“Darkheart” has come and gone. Cheers and whistles. ‘More!’ Miss Dazzle hugging me. Biggles all smiles. Matron ecstatic. Spicy red faced, pumping my hand.
‘Fuckin’ great,’ says BJ, loading the pipe back at Walnut Avenue. ‘Here. Got my girlfriend to send us some stuff. Put some music on then. Your choice.’
On with some Peter Frampton. “Do You Feel Like I Do?”
Now I’m at a Parents’ Evening.
There’s rows of tables and chairs, the hum of conversation between parent and teacher discussing offspring. ‘Really? That’s super.’ It’s a pretty relaxed evening for me as I’m only there to talk generally about Drama. ‘Plenty of opportunity to get involved.’
Am I becoming “one of them”? Or being myself? ‘You don’t sound so Northern,’ said mum at Christmas. I stretch out, contemplating my Barker brogues and fawn bags with turn-ups. Wearing the right costume?
I watch Miss Dazzle – Mrs Chisel Face - leaning over her desk, laughing with some parents, showing them her left hand. Am I really twenty three now? I’m the Lone Ranger, anyway. Still single. No-one on the horizon. Love? Marriage? Don’t make me laugh.
Clive’s been out of action for aeons. He wouldn’t recognize a Love Tunnel if he met one. Never mind love and marriage. Or what the mushrooms were trying to tell me. All that pure love business. Where’s that got me with Miss Dazzle? Or with Venus. Or with anyone?
No. I’m a man aren’t I? A Naked Ape. Neanderthal and primitive underneath it all. If I can’t have love, what about some no nonsense action?
‘Are you free Meester ‘Opebourne?’ A French accent at my table disturbs my ruminations. She’s immaculately made up, expensively coiffured, smartly dressed, blouse top unbuttoned revealing melons as cleavage, a silk scarf wrapped round her neck. Typical of loads of Fitzie’s parents. ‘You’re not very busy, so I thought I’d just pop over.’ She’s got eyelids daubed in make up, fluttering lashes.
She gives the name of a pupil who’s just been in “Darkheart”. ‘Oh we so enjoyed eet. You’re both razer clever.’
She’s rather attractive for her age.
‘You’re very kind.’
A man wanders over to join her. He’s much older, grey hair receding, dressed in a shiny blue suit, pale of face, lined with wrinkles, wearing spectacles. Can he be this woman’s husband? If so, they seem ill matched.
‘I was just telling Meester ‘Opebourne ‘ow much we enjoyed ze play.’ The woman flashes me a winning smile.
The man speaks in a nasal voice. A mouse. ‘Oh yes, indeed we did. My dear, we must go and see Mister Corrie-Anderson.’
Does she look a tad annoyed? A hint that love’s young bloom may have wilted?
Later, Biggles comes over. ‘Saw you talking to the Femme Fatale.’
‘She made a play for me one Speech Day. Had her hands all over me. It was all I could do to get away. My missus was going to say something. Course her husband’s about twenty years older. Probably can’t get it up.’
The next time I see the Femme Fatale is at a concert. I’m talking with Fizz.
‘I came to see “Darkheart” every night, you know. Did you see me?’ she asks, all eyes.
‘Meester ‘Opebourne. I was ‘oping you might be ‘ere.’ And there’s the Femme Fatale sweeping in by my side.
‘Bye, sir,’ says Fizz.
The Femme Fatale’s wearing a plunge top, the crease in her melons accentuating their promise. The savage in me has always been partial to a bit of canteloupe. She puts her hand on my arm as she speaks to me. ‘Meester ‘Opebourne.’
She gives me a smile. ‘Robert.’ Her hand is still on my arm.
‘I was wondering. I’m planning a leetle soiree, and I wondered if you might like to come?’
‘Just a few friends, but very keen on ze theatre.’ She fixes her eyes on me. Flutters lashes.
I’ve been invited once only to a parents’ home for “supper.” A pretty dull affair to be honest. ‘We’re going to the Science Museum next week, Robert. A seminar on black holes.’ Me trying to play the role of intelligent, witty, socially acceptable professional. ‘I’m going to Black - pool. A production of Ayckbourn’s.’ Trying not to get too ratted on the quality wine that was on offer. ‘It’s Gewürztraminer, Robert. Goes perfectly with scallops don’t you think?’
The Femme Fatale’s hand is still on my arm. What to do?
‘When were you thinking?’
‘Friday?’ Eyes a fluttering of lashes.
‘Do say you will.’ Her hand now gives my arm a squeeze. ‘It would be so formidable to ‘ave you zere.’
Oh go on then. Why not?
She gives me a time and an address. ‘Get a taxi, zen you can ‘ave a drink or three.’ The bell for the end of the interval sounds. ‘See you zen.’ She flashes me another smile with a further roll of those eyes. I watch her disappear, her skirt tight against her wiggling arse, high heels, a well-shaped pair of legs. Try to ignore heathen Clive in my ear.
“Stanislavski’s objective is a goal that a character wants to achieve. This is often worded in a question form as “what do I want?” An objective should be action orientated as opposed to an internal goal, to encourage interaction onstage.”
The Femme Fatale lives in a massive house on the outskirts of town. There’s a sports car in the drive. It’s already dark and there’s a lamp outside the front door.
‘Robert!’ She’s wearing a filmy black top, open to reveal melons popping, something black underneath, black trousers. The Black Widow. Gives me a hug and a kiss on each cheek. ‘Do come in.’ A heavy scent. ‘Let me get you a drink; we’re on Campari. Or would you prefer wine? Rose’?’
‘Do you know much about wine, Robert?’ she says leading me through the entrance hall; arse jiggling, stairs ascending into the distance.
‘Um, not really. You?’
‘Oh I’m French. I’ve come to appreciate a good Claret or Burgundy when I roll eet round in my mouth.’ She flashes me eyes under a flurry of lashes. ‘Before swallowing.’
There’s the smell of cooking. Voices. In the grand front room, dominated by an inglenook fireplace, are a couple of other older women with glasses of pink stuff. No sign of the Mouse husband. Or any other men to be exact. There’s some Carpenters playing.
“…they long to be close to you…”
Introductions over, it soon becomes clear that the others are not in fact staying to eat. ‘I’ve tried to persuade zem, Robert, but zey’re so busy. And of course zeir ‘usbands work in London and return for ze weekend.’ She hands me a bowl of nuts. ‘Can I interest you in somezing to nibble?’
It also becomes clear that the Mouse is absent. ‘’E’s been delayed in Brussels. And our daughter’s at a –‘ow you say? – sleep over.’
The others chat and finish their drinks before taking their leave. When they’ve gone I’m left with the Femme Fatale. ‘I do so ‘ope you don’t mind ‘aving to put up wiz just me. I zought of cancelling, but zen…I didn’t.’
‘No problem.’ Right. Think. Play the game best you can. ‘It’s very kind of you to take pity on me. School food can be a bit repetitive.’
‘Well, I ‘ope you like it spicee.’ A mass of fluttering lashes, she offers me a dish. ‘Can I interest you in an ‘ot saucisson?’
There’s a chilli and salad, bread, bottles of wine waiting.
‘And for dessert,’ she says, leaning over the table, ‘zere’s some melon.’
The Femme Fatale reaches over from time to time to touch my hand as she speaks. When she gets up from the table I can barely miss her arse wiggling. ‘I like to –‘ow you say? - work out,’ she says when we talk about sport. ‘And I regularly get out for an ‘ack across ze common ‘ere. Do you like to ride, Robert?’
‘I’ve never tried.’
‘Oh but you must. I learned as a leetle girl. Very invigorating.’
After supper, we repair to another room. There’s a large sofa, plush, and I sink in as the Femme Fatale goes over to the stereogram. ‘’Ave you seen “Saturday Night Fever” Robert?’ She comes and sits right next to me. ‘More claret?’
Hmmm. I can smell her perfume again. She leans in close to talk, forcing me to look in her face. I should stop drinking before I get a bad dose of Claret Goggles. Clive’s in my ear; Primitive Man. Fuck. Do I fancy her?
And is she trying to pull me?
‘Why aren’t you married? You must get a lot of women throwing zemselves at you. An attractive young man like you, and so talented.’
I go through the whole thing again. Yes it’s sad, but the job takes a lot of my time, never seem to meet the right person at the right time, blah blah blah. I ask what her husband does. It might calm us both down a bit because Clive’s grunting primordially, already imagining what it might be like. This “Liaison Dangereus”.
She leans in. ‘Oh ‘e works in Brussels. Part of ze EU commission. Really razer dull.’
Dull? She calls him dull.
‘I’m afraid teaching might be rather dull to some people.’ Good one, Rob. Let’s play the disingenuous card. Top Trumps.
She wiggles closer. ‘Oh zat’s not a word I’d use at all to describe you, Robert. I zink you’re razer –‘ow you say? - thrilling.’
She’s put her arm across the back of the sofa, behind my head. “How Deep Is Your Love” is in full swing.
“…cos we’re living in a world of fools, breaking us down…”
‘Am I terriblee wicked?’ she says.
She’s up close now. Her hand has started to gently ruffle my hair. OK. Decision time. What to do? Clive’s primeval. Fuelled by claret. It’s a Friday night. She’s looking sexy in that black top.
Where’s the voice of reason? The anti-Clive? “How would you like it if it was your wife?”
It’s mouse-like, delayed in Brussels.
‘I’m not easily shocked.’
Her other hand’s gone to my thigh.
“…how deep is your love how deep is your love I really need to know…”
I’m being asked if Clive might like to play the part of Sex God. The title role. Now.
And then, just as she grabs Clive, the doorbell chimes.
‘Zut alores!’ The Femme Fatale’s immediately up and out of the chair, rearranging clothing, sweeping hair into place. ‘Eet’ll be my ‘usband. ’Is flight was meant to be delayed.’ She brushes at her clothes. ‘’E must ‘ave managed to get a standby.’
Fuck! I race to my feet, beating down Clive, raking fingers through my hair. I must surely be red in the face. My heart’s certainly sprinting. There’s the unmistakable sound of a key trying to turn in the latch.
‘Coming,’ calls the Femme Fatale.
When the door opens I catch the Mouse’s voice. ‘My dear, you must have put the latch down.’
He raises an eyebrow when he comes into the front room. ‘Oh hello.’
‘Robert’s just leaving,’ the Femme Fatale says. ‘Ze ozers ‘ave only just left.’
‘Yes,’ I manage. ‘Thanks again for supper.’ I turn to the Mouse. ‘Your wife’s a very good cook. Very kind of her to invite me.’
The Mouse goes over to a tray and pours himself a drink. ‘Yes. She likes to pick up waifs and strays, don’t you dear? Terrible journey. Thought I’d be stuck till morning.’
‘Right,’ I say. ‘I must be off. Thanks again.’
‘We must do eet again, Robert,’ says the Femme Fatale. ‘Will I be seeing you at ze school concert?’
Outside I breathe a sigh of relief. What would have happened if he’d been ten minutes later? What then? And what does she mean? “Do eet again.” Do what?
No. Clive will have to put up and shut up. It’s not worth the nerves. I’ve been spared probably. Besides, I’m not sure I know what to do with the Femme Fatale. Have never been set upon by a woman like her before. A vixen.
The following week there’s a phone message, asking me to ring the Femme Fatale. I ignore it. Then I see her hanging about the staff car park. Have to take evasive action. At the Art exhibition I have to leave smartly to avoid her. Is this what life’s going to be like from now on?
Though, of course, Clive just tells me to man up. “Do eet again.”
Peter Frampton – Do You Feel Like I Do
From just simply one of the great live albums of all time – a best seller too – “Frampton Comes Alive” came out in 1976. It reminds me particularly of one holiday – coincidentally also to Lindos – one rather cold and rainy Easter in the early 90’s, when me and my mate Graham had to huddle too often in our apartment rather than spread-eagling on the beach. This was the cassette we played to death – maybe we didn’t have many between us? The last track is this opus featuring the famous voice distortion box that’s now commonplace with groups like Daft Punk. I could have chosen any number of tracks from this.
The Carpenters – Close To You
Ah the voice of Karen Carpenter, and the lush arrangements of her brother, Richard, this was a major worldwide hit in 1970. Melodic pop; easy listening? Whatever, they captured the essence of pop. Sadly Karen died of heart failure in 1983, brought on by complications from anorexia. Clean cut? Wholesome? Maybe not so, though the music most certainly was. I loved this song when it came out…and still do.
Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love?
I quite liked the Bee Gees way back in the 60’s when they recorded ‘New York Mining Disaster” and “Massachusetts”, but they seemed to disappear into a wilderness before returning in triumphant style with “Saturday Night Fever” in 1977. A string of disco hits came from the soundtrack including ‘Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” though “How Deep Is Your Love” was the schmaltz hit. Distinctive, smooth and oh so late 70’s.
About the Author: Richard Parsons
I’ve been fascinated with writing since I was a youngster; creative writing in English lessons was my favourite part of school life along with swapping music with mates or playing sport.
When I decided to quit teaching after many happy years, I applied for and won a scholarship to do a Masters at Plymouth Uni in Creative Writing. Drama was really the main string to my bow, but I soon became hooked on the idea of crafting short stories, and, eventually, the longer form of narrative. After graduating with a distinction, I cut my teeth writing for women’s magazines, but this was never in my own “voice” and was always formulaic. “Given Circumstances” is the real me.
Hope you enjoy it!