tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 43

No Future Ch. 43

bybradley_stoke©

XLIII

A Well-Rounded Education

Primrose

2087


The man who opened the apartment door most resembled one of Primrose's clients. His hair was thin, his hands gnarled and he had a slight stoop. He looked at her in the same slightly apologetic way such clients almost always did if they were aware that there was little likelihood that they could give her any genuine pleasure.

However, this wasn't a client. It was her grandmother's latest boyfriend.

"You must be Karen's granddaughter," he said. "Don't worry about me. I'm just about to leave."

"Is that Primrose?" called her grandmother from within the living room. "Come in. Come in. I've been expecting you, but you'll have to excuse the mess."

Primrose walked down the hallway to the living room where her grandmother was sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by photo albums. In front of her was a laptop where she'd been looking at yet more photographs. Primrose was relieved to see that her grandmother was wearing clothes. Although she'd often seen her naked over the years, she didn't felt as comfortable with it as an adult as she had when she was a child. Perhaps it was the nagging reminder of the cruel ravages that time visited an elderly woman's body. Or perhaps in some ways Primrose was actually rather less liberal than her grandmother.

"I'm leaving now," called the old man who had squeezed on a pair of sensible shoes that he'd left in the hallway.

"Don't forget to call," cooed Primrose's grandmother just before the door slammed behind him.

"Your latest?" asked Primrose.

"Isn't he sweet?" said her grandmother. "A widower. You meet more and more of those as you get older. We were comparing photos. His wife was quite the lady when she was alive."

"I'm sure she was," said Primrose. "Shall I make us a coffee?"

"Yes, do," said her grandmother who awkwardly staggered to her feet and tidied away the photo albums. "That's a nice tablet you've got. Is it new?"

"Yes," said Primrose. "Thinner, faster and more powerful. I use it for work, but I've got earplugs so I can watch movies on the train. When I get a seat, that is."

"What was the journey like from East London?" asked Karen who stood at the door of the small kitchenette while Primrose doled out teaspoonfuls of coffee into two empty mugs.

"That's not where I came from, Gran," said Primrose. "I came from Ruislip. It was a long journey, but I did get a seat."

"Ruislip?"

"A client."

"Oh. You're still working as an escort, then?"

"What else can I do? I get paid holidays and there's even a pension plan. It's all legit."

"I thought prostitution was still illegal in this country."

"Who's going to enforce a law that's universally ignored, Gran?" said Primrose. "One lump or two?"

"I don't take sugar, dear. It's only there for guests. Do you have a sweet tooth?"

"No, Gran," said Primrose who wondered whether her grandmother was making a discreet enquiry about her daughter's drug habits. There was little that got past her and a newly acquired liking for saccharine would be a tell-tale sign of an energy deficit caused by drugs such as heroin.

"Have you told your mother yet?"

"Yes, Gran," said Primrose with a faint hint of exasperation. "Surely she's said something to you about it. She was bloody pissed off with me about it. She said the last thing she'd ever wanted to be was mother to a whore. She was close to reporting me to the police in the hope that it would get me to stop."

"But she didn't?"

"As I say, what good would it do?"

Primrose put the two mugs on a tray and laid out a handful of shortbread biscuits imported from the Republic of Scotland. She followed her grandmother back to the living room.

"You've got a lovely apartment, Gran," she said. "But what was wrong with the old one? You'd lived there all my life.

"I had to move because of the stairs, dear," said Primrose's grandmother who carefully eased herself into a leather armchair. "The frequent power cuts mean that the lift often doesn't work. Ten flights of stairs are far more than a woman of my age can cope with."

"But you're not actually on the ground floor, Gran."

"I can manage one flight of stairs. And anyway I don't want to get caught in the floods."

"There hasn't been a flood this far from the river, Gran."

"You'd think not, but the river's not that far away. The last time there was a flood the waters almost reached Clapham Common. There's not a lot to stop London getting flooded out of existence just like East Anglia."

"I guess not," said Primrose thoughtfully as she contemplated the safety of the studio apartment she was renting in Barking. Although she mostly only ever arrived there late at night she saw it as her sanctuary. It was, after all, the only place in which there was a bed where she actually slept and didn't have sex. She'd had no boyfriends since she'd started working at Empire Cleaning Services although she'd enjoyed very intimate relations with several colleagues. Now that Primrose mostly thought of sex with men as business rather than pleasure, it satisfied her need for uncomplicated love. But she hadn't yet taken a girlfriend back to her Barking apartment.

"So, tell me, dear," asked Karen as she raised the cup of coffee to her lips. "How did you leave it with your mother? I take it she didn't actually dissuade you from pursuing your career as a sex worker."

"Not at all, Gran," said Primrose. This was a weird conversation to have with your own flesh and blood. "I can't say I enjoy the job exactly, but it's no worse than being a teacher. At least compared to what it was like when I did my teacher training at Eastbury Comprehensive. I was more likely to get beaten up by my pupils there than I am now by my clients."

"I suppose so, dear. But none of your pupils were fucking you, were they? There's quite a difference between teaching and fucking, you know."

"Only insofar as no one normally teaches for fun whereas that's why people mostly have sex," said Primrose. "What you don't like is that I'm being intimate with men for money rather than pleasure."

"Well yes, dear," said Karen. "That's exactly what I don't like. But I'm also not going to tell you to stop. What about your mother though? Do you still see her?"

"Yes, Gran," said Primrose. "We just don't talk about it, that's all. It's something we're both aware of but we skirt around it. It's normal to chat with people about how things are at work and when you can't do that it leaves a strange hole in the middle of our conversation. That's probably why I don't see Mum as much as I used to."

"Well, your mother does have a new boyfriend, doesn't she? What's he like?"

"He's OK," said Primrose noncommittally. "He's another teacher. It all seems to be teachers in my family. What about your boyfriend, Gran? Is he a teacher?"

"No dear," said Karen. "He's someone I met off the internet. He's a retired civil servant of some kind. You don't talk much about work when you're my age you know, dear. It's always about the past and that gets in the way of the present."

Primrose continued to chat with her grandmother for an hour or so and even looked at the photographs of her life from over the last fifty or sixty years. The pictures on her laptop were as fresh as when they were taken and showed her grandmother from her early days as a teacher before her mother was born and grew steadily in number through the early years before precipitously declining as the years accumulated. There was a long series of boyfriends and partners that usually changed several times in the same year, but on occasion lasted for much longer.

"Who's this one?" asked Primrose, pointing at a picture from her grandmother's student years in which she was standing by a man in his mid-thirties wearing an expensive suit and an incipient paunch.

"He worked for an internet application company," said Karen. "He actually got separated, maybe even divorced, all for me. Waste of time that was for him, dear."

"Were there many married men in your life, Gran?"

"Quite a few. And several divorcees as well. Men are so foolish."

When Primrose finally left, she reflected on this fact about her family. Men were always there from her earliest years, but invariably as lovers, boyfriends or one- night stands. They were never there as husbands or fathers. In fact, Primrose had only ever met her father once and he was still married to the same woman he'd been married to before Primrose was born. He was a disappointment really. He showed no affection towards his daughter and was evidently rather embarrassed that she happened to exist at all.

Primrose would have been quite ready to ascribe her choice of career to having been born to a relatively dysfunctional family if she hadn't got to know her colleagues at Empire Cleaning Services so well. Perhaps in an age when there were more jobs there would have been more of a pattern, but in these days of high unemployment and vanishing opportunity it increasingly seemed to be nothing more than a natural career choice.

Perhaps people had a more open attitude towards sex nowadays than they did in earlier generations. After all, hardcore sex was widely available on television, squeezed between television channels for news, religion, music and children's entertainment. Primrose had starred in several pornographic movies before she decided on her present career, but she'd considered it as nothing more than an easy way to earn a few extra pennies. It would have been a major effort to become a proper porn actress. The expected standard for acting ability, sexual athleticism and physical beauty was rather exacting. It was almost easier to make a living as a normal actress rather than in porn. It wasn't just the entertainment industry that had become increasingly sexualised. Everywhere you looked there was sex, sex and more sex. And it was more than often uncomfortably explicit.

There were hardcore porn advertisements for beauty products and household furniture. Magazines that had nothing to do with sex were filled with articles and photographs that focused on just the one thing. The range of what was considered normal was so great that it was sometimes difficult in Primrose's career for her to be sure of what should be classed as abnormal. Sex with children and animals certainly fell in that category, although it didn't take much sleuthing for Primrose to discover extremely disturbing images of such activity on the internet. But those clients who wanted to fuck her up the arse, who requested that they be anally penetrated by a strap-on, who wanted her to stick her fist up their anus or who wanted her to spank them: were their demands at all abnormal? Quite a few of her boyfriends had wanted exactly the same sport and she'd never considered them at all perverse. It was as if sex for the purpose of having children or to cement a loving relationship was now the exception rather than the rule.

Nevertheless, there was a critical difference between the sex Primrose once enjoyed for pleasure and what she did now or when she appeared in Barking Bangers Vol. 4 or Amateur Arselickers Vol. 6.

And essentially it was that she now made a living from it.

And this was surely the same basic fact that characterised her profession as the world's oldest.

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