A COMIC/SERIOUS IMMORALITY TALE FOR OUR TIMES (a fantasy if it’s your sort of scene)
The story starts in London two years ago, beginning in March 2017, when Britain was – albeit unaware of the fact – heading towards a General Election. Miss Lulu is a dominatrix with a sharp mind and sharp heels, full of intellectual curiosity and sexual know-how. She meets Rory Smith, a journalist, in a hotel bar in Soho and their relationship begins over a conversation about politics, morals and the world in general. There’s a bit of bondage and a lot of badinage, some sex-related villainy and a nascent love story. It also reflects contemporary politics – Trump, May, Brexit et al. Put another way, this is the story of a strong woman with a stable of admirers. Among these is a young woman called Summer, a person in whom Lulu can see something of her former self and with whom she strikes up an unusual friendship. Love is a Battlefield is an acerbic take on the cocktail that is modern Britain. It’s zeitgeist on the rocks.
LONDON MAY 2017
It had been a trying, if quite lucrative, afternoon for Lulu. The guy had been a long-time client and a long-time pain in the arse, which was appropriate in its way since that’s exactly what he liked. Well, a pain on the arse to be strictly accurate.
As always, she got dressed up as a judge – white wig, flowing robes and all – and beat the crap out of him (not literally!) with a whip while he kneeled on the floor with his trousers around his ankles. The routine seldom varied, which was good in that she didn’t have to be too imaginative, but on the other hand it was also boring. And he always wanted the same music.
“I have told you a hundred times, you are never to drink alcohol again. Understood!”
Of course, he had a gag in his mouth so he couldn’t reply but the squeal sounded more like a ‘yes’ than a ‘no’ and he would sometimes nod his head as well.
Eventually the ‘punishment’ would stop and he’d get dressed and leave. Then there would be the on-the-hour phone calls throughout the afternoon, her Blackberry – that was the number he had – regularly vibrating and interrupting her reading and internet browsing.
First he’d been at the pub, having a pint and a whisky chaser…“Right, get back here immediately.”
And so on to rewind. “I told you no alcohol and yet you went ahead and had a drink anyway. In fact, you had two! Which is why you need to be hit harder this time. You understand?”
Thus the grunting resumed and later his departure had been repeated. You could set your clock by the guy. At 3 o’clock he’d had a cigarette, by 4 it was a Mars bar.
“Right, Fatty. You’ve got five minutes to get back here. And you know exactly what’s going to happen when you do, don’t you?”
In an excited whisper, he said: “Yes, miss.”
She could on occasion be quite sisterly. Lulu met Ellen for a dinner at a bistro in Chelsea, although the original plan had called for it to be a threesome.
“I’m sorry Saskia couldn’t make it,” said Lulu. “I haven’t seen her in ages. I must call her soon.”
“I’m sure she’d love it if you did,” said Ellen, “but that’s what happens when you have sprogs. Planning goes out the window. Not that I’d know about that personally, of course. Nor you yet, I’m assuming?”
“No. No babies on the horizon for me.”
“Sorry. That was a bit insensitive, given what happened with Stefan.”
“It’s OK. I’m over that, over him. [She smiled at her friend] No, really I am.”
“Drafted a replacement in yet?”
“No. I’m not in any hurry.”
Lulu was keen to move the conversation elsewhere, and she knew Ellen would be happy to oblige.
“I heard about your terrible adventure from Sarah,” she said. “We met for lunch in the West End the other week. God, it sounds dreadful.”
“It was,” agreed Ellen. “I think it’s over now, though. I got very lucky. You’ve had enough detail from Sarah or are you wanting all the gory details?”
“The lot. Always better from the horse’s mouth, I think.”
Ellen grinned. “OK. I’ll try not to be a nag. [She smiled] I met this guy, David he’s called, on a flight to New York. I was going there for a couple of days; boring stuff for the company. Wewere both in a fairly empty business-class compartment. He sat down beside me and introduced himself by saying: ‘I’ve been an admirer of yours for ages – at least three hours.’ We were three hours out of Heathrow.”
“God. Ellen, that sounds so corny. And you fell for that?”
“Don’t judge me, Cathy. I’m sure you’ve made mistakes in your private life.”
“Too true. [She paused] Three hours, you say. I’m not sure whether that makes him a fast worker or plain dilatory.”
“One thing he wasn’t – I guess I should say isn’t – is plain. Think George Clooney.”
Lulu thought George Clooney and smiled.
“And things had been tough at home with Paul. I won’t bore you with that because it’s boring for me as well. Anyhow, we exchanged numbers at Kennedy and he said he’d call me the next week, once we were both back in London. He didn’t try anything rushed, like trying to move into my hotel room or anything, and I liked that. I also didn’t think he’d actually call, but he did. We started an affair within the week.”
“OK, let’s make that a pretty fast worker, then.”
Ellen smiled rather ruefully. “Like I said, for reasons to do with home, perhaps I needed an affair at that time. I was feeling vulnerable, unwanted, and it was good to be made to feel vital, to feel important. Anyhow, the whole thing lasted for less than four months. Gradually, what had initially been charming became irritating. Of course, I was getting a guilt complex by then, which would have altered things eventually anyway, I’m sure, but whereas our meetings at first were always fun – even not counting the sex – he got to be more demanding, insisting that he should be able to see more of me. I began to realise that something was going to have to give sooner or later and I knew, there was no question to the contrary, that it would have to be David. It wasn’t going to be my marriage or my job. I decided to call it quits before things got out of hand.”
“So where did you do it?”
“No, have sex?”
Ellen looked shocked. “Pardon?”
“Where did you have sex? A hotel? His place? In a churchyard?”
She smiled. “Oh, at a hotel. I think he had a special rate.”
“A friend was telling me the other day that one London hotel chain has a 120% occupancy rate. A couple check-in at lunchtime and check out that afternoon, so the hotel is able to get someone else in overnight.”
Ellen grinned. “I don’t think that figure could have included us. It was always all afternoon.”
“Good for you. Sorry – I interrupted you with that.”
“That’s OK. Where was I? Oh yes. Breaking it off. We met for a drink one evening. I had kind of forewarned him on the phone that something was amiss, but he was still surprised. But only surprised at that point. He didn’t go into shock or anything, and he made all the right noises about wanting to keep things civil and so on. It was a week before things got bad.”
The waiter arrived to clear their plates.
“We agreed to keep in touch, to be friends, which I think was in fact probably close to impossible in the circumstances we were in. What I should have done, I realised soon afterwards, was to be the one to make the first ‘friendship’ call. But I didn’t want to seem too eager, as if I was having second thoughts about finishing it. I guess that’s a very difficult balance to get right, especially given the guy I was dealing with, and I got it wrong.”
“About a week later, he called me at home. I answered. He was drunk, very drunk, and very abusive. I was a whore, I was a slag. There wasn’t much bad that I wasn’t. After taking about three minutes of crap, I hung up. He called again twice more that night, and both times I hung up without talking to him. I was just grateful that Paul wasn’t in, but that was only the beginning.
“The next call was two nights later. This time Paul was in, and I made the mistake of entering into a whispered conversation with David, which got us nowhere, and I ended up slamming the phone down again. Then I took it off the cradle so there could be no more calls. I tell you, I didn’t sleep at all that night. I thought about changing the number, everything, but obviously I couldn’t come up with a convincing reason to give to Paul for doing that without running the risk of arousing his suspicions.
“We had about two weeks of this, on and off, before David realised I would hang up if he called. I would tell Paul it was a wrong number or an obscene call, and since David would hang up from his end if Paul answered, Paul believed we just had an occasional sex-obsessed nutter trying to talk to me. But then David tried a new tack. I got a couple of slam-downs from the other end one night before Paul answered a call. I could hear him in the next room. I was horrified. I just knew it was David, and he was talking to Paul.”
“Jesus, that is not good.”
“No it’s not. It wasn’t. Of course, I was terrified that he was telling Paul that we’d had an affair. I think it was the most nerve-shredding 20 seconds of my life. But he wasn’t telling Paul anything like that. He’d faked a voice, given some pseudonym or other and a credible business reason for talking to me. Paul came in with the message and I had to go and speak to him or else Paul would have wondered what was going on. David quickly became abusive, I said I wasn’t interested in the proposal, said a polite ‘Thank you’, and hung up. Again, I left the phone off the cradle all night.”
The waiter reappeared and they ordered coffee.
“And this went on?”
“The next time I picked up the phone. He again put on a false voice and name, which got us into a conversation because it took me five seconds to figure out who he really was and by then Paul was in the room and I was scared sick of alerting him as to what was happening. David told me to meet him at this bar we used to use. I had to be there at 7.30 the next night or else he would keep on doing this. I remember his words so clearly. ‘Do as I say, Ellen. It’s all over with Anne and me, and if you don’t do what I want, it will be over between you and Paul.’ I was terrified.”
“Well, that’s the thing. Or one of the things. He’d mentioned her before as a woman he used to see – like months before he met me. But we met at this bar, per his instructions, and he told me that in fact he’d finished with Anne because of me; that I was the reason they’d split up. He said he loved me and he wanted me to leave Paul for him. I tried to play it cool – you know, not saying what I was actually thinking, which was did he really think I would leave my husband for a screwed-up shit like him, especially after all he had put me through? I had to listen to two hours of this garbage – I’d told Paul I was meeting friends – when I got the most unbelievable break. His mobile rang. He answered it and got up to leave me, making it clear he didn’t want me overhearing the conversation. I was torn between getting up and leaving and staying to hear him out. I stayed; I was frightened of the possible consequences of leaving. Anyway, he came back after about five minutes. He said he needed to go right then because he had to fly to New York early the next morning. I could have passed out with delight.”
“So that sorted it?”
“I think so. As he left he said he would call me soon – nothing furtive, no strange phone calls – and I said that was OK. But I haven’t heard from him since other than a text to say he was still in New York. That was three weeks ago. Fingers crossed that he’s now over me. [She paused] The bastard is now probably ruining the life of some other poor woman.”
‘Well,’ said Lulu, “I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
“I think so. I hope so.”
“But do you know what the lesson is?”
Ellen looked quizzical. “What?”
“If you’re a married woman and you’re going to fuck around, do it with a married man.”
She laughed. “Thanks, Cathy. You’re a great friend and, more than anyone I know, you really are a great listener.”
“Glad to be of comfort.”
Changing the subject, Ellen asked: “So what do you make of the election campaign?”
“Well, given the outcome of the council elections on Friday, the opinion polls might be getting this one right.”
“Yes,” agreed Ellen. “All over and no need for any shouting. It’s weird though, I think, the way in which she has branded it all about herself; effectively airbrushed the Conservative Party out of the campaign.”
“Yes, it’s all Theresa Me, isn’t it?”
Ellen laughed. “I guess so. Just painting the whole thing as a matter of leadership and figuring Jeremy Corbyn will have no chance on that basis.”
They made ready to leave.
“What else about you?” asked Ellen. “From what you say there’s nothing on the man front but how about business-wise? You’re still doing well playing the market?”
“I can’t complain.”
“Saskia told me you’d invested in a new start-up. [She paused] I think she said it was a tanning salon?”
Lulu smiled. “Yes. It’s going well…”
THE NEXT UPDATE WILL BE PUBLISHED ON APRIL 1