A very short story which I wrote this year and have entered for a couple of ‘Flash Fiction’ competitions. I haven’t won – yet. WENDY when I first wrote it has now become ALICE to create the jokey title.

The cover girl is my American friend Yolanda: isn’t she gorgeous? And don’t get any naughty ideas: she’s a model, not a swinger!

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Alice had read about swingers in books and magazines. A boy she’d dated in high school had showed her a movie – a mainstream movie, not porno – about wife-swapping. She wondered what it would be like to be a swinger, but married to a devout Jehovah’s Witness there wasn’t much likelihood of it happening; Mike wouldn’t want to swap her for anything except maybe a snazzier Harley Davison. Next to God her husband loved his motorcycle more than anything – more than her, she sometimes felt – so it was kind of appropriate that when God called Michael home He sent a twenty-ton truck to knock him off his cherished old Harley.

After two months of wondering where her life was meant to go, Alice sold the house and rented a small third-floor studio flat in a London suburb. Within a month she met Ronald in the local corner-shop. Ron drove a delivery van; he wasn’t a churchgoer; he had two ex-wives.

And he was a swinger. He took Alice to a party in the penthouse of one of Dockland’s newest high-rises. Their hosts were a super-smooth litigator with a top law firm and his glamour-puss wife who wrote the society page in a fashion magazine. They served quality wines and a finger buffet. The background music was current West End show tunes. Ronald took Alice upstairs to a modishly decorated bedroom with twin king-size beds; the sheets were the finest Egyptian cotton. Ron and Alice watched two other couples on the beds and then let the other couples watch them. Alice left the party feeling like a schoolgirl who’s got away with something fairly naughty.

Next time the party was in a first-floor apartment above an Indian take-away nowhere near the river. Their hosts were a fireman and his wife who worked on the check-out in Asda. They served beer and packet snacks. The hi-fi was playing yesteryear country hits. Their spare bedroom was not stylish; the bed was a scuffed mattress with no base and no sheets. Ronald watched while two other men took care of Alice and another woman. Then Alice watched while Ron took care of the other woman and the two men took turns taking care of Ron. The woman wanted to take care of Alice, but Alice said she wasn’t ready for this.  She left the party feeling she’d participated in something close to what the ancient Greeks and Romans were said to have done. Sodom and Gomorrah also came to her mind with a guilty flashback to her previous life with Michael.

‘Do all the swingers do that?’ she asked Ronald in the van, driving home. ‘The gay stuff, the dykey stuff.’

‘A lot of them do,’ he said.

‘Which do you prefer?’

‘I like all of it,’ Ron said.

‘It’s not what I was expecting,’ said Alice.

‘What did you expect?’

‘Not that.’

Alice stopped seeing Ronald. She gave notice to her landlord and moved back to the country. She started going to church again and soon met a nice widower. His wife had died in a car crash and he’d given up driving. Alice didn’t mind doing the driving in her little Toyota. She always drove – and now lived – within safe limits.

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