Bad Behaviour by Lesley Cookman by Lesley Cookman - Read Online

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Bad Behaviour - Lesley Cookman

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Introduction

Ten years ago, Accent Press published its very first book, a short story charity anthology called Sexy Shorts for Christmas. It was the beginning of a successful collaboration between publisher Hazel Cushion and me, and to celebrate Accent Press’s tenth anniversary, we’re bringing out another short story collection.

Before I was published as a novelist I used to write features for the Business and IT sectors - all very worthy and rather boring. Then at a writers’ conference I met Adèle Ramet, who was just about to publish ‘Creating a Twist in the Tale’. She sent me a copy and suddenly I, who hated the short story form, was inspired. The first story I sent to a magazine she recommended was accepted by return. (No email submissions in those days!)

I carried on writing short fiction, mainly for women’s magazines, but in this collection there are some written with other destinations in mind. One was written live on air at BBC Radio Kent, and another was written for performance, as I also used to write for the stage.

They are very different from my Libby Sarjeant books, but each one, in its own way, is all about Bad Behaviour. I hope you enjoy them.

Lesley Cookman, 2013

Push!

This story was the first I had published in a woman’s magazine. It has appeared in two other anthologies since its debut.

Push! She seemed to have been pushing for hours, although it was probably only a few minutes. Resting briefly before the next effort, the unrelenting fluorescent light above her burned bars of brightness on her closed eyelids.

Push! She felt the veins standing out on her neck and heard the thud of her own heartbeat echoing behind her eardrums. Something will burst in a minute, she thought in an almost detached manner, and it will all be his fault.

Another rest period. She moved wearily, trying to find a better position.

Push! All this, for a few minutes of sweaty, illicit, passion. Or, to be truthful, several hours of it if you added it all up: all those encounters behind the long row of filing cabinets during the lunch hour and in the stationery cupboard at any time. Then there had been the underground car park, the back of his car, and even one spectacular occasion on the last train from Waterloo.

Push! She had to keep going, despite the weariness in her thighs, her swimming head and this awful weakness that followed each monumental effort.

Push! When was it she’d realised that something was wrong? She let out a panting breath and tried to remember. November, it must have been. When they’d been organising the Christmas party. That was it. She could see him now, his tie loose, his hair sticking out at the side of his head. Funny, she’d never noticed how thin it was getting.

‘You realise I’ll have to bring the wife?’ He was tucking his shirt in, not looking at her.

‘To the party?’ She struggled upright from her uncomfortable position against the metal shelving.

‘She’d be a bit surprised if I didn’t. Comes every year.’ He smoothed his hair down, licking his palm in a way that made her feel faintly sick.

She bent down, so that he couldn’t see her face, and pulled up her tights. She would have to go into the ladies on her way back to Bought Ledger, get cleaned up. ‘You didn’t bring her on the summer outing,’ she said, her voice muffled.

‘I didn’t tell her.’ He pushed the knot of his tie back up to his Adam’s apple, stretching his neck like a turkey. ‘Come on. I’ll see if the coast’s clear.’

She straightened up and watched him peer furtively round the door, amused at his futile precautions. The whole Accounts floor and half the Sales department knew about them. She didn’t know why he didn’t just bring in a mattress and hang a ‘do not disturb’ notice on the cupboard door.

Push! He’d begun to avoid her after that, during the day, at least. She was furious with him, but more so with herself when one day after weeks of ignoring her, he’d followed her half way home and then dragged her into the alley next door to Mr. Singh’s All Nite Take-Away - and she’d let him. Pathetic. But she couldn’t refuse him. As soon as his hand had slid up under her skirt her knees had buckled and that was that. Up against a wall in an alleyway, like the silly teenager she had been only a few short years ago.

Push! Perspiration was dripping down her forehead and off her nose now, and she really didn’t think she could go on much longer. Love, she supposed it was. What else would have her in this ridiculous position now? Had his wife felt like this? A sudden rush of fellow feeling for the vague, grey personage in the suburbs overwhelmed her and two hot salty tears dripped onto her dry lips.

He had left the room some time ago; she had watched him go, hurriedly, not looking back. Had he left his wife the same way? Rushing off for a quick grope with her, or one of her predecessors, for of course, she now realised that she hadn’t been the first, not by a long chalk.

Push! Something had changed, she could feel it. She must be nearly there. Panting, she stopped pushing. Nearly over.

She had told him on Valentine’s Day. Told him she’d had to move out of the flat, couldn’t go back to Mum. He’d