end of every Number Six Dad took to work that glorious day. As I planted the small charges, I imagined, with a self-satisfied grin on my face, the unfolding scene during his morning break. There he would be casually chatting with his pals about The Alex’s dismal results, the sinking of the Sheffield by an Exocet and perhaps other more trivial family matters too. He’d then share his “sweets” out. Cue the magic. One after the other his pals would light-up and one after the other the white sticks would explode! What genius, I thought. The priceless looks of astonishment! The spilled tea! The ruined newspapers! The scowls of blame! And all this havoc wreaked by a nine-year-old boy. Brilliant! Poor Dad.

From: Elizabeth.
To:
Date: 14/03/2008 11: 50:52
Subject: RE: First Date
Jon, Get your feet off the table and put your shoes back on! I’m pretty sure people don’t go to that poncy place to whiff your pongy feet! Ha ha! Thanks for the not-so-subtle health warning about smoking. It’s not like I need it. You’ve seen my body, I’m in terrific shape! Your poor dad indeed! I hope you got into a lot of trouble for the “cap-in-a -fag-escapade”! You make me laugh! Lol! Smiley face. Ninja kicking a research scientist in the groin! Okay, point taken: flattery it is. I’ll accept for the moment that you’ve not been stalking me. I’m less inclined to believe I’m the first woman you’ve ever chased. I’m sure you’ve used that BUMBLINGENGLISHGENTLEMENHUGHGRANTALIKE approach to great effect before…humph…that makes me very suspicious of you young man. Qualms aside, I had a charming lunch, Professor Shy Stalker. The wine and conversation flowed too easily! Did we really stay two hours? Whoosh that time vanished! Our conversation flowed as if I was chatting to an old friend or rather I found a new favourite toy. That’s why I invited you to join me later once the school bell rang. I wanted to play with you some more…
From:
To: Elizabeth.
Date: 14/03/2008 12:20:18
Subject: RE: First Date

Beth, Professor Shy Stalker that’s me! Jedi knight, sworn to protect the romantic interests of shy academic types “…in a galaxy far, far away…”

The consequences of the “cap-in-a-fag-escapade” were very serious. For my explosive exploits I was sent to bed early without tea – and just to clarify Northerner’s have their dinner at lunchtime and tea at dinner time – but worse still my Car Chassis 8860 was confiscated. For a hyperactive Lego-obsessed kid it was a harsh punishment. Really, you’ve no idea. I hope you’re happy now! Any gravity my punishment may have had was mitigated by the veiled grin on Dad’s face as he told me off. He saw the funny side, thankfully…and my prank wasn’t nearly as bad, in my opinion, as the mischief he used to get up to as a boy...stealing coal from a nextdoor neighbour…poaching trout…

As for Dad’s workmates, I’m told that each did light up one after the other and successive bangs did resonate around the workshop as anticipated. Noticing the ends of their cigarettes mangled they followed up their suspicions, removed the adulterations with the same ball-point pen only to resume smoking. It’s funny how I remember the anticipation better than the reality.

Those two glasses of San Miguel I had over lunch slipped down my throat just as easily as the wine did down yours by the sound of it! I can never resist San Miguel and good company. Just one sip of that crisp golden liquid transports me back to the deck of the villa in the Urbanización de San Diego, San Roque, Andalusia, where on cycling holidays, a good friend and I dined, alfresco, on freshly barbequed sea food, sweet beef tomatoes drenched with the finest olive oil, first shelling then munching copious pistachio nuts all washed down with bottle upon bottle of cool beer, set to the back drop of the sun descending behind the Atlas Mountains in the distance beyond the Straits of Gibraltar…good times. Forgive my reverie.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 14/03/2008 12:40: 36

Subject: RE: First Date

Jon,

Your cycling holidays sound utterly fabulous. How come you’ve never mentioned them before? I understand now why you floated off into a world of your own when you took your first sip of beer over lunch. It had nothing to do with me! Great! I’d be in a better position to decide if the punishment fitted the crime if I knew what a Car Chassis thingy-ma-bob was. I’m just a dim-witted country girl, don’t you know? – x–

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 14/03/2008 12:48:27

Subject: RE: First Date

Beth,

Finally! My Bagel has arrived, fantastic. One quick bite and I’ll carry on typing. I’m famished. It tastes as good it looks! You a country girl? I don’t believe it!

That thingy-ma-bob was a model Lego car, trivial now but at the time it was my favourite toy. Floating off at lunch time had everything to do with you! It shows I must feel sufficiently relaxed in your company to resume my usual daydreaming!

It was a real pity our date was interrupted by having to return to work. Your suggestion of resuming it later was exactly what I wanted to hear.

The stories you told about the young you, the nerdy-looking girl – your words not mine – kept me thoroughly entertained all the way back to the suburbs. You spoke of Africa in the most enchanting, care-free way. I’ll be re-telling that “Harassed by Hostile Hippopotamus” story to my friends at every opportunity. They’ll either laugh, cry or cringe.

Upon reflection, I can’t imagine why, you referred to yourself as a nerd. The photograph you showed me over our first round of drinks at the aptly named Signal Box told a different story. Stood on an expansive plain, African game in the background, you looked more like an intrepid explorer, a sort of young female version of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft (without the vulgar over-developed chest), than the spectacle-wearing, book-worm nerdy type you described. If you were one or two years my senior, rather than six, and if we’d met as teenagers, I’m sure I would have had an almighty crush on that girl. Kept so close, in your purse, that photograph must be of great sentimental value. What a shame that it’s the only one you have of your childhood, but thanks for sharing it.

From: Elizabeth.
To:
Date: 14/03/2008 13:22:02

Subject: RE: First Date

The hippo story was one of the scarier ones. I was almost snapped up once by a crocodile too when I was on a fishing trip with Daddy and my brothers, a very long time ago! The photo was taken on the first evening of that trip. I keep it to remind myself of the joyful little girl, full of life, I once was. She’s been gone, dead, for a long time now and I mourn for her loss.

Well, you really know how to charm a girl don’t you? Whilst I find the idea that you may have had a crush on me at school delightful, if a little unnerving, referring to a woman’s age is perhaps not the best way to get a second date!
From:
To: Elizabeth.

Date: 14/03/2008 13:38:08

Subject: RE: First Date

C’mon Beth,

In my defence, I referred to your age indirectly and my comment was intended to be taken as complimentary rather than insulting. If it’s any comfort, the few girls I had crushes on at school were all older than me. Perhaps I was advanced for my age. Perhaps, at some subconscious level – then as well as now – I wanted to date an “older woman”. That’s one for the Freudian Psychologists to ponder! I had one passing experience of an older woman too at the naïve age of fourteen. I’d been forced, after the fatal heart attack of Dad to live with mother, who quickly relinquished her maternal duty of care by refusing to pay for such luxuries as shoes and school uniform. As a result, I lied about my age and found a job collecting glasses, serving drinks, dinner and carried out any other tasks – reasonable or otherwise – at The Grange, an old country estate set in its own grounds, comprising a pub, a capacious and ornate Victorian orangery reserved for weddings, and a nightclub. My employer overlooked the illegality of my working there. I fulfilled their needs, they fulfilled mine: a simple and mutually beneficial arrangement.

Under normal circumstances, I pedalled my bike the six miles along the meandering narrow country lanes to get to my job. On busy, wedding weekends, one of the managers picked me up and dropped me back in her small Peugeot 206, presumably so that I wouldn’t have to ride home in the early hours of the morning, or so I thought.

Why am I telling you all this? It’s not just to ‘validate’ any age gaps; it’s also a good story…

She was a slim athletic looking woman in her mid-twenties, pristine in every way. After climbing into the car I always observed her from the feet up. I eyed her black patent stilettoes, her toned slender legs and the black pencil skirt she wore. There was the tailored-white-blouse, the two top-most buttons left open deliberately. Her hair was blonde, her lips full – painted masterfully in deep red – stood out against her porcelain doll-like skin. She was perhaps a caricature of the archetypal teenage fantasy, the image of which caused my eyes to burst out of my head, literally. She eyed me up too and it didn’t stop with just looking on her part, either, but that’s another story! Let’s just say her hands found more than the gear stick…

You’ll have to tell me about the little girl in the photograph one day…

From: Elizabeth.

To:
Date: 14/03/2008 13:47:25
Subject: RE: First Date

Jon,

I’m starting to take your protestations as a compliment. It’s actually kinda kinky to imagine you having a crush on me at school. I still have my school uniform. One day, if you’re a VERY good boy, I’ll squeeze into it and put my hair up in bunches- ooh la la! Your former boss sounds like a very naughty woman but I was a little turned-on by your story. You must finish it one day soon so we can explore that fantasy further! Yummy.

Honestly, reading these emails, anyone would think I’m a crazed insecure paranoid maniac! First, I get freaked out by you noticing me take fag breaks, accuse you of being of Professor Shy Stalker then take the idea of you having a school-boy crush on me as insulting. What a normoron! Truth is, I’m just so very cautious of letting new people into my life, particularly men. They’ve done much harm in the past. It’s important for me to know I can trust you. I really do want to trust you Jon but I don’t want to give myself away too soon and get carried away…only to be let down again.

I may never tell you about the little girl in the photograph and what happened to her.


From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 14/03/2008 14:05:56

Subject: RE: First Date

Beth,

I shall interpret your paranoia as excitement. Also, It’s understandable to be a little nervy at the outset of any relationship, especially one that has had a full-on passion-filled beginning like this one (!) We’re probably both a little out of our usual comfort zones, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. Rest assured, I’ll be working VERY hard to earn a glimpse of that school uniform!

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 14/03/2008 14:19:40

Subject: RE: First Date

Jon,

Thanks, Jon, for your reassurances. For a moment, I thought you might be getting the wrong impression. I am not usually like this – an insecure, incontinent emailer! But what a day and night we had! I’m happy you agreed to join me in the Signal Box. Ali and Vincent are really lovely people, aren’t they? - x-

From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 14/03/2008 14:17:32

Subject: RE: First Date

Beth,

I might have to order another drink at this rate to avoid outstaying my welcome. Another coffee is out the question. My brain is already whirring at a rate of knots, in spite of a vicious hangover. That lemonade was inordinately expensive. Water is it. The family of four have gone at last, but not before one of the little brats spilled chocolate milkshake all over the place. Parents really do have their work cut out, don’t they? Back to us. Yes. I really liked Ali & Vince. Friendly pub too. First date and already invited to meet family. Things have never moved so fast! As it turned out they proved to be good company and as young teachers had much to say all evening. Any reservations I had about meeting them vanished with the drinks that kept coming!

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 14/03/2008 14:56:28

Subject: RE: First Date

Jon,

I’m glad you understand. Family is incredibly important to me and without their approval it will be impossible for me date you, just impossible. My cousins gave you the thumbs up– a good start – but, as I think they suggested, Mum will have the casting vote. As for the end of the evening, let me explain that I wasn’t expecting Mary, my youngest cousin, to join us, not least with her boyfriend. I’m so incredibly annoyed about his behaviour. Kicking-off like that in the beer garden was shameful! How dare he embarrass me like that! Thank holy mother of God that Vince played referee and stopped the fight before it became too serious. With an artistic temperament, Mary has always been a little unhinged and chooses very bad boyfriends! This one is clearly no exception. Sadly, that’s not the worst I’ve seen him. Oh, well. It’s me you’re dating not my family! And we were on a date weren’t we? That’s what it was, wasn’t it? I’m relieved your email called it that.

From:
To: Elizabeth.

Date: 14/03/2008 15:15:22

Subject: RE: First Date

Beth,

I had a great time. There’s really no need to apologise on behalf of your family. What’s that saying? Let me google it ‘You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family’ (http://www.englishsayings.com/idioms/ you+can%27t+choose+your+family.html)

Yes, it was a date and, from my point of view, a very successful one.

From: Elizabeth.

To:

Date: 14/03/2008 15:28:06

Subject: RE: First Date

Good. I was worried you might have been put off by the shenanigans in the beer garden. You’re a very forgiving and understanding person, Jon. Thank you. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since last night. My mind loves thinking about you! Thinking about you makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I don’t normally have men stay over after a first date. I’m not that sort of ‘gal’ but as we agreed, shivering outside the pub, there was no late train so asking you to stay seemed like the kindest offer. I’m so very glad you accepted. We had had a good night already, but the real fun began when we arrived back to my flat didn’t it?

The way I seemed to fit naturally into your body as we lay naked together on the bed. So amazing! Being in your arms felt like home. Such a warm feeling. And what a body! You kept that secret. You’re bottom-lip-bitingly lush! From our chats in the lab I knew that you exercised but I was taken aback, no, blown away, by your perfectly toned and balanced body. Wow! The Ripped Professor! You have the body of a Greek model: inguinal ligament an’ all with just the right amount of muscle in just the right places. You’re so utterly gooorgeous! Lucky me! When you stripped to your boxers, I could’ve thrown myself at you there and then! Thankfully, I resisted giving myself to you completely, and I hope you’re flattered rather than frustrated by that. This girl is for keeps. And this boy is a real gentleman.


From:

To: Elizabeth.

Date: 14/03/2008 16:10:15

Subject: RE: First Date The barista has now asked me to leave. It’s chucking out time. I better wrap up this quickly.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you either. The majority of my mental energy has been consumed by reflecting upon our lunch date and every moment thereafter. Your offer of staying over was very kind; it would have been a very expensive Dragon Cab ride back to the city otherwise. I am not a one-night-stand sort of guy. I’ve never accepted an ‘invitation for coffee’. But this was an exception. I was thoroughly enjoying your company.

I’ve never paid much attention to my body. It’s the only one I have but thanks for the compliments. Seeing you without your lab coat did not disappoint, either.

I’m still amazed by the way you danced for me in kitchen. You seemed to abandon yourself to the music and I’m certain, with the music still in mind, you very nearly abandoned yourself to me later in the bedroom. I’ll never hear Prince (?) in the same way again! I hope you appreciate how much self-control it took to avoid going further than you wanted. The musk of your perfume, soft skin, delicate shoulders, slender neck, womanly hips, perfectly proportioned breasts… and what’s the name of those dimples that anatomically punctuate the boundary between your pear-shaped bottom and the small of your back? I fear even Google may let me down here – all supplied a hedonic feast for my senses.

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