Chapter 2 – Romford Calling
A few days later, I got a FaceTime call. Lizzy was in her bedroom and gave me a broad smile.
“Hi Uncle Martin! This is fantastic! It’s like Skype, isn’t it?”
I had to find my reading glasses first but sat down in the comfy chair near the window and settled in for a chat.
“It’s like Skype for rich people, I’m afraid” I said. “You can only use this to reach people who have iPads and iPhones and Apple computers.”
“Which is exactly nobody around here,” she laughed, adjusting the view so I could see her better.
“Well, you can always install Skype. How have you been, dear?”
“Oh you know… busy with school. Starting Fifth form this year.”
I just nodded. I was educated ‘on the continent’ and English isn’t even my first language. That’s what makes it so adorable when I say things like ‘pet’. She realised this.
“You have no idea what that means, do you?”
“Not really. You’re fifteen and you’re in school, is what I understand.”
Not having kids, I had no real idea of what children did at what age. She tried to explain it to me, but we soon turned to the iPad and its features.
“I have some questions, would you mind helping me out?” she asked, as she was again repositioning the thing, so that it leaned against what I presume was a lamp on her desk. She was now in frame against the rear wall of her room, a kid’s room with ridiculously pink wallpaper. Clearly, she was trying to present a good picture.
“You do understand this is not a mirror?” I teased her. She was changing. The pigtails were gone and her face was morphing from an adorable, slightly cartoonish kid into a teenage girl. Fuller lips. A hint of make-up. She was wearing bras now, something my brother had commented on.
“These tiny little pink and black bras are suddenly on the washing line. Next to those big ones Suzy wears. It’s weird.”
“I am not aware of your wife’s bra size,” I had answered in a dry tone. “And I should prefer not to be aware of my niece’s.”
Lizzy looked as if I’d caught her out, but gave me one of those big, broad smiles.
“I have to look good for my admirers,” she answered, after which I taught her a few things about the iPad, how to configure the iCloud and what the point of it was, how the camera roll worked, stuff like that. It kept us busy for half an hour or so and then we said our goodbyes.
A few days later she called back and caught my wife Linda. They get along fine, but after about five minutes they ran out of stuff to talk about and my wife was on her way out the door anyway. I went upstairs to do some work, by which I mean setting my browser to private and finding new and lewd stuff to jack off to on Pornhub.
Idle hands do indeed do the devil’s work and my wife of fifteen years had a busy life in which she saw too many weird and miserable people, plus an awful lot of people with objects in their rectum that should not be there. All in all, our sex life had suffered as a result.
Now I’m not one to beg for sex. I’ll suggest it and if the answer is no, then fine. There is a cornucopia of pornography online and it would just have to do. I dropped trousers, sat behind the desk and set the browser to ‘private’.
I like to lube up when I do this, so I have a small bottle of Johnson’s baby oil in my desk drawer and a big dispenser of paper towels. I was just observing how two lesbian women were interacting with a massive double dildo (for science, you understand) when I got a FaceTime call on my iPad. And because these things are linked, soon afterwards it also popped up on my iMac. It was Lizzy. I got up, tucked myself in, raised my pants, tried to get most of the oil from my hands and answered the call on my desktop.
“Hi Uncle! Did I get you from a far corner of the house?” Lizzy asked.
“Yes you did, but never mind. Always nice to talk to you. Linda’s just left.”
“Yeah I know. I spoke to her half an hour ago, but I figured you might be home.”
The image on screen was well composed this time. Her room was straightened up, she’d turned the lights on so it wasn’t as dark as the first time and she sat back from the iPad, which was resting in its cover.
“Is there anything in particular you want to discuss?” I asked, settling in.
“No. Not really. But we used to chat a lot more, when you lived round our way. I kind of miss not dropping in for a cup of tea, if I’m honest.”
“Yes, that is a shame. Well, you can always hop on a train,” I said, knowing that wasn’t what she meant.
“I looked into that,” she said earnestly. “That’s a hundred pounds. I’d do it, but not for a cup of tea.”
Well, obviously not. And it was over five hours by train.
“We’d love to have you over, sweetheart, you know that. It must be every girl’s dream to start a weekend with a five hour train journey to visit a middle aged couple who live in the retirement capital of the Nation and have tea with them.”
She laughed that Christmas bell laugh of hers. It shook what was on its way to becoming quite a nice bosom.
“Is that how you see it? I am really curious to see what you’ve done with the place, and I’m sure Torquay isn’t that bad. But I wouldn’t want to impose.”
I didn’t want to give her the impression she wasn’t welcome. I had no idea what she wanted to do here, but she was family and my favourite so she should never feel she was anything less than welcome. This girl might well be the one to send me to a home one day, when I am old and senile. Best to keep on her good side.
“Well if there is one thing we have it’s guest rooms. Well, two really. Plus free wifi and a complimentary continental breakfast. You’re welcome to come over, bring a friend if you like. I’ll drive you to wherever you want to go.”
“Sure. Check with me before you book, but you’re welcome here at any time.”
“Don’t think I won’t.”
“I should be very much insulted if you didn’t,” I replied, making my already rather posh accent even worse.
After she hung up I found it easy to pick up where I’d left off, but rather than continuing with ‘dildo lesbians’ I decided to enter ‘school girl stripping’. There was a really nice one of a girl in pigtails, in a pink room, giving herself a treat. This one was Brazilian and looked to be about thirty, but it did the trick.
When I had only just finished, there was an iMessage.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Why was there a bottle of baby oil on the shelf behind you?”
Oh dear. Busted. Well, honesty is the best policy.
“Well, let’s just say that bottle was there BEFORE you called me.”
“Were you doing what I think you were doing?”
“Least said, soonest mended, I think. Bye pet!”
Smiley face. Heart. XXX.
She called me back the next day, but not before texting.
“Can I call you? You’re not busy, are you?”
I wasn’t, as it happened. I was browsing local sites for prostitutes. My wife and I had sex once a month on average and since I think that’s pathetic I’d treat myself to an hour with a professional girl once a month as well. I wasn’t proud of it and usually the experience did not live up to my expectations, but at least it put me off them for a while. I always took ages to decide, not wanting to end up with a girl from Latvia being pimped out in a caravan. This invariably led me to visits with relatively mature English women who received gentlemen at home and who pre-lubed their ageing pussies before they answered the door, so they could get down to business quicker. I had no idea what brand they used, but all these pussies smelled the same. To me, it was the smell of failure.
“Not busy,” I answered and picked up her call in the living room, where I had been sitting on the couch with a cup of tea. She appeared on screen again and I got my image of her before she got to see me. She was looking out of the corner of her eye, as one does to see if the tiny image of oneself in the corner of the screen shows a presentable image. Then she stuck her finger in the neckline of her shirt and quickly pulled it down, displaying what would one day be actual cleavage. The signal kicked in and now she saw me too.
“Hi uncle Martin!”
“Hi sweetheart. Listen, you’re fifteen. You can drop the uncle.”
“Mum says I’m not allowed to.”
I knew that. Suzy was a strict mother. Her kids had to call her mum, my brother ‘dad’, and always be polite. Calling me ‘uncle’ was part of that, though I do believe I am referred to as Captain Mainwaring when I am not around. There are worse nicknames, I suppose; I never found out who came up with it, though I suspect my mother had a hand in it…
“Yes I know, but is she there? Then I grant you special dispensation.”
“Okay… Martin. So, I have an iPad question?”
She wanted to know how to make a screenshot. That’s fairly easy and I walked her through the procedure. We did a few screenshots and sent them back and forth.
“So if someone makes a screenshot during a FaceTime call, you can tell?”
“Yes. There may be a way around that, but generally speaking I believe that is the case.”
“Okay. So if I show a boy my goodies, I’ll know when he takes a screenshot.”
“Are you likely to be showing boys your… goodies?”
She flashed the smile again. And as she did so, it appeared to me that she was moving the iPad a bit, to turn it to the right. But she wasn’t letting on.
“Well, no. Not yet, anyway.” She looked down, at her breasts. “Not much to show yet.”
I gave her the obligatory speech, about how boys will ask for nudes nowadays and call her a prude if she doesn’t comply. How they WILL share these pictures with friends, even if they swear not to. How it is illegal to do so, quite apart from the fact there will now be nudes of her in circulation. These kids might go to jail for having her on their phones and tablets. She listened politely and assured me it had just been a joke. Then she changed the subject.
“I was hoping to come over for spring half term. One or two nights?”
I had no idea what spring half term was, or rather when it was. Early February, as it turned out. Two weeks from now.
“You don’t intend to go swimming, then?” Torquay is on the seaside, the southern coast of England. It’s about as far south as Northern France, at about the same latitude as Boulogne-sur-Mer, if that means anything to you. In a nutshell, it’s a relatively mild climate which makes it appealing to the elderly but it isn’t exactly Florida. Still, we make do. And who needs alligators, really?
My remark didn’t go down well with her.
“I can’t tell if you are just making a joke or if you are subtly trying to tell me not to come,” she pouted. “It’s okay if you rather I didn’t, but I just want to see you. And aunty Linda. And the house. I’ll help out, do some cooking if you like. I’m getting quite good at it. Maybe you could use a hand getting that massive garden ready for the summer?”
“No dear, you won’t need to do a thing if you’re here, that’s not what I meant to say. It’s just that… There really is NOTHING here for you. Your Aunty works 50 hours a week so it’s essentially just me. I potter around the house and the garden doing chores and that is more or less it. There is a cinema, but nothing like a club or…” I petered out.
Did fifteen year olds go to clubs? We used to have these things called ‘Cola disco’ when I was fifteen, as I recall. Those were horrible affairs. Essentially the girls were trying to learn how do attract and then repel boys. The boys were simply there to see girls move. I’d only ever been twice.
“You won’t need to entertain me. I’ll bring some homework, my laptop, some books. I’ll be fine. I just…”
She looked towards the door of her bedroom, just for a second.
“I could use a break, actually.”
I could certainly see that. Suzy worked part-time but at odd hours and Edward was a maintenance man for the school district. Their vacation budget usually stretched to two weeks in Turkey, in one of those resorts where you get a coloured armband for access to the free buffet. Judging from the pictures they brought back, those seemed like an excellent place to hang yourself.
“Any time, Lizzy. And like I said, feel free to bring a friend if you like.”
That evening my wife and I had a good time on the couch, watching Netflix and eating exciting cheeses. She drinks wine, I stick with beer. She even deigned to open my pants and have a bit of a rummage in there. I returned the favour or at least I tried, but my wife isn’t that spontaneous so she moved the proceedings upstairs. I was directed to shower in my own bathroom, she went into hers, we met in the middle (our bedroom), had a whole thirteen minutes of mediocre sex and that was it. Trust me, given what I’m used to, that was a pretty good evening. Had I known in advance it would never get better than this once we were married, I’d have thrown myself under a bus long ago, but that is another matter.
The next morning at breakfast I told Linda about Lizzy’s plan to come and visit. She seemed surprised but had no objections. In fact, she hoped Lizzy was still up for baking cakes. I also mentioned in passing I had been helping her with her iPad and showed her the screenshots, simply because we like our niece. My wife also loves any and all pictures. We can’t really go to restaurants anymore, every bloody course ends up on Insta-bloody-gram. The images of Lizzy made her smile.
“She is growing up fast, isn’t she.”
“Yeah,” I said, clearing the dishes. I wasn’t going to bring up the new boobs. Why would I?
“Oh dear,” my wife said, and laughed out loud.
“I… I don’t know if I should… Did you see anything in those pictures?”
I craned my neck to see what I’d missed, but she wouldn’t let me.
“Look, they’re in my camera roll so they will be on my machine upstairs too. What’s so funny?”
My wife then pointed out something on the shelf behind Lizzy. It was a smallish purple vibrator, stood on its end. I hadn’t seen the bloody thing or if I had, I probably figured it was a side view of a toy or a photo frame or something like that. But yeah, those don’t have arched tips, do they?
“I wonder if Suzy knows? It’s on display for everyone to see!” said my wife, amused. It’s always funny if it’s not your own daughter.
“Well maybe it isn’t what we think it is. Frankly I’m amazed you spotted it, we last got you one in 2002 and if memory serves, we found it three years later in a dusty drawer, damaged by a leaky battery.”
Such was the state of our love live. My wife didn’t wear out vibrators, hers just crumbled into dust. I can only recall two instances of us using it and both were my idea. My wife even feels lube is for porn stars. A gob of spit will do just as well, as far as she’s concerned.
“Perhaps not. Maybe you should give her a subtle hint when she calls again. Just in case.”
“What? You want ME to ask my fifteen year old niece about her dildo? Do me a lemon, this is a job for girls. You tell her.”
“God, don’t be such a prude. You know she adores you. Fifteen year olds, they’re different from how we were. She’ll know what a vibrator is and if it isn’t one you’ll have a laugh and if it is one… Well, we’re not her parents. Just don’t send her a new one with an engraved message. Whahahaa!”
My wife thought she was terribly funny. I often agreed. But unlike her, I understood the dildo on the shelf wasn’t an accident. It was a message.
Lizzy and I occasionally exchanged written messages on the iPad, mostly during the day. I always found it a pleasant surprise to read something nice from her when I picked up my iPad.
“It’s pissing down over here, how about there?”
“Still dry. And mind your manners, young lady.”
“Martin, did you see that thing on Channel Four last night?”
“I did. Loved it. Was thinking of texting you to tell you to watch.”
“I was, but you can always message me. Heart. XXX.”
“Hi. Quick question. Is it legal to kill your brother?”
“No. But I have a tarpaulin and a shovel in my car. I can be there in 5 hours if you need me. Wear gloves.”
“LOL. Heart. XXX.”
“Scored an A in maths today!”
“Very proud of you. Knew all those hours in kitchen would pay off.”
“Might become an engineer one day, LOL”
“Dad says I can’t. What should I do about that?”
“Become an engineer.”
“OMG I love you! You are so right!”
“Sure. 5 mins.”
“Cleaning up? :)”
I didn’t respond to that particular remark. When she called, she found me at my desk, sans bottle in the background. She was, as always, in her room. The purple thing, whatever it was, was on the shelf again.
“Sorry Martin, was that going too far?” she started.
“No dear. But I have been meaning to talk to you. Your darling AUNTY, who USES my IPAD, saw the screenshots of our chat a while back.”
“Yes?” she said. I thought she blushed. I also thought there were 2 more buttons opened on her blouse than was technically necessary.
“That thing behind you. Please tell me its a sideways picture frame? Or a My First Sony Electric toothbrush?”
“A what?” she giggled. The My First Sony line had been discontinued long before she was born. But she didn’t have to turn around to see what I meant.
“Because if it wasn’t, it looks suspiciously like one of those things that doctors used to cure hysteria in women in the 20th century.” Might as well teach them something while you’re being a stern substitute parent, I always say.
“I… Okay… it is a toy. Sort of.”
Was she stifling a giggle?
“Right. And it is on display in your room, for everyone to see?”
“Um… Well… No. Not all the time. It is usually in a drawer under my bed. But I figured… I caught you out with that bottle the other day. And I didn’t want you to feel embarrassed. We all do it, don’t we? So I thought, I’ll show him mine.”
“Yes… oh dear God, where to begin… It’s not quite the same, for a start. And second, I gave you enough credit for being a grown up not to be bothered by that incident so you needn’t have worried.”
She seemed pleased with that. Getting the credit for being mature, I assumed.
“You’d be a really cool dad,” she said, picking up the iPad from her desk. Then she got up to lie on her bed, apparently balancing the iPad against her thighs. She seemed to be settling in for a long and intimate chat. I admit I didn’t mind her company. It seemed as if she had changed even more. Her voice was a bit lower now. Not exactly husky, but with a hoarseness in it that I presumed to come from vocal cords that found themselves in a body that was growing by millimetres every day.
“It’s very easy being a cool grown-up when it’s not actually your daughter with a sex toy. Where did you GET that thing, anyway?”
“Amsterdam. School trip.”
“You mean you set out to buy one?”
“Well, yes. I can’t exactly have one delivered to the house, can I? But in Amsterdam I just walked into one of those shops. A very nice lady told me all about them, said I should start off small.”
“Really. When you were fourteen a lady in Amsterdam sold you a dildo,” I said, sarcastically.
“Fourteen is the age of consent there.”
“Bloody isn’t. Fourteen year olds can mess about with other fourteen year olds, if it is consensual. That doesn’t mean they can buy dildos. How were you even allowed into the shop?”
“I look older,” she protested, seeming to find it all quite funny.
“You do not. Trust me. Certainly not last year. That can’t have started more than a few months ago.”
“What can’t?” she said, clearly enjoying the conversation. She leaned against the pillow and I could just tell she was pulling down her shirt just out of shot, to form a cleavage again.
“THIS,” I said, miming breasts. “Those weren’t there when we were over for Christmas dinner. You looked like an ironing board leaning against a wall.”
“Well they sold me one. And Alice Heartly too. She looks much older than she is, I think they figured she’d get one for me anyway and I might as well hear the advice they give you first hand. Like using lubrication when you start. Or, if that’s not available, Johnson’s baby oil…”
She stared at me, hoping to get a rise out of me.
“It just so happens your Aunty gave birth to a lovely little…” I began, pretending to be serious.
“Bullshit!” she cackled, which made the iPad slip off her lap. She repositioned it between her legs but now she didn’t bend her knees. This meant I had a very close up view of her grey legging as it outlined her vulva. In other words, I saw a camel toe. I said nothing and just frowned. I even folded my arms.
“What?” she laughed.
“Really?” I said. “This is the angle you’re going for?”
Only now did she seem to realise what she was showing me. This was a genuine mistake and the apology was entirely believable.
“I am so very sorry, I didn’t… I couldn’t see myself, I’m in the bottom left corner and I could only see the top of the screen. Really I…”
“Don’t worry about it. For future reference, you can reposition yourself to any corner, just drag and drop. Try it.”
“I did not know that. Good to know. Let me try this,” she said. Now she put the iPad on the foot of the bed. The view was decent but I mainly saw the soles of her feet, while she was in the far distance. They were lovely feet, though. One foot was crossed over an ankle. Before I’d realised what I’d done I pressed the home button and the on/off switch, to make a screenshot.
“Did you just take a picture?” she asked. Quick thinking was in order.
“Yes. I wanted to send it to you, so you know what this looks like.”
“It’s just my feet,” she said.
“Do you know it is a grave insult to show the soles of your feet in the Arab world?” I said sternly.
“This isn’t the Arab world, Allahu Akhbar,” she answered. Then she reached for the iPad and put it back on her thighs.
“I’ll send you the image,” I said. I may or may not have sounded somewhat strained.
“I know what my feet look like,” was her calm answer. She seemed… amused.
“And anyway, in the Western world some men have a foot fetish,” she continued, conversationally. Tell me about it. I am one of those men. It’s a bloody curse to have this preference and the only person who knew about it was my wife. And I was pretty sure she’d forgotten about it. Fifteen years of wearing hospital sneakers doesn’t do much for your feet and I’d gone off them years ago. Which was something of a relief to her I’m sure, because she just thought it tickled when I nuzzled her feet. And not in a pleasant way.
Apart from her, the only person who could conceivably know was my own brother, seeing as how when I was younger and didn’t really know what was happening or how to hide it, I had a little school notebook with torn out pictures of barefoot women. Just stuff I’d find in women’s magazines, on leaflets and in catalogues. Bare feet show up surprisingly often in print, in perfectly respectable publications. Imagine a world with pictures of cute, pink vaginas everywhere. It’s like that to me.
Edward found the notebook one day, had asked me why in heavens name I had pictures of THAT, and that was when I had learned this was not an okay thing to have. I swore him to secrecy and since he was all of six years old, he promptly forgot about it and has never brought it up since. But it was entirely possible he had at one point in his life remembered and understood what that had been about. And telling embarrassing stories about his older, richer, funnier, more successful brother was exactly what he loved more than anything in this world.
As I considered all this, apparently I briefly zoned out of the conversation.
“Hello?” Lizzy said, in a tone which indicated this wasn’t the first time she’d asked.
“Ah there you are, the video link went down for a few seconds,” I said. ”Bloody wifi.”
“Oh right. Anyway, so aunty Linda uses this iPad too?”
She was referring to my opening remark, where I indeed intended to convey to her that this might be the case.
“Shall I teach you how to lock it?” she suggested.
“I am well aware of how it locks,” I grumbled. “Actually, I showed her your pictures, you know what she’s like with pictures. But I hadn’t seen that thing, or I wouldn’t have. And put it away, what if your parents walk in?”
“What if they do? You stared at it for a while and never saw a thing. I read somewhere that human vision is based on movement. Unless that thing buzzes, chances are they’ll never see it.”
“That’s dinosaurs, not parents. Dinosaurs had vision based on movement. And your aunt spotted it after only a few seconds.”
“Perhaps she recognized it. Does she have vibrator?” She tried to make it sound like a casual question, like I was some sort of idiot.
“That’s… really not something you can ask a family member. Not unless there is a persistent buzzing sound in the house even after the electricity has been shut off. And even then you wait 24 hours to see if it stops. Look Lizzy, I get that you’re at an age where you want to talk about sex and all that, but I am your uncle. You should discuss this with your parents or… the school nurse, I don’t know. Not with a 42 year old uncle who’s alone in the house. Nothing good can come from that. So put that thing back in it’s drawer, okay? I have a pond to scoop out, I’m sure you have maths homework. Bye pet!”
And with that, I disconnected.
Not ten seconds later, there was an iMessage.
“Are you angry with me?”
“No Lizzy, of course not.”
Typing. For a long time. Finally:
“I would really like to hear it from you. FaceTime?”
I called her back. She’d been crying. That was a bit of a shock to me. Lizzy never cried. Years ago, I saw her trip and fall down five steps on the stairs, smash a plant and bang her head on the table where we kept our phone. She was shaky, but she didn’t cry. She just wanted to sit near me and together we checked if she’d broken or sprained anything, and to see if there were bruises. This happened while my wife a fully trained emergency room doctor, was right there. But Lizzy didn’t care. She just wanted to sit next to me and after we’d watched a repeat of The Vicar of Dibley for a while, she finally stopped shaking and that was it. But now she was crying, deeply upset. I assured her I was not angry or upset. I just didn’t want to have that conversation with her.
“But… You’re the one I feel comfortable with. My mum… she’s always so strict about everything. And dad is… well, he’s a dad.”
“I’m not even a dad, you know. I own a dog and I used to have a turtle called Frederick and he’s dead now. And the dog isn’t feeling too good either.”
Jokes didn’t help. Maybe it wasn’t funny because I don’t really own a dog. Well, I can borrow a dog when I need one, from Mrs. Pemberton down the road.
“It’s just… I feel so weird. Everything changes. Look at this!” She pointed at her chest.
“These came from nowhere! There was nothing there in November! And… boys are starting to look at me now and I’m supposed to wear a bra and know about lipstick… I mean…”
I leaned back in my chair. I saw myself rubbing my forehead, which I apparently do when I am out of ideas.
“You have friends, don’t you?”
“Yes. Kids. Like me. One of them said you can get pregnant if a boy rubs his semen on your bottom. I mean, really. She actually believed that.” She sounded indignant.
“Was that the American girl?” I asked. She nodded.
“They don’t count. These people believe that making teenagers sign a piece of paper saying they won’t have sex until marriage will solve teenage pregnancy. Any other friends? That Alice?”
Yes, by all means, recommend a chat with the girl that went dildo shopping with her in Amsterdam.
“Oh hang on, maybe not her… School nurse?”
“I don’t think those exist, you know,” she said, getting over her tears. “Maybe like in the seventies, but not now.”
“Oh yes, teachers. They love that, giving sex ed. Did you know they can only do it in pairs now? And we have to bring a signed permission form from home, just to hear where babies come from?”
I laughed. You had to, really. What an age to be a kid, where you carried a phone with you that gave you unlimited access to hardcore porn, where boys in your class demanded that girls send them nudes and start the ball rolling with a dickpic on Snapchat, but where adults needed supervision and waivers to tell teens about the facts of life.
“Okay, so how about when you’re here you and me and aunt Linda sit down and anything you want clearing up, we’ll talk about. How does that sound?”
Horrible. To me at least. But my wife is a medical professional who routinely removes candles from peoples arses, she’d probably be well equipped to handle this. I could just sit there and nod. Or maybe I could sit in another room and nod.
She considered it.
“Won’t that be… embarrassing?”
“Perhaps. But this is no picnic either, is it?” I put on a brave face and got a smile back.
“Okay. So I am definitely coming over then. Spring half term. Okay?”
“Looking forward to it. Bye, pet!”
I hung up. She texted me a heart and three X’s.