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With my first story, Late Back, I got some probably deserved flak about the first chapter being a bit short and lacking enough action. Chapters on LE, I now realise, need to be more self-contained – cliff-hanger endings are not that welcome. Somebody else said I published it too soon, and I think they also had a point. With this story I’ve tried to address both criticisms. Although it’s a slow build, I hope there’s enough action to keep people satisfied, but I also hope the ending leaves you wanting more. Chapter 2 in 7-10 days, I hope. Comments and votes welcome.
Chapter 1 – Maggie, Summer
My memory is that it started something like this: An early summer evening, not yet end of term. My daughter Charlie was studying in her room with two of her best friends, Maggie and Liz.
Well, that was the theory. From all the noise and giggling and music it sounded more like a party to me. I was in my small study at the other end of the hallway from her bedroom, trying to get my report done. The noise was beginning to irritate me and I wasn’t in the best of moods to start with.
“Charlie!” I yelled. “Turn it down!”
No answer. Of course not. Teenagers’ ears work differently.
I sighed, got up, paced down the hallway and rapped on the door.
Maggie opened it.
“Hey!” she said cheerfully.
“Hey,” I said, less cheerfully. “Any chance you could turn it down a bit?”
“Yeah, totally,” she said. “Sorry.”
She smiled at me and I couldn’t help smiling back. Maggie, at eighteen, was tall, dark-haired, busty, gorgeous and cute and funny and… well, a total heart-breaker. She’d also managed to stay, as far as I could tell, a pretty nice person. Maggie spent an awful lot of time in our house and, much like all teenagers, seemed to treat it as interchangeable with her own.
“You know,” I said, “I’m pretty sure that there is research that says studying goes better in an environment of quiet and calm.”
I peered past her into my daughter’s room and winced.
“And also, tidiness. Tidy room, tidy minds.”
“Dad! Stop moaning.” This was Charlie, from her habitual position on the floor. “It’s MY room.”
There were a million comebacks to this, but my years of Dad training taught me that none of them would be fruitful.
“Hi CD!” This with a friendly wave from Liz, who was lounging on Charlie’s bed with papers all around her. (They’d called me “CD” – Charlie’s Dad – for years now.) Secretly, Liz was probably my favourite of Charlie’s friends, though I liked them all. Liz was more petite, shyer, more studious. She was a slim blonde, very pretty though the other girls were always nagging her to make more of an effort with her looks, hair and clothes. She resisted them, and I admired her for that. Resisting my daughter’s demands had never been something I’d found easy.
“We’re going to be SUPER quiet,” said Maggie. “Like little mice. Creeping around.”
She beamed at me again. She knew I was a pushover. They all did.
“Fine,” I said. “Shall I fix some cheese – or some food at least – for you mice later?”
“Yes, but no carbs,” called Charlie. “It’s a no carbs week.”
Again, a million arguments – you’re perfect, you shouldn’t worry about what you eat, etc, etc – all flashed across my mind and were rejected.
“No carbs,” I said. “Got it.”
I turned to go.
“Actually,” said Maggie, “As you’re here – I need some help. With my chemistry project. It needs to be three thousand words and I just can’t seem to find enough to say. Would you mind? Please?”
“Ah,” I said doubtfully. “I’m actually rather busy myself.”
Maggie gave me a forlorn look and pouted sadly.
“Fine – I’ll have a quick skim of it.”
Since chemistry and biology are a large part of my day job, I found her project really quite basic. If she’d asked me for help with interpreting Hamlet or analysing the causes of the Second World War, I’d have been stuck. But chemistry – no problem. I read through what she’d done, made a few small corrections, and then suggested a revised, slightly expanded structure that should ensure she sailed past the requisite word count.
Maggie listened attentively and intelligently. When I was done – it only took about ten minutes – she gave me a sudden, quick hug.
“You rock!” she said.
“That’s what all the girls say,” I agreed.
“Ha!” This from Charlie, scornfully, not even looking up from her work. Even Liz sniggered a little.
“Seriously,” said Maggie. “You’re like a cross between Einstein and… that guy who invented the light bulb.”
“Edison,” I said.
“Yeah, a cross between Edison and Einstein and…” She stopped again. “I need another E… Eastwood!”
“Yeah! Totally. You’ve got that craggy, hard eye stare thing going on… very… er, cool.” Had she been going to say something else? Anyway, I hoped she was talking about prime, late thirties, early forties Clint. Not eighty-something Clint. But sometimes it’s best not to ask.
“Well,” I said. “Er, thank you.”
Maggie smiled again. canlı bahis I went out, she shut the door behind me.
I noticed that at no point had the music been turned down and, if anything, it now seemed louder than ever. But I let it go, and I strode manfully down to the kitchen, giving the hallway mirror a steely, Eastwood-like stare as I went.
Pathetic? Vain? Guilty as charged.
“Dad!” This was the following night.
I sighed under my breath, saved my file, and pushed the door open so I could call back down the hallway.
“Can you come and talk to Maggie?”
“Maggie? About what?”
“That dullsville project thing of hers.”
I resisted the temptation to sigh again, got up, and went down the hallway. Her door was open and Charlie was lying on the floor with her phone to her ear.
“Here he is,” she said to the phone. “Talk to you later.”
She handed the phone to me. I wondered briefly why I had to be the one to walk down the corridor to get the phone, as opposed to Charlie coming to give it to me, but I suppose teenagers’ legs, like their ears, only work when it suits them.
“Maggie,” I said to the phone. “How can I help?”
“Hi! I’m sorry to bother you again, but I’m still struggling a bit with some bits of the project. Do you think you could just run through it for me again? Just five minutes?”
“Sure,” I said. I settled myself down into Charlie’s desk chair. I don’t know why I’d got her a desk and a chair, all her work seemed to be done stretched out on the floor and the desk just used for dumping clothes on.
“Get out,” said Charlie, waving a dismissive hand. “I’m trying to read this snoozefest of a Lit Crit book for my English essay and I don’t want you jabbering away about molecules and photons and lasers and stuff.”
Resisting the temptation to explain that photons and lasers belonged primarily in the world of physics and not chemistry, I got up again, went out, and shut the door behind me.
“I’ve been banished,” I said. “Let me just go back to my own office.”
“Ooh,” said Maggie. “Just the two of us in your private lair.” Her tone was amused and conspiratorial.
Back in my office I went through my suggestions again, looking up a few documents online as I did so. She asked if I could email the links to her.
“You’ve got my email address, right?”
“Er, no, actually, I don’t think I have.”
She gave it to me, and I emailed off the links. Something about having her email address excited me in a small way. I’d always been very circumspect around Maggie, it would be easy, too easy, to ogle her and lust after her and generally be inappropriate. I’d known her a long time, I knew her parents, and, as the parent of a teenage daughter myself, I tried to behave as I’d like other men to behave around Charlie.
“When I’ve done these changes, would you mind having another look?”
“Sure,” I said. “Just email it back when it’s ready.”
“You’re just the best!”
“That’s me,” I said. “Einstein and Edison in one handy package.”
“And Eastwood,” she immediately corrected me. “That’s the bonus part!”
“You’ve made my day,” I said. I’m not sure she got the reference though.
It’s me. Your FAVOURITE chemistry student! Not!
Attached is the new version. I think it’s much better, thank you SO MUCH.
But if you have two minutes, PLEASE read it for me. I’d really appreciate any suggestions and corrections!
Two kisses. I looked at them for a lot longer than I should have done.
Unfortunately, Maggie had completely misunderstood my suggestions and had made her project not only confusingly structured, but blatantly wrong in places. I was sure she’d get marks for effort, and probably pass, but the strict scientist in me couldn’t stand the idea of this being submitted without at least the most glaring errors being corrected.
So, after about half an hour of adding notes and comments to her document, I emailed it back.
I think you’ve gone wrong in a few places. Have tried to suggest some corrections – see my comments.
Happy to look at again when you’re ready.
I debated whether to sign off with “Clint”. Would that make her smile, or would it seem a bit icky? How about some kisses? Definitely not. So I just sent it off, unsigned. Sometimes simplest is best.
About ten minutes later I heard Charlie’s phone ring. There was a brief conversation, then I heard her say “It’s fine… Later” and she presumably hung up.
“Maggie’s going to call you in, like, twenty seconds.”
(To discuss: why teenagers, like, need to use the word “like” in such an unnecessary fashion.)
Before I had time to bellow back in turn, my phone rang. It wasn’t a number I knew, but I could guess.
“Hi! It’s Maggie. Hope you don’t mind me calling.”
“No… it’s fine. You saw my email?”
“Yes… and I wanted to say I’m so sorry. You must have taken ages doing all those comments for bahis siteleri me. I really didn’t want to take up so much of your time.”
“It’s fine. Do they make sense?”
“Yes. Well, most of them. That comment on page three, about the different isotopes… I’m sorry, I just don’t really get it.”
“That’s fine… it’s a tricky one.”
I went through it again, as slowly as I knew how. I tried to give her some different examples of the process and I could tell from her questions that she was listening attentively. I liked her voice. I liked being able to help her.
And, from the slight swelling in my groin, I had some other reactions going on as well. But I tried to ignore those.
“… so, try those changes, and I’ll read it again when you’re ready.”
“Oh, thank you, but I can’t bother you again. I’m really, really, sorry to have taken up so much of your time. You must think I’m such a moron.”
“Of course I don’t. It’s a complex subject – and I’m very happy to read it again, honestly. Any help I can give you, just ask.”
She sounded doubtful.
“You’re just being nice… I must be such a pest. Charlie says you hate being disturbed.”
That was true enough usually. But it does depend on who’s doing the interrupting. Nubile eighteen-year-old girls tend to be slightly more welcome.
“You’re not a pest,” I said. “I’m always happy to hear your voice… I mean, if I can… be of any help.” Oops. Bit clumsy, best to hurry on.
“I like your voice too,” she said.
“Er, thank you, Maggie. Just email it over when it’s ready, ok? I should probably go and get Charlie some dinner.”
“She’s eaten already. Before you got home – baked potato with cottage cheese. And Diet Sprite.”
It wouldn’t have been the first time I’d have fixed dinner only for Charlie to announce she’d already eaten. Have I mentioned that teenagers have their own rules?
“Well, then, I guess… I should get something for myself.”
“Would you like me to come over and make you dinner? It’s the least I could do for you.”
“Thanks,” I said. “But… the last time you and Charlie made me dinner, we nearly had to call the Fire Brigade.”
“Yes, but that was, like, six years ago! We were babies! I’m much better at all sorts of things now.”
Should I read anything into that? Best not.
“It’s kind of you – perhaps some other time.”
“Absolutely. I’d love to look after you for an evening.”
Look after me? Not quite the same thing at all, I thought.
“OK, well, sure, perhaps… after the exams are out of the way.”
“But that’s AGES! I will definitely do something before then. Or maybe I’ll bake you some cookies.”
This conversation was definitely going on a lot longer than I’d intended, but it seemed impossible to shake her off.
“No need for that at all,” I said. “Just send me the project when it’s ready.”
“You don’t want my cookies?” Sad, flirty, little girly, teasing. I walked straight into it.
“I’m sure your cookies are delicious.” I winced a second after I said it. I could hear her giggling.
“They really are,” she said. “I think you should taste them.”
“Maggie, I’m going to go now. Call me if you need me.”
“OK,” she said softly. “And… You call me too. If you need me.”
I hung up. Jesus. I realised my cock had swollen hugely during the last part of that conversation. That girl was dangerous. Lovely, sweet, probably full of good intentions, but very dangerous. I would have to be on my guard from now on.
Honestly, that was my plan.
I saved her number. I shouldn’t have really, but I justified it by saying to myself it was silly not to have it. Charlie’s phone might be lost or stolen or out of charge, and if I needed to get hold of her Maggie was an obvious person to try. I should have had it years ago.
But, just as with her email address, I felt an illicit thrill as I saved it into my contacts.
The next night my phone rang. It was her. I hesitated before answering.
“Hello Maggie. Everything OK?”
“Yes… just wanted to let you know everything’s going really well with the revisions so far.”
“Great,” I said. “But no need to call me to tell me that.”
“Oh.” She sounded a bit deflated.
“Do you want to speak to Charlie? I think she might be out, actually. I’ll check her room.”
“She’s at Liz’s house,” said Maggie. “She’ll be back around ten.”
“Oh. Right… well, I’ll tell her you called.” I said, lamely.
She giggled. “If I wanted to speak to her, I would have called her! I wanted to speak to you.”
“Oh… ok. And the project is going fine?”
“I wanted to hear your voice.”
“Maggie, that’s really sweet, but we shouldn’t be having these kind of conversations.”
“What kind?” she asked, feigning innocence.
“I’m happy to help with homework, but perhaps it’s best if we just do it when you’re over and Charlie’s here too, OK?”
“If that’s what you want,” she said.
“It’s what I think is best, yes.”
“That’s bahis şirketleri not the same thing.”
“Maggie, I’m more than twenty years older than you and the father of your best friend.” I rubbed my temples as I tried to think of the right words. “It’s… very important that I act appropriately and respectfully with you at all times. And you should do the same.”
I knew I should hang up at that point, but I couldn’t. Part of me just couldn’t handle the impoliteness of hanging up on somebody I knew. And, yes, part of me didn’t want to.
“I don’t want to.”
“You don’t want to?”
“I don’t want you to act appropriately and respectfully with me.”
I closed my eyes. This was half fantasy, half horror show.
“Well, sadly, we don’t always get to choose.”
“So if there was nobody else in the world, nobody to disapprove, just us, what would you do then? Would you still be… respectful and appropriate?”
“Maggie, I’m not going to accept that as a basis for our discussion. Those kind of thought experiments are… pointless and unhelpful.”
She laughed softly. “Sorry professor.” She paused. “But I bet you wouldn’t.”
“I bet if we were the last two people in the world, you would want to… you know.”
Fuck you? Yes, I thought, if we were the last two people in the world I would fuck you five times a day and ten times on Sundays.
“I’ll speak to you soon, Maggie.”
It was one of the most difficult things I ever did, but I ended the call. It was like being released from an electric current the moment I did.
Jesus, I was in big trouble.
I stared at my phone as it lay silently in my hand. Did I want it to ring or not? I dreaded each outcome in almost equal measure.
It stayed silent. That night, at least.
The next day she emailed me her final version of the project. There was no flirting in the cover note she sent with it. No kisses. I won’t say I wasn’t a little disappointed by their absence.
I read through it. It was hugely improved, and really quite impressive. For all her flirting, she’d paid attention to what I was trying to tell her.
I sent back an email congratulating her, and got a simple one line back.
Thanks so much again. M xxxx
Short and sweet – but four kisses this time. It would be pathetic to spend any time agonising if that had any significance. So I didn’t. Of course I didn’t.
For the next week I was busy at work and stayed late most nights. Charlie was more than capable of looking after herself, though she was, it seemed, incapable of using the dishwasher or the washing machine. On the Friday evening I got a text from her saying she was going to stay with her Mum for the weekend. This wasn’t unusual, she only lived a short train journey away and Charlie went to see her every few months.
I did curse her, however, when I saw the state of the house on Friday evening. Dishes piled high, general chaos, overflowing laundry bags. I couldn’t face doing it that night, so I went to bed and resolved that Saturday would be my cleaning and house tidying day. I would get up early and launch into it.
Like so many plans we make, that’s not quite how it went. I must have been more tired than I thought as I slept until nine, very late for me. And when I woke up I found I was in no hurry to get up and tackle the chaos that awaited me elsewhere in the house. I also awoke with a raging hardon, and a vague memory of a very frustrating dream involving a dark-haired girl who kept offering me sex if I could catch up with her but who always seemed to stay a few steps ahead of me.
Masturbation, I thought. Masturbation first, cleaning second. Or maybe masturbation, coffee, a skim read of the news web sites, then cleaning.
I reached down and eased myself out of my boxers that I usually slept in. I kicked the covers off, took hold of my cock and began to stroke myself gently. Too often my masturbation was limited to hurried five-minute affairs in the bathroom. It was nice to have the house to myself and to be able to take my time.
I nearly had a heart attack. It was Maggie’s voice from the hallway, just a few yards from my door.
“Sorry, it’s me… I hope I didn’t scare you.” She stayed the other side of the door, which was slightly ajar.
“Maggie, fucking hell, what the fuck do you think you’re doing!” I don’t normally swear, but this had scared the life out of me.
“I’m so sorry, I just came in to help tidy up and get you some breakfast… Can I come in?”
People always say that just before they come in anyway, and that’s exactly what Maggie did. She was holding a tray with a mug, bowl and plate on it. She looked genuinely upset to have scared me. Then her eyes widened.
“Oh goodness,” she said.
I yanked the covers back over myself.
“MAGGIE, GET THE FUCK OUT YOU STUPID LITTLE GIRL!”
I didn’t mean to be so loud and fierce but the humiliation of being seen like that combined with the scare made me speak more roughly than I intended. Her lips trembled and she put the tray down quickly on the floor and hurried out. Once the tray was on the floor I could see its contents. A mug of coffee, a bowl of cereal. And a plate of cookies.
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