Featured Review on this writing by Joe Stuart

Sunday Lunch

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
REAL LIFE - ROMANCE
It is far better to eat and drink before you come in for the procedure!

I had my thighs done last year...

Submitted: May 12, 2019

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Submitted: May 12, 2019

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I lie on a wet bath towel on our bed, roll the black stockings up my smooth legs and pull on a comfortable pair of briefs. Once I’ve finished dressing, I stagger downstairs. Helen is waiting for me in the hall, radiant in a plain white dress, golden locket and ballet pumps. Her features are softer now, her face has mellowed, but she still looks as lovely as the day we met. Our red and black Mini awaits us on the pink-chipped gravel drive.

She drives, taking a scenic route through the beautiful countryside. We follow a narrow, winding lane until we reach her sacred place. Helen pulls in beside a gently babbling brook. The sign on the gate reads: Private! Keep Out!  The sun warms our faces as we climb out of the car, relishing the intoxicating aroma of spring. Helen takes my hand assuredly, then leads me through the gate into the trees. She kisses my lips and life begins anew. Bluebells carpet the woods. Sticky-caramel chestnut buds burst into leaf. Primrose smatter the borders.

Helen points up at the strange light. The sky is pure, brilliant white.

*****

I flinch when I ease my legs out of the car. As I hobble across the car park, I see a pretty man struggling on crutches, an ugly woman coping with a limp. We enter The White Rabbits and find everything has changed.

Our favourite dish, Homemade Steak and Kidney Pudding, has been struck off the menu. The musty saloon bar, with its lucky brass horseshoes, roaring fire and skittles has disappeared, transformed into a contemporary family dining room with built-in conservatory and kids’ play area. Three old boys sit watching us force our way through the gushing throng of weekend alcoholics, from behind their frothing mugs of bitter.

‘Behold! The Three Wise Men,’ Helen quips.

 I wish I hadn’t crawled down the high street to buy antiseptic today. The supermarket and chemist were closed.

‘Why is it that corner shops don’t stock antiseptic? What am I supposed to do if I bleed?’ 

‘There are far less fortunate souls in the world than you, darling,’ Helen reminds me.

The staff are all wearing silver name badges with black lettering. The jolly landlady, Jill Hoopoe, tips us the wink and tells a sullen-looking floorwalker, Monty Fleck, to take care of us. We are duly rounded up like sheep, herded into the conservatory then left to pull out our own chairs. Our table is the furthest one from the toilets.

My stockings slide down my shaven legs and gather around my knees. Blossoming carnation pink with embarrassment, I unzip my tight skinny jeans and grope around inside them trying to haul my nylons up.

‘No room at the inn,’ Helen observes sagely.

‘Ha bloody ha!’ I say, grimacing, forcing my aching legs under the low table.

Jill interrupts us, barking like mad, ‘Not that table, Monty! Table 9!’

I hear a deep, husky voice. ‘It’s alright, love. You can sit there.’  

Our server, Niki Trainer, is slim with shag black hair, a faded navy velvet jumpsuit, and a huge diamante pendant which clings to her flat chest. She emits a snarly grin, reminiscent of a predatory alien, and slaps two tatty burgundy menus down on the table.

There’s a new Soul Sundays poster on the wall featuring The Real Barry White who is due to make a miraculous appearance over lunch. Helen’s voice cracks as she suggests the possibility of a reincarnation. I tell her it’s probably a hologram like The Real Roy Orbison. Her face soon lights up when ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ belts out of the crackling sound system. She reaches across the oak table, takes my hand in hers and gets all emotional, rubbing my signet ring with the ball of her thumb.

‘It hurts me inside when you take your stockings off,’ she says, dripping with sympathy.

What a wonderful thing to say! I tell her I adore her. I promise to love her in Heaven.

Niki butts in. ‘What can I get you guys to drink?’

I look at Helen. Her hands are clasped together, her eyes are closed. Helen is praying.

Niki shouts in her ear, waking her from her reverie, ‘What do you want to drink?’

Helen jerks, unclasps her hands.

‘Do you have ginger beer?’ she asks, seething.

Niki sounds surprised, announces to the world, ‘I do!’

‘I shall drink ginger beer then,’ Helen decides. 

Two large families arrive with their withered elderly parents in tow. Niki grows impatient.

‘You?’

‘Malbec.’

'Small?'

‘Large.’

Niki returns ten minutes later with a baby bottle of ginger ale and petit Malbec.

‘What can you old guys eat?’ she enquires.

I carefully unroll my sellotaped black napkin, clean the food off the dirty cutlery and stare out of the window at two white rabbits playing tag in the nearby field.

Helen rears up on her chair and roars, ‘What did you say? Heathen Daughter of Satan!’

A hush descends on the conservatory. A young mother covers her baby’s ears. The three wise men watch us with renewed interest. A sombre-looking man in a black robe fingers his sweaty dog collar uneasily, clutching a crucifix.

There is a clatter of cutlery on plates as the mob resume dining; a dreadful sucking, slurping, burping noise of wind forced from greedy mouths on Paris goblets. ‘Addicted to Love’ comes on. Some semblance of order is restored. The kids scream as they pelt each other with hard red, yellow and green balls in the play area. At least they’re not playing nasty, violent video games online, I reflect. 

Niki flushes. ‘I said what can I get you guys to eat?

I have two pepper pots, no salt cellar and a conflict on my table.

I soothe Helen, ‘Leave it, Helen, Helen? Helen!’

‘No! Starter!’ she hisses smarting, squinting, ‘Just the Aberdeenshire Prime Roast Beef.’

Niki looks up from her triplicate bill pad and cocks her head, ‘How do you want it?’

‘Well done, of course,’ Helen huffs.

The server feasts her coal black eyes on me. ‘You?’

‘I’ll have the Cumbrian Crayfish Tail and Prawn Platter followed by the Beef.’

An hour later, Niki serves up a culinary apology for Crayfish Tail and Prawn Platter. The translucent shrimps have an insipid off efflorescence that boasts: ‘Our Chef defrosted us in warm water!’ There are no crays… hiding in there. Helen picks up a fish fork and practices being a mum.

‘Here, let me cut it up for you, baby,’ she offers, forking the disgusting pink gloop into her starving beak. 

I’m very hungry indeed. I wave my arms at her in protest, ‘No! Stop! Put it back!’

‘Forgive me for I have sinned,’ Helen says. Then she removes the macerated mixture from her drooling mouth and slops it back on the plate.

By now, I am in agony. I massage my thighs, flex my knees and waggle my toes under the table in a vain bid to alleviate the excruciating pain. I realise I have no feelings left.

Helen’s face folds with polite concern, ‘Does it hurt? Please tell me it doesn’t hurt.’

‘Course it bloody hurts!’ I yell thumping the table so hard my wine spurts out everywhere.

‘There’s no need to swear,’ she says glumly, dabbing her red cheeks, ‘I hate it when you swear.’

‘Helen!’ I retort, at my most arch, ‘I was only feigning swearing, okay?’

Before she can kick my legs, Niki Trainer wades in with two plates of bloody rare roast beef served up with a saucer-sized crucified Yorkshire Pudding.

‘Mint sauce?’ she suggests uncertainly.

Helen gives up caring, ‘Go on then! Spoil me!’

Jill Hoopoe chortles away in the background, ‘Not Mint, Nik! Horseradish!’

We drive home in silence. I despair as we pass the pretty woods, now carpeted in burnt black litter. Bugs burst into life, smudging the car windscreen oily olive brown when Helen applies the wipers. Cruel thorns invade the borders.

Once again, my wife takes my hand in hers and points up at the unusual twilight. The sky is pure, brilliant white.

I hurt more than I ever hurt in my life. Helen consoles me with gory tales of childbirth.

‘Lord, seal his lips on his aches and pains,’ she says, ‘his aches and pains, his aches an…’

My heavy eyelids sag; the effect of too much Malbec. I doze off in the soft leather seat and recall my initial consultation with Mr Raj.

*****

‘It is far better to eat and drink before you come in for the procedure,’ Raj advised, grinning, ‘The treatment is done under local anaesthetic. There will be no pain. At least one nurse will be on hand at all times to ensure you are comfortable. You will need a taxi to take you home.’

Helen hates driving in London. I made a mental note to book one.  My consultant, a petite, dark-haired Indian beauty, outlined the major risks: bruises, aches, pains, thermal injury, red skin, pins and needles, deep vein thrombosis. Raj assured me I would suffer from phlebitis. I signed the buff consent form anyway then asked him if he could remind me of the benefits?

Six weeks later, I strolled into the plush clinic’s operating theatre. I was warmly greeted by a pretty nurse who gave me a flimsy green surgical tunic, white felt slippers and a baby-hug disposable nappy to wear. She waited outside the door while I got changed. Raj breezed in without knocking and made me stand, naked, in front of a white emulsion wall while nurse photographed my legs from various angles on her I-phone. I shivered as he read out my legal rights, my last rites? Then it was time for my treatment.

I lay on the operating table in my tight-fitting nappy, legs apart, the nurse between my legs and joked, ‘I guess you get to meet a lot of men in my position.’

Noor, the pretty middle eastern nurse, didn’t appreciate my sense of humour. Neither did Mr Raj who slapped my inner right thigh and pinched a fistful of fat.  My legs were sloshed with disinfectant and covered with rubber sheets. I poured with sweat as the surgeon injected local anaesthetic into thirty-six different parts of my anatomy.

My face contorted in a death mask. I bared my teeth, flared my nostrils. Noor threw me a wicked, smug smile. I cringed, holding my breath as Raj inserted small wires into tiny incisions in large veins in my thighs.

‘Goggles, Doctor?’ Noor asked.

‘Thank you,’ he replied, slotting them onto his hooked nose.

‘Laser?’

‘Please.’

He looked so funny in shades! Then the lights went out. I lay back and dreamed of Helen sunbathing in her white bikini on a sunny beach in Devon as I waded out of the surf dressed only in a thong and a blush, showing off my new legs.

Mr Raj transmitted the laser heat into my veins and sealed them closed. I could taste smoke in my mouth as they burned. Expertly, the surgeon extracted my smaller veins through miniature cuts or avulsions using a long steel hook. My cuts were closed with steri-slips half the width of plasters, twice as uncomfortable.

I was instructed to lie back on the bloody couch for half an hour before taking my new legs for a gentle stroll around the sterile white treatment room. I recuperated on the grey studded leather sofa in the newly-refurbished reception area, drinking hot milky tea, scoffing rich teas and chocolate bourbons. Until my taxi arrived - fifteen minutes early.

*****

Helen waits for me on our bed, radiant in her white shroud and gold locket, as alluring as she looked in black lacy underwear on the night of our honeymoon. I sprawl across the bed and groan as she slowly rolls the stockings down my legs. Then, tenderly, my angel peels out all twenty-two skin closures. My skin is a living rainbow of violet, indigo and yellow bruising. My wounds are red and inflamed. My face turns pure, brilliant white. I am crying with pain.

‘Lie on your back legs akimbo. Keep still!’ Helen says, pulling the locket over her head.

She dangles it over my eyes. The gold glows. It changes colour to crimson, yellow, indigo, violet. Helen takes the gold in the palm of her hand and gently rubs every bruise, wound and puncture hole in my legs. She heals me! All of my bruises disappear.

I spring off the bed and run to the built-in wardrobe. I raise her gift in my hands.

‘I bought a present for you at the corner shop,’ I tell her, ‘It’s not much I’m afraid.’

‘It is the giving that matters,’ she says in a much-holier-than-thou voice, ‘Not the gift.’

I hand my wife the gift, ‘Happy Easter, Helen.’

‘A chocolate mini egg, how lovely!’ she exclaims, failing to hide her disappointment.

‘Why, thanks for that, Gary…’

The sky is pure, brilliant white.

Pinch! Punch! First day of the Month!

White Rabbits!


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