15 - Boyd

Ahmadi, Kuwait, 1967

Boyd


It was Genevieve's birthday and the two of us had dinner with Boyd at the Guest House. Spencer was supposed to come but phoned at the last minute.

'I've got to work late Peggy. The wretched tank farm extension restart is turning into a bit of a nightmare.'

It had been shut down when the American contractors left in a hurry at the start of the war. 

'I'll see you there later' he said, 'Take a taxi and order for me, I'll drive straight there'. I had my doubts, but what could I do?

Genevieve came to our house first, Robin gave her a card and some pompoms and I gave her a black and white oversized dogtooth pattern shift dress and some tips. 

'Don’t drink too much. Don’t talk about children all the time. Ask questions about his work. Don’t laugh too loud.'
Genevieve

'Oh Cleo.' she sighed, droopily, 'Boyd’s so sophisticated. And so.... pale, and not very fit, and his hair's going grey.' And then, with a sudden annoying increase in enthusiasm, 'Isn't Spencer’s hair great, I really like the way he’s got it so short at the moment, just like Dynamite's. And he has such a lovely tan....'

Incredibly tedious. As for his hair, what had been a white strip around the last hair cut had burned scarlet, then peeled in ugly circles. Ridiculous.

At the Guest House conversation dragged. Completely ignoring my instructions, Genevieve started talking about her class. She had taken the children outside even though it was windy and the sand was flying. We were almost superstitious about keeping out of the sand, but Genevieve thought it was ok because it wasn't a full blown shamaal. She could be unbelievably stupid. The evening drew towards a slightly awkward close, as Genevieve and I were both a bit disappointed in Boyd's lack of attention to her and she was downcast that I hadn't supported her behaviour with the children.. I had long given up on Spencer, and asked the manager to phone a taxi. Of course Boyd insisted on taking us. Seeing his briefcase on the seat I remembered the scarf Genevieve had worn at the club carefully folded on top of his papers. I whispered,

'Do you have the thing here - it'll cheer her up.'

Boyd brought out the gold embossed red leather box from the briefcase.

He swivelled round awkwardly and held it out over the top of the front seat, right across Genevieve, to me. I shook my head and mouthed,

'But it's for Genevieve.'

He gestured silently and pointed at me, smiling, then said very quietly,

'It's for you, Cleopatra.'

We stared at each other blankly, then Boyd crashed the car into gear, and swerved across the car park. We reached Genevieve’s apartment in record time and she went in without a word. 

'Cleo, Cleopatra.'

'Boyd, you bought it with me, not for me!'

'You told me how much you loved your dhow, that it was the only gold you had. You couldn't have been more obvious. And the thing you chose – it’s meant for a Cleopatra – you said so yourself.'

'I said it was a Cleopatra style choker, I didn't mean it was for me.'

'I'm sure Spencer wouldn't object, if that’s what you’re worried about. He seems very... complacent. And Genevieve would look absurd in such a thing. It needs a real woman.'

Chocolaty voice.

'He’s not remotely COMPLACENT.'

'He left me with you at your party. He asked me if I thought you looked beautiful. He isn't here this evening. Tell me there isn't a clear message in all that. I'm assuming he can’t handle you by himself, and thinks a bit of variety would be good for you both.'

Could there be any truth in any of this? I'd certainly thrived on my taste of variety with Dynamite.

'Trust me.'

Why would someone who knows himself to be trustworthy ask for trust? I gave him a sharp push. His voice roughened. No trace of that delightful chocolaty tone.

'Hey, enough. Look, clearly I'm not spending on gold necklaces for the good of my health.'

'The necklace was for Genevieve.'

'Genevieve. Genevieve! She’s barely out of nappies. She's clearly a virgin. I don't go in for that. I've got no time for that.'

'She thought, and so did I, that you really liked her...'

'Oh, I get it, something SERIOUS. You do know I'm married.'

'You never talk about her, I thought...'

'My marriage is going nowhere. As in, it's not a big part of my life, but it’s not ending either. This is the point, spelt out in words of one syllable – I want you. You.'

I slapped his face. That was fun. His face as he stared into mine was terrifying. I had never seen fury like it. But he didn't reach for me and I got out. He drove off. I rang Genevieve’s doorbell. She’d been crying and tried to speak.

'Look, not now. Where’s your phone.'

I phoned the office and told Spencer to come and get me. Would it have made Genevieve feel better if I'd explained that Boyd preferred me because he viewed me as a better bet sexually? I decided this would be too humiliating for me and for her. 

Fifteen minutes later the car pulled up. I rushed out and yanked the passenger door open. Candida was in the seat. Looking dishevelled. I didn't have the energy for any kind of complicated argument or confrontation just then, so contented myself with getting her swiftly into the back seat. A tiny bit of physical force was involved.

'Cleopatra. Candida's place is just round the corner. There’s no need to move her.'

Spencer calls me Cleopatra when things are not going well. Truly amazing that he was revealing that he felt he had the moral high ground. I ignored him, as the girl was already moved. If possible it made me feel even less guilty about my little fling with Dynamite. I didn't speak. We dropped Candida, and Spencer began an explanation about her family problems. 

'Just. Don't.'

It was a silent journey home, and to bed after a silent undressing.



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