Not been reading Breaking Faith? The reviews under the 'My Books' tab might persuade you to give it a try.
To those still taking the journey, ‘Enjoy the ride.’
I posted Chapter 1 on 13 January. Subsequent chapters have appeared each Friday, and will continue to be posted until all 50 have featured here. You can find those already posted via the archive; just search by chapter number. If you missed the start, you’ll find it here: http://stuartaken.blogspot.com/2012/01/read-free-my-novel-here.html
Read, enjoy, invite your friends along. As an author, I want people to read my writing; simple as that.
Friday 6th August
Mum and Dad were getting along like true lovers since their re-introduction. I felt for both of them because Dad’s weakness marred their physical relationship and I could see it meant a lot to them. Mum, to my amazement, had become conventionally faithful to Dad, spurning her many admirers.
‘I don’t know why you’re so surprised, Faith, David’s the only man I’ve ever loved.’
She was at the cottage on the Friday before my birthday and had invited me to her home for the night. It was my first visit to her bungalow and I looked forward to seeing the place she’d made for herself.
I had few expectations about Mum’s home, but its sheer conventionality was a disappointment. It just didn’t seem to match her outgoing, idiosyncratic, rebellious nature at all. A modern red brick building, it resembled, for all the world, a large dog kennel. Totally without character and lacking distinguishing features, it could have been any one of thousands of anonymous bungalows in any of the towns or cities I’d visited. My disappointment must have shown.
‘It’s me and my body that display my nature, Faith. My house is just somewhere I sleep, often alone.’
The location, however, was unusual. Built on the outer curve of an elbow in the street, the bungalow was set back from those at either side. The rear of the house wasn’t overlooked by any other property or from the street. And the south facing back garden sloped gently down to a small wooded area beyond which a panoramic view of the distant fells ran out to meet the wide sky. Mum had chosen it precisely because of its unique setting.
‘I can be naked in my garden. No one need be alarmed or offended. And, on those occasions I bring a man home with me, we can indulge in a bit of fantasy sex under the stars or the sun without risking arrest. It’s perfect.’
‘This is where Netta got her all over tan before she came to Longhouse.’
‘Certainly is. Even in the cooler weather, you can sunbathe inside the conservatory with the door open, providing the wind’s in the right direction. Not as good as a Greek island, but not bad for the north of England.’
Mum wasn’t a good cook so I volunteered to make tea. We sat outside under the warm sun, lingering over the meal with a bottle of wine I’d brought from the Longhouse cellar, and chatting.
I took Leigh’s strange gift from my bag and passed it to her. ‘I feel really silly, Mum. But how on earth do you wear this?’
She looked at it, uncurling it into the circle and toying with the lace. Then she wrapped it back up again and handed it back to me, her face a mask of private humour. ‘You don’t wear it, Faith. Its significance will become clear in the fullness of time. If you’re still unsure what to do with it after tomorrow, just ask Leigh. I’m sure he’ll be only too happy to put it on for you.’
Was it something a man wore, then? But she’d say no more and I decided to leave it to see what the morning would bring.
‘Do you miss sex now you’re being faithful to Dad?’
‘You ask the most extraordinary questions, Faith.’
‘That’s what they said at the driving school.’
‘Generally, people don’t ask personal questions about sex in polite society. Generally, people behave as though the subject were taboo, in fact.’
‘Isn’t that hypocritical, given that everybody’s obsessed with it?’
‘Not quiet everybody, love. Just most people. Yes, it’s hypocritical. That’s the way life is. That’s the way people are.’
‘There you go again. Because, I suppose, people don’t go much on honesty. It frightens them. Most folk are very uncomfortable with truth and reality. Fantasy and lies cushion them from the actuality they would otherwise have to face. Most people live their lives in a shell of fancy that protects them from the sadness and despair of their real lives. That’s why they won’t thank you for reminding them they’re living a lie.’
I loved Mum in this mood. She displayed her learning and intelligence in a way she never did when Netta was around and I took full advantage of her. ‘That’s very sad. Why can’t they live full and enjoyable lives? Or, at least, take responsibility for the reality of their situation?’
‘People seek perfection, in looks, relationships, environment, whatever. Advertising strengthens that attitude and society in general reinforces it. It’s a sort of self-perpetuating cycle. But people know they’re not perfect, they know their lives are empty and devoid of meaning, they know they live in horrible houses in mean streets, breathing polluted air and eating poor quality food. They know that politicians, businessmen and churchmen, are basically dishonest men who are self-seeking, corrupt and uncaring. I mean, I like people and even I see them for what they are.’
‘If people seek perfection, do they all seek the same perfection? I mean, is the perfect woman, for instance, blonde or brunette or redhead? Are her eyes amethyst, hazel, slate or aquamarine? Are her breasts large and full or firm and pert? Is her waist a particular measurement, her hips a specific dress size?’
‘Advertisers and the fashion industry would have us believe there are certain well-defined models of perfection.’
‘So the tendency must be for all women to look more or less the same, barring differences in hair and eye colour?’
‘That’s the logical conclusion.’
‘And people actually aspire to this ideal?’
‘Not you, though.’
‘I’m fortunate: I only have to be myself to have men falling over each other to worship my body. Of course, I have to watch my weight and keep my skin healthy but that’s just a matter of sensible diet and moderate exercise. If I’d been born with a big nose, small boobs, an arse the size of bus, a moustache or bandy legs, I’d probably view life entirely differently.’
‘But most women aspire to the ideal the fashion houses create?’
‘Most. Sad, isn’t it?’
‘What about individuality? Didn’t God make us…’
‘Avoid God, please, Faith. I know it’s actually a generic term but it carries very specific undertones. I prefer “Creator.” God, simply because there is also Goddess, smacks of male domination and a male centred universe I refuse to accept. God, you see, was fashioned in the image of Man, not as the Bible, written by men, would have you believe, the other way round.’
There was more in that revelation than I cared to contemplate at that moment. I wanted to pursue my original line of questioning, valuing Mum’s opinion and knowledge. ‘Creator, then. Didn’t that Creator make us all different? Isn’t it an insult to the Creator to try and alter what we are?’
‘Some would say it’s an equal insult to fail to make the best of what we could be.’
‘But if the Creator made us, surely we must already be the best we can be? In any case, trying to achieve the best ‘you’ that’s possible is one thing, but striving to become the best artificial copy of an artificial ideal is something else entirely.’
For someone brought up by that puritanical hypocrite, Heacham, you’re an amazing individual, Faith. I’m proud to call you my daughter and happy to have you by my side. I know you disapprove of my sexual liberty, which you call promiscuity, and I know you don’t share my attitude to men and sex in general. But your mindset is extraordinarily individualistic and liberal. We go right back to the beginning; you’re way too honest for your own good. But I hope you never change, I hope you never allow the world to turn you stale. I love you, Faith; love you as you are. I’m glad you came back into my life.’
I could have spent the whole night in discussion with her, so impressed was I by her ideas and her manner of expressing them. Mum talked this way only to me and only recently. At first, I’d assumed that she was incapable of intellectual thought.
‘I can’t talk like this to Netta. She hasn’t your mind, Faith. And I won’t do anything to diminish Netta’s opinion of herself. I’ve worked very hard to give her confidence as a woman in a world dominated by men. I may have gone too far with the sexual freedom bit. But she was physically and emotionally ready at fourteen and I couldn’t see, for the life of me, why I should let convention and the law stop her developing her natural gifts.
‘Netta was made for sex; sex, not love. She doesn’t understand anything about love at all. She knows only feelings and pleasure, wants and desires. Netta’s a major hedonist. Everything she does, she does to increase her chances of pleasure. I haven’t taught her this. She’s come to be this person because that’s what lies inside her very being. Some people are born to be great artists, like Da Vinci or Goya; others are born to serve like Edith Cavell or to lead like Elizabeth the First. Netta was born to have sex with men. It’s her raison d’être, her function, her role in life. And she’s supremely good at it.’
Mum had rarely spoken with such passion. I understood her and Netta more fully as a result. The people around me were becoming more real; I’d learned much about Leigh after the incident with the slip cast torso, now I was learning about Mum and my sister.
‘What’s my raison d’être, Mum?’
She made me stand and turn on the spot for her. I did, though I failed to understand the significance. She nodded slowly and I sat down again, the setting sun putting a glow on my skin as I lifted my glass of Burgundy from the black cast iron garden table.
‘You’re a very lovely woman, Faith. Men will admire and want you. But you, my sweet girl, were made for love rather than sex. Love is something far more valuable, far more dangerous, immeasurably more satisfying and potentially fatal. Sex is part of love, of course, and you’ll no doubt have your share of fun and sensation when you find the man you love, if you haven’t already done so.’
‘You must know I love Leigh, surely?’
‘I’ve tried to kid myself it wasn’t the case. I hoped it was infatuation, a crush on the man who released you from the vicious grip of Heacham and his world. But I do know. I wish you didn’t. He’s not worthy of you and I doubt he’ll ever settle down and marry, which is what you want and need.’
‘I think he will.’
‘You hope he will, which is an entirely different thing. Don’t worry about Netta, though. On that score, I can ease your concerns. Netta will stay with him as long as the sex suits her and until someone more impressive comes along. She might fancy herself in love with him for a while but if it looks like becoming a relationship that needs commitment, she’ll run a mile. Netta is committed to Netta; there’s no room for anyone else.’
‘And you accuse me of honesty?’
‘Wicked girl! Tossing my words back at me. I’m your mother and therefore absolved from the responsibility for consistency. I’m allowed to adopt a “do as I say and not as I do,” attitude.’
I threw my arms around her. ‘Thanks, Mum. Thanks for treating me like an adult. You’ve no idea how much it means to me.’
She held me tenderly for a while until her nature made her embarrassed and she detached herself. ‘Come on, it’s starting to grow cool out here and I don’t want you catching cold the night before your twenty-first. Let’s go inside.’
The wine helped me talk more freely and I asked the question I had wanted to ask since I’d read Shirley’s present and touched on the subject, unsatisfactorily, with Netta. ‘Mum, is it really helpful to your chosen man if you masturbate?’
She actually looked shocked for a moment, then she burst out laughing and it was so infectious I had to laugh with her. ‘You amaze me, Faith. I never expected to hear such a word from your lips.’
‘Is it wrong, then?’
‘No more right or wrong than most sexual activity. Whether it’s right or wrong for you, though, depends on how you feel about it. Let me give you a rather extreme example. Some people actually enjoy anal sex.’
‘You mean a man puts his penis into a woman’s bottom?’
‘Or another man’s arse, yes. Personally, I can’t see what they get out of it aside from a rather smelly and, I’d guess, painful experience. It smacks of domination, rather like rape, to me, but there are people who enjoy either or both roles, so, for them, it’s okay. The question you have to ask yourself, Faith, is how do you feel about masturbation?’
‘If it’s just for me, I don’t really feel comfortable with it, to be honest. But if it’ll teach me ways to enhance the pleasure of the man I love, then I’m happy to experiment with it.’
‘People rarely do it for the benefit of others; it’s either a way of attaining pleasure or a way of obtaining release, or both. It can teach you about your body and how you respond to certain touches. But, in reality, it only teaches you how you react to your own touch, and that’s entirely different from the touch of another person.’
‘Surely touch is touch, isn’t it?’
‘No, my sweet innocent girl.’ She took a deep breath and sighed. ‘I can see I’ll have to demonstrate something to you, though it goes against the grain and I do it only as your loving mother. How sensitive are your nipples?’
‘Is it pleasurable to brush them softly or does it set your teeth on edge?’
‘Oh! I assumed it was the same for everyone. It feels quite nice.’
‘It’s not the same for every woman, though most men seem incapable of realizing that. I know women who are so sensitive that anything more than a light, brief caress is unbearable. Any normal manipulation of their nipples is hell and brings them to screaming point. They are roused to a special form of rage that can induce real physical violence. But most men haven’t a clue and continue to twist and suck with no concern for the poor woman they’re torturing. Netta and I, on the other hand, have a different sort of sensitivity. We respond to nipple fondling in the way most men dream about. You see, men love breasts and nipples to the point of obsession. It’s supposed to be something they learn when sucking from their mothers. But that’s another and entirely different set of questionable theories, made up by men, of course. We won’t go there for the moment. In skilful hands, Netta and I can both be roused to the point of climax just by having them stimulated. Now, trust me. Unship a boob.’
It sounded such an odd request but I could see she was serious and I had asked her for advice, after all. I undid my blouse and pulled my bra up over my breasts.
‘Take a nipple between your finger and thumb and gently twist it one way and then the other.’
I did as she suggested and felt a mild tingle of pleasure. Then, to my surprise, she took my other nipple and manipulated it the same way. Once I got over the shock, I realized the sensation was entirely different. I felt a little guilty because the pleasure was considerably greater and I felt an echo of arousal elsewhere and that didn’t seem right with my mother.
She stopped, similarly embarrassed. ‘That answer your question?’
I adjusted my clothes and thought about her demonstration. ‘My own touch isn’t a valid clue to my response to the touch of another person. I see. I don’t think I’ll be masturbating, after all.’
And then I suddenly recalled how different had been the touches of Mervyn and Leigh and wondered why I hadn’t recollected that difference in answer to my own question.
‘Like I say, it can bring pleasure or relief or both. The trouble is, and you’ve been brought up with a man who taught you to be a puritan, the church induces feelings of guilt in its members if they indulge. I know Heacham’s a hypocritical bastard, but you’ve been subject to his indoctrination for so long I doubt you could rationalize your emotional response. And guilt can be terribly destructive. It’s up to you in the end, Faith. I don’t do it, but only because it never comes near to matching the real thing.’
‘Thank you, Mum.
‘Sex, you know, is a remarkably powerful force. Trouble is, it can so easily be destructive. It ought only to be creative. Sex created you and all the rest of us. And it’s sex that causes murder, more often than not.’
She looked at me with sudden sadness. ‘Rape is rarely about sex, Faith. It’s about power. It’s a way for the inadequate to convince themselves they have power over someone. Like violence and sadism, it has almost nothing to do with sex. Power may be a strong aphrodisiac, but in the end, it’s far more about domination of one ego by another. All rapists are pathetic creatures if the truth’s known.
‘Heacham’s a classic example. The only time he could raise an erection with me was when I was either dead drunk or too exhausted to care. The closer I was to dead, the better he liked it because I was entirely in his power. That’s why he routinely raped Hope but never actually fucked you, even though he had you stimulate him by doing the housework half naked. Hope had no way of responding, resisting or even participating in any real sense. And, of course, she couldn’t tell anyone else what he was doing to her.’
‘I suspect Leigh still has his doubts about my role in that, in spite of what he says.’
‘He can’t see through your eyes. Shall I have a word?’
‘Will he believe my mother?’
‘I’d have fun trying to convince him. Sorry! Forgot you want to marry him. I wish you didn’t, though, I really wish you didn’t.’
‘But I do, Mum, I do.’
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