Chapter 1 May
Denizon smiled as she saw whose name was flashing up on caller display. ‘Hello love, how’s it going? Are you still having a wonderful time?’ ‘Yes brilliant, thanks,’ answered Robyn, her best friend and sister-in-law, speaking from the other side of the world in New Zealand. ‘You’ll be home soon, won’t you? I can’t believe you’ve been there eight weeks already.’ ‘Neither can I,’ Robyn paused. ‘In fact, that’s the main reason I’m ringing. I’ve decided to stay.’ ‘What? Forever?’ Denizon panicked. ‘No, not forever, silly. Just for four more weeks. Gerald has been invited to spend time at his niece’s new villa on the Cap D’Azur, so I thought I’d take advantage of the extra time off and spend it with my wonderful husband.’ ‘I take it it’s still going well?’ ‘I can’t believe how well. It’s like being in a new relationship, but better. We’ve fallen in love all over again.’ ‘I’m really pleased for you, Rob.’ ‘The training is also going better than anticipated and, hopefully, Dave will be finished in about six weeks, so he’ll be coming back to England then. He’ll have to be located in London for another few months, but at least we can spend weekends together … How’s my darling brother?’ Denizon sighed. ‘Chris is fine. He’s been promoted to Crew Manager.’ ‘That’s great, isn’t it?’ Robyn asked on listening to her friends sigh.
‘Yes,’ Denizon said tentatively. ‘But he’s been away on two residential courses so far, and he’s got another one coming up.’ ‘Let me guess, you’re bored.’ ‘I suppose a bit, my best friend is at the other side of the world and my husband is never here.’ ‘You’ve got Barney.’ ‘I know, but he’s not great with the conversation.’ ‘Cheer up, love. You sound like I did a few weeks ago … are you doing much with your art at the moment?’ ‘Funny you should mention that. I received a phone call yesterday from the University. The Art Department is looking for tutors to teach a summer school and wondered if I’d be interested.’ ‘Well then, that’s something to do,’ Robyn said enthusiastically. ‘Are you going to apply?’ ‘I think so, but I’ve never taught before. There’s a training course in a couple of weeks that I could go on to teach me to teach. It would mean I couldn’t have Barney for a couple of weeks.’ ‘Well, I’m sure Sarah could cope for two weeks. She leaves him with you enough. It’s only fair you have some time to do what you want, and I think it’d be good for you.’ ‘You’re probably right. I’ll ring them back and tell them I’ll do the training course. If I enjoy it, who knows it might lead to something else.’ ‘I think that’s great news. You’d be a good teacher.’ ‘Thanks, love… hadn’t you better be going? This’ll be costing you a fortune.’ ‘I suppose so. I’ll message you next week to arrange a time when we can all get together to Skype.’ ‘Oh! Before I forget, Jay and Max were on Breakfast Time this morning talking about Jay’s book,’ Denizon added.
‘I thought he was in America.’ ‘He was, but he’s back to do a short book tour round London.’ ‘Was he good? I assume Max was.’ ‘He was actually, a natural in front of the camera.’ ‘It figures! What were they talking about?’ ‘About affairs in general and why people have them. Max was defending monogamy and Jay was giving his contrary opinion, sharing his views on being with a partner as long as they make you happy. It was interesting, especially seeing as I know him personally.’ ‘Did he mention his partner?’ Robyn asked with an edge to her voice. ‘Only that’s he’s with someone who he’s compatible with.’ ‘For now,’ Robyn said scathingly. ‘You sound bitter! You’re not are you?’ ‘No, not really. I made my choice as well, and I’m so happy I chose Dave. It’s just that I know his book was written when we were together, and I helped him with a lot of it. I just don’t get any credit.’ ‘Don’t start all that again,’ Denizon reprimanded. ‘You’ve got a perfect life now, don’t even think about Jay.’ ‘Ay, Ay captain. On that note I’m going now, and we’ll speak next week. Love you, Den.’ ‘Love you too, Rob. Take care.’ She placed the phone back in its cradle and smiled. Her friend would never change. If she was honest, the thought of teaching scared her. Being an artist was a very solitary profession and her own paintings were personal to her. She wouldn’t know how to bring out the best in her students or even if they’d appreciate what she had to say. But Robyn was right – it
would be good for her – because not only was she bored, she was lonely. Without Robyn on the other end of the phone or just round the corner she had nobody. Both her parents had been dead for years, and she was their only offspring. Robyn was the closest thing to a sister she’d ever known, and she totally relied on her for everything. She’d never been one for making friends easily and had gotten so used to her own company all day that sometimes she found it difficult to start conversations. She knew this frustrated her husband, Chris, who was the most gregarious person she had ever met. She often thought it was why Chris had been tempted to seek out the company of other women throughout their married life and probably why she’d made allowances for that particular trait. Chris loved going out and socialising, whereas she preferred a good book or a black and white film. Robyn had loaned her Dr Max Hammond’s book, “Effective Communication”, and it made her realise that the two of them didn’t have a lot to talk about. She had become infatuated with him at age sixteen and hadn’t really looked at another man until she finally snared him six years ago. Chris loved her, of that there was no doubt, but she just wasn’t stimulating enough for him, and he wasn’t intellectual enough for her. He was ruled by his body, and she was ruled by her brain. Since her dice with death last year their relationship had been the best it’d ever been. It was the first time since they’d got together she could honestly say she trusted him. But it had been to the detriment of his personality. He no longer went out as much, offering to spend every evening with her. She could see the life slowly seeping out of him as he tried his best to be something he wasn’t.
The recent promotion at work seemed to perk him up slightly and, even though she missed his company, she knew it was best for his sanity. Maybe tutoring would be the incentive I need to make new friends – and going out to work at a real job could, potentially, make me more interesting. It was with that thought she picked up the phone to ring the University and booked herself on the short teacher training course.
Chapter 2 End of July
Denizon opened the big double doors and tentatively popped her head around. It was graveyard quiet – the University seemed spooky with no students milling around. Her high heels made a resounding click as she walked along the deserted corridor to the Art Department faculty office. She knocked on the door. ‘Come in … come in!’ Denizon opened the door and was greeted by a tall, slim man – his longish wavy hair slightly greying at the temples. She smiled inwardly as she noticed his suit, which would have looked much more at home in the 1970’s. ‘Is it Mrs Denizon Cartwright?’ The man asked smiling. ‘Yes, but please just call me Denizon. I always feel so old when I’m called Mrs Cartwright.’ ‘Hello, Denizon, I’m Professor Damien Johnson and, likewise, please call me Damien. I’ll be showing you around today.’ He held out his hand. ‘Pleased to meet you, Damien.’ Denizon smiled as he shook her hand firmly. Denizon didn’t know what to expect from the induction day but had hoped there would be plenty of people around so she could blend in easily. ‘Is it just us?’ she asked looking around. ‘For the moment, yes. The other two tutors are a married couple who are coming up from Mid-Glamorgan and have been a bit delayed.’ ‘Oh, is it Greg and Sian?’ Denizon perked up at the news. ‘Yes, do you know them?’ ‘They were on the same training course as me. They’re both lovely.’
‘I haven’t met them yet. I was at a conference in America all the time you were on your teacher training course. Hence, it’s the first time we’ve met … can I get you a drink?’ ‘If you have tea?’ ‘I’m sure that can be arranged, although I can’t swear to its provenance, we all drink coffee here, it keeps us awake.’ ‘I have my own tea bag if it helps?’ ‘My, you are well prepared. Follow me to the most important room in the department, the kitchen.’ ‘Isn’t it quiet without the students?’ Denizon said following the professor further into the building. ‘Just how I like it. I’d get so much more work done if it was like this all the time, but sadly, I wouldn’t get paid.’ Denizon didn’t know whether to laugh at his attempt at a joke – but didn’t as he looked deadly serious. ‘How many are enrolled on my course?’ ‘I’ll have to check, but from memory about twenty five.’ Denizon swallowed audibly. ‘That many? I was hoping for about ten.’ ‘Don’t worry you’ll be fine. ‘Watercolours’ is always the most popular course. Trust me, it’s a piece of cake – everyone is so enthusiastic. All you have to do is put a few items on a desk and get them to paint. Add a few excursions and you’re sorted.’ ‘You make it sound so easy.’ ‘Summer schools are easy. At least all your students make an effort which is more than can be said for mine … have you got that tea bag?’ ‘Sorry, yes.’ Denizon fished out the limp bag from a side pocket in her handbag. ‘Our secretary bought biscuits before she went on annual leave,’ Damien said as he reached into the cupboard.
‘Can I interest you in a Vienna whirl?’ Denizon politely took one. ‘Let’s go through to the room that’ll be your home for the next four weeks.’ Damien spent the next half an hour showing Denizon where everything was kept in the large art studio. Just then, the phone rang. ‘Excuse me. I’ll just have to get that.’ He left Denizon standing at the front of the room by what would be her desk. She sighed. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all. What if I can’t do it? I could be a laughing stock. Why did I let Robyn talk me into it?’ ‘That was Greg on the phone.’ Damien said as he walked back into the room. ‘There’s been an accident on the M62 and they’re in standing traffic. Who knows how long they’ll be … can I buy you lunch?’ ‘Er …’ ‘Oh, no nothing like that …’ he added as he saw the shocked looked on Denizon’s face. ‘It comes out of the departmental budget. We should all be having lunch but, as the others aren’t here yet, we don’t want to go hungry.’ Denizon breathed a sigh of relief. ‘In that case, that’d be lovely?’ ‘Let’s get out of here. The refectory is open, but it’s not great. I know a lovely pub, not too far … would that be okay? We can take my car.’ ‘Er … yes. If you’re sure?’ Damien held open the door to the red open top MG sports car and Denizon slid in. ‘Have you got anything to tie back that lovely hair? It gets pretty windy with the roof down.’ Denizon fished in her bag and pulled out an old scrunchie. She quickly scraped her long blonde hair back in a pony tail as Damien screeched out of the car park.
Chris Cartwright, newly appointed Crew Manager at Hull North Fire Station closed the door to his office. ‘Jen, you can’t talk to me like that here. You know what the lad’s are like.’ ‘Oh Chris, lighten up – no-one heard.’ ‘That’s not the point. Anyway, I’m now your superior officer, you have to treat me with respect.’ Chris smiled at his beautiful colleague, her long ebony hair shimmering in the glint of the sun. ‘In that case you should punish me.’ ‘Yes, I should. You can stay behind after your shift. I’ll find some extra duties for you.’ Chris smirked. ‘Don’t tease me, Chris! It’s been ages since we spent any time together.’ She walked across the room and stood in front of him. ‘I know, Jen, but this is a new job … and you know how it is with Denizon.’ ‘But we have so much fun together,’ she said stroking the few hairs sticking out of the top of his uniform shirt. ‘But what about Craig? You’ve just got engaged!’ ‘Oh, him. You know why I’m with him and it’s not for his stunning good looks and rippling muscles. He’s not a patch on you.’ She reached up and kissed him. ‘Jen, what are you doing? Not here. Anyone can see in.’ ‘In that case, come here.’ She led him by the hand into the large office store cupboard. ‘Kiss me!’ she said as she started to open her blouse, exposing her firm double G breasts. ‘You haven’t seen them since they’ve been done, have you?’ ‘No … wow! They’re magnificent.’ Chris reached out and exposed one nipple, fingering it gently. ‘God, Jen, you’re such a tease.’
‘I said kiss me.’ Jen reached up and thrust her tongue into his waiting mouth. ‘What if the bell goes off?’ Chris said as he drew breath. ‘Then we’ll stop, but I want you now.’ She reached down and unzipped him. Chris’s bulging erection forced its way out of his trousers. ‘That’s more like it!’ she said admiringly. Chris slammed the door closed with his foot and grabbed hold of his willing colleague. It was only a matter of seconds before he was thrusting himself deep inside her. ‘Oh, Jen! How can I be strong when you do this to me?’ Chris said collapsing down the wall, his legs giving way. ‘I don’t want you to be strong. I want you to be mine. I know we’ll never be together, but this makes my life bearable. Don’t stop wanting me.’ Jen sat down beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. ‘How can I ever stop wanting you? You’re gorgeous … how much did they cost?’ ‘A few thousand, I think. Craig wanted me to have them done. Do you like them?’ ‘I do, but there was nothing wrong with them before,’ Chris said, groping one of her large breasts. ‘Do you know you’re the only reason I come to work? Craig wants me to pack it in and spend all my time doing hot yoga and personal training so I can have the body he dreams of.’ ‘So, why don’t you?’ ‘Because I’d be bored out of my mind, and I wouldn’t see you.’ ‘But, Jen, I can’t keep seeing you. I promised Denizon I’d stop messing about.’ ‘Like that’s going to happen with your willpower. I didn’t exactly have to force you.’
‘That’s true … but it has to stop. I’ve got my new job now which I don’t want to lose.’ ‘But I won’t put any pressure on you, I promise. Just let’s get together occasionally, like today. There’s no harm done.’ ‘I suppose not – just don’t go telling anyone. They all think I’m squeaky clean now.’ ‘I’m sure! The day Chris Cartwright stops looking at other women is the day the world will end. Trust me on that one!’ ‘Cheeky! Come here, it’s time for your punishment.’
Denizon got out of the car at the Altisadora. ‘I though you said it wasn’t far. We’re nearly at the coast.’ ‘Sorry. It’s such a nice day. I got carried away. I intended to go to the Horse and Jockey down the road from the University… have you been here before?’ ‘Yes, my husband brought me for a meal for our first wedding anniversary.’ ‘How long have you been married?’ Damien asked, locking his car door. Denizon paused. Gosh! He’s rather forward. Is this what all bosses are like? It’s such a long time since I worked for anyone I’ve forgotten. ‘Sorry, I’m just being nosy.’ ‘It’s okay, coming up to four years that’s all.’ ‘Let’s go and find a seat in the garden. It seems such a shame to be inside on a day like today.’ Damien led them to a quiet table at the furthest end of the beer garden. ‘What can I get you to drink?’ ‘Just a lime and soda, no ice, thanks,’ replied Denizon.
‘Are you sure I can’t tempt you to anything stronger? It’s a lovely day for a glass of cool, clear Pinot Grigio. I’m having one.’ ‘Go on then, I’ll have a small one.’ ‘You look at the menu while I get us a drink. Choose the most expensive thing. It’s not often I get to use the expense account.’ They both ordered sirloin with a salad and when Damien came back from the bar. He moved his chair closer to Denizon’s. ‘So tell me all about my new watercolour tutor. Normally, I would have been on the interview panel but, as I mentioned, I wasn’t in the country.’ ‘What is there to tell? I’m an artist, partly commercial. I do calendars and work for large companies and I paint for fun. I sell my work and have a couple of exhibitions a year. I suppose, I earn a decent living.’ ‘So why do you want to tutor?’ Denizon paused. Should I tell him the truth? That I’m a boring housewife and want to do something that will make me more interesting … no possibly not! ‘Because I’d like to give something back to the art world.’ Damien laughed. ‘You’re joking right?’ ‘Er … I’m not sure what you mean.’ ‘Being an artist is the hardest job in the world. Just when you think you couldn’t get any lower you get another kick in the teeth. You want to give something back? Spare me!’ Damien took a long drink of wine. ‘Sorry … I don’t know where that came from.’ ‘I’m not normally perceptive when it comes to people – I spend too much time alone, but I do get the impression you’re not very happy with your job.’
‘I don’t think you need to be perceptive. I’m going through a bad phase, just ignore me.’ Damien sighed and rubbed his eyes. ‘My budget has been nearly halved, and I have to put on summer school courses that bring in more money than my foundation degree students. It’s hard that’s all … I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I wanted us to come out and enjoy this beautiful day.’ ‘Don’t worry, it’s fine.’ ‘No, I am sorry. Let’s talk about something else … so; what books do you like to read?’ ‘How do you know I like reading?’ ‘I can just tell. You seem very much like me, and I love reading.’ Denizon glanced at her watch and saw it was nearly three o’clock. ‘My word, is that the time. I should be getting back. We’ve been sitting here for two hours.’ ‘Really? But hasn’t it been fun?’ he added. Denizon smiled. ‘It has actually. It’s lovely spending time with someone with the same interests as me.’ ‘Doesn’t your husband share your passion for reading?’ ‘You must be joking! The last book Chris read was for GCSE English – unless you count the Fire Service Manual.’ ‘Your husband’s a fireman?’ ‘His actual title is Crew Manager. He’s just been promoted. Honestly, that’s one of the real reasons I took this job. He spends so long at work. I wanted to get out and meet some new people … are you married?’ ‘I was – I’ve been separated for years.’ Damien paused. ‘I’ve just had a thought. I belong to a group called the Bohemian players. Have you heard of them?’ Denizon shook her head. ‘We get together once a month and talk about art, literature and theatre. It’s not everyone’s thing, but I think you’d enjoy it. This month’s meeting is tomorrow night. Would you be interested in coming along?’ Denizon didn’t even need to think about it. ‘Sounds great! Where’s it at?’ ‘We meet at each other’s houses. If you like I could pick you up.’ She reached into her handbag for her diary. Is Chris on a late? Yes he is, great. ‘That would be fine. What time do you want me to be ready?’ ‘It starts at 7.30, so is 7 okay?’ ‘I’ll be waiting.’ Change of mind! This job was a very good idea.