At the time I was also sleeping with Alicia. This dreamlike, slightly unreal arrangement didn't last too long - it was never a relationship, just that old cliché of friends who have sex - but it broke the dry spell I'd had throughout university and the year beyond and was mutually beneficial (she had many orgasms; I got to have sex; we both got to eat hummus and discuss current affairs while fingering on the sofa). It was through my sex with Alicia that I disovered my penchant for oral, for which I am eternally grateful.
The amount of energy I had at 21 was amazing.
I had two jobs at the time - a midweek one and a weekend one. The weekend one - which actually made me money; the other one was voluntary - involved working with Rue. Alicia, who also worked during the week, was quite receptive to an evening visit and accompanying shag on Saturday nights, after which we'd sleep together and I'd get dressed into a spare uniform and head back into central London for my Sunday shift. I also, occasionally, went to see her during the week after occasional forays into London for music/arts-related events (go to band; play the triangle; sex with lady), but the weekend bits were often the best.
After a while two people managed to cotton onto the fact that I went "missing" on Saturday nights: H, whom I immediately told everything to (while standing behind the counter at work - it made for good conversation), and my mum, who I didn't. While my sister found out (although quite how...) and told everyone she could, including Robinson et al. and her boyfriend-of-the-moment, I needed a plausible excuse to provide the older members of my family.
Rue was that excuse.
He was a known entity to my mother, but only in passing; a shadow, an unknown quantity with an unusual name. Improvising wildly, I came up with what was essentially a very believable lie: Rue had come into some money and was renting a nice flat somewhere in Harrow (Alicia lived, and still does live, in Harrow - hence the idea.). Being single and well-to-do, he was holding all-night social gatherings, with sleepovers, in his flat, mostly on Saturday nights with his work colleagues. This was where I was going, and from where I came back on Sunday evenings, tired out from two days of retail work and
And so things continued. I worked during the week and got experience; I worked during the weekend and got money. Alicia lay on her back and had multiple orgasms. H laughed, my sister gossiped and I had sex. Rue, who had absolutely no idea anything was going on, seemed to accept my context-free, unsolicited thank-yous and occasional slaps on the back with nothing more than polite befuddlement and requests of where be could find a picture of a cat for his next tattoo (I suggested JLA: Earth-2; he settled on Maus, also a good choice).
Alicia told me, just before Christmas 2006, that the physical side of things between us was over (to be fair, I had known it was coming), but that she still wanted to be friends. She championed my subsequent year of failed attempts to find someone else to have sex with, amazed that I wasn't having any luck (I, however, was far from amazed). At the same time, I decided to tell my mum that Rue had decided to move to Brighton and therefore his weekend sleepovers were terminated.
This wasn't far from the truth. Rue did actually move to Brighton. He just didn't move until months after I told her this.
Shortly before I left that job, I was heading off to one of my final weekends at work when there was no service on the National Rail (now London Overground) line I used to take into London. My mum kindly drove me to a local tube station, and as she was parking up, I noticed - who else? - Rue, who had himself been somewhere he probably shouldn't overnight, and was making his own way to work.
"Hey, I know that guy!" I said. "He's one of my colleagues from work."
"Oh?" asked my mother, intrigued. "Who's that?"
He's the guy with the unusual name whose fictitious flat I kept pretending to go to in the evenings, but that didn't actually happen, I was just having sex with a friendly older woman named Alicia; he was just a very convenient excuse.
"James," I answered.