The Scarlet CirclebyMaxSebastian©
It wasn't a game for the claustrophobic. Nor one for those scared of the dark. And to make it work, you needed some kind of incentive. At this party, there was a great incentive.
It was the end of university, a large group from the English Literature course at Cardiff were about to graduate and head off into the wide world, fresh youngsters with high hopes in their hearts to change the world and make something for own ends. It would be sad to leave the beautiful Welsh capital, which had been their homes for the last three years, but it would also be pretty exciting, going out and getting real jobs for a change. Everyone there was more than a little nervous about that, and these nerves seemed to liven up the whole party.
There must have been about twenty or thirty of them there, having a great time since there was plenty of punch, the fridge was full of beers and tables around the room held bowls full of various Mexican foods that they had all filled themselves with earlier. Various eighties tunes came out from the stereo – the girls always liked these cheesy songs, so the boys always humoured them at this kind of get together.
It was a large party – but then, it was a large house. They'd all been invited weeks before over to Simon's house, which was probably the biggest private residence any of them had been to saving only the kind of stately homes some of them had been dragged round by their mothers in summers gone by. Simon was, to put it mildy, a very wealthy lad. His uncle was supposed to be the Earl of Littham or some such place, and Simon had gone to Eton naturally enough.
When Daniel had arrived, his eyes nearly popped out of his skull. It was massive – especially for somewhere in the exclusive side of Pontcanna, where house prices were not cheap. They had all known about Simon's wealth, of course, since he had never tried to hide it, but still, he didn't quite expect this kind of thing.
"Cloakroom's over there," Simon had said as he'd come in through the large front door, and Daniel had gone there to hang up his coat, in a kind of daze. Most – well, all – of the other parties he'd been to, you'd be lucky to hang your coat up on a peg in the hall, never mind a cloakroom.
Then it was through into the huge, high-ceilinged sitting room to join the other partygoers.
For the occasion, it was a smart party – black tie all round. Daniel had borrowed his brother's dinner jacket and thankfully it had fit fine, and he did look quite good in it if he admitted it to himself. Everyone else there was dressed well for the occasion, the guys all like smart penguins, the girls all in nice dresses. The atmosphere wasn't so formal, however, since this was a party for them to enjoy, to do whatever it was that they wanted to do.
And so Daniel had a good time, chatting and joking around with his friends, attempting to flirt with the girls but with his usual lack of success due to the fact that a lot of them already had boyfriends and the rest weren't looking for anything to happen since it was almost graduation time and all of these people would be heading off in different directions. It was a shame really, because two years after an extremely messy break-up, Daniel was beginning to get confidence back again.
"Excuse me!" the game began close to eleven o'clock, when everyone was well on the road to inebriation. The music was silenced and Simon, the host, tapped a spoon against a champagne glass. "People, if you'll just listen for a moment." The hubbub of the crowd simmered down. "Thank you. We're going to play a game now," he said. "I think we're all drunk enough."
There was a cheer at that, indicating that what Simon said was true. Daniel felt his ears burn. They weren't going to do something they'd all regret the next day, would they? It was the kind of thing Simon liked to organise, that was true enough. But then, it was the end of university.
"We're going to play a game called 'Coloured Circle'," Simon went on. "It's for single people only, I'm afraid," he said, "so unless you are single or value a cruise more than your relationship, you can't take part. I'm going to take a hat round and everyone taking part has to draw out a piece of paper. When you pull it out, whatever you do don't it to anyone else. And I'm warning you guys, my father's given me a rather nice prize to give away tonight."
Simon grinned as everyone went 'Oooooo!' at that.
"Whoever wins this one…" Simon said, revelling in the suspense, "…will be going on a Mediterranean cruise."
A cheer went up. Daniel, like many around him, widened his eyes in surprise. A cruise? Simon certainly didn't do things by half, that was for sure.
"Okay, I'll tell you the rules of the game later, when it's time."
So the party went back to relative normality for a while, though along with the questions about what everyone was planning to do with their lives, conversation centred round wondering just what it was that Simon was up to. Since it was for single people only, various theories were floating around from the tedious to the downright outrageous, but no one could tell what was going to happen: their host had kept all his plans very much to himself.
Simon came around holding two bowler hats, from which everyone was taking out little folded-up pieces of paper.
"Boys take from this one, girls from the other," Simon said as he reached the little cluster of students to which Daniel currently belonged.
Daniel pulled one out to find that his paper had a small red circle drawn on it. What did that mean? Before anyone could see, he folded the paper back up and tucked it away in his jacket pocket, but after that moment, everyone's eyes had the glint of secrecy in them. All no doubt wondering what everyone else's paper revealed.
Whatever happened, Daniel made sure he went to the bathroom and took care of business before it did: he didn't want a call of nature getting in the way of the chance to win a cruise. With thirty or so people there, there would be no more than twenty people single, he thought, so the chances of winning a cruise were essentially one in ten. That was pretty good odds on the scale of things. But what would they all have to do for the prize?
"Okay, people," Simon tapped on his glass again, and there was instant silence: people had motivation to listen now. "Here is what is going to happen. The game is like a kind of Blind Date –"
"But without Cilla!" someone in the crowd shouted, referring to the host of the quiz show of that same name.
" – yeah," Simon grinned, "I just couldn't afford her sadly," he said, to humorous shouts of 'shame!' from the partygoers. "When the lights go out," he continued, "I want everyone who has a piece of paper with a coloured circle drawn on it to go through into the dining room just over there." He pointed towards some double doors made of sturdy oak. There was a little disturbance in the crowd as the people who did have coloured circles tried to keep the fact to themselves and those without attempted to find out who did have them.
"If anyone utters a word, they'll be disqualified because it would identify them, so keep quiet all you coloured circles! Then what happens is that you'll all be blind-folded, and taken up to a cupboard, one random couple to each cupboard, where you can get up to…well…whatever you like, really." The crowd cheered, whooped and hollered at such a risqué notion. "The thing is, though," he said trying to be heard over the noise, "that the couple that stays in the closet the longest wins the cruise." The crowd gasped and went quiet. "So you see: if you guys want that cruise, you have to ask yourself how much does everyone else want that cruise, and that is the trick. Some of you might end up being there for a long time – you're going to have to find something to fill those minutes, people!"
The crowd cheered again. It was true: if two people were shut inside a cupboard for long enough to guarantee a win, conversation would only go so far. Daniel's heart began to thump like a heavyweight boxer as he desperately tried to conceal his scarlet circle. What was a cruise really worth? It wasn't the kind of thing the likes of him could afford. Who would he be shut in with?
People were looking around the room, trying to guess who had coloured circles and who did not. Daniel's eyes flicked from female to female. There were some attractive girls here and some not-so-attractive. It was all down to luck, and if things went badly, he would be out of that closet before you could say Jiminy Cricket. If things went right, though, well, it could be a very good experience for a singleton like him.
Simon didn't give anyone much time for wondering, however. The lights went out with hardly a minute to spare. It was total darkness: Simon had prepared everything for this moment, the windows weren't just blocked by curtains, they were completely sealed, black-out style, as though they were facing air raids or something. Daniel fumbled his way through the crowd, who were cheering in the darkness as he went, with several hands patting him on the back encouragingly despite their not knowing who he was.
Into the dining room, he was more nervous than he had been going into his final exams. His heart was truly in his throat.
There was a smaller group of people here in the dining room. Daniel could smell perfume of various kinds from the girls, and this was a hopeful sign, he supposed. Simon – well, presumably it was Simon, went around tying blindfolds round them all. Everyone was completely silent in that dining room, which made Daniel sure that they were all up for the big prize, no quitters here.
"Okay," Simon, it was, who broke that silence. "I'll lead you all out one by one, so you guys just stay put until I get you."
For a little while, Daniel and the others stood, shivering a little with nerves, their minds reeling with the possibilities ahead. What were they going to do? What were they going to say? Just how long would conversation last? They all stood with fingers crossed, hearts trembling and minds hoping desperately for some luck.
It seemed like an absolute age before anything happened. "Come on," Daniel felt Simon tap him on the shoulder and take his hand, leading him out of the room carefully. "What did you get on your paper?" Simon asked.
"A red circle," he answered warily.
"Scarlet circle, eh? Right…your partner awaits…"
He was led up some stairs, and along a fair way, twisting round corners as he shuffled along the carpet. Eventually, they stopped.
"Okay," said Simon. "Here you are. Now, as soon as the door closes, you can take off your blindfold. You never know, you might have a better chance of winning if you don't find out who it is you're in with. When you do leave, though, come straight back down to the party – no cheating: I'll be checking on you every now and then to make sure! Good luck, now!"
Daniel heard the door click open, and the butterflies in his stomach were almost unbearable. Simon guided him forwards, into the cupboard, where he could already smell the sweet perfume of the girl he was to be paired with even before their close proximity brought her body in contact with his.
Then, suddenly, the door was closed behind him and he was alone with his partner, whoever she was.
For a moment, they just stood, breathing shallowly, waiting. He could smell her perfume: exotic and sweet, a mixture of vanilla and soft meadow flowers that was certainly more than a little enticing to Daniel. What was going to happen? Would she want to stay for the long haul? How would they fill the time if she did?
"Simon's a lunatic pulling this off," she said, and he thought he recognised the voice, but could not put a name to it.
"Simon's always been a gambler," Daniel replied. "He'd have a flutter on a horse with three legs if the odds were right. I've no doubt at all he's running a book as we speak on who'll be the first couple to break out and who'll be in the longest."
"Are you up for the grand prize, then?" she asked, and he had a feeling about who it was that was in the cupboard with him. When you were on a degree course as close as theirs, it was hard not to know someone's voice that well.
"Of course," he said. "Simon suggested that if we concealed our identities, we would be able to let go of ourselves and time would go quicker."
"Simon's full of it," she said. "Isn't he, Daniel?"
He was a little startled that she had guessed so easily, but he had found a name for her voice, too. "Ten points for the champion," he said. "Wendy, since when were you single?"
Daniel's heart pounded at his correct guess of her identity. Wendy was one of a small clique of girls on the course who were extraordinarily attractive, but in long-term relationships. Whenever the lot of them went out to a pub and those girls were their with their boyfriends, all the guys on the course had that same thought running around in their heads: you lucky bastard. But as cliques went, they were very down to earth and weren't at all snooty to other people. If anything it was the rest of the course that excluded them since they were often so couply and single people don't want to be stuck around couples the whole time.
Wendy especially seemed happy to talk to anyone, and did use her good looks to effect – guys would be putty in her hands most of the time, despite the fact that everyone knew she was off-limits. She had the most incredible blue eyes, and her golden curls that fell down her back added to her curvaceous figure, which she exploited to full effect with revealing clothes, to make her easily one of the prettiest girls around.
"Since a few days ago," she said. "Pete decided that it wouldn't be worth it after we graduate. Two years we were together, but apparently I was only a convenience."
"Pete's an idiot."
"Yeah, well it's a shame I didn't realise earlier."
There was a pause, and Daniel wondered if perhaps he'd picked the wrong time to ask about Wendy's status. She was one of the bubbliest people he'd ever met, but then he'd only really known her in a relationship – he'd never seen her go through a break-up. He hoped she wasn't going to be too upset now he'd put his foot in his mouth and brought up the subject, because although he wouldn't have minded consoling her, it wouldn't have been the best way to spend a graduation party.
"So we have to talk strategy," she said, suddenly dropping the whole thing, as though she'd read his mind.
She put her arms around his waist, which made him jump a little since he wasn't expecting it, but it was such a nice feeling. Wendy had always been a flirtatious girl, and it wasn't the first time she'd put her arms around him, but it had always been a friendly gesture in the past: everyone knew she was in a long-term relationship. But now everything had changed, she was available, and Daniel felt himself tingling between his legs at the possibilities of being shut in a cupboard with Wendy for the night.
"Well, you do realise I want that cruise, don't you?" she said quietly, in a kind of conspiratorial tone.
"Er…well…I suppose…" Daniel fumbled, hoping she wouldn't press too close to him, for she'd no doubt then feel his rock-hard erection, and that would be the end of that.
"So how long d'you think we'll have to stay in here?"
Daniel cleared his throat, and decided to pull himself together. He wanted that cruise, too, because he knew for a fact that it was the kind of thing he wouldn't have the money for when he picked up his first job. "Well I do think everyone else will be in the same situation – they're going to want it pretty badly, too."
"Hmm," she said, "that's what I thought. We're going to have to stay in here for a fair while." There was a pause, and Daniel wondered if she could hear his heart beating, it was so loud within his chest. "What're we going to do, Daniel?"
"Well," he said, "there's only enough room in here for one person to sit down – and even then it'll be tight – so we'll just have to take it in turns and…well…tough it out, I suppose."
"You know what people'll be saying out there, what we're doing?"
"Whatever we say, if we stay in here long enough to win, they'll assume deep down that we…did it."
"That's fair to say," Daniel's heart was thumping so strongly he thought it might burst out of his chest.
"And we can deny it all we want, but most of them will never believe those denials."
"But no one will actually know what happened in here."
"So we might as well enjoy ourselves – "
And with that, she gently reached up and kissed him firmly on the lips, catching him completely off-guard. It was incredible, a feeling that he'd not experienced for ages, yet so much more than anything he'd felt before. So soft and sweet, with the irresistible aroma of her sugary perfume, he soon found himself getting totally lost in the passion of the moment, his hands moving down the sultry curve of her back, moving over the soft fabric of her little black dress before sinking down to seek out the shapely rise of her behind, pressing her body to his, uncaring whether she felt his hard response between his legs.
"Wow!" Wendy breathed as they broke apart, both of them needing oxygen badly. "I can't believe you've been single so long when you can kiss like that," she said.
"Haven't met the right person," he said, attempting to get his own breath back.
"We are so going to win that cruise," she purred, "and it's going to be wonderful trying…"
She kissed him again, and this time she slipped off his jacket, allowing it to fall to the ground, and began her own exploration of his body. Daniel ran his fingers through her silky hair: he could not believe what he was doing with Wendy, of all people, who had been so off-limits throughout the entire degree course, that she was like some kind of goddess who mortal men merely admired from afar. Now he was kissing her, caressing her through her thin dress, it was the most incredible thing.
He was very nervous about the situation, however, and didn't have a clue what the protocol was for the occasion. How could he? He'd never been trapped in a cupboard with anyone before. Were they going to just kiss in there, or were they going to go further? He kept his hands behind Wendy's back, feeling that he did not really have permission to allow them anywhere more risqué. But then, as their lips still tangled and explored the soft sweetness of their mouths, her hands sought out his hardness, tracing out the full length of his erection and caressing it through his trousers, emitting pleasurable noises as she stroked him, as if pleasantly surprised at his size.
The fact that she was touching him in so intimate a place gave him the permission he needed mentally to go further, and his hands crept round to seek out the soft rise of her breasts, caressing them through her clothes in the same way that she was caressing his penis.
The sensations were tingling and burning between his legs, it was wonderful, but then she unzipped him and his cock sprang free into her warm hands, and suddenly he let out a quiet groan as the feelings became ten times more intense.
"Careful," he breathed, "don't rush – we've got a lot of time to get through."
"Mmm…" she purred, "it's going to be nice getting through it."
And that was all he needed: permission to go all the way. He no longer needed to be wary, cautious that he would go further than she wanted: she had his penis out in her hands, that was sign enough of her intentions, her desires.
For a moment, he just allowed her to explore his cock, squeezing his shaft, pulling his foreskin up and down, approving its shape and size. Then his own hands reached under her dress, stroking up over her soft behind to find that underneath her little black dress, she was wearing a g-string of some kind, as well as suspenders.