The Sunday morning went smoothly, stuff dropped off at the flat and neatly put away in the wardrobe then farewells before everyone went in different directions. Suzanne and Andrew caught the Tube to Heathrow and went to Amsterdam for their holiday. Nice and close, with a direct flight back to Edinburgh. Andrew needed the break, from a lot of things; he probably needed a break from himself. Him he was stuck with but other than that Andrew wanted a calm week with Suzanne. Sensing his mood on Saturday night she had backed into him, let him spoon her and just hold her. As Andrew fell asleep it had reminded him of the moment when she did the same thing at his party the year before. She was there for him.
Amsterdam is in Holland; therefore it is flat, there are lots of canals and there are museums full of painting by Dutch painters. Other than that there was a red-light district Andrew was not sure he knew anything else about Amsterdam before he arrived there. Thinking about it, given that they walked and cycled everywhere on the forgiving flat terrain, strolled along the banks of the canals as well as taking several boat trips, and visited both the museums and the red-light district, he was not sure that he needed to know more. The best thing they discovered was the Bos, a huge park southwest of the city near Schiphol Airport. It became a place they visited repeatedly over the course of the week.
Their hotel was on one of the canals not far from Dam Square, just five minutes away. It reminded Andrew of Rome, the room was small and the plumbing an adventure. But it was clean, quiet and close to the centre of the city. When they closed the door of the room Suzanne smiled but then stripped him and told him to get into bed. She stripped quickly as well before lying on top of Andrew, her head resting on his chest. She never spoke but just let him hold her. They dozed, no words necessary just letting the stress bleed away. Why was Andrew so stressed? He had been way more wound up about the wedding and his role in it than he had realised. But the main stress was about him and Suzanne. The wedding had been a revelation. She had been confident, funny, able to tease him. A perfect partner, and he thought she knew it.
“What I am trying to say is jumbled in my head. So it will be a standard ramble as I try and sort all this out. I am confused about my life and where it is going. For someone who has planned and set goals for more than five years it is unsettling. I don’t know what I am doing to do as a career when I graduate. And I don’t know what I want in the partner to share that life with me. I have lots of goals around the edges of these but the what, and with who is a mystery, plus add in the where on top of it.
“You were perfect this weekend Suzanne. You were relaxed, supportive and strong. As we sat at the reception after my speech when you teased me about our children, I imagined you as my wife. But you have also repeatedly said we have an expiration date, we want different things from life, and so I am confused. We are only 19 years old and neither of us should be making long term decisions right at this moment. But then I stop and think why not? And so I start to think about what I want in a wife and I am back to being confused. I don’t know. Our sexual compatibility dazzles like a blow torch and makes it difficult for me to figure out what the difference is between love and sex. I want and need someone like you, someone who challenges me. But I also love your vulnerability, I want to protect you yet at the same time I am drawn to your independence and intelligence. So I am horribly out of sorts and I need a dose of Suzanne common sense.”
It was incoherent, disjointed and foolish. And he sounded so sad.
“You are an odd man Andrew McLeod. Decisive and with a battering ram attitude to life. Yet also sweet, hopeless and unsure of yourself and your place in this world.”
She stopped and tapped his temple.
“That big old brain needs a hand every now and then. You have all these goals but what is the plan for your life? Be passionate. You can’t help being passionate, but you are always thinking about tomorrow and not enjoying today. Enjoy today. Why are you asking me about love? You hate being praised.
“The man I love is kind, funny, generous, strong and handsome, and has been a consistent and trustworthy friend for years. He has supported me, believed in me, trusted me, cared for me, always been there for me. He is the only person in the whole world who knows me, the person that I can trust with my deepest and most troubling secrets. He is the man who experiments with me and who fights his own nature because I need him to. And we live together. So when I see love Andrew, I see you.
“But is this love that will last a lifetime? There I am as lost as you. You are restless, compulsive, secretive, and incapable of relaxing other than for a short time, like this holiday. I have to be enough for the man I love. He must want to spend time with me rather than do other things. I need to be first in his thoughts not an afterthought. For the last year we have got ever closer Andrew. But you have not changed. When I told you that love is loving someone more than the plan, or your goals, it has not changed. So I have had to decide what I am going to do, knowing that this could, and likely will, end in heartbreak.
“I am going to enjoy my todays, with you, to the fullest extent possible. I hope that we grow more in the next five years than we have in the last five. And I hope that you do the same. Have the same faith in me that you have had for the last five years, and faith in yourself”
She stopped talking and once more rested her head on his chest. Andrew lay there for a long time trying to absorb all that she said. Five years ago the girls arrived at Heriot’s, he met Suzanne for the first time. Look at the change in those five years. He closed his eyes in embarrassment. He could get himself so wound up and distorted and yet what really needed to happen was he had to talk to the two women in his life. Leslie had challenged him all the way home in June and now, at the end of the summer, Suzanne was doing the same thing. Maybe not challenge but help him get his priorities sorted out. For all his worries about being a solitary and lonely person, the solution was right there in front of him. The last hour might have needed to be said to clear his head but it felt to Andrew that he had been self-absorbed, whiny and pretentious. Again.
Suzanne Jenner knew him very well indeed. And she had the perfect attitude to their love. Enjoy it. He had seen too many times already that life was not fair and easy. Epicurus was onto something. When Andrew started gently rubbing the cheeks of her arse Suzanne sighed and lifted her head.
She broke into a radiant smile before lowering her head, peeking out from under her lashes and biting her bottom lip. She whispered.
Andrew pulled himself up the bed until he was sitting with his back against the headboard. Knee crawling towards him Suzanne lowered herself onto him and they both moaned. They made love for a long time, trying to draw it out and stay connected. Dealing with the consequences so that they didn’t have the world’s biggest wet spot had them out of bed and in the shower rather than basking after the fact. Andrew was a different person when he finally redressed. They headed out on their first exploration, dinner a necessity for his growling stomach.
“You do miss having someone to talk to, don’t you?”
“More and more I am realising that I was incredibly lucky. For four years I saw Leslie every Sunday at her parents and especially in the first couple of years the talks we had were so important. But even more than that for the last three years I saw you every morning at school. We swam and walked to school for the final four terms of school. I don’t think I realised how much that time meant to me. For most of that final 18 months nothing built up. It was you that got Leslie and me back talking to each other. And it was a set of circumstances that were almost unique. Of all the things that changed when I went to Cambridge this is the one that I am struggling with the most. A friendship that grew and grew and a trust level that grew and grew. I get bored talking about the past, particularly everything that I have done, but I miss not trusting anyone at Cambridge. Helena listened to what Freya told her at Easter and was changing. But I don’t know how close we will be going forward now that she is loved up with someone else. Navya ignored or fought the message and is in danger of harming our friendship because of her nosiness but maybe even more, her need to tell everyone. Would you let me visit you in Glasgow during term time?”
“Of course Andrew. Don’t you think that I want and need this too?”
“Do you think that you will work for the Forestry Commission again next summer?”
“No idea. I only finished last Thursday. Why?”
“I want to talk about things like that with you a lot more. It won’t be the deciding reason for taking or not taking a job but I want us to have the conversation rather than me working away in isolation.”
As they strolled around central Amsterdam, paying not the slightest attention to their surroundings, they deliberately started to plan their lives together. For the first time Andrew thought of someone else and did so happily.
Having been melancholy and pathetic that Sunday there was an annoying inevitability that he would be obnoxiously happy on the Monday morning. As with Rome they decided to have a cultural day followed by a different day therefore walked to the Rijksmuseum on that blustery Monday morning. They missed a turn and had to double back to the museum but as they approached it they spotted a swimming pool right there behind the museum. The two of them were almost as happy to make that discovery as to view the art. They saved van Gogh for another day, the museum of his work is right behind the Rijksmuseum, and instead returned to the hotel, grabbed their swimming gear and walked for the second time that day south out of the city centre.
Suzanne swam for 50 minutes and then left to get a head start on her hair and even although Andrew swam for 10 extra minutes he was still in the lobby waiting when she came out, hair tousled but eyes sparkling. The walk back to their hotel started as a leisurely stroll. But as they walked they picked up on each other’s mood, no words were exchanged. The pace picked up though and they scurried down the short corridor to the room. They stripped quickly but Andrew held Suzanne from jumping onto the bed.
“Stand here, hands above your head with your eyes closed.”
Looking startled she complied and he kneeled behind her. Andrew reached up and his hands traced Suzanne’s shoulders, under her arms, brushing the sides of her breasts before he too closed his eyes and his hands were drawn to where her waist gathered in before flaring out to her hips. Andrew had no idea how long he knelt there his hands repeating that journey, rib cage to waist to hips, with regular detours to those magnificent cheeks. He stood and went to kiss her neck but Suzanne walked forward, knelt at the edge of the bed and wiggled her arse. The heights were a pain but they were not to be denied. On each of his out strokes Suzanne deliberately rode forward, Andrew’s hands halting her progress and pulling her back onto him. When the dam broke, all too soon as usual, he staggered back and Suzanne slumped forward. Andrew joined her on the bed letting the rest of the world back into their lives.
“Anybody would think you like my arse Andrew McLeod.”
“No, not just your magnificent arse Suzanne, it is this perfect hourglass figure, the way your waist flares to your hips.”
Their kisses quickly got out of hand and their second fuck was even more passionate than the first. Like he had said, a blazing blowtorch of sexual compatibility.
Dinner was at a little restaurant that served generic northern European dishes without ever declaring a speciality or nationality. The food was tasty and plentiful and they were three buildings down from the hotel. After dinner they went back to the room, stripped and assumed their usual position for foreplay and talking. Andrew wasn’t sure which one they were starting with.
“What are the plans for this week?”
“I thought we would go to the Anne Frank House tomorrow morning. It is a must see but also sad and moving. I thought we could walk or cycle afterwards at that Bos park the guidebook talks about. So a quieter day tomorrow. The van Gogh Museum is right by the pool so I figured that would be the main thing on Wednesday. After that we could just walk, cycle, take a boat ride, whatever takes our fancy. What about you? What would you like to do? And are you okay with what I have planned?”
“No, it is important to go to Anne Frank’s House and a quieter day afterwards seems appropriate. It doesn’t seem right to be asking this after talking about that but what about the red-light district?”
“I guessed one of these talks would be about it. I presume you want to go?”
Suzanne flushed but nodded.
“What in particular?”
“What do you mean?”
“When you talked about Hamburg it painted a vivid picture in my mind. You painted a vivid picture of me in a sex shop. I want to see if the reality matches up to the vision in my head.”
“Okay, I had assumed that you would want to go into one. According to the guidebook, and it doesn’t go into much detail, the area is nondescript, almost boring, during the day but at night it is much edgier, I think that was the word they used. They cautioned against single women going there on their own. Now that won’t be an issue for us. But from talking to a couple of the guys over the summer there are several areas where prostitutes are very frequent. But here they sit in little, I don’t know, sort of shop windows. So the vibe of the place will be different at night. Overwhelmingly male, and although I would hope there will be no comments you will be stared at. A lot. So why don’t we do a little walk around at 6.00 or thereabouts. You can decide if you want to come back later that night, another night or do like I did. I went to the shop on a Sunday morning, the only person there at 10.00 in the morning. The sex shops are open all the time.”
“Always looking out for me.”
She leaned in and gave Andrew a kiss.
“I think that is a sensible approach. Maybe Wednesday before we go for dinner and then we can decide the next steps at dinner?”
The Holocaust is a difficult thing to write about, let’s get the obvious out of the road at the start. Andrew’s memories of that day were limited. Standing there at 19 years of age reading about what life was like for a girl not yet a teenager when the Nazis invaded, it seemed a different time, a different world. But it was less than 40 years earlier. And it coloured so many facets of modern life. Andrew came out of there hating Germans. He didn’t know that you could do otherwise. But as they walked in silence, there was a lot of silence that day, he processed it and lots of different things flitted through his head. The British were hated, across huge parts of the world, for what they did during colonialism. The IRA were blowing up British soldiers and innocent civilians for actions and acts stretching back over nearly ten centuries. None of which were his fault, his generation’s fault. So Andrew’s hatred of Germans faded, not that day, but quickly. As for the rest of the thoughts, they were not of that day. The impact on the Jewish and Israeli psyche, how that translated into the situation in the middle east. Something as simple as the power of the state, the rights of the individual, protections from and against the state. It was another of those moments when his naiveté was stripped away. Looking back the summer of 1984 was as big a watershed as the winter of 1978/9. Not existentially of course, but in terms of helping him understand himself, the world around him and his place in it, this was the catalyst for a lot of Andrew’s thoughts and actions. Imagined memories are the curse of looking back on life. The visit to Anne Frank’s House was one of the most fraught with that. The horror and shock at the time were real, but what it meant? Hours, days, months later it probably started to come together but it all goes back to that September morning in 1984. The rest of the day? Consciously and deliberately low key, they walked for a while, rented some bikes to explore the trails and again stayed close to the hotel for dinner. Most of all it was a day of silences.
The following morning both of them were quiet on the walk to the pool but swimming restored their balance and they chatted and flirted on the way back to the hotel. They had decided they could cope with the extra walks as they could lay out their swimming stuff to dry. It was also time to start to play with Suzanne’s head. Andrew took her corset carefully out of her case and lay it on the bed.
“Strip please, so that I can help you get dressed appropriately for the day.”
Her surprise turned to pleasure and Suzanne quickly stripped down to her knickers. The ritual of lacing up the corset dragged out the act. It was foreplay, as he first unlaced it to encircle her waist and then painstakingly re-laced it. Once the laces were loosely rethreaded then the hard work started. Removing all the slack from each eyelet and cinching it ever tighter around Suzanne. Andrew took his time, repeatedly going back to ensure that it was as snug across her hips and against her waist before tying it slightly looser across her bust so that her cleavage looked magnificent. Once he was finished, he spun her round and ran his hands along her sides and down to her hips. The visual was stunning and Suzanne knew the effect it was having on him.
Her blouse once again was just at the point of offering a glimpse of the corset, her skirt knee length and the accompanying boots pretty without being over the top. A long coat, casually tied around her waist completed the picture. As they walked to the van Gogh Museum Andrew knew he was the luckiest man in the world.
“Even tightly cinched up this is so comfortable. I can’t believe you got the perfect size for me. The squeezing feel is so comforting, a constant presence.”
Andrew stopped them and leaned down for a long, passionate kiss.
“Wow, what was that for? Not that I am complaining.”
“You. You make me happy, and I wanted you to know it.”
Suzanne blinded two people on the walk to museum, her smile was that radiant.
For someone with no artistic ability, it is probably odd to have a favourite artist but van Gogh was Andrew’s. Just as he couldn’t explain why he loved the music of Mahler and Beethoven so he couldn’t explain why he loved the art of van Gogh, he just did. So the day at the museum dedicated to his work was wonderful. Late in the afternoon they were leaving and it crossed Andrew’s mind that yet again he had spent the day in a museum or gallery with a beautiful woman. Going all the way back to Tanvi at the start of 1981 Andrew only seemed to go to cultural locations if he was with a gorgeous lady. Tanvi, Helena, Heloise, Abigail, Suzanne (repeatedly), clearly he needed the incentive of the fairer sex before he ventured into the world of culture. Andrew had no idea what that said about him.
They both had enjoyed the museum and so Andrew had not teased or flirted with Suzanne during the day. He kept his own counsel on the walk back into town as he wanted her reactions to be her own, not enhanced or adulterated by him. Suzanne was excited but at the same time had a firm grasp of Andrew’s hand. They walked into the centre of the town, turning towards Dam Square rather than heading over to their hotel. Beyond there, three blocks from the Royal Palace, the red-light district started. One main street on either side of a canal with small side streets off it doesn’t really count as a district but they were there. And other than Suzanne being noticeably pretty they were no different than hundreds of other tourists, taking a walk on the wild side in the safety of crowds and daylight. Four or five blocks up one side of the canal followed by the return on the other side. Very similar to Hamburg with the same choices. Way more sex shows and a lot fewer strip clubs with more than 20 sex shops, ranging from tiny up to one that was a vast emporium. Even walking at a moderate pace it only took 20 minutes to return to where they started. They found a bar and sat and chatted.
“It was, so much less than I expected.”
“I did it the other way around, I went first at night and then went back the next morning but you are right, it is built up to be this incredible thing but the reality in daylight is quite different. Now you could see some of these ‘shop windows’ down the side streets so with all the red lights it must be visually very different at night. But that is it. When I was in Hamburg we went to three kinds of places. The fourth was the prostitution. It is the same four things. Sex shops, strip clubs, sex shows and hookers. They are all variations on those same four themes. Some are ghastly, some are tacky, some look scary and one or two look quite high class, if that is not an oxymoron.”
“I am glad that the prostitution is down the side streets as opposed to right there on the street. It reminds me of that stupid game I played in Rome.”
Andrew held her hand.
“Remember you never have to have squid again, even if you see it in the fishmongers.”
She cracked a smile.
“I know. It was a great way to deal with it. Tried it once, know I am allergic and steer clear. You are right. It is more in my head than anything.”
She looked him straight in the eye.
“I would like to go to that big sex shop. I want to see for myself everything that is there. Will you take me?”
“Of course I will.”
Suzanne finished her wine in one big gulp and looked at Andrew expectantly.
“Not tonight though Suzanne. I think that you need another day of thinking about it. Another day of wearing your corset. A pre-dinner fucking with your cuffs on. Followed by a painfully slow dinner, many courses, coffee afterwards. Then and only then, 27, 28 hours from now, will we go there. Think of all that time, all that time to imagine, all that time for the store to be busy, all those eyes on you as you look at the cuffs, as you stand in front of the spanking videos, as your eyes widen with shock and delight.
“Would you like another drink?”
It took a second for Suzanne to realise he was asking a question.
“You bastard. How on earth am I going to think about anything else. I don’t want a drink. I want you to throw me over your shoulder and run back to the hotel.”
“A glass of wine it is then.”
Suzanne’s mock pouting was utterly betrayed by the sparkle in her eyes. They took their time with the second drinks, a masochistic aperitif to an evening of debauched fun. Clothes were flying before the hotel room door closed behind them. The cuffs were attached quickly, first to Suzanne’s wrists and then to the small of her back. Pushing her forward onto the bed, she barely had time to raise her hips before Andrew plunged into her. He was going to last 12 seconds, if he was lucky, and Suzanne could only be described as swampy. She managed to come before him, but it was a photo-finish. As he started to push himself off her, he had collapsed on her as he came, she stopped him.
“I can cope Andrew. I am a big girl. Let me feel you.”
Andrew slid down far enough that he could kiss Suzanne’s neck and throat and whisper in her ear as he lay there. But he was silent, letting his lips do all his talking, kissing and nibbling before flipping off her and carefully helping Suzanne up into place on him.
“Tell me about what this feels like Suzanne. Can you parse it into separate pieces or is it all one big mass of desires?”
“When you sat there and just took control Andrew, it reverberated within me. It was like this morning when you decided I was going to wear the corset. I looked nice in my clothes but all I could think about was the corset, that you had decided. And it felt, oh I don’t know, right somehow. A year ago that freaked me out, a man controlling me, but then you let me have so much control over your life, including where you live, where we live now. We have talked all summer about my job, you listen, you ask intelligent questions so it is clear that you are really listening as opposed to faking it. So you are this dichotomy of being supportive and happy to let me take the lead which I want and need. I need to feel valued, I need to be respected for my intellect, for my knowledge. But the other side of that same coin is this. Lying on you with my arms cuffed behind my back totally at your mercy. Do you know why I am so matter of fact about us and our future? Because of this. I spent years worrying about the way I thought, worrying about what turned me on. Then we started playing and the key just fitted in the lock. You opened the door and now the door can never be closed again. So when you have all these worries about us, I compartmentalise it. We have opened the door and one or both of us may walk out at some point in the future but right now I have you here in this room and I am going to enjoy it.
“My big dilemma is knowing how to be myself with someone who is not you. A lot of all these dates at university over the last year were my initial steps at trying to determine that. But it was ill-thought out. What we have built up over years. So last term I just focused on Bill to see how it felt, and how long it would take to trust him.”
Bill was the 31-year-old that Suzanne had met earlier in the year. The only one of her many dates where she had seen him again.
“I was nowhere close to telling him. I am struggling to see myself in a situation where I could trust someone like that. That part frightens me.”
Andrew held her in his arms as he processed all that.
“Is it getting worse? Do you need to be restrained, to give up control, for you to enjoy sex?”
“No, not at all. But it is something I need regularly. It is not a great analogy but it is like my period. The tension builds up and builds up and then I need to purge it from my body. It comes back to the key in the lock. I can’t undo it. I need someone, you exclusively at present, to take the control from me and literally fuck the feeling out of me.”
“Do you worry about accommodation, escalation. Because it worries me.”
“If I had not had such a bad reaction to the hooker scenario, or the thought of naked photographs of me being published, then I think that is a legitimate concern. But there are things that freak me out, even if I don’t know it until I am suddenly faced with them. Why? Do you worry?”
“I can see how you get off on the loss of control. You lying like this right now, arms cuffed behind your back, helpless, been fucked already, knowing that you are about to be fucked again and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Andrew didn’t know whose smile was wider.
“But you know that I hate hitting you. I have to work hard to get into the right mindset. But one of the things I worry about is that I am escalating on this side as well. Remember the night I gave you the corset and I talked to you about the sex shop. Well I talked about the paddles for punishing you. And I saw a spanking video where the man was holding a ping pong bat and about to spank the woman. I imagined myself doing both these things to you and it scares me. If I am going to keep spanking you then I want to do it with my hand. It is sore on my hand. Nothing like as sore as it is for you but there is a small physical price I have to pay. All of a sudden, I am imagining spanking you with a paddle or a ping pong bat and I freak out. I am escalating.”
“Wow, I never made that connection. When you talked about the paddle I thought it was for my benefit and I didn’t think you would actually do it.”
“Do you want to be spanked with a bat or paddle?”
A long silence, before her quiet admission.
An even longer silence.
“Because I can’t control it. For you to do that to me, I would have had to be very naughty, within the confines of our game. Of all the things that you do for me it is the one I love the most because I know that you hate it and are doing it because you love me. If you were spanking me with a paddle all I can think of is that you love me even more. At the core of your sexual identity is the need to please your partner. You would do anything for me.”
She shrugged, well as much as she could in her situation.
“Do you need me to do it, or will me talking about doing it work? Do you need the follow through for the threat to work? Do you want the thought of a loss of control or do you need me to do it to you? Could I whisper in your ear that I am going to photograph you like this, tomorrow evening I am going to stand behind you looking at a selection of paddles and tell you to walk to the counter and buy one. Is that sufficient?”
“I don’t know any more Andrew, I don’t know.”
“What do you think we should buy at the shop tomorrow?”
“I know it is a silly answer but I worry that I am going to want to buy half the store. You painted this picture of what is there and I can see me walking around going ‘I’ll have that, oh and that, yes that, that’s lovely, I wonder what that feels like’.”
Andrew bounced Suzanne off him and unclipped her wrists.
“Come on get those cuffs off and your clothes back on. We are going to that big store and we are going to wander round for as long as you want. No buying tonight but lots of looking. Then you are going to confess to me all the wonderful things that caught your eye as we lie here back on the bed and I am going to tease and torment you with delicious and devilish images until you fall asleep I worn out husk of a woman. Does sound like a plan?”
22 minutes later they turned the corner onto the main red-light canal section and saw the large sex shop lit up and garish. Suzanne had no last-minute doubts, she marched up to the door confidently. Mind you she had Andrew’s hand in a death grip. Other than a couple of lurking pervs in the video aisle the place was quiet. The guy behind the counter barely looked up from his magazine as they walked in from the door to take stock of everything that was there. More than a third of the store was videos, the back of the store had a curtain covering a doorway leading through to peep shows, there was a large area of clothing and then aisles of sex toys and other sex stuff. They skipped the first two and went straight to the clothing. It started tamely, nothing more than adult Halloween costumes, but quickly became more daring. As soon as Suzanne saw the bondage gear she made a beeline for it. She spent several minutes just taking items down and looking at them. Several times it took them a while to figure out how the minimal pieces of clothing should be arranged. Once or twice Andrew saw her look back at something with a wistful smile. Then they came to the aisle with the bondage devices and her grip on his hand tightened. Suzanne seemed horrified and fascinated by what she saw. But she was sufficiently in control that she picked up a paddle and offered it to Andrew handle first, with a wink. He was pleased that she was could joke about it. To say that there were a lot of options for one person to spank or whip another is understating it. Lots of crops and whips and paddles, in lots of shapes and textures. There was a large selection of cuffs, various restraints, the list was endless. The last aisle before the videos was all the sex toys. Suzanne stood looking at all the options for a long time. If anything she stood even longer at the butt plugs and anal toys. It was as if she was storing them into her memory for later. The video aisle was end to end with every act possible. But again she stopped at the bondage section. All the cases were empty so she picked several up, checking the back cover. They were back near the front door.
“Do you want to go back to any areas?”
Her shy smile and a quick nod filled him with happiness. Unsurprisingly it was the bondage clothing and bondage gear. The clothes were more like harnesses, lot of buckles and straps, lots of steel rings for things to be attached to. Suzanne walked up and down the aisle of bondage gear for a long time, several times smiling at different things.
“Will you take me back to the hotel now and fulfill the second part of your promise please.”
Andrew was dragged through the streets of Amsterdam to their hotel. When they got back to their room they stripped down before Andrew started attaching the cuffs again. But this time he stopped Suzanne from crossing her arms behind her back. Instead he clipped the cuffs together and looped them over the coat hook on the back of the hotel room door. Suzanne could lift her hands off but he told her not to. She never moved, back to the door, arms hooked over her head.
Andrew pulled the lone chair in the room over and sat down right in front of her. He kissed Suzanne on her stomach and felt her shiver.
“No talking to start. Just nods or shakes of your head okay?”
A quick nod.
“Was it everything you thought it would be?”
“Even better than you thought?”
“What was your favourite part? Clothes?
“The whole bloody store?”
Strong nod and a big smile.
“Talk to me. You liked the whole store?”
A huge sigh.
“Andrew, don’t you get it? I am not a freak. It is not just an incredibly understanding friend that is helping me deal with all this. I felt normal and accepted. I hoped I would after you talked about Hamburg but to see it for myself.”
It was a happy silence as he let her marshal her thoughts.
“The truth is very close to how I imagined it. I really could buy half the store.”
A more troubling silence as she looked down sadly.
“I don’t know who I would be buying it all for. Me or you. I know you desire me, I see your desire every day whether I am in jeans and tee shirt, a swimsuit or cuffed to the door only wearing a corset. But all those clothes? I wanted to wear them, I imagined myself wearing them knowing you would desire me in whatever it was. But I don’t have to buy or wear clothes like that for you to desire me. So I want to buy them because I feel I need to give you the control.
“You are trying to mix it up and have my hands hooked over the coat hook. But I am not restrained. I am staying in position but I know I am not restrained. I am still in control. I need to know that I have lost control.”
Andrew stood and unhooked Suzanne’s arms before unclipping the cuffs. Taking her to bed he lay down and Suzanne climbed onto his aching dick before laying herself across him. Andrew took her unresisting arms and clipped them to the two loops sewn into the back of the corset. Pushing Suzanne back to her knees he held her hips and fucked her with a rapidly increasing passion. He knew that the tears in her eyes were happy tears and when she came she slumped back onto him. Andrew pulled out of her, not yet having come, and tried to arrange their positions. With all the pillows supporting his back he lay back, sort of in the position of a fully reclined airline seat. Under Suzanne’s questioning look but active help Andrew lowered her, back against him, onto his dick. He then let her recline back onto him, her arms trapped between them.
“Is that okay? Are your arms comfortable?”
“It is fine Andrew. This is surprisingly comfortable.”
He wrapped his arms around her, letting the undersides of her breasts rest on his forearms.
“So it has to be real, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. Andrew, when the second cuff went ‘clip’ onto the eyelet, it was as if a switch had gone off in my head.”
“So you wanted to buy half the store?”
She giggled but didn’t answer.
“I know that many things caught your eye. What in particular?”
“That leather harness. It covered nothing, if anything it emphasised and outlined my tits. I looked at the label. It is called a playsuit. Again the word just rang in my head. We are playing, what’s the big deal? The padded handcuffs. The various ropes and belts and chains that can tie someone to the bed to furniture or whatever. Those were the main things. I could see me, see us, playing that way. Then there were the things that I am drawn to but am also wary of. The sex toys for both pussy and arse. And then all the stuff for spanking. I know that you are worried but I am drawn to them. And I have to tell you that I am drawn to them because I know you hate them. But I could also be totally off base and when you use it, I freak out, it hurts like a son of a bitch and I am not just allergic to squid but to oysters as well.
“I am going to close my eyes Andrew. Paint me a picture that has me a sobbing wreck, make me explode with orgasm just by telling me what caught your eye, what you want to do with me.”
Suzanne lay back her eyes closed and a tense smile on her face. Andrew lay there thinking for a long time. Going back over all the things that Suzanne talked about. Particularly the two sides of the coin, the modern women respected and admired, maybe even feared. And the flip side, the side that wanted to give up control, but safely to someone she trusted. He was stumbling forward trying to work out his own role in this as well as deal with Suzanne and her needs. He could tell Suzanne was starting to get antsy at his silence.
“I don’t think someone who wants me to take control should be so full of herself, do you? Telling me what to do? So let me paint you a couple of pictures. So much for you to think about, to worry about. When we leave here tomorrow to go to the sex shop you are going to be dressed the same way as you are right now, corset and cuffs. Shoes and a coat will be the only other clothing you have on. But when we turn the corner at the canal, maybe I will get you to slip your arms out of the sleeves of your coat and clip your arms behind you. Would you like that Suzanne? Walking through the red-light district heading to a sex shop, just like you are right now?”
Andrew put his hand over her heart and it almost leapt out of her chest.
“Then again, maybe your arms will be in the sleeves of the coat. Who knows?”
He let her think about that.
“But taking you there defeats the purpose of uncertainty. When we walk into the store hand in hand I am going to buy a mask and then we are going to walk all the way back here where I am going to cuff you and blindfold you and then I am going to leave you, helpless, utterly at my mercy, while I go shopping. Who knows how long I will be there before I return to the hotel? I will definitely stop at the bar next door though, I wouldn’t want you expecting me back too soon. But eventually you will hear the key in the door. Is it me? What if it is housekeeping? You hear the rustle of bags, you are desperate for me to free you. But I will lie beside you on the bed, stroking your magnificent arse, teasing you with what I may or may not have bought. Is that the sort of word picture you desire? Is that the reality you desire?”
Andrew flicked Suzanne’s clit and her orgasm rolled over and through her like a wave smashing against the shore. Finally she calmed.
“So that worked yes?”
“Look at me Andrew. I am handcuffed to my corset, unable to get free, completely under your control and yet I feel completely safe. The thought of lying here on my own for an hour or more cuffed, blindfolded while you go off, it scares and excites me at the same time. I like how we did it, let me see everything that is available, know all the choices, the let me get into my own head as I wonder what you are getting. But deny me the experience at the same time.”
Suzanne stopped talking and another long silence followed.
“Does this seem too much? Are we going overboard?”
“We are both trying to figure this out. How about we keep growing and learning together. I will do anything for you, but I am new to all this too. I have sat here trying to make sense of all this. I could not do this with any of my other partners, just as you could not tell Bill, it is not something that I have talked about with anyone else. But as I lie here, you tied up in my arms, the two of us slow fucking just to keep the edge on, I knew that I could do this. And perhaps most importantly I am starting to enjoy it because you are totally getting off on it. Do I worry about that? Yes, I do. But the truth is I would do anything for you. As for too much, I can see that. How about a piece of clothing and a no more than two other items, okay?”
“Unclip me please Andrew.”
When he did as she asked Suzanne spun round and straddled him, no longer on his dick.
“Perfect. Now unlace me while I get these cuffs off. I don’t need anything but you tonight.”
Suzanne’s analogy was right, she just needed it to be purged from her system. When they woke up the next morning, in a disgustingly sticky mess, the corset and cuffs were carefully packed away in the case and did not come out again that trip. Suzanne went with Andrew to the shop and they bought the playsuit and some extra chains and cuffs. But they went into the case as well. They would think about that part of their life the following week. Wednesday had been too draining for both of them to maintain and so they reverted back to happy go lucky tourists. They took boats and water-taxis, cycled and hiked for miles; and talked about life beyond sex. Suzanne had developed an interesting perspective working for the Forestry Commission.
“I am very glad I took that job. What I saw a lot of was man’s impact on the environment, especially in the isolated rural communities. It challenges your perspective on things that’s for sure. And what you are doing with the trying to assist people in getting back to work also has influenced my thinking. When you arrive at a location and you see construction, road building, the impact of humans, the initial reaction is nearly always that this is a mistake, a shame, a scandal, an unnecessary impact on the environment. But then you start to understand what is being done and why nothing seems so black and white. In the space of a week we saw red deer off in the distance, it was great to see them, but mere days later we came across a group of stalkers returning from a hunt with lots of deer carcasses. That night everyone was outraged. But then the very next day we saw people working on a fence along the edge of one of the plantations so as to protect the trees from the deer. Once we had calmed down, and the people we were working with had let us get all worked up without saying anything, it was explained that deer no longer have any natural predators in the UK. So if the population expands then they have an impact on the environment, as we saw with the Commission having to protect young trees. And although most of the hunters were not locals the deer hunt supported lots of local employment. It was all very confusing, nothing was an absolute, there had to be a balance. You always talk about people or events that make you think about the world and this was a big one for me. I really liked the idea of working with different groups, trying to strike the right environmental balance. Now ask ten people what that balance is and you will get ten different answers but it has given me something to potentially work towards.”
The conversation, as they walked around the huge urban park, was wide-ranging. But both of them were talking about their lives, and their lives together, outside the bedroom. Friday saw them sitting back in a water taxi just watching the world.
“Do you want to go out tonight? Maybe go to a club, we are 19 after all.”
“I get enough of that during term time. I prefer spending time chatting to you, being able to hear you. When I go with friends from university then it is a girls’ night out. Have fun, goof off, flirt with some guys. Standard student stuff. I don’t feel the need to do that with you. I rarely get really drunk when I go out in Glasgow, and as far as I can see that for most people it seems to be an absolute necessity to go to some of these clubs. I feel like I am the soberest person there. The way you always talked about those parties at the farm, how alcohol had impacted your grandmother, and how you tended not to drink much, I thought that it made sense. Sure I have had a couple of blow outs, but for the most part I see why you are careful. We never talked about this but I suppose I modelled my behaviour after yours. All those night’s out, it was one or two drinks and then a walk home chatting away.
“I remember when Nikki and Fran came through to stay at Easter and we knocked back what, four bottles of wine between the four of us. I like drunken fun parties like that, where bed is 20 feet away and it is with good friends.”
So there they were, the most boring 19 year olds in the world. But it was not just Andrew playing dress up with Suzanne. On the Thursday Suzanne had taken Andrew shopping and spent what seemed to Andrew an unnecessarily long time getting a couple of shirts for him. Suzanne had also made sure they were just a fraction too small and that they were snug and tight on Andrew. But it was all by design. It came back to Andrew’s lack of ego, having no idea how other people saw him. Despite his body having drawn attention for years. That Friday Suzanne had him dressed in a shirt that wasn’t particularly comfortable but that highlighted his impressive torso. And Suzanne walked with her arm in his, or hand in hand, all day. Ladies you can look but you can’t touch. Given how much he enjoyed shopping for Suzanne, and for Maggie as well he realised, Andrew couldn’t really complain. But the reversal of gender roles was interesting, and a lot of women were as blatant as men when it came to staring.
Dinner that Friday night was early and then they strolled around the city centre. They got to the edge of the red-light district but Suzanne pulled them in the opposite direction. The fascination, the compulsion had gone. It was interesting to see. Back at the hotel, they undressed and jumped into bed. Their fucking that night was wild and lively. Andrew threw Suzanne about on the bed, pulled to the end, lifted her up, all the triggers that he knew would increase the experience for her. She even tried to scramble away from him as he was pulling her down the bed, making him haul her harder and hold on tight. She was self-medicating that night, her fingers constantly playing with her clit. The final fuck was Suzanne flat on her front on the bed, a cushion under her hips, Andrew pressing down across her whole body. She loved that sensation and supported his weight with ease. Just as Andrew loved to have Suzanne lying on him after a passionate fuck, so she was ever more wanting the same thing. They fell asleep that night in another exhausted sticky mess.
The final day in Amsterdam, after a long and relaxing swim, they were back at Bos, the large urban park south of the city centre.
“Can we talk about the coming year at University?”
Suzanne sounded nervous.
“How often do you think we will see each other, each term I mean?”
“At least twice I think, once in Glasgow and once in Edinburgh, something like that. I want to see how the course is before committing to more than that. I will have OTC weekends scattered through the term as well. Why?”
Suzanne’s nervousness had increased.
“Em, I wanted to talk about other people, other partners.”
She stopped but then resolutely carried on.
“I want to continue to have the option of sleeping with other people. I don’t think we should be exclusive.”
Suzanne stopped talking and looked at Andrew as they walked. He was more taken aback at the suddenness of the discussion rather than be shocked by her request.
“This is something that seems important to you. Why?”
“Because I think I need it, I think it would be better for us both, but that might just be a rationalisation. It is one of those strange contradictions about me. I want to have the choice, the control to do this if I want. We are not a couple yet, we are getting closer but until we are in the same city then I want the option. It sounds greedy and what I am about to say sounds ridiculous but I don’t want you to have that control over me.”
Well wasn’t Andrew’s head just spinning round and round trying to make sense of that?
“Look, I suppose this is my defence mechanism. I don’t want to put everything into the basket marked Andrew in case it is taken away. After everything we have talked about this week I know it seems bonkers but I need this freedom.”
He was not deliberately trying to be silent he was just trying to put it all into the context of his life.
“Say something Andrew!”
“Hey, be calm. I was just trying to think about my life, about us, how I talk about you, whether I try and explain this. You know, typical me overthinking something. I had started to realise that we needed to have this conversation but you just caught me by surprise. We have not been exclusive up until now so what you are suggesting is fine. I do understand you wanting to keep some control over your life, some control over your sex life. It is one of the things that I would like to talk about. But let’s deal with this first. We are a couple in Edinburgh or away from university but we are not during term time. It seems indulgent but hey, that is what university is all about. We are only 19, it is probably a very good idea for us both.
“One of the things I wanted to talk to you about was the taking of control. It seems to start as a discussion between us at present. Are there limits to it, should there be limits to it? You talked about me making you wear the corset all day on Wednesday. But next week, I am in meetings all day Wednesday, I wonder about when to act all controlling, and when just to be ‘normal’. Is it something that can be turned on and off?”
They stumbled around talking about it, trying to discuss limits and all that sort of thing. Away on holidays were fine, everything else was to be determined. Given Andrew’s general cluelessness of reading women and their moods that vagueness worried him.
“I understand Andrew, it is one of the things that I have to carefully think about. I want you to be more controlling so if I say ‘not tonight dear I have a headache’ it is going to be tough to get you to take the initiative again. I have to accept what you want to do, when you want to do it. In fact that uncertainty, that element of randomness is core to this. I could walk through the door at the end of the day, tired, with sore feet and there may dinner on the table with a glass of wine followed by a hot bath, or the playsuit could be lying on the bed and I spend the night trussed up and fucked. Knowing that those two options exist before I open the door is very Schrodinger. When we are living together it is entirely up to you. I am not going to ask and I am not going to tell you if you ask. I want you to take that control, and see what it is like.
“Look the one thing we are good at is talking about this stuff. This is a perfect example. We will try some things and see what happens. From my perspective you are very good at this. It is not innate, but you are very smart with a truly wicked imagination. You really do know how to paint those word pictures. Think about Wednesday night. You did not have to tie me up and leave me for hours, blindfolded and cuffed, all you had to do was talk about doing it, play with my clit for a second and I went off like a Roman Candle. If you ever actually do that to me I will be so rabidly horny.”
She shuddered with a big smile on her face.
“Just thinking about it gets me going. Stop it. Bad Andrew.”
The final evening they did something different. The two of them went to see the Concertgebouw Orchestra at their concert hall in Amsterdam. There was a Rachmaninov piano concerto in the first half and then a Bruckner symphony after the intermission. Which specific numbers Andrew didn’t remember but the soloist was Vladimir Ashkenazy and the concerto was brilliant. It was something different for them and was a nice way to end the holiday. Their final night in Amsterdam was more spirited, lively teenage sex. What was interesting was that they rarely fucked in the missionary position. Suzanne on top, there was serious amounts of doggy and they made love face to face with Andrew leaning against the wall and Suzanne in his lap. And five of the seven nights they feel asleep, shattered and drained, waking up to a sticky mess the following morning. It was a wonderful holiday.
The direct flight was great, just not having to deal with Heathrow was a blessing and they were back in Edinburgh in mid-afternoon. Andrew dropped Suzanne off at her parent’s place but didn’t go in and carried on to the flat. He had a whole week to enjoy his flat before it once again sat empty for a whole term. Looking back on the summer, Andrew had been very busy from the end of his exams until his return from Germany. But after that the work had been low key, more mundane than challenging, he had been able to see friends and even have a bit of a routine. What had hung over him all summer was the wedding. Getting the kilt, the stag, the dinner, the whole wedding day with the walk down the aisle and then the speech as the icing on the (wedding) cake. Andrew had one week left before his return to Cambridge, he had done no reading yet and would have to be careful not to disappear into the library as soon as he got there.
Andrew did his obligatory social duties calling his mum and talking to her but only for a short time. It was sad how surprised he was at the length of the call. Neither he nor his mother mentioned meeting and so it looked like he was not going to see his parents until Christmas. Other than a two-hour lunch at Easter he would not have seen them all year. Andrew then called his Grandma and promised to go for dinner the following night. She had no interest going out so he was to bring fish and chips for three. When Andrew called Julian and Leslie’s place he was told to come over so that Brian and Mary could hear about the wedding. Before he left to quell some of the gross exaggerations that he was sure were being told, he called Pete.
When Andrew had walked in the flat was immaculate, clearly the work of Pete’s mother as no teenager was capable of that level of cleanliness. The room was aired, the bedding clean and the kitchen spotless. Pete had left a note asking Andrew to call when he got back. Pete was overly apologetic about having decided to move. Given that he and Suzanne were going to maintain the fiction that she had her own room Andrew was secretly pleased and didn’t care. Pete had managed to get five months of freedom, useful in term three both for studying and for indulging Melody and her exhibitionist instincts. There were bands at the Nite Club every night of the week and so they agreed to meet at 9.30 in the Guildford and then go and see who was playing.
Andrew was hugged by Leslie and Mary when he got there, evidence on the table that all but Mary were already attacking the wine.
“How was your holiday?”
“Quiet and relaxing. Never left the city, walked a lot, swam most days, just did a whole lot of nothing.”
“You have been going pretty hard all summer. Leslie was just telling us about the wedding. I can’t believe that you had a Duke and Duchess at your table.”
Andrew smiled, that hadn’t taken long.
“They are facing significant issues themselves, maintaining the estate, supporting the tenants on the estates, all at a time when there is so much uncertainty in the economy. And Floors Castle may look spectacular but it is a huge rambling structure that must need a lot of upkeep. He inherited it at 19, when he was at Cambridge., She tends to take the lead and ask the questions but he listens carefully to the conversation and the ideas. I had forgotten that she is the daughter of the Duke of Westminster and brings her own family knowledge and perspective. But we are working on supporting not just the central belt but the whole of Scotland, and northern England so it plays well with them, based as they are, in the Borders.”
“Leslie and Julian were telling us that you made them do a lot of the talking.”
“I am not sure I can make either of them do anything, especially your daughter, but you know how important it is to me that this is recognised as a group effort not mine alone. Plus the support of science is totally Leslie’s idea and Julian is best placed to talk about computing.”
Mary was full of questions tonight.
“How about the wedding, the dinner, the church, the reception, all that. Did you cope?”
“I thought I was coping better than I probably was. It took me several days to truly relax in Holland. I was keyed up for it to go well. There were at least two cabinet ministers there, Hailsham and Younger, there may have been others. It really was the great and the good, and then the six of us sitting down at the front.”
“Mhairi and Neil were at the table as well. Half the lawyers in Edinburgh either hate her or are envious of her, maybe both.”
“How did the speech go Andrew?”
Mary’s question just didn’t quite have the perfect tone to come across as unrehearsed.
“Leslie has told you already.”
Quite why they both saw the need to whack him he didn’t know but clearly, he was at fault.
“Leslie said you had an intimidating moment during the speech.”
Andrew laughed derisively.
“I was giving the speech in place of the father of the bride. I was all that was polite and charming. I may have even stretched to handsome.”
Just as well there were no bread rolls.
“I merely said that I thought that Freya had the talent and ability to reach the peak of her profession, i.e. permanent secretary, and that this ability could not be dismissed. The pause was deliberately one second too long as I stared at the crowd. Then it was back to polite and charming. The role of the father of the bride is to sing his daughter’s praises, in this case it was me singing the praise of my honorary aunt. I thought about it last week. I was sitting with a Duke and his wife and a Minister of State and his wife, I don’t know what that means but I can’t be ignored as a nobody.
“As for the intimidating, that is my size and haircut, and there is nothing I can do about that. Other than that guy in the first week back at school after my recovery, I have never hit anybody in my life. I am zero for two in the fight department, sent to the Infirmary bleeding from a head wound both times. A fighter I am not.”
Andrew had forgotten about his fight at the Sapper camp. But before he could remember Mary Campbell surprised them all, and herself.
“No, you are too busy being a lover.”
Leslie spat red wine onto the table. Her father had a coughing fit and Julian was hanging onto his chair to stop rolling onto the floor. Mary was blushing worse than Andrew but all he did was laugh.
“I have censored all my stories over the years and this is how you repay me?”
As a way of moving on from the speech it was very effective. Andrew promised to come round for dinner the following Sunday before he left for Cambridge. Pete looked wary when Andrew saw him at the pub but as Andrew was secretly pleased, he really didn’t care. The surprise of the night was the bouncer at the door to the Nite Club had changed. Kenny was the brother of a friend of Pete’s sister. Years before, Pete had got involved in scuffle with a couple of neds who were hassling the two girls. Kenny had come round to thank him and mentioned that he was on the door of the Nite Club. So Pete, and then Pete and Andrew, had been able to get into the place as underagers. Well before their 17th birthdays they were able to get in to watch the bands, and have a few beers. After all these years Kenny had got a new job, not that it was a bother to them now, but it was odd not to see the familiar face at the door before they went in. The band that night was better than most and it was good to just relax at a gig, hearing some new music for a change. Andrew did miss that at Cambridge, even more galling knowing that Pedro would have been up for it as well. Pete told him over the course of the night that he had moved into a three bedroom flat less than a mile from Andrew’s place. One of the guys was on his course and the three of them got on okay. He needed the company and Andrew understood that.
“What about you Andrew, when do you head off?”
“Next weekend is my last one here, I leave on the Monday. The summer went by too fast.”
“Last week the only time off?”
“Yeah. The two weeks of OTC camps followed by 10 weeks of the job. Plus I had that wedding last weekend so it took me a few days to unwind in Holland.”
“Good try at getting some sympathy mate. That’s the second holiday you have gone on with Suzanne.”
It would have been good for Andrew if he and Pete were going to the same university, or were at least in the same city. They had known each other for more than 12 years and been good friends for at least five. It would have been interesting for Andrew to have to deal with flatmates and all the pseudo-drama that goes with living with strangers. It wasn’t a possibility in Cambridge since he had accommodation for all four years.
The following morning had Andrew back into his routine and afterwards he walked down to the offices of the Trusts. Sandra Walker was gone and there was a new receptionist. Morag Davidson was quiet and polite and told Andrew that the meetings were scheduled for the conference room. He was the first one there so grabbed a coffee and did the introduction meet and greet with Morag. She was early thirties, divorced with no children and had been there about a month.
“Ms. Campbell told me that you were one of the Trustees but she didn’t give me a lot of other details Mr. McLeod.”
“First of all call me Andrew, my Dad is Mr. McLeod. I am a student at Cambridge University, you will only see me between terms.”
“Ms. Campbell has been infuriatingly vague with me about you, and about your role. She told me that although I will report to her, I will also work with you as well. Do you mind me asking on what?”
Andrew pulled up a reception chair and sat down.
“The issue that I currently have the most difficulty with is volume of paperwork, especially on the Endowment Trust. One of the ways that you will help me is by sending weekly packages of material. What I tend to find is that I have this big stack of paper waiting for me at the end of the term and a whole week of meetings scheduled, just like this week. It needs to be broken down into more manageable pieces for me. Last year was difficult and I suspect this term will be as well. Leslie has told me that I need to be managed. Part of the issue is that I am determined to stay involved, but that requires the most precious of resources, time. I am perpetually short of time.”
“I have met Ms. Campbell and Mr. Strong, and Mr. Davies works here obviously. Forgive my impertinence but you seem very young to be a Trustee.”
Andrew was saved from answering as Leslie and Julian arrived, with Creighton right on their heels.
“I knew you would be here early. Have you met Morag?”
“Yes, we were doing the whole ‘getting to know you’ thing. Are we waiting on Doug?”
“Not today. Just Mhairi, Faith’s Trust first before the Endowment Trust.”
The morning was productive but as always with those sessions it was daunting. The stock market had done well for the last two years and the amount waiting to be used for cancer research had ballooned to more than £33m. That staggered Andrew, he had no idea that the fund had grown so much already. Leslie was proposing to give the Imperial Cancer Research Fund £2m in December. They would set up the meeting for then so that it was not rushed and they did this properly. Half was to be spent on childhood leukemia with the rest to be allocated to other childhood cancers at the Fund’s discretion. Leslie would hold quarterly update meetings with them and all three of them would visit London every December. Creighton and Leslie would also provide quarterly investment reports showing the investments, the returns and comparison to external benchmarks. Unless there was an issue there would be no meetings. So they would get a financial update and a research update every quarter with a week of meetings at the end of the year.
That summary took most of the morning to discuss and agree. But to Andrew’s mind, and he was pretty sure Julian’s as well, it controlled and limited the information, and stop unnecessary micro managing. If only the other Trust would be so easy. The meetings were finished early so Creighton and Mhairi sat Andrew down to talk about his personal finances. Andrew’s surprise at the growth of the funds in the Trust was mirrored in his own personal finances. He tuned out for a moment and thought about all those talks, crammed into a mere few weeks in January 1979. The difference between wealth and money, and Leslie’s observation that wealthy people had investment in companies and property. Less than six years later and Andrew was sitting looking at that very situation.
“You advise me, support me and keep me out of trouble with all my investments. I am going to have a long talk with Brian this week about some of my options, but do you have any things you would like me to think about for my personal money?”
The two of them looked at each other and Creighton nodded towards Mhairi.
“We think that you should be conservative and grow your money, at least until you are out of university. You have given away £1m on top of all the money the original Trust received. You are supporting the distillery, supporting the small investment fund, you bought the space for the Knight Gallery, we do have a concern that you are using up your money in investments that are either speculative or long shots to make any kind of return. We both know your motivations and no one can accuse you of being miserly. Before you make any more long-term, long shot investments we think you should rebuild your capital.”
“Thank you for telling me that. I do not have any more crazy ideas, at least not this week, and will talk to Brian about possibilities.”
They had both smiled at the ‘this week’ comment.
“It is all we can hope for, Andrew.”
Creighton left for his office and it was only Mhairi left with him. She dealt with the business stuff first.
“I received Hillier’s appraisal. They have the land appraised at between £450,000 and £500,000. There is no value in any of the structures, they are probably a negative as they will need to be demolished and removed. They think that the returns will be excellent, there is a shortage of space on the west side of the city.”
Mhairi and Andrew spent more than an hour going through the options and strategy for purchasing the land, and the upper limit on the price. Andrew would talk about it with Tony later that afternoon.
“This is a good deal if you can get it at a good price. The returns could match the stock market and this will give you diversification.”
Andrew nodded. Now that the business was dealt with, or at least as much as possible right then Mhairi turned back to everybody’s favourite topic.
“You will not have heard about all the rumours after the wedding?”
Andrew shook his head.
“To say that our table caused consternation would be to put it mildly. The Duke and Duchess were the premier guests at the wedding. Well maybe Lord Hailsham but he was with Lord and Lady Wylie and so was appropriately chaperoned. That the Duke and Duchess were with us, and it came out during the evening that they had asked to sit with us, well you really, but we all got the halo effect, that just added to it. Then you went and scowled at the great and the good of the legal profession and Civil Service and called them all sexist.”
Mhairi watched Andrew for his reaction. He had none.
“Andrew, unknown 19 year olds do not act this way normally. Let’s not forget that Rifkind was at the table as well and Edith is another one in the long line of women who are looking to mother you.”
She stopped and gathered her thoughts.
“I suspect that the word is going to get out about the Faith Campbell Trust, not just the size of it but how the three of you made the money. Too many people know, too many people have a reason to spill the beans. I don’t know if it is going to be a politician, a lawyer, the parent of someone at the party, I don’t know but I doubt you will get to graduate without the newspapers or TV knowing.”
“I am not overjoyed to hear that Mhairi but Brian talked about this with me earlier this year, maybe back at Christmas. I don’t want the notoriety but he made the point that if it gets out and becomes more widely known then it may inspire others. We got what, £2m plus when people found out about the Endowment Fund. When Mungo saw the list of who wanted to endow money, all the crap you were dealing with went away. It will be what it is. I am the most boring man alive during term time. I walk between the College, the department and the Library. How about you? Has there been guilt by association.”
Mhairi looked incredulously at him.
“Andrew, are you kidding? Mungo is almost scared to talk to me. The firm is getting work referred to it, I am getting more work referred to me than I can handle, because of my association with you. I am as worried about my own balance as I am about yours. I am three months married and I have the most wonderful and understanding husband in the world, but I need to work on reining things in. Andrew, I introduced the Duchess to Mungo and he is going down to Floors next month. There is no guilt, there is too much of a good thing.”
Andrew didn’t think his lawyer should be trying to whack him as well. Mhairi was going to bring the property valuation report to the meetings the next day. But as Andrew walked up the hill to Tony’s shop he thought about the coming week. There seemed so much to do and so many different people to see. As far as he could work out there was precious little time to do any photography. Thursday afternoon and evening and maybe Sunday afternoon were about it. But none of his friends were monopolising his time, Andrew was just trying to cram too much into his one week in Edinburgh. As usual.
Stacey was in the shop and Tony was standing chatting to her when Andrew arrived. After the initial greetings Andrew cut to the chase.
“Does Elspeth still want to do a shoot like you did?”
“If you will be the photographer, then yes.”
Rather than question this or try and deflect her Andrew just nodded.
“Is she mentally ready to do this? This week?”
“We talk about it a lot, and she knows that you are here in Edinburgh this week. So yes.”
Andrew got Elspeth’s number off Stacey and called her. He knew that she would be home as she only worked part-time. Elspeth was positive and confident, if a bit giggly, on the phone but they agreed for the session to be in the afternoon on Thursday. Stacey would be there for moral support and Tony would mind the shop. Tony had a new cordless phone so while the shop was quiet Andrew handed the phone to Stacey and left her chatting to her friend. Andrew and Tony escaped to the flat.
“How are things?”
“Busy, but in a good way. Maggie has been quietly reaching out to some of the models she knows and I have done a fair number of shoots. I have probably been doing too much quantity over quality.”
“How do you mean?”
“If I have a model for four hours then I try and get three separate sets in, bed, couch and kitchen. I am also trying to negotiate the whole process with the publishers. I may have to go to London to meet them in person. And the fantasy shoots are ticking over. Having Maggie there makes a huge difference. She has helped a couple of the women with poses, just been supportive and encouraging. And the thing is they make us a fair bit of money.”
“You are a quarter partner Andrew. Talking of which a man from Drummond’s called me and I have set up my first company, Antonio Marrone Photography.”
Andrew’s schoolboy Latin kicked in.
“Marrone is brown, isn’t it?”
As soon as Andrew said it he smacked himself on the head.
“It is hardly the most difficult to crack stage name.”
“True, but who cares. When you set up your company then we will create the Edinburgh Photography Imagination and Creativity Partnership.”
What a stupid mouthful, but at least this time Andrew thought before he spoke. The EPIC Partnership. Tony saw his face.
“Exactly. Maggie came up with that one. The long version is absurd but no one will ever use it, least of all us.”
“Okay, I am seeing Mhairi both tomorrow and Wednesday, I will get my company set up. She will have to send me the documents to sign at Cambridge for the partnership but we should easily have it completed by the end of October.”
If you were prepared to spend the money, then setting up a company was ridiculously easy. The photography business was well on the way to being formalised.
“Okay, that is dealt with. How are things with Archie?”
Tony’s face fell.
“Shit. I have really struggled not to get into it with the fucking wanker. Apparently he has been really having a go at Maggie behind our backs. She turned him down flat when he made a move on her years ago which I didn’t know about until last week. Mags was getting propositioned left and right when she was modelling and she told everyone to take a hike. Up until she and I started going out. So Archie has been telling people that he had shagged her, and that he dumped her because she was a lousy lay. Maggie is all set to nail him to the wall, one ball at a time, as you can imagine. So that is the bad news. The good news is that the stupid dirty bastard has been fooling around with several women and word had started to spread. He has now been named in another divorce case. His wife is talking about taking him to the cleaners, so he is desperate to buy her off. He wants to offload the land as quickly as possible. But there are rumblings that he is going to try and hide the money from her, a whole lot of shenanigans. Now that is chat at the pub so I have no idea if it is true but he seems desperate for money.”
“The appraisal came back and it is also good and bad. The bad part is the buildings on the site are unsafe and need to be demolished. But that the land is valuable, as there is a shortage of industrial land. Mhairi explained that has to do with planning permission and zoning. Anyway, the range for the land is £450 to £500 grand.”
Tony thought about this.
“The news about the buildings is not a surprise. The value is both good and bad as well. It is lower than I thought, and way lower than Archie was hoping for. But with him being desperate for money, there is a chance to get him to accept a low-ball deal.”
“That’s what I thought. The tyranny of round numbers makes me think that £400 is an obvious offer, but maybe we go lower. I am talking to Brian Campbell tomorrow night and will get his guidance. I was thinking about the way we have set up the companies and partnership for the photography. Why don’t we set up a company for holding the land? You get shares for the land and I will put in money to buy the other half. That way Archie doesn’t know about me and if we get it then the expenses can go through the company.”
Andrew knew that it would be a lot more complicated than his simple explanation but this was the principle. Tony was nodding.
“Okay, will you have a chance to chat with me on Wednesday?”
Even this was a microcosm of Andrew’s week. Setting up two companies, creating a partnership and negotiating for a piece of property; that should be his sole focus. Tony had plenty of rolls of film to develop so Andrew worked with him in the darkroom as they chatted away about both buying the land and the photography business. The time passed quickly but as Andrew headed back to the flat it felt very unsatisfying, there were too many loose ends. But when he returned to the flat Suzanne was there and suddenly Andrew was less focused on Tony and their business. She was in the front bedroom, notionally hers but in reality, just a large closet for all her stuff. After some heated kissing and general feeling each other up, masochistic as they were about to head out, they left the car and walked over to Andrew’s grandmother.
As he had promised, Andrew got take out fish and chips for four and he and Suzanne had dinner and caught up with his Grandma and Auntie Vi. It was lighthearted and fun, talking about Amsterdam, well most of it, and getting ready to head back to university. Although the two old ladies had started the sherry before they got there, they had gone easy but after dinner the two of them hit the bottle pretty hard whilst demonstrating that they could take money off Andrew and Suzanne at rummy drunk as well as sober. They both left a few pounds poorer but leaving two happy old ladies. Andrew promised to go to church with her before he left. It was wonderful to have at least one uncomplicated family member. That night Suzanne and Andrew cavorted around in bed; when both partners have a fit of the giggles in the middle of a serious fucking it qualifies as cavorting. It was blissful and fun. And to fall asleep with Suzanne Jenner draped over him, that was heaven.
Tuesday morning saw Andrew once again sitting drinking coffee with Morag Davidson.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking all these questions?”
“No. You work here and you need to understand how the business and the two Trusts function.”
“I talked to Ms. Campbell yesterday and she told me to ask you about the Trusts. I know they exist obviously but she said you would explain them. I am not sure if she was kidding though, as she was smiling the whole time.”
Andrew closed his eyes. Really Leslie, he deserved this?
“No, she was not kidding. Leslie, Julian and I set up the two Trusts from most of the proceeds from the sale of a business we started. Faith Campbell was Leslie’s sister who I met in hospital when we were both being treated for cancer. Its mission is cancer research. Julian, Leslie and I are the three Trustees. The other Trust we created later and it changed several times before ending up in its current form. We provided the majority of the money but it has external money as well. We three are also the Trustees, but we have a formal external advisor, Doug Somers who you will meet shortly. That Trust is supporting new businesses as well as general research here in Scotland and northern England, typical investment fund.”
“Okay, thank you for that. And this second fund is the one that generates most of the paperwork?”
“Yes, the larger Trust will be much less onerous in terms of the time commitment. The Endowment Trust is funding small businesses, we rarely invest more than £20,000 so there are lots of reports and updates, as well as proposals for new investments. Some of this may streamline but it is still a time commitment, and I am not just dumping it on Julian and Leslie because I am not here. For instance this week, we will get updates on the 20 or so investments so far, how they are doing, is anyone back for additional funds, that sort of thing, then go through all the proposals that passed the initial review by Creighton and Leslie. We are struggling with the volume at the moment more than anything else. And overriding it all is the fact we are still very young, only Leslie has graduated, and it is a lot of money.”
Andrew could see there were a couple of key questions she wanted to ask but had not figured out if it was appropriate or even how to phrase them. How much and why hung over their chat.
That day was reviews of everything so far, split into three categories. The first were those were there were positive signs, initial optimism, everything looking good so far. The second group were those where it was too soon to tell, this was largest group, all they could do was wait and see, but there were no red flags. And the smallest group, only two investments, were the ones where things were not looking positive. Here all the boring business detail which Andrew had skipped over worked in their favour. Most investments did not get the full amount up front, and often additional funds were conditional on some kind of milestone or performance metric. Given that they had this hammer they used it on one of the investments but agreed to review the other in three months. Again, a stark reminder that Doug let them learn, and which Leslie had absorbed and implemented. They were ruthless when they had to be. Again the day was organised and they finished early. Doug used the time to update Andrew on the individual investments that the five of them were funding.
“We have 11 investments totalling £120,000 so far. Ten of them were in March or June and so far, there are no concerns, too soon to tell one way or the other. The 11th is our woodworker in Brora. We have hit on something with this. His work is already starting to get a reputation and that is only going to grow over the next year. Mhairi?”
“Andrew, I talked to several people at the reception about Robert’s work including the Scottish Office ministers. Several pieces are going to be bought for various constituency offices, not government though. It is too pricy for government funds. Both Ancram and Younger took details and their offices contacted me last week. More modest pieces probably but a good way to increase visibility.”
Doug jumped back in seamlessly.
“However, your idea to display the pieces as art had made a big difference. Hailey Knight has only had pieces in her Gallery for two weeks and the interest has been phenomenal.”
Andrew had to listen to a lot of accounting and legalese but the end result was that the People Fund, which is what they ended up calling this initiative internally, set up a company with Robert MacNish 50:50 and supported two more apprentices. It was a success story and it got lots of publicity, but it was also just five people employed. Every time they had a success it always felt like so little. Two other proposals were supported and together with setting up the company they had committed £150,000 of the £250,000 they had agreed to.
After Doug left Andrew sat with Mhairi and went through the two transactions with Tony.
“I am always pleased when you talk about something that we have discussed before. I have other clients where I swear they are goldfish. You tell them something and two weeks later they are sitting in front of me looking confused. You really listen and then when you turn up your ideas reflect the conversations that we have had. Setting up the company to hold the land is a smart and sensible idea. I will get that registered. I would recommend Hillier’s negotiate for us. That way there are several layers of separation for both you and Mr. Brown. Can you both come to the office on Friday afternoon?”
“I will let you know tomorrow morning. I am seeing Brian Campbell tonight and I want to go through this with him. Get his blessing I suppose.”
Mhairi merely nodded.
“Can you set aside an hour for us on Friday. We will explain the photography business and the way we want to structure it. That will be completed after I am back at Cambridge.”
“You don’t want to try and complete it this week?”
“Yes if there was time. But I am very conscious of trying to cram too much into this week as it is. So no, we will give you the 30 minute spiel and then leave you to paper it correctly and appropriately.”
Mhairi smiled, almost maternally.
“Like I said Andrew, it is nice to hear people listening to me. Again, that is the sensible thing to do.”
The smile was nice but Andrew had to mask a grimace. The frayed, borderline nonexistent relationship with his parents always popped up at the oddest moments.
As Andrew had mentioned to Mhairi he wanted to talk to Brian and so was going for dinner with him and Mary. Suzanne, Leslie and Julian all joined them and Andrew was pleased that the invitation had included Suzanne. Dinner was fun and after Sunday night and the previous day with Mhairi it was nice for the wedding to be ignored. The conversation was all around the start of term for three of them. After dinner Brian and Andrew went to his home office.
“We haven’t chatted just the two of us for too long Andrew. What is on your mind? Should I be worried?”
“The way everyone talks it is as if I keep having all these crazy ideas. Oh wait.”
They both laughed.
“No, nothing like that this time. You and I had a conversation a while ago about doing some investing together, maybe in some property. I wanted to talk to you about that. We have the People Fund investment but I wanted to know if you were still interested in anything else. Mhairi and Creighton sat me down yesterday and advised me to be conservative with my money and grow the capital through safe investments as opposed to some of my more speculative ideas. I think the purchase of the space for the art gallery freaked them out a bit.”
“Yes, your support of the Knight Gallery raised a few eyebrows. What are you thinking of?”
Andrew spent a few minutes recapping the conversation of nearly six years ago that started his thinking on money and investments.
“The stock market is producing significant returns; Faith’s Trust has grown by more than 30% in less than two years just from being invested in the market. My own personal wealth has also grown and so I wanted to discuss diversification. All these meetings with the Endowment Trust have made me realise that I need to spread my investments around so that they are not all concentrated in one area. So I was thinking about commercial property. But what that looks like, well that is why I am here. I do have one opportunity already.”
Andrew explained about the land at Bankhead Industrial Estate. He then had a fascinating hour listening to Brian as he talked about commercial property, the endless variety of it, and the strengths and pitfalls of different buildings or structures.
“I don’t have the time to spend on lots of management of a property and I am not going to dump all that onto you.”
“You could invest in a property company, you know. Let them do all the work.”
That was the issue, this was not an investment this was personal, wanting to do something with the person most responsible for his education as an investor. They would have to settle for the People Fund, as they never did find a property that made sense for just the two of them. Something like the piece of property that Tony had would have been ideal. It was a shame. Andrew continued the conversation with Suzanne as they lay on the couch in the flat that night. She had asked what he and Brian had gone to talk about.
“Years ago we had talked about investing together. I wanted to ask him about it. We chatted about property for a while but nothing came of it. It has to be low maintenance, I don’t have the time and I don’t want to dump on someone else.”
“Oh, Mhairi and Creighton wanted me to be more careful with my money. No, that’s not fair. They wanted me to be more conservative with my money. I have a lot of speculative investments and they advised me to try and grow my capital. It is mainly in the stock market at the moment so I thought about buying some property. Which gets us right back to time and involvement. I can’t have it all.”
“Well you have the money you call the People’s Fund. What is that, five of you? Why don’t you try something similar with property? Talk to a few people like you have with Brian and all of you pool some money and get someone to run it for you.”
The answer was staring Andrew in the face, including an example that was working. They had the space at the office for somebody to work. It wasn’t that different to the idea of investing in an external property company.
“Brilliant idea Suzanne.”
Andrew’s kiss of thanks lead to many more kisses and the remainder of the evening he spent thanking Suzanne very thoroughly.
As usual after their swim, Andrew stayed and showered at the pool before walking back across the road, letting Suzanne have the all the hot water in the flat. When he returned to their room he carefully made the bed, flatting the duvet so that it was nice and smooth. Then he laid out a blindfold, the playsuit, wrist and ankle cuffs, together with various lengths of chains. Andrew then closed the door and went through to the kitchen to make breakfast. He heard the shower finish and eventually Suzanne left the bathroom to get dressed. He stood listening and didn’t have long to wait before Suzanne slowly came into the kitchen.
“Go through and get dressed as normal. Take a good look at what we will be playing with this evening. You can take the car today and if you don’t mind you can collect me at the office and we will go out for dinner.”
Andrew walked over and kissed Suzanne before returning to the toast and coffee. Returning wearing jeans and a sweater she looked lovely, fresh and innocent, which made him smile even more. They chatted away, pretending normalcy, talking about her sorting what she wanted to bring to the flat before she went to Glasgow. Andrew stood behind her, trapping her against the sink, kissing her neck. But he said nothing, merely rubbed his index fingers against her temples. With a kiss on the cheek Andrew left Suzanne to her day-long distracted thoughts.
Unusually, he was the last to arrive that morning so Morag had no time for further questions. Again, he could see the benefit of Leslie now being full time. Everything was better prepared, and the whole day, indeed the whole week, seemed to have run smoother. They invested a further £310,000 in 12 projects, including their first four in northern England. They were wrapped up at 3.00 and Leslie wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon talking about the structure going forward.
“So Andrew came up with the notion that given the full-time nature of this Endowment Trust that I should be an investment manager. Faith’s Trust will be a small amount of time so I will run this Trust full-time and as it becomes necessary, employ additional staff. Creighton will act as the Finance Director for both Trusts as well as handling the personal accounting for the three of us. Doug has asked that he now do the accounting for what is known as the People’s Fund and Creighton has agreed, subject to letting us all know. Doug will still manage those investments but Creighton will deal with the paperwork. I think that this structure will ease the time burden that all of us were facing until June. Any thoughts or questions?”
“Okay then, I know that Julian wants to talk about computers and Andrew wants to talk about property.”
Julian went first.
“I am going to actively monitor the three computer company investments that we have at present. This summer at Ferranti really pissed me off, to the extent that I am no longer going to accept a job there. I told them that two weeks ago. The dickhead I had to work for all summer just soured me on the whole place and I am going to get back into computing. I don’t know in what form, or how yet, but I am going to look for an opportunity for next June.”