I woke at three in the morning in the master bed with Anne’s soft body pressing against mine and Furball Two, Furball's oldest child, wedged between us. Anne was snoring.
I had no recollection of how I had gotten into bed and what had made me decide to wear boxer shorts and a t-shirt. Sleeping naked had been a habit of mine for well over twenty years.
Very softly, I detached myself from Anne, who wiggled her bum in protest. Furball Two whimpered. Neither of them woke up.
In the bathroom, I peed and brushed my teeth. I had a notion that I would not fall asleep again so soon. It was astonishing that I had slept at all.
The fact that I did not go back to my own bed will of course not astonish you, dear reader.
I tiptoed up the steps to the attic, nearly tripped over Betsy who was crouching on the landing and found the door to the bedroom ajar with a beam of light coming from it. It was inviting, even though I knew all the doors in the house were usually open for the benefit of the cats.
I went in and found Maurice and Alec awake. Both the beds in the attic were broken – the one in the bedroom after Alec and I had had the romp of the century a few days earlier, and the one in Maurice’s home office after Anne and I had crashed into it while he and Alec were in it. They had piled one mattress on the other.
Maurice was lying on Alec and kissing him slowly and languidly. The air smelled of Eau Sauvage and weed. I could tell they were into their foreplay and wanted to leave, but then Maurice looked up and smiled. ‘Hi,’ he said softly. ‘Don’t go…You’re not interrupting anything.’
‘You are,’ Alec remarked. ‘But you can stay. Just don’t take any pictures.’
All three of us laughed. Then Alec shifted to the edge of the mattress, skillfully moving Maurice in the same direction, like a forklift.
I crawled under the duvet and lay my head on the pillow that smelled of Alec’s shampoo.
‘You’re welcome to join us,’ Maurice whispered. ‘But something tells me you’re not in the mood.’
Then he grinned. ‘We’ll give you an appetite yet, honey.’
While I was lying on my side at the edge of the bed, I watched him kiss Alec deeply. Their tongues met and they both groaned and undulated under the duvet. Whenever their mouths drifted apart, Alec looked up at his lover with slightly parted lips, smiling and with a glow in his dark-brown eyes.
Maurice smiled back, imbibing his very being with a sweet, clear-grey look, and kissed him again.
They whispered to one another, so softly that I could not hear it. Then their breathing grew heavier.
Alec uttered a sweet cry when Maurice entered him and he ran his hands over his lover’s back on which I could see every precious freckle.
You might remember the very first love scene between the stockbroker and the under-gamekeeper in the film. Hall’s surprise at the young man’s initiative suggests slightly succumbing to unexpected violence, even though the viewer knows that they are both enjoying it.
I saw nothing like this now. Maurice and Alec were uniting in paradise, blissfully in love as if they had only just met. When Alec felt his orgasm surge, he let his left hand wander towards me and when I took it, he squeezed it. He understood.
He understood until it hit him like a bolt of lightning, making him freeze and then burst into tears as he grew soft and mellow. I closed my eyes and breathed in their smells of sweat and perfume.
I did not need to keep my eyes open to see what happened after they had both calmed down: Maurice lying with his head on Alec’s chest with Alec stroking his blond hair, with both of them enjoying the tranquil intimacy that had outlasted their intercourse. Alec’s hand was no longer in mine. I waited for Maurice to whisper: ‘Alec, did you ever dream you had a friend? Someone to last your whole life?’
I remember dozing off and half-registering the words that were actually spoken. Perhaps it was the aftermath of Grand Marnier and Carlsberg, but I believe I heard: ‘Will you marry me for real?’
I could not tell which of them uttered these words, but at some point I felt Alec snuggling up to me, still naked and with a slightly sweaty skin. His lips touched my chin and my sideburns. ‘It’s O.K,’ he whispered. ‘Rest your head on me a bit…yeah, like that…Do not worry.’
I woke to the feeling of warm fingers gently brushing my hair from my forehead. When I opened my eyes, I looked into Anne’s, which were shining and brown and full of joy.
‘Good morning,’ she said, kissing me lovingly. Then she gave Alec, who was still in my arms, a peck on the ear. ‘Fuck, it’s Sunday,’ he murmured. Anne and I giggled.
I sat up, looked around and found Maurice gone. Alec grabbed his reading glasses, put them on and checked his phone. ‘Bloody eight o’clock,’ he sighed. ‘And it’s Sunday.’
Anne sat down and told him that Maurice must be up already. Now he grinned. ‘Oh yeah. I reckon he’s taking his sweet time on the shitter. His holiday routine.’
‘We’ll still have plenty of time for the revelation of our secret project,’ Anne said. ‘You can use our bathroom now if you want, Clive. I’ve already had a shower.’
A little later, I found myself washing from head to toe in a halo of perfumed soap, trying to concentrate on what I would have to do before Maurice and Alec left for Oxford.
I had seen them making love that night with the sweetness I knew so well. I had alternately slept with them ever since they had moved into my house. My private time with Maurice had been intimate and joyful, love to its fullest extent after twenty-five years of separation. We had not been like this since early October, but we’d had two blissful weeks in Spain in September.
Sharing a bed with Alec was slightly different. He was usually wild and lecherous, loudly demanding that I nail him to the fucking wall and do him real good, which we both enjoyed immensely.
I had discovered the other side of him, too, his receptive sweetness when I made love to him, wrapping him up in my cloak of infatuation and adoration. It had made me understand that I loved him as much as I loved Maurice.
Thanks to the lockdown, bad booze and good weed, my house had turned into Sodom and Gomorra. I had watched Maurice and Alec in bed, either of them had done the same when I was sleeping with the other. We had discovered that the spectator only felt love and serenity, no arousal.
But last night had shown that the three of us were far from equal. The looks they had given one another showed how much they were two halves of a whole. I felt left out, which was nonsense, because I was still their lover, too, but I could not suppress this alarming feeling. It told me that they would eventually move back to their own house in Essex. I loved Anne more than life itself, I had only laughed in endearment when she had told me that she had spent the night with Maurice in an airport hotel in Luton, I had repeatedly told her that I need not forgive her for she had done nothing wrong and she had appreciated this.
And still, I felt that this bubble of love and satisfaction could burst at any moment. Moreover, I must have sensed it all along. It explained why I had resorted to this secret project of which only Anne and Alec knew. They thought it was a super idea.
This will be a test, I thought as I put on my clothes. If it won’t work, it will prove that the happiness we all experienced since the autumn of 2020 was not meant to last.