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Teresa and I first got to know each other at college. We’d both had unhappy encounters with young men – overgrown boys, really – who were eager for sex but lacked experience, patience, technique, everything you look for in a compatible lover. Not that we were experts ourselves but there was an inescapable mood of hedonism at the time that led us to discuss what we might be missing. Perhaps it was inevitable that one evening after we had shared a bottle of cheap plonk, we found ourselves in bed together.
What we discovered was that if two women could shed their inhibitions they had an innate instinct for the means to please each other. At first it was little more than kissing and caressing but after the first steps the body’s desires take over. We soon learned not to leave each other unsatisfied.
Nevertheless, it has to be remembered that we were both only nineteen. In later years I came to look back on it as a crush that grew overheated. Or you might like to characterise it as some kind of female rite of passage. It lasted until graduation, though with lessening intensity, and then we went our separate ways. There was no emotional break-up, just a mutual drifting apart. We remembered each other’s birthday, exchanged cards then and at Christmas, became friends who were no longer lovers.
Anyway, as we matured we had to acknowledge wider sexual horizons, while at the same time learning to differentiate between men. The sheep from the goats, you might say. And there were plenty of goats. Charles wasn’t one of them. He was charming, intelligent, courteous and he made me laugh, which was the deciding factor when I agreed to marry him. We had already been to bed frequently – everyone did, it seemed – and sex was fine if unadventurous. Possibly I was retreating a little from my fling with Teresa, content to be on my back with Charles thrusting until fulfilled. It seldom took long. My own orgasms were not guaranteed but masturbation was an acceptable alternative.
It shouldn’t have been. I realise now that I was aware then, if only subconsciously, that sex had more to offer. We should have discussed it, Charles and I, but we didn’t. He was involved in sustaining the family bookselling business, which made heavy demands on his time and energy. So when our two sons came along I felt it necessary to take on the major responsibility for their upbringing. The years passed and sex became an occasional unsuccessful attempt to rekindle what had never been a raging furnace in the first place. When I tried to raise the subject, Charles was uncomfortable. He thought I was exaggerating. People of our age change, he said.
Alone with my vibrator, I wondered if he was right. More and more, I began to believe he was profoundly wrong. But what to do about it? The boys grew up, graduated and left home. Neither showed any inclination to sell books, especially as the internet and the big chains were making life increasingly hazardous for the small independents. The demands on Charles grew. We wouldn’t go bust but we couldn’t sell up either. Economies meant fewer theatre trips or concerts. No holidays. At my most depressed I even contemplated divorce. It wasn’t an option. I loved Charles. He remained a good husband, faithful, gentle and considerate, if less frequently able to make me laugh. Overall, a good husband in every respect – except one. My body was demanding more than the attentions of a battery-powered piece of plastic.
Then a card arrived from Teresa. It was two days before my birthday. Charles was due to take me out for a meal. West end restaurants were no longer possible but there was a more modest, acceptable place nearby. That dinner gave me the chance to suggest to Charles that as we wouldn’t be holidaying this year, I was wondering if I might visit an old college friend for a weekend. Charles gave his blessing, as I knew he would. I felt guilty but I didn’t tell him I had already telephoned a surprised Teresa who had said she would be delighted to see me.
Having taken the plunge, I sat on the train suddenly apprehensive. More than thirty years had passed since we had last seen each other. I knew from a brief note on a Christmas card that she had lost her husband to an untimely heart attack, but that was all. I couldn’t even be sure I would recognise her. And what, exactly, did I expect us to say to each other?
To be honest, when I arrived at the station I looked straight past the smartly-dressed, slim, dark-haired woman until she cried, “My darling Billy – how are you?” I had graduated from Wilhelmina to Billy while still at school and in time even my family had accepted it.
As for Teresa, the voice was my first clue. That hadn’t changed at all: low in pitch, educated upper-middle-class. And when I looked, I could see that this was still the same Teresa. Instinctively, I wondered if I had worn as well. The oval features, the high cheekbones, the narrow waist, the good legs, the dark tailored suit – they all added up to deliver a very well-preserved, attractive woman. Teresa hadn’t just worn well, she had improved dramatically in graceful middle age.
Even casino oyna as we drove to her village some twenty miles away, my doubts about the wisdom of the visit began to recede. The gauche undergraduate I remembered had blossomed into a warm, relaxed hostess. Her home spoke of taste and understated luxury. A cautious question about her deceased husband elicited the information that he had done well in the City; and there had been family money which he had invested profitably. Teresa had been comfortably provided for.
I unpacked in a chintzy guest bedroom that overlooked fields and distant wooded hills. Peace and quiet and open air – isn’t that how the song goes? The village,Teresa had said, was very small and getting smaller, refuge for a dwindling number of retirees. But very friendly people and supportive, she said. At the time, I took the statement at face value, never dreaming quite how friendly they could be.
Dinner was already prepared. “Just some smoked salmon and salad,” Teresa said with a laugh. “My diet rules. I hope that’s all right with you. I can allow myself a glass of wine.”
Momentarily I recalled a shared bottle of wine in our college rooms, but put the thought aside. We sat at the table catching up on our disparate lives during the long interval. If I envied her financial security, I sensed that she was wistful when I spoke of our sons; Teresa was childless. But as the evening wore on and the sky outside darkened, I felt that we were not quite the strangers I had feared we might be.
We carried our wine glasses and the half-empty bottle of Muscadet through to the sitting room. “I shouldn’t indulge,” Teresa said, “but Billy, it’s so good to see you again, so why not celebrate?”
Soft lighting revealed a room that said a good deal about Teresa’s situation. She saw I was looking at a number of paintings that I would have guessed were early twentieth Century without being able to put a name to the artists. I was contemplating a landscape of dappled sunlight with a distant train when Teresa broke in, “Pissaro. Spencer thought it might be a Pissaro but Sotheby’s said not.”
“Oh, it’s still valuable. Or you would think so if you saw the insurance premiums. Spencer had an eye for work that would appreciate in value,” she said, “but to me they’re not important for what they are worth; to me, they are a lasting link with him.”
“Do you miss him very much?” I asked.
“Yes. But not as much as I used to. I don’t want to sound callous but I have to move on. I made up my mind I wouldn’t be the grieving widow. I wanted something more than sympathy. People here have helped a lot.” She turned away from the pictures, and we sat facing each other,Teresa in a deep armchair, me on the sofa. She sipped her wine. “Tell me about your Charles.”
I hesitated for only a few seconds but long enough for Teresa to go on, “Please Billy, tell me if I’m intruding and I’ll shut up. The fact is I can’t help noticing we’ve spent the last couple of hours catching up on our lives yet you’ve hardly mentioned your husband. If there’s some kind of problem you don’t want to talk about, we’ll change the subject. But we’re not naive girls any more so if you do want to talk, I can listen.”
If I am truthful, it was precisely why I was there but when the moment came I didn’t find it easy. I’m afraid I rambled a good deal, about the business, about the boys going away, about the pressure Charles was under, what a good husband he was in so many ways, until Teresa interrupted.
“But not in every way?”
“Sex rears its ugly head. Am I right?”
“Not often enough.”
“For you or him?” The questions were direct and perceptive but they were spoken kindly.
“For me.” I felt as though I were betraying Charles but it was the truth.
On a pretext of refilling my glass, Teresa left her armchair and came to sit beside me on the sofa. She put her arm round my shoulder. “Maybe I’m putting two and two together and making five. Or maybe I’m not. Maybe you’ve never quite forgotten that once upon a time we knew each other rather well. Yes?”
When I said nothing, she went on, “And therefore I might be someone safe to talk to about it.”
It was such a shrewd assessment after such a brief reunion, I found myself unable to deny it. I looked at Teresa and she was smiling. “Talk is good, Billy,” she said, “and talk we will. But it’s not the only kind of therapy.”
She drew me closer with the arm round my shoulder and put her mouth to mine. We kissed. She broke away to say, “Don’t hold back, Billy. Please. This isn’t just for you.”
Although I didn’t realise it then, In those few seconds my whole life had begun to change direction. The second kiss was different, not only from her initial approach but different from the exploratory exchanges of our college days. Now there was hunger and urgency, probing tongues and whimpering sounds. Two mature women in the throes of a passion that demanded fulfilment. Was this really me? Us? When finally we broke apart, Teresa said, “Don’t speak, Billy. Relax. It’s canlı casino what you need. We can talk later.”
Even as she spoke, she was grappling with my clothes, fingers fumbling in her haste, lifting my blouse over my head, unfastening my bra, lifting me from the sofa to let my skirt slide to the floor. I was left in my knickers – midnight blue and thankfully quite flattering to my hips – and the dark hold-ups that go with them. It seemed only seconds before Teresa was standing in a matching black lace set, looking down at me as I sprawled, half sitting, half lying, on the sofa. There was a pause while she seemed to regain a little composure. Then, very softly and gently, she said, “Oh, yes, I remember.”
Kneeling, she parted my legs, moved my knickers aside to expose my sex, and buried her head. Until that point I felt we had simply succumbed to a set of circumstances neither of us could control. But suddenly I wondered if the idea had always been in Teresa’s mind, perhaps even before I arrived. It didn’t matter. Planned or spontaneous, it had me totally in its thrall. As my companion’s tongue began to lap slowly, carefully, knowingly against my clitoris, I abandoned myself to sheer physical pleasure. Teresa could do whatever she liked. I wanted it all.
My only fear was puncturing the erotic enchantment: I mustn’t give way to a quick orgasm without being sure I could sustain what we had begun. I needn’t have been concerned. Teresa’s ministrations were exquisitely subtle. Satisfied that her opening gambit had achieved its objective, she insinuated her tongue between my labia, savouring the moisture she had generated. Her return to my sweetly throbbing clitoris was prolonged and infinitely varied. Only when my responses told her a crisis was near did she back off completely. Sitting back on her heels, she looked up into my face and asked, “Is it good?”
I nodded. “You know. Don’t you?”
“One doesn’t forget. Would you like to do it for me?”
“But not yet. We mustn’t hurry. Not when it’s so good.”
How long it lasted I don’t now know, but a long time. With seemingly infinite variation of lips, tongue, fingers, Teresa took me to the brink again and again. Her instinct for the impending moment of crisis was unfailing as she gently led me back down only to start building once more. At last I heard myself cry out for release, clutching the back of her head, forcing her face into my groin, demanding that her tongue should finish what it had begun. Surprisingly, I think, there was no great explosion. It happened slowly, the long delicious climb that spreads through the body until just the most subtle movement triggers the denouement.
Recovery was very slow. Teresa, ever sensitive, continued to lap tenderly, licking up the juices that had coated my labia with an unprecedented flow of sweet stickiness. Only when my pulse rate had subsided to something nearer normal did she say, “My turn now. But not here.” Taking me by the hand, leaving garments unheeded where they had been discarded, she led me to her bedroom. There, at her suggestion, I allowed her to remove my soggy knickers before returning the favour.
My servicing of Teresa, I fear, lacked her ingenuity but I was soon aware that she was co-operating fully, spreading her legs, raising her bottom, twisting her body to meet my increasingly fervid efforts. All the while she was murmuring encouragement, teaching me what was good, what might be better. Determined not to fail her, I did as she asked – even when she suggested I could slide a finger carefully into her bottom while continuing to nibble at her distended clitoris. It wasn’t something that had figured in our college love-making but I soon understood how arousing it could be for both of us. Sixty-nine proved less rewarding. Teresa’s know-how induced such excitement I couldn’t concentrate on playing my part.
By one means and another, however, orgasms great and small came and went until we were sated, lying side by side, happily exhausted. “There’s no need to use the guest bed,” Teresa said. “Stay here with me. We might even wake up in the mood for more.” Which, of course, we did.
Returning home after the weekend wasn’t easy. I simply don’t know whether what had happened had been the result of my subconscious desire when I contacted Teresa in the first place, but I couldn’t bring myself to regret it. On the other hand, I couldn’t either avoid a sense of guilt when Charles asked if I had enjoyed myself.
“Yes,” I said, “We did a lot of catching up on old times.”
“I’m glad. You should do it more often. I’ve more than enough on my plate here – it’ll do you good to get away from it occasionally.”
A green light that I justified to myself on the grounds that it might be saving our marriage; what Charles didn’t give me in bed, Teresa could. At least, that’s how it worked out for a while. But there came a weekend when my friend’s intuition pierced my guard again. We were in relaxed mood with a glass of wine after a long exchange of kisses and caresses.
“is it still kaçak casino good for you? Us, I mean.”
“Yes. Why not?”
“Well, you say sex with Charles is more or less non-existent. You seem to enjoy what we have. So let me put it this way: do you think of yourself now as a lesbian?”
This was a conversation I’d been having with myself but I had wanted to keep it from Teresa; if I wasn’t prepared to think of myself that way, I was admitting that there was something missing with Teresa. When I didn’t answer, she read my silence. “No? Neither do I. What we have is very special but I certainly couldn’t manage without a man’s attentions from time to time. And I guess you are much the same. Yes?”
“Perhaps. But it’s perhaps best not dwelt on. I mean, there’s no obvious solution.”
That was when Teresa told me about something called Helping Hands and opened my naive eyes a whole lot wider. Apparently, the whole village was nothing short of a care-home for the sexually needy. Nobody seems to know how it started, though someone she called The Mad Major seems to have a lot to do with sustaining it. The Major and his wife are the only couple involved: Helping Hands is for singles, some divorce survivors but primarily widows and widowers. Teresa said that she and Spencer had knowing nothing of it, but soon after the funeral Major and Mrs made a call and issued the invitation.
Everything about Helping Hands is informal. Occasional coffee mornings in the village hall serve as a focal point. Nothing untoward happens but newcomers can be looked over, innocent invitations offered. A suggestion that a man might help out with a little D-i-Y project, or perhaps an offer to iron a shirt or lend a book. Pretexts are easy; what then happens behind closed doors is a matter for two people and no-one else. But what is clear is that Helping Hands has a purpose much more basic than changing washers or baking cakes.
“Do you see what I’m saying?”
It dawned on me slowly. The only way Teresa could know about this startling enterprise was by being part of it. “You mean Helping Hands has found a man for you?”
She smiled. “A man? Men, you mean.”
“Oh, one at a time. Helping Hands doesn’t organise orgies. It enables people to get in touch with each other. And if you get in touch with more than one, well – why not? Variety is the spice of life, isn’t it?”
I began to understand why Teresa was so satisfied with the life of a country widow. But there was something I didn’t understand. “I’m sure I should be pleased for you. But where does that leave me?”
She hesitated, clearly weighing up how to continue. Then she put down her glass, looked me in the eyes and said, “My dear, what I’m suggesting is that something could be arranged.”
“How do you mean?”
“We are not short of obliging males.”
“I don’t know – I haven’t really thought about it. But the house is here, I could make myself scarce.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t.”
“Don’t say no too quickly. Think about it. You may change your mind.”
Was this simply prescient Teresa again? It was almost as though she knew me better than I knew myself. Because just before the end of my visit , I found the courage to articulate a fantasy that had formed in my mind and wouldn’t go away. “Remember our conversation about Helping Hands?”
“Have you changed your mind?” Clever, direct Teresa again.
“Not exactly. But I’ve been think about your offer – making your self scarce.”
“That still goes.”
“But … suppose – Well, suppose you didn’t?”
“Kind of chaperone, you mean?”
“No. What I mean Teresa, is could we be … together – and get one of your friends to join us.”
For once, I had managed to surprise her. But not for long. The sparkle in her eye told me all I needed to know. That’s how I heard about Big John.
It was arranged for my next visit. Teresa met me at the station and confirmed that all was well. We arrived at her house shortly before seven; John was due at eight. We had agreed a tight schedule for two reasons: to give me the minimum time to lose my nerve (which I easily could have done), and to remove the temptation to indulge ourselves first. We wanted to keep appetites sharp.
I showered and changed: a new white bra and French knickers set under a loose silk gown. Teresa would wear the black lingerie that she said always turned John on. Hopefully, the black-white contrast would enhance the effect. I couldn’t help my nerves but when Teresa, imbued with eager anticipation, suggested a stiff drink I refused. This had been my idea and I wanted to enjoy it completely sober.
John proved to be everything Teresa had promised. He was probably ten years older than either of us, tall, grey-haired, clean-shaven with honest blue eyes. He wore what looked like his best casual outfit: dark blazer and pressed grey slacks, white shirt, no tie. He shook my hand firmly but with no air of presumption or forwardness: a manifestation of the courtesy that Teresa said was typical of the Helping Hands generation. When, though, I lowered my gaze and looked closely, I thought I could detect a telltale bulge. Maybe my imagination, or maybe John’s quiet manner concealed a need as pronounced as my own.
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