A Blogovella by Ezzie Dryar (Anne Martin)

Archive for January, 2013

12. Epilogue


Arlen and I spent the night naked, first in his room, then mine, where we slept on sticky sheets. We showered together in the morning before I gave him his tour of the old castle. I was pregnant and happy. I wasn’t sure then, but Hamish’s arrival nine months later confirmed it.

Although Amelia regarded me suspiciously, they made love in Arlen’s bed on the same sheets we had soiled the previous night. I liked her a little, but there was a little rivalry there. Although we kept in touch, we were never the friends we could have been.

Sandra and Nipples met us in Glasgow for my concert, but Nips came back to my castle with me the next night and never left. Arlen finally slept with her the night I premièred her violin sonata on the same concert as Charlie’s trumpet piece.

Josh was conceived the night I premièred Arlen’s piano concerto. By then, Sandra had already moved in with Aoife and was also pregnant, and Charlie had also slept with him. Together Arlen gave Nipples and me six children, three boys and three girls, who lived together in Dunrig as full brothers and sisters. It was a lively household, with several children joining us in our bed, usually naked, as clothing was always optional in the castle during the off-season.

After Arlen died, only Hamish understood why Nipples found me a husband to share with her.

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11. Arlen


I arrived at the station almost half an hour early for Arlen’s train. Having not slept all night, I decided to just go when I was ready and wait there in the café. After all that to-ing and fro-ing about what to wear, I realised that I was dressed exactly the same as when we first met: no excess skin, no deep cleavage, and nothing from his fantasies. If he could have found his way to the castle on his own, I might have answered the door nude, but that would have been playing my hand too soon.

We were going to have sex, and he was going to make the first move.

After a peck on the cheek and a brief embrace, we took the long walk up the drive to the castle. This wasn’t its most imposing aspect, but with the thaw, the woods were soggy and the burn had overflowed its banks. The silence was awkward. I was certain he wanted to discuss his music, while I had only one thing on my mind.

“I hope you didn’t mind that Amelia is coming tomorrow. The flights were all booked up for the weekend. I just thought that with all your spare rooms, she could join us.”

“It’s not a problem,” I’d repeated for the n-th time. It meant that we would have little time alone together, and it also forced my hand. Tonight had to be the night. I hadn’t ovulated yet, and hoped it would come soon. I wasn’t sure I would have the opportunity to take my temperature later.

“This is quite a place you have!” he exclaimed as the castle came into view.

“It’s a bit of a noose, but I’d never leave it.”

“What do you mean by a noose.”

“It’s expensive to keep up. The profits from the visitors centre and rent on the leaseholds only just covers its upkeep. We have a Celtic festival and a few concerts on the grounds during the summer. I do my best to stay at the university when people are around.”

“Don’t you get lonely?”

“I’ve got the ghosts to keep me company, and if I’m not practising, I’m online chatting or …” I almost admitted to having a twitter account.

“Or?”

“Emailing someone.” That was safe.

“So how many rooms are there?” he asked as we walked closer. The weather was unseasonably warm for January, so he unbuttoned his coat.

“116 altogether,” I replied, “but a number are old servants’ rooms or part of the ruin. Don’t open any doors that have heavy iron handles or are cold.”

“I wasn’t planning on exploring without your permission.”

“Visitors often can’t sleep at night because of the ghosts, so they roam around. I think Nicole wandered around almost every night, ending up sleeping on the couch in my room a few times until the ghosts accepted her.”

Arlen shifted his luggage to his other hand, having refused to let me help him. “What if your ghosts don’t accept me?”

“They won’t haunt you, if that is what you are thinking. They’ll go about their business, but sometimes they make noises – doors closing, occasionally shrieks and other noises, like lovemaking.” I had to slip that in.

“Lovemaking?”

“Yes, you might hear them in the hallway.” We entered through the tradesman’s entrance. It was the closest to the drive, and I didn’t want Arlen to become too exhausted. We climbed upstairs through the servants corridors, emerging almost magically into his bedroom. “This is your room. Mine’s the next one along. Remember to keep adding coal to the fire. We lose a lot of heat through the chimneys, and I wouldn’t want you to get cold at night.”

“This is quite a room!”

“It was mine when I was young. My mother liked to keep me close at night in case I woke up. If the truth be told, she spent more nights awake than I did. She used to sneak in and sit by my fire as I slept. There’s a secret door directly through to my room in the bookcase on that wall.” I stepped over to it. “Pushing that book releases the catch.” I demonstrated.

With a noisy clank, the door opened. “Not very subtle,” he remarked. “I’m surprised she didn’t wake you.”

“The mechanism has been out of alignment as long as I can remember. If you want to be silent, you need to enter from the servants’ door, I showed you in the hallway.”

“I wasn’t planning on accosting you during the night,” he chuckled.

I shrugged, not expecting him to have said anything else. “Do you want to settle in, or should I show you around? Are you hungry? Did you have lunch on the train?”

“Let’s look around, and if there is time, I’d like to hear you play my pieces.”

“There’s plenty of time. We’ve got the whole evening together. Nicole showed me how to cook something for your dinner, which I’ve planned for seven.”

“That’s sounds just fine.”

Leaving the door open between our rooms, I showed him into the main hallway. “My door is there, of course,” I said. pointing to the door at the end of the hallway. “If you need anything, just come in. I can’t always hear a knock.” He’d get a free show, too! He knew I slept naked.

“There are six more bedrooms this way,” I said, leading him back towards the main staircase, “and more upstairs, but we don’t heat them. You can also reach them by the back stairs. Above them are servants’ quarters.”

“How many servants do you have?” he asked.

“None now. I had a nanny when I was young, but she slept on this floor, and there was also a cook and housekeeper. They slept on the floor above. A century ago, the family had a staff of thirty. Now much of the work around this place is taken care of by the estate. We shouldn’t see much of them until Easter.”

We turned and walked downstairs. “This, of course, is the main foyer. This floor has ten public rooms. The parlour on the left has the best view of the gardens. I spend most of my time there during the day. Next to it is the library, but I don’t use it much. If I need to study, I’ll usually do it in my bedroom. It also has a nice view of the gardens. On the right, there is the old parlour, which leads to the old wing and through there to the old keep and state rooms. Those are unheated, so I wouldn’t advise going there at night. If it is warm tomorrow, we can take the visitors tour before we go meet Amelia’s train.”

I directed him through to the main state room. “This is amazing. Is all that land yours?” He couldn’t resist staring at the vista, rather than the room itself.

“As far as you can see,” I replied, exaggerating, “well, as far as the river.”

“That’s still quite a holding.”

“My family is one of Scotland’s oldest.”

“But you aren’t part of the main Johnstone clan?”

“There was a major split in the 15th century, when we were on two sides of a rebellion. Ours lost, but remarkably we were able to hold on to our land. The feud came later. I don’t know all the history. The estate stewards take care of all that. I just live here and play my piano.”

“Speaking of which …”

“The next room on the right is the music room. It has an old pipe organ at one end, but it’s out of use.” The opposite end featured my Steinway.

“This is like a concert hall!”

“We can seat 150. My mother used to invite people around to show off my talents. I still play an open concert during the summer, and chamber music groups often hire the hall for concerts in season. I think we have four booked this summer. Would you like me to play for you now? I can show you the kitchen and dining areas later if you wish, although we’ll probably eat in the parlour by the fire. The dining hall is too large for two people.”

I spent the next two hours playing through his piece for him, adjusting tempos and dynamics, but mostly he was happy with my work. I left him alone while I cooked dinner, lasagne, which was a long way from battered fish and chips. Nicole said it was one of his favourites.

After eating, I joined him on the couch in the parlour by the fire. “Tell me about Amelia,” I said, trying to get conversation moving.

“What’s there to say? She studied with me right when I began teaching. We became very close, and was hurt when I chose to marry Aoife.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. She was dating someone from London at the time.”

“I heard she was pregnant when you married.”

He flushed. I’d struck a nerve. “She was.”

“Everyone thinks he’s your son.”

“Everyone?”

“Your harem.” I might as well let everything out in the open. “I have to admit that the pictures I’ve seen don’t lead me to believe otherwise.”

He stared down at his hands. “Yes, he is my son.”

“I thought you never slept with your students.”

“Not while they studied with me.”

“Did Aoife know?”

“Yes, we had an arrangement.”

This was getting interesting. “What kind of an arrangement?”

“Aoife needed a husband for family reasons. She’s Catholic.”

“What does that have to do with it?” I asked. “So am I, technically.”

“She’s a lesbian, but her family doesn’t know. They were trying to marry her to a local boy, but she had a girlfriend.”

“Where’s this girlfriend?”

“Long gone. I was too much in the way.”

“Is that why you don’t have any children?”

He chuckled to himself, opened his mouth to speak, then stopped.

“How many children do you have?” I asked, making the obvious leap.

“Twelve, soon to be thirteen. Laura Liu is pregnant.”

“How many of your students have you slept with?”

“As I said, none while they were my students, but most of the ones you know. Both Amelia’s children are mine.”

“You still sleep with her, don’t you?” I accused. “You are going to rendezvous with her while you are here.”

“That was the plan,” he admitted, folding his hands across his chest.

“And Aoife doesn’t mind?”

“It gets me out of the house.”

“So she can sleep with Sandra?”

Arlen shot me a look. He didn’t know. “Aoife offered her our spare room. She stays with us as often as three times a week, but plans to move in during the summer. She isn’t getting along with her parents. I don’t think they are happy about her being gay.”

“I’m not sure she is. Gay as a fancy, maybe, but she is moving in for the kill on you. She wants you.”

“How do you know that?”

“We all do.” There, I put in on the table. “I don’t know why, but every one of us is very possessive of you.”

“Everyone wants something,” he shrugged.

“Like what?”

“They think that they can sleep their way to a career through me.”

“Can they?”

“They do it through their own talent.”

“But you do nothing to dissuade them?”

“I’m just … I’ve …” he stopped, playing with his wedding ring. “I have needs that Aoife is unwilling to provide.”

“And your students just conveniently fall in love with you?”

“Do you realise that Nicole is in love with you?” he asked, attempting to retake the offensive.

“What makes you think that?”

“Haven’t you been following her on Twitter?”

“No.” It hadn’t come up, and I hadn’t thought of searching for her. Twitter. Arlen was on Twitter. Did he follow me?

“I suggest you take a look. She is head-over-heels-forever-and-ever-amen in love with you. I’ll never forgive you if you hurt her.”

“I think she’s in love with you, too.”

“Maybe, but it isn’t the same. She wants to spend the rest of her life with you. You should have read her tweets from the train after she left here. That kiss sealed the deal.”

“But she knows I’m not gay,” I objected.

“She doesn’t care. She even said it: you don’t need to have sex with her.”

I needed to dump that subject. I liked Nips a lot, but not in that way. I could live with her, though. We were good together, very good. “You’ve been spying on me. What else do you know?”

“I’ve read your tweets, too. You want to have sex with me tonight. You want me to get you pregnant. So does Charlotte. So does Nicole. Surprisingly, they also want me to get you pregnant. I don’t understand why.”

“Sandra, too?”

“She isn’t quite so vocal online, but as you observed, she’s moving in for the kill. That’s why everyone hates her. As you now know, she’s actually a very nice person.”

“She is, but are you resigned to making that commitment? If you had to pick only one of us, would she be that one? I can’t believe you are going to be able to continue sleeping around after she moves in.”

“Amelia is the only one I have continued sleeping with. The others were just a couple of times, until they left Leeds for new pastures.”

“So you aren’t very good in bed. They all dumped you after the sex? That’s disappointing.”

“They never actually dump me. I just cease to become useful to them. I don’t have much self-control, so if they came back wanting more, I’d probably give it to them.”

This was my chance! “So if someone did this to you,” I said, dragging a finger up his thigh, “you’d leap into their bed with them.”

“It depends on who it was,” he replied, struggling to remain calm.

“Sandra?”

“It would probably take more.”

“So if Nicole unbuttoned your shirt …” I started at the top.

“If Nicole breathed on me …” he gasped. His lust for her was plain. Arlen was like a coiled spring, and mentioning Nicole had started his juices flowing.

I straddled him, finding him already firm between my legs. I untucked his shirt and stroked his chest. “… and if Charlie …”

“I’m going to break my rule with the horny redhead,” he grumbled. “As soon as she is ready.”

“And me?”

“I was already following you on Twitter before I met you. I’ve wanted you forever, even before I met you.”

“Why?” I asked, tracing his lips with my finger. He’d been stalking me.

“I’d heard you play in London.”

He’d been stalking me for almost two years before I met him. “So it is just my talent that attracts you?” I leaned back and unbuckled his belt.

“That made me notice you,” he gulped. “I found you on Twitter by accident.”

“So it wasn’t a blind attraction?”

“Never.”

“You just want to fuck me?” I said, fondling his zipper.

“I want to give you whatever you want? I assume that one thing you want. You aren’t going to have my children any other way.”

“If I asked you to give up Amelia, would you?”

“No. Amelia is different.”

“You are in love with her,” I accused, finally popping the button that held his bulging trousers closed.

“Yes.”

“That’s why Aoife hates her.”

“And why Amelia’s husband hates me.”

“So Sandra is Aiofe’s revenge?” I slid off him, so I could remove his trousers.

“I guess so.”

“Why haven’t you touched me yet?” I asked. He was almost naked, but I, unusually, was fully clothed.

“In my fantasy, you undress yourself for me.”

“So it always goes according to your fantasies?” I replied, straddling him again.

“Yes,” he chuckled.

I lifted my blouse over my head. “Did I do this?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“With this blouse?”

“You were dressed exactly like this in my fantasy.”

“What did I do next?”

“Do it, and I’ll tell you.”

I reached down and sucked hard on his right nipple, rolling my tongue around it. “Did I guess right?”

“Exactly.”

I unhooked by bra and slipped it off my shoulders. “This next?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe I want you to remove my trousers.”

“It’s in my fantasy.” He unbuttoned them and slipped his hands down my bum inside my panties.

I shifted to the side so he could pull them off. “Don’t forget the socks!” I teased, kneeing before him to remove his.

“I haven’t! I’ve got a plan,” he smiled, sliding down to the floor, grabbing my calf and slipping my sock off. He took my big toe in his mouth, sucked on it, and licked the bottom of my foot. In ecstasy, I leaned back onto the rug, as he did the same to my other foot, before licking the insides of my thighs.

I was in heaven, and he had hardly touched me, but I gushed when he fondled my bush, caressing as I convulsed under his touch. I reached for him, as wet as I was.

The others didn’t leave him because he was bad in bed, but because he was mind-blowing. Once you let him have his way, no one else would ever be good enough. That’s why his harem could never stay with their husbands.

The ghosts watched us, silently approving.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle,” he whispered, lowering himself on top of me. He knew I was a virgin, of course. Fitting him in was a stretch, but feeling his weight on my chest, I clasped my legs around him, throbbing, thrusting, crescendoing to a climax.

I screamed with delight as I felt his warm flow fill me.

“You screamed in my fantasy, too,” he whispered as we relaxed.


10. Sandra


“Just follow my lead,” I said. Nip’s train was due only a quarter of an hour after Sandra’s, so we decided to make it all a single trip. She betrayed no desire to see Sandra, but was resigned to the fact that the rendezvous would last only a short time. I wanted to see how they regarded each other, to determine whether it was hate or jealousy, or as Charlie put it, disdain.

As Sandra bounced off the train with her cello, I realized she was the opposite of Nips, bouncy, vibrant and flamboyant. My gaydar remained completely silent, whereas with Nips it sung a low hum. Their embrace was cordial – no hate or jealousy evident – but it didn’t last long, as though neither wanted to be seen with the other. Despite my warning, Sandra was under-dressed for the weather, which had again turned cold. Before she could settle in, though, we rushed to the opposite platform just in time to meet Nip’s train.

It was time to play with Sandra’s head. Nips and I embraced, and I leaned in for a kiss – a real one, full on, tongues. I hadn’t planned that last part, but it just seemed natural, a la Britney and Madonna. Nips wanted it, abandoning herself, pulling away just in time to board her train.

How did I feel about it? I was sorry to see her go, very sorry, but kissing a woman like that? I don’t know. My heart fluttered, but my head said, “Hold on.”

“Are you two … ?” asked Sandra as the train rolled out.

I just shrugged, leaving it ambivalent to make her wonder. After a frigid walk back to the castle, I set her up in a guest room. It was slightly larger than Nip’s room, and not as welcoming. It also had more ghosts, including some spirits that even I found disturbing. She saw it right away.

“This place certainly has a history,” she exclaimed, pulling off her coat – floppy dress, Docs, commando, as far as I could guess. It would be true to type.

“The castle has been around a long time,” I replied. “It’s bound to. We were right on the front line of the wars with the English, too.”

“I don’t think I’ve been in a place with so many ghosts.”

“You can see them?”

“No, but I can sense them. They don’t bother you?”

“They’re family, and I’m their living royalty. I’m one of them.”

“I could get rid of them for you,” she offered.

“I’d get lonely without them.” I couldn’t imagine the place completely empty like that.

“You know, you should be careful with Nicole,” she spat out bluntly.

“What do you mean?”

“Did she do the staring thing?”

“Yes, but …”

“But what?”

“The ghosts intervened. They distracted me before I opened myself to her.”

“Those eyes are difficult to resist. I couldn’t.”

“What happened between you?”

“We just fell out of love. There wasn’t even an argument. That’s the way she is. She knows exactly what she wants, and as soon as you don’t fit, she drops you. She will, you know.”

“What about you?”

“I’m not sure it was ever love, just infatuation. Say, are you interested in a Tarot reading? I’d like to learn more about the ghosts.”

Again, true to type, but what could it hurt? These parts were full of magic, soothsayers, witches – I probably would have been one if my mother had allowed it. “Why not?”

“Um …” she stuttered. “I prefer to do them nude. It gives me more contact with the spirit world. It would be better if you were, too.”

“That didn’t take you long,” I laughed.

“What?”

“They warned me about your tarot readings.”

“Who?”

“The harem.”

“What do mean by that?”

“All the women that surround Arlen. You know who they are. They’re all your friends on Facebook. Everyone has an opinion, and it’s hard not to listen. I’m sure they all contacted you as soon as you began your studies with him.”

“What would they know about the tarot anyway? It’s something I do often, with many people. I’m not seducing anybody with it.”

“What about Nicole?”

She chuckled. “She seduced me. Ask her, but I’m not sure she even knew she did it. I don’t think she turns on those moon eyes on purpose.”

This wasn’t starting well. I wished she wasn’t so fake or conniving. In normal clothes she would be pretty, if not beautiful, and there was nothing gay about her. “Do you really expect me to believe that?”

“If you ask Nicole, she’ll tell you. I’ve got nothing to hide. I don’t understand why nobody likes me. I don’t want anything more than anyone else has – someone to love and cherish, someone who fulfils me and inspires me.”

“Aoife fulfils you?”

“She inspires me,” she scowled. “She’s a brilliant poet.”

“Arlen does, too?”

“Arlen inspires all his students.”

“Especially the women.”

She shrugged. “His female students have been more successful than the males. Amelia is amazing, and Laura Liu. We overlapped a few years.”

“Nicole?”

“She might be the best of all of us. I freely admit that, but she doesn’t promote herself well.”

“Not like you.”

“People think there is a rivalry between us. I win the prizes she doesn’t enter, but she doesn’t enter many, so it looks like I’m winning them all. We had a relationship. It ended. It was sad. The world turns. My feet are firmly planted on the ground. Nicole’s head is in the clouds.”

She was right about that. Despite moments of lucidity, Nipple’s thoughts were always elsewhere, deep in whatever she was writing, soaring the heavens, talking to ghosts, or contemplating the universe. That’s what I found so endearing about her.

After dinner we sat down on the floor in my bedroom. Sandra said she felt more comfortable there, as the ghosts seemed more cordial. “Have you ever had a tarot reading before, she asked, slipping out of her dress, no underwear, as expected. Her body was magnificent, statuesque, what every man dreamt of, and without the façade, she seemed more human. Her ankles weren’t half as “English” as Arlen had implied.

“Why do you do that?” I asked, ignoring her question.

“What?”

“The costume.”

“People never forget me, and it’s comfortable.”

“There are other ways to achieve that,” I said, unbuttoning my blouse.

“I got sick of being a pretty face. People remembered how beautiful I was. Did Nicole tell you I was Miss Devon and runner up for Miss England?”

“No, she didn’t.”

“I was only a couple of votes away from going to Miss World, and I did it all for my parents. After it was over, I didn’t want any of it. This was my way to get people to look at me, not my body. I want people to hear my music, not fantasize about my breasts.” She shuffled her cards.

“I’m not sure this accomplishes the latter. Enough hangs out to get Arlen’s juices flowing, and I can’t see anyone else being any different.”

“What did he tell you?”

“He has fantasies about your breasts, and still insists he’s not a breast man.”

“When did he tell you?”

“We correspond regularly.”

“He confides in you?”

“We share fantasies.” Nothing wrong with being honest.

“He’s never told me anything.” She sounded hurt.

“You are a student. I’m nobody.”

“I wouldn’t say that. He talks about you at every opportunity. He’s in awe of your talent. I think he might be writing a piece for you. He’s certainly encouraging all of us to do the same.”

“It’s because I play new music,” I replied, stepping out of my panties. “That’s not uncommon. Everyone here wants to write for me, too.” After nearly a month with Nipples, I had lost what few inhibitions I had left.

“I think it’s more than that.”

“Whatever. Let’s get started.”

Sandra pulled out a card to represent me, the Princess of Disks. “You seem grounded, but spiritual,” she said, “and quietly beautiful, in possession of hidden knowledge.”

I tried not to react, as she shuffled the deck again and set it down for me to cut.

“Do you have a question, or should we just get a general sense?”

“General.” I wanted to know about Arlen, but couldn’t admit it.

She laid the first card on top of the Princess – the Magician. “I’m not all that surprised. You ooze art and talent. The Magician is an alchemist, fashioning a gold from iron. Many great musicians get it in their readings. She laid the next card across it: The Fool. Here is something working against you, either someone you can’t control through your gifts, or your own failings. The fool may be one who possesses that talent, yet has no knowledge of how they came by it or how to use it.

She set down the next four cards. Lust below, Love behind, The Lovers above, and the Princess of

Cups ahead. “This is a powerful reading,” she mused. “It looks like you are leaving love behind to satisfy your lust, only to find love again, and this woman may be the one who facilitates it, or maybe you will fall in love with her.”

“I’m not like that.”

“Whatever. If there is love, there is love. She’s one who has her head in the clouds, like Nicole, maybe. She lets her heart move her.”

Four more cards, three more women and the King of Wands.

“This is weird,” she remarked. You’ve got a man and a load of possessive, creative women. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Women for you, against you.” She laid down a few more cards. “Hmm, I can’t read this. Maybe it’s the ghosts. How about tea leaves or coins?”

“Coins?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I feel like I need to do something.” Something about that reading frustrated her.

“How about alcohol? That sometimes works.”

“I don’t drink,” she replied.

“No meat, no drink, sleep around. Strange combination.”

“I don’t really sleep around. Everyone wants to say they’ve slept with me. I’m not a virgin, but …”

I picked up my camera and snapped a picture.

“Hey! Why did you do that?”

“I take nude photos of all my visitors.” I laughed, snapping another as she reached for my camera.

“Please?”

“Take one of me!” I said, handing her the camera.

She looked at the two that I had taken. “You can’t use them for anything. I have a contract with the Miss Devon competition. No nude portraits. I could end up in the tabloids, and that’s the last thing I want.”

“I’ll be careful. You can take as many of me as you want. Nobody’s likely to do much with them.”

She shrugged, took a picture, examined it, and handed the camera back to me. “Arlen thinks I should write you a piece. Why should I?”

It was my turn to shrug. “I’ll play it?”

“He says you can play anything.”

“He says you write what you want, and it doesn’t matter if a pianist can play it. He wants me to show you what can’t be played.”

“Fair enough. We’ll play through some stuff tomorrow.”

Sandra decided to make it an early night, so I sat down with my computer, first sending one of the pictures of Sandra to Arlen, with the strict admonishment not to show it to anyone else. Next, I poked Charlie. I couldn’t explain why I was horny, but I found the tarot reading terribly unsatisfying, especially with the beautiful Sandra sitting cross-legged across from me.

Charlotte Weeks: Hey!

She used the normal text chat mode. I wondered if she did that when there were others around.

Eirica Johnstone: Sandra just went to bed, and I’m incredibly horny. She’s fucking beautiful with her clothes off, almost enough to make me consider …

I didn’t really want to finish that. It wasn’t something I wanted to consider.

Charlotte Weeks: Pity about her personality.

Eirica Johnstone: She isn’t so bad, maybe a little stuck on herself. If I was a guy, I would have been all over her.

Charlotte Weeks: You could have been. She swings both ways.

Eirica Johnstone: She doesn’t have the required appendage.

Charlotte Weeks: A dildo can be a wonderful thing.

Eirica Johnstone: I’ve never used one. Are you alone?

Charlotte Weeks: No. My BF’s here studying. He has a tutorial tomorrow.

Eirica Johnstone: I guess sex is out of the question.

Charlotte Weeks: I think we might have some later. It doesn’t take much to get him going.

Eirica Johnstone: I meant US!

Charlotte Weeks: I’m not sure he’d understand.

Eirica Johnstone: I guess not. I’m still not sure I do either. What are you doing now?

Charlotte Weeks: Composing. I’m writing a sexy piano piece for you.

Eirica Johnstone: Sexy?

Charlotte Weeks: It’s all I think about when I think of you. I’m wearing BF out.

Eirica Johnstone: Glad I’m good for something, at least.

I wasn’t going to get anything, and I was quickly losing interest.

Charlotte Weeks: I love what you do to me.

She didn’t say she loved me. That would have been too much.

Eirica Johnstone: I’m glad I …

A piercing scream interrupted me.

Eirica Johnstone: BRB!

I slapped my laptop shut and hopped out of bed. In seconds Sandra came sprinting through my bedroom door in tears, wearing a white cotton nightdress. She threw herself up against me, crying, not caring that I wasn’t dressed.

“What happened?” I asked, holding her in my arms and stroking her hair.

“He touched me,” she cried.

“Who did?”

“I don’t know.”

“It was probably just a ghost. They’re harmless.”

“It hurt! His hand was like ice, and he touched me …” she broke off pointing between her legs. “… and he grabbed …” She put a hand on her breast. “He hurt me.”

“What did you do?”

“Nothing, just …”

“Just what?”

“I burned a candle,” she sobbed.

“An ordinary candle?”

“It was a simple spell for clarity. Nothing really. Just a white candle spell. He might have raped me!”

“He probably wouldn’t have gotten that far,” I reassured her. “They only repeat things from the end of their lives. I suspect he’d died before he re-enacted anything that would damage you. That’s usually how it happens. You’re safe in here.”

“How do you know that?” she sniffled.

“I’ve slept in every room on this floor and some upstairs. I know most of the ghosts intimately. Your spell must have irritated one of them. I’ve never had one become physically violent. Sometimes they might invade my dreams, and that can get sordid, but I know how to cut them off. Make friends with the other ghosts, and they will defend you.”

“How do I do that?”

“I do it through sexual fantasies. It worked with Nicole, too, but all you need to do is open yourself up to them completely. One most compatible with you will tell you their story.”

“They’ll talk to me?”

“It’s more visceral than that,” I explained. “They’ll let you see their memories. They can’t consciously do anything outside of re-enacting their death or significant events, but they can allow an intimate view of their lives.”

“Then he could have raped me!”

“The worse thing they can do is scare you or show you gruesome images. If he touched you, it would have taken extraordinary strength on his part. Few ghosts are that strong. He couldn’t do much more that what he did.”

“Why do you use sexual fantasies?”

“It attracts the gentler ghosts, the ones who attended my conception, the ones …”

“Attended your conception?”

“Mother said the room was full of them, quietly egging on my father, who wasn’t sensitive to them. He died when I was very young, so I don’t know if that ever changed. Those ghosts touch me as they touched their lovers, usually sparing me the last part of their re-enactment – their death.”

“Tell me about them,” she said, her eyes widening with wonder.

“There is one who caresses me with her hair. I can’t see her, but her touch is intimate. A man makes love to me, but stops just after climax, because that was when he died. Another comes as a flicker of light in the corner. I think she burned to death in the fire. She’s a curious one, wanting to watch. She’s a voyeur, and she was probably spying on her parents when her nightdress caught fire. She’s here now.” I pointed to the corner beside the fire.

Sandra searched, but I couldn’t see recognition in her eyes.

“She’s probably curious about you,” I added, “and about what you and I might do, since I’m standing here naked, and you have a history with other women. She’s probably hoping you will share my bed tonight, just to see what it is like. I don’t think she has watched two women before.”

“You are putting me on.”

“It’s just a guess. She was very interested when Nicole was here, although we didn’t do anything. Maybe she had some unnatural urges when she was alive.”

“It’s not unnatural!” Sandra objected. “It’s purely natural, and only vaguely mentioned by one writer in the bible. It’s only love!”

“Even so, it probably wasn’t discussed openly while she was alive. She couldn’t have been more than fourteen when she died, and as far as I can tell that was about a century ago.”

Sandra looked again. “Is she still there? I don’t see her.”

“She is. These ghosts are very particular about who sees, hears or feels what. I can call some of them just by thinking certain things, but they will only reveal themselves to you if they want to, and if you open yourself to them.”

“Unless they decide to terrorize me,” she grumbled.

“You terrorized him first. That sacred candle probably struck a chord with him. Perhaps a loved one died in a fire, or maybe he was exorcised. You’ve got to be careful with candle magick in places this old. I wouldn’t even attempt it here, if I had studied the old ways.”

“You should have warned me.”

“All I knew about was the tarot. If you were Wiccan, I would have expected you to know better how to interact with ghosts.”

“I’m not, really, it was a spell a friend cast for me.”

“But you are sensitive to ghosts.”

“Not as sensitive as you are, apparently.”

“I’ve lived with them all my life. I would be lonely without them. If I came to your home, I don’t know what I would see, although I’m familiar with the ghosts at Uni.”

She sat on the side of my bed. “Do you mind if I stay in here tonight? I’m not sure I can face my room again in the dark. I’ll sleep on the sofa.”

“You can join me in my bed if you want. There is plenty of room.” I missed having Nipples purring next to me already. I slept deeper with her there.

“I won’t do anything,” Sandra promised.

“That’s settled then.”

For a short time, I worried about having cut Charlie off so abruptly. She had her boyfriend there, a boyfriend whose existence had been barely mentioned. She didn’t need me.

Although we fell asleep on opposite edges of the bed, we awoke entwined. “You snore,” she murmured, pulling me closer. Again, I was glad that she wore a nightdress. There was too much beautiful skin pressed against me for my weak sensibilities. Was that what Aoife saw in her? Or Nipples? Was I that shallow, or was there something deeper in this woman?

I could feel my ghost caressing me with her hair. “No!” I whispered.

“What?” Sandra asked, opening her eyes.

“Just talking to a ghost,” I replied. I was saving myself for a man – a certain man.

We lounged about for another hour, and then rose for breakfast, which was my responsibility. Sandra couldn’t cook to save her life, and ate out most meals at Uni. We spent the morning struggling through her cello sonata. Arlen was right. She made the pianist’s task needlessly tiresome. Her music was much more difficult than it sounded, and we discussed several ideas about easing the pianist’s burden. As a cellist, she was quite good, perhaps a better performer than Nipples.

We walked into town for lunch, planning to finish in time to meet her train. “Would you mind terribly if I stayed another night?” she asked.

“Is there a problem?”

“I just wanted to get a better handle on you.”

“A handle on me? What do you mean?”

“Everyone is talking about you, and I want to know why.”

“Who is talking about me?”

“Arlen’s harem, as you called it. They either love you or fear you.”

“Why do you think that is?” I asked. I hadn’t noticed that much discussion of me on Facebook. It must have been in private.

“You don’t carry the taboos that we do,” she added. “Arlen is obviously enthralled with you, but none of us can see why, other than you can play rings around any pianist in the country.”

“I don’t know about that. It isn’t a competition. Besides, you know Arlen. He has his limits, no students, and he’s married.”

“I’m not sure how meaningful that is, but yes, he is. You, however, aren’t his student. Besides, you must have heard the rumours by now, that Amelia’s son is his.”

“I’m not sure that’s relevant to me.”

“Still, nobody knows what he sees in you. You aren’t particularly beautiful. You speak your mind, perhaps a little too much. You can’t cook …”

“Better than you, missy, that’s not why he’s interested in you, besides your muffins.”

“My muffins?”

“Your breasts. I think he’s got a breast fixation, and with you he has a paradigm.”

Sandra blushed. “I still can’t believe he told you that!”

“He tells me lots of things, but he’s completely silent on certain subjects.”

“Like what?”

“What he is actually thinking … what he thinks of me. He won’t tell me if he has fantasies about me, in spite of the fact that he’ll tell me in detail about ones of the rest of you. He also won’t say anything about his wife.”

“I think we have every right to fear you,” she said, resting her chin on her palm. “He doesn’t open up like that to anyone else, except maybe Amelia. It’s hard to tell with her. She’s very private. I think Arlen still holds a torch for her.”

“You’re probably right about that. He still has fantasies about her, and they are in regular contact.”

“He is in regular contact with all his former students, regardless of whether they are in the harem. He’s good in that way. He looks after all of us. He may even look after you, if you play your cards right.”

“He’s either a rake, a polygamist, or … a pervert … or just very naïve.” That didn’t change how I felt about him.

“But that’s why we all look after him, too. We, or at least his former students, try to keep him from getting into trouble. His current students don’t really have the opportunity, or the experience, except the postgrads, Nicole and myself. I’m not sure how active Nicole will be in that respect, but I know she cares about him. The others, Charlotte, Dana, and Peri, don’t really know how deep this runs. Since we don’t know you, we can’t gauge your loyalty.”

She paused for a moment, and sat back in her chair. “If you hurt him, we will destroy you.” That was more than a threat. It was a promise.

It was my turn to pause. I took a sip of tea as I tried to figure out how to react. If I seduced him, would that hurt him, or is it what he wanted? Would having his child bring on the jealous wrath of the others or just Amelia. Would he want to leave Aoife? I wouldn’t let him do that. “I think you made your point,” I replied coldly. “I suppose someone had to.” I should have tried to reassure her, but I wouldn’t stoop to that. I had no plans on hurting him, as long as he gave me what I wanted.

Which I knew he would.

“So what did you want to do this afternoon?” I asked, not wanting to continue the interrogation.

“Walk for a while, explore the village, the castle grounds … and maybe the ruins, if you’ll let me.”

“Of course. The grounds are pretty boggy right now. We’ll have to stay on the paved footpaths.”

“That’s fine. I think I’d also like to compose a little later on. I feel the urge.”

“Whatever you want. There’s another piano in the library if you need it. I was hoping to practise some myself on the Steinway. I’ve got a recital to play in a couple of weeks.”

“Do you mind if I come?” she asked. “I’ll come up on the day and leave the following morning.”

“Yeah, but you might have to find yourself a place to stay. Nicole might be sleeping on the floor of the digs, and it will be too late for a train back here.”

“I’ll figure something out.”

I wondered how many more of the harem would choose to come. It didn’t take long to find out. Amelia was the first ask by email later that afternoon, and she wanted to come on Saturday and stay with me in Dunrig. That was the night after Arlen arrived. We wouldn’t have much time alone together. Would she be upset if he slept in my room? Of course, she would. So would the rest of them.

Liz Lamm was coming over from Boston, but Laura was too close to delivery to fly in. I already knew Charlie would come, but I was surprised to hear that Dana and Peri would join her on the train and share a room at McFadden’s (a local guest-house) with her.

*

“I took your advice,” Sandra announced the next morning, having slept in her own room.

“Did it work?”

“Yes, to a point.”

She smiled. “I got to know one of your ghosts … rather intimately. He captained a ship and came here when he was on-shore. He was quite a man.”

“Did he … you know …?”

Confused, her wheels were turning. “Oh! No!” she laughed as my meaning clicked. “He was in love with a servant girl here. They eventually married. He was a dream though.”

“You could see him?”

“I could feel him inside of me as if we were one. That was quite … um … stimulating. He shared his memories with me … all of them.” She giggled again.

“I’m glad you enjoyed them.”

“I did have an unsettling dream later on, though.”

“That might have been last night’s ghost getting revenge. What happened?”

“I was wandering through a church, maybe a cathedral, looking for you. Some bishop was leading me around. I would pass something, and it would burst into flames. Anything fabric or wood. It was weird.”

“Did you find me?”

“No, but Arlen was there, and Nicole, a few others that I knew … lot’s of people I didn’t know. I wonder what it meant.”

“It was probably just the ghost planting a little fear in you. It’s probably harmless.” I didn’t dare tell her what I thought it mean. I’m glad she didn’t find me in it. I would be one more thing she ruined. She had already hurt Nicole, but how would she hurt Arlen? Coming between him and Aoife? It wasn’t always that obvious. What it did mean was that she hadn’t a clue how many lives she would destroy.

It made me feel sorry for her. She wasn’t really a bad person, just socially clumsy, and unaware what her beauty did to people. People like Aoife, Arlen or Nicole. I was glad to finally put her on the train, so I could get back to Uni. I had a lesson and a couple of seminars during the week before I went back home to prepare for Arlen’s visit.

During all the weeks of becoming intimate with him online, I still didn’t know what I would do when he arrived. Dare I try to mimic one of his fantasies? I didn’t know what he craved about me, or how he pictured me. Naked? I could send him a picture. I certainly had plenty now. That didn’t seem right. Where was the mystery?

Had I destroyed Nicole’s mystery, or Sandra’s? I had to. They were in the way. Amelia was in the way now. How could I have allowed her to come visit while he was here? Changing my mind would be suspicious, and it might make Arlen decide to stay in the city. That would ruin everything.


9. Distance


Arlen was quiet most of the next week, during which I divided my time practising, playing duets with Nipples, and walking the grounds with her. The mild weather had begun to melt the snow. She also made a stab at teaching me how to cook, teaching me a few dishes that I might serve Arlen when he arrived. She had the patience of a saint.

I couldn’t chat much with Charlie either. Nips had taken to spending the evenings gabbing with me in my room until either we passed out from the alcohol, or fell asleep, several times waking with her next to me in my bed.

What I wanted desperately to speak with her about was Arlen. How should I greet him? Should I be his fantasy? What should I wear? She wouldn’t want to hear that, and she wouldn’t want to hear about Charlie either. They didn’t see each other much at Uni. Nipples and Sandra were the star postgraduate composers, while Charlie was a lowly undergraduate, a talented trumpeter, and only a part-time composer – basically a non-entity. A flash of jealousy scarred Nipples’ face whenever I mentioned her. She knew about us, somehow.

Sandra was a different story. Something seethed underneath, and Nips wouldn’t discuss her at all, other than repeated warnings to be careful. I had to formulate an action plan for that visit on my own.

Amelia sent me a number of emails, mostly asking about Nipples. Was she all right? Was she eating enough? Was she lonely? Was she having a good time? Did I like her music? If I didn’t know better, I would have thought there was something between them, but aside from some online contact, Nips claimed they had hardly met, other than for a short lesson while Amelia was in town for a première.

Emails came irregularly from Liz and Laura as well, enquiring about my plans with Sandra, but also warning me about the fragile Nicole. Both were concerned about their visits overlapping, even by only a few minutes. The seemed to know too much, as though they all discussed us behind our backs.

When it came time for Nipples to leave, I felt an attachment to her, perhaps motherly like the others, but more profound, as if she was someone who needed my protection. I would miss her and contrived to invite her up for Easter break to rehearse her violin piece, if nothing else. Dunrig was at its most vibrant during the spring, with flowers bursting into bloom below the cherry trees. We would have to make way for the tourists, but other than Easter Sunday, the early season was clear, although the Estate staff would be all over the grounds like a rash, tarting the place up.

My annual recital was early in the summer – hopefully I would be five months pregnant by then – but I hoped she could come. Perhaps if I played her piano Preludes, she might be more inclined to come north. Aside from the tourists, June was the most idyllic month at Dunrig. Even the ghosts made themselves scarce unless I summoned them. Nips would like June in the castle.

I missed her already, and she hadn’t left yet.


8. Nude Christmas (some adult, swearing)


Nipples and I agreed that we wouldn’t dress for Christmas day. Neither of us were religious, so we decided to rebel, sticking to the warm rooms of the castle, although we allowed ourselves slippers, so our feet weren’t cold on the stone floors, especially in the kitchen. Nips cooked a soufflé for our Christmas dinner, not turkey, as I hadn’t thought to order one ahead.

Well, it wasn’t entirely nude. The weather closed in during the day and a cold breeze blew in through the chimneys of the unoccupied rooms. We allowed ourselves robes while moving through the house, but at dinner, we proudly ate starkers, and drank port in the parlour until we fell over.

@ClanGoddess87: I am so fucking drunk. Can’t move. Nips wants sex. Told her to find a ghost.

@hornyredhead91: Wish I was there. Too much family around to have some fun.

@ClanGoddess87: Hop on your ma

@ClanGoddess87: gic carpet … Oops! Cn’t bluddy typ.

@hornyredhead91: are you calling me a cunt?!!!!

@ClanGoddess87: you wish!

@hornyredhead91: wanker!

@ClanGoddess87: good idea, send me a nekked pic and I’ll rub it on my cunt till I cum.

@hornyredhead91: sweet! Send it back when you finish, so I can do the same.

“What you doing?” Nips moaned.

“Thweeting.”

“You on Thwitter? Can I see?”

Before I could say no, she passed out, saving me a lie.

@ClanGoddess87: Nips in neverland, fucking lightweight

*

I awoke with my iPhone buzzing against my chest. Nipples had placed my robe over me to keep me warm. It took a few moments to remember through a dense fog and splitting headache what caused that buzzing.  I looked at the screen, hoping she hadn’t read it.

“Uh, hello?”

“It’s me,” someone whispered, “Charlie.”

“What time is it?”

“Noon. I just wanted to say I was thinking of you.”

“I wasn’t thinking of anything,” I groaned, “except sheep.”

“Sheep are for men. You should think of a warm stallion between your legs.”

“Whatever you say.”

“Oops, gotta go. Bye sweetie!”

I parked my iPhone and turned over to go back to sleep, but I smelled frying bacon. Nips was in the kitchen cooking breakfast. She’d been quiet but friendly since her encounter with her ghost. Most of all, she composed obsessively, not even taking her violin out of the case to practise. That left me plenty of time to learn Arlen’s music. I’d resolved to memorize the entire work, a feat akin committing Bach’s entire Art of the Fugue to memory, something I’d failed at while an undergraduate. It would be worth it if I succeeded, but I could resort to the printed page if I had to. There was no shame in reading modern music off the score.

Nips had become an enigma, like a ghost herself, only half there, perhaps half in love with me, while the other half pined for Arlen. The ghost had shaken her, yet she hadn’t bothered me in my room. Did they commune each night? They couldn’t converse; the ghosts in my castle were destined to repeat, although Nips could delve more deeply into the ghost’s past, if she released herself. Maybe she had found another ghost to satisfy her. There were many here, and even I haven’t found them all yet, and I’ve never even told her about the one that came to me our first night together. He would make a good story for Arlen. I owed him one, so I reached for my laptop and started typing.

Eirica Johnstone:

Dear Arlen,

I was intrigued my your last fantasy. It was much more explicit than you led me to believe at first. You may be as explicit as you want to me. You may even write a fantasy about me, if you wish … that is, if you fantasize about me … perhaps it is only with me. I must admit that I was hot for sex after reading your story. I couldn’t resist touching myself. Does it bother you if I tell you that? If so, I’m sorry, but I have no one here to slake my desire except Nipples, and I’m not inclined that way.

So now it is my turn. One of my frequent ghostly visitors was the cousin of a Laird a half a millennium ago, before the start of the feud. Perhaps he started it; I can’t be certain. He took a liking to one of the Laird’s daughters, his youngest. It wasn’t uncommon then for liaisons to begin at a young age, and theirs began very young. Still young himself, he was more than twice her age.

At the cusp of puberty, she was ripe for the picking with burgeoning breasts and an aching heart. He favoured her at family gatherings, and even attended church to sit near her. Bright and innocent, she found him intriguing, especially when he offered to accompany her on a ride to visit a cousin of the same age in the next village. She should have been chaperoned, but the Laird was a trusting father. Too trusting to a worldly relative.

Not long after they were out of sight, the cousin voiced his bawdy intentions, and she, believing he loved her, indulged him. As he gently fondled her breasts, the fire took her, and she swooned into his arms. Seeing an opening, he loosened her bodice, but that wasn’t enough, for she imagined she loved him. Stroking his cheek, she invited a kiss. There in the field and in the sight of God, he deflowered her …

I paused. This was a little too Jane Austin, but perhaps that might fire Arlen’s passions.

“You hungry?” Nipples asked from the door.

I was hungry for more than food, but it was perhaps fortunate that I hadn’t explicitly described the ghost’s advances. That would only be conjecture, but Arlen didn’t know that. The cousin’s ghost couldn’t know what the girl felt, only his own desire. I closed my laptop and leapt off the sofa for breakfast. Nips was a much better cook than I, who was useless without a chip-pan. Indeed, she was as fine a cook as she was a composer. I would have liked her to stay with me, if only for the cuisine. She wasn’t much company when she was as mad for composing as she was this holiday. With her as my chef, though, I was likely to gain a considerable amount of weight.

As was her way these days, Nips wolfed down her breakfast, half-dressed, and retired to her manuscript paper, leaving me to continue my email.

(Eirica Johnstone, cont’d)

… Their visits became regular, and the ruse of meeting her cousin was never discovered. After several months of weekly passion, they became more adventurous, stealing hidden caresses in dark corners of the castle. He was a favourite of the Laird, so his frequent visits were not uncommon.

One day the cousin arrived earlier than has normal time, finding the daughter alone in the stables. The Laird had ridden to the village to mediate a dispute. They stole into the castle, which was otherwise empty, to her bedroom, the room in which I slept as a girl. Afforded the luxury of a warm fire, he undressed her slowly, gently caressing her private parts, her breasts, then her thighs while releasing the knot on his breaches.

Meanwhile, her father returned. Finding that she had neglected her duties, he came looking for her, entering her bedroom moments after her cousin’s penetration. The Laird’s rage was unbridled, as he threw the cousin off of her with a single blow, sending him crashing into a stone wall. If you lift the rug there, you can still find a dark stain where he bled to death.

When I was a girl, his ghost visited me often, touching me as he touched the girl, forever destined to repeat his crime. I have never seen him his shade, yet even now the memory of his tender advances fires my lion. He caresses, and when I am ready to receive him, he penetrates. Alas, he left her then, as he does me now, yearning for the touch of a man.

I’m sorry. That is perhaps too intimate an admission for this conversation. I must go now. I look forward to our online rendezvous tomorrow evening.

Love, Eirica

Did the gore at the end ruin the mood? To be completely honest, the cousin was discovered at the moment of climax – where he also leaves me – but I thought that I would leave Arlen wanting more at the end.

“What are you doing?” Nips asked from the door.

“Writing an email. I just sent it off.”

“You interested in reading down a new piece?” she asked.

It wasn’t just a new piece. It was one that she had written for us to play together, and she wanted me to travel down to York later in the year to première it. After a few notes, I saw in her what Arlen did. She was brilliant. Every note made sense and sounded new, like no piece I had ever heard: mildly tonal, but fresh, not traditional. I loved it, and heartily agreed to perform it as soon as we could agree a date. After my recital all I had left was my thesis, which wasn’t due until next September. Spending so much time alone, I was ahead on it, having already turned in my first draft to my supervisor.

After a couple of hours playing, we walked into the village for some supplies. Nips was inspired to cook a large meal the next evening, to be accompanied by a serious amount of alcohol.

Arlen Stewart:

Dear Eirica,

You certainly have some interesting ghosts there. Are you making them up for my benefit, or are they fantasies you have dreamt up for your own … how shall I put this discreetly … night-time desires?

Aoife is away with Sandra tonight reading some of her poetry at a local bookshop, so I’m on my own here, thinking of you. Why do I think of you? I don’t know. I remember your friend Sinead, and then I think of you. Do I have fantasies about you? I won’t go there. I do have a fantasy about Sinead, but I won’t tell you about it. Explicit wouldn’t begin to describe it. It is simple really: she plays me like her harp, cutting off my clothes with her fingernails. The sex is rough, and the fantasy takes over. I can’t control it. That is why I must stop.

I will understand if you won’t tell me any more of your stories, since I haven’t kept up my side of the bargain.

Yours,

Arlen

He’s mine? He was thinking of me? My heart fluttered. That was the closest he had come to saying he loved me. But I knew he didn’t. I was reading too much into it. I didn’t love him either. Wanted him? Yes. Love? No.

Eirica Johnstone:

Dear Arlen,

I’m not sure why you insist we fire emails back and forth instead of chat. I’m at home alone in my bed (naked), and you are home alone, too, waiting for my replies.

The ghost fantasies are real. This castle is full of ghosts, real ghosts, who I have gotten to know well, since I was young. They come to me when I am bored. They pleasure me. They keep me from becoming lonely here, as you do. Shall I tell a fantasy about you? No. That would be too revealing.

What is it about Sinead that possesses you so?

E

Arlen Stewart:

E,

I prefer email so I can collect my thoughts and send you careful replies. To be honest, I had a bad experience with chat. I said things that I would never say personally. She got the wrong idea, and what started as sexual banter became a virtual love affair, although neither of us was in love with the other. She started sending me lurid pictures and urging me to reciprocate, but I couldn’t do that. And I can’t do it now with you. I would go too far, and that isn’t fair to either of us.

Sinead reminds me of Aoife. They look similar, both being Irish, and what I don’t get from Aoife, I imagine I can get from Sinead, and it goes much too far, further than I could imagine going with a real woman. She haunts my sleep, and my only antidote is you, thinking of you, your honesty, your innocence (whether true or imagined). I am consoled by the idea of you.

A

Eirica Johnstone:

What do you mean by the idea of me?

A chat window popped up. Charlie wanted a video chat.

Charlotte Weeks: You decent?”

Eirica Johnstone: I’m in the middle of something.

A message from Arlen hit my inbox.

Charlotte Weeks: Maybe later?

Eirica Johnstone: Might be very late.

Charlotte Weeks: Poke me when you are done. Doesn’t matter what time.

I opened Arlen’s message.

Arlen Stewart: The idea of you is just that. We hardly know each other, but we choose to confide our darkest secrets to each other. Yet neither of us can know if the other is telling the truth. I like to believe it is the truth, but we will only know for sure next time we meet. The rest of you I create for myself in my head, just as you do for the idea of me, although you have additional interpretations from Nicole and anyone else who has contacted you, Amelia, Sandra, maybe Liz or Charlotte. They have the most web presence of my students. You would like Liz. The two of you are quite alike in some ways. She is a fabulous bassist, and I’ve composed several solo works for her. It’s sad that she has all but given up composing. She showed promise. You and she look somewhat alike, too.

I took a quick look at Liz Lamm’s website. Maybe she looked a little like me, but older, of course. I delved into her photos and found one with Arlen from her university days. Her hair was shorter then, and yes, she did resemble me then. Her daughter, however, looked more like me. That was scary.

Eirica Johnstone: Maybe. Would you like another story?

Arlen Stewart: If you wish. I like your stories, even if they have gruesome endings.

I considered for a moment, then typed.

Eirica Johnstone: A Lady of the castle partook of many affairs, while her husband was off fighting the English. She had one lover in particular who visited her on a regular basis. The Lady looked a lot like Nicole, although her corset kept her nipples in check …”

I attached another nude photo of Nicole that featured those nipples.

(Eirica Johnstone, cont’d):

… Her lover was enthralled by them, much like you are enthralled by Nicole’s. In time, he sired twin daughters, but the war ended while they were still infants. The lover was cast out in favour of the returning Laird.

After many years, the lover met a pair of twin sisters at the house of a nearby nobleman, and unable to decide which he loved most, he slept with both of them. Both were infatuated by him and summoned their mother to decide who would marry him, not telling her his name. Thinking them too young to marry, she put the girls off, using every ruse she could to delay meeting this stranger.

Just before their sixteenth birthday one of the twins fell pregnant. The other, however, was again visiting the nobleman, awaiting the arrival of her mother and pregnant sister. The lover stole away with the sister during the afternoon for a few moments of intimacy in the library, giving in to their carnal lust. The height of their thrall penetrated the door to the foyer just as the mother and sister arrived. Recognizing the voice, the party burst into the library catching them in the act.

To her horror, the mother recognized him as the father of her twins as well as the father of her daughter’s unborn child, entirely unknown to the lover. The Laird, who was late arriving, was enraged. He struck down both the lover, his daughters, and his wife with his sword.

To this day I often hear the lover and one of the twins consummating their love in the hallways, forever banished from the bedrooms. She screams, and then it is all over for them.

Arlen Stewart:

That is sad.

Eirica Johnstone:

It is. May I ask you a personal question? What do you really see in me? You seem to be enamoured by nipples and breasts with most of your students. Mine aren’t much to look at. You must think me hideous.

Arlen Stewart:

Eirica, I would never classify myself as a breast man. You have more intangibles than any of them, except perhaps Amelia. But to be completely crass, I love the way your hips move when you walk. You have pretty eyes, and I think I’ve mentioned your legs and ankles. Talent goes a long way, too.

I think that’s it for me tonight. We have some visitors this week, so I’m not sure when I’ll be back on. Maybe we can finalize the details for my trip up there next time.

All the best,

Arlen

My hips? That was unexpected. I would never have thought any man would like my hips! I looked at the time and opened Facebook to see that Charlie was still on. I poked her. It was almost 2 am.

Eirica Johnstone: Can’t sleep?

Charlotte Weeks: My brain is doing flip-flops. Video?”

Eirica Johnstone: Sure, why not?”

I draped my robe around me before sending the picture. “What’s up?”

“I’m feeling really weird about what we’ve been doing,” she confessed.

“We have gotten a wee bit carried away,” I agreed. “I’m not sure I would act the same if you were right here in front of me.”

“Me, too. I like you a lot, and it feels so natural when we do it online, but then I spend the whole next day thinking about it, that is isn’t right, but that I want it to be right. I just keep going around in circles.”

“Maybe we should stop,” I suggested.

“No, but if I’m thinking about you more than I’m thinking about Jamie, something has got to be wrong.”

“I won’t be offended. I don’t beat myself up about things like you do, but I do feel strange about it.”

“No. It’s just fucking with my head, but I don’t want to stop.”

“Potty mouth!”

“Prude!” she cackled.

I loved her. Not the physical kind of love: wanting to hold her, touch her, make love to her. I thought we inhabited the same wavelength, the same psychological space, despite our age difference. “What do you want to do about it then?” I asked.

“I want to be friends, not cyber-lovers. I’m not saying that we have to stop the sex, but I’d rather be virtual fuck-buddies than pine over you every minute we aren’t online.”

“You like that word don’t you.”

“I like to fuck, actually.”

“Jamie must be away,” I sneered.

“It’s that obvious?”

“You’re being careful, aren’t you?”

“You’re one to talk, virgin!”

“Abstinence avoids mistakes.”

“Abstinence is a mistake!” she howled at me.

“Hopefully, I’ll find out soon.”

“Have you two been sharing more fantasies?”

“We were just on. He fancies my hips – not my hips in particular – the way they move.”

“He told you he fantasized about them?”

“He won’t tell me any fantasies regarding me. But I asked him point blank what it was about me that attracted him.”

“And he said, ‘I love the swing on your back porch, baby!’” she joked in an American accent.

“Not exactly,” I scowled. “He said he liked the way my hips moved when I walk. And he likes my legs, eyes and ankles.”

“Ankles?”

“He thinks English women have stumpy ankles. He told me that a few weeks ago.”

“So he thinks I have stumpy ankles?” She waved one in front of the camera.

“He didn’t mention you in particular. They look fine to me.” I heard a noise in the servant’s hallway. “I think Nipples might be having a walkabout,” I whispered.

“You realise I’m never going to be able to call her Nicole again?” she cackled.

“I find it hard, too. Anyway, sleep well, and don’t think of me … or don’t think of fucking me … or do. Whatever helps you to sleep.”

“I know who you’ll be thinking of.”

“Maybe.” I heard another noise. “I’d better go. She could walk in any second. Bye.”

“OK, bye!”

I waited. Nothing. I tweeted,

@clangoddess87: Had nice chat with hornyredhead91 tonight. Nips’ is spying on me. Wish she’d just come in.”

@hornyredhead91: You love her, silly.

That began an avalanche of comments, speculating on whether I was a closet lesbian, whether I really loved her, or was using her, or loved Arlen, or was using him.

I was trending, but I didn’t want to hear any of it, so I slapped my laptop shut and climbed under my duvet. The floorboards creaked as Nipples stole back into her room.

For the first time in ages, I felt alone.