A year before

I’m still pondering the fox’s strange behaviour when, for a change, I’m just reaching the bottom the stairs on my way out at school the next morning and he’s just coming in. He clocks me but says nothing and bolts up the stairs. When I look back, though, I can see he’s staring at me, at my arse in particular. He sees that I’ve seen him checking me out and he quickly looks away, embarrassed.

Over the next couple of weeks, the intensity of our silent glances on the stairs reach fever pitch. I can’t wait to get to school in the morning, which is a first. Usually the process of getting the kids out of the front door is so stressful that I put it off for as long as I can. Now I’m hustling my kids out of the door on the dot of 8am. On the way to school, I’m checking my rear view mirror for his car. I find myself parking my car near to his. It doesn’t matter what I do, though, because he won’t talk to me or even look me straight in the eye. Despite the continuing weird behaviour, one thing is clear: I totally fancy him. He has lovely crinkly laughter lines round his beautiful blue eyes. He’s got full lips and a nice straight nose. He dresses the way I like – good jeans, retro trainers or hefty Chelsea boots and faded old surfing t-shirts. I find myself imagining what he’d look like with his clothes off. I imagine he’s got a hard, flat stomach, a smooth hairless chest, lovely muscly legs and tight arse. I imagine he’s a good kisser, especially with those lips, and not one of those horrid men who kiss with the pointy lizard tongue. I imagine his kisses would be long and slow, the kind that sent me into a frenzy of lust when I was young and that I don’t get now. Husband isn’t much of a kisser and though he’s not got the lizard tongue, he doesn’t do extensive kissing. It’s a kiss, kit off and down to business. I imagine the fox would snog me for hours on the sofa.

As the weeks tick by, my desire for him goes through the roof. I’m thinking about him nonstop. I’m getting at 6 and getting the kids out of the door in the morning as I don’t want to miss any opportunity to see him, even though I know it won’t come to anything. A lesser (read, saner) person might have given up by now but there’s such a charge of something electric between us that I feel that I have to carry on. I need to speak to him to find out if it’s just that I fancy him physically or if it’s something more.

Although nothing’s actually happened I feel like I’m pursuing him. And he’s certainly acting like someone dodging a stalker. In the end, I’m sitting at my desk at home and I finally crack. If face-to-face doesn’t work, then maybe email will. I google his name and, judging by the almost complete lack of any information about him, he’s not someone who wants anyone to find him. The only lead is his picture on a company website. It’s at this point that I have to decide if I want to be that mad predatory woman, the one who tracks down someone she fancies and emails them. I’m 43. I thought I’d be a better person at 43. Someone who is happily married or at least happy and mature enough to settle for the best she can get rather than chase a fantasy. I didn’t think I’d be staring at a screen, debating whether I should or shouldn’t email a dad from school. I peer at his tiny square photo and try to extract a decision from it. Is he really as gorgeous in the photo as he is in my mind? I look at his profile. Is it the profile of someone I’d instinctively get on with, let alone want to strip naked and fuck on the spot? The answer to both is no but photos and profiles can be deceiving. I should know; I won’t post a photo of myself without a heavy filter and the right angle (from above and from the side so that you can’t see my big nose wonks to the right).

I get up and make myself a coffee. I empty and refill the dishwasher. I put a load of clothes on to wash. I walk the dog. It’s getting close to 3pm when I have to leave to collect the kids. The distraction hasn’t worked – I’ve been itching to email him all day. I’ve tried to rise above it and reason that I’m an adult, I’m a married woman for fuck’s sake. Talk about playing with fire. I’m smoking a cigarette while juggling a giant bottle of lighter fluid and a flame thrower. If this goes wrong, I won’t just be singing my eyebrows. I’ll be scorching the ground round me for miles.

The kitchen clocks ticks through to 2.57pm and I decide that I can’t not do it. I sit down and bang out a casual email. Hope you don’t mind me contacting you, a friend of mine is looking for an architect (this is true so I don’t feel as terrible). Before I have the chance to change my mind, I hit send and then it’s gone. It’s 3.04pm and I’m late for school.

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