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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
“They think that they can sleep their way to a career through me.”
“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.”
“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.
“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.”
“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?”
“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.
“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.
“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?”
I unhooked by bra and slipped it off my shoulders. “This next?”
“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.
I awoke in the morning with my laptop closed between my legs. I hadn’t even been able to close things down before falling asleep.
Charlie sent me an email with her twitter handle. @hornyredhead91
I clicked to follow her.
@hornyredhead91: has discovered a cure for insomnia. Thanks Eirica. Luv ya! @ClanGoddess87: can't wait for an encore.
She could discover my true feelings about Arlen now, but I didn’t care. I suspected she already knew them and shared them. It was time to push Arlen further, so I emailed him a nude photo of Nipples, who knocked on the door just as I clicked send.
“Did you hear all the ghosts last night?” she asked, still wearing her nightdress. “They were rather noisy.”
“Were you doing anything?” I asked. “Were they interested in you?”
“I think all the commotion was in the hallway. Didn’t you hear it?”
“I must have slept through it,” I lied. “What do you want to do today? We could put up a Christmas tree. There are some for sale in the village.”
“That’s a great idea! I forgot that Christmas was on Saturday.”
“I don’t usually bother when I’m on my own.”
Finding a suitable tree in the village took a short time, during which I obsessed about Arlen. I couldn’t wait for him to say something about Nip’s picture. It might be the closest I could get to talking dirty with him. My mailbox was empty when we arrived home, and again after dinner.
@ClanGoddess87: Why doesn't he say something about her picture?
My following was quick to respond. Several said that I should give him more time. Some said I’d gone too far, and the smart-alecs wanted me to post the picture for them to decide.
@hornyredhead91: Maybe he would rather see you! I would.
Her reply filled me with dread, not for what she said, but because she said it. Should I tone down my tweeting until after I achieved my objective? I couldn’t. That was part of the fun. It was part of my exhibitionist nature: the buzz of the risk.
During my Facebook crawl, I discovered Charlie was online. I desperately wanted a repeat, but I withheld my approach. She didn’t, not entirely.
Charlotte Weeks: You there?”
She didn’t request a video chat.
Eirica Johnstone: Just going to bed. I'm not sure I have the energy to stay up late tonight. Charlotte Weeks: Me, too. I've been thinking of you all day. Eirica Johnstone: I've been doing the same. Charlotte Weeks: You've been thinking of Arlen. Eirica Johnstone: Are you jealous?
I was. As his student, she saw him regularly. My access was limited to his intermittent emails.
Charlotte Weeks: No. Last night scared me a little. I don't know what got into me. Eirica Johnstone: Do you regret it? Charlotte Weeks: Not in the least. Do you? Eirica Johnstone: No. What scares you about it? Charlotte Weeks: How much I want to do it again. I'm definitely a het, but this was so exciting. Eirica Johnstone: You were right, though. I needed it. Charlotte Weeks: I don't think Arlen is going to reply to your email this morning. That's not like him. He's never that overt. Eirica Johnstone: What will he do? Charlotte Weeks: Nothing. He will go on as if it never happened.
Charlie was right. I heard nothing from him until the next night, although another gaggle of his former students sent friend requests. These were mostly British, but much like the previous crowd. Most were successful musicians or composers, and had one or two children and an apparently absent husband. Did Arlen break up marriages?
As I checked them out, his email came in.
Arlen Stewart: Dear Eirica, I have another fantasy for you. I know you want something more explicit, but this is all I can muster. It is another that began as a dream and is structured like one, repetitive, as usual. I am teaching a class, but only four students show up, all former ones of mine, but one current undergraduate. I won't say their names, as they will be meaningless to you. All are nude except one, who is wearing only a man's unbuttoned dress shirt – one of mine. “Are you good in bed?” she asks. “I don't know,” I replied, as if such discussion is normal in a music class. “I'm not sure I am qualified to answer.” “We could find out,” replied another, who stands and lays down on the table in front of me. It is only then that I realize that I, too, am nude. I decline the offer, but the first student insists. The student prostrating herself on my table is like a tiny china doll, and I am afraid to hurt her. “We just need to get you started,” suggests a third woman, possibly the least attractive of the three, although I might be most attracted to her. I've never known why. She, too, stands and accosts me, dragging her hand down my chest to find my sex standing at attention. “I think we need a survey,” the fourth comments. “Yes, we must be scientific about it,” says the first. “You fuck the four of us, and then we vote on whether you're a good lay.” The second woman squeezes me and insists on being first, requiring me to say what I'm doing as I do it. It happens quickly, and I take her roughly, standing against the wall. Meanwhile, the second woman waits patiently on the table. She wants me on top. “It's more traditional,” she explains. She is from a conservative Chinese family. She kneads my buttocks, as I squeeze myself into her. A very tight fit, I doesn't take long to climax, and I can't take much more. The fourth woman pries me off her and drags me to the floor before climbing on me. I find her more satisfying as she rides me hard. The first woman was the youngest, and has a filthy mouth, yet she was the most cunning. As I roll out from under the fourth, she sits in her chair and waits … and waits. Meanwhile, I sit on the floor shivering. At first, I just want her to get it over with, and I become impatient as she plays with the button on her shirt – my shirt. She buttons it up to her breasts, which are small but fine, yet their enclosure balloons them within my mind. All I can think of is burying my face between them. “What are you waiting for?” I asked. “I haven't seen anything worth getting excited about yet. I might as well not bother.” “Please?” I beg. I needed her. “Why should I,” she asks, tossing her ruby-red ponytail over her shoulder and un-crossing her legs just wide enough for me to see her ...” I can't say that. It is also a deep red. “It's my pussy,” she says as though reading my embarrassed mind. “It isn't so bad if you say it aloud. Fucking is another word. It's just a bodily function. She swears a lot, and I try not to look at … it.” “Say it!” she insists. “I can't.” “You won't know what you are missing if you don't speak to her.” “Speak to her?” “Come closer,” she bids, spreading her legs wider, but the shirt-tail covers it. “Say, come out to play little pussy.” “Come out to play little pussy,” I oblige. “She's a little deaf,” the woman says. “Come as close as you can.” I say it again, only a few inches away. I can smell her musky fragrance. “Why don't you release the lowest button so she can see you? But don't touch. You'll frighten her.” I do it. Meanwhile, I ooze a drop of semen, which slops slowly to the floor. “Blow on her. You might get her attention.” At the touch of my breath, the little pussy convulses. The woman's legs spread wider. “Taste her,” the woman bids. She leans back on her chair to let me closer. I taste. It is bitter at first, but then I try deeper where it is sweeter. Her thighs close around my head. My greedy member drips more, leaving a dark wet spot on the floor. I can't see it, but I know it is there. She clasps her legs around me, pulling me deeper into her. I can barely breath. The spot on the floor expands. I'm kneeling in its slippery pool. The whole floor is covered an inch deep with my semen. Finally, she releases me, inviting me to unbutton the rest of the shirt with my teeth, tasting her, as I go. The chair is gone and she is laying in the pool, my shirt, soaked, clinging to her torso. She rolls me over, so that both of us are gleaming with semen. I can't wait any longer, but I ease myself into her. She accepts me with a moan, whispering my name quietly in my ear. I glide in and out easily, faster and deeper, deeper than I have ever been into a woman. Her hair has come loose and floats freely in the pool, now three inches deep. Again, she locks her legs around me. I clench and then release as we float freely in the buoyant pool of semen. Suddenly, all is dry, and she is laying on top of me, playing with the hair on my chest. “You get my vote,” she whispers, then I wake up. I'm sorry that is so crude, but I couldn't describe it any other way. That took a lot out of me. I'm not sure I can give you any more of my fantasies. It does my head in. Charlotte told me she wants to play my trumpet sonata with you. Is that OK? She wants to write one for you, too. She's very good, and writes well for her own instrument. You might want to coach her on writing for piano, though. She writes difficult music at the best of times. Knowing you are a virtuoso might tip her off into oblivion. I can't stick around tonight. Sandra is over for a late dinner, and I must be social. I've spent too long here as it is. All has gone ominously quiet in the other room. She is staying for Christmas, and I'll have lots of duties, so I won't be around until Monday or Tuesday. As they say, don't wait up. Enjoy your Christmas with Nicole. Happy Christmas, Arlen
Damn! It was just getting me going. Why did he have to fade to grey at the end? And why did it have to be about Charlie? That must have been about her, but what could I do? She was there and I wasn’t. No more messages until Boxing Day either. How could I change his mind? Another fantasy? And Sandra was there! Now I was seriously jealous.
Charlie was still online.
I clicked on her link and typed,
Eirica Johnstone: Fuck me, please. Charlotte Weeks: Why so sudden, sweety? Eirica Johnstone: Arlen fantasizes about you and I am very jealous. Fuck me hard up against the wall. Be as dirty as you want.
I waited. No reply.
Eirica Johnstone: Please? Charlotte Weeks: How do you know he fantasizes about me? Eirica Johnstone: We send each other fantasies, The one he sent me must be about you: 'a current student with ruby-red hair' and a foul mouth. Speak dirty to me. Charlotte Weeks: May I see it? Eirica Johnstone: If you promise not to get him in trouble. I still need him. Charlotte Weeks: I promise. Need him? Eirica Johnstone: I plan on seducing him.
Could I have been more blunt?
Another silence. I took the opportunity to excerpt the fantasy portion of the email and forward it to her. I waited as she read … and waited. I was about to give up and log off, but she stopped me by replying.
Charlotte Weeks: Interesting. Can I see you? Are you naked?” Eirica Johnstone: Of course.
I positioned my computer so she could see all of me before opening the video link. When her picture came up, she was touching herself. I watched until she swooned, flopping back onto her pillow, leaving me a close view of her soggy bush. “I thought you were going to fuck me,” I pleaded, lightly aroused by her demonstration.
“That was your punishment,” she said.
“I didn’t want to know that he fantasizes about me, although I hoped he did, and I wouldn’t have wanted you to know. It’s your turn, and you must let me watch.”
Suddenly, I felt self-conscious that she was watching. I massaged myself lightly. I was already damp, but I waited. “Tell me why we all want to seduce him,” I said, sighing. I was going too slowly, yet slower hurt so good, not in a painful way, but through self denial.
“There is something we all get from him,” she replied, shrugging. “Favouritism, I guess. Maybe professional approval. His students win all the contests, and he puts us up for performances. He has a reputation.”
“A … reputation?” I wheezed.
“The boys have to earn it, but each year, a new person catches his eye. He does nothing, but we always know when it happens.”
“How … do … you … know?” I gasped, searching for that spot, flinching when I found it. I couldn’t hold off much longer.
“I think it is different with each of us. I knew when … keep going …”
Keep going? I couldn’t stop.
“Well,” she continued, “we run together sometimes. If I wear lycra, he gets at erection before we start. If he wears cotton shorts, and I wait long enough, he’ll have a spot, sort of like in his dream.”
“Don’t you …” I sighed, inserting another finger. “Don’t you just think he’s a perv?”
“He’s a straight as you can imagine. He’d never touch me, unless I touched him.”
“Sex … ual … ly?” Not long now.
“No, just normal touch. I don’t think he does sex. He’s asexual.”
“His fantasies …” I couldn’t continue, tensing, panting, moaning, groaning, tensing, wound tight like like a clock. My vision blurred as though I was losing consciousness, then I felt it, an intense warmth at my core, then the spring broke, and I convulsed in ecstasy, not as good as the previous night, but good enough for now. “… aren’t.”
She giggled. “I didn’t tell you I was a voyeur, too.”
“I thought you said you’d never had cybersex before,” I groaned, relaxing on my back, hands still working, trying to prolong my orgasm.
“Not over the Internet.”
“You mean … in person?”
“I have a room-mate, and she fucks her boyfriend at least twice a week. It doesn’t matter if I’m in sleeping in the room or not. Once they start, it’s as if I wasn’t there.”
“Is she there now?” I asked, finally stopping.
“No, I’m at my parents. They’re asleep.”
“What’s it matter? I’m locked in my room now. They don’t know what I get up to. I’m not sure they care that much. Do you want to fuck on Christmas day?”
“It depends if I can get away from Nipples. She’s still here.”
“Maybe we could make it a threesome.”
“I’d feel uncomfortable.”
“You mean her seeing you naked?”
“She already has.”
“Really? Have you had sex?”
“Not with each other … with the ghosts, but not at the same time.”
“The ghosts touch her, too?”
“They do now. I taught her how to open herself to them. She’s not afraid of them any more.”
“I want to come visit you. This sounds exciting.”
“Not while she is here. She’s very insecure, I think.”
“Maybe,” Charlie shrugged. “When, then?”
“I don’t know. Sandra is staying a few days when she leaves. After that, your term starts again.”
“How about for your concert?”
“I’m hoping Arlen will be here.”
“I’ll stay out of the way.”
“I want at least one night alone with him,” I stipulated, “but I may need more.”
“I’ll only be able to stay the night of the concert anyway. I have a seminar the next day. I’ll have to drive back early in the morning.”
“How do you know the date?”
“Arlen’s posted it outside his office. We may need to hire a bus.”
“I have plenty of room, but I won’t have the time to take care of everyone. Besides, I will probably stay on campus that night.”
“Arlen can’t stay there anyway. I can bring a sleeping bag.”
“We’ll see, once it gets closer to time.”
“Please? Just the two of us? Separate beds, no physical contact?”
“Maybe, but let me just see about my schedule. Nipples may want to stay with me, too.”
“Fair enough. I’d better get to bed. We have family arriving early tomorrow, and we are going to a carol service in the evening, so I won’t be on until late.”
I closed up and shut down. The ghosts were restless during the night, perhaps jealous that I didn’t need them. I fell asleep reminding myself that I was not Charlie’s lover, nor was she mine.
Facebook: Arlen Stewart wants to be your friend.
The message popped up on my iPhone as I crossed the Scottish border. He hadn’t attached a personal message. Did I have anything posted on Facebook that I didn’t want him to see? Just the pictures of him, but I had added a couple more from the conference. There was a nice one of Sinead, too, talking to him with Mr Coulter. It was sexy, too. She was showing a little cleavage from that angle. Arlen would like that one. I had posted a few others that didn’t include him, a nice one of Rhianne, whose role I’d assumed at lunchtime on the first day of the conference. Would Arlen notice that he featured in 11 of my 16 photos of the conference?
Would it be a bad thing? Maybe that would signal my interest. I accepted his request and updated my status. “Just spent an awesome afternoon with the composer of one of my recital pieces today,” then added a tweet.
@ClanGoddess87: We kissed. I wanted more.
My tweet initiated a flurry of responses.
@fritterbean: You should be careful. You still don't know him that well. @pandyfloss: Go get him Goddess!
Most messages were supportive, but advised caution. What could it hurt?
@johnstone.amanda: You should be more careful about where you are dragging our clan!
Amanda was from the other wing, but she was mid-line. It wasn’t the first time she had rebuked me. The feud was still strong in her family, even after 500 years.
I took a look at Arlen’s Facebook page. It seemed very professional, with little content unrelated to his teaching. “Enjoyed meeting with you today,” I posted on his wall, or I started to. Did his wife look at his page? If it was an issue, he wouldn’t have sent the friend request. I clicked send.
For a week, I maintained a silence, testing whether he would initiate contact. As far as I was concerned, it didn’t matter, but I wanted to know how attached he felt. My Twitter followers told me it was a risky proposition. If my scheme failed, I would get over it, but I didn’t want to hurt him. I couldn’t wait any longer.
Eirica Johnstone: Arlen, I've been thinking of you. There's something I would like to discuss. It's of a personal nature. Do you mind? Lady E
He must have been online, as his reply came minutes later.
Arlen Stewart: My Lady, what do you have in mind? Must be careful. A Eirica Johnstone: When we spoke at the conference, I sensed an issue, something about being a student. E
Again, an immediate reply.
Arlen Stewart: My department is quite paranoid about it. A Eirica Johnstone: Why? Have you done something? I'm a good listener, if you want to talk. I won't tell anyone. Right now, I'm at home alone, just sitting in bed with my laptop. I'll be online for a while, if you want to IM. E Arlen Stewart: That's dangerous. I know someone who's had a bad experience with that. Quick emails are fine with me. Aoife's asleep. A Eirica Johnstone: My ears are open. What's happened? Arlen Stewart: Eirica, nothing has happened. I just don't trust myself that much. Eirica Johnstone: You can trust me, Arlen. I'm all ears. E Arlen Stewart: Well, teaching privately, I get very close to my students, physically, sitting next them in their lessons, as well as emotionally. They often open up to me about their personal issues. A Eirica Johnstone: What did you do? E Arlen Stewart: I didn't do anything. I haven't had many female composition students, just one or two a year, and I found few of those attractive. I have just thought about about doing things with certain ones. A Eirica Johnstone: What type of things? E Arlen Stewart: Well, if someone starts crying, you want to hold them, don't you? That's not allowed. A Eirica Johnstone: That seems harmless. Was there something specific? E Arlen Stewart: I have one student in particular. I don't know what it is about her, but … forgive me for being crude … her nipples show all the time, no matter what she is wearing. Some of the male staff joke about her. Her name is Nicole Staples, but they refer to her as “Nipples.” A Eirica Johnstone: That's funny, actually, as well as boorish. Something must have happened. What? E Arlen Stewart: One day in a lesson, when she was wearing a thin sweater, I accidentally called her that. She could have slapped me but she didn't, preferring to ignore it. The next lesson she wore a tight t-shirt and no bra, as if to taunt me with them. A Eirica Johnstone: Are you into nipples? E Arlen Stewart: Normally, no. Hers, yes. A Eirica Johnstone: Why? E Arlen Stewart: I don't know. They just demand attention. A Eirica Johnstone: She obviously wanted your attention, Arlen. What happened after that? E Arlen Stewart: I haven't done anything, but she's driving me nuts. She keeps showing them off with tank tops, satin blouses, etc. I can't not stare at them! A Eirica Johnstone: Maybe you should do something. Talk it over with her. E Arlen Stewart: She's a student. That crosses the line. A Eirica Johnstone: I'm a student, too. E Arlen Stewart: You aren't MY student. A Eirica Johnstone: There must be something about her other than her nipples. Tell me about her. E
As I didn’t receive an immediate reply, I googled her. Her website was minimalist, a CV, list of works and a short biography. The section most of interest to me was her gallery. I didn’t expect her to be black, for some reason, nor skinny. Her face had an elegant bone structure, as did her frame, although she seemed a little perpendicular to me. I saw immediately what he meant about her nipples. Every picture.
Arlen Stewart: Eirica, I'm not sure what you want. She would be my best student, if she applied herself more. She's tall, about your height, and very thin. I should introduce you to her, since she's in piano mode now: a series of piano pieces and piano chamber music. It's difficult to play, but right up your street musically, I think. But I suspect that isn't what you wanted to hear. You want to know how she drives me nuts. I don't know how to explain it. Her movements are elegant and sensual. She has a pretty face with moon eyes. (I'm a sucker for pretty faces.) Without wearing perfume, she smells intensely female. She has perfect ebony skin, well, not exactly ebony, more like milk chocolate. She plays principal second violin in the chamber orchestra that I conduct, so she sits right in front of me. She breathes with the phrases, deeply, like a swoon, and that ties me in knots. The worst thing is that she knows she is doing it, too, and takes advantage of my insecurity, my feeble attempts at hiding my erections. Yes, I'm puerile. She doesn't have to work hard to make me hard. To much information. I don't suppose you wanted to hear that. Don't think ill of me. Arlen
That was the first time he’d written me more than two sentences.
Eirica Johnstone: Dear Arlen, I appreciate your openness. To be honest, I like it that you open up to me completely. If it helps, I'm happy to be your sounding board. You say that she isn't the first. Tell me about some others. Don't worry about being too intimate or “puerile.” I can be puerile myself. I appreciate your honesty. Love, Eirica Arlen Stewart: I'll have to give you a rain check. It's nearly 2 am, and I suspect Aoife is wondering where I am. Sleep well. Arlen.
It snowed overnight, stopping all trains through the village, so I was stuck at home on my own. With a foot of new snow, it was unlikely that I would be able to get back to Glasgow all week, and being the end of term, I faced an additional two weeks alone kicking about the castle. It looked like a solid three weeks of unfettered practice time for my recital.
At lunchtime, I received a surprising email:
Facebook: Nicole Staples would like to be your friend.
I accepted her request and took a look at her page. She was quite active there, updating her status almost hourly, and uploading an enormous number of pictures. An hour later, I received an email from her.
Nicole Staples: Dear Eirica, Arlen Stewart gave me your name at my composition lesson this morning as someone who might be interested in my piano music. May I send you some to look over. Obviously, this is just a punt, but he seemed to think that you might like it, and have the technique to be able to play it. Is it true that you live in a castle? I saw it on your Facebook page. It's beautiful! I would love to come visit you there. Maybe I could bring some scores with me. Love, Nicole
Maybe this was a chance for me to do a little more research on Arlen.
Eirica Johnstone: Dear Nicole, I would love for you to come visit and look forward to seeing and hearing your music. I was wondering … I'm snowed in here right now, and it looks likely that I'll miss the end of term at Uni. And that's followed by a two week break for the holidays. I'm facing three weeks completely alone, since it's off-season and the skeleton visitor centre staff won't even be around to plough the snow on the drive – the mile-long drive! If you are interested in coming, you would have to walk from the station in the village and that is about a mile. They probably won't have regular trains running again until the weekend, but if you fancy a wee break, come on up, even if it is for just a few days. I could use some company. Love, Eirica
She replied almost immediately:
Nicole Staples: Most gracious Lady Eirica, Wow! I'd love to come. My parents are spending the holidays in the Bahamas, leaving me home to compose. When they booked the trip, I had plans, but they have fallen through. I'll come as soon as there is a train, and leave when you throw me out, or the end of the holidays, whichever comes first. Is that OK? This is so exciting! Affectionately yours, Nicole
What did he tell her about me? It was encouraging that I was still on his mind in the morning. Clearly, he told her more about me than that I was a good pianist and interested in modern music. He mentioned my title, possibly the castle. What else? I told her to let me know when she had her ticket, so I could walk into town and stock up on food.
Eirica Johnstone: Dear Arlen, I really enjoyed our email conversation last night, especially your honesty and openness. I look forward to our next one, as I sensed you weren't finished confiding in me. Maybe tonight? I'm stuck alone in the castle, since we were buried under a foot of snow last night. It looks like I won't get back to Glasgow for the end of term, as the trains aren't running. The most important appointment was a seminar today and a lesson tomorrow, both of which are definitely out. I have chamber music rehearsals on Thursday and Friday, but I'll probably reschedule them for January. I've received an email from Nipples today. She's coming to stay with me during the holidays, or as soon as the trains start running again. Is there anything about her that I should know? Weird mannerisms? She's a lesbian? (She was awfully keen to come stay with me!) Or sleepwalks? Let me know. I'll be online after dinner for the rest of the evening, if you want to keep me company. I'd love to hear some more of your stories. Love, Eirica Arlen Stewart: E, maybe after 10, when Aoife goes to bed. She's used to me staying up late to compose. Nicole? She's just excited about everything, sometimes acting without thinking of consequences. She may cancel at the last minute. A
That was disappointing. I hoped he was wrong about her. After dinner, I sent him a message saying I was online, then sat and waited, looking though Nipples photos on Facebook. She’d announced to all her friends that she was spending the holidays in a Scottish castle, posting a link to a picture of me in front of it, dressed in my official uniform as leader of my branch of the clan. How embarrassing! She wasn’t picky about what photos she posted: her drunk in a pub, wearing funky costumes, or her bikini on a beach in the Bahamas, where she was born. She had an album of self-portraits clearly intended to impress a certain man … or men. She knew about her nickname and revelled in it, posting a number of pictures of her barely covered breasts with protruding nipples. A picture of her after a recital was boldly labelled: Nipples strikes again!
She shouldn’t wear satin, even with a bra!
I noticed Arlen on her friends list, but of course he was her teacher. I flipped over to his page, finding her as our only mutual friend. His list was much shorter, but included a number of famous composers, several young women, who I assumed were students, as well as a smaller number of male students. Nipples posted regularly to his wall, as did another probable student, a blonde named Sandra Claussen. They seemed to be in competition with each other, espousing opposing views on almost every subject, prosecuting open warfare on Arlen’s wall.
Another composer, Amelia Solent, also posted regularly, often mediating between the two younger women. I’d heard of her. In fact, she’d written the set piece for a competition that I’d nearly won. Given the opportunity to meet her, I’d stupidly only shaken her hand, and played a few minutes for her. Now that I knew better, I would have tried to cultivate a friendship. Briefly, I considered sending her a friend request, but Arlen’s reply came, so it was time to get to business.
Arlen Stewart: Hi E, I'm on. I don't know what you wanted to discuss, but I'm here nevertheless. A Eirica Johnstone: Arlen, you promised to tell me about some of your other awkward relationships with students. I just noticed that Nipples and someone named Sandra Claussen seemed to have issues on your Facebook page. Do spill! E Arlen Stewart: Sandra … well she's certainly a story. She's a year behind Nicole, and many consider her the best composer in the department. She writes very safe music, and that's why she's so popular. Nicole is much more talented, in my opinion, but Sandra will probably sleep her way to the top. I can almost hear you yawning already. OK, the juicy stuff. Sandra does her best to portray herself with an eco-friendly, Earth Mother. She has a reputation among the staff, and I'm sure she's had at least one affair, although I have no proof. I kick myself for having taken her on as a postgrad student. Everyone wanted her in the department, but nobody wanted to be her tutor. I drew the short straw. Don't get me wrong. She is very nice. But I told you how much of an emotional investment I make in my students, and she does her best to use it. Firstly, she's very pretty, no matter how hard she tries to hide it under her gypsy clothes. She never wears bras. She's very fidgety, putting her jumper on and off at least three times during every lesson, as well as adjusting her top, or unbuttoning her blouse, probably one button too far, often until she almost falls out, then she buttons up a little, before beginning the process again. She shouldn't wear white. Her large, dark aureoles are clearly visible through anything light coloured … and they of peek out of their own accord as she fidgets. During the spring, she often wears a white sundress, where all is visible, including her lack of undergarments. On these days, she often wanders around my office as we speak, basking in the sun streaming through my office window on bright days, leaving nothing to the imagination. Talking is something she does constantly. She tells me almost everything, her many conquests, who she's slept with and who she hasn't (avoiding staff members), as well as how good each of them are in bed, sometimes to the point of ranking the sizes of their penises. She has no inhibitions. What really drives me nuts is when she takes her shoes off – at almost every opportunity. Always in her lessons, often while she performs (cello). She has amazing feet. I don't know how else to describe them. Her feet are part of the routine: take the shoes off, the jumper, straighten her blouse, unbutton a couple of buttons, cross her legs, uncross, scratch her ankle, put the jumper back on, take it off, sit for a couple of minutes with her aureole(s) in view, button a button … it goes on. Meanwhile, I'm trying to teach her and trying not to let my pants get too damp. (I have to be careful to wear dark trousers when I meet with her.) This year, she has complicated matters by becoming firm friends with Aoife. Sandra sits with us at virtually every concert that she isn't playing in, fidgeting all the way through. Fortunately, she usually sits on the other side of Aoife, although I occasionally find her between us after the interval. With Aoife as Sandra's ally, Nicole won't come near, although I find her much more intelligent company. Aoife doesn't like Nicole at all. I don't know why. If we invite students over, Sandra is always there, while Nicole is omitted, unless I insist on her inclusion. I suspect that after her graduation, Sandra will still get invited to dinner as long as she remains in the area. It's not that I don't like her – I do – but associating with her takes time away from Nicole, who I do have time for. I've been going on and on. Just crucify me and get it over with. Arlen Eirica Johnstone: Dearest Arlen, I wouldn't crucify you no matter what you did. You like her. You like Nipples more, but both are your students and therefore off limits. From your description, I think I like Nipples more, too. I've known people like Sandra, self-promoting like – what's his name – Coulter, from the conference. Different methods, same idea. Would sleeping with her cause her to back off? E Arlen Stewart: I doubt it. I'd rather sleep with Nipples anyway – did I just say that? Even though Sandra is prettier, I find Nipples more attractive, even with her shoes on. I can't believe I'm writing this to you. You don't really want to hear it. A Eirica Johnstone: I want to hear whatever is on your mind, no matter how stupid it sounds. I've never had this kind of conversation with anyone. It makes me feel so alive and needed. E Arlen Stewart: I guess I'm glad of it. Tell me something about yourself. It must be cold, all alone in a draughty castle. A Eirica Johnstone: Not this part. I keep my bedroom quite warm, preferring to sleep with little or nothing on, in front of a roaring fire. I sit here in bed with my laptop until I'm ready to fall asleep. E
A couple of minutes elapsed before his reply:
Arlen Stewart: So you have nothing on? A Eirica Johnstone: Nothing at all. Especially not on my feet. E
I wanted him to have the full image. Before he could respond, I added:
Eirica Johnstone: We can web-chat if you'd like. E Arlen Stewart: Not a good idea. Eirica Johnstone: Sorry. I was just leading you on. No harm done, I hope. Arlen Stewart: I'd better get to bed now. Aoife's calling for me. You will tell me your secrets sometime, won't you? Arlen Eirica Johnstone: All of them. Goodnight. Love, Eirica
No response. In fact, I didn’t hear from him for the rest of the week. Nipples, on the other hand posted regular updates on Facebook. The first train to stop at Dunrig ran on Friday afternoon, and she was on it.
@ClanGoddess87: I met a great new man today!
Soon, the flood of questions came back. Who was he? How did I meet him? I sometimes wondered if I had more online friends on Twitter and Facebook than real, flesh and blood companions.
Growing up in a wee Scottish castle didn’t engender closeness with the neighbours, and that wasn’t helped by being the heiress of an outcast line in the Johnstone clan. We weren’t rich either. The income from tours of the public areas of the castle barely covered the cost of upkeep and the estate staff. The bulk of the work was provided by the many volunteers from the surrounding village. “Surrounding” meaning a mile and a half away. The paid staff were twice my age, while the average of the volunteers was around 75.
My mother, who died just as I began at the University of Glasgow, had married young to a distant clan cousin. My father was sixty when I was born. Ordinarily, I would have been expected to marry within the clan, but there were few left around my age, and I couldn’t bear them. In my lineage, that wouldn’t have been a problem, since the women invariably married much older men. Now, all the elders cared about was an heir, which I was happy to provide if I found the right man. I wasn’t even required to marry him.
Since my mother’s death, I have spent only the weekends at the castle, preferring to spend my week in my digs at Uni. I found a few friends there, but the men either were too keen to attach themselves to the owner of a castle or dismissive of me as clan heiress, a fact that leaked out in my first days of university. Sheila Johnstone of the main branch outed me, successfully quashing the competition.
After graduation, I continued at Glasgow, hoping for a Ph.D in music, while remaining within driving distance of Dunrig Castle, overlooking the Clyde. My few gigs in the city paid for the flat, where I was close enough to practise on the pianos at Uni.
For some extra cash, I agreed to help at a small music analysis conference in the department. Most of the papers were flat and uninteresting, so I amused myself with my iPhone at the registration desk, tweeting to my ever-growing following, mostly in America. Completely ignored by my colleagues, I received weekly marriage proposals from heritage-mad Americans. If I was going to marry, I wanted to fall deeply, head-over-heels in love, something which by the age of 24, I despaired would never happen.
I wasn’t exactly ugly, but I would never claim to be pretty, just thin with a little more on my hips than I would like, and a little less on my chest. With mahogany hair and brown eyes, I didn’t project as the typical Scot, and I usually hid my tartan as underwear. As heiress, I was expected to wear it in public at all times.
“Do you think you could point me to the café?” he had asked. I couldn’t identify his accent – possibly English, or more likely American or Canadian. Whatever it was, he had an English intonation, probably from having lived in England for a long time. He reminded me of my father when I was quite young. He didn’t make it past my tenth birthday, but he was tall and proud, yet shy, perhaps too shy. My mother had explained that he had married late because of that shyness, but like her mother, she had always had her eye on older men. Hence, our branch of the family was severely matriarchal.
“It’s out that door, bear to the right, and look for the sign for the Brasserie near the archway,” I replied, sounding as cheery and Scottish as I could. Like many of the “upper-class” Scots, I was raised with an English accent, but in public I tried my best to sound Scots. An Edinburgh accent was easier than Glaswegian, so I opted for that, but it telegraphed my otherness.
Ten minutes later, he was back. “I’m afraid I couldn’t find it.”
Bored and underutilized, I answered, “I’ll show you the way.”
“Thank you so much,” he replied.
Halfway there, I broke an awkward silence, asking, “Are you giving a paper?”
“No. My wife wanted to visit Glasgow, and when she heard about this conference, she found a reason to drag me along. I’m not really an analyst.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a composer. Are you in the Music Department here?” he asked, finally showing some initiative.
In that brief exchange, I had decided I liked him. I liked him a lot. I fancied him, in fact. “I’m a post-grad pianist,” I replied. “What kind of music do you write?”
“Instrumental, mostly. I’m very slow, however, so I don’t have a huge works list.”
“Anything for piano? I play a lot of contemporary stuff when I can, and I’m putting a recital programme together now.”
“A few pieces.”
At that point, we arrived at the Brasserie. “This is the place,” I announced.
“Thanks,” he replied. “I’ll see you later.”
I didn’t want to leave him, but it would seem awkward, and I needed to return to my post.
I met a great new man today!
What was it about him? He was shy, quiet, and had come contrary to his own volition. He was also married. Like my father, he was blond with a little grey on his severely balding head, tall and awkward, not physically awkward, just socially. We had that in common.
“He’s a composer,” I tweeted.
“Is he famous?” my following asked. I hadn’t even read his name tag.
“No. Probably not,” I tweeted. I didn’t want to divulge how little I knew him, nor that in a quarter of an hour, he had become my obsession. I looked through the list of delegates, ticking the names of those who were giving papers, narrowing the field to six who weren’t. Two of those, I knew by sight, so he was one of four that remained, all from English universities.
When he returned a half hour later, his coat obscured my view of his name tag. He waved as he passed, slipping quietly into the back row of a session, discussing some arcane theoretical analysis. At one particularly mind-numbing proposition by the speaker, he glanced at me and rolled his eyes. I fought the urge to go and sit next to him as had the other volunteer who had joined the audience. Someone had to sit at the desk, and it allowed me to discreetly thumb my iPhone.
“What’s he like? Is he a hunky Scot?” asked USclanHunter.
“He’s a kind and thoughtful man,” I tweeted, “Not a Scot, but tall and wiry. Could have some Scots blood, though.”
After the paper, he disappeared into the toilets. Again, I was tempted to plant myself near his place in the back row, but the next paper promised to be worse: Row formation and ascendancy in the works of Babbitt.
Ugh! Too much mathematics.
Minutes later he was back in his seat, thumbing a pencil and doodling on a pad of manuscript paper. He glanced towards me, smiled and redirected his gaze towards Sinead, an Irish third-year undergraduate, staring at her for several minutes as if mesmerized. Like me, she was tall and thin, with long straight chestnut hair and hazel eyes. She had long elegant fingers, perfect for strumming languid glissandi on her harp.
Prettier than me. I was out of luck.
Again, he looked back at me and smiled. Was he embarrassed? I’d caught him eyeing a pretty young woman. Impetuously, I snapped a picture of him with my phone. He chuckled, feigning disapproval.
“Eirica?” Oops! I’d been caught by Hamish McCreedy, the director of the conference.
“Yes?” I replied, turning innocently towards him on the other side of the desk.
“I’ve got to chair the next session. Would you mind taking some more pictures?”
“Sure, why not?” I answered, taking his fancy camera from him.
“Maybe you can upload them onto my laptop later. I’m not that great with technology, and I have to make sure the delegates can find the restaurant for dinner.” I hadn’t been invited to the formal dinner, unfortunately. Only the students in the analysis seminar had, but none had bothered to come to the conference.
I decided that I could take some photos for myself, too. After asking Sinead to look after the desk, I slipped up the aisle towards the front of the hall. I shot a few obligatory photos of the speaker, the audience, and then my man, deep in thought, ignoring the speaker altogether. He wrote something down and glanced back at Sinead.
At the break, he sipped a cup of tea while another delegate rattled on about something inane. Not on tea duty, I milled around and snapped a few more pictures. The other delegate said something to Sinead as he caught her walking past. While she explained something to him, my friend watched on, more interested in her, perhaps than the other delegate, a loud American who had delivered a paper earlier in the day. My friend asked her something, to which she nodded in my direction.
Instead of my friend, the American made his way towards me. “I hear you have played the Boulez Second Sonata,” he said, reaching out to shake my hand. My friend had taken the opportunity to disappear back into the lecture hall.
“Yes,” I replied, “last year.”
“I wonder if you would be interested in looking at this piece of mine?” he asked, producing a score from his briefcase.
I looked at his name tag: George Coulter, Yale University. “Sure,” I replied taking the score. “I’m not sure when I’ll have time. I’ve got a recital coming up.”
“Maybe you’ll consider performing it.”
“I’ve already picked the programme,” I lied. “It’s an all British affair, I’m afraid.”
“Take your time,” he said. “It’s very difficult, and I’m told you are the only person around here that could even consider it.”
“Perhaps,” I shrugged. There were others who could play it, but they were consumed by romantic composers, like Chopin, Liszt or Alkan. He was trying to butter me up.
“Let me know if you decide to play it. I’ll come out for the performance. I was hoping to visit again next summer, if you find anything appropriate.”
“I’ll have a look at it, but I won’t guarantee anything.”
A captive, I listened to him prattle on and on about the theory of his music, asking what composers I liked, and if I had played so-and-so’s music – I hadn’t heard of him. Soon, I was rescued by a greying American woman, who asked him something about the dinner. I stood by politely as they spoke for a few moments, then indicated that I was obliged to take a few more pictures. I took one of the pair of them, and then fled back to the hall.
My friend was back in his seat, texting a message to someone before slipping his phone into his pocket. I took the opportunity to snap another picture of him. He moved like a ballet dancer, every motion finished to the tips of his fingers, even as his eyes followed Sinead back into the hall.
Sitting at the registration desk, I looked back through Hamish’s pictures, finding one of me giving directions to my friend. I would save that one for myself. In the meantime, I took a look at the one on my iPhone. Perfect! It caught his relaxed grace with a hint of a smile. I posted it to my Facebook page, so my friends could see him.
“I think I’m in love,” I twittered. I don’t know why I posted that. I wasn’t in love. This was an infatuation, and since he was married, he could only ever be a sperm donor for me. I didn’t want to marry anyway, but I would gladly take him as a lover.
About halfway through the next session, he received a text, packed up and left. The next morning, he arrived after the first session, waving a subtle hello to me before taking his seat. I had downloaded eleven pictures of him from Hamish’s camera and posted them all. I limited my personal comments about him to Twitter, where I could remain anonymous.
Although Sinead sat two seats away from my friend, there was no interaction between them. She was too close for all but the odd glance. At the lunch break, however, he walked straight over to me and handed me his business card. “I don’t ordinarily push my music on people, but you can listen to a couple of excerpts on my website, and if you are interested, I’ll send you a score. I’ve got a long set of piano pieces and a piano concerto that has never been played. I hope you don’t mind. You expressed interest yesterday, and I … well … that set me thinking …” he trailed off, looking embarrassed.
Arlen Stewart from Leeds University. Now I had a name for him. “That’s okay,” I said, holding out my hand. “I’m Eirica Johnstone, by the way.”
“I know,” he smiled. “I read your name tag,” he chuckled.
“Are you from around here?” he asked, clumsily making conversation.
“My family is from Dunrig, down on the Clyde, not far away. I live on campus during the week, though.” That wasn’t what he was asking. “Do you live in Leeds?”
“York, actually. I’m only at the university one day a week.”
“Are you … American?” I asked, not wanting to let him go so quickly.
“Yes, I grew up in Chicago, but I’ve lived here for a long time.”
“If you’ll forgive me, I’m sorry I don’t think I’ve ever heard of you.”
“I’m not surprised,” he shrugged. “I’m better known in the States, but not particularly well known anywhere. I teach, mostly.”
“Here, let me give you my email. That way you can …” Too forward. Damn.
“No,” he interrupted. “If you like my work, contact me, but … you know … professors befriending students … that’s not …”
“I don’t mind …”
“You don’t know anything about me,” he interrupted again. “Check me out, and then we’ll see. You can’t be too careful these days.”
If it was an obsession before, now it had grown to trust … and desire … mostly desire.
“I wouldn’t want to get an irate phone call from your parents.”
“No chance of that. Both are dead,” I replied bluntly.
“Anyway,” he said, trying to divert the conversation. “I have to sneak out during the next session, so I thought I’d speak to you now.”
“Do you fancy some lunch,” I asked, desperate for more time with him.
“I’m meeting my wife. I’m not sure she’d understand.”
“Well if I don’t see you before you go, have a safe trip home.”
I did see him, but his wife had joined him, so all he did was nod when he left. Although he continued to stare at Sinead during the session, he again instigated no contact with her. I’d won.
During the late session, I looked at his website. He had a few well-formed works listed and some excerpts from the piano piece. I loved it. I think.