Lady Smock turned Harry Bittercress into a cryptozoologist. Her love for him was like Nessie or that strange creature in Canada – Ogopogo. In the years since the Tulia business, there was anecdotal evidence that love still existed. Once in a while there would be a passionate flare-up and they’d make love like teenagers but Harry suspected this was an activity like eating chocolate after Lent. Delicious but, having discovered she managed just fine for 40 days, she could get by without it.
Harry blamed himself. It was he who strayed. But there were reasons. After her brother Bertram inherited the manor and they were forced to live in the gatehouse, Lady Smock became a zestless lemon. Tulia, on the other hand, was a richly scented lemon blossom and she – he grinned even now to think of it – chased him!
The gatehouse was a damnably old, drafty shithole. The 19th century plumbing with the 18th century water pressure succumbed to the intestinal challenges of Lady Smock’s lentil mousse every time. Unfortunately, lentils had become a dietary mainstay since the ejection from the manor. Money was as tight as Her Smockness’ love.
Exiting the main door of the gatehouse was a life or death proposition. The door opened into the archway entrance to the estate. Harry wore steel toe boots to protect himself from Bertram’s reckless friends motoring at top speed through the arch.
The windows needed replacing, too. One was boarded over from the stone throwing episode. Lady Smock refused to acknowledge it. Harry wondered if that was a sign of her love. Was she pretending it never happened? The rest of the windows wooden frames were warped and didn’t close properly. You could feel the breeze coming through the cracks.
The evening it happened, there was a glowing fog wrapped around everything, beading the night, blinding him. Harry was writing a note to Lady Smock saying “I’ll be late, darling. Going to see William for a pint at the Dog and Whistle in Ware. Back at closing.” Shreds of fog winkled through the inadequate windows and gathered around the paper like a spectre. Consumed with guilt, Harry took this as a sign that tonight was not a good night to visit fragrant Tulia at the Rock and Rose Inn. He called and cancelled.
Tulia didn’t take no for an answer. She never did. She didn’t really love Harry, just his Billy-goat approach to sex. And his constant flattery. “You make me so happy. You’re so beautiful. You smell like lemon blossoms. You’re a wonderful cook. You have the most beautiful vagina I’ve ever seen.” (She begged him to say “cunt” but he couldn’t. She found this laughable.)
The best part was the affair gave her prestige. This was, after-all, Lady Smock’s personal gigolo she was fucking. If only she could tell someone.
It was as they were pressed together in an embrace that penetrated the fog like a moonbow, that a stone shattered the brittle glass and smacked Harry on the temple. He woke up to a harridan shrieking at Tulia and dragging her by her violet bra, her breasts and the rest of her spilling out the door where one of Bertram’s friends nearly ran her down. (When the driver saw the violet, lace clad damsel in distress, he picked her up, but that’s another story.)
The next day, Her Smockness purchased a thick sirloin at the butcher’s for Harry’s black eye, which Harry the optimistic cryptozoologist took as a sign of love. She then stopped in at the chemist for some sticking plasters and antibiotic ointment for the cut on his temple. By the end of the shopping trip Tulia’s dream had come true. The whole town knew.
After they soothed Harry’s eye, they fried the steak and shared it. The plumbing was relieved of its duty and that night they had chocolate for dessert. Harry decided there are worse things than cryptozoology.