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Transit of Mars

by Judith Field

part 2

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
parts: 1, 2, 3

The first email of the working day buzzed through on my iPhone, from Jimmy at our office in Edinburgh. I liked his quirky humour, and today’s message didn”t disappoint: a flight of fancy about the weather in Scotland being down due to sporran-wearing gremlins. Why couldn’t I have found someone like him when I was single? Not that we’d ever met. I had an image in my mind of someone tall and dark.

To: Jimmy Long
From: Francesca Meadows

Today I have the phone on the desk next to my laptop and it makes a buzz like an angry wasp to the power of 10 whenever an email comes in.

From: Jimmy Long
We’ve got a few mobiles like that. Buzzsaws.

From: Francesca Meadows
We? Who are we? Spoken for. I knew it.

From: Jimmy Long
I meant we in the office. Anyway; aren’t you?

I typed, “Yes. But not very loudly.” My hand hovered over the Send key. I stabbed at it, like poking Charlie in the eye.

Jimmy said he was planning to come to London and wanted to meet for a chat. He had a proposal he couldn’t put in a work email.

I gave him my personal email address and said I’d like to see him. A man was interested in me. Up yours, Charlie Meadows. I was fighting back.

The “proposal” came that afternoon and involved me, him, a hotel room and melted chocolate. And citrus fruit, including melons. I asked what kind of chocolate. I said that melons weren’t citrus. I said that I’d never done this sort of thing before. I felt fluttering in my stomach. I said no, I couldn’t get away for a night. Or at all. I couldn’t compartmentalise life, have an affair with Jimmy and keep it from Charlie. But, anyway, Jimmy didn’t mean it, did he? It was just banter.

I checked my inbox every half hour but there were no further e-mails that day. Charlie went to bed early. I pictured him asleep, wrapped in the duvet with his head protruding from the end, like a giant caterpillar just asking to be squashed under foot.

I couldn’t sleep. I sat at my computer under the bedroom window, the light from Mars burning through to the backs of my eyes. I wondered what Jimmy looked like. He’d seen my photo on the online staff database although he hadn’t posted his own. Mine was photoshopped to remove the sags and the lines, with me looking to one side in a distracted, slightly anxious way, wearing a red jacket three sizes too small. I bet he wouldn’t have wanted me if he had seen me for real.

I refreshed my inbox over and over again. Nothing. My throat tightened and my hands clenched. How dare he pick me up then put me down, like a toy? Making me wait. Making me act like a teenager. I fought back the urge to put my fist through the computer screen.

A ping told me I’d received an online message.

Jimmy: I have a lengthy proposal for you.

Fran: I can’t consider it without knowing anything about you. How old are you?

Jimmy: Old enough to sleep with you.

Fran: Sixteen? Right, I’ll bring some Clearasil.

Jimmy: That’s fighting talk. Let’s play a game. Let’s deal cards. Whoever has the lower one has to take off an item of clothing. I want to hold your hands above your head while I press you to the bed and kiss you, you feisty thing. I’m coming for you. Very soon.

This wasn’t fun any more. A chill running down my spine made me shudder.

Jimmy: No answer? OK, how do you feel about blindfolds?

Fran: Frightened.

Jimmy: It’s a sensual delight. You’d never know what was coming next. Ice cubes or hot kisses? You’d feel my thighs round you.

I felt my breath squeezed out of me.

Fran: All this full-on stuff is too much, too soon. I don’t know anything about you. I don’t know you. And you don’t know me. You’re beginning to scare me.

I signed out.

* * *

The next night, Charlie drank a bottle of whisky and fell asleep in his chair. I went upstairs, shut my door and switched on my computer. I couldn’t see Mars for clouds.

Jimmy: Perhaps I came on a wee bit too strong. Didn’t you like what I said?

Fran: It was a turn-on. But let’s take it slowly. Let’s chat. See what happens.

Jimmy: I’ve got every e-mail you ever sent me. We do know each other.

He forwarded one from years earlier that I didn’t even remember sending.

Fran: Why can’t you understand? I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT YOU.

Jimmy: But we ARE getting to know each other.

Fran: Really? All I know is your name.

Jimmy: OK, I’m 44.

He’d got to that age and thought a woman who knew nothing about him was going to have sex with him. He could never have been near one, or at least not without having to pay. The “proposals” must have come from things he’d read or seen, like Fifty Shades of Grey or 9½ Weeks.

Fran: But I’m much older than you, twelve years older.

Jimmy: I like that. But if I tell you what I look like, that’ll cloud your judgment.

I felt a wave of nausea, and my face grew hot. Was he disfigured in some way? Could I let him down without apparently rejecting him for that?

Fran: Why? I’m frightened.

Jimmy: I’m six feet tall. Long hair. Long enough to fall across your thighs.

Fran: Stop now. I can’t do this; it isn’t fair of me to make you think I can. It’s not good, it’s not right. I’m married.

I switched the computer off.

Hours later, I looked at my phone.

From: Jimmy Long
I’m sorry, I’ll try to rein things in, but it’s so hard. You need a younger lover. And I can’t let such a great relationship end.

From: Francesca Meadows

From: Jimmy Long
Come back to bed, Pussycat.

I blocked his e-mails.

* * *

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2014 by Judith Field

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