As the warmth of the rising summer sun begins to infiltrate into the bedroom I snuggle up close to Claire under the thankfully thin, deep green duvet. My breath on her bare back causes her to shiver momentarily. I hear the intake of breath as I nibble on the territory between her shoulder blades, slightly to the left of her spinal column.
“Bastard,” she groans.
“Yeah,” I agree and delve further, exploring. Her skin tastes nice, warm, a little salty.
“How do you want your eggs?”
“Unfertilised,” comes the muffled response from the bedroom.
“Cornflakes it is, then.”
Later, after breakfast, she has finished applying the usual layers. I gag on an overpowering and lethal cloud of talcum or some such.
Grinning at my reaction she explains, “Puts that idiot off in Finance.”
“Yeah, I can see how!”
“Your place tonight? It is your turn.”
“Yeah, if you want,” I frown, knowing it will involve a severe tidy-up.
“Ok.” Her face is raised for the goodbye kiss and I readily comply. After the initial contact her tongue dives inside my mouth and I suck on it before my own takes a tour of her teeth and encounters polished spearmint. As we part I nibble her lips, hard, playfully.
“Ow!” She thumps me lightly about the arm and attempts to grab my pyjama-clad groin, with a degree of success. I cry out, too, as I skip backwards.
“For that you can cook a proper dinner,” she pouts, licking her lips.
“Fish ‘n’ chips?”
“No! Proper! I mean it.”
Blowing a raspberry, she is out the door and gone, leaving me savouring her flavours. I detect blood and smile.
“Wow! Didn’t expect this.” Her eyes dart around the candlelit, and neat for once, dining room.
She sniffs and frowns. “Hmm. What is it?”
“Surprise,” I grin helping her off with her work jacket. As I dive for her neck I drink in the aroma of grime and public transport. Navigating past the fine, pale, almost bleached shoulder-length hair my nose encounters the equally pale skin. She gasps as I push my face up through the strands to kiss the back of her head where small flakes of dandruff are captured by my tongue.
“You even cleared up. I’m honoured.”
“Yeah,” I laugh before cataloguing and swallowing.
“Time to freshen up?”
“No. All done and waiting.”
I pull out the chair and bow. “Please be seated, madam.”
She sticks out her tongue at me and I quickly catch its moist tip between forefinger and thumb before she can retract it. She giggles.
I take her jacket into the bedroom and dump it onto the still untidy double bed. Whilst concealed from her I also pop the moist spittle she has left upon my fingers into my own mouth, and sigh with pleasure.
“What’s that?” she calls.
“You said something?”
“No. Did I?”
“World of your own.”
“Yeah,” I agree, chuckling.
“Damn, that was good,” she says as I clear away the plates. She has left little of the meal, the chicken bones picked clean amongst a few semi-hard carrots that have defied being consumed. “Need a hand?”
“No, you relax. I’ll just shove it all in the dishwasher and bung it on tomorrow.”
Hidden from her direct sight I take the cutlery she has used and lick off the residue before arranging it ready for later washing. The sauce, combined with her saliva, is a new sensation.
“Fancy a DVD?”
“Yeah,” she replies.
“New ones on the shelf. Pick something. I’ll only be a mo.”
The film ends and I nuzzle closer.
“No, I’m all sticky. Really hot at work today.”
Yes, I can taste it. “Shower?”
I nip her shoulder with my teeth removing a tiny dried acne scab. “Together?”
She gives me that look: coy, inviting, and we head for the bathroom.
Before she can soap herself I manage to kiss several of parts of her body which, I know from growing acquaintance, excite her. I also explore a few uncharted areas relishing where sweat has run, hours ago, between her breasts; southwards to her navel, deep but uncharted; up again to the mixed stale-perfumed pungency of her armpits; around the back where my tongue performs an expedition from the northernmost vertebrae down to the steamy, soft, tropical stench of her buttocks.
“You’re disgusting,” she gasps as, kneeling, I circumnavigate her midriff, heading around to her front to dock at the main prize.
“Send a letter of complaint to the local council.” I bury my face and she squeals.
Claire shrieks as I grab at her buttocks, one finger quickly steering momentarily into the warm cleft, plotting its shape and texture. The sun, though hidden behind my curtains, is already quite high in the sky.
“You’ll be late.”
“Seven ... just gone,” I answer, peering at my watch.
“Just time for another shower.”
As the water begins to cascade over her I lay in bed for a minute sucking my finger.
“God, it’s hot.”
“Yeah,” I concur.
We are walking along the coast, between grass-tufted dunes engineered to keep erosion at bay. As Claire glances at the boats on the English Channel I watch as the loose, dry sand trickles off her bare feet after each step.
Her feet are my final quest.
Later, after dipping our toes and play-splashing, we decamp to a park and the shade of a convenient tree. She rests against the bole watching the distant antics of squirrels and I tease the sand from between her toes. There is no one else around so I start to suck on them.
“Yesh,” I mumble while teasing something out from under the nail of her big toe.
“But why?” she cries down the phone at me. “I thought we really had something. Something good.”
“Yeah, I know. But...”
“But what? You never mentioned anything about Edinburgh. When did all this come about? Why didn’t you tell me before?”
I sigh. How can I explain?
“It’s not you,” I begin.
“What do you mean, not me?”
Finally, she accepts that it is over and the call ends. I sigh, apologetically, to no one. Once I had tried explaining but that had only made things worse so now I just tell them I am going away, which is true.
I am going away to somewhere new. And in that somewhere new will be a different Claire: a Rose or a Cheryl or whoever.
There will be new tastes and aromas to try, to savour, to explore, to map.
For, like any cartographer, once I have completely mapped the lay of the land, I am compelled, almost driven, to venture somewhere new.