Sydney – September in the late 80’s


It all started in yet another lousy day that was just getting worse. The glamour of working as a journalist had gone with the winds of many years ago and to make things even more unappealing my boss, the most pompous John Joseph Leddcombe had summoned me to his office. My feet were walking me there but my mind was purposefully wandering away in search of a refuge from the inevitable. All of the sudden I began to notice the worn carpet, I saw that the walls were in need of another coat of paint. The smell of stale beer from the drinks of the night before invaded my nostrils and the deadness of a very boring existence jumped to my eyes with a presence as blatant as the summer midday sun.

John always tended to have that effect on people. Everyone would either get depressed by him or would try to find a bearable distraction. Finding the most infinitesimal shred of an excuse to avoid paying any attention to him was cause for celebration and enjoyment beyond belief.

‘Close the door’ he said. I knew what was coming. I had heard it all before, more times than I would care to remember. ‘She didn’t have the right to leave me to go with that…that ‘thing’ that she is living with now.’

I have to organise my shopping list, after all today is late night shopping. I must remember to buy serviettes …
‘I told her, as she was walking down the hallway of our home for the last time that I would force her to come back to her obligations of wife and mother!’

Butter, potatoes, spinach…remember how your mother had to insist to make you eat it as a child? I didn’t grow strong as Popeye but now I realise that at my age I can use the iron.
The litany continued, empty complaint after empty complaint. I was going along fine, just placing my ‘I know’, and my nods at strategic intervals. Then I made a terrible mistake. As soft as I could I said ‘But that happened a long time ago, seven years or so if my memory serves me right’. A black cloud of disapproval mixed with disbelief descended upon his face. You did NOT interrupt him unless it was to agree with him. With ire in his eyes and hatred in his voice he said ‘Whose side are you on?’ Only one answer was required and I promptly gave it: ‘Yours, of course.’

Some chicken thighs, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, bread, some wine…Perhaps I could cook a Thai dish tonight so I need to get some basil, onions, capsicum and green beans…What is he going to do to get at me for my ‘faux pas?’
Unfortunately for me my association with John had started in first year of high school. Him and I were together at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. In fact, until he became more affluent when he was promoted to editor we lived in a poor neighbourhood, not too far away from each other. We even went to the same church every Sunday. I still live there, I still go to the same church, I still have my pre-ordained everyday life, but he moved on.

John definitely didn’t make it to editor of a leading newspaper on talent. Everyone who knew him agreed he didn’t have any. He could write only a half-decent article and he was the most unremittingly appalling manager of people. He climbed to his position by just annoying everybody to death. He would pester his target victim until they either gave in or went away. Unfortunately I could not become one of his exiled fugitives for a very simple reason: I needed the money

It was not only because we were together at school that John subjected me to his diatribes against his ex wife. Six years earlier my wife had also left me or, to be more precise, had asked me to leave. I didn’t see anything wrong with our relationship, so I couldn’t understand what Pat meant when she said that we had to part company before she died from terminal boredom. I wasn’t happy at the time but I certainly didn’t keep a grudge. Years down the line I even had to acknowledge that I was never an exciting character.

At the time I also happened to see children as God’s gift, even if many people then thought that my beliefs belonged to the Middle Ages rather than to the closing stages of the twentieth century. I always opposed any form of contraception so, when after my son and my daughter were born Pat said that she was not prepared to have any more children my only alternative was to stop having sex. Six months later I was renting the bedsitter in Newtown where I lived until I left Australia.

From the time when I separated from Pat my life revolved around a simple routine: I would go to work, I would diligently do my job, and when that was finished I would go to my flat, prepare some food and go to bed with a book. On Sundays I would go to church early in the morning and then I tried to spend some time with my son and my daughter. My son at this point was just one year away from his high school examinations and my daughter was about to turn thirteen. Unfortunately they both soon begun to give clear signs that they Betturkey would like to be somewhere else rather than spending their time with me.

One fateful Sunday my cherished routine was altered by work demands. I was scheduled to cover a social event. John knew I hated those assignments, so he probably did it to punish me for my temporary lapse in subservience. As a journalist I often had to attend functions and parties testing my tolerance for the inane to the limit. I always considered that it was enough punishment to have to deal with editors like John or sub-editors and hopeful underlings that tried to emulate him, always looking up to him, always acting as if they were saying that after all, he made it didn’t he? I wished I could have said no, even to John but, having turned thirty-eight, and after committing to oblivion the story that I once wanted to write, I only had my chosen profession to pay my bills, so I could only smile, nod and comply.

I was driving towards my date with boredom musing about how much John and his cronies have in common. He had made a career substituting substance with pomposity and talent with single mindedness. In the name of expediency him and his willing partners were guilty of the crime of murdering the truth, never allowing the concept of journalistic integrity to get on the way of a story. As I drove, the eye of my mind could see them diligently at work constantly checking to ensure that those who had not yet lost their innocence did not, by accident or design, step on the toes of a large advertiser that may then decide to withdraw his support.

Unfortunately the depressing aspects of my profession didn’t stop there. As a journalist, I had to be aware of the many business relations that the owner of the paper maintained, so if I was investigating unethical or illegal behaviour I could make sure that their sanctity was not put into question. Of course, I also had to deal with incompetent politicians, dishonest public servants, corrupt police and all types of assorted crooks to the point of feeling nauseated by a side of life that remains hidden to most people most of the time.

I arrived at the large waterfront residence of the socialite organising the party, resigned to unmitigated suffering as in all previous similar occasions, my boredom only to be relieved by the drinks that I would not have been able to afford on my salary. When the first waiter-propelled tray came my way I took a glass and tried to find a vantage point from which to map my moves.

There was a wide staircase curving to the right, big enough to deserve the presence of Maureen O’Hara’s. In my most casual mode I managed to stand on the last step, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. I could see Bishop Michael O’Reilly, well known by his stand condemning sex outside marriage, homosexuals, abortion and euthanasia. In those days I often found myself having to defend him against the people who thought that since becoming a bishop he had, single-handed alienated more Catholics than any other religious leader in history. Sometimes they even accused him of being responsible for reducing church attendance to an all time low. What I thought then was that it was about time that somebody was prepared to stand up in defence of traditional values. He was most certainly doing that and in those days I was no the only one who thought that it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he was to make it to become the next Pope.

‘Boring place, isn’t it?’ I turned, somehow taken aback by somebody reading my thoughts by just looking at the back of my head. I liked what I saw. She was not too tall but by no means short. She had obviously come down the stairs and was standing on the step above me. I could see a long white dress of simple lines hugging her very attractive body and contrasting with her tanned skin, enhancing her charms to the limit. She had dark hair, inquisitive green eyes and an irresistible smile. I guessed she was in her early to mid twenties. Without a single warning my body had become the Devil’s playground again. Like at the throw of a hidden switch, cherished religious values were instantaneously sent into cryogenic suspension without me even realising it. I could hear enough in her voice to probably send Lazarus running a marathon rather than just walking. Looking back at those events I can see that I didn’t have a chance to ignore her. It would have been tantamount to ignoring one’s own destiny.

When I could gather myself enough to utter a reply I said ‘Only until now, that is’. A flirting personality that I did not know I had was suddenly coming to the surface, entirely taking me over. ‘What do you do?’ she asked. ‘I’m a journalist forced by my editor to be here today against my will, for which I’m going to thank him tomorrow’. She laughed without affectation. ‘I have found some rather interesting places wandering around. Come and I will show you.’ Her voice Betturkey Giriş was not only sexy, but also cultured and the invitation had more in common with a command than a suggestion. It was impossible not to accept it. I followed her up the stairs and into a corridor with high ceilings and old paintings hanging on the walls.

Somebody has spent an awful lot of money trying to re-create an England that nowadays only exists in the realm of the ultra rich, history books, museums and National Trust buildings converted into hotels or function centres.
She opened a door and led me into a large library. She closed the door and went to a big Huon Pine table in the middle of the room, left her purse and turned towards me with sensuous and very self assured steps. She did not stop until her body started brushing mine. Putting her right hand on the back of my neck she proceeded to give me a passionate kiss. I had never experienced a kiss like this in all my life. To say that I was surprised would be the understatement of the millenium. There are no words to describe how overwhelmed I was.

It is almost twenty years ago. I am holding Pat’s hand. It is cold and shaky and so is mine. I want to kiss her but I don’t know how to start. She looks at me, the blind leading the uninformed. Hormones competing with guilt and inadequacies. All those years of celibacy are weighing us both down. We feel suffocating, our instincts paralised.. We hold each other closer but we are pulled apart by an abysm full of fear of desire.
Reality strikes me hard and I wake up to it, still in amazement. This mystery woman was beautiful enough to give many of the super models a run for their catwalk. After an eternity that I did not want to end she pulled away from me, took a step back and looking deep into my eyes, almost without blinking said ‘undress me’. The tone of her voice would have prevented anyone from even thinking of disobeying her. I looked around, conscious of the prohibitions imposed by my faith and suspicious of being set up. Even the hidden cameras of the cold war paranoia were suddenly coming forward. At that point I decided that even if I was condemning my soul to eternal damnation or if the entire spook community was keeping both eyes on me, I could not and would not miss this opportunity!

‘There is a zipper on the back’, she said, but did not turn around for me to undo it. I walked around her, opening the dress passed the small of her back. There were neither bra nor pants. I walked around to face her once again. I took the two thin straps that were holding the dress up and gently slide them over her shoulders; my hands caressing her skin while helping the dress to glide down. The silence was so intense that the whisper of her dress falling was almost deafening. I watched mesmerised as she stepped out of it, standing in front of me in the most glorious naked vision of my life, still wearing her high-heeled shoes. Her well formed breasts stood proud, crowned by nipples inviting the soft touch of loving lips, her skin was perfect and her pubic hair was noted for its absence.

‘It is my turn now’ she said with a smile. I had to stay motionless while she moved around me, undressing me, touching me and looking.

I had never been so aroused since the first time that I had sex, on my wedding night, so many years ago.

I am an incompetent and unskilled brand new husband, only capable of murdering my new wife’s virginity, creating an experience of pain and sorrow in stead of pleasure and joy.
She took my right hand and put it between her legs. She had no prickly hair and my fingers felt enough fluids to float a boat. I gently pushed two fingers in to be welcomed by the warmth and firm softness of her sex. She reached for her purse, took a condom from it and put it on my penis with a well practiced motion, then she sat on the table, let her shoes fall, laid back and commanded me to penetrate her without delay.

I had forgotten the beautiful feeling of my fingers parting the wet labia of an aroused woman, the anticipation of my hand guiding my penis into a never ending well of pleasure. I came very quickly but I was so aroused that I did not stop. When I was completely exhausted and had witnessed either her incredible number of orgasms or the most striking acting performance ever, she motioned me to a double armchair. Naked as we were we sat down to a long hug of mutual thanks, our skin welcoming the cold leather with a shudder. Trying to sound totally nonchalant, as if being seduced by a beautiful woman was a common occurrence for me I said ‘I think that perhaps this is a good time for introductions. My name is Franco Sand, mother Italian, father Australian, did a BA in English some eons ago and I was lucky, or perhaps unlucky enough to start working as a journalist soon after graduation. I got married then divorced, and I am now happily living the life of a bachelor.’

She lifted her head from my chest to reply ‘Nice meeting you Franco. My name is Camille Sanspeur, mother Irish, father French. I have a PhD in Psychology and I am a senior tutor at a university, and I have written a couple of books and a couple of dozens articles. I am 27 years old, although sometimes people say that I must be more than 100. I am happily married, I have a three year old daughter and I love sexual adventures’. ‘That I noticed and I’m sure that you must be perceived by many men as very much of a threat.

I feel very threatened right now. I was brought up to see always the man as the initiator. A woman is supposed to just respond, isn’t she? I don’t think you should have the right to storm into my life like this.
She looked at me with an unsmiling expression and said ‘Just a word of warning. Most people only believe what they want to believe and reality is often more difficult to comprehend than fiction because it can be far more challenging. Apart from what I said I may be many other things that, right now you could not possibly understand’. Her words added an unbearable foreboding to my fears.

I could see that she knew what she wanted. It was obvious that she would never accept no for an answer, nor would she do anything that she did not want to do. I had never met anyone like her. ‘How did you get to develop as such an independent woman, so sure of yourself, so free?’ ‘That is a long story that would require some time to tell. If you are really interested I may be prepared to talk to you at a later date, perhaps when we meet again’.

‘When will that be?’ I said, hoping that she would say something like tomorrow. ‘I will appear again in your life when I’m ready, not before. In the meantime, there are many things that you have to work through in your life’. Those words startled me. ‘What do you know about me to say that’. ‘Enough’. Her laconic response sent a chill down by back.

I tried to retain her in my arms, my skin pressed to hers, feeling her warmth, her softness contrasting the firmness emanating from her but it was not to be. She stood up, made me rise from the armchair and without a word started dressing me. It felt so strange.

The bath is finished. I don’t want it to end! My mother is drying and dressing me, the awakening touch of her hand replaced by the harsh feeling of a towel rubbing my skin.
Camille even tied my shoelaces. Silently and with the lazy movements of a satisfied cat who has just eaten a mouse she walked to where her dress was lying, picked it up and with an almost choreographed movement slipped it over her head. She stepped into her shoes, took her purse and turned to face me, breaking the silence. ‘Don’t leave this room for the next fifteen minutes or you shall never see me again’. I stood as motionless as you would have expected Lot’s wife to be after looking back to her home town being razed to the ground.

A grandfather clock against the wood panelled wall was loudly ticking the seconds away with an almost hypnotic constancy. I didn’t move, I remained standing, lost in the feelings that I had experienced in the previous couple of hours. The clock’s chimes brought me back into reality. My shaky legs took me out of the room and into the boredom of the party down stairs. I surveyed every guest with the inner hope that I would see Camille but fully knowing that it was not going to happen.

‘What happened to you mate? You look as if you have seen a whole convention of ghosts!’ José Ortega, from one of the main stream ethnic newspapers was looking at me with a smirk in his face. ‘I’m not feeling very well’ which was not really a lie. ‘Probably too much to drink, eh?’ his Spanish merging so naturally within his speech to go almost unnoticed. ‘You are probably right. I think I’m going to get some fresh air and then head for home.’

I walked to the front door in a quasi zombie state, automatically waving to some people, unconsciously acknowledging others. I sat in the refuge of my car and lit a cigarette. I was trying to give it up but at this time I needed some comforting. I couldn’t believe it. That sort of things did not happen and besides that, I had acted in a way that was not me. I had lived the life of the righteous for all these years and without even thinking for a second I had put the salvation of my soul in jeopardy for a woman that I had never met before and may not even meet again.

I drove in an ever-increasing turmoil.

Why did I do that? Am I asking myself about just fucking her or the enjoyment I had fucking her? I am a man after all and I cannot abandon all those instincts. But how can I reconcile what I’ve done with the teachings of my church? Is God a sadist? Would have to be, giving us the joy of sex and at the same time forbidding us to experience it.
Soon I could no longer stand it and with a sweaty hand I reached for my phone to ring one of the very few true Redemptorist’s priests left in Sydney. ‘Father Patrick this is Franco Sand. I have to talk to you.’ The heavy Irish accent was reassuring. ‘My son, you don’t even have to call me if you want to see me. Just come straight away. I will be in the Presbytery.’

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