‘Great!’ Lorna declared, making a final adjustment to the checked skirt she had put on in the meantime. ‘I knew the design would look professional.’ Giving herself a quick double hand clap of congratulations as she walked closer, she then asked the vital question: ‘What do you think Alex? Now be honest with me…’
Now be honest with me, so simple in appearance and yet so complicated in reality. It had become a stock phrase of Lorna’s. Yet it was used sparingly; kept in reserve for important occasions. I had learned very early on, and to my cost, what it meant. After seeing each other for two months Lorna had arranged for us to have dinner with her family. When she had driven me home afterwards she had asked, without looking away from the road, what I thought of her parents. I took the now be honest with me at face value, not least because in my nervousness I had drunk a little more than I had intended, and had proceeded to tell her that they were okay but her mother’s cooking wasn’t as good my mother’s and I didn’t like the way his father kept staring at me even when other people were talking. My observations had been met with a stony silence that lasted the remainder of the journey. Unfortunately, my evaluation of the incident had only managed to reveal half of the strategy required moving forward. This had become clear when we had starting flat hunting. It has been clear from the way Lorna had shown me the details from the letting agency that she had already fallen for a bedsit because its location was mere five minute’s walk into the town centre. After the short time it had taken to survey the cramped interior I had responded to her question as to my thoughts with too much enthusiasm. Not normally one for causing a scene in public, and despite the letting agent being only a few feet away, supposedly checking his messages on his phone, she proceeded to berate me for my apparent sarcasm and stormed off.
Since that day I have successfully applied the knowledge that her call for honesty, not only means that it is only appreciated when positive but that I have to be convincing with my positivity. That’s not to give the impression that I have always taken the subordinate role in our relationship. There have been a number of occasions where I have felt the need to ignore the etiquette of the situation, for instance when she asked me what I thought of her idea for a honeymoon trekking through South America, but today was not one of them. For whatever reason Lorna had decided that this cheap-looking second hand watch was a special present.
‘Yeah, it’s really professional,’ I replied. The raised eyebrow that met my glance up confirming that my lazy use of the adjective she had used hadn’t worked. ‘Erm, let me just set the time,’ I suggested, hoping to buy myself sufficient opportunity to come up with a better answer.
I pulled the crown out and ordinarily the action would freeze the second hand and allow you to adjust the minute and hour hands. But what I had done sent all three spinning round furiously before coming to rest approximately where they had been before. Neat trick, I thought, pushing the crown back in, before glancing up to see if Lorna had noticed.
But Lorna wasn’t stood there with her interrogating gaze anymore. She had moved around the room and was adjusting her skirt again. I was thinking that perhaps she wasn’t as bothered about my thoughts on the watch as I had feared. Opening my mouth to say something, she turned in my direction.
‘Great!’ Lorna declared, giving the skirt a last tug. ‘I knew the design would look professional.’ My confusion at her repetition soon turned to shock when she gave the same hand clap as before. ‘What do you think Alex? Now be honest with me…’
I stared up at her, opened mouthed. ‘It’s unbelievable,’ I whispered. I was met with the same raised eyebrow as earlier but after a few moments it lowered.
‘Oh Alex, I’m so pleased you like it,’ she said hugging me. Clearly there must have been a sincerity in my expression to corroborate my statement.
What the fuck just happened? I was grateful for the cuddle, anything to allow me some time to try and process this. With my brain in overdrive and yet unable to rationalise the events of the past minute I wrapped my arms tighter around Lorna and reached for the cool metal of the watch. Locating the crown, I pulled it out again and, with my head still buried in my wife’s neck I imagined the hands spinning again. Allowing them sufficient time to settle I then pushed the crown firmly. Despite this time being able to anticipate what would happen next, the reality of it was even more stunning than before. Instantly Lorna was no longer pressed against me and my arms were back in my lap. A double clap caused me to glance to my right and find Lorna approaching me again. ‘What do you think Alex? Now be honest with me…’
‘Erm, I er…’ It was all I could seem to stammer this time but the dark expression I received in return helped to galvanise my thoughts. ‘I think it’s the best present I’ve ever had,’ I replied truthfully. My arms were already open before Lorna gave me the inevitable response that she was so glad I liked it.
I would swear that the hug was a little different this time. I could only describe it as keener on Lorna’s part, as though my comments on the watch this time had made it more deserved. Regardless, I was happy to remain in her embrace, once again trying and failing to get to grips with what had transpired. Although I understood the crux of the matter, how and why and, most of all, the implications of this remarkable event eluded me.
So deep was I in thought that I let out a yelp of surprise when Lorna started kissing my neck. ‘Shhh,’ she soothed, unperturbed by my reaction. As she recommenced, her hands reached under my shirt to trace the smooth skin of my back. Despite where this was leading being the very reason I had joined her upstairs, it was the last thing on my mind at that moment. As she moved her hands round to the front and started unbuttoning my shirt, I found myself face to face with her once more. Observing the mixture of love and lust contained within those perfect blue eyes, all I could feel was a strange sense of guilt, as though I had tricked her into wanting sex with me. If it hadn’t been for the watch’s intervention, I would still be trying to dig myself out of the hole I had created with my initial reply. Irrespective of whether I could have turned the situation around, the likelihood of me doing so successfully that she would be undressing me at this particular moment was slim.