Rule of Thumbbynewjayne©
This story is a follow on to a four-part series recently posted in Loving Wives entitled CHEATING AT CARDS which describes the mechanics of the breakdown of Patsy's marriage. I don't think it's essential to read those ones first, although it may serve to give you a better picture of her character.
"I have a golden rule for when a man talks about the size of his cock," Shirley declared in a loud voice.
"Really?" I responded, very quietly; not entirely sure that I wanted to hear this.
"Yes... it's the 'divide by two and add one' rule," she smiled and, when I looked a bit uncertain, she explained, "If he says he's got ten inches... my rule works it out at six. It normally works for a claim of anything above seven... and you'd be amazed at how accurate it is!"
"So... does that mean you carry a tape measure around with you?" asked George, the head of the history department in his customary droll fashion. But if he'd thought it would irritate Shirley, he was wrong.
"There's no need to," she stated, "have you never heard of the 'rule of thumb?'
George produced a sharp intake of breath and launched into an explanation of the origins of the phrase -- something about a completely fallacious idea that it had once been the maximum thickness allowed by law for a stick to beat one's wife with -- while Shirley rolled her eyes.
"Be that as it may, Georgie boy," she eventually interrupted -- knowing how much he hated being called that, "but my 'rule of thumb' is rather different to that. I happen to know that the distance between the tip of my thumb and the top crease of the first joint is exactly one inch! Therefore, if I happen to get myself into one of those intimate moments...."
"What d'you mean 'if'?" Georgie said, but was ignored.
"...With someone who's been boasting about their size, I can easily establish the extent to which they've been lying. What about you, Patsy?"
I should have expected to be drawn into the conversation -- in fact I probably had expected it -- but it didn't mean I was ready with an answer. Shirley was, to say the very least, an extrovert. She was the dominant force in most conversations in the staff room and many of those conversations centred on her 'romantic exploits.' Her stories -- particularly on a Monday morning when she'd spent the weekend 'out on the pull' as she called it - were frequently hilarious and, although they stopped short of being downright crude, it was often a very thin dividing line. And when the weekend approached, as it was on that Friday morning, it was clear that she was warming up ready for whatever was likely to come her way.
She was in her mid-forties, in pretty good shape for her age and, other than the lines that testified to the trials and tribulations of three marriages and an equal number of divorces, was attractive in what could best be described as an 'obvious' way or, to be more candid, she flaunted herself. I knew this because I'd been out with a group of female teachers from the school on a couple of occasions and I'd seen the way she behaved. It wasn't just that she tended to throw herself at any attractive males -- she seemed to have a personal catapult to launch her in their direction.
On those nights out, I'd tried to keep my head down and stick with the married ones who were simply enjoying the conversation, a few quiet drinks and a couple of dances -- the ones who were happy to go home to their husbands at the end of the evening with a clear conscience.
I didn't have to do that, of course; in fact, I no longer had a husband to go home to. I was, officially, a single woman again now that I'd received the decree absolute which, to my surprise had taken just a little over six months. Geoffrey, my former husband, had been perfectly willing to admit adultery rather than waiting for the two years of separation, and I was grateful to him for that.
I'd stayed at my mum's house until everything was settled and then, feeling the need to get away from all the people who knew my marriage had 'failed,' I'd applied for the post I currently I held at a secondary school in Lancashire -- far away from my home in Sussex. I'd settled nicely; the school was a pretty decent one with reasonable facilities, the staff were friendly and I'd found a pleasant flat to rent that was within easy walking distance of work.
By this time, though, it was almost ten months since I'd walked out on my husband and, not only had there been no romance, I hadn't even had a single date in all that time. I had the feeling that Shirley regarded me as her project. She knew I was divorced, knew that I wasn't 'getting any,' as she expressed it, and seemed determined to match me up with someone as soon as possible. So she was perfectly well aware that I'd be embarrassed when she asked me what I thought of her 'rule of thumb.'
"I... errm... I don't know," I mumbled, "I've never really thought about it. Does anyone know what's happened to Sarah this morning?"
"Didn't you know?" Shirley asked, without revealing any irritation at my attempt to divert the conversation, "she called in sick. I think you're down for one of her classes this afternoon. You'd better check, Love."
So I did; and I was. I teach English Literature and Language and, when pushed to do so, Drama -- but I was marked down to take a year-10 class for Religious Studies and I didn't have a clue what to do for that. My concern must have shown because George immediately said:
"Don't look so worried Patsy... you can do anything you like with that. The last time I did one I did something about the Crusades and...."
"And it took the pupils weeks to recover from the boredom!" Shirley interrupted, "You'd be better off doing something about morals... abortion, divorce, sanctity of marriage... anything like that."
"Morals? You've taught kids about morals?" George said, raising his eyebrows at her but tempering it with a smile; Even so, I was still glad to hear the bell ring and bring the discussion to an end before it went any further.
Like most schools, the budget was forever tightening, which meant that we often had to fill in for absent teachers, even if it meant going into uncharted territory but, as long as it wasn't one of the science subjects -- especially physics, which I'm hopeless at -- I suppose I didn't have any reason to complain. The only problem was that I hated not having a prepared lesson plan; which isn't to say that I always stuck rigidly to whatever I'd mapped out in advance, it was just that I preferred to have some have idea of what I was doing.
Eventually, to follow on with what they'd been doing in their previous lesson, the subject we got on to was relationships. In particular, the session centred on whether the idea of one woman and one man -- for life -- was still relevant in today's society. Their usual teacher, Sarah Coulson, was a very devout Catholic who had tried to impress on them that it ought to be so but, as a divorcee; it would have been hypocritical for me to follow that line and so I opened it for discussion. And I think I learnt more from it than they did!
I mean, I'm not exactly an arch conservative, but I was amazed at the liberal values held by this sample of a younger generation. Would they forgive a partner who cheated? The vast majority said they would -- as long as it was a moment of weakness rather than a full-blooded affair. Fidelity, it seemed was desirable -- but not vital. Marriage vows were serious -- but people could make mistakes and they should move on from them; and so on. It even appeared that 'one-night-stands' were okay as long as no one was hurt and no promises made or broken.
There was a lot less than two decades between myself and those pupils and I was genuinely staggered to discover how attitudes had changed so quickly and so dramatically, and how much more mature and knowledgeable about such things they were than I'd been at their age. At the end of the period I was asked whether I'd be taking them again if Mrs Coulson hadn't returned and, when I told them it was unlikely, their obvious disappointment was one of those moments that teachers live for.
By the end of the day I was feeling a little glow of satisfaction as I went through the school gates and headed for home; but that was where the agreeable satisfaction of the day's events quickly began to change into the customary melancholy of the evening. At that time, I was still fairly new to the area and, as well as not having made many friends, I hadn't really begun to socialise.
Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I've never been the kind of person who can go out to a nightclub or even a bar on my own. I've always thought it was simply asking for trouble -- or the preserve of those who are looking for someone to pick up for companionship and, perhaps, a little more than that. It wasn't that I didn't think about such things -- I did, and far more frequently as the days passed.
As I listlessly searched through the freezer for something worth eating, I couldn't help thinking that it had been the best part of year since I'd experienced the ecstatic release that came from good sex, the wonderful giving and receiving of pleasure and, of course, the satisfaction of simply relaxing and relishing the presence of a lover afterwards. In my terms, I missed being loved and missed the closeness of being loved -- in Shirley's terms, I was horny!
I'd spent five years with my husband and, during most of that time; we'd enjoyed a healthy and happy sex life. In fact, had it not been for the revelations about his extra-curricular activities and his (to my mind) weird kinks, we would probably still be doing all of that and possibly thinking about starting our own family.
Before marriage, I'd had just three sexual relationships. Mum had always told me that, if a man asked, always to say 'two.' "They can handle that," she advised me, "Say less than that and they'll think it must have been serious enough that you'll still be thinking about it... or that you'll wonder what you missed and want to experiment someday. Say more than that and they'll worry that you need more than they can provide."
I know I laughed at the time, and I'd told my husband the truth -- which may have been why he'd so often asked me about my experiences and wanted me to describe them to him. Or maybe that was just the first of many missed hints about his other desires.
The freezer offered nothing that appealed to me and so, making a mental note to start making proper meals for myself again, I decided that I'd have to go out for something to eat. There was a decent Italian place just around the corner that, hopefully, wouldn't be too busy at that time of the evening and so I reached for my coat. I paused for a second or two to look in the mirror, went to move on, then stopped and returned to it.
Was that really me? Was I really that woman with the pallid face and the dowdy clothes? Where was the pretty face and the blonde hair I'd always been slightly vain about? All I could see was a somewhat skinny woman with hardly any make-up and lank, untidy hair. What the hell was happening to me? Was this the price I had to pay for being on my own?
Well, if it was, I told myself, it was too high. Chucking the coat to one side, I dashed to the bathroom and tried to repair the damage. With the application of shampoo and plenty of conditioner -- and a determined battle to put it into place -- my hair regained some if its former glory. I took far more time and trouble over my make-up than I had done for ages and then chose an outfit. A decent bra made the most of my somewhat meagre assets, a pair of very silky briefs felt good against my skin, and the pale blue dress -- while not exactly sexy -- was reasonably attractive. This time, when I paused to examine my appearance in the mirror, I was at least a little bit happier.
'Make hairdresser appointment!' I wrote in big letters on the telephone pad, then grabbed a light coat and, forcing myself to walk upright instead of hunching my shoulders, I headed off to the restaurant.
Naturally, the delay had landed me there at a fairly busy time for them -- and I knew they wouldn't be too happy with a single customer occupying a table when they could get couples or larger numbers instead. So I was prepared for a longish wait but Orazio, the head waiter (who'd flirted outrageously with me on a previous visit), took pity on me. The table for two that was tucked away in a corner -- the one I'd previously occupied -- was occupied by someone else on their own he told me -- but if I wouldn't mind sharing?
I thought about it for a moment but, rather than the prospect of waiting ages, I nodded my assent, praying that it wouldn't be some lecherous or predatory male, far from home and looking for a little 'action.' So I was greatly relieved when I found that my dinner companion was, in fact, a delightfully attractive young female.
I introduced myself, apologising far too much for intruding on her solitude, which she responded to with a wide and welcoming smile. But when she stood up to shake hands, and to tell me her name was Sandy, I nearly fainted with shock!
She had beautiful, long, black hair; a perfectly made-up face, and was wearing a stylish and clearly expensive dress. And yet, even before a word had been said, I knew that all was very much not as it seemed -- and the voice simply confirmed it. 'She' was not a woman at all, but a man doing a pretty good impression of one!
I floundered, I'll admit it -- I just didn't know what to say!
"I'm Sandy," the voice informed me and despite the smile, there was a growing sadness in the eyes as it went on, "and I can see that you spotted me right away, didn't you?"
I think I was probably doing a pretty good impression of a goldfish at that moment and, even though it may have been rude, I couldn't help but stare until, at last, he smiled and said;
"Please... don't be nervous. I'm not some weird kind of pervert... honestly! Please... sit down and I'll explain it."
The thought 'why is this happening to me?' flitted across my mind but, seeing no alternative to being downright rude and unpleasant, I sat opposite him. Naturally, I had a load of questions in my mind and he seemed more than ready to talk, but a waiter came along almost immediately to ask if we were ready to order our starters.
Without giving much thought to it I ordered the Buffalo mozzarella with Parma ham and a glass of Verdicchio wine and my companion -- seeming to have recovered his aplomb -- ordered the same.
As soon as we were on our own, Sandy immediately started to apologise. "It's the result of a bet... well, sort of," he informed me, "and... as you can probably guess... I lost!"
He then explained that he and a group of his friends played a drinking game. Each of them had written down a forfeit and put it in a hat -- nothing too extreme had been the rule -- and the loser would have to pick one out and carry it out before the next session. His one had been to dress as a female and -- on his own -- to go for a meal in a restaurant. Actually, not strictly 'on his own' because four other members of the group, with a couple of girls, were seated at a nearby table to make sure he didn't chicken out - and they were obviously enjoying themselves at his expense.
Finally, I began to relax and see the funny side of it. Sandy was actually a bit of a charmer and we were getting along famously when, at long last, one of his 'friends' came over to us.
"Good evening, ladies," he said with a huge and quite unpleasant smirk on his face, "Please don't mind me asking... but how is it that two such beautiful ladies don't have any male company on a Friday night?"
Have you ever taken an instant dislike to someone -- even though you've never met them before and know nothing about them? That was how I felt about this man. At the time, I was enjoying the main course - Penne pasta with smoked salmon in herb & cream sauce -- as well as the company of someone I found to be extremely convivial, so perhaps it wasn't a good time to interrupt me.
I have a certain look -- it has been called 'the frost' by some -- which I'm told could freeze the devil's residence in five seconds flat, and I'm afraid that Justin (as I later found out was his name) felt the full force of it.
"My dear sir," I told him in my best schoolmarm voice, "I'll forgive your rudeness in interrupting our meal but, as any fool could see, although I am a lady -- when I choose to be -- it ought to be perfectly obvious that my companion is entirely male!"
"But... he's dressed like a tart!" he declared, clearly flustered by my response.
"Actually, I think he has more style than that," I replied, and then added, "Unfortunately, he's far too obviously masculine to do a convincing impression of a woman... no matter how much help he's had to create the illusion. Given your stature, and having watched the way that you walked towards us, however, I feel sure that you that you could manage a far more realistic impersonation."
Then I smiled at him. Sweetly -- while his face grew red.
Ignoring me, he turned his annoyance on Sandy, saying, "The deal was that you weren't supposed to tell...."
"He didn't," I interrupted. "I could see quite clearly. Have you thought about Specsavers?"
For a moment or two, I thought he was going to explode, but then he suddenly turned on his heel and returned to his table where the conversation seemed to become quite animated for a while. I'd spoken loudly enough for them to hear me, and it looked as though Justin was being severely mocked -- especially by the two girls. The only one who did explode was Sandy -- with laughter!
"Incredible!" he declared, "remind me never to get on the wrong side of you!" and I couldn't help joining in with his laughter.
While we enjoyed our dessert of Zabaglione with crushed amaretti biscuits, we watched his friends pay their bill and prepare to depart. Both of the girls in the party blew affectionate kisses in our direction, while the lads (apart from Justin) gave a cheery wave of farewell.
"He'll be devastated, you know?" Sandy told me.
"Really... why's that?" I asked.
"Well... Justin is the real 'lady's man' in the gang," Sandy told me, "he really thinks he's God's gift, if you know what I mean."
I sensed an element of sadness in his words, but I merely raised my eyebrows, not certain whether or not I wanted to intrude on his thoughts, but the numerous glasses of Verdicchio had made him relaxed enough to tell me: "he has a way of moving in on any girls that the rest of us start to get a bit serious about. He reckons he's some kind of stud that we simply can't compete with."
Okay, it still felt a bit strange to be sat there chatting to a man in women's clothes but, to be frank, I'd more or less got over that. As he ordered the coffee and Pinoli Cantuccini, I found myself regarding him in a somewhat different light than I had at the beginning of the evening. I began to try and see what he would be like without the black wig and the make-up and, to be truthful; I think I liked what I saw.
There was some good-natured arguing over the bill, but eventually Sandy declared that, as he was both a male and a female at that moment, he had two votes to my one and insisted on paying. After he'd rummaged through his handbag for his card -- telling me to stop laughing at him - I saw that he also asked for £50 cashback and I must have raised my eyebrows, because he sighed and explained: "The plan hasn't quite worked out as it was supposed to. I brought a change of clothes with me... they're in the car... and I was going to go back to Justin's place to change before driving home. But it seems as if... well...."
"Oh, dear!" I said, "That's my fault, isn't it? I probably shouldn't have been so rude to him."