really big

No one ever called Avril on the landline apart from her father, and he’d been dead for over a year. So she surprised herself when she picked it up. A moment of terror — could it be him? — was followed by the sound of a chirpy female at the other end: ‘Is this Paul’s wife?’ Immediately Avril felt panicked. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘this is Paul’s wife. What’s happened to him? Is he alright? Has something happened?’ She thought she heard the woman holding back a laugh, then she heard her say: ‘He’s fine as far as I know. He was the last time I saw him anyway.’ ‘Oh?’ said Avril. ‘Look,’ replied the woman, sounding suddenly serious, her voice deep and authoritative, ‘there’s no easy way for me to put this so I’m just going to be completely straight, OK?’ ‘Do I have a choice?’ asked Avril. The woman didn’t answer. ‘I’m what you’d probably call a prostitute,’ she said, ‘an escort, a sex-worker, a call girl, whatever you like, and I’ve been servicing your husband on and off for the past two years. We all have.’ The words seemed to slip over Avril. Like hot liquid injected into her blood stream, she felt herself changing temperature inch by inch. Hotter, she thought. She wanted to tell the woman that she knew it was a joke, but she knew it was not. ‘So why are you calling me?’ she asked. ‘I mean, if Paul’s your customer why would you want to put your business at risk?’ ‘Because he talks about you, Avril –‘ the woman paused ‘– he talks about you all the time. That’s how I know your name. Awful things, he says. He even compares us to you and you to us. What we’re all like in bed.’ Avril grew hotter. ‘Do you mind if I sit down? Will you hold while I pull a chair over?’ The woman waited, expecting to hear Avril’s tears, but there was only silence. Then she heard the chair being dragged across the floor, the groan of wood on wood. When she heard Avril’s heavy breathing again, she continued: ‘We all agree that he’s a nasty piece of work and we wanted you to know. It does happen with certain clients. You get to know too much about them and after a while, you can’t even open your legs. Too much info for a fuck, the girls call it; others are too nice or too naive; and in-between you have the lonely, the miserable, or just the bored and that’s where we make our money.’ She paused again: ‘Are you still there?’ ‘I’m here,’ said Avril, ‘I’m here.’ ‘Good,’ said the woman. Then, ‘Sorry.’ Then she added, ‘We just thought you should know. We don’t think they should speak about their wives, and the ones who do, we dob ’em in. D’you see?’ ‘I do,’ replied Avril, a little wobbly with the news, ‘thank you.’ ‘There’s something else you ought to know about Paul,’ she replied. ‘Oh yes?’ said Avril. ‘What’s that?’ ‘He’s kind of kinky. He likes us big. I mean really big. Quite unusual that.’ ‘Yes,’ said Avril, ‘yes, kinky.’ ‘Oh, and one other thing,’ said the woman, ‘he’s always insisted on there being a duvet the colour of mustard. Took us ages to find one.’ Avril remained silent. All the woman could hear were her deep breaths heating the mouth-piece. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘then I’ll say goodbye.’

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