This chapter is basically two college pals getting it together 20 years later. It’s friends chatting away with a bit of sexiness mixed in — not a stroke piece.
The story so far: Adrian and Laura were at college together 20 years ago. He’s from Northern Ireland, she’s English; they now live in London. They’ve agreed Ade can fuck her arse if he gives up smoking for three months. As motivation, he got to kiss and cuddle her after two weeks, and now it’s been a month he gets to see her topless — and touch. After two months, he’ll get to play with her naked body, but no penetration.
When making their bet, Laura also posted an online ad for him, saying he needed a guy’s cock to suck to distract him from smoking, which is how Dan turned up. Adrian is just about getting over his fear of a potential relationship with him, while working too hard. Stu and Gareth were college friends of Adrian and Laura, and they’re all still close. Izzy and Naz work with Adrian; Sam is his boss.
There are 14 chapters in total, being posted every few days, and it’s mainly the story of Adrian and Dan. Chapters 1-6 of this complete series were posted in Gay Male. If you want to skip straight to more of Adrian and Laura, go to chapters 9 and 13 (and chapters 1 and 5 for most of their back-story)
Thursday, interviewing day.
I get up to shower and shave. There’s noise as I come out, which turns out to be Dan singing in the kitchen.
“Wanted to make sure I didn’t scare you. Here’s tea. D’you mind if I get clean here?”
“Be quick. I’ll be leaving in half an hour.” He nods and returns dewy-fresh in five minutes flat, towelling his head dry with no thought to modesty. I enjoy the sight while I finish my eggs and toast in my dressing-gown — not risking hot egg yolk on my chest nor egg on a good shirt!
He pulls on his jeans and top, ready to go back upstairs and then out to work, but he waits a few minutes, sipping his tea, while I change into a suit befitting Mr Chartered Engineering Expert.
“Cuff-links and all? Very nice.”
“Got to impress clients. Besides, it’s only once or twice a week, so I quite like making the effort. And one wants to look like you’ve made an effort for the interviewees. It’s a small industry; the ones we don’t hire will talk.”
He nods. “Suppose. I’m kept strictly back-office, me. Hope you find someone good.”
“In my own interest, to get your workload reduced, isn’t it?”
He seems to realise he’s said something that sounds like a long-term consideration, and scurries out quickly.
I distract myself at work, reading the four CVs again and searching for the dirt on them online.
Candidate one looks strongest on paper, but he sets off my knobhead-dar. Naz politely quizzes him on the technicals and it transpires there’s been a lot of exaggeration. If he’s been anywhere near a project, he says he led it.
I tell Izzy not to waste anyone’s time on him.
Number two isn’t bad. What he knows, he knows. Just it’s a fierce effort trying to extract words from him. I’m trying to get him to think outside what he already knows, and it doesn’t go so well. If I needed another trainee, a new young Naz, he’d do. I suppose.
“He’s not gonna hit the ground running, is he?” Naz sums him up. Still, we do the schmoozing and coffee. He might go places, eventually.
The third is the only woman. Blonde hair in a quiff like Clare Balding. She’s clearly figured, as an engineer with tits, everyone’s gonna assume she’s a dyke whether she is or not, so might as well go for the easy-care styling.
She’s got her degree from some ex-poly I know nothing of. She also figures out ways forward through all the problems we set her, growing in confidence. I catch Naz’s eye. He inclines his head, yes. I ask her a few questions relating to our new work and whether she’d like doing the type of analysis needed. She’s relaxing a bit and we’re having a good old chat — she confirms a queer boss is no problem, eyes flicking between me and Naz and clearly favouring me — when Izzy apologetically reminds us we have someone else to see.
Iz gets the hint and gets everyone chatting to this lass, plying her with biscuits and cake, while we dispose of number four, a jumped-up graduate with an ego problem who’s pissed off Naz within fifteen minutes. And it takes a lot to piss off Naz.
The reason dawns on me. Time to tell this kid what’s what. “The person who gets this role will be working for Mr Afzal, here.” I gesture at Naz and lean back. Feet on a Yozgat Escort chair might be a bit much. “Supporting him with the kinds of calculations you’ve just failed to work through for me. Do you really think it would be sensible to hire you?
He goes er-um-er. “Even if you’re white and he’s not? Or do you always ignore the junior person in the room?” I ostentatiously close my folder. “I would say nice to meet you, but I don’t like lying.”
I get rid of him. Fucking eejit. Then I need to apologise to Naz for me going off on one and not letting him stand up for himself, all white-saviour style.
He’s just about returned from crimson to his usual colour. “It’s OK. Now I know you’d back me up, next time I’ll say it myself.”
“There’d better not be a next time. Anyway, good news, we’ve got a young woman to seduce, as it were.”
Sam confirms, “You want this one? Seems all right. Time’s of the essence. Offer her a two grand golden hello to cover moving costs.”
I let Naz wander up to her, shake her hand, and say, “Congratulations. I’d like to offer you the job.”
“Oh!” The lass, Melissa her name is, blushes and giggles a little. “I wasn’t expecting anything so quickly!”
“Well, if you will outshine your competition…” I tell her, smiling.
“That’s very kind,” she replies, more formal. “I look forward to the offer in writing.” She hesitates. “With a figure nearer the upper end of what you were offering.”
“I hope we can come to an agreement on that and on a start date as soon as possible.” She’s coming to the end of a contract. Hallelujah! Three weeks’ time, she suggests. I can cope for a month until she’s taking on workload, can’t I?
“Just one thing…” I probably look about like Columbo, all dishevelled hair and getting portly in middle age. “I looked at your Facebook. I’d expect it to be locked down better. Not that the photos were too embarrassing…”
“What? It should be! I logged out and checked, before this round of applications. Couldn’t see anything.”
“I could, last night.” I get her up on my phone, while she pulls up the Settings menu on hers. I show her her detailed profile.
“Mostly friends-only. Profile — oh, that’s friends-of-friends, so people can find me…”
I click. “Oh! One mutual friend.” Who?
“Gareth Davies? Oh! He was my mentor, in sixth form. It was this scheme, support kids from families where no-one’s been to uni. Then he came to speak at our uni’s ell…”
She cuts off. I happen to know Gareth did some rounds of inspiring queer students to be out and proud in their chosen industries, going to any LGBT-soc that would have him.
“Er, yeah, we stayed in touch, a bit. How do you know him? He’s a lawyer.”
She’s wondering, was I or am I going out with him.
“We did the same undergrad degree,” I tell her firmly.
I call Gareth, of course.
Melissa? Oh, Lissa? How’d you get your clutches into the poor lass? Don’t you worry, she’s a tidy one, she’ll see you right. Smart, determined. I’ll drop her a message, congratulate her. Pay her the going rate, mind! Tell me about your new man, later. In a bit.” He hangs up, ever the busy one.
I work late that night, but hopefully Lissa will be helping out significantly within the month.
By the end of Friday, we’ve agreed terms and Lissa — Melissa only on paper, please — has emailed us a signed copy of her contract. Sorted.
I ask Dan if he wants to go out to celebrate, but he’s as knackered as I am. He agrees to decorate my sofa while I watch some film. We both doze off before falling into bed.
In the morning he asks me if I’ve got any plans for the weekend.
“V swore it would help us get better jobs. He may have even been right.
“Got you the only malt they had.”
I roll my eyes. I bet he’s drinking some trendy cocktail. He is. It’s got ice and a straw and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hid the wee umbrella before I showed up. Still, he’s bought me a drink; he’s a sound man. Never the type to peel an orange in his pocket. “Cheers.”
“Cheers. How you doing, mate? Still at ‘SamCo’?”
It’s not actually a dig, that I’m working for a small firm run by one guy. It’s just his way. “Aye. Just got two new clients so I’ve been interviewing, just hired another assistant to help out. It’s all good craic though — grand people. It suits me.”
He appraises my face. “You’re looking well on it, I must say. Still in the flat in Bermondsey?”
“Again, it suits me. Quick cycle to work in the City, fifteen minutes walk to London Bridge, decent neighbours with excellent Yozgat Escort Bayan sound insulation. What’s that saying, good fences make good neighbours? I think sound baffling is even more important!”
“Oh god, d’you remember our lodgings in second year, when Kevin took up the drums?” He grins at the mere memory.
“And Ali tracked down some industrial quantity of foam insulation and told him he was getting his room insulated or having his drumsticks inserted in the orifice of his choice! Thank fuck!”
“Persuasive guy, Ali. Though he had roped me and Will in to stand behind him and act like all heavy.”
“That would have helped, aye. So what’s new with ye?”
Stu shrugs, fake indifference. “Eh, there’s been more restructuring, new roles at work. So I’ve moved sideways, sort of being groomed for promotion.”
“You’re gonna be their next Sir Humphrey by the time you’re forty!”
“Nah. No chance. Should manage Director, though. Got the contacts in the Department.”
I can never remember which bit of the country Stu’s responsible for. Just glad he is. He’s one of those scarily efficient types. Then he spits out his real news. “Julie’s well. We’re expecting, in August.”
“A baby?” I hate men who say ‘we’re expecting’. My sister would draw blood. You don’t go through nine months of hell in your own body, you don’t get to say shit like ‘we’re expecting’.
“No, a fucking parrot, of course a baby! It’s going to be weird… being dadda…” He gets a right soppy look on his face that clashes with the silk tie. I hope the baby pukes on his best suit.
“Congratulations to Julie. Hope it’s going OK for her?”
“Yeah, she felt a bit sick for a couple weeks but she’s fine now, back to teaching exercise classes and all. If you’re fit, it’s all much easier, you see.”
“Not really either of us who need to worry about that, is it now?”
“Touché. You seeing anyone, then?”
I estimate the chances of Linz, Gareth or Laura having spoken to Stuart recently and said anything, versus wanting to get off the topic of relationships ASAP. When Stu and I meet, we talk travel, houses, college, restaurants — mostly restaurants and films, nowadays — and that’s how I like him. Not yet another fucker trying to create me a love life. Which he never has, to be fair.
“No. Loving the joys of the bachelor lifestyle too much.”
“Oh, yeah? So long as that’s not like when you first moved to London.”
“Don’t you worry.” Now, I have much better taste in distractions. Bachelor life defined as lots of sex with strangers. Though, now… I decide that’s another thing not to think about. Dan can wait a day — tonight it’s Laura… “Seen any good fillums recently?”
“The new Star Trek was fun. Hurt Locker, the Oscar winner — you should see that if you haven’t.”
We blether on for a while, then I realise the time. “I need to head. Laura’s coming over for dinner.”
“Oh. Sorry to miss her. Give her my regards, mate.”
I grab three large sushi platters and a few dumplings from a place by the station, and head home. Her favourite, and besides, we don’t want to be wasting time cooking, do we? She’ll need to leave by half ten, it being a school night.
I text her to confirm I’m on my way; she arrives ten minutes after I do.
I know I’d suggested it, but seeing her remove her coat to expose her stockings and a skirt my da would call a ‘nice pelmet’ – with crimson high heels I’m astounded she can walk in — I’m lost for words. She’s stunning.
She smiles, half shy, half pleased with the effect on me. Her lipstick matches the shoes, and just begs to be kissed and smudged, so I instigate that. The shoes make her a couple inches taller than me, but hey, I’ve got used to kissing someone taller recently.
Getting to Ade’s was a bit of a rush, but I got there on time, sitting on the steps of the building to change out of my sensible lace-ups. I’d put the little skirt on on my way out of work — no-one could see it under my long coat. I love these stilettos — veritable ‘fuck-me shoes’, but given I can’t manage more than a few yards in them, they don’t get worn much. Perfect for reclining on a sofa and showing off your legs, though, which is what I do after impressing Adrian with my outfit and having a quick hello snog. I could get used to that.
I stretch out my legs, pointing my toes. “I love this sushi place. Good choice.” Munching steadily through various nigiri and uramaki rolls, I’m pretty happy no matter what Escort Yozgat we end up doing.
Ade puts more pieces on his plate and snuggles up to me, all warm and male. “Mm. I love this stuff.”
“Hard to believe, fifteen years ago there were no sushi take-aways here.”
He agrees. “I remember when I first moved to Kilburn, wanting food, anything that wasn’t an Irish pub, there was this small grotty Japanese restaurant up til Cricklewood Broadway, all painted white chipboard. They had picture menus. I got a bento box the first time, liked it, and eventually dared a platter of sushi. Shocking, raw fish was, then. I liked all but the eel.”
“I remember that place. Very local-place-for-local-Japanese-people, wasn’t it? They never even bothered trying to speak English at you, just carried on in Japanese and you had to figure out what was going on.”
“I admired that. Nothing that wasn’t solved by keeping cash on the table, so they could charge for everything as you went along. Why should they adapt to the English?”
This attitude would explain why Adrian still sounds as Irish as he did at eighteen, at least when he’s not having to compromise to be understood, while Will’s accent has mellowed significantly more, despite his recent years of living back in Belfast. Stubborn git, but you have to kinda admire the principle.
“They probably sold much more food once they had a basic menu in English, though. Like that BMW guy who lectured us said, ‘when we want to sell to you, we will speak English. If you want to sell to us, then you must speak German.'”
“Genau. Das kann ich.”
“You’re a man of endless talents.”
“Indeed I am!” He grins and runs the tip of his tongue along his top lip. “If you want me to be showing you some more of them, best be getting ‘yer tap aff’.” My top off, only in the vernacular also meaning to have a good time, like in an unexpected heatwave. “It was ‘upstairs inside, downstairs outside’ you were offering, yeah?”
That’s one way of summarising our agreement. “I don’t think anyone’s seriously used that phrase since The Professionals was on! You were barely born then!”
Ade grins. “They’re showing repeats at the moment. It’s mostly fascinating for the backdrops, showing all this part of London, Waterloo, all blackened with coal dust, and before glass and steel became a thing.”
“Uh-huh. And Bodie and Doyle driving round in their Ford Cortina like low-budget James Bonds doesn’t attract at all?”
He’s letching at me in ironic fashion, as if he were a 70s spy, then changes the subject. “It’s traditional to eat sushi off a naked woman’s body, isn’t it?”
“So they say. I think it’s just an excuse to get a naked woman involved. I suppose it did help keep the fish slightly warm so you could taste it better.”
Always fun to get Ade speechless. One point to me. Ha!
“Oh no, I wasn’t the model. Just picking up sushis with chopsticks. Then fingers. There was a long debate about potential effects of wasabi on certain body parts, I recall…”
“Huh. I’ve seen you knocking back entire packets of the stuff.”
“Easy way to impress laddy students, that was! Yeah. I still like it, but I don’t eat that much unless I’m desperate to clear a really bad cold. Wanna test how skin temperature affects the flavour?”
I’m here to get topless; might as well get a move on.
I pull off my T-shirt. I’m wearing a lined bra that’s pretty modest, and turn round to let him deal with the fiddly catches.
Once I’ve slithered the contraption down my arms and rubbed over the red lines on my sides, I turn back towards him.
Adrian is mesmerised. I have to admit, my tits are my best asset. They’ve grown as I’ve put weight on over the years.
“Go on then, pick up a couple pieces and put them on me.” I indicate the top of my breasts. If I lie back on his sofa, it’s near enough to horizontal.
Shaking his head, he picks up a salmon and a tuna sashimi slice and lays them reverently on my left breast with his chopsticks. “What else?”
“Sea bass,” I suggest. It’s my favourite.
He lays the nigiri rectangle on its side, both rice and fish against me, then reaches for another nigiri.
“No, not mackerel! The smell’s too much!”
He drops that and goes for a California roll, instead. It’s not like this is any authentic experience, after all.
I stay still.
“Pass me a whisky too, would you? Anything that goes…”
Adrian stands up, fetches another tumbler, and selects a bottle. “Japanese one. This is one of their peated whiskies, this — Hakushu. They say it goes with shrimp; let’s give it a whirl.”
He pours a generous measure for each of us.
“Cheers,” I say, from my reclining position.
“Sláinte.” You can take the boy out of Ireland…
“Why don’t you take your shirt off, too?”