Students' Union

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Booksie Classic
A woman away from home is offered an encounter too good to miss

Submitted: February 16, 2017

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Submitted: February 16, 2017

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Students’ Union

The space, the carefree attitude, the requirement to live up to the reputation stamped upon the word ‘student’. I wandered round the campus, determined to make the most of the weekend. When the details of the course had first come through, I had ignored it. Then my boss discovered the information and thought it would look good on my career development plan. More likely, he saw an opportunity to tick another box without any effort. So there I was, Thursday afternoon, 200 miles from home, a single bed in a single room with beige walls and a window securely designed to only open 2 inches. A three-day residential course designed to maximise managerial potential. Ironic considering that finding a female manager in the company I worked for was like asking God to admit it’s all been one big hoax!

I didn’t like being away from home. Living with the same person for best part of a decade is far from tedious, as many magazines will have people believe. Life settles into a reassuring comfort, security brings safety, routine is soothing and the partnership runs like clockwork. The mundane jobs are dispatched with only a moments thought leaving all the time possible for activities of the pleasurable kind! Now I was well out of my comfort zone. That may be called boring by those who look down their noses and spout that life is for living. But I say that’s it’s a good job we all don’t want to be off skiing the newest hotspot because who would be shopping in Asda during the witching hour?

I had enjoyed my uni days immensely. Living close enough to home to top up on shopping and clean washing but far enough away to ensure a ‘quick visit’ from parents was never an unannounced one! The first year was just that – a year of firsts; first hangover, first broken bone, first time I understood why I had been through so many boys without feeling the urge to do anything more than dump them! That last revelation was down to a petite strawberry-blonde called Shauna who lived on the floor below. Depressingly never interested in me, I was the shoulder she spent many nights crying on when Simon, Mark, Kevin, Dan, whoever, had dumped her. Then the second year came and I never saw her again. By my final year, the routine was set and worked a treat. There was a perfect ying-yang balance between work and play. Then, after graduation, the promised emails slowed down as those friends, forced together for three years, found their lives incompatible and paths never crossed again.

So, even though I would never admit it, I was quite looking forward to spending a weekend here. If I had to be away from home, this was the best place I could be. I hadn’t realised until the confirmation came through that the course was held in my old stomping ground. I love my other half more than anything, yet my life at university seemed to be a thing I wanted to keep away from her, as if I was different person then and the two worlds are not harmonious. Nyla had offered to come over, to stay in my room whilst I was in meetings. I had put her off as tactfully as possible. When you build a life with someone, whilst it is wonderful to share everything, there does have to be something that is just yours, not shared, just a defining part of who you as an individual before you became half of another whole.

The schedule detailed the first meeting as an informal introduction; meet fellow candidates and the leaders over coffee and cookies. This was in the student union bar at midday followed by a compulsory session detailing the prerequisites for a good manager. Evening meal was a gourmet finger buffet served in the restaurant nearby – chips and cheese from the union ‘Snak-attak’ was not offered. Therefore, the afternoon and evening was mapped out and past fairly quickly. Although the contents and leaders seemed promising, the other candidates were the usual assortment of sharp-suited males with their hands-on-hips-groin-centred-stances. There were a few females but they mostly comprised of aging secretaries, sent on the course out of sympathy and pacification.

So by the time Saturday evening came, I felt I could not endure any more of the group. I had run up a big phone bill calling home. I felt slightly guilty that I was having a relaxed time whilst back home life was continuing but two jobs were being done by one person. Nyla had almost begged to come down for a night; she greatly noticed my absence from home. I said I was tired and heading for bed. I even feigned a headache. Things were already slightly weird. I couldn’t believe I found myself lying to her; this was something that never happened between us. Why did I do it? Was it the influence of campus life seeping back into my blood? I wandered off out of my room. I’d had enough of the four walls I was living in. This was the hardest part to endure; at home, our bedroom was our solace, cosy and relaxing. My temporary accommodation was claustrophobic; squeaky bed lacking the warmth of your lover, bare walls, smudged with the feint, painted-over smears of student living. There was a television but I could not tune it to anything but S4C and a very grainy image of a gardening programme. It was mid-afternoon; we had finished earlier than scheduled. I wanted to feel like a student again. 34 years old yet 21 at heart. It was summer holiday time; the student body had all but departed for their familial homes. The only place open was the American style bar. I had never been in a bar by myself – another weird thing! I felt the urge to drink beer from a bottle with a slice of lime in the neck. I found the only free table in the bar, thankfully up a corner near the back and watched life go by for an hour.

The bar was reasonably busy; it had the advantage of being the only one open. I saw many people from my course, laughing in their pretentious manner, trying to surpass each other with their tales of their boardroom (and bedroom!) antics. I had avoided their eye contact, more willing to chew glass than sit with them and become involved in their sycophantic conversations. Three beers later, I decided I needed to get out and roam about. I entered the ladies. That’s when the really weird stuff started.

I was drying my hands when the door burst open and a flash of blonde whizzed past and locked herself in the only vacant cubicle. It reopened a tiny crack, a quiet voice hissed out ‘Do something’, and the door slammed shut. I was bewildered for a second, but then in a moment of God Knows Why, I grabbed one of the Out of Order signs off the adjacent door and stuck it on the door she was hiding behind. Again, the main door flung open and a scowl of dark brunette stormed in. Blessedly ignoring me, she marched to the cubicle I had removed the sign from and hammered with the force of Thor upon the door. When there was no answer, she knelt and thrust her head under the door before thundering away, muttering something unintelligible but clearly containing language you wouldn’t use in front of your gran! So the next question I could ask myself is why I didn’t just walk out of the toilet then and there but instead a ill-advised curiosity made me clean my hands again, check my hair and then call out – ‘Coast’s clear’. A rattle of metal lock and the door creaked open. A cautious glance round confirmed to her I was telling the truth. The door opened the rest of the way and she breezed out as if nothing had happened, fluffing up her hair and checking her make-up.

‘Thanks for that quick thinking. She is such a drag. I’ve been trying to break it off with her for ages and she just won’t accept it. I’ve been avoiding her all day. Thought this stupid seminar would get me away from her but no, the crazy psycho had to follow me here.’ She must have caught the bemused look on my face. She turned and smiled. Introduced herself as Daisy, a post-graduate research assistant currently working for a professor examining the subversive portrayal of females in Gothic literature with particular reference to the eroticism of the vampire genre. She was attending a weekend seminar on the subject. I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief – how much more interesting did all that sound than the boring crap I was being subjected to. I introduced myself and she smiled in a sympathetic manner when I revealed I was unavoidably connected to the ostentatious group now trying to flip beers mats! She was intriguing, a real sparkle in her eyes that was charismatic.

‘Fancy getting outta here? I’m not gonna hang around here for Psycho Annie to return and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure as hell that you don’t want to socialise with that group of ‘Yes Lord Sugar’s’ blathering on out there.’ I couldn’t think of anything better. A 10-minute taxi ride later and we slipped into a quaint little pub, ordered two pints of some local brew that sounded more like an advert in a farmer’s magazine for an ointment to cure testicular conditions in bulls and found seats up a corner away from the suspicious glares of the locals.

Considering we had only just met, conversation was easy. Daisy was incredibly passionate about her job and spoke with enthusiasm.

‘So I found myself bored stiff with life as a teacher. I was always having ‘informal chats’ with my Head of Department about my improper conduct with the kids. Jesus, anyone would have thought I was seducing all the sixth form girls! Teaching needs to be interesting and passionate, especially a subject like English. How can you energise your class when you are stuck like a bookmark between the pages of a boring inflexible syllabus? I was pulled up for my use of inappropriate literature many times. How small minded can the administration be to limit the children of our society to the words of the writers they deem to be enduring when people’s taste in literature varies as much as their taste in music, yet no one forces kids to change their CDs. I wanted to shake my classes up and shock them into realising literature is not boring and there is something out there for everyone. I had to leave. I had been sidelined to all the shit groups, the no-hopers and the truants, the ‘can’t be arsed’ slappers and chavs. My brain turned to mush! Then, one day, whilst chucking a sicky, I nicked a newspaper from a cafe and saw the job ad for the research assistant and the rest, as they say, is history.’

Gradually the beers were downed and the conversation flowed easily. I learnt about the girl from whom she was hiding. An obsessive mature student on her course who was irresistibly romantic in her courtship. Unfortunately, this soon turned to an unhealthy mania and damaging jealousy. It was a relationship doomed from the first illicit email scrutiny. I revealed how different from that my own relationship was; it seemed idyllic in comparison. So why then did I hurry to press the busy signal when my mobile rang? I was immediately wracked with guilt but would worry about the consequences later. The conversation here was the easiest I had ever known. It wasn’t long before the bar was ringing its old-fashioned bell to signify last orders. I could see the disappointment in Daisy’s eyes. I was uneasy. I had a feeling Daisy had expectations of the night and I didn’t like to think what they were. Yet why had I silenced the phone connecting me to my lover? I wasn’t prepared to end the night both because I was enjoying myself but more because I wasn’t sure how it would end. Then I remembered the place we used to go when sleep evaded us, or when we needed coffee after an all-night deadline session.

So, when the sun made an appearance, it found us sat in the service station down the road, up the corner in the rest area, hands wrapped round Styrofoam cups filled with expensively priced cheap coffee. There came an easy silence as we watched the overweight truckers wake up from their cabs, wandering in to use the facilities, get a coffee, fill themselves up with grease ready for the day. We nibbled on a chocolate muffin, absent-mindedly picking at the crumbs on the splayed wrapper. Then I yawned, realising that it had been a long time since I had slept, and then it was broken, lonely slumber.

‘Shall we wander back? I could do with a few hours sleep before I drive home.’ I was not even thinking about the last day of the course I was inevitably going to miss. We wound our way through the tables and out into the main foyer. Daisy linked her arm through mine and dragged me off to the left.

‘Please, just ten minutes.’ She begged as she led me into the amusement arcade, smiling like a child at the funfair. I acquiesced easily for I loved the games myself. Those ten minutes turned into almost an hour as we blasted our way through zombies, drove at break-neck speeds through exotic countries, lined up three cherries and won a few quid and even won a sickly-looking teddy on the grabbing machine. Daisy was ultra competitive and I wasn’t willing to be beaten. We laughed and clung onto each other; we drew stares from the lewd lorry drivers, coming to the conclusion that we were a couple. Then came the guilt again – I didn’t do anything to stop those accusatory stares. In fact, I found myself playing up to the drivers, little flirty glances, possessive body language and mischievous smiles. Daisy knew exactly what was going on and willingly joined in. We walked out hand-in-hand, heading for the shop. I marvel at the things that are on sale in motorway service shops. Has anyone ever used the service station for anything other than buying a coffee and having a pee? So why, in God’s name, do they sell tins of travel sweets with your name on? Plastic novelty mugs with flattering slogans on? Tea towels with comedy sheep on? Tucked away amongst this set of bizarre souvenirs was a box of biros shaped like tropical flamingos. Garishly neon blue, fluorescent pink and vivid yellow with a fluff of rainbow hair and feet that removed to reveal the biro head. Daisy plucked out a luminous green one with shockingly purple spiky hair.

‘Isn’t this just the tackiest thing you have ever seen?’ marvelled Daisy. I agreed, it was gruesome. She didn’t put it down however. ‘Don’t you think its beauty is in its ugliness?’ I just raised an eyebrow to her comment! She continued, ‘I know it’s only a pen but it has certain...something about it. It is horrible and tacky but its tawdriness is somehow appealing.’ I must admit that I was bemused by her contemplation of this mass produced piece, she was studying it as if it was a piece of bespoke art.

‘Can’t really see that myself.’ I admitted to her.

‘Then I shall buy it for you so you can spend time with it. I will endeavour to change your perspective of..’ she studied the label ‘..Mr Beaky Biro’. She dug the money from her pocket and presented me with the pen as if she had handed over treasure. As we wandered back to the campus, she still tried to convince me to alter my thoughts on the biro. By the time we reached the main halls, even she would admit it had gone from the sublime to the ridiculous – we now laughed at how Mr Beaky had become a symbol for the oppression of the exploited workforces in eastern bloc countries and the marginalisation of the aesthetically challenged minority ostracised by the beauty-obsessed public. Then we were outside my room. The awkwardness came upon us. I reasoned with myself. I had done nothing wrong. Granted, I was maybe a little flirty in the service station but I had a clear conscience. So why would one last coffee hurt? Except all I had in my room were two cans of Pepsi. Therefore, that is what we were drinking. Sitting on the creaky bed in the dingy room with the distant sounds of merriment wafting in through the slightly ajar window. Then, right there at that moment I regretted asking her in. We weren’t talking, just sitting. She slurped her Pepsi and I glanced up towards the noise. She was very attractive but she knew it. Sitting posed on the bed, she was giving off so many signals that you would have had to be a corpse not to notice. I started with the guilt then. I loved Nyla with an all-consuming passion, she was my world and I respected her too much to betray her but...

The thought was left hanging, too loaded to be continued with. Then came the most dangerous thought – Nyla would never find out! I stood up, disgusted with myself. How dare I think that? But she wouldn’t. She would though as I could never hide my guilt. But maybe if I forgot about it I could treat it like it had never happened. I couldn’t do that, for God sake I even struggle keeping birthday presents secret. Yet hundreds of people do. What if the unthinkable happened and Daisy’s life and Nyla’s crossed? Lies don’t stay hidden forever, they eat away like disease, making rotten the good around them. I was gazing out of the window, trying to find a way out – of the room and the situation. Then Daisy was behind me, hand on my shoulder, I turned.

‘I’m sorry, I can’t do this, I have...at home...’

‘Don’t you think I know? You haven’t stopped talking about her all night. But I think you want this. I think you could have walked out at any moment, stopped this whenever you wanted to. In the loo, you stayed washing your hands. You needn’t have come for a drink with me. Why did you suggest the service station? What about all the flirting for those drivers? Even the Pepsi was your idea. You could have walked away anytime but didn’t.’ Her voice became quiet and husky until she was barely whispering. She had also moved very close, I could feel her breath on me. ‘I don’t want anything from you beyond here and now. You want the same. Then you will go home and continue your life and never see me again. Tell me I am wrong.’ I couldn’t, nothing would come out. I was saying no inside my head, I could see Nyla crying but was powerless. It was going to happen, here in this begrimed room a debase act of infidelity was going to happen.

My arm had gone to sleep, now pins and needles were prickling up from my fingers. I eased my arm free and wiggled my fingers. Then I froze, dawning was the realisation of my actions. I dare not open my eyes, if I didn’t look it would not be real. Yet the bed felt cold on my right so I chanced it. Relief – it was empty. Daisy was not there, I was alone. I was asleep in my clothes. I was confused yet reassured. Clearly there had been no wrong done. Then came the confusion. I had sworn that...nah. I didn’t want to figure it out. I was just so pleased that I was alone and had not betrayed Nyla. I felt light and full of life. I wanted to get home. I grabbed my mobile, sitting by one empty Pepsi can – too much caffeine always gave me funny dreams - and dialled home. Nyla was overjoyed I had cut my trip short and was coming home. I told her to not worry about the Sunday courses I was missing, I would easily appease the boss. I ended the call, eager to pack and get gone. I pulled my bag from the cupboard and threw my toiletries in, then turning to get my clothes I plucked them out of the wardrobe. Something fell to the floor, tumbling from the pocket of my suit jacket, something plastic, luminous green and purple...


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