Twenty to eight. Monday evening. I stood next to the wide bay window in my living room and looked down onto the village below. Even though it was late and the light was fading the streets were still alive with bustling activity. By this time of year Thatcham was usually silent. I noticed that the leaves on many of the trees I could see from my house had begun to show their first signs of curling and turning from green to golden-brown. The arrival of Autumn was imminent. All of the greenness I could see would be replaced by yellows, oranges and golds during the next few weeks.
I turned around as Siobhan entered the room. Inside the house was dull and full of evening shadows and at first I could only see her silhouette. As she walked towards me the fading light coming in through the window revealed her in all her beauty. She wore tight black jeans and a loose white top which hung open casually. She knew I was staring at her and she was enjoying the attention. She was flirting with me.
'Okay?' she asked.
I nodded and wrapped my arms around her. For a few long seconds I stared deep into her eyes before kissing her.
'I'm fine,' I whispered, nestling my face against her soft, smooth cheek. 'What about you?'
She lifted up my shirt and ran her long fingernails down my back before grabbing hold of my backside.
'I'm not too bad,' she whispered.
Siobhan sat down on the couch and pulled me down next to her. I kissed her again.
'I love you, you know,' I smiled.
'I know!' she laughed gently.
I had been with Siobhan for a long time now (by my unimpressive standards) and I still found it hard to believe that she had chosen to be with me. It wasn't that I thought there was anything particularly wrong with me, it was just that she was so damn perfect and...
'Do you want me?' she asked, pulling me close and quickly derailing my train of thought. Her breath tickled my skin. She knew that she hadn't really needed to ask the question. I always wanted her.
'I want you,' I gasped, my excitement rapidly rising. I fumbled clumsily to undo my belt and fly. She brushed my hands away and undid my trousers herself.
'Then take me,' she whispered.
I undid the buttons on the front of her blouse and was about to push it back off her shoulders when she froze.
'Shit!' she snapped, suddenly sitting upright. 'What time is it?'
'Who cares,' I mumbled as I continued to undress her.
'I do,' she insisted. 'Bloody hell, it's nearly eight.'
She gently pushed me away. Feeling suddenly rejected, self-conscious and concerned, I stood and pulled up my trousers.
'Sorry, love,' she sighed, smiling as she pulled her blouse back on. 'I almost forgot.'
'Forgot what?' I asked, frustrated and desperate to make love.
She reached across for the television remote control and switched on the set. My heart sank.
'You must be joking,' I protested. 'You'd rather watch some stupid programme than...'
'It's not a stupid programme. Bloody hell, you have forgotten, haven't you?'
I shrugged my shoulders.
'I must have. Haven't got a clue what you're talking about.'
'Come on,' she smiled, 'we can try again at half-past. We need to watch this. It's important.'
As I wandered over to the window realisation suddenly dawned. Monday night, eight o'clock. It was time for 'Visitor Update'. I gazed down into the suddenly silent village and cursed the bloody aliens yet again.
Visitor Update was shown in every conceivable language in every country. Its purpose was to educate the population in all aspects of alien life. Their biology, psychology, history, sociology and just about everything else was covered in handy half-hour blocks. In the short time that it had been on screen the programme had gathered a following which bordered on the fanatical. Even I usually watched it. I didn't know of anyone who hadn't seen it.
Don't get me wrong, the programme was always interesting and useful, but I couldn't understand why it was so popular, and why the rest of the week seemed now to be planned around eight o'clock on Mondays. Given the choice between watching half an hour of alien home movies and making love with Siobhan, I knew which I would have preferred. But she was hooked. She hung on every last second of footage, like just about everyone else seemed to.
Tonight I couldn't bring myself to look at the screen. I went out to the kitchen and made a drink.
I stood in the living room doorway watching Siobhan as the kettle boiled. She was half-dressed and completely transfixed. Eventually she sensed that I was watching her.
'Come on,' she sighed, looking over her shoulder. 'Come and sit with me.'
'Wouldn't you rather I waited until your programme had finished,' I replied sarcastically.
Her face dropped.
'Don't be like that. You know I'd rather...'
'Rather what? Watch a television programme than make love with me?'
'But it's not just any old programme, is it? This is important. This affects all of us.'
'So put a tape in the video recorder, record the fucking thing and let it affect us later on then.'
She shook her head sadly.
'Come on,' she said again. 'Sit down.' The kettle was boiling. I went out and made the drinks.
I stood alone in the kitchen and fumed silently to myself. She had me wrapped around her little finger and she knew it. I wanted sex with my girlfriend now, was that too much to ask when she obviously wanted it too? I didn't want to sit through half an hour of bloody alien propaganda and then have sex with her. But the worst thing was, as desperate and pathetic as it might have sounded, I knew that I would have sat through a week of bloody propaganda if I knew that making love with Siobhan would follow.
Calming myself down (it wasn't really her fault) I went back into the living room and sat down next to her. She shuffled herself around and lay across my lap. She pushed herself up against me and I revelled in the warm caress of her delicate body on mine. Having her this close was soothing and reassuring.
Oh Christ, I thought, what's the matter with me? Why do I feel so out on a limb? Am I that untrusting? Why couldn't I just sit back and accept the situation in the same way that everyone else had? The fact that I didn't share everyone else's utter fascination with the aliens was really starting to bother me. I felt like I was building up a wall between myself and the rest of the world.
I'd missed the first five minutes of the programme but I hadn't missed much. A report from Dreighton and some footage from the alien homeworld, but nothing that I hadn't seen before. The next half-hour dragged.
By the time the programme had finished the faint light in the room had disappeared almost completely. Siobhan got up and switched off the television, plunging the room into a deep, murky darkness. She walked back towards me and I knew that she was undressing. I took off my shirt and, for the second time in an hour, undid my trousers. She lay down on top of me and my excitement rose as I felt her naked body on top of mine.
'Still want me?' she asked.
I didn't answer. Wrapping my arms around her I rolled off the sofa, reversing our positions so that she lay on the carpet with me on top. She took hold of me and gently guided me into her.
'I love you,' I whispered.
'I love you too,' she hissed in reply. 'Now fuck me.'
Three-quarters of an hour later we lay on the floor together, tired, naked and completely fulfilled.
I was starting to fall asleep. I couldn't help it. Siobhan seemed to have ten times the energy I did tonight. She buried her face on my bare chest and kissed and nibbled my skin.
I was filled with a feeling of overpowering warmth, security and comfort, the likes of which I'd only known since Siobhan had walked into my life. There had been long, dark days just a few months earlier when I had thought that there would never be anything positive in my life again. Days when I had envisaged spending the rest of my time alone, never wanting to leave the silent isolation of my home. But Siobhan had always been waiting for me in the next room or at the other end of the phone, and I knew that all of the credit for dragging me back from the edge of the darkest abyss imaginable belonged to the wonderful girl resting in my arms. 'Let me ask you a question,' she asked suddenly.
'Go on,' I replied, forcing myself to wake up a little.
'If you had the chance to travel to the alien planet, would you go?'
'Return trip or one way?'
'A would you be going with me?'
'Forget about me, this is hypothetical.'
'Doesn't matter. I can't forget about you.'
She playfully thumped my chest.
'Just answer the question, will you?'
'I'd like to go, but only if I could come back. And like I said, I'm not going anywhere unless you're going with me.'
How could I turn down the opportunity to travel through space? But on the other hand, was there any point in going? I had everything I wanted in Thatcham. More to the point, I had everything I wanted lying in the living room with me.
I still couldn't believe that I had Siobhan.
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