June held his hand. ‘No,’she said quietly. ‘No, please.’
Harry held her tightly. There was no point being upset about it; he had known before he had made his move that June was unlikely to let him. But he needed her to know that whether she wanted him or not, he still needed her. Slowly, he lessened his grip on her, feeling her relaxing too. Neither of them moved for the moment. His face was in her hair, which smelled today of peaches; peaches or something like it. A perfume in her shampoo, he supposed.
Her face was in his neck, tucked in under his chin. She liked his smell, for all that it was earthy, pungent, rather animal-ish. She breathed in his smell, and remembered how, long ago, this same smell of his had aroused her instantly. There was a moment of regret then.
June pushed herself up away from Harry. ‘Fancy a cup of tea?’ she asked.
‘Mmmm,’ he said. ‘Good idea!’ though of course they always had a cup of tea together after an afternoon nap.
June swung her legs over the side of the bed, and, naked, went off to the kitchen. Harry’s eyes followed her, as always. Bloody nice body, he thought to himself. Better’n mine, by a long chalk.
Harry was, he knew, getting plump. Well, fat, really. He was almost afraid to weigh himself anymore, because the weight was going up and up, and nothing he could do seemed to stop it.
They had been married nearly thirty years and were, on the whole, happier than most couples, he thought. Course, it wasn’t like it was in the first few years, but then he’d never expected that it would be. Like most women of her age, it seemed, June appeared to have lost her sexual desire; while if anything, Harry’s was becoming stronger.
He scratched his neck, considering the state of things. Bloody silly way to organise a world, he thought, men being randy and women having to fight them off all the time. Stood to reason it would cause trouble, didn't it?
June came back, still naked, carrying a tray. On it was a pot of tea, two mugs and a few biscuits on a plate. She walked around the bed and got in her side, balancing the tray between her breasts and her knees.
Harry had noticed as she walked in that she had shaved not only her legs, but right up around her pubis, leaving her pubic hair not heart-shaped, as he had seen once or twice in magazines, but certainly tidier and smaller than it had once been. He liked it. Ought to give her a bit more confidence, he thought, and he wondered what she thought of when she was doing it.
June poured the tea and handed him his mug. He sipped it carefully. It was just as he liked it. He sipped it again, then rolled to his side and put it on the bedside table.
They were quiet then, the two of them. There was a little tension between them, of course there was. But they had been through this time and again over the last few years, and he knew that he would calm down, and that she would gradually relax and feel safe again.
‘Harry,’ June began after a while, and he could tell by the way she said his name that she had something serious to discuss, and wasn’t quite sure about it. ‘Harry,’ she began again, ‘you know how I’m sort of going off sex a bit? Well...’
‘A bit?’ Harry asked. He knew it was the wrong thing to say, but just couldn't stop himself. ‘A bit? Bloody hell, if that’s what you think is a bit I reckon you need to think about it again.’
June flinched. He was right, of course. ‘I know that, Harry,’ she explained. ‘I know it's been a long time. But these things happen to women, and I'm doing my best.’
He had assumed she was. He hadn’t expected it to carry on like it started, twice a night and three times on Sunday; but it had gone off sort of suddenly. He couldn’t remember when they had last had it away, but it must be a bloody long time. Two years? Three?
‘I don't want you to start thinking I don’t love you or anything,’ she said. ‘I know lots of women joke about it, but it’s pretty serious, isn’t it, and I don’t want you going off in search of it with someone else.’
‘Look, Darlin’,’ he said, ‘I don’t want no one else. Never have, ever since I met you. You’re the one for me, cross me heart and hope to die.’
She smiled coyly and rolled closer to him, kissing his shoulder and hugging him. He liked that. Could never get enough of it, he thought. You’re a soppy date, he told himself.
‘We’ve got to talk about it, though,’ she told him. ‘I asked the Doc about it when I saw him for that breast cancer stuff, and he told me it was normal to have a reduced libido... that’s what he called it, a reduced libido.’
‘They keep thinking up new names for things,’ Harry commented. ‘I just call it going off sex.’
‘Yes, well, they do know what they're on about sometimes. He gave me a tonic, and some exercises to do, supposed to stimulate me.’
‘You been taking that tonic?’
‘Yes, but it don’t seem to be doing me no good. Done the exercises too.’
‘Didn't work?’ he asked.
‘No,’ she said shortly. She paused. ‘He told me I should play with myself to get myself going,’ she said, and a blush started to cross her face and shoulders.
‘Cheeky bugger. Here, did he want to show you what he meant, did he?’
June giggled shyly. ‘No, he did not!’ She laughed. ‘He was too embarrassed, I could tell. You should have seen him, blushing and farting and using all the posh words to sound all proper.’
When they had stopped laughing together, they fell silent for a while. Then Harry asked, ‘So, did you play with yourself to get yourself going today.’
June turned away for a moment, pretending to fiddle with the tray and the mugs. ‘A bit,’ she said after a while. ‘Didn't work, though. Just felt too stupid.’
He reached for her hand again, and squeezed it.
She looked at him, very serious now. ‘I can’t control the hormone thing, and I know it happens to just about everyone, but I’m doing my best to make it good for you. So at first I just lie there like I used to and let you do what you want, and try to sort of dream myself into a sort of romantic mood.’
He squeezed her hand again, and a lump rose in his throat. ‘What do you dream about,’ he asked.
‘Oh, all sorts. Sometimes I dream of pink clouds and soft music and wine and young girls in see-through nighties and big bearded men looking on lustfully. Sometimes I fantasise about blokes I might have seen - young, virile men like you used to to be. They might be just looking at me and getting turned on, or they might reach out of my dream and touch me, and I think ‘this is it, I’m going to love it,’ then instead of getting worked up I just go dry.’
Harry thought about that for a bit, stroking her hand and wondering while he looked out the window. The sun was falling lower now, and growing weaker.
‘Pity, that.’ Harry said, and there was a huge disappointment in his voice, as though his hopes had finally been dashed.
She turned to him and he could see tears brimming in her eyes. ‘Do you think I haven’t bust a gut, with dreaming and tonics and playing with myself? God, I've bloody tried all right.’
He changed his stroking to patting, alarmed at how he had upset her when she was doing her best.
‘Okay, okay,’ he said. ‘Don’t take on so. I can see you’re trying.’
June calmed down, and her breathing became more relaxed.
‘Look,’ Harry said, ‘there’s two things from my point of view. First, and you should know this already, my girl, is that I love you and I’m never going to leave you, even if we never have sex again. I wants only you, and no-one else.’
June smiled, and this time it was she who was patting his hand.
‘The second thing,’ he continued, ‘is that we’ve got a real good set-up here, and I wouldn’t ever want to do anything that might disturb it. We’ve got this place, real nice and nearly paid for, and we’ve got the kids, and thank heavens they’ll be off our hands before we know what’s hit us.’
‘Don’t talk like that, Harry!’ June protested. ‘Them kids mean everything to me, and to you too, no matter what you say.’
‘Course they do, Love. But you know what I mean... look at us here this afternoon, couldn’t do this if Jane and Mike were around, could we? When they’re gone in a couple of years, life will be quite different for us, you see if it isn’t. Different, and maybe better.’
‘Don’t know about that, Darling; being better, I mean.’
‘Look, love,’ Harry said, ‘the only time we ever argue about anything it’s about the kids. Once they’ve moved on we won’t argue about anything, you see if we don’t’
June shrugged. ‘Well, maybe you’re right. But what I was saying, and you got to face it, Harry, is that I just can’t give you the sex as you’d like, and it’s not going to get better for ages. Maybe,’ and she she turned to look at him meaningfully, ‘not ever.’
Harry sighed. ‘I know, Love. But getting back to the point, we’ve got too much to loose here. I’m not interested in other women, not now, not ever.’
‘Just as long as you know, Harry, that I wouldn’t put up with it. Like I said before, one dabble and that’ll be the end of it.’
Harry laughed. ‘Just as well I ain’t interested in any dabbling, then, ain’t it?’
‘Get away with you. She won't be serious,’ said Helen
‘Reckon she is,’ Harry said glumly.
‘My Dave keeps saying stuff like that, but he ain’t serious,’ she said. ‘He’s just insecure, what with me being such a smashing bit of stuff.’ She giggled, and nudged Harry in the chest. He didn’t respond.
‘Fancy a cuppa, then?’
‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Why not?’
Helen rolled out of the bed and slipped on a gown that had been hanging behind the door. ‘Won't be a sec,’ she said, and slipped out silently on bare feet.
Harry brooded. It was all very well, he thought, this having a bit on the side, and so long as they were careful, no-one would be the wiser. Helen was a good sort, and she wasn’t going to get possessive either. To her, it was just good fun, and that was the way he wanted to keep it. But he did worry a bit that June might find out. Word gets around, no matter how careful you were.
He didn’t love Helen. He liked her, of course, and she was real good fun to be with, even when they weren’t shagging. ’Course, she was a good ten years younger than June, so who knows how she’d feel about sex time she was fifty?’
Come to think about it, what did she see in him? He was fifteen years older than her, and probably a bit past his best. Well, no probably about it, he was definitely past his best. It couldn’t be his bank balance, he hardly ever spent a penny on her.
Helen came back with the tea, two cups on saucers and all, with two biscuits on his saucer. He noted with some humour that they were digestives - same brand as he and June had at home.
He balanced the saucer on his chest, and sipped his tea. ‘Mind if I asks you a question, Helen? Sort of personal, like?’
‘Why, Harold, what sort of question could that be?’ She was grinning, and the glint in her eye told Harry that she could easily imagine all sorts of questions he might be wanting to ask.
‘Well, look, are you dishing it out to any other blokes?’
‘Har-rold!’ she cried. ‘Bloody hell, what sort of question is that!’ Although she had shot up straight and turned indignantly to face him, Harry could see she wasn’t really cross.
‘Come off it, Helen. Straight question between old friends... come on, spit it out. I ain’t jealous, and never will be.’
‘You mean, apart from Dave?’
‘You shouldn’t ask that sort of question. It’s not... ’
Harry looked at her. ‘Decent?’ he suggested, and she gave in, giggling a little.
Helen snuggled her shoulders back into the pillows to give her a moment to think. ‘Well, look, it's like this... and If you start getting jealous I’ll throttle you, honest I will.’
‘I won’t get jealous,’ Harry said patiently. ‘I’d just like to know.’
‘I'm not giving names’ Helen said. ‘I’m not like that.’
‘Course you’re not. But you are having it off, then?’
She turned away, and put her cup and saucer on the floor beside the bed.
‘Look, I’m a sexy woman. I like sex, always have. Dave’s okay as far as husbands go, but I like to put it about a bit. It’s... sort of flattering, that lots of men want me. Know what I mean?’
‘Yeah, I do,’ Harry said. It was true, he didn’t find himself a bit jealous, though he hadn’t really been sure about that when he had first said it. He found himself enjoying these intimacies almost as much as he enjoyed sex with her. It sort of added something to their relationship, though he wasn’t sure it was a particularly wise thing to do; he wouldn’t want to start getting too close to Helen. Just a bit, and no further. It was good to be able to talk about these things... almost like going to a psychologist.
He found himself unburdening himself to Helen. ‘When June started slowing down in the jiggy-jig department,’ he told her, ‘I found it real hard... no, not that sort of hard,’ he laughed as she stroked his penis which was, in fact, very hard indeed despite the previous action. ‘No, it was hard to stop thinking about sex all the time. After a week or so without it I couldn’t really concentrate on things, kept thinking about it all the time. After a while I started, well, you know, sort of pulling myself off pretty regular, just to ease the tension.’
Helen looked at him quizzically. ‘Did that work?’ she asked.
‘Not really,’ he said. ‘Well it did for a while but it would soon be back, and I found after a while that I was forever slipping off to have a wank, and the more I did it, the shorter the relief lasted.’
He paused, unsure that he hadn't told her too much.
‘What else could you do, you poor darling?’
‘Could have met someone like you,’ he told her. ‘I really hated having to toss myself off. Sort of unmanly, like, if you know what I mean.’
Helen nodded. ‘Makes you go blind, too,’ she added.
They both guffawed at that.
‘No, be serious,’ he said.
‘So,’ she said slowly, ‘how long did that go on for?’
‘Usually about three minutes, except when I spun it out on purpose.’
‘Give over, Harold. You know what I mean.’
‘Yes, I know what you mean. Well, ages, really. As June got to want sex less and less, I had to do more and more of it. It was either that or have blazing rows about it, which we did often enough.’
‘Then you met me, and I made it alright again?’
‘Well, it wasn't exactly like that,’ he explained apologetically. ‘There was, um, someone else before you.’
‘Ooooh, you rascal. Who was it, someone I know?’
‘Helen,’ he said, drawing himself up. ‘My lips are sealed. I never talk about my women to other women.’
‘You’ve been talking non stop about June,’ Helen pointed out.
‘You,’ he said haughtily, ‘are the other woman. June is the woman.’
‘So true,’ Helen said. ‘That's the point I was making.’
‘Well, I might talk to you about June, but I certainly don’t talk to her about you.’
‘Don't suppose you do,’ she observed. ‘But you know, we’d all be better off if we did talk about these things... clear the air a bit.’
Harry scowled. ‘Yeah, right. I can just see June being logical and helpful about me seeing you, even if she doesn’t really want me herself. Well, not in that way, anyway.’
He drank some more tea, growing a little cold though it was. He took one of the biscuits, too, and chewed it reflectively.
‘You know,' Helen suggested, ‘it’s really only about security. If the geezer goes swanning off every time he fancies a bit on the side, who’s going to pay the mortgage, discipline the kids, pay for super, all that sort of thing?’
‘Mmm,’ Harry agreed. ‘I know. But the bloke suffers too; I’m bloody sure half the fellers that push off hate losing everything they worked for - home, kids and that. It’s one thing playing around a bit if no-one gets hurt, but it’s a bleeding problem when it turns into an all or nothing setup like June says.’
‘She’s only saying that to make sure you don’t go getting tangled up with someone else, Love. Bet you anything.’
‘Well I think she means it.’
‘Oh it's you, Charles.’
‘Is the coast clear?’
‘Yes, he told me some cock and bull story.’
Charles chuckled. ‘D’you reckon he’s...?’
‘Mmm... of course he is. Helen something or other. He won’t be back before ten.’
‘I'll be round in a flash.’