tagRomanceWhat If It Hadn't Rained?

What If It Hadn't Rained?


There must be thousands -- possibly millions -- of 'what ifs' in everyone's life.

Without even pausing to think too much, I can recall a number of really significant ones in mine.

I mean, 'what if' I hadn't turned down (very gently, I might add) the rather odd-looking boy who'd asked me for a date when we were in our final year at school? He had a pleasant enough manner, always dressed smartly and was a brilliant student. He's now a friend on Facebook and that's how I know he's been very successful, has a house that's virtually a mansion, plus a lovely wife and three adorable children.

Instead, because I was considered to be what, in those days, was referred to as a 'looker,' I attracted the attention of one of the school's best looking sporting types. As it happens, he's also been successful in some ways; he followed his dream and became a pretty successful tennis player. Of course, as I've also learned from Facebook, the fact that he's already had two failed marriages and his third appears to be heading in the same direction probably detracts from the term 'successful' a bit. The fact is, though, that he dumped me after our third date when I wouldn't let him get his hand inside my blouse.

And then, 'what if' I'd chosen to go to university -- my grades were (just about!) good enough -- instead of deciding to seek employment and the chance to be independent? Perhaps I'd have followed a proper career path instead of restlessly moving from job to job in those first few years. Who knows; I might have become a wealthy lawyer (is there any other kind?), or a doctor or one of those accountants who appear to rule the world nowadays, or... well, I'm sure you get the picture.

And 'what if' I'd accepted the job that was offered to me, when I was nineteen, to model lingerie for a mail order catalogue? I know I had the looks for it; I only have to look at the photographs from around that time to see a lissom blonde with an attractively sexy face and a five-foot-six frame that seemed to be mostly legs. The offer came from a customer in the unisex hairdressers where I was working at the time. He'd arranged to meet me after work and took me for a coffee while he showed me a portfolio of his work. It had been sexy, of course, but a long way from explicit. I'll admit that I'd been tempted at the time, but I was sensible enough to say I'd think it over. Eventually, I decided not to (I was still a bit shy and the idea of appearing in a catalogue wearing very skimpy bits of material was just a bit too much for me), and, although the money on offer was pretty good, I eventually found out that the man was also a staff photographer for what may be politely described as a 'men's magazine.' So heaven only knows where that may have led me to.

And a final 'what if' before I get into the story proper. Later that same year I began my first serious affair. I don't mean that it was my first experience of sex -- I'd already had two (very disappointing) 'brief encounters' by then - but it was the first time that I genuinely believed I was in love. He was a trainee manager in the bank where I worked (I'd given up on the hairdressing -- long hours and lousy pay!), his name was Jerry and he was a dish! Not only that, but he was intelligent, witty, charming and, above all, patient.

We'd been dating for nearly three months before I slept with him -- I'd become a fairly cautious type -- and it was different to anything I'd known before. My previous experiences, as I've said, were pretty unsatisfactory. Both of them had resented having to use condoms, both of them had paid little attention to very much in the way of foreplay and each of them had lasted no more than five minutes or so between putting the fresh condom on and taking the filled one off.

Jerry was four years older than me, but he'd only had a couple of fairly long-lasting affairs. Even so, he'd obviously learned a lot from them because, for the first time, he showed me how enjoyable sex could be. He took his time with me, concentrating on getting me to relax and feel comfortable with those intimate touches and then steadily bringing me to arousal. It was the first time, as far as I can remember, when I actually reached a state of craving for penetration -- something he accomplished very gently and very smoothly -- and, far from there being any resentment at wearing a condom, he did so of his own accord. Perhaps I've got my rose-tinted spectacles on as I recall that first time with him, I can't be sure, but I remember that night as being as being a very special one for me. It was the first time I'd 'made love' rather than just 'having sex;' the first time I reached a climax while my lover was inside me. It was also the first time that I was given a long, loving cuddle afterwards -- something that went a long way to making me feel comfortable with him and wanting to be with him again.

I wasn't able to spend the night with him that first time (I was still living with my parents at the time and they'd have worried if I hadn't turned up), but he insisted on getting dressed and giving me a lift home in his car.

The following day was a Sunday, which meant no work, so I didn't really expect to see him until the day after. By mid-morning, however, he was on the phone to ask me if I'd come for lunch with him. When he turned up at the house a couple of hours later, instead of just parking and waiting, he came to the door and introduced himself to my parents. They were definitely impressed by the smart young man with the well-cut suit and the charming manners, especially when he asked if they would like to come with us for lunch. Fortunately, my mum declined very graciously (I think they'd have been pretty cramped in his small car). Anyway, he took me a pub way out in the countryside where they served an excellent Sunday lunch and where, afterwards, we were able to work the effects of it off with a pleasant walk through some nice scenery.

Of course, we ended up going back to his small, but comfortable apartment where, for the first time I can ever remember, I was actually looking forward to a sexual encounter. And he didn't disappoint me. The only major difference was that, when he went to put the condom on, I told him that it wasn't necessary -- that I was on the pill. I'd actually been taking it for a couple of years at my mum's insistence -- "You never know, Sally," she'd said, "these things can happen when you least expect them... it's always best to be safe." With my two previous lovers (not really the word I'd choose, but it'll have to do), I'd preferred the extra security -- unsure how many partners there'd been in their pasts and, therefore, what unwanted souvenirs they might leave me with - but I felt confident, as well as comfortable, with Jerry.

That was the first time I undressed for a man. Jerry asked if I would and, though still a bit shy, I was willing to do it -- and absolutely delighted when he undressed and I saw the effect it had on him! We made love, if I remember correctly, three times that day -- each time being better than the one before -- and, by the third time I was, thanks to his encouragement, able to tell him what felt good, what felt really good, and what absolutely blew my mind!

About a month later, with my parents' blessing, I moved in with him. Thanks to our combined incomes, plus a little help from both his parents and mine, we were able to buy a much better apartment and I guess everyone, including me, thought it was only a matter of time before we decided to 'formalise' the arrangement with a wedding.

The thing was, though, that once we were living together, something changed. For the first few months it was like an extended honeymoon -- and I'm not just talking about the sex. I mean, don't get me wrong, the sex was absolutely terrific! We tried just about everything we could think of doing. When sex wasn't on the menu -- during my period, for example -- I learned how to give him a proper blowjob. It was something I'd never done before -- the thought of it had actually disgusted me to be honest -- but I was so determined to please him that I gave it a try and found that I actually enjoyed it. I'm not saying I enjoyed it as much as he did -- and I only learned to swallow because he clearly preferred it -- but, I enjoyed his enjoyment, if that makes any sense.

We also, after several months together, tried anal sex. It was okay, and something we returned to from time to time, but it didn't do a great deal for either of us. His particular preference was for normal, straight sex - with me on top so that he was free to play with my breasts and then, as he approached his climax, to flip us over so that he could feel my long legs clasping him tightly.

So, it was quite idyllic for a while. We spent virtually all our time together; at work, at home and at play. Then he was promoted and became a fully-fledged manager.

The bank had a policy that promotion of that kind meant a transfer -- probably to prevent any kind of favouritism towards those he knew - and, even though it was only to another branch in the same town, I honestly believe that was the point where it all began to go awry. It wasn't that he minded leaving to go somewhere else, more a case of not wanting to leave me where I was. For the first time, I began to realise that Jerry had a real problem with jealousy.

Let me make something very clear; he didn't have any reason to be jealous. I was, and probably would have continued to be, entirely his and no one else's. There was a bit of flirting, of course, as there always is in what was basically a pretty humdrum job. A couple of the younger men who worked with us had tried to chat me up a bit when they knew Jerry wasn't watching, my looks were good enough to get me a lot of admiring glances, and a couple of the more senior men (both of whom were married and ought to have known better) made oblique, but fairly clear approaches that I simply laughed off; which was all fine as long as Jerry was working in the same building and we were able to talk about it.

Once we were working apart, however, it was different.

At first, it was phone calls and texts from him; asking how I was doing, asking what I was doing, asking if I was missing him. I thought it rather sweet to begin with but, after a while, it began to interfere with the work I was supposed to be doing -- and it must have been the same for him. Eventually I had to tell him, quite truthfully, that my immediate boss -- a lovely old lady who looked as though she'd been with the bank since they dealt in sovereigns and guineas -- told me that I needed to spend a bit less time answering private calls. His reaction wasn't good. He called the old dear a lot of names that were not only unpleasant but extremely vulgar -- vulgar enough to shock me because, as I've said, he was very well-mannered.

At around that time, I also realised that the e-mails on my laptop at home were being opened before I had a chance to get to them. When I asked him about it, his reply was to query whether I had anything to hide. I didn't, of course, and they should have shown him that -- they were mostly from relatives who lived far away, friends who were inviting us (and I must emphasise the 'us'), to social events, and far too much spam!

Then he began to ask me about what my day had been like. Now, I don't mean, a casual enquiry -- it was practically the third degree. He wanted to go over every conversation I'd had. Then he wanted to know if the usual lechers were still trying to chat me up ("Get into your knickers" was the phrase I think he used most often), who I'd talked to during my lunch break, and so on. Eventually, and inevitably, we had a row about it. I told him he had no reason to question me, that I wasn't the least bit interested in anyone else, but I knew it wasn't getting through to him. What made it worse was that I was studying for some banking exams that would mean an improvement in my position and my earning capacity, and there were some days when I had to stay behind for that. I could absolutely guarantee, when I eventually emerged from the bank and drove home, that I would catch a glimpse of his car just a little way behind -- trying not to be seen.

Finally, our sex life began to suffer. He began to treat me quite roughly and I really didn't like it. I don't mean he was violent; it was just that there were now many times when it felt as if I was being used rather than loved.

Eventually, at my insistence, we took a holiday together. We spent our days lying on a sunny beach and our evenings going to shows or the cinema. During the second week, when I felt that the time was right, I made him talk about the way he felt. It wasn't easy -- he was very reluctant at first -- but he eventually apologised for having been so jealous and promised it would stop.

It didn't. It got worse.

When I challenged him about it again, we had a blazing row and, for the first time, I spent the night on the couch in the living room because I knew that I'd be in for a night of pretty harsh sex if I didn't.

The following day, instead of the usual apology (I was perfectly prepared to offer one as well), he insisted on driving me to work. On the way, he said he wanted to pick me up at lunchtime -- he'd arranged a few hours off for himself -- and take me to choose an engagement ring. He said the only way to settle what was happening was to get married. Then we could start a family; I'd be at home to look after the children instead of being out to work and, since he'd be free to phone, text or even drop in at home at any time of the day, it would remove his 'concerns.'

So, 'what if' I'd agreed?

'What if' I hadn't left work mid-morning and gone back to my parents' home and explained everything to my mum?

What if I hadn't heeded her advice to get out of the relationship as soon as possible because I'd end up being a life-long victim if I didn't?

I've no idea, of course. That's the thing with the vast majority of 'what ifs;' we can never really know the answers to them. What did happen was that he came round to see me -- my mum stayed with me -- and claimed that I was imagining most of what I'd said about him. It didn't work. Despite his charm and his impeccable manners, there was no way that he could have won either of us round and I moved back in with my parents for a little while. Eventually, after a tortuous few months (during which he always seemed to be in my driving mirror whenever I went out), he finally seemed to accept that it was over. The apartment was sold and the money divided between us. Unfortunately, he still tended to show up wherever I went -- far too often for normal coincidence, and I began to realise that it was time for me to move on.

I left to take a job with an 'offshore' bank, found a rented apartment and settled down to nurse my wounds.

To begin with, I thought it was the worst decision I'd ever made. It was difficult to be so far away from everything that was familiar to me -- especially as I was now based on a fairly small island where everyone seemed to know everyone else and an outsider such as myself had to be patient when it came to acceptance.

It didn't help, of course, that I'd arrived in mid-October. The weather was foul; lots of rain, a good deal of fog and mist, and frequent high winds.

So there was nowhere to go without a companion -- other than an occasional trip to the local cinema -- and I was finding it really difficult to make new friends. So I spent most evenings alone; usually watching a load of dross on the television and eating takeaway meals. The lifestyle (if you can really call it that), along with my sedentary job, meant that I began to put on weight. There was one evening in early December when I stepped out of the shower and took a look at myself in the mirror. I'd looked at myself every day, of course, when I was fixing my hair and putting make-up on, but what I mean is that this time I really looked. And I really didn't like what I saw.

It wasn't just the fact that I was beginning to have to squeeze into my clothes -- so much so that I was close to buying a larger size -- but my face was beginning to show signs of 'puffiness' and there was definite evidence of blotchiness on my skin from my poor diet. That night, I cried myself to sleep and seriously thought about returning home. I desperately missed my family -- especially my mum (who was probably aware of my unhappiness from the amount of time I spent on the phone to her saying that everything was 'good'). I missed my friends, too. I missed all the stupid gossip, the discussions about their relationships, about clothes, about holidays -- all the things I'd taken for granted.

Did I miss sex? Well, yes... and no. I'm not prevaricating, because there are genuinely two answers to that. What I missed most was what some romantics refer to as the afterglow. You know, the feeling that comes to you when you've shared those pleasures with someone you care about; when you settle down afterwards with a pair of strong arms around you to make you feel safe and secure while your whole body seems aglow with a deep contentment. Drifting off to sleep like that was one of the special pleasures I really craved -- along with waking up beside your partner and having an early morning kiss and a cuddle that would sometimes lead to a little bit more.

And I was beginning to lose my looks.

When I phoned home the following night, mum was out seeing a show at one of the local theatres and it was dad who answered. When I told him that I was really missing everyone, he wasn't the least bit helpful. As far as he was concerned I should have stayed and settled down with Jerry who was 'a good, steady bloke.' His view of Jerry's obsessive jealousy, although he didn't say it in so many words, was that 'there's no smoke without fire.'

For the second night in a row, I cried myself to sleep -- but when I woke up the next day, I vowed that I never would again.

To begin with, I joined a gym that was near enough to work to be able to nip in for a session in the evenings after work. Then I splashed out what seemed an extortionate amount of money for the good, protective clothing that enabled me to go for long walks at the weekends in what was remarkably beautiful countryside -- even in the depths of winter.

I also began to make use of the cookery skills I'd learned from my mother. The frying pan was relegated to the back of the cupboard and I invested in a slow cooker and a decent grill. I cooked everything 'from fresh,' and takeaway food was reduced to a very occasional treat. Even after just a couple of weeks I began to feel much better and maybe it was the feeling of wellbeing that enabled me to become more outgoing, more assertive and more approachable.

After Christmas (when I'd managed to fly home for a few days) I found that I was being accepted far more by the people around me. I made friends with some of the girls I worked with while, once again, I was back to fending off flirtatious advances from my male colleagues -- both single and married. It would have had to be someone truly exceptional to persuade me to become involved with a man I worked with again!

I began to go out occasionally, usually in a small group, more often with a girl from work named April and her friend, Sandra. They were good company, and I was a bridesmaid at April's wedding in early summer. From then, of course, it was mainly Sandra who was my companion. I double-dated with her a couple of times and went on one or two dates on my own, but nothing ever came of it.

The nightclubs were pretty dire; they were filled with loud music, drunks, people who were high as kites on something other than alcohol, and lots of leerers and gropers. After trying them all, I found I didn't particularly want to visit them unless Sandra was really keen to, usually because there was some 'bloke' she fancied that was certain to be there (He never was!)

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