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My Aunt had been nagging my husband and I to come and visit for the better part of two years before we finally conceded defeat and headed out to the middle of bumfuck nowhere one late spring, Wednesday afternoon.

Truthfully, Keith and I probably needed to get away. We’d spent seventeen years creating, growing a business that very nearly made it from ‘small’ to ‘medium’ before a new, conservative government changed the rules in the arena we operated within, and our clients deserted us for the cheaper, shorter term options that were now open to them.

I won’t bore you with the details, I’ll just give you the wrap up; in two years we dropped from fifteen staff to three, from nearly a hundred clients to just seventeen.

We hadn’t gone bankrupt. We’d always been careful, and each staff member who’d been let go as paid out, each debt we had repaid. We didn’t have to plunder our savings or our mortgage. Our pride was hurt, and I can’t tell you how much it sucked to hear our competitors crowing over our demise, as they took advantage of new legislation that saw environmental protections scrapped and worker’s rights eroded, but we were never on the breadline. That was good enough for me, but not for Keith.

Keith spent nights pacing the house, and standing on the back balcony staring at the stars. Sometimes he smoked, sometimes he drank, sometimes he did both. Sex became a band-aid, something I offered to him because it was the only thing that I could do to try and make it better. He was angry. Angry for him, angry for us, angry for employees that were now earning a dollar an hour less and on temporary contracts, not in full time employment, no less. We’d been in an industry dominated by men and by virtue of his gender he’d inevitably been closer to the boys and known more about them, so he took it harder than me.

‘How in fuck’s name do you choose between someone who broke down and cried when you offered them a job because they were days off being homeless, and someone whose wife has just had a baby?’ he asked me one day. ‘How?’

There were no answers. I’d left the business six months ago and was doing contract work for a friend.

Aunt Nora was fifty-seven and a divorcee. Her husband had beat her, so she’d kicked him out when she was a twenty-six year old mother of four and carried on life without him. She’d worked as a barmaid, never remarried, and retired two years ago after she was left a small inheritance by a bachelor farmer with whom she had no known relationship. I’m sure you can connect the dots. God knows most everyone else did.

Nora had said to me ‘Penny, just pack up that damn husband of yours and get away’ more times than I could count. She’d heard the strain in our voices over Christmas lunches, weddings and funerals and she knew, didn’t she? She just knew, the way some people always seem to know things.

Keith and I drove into Nora’s hometown in our pick-up, one of the last things we’d bought before our business had started the slow, keening process of regression. Neither of us were speaking much. The kids, thirteen and eleven years old, were in Brisbane and both with Keith’s parents, so it was just he and I, both a hair’s breath over forty, and not really knowing what it was we should be hoping for out of life.

Keith wasn’t a bad looking man, but the stress of the past few years had added lines to his face and stripped kilos from his middle. He was tall, lean and hard faced, with a dark tan and thick, dark hair. He was someone who could hold a grudge and he was burdened by the weight of them.

I was his counterpart; average height, blond hair, grey eyes and a figure that was neither skinny nor chubby but somewhere in between. I seemed to be one of those people who blended into whatever image someone held of me. When I was in a suit and heels, the presumption was that I was a business owner’s wife who maybe did the pays and answered the phone here and there, and when I’d been out working with the guys, the overriding assumption had been that I was a lesbian with no intellectual ability whatsoever.

‘I hate staying at other people’s house,’ Keith muttered.

‘We’re not staying at her house,’ I replied. ‘We’re staying at the farm, the one Rob left to her.’

‘He’s got to have been her lover. Rob.’

‘Probably.’

‘Why else would he leave her the farm?’

This was Keith’s most annoying habit; continually asking me questions as though I was an adversary and not a support. I knew he was just working through the rage but it was a habit that grated me nonetheless, more so on some days than others.

‘Maybe she gave him free beers when she was working in the pub,’ I suggested, knowing Keith wouldn’t stop until he’d released the frustration he felt. ‘Maybe she gave him a lift home when he was too drunk to drive.’

‘She gave him more than a lift.’

‘What two single people get up to is their business and theirs alone,’ I replied diplomatically. ‘Maybe she made him happy.’

He glanced ankara escort bayan over at me before returning his eyes to the road.

‘What?’ I asked.

‘If only every man who loves a woman could give her a farm,’ he said, the disgruntlement yielding to depression. He wasn’t depressed in a medical sense, but depression was certainly something he’d experienced in spades.

‘What in fuck’s name would I do with a farm? I can’t even remember if a hectare or an acre is the bigger one.’

My attempt at humour failed.

‘One day,’ he said, still despondent. ‘One day I’d like to give you something worth more than jack fucking shit all.’

We pulled up outside Nora’s house, a three bedroom post-war home in the middle of the country town. It was within walking distance to both the local school and the local pub where Nora had worked pulling beers.

Nora was out the front, reading a book. A short, thin woman who drank and smoked like a man, she liked books and solitude and had more than once told me the best thing about having kids was when they fucked off out of home.

A small dog ran to the front gate, barking frantically. A larger dog, sitting at her feet, raising it’s head only to acknowledge our presence before resuming dozing in the sun.

‘Scrappy, be quiet,’ Nora admonished, racing over and grabbing the yap yap. She was in jean shorts and a loose tee, an outfit that belonged on a woman much younger than her, and yet suited her perfectly. She’d never given a shit. ‘Just ignore the bastard thing, Penny, Keith. I’m dog-sitting for a friend.’

Scrappy continued to lose his mind at us as Nora led us up the paved path towards her house. For a long time the house had been an exercise in dilapidation and entropy.

Five or seven years ago, the house started improving. It was painted. The floors were sanded. Seemingly overnight it went from ‘sad and sorry’ to ‘struggling’ to ‘quiet success’. Rob, everyone assumed, must have quietly ben working behind the scenes, or maybe giving her money.

It was hot and still inside the house. We shuffled down a narrow hallway, past a table overfilling with odds and ends, to the kitchen. Scrappy was still barking and carrying on, and I thought that when Nora put him down he might run over and bite either Keith or I, but instead he ran under the kitchen table and continued to yelp and threaten us from beneath the safety of the battered pine structure.

‘Cunt of a dog,’ Nora mused, reaching on top of her fridge. Her legs, though thin, were marked with cellulite and spider veins. ‘Here we go. The address is on the tag and I’ve put milk and bread in the fridge. I’ve cleaned the place, too. Rob wasn’t too fond of cleaning. He had rubbish everywhere when he died.’

‘You shouldn’t have,’ I said.

‘Of course I should have. I’ve been telling you for years to come out here.’ She passed me the keys then opened the fridge door. ‘What would you like to drink? I’ve got Fourex Gold, VB, Coke, diet Coke and Fanta.’

‘I’ll just get some water from the tap,’ I replied. ‘Thanks.’

‘I’d love a Coke, if you don’t mind,’ Keith said.

Nora handed Keith a Coke and grabbed a VB for herself. I poured myself a glass of water from the tap, using a glass that was on the drying rack on the sink, and the three of us went outside so Nora and Keith could smoke. Scrappy was winding down, losing the anxiety, and instead of barking was darting in between our legs.

My Aunt tapped a cigarette from her pack and placed it between her lips. She lit it and took a deep draw. ‘How’s life been treating you two? Are things getting any better?’

‘It’s okay,’ I replied. ‘Things are slower but they’re okay. The wolf isn’t at the door, not yet.’

‘It isn’t fair,’ she said. ‘The government can’t keep moving the goalposts. They forget there are people involved. They forget that we aren’t just robots.’

‘True,’ I agreed. ‘But we’ll get by. How are you doing?’

‘Oh me, I’m fine,’ she replied lazily, brushing aside the question. ‘Not much goes on in my life.’

‘That can’t be true,’ Keith said with the hint of a teasing smile. ‘You gave us an option of which dates we could come. That suggests you’re leading a far more exciting life than you’re letting on.’

Nora took a hurried drag on her cigarette. She blew the smoke over the veranda railing. ‘I just wanted you to come out on a weekend when things were actually happening. You don’t want to be travelling out here for nothing, otherwise you’re just bored in another location. I don’t want that. I want you two to relax. Unwind. Have a few drinks. Some of my friends are having dinner on Saturday night. They’ve invited you along.’

That was news to me.

‘That’s nice of them,’ I replied. ‘Do you want us to pick you up, or will you pick us up?’

‘Oh, I’m not going,’ Nora clarified. ‘Not this time. But I thought it would be just what you two needed.’

‘Why?’ Keith asked, puzzled. ‘Won’t it be… strange… if we just show up, not elvankent escort knowing anyone?’

Nora shook her head. ‘This is the country, honey. They know you’re coming, and they know I’ve sent you. Just dress nicely. They like to dress up for these things.’

~~~~~~~~~

‘Sorry,’ I apologised to Keith as we drove to the farm. ‘I didn’t realise she was going to set us up to have dinner with her friends.’

‘Dinner with her friends without her,’ Keith corrected. ‘Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd?’

‘She’s always been weird. Did I ever tell you about the country dance?’

‘No, what country dance?’

‘My Mum sent me to stay with Nora for a weekend when I was seventeen and up to all sorts of no good. I’d been suspended from school for dying my hair blue, and I had a nose ring, Doc Martens and a cracking case of bulimia. I was prepared for a barrage of criticism from Nora, but instead she welcomed me with open arms and didn’t say a word about anything.’

‘I never knew you’d been bulimic.’

‘It’s not a pleasant thing to discuss,’ I said. ‘Nora was so nice to me that when she said one of her friends had invited me to a dance, I didn’t want to say ‘no’. These country dance halls are serious business. Everything is traditional and proper. Lots of old people.’

‘And there you are with your nose ring.’ There’s a smile on Keith’s face. ‘How did it go down?’

‘Nobody said a thing. Everyone was the height of politeness, and it was very formal. You’d sit and wait for someone to ask you to dance. Mostly, the guests were older, in their forties onwards I’d say, but at the time – you know how it is when you’re a teenager – they seemed really, really old. I sat in a corner and tried to hide. That was the other problem with things back then, you didn’t have a phone to stare at.

Not everyone there was old, and at one point a guy a year or two older than me went and did the polite thing and asked the blue-haired girl to dance. He was very proper, very gentlemanly, and I felt out of my depth, because seventeen year old men aren’t, as a rule, gentlemanly.’

‘It’s hard to take a sneaky look at a girl’s boobs and remain chivalrous,’ Keith agreed.

‘This one made a dashing attempt. Maybe I just wasn’t his thing. Nose rings and blue hair are quite divisive. Anyway, we danced. The song ended, and it turned out that the end of that particular song signalled supper time. Everyone was getting coffee, but I didn’t want one, so I kept walking back to my dark corner. This guy kept following me. I thought ‘great, here we go, he is a lech’. We reached my seat, and I turned around with the darkest, filthiest expression I could muster and was just about to say ‘fuck off, cunt’ when he said ‘thank-you for the dance’ at the exact same time he saw the dirty expression on his face. The poor bastard was just trying to do the right thing by walking me back to my seat.’

Keith laughed so hard he forgot to steer and nearly followed the camber of the road into the verge.

‘I kind of felt bad,’ I admitted. ‘Everyone left me alone after that.’

‘I’ll make sure you don’t bring a rape whistle to dinner on Saturday night.’

‘Probably a wise idea,’ I agreed. ‘Otherwise some poor bastard will offer me a glass of wine and I won’t see him pouring it and I’ll presume he’s popped some Rohypnol in it and I’m about to wake up the next morning with a sore bum.’

The story had worked; Keith was smiling as we turned off the highway and onto the rough, gravel track that led to the farmhouse. It was perched up on a hill a couple of hundred metres from the road. The farmland itself had been leased out to a neighbouring farmer, who had agreed to maintain the house yard as part of the deal, but Nora had told us to enjoy free reign of the place. The lessee wouldn’t mind, she said, he knew we were coming.

We pulled up out the front, got out and unlocked the front door. The house was large and rambling with rooms and hallways and additions every which way, but it was clean. Sparsely furnished but clean.

We didn’t have any trouble identifying the master bedroom. Unlike the rest of the house it was beautifully furnished and hosted a King Size bed with immaculate white bedding, matching bedside drawers and lamps.

‘This is romantic,’ Keith said. ‘She was definitely screwing him. He probably bought the bed to impress her.’

I flopped myself onto the mattress, being careful to keep my shoes off the bedding. It was like lying on heaven.

‘I’d sleep with a man who bought me this bed,’ I said. ‘Try it, Keith. It’s amazing.’

Keith gently eased himself onto the bed. He had the awkward, overly careful movements of a man who had spent his life working physically hard. He was forty-two. One of his two remaining employees was sixty-one and in as shit shape as Keith would be in twenty years. What would happen to them if the business failed entirely? Who would hire them, when there were men in their twenties and etlik escort bayan thirties who were faster and stronger?

‘I’m offended that you’d sleep with a man just for this, but it is pretty good,’ Keith conceded. He stared at the ceiling. ‘Fuck. I can’t believe we actually made it here.’

‘You had a busy week.’

‘Probably not a productive one, though,’ he said. He rubbed his eyes tiredly. ‘Come here. Give me a cuddle.’

‘Not with your shoes on.’ I sat up and kicked off my sandals, then went and knelt at Keith’s feet. I took off his socks and shoes and put them over the side of the bed. ‘That’s better.’

He was lying on his back so I nestled into his side, my head on his chest. I could hear his heart beating, thump, thump, thump. He had high blood pressure. He told me it was genetic; his father was the same, and his paternal grandmother had also suffered from it, but I didn’t think he was cutting himself any favours with the stress and the smoking.

Keith kissed the top of my head and rubbed my arm. He was wearing an old cotton tee that was soft from over-washing and frayed at the collar. He refused to buy new clothes unless absolutely necessary. He was the same with food. God help me if he caught me trying to throw out four day old leftover spag bog.

‘What are you laughing at?’ Keith murmured. ‘Hmm?’

‘You eating five day old spaghetti.’

‘Hasn’t killed me yet.’

‘You’ll shit your pants from food poisoning one day,’ I argued, rolling on top of him.

I stared at his bushy black eyebrows and his eyes, dark brown except for a few, brilliant flecks of green and gold in the iris. He’s a pain in the arse in some ways. Stubborn. Opinionated. At just twenty-one he’d managed to successfully unionise a workplace and win back underpaid wages.

I’d met him at a pub. He was twenty-three and out of work because the same employer who he’d forced to pay fair wages had gone under, bankrupt. The old boss claimed the union broke him. Later, his gambling habits would be revealed as the source of the business failure, but by then it was too late, the damage was done. Nobody wanted to hire Keith, and his ex-workmates, who blamed his spruiking the union and encouraging them to join for their unemployment, refused to have anything to do with him.

It was dole day, and Keith had thought ‘fuck it’ and gone to the pub for a beer. He told me he’d known the moment I introduced myself that one day he’d make me his wife. Thank God I was twenty-one when we met, and still at the age where I was agreeable to dating someone who didn’t have a job.

My friends had taken one look at him and told me not to go near him, saying he looked like he’d be a difficult man, but I’d thought it would just be for one night. I was the one who went over and said hello, and made the initial approach. No flirting, no nonsense, just ‘hi, I’m Penny’. Keith is a hard man, but he’s a fair one. And, oh, it wasn’t just one night, once I went home with him I knew for him it could never have been just one night, because he liked me and I liked him too, exacting personality and all.

‘Kiss me,’ he muttered, pulling my head down. ‘I love you.’

I kissed him. His hands moved over my back, slipping under the hem of my shorts and grabbing my bum. He squeezed the flesh and raised his hips, pressing his stiffening cock against me. Away from our home, our work lives and our kids, there was nothing to stop us, no need to wait for the cover of night and the safety of a closed door to surrender to carnal desire.

Keith is a fan of foreplay, of teasing me until I’m begging for him. He eased me out of my clothing and sucked on my nipples, one of his work roughened hands resting on my inner thigh in preparation for what he was going to do next. Once upon a time I would have been nervous about my body, but I was already too old for vanity, and if my husband wanted to fuck me, then fuck me he could.

His fingers slipped inside my cunt and I involuntarily inhaled.

‘That’s my girl,’ he whispered, kissing my jaw. ‘Get nice and wet for me.’

Wet and hot is how he likes me, slippery enough for him to just slide inside without an ounce of friction. He has a nice penis, one that’s a dark olive hue with ropey blue veins and a foreskin that never comes near revealing the crown, even when he’s fully hard, and he likes to spear me with it and sink into my snatch in one, rough, manoeuvre. It’s always a welcomed, yet brutal, end to foreplay.

It didn’t take long for him to achieve the reaction he wanted. I could hear and feel and smell it, and I wanted him, I didn’t want a fucking finger in my cunt, I wanted him. I fought him off me, pushing him aside, tearing his clothes from him despite his protests that he’d been having fun.

‘Fun for who, you bastard?’ I hissed. ‘Not for me. It’ll be fun when you’re inside me.’

Keith grinned with satisfaction. His body, tanned and hairy and lithe, lay there, waiting for me. He didn’t need any help with his erection but I sucked him anyway, using the looseness of the skin to stimulate him. Does that sentence make sense? Perhaps not if you’ve only seen men cut, or uncut, and there is no comparison point, but I’d seen both and I’d always felt it was easier to wank an uncircumcised man.

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