One moment, one lapse in concentration, and it was all over. It was my fault. She had just stepped off the kerb and I called out “See this evening.” She turned, smiled; there was a screech of tyres as a bus pulling in to stop hit her. The love of my life was dead.
I met Clare when I was tutoring in English literature and she a student. I don’t know if there is such a thing as love a first sight but it seemed like to me. Six months after first meeting her we were married; she was eighteen and I twenty four.
Three years of marriage and we were about to start trying to have our first child, and suddenly it was all over, and I blamed myself for calling out to her.
* * * * * * * *
It almost seemed that tragedy hung over her family. There was some parallel between my meeting and marriage with Clare, and my mother-in-law’s meeting with her future husband. She had been a young nurse when she met David, a surgeon. They too quickly married and six months later Ruth, my mother-in-law, gave birth to Clare.
Ruth had also been eighteen when she got married; the difference was that David had been forty three. They had ten years of marriage and then David died of meningococcal disease while on a visit to Asia.
Ruth was in her mid thirties when I first met her and I could not help but admire her. She was a tall woman, and from what I could see she was entirely unspoiled by motherhood. I had seen many women lose their attractiveness after they had become mothers, but not her.
She had long lidded dark eyes, long lustrous dark hair, and she was slender, but looked far from delicate. On the few occasions I saw her dressed in shorts and T-shirt she gave the impression of being very athletic. Her bearing was very upright and dignified and a little awe inspiring, and she seemed to carry her large breasts with pride and they reminded me of a sailing ship in full sail.
Her face was long rather than wide with a nose of the Grecian type, mouth a little too wide but with full lips, and come to think of it, Ruth was an older version of Clare, or should it be that Clare was a younger version of Ruth?
Despite her impressive appearance Ruth proved to be a very warm and welcoming mother-in-law and I got very fond of her. Eccentrically it was Ruth who, instead of resorting to an uncle or a male family friend, insisted on that archaic part of the wedding ceremony of giving the bride away, and with equal insistence gave the bride away herself, much to the chagrin of the parson.
If I was devastated by Clare’s death Ruth was stoical. Perhaps her previous experience of loss, or maybe her training as a nurse enabled her to weather the tragedies of life better than I.
It may sound weak, but it was Ruth who saw me though the early days of my grief. She stayed with me in the house Clare and I had occupied and saw to most of the details of organizing the funeral. She stayed on with me until I got back to work, and it was just as well she did because otherwise the house would have descended into a chaotic mess.
Ruth had a very active life of her own, her church and charitable work taking up much of her time, and so when she felt that I could cope she left. Thereafter she kept in touch by phone with intermittent visits, and we even had the occasional lunch or dinner together. It seemed that she was determined to stay in touch with me and I was happy to stay in touch with her.
We had the common bond of a shared tragedy but I think it would have been better for Ruth if Clare and I had been able to produce a grandchild, especially a granddaughter who resembled Clare, but of course that was not the case.
And so over the coming year I gradually recovered from the bitter blow that Clare’s death had inflicted on me, or at least I thought I’d recovered.
* * * * * * * *
It is odd how we can bury somewhere inside us even some of life’s most powerful traumas. We think they’ve gone away until some event brings them to the surface. Anniversaries can be the occasion of such resurfacing of the hidden emotional wounds.
I think that Ruth understood this better than me because two days before the anniversary of Clare’s death Ruth announced that she would come and stay with me for a few days. She gave no reason for this visit, but I guessed that she thought it would be better if we shared the anniversary of Clare’s death.
Clare had been cremated, and so on the anniversary day we went together to where there was a bronze memorial plaque and sat there for a while holding hands and remembering, and I was surprised that I felt so little emotion at that time. We returned home and went through some memorabilia: wedding photographs, Clare and I on our honeymoon, that holiday we took at…and so on.
In the evening we went to a restaurant that had been a favourite of Clare’s for dinner. Afterwards we returned home and there seemed little else to say or do, and so we had our showers and went to bed. It had all seemed so bland.
I dozed off fairly quickly and for the first time in a while I dreamed of Clare and me making love. I was jolted awake by a loud knocking at the front door and still under the influence of the dream I leapt out of bed. It was Clare; her death had only been a nightmare I’d been having.
I ran to the front door calling out, “I’m coming Clare…I’m coming…wait for me…”
I flung open the front door, and of course, no one was there. It was then the full force of my grief hit me, even more powerfully than at any time since her death. I drifted into the lounge not sure where I was going, and sat down on the divan. Then the tears came and I wept for my lost love and the desolate years ahead.
How long I stayed like that I’m not sure but a felt an arm round me and a voice said, “I heard you calling out Peter.”
“I thought Clare was there, knocking on the front door. I must be going mad, Ruth.”
“No Peter you’re not going mad, the same sort of things used to happen to me after David died. Once I even thought I saw him sitting at his desk in the study and went to put my arms round him.”
She smiled wanly and said, “Of course, no one as there. It’s all part of grieving and letting go.”
“There’s something I don’t believe I’ll ever let go of,” I said.
“If I hadn’t called out to her as she stepped off the kerb and distracted her she might still be alive, I feel so guilty.”
Ruth drew me closer to her and I could smell the fragrance of her subtle perfume.
“I do have my own guilt about that she said.”
“Yes, do you remember, I was to join you and Clare at lunch that day, and afterwards Clare and I were going shopping together. I didn’t make the lunch because I got hung up in a meeting. If I’d been there it might have been different.
That was one of the eternal “might have beens” and I had nothing to say about that. In my misery I went on, “It’s all the things that might have been that never will be. Did you know that we were going to try and have a child?”
“Yes, I knew, Clare told me.”
It’s…it’s things like…like that…”
“That hurt the most; what might have been? Yes, I know about that too Peter, but it’s no use trying to hang on. Ever since the funeral you’ve been suppressing your grief, but it had to come out some time, and I’m glad I’m here now that it has come out, because I can help you.”
I tried to respond but before I could she drew my head down to her lap so that I lay looking up at her.
“There are things a woman can do to help a man when he’s grieving; things that only she can do,” she said as she stroked my hair.
Until that moment I hadn’t noticed what Ruth was wearing, but I could see now that she only had a dressing gown on and she was opening the front of to it to expose her breasts. They were above me like two mounds of ivory coloured blancmange topped with dark pink nipples like small ripe strawberries set in light brown areola. She bent over me and at the same time raising my head she kissed me and said, “Let me suckle you darling.” Her nipples where long and firm, just as Clare’s used to be when she was sexually aroused. Ruth brushed one of her nipples against my lips and whispered, “This will comfort you.”
I took her nipple into my mouth and began to suck rather like a hungry infant. I had not been with a woman since Clare and Ruth’s taste was very sweet and I began to suck greedily. She was right, there was comfort in this.
She had one arm round me, holding me to her breasts, but I felt her other hand slip inside my pajama top and begin to stroke my chest. Her hand worked down over my belly and I felt her undo the cord of my pajama bottoms and then her hand was on my penis, gently massaging it.
“Clare has gone,” she said softly, “but I’m here and I can give you what you wanted with Clare, I’m still fertile.”
I was so amazed at this statement I released her nipple and said, “You want me to…to…?”
“I want you to make me pregnant Peter, I want to have the child you might have had with Clare. I can feel that you are ready for love and I can give it to you.”
She urged me to a sitting position and the she stood to remove her dressing gown. She was beautiful, a mature version of Clare. Apart from the colour of her hair she was also reminiscent of Edward Poynter’s painting of “Andromeda on the Rocks,” a painting that hung in the bedroom I had once shared with Clare.
She removed my pajama bottom and said, “Don’t try and do anything darling, just let me comfort you.”
She sat across me and taking hold of my penis she began to move its head along the wet cleft of her vulva saying, just relax darling and come when you’re ready.” With that I felt my penis enter her vagina, it was hot and wet and seemed to cling to my length.
“Does that feel good, darling?”
She kissed me, her tongue probing for entry into my mouth. I part my lips and her soft tongue began to explore, and soon we were exchanging saliva. As she began a slow rising and falling movement over my penis I reached out with both hands and placed them over her breasts, feeling there yielding fullness.
Still moving over me she leaned forward and her nipples were right in front of me. She put her hands behind my neck and drew me to her and I was once more sucking her nipple.
It was so long since I had been with a woman I had to struggle to keep myself from ejaculating but it was a losing battle. Ruth must have felt the urgency of my need because she started to move faster saying, “Let it go darling; let it all go… put it in me.”
I recall crying out as the delicious pain of orgasm took hold of me. I put my hands on her hips and dragged her down on to me and then my seed spurted into her.
She had been very calm and quiet up until then but suddenly she convulsed, and as I unloaded my sperm into her she cried out like a wounded animal and her movements became frantic.
“Oh God…oh God…yes…yes…oh…oh darling…ha…ha…oh…oh-oh-oh-ah-ohwaaa…aaaaah…”
Then she was over the pinnacle of her orgasm and her cries became soft sobbing whimpers gradually fading away until she finally relaxed against me, ruffling my hair with her hands and covering my face with soft moist kisses.
“Oh Peter…Peter…she panted, it was so good…so beautiful…it’s been such a long time…oh Peter…Peter…”
It had always been at such a time I told Clare I loved her and I wanted to say those words to Ruth but felt reticent. Would she think that I was just grateful for her generous giving of her body, and that I would say the words to try and ensure future sexual favours from her? Those motives would no doubt be there, but it was more than that, much more.
She kissed me on the lips again, and then with a sigh started to remove herself from me, and as the head my still nerve sensitive penis slipped out of her I gasped.
She sat beside me and said the words I had wanted to say.
“You know I love you.”
* * * * * * * *
Why is it so difficult to say those simple words, “I love you” when you long to say them? Is it a male trait, some fear of the awesome nature of those words? I know men can easily say those words when trying to persuade a woman to have sex them, but it is when you want to say them after the act that it really counts. The chances are that at that time they will be sincere, and contain the element of commitment to the loved one.
At that critical moment, as Ruth leaned against me, I gave as lame a response as could have been devised.
“You love me?”
“Yes.” She looked at me searchingly for a few moments and then went on, “There’s something I have to tell you, something — a confession I suppose.”
“I…I…when Clare first brought you to our house and introduced us I…you have to understand…there’d been no one since David…all those years.
She seemed to come to a sudden resolution.
“I might as well say it as it was, and if that spoils our relationship then better now than later. The truth is I was attracted to you.”
“No, don’t say anything, let me finish. I was attracted to you and I was jealous of Clare…yes, God help me, jealous of my own daughter. It got worse when I saw how much you and Clare were in love and I wanted what she had. And…and when I saw how wonderful you were with Clare, so tender and loving and…and…”
She stopped speaking, looking at me as if tormented.
“I never showed it, you know I never showed it and I never would have, but Clare’s death and…and tonight when you were so distressed, it had to come out. You can’t know how much I want to have the baby with you that you wanted to have with Clare.”
“Ruth,” I gasped, “I had no idea. You were always very affectionate, but to love me like that…!
“Was it so bad, Peter?”
“No…no, not bad, we can’t always help whom we fall in love with.”
She began to cry; this woman who had always seemed so in control of herself was actually crying.
“Oh Peter, I want to have a baby with you so badly. It sounds ridiculous I know, but it would be as if I was having it for Clare, as if there would be some part of her still with us. Will you…will you…you know…until I’m sure I’m pregnant. If you have to try and imagine that I’m Clare, I won’t mind.”
I went to speak, but she said, “No, don’t say anything now; I want you to think about it. I’m going to bed now, and when you’ve decided tell me frankly.”
She rose and smiling cautiously at me said, “This is too important for anything other than frankness.”
With that she left me.
It was not a restful night as I tried to come to terms with what had happened. My mother-in-law was in love with me. At a time of distress she had comforted me with her body, but it had been more than that; she wanted me to impregnate her.
She was eleven or twelve years older than me, but a very beautiful woman. If I did make her pregnant — and I might already have done so — what did I want? If I did make her pregnant did that mean a long term commitment?
Certainly that first time with her had been incredibly beautiful and I knew I would have no hesitation in having more sex with her, but the crux of the matter was, did I love her enough to want a long term commitment? She hadn’t asked for such a commitment, she had simply asked for me to continue having sex with her until she was sure she was pregnant; but if I did impregnate her could I simply walk away from her and the child she was carrying.
The answer was no, I couldn’t walk away any more than I could have walked away from Clare if she had been pregnant, because I loved her. Did I love Ruth? I had wanted to tell her I loved her after we’d had sex, so why the hell hadn’t I said it and all the sleepless tossing and turning would not have been happening; I might even now be in her bed making love with her.
I fell asleep some time towards dawn.
* * * * * * * *
I woke late and as I had often done since Clare’s death I reached out to what had been her side of the bed. We had often made love when we woke up but that morning I was confused; was I reaching out for Clare or Ruth? Whoever it was obviously neither was there. It was impossible for it to have been Clare, but Ruth? Yes, she could have been there beside me.
I rose, showered and went in search of Ruth. I found her in the kitchen seated at the table eating breakfast. She looked up at me as I entered and said almost coolly, “Good morning,” and it was as if the previous evening hadn’t happened. She was the in-control-of-herself Ruth again.
This was disconcerting because it made it difficult for me to say what I had to say. I looked at her. She was wearing no makeup and was dressed in a simple fawn tweed skirt and a shirt of the same shade, not exactly a sexy combination, and yet she seemed to me even more striking than she had the previous evening. This was emphasised because her unrestrained breasts joggled seductively under her shirt with every move she made.
I knew I had to speak then or I might never say what I had to say.
“Ruth….” I began.
“Ruth about last night I…”
“You asked me…you said you wanted me to make you pregnant.”
Tense my self, I could see that despite Ruth’s attempt to stay composed, beneath the surface she was on edge. We both knew that what I said next and how she responded would determine our future relationship.
I felt like someone who had got into a rowing boat and pushed out from the shore, only to discover that the oars and rudder have been left behind and there was no way back to get them.
I ploughed on. “If all you want is for me to make you pregnant, then I won’t do it Ruth, I…”
“You may have done that already,” she said.
“Yes, but assuming I haven’t, then unless you…”
“Conditions are there?” she said tightly.
“Yes, if I’m to make you pregnant then there has to be more. I mean, it has to be part of an ongoing relationship, I can’t just make you pregnant and walk away.”
Her attempt to remain composed seemed to slip away from her. She stood saying, “Peter…oh Peter…are you sure…are you really sure?”
Miraculously the oars and rudder were back in the boat and I knew where I was going. At last I could speak the words.
“I love you Ruth, I don’t just want to have a baby with you; I want you.”
It was Ruth who now seemed at a loss to know what to do next, and so I went to her and putting my arms round her I kissed her hungrily. She seemed to melt against me moaning as she writhed her body over mine, her pubis rubbing against my already erect penis. She had her arms round me frantically returning my kisses. She parted her lips and her tongue slipped out to touch and then enter my mouth.
As we ended the kiss she gasped, “I want you…I want you…all night I’ve wanted you…do it…do it to me now…”
My fingers fumbled with the buttons of her shirt so much that she had to undo them and remove the shirt. Her breasts, her beautiful breasts were exposed to me, and as I bent to suck one of her nipples I could feel her struggling to remove her skirt. It dropped to the floor and releasing her nipple I moved her to the edge of the table and sat her on it.
I wanted more than a nipple to suck and lick; I needed to taste and smell her femaleness. She was still wearing her panties and so I removed them, and parting her legs I knelt in front of her, and there before me was the gateway to paradise, the distended lips of her vulva and the long cleft between them already glistening with nature’s juice of love.
I knelt before her and gazed at that sweet place for a few moments, and then placing my fingers on her outer lips I parted them to see the beauty and mystery beyond that is woman.
I slipped a finger into the hidden depths beyond her rose pink inner lips. She whimpered softly and I leaned forward to lick and suck her clitoris. She tasted of cider vinegar mixed with honey and her fragrance was that of rose in full bloom.
It didn’t take long; in fact it was sooner than I expected that Ruth had her first orgasm. Her legs were over my shoulders, her hands behind my head clutching me to her. It was oddly reminiscent of Clare who, as her orgasm approached cried out in protest.
Above me I could hear Ruth’s anguished cries, “No…no…I won’t…don’t make me…I don’t want it’s agony…stop…stop…”
And then the counter cries as her love juice poured out of her, “Yes…oh yes darling…Oh…oh…yes…ah…ohwaaa…aaah…”
I waited until I thought she had finished and began to remove myself from her but she clutched me to her crying out, “Don’t stop…don’t stop…”
It was then I discovered that Ruth was one of those women who can have multiple orgasms in quick succession. She came five times and on the last she had that rare phenomenon, the female ejaculation. She sprayed my face with her fluid.
After that I thought she would relax. I stood up and she got off the table and dropped to her knees in front of me almost tearing down the zip of my flies. She seized my penis in her hand and began to massage it while at the same time she took its head into her mouth, sucking and licking avidly.
I was right on the edge and I cried out, “I’m coming…I’m coming.”
“No…no…” she gasped, and sitting on the table again she opened her legs and bending them at the knees she pointed to her genitals and said,”Here, I want it in here.”
I stood in front of her and penetrated her, feeling the gripping and sucking sensation of that muscular tunnel. In no more than thirty seconds I was spurting my semen into her, filling her, and to my amazement she had another orgasm.
Then there was that wonderful calm that follows sexual union that has been born of love.
Ruth was drooping over me and murmuring, “Peter…oh Peter…it’s so exquisite with you.”
“I love you Ruth,” I said.
* * * * * * * *
The outside world crept insidiously upon this scene of passionate love. On the wall behind Ruth I would see the kitchen clock; it was five minute past nine.
“My God, I’ve got a ten o’clock tutorial to take,” I said.
Ruth gasped something about a children’s’ charity meeting she had to chair and then there was a mad rush to shower away the olfactory evidence of our activities, dress and for me to hurtle in the direction of the university and the eagerly (I hoped) waiting students. I had a lecture to give at three o’clock and so it was not until after five o’clock I returned home.
It was odd how even the mundane details of our newly established relationship seemed delightful: whose house would we live in, hers of mine? When would we make the move and who would stay were in the meantime? If my house or her house which bedroom would we use, and should we buy a new bed?” Ruth even began to somewhat prematurely plan a room for the baby.
For the time being Ruth stayed on at my place but in the end we decided to sell both houses and buy a new one. The there was the question of what to do with the surplus furniture Much of that was also sold and new purchased apart from a few pieces that held valuable memories for us.
One piece I kept was Edward Poynter’s painting of “Andromeda on the Rocks.” I thought Ruth might object since it had hung in the bedroom I had shared with Clare, but she made no opposition, only saying, “It’s very sexy.” It hangs in our bedroom now.
Ruth gave birth to a daughter and I’ve always insisted it was that first sexual encounter in the kitchen that had set things in motion, but Ruth claims it was the night that followed when I came into her four times.
There was some debate about whether or not we should call our daughter Clare, but we finally settled for Nastasia.
Ruth is currently pregnant again. She says this will be the last one because it might be too dangerous for her to have another. I have heard it said that once women decide they don’t want any more babies they go off sex. I’m hoping this doesn’t happen with Ruth, but given her enthusiastic — not to say insatiable — desire for sex, I think everything will be okay.
The trouble with her is that the more I have of her the more I want her. A bit like they said of Cleopatra.