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Romance Fiction Happy

This story mentions sex.

‘Oi, who the hell are you?’ Sonia shook the inert sleeping body. ‘Wake up! Speak to me!’

In the dark of the bedroom, she could hear the sheets rustling. It was too dark to see the body's outline, but she felt sure it was a naked male.

Sonia had had enough. Suffering from terrible jet lag, dirty and exhausted, an electricity blackout, and now someone in her allocated room. 

*****

Sonia arrived much later than planned but managed to rush to the Property Manager, anxiously waiting to shut the office. Her good friend, Patty, the flat's owner, had assured her that Andrew, the Property Manager, knew she would collect the keys that Friday.

Dragging her suitcase behind her said: ’Hi, remember me? I’m Sonia. Can I have the keys for 170’? 

As he handed her the keys, he said: 

’We handed out another set of keys a little earlier today to one of Patty’s relatives. Did you know someone else was due to stay at the flat with you?

‘No, but it’s up to Patty whom she lets stay’, said Sonia, not bothered that another guest might be there.  

In the past, she had often stayed in the beautiful central London flat that was a popular venue for Patty’s friends and relatives. Sonia, a close, trusted friend of Patty’s, frequently stayed there, sharing the venue with Patty’s numerous friends, whilst the absent Patty travelled the Globe as her high-flying career demanded.

Sonia’s plane had landed hours later than scheduled, resulting in her suffering quite severely from the debilitating effects and confusion of jet lag. Keys in her hand, she walked as quickly as possible to the large apartment block where the flat was to be found. As she walked, all the housing and street lights suddenly went out, and to prevent her from being in complete darkness, she managed to locate the torch on her phone. Everything was quiet except for a massive rumble of thunder not too far away. She began to run to avoid the storm clearly on its way, shouting at her suitcase as her exasperation grew. 

Arriving at number 170, she walked to the back of the lobby, her hands feeling along the wall, searching for the lights and the elevator. Pressing the elevator button, it took her a while to realise there was no response. The electricity blackout was affecting everything. 

‘Great, I’ve got four flights of stairs to climb. Why tonight of all nights.’

Taking hold of her suitcase, she walked to the stairs leading to the upstairs apartments and, bracing herself; she exhaustedly climbed the flights to the appropriate floor.  

She found the flat’s front door using her torch and inserted the key. 

‘Phew, home at last. Bed, bed, bed.’ 

She fell through the door. From outside, she could hear the arrival of the heavy rainstorm overhead. Hailstones began pinging off the windows; numerous flashes of lightning occasionally lit up the corridors. Remembering what Andrew had said about another key for the flat being issued, Sonia didn’t hear anything and assumed the other visitor must still be out.

Stumbling around the kitchen, she found the tap at the sink and greedily drank water from the tap. Deciding to give up on unpacking anything, including her toothbrush, she struggled upstairs and along the corridor to her allocated bedroom. Patty always gave Sonia this particular bedroom.  The familiarity of the bedroom made her feel that she had arrived ‘home’.

She entered the pitch-black bedroom, stretched her hands out, searched for the bed, and plonked herself down on it. Sitting there, she began to pull her dirty travel clothes off, over her head, down her legs, arms out of sleeves, until finally stark naked, she slipped under the sheets and found another naked body - warm and sleeping - in the bed. In her bed!

She jumped like a scalded cat leaping out of bed, scrabbling on the floor to find something to cover herself with and shouted: 

‘Oi, who the hell are you? Wake up! Speak to me! You’re in my bed!’

The body under the sheets moved, and the bedding rustled.

‘And, who the hell are you?’ a deep masculine voice replied.

Sonia, exhausted and brain-fogged, was perplexed. Who the hell was it? 

‘I assume you’re Sonia?’ the sleepy voice said.

“Yes’ she said, bewildered. ‘Who the hell are you?’

‘I’m Colin, Patty’s brother, normally living in Cape Town. Hi! We’ve not met.’

Sonia wanted to laugh. Neither had any clothes on and no, they had not met. Still standing next to the bed, she felt a hand lightly brush her thigh.  

‘Ops, sorry. I was searching for your hand to shake it.

She began laughing. ‘You thought it appropriate we shake hands? Imagine if the lights come back on. I don’t think we are dressed for a formal greeting - do you?’

Grabbing her discarded clothing, Sonia asked: ’Why are you in this bedroom? Patty usually reserves it for me. Did she tell you to take this bed?

‘Actually, she didn’t, but I’ve only been here once before, and this was the room I slept in the last time I stayed. I was sitting downstairs when suddenly all the electricity stopped working. I couldn’t find my way around the flat in the dark, so I took the only bedroom I knew. It never occurred to me that a strange woman would strip off and jump into bed with me if I took this bed,’ he chuckled. ‘It’s never happened in the past’.

'Sorry for the difficulties I’ve caused. I had a long flight and needed to get some shut-eye. I never heard you arrive, or I would have shouted out.’ He sounded as exhausted as Sonia felt.

All Sonia knew about Colin was that he was married and emigrated to South Africa a few years ago. But now she also knew, despite his long flight, he had a lovely natural attractive smell. 

‘OK’, she said. ‘I know which bedroom Patty will have allocated you, so I’ll sleep there. See you at breakfast.’

‘I’ll swap bedrooms with you if you want, but first, I’ll have to find my clothes.’

‘No’, she said, laughing. ‘You stay there and keep warm’. She had felt the warmth of his bed and longed to sink into his warmth and drift off to sleep next to him.  

Surprised that she would even think of getting back in with him, she thought:  ’I must be over-tired; pull yourself together,’ but smiled happily as she found somewhere to sleep.

*******

She awoke hours later in her bedroom, which was now bathed in sunlight. The electricity had come back on, and she grabbed a hot shower, scrubbed away the dirt from her long journey, and watched it disappear down the drain.  Cleaned and dressed, she went off in search of her ‘bed partner’.

She bounced down the stairs to find Colin in the kitchen, busily making coffee and toast. Pouring the deliciously freshly-ground, strong coffee, she began appraising the man she had momentarily slipped into bed with last night. She guessed he was mid-to-late 50s, a few years older than Sonia. He had a body that quite honestly had gone a bit to seed, but then so had Sonia’s. He had a nice-looking craggy face, twinkly blue eyes, and a full mouth that quickly broke into a smile. Overall he looked like a happy, easy-going man. 

‘Well, Sonia, shall we shake hands now?’ he smiled warmly.  

After a couple of coffees, happily swapping stories regarding their difficult plane journeys yesterday, they began discussing their respective day ahead.

‘Will you be going out today?’ he asked. ‘My wife is arriving soon. So if you want the flat, we could go out. Louisa and I need to discuss a couple of things.’

‘Blast, of course, the bloody wife’, thought Sonia.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll keep it a secret that you tried to get into bed with me.’ he began laughing.

‘Thank god’. Blushing furiously, she said, ‘What a way to meet someone!’ shaking her head and grinning.

‘Definitely different!’ Both began roaring with laughter.

Wiping her eyes from the laughter, she asked: 

‘How long will you be in London?’.  

She wanted to add, ‘And why wasn’t your wife in your bed last night?’ but couldn’t think of a way of asking.

‘Not sure about London. Will it bother you having to share the flat?’

‘Gosh, no, not at all’, she lied. Damn, damn, why the hell are you married? First time I’ve been seriously attracted to a man in years.

Looking at him across the table from her, she remembered the warmth of his naked body and embarrassed though she was by the whole encounter, it was not an unpleasant thought.

*****

Sonia’s divorce had not gone particularly well. Conversely, the beginning of the marriage had gone very well. It had so pleased her mother, who liked to control everything.  ‘James is such an attractive catch’, the mother frequently purred. He was attractive and well-educated, but as far as the mother was concerned, his senior status and well-paid salary from a globally recognised company were the icing on the cake. 

To start a new married life that initially had so little but plenty of disposable cash was excellent fun - furnishing a house, designing the garden, and regularly changing the car for the latest model. Sonia had a wardrobe bursting with countless new clothes, shoes, and handbags. As a young married couple, they believed marriage was all about buying, owning and collecting goods. Neither was prepared to work on building a genuine, lasting and loving relationship. As the years passed, her face slowly began to sag, and her waist thickened, and Sonia began to realise she had married her mother’s choice, not Sonia’s.

Over the years, Sonia changed. She longed for a quiet, calm, settled relationship that only required a small house, perhaps a garden and a loving cat and dog. Poor James, with his high-grade job, could barely keep a civil tongue in his head as each day in the office was increasingly stressful. His arrival at home each evening brought a dark cloud of anxiety to the house. She had long ago realised that James was eyeing her up like one of his cars and deciding she no longer looked as sleek as she once did, and soon it would be her time to be dumped and the new model brought in.

James had begun to find Sonia tedious. He worked hard to increase his salary and be admired as an achiever in his Company. He enjoyed being envied by his friends and neighbours. Unfortunately, Sonia had shown little interest in money and all it could buy long ago. They began to have less and less in common.

‘Would you be interested in seeing if you could take a long break from work so we could go away?’ Sonia asked one day.

‘Are you mad? Why on earth would I want a long break? What kind of things would we do on this ‘long break’? James asked angrily.

‘I thought we could go and volunteer somewhere. Perhaps help with animals or children.’ she said. James and Sonia had no children and had never discussed having a child.

‘Animals? Children? Are you mental? I must keep going to work every day, or that idiot Simon will take my job from me. I understand if you want to go on a holiday, but ….. volunteering?  Are you quite well?’

He eventually dumped her and went off with a very high-maintenance woman. The last time Sonia had seen her replacement, she was almost blinded by the diamonds twinkling in her ears. Her clothes were expensive and exquisite whilst clutching a costly designer handbag. James had found his perfect partner.

Sonia approached middle age alone. Her mother, still reeling from the divorce, told her she must find another husband; but each man the mother chose was just a copy of the ambitious James. Sonia decided to keep herself to herself and happily learnt to live without a large bank account.  

Her love life was a thing of the past, and though she had occasionally dated, no one had tempted her to consider giving up her independent life as a single woman. 

*********

So how strange that Colin should have sparked her sexual interest. Was it the warmth of the naked body that had set her on fire? Damn it all - he was a married man.

His wife, Louisa, turned up about an hour later and didn’t seem to be carrying a suitcase.

‘Strange? Surely,’ Sonia thought jealously, ‘Louisa would be staying with Colin in that big double bed?’ Why had she only arrived in the morning? And it didn’t seem she was staying for long.  

‘Interesting’, she thought.

It seemed Colin and Louisa wanted to chat alone, so Sonia waved them goodbye and went off to meet friends, saying she would be back home that evening.

******

She returned about ten at night and found Colin sitting alone on the sofa watching TV. He turned the TV off and welcomed her home.

‘Where’s Louisa’?

‘Gone’.

‘Gone’?

‘We’ve been separated for years and needed to finalise everything as Louisa wants to marry her boyfriend. Did Patty not mention anything? I’ve flown in from South Africa to finalise the divorce arrangements.’

‘No, I haven’t chatted with Patty for ages as she has been so busy. I’m so sorry. Do you want to talk about it?’

‘No, tell me about you. Married? Divorced? I know you’ve been living abroad for years, so is your husband at home?’

‘No, I divorced many years ago and have never been desperate to repeat the same mistake. What about you and Louisa? Was it the boyfriend?’

‘No, it wasn’t affairs that split us. I wasn’t financially ambitious enough for Louisa and her mum. Louisa was told to marry an ambitious, successful man, but instead, she married me, and after years together, we finally had to admit that our marriage didn’t work. Louisa’s boyfriend is ambitious, successful, and very nice.

‘What do you do? For a living?’ Sonia asked.

‘Oh, you know this and that but not a hedge fund millionaire. I used to work in the City and hated it. I know that you also used to work in the City.’ She nodded.

‘But now I primarily run a small gardening business and write novels.’ he continued.

‘So why did you choose to live in South Africa?’ Sonia asked.

‘The land is cheap, and I wanted to buy as much land as possible. I plan to run an Animal Refuge place which would still give me time to run the gardening business and write stories in the evenings. I’ve been discussing it for years, but Louisa thought the whole idea was stupid - hence the breakup. What do you do?’ he asked.

‘I retired early from the City and moved abroad. I volunteer at a dog and cat rescue centre a few days a week. In the evenings, I write short stories…..’, her voice breaking into a laugh.

His eyes lit up, and he moved further up the sofa and patted the space beside him.  

‘Have you ever visited South Africa?’

Laughing as she sat next to him, she felt the delicious warmth of his body enveloping her.

March 25, 2023 02:58

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14 comments

Zack Powell
09:53 Mar 26, 2023

This story reminds me of why I don't write Romance: there's just so much you have to get down. Backstory, characters, motivations, a reason for the two people getting together. And yet, you've done just that. We understand why Sonia is the way she is through the backstory. We know the reason Colin is there in the house. We get why both people could find a second chance at romance with one another. It's a lot of juggling, a lot of moving pieces, and I think you handled it well, Stevie. The opening was a fun hook, by the way. Finding a naked ...

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Stevie Burges
16:47 Mar 30, 2023

I hope I thanked you for your critique. I find your comments very valuable and insightful. I honestly found this a difficult story to write even though I had the opening. So having struggled so much it’s lovely when someone reads it and comments. Thanks again.

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Michał Przywara
04:04 Mar 27, 2023

Others have mentioned it, and I'll add my voice to the lot: finding a naked stranger in your bed is a great way to start a story :) I also like how everything, including the power going out, craps up on her in the beginning. It sets a good miserable tone (but not bitter-miserable, more like funny-miserable) which is fertile ground for an unexpected surprise, like meeting someone she's interested in. Turns out they make a good pair, quite complementary. And they have quite the how-did-you-meet story :)

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Stevie Burges
06:14 Mar 27, 2023

Thanks, Michal. I pulled back the sheets this morning but no one was there. It's amazing what a fertile imagination can produce!!

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23:10 Mar 25, 2023

How sweet! Well told and just a fun read. No negative comments. I really liked it.

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Stevie Burges
02:11 Mar 26, 2023

thank you so much Sharon. I'm having a reading today - I will make sure I catch up on your stories.

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Michelle Oliver
04:26 Apr 02, 2023

What a lovely romance. I was sure I commented on this, but it seems I may have forgotten in my haste to click the post button… sorry Stevie. What I liked about this was the second chance at love vibe. So often romance focuses on the ‘young and beautiful’ and forgets that romance is part of our lives no matter our age or history. The spice and the mystery is still there in this story, but is well tempered with wisdom that comes from life experiences. A lovely story Stevie.

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Stevie Burges
04:40 Apr 02, 2023

Hey, Michelle so glad I 'discovered' you on Reedsy and that I get to read your stories and receive your lovely, helpful, positive comments.

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Michelle Oliver
05:16 Apr 02, 2023

Thank you Stevie. This is a wonderful community of supportive writers. I am grateful to be a part of it too.

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Stevie Burges
05:46 Apr 02, 2023

😁👍

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V. S. Rose
00:40 Mar 30, 2023

I thought you did a nice job of setting up the romance Stevie. Obviously, catchy start to the story, finding a naked stranger in your bed (sorry to repeat some of the other comments, but if everyone is feeling the same you must be doing something right). The motivations of Sonia and Colin are clear, and they have much in common. By the way Sonia sounds like she has a great life (volunteering at a dog and cat rescue center a few days a week, and writing stories in the evening). An aspiration for many. I enjoyed your story Stevie :)

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Stevie Burges
01:33 Mar 30, 2023

Thanks so much. On the basis of your comments, I have forgiven you for ruining my mascara!

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MJ Simons
03:56 Mar 25, 2023

I like the mixup at the beginning. It reminds me of an old Russian film called the Irony of Fate. It was interesting that Sonia got into bed with a married man and that Colin also didn't vacate the room, especially since they were both naked. As I continued to read, I liked how you changed the scenes, giving the reader some backstory about their failed relationships. Colin and Sonia are a perfect match.

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Stevie Burges
04:19 Mar 25, 2023

I imagined that he had just woken up - whereas she was now out of bed - plus as it was still dark she could find another bed easily whereas he didn't know the flat too well. I hoped that Colin and Sonia would fancy each other so I imagined him as a man I would fancy. I can't tell you how difficult I found it to write - I find romances very difficult to write. You should have seen my first draft - dreadful!

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