Copyright © 2018, Dave Potter
With thanks to Cafter Homme for the editing and suggestions.
The following story is extremely different from most of those I write in both tone and content. I thought it up after reading some of the erotica penned by the famous author Anaïs Nin and was inspired to write something more in line with the length and tone that she writes in. That said, this is not a Nin tribute nor even a tale written in her manner: I am me and she was she and our tastes differ. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy it.
Michael had always had the feeling that he should have been born in a different age. Perhaps it was because he had parents who were National Trust members and so spent half of his childhood being whisked through one stately home or another. Or possibly it was because he loved reading adventure stories involving knights and castles or World War I fighter pilots involved in daring dogfights. Whatever the reason, he always knew that where he should not be was in Year 12 at Trentham Road High Sixth Form in 1996.
What was the problem? The problem that every boy of that age has I suppose. Girls. He’d discovered them. He loved them. They hadn’t noticed him. His days were spent in a hormone-induced daze, gazing at the cleavage of Julia Jenkinson or the legs of Hannah Baines or the absolute complete perfection of Jenny Watkinson knowing that all were well and truly out of his reach. Even the middling Becky Robinson hardly casted a glance in his direction. It was excruciating.
And nowhere worse than A-level English. Was it his fault that God had made him a man with a passion for literature? The only man with a passion for literature. Four times a week, for an hour and ten minutes, he had to sit at a table with the aforementioned holy trinity of Trentham Road womanhood, plus eight more gorgeous babes whilst being lectured to on modern women’s poetry, George Eliot and Dorothy Wordsworth by Mrs. Cooper whose husband had just left her for a younger model. The moral of each tale seemed to be that all men are bastards and, as he was clearly the only bastard in the room, a dozen pairs of feminine eyes fixed upon him with thinly-veiled disgust.
And to make it worse, that discarded old maid had decreed that he be partnered with Jenny Watkinson, the most delectable of them all, and that every time they sat together, almost touching, her cute dimples when she smiled, her silky blonde hair, her sparkling blue eyes and her tantalising cleavage sent him into some sort of demonic mash-up of heaven and hell. And just to add insult to injury, in the evening when they were having their dinner, his mum would pipe up, “How was school today, son?” and “Are you still in the same group as Sandra Watkinson’s daughter. She’s quite a bonny lass, is she not? I went to school with her mum and she was pretty too. You should try asking her out one day, you know. They’re a lovely family.”
Ask her out? If only! He longed for what he could not have. To take Jenny Watkinson, nay, any one of those girls in English in his arms, to plant a kiss on her rosebud lips just as Stephen Guest does with Lucy Deane in ‘Middlemarch’, now that was beyond a dream. Their curves and smiles, smooth skin and sparkling eyes tempted and teased him continually, night and day, allowing no escape. They haunted his dreams and his waking and his member strained in his pants whenever he thought of them.
And being born in the wrong period, he looked to the past for relief. ‘Oh, if I were to just get married!’ he sighs to himself. He envied the Asians who have their marriages arranged for them by their parents. Wouldn’t that be easier! His mum and dad pick a suitable girl of the right class and it would be happily ever after. No embarrassment, no awkwardness. If only!
That Sunday they go to a National Trust property. While his mum and dad take gran to the tearoom, he wanders off on his own, through the dining rooms and drawing rooms. And as his feet wander, so too does his mind.
He imagines that 1996 is but a distant dream of the future and instead it is 1856. His mind transports him to that more genteel era when those lavish furnishings were new. Gone are the ‘Here to help!’ volunteers and the camera-laden pensioners and instead he is a guest at the local baronet’s annual garden party. He is a dapper young man of seventeen in a pressed morning suit whose parents have recognised that he is of the age; that they need to marry their son off to a suitable maiden so that he can start a family of his own. But who is the correct girl to choose? They have scoured the town for suitable candidates and have talked to the fathers of all the eligible girls. Michael is middle-class; they need a girl whose family are of similar standing. But Michael is intelligent too (he is expected to pass all four of his A-levels) and so they need a girl that will challenge him. But she should be kind and gracious also, well-mannered, healthy and, if possible, pretty. And, having done their work well, they know that only one girl fits the bill. He recalls the awkward first meeting with Miss Jennifer Watkinson in the sitting room of her house. She smiles at him and his heart melts. She is dressed in her best day dress, a delightful tiered creation in blue-grey satin with lace on the flounces, held wide by a large crinoline before diving into a delightfully tiny waist. He remembers the almost imperceptible creaks in the quiet room caused by her breathing against the strictures of the tight corset that created that wonderful waist and their polite yet nervous conversation with one another.
Feeling his rod stiffen, he heads outside.
He passes through the formal garden and into the maze. He wanders through the hedged pathways thinking only of the delightful maiden who will be his wife. Still in a daze, he reaches the centre where the bench stands under an arbour of roses and there, to his surprise, is his betrothed, his desire. She is wearing a walking dress of tartan print and has her bonnet on her head, her delightful face being framed by the large black bow that is tied under her chin. She too his lost to the world but, upon his arrival, she looks up.
“I could not wait!”
“It is so hateful there, all those people talking and staring. I so wished to get away, to be alone… with you.”
“I too, my darling.”
“Sit with me.”
He sits on the bench and smells her scent. Cautiously, he takes her gloved hand in his and squeezes it. She smiles, inviting more. He snakes his hand closer, around that rock-hard waist, caressing the stays and material that keep him from his desires. She gasps and moves her face towards him. “Michael, my love.”
“Jennifer, I shall always be yours!”
Their lips meet and he dissolves into bliss.
“Michael Shingler! What the fuck?”
He looks up. He is alone on the bench, his hand clasped around his penis, not her waist. But Jennifer Watkinson is there in front of him. The 1996 version.
He gasps and blushes. His rod collapses with the shock despite the flesh and blood sight of her in tight jeans and a figure-hugging top.
“Jenny! I… I was just… it wasn’t what it looks like and…”
“You were calling my name, declaring undying love and playing with… that.”
“I’m sorry, I, err… I thought I was alone and… don’t tell anyone, please.”
After a moment she smiles wickedly and strides over to him. He fumbles at his crotch trying to put the straining monster away but she places her elegant hand over his to stop him. “I won’t say anything if you tell me exactly what you were thinking of.”
“I wasn’t thinking of anything. Well, I was but…”
“The truth, Michael, the full truth or else! I heard you call my name from practically the other side of the garden, was it me?”
“Well…” He turns things over in his mind. Can he tell the truth? Will she mock him mercilessly? Will he ever be able to meet her sky-blue eyes again? Yet what could make things worse than now? He plunges into the icy water.
“Ye…yes, it w…w…was you. I was f…fa…fantasising about you. We all… I mean, all… all the boys do. But th…this was d…di…diifferent. It was you but… but not you… if th…that makes sense, which I… I know it doesn’t, but…”
“Tell me more. I am intrigued.” She sits close to him on the bench. Her hand has not moved from his crotch. He stiffens even further.
“It was you but not you now. I was in the past, a hundred and fifty years ago. Victorian times. This place, this house and gardens and everything. Our times are so crass and shallow. People screw each other and talk dirty. They bare all to the world and don’t care about anything. But back then, when this place was built, when women wore crinolines and corsets and people were polite; back then when the books we read in Mrs. Cooper’s class were written. Back then things were nobler and purer and… better. And in my fantasy we lived then. You were wearing a glorious dress with a wide crinoline and tight stays. I was dressed in a suit with a cravat. We were engaged; our parents made the match because we are the same class. We came to this place because it is private. On this bench we stole out first kiss and… and then…”
“…and then I came.”
“Yes. You came.”
She moves closer to him and he feels her breath on his cheek. She is breathing heavily as if her middle is constricted by a corset yet she wears only a t-shirt. She leans over to him and her hand encircles his tool. “In all those English lessons I wondered,” she whispers. “I wondered if anyone else was as entranced by those stories, if anyone else shared my fantasies, escaping to those simpler times. I never guessed that you were the one who did so completely, Michael Shingler, never in a thousand years. I never saw you as being so romantic.”
“Really? You… You… Yeah I always have wanted things to be like that. I was born in the wrong time.”
“Me too,” says Jenny Watkinson climbing on top of him. “Now, what were you saying about our first kiss…?”