I Am Not An English Rose

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English rose

English rose

As a flower I grew thorns to protect

All the years that I have spent

Waiting for a dream man to appear;

A perfect man with sweet blond hair.

Would he even want a flower so dark?

Would he deign to seek me in my corner of the park?

Or would he run to the greenhouse bright,

Where English roses are always white?

These thorns of mine are a defence from thieves:

One unwanted touch, and I  make them bleed.

Those racist men who once forced me to fight,

Are the ones who now say I don’t look right.

But my roots are black, my foundations are strong.

So I stopped waiting for the perfect man. I’d got it all wrong.

And when my petals fell out, my head was bare.

The cold revealed how the men just didn’t care.

I grew wild and free, with roots so deep;

My tendrils stretched out.  I increased my reach.

The White roses shook when they at last could see

This dark, bald flower had grown into a tree.

I am an English Oak, magical and brown.

No racist man can cut me down.

I shelter the other flowers in the park:

The beautiful blooms that grow around my bark.

I don’t know how this overlooked dark flower

Became a sturdy tree with so much power.

I have not forgotten my  lowly birth,

As a mighty Oak, I tower upon the Earth.

The White roses have faded, some of my sisters have died.

This Oak reigns queen in the forest.

From the humble earth, to the endless sky.

 

In praise of zero: thanks for nothing.

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Binary code

Binary code

 

 

Zero doesn’t mean ‘loser ‘ to me;

It doesn’t mean I’m weak.

Zero is the start of binary,

(Can you tell that I’m a geek?)

Zero means the digital world:

Maths and computers around me.

Zero is the strand of code

that links my lovers to me.

 

I’m a walking stereotype, I guess,

but the analogue world just doesn’t make sense.

Roman numerals are a waste of time;

The Arabic zero lets my love shine.

When my partners are countless kilometres from me,

I can touch  them all though my PC.

 

I give thanks for the women who developed early code;

The Muslim scholars who made zero precious as gold.

Where would I be without that special digit?

Without the internet and those I’ve met within it?

Zero makes my world go round, I swear

That’s why this geek remembers nothing in all his prayers.

Life as I know it for #BiVisibility Day

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Repost with credit

 

Life would never be the same. Theo had gone. We organised a party; a chance to say goodbye. I stopped off at a busy pub on my way. I toasted Theo with a tot of rum. I downed it in a single gulp; no need to drag it out. I knew I would never have another.

I adjusted the little fob watch on my nurse’s uniform. The cut and styling had changed somewhat since the 1960’s but it still looked decent enough. I imagined I’d see quite a few uniforms at the party. We had all been asked to wear outfits that we had worn when we first met Theo. Theo’s lovers had come from every background imaginable. I wasn’t his number one girl, but at least I’d been single figure. I used to think of us all sometimes, row upon row of women and the occasional man with little numbered cards on our backs. We could all play bingo if we wanted.

Cheryl met me at the door. “Now I won’t have any crying.” She waved her finger at me. “Theo loved us all. Let’s celebrate it.” And then she pulled me into a bear hug. Cheryl was dressed as a chef. She was one of his last conquests; she had only known Theo as a rich old man.

Cheryl led me to a room where a dozen or so people lounged on leather armchairs. I recognised most of the faces, but not all. Theo had been a busy boy. If alcohol hadn’t destroyed his liver, he’d have died of exhaustion sooner or later.

“So how long did you know Theo?” A woman whose name I had forgotten asked me; she wore a long evening gown with row upon row of pearls. I was certain that she was an opera singer. “I never knew he had a fetish for black ladies.” She fanned herself dramatically. “I thought I knew all of his little quirks.”

I scowled at her, but she only smiled in response, obviously happy to have hit home with her comment. She continued speaking in a loud voice. “Do you know he once made me go out in the middle of the night for a tuna-fish sandwich?”

A tiny scrap of a woman who sat beside me spoke up. “Why didn’t you make it yourself?”

The opera singer turned to her, looking completely offended. “Darling, I don’t cook.” I remembered her name at last: Laura. She was definitely a double-figure entry on the list of Theo’s lovers. I’d seen her sort many times before; they were strictly private hospital material, with silver-service meals, fresh flowers every morning, and bottles of whiskey under the bed.

The little woman bowed her head. I patted her hand, leaned in to whisper, “Theo hated fish. He probably sent her out to get a bit of peace.”

The murmur of conversation faded to the background as I recollected the first time I’d met Theo, when I had been a student nurse at the Whittington hospital in East London.

****

“I cannot eat this muck.” Theo held out his tray to me with one hand. The other hand was in a cast.

“All patients have the same meal, Mister Peters.”

“You’re new here aren’t you?” Theo squinted at me. “You probably stepped off the banana boat and straight into that nurse’s uniform.”

“I was born here.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You mean, right in this very spot?”

I pushed the tray back to him. “Eat your sardine sandwich. Don’t make me jam it down your scrawny white neck.”

Theo grinned at me. “None of the other nurses talk to me like you do. I find your feisty nature quite interesting.” He pushed the tray back to me once more. “But I cannot abide fish. Isn’t there anything else?” He batted his eyelashes at me. I’d never seen a man do that before. “Go on,” he continued. “As soon as my arm gets better, I’ll make it up to you. I’d be very, very grateful.” Theo undid the top button on his pyjamas. I tried not to laugh at his outrageous behaviour.

I returned to Theo’s bedside at the end of my shift with a cheese roll. My uneaten lunch disappeared in quick time. I watched the handsome man as he ate his meal, noticing his fine copper hair, and how it fell in front of his eyes as he gobbled up the food.

Theo started telling me about himself; of his acting career which was currently going nowhere. He talked to me like none of the other patients did, like I was his equal, and not just another coloured nurse. There was something intriguing about the strange man. I wanted to learn more. However just as things started to get really interesting, the ward Matron ambled along and said Theo could go home.

I didn’t think I’d see him again, but Theo rode up to the hospital two weeks later on a battered motorcycle. I’ll never forget the looks on the other nurses’ faces as he helped me straddle the mean machine.

He took me to his little apartment in Dalston where we toasted our health. Theo started to strip out of his clothes.

“You’re a beautiful girl, Josephine,” he said as I stood there watching him disrobe. “Did you know there’s a famous woman with your name?”

“Josephine Baker.” I’d been named after my grandma, but I knew who my other namesake was.

Theo approached me, naked as the day he was born. “She was renowned for something, wasn’t she?”

“She used to dance in a banana skirt.” I’d seen the crackled black and white images many times before. As soon as I said that, Theo struck a mad pose. He started dancing about the room. It was so silly that I couldn’t help but laugh. I undid my uniform cape, and joined in his dance, shedding layer after layer as we gyrated about the room. When we toppled to his tiny bed I knew what was coming. Theo spread my legs with his knees. He licked and then bit down on my nipples, pinning me to the mattress by sheer force of his mouth. He slid a hand down to cup my vulva. A gentle finger probed inside.

“I’m not a virgin.” My voice was tight.

“Well, that’s good to know.” He pressed himself inside me in a few short shoves. He felt so good; firm with a little softness to take the edge off it all. I felt massaged by his penis as he rocked inside me. I rolled my hips to feel everything I could. My whole body came alive; when I climaxed, I imagined that I sparkled with a thousand glittering lights.

Our first time together didn’t last long, but it was the start of something wonderful. Theo would pick me up after work, and then he’d take me exploring on his bike. We tore through the heart of London; to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. He pointed out all the theatres that he said he would appear in one day. All he needed was his big break.

It was months later when I received a ticket in the post. Theo was playing a small part in a production at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. I spent hours begging my fellow nurses to lend me some decent things to wear. Susie loaned me her embroidered handbag, Joan let me borrow her smart coat. Matron doused me with real French perfume. They all waved me off as I caught a taxi to my destination.

However, when I arrived at the theatre I wasn’t allowed in. A big man blocked my path. “We don’t want your kind upsetting our patrons,” was all he said. I showed him my ticket, but he just growled, “No blacks.”

I felt thoroughly dejected. My shoes hurt, and my skin began to itch from the perfume. I sat on a wall opposite the theatre, watched white ladies and gents enter the beautiful building. I waited for hours just to see them all leave again with smiles on their faces, happy and jolly.

Quite by chance, Theo walked straight up to me. “Did you enjoy the show?” he asked with a grin.

“They wouldn’t let me inside.”

It was then that I realised a pretty woman stood beside him. The woman scowled. “Oh that is just dreadful.”

Theo held out his hand. “Desiree, this is Josephine.”

Desiree squealed. “So you’re the nurse I keep hearing about. Theo says you have gorgeous tits.”

I couldn’t speak with shock. I wondered if Desiree was a close friend, maybe a confidant. I was proved wrong when she kissed Theo on the lips. I suddenly felt like a fool. All men were liars; white men doubly so.

Desiree tore herself away from Theo, and grabbed hold of my arm. “You’re coming back to my place. I insist.”

Theo hailed a taxi. Desiree propelled me forward before I could protest. I sat stiff as a board once inside the vehicle. Theo and Desiree continued to kiss each other, completely ignoring me. I didn’t know where to look; I was embarrassed at the whole display.

When we arrived at Desiree’s home, I was bodily dragged up the path, into an elevator, and up to her penthouse apartment. I’d never been somewhere so posh. I didn’t know those sorts of places existed outside of the films.

“You’re probably wondering about us,” Desiree said as she pushed a tumbler of Scotch into my hand. “Our Theo is a total slut.”

I looked away at the use of such language. I stepped backward to the door, but Theo stopped me.

“I was going to tell you, I promise, Josephine.”

“You were not.” Desiree flung herself on to a plush sofa. “You were going to string the poor girl along.”

“Were you?” I could barely look at Theo. “Why would you do such a thing?”

Theo looked down. “I made an assumption. I thought nice coloured ladies were only interested in straightforward men with straightforward appetites.”

I kissed my teeth loudly. “Well I’ve seen your appetite, and your eyes are bigger than your belly.”

“Hear, hear!” Desiree called out from the sofa. “I say we teach the bounder a lesson. If he wants to play the field then he should pay the consequences.” She raised her glass to me. “I think it only fair.”

Theo blushed, and looked up at me from under his long eyelashes. “Please don’t punish me. Please don’t spank me. And definitely don’t sit on my face and make me pleasure you. I’d positively hate that.”

I shoved him hard. “Stop talking!” I flicked a look to Desiree. “You got a hairbrush I can use?”

Desiree jumped up. She ran out of the room before reappearing with two expensive-looking brushes. She grabbed Theo by the scruff of his neck, and then bent him over the sofa. She pulled down his smart trousers. I helped her out when his belt buckle got caught on the fabric.

“We make a good team, don’t we girl?” Desiree remarked. “Let’s take it in turns.” She slapped his bottom with the back of a hairbrush. A red shadow appeared immediately. I struck down with my brush after a moment’s hesitation. Together we rained down holy terror on the brute. Theo laughed at first, but by the end he was wriggling like a grass snake. I spanked him until my arm was sore; until all the hurt and anger had passed through me. I felt giddy, happier than I should have been. I stepped away at the same time Desiree did. We both grinned at each other like we had just found the cure for all the world’s ailments.

“Please don’t think too badly of Theo. He simply cannot keep his chap out of mischief.”

I assessed the other woman through blurry eyes. “Don’t you ever get jealous?”

“Who am I to tell him how to run his affairs?” She put a hand to her mouth. “I don’t mean illicit affairs. I’d rather know what he’s up to than have him creep around like an alley cat.”

Theo clambered up; his face and his backside were bright red. “I really should have told you about my arrangements sooner.” He held out his hand. “Forgive me?”

I shook his hand, and let him draw me and Desiree into a double-ended embrace.

We met up as a threesome every few weeks after that night. I had a fine old time of things until the other nurses began to talk. Theo had become increasingly well-known; the newspapers even took a picture of him with Desiree and me on either side. We both held him close, and in one photograph we both kissed him on the cheek. They called Theo the ‘King of the Chess Board,’ which probably meant that he had two queens, one black and one white. In 1960’s Britain that kind of thing was completely scandalous.

It wasn’t long before the hospital registrars told me that they no longer needed my services. My nursing career ended just as Theo made it really big. He became a star on the silver screen; leaving the theatre far behind. I watched every single one of his films, sitting in the back of the cinema with a smile on my face. Of course he found more bed partners with time; Theo loved to be adored. I didn’t feel jealous, but when he moved away from London, the distance grew not just in miles, and that made me sad. I got on with my life; became a wife to a dependable man, a mother to three children and five noisy grandkids. But sometimes I wished I could climb on a motorbike and speed through London just like I used to so many years ago.

****

My mind brought me back to the present. All around me people talked about their experiences with Theo. A tall man dressed in a security guard’s uniform spoke of rooftop sex, whilst a woman who wore a frilly apron laughed over her tale of cross-dressing and candle wax. Theo had led a very adventurous life.

I looked up as Desiree entered the room. She wore an old-fashioned tennis outfit. She scanned the collected faces. “Theo wanted us to do this as a way of remembering him. He was a scoundrel and a cad, but god, he knew how to enjoy himself.” Desiree grinned at us all. “To Theo!” She raised her glass. My hand was empty, but I closed my eyes. I conjured up the taste of rum instead.

Desiree scampered over to me, grabbed me by the hand, and led me away to a corner. “May I show you something in the bedroom?” We retreated from the noise, down the brightly lit corridor to her room. A line of hairbrushes sat neatly on the bed. Desiree held up an ebony brush with a thick handle. “It will be just like the old days.” She pressed the brush into my hand.

“I never spanked you in the old days.”

Desiree looked away for a moment. “I often thought about it. I don’t know why I never asked you. I must confess I always admired you.” She blushed crimson, as though this declaration was more shocking than a request for a spanking. “You have such beautiful chocolate skin. And Theo was right: you still have fantastic tits.”

I looked down at the brush in my hands; it was heavy and solid. The future was suddenly real and exciting. I tapped the brush on the palm of my hand. “Let’s not waste any more time.” I sat on the edge of the bed. Desiree grinned at me before she draped herself over my lap. Her tennis dress rode up to reveal sensible white knickers. I tapped the brush gently over the top of her thighs, and then brought it down hard over her bottom.

“No wonder Theo loved this,” she said with a giggle. “Do it again, won’t you?”

“I will if you stop your yakking.” I spanked her with the hairbrush twice more. The noise was something else. I hoped nobody from the party would come inside to investigate.

I scrunched up the sides of her knickers so that her reddened cheeks were more visible. I’d shared so much with this woman, but I’d never realised how soft and lovely she was. I reached to the side where a compact hairbrush sat. The little beauty was perfect for hitting the underside of her bottom. Desiree was good to her word; she’d stopped talking. I listened to the other noises she made instead; noises that were far more telling than anything she could say with her clipped English accent. I put the hairbrush down, spanked her with my own hand instead. I put my back into it, but the effort was worth it when Desiree began to shudder. I was really getting into the swing of it when she rolled off me in a sudden movement. I scarcely had time to think before she straddled me, pushing us both back on to the bed. The hairbrushes slid this way and that, but I was only aware of the weight of my friend on me. We kissed with a frenzy I hadn’t known since my days of scandal. We ground against each other, both of us still fully clothed. Desiree reached into my nurse’s uniform, squeezed my breasts almost hesitantly at first, and then with more force. I was surprised at the strong sensations that raced through me. I felt my body start to crackle with electricity. And when we both fell apart, smiling and gasping, I knew that we had started something new and exhilarating. This was far better than racing along on a motorbike. It was better than getting blissfully drunk. This was life, and I was living it.

Bloom for #BiVisibiltyDay

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Solar powered toy flowers

My grandpa would give flowers to the sky. It was just something he did. I was an ordinary girl in a family of eccentrics. Aunt Floribell was famous for making sculptures out of dried seaweed; my older brother used to keep a pet cockroach in an empty jar that once held liquorice twists. I didn’t do anything like that. But when I was little I would tramp with my grandpa through the high grasses, past the brambles thick with oozing sweet fruit. My little brown fingers were always stained purple and black by the time we reached the bluebells, the snowdrops and the daffs. He would inspect the flowers and carefully pick them. I would just stand and watch, trying to hold down a sneeze from the pollen that flew wild around me.

Ma never said a word when we would come home with mud on our shoes, and blooms in our hands. Ma was teaching herself Esperanto; she said it was the true language of love as it was international. Love was being able to truly understand another person, she always told me. That’s why Ma and my dad weren’t together.

“He was a complete mystery. I’m not sure we were ever dating. He bought me dairy-free chocolates and a dictionary once, so he’s not a bad man,” Ma said.

Ma would tie the flowers in a strip of ribbon, or sometimes a length of rough brown string. For years I would tie my hair the same way Ma would prepare our offering. But that was before I cut my hair off. That was before everything changed.

Grandpa always presented the flowers to the sky on his own; it was a private thing for him. But I would watch from the kitchen window as he stood in the middle of the paved-over garden. The brick-dust scent of the city was overpowering, but I imagined the fragrance these flowers held. He would hold up the bouquet to the sky as if presenting it to his long-ago lover, standing still for countless moments until his arms would suddenly lower. Grandpa would smile as he turned around and caught me peeking, my head bobbing over the low frame. He would put the flowers on the cold hard ground. They would lay there until they dried up and were whisked away into the nearest bin.

“Why don’t you tear out all this concrete?” Grandpa would always say to Ma.

“The landlord wouldn’t like it, dad. You know that.”

Grandpa would mutter to himself at that, but he would ask the same question the next time we brought flowers home.

Grandpa and I had a falling out. There was a young man. Of course there was. Leroy’s clothes were held together by safety pins. He was in a Gospel-Funk band, but he was training to become a youth leader. He was particularly down with the teenagers, or so he would always tell me. He also said that love was a solid bass line, one that rattled your ribs and moved your soul. I was very much in love with him.

Grandpa was not taken however. Grandpa did not like the way Leroy drank his cola straight from the bottle. He would shake his head if he as much as caught sight of Leroy’s fake gold chains. He forbid Leroy to play any Gospel-Funk in our home.

“When did you get so boring, Grandpa?” I asked him once.

“That man is every stereotype that’s going. There’s nothing original about him.” Grandpa folded his arms.

“He makes me happy.”

Grandpa gave me a sad look. “Yes, I suppose he would.”

The words stung like I’d been slapped. I suddenly felt too hurt to listen to Grandpa anymore. I went to Leroy’s home, and let him cut my hair in a style of his choosing. I sported a pink buzz cut for several months. I was determined to be eccentric, just like the rest of my family. It didn’t go down well. Grandpa still spoke to me; he didn’t turn his back on me. But from that point on, there was little in the way of warmth and affection between us. The next time I saw flowers spread out on the patio, I knew my presence was no longer wanted.

Leroy and I lasted until he got head-hunted to recruit youngsters to the Royal Navy. The generous salary made him forget about solid bass lines, but he remained down with the teenagers all the same I guessed. I couldn’t quite believe that I’d lost my relationship with my grandpa because of Leroy. But if it hadn’t been him, there would have been another boy with another set of annoying traits. It might have been a girl instead, but I wasn’t brave enough to try back then.

If I thought I was ordinary beforehand, then after Leroy my life went into full, average swing. I got a job at an insurance company; I wore grey and black every day for almost two decades. I never shared my family history with my colleagues. I never did anything strange. And when I said my final goodbye to Grandpa, the sky was blank and hard and grey, just like my work clothes; just like the patio where I grew up.

***
I don’t give flowers to the sky like Grandpa did, but I remain an admirer of sorts. I’m middle-aged now, so I can do as I please even though I am usually serious. I can stamp across floorboards in the dark, make some nettle tea and sit by the windows. I live in London still, in a part where there are no fields or woods, save for the patch of green behind the supermarket where I shop once a week like clockwork. I’m not usually an early morning person, but today I am up long before my alarm is due to sound. I have my charcoal suit ready, hanging crisp and pressed on a hanger in my bedroom. I have my lunch waiting, wrapped in cling film in the fridge. I know the meetings I will attend today and tomorrow and next week without even looking at my diary. But none of that is in my head as I wait for the dawn like I’m waiting for a blind date to make an appearance. I gaze up, strain my eyes and picture the sky in the way I imagine Grandpa used to. I feel small and furry, wrapped as I am in my nightie and old dressing gown. I suddenly appreciate the comfort and reassurance.

At first the sky is an inky blue with only the slightest sparkle. It looks the way an empty box of chocolates smells. It makes me think of orchids and the squish of Grandpa’s boots in the mud as we made our way to the spot where the flowers grew in bursts of living colour.

There is a sort of orange background glow as I continue to look out of the window at the horizon above the tall houses opposite. The last of the streetlamps are winking out of existence, one at a time. Light pollution has not diminished the affection that runs through my body. But as the minutes tick by and the radio plays softly behind me, the streaks of the approaching sun turn the dark into shades of violet and pink. The day begins. And in the place where Grandpa was born, on the edge of the warm Caribbean Sea, I know it is just gone midnight. I know that there are no sources of blinding light to compete with the dark.

In London, the sky starts to reflect duck-egg blue on my brown face, on my dark brown eyes. My pupils may contract at such vibrant sights but I do not shrink back as the sun creeps higher. The tea goes cold in my grasp, the radio is only a murmur, but the clouds that scud through my vision make my world spin.

I know why Grandpa made offerings now. It comes as a quiet revelation. I think back to my childhood and I can almost see the circles he drew from the earth to the sky, from the dark to the light whenever he offered up his flowers. It was proof that he was still alive, still tramping around in the dirt instead of being silent beneath it. I feel a connection to Grandpa though he’s been gone more than ten years.

My eyes fall from the sky for just a moment; I see a ragged plant sitting in a flower-pot by the kitchen sink. The little identification label has long gone, so I have no idea what the plant is. It is just a pathetic little thing that I forgot to water before I went away on a business trip to Liverpool. From my view by the window, most of the colour has been washed out of its limp leaves. But it is all that I have, and suddenly it feels important that I do something with it. I go over to the sink, and then I lift the grubby plant up to the window. It is not enough of course, so I push down the frame, letting cold London air wash over me. I hold up my plant to the sky.

A square of yellow light appears just as my arms are totally extended. A neighbour across the way comes into focus. I’ve seen her just once before, looking beautiful and poised as we both waited for the 678 bus. Now I see her watch me as I do my strange thing. She doesn’t know about Grandpa or the other eccentric members of my family. She doesn’t know of how my sister would always put a pinch of salt in her black coffee, or how Uncle Les would watch Welsh-language programmes even though he didn’t understand a word of it. I know I must look like one of them; I must look like a weirdo.

But before embarrassment seizes me completely, I see how the rich, buttery sun picks up the muted colour of the plant. It comes to life in my hands as we both soak up the rays. My neighbour lifts a hand in my direction. I angle the plant toward her, careful to not drop the thing three storeys down to the ground.

My neighbour disappears for a moment. I can only imagine her running to the nearest computer or mobile phone. I imagine her telling the whole world, via social media, that her neighbour is offering a mouldy old pot plant up to the sun like some strange Aztec sacrifice. My arm wavers as I realise I am still quite visible in my dressing gown that has honestly seen better days. What if I bump into my neighbour on the bus again on the way to work? What if she is a client, visiting the office looking for a quote? Why did she have to be so gorgeous?

All of my fears vanish however when my beautiful neighbour returns with a huge yucca plant in her arms. She holds it up to the sun, though she is more in the shadows than I. She somehow manages to balance the plant against her chest as she waves at me. We are two eccentric souls, united for that moment. I feel a connection to this woman that is solid and real. I wave back at her as the sun dazzles my eyes. I am smiling before I know it.

The Curse of Consistency By Jacq Applebee

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The Curse of Consistency
By Jacq Applebee

A, B…
Curse of consistency,
Dread of deformity,
Everyday expectations,
Forcing me to fail.

Give me generosity:
Healing hugs spontaneously,
Ideas that can change my mind,
Just when you had me down.

Keep your consistent acts;
Let me redefine my facts,
Muddle my life journey’s map:
Nowhere I’d rather be.

Open arms this way and that.
Practice peculiar mental tasks.
Query, don’t just chew the fat:
Remind me of who I used to be.

So screw this consistency;
Throw away conformity:
Underneath it I’ll still be
Very changeable, and that’s all right
With me.

X, Y, Z…

A love poem in a time of sadness

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By Jacq Applebee

 

So jealousy is a fungus; spores infecting all in sight.

It blooms and blows in grey dust places,

Grey and green and black and white.

Possessiveness is a living trap that shoves me up against a wall.

The silence of shame is like a shroud outlining my living form.

But love will make my heart beat strong

When all I want is to disappear.

I’ll take step after step in a world full of thorns

To a woman in the North with warm red hair.

Where do you get your ideas from? Old Gold

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Gold leaf

A sheet of crumpled gold leaf

I’m hoping to have a series of posts about inspiration.  The above question is something I get asked all the time.  Today I’m going to look at a fave story of mine, originally published on my old website.

Old Gold was written after talking with two friends of mine.  We were all interested in natural remedies and the properties of bathing.  I started to thinking about service in a D/s context, and how acts such as bathing someone could be an act of love and devotion.  I had a book called The Scented Bath, which provided the ingredients used in the story.

I sometimes have a hard time writing about very rich people (as I’m pretty poor!), but to cope with my unease, I made Mr Falkirk someone who has lost his fortune.  I drew to mind all the older, white men who had dazzled me as a youngster, the stern school teachers, the luvvie actors I’d seen on television, and the tall, reserved men I spied through windows in bars, usually smoking a cigar, completely unaware that they were being watched.  I wanted to capture the smell of tobacco, the tick-tock of old timepieces, and the rasp of moustaches on skin.

Faraj was a different character, but one who more resembled myself, if I could be quieter, and more graceful (hey, a gal’s gotta dream).  It is sadly the case that serving someone is looked down on or dismissed, but you know that experience of eating a meal made by someone who loves you?  It tastes a lot better than that frozen ready-meal you zapped in the microwave, doesn’t it?  Yes, well I wanted to capture that feeling in the story.  I wanted to write about two very different men finding each other at the end of an era: one has just lost everything he owned, and the other is about to lose his job and the man he secretly wanted.

The thought of carrying out an intimate, non-sexual act for someone makes me feel very content.  Just the thought of someone caring and thinking deeply about my comfort would be something special for me.  I hope that everyone reading this can experience that, either giving or receiving.  I hope you enjoy my story below.

 

Old Gold

By J. Applebee

 

My name is Faraj. I’ve worked as a butler for the past eight years — three of which I’ve spent hopelessly in love with my employer. His name is Andrew Eustace Falkirk. His hair is the colour of old gold. My hair is the colour of the lacquered ebony boxes that sit piled high in his study. He has the faintest hint of a Dutch accent, though he rarely speaks to me anymore. I have an Arabic name, his is Scottish; both of our families once lived in Africa, but that was a very long time ago. England is our home now; my place is at his side.

My secret love for my employer could be seen by others as a conflict of interest, but it has only made me want to care for him in a more profound way. My pleasure is entwined in his — when he is happy, my heart soars. However, Mr Falkirk has not been happy for some time.

The bathing ritual is not really a part of my duties, but my employer needs this, and I will try to remain a professional. I’m hoping my instincts will pay off; I spent a long afternoon trawling through the bustling lanes of London’s Portobello Road Market for my supplies. Now small paper slips contain dried organic eucalyptus, lemongrass and marjoram. The powdered leaves are parched and brittle, but they hold a history of golden summers in their fragments. Tiny dark bottles contain oils and flower waters. I handle these bottles carefully as I am quite sensitive to the volatile essences. The combination of fragrances should be heavenly; they should relax and invigorate at the same time. My employer deserves the very best.

The water takes a long time to run. It’s a crime that Mr Falkirk only ever showers before running out to yet another meeting. The big clawed bathtub should never be dry — if it were mine, I’d use it three times a day, but it’s only a matter of time before both the tub and I are put into storage. I know he’ll let me go; he can’t afford to keep me, though I dearly want to stay.

The day is warm; I know he’s been out to another series of meetings in the city, and that he’s probably sweaty and dirty, but this isn’t about getting clean. This evening is about relaxation, about letting go of tension, of worries and regrets.

I switch off all the lights, and then place candles at strategic spots throughout the room. I could have done this with the lights on, but as I walk carefully in the dark, I can appreciate the sound of running water even more. Each time I strike a match, sheltering the flame with my hands, I feel myself relax more and more. I think about the spark that is Mr Falkirk; how adversity has dimmed his fire, but I dearly pray that it will never be extinguished. I return to the bath, give the cotton bath-bag a squeeze, and go in search of my employer.

When I find him, he is in his study, barricaded behind a large pile of papers, each one waiting for his signature. If it wasn’t for the rich cigar smoke that curls up to the slow-moving fan, I wouldn’t even know he was there. I nervously straighten my long apron before I speak.

“Mr Falkirk,” I say.

“It can wait!” he calls out in response.

“Mr Falkirk,” I say a little louder. After a few moments he pops his head over the parapet. He stands, and I take an involuntary step back. He is imposing; taller than I. He says nothing, but just looks at me whilst I try not to shrink beneath his stare. “Will you come with me, sir.” I don’t phrase it as a question. Even this slight offence could see me reprimanded, but I have to take a chance tonight. I must be bold.

When I first started working for Mr Falkirk, he had a full house staff. He used to have more money than I could imagine — so I’ve come to learn, and I can imagine an awful lot. Even now I imagine that he is richer than I, though his fortune has faded. But tonight isn’t about currency.

I feel his eyes on the back of my head as I lead the way to the bathroom, but I don’t dare to look around. I open the heavy bathroom door, and wait for him to go inside. I catch sight of his face as he moves further into the room. He does not look happy. But then as my heart begins to clench, I see his nose twitch. He’s smelt the fragrant bath I’ve drawn for him. He walks on as if pulled by the warm vapour. The water has taken on a marbled surface where the oils have not fully dispersed. It has become the colour of old gold from the herbs in the cotton bath bag. He looks down into the steaming bath, and then back up at me as if he’s been presented with an alien species. He smiles and nods agreeably. Mr Falkirk starts to unbutton his shirt, but my hands gently replace his as I take over.

“Neroli?” he asks. I nod as I remove his silver wristwatch. “Wintergreen?”

“Eucalyptus, sir.” I pull his shirt tails from the waist of his slacks.

“Lemongrass,” he says, inhaling deeply. His chest expands against mine; my own breath falters in my throat.

“You have a keen sense of smell, sir.” His sweat-stained shirt comes off smoothly.

“You know you don’t have to do this,” he says softly as I reach for his belt. He peers down at me, and I hesitantly look up from beneath my eyelashes; his blue eyes lock onto my brown.

“Please, sir,” I whisper. His hands fall to his side, and I continue unhindered. As I finally remove the last of his clothes his skin fairly glows. He’s caught the sun — his freckles are more pronounced, and his flesh is golden. He is naked before me — I keep my eyes above his waist. This isn’t about my desires, as much as I wish it were. Tonight isn’t about me getting what I want.

I gather up his clothes, and place them out of sight to be cleaned and pressed later. Whilst my back is turned I hear the gentle displacement of water; the soft slosh as he steps in. However, the long draw out groan he makes when he slips fully into the tub makes my skin come alive. My forearms are covered in goose bumps where my shirtsleeves are rolled up.

Triple milled Castile soap lays on a stand near the bath. I have a loofah, sea-sponges and Egyptian cotton bath-towels ready. A bathrobe made from the same special material will encase him in plush warmth when he’s ready to emerge, but I’m hoping that won’t be for a while yet.

My bare feet pad to another corner of the room where a small record player is nestled. Vivaldi plays at a low level, after all this isn’t about music appreciation.

I pour a small Cognac into a large goblet, and then I take my place at his side, kneeling by the bathtub. I adjust my apron discreetly, and pass him the glass of brandy. He takes a sip, and hands the glass back to me with eyes closed. He looks serene in the golden-hued water; younger than he is. I have seen old photographs of my employer in his personal archive. Pictures of Mr Falkirk when he was a child — not even a teen. I have packed away dozens of sepia-tinted photographs of my employer as he flew kites with unguarded moves that left him free and breezy. So many memories have been put into storage, and some would say that’s where they belong, but when you lose so much, your memories are all you can hold on to. However this isn’t about the past.

When I next look up from my thoughts, he is gazing at me. I sit us straighter, my knees a little sore on the black tiled floor. He slides further down into the golden water with a quiet sigh. Only his head is visible.

“How long have you been planning this, Faraj?” I smile when he says my name — it’s not pride or vanity I feel, but a simple delight.

“A long time, sir. It is just so rare for you to stay in for so long.” If truth be told, I had wanted to do this for an age. I was overcome with joy when I realised that he would be spending the whole weekend undisturbed. Two appointments had cancelled at the last moment, and it caused the opening that I was in need of.

“I wouldn’t be stuck here if that representative from the Cedar group hadn’t bailed out at the last minute.” He mutters, “Damn hippies,” under his breath, and I pretend to not hear him. “I wonder what Gerald Cedar would make of me if he could see me now?” he continues with a chuckle.

“I think he would be envious, sir,” I remark, a little too easily before I remember my manners.

“He would think I was taking advantage of my position. He and his bloody company think they can manage my life.”

This isn’t what I wanted tonight to be about. I didn’t want him to be thinking about business. He is a tenant in his own home; he is a man who has lost so much, but he has not lost me. I will remain with him until he tells me to go.

“But let’s not talk about that now,” he says, as if he can read my mind.

I place the stand with the washing supplies close to him, and then I retreat to the vapour-fogged windows whilst he cleans himself. Soon I hear the sound of water moving as he steps out of the tub. I go to where the towels sit, but suddenly Mr Falkirk steps in front of me. Water streams off him, running over his body and around his feet.

“You were right, you know,” he says quickly. “If he could see me, he would be jealous.” I look down at his words. I feel the blood rush to my face as he speaks.

“I’m glad you enjoyed your bath, sir,” I say quietly, still gazing at the marbled puddle that surrounds us both now.

“Look at me.” I almost imagine that I hear the desperate quality to his voice, and I stare even harder at the marbled water. Everything dissolves into a dream until he lifts my chin with his wet hand. “I believe I requested your attention,” he says softly.

“Sir,” is all I can say. My tongue is heavy and wooden, so Vivaldi speaks for me instead with a melody that is light and free.

His hand strokes my face gently for a moment, and then a wet forefinger brushes over my lips, slipping inside to run along my front teeth. I silently kneel in the puddle of cool water, aware of the feel of it through the fabric of my apron and my trousers. I drench myself in the moisture that clings to his hairy thighs — the water that has made his fair hair almost as dark as mine. His cock comes to life before my lips even get close. I breathe over his skin, and it twitches against my face.

“Faraj,” he says my name slowly, and with so much affection that it is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. I feel my own cock strain in the confines of my underwear, but I don’t move to adjust myself; my hands are busy elsewhere, stroking reverently over damp flesh. He firmly holds the back of my head, and guides me onto his cock. I lower my head down, sucking him in as I move. I can taste the faint qualities of the herbs that he soaked in, and I can smell the light scent of the soap he used. My nose ends up in the wet curls around the base of his cock, and this is surely the closest I have ever been to my employer. The years of longing fall away as my mouth clenches around his thick shaft. I pull back a little, and then swirl over the cut head, making him swear out loud above me. My fingers grip his backside, and one finger taps gently against his opening. He holds my hair tightly, and thrusts into me in time with the music.

“I’m not a young man,” he says almost with embarrassment. “I can’t last when you do that.” I swallow his length in a slow gulp, and he continues with a strained voice, “But you do that so very well.”

This isn’t about my job. The week after next will see the end of the month, and I’ll be asked to leave. I’ll find another job, I’m sure of it, but I will never have another employer like Mr Falkirk.   I don’t make a habit of falling in love with the master of the house. But I am in love with Mr Falkirk, and this is how things must play out between us — it is more than I could ever have wished for. Tonight was about an act of service from one man to another. This does not diminish me; it makes us both stronger. There is no shame in submission. There is only pleasure here tonight. When he finally comes, holding onto my head so hard, that I am surprised by his strength, he says my name over and over again. I feel like the richest man in the world.

He stills inside my mouth as I suck the last of him down. My tongue is gentle against his sensitive cock as I lovingly clean him.

“You never said a thing,” he whispers as he helps me to stand. “Why didn’t you tell me how you felt?”

“You are my employer. It’s not fitting,” I say as if what we have just done was good form.

He barks out a laugh at that, before he states, “Well then, Faraj, you are formally fired.”

I take a step back with the shock of his words. My mouth hangs open, and my heart stutters in my chest. Then I take in the wide grin on his face, and I realise what he’s done.

“Your severance pay will be generous, but under the contract I signed with the Cedar group, I’m not allowed any employees of my own.” He crosses his arms defiantly. “They have no control over my friends or lovers.” My heart soars when he says that. He uncrosses his arms and holds them out to me.

“There’s no contract that could make me love you more than I do now,” I say, and now it’s his turn to stagger back; his feet skid in the water, and he stares at me. I never meant to say it out loud. I’ve let myself slip up in the most unprofessional manner.

I hand him one of the fluffy green towels, silent as I move. He takes it from me with shaking hands. As he dries himself, I bend to wipe the water off the floor, but then I become aware of Mr Falkirk standing over me once more.

“Sir?” I ask automatically. He has wrapped the towel around his waist, but I can’t look up at him — I feel too ashamed to meet his gaze.

“Call me Andrew,” he says with a smile, and then hauls me up into a bear-hug of an embrace. “You don’t work for me anymore, remember?”

I nod as my arms slide across his back. I think I won’t have any trouble remembering this fact. His kiss leaves me as breathless as his hug. The music chooses that moment to end, and I am left in Andrew’s arms, noisily catching my breath as he holds me.

“You really love me?” he asks, whispering the question into my neck.

“I love you, Andrew,” I say, forcing the words out of my mouth without a tremor.

“I have little to offer you, Faraj,” he says apologetically. I hug him tighter, and kiss a trail down his neck. My love was never about his possessions.

“I have all I desire right here,” I respond, sighing against him.

The tiled floor is chilly on our bare feet as we walk out of the bathroom. I pass the claw-footed bath tub as we leave. The water is a faded golden colour now, and I spot a small sea-sponge bobbing up and down. My ex-employer holds my hand, his pale skin flickering with the candlelight. He draws me onwards to his bedroom, to the future that awaits both of us. This isn’t about saying goodbye in the only way I know how. This night has turned into a new beginning.

“Funny,” he says gently as he opens the door to his room, and ushers me inside. “If I hadn’t lost everything, I would have never found you.” His Dutch accent is stronger now, and I know that some part of him is angry with his situation, but I believe it is only a small part. I try to silence him with another kiss, but he places a finger to my lips. “I may no longer be a rich man, but I have wealth indeed.”

When he closes the door behind me, I try to imagine him in a bare room with no possessions at all. The opulent colour of his hair makes this impossible to do, and I’m glad. He will always have me, until he tells me to go. My title may have changed from butler to lover, but my place is still by his side. It isn’t about gratitude, it’s all about love.

 

Ends

 

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