Martin woke, saw the sun streaming through the curtains and then groaned, softly, as he always did in the mornings. He felt Karen shift next to him and the warmth of her body in close proximity stirred his pulse. How wonderful it would be if they could just lie together and make love all morning and forget about everything, he thought. He shifted in bed until he was lying closer to her, the curve of her body pressing against him, and he could feel his cock stiffening, the desire rising deep inside him. If only she would wake up, push back on him, whisper something sexy to him, ask him to fuck her slowly like they used to, when they first met.
Karen shifted, gave a brief snort, and rolled away, putting cold bed space between her and her husband and resuming her light snoring.
Martin sighed. It wasn’t going to happen. It was never going to happen. Time for porridge.
As he sat in their cold kitchen, spooning unappetizing oaty slop into his mouth, he looked around the room. It was neat, spotlessly clean and immaculately tidy. He felt two pangs of guilt. The first was the old one: that he was a man who went out to work and left his wife to look after the house. It wasn’t his choice. She had wanted it that way. He knew that the women in the office, that Karen’s friends, that his own family all regarded him as some kind of 1950s tyrant, keeping her locked up in the house while he went out and enjoyed himself, but it wasn’t like that. Now, more than ever, he wished that his wife had a job. But she didn’t. She said, whenever the subject came up, that she had always wanted to be a housewife and it made her happy.
The second pang of guilt was much, much sharper. He felt it every weekday morning. In fact he felt it regularly, several times a day, but weekday mornings – working days – were when the guilt hit him particularly hard.
Martin sighed and pushed his bowl of porridge away. He looked at his watch. Upstairs he could hear the bed creaking. Sometimes he imagined that the creaking sound he heard in the mornings was Karen, touching herself, running her slender hands over her ample breasts, slipping tentative fingers between her legs, moaning softly into the pillow.
That seemed unlikely, he reflected, as he stood and picked up his car keys. Karen didn’t like sex, didn’t like to be touched. Her creaking signaled that she would soon be up and she had mentioned previously how warm and happy it made her to find he was not there when she got up, that her husband was out there early every day, working hard for them.
He crept through the house without making a sound, locked the door behind him, and set off to catch the Express Bus. As they had agreed when he took the job, seven years ago, since the city was well-served with bus links, it made no sense to sit in a car every day, waiting in traffic and wasting money on petrol and parking and so on. Money. It all came down to money in the end.
Martin walked along Alexander Grove to the corner of Napoleon Crescent. He took a short cut through Theodore Roosevelt Drive and crossed at the lights on Macarthur Terrace, before joining the queue for the bus outside the Chinese deli. For once the bus was on time and he took a seat at the back, watching the shops, the car dealerships, the offices and business parks drift by as he headed towards the centre of the city, towards the Hercules Bank, where he had a job as an assistant counter supervisor.
At the last stop before his, a young woman got onto the bus. She was in her early twenties, looked like a model, with perfectly arranged blonde hair, possibly too much make-up and an expensive outfit, including a tiny, tiny skirt. She took the seat next to Martin and her mostly bare right thigh pressed against him as she set about rummaging through her handbag. Martin closed his eyes. He could feel his cock stirring and his sex-starved imagination beginning to turn over. His mind was conjuring images of the woman next to him slipping her hand across his leg, stroking his groin, leaning over to whisper in his ear that she felt hot, and he realized that he had no way to cover the strengthening bulge in his trousers.
He opened his eyes. The woman had moved. She was sitting two rows away next to an elderly lady who was reading a large print romance novel. Martin sighed and shifted in his seat, waiting for his erection to fade.
As he did every morning, he got off outside the bookshop, headed past the furniture store and the stationery store and the pet store, strolled through the mini-mall and crossed Caesar Street, taking the direct route to the Hercules Bank building. He stopped on the other side of the street and watched. The staff had already started arriving, the counters would be manned and Janice would probably be singing a Sinatra song while Doug complained about the coffee and Jason and Shanice flirted in the kitchen. Martin smiled. Then he turned away and walked on, past the Hercules Bank and the laundromat and the computer store, towards the park cafe.
Three weeks, two days and around twenty-three hours ago, Martin had been fired from the Hercules Bank. On that fateful morning, Sheila had called him into her office, asked him how Karen was, made general chit-chat, sighed, and then explained that Head Office had made it clear that the bank had to lose one of its lower-to-middle-ranking staff. He had been there the longest, and therefore his departure would save them the most money. She thanked him for his work, apologized again and told him to be out within the hour.
Martin ordered a pumpkin spice latte and a low-fat chocolate chip muffin and carried the plate and carton to his favorite seat outside the café, with a lovely, clear view of the park. It was a crisp, autumn morning, and the pathways through the park were thronged with grey and black suited workers heading to the office. For a moment, he felt the familiar thrill. He had always wondered what it would be like not to have to head to the office every day, to be a free person, to be able to sit back and enjoy the day.
That feeling didn’t last long – it never did, as the guilt rushed in and his brain threw up the usual chain of thoughts. He would have to tell Karen. He couldn’t possibly tell Karen – it had been too long. She would divorce him. He would be homeless. He had to tell Karen. He couldn’t possibly tell Karen – it had been too long. If he were stronger, more decisive, he would walk into another bank, tell them he wanted to speak to the HR manager, sell himself, get a job, walk home, make love to his wife and, a few days later, he’d probably casually drop it into conversation that he had a new job, and that it paid more money.
A stronger, dominant, more determined Martin would have a network of influential banking friends, on whom he could call in times like this. Hell, a Martin like that would probably already have ditched the Hercules and be working as some kind of investment banking type, sitting at a flashy computer terminal, yelling buy and sell instructions into a phone, drinking champagne at lunch and heading for an early retirement to a massive estate in Maine or Connecticut.
Martin sighed. To distract himself, he took a deep glug of pumpkin spice latte and looked around the café. Focusing mindfully on your surroundings was a good way to avoid stress, he had learned at the Hercules Bank Mindfulness for Effective Workplace Action Away Day.
Two tables away he noticed a man sitting reading the Wall Street Journal. He seemed strangely out of place, this man. For one thing, he was immaculately dressed. His suit looked as though it was straight out of some designer store. His hair was perfect, he clearly worked out and his chiseled jaw and rugged face was complemented by an expensive pair of sunglasses.
Martin fought back pangs of jealousy. If he’d been born as that guy, his life would be so much easier. He would still have married Karen, of course, he loved Karen, but they’d be living a luxurious life, a life of leisure. He wouldn’t be a former assistant counter supervisor, he’d be a law firm partner or a director or a property tycoon, and his morning coffee would be a prelude to a day spent wheeling and dealing, strutting about the city as though he owned it. Hell, maybe this guy did own the city. He looked like a film star.
The other man finished reading his paper, folded it neatly, looked at his watch and then stood. Martin watched, fascinated, as he adjusted his cufflinks, straightened his tie, picked up his briefcase, casually dropped a few coins onto the table and headed off across the park.
Where would he go, a man like that? Maybe if he could see where a man like that went, how he spent his day, Martin might learn something. They say that one of the most effective ways to change your life was to hang around with people you wanted to emulate, at least, that’s what he had read in Karen’s copy of How To Be The Person You Want To Be.
A strange instinct took hold of Martin. What if he just followed along? Competing thoughts jostled for attention in Martin’s head. On the one hand, it was silly and foolish to go traipsing along after a strange man like some deranged stalker. On the other hand, at least it was something to do, something to break up the long day of wandering around the city feeling like a homeless person, wallowing in wave after wave of guilt.
Martin stood, his chair scraping across the concrete of the café floor. He left a note on the table, wiped his mouth with a napkin and hurried out of the café, into the park, following the path of the mysterious man. As he followed at a distance, he decided he ought to name the man. What kind of a name would he have? Nothing like Martin, it would be something dynamic, bold; Chad or Brad or Storm or something along those lines. No, thought Martin, it would be something less obvious; a classic name, like Joe or Tony or Jack. Yes, Jack, that was about right.
The first thing to say about Jack was that he walked quickly. In fact, he was more of a strider than a walker, and he set a good pace through the park, scything through the ranks of commuters, joggers and strollers, heading for the far side. In order to keep up, Martin had to increase his stride beyond what he was used to, and by the time Jack and he reached the other end of the park, Martin was breathing heavily and in danger of regurgitating his pumpkin spice latte and half muffin. Jack momentarily slowed his pace as he left the park, enabling Martin to catch up, but the respite was only temporary. Turning sharply to the right, he headed along Leonidas Way, past the flower sellers and the newspaper vendors and then stopped abruptly at a bus stop.
Martin was caught off guard. He hadn’t expected Jack to stop there; a man like that catching a bus? Surely he would have a BMW to climb into or a chauffeur to bring his limousine round? Slowing his pace, Martin paused at the flower seller’s stall, pretending to peruse a selection of peonies. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the bus approaching and Jack holding up his arm in a bold, commanding way. Martin waited until the bus was almost at the stop, then he moved swiftly, or at least, as swiftly as he was able. Two women were hurrying to catch the same bus and he allowed them to go in front of him. He hopped on behind them, showed his all-day bus travel pass and took a seat near the front of the bus. He couldn’t watch Jack from his new seat, but he was near enough to the front to jump off when the time came.
He had settled into his seat and was allowing the gentle progression of the bus ride to lull him into sleepiness when he noticed Jack striding to the front of the bus.
Martin stirred himself and tensed ready to jump out of his seat. He waited until the bus had stopped and Jack was half way through the door before propelling himself forward. As soon as he set foot on the sidewalk, he dropped to tie his laces, looking up surreptitiously to see which way Jack had gone, before resuming his trailing activity.
They were in a residential part of the city, full of three and four story apartments and Jack was marching in quick time along the sidewalk, looking up at a row of red-brick buildings as though trying to find the right one. Martin was struggling to keep up, increasing his stride beyond what was comfortable, and then, suddenly, he was obliged to come to a direct halt. Jack hopped quickly up a flight of steps to one of the buildings, buzzed the intercom and disappeared inside.
Before he had time to think, Martin had wheezed up the same stairs and squeezed through the slowly-closing door into the hallway.
The door shut behind him with an accusatory click. Martin was breathing heavily, from the exertion required to catch up to Jack and from the guilt and fear currently overloading his brain. What on earth was he doing? This wasn’t his apartment building. He shouldn’t be here.
He heard a door opening further along the hallway. Driven by curiosity, he tiptoed down the hallway just as the door closed lightly shut. He paused outside, looking left and right. There was no-one around. He pressed his ear close to the wood and could hear voices, male and female. As he leant on the door he realized that he was accidentally opening it with his shoulder.
Through the opening, he could see a man in a suit holding hands with a woman. As they walked away into another room, he saw her black nightdress slip over her curves and caught a glimpse of her naked butt. He leant a little further on the door, and it opened wide enough for him to go through, if he had the guts.
At that moment, Martin heard the door to the building opening. Panicking, he stepped quickly into the apartment and quietly closed the door behind him.
Crouching by the door, he tried not to make a sound.
From elsewhere in the apartment, he heard giggling and low conversation. He looked around. The place was beautifully decorated and on the wall were three portraits: two of a gorgeous blonde woman and one of a man. Martin frowned. He recognized that man. It was Pete, Pete, his co-worker at the Hercules. This must be his fiancee’s apartment. Rhea was her name, she came to one of the bank parties, he remembered she had been the subject of office innuendo for several days. So this mysterious man was having an affair with Rhea?
Feeling a little bolder, Martin ventured into the apartment a little further and along a corridor towards where the voices were coming from. Kneeling down, he crept towards an open door. Holding his breath, he risked a look. It was a bedroom. At the end of the bed sat Jack, his eyes closed, legs spread. He was naked to the waist and between his legs knelt Rhea. She was entirely naked and her blond ponytail bobbed up and down with a hypnotic rhythm as she worked on Jack’s cock. Martin gazed open mouthed at her perfect body, her slender waist, her smooth butt, and the dark inviting shadow between the curves of her thighs. He could feel his own cock stirring. Suddenly Jack began to groan and move on the bed, opening his eyes. Martin ducked back behind the door, holding his breath, expecting to be caught at any moment. He waited, but the door was not thrown open and he heard a new sound, a moaning and a sighing. Taking a deep breath, he risked another peek.
This time Rhea was facing the door, but her eyes were also closed. She was straddling Jack, and as she rose and fell, impaled on his cock, she was making deep guttural noises and high pitched squeals. Her breasts, full and pert, were rising and heaving as they fucked, and were glistening in the light through the window. Martin’s cock was hardening and he couldn’t resist reaching down and touching the bulge through his trousers.
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