How to Keep a Secret Safe in the Bath
“I don’t have any secrets.” Patrick dabbed the end of Kerry’s nose with bubbles, threw her a grin and continued lathering her hair.
“Rubbish, Patrick, you must have. Everyone does. Tell me something you’ve never told anyone before.” Kerry blew off the foam and squelched further down in the bath.
Patrick submerged his hands, rinsed and retrieved his wine from a three-legged stool. A satisfied moan escaped his lips as the peppery aftertaste danced on his tongue.
“Hang on. Let me think.”
Bathing conformed to their tradition, beginning with Kerry in the bath and him on the milking stool. She had her legs over the edge, resting on his knee as he shaved them, careful not to graze her precious skin. Adept at shaving the contours of his face, his razor glided while his empty hand followed, checking for strays. Massaging off the foam, he kissed her legs, then painted her toenails Passionate Red, never dripping, never missing. The perfect finish.
“You’re the red in my life, you know,” she said.
Patrick leant over and kissed Kerry’s forehead. “I know, lucky me.”
She smiled, directing him into the bath. “Tap end or behind me? You choose.”
“Behind, of course.” Patrick raided his brain for a secret, distracted by Kerry between his legs, her head on his chest, feet on the ornate gold taps while the nail polish dried. In mulled spice candlelight, they were drinking red wine. Her favourite, Le XV President, but tonight he was cautious, drinking leisurely. He would make love to Kerry later with a clear head.
“Enough thinking time. You drifted back into your head?” asked Kerry.
“A bit,” said Patrick. Cupping some water in his hand, he poured the warm liquid over her left breast, observing it race down her body, tracing her shape, glistening. Swapping his wine to his left hand, he repeated with her right breast, not wanting it to feel neglected. A stirring in his loins accompanied a wriggle in his hips. Reflexively he stroked her breast, gentle and caressing, forcing a deep breath within him.
“Hey, you, c’mon. Back to the question,” said Kerry. He thought she was going to remove his hand. She didn’t. She placed her left hand over his right, and held it there. He closed his eyes, smiling.
“Okay, I lost my chewing gum one day.”
“That’s not much of a secret, you cheat.” She slapped the hand holding her breast.
“No, no, but where I lost it...”
“Okay, go on then.”
“It was at a house party when we were at uni. I was seeing that Carla from Mark’s art class.”
“Oh my god. I’d forgotten about her. Poor Mark. He hated the presentation they did together.”
“Not surprised. She didn’t pull her weight. She didn’t in the bedroom either.”
“Hey, never mind that Patrick. Details or I confiscate the wine.”
“I was only young then, remember, fifteen years ago – so quite horny –”
“And the difference now is?”
“Don’t interrupt, Kerry. You asked for a secret. I’m telling you one.”
“We pops up to one of the empty rooms in the accommodation block. I’m giving her a bit of tongue action, next thing my chewing gum is stuck. You know, in her ‘downstairs’. I can’t get it out so I just finish off, pull up her knickers and leave it there.”
Kerry spun round, slopping water over the edge of the bath. “No way.”
“No, I did, honest.”
“I’d have killed you. What did she say?”
“Nothing. She didn’t say anything.”
“No, never. She never mentioned it to me, but she didn’t pop round for naughty cuddles anymore.” Patrick laughed, his stomach expanding and contracting, Kerry’s wine slopping onto his belly.
Licking it off, Kerry tilted her head and grinned at him. “Shocker, eh?”
“You know, I reckon she’d have had to get scissors or a mower on that lot. I’m guessing she thought I didn’t know what I’d done.”
“You got any gum in that mouth now, Patrick John Davies, ’cos you wouldn’t get away with me not saying anything? I’d slap your bitching head.”
“No, none, promise. You say it doesn’t go with wine.”
“Good.” Kerry turned over and lay further down in the bubbles, “This is lovely. I love bathing with you.”
Patrick leant back in the roll top bath. It was his investment. When he first moved into the Georgian terrace, Kerry exploded during the guided tour of the bathroom.
“It’s huge. Get a freestanding bath with a roll top and gold feet. It’ll be just perfect.”
So he did. An oversized cast iron one that drew comments from every visitor. A matching sink stood guard in the corner with an oval gilded mirror above, begging to be asked who was the fairest in the land. An upright full-length one of the same style was angled to pay compliment as they stepped from the bath. With Kerry in mind, Patrick had designed low shelves to hold candles. In this light, he knew that he had made the right choice.
“Damn. Time. Come on, scrub my back.” Kerry passed Patrick the sudsy sponge. He faltered, but still obeyed. Given his choice, they would finish the bath as wrinkled prunes.
Starting at her shoulders, he moved across her back in a swishing downward motion ensuring not an inch was missed.
“Come on, kneel.”
Kerry bent onto her knees so that he could wash her waist and bottom. Her lovely round bum. He could nibble it right now, but he would not. He could wait.
She stood, treating him to his favourite view. Her calves, the backs of her knees, her thighs and the gap at the top, her dark shadow. She had a way of standing that made her bottom stick out slightly, inviting him in. He could never resist.
He rose to his haunches, stood and, placing his hands on her hips, guided her to face him. Rubbing his chest on hers, Patrick could feel her softness and kissed her full on the mouth, then stepped back and viewed her entirely. In the beginning, Kerry hid her body from him, unaware that he had scrutinised her the first time that they had made love, watching her, desiring her. Gradually she warmed to his gaze. Now he could look at her freely.
“Rinse?” he asked.
She closed her eyes, tilting her neck.
Patrick flicked on the shower, releasing warm water over her head. Watching suds racing down her naked body, he devoured the sight of her veiled in the waterfall and stroked traces of soap from her golden hair.
Once rinsed, he placed the shower in her hand, pointed it towards her, then threw shower gel over himself. He touched Kerry’s face then prised the shower from her hand. One quick blast removed all lather from him.
Patrick swathed Kerry in white as she stepped from the tub. He read desire in her eyes. His towel could wait. He led her across the hall and, lowering her onto the bed, he lay open her bath sheet. Exposing wet flesh, he made love to her until they had nothing left.
Patrick does not bathe the morning of the funeral.
The sun is shining on the stone walls of the church. Patrick does not want the sun. Not today nor any day. He can never let it show.
This morning Patrick saw neighbours hanging out washing, shopping, kids playing football in the street. How could they?
Everything is gone. It doesn’t make any sense. One drunk driver took it all away.
The funeral. Today. Her mum had to organise it. Everyone else too shocked. Kerry would have hated that damned church. She’d have slapped Patrick and called him “Bitch” if he had organised it.
“No church. No fuss. Something green, environmental. I’d be dead,” she had said. She would no longer share his bath or bed. He had witnessed her letting her guard down for the last time. He would have given his life to know that that was not the case.
Patrick checks that everyone is wearing something red; a coat, a tie, shoes. He feels pleased. At least her mother knew that.
Mark gathers his bereaved children into a huddle, shaking and sobbing, looking down at the grave. Patrick swallows his tears. He knows he must go up and say something, anything, put on a show. Forever.
Eventually, Patrick makes his move, “Mark, I’m so sorry. If there is anything I can do…”
“Thanks Patrick. Come back to our house. Kerry would have wanted you there. Family only, really, but you know you count.”
As soil is passed round to each of the mourners, Patrick battles the urge to scream, even to shout at his friend, “It was me. Me that she loved. Not you,” but he does not. He cannot be so cruel.
Instead, he stares at Kerry’s coffin, white, with ornate gold handles that remind him of their bath. He will bathe every day now, alone, drinking Le XV President in candlelight, his tears masquerading as water, her bottle of Passionate Red nail polish symbolic on the candle shelf.