Authors: Chrissie Loveday
Getting a Life
Getting a Life
Sick of being the odd one out, Joanne Swithenbank booked herself an escort to accompany her to the college Christmas formal dinner dance. ‘Rudy’ turned out to be Michael Thomas, one of her mature students. Once the dinner is over, she realises she actually likes this man. But can anyone really fall for a 28 year old virgin? And her best friend Trisha is no help. She sees Michael out with another woman and of course, has to tell Joanne. It takes her a while to discover herself and become part of a couple.
First Published in Great Britain in 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Chrissie Loveday
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior permission in writing of the publisher.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Published by Chrissie Loveday 2012
Table of Contents
There were two letters in the mail box. She picked them up. One was inevitably a bill. Weren't they always? She stared at the one with the unfamiliar writing. What
she done? She fingered the envelope and continued to speculate. It could only be one thing and already, she was bitterly regretting her stupid impulse. It was all Trisha's fault. How could she have allowed herself to be driven into a corner like that? Joanne Swithenbank was sensible human being. Dependable. Occasionally considered eccentric but certainly not downright stupid. Normally.
It began when a crowd of the younger lecturers from Barstow College went for drink on someone's birthday. After a drink, it had turned into a meal and then a further session at a karioke bar. Karioke. How naff was that? Even worse, she had drunk enough wine to be pushed on the stage and before she knew it, she was deeply into
along with Gloria Gaynor's very own backing group. The crowd went wild. She had a good voice but she never, ever, did anything like this. She'd done solos at school but nowadays, she was much more self conscious. Just shows what a bit of encouragement and a few glasses of wine can do, she thought. They made such a fuss, she stayed on the stage and went through a brief repertoire of things from the charts, past and present. She actually began to enjoy the attention. The bar's owner came up and offered her a regular spot. Said it was good for business to have someone getting things going. Naturally she refused. She couldn't get into anything like that. She'd probably be drummed out of her job if the hierarchy ever found out. College lecturers, especially at Barstow College, simply did not do that sort of thing.
'I never knew you could sing like that,' Trisha told her afterwards. 'You're brilliant.'
'Yer, well, it's not the sort of thing you do in lectures.' she tried to make light of it. Even the guys were impressed and one of them, Jason something or other, took her on one side and flirted outrageously. She knew he was married and gave him the quick brush off.
'Never knew you had it in you,' another of the crowd told her, putting his arm round her shoulders. What was it with guys? Do something a bit different and they're all over you like a rash. Want the reflected glory, she decided.
'I'm not always glued to computers,' she told them. 'I do have a life beyond keyboards.' Now if anything was a lie, that was. Doesn't do the street cred much good to admit that computers are one's entire life.
'Why don't you let me give you a lift home,' persisted Jason. 'You can't start looking for taxis at this time of night.'
'Won't your wife be expecting you?' she said coldly.
'Away. Gone to see her folks. I'm all alone for entire weekend. Footloose and fancy free.'
'And well and truly married,' she reminded him. 'Sorry, I'm not interested.'
'Give up on her,' Trisha told him. 'She's a dedicated bachelor.'
Oh the joys of slightly too much alcohol! Her tongue went into overdrive. Before she could regain control, she had informed the assembled company that she did in fact have a regular fellow and was practically engaged. All lies of course. The closest she had ever some to a regular boyfriend, was on a package holiday with the parents ages ago. She'd spent every evening at the hotel disco with a spotty youth from Doncaster who also wanted to escape parental control. She'd even avoided most relationships at Uni. The others seemed so immature in her year and besides, she was determined to get a First. It meant she worked like crazy and missed out on much of a social life. On reflection, maybe it was foolish to miss all that but it had worked for her academic achievements. Her parents were over the moon with their clever daughter. A lecturing post at a young age was her reward.
'So, who's this mystery man in your life?' Trisha asked. 'When do we get to meet him?'
'I don't mix work and pleasure,' she replied haughtily.
'So, this evening is work, is it?' teased Jason.
'Course not but you know what I mean.'
'So, are you bringing him to the Christmas bash?' Trisha persisted.
'I expect so,' she said airily. 'Haven't decided yet.' The so-called Christmas bash was still two weeks away. Plenty of time to develop bubonic plague or break some limb that would stop her from going. She loathed these affairs. Everyone was expected to dress up in posh gear and chat to the senior hierarchy before the formal dinner and dance. No such thing as Karioke there. Joanne knew there was no likelihood being any sort of hit at that particular do.
'Right. Well, we'll arrange to meet in the pub first and get some Dutch courage. Amazing how much better the Doc's Christmas do is, after a few bevies. And, we can all meet Joanne's famous bloke. Agreed?'
Everyone did agree. Especially Joanne. Idiot that she was. Where was she going to find a boyfriend in the next two weeks? If she'd managed for twenty-eight years without a single serious relationship, she was hardly going to fall madly in love in less than two weeks. And whatever could have possessed her to say they were practically engaged? There was no way out of it. She wasn't really prepared to break any limbs and nor was bubonic plague a ready option. She had eventually resorted to the small ads in the local paper and dithered over two numbers suggesting "escorts of all types and ages". If only she could carry it off, Joanne would save face and stop the unwelcome advances of the likes of Jason. She dialled the number and promptly put the phone down before it rang. What an idiot, she thought, as she talked herself into a second go. Press re-dial, she instructed. She held one hand down with the other to stop herself chickening out a second time.
The woman at the other end sounded quite normal and friendly. She didn't seem to find it strange that some woman of twenty-eight should be asking for an escort to accompany her to some company party.
'All part of our service,' she said. 'I'll put our contract in the post tomorrow.'
She spent the night worrying if she could phone in time to stop the woman from posting the wretched contract. The consequence of a restless night, was that she woke too late to think about it, let alone actually phone. Still, she consoled herself later, she didn't have to sign the contract.
Oh the desperation to produce the anticipated boyfriend! Trisha went on and on about it. What was she wearing? How would she do her hair? Honestly, that girl, Joanne mused. She'd never have believed she was an intelligent woman with a good job. Her mind seemed to run on pure hormones and little else. Joanne hedged about the fictitious boyfriend's name, his job, what he looked like. Trisha was furious. She even doubted his existence at one point. Joanne blushed. Then she got angry to cover it and Trisha apologised. Just as well. Her friend was quite right.
* * * * * *
Her fingers shook as she opened the envelope. There was nice friendly little letter with the dreaded contract. It was all very simple. The fee was payable in advance. Good business strategy, she thought. The client might duck out but at least they had the cash up-front. Her escort for the evening was to be Rudy. He was six feet tall, dark and considered good-looking by most of their clients. Aged around twenty-five, he sounded perfect. (She had lied about her age.) He would be wearing a dark suit as requested and she wished us a pleasant evening. Pleasant? How on earth could that be? It was going to be the most humiliating evening of her life. Gritting her teeth, she wrote the cheque and posted the contract, before she could change her mind. Once over the initial panic she began to plan the actual evening. She even splashed out on a new dress. Given the choice, she'd have stuck to one of her long floaty skirts. She was secretly a displaced hippy, she believed. Her parents despaired of her long ago, wondering how they'd managed to produce an off-spring who hated smart, modern fashions. In fact, their daughter seemed to be quite unlike most people of her age. Joanne was quite
pleased with this image. She liked to be thought of as eccentric rather than peculiar. Much more interesting than admitting she was truly very boring.
The day of the formal arrived all too quickly for her liking. It was anticipation all the way at work. Trisha and the others were unbearable.
'For heaven's sake,' she burst out at lunch time. 'It's only some crummy college party, not a huge great ball. Nobody special's coming. Unless there's something you haven't told me? And yes, Trisha, I have got a real dress, not just another of my hippy skirts.'
'Great. What's it like?' she asked.
'Sort of silvery. Oh I don't know. Wait and see.' But her friend needed chapter and verse before she was satisfied. Joanne did rather like the dress. Nothing like her usual outfits. It was close fitting and even a bit sexy. If everything else was out of character, she may as well go the whole hog.
By five-thirty, she was sitting in her bath, liberally doused with some nice smelling herbal stuff. She was a total nervous wreck. She felt the need of a glass of wine to accompany her to the bathroom, just to help quell the near panic. She twisted her hair into a sort of knot with some loose ends hanging out. She wasn't entirely convinced, but loads of girls had exactly this sort of look lately. She slipped into the new dress and stood gazing at the woman who was looking back at her. The bland, usual mop of blondish hair looked almost sophisticated. The dress clung to places she didn't expect. The neckline was quite low and even showed some cleavage. She felt even more nervous. This wasn't Joanne Swithenbank. At least, not the one she knew. She twisted round to look at the rear view. Even her bum seemed to have disappeared. Usually, she wore loose skirts believing it hid the fact that it was far too big. She never wore trousers for the same reason. She practiced in front of the mirror.
'Hi Rudy. Pleased to meet you.'
'Hi Rudy,' this time said in a sexier voice to match the dress, 'good of you to come along.' She chided herself. Idiot. She was paying the guy. She mustn't let him think there's any more to it. The door bell rang. Drat. He was early. She shivered violently and knew she needed the loo again. She began to wonder if needing the loo for the nineteenth time was symptom of anything contagious. Maybe she had some dreaded disease and ought to warn him off. She found herself at the door. Opening the door. Holding it open so he could come into her totally male-free home. Once she saw him, she couldn't even speak. Tall, as described: dark, as described: handsome, as described (by most of their female clients): not called Rudy at all, as described. The familiar face stared back at her.
'It's you,' he faltered. 'You're that Joanne.'
'And you're not Rudy Whatever. What's going on? Didn't you realize it was a college do?'
'Not at all. They only told me it was a dinner and dance, following some sort of reception. At the Winterton. There was no indication that it was anything at all to do with the college. Not that I'd have known about staff events, anyhow. I'm only a humble student, after all.'
'You'd better come in then, Mr Michael Thomas.'
'You look stunning. I can't believe you didn't have an escort for tonight. In fact, I'm surprised you're not safely married to Mr Right with a swarm of small Swithenbanks on the way.'
'And I find it hard to believe that you are doing something like this. Being an escort, I mean. I must say, you do scrub up pretty well. So, why are you? Why do you?' she asked.