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We were given a selection of pictures. We had to choose two of them and write about what happened when the two people we had chosen met for the first time. I chose a man with a huge grey beard because I have a huge grey beard. Then I chose a woman to complement him. After making my choice, I wrote a very odd story indeed...

Lady Chatterley

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Currently, Lady Jane Chatterley did not have a lover, and that was perfectly fine by her. Not a day passed without her cursing the name of David Herbert Lawrence, the writer whose novel had made her family notorious. Lady Jane had been a child at school in the 1960s when the obscenity trial at the Old Bailey had plastered the name ‘Chatterley’ all over the front page of every newspaper in the country. The teasing she had been forced to endure had been merciless and she had never quite got over the trauma of it. Not having a lover was definitely Lady Chatterley’s preferred state of being. It kept the mockery to a minimum. So she was rather disconcerted by her sudden loin-tingling response to the hairy man she bumped into in the supermarket...

That day, Lady Jane was mostly thinking about dog food. She wheeled her trolley briskly down the appropriate aisle only to find that it was completely blocked by a large grey man sporting a large grey beard which he was stroking thoughtfully as he stared in trance-like fascination at shelves full of cat treats. Lady Jane cleared her throat loudly but that failed to attract his attention so she said, "Excuse me, please." The large man picked up a packet of Seafood Temptations, guaranteed to invoke a fish frenzy in any cat, and read the small print carefully. "Excuse me," said Lady Jane again, "I need to get past so that I can get some tins of Gourmet Beef dog food." She nudged him gently with her trolley.

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The large man glanced up, noticing her for the first time. His eyes widened as he registered her face and figure. Clearly he felt that both were exquisite. Lady Jane could feel herself blushing as her whole body responded to his gaze. Suddenly, not having a lover seemed a very unnatural state to be in. "Do you have any experience with cats?" the man asked her. "I am told that they are extremely fussy animals and I’m anxious not to make a mistake."

His voice was deep and dark and Lady Jane felt a sudden overwhelming desire to run her fingers through the thick, grey curls of his enormous beard. She gripped the handle of her trolley very hard so as to keep her rebellious fingers under control. "No," she said, "I have never lived with a cat. I’m a dog person myself."

He nodded thoughtfully. "The cat has only just moved in with me," he said, "and I’m uncertain just how to proceed with winning its affections."

"I’m sure that cat treats will be perfect," said Jane. "And I’m told that some cats absolutely adore to chew on catnip. Maybe you could try some of that as well?"

The man seemed quite taken with her advice. "Perhaps we could go for a coffee and discuss our pet preferences further," he suggested. He held out his hand. "My name is David Mellors," he said.  "How do you do?"

Lady Jane winced inwardly. This highly attractive man had the same surname as Lady Chatterley’s bit of rough in Lawrence’s scandalous novel. Already she could see the newspaper headlines in her mind’s eye. The gutter press would be beside itself with joy. She shook his hand and said, "I’m Jane." She kept her surname to herself, just in case he was a  literary man. She couldn’t see any point in pursuing the coincidence of names any further than she had taken it already. "There’s a coffee shop round the corner. I’ll see you there in about fifteen minutes," she said. He nodded agreement and stood back to let her past. She filled her trolley with tins of dog food. Then she grabbed a packet of liver flavoured dog treats. If David’s cat can have a treat, so can my dog, she thought. Then she looked at the packet again. Liver, she thought. Lady Chatterley’s Liver. She put the packet back on the shelf.

* * * *

The coffee shop was almost empty and Jane could see David sitting at a table with a large cup of something steamy in front of him. He was staring intently at it and he didn’t notice her waving at him. Never mind. Jane ordered herself a large latte and when it came she carried it over to the table and sat down. David looked up and smiled. Laugh lines chased themselves around what little bits of his face remained exposed and his beard waggled attractively up and down. "Hello," he said.

"Hello," said Jane. "How’s the coffee?"

"Very hot," said David. "We’ll be here a long time waiting for it to cool down. At the moment it’s a bit like drinking molten rock."

"You mean lava," corrected Jane. She picked up her own cup and took a small boiling sip. Lady Chatterley’s lava, she thought. Then she thought, stop doing that!

"Lava," agreed David amiably. He twirled one end of his moustache between his fingers and then he pushed the hair into his mouth and sucked on the strands. "Sorry," he apologised, grooming the moustache back into place with his tongue, "but it had some coffee on it. I don’t usually do that in company but it seems to be the only way I can get coffee into my mouth at the moment without scalding myself. Facial hair can be so very useful sometimes, don’t you think? Particularly in the small hours of the morning when you develop night starvation. You can eat your dinner all over again from the lumpy bits that the hair filtered out."

"I wouldn’t know," said Jane sarcastically. "I shave mine off every day."

David nodded, unsurprised. "Probably very wise of you," he said.

Jane was beginning to feel a little less attracted to David now. After his revelations about the uses to which he put his beard she was starting to think about it in a whole new light. What else might be lurking among the curls? Perhaps strange, creepy creatures were making themselves at home in there even as they spoke. Didn’t Edward Lear write a doggerel verse about that, she asked herself? She thought for a moment and then it all came back to her. Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren, have all built their nests in my beard… She was sure that Lear must have been writing from personal experience. David might have a whole menagerie in there! "What do you do for a living?" she asked him. "Are you perhaps a gamekeeper?" That had been Mellors’ occupation in the novel that she hated so much, and she was starting to wonder just how far the parallels in this encounter would go.

"I’m unemployed at the moment," said David. "Consequently I spend my days just loafing around."

So if I do have an affair with him, thought Jane, he would play the part of Lady Chatterley’s loafer. Why do I keep thinking these terrible things, she asked herself in disgust? Aloud she said, "But what do you do when you are working?"

"Windows," said David mysteriously. "I design, custom build, and fit windows." He paused for a moment. "I specialise in louvre windows," he added.

Don’t you dare do anything with that thought, Jane told herself sternly. But she thought the forbidden thought anyway, despite herself.

By now her coffee had cooled enough for her to be able to drink it, and her ardour had cooled enough for her to have finally lost interest in David. He was giving her far too many punny thoughts for her to be comfortable with him, she decided. So she finished her coffee and then she excused herself. David looked a bit bewildered as she left. Perhaps he was wondering what he’d done wrong. I’m afraid you’ll never know, thought Jane. It’s far too complicated to explain!

* * * *

When Jane got home she decided to take a long, luxurious bath to wash away the cares of the day. She ran water into the tub and browsed among her large collection of smellies, trying to decide which of them suited her mood. She poured a few experimental selections into the swirling water and was rewarded with clouds of foam and sweet perfume. She sank deep into the water, feeling the soothing heat soak into every tense muscle and slowly relax them. Then she started to scrub herself briskly. Oh look, she thought, I’m scrubbing myself with Lady Chatterley’s Loofah.


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