Across the Universe
Two people meet. One has already met the other, but not for another twenty-two years…
With a pounding head and dry mouth, Robert Taylor stumbled out of the back door to the club and down the iron stairway. Once he’d taken a few gulps of the cold night air, his steps were surprisingly steady. But then he’d always been able to handle his drink, even at the age of twenty. It was only later, in the small hours when the frightening sensation of being alone struck, that he would rip open the small bag of white powder currently stashed in his jean pocket. Then, he would get well and truly wasted.
Ignoring the hopeful face of the old bum leaning on the opposite wall, Robert fished out his final Dunhill, finding his lighter in the other side of his battered leather jacket.
“Sorry, mate. I’m on rations.”
The wreck sneered and spat on the ground before him, turning to haul himself back up the rickety staircase and into the club’s interior. Unaffected, Robert continued to smoke, savouring the strong aroma. Thank God it was the last Friday of the month; more specifically, payday. Food and water were nothing compared to Dunhills.
Smoked out, and after he had carefully placed the fag-end in his especial tin, Robert thought about going back in. Siobhan was waiting, he knew. His lip began to curl as he realised how she always seemed to be waiting for him; once, when she was giving him head, he’d joked about how she was addicted to his cock.
“Cock and coke, baby,” she’d muttered hoarsely before going back to the job at hand.
Back then, her words had meant nothing. All he could concentrate on was the sensation of her tongue, running up and down the veiny underside of his member; the way her throat tightened around his very tip as she deep-throated him. And the almighty sense of power and relief as he pumped her till she choked and his seed ran out the side of her mouth.
Now, it felt like something had shifted. A part of the universe had moved a fraction of an inch, and it had changed something about Robert Taylor. He was restless to understand what it was that had changed, but he couldn’t imagine the answer would be found within the sleazy Black Cat Club.
He had just turned to remount the stairway, when the door flew open at the top and someone came rushing down the stairs towards him, their face turned to the floor. Whoever they were was in such a rush they tripped, tumbling down the few remaining steps, and they would have fallen completely if Robert hadn’t instinctively opened his arms and moved to catch them.
“Hey, you all right?”
The stranger looked up, and Robert gasped. It was a girl, simply the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Skin pale, without a flaw, and cheekbones that could slice steel. Her lips were full, a delicious cherry-pink he could only dream of sinking into, and her eyes – in the eerie lamplight, Robert could just make out they were dark, their surrounds porcelain-white.
Her blonde hair was short and choppy; he liked blondes, though not normally short-haired ones. The fluffy style made her look elfin, other-worldly, and he wondered for a silly moment if she was from another world.
She was perfection in miniature. Robert’s hands fitted snugly around her waist, his thumbs brushing the base of her ribs. He didn’t want to let go.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
She was staring up at him with the most curious expression. Part relief, part terror, her lips were slightly parted as she caught her breath from the fall. Her hands had fallen upon his chest. Robert began to feel a strange tingling run through his system from where her fingertips dug in.
“Are you ok?” he repeated, and she nodded, swallowing. She looked his age, maybe a year or two younger.
“F – fine, thanks.”
She made to pull away. He couldn’t let her go, not yet.
“Wait! Who are you?”
She only stared at him, her face twitching as she pulled back. Robert smiled his most charming smile. She seemed to dive into his gaze, eyes widening with- with what? Lust? He caught his breath, and the smile faded as he leant forward to kiss her.
She looked away quickly, trying to push his hands away. “Please, I have to go.”
“At least tell me your name. I’m Robert.”
Her last words were whispered, and in his confusion, Robert’s grip slackened. She slipped out of his grasp, side-stepping him with a graceful flourish and then, with one final confused glance, she was gone. Practically running away, down the street and into the darkness.
Robert stood there, arms open and empty. A sinking feeling was descending through his stomach as he realised he would in all likelihood never see her again. He closed his eyes, cursing bitterly, when there was a noise behind him. It was Siobhan, standing on the stairway.
“Hey slowcoach, what’s keeping you?”
Robert turned round slowly, looking at his consolation prize for the night. He took in the too-short skirt that barely covered her dignity, the vest top over which her heavy breasts spilled out, her face caked in make-up. This was more his level. He’d been a fool to think that tiny pale elf would have been interested in him, great lumbering gorilla that he was.
Siobhan sashayed down to him, licking her lips. All of an irrational sudden, Robert was hard and had to do something about it. Backing her up roughly against the wall, he reached down and undid his flies. His hungry mouth sank hard upon hers, squashing her complaint before it had time to form, and his clumsy, shaking fingers dug around under her skirt, tearing away the flimsy thong. Then he was hoisting her up and dropping her upon him.
Siobhan squeaked in shock as he tore through her. Holding her in place, Robert began pummelling furiously backwards and forward. Pretty soon, he felt his release come, and he shoved as hard as he could with an agonised cry. He felt his fluid drip from between her legs, splattering the sterile ground at their feet.
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It was a Tuesday – technically a work day – but that didn’t stop Robert heading out that night. It was a very different club, however, to the Black Cat that he was now heading; a gentleman’s club, with its members anything but.
With a flash of his purposefully-blank cream and gold card (a wonderful idea, as strangers never imagined that entry was via such a simple method, and it was in no way incriminating to the police), Robert strolled past the silent guard, allowing the maze of oak-panelled corridors to swallow him up. He knew the way, but still he took time to admire the intricate paintings lining the walls at every crossroads. Each picture contained two hidden figures, pointing the way for newcomers – a man dressed in green if you were just looking for a drink and a good time, or black for those of more deviant pleasures. Tonight, Robert followed the black-clad figure.
Although it was impossible to tell, the flooring gradually sloped downwards as you followed a certain path. Robert was below ground level by the time he reached the main function room where they would be auctioning off this week’s girl. He didn’t know why he attended; most weeks he just sat at the back, smoking and getting quietly pissed on their fine old whisky. Some weeks it was a cute girl, and he’d make a few half-hearted bids.
He’d never actually gone all the way, though, and brought a girl. Robert liked his women sentient and consenting; he considered it an affront to his dignity if they weren’t willing.
He knocked on the iron-clad door before entering.
The world stopped spinning, momentarily knocked from its axis. There, thrashing wildly in the grip of a grinning goon, was the blonde girl, the one he’d saved from falling down the stairs. What the hell was she doing here? The kind of girls who normally ended up here were drunks, junkies or sometimes merely homeless, picked up off the streets – the forgotten ones in society. He refused to believe she was either of the first two options, which just left homeless.
Her blue eyes, wild with panic, fell on him. Robert was sure he looked equally shocked. For a brief moment, she stopped struggling, and her captor loosened his hold on her. Then she began kicking even harder, and screaming too. The man placed a large hand over her mouth, and Robert saw his arm squeeze tightly around her ribcage. The girl’s knees buckled – he must nearly be breaking her ribs. Robert could remember how thin and fragile she’d felt in his arms.
“Ah, sir.” An official tottered over, dragging his attention away from the terrified girl. “You’re a little early, I’m afraid we haven’t restrained this one yet.”
Robert caught his breath, feeling a little sick as he watched another man approach from the shadows. In his hand was a large hypodermic. The girl saw him too and redoubled her efforts to escape. The man holding her was too strong though, and a horrified Robert watched as the sleeve to her light blue hoodie was yanked up and the needle stuck into her arm without ceremony.
Almost at once, she went limp in the man’s arms. Her eyes, as beautiful as he remembered, remained fixed on Robert’s face – reproachful, yet pleading at the same time. She held his gaze until the effects of the drug were too strong, and she fell into unconsciousness.
“The auction should start within half-an-hour, sir. Would you like a drink while you wait?”
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Dammit, she was proving popular. Robert was only a lowly floor runner at Barclays; he was rapidly nearing the limit to his already-blown overdraft. With an edgy flick of the hand, he accepted the auctioneer’s offer of four thousand, five hundred.
“Thank you, sir. Four thousand, five hundred, who’ll bid me four thousand, seven-fifty?”
The only other person still bidding was a chubby man around Robert’s age. His sandy coloured hair lay sparse upon his oversized head, and Robert could see the sheen of sweat glistening on his forehead. He shot Robert a malevolent glare before slowly raising his hand.
“Four thousand, seven-fifty.” The auctioneer’s eyes danced back to Robert. “Five thousand?”
Robert nodded. That was it, his limit. If he wanted to go any higher, he’d have to visit a little pawnshop he knew down Turner Street.
The sandy-haired man hesitated when the auctioneer looked his way. Reluctantly, he shook his head.
“Five thousand, for the first time.” The auctioneer swept the room while Robert silently prayed. “For the second time. Five thousand pounds, for the third and final time – sold!”
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After throwing his jacket onto the back of a chair, Robert stood and stared at the small figure lying spark out on his bed. Hesitantly, he reached out to begin to undo her shoelaces. He pulled her right trainer off; when he drew the left one off, he felt something rattle in the toe.
Upturning the shoe, a warm, metallic item hit his palm – a ladies ring with a large blue stone flashing in the centre. Surrounding this stone was a circle of delicate diamonds.
Robert gaped, letting the battered old shoe drop to the floor. How was this possible? The girl lying on the bed didn’t look old enough to be married, but the ring was suspiciously small in size, and her fingers were slim and petite. And there had to be a reason why it was hidden in her shoe.
Something in his blood told him the central stone was a sapphire; it had a wonderfully rich hue, darkening to near-black in its heart. If he sold this, he might easily make back the five thousand pounds.
After hiding the ring in his sock drawer, he made short work of the grubby hoodie and maroon-coloured skinny jeans she had on. As he pulled the jeans away, Robert’s breath caught at the delicate, baby blue lace knickers she had on; the pale, hairless skin beneath.
Were it not for the circumstances in which he had found her, he would have no hesitation in labelling this girl as out of his league. Such a girl was not homeless; nor did she drink too much or take drugs. She was an angel, the sort he’d dream of marrying one day when he was rich and had made it in the banking world.
With trembling fingers, he reached out and began to pull up her blue cotton t-shirt. Maybe dreams came early, if you wished hard enough. Her bra was blue and lacy too, breasts surprisingly full.
She mumbled as he moved up the bed, blanketing her body with his own.
“Robert...” He froze. She turned on her side, hugging herself and shivering a little. Robert sat back, lightly resting on her legs. She wriggled against him before sighing.
“I know you want more children… let’s do it, Rob – let’s make a baby.”
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The following morning, Robert woke up refreshed and without a hangover for once. The first thing he noticed was the slim body lying alongside him, cool skin and a dainty hand draped across his bare chest. He certainly hadn’t put that there; the girl must have moved in the night. Slowly, he turned his head to take in the view.
Pale angels couldn’t have looked more radiant in the stark rays of a London dawn. Hair all mussed up, it stood out around her face like a blonde halo. Even without make-up, her skin was blemish-free, reaching an almost translucent quality around the eyes. Robert watched, transfixed, as her tongue snuck out and passed over her slightly parted lips.
His morning wood was growing stiffer by the second. He took a firm grip of himself, and it was then that the girl’s eyes opened.
A frown jumped in between those blue-green orbs before she sat upright, a dozen emotions flooding her face as she realised her situation. Robert hastily stuffed his erection back in his boxers as the girl pushed back the blankets to examine herself.
“What am I doing here? Why are we in bed together?” She suddenly seemed to notice Robert’s lustful gaze zeroing in on her lingerie-clad body; swiftly, she grabbed the blankets and dragged them back up.
“Did we have sex?” she demanded in a shaky voice. Robert bit his lip, the idea of blackmail running though his mind. An annoying twinge of guilt played around his conscience when he saw her panicked gaze.
“No,” he answered reluctantly. The girl heaved a sigh of relief.
“No need to say it like that.” In an instant, Robert had rolled on top of her. He ground his hips against hers, grinning when her mouth dropped open in surprise. “Reckon you’d enjoy what I’ve got to offer.”
Robert, get off me.” Her tone was flat and disapproving.
With a frown of his own, he slunk off. “How do you know my name?”
“You told me.” Slowly, her gaze travelled around his bedroom-cum-dining room-cum-living space. Robert knew it was a dive, but her response cheered him considerably.
“You remembered?” His jubilant smile vanished as he pulled up that brief conversation. “You said you knew who I was. How?”
“I think it’s me who should be asking the questions,” she said tartly. Robert shot her his most dazzling smile, but he failed to crack the icy glint to her stare. “What happened last night?”
“I brought you in an auction.” Settling back against the pillows, Robert watched her eyes widen; unconsciously, she huddled away from him.
“Tell me what you remember of yesterday,” he asked.
“I was round the back of this restaurant,” she began quietly. “They dump such a lot of unused food, it’s terrible really.”
So she was homeless. Homeless and desperate. Robert waited for her to continue.
“This guy appeared out of nowhere and grabbed me. He held a knife to my throat and made me get in the back of his car. I – I didn’t know what to do…” She took a deep breath. “There was another man in the car. They blindfolded me and then the next thing I knew, I was in that room where you walked in. They drugged me…”
She buried her face in her hands, and Robert heard her choke back a sob. Gingerly, he put an arm around her shoulders. He was shocked when she partially collapsed on him.
“Please say they didn’t do anything,” she begged. “I know you didn’t – I trust you – but please tell me I wasn’t gang-raped or anything like that…”
Robert was shocked at hearing that phrase come from such an innocent-looking mouth, not to mention the fact that she actually trusted him. He shook his head and gave her a little squeeze.
“They didn’t do anything, except knock you out and sell you. To me.”
“This is terrible. We have to go to the police. Don’t worry,” she added hastily as he recoiled. “I’ll tell them you found me – I escaped and you helped me get away.”
“You must be joking.” Robert withdrew his arm. “I don’t fancy ending up at the bottom of the Thames in a body bag.”
“They wouldn’t…” She didn’t sound very sure. Robert smiled unhappily.
“Darling, this organisation – they’ve got people everywhere. Police, doctors, the finance sector – probably even politicians.”
“What are you doing in it?” she asked, turning on him with an angry glare. Robert blinked and then felt himself blushing.
“In truth… I only signed up for the wild sex parties. The birds you meet there are consenting all right.”
“So you’ve never done this before? Brought a drugged woman?”
“Then why do it now?”
Yeah, just why did you buy this beautiful, fragile woman who makes you feel like the universe has turned upside-down? Shit, you don’t even know her name!
“I don’t know,” he said in a weak voice. “I just… liked what I saw, I guess.”
“I don’t believe it,” the girl muttered, evidently missing the admiring look he sent her. “This can’t be random. Someone is behind this.”
“Well, whoever it is, I want to say thank you.” Before she could complain, Robert had whisked the blankets out of her hands and was straddled across her hips. Licking his lips, he dipped one hand into his boxers.
“Stop!” the girl cried out, placing her palms upon his chest. With his free hand, he wrapped his fingers around hers, pressing hard so she could feel his heartbeat. He smiled ruefully.
“Oh no, sweetheart. I’ve paid five thousand pounds for the pleasure of your body, and I didn’t take even the smallest advantage last night.”
“Five THOUSAND pounds?!” She tried to buck him off, but it only increased his excitement. “You can’t afford that.”
Robert’s smile vanished at her words. He knew he was dirt-poor; that five grand had wiped out his month’s payslip, his savings and taken a hefty chunk out of his credit card, but there was no need to say it with such finality. Couldn’t she play along with his fantasy that he was a rich, successful businessman, with Antony Price suits, expensive aftershaves and enough money to keep her satisfied, for just one day?
It occurred to him just how shitty his home must look for her to guess that, and his anger flared up again. Reaching out, he gave her left breast a rough squeeze.
“Well, I got you out of it. Looks like I can afford it.”
“I’m not sleeping with you,” she replied, writhing beneath him as she spoke in a breathy voice. Robert smirked.
“Who says it’s your decision?”
The mildly scolding look she gave him was that of a weary mother. His touch gentled on her breast as he stared into her eyes.
“At least tell me your name. You said you knew who I was, it’s only fair if I know who you are.”
“You shouldn’t know,” she mumbled. “It’s not right that you should know.”
“Tell me, and I’ll tell you something shocking. About you.”
“About me?” Her forehead crinkled. “You don’t know anything about me. Not yet anyway…”
Leaning forward, Robert brushed his nose softly against hers. “Oh, but I do. Just tell me your name, sweetheart.”
“Alexandria?” Robert rolled his lips around the unusual name. “That’s a mouthful.”
His gaze fell on her mouth; god, he’d pay five thousand pounds just to fuck that mouth, let alone the rest of her. Obviously aware of his distraction, she pursed her lips tight and looked away. Robert slid down her body, taking as much pleasure as possible out of the sensation this provoked. Leaning on his elbows, he rested his chin on his clasped hands.
“People call me Lexi,” she added, still not looking at him.
“Lexi. I like that. Lexi.” He flicked the word out, grinning at her reluctant smile. “So, Lexi – what are we going to do with you?”
“This isn’t legal. It’s rape.”
“Only if you put up a fight.”
“It’s non-consensual, it’s rape.” She sighed. “What were you going to tell me?”
“Last night – you wanted to make a baby with me.” He grinned at her shocked expression. “Those were your exact words.”
“I thought you were someone else,” she breathed. Her eyes were dancing in panic, and Robert could feel the rapid rise and fall of her chest beneath him. Suddenly, she dragged her left hand out, gazing frantically at it.
Robert felt like he had been punched in the stomach. “You’re married?”
She nodded, beginning to tremble as Robert dragged himself up to his knees once again.
“How the hell have you got into this mess then? I mean, what idiot of a husband let a belter like you get into such trouble?”
“He doesn’t know where I am, obviously. And I wasn’t meant to be here. I have to get home… Have you got my ring?”
Smirking, Robert got out of bed and stretched. Feeling her eyes on him, he wandered across the room and sat down on a chair.
“Please, give it back,” she begged.
He said nothing, but his smile grew. Something in Lexi’s face flashed, her expression changing from desperate to determined.
Slowly, she disentangled her slender limbs from the blankets and climbed from the bed.
Robert allowed his gaze to travel up and down her body as she sashayed over to stand before him. At the very back of his mind, he couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. She was going to give him what he wanted in exchange for the ring; really, she was no different to all the other women he’d used previously.
Licking those deliciously plump lips, Lexi looked him up and down. He shifted a little, opening his legs further in silent demand. Without warning, she sat on his growing erection, causing him to groan aloud.
Swooping in on his open mouth, she tackled his tongue with a confidence that almost made him come there and then.
Abruptly, she broke free, peppering a line of kisses along his jawline. Robert’s hands were busy swarming over her backside, when she whispered in his ear:
“Give me my ring back, or I will make your life hell twenty years from now, Robert Taylor.”
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Brow furrowed, Robert pulled back to stare at her.
“I never told you my surname.”
“I know you didn’t,” she whispered.
“Do we know each other?”
“Yes and no.” She offered him a broken smile. “Rob, this is so confusing. I can’t tell you who I am, or how I know who you are. I swear, if I could tell you, I would.”
And he believed her. He didn’t know why, the same as he couldn’t understand the singing in his blood that told him to take care of this strange girl, but there was a connection – something about her honest gaze that made him feel panicky at the thought of losing her.
He stood, cupping her under her bottom. Lexi wrapped her legs around his waist tight, and in this monkey-fashion, they crossed the room to Robert’s sock drawer.
He pulled the drawer open with one hand and dragged his eyes from hers to search towards the back.
When he offered her the sapphire ring, Lexi’s face lit up. She took it, and he gently lowered her to the ground so she could slide it back onto her finger. Peeking up at him, she shot him a shy smile.
He nodded curtly, making sure to re-capture her by the hips when she went to move away.
“Lexi, this doesn’t make sense. Where does your husband think you are?”
“I don’t know. I got lost,” she replied in a small voice.
“Well, where do you come from?”
He rolled his eyes. “Where in London? I’ll get you home, if… if that’s what you want.”
Without warning, she burst into tears and buried her face against his chest. All Robert could do was swear inappropriately and hold her close, trying not to be aroused by the fact that they were both nearly naked. It was actually quite cold that morning; he couldn’t afford to have the heating on except for an hour at night. When goosepimples erupted on his arms, he carefully scooped her up and carried her back to bed, sliding beneath the blankets alongside. She blinked at him, a little surprised, but not unhappily so, he was pleased to note.
“You do want to go home, I take it?” he asked. She nodded, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Yes. I miss my girls so much. I need to be with them.”
“Your girls? You have daughters? Of course… you said last night, more children.” He smiled, not a little heartbroken. “How old are they?”
“Two. They’re twins.”
“How old are you?”
Another woman might have been offended; Lexi merely blinked at him. “Twenty-six.”
Robert whistled quietly through his teeth. “Wow. An older woman. You don’t look it.” She looked about twenty, possibly even a bit younger.
She smirked, looking down at her fingers. “You’re younger than twenty-six?”
“Twenty.” He winked, curling an arm around her waist to bring her closer. “I can be your toyboy.”
“Twenty… it’s nineteen ninety-four, right?”
“Umm, yeah. You don’t even know what year it is?”
She shook her head. “Like I said, I’m lost.”
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Robert pulled a sickie that day, and for the following two days, although he seriously wondered if he was mad to do so, after Lexi refused all his attempts at seduction. What he couldn’t understand was how she would happily curl up in his arms – as if she had a right to be there – and fall fast asleep. But the minute his hands started inching their way beneath the hem of his t-shirt she had borrowed, she would smack him away and he would see a pair of beautiful, reproachful eyes glaring at him in the ill-concealed streetlight.
During the day, she had him run her all over London in his clapped-out Cortina, searching for something which she would only vaguely describe as a ‘singularity’, as this would somehow see her home. They started at Walthamstow, the region she had been kidnapped in, before moving south through Islington and Hackney. Whatever these singularities were, they certainly weren’t on the normal tourist trail – Robert spent most of those three days lurking down dingy alleyways, stalking through overgrown cemeteries and, one time, grabbing Lexi’s hand and doing a runner after they broke into the grounds of Maynard Reservoir and were nearly caught.
He had no name for the sometimes oppressively heavy, sometimes cloud-light feeling running through his blood during that time. It was enough to know that he could feel something, that someone needed him.
For nearly all of his relatively-short life, Robert had wanted more; more money, a better position, more respect. Now he was beginning to recognise how little he actually needed. Lexi didn’t seem to care that he could only afford to take her to greasy spoon cafes, or that there were times when she had to get out and push the Cortina to get it going. She would just shoot him one of her dreamy smiles, her eyes sliding off into the space around them.
Or at least he didn’t think she minded. It was after the second day of searching for one of these singularities that she broke down.
They had returned to the flat. Robert was heating up a tin of baked beans, and there was just enough bread for two rounds each, when he heard a muffled cry. Glancing round from his primitive cooker, he saw Lexi’s back, turned away from him, shaking uncontrollably.
Quickly, he turned the hob off and went to wrap his arms around her.
“Shit, Lexi. What’s wrong?”
“It’s just this situation!” She flapped her hands, and his heart sank.
“I’m sorry, Lex. I know it’s crap, feeding you beans on toast, and I don’t think the car’s going to hold out much longer – ”
“Oh, it’s not that. I know what you’ll achieve in your life, and I’m so proud to have seen what you came from.” He looked startled at that, and she flashed him a watery smile. “You’re a fighter, Robert. You won’t give up until you get what you want.”
“I want you to be happy,” he blurted out, feeling like a fool. “Tell me how to do that.”
Lexi laid her head on his chest and took a deep breath. “Keep doing what you are doing. Help me get home.”
“Couldn’t you stay here, with me? I mean, I know you have children, and I suppose I shouldn’t expect you to never see them again, just to be with me, and – shit! This is such a mess.”
She laughed very quietly in the crook of his shoulder. Robert stroked up and down her bony spine, wanting to envelop and completely consume her, as she had consumed him.
“You couldn’t be happy with me,” he stated baldly.
Her hands crept loosely around his waist. “Yes and no.”
“Could you love me?”
“I already do.”
He pulled back, his own brown eyes wide with shock. And yet, he wasn’t shocked. He had known all along that they were connected on some deeper level. That somehow it wasn’t impossible for two people – who had never met before – to just fit together.
Very hesitantly, he lowered his head. Their lips met, shy and uncertain, tongues beginning to touch and tease.
Slowly, he pushed her back, until her legs collided with the side of his bed, and she fell. Robert fell too, rolling them to one side so he didn’t crush her. Side by side they lay, hands gently exploring each other’s bodies while they continued to kiss.
Lexi’s hands shifted to the small hollow at the back of Robert’s neck, lightly tugging at the short hair growing there. He groaned, feeling the electric thrill that this region always sparked within him, and he pulled her body flush against his.
She broke away from him, only to throw her head back and press his face against her neck. Taking the hint, Robert began to nip and suck at the delicate outline of her throat, slowly building up the intensity until she cried out loud and shook with pleasure.
When he stopped and pulled back to look in her eyes, he felt more of a man than he had ever done in his life. Her eyes were dark and hazy, virtually black in the final golden rays of dusk. Lips trembling, she leaned forward to kiss him again – he stopped her with a mild push to the shoulder.
“Is this what you want? Truly?”
She smiled shyly, her fingers beginning to re-explore his nape. “Yes. I want you to make love to me, Robert Taylor.”
“I’ve never made love before, only fucked.” He shuddered a little, trying to control the effect her cool fingertips were having on him. “You’ll have to teach me how to be gentle.”
At his words, her eyes filled with tears once again. “Just be yourself. I don’t want anything else.”
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Afterwards, he made the beans on toast and they ate it in bed. Lexi still seemed a little sad; Robert, in contrast, was so ecstatic that he promised she would see her children by the end of tomorrow.
“Have I ever let you down?” he asked, smiling down at her in a conceited fashion. Gazing solemnly back at him, Lexi shook her head.
He laughed, suddenly nervous. “You sound so sure.”
There was a comfortable silence for a while in the shabby bedsit, lit only by a bare bulb. They lay in each other’s arms, snuggled beneath the blankets. Robert was watching Lexi’s face, trying to confine to memory all the little things that made her who she was. The elegant blonde eyebrows, the pale lashes that almost brushed her cheeks when she closed her eyes. The silky smooth skin around her eyes, that he knew was so soft because he couldn’t help keep leaning forward to kiss her. That full bottom lip he would suckle on, making her shiver in his arms. Most bewitching of all, her eyes – eyes of an angel, kind and forgiving.
He shuffled a little closer, feeling her breath ghost against his cheek as her breathing deepened.
“I love you, Lexi.”
He chuckled quietly. So she even knew her Star Wars. She truly was his dream woman.
“Is there any chance… of me and you…?” he whispered. Her eyes fluttered shut.
“Yes. You and me… it’s a deal.”
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The following morning brought a mixture of peace and sadness for Robert. When he awoke and felt Lexi’s warm breath kissing the base of his throat, his first thought was how lucky he was. Then he remembered there was someone luckier – her husband.
Was this what he experienced every morning? Did she drape herself across him? Did her head find a comfortable pillow on his shoulder, her hands curled loosely around his waist? Perhaps it had got so commonplace for him that he scarcely noticed anymore.
They returned to Walthamstow for that morning’s hunt. Lexi led him down all the usual back streets and alleyways, her gait unusually quick and determined. She still hadn’t told him what a ‘singularity’ looked like, just that she’d recognise it when she saw it.
Robert was happy not to ask questions, if it meant spending time with her. He was seriously wondering whether to jack in his job at the bank, and ask Lexi to move with him further away from the cash-hungry capital. She had hardly spoken of her husband, and he could convince himself that they weren’t close. She was this close to leaving him for Robert; it was the children holding her back.
As these dilemmas were running through his devious mind, Lexi came to a sudden standstill. They were down a particularly dismal cut-through lane off Turner Road at the time.
“It’s here… the singularity.”
For a second, Robert saw nothing. Then he blinked and realised that nothing had a shape to it.
A gap in the brick wall, a black chasm seeming to just float mid-air. Not a definite shape – raggedy at the edges where it appeared more like dark smoke; this smoke was shifting, constantly changing the size and shape of the singularity. Overall though, it stayed at the height of an average person and only a few feet wide.
“What the hell…?” he breathed, suddenly alarmed.
Lexi turned to him with a smile. “You’ve heard of black holes?” Robert nodded dumbly. “Singularities are something similar. You can use them for travelling.”
“Easy. You just step in. They’re kind of like portals.”
“Whoa, if you think I’m letting you near that, then you’ve got another thing coming.” He seized her round the waist, pulling her away from the swirling black void. “Are you saying these are just floating all over the place, waiting for people to step in?”
“They’re not so common here. But where I’m from, scientists are able to generate them at will. I accidentally fell through an unguarded one.”
“They sound bloody dangerous!” he burst out. Lexi just smiled and shook her head.
“I’m sorry, Rob. They’re too advanced for this time; I’m not expecting you to understand.”
Robert’s gaze danced between Lexi and the singularity as he tried to order his thoughts. “Just… just give me a second. This is a portal, right?” She nodded. “What’s on the other side?”
“A different world?” He was at last beginning to grasp what she was driving at.
“A different universe.”
Taking a deep breath and drawing her closer, Robert buried his lips in her soft, fluffy hair. “Please don’t go. I thought you meant just on the other side of London!”
“I have to, Rob.”
“I could come with you then.” Pulling back, his face took on a new, determined light. “I mean, there’s nothing for me here – ”
“No. It only allows one person through before collapsing. Your time and place is here, Robert.”
He gasped at the realisation that this was it; this was actually goodbye. “I want to be with you! You said you loved me! This isn’t fair.”
“I know it isn’t,” Lexi agreed softly. Her hands rested lightly on his shoulders, rubbing small circles as she spoke. “None of this has been fair. I love you. I also love my husband.”
“You do?” Robert really hated that bastard, whoever he was. Lexi nodded.
“I do. This hasn’t been fair on him, you or even me.”
Nodding, Robert began to admit what he had known all along, ever since he’d seen the panic-stricken expression on Lexi’s face when she thought she had lost her wedding ring.
“I bet you’re a wonderful wife. I wish…” His voice cracked, and tears slid down his face.
Standing on tiptoes, Lexi leant forward to press a kiss to his trembling lips. He caught her as she moved away, turning their kiss into something far deeper.
Eventually, he let go, and Lexi turned to walk towards the singularity. She looked back before stepping into the black void, tears streaming down her chalk-white face.
“I’ll find you again, one day… I promise…”
Robert nodded as best he could do and watched the small figure step into the black. She was immediately surrounded by wisps of darkness, wrapping themselves around her; gradually, the singularity diminished to a hovering speck.
Out of nowhere, there was an enormous, but silent, explosion. Robert felt the air rushing past his ears at tremendous speed as he was thrown backwards, the back of his head hitting the wall behind him. Darkness closed round him, and he welcomed it with the gratitude of the lonely.
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“I think he’s coming round, doctor.”
“You’d best call that policeman then.”
Robert felt the crushing weight of the worst hangover in history beat around the inside of his skull. He groaned loudly.
“Mr Taylor?” A man’s voice, deep and cultured, echoed close by. “It’s ok, just lie still.”
“Where am I?” he managed to croak out. He could hear bleeping and there was a nasty pulling sensation in his right arm.
“In hospital. You’ve taken a bit of a bashing, I’m afraid, but you’ll be right as rain soon enough.”
Dragging his eyes open, Robert could make out the bearded, scholarly-looking man beaming down at him. He groaned a little more. Reassuringly, the doctor patted the hand that didn’t have a drip hooked up to it.
“Just rest, sir. The police will want to speak to you later, of course, but not until you’re feeling up to it.”
“Thank you…” Robert muttered. Flashing him an understanding look, the doctor slipped quietly out of the hospital room. Robert sank back into the cold, clinical bed and tried to piece together his thoughts.
What had happened? Where had he been? It hurt his head if he tried to concentrate; he decided to lay back and see if his memories came naturally.
He knew things like his name, and what he did for a living. There had been something different recently – a change to his routine. Had he actually been to the bank recently? He couldn’t even think what day it was.
He was scarcely any better off when the policeman arrived. At least he now knew it was a Saturday, and he hadn’t been to the bank since Tuesday. Naturally, the policeman was very suspicious about what he had been up to for the past three days – but as Robert explained, somewhat impatiently, the more he tried to remember, the quicker the faint strands of memory disappeared.
“Can’t you tell me what happened? How did I even get here?”
The policeman drew himself up officiously.
“You were found unconscious in an alley way off Turner Road. Nasty blow to the back of the head - we think you were mugged. You definitely can’t remember anything that happened?”
After repeating several times that he had no memory of the past three days, eventually, the policeman departed. Settling back against the pillows, a tired Robert closed his eyes.
The image swam before him for just a second. A blonde girl, slim and petite; she was lying in the crook of his shoulder. He could feel her naked body stretched out alongside him, the smell of sex faint but appealing.
His eyes flew open, but the room was empty. There was no-one lying next to him, no arms corded around his waist.
As he pondered on the mystery girl, the door opened once again. This time, it was a nurse, bringing him a cup of tea. His lips lifted in an automatic smile at her as she set the cup on a table.
“All right, sweetheart? So you’re looking after me, hmm?”
“Yes, sir.” He liked it when people, especially women, addressed him as ‘sir’. Robert could feel his bruised body already stirring back to life.
“I hope there’s lots of sugar in here then.” He reached out for the tea, making sure to brush her arm as he did so. “I like sweet things.”
The nurse blushed, bending down to tuck in his bedsheets. Robert smirked at the neat view her bosom presented him with.
“Maybe you’ll come back in a little while. Help me recover some more,” he added with a wink. Still blushing, the nurse departed, not before shooting him a devious smile of her own.
She did return a couple of hours later, and Robert was afforded the best treatment the NHS could offer. As the brunette’s clever hands and mouth brought him to climax, however, a strange hollow feeling settled in his stomach; when he drifted off to sleep again afterwards, his dreams were cold and empty.
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Somewhere across the universe, a blonde woman lay asleep in the arms of her relieved husband. She shifted, and her husband looked down with a tender smile as he heard his name being whispered.