Andy Bodle learns the harm in having an affair with a married woman.
“Autobiography is now as common as adultery, and hardly less reprehensible.” —John Grigg, Sunday Times, 1962
“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
As the credits climbed the screen, the title music was drowned out by the sweeping of popcorn off laps and mutters of mildly surprised approval.
I dabbed a tear from the corner of my eye and turned to my companion. “So what did you think?”
“‘S’all right, I s’pose.”
Ally was 26, blonde, a smidgen above her ideal body mass index, and evidently not easily impressed. I held my tongue until we’d shuffled as far as the foyer. “There’s a nice pub not far from here. Fancy a quick one?”
Ally sniffed and fiddled with her scarf. “Actually, I should probably be getting back.”
It was 8.30pm.
I shouldn’t have been too surprised. We had met once, at a dinner party at Neil and Yasmin’s a couple of weeks befoer. We’d exchanged five words, half a pint of saliva and our phone numbers. The date was a sop to formality, really.
The silence as we waited for her bus was agonising. When the 341 finally arrived, I went to peck her on the cheek, spat out the mouthful of hair I got instead, and falteringly wished her a safe journey home.
So much for plan A.
For once in my life, I actually had a plan B: a magazine launch party about a mile away. I would know hardly a soul there, but free wine was definitely in order.
It was one of those suffocatingly trendy affairs, in a bar so hip no one could find it, with guests so hip they didn’t turn up for three hours, wearing clothes so hip they hadn’t been designed yet. That week, the in-crowd had deemed, once again, that smiling, enthusiasm and intelligent conversation were out of fashion, so I sat in a corner and cradled my Moscow Mule looking vainly for a friendly face. When none had appeared an hour later, I made for the exit.
At the doorway, a voice said hi. It was Adam, a guy in his early 30s who worked in the office next to mine. And he appeared to standing next to Neneh Cherry.
“This party’s a wash. We’re going for Chinese. You in?” All of a sudden I was ravenously hungry.
As we waited for our dim sum to arrive, I discovered Adam’s friend’s name was Frankie. She was from the States, though she now lived in Camberwell, and she worked in the music business. She was about my height, with Hollywood teeth and catwalk cheekbones, and her lithe, yogic body crackled with sexual energy. She asked me how old I thought she was. I guessed 27. She smiled.
We talked about everything on God’s green earth: philosophy, Chechnya, our favourite flavour Skittles. Adam barely got a word in edgeways.
The food came and went far too quickly. I didn’t want to call it a night yet—and neither, to my relief, did Frankie. “Is there anywhere we can get a late drink in this town?”
Adam took us to a small, modish club a short taxi ride away. Frankie and I bantered all the way there—but once we were inside, something strange happened. We unclicked. I don’t know if it was a faux pas, or the brain-numbing music, or the wearying ranks of the wankerati, but the conversation conked out.
I wandered off for a while to refuel with tobacco and alcohol. When I returned, there was a man in my place—one of the woolly hat brigade. He was nodding and faking an interested smile. I could feel Frankie drifting away. And I’m ashamed to say it, but the feeling rather made the blood rush to my head.
“Hey! I want a word with you.” I grabbed her by the arm, dragged her away from the bobblehead, and wheeled her round to face me.
“What do you think you’re doing?” When I saw the fire in her eyes, I almost lost my nerve.
“I didn’t come to this dump to listen to this shit music or drink these overpriced drinks. I came here to talk to you.”
The fire dimmed to a warm glow, and I heard a click. My gambit had paid off.
Two hours later, for the second time that night, I was waiting for someone else’s bus. “I’d love to see you again,” I said. Frankie ripped a page out of her Filofax, scribbled on it and handed it over.
I spent the next three days racking my brains to think of somewhere to take her. She was so gorgeous, so graceful, so effortlessly cool … it would take a stroke of genius to impress her.
A gig was out of the question. She’d probably turn out to be mates with the band, while the extent of my musical knowledge was the UK pop charts, 1981-88. Pub? Not classy enough. Restaurant? Too much pressure. Theatre? Too taste-dependent—and you can’t talk. Opera? Overkill. A walk, maybe? No; nothing to draw attention to the fact that she was taller than me. Picnic? Yeah, in the middle of January.
I needed something relaxing, yet exciting. Something original, but not too threatening. Something incredibly cool that didn’t look as if I’d made too much of an effort. When the time came to call, I still hadn’t come up with anything. Oh well; she’d probably changed her mind about me anyway.
“Hi. It’s Andy. Did you, uh, still want to meet up some time?”
“I know it’s lame, but I’ve been hearing good things about this movie—you know, the one about the talking pig?”
“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.” Funny how films can be so much better the second time round.
Frankie let go of my hand and stood up to put on her coat. “There isn’t anywhere nice round here to go for a drink.” My heart sank a little. “But you can have one at mine if you like.” Aaaand rose again.
Frankie’s sports car zipped us to the offy. “Do you mind getting the wine? I just want to nip back and tidy up a bit. I’m round the corner, number 75.”
Five minutes later I knocked at the door. It opened instantly and Frankie hustled me in. Either she didn’t want anyone to see me, or she couldn’t wait to have me. Given what happened next, you could forgive me for making the latter assumption.
The next morning, I was woken by a shake at what seemed like the crack of dawn. Holding her finger to her mouth, Frankie dragged me out of bed, handed me my T-shirt and led me downstairs. I was too dazed to offer resistance. Then she bundled me into the living room, sat me on the sofa, left, and locked the door to the room behind her. There were some muffled thumps and clanks, and the front door slammed shut.
For the first couple of minutes, I sat there with an idiotic grin, replaying the events of the previous night. Then the present kicked in. What was going on? I got up and tried the door. Locked tight. The place was silent. Hm. Maybe this was some kind of kinky sex game.
After about 10 minutes, I rattled the door again. This was a piss-poor sex game. I was about to start yelling for help when there was a scrape at the front door, and Frankie appeared, looking sheepish. What was going on?
Frankie looked at the wall. “I, uh, had to take the kids to school.”
“The who to what?”
“The kids. To school.”
“You’re looking after someone else’s kids?” I still hadn’t fully woken up.
“No, they’re mine.”
“Wow. It’s cool that you’re bringing up your kids by yourself.”
“Hey, everyone has a nanny these days.”
“I don’t have a nanny. I have a husband. Who lives here.” The terror subsided only slightly when she continued: “He’s away on business.”
She wasn’t 27; she was 38. (But by God, she wore it well.) Her surname wasn’t Devereaux; at least, it hadn’t been for 10 years. She was married, to a successful record producer, with two beautiful boys, aged four and six.
She pointed out that she had never actually lied to me. I pointed out that she had however failed to impart some fairly important information. I’d always vowed that I would never sleep with a married woman, and now here I was, a homebreaker. I stormed out and ran to the bus stop.
And that should have been that.
But a few days later, we met to talk things over. She was rational and passionate and utterly adorable. He wasn’t back for a month, she said. She didn’t want to leave him—for the kids’ sake—but there was nothing stopping us having fun until he got back. Besides, the deed was done. Betrayal is betrayal. Is there really any difference between doing it once and doing it thirty times?
I was still angry with her, but I was more infatuated than ever. And it’s a terrible thing to admit even now, but the thought of being an adulterer—an adulterer!—was intoxicating.
The next month was most chaotic, hot-blooded, life-affirming, soul-destroying month of my life. It was as if we were trying to compress a 20-year relationship into four weeks. We saw each other at every opportunity—when the kids were at school, when the kids were staying with friends, when the kids were asleep. We fought like wildcats and fucked like rabbits. For my birthday, she bought me a lovely meal; for Valentine’s Day, I took her to a recital of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. She said “I love you” within a week. Two days later, I was at it.
Every time we met I invented a new justification. “It’s like they’re on a break,” I’d say to myself. “Just a break he doesn’t know about.” “Well, he had an affair. This is just evening things up.” Or “It’s only sex. No one’s getting hurt.”
As the month wore on and the end loomed closer, though, the thrill of transgression was gradually replaced by the dull ache of guilt. The fights became more vicious, the reconciliations less sweet. I was almost looking forward to the prospect of some peace and quiet.
The night before her husband’s return, we had sex for the last time. “How do you want me?” she asked huskily. I stroked her face. “I’d like to take you from behind.” As I made the necessary preparations, Frankie turned and kneeled over the sofa. She looked brazen, Amazonian, amazing. I grabbed her hips and entered her in one swift motion.
Sex between us had always been good, but this was mind-blowing. It was movie-of-the-week sex: arched backs, tossed hair, Prague Symphony Orchestra. And when I came, it was as if all my previous orgasms had been a rehearsal for this one. We kissed, and collapsed on the sofa in each other’s arms, panting and smiling.
Then I glanced down at my flaccid penis.
My naked, flaccid penis.
My thoughts went something like this: 1) You know, I could have sworn there was a condom on that penis when it went in. 2) There was. The sheer force of my ejaculation must have shot it off inside her. 3) Fuck, that’s impressive! 4) FUCK.
I told her. Frankie screamed and ran to the bathroom, and reappeared, looking flustered, a few minutes later. I offered to go with her to get the morning-after pill, but she refused. Would she be OK? “I’ll be fine.” But what if … ? “I’ll be fine.” Our parting that night was awkward, inconclusive, cold.
A few months later, the phone rang. It was Frankie. She sounded crackly. “I need to speak to you,” she said. “We’ve moved back to America.” She dropped some dark, cryptic hints, but didn’t explicitly say anything. When I asked what she was getting at, she bristled. “I can’t talk now. Call me next Thursday, 7.30pm your time. Then and only then. Here’s my number.” I scribbled it down on a Post-It note, and she put the phone down.
I spent the next five days in the grip of cold, dark dread. I knew what she was going to say. Didn’t I?
As it happened, the following Thursday was Mum’s birthday, and we were booked to see a West End show. It started at 8pm. I figured I could set out from Cricklewood at 7, nip out of a tube station en route, and call Frankie from a public phone. Everything was going according to plan until the tube was delayed in a tunnel. When we pulled in to Baker Street, my watch said 7.29.
I ran full pelt up the stairs and out of the exit and frantically scanned the street for a payphone. The first one was broken. The second one was occupied. But there, across the road, thank God, was a third. I sprinted into the cubicle and picked up the receiver.
My other hand went to my pocket to fetch the Post-It note. Then to the other pocket, then to my inside jacket pocket, then to my back pocket, then to all the pockets again in turn. Then I retraced my steps all the way to the tube platform. No good. No note. No number.
Frankie never called again.
It’s true that I didn’t want to make that call. I was 26. I didn’t want a child yet, especially not with a mercurial married woman pushing 40 whose husband was probably not beyond paying someone £10K to have me whacked. But this isn’t some bullshit I’ve made up to cover my cowardice. I genuinely intended to take responsibility for my actions, but with the loss of that note, I couldn’t.
What I could have done is track them down later. Obviously I’m curious; but is it my call to make? I still don’t know for sure if Frankie had my baby. Even if she did, I don’t know if she told her husband it was mine, or if they kept him, or her. I don’t even know if it was a boy or a girl.
The internet has so far failed to turn up Frankie, but I’ve found the husband on MySpace, and the two boys on Facebook. Should I contact them? I truly don’t know.
♥ Bellis & Baker discovered in 1990 that married women who have a lover are more likely to have intercourse with their lover at time of ovulation than with their husband. Since women are also more likely to have an orgasm with their lover than with their husband, and orgasms increase the chance of conception, a woman is more likely to conceive by her lover than by her husband even if she has sex with her husband more often.
DNA fingerprinting studies in North America suggest that around 10% of children are being raised by a man who is not their biological father. In similar tests in a block of flats in Liverpool in 1977, the figure was estimated to be as high as 30%.
♥ The mean fecundity of the average human adult female is 0.032. In other words, a fertile, normal woman has, on average, a one in 31 chance of falling pregnant from a single act of unprotected sex.
This was previously published on Womanology.
Image credit: Katie@!/Flickr