A friend sent me a link recently, it concerned Dougie, the scion of a newspaper empire with whom I’d had a fling some years ago, a notorious Lothario who had never allowed himself to settle down and had, according to the doyen of London gossip columnists, ‘cut a swathe through society leaving a trail of tear-drenched, broken hearts in his wake’.
It seemed Dougie had been given the elbow again.
The thing about Dougie that clearly still held true is that he would always be the dumpee never the dumper; a fate that had never befallen me and never would.
It was never meant to be with Dougie and me and, according to the society columnists, that seemed to apply to nearly every woman he’d been entangled with.
It was actually Dougie’s groin that first drew my attention. I couldn’t help it!
He always sat with his legs akimbo. He had certain pairs of trousers in which the crotch area seemed to be enhanced by the cut of the trousers, I checked later, giving him what he clearly considered a bulge of some distinction which he liked to display by stretching back over his chair and emitting a loud yawn, accompanied by an expression somewhere between a leer and a look of innocence.
There he was sitting or rather sprawling in a large, deep, dark leather armchair in the gleaming lobby of a world famous, five-star hotel in London, where he had his own suite; an established port of call for the business elite and visiting politicians. It was impossible not to be drawn to this pose.
Inevitably, our eyes met; he was staring at me almost willing me to look at him; he was older than me, with short, carefully tousled, dark but greying hair, a hooked nose which gave him the look of a Roman emperor, and was dressed in a light blue suit and a white open-necked shirt, all the better to enhance his deeply bronzed tan. I find excessive vanity in a man unbecoming and a warning sign of unresolved issues in the emotional department; danger: unstable ego!
He stood up slowly and, with a certain fluidity like royalty, bowed his head slightly to one side and then approached me.
I was otherwise engaged that evening and he was going to a casino, not just any old casino either, but he tried to persuade me to call him the following morning.
Of course, he ended up calling me!
To cut a long story short Dougie and I went on to meet once a month or so in his hotel suite for a few nights or in his private wing at a large, country pile owned by his family.
‘‘There’s no help here, the staff at the main house keep an eye on it for me. I need my privacy.’’
Mornings he always slid out of bed very early without making a sound, returning about fifteen minutes later with an arm full of newspapers and a pot of tea.
‘‘Earl Grey, I bet. You’re living proof of the Brits and their love of tea.’’ I said.
I sipped from my cup.
‘‘Oh? That’s not Earl Grey.’’
‘‘Actually, it’s from China and it’s very exclusive and very expensive.’’
He answered with a grin, dropping the pile of newsprint onto the floor with a crash.
‘‘I’m very impressed.’’
‘‘You should be.’’
‘‘Do you take a pile of newspapers, every day?’’
‘‘I like to see what the competition is up to. The tea and the papers are all part of my morning ritual.’’
‘‘I like a man with a ritual.’’
‘‘So you should. But this is only half of it.’’
I lay awake the next morning waiting for Dougie to rouse himself.
Eventually, considerately as usual, he slid out of bed quietly, wrapped himself in a thick, green, quilted dressing gown and padded downstairs. I waited a few minutes then followed.
He was sitting on the bottom step of the stairs in the dark hallway directly opposite the huge, shiny black front door.
There was even an old suit of armor with a shield and a sword, standing to attention beside the door, and hanging on the walls some old manuscripts and paintings that made me think of the Bayeux Tapestry.
He turned around and smiled.
‘‘I knew you’d come.’’
‘‘I couldn’t resist it.’’
He raised his arm at the same time as the strangely muted bongs of a grandfather clock in a corner near the door reverberated through the hallway.
I was now sitting beside him fascinated. Then we both heard the squeaky, dry, groan of resistance as the letter box was strenuously pushed open.
‘‘On time. As usual.’’ He said bringing his arm down as though starting a race.
‘‘Here we go. Listen and watch.’’
I was rapt, not knowing what to expect.
‘‘First, we have the local paper, followed in hot pursuit by the popular tabloids, with the workers’ favorite well to the fore’’, Dougie commented as a series of newspapers were forced through the letter box falling onto the door mat like spent cartridges, ‘‘then come the middle market panderers, including the lefties of course,’’ as the folded wads of paper landed on the tabloids. ‘‘Finally, still holding their own, all in a strict and unvarying order, my bedfellows, the broadsheets, and landing triumphantly on the top of the pile after 200 years and still a force to be reckoned with, my family’s bread and butter, ‘The Indefatigable’.’’
We listened and watched the heavy weights thudding self importantly onto the lesser members of their genus.
‘‘You’ll notice,’’ he carried on ‘‘that the higher the quality of the journal the more authoritative its impact on the pile or door mat. Sometimes life’s a bit unfair, but that’s the way it is, broadsheet trumps tabloid. Anyway, the paper boy never gets the sequence wrong. I devised it. It’s been that way for quite some time now, it’s seen quite a few paper boys out. And it will continue.’’
To be honest, I didn’t know what he was talking about and didn’t really want to interrupt his glee so I smiled sweetly and patted him on the thigh. No matter, he was clearly a man for whom newspapers were a passion and I like a man with passion.
‘‘‘Nor strike, nor war, nor scandal can silence the truth’, that’s the official motto of the family newspaper.’’ He proclaimed.
But things soured with Dougie, I’d thought we had the perfect relationship, for me anyway; we’d meet up for delicious meals and drinks and stay in his hotel suite or go to the estate, and then when we were fully sated we’d go our separate ways, nothing heavy just fun. However, things changed and soon he was draping himself all over me in restaurants and bars while professing his undying love, which was very unnerving, then he began dropping hints about settling down. When the inevitable proposal came he actually brought it up in the same breath as the subject of a prenup!
‘‘You know how I feel about you, don’t you, Olivia?’’
One evening after a boring visit to an exclusive choral concert, we were sitting in a packed cocktail bar in the same hotel where we’d first met. He had his arm around my neck and was pulling me towards his salivating mouth.
‘‘I think so, Dougie.’’
Of course, I knew what was coming, but to this day I can’t fathom out how he got the idea that I would be remotely interested.
I managed to remove his arm and slide a few inches along the banquette we were sitting on.
‘‘Well I’ve been thinking, we get along so well and I’m convinced something is growing between us. Do you feel it?’’
I nodded noncommittally.
‘‘Well, we want to do things in the right way, don’t we?’’
‘‘I always do.’’
‘‘I’ve had a chat with my solicitor and he’s going to draw up a rough agreement, for discussion purposes only.’’
‘‘Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting, Dougie?’’
‘‘Just to avoid any misunderstandings further down the line. If you see what I mean.’’
‘‘I think you should know my views on a prenup, Dougie. I consider it to be a restrictive and immoral practice and therefore not to be entertained under any circumstances.’’
That shook him.
‘‘It’s standard these days.’’ He blustered.
‘‘Not in my world.’’
‘‘Well just think about it, that can’t hurt. Can it?’’
I agreed, and said I would start thinking about it that very evening and therefore I would require a separate suite in the hotel. His face dropped, and that was the last I saw of him. He rang me every day for weeks and sent me emails pleading with me but I was adamant and gradually things petered out.
It’s a pity because I’d had my eye on a cute little cottage in the grounds of the family estate. The thought did cross my mind that I could always marry him and get the cottage but you have to have some principles in life.
What Dougie lacked in tact he more than made up for with his audacity.
I'm British and have been living with my German born wife in s.w. Germany for 30 years. I've been writing short stories for many years and they have appeared on Fictionontheweb, Short FictionBreak, Literally Stories, Spillwords and other sites. I also have a story in the book The Best of Fiction On the Web.