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A woman sitting alone in a bar tends to attract the attention of men, and women, whether they are themselves alone or with other men or woman. Even though this is only my third or fourth visit to this particular lunchtime watering hole, I’m aware that I’ve become something of a curiosity.

The barman treats me as an old friend, already reaching for the coffee cup the moment my hand settles on the door handle at the appointed time. I won’t be surprised when he starts handing me by own special mug.

“Hello Miss. Nice to see you again,” he says, even though I know he’s seen the gold-platinum ring on my finger. I enjoy the swift sexual frisking as his brown eyes wash over me.

The other regular drinkers and semi alcoholics look up and acknowledge my arrival with a vague , lukewarm welcoming smile, like dogs who’ve sniffed each others behinds before, no longer bothering to repeat the whole kaleidoscope of the time worn greeting.

There is couple to my left; he bald, as a polished egg, with the face of a chubby baby; expensive three piece suit and blue and red striped tie. She is blonde from a bottle, her hair piled precariously on top of her head, a few strands in carefully arranged disorder; tight silk blouse unbuttoned to show a small indecency of cleavage, and a short tight skirt that she constantly pulls down to hide the tops of her plump white thighs. He’s speaking in a quiet voice, words that are making her smile and slowly squirm on her seat, causing her skirt ride up again.

The two banker boys are in their usual places, mobiles at the ready, fingers poised for swift retaliation. They blatantly eye-fucked me as I walked by, carrying my coffee and small lap-top. I avoid their gazes.

They go into a little huddle and I know my ass and pussy are the topic. I may have to find some other watering hole that has free Wi-Fi, where the coffee is just as good or better.

Anyway, to continue my sad tale………………

Two or three slender, black and white clad girls circled the room dispensing wine glasses of cheap champagne and slightly edible finger aperitifs. Off-white walls were the back drop to metre wide canvases of coloured geometric shapes and swirls.

Christian, as expected had deserted me after ten minutes in pursuit of his future baby father.

The picture I was looking at had the particularly uninformative title of “Red on Canvas,” when a deep voice close behind me said, “Horrible isn’t it.”

Turning I looked up into a pair of intense black eyes that glinted beneath a high forehead fringed by the thickest, waviest hair I’d ever seen.
“What?”
“The picture.”
“I can’t decide,” I said.
“Just throwing paint at a canvas doesn’t make it a picture.”
“I’m not a critic.”
“We are all critics, in one way or another. Anyway, you seem like a lady who knows what she likes. And you don’t like that.”
“How do you know?”
“I read faces, and yours says that you’re bored and very hungry.”
“Really. Are you always this presumptuous?”
“Yes.”
“Well I am neither bored, nor hungry.”
“You stomach would beg to differ; you’ve been rubbing it for the past thirty minutes. Added to that you arrived at six thirty which means you’ve come straight from the office and haven’t had time for dinner. And looking at your figure I’d guess that all you had for lunch was a coffee and a celery stick.”
“You’ve been watching me?”
“Intensely.”
“Why?”
“Because you are the most beautiful painting in the room.”
“Do women ever fall for that line?”
“Every time. That’s why I still use it.”
“You’re bad,” I say, feeling myself being sucked into the steady black stare. “Anyway, it was Coffee and half a prawn sandwich.”
“How could I be so wrong?”

We were still laughing when Christian found us. He took the arm of the stranger almost proprietorially. “I see you two have met,” he said.
“Not officially,” I say, too quickly.
“So he hasn’t got around to asking you if you fuck men you hardly know?”
“Now Christian,” began the man, his voice vibrating from somewhere deep inside. “I don’t think the young lady is like that.”
“And you’d be right,” I said stabbing Christian with a hot stare.
“Now that’s settled,” said Christian completely unabashed, “which of you homophobes is going to buy this gay boy dinner.”

We took a taxi to a Thai House in the West End, where the meal came in a series of small dishes; hot, aromatic and exceedingly delicious.

Christian flirted outrageously with the stranger, despite knowing that he was entirely hetero-sexual. The man easily and politely fielded Christian’s suggestive innuendos, while at the same time keeping us laughing with risqué tales of his travels, which seemed to indicate that he’d been to almost every country on the planet twice over.

I knew I was in trouble after the first three bottles of wine had come and gone, mostly I might add down Christian’s throat. It wasn’t the white wine however that was making me feel light headed, but the man’s voice that poured mellifluously into my ears and straight down my spine to my clitoris, which set up a harmonic buzzing with every syllable that dropped from his full lips. I became increasingly aware that I was sitting in a damp patch.

About 10 o’clock, I rang my husband and left a message, that I’d had a few drinks and that I’d be staying in town with Christian, which was something I’d done several times before.

Christian was snoring contentedly, his hand on the man’s knee five seconds after we entered the taxi. Three glasses of wine usually laid him low and he’d sunk nearly two whole bottles.

“He’ll be out till noon tomorrow,” I said, apologising for my gently snoring friend.
“Good. Then he’ll be completely oblivious to what we do to each other tonight.”
“What we do? I don’t understand.”
“Don’t you?”
“Yes, I think I do. And that’s not going to happen. Not tonight. Not ever.” I held up my hand so he could see my ring.

He smiled and held up his hand. “It is inevitable, Cara Mia.”
“Non in un milione di anni,” I replied, falling back on the Italian I’d picked up during my gap year in Tuscany when I was nineteen.

*
One of the banker boys is talking very loudly on the phone while the other tries to suppress a girly giggle. The words ‘megalithic bonus’ and ‘a shit load’ and ‘fucking a’ are followed by ‘you bet your sweet b’Jesus I will’, makes everybody look in their direction. He presses the disconnect button and the two of them go into a fandango of knuckle touches and funny handshakes.

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock. Got to go back to work. I’d love to stay and chat but bills have to be paid.

**Non in un milione di anni…….Not in a million years.

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