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Jeremiah Savant’s ‘Inside the Inside’

A Parallel Companion to ‘Adventures In Mental Health

NINE: The Tin Man Gets His Heart

I had learned in the last 24 hours that I had absolutely no seduction technique at all. Last night, Beth had been in the pub with friends of hers, sitting by the fireplace with the elbow-height mantle shelf, and she had called me over to meet them. At some point, she reached up and put her hand on the edge of the mantle, and I slid mine to cover it. She did not move her hand – however, the small gesture of intimacy between us had been noticed by Gillian, the barmaid, whose face (I was told later) clouded with disappointment and a little anger.

A short time later, they decided to go up to her flat for coffee before the friends made their way home… only about 50 miles or so away. As they stood up to leave and I moved aside, Beth brushed closely past me, and with her hands on my upper arms, she whispered in my ear to come up too. So I did. We passed some time and, unlike my previous visit there, Beth and I sat on the same settee – the squashy one under the window. Then, after seeing them out, she returned to the same spot and we waved her friends goodbye out of the window, kneeling on the settee (which was seeming increasingly familiar). She turned to me, and said with a smile,

“Alone at last…” stopping rather suddenly, her eyes open wide with surprise. I simply could wait no more; I had rather roughly grabbed her and French kissed her. Hard. That comment she had made on the first night of the play about no tongues had surprised me, and so I thought I’d just leap right on in there with all guns blazing and  slip her all six feet (as some used to say). We both leaned back, breathing a little heavily, and I watched her expression do strange things; I was sure I had just blown any cool I may or may not have had.

Time spun out for the indeterminately long period of time such moments spin out into, and I noticed what was so familiar; what I had thought was a settee was in fact comprised of modular brown units… and a crazy flashback to nights of passion with Nell danced in my head. It was not helpful. Then, instead of slapping me, Beth cradled my face in both her hands and began to lean forward. Closing her eyes as she neared, she drew us together and we kissed more gently, less desperately; then slid into an embrace which transformed into unselfconscious movement to lie on the soft brown modular seating units, where we started to kiss once more – and more passionately with quite a lot of adolescent entwining. At one point, she patted the sofa thing and told me that it had seen quite a bit of action – was that to warn me off or what? I actually found it intimidating – besides, how would she react if I said that I had lain with my first girlfriend on seating like this?  Not good form, somehow. Still…

Unlike those times with Nell, my hands were at a bit of a loss. They wanted to be peeling away the layers like they had with Nell; to be stroking and fondling like with Jane (and, of course, Ann), but… there seemed to be a bit of a vibe, and I couldn’t break past it. Somehow, I felt more nervously virginal than I had at the point when I was virginally nervous and about to be virgin no more. Kissing her neck had not done the trick… and tension and needs were building up within me. My chest was thrumming to feel her naked body against mine…  After a while, sitting up and trembling, I took off my jumper and seeing her not make the same move, I pleadingly said, “I want us to be topless.” The Kool Kat inside me nearly blew it with rage. But… yes, I really said that.

As I cursed myself for being really, truly clumsy in about every way possible, and wondering if it would have been so awful with Gillian, Beth – her expression a little unreadable – turned away from me and lifted her jumper over her head with her back to me. She was wearing no blouse under the soft garment and her white bra strap gleamed slightly (Yes, I know! What is it with the slightly gleaming white bra?) as I reached forward, stilling the tremble in my fingers and deftly unhooked the clasp. At last! I thought to myself. It was a twofold relief; I had done something without being a total klutz and as I had removed my own shirt, it meant part of my desire would very soon be quenched.

Looking somewhat virginal and nervous herself, Beth turned to me, her arms across her breasts momentarily, and said something which echoed back to Jane. It was a near apology for her small stature. I took her hands in mine, told her how beautiful she was to me, and moved closer, kissing her breasts and nipples for the first time – only briefly, so briefly – then raising my head to look her in the eyes as if seeing them again for the first time, and to smile. A smile which was rewarded with a tentative version of the Munchkin Smile.

She then caressed my face, my shoulders, and drew me to her as we kissed and finally I felt the flesh on flesh I had been craving increasingly for months. We pushed our bodies together, held and caressed, kissed and nibbled and squirmed, becoming almost more teenager-ish in our gyrations… yet there was something else. A restraint. Somehow, a shyness. Despite wanting to undo her jeans (and mine), I did not – and neither did she. After quite some time, we came up for air (so to speak) and looked at each other.

 

“Come back tomorrow night,” Beth intoned. “After choir practice.” There was a look on her face, and again, I was reminded of Nell and The First, First Time. I started to pull my discarded shirt on, pausing frequently for a nuzzle, kiss and fondle with Beth, who slowly pulled her jumper over her head. For some reason, knowing that her pert breasts were unfettered under that soft, baggy jumper was electrifying. She saw me to the door, and again I had the same sort of feeling as I had years previously with Nell; that dreadful feeling of leaving.

This had made up my mind. Overnight, I had pondered upon things, and despite being such a ‘cack-handed I-don’t-know-what’ the previous evening, in spite of the early awkwardness, I had felt more at home in Beth’s arms than I had nestled up with Gillian… and this evening, there was not going to be any speeches about what kind of relationship I wanted or would be best for both of us. Tonight was about passion, about being together – finally. Tonight, I would also tell her how I feel about her; how I had been increasingly feeling about her for months -almost since the moment I laid eyes on her.

The day passed quickly, and I wanted to make up for my being so gauche and awkward when I first grabbed her. So I decided on the spur of the moment to pop into the off licence and bring a couple of bottles of champagne. My reason was that it had been a good couple of years since any sexual activity, and I wanted to celebrate it in style. Slightly nervous, I knocked and entered. Alex was there alone; Beth and Bella weren’t back from choir practice yet. He made a comment about the champagne, and my excuse was that it was seeing the panto off completely… I do not think for a moment that he was convinced but we played cards and talked companionably until ‘the girls’ bundled in. Alex immediately teased Beth about what was in the fridge and there was an exclamation as she clinkingly opened the door. I had followed her into the small kitchen and put my arms around her waist, kissed her cheek from behind – and she did not resist this show of affection in front of her children. Neither did Alex and Bella complain. It felt good. It felt family. I told Beth that we would be toasting the panto away, and Bella’s sterling performance that night, and she agreed that her children could have a small glass each.

We had a toast, and had a little drink, the four of us. It felt right to me; more right than the occasions I had been with Gillian and her two children… a bit of guilt tried to creep in, but I had not been distant, I had told her of how unsure about everything I was and she had seemed to accept it in good faith. With the first round of bubbly drunk, Beth sent the kids to bed, and they went with disconcertingly knowing (yet happy) looks on their faces. After they had finished their evening ablutions, and popped their heads round the door to say goodnight with a giggle, Beth herself disappeared mysteriously for a moment. She then reappeared at the door with her arms full of bedding, a smile and an explanation that the settee against the one wall became a bed. We unfolded it, made the bed and looked at each across the expanse of duvet. She bade me undress, and I did – hurriedly – then scooted across the other side and knelt up to kiss her and assist with her own disrobing.

She turned her back to me and sat on the edge of the bed while she shicked her dress over her head. Like last night, I undid her bra (yes, white – and yes, shining softly in the more muted lighting we had adjusted the room to) as she slid her underwear to the floor. I was a little disappointed. I had always imagined her to wear matching; not just the same colour, but a proper co-ordinated set… and I still did not know if this was the case. Besides, this was nothing like the mutual disrobing, combined with foreplay I had known before. This was… business-like, somehow. Then she demurely slid under the duvet and into my arms, where she settled; a smidgeon more disappointment for me, as I wanted to see her, standing before me as proudly as Nell had done. Instead, it seemed as though it was going to be a confident Ann sort of seduction. As we nestled and nuzzled, I made a comment about how well we fitted together – for it seemed, to me, that we did.

A kiss or two, a bit of stroking… I kissed her chest and her breasts, but she made a comment that I played with them last night… was this – was I entirely welcome?  That first time was a bit half-hearted, maybe a little disappointing, to start with… but as we began to settle into a rhythm, we both did something I had not experienced before; we started to stage-breathe. All the sex I had experienced had been with women who did not know how to project their voices, whereas both Beth (as a singer) and I (as a thespian) did. We looked into each other’s eyes and breathed from deep in our bodies… after some considerable time, our mouths were dry and we were sort of at the end of our exertions for the moment. I fetched the champagne from the fridge and we toasted each other and drank some more, nakedly curling up fairly easily with each other.

For a few moments, I wondered if this was how it might have been with Gillian if I had followed her upstairs when she said she wanted to take me to bed. Yet after a couple of sips of champagne, Gillian and the world slipped from my mind like the smoke Beth and I plumed from our cigarettes as we started to chat and then discuss how long we had been yearning for each other. We talked about how that first encounter had gone and what we thought about it; about how the one rehearsal I did not turn up at and how she felt about that – then how I felt about the other rehearsal when she was not there. I told her of the Munchkin Smile; she told me of how she felt like I could fill a room sometimes – just by standing still. The conversation turned to that evening with the costume, and how I had hoped for a bit more of a show, but she had been wearing a full slip… and we drank more champagne then spilled bits to lick off each other and one thing led to another…

And so it went, until well past the witching hour and beyond. Finally, I dragged myself back to the house that my parents and I lived in; creeping semi-silently in the door. The following evening, I went down the pub as usual, then felt compelled to nip over to see if Beth wanted to come and have a drink. So I did. She did not, but I stayed… until the early hours of the morning. It seemed we had become completely addicted to each other; we made love, we talked – oh, the talk. For me, it was soul-deep and honest, totally baring my heart and mind. We also went out several times – just for a drive on the motorcycle, then to the cinema a couple of times… always, though, I was creeping into the house at an unfeasible time to sleep off the exertions.

I was convinced that I had found The One. We meshed, we fitted together more than I had ever felt with anyone else before. As we talked about ourselves, I considered we were sharing deeper and deeper parts of ourselves and I did not want to let this go; did not want it to stop, did not want… to be with anyone else. Ever. At all. So, one evening, naked after lovemaking, I knelt before her as she was reclining on the settee and I said something about facing responsibility and love, becoming a man and putting away my toys…

“Beth, will you marry me?”

“Yes,” she said with That Certain Smile, the Munchkin Smile, and without any hesitation. The whole scene had felt clean and honest because of our nakedness, our closeness and the pure communication between us. We nuzzled and snuggled and made love, then after an after-glowing lengthy time of embrace, I dressed and went home.

We made arrangements for me to meet her as her bus home from work arrived. Then we would go up to tell my parents, while she would tell her children (who had wholeheartedly accepted me) at breakfast and then we would have our first family meal of a takeaway to celebrate. In the early evening darkness, I kept an eye on my watch – which indicated that the bus, I thought I had been in plenty of time for, was unreasonably late… except it was not. I saw the curtains of Beth’s flat twitch, and I headed for it, to see her exit the door and run across the road to me, throwing herself into my welcoming arms. We held each other tightly.

“I thought,” she panted into my ear, “you’d changed your mind or something.”

“Not a chance,” I replied. “Not a chance.”

And so we told everyone and got married. I simply let her have her way with the wedding because all I was interested in was spending the rest of my life with her. I considered that, providing it did not cost the earth, she could have all the ceremonial (or not) that she wanted. It was not entirely unpleasant, and because we were very much out in the open about it all now, we actually got a lot more sleep than we had been getting. The only remarkable thing about the wedding itself, was when we exchanged rings… I looked in her eye and placed the ring on her finger – which immediately folded up on itself, as if she was not holding it stiffly enough; as if she was not entirely committed to this; almost like she did not want to be in this position with me. I nearly pulled the ring back, threw it away and turned to everyone, declaring loudly, “I have had a sign! Her finger drew back! This marriage is OFF!”

But, I did not. I wanted this. I wanted her – and her children. I did not want to be alone anymore; I did not want to face the crushing emotional crashes of breaking up with someone ever again… this was what and who I wanted, and I would do anything to make it work.

Our first year was more or less domestic bliss, but then, such things usually are…

TEN: The Tin Man Hits the Bricks

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Jeremiah Savant’s ‘Inside the Inside’ is a parallel companion to ‘Adventures In Mental Health‘.

If you would like to connect with Jeremiah, or have any questions about this series, feel free to get in touch.