The Late Blossoming of Frankie Green (26 page)

‘Wait and see,' he said, drawing a thick curtain to unveil a circus of a nightclub. Everything was a reddish hue by the dim standard lamps dotted here and there, and as her eyes adjusted she made out a zoo of people. It was a total mishmash of 1940s sirens, magnificent facial hair, heavy fringes, feather boas, sequinned wings and even top hats. On the left, a giant birdcage containing a plumed dancer wearing just knickers and nipple tassels hung from the ceiling. To the right, a man in tight leather shorts flew back and forth on a trapeze. A raised mini-stage was sat in the centre, above which was a beautifully ornate chandelier. Plum velvet seats were arranged around dainty circular silver tables each with low lamps, and the staff, all of whom had gelled-back hair, were all in black tie, including the girls. Big band music played but not too loudly so you couldn't think. It felt seedy but it was glorious and Frankie was transfixed.

‘What on earth…?' she said as Floyd took her to a table and ordered them Martinis.

‘It's a burlesque club,' he said, ‘it's like a variety show, with comedians and striptease, both men and women. It's not the usual squirty-cream thing, it's theatre.'

‘Wow. I had no idea this place even existed.'

She took off her coat to reveal a figure-hugging off-the-shoulder dress with a Latino burst of a skirt which she'd bought especially from a boutique rather than her usual Next, Topshop or M&S.

‘If only Jason could see you,' Floyd said, before holding up his cocktail glass and demanding a ‘chin chin'.

‘I'm thinking of wearing this when I get my chance to seduce him.' Frankie wasn't fishing for compliments but she wanted to know if Floyd thought it was suitable. That it sent out the right message of sexy sophistication.

‘You look… stunning,' Floyd said, ‘He'll be hook, line and sinker.' He looked a bit… what? How did he look? It was a funny face, one she hadn't seen before – it wasn't the same as the way Dad had looked on her wedding day, because that would be weird, but it was quite close. Maybe it was fulfilment Floyd felt, for getting her to this stage? Whatever it was it was only fleeting and he was back to his usual self as he asked: ‘How are your plans going to seduce Jason?'

‘Still on the drawing board,' she admitted. She'd been thrown by his infidelity, which still played on her mind but which she'd started to accept or she'd never get anywhere. ‘I've got to ring him, suggest a night out somewhere but it's got to be the right place. Not anywhere we've been before, I want to show him I'm not the same person. This might be stretching it,' she giggled. ‘What about Sasha? Any news?'

‘Nope. I can't stop thinking about it,' he said, playing with the rim of his bowler. ‘Anyway, let's get on with the lesson. Dressing Up and Erotica. Is this a suitable venue?'

Frankie looked around her and threw up her arms. ‘It's a spectacle! It's like we're in a film,' she said, grinning. Then she bent in towards him to explain. ‘I'm wearing some stuff from that website you sent me.'


‘It makes me feel excited,' she said, ‘like I've got a secret. And it's making me feel all sorts of things.'

Frankie crossed her legs to squeeze the thrill and she felt her calf make contact with Floyd's. Sparks shimmered inside her as she began to imagine revealing herself to him later. She hadn't been able to put her almost-orgasm out of her mind: it was as if the sensation hadn't left her and she could feel it building up again just being sat here knowing she would get to try again tonight.

‘That's the anticipation,' Floyd said as if he'd read her mind, ‘the psychology of it is also about being able to play someone else, it's like acting and through that we can lose inhibitions.'

‘Have you done this before?' she asked. ‘Is Sasha into this kind of thing?' For some reason, she wanted to know how she compared.

‘Sasha? Jesus, she'd have turned her nose up at this. Not adventurous enough for her.'

Frankie gulped and immediately felt her desire shrivel because it made her feel such an amateur.

‘She tried to get me into swinging. We went to this club and there were three floors. The ground floor was a bar for everyone “to get to know each other”,' he said, with his fingers making air quotes. ‘Upstairs was a room with a giant plastic mattress with people doing it and others watching. It was horrific.'

Frankie's shoulders relaxed – at least she wasn't alone in finding the thought of that unsavoury.

‘Don't get me wrong, I like a bit of fantasy but, to be honest, I'm more into the stuff we've been doing. And the majority of the women I've slept with are too, I think.'

‘How many people have you slept with?' she asked, suddenly desperate to know more about his past.

‘Dunno. A few. A fair few,' he said, scratching his beard in thought. ‘Fifty? Sixty? God knows.'

Frankie choked on her drink. She was glad she hadn't known this at the start. Blimey, it really did make her feel even more of a beginner. And he must still think of her as such a Sunday driver.

Floyd pulled out the burgundy handkerchief which had been poking out of his shirt pocket. ‘Here, use this,' he said. ‘But numbers don't matter, honestly. There were some dreadful shags in there, and I include my own performance in that. I've learned it's about what's up here,' he said, tapping his head, ‘not just what's down there.'

Frankie felt the warmth return now that he'd made it clear it was quality not quantity.

‘The brain is the biggest sexual organ,' Floyd said. ‘Openness creates intimacy. Dressing up can challenge the views you have of yourself and your partner, say the submissive person in the relationship takes control, that sort of thing. But whatever you get up to, it's about trust, respect and confidence.'

‘I think I'm getting there,' she said, ‘thanks to you.'

Floyd shook his head and held up his glass for another toast. ‘You, baby, it's down to you!'

‘LADIES and gentlemen…' A ringmaster had taken the stage and the crowd applauded as she whipped the floor and announced Miss Dallas D'Amour.

The lights went off, creating a murmur of expectation, and then a single spotlight shone on an exquisite brunette straddling a chair. Pale with bright red lips and rolled hair, the dancer held her pose for a minute before she began to perform a tantalizing striptease. She pulled off her elbow-length gloves with her teeth, shimmied her boobs so they threatened to spill from her basque, and pushed out her backside as she unhooked her outfit.

By the end, she was down to her sequinned groin and a beaded open bra which just covered her nipples – nothing ‘rude' was exposed. It was a clever illusion and Frankie was sucked right in. Spell-bound and drunk on lust, she felt something animal take hold of her.

‘Let's go,' she whispered into Floyd's ear, grabbing his hand.

‘All right?' he asked, looking concerned as they stepped out into the night.

‘Yes,' she said, hailing a cab, ‘I want to show you…'

His nod showed he understood. Their silence heightened her feeling – all of the lessons she'd had had shown her the way, and burlesque had been the perfect turn-on. Her self-belief was soaring; she could do this now without instruction and direction. Frankie's heart was galloping but not with nerves. It was wholly from a lust which she could finally let loose.

When they reached her house, she let them in without a word and took Floyd upstairs by the hand. She pushed him onto the bed and closed her eyes, losing herself in the moment. With her back to him, she swayed as she unzipped her dress, letting it drop to the floor. The feel of the fabric slipping down her thighs and onto her feet felt euphoric; every inch of her was alive. She could hear their breathing, hers was quick while his was deep. She looked over her shoulder, her eyelashes batting down. Around she went, pushing out her chest, and with teasing fingers she took off her bra. Her hands went up behind her head and she gazed down at her covered nipples. Then she untied the ribbon of her waspie and watched it give way to skin, which ached to be touched. She was naked but for her knickers and pasties. Floyd cleared his throat. It brought her out of the moment: she had been lost in lust. He looked mesmerized: his eyes were fixed on her and he was biting his lip. So she moved towards him, feeling a force at work, something inevitable and magnetic. She mounted the bed and crawled on her hands and knees towards him.

So close now, she could see his pupils were wide. She wanted to climb into him and get lost, to breathe his breath and taste his mouth, to have his lips on her breasts and in between her thighs and to be free of the frustration and pain. To chase it all away with an all-consuming swell, to surf the crest until she shuddered in ecstasy.

‘Frankie, I can't do this,' Floyd said, tracing a fingertip from her collarbone to the valley between her breasts.

She smiled and shut her eyes: the tease was all part of it. On she went, arching her back, rolling her shoulders, dipping her chest into his face, feeling his breath hot on her skin.

‘Frankie,' he said, again, making the throb harder. His jeans were drawn tight and she felt him pulse when she put her hand on his crotch. He thrust forward and moaned. ‘Fu-ck. Frankie, I can't – we mustn't. I mean it. This is killing me but… custard creams. I'm sorry.'

‘What?' she asked, pulling away so she could examine his face. Surely he didn't mean it? But his eyes were downcast and he was grinding his teeth.

‘This isn't part of the lesson,' he said. His voice was weak and hollow. She backed off slowly, waiting for him to announce it was one of his jokes. When it didn't come, she crossed her arms, feeling vulnerable in next to nothing. Then as he looked away she knew it was all over: she'd let it go and it wasn't enough.

What a fool she'd been, she thought, holding back the tears as she reached for a T-shirt on the floor. To think she had thought she'd been capable of this. She felt the same kick in the stomach of rejection that had started her on this journey. Worse, she had uncovered a longing she'd never had before, not even one she'd had with Jason; it had been Floyd she'd wanted tonight and he'd turned her down.

‘I'm sorry,' she said. ‘I got the wrong end of the stick.'

‘No, no, no, it's my fault,' he pleaded. ‘I'm your teacher. It has to be the way we decided at the start – we stick to the lesson plan.'

So why did he come back here? she wondered. Why did he let her undress? What was the point of a sex teacher if you didn't have sex? Yet there was no point being angry; she was the one who had misread the situation. No one had forced her to do this: it had been entirely her doing. Frankie had imagined there was a mutual attraction and a willingness to go further. She had got carried away.

But how had he slept with so many people yet turned her down? It could only be because she was useless and untrainable, like an old dog who couldn't be taught new tricks. She put on her dressing gown as extra armour: perhaps there were some abnormal bits to her body after all. Her right boob was slightly larger than her left.

‘I really wanted to, you know,' Floyd said to her back. At least he had had the decency to pretend, Frankie thought, but it didn't make her feel any less of an idiot. ‘It's just… there's Jason… and Sasha, and maybe we forgot why we were doing this.' She nodded, staring at the floor, knowing he was right. And if you have a racehorse lined up, like Sasha, then why would you want to ride a donkey? ‘You looked amazing tonight,' he said, ‘I really, really, really mean that.'

Frankie turned around and gave him a brave smile.

‘And guess what? You're student of the week – again.'

‘Yey, go me,' she said, rolling her eyes but grateful for his kindness.

‘Come here, gimme a hug,' he said. As they embraced, Frankie noted how snugly she fit into his arms: her head tucked in under his chin as if it had been created with that in mind and his shoulder had just the right amount of padding to support her cheek.

‘I think I'm done with all of this,' Frankie said, knowing she'd have tumbled over the edge had she really slept with him. She didn't know exactly what she would've fallen into, but it was bound to have been dangerous. As it was, he had just saved her in time. Whatever this emotional tug she felt towards him was, it was better they remained on good terms. And if there had been any fallout, it could've messed up the happy equilibrium of their group; Em might have found out and Letty would be dragged in. Still, that didn't mean she didn't wish he'd at least make a play of trying to get her to change her mind.

‘Yeah, that's probably a wise move.' He rubbed her back and rocked her slowly.

‘I nearly came at the last lesson,' she said in a tiny voice, ‘and I've learned so much. I don't think sex toys, bondage and talking dirty are me, to be honest.'

‘You never know, Frankie, you never know. We'll have a post-course evaluation another time, eh?'

Suddenly she felt an overwhelming tiredness. That was the last thing she was aware of until the next morning when she found Leonardo sprawled asleep beside a note on the pillow which smelled of Floyd.
You need oil and Q-tips
, it read.
Don't rip off your pasties like a plaster. I did that once and, put it this way, my chance of breastfeeding is now zero. You should be proud of yourself. You've worked v. hard. I am pleased to award you a highly commended pass. Love, Sir XXX

She laughed as a single tear rolled over the bridge of her nose and into the other eye before it soaked into her pillowcase.

He was such a lovely man; it was amazing the way he touched her. Okay, they hadn't done it, but it was as good as, she realized, because she'd got to the stage where she was ready. Maybe that had been the point all along? If nothing else, that's what she had got out of her sex education.

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