TUBBY'S SECRET LIFE
I. TUBBY'S DOUBLE LIFE
Unknown to his fine and respectable friends, Tubby pursued his mysterious double life at the weekend .... spending his days in the foyer of a bar in a seedy hotel crooning tunes as he played the almost-tuned grand piano while the patrons filled the air with their cheap perfume, cigar smoke and bourbon fumes. Clad in tux and bow tie, he could only watch wistfully as people slowly sidled on sofas before disappearing together through the lobby door, a door that a mere lounge-music entertainer could never aspire to enter.
A femme fatale watched him from a bar stool and his trembling fingers missed a note. His eyes lingered until he noticed something not quite right ... her hands and feet seemed too large and her adam's apple too prominent. Looking about, he realised that the women in their 1920s outfits and immaculate hair and make-up were, in fact, cross-dressed men, while the men in their suits were unusually masculine-looking women. Tubby fervently hoped no-one from his other - his respectable daily life - realised that he eked out an additional income playing lounge music in a notorious and seedy tranny club in a down-at-heel hotel not far from the Paul Raymond Revue Bar, an income he needed to support his growing addiction to buttered crumpets and strawberries. Oh the stawberries! They filled his innermost fantasies and tormented him with their ripeness and their wantonness ....
II. A BERRY STRANGE FANTASY
Trapped by cushions, the sofa-sidler found himself sidled upon - something he had never known in his life and it terrified him. Panicking he reached for another strawberry and laughed nervously and a little too loudly at Bill Bailey's rendition of a West Country Darth Vader on the TV. A head leaned upon his shoulder at the punchline and he stiffened reflexively. Feeling like a rabbit caught in headlights on a dark night, he froze, unable to move, the uneaten strawberry held too tightly, glistening redly as the juice dripped from it. A mouth, not his, closed upon the tortured strawberry, suggestively licking the juice in a swirling motion, accidentally - or so he thought - brushing against his fingers.
The probing tongue explored the luscious fruit, gently, but firmly, drawing it up against the lips. It explored the texture and drew forth the sweet juice so that it flooded copiously from the ripe tip of the engorged berry. His hands lost their grip and he gasped as the fruit was pulled from his grasp and disappeared into the warm, flesh-rimmed cavern to be crushed by the tongue until it yielded every last drop of nectar. A hand brushed against his knee and the reverie was broken - the rabbit was free of the glare of headlights, but something else held him in place, some primeval urge prevented him fleeing the shared sofa to the safety of an armchair.
The lips continued to suck, pulling one finger after another into the warm, moist mouth to be swirled clean of nectar by the firm, but delicate, tongue. Full of unspoken promise - for how could the busy mouth speak at this juncture? - that moist muscle brushed his fingertips like moths' wings and though every urge told him to withdraw, in trepidation he forbore. Meanwhile, the hand brushing his knee had become a warm palm upon his thigh, pressing him down into the sofa. He pulled his suckled fingers back, but the wanton mouth followed, not letting him withdraw.
Giggling in nervousness, he raised the trapped hand to his face and felt a silken cheek brush his own unshaven one. He was in the horns of a dilemma - trapped between strange, half-understood stirrings and his innate coyness. Dare he let his mask of cute innocence, long cultivated for his own protection, slip? As he anxiously contemplated this notion, his fingers were at last released. The tongue traversed the length of one finger, from tip to hand and thence to wrist, finally to alight suggestively on his cheek where it traced small, moist, strawberry-scented circles. The hand pressing his thigh began its inexorable migration upwards. Belly muscles contracted and lurched in realisation of the questing hand's destination. Should he resist? Rational thought fled before the dual attack of mouth and hand and his head, almost instinctively, turned towards the orifice that, scant moments before, had held his fingers trapped .....
III. TUBBY IS TRIFLED WITH
Crammed in among the other commuters, Tubby guiltily pondered his secret double life. In this place he was Tubby, an upstanding member of society whom some might describe as coy, and others as somewhat neurotic or bordering on prudery. it was all a carefully cultivated facade; an act he maintained day after day to disguise his true self. Outside of this setting, a different member was upstanding. He swallowed hard, his belly roiling at the memory of the previous weekend's guilty pleasures.
It was not, of course, as though he wore silky lingerie, lacy suspenders and 10 denier black stockings beneath his city suit. Nor did he visit strip joints and peep shows each night, although his second occupation as pianist in a sleazy tranny nightclub near the Paul Raymond Revue Bar might raise a few eyebrows back at the office. The memory of the femme fatale with the prominent adam's apple made him shiver. What if he had noticed too late that she was not what she pretended to be? His mind refused to follow the train of thought.
How would his prim and proper friends react if they discovered his fondness for sweet degradation at the hands of that notorious minx, Ms Whiplash; the smearing of his body with yoghurt and honey after which he was sprinkled with chocolate curls and given as an offering to a dozen "vestal virgins" whose tongues reduced him to helpless giggles? Indeed, if not for the stout chains that bound him to the faux marble altar in that Soho cellar, he would have curled himself into a ball of shame - and possibly pulled a muscle or two in trying to lick himself clean. As if the honeyed yoghurt was not degrading enough, they had decorated him with whipped cream, strawberries and langue-de-chat bisuits and lapped absinthe from his navel, turning him into some bizarre human trifle for their own pleasure.
Finally, a light repast had been served on his taut naked body and he could only watch in despair as warm butter ran down their otherwise flawless chins and sharp pearl-white teeth, framed by blood-red lips, bit deep into freshly toasted crumpets. He could no longer face the sight of a crumpet. And as for croissants! He shivered, half in delight, half in shame at the memory of the croissant episode. Even walking past a patisserie had become a surreal nightmare.
His train of thought was mercifully interrupted by the exhortation to "Mind the Gap", but not before his blushes had prompted a kind-faced businesswoman to ask if he was feeling unwell. Making hasty excuses, Tubby bolted from the train before the doors slammed shut. He stood shaking on the platform with silver spots swimming before his eyes ....
IV: TUBBY GETS MINXED
Sat on the bed in his attic bedroom, Tubby clutched the note to his chest. It smelled of strawberries. Both its contents, and the memories it provoked, troubled him. Unbidden flashbacks charged through his fevered brain like tube train carriages flashing past the platform of a closed station.
He'd been playing piano at that sleazy Soho tranny club, crooning foreign songs to the usual bored-looking clients. The blonde femme fatale/proprietor in impossibly high heels and improbably tight corset, whose daytime name was Vincent (the blonde, not the corset), occupied her usual barstool and was deep in conversation with the barman. Tubby had returned from answering the call of nature to find a note on his piano stool. The blonde had not moved and was still deep in conversation. Who could have left the note?
He’d unfolded the paper, noting the scent of strawberry perfume. It was an invitation to an underground music club where there might be "prospects" for a struggling pianist. It was signed in ornate script: The Minx. The invitation was for later that night and it disturbed him that the "Minx" knew his schedule. Tubby did not like to be too predictable; he preferred to be enigmatic. With trembling fingers, he had re-folded the paper and put it in his shirt pocket, getting an occasional waft of sweet, ripe strawberries as, in spite of his jangling nerves, he played and crooned the cheesy music that helped pay the rent.
He had presented his invitation to the doorman at the underground music club and been handed a pre-paid ticket Wondering how he would recognise the Minx, Tubby took a seat with a view of the entrance and tried to guess. He knew only one thing: she would smell of strawberries. People arrived in twos and threes: cybergoths and rock chicks; girls in glitter-sprayed Slayer teeshirts; ageing punk rockers whose weekend mohicans were marred by male pattern balding and grey hair. Others wore tight latex, clinging like a second skin, and masks: not Venetian domino or harlequin masks, but strange rubber or leather hoods, with rubber spikes in place of hair, that revealed only their eyes and mouths. They turned out to be the band, a fetish metal outfit called OIR (Tubby never did find out what it stood for).
By his third drink he’d begun to wonder if the mysterious Minx would be there at all or if it had been a cruel joke on the innocent pianist, playing on his naivete and his puppy-like eagerness to please. The music was uncomfortably loud and the clientele far scarier than the cross-dressed clientele of the tranny bar. The gyrating bodies, multicoloured lights (that did little to illuminate the place) and the mixed scents of sweat, smoke, alcohol, leather and latex made his head swim.
Suddenly there had been the smell of Gauloise cigarettes and strawberries. Tubby cringed inwardly at the memory - in his confused and wittering (and one-sided) attempt at conversation he had made the terribly unsophisticated faux pas of pronouncing it "gallowease". The Gauloise was in a diamante holder. The face was in shadow, but the perfume was unmistakable. Stubbing out the cigarette, the Minx indicated that they should step outside. Tubby had welcomed the opportunity to escape into the fresh air. They had stepped through the Fire Exit and up a set of stairs to a back-street. In spite of the food odours from the two metal bins from fast food franchises that backed onto the small yard, he’d noticed the fresh smell of rain on cobbles which contrasted starkly with the smoky fug of the underground venue.
Hazily, he’d noticed a black London cab parked against the opposite kerb, the door invitingly open and steam rising where the London drizzle evaporated from the bonnet. Unusually, its windows were tinted for the passengers' privacy and there was a distinct lack of advertising on its sides. Its interior light glowed invitingly and without thinking, he stepped into the cab. The Minx followed and the door slammed shut with a portentous thud of finality behind them.
"The long way, driver," the Minx said in a husky voice. It was the first time he had heard her voice.
The silhouetted driver nodded and then was hidden from view as the Minx drew a dark, heavy curtain across the dividing glass. Martial music blared into the passenger compartment.
"Laibach," said the Minx, or maybe it had been "Lie back," but he could no longer be sure of anything he saw or heard. He was aware only of the fact that he was sprawled across the back bench seat which, he dimly noted, was red velvet, something he considered unusual in a London cab where, as a rule, heavy usage demanded a more hardwearing seat-covering.
The remainder of the memory was a blur of images in Tubby's mind, like the blurred view of passengers' faces in that underground train thundering past the platform of the closed station. There were hands - deft and skilled - and, he was pleased to note, strawberry-scented breath untainted by smoke. The smouldering Gauloise in its diamante holder had been a prop, he’d realised, the Minx did not smoke. There were lips, soft and urgent and the warm press of flesh. He had no recollection of elapsed time or actual events, only that, after an indefinable length of time, the world had exploded into silver spots and he’d been left gasping for breath. Almost on cue, the taxi had stopped and the door opened. Used and dishevelled, and with bright spots still dancing in front of his eyes, Tubby had been pushed out onto a drizzly street.
As he’d watched the departing black cab, which from the outside looked like any other apart from its tinted windows and lack of advertising on the sides, he’d realised he was on the corner of his road. He wondered how the Minx knew where he lived, but in his strangely euphoric state this did not trouble him as much as it should have done. Somehow, in spite of his drunken semi-stupor (surely he'd been slipped a Mickey Finn), he'd stumbled home and fallen onto the bed.
That had been last night, Tubby thought. Next morning - this morning - bleary-eyed, he’d stumbled downstairs where several things had troubled his mind. For example, the washing up he'd left carelessly piled in the sink had been done and neatly put away. Could he possibly have been so drunk that he'd done the washing up and not remembered it? (And if so, how drunk did he have to be to do the hoovering?) He was reassured that the toaster still did not work, thus re-establishing his sense of normality.
Far more troubling was the strawberry-scented note he found on his doormat. It was another invitation from The Minx. He couldn't even remember her face except for a vague impression of pale hair (reinforced by the scattering of blonde hair on his clothing) and mascara. He wondered if he dared take up the invitation. Then, troubled by a tickling sensation, Tubby reached up to his itchy, unshaven neck. His hand encountered an unfamiliar object. Around his neck was a padlocked dog-collar and a name tag. Squinting into the shaving mirror a few minutes later he read the tag, albeit with some difficulty due to having to read the reflected details backwards. On it is was his name - his real name (how had the Minx known that?) - and a phone number. The number matched the one on the note in his hand. Tubby wondered if he dared call the number, or whether he should simply phone a locksmith. He did, however, notice that the collar was in a plaid that rather nicely complimented his eyes.
Thus it was that with trembling fingers, Tubby picked up his mobile phone and chose between one of two destinies – the Minx or the locksmith (though not before he had topped up the credit on his mobile) ....
V. TUBBY’S STRANGE DREAM
That night, Tubby had a very strange dream. He was back at school and for some reason he was wearing a girl's school uniform dress. In the illogical world of dreams, this didn't strike him as odd. Fizz had threatened him with a jolly good scragging after school, but he didn't know what a scragging was, which made the prospect even scarier. He was on his way to double geography and was daydreaming as usual when he heard the girl's voice.
"Oye! Tubby - your zip's undone!" it said.
Tubby realised the zip on the front of his dress had come undone, revealing his pretty lacy bra. Oh my! Tubby thought to himself, mortified that he had been running around like that all morning.
"Could you help me zip it up?" he asked, since for some illogical dream-like reason his fingers couldn't grasp the zip tag.
"I think it would be best to nip into the coat-racks - we don’t want the whole school seeing, do we?" said the girl. He noticed that she had strawberry-blonde hair and freckles.
As they ducked into the coat-racks, she introduced herself ".... but everyone calls me Minx," she said, "You're in the Lower Fourth aren't you?" Tubby had been so intent on her freckles that he'd missed her real name.
"Can I call you Minx?" he asked, lifting his chin so she could pull the zip right up to his collar.
Minx's tongue stuck out endearingly at the corner of her mouth as she concentrated. She was standing closer than was strictly necessary and, when she nodded, her hair tickled him. He started to giggle in a very girly manner.
"That tickled," he said, somewhat unnecessarily.
She tugged ineffectually at his zip and her fingers brushed his pretty lacy bra. For some reason he was also wearing shiny, pretty high-heeled shoes and he knew it was against school rules.
"Ooh! Careful!" he squealed, sounding embarrassingly girl-like.
"Goodness," said Minx, "I think it's good and stuck. It looks to me like you'll have to take it off and un-jam it."
"Will you help me?" Tubby asked and squealed again as Minx concentrated on the stuck zip.
"Shhh!" said Minx urgently. "I think I heard the teacher."
"Sorry," Tubby whispered into her strawberry-blonde hair. He wanted to kiss the top of her head, but didn't know if that was the sort of thing that girlies did when they were huddled in the coat-racks.
Suddenly the zip came unstuck. "There, that's better," said Minx, straightening up. She lost her balance and Tubby reached out to steady her. He hoped desperately that the teacher was not about to come in.
"Sorry, I was startled," said Minx, leaning against him.
Tubby felt his heart racing. He didn't know where to put his hands and the fact that he seemed to be a girl made him wonder if he should be putting his hands anywhere at all. In confusion he started biting his thumbnail which, he noticed, was painted a vivid red that was bound to get him detention.
"I don't mind if you hug me," she said coquettishly.
"Mmmm....you hair smells nice," Tubby said, not sure of what to say, never having been in that situation before, at least not with a known minx and not while wearing girl's clothing. The school bell started ringing and he realised he was late for geography.
With a start, Tubby woke up clutching the engraved tag on his collar. His alarm clock was ringing. How would he manage to get through a whole day at the office, distracted by the thought of that night's meeting with a known minx?
VI. THE TORRID AFFAIR BAR
Tubby felt as though a great weight had been lifted from his mind. He would no longer let Minx yank him about like a puppy on a leash. He was intrigued enough to arrange a meeting with her, but this time she would not take advantage of him. In their strangely stilted phone call, Minx had agreed to the venue he’d chosen. He'd taken a long shower, shaved, styled his hair a little and selected a smart, yet casual, outfit. The effect was casual with a hint of sophistication, as though he were dressing down for the occasion rather than dressing up.
Thus our hero came to be sitting on a sofa in a darkened alcove in the kind of wine bar conducive to a torrid affair. He swirled his third vodka-and-pomegranate in its glass as he waited for his temptress and tormentress to arrive in her customary swirl of strawberry perfume. His heart was beating double time – he was waiting for a known minx who was about to get her comeuppance.
She arrived promptly, her face framed by the pale hair that haunted his memories. She wore a cream silk blouse and indecently short black skirt that showed off her long, shapely legs. She looked around the room and he coolly raised a hand and nodded, but did not rise to offer her a drink. Several men looked enviously in his direction. A few moments later she eased herself gracefully onto the other end of the sofa, a glass of 1998 Ungar Cabernet Sauvignon in her hand.
“So,” she said breathily, raising an eyebrow. Her red lips were pursed, immaculately framing that single word.
That one word conveyed so many promises, but Tubby was determined that tonight would be on his terms.
“The other night,” he said firmly.
“Indeed,” she purred.
“You seem to have left something behind,” he said, stroking the tag on his collar.
“Indeed,” she said again (a long drown out “indeed” this time), tilting her head in acknowledgment and raising an elegant eyebrow.
“Only it seemed to have the wrong details on it,” Tubby lied, “So I got the engraver to change it.”
He saw an expression of irritation on her face before she hid it with an enigmatic smile.
“Oh?” she asked.
“Would you like to look?” he asked.
She looked at him quizzically, but could not resist. Tubby had assessed her character accurately. Her meticulous planning of his taxi-ride ravishment meant she was not a woman who liked to make mistakes. He was buggered if he’d be nothing more than a thinking strumpet’s crumpet.
As Minx leaned forward, Tubby grabbed her wrist and in one swift motion he had her across his knee. Holding both her wrists firmly in the small of her back, he lifted her already indecently short skirt high enough to reveal a black and red thong that left both her buttocks exposed. He was mildly disappointed that she didn’t wear cream-colour satiny camiknickers with café-au-lait lace trim (he somehow imagined that was the sort of thing Minxes wore). She wore a matching black suspender belt to hold up her seamed black stockings. With his free hand he began to spank her bottom, tentatively at first and then in firm, rhythmic strokes. Minx cried out in affront and then started to sob in earnest. Her sobs soon turned into small mewling sounds as his firm smacks turned her skin hot and red.
A few patrons looked across the room at the noise, but Tubby had purposely chosen a shadowy spot. They might see a figure crouched at his feet and assume some lewd act were going on in that alcove, but being involved in their own illicit liaisons, they had only a passing interest.
Finally he pushed the sobbing Minx off his lap and into a heap at his feet. He regarded his handiwork. Her hair was in marvellous disarray and her clothing rumpled. Her blouse had popped open to reveal an ivory coloured lace bra that only just contained her full breasts (“Mmm, boobies!” thought Tubby appreciatively. He liked boobies.). Her suspenders had come undone and her stockings, now torn during her attempts to wriggle free, were loose about her knees.
“Feel free to call me,” he said with a curt nod, then picked up his jacket, rose from his seat and left the wine bar. As he did so, he noted that one stiletto shoe had been kicked across the room where she would be forced to retrieve it in full view of the other patrons.
The evening air was crisp on his face as he strode towards the tube station. He wondered if she would call him now that the tables were turned. Rather belatedly, he wondered if she would allow him to remove the collar.
VII. THE THINKING STRUMPET'S CRUMPET
Having no other choice, the sun shone through the window into Tubby's attic bedroom and onto Tubby's unclad body. Six scarves tied him to the bedroom chair. His wrists were tied to the padded arms with diaphanous chiffon scarves – one green, one grey. His ankles were tied, one to each of the front chair legs, with shiny black and silver polyester scarves that shone like polished jet and silver in the sunlight. A multicoloured, striped woollen scarf (factory-made, but cunningly designed to look hand-knitted) was looped around his chest and upper arms, pinioning him to the padded back of the chair. A fluffy yarn scarf in pastel hues was looped about one knee, thence under the chair seat and around the other knee; pulled taut it prevented him from sitting with his knees together. To complete the effect, a tartan collar with a name tag adorned his neck.
In spite of his predicament, Tubby was not entirely unhappy. He had heard nothing from the Minx for several weeks after his chastisement of her in the wine bar (the one he thought well suited to torrid affairs). Then, suddenly, out of the blue, he had arrived home to find her already in his attic room. She had been stretched languidly on the bed, flicking through one of his books (glancing over at the bed he determined that it had been Coupland's Microserfs). He had been uncertain of how she had gained access.
He was also uncertain of how he had come to be tied in his bedroom chair, staring at the cerulean sky through the sloping attic window. No words had been spoken to him beyond "take those off" and "sit down." Feeling strangely euphoric at the Minx's return, he had complied. His one attempted at protest, more of a garbled "How-what-why-no-no-no" had been silenced with a curt "Just do it." Her tone brooked no further disobedience or protest on his part.
His viewing options were limited. He could, if he wished, survey part of his familiarly untidy bedroom. He could continue to gaze into the cloud-dappled blueness and imagine shapes in the clouds. Or he could look down at the blonde hair spread across his lap. The Minx was kneeling at his feet. While physically fully aware of her attentions to certain areas of himself, his mind refused to encompass the thought.
He came back to himself with a jolt. He was tied to his chair, unclothed, with a fully clothed Minx kneeling at his feet doing "things" to him; things that had never been done to him before, that he had never imagined being done to him (or to be accurate, he had imagined them in fuzzy half-formed ways, but he had not imagined that such things would be perpetrated upon his body in real life). She looked disturbingly schoolgirl-like in her royal blue skirt, white blouse, ecru stockings - he'd glimpsed the black suspender belt - and black Catholic schoolgirl shoes.
Tubby sighed, there being little else he could do at this juncture. He was still sighing when, wordlessly, the Minx arose, licked her red-painted lips and left him there, the sun still shining down on his captive form. His vision temporarily clouded by a pale haze, Tubby now had to work out how to extricate himself from the scarves. At that particular moment, basking in sunlight and the afterglow of the Minx's attentions, he was not entirely sure that he wanted to extricate himself, either from the chair or from the magically wicked Minx.
VIII. TUBBY DISCOVERS THE PERILS OF CONSORTING WITH A KNOWN MINX
Sitting on the edge of his trolley in the baggage reclaim hall of Heathrow Airport, Tubby yawned and reflected on the fact that 24 hours ago, he'd been sitting in Singapore’s famous Raffles Bar sipping Singapore Slings and breathing the humid, spicy atmosphere of an exotic city. He’d had been a long flight back in Economy class. The 2 hour stopover at Kuala Lumpur's gleaming international airport had been just enough time to stretch his legs and buy a snack. He’d then had a rollercoaster of a ride through turbulence over Europe before ending up in a grimy, deserted Baggage Reclaim hall on a drizzly morning.
Finally his small suitcase tumbled onto the conveyor and he trundled through the green channel of Customs. For some perverse reason, the customs officers decided he looked suspicious, but to their disappointment he had only a bottle of gin (wrapped in a sheet explaining how to make a Singapore Sling) and a small box of cheap cigars for his "boss" at the tranny club. He trudged wearily into the Arrivals hall and wondered whether to have an espresso before heading for the Piccadilly Line.
To his surprise, someone awaited him. A grey-suited man held up a sign with Tubby’s name on it. Perplexed, he approached. The man asked him to confirm his name.
"… known as 'Tubby' …?" asked the man.
"That's right," Tubby confirmed, still bemused.
The man got out a notebook. "I'm Detective Inspector Turnham and this is my colleague DI Stamford. We have reason to believe you are associating with a known minx. This way please."
Tubby's mouth opened, but no words came. DI Stamford took Tubby's case. Tubby was aware of people watching him.
"I'll come quietly," Tubby said in a meek voice.
He wondered if this was the Minx's doing - a fake arrest scene at the country's busiest airport. People stared he was led away and muttered about drugs or immigrants. Since when had associating with a known minx been an offence?
After handing over all his belongings and declining to phone his parents (they would only worry and be ashamed) he was put in a police cell. A WPC Richmond brought tea and biscuits before he was finally interviewed. Again he asked himself, since when had associating with a known minx been an offence? Would it have made any difference if he hadn't known she was a minx? Could you have unknown minxes? Or unknown known minxes? He giggled.
In the interview room, DI Turnham said "We have photos of you with the known Minx" and produced a big brown envelope.
Tubby was aghast. Had he been photographed in the back of the taxi doing "things" with Minx? She'd given him no choice! Had he been photographed tied to his chair with scarves with the strawberry-scented Minx doing things to him? Was this her revenge for the spanking in the torrid affair wine bar?
They laid the photos out in front of him. He gasped. It was not what he'd expected. They showed him in the Raffles Bar sipping a cocktail. A young Singaporean lady was putting a bowl of fresh nibbles on the table in front of him. Several other shots showed the same young woman hovering around his table – taking away an empty glass, bringing a fresh drinks mat. He didn't even recognise her. He had barely been aware of her presence apart from saying a polite "thank you."
They did not believe him. Was there a note slid under that drinks mat? Were there messages at the bottom of the bowl of nuts? Did he realise that associating with known minxes was an offence in that region and that he risked being sent back for a judicial caning? He shuddered. After a further hour of protesting his innocence, he was back in his cell with another mug of tea and some stale Malted Milk biscuits, wondering whether to call his mum after all.
The door hatch opened and WPC Richmond said "There's someone here to see you."
To his relief, Tubby was taken back to his desk where he had to sign for his belongings. The cigars had been "confiscated", but he decided not to make a fuss. The Minx – his Minx! – was standing there in a short-skirted grey suit and black stiletto shoes. Had she bailed him out? That would mean he owed her money – or that she owned him, having "bought" him from the police (his hand fondly stroked the collar at his neck).
"There seems to have been some sort of mistake," she said to a scowling DI Turnham, before taking Tubby by the arm and escorting him to a waiting black cab. A young uniformed copper, PC Brook, followed with Tubby's case and duty free.
Tubby stepped into the familiar velvet-lined taxi, wondering if he was too jetlagged to satisfy the Minx (he was certain she'd make demands of him) during the journey home.
IX. TUBBY’S SPECIAL NEEDS
The little red-haired girl sitting next to Tubby offered him one of her crayons. It was a silver one. Tubby took it and began to colour in the drawing handed out by the teacher. The little girl looked oddly familiar.
Tubby was confused. Why was he in a class of six year olds? Couldn’t they see he was much older and bigger than them? Mrs Minks, the elegant golden-haired teacher didn’t seemed to notice, even though Tubby’s knees were up near his chest when he sat on one of the small chairs. He’d broken two already and the teacher had admonished him for being clumsy.
“Can I have my crayon back?” asked the little girl next to him.
She seemed to like him a lot and kept wanting to hold his hand. Tubby realised that would be improper behaviour. He could not go round holding hands with a six year old who wanted to be his girlfriend. He would much rather hold hands with the elegant Mrs Minks. But both Mrs Minks and the little girl saw him as a six year old. Perhaps he was the only one who saw himself as he really was?
How long had he been at the school anyway? Tubby could only remember being there since that morning, but everyone treated him as though he had always been there. Strangely, he seemed to know where everything was.
He felt like Gulliver in Lilliput. The urinals were uncomfortably low. The classroom furniture was made for much smaller people. In the playground he had to be especially careful not to hurt his diminutive classmates during a game of tag. Why didn’t they notice he was grown-up?
He gave the crayon back to the red-haired girl and continued to admire Mrs Minks. She wore a shiny white blouse and a grey skirt and very sensible shoes. Tubby liked her shoes – even though they were sensible, they were sparkly. He was wearing grey shorts and a grey shirt. He wasn’t even into long trousers! The little girl was staring at him adoringly. He was staring at the teacher.
“Tubby, is something wrong?” asked Mrs Minks, “You’re looking a bit pale. Perhaps you need to see the nurse.”
“I don’t feel very well, miss,” said Tubby.
“I’ll take him there,” said the little red-head, her hand in the air.
“Thank you Minette, but I think I’d better take him myself. I’ll only be a moment.”
Tubby wished Mrs Minks would take him. As if in answer to his unspoken wish, she came to his desk and took his hand. Tubby unfolded his long legs (the folded position was playing havoc with his posture) and held her hand as she led him out of the classroom. He was several inches taller than her.
“How are you feeling, Tubby?” she asked.
“Disoriented,” he said, realising it was a big word for a six year old. “Somehow I sense you are different from the other children,” she said, “You seem more grown up.”
Tubby’s heart lurched. How could she not notice he was not a six year old. He wanted to be inside her head to see himself as she saw him.
“I am more grown up,” he replied, hoping she would see him as his adult self.
Parts of him were reacting to her presence in a way that no six year old boy’s parts should react to a grown woman. He held her hand tight.
“Do you still need to see the nurse, or has the walk cleared you head?” she asked.
“Can you kiss it better?” he asked hopefully.
Mrs Minks’ eyes widened. “I’m not sure I should do that.”
“Please?” he said hopefully, “I’m sure it would make me all better.”
Mrs Minks leaned towards him . Unable to kiss the top of his head, she was forced to kiss his cheek. He turned his face towards her and their lips met. Did she still think he was only six? His arms went round her waist and he held her tight, kissing her urgently.
The moment was broken by a scream of “Oh my god!” and someone pulled him away from the object of his desire. Someone was telling him off for being a bad boy and that his parents would have to be told. Meanwhile, Mrs Minks was being consoled and he heard the words “Special needs” and “Behavioural difficulties.”
As he was led away, he was certain Mrs Minks had winked at him.
Tubby woke sweating. It was the second time he had dreamt of being at school with The Minx. He rolled over onto his side and nestled against her, his arm pulling her close towards him.
X. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Tubby sank into the indulgence of hot water and fragranced bubbles. Soft hands massaged body scrub into his skin. The same soft hands lathered his hair and gently rinsed away the sweat and secretions of the night's activities. They gently patted him dry with a fluffy, white bath-towel before shooing him back to bed. They massaged oil into his back and limbs, loosening knotted muscles. Tubby was so relaxed he began to doze. Splashing noises reminded him that there was a known Minx in his bathroom.
At some point, buttered, toasted bagels piled with scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and cracked black pepper, accompanied by a mug of steaming cappuccino materialised by his bed. He realised he was ravenous. As the freshly washed and massaged Tubby consumed breakfast, he realised Minx had slipped away.
Twenty four hours earlier he'd been detained for consorting with a known minx in a foreign land. Jetlag and confusion blurred his memory of the intervening hours between then and now. He'd woken up with the Minx curled against him. She'd bathed him, ordered breakfast and vanished to wherever enigmatic minxes went when they weren't molesting unassuming pianists.
A folded card on his breakfast tray told him be at a certain wine bar the following evening. Meanwhile, he had to get himself to work ....
.... Tubby looked around the fashionable wine bar. Hidden projectors made light shows on the walls and patrons relaxed in moulded plastic furniture straight from the pages of glossy design books. There was no knowing when Minx would appear. Nature called and Tubby made his way towards the door marked "Gentlemen". As he passed the ladies' toilets, the door opened a crack and a hand grabbed his arm. Squealing, Tubby was pulled into the ladies' facilities.
Two women touching up their lipstick barely noticed him as he was dragged towards a cubicle. He had enough time to take in the huge expanse of mirrors, the polished brass taps, the amber brocade trimmed sofa and the wall-mounted feminine products dispensers before the cubicle door was shut behind him and Minx pinned him to the wall. Her kisses prevented protest. As her hands loosened his clothing, traumatic memories of his past surfaced ....
.... He was 11 years old. At playtime, a group of girls from a sinister clique (they had passwords and secret signs and did secret things, which automatically made them sinister to Tubby's way of thinking) had teased him. They said he was girly, because he was too pretty to be a boy. They were quite pretty with their long hair and big eyes, though they lacked the curves and bulges that, for some reason the prepubescent Tubby couldn't quite fathom, made him tingle.
As he walked past the girls' loos, the door opened and was dragged inside by three girls. Although all the boys were curious about what went on in the girls' loos and sometimes dared each other to open the door and peek, being dragged inside was the ultimate humiliation. Being dragged into the girls' loos meant you were a girly! He never told anyone about his traumatic experiences behind the closed door of the girls' loos. He told himself that he'd had no choice. They'd dragged him in there. They'd made him. He was tainted. There were three of them and only one of him! He was fascinated and horrified. But, even more shamefully, he'd gone back again and again for more.
Being shut in a cubicle with Minx brought all the memories bubbling up. The overwhelming memories meant he couldn't do what Minx wanted. His body refused to respond to her ministrations. Shuddering, he wrenched the door open and fled. He fled from the ladies' room with its air scented by perfume atomisers. He fled out of the smoky wine bar. Most of all, he fled from his memories. Was that why he worked in the tranny club? Was that why he liked looking at shiny, pretty shoes? Was that why he dreamt of school?
The insistent weight of the collar and tag told him he would not escape the Minx so easily ....
XI. THE MINX UNMASQUED
Tubby disconsolately strapped the insulated pizza cases to the Vespa's carrier and wobbled precariously into the London traffic, L plates flapping. The weather reflected his mood – grey and drizzly – ever since quitting his job of lounge pianist at the seedy tranny bar.
"Quitter!" he muttered into the evening drizzle.
After the fleeing the ladies' lavatory he’d stayed in his room for a week, refusing to answer the phone or the door. He'd phoned in sick to his day job and, thinking they’d probably fire him for being unreliable, he’d quit his evening job in the tranny bar. He'd moped to Sigur Ros and The Magnetic Fields. He'd festered to Bonnie Prince Billy and Lambchop. He'd had a serious tantrum to the Raveonettes. And then he'd moped again. But moping didn't pay the rent, so he had to get another evening job and it meant learning to ride a Vespa. He’d gone from moping to Moped.
He still had the New Year's Eve party though. He'd paid for his non-refundable ticket and he wasn't going to waste it. It would be nice to mix with the regulars at the tranny bar while someone else played piano. Thus, on the evening itself, dressed in black and with black-painted nails, Tubby arrived at the Tarts, Trannies and Goths New Year Party. His features didn’t lend themselves to being a tranny, though he rather fancied wearing a long velvet skirt. He was torn between being a Tart or a Goth. He didn't feel particularly tarty so he opted for goth. His smart tartan collar, now cut in two, and name tag lay at home under his pillow.
After a few drinks, it became increasingly hard to tell who was a tranny and who wasn't. Several times Tubby found himself flirting with a tall, elegant female before noticing the shadow of a beard. Flirting with women crossed-dressed as men played havoc with his sensibilities so he ended up loitering near the buffet, consuming mini-samosas and cheese on cocktail sticks.
After his third – or was it his fourth? – vodka cocktail (included in the ticket price), his resolve – and possibly his judgement - faltered and he found himself smooching with a Venetian figure of indeterminate gender, clad in a ballgown, sequinned mask and powdered wig. When he was dragged behind a heavy drape he didn't ask any questions. When a hand insinuated its way into his shirt, his fuddled senses were beyond caring who he was about to kiss. He didn't notice the whispered comments and the turned heads as the masked Venetian and inebriated goth flounced across the dance floor together, towards the exit.
Tubby awoke in his own bed with a thumping headache. Across the room he saw a crumpled ballgown and powdered wig. Oh grief! Who was he snuggled up with and, moreover, what had they done together? He had disjointed memories of probing hands and questing tongues. He'd been pinned down and caressed by a warm tongue while skilled hands had teased him. Had he fled from a mistress only to be seduced by a man? Had his dream of being a schoolgirl had a deeper meaning?
A hand stroked his chest and his heart missed a beat. And if he had, had he enjoyed it?
He daren't look. A leg shifted across him, pinning him down again. Hands teased a reaction out of his body. Finally, he looked up.
"You!" he gasped in shock.
"What will people say when they know you took the club's owner to bed?" asked the person pressing him into the mattress.
His eyes widened.
"That's right – I'm the real owner of the club," breathed the Minx, "and I don't like quitters."
"You …" she said sternly, "will be back to work on the 2nd. And I'm taking you on full time." She picked up the collar. "I ought to put this back on to stop my naughty puppy from running away."
"I won't run away again," Tubby said, his mind reeling, "but be gentle with me as I'm only cute and innocent."
"Cute, but far from innocent," the Minx laughed huskily.
Later, Tubby reflected. It was a new year. He had a new job. He was in bed with a strawberry-scented known Minx who'd promised not to scare him. There'd be no more running away …..