I was in a nightclub and it was getting late.
My dancing pace had slowed to a lethargic shuffle and my mind had started thinking about what takeaway I was going to pick up on my way home. When I realised my eyes had been involuntarily closed for the past five minutes or so, I decided it was probably time to go home.
I made the sorry guys I’m knackered so going to head home but you stay and I’ll see you tomorrow mime to my friends and began making my way through the gathered crowds outside the club door. Then, suddenly, I heard my name being called out. I looked around and it was Claire.
I had been on a few dates with Claire about four months before but she then had to go abroad for her studies and we just lost contact. Her cute and friendly face was in stark contrast to her athletic physique. She towered over my fairly substantial 6’1″ frame and had firmer abs than I did (though admittedly not difficult). She was a fiercely competitive type and was a member of her University’s rowing and tennis teams.
She also liked a good drink and a night out, as was evident when she approached me outside the club to say hello.
I had barely told her about my night before she had me pressed up against the wall. I couldn’t quite believe my luck. I was flattered but I was also tired, alone, hungry and wanted my bed. Without anyone else in it. But I was also single and not one to turn down such promising advances.
“Michelle’s coming back to ours for a bit of an after party!” she said excitedly while gesturing to her friend, who could barely stand.
I half-heartedly suggested I was too tired and should go home but Claire was insistent and I’m incredibly weak willed with women. Plus, she was quite an intimidating lady to disagree with.
“Look, Michelle’s got a man and now I have you. Perfect. Let’s get a taxi,” said Claire rather proudly which did my ego no harm.
I looked over at Michelle’s man. Easily 6’5″, shaved head, neck tattoos and a face only a mother could love. Though Michelle too, it seemed.
We bundled in to a taxi and sped off. I sat next to Claire, opposite Michelle and her Scary Man. Scary Man kept his eyes fixed on to mine for the whole journey, bringing out a wry smile every few minutes, all the while Michelle had her tongue in his ear and her hand on his crotch. It was most disconcerting.
We arrived at Michelle’s flat and after short while of inane small talk Michelle and Scary Man had vanished elsewhere, leaving Claire and I alone. She didn’t hold back either. She pinned me down on the sofa using her far superior strength. It was a turn on, but also ever so slightly frightening.
Just when things were hotting up, however, I noticed something.
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before now. Because Claire was young, and a student, I hadn’t thought to even check.
“Is that….is that a wedding ring?” I asked cautiously. Claire froze for a second and then looked at her hand.
“Oh, yeah…yeah it is. Don’t worry,” she replied nonchalantly and continued kissing me as if it was no big deal.
“Wait, hold on. You’re married? You know….we can’t do this, right?” I said, disappointedly.
“Because of that!” I snapped and pointed to the ring.
Without taking her eyes off mine, Claire’s response was to immediately remove the ring and put it on the table.
“There. Problem solved.”
“That’s not what I meant!”
“Oh, well what’s the what’s the problem?”
“The problem is your married and its not fair on your husband. I can’t do it.”
“But, he’s fine with it! We have an understanding! I thought you knew that?”
“How could I possibly know that?”
“We’ll, I thought you would have guessed….considering.”
I thought for a second but had nothing. I gave Claire a ‘what the hell are you talking about’ shrug. She rolled her eyes and slowly turned her head towards the room Michelle and Scary Man had entered.
What? No. It couldn’t be. Surely not? Scary Man was Claire’s husband?
I looked at Claire, jaw on the floor. I then remembered the taxi journey. Scary Man’s eyes fixed on to mine….his wry smiles.
“We like to mix things up sometimes. We’ve known Michelle for years. Come, on, we can go join them…”
You know in life when there are clear moments with two distinct roads you can go down and there’s just no way of knowing which will end up being the best choice? Well, needless to say this was one of them.
Panic set in. Claire’s eyes changed. She started looking quite threatening and I got a little scared. She gave me a look that suggested she was telling me to stay, rather than asking.
“No, sorry, I better go,” I spluttered and moved towards the door. Claire grabbed my arm though and pushed me down on the sofa. “Don’t be such a bitch James! Stay!”
“Sorry Claire, I just can’t. I better go,” I replied, rather pathetically. I rushed for the door and desperately tried the handle but it was locked. I searched the hallway for a set of keys, but nothing.
“I can’t get out. The doors locked!” I yelped, a little too high-pitched for a man of my age.
“Oh, yeah, you’ll need the keys,” replied Claire, clearly unhappy with me.
“Where are they then?”
“I’m not telling you. I want you to stay. If you want to go you’ll have to find them.”
At that moment I really didn’t know who I was now more afraid of: Claire or her and Michelle’s Scary Man. I searched every tabletop and drawer in every room for the keys, with no luck.
All but one room.
The room with Michelle and the Scary Ma- sorry I mean Claire’s husband, were doing god-knows-what. I had no choice though. I had to get out of there.
Slowly pushing the door open I stuck my head around it before tiptoeing in. I knew this was risky. I knew if I woke this man up now, I’d probably be leaving the place without all of my teeth.
I stood at the end of the bed, looking down on them, feeling a bit like a creepy Santa Claus. I peered down, as my eyes struggled in the darkness.
I looked around the room as much as I possibly could with minimal lighting, movement or making any noise. As I turned to leave the room defeated, the reflection of something shiny caught my eye on the bedside table next to the snoring Scary Man. The keys! The keys to freedom!
How would I get them though? He was turned facing that side of the bed, nose practically resting on the bedside table. He would clearly feel my presence over him trying to grab the keys. In that moment, I knew what I and to do.
I took a deep breath and I slowly lowered myself down, bending on to my knees, and then on to my stomach.
I paused to reflect for just a second. It’s not often I find myself lying flat out on the floor, at the foot of a strangers bed, in a strangers house, in the middle of the night.
I snapped out of it though and began to slowly army-crawl my way along the length of the bed towards the bedside table, being careful to be as absolutely silent as possible.
I made it to the bedside table and looked up. I kept my eyes fixed on his closed eyelids as I brought my arm up to the table top and began to feel my way towards the keys. I knocked over a small pile of loose change and froze, heart-thumping, as he subconsciously reacted with a sleeping head-nod and a sniffle. I waited for him to fall silent again and eventually got my pinkie wrapped around the keying. I slowly prized it from under the layers of debris, stopping every few seconds to make sure I didn’t awaken the snoozing psychopath.
The keys were mine. I started my backwards crawl, mindful to avoid carpet burn on any sensitive body parts. I made it out of the bedroom with delight and fear running through my veins in equal measure.
I gave Claire a glance as I fumbled with the keys in the lock. Thankfully, though, she was already now fast asleep on the sofa.
Hands shaking, I posted the keys back through the letter box and eventually made it on to an unfamiliar street. Eyes bleary, I had no idea where I was. I looked up at the sky. It was that time where night turned to morning and I looked at my watch. 4:53am.
Looking around me, I made a judgement call as to which direction civilisation was and started walking. As I began walking my phone beeped. It was one of my friends from earlier in the club.
MATE YOU’RE NOT AT THE FLAT YOU OK? HOW WAS YOUR NIGHT? YOU GET LUCKY? WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO?
I hit ‘reply’ and spent the whole walk home home thinking about where to start.