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People call me BC. Big Cat. A nickname I’ve had since I was a boy. However, during my years at art college I was known as ‘Fluffer’. These are the stories of that time. Fluffer’s tales.
I studied architecture at college, but was a carpenter by trade so spent my spare time on building sites to pay my way. It was the chippy part of me that someone called in the middle of the night.
“BC! You owe me, right? So-”
“What? Who is this?”
“Me. You owe me a favour. For letting you do me. And for showing you how to do it.”
“I was just on the phone to my friend Fleur. She’s a French exchange student I’ve known for like years? Anyway she just inherited this cottage from her Grandma, and fuck I’m worried about her BC.”
“‘Doing you’ was your idea, and you loved it! How come I owe you?”
“Shutup. She’s all alone and insisting she can do up this house on her own, to sell it. And she’s so sad…”
“I didn’t even cum!”
“Mate give up, I’m never gonna suck you. But listen. Will you help Fleur? Just for a few days in the summer break? For me?”
Naturally, Sara took my growl as a yes.
Two days later I was miles from anywhere, stood with my tool bags at this surreal, pedimented, front door set in a rough brick wall half a mile down a French country lane. Nothing else around but trees. I rang the bell and waited for like two days before scampering boots approached and the door cracked open.
“Umm… Big… Cat?” A husky, French-lilted voice.
“BC.” I thrust my hand toward the crack.
“Sorry. Hi.” The door swung wide to reveal a pale, black-bobbed woman in a vest and oversized dungarees. She wiped her hand on her front, then took mine. “Fleur.”
My heart stopped. It wasn’t so much her generous-featured beauty or her warm, strong handshake that shocked me. It was the stoic kind of sadness that radiated off her. Her smile was a sucked-in dimple on one side of those over-scaled lips. A big, black-in-black gaze glittered for a second before it dropped to my feet. She squeezed my hand once, then flopped her arm back to her side.
“Bon.” She stood aside and let me into a long, thin conservatory that led a good 25 metres across lawns to the actual front of the house. Gritty puddles littered the chequered marble thanks to broken overhead glazing and despite weedy pot-plants positioned to catch drips. My heart dropped. There was a ‘few days’ work’ in this space alone.
Fleur sighed. “Oui… I loved my Mamie-Claire, but she cared for people, not houses. Still, you are here and now we can fix it double speed.” She grabbed one of the toolboxes off me and added, “Then she can rest in peace, no?” Like that wasn’t a creepy thing to say at all.
Fleur showed me round the house with the plod of a beaten dog. I could not believe what we’d taken on. This wasn’t a cottage it was a manor house. It must have had ten bedrooms, six bathrooms, a fucking library. Either of the two receptions could serve as a studio back at college. The kitchen was bigger than my sodding flat. And every room peeled, sagged and cracked. A film-star staircase looked so precarious I clutched the handrail all the way up and winced at every creak.
“Here.” Fleur led me into a box room at the top of the house. A sleeping bag had been laid out on raw floor-boards and it smelt of fresh paint and new wood. “I finished this room for you this morning. It is warm and dry, and sees the sunrise.” She dumped my toolbox and turned to the window. “Mamie would sleep here herself when the house was full…” Her voice trailed off over the thick swathe of lemon groves that ringed the house. She cleared her throat. “When you are ready you can help me downstairs. We need to fix the electrics.”
“Sorry, love, I’m like a chippy? Not a sparky?”
Fleur blinked. She pulled another half-smile as if to acknowledge a joke.
“I’m a carpenter, not an electrician.” I clarified. Gallantly.
Even her polite ghost of cheeriness evaporated.
Feeling an actual tosser, I tried to back-peddle. “No biggie! I’ll see what-“
“It is OK. Of course.” She nodded at the floor and plodded out of the room.
I resisted the urge to repeatedly whack myself with a lump hammer, while cursing my devious little best-mate, Sara, and opened the window to take a calming lungful of country air. It would be a long summer break all right. But fuck it, I didn’t have anything else to do. Looking back on it, even then, ten minutes after arriving, I think I’d made a vow to lighten Fleur’s load. No. To lighten Fleur. To get one real smile from her. If that meant rebuilding this pile over my entire holiday, so be it.
Just as this (rare!) altruistic thought crossed my mind, a warm breeze fanned my face. It carried with it a scent of lemons and for a woozy second it felt like a matronly kiss on my cheek, along with a breathy, “Oui…”
An electric pop, and much French cursing, jolted me back into the real world.
Over the next escort bayan mecidiyeköy few days my respect for Fleur, well, blossomed. She approached every task, no matter how insane, with: “Worth a try, no?” And as a result she could hang a door as well as any hairy-arse contractor and had even persuaded the ancient boiler to provide a daily tank of hot water. No joke, when she entered a room it shivered.
The only task this astonishing woman couldn’t face was packing up her grandmother’s photos. So that was the first thing I did.
All over the house were framed pictures of her as a child with her Mamie-Claire. In every single photo these sisters from different eras, matching bobs and all, laughed so hard that even I carefully wrapped and boxed each with a swelling lump in my throat.
But there were even more pictures of her grandmother’s wild, start-studded, house-parties. Or rather, the one long party that bubbled on from her eighteenth birthday back in 1928, through various fashions (and states of undress!) until her death sixty years later. That there appeared no trace of her grandmother’s joie-de-vivre in Fleur bolstered my determination to enliven her somehow.
I tried to get to know her, but she showed no interest in chatting. Not to me, anyway. Aside from each day’s monstrous task lists, gulped down with bowls of coffee every morning on the sunny patio, and abandoned over a gruyere baguette at lunch, Fleur kept to herself. The closest we got to spontaneous conversation was her peering over my shoulder then barking, “You missed a bit.”
So I expressed my admiration through the medium of hard graft. I worked alongside her all week and all the following weekend and we pummelled the building like paramedics, not builders. Paramedics who refused to admit our patient was long dead. I wouldn’t let my misgivings show, but we were wasting our time. Two people would never bring that house back to life.
Still the days were warm and long and bright, and our task seemed a wholesome way to pass them. Noble even. And as if to prove the point, every now and then my phantasmagorical Mamie-Claire would sigh past us on a lemon breeze to fill me with the sense of doing the right thing. Whether that was for the house, or for Fleur, the old girl wouldn’t say.
In the evenings, believe it or not, Fleur had a job in a local bistro. So after a long day working on the house she would dust off, don a little black dress and waitress into the small hours. She even insisted I accompany her so she could cheekily slip me free food and beer. Without a hint of the day’s labour in her posture, Fleur was curvy, perky and edible in her waitress outfit. And I’m afraid the more I boozed, the less I control I had on my leer. Though Fleur didn’t seem to resent that I got to live it up while watching (ogling) her work. If anything, a certain flip in her hip suggested she enjoyed the attention. Still, many men have persuaded themselves of this after a few beers, so I did my best to reign myself in.
Then, walking back to the house on a sticky Sunday night, I think I accidentally said exactly the right thing, because everything changed between us.
It was moonless and silent but for a lone blackbird, and our feet shushed through long grass as we took a short-cut across a field. Fleur heaved a sigh.
“Blimey,” I said. “That one came right from your boots.”
“Tee hee,” Fleur said.
She’d always acknowledged a joke, whether she enjoyed it or not. Like she didn’t want her sadness to rub off on you. My insides melted and I nudged her. “The restaurant’s closed tomorrow,” I said. “You should take a break, or you’ll burn out.”
She growled and knocked a fist to my thigh. “You are my break, no? I have half as much to do now. Even less.” She took my arm. “You are very good.”
Perhaps that new sensation, the skin-to-skin heat of her small, rigid arm in mine, melted me too much. “Your grandmother would be proud of you, Fleur,” I said.
Fleur didn’t say a word the rest of the way back. It was pitch-black and I couldn’t see her face, but her sniffing tore my guts out.
It was so hot I slept on top of my sleeping-bag with my window open and just as Fleur promised, every morning the sunrise lit up my room. In fact, the next day I was still dozing, clinging onto sleep, as the breeze fanned my naked front and the sunlight already carried enough strength to create a patch of heat across my hips. Unsurprisingly, my cock grew rigid. So rigid it repeatedly jumped and slapped back against my belly like a playful dolphin. I squeezed myself idly and wondered if I needed to have a quickie before work. In the secret darkness behind my still-shut eyes I ran a testing pull up and down my length. Then another.
That’s when I heard my bedroom door close.
And I snapped awake to find a hot bowl of coffee set beside my bed.
By the time I got up and threw on my overalls I could hear Fleur already at work sanding in the hallway. I hoped her fındıkzade escort bringing me coffee meant we’d connected the night before, and wasn’t some sarky comment on my oversleeping. Then I hoped that she hadn’t seen my playful cock. Then I hoped she had.
The last hope was answered at least, when I stepped out into the hall where I found her sat on the stairs. With a banister pole gripped in two hands, she vigorously rubbed sandpaper up and down the wood. When she caught my eye she shone, then flushed. And bit back a grin.
Perhaps it was just me, or the expectancy of Fleur’s night off, but that day seemed possessed by the cheekiest of sprites. From the unfettered display of my morning glory to Fleur’s grin, I suspected Mamie-Claire to be running around behind the scenes as if we were the guests of honour at one of her famous parties.
This became most clear that afternoon, when Fleur had her accident.
We were working in the library and Fleur wanted to remove all the antique books so we could re-wax the shelves and bookcases. I left her climbing these rolling library steps while I piled leather-bound tomes on the other side of the room.
That’s when I heard a scream and a terrible cracking and spun round to find the ladder had slid sideways. Fleur had grabbed onto the decrepit shelving, causing it to break under her weight. Shelf, books, and girl teetered at the top of the ladder.
I leapt across the room and rolled the ladder back underneath her. She was no longer hanging, but Fleur’s arms struggled to hold the broken bookshelf up, so it didn’t spill all the delicate old books.
To believe what happened next, you have to understand the mechanics of Fleur’s outfit. Over a tight vest, she wore the same oversized dungarees every day, rolled up to her calves. The shoulder-loops were too big, so she used just one and sort of tied it to the bib in a single big knot. At that moment this knot pinged loose and her overalls slid off.
It was only then I realised my work-mate really did wear just a vest underneath.
Fleur made a strangled noise and clamped her knees together to catch her dungarees but, honestly, that didn’t help at all. I can tell you now, years later, that she had an outstanding rear and even in distress she looked pretty as fuck stuck up there half naked, her buttocks biting distance from my teeth. At that moment, however, I rushed to cover her embarrassment. I jumped up the ladder and, idiotically, fiddled with her dungarees in an attempt to pull them back up.
“Asshole! The shelf, the shelf!” she hissed, her arms trembling.
I had to sort of climb over her body, pressed tight to the length of her back, to take the shelf from her. She squirmed out from under me, climbing back down the steps whispering, “Merde, merde, merde,” with every step.
Once back on the ground, I expected Fleur to bolt from the room. But with typical empathy, she quickly, coolly, yanked up and re-knotted her dungarees before thrusting out her arms so I could, one by one, hand the books down to her.
Only when the whole shelf was cleared, and I was back down from the ladder, did Fleur head butt me in the chest and burst into laughter.
I hugged her but she pulled out of my embrace, wiping tears from her eyes.
“Désolé, BC! Merci!”
I shrugged, and must have smirked or something because she slapped my arse. “But I think you had your reward already, hmm?” She guffawed again. A raspy, dirty laugh that I still hear some nights in my dreams.
The surreal unlikelihood that this woman should be cheered up by accidentally mooning me, made my head spin. In a good way. Too good in fact. I must have got a little drunk on it because I blurted: “I think your Mamie-Claire is teasing us today!”
Fleur’s laughter sputtered out. Her face slackened. “What?”
Indeed. What the fuck was I thinking? I willed the shitty old floorboards to crack open there and then; for the old girl to reach out and haul me down with her into her grave. “Sorry,” I whispered. “It’s childish. I just… like to think I feel her. Here. It’s stupid.”
Fleur folded her arms. “So you knew her. You loved her, maybe. And she loved you too?”
I shook my head.
Her lip curled. “And now she is a nail in your heart, too, oui?” She prodded my chest.
I reached out but she stepped back. “Then how do you ‘feel’ her?” Air quotes and all.
Thank God right then for the French windows letting in a sudden fragrant breeze. No. Thank Mamie-Claire. The room filled with lemons. I held my finger up. “That. That smell.”
It was as if I slapped her. Tears popped and rolled down Fleur’s purple cheeks. “Is the lemon grove, asshole.” She pushed me, hard. “My Mamie is gone.”
She spun on her heal and marched out of the library. After a few second’s silence, hammering rang out from another room.
I’d wanted to spoil Fleur that evening anyway, to celebrate her time off, but now I realised if I didn’t fatih escort make amends, I might as well go home. I hadn’t intended to offend her, but I should have known that referring to her recently deceased loved-one as a naughty ghost might piss her off.
As it neared sunset, our usual washing-up time ready for the night shift, I emptied the entire day’s hot water into the biggest bathtub in the house: the main bathroom’s great white rolltop. I even dug out some Radox and made bubbles, then collected all the candles I could find and lit them around the bath.
I called out to Fleur that there was a leak in the main bathroom, then snuck out the house and pegged it into the local village to see what I could drum up for dinner.
When I got back the bathroom door was locked. The Library was the cleanest room, and empty but for stacks of books, so I re-arranged them in front of the windows, thrown open to the last gold of the sunset. Then I folded a tarpaulin over the books to make a wide, low table.
Fleur was sleepy-eyed when she padded into the library in an oversized terry-cloth bathrobe, moisturising her hands from an industrial sized bottle of cream. I lit a candelabra, and in the reality of her presence, my efforts at making amends seemed suddenly more like a cheap seduction.
For a few agonising breaths Fleur stood hands-on-hips surveying the rag-tag collection of fruit, nuts and charcuterie on the makeshift table. Then she took in the candles and the sunset. Then her cowering butler. I braced myself. She disappeared. Then reappeared with a bottle of wine, two glasses and a cork-screw.
She flopped opposite me and her black eyes glistened back the candlelight from behind her soggy, tousled hair. She opened the bottle in two fluid movements, without even looking at it, then filled two glasses to the brim. She downed half of hers even as I held mine up for a corny toast.
She gasped and smacked her lips while pouring more wine into her glass. “This is very beautiful of you, BC.” She belched lightly behind her wrist. “There is some heat left in the bath, if you don’t mind dirty girl water?”
I jumped at the opportunity for the bath and thankfully ignored the double-entendre.
“I left you some pyjamas too if you want!” She shouted up after me. My cheeks blazed at her suggestion I should cover up after my morning display.
I scrubbed quickly in the lukewarm water and had a cold rinse with the shower. Feeling much refreshed I dressed in the old-school stripy pyjama’s she left for me and returned to my workmate. She nodded approvingly at my old-fashioned costume and bade me drink up by poising the tipped bottle over my glass. “Was it still ok? The water?”
“Yep, still warm.” Don’t say it. Don’t say it. “I was disappointed there were no dirty girls in there, though.” Fucksake.
Fleur rolled her eyes.
We ate in a swallowing silence, and gazed out at the day’s last sun spilling honey over the garden.
I cleared my throat. “I was insensitive, Fleur. Forgive me.”
“You are a silly boy trying to be kind. I over-reacted. What is it you say? No biggie?” She clinked the base of her glass to the bell of mine and took another glug. I took that as forgiveness, even though it didn’t feel like it. I let the silence settle again. But Fleur didn’t.
“It is very strange you say this thing, though.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
“No, it is just Mamie-Claire, she always wore a scent of lemons. I don’t know how you know this. And I feel her in the wind too, sometimes. But that cannot be, can it? She is not in the air. I must accept she is gone, oui?”
“I can’t answer that, love.” The wind sent us that fragrance again. I was (and am) a silly boy, easily influenced by shit like that. The old girl didn’t want me to give up that easy.
I leant into Fleur’s lowered gaze. “What would your grandmother want from you now?”
Fleur puffed under the weight of the question. Then she smirked. Then she smiled. “Mamie-Claire could never let go of a good thing.”
“There’s your answer then. She would like that you feel her in the air. That you’re keeping hold of her.”
Fleur snorted. “You are a tiny bit wiser than you look, no?”
I growled. Fleur patted my hand and the moisturised softness left its ghost on me, too. I wanted more. But Fleur needed to talk about Mamie-Claire more than she needed my lecherousness. I topped her up.
“Your grandmother certainly knew how to party. They looked wild.”
Fleur lit up. “Oui! They were very famous. And more débauchée than you know! Did you look in the books we saved today?”
Fleur hopped up, grabbed one of the plain leather-backed books and flicked through it. “Mamie-Claire would ask her guests to pay for her soirees with secrets, and she would record them in these books. To appear here meant you were part of a great elite in France. Bon. See?”
She dropped next to me with the book opened to a double-page spread. A line drawing, maybe from the twenties, of a man lying on his back. I presumed he was naked but could not tell because of the two naked, kissing, women sat astride his face and hips. Underneath was inscribed “Le Triangle D’Or!”
“Fuck,” I whispered, as if at any moment a grown-up would storm in and scold us.
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