Not reading Breaking Faith? Read the reviews under the 'My Books' tab, they might persuade you to give it a try.
Still on 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. I’m an author; I want people to read my writing, simple as that.
Saturday 7th August
All the planning for the party was worth the effort. Ma surpassed herself with the catering; Old Hodge decked the gardens as if for a queen. Even the weather was perfect, with clear skies and warm balmy air gifting the gentlest of breezes. Everything was set for the arrival of the star and I’d made a promise to Netta who, in return, had pledged to behave herself.
Matilda brought Faith, as arranged, shortly after lunch. I’d already collected Eric and David from their cottage and some of the more mature guests decided they’d prefer an afternoon session to the livelier evening bash.
She was wearing Matilda’s present and looked stunning. Her hair was up, emphasising her bare shoulders and the soft curves of her unsupported breasts. As I’d requested, her neck was devoid of ornament.
Matilda had finally persuaded her to pluck her eyebrows and the finer curves lifted her eyes, drawing attention to their deep colour and size.
We collected on the gravel as she arrived, and watched her emerge from Matilda’s ancient Hillman Imp, like a butterfly leaving its chrysalis. There was spontaneous applause at the sight of her and she blushed with pleasure at our attention. The short satin dress echoing her flush in a deeper shade of crimson. I wondered how long it would be before she kicked off the matching high-heeled sandals, her preference for bare feet just one of her endearing qualities.
We gathered round her and sang the ubiquitous chorus, Eric holding David’s wheelchair to ensure him a good position. I took Faith’s hand and presented her to David.
He rose, desperately trying to hide his attempts to make it seem effortless, and embraced her. ‘I have a little present for you and it couldn’t be taken inside. That’s why we’re all gathered here for your arrival.’
Eric, on cue, helped him back into the chair and wheeled him the short distance to where it stood. Faith followed, a picture of puzzled excitement.
‘You’ll need these, of course, my wonderful, beautiful, charming and adorable daughter. Happy birthday.’ And he handed her the keys attached to a small leather fob bearing the county’s white rose.
At first, she didn’t understand what he was giving her and she looked at the keys in her hand in bewilderment. Only when David urged her nearer to the door of the car did she understand the significance.
Her face was a picture, which I managed to capture. She looked at the bright red Mini, with its gleaming white roof, and literally couldn’t believe her eyes. ‘Honestly? For me?’ And then she thought she had it worked out and nodded. She was very good, betraying no trace of disappointment as she turned back to her dad. ‘How long for?’
He was quicker than I expected. ‘It’s not a hire car, my precious daughter, it’s yours. Yours to own, yours entirely and for as long as you wish to keep it. Taxed, insured and ready to drive.’
For a moment, I thought there would be tears, but she fought and won. Instead, she embraced and kissed him. When she straightened, she sought me out and stood before me. There was such delight and joy on her face as she looked up at me that I found myself deeply moved. ‘Leighton Longshaw, you are a wicked, wonderful, lying, marvellous, cheating, adorable, generous man. Thank you very much indeed.’
Without giving me chance to respond, she turned to the rest of the crowd. ‘For those who don’t know, this dreadful man sent me away on a driving course, at his own expense, and had me believe it was so I could deliver his orders for him. All the time he was plotting and scheming with Dad so that I’d be able to drive the car I’ve just been given. Can you think of a more wicked, wonderful pair of men anywhere?’
She turned back to face me as the assembled guests cheered and made rude remarks about us. Her arms around my neck, she kissed me full on the mouth, not fleetingly, as she had previously, but a full kiss with her lips slightly parted. It left me feeling more alive and wanted than any of thousands of previous kisses I’d been given.
‘Thank you, Leigh.’ And, for my ears only, ‘I love you.’
I froze for an instant and a vision of the whole party falling in ruins as I failed to make the expected response washed over me. But, true to her nature, she expected no reply.
‘I’ve got to drive it. I just must.’
Everyone cheered as she let herself in and studied the controls for a moment. One of the guests opened the gate. She waited for us to clear a way and then backed easily out of the parking space, executed a perfect three-point turn and reversed the car back into its original slot. She cut the engine and locked the door. ‘Sorry about that. Rude of me to abandon my guests for so long.’
Laughter all round and the man at the gate rejoined us wearing a rather sheepish smile as we went into the house for the remainder of the giving ceremony. I felt so proud of her, so proud that she was somehow associated with me. And her ‘I love you’, reverberated through my mind throughout the evening.
Matilda, elegant in a little black cocktail number, supplemented the satin dress with a small case of makeup. Zizi, sensually superb in mock leopard-skin cat suit, gave her a Nikon camera, knowing it would accept my lenses and accessories. ‘If you can’t beat the buggers, join them.’
Paul, my doctor and friend, suited and professional, presented her with a boxed set of ‘The Lord of The Rings’ for which he received a kiss and hug that had his wife, Sarah, looking somewhat askance. Ma, minus her apron for once, gave her a pair of excellent walking shoes, which fitted like gloves, and a small backpack. ‘So you can do some proper walking.’
Old Hodge, in corduroys and checked shirt, had managed to carve a wren from a branch that was still attached to the log it sat on so that it looked amazingly lifelike. She kept looking at it all through the evening as if it might fly away.
Netta, surprisingly demure in a flowing, yellow backless maxi but nothing else, gave her saucy underwear that she’d be unlikely to wear herself. Abby, turquoise boob tube revealing as much as it hid and floral flares hugging her lovely hips, gave her a stylish hair dryer for travelling. Eric, sombre in dark grey suit, shyly placed a string of natural pearls around the naked neck he’d requested, fastening the diamond clasp himself.
‘They were my mother’s. I’ve wanted to find a suitable neck for them to adorn and yours seems just right, lass.’
There wasn’t a woman in the room who failed to envy her that particular gift and Faith acknowledged the honour by making him blush with her enthusiastic acceptance. There were other small gifts, and some flowers. I deliberately left my own till last.
‘This young lady, a lady because she is rightly treated as such by those around her, came into my life unexpectedly and completely changed it. So far, she’s brought in more than three times her salary in collected bad debts. She’s not aware that another of her charmingly threatening letters persuaded yet more money from tenacious claws this very morning, increasing my bank balance by four figures as a result. So, she’s worth her weight in gold. She organizes, controls and directs my business life with a gentle efficiency that allows me to concentrate on the creative aspects and I want her to know that I appreciate her more than I can say. She has never celebrated a birthday before and it’s fitting she should enjoy this gathering on her coming-of age. She’s been given pretty clothes, which she is wearing delightfully, makeup, which she’ll take some time to decide about, and some very personal items I would dearly love to see in place…’
I gave Abby a stern look that made everyone, including her and Faith, laugh. ‘…but suspect I never will. There’ve been brilliantly chosen books, a handcrafted work of art made with love, a priceless family heirloom and other items to let her enjoy life more fully. A beautiful woman who claims to be my friend has given my Girl Friday a camera so she can compete with me behind the lens as she already does in the darkroom. And, of course, that small present of her first car from her dad.
‘I had a good idea of what she was to receive, since most of you seemed to think it wise to consult me over appropriate gifts. I note that you completely ignored my advice to give her money, presumably because you all thought I was likely to try to steal it from her in some guise or other. My dilemma, then, was what to give this lovely young woman for her coming of age…’
‘But you’ve already given me a present, Leigh. My driving course…’
‘Tax deductible and therefore not valid.’
‘And, of course…it’s a steering wheel cover. Oh, you wicked man. Thank you, Leigh.’ She kissed me again.
I held her hands and smiled at her. ‘As I say, what do you give to someone like Faith? Money’s too impersonal and it had to be something not only marking her twenty first in a way that she would remember, but sending her a message I think she might otherwise refuse to hear.’ I took the envelope from my pocket, handed it to her and kissed her forehead to smooth the frown of puzzlement. My hands on her shoulders picked up again that tingle of pleasure I always felt from her skin.
‘Well, open it, then.’
She stood there in that short, delicious dress that emphasized her femininity so cleverly, and looked me in the eye for a full minute without a word. I almost quailed under that scrutiny but managed to hold my own and eventually she moved her eyes to the envelope and carefully opened the flap. She extracted what she found inside and examined it carefully before committing herself to the most wonderful smile of pleasure and surprise. I received another kiss of gratitude.
‘I love you even more.’
No one else was allowed to know what it was she whispered that rendered me so uncharacteristically contemplative.
‘Well? What is it?’
She turned and curtseyed to the assembly; an action that emphasized the shapely lines of her legs. ‘This terrible man clearly wants rid of me for a very long time. He’s given me vouchers to allow me to take a holiday for a month.’
‘Perhaps he’s hoping you’ll take him with you.’
I could have hugged Paul for his perception.
She looked at me for a sign that he was right. I tried to convey my agreement without signalling the same to Netta who was watching me like the proverbial bird of prey.
‘Perhaps I might. Or maybe I’ll take Mum and Dad. Maybe I’ll invite my secret lover. Maybe I’ll go alone. I’ll have to give the matter a lot of thought. Thank you, Leigh; a holiday does seem tempting. Thanks to all of you. I’m moved more than I can say and far more than I dare show. If you’ll forgive me a moment, I need a little while alone as I was raised not to cry in public.’ And, true to form, she calmly left us.
Ten minutes later, she returned, her face fresh and with no sign of tears, though her eyes held that hint of red that told the truth. For all that, she was recovered and in control.
Her father had to give up far sooner than he’d hoped and Paul offered to drop David and Eric home even though it was hardly on his route. I allowed him to do me the favour. I certainly didn’t want to miss one second of what was proving to be a very educational event where Faith was concerned.
As the evening wore on, so the drink loosened tongues and banished inhibitions. With the departure of the older people and the incursion of more young folk, the whole event livened up. Warm summer weather and daylight that only began to fade after nine, to give way to the gentle light of a fading crescent moon, leant an air of freedom to the whole proceeding.
Inevitably, at Netta’s instigation, clothes were removed and dancing on the lawn attracted some of the gang as participants and others as observers.
‘Going to join them, Faith?’
She shook her head and smiled at me as if I were being very silly. Very close, so I could hear her whisper above the music, she made a promise. ‘Alone, for you, at the right time, I’ll happily shed my clothes, Leigh. When you’re ready to love me, I’ll be more than ready to love you.’
Netta grabbed me before I could respond but all the time I cavorted with her and her abandoned friends, I heard Faith’s words and found my mind dwelling on her promise.
She was asked to dance by every man at the party and honoured them all, even the most uncoordinated and clumsy, with the same grace and favour. A couple tried to grapple her into a clinch but she managed to remove herself and maintain her own humour and their dignity so that no one was offended or left to feel rejected.
Faith impressed me more that night than any time previously. It was as if she’d suddenly become a fully mature woman in charge of her life and her being. And all through the dances and my eventual alfresco sex with Netta and then Abby, Faith’s words of love and promise haunted me, taunted me and, ultimately, declared all else no more than a sham compared with what she offered.
And she enjoyed herself, despite my other women, despite Netta’s almost orgy, despite the early departure of her father. I found my eyes drawn to her frequently during the evening, noting how she looked, how she held herself, how she remained honest but gracious with her many admirers.
Inevitably, the night turned into early morning. Some left for home with the help of the single local taxi, who made at least five visits over a period of three hours, or with reluctant parents dragged from bed, or more unwisely under their own steam. One pair returned on foot from the lane end and sought me out with exaggerated caution. ‘There’s a weird fat guy in the trees with a pair of binoculars. Just thought you ought to know. He pissed off as soon as we saw him. Big lad with an ugly face.’
I said nothing to the others but made a mental note to have another word with Merv. I wondered for how long and how frequently he’d been spying on us but said nothing to the girls. I was still positive he would do no harm, beyond his leching, especially now that my suspicions about Netta’s part in the so-called attempted rape had hardened.
Those who were too far gone or too wise to make the journey home found places to stretch out on floors and sofas and cushions.
A small group of us talked into the early hours, drinking coffee and setting the world to rights, Faith among us. She sat on the floor, opposite me, so I could study her at leisure as the talk touched on religion, politics, music and sex. Animated, her features were alive with complex expressions of emotion, her face portraying the truth of her words and her reactions to the words of others. No other face in that small group gave such a clear picture of the real feelings of its owner. I found myself fascinated by her in a way I hadn’t encountered before and wondered what had wrought this change in my perceptions of her; how she’d changed to come to my attention in this way.
Physically, she’d developed a great deal since our first meeting. Her body was now that of a woman, with firm, rounded breasts, a slender waist and the generous hips of a slim woman. Her legs were fuller and shapelier and her face had lost its pinched appearance. I could picture her now as a model and thought I might ask her to pose for me. She would refuse, I had no doubt but I was tempted, all the same.
Her eyes, when they met mine, as they did on numerous occasions during that early morning conversation, held a message of such promise that I felt almost overwhelmed by her open love for me. It frightened me that she felt so deeply about me. If I lied to her, promised her the constancy she demanded, I could have her in my bed and sample the pleasures she was so willing to share with me. But I couldn’t take that step. I wouldn’t betray her like that. And Paul’s words of warning returned even as I toyed with the idea.
Netta left the group first, dragging some other girl’s boyfriend up the stairs. It was clear she’d be with him for the night and I was sure she was trying to make me jealous. I, however, had Zizi to myself before she returned to London the following night.
Faith, of course, went to bed alone, making space on her floor for the abandoned girl to sleep in one of the sleeping bags.
Zizi was as generous as ever, and as tempting. But I felt something was lacking, not from her, but from me. ‘Hey, Stag, I’m here, remember?’
I indulged her, making up for my lack of attention with passion that was purely physical. If Zizi noticed the difference, she was grateful enough not to comment. But it was Faith who remained in my mind.
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