A Wasp Sting By Mavis Cheek

by Mavis Cheek on Friday, 21 July 2006

Piers Patterson commuted from Croydon. Emily Hamilton commuted from Potters Bar and was rather tired of being single. Piers Patterson was in his mid-thirties, she guessed, and seemed to be just the man to change her status.

Tall enough, friendly face, nice enough manner, but alas – not pushy. He worked in the accounts department and read science fiction, she was head of sales and read mostly magazines.

Save for his name, he was perfect. Piers and Emily sounded like two characters in a Jane Austen novel but Emily – in her thirty-seventh year – planned to star in something a little hotter. Piers or not, he was the one.

Unfortunately, he did not yet know it and seemed very far from even hazarding a guess. “Emily,” she said very sternly, for she had read the magazines. “Emily – you must take the initiative.”

With trepidation and a voice that became awfully high and squeaky, she rang the nearby hotel. It was a grand, imposing building on the far side of the park from their office and Emily had the distinct impression that the booking clerk guessed her dishonourable intentions.

She was not, however, put off. She took a deep, deep breath and booked a double room for Friday night. The whole night. Her voice went even higher – and quavered – when she ordered a bottle of Champagne for six o’clock.

“Anniversary is it?” asked the booking clerk. “First,” said Emily, and under her breath added, “time”. “Aah,” he said, as if he were looking at a gurgling baby in a pram. She gave a little simper, for realism.

She had never done anything like this before but, well, being single was no fun. She hoped the Champagne wasn’t a little over the top. But no, in all the best films and novels, like James Bond, the couple had Champagne before and ate afterwards. Or she thought they did.

Emily was not entirely au fait with ways to get laid, as some of the more racy magazines she read put it. And she was not at all sure how Piers would react either. She thought he liked her and she thought he knew that she liked him.

But beyond that, he did what her mother called played his cards close to his chest. He might even be a bit too seriously minded.

She first spoke to Piers as he sat on the grass in the park opposite the office eating his lunch. He was reading. “I like science fiction,” he said, when she finally asked, “because it’s fantasy”.

There was something in the way he said fantasy that set her mind working – racing actually. It was a very long time since she had dared to have a fantasy in case of severe disappointment, but with him the idea was tantalising.

That was when she decided. Being pro-active, according to the various articles she read, was the way forward for modern, single women. It filled her with dread what she had to do, but she did it. She remarked that she had never seen a science fiction film. It worked.

They went together to see an incomprehensible bit of boys-toys wizardry, and after that she – yes she, Emily – held his hand. He did not take it away and they kissed at the station – but no tongues. Yet.

He suggested they repeat the date, but she said she would buy him dinner instead. He smiled and cleaned his glasses with his fresh, white handkerchief, which she decided was a sign of emotion, and agreed.

That was Wednesday. This was Friday. Tonight, hotel and all, was the night. She’d bought a new dress – black and strappy – which she would wear after when they went to dinner and she thought she looked pretty reasonable really.

Mature but fun. At least, that was the image she was hoping for. She kept trying to convince herself that he was bound to find her attractive, bound to.

“I’ll meet you in the park after work,” she said when they shared a lift together that afternoon. “I’ll be as quick as I can,” he replied cheerfully.

Her heart, or maybe her stomach, lurched. It might be from pleasurable anticipation – it might be from the lift – but she had a feeling it was fear.

In the park, the evening sun was warm. Across the stretch of grass stood the hotel. Firm, solid and waiting. There was that lurch again. In the bag at her side was the black dress and some spicy new scent. All set.

She slipped off her sandals and scrunched the grass with her toes. All was right with the world. Emily celebrated by having a two Flake Whippy. A passing wasp, enjoying his day out but feeling in need of a little something, spied the ice cream and descended.

The owner of the ice cream, in a mood of selfishness, refused to share. In fact, she batted her hand at the happy wasp who immediately reacted. Bat, bat, bat, she went. He was forced into rearguard action and found her naked foot and stung it. Hard.

Emily screamed. Both from pain and frustration – for her immediate thought was that this boded ill for her night of passion.

It did. The toe seemed on fire and grew distinctly larger. Driven by extreme need she shoved the ice cream cone over the throbbing toe and sat there miserably as Piers came happily across the greensward. When he saw her distress he started to run.

“What’s the..?” he said. His voice trailed off as he saw the upturned ice cream cone on her big toe and the melting white and brown of its contents gently gliding over her ankle and on to the grass. He looked at her in understandable puzzlement. She did not know whether to laugh or cry, so she achieved a combination.

There they were, she sitting on the grass, he kneeling – and instead of being romantic it was like a scene from Comic Cuts. Fantasy might be his favoured fiction, but it could hardly extend to this. “I’m so sorry,” she wept. “Oh, it is so ridiculous,” she laughed.

He stared at the gloopy mess on her foot. “I’ve been stung by a wasp,” she said simply. “Right on the tip of my toe.”

And then he did a very unexpected thing. He removed the ice cream (or what was left of it) from her foot, put his mouth over the throbbing toe and sucked.

Which had a most curious effect on Emily. Hitherto she was entirely concerned with the pain. Now she could only think – Give That Wasp A Medal.

“Does that feel better?” he said, looking up and smiling, not altogether innocently. There was the faintest trace of ice cream on his lips. “I’m not sure,” she said. And truth to tell she was not. “Try again.”

A little while later, and reluctantly, and only after much laughter and heart or stomach lurching, she acknowledged the toe was much improved and slipped on her sandals. He helped her up, brushed them both down and offered her his arm.

“Think you can make it to that hotel over there?” he asked.

She looked surprised to see such a place. And she supposed, thinking about it, that she could.

“We’ll have a cocktail,” he said, suddenly full of confidence. “That should sort the toe out.” He turned to her – there was that smile again – “Unless…?”

“No, no,” she said. “A cocktail would be lovely.”

Oh well, she thought, why not? After all – the Champagne could wait. Dear little things, wasps…

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