Changes in the night

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Chapter 5

The heat of the Sun seemed to be radiating through my flesh to the core of my being. I was a fluid, the eddies of warmth circulating under my translucent skin. I buried my face deeper into the fur of Jo's ruff, the shadow of one erect ear falling across my eyelid. Colours burnt from yellows, through oranges, to the warm red of an electric fire. I let my hand move round her a little more, drawn by the need to clutch onto this moment. The heat trapped in her fur was almost scalding. How long had we been lying here?

She eased herself round. "So, are you going to stay with me all day?"

"Of course, where else would I ...," she raised herself up on one elbow, and fixed me with those green eyes. "Work, I'm supposed to be at work! It's Monday, and I'm lying here in the Sun, stark bollock naked, without a care in the world."

"Excuse, I need an excuse. I can't claim its cold or flu, there's nothing going around and I was in the best of health on Friday. It will have to be that trusty standby Delhi Belly. I could tell she didn't understand. "Montezuma's revenge, the trots, the shits, - diarrhoea.

"Oh, that!" she exclaimed, "never suffered much from it myself." She ran a clawed hand down from her chest and through the soft fur of her belly.

That didn't help me at all. My libido clearly wasn't interested in participating in the charade I was going to have to act out on the phone in the interests of office decorum. Reflecting briefly on the robustness of lupine digestion, I searched for my mobile phone. The bathroom was the obvious place to make the call from. The echo of the tiled surfaces would reinforce the idea that I was in the bathroom, which I would be, lending some credence to the idea that I would be there for the foreseeable future.

Running up the stairs, I keyed in the number. Shortness of breath would add to my characterisation of the suffer of acute abdominal cramps. I sat down on the toilet, legs spread to deliver my fictitious burden of buttock burning liquid. Elbows on knees and head in hands, I ran fingers through my hair before depressing the call button with its illuminated green raised handset icon. My cue to step out on stage and deliver my lines.

I don't know if I am a very good liar, or a very bad one. Is a good liar one who is believed, or one who is quickly unmasked? Either way, the rigmarole I feel is needed is clearly excessive. My performance rewarded only by a casual question about when I might be back, and the statement that someone would be round to pick up the schematics for the type 27, which had to be in Kilbride by tomorrow.

Schematics? My mind raced. Of course, I'd checked them out and taken them home on Friday. Partly, it has to be said so that I could review them one more time and set my mind at rest before they went for manufacture. These huge paper plots weren't actually used for the manufacturing process, everything was sent electronically, but tradition I suppose, and inefficient process demanded that the plots, initialled by the designer, CAD engineer, and manager had to be physically transferred to the plant and checked before the electronic files were used. Mostly though, I'd brought them home so they could be spread across the dining table for the purpose of convincing my parents that I was busy putting in overtime, and a protracted Sunday afternoon and evening with them was out of the question. "Who will be coming round?" I asked.

"Karen" was the reply, and the one I had been fearing.


"Sometime before half past two, as the courier has to pick up the package before three."

Not so bad then, two or three hours and then this little problem would be over. I concluded the call, exchanging pleasantries, and receiving concern, before hanging up. "You heard all that?" I called to Jo.

"Of course, both sides of it." She stood, arms akimbo. "So, now we are both trapped here. I can't leave because of, ... Because. And you've got to wait here and feign illness until your colleague shows up."

"Problem?" I asked. I'd hadn't been planning to go out. Looking forward, instead, to spending the whole day with her.

"There is the small matter of dinner." Then she said, pointedly, while absentmindedly rubbing her still distended belly. "Someone has to go shopping."

"Right. Well, I'll have to do it straight after Karen has been round. She'll be early as sure as eggs are eggs, jumping at the chance to have a nose around here, see how I live. She's the main cog, the escapement, the governor of the office rumour mill."

"Hmmm, scrambled eggs, a good measure of cream, thickly buttered toast, and then ..."

"Not now, we've got to hide you! We can't afford for her to arrive while you're busy whipping up a twelve egg omelette. She's bound to want to see the kitchen."

"I'll just wait in the bedroom then, take a little snack up."

"No, she'll want to see my sick bed too, no doubt." Jo's expression was moving from anger to sadness, the thought of having to hide herself once more - this little freedom not so durable as she had imagined.

Jo tensed, alert once more. "She's here, coming up to the door! Fetch me your laptop. I'll take this too." She picked up my battered wallet from the table and waved it between finger and thumb.

"What?" It was at this point that the doorbell rang, I felt like screaming. "Garage! Go through there, and try to keep quiet." Sensing just how flustered I was she danced backed slowly towards the door, laptop tucked under her arm, grinning, and still teasing me with the wallet.

"Car keys?" She asked. I tossed them to her, and headed to the front door.