I love morning. I greet virtually every morning the same way. My eyes open from pleasant, engrossing dreams, because God loves me when I’m asleep.I stretch wide and far, and utter to myself some nonsense growl or grunt, cheerful and unintelligible. Beneath the sheets, firm evidence of my gender has risen to greet the day. Damned good to be alive, isn’t it?
Coffee! Oh, wonderful coffee, drug of alertness and joy and controlled mania. Let’s make some coffee!Boxers on. Coffee on. Eye to the peephole, and nobody’s in the hall outside. Crack the door, snatch the paper. Hello, New York Times. I love you.
In the living room, turn on CNN. Turn on mobile phone and listen to the overnight emails buzz in.
Back to the kitchen. Pour coffee, inhale its gorgeous bouquet, mix in cream and just one sugar.
Back to the living room. Newspaper, CNN, coffee and me. Bliss.This was my morning, again, and it was perfect. Then my mobile rang.
+44. The UK. London, to be precise. Professor Elizabeth Watson, to be more precise. My ex. The brilliant, pompous, short, loud, vaguely equine-looking cause of great discomforts and upsets in my life. What did she want now?“What do you want now, Elizabeth?”
“Are you alone?” she bellowed in that upper class accent that never failed to make me feel slightly colonial and uncouth.“Yes,” I said, holding the phone at a distance from my ear to preserve my hearing.
“And are you at present unencumbered, unentwined, and without intimate companionship?” she continued, a great hollow echo giving her words more power and strangeness.“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes. And why do you sound like you’re calling out in a cathedral?”
“I’m in the bawth,” she said, explaining the odd acoustics. “A bubble bawth. Having a lovely time, actually,” she giggled.
I looked at my watch and calculated the time difference. It would only be noon in London.
“Have you been drinking?”
“Yes, of course, darling. I’ve a day to myself, and I’m English. So I’m drinking. Moët & Chandon. Bubbles all ‘round, you see?”
I closed my eyes and put a hand to my forehead. This could not be leading in any good direction. I felt my irritation rising. Unfortunately, I could also picture very well that tiny, confounded woman with her insinuating smile in her giant tub. So other things were rising, too, against my will.
“What do you want, Elizabeth?” I asked, quietly, through my teeth.
“Are you conjuring a nice image of me?” she asked, her voice lilting softer. “Immersed in warm bubbles and drinking cold bubbles?”
“Yes, you are,” she teased, and I could hear the grin in her voice. “I know you are. You’re thinking of all the naughty things you’d do to me if you were here.” I could hear subtle splashing sounds in the background.
I sat back on the couch and tried to think about baseball, or stocks, or trigonometry, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t help myself. I chuckled. “What do you want, Elizabeth?” I asked again, more gently.
“Get paper and pen,” she instructed.
“Just get paper and pen, darling, and all will be made clear.”
I sighed, but complied.
“Now then, these are the item’s you’ll need,” she continued. “In recognition of your limited cognitive abilities, I’ll speak slowly. First…the lavender bath foam and the sensual massage oil, both from Sabon. And they must be from Sabon…”
She continued to dictate, and I continued to take dictation. I don’t like taking dictation.
Her list, the purpose of which she had yet to share with me, now included the following:
· Two bottles of Champagne Henriot Rosé Brut
· Ostrich filets
· Oyster mushrooms
· Belgian chocolate truffles
· A black lace masquerade mask
· A very particular little device intended for use on a very particular little spot
Having faithfully transcribed the tally, finally I inquired: “What is this, Elizabeth, your Christmas list?”“Not at all,” she purred Englishly. “It’s your quest.”
“My quest,” I repeated.“Yes. I have meetings Thursday in Boston,” she said. “If you can acquire each of these items by Wednesday, my hero, then I will be your prize. I will fly to you, and you may have me for the weekend.”
“Have you—““For the weekend. Whatever terrible things that nasty mind of yours can imagine. BUT,” she added, “You must have everything in your possession by Wednesday. Otherwise, I shall return home Thursday night, and you will remain alone. Elizabeth-less, so to speak.”
“Are you serious?” I asked.“Quite,” she assured me.
“We broke up,” I pointed out. “Again.”“Yes, and your point is?” she inquired, and I heard her sip her drink.
“My point is I’m not running all over the city on some crazy scavenger hunt just so I can have sex with a crazy woman I broke up with!”“Oh, and you’ll also have to find me a pretty little bra and knickers set,” she added. “Black, please. And do be careful to get the size right.”
“I am not going forced-march shopping for you. Not! And anyway, nobody in this country has lingerie in your size. Your breasts are too small.”She let out a tipsy laugh. “My breasts are exquisite, and you adore them. And they have my size at La Petite Coquette.”
“No,” I said.“That’s all for now,” she said cheerily. “You have my specific specifications. You had best get to work on your quest.”
“I’m not going to do it,” I declared.“Remember, you only have ‘till Wednesday. Tempus fugit. Good luck!”
“What in God’s name is wrong with you? Who acts like this?”“I do hope you’re successful, darling. I know how you love to sink your teeth into me,” she sighed. “Au revoir!” She broke the connection.
I stared at the phone. The presumptuous little… infuriating bloody aristocratic… AAAGH! I can’t stand that woman!I sat in my silk dolphin boxers, glowering, muscles bunched. Angry at her. Angry at myself for answering the phone in the first place. Furious at my own body, for having produced a very enthusiastic and painful tumescence. It was a betrayal.
I padded to the den, my boxers pointing the way, booted up my laptop and Googled ostrich steaks.
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