Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown
Meet Ark Morgan a heart throb to rival Christian Grey
‘Mr Morgan will see you now.’ The receptionist points at the lift where he is waiting for me. The doors slide shut and I inhale the clean smell that is uniquely him. I’m intoxicated. He could have me now, here in the hotel lift. My legs tremble and he supports me with one hand while his fingers trace my face with the other. I shudder with desire. His breath hitches, or is it mine? There seems to be so much hitching of breath when I’m with him that it is difficult to tell who it is that is doing the hitching. No, it can’t be me; I can barely breathe at all. My eyes lock onto his lips. Kiss me I implore silently. Spank me until I’m raw. Take me, do what you will.
I bite my lip and he sighs.
‘How many times do I have to tell you about that?’ he whispers. ‘You know how it tempts me.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I breathe, feeling my desire for him, way down below.
I lick the blood from my bitten lip. He’s right, I must stop this. I already have two blisters. Anastasia Steele never has this problem. His breathing has become heavier while I’m barely breathing at all. ‘Pull away,’ cries my subconscious voice. ‘Pull away while you can.’ But I can’t. I can’t pull away from the muscular toned body of Ark Morgan. I’m mesmerised by him.
‘You should stay away from me. I’m not the man you think I am,’ he whispers into my ear.
‘Who are you then?’ I ask huskily, running my hand through his damp tousled hair.
My head is swimming.
‘You’re next,’ he says.
‘Next?’ I repeat.
Holy crap, he really is going to initiate me. I bite my lip in anticipation and cry out in pain. ‘Stop that lip biting,’ scolds my inner goddess, ‘or you’ll have no bloody lips left. You’ve got more pain than this to come.’
I shiver with anticipation.
‘Next,’ echoes a voice. ‘You want serving?’
What? Did he ask if I wanted spanking? I’m dragged from my Fifty Shades fantasy and come face to face with the shop assistant.
‘Fifteen thirty-five,’ grunts the purple-haired cashier, holding out a ringed hand that could be mistaken for a knuckleduster.
By the time she’s pushed her gum into a rounded bubble through her over-painted pink lips I’ve dredged the depths of my little floral purse and realise I don’t have enough. It occurs to me I could do a runner but who do you know does a runner from Aldi? I shouldn’t have got the wine.
‘Erm,’ I begin, biding for time while I rummage through my bag for those odd coins that loiter at the bottom. ‘I’m sure I had more. I’m really sorry.’
‘Ain’t you got enough money?’ she says loudly, affronted, like I’ve done it on purpose just to annoy her.
‘Ain’t you sure you don’t need a megaphone?’ I mimic.
Don’t you just hate it when shit happens? Maybe you don’t. Perhaps shit doesn’t happen to you. It happens all the time to me. I’m forever treading in the metaphorical shit in my well-worn twenty quid Matalan boots. Purple Head shakes her mop of hair and rolls her eyes in the direction of a Liz McDonald lookalike standing behind me. Lookalike’s perfume is seriously clogging up my throat that I fear I may well have to guzzle the unpaid-for wine right here at the Aldi checkout. Lookalike groans and stares accusingly at my bulging carrier bag. I pull out a packet of custard creams and some sliced ham.
‘I don’t really need these,’ I say with a smile. ‘We’ve got loads at home.’
‘Why you buy more then? That stupid, no?’ says the Polish assistant at the next till, scanning items with such speed I feel sure I see sparks fly. I never get this abuse at Patel’s corner shop.
‘Doug,’ yells Purple Head, ‘she ain’t got enough money. Can you put this stuff back?’
‘Do you have to shout?’ I say softly.
‘Can you ‘urry, I’m on me lunch break,’ says lookalike, swinging her peroxide hair and showering me in a volcanic cloud of perfume.
‘Can’t she sodding pay?’ yells someone from the queue.
I feel my face burn as everyone glowers at me. Honestly you’d think they’d keep such outrage for a shoplifter wouldn’t you? I’m giving things back not bloody nicking them.
‘Now look what you’ve done,’ pouts the assistant.
‘If you hadn’t shouted,’ I protest.
‘Thirteen eighty,’ she says her face devoid of emotion. ‘Or do you want to give something else back that you’re stockpiling?’
And have Doug make a second trip? I don’t think so. I scrape together the thirteen eighty and grudgingly hand it over.
‘Thanks for your patience,’ I say sarcastically.
‘You want patience you go to Waitrose,’ says Purple Head.
‘This Aldi, not ‘arrods and you no Princess Diana,’ quips the Polish assistant.
‘And you no Aldi’s queen of people’s hearts,’ I snap.
‘What you say?’
I’m about to answer when I see through the windows two little buggers trying to remove the wheels from my Ford Fiesta. Honestly, the bloody thing barely moves as it is, and that’s with wheels.
‘Shit,’ I grab the carrier bag and run from the store. ‘Bugger off you little sods,’ I shout, clouting one around the ear.
‘Hey, that’s abuse,’ he spits, rubbing his head.
‘Good,’ I retort, giving him another one for good measure.
‘You’re bald anyway,’ he says cheekily ‘I ‘ope you get done.’
‘You cheeky bugger, I’m not bald at all.’
‘Your tyres, you silly tart. You’ll get done.’
‘I’ll do you if you don’t push off.’
I sigh and watch them run off before checking my car. I’m Roxie Brown by the way, short for Roxanne. I’d like to say my name was inspired by the Moulin Rouge movie but it’s not as romantic as that I’m afraid. My mum was obsessed with The Police. The eighties rock band that is, not the force. She was obsessed with Sting to be more precise. She still is actually. She spends more time talking about tantric sex than anyone I know. In fact, I don’t know anyone else who talks about tantric sex. I only hope she doesn’t spend as much time actually doing it. It doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? Sting and Trudi whatserface doing it at their age is one thing, but your parents … Well, I don’t like to dwell on it. It’s a bit demoralising to think your parents are having longer sex sessions than you. Mind you, just about everyone must be having longer sex sessions than me and Darren. Tantric sex with Darren lasts about ten minutes and by our standards that’s a mammoth session. It doesn’t end with any real spiritual connection either, unless Darren mumbling ‘alright Babe’ counts, but I don’t actually think it does. By then I’m usually out for the count. So if there was any Dalai Lama stuff going on I’ve most certainly missed it. Anyway, the only Tibet Darren knows is the Tibetan Palace curry house in town, so I doubt he even knows who the Dalai Lama is. He’d probably think it’s a new dish on the menu. Not that we have it that often, sex that is, not curry. If Darren had his way we’d have that every night. Curry that is, not sex. Darren is more interested in looking through his telescope. He has a thing about stars, the ones in the sky that is, not those on the telly. He loves the galaxy he says, while I’m more interested in actually eating one, while in bed, reading my erotic novels and fantasising about my Christian Grey boss, Ark Morgan. Not that Ark Morgan would look twice at me. I’d be lucky if he looked once. Not that I’m unattractive or anything but multimillionaires just don’t look at chambermaids do they? But there’s no harm in a little fantasy is there, and if you saw him you’d understand. I’ve seen him in person only once and that was at the staff Christmas party. He didn’t stay long but he was so close that if I’d reached out I could have touched his sensual thigh. My table was that near to the podium. He gave all the chambermaids Viktor@Rolf Flowerbomb perfume and a bottle of champagne. Not that I wear it much. Darren says it gives him a headache and I do get runny eyes when I wear it. But it was a fabulous gift, you have to agree. Ark Morgan is very generous to his staff. I imagine he thinks I’ve got sawdust for brains. People think that about cleaners. Not that I’ve always been a cleaner, mind you. I once worked in the pharmacy department of Boots as a dispensing assistant. I had all the qualifications and everything but the pay was rubbish and I got a bit punch drunk counting out pills all day long. At least my job has some variation now, although I can’t say I like cleaning but the pay is brilliant.
I pull my vibrating phone from my bag.
‘I’ve got carrots coming out of my ears,’ says Mum.
‘That’s unusual. They normally come out of the ground.’
‘Your dad’s been at the allotment, digging up God knows what.’
‘Well, as long as it wasn’t bodies I really don’t care,’ I say, yanking the door of my Fiesta. It squeaks noisily and I cringe.
‘I’ve packed a bag for you.’
‘Am I going somewhere?’ I ask, starting the engine, or at least trying to. It always needs at least three attempts.
‘A bag of carrots and some of your dad’s potatoes.’
‘There was me hoping you’d say Majorca.’
‘Your dad is really chuffed. Marge said she’d never seen one so big.’
‘We’re still talking about potatoes I hope?’ I say.
‘Well,’ she says proudly, ‘your dad has nothing to be ashamed of. Oh, that reminds me. I’ve got you a book, Tantric for the Busy Woman.’
‘Tantric on the go is it?’
‘Don’t be silly dear, it’s …’
‘I’ve got to get going,’ I break in as I see a police car pull into the car park. Holy shit, that’s all I need. Bald tyres, a noisy exhaust and a crack in the windscreen is not a car they’re exactly going to miss. Honestly, my day can only get better can’t it? I squint into the dazzling May sunlight and hope it’s blinded them enough that they haven’t spotted me. I try the engine again and thankfully it starts, and I edge the car slowly out of the car park only to have the damn thing stall. I curse and turn the key again when the police car flashes me. Shit. Why is this my life and on the other side of the world Angelina Jolie has hers? Why did I get Darren Smart and she got Brad Pitt? I mean, how is that fair? I undo the top button of my blouse and put on my vulnerable look.
‘Everything okay officer?’ I ask innocently, when it obviously isn’t.
‘Please step out of the vehicle madam,’ says one of the policemen while the other snoops around my Fiesta.
Don’t panic. That’s the key. Don’t give them any cause for suspicion.
I say policemen but police boys may be more appropriate from the look of them. Don’t you just hate getting pulled up by policemen that are younger than you? I step nervously from the car and make a huge attempt to look confident. Not easy when you’re struggling to remember if your insurance is up to date. Why can’t I be more mindful?
‘Can I see your driving licence please madam?’
I try to look nonchalant as the other one studies my tyres, while I rummage in my bag for my purse, only to find the damn licence isn’t in there. I begin pulling things out of my overstuffed shoulder bag and arranging them onto the bonnet. The policeman’s eyes widen at my well-thumbed copy of Fifty Shades. I blush profusely. It’s not a crime to enjoy a bit of erotica is it? Erotic literature that is. Goodness, I’ve not got time for the real thing. Let’s face it, if Darren and I haven’t got time for tantric sex we’ve certainly not got time to tie each other to the bedposts and shag one another senseless have we, as lovely as it sounds. One half-eaten Galaxy follows the book. I’d forgotten all about that. It has bits of hair stuck to it now. Shopping receipts and an assortment of hairbands are followed by torn-out recipes from magazines, a hairbrush, make-up bag, a lipstick with the lid off, and several chocolate covered leaflets on tantric sex that Mum had given me yonks ago. I’m looking like a sex-mad chocoholic. I feel my heart hammer in my chest when I realise there is no sign of the licence and then I spot the tear in the lining, and there it is along with three pound coins. Where were they when I needed them for the custard creams? I’ve a good mind to go back and stick them under Purple Head’s nose.
‘Are you aware two of your tyres are bald?’
Not until that little sod mentioned it earlier. I wish Darren would keep a check on these things.
‘Oh no,’ I say dramatically and feel real tears well up. ‘Is that bad?’
It’s always good to feign innocence isn’t it?
‘When was it last serviced?’
I jerk my head up. God, for one minute I thought he was asking when I was last serviced. I must stop reading Fifty Shades.
‘I’m not sure. My partner sees to those things.’
That’s a joke. I’m lucky if Darren fills the thing with petrol.
‘Looks like he hasn’t seen to those things for a while,’ says the policeman as he pokes the exhaust.
There are a lot of things Darren hasn’t been seeing to if you want my opinion. The car isn’t the only thing not getting a good service. I fight back a sigh. Please don’t let them say I can’t drive it. How will I get to my cleaning job? Come to that, how will Sylvie get to her cleaning job. Sylvie is my best friend by the way and she really is the best aside from saying Jesus wept a lot. I put that down to her Catholic School education. She’s also addicted to crime; I don’t mean crime like burglary or anything. That would be awful. While I’m into erotica Sylvie is into crime novels. She has visions of herself as another Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison. I only wish she’d used her expertise and spotted my bald tyres before the police.
‘Make sure those tyres get replaced and that exhaust checked,’ says one of the police boys, handing me my licence.
‘Off you go.’
Did I really call him sir? I came close to curtseying too. I give a little wave as I drive out of the store’s car park and decide to stop at Patel’s and buy a lottery ticket with the money I found in the torn lining.
‘Darren, he come in already and bought ticket, usual numbers,’ says Mrs Patel.
Usual useless numbers she means. We’ve been doing those numbers every week for the past three years and we must be the only people I know who haven’t even won a tenner.
‘I thought I’d do an extra one,’ I say.
She nods while arranging bags of Bombay Mix. I take the lottery slip over to the shelf in the corner and study the numbers. What am I doing? My chances of winning the lottery are 14 million to one. I’ve got a better chance of doing a house swap with Angelina Jolie. I stare at the ticket and curse that the numbers only go up to 49. How useless is that? My first number has to be 50 for Fifty Shades. I circle ‘49’ and then ‘1’. I bite the end of the pen while choosing the other numbers. I suppose ‘3’ should be another for the three pounds I found in the lining, after all, that was a stroke of luck wasn’t it? If I hadn’t found them I wouldn’t be buying another ticket would I? Okay, Darren won’t get his custard creams but that won’t kill him. I circle ‘30’ for today’s date and then ‘4’, the number of years I have worked for Ark Morgan as a chambermaid for his chain of hotels. You can’t get luckier than working for Ark Morgan, not that I ever see him, at least not close up. I fight back the little stomach flutter I get every time I think of Ark Morgan. Finally, I hover over the number ‘2’. I’m not sure if having two bald tyres is lucky exactly, but the police did let me off so that has to be my last lucky number.
‘Circle ‘6’,’ says Mrs Patel seeing me hovering. ‘That’s my lucky number.’
What a dilemma. I’m not sure the number 6 has ever been my lucky number but how can I not put it? Not now that she’s asked me. I hate that I can’t say no to people. I circle ‘6’ and hand the ticket to Mrs Patel.
‘You feeling lucky?’ she asks.
‘There’s always a chance isn’t there?’ I smile.
I take the ticket, tuck it into my purse and drive to my parents’ house. Mum opens the door and a hot blast of air hits me.
‘Have you got the heating on?’ I ask, feeling beads of perspiration form on my forehead.
‘We’ve just got back from Morrisons,’ she says, like that somehow explains it.
‘It’s a supermarket, not a morgue.’
‘I’m checking the answering machine. We advertised for swingers. Isn’t it exciting?’
Mum’s wearing one of those velvet kimonos with enormous shoulder pads. If they were any bigger she’d look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I look at her. Did she really say what I think she said? Have they gone completely mad? My dad swinging, good God, it’s too crazy to contemplate. I feel myself sway. It’s like a sauna in their house. It’s May for goodness’ sake. No wonder all her plants die. The only thing that seems to survive is the cacti in the living room, and they get bigger by the week. I’ll arrive one day to find their house looking like a remake of Lawrence of Arabia. I’m surprised the plastic covers on their three-piece suite haven’t melted. I so wish she would take them off. There’s nothing worse than sitting on plastic is there? It’s the getting off that’s the biggest problem. It’s not normal to get stuck to a couch if you want my opinion.
I hope they didn’t advertise in the Clapham Chronicle. This is dead embarrassing. What if they used their real names? My mum should have a degree in embarrassment. I still tremble at the memory of when I was a teenager and we lost our pet cat. Mum asked all my school friends if they had seen my pussy. I wanted to die.
‘Shoes,’ she barks.
Mum would have made Hitler a great wife. Even the cat is too afraid to shit in its own garden and goes to the neighbour’s. I exhale and pull off my boots.
‘You look tired,’ she says.
‘Well I do get up at five.’
‘Ridiculous godforsaken hour,’ she mumbles.
‘At least I finish early.’
‘Your cousin Helen is pregnant,’ she says almost accusingly, like I had something to do with it.
‘Oh,’ I say.
‘Everyone’s having babies except you.’
Not everyone. That’s a bit of an exaggeration isn’t it? Jennifer Aniston isn’t for one but I think better of saying that.
‘There’s plenty of time.’
‘You’re nearly thirty-two,’ she says, as if I could forget.
‘I’m not about to draw my pension.’
‘It’s getting late to have babies.’
‘Lots of women have babies late in life these days,’ I say.
‘I hope you’re not thinking of waiting until you’re sixty-two like that woman in Algeria. It’s a bit difficult spoiling your grandchildren when you’re dead.’
I sigh and follow her into the kitchen and slump onto a stool as messages issue from their antiquated answering machine.
‘Margo, it’s Joan, you don’t have a lemon squeezer do you? Geoff and I are trying something new for tonight.’
Lemon squeezer? Christ, what can they do with one of those?
‘Only me Margo. Just to let you know Pam’s husband has buggered off. We should all pop round later, cheer her up. What do you think? Call me.’
Mum’s name is Margaret by the way. But she decided after watching re-runs of The Good Life that Margo suited her better.
‘Hello, I’m responding to your advert for the garden swing. Is it still available?’
I stifle a giggle. Mum gives me a filthy look.
‘Honestly, some people,’ she huffs.
You have no more messages, announces the machine much to my relief.
‘I’m making camomile tea, do you want some?’ asks Mum, filling the kettle.
I nod, I think I need it.
‘What do you mean swingers? This is Clapham. People don’t swing in Clapham,’ I say dismissively. ‘This isn’t Surrey you know.’
‘You think we should advertise in Surrey?’ says Mum brightly, popping teabags into the teapot.
‘I don’t think you should advertise at all. What’s this?’ I point to a bulky envelope on the kitchen table. It’s addressed to me.
‘Sting and Trudie swing.’
Frankly I could swing for Sting and Trudie for the trouble they cause me.
‘Ah Roxie, how’s it going? You haven’t seen my sudoku book have you?’ says Dad, strolling into the kitchen.
Do people who do sudoku swing – surely not?
‘No,’ I say, removing my cardigan and socks. It’s hotter here than in the Bahamas.
‘Martin, please empty the recycling and move your trough off the kitchen table,’ snaps Mum.
‘Don’t you mean trowel?’ I say.
Things are worse than I thought if Dad is drinking from a trough, unless that’s part of their bondage games. I really must stop reading erotica if I’m starting to think my parents are at it. I did think about studying, English literature that is, not erotica. After all, thirty-one isn’t too old to start studying is it? But Darren doesn’t see the point in study.
‘You’ve got a good job Babe, haven’t you? What you going to do with knowledge, bloody dangerous if you ask me. Besides, I suppose we ought to get a baby at some point. You’ll never have time then,’ he’d said, making it sound like we’d just pop down to Aldi and buy one like you would buy a chicken. Talking of which … I stare through my parents’ kitchen window.
‘Hens of course. Sting and Trudi have them.’
Oh well, that’s okay then isn’t it? I only hope Trudie and Sting don’t become cannibals. I’ll be in fear of my life.
‘Are you sure about that?’
She looks thoughtful.
‘I read it in Chat. Besides, think of all the eggs we’ll have.’
‘Think of all the mess you’ll have.’
‘I am thinking of it,’ says Dad, grimacing at the hen that is staring at us through the glass of the kitchen door.
‘Roxie thinks we should advertise in The Surry Advertiser,’ says Mum.
‘I never said that,’ I protest, fingering the envelope.
‘Do they know a lot about chickens in Surrey?’ asks Dad.
‘Don’t be stupid Martin, to advertise for swingers, of course.’
‘Oh that,’ he says dismissively. ‘Personally I’d rather keep bees,’ he adds, smiling at me. ‘I never did like Glenn Miller.’
What has Glenn Miller got to do with it?
‘I can’t believe you’re even considering it. You won’t even know these people. How can you trust them?’ I ask worriedly.
‘I’m writing a list of questions. For example, what is your favourite film? If they say Fatal Attraction we’ll avoid them like the plague, but there’ll be lots of us. How can it not be safe?’
Lots of us. Holy crap, as Anastasia Steele would say, they’re surely not thinking of an orgy?
‘Why can’t you copy someone safe, like Alan Titchmarsh for example?’
‘Absolutely,’ agrees Dad.
‘Do you see Alan Titchmarsh swinging?’ she asks scathingly.
‘He is in his sixties,’ I say. ‘And probably too busy doing normal things like gardening.’
‘Well, we’re far from sixty and I really don’t understand why you’re making such a fuss about us doing a bit of swinging. It will be fun. We need a hobby now your dad has taken early retirement.’
A hobby? Jesus, I’ve heard swinging called some things but never a hobby.
‘It will be disgusting,’ I say, pulling a face.
‘I’ve got two left feet anyway. I’ll be useless,’ says Dad.
It’s either too hot in here or they’ve spiked my tea. What has his feet got to do with anything? I really don’t want to ask.
‘You’ll get the hang of it,’ says Mum.
‘I’m not sure I want to get the hang of it,’ says Dad, handing me a box.
‘Plenty of spuds in there, as well as carrots. If you want some broad beans I’ve got lots of them coming on.’
‘If Dad hasn’t got the hang of it by now he never will,’ I say feeling myself redden.
‘You have to practise, that’s the thing, Martin.’
I splutter on my tea.
‘Mum what do you think swinging is?’
‘Dancing to big band music of course, what else?’ she says, quickly spraying with Mr Muscle and mopping up my spilt tea.
She points to the envelope.
‘That’s your book Tantric for the Busy Woman. I also bought you Fifty Shades number three.’
‘Ooh,’ I say excitedly. ‘Thanks so much Mum. I’ll hide them when I get home. Darren thinks I have too many books.’
‘The little things that make you happy,’ smiles Mum.
‘You shouldn’t need to hide anything,’ says Dad scathingly. ‘It’s not like you’re doing anything wrong.’
‘Don’t bring that up again Martin,’ says Mum.
‘I just don’t see why he should dictate what you do when he was the one playing away from home and …’
‘We’ve put it behind us,’ I say, pushing the package under the potatoes and carrots.
‘All the same, you earn good money and if you want to spend it on books …’
‘We shouldn’t get involved Martin,’ says Mum.
All the same Dad is right. If I want to spend my money on books, why shouldn’t I? I’m too easy-going that’s my problem.
‘Ah there it is,’ says Dad gleefully, pulling his sudoku book from under the box.
I finish my tea and stand up. I can’t leave without warning them can I?
‘Mum, most people think of swinging as wife swapping. I don’t think you should advertise anywhere else.’
‘Good heavens,’ cries Mum. ‘Are you sure? But Sting …’
‘Might do all kinds of things but you don’t have to do them too.’
‘Ooh Martin,’ she says worriedly.
Dad rolls his eyes.
‘It’ll be okay,’ he says in a soothing tone. ‘I’ll sort it, don’t you worry love,’ he says patting me on the shoulder.
I kiss him on the cheek and make for the door. Mum hugs me.
‘With your looks and figure you should have been a model. That Darren is holding you back if you ask me …’
‘I thought we weren’t getting involved Margaret,’ scolds Dad.
I kiss her on the cheek and lug the box to the car. They’re not wrong about Darren but that’s a partnership isn’t it? You’ve got to make it work. With that thought in my mind, I climb into my Fiesta and head home.