“It’s by Anthony Powell—do you know it?”
“I don’t think I do.”
“You must read it—it’s life-changing! So full of amazing characters, and so well plotted, so well constructed. It’s a long read, twelve books in all, although the twelfth isn’t even published yet, but well worth perservering......”
Frankly, Honey, I would have read the labels on your clothes if you had asked me to—in fact, I wanted to do that very much whilst I peeled them from your slender body.
I hated parties, particularly a student party. It never seemed to know what it wanted to be—intellectual salon, rock’n’roll cavortings to the Stones, druggie flop-abouts, wild orgy. Of course it managed to be none of the above, but a sort of spavinned cross of all four: if it had been born it would have been put down.
So I tended to avoid them. I have no idea why I didn’t manage to avoid this one. I’m so glad I didn’t.
Honey was a guest, a visitor from London and, bliss, not a student. I can’t remember now who she was visiting, nor who introduced us. All I can remember is my instant sense of desire for the tiny woman in front of me.
She wasn’t particularly short, perhaps 5ft. 2in., but her proportions were very small. She was almost flat chested, but she had womanly curves elsewhere and lovely legs in black tights. Above was a tartan skirt (and how that would come back to haunt me), a cream blouse, a black velvet jacket, a colourful scarf loosely wrapped around a swan-like neck. Her dark hair was bobbed like Louise Brooks. Her wide mouth, so temptingly kissable, smiled a lot. A small, slightly curved nose.....shit, here was I, barely 30 seconds into a conversation and already I was in love. What the fuck was my girlfriend going to think?
Thankfully, she was not there. I dimly remember that she had gone back home to London—maybe that is why I went, out of the boredom of an empty bed. So I was able to drown myself in Honey’s limpid eyes. And listen to her conversation. Let’s cut to the chase: Honey and I would be fucking very lustily, but not that night, nor indeed for quite a while. Oh, our eyes told each other that, yes, definitely, we would like to rip each others clothes off and fuck until our teeth fell out, and our bodies did that little dance and feint of mutual attraction, but we both knew we had to behave that night, that neither of us would be able to shed our responsibilities as friend and guest. But we knew we would, one day.
And so we talked. And Honey told me about this series of novels by Anthony Powell, “A Dance to the Music of Time”, with such love and enthusiasm that I knew I would have to read them, if only so I could talk about them, the next time we met, in the short gaps between fucking her. A quick exchange of scribbled addresses as the party broke up ensured that that would happen before too long.
The Monday following the party I bought the first volume, “A Question of Upbringing”, and was instantly hooked. I think I was about 3 or 4 volumes in by the time I visited Honey in London. My girlfriend was seeing her family the first time I stripped Honey of her tartan. And once she was undressed, I realised I rode a tigress. She was all but flat-chested, but her nipples grew to at least an inch and I quickly learnt that she could come just by having them sucked. Her body was so small, so light—she proudly told me she had to buy all her underwear in childrens’ shops—and when she lowered herself onto me she was so tight.
And so wet! I had licked her pussy before we fucked, and even then I was almost drowned in her wonderfully pungent juices. When she sat on me to fuck, I could feel her running down my balls to wet the bed beneath us. I’d never experienced such a copious flow, and told her so. “That’s why I’m called Honey”, she giggled. The bed got a lot wetter before the night was out.
In between fucks we talked of course, of all kinds of things, but she wanted to know how I was doing with the Powell books, and we talked long and hard about them, with Honey desperate not to give away any of the doings of Nicholas and Widmerpool and the Templars and Quiggin and the rest that I had not read yet. I was gloriously swamped in literature and her earthy, moreish scent, which always won out eventually. I dined on her nipples and her swampy cunt and she pirouetted her lithe little body atop my cock.
Every few weeks we found the time to have another lit-and-fuck fest. I had read most of the published volumes by the time she ended it. But before that, my girlfriend had found out about her, had even met her. I found a sad little poem she was writing called “Honey in Tartan”. I felt like a shit, though I didn’t end the affair myself.
Honey rang me one day and asked to meet at lunchtime. She sounded strained, abrupt. Lunchtimes were not our usual meeting times. It was a pub in Soho. There was enough of Spring around to sit outside. I hadn’t seen Honey for a while, and I wanted to kiss her, but she turned her face away. “Have you got crabs?” The question alone was my slap in the face. “No”. “Well I have, so you should get checked. I thought I might have got it from you.”
And do you know, that was all there was to the end of it. Something inside her had changed. I knew she slept with other people. She knew about my girlfriend. Something else had happened—the crabs were no doubt a part of it—and I was no longer welcome in her life. I miss her still.
My girlfriend was as hooked on the Powell books as I was, having picked them up as I discarded them, so I didn’t lack for someone to discuss them with. Her opinions were just as robust and salty, her enthusiasm as complete as my own. Perhaps I just missed that bed sodden with Honey’s effusions to talk about them in.
A little while later, I had to move to Manchester to take up my first proper job after a number of false starts. I wasn’t paid a princely sum, but I did have a little left over to splurge occassionally, particularly if my girlfriend had the time to visit me from London. Just before one such visit I happened to drop into a bookshop and there on display, newly published, was the twelfth and final volume of “A Dance to the Music of Time”. It was the first time I had bought a hardback.
Stepping out into Deansgate, I thought of my girlfriend about to leave London to see me, of “Honey in Tartan” and the hurt I had caused her, of that wet bed in West Hampstead.
I took the book out of its paper bag and studied the cover again. My girlfriend would enjoy reading it with me, finding out how Powell had woven together his extraordinary cast of characters, his great and subtle narrative of England. The title he had chosen rang a bell, though I couldn’t place it.
“Hearing Secret Harmonies”.