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College

I’d planned on having this story out months ago but I’ve had some health problems which delayed the writing. To add to my woes, a few days after I started writing again my computer crashed and I had to wait a couple of weeks before it was replaced (fortunately I’d backed up the work to date). Anyway, back in the saddle again.

In my story ‘Twilight Time’, Niamh Cassidy told new girlfriend Vicki Clarke how she had been badly hurt once by a woman called Marti. ‘Love Hurts’ is Marti’s story. In a way, it’s both prequel and sequel to the Vicki/Niamh element of ‘Twilight Time’ but is somewhat darker than that story. It’s not necessary to have read ‘Twilight Time’ but it may help you to know some of the characters. ‘Love Hurts’ is a long love story—there is sex but it’s secondary to the plot. I hope you enjoy it.

Characters in sex scenes are eighteen years old or over. All characters and most places are imaginary—any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 to the author

* * * * *

“Love hurts, love scars / Love wounds, and mars…”

The Everly Brothers 1961

Now

Have you ever hurt anyone so badly that you’ve torn yourself apart at the same time?

I have.

Her name was Niamh Cassidy and she was young and she was beautiful and I loved her and then I crushed her. And I did a pretty good job on myself while I was at it.

And now, five years or so after that bitter and shameful act, I was back in my home city, on my way to see a solicitor who supposedly had important business to discuss with me. Nearing his office, I glanced at my watch and saw that I had a good forty minutes before my appointment. Since I was last here, a new shopping mall had been built in the city centre and some way inside the entrance I could see a couple of coffee shops, not quite opposite each other, both with tables set out on the main concourse. I could kill time by having an espresso and people-watching.

I was impressed. The mall appeared vast and there’d been no expense spared in its construction, what with its marbled floors and fluted columns and cleverly concealed lighting to simulate daylight. As far as I could see, all of the major stores were represented and it looked as if some of the smaller units had been rented to independent traders, particularly those on an ample mezzanine floor. In addition to the coffee shops there was a good selection of food outlets and I suppose those so inclined could have a full day’s outing without sampling fresh air. On reflection, I decided it wouldn’t do for me long term, accustomed as I now was to open spaces and wind and rain in my hair.

I idly scanned my fellow customers in both coffee shops and then I think I did a double-take. A young woman, nursing a baby, who was sitting at a table outside the other place, had caught my attention. Her back was largely turned towards me but surely there couldn’t be too many women with such a cascade of flame-red hair. If it was who I thought it was…

I drained my espresso, stood and walked over. As I neared I could see over her shoulder that the pretty infant had a thick mass of identically-coloured hair. Big blue eyes gazed up at me and the baby chuckled as it waved its arms.

“Niamh…?”

The young woman turned with a ready smile which faded instantly when she saw me. She gave me a brief nod of acknowledgement. “Marti.” There was no welcome in her voice but then I hadn’t expected any.

“Niamh, I…” Suddenly I was having trouble thinking what to say. “Niamh, I… I know it’s been a long time but I owe you an apology and an explanation…”

“You owe me nothing, Marti.” Her lovely sapphire eyes were cold.

“Please, Niamh, if you’d just give me a few minutes…”

She made a dismissive gesture. “You’d better go, Marti. My wife’ll be here with our drinks any moment. Just go, please.”

I suppose I deserved it. I turned away. As I did so, from the corner of my eye I had an impression of another woman approaching the table and a voice said: “Who was that, sweetheart?”

“Just someone I used to know,” I heard Niamh reply, “Nobody worth bothering with.”

Christ, but that hurt. I guessed I was meant to hear, and I know that from Niamh’s viewpoint it was fully justified, but that didn’t stop it hurting…

Then

…I met Niamh in a club called Guys & Dolls, known locally as Gays & Dolls for that’s what it was then, a club mainly for gay men and lesbians although some straight people did frequent the place because it had a reputation for great food and drink and music.

It might seem odd that straight people would come to a gay club but most of those who did were slightly older types who came in couples or quartets and they were made welcome because they knew how to behave. The door staff were always reasonable and prepared to give newcomers the benefit of the doubt. But every once in a while a troublemaker or two got in, generally casino siteleri male, age group eighteen to thirty, often drunk. The ones like this seemed to think that Guys & Dolls being a gay club they’d be able to throw their weight round with impunity. Goes to show how stupid most of them were.

The evening I met Niamh, I hadn’t gone in looking to connect. I went to sit at the bar and one of the barmaids said: “Hi, Marti, usual?” She gave me a glass of sparkling mineral water with ice and a slice of lime. I don’t drink alcohol—I’ve seen what it can do to people with the wrong genetic makeup and it’s possible I’ve got those aberrant genes: I don’t want to find out the hard way. A couple of seats along from me was a young woman wearing a white shirt and a blue denim skirt, perhaps a few years younger than me, say twenty-odd, nursing a glass of white wine. She seemed to be by herself too. Even in the club’s dim light I could see that she was lovely, with a flowing mass of vibrant red hair, rather like that of actress Julianne Moore. We smiled and nodded and said “Hello!” but that was about it. And then a few minutes later the evening’s troublemaker turned up.

He came and sat on the stool between us, back to me and facing the girl. “What’re you drinking, love? I’ll buy you one.”

“No thanks,” she said, “I’ve got a drink already.”

“Come on, girlie, you look a bit lonely there and you could do with some company, especially in a place like this with all these queers around.”

“No thank you,” she repeated, “I’m fine as I am.”

The man reached out to cover one of her hands with his. “Don’t be like that, Red. I’m trying to be friendly here.” He was starting to sound aggressive.

The redhead snatched her hand away. “Please, leave me alone.”

I decided to butt in. “The young lady doesn’t want your company, so why don’t you just leave her be and go?”

He turned towards me. He was older than the usual run of troublemakers, probably mid-forties, with a rough face, nose and cheeks showing the network of tiny broken veins you often see in excessive drinkers. At some point, it seemed, his nose had been in hard collision with a fist or blunt instrument for it was bent and off-kilter and gave his face a brutish appearance. I think he was already well-gone in drink although holding up the way so many alcoholics do. “Why don’t you fuck off and mind your own business, dyke?” Turning back to the girl he said: “Stop playing hard to get and have a drink with a real man.”

I was pretty sure that I could handle this one by myself but I liked Guys & Dolls and didn’t want to be barred for causing trouble so I caught the eye of a bouncer and two of them strolled over to the bar. They were an oddly-assorted pair, these bouncers. Malcolm was about six-foot-seven of solid muscle and was one of the nicest, most polite men I’d ever met. He was even polite when throwing people out. Usually Malcolm’s bulk was enough to quell any trouble but if not he had Irene to back him up. In contrast to Malcolm, Irene was little more than five-one or so and taciturn but her glower was sufficient to cow most people.

“Something wrong, Marti?”

“Man here’s annoying the young lady—won’t take no for an answer.”

“That right, miss?”

“Yes,” the girl said.

Malcolm put a friendly hand on the other man’s shoulder. “Right, sir, I think it’s about time you left.”

Belligerent, the drunk snarled: “And who’s going to put me out?”

Malcolm’s face and tone remained friendly. “Well, you have a choice now, sir. If I escort you from the club, likely you’ll walk out. If it’s left to Irene here, you’ll probably go out on a stretcher.”

The man stared at Irene in disbelief. “What’s she—some kind of karate expert?”

“No sir, she’s a krav maga expert. Makes karate look like a children’s game. Believe me, you don’t want to find out. So, sir, what’s it to be? Walk or stretcher?”

The man turned to me. “I’ll remember your face, bitch.” With bad grace he slouched off towards the entrance followed by Malcolm and Irene.

The redhead moved to the stool next to me. “Thanks for helping. Is that right, what the big man said about that little woman?”

“Irene?” I nodded. “A couple of weeks back I saw her deck three young hooligans who thought it would be fun to come in and harass the gays. All Malcolm had to do was drag the bodies out and dump them on the pavement.”

“I’ll try not to argue with her, then.” The redhead gave me a huge smile which made my pussy tingle and held out a hand. “My name’s Niamh, Niamh Cassidy.”

Her hand was so soft and warm as I took it that kitty pulsed again. “Hi, Niamh, I’m Marti Howard. Your first time here?” She nodded so I added: “You know, Niamh, it might not have been a good idea to come in here by yourself.”

“Well, I thought being a gay club it would be safe enough. Anyway, you’re in here by yourself.”

“True.” I didn’t point out that I was street-wise and probably a damned sight tougher than Niamh. “Whatever, we’re slot oyna not alone now, that’s if you’d like to spend the evening with me.”

She nodded, giving me another of those smiles which really lit the place up. I spotted an empty booth so we got fresh drinks and moved to it. For me, it made a nice change from the lone-wolf life I mostly led. In fact, I felt comforted having her sit close beside me. I didn’t let out too much about myself that first time with Niamh but she didn’t seem to notice, chatting away happily about herself when I prompted her with easy questions. I learned that she was a trainee radiographer at the City Hospital where her parents also worked, one a surgeon, the other a pharmacist. She still lived at home, a pleasant house in Langton Heights, one of the city’s nicer areas. Made my family background and my job as a hotel receptionist seem very low on the scale of achievement. I’m not much of a dancer but Niamh managed to get me up on the floor several times. I enjoyed the slow dances most because Niamh’s arms were around my neck and her lissom body pressed close to mine.

As we finished one dance, Niamh glanced at her watch. “Oh hell! I’ve missed the last bus.”

“No problem,” I told her, “There’s a taxi-rank not far from here. I’ll walk you there.”

As we left, Malcolm bade us goodnight politely while Irene just scowled which was more or less her default expression. Once we got away from the club, the streets were pretty much deserted. We were only a short distance from the taxi-rank when a man came staggering out of an alleyway, pulling up his trousers zip so I guessed he’d been having a pee. He stepped into a puddle of light from a street-lamp and I saw that it was the drunk from Guys & Dolls. He spotted us at the same time and a nasty grin made him even more ugly.

“Well, well, must be my lucky night. Now you two get what’s coming to you.”

“What’s that?” I said. Keep him talking then make him angry, might make him careless.

“First I’m going to beat the shit out of you, you nosy bitch, and then I’m going to fuck Red’s brains out. Show her what it’s like to have a real man instead of a dildo-dyke.”

Niamh clutched at my arm. “Let’s run!”

“No—go and stand by the wall there,” I whispered to Niamh, “It’ll be all right.” Turning back to the drunk I said: “Okay.”

He let out a puzzled: “Huh?” It was obvious he’d expected me to be running scared, half-way down the next street by now.

“I said okay, big man. Come on and beat the shit out of me. Should be easy—I’m only a woman. Or are you all wind and piss, you wanker? Maybe your courage is as tiny as your cock.”

Our assailant bellowed with rage and rushed at me, big fists clenched, just the way I wanted him to. My kick took him right between the legs. His tough luck I was wearing Doc Marten safety boots. Eyes bulging and mouth widening in soundless agony, he collapsed to the ground in a foetal position, clutching at mashed genitals. After a few seconds he did begin to make a noise, a sort of high-pitched Eeeeee! sound.

“I don’t think he’ll be up to raping anyone for a long time,” I said.

Niamh clutched my arm and looked at me in awe. “Where did you learn to do that?”

“I grew up in a rough neighbourhood,” I told her, “You know the Balmain Estate?”

“I’ve heard of it,” she said, “Never been there, though.”

“Good. Don’t go there, it’s not a nice area…”

* * * * *

…the Balmain Estate was one of the new estates built in the early Sixties, tower blocks filled with basic flats described as social housing, put up to replace the old terraced streets of so-called slums, areas ruthless local authorities were clearing in cities all over the country.

With hindsight, the tower blocks were a disaster, destroying the great sense of community which had existed in the old streets. Back when they were built, people were told that the new blocks would solve all the old social problems. Big laugh! Not only did they not solve all the old problems, they created a whole flock of new ones to go with them. Within a few years, they had become breeding grounds for teenage gangs, drug dealers, every kind of low-life. It got so the decent residents, if they couldn’t get away, would barricade themselves in their flats at night while the predators roamed. And over the years the jerry-built blocks slowly but surely became damp and crumbling ruins.

One thing had been evident from the outset: the architects who designed and won prizes for these eyesores never had to live in them.

So, these were the kind of dismal surroundings I grew up in. We lived in a flat, me, my parents and my three elder brothers, Billy, Frank and Mickey. My parents were drunks. I suppose you could call them functioning alcoholics in that both managed to hold down jobs, Dad as a builder’s labourer and Mum as a cleaner. As soon as my brothers were old enough, they started running with the gangs.

I was about ten or eleven when I became a target for a group of older boys—no particular canlı casino siteleri reason, I don’t think, I just happened to be around and vulnerable. I tried to avoid them but they always found me. They didn’t do anything really harmful, not to leave bruises or marks on me. They’d just push me around until they made me cry. I tried hard not to weep but sooner or later they’d manage to make the tears spurt then run, laughing like they were the funniest bunch of kids alive. This bullying went on until the day a guardian angel came along to end it.

As usual, they had me pinned against a wall, prodding, poking, pushing me from one to another, sniggering as the tears started, when a pair of hands seemed to come from nowhere and grab two of the ringleaders by the scruffs of their necks. The others took one look at my rescuer and legged it. The man did no more than speak to the boys but their faces paled. His voice was low, soft almost, and yet quietly threatening.

“Well, well, ain’t you a tough bunch? What, six or seven of you pushing one small girl around? I’ll bet you do a lot of bragging to each other when you make her cry. Now, do you tossers know who I am?”

One of them replied, a frightened mumble. “Yes, you’re Nick Jessop…”

“Then you’ll know I mean what I say. You tell your mates that if I see any of you picking on this girl again, or any other younger kids come to that, you’ll get such a kicking you’ll walk bow-legged for the rest of your lives. Now piss off!” He thrust them stumbling away.

The man turned and crouched down before me. His ruddy face was handsome if somewhat hard and he wore a beautifully-made suit, a rarity on the estate. “You okay, kid?” He took a gleaming white handkerchief from his pocket—another rarity—and wiped tears from my grubby face. “What’s your name, kid?”

I remembered what the boy had called him. “Marti, Mr Jessop.”

“You can call me Nick if you like.”

“Yes, Mr Jessop…”

He laughed, a friendly sound. “You know something, petal, you don’t have to put up with crap from toe-rags like that lot.” He looked at me as if weighing me up then added: “If you’d like, Marti, I could teach you to fight so’s you needn’t worry about bullies any more. How about it?”

I didn’t need to think twice. “Yes please, Mr Jessop.”

“Nick.”

“Yes, Mr Jessop…”

If I’d been older and more cynical I might have suspicions about someone like Nick Jessop taking an interest in me but I would have been wrong. There was no ulterior motive, he simply took me under his wing and taught me to fight. I guess he had some kind of sense of justice. He wasn’t a very big man, perhaps five-seven, five-eight, but he exuded self-confidence and menace in equal quantities and some of that gradually rubbed off on me.

Nick Jessop may have been my guardian angel but he was an angel with tarnished wings. I found out later that he was one of the estate’s acknowledged villains, said to be an enforcer for some local gangster or loan-shark. People on the estate knew that he wasn’t a good man to cross. In Nick Jessop’s world people didn’t fight clean—I learned to fight very dirty indeed. Nick disappeared several years later and one rumour had it that he’d jumped bail for a serious offence and gone to ground somewhere in Spain on what the Press liked to call the Costa del Crime. Others held that he knew too much about certain people and was buried in the foundations of a new supermarket. Whatever, by that time kids on the estate knew that you didn’t mess with Marti Howard although I worked hard at staying clear of trouble.

A number of odd but disconnected things happened in my life when I was fourteen years old.

Firstly my Dad died, falling from a roof he was working on. I didn’t feel anything in particular, certainly not grief. And if that makes me sound callous, well, he’d certainly never shown me any affection. There was never any abusive behaviour, just total disinterest and lack of care—it was almost as if I didn’t exist.

A court awarded Mum compensation because Dad’s employers were not as safety-compliant as the law demanded. The compensation was lower than it might have been, though, because of what the judge called Dad’s ‘contributory negligence’—he had a skinful of ale at the time he fell. Mum made it clear that we kids weren’t going to see any of the money. Instead it helped keep her in cheap sherry until she died. But that came later.

Around the time of my father’s death, and to add to my troubles, I found myself struggling with my sexuality. Convention said I should have been getting interested in boys but more and more I found myself attracted to girls. I was masturbating frequently by then—although having to do it very quietly at night—and was always fantasising about lovely women caressing and kissing and nuzzling me while their fingers were hard at work in my quim. Homosexuality in any form wasn’t the sort of thing you could talk about on the estate—except as mockery or dirty jokes or out-and-out homophobia—and I certainly couldn’t discuss my feelings with my mother. As far as I was aware, I had no other female relatives I could have talked to—both my parents seem to have cut themselves off from any family they might have had.

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