THE AVON LADY CALLS TIME
She called on Tuesdays to deliver Sonia’s last order and collect the next – perfume, bath oil, lipstick, the special offer of the month... that sort of thing. Sonia always ordered something, even if she didn’t really need it. She accumulated stacks of stuff, some of which she eventually had to throw away. I thought it was wasteful but she said the Avon woman was regular and reliable and by buying from her felt she was helping to support a useful service. I said: “What are we - a bloody charity organisation?”
“It’s my money,” she said.
Sonia then went on to explain at great length that the woman was only probably doing what was necessary to stay afloat, that it was difficult for someone on their own.
“How do you know she’s on her own?” I said.
“She told me.”
I tell you... if Sonia had her way she’d be supporting every just cause and charity on the planet. She could never walk past a ‘tin-rattler’ without putting something in the pot.
Joan had been calling for around six months now, soon after we had moved onto the estate. She looked to be in her mid thirties and not particularly attractive; although she did have nice tits from what I’d seen. Her bum was too big and apart from the big boobs she didn’t have a lot going for her. She always looked kind of grubby too, in need of a good bath, which was strange seeing that her main job - as it happened - was as a nurse.
I have to admit there had been times when I’d thought about her in a sexual way, not very often, but usually when I was in that kind of mood one sometimes gets - you know, where you just fancy getting down and dirty with someone, anyone. I could imagine her in one of those scenes where the filthy bitch forces you to do it by blackmailing you or using some sort of coercion.
One Tuesday she called when Sonia was out, which was unusual. Sonia seemed to look forward to their little doorstep chats and liked to be in to see her. Sometimes they’d be gabbing for ages before Joan went on her way again. They seemed to hit it off together.
In the early days I used to hover over Sonia’s shoulder when Joan called, just so I could see what she was like, see if I was missing anything. Once I realised I wasn’t (apart from her tits) I didn’t bother much again, only if I was feeling in the kind of mood I was telling you about. Then I’d have a good ogle before retiring to the bathroom for ten minutes.
Only this sort of thing had been happening more and more recently and it coincided with a drop-off in my physical relationship with Sonia. She hadn’t seemed too bothered about sex over the last couple of months. It didn’t worry me too much because every relationship goes through sticky patches. But of course that meant I was left kind of high and dry and frustrated. Of course I could always attend to myself but it’s never quite as fulfilling as sex with a woman.
I answered the door. Joan had that empty look she often wore. “Sonia’s not here I’m afraid. She had to go out.” She stood there, not quite sure what to say or do, as if this change in routine had completely thrown her out of kilter. She just stood there and stared blankly at me. “Gone out,” I said again.
A gust of wind ruffled her hair and the leaves of the tree across the road, the upper branches swinging side-to-side across the beam of the street lamp. Mottled shadows moved to-and-fro across the lawn. Beyond, I could see the floodlights of the sports centre in Apsley Road.
“Did she leave anything for me?”
I didn’t recall Sonia saying anything about it.
“Hang on, I’ll go and see.”
On the arm of the sofa I found the Avon catalogue with an order tucked inside, and a cheque already made out for payment.
“Here we are... looks like she left this for you.” Over her shoulder I saw a car outside - a Focus or Astra - all shiny under the streetlamp.
“Travelling in style now then, Joan?”
I nodded in the direction of the car. “Out there, I take it it’s yours?”
“Oh yes, I’ve had it nearly a month now actually. The scrappage scheme thing... seemed silly not to do it.”
“Good for you… reckon I should’ve done the same. I suppose I’m too late for me now.”
Joan took the catalogue from me, looked at the cheque in the light of the porch and then handed me a brown paper bag with something in it.
“Wind’s getting up.” I said.
“Did she say when she’d be back?”
“No. Did you need to see her then?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Again there was a period of silence where we just stood looking at each other. It was as if neither of us actually wanted to be the one to say goodbye. I felt spits of icy rain hit my face.
“You can come in and wait if you want. She shouldn’t be long.”
This was a lie and I don’t know what made me say it. I knew Sonia wouldn’t be back for quite a while. She’d had to go and visit a friend from work who was in hospital having gall stones removed. Perhaps I was in need of some company... a particular type of company.
“It’s no trouble. I’ll make us a cuppa.”
“I should really finish my calls and get back... got loads to do.”
But she didn’t go. She continued standing there looking at me in that strange, vacant way of hers. I didn’t think she had a lot going on between the ears. Just as well really... At that moment, a woman with good sense was the last thing I needed.
I began to feel an inexplicable lust for Joan’s body, her lovely big titties, even her big arse seemed to draw me. I wanted to bury myself in her soft folds, she had plenty of them. I didn’t care about her face. I didn’t care. I wanted a woman. I wanted her. There was time. Maybe I could get away with it.
“Fancy a glass of wine instead then? In the warm... the fire’s on. Why don’t you come in?”
“I’m okay, thanks.”
She sighed and fiddled with her bag. The rising wind blew her straggly hair across her face. She bit down on her bottom lip and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. I could hear the rain pinging on the roof of her car, it sounded almost sleety.
You stupid woman, don’t you know I want to fuck you? I’m laying it on a plate, can’t you see that? You’re hardly likely to get a better offer this year, or the next come to that. If we’re quick, nobody will know.
A few strands of her mousey hair blew across her mouth and stuck to her thin lips. She shook her head and spat them out, tucking them back behind her ear. I stared at her, exasperated. I stared directly at her tits. They were very prominent, even inside her coat. She didn’t flicker. Here was I, blatantly ogling her, provoking her, undressing her with my mind and nothing. Zilch! Her plain features and lack of response angered me. I detested her and yet desired her. I was angry at myself for the way my feelings seemed to be holding me to ransom. All I wanted was to see and feel those lovely titties, smell her warm sweat and get my dick stuck into her. Was that too much to ask?
“I can only stay for ten minutes,” she said.
I left her in the other room in front of the TV, went to the kitchen and put the kettle on. I heard the Eastenders music start. Eight o’clock. That meant Sonia would be at least another hour. My cock was hard. I imagined Joan lying on her back ready for me, her pink chink wet and glistening between the matted hairs. My heart was like low thunder in my ears.
We sat and drank tea, ate chocolate digestive biscuits and watched the television. I tried to make conversation but it was hopeless. It was like talking to a dead person. She was on the settee, still with her coat on, although it was unbuttoned; and I was in the armchair and I wondered how I could cross the great divide. She was giving nothing away, no signals, no ‘come-ons’... no nothing. Surely a woman like Joan would fancy me? I couldn’t unravel the puzzle. How could I suddenly just go and sit next to her? It was impossible. Even if I did summon up the guts to take a chance she’d probably cry rape anyhow.
At 20 minutes past eight, Joan put me out of my misery.
“I have to go.”
“You haven’t finished your tea yet. Sonia shouldn’t be long.” With each passing minute this was becoming less of a lie. Our time was running out.
“If I drink any more I’ll be needing a wee before I get home.”
I wanted to say, “so what?” But I didn’t.
Joan got up to leave, buttoned her coat, picked up her bag and went out into the hallway. I followed. Something surged up inside me, a moment of desperation and stupidity. I reached out and caught her by the arm before she reached the front door. I pulled her round to face me. She squealed like she’d been hurt, but I guess I surprised her. I held her close and tried to kiss her. She wasn’t having any of it.
“What are you doing?” she said.
“What do you think?”
“Let me go.”
“You want it, don’t you?”
“I have to go. You’re hurting me.”
For a moment we grappled and then simultaneously relaxed the struggle as if good sense had suddenly prevailed. The fight had gone out of me. We held each other by the wrists and stared into each other’s eyes. Hers were empty and hunted and full of fear. Mine were stinging and watery. Her ugliness bore into me, dousing my lust. My hardness softened quickly. I let go of her.
“I’m going right now. Goodnight!”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean for...” I opened the front door for her not knowing what to say to make things right. She stepped out into the rain, her flat shoes making a wet slapping sound along the tarmac drive.
“Tell Sonia I’ll see her next week.” Her dull, emotionless voice drifted on the wind. I called out to say sorry again, but the driver’s door was already slamming shut. I felt dazed. God, how I wished Sonia had been here and none of this would have happened. I just hoped Joan would keep her mouth shut and forget about it.
The engine started, she revved it hard a couple of times as if she was making her feelings known. Her headlights cut a swath through the black rain and the tyres swished along the wet road. I went to the bathroom and was immediately sick. I was shaking. I flushed the toilet and opened the little window to let the smell out, then splashed water onto my face and looked at myself in the shaving mirror. Then I stood over the toilet bowl, took myself in hand and relieved my pent-up frustration and anger within 30 seconds.
One week later, a Tuesday, I came home late from work on purpose, hoping to avoid Joan. But I didn’t. I found her in bed with my wife. At least some things were beginning to make sense.