‘Stop pulling, idiot! You’ll choke yourself. Rover, stop it!’ She felt ridiculous shouting his absurd name but he was Brian’s dog and she had given in to his quirky insistence.
‘Why Rover?’ she had asked him when he had arrived home with the black, Labrador puppy almost two years ago. ‘It’s so common!’
‘Oh, I don’t think he’ll mind too much. We can always change it if the other dogs start making fun of him. Besides, it’s not at all common. How many dogs do you know called Rover?’
She had given up trying to change his mind when he threatened to call him ‘Fido’ or even, simply, ‘Dog,’ instead.
‘I suppose you would rather we called him something more refined, like Algernon or Tarquin,’ he had teased.
‘Darling, really!’ Jenny’s sense of humour was rarely in tune with Brian’s, but she couldn’t help smiling as he was overcome by one of his bouts of infectious merriment. Yet again, she marvelled at her husband’s dark, good looks. He was such fun to be with. And the children adored him.
‘I think you’re a rotter, Brian’.
‘Jen, you do call me some awful names.’ He rose and stood behind Jenny’s chair. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he bent and whispered in her ear. ‘I don’t suppose there’s any chance of some dickie-dido, then?’
‘Bugger off!’ She knew that swearing at him was a sure way to ensure that his hands would travel from her shoulders down the front of her nightie. A shared bottle of claret over dinner and a long soak in the bath had put her in the mood.
‘Sod off you filthy pervert or I’ll scream for help,’ she gasped in mock fury as she felt Brian roughly grip her rapidly protruding nipples.
‘Getting excited are we?’ he mocked laughingly.
‘You might be. Let me go, swine!’ She felt the thrill shoot down the hotline to her crotch.
‘Swine, am I?’ Brian murmured. Still gripping each nipple between finger and thumb, he had moved around to her side and was gently but inexorably pulling her up out of her chair. ‘Well, you know what pigs like to do … and how they do it!’
Now that she knew she was going to get laid, Jenny wondered how to get Brian up to the bedroom before he could roger her on the rug in front of the TV. ‘Not here. Please,’ she pleaded, switching to innocent victim mode. ‘If you’ll let me go upstairs I promise I’ll do anything you want.’
‘That’s better. Now, what can you offer to stop me bunny bonking you in this chair.’
Jenny had partly risen to her feet to ease Brian’s persistent tugging at her breasts. Knees slightly bent, she felt one hand starting to draw up the back of her nightdress, exposing her bare buttocks. She was having trouble keeping her concentration on the game.
‘Come to bed, sir, and I’ll say all the dirty words you want me to…’
Jenny smiled fondly, recalling their ardent lovemaking, still such an important part of their marriage. Struggling with Rover, now no longer a puppy but a large, ungainly adolescent, she was being tugged, half-walking, half-jogging along St. Andrew’s Way when she became acutely aware of the amused attention her undignified progress had been receiving from a group of youths standing near the telephone box at the junction. She disliked running, or even walking quickly at any time, especially in high heels. She was always conscious of her large breasts bouncing about under her top. And she knew those lads were getting an extra eyeful today. Responding to the June morning sunshine, she wasn’t wearing a coat or even a cardigan.
Why on earth had she chosen to wear a knitted, beige dress and high-heeled sandals to take the idiot dog for his walk? She had really got dressed up to visit Melissa and, at the last minute, had decided to take Rover so that she wouldn’t need to take him out later. Melissa might be impressed with her chic but, as far as dog-walking was concerned, the outfit was a disaster. The skirt was too short and kept riding up above her knees. Every time she took one hand from the dog’s straining leash to smooth it down she was dragged along even faster. More embarrassing still was the figure-hugging, polo-neck top. She almost always wore her fawn gabardine jacket over this dress, for two very obvious reasons. As she reached the post-box her boobs were leaping up and down, each one prominent as a separate entity.
The teenagers had by now ceased their desultory horseplay and were gazing in open-mouthed admiration at the attractive, stylishly dressed, woman being pulled along by a large, black Labrador. Jenny avoided looking at the youths as she was dragged past, blushing furiously.
‘Cheeky sods,’ she muttered to herself as she once more addressed the pulling, panting, tongue-lolling cause of her troubles.
‘Rover, stop. I said stop, Rover…SIT!
She vowed that this was the very last time she was going to take the brute for his walk. He had simply grown too big for her to manage. The next time Brian was away on business he would have to arrange for someone else to give him his exercise.
Rover knew exactly where he was headed and was going to get there as fast as he could. Over the main road and through the Close was the footpath that crossed the Churchyard and skirted the Manse grounds. It led to a large expanse of waste ground adjacent to and owned by Marldon Golf Club. The club had long-term plans to extend the golf course and build additional squash courts on the land. But, for the time being, the stony, scrubby area was a dog’s Eden, a meeting place for canines of all shapes and sizes, accompanied by their equally diverse owners. This was where he could be let off his lead to stretch his legs chasing other dogs and imaginary rabbits around the gorse bushes.
Jenny now began to feel slightly alarmed at the prospect of the hound dragging her, lemming-like, into the traffic on Turnberry Road. By leaning back and pulling with all her might she was able to slow their progress almost to a halt. If she could turn the dog around, she decided, she would take him home and then set off on her own to see Melissa, or she would ‘phone. Then she remembered the ill-mannered louts behind her. She didn’t feel like running the gauntlet of their bold stares a second time.
Suddenly, a tall young man was standing beside her.
‘Excuse me, Mrs Jagger. Can I help?’
Jenny squinted up into the sun at the unlined, handsome face framed by a shock of unruly fair hair. The blue eyes of Simon Rahilly gazed down at her.
‘Yes, Simon, thank you. Will you hold on to this lead for a minute? Rover is a bit excited and he’s rather a handful at the moment.’
‘Certainly.’ Simon took the leash from Jenny and effortlessly hauled Rover back. It took the dog all of two seconds to realise that he was no longer going anywhere fast. He promptly sat.
‘Hasn’t he grown!’ continued Simon. ‘Last time I saw him he was smaller than our cat! Would you like me to steer him across the road?
‘Please!’ Jenny accepted gratefully.
While they were awaiting a gap in the traffic she thought how good-looking young Simon had become. No wonder all the girls, including her daughter Julie, were competing for dates with him. His blonde youthfulness contrasted with her husband’s darker good looks, his leanness with Brian’s more solid and muscular physique.
She had known the Rahillys for many years. Simon’s mother, Sue, and Jenny had shared the school run to and from Grovewood Infants’ and had helped each other with their children’s’ parties until Sue’s tragic death from a drowning accident whilst on holiday. Surely, it couldn’t be nine years since the last time Sue had collected Simon from her house after one of Julie’s parties; Jenny could still remember Sue turning to wave as she got into her car. Her death had completely shattered her husband, Charles, already elderly, left with a ten-year-old son. His recent marriage to Heather, Jenny’s best friend from school, had delighted everyone who knew them. Heather seemed to be getting on well, too, with her stepson, whom Jenny remembered as a good little boy, not greedy and always asking if there was anything he could do to help.
Now, he was the slim six-footer that had come to her rescue, his lithe young body easily taking the strain of Rover’s efforts to commit hara-kiri as they crossed the road and entered the Close leading towards Melissa’s house.
‘Would you mind if I walked a bit further with you Mrs Jagger? Just to make sure your dog has settled down.’
‘That’s kind of you, Simon. Once he’s had his madcap chase around the scrub, I’ll be able to manage him alright. By the way, when are the A levels out?’
They chatted about Simon’s pending exam results, which he and everyone else were confident he would pass with A grades across the board. He thought he might spend some time abroad next year prior to taking up his Oxford place the following year.
Just then, Rover seemed to strain at his leash and pull Simon forward, ahead of her. As he slowed down, she felt his arm press gently against her side.
‘So sorry Mrs Jagger,’ grinned Simon, Rover is rather difficult to control isn’t he?
‘That’s alright, Simon, but I’ll thank you not to be so cheeky if you are going to accompany me any farther.’
‘Cheeky? What have I done?’
‘You know very well what I mean. Just stop it.’
Simon nodded gravely, then winked at the papergirl coming from Melissa’s house with a puzzled expression on her face. Jenny decided to get rid of Simon by calling at Melissa’s on the way to the waste ground with Rover instead of after he’d had his exercise. He was intruding into her space again, arrogant young pup!
‘How are your mother and father?’ She realised she should have said stepmother but Simon seemed not to have noticed. ‘Will they be going to Mister Carrapass’s party next week?’
‘Just the same as when you saw them yesterday. They said they would be going. Mainly to suss out our latest resident. That Carrapass is a peculiar old cove. Loadsamoney though.’ He gave Jenny a bold, appraising glance. ‘You look really nice today, Mrs Jagger.’
‘Go home, Simon! Stick to girls of your own age.’ It occurred to Jenny that he had taken her daughter out on more than one occasion
His neck colouring, a subdued Simon muttered his apologies.
‘Just remember who you are, Simon. Your mother and I used to baby sit for each other. And your stepmother is my best friend,’ she continued, snatching the lead from Simon’s hand and hauling Rover up Melissa’s drive.
‘I suppose I’d better get out of here fast then,’ Simon muttered ‘Sorry again.’ He waved, turned and strode easily away.
‘What an egotistical sod he’s grown into ‘ she muttered to herself. She spun on her heel as Simon turned and gave her another cheery wave. He certainly wasn’t afraid to chance his arm, though, even if he had got his come-uppance. She supposed she should be quite pleased. After all, she was more than twice his age.
Jenny’s mood was interrupted by a fierce tug on the lead as Rover dragged her up to Melissa’s oak-panelled front door and began sniffing furiously at the letterbox. She heard a strangled series of moans that seemed to come from just behind the door. They were followed by noises peculiarly like the excited whining that Rover had started up. Then a wild yell. Jenny knocked on the door. She hoped Melissa was all right. Perhaps there was some exciting news in the newspaper the girl they had passed had just delivered, perhaps a rave review of her book. Then she giggled as it dawned on her.