“Winona, are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes, Danny, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life.” Winona looks up at me with those big, brown eyes. My heart melts.
“But, we just met. Aren’t you married to Scott, or is it Keanu?”
“They mean nothing to me, now, Danny.”
She seems quite insistent, and I am, after all, but a human male.
“Well, if you’re sure…”
Winona lies back on the bed and spreads open her legs, inviting me down with a ‘come hither’ motion. “Danny, come get me.”
What can I do? I bury my head in her bosom and navigate in my heat-seeking missile. Slipping easily into the moist, warm, happy cave.
“Oh, Danny, Danny, Danny.”
“Oh, Winona. Oh, yes.”
“Danny, Danny, Danny.” Her tone changes as I thrust, deeper, harder, faster. Her hands on my shoulders, shaking me. “Danny, Daddy! DADDY!”
My eyes creak slowly open, the harsh light blinding me. Wetness at my groin.
“Daddy, I need a pee.”
“Ethan… Ugh. What time is it?” Winona has left the building, replaced with my eight-year-old son, standing next to my bed in his Spiderman pyjamas.
“I need a pee!”
“Well, go to the toilet?”
“There’s a big poo in there. I’m scared.”
“Ethan, it’s poo. It isn’t scary. Just flush it away.”
“No! Can you do it for me?”
I can barely speak, let alone get up, and there’s the mess in my underpants to take care of.
“You know there’s another toilet downstairs, don’t you?”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks, Daddy.” His face lights up and he runs off down the stairs.
I check my watch on the nightstand. He’s right. It’s the wrong side of seven in the morning on a Saturday. I was hoping for a lie-in. Some chance of that. Maybe if I just stay here, Winona will come back?
Now, where was I?
Winona, lying in my bed, the glisten of sweat on her lips from our heated passions, her hair flowing over my pillows, “Do you want another go, Danny?”
Do I ever? I roll over onto my side, my hand caressing her milk-white breast.
A scream comes from downstairs.
I roll back over. “NOW WHAT?”
“I stepped in cat puke.”
Wonderful. Game over, I suppose. Save it for later, Danny, you never know, tonight could be your lucky night.
I pull on a threadbare dressing gown. Must have shrunk in the wash, because it used to fit me fine.
The toilet, as mentioned by Ethan, is indeed harbouring a floater that would put a sizeable dent in the Titanic. One flush alone is not enough. I throw my pants in the bin, wipe away the excess love juice and aim, bleary-eyed. Perhaps the force of my piss-stream will break the shit-berg in two?
“ROSIE! Please flush the damn toilet after you go.”
From her room, a distant, matter-of-fact, “I did.”
“Well, you didn’t get rid of it. You know Ethan is scared of poo.”
I move to the sink and wash away the eye crust and sleep sweat. Gradually, feeling and sensation come dribbling back to me. I didn’t drink last night, but it was around one in the morning before I lay down. I check my sleep tracker app, which confirms; Five hours and fifteen minutes. A sleep debt of thirty percent. Try to get to bed earlier tonight, the cheery message pops up.
I turn to exit the bathroom and jump, startled. Rosie is standing in the doorway, arms folded.
“Sorry, Daddy. I did flush.”
“Okay, sweetheart. Just make sure it does the trick next time, eh?”
“Yes, Daddy. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“Fu… I mean. Yes, please, Rosie. That would be wonderful.”
Almost a teenager, she will be the death of me someday. Cute as a button, smart, dangerously innocent and spoiled rotten. I’m dreading when the boyfriends start to appear.
“Can you see what Ethan stepped in, please?”
“It’s not cat puke. I dropped a tea bag earlier.”
Well, that’s something, I suppose.
“Why are we up this early on a Saturday?” My little family and I are assembled around the dining table, enjoying a healthy breakfast of oatmeal, sprinkled with fresh fruit and seeds. Okay, that’s not strictly accurate. I am sat at the table with sweet black coffee, Rosie is on the couch, Ethan on a beanbag. They both have iPads and toast. The TV is blaring some inane shit into the void. Ethan opted for jam on his toast, Rosie for brown-sauce.
“We’re going to the park today.” Ethan pipes up.
“But that’s in about four hours?”
“Got to get ready.” Rosie looks up. “We need clean clothes, or Mum will call the police again.”
Oh, yes. Meeting Mummy at the park, won’t that be a riot?
“Right. Is the laundry done?”
“Can you do it?”
“We’ve got homework, Daddy.” They both flash me a saccharine-sweet grin and return their attention to YouTube.
As always, leaving the house is as close to impossible as it gets. After three failed starts, we manage to leave the driveway, only to go straight back because Ethan forgot his iPod headphones. After four failed starts, we trundle along through Saturday traffic in the direction of the park.
Their mother, Elise, my second wife no more, is a vindictive bitch. Only, there’s nothing for her to get revenge for. She shagged some guy called Brian. She decided to leave us. She got a load of my money. She took the decent car. What more could she want? Blood, apparently.
We meet on neutral ground, not according to any schedule, but whenever she decides she wants to see the kids. She butters them up with toys and sweets, then flits off back to her love cave with Brian, and we don’t hear from her until the next guilt trip.
Not that I’m bitter or anything.
We arrive three minutes late, my beautiful prior BMW already waiting for us. Elise taps her wrist at me through the window as we bundle out into the car park. I ignore it. I bet she only just got here herself.
Through clenched teeth, I smile back at her, and under my breath mutter ‘go fuck yourself, Elise.’
“Hi! How are you guys?”
“Have you got any presents for us, Mummy?” Ethan is straight to the point at least.
“Wait and see, darling.” She looks up at me with a look that translates as ‘Why do you teach them to ask for gifts? You selfish bastard.’
I look away.
“I’ll come back in two hours, then?”
“If you can trouble yourself to be on time, Danny, that would be great.”
I kiss and hug the little ones and offer a wave towards Elise, but she’s already turned away and walking off into the park. Her black hair blowing in the wind. It was her thirty-ninth birthday last week. I suppose I should have got the kids to make her a card or something. Oh well. She looks younger, like she did when we got married. Bright and made-up like a dog's dinner. An aura of patchouli perfume surrounds her perpetually.
Things were simpler back then. We loved each other, genuinely. We cared, made plans, and we had amazing sex. Did things that would make Winona in my dreams blush. But now, I feel the gaping black void of hate when I look at her. Funny how things change so drastically.
Love? Don’t make me laugh. Love is an ideal sold by the media to keep people in check. I don’t believe in love anymore. The spark of romance in me died when Elise told me the same lies and bullshit that my first wife did. That one lasted eighteen months, before Steve, or was it Simon? I can’t remember now, came along and stuck his dick in my first love.
I shudder away the dark thoughts. I’ve got a date tonight. Can’t all be bad, can it?
Back at home, I have time for a shower and some breakfast before I go back and get the kids again. Don’t want to be late for Her Majesty. Then I need to get some shopping done, before the babysitter arrives.
The steamy hot water massages my back, finally breathing some life into my tired old bones.
In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have stayed up as late texting with Maria; whom I’m meeting for the first time tonight. A blind date, because she doesn’t have a photo on her dating profile. I’m usually wary of those, but she assures me she’s real, and a ‘genuine, kind, bubbly girl at heart’ and more poignantly, she says I’m a handsome catch.
I’m a forty-two-year-old single Dad, who works to pay the bills, dreams about a movie-star no one even knows these days, and hasn’t had ‘the sex’ for many a cold year. I take what I can get. Maria may be a cave-troll, hiding behind a claim she doesn’t want to be stalked by weirdos, hence no photos. But at least she’s a female cave-troll, who wants to spend time with me.
I shrug and let the shower rain run down my back. Turning around and washing any remnants of dried cum from my crotch with a scrubby pad and some minty shower-gel. Ooh, that smarts. But in a good way.
Freshly clean, eggs on toast scarfed down, twenty minutes of PornHub surfing to find something worthy to edge to, and I’m back in the car again to the park.
Thinking about it, I probably should have given the kids some lunch before they went to see Mummy. They must be starving by now. Never mind, we’ll stop at McDs on the way home. It’s a treat day, after all.
I swore, in my youth, that my children would never see fast food as a treat. Instead, I joked it should be a punishment to eat the clown-food. But here we are. Convenience outweighs ideals every time. At least they eat it and I don’t have to wash plates.
“Hi, guys. Did you have a nice time?” Elise and the kids are waiting in the car park as I pull up.
“They are starving, Danny. Did you feed them, at all?”
“We’re going for a special treat, aren’t we?”
“Fast food, again?”
“No, not ‘again’. Just fast food. It’s a rare treat.”
“Well, thankfully I had a couple of protein bars in the car, or they’d have passed out.”
I look at the kids. Ethan plugged into a game on his iPod, Rosie listening to music. They seem fine to me.
“Come on then, let’s get you home…” Via McDs and Tesco’s. Oh, what a joyous Saturday afternoon.
Elise makes a show of hugging the kids and then ignoring me as she gets into MY car. Winding down the window as she turns around. “Ethan trod in dog-poo, and Rosie has a big hole in her leggings. Please try to take care of my children, Danny.”
The dog-poo proved too ingrained to be scraped off with a patch of grass.
I’m now forty quid down on the day, and Ethan has new shoes. Rosie new leggings, courtesy of Tesco finest. He rode in the trolley until he got the shoes, much to the disgust of various old biddies who stuck their noses into our business. “He’s too old to be in the trolley.”
I ignored them, but these stabs in my back all add up. There’s only so much bullshit a man can take before he explodes and ‘accidentally’ slams the trolley into someone's fat arse as he goes by.
Back at home, I pack away the shopping into the cupboards and fridge. Tumbleweeds roll by in the empty silence. Weird, because only a few seconds ago there was a multitude of children, strong and able to help put the food away. I trust they are busy somewhere, doing their much-celebrated homework.
The sitter should arrive around six, which gives me time to relax for a while and then make some dinner for the kids. Fish-fingers and beans, they asked for, which means they’ll eat hot dogs and popcorn, or similar. Always have a backup plan for dinner. I learned that the long, expensive, hard way.
Jessica, the babysitter, is a young lass from a few streets away. She’s been a godsend the last year or two. She wanted to make a few quid, and I wanted to have the odd evening off. I know the kids love her, and she’s trustworthy. Wins all around. Quiet girl, studying for med-school or something. I usually leave her some food in the fridge and she gets the kids to bed, then watches some tripe on Netflix until I get back.
I pop a text to Maria. A nervous, paranoid, final check that she wants to meet me this evening. Because another stand-up is not what I need right now.
The last time I tried to lure a woman out for the evening, I ended up sitting for an hour on my own in the Chinese, then finally getting a text that she had an “unexpected family situation” and couldn’t make it. I never heard from her again. I have my suspicions that the ‘unexpected situation’ was more to do with a younger and less off-sprung man that had suddenly contacted her. The arrangement had been sketchy in the first place. She told me, “Yeah, sure, I don’t know what I’m doing yet.” when I asked if we could get dinner, maybe?
Maria replies that of course we are still on for later and she’s very excited to meet me.
I wish I could drum up the same level of enthusiasm, but my expectations are set very low, after so many failed attempts. There’s no point in getting my hopes up, only to have them dashed against the rocks again, breaking every optimistic bone in my body, once more. They say a broken bone grows back stronger, but I feel as fragile as a teenager asking a crush to go to a school dance. I’m rapidly exiting the first half of my life and screeching to a dreadful halt in my midlife crisis.
Dating sites, miserable cans of beer with Netflix, alone. Oven pizza that tastes like cardboard, and the churn of work, school-runs, and masturbation. This is the life I have carefully carved out for myself. My parents must be deeply proud.
I don’t know what Maria expects. I’ve been honest, told her my situation, my loneliness.
My dating profile says, ‘Just see what happens.’ as my goal. I don’t think I know what I want either. I mean, a casual shag would be nice, but ultimately, do I think anyone will wake up next to me, year in, year out, until one of us, probably me, dies in the arms of a loving spouse? Those dreams of ‘happy ever after’ seem like an unreachable utopia. Does anyone actually have a happy relationship? I struggle to believe it. At least if they are sentient and intelligent. I don’t think men and women are designed to live together, long term.
Maria has told me barely anything about herself. All I know is: She’s female, aged thirty-two, never married, no kids, speaks English.
Ah well, I suppose I’ll ‘Just see what happens.’
The doorbell rings bang on time, and I open the door to Jessica. But it’s been a few months, maybe six, since I saw her last. She’s grown a bit, upfront. Her homely look is replaced with downright sexy. Made-up, hair styled, and dyed black and blue, a nose piercing and an outfit that would make a prostitute blush. She smiles, and waltzes in like nothing has changed.
“You look… Good…” I’m hesitant to say pretty, in case she takes it the wrong way and I’m arrested for sexual harassment or something. I think she’s nineteen now, but until five seconds ago, I saw her as an older child. Now she’s definitely a woman. A bloody hot one, too.
“Thanks. You aren’t so bad yourself.” She smiles and goes through to the kitchen. “Normal plan, is it?”
“Yeah. Food in the fridge. Kids on their iPads. Help yourself to Netflix, and whatever drinks you want.” I know it’s safe to say that as she won’t touch my “nasty beer.” She told me before.
“Where are you going?”
“Got a date. Going to the Kings Head, then the Italian.”
“Nice.” She gives me a ‘look’ that I can’t interpret and then dives into the fridge, pulling out a beer.
“Jessie!” Ethan and Rosie appear in the kitchen like a couple of Tasmanian devils, laughing and roaring. Jessica gives them both a hug and spins them around, giggling. The kids haven't noticed her recent puberty changes.
“I’ll leave you to it, then?”
Jessica nods and they vanish off into the living room with bags of crisps.
I elected to walk into town rather than drive or get a taxi. It’s a nice evening, I rarely get to take a few minutes to myself, and I could certainly use the exercise.
The Kings Head is where I used to go with Elise when we were young and excited about our marriage, but as that excitement turned to hatred, and she found other outlets for her entertainment, I haven’t been in a long while. It could be a mistake to meet a date in the same place, but Maria suggested it, and I know where it is, so I agreed.
Doesn’t matter, I suppose. I don’t have the energy to be sentimental about a pub I don’t go to anymore.
I look around as I go in, but as I don’t have a clue what Maria looks like, the task seems pointless. There aren't any obviously single women floating around.
I drop down at the same barstool I sat in all those years ago, when we first found out Elise was pregnant with Rosie. She asked for a Guinness. Said it was good for the baby. Iron and all that.
I flag down the barman and get myself a pint with a whisky chaser. I need something to calm my nerves as I’m suddenly freaked out. Maybe a blind date was a bad idea. What if she’s totally not my type, will it be awkward? What is my type, anyway?
Female, with a pulse, at this stage.
I’m spared from too much self-indulgent pondering by a tap on my shoulder. I spin around to a small woman, shoulder-length brown hair, a simple blouse and skirt, suede jacket and matching boots. She’s… Okay looking. Her nose is a bit bigger than I’d normally be happy with, but who am I to judge? No, she’s nice.
“Yes. Hi, Danny.”